Week 4 College Football Odds, Picks: Collin Wilson’s Saturday Betting Card, Including Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 25)
Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images. Pictured: Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Tyree Johnson (3).
- Saturday's college football slate is upon us, and Collin Wilson is ready.
- He's betting three of the biggest games on Saturday's slate, including Texas A&M vs. Arkansas and Clemson vs. NC State.
- Check out all three of his full breakdowns with picks and predictions below.
The Saturday college football slate for Week 4 may not be loaded with must-watch action for casual fans, but it features plenty of intriguing matchups for investors.
Many of Saturday’s college football lines were originally set months ago as “Game of the Year” odds were released.
That was the case with Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (noon ET) at Soldier Field, for example. I initially scooped the “Jack Coan Revenge Game” line at Wisconsin -3.5 in May; now, it can be found at -6.5 — still short of the key number of 7.
Then at 3:30 p.m. ET, the Hogs of Arkansas take on Texas A&M in an old Southwest rivalry that favors the offense loaded with explosive playmakers.
Kicking off at the same time (3:30 p.m. ET), Clemson will try to rev up its offensive production against a quality NC State team. Meanwhile, the home underdog Wolfpack will attempt to prove it can hang with quality competition after suffering a loss to Mississippi State in Week 2.
Check out all three games I’m betting below, and don’t forget to follow me in the Action Network app ahead of game day.
My Week 4 College Football Betting Card
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific game on my Week 4 college football betting card.
Specific bet recommendations come via 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.
Photos via Getty Images.
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin
Back in May, the first Game of the Year numbers were posted, and Notre Dame and Wisconsin in Week 4 became my first selection off the board.
Fast forward to this past weekend, the opening betting odds for this game were near the Game of the Year number of Wisconsin -3.5. Heavy betting action in favor of the Badgers has sent this number near a touchdown, leaving early Wisconsin investors the option to buy out or let it ride.
Notre Dame has had the luck of the Irish thus far in the season, surviving an overtime in Tallahassee followed by a come-from-behind field goal victory over Toledo.
Despite having the lesser Success Rate, Notre Dame covered against Purdue thanks in part to two turnovers by the Boilermakers. Wisconsin will be fresh off two weeks of rest after a heavyweight knockout loss against Penn State and a thrashing of Eastern Michigan.
The sample-set is limited for the Badgers, but early wagers have been all “On, Wisconsin!”
Jack Coan’s Redemption
With the Ian Book clock expiring, Notre Dame was in the market for a new quarterback.
Jack Coan had been under center for Wisconsin since the 2017 season, leading the Badgers to a blowout victory over Miami in the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl.
Head coach Paul Chryst favored freshman Graham Mertz to be the starting quarterback, giving Coan the chance to talk with other teams through the transfer portal.
After Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal, Coan officially made his way to South Bend.
The super senior threw a game free of turnover-worthy plays against Purdue, logging four big-time throws despite four drops by receiving targets.
Coan has been under constant harassment with 15 sacks and 42 pressured dropbacks in 118 attempts. Mobility has always been a concern with Coan behind any offensive line, and Notre Dame’s rank of 116th in Havoc Allowed and 122nd in Line Yards points out the struggles for the Irish offense.
Despite heavy blitz from opposing teams, Coan has yet to record a turnover-worthy play in pressured dropbacks.
Until head coach Brian Kelly is ready to field a highly-touted freshman under center, Coan will continue to play game manager despite a 7-of-22 mark on passes over 20 yards.
Kyle Hamilton: Best Safety in College Football?
Notre Dame has arguably the best safety in college football.
Hamilton changes the game plan for opposing offenses and supports Notre Dame’s top-35 ranks in Defensive Havoc and in coverage.
Mertz has played it safe through two games against the Nittany Lions and Eagles.
The Wisconsin quarterback has thrown 23 passes between zero and nine yards between the hash marks compared to 29 attempts to all other zones on the field.
Notre Dame’s pass coverage in short-yardage situations between the tackles is paramount to the Irish’s success.
Although Notre Dame has run a 4-3 scheme with new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, expect Hamilton to be involved in every single play.
