College Football Expert Picks: Our Staff’s 15 Favorite Bets for Week 4
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured:LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron
- Our college football experts give their 15 favorite picks for Week 4 of the 2018 season.
- We have all types of bets covered with a healthy mix of underdogs, favorites and over/unders.
No weather concerns this weekend, as we have a full, uninterrupted schedule of college football on Saturday.
Let the games begin!
As we do every week, we asked several of our staffers to give us their favorite college football Saturday side or total for Week 4.
Regardless of your betting style or preferences, you should find something that catches your eye below or at least helps you make more informed betting decisions for Week 4.
Let’s lead off with five favorites, starting with an early afternoon ugly game on the surface that might hold some road chalk value. We will then finish up with five underdogs (and an ML underdog) and four totals.
*All odds for the picks pulled overnight on Sept. 20
Ken Barkley: Western Michigan -7.5 (at Georgia State)
2 p.m. ET on ESPN+
This will sound really weird, but here we go: Western Michigan needs this game. The Broncos were pretty soundly embarrassed by Eric Dungey and Syracuse at home on the opening Friday night of the season, and then went to Michigan, which was coming off the Notre Dame loss. That was ugly, too.
After going home to beat an FCS team, the Broncos are back on the road at lowly Georgia State, which has the dubious distinction of being ranked 100th or worse in offense, defense and special teams per the most recent S&P+ ratings. Hard to do.
Western Michigan wants to make a bowl game. Given that its talent keeps getting worse as P.J. Fleck’s time gets further away, this may be the game that does it for ‘em. The Broncos are probably being rated too low because of their poor results. With any effort, they should run away with this game.
Evan Abrams: Florida State -10 (vs. NIU)
3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
I feel like such a sucker laying double-digit points with Florida State after its performance through the first three weeks of the season. The Seminoles have led for just over four minutes in three total hours of play. However, I think bettors and oddsmakers have gotten a bit carried away here.
Northern Illinois has managed just 13 total points against Power 5 teams in two games this season (Iowa and Utah). The Seminoles have allowed 7.7 yards per pass attempt on defense, tied for 90th in the FBS, but NIU’s offense averages just 3.5 — last out of 130 FBS teams.
Florida State might not be as good as its preseason expectations, but this team is due for a performance that lives up its skill set, and Deondre Francois is somewhere between the QB who had a 78.4 QBR in 2016 (16th in FBS) and his current 35.3 QBR (107th in FBS).
Not to mention, Florida State has faced six non-ACC teams at home off a loss since 2005, and its average spread has been 26.5. Lay the 10 with the Noles.
Sean Newsham: Oklahoma State -14 (vs. Texas Tech)
7 p.m. ET on FS1
Last week, Texas Tech beat Houston in a shootout that featured 112 total points and more than 1,300 combined yards. The Red Raiders won’t have as easy of a time this week against Oklahoma State, which actually has a pretty decent defense.
The Cowboys are hovering just outside the top 10 in a few projected defensive ranks, so they should do a better job of slowing down the Texas Tech offense. However, Texas Tech should continue to struggle defensively as it seems to do every year. This game is a sneaky blowout waiting to happen in Oklahoma State’s favor.
Danny Donahue: Washington -17 (vs. Arizona State)
10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
I figured Arizona State’s Week 2 win over Michigan State would probably put the Sun Devils in a great fade-the-public spot the following week — and it did, thank you SDSU. However, I did not expect to get a second value spot this weekend, but here we are.
Can we all take a quick second to remember that Washington is actually good? The Huskies are getting only 40% of bets as a 17-point home conference favorite — an exceptionally low show of support for a team in that spot. However, when that does happen, contrarian home favorites (fewer than 45% of bets) of at least two touchdowns in conference games are 48-37-0 (57%) ATS since 2005.
Stuckey: Washington -17 (vs. Arizona State)
10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Just like last week with San Diego State, I’m going to agree with Danny again and fade Arizona State in one of the late-night spots. Not only should Washington be fully prepared and focused to exact revenge for an upset loss in Tempe last year, but the Huskies match up extremely well against the Sun Devils.
ASU can’t (and doesn’t really want to) run the ball, which plays right into the hands of one of the best secondaries in the nation.
Collin Wilson: Missouri +14.5 (vs. Georgia)
12 p.m. ET on ESPN
I have this game at 12, so there is a bit of value on a Missouri team that struggled to put Purdue away last week. There are things popping up with Georgia that concern me as a national title contender.
Sure, the Dawgs are one of the best teams in the nation at creating and defending explosiveness, and QB Jacob Fromm is having such an excellent year that Justin Fields hasn’t seen much action. However, the key stat in this game for me is Georgia’s inability to get to the quarterback.
Georgia currently ranks 127th in adjusted sack rate on defense, while the Missouri offensive line ranks seventh in that same category.
Drew Lock should have all day to find open receivers. With an 11 a.m. local kick, the Georgia defense will have to turn up the havoc to cover this number — and I’m not sure the Bulldogs generate enough pressure to do so.
