Saturday College Football Best Bets: Our Staff’s Top 12 Picks for Week 4
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Oregon Ducks.
Three full college football weeks are complete, but the jury is still out on many teams. Whether it’s the level of competition for some squads, the small early-season sample size or programs breaking in new coaches, coordinators or players, it may be tough to seize certain moments from a betting perspective.
Nonetheless, College Football Week 4 is here, and we know a lot more about teams now than we did on opening weekend. That only means one thing: more comfortable chances to pad the wallet.
Our experts have you covered for the entire Week 4 slate, as they provide previews of some of the top games of the day and also offer up their best bets for each showdown.
Use the table below to navigate between the afternoon, midday and evening kickoffs windows throughout the entire Saturday slate.
Check out our Saturday College Football Best Bets for Each Kickoff Window:
Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 4
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for Week 4.
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick 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.
No. 2 Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
Everything points to a run-heavy approach for Georgia, which is laying 35.5 points on the road at Vanderbilt.
Head coach Kirby Smart earlier this week acknowledged the passing game’s well ahead of the rushing attack. The least likely scenario would be chucking the ball all over the yard and complicating the playbook with meaningful games against Arkansas and Auburn on deck.
The Bulldogs have a plethora of talented backs who have yet to get going this season. The best remedy is a Vanderbilt club that’s allowing the second-most yards per carry (6.8) among Power Five defenses this season.
Although Daniels has gone over this total in four of his six career starts at Georgia, this is far and away the most meaningless. Backup Stetson Bennett should see action as early as the third quarter.
Pick: J.T. Daniels under 295.5 pass yds
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin
By Alex Hinton
Despite having one of the best running backs in the country in Kyren Williams, Notre Dame has been unable to get anything going on the ground this season. The Fighting Irish rank 124th in Rushing Success Rate and 122nd in Line Yards.
Part of the issues stem from a rebuilt offensive line that replaced four starters from last season and is without starting left Blake Fisher for the foreseeable future with a knee injury.
The Fighting Irish also rank 116th in Havoc allowed and 92nd in Finishing Drives.
Notre Dame will be going against a Wisconsin defense that is allowing 33 rushing yards per game, which ranks first in the country. The Badgers defense is also second in Rushing Success Rate, 24th in Havoc, 12th in Line Yards, 11th in big play percentage, and seventh in Finishing Drives.
Expect the Badgers defense to make things difficult on the Notre Dame offense, including old buddy quarterback Jack Coan.
Conversely, the Badgers have shown an inability to put the ball in the end zone, ranking 124th in Finishing Drives. Sure, the Badgers have only played two games so far and one of them was against Penn State, which has an excellent defense.
However, this is a problem that dates back to last season. In 2020, the Badgers averaged 25.1 PPG for the year but just 6.7 in its three losses.
New defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman has been under fire from Notre Dame fans so far, but his unit ranks 17th in Rushing Success Rate and 19th in tackling. Both of those will be key against a Wisconsin team that everyone knows wants to pound the rock.
The Badgers lack explosiveness on offense, ranking 120th in big play percentage and 110th in plays per minute.
The Badgers’ slow pace, along with all the other factors, should contribute to a low-scoring and physical battle. It would not surprise me if neither team scored 20 points.
Pick: Under 45.5 (-114)
Miami (OH) vs. Army
Two weeks ago, I played Army -6.5 against Western Kentucky, and it covered nearly the whole game until the final second. Pain.
This week, I’m taking it to cover by a touchdown again. Will lightning strike twice and burn me again? Not this time.
Army’s offense is pretty simple. It runs the ball, and it runs it well.
Quarterback Christian Anderson has only 10 passing attempts total in three games so far. With nearly four times more rushing attempts than passing attempts, Anderson has 195 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on 43 carries going into this game.
Running the triple option, Army has a stack of talent in the backfield that can continuously burn teams as the game goes on. The trio of Tyrell Robinson, Anthony Adkins, and Jakobi Buchanan all have 100 rushing yards and over two touchdowns apiece.
You would think going against a team so heavily focused on one scheme on offense would be easy to plan for. Well, good luck with that Miami (OH). This is going to be a long day for your defense.
