Week 6 college football picks, games, odds: Oklahoma, Michigan State on upset alert
The Sooners will face arch-rival Texas in the Cotton Bowl with Big 12 and playoff implications
Week 6 of the college football season lacks major battles between top-25 teams. Sometimes, however, those are the weeks when chaos can come out of hiding to wreak havoc on the landscape. Yes, there's Texas-Oklahoma and LSU-Florida, two major games that should be a lot of fun. But there are also plenty of under-the-radar games that deserve attention as well.
Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. Remember: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread, not perception or rankings, though they are both taken into consideration. On that note, I generally avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them. (Forewarning: there are a couple of those this week.) To make things more interesting, I'm also going on the record with the picks and keeping tabs. The scoring system is exactly the same as it is for our weekly expert picks with season-long tallies against the spread (ATS) and straight-up (SU).
Week 5 results
Upset alert picks: 4-1
Picks to date: 12-13
ATS to date: 10-15
SU to date: 10-15
On to this week's picks ...
No. 19 Texas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: Dallas, Texas | Line: Oklahoma -7.5
Why it's listed: The last four editions of this game have been decided by a touchdown or less. Texas coach Tom Herman has a tendency to perform well as an underdog, and even if we're ignoring the spread, an upset would change the dynamic of the Big 12 title race -- and maybe even the playoff race.
Texas' key to the game: The Longhorns will need to lean on their defense if they're going to have a 10-win season. Crazy things can happen in rivalries, but shootouts aren't their game. It just so happens Oklahoma has the top scoring offense in the Big 12, but Texas probably can't let this get out of the low 30s in regulation.
Oklahoma's key to the game: If you remove the Army game, the Sooners have been good against the run (playing ahead helps). One of Texas' most effective plays is quarterback Sam Ehlinger on a designed run or scramble. The Sooners will likely spy him and need to take away that part of the offense, which is streaky enough as it is.
Pick: Texas has been lost at sea for the better part of the last decade, but it's been able to get up for this one lately. Its defense should settle in and keep this one tight, but in the end there's just so much explosiveness with Oklahoma's offense, particularly at wide receiver, that someone's bound to break open a big play. ATS: Texas, SU: Oklahoma
Northwestern at No. 20 Michigan State
When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: East Lansing, Michigan | Line: Michigan State -11.5
Why it's listed: This is a trends pick as much as anything. The Spartans are 1-3 against the spread as favorites and 0-2 at home. Northwestern has also had Sparty's number recently with two straight wins in this series.
Northwestern's key to the game: The short-to-intermediate passing game is where the Wildcats have an advantage. Don't expect quarterback Clayton Thorson's yards-per-attempt average to be through the roof -- it's 6.5 on the season anyway -- but Michigan State has one of the more porous pass defenses. A lot of those short passes can act as run plays, too.
Michigan State's key to the game: Can the Spartans play a complete game? They have a propensity for either starting slow or allowing opponents to make a late charge. Either way, Michigan State hasn't been one to put together 60 minutes yet.
Pick: Michigan State is the best team against the run in the nation and Northwestern has the worst rushing offense in the Big Ten. It wouldn't be totally surprising to see the Wildcats nearly abandon the run altogether. Pat Fitzgerald's team will devise a plan to make things interesting. ATS: Northwestern, SU: Northwestern
No. 5 LSU at No. 22 Florida
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Gainesville, Florida | Line: LSU -2.5
Why it's listed: I don't love this pick because of the line, but there aren't a plethora of suitable point spreads this week. So let's lean on the storyline of a top-five team going on the road in conference play. Plus, even though LSU has two signature wins on its resume already, the next month is going to tell us a lot about just how good the Bayou Bengals are.
Florida's key to the game: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow isn't a game-changer by trade, but he's been just good enough to keep the offense moving. He hasn't thrown an interception and has made some big third-down plays. Florida, on the other hand, leads the SEC in turnovers and is second in sacks. The Gators need to give Burrow his first "bad game" of the season.
LSU's key to the game: A concerning stat that, eventually, will probably catch back up with LSU is the lack of explosive plays. The Tigers rank near the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards per attempt and are average at best in big running plays of 10+ and 20+ yards. This may not be the game in which that changes, but it might the game that costs 'em for it.
Pick: This is a tough call. LSU has proven itself as a team capable of digging deep when it matters, but average quarterback play and a lack of explosiveness is a recipe to be tripped up somewhere. Either LSU wins big or this one comes down to the very end. ATS: Florida, SU: Florida
San Diego State at Boise State
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Boise, Idaho | Line: Boise -14
Why it's listed: The Aztecs are coming off a bye and I'm not worried so much about the running game even though Juwan Washington is out with a fractured clavicle. Chase Jasmin has averaged 103 yards on the ground over the last two games. They might be able to slow this game to a crawl.
San Diego State's key to the game: The pass defense is the biggest question. In Boise State's lone loss, Oklahoma State did an excellent job of making quarterback Brett Rypien uncomfortable. Do the Aztecs have the pass rush to do the same thing?
Boise State's key to the game: If the offense is clicking, then Boise State should be able to keep San Diego State at least an arm's length away. Remember: the Aztecs haven't scored more than 28 points in a game yet.
Pick: San Diego State coach Rocky Long is grossly under-appreciated and if you give him extra time to prepare, he can make a game of this. In the end, though, the Broncos have too much firepower. ATS: San Diego State, SU: Boise State
Utah at No. 14 Stanford
When: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET | Where: Palo Alto, California | Line: Stanford -5.5
Why it's listed: The Utes are 0-2 in Pac-12 play, but they lost by four points to Washington State and the 21-7 loss to Washington was a byproduct of not being able to get out of their own way. But they get Stanford in a potential hangover situation following the Cardinal's 38-17 loss at Notre Dame. Bryce Love's ankle injury is something to watch, too.
Utah's key to the game: As usual with Kyle Whittingham's team, it comes down to whether it can score enough points. The Utes usually do everything within their power defensively to win -- they're the No. 1 rushing defense in the Pac-12 through five weeks -- but at some point you have to put points on the board without tripping over your own two feet.
Stanford's key to the game: The emergence of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has been key, but the Cardinal have done a good job spreading the ball around in the passing game with tight ends Kaden Smith and Colby Parkinson. Washington State beat Utah with zero yards rushing, but got the ball to 10 different pass-catchers.
Pick: Utah has been enough of a pain in the rear that it can keep games from getting out of hand. It probably needs a non-offensive touchdown, though, to really have a chance. This game will be close enough to keep Stanford anxious, but I'll take the Cardinal, who are 3-0 ATS as favorites, with a late frontdoor cover. ATS: Stanford, SU: Stanford
Which teams should you back in Week 6 of the college football season? And which national title contender will get a massive scare on the road? Visit SportsLine right now to see the projected score for every single FBS matchup, all from the model that has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three seasons and is 49-36 on its top-rated picks this season.
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