What to watch: Week 5 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper
·10-min read

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

The SEC’s triumphant return brought the goods.

We saw Mike Leach and Mississippi State upset LSU, the defending national champions. We saw an offensive explosion out of Florida against Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. We saw Auburn’s Seth Williams do his best Randy Moss impression in a win over Kentucky. And we saw Georgia and Texas A&M struggle a bit while Alabama cruised past Missouri and Tennessee eked out a road win over South Carolina.

Oh, and there was the Big 12. Oklahoma was upset by Kansas State for a second straight season while Texas needed a late rally and overtime to get past Texas Tech.

What will Week 5 have in store? There are two ranked vs. ranked SEC showdowns, as well as an array of other intriguing matchups spread throughout the day. Here’s what we’ll be focused on.

(Note: All times ET, point spreads/totals from BetMGM)

TCU at No. 9 Texas

Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: Texas -11.5 | Total: 62.5

Texas needed a miraculous comeback to avoid the heartbreak that its biggest rival, Oklahoma, endured last Saturday. Texas fell behind Texas Tech 56-41 with 3:13 to play, but managed to score two touchdowns — with an onside kick recovery in between — in a two-minute span to force overtime and eventually escape with a 63-56 win. The Longhorns, now 2-0, will need to play much better on defense and tighten things up on special teams with TCU coming into Austin this weekend.

TCU opened its 2020 season with a 37-34 home loss to Iowa State. The Horned Frogs fell behind 16-7 at halftime and made a QB switch from Matthew Downing to Max Duggan. Duggan missed the majority of preseason after a pre-existing heart condition was uncovered during the program’s COVID-19 testing. Duggan, last year’s starter, provided an immediate boost and ended the day 16-of-19 for 241 yards and three TDs. But it wasn’t enough as the TCU defense allowed ISU to rush for 213 yards and four scores. Nearly 60 percent of ISU’s rushing yardage came on two plays — TDs of 49 and 75 yards. If TCU limits the big plays, it will have a chance against the Longhorns.

Sam Cooper: TCU +11.5, Nick Bromberg: Texas -11.5

Other noon games of note: South Carolina at No. 3 Florida (ESPN), Missouri at No. 21 Tennessee (SECN), NC State at No. 24 Pittsburgh (ACCN), Baylor at West Virginia (ABC)

No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -17 | Total: 51.5

Texas A&M’s 2020 debut was really underwhelming. The Aggies looked content to barely get by a bad Vanderbilt team in a 17-12 win. The offense was especially uninspiring, with senior quarterback Kellen Mond throwing for just 189 yards and fumbling twice. His fourth-quarter fumble actually gave Vandy the chance to go ahead, but the A&M defense got the stop it needed to win the game. A&M is in Jimbo Fisher’s third season and is still searching for a marquee win. Perhaps the Aggies didn’t want to reveal much offensively against Vanderbilt when a trip to Tuscaloosa was around the corner.

Alabama, coming off a rare two-loss season, opened 2020 with a ho-hum 38-19 road win over Missouri. The Tide jumped out to a 35-3 lead and were able to put things in cruise control the rest of the way. Mac Jones went 18-of-24 for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Jaylen Waddle accounted for both of those scores as he caught eight passes for 134 yards. DeVonta Smith, the team’s other All-SEC wideout, had eight catches for 89 yards while Najee Harris rushed for 98 yards and three scores of his own. And before garbage time, the defense allowed Missouri to gain just 135 yards offensively.

Sam: Alabama -17, Nick: Alabama -17

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, center, pulls down a reception between Missouri's Tyree Gillespie, right, and Ishmael Burdine, left, during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle caught eight passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns vs. Missouri. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

No. 25 Memphis at SMU

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Memphis -2.5 | Total: 74.5

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Memphis. The Tigers opened up their season with a 37-24 win over Arkansas State on Sept. 5 and haven’t played since. Issues with COVID-19 caused games against Houston and UTSA to get called off, so it will be nearly a month between games when the Tigers take the field on Saturday at SMU. It’s hard not to wonder if there will be some sort of rust factor for Ryan Silverfield’s team. Silverfield has been with the program since 2016, but is in his first year as head coach. He has a team with a lot of experience, led by senior QB Brady White, who threw for 280 yards and four TDs in the team’s lone game of the season.

SMU, meanwhile, is off to a 3-0 start against lower level in-state competition. The team’s 31-24 win over Texas State in Week 1 was a close call, but the next two wins — 65-35 over North Texas and 50-7 over Stephen F. Austin — were much more comfortable. The Mustangs boast some of the top skill position talent in the AAC with QB Shane Buechele, RB Ulysses Bentley IV and WR Reggie Roberson. Though he’s second in carries to T.J. McDaniel, Bentley leads the team with 380 yards and seven TDs. He’s also averaging a sizzling 10.6 yards per rush.

