College Football Week 5 Mega Betting Guide: Picks, Analysis for 4 Marquee Matchups

College Football Week 5 Mega Betting Guide: Picks, Analysis for 4 Marquee Matchups article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Miles Sanders and Bryce Love

Welcome to college football’s Week 5, where rivalry games will begin to shape the College Football Playoff picture.

Below, we’ve previewed four of the biggest games of the season, like only The Action Network can. Trends from our Bet Labs database. In-depth metrics. Situational spots. Pointed analysis.

If you’re looking to bet West Virginia-Texas Tech, Florida-Mississippi State, Penn State-Ohio State or Notre Dame-Stanford, you can find all the insights you need here.

College Football Betting Picks, Week 5

West Virginia at Texas Tech Betting Odds, Pick

  • Odds: West Virginia -3.5
  • Over/Under: 72
  • Time: Noon ET, Saturday
  • TV Channel: ESPN2

>> All odds as of 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Start your Saturday with some electricity in Lubbock between two of the highest-scoring offenses in the country.

No. 12 West Virginia travels to No. 25 Texas Tech in a pivotal early Big 12 showdown. The Red Raiders are coming off an upset over Oklahoma State as 14-point dogs, but will have to contend with quarterback Will Grier, one of the most prolific passers in the country.

Based on our power ratings, AP voters are overrating West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 21st by our measures, yet 12th in the AP poll. Texas Tech is also overrated at 25th in the poll, sitting at No. 35 in our power ratings.

Market Moves for West Virginia-Texas Tech

By Danny Donahue

Despite Tech’s impressive upset win last week, more bettors are backing the Mountaineers on Saturday, as West Virginia has picked up 52% of bets thus far.

More of the money being wagered, however, is behind Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are accounting for 58% of dollars bet, and have fallen to +3.5 after opening at +4.

The high total has drawn mixed feelings from bettors, as 53% have taken the under. Those bets are accounting for 75% of dollars, however, so the number plummeted from 75 to 72 on Thursday afternoon.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

Keep an eye on the weather. The forecast is calling for average wind gusts of 11 mph throughout the game. Since 2005, it has been profitable to bet the under in windy games.

Back to Texas Tech moving from +4 to +3.5: Since 2005 in matchups of ranked teams when the line moves in the direction of the underdog, that team has gone 91-111-3 (45%) against the spread in the regular season.

By Evan Abrams

We have a total of 77 in a Big 12 showdown. … Shocker.

Since 2005, games with a total of 70 or more are an almost even 154-155-1 (49.8%), but when the game is played between two Big 12 teams, the over is 56-41-1 (+12.2 units).

When both Big 12 teams enter the game averaging 40+ points per game (PPG), the over is 26-13 (+11.7 units).

Key Metric

By Steve Petrella

Texas Tech has been excellent on special teams, ranking 33rd overall in special teams S&P+ and in the top half of FBS teams in every category — field goals, punts and all returns.

Texas Tech Getting Healthier on Defense

By Steve Petrella

Texas Tech returned the second-most production in the country on defense this season, and we finally saw the results last week against Oklahoma State as the Red Raiders got healthier.

Senior safety and captain Jah’Shawn Johnson returned and made a huge impact, helping limit the Cowboys to 386 total yards and 6.8 yards per pass attempt. Johnson had five tackles and one sack.

Grier averages an absurd 11.8 yards per attempt, second in the country.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

College football is in some ways remarkable because we can play one-third of the season and still have almost no clue about certain teams’ true abilities. The way nonconference schedules are designed can frequently produce unjustified hype or aggressive negativity, both of which tend to be proven wrong in the long run.

In the case of West Virginia’s defense, I think there’s an argument that we have absolutely no idea what it is yet. Tennessee was breaking in a brand-new everything in the opener, and even since then has struggled to score on mostly everyone.

Youngstown State is Youngstown State. The N.C. State game was canceled. And last week against Kansas State, it was remarkable how poor Skylar Thompson was at quarterback.

It was apparently so bad that SB Nation’s Ian Boyd captured on Twitter a play where Thompson had two receivers crossing each other who were both wide open, and yet the play was still unsuccessful.

To say the Mountaineer defense was untested would be an understatement. There’s a reason why Bill Snyder was so salty about his offense after the game. It was borderline non-competitive.

All of that is to say that I think Texas Tech has been tested much more, by Ole Miss, Houston and Oklahoma State, and that those tests are a good thing for the Red Raiders here.

Against the Cowboys, freshman quarterback Alan Bowman has faced a conference game on the road — against a reasonably good defense — and thrived. There will be no shock factor or a step up in weight class.

