CFB Week 5 best bets: The 'Saturday Seven'
When you base a handicap on a quarterback's health, and then that signal-caller gets hurt, the writing is on the wall for your bet. Chris Reynolds didn't make it to the end of Charlotte's contest versus South Carolina, damaging the "Saturday Seven" in Week 4. Thankfully, the success of our early week bets on the big games offset our 2-5 record. All told, a 7-6 week moves us to 29-23-1 (55.7%) overall on the season despite another one of our matchups showing up on a high-profile TV segment about bad beats.
The lazy headline to this game is Bret Bielema's return to Madison. But the body of that text reads that his Illini team might be better than the Badgers this season. Fifth-year quarterback Tommy Devito has limited turnovers and used Chase Brown and his 6.4 yards per carry to open up Illinois' offense just enough to be dangerous.
As it was with Bielema's Badgers teams, it's more about the defense for his new squad. Illinois is in the top 20 of Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency ratings. With a good run game and solid defense, these teams mirror each other and have familiar fingerprints on both.
Pick: Illinois +7
Utah has done nothing but annihilate bad teams since losing in Week 1 at Florida. Meanwhile, the Gators' season has gone sideways, making the Utes' close loss to them look less excusable. Meanwhile, Oregon State deserved better in a tight loss to USC but showed that it could contend in the Pac-12. The Beavers will do everything possible not to start the conference season 0-2. It's too early to be worried about cold weather in Salt Lake City, which helps Oregon State's offense keep pace with the Utes.
Pick: Oregon State +10.5
Let's not mince words - it's been bad for Northwestern, losing all three non-conference games as a favorite. That's why this line is so high. However, the Wildcats are still 1-0 in the conference and are the type of team that plays close games against less talented programs. They also play teams with more talent closer than you'd expect.
Penn State concludes the first segment of its season with a bye and then has Michigan on deck. After beating Purdue and Auburn, any victory would be good enough to set the Nittany Lions up for a showdown in Ann Arbor, so a two- to three-touchdown win will suffice.
Pick: Northwestern +25
After seeing Ohio State crush its last three opponents, we'll have to hold our nose with this one. But if this game can set up like the Buckeyes' 31-point win over Wisconsin last week, Rutgers will cover comfortably.
We're primarily relying on a good Greg Schiano defense and his experience as an assistant in Columbus - seeing the Buckeyes' offensive system daily - to keep Ohio State under 50 points.
Pick: Rutgers +39.5
Of course, we have to include Kansas here as we've backed it successfully for three straight weeks. The Jayhawks will be back in our next big-game outlook if they can score one more upset. Still knocking on the door of being ranked and ESPN's carrot-dangling of its first College GameDay, Kansas will continue to be focused on getting national credit. At 4-0 against the spread, the market hasn't caught up to a previously unfathomable concept - the Jayhawks are good at football.
Iowa State got exposed at home to Baylor last week. The market is slow to figure out that the Cyclones aren't nearly the team they've been in recent years. Matt Campbell's record in tightly-lined games is something he'll keep off his resume and will get worse this week.
Pick: Kansas +3
No amount of coaches can be fired to make me think it's a good idea that a Pat Narduzzi Pittsburgh team should be favored by more than three touchdowns. I'm not worried about Georgia Tech handing a pink slip to Jeff Collins. The Ramblin' Wreck has crashed this season because of a tough schedule - Clemson, Ole Miss, and UCF - and unrealistic expectations. The Panthers are a step down from Georgia Tech's big losses, and they don't have an offense that will pull away.
Pick: Georgia Tech +22
Per the video above, Oregon was in a wild one last week on The Palouse. But if there's any kind of a hangover from that comeback win, Stanford can pounce. All it'll take is for Tanner McKee and the Cardinal offense to tighten up the turnovers. They're 17-point underdogs due to losses to USC and Washington, but they lost the turnover battle 7-0 in those games.
Bo Nix is just as capable of turning it over en masse, and the Ducks' defense hasn't been what they hoped for in Eugene. With over two touchdowns in our pocket, there's value on Stanford here.
Pick: Stanford +17
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.