Here's the thing about Iowa State's punt returner running into Iowa State's vice and turning the ball over late in a 1-point game when I recommended Iowa State straight up instead of against the spread on a 1.5 line...
It sucks. It's really sucky. I did not like it.
That said, we went 3-3 in Week 4, putting us at 8-10 on the year -- we're just dancing off of .500. It's pretty much par for the course for the early-goings of the season, during which time you're still trying to get a feel for the team. And with some of the bad breaks we've caught, we're do for an upswing. Let's make that this week.
Lock Of The Week
Northwestern (+9) v. Michigan State (Saturday, 12:00 PM EST)
Michigan State? This Michigan State team?! Getting 9 points?! This team can't get enough players on the field for a field goal attempt.
Okay, let's back things up. Michigan State laid a stinker against the Sun Devils last week, but it's not like they couldn't move the ball. They moved the ball at nearly double the pace of Arizona State: 404 to 216 in total yardage, 23 to 14 in first downs. Of their 10 drives, only four ended in punts; they also had a fumble, a turnover on downs inside the 35, a touchdown, a field goal, and three missed field goal attempts. Three!
So we know they can move the ball -- but they really have trouble finishing their drives. This team only had one offensive touchdown in a 28-point output against Tulsa, and then one against Arizona State -- everything else came against Western Michigan.
The Northwestern defense might be a bit better than the Broncos'. Northwestern's has only given up one touchdown on four red zone attempts this season after finishing as one of the top teams in the Power 5 conferences last year, under 80%. Northwestern has a strong line, a playmaking secondary, and some suffocating tacklers: Paddy Fisher namely among them.
Do I have much trust in the Northwestern offense? I really don't. QB Hunter Johnson has one of the least competitive passing profiles over the first two games of the season, though he was splitting time to start. But I trust a rushing attack powered by true sophomore Isaiah Bowser who should return from injury on Saturday and pair with freshman eye-opener Drake Anderson.
This game has historically been...weird. There have been points, backs-and-forths -- and Northwestern keeps winning, for some reason. Things should spin back to typical Big 10 abomination play in 2019, with two heavy doses of rushing attacks and conservative game calling. When it's 3-0 in the first half, you'll wish you were riding this snoozefest with me.
Washington (-6.5) @ BYU (Saturday, 3:30 PM EST)
I thought I knew this Washington team, and then they lay the hurt on Hawai'i. I think I know this BYU team, but that's almost as scary as not knowing a team, especially when you think the team has a legit shot at upsetting Washington. What? Who said that? BYU has luck that will probably, has to, must run out soon. I'd love to ride their hot streak one more week, but I'm just too fearful of getting burned by Washington.
Cal (+115) @ Ole Miss (Saturday, 12:00 PM EST)
Last week, I took Iowa State as my Dog on an undefeated record, after they opened the favorite and crossed the line to the underdog. Got burned, and I'm right back to the fire. Cal opened as a 1.5 favorite over the Rebels on the road, and the huge swing to the SEC team and away from the Pac-12 team was predictable. Now Cal is a 2.5-point dog -- but HC Justin Wilcox knows what he's getting against a Mike MacIntyre coached offense, QB Ross Garbers is playing much improved ball, and the Golden Bears have the athletes in the secondary to run with SEC receivers. Huge spot for a sudden Pac-12 contender.
Feeling frisky: Oklahoma State (+190) v. Texas
Four For The Road
Syracuse (-5) v. Western Michigan (Saturday, 12:30 PM EST)
Okay, so Syracuse hasn't been good -- we can all agree on that. The Liberty game was not great, and then the Maryland game was a lot worse, and then Clemson -- which was going to be bad regardless -- was somehow worse. But only catching five at home against a bad Western Michigan team is silly nonsense. There's gonna be some points, but I hardly see 'Cuse spiraling this badly.
San Diego State (+4) v. Utah State (10:30 PM EST)
You're telling me I can get Rocky Long with points at home against the Mountain West? He's only been a home dog eight times in eight years with the Aztecs, and is 6-1-1 in that time. Head-up, San Diego State has won the last 10, and has one of the most disruptive defenses in the country going against a QB in Jordan Love who struggles against pressure and can be manipulated into bad decisions. I'll probably buy a ticket on San Diego State outright as well.
Notre Dame (+14.5) @ Georgia (Saturday, 8:00 PM EST)
Listen, this is a game for the playoff -- simple as that. If Notre Dame gets beat here, best they can do is 11-1 with one quality win (Michigan), and who knows how quality that win will actually be. Folks harp on the lack of Irish starters, but Georgia lost the same amount of players on both sides of the ball; both have Draft-caliber quarterbacks; both have quality offensive and defensive lines with NFL-loaded secondaries. The only reason this game would take a two touchdown deficit is if Notre Dame comes out without understanding the stakes, and after last year's goose egg against Clemson, I'd be surprised to see it.
UCF (-11) @ Pitt (Saturday, 3:30 PM EST)
This is more of a gut play than I'd typically recommend on this column, but there's enough gas here that I feel confident in it. Pitt is a havoc defense that can limit big plays well, which might cause problems for UCF's vertical passing attack, but UCF's on a tear to prove themselves against Power 5 competition, and Pitt's coming off an exhausting loss in a rivalry game. I'll fade UCF against Power 5 teams once they burn me for it, but not yet.