After going a combined 7-1 in weeks 2 and 3 I hit a bit of a speed bump in week 4. Just 2-4 last week but in the grand scheme it’s completely expected to have highs and lows. They’ll be some 7-2 type weeks and honestly they’ll be a 3-8 clunker somewhere along the line too. Just the nature of the beast. For those tailing I suggest tailing all the way or not at all, that will remove some of the variance from picking and choosing when and what to tail. That said, here’s what I have for week 5….
Boston College (-12.5): Boston College laid an egg last week against Purdue and I was able to cash the Boilermakers as a 6.5 home dog. This week I’ll reverse field and take BC as I expect them to get things back on track. It’s a long season and teams will stub their toes now and then, simply enough that’s what happened to BC last week. They played a Purdue team that is much better than their 0-3 record indicated and they were soundly beat. That said, I still view them as a solid team with a very explosive offense. Anthony Brown is much improved at QB this year and AJ Dillon is one of the best running backs not only in the ACC, but in the country. Led by Dillon at 122 yards per game as a team the Eagles run for 235 yards per contest. Passing wise at 61% completions and 10 TD’s compared with just 4 INT’s Brown is doing enough to keep opposing defenses honest. You can no longer just load up the box and key in on Dillon, as if you do Brown is improved enough to make you pay. They aren’t exactly dinking and dunking the ball down the field either. On the year Brown is averaging 15.7 yards per completion, so this is an offense that’s looking to stretch the field, that in turn of course helps open things up for Dillon on the ground. For Temple things on offense are more up in the air and that starts at QB. Anthony Russo has started the last few games for an injured Frank Nutile and now as Nutile gets healthier they have a QB dilemma. To me it doesn’t matter who starts as to be totally honest I think both of these guys are horrible. They are both only around 50% completions, neither excels throwing the ball downfield, a lot of check downs and quick, short passes and overall nothing in the pass game that scares you regardless of which guy is taking the snaps. At RB they have Armstead who is solid but he’s been quantity over quality so far this year. He’s averaging 91 yards per game but only 4.7 yards per carry which is solid but far from anything special. Without much to fear in the air I think BC can load up to stop Armstead and from there things should be get tough for the Temple offense. Overall I just see Boston College as having way too much firepower for Temple to be able to keep up with. I see them running away with this one and winning a 38-17 type of game.
Arkansas (+21): It won’t be a comfortable play to make, but god help me I’m going to take Arkansas as a 21 point dog in a neutral site game against Texas A&M. Technically it’s a neutral site game but it’ll be in Dallas at AT&T stadium so that should be better for Arkansas than a trip to college station would be. On the surface right now it all looks horrible for the Razorbacks. They lost 44-17 at home to North Texas and then 34-3 on the road against Auburn, a deeper look however reveals it really hasn’t been THAT bad. Against North Texas they were only outgained 376-336 in total yardage, and in the Auburn game they actually won the total yardage battle 290-225. It isn’t easy to give up 34 points on only 225 total yards allowed but somehow, someway that’s what happened against Auburn on Saturday. At QB it looks like it’ll be Ty Storey making his 2nd straight start as so far it’s been him and Cole Kelley that have split time at QB pretty evenly. Passing wise I don’t think there is a huge gap between the two, but Storey is a bit more of a duel threat guy who can keep defenses honest with his scrambling ability. On the ground the duo of Whaley and Boyd hasn’t been anything special yet but they are capable of being a nice 1-2 punch. For Texas A&M they’ll try to get back up off the mat after a 45-23 loss to Alabama. They are 2-2 on the season but the two losses came against what most would say are the best two teams in the nation, Alabama and Clemson. In fairness though the two wins were home games against Northwestern State and UL Monroe. This game will tell us quite a bit about this team. It’s not really fair to judge them based on what they did against Bama or Clemson, but the other side of that coin is it isn’t exactly fair to judge them wins over Northwestern State or UL Monroe either. Their offense has been moving the ball very well through 4 games and QB Kellen Mond is heavily improved with Jimbo Fisher now at the helm. The Aggies are going to score their points and there’s no denying that. They can run, they can pass, they are balanced, and Fisher is one of the best offensive minds in the sport. That said I think Arkansas will be able to move the ball and get their points too. I’m not calling for a Razorbacks win but I think they hang around and lose something along the lines of 38-24.
