We’re officially at the midway point in the 2019 college football regular season. Congratulations on making it this far emotionally intact. Maybe that’s because this year has gone largely as expected, at least for top-10 teams. Will that change on the back end over the next two months? Perhaps, but Week 7 once again features a lot of double-digit spreads for highly ranked favorites.
But fear not, Upset Alerts is here to dig through the rest of Vegas’ lines to find the best values against the favorites. That’s why there’s only one pick this week featuring a top-10 team (Oklahoma) and it’s in a rivalry game, so something something throw out the record books. Otherwise, we’re looking at some off-the-radar conference games with some feisty home dogs.
Each week, I’ll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. But in the spirit of the upset, I generally avoid games where lines are within a touchdown, though there will be some exceptions. Similarly, I’ll only go with moneyline picks when the payout is around 2:1 — maybe a little less, definitely when it’s more.
Week 5 results
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Dallas, Texas | Line: Oklahoma -10.5
Why it’s listed: This size of this spread for two teams ranked so closely together would normally scare me away, but this Texas team isn’t too dissimilar from the one that beat Oklahoma a year ago. Plus, fun fact from the Sporting News: Since 1990, quarterbacks making their debut in the Red River Showdown are 2-14-1 against quarterbacks with at least one start. Looking at you, Jalen Hurts.
Texas’ key to the game: Its defensive line needs to put pressure on Hurts up the middle. There’s a lot to love about Hurts’ game, but if you can bullrush him, he tends to get off his reads quickly and try to make a play with his feet. The more uncomfortable he is, the better.
Oklahoma’s key to the game: There are almost too many weapons to count in this offense, but receiver (and All-Name selection) Charleston Rambo is the type of deep threat that can hurt Texas’ banged-up pass defense. If the run game is successful, that sets up at least a couple of game-changing catches for him.
Pick: I was close to picking the outright upset and I may regret not going with it later. The first-time quarterback record is worth noting, but Hurts has a big game pedigree and the Sooners have so much to defend. ATS: Texas, SU: Oklahoma
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Moneyline: Memphis -235, Temple +185
Why it’s listed: The line has already jumped nearly three full points (-6 for the Tigers), thus qualifying this game for consideration. Temple already has one home upset this year vs. Maryland, and Memphis hasn’t really had to lean on quarterback Brady White yet.
Temple’s key to the game: The Owls’ defense is impressive at getting off the field on third downs — fourth in the nation, to be exact, behind Wisconsin, Kansas State and Boise State. All the while, Temple has faced 82 third-down attempts this year, more than all three of those other teams.
Memphis’ key to the game: Freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell has really been hitting his stride lately. He’s the first frosh in Memphis history to have three consecutive 100-yard games.
Pick: Other than a letdown loss to Buffalo, Temple has looked good this year and has the AAC’s top defense. The Owls have been particularly dominant up front and if you take away Memphis’ ground game, can White win with his arm on the road? Temple +185
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Knoxville, Tennessee | Moneyline: Mississippi State -260, Tennessee +200
Why it’s listed: Tennessee’s not good, but it is a desperate team. And a desperate team is a dangerous team, especially at home. Unless Mississippi State became multi-dimensional on offense during its open week, the Vols have an opportunity to get a much-needed win.
Tennessee’s key to the game: Freshman quarterback Brian Maurer showed off some nice flashes against Georgia, even if it wasn’t enough to win. Coach Jeremy Pruitt indicated to reporters this week he’ll stay with Maurer after he injected some life into an otherwise hapless offense. Otherwise, the Vols are leaving their defense out to dry.
Mississippi State’s key to the game: Kylin Hill is a seriously underrated running back, but getting freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader comfortable early, if he is indeed going to get lots of playing time, is important. Conference road games for young quarterbacks are rarely easy, especially early on.
Pick: I liked the effort the Vols gave against Georgia, they were just outmatched. But Mississippi State isn’t Georgia (or Florida). Sometimes the difference between 1-4 and 3-2 isn’t all that much and being a modest home dog is a prime opportunity to tilt the good fortune in your favor — if only for a week. Tennessee +200
No. 25 Cincinnati at Houston
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Houston, Texas | Moneyline: Cincinnati -280, Houston +240
Why it’s listed: This is a possible letdown spot for Cincy after knocking off UCF at home. Houston is 2-3, but the switch to quarterback Clayton Tune worked well against North Texas, and the Cougars have had an extra week to iron out some wrinkles against a good Bearcats defense.
Houston’s key to the game: The Cougars need to get into a scoring frenzy to win this game, full stop. It’s offense vs. defense in this style battle. If Tune can finish drives against this Bearcats defense, then it plays right into Houston’s game plan.
Cincinnati’s key to the game: Running back Michael Warren II against this Houston run defense should produce a lot of positive plays for the Bearcats, but can he get into the end zone? He has three games this year without a rushing touchdown and running the ball is the Bearcats’ bread and butter.
Pick: Cincinnati may well be the best team out of the AAC East, but only three teams out of this conference have lost at home so far: East Carolina, South Florida and UConn … and … yeah, they’re all pretty bad. There’s a lot of parity in the AAC and Houston feels like it’s about to rebound from a rough start. Houston +240
When: Saturday, 11 p.m. ET | Where: Tucson, Arizona | Line: Washington -6.5
Why it’s listed: I rarely like to follow an upset with another upset pick. However, Washington is entering its toughest stretch of the season and just got pushed around by a Stanford team held together by rubber bands, thoughts and prayers. Oh, and if you thought Washington’s winless streak at the Farm was bonkers, then it’s worth noting that the Huskies have won exactly one (1) game in the state of Arizona since 2007. It was against the Wildcats in 2016 and required overtime.
Washington’s key to the game: Inexplicable losses under coach Chris Petersen have usually featured one common characteristic: offensive ineptitude. Stanford, Cal (twice) and Arizona State (2017) have all been defined by this. There’s a whole deep dive we could do about what changes Petersen needs to make to his offensive coaching staff, but for now let’s just say that if Washington can get into the end zone, they outmatch the Wildcats.
Arizona’s key to the game: It’s Khalil Tate time, y’all. He’s second in the Pac-12 in total yards per game, hit 400 yards through the air vs. Colorado and has two 100-yard rushing games on the season. When he’s cooking, Arizona’s success typically follows.
Pick: Washington is at a bit of a crossroads, but I have more confidence that the defense will bounce back after an unexpected performance against Stanford. Petersen hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2015, either. ATS: Arizona, SU: Washington
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