This is one of the biggest weekends of the 2021 college football season.
There are three matchups between top-15 teams and a handful of others that feature top-ranked programs that should be on upset alert. We are still months away from finding out who makes the College Football Playoff (CFP), but this is a weekend that will either improve or damage teams’ resumes.
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Below, you’ll find the college football Week 5 schedule, game lines, a guide to PFF Greenline betting picks and a game preview for the most notable matchups. Please note that the lines are courtesy of our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change up until kickoff.
Related content for you: Highest-graded players at every position through Week 4 of the 2021 college football season via Seth Galina
Friday, Oct. 1 | 8:00 PM EST | FS1
Spread: Iowa -4 (-105)
Moneyline: Iowa -180, Maryland +155
There isn’t a more underrated team in college football than the Maryland Terrapins, and their quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is a key reason why. He is playing better than anyone in college football, regardless of position. Tagovailoa has earned a 93.3 PFF grade through Week 4 and is one of three Power-Five quarterbacks who have taken 100 dropbacks without recording a turnover-worthy play.
Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa in 2021
|Week 1 vs. WVU||86.6||3:0|
|Week 2 vs. Howard||88.2||2:0|
|Week 3 at Illinois||91.4||3:0|
|Week 4 vs. Kent State||90.4||3:0|
Tagovailoa’s decision-making and poise are much better than last season. Nonetheless, those traits will get tested on Friday night against one of the best coverage units in the country. Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker has bred this zone defense full of two- and three-star recruits into a juggernaut that is designed to force quarterbacks into making bad decisions. Outside corners Matt Hankins and Riley Moss are two heady playmakers in Iowa’s defense who have been on a tear to start the year.
Highest-graded outside CBs in the Power Five entering Week 5
|Player||PFF Coverage Grade on the Outside|
|1. Matt Hankins, Iowa||90.0|
|2. Roger McCreary, Auburn||89.8|
|3. Riley Moss, Iowa||85.4|
|4. Trent McDuffie, Washington||81.7|
|5. A.J. Hampton Jr., Northwestern||81.3|
A true strength versus strength battle.
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN
Spread: Georgia -18.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Georgia -1125, Arkansas +700
These two SEC teams are successful because of the defensive side of the ball, but for different reasons. For Georgia, it’s all about the sheer amount of physical talent on its roster. South Carolina Shane Beamer said it best a few weeks ago after the loss to the Dawgs:
“There wasn’t some magical scheme they came out with tonight. They’ve got five-star recruits everywhere and they play really physical … damn.” — Beamer when asked about Georgia’s defensive approach
While there is plenty to like within Georgia’s defense schematically, Beamer is right. This Georgia defense is one of the most physically gifted that college football has seen, which is why they lead the Power Five in team-defense grade, EPA per pass allowed, success rate against and yards per attempt against.
Lowest yards per attempt allowed in the Power Five
|3. Texas A&M||4.89|
|Power Five Avg.||6.59|
Arkansas — the No. 2 team in yards per attempt allowed in the Power Five — is a little bit different. The Razorbacks win because of scheme, instincts and experience in addition to their physicality. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom runs a versatile system and plays multiple, but he is notorious for exposing passers with his 3-2-6 defense that minimizes passing lanes. He did that against Texas in Week 2 and Texas A&M in Week 4, and it’s likely he will do it again against Todd Monken’s pro-style offense. Arkansas ranks seventh in success rate against among Power-Five teams but is in the bottom half of that group in team-defense grade, which can be attributed to the system.
How Georgia quarterback JT Daniels fares against Arkansas’ defense will be the big deciding factor in this one. The windows will be smaller downfield against the Razorbacks, and that’s not an area of strength for Daniels. He has yet to complete a pass to a tight or closing window over 10 yards downfield and has two interceptions on such plays.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Georgia come out on offense with a similar game plan to the one it executed against Clemson in Week 1: Limiting risk in the passing attack by focusing on short, quick throws while letting the defense win the ball game.
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | FOX
Spread: Wisconsin -1 (-110)
Moneyline: Wisconsin -120, Michigan +100
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz has been a problem for the Badgers in 2021. He crumbled in big moments against Penn State and Notre Dame this year, posting eight turnover-worthy plays and a 24% quarterback-fault incompletion rate in those two outings. Those bad decisions and inaccurate throws led him to a 35.4 passing grade against the two top-10 teams. This week, it’ll be important for him to calm down against a stout Michigan defense that ranks sixth nationally in team-defense grade.
