What to watch: Week 6 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper
·10 min read

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

Week 5 was further evidence that we should expect the unexpected during the 2020 college football season. Six ranked teams lost to unranked opponents, including Oklahoma and Texas, the two perceived favorites for the Big 12 title.

The Sooners and Longhorns will now meet this weekend in the Red River Rivalry, with Oklahoma unranked for the first time since September 2016 and Texas down 13 spots to No. 22 in the latest AP Top 25. Saturday will be the first time since 1999 that neither team is ranked in the top 20 entering this game.

Whatever weekend it is played, Red River has usually gotten the top billing in recent years, but this Saturday it will take a backseat to four ranked-vs.-ranked games — two in the ACC and two in the SEC.

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 14:  Head coach Tom Herman of the Texas Longhorns  shakes hands with head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners before the football game at Cotton Bowl on October 14, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Oklahoma has won four of its last five games against Texas, including last year's 34-27 decision. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

(Note: All times ET, point spreads/totals from BetMGM)

No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: Florida -6.5 | Total: 57.5

Saturday’s noon slot is loaded with three of the day’s biggest games, including this SEC showdown in College Station. This will mark the third time Florida and Texas A&M have played since A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and the Gators’ second-ever visit to Kyle Field. UF is off to a sizzling start, going 2-0 with wins over Ole Miss and South Carolina. The offense has been the story, especially the connection between Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. Trask has thrown for 684 yards and 10 touchdowns, with six of those TDs going to Pitts, UF’s star tight end.

Dealing with Pitts and the other talent on Florida’s offense will be a major challenge for the Texas A&M defense, which was torched for 435 passing yards by Alabama last week in a 52-24 loss. A&M allowed four touchdown passes in the loss, three of which went for more than 60 yards. The A&M offense was able to move the ball at times against Alabama and found some creative ways to get the ball to its two key playmakers: running back Ainias Smith and tight end Jalen Wydermyer. To upset Florida, though, A&M will need increased production from its wide receivers.

Sam Cooper: Florida -6.5, Nick Bromberg: Florida -6.5

No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina

Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: North Carolina -5 | Total: 59.5

North Carolina returned to the field last week after a three-week absence (UNC’s non-conference opponent, Charlotte, couldn’t play Sept. 19 due to COVID-19 issues), and it looked pretty sloppy in a 26-22 road win over Boston College. The game came down to the wire, too. BC had a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion in the final minute, but UNC’s Trey Morrison picked off Phil Jurkovec at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for two points. UNC will need a more disciplined performance against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have had significant absences in their first two games due to their own COVID-19 issues. Hendon Hooker, the projected starter at quarterback, has yet to play, so the Hokies have largely relied on the running game in wins over NC State and Duke. VT rushed for 324 yards in the 38-31 win over Duke, with Kansas transfer Khalil Herbert leading the way with 208 yards and two TDs. Hooker is expected to start this week with Braxton Burmeister also potentially seeing some action. The Hokies have rushed for 638 yards through two games, so the ground attack will likely be more of a focus for the UNC defense.

Sam: UNC -5, Nick: UNC -5

No. 22 Texas vs. Oklahoma

Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: Oklahoma -2.5 | Total: 72.5

Oklahoma is reeling after losing back-to-back regular season games for the first time since 1999. The Sooners first blew a 28-7 lead in a 38-35 loss to Kansas State before losing 37-30 last week to Iowa State. Now Lincoln Riley’s group has to pick up the pieces before facing its top rival. While the porous OU defense is getting a lot of the attention, the team’s normally potent offense has struggled as well. The running game has been up-and-down, putting a lot on the shoulders of redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler. OU is inexperienced at receiver, too, so it’s been a tough task for Rattler in the early going.

Texas, meanwhile, has had significant struggles of its own. The Longhorns were lucky to escape Texas Tech two weeks ago with a 63-56 overtime victory. UT needed two TDs in the final three minutes of regulation just to force OT in that one. Last week against TCU, the Longhorns committed 12 penalties, allowed TCU to gain 458 yards on offense and had two pivotal turnovers in a 33-31 loss. Texas looked poised to take the lead in the final minutes, only for Keontay Ingram to fumble at the 1-yard line.

Despite the early losses, OU and UT are still two of the Big 12’s most talented teams. This game could have a big impact on who reaches the conference title game later in the year.

