The difference between a winning week and a losing week is often in the details.
A point. A half-point. A missed field goal. In a sport often defined by its mistakes, college football finds a way to award and punish mishaps—turning wagers upside down in an instant.
Perhaps you know where I'm heading with this. Last week, this theme carried across multiple games that resulted in losses. A missed field goal cost us one cover; another game was lost by a single point; another was a stalled, final drive away from coming through.
The result was a frustrating 4-5 week against the spread that could have easily been 6-3. (I am sorry if this comes off as whiny, but that Mississippi State loss against LSU will linger for a while.)
However, we must look ahead. And with a record of 21-18-1 heading into Week 5, I am confident we can get on a winning week.
Before I get into picks, here is what went right and wrong from the week that was.
The Good: Arkansas (+5.5) vs. Texas A&M: That was easy. My only regret is not betting more money on the Hogs to win outright. While it was never a blowout, the spread always felt comfortably covered.
The Bad: West Virginia vs. Oklahoma (Over 55.5): Well, that was a miss. Unlike other wagers last week, this wasn't a close call. No missed field goals. No fumbles. Just a bad bet.
With that, it's on to Week 5. And what a week it is.
Syracuse at Florida State (-4.5)
The team that stalled on its final drive last week with a chance to cover? That would be Florida State.
I bet the Seminoles in Week 4 against Louisville. It did not end well.
It actually ended much better than it could have, as it looked like a blowout loss from the onset. But Florida State assembled a decent second half and pushed for the cover.
I admire that effort. And carrying this theme forward, I am absolutely tantalized by this spread for a variety of reasons.
Syracuse just beat Liberty outright—an upset we pegged in last week's Locks—as a six-point underdog. That's a quality win against a quality team with a quality quarterback. In fact, it's a victory that will likely generate a ton of public action this week.
But not from me. The Orange's first real road "test" all season will result in a convincing win for FSU. (It will also be the Seminoles' first victory.)
Do not fall for this trap and back Syracuse. That is what the books want you to do.
Florida State 34, Syracuse 24.
Oregon at Stanford (+8)
I remember the days when this game, at least for a short while, was one of the more anticipated stops on the calendar. We can't exactly declare that the case in 2021, although the stakes are much higher than they've been recently, given Oregon's early-season success.
And Stanford could push for an upset. Although the Cardinal lost last Saturday to UCLA, the game was competitive through three quarters. (I know this because I bet the Bruins and Stanford had a handful of chances to spoil that cover until the last few minutes.)
What has become abundantly clear over the past month is that Tanner McKee has a chance to be really good. Since being tossed into the lineup during Week 1's loss to Kansas State, the sophomore QB has changed the trajectory of Stanford's season.
This theme will continue, this time in a bigger spotlight. While many will focus on Alabama, Georgia and Iowa as games to watch, it would not shock me to see Oregon tumble on the road this weekend.
Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)
Yes, it's a big ol' spread.
No, I don't feel particularly good about betting against Arkansas—a team that is fun, talented and on quite an early-season run.
But as I've written in the column before, don't let your emotions mix with good business decisions.
Last week, I bet Arkansas against Texas A&M. That was a great business decision.
The Hogs beat the Aggies by 10 despite closing as an underdog, doing so without starting QB KJ Jefferson for a good chunk of the game because of a bruised knee.
Here's the problem: Georgia is better at just about every position. I don't know how to say that politely, so I'll just say it. As good as Arkansas has been, it's hard to find a place on the field where the Hogs will have an advantage.
Sure, it's reasonable to question Georgia's competition to date. The Bulldogs' best win was over Clemson, which has aged quite poorly. They also beat UAB, South Carolina and Vanderbilt by, well, a lot.
But backing Arkansas almost feels too easy. Given what we've seen, many will likely line up to take those points.
Not me. The environment coupled with the talent will prove to be too much, as much as it pains me to say so.
Georgia 45, Arkansas 24.
Michigan at Wisconsin (-2.5)
First, a disclaimer.
If you like games with plenty of touchdowns and scoreboard movement, you should probably invest your time elsewhere. Seriously, this is not the one for you.
That said, let's dive in.
Given just how bad last weekend's game ended for Wisconsin, some might find it strange that the Badgers are a short favorite over an unbeaten team.
In a way, that skepticism is understandable. Although the outcome against Notre Dame—and specifically the 41-13 final score—was largely a product of three non-offensive touchdowns in the second half.
That is not to say Wisconsin is without faults. The offense needs to get going, and that'll be a tall order against Michigan, owner of the No. 4 in scoring defense in CFB.
But the Wolverines also have their offensive issues. On Saturday, they accumulated just 275 yards of offense against Rutgers. Also, the Scarlet Knights turned that game into a nail-biter late.
This game will be ugly. Perhaps really, really ugly. Ultimately, Wisconsin finds a way to win at home.
Did I mention it will be ugly?
Texas at TCU (Over 65.5)
While Alabama-Ole Miss feels destined to deliver more points than any other game in Week 5, Texas-TCU poses a threat to that claim.
With Casey Thompson at quarterback—and Bijan Robinson playing like a superstar at running back—the Longhorns have found a rhythm. In the past two weeks, the Texas offense has accumulated 128 points.
At the same time, we saw last week against Texas Tech that the defense remains a work in progress. Texas owns the No. 67 scoring defense, and it will likely be tested on the road at TCU.
The Horned Frogs have also struggled defensively. They are ranked No. 79 in scoring defense and just allowed SMU to score 42 points in Fort Worth. They responded with 34 points of their own.
All the ingredients are in place for TCU and Texas to light up the scoreboard. I would be surprised if this game didn't crack 70.
Other Games on the Card
BYU at Utah State (+9): If upsets are the theme of Week 5, I implore you not to sleep on this one. BYU is coming off a lackluster showing in Week 4, and I could see Utah State, coming off its own lackluster appearance, keeping this one tighter than expected.
Louisville at Wake Forest (-7): The Demon Deacons are legit. Simple as that. Wake Forest has one of the ACC's most explosive offenses, and we will see that against the Cardinals. For some bonus betting, I could also see the over (61.5) being a play here.
Texas at TCU (+5): I'm doubling up on plays for this game, having already settled on the over. While TCU was no match for SMU match a week ago, I'm feeling a much better effort at home this time around. This is one of the strangest point spreads on the board.
Mississippi State at Texas A&M (-7): All is not well for the Aggies, although heading home should help a lot. The total (44.5) signifies the game we could get. I feel like, at least for this week, that kind of game will suit the home team in a stabilizing win.
Odds accurate as of Wednesday.
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