Week 4 college football best bets and predictions
The college football season is officially under way and VSiN is pumping out more content for it than ever. All of our college football stories and resources are available on this one page, where you'll also get best bets from all of my incredibly talented colleagues. But you'll have to keep reading this one to get my college football best bets every week. I have six plays that I'm jumping on early this week, with one of them being on the highly anticipated meeting between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. And I might add some more picks later on. If I do, they'll be thrown in at the bottom of this story, so definitely make sure to come back and look for more Week 4 college football best bets throughout the day on Saturday, September 23.
MORE: Check out our Pro Picks page for college football best bets from all of our analysts
After having played back-to-back Pac-12 opponents, San Diego State should be excited about facing Boise State. Sure, the Broncos entered this season as one of the favorites to win the Mountain West, but they suffered a 56-19 loss to Washington in Week 1. San Diego State looked much better in its meetings with Pac-12 competition, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And that’s where I believe the Aztecs will make a mark in this game. This Broncos team scored only 35 total points over the first two weeks of the year. Those games were against Washington and UCF, and the team then scored 42 against North Dakota. That shows that the offense is largely unproven against good competition. And San Diego State’s defense is excellent.
Taylen Green entered the season with a lot of excitement, but he has hardly lived up to the hype. Green is completing only 52.9% of his passes this year, and that number was helped out a lot by his meeting with North Dakota. But on the season, Green has thrown just three touchdowns to four interceptions. And he hasn’t quite been able to get things going on the ground in the way many expected. Defensive coordinators are doing a good job of staying ready for him, and I don’t think we’ll see anything different here. Kurt Mattix knows what he’s doing.
The only question here is whether Jalen Mayden and the Aztecs offense will be able to score enough points to stay in this game — and potentially win it. But I think Mayden will be rather comfortable out there, as the Broncos won’t give him quite as many looks as he saw against UCLA and Oregon State.
San Diego State also happens to be 6-2 against the spread in this head-to-head series since the start of 2011. And the team is 9-6 ATS when playing as an underdog under head coach Brady Hoke. Meanwhile, Boise State is 1-4 straight-up and 0-5 ATS when coming off a cover as a double-digit favorite under head coach Andy Avalos. This team has not found a way to kick things back into gear after easy victories, and a 2-5 SU and ATS record after wins by 17 or more points in that same span helps support that.
Bet: San Diego State +7.5 (-125 - Buy 0.5 points)
I have already been burned a bit by fading Coach Prime, but I am ready to get hurt again. It’s just hard not to be concerned about Colorado after that performance against Colorado State last week. The Buffaloes didn’t look very good on either side of the ball, and the team is now without star Travis Hunter for the next couple of weeks. Hunter is a key contributor on both sides of the ball, but he is especially important to the Colorado defense. His absence is going to be detrimental to the Buffaloes secondary, especially against a Ducks team that has one of the most explosive passing games in football. Oregon is averaging 58.0 points per game this season and only six teams in the country are throwing for more yards per game. So, I can see Bo Nix absolutely lighting it up in this one. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi threw for 367 yards with three touchdowns against Colorado last week. Nix is a much better player than he is, and he has a much better supporting cast.
It's also just important to remember that Oregon head coach Dan Lanning was once one of the nation’s best defensive coordinators. He’s going to be excited about the challenge of trying to be the first team to slow down Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who is one of the Heisman favorites at this point in the season. Losing Hunter as a wideout might not hurt the Buffaloes too much, as Sanders will still have Jimmy Horn Jr. and Xavier Weaver to throw to. But Oregon’s secondary is rather strong. And the real issue for Colorado will be the play of the offensive line. I don’t think Sanders will be working with a clean pocket very often in this game, as Oregon is loaded with talent in the front seven. And Lanning is going to want to put Sanders under as much pressure as possible. I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle that in this environment. Sanders is superb when he has time to throw, but he’s not going to be as comfortable in this game. And making plays on the move won’t be as easy against these types of athletes.
I also find it hard to ignore that Oregon is 7-1 ATS at home under Lanning. And the team is also 11-3 ATS when playing as a favorite in that span. Of course, the Ducks have suffered some disappointing losses in recent years. But they generally handle their business against inferior teams. And while the Buffaloes have a bright future with Deion Sanders at the helm, they still have some work to do before competing with a team like this.
Bet: Oregon -21 (-110)
UConn hasn’t yet earned a victory this season, but this team isn’t quite as bad as its record. And this spread feels a little too big to me. This Huskies team can run the football and hasn’t been horrible defensively. That makes it hard to believe UConn will get blown out. Sure, the Huskies lost by 21 in a road loss to Georgia State, but Jim Mora’s team turned the ball over three times in that game. It’s hard to envision that happening again.
This will also be Duke’s first road game of the season. And while UConn doesn’t exactly have a strong home-field advantage, Duke might not be all that comfortable playing in a new environment. And the Blue Devils could also get caught thinking about a Week 5 matchup with Notre Dame. Trap games are very real in college football. Duke also happens to be 0-2 ATS as a road favorite since the start of last season. And the team is just 2-4 ATS after a win by 21 or more points in that span. Meanwhile, UConn is 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS as a home underdog under Mora. So, this Huskies team has enjoyed the role of being the team that is counted out. They have also liked playing ACC opponents, as they are 3-1 ATS against them under Mora.
