Rubenstein: Picking With (And Against) My Gut in College Football Week 4

Rubenstein: Picking With (And Against) My Gut in College Football Week 4 article feature image

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alec Ingold

Give me enough time (in this case, four weeks) and I immediately make my picks from the gut, before calming myself down to further research my intuition.

This generally involves talking myself out of my emotional reactions, or really, defending those emotional reactions with numbers.

Here’s my full attempt to work through my issues for everyone to see (and let’s be honest, fade).

>> All odds as of 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

The Headliners

#7 Stanford at #20 Oregon

  • Spread: Stanford -2.5
  • Over/Under: 56
  • Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
  • Location: Autzen Stadium

My gut says to take Stanford — as an Oregon alum (and fan), I’ve watched a good amount of its early games, and it’s been ugly, both in that the Ducks have bludgeoned teams (at times), but also in that they’ve looked sloppy on offense against outmatched opponents.

Maaaaaybe it’s been boredom and lack of motivation for Bowling Green/Portland State/San Jose State that’s resulted in Oregon not performing or revealing its playbook, but take-care-of-business teams execute and leave no doubt.

Stanford, meanwhile, has also looked excellent and sloppy at times, but its strength of the power run and trusting physical receivers looks like a problem for Oregon. We also know that Stanford can beat talented teams, as both San Diego State and USC — two of its wins — are both way beyond what Oregon has faced.

All that said, the game is in Eugene, the atmosphere for a prime-time kickoff should be electric for the first time in a while and I think Oregon’s defense will do enough to rattle Stanford and lead the way.

The Pick: Oregon +2.5

#18 Wisconsin at Iowa

  • Spread: Wisconsin -3
  • Over/Under: 43.5
  • Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Kinnick Stadium

My immediate gut said Iowa for similar reasons as the above pick — tough defense playing at home in a tough place, as an underdog.

It’s a small sample size, but Iowa’s covered three of its last four as a home dog, and that includes beating a good Michigan team outright, a dismantling of Ohio State and losing in the last moment against a good Penn State team.

The concern about Iowa is one about points. As in, where do they come from?

The Hawkeyes haven’t been able to move the ball or score consistently, and that’s been against non-top 40 or 50 opponents.

After watching its loss to BYU last week, Wisconsin may have taken a step back on defense, but should have plenty for this Iowa offense.

The Pick: Wisconsin -3 

#22 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama

  • Spread: Alabama -26
  • Over/Under: 61
  • Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium

My gut is where anyone’s gut is who’s watched Alabama annihilate everyone in its path — Tide minus anything, obviously.


The Louisville and Ole Miss defenses were not only never going to be good, but after last season, those units being anything but dreadful would’ve been a surprise. This isn’t to say that Alabama won’t obliterate everyone for the rest of Tua Tagovailoa’s eligibility, but it’s a reasonable brake-pumper.

Texas A&M clearly has the best defense Alabama has seen thus far, and is coached by a legitimately good coordinator in Mike Elko. And on offense, the Aggies appear to be in a good place with a confident QB and a very solid group of receivers (although this part didn’t matter with Ole Miss).

IF Alabama is even remotely vulnerable to a loss against the spread (before LSU on Nov. 3), it’s likely this Saturday vs. A&M.

My fingers are trying to stop me from typing this (they know better), but I’ll take those points and bet with the knowledge that Ole Miss and Louisville never stood a chance.

The Pick: Texas A&M +26

(Note From Dan’s Fingers: We totally and completely disagree)

The Field

#17 TCU at Texas

  • Spread: TCU -3
  • Over/Under: 47
  • Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Royal Texas Memorial Stadium

My gut once again is happy to take a good defense at home as an underdog, but damn does TCU coach Gary Patterson just lay waste to Texas like it’s just part of his morning routine.

If quarterback Shawn Robinson continues to show more of the good things he showed against Ohio State last week, it’d be nearly impossible to find the reasons to believe in Texas being able to score to keep up with the Horned Frog offense.


