Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tom Herman
- College football's Week 4 is in the books, and there's plenty that bettors can learn from it.
- Favorites went 34-27-1 ATS, but seven Top 25 teams lost.
College football’s Week 4 slate didn’t look like much on the surface, but had season-altering results by day’s end.
Conference contenders (and playoff darkhorses) Mississippi State and Oklahoma State lost. Oregon got hosed, while Stanford got its third quality win of the season. Virginia Tech lost outright in one of the biggest upsets ever.
Here’s what we saw and learned in Week 4.
1. Service Academies Keep Covering Big Spreads
Since 2005, Air Force, Army and Navy are 17-4-1 against the spread (ATS) as underdogs of at least 21 points. Why? Some popular theories …
- The triple option is difficult to prepare for
- They dominate time of possession, limiting their opponent’s chances to cover a big number
- Other teams and coaches have too much respect for service academies to run up the score
Army (+31) put together an all-time boxscore in an overtime loss to Oklahoma. The Black Knights had the ball for 44 minutes and 41 seconds. They outgained the Sooners, but lost the yards per play battle 8.4 to 4.4.
And Army’s three scoring drives were all at least 16 plays, 75 yards and eight minutes.
Don’t let Kyler Murray and Co. touch the ball, and you just might cover +31.
Navy could be in this spot against Notre Dame and UCF later this season.
2. Quarterback Changes Coming
A handful of Top 25 teams have been somewhat stagnant on offense thanks to poor quarterback play. Things might now be different for those squads, and you’ll see them go over totals and cover bigger spreads as a result.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
There’s little doubt the true freshman is Clemson’s best option at quarterback after Saturday’s 49-21 win over Georgia Tech. He went 13 of 18 for 176 yards, four TDs and one INT.
Kelly Bryant may still play, but Lawrence’s arm opens everything up.
Ian Book, Notre Dame
Notre Dame has high hopes, and it probably doesn’t feel like Brandon Wimbush can get it there with his limited arm talent. Enter Ian Book, a more dynamic passer. He was 25 of 34 for 325 yards and five total touchdowns against Wake Forest.
Book will probably start against Stanford this week and beyond if the Irish win.
N’Kosi Perry, Miami
The Canes have longed needed a change at quarterback from Malik Rosier, and looks like they have a good one in N’Kosi Perry. He came off the bench to throw for three scores against FIU.
The Canes play North Carolina on Thursday night.
3. Tom Herman, Underdog King
Yeah, Tom Herman’s had his struggles at Texas. But he’s the king of covering spreads as an underdog.
The Longhorns’ win over TCU moved him to 9-1 ATS lifetime as a dog. He’s 4-1 at Texas. He’s also 6-4 on the moneyline as a dog, earning $100 bettors more than $1,600.
Since 2011, when he was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator, teams that Herman has been a part of are 22-1 ATS as underdogs.
Texas will be an underdog twice in the next month — neutral site vs. Oklahoma and at Oklahoma State.
4. Bad Week to Be a Contrarian
Teams getting less than 40% of bets went 12-19-1 ATS this weekend. Less than 30%, 4-9.
Favorites went 34-27-1 ATS.
5. What’s Wrong With …
It looks like Butch Jones is still coaching this team. The Vols had six turnovers against Florida and looked incredibly lost.
One of their players was even asked to go in the game and refused, then walked off the field.
Be cautious backing this team anytime soon.
I’ve got faith in Scott Frost’s program moving forward, and he was left with a pretty bad roster. But man, you’d really like to see the Huskers be more competitive in bigger games.
The Tigers had 224 total yards in a 34-3 win over Arkansas. 224! Against a team that got gashed by North Texas and Colorado State the last two weeks.
Auburn excelled on special teams and defense to setup short fields, but there’s some cause for concern with this offense right now.
6. College Football Beats are the Worst Beats
Because of the wacky nature of this sport, it can produce some truly awful beats — bonehead plays, missed field goals, anything you can possibly imagine.
There hadn’t been too many bad beats in high-profile games yet this season, until Saturday night, when two happened in a five-minute span.
- Oregon (+3) fumbled with less than a minute left while leading, 31-28, and lost to Stanford in overtime. That was after the Cardinal got back into the game after an overturned Ducks touchdown and ensuing fumble return score.
- Wisconsin and Iowa both scored pretty meaningless touchdowns in the final 62 seconds to go over the total by one point.
7. Might Not Be Terrible
OK, that’s a stretch. They’re terrible. But the Pirates beat UNC two weeks ago as three-touchdown dogs and outgained USF in a 7-point loss on Saturday.
ECU catches Old Dominion on Thursday after it beat Virginia Tech as a 28-point dog, the Monarchs’ biggest win in program history.
Who saw this one coming?
Mississippi State had been rolling, but played a sloppy game in Lexington with just 201 total yards (and 139 penalty yards) and fell, 28-7. That Kentucky defensive front seven is legit.
The Wildcats are now 4-0 and 2-0 in SEC play. There wasn’t anything fluky about either of those wins. They host South Carolina this week and go to Texas A&M after that.
Purdue might be a problem for some teams. David Blough is the answer at quarterback and the defense showed up for the first time this year against a dynamic Boston College offense.
The Boilermakers will be favored the next two weeks, but then begin a stretch against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.
8. Texas A&M’s Got Something Going
Alabama is unstoppable and Tua Tagovailoa looks like he could start for about half of NFL teams right now.
Anyway, you know that. But Texas A&M covered against the Tide, and despite losing by three touchdowns, this game never really felt like a total blowout.
Quarterback Kellen Mond was challenged, and the Aggies never got the ground game going outside of him. But they gained almost 400 yards, had two fewer first downs than Alabama and if it finished a few more drives, A&M would have been in it right at the end.
The SEC West is incredibly unforgiving, but don’t be surprised to see the Aggies pull an upset down the stretch.
9. Next Weekend’s Wind
More of a lookahead than a takeaway. If you like using weather to bet college football, there might be some windy games next weekend, especially in Big 12 country.
- Oklahoma State @ Kansas (18 mph)
- Purdue @ Nebraska (16 mph)
- Texas @ Kansas State (20 mph)
- Baylor @ Oklahoma (16 mph)
- Arkansas Pine Bluff @ FIU (16 mph)
Games with 15-20 mph winds have hit the under at a greater than 62% clip since 2005, according to our BetLabs database.