College football upset alert: Expert picks for Week 5 underdogs with best odds to win

College football upset alert: Expert picks for Week 3 underdogs with the best odds to win

It has been the year of the upset in college football, but we here at The Underdog Challenge are still going to brag. Through four weeks, your beloved quartet sits above .500 in picking underdogs to win straight up. This, my friends, is no easy task, no matter how unpredictable the 2021 season has been.

A reminder on how our contest is played: Each expert picks three underdogs to win. If the underdog comes through, the expert gets as many points as the team was an underdog via the betting line.

Here are our standings through four weeks:

PLACE NAME RECORD POINTS
1 Bill Bender 7-5 39
2 Bill Trocchi 6-6 39
3 Zac Al-Khateeb 7-5 36.5
4 Mike DeCourcy 5-7 24.5

On to the upsets.

MORE: Week 5 picks against the spread for Top 25 games

Lines courtesy of FanDuel.com

Bill Bender, Lead college football writer

No. 9 Notre Dame (+1.5) vs. No. 7 Cincinnati

This is more of a toss-up in our opinion. Notre Dame is a home underdog against a Group of 5 school? Cincinnati poses a challenge with Desmond Ridder and Jerome Ford, and the Irish need to find a reliable running game. Still, Notre Dame will make enough plays on defense and special teams to slip past the Bearcats, perhaps in overtime fashion.

BENDER: Will Luke Fickell be Notre Dame’s next coach?

TCU (+5.5) vs. Texas

Texas doubled up Texas Tech 70-35 in Week 4, and TCU lost in a rivalry game to SMU. Both teams are inconsistent, and that likely means another shootout is coming. Running backs Bijan Robinson and Zach Evans should have big games, but keep in mind the Horned Frogs have found a way to win the last two meetings and six of the last seven.

Louisville (+6.5) at Wake Forest

The Cardinals have rebounded since the loss to Ole Miss on Labor Day. This is a fun quarterback battle between Malik Cunningham and Sam Hartman. Cunningham has scored at least two rushing TDs in every game this season. This feels more like a toss-up, and it’s one of those ACC upsets you can see coming.

Mike DeCourcy, Senior writer

No. 14 Michigan (+1.5) at Wisconsin

Such is the power of Camp Randall that the Badgers are favored even though they’ve yet to give any real indication they can pull off a victory against a serious major-college team. They’ve been in the ring twice against big-timers (Penn State, Notre Dame) and each time faded like an ice cube in the sun when the fourth quarter arrived. Wisconsin was outscored in those games by a combined score of 40-6. OK, so Michigan wasn’t worth a darn in the final 15 against Rutgers, but it’s different when you’re protecting a lead.

No. 12 Ole Miss (+14.5) at No. 1 Alabama

There are two SEC matchups this week that this contest invites a participant to consider: this one and the Arkansas-Georgia matchup in which the Dawgs are favored by 18.5. Although Arkansas has been terrific to date and would seem to have a chance, the difference is that Georgia right now appears to be the nation’s best team, and Alabama is (reasonably, given the overabundance of elite talent birthed to the NFL) trying to reestablish itself as the nation’s preeminent power. Maybe the Tide will show they’re back this weekend. And maybe Lane Kiffin’s going to get me more than two touchdowns worth of points in the standings.

MORE: Arch Manning headed to Tuscaloosa for SEC showdown | Lane Kiffin’s offense ready to challenge Bama

No. 9 Notre Dame (+1.5) vs. No. 7 Cincinnati

Allow me to take this moment to assure those following the contest that even though I, as a gambling novice who hasn’t bet a football game in more than two decades, am darned near .500 picking outright winners among teams that are expected to lose – sports gambling is nowhere near that easy. This deal is for fun. If there were real money on the line, I suspect my record would be somewhere around 0-12. That said, I suspect the overwhelming pressure on the Bearcats to keep alive their College Football Playoff dream will be too much for them on the road against a very capable bunch of Fighting Irish.

DECOURCY: Brian Kelly lit the fire at Cincinnati, Luke Fickell built an inferno

Bill Trocchi, Senior editor

Maryland (+3.5) vs. No. 5 Iowa

I’m going for it again — the home dog on a Thursday/Friday night. Syracuse pulled it off last Friday, Louisville the week before. Now come the Terps, who may be the quietest 4-0 in the country. Maryland has wins over West Virginia and Illinois on the resume and Pro Football Focus has quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa as the highest graded QB in the country. Iowa’s defense is obviously elite, but the weird Friday night vibe might be too much for a team still waiting to break out offensively.

Charlotte (+11.5) at Illinois

Illinois already lost to one C-USA team at home (UTSA), and simply has not looked good since beating Nebraska in Week 0. Quarterback Brandon Peters has not lost his job yet, but since returning from a shoulder injury suffered against Nebraska, he is 24-for-52 for 285 yards, with no touchdowns and eight sacks in two games. Meanwhile, Charlotte is 3-1 and senior QB Chris Reynolds has thrown for over 300 yards twice. Illinois deserves to be favored, but it would not be a shock to see the 49ers steal one in what should be a quiet atmosphere with the 11 am local kickoff.

UConn (+14.5) at Vanderbilt

This brings me no joy. I’m a Commodore, and the Dores came through for me in Week 2 at Colorado State in this space. But that bludgeoning from Georgia last week is going to leave a hangover. UConn is showing signs of life, scoring its first points against FBS competition two weeks ago, and nearly getting to overtime last week against unbeaten Wyoming. I believe Clark Lea is the long-term answer at Vandy, but he has no chess pieces to work with in Year 1.

Zac Al-Khateeb, Content producer

Maryland (+3.5) vs. No. 5 Iowa

Friday games typically don’t bode well for visiting teams, especially when their next opponent (Penn State) ranks in the top five. But the Hawkeyes can’t look past an undefeated Maryland squad that would love to add a marquee victory to its resume. The strength of this Iowa team has been its defense — producing three touchdowns and a safety this season —  but it faces its toughest test of the year in Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. He has completed 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns, and can absolutely score against the Hawkeyes.

No. 14 Michigan (+1.5) at Wisconsin

What does Michigan need to do to overcome its underdog status? Sure, the Wolverines couldn’t put away previously undefeated Rutgers, but nonetheless won 20-13 to start 4-0 for the first time since 2017. The next step is to overcome a talented Wisconsin squad whose two losses have come to undefeated Penn State and Notre Dame. Michigan hasn’t won in Madison since 2001, but a victory on Saturday would go a long way in reversing the narrative around Jim Harbaugh’s team. Look for Michigan — spurred by a strong rush attack and some timely throws — to finally clear that hurdle.

No. 7 Notre Dame (+1.5) vs. No. 9 Cincinnati

What a two-week stretch for Brian Kelly, who became Notre Dame’s all-time winningest coach on Saturday and now faces his former Cincinnati team for the first time. Notre Dame needs to play better against the Bearcats than it did against the Badgers, but it has shown time and again this season it can win close games. It may have taken 15 quarters, but the Fighting Irish finally put it all together in a 31-point fourth-quarter explosion against Wisconsin. Kelly’s squad will carry that momentum into its game vs. the Bearcats, coming away with yet another narrow victory.





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.