Wolverines star edge defender Aidan Hutchinson — the highest-graded player at the position in the Power Five — is bound to get in Mertz's face on multiple occasions going up an underperforming Badgers’ offensive line
Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson goes will the bull rush initially walks the OT back and gets to his counter to get home for the sack. Fantastic rep against a top tackle in Kirkland pic.twitter.com/i9VH91vV6J
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) September 24, 2021
This has the makings of a classic ground-and-pound, low-scoring Big Ten game.
NO. 7 CINCINNATI at NO. 9 NOTRE DAME
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 2:30 PM EST | NBC
Spread: Cincinnati -2.5 (+100)
Moneyline: Cincinnati -120, Notre Dame +100
There’s some reason to worry about Notre Dame’s offense ahead of its showdown with a ferocious Cincinnati defense.
It’s no secret that the Irish’s offensive line is well below the program’s standards this year. It has a pass-blocking grade that's over 12 grading points lower than in any other season of the PFF College era. The offensive line has allowed 12 sacks overall through four games, which is already more than any of the seven seasons before that.
Remember, not all pressure is on the offensive line. Some of it’s on the quarterback too, and Jack Coan has been eating sacks and inviting in pressure. Coan has been charged with five sacks this season, tying for the second-most in the Power Five. Along with that, no Power Five quarterback has converted pressure to sacks at a higher rate than Coan this year.
Highest rate of pressures being converted to sacks in Power Five (min. 25 pressured DBs)
|QB||Pressure to Sack %|
|Jack Coan, Notre Dame||37.7%|
|Brandon Peters, Illinois||34.6%|
|Sam Howell, UNC||31.4%|
|Tanner Morgan, Minnesota||27.6%|
|Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA||26.5%|
A lackluster offensive line paired with poor pocket presence at quarterback can hinder offensive output. Throw in the fact that it's facing one of the best pass-rush units in the country, and there is real reason for concern. The Bearcats have the highest-graded pass-rush unit in college football, led by first-round draft prospect Myjai Sanders.
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS
Spread: Alabama -14.5 (-105)
Moneyline: Alabama -650, Ole Miss +460
Ole Miss and Alabama partook in one of the best offensive shootouts of the 2020 season, and they could very well do that again this Saturday. Both offenses have been a load for defenses in 2021 and rank second and third respectively among Power Five offenses in per-play efficiency.
Most efficient power five offenses through Week 4
|Team||EPA per play|
|1. Texas Longhorns||0.29|
|2. Ole Miss Rebels||0.26|
|3. Alabama Crimson Tide||0.25|
Rebels quarterback Matt Corral has picked up where he left off in 2020, executing Lane Kiffin’s offense to near perfection. He has earned a 75.0-plus passing grade in each start en route to an 89.6 overall mark for the season. The former is something he has done in 77% of his starts since 2020, the highest among active FBS quarterbacks.
Highest rate of games with a passing grade above 75.0 since 2020 (active QBs only, min. 8 games with 15-plus dropbacks)
|1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss||77% (10/13)|
|2. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland||75% (6/8)|
|3. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma||70% (7/10)|
|4. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia||67% (8/12)|
|5. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina||64% (9/14)|
Consistency is what Corral has, and it's something the Crimson Tide need from their quarterback, Bryce Young. The first-year starter is coming off an incredible outing against Southern Miss that won him PFF Offensive Player of the Week honors. Unlike his first three games, Young played within the structure of the offense to near perfection. He averaged 14.4 yards per attempt from a clean pocket and earned a 94.2 PFF grade overall. Young carrying that consistency into Week 5 is pivotal for Alabama.
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ABC
Spread: Oregon -8 (-110)
Moneyline: Oregon -335, Stanford +260
Oregon has to clean up some things before being mentioned in the same breath as the CFP. The main thing is the inconsistencies in the pass defense. There were a lot of weak spots in coverage when the team faced quality passing offenses — Fresno State and Ohio State — in Weeks 1 and 2. It specifically struggled in zone coverage, as Oregon's defense earned a sub-50.0 coverage grade that ranked last in the Power Five. The Ducks surrendered 20 explosive receptions of 15-plus yards in those first two weeks, the second-most in the Power Five. They’ve beaten weak competition the last couple of weeks and forced a load of interceptions, but until they can do it against a quality passing offense, it’s something to worry about.
So far in 2021, Stanford certainly fits the bill of a quality passing offense, as the Cardinals have the most efficient passing offense in the Pac-12 when Tanner McKee has been on the field. McKee has taken great care of the football, boasting only a 1.6% turnover-worthy play rate, and has thrown with excellent touch downfield.
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN
Spread: Florida -8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Florida -335, Kentucky +260
These two teams have flowed in opposite directions to start the 2021 season. Kentucky was on a heater offensively the first two weeks before slipping back to reality in the last two while Florida started off slow and is now trending up.
