Welcome to Week 4 of the college football season.
Each week, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on select games.
It was a 6-6 showing for Week 3, but we're dusting ourselves off and we're back at it for Week 4. Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Wednesday night.
Record this week: 1-1 ATS
Nevada Wolfpack at Air Force Falcons (-24, 46)
Friday, 8 p.m. ET
Jeff Parles: The Falcons were stunned by Wyoming on Friday night as 17-point road favorites. The Cowboys were able to contain the triple option, forcing Air Force to throw the ball 14 times. My preseason Mountain West champion is now behind the eight ball and Nevada is the right team to draw after a disastrous loss.
The Wolf Pack gave up 27 points to Iowa last week, which is equivalent to giving up 105 to Alabama. Nevada won two in a row in fluky fashion to begin the season and looked bad the last two weeks against Incarnate Word and Iowa.
This is a golden bounce-back spot for Air Force, getting a horrible team that will more than likely be clueless against the triple option. I’ll lay the 24 with the Falcons as this game will look similar to their dismantling of Colorado in Week 2.
Pick: Air Force -24
Texas Longhorns (-6.5, 59.5) at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: While I won’t exclaim, “Texas is back!” I will say the Longhorns are moving in a positive direction. They nearly upset Alabama two weeks ago and followed that up with a blowout win over UTSA. The Longhorns could have sat around and sulked after coming close to beating the most consistent program in college football, but they rallied instead and trounced a very good Roadrunners team.
Texas hits the road for the first time but remains in the Lone Star State with a trip to Lubbock. The line has gone from -4.5 to -6.5, but my power ratings still have a noticeable overlay with a line of -10. If Quinn Ewers hadn’t gotten hurt, maybe this line is north of a touchdown, but Hudson Card is a viable backup and the backfield is one of the best in the nation. Texas Tech is never known for physicality, and the Longhorns just ran for 298 yards on 36 carries against a fairly physical UTSA defense.
Bijan Robinson had 183 of those yards on 20 carries, as Steve Sarkisian’s bunch finally unlocked the ground game’s potential. Card was an effective 15-of-23 passing for 161 yards with no interceptions. More of that should work for Texas this week.
With Tyler Shough out, Donovan Smith has thrown seven touchdown passes but also has five interceptions and has been sacked 10 times. The Red Raiders ran 69 offensive plays last week but managed just 14 points, as they were 2-of-12 on third down. Texas should wear them down and cover this number.
Pick: Texas -6.5
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at UNC Tar Heels (-1.5, 55.5)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Danny Burke: Notre Dame is in big trouble. I saw it firsthand Saturday in South Bend, an underwhelming 24-17 win over Cal. The offensive staff has no trust in quarterback Drew Pyne, nor should they. He threw at least one pass attempt past the sticks, which resulted in a touchdown, but otherwise it seemed like all short rollout passes to a tight end or running back. That’s not going to cut it against a prolific offense such as North Carolina. The Tar Heels are averaging 51.3 PPG compared to a measly 18.3 for the Fighting Irish. Drake Maye is far and away the better quarterback in this game, having already thrown for 930 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
Undefeated UNC has the momentum, the offensive dominance and a setting away from South Bend in their favor. Just because the Irish finally got a win, that doesn’t mean they are ready to rock. They won Saturday in the ugliest fashion, and, honestly, the Cal receiver should’ve caught that Hail Mary, down seven points, at the end of the game.
Not only do the Tar Heels have the offensive advantage, let’s not forget that they should have the coaching advantage. Mack Brown has his boys fighting, competing and, most importantly, believing they can overcome any opponent. And, no, the Tar Heels defense does not look pretty, but you know what looks uglier? Drew Pyne attempting to play quarterback.
