Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Bets For Week 5

Wilson: My 9 Favorite College Football Bets For Week 5 article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Khalil Tate, Jafar Armstrong and A.J. Brown.

  • Collin Wilson is back to give out nine of his favorite college football betting picks of Week 5.
  • He's got an eye on the Stanford-Notre Dame matchup, and still isn't sold on LSU's offense.

The CW9 suffered a few bad beats in Week 4, producing a 3-6 record. Although we are still up on the year, the sting of a late Ohio State touchdown against Tulane and the stain of Oregon choking away a live money line of -10,000 are history.

In fairness, maybe the Eugene incident will never leave me as a gambler, but we’ll take some notes (specifically about Stanford’s weaknesses) and move on for more wagers in Week 5.

Most of the bets in the column from here to December will be mathematical and situation-based.

Each pick begins with The Action Network power ratings, followed by an in-depth look at stats such as yards per play, havoc and explosiveness. Injury and weather will become more of a factor in October, as we venture into the totals market with a good data set on pace and plays per game.

Be sure to check out my Sunday Morning Coffee column for our Week 5 projected spreads. Let’s get to the picks!

YTD: 19-17


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Saturday Morning Mimosas

West Virginia at Texas Tech

  • Spread: Texas Tech +3.5
  • Over/Under: 76
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN2

The word on the street is that Texas Tech is playing a bit of defense, but that never showed in a box score against Ole Miss or Houston. It may be hard to display that defense when your quarterback throws for 605 yards as Alan Bowman did against Houston.

The Texas Tech freshman quarterback also put up close to 400 yards in the air against Oklahoma State in Stillwater last week, but the underlying story is that the defense played its best game yet.

Texas Tech has a few key returning players to beef up the defense, including safety Jah’Shawn Johnson. Since the Ole Miss game in Week 1, the Red Raiders defense has allowed just 13 third-down conversions in 48 attempts.

What this game comes down to is what Texas Tech can do against Heisman candidate Will Grier. Tech currently ranks 27th defensively in passing completion percentage.

On the other side, the Texas Tech offense should have its way with the Mountaineers defense.

Don’t be fooled by West Virginia’s defense rank overall of 12th in explosiveness. It has played Tennessee, Youngstown State and Kansas State.

I took a flier preseason on Texas Tech to make the Big 12 title game at +1250, so get your tortillas ready as the march to Arlington is on after the Red Raiders defeat Grier and the Mountaineers.

Play On: Texas Tech +3.5

Arkansas at Texas A&M

  • Spread: Texas A&M -21
  • Over/Under: 61
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

As the biggest alumni contrarian on the planet, it says something that I’m taking the Razorbacks this week.

Let’s focus on Texas A&M first. The Aggies just completed a three-game span that included a home thriller versus Clemson and a road cover against Alabama. Even with an Aggies cover against UL-Monroe in Week 3, at some point they are going to have a letdown week.

Following the rules of college football gambling, Arkansas cannot stay winless against the spread forever — then again, its special teams has been a feature on SportsCenter’s Top 10 for multiple weeks, and not in a good way.

No matter how many ways you slice it, this point spread is too high. I have this game power rated for the Aggies at 18.5, S&P+ is 13, and ESPN FPI is 20.5.

Thanks to a late field goal by Auburn, the Razorbacks failed to cover once again in Week 4, leading to the assumption that they were beaten handily.

A further inspection shows the Razorbacks won the total yards battle on the ground and through the air. After making multiple special teams errors, it’s shocking Auburn actually did cover as a four-touchdown favorite.

The key stat to note is Arkansas ranking 28th overall in defensive S&P+. The Hogs are playing efficient defense against the pass and the run, while getting to the quarterback with an adjusted sack rating of third in the country.

If the Razorbacks can play mistake-free special teams, my family and I can do our first Woooooo Pig Sooie of the season.

Play On: Arkansas +21

Oklahoma State at Kansas

  • Spread: Kansas +17
  • Over/Under: 62
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: FSN

Kansas football is a real thing, as its power rating may catch Kansas State before the end of the weekend.

In the preseason, we mentioned the strength of the Kansas defense, and that the offensive line was a mystery with so many new players and coaches arriving in Lawrence about two months ago.

