The College Football Dogs: Week 4 Bets And Predictions
LB looks at some big games in CFB Week 4 as Notre Dame and Wisconsin visit Chicago and LSU head to Mississippi State
College Football Week 4 has some incredibly tempting lines but before we dive in we need to address some Week 3 results.
Bad Beats And Questionable Calls
Only a bad bettor bemoans luck and referees but it’s now two weeks in a row we have been on the wrong end of some serious misfortune. In Week 2 our 14 point dogs App State were denied a win after a late Miami field goal. Then in Week 3 we had Florida to upset the Crimson Tide as 17 point underdogs and frankly we were robbed. Florida were robbed in the game and us underdog bettors were even more unfortunate.
Everyone knows that ‘Bama will get the close calls in games. The big names always do, it’s human nature and happens in nearly all sports. But some of the calls in the game last week were egregious. The Tide got four defensive pass interference calls. Three of these came on third downs, each time leading to a TD instead of a punt. One DPI call was clear-cut but the others were questionable and this one in particular was hard to stomach. We did cover the spread on this game and the App State game last week (both advised), but two juicy moneyline wins just slipped through our fingers.
A Tough Day At The Swamp
Beyond the officiating, Florida failed to catch a tipped pass (for the easiest interception you’ll see), again allowing ‘Bama to score TD later in the drive. The Gators missed a PAT early in the game, which forced them to go for a 2-point conversion late-on, which was also unsuccessful.
Three very poor and costly officiating calls, two missed PAT and a missed interception that cost Florida 7 points – and the Gators only lost by 2! Florida’s post game win expectancy was 91%. It was a heartbreaking game to watch and is up there with my most painful gambling experiences.
My only hope is that the win means ‘Bama will be massive favourites when Ole Miss comes to town in Week 5 because the tide is definitely turning. Before we get carried away with that though, lets look to the great betting value available for CFB Week 4.
#12 Notre Dame vs #18 Wisconsin
The Badgers opened as 6 point favourites for this neutral site match-up with an alluring points total of just 46. This will be the game of the weekend and anyone near Chicago should do what they can to get to Soldier Field. I said last week that Brian Kelly and the Irish were ready to click and that is exactly what happened. Their defense is beginning to take shape and they held Purdue to just one TD before pulling away late on to cover the spread (as advised). I’m biased, so keep that in mind, but I think the Fighting Irish will be too much for Wisconsin.
The Badgers have plenty of talent but I just haven’t seen enough from them to think they can beat a Top 15 school away from home. They lost to Penn State (no shame in that) and beat 97th ranked Eastern Michigan 34-7. Yes, it is not always wise to compare scores across games, but Eastern Michigan allowed four TDs to the 0-3 UMass Minutemen. UMass! The same UMass that is ranked 129 out of 130 schools this year.
Rankings are hugely based on recruitment quality and there is no doubting the Wisconsin potential. However, at some point you need to show it on the field. The Badgers started 2020 with plenty of promise but things went downhill after two early wins and I’m yet to see something to make me change my mind on them. They have long enjoyed one of the best ground defenses in college football. However, they were definitely trending down last season and there are some questions around their secondary.
Notre Dame have been steadily and continually improving the last four or so years. Their record is highly impressive but has been somewhat tarnished by a couple of humbling defeats against the very, very best. I do not want to speak ill of any player, but it did seem like Ian Book had reached his ceiling. That being said, their regular season record in the last three years is 32-2. The two losses were road games at #3 Georgia and #19 Michigan, both back in 2019. They played eight other Top 25 schools during those regular seasons and beat them all. They lost to #2 Clemson (Trevor Lawrence) in the ACC Championship last year