Sam: SMU +2.5, Nick: Memphis -2.5

Other afternoon games of note: No. 12 North Carolina at Boston College (ABC), Texas Tech at Kansas State (FS1), Ole Miss at Kentucky (SECN)

No. 7 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Georgia -6.5 | Total: 44.5

Auburn opened its season with a 29-13 win over Kentucky, but the game was closer than the final score may indicate. In the final minute of the first half, a UK run was controversially ruled short of the goal line when it appeared to be a touchdown. In the second half, a fumble by UK QB Terry Wilson and a fake punt gone wrong led to two Auburn touchdowns. Those scoring drives were 23 yards and 27 yards, respectively. That’s not to say Auburn didn’t play well. The defense forced three turnovers and Bo Nix threw three TD passes, two to Seth Williams. The running game, though, was a bit concerning. Auburn running backs mustered only 65 yards on 20 carries.

All eyes will be on the quarterback position for Georgia entering this game. UGA started D’Wan Mathis last week, but he struggled as the Bulldogs fell behind lowly Arkansas 7-5 at halftime. From there, Stetson Bennett, a former walk-on, came on in relief and threw for 211 yards and two TDs to help the Bulldogs come back and eventually win 37-10. This week, another QB enters the mix with USC transfer JT Daniels cleared. Daniels was the starter for the Trojans, but suffered a serious knee injury in Week 1 of the 2019 season. Now finally cleared for game action, will he make his SEC debut on Saturday against Auburn? Don’t expect Kirby Smart to say before Saturday afternoon.

Sam: Auburn +6.5, Nick: Georgia -6.5

No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Oklahoma -7 | Total: 61.5

Oklahoma, ranked No. 3 last week, surrendered 24 consecutive points in the second half in a shocking 38-35 loss to Kansas State. It was the second straight year that the Sooners lost to K-State. Redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler got off to a sizzling start in his Big 12 debut, but ended up throwing three interceptions, including one in the final minute as the Sooners attempted to salvage the game. With one crushing loss under their belt, the Sooners have to travel to Iowa State — a team that has given them trouble in recent years. The last four games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less, including last year’s 42-41 Oklahoma win.

Iowa State opened its season with a disappointing 31-14 home loss to Louisiana, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. The Cyclones rebounded by beating TCU. The running game was the story. Breece Hall rushed for 155 yards and three scores, and is up to 258 yards and four TDs through two games. Brock Purdy, despite his terrible third-quarter gaffe, played a strong game, going 18-of-23 for 211 yards and a TD. He should have plenty of changes against a porous Oklahoma secondary that allowed K-State’s Skylar Thompson to throw for a career-high 334 yards last week.

Sam: Oklahoma -7, Nick: Oklahoma -7

Other night games of note: Navy at Air Force (CBSSN), Arkansas at No. 16 Mississippi State (SECN alt), No. 20 LSU at Vanderbilt (SECN), Virginia at No. 1 Clemson (ACCN)

Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 6-8, Nick: 8-6

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki).
Can Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler bounce back after throwing three interceptions in the loss to Kansas State? (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki).

Week 5’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 4-4)

Baylor at West Virginia: Baylor opened the season Saturday with an easy win over Kansas while West Virginia was able to hang around against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Given that this is a Kansas team that lost at home to Coastal Carolina, I’m not sure what we can take away from that Baylor win. I think West Virginia gets the upset. Pick: WVU +3

NC State at No. 24 Pittsburgh: I’m a believer in the Pitt defense. And I’m not sure that NC State is any good. A two-touchdown line is a lot in a conference game, but I think Pitt is up to the task. Panthers move to 4-0 easily. Pick: Pitt -14

Arkansas at No. 16 Mississippi State: Yeah, Arkansas gave Georgia a game in the first half. But that was because the Georgia offense was dreadful. Mississippi State should win this one easily and I don’t think the Arkansas offense has enough firepower to challenge the over. Pick: Under 68.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 9-5)

No. 12 North Carolina at Boston College: Boston College is 2-0, but I think it’s a little misleading. The 26-6 win over Duke was aided by Duke’s four red zone turnovers. Last week, BC needed a late rally and a last-second field goal just to beat Texas State. I expect Sam Howell and UNC to roll. Pick: UNC -13.5

No. 17 Oklahoma State at Kansas: Mike Gundy seemed optimistic that QB Spencer Sanders could return this week. With Sanders back in the lineup, OSU should be able to present the balanced, high-powered attack we all anticipated, especially against a bad Kansas team. The OSU defense has been impressive as well. Pick: OSU -20.5

Navy at Air Force: These service academies run the option offense, so the clock will constantly be moving. These schools are very accustomed to facing one another and the under hits at an extremely high rate in these games — nearly 80 percent since 2005. Pick: Under 47.5

For other Week 5 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.

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