NCAA Football Predictions: Week 5 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/22/2014
A decent Week 4 on my college football recommendations . I really thought Oklahoma had a good chance of losing at West Virginia, but the Sooners not only won but covered. I also thought Michigan actually had some heart and wouldn't lose at home to Utah. Oops. I did get Kansas State covering on Thursday night against Auburn, and really the Wildcats should have won but kept shooting themselves in the foot. Also hit on South Carolina failing to cover at Vanderbilt in a trap game. I also picked Clemson covering against Florida State, although that line changed dramatically from its opening 20.5 after Jameis Winston was suspended the entire game. The Noles are incredibly lucky to have won that game. Winston will be back this week in a potential letdown game at NC State. Here are a few games and opening lines that caught my eye for Week 5.
No. 11 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State (+5.5): Great Thursday night matchup this week, although this isn't the ESPN game but a late start on Fox Sports 1. This line is potentially still very much in flux; some books don't have this on the board yet. That's because of the uncertain status of UCLA star quarterback Brett Hundley. He left the Bruins' last game against Texas early with an elbow injury. He is practicing with a brace on that arm, so I'm guessing he plays. If not, Jerry Neuheisel would start. He completed 23-of-30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns, including the 33-yard game-winner with against the Longhorns on Sept. 13. For sure Arizona State's very good QB, Taylor Kelly, is out. He has a foot injury. Junior Mike Bercovici will make his first career start. ASU won at UCLA 38-33 last year to clinch the Pac-12 South. Kelly threw for 225 yards and a TD and rushed 99 times for a score. Hundley was 18-of-26 for 253 yards and a TD. Go with UCLA as long as Hundley plays.
Minnesota at Michigan (-9.5): Let's be clear here. Brady Hoke is going to get fired at Michigan in the wake of that 26-10 loss to Utah. The UM offense hasn't even reached the red zone in losses to the Utes and Notre Dame. That's embarrassing. Could the administration fire Hoke if the Wolverines lose at home to the Gophers on Saturday? I doubt it, but you never know. Might as well get a head start on the field (for example the Florida job also now looks likely to come open) in targeting a potential replacement. Hoke will announce his starting QB on Tuesday or Wednesday, either incumbent Devin Gardner or Shane Morris. The latter started Michigan's bowl game last year and was so-so in the loss to Kansas State. Morris, a sophomore, is 7-for-20 for 79 yards and two picks this season. He was just 4-for-13 against Utah in place of an ineffective Gardner in the fourth quarter. After starting 19-0 at home under Hoke, Michigan has lost three of its last five home games. Overall, UM is 3-7 in its last 10 games, with four of those losses coming by at least 16 points. I think the Wolverines rally around their beleaguered coach and cover.
Tulane at Rutgers (-11): OK, so I was wrong on Rutgers last week in what I thought was a major letdown game at Navy as the Scarlet Knights beat the Middies. I'm calling this one another potential trap game as Rutgers has a big one at home next week against Michigan. Plus, Rutgers lost running back Paul James, the team's best offensive player, to a season-ending ACL tear against Navy. Rutgers runs the ball about 80 percent of the time, which it probably won't now, so it's up to QB Gary Nova to step up. Take the points here.
North Carolina at Clemson (-13.5): To no surprise, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has named freshman Deshaun Watson as the team's starting quarterback going forward. He played quite well in the overtime loss to the Seminoles. Watson came off the bench in place of Cole Stoudt to complete 19-of-28 passes for 266 yards and run for 30 yards on 12 carries. His 296 yards of total offense were the most ever by a Clemson true freshman. I don't see how the Tigers don't have a letdown here after that near upset of No. 1 FSU. Clemson now knows it has no shot at playing in the ACC title game because Florida State isn't going to lose two conference games. Although the Heels haven't looked very impressive thus far. They lost to East Carolina on Saturday. There's no shame in that. The Pirates are good and moved into the Top 25 this week (first time ranked in six years). There is shame in allowing them to score 70 points, however. I would feel better at 14.5 here but will take the Heels.
Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas A&M (-8.5): This game is in Arlington, Texas. The Hogs might be the most improved team in the nation this year. They were winless in the SEC in Bret Bielema's first season in 2013, but Arkansas just destroyed a pretty good Northern Illinois team Saturday. The Hogs have the type of offense to bother A&M because they will just run, run and run and eat clock, keeping Kenny Hill and Co. off the field. Arkansas has two great tailbacks in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The Aggies are 4-0 for the first time since 2006, winning each game by at least 24 points. I still don't trust their defense. Arkansas could win this outright, but I love the points.
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