Pick: North Carolina ML (-120)
James Madison Dukes at Appalachian State Mountaineers (-7, 58.5)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: How much does Appalachian State have left in the tank after the last three games? It feels like the Mountaineers have played 12 games over the first three weeks of the season. They scored 40 points in the fourth quarter on Labor Day weekend but failed on a pair of two-point conversions and lost to North Carolina 63-61. Two weeks ago, they traveled to College Station and defeated then-No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14 as 18.5-point underdogs. Last week, “College Gameday” was in Boone, North Carolina, and they defeated conference rival Troy 32-28 on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game.
James Madison, on the other hand, strolls into Boone on Saturday fresh off a bye week. The Dukes are 2-0 and destroyed Middle Tennessee State 44-7 in their opener as 5-point favorites (the Blue Raiders, by the way, responded to that 37-point loss by defeating Colorado State 34-19 as 14-point underdogs). James Madison is in its first season in FBS but was an FCS power for much of the last decade. The Dukes were 67th in Jeff Sagarin’s ratings last season, which would have been fourth best in the Sun Belt.
Colorado State transfer QB Todd Centeio was fantastic in James Madison’s win over MTSU, throwing for six touchdowns and rushing for 110 yards. Through two games, Centeio has the nation’s third-best passing efficiency rating and 10th-best QBR.
Appalachian State looks like they will be the class of the Sun Belt again this season. The Mountaineers have the top RB in the conference (Camerun Peoples), one of the best quarterbacks (Chase Brice) and a defense that held Texas A&M to just nine first downs and 180 total yards.
However, situationally, this is one of the most challenging spots of the weekend. The Mountaineers are coming off three battles over the last three weeks while James Madison is coming off a bye.
Pick: James Madison + 7
Akron Zips at Liberty Flames (-26.5, 53.5)
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Joe Moorhead knew the situation he was walking into in the Rubber City, but it may be worse than he expected. The Zips have been outscored 115-6 over the last two weeks by Michigan State and Tennessee. The level of competition goes down this week against Liberty, but the Zips nearly lost at home to Saint Francis (Pa.) to open the season, narrowly surviving in overtime.
The Zips have scored three touchdowns in 12 quarters plus one in overtime (a game in which they were outgained by a team that lost to Richmond and only beat Wagner by 20). Akron has managed just 4.36 yards per play, which ranks 122nd in the nation.
Liberty is off to a solid 2-1 start, but the Flames offense is tied for 81st in YPP following games against Southern Miss, UAB and Wake Forest. They’re not moving the ball all that well themselves and are trying to work through some growing pains with freshman Kaidon Salter at quarterback. He threw two picks and was sacked four times against Wake Forest and has completed under 56% of his passes on the season.
This has the makings of a game in which Liberty gets ahead and has no interest in embarrassing Akron. Salter will go through his progressions and focus on the details in advance of a game against an in-state foe in Old Dominion.
Pick: Under 57.5 (Wynn)
Marshall Thundering Herd (-3, 52) at Troy Trojans
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Marshall hits the road for the program's first conference game as part of the Sun Belt, against a Troy team that is still reeling from what transpired last week. With “College Gameday” in town, the Trojans were seconds away from beating Appalachian State after a spectacular goal-line stand to preserve the lead. Then the wheels fell off with a walk-off Hail Mary after an intentional safety.
Marshall’s loss to Bowling Green was also disappointing, but it was just one of those things. The Thundering Herd outgained BG by 170 yards but lost the turnover battle 3-0 and ultimately fell in overtime. It was a good stat-sheet performance from Marshall but a bad result. This is still a team that went to South Bend and beat Notre Dame.
The Herd have a top-20 defense by yards per play and have gained 6.24 yards per play in FBS games. Troy is 86th in the nation in yards per play and that includes a 7.46 YPP game against Alabama A&M. The Trojans only had 5.3 YPP against App State and were outgained by over 100 yards.
Losing to Bowling Green is never a good look, but Marshall is clearly the better team here. My line is -2.5, but the stats and the spot are pulling me in the direction of the Herd. Take -3 at -120 instead of -3.5 if you can.
