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Predicting the winner of every Week 5 college football game, from Clemson-VT to FIU-Charlotte

Lots of underdogs are projected to cover this week. Lots of games might be closer than you think. Fingers crossed.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Below are picks and projections using the S&P+ projections you can find in full in the Football Study Hall stat profiles. See the bottom of the post for more detail about these.

The spread (listed in parentheses) is shown next to S&P+’s pick for each game. When S&P+ predicts a push (a tie with Vegas, basically), I’m listing the pick on the side that S&P+ would’ve picked, if teams could score in decimals.

This document breaks games (and S&P+’s season performance to date) out into their decimal glory. My ratings have gone at least 61 percent against the spread in three of the year’s first four ranks. That, my friends, is what we call a hot streak. Will it continue?

Ranked vs. ranked

NCAA Football: Nevada at Washington State
Luke Falk and Wazzu host USC on Friday night.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  • No. 2 Clemson 27, No. 12 Virginia Tech (+7.5) 21 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 5 USC 32, No. 16 Washington State (+3.5) 29 (Friday, 10:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 13 Auburn 30, No. 24 Mississippi State (+8.5) 21* (Saturday, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN)

Last week was a little bit disappointing in that, despite odds to the contrary (and a close call in Iowa City), chalk mostly ruled. We didn’t get the “unranked home team takes down a top-10 team” upset we thought was possible.

This week, we’re looking at similar circumstances. Two top-five teams (Clemson, USC) hit the road as favorites against exciting, lower-rated squads. Plus No. 7 Georgia hits the road to play Tennessee. Odds of both Clemson and USC winning: only 36 percent. Odds of Clemson, USC, and Georgia all winning: 22 percent. Maybe we’ll get our upset after all.

* The official projection: AU 30.0, MSU 21.5, with MSU projected to cover by a hundredth of a point.

Other ranked teams in action

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Houston
Nic Shimonek could be celebrating a top-15 upset on Saturday night.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • No. 1 Alabama 39, Ole Miss (+28) 18 (Saturday, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 4 Penn State (-18) 37, Indiana 19 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, BTN)
  • No. 6 Washington 42, Oregon State (+26.5) 19 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • No. 7 Georgia 30, Tennessee (+7.5) 24 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, CBS)
  • No. 10 Wisconsin (-15.5) 35, Northwestern 17 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 11 Ohio State 38, Rutgers (+30.5) 12 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, BTN)
  • No. 14 Miami (-6.5) 34, Duke 24 (Friday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State (-10) 43, Texas Tech 32 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, Fox)*
  • No. 18 South Florida 43, East Carolina (+23.5) 20 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • No. 19 San Diego State 31, Northern Illinois (+11) 24 (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • No. 21 Florida (-9.5) 29, Vanderbilt 17 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 22 Notre Dame 36, Miami (Ohio) (+21) 17 (Saturday, 5:00 PM ET, NBCSN)
  • No. 25 LSU 36, Troy (+20.5) 16 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU)

Vegas sees another Bama rout coming. S&P+ hasn’t completely given up on Ole Miss just yet.

The two most interesting games on this list, by the way: Miami-Duke and OSU-Texas Tech. S&P+ loves the Hurricanes and has been slow to accept that Duke might be awesome. But Duke might be awesome. And there are few things more daunting than following up on a disappointing loss to TCU by going to Lubbock for a night track meet. We’ll see how focused Mike Gundy’s Pokes are.

* Technically OSU 42.5, TTU 31.9.

