It’s not quite the blockbuster Week 4 was, but this week of college football games offers some interesting matchups.
Chief among those is the matchup between No. 5 Ohio State and Nebraska. Both teams have had no problem putting up points, and Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers will be aiming for a monumental Big Ten upset at home. Other games to watch include ranked matchups between No. 21 USC and No. 17 Washington and No. 18 Virginia and No. 10 Notre Dame. Both of those can have serious repercussions in the College Football Playoff race.
Sporting News is 18-6 through three weeks of picks this season, including a 6-2 mark in Week 4. We’ll look to keep that rolling with another solid week.
Our picks ahead of the Week 5 slate of games (odds provided courtesy of Sportsbook Review as of 4 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 23):
No. 24 Kansas State at Oklahoma State (-4.5)
The Wildcats have been a pleasant surprise under first-year coach Chris Klieman, easily dispatching Nicholls and Bowling Green before earning a solid win over Mississippi State. The Wildcats have had success on offense this season, but their strength is on defense, which ranks ninth nationally in yards surrendered (256 yards per game) and second in pass defense (118.7 ypg). Oklahoma State is coming off an emotional loss to Texas but features an offense that is still one of college football’s most dangerous. Expect the Cowboys to clean up the mistakes that cost them against the Longhorns to earn a solid win.
Pick: Oklahoma State 31, Kansas State 20
Arizona State at No. 15 Cal (-5.5)
The Golden Bears have a chance to prove their ranking is for real by extending their win streak against an ASU team that just fell out of the top 25. Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils will need to have a balanced offensive attack to win this one, and that means getting Eno Benjamin up and running against a defense that ranks 61st in rushing yards allowed per game. That same unit also features an extremely talented secondary, which could spell trouble for ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. This one will be close, but we’ll go with Arizona State on the assumption Benjamin breaks out and Cal can’t crack an ASU defense that gave up a touchdown a game before its loss to Colorado.
Pick: Arizona State 24, Cal 20
MORE: Week 5 bowl predictions
Washington State at No. 19 Utah (-7)
Washington State and Utah come into this game off emotional first losses against UCLA and USC, respectively. The loser of this game takes a backseat in their respective divisions and faces elimination from the College Football Playoff. Washington State has one of the most potent offenses in the country, as evidenced by its 67-63 loss to the Bruins. (It also has a porous defense, as evidenced by that same loss). The Utes should give them a tougher defensive test, and its offense — which left 13 points on the field against the Trojans — should have no issue scoring against the Cougars.
Pick: Utah 42, Washington State 38
Mississippi State at No. 7 Auburn (-11)
The Tigers look very much like a contender in the SEC West — and the Playoff — and that’s largely in part to a defensive front that’s as good as any in the country. That group of Derrick Brown, Nick Coe, Big Kat Bryant, Tyrone Truesdell and Marlon Davidson has combined for nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in four games. That’s not good for a Mississippi State team that has surrendered nine sacks. Joe Moorhead will need his quarterback to get the ball out quick — Tommy Stevens returns to practice on Tuesday after a shoulder injury — and hope running back Kylin Hill can pierce that defensive front. That might be too much to ask.
Auburn 34, Mississippi State 20
MORE: Week 5 Playoff picture
No. 1 Clemson (-26.5) at North Carolina
There’s no real danger of Clemson losing this one — or any indication this game will even be competitive — but there’s enough intrigue with Mack Brown back on the Carolina sidelines to tune in. Something else to consider: Through four games, UNC freshman Sam Howell (1,024 passing yards, 64.1 completion percentage, nine touchdowns to two interceptions) has a better statline than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (925 yards, 62.3 completion percentage, seven touchdowns to five interceptions). Expect Lawrence to put on an efficient showing in a light workload.
Pick: Clemson 49, North Carolina 17
No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington (-10)
USC earned its way back onto this list with a convincing win over No. 10 Utah (which, in retrospect, may have been a tad overrated). Washington has rebounded nicely from its loss to Cal by combining for 97 points against Hawaii and BYU, which beat the Trojans in Week 3. This game should come down to quarterback play (shocker); USC can win with either Kedon Slovis or Matt Fink at quarterback. Jacob Eason has played well this season, but struggled against his only Power 5 competition, completing 18 of 30 passes for 162 yards and an interception against Cal. How will he fare against a Trojans secondary that has as many interceptions and only two fewer passes defensed than that Golden Bears defense?
Pick: USC 28, Washington 24
No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame (-11)
Virginia has a real opportunity to make waves in both the ACC and College Football Playoff race with a win against Notre Dame. That said, the Cavaliers struggled to wins in their last two games against Florida State and Old Dominion — not exactly teams to write home about. Notre Dame, despite coming off a tough loss to Georgia, is still on the fringe of the Playoff, and should play as such on Saturday. That starts with a win against the Cavs.
Pick: Notre Dame 30, Virginia 20
No. 5 Ohio State (-17.5) at Nebraska
Ohio State looks like one of the most complete teams in the country heading into this College GameDay meeting with Nebraska: Justin Fields has 1,030 total yards and 19 touchdowns, J.K. Dobbins averages 7.0 yards per carry and the defense surrenders nine points per game. Conversely, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is an electric playmaker who can keep the Cornhuskers within striking distance of the Buckeyes — at least, if the defense can keep Ohio State out of the end zone. But that’s a unit that has given up 34.5 points per game against Power 5 competition; there’s no reason to assume that will change against the Buckeyes.
Pick: Ohio State 45, Nebraska 27