- Which SEC team coming off a loss is Ross Dellenger backing? Why is Joan Niesen backing an ACC road favorite facing a team with a winning record? Our CFB staff's Week 5 best bets.
It was a tough week for best bets last week for SI's college football staff, as our record is now 12–12 on the season. But we have six more best bets for Week 5, including some favorites we really like to cover.
Kentucky at South Carolina (-3)
We didn't perform well last week at all, but we're turning the page and after a good, solid week of practice, we believe we've got a winner for you. The Gamecocks are at home and are in somewhat of a desperate situation. The heat is on coach Will Muschamp. Their only win is over Charleston Southern. They've really played better than their 1–3 record. They wasted an 11-point second-half lead against North Carolina, actually hung pretty well with Alabama and were in a tight one on the road at Missouri before an 100-yard pick-six. — Ross Dellenger
Wake Forest (-6.5) at Boston College
BC has struggled early this season, including getting blown out by Kansas in Week 3, and though it's 3–1 thus far, a better-than-expected Wake Forest team will be the Eagles' toughest test yet this season. The Demon Deacons have put up 38+ points in three of their four games thus far, and they're undefeated; Boston College's struggling defense will help them keep scoring at a similar pace, and though this won't be a blowout, Wake Forest will win by more than a touchdown. — Joan Niesen
No. 5 Ohio State (-17) at Nebraska
Through four weeks, Ohio State has outscored opponents Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Indiana and Miami (Ohio) 214–36. Quarterback Justin Fields has looked as talented as advertised. Defensive end Chase Young might be as good as the Bosa brothers. There’s been zero drop-off going from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day. Right now, the Buckeyes look like a complete team that might run away with the Big Ten title and make it back to the College Football Playoff.
The thing about this weekend is that Nebraska was supposed to be Ohio State’s first real test. But, will the end result look just like the Buckeyes’ first four games? The Huskers didn’t do themselves any favors last week nearly losing to Illinois on the road and Scott Frost’s program isn’t on the same level as OSU yet. But sometimes crazy things happen when the Buckeyes play West divisional foes. Nebraska does have an electric playmaker in quarterback Adrian Martinez, who, despite the close call last week, amassed a career-high 445 yards of total offense. He passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 118. Not too shabby.
But his performance might not be enough this week with Nebraska’s knack for fumbling—the Huskers lead the nation with 13 fumbles and nine lost, while the Buckeyes’ defense has forced seven. And Nebraska's defense is giving up 36.0 points per game vs. Power 5 competition this year, while Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring 53.5 ppg.
While Martinez might be able to keep things close for a little while, it won’t last. — Laken Litman
Kansas (+16) at TCU
Tabbing Kansas as my Big 12 best bet of the week may be seen as a sign of mental deterioration, but this is actually a legitimate Jayhawks squad. Les Miles has revived the program in his first year in Lawrence, blowing out Boston College on Sept. 13 before a four-point loss to West Virginia in Week 4. Pooka Williams remains a force to be reckoned with out of the backfield, and redshirt senior Carter Stanley is completing 72% of pass attempts. This isn't the pathetic Jayhawks attack of old. TCU appears to be in a down year, and its defense struggled mightily against Shane Buechele and TCU last week. Stanley should have similar success, keeping the Jayhawks within two scores in Fort Worth. — Michael Shapiro
Texas Tech at No. 6 Oklahoma: Under 70.5 Points
Usually when these two teams face off, the defensive optional mindframe is in full effect, with the offenses chewing up huge chunks of real estate, breaking scoreboards and sending bettors to bet the over at every opportunity.
Oklahoma has won seven straight against Tech in the series, averaging 50 points a game in those victories. Though the offenses usually take center stage, it’s the defenses that will be the focus here. Oklahoma is allowing seven yards per pass attempt in 2019, down from 8.4 last year.
Though most think on every other play that the Sooners sling the ball all over the yard (and they do with relative ease), they are actually a running team and Tech could be in big trouble in that regard. The last time we saw Texas Tech, it was giving up 315 yards on the ground to Arizona. The pick is the under here because of a couple of different trends favoring Texas Tech. Unders in the Red Raiders' last five games are 5–0 and are 4–1 in their last five road games. — Scooby Axson
Arizona State (+4.5) at No. 15 California
Cal is a great story. The Golden Bears are the Pac-12’s last remaining undefeated team, and just knocked off an SEC team on the road in Ole Miss this past weekend on a goal-line stop as time expired. But now they have another cross-country flight, which can be draining especially for a short-week game like this. And Friday night games are where Pac-12 ranked favorites go to die.
So why are we backing an Arizona State team that just lost to Colorado at home? The Buffs' offense exploded in Tempe, and I think the Sun Devils' defense was thrown off by Colorado mixing in an uptempo style of play. This is still a solid defense with a nice back seven, and I don’t think Cal has the type of offense or personnel that can exploit it—though the Golden Bears certainly showcased a surprisingly explosive aerial attack in Oxford.
Let’s look at Cal’s yards per play in its games this season: 6.3, 5.7, 5.4, 4.0. Clearly the 4.0 stands out. You’d think it would’ve come at Washington right? Wrong, it was vs. North Texas in Week 3. That’s significant because North Texas runs a 3-3-5 base defense, which is exactly what Arizona State employs.
One encouraging takeaway from ASU’s loss to Colorado was the offensive line. The OL had massive struggles to start the season, as true freshman Dohnovan West was inserted at center with senior Cohl Cabral injured. West was the only Week 1 true freshman to start at center in all of college football. As a result, this was a unit that got bullied by the likes of Kent State and Sacramento State. Cabral returned at center against Michigan State, and started again there vs. Colorado, with West moving over to right guard for both games. The one strength of Colorado’s defense coming into the ASU game was getting pressure on the quarterback, but the Sun Devils allowed just one sack in that game. A better OL can only help true freshman QB Jayden Daniels and star tailback Eno Benjamin.
Cal’s offensive line, meanwhile, is trending in the opposite direction. With its starting left tackle and left guard out, the Golden Bears have relied on a former walk-on at LT and a redshirt freshman at LG. Cal has averaged 3.1 and 1.8 YPC in its past two games respectively, and that’s also come with starting tailback Christopher Brown Jr. getting hurt vs. North Texas.
It’s going to be tough for ASU to score against Cal’s defense, but that’s what was said when Sparky played Sparty. ASU was able to move the ball then with lots of screens and quick passes, and if there’s a way to attack Cal’s incredible secondary, it’s that exact way. Additionally, even with the god-like Evan Weaver roaming the middle at linebacker, Cal’s run defense is middle of the pack—it ranks 62nd in yards per carry allowed.
This is going to be a low-scoring game; there’s a reason why the total is currently sitting at 40. I think Cal is a little overrated by the market heading into this one thanks to its undefeated standing, and I will gladly take the points here. — Max Meyer
Season record: 12–12