Thursday, December 7, 2023
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The Six Pack: Notre Dame vs. Duke, Texas vs. Kansas among top Week 5 college football picks

In a video clip that went viral, Oregon coach Dan Lanning Lanning was seen telling his team, “[Colorado] is playing for clicks. We’re playing for wins,” in his pregame speech before the Ducks faced the Buffaloes on Saturday.  It was great because it played not only to the moment but also to the opponent, and the best speeches do both.

Then his team backed up the talk, blowing the doors off Colorado. The Ducks led 35-0 at halftime, and as he was being interviewed going off the field, Lanning made it clear that they weren’t done. He talked like a coach who intended to make it as emphatic a victory as possible.

There’s been a lot of discourse about the game in the media this week, as there is with everything Deion Sanders and the Buffs. I don’t care about any of it. It’s all noise designed to kill time and keep your attention before the next round of games begins. What I care about is that Dan Lanning lied directly to my face.

Oregon didn’t play like a team trying to send a message in the second half. The Ducks only scored one touchdown in the second half, winning 42-6. Well, this column had the Oregon team total over 45.5 for the game, and I cannot believe it didn’t win.

When a team scores 35 points in the first half, it causes you to feel pretty good about your over 45.5. I thought the win was in the bag, but Lanning called off the dogs (or the Ducks, in this case). Oregon moved at a slower tempo on offense and removed key starters. All of this is within his right, but I can’t help but feel like Lanning owes me, and all of you who took my advice, an apology.

It proved to be the difference between a winning week and a 3-3 performance for The Process.

Odds via SportsLine consensus

Games of the Week

No. 11 Notre Dame at No. 17 Duke: The Irish lost a heartbreaker at home to Ohio State last week but played very well in defeat despite an inability to count. In fact, I would say Notre Dame was the better of the two teams for most of the night, but Ohio State made plays in the end and stole the win out from under the Irish. But the loss has no impact on how I feel about the Irish going forward, and I like them a lot in this spot on the road against a good Duke team.

As odd as it is to say it, considering this is Duke football we’re talking about, the Blue Devils are slightly overrated. I think back to the win against Clemson to start the season, and while Duke deserved its win, I saw the outcome being more about Clemson giving the game away than Duke taking it. As they prepare to face Notre Dame, I wonder if the Irish will do the same. I don’t think they will. Notre Dame did one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen a defense do of limiting Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison (nobody can stop them; you can only hope to mitigate the damage). This secondary should keep the Duke passing game in check. On the other side, my thought is that Notre Dame can use its offensive line to lean on Duke’s defense and wear them down over the course of 60 minutes. If Duke wins this game — and it can — it will be because Riley Leonard balls out. That is well within the realm of possibility, but I don’t think it’s the more likely outcome. The Pick: Notre Dame -5.5 (-110)

No. 24 Kansas at No. 3 Texas: Let’s all stop to take this moment in. The Kansas Jayhawks are being featured in a Game of the Week (not to mention Duke). Imagine somebody telling you this would happen two years ago. You’d never believe it, but here we are, and here they are. Will they win this game? I’m not sure, but that’s not the angle I’m playing. Whoever wins, there’s a strong chance we’ll see a lot of points in this one.

Kansas has improved up front defensively, but it hasn’t faced an offensive line as strong as Texas’ yet, and we’re going to see the Jayhawks secondary tested because of it. Conversely, Kansas’ offense is confusing and designed to get defenders out of their spots to create big plays. Based on what I’ve seen from Texas’ secondary this year, I like Kansas’ chances of breaking big plays. Plus, while Jalon Daniels is seen as a more effective rusher than a passer at the QB position, he’s improved as a passer this year. The winner of this game might need at least 40 to feel comfortable. The Pick: Over 61.5 (-110)

Lock of the Week

San Diego State at Air Force: Over the years, there’s been one thing about San Diego State that you could always rely on. The Aztecs would stop the run and be salty as hell on defense. This has not been the case in 2023. San Diego State’s rush defense ranks 130th nationally in success rate against the run and 125th in EPA per rush. The 2.62 yards it allows before contact ranks 116th. None of San Diego State’s first four FBS opponents have finished with fewer than 111 yards rushing, and that was Ohio in the opener. The Bobcats lost their starting QB during the game and were an absolute mess. UCLA, Oregon State and Boise State have rushed for 686 yards and seven touchdowns against this defense the last three weeks.