Army (+7.5): Last week Army almost pulled off an upset for the ages at Oklahoma. As 29 point underdogs they went into Norman and took the Sooners to OT before losing 28-21. With a lot of teams you’d worry about where they are mentally and how they could possibly get back up from the heartbreak of coming so close to a massive upset like that. With Army I have none of those concerns. This is freaking Army, these kids aren’t going to sit around and feel sorry for themselves, they’ll just keep grinding, keep working their asses off, and keep battling like they always do. Playing wise you know what you’ll get with Army, it’s the same thing as it’s been for decades, run, run, run with that triple option attack. They average 315 rushing yards per game and they can run it on anyone. Last week they went for 339 on the ground against Oklahoma so you should be able to take it to the bank that they’ll be able to run on Buffalo. I also like the fact that Army is already battle tested this year. They’ve played Duke, Hawaii and as already mentioned Oklahoma. On the other side we have a 4-0 Buffalo team but they really haven’t played anyone at all. Their wins have come against Delaware State, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Rutgers. Eastern Michigan is a respectable squad but Temple isn’t any good and Delaware State and Rutgers are awful. Due to that cupcake schedule all their stats are bloated and need to be taken with a grain of salt. This is an Army team that will come out there and punch them right in the jaw, and then do it over and over again. Outside of EMU who played them pretty tight nobody has really done that to Buffalo this year. I’ll admit my opinion overall on Buffalo is still up in the air. It’s just hard to take too much away from what they’ve done against the low level of competition they’ve faced. With Army I at least know exactly what I’m getting. They’ll play very physical football, they’ve played close games, they’ve faced good teams, and to me that counts for a hell of a lot. I’m not sure they have what it takes talent wise to win this game outright, but I fully expect them to keep it close throughout and a narrow win certainly wouldn’t shock me. I made this line 4 personally, and with it now crept over 7 at 7.5, I can’t pass on it.
East Carolina (-7): We all know about Old Dominion beating Virginia Tech last week in one of the biggest upsets in recent College Football history. Led by backup QB Blake LaRussa ODU went for 632 yards of total offense and 49 points in one of those “how the hell is this happening?” kind of games. Now the obvious question is where are they mentally? Have been taking victory laps all week? Having everyone tell them how great they are? How great they were on Saturday? Doing interviews, shaking hands, kissing babies, etc. Not an easy task to follow up a win like that with another solid and level headed performance. Under normal circumstances I think a line of 7 is about right, as my line on this game was only 8. A one point difference between my line and the actual line isn’t typically going to prompt a play, but when you also factor in the situational angle I’ve got enough to justify backing ECU. This play however is far from just situational, there are things to like about this Pirates team. A few weeks ago they beat North Carolina 41-19, so beating an ACC team by over 3 touchdowns is definitely a sign that they’ve got some talent. They average 435 yards of total offense per game and are pretty well rounded between run and pass. At QB Herring is a bit on the wild side at only 53% completions, but he isn’t afraid to challenge the defense and throw it downfield. He’s averaging 284 yards per game in the air and only has 1 INT in his last 80 attempts. On the ground it’s more of a RB by committee approach but as a team their 148 rushing yards per game is enough to keep you honest. Make no mistake about it though, at nearly 50 pass attempts per game this is a team that wants to throw it all over the lot. This total opened at 58 and has now crept up to 62.5 which isn’t terribly surprising. ODU had their 15 minutes of fame over the weekend but the reality is that’s a very bad defensive squad. They allowed 52 points and nearly 600 yards against Liberty, and even in the win last week allowed another 600 yards to Virginia Tech. East Carolina is going to be able to move the ball and put up plenty of points. I see a double digit Pirates win.