Explosiveness Eludes Wisconsin Offense
In a two-game sample set, Wisconsin is one of the worst offensive explosiveness teams in the country, recording just three plays over 20 yards.
Isaac Guerendo and Chez Mellusi each had plays of 60 yards on the ground against Eastern Michigan, but the passing game failed to record a single 20-yard pass against one of the worst secondaries in the MAC.
ROCKET MAAAAN 🧑🚀
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 16, 2021
The highlights on the ground give the impression that the Badgers running back unit is back to the days of Jonathan Taylor or Montee Ball.
However, Guerendo and Mellusi average fewer than 2.8 yards after contact, and no Wisconsin running back has created more than six missed tackles.
This is a highly successful ground unit with a 59% Success Rate in standard downs and a Stuff Rate well below the national average. Still, the Badgers have recorded just two explosive drives in 24 offensive possessions.
Stuff Rate Specialists
Wisconsin is sure to have rushing attempts in standard downs snuffed out on the defensive side of that ball against Notre Dame. The Badgers rank second in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 12th in Line Yards.
In 32 opponent rushing attempts, Wisconsin has stuffed more than half and allowed just one run to go past 12 yards. Notre Dame is 124th in Offensive Rushing Success Rate, which spells trouble for Irish running back Kyren Williams.
Notre Dame will be forced into passing downs ahead of schedule, allowing an opportunistic defense to create turnovers. The Badgers were the best defense in the nation at stopping explosive plays in 2020. This season has been more of the same.
Wisconsin stands top-25 in Defensive Havoc but has really shined when opponents are in scoring range. After games against Eastern Michigan and Penn State, the Badgers have allowed 1.8 points per opponent drives past the 40-yard line.
Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin Pick
While the spread has been hammered in the market by investors grabbing a line on the Badgers, the key number of seven is where Notre Dame is expected to see buy-back.
Notre Dame struggles offensively to keep drives on the move and converted into points, evidenced by a Finishing Drives mark of 92nd in the country. Coan deserves credit for a constant attack in a crowded pocket, but sustaining drives will continue to be an issue for the Irish.
As for Wisconsin, asking an offense that is in the bottom 10 in offensive explosiveness with a Finishing Drives rank of 124th to cover a spread of a touchdown may be too much without an assist from a chaos-minded defense.
The Badgers will move the chains, and with a tempo rank of 110th in FBS, there will be plenty of opportunity for the sold-out Soldier Field crowd to grab an Old Style beverage and not miss a score.
With our Action Network projection at Wisconsin -4.5, the side is a no-play with the consideration to Notre Dame at a flat +7.
With both offenses running slow tempo without explosiveness and both defenses ranking top-25 in Havoc, there is every reason to think there will be numerous drives ending in a punt.
With an Action Network totals projection at 45, there could be some value in letting these teams try to establish the run through the first half.
The Wisconsin defense will limit all explosive plays from Notre Dame, while the Irish will have Hamilton patrol the hash marks, where Mertz is most comfortable.
Without a running back generating yards after contact on both sides, the first-half under is the play.
Pick: First Half under 23
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas
The best of the Southwest Conference rivalries continues in Week 4 as Texas A&M and Arkansas continue their series at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Arkansas, which has already notched victories over Texas and Rice, is looking to win its first game in this series since the Aggies became a member of the SEC in 2012.
The Hogs are one of the few teams to elude opposing wagers, with a 3-0 record straight up and against the spread and every contest going over the game total.
Jimbo Fisher returned his most explosive weapons at the skill positions in his tenure as the head coach of the Aggies. Isaiah Spiller is one of the best running backs in the nation, averaging 4.6 yards after contact while creating 17 missed tackles through three games.
The quarterback transition from an injured Haynes King to Zach Calzada has been encouraging. With a 12% drop rate, Calzada has had more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws.
Considering Texas A&M has not allowed an explosive drive this season, the Razorbacks present a true test with KJ Jefferson and Treylon Burks.
The injury to King thrust Calzada into starting duties after losing a lengthy training camp position battle at quarterback. In his game against Colorado, the freshman threw for fewer than 200 yards on 38 attempts with an adjusted completion mark of 59%.
