Four weeks have come and gone so we can start to see the truth about certain teams as conference play ramps up across the country.
For example, despite assertions that Iowa's offense would change and be more dynamic, that's not the case. The Hawkeyes have dealt with injuries, but that can't mask that the offense remains inept and can't hold up as conference play picks up. While the Hawkeyes seem to be entering a period of turmoil, the team welcomes one already involved in it with Michigan State, who fired its coach Mel Tucker already.
However, the difference between the teams is not this wide and Sparty presents an intriguing upset pick for Week 5.
Here are my three favorite upset picks for Week 5, if any stand out to you, make sure to jump in on this new FanDuel Sportsbook promotion. If you sign up and deposit $5, you get $200 in bonus bets INSTANTLY!
Best Upset Picks for College Football Week 5
- South Alabama +135 vs. James Madison
- New Mexico +400 vs. Wyoming
- Michigan State +365 vs. Iowa
South Alabama vs. James Madison Prediction and Pick
James Madison can't qualify for the Sun Belt Championship in its second year of FBS competition, but that hasn't stopped the team from looking like the class of the conference. The team is undefeated this season, winning three straight roadies against in-state foe Virginia, Sun Belt champion Troy and Utah State.
However, I believe South Alabama is the best team in the conference this season and starts Sun Belt play-off with a win. The Jaguars have faced a stingy nonconference schedule, going to Tulane where the team couldn't contain explosive plays before blowing out Oklahoma State on the road 33-7. The team dropped a home game to Central Michigan last week despite out-gaining the Chippewas by nearly two yards per play, giving us value on the road underdog.
James Madison has been lightly challenged in the passing game, and I believe Carter Bradley can test the Dukes. JMU is 114th in EPA/Pass this season while the Jaguars check in 43rd on offense. Further, the team has a stout offensive line that is top 30 in passing down sack rate. While the Dukes' defensive line is elite for the Group of Five ranks, it hasn't faced a legitimate offensive line just yet.
Further, JMU's offense has been lackluster this season with Jordan McCloud taking over under center. The team is 90th in points per opportunity against a strength of schedule outside the top 100. While USA's defense may not be as elite as last season, the team is still right around the national average in yards per play and success rate.
After three road games, I see a drop off for the Dukes, and I believe South Alabama has edges in the passing game to knock off the Dukes.
PICK: South Alabama +135
New Mexico vs. Wyoming Prediction and Pick
Wyoming has faced a tough schedule, playing the likes of Texas and Texas Tech, but I believe that's masking that this team shouldn't be laying two touchdowns against many teams, if any.
The Cowboys are a pretty predictable offense. The team doesn't pass the ball with much success, 118th in success rate and 119th in EPA/Pass while throwing the ball at a bottom 15 rate nationally. The team would much prefer to run the ball and lean on Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee, who is averaging more than seven yards per carry.
However, New Mexico has been fine against the run, top five in limiting explosive runs and top 50 in points per opportunity allowed.
Meanwhile, the Lobos have the better quarterback in Dylan Hopkins, who is anchoring a unit that is top 25 in EPA/Pass and overall is top 50 in success rate. While Wyoming has a strong defense, the team plays at an incredibly slow tempo, doesn't rip off explosive plays, and is fresh off a game in which it was outgained 417-208. This team is vulnerable come Saturday.
PICK: New Mexico +400
Michigan State vs. Iowa Prediction and Pick
Are we sure this is the difference between the two teams? Are we sure we trust Iowa to run away and hide on offense against a Power Five team, even one that is in a crisis like Michigan State?
All season, Iowa's starting quarterback Cade McNamara has battled a leg injury, likely limiting this (hopefully) new-look Hawkeyes offense, but in reality, this unit has been one of the worst in college football against a fairly pedestrian schedule.
Iowa ranks 130th or worse in success rate, EPA/Play, and yards per play while going three-and-out on 36% of its drives. While Michigan State looks like a dumpster fire, the offense has been far more lively while playing a more difficult schedule, 59th in success rate. However, the team has been crushed by turnovers, ranking 125th in EPA/Play on offense, evident in the team's 31-9 loss to Maryland where the team out-gained the Terps but had five turnovers.
The Spartans could fall behind due to turnovers again and not have the firepower to catch up, but if the team can play a clean game and avoid self-inflicted wounds, Iowa is a team that is incredibly overvalued when looking at its current form.
Iowa's defense remains elite, but some holes are starting to show, 49th in success rate and 65th in points per opportunity. Meanwhile, the defense just played 90 snaps against one of the best teams in the country in Penn State on the road, can fatigue settle in?
I'll take a shot on the bottom falling out for the Hawkeyes after we already saw the bottom from Saprty.
PICK: Michigan State +360
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
Track Reed's bets here!