Really, what this comes down to for me is West Virginia being rated like a team that has proven something, when in reality it’s played a glorified preseason thus far. I doubt the difference in these teams is what the spread indicates, so even though it’s dropped to 3.5 from 4.5, I think Texas Tech still has some value.

In a game where there should be buckets of points, rather than take +3.5 or +4 at -110, I’d prefer Tech on the moneyline at +150 because with a million projected possessions those points aren’t quite as valuable.

Florida at Mississippi State Betting Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Mississippi State -7
  • Over/Under: 50
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET, Saturday
  • TV Channel: ESPN

>> All odds as of 10 a.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Believe it or not, these two programs will meet for the first time since 2010, and it couldn’t come at a better time from an entertainment perspective.

Head coach Dan Mullen and his staff return to Starkville on the other sideline after jumping to Florida this winter. The cow bells should be louder than usual this weekend.

Market Moves for Florida-Mississippi State

By Danny Donahue

Florida has been the more popular side in this one, attracting 57% of bets and 74% of dollars. The line has moved up and down, but it settled at Gators +7 after opening there.

Bettors are also taking a liking to the under, which has drawn 72% of bets and 60% of dollars. Still, the total has fallen from 52.5 to 50 at Bookmaker.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

Mississippi State’s surprising loss to Kentucky as a 9.5-point favorite last Saturday dropped the Bulldogs from 14th to 23rd in the AP poll. Since 2005, ranked teams that lost their previous game have struggled to cover the next week going 231-277-15 (45.5%) ATS.

By Evan Abrams

Mississippi State scored just seven points in a 28-7 road loss to Kentucky last week. Many are expecting the Bulldogs to bounce back as touchdown favorites at home vs. Florida this week.

Bettors watch out. Since 2005, teams that scored 10 points or fewer as a favorite in their previous game and play at home the next week are just 76-97-3 ATS (-25.1 units), including 69-86-2 ATS (-20.6 units) in that spot coming off a straight-up loss.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline 

By Stuckey

Can Mississippi State be more disciplined?

Penalties have killed the Bulldogs so far this year, especially in their loss in Lexington. They have committed 37 penalties for 318 yards — an average of 79.5 yards per game (117th in nation).

Can Florida Get off the Field?

By Stuckey

Florida has played some horrible offenses to start the season (Charleston Southern, Tennessee, Colorado State and even Kentucky don’t have an elite offense).

Yet, its defense ranks 104th in third-down conversion rate (28-of-65, .431). That could be potentially lethal against a Mississippi State offense that ranks 10th in third-down conversion percentage at .547.

Bet to Watch: Points at a Premium?

By Stuckey

First, the bad. Even after an absolutely abysmal performance against Kentucky in which the Bulldogs had 56 rushing yards on 28 attempts, Mississippi State still ranks second in the nation in rush yards per carry at 6.6. On the surface, that’s not good news for a Florida team that is tied for 72nd in rush D (4.17 yards per rush allowed) even after playing a relatively easy schedule.

But why did the Mississippi State offense fail so miserably against Kentucky? Well, it’s a spread-based, run-focused offense under Joe Moorhead that attacks the edges. Kentucky simply did not allow Mississippi State to get to the edges as its defensive line dominated the game, especially against the tackles (a key cog of the RPO offense and potentially the weak link of the MSU offense).

Remember that the Bulldogs lost left tackle Martinas Rankin to the NFL in the offseason. His replacement, Greg Eiland, was routinely abused by the ‘Cats’ front last Saturday. Mississippi State’s other tackle, Stewart Reese, has more experience but also had a poor showing and is listed as questionable for this week’s SEC showdown.

Mississippi State got away with it out of conference to start the year, but you can’t mask offensive tackle issues against SEC pass rushes. Every team, including Florida, will have a number of rushers who can collapse the edge against subpar tackles.

Mississippi State is much better than it showed last week. Kentucky has a great defense and is much better than the market anticipated, but MSU was flat and it was doomed by 16 PENALTIES FOR 139 YARDS. However, the Bulldogs’ offense might struggle once again against a Florida team that:

  • Has a head coach and defensive coordinator who know Nick Fitzgerald and the Mississippi State offense maybe more than the current staff does.
  • Has a defense that practices against a similar offense.
  • Has SEC-caliber defensive ends who can exploit MSU’s issues at tackle.

