Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Somehow we’re already a quarter of the way through the regular season, and it seems like we're still trying to get a feel for which teams are the legitimate contenders in their own conferences and beyond.
Like in Week 3, there are just two ranked vs. ranked matchups on the schedule in Week 4. But Week 3 nearly brought us multiple substantial upsets.
Let’s see if those upsets show up this week.
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: UW -6.5 | Total: 46.5
Notre Dame is off to a 3-0 start, but it’s a shaky 3-0 start. The Irish needed overtime to beat Florida State, a touchdown with 1:09 to go to beat Toledo and then were outgained in last weekend’s win over Purdue. Notre Dame, which is starting Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan at QB, is dealing with some injuries and could be playing its third-string left tackle again. The Irish have also been shaky defending the run.
Running the ball is Wisconsin’s bread and butter. Through two games, the Badgers (1-1) have run the ball 113 times and passed it 57 times. There’s no real game-breaker at running back for UW, but they have guys capable of moving the chains by picking up four or five yards per carry. Will Notre Dame be able to stop the run well enough to put pressure on Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz?
Sam Cooper: Notre Dame +6.5, Nick Bromberg: Notre Dame +6.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: TAMU -5.5 | Total: 47.5
If Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M really expect to compete for national championships, the Aggies need to win games like this and do so decisively. A&M boasts a top-10 defense and some intriguing talent at the skill positions, but quarterback is a question mark entering this game. With starter Haynes King injured, Zach Calzada will make his second start. He struggled in relief of King against Colorado but looked comfortable last week in a win over New Mexico.
Arkansas is a significant step up in competition. The Razorbacks have ascended rapidly under Sam Pittman and already have an upset over Texas under their belts this season. Arkansas was really able to push Texas around on the lines of scrimmage and rely on its ground attack in that game. If A&M’s run defense holds up, that could put a lot of pressure on Arkansas QB K.J. Jefferson.
Sam: Arkansas +5.5, Nick: Arkansas +5.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Clemson -10 | Total: 47.5
What is going on with the Clemson offense? Entering the year, the offensive line seemed like a weakness. Through three games, it has been even worse than expected. The Tigers (2-1) have gained 464 yards combined in their two games vs. FBS opponents and are currently last in the ACC in yards per play. After barely escaping Georgia Tech, can Clemson snap out of its funk on the road against NC State?
NC State is 2-1 to start the year, beating two bad teams (USF and Furman) and losing to Mississippi State on the road. The MSU performance was a disappointing one. The Wolfpack allowed a kick return touchdown to open the game and also committed three turnovers in the loss. This is a team with experience and talent on both sides of the ball.
Sam: NC State +10, Nick: Clemson -10
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN+ | Line: OSU -6 | Total: 46
Even after losing quarterback Skylar Thompson to injury, Kansas State (3-0) was able to knock off Nevada, one of the Mountain West’s best teams, last weekend at home, 38-17. Without Thompson, the Wildcats relied heavily on the rushing game, using the legs of backup QB Will Howard as well as Deuce Vaughn, who is establishing himself as one of the Big 12’s best running backs.
Oklahoma State (3-0) played in a similar manner last week. Three of the team’s top receivers were out, so the Cowboys ran the ball 57 times (and threw it only 13 times) in a 21-20 win over Boise State. It’s not clear yet whether some of those OSU receivers will be back on the field this weekend. Then again, the Cowboys weren’t passing the ball particularly well when that unit was healthy. Maybe a heavier dose of the run game will be the recipe for Mike Gundy’s team this year.
Sam: Kansas State +6, Nick: Kansas State +6
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: OU -16.5 | Total: 56
West Virginia (2-1) dropped its opener to Maryland but registered a nice home win over No. 15 Virginia Tech last week. WVU was actually the favorite, so it wasn’t an upset, but it was still an encouraging performance for the Mountaineers (even though they almost blew it in the end). WVU had one of the better defenses in the country in 2020, and that unit is solid again in 2021. The player to know on offense is running back Leddie Brown. He has 265 yards and five TDs.
Other than the game it played against an FCS team, Oklahoma hasn’t played to its usual standards on offense. Spencer Rattler has just been OK at quarterback and has seen his Heisman odds drop significantly. The running back duo of Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray has been solid, but Rattler hasn’t been hitting anywhere near as many explosive pass plays as he did last year. Perhaps the Sooners will open things up at home against WVU.
Sam: Oklahoma -16.5, Nick: West Virginia +16.5
Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 6-9, Nick: 7-8
Week 4 best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 5-4)
Boise State (-9.5) at Utah State: The total in this game feels absurdly high. It’s at 69.5 — none of Boise State’s three games so far have gone over that number. For Utah State, only the Aggies’ Week 3 win over Air Force has gone over. The under has to be the play here unless I’m missing something. Pick: Under 69.5
Missouri (-2) at Boston College: Mizzou has scored at least 34 points in each of its first three games this season while BC hit 45 in its first two. However, the Eagles scored 28 against Temple in Week 3 without QB Phil Jurkovec. I think this is another under here because of Jurkovec’s absence. Pick: Under 59
Kent State at Maryland (-14.5): Let’s stick with the theme here. Each of these teams’ two games vs. FBS opponents so far this season haven’t come within a field goal of this weekend’s total. In fact, Kent State’s two FBS games have totaled 37 and 51 points respectively. Is Maryland really going to score more than a healthy Texas A&M did? Pick: Under 69.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 4-5)
Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin (-6.5): I’m expecting a low-scoring game here. Notre Dame’s rush defense has struggled, but I don’t think Wisconsin has the speed to break off a bunch of big plays. Wisconsin’s going to try to control the ball and put together long drives. I’m not too confident in Notre Dame’s offense either. Pick: Under 46.5
SMU at TCU (-9.5): SMU has the offensive talent to play a close game against TCU. TCU is coming off a bye and has a great running back in Zach Evans, but I think this is too many points. In its last 30 games as a home favorite, TCU is 9-20-1 ATS. Under Sonny Dykes, SMU is 8-5 ATS as an underdog. Pick: SMU +9.5
Cal at Washington (-7.5): I feel like Washington’s offense turned a corner in the last six quarters. That unit got into a rhythm late against Michigan and then dropped 52 points on Arkansas State. The receiver group is much healthier than it was when the season began. Cal’s defense isn’t very good, and its offense has generated a bunch of explosive plays. Pick: Over 46
For other Week 4 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
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