Pick: Marshall -3
Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Tulane Green Wave (-13, 48)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: After a stunning 17-10 win at Kansas State as a 14-point underdog, Tulane is 3-0 for the first time since 1998 (when my partner on VSiN Primetime Shaun King was the quarterback of the Green Wave). Situationally, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz will have to make sure his team is focused on Saturday night following the upset win on the road and with the Green Wave’s AAC opener next Friday at preseason conference favorite Houston.
Southern Miss is just 1-2 on the season but is 3-0 ATS like Tulane. The Golden Eagles trailed Miami by only three points at halftime two weeks ago and opened the season with a loss in four overtimes to Liberty. Last week, the Golden Eagles notched their first win of the season with an easy 64-10 win over FCS Northwestern State. Dating back to last season, the Golden Eagles have covered six straight games.
Saturday night at Yulman Stadium is also a rivalry game. Tulane and Southern Miss are separated by just 110 miles and their rivalry is deemed “The Battle for the Bell.” Despite owning a 23-9 record over Tulane, the Golden Eagles have been outscored 96-37 in their last two meetings, including a 66-24 loss in 2020. Southern Miss head coach Will Hall was the Tulane offensive coordinator from 2019-20. Hall will have plenty of familiarity with Tulane heading into Saturday’s game.
Hall announced that freshman QB Zach Wilcke will start for a third straight week but QB Ty Keyes (who started the season opener) will see action too. “I’m not going to tell you exactly what that’s going to look like because I don’t want to give that away,” Hall told the media this week. Keyes poses more of a threat to run. RB Frank Gore Jr. has also seen action as a wildcat QB and rushed for 178 yards in the season opener against Liberty.
Tulane’s defense has been tremendous through three games, allowing just a total of 20 points. Last week, the Green Wave held Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn to just 81 yards on 20 carries. The situation is favorable for the Golden Eagles with Tulane coming off its upset and Hall’s familiarity of Tulane. In a rivalry game, I’d expect Hall to pull out all the stops to keep Saturday night competitive in New Orleans.
Pick: Southern Miss + 13
Miami (Ohio) at Northwestern (-7, 49.5)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Jeff Parles: It sure looks like Northwestern’s Week 0 win in Dublin had more to do with Nebraska, doesn’t it? Since then, Nebraska has fired Scott Frost and has looked like a bottom-five Power 5 team. Northwestern came back to the States and lost back-to-back games to Duke and FCS Southern Illinois.
Northwestern has had issues on both sides of the ball in its last two games. The Wildcats allowed 7.8 yards per play against Duke and turned it over four times last week against SIU. The talent is lacking but Pat Fitzgerald is too good of a coach to have his team looking like this.
Miami (Ohio) covered last week against Cincinnati and actually played the Bearcats tough for a half before fading. The MAC has looked mostly overwhelmed in nonconference games to begin the season.
Northwestern enters Big Ten play after this one and I expect them to bounce back from two straight lackluster showings. I’ll lay the touchdown at home with the Wildcats.
Pick: Northwestern -7
Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners (-12.5, 53)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: The market came in strong against Oklahoma last week in its game versus Nebraska, but all the Sooners did after spotting the Cornhuskers a 7-0 lead was outscore them 49-7 the rest of the way. UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel threw for a pair of scores, and Oklahoma overpowered Nebraska on the ground with 312 yards on 54 carries (5.8 YPC).
While the Sooners exceeded the market’s expectations last week, Kansas State clearly did not. Even though many (including yours truly) bet Tulane to help drive the number down to K-State -14, not many expected the Wildcats to lose at home (17-10) to the Green Wave. Star running back Deuce Vaughn failed to rush for a touchdown for the first time in 10 games. Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez had his best passing game since taking over in Manhattan but still only threw for 150 yards and one touchdown.