John Ewing: Louisiana Tech +21 (at LSU)
7 p.m. ET on ESPNU
LSU defeated No. 7 Auburn, 22-21, last Saturday as a 10-point underdog. Bettors were impressed, as more than 70% of spread tickets are now on the Tigers as three-touchdown favorites. The public often overvalues ranked teams and recent outcomes, such as an upset win over a top-10 team. Oddsmakers know this and will inflate the lines in certain situations.
Since 2005, it has been profitable to bet against ranked teams following a top-10 win: 129-98-2 (57%) ATS. LSU opened as a 22-point favorite, and the line has already been bet down with a steam move bet signal, indications of sharp money on Louisiana Tech.
>> Check out Sports Insights’ Bet Signals to track sharp action for college football’s entire Week 4 slate.
Josh Ward: Arkansas +30 (at Auburn)
7:30 p.m. ET on SECN
Let’s get this out of the way: Arkansas is not good. That’s pretty evident after the Razorbacks suffered back-to-back losses to Colorado State and North Texas.
But 30 points looks like too much for Auburn to give up after a disappointing loss last week to LSU. Remember, fading ranked teams after a loss usually pays off.
Auburn should score an easy win here, but the Razorbacks should owe us all an apology if they lose by more than 30 points.
Brandon Justice: Iowa +3 (vs. Wisconsin)
8:30 p.m. ET on FOX
It’s hard to bet against Iowa at night in Kinnick — especially as an underdog without a loss and with the nation’s second-ranked total defense. The Hawkeyes knocked off No. 2 Michigan with a last-second field goal in 2016 and demolished No. 5 Ohio State in 2017. The Hawkeyes are 4-1 as home underdogs since 2014.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin lost to a 1-1 BYU team at home last week and hasn’t covered the spread once in 2018. I’m not buying into the offense yet, despite the talents of running back Johnathan Taylor and that offensive line. Give me the home dog Hawkeyes under the lights.
Jason Sobel: Tennessee +4.5 (vs. Florida)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Florida isn’t very good. Tennessee isn’t very good. But the latter is playing at home and getting 4.5 points. I think the Vols can win this game and I will probably have a little action on the moneyline. But even if they don’t win, this should be a barnburner.
Peter Jennings: UNLV +250 ML (at Arkansas State)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN3
Compared to my numbers, this is simply too much value to pass up on the Rebels moneyline in what could be a back-and-forth shootout.
OVER OR UNDER?
Steve Petrella: Stanford-Oregon Under 57.5
8 p.m. ET on ABC
Another week, another under for me.
Stanford’s defense has rebounded quite nicely after a bad 2017, while the offense has maintained its identity by playing at the slowest pace in the country. Trouble is, the Cardinal haven’t moved the ball much on the ground, at least not with any efficiency.
Stanford does get star running back Bryce Love back, but the Ducks have defended the run well — much better than they have defended the pass. They rank top 25 in all rushing advanced metrics, and allowed just 3.47 yards per carry last season, good for 20th in FBS.
I think there’s still some brand association with a powerful Oregon offense, which makes bettors more interested in the over (nearly 56% of bets are on the over, with the majority of money coming in on the under). So this total is just a few points too high.
Look for the Cardinal to slow things down and limit Oregon’s possessions.
PJ Walsh: Kentucky-Mississippi State Under 55.5
7 p.m. ET on ESPN2
I’m going back to the well this week and playing the under in a matchup between two very good rushing teams. Mississippi State and Kentucky rank fifth and 12th, respectively, in rushing yards per game. Whenever two teams that average at least 215 yards on the ground match up, the under is 221-171-7 (56.4%) since 2005.
In addition, both teams sport solid pass defenses, each allowing fewer than 185 yards through the air per game. The good ground games should keep the clock moving, while effective pass defenses can limit big plays.
Mike Johnson: South Carolina-Vanderbilt Under 54.5
4 p.m. ET on SECN
For my Week 4 favorite bet, I’m turning my attention to an interesting SEC East matchup that holds more meaning than most likely anticipated coming into the season.
The South Carolina Gamecocks return to action this weekend after an unintended week off due to Hurricane Florence. They’ll take on a surprisingly feisty Vandy team that has already exceeded most people’s preseason expectations (over/under 4.5 wins).
This game features two possible outcomes to me:
- South Carolina engineers a blowout on fresh legs featuring a speedy, quick-strike offense and an elite set of playmakers.
- Vandy’s defense (tied for sixth in the SEC) shows up hungry for a victory in Nashville against a South Carolina team that looks sluggish after a week off.
In either scenario, I can’t envision these teams combining for 56-plus points.
Brad Senkiw: Florida State-Northern Illinois Under 45
3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Florida State can’t score (15.3 points per game). Neither can Northern Illinois (12.3). It might be first team to 10 wins.
The FSU offensive line can’t possibly get worse than it was in last week’s viral performance against Syracuse, or can it? Huskies defensive end Sutton Smith (3 sacks, 6.5 TFLs) is a bad matchup for the worst front we may have ever seen at the Power 5 level.
The Seminoles’ defense also should have an easier time shutting down a NIU offense that has yet to produce 300 yards in a game than it did last week at Syracuse.