The 2019 college football season moves into Week 5, with the identities of teams still coming into focus and observers trying to get a sense of where teams truly stand. Some examples are becoming clearer, but many others are not. Will this weekend shake up the picture and provide more definition on who is – and isn’t – very good?
No. 12 Penn State at Maryland
The Maryland offense exploded for 63 points against Syracuse in Week 2 of this season, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Maryland was contained by Temple in Week 3, showing that Syracuse’s defensive problems might have been a much bigger reason for Maryland’s success than anything the Terrapins had discovered.
If you think that Penn State is going to win this game, the Nittany Lions are likely to win precisely because of their defense, which has been by far the stronger unit on the PSU roster this season. Penn State held Pittsburgh to just 10 points in Week 3 of this season. The Nittany Lions have been a great second-half defensive team this year. The Lions, if they win, are going to hold this game under the number, limiting Maryland to fewer than 20 points in what feels like a 24-17 or 23-14 type of game.
Arizona State at No. 15 California
Arizona State lost a 34-31 game to Colorado last week, which will make some people wonder if the Sun Devils’ offense has come alive and is ready to continue to produce at a high level. However, that seems to be much more the product of Colorado’s inconsistent defense than anything else. Colorado has allowed at least 30 points in each of its first four games this season, so you shouldn’t trust Arizona State’s offense just yet.
The Sun Devils are facing the only unbeaten team left in the Pac-12 Conference. The California Golden Bears are doing it with defense. Evan Weaver is a terror at linebacker. He is regularly accumulating double-digit numbers of tackles every week. He is always in the right spot to make the key play. Cal’s defense has been very good, and its red zone defense has been special. Cal came up with multiple goal-line stands in the win last weekend at Ole Miss. Cal also limited the Washington Huskies to only one touchdown and four field goals in Week 2. Cal’s defense simply does not allow the key play. It is a defense which fights to the end and regularly stands tall in goal-line and fourth-down situations. This should be a very low-scoring game, probably 16-13 or 19-16. Go under.
Middle Tennessee at No. 14 Iowa
The Iowa Hawkeyes might not have a great offense, but they have a sturdy and dependable defense. That defense should be able to hold Middle Tennessee to a very low point total, which is probably enough to keep this game under the number.
Northwestern at No. 8 Wisconsin
Michigan scored 14 late points against Wisconsin only after the outcome of that game had long been decided. If this game goes over, it seems that garbage-time touchdowns – when the two defenses are more relaxed and are playing their backups – are the only way this game will go over. Since Northwestern has looked so awful on offense this year, however, it seems Wisconsin will not allow those garbage-time scores, enabling this game to stay under the number.
Texas Tech at No. 6 Oklahoma
The injury to Texas Tech starting quarterback Alan Bowman is a big factor in this game. The Red Raiders might have been in position to score 24 to 28 points with Bowman in the game as a veteran leader of the offense, but with Bowman out, Texas Tech might crumble on offense and score no more than 14 points. This would force Oklahoma to have to score 60 points to push the game over the total, and while OU is certainly capable of that, it is not something you would want to depend on as a bettor. The under is a slightly better play with Bowman out of this game.
Arkansas vs. No. 23 Texas A&M (in Dallas)
Arkansas’ offense struggled to score at home against San Jose State this past weekend, a very bad sign for Arkansas in general but an especially bad sign for the Hogs’ offense. Now, Arkansas must face a Texas A&M defense which played well against Clemson but will be mad that it didn’t play better this past week against Auburn. A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is still struggling with his accuracy and timing. The Aggies’ offense is not where it should be. All the signs in this game are pointing to the under in Dallas, where this game is regularly held each year.
Rutgers at No. 20 Michigan
The atmosphere at Michigan Stadium is likely to be very subdued, with Michigan reeling from its blowout loss at Wisconsin. Players are unlikely to play with a lot of energy. Michigan’s offense has been hit by injuries at quarterback, so the Wolverines are not likely to solve their offensive problems this week. Rutgers’ offense should be no match for Michigan’s defense, which has a point to prove after being torn apart by Wisconsin. Everything in this game suggests that the under is the better play.
No. 1 Clemson at North Carolina
The Clemson defense has been nasty this season, and there is no especially good reason to think it will let down its guard this weekend against a North Carolina team which just lost to Wake Forest and Appalachian State in consecutive weeks. Clemson’s offense has not been great this season, so with the Tigers’ defense playing extremely well, Clemson’s offense will probably need to score over 50 points to give this game a good chance of hitting the over. Don’t expect that to happen. Stay with the under since Clemson probably won’t allow more than seven points.
Indiana at No. 25 Michigan State
The Indiana offense has not made new progress this year with a new offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer. The Michigan State defense has allowed exactly 10 points in each of its last two games, with MSU having one of its best defensive lines ever, according to many analysts who follow the Big Ten and Michigan State football in particular. This game sets up as a low-scoring contest, probably something like 24-13. Take the under.
Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama
The Ole Miss offense could not score against Memphis in Week 1 of the season. The Rebels do not have a difference-making player who can remotely threaten the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss needs to score well to put this game over the total, but the Rebels are not likely to do that. Alabama will win 41-14 and bring this game in under the total.
No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington
This is a game in which the total seems absurdly low. If you have followed USC football this year, you will know that the Trojans have scored at least 27 points in every game. If they score 27 points in this game, Washington figures to score even more. The Huskies looked very sharp last week under quarterback Jacob Eason. Washington has played well on offense in every game except the Cal game in Week 2.
USC’s defense isn’t nearly as good as Cal’s. The losing team should score close to 30 points in this game, and the winning team should score close to 40. This game should produce at least 65 total points, very possibly more.
No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame
Everyone was able to see last week that Notre Dame has a very good defense and a very limited offense. Virginia has a strong defense and an offense which has not yet proven itself against elite opposition. This has the look and feel of a 27-14 game, maybe 27-20 if the two offenses play well. This game should be under the total.
Connecticut at No. 22 UCF
UCF will score at least 50. Will UConn at least provide 10 points to push the game over the total? Probably, at least with a late touchdown when UCF is playing its backups.
No. 24 Kansas State at Oklahoma State
The Kansas State Wildcats are unbeaten, but they needed a lot of help to beat Mississippi State. Oklahoma State gave Texas a good fight last week and appears to have the offensive weaponry to outscore Kansas State in a shootout. Expect a lot of chunk plays, and for Oklahoma State to score big, carrying this game over the number.
Mississippi State at No. 7 Auburn
The Mississippi State Bulldogs have a backup quarterback, and have struggled to establish a consistent track record on offense this season. Auburn’s defense has been excellent against quality opponents such as Oregon and Texas A&M. Auburn’s offense has some speed, but quarterback Bo Nix is not an accurate passer. This game figures to go under, since neither offense has hit its stride yet, and the defenses on these two teams have clearly outpaced the offenses to this point in the season.
No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska
The Ohio State offense is a machine. Assuming at least 49 points or thereabouts is relatively safe with this offense, given what it has done so far this season. The Nebraska offense won’t run wild against Ohio State, but it won’t get completely shut down, either. Nebraska gained nearly 700 yards against Illinois this past weekend. This game should produce at least 70 points – probably Ohio State with 50 and Nebraska with 20.
Washington State at No. 19 Utah
The Washington State defense gave up 67 points this past week against UCLA. The Utah defense was helpless against USC’s deep passing game. Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon threw for nine touchdowns last week against UCLA. This game certainly looks like an over.