The Texas defense looks good enough to lead the way (like it did last week) in wins against talented teams, but seeing week-to-week consistency from this Texas team would be new. So…

The Pick: TCU -3

#2 Georgia at Missouri

  • Spread: Georgia -14.5
  • Over/Under: 64.5
  • Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
  • Location: Memorial Stadium

My gut is all over Georgia here, even on the road. Mizzou did a good job for a chunk of this game last year on offense, but it’s hard to have too much faith in this Mizzou defense getting stops, especially after letting Purdue (Purdue!) back in the game last week.

Tigers quarterback Drew Lock will connect a couple times, but beating Georgia means running, defending AND connecting. There’s just too much Dawg here.

My Pick: The Under 

Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma State

  • Spread: Oklahoma State -14
  • Over/Under: 78
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
  • Location: Boone Pickens Stadium

My gut can’t stop talking about how complete of a team Oklahoma State appears to be early on. The Cowboys defense overwhelmed a good Boise State team up front, and then even beyond a strong offensive day, the Pokes dominated special teams, as well.

Ahead of another extremely Texas Tech-y Texas Tech team (if that makes sense), it’s hard to see the Red Raiders getting anywhere near enough stops to keep this one close over four quarters.

In coming back to Earth, it’s important to note that Tech kept it close last year with a dicey quarterback situation (this year, it appears to perhaps be more solid after last week) and then came within a point with a generational talent in Patrick Mahomes the year prior.

Points and yards are fun and nice, but I like Oklahoma State’s early ability to get stops.

The Pick: The Over

Michigan State at Indiana

  • Spread: Michigan State -4.5
  • Over/Under: 48.5
  • Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Memorial Stadium

My gut’s first reaction was Indiana comes back down to Earth against a solid Michigan State team with a good defense after a week off. Nobody’s generally as bad as their worst early season performance, and Michigan State, in the desert against Arizona State, with it being a thousand degrees out, lost a tight one. It happens.


The further I get from my gut on this one, the more I can’t really convince myself that Michigan State is worth taking as a favorite on the road against a good team. There hasn’t been anything that jumps out beyond Sparty quarterback Brian Lewerke completing some short stuff.

Indiana, granted not against the most impressive competition, has looked more balanced, gets stops, moves the ball, and just handled a Ball State team that kept it tight against Notre Dame.

The Pick: Indiana +5.5

Arizona State at #10 Washington

  • Spread: Washington -17.5
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Husky Stadium

My gut says Washington, after some struggles early, will keep figuring things out on offense while its scary-good defense wins games.

The Huskies have a talent, coaching and home-field advantage over Arizona State, which is coming off of two last-second, emotional games — one win and last week’s loss on the road.

I don’t love that for the Sun Devils, who stay on the road as they go up to Seattle against what’s still the class of the Pac-12

On the other hand, last year’s very average ASU team shut down Washington’s offense, and there’s no real evidence that the Huskies are improving with less receiver and running back talent than they had last fall.

The Pick: Arizona State +17.5

#8 Notre Dame at Wake Forest

  • Spread: Notre Dame -7.5
  • Over/Under: 60.5
  • Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
  • Location: BB&T Field

My gut says Notre Dame’s sloppiness on offense, plus possible sloppy weather, means Wake Forest is covering and probably winning.

Actually, I’m not even going to debate my gut here, just gonna ride it.

The Pick: Wake Forest +7.5

Kansas State at #12 West Virginia

  • Spread: West Virginia -16
  • Over/Under: 60.5
  • Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Milan Puskar Stadium

My gut is trying to find reasons for Kansas State optimism on the road against probably the best pure passer in the Big 12. So here it goes: The Wildcats have been pretty good against the pass, right up until you look up the quarterbacks they’ve faced, and that’s when it becomes time to worry.

West Virginia’s defense is a concern, but it’s hard to see this K-State offense moving the ball enough into the end zone to keep up with this Mountaineer team in Morgantown a week after a storm-related, unexpected bye.

This matchup has been decided by single digits these past few years (hey, there’s a reason for KSU optimism!), but we may be underestimating the possibility that this Bill Snyder team is below average.

The Pick: WVU -16