We had our first losing week (2-3) in Week 5, but the landing was made softer when Arizona State (+180) handed Cal its first outright loss of the season. This week, the top two teams in the country are off and it’s a chance for teams below Alabama and Clemson in the polls to make some noise on the national scene.
There are some really interesting matchups this week to get into and some good opportunities to make some money.
No. 7 Auburn at No. 8 Florida
I’ve been downplaying how good Auburn QB Bo Nix is as a true freshman. Maybe I’m just a hater or maybe it’s just that I don’t think that the kids of star players are going to be automatically as great as their dad. However, Nix has made me a believer after what he did last week against Mississippi State. Nix threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers blasted the Bulldogs to improve to 5-0. When you combine that performance with how well he played against Oregon and Texas A&M, it’s nearly impossible to question his talent now. Auburn has a star on its hands.
Florida’s new quarterback has also made believers out of the skeptics. After Feleipe Franks went down for the season with an injury, Kyle Trask came off the bench to lead the team to a victory at Kentucky and then to easy wins against Tennessee and Towson. However, Trask is going to face a dominant defensive front that is only giving up around 17 points per game and 3.1 yards per rush attempt.
What is helping the Gator offense is that Trask is completing over 77 percent of his passes. He is moving the chains and he will need to be sharp again against an Auburn team that is only allowing 3rd down conversions 31.5 percent of the time.
Both these teams are built to play defense first but Auburn has better playmakers overall. The Tigers are looking for another Top 15 scalp and I think they are going to get it here on the road. I just don’t think we know enough about Florida given its schedule. The Gators struggled with Miami and then barely beat Kentucky. The last two opponents for Florida are just flat out bad at football. Auburn has already beaten two ranked teams.
While I’m leaning on taking the under and I know this is a true road game for the Tigers, I’m going the lay the points.
PICK: Auburn -3
No. 18 UCF at Cincinnati
The Golden Knights went on the road to face Pitt two weeks ago on got handed their only loss of the season. UCF followed that up with a blowout win over UConn but they didn’t cover. A Friday night road trip to Cincinnati is going to be another massive test for the high-flying Golden Knights this season.
There are a lot of people who believe Cincinnati’s road trip to Ohio State has prepared the team well to face the quick-strike offense of UCF, but I think that is wishful thinking. QB Dillion Gabriel has thrown for 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions and he is completing over 60 percent of his passes. Even in the loss at Pitt, Gabriel still threw for 338 yards and two scores. Just because you have played one great QB, it doesn’t mean you are ready to face another one.
Cincinnati has lost to UCF by a combined score of 89 to 36 the last two seasons. While that stat has nothing to do with this year’s game, it does give you an idea that the Golden Knights haven’t had a tough time scoring on the Bearcats recently. Head coach Luke Fickell prides his teams on grinding out victories but against Ohio State, UC gave up 42 points and didn’t score.
That’s the problem here for me with this game. I just don’t know if Desmond Ridder and the offense can move the football enough to keep up with true freshman Dillion Gabriel and UCF. Ridder threw for just 166 yards against Ohio State and while the Golden Knights aren’t as talented as the Buckeyes, it’s not a massive difference in athletic ability.
There will be a new black field at Nippert Stadium laid down for this game but I don’t think that matters much when it comes to the players in the game. UCF is too talented and will pull out a hard fought win at the end.
PICK: UCF -4
No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan
Iowa has been very good this season. The Hawkeyes have allowed less than 9 points per game and they have beaten up the inferior opponents that has been on their schedule. With all due respect to Iowa State, who has Iowa actually beaten this season to warrant a top 15 ranking?
On the other hand, the Wolverines had an expectation of winning the Big 10 this year but if they lose this game, that goal is most likely gone. This is UM’s homecoming game and there has been a lot of grumbling about Jim Harbaugh’s coaching this season from the alumni.
Last week, UM quieted down the critics by blowing out Rutgers but that’s the worst team in the Big 10. You are supposed to do that if you are Michigan. This is a top 15 team coming town and an Iowa team that has won 5 of the 6 meetings including the last game at Michigan Stadium in 2016. This is a must-win for the Wolverines.
QB Shea Patterson hasn’t played well under new OC Josh Gattis and it’s not likely that the offense gets rolling against and Iowa defense that is tough to score on. However, Michigan’s defense is due to get on track and start performing up to their talent level. Wisconsin embarrassed UM and this is a chance to get some respect back.
I’m leaning towards Michigan laying the points; however, I’m going to play the under here. I don’t think either team will have much success moving the football and I think it’s going to be a tight, low scoring game.
PICK: Under 47.5
No. 25 Michigan State at No. 5 Ohio State
I’m back talking about Ohio State after losing my play on the over against Nebraska in Week 5. When one team scores 48 points, you feel pretty confident that you are going to hit on the over but that didn’t happen. Nebraska couldn’t score more than seven points against the Buckeyes and QB Justin Fields ran a clinic on how to blow out a team on the road. The Buckeyes have been simply incredible through five games.
Michigan State has had an interesting season. They lost at home to Arizona State but the Sun Devils are a quality team and will go to a good bowl game this season. MSU gave up 31 points to Indiana last week but surprisingly, they scored 40 to get their fourth win. Other than what the Hoosiers were able to do, the Spartan defense has been outstanding.
The problem is that Michigan State leads the nation in field goal attempts. Placekicker Matt Coughlin has hit 10 of 15 tries but far too often this season, the Spartans are settling for 3 rather than 6 points. You can’t expect to beat Ohio State on the road no matter how good your defense plays doing that.
I believe Ohio State will score 30 in this game but I just don’t know about Michigan State’s offense. I think it could be another situation like last week where the Buckeyes go up big and the opponent doesn’t score. This is too many points to lay here but I will play the under.
PICK: Under 49.5
Utah State at No. 5 LSU
Ready for some offense?
Utah State comes into this game ranked in the top 10 in pass attempts per game, top 50 in scoring and top 50 in yards per play. On the other side, LSU’s new look offense has Tiger fans drooling over the chance to play the likes of Alabama and Auburn later on this season. LSU QB Joe Burrow is a legit Heisman contender after starting the year by throwing for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. However, don’t sleep on Utah State QB Jordan Love who already put up a 400-yard game against Wake Forest on the road.
This could be a trap game for the Tigers as they have Florida in town next week but it’s hard to see how the Aggies are going to slow down this powerful LSU offense. It’s more likely that the defense will struggle with the tempo and speed that Utah State will bring to the field and there should be opportunities to make big plays.
LSU has given up 38 points twice so this season and I think Utah State will be in the ballpark of that number in this game. I can’t see the Tigers scoring less than 45 and it might be able to name the number in this one. I’m not going to lay four touchdowns but I do like a lot of points to be scored.
PICK: Over 73.5