The games which are flying under the radar in Week 5 are all conference games, now that the early-season non-conference games have mostly run their course. How will these familiar backyard opponents handle each other in new situations with evolving and uncertain rosters?
Stanford at Oregon State
Odds: Oregon State +3.5 at PointsBet
The Oregon State Beavers very nearly defeated Stanford at home in Corvallis two years ago. They get another crack at the Cardinal this year in their home stadium on Saturday.
Stanford enters Week 5 coming in a very weakened condition. The Cardinal have suffered multiple injuries to important players on both offense and defense. They have been especially damaged on their offensive line, which – if you know anything about Stanford football under coach David Shaw – is the central key to the program. They pride themselves on a physical offensive line which creates a punishing running game and bludgeons opponents into submission.
If Stanford cannot run the ball consistently, it has no offense. We’ve seen the results this season, with Stanford being shut down in two separate games, first by Northwestern and then last weekend by Oregon at home. Road trips to Corvallis aren’t usually easy and I’m not expecting this one to be either.
Northwestern Wildcats at Wisconsin Badgers
Odds: Wisconsin -21 at PointsBet
The Northwestern offense is absolutely atrocious. The Wisconsin defense is absolutely tremendous. You could simply use those two basic realities to argue for why the Badgers will easily cover a three-touchdown point spread on Saturday but let’s offer some details to make the point much more clearly.
Northwestern scored just seven points in its season opener against Stanford, then scored just 10 points last weekend against Michigan State. Against a horrible UNLV defense, it managed only 30 points. A team such as Ohio State would have scored 70 or more on UNLV, and Wisconsin probably would have scored over 50 points. Northwestern has been a disaster so far this season and nothing seems evident which would suggest that a turnaround is about to happen.
Then turn to Wisconsin’s side of the ledger. The Badgers have given up a total – not an average, but a total – of 14 points this season. Those 14 points they allowed to Michigan were only after the Badgers had already won the game, going up 28-0 over the Wolverines. Wisconsin’s touchdowns allowed were in garbage time, not in any way a sign of defensive frailty or slippage.
Wisconsin should easily be able to hold Northwestern to no more than 10 points in this game while the offense should be able to pound away at Northwestern’s defense. The Wildcats might play this game closely for one half but if Northwestern’s offense is always going three and out, the defense will be completely exhausted midway through the third quarter. Wisconsin will pour on the touchdowns in the final 20 to 25 minutes of this game and cover.
UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats
Odds: UCLA +7.5 at PointsBet
The UCLA Bruins scored 67 points last week against Washington State. Was that a real transformation for the Bruins, or a one-off? The answer is hard to know, but the simple fact that UCLA’s offense finally sprang to life means UCLA is unlikely to score just 14 points, which it did in its first three games of 2019. Obviously, this is a bit of a momentum play.
At the same time, keep in mind that we’re not exactly looking at a top-flight defense here. Arizona allowed 41 points to Northern Arizona earlier this year and 45 to Hawaii. UCLA should be able to score close to 30 points, maybe a little more, which should put the Bruins in very good position to cover the spread against the Wildcats.