Sam: Oklahoma -2.5, Nick: Texas +2.5

Other noon games of note: No. 17 LSU at Missouri (ESPN2), NC State at Virginia (ACCN)

No. 14 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Georgia -12 | Total: 42.5

The biggest SEC game of the day is a massive opportunity for Tennessee. Ever since their horrific 1-4 start to the 2019 season, the Vols have been steadily improving. In fact, Tennessee has won nine of its last 10 games. Other than the loss to Alabama, though, most of those games have been against mediocre-at-best competition. A trip to Athens to face No. 3 Georgia will be a way to gauge just how much the Vols have grown under Jeremy Pruitt.

Through two games in 2020 (wins over South Carolina and Missouri), Tennessee’s strengths have been in the trenches — especially the offensive line. Georgia, coming off a thorough 27-6 beatdown over then-No. 7 Auburn, has arguably the best defense in the country. Will Tennessee be able to run the ball against the Bulldogs? If not, can Jarrett Guarantano make the throws necessary to keep the Vols in the game? Conversely, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett is making just his second career start. Will the Tennessee defense be able to make things more difficult for him than Auburn did? These are all things to look for on Saturday.

Sam: Georgia -12, Nick: Georgia -12

Other afternoon games of note: Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn (SECN), Texas Tech at No. 24 Iowa State (ABC), Pittsburgh at Boston College (ACCN), Kansas State at TCU (FOX)

No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Clemson -14 | Total: 63.5

On Saturday night we’ll find out how big of a leap Miami has taken from Year 1 to Year 2 of the Manny Diaz era. The Hurricanes went 6-7 last year but are off to a 3-0 start in 2020, bolstered by the additions of Houston transfer D’Eriq King at QB and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Miami is averaging nearly 500 yards per game so far in its wins over UAB, Louisville and Florida State and now gets to go on the road to face the No. 1 team in the country, Clemson. Can the Hurricanes pull off the upset?

It’s been a while since Clemson has faced a challenge like this during the regular season. In fact, Saturday night’s game marks the first time the Tigers will square off against a fellow top 10 team in the regular season since a Deshaun Watson-led group beat No. 3 Louisville — with Lamar Jackson at QB — 42-36 at home on Oct. 1, 2016. Clemson has lost just one game during Trevor Lawrence’s time with the program. That was last year’s national title game loss to LSU. With this year’s casual 3-0 start, Tigers have won 33 straight regular season games.

Sam: Clemson -14, Nick: Clemson -14

Other night games of note: No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss (ESPN), Florida State at No. 5 Notre Dame (NBC), Mississippi State at Kentucky (SECN)

Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 9-10, Nick: 10-9

Week 6’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 6-5)

Missouri vs. No. 17 LSU: With this game getting moved to Columbia from Baton Rouge, the line dropped accordingly. And I have no reason to think that Missouri will keep it competitive. Mizzou has made a switch at QB with Connor Bazelak taking over as the starter but he hasn’t been great in his playing time so far. LSU wins by three scores. Pick: LSU -14

NC State at Virginia: Devin Leary has played well this season for the Wolfpack. He looked good in relief of Bailey Hockman in the loss to Virginia Tech and threw for 336 yards and four scores in NC State’s upset win over Pitt last week. NC State is getting a lot of points at Virginia. I’m not sure the Wolfpack will spring the upset for a second straight week, they should keep it close. Pick: NC State +9.5

Texas Tech at No. 24 Iowa State: Tech QB Alan Bowman is day-to-day with an ankle injury suffered against Kansas State. If he doesn’t play or is limited by that injury, the Texas Tech offense could sputter. Iowa State has rebounded from its opening loss to Louisiana and carries a four-game winning streak against Tech. Two of those last three games have had fewer than 60 points. I’m going low. Pick: Under 64.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 11-6)

No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M: I’d be surprised if this was a blowout like the Alabama game, but I don’t think Texas A&M has enough playmakers to keep up with Florida’s offense over the course of 60 minutes. Florida has been excellent against the spread under Dan Mullen, including an 8-1 mark on the road. Let’s make it 9-1. Pick: Florida -6.5

Kansas State at TCU: TCU is coming off a big win over Texas, but I think this is too many points for a team with a defense giving up seven yards per rush. TCU has been miserable against the spread as a favorite in recent years — especially at home. Since 2016, TCU is 4-17 against the number as a home favorite. Conversely, K-State is 4-1 ATS as a road underdog and 8-3 ATS in conference play under Chris Klieman. Pick: Kansas State +9

Florida State at No. 5 Notre Dame: Jordan Travis gave the lifeless FSU offense a spark last week vs. Jacksonville State, but won’t have anywhere near that kind of success at Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t played since Sept. 19 due to COVID issues, but shouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble with FSU. I’m expecting at least some rust, though, so the under feels like the better play rather than laying nearly three TDs. Pick: Under 52

For other Week 6 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.

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