NCAA Football Predictions: Week 5 Opening Line Report and Picks
There are 130 teams playing FBS college football these days. Would at least 120 of them love to have Michigan's Jim Harbaugh as their head coach? Without question. Maybe 125. However, the guy is simply overrated. Since 2015, there are two FBS head coaches without a single victory as an underdog: Harbaugh and Indiana's Tom Allen.
The latter one can understand because IU is a basketball school. No excuses for Harbaugh as his team was blown off the field this past Saturday at Wisconsin. Badgers running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor had 143 yards and two touchdowns in just the first quarter. I'm sorry, but a Michigan team should not be bulldozed like that by such a one-dimensional offense even as good as Taylor and that UW offensive line might be. Harbaugh admitted his team was "outcoached" among other things. He has coached 55 games at Michigan and is 4-11 against Top-15 teams. On social media, the official Michigan football website was taking a beating after it tweeted on Sunday: a "Trust" headline while saying "We're in this together." (As an aside, my stepdad, a huge UM fan, said this to me via text: Stop going to see the f**ing pope and put in the work!)
BetOnline has posted a prop on Harbaugh whether he is Michigan's coach Week 1 of the 2020 season. I'll admit that I'm surprised no is a -140 favorite with yes at +100. I honestly can't see UM firing him because that would cost a fortune and he's still popular with the fan base, but I could see him leaving on his own to return to the NFL. Some guys just aren't built to coach college football because they don't want to have to fly around the country and sit in living rooms recruiting kids. The favorite to be Michigan's coach then? The guy who replaced Harbaugh at Stanford, David Shaw at +300. Urban Meyer, by the way, is +700. Sorry, the Ohio native isn't going there. Other options: Bronco Mendenhall (+350), Kyle Whittingham (+400), Dino Babers (+500), Mike Gundy (+700) and Luke Fickell (+800).
Michigan certainly will win this week as a 27.5-point home favorite over Rutgers. Could be that Harbaugh switches from Shea Patterson to Dylan McCaffrey (brother of Christian) at quarterback. Patterson left for a while vs. Wisconsin due to a possible concussion but returned. Patterson has been a turnover machine this year.
Here are a few Week 5 opening lines that caught my eye (not a very strong week). Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
Arizona State at No. 15 California (-3), Friday: Here are two schools I didn't expect would contend for division titles in the Pac-12 - especially Cal, which was picked to finish ahead of only putrid Oregon State in the North. Cal is the lone Pac-12 team without an overall loss because ASU was upset at home by Colorado on Saturday. While the Bears, who already own a big North win at Washington, were expected to have a very good defense again as that's the forte of head coach Justin Wilcox, the offense has improved. Still not exactly Oklahoma, but at least the defense doesn't have to hold the opponent to 10 points or fewer to give the team a chance to win. Herm Edwards, meanwhile, has done a fine job at ASU, which is also winning with defense. Being in different divisions, these schools don't play every year and haven't since 2016 when neither Wilcox nor Edwards were at their current spots. Cal has won seven of the past 10 but split them ATS. Pick: Cal.
Texas Tech at No. 6 Oklahoma (-24.5): Both schools off a bye week as they open Big 12 play. Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts resumes his pursuit of the school's historic third straight Heisman Trophy. Are you aware that he has one more total touchdown (13) than he does incompletions (12)? Lincoln Riley is a freaking genius - his first coaching stint was under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Riley is going to make $10 million a year (at least) starting in 2020 for some NFL team. Texas Tech first-year coach Matt Wells, who makes his Big 12 debut, likely was thrilled for the bye since his offense was held to 14 points in a two-touchdown loss at Arizona last time out and lost excellent young quarterback Alan Bowman in the game for several weeks with a shoulder injury. He had thrown for 1,020 yards and six touchdowns in about 2.5 games this season. Likely will be Jett Duffey taking over. He got plenty of playing time last year when Bowman was also hurt. OU has won seven straight in the series but has failed to cover three of the past five. Pick: TTU.
No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (+17.5): This is the Saturday night ABC game and what I thought would be a Big Ten title tilt preview. Still could be as I expect Ohio State to come out of the East again, but not sold on the Huskers in the early going - although they appear to be shaking out of it. They also have the benefit of hosting the two other good teams in the West, Wisconsin and Iowa, come November. Nebraska won the first meeting with OSU as Big Ten foes but has lost the past four. If there's such a thing as a good loss, it was last year when NU played the No. 10 Buckeyes very tough in Columbus but fell short 36-31. That in a way was a turning point for Scott Frost's program. Pick: I can't believe the line is this big. I love Nebraska at that number. Not saying Huskers will win but will be stunned if they lose big.
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