College Football Odds & Early Bets for Week 4: 3 Picks for Kentucky vs Vanderbilt, James Madison vs Utah State, More
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Kentucky’s Maxwell Hairston (31) and Alex Afari Jr. (3).
Week 3 is in the books, and oh my goodness, what a slate we have in Week 4.
This week will see seven top-25 matchups with Florida State traveling to Clemson, Lane Kiffin returning to play his old boss in Tuscaloosa, Deion Sanders and Colorado traveling for its first massive test in Eugene, UCLA and Utah squaring off in a huge Pac-12 matchup and Oregon State taking on Washington State.
And in the Big Ten, Iowa travels to Happy Valley to face Penn State and Ohio State makes the trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in a top-10 matchup a game that could shape the College Football Playoff picture.
So, yeah — there's a lot.
But now, it's time to refocus. Before we get to all of Saturday's action, there are plenty of bets to be made at their current numbers.
The market clearly moves a lot over the course of the week. Money pours from the time lines open until kickoff on Saturday. Like any other sport, it's paramount to get the best price possible when betting on college football.
For example, a -6.5 favorite could move to -7.5 on Saturday morning, and then you run the risk of that team winning by one of the most likely outcomes — a seven-point victory — and you just lost your bet. It happens every week.
But that mess could have been avoided if the bet was locked in at -6.5 on Monday morning.
I'm here to help you navigate the market by providing a few lines I'm buying right now — or other lines that I'm waiting to buy later in the week.
The hope for this piece is to beat the market, get the best price possible, and in the long run, save you some money with closing line value. To do that, we'll utilize our Action Network PRO projections, ESPN's SP+ and my own projections to create a consensus.
You hear all the time, "Process over results." The best way to know if the process is working is by closing line value (CLV), meaning how many points did you beat the closing line by? Well, I'm here to help you hopefully get the most CLV possible early on in the week so you're sitting in a great position by the time we reach Saturday.
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt Odds
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt Projections
|Kentucky -18.4||Kentucky -18.3||Kentucky -16.0|
Kentucky hasn't really been tested so far this season after playing Ball State, Eastern Kentucky and Akron. However, the Wildcats are humming on all cylinders right now, averaging a whopping 7.9 yards per play on the offensive side of the ball.
Devin Leary transferred in from NC State and has been solid through three games, boasting a 78.4 PFF passing grade and averaging 9.0 yards per attempt. After sitting out most of last season with an injury, he's being relied upon heavily with Kentucky throwing the ball on over 58% of its offensive plays this season.
The good news for Leary is he has a lot of talent and experience around him. Kentucky's top six pass-catchers are back from last season, and 125 starts return on the offensive line.
Star running back Chris Rodriguez has moved on, so Kentucky is now utilizing a more pass-happy attack under offensive coordinator Liam Coen, which will be perfect against a Vanderbilt team that hasn't been able to stop anybody through the air. The Commodores have allowed 8.4 yards per attempt while ranking 92nd in EPA/Pass Allowed and 116th in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
Kentucky ranks fourth in the country in rushing explosiveness through three weeks, averaging 6.0 yards per attempt. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, sits outside the top 70 in every single defensive rushing metric.
Vandy quarterback AJ Swann has put up some solid numbers with 16 big-time throws and an average of 8.3 yards per attempt through four games. The problem is he's only faced one halfway decent secondary in Wake Forest, and he threw two interceptions and recorded a PFF passing grade of just 60.5 in that game.
Swann finished the game against UNLV, but he was clearly banged up, which is not a good sign for Vanderbilt because it has not been able to run the ball at all this season. Against FBS opponents, the Commodores are averaging only 2.7 yards per carry and rank outside the top 100 in Offensive Line Yards and EPA/Rush.
Kentucky's defense is allowing only 3.7 yards per play, which ranks top-five in the country. UK also sits fourth in Finishing Drives Allowed.
All three projection models are showing value on the Wildcats, so I would grab them at -13.5 now before the line moves.