Those numbers greatly improved to 71% with an NFL rating over 100 against New Mexico. The hidden advantage may be the 3-3-5 defensive scheme presented by the Lobos, which gave Calzada plenty of experience.
Defensive coordinator Barry Odom rotates out of a 3-3-5 set to a 3-2-6 on multiple occasions but sends one of the lowest pressure rates at just 9%.
Arkansas is one of the leaders in limiting opponent explosiveness, ranking third in defensive big play and eighth in Defensive Passing Success Rate.
The Achilles heel for the Aggies is Finishing Drives, as they own a rank outside the top 100. Texas A&M scores a point fewer than the national average on drives that cross the 40-yard line.
The percentage of play-action and screen plays has taken a step back through nonconference play, perhaps by design with the offensive line shuffling players through each position.
Texas A&M ranks best in the country in both scoring and passing defense. The opposing offenses of Kent State, Colorado and New Mexico are not exactly at the level of tempo and physicality of an SEC offense, but the Aggies are top-10 in numerous categories that determine against-the-spread winners.
Texas A&M is top-20 in the nation in defensive Havoc, Finishing Drives, coverage and stopping explosive plays.
Leon O’Neal stepped up and made his second interception of the game.
Credit his teammates for clearing the path to the end zone https://t.co/Bvw2U1BaNj
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 5, 2021
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko is one of the best in the nation, presenting variations of the 4-2-5 scheme. The Aggies use heavy pressure against offensive schemes lined up in 11 formation, sending blitz on 35% of snaps with one tight end and one running back.
Considering that Arkansas runs 11 on 87% of its snaps, the pressure dropbacks for KJ Jefferson become the handicap on this side of the ball. The numbers do not show success for the Arkansas quarterback, as he completed just two passes on 13 pressured dropbacks this season.
In 31 dropbacks against a blitz, Jefferson has managed an NFL passer rating 40 points lower than in attempts with a clean pocket. Expect edge Micheal Clemons, Donell Harris Jr. and DeMarvin Leal to keep Jefferson in the pocket.
Digging for information on the Razorback injury status can be futile, but there are warning signs coming out of Fayetteville for the offense.
There are more notable injuries, including some of the most productive players at the skill positions.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 18, 2021
Burks was in a walking boot leading up to the season opener against Rice. The rust came off for the future NFL Draft pick in the Georgia Southern game, but he was spotted with the boot back on earlier this week while tending to his NIL responsibilities.
Trelon Smith was the Razorbacks’ most explosive weapon in the backfield, but he is dealing with injuries to his shoulder and toe.
Arkansas is top-20 in explosive plays, but the lion’s share of those plays come from an offense that runs a rushing play on 68% of snaps.
Calzada leads a Texas A&M offense that is top-20 in big play percentage, but the biggest challenge for the Razorback defense is containing Jalen Wydermyer. The tight end leads the Aggies in third-down targets and is just one shy in the targets department lead for passes over 20 yards.
Wydermyer’s most productive game in 2020 came against Arkansas, as he averaged 15 yards a catch and posted two touchdowns.
Linebacker Bumper Pool and defensive back Jalen Catalon are top-25 tacklers nationally, but Texas A&M poses a much bigger challenge than just Wydermyer.
Pittman was very forward in his press conferences leading up to Texas and Georgia Southern. The second-year coach was adamant about taking away the best weapons from those offenses, primarily Bijan Robinson for the Longhorns and Justin Tomlin for Georgia Southern.
The Arkansas defense was highly successful, but now a half-dozen explosive players are on the field for the Aggies.
Spiller and Devon Achane have generated seven runs over 15 yards, while Ainias Smith and Chase Lane have generated 14 first downs from the slot and wideout positions.
Meanwhile, home run hitter Demond Demas has been targeted just six times with an average depth of target at 21 yards. This is the first explosive offense that will face an Arkansas defense ranked 42nd in coverage.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas Pick
The injury to King was considered a setback for the Aggies, but Calzada was always the quarterback with the bigger arm. The sophomore has a cannon to get behind a Razorback defense that prides itself on not allowing the explosive play, but it’s the play action and screen attempts that will set up deep shots later in the game.
