Wilson: My 5 Favorite Bets on the College Football Week 4 Slate

Wilson: My 5 Favorite Bets on the College Football Week 4 Slate article feature image
Credit:

Jennifer Buchanon-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Melquise Stovall

  • Collin Wilson gives out his favorite college football betting picks for Week 4.
  • The action continues on Saturday, September 20, and his card take you through midnight.

The college football season is entering a wonderful period.

There is now three weeks of data to get an identity on the teams, including sack rates and havoc. And Week 4 has our first possible College Football Playoff knockout games with Georgia-Notre Dame and Wisconsin-Michigan.

My favorite bets in this column will rely heavily on The Action Network Power Ratings, which are updated on Sunday mornings before the first pot of coffee is even on the burner. I’ll then handicap each game with a reliance on math and market reaction in relation to our number.

Be sure and follow me in The Action Network App to get my bets on every Week 4 game and Week 5 openers.

College Football Betting Picks for Saturday Week 4

All odds above as of Thursday at 4 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Cal vs. Ole Miss

  • Spread: Ole Miss
  • Over/Under: 41.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPNU

Justin Wilcox brings the Cal Bears in for a 9 a.m. PT kickoff just two weeks removed from beating Washington in a game that finished at close to 2 a.m. local time.

Before becoming head coach at cal, Wilcox was the defensive coordinator at Washington and USC.

Ole Miss’s new coordinators are former Pac-12 head coaches in Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre, and they’re plenty familiar with Wilcox.

In nine games against Wilcox-coached teams, Rodriguez and MacIntyre’s squads went 3-6, but were outscored by less than a touchdown. There is a level of familiarity between the coaches, but that should be at the benefit of the defenses.

Speaking of defenses, Ole Miss surprisingly holds a top spot in our Havoc ratings for Week 4. That top 10 rating includes 18 passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

This was not completely unexpected, as MacIntyre had one of the best defenses in the nation at Colorado in 2016. The Buffaloes had a turnaround season led by a rank of first in the nation in defensive back havoc.

Cal quarterback Chase Garbers has gone two games without a turnover, but those games came against North Texas and Washington. The Huskies are one of the worst this season at causing disruption. Ole Miss may give up yards and take bad angles to the ball, but the havoc rate this far in the season says Garbers might make some mistakes.

As for Cal’s stoppers, they rank in the top half of havoc and stand 15th in total defense. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral has been under pressure, taking seven sacks so far this season against Memphis, Arkansas and Southeast Louisiana. There should be a slow start for both squads in this spot.

 

Both the Bears and Rebels have a mix of short week and tough conference games in Week 5. Cal will move on to face Arizona State on Friday night, while Ole Miss will renew its annual rivalry with Alabama.

Our Action Network projections put this game at Cal -4 and a full game total of 41.

The first half under, now down to 20, is a narrow margin but deserves a small investment. As for the side, there is strong sentiment pushing the Ole Miss number.

I will wait as long as possible for the +3 on the Bears, which has plenty of value when there is a low total in play.

Pick: 1H Under 20, Cal +3 (-120) or better

Coastal Carolina vs. UMass

  • Spread: UMass +17
  • Over/Under: 67
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV: FloSports

The podcast listener voicemails, direct messages and personal texts will all roll in on Saturday afternoon if this bet doesn’t hit. I fully expect my own father to call me and tell me he is disappointed in me, so trust me when I write that I take no pleasure in backing UMass.

Again.

The simple fact is that our power ratings make this game Coastal Carolina -9 in Amherst. If you take the UMass name off the game, are we really at the point where a Sun Belt team not named Appalachian State is favored by 17 on any FBS opponent’s home field?

Sure, Coastal beat Kansas in a game that was even in total yards, but the Jayhawks had two costly turnovers. The Chants bested Norfolk State by 39, a team that ranks 232 out of 256 Division I teams in the Sagarin Ratings.

Still, Coastal may be overhyped as quarterback Fred Payton has more interceptions than touchdowns, while the Chants have one of the worst punting and red zone defense units in the nation.

The UMass loss to FCS bottom dweller Southern Illinois was one of the more eye-popping box scores from Week 2.

The Minutemen then helped me cash one of my favorite bets for Week 3, a blowout win by Charlotte. New head coach Walt Bell is preaching tackling after missing 29 against the 49ers. UMass has recognized that the running backs are the strength of the team, and a game plan to be run heavy is in the works.

Coastal Carolina will continue to utilize the ground attack through its triple option, and may pump the breaks late with Appalachian State on deck.