Going into this game, the RedHawk defense ranks 108th in Def. Line Yards, 115th in Def. Rush Success, and 129th in Def. Finishing Drives — near the bottom of the barrel in all categories that the Army offense looks to exploit.
My thought process is simple going into this game. Almost too simple. Army is going to do what it’s done all season and run the ball down Miami’s throat. Miami has not been able to stop a nosebleed all season.
The cherry on top is that if Army can get past the 40, it will put up points. Just like the rush defense, the RedHawks have not been able to stop opposing offenses past the 40.
As long as the Black Knight defense can get some stops, then this will be a run-heavy cover for us. I’d play this at -7 or better.
Pick: Army -7
Texas Tech vs. Texas
Texas Tech (3-0) will travel to Austin to face Texas (2-1) as it opens Big 12 play. This game will be nationally televised and an early affair for the two teams, kicking off at 11 a.m. local time.
The Red Raiders have been off to an excellent start this season, notching victories over Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Florida International. Texas Tech outscored opponents, 40.0-21.3. This ranks 26th in FBS scoring offense and 58th in FBS scoring defense.
Defense has been where Texas Tech has stood out early this season. It’s giving up only 290.3 yards per game this season, which ranks 29th in FBS total defense.
The Red Raiders’ five interceptions this season lead the Big 12 and ranks in the top 10 nationally. The defensive unit has been creating Havoc all season, ranking seventh in FBS through three games.
Sophomore running back Tahj Brooks has been enjoying an excellent start to the season, rushing for 284 yards on 35 carries and four touchdowns. Brooks has been keen on the big play, already amassing three runs of over 40 yards this season.
Junior quarterback Tyler Shough has also impressed this season, throwing for 804 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. The Oregon transfer has a passer rating of 170.79 and has been meshing well with his new team.
This will clearly be Texas Tech’s stiffest test this season, but it’s have shown it has what it takes to be a competitive team this season. When considering the five factors, the Red Raiders rank higher than the Longhorns in every metric except explosiveness.
I project this game as a pick‘em. Take the points.
Pick: Texas Tech +9.5 Risk: 2 units.
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas
After being so wrong fading Arkansas last week, I took an ample amount of time this week to dig into the Hogs.
And I came away thoroughly impressed with the job Sam Pittman has done, particularly with both the offensive and defensive lines, which I think is the biggest difference with Arkansas this year.
Arkansas now finally has adequate bulk in the interior of the defensive line of its three-man front.
The addition of big man John Ridgeway (transfer from Illinois State) has done wonders for this defense, which already had an abundance of talent on the back end (Grant Morgan, Jalen Catalon to name two) of a very well-schooled 3-3-5 defense.
This defense is legit and one of the most underrated units in all of college football. I think it can really confuse freshman Zach Calzada, who hasn’t been that impressive against inferior competition so far this year.
He only has a 51% completion rate with more turnover worthy throws than big time throws against New Mexico and in limited duty against Kent State and Colorado. Against those teams, Texas A&M actually ranks below the national average overall in EPA per play.
It also doesn’t help that the offensive line (which ranks 90th in OL efficiency, per PFF) has been subpar after having to replace four starters from last year. It’s a unit that has dealt with some injuries and is still moving some pieces around to find the right fit. True freshman center Bryce Foster, in particular, is really struggling.
Additionally, the wide receiver unit will be missing Caleb Chapman and could be without top wideout Ainias Smith, who does so many different things for the Aggies.
In contrast, there have been absolutely no issues with the Texas A&M defense, which has been dominant to date, allowing only 17 points combined in its first three contests.
I expect this veteran unit to bottle up an Arkansas offense that is also dealing with a few injuries along the offensive line and skill positions.
From a game script perspective, I expect Jimbo Fisher to lean on his running game and short throws within a conservative game plan that protects his young quarterback and leans on his outstanding defense.
I also don’t expect either team to play fast, which certainly helps the under. I know it’s on a fast track with a lot of playmakers on the field, but I think both defenses rule the day against two conservative offensive game plans.
Give me the full game and first-half unders.
Pick: Under 47 · 1H Under 23.5
No. 14 Iowa State vs. Baylor
Iowa State has been no stranger to a disappointing early nonconference loss in Matt Campbell’s tenure in Ames. In fact, from 2017-20, the Cyclones dropped at least one nonconference game in September in each season.
