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Spread picks for every college football game in 2018’s Week 5

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Penn State can again keep it close against Ohio State, Texas Tech could pull yet another ranked upset, and much more.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

On Saturday evening, two games with significant national title stakes will kick off simultaneously: Ohio State and Penn State in Happy Valley and Stanford and Notre Dame in South Bend. From an impact standpoint, this might end up the biggest weekend of the season ... even if a sketchy slate precedes the big stuff it.

Below are FBS picks and projections using the S&P+ projections, listed in full for all 130 FBS teams here. 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. The team in bold is projected to beat the spread. (At most books, there is no listed spread for FCS games.) When S&P+ predicts a tie or a push (a tie with Vegas, basically), I list the pick on the side S&P+ would pick if teams could score in decimals.

This document breaks games (and S&P+’s season performance to date) out into their decimal glory. This year, I am including and monitoring total (over/under) picks as well.

Thursday

NCAA Football: Florida International at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
  • No. 16 Miami (-18) 40, North Carolina 17 (Sep. 27, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)

Now that UNC is getting some of its players back from suspension, S&P+ might have the Tar Heels a little artificially low, if they predictably improve in the coming weeks. But Miami’s still pretty good.

Friday

Colorado v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
  • Colorado (-9) 34, UCLA 20 (Sep. 28, 9 p.m. ET, FS1)
  • Memphis (-14) 43, Tulane 22 (Sep. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Not going to lie: I was shocked that the line for Colorado-UCLA was in single digits with the game in Boulder.

Ranked vs. ranked

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
  • No. 4 Ohio State 35, No. 9 Penn State (+4) 32 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
  • No. 8 Notre Dame (-5.5) 27, No. 7 Stanford 20 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
  • No. 11 Washington (-17) 36, No. 20 BYU 13 (Sep. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
  • No. 12 West Virginia (-3.5) 41, No. 25 Texas Tech 33 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 19 Oregon (-2.5) 26, No. 24 California 23 (Sep. 29, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

S&P+ doesn’t think much of Stanford just yet, and that didn’t really change after last week’s magical escape act in Eugene. Beat the Irish, however, and you’ll probably start to move up rapidly.

Other ranked teams in action

NCAA Football: Louisville at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
  • No. 1 Alabama 60, UL-Lafayette (+48.5) 14 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, SECN)
  • No. 2 Georgia 45, Tennessee (+31.5) 19 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
  • No. 3 Clemson (-24) 42, Syracuse 17 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)
  • No. 5 LSU 39, Ole Miss (+12) 29 (Sep. 29, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 6 Oklahoma 44, Baylor (+23.5) 26 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
  • No. 10 Auburn 33, Southern Miss (+27) 11 (Sep. 29, 4 p.m. ET, SECN)
  • No. 13 UCF (-13.5) 45, Pittsburgh 24 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • No. 14 Michigan (-14.5) 34, Northwestern 14 (Sep. 29, 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
  • No. 17 Kentucky (-2) 29, South Carolina 24 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN)
  • No. 18 Texas (-9) 33, Kansas State 18 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
  • No. 21 Michigan State (-28.5) 40, Central Michigan 2 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, FS1)
  • No. 22 Duke (-5) 34, Virginia Tech 25 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 23 Mississippi State (-8) 33, Florida 24 (Sep. 29, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Alabama is a damn near 50-point favorite ... and is almost projected to cover. Mercy.

Power 5 vs. Power 5

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Arizona State 38, Oregon State (+22) 22 (Sep. 29, 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12)
  • Florida State 24, Louisville (+6.5) 19 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Indiana (-17.5) 34, Rutgers 12 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, BTN)
  • NC State (-5.5) 30, Virginia 24 (Sep. 29, 12:20 p.m. ET, ACCN)
  • Oklahoma State (-18) 35, Kansas 13 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, FSN)
  • Purdue (-3.5) 33, Nebraska 28 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
  • TCU 30, Iowa State (+10.5) 23 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Texas A&M 34, Arkansas (+21) 22 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • USC 29, Arizona (+3.5) 27 (Sep. 29, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Washington State (+2) 24, Utah 23 (Sep. 29, 6 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Arizona has quietly looked a lot better over the last couple of weeks, but the level of competition now gets higher than it was against Southern Utah and Oregon State. Are the Wildcats still capable of making noise in the Pac-12 South?

FBS vs. FBS

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
  • Appalachian State (-26) 47, South Alabama 20 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • Arkansas State 30, Georgia Southern (+3) 29 (Sep. 29, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • Ball State (-7.5) 34, Kent State 24 (Sep. 29, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • Boise State (-17) 38, Wyoming 20 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
  • Boston College 30, Temple (+13.5) 21 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Buffalo (-8.5) 41, Army 24 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
  • Cincinnati (-17) 47, Connecticut 20 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
  • East Carolina 28, Old Dominion (+7) 27 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Eastern Michigan (-3.5) 31, Northern Illinois 19 (Sep. 29, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • Florida Atlantic (-3) 39, Middle Tennessee 27 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, Stadium)
  • Fresno State 34, Toledo (+7.5) 29 (Sep. 29, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Georgia Tech (-28.5) 51, Bowling Green 22 (Sep. 29, 12 p.m. ET, ACCN)
  • Hawaii (-12.5) 41, San Jose State 27 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, local)
  • Marshall (-6.5) 30, Western Kentucky 22 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, Stadium)
  • Nevada (+6.5) 34, Air Force 30 (Sep. 29, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNN)
  • New Mexico 35, Liberty (+6.5) 33 (Sep. 29, 6 p.m. ET)
  • North Texas (-7.5) 39, Louisiana Tech 25 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, beIN)
  • Ohio 40, Massachusetts (+13.5) 36 (Sep. 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Troy 39, Coastal Carolina (+14) 34 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • UAB (-17) 36, Charlotte 17 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • UL-Monroe 32, Georgia State (+7.5) 29 (Sep. 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • UTSA 31, UTEP (+10) 22 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • Wake Forest 45, Rice (+25.5) 23 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ACCN)
  • Western Michigan (-0.5) 29, Miami (Ohio) 27 (Sep. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

S&P+ loves Buffalo at the moment. Will that still be the case after Army’s option offense?

FBS vs. FCS

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
  • Florida International 37, UAPB 0 (Sep. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
  • SMU 32, Houston Baptist 0 (Sep. 29, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Vanderbilt 32, Tennessee State 0 (Sep. 29, 4 p.m. ET, SECN)

For the second straight year, Vandy started like gangbusters but quickly regressed. Now’s a chance for the Commodores to catch their breath before a brutal set of road trips (five in the next six games).


Each year, I post 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.)