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HomeSportsCollege football Week 5: Picks and preview

College football Week 5: Picks and preview

Conference play is in full force for Week 5, meanwhile, some intriguing Top 25 matchups also make up this weekend’s slate of games. Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of DraftKings) for Week 5 games featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25 and other interesting contests.

All times Eastern. Statistics in parenthesis are from 2021 unless noted. Spreads are current at the time of publication and are subject to change.


1 of 25

No. 5 Iowa (4-0, 1-0 in Big Ten) at Maryland (4-0, 1-0 in Big Ten), 8 p.m., Friday, FS1

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Two of the five Big Ten teams sitting at 4-0 meet for a prime-time matchup. The last time these teams met at College Park, the Terrapins win 38-31, but that was back in 2014. The Hawkeyes were less-than-stellar in getting by Colorado State at home last weekend, but they still boast one of the nation’s best defenses, allowing an average of 11.0 points, 84.5 rushing yards, and 271.5 total yards. Maryland last started 5-0 in 2001.

Prediction: Iowa (-3 1/2)


2 of 25

No. 13 BYU (4-0) at Utah State (3-1), 9 p.m., Friday, CBS Sports Network

Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

This is a rather intriguing matchup, especially if BYU quarterback Jaren Hall isn’t healthy enough to play. The Cougars are a solid favorite and won the most recent meeting between the schools in 2019, by 28 points on the road. However, this will be BYU’s first true road contest of 2021. The Aggies faithful, meanwhile, should make up a frenzied environment as their team looks to rebound from a 27-3 loss home loss to Boise State.

Prediction: BYU (-9)


3 of 25

No. 8 Arkansas (4-0, 1-0 in SEC) at No. 2 Georgia (4-0, 2-0 in SEC), Noon, Saturday, ESPN

Brett Rojo/USA TODAY Sports

This has the makings of a fun weekend in the SEC. The first of two matchups among ranked league teams have upstart Arkansas squad looking to start 5-0 for the first time since 1998. The Razorbacks have won each of their games by at least 10 points but lost to Georgia by 27 last season. Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs have allowed just 23 points this season and should be prepared for all Arkansas will throw at them in a game that’s much more a proving ground for the visitors than the hosts.

Prediction: Arkansas (-18 1/2)


4 of 25

No. 14 Michigan (4-0, 1-0 in Big Ten) at Wisconsin (1-2, 0-1 in Big Ten), Noon, Saturday, Fox

Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s strong start has been a worthy early-season college football storyline, but the Wolverines are coming off their least-dominate game of 2021 — a 20-13 home victory over Rutgers. Now, Michigan hits the road for the first time this season, and at Wisconsin, where it’s lost five in a row since winning there in November 2001. Now, the Badgers have their own issues but allowed an average of 11.3 points while going 10-2 at home since the start of the 2019 campaign.

Prediction: Wisconsin (-1)


5 of 25

Louisville (3-1, 1-0 in ACC) at No. 24 Wake Forest (4-0, 2-0 in ACC), 12:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3

Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three seasons, Wake Forest is trying to start 5-0. Credit coach Dave Clawson for keeping the Demon Deacons seriously competitive and relevant despite losing offensive stars Jamie Newman and Kenneth Walker III to the transfer portal in recent years. Current Wake quarterback Sam Hartman (955 passing yards, nine touchdowns, zero interceptions) is starting to earn some praise, but faces a Louisville squad that’s looking for a fourth straight win and allowed an average of 201.6 passing yards over the last three contests.

Prediction: Wake Forest (-6 1/2)


6 of 25

Louisiana-Monroe (2-1, 1-0 in Sun Belt) at No. 16 Coastal Carolina (4-0, 0-0 in Sun Belt, 2:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN+

David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports

After outscoring four non-conference opponents 182-64, Coastal kicks off Sun Belt play riding a nine-game league winning streak. The Chanticleers’ most recent conference loss came 45-42 to Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 23, 2019. However, the Warhawks are looking to snap a nine-game road slide that dates back almost two years. Coastal enters this week’s slate fifth in the nation averaging 6.3 rushing yards per carry.

Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe (-34 1/2)


7 of 25

No. 7 Cincinnati (3-0) at No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0), 2:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC

Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

Before Brian Kelly became the winningest coach in Notre Dame history (106 victories), he went 34-6 in four seasons with Cincinnati. After scoring 31 fourth-quarter points in last weekend’s 41-13 victory over then-No 18 Wisconsin, Kelly’s Irish face another stiff test against the Bearcats. Cincinnati has had two weeks to prepare, but it’s not certain if injured Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan will be under center. The Irish held Purdue and Wisconsin to 131 rushing yards over the last two weeks, but Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford (300 rushing yards, six touchdowns) is among the best backs in the country.