Power 5 vs. Power 5

  • Texas 35, Iowa State (+5) 30 (Thursday, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Nebraska (-6.5) 30, Illinois 21 (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, FS1)
  • Minnesota 29, Maryland (+12) 22 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, FS1)
  • Georgia Tech 34, North Carolina (+9.5) 27 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN2)
  • NC State 33, Syracuse (+12) 26 (Saturday, 12:20 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Kansas State 35, Baylor (+16.5) 27 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ESPN2)
  • Florida State (-7.5) 32, Wake Forest 19 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ABC)
  • Stanford (-16) 42, Arizona State 24 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Michigan State (-3) 27, Iowa 23 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, Fox)
  • Texas A&M 33, South Carolina (+9) 25 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, SECN)
  • Oregon 39, California (+13.5) 27 (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, FS1)
  • UCLA 33, Colorado (+7) 30 (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, ESPN2)

This is a weird schedule, in that a lot of the week’s most interesting games will have taken place before Saturday morning. On Friday night, we’ve got Miami-Duke and USC-Wazzu, but on Thursday, we’ve got Ames in all its glory: Matt Campbell’s exciting Iowa State takes on a Texas team that plays a lot better as an underdog than a favorite.


NCAA Football: Portland State at Brigham Young
Tanner Mangum and BYU have struggled to ... well, do pretty much anything.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
  • Utah State (+2.5) 28, BYU 21 (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Houston 31, Temple (+13.5) 19 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Arkansas 39, New Mexico State (+17) 23 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, SECN)
  • Pittsburgh 39, Rice (+20) 21 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Boston College 28, Central Michigan (+7.5) 24 (Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Buffalo 29, Kent State (+7.5) 23 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Ohio 29, Massachusetts (+8.5) 25 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, NESN)
  • Army 37, UTEP (+24.5) 23 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Navy 36, Tulsa (+7.5) 33 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • SMU (-17) 40, Connecticut 21 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, ESPNN)
  • Kentucky 33, Eastern Michigan (+14.5) 24 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, SECN)
  • Wyoming (-16.5) 34, Texas State 17 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, Facebook)
  • Bowling Green (-3) 32, Akron 29 (Saturday, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Western Michigan 32, Ball State (+14.5) 27 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • UL-Monroe 33, Coastal Carolina (+8) 31 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Cincinnati (-4.5) 29, Marshall 23 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Central Florida 32, Memphis (+4) 30 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2)
  • Florida Atlantic (-3) 34, Middle Tennessee 29 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, Stadium)
  • Florida International (-12.5) 35, Charlotte 22 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, beIN)
  • Southern Miss 33, North Texas (+9) 25 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, $CUSATV)
  • Louisiana Tech 33, South Alabama (+13.5) 27 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • New Mexico (PK) 33, Air Force 31 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Fresno State 32, Nevada (+10) 25 (Saturday, 10:00 PM ET, MWC Video)
  • UNLV 33, San Jose State (+13) 27 (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Colorado State (-7) 39, Hawaii 28 (Saturday, 11:59 PM ET, MWC Video)

Yeah, S&P+ has given up on BYU.

Each year at Football Study Hall, I have posted weekly S&P+ picks as a way of affirming the ratings’ validity. I use my S&P+ system as a complement to most of my analysis, and the picks are a way of showing it generally knows what it’s talking about.

S&P+ tends to hit between 50 (meh) and 54 percent (great) against the spread from year to year. It isn’t always the single best performer, but it holds its own. And beyond picks, it goes deeper than any other set of college football analytics on the market. You can go into granular detail regarding team strengths and weaknesses in a way that no other set of ratings allows. (See the annual team statistical profiles as proof.)

This year, I will be posting the weekly S&P+ picks at SB Nation instead of FSH.

Because I like to experiment, however, I won’t just be posting the official S&P+ picks. Go to this Google doc, and you will find three sets of picks: S&P+, F/+ (combined ratings from S&P+ and Brian Fremeau’s FEI), and what I’m calling an adjusted S&P+ pick, in which I attempt to account for two additional factors: week of play and type of game.

  • Week of play: I’m finding that there are cycles to scoring averages throughout a given season. Week 1 typically falls below the season scoring average, while the final weeks of the season tend to perk up in the scoring department. This adjusted projection will take this into account.
  • Game type: It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the standard deviation of possible results in a game against FCS competition, for instance, is different than that of a conference game. This projection will also adjust for different types of games. This will mean some pretty extreme projections (Arkansas by 63 over FAMU, for example), but we’ll see how it performs.