Every single time that has happened, Matt Campbell’s groups have bounced back with a very strong start to conference play.
I have zero concern that this Iowa State team has lost its fight after the brutal loss to Iowa. This is a mature team that knows that a Big 12 title is still in front of it.
Led by star linebacker Mike Rose, the Cyclone defense has lived up to its billing thus far. They have largely dominated opposing offenses, and I don’t see that changing this week against Baylor.
The Bears have put up some lofty offensive numbers in their first three games of the season, but it has come against one of the weakest schedules of any team in the country.
Quarterback Gerry Bohannon will be in for a rude awakening when he takes on this Cyclone defense on Saturday afternoon.
Expect Brock Purdy and the Iowa State offense to finally get some momentum going after a very sluggish start to the year. The Cyclones will be playing angry after another loss to the Hawkeyes, and they are the superior unit on both sides of the ball. Iowa State by double digits in Waco.
Pick: Iowa State -7
Kent State vs. Maryland
This Maryland offense has improved leap and bounds from what we saw in 2020. It’s averaging 14 more points per game than last year, thanks to the improvement of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.
After ranking 102nd in Offensive Points Per Drive and nearly dead last in Finishing Drives last year, the Terrapins have found their groove this season to average 37 points per game.
Tagovailoa has completed 75% of his passes and thrown seven touchdowns to zero interceptions. He will be able to pick apart a Kent State defense that hasn’t shown the ability to generate any pass rush this season.
The defense ranks 104th in Rushing Success and 92nd in Pass Success. Maryland will have its way against this unit that allowed 38 points per game last season.
Offensively, Kent State plays with a “Flash Fast” tempo that ranks ninth in plays per minute.
Quarterback Dustin Crum averaged 10.5 yards per pass attempt and over 300 passing yards per game last year. He’s seen a bit of a decline in 2021 since he’s matched up against defenses such as Iowa and Texas A&M. This matchup is a strong opportunity for Crum to return to his 2020 form.
All the opponents these two programs have matched up with have wanted to play slow-paced games.
That won’t be the case in this matchup, where the offenses will be playing up-tempo with many scoring opportunities.
Pick: Over 69.5
No. 24 UCLA vs. Stanford
By Doug Ziefel
This is a spot in which we get to capitalize on two major things: market overreaction and injuries.
The Bruins are coming off a stunning upset at the hands of Fresno State. The upset was certainly no fluke, as Jake Haener torched the Bruins for 455 yards.
Though, what has gotten overshadowed is another ultra-efficient performance by the Bruins offense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson averaged over 11 yards per completion and chipped in 67 yards rushing.
The Bruins showed why they rank sixth in the nation in red-zone efficiency, as they scored five touchdowns while possessing the ball for only 19 minutes.
The second major factor in this game is the pile of injuries the Cardinal have coming into it. They are going to be missing three running backs, including lead back Austin Jones. An offense that ranks 107th in yards per play and 122nd in rushing yards is without its best weapon.
Then, on the defensive side of the ball, one of their leading tacklers in safety Noah Williams has been ruled out. Joining him are starting cornerbacks Ethan Bonner and Zahran Manley.
The Cardinal defense, which ranks 116th in yards per play, will have a depleted secondary to contest against an improving DTR.
This line holds tremendous value at 4.5. Our PRO Projections make this a 7-point game, and with the number of injuries on the Stanford sideline, the Bruins are capable of winning this by double digits.
Pick: UCLA -4
By Shawn Burns
The Bruins and Cardinals face off in a matchup that could go a long way in deciding who participates in the Pac-12 Championship game in December.
Stanford has had UCLA’s number, winning 12 out of the past 13 games between the rivals.
UCLA suffered its first loss to Fresno State last week. The Bruins were double-digit favorites, but anyone who has watched Fresno State this season knew this would be a competitive game.
The strength of UCLA is its elite rushing attack that averages 194 yards per game and over five yards per carry. Overall, the Bruins average 40 points per game and 6.9 yards per play.
Since Tanner McKee was named the starting quarterback for the Cardinal, Stanford has been a different team with impressive wins over USC and Vanderbilt. The offense has taken off with McKee under center as Stanford has scored over 40 points the past two games.
