College football best bets for Week 5
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One bad day is not going to humble Deion Sanders. The Colorado coach still will swagger onto the field, and his football team that penned a Cinderella story still will believe it will win, even as a three-touchdown underdog for a second straight Saturday.
The Buffaloes are probably headed for another bad day, mostly because their defense is nowhere near strong enough to contain USC’s Caleb Williams, the nation’s best quarterback. The Trojans are 21.5-point favorites after DraftKings opened the line at 24.
A week after Oregon rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead, coasted to a 42-6 win and crushed Cinderella, Colorado gets another shot at a Pac-12 powerhouse. The Buffaloes are still without two-way star Travis Hunter, who’s sidelined with a lacerated liver, as injuries start to mount for a team lacking depth and defensive talent. It’s not easy to make a case for the underdog.
USC also was humbled a bit last week. Midway through the fourth quarter against Arizona State, a 34-point ‘dog, the Trojans were stuck in a one-score game. It’s tough to make the Sun Devils, who were coming off a shutout loss to Fresno State, look good, yet quarterback Drew Pyne and the Devils totaled 353 yards in a game USC survived, 42-28.
It’s obvious the Trojans have problems on defense, and they have yet to face a decent offense. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders went into the Oregon game averaging 417 passing yards per game, with 10 touchdowns and one interception. He was limited to 159 passing yards and one touchdown while getting sacked seven times. The Buffaloes’ offensive line has surrendered 23 sacks in four games.
The Ducks have an outstanding defense, unlike USC, and they were in a good spot on their home turf last week. The Trojans have been playing night games and will be on the road for the second week in a row for an early-morning kickoff in Boulder, so they could get caught sleepwalking in the first half.
Maybe this is just a guess and a stretch, but if USC does not bring its “A” game, Colorado’s offense has the potential to make it interesting. If nothing else, Shedeur Sanders can knock down the back door for a cover. The Buffaloes are less likely to get blown out and embarrassed on their home field.
Pick: Colorado 21.5
I had high confidence in my plays last week but finished only 4-4-2. Here are four more plays for Week 5 (home team in CAPS):
An elite defense has carried the Wolverines, but their slow-paced offense will have trouble covering a number this big on the road. Michigan has not scored more than 35 points in any game despite facing lightweights East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green and Rutgers. The Cornhuskers are not heavyweights, but their run defense (46.3 yards per game) ranks No. 2 in the nation. The quarterback switch to Heinrich Haarberg and away from mistake-riddled Jeff Sims gives Nebraska a better shot to compete and play complementary football.
The Rebels (3-1) are in an unfamiliar role as double-digit favorites, a role in which they went 0-3 ATS versus FBS opponents last year. UNLV was favored by 11 in a 31-25 loss at Hawaii. The run-heavy Rebels have played two quarterbacks who have combined for one touchdown pass and four interceptions. Brayden Schager is showing improvement and has 12 TD passes for the Warriors (2-3). If the Hawaii defense can contain the run, this should be a one-score game.
The honeymoon in West Lafayette, Ind., is over. Ryan Walters, the Boilermakers’ first-year coach, is 0-3 at home and facing what feels like a must-win game. Purdue has been a mistake-riddled team, but its losses came to three teams (Fresno State, Syracuse and Wisconsin) that are much stronger than Illinois. The Boilers, who outgained the Badgers 396-388 last week, have the better quarterback in Texas transfer Hudson Card. Walters was the Fighting Illini’s defensive coordinator last year, so he’s got inside info on his side. Purdue is 6-1 in the past seven meetings with Illinois.
It’s possible the Longhorns will not be fully focused this week with the rivalry game against Oklahoma on deck. The Jayhawks move the ball well on the ground and through the air with quarterback Jalon Daniels and running back Devin Neal. Kansas coach Lance Leipold pulled off a stunner two years ago in Austin, winning 57-56 in overtime as a 31-point underdog.