Prediction: Notre Dame (+2 1/2)


8 of 25

No. 12 Mississippi (3-0, 0-0 in SEC) at No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 in SEC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

Handout Photo/USA TODAY Sports

Alabama has averaged nearly 60 points during its five-game winning streak over Ole Miss. However, the storyline this year is a matchup of current Heisman Trophy frontrunners in Bryce Young (72.1 completion percentage, 1,124 yards, 15 touchdowns, one interception) from Alabama and the Rebels’ Matt Corral (68.8 completion percentage, 997 yards, nine TDs, zero INTs). This is certainly a statement game for Ole Miss, while the Tide aim for a 19th consecutive victory.

Prediction: Alabama (-14 1/2)


9 of 25

No. 6 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12) at Kansas State (3-1, 0-1 in Big 12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

If Oklahoma star Spencer Rattler (74.1-percent completion percentage, 1,017 passing yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions) was booed in his own backyard, it will only get uglier at Kansas State this weekend. The Sooners will try to avoid a third consecutive loss to the Wildcats, who didn’t last long in the Top 25 following last Saturday’s 31-20 loss at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma’s three FBS wins this season have come by a combined 15 points.

Prediction: Kansas State (+10 1/2)


10 of 25

No. 11 Ohio State (3-1, 1-0 in Big Ten) at Rutgers (3-1, 0-1 in Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The pregame talk in Columbus is the health status of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud . However, Kyle McCord was solid in going 13-of-18 for 319 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in that home rout of Akron. Plus, the Buckeyes coaches have confidence in their backup. Ohio State has outscored Rutgers 376-75 while winning the seven all-time meetings between the schools. This Scarlet Knights’ squad, though, is giving up an average of just 13.5 points and 263.5 total yards on the season. Could that mean an upset?

Prediction: Ohio State (-15)


11 of 25

No. 3 Oregon (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12) at Stanford (2-2, 1-1 in Pac-12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports

Stanford already beat then-No. 14 USC and gave then-No. 24 UCLA a run for its money last weekend in a 35-24 loss. Can the Cardinal be seriously competitive once again against the Ducks? Who, however, is likely better than either of those Los Angeles-based Pac-12 teams. Oregon is yielding an average of 19.5 points and has won the last two meetings with Stanford by a combined 36 points.

Prediction: Oregon (-8)


12 of 25

No. 10 Florida 3-1, 1-1 in SEC) at Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 in SEC), 6 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Dating back to November 1980, Florida is 39-2 against Kentucky and won six straight games at Lexington. These Wildcats, however, are looking to go 5-0 for the second time in four seasons. Not to mention, some Kentucky off-field legal issues have been cleared up in time for the Gators’ arrival. Florida might have issues with its passing game, but the Gators enter this week’s action ranked third in the country averaging 322.5 yards on the ground.

Prediction: Kentucky (+ 8 1/2)


13 of 25

Louisiana Tech (2-2) at No. 23 North Carolina State (3-1), 6 p.m., Saturday, ESPN+/ACC Network Extra

Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports

The Wolfpack earned a deserved spot in the Top 25 following its double-overtime home upset of then-No. 9 Clemson. Now, they get a break from ACC action to seemingly build on that victory, which was guided by a defense that’s allowed an average of 13.0 points and 249.3 total yards on the season. North Carolina State has won 19 straight non-conference home games and 32 of the last 33 such contests.

Prediction: North Carolina State (-19 1/2)


14 of 25

No. 21 Baylor (4-0, 2-0 in Big 12) at No. 19 Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Rob Ferguson/USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought come the first weekend of October, Baylor and Oklahoma State would be undefeated and playing to remain atop the Big 12 standings. The Bears have outscored their first four opponents 171-63 following a two-point win over then-No. 14 Iowa State last weekend. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have won their first four by a combined 24 points while allowing an average of 87.0 yards on the ground. Baylor has won two of the last three meetings at Stillwater.

Prediction: Baylor (-3 1/2)


15 of 25

Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 in SEC) at No. 15 Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 in SEC), 7 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M has won the last two meetings with Mississippi State, but the Aggies have totaled 20 points in their two games versus Power Five opponents. And, managed 272 total yards in last weekend’s 20-10 loss to then-No. 16 Arkansas. The issue appears to be at quarterback, where Zach Calzada (four touchdowns, three interceptions) might not be the answer with Haynes King hurt. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have dropped two in a row to Memphis and LSU by a combined five points.

Prediction: Texas A&M (-7)


16 of 25

Boston College (4-0, 0-0 in SEC) at No. 25 Clemson (2-2, 0-1 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Ken Ruinard/staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Five weeks into the 2021 season and Clemson’s national title hopes are likely gone following that double-overtime loss at previously unranked N.C. State last weekend. The Tigers have scored 38 points in their three games versus FBS opponents this season, and now host a BC squad that’s trying to open 5-0 for the first time since 2007. Clemson has won 30 consecutive home games and seven in a row there over the Eagles, but amid the craziness of 2021, take nothing for granted.

