The calendar has hit October, and college football is heating up with another critical set of games this weekend. Who will earn a big win?
It was a good Week 5 for us over here at SI college football picks, but another compelling slate of games awaits us in Week 6. This weekend contains three top-25 matchups, headlined by Auburn-Florida and Michigan-Iowa. The nightcap then features another Big Ten showdown, as Michigan State looks to slow Justin Fields and Ohio State. Who will walk away with a crucial victory in the first week of October? Our writers and editors picks for the 12 biggest games are below.
Scooby Axson: 46–15 (75.4%)
Max Meyer: 45–16 (73.8%)
Michael Shapiro: 45–16 (73.8%)
Molly Geary: 45–16 (73.8%)
Ross Dellenger: 41–20 (67.2%)
Tim Rohan: 40–21 (65.2%)
Laken Litman: 39–22 (63.4%)
Joan Niesen: 33–28 (54.1%)
No. 18 UCF at Cincinnati (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Molly Geary picks UCF: This is the Knights' first real test since their stunning loss to Pitt, which ended a regular-season win streak that dated back to 2016, and they easily dispatched of UConn in bouncing back. The Bearcats will be worthy challengers, and QB Desmond Ridder is coming off an impressive four-TD performance vs. Marshall. Still, Cincinnati's offense ranks just 76th in S&P+ and 73rd in yards per game, and it's going up against a UCF team that has scored at least 30 points in 31 straight games. Then again, Pitt's offense wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire before its upset feat. Still, we'll give the edge to the Knights on the road.
No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan (12 p.m. ET, FOX)
Ross Dellenger picks Michigan: OC Josh Gattis moved from the booth to the sidelines for the Wolverines' game against Rutgers, hoping to spark his unit. It worked. Michigan beat Rutgers 52–0. We'll find out if that was more a product of the opponents this week when UM welcomes Iowa in a Big Ten showdown. The Hawkeyes defense is no joke, but Kirk Ferentz's club hasn't faced a real tough test yet this year.
Tulane at Army (Noon p.m. ET, CBSSN)
Joan Niesen picks Tulane: Tulane is a road favorite, which is not something that has happened too often in recent memory. Coming off of a long bye—the Green Wave last played on Thursday, Sept. 19, when they faked a knee and executed a phenomenal scoring drive to beat Houston in regulation—Willie Fritz's team should be rested and prepared to work its offensive magic on Army, which will struggle to match Tulane's scoring.
TCU at Iowa State (Noon p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Tim Rohan picks Iowa State: What do you make of Iowa State? The Cyclones needed triple overtime to beat Northern Iowa, and they’ve lost to Iowa and Baylor by a combined three points. Led by QB Brock Purdy, Iowa State’s offense is averaging 500 yards a game. But TCU has a stingy defense, and is holding opponents to 246 yards a game, the fourth fewest in the country. Iowa State’s experience in those close games pays off here, and Purdy & Co. score enough points on Gary Patterson’s defense.
No. 7 Auburn at No. 10 Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Ross Dellenger picks Auburn: The marquee matchup of the week pits two top-10 teams in what should be an electric atmosphere in the Swamp. The Tigers have one of the country's best resumes, and the Gators have a new quarterback who's sparked their offense. Auburn has the key ingredients for a road win like this—a strong running game and a great defense, but the Tigers also have a true freshman quarterback. It's going to be a tight one. Auburn by a field goal.
Baylor at Kansas State (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Michael Shapiro picks Baylor: Baylor appears to be gaining some serious momentum in the Big 12, largely thanks to head coach Matt Rhule. The former Temple coach has revived the Bears' program, leading Baylor with a discipline and focus that was absent in the Art Briles era. Rhule's got a pretty good QB, too. Junior Charlie Brewer has thrown 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four games, adding 972 yards through the air and 96 yards from the ground. With Kansas State's top receiver Malik Knowles potentially out for a second straight week, Rhule and Baylor should sprint to 5–0 with a win in the Little Apple.
No. 11 Texas at West Virginia (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Scooby Axson picks Texas: For Texas, this should nothing but a glorified tune-up as the big test comes next Saturday when its meets Oklahoma in their annual clash at the Cotton Bowl. Last year in Austin, West Virginia gave the Horns everything they wanted and more, and left town with a last-minute victory. But the Mountaineers don’t have Will Grier, David Sills V or coach Dana Holgersen this time around, which is a big problem and has turned into an obvious lack of big-play threats in 2019. Texas, which is averaging nearly 500 yards a game, had a week to prepare for this road trip and should skate through with relative ease.
Virginia Tech at Miami (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Laken Litman picks Miami: Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Virginia Tech after last year’s attrition and divided locker room debacle, the team is 2–2 and just suffered its worst loss in 45 years. The Hokies were crushed by Duke 45–10 last week, prompting fourth-year coach Justin Fuente to tell reporters, “Obviously we are not ready or we are not at the point where we can compete and play and have a chance to win against that team we played.” So, when will this team be ready? Have they actually changed from 2018? Fuente might be able to fix things eventually, but don’t expect anything immediate. Especially when he doesn’t even know who the Hokies’ starting QB will be vs. Miami between Ryan Willis and backup Hendon Hooker. The Canes on the other hand aren’t a vision of success, starting 2–2 in Manny Diaz’s first season after grinding out a 17–12 win over Central Michigan. But their struggles aren’t quite as dire. Right now, Virginia Tech ranks 99th in scoring offense (23.3 points per game), 100th in total offense (363.5 yards per game), 104th in rushing defense (189 ypg) and 128th in turnover margin (minus-8). Giving the nod to the home team in this one.
No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Joan Niesen picks Ohio State: The Buckeyes are cruising after destroying Nebraska Saturday night, and Michigan State will barely register as a speed bump for one of the country's best defenses. For a Spartans offense that can struggle to put up points, things won't be pretty, and though Michigan State's defense should contain Ohio State better than Nebraska did, that won't be nearly enough.
Cal at No. 13 Oregon (8 p.m. ET, FOX)
Max Meyer picks Oregon: Chase Garber’s injury against Arizona State forced Cal to turn UCLA transfer Devon Modster loose under center, and the early returns were not pretty. While I think the large spread is a bit of an overreaction to this past weekend’s events, Oregon has a legitimate argument that it has had a better defense than Cal’s this season and the Ducks are certainly miles ahead of Cal’s offense.
Pitt at Duke (8:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Tim Rohan picks Duke: Pitt has had a weird season. The Panthers narrowly lost to Penn State in Happy Valley, they upset UCF on a trick play called “The Pitt Special,” and then they nearly lose to Delaware. I give Duke the advantage here, especially if Kenny Pickett, the Pitt starting QB, is out or limited by the shoulder injury he suffered against UCF. Duke football is having a moment right now, after beating Virginia Tech by 35 last week. Duke’s dual threat quarterback Quentin Harris makes enough plays to win in the end.
No. 15 Washington at Stanford (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Max Meyer picks Washington: Stanford needed a last-second field goal to edge Oregon State this past weekend, or else the Cardinal could have plausibly finished with the Pac-12’s worst record in 2019. Still, it’ll be an uphill climb for this Stanford team to make a bowl game, and Jacob Eason will be salivating watching game film of this atrocious Stanford secondary. The Cardinal offensive line has had major trouble overcoming all the injuries, and that has caused the entire offense to sputter. I expect more of the same against Washington.