During the college football season, Stadium’s staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice. Here are our thoughts on the Week 4 slate:
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: Oklahoma State (+5) over Texas. I was able to get the Pokes (+7) at the open, but that number is long gone. That said, I still love Oklahoma State at anything north of 3.5 points. Mike Gundy has won four straight against Texas — five in a row in Austin. Chuba Hubbard (7.9 yards per rush attempt) and Tylan Wallace (390 receiving yards and six touchdowns in three games) are dynamic playmakers that will test this Texas defense that has struggled to get off the field on 3rd down (41 percent, 88th in FBS). Although these teams play every year, this is the first time UT will go up against new Cowboys OC Sean Gleeson. That uncertainty — plus the 7.5 yards per play OK State is averaging through three games — has me on the Pokes under the lights.
Dan Vasta, Stadium “Stats Guru”: Texas (-5) over Oklahoma State. The Longhorns have lost four in a row to Oklahoma State, but Texas is ready to protect its home turf in a game that will likely be a shootout. Stopping the run against OSU RB Chuba Hubbard is key, which will allow UT to get after QB Spencer Sanders. The weapons are legit for the Cowboys per usual, but their defense is not capable of slowing down Texas QB Sam Ehlinger. Lay the points with Texas at home and enjoy a game that should feature big runs from Ehlinger and Keaontay Ingram.
Andy Wittry, Stadium College Sports Writer: Oregon (-10.5) over Stanford. The Ducks haven’t faced a real test since their season-opening loss to Auburn, but they’ve looked nothing short of dominant since then. While Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and the team’s offensive line might get most of the attention, the Ducks’ defense currently ranks No. 12 nationally in the SP+ rankings after holding Nevada and Montana to a combined nine points the last two weeks. While I wrote that UCF deserves credit for blowing out Stanford, we can also acknowledge that this might be the worst Stanford team in a decade, one that currently ranks No. 57 overall in SP+ (No. 70 offense, No. 49 defense, No. 114 special teams).
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Michigan (+3.5) over Wisconsin. This is one of the marquee matchups in Week 4 that I briefly previewed in my article on Monday. The line has moved 11 points in the last two months and five points in a week, despite both teams having a bye last week. I highlighted Michigan’s offensive struggles and Wisconsin’s dominant start to the season, but this line has swung too far. I love that Michigan is coming in with extra time to fix their offense. I also like getting over a field goal on the underdog in a game that has a total of 43. The betting market has lost faith in the Wolverines, but I’m going to back them here, putting money on both the spread and the moneyline.
2. What is your favorite total (over/under)?
AS: Over 57.5 in Boston College-Rutgers. Boston College is coming off one of the worst losses of the Steve Addazio era after falling to Kansas 48-24 in Chestnut Hill last week. I don’t think there’s a better bounce back spot than playing Rutgers in sleepy Piscataway for a noon ET kickoff. After the defeat, the Eagles defense dropped to 101st in SP+, and the Scarlet Knights aren’t much better at 79th. I expect Boston College to hit the home team with a heavy dose of A.J. Dillon, taking advantage of a suspect Rutgers rush D (107th in FBS) while mixing in the play-action passing game. The Scarlet Knights should do enough to get this game over the total.
DV: Under 56.5 in Notre Dame-Georgia. Georgia has the best offensive line in the country and they prefer to run the ball, feeding their stacked backfield that’s led by RB D’Andre Swift. In one of the best night games we may see all season, I believe that QB Jake Fromm and the ‘Dawgs will control the line of scrimmage and dominate time of possession. Georgia should win by two touchdowns as their defense will contain Notre Dame QB Ian Book. The question is, who will step up and make plays for the Irish in the passing game? Expect for Georgia to key in on Irish WR Chase Claypool, which will lead to Notre Dame struggling to score points. Look for a 30-17 type of ball game in Athens.
AW: Over 47.5 in Auburn-Texas A&M. Auburn ranks No. 4 defensively in SP+ and Texas A&M is No. 12, so maybe I’ll come back to regret this decision, but both offenses are competent, too, at No. 31 and No. 32, respectively. In their seven meetings this decade, the point totals have been 52, 69, 45, 36, 79, 86 and 84. Sure, there’s some Johnny Manziel-related inflation in there, but I see this game hitting the over.
NJ: Under 45.5 in Old Dominion-Virginia. This might seem dangerous since Virginia is favored by 29, but I also like Old Dominion to stay within the big spread. It’s a horrible scheduling spot for the Cavaliers as they are coming off a dramatic home win in primetime against Florida State. Then, they get a primo TV spot at Notre Dame next week. Keeping all that in mind, this is a game that UVA Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall just wants to get out of healthy. I predict a very low-scoring game in Charlottesville.
