Wilson’s 5 Best Bets for Saturday: Ohio State-Nebraska, Stanford-Oregon State, More
Pictured: Justin Fields. Credit: Joe Maiorana, USA Today Sports.
- Collin Wilson analyzes his favorite bets on the Week 5 college football slate.
- The games he'll cover below includes Middle Tennessee State vs. Iowa (noon ET), Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan (noon ET), Clemson vs. North Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET), Stanford vs. Oregon State (7 p.m. ET), Ohio State vs. Nebraska (7:30 p.m. ET).
Although the first set of rankings will not come until Nov. 5, the race for the College Football Playoff has launched.
Clemson is in full control of its destiny. Per The Action Network Power Ratings, the Tigers will be three touchdown favorites for the rest of the season. That will be the case in the ACC Championship Game against a team from the Coastal.
Another seed will be determined by the SEC winner. LSU and Alabama will clash on Nov. 9 and that will potentially determine the SEC West.
Auburn could throw a wrench into everyone’s plan, as the Tigers are undefeated and sport one of the best defenses in the nation. Auburn will host both Georgia and Alabama, but an Oct. 26 game at LSU will decide which team is will go toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide. The Westgate has Auburn at 50-1 to win the national title, which is properly priced considering the schedule and post-season path.
Ohio State’s showdown with Nebraska this weekend will tell us if the Buckeyes are worth their 8-1 price. The Buckeyes lead the nation in havoc, but the remaining schedule includes all the heavyweights from the Big Ten East, plus Wisconsin. The Buckeyes’ projected path to the title would include a rematch with the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship, so a rolling parlay would be better value than the 8-1 odds.
A 10-1 ticket on Oklahoma to win it all would look really good if the Sooners beat Texas in the Red River Shootout on Oct. 12. The Sooners have seen improvement on defense under coordinator Alex Grinch, ranking 42nd in havoc and sixth in sack rate.
As for action items before Week 5, the LSU +11.5 look-ahead line at Alabama may have the best value. The Tigers host both Florida and and Auburn before visiting Tuscaloosa, victories at home against those SEC squads will surely bump LSU down to around +7.5.
Be sure and follow me in The Action Network App to get my bets on every Week 5 game and Week 6 openers.
College Football Betting Picks for Saturday Week 5
All odds above as of Thursday at 4 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan
- Spread: Western Michigan -17
- Over/Under: 60
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS Sports Network
Tim Lester knows the gravitas of the Western Michigan and Central Michigan rivalry. The Broncos head coach is a former Western Michigan quarterback and has the “Battle of the Cannon” circled every year.
Lester has always had a particular interest in the Chippewas head coach Jim McElwain, stating he used his offensive scheme as a coordinator at Syracuse.
McElwain had a different take on CMU’s rival, stating “the explosive plays are eye-popping.” Central Michigan should be worried in the IsoPPP department, as the Chipps are 119th in allowing passing plays of 20-plus yards. That does not bode well against Western Michigan quarterback John Wassink, who has his offense sitting sixth in the nation with 22 passes over 20 yards.
As offensively inept as Miami can be, the Hurricanes were able to throw for 10.4 yards per pass and Jarren Williams went 17-for-24 for 250 yards against CMU.
Western Michigan ranks in the top 10 in yards per play and will look to expose a Central Michigan defense that is outside the top 100 in opponent completion percentage and 3rd down conversion.
Pick: Western Michigan -17
Middle Tennessee State vs. Iowa
- Spread: Iowa -23.5
- Over/Under: 52
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN2
This is not a great spot for Iowa, as the Hawkeyes travel to Ann Arbor for a Big Ten showdown with Michigan in Week 6. Considering Middle Tennessee State has already played the Wolverines, I don’t expect Iowa to show much of their playbook against the Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the crowd in Kinnick after taking on the Wolverines at The Big House.
The Blue Raiders have been able to accumulate yards on the ground, ranking 6th in line yards and first in the nation in power success rate. Quarterback Asher O’Hare has accounted for 80% of MTSU’s offense, including half of the Blue Raiders’ rushing attempts.
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) August 31, 2019
Iowa has a tremendous defensive line led by A.J. Epenesa, but Middle Tennessee should hold its own with an offense that is top 25 in yards per play. On the flip side, Middle Tennessee State has experienced defensive backs who have allowed just 22 passes over 10 yards. That plays well with a huge point spread.
Iowa is fourth in the nation in time of possession, averaging 36 minutes per game. The Hawkeyes are 116th in offensive plays longer than 10 yards, which should make a point spread north of three touchdowns tough to cover.
