College Football Week 6 Expert Best Bets: Auburn, B.C. Smart Plays on the Road
Our experts have identified their four best bets for Week 6 of the college football season, including two in the SEC.
Maryland at Michigan (-17.5)
Sat. 10/6, 12:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Michigan -17.5
Michigan survived a scare this past weekend, going down 17-0 at Northwestern early in the second quarter before mounting a slow-drip comeback that would see it finally take the lead with four minutes remaining. In the midst of an early-season stretch of inferior competition, the Wolverines’ look-ahead letdown performance came a week early: After Maryland this coming Saturday, they’ll play Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State in consecutive weeks. A near loss in Evanston should wake Michigan up for its home date with Maryland.
The matchups in this one favor the Wolverines, as well. Northwestern picked apart Michigan in the first half last weekend with quick passes, but Maryland has shown little ability to make plays through the air—the Terrapins haven’t put up 125 yards passing in a game since their season-opening victory over Texas. Even in a 35-14 loss to Temple that required some airing it out, Maryland somehow managed only 63 yards through the air. The Terrapins are better on the ground, but good luck against Michigan: The Wolverines are allowing only 2.4 yards per carry, the fourth-best mark in the nation.
For a Maryland squad that has played its only road game so far at Bowling Green, a trip to Michigan represents a daunting challenge. With the Big House at his back, Jim Harbaugh will view this weekend as an opportunity to get some positive momentum rolling before his team hits the hardest part of its schedule. The Wolverines want to win big on Saturday, and they will. — Sam Chase
Boston College at NC State (-4)
Sat. 10/6, 12:30 p.m. ET
Pick: Boston College +4
This is the kind of spot in which Boston College has excelled in recent seasons. The Eagles have gone 13-4 against the spread when facing an ACC opponent on the road since the start of the 2014 season, which includes a 7-1 ATS record (6-2 straight up) against conference foes away from home over the past two calendar years. Boston College comes into this game ranked 19th in FBS in rushing offense, averaging 243.4 yards per game on the ground. Since Dave Doeren took over as N.C. State’s head coach prior to the 2013 season, the Wolfpack are 0-4 both straight up and against the spread when facing a team that’s averaging at least 230 rushing yards per game, and they’ve been hammered in those four games by an average score of 44 to 16.
Although N.C. State is one of only 13 FBS teams that’s allowing an average of fewer than 16 points per game, the Wolfpack have yet to face an opponent that ranks among the top half of the nation’s 130 FBS teams in points per game. And since Steve Addazio took over as Boston College’s head coach prior to the start of the 2013 season, the Eagles are 6-1-1 against the spread when facing teams that allow an average of fewer than 17 points per game and 6-0-1 against the spread on the road when facing an opponent that’s winning at least 75% of its games. — Ed McGrogan
Auburn (-3.5) at Mississippi State
Pick: Auburn -3.5
Auburn and Mississippi State boast two of the nation’s top-ranked defenses, with the Tigers allowing an average of 12.6 points per game (only Washington and Cincinnati are giving up fewer points per contest) and the Bulldogs surrendering 13.4 points, which ranks eighth in FBS. While 4-1 Auburn has faced a pair of top-10 squads in Washington and LSU among its first five opponents, 3-2 Mississippi State has yet to beat a team that currently has a winning record or that ranks among the top 94 FBS teams in scoring offense. Both of these teams have scored exactly 163 points through five games, but only Auburn has faced top-flight competition.
These are also a pair of teams that enter this contest headed in different directions. Auburn has allowed a total of 16 points during its current two-game winning streak, with Mississippi State having scored a total of 13 points during its current two-game losing streak. Teams coming off a game in which they scored fewer than seven points (Mississippi State) are 10-36-1 against the spread since the start of the 2009 season when going up against an opponent coming off back-to-back games in which it allowed 17 points or fewer. Meanwhile, favorites of between 3.5 and 10 points that are allowing an average of eight points or fewer in the first half of games (Auburn) are 23-3-1 against the spread in that same timeframe when coming off three straight games that went under the total—such teams have outscored their opponents by an average of more than 17 points per game despite having been favored by an average of fewer than six points over those 27 games. Although the Bulldogs’ defense should be formidable enough to keep the final margin of this one to within 17 points, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Auburn win by a couple of scores. — Scott Gramling
Vanderbilt at Georgia (-27)
Pick: Vanderbilt +27
Vanderbilt’s 31-27 win over FCS Tennessee State is nothing the team should be proud of moving forward. However, a case can be made that the Commodores were simply overlooking an inferior opponent prior to their meeting with undefeated Georgia.
Despite the fact that the Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 last week, this Georgia team does have some issues. The most notable is its lack of effectiveness in the passing game. Last week, quarterback Jake Fromm threw for 185 yards on 16-of-22 passing, but he didn’t throw for a single touchdown in that game. Georgia did rush for 251 yards and five touchdowns against the Vols, but the Bulldogs are going to need Fromm to make plays through the air at some point.
That’s not to say that Georgia is in any danger of losing to Vanderbilt on Saturday—it’s not. But Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur has a big arm, and his ability to spread the ball around to different targets will be key against a talented defense like Georgia’s. The senior has thrown for 1,231 yards with nine touchdowns and only four picks this season. Nearly four touchdowns is a lot to give to a quarterback of that caliber. Even last week, the Bulldogs were unable to cover a similar spread against a worse Tennessee team.
It’s also worth mentioning that Vandy has covered in four of the past five games it’s played against Georgia. The lone exception was a 31-point loss to the Bulldogs last season, but running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined to rush for 288 yards and three touchdowns in that game. And even though Georgia should have plenty of success on the ground here, the Bulldogs offense is slightly more manageable without that two-headed monster. –Zachary Cohen