The Cardinal are dealing with multiple injuries at the running back position, so expect even more pass attempts for McKee, who has seven total touchdowns and zero interceptions this season. UCLA can strike quickly, and Stanford will need to throw the ball to keep up.
Both teams seem to have the upper hand in what they would like to do offensively.
Stanford will need to throw the ball, while UCLA has been poor against the pass. The Bruins want to run the ball, and Stanford has struggled against the run.
Last season’s game saw a combined 95 points scored, and this has the makings of another high-scoring affair.
Pick: Over 58.5
Buffalo vs. Old Dominion
The Buffalo Bulls enter the weekend ranked No. 1 in the country in Success Rate on offense. They run the ball great with a committee of Kevin Marks, Dylan McDuffie and Ron Cook Jr., who all are averaging over four yards per carry.
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease is in his sixth season in Buffalo and continues to be as efficient as they come. He is never asked to do too much but has completed 60% of his passes for 7.3 yards per attempt in his career.
Buffalo sits third in Passing Success Rate this year and will have no problem moving the ball on Old Dominion.
The Monarchs opted out of the 2020 and had one of the worst offenses in the country the year before.
I like new head coach Ricky Rahne a lot, but this is still a team in transition. It flexed on Hampton two weeks ago but managed just 201 total yards of offense last week against Liberty.
Old Dominion’s offense line gives up a ton of pressure, and Taylor Riggins and this Buffalo front seven will create Havoc all day. DJ Mack has struggled at quarterback, and the Bulls defense is second in the country in Passing Success rate this year.
Don’t expect Old Dominion to be able to move the ball on Buffalo’s defense. But the Bulls offense continues to have success with its balanced and efficient attack. This one could be a blowout.
Pick: Buffalo -13.5
Indiana vs. Western Kentucky
The Houston Baptist offensive migration to Bowling Green is working, and it’s working well. Western Kentucky currently leads the nation in passing yards while ranking sixth in yards per play and fourth in points.
Meanwhile, after coming off a disappointing loss to Cincinnati, the Hoosiers defense is outside the top 50 in every ranking except passing yards allowed, which they rank 31st.
Saturday night is expected to be the biggest crowd at Houchens Industries-LT Smith Stadium since Western played Vanderbilt in 2016, a game Western lost in overtime, 31-30.
I am hesitant to bet the spread or the total, as Indiana has played some tough competition against Iowa and Cincinnati.
This will be Western’s first game against a Power Five opponent this year, but I have no doubt that this offense and Bailey Zappe will be able to put up points against Indiana.
Through three games, the Hoosiers have limited only Idaho to fewer than 30 points, The Hilltoppers have scored at least 30 in both of their games so far.
I can see this game quickly becoming a shootout, and I would bet the Western team total up to 28 (-110).
Zappe Hour starts at 8 p.m. Don’t be late.
Pick: Western Kentucky Team Total Over 26.5 (-122)
Arizona vs. No. 3 Oregon
It’s always the right time to fade the worst Power Five program in the nation. Arizona is two years away from being bad — that’s how much work this roster needs.
The Wildcats just lost to Northern Arizona for the first time in program history and haven’t cracked 20 points this season.
Oregon, meanwhile, is playing its best football since the Mariota era and has the kind of depth to keep scoring in the second half when it turns to their second- and third-stringers.
Ty Thompson, Oregon’s backup quarterback, is going to get a lot of work in this game. The 2020-21 Arizona Gatorade Football Player of the Year, just lit up Stony Brook in mop-up duty with two touchdown passes on just nine attempts. Expect more of that in the second half.
Arizona will be lucky to survive this matchup due to its patchy offensive line. It’s allowed 10 sacks in three games (113th) and 27 TFLs (121st).
Oregon is primed to take advantage of that and could be welcoming back future NFL millionaire Kayvon Thibodeaux. According to beat reporters out in Eugene, the Ducks’ superstar edge rusher is “really close” to being back.
In this series, Arizona has been a real pest when the teams meet up in Tucson, winning three of the last five outright in the desert. This includes ruining Oregon’s title chances in ‘07 and ‘13.
But when the series moves up north, Oregon has dominated, with victory margins of 28, 20, 49 and 19 in their last four victories over the Wildcats at Autzen. It covered all four numbers in those spots, and it will run away with this on Saturday night.