Air Force (-4.5): I like this Nevada offense but man oh man do they have issues on the defensive side of the ball. In their opener they played FCS Portland State so you can basically throw that game out. In their 3 games against FBS opponents they are allowing 46.3 points and 489 yards per game. Offensively I admit they are solid, but you also have to keep in mind their season stats are kept afloat by that 72 point showing against Portland State. In the other 3 games they are still solid at 29.3 point per contest, but that’s a far cry from the over 40 they are averaging when factoring in that cupcake opener. On the other side we have Air Force who is 1-2 but the losses are really nothing to be ashamed of as they were competitive in road losses against Florida Atlantic and Utah State. Last week they were actually only down 35-32 in the middle of the 4th and were only outgained by a good Utah State team 489-471. As is the case with all the service academies it’s run, run, run and then run some more with Air Force. They are running that triple offense attack to the tune of 288 rushing yards per game and my guess is they’ll go for 300 plus on the ground against Nevada, honestly they might even go for 400 plus rushing. This year with Isaiah Sanders at QB they have the passing element as part of the offense too. Now nobody is going to confuse this guy for Dan Marino or anything, but he has attempted an average of 15 passes per game in the last two. Of course 15 passes per game isn’t much, but in the world of the service academies it is. Many years Air Force will check in at about 6 or 7 pass attempts per game, so now at 15 per game in the last two that’s something else for an already horrible Nevada defense to think about. When Air Force does put it in the air they aren’t running hitches or little dump offs, they are looking for chunk plays. They want to get you when 8 or maybe even 9 men are in the box and take their shots downfield. Sanders is averaging 17 yards per completion this year so as I said, just another element for Nevada to deal with. I think Air Force could crack 40 in this one and win a 41-24 type of game.
South Carolina (PK): It isn’t to go against Kentucky the way they are playing right now, but I’m going to give it a go. The Wildcats are out to a 4-0 start and now up to #17 in the latest AP Poll. They handled business against inferior opponents Central Michigan and Murray State, but where they got their attention was with wins against Florida and most recently Mississippi State. They don’t do a ton through the air as Terry Wilson is still pretty limited as a passer. What they can do however is run the hell out of the ball. Wilson is a nice duel threat weapon and at this point he’s honestly more dangerous as a runner than a passer. To compliment Wilson is backup RB Asim Rose who averages who averages 7.4 yards per carry, but of course the main attraction is Benny Snell. Snell is off 1000 yard seasons in ’16 and ’17 and this year is better than he’s ever been. He’s averaging 135 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry rushing and he’s turned himself into one of the best backs in the nation. All that said I think this game could come down to South Carolina being able to make explosive plays in the passing game, while Kentucky won’t be able to. At QB for South Carolina is Jake Bentley who is completing nearly 70% of his passes for 260 yards per game. Generally Bentley seems to get a bad rap as a limited QB who at his peak is merely just serviceable. I don’t think he’s a star by any stretch, but I do think he’s better than most give him credit for. In addition to what they do through the air, the Gamecocks average 197 yards per game on the ground led by the RB duo of Dowdle and Williams who combine for about 130 yards per game and 6 yards per carry between them. At 2-1 it’s been a good start for South Carolina and that one loss came at the hands of Georgia which is really not something you can hold against them. This doesn’t figure to be an up and down the field shootout, I see a hard fought, physical, SEC battle that should be fun to watch. At the end of the day I just think South Carolina has more balance and more firepower on offense. If they are able to keep Snell under control there isn’t a ton else Kentucky has as far as offensive weapons go. I think the ‘Cocks win this one 24-21 or so.
Boston College (-12.5)
East Carolina (-7)
Air Force (-4.5)
South Carolina (PK)