Sometimes, you just get a couple of bad beats.
That was Week 4. Iowa had Wisconsin on the ropes for 59 minutes, but two late touchdowns gave the Badgers the 28-17 win and the cover. Clemson made a change at quarterback from Kelly Bryant to Trevor Lawrence ---- and handled Georgia Tech 49-21. Similarly, Notre Dame made a QB change to Ian Book, who had far more success against Wake Forest than Brandon Wimbush probably would have.
Still, an "L" is and "L," and upset alert games went a big ol' 0-for against the spread. Roll the tape ...
Anyway, on to better things. Week 5 is highlighted by Ohio State's trip to Penn State, but with the spread at -3.5 for the Buckeyes, it's not the biggest potential upset on the board. Once you dive into fringe top-25 games, things get more interesting.
Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. Remember: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread, not perception or rankings, though they are both taken into consideration. On that note, I generally avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them. To make things more interesting, I'm also going on the record with the picks and keeping tabs. The scoring system is exactly the same as it is for our weekly expert picks with season-long tallies against the spread (ATS) and straight-up (SU).
Week 4 results
Upset alert picks: 2-3
Picks to date: 8-12
ATS to date: 7-13
SU to date: 7-13
On to this week's picks ...
No. 12 West Virginia at No. 25 Texas Tech
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Lubbock, Texas | Line: West Virginia -3.5
Why it's listed: I'm breaking the touchdown rule because of what this game means (Besides, the line has shrunk almost three points). Even though Oklahoma just had a close call against Army, there's still little doubt it's the team to beat in the Big 12. As the conference's only other undefeated team, though, there's an opportunity for West Virginia to take early control of that No. 2 spot on the road in Lubbock. Or, it can get shuffled back into the depths of the conference rankings.
Texas Tech's key to the game: How's this pass defense going to hold up? Yes, Tech's defense played well against Oklahoma State by allowing zero points for the final 40 minutes, but there are few limitations for West Virginia. They have the right quarterback, three to four options at wide receiver, tight end involvement for the first time in forever and a deep running back group that can catch out of the backfield.
West Virginia's key to the game: How disruptive can this defensive front be? Defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow Jr. has been a missing piece, and this is a way more physical defense in the trenches than a year ago. Texas Tech is comfortable with freshman quarterback Alan Bowman, so the Mountaineers need a big game from this unit.
Pick: Mountaineers fans probably still have nightmares about 2012 when No. 5 West Virginia visited Texas Tech at 5-0 and lost 49-14, setting into motion a complete season collapse. The Red Raiders can obviously score, so there's not much room for error, but there are just so many weapons for WVU. That's the difference, but it's tight. ATS: Texas Tech, SU: West Virginia
Army at Buffalo
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Buffalo, New York | Line: Buffalo -7.5
Why it's listed: This game is actually Jerry Palm'sfor his best bets, and it's not all that surprising to see Buffalo as an 7.5-point favorite; the Bulls might win the MAC (Related: Lance Leipold looks like one of the best outside-the-box hires over the past four years). But like Oklahoma, Buffalo does not face an option offense like this every day.
Army's key to the game: It can't have a letdown game. Even though Army worked its game plan to perfection against Oklahoma, it can't let the 28-21 overtime loss take the air out. Buffalo is too good, and considering its scoring 40 points per game, it's probably a good idea for the Knights to play another round of ball control offense.
Buffalo's key to the game: Army's defense has only played about 50 snaps a game (Oklahoma played 40). History says Buffalo won't have many opportunities to score, so staying aggressive offensively is important. Points off of turnovers would be a huge help, too.
Pick: Army is good, which means playing them is a pain in the butt. The Knights do what they do and they do it well, which usually forces everyone else to play their game. If Army is even close to as good as it was against Oklahoma, it can win. ATS: Army, SU: Army
Florida at No. 23 Mississippi State
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET | Where: Starkville, Mississippi | Line: Mississippi State -7.5
Why it's listed: After getting handled by Kentucky, Mississippi State is looking for a way to punch back. Though it's good to be back home, Florida might be a tough out considering Gators coach Dan Mullen built this Bulldogs team.
Florida's key to the game: Do anything and everything to stymie Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Considering this is Mullen we're talking about, the Bulldogs should at least have the know-how to accomplish this. Whether they can is a different story. Mississippi State has the SEC's best run game by yards per attempt (6.56) and Fitzgerald leads the team with 50 attempts.
Mississippi State's key to the game: Florida doesn't have a Benny Snell Jr. type of production back, but it has options with Jordan Scarlett and Dameon Pierce. Joe Moorehead's team got bulldozed by Kentucky's ground game a week ago, but has otherwise been fairly good against the run vs. lesser competition. Which defense shows up?
Pick: Florida is catching Mississippi State at a good time. The Bulldogs didn't play well at Kentucky, a common opponent, and the Gators are trending up some. Mullen's deep knowledge of his opponent helps, but Mississippi State has enough cowbell at home. ATS: Florida, SU: Mississippi State
Iowa State at TCU
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Forth Worth, Texas | Line: TCU -10.5
Why it's listed: TCU looked like one of the Big 12's strongest contenders to Oklahoma after playing Ohio State in Week 3, but a second straight loss, this one to Texas, has the Frogs reeling a bit. And the Cyclones can stress TCU's defense in a way similar to what Texas did last Saturday.
Iowa State's key to the game: Hakeem Butler, who had a receiving touchdown a year ago in Iowa State's 14-7 win over TCU. At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, he's a matchup problem for TCU in the way Texas wideout Collin Johnson was in Week 4. There probably won't be a ton of points in this game, so Butler's contributions need to be key.
TCU's key to the game: The turnovers are certainly brutal. The Frogs are dead last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-5) and have nine giveaways in their past three games. However, there's sometimes a bit of good luck/bad luck associated with that. What TCU really needs is to get running back Darius Anderson going again after just 15 yards vs. Texas.
Pick: We know the Cyclones can get up for anyone, but do they have the juice to pull this off? TCU, meanwhile, just played two big, fast, physical teams in a row. That takes a toll and Iowa State isn't much fun, either. This is a tough stretch of schedule and the Frogs are in the meat of it. ATS: Iowa State, SU: Iowa State
No. 20 BYU at No. 11 Washington
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET | Where: Seattle, Washington | Line: Washington -17.5
Why it's listed: This feels like an awfully large spread for an underdog that already beat Wisconsin on the road. It's Vegas and Vegas usually knows, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this line shrink some as we get closer to kickoff. The Huskies haven't thoroughly handled a FBS team this year yet, too.
BYU's key to the game: The Cougars were able to go blow-for-blow with Wisconsin and play ahead. While it doesn't necessarily need to do that against Washington, the Huskies' defense is way too stingy to start playing from 10-14 points down, especially if the over/under is at 46. First one to 21 might win.
Washington's key to the game: The protection quarterback Jake Browning gets and his ability to stretch the BYU defense is going to be interesting to watch. The Cougars didn't have to worry about that too much against Wisconsin, but it is part of Washington's arsenal. Explosive yardage through the air will be the difference.
Pick: BYU is better this year. Tanner Mangum has been there forever, Squally Canada is an all-namer and running back to know and the defense has been playing well. That's enough to make this one manageable, but two road wins against top-end ranked opponents in one season is tough. ATS: BYU, SU: Washington
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