As I mentioned, Florida runs a very similar run-focused attack, which ranks in the top 20 nationally (5.8 YPC). However, the Mississippi State defense plays the run extremely well (top 25 in YPC at 3.25). The Bulldogs also have one of the best defensive lines in the country, which should have its way against an unproven Florida offensive front. Florida’s passing attack, which ranks tied for 105th in completion percentage (54.5%) and 96th (194.5) in yards per game, also won’t be able to exploit a potentially undermanned Mississippi State secondary.

I think both defensive lines can dominate in the trenches, and the familiarity with practicing against similar schemes will only help. Both defenses match up very well with the opposing offenses.

The pick: Points should be at a premium here, so I’m on under 51.

Because of that familiarity and my projection of a lower-scoring game, I’d also lean toward taking the 7.5.

The ‘Spot’ Is Overrated

By Ken Barkley

I think the “Trends” section above is spot-on and should almost be required reading for bettors in this situation. There are a lot of “spot” narratives that tend to really confuse people into making bad decisions.

You’re going to hear a lot of “these players will really get up to face their former coach” and “this team is going to bounce back in a big way after getting humiliated last week.” While those types of narratives are excellent for television and social media to generate conversations among sports fans, it’s all noise, none of which is profitable long term.

If Mississippi State covers this number, it won’t be because Florida “left it all on the field against Tennessee last week.” Don’t buy into the lies.

As for the game itself, I think this number is about right and maybe even slightly high. The overall talent is actually pretty even on the field (although the Bulldogs have more experienced players.) The units match up fairly well and Florida has an advantage in special teams — and possibly in the coaching staff.

Against Kansas State, Mississippi State had dumb mistake after dumb mistake — missed tackles, penalties on third down that extended drives — but they were masked by the final score because of the Wildcats’ ineptitude.

Against Kentucky? Sixteen penalties for 139 yards. Whoopsies. Why is that the type of team that deserves attention with the number already this high? 7.5 looks pretty correct to me.


Ohio State at Penn State Betting Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Ohio State -3.5
  • Over/Under: 69.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
  • TV Channel: ABC

>> All odds as of 6 a.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

A Whiteout in Happy Valley on Saturday night. There’s not much like it.

Ohio State has dominated this series of late, although it needed a crazy comeback to beat PSU last year and double overtime in 2014 before it won the national title. If not for a late blocked punt in 2016, the Buckeyes would have a six-game winning streak in this series and five straight wins in Happy Valley.

The last two meetings have been decided by four total points, but the 12 previous were all decided by six points or more.

Market Moves for Ohio State-Penn State

By Danny Donahue

This line opened at Ohio State -3 at Wynn, which lasted only two minutes before being pushed up. It opened offshore at -4.

Soon after its offshore opening, however, sharp bettors hit the Nittany Lions to bring this line down to 3.5 and 3 — where it’s remained since. Penn State is drawing only 38% of bets and 42% of dollars.

The over has been the more popular bet on the total, attracting 60% of bets and 75% of dollars. As a result, the number moved from 65 all the way to 72 at Bookmaker before dropping back to 69.5.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

This is just the ninth regular-season game since 2005 between a pair of top-10 teams to feature an over/under of 70 or more points. In the previous eight games, the over went 6-2.

By Evan Abrams

Penn State enters this game 4-0 SU, with all four of its games going over the total.

Since 2005, only 61 teams have played a game undefeated to the over as a home underdog, and those teams are 40-21 ATS (+17.2 units), including 136-107-6 ATS (+21.2 units) at any site.

When those teams face an opponent that is also undefeated, they are 94-70-4 ATS (+19 units).

By Stuckey

Urban Meyer owns a career 26-16-1 (61.9%) ATS record against ranked opponents since 2005. He has been the most profitable head coach to back over that span, although he is only 3-3 ATS against Penn State.

He also owns an ultra-impressive 30-13 SU record in those ranked games.

Key Injuries

By Stuckey

Ohio State will not have All-American defensive end Nick Bosa, but it has depth at the position and will likely get interior lineman Robert Landers back from injury this week.

Running back Mike Weber is also listed on the injury report, but J.K. Dobbins is the better back, and the Buckeyes have so much depth in the backfield.

It also looks like Penn State will still be without Shane Simmons (DE), who has yet to play this season, as he wasn’t listed on initial depth chart.

Keep an eye on CB Donovan Johnson (listed as questionable) who got hurt against Illinois. He’s an important piece on the PSU defense as the nickel corner.

Key Metrics

By Steve Petrella

Penn State has been average against the run, ranking in the bottom half of FBS in nearly every advanced metric. The Nittany Lions are giving up 4.04 yards per carry (dead middle at tied for 66th in FBS) against a weak schedule.