This is a buy-low spot on Kansas State, and we are finally starting to see some small movement on the opener of 13 as some 12s are starting to appear. Chris Klieman always gets his team up for the Sooners. He is 3-0 ATS against Oklahoma (12-7 ATS as an underdog overall in his fourth season at Kansas State) and that includes two outright upsets over OU (2019: 48-41 win in Manhattan as 23.5-point underdogs; 2020: 38-35 win in Norman as 27.5-point underdogs). While this number is not quite as generous, the Wildcats are still live here. They got caught in a lookahead spot last week and now get a Sooners team that might be coming in a little overconfident.
Kansas State has a stout defense, holding opponents to 276 YPG and 10 PPG with seven sacks. The Wildcats are also + 6 in turnover margin.
Buy low with the Wildcats and sell high with the Sooners off of last week’s disparate performances.
Pick: Kansas State + 13.5 (MGM)
USC Trojans (-5.5, 70.5) at Oregon State Beavers
Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Tim Murray: A pair of unbeaten teams meet in Corvallis, as USC and Oregon State both enter their Pac-12 opener 3-0 SU and 3-0 ATS. The Trojans have covered the spread by an average of 13 points, while Oregon State has covered by an average of 14.7 points.
USC’s offense, led by QB Caleb Williams, has been better than advertised, and coach Lincoln Riley has hit the ground running in his first season in Los Angeles. The Trojans are averaging 50.7 points and 520 yards per game. Williams is completing 74.4% of his passes with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. He is fourth nationally with a 93.1 QBR. There is no shortage of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but what about the defense? USC is tied for fourth nationally with 10 takeaways and is first in turnover margin at + 10. Is that sustainable? We’ll see, but USC is just 82nd nationally in yards allowed per game (380.7).
Oregon State QB Chance Nolan has been solid through three games and will need to use his mobility against an aggressive USC defense that has 14 sacks. Coach Jonathan Smith has familiarity coaching against USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Smith was the OC at Washington while Grinch was the DC at Washington State from 2015-17. Over those three seasons, Washington won all three matchups, scoring 40+ points each time with an average of 458 total yards.
Under Smith, the Beavers have thrived as an underdog. In their last eight games as a home dog, Oregon State is 6-2 SU and 6-2 ATS. Per ESPN’s Chris Fallica, since 2019, the Beavers are 16-6 ATS as underdogs with 10 outright wins.
The biggest question entering this game: Can Oregon State’s defense, which has allowed 357.3 yards per game, slow down USC’s potent offense?
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews told me the “sharper money” early in the week was on Oregon State. He expects the public to back USC come Saturday night.
Similar to 2008 when Oregon State stunned No. 1 USC, I believe the Beavers will be up for the task.
Pick: Oregon State + 6.5 (Caesars)
Stanford Cardinal at Washington Huskies (-13.5, 63.5)
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: The Huskies made their presence known last week in primetime with a 39-28 victory over then-No. 11 Michigan State. Under new coach Kalen DeBoer, the Huskies are a different team than the one that went 4-8 last season.
Washington's offense averaged just 22 PPG and 323 YPG in 2021. With DeBoer and Indiana transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies are averaging 45 PPG and 548 YPG. Penix played under DeBoer in 2019 when DeBoer was the Hoosiers offensive coordinator.
WIth that being said, the Huskies haven’t had success in a couple of seasons. They were 3-1 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season but didn’t have enough players to participate in a bowl game, then lost eight games in 2021 which led to the firing of Jimmy Lake. While I still remain high on the Huskies as a dark horse to win the Pac-12, this is a perfect letdown spot after a signature victory.
Stanford comes to Seattle off of a bye week after disappointing as 9.5-point underdogs in a 41-28 loss to USC. The Cardinal are 0-9 ATS since last year’s upset victory over then-No. 3 Oregon in overtime.
While Stanford did not have enough to withstand USC’s firepower two weeks ago, the Cardinal still gained 442 yards and have 17 starters back from last season. This is an opportunity to back a team at the nadir of the market versus a team at its peak — and one that must handle success for the first time in a while.
Pick: Stanford + 13.5