3. Which underdog of a touchdown or more has the best chance of an outright upset?
AS: SMU (+9.5) over TCU. TCU routinely has an awesome defense under Gary Patterson, and this year is no different: the Horned Frogs are rated 19th in FBS per SP+ through Week 3 and held Purdue superstar Rondale Moore to just 25 scrimmage yards on four touches last week. However, SMU’s offense does a better job of spreading the ball around (four players have at least eight receptions) and is averaging 5.4 yards per rush to start the year. Will TCU slow down the Mustang offense? Probably. But TCU’s offense is a big problem. Max Duggan and Alex Delton have collectively averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt, and unless Patterson has the second coming of Trevone Boykin waiting in the wings, things aren’t going to get better any time soon. I’ll ride with SMU (+9.5) and gladly hop on the moneyline at +285.
DV: Kentucky (+7) over Mississippi State. The Wildcats came through for me last week when they closed as double-digit underdogs against the Gators in Lexington. That atmosphere was great and should prepare them for Stark Vegas. And a week after Mississippi State’s mediocre performance against Kansas State, the Bulldogs are searching for answers. State has struggled to stretch the field in their passing game, which is why this one should be a low-scoring, borderline snoozefest that Kentucky will cover in.
AW: Rutgers (+8) over Boston College. Let me call “Heating up!” after correctly picking a dog of at least six points to win outright the last two weeks. I can’t believe I’m going to say this — but give me Rutgers at home over Boston College. The Scarlet Knights have been one of the easiest punchlines in college sports recently, but the Eagles just got doubled up at home by Kansas. I don’t feel confident in this pick, but with a home dog playing a potentially bad BC team, I’ll take an unconfident flyer on Rutgers.
NJ: Colorado (+7.5) over Arizona State. No. 24 Arizona State is vulnerable in this spot after pulling off a huge upset win at Michigan State. All the big bettors faded the Sun Devils last week, as they opened as an 11-point underdog and closed at +16 in East Lansing. In Head Coach Mel Tucker’s first year in charge, Colorado has been tested in non-conference play. They won a rivalry game against Colorado State in Week 1, scored an upset against a former Big 12 rival in Nebraska the following week and lost to an in-state foe in Air Force last week. But despite that loss — against a triple-option offense — I like what I’ve seen from Colorado this season. Tucker is a defensive-minded coach who I trust to stop ASU’s offense and come away with a victory.
4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: Utah (-3.5) at USC. I’m high on Utah this season (I feel really good about my 4/1 Utah to win the Pac-12 ticket), and when this game opened at a pick ‘em, I was ready to get in line to back Kyle Whittingham’s team at the Coliseum. However, once this one moved past a field goal I decided it was a matchup that I needed to sit out. Even with three turnovers from QB Kedon Slovis, USC had a solid showing at BYU last week (50 percent success rate through the air and 53 percent on standard downs) against a good Cougar defense. Utah has a strong running game and an elite defensive line, but it’s hard to see the Utes getting out to a big lead against USC on Friday night. I’m going to watch this one, but I won’t be betting it.
DV: Michigan (+3.5) at Wisconsin. This will be a great game to kickoff before lunch, and I hope Michigan is as hungry as their fans are heading into Week 4. Will Michigan’s do-it-all stud Donovan Peoples-Jones play? If he does suit up, I may roll with a team in Michigan that originally entered the season as touchdown favorites for this Big Ten showdown.
AW: UCF (-12.5) at Pittsburgh. The Knights were up 28-7 on Stanford after the first quarter last week, and this week is another chance for UCF to potentially blow out another Power Five team. My guess is that UCF wins by multiple touchdowns, but Pitt’s defense is stout (No. 20 SP+) and the Panthers held Penn State’s offense (No. 18 SP+) to just 17 points on the road. If we’re playing amateur sports psychologist, maybe there’s a bit of a letdown for UCF the week after playing arguably its biggest regular season game. Plus, it feels like Pitt could be due for another big upset out of nowhere akin to their legendary wins over Clemson in 2016 and Miami in 2017.
NJ: Nebraska at Illinois (+13). This was a game I was eyeing in the summer to bet against Nebraska. I was hoping the Huskers would be 3-0 heading into Champaign before their massive game against Ohio State in Week 5. But instead, Nebraska is now being properly valued in the betting market after a 2-1 start to the season that included a lackluster Week 1 win against South Alabama. Because of their slow start to the year, Scott Frost will make sure his team is focused on the task ahead, and that’s why I won’t force the situational play on Illinois.