The defense has lived up to expectations, as Kansas is currently plus-12 in net turnovers. With an efficiency rating of seventh in the nation, the Jayhawks are playing quality defense both through the air and the ground.

Plenty went wrong for the Pokes in last week’s demolition by Texas Tech. Oklahoma State wasn’t the beneficiary of blocked punts (like it was in the Boise State game), and struggled to convert third downs.

This actually is a critical area for the Pokes, as Oklahoma State has converted only 13 of its past 40 attempts on third downs in the past three games.

I’m buying into a Kansas team that is getting better each week, against an Oklahoma State team that figures out an offensive strategy to increase its efficiency and move the chains more often.

Play On: Kansas +17


Saturday Afternoon Power Hour

Pitt at Central Florida

  • Spread: UCF -14
  • Over/Under: 65
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPNU

This game shouldn’t be close in the eyes of Central Florida fans. Pitt represents the only Power 5 hurdle on the Knights’ schedule after a cancellation of the North Carolina game.

McKenzie Milton has been as good as he was in 2017 under Scott Frost, leading an offense that is fourth in success rate and first in finishing drives.

Pitt has been efficient on offense so far this season, ranking 31st in success rate. There are a few key areas where Central Florida can be exposed, namely opponent’s third down conversion percentage (39.58%), adjusted sack rate of 68th, and 124th ranking in red-zone defense once the ball gets past the 10-yard line.

There are cracks in the juggernaut offense of Central Florida, and Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has been known to show up in big games with outright upsets.

A victory over Miami knocked the No. 2 Hurricanes out of playoff contention last year. A victory at No. 2 Clemson in 2016 was a similar road trip with no Panthers expectations.

Play On: Pitt +14

Liberty at New Mexico

  • Spread: New Mexico -7
  • Over/Under: 64
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET

The masses will probably scoff at me backing the Flames, but it’s tough to ignore that this number is too high. My power ratings have the Lobos favored by four, while S&P+ has this number at -2 in favor of New Mexico. If you are firm believer in S&P+, it believes Liberty is a better team on a neutral site.

Whether you rely on S&P+, which focuses on predictive outcomes, or The Action Network power ratings, which focus on the Vegas closing line, this number should not be a touchdown.

New Mexico returns quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, who suffered a concussion in a cover against Wisconsin. While the scheme has changed, the trench play has not been consistent for the Lobos.

New Mexico ranks 118th in stuff rate and 120th in opportunity rate, translating to issues controlling the line of scrimmage for rushing attempts. Explosiveness is an issue for New Mexico also, as it ranks 89th in the country offensively and 78th defensively in IsoPPP.

Liberty has had many of the issues that Arkansas has had on special teams. With a special teams S&P+ ranking of 130th, the Flames could use a boost in starting field position on both sides of the ball.

The explosiveness factor is still there with Liberty, specifically on defense with a rush explosiveness ranking of 36th.

Play On: Liberty +7

Hawaii at San Jose State

  • Spread: San Jose State +11.5
  • Over/Under: 66
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET

When I wrote Sunday Morning Coffee, I was aware that I had San Jose State +10, and that the Betonline opener of +13 was too much. But who makes a living getting down on Spartans football right after lines open on Sunday?

Once I did a deep dive on this game, I was shocked to learn two things about San Jose State:

Hawaii’s struggles against Duquesne in Week 4 could be chalked up to a half effort in a non-conference spot, but the Dukes are a terrible FCS team, ranking 217th out of 255 total Division I teams in the Sagarin poll. Duquesne was able to take 14-0 lead after a 5,000-mile trip.

Hawaii is outside the top 100 in plenty of categories, including explosiveness on defense, finishing drives on defense, average third-down distance and offensive third-and-short conversion percentage.

The San Jose State offense should find some success coming off a bye and after getting 22 points on the board at Oregon the week before. This bet may stink to high heaven, but we had no issues cashing Sacramento State a few weeks ago.