Pick: Middle Tennessee State +23.5
Clemson vs. North Carolina
- Spread: North Carolina +26
- Over/Under: 60
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
Charlotte head coach Will Healy and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney are friends. The former Austin Peay head coach has looked up to the Tigers for a number of years in ways to build his own program. The respect was mutual, and enough to get Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins on the sidelines after Clemson gained a 24-0 lead in the first series of the second quarter.
Clemson has yet to surrender a touchdown in the first half, outscoring opponents 90-12 through the first 30 minutes of play. The formula is simple for Clemson, pull the Ferrari out of the garage for a spin around the block, get a few flip scores and have it back in the garage before dusk.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) September 22, 2019
A first-half point spread of -14.5 should not be too much for Clemson against a North Carolina team that is 94th in scrimmage yards allowed.
Conversely, the Tar Heels only come to play in the second half, and more specifically, in the fourth quarter.
North Carolina has outscored opponents, 45-9, in the fourth quarter and Quarterback Sam Howell has orchestrated comebacks against South Carolina and Miami, while failing in final drives against Wake Forest and Appalachian State.
Pick: Clemson -14.5 1H, North Carolina 2H
Stanford vs. Oregon State
- Spread: Oregon State +4.5
- Over/Under: 57.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: Pac-12 Network
Two of the past three games in this series at Reser Stadium have come down to the final seconds. Corvallis is never an easy place to play, and Oregon State is going all out to make this game special.
The Beavers will honor former head coach Dennis Erickson, and head coach Jonathan Smith is calling for fans to have an ‘Orange Out’ against the Cardinal.
Oregon State has the situational advantage coming off a bye week, while Stanford is off a three-game run against USC, Central Florida and Oregon. Star running back Jermar Jefferson is expected back against a Stanford defense that is 83rd in opportunity rate 62nd in power success.
Jermar Jefferson had his game on point in Week 2 against Hawaii. pic.twitter.com/fEhfojTsgM
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 11, 2019
Nothing about the Oregon State defense inspires confidence in a bet, but Stanford has had issues generating offense all season. The Cardinal rank 111th in plays from scrimmage over 20 yards. Stanford has a negative yards per play differential at -1.55.
Stanford has hit a low-point under David Shaw and there are big problems on both sides of the ball. Quarterback K.J. Costello is injured and the Cardinal are missing players on the offensive line. Shaw stated his team was “sloppy” and have not executed in any game thus far.
Oregon State will have a fired up home crowd with an explosive attack on the ground and through the air. Look for the Beavers to keep up with the scoring, and possibly get to the locker room with a Pac-12 victory.
Pick: Oregon State +4.5
Ohio State vs. Nebraska
- Spread: Nebraska +17
- Over/Under: 67
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
Circa Sports opened this line at Ohio State -15 and the early action was on the Buckeyes. We said on the Monday episode of The Action Network Podcast that this line would hit 17 or more and once it did, you should invest in Nebraska.
As of Thursday evening, most sportsbooks have moved off 17.5 and there is a chance that this line hits 16 before kick.
Ohio State has impressed, but it has yet to really be battle tested. The Buckeyes trucked Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Indiana and Miami of Ohio, outscoring opponents 169-15 since Week 2. Ohio State ranks first in defensive havoc, stuff rate and opportunity rate.
Nebraska has had a bumpy ride up to this point in the season. The Huskers overcame four lost fumbles in a win over Illinois, they needed two defensive scores to beat South Alabama and they lost in overtime to Colorado. On the season, Nebraska has lost nine fumbles and thrown two interceptions.
What makes Nebraska a fascinating play is the potential of quarterback Adrian Martinez, especially if the Huskers can keep the box score clean. Martinez has been able to get the ball downfield in chunk yards and has Nebraska inside the top 10 in passes of 20-plus yards.
Nebraska also has one of the most explosive rush teams in the nation, ranking in the top-20 in 20, 30 and 40-plus yard gains.
While the Ohio State defense will be put to the test for the first time, the real battle happens on the other side of the ball.
Justin Fields has thrown for 880 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions through four games but he will have his hands full with Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and his blitz-heavy 3-4 package.
Nebraska will get beat on a few throws from Fields, but the Cornhuskers rank first in the nation in passes defensed this far in the season. Blend that with a defensive front seven that is top-35 in line yards, stuff rate and sack rate, and the Cornhuskers should give Ohio State their toughest test of the season.
Pick: Nebraska +17