Updated: Oct 2, 2021
It's Wednesday, and you know what that means, it's time to make some college football picks.
And I can't lie kids, I'm coming into this week... HOT!
Last week, we had a very solid 4-1-1 overall record, and the week before that we went 5-2 giving us a 9-3-1 mark the last two weekends.
Still, as Jon Rothstein likes to say, you have to "stay humble and stay hungry." I've been doing this long enough to know that the second you think you have this sports gambling thing figured out, it comes up - and smacks you across the face.
Anyway, let's get to the picks, but before we do a few announcements:
First off, for those who missed it, we have MEGA news this weekend, as Aaron Torres Media has partnered with DraftKings Sportsbook. Full details are below, but this is huge news for our company and for these picks.
Secondly, don't forget - make sure you're listening to the new "College Football Betting" show with Aaron Torres. I truly appreciate your support, as the numbers continue to increase every week. You can listen to Monday's first reaction to the lines below, with a new episode dropping Thursday morning.
Finally, a warning about the picks this week: There is nothing sexy about them. As we enter conference play, and these teams begin to figure each other out, I expect a lot of the high-flying fun games we saw earlier this year to become low-scoring, grind fests.
Basically, what I'm trying to tell you is, I'm going to call this "Under's Saturday" with a lot of low-scoring affairs.
Here are the Week 5 picks.
No. 5 Iowa at Maryland (+3.5): Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Let's start with a little Friday night fun, and let me start with a little bit of story time. That story is this: Last year, I lost a LOT of money betting against the Indiana Hoosiers football team. A ton. Every week I thought they were overrated. Every week I picked against them. Every week I lost.
I bring that up to say this: In the process of losing a lot of money betting against Indiana, I learned a lot of things about obscure Big Ten teams. One of them was this: Maryland wasn't nearly as bad as I thought they were. Last year they didn't play much defense, but with Tua's brother under center, they could sling the rock. And this year they've only continued that as they currently rank 13th in the country in total offense, and are putting up over 350 yards per game through the air.
Then there's Iowa, and while everyone loves them, they have one major flaw: Their offense stinks. Like, it's really, really bad. Like "worse than Clemson" bad, as they currently rank 122nd nationally in total offense. In terms of Power 5 teams, only Vanderbilt and Colorado are worse.
So how are the Hawkeyes 4-0 and ranked in the Top 5 nationally, you ask? Well, it's simple: They play good defense, and turn you over a TON. On the season, they rank eighth nationally in turnover margin, and have forced nine turnovers in their first four games.
Here's the catch though: Because they don't move the ball much, when they don't turn you over a ton, they struggle. Take last week as an example. They played Colorado State, and Colorado State had one turnover the entire game. Not coincidentally, that was a 21-14 game going into the fourth quarter, and a 24-14 final.
Point being, I believe that Maryland's offense is potent enough to withstand, even a mistake or two offensively. I also think Iowa - which always struggles to move the ball - has an especially tough go of it on the road, at night, in a rocking stadium in College Park.
Play it safe and take the points, but I love Maryland as a home underdog here.
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia (UNDER 49), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Before we get to the game itself, let me say... HOW BOUT THEM HOGS!!! What Sam Pittman is doing is the single greatest turnarounds I've ever seen, as this program went from winless in the SEC in 2018 and 2019, to the Top 10 in 2021.
Seriously, think about this stat: In the two years that Chad Morris was there, Arkansas won four games... total. They're 4-0 this season.
Now to this game itself, and everyone sees the number (Georgia is an 18.5 point favorite as I write this) and thinks to themselves "that's preposterous!" And I think for the most part it is. If I was forced to pick a side, it would definitely be the Arkansas side.
At the same time, I think the UNDER is a much safer bet, and here's why.
First off, Arkansas is definitely coming into this game banged up. Unfortunately, this is the body blow factor of the SEC, and while they beat A&M last week it came at a cost, as both starting quarterback KJ Jefferson and star wide receiver Treylon Burks came out of that game with nagging injuries. Sam Pittman said he expects both to play - but it doesn't change the fact that neither will be anything close to 100 percent.
