College Football Odds & Picks: 4 Best Bets for Week 4’s Early Games, Featuring SMU vs. TCU & Michigan vs. Maryland
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: The Michigan Wolverines.
Week 4 of the college football season may have started Thursday, but this is when things really take off.
While the Thursday and Friday slates provided plenty of compelling action, Saturdays are made for college football. Our staff wasted no time jumping in on the action, coming through with four best bets for Saturday’s noon games.
It all starts in Ann Arbor, as Michigan hosts Maryland to open Big Ten play. Then, we move to Dallas for the Iron Skillet (or Sonny Dykes Bowl — whatever you want to call it). Finally, we take a trip to the MAC, where Buffalo travels to Eastern Michigan.
Check out all four of our best bets for Week 4’s noon college football games, and look below for our other 12 best bets for Saturday’s afternoon and evening games.
Saturday’s Noon College Football Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
Maryland vs. Michigan
Somehow, someway Michigan made it through the gauntlet of Colorado State, Hawaii and Connecticut unscathed. Now, it faces its first real test of the season as it hosts Maryland to open Big Ten play.
Even with the easy opponents and the top-scoring offense in the country, Michigan’s offense still feels underrated because of how many reps backups have gotten in these blowout games.
J.J. McCarthy will be making his first start against Power Five competition, but he’s passed every test he’s faced this season with flying colors. The sophomore has completed 88% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception.
He’s also surrounded by a bevy of explosive playmakers that includes six different receivers with 30-plus yard catches and running back Blake Corum, who has scored seven times on only 34 carries.
Michigan will be stressed by Maryland’s deep passing attack, led by Taulia Tagovailoa and a ton of receivers, but Michigan is one of three teams in the country that’s allowing fewer than 100 yards passing per game and has eight sacks through three games.
Maryland tends to get fat on lesser opponents and really struggle against the upper crust of Big Ten competition. It lost to Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State and both Michigan schools last year by a combined score of 247-84 (average of 32.6 points).
Michigan has won the last six against the Terps by a combined score of 261-59 (average of 33.7 points).
I see no reason for this trend to stop, as Michigan will dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and win this by close to three touchdowns.
Pick: Michigan -17 (Play to -17.5)
TCU vs. SMU
After opening at +1.5, this number has quickly dropped to as low as -2.5 at most books. It’s for good reason, as TCU was a popular sleeper pick heading into the season after going through massive coach overhauls. Now, it gets an opportunity to put the nation on notice.
The offense should be able to move the ball at will in its new fast-paced Air Raid approach under former SMU head coach Sonny Dykes. SMU brings limited pressure and ranks below average in Havoc, posing little threat to TCU’s downfield progression.
The Horned Frogs defense also went through a massive overhaul, bringing in Joe Gillespie from Tulsa to implement the 3-3-5. After finishing bottom of the barrel in most defensive categories, TCU has now held both opponents to 17 points or less.
TCU will only get better as the season progresses with SMU being in the way before the highly-anticipated showdown against Oklahoma the following week.
Look for TCU to handle SMU with ease after a fraudulent box score against Maryland. I’ll take the Horned Frogs at -2.5 or better.
Pick: TCU -1.5 (Play to -3)
The Iron Skillet becomes the Sonny Dykes Bowl, as the TCU head coach returns to Dallas after leaving SMU for the Horned Frogs job. He knows this Mustang roster inside and out.
TCU started the year mixing freshman Chandler Morris and senior Max Duggan for the quarterback spot. Morris is currently injured, so Duggan has the keys. Honestly, the offense has looked smoother and more comfortable with him anyway. He’s completing 78% of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running the ball is the Horned Frogs’ game, and they get it done by committee. They’re averaging 227.5 rush yards per game and 6.8 yards per carry on the season. TCU ranks eighth in the nation in rushing explosiveness.
Kendre Miller is the main back, but it added Louisiana transfer Emani Bailey this offseason, and wildcat quarterback Sam Jackson is a great gadget player.
Last week against SMU, Maryland ran all over the Mustangs for 225 yards and two scores. Their lead back averaged 9.4 yards per carry with multiple explosive runs.
On the other side, all the Mustangs do is throw the ball. That’s a difficult matchup against a TCU defense that ranks eighth in the country in Defensive Passing Success Rate.
Rashee Rice is a stud for the Mustangs, but he’s really all they have. Last week, he had 19 balls thrown his way, and all other wide receivers and tight ends combined for 20.
TCU has two great cornerbacks who should be able to limit Rice and force other players to make a play.
A lot was made about the hire of defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie from Tulsa. Anybody who watched the Golden Hurricane defense saw a untie that consistently ranked in the top-25 in Havoc. Well, now he’s brought his scheme to Fort Worth.
With Gillespie running the defense, the Frogs rank second in the country in Defensive Havoc. Dylan Horton and this front seven will have plenty of opportunities to pin their ears back and get after SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai.
TCU opened as the underdog but was quickly bet to the favorite. I agree with that line movement. I like the Horned Frogs at -1.5 and would play them to -2.5 to win back the Iron Skillet.
Pick: TCU -1.5 (Play to -2.5)
Buffalo vs. Eastern Michigan
Buffalo enters Week 4 of the season still searching for its first win as it heads to Ypsilanti to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The good news for the Bulls is they’ve had success in recent history against the Eagles. Buffalo has won the last two meetings between the two, including a 43-14 blowout in Ypsilanti back in 2018.
The bad news is I think their win streak comes to an end this year. Eastern Michigan is 2-1 in the season, including an upset over Arizona State last weekend as a 20.5-point underdog.
The Eagles rank 38th in Offensive Finishing Drives, compared to a Buffalo team that sits at 97th in Defensive Finishing Drives. More importantly, the Eagles have yet to enter the red zone this season and not come away with points, going a perfect 13-of-13 through three games.
Buffalo has given up more than 450 yards in every game so far this season, and the only one it led in total yardage came against FCS Holy Cross — leading by seven total yards. The Bulls also currently rank 130th in tackling and 104th in Defensive Success Rate.
Our Action Network projections make the Eagles a 13-point favorite, and I would back them as high as a 7-point favorite.