Buffalo vs. Louisiana Odds
Buffalo vs. Louisiana Projections
|Louisiana -15.8||Louisiana -14.8||Louisiana -15.9|
Buffalo got absolutely demolished by Liberty on Saturday after giving up 569 yards of offense and 55 points at home. That came a week after the Bulls lost at home to FCS Fordham and allowed 40 points and over 450 yards of offense.
The problem with Buffalo is it returned only five starters on the defensive side of the ball after already ranking outside the top 100 in Success Rate Allowed and EPA/Play Allowed. Unsurprisingly, it can't stop the run or the pass.
Louisiana has been cooking offensively to begin the season, averaging 6.9 yards per play and boasting an effective ground attack. Granted, the two FBS opponents the Ragin' Cajuns have faced are Old Dominion and UAB, but they're sixth in Rushing Success Rate, third in EPA/Rush and are averaging 6.1 yards per attempt.
Buffalo is allowing the most yards per attempt in college football at 7.4, so Louisiana should be able to control this game on the ground.
Despite putting up 27 points on the board against Liberty, it was a pretty lackluster showing for the Bulls. Buffalo averaged just 4.4 yards per play despite running 81 plays. The Bulls have played three games against Wisconsin, Fordham and Liberty and rank outside the top 100 in Success Rate, EPA/Play and explosiveness.
This is Cole Snyder's second year as the starting quarterback for Buffalo, and he struggled last season with a 59.7 PFF passing grade and 17 big-time throws compared to 28 turnover-worthy plays. He had decent games against Wisconsin and Fordham but really struggled against Liberty, putting up a PFF passing grade of 64.7 while averaging just 5.4 yards per attempt.
Louisiana returned only three starters on defense, but it has reloaded nicely thus far. That's especially true against the pass, as the Ragin' Cajuns rank inside the top 35 in Passing Success Rate Allowed and EPA/Pass Allowed.
As you can see above, all three projection models have Louisiana projected north of -14, so I'd grab it at -10 now.
Pick: Louisiana -10
James Madison vs. Utah State Odds
James Madison vs. Utah State Projections
|James Madison -7.0||James Madison -13.2||James Madison -10.0|
James Madison picked up a really impressive road win at Troy in a defensive slugfest Saturday.
The Dukes completely shut down Troy's rushing attack with the Trojans racking up a grand total of -12 rushing yards on 19 carries.
JMU's front seven remains stacked after proving to be stout against the run last season. The Dukes return five starters in the front seven, including their top three tacklers from a season ago.
Playing solid run defense will be a major key against a Utah State team that's averaging just over six yards per carry this season.
However, a lot of the Aggies' rushing success came against Idaho State in Week 2, when they ran for 380 yards and 9.3 yards per carry. In fact, they averaged only 2.1 yards per carry against Air Force, so even though they're 10th in EPA/Rush, I have a hard time seeing how they're going to consistently run the ball against one of the better front sevens in the Group of Five.
Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas has really struggled through three games — so much so that head coach Blake Anderson benched him on Friday night in favor of McCae Hillstead.
Hillstead actually played really well, throwing for three touchdowns and 7.5 yards per attempt against the Air Force secondary.
It's an extremely small sample size, so take it with a grain of salt. And as you'd imagine with a true freshman quarterback, he struggled when facing pressure.
Image via PFF.
Utah State also has one of the least experienced offensive lines in the country, so going up against a James Madison's front seven that has a top-40 pass-rushing grade won't be a good matchup for the Aggies.
On the other side, new JMU quarterback Jordan McCloud was really effective in his last game against Troy — even if the Dukes scored only 16 points. McCloud has an 86.6 PFF passing grade with three big-time throws despite attempting only 25 passes.
The Dukes haven't graded out well in a lot of offensive metrics, but they'll be facing a Utah State defense that ranks 126th in Success Rate Allowed and 120th in Finishing Drives Allowed through three games.
All three projection models are showing value on the Dukes, so I would grab them at -5.5 now.
Pick: James Madison -5.5