Few games on the schedule for this week stood out a month ago. There are no collisions of traditional powers, no great rivalries, no meeting of teams with better than 80/1 title odds in the preseason.
Now, it is the best college football slate we’ve seen this season. There are five games featuring a pair of ranked teams, including three matchups of undefeated teams.
For the second straight week, Clemson’s title hopes are in danger. After escaping Winston-Salem with a double-overtime win over previously unbeaten Wake Forest, Dabo Swinney and his No. 10 Tigers (4-0) face their greatest ACC test of the season against No. 10 North Carolina State (4-0).
The Tigers enter off a long-awaited A-plus effort from DJ Uiagalelei (375 yards passing, five touchdowns), but the untrustworthy quarterback is certain to face more resistance against an upper-level defense, which limited him to 111 passing yards and a 46.2 completion percentage in last year’s loss to the Wolfpack.
North Carolina State’s Devin Leary will again have the better day — he completed 32-of-44 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions last year — against a secondary that is not at full strength. Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack (+6.5).
College Football Week 5 picks and predictions
All odds courtesy of BetMGM
IOWA (+10.5) over Michigan
Iowa City is a tough place for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy to make his first career start on the road. The Hawkeyes have six home wins over ranked teams since 2016 — including four over top 10 teams — and four straight home wins against the Wolverines. Michigan running back Blake Corum won’t be able to put the offense on his back against a defense giving up 2.6 yards per carry and no rushing touchdowns this season.
Kentucky (+7) over MISSISSIPPI
Take the points in toss-up game. The Wildcats have won three straight games against ranked teams — including a road win at Florida three weeks ago — and senior quarterback Will Levis is emerging as a potential top-five pick in the spring. John Calipari must be proud.
TCU (+6.5) over Oklahoma
Sooners head coach Brent Venables needs more than a month to rebuild a defense that has been ignored for years. Installing a high-powered offense isn’t as difficult in modern college football. Sonny Dykes’ first season in Fort Worth — alongside 33-year-old offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, USC head coach Lincoln’s little brother — has produced an offense putting up 47 points per game, led by Max Duggan, who holds the highest efficiency rating in the nation.
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UTAH (-10.5) over Oregon State
The Beavers earned some respect with their near-upset of USC, but they’ve never been the same away from home. The Utes — 3-0 against the spread as double-digit favorites this season — are still the team to beat in the Pac-12.
ARKANSAS (+17.5) over Alabama
If not for a field goal off the post and a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week, the Razorbacks would be playing for a chance to control the SEC West. Forget the pair of fluky plays in the loss to Texas A&M and focus on an experienced group that has amassed a 4-0 home record against ranked teams over the past year and will have no fear against the perennial power it lost to by a touchdown last season.
Rutgers (+40.5) over OHIO STATE
Because. I’m not going to bother looking for a stat that helps justify the pick, since one probably doesn’t exist.
BAYLOR (-2.5) over Oklahoma State
Spencer Sanders, the Oklahoma State QB, has been impressive beating up the little guys. The truth about him will leak out against Dave Aranda’s defense, which forced Sanders into seven interceptions during the schools’ two meetings last season.
Northwestern (+27) over PENN STATE
If the Wildcats stop coughing up the ball every other possession, a moral victory is achievable. I concede that is a big “if.”
Wake Forest (+7) over FLORIDA STATE
The Seminoles’ return to the polls will likely be short-lived. After building their 4-0 record against a collection of quarterbacks outside the top 80 in the nation in passing yards and outside the top 40 in efficiency, Florida State faces a wake-up call against Sam Hartman, who just lit up Clemson for 337 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Betting on College Football?
Texas A&M (+3.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Aggies are without top receiver Ainias Smith, but the battle-tested group with a reliable defense is far more prepared than the Air Raid offense, which put up just 16 points in its lone test of the season at LSU. Home field doesn’t mean much for a program that has won just three of its past nine home games in conference.
Georgia (-28) over MISSOURI
The 22 points Kent State scored last week against Georgia — which also committed three turnovers — ensures the defending champs won’t let off the gas early. The Tigers won’t touch the end zone.
USC (-25.5) over Arizona State
Lincoln Riley’s team would have a fraction of its playoff hype without the brand behind it. The Trojans will enjoy one more blowout, before their perfect record evaporates in the following two weeks, against Washington State or Utah.
Best bets: Wake Forest, Georgia, North Carolina State
This season: 26-32-2
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19