And now here comes Air Force! A team that runs the ball 94% of the time, ranks fifth in rushing success rate and 11 in EPA per rush. I can’t see how that would be a problem for San Diego State, can you? Air Force isn’t a juggernaut defensively, but the Aztecs pair their terrible run defense with an anemic offense. This is an absolute nightmare matchup for the Aztecs. The Pick: Air Force -10.5 (-107)

Under of the Week

No. 2 Michigan at Nebraska: The total is low, but I’m riding the Michigan Under Train until it’s derailed. This team continues to move at a snail’s pace and does not seem interested in scoring a lot of points. As I told you last week, when we took the under in Michigan’s game against Rutgers, nobody was averaging fewer snaps per game than Michigan at 112. After playing 105 snaps (61 on offense) in that game, the average on the season has dropped to 110.25. It remains the lowest number in the country, six fewer than anybody else (Bowling Green, which played Michigan, is at 116.25).

Nebraska hasn’t been moving at a lightning pace, as it ranks 46th in snaps per game, but what’s more important than the number is how many have been on offense. The Huskers have been on offense for 48.75% of their snaps, which ranks 100th overall. This leads me to believe that, even on the road, Michigan will dictate the pace of this game. It’s the better team, and it’s trying to. Plus, how many points can we realistically expect Nebraska to score here? It’s an offense that ranks 90th or worse in nearly every category I care about. All Michigan cares about is getting the win and saving itself for Penn State and Ohio State, so it’ll be more than happy to squeeze the life out of this game in the second half. The Pick: Under 39 (-110)

Get Right Game of the Week

Clemson at Syracuse: Clemson is a distressed asset. The Tigers are off to an 0-2 start in the ACC and just blew a big chance at home last week against Florida State. It’s a team being written off, and now it’s in a spot where it’s on the road against an undefeated Syracuse team, but you know what? The records don’t matter. Clemson is the better team in this matchup and should be favored around 10 points, not less than a touchdown.

Clemson’s offense has limitations, but its defense remains phenomenal. Syracuse’s overall passing numbers have been inflated by playing bad pass defenses, and the Orange have lost one of their most reliable pass-catchers in Oronde Gadsden. We’ve seen them turn to using Garrett Schrader as a battering ram QB in recent weeks (35 carries against Purdue and Army). That will not be a feasible strategy against Clemson. Schrader and the Orange offense will have to move the ball effectively through the air, and I’m betting they won’t be able to do so. The Pick: Clemson -6.5 (-110)

Friday Night Game of the Week

No. 10 Utah at No. 19 Oregon State: Kyle Whittingham loves where Utah is right now. The Utes haven’t had their starting QB all season, but they’re 4-0 anyway. Meanwhile, every word uttered about the Pac-12 has been about Colorado, Oregon, Washington or USC. Nobody is paying any attention to the two-time conference champions who are ranked in the top 10. This is fortunate for the Utes in that it allows them to fly under the radar, and it keeps people from realizing that, right now, Utah is Mountain Iowa.

The offense has been awful, and the Utah defense is winning games. Meanwhile, after getting off to a great start, D.J. Uiagalelei looks like the Clemson version (31-of-64 passing, 2 TD, 3 INT in the last two games). With both teams playing on a short week, I expect this one to be a bit of a rock fight. Utah will do everything it can to make it that way, and I don’t trust Oregon State’s ability to open things up and make the Utes uncomfortable. The Pick: Under 44.5 (-105)

Bets Last Week Season Units

Games of the Week

0-2

4-6

-2.63

Lock of the Week

0-1

2-3

-1.30

Overall

3-3

15-13

+0.65

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 5, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $2,500 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons — and find out.

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