Week 5 Preview

September 17, 2017 by Dave Congrove

Top-ranked Penn State journeys away from the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium for the first time in the young season to battle Iowa in the Big Ten opener for both schools. The Nittany Lions have yet to be tested, outscoring their opponents 141-14 while registering bookend shutouts around a 19-point win over state rival Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, Iowa has been tested more than it wants to be. The Hawkeyes pulled out a 3-point win in overtime at state rival Iowa State two weeks ago, and then trailed North Texas at home last week for the first 40 minutes and 36 seconds. The computer takes PSU by 10.87.

Second-ranked Oklahoma heads to Baylor as a 23.51-point pick, 3rd-ranked Wisconsin is idle, and 4th-ranked Clemson hosts Boston College favored by 23.31.

No. 5 Alabama goes to Nashville to face a Vanderbilt team that's 3-0 and ranked 18th. The Commodores' 14-7 win at home over Kansas State this past Saturday was its first against a ranked, nonconference opponent sine 1946. The computer likes the Tide to prevail, but only by 7.86.

6th-ranked Oklahoma State has a huge Big 12 date with TCU in Stillwater. The Horned Frogs have moved up from 17th to 13th in the Congrove Computer Rankings after beginning the season at No. 31. The Cowboys are an 8.61-point computer pick.

No. 7 Washington travels to No. 23 Colorado as a 5.68-point favorite. These teams met in the 2016 PAC-12 title game at the end of last season with the Huskies whipping the Buffaloes 41-10.

No. 8 USC goes to Berkley to take on Cal as a 13.40-point choice. The Golden Bears are undefeated (3-0) after bagging a win at North Carolina, followed by consecutive home victories over Weber State and Ole Miss.

9th-ranked Ohio State draws UNLV in Columbus to end a 3-game home stand. The Runnin' Rebels are ranked 93 and are a huge 33.98-point underdog.

10th-ranked Virginia Tech faces an Old Dominion team that was expected to be much better than it has shown thus far. Matters could get worse for the Monarchs who will start a 17-year old quarterback against the Hokies and learned just prior to Saturday's 53-23 loss to North Carolina that all-time leading rusher Ray Lawry is likely sidelined for the rest of season with a torn hamstring. Virginia Tech is only a 14.08-point computer pick, but the trend line is over 24.

Florida State will finally get to see what they have in their true freshman quarterback, James Blackman, after losing Deondre Francois late in the opening-season loss to Alabama. Due to Hurricane Irma, It will be the first time in 21 days that the 12h-ranked 'Noles have played a game when they host N.C. State. FSU is a 14.86-point favorite.

The effects of Irma have also not allowed No. 14 Miami to play since September 2, and that was against Bethune-Cookman. The 'Canes are a 7.58-point favorite at home versus a dangerous Toledo squad that's averaging 46 points per game to start 3-0.

UCF is in the same boat as their Sunshine State bretheren. The Golden Knights last took the field on September 2nd when they routed FIU 61-17. UCF visits Maryland this week as a 5.06-point underdog.

No. 15 Georgia hosts a Mississippi State team which may have been severely under-rated at the start of the season. The Starkville Bulldogs rolled to a 37-7 win over LSU at home last Saturday and have now chopped the preseason underdog line at the Athens Bulldogs in half. Georgia was a 13.98-point preseason computer favorite and is now favored by 6.20 points.


Appalachian State was a preseason computer favorite by 2.83 points to knock of Wake Forest in Boone. That line has flipped after the first few weeks of the season and now favors Wake by 2.19.

Arizona State was a 1.56-point preseason favorite over visiting Oregon. That computer pick has now flipped in favor of the Ducks by 5.48 with a trend line of 11-1/2.

Michigan State was a 1.49-point computer favorite at home in the preseason to upend Notre Dame, but the Spartans are now a 1.70-point underdog.

After a bye week, Eastern Michigan looks to run its record to 3-0 with a win over Ohio. The Eagles are an unexpectedly large 9.30-point home choice over the visiting Bobcats. They won 27-20 in Athens last year.

It isn't often that the computer takes a FCS team over a FBS squad. But this week, it's taking Western Illinois by 7.71 at Coastal Carolina. Western Illinois was a 28-23 winner last year over the MAC's Northern Illinois.

A rare Sunday game takes place when UConn hosts East Carolina at Renstchler Field in East Hartford. This game was one of the many contests that got caught up in the major schedule overhaul conducted by the American Conference last week in an effort to make up games that had been canceled by major hurricanes Harvey and Irma. These are actually two of the worst teams in college football this year and, after allowing more than 600 yards in three consecutive games, East Carolina finds itself as a 5.79-point underdog.


98 games were scheduled to be played by FBS teams against FCS schools, but the cancellation of Northern Colorado at Florida (due to Hurricane Irma) reduced that number to 97. Then the addition of Charleston Southern at Indiana (to replace the FIU at Indiana game that was canceled due to Hurricane Irma) took us back to 98. And most recently, UCF had to drop Maine to accommodate a rescheduling of its home conference game with Memphis so we're back to 97.

Only 3 games this week pit FBS schools against FCS teams.

FBS schools are 78-8 vs. the FCS this season (.907) and 1,208-116 (.912) since 2003.

These are the FCS victories in 2017:
September 16: North Carolina A&T 35, Charlotte 31
September 16: Idaho State 30, Nevada 28
September 9: South Dakota 35. Bowling Green 27
September 9: New Hampshire 22, Georgia Southern 12
September 2: Liberty 48, Baylor 45
September 2: Howard 43, UNLV 40
September 2: James Madison 34, East Carolina 14
August 31: Tennessee State 17, Georgia State 10.

The 97-game total for this season is down substantially from the 110 schools that played 113 games vs. FCS schools last year.


Alabama - Won 39 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Won 11 straight road games. Won 17 straight conference games (FBS record). Visits Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Oklahoma - Won 13 straight overall (FBS longest). Won 12 straight road games (FBS longest). Visits Baylor on Saturday.

Houston - Won 16 straight home games (FBS longest). Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.

Fresno State - Lost 15 straight FBS games (FBS longest). Idle this week.

Rutgers - Ended an 11-game overall losing streak (FBS longest). Lost 14 straight conference games (FBS longest). Visits Nebraska on Saturday.

East Carolina - Lost 7 straight overall (now tied with Massachusetts for FBS longest). Visits Connecticut on Sunday.

Massachusetts - Lost 7 straight overall (now tied with East Carolina for FBS longest). Visits Tennessee on Saturday.

Kansas - Lost 42 straight road games (FBS longest). Hosts West Virginia on Saturday.