Thursday, September 20, 2018

College Football: The Week 4 FIVE

Let's just call this turnaround week and get straight to the games.  The overall record over the first three weeks is not horrid, but we could use a run here.  Part of the problem is that I'm picking money line upsets by road teams. A strategy that I'm curtailing, but not totally cutting back on this week.

1. Washington State @ USC (-3.5) [53]

Pick: Washington State to WIN on the ML.

USC looked horrid last week against a not-all-that-great Texas Longhorn team. Washington State has spent the first three weeks winning against inferior competition. But they have avoided the dreaded Mike Leach early game disaster and their offense appears to be fairly potent this year.  I LIKE Washington State to win on the ML and I also like the over, but the latter is not the official FIVE pick.

2. Pitt (-3.5) @ North Carolina [48.5]

Pick: Pitt to cover -3.5

Larry Fedora's Tar Heels have looked inept so far this season while Pitt has a good win over Georgia Tech that followed a blowout loss to Penn State.  But you have to like the Panthers here big. It's hard to believe that Fedora was a hot coaching candidate for a big program just a couple of years ago. His team has hit hard times and I expect that trend to stay the same this year.

3. Louisville @ Virginia (-5) [54.5]

Pick: Louisville to COVER +5

Since getting humiliated by Alabama in the season opener Louisville has been OK.  They bounced back against weak competition and then beat another not very good this year team in Western Kentucky. The Cavaliers lost to Indiana and then beat a pretty good Ohio team at home. But I think this is a close game against two teams that are pretty much the same right now.

4. Northern Illinois @ Florida State (-10) [45]

Pick: Northern Illinois to COVER +10

Yes, Northern Illinois got beat by Iowa (in a game they were actually leading at halftime) and then got ground down by Utah. But they hung in with two pretty good Power 5 teams and now they face a Florida State team that's struggling to beat FCS Samford.  I'm not sure why so many people think this is the week Florida State gets right, but I do think Northern Illinois covers here and maybe even pulls the upset.

5. TCU (-3) @ Texas [47.5]

Pick: TCU to cover -3 

Until a disastrous 4th quarter, TCU was right there against Ohio State, probably one of the top 4 teams in the country.  Texas lost to a pretty bad Maryland team, struggled against Tulsa, before beating up what appears to be a pretty bad USC team. Advantage Horned Frogs. I think TCU scores early and often on the Longhorns, and their defense is going to give Bevo fits all game long.

Other Games of note:

Tulsa @ Temple (-7) [54.5] - This promises to be a fun Thursday night game and is a good option to replace what is sure to be an NFL stinker in the Jets and Browns on your television. Give the NFL a pass and watch this game between two American Conference foes who are pretty evenly matched. If anything, take the over.

Minnesota @ Maryland (-2) [47]  - I'm not entirely sure why Maryland is favored in this game as PJ Fleck's Gophers have rowed that damn boat to three straight wins to start the season, including a good win over Fresno State. There are signs that the Terrapins are starting to unwind a little bit due to the emotion surrounding the team right now.

Akron @ Iowa State (-19) [47.5] - I think this line is giving too much credit to Iowa State based on them keeping it somewhat close against Iowa and Oklahoma (both games they lost by 10) and too little to Akron who beat a good Northwestern team at Northwestern. This is a personal play by me probably, depending on how the line moves, but not included in my FIVE.

Boston College (-6.5) @ Purdue [67] - No team has had a worse start to the season than Purdue. Heartbreaking losses to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Missouri have pundits giving them the title of "Best no-win team in the country".  I'm not sure about that but I do think that Boston College is overrated and are getting too much credit for beating UMass, Holy Cross and a Wake Forest team that's only beaten Tulane and Towson.

Nevada @ Toledo (-10.5) [68]- This line feels out of whack to me.  Nevada has not been terrible this year while Toledo got ran over by a pretty average Miami team. I would be very tempted to take Nevada and the points here, especially if the line drifts further Toledo's way.

Kansas State @ West Virginia (-16) [60.5] - For me this is a "stay away, stay far away" game. West Virginia has looked good to start the season while the Wildcats have been "meh", so this could either be a statement win for the Mountaineers or it COULD be a Bill Snyder special. I wouldn't touch this game.

Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State (-14) [77.5] - I was fooled last week by both of these teams. I'm not even giving them the chance to fool me this week.  If this were in Lubbock I'd give the Red Raiders a chance to cover, I don't think they have the chance in Stillwater.  That said, even at 78 the over is looking tasty.

Texas A&M @ Alabama (-26.5) [61] - At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Bama wins by 60.  Tide football is yawn inducing and unless something changes I can't see anyone in the country with a chance at beating them.  I would argue that the Aggies are their toughest competition to date, but they couldn't beat Clemson at College Station.

Florida (-4.5) @ Tennessee [47] - Stay away from this game, far away.  There are not two more unreliable programs in college football right now.  Florida might be pretty good, but they are inconsistent, and the Vols are still trying to figure out exactly who they are.

Stanford (-2) @ Oregon [56.5] - If a week 4 game can truly be "must win" then this week's game is certainly one for Oregon. I love that it's in Autzen and it's honestly one of the better matchups of the weekend. Neither team has done anything to convince you that they're vulnerable and I'm betting Bryce Love plays in this one. Must watch TV.

Wisconsin (-3) @ Iowa. [43.5] - This feels so much like a trap line that I'm staying away. I'm also leaning toward staying away from watching most of it because this could be a 4 quarter slog. Iowa wins, Wisconsin (usually) wins, but Lord are these two teams boring. Good matchup though, Wisconsin needs this badly after last week's debacle against BYU.

Games in which I have a rooting interest:

UNLV @ Arkansas State (-7.5) [68] - I said at the beginning of the season that the Desert Rug Rats were going to need to win a game they're not supposed to in order to become bowl eligible this season. THIS is one of those games. Arkansas State is a good Sun Belt team but they don't appear to be as good as they were in recent years. They, of course, got hammered against Bama and struggled against Tulsa. UNLV looked good for a half against (what we now think might not be a very good) USC and then beat up on inferior competition. A Rebels victory here would be MASSIVE for the program.

And Finally......

Nebraska @ Michigan (-17.5) [50]  - Every fiber of my being hates this line, this game, this situation. Nebraska has struggled under new coach Scott Frost but Michigan has a recent history of letting struggling teams get right in the Big House. At the end of the season we might look back on that Troy loss with more favor. I don't think Michigan's loss to Notre Dame is going to be viewed all that favorably as the Irish get into the meat of the schedule where I figure some losses will come. I never place bets on games in which I have a rooting interest, but were I to play this game I'd lean toward the Cornhuskers with a lump in my throat.

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