Well, Week 6 of the college football season certainly has a tough act to follow. I’m not sure how you beat the dramatics of last week, when Ohio State came back from the dead to stun Penn State in Happy Valley, Clemson and Michigan both had to stage furious second-half comebacks, West Virginia and Texas Tech combined for 76 points in an offensive showcase of ranked squads, and Florida upset Mississippi State on the road.
But while Week 5 may not have the potential and promise of those massive matchups (I didn’t even mention Notre Dame’s important win over Stanford, which basically vaulted the Irish into the national title conversation), I do think there’s a lot of potential to make some money. And while edge-of-your-seat moments are always special, I’ll gladly take some extra dollars in my betting account anytime instead. With that in mind, here are my five betting predictions for Week 6 in college football.
All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 2 p.m. eastern on October 2, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.
1. Maryland (First Half) over Michigan (Saturday, noon eastern)
Did it come as a surprise to see the Wolverines allow the first 17 points of the game last week against Northwestern, forcing Michigan to score 20 unanswered points to eke out a 3-point victory over the Wildcats? Michigan’s narrow margin of victory may have been unexpected, but the Wolverines’ slow start really shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It’s becoming an ugly habit of Jim Harbaugh’s crew, and I’m liking the chances of those slow starts continuing here against the Terrapins.
Maryland has gotten crushed in its last three meetings with Michigan, but that only provides some added motivation for the Terps as they look to avenge a 59-3 loss in their last trip to the Big House two years ago. Maryland should come into this game with a ton of confidence, having won three of its first four games, and the Terrapins also have a significant rest advantage after enjoying a bye last week.
Michigan’s the superior team here and should pull away eventually, as the 17-point spread on this game suggests. But with the Wolverines’ tendency to start slow, Maryland’s preparation coming off the bye and the Terps playing with confidence, I like the Terrapins to keep things close for a while. A first half betting line hadn’t been posted as of the time of writing, but as long as we can get 9.5 or better (a 10 would be great), I’ll back Maryland in the opening 30 minutes.
2. Clemson -17.5 over Wake Forest (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. eastern)
As soon as I heard the surprising news that Kelly Bryant was transferring out of Clemson after losing the starting quarterback job, I had a feeling that it may end up derailing the Tigers’ national playoff hopes. But how crazy was it that it nearly happened within a few days of Bryant leaving the team? Sure enough, new starter Trevor Lawrence got his bell rung in the first half last week against Syracuse, and it was all the Tigers could do to pull out a season-saving victory over the Orange. In case you didn’t watch the game, Clemson needed a heroic fourth-down completion from third-string QB Chase Brice late in regulation to edge Syracuse 27-23.
That narrow victory by Clemson is one reason we get a discounted line here (the Tigers were 24-point faves against Syracuse), and the Tigers’ uncertainty at quarterback is another. Lawrence could be back for this week’s clash with the Demon Deacons, but it’s starting to look like a real possibility that Brice is the man under centre Saturday for the Orange. Either way, I’m loving the situation for Clemson to bring heightened focus to the field this week, knowing they got away with one against the Orange and eager to prove they’re much better than what they showed last week.
Wake Forest has covered the spread in each of the last four meetings between these teams, but all of those spreads were in the 20s. At this 17-point spread, Clemson would have covered six of the last nine meetings, showing the pure difference in class between these programs. And while Wake is 3-2, those victories have come against Tulane, Towson and Rice. In ACC play, the Deacons are 0-2 both straight-up and against the spread with a point differential of minus-36. The Tigers roll in this spot, with or without Lawrence.
3. Texas A&M -5.5 over Kentucky (Saturday, 7 p.m. eastern)
Worse team favored here? It may look like that at first glance, with the 5-0 and 13th-ranked Wildcats catching nearly a full touchdown on the road at 3-2 and unranked Texas A&M. But when you look closer at the numbers, not only does it make sense that the Aggies are laying points in this spot, it also looks like there’s some pretty nice value on Texas A&M at home.