If UMass can get just a bit of tackling from the defense, 17 points should be enough to get a cover in a game that will feature plenty of running.

I completely understand if you’d rather donate this money to the Busch Light fund in Iowa or go get Chipotle for lunch, but I will roll with the Minutemen one last time.

Pick: UMass +17

Central Florida vs. Pitt

  • Spread: Pitt +11.5
  • Over/Under: 61
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC

As I sat in Lambeau Field last Sunday, I got a text from a friend that said the opener for Pitt-UCF was way off my number.

Sure enough it was, and a wager in The Action Network app on Pitt soon followed. Our projections make this game less the a field goal, a good touchdown off other respected ratings projections.

There has been some wonkiness with the Panthers’ point spreads the past few weeks. I took a bad but winning number in Pitt -6.5 against Ohio, only to see it close -4.

We backed the Panthers at +17 in Week 3 against Penn State in a game that was much closer than that.

Either the Action Network power ratings are way ahead of schedule on Pitt or the other power ratings systems have not caught up. I like to think we were properly high on the hiring of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

Enter Central Florida, which is on a tear after a beating a depleted Stanford by 18, Florida Atlantic by 34 and Florida A&M 62-0.

The Knights have one of the best yards per play differentials, are second in first downs, and have been electric through the air.

In this same spot last year, Pitt was boatraced in the first half 31-7 at Central Florida.

Pitt will need to stop the explosive plays from the start. The Panthers limited Penn State to a passing IsoPPP rate of 1.38 and a standard downs rate of 0.93, both strong marks.

That is sustainable, along with a sack rate that is currently 15th in the nation. Pitt has limited opponents to just a 53% completion rate, good enough to rank top 20 in the nation.

Leaning on our power ratings once again for Pitt, new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple should get more points on the board than last season’s game. Expect the Pitt defense to chip in enough to get the cover.

Pick: Pitt +11 or better

Utah State vs. San Diego State

  • Spread: San Diego State +4
  • Over/Under: 54
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS Sports Network

Before entering a bye week, the Utah State offense picked up right where former coach Matt Wells dropped off. Against Wake Forest and Stony Brook the Aggies gained 1,313 yards offensively.

That statistics can be a little skewed, but a nail-biting loss against the Demon Deacons tells us quarterback Jordan Love is still a horse for Utah State.

San Diego State finally found some points after the disastrous 6-0 victory over Weber State to open the season. The Aztecs found a way to get 727 combined yards against UCLA and New Mexico State in victories.

Rocky Long’s defense is No. 5 in our havoc ratings, which could play a part in this late night Mountain West scrum. Long said this week that the only way to stop Love is to apply pressure.

This game comes down to the Aztecs defensive line beating the Utah State offensive line. That advantage falls to San Diego State. Utah State is still bringing in an entire offensive line after losing 115 career starts in the offseason.

Only two players on the offensive line logged decent snaps in 2018. Look for the Aztecs to pin their ears back in the 3-3-5 defense against Love and cause more havoc to get this cover.

Pick: San Diego State +4 or better

Central Arkansas vs. Hawai’i

  • Spread: Hawai’i +15.5
  • Over/Under: 66.5
  • Time: Midnight ET
  • TV: Facebook Live

I grew up in a dry county in Arkansas. I could never understand why Mom and Dad had to drive 40 minutes for a 12-pack of Strohs, but by the time I was 18, there was always the Friday night drive to Missouri for a pint of Mad Dog 20/20.

Any Action Network readers in Conway, Arkansas are also feeling the pain as the University of Central Arkansas plays football in a dry county on a purple field.

All kidding aside, these Central Arkansas Bears are now 3-0 and have a victory over an FBS team in Western Kentucky. Currently ranked 14th in the FCS poll, Central Arkansas is sandwiched between Liberty and UNLV in the Sagarin ratings.

The one thing you will not get from the Bears is a ton of rushing yards. Central Arkansas is ranked dead last in FCS in yards per game and averages 1.16 yards per rush.

 

 

If you have a poor pass defense, the Bears will throw on any down and distance to exploit it. Hawaii’s defense is outside the top 100 in opponent yards per attempt and passing touchdowns.

The Rainbow Warriors are also 106th in sacks this season, leaving them near the bottom of our havoc rankings and without a forced fumble. Hawaii is 119th in the nation in giving up passes at least 10-plus yards and 115th in completions over 50-plus yards.

Sagarin makes this point spread less than two touchdowns, giving the current number value. It is another Facebook Live-after-midnight kind of weekend, and sadly for us dry county residents in the state of Arkansas, we may be stone cold sober.

Pick: Central Arkansas +15.5 or better