Ohio State has relied more on quarterback Dwayne Haskins to move the ball, but still ranks in the top half of FBS in most rushing categories. Both Weber and Dobbins are averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Ohio State’s average third-down distance is 5.7 yards, the fourth-best rate in the country. Penn State ranks 10th on defense in that category at 9.0 yards (higher is better on defense, of course). The Nittany Lions give up the third-fewest percentage of third-and-short opportunities in the country, as well.

The Buckeyes offense will roll if it can convert third downs, but that’s no sure thing.

By Stuckey

Penn State has benefited from an average of 95 yards of opponent penalties year to date, tops in the FBS. For comparison, Ohio State’s opponents have averaged 54 penalty yards per game.

Don’t expect that disparity to persist, although Ohio State has averaged 74.5 penalty yards per game (112th in the nation).

Are We Overvaluing Penn State?

By Stuckey

Let’s not get too carried away with this Penn State team for pouring it on against inferior opponents in the fourth quarter. Let’s not forget that it needed overtime at home to defeat Appalachian State.

Since then, the perception of Penn State has shifted tremendously in a positive direction, but whom have the Nittany Lions actually beat? Take a look at each team’s yards-per-play rank on offense and defense.

Color me not impressed. This will be a major step up in competition against an Ohio State team that’s tied with Georgia with a top-10 yards per play number of 7.6.

Despite its soft schedule, Penn State has still allowed those 4.0 yards per carry. I think Ohio State will have success on the ground with Dobbins & Co. against an inexperienced PSU linebacking crew, forcing the Penn State safeties up to help.

That will ultimately lead to a number of explosive plays in the passing game against a Nittany Lions team that lost a lot of production on the back end from last season.

Again despite that soft schedule, Penn State has a meager 59.0% completion percentage after four games (99th in the country). For comparison, Ohio State leads the nation at 76.9%.

With the same quarterback under center, Penn State finished tied for ninth in 2017 at 65.7% after a full conference schedule. The Nittany Lions miss former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, as the offense still lacks rhythm.

I have Ohio State as 10 points better than Penn State on a neutral field, which is in line with our Action Network Power Ratings. That would imply this line should be approximately Ohio State -6 after giving the Nittany Lions four points for home-field advantage.

Anything at -4 or less provides value on the Buckeyes in my opinion.

Look to Bet Ohio State-Penn State Live

By Collin Wilson

There are plenty of advanced stats to break down between these two heavyweights.

The trench play will be power on power, but expect Miles Sanders to get his rushing chunks on the ground for Penn State. The Nittany Lions rank 26th in explosiveness on the ground, and that could be worrisome for an Ohio State defense that is rotating players in the absence of Bosa (and look what Oregon State did to the Buckeyes).

Ohio State ranks 105th in defensive IsoPPP (an explosiveness measure), which will lead to plenty of opportunities for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley.

The Ohio State offense may run into a few roadblocks, as the Penn State front seven is 17th in stuff rate. When Haskins takes to the air, don’t expect much deep as Penn State ranks ninth in defending pass explosiveness.

Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson may dial up plenty of short routes in hopes for yards-after-catch results. The Buckeyes have been one of the best teams in the nation on third downs from all distances.

With all that said, I will not have an official play on the game in The Action Network App, but I will be heavily wagering on the side and total live through a few offshore books.

In 2016 and ’17, this matchup had fourth-quarter comeback victories. I would not be surprised to see either team score three straight times in the 2018 edition, which could give you live value.

Keep your live betting fingers stretched with a beverage and settle in to get both sides +200 or +7 live.

Stanford at Notre Dame Betting Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Notre Dame -5.5
  • Over/Under: 52.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
  • TV Channel: NBC

>> All odds as of 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Is Notre Dame in the driver’s seat for a spot in the College Football Playoff? It just might be.

The Irish host Stanford on Saturday in what’s likely their toughest test left this season. There are plenty of other tricky spots on the schedule still — at Virginia Tech, Florida State, at USC — but those teams have all fallen well short of expectations so far.

Stanford has one of the most impressive résumés in the country, with wins over San Diego State, USC and last week at Oregon. (No matter how fortunate the Cardinal got, it’s a résumé-boosting win.) 

Market Moves for Stanford-Notre Dame

By Danny Donahue

The bet and dollar percentages have been mirror images of one another in this game, as Stanford has drawn 56% of bets, while 53% of the money is being wagered on Notre Dame. The higher-money percentage on the Irish has contributed to the line move from -3.5 to -5.5.