Prediction: Boston College (+16)


17 of 25

Western Kentucky (1-2) at No. 17 Michigan State (4-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The Spartans had to work to beat Nebraska in overtime last weekend, but would seem to be in good shape for their first 5-0 start since 2015. While Michigan State’s offense had its issues a week ago, its defense has been solid early on, allowing an average 18.0 points and bending without completely breaking. Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is 0-6 against Big Ten teams on the road since the start of the 2021 season. However, WKU gave Indiana a game win last weekend’s 33-31 home defeat.

Prediction: Michigan State (-10 1/2)


18 of 25

Indiana (2-2, 0-1 in Big Ten) at No. 4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 in Big Ten), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the season, this looked to be one of the premier matchups of 2021. However, Penn State, which has yielded just 60 points, might be the Big Ten’s best team while Indiana is off to a middling start and struggled to win at Western Kentucky last weekend. The Hoosiers beat the Nittany Lions for just the second time in 24 career meetings, in dramatic fashion, last season. However, they’ve never won at Beaver Stadium.

Prediction: Penn State (- 12 1/2)


19 of 25

No. 22 Auburn (3-1, 0-0 in SEC) at LSU (3-1, 1-0 in SEC), 9 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Jake Crandall via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The big question surrounding this matchup is who will start at quarterback for Auburn?  Bo Nix was benched while the Tigers rallied for a 34-24 win over Georgia State last week. That means ex-LSU quarterback T.J. Finley, who threw a fourth-quarter TD pass in the victory, could start against his former team. LSU, meanwhile, has won three in a row overall and will be looking for an 11th consecutive victory at home over Auburn.

Prediction: LSU (-3 1/2)


20 of 25

Arizona State (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12) at No. 20 UCLA (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports

At this point, it seems the Pac-12 South Division is up for grabs. UCLA is the only division squad ranked at the moment, but it lost at home to upstart Fresno State and had to fight off a pesky Stanford group last week on the road. The Bruins have won the last two meetings against the Sun Devils by a total of 17 points. Arizona State, whose lone defeat came at then-No. 23 BYU on Sept. 18, has lost three straight road games against Top 25 opponents.

Prediction: UCLA (-3 1/2)


21 of 25

No. 18 Fresno State (4-1, 1-0 in Mountain West) at Hawaii (2-3, 0-1 in Mountain West), 11 p.m., Saturday, CBS Sports Network

Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

Fresno State ranks among the national leaders averaging 42.0 points and is third in the country at 397.6 passing yards per contest. Jake Haener, who began his collegiate career at Washington, is a big reason for the team’s early success while completing 73.1-percent of his passes for 1,842 yards with 15 TDs and two INTs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have averaged 37.0 points during a six-game winning streak at Hawaii.

Prediction: Fresno State (-10)


22 of 25

Virginia (2-2, 0-2 in ACC) at Miami (Fla.) (2-2, 0-0 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Thursday, ESPN

Scott Taetsch/USA TODAY Sports

Things are pretty interesting in both ACC divisions with Clemson, North Carolina, and Miami all mediocre out of the gate. The Hurricanes will try for back-to-back wins following a 69-0 home rout of Central Connecticut State. However, a Hurricanes defense that allowed 105 points over the first three games could have its hands full with Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong (1,705 passing yards, 13 TDs, three INTs) and 6-foot-7 tight end Jelani Woods (16 receptions, 247 yards, three TDs). Miami has won five of the last six meetings with the Cavaliers.

Prediction: Miami (-4)


23 of 25

Texas (3-1, 1-0 in Big 12) at TCU (2-1, 0-0 in Big 12), Noon, Saturday, ABC

Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The Longhorns aim for a third consecutive victory after dropping 128 on Rice and Texas Tech in the last two games. Texas, though, has lost two straight and six of the last seven versus TCU, including three in a row at Fort Worth. That said, the Horned Frogs will try to avoid back-to-back home losses after falling 42-34 to SMU last weekend. Longhorns sophomore Bijan Robinson ranks among the national leaders with 436 rushing yards and a 6.2 yards-per-carry average.

Prediction: Texas (-5)


24 of 25

Duke (3-1, 0-0 in ACC) at North Carolina (2-2, 1-2 in ACC), Noon, Saturday, ESPN2

Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports

Duke is looking for a fourth consecutive win after opening with a three-point loss at Charlotte, and will try to avoid a third straight defeat to its Tobacco Road rival. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, have been a relative disappointment on the early season. Losing by 23 to Georgia Tech last week did not help. Sam Howell is still among the nation’s most talented quarterbacks, but he’s been sacked 17 times. Duke has recorded just four sacks this season, but five interceptions in the last two weeks.

Prediction: Duke (+19)


25 of 25

Liberty (3-1) at UAB (3-1), 7 p.m., Saturday, CBS Sports Network

Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

For those college football fans who have not seen Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (63-of-88, 818 passing yards, 10 TDs, zero INTs; 274 rushing yards, four TDs) in action, here is a good opportunity. Especially against a quality UAB squad that’s yielded 27 points in its three victories this season. Five games into the season and the Blazers will be playing their first home game at the  new Protective Stadium in Birmingham.

Prediction: UAB (-2)

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.


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