On top of that, I also think we have to be realistic with last week's game: Arkansas, against the best defense they faced all season had success moving the ball - with 443 yards of total offense. However, their two touchdown scores came on plays of 85 and 48 yards. I just can't see Georgia giving up big plays like that, meaning the Hogs will likely have to grind out drives to get points. Long, clock consuming drives, means, well, a lot of time coming off the clock.
Then there is Georgia, and shout out Georgia my preseason national championship pick (insert barking dog noise here). I love my dawgs, but also don't see them blowing up on offense either. First off, Arkansas plays real defense (No. 12 nationally) and are especially good against the run. Texas A&M got over half their rushing yards on one Isaiah Spiller touchdown run last week.
While I do expect Georgia to win, I expect this to be a low-scoring, physical battle. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-10, 24-14 something like that. Take the 18.5 points if you want, but I love the UNDER.
No. 14 Michigan at Wisconsin (First Half UNDER 21.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Speaking of "low scoring, physical battle" let's talk Michigan-Wisconsin. Because I fully expect this game to make Arkansas-Georgia look like a flag football intramural game by comparison.
We all know about Wisconsin - so let's get into Michigan for a second, and well, did you see their game against Rutgers last Saturday? They were up 20-3 at half, were cruising to a win... then proceeded to go three-and-out four straight times to start the second half and hold on for a 20-13 win. It was peak Harbaugh at Michigan.
Oh, and you know what makes things worse? Michigan didn't even attempt to move the ball through the air, and has to even attempt to do so this season. Incredibly, they actually rank 127th out of 130 FBS teams in pass attempts per game. The only teams that attempt fewer? The service academies (Army, Navy and Air Force).
So basically, a week after Notre Dame proved you can beat Wisconsin through the air, what's going to happen? Harbaugh is going to run the ball again and again and again right into this defense.
Basically, I expect this to be super low scoring, but I don't love the number on either side because I don't trust either offense. But I also don't love the over/under for the entire game, because as we saw last week, Graham Mertz could get crazy and do something weird late.
Therefore the play to me is the first half under, which isn't currently listed, but should come in somewhere around 21.5.
Take two conservative teams, that don't trust their quarterbacks - and especially in the first half, points will be at a premium.
No. 13 Ole Miss (+7.5 - first half) at No. 1 Alabama: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
You know what game we don't have to worry about seeing points - Alabama-Ole Miss. That's right, the Lane Train is rolling to town, baby and after the two teams combined for over 100 points last year in Oxford, the total continues to creep up. It opened at 76, and is up to 81 on DraftKings Sportsbook.
So yeah, everybody is expecting points and I'm no different. And my favorite bet in this game is Ole Miss plus the points in the first half.
There are two reasons why:
One, Ole Miss has gotten off to insanely quick starts this year. I don't think there's any way to simulate what they do in practice, and it seems like no matter who they play, it takes the opponent a while to play catch up. They scored 27 versus Louisville in the first half, and Lane Kiffin wasn't even in the building that night because of Covid. They then proceeded to score 37 in the first half against Austin Peay and 41 against Tulane.
And while it'd be easy to say "They won't come anywhere close against Bama" remember a few things: One, Bama had no answers for Ole Miss last year as the Rebels put up 643 yards of offense. And two, for all the talk about Matt Corral, what Ole Miss does better than anyone is run the ball - they rank fourth nationally in that category. Alabama gave up almost six yards per rush to Florida a few weeks ago.
Point being, I really don't see a scenario where Ole Miss scores anything fewer than 14 points in the first half, and I feel like that number could go much, much higher. Which is why I like the first half line so much. Also, if you think back to last year, Ole Miss ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, something that worries me about taking the 14.5 for the game.
In the end, I actually think Ole Miss can pull off the outright upset.
But I'll go ahead and play the first half of this game, sit back, enjoy the second half, and see if the Lane Train can pull off the upset.
No. 6 Oklahoma at Kansas State (UNDER 52.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Let's get one thing straight off the top: Oklahoma stinks. Take out a game against FCS team Western Carolina, and they needed a last minute stop to beat Tulane, two missed field goals and a blocked PAT to beat Nebraska and held on for dear life against West Virginia.
But the reason they aren't good isn't necessarily why you think.