The over has also drawn 67% of dollars on only 60% of bets. As a result, Bookmaker has bumped this total up from 51.5 to 52.5.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

In his career as the Cardinal head coach, David Shaw is 9-7 SU and 13-3 ATS as an underdog. Since replacing Jim Harbaugh in 2011, Shaw is the most profitable coach in FBS as an underdog and is just one of three head coaches to win more than 50% of his games SU as an underdog (min. 15 games played). Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Mark Dantonio at Michigan State are the others.

As coach of Stanford, Shaw is 35-18-1 ATS (+15.5 units) when the Cardinal see the spread move against them (like +3.5 to +5.5), making him the most profitable coach in FBS in that spot.

By John Ewing

Shaw might be a great bet when the line moves against him, but history isn’t on his side in this matchup. Since 2005, when two top-10 teams play, the team that becomes a bigger favorite or smaller underdog following the line movement has gone 56-40-1 (58%) ATS.

Is Ian Book the Answer for Notre Dame?

By Steve Petrella

With all due respect to Brandon Wimbush, he just wasn’t getting it done for the Irish under center. Enter junior Ian Book, a former 3-star recruit who has developed into a prolific passer.

Book led the Irish offense to 56 points against Wake Forest last week. They averaged 7.45 yards per play, had nine drives inside Wake’s 40 and scored touchdowns on eight of those drives.

It’s Wake Forest, sure, but Notre Dame’s offense was awful against both Vanderbilt and Ball State. Credit to Brian Kelly for making a change before it was too late.

This Stanford defense has been much improved from last season — ranking 11th in defensive S&P+ (while facing three quality opponents) — but Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert had just two incompletions in regulation last week.

What Is This Stanford Offense?

By Steve Petrella

Maybe it’s because I’ve bet against Stanford and been burned, including last week’s horror show against Oregon. But to me, this Cardinal offense doesn’t have a reliable identity.

Bryce Love has been hurt and the running game can’t get going. It’s neither explosive nor efficient, ranking 124th of 130 teams in opportunity rate (how often a rushing play goes for five yards). That’s usually a Stanford staple.

Instead, quarterback K.J. Costello has relied on his big receivers to catch jump balls down field. The Cardinal have 17 passing plays of 20 yards or more this season, tied for 23rd in the FBS.

Credit to receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside & Co. — they can make plays and catch those jump balls. But I’d much rather bank on an efficient offense that moves the ball in chunks when it needs to.

Notre Dame’s Defense Can Match Those Jump Balls

By Stuckey

This Notre Dame team will be the most equipped out of any Stanford opponent to hold its own on the outside in man coverage. Notre Dame’s defense is tied for 15th in the nation at 5.6 yards per pass attempt and has played three Power 5 teams (the Irish just held Wake’s Greg Dortch to 56 yards on six catches).

Just compare that to the pass yards per attempt of two of Stanford’s three FBS opponents this season:

  • Oregon: tied for 101 (8.2)
  • San Diego State: tied for 113 (8.8)

USC does rank in the top 35 and held Stanford to just 17 points. I expect a similar output from the Stanford offense on Saturday.

The difference is the Notre Dame offense with Book at home will have much more success against than the USC offense did with a freshman at quarterback making his first road start.

Key Injuries

By Steve Petrella

Stanford has been banged up on the offensive line all season, which has led to inconsistency on the ground. It got tackle A.T. Hall back against Oregon, and might get tackle Devery Hamilton back this week.

By Stuckey

Stanford also looks like it won’t have starting safety Ben Edwards again. His loss was apparent against Herbert and the Oregon offense. The Cardinal are also missing:

  • WR Connor Wedington (Out)
  • LB Curtis Robinson, who had an interception against Notre Dame last season (Out)
  • LB Casey Toohill (Out)
  • LB Jordan Perez (Questionable)

From an injury perspective, Notre Dame has a distinct advantage.

Bet to Watch: So Can You Trust Stanford?

By Collin Wilson

If you took blind résumés based upon S&P+ advanced 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 at 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 while ranking 17th in explosiveness.

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

Notre Dame may have the remedy in the form of a secondary that ranks tied for eighth in the nation in passes defensed and tied for 15th in yards per pass attempt allowed.

The Irish present the best pass defense on Stanford’s schedule. I took Notre Dame early in the week and would not hesitate to take it again up to -6.

The Irish have the ingredients to shut down Stanford’s one-dimensional offense, plus fatigue could set in after a boatload of offensive plays in Week 4 for the Cardinal.

The pick: Notre Dame -5.5