Ranked Teams on Upset Alert for Week 6

Penn State Nittany Lions players in action

Jay Pryce

Thursday, October 5, 2017 1:17 PM GMT

Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 1:17 PM GMT

The college football odds are showing plenty of lopsided matchups amongst ranked teams this Saturday. Nonetheless, a couple of big favorites need to stay focused or risk losing in season changing upsets. We're talking about you Penn State and TCU.

Outside of Thursday night’s Louisville-N.C. State showdown, only No. 20 Utah and No. 13 Miami square off in matchups with a single-digit spread among ranked teams. Oddsmakers are spotting the Utes 5 points for a home date versus Stanford, while the Hurricanes are lying a field goal at Florida State. Although the media will proclaim a Cardinal win over Utah an “upset” due to the ranking difference, bettors know the more accurate forecast. Outside of these games, scanning the board, predictions for Week 6 upsets are very slim. Still, a couple of ranked teams need to stay focused or risk losing a “gimme” win. Here's a pair in most danger:

No. 23 West Virginia vs. No. 8 TCU

Line: Horned Frogs -13

This is a classic letdown spot for TCU. The Horned Frogs stunned Oklahoma State 44-31 in Stillwater last Saturday as 10.5-point underdogs. How much did they save for a tricky home test versus West Virginia? One has to wonder. Head coach Gary Patterson’s team has a history of slumping in this situation. Since taking over in 2000, he has led TCU to 14 straight-up road underdog victories. The Horned Frogs are 7-7 SU and 2-12 ATS in the follow-up effort. The average line is -7.9, so it’s not as if TCU were battling top-tier talent in previous matchups.

There’s also a bit of a history with West Virginia. Patterson is 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS against the Mountaineers since they moved to the Big 12 in 2012. Two of the losses came as chalk, one lying 12.5 points in 2013. That matchup was very similar to the one on Saturday. Then-No. 23 West Virginia stunned No. 10 TCU 30-27 in overtime in Fort Worth. Will history repeat itself here? The Horned Frogs need to stay alert or risk a gigging.

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No. 4 Penn State vs. Northwestern

Line: Nittany Lions -15

Fact: Northwestern has 10 outright wins as a double-digit underdog since head coach Pat Fitzgerald took over in 2006. Only Eastern Michigan has as many as a program in this span. Five of the Wildcat shockers have come in the last three seasons. At this rate, it appears Fitzgerald is overdue for another.

If Northwestern pulls off the stunner, it will be due to a strong defensive effort. Penn State’s offense did not impress in its lone conference road game at Iowa this season. Winning 21-19 as 12-point chalk in Week 4, the Nittany Lions scored 11 points below market projections.

This has been a worrisome pattern for Penn State since head coach James Franklin took over in 2014. In conference road games versus defenses yielding fewer than 26.5 points per game, the Nittany Lions are scoring just 15.2 per tilt. They are 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS overall in this spot. Now, they were favored in just two of these contests, including the earlier Hawkeyes matchup. When predicted to win, one expects Penn State to control the game and put in a strong defensive effort of its own, which can work wonders for the haphazard offense. That could be the case Saturday. Nevertheless, the fact remains; it has never scored more than 21 points in this situation.

Northwestern enters with the 49th ranked scoring defense in the country surrendering just 25.2 points per game. Five of the last seven Big Ten programs to visit Ryan Field have failed to eclipse their team total. The Nittany Lions are dangerous enough to drop 40-plus points here, but given Fitzgerald’s coaching prowess and history for dramatic upsets, Franklin and company need to watch out. 

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