Odom has been successful in coaching the Razorbacks to take away the opposing offense’s best weapon, but the Aggies present multiple explosive players.
Arkansas opponents have logged a 51% Success Rate in standard downs, above the national average of 47%. Texas A&M runs one of the slowest offensive paces in the nation while boasting one of the best methodical drive rates, a measurement of possessions with at least 10 plays.
The Aggies must improve in points per possession past the 40-yard line, as they average just 2.7 points in scoring position. Arkansas has allowed six scores on eight opponent red-zone attempts.
The highly-talented Arkansas offense is where investors should focus. Stromberg is one of the best offensive linemen in the country in clearing “A” gaps and calling protection for Jefferson in passing attempts.
There are other options at running back but none with Smith’s productivity, as there’s a dip in yards after contact and created missed tackles.
Dominique Johnson and Raheim Sanders have picked up the slack, but the health of Stromberg and tackle Dalton Wagner are paramount to the success of the Arkansas offense.
The Action Network projected total of 48.5 is spot on with the market, as these teams are outside the top 70 in pace, with Texas A&M’s troubling Finishing Drives rank dictating a minimal number of points scored.
The Aggies defense excels at limiting explosive plays, creating chaos and stopping drives that reach the red zone.
Our focus is on the spread, with a projection of Texas A&M to win by a touchdown with Arkansas at full strength. Losing key pieces of the offensive line with two explosive players limited to injury will put this game on the quarterback.
Jefferson is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation on the ground, but each attempt in a passing down with a crowded pocket puts the Razorbacks at risk of a turnover.
Look for the A&M offense to start slow with play-action and screens, but eventually, Calzada will take deep shots. Without a healthy offensive line, this could be the 10th consecutive loss for Arkansas in this series.
Pick: Texas A&M -5 or better
No. 9 Clemson vs. NC State
When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney stated at his press conference, “I can assure you we don’t stink; we’re going to be alright,” he was referring to his offense that struggled out of the gate.
A rank outside the top 75 in numerous categories from explosiveness to Finishing Drives has the fanbase in a frenzy. The Tigers scored zero touchdowns against Georgia and just two against Georgia Tech, both on the ground by running back Will Shipley.
Thankfully for Tigers fans, the Clemson defense has been the saving grace by not allowing any opponent an offensive touchdown through three games.
NC State presents a stiff test for the Tigers, entering the season with one of the highest marks in TARP. The blemish of the season came at Mississippi State two weeks ago with a kickoff return touchdown and three offensive turnovers.
The Bulldogs exited the game with an 83% postgame win expectancy, but it does nothing to deter investors from a talented and experienced Wolfpack squad.
The betting odds are in complete contrast from Clemson’s season, with the Tigers favored by double digits.
Establishing the Run
The Clemson running back room stayed patient through years of Travis Etienne listed at the top of the depth chart. No player was as patient as Lyn-J Dixon, the upperclassman who flashed elusiveness and averaged 4.0 yards after contact last season.
Clemson has generated a 57% Success Rate in rushing attempts and has been stuffed 6% less than the national average.
The biggest issue for Clemson is a lack of big play, as the team posted just two explosive drives in 35 offensive possessions this season.
DJ Uiagalelei throws a bullet to Joe Ngata on the WR screen. Too hard and too high. The ball is intercepted. More examples of lack of touch. All goes back to him finding his rhythm and confidence. And learning when to be Maddux vs Smoltz. @radioguyhouston pic.twitter.com/f6mpihrL8e
— Morgan Thomas (@TheMorganTShow) September 15, 2021
Conflict in the Passing Game
There have been two separate issues in the passing game that have plagued Clemson through the first quarter of the season.
First, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has not had rhythm with any of his wide receivers.
Justyn Ross has been targeted 21 times this season, more than any other player for Clemson. Growing pains should be expected after Ross returned from a neck injury that eliminated his 2020 season and limited his August training camp.
