How is it Week 5 already? Remember when football season couldn’t come quick enough? Now, it’s just flying by. Things are about to get real interesting, too, with conference play heating up.
Here are the five main underdogs I like this week, plus two additional longer shots.
Cincinnati at Notre Dame (+1), EVEN
Though I am posting the current line, this was my best bet shared earlier this week at a better number. The gist: I’m backing the better defense and no, that’s not the Bearcats.
Syracuse +5, +175 at Florida State
Turns out, the Orange have a pretty good defense, particularly against the run. ‘Cuse held Rutgers to 1.2 yards per carry and Liberty to 3.7, below their season average. With a good rush defense facing a run-heavy team, this matchup falls into their strength.
Though Syracuse lost 17-7 to Rutgers, they outgained the Scarlet Knights and gave away two fumbles, plus one interception. Ranked 29th in giveaways, that’s likely just a sloppy performance.
Besides, FSU still has a terrible offensive line, ranked 124th in quarterback protection and now facing a ‘Cuse pass rush that's ranked 20th in quarterback pressure. The Orange defense has generated 14 sacks, which has led to only six passing touchdowns and eight interceptions from the Seminoles. They also rank dead last in giveaways.
Not to mention FSU is also having red zone issues. They are 94th in red zone attempts and 110th in red zone scores. Syracuse just so happens to be 24th best in opponent red zone scores.
Oklahoma at Kansas State +10.5, +320
The Sooners are having trouble scoring. Spencer Rattler and company are getting the yardage (42nd in passing) but not putting up scores, averaging just 26 points per game, scoring just four touchdowns total in the last two. To put things into perspective, Oklahoma is 22nd in red zone attempts but 79th in offensive touchdowns. In three FBS games, OU has failed to win by more than one score.
Why does this matter? Well, Kansas State is the opposite, giving up yards but not points. The Wildcats are 106th in passing defense but 27th in opponent red zone scores, 20th in opponent offensive touchdowns limiting teams to 18 points per game. Plus, this is Oklahoma’s first road game of the season after playing four straight at home.
Some trends that could come into play:
Kansas State is 6-2 ATS as a home underdog under head coach Chris Klieman, including five outright wins.
OU is 5-9-1 ATS as an away favorite under head coach Lincoln Riley.
As a reminder, Oklahoma lost outright to Kansas State in back-to-back years as 23-point and 27-point favorites in 2019 and 2020.
Pitt at Georgia Tech +3, +140
Georgia Tech is on a bit of a roll, losing to Clemson 14-8 as 29-point underdogs and then defeating North Carolina as 11.5-point underdogs. Unfortunately, this is a much smaller spread to cover. However, one thing could come into play: turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets scored 17 points from turnovers against UNC and now ranked 34th in takeaways. Pitt has a fumble problem, ranking 93rd in fumble giveaways. In a low-spread game, a single turnover can make the difference.
Tulane at East Carolina +3.5, +160
These are two statistically similar teams. Tulane is 78th in total offense, and 125th in total defense. East Carolina is 57th in total offense, and 115th in total defense. Both are pass-first teams, with ECU holding the slight edge in yards per pass attempt.
Similar to Georgia Tech, this could come down to turnovers. The Green Wave are fourth worst in giveaways. The Pirates are ninth best in takeaways. It was turnovers that helped ECU pull the 10-point underdog upset over Marshall after an interception return for a touchdown.
Two double-digit underdogs to consider
I know, I know! I said I would lay off the double-digit dogs. This is the week, though!
The gist: Florida gave away the playbook on how to contend with this year’s Bama team. You run the ball down their throats. The Gators ran 245 yards of rushing offense for 5.7 yards per carry in their 31-29 loss.
The Rebels have had a shift in their offensive scheme. They’re geared even more towards a run-heavy offense, from a top-30 rushing team last year to right now being ranked sixth in rushing yards. Matt Corral is also using his legs a bit more. Last year, he rushed for four total ground scores. Through three games this year, he already has five rushing touchdowns.
Boston College +15, +545 at Clemson
Who stole the Clemson offense? They’d like to have it back! Here’s a look at the Tigers against FBS opponents this year:
Hasn’t scored more than 21 points
Ranked 126th in total offense
Ranked 106th in red zone attempts
Ranked 118th in red zone scores
Ranked 103rd in offensive touchdowns
The Eagles are 13th in red zone scores and 22nd in offensive touchdowns.
The Clemson defense, though, is pretty stout. They are 29th in opponent yards per game, and top 20 in both opponent red zone attempts and scores. The key is for Boston College to keep this a low-scoring affair is by making sure that Clemson continues to have offensive troubles.
Looking back to last year, Clemson (with a much better offense compared to this year) beat Boston College 34-28 as 24-point favorites.