Wildcats quarterback Will Levis went from a 90.8 passing grade in his first two games to a 53.0 mark in his last two against Chattanooga and South Carolina. What was different about Kentucky's thin win over the Gamecocks last week was Levis’ average depth of target. It was low (3.4 yards), which was nearly nine yards fewer than his mark over the first three weeks.
As for Gators quarterback Emory Jones, he put up the type of performance that Florida desperately needed to see in Week 4. Jones was much more accurate and composed as a passer, and he made plenty of plays on the ground. Jones ranks inside the top five among Power-Five quarterbacks in rushing grade (79.6), broken tackles (19) and 10-plus yard runs (13) entering Week 5.
NO. 21 BAYLOR at NO. 19 OKLAHOMA STATE
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN2
Spread: Oklahoma State -3.5 (-115)
Moneyline: Oklahoma State -180, Baylor +155
Baylor and Oklahoma State have been two surprise teams so far this year.
The Bears revamped their offense with the addition of Jeff Grimes (formerly of BYU) as their offensive coordinator. His wide-zone/play-action-centric offense has been the backbone of a hot 4-0 start. With play-action, quarterback Gerry Bohanon has led the team to 0.62 EPA per pass play while earning an 87.2 passing grade and completing 31 of 40 for 477 yards and five touchdowns. Grimes has bolstered their wide zone run usage nearly 50% to a Power Five high 67% usage rate, and they have been productive, averaging 7.0 yards per carry as a team on such plays.
Iowa State did a good job of stopping the Baylor offense as the game progressed last week, but the Bears had enough success early on to hold onto the W.
As for Oklahoma State, it’s been all about the defense. Last week, the coverage unit made as many plays on the ball as first downs allowed in coverage (seven). Overall, on the year, Oklahoma State has allowed the 11th-lowest catch rate on throws of 10-plus yards among Power-Five programs. It is also sixth in explosive run rate against.
INDIANA at NO. 4 PENN STATE
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:30 PM EST | ABC
Spread: Penn State -10.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Penn State -450, Indiana +340
Penn State will be seeking revenge this weekend after last year’s upset loss to Indiana that derailed its entire season.
The Nittany Lions have exceeded expectations thus far in 2021, especially when it comes to the quarterback position. Sean Clifford has earned an 85.6 passing grade through four games and has yet to give the opposition a chance at taking the ball away with zero turnover-worthy plays in that stretch. The big improvement from his 2019 and 2020 seasons is that he's not using the deep passing game to win, as Clifford has been great throwing to the short and intermediate levels of the field. His passing grade on throws of 19 yards or less is among the 10 best in the FBS.
Penn State’s defense has proven to be well-rounded with standout performers at each position group, such as edge defender Arnold Ebiketie, who is the fourth-highest-graded edge defender when rushing the passer in the Power Five this season. He’ll face one of the weaker offensive lines in college football this week.
Highest pressure rate allowed in the Power Five
|Team||Pressure Rate Allowed|
|Power Five Avg.||27.2%|
|62. Syracuse Orange||39.8%|
|63. Indiana Hoosiers||42.3%|
|64. Kansas State Wildcats||48.3%|
|65. Nebraska Cornhuskers||55.1%|
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is used to this kind of pressure on a weekly basis, and he overcame the heat in the Hoosiers’ big win over the Nittany Lions in 2020, but it’s not going to be easy to do it again. He made some crucial mistakes under pressure against Iowa and Cincinnati this year, leading to a 37.7 PFF grade when under pressure this year (81.5 when clean).
THE REST OF THE FBS SLATE:
Thursday, Sep. 30 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN
Friday, Oct. 1 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN
Friday, Oct. 1 | 9:00 PM EST | ESPN
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | SEC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | BTN Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | ACC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN2
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | BTN Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | ABC
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPNU
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:00 PM EST | CBS SPORTS NETWORK
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 12:30 PM EST | ESPN3
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 2:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 2:00 PM EST | Pac-12 Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 2:30 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 2:30 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | BTN Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | SEC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ACC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN2
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS Sports Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN3
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 3:30 PM EST | FS1
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 4:00 PM EST | ESPNU
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 4:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 5:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 5:30 PM EST | PAC-12 Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN+/ACC Network Extra
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 6:30 PM EST | ESPN3
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 6:30 PM EST | FS2
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:00 PM EST | SEC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:00 PM EST
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:00 PM EST | FS1
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:30 PM EST | FS1
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:30 PM EST | ACC Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPNU
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 7:30 PM EST | BTN Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 9:00 PM EST | ESPN
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 9:00 PM EST | ESPN+
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 9:00 PM EST | PAC-12 Network
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 10:30 PM EST | FS1
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 10:30 PM EST
Saturday, Oct. 2 | 11:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network