Second in targets is Joseph Ngata, who received just 10 targets total last season. Uiagalelei and Ngata connected just once in the Notre Dame game last season.
The second issue is the offensive line in pass protection. Clemson ranks 93rd in Havoc Allowed and 65th in pass blocking, per PFF. More than half of the Tigers’ dropbacks have had a pressured pocket, resulting in a 28% drop in Uiagalelei’s adjusted completion percentage.
Of all FBS offensive linemen to record at least 150 snaps, Clemson fields three players in the bottom 200 in pass blocking in Will Putnam, Walker Parks and Marcus Tate. The biggest reason for the blip in pass protection is communication, as the offensive line personnel feels confident heading into the NC State game.
Offensive Execution and Turnovers
NC State head coach Dave Doeren took full credit for the road loss to Mississippi State, but multiple turnovers and poor red-zone execution were the main culprits.
While the Wolfpack are one of the more experienced teams in the country, they rank outside the top 80 in big play percentage and hover around the national average in passing downs Success Rate.
A deeper dive into the numbers shows that Devin Leary has been fantastic this season, producing 11 big-time throws vs. two turnover-worthy plays.
A few pass plays from the Furman contest.
This was my favorite throw of the night from Devin Leary. Thayer Thomas runs the bender in 4 verts versus a split safety look. Timing and anticipation of this throw is critical as Thayer works across multiple windows. pic.twitter.com/6m5N8hj25C
— Phillip Danford (@PDanford21) September 22, 2021
The rushing attack has yet to establish any dominance before the biggest test of the season against the Clemson defensive front.
NC State will split carries between Ricky Person Jr. and Zonovan Knight. The Wolfpack duo has combined to create 29 missed tackles, with Knight generating three times as many explosive runs.
The Wolfpack ranks 14th in Line Yards with an offensive line that rotates up to eight different players. The Clemson defense has the top ranking in FBS at Finishing Drives, shutting down possessions that cross the 40.
NC State has scored 10 touchdowns on 14 red-zone trips, making this the key factor in determining how many points the home underdog will put on the board.
Exposing the Clemson Offensive Line
NC State has one of the best defenses in the ACC outside of Clemson, and there are plenty of numbers to suggest that the Tigers’ offensive struggles will continue.
The Wolfpack rank 15th in tackling, which coincides with a defensive big play rate in the top 30.
As Clemson is the best defense in the country in Finishing Drives, NC State isn’t far behind — the Wolfpack rank seventh in the country.
If there is an advocate for the under, consider the following: Clemson allows 1.1 points per trip through the 40-yard line; NC State allows 1.9 points for Defensive Finishing Drives. A top-30 mark in Defensive Passing Success Rate will be another hurdle for the Tigers, who struggle on passing downs.
Clemson vs. NC State Betting Pick
The two biggest handicaps in the game come from an NC State offense that had poor execution in Starkville and a Clemson offense that has a handful of questions in every unit.
The Wolfpack offense must play its best game of the year, improving on a rank of 38th in Havoc Allowed.
This Clemson defense can flat-out cook, ranking sixth in pass coverage and top-15 in Success Rate. The Tigers have not allowed an explosive drive all season while limiting available yards to 14% less than the national average.
Opponents are averaging 3.5 yards per play on standard downs, as the Tigers get opposing offenses off schedule with a Stuff Rate well above the national average.
To quote Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, the Wolfpack have to “make spectacular plays and make the routine plays routine.”
As for Clemson’s offensive struggles, the quotes are the same from Swinney to Uiagalelei to the offensive line — the team is close to bursting out. There have been accuracy and timing issues in the passing game, but Uiagalelei has seen an increase in adjusted completion percentage each game.
This may be the game when Clemson busts out of its offensive slump.
NC State has recorded just two sacks this season. The Wolfpack generated just one quarterback hurry against Mississippi State and rank 113th in pass rush grading, per PFF.
This may also be the game where the communication on the offensive line improves for Clemson, while Uiagalelei continues to work on timing issues with a talented receiver corps.
NC State will have to play mistake-free on offense against the best defensive front in college football, but the defense is catching a Tigers offense that has determined improvement is just a snap away.