Play On: San Jose State +11.5

Saturday Night Blackout Chaser

USC at Arizona

  • Spread: Arizona +3
  • Over/Under: 61
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN2

The pitchforks will be out for Clay Helton with a loss to Arizona. The Trojans have not looked good on the road so far this season, scoring three points in a loss at Stanford and 14 points in a loss at Texas.

No one is mistaking Arizona to be a defensive team like USC’s previous road opponents, but there are advanced stats the Trojans should worry about.

On the other side, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has 23 rushes for 31 yards, which is something no one would have dreamed the stat line would read after four football games. He had 1,411 yards rushing at 9.2 per carry last season.

Tate has been lethal with his arm, ranking 23rd in explosiveness and 35th in efficiency through the pass game. On the ground, J.J. Taylor is starting to generate some well-deserved buzz, leading a Wildcats rushing attack that is 26th in explosiveness.

That spells doom for a USC defense that ranks 119th in defending rush explosiveness.

USC needed everything it could get to beat Washington State at home, but keep in mind the box score against UNLV. The Rebels have one of the premier rushing attacks in the nation and were in contention to win the opening game outright.

Arizona brings similar efficiency and explosiveness in the ground game — just imagine if Tate had a designed run.

Play On: Arizona +3

Stanford at Notre Dame

  • Spread: Notre Dame -5.5
  • Over/Under: 54
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: NBC

If you took blind resumes based upon S&P+ advances metrics, you would see plenty of similar stats. Notre Dame is 11th overall, with an offensive rating of 46th and defensive rating of sixth. Stanford is 23rd overall, with an offensive rating of 56th and a defense rating of 11th.

Both teams excel limiting explosiveness, with Notre Dame ranking 15th overall in the nation to Stanford’s 35th. That actually spells great news for the Irish, as the Cardinal offense has relied solely on explosive plays. By contrast, Stanford’s offensive success rate is 110th to its rank of 17th in explosiveness.

The play of the defense past the 40-yard line has been spectacular by both squads, as both teams rank in the top 10 defensively in finishing drives. One potential downfall for Notre Dame is their adjusted sack rate of 54th in passing-down situations. That leads us to the biggest handicap of the game, and potentially the only handicap for any Stanford opponent for the rest of the season — passes defensed.

Stanford’s offense was on full display in Eugene, with plenty of 50/50 balls set for 6-5 Kaden Smith, 6-7 Colby Parkinson, and 6-3 JJ Arcega Whiteside. Interestingly enough, Stanford ranks 130th offensive in average third-down distance, which shows just how much it must rely on this type of offense.

Notre Dame may have the remedy in the form of a secondary that ranks eighth in the nation in passes defensed.

Specifically in the Irish backfield are Alohi Gilman with two pass breakups, Troy Pride Jr. with four pass breakups along with two interceptions, and Julian Love’s nine pass breakups.

Pride ranks 27th individually in the nation in passed defensed percentage while Love is fifth in the nation in the same category. The Irish present the best pass defense on Stanford’s schedule.

I took Notre Dame early in the week, but would not hesitate to take the Irish again up to -6. Notre Dame has the ingredients to shut down Stanford’s one-dimensional offense, not to mention a fatigue factor could set in after a boatload of offensive plays in Week 4 for the Cardinal.

Play On: Notre Dame -5.5

Ole Miss at LSU

  • Spread: LSU -12
  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Time: 9:15 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

If you haven’t caught the Louisiana Tech-LSU box score, it’s worth noting the Bulldogs went for 330 yards in the air. They converted 9 of 18 third downs, but quarterback J’Mar Smith tearing up the Tigers secondary for three touchdowns was unexpected.

Enter Ole Miss, which ranks first in the nation in explosiveness. Take out that Alabama game, and Ole Miss is shredding defenses.

On the other side of the ball, we continue to fade LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who finally completed more than half his pass attempts against Louisiana Tech.

Burrow has thrown for only one touchdown in FBS play through three games, and ranks 100th in pass efficiency for all quarterbacks. No one is going to mistake Ole Miss for being a defensive team, but the Rebels do rank fifth in the nation in defensive back havoc.

We’ll bet on a Rebels secondary to generate multiple interceptions and pass breakups, while the offense works its explosiveness magic for a cover and possible upset.

Play On: Ole Miss +12