I know that it can be hard to bet against a red-hot team like Duke, and it’s not fun having the team that is trying to stop star quarterback Riley Leonard. But UConn’s defense should be able to prevent him from going bananas in this game and running backs Devontae Houston and Victor Rosa should help the Huskies keep things tight in the time of possession battle. Even quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson can help with that. If UConn can efficiently run the football in this game, there shouldn’t be a blowout here. The new clock rules make it very hard to dominate teams that can run.
Bet: UConn +21.5 (-110 - Play to +21)
Last week’s meeting with LSU showed that Mississippi State might not be ready for the SEC season to come. The Tigers are obviously a tough opponent for anyone, with Jayden Daniels being one of the best quarterbacks in the country. And he’s surrounded by high-level talent all over the field. But Mississippi State’s defense couldn’t get LSU off the field in that one, even though it was a home game. The Tigers racked up 530 yards of total offense, and the Bulldogs only had 201 total yards themselves.
South Carolina isn’t going to present quite as many problems as LSU, but the Gamecocks should like this matchup. The main reason is that South Carolina’s biggest weaknesses is its offensive line play, but Mississippi State might not be able to exploit that. The Gamecocks have had trouble running the football and they also haven’t given quarterback Spencer Rattler much time to throw. But Mississippi State’s front seven has been rather disappointing to this point in the season, so South Carolina’s line might have a little success here. That should really open things up for the Gamecocks offense.
South Carolina’s defense is also rather solid, which we saw in the team’s 24-14 loss to Georgia last week. And Mississippi State doesn’t have much of a passing game this season. That’s not something we could have said for the Bulldogs in recent years, but it’s the sad reality for Mississippi State without Mike Leach. And considering most of these players were brought in to play the Air Raid offense, the Bulldogs might need some time before they’re capable of executing in any other way.
The Gamecocks should be the stronger team on both sides of the ball, and they have home-field advantage. South Carolina is 11-4 SU and 10-5 ATS in home games under Shane Beamer. The team is also 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS as a favorite under him.
Bet: South Carolina -6 (-110 - Play to -6.5)
Ohio State’s 23-3 win over Indiana scared some people. The Buckeyes normally have an elite offense, so seeing them struggle in Week 1 definitely raised some eyebrows. But Ryan Day’s offense is quietly humming again, with Ohio State having scored a total of 88 points over the last two weeks. Quarterback Kyle McCord is now looking comfortable operating this potent offense, as he has thrown for six touchdowns and no picks over the last two weeks. And he is realizing his job is easy as long as he gets the ball to Marvin Harrison Jr., who has 12 receptions for 286 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks. On top of that, the Buckeyes running game is in great hands. Not only is TreVeyon Henderson a flat-out stud but the team has a stable of backs that can contribute behind him.
All in all, I think that the Buckeyes will have the better offense in this game, especially considering Day seems to get his guys juiced up for big matchups. Under Day, Ohio State is 16-1 SU and 10-7 ATS when playing as a road favorite. The Buckeyes are also 15-5 SU when playing against teams with winning records since he took over.
This Ohio State defense also happens to be a different beast this season. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles started to turn things around on this side of the ball last year, but we’re finally seeing a truly elite version of the Buckeyes defense in 2023. Ohio State has allowed only 20 points through three games this year, and none of the team’s opponents has had 300 or more total yards in a game. There’s no denying that Sam Hartman and a potent Notre Dame offense can change that this week, but Ohio State should be able to get a couple more key stops than its opponent in this one. The big matchup to watch will be how the middle of the Fighting Irish’s offensive line holds up against a big Buckeyes defensive front. I think Ohio State will be able to get into the backfield with relative ease, making it difficult for Notre Dame to get running back Audric Estime going. And that would make life difficult on Hartman and the passing game.
I’m also not sure the Fighting Irish will have the type of home-field advantage they’re hoping for here. The Buckeyes fanbase travels very well and can get super loud, so this could look more like a bowl game.
Bet: Ohio State -3 (-110)
I’m not exactly thrilled with the fact that I’ll be sitting around and hoping for good things out of the Iowa offense this week, but this total just feels way too low. Last week, Illinois only scored 13 points against Penn State, but the Fighting Illini did move the ball in that game. The team was just unable to finish drives and had five turnovers in the game. Iowa won’t be as sloppy with the football. And overall, with a total this low, the Hawkeyes really need to score only 14 to 17 points for this thing to hit.
The reality is that the Nittany Lions offense has been extremely explosive to start this season, as the team is putting up 43.7 points per game so far. Penn State has also scored at least 30 points in each of its last 10 games, which is good for the longest streak in the country. If the Nittany Lions do reach that mark in this one, we’ll need even less from the Hawkeyes here. And I have a hard time believing Iowa will completely shut Penn State down. This offense has looked great with Drew Allar under center. He’s making just enough throws to make sure opposing defenses don’t load up on the Nittany Lions’ two-headed monster of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton in the backfield.
It's also worth noting that the Over is 5-2 in the last seven games these teams have played against one another. The Over is also 4-0 when Iowa has played as a road underdog of 14.5 to 21 points under head coach Kirk Ferentz. And it’s 5-1 when Penn State has played in a game with a total of 42 or less under James Franklin.
Bet: Over 40 (-110 - Play to 41.5)
2023 Record: 17-17 (-1.71 units)
California +21.5 (-128) vs. Washington
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