Yes, Spencer Rattler has struggled, leading to the fans calling for Caleb Williams, but more than Rattler, the bigger problem for Oklahoma is they can't run the ball.
For context let's go back two years to 2019, when Oklahoma last made the playoff. That year, the Sooners averaged 240 yards per game rushing. Take out that Western Carolina game this year, they are averaging half of that - 121 yards this year. If Western Carolina weren't on the schedule, that 121 yards per game would rank 104th nationally in rushing, right behind... Vanderbilt.
By the way, did I mention that Kansas State has the No. 8 ranked rush defense in college football? And that this is Oklahoma's first road game of the season?
Basically I expect Oklahoma to struggle to move the ball, but I also expect the same from Kansas State. One, Kansas State is down to its third string quarterback. And two, Oklahoma's defense has been good, as they rank 21st nationally in total defense.
In the end, every ounce of my being wants to take Kansas State plus the 10.5 points, and I don't think it's a bad decision.
But Kansas State is so bad offensively, I just expect this one to stay low scoring all afternoon.
Boston College (+14.5) at Clemson: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Listen, I could give you a big long breakdown on this one, but why bother. We only have a limited time on Earth, so why do I need to spend 2,000 words to get to this point: Clemson stinks.
That's no disrespect. Just true. They currently rank 121st in total offense. In regulation against FBS opponents, they've scored three points vs. Georgia, 14 points vs. Georgia Tech and 14 vs. NC State (they got to 21 in overtime).
Put simply, I just don't see any scenario where they have major success moving the ball against anyone this year, let alone Boston College, who plays legitimate defense. The Eagles rank No. 20 in total defense, and No. 25 in rush defense. Clemson's leading rusher is out for this game, meaning that it will come down to the passing game making plays, something they haven't done all season.
Finally, I also just wonder what the psyche of this team is. Every kid at Clemson has come to this school and only known going to the playoff and competing for national championships. Now that's off the table, how fired up are they the rest of the season?
Clemson might win. But right now, I just don't believe they should be favored by 14.5 points against just about anyone.
No. 22 Auburn at LSU (UNDER 55.5): Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Couple things you need to know about this rivalry: One, LSU owns Auburn in Baton Rouge. The last time Auburn won at Tiger Stadium was 1999. Many of you reading weren't even born yet.
Which not only makes me feel really old. But that also seems really important in this particular situation.
The other thing about this rivalry is that most of the games are close and low scoring. Take out last year when LSU had one of the worst defenses in major college football and gave up a million points to everyone, and here are the scores of the games played between these two teams: 23-20 (in 2019), 22-21 (in 2018), 27-23 (2018), 18-13 (2017).
That's right, even in the year that Joe Burrow and the LSU offense set all sorts of records offensively, they didn't even break 24 points against Auburn.
And really, I expect this one to be no different.
First off, we know Bryan Harsin will play things close to the vest. Especially on the road. Especially since he doesn't even know who he plans to play at quarterback.
More importantly though, what do we really know about LSU? I watched their entire game against Mississippi State and came away without really learning anything. Yes, they won 28-25, but still can't run the ball, and three of their four touchdown scores came on big plays, of 40+ yards. That isn't going to happen against an Auburn defense that limits big plays.
I can't bet against LSU here, because again, they never lose at home to Auburn. But I can't bet on them, because I don't think they're very good.
But I can bet the under... to wrap UNDER Saturday on college football.
Just a few stay aways this week:
Mississippi State at Texas A&M (-7) - Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: This line opened at Texas A&M 9.5 and I love it there. I don't love it nearly as much at exactly a touchdown. The pros got the best of this number early in the week and I'm just going to stay away.
No. 7 Cincinnati (-2.5) at No. 9 Notre Dame - Saturday, 2:30 ET, NBC: After I spent all week gushing over the Irish, this one worries me. They come off a mega win against Wisconsin, and are... a 2.5 point underdog at home? STAY. AWAY.
No. 10 Florida (-8.5) at Kentucky - Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: There are a few things in life I love more than anything, including a cold beer, a day at the pool in Vegas and a big home underdog. But Kentucky has turned the ball over six times in the last two games, so this is a big fat, "no thank you" to me.
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