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

In what was the best college football slate of the early season, a slate ripe for upsets, only one team (Washington State) came through for our experts. On the bright side, Washington State’s 38-35 home win over Oregon State got Bill Bender and Bill Trocchi into the win column. However, there’s a tinge of disappointment in the air, as we were a missed blocking assignment and an 11th man away from two more upsets, but such is life.

Let’s hope the Week 5 college football slate lends itself to several upsets, inflating our records as we near the halfway mark of the regular season.

As a reminder of how the Underdog Challenge works, our experts pick three underdogs to win outright (not just cover the spread). They then earn points equal to the number of points those teams got on the spread if their upsets come to fruition. 

Underdog Challenge Standings


Edward Sutelan

Mike DeCourcy

Nick Musial

Bill Trocchi

Bill Bender

MORE: Week 5 against the spread picks for Top 25

Let the madness commence.

All odds courtesy of BetMGM. Click HERE to sign up!

Mike DeCourcy, Senior writer

West Virginia (+14) over TCU

Entering last week as the reigning Underdog Challenge champion and 2023 leader, it was no surprise that I came up with an 0-fer. It was a brutal week to pick upsets, in part because so many of the games were so evenly matched there were neither attractive point spreads nor obvious opportunities. And this week stinks, too. This time, it’s because there are so many mismatches. The Mountaineers are nearly two-touchdown dogs. There are so many three-TD games on the board, and I’m not fool enough to pick any of those.

Syracuse (+6.5) over Clemson

This Tigers team missed its opportunity to gain true relevance by blowing a chance to take down top-10 Florida State at home. Now, Clemson has two losses on the ledger and a schedule that suggests more could be in store, including this one. I picked against the ‘Cuse early in the season and paid for it. Maybe they can make it up to me at home against the Tigers.

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Duke (+5.5) over Notre Dame

I’ve walked past an empty Wallace Wade Stadium many times on the way to or from Blue Devils basketball games. It’d be mean to say “empty” is the natural state for that place, but it’s not unfair to say there were years when it wasn’t often filled with football fans. This is not one of those. The Devils are one of the nation’s most pleasant surprises, and for this game, the stadium should be stuffed. There’s a decent chance the Devils will be celebrating on the field at the end, even if the Irish manage to line up 11 defenders on every play.

BENDER: CFB rankings 1-133

Bill Trocchi, Senior editor

Syracuse (+6.5) over Clemson

The Orange have given Clemson fits over the years, with four of the last six in this series decided by one score. Clemson had to rally from a 21-7 deficit at home last year to escape. The Tigers gave everything they had last week against Florida State, and kicking issues persist. Syracuse wins with veteran quarterback Garrett Schrader making plays late.

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Virginia (+3.5) over Boston College

The Cavs should have beaten NC State last week and have found a wild card in freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea. Presumed starter Tony Muskett is healthy, but Colandrea gives Virginia the best chance to win. BC was pounded last week by Louisville. The Cavs get the breakthrough.

Arizona State (+12.5) over California

The Sun Devils acquitted themselves quite well against USC last week, and they will be going into a sleep environment at Berkeley. Cal gave up 45 points in the first half last week, which is closer to the Cal I expected this season rather than the one that took Auburn to the wire. Of course, Auburn isn’t looking great, either. ASU gets its first conference win of the Kenny Dillingham era.

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Bill Bender, Lead college football writer

Utah (+4) over Oregon State 

This line continues to move in favor of Oregon State. Utah quarterback Cam Rising – who tore his ACL in last year’s Rose Bowl – and Nate Johnson have split reps in practice this week. The Utes have won six of the last seven meetings against the Beavers and are allowing 9.5 points per game. That defense can travel here. 

Arkansas (+6.5) over Texas A&M 

Texas A&M has won 10 of 11 meetings against the Razorbacks since joining the SEC, and veteran quarterback Max Johnson is back with Conner Weigman out for the season with a foot injury. Arkansas is coming off back-to-back one-score losses, but KJ Jefferson is capable of leading a desperation win at Jerry World. Expect a wild game with a fantastic finish. 

Syracuse (+6.5) over Clemson 

The Orange are winning with the combination of Garrett Shrader – an efficient passer with 316 rushing yards and six TDs. Syracuse also has a nasty defense that should play with confidence against the Tigers. It’s risky catching Clemson in this spot, but the last two games have been decided by a total of seven points. The Orange stay unbeaten here. 

Edward Sutelan, Digital content producer

South Florida (+3) over Navy

Navy has had issues stopping the run all season, averaging 155 rushing yards per game, while South Florida’s dynamic group of Byrum Brown at quarterback and Nay’Quan Wright, Michel Dukes and K’Wan Powell at running back have all been extremely effective on the ground. The Midshipmen’s offense can always provide teams with issues, but South Florida’s defense is one of the best in the nation at stopping the run. Without an effective passing attack, Navy could have a hard time pushing the ball against South Florida.

Syracuse (+6.5) over Clemson

The Orange seem to give the Tigers fits every year. At No. 5 Clemson last year, it took a late fourth-quarter comeback for Clemson to win. In 2021, Syracuse nearly came back late, and held Clemson to just 17 points. Back in 2017, Syracuse stunned No. 2 Clemson before losing every remaining game. The Orange haven’t exactly faced a gauntlet this year, but they are undefeated with a quarterback in Garrett Shrader playing at a high level. Fresh off a crushing loss to Florida State, expect the Tigers to fall for a second straight contest.

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Arkansas (+6.5) vs. Texas A&M

This game would be a different story if Connor Weigman were able to play. But while Max Johnson is a more than capable backup, it’s asking a lot of him to go toe-to-toe with KJ Jefferson and an Arkansas team that gave LSU all it could handle in Baton Rouge a week ago. Playing in Arlington might as well be a Texas A&M home game, but there’s too much offensive firepower in Arkansas for Johnson to keep up with in his first week of starting action.

Nick Musial, Content producer

Arizona State (+12.5) over California

While people might say USC didn’t look great last week in a 42-28 road win over Arizona State, the Sun Devils played inspired football for 60 minutes. Although Sun Devils’ QB Drew Pyne is out with injury, a Trenton Bourget-led offense can manufacture enough scoring drives to keep things competitive in Berkeley.

Houston (+8.5) over Texas Tech

Losing starting QB Tyler Shough to a season-ending leg injury stings, and although backup QB Behren Morton is one of the better QB2s in college football, we’ll take our chances on the Cougs catching 8.5. The Donovon Smith revenge games goes the way of the fighting Dana Holgorsen’s.

Duke (+5.5) over Notre Dame

Mike Elko’s bunch might not be the most talented, but his staff knows how to coach. Notre Dame was a dropped interception and a man short of an all-time upset last week. Despite winning the line of scrimmage against Ohio State and now going up against a less talented Duke offensive and defensive line, the emotional letdown of last Saturday comes back to haunt the golden domers.

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