I don’t want to take too much away from Kentucky, a basketball school whose college program is enjoying a historic season. This is just the Cats’ third 5-0 start since 1950, and the first time they’ve started out 3-0 in SEC play since 1977. But the Wildcats aren’t blowing teams away the way that their scores may suggest. Yes, beating South Carolina and Mississippi State by a combined margin of 35 points looks impressive, but Kentucky outgained its opponents by a combined total of just 126 yards in those contests. The Wildcats are also far too reliant on the running game (10th in the nation at 259.4 yards per game), which works great when you’re playing with a lead. If Kentucky falls behind, however, I don’t like the chances of the Wildcats’ 118th-ranked pass game engineering a comeback.
Meanwhile, the Aggies look solid on both sides of the ball right now. Their offense is 13th in the country in total yards, 24th in rushing, 33rd in passing and 40th in point scored. Defensively, Texas A&M is third in the NCAA against the rush — matching up extremely well against Kentucky — and in the top half of the nation in total yards allowed despite having faced both Clemson and Alabama.
Those two games against national title contenders are the Aggies’ two losses this year (Texas A&M covered the spread in both contests, by the way), so Texas A&M’s 3-2 overall record is a bit misleading as well. In fact, by the end of the season, I’m expecting the Aggies to have as good a record (if not better) than Kentucky. With the Wildcats overdue for a letdown/poor performance and the Aggies playing solid football at home, I actually think laying 5.5 points here is a bargain.
4. Notre Dame -6.5 over Virginia Tech
Life without Josh Jackson began on the right foot last week for Virginia Tech, which went into Duke and handed the then-#22 Blue Devils a 31-14 defeat as 6.5-point underdogs (cashing a ticket for us in the process, part of our 3-1 week against the spread.) But we often see teams respond well in their first game after a superstar gets injured, knowing that the remaining players all need to elevate their play in order to make up for their fallen teammate. It’s the games after that where the injury is often felt the most, and we think the Hokies really miss their star QB in this clash.
To beat Notre Dame right now, you’ve got to put up points. The Irish hung 38 on a tough Stanford defense last week, seven days after scoring 56 at Wake Forest. The quarterback switch to Ian Book has made Notre Dame’s offense much more explosive and the Irish has all sorts of momentum as it prepares to face a Virginia Tech defense that ranks 123rd in the country against the pass.
I just don’t see how Virginia Tech puts up enough points to stay within this number. Junior quarterback Ryan Willis may have thrown for 332 yards and three touchdowns last week against Duke, but Notre Dame’s defense is much better. Willis also threw a lot of “50/50 jump balls” last week, trusting his receivers to win their battles against the Blue Devils secondary. Notre Dame just shut down Stanford’s physical receiving core last week and shouldn’t have any issues defending those types of passes in this game.
In my opinion, the only reason Virginia Tech is a relatively small underdog here is because of the Hokies’ reputation for being a sound defensive team that is tough at home. But with Jackson out of the lineup, the reality is that this Va Tech squad is nowhere near as dangerous, and I don’t see them hanging with the high-scoring Irish right now. Lay the points.
5. Stanford -5 over Utah (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. eastern)
As we wrote last week in fading the Cardinal at Notre Dame, that game was a really tough spot for Stanford. Not only was it their second consecutive road game against a tough opponent, but the Cardinal was also coming off an extremely emotional overtime win at Oregon. It’s often hard to manufacture the same level of emotion and intensity again the following week, even if it’s at South Bend and in front of the NBC national television cameras.
So we’re not going to hold Stanford’s 21-point loss against them that much. The Cardinal was even in that game for a while, tied 14-14 with the Irish before Notre Dame scored right before halftime. The second half was an entirely different story as the Irish outscored the Cardinal 14-0 and finished with a yardage advantage of 550-229, but I think it’s entirely possible that Stanford just ran out of gas. Returning home where the Cardinal is notoriously tough to beat, I think Stanford brings a lot more energy to this one.
Contrast that mindset with Utah, which can’t be feeling good about things at all right now. Many people thought the Utes might compete for first place in the Pac-12 South, but an 0-2 start to conference play has derailed a lot of that talk. And while a conference play-opening loss to Washington may not have been that hard to get over, last week’s defeat at Washington State — when the Cougars won the game on an 89-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter — will probably have some hangover effect.
Utah’s actually in a similar position this week to what Stanford was last week (coming off an emotional game and playing its second straight road contest), and we know how that story ended. Look for Stanford to pull away in the second half on its way to a comfortable win.