College Football Week 5: Against the Spread

Last week: 8-5

Stanford @ Washington (-3)

With the decline of Oregon this year, this game will in all likelihood decide the PAC 12 North this season. My head is telling me to pick Stanford–it’s tough to pick against Christian McCaffery, a strong defense, a great coaching staff, and a proven record of success the last decade. Despite that, Washington has better quarterback play with Jake Browning, and also features a young, talented roster and strong homefield advantage and Husky Stadium. Additionally, this game is on Friday night, and the Huskies have had this circled on their calendar all offseason, while Stanford is coming off of a hard fought late win at UCLA last weekend. If Washington truly wants to prove they’re back, they find a way to pull out a close one with a raucous crowd behind them.

Pick: Washington

Notre Dame (-10) @ Syracuse

Two stats put this season into context for Notre Dame–first, the last game they played at the Meadowlands (also against Syracuse) was in primetime, and this one kicks at 11am. Second, this line opened at -12.5 and has swiftly moved to -10. Brian Kelly proved he is willing to do what it takes to turn the season around by firing defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder this past week and promoting Greg Hudson from his defensive analyst position. Hudson has promised that ND will rotate more players on defense, play more aggressively, and most importantly, play with passion. Notre Dame has too talented a roster to not turn this season around, and this is the game to do it, against an Orange team that has struggled so far this season. I think the Van Gorder firing provides a breath of fresh air to a program desperately needing a new start to the season.

Pick: Notre Dame

Florida @ Vanderbilt (+10)

I’m taking Vanderbilt to cover at home against a disappointed Gator team reeling from giving up 35 unanswered points at Tennessee last week. This Vanderbilt defense is for real, and don’t forget that Vandy beat Florida in 2013 and held the Gators offense without a touchdown in a 9-7 loss last season. Vandy may not have the offense to win, but this defense keeps them close enough that this game comes down to the final possession.

Pick: Vanderbilt

Wisconsin @ Michigan (-10.5)

I’ve picked against Wisconsin twice this year, and each time the Badgers have proved me wrong. Paul Chryst is the early leader for Coach of the Year, and I fully expect the Badgers to again have a great gameplan against the Wolverines. Alex Hornibrook looks like the real deal at quarterback, and their linebackers fly to the ball. That being said, this Michigan team is more talented than both LSU and Michigan State, and is playing as well as any team in the country. Additionally, while Wisconsin is recovering from a physical game against MSU, Michigan won easily against Penn State. Bucky keeps it close in the first half, but Big Blue is too much in the end.

Pick: Michigan

Tennessee (-3.5) @ Georgia

This game pits two teams heading in the opposite direction. The Kirby Smart/Jacob Eason era got off to a great start this season with a win over North Carolina in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, but the Dawgs followed that up by barely beating Nicholls State (as a 55 point favorite) and then getting taken to the woodshed by Ole Miss in a game they looked thoroughly overmatched in. Meanwhile, Tennessee began the season with high expectations but needed overtime and a lucky bounce on a fumble to beat Appalachian State at home, and then looked unimpressive for long stretches in wins over Virginia Tech and Ohio. The Volunteers were down 21-3 against Florida last week, but played their best half of football in the last decade, scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half to win 38-28. Though it would be the most Tennessee thing to follow up that emotional win with a loss, expect the Volunteers to continue that momentum and win on the road in Athens, leaving Georgia fans to wonder if the grass is always greener, as Mark Richt has Miami in the top 15.

Pick: Tennessee

Oklahoma (-3.5) @ TCU

In a game where the first one to 50 wins, I’m taking the Sooners in a shootout because they play just a little more defense than the Frogs. Gary Patterson used to be known as a defensive coach, but he’s taken to the run and shoot offense just fine. Kenny Hill and the Frogs will score points, but they ultimately don’t have the defensive talent to keep the talented trio of Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon, and Samaje Perine out of the endzone. In contrast to Notre Dame, who also has had a disappointing start to the season, Oklahoma can still win a conference championship in the wide open Big 12. The Sooners take the next step toward accomplishing that and locking up a trip to a New Years Six bowl.

Pick: Oklahoma

Louisville @ Clemson (+2)

Clemson opened as a two point favorite, but this line has swung to Louisville, showing how quickly fans forget how the same Clemson offense led by Deshaun Watson put up 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against Alabama in the National Championship last season. Clemson has been solid, not spectacular this season, but has yet to play a complete game this season. On the other hand, Louisville is the flavor of the month, as they steamrolled Florida State two weeks ago, 63-20, and Lamar “Action” Jackson has established himself as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Still, Dabo Swinney will have his team ready to play, and this will be Louisville’s first road test, which just so happens to be in Death Valley at night. I’m going with proven success and experience in this one, as a battle-tested Clemson team finds a way to win a close one at home.

The Common Room’s College Football Playoff Predictions

  1. Alabama vs. 4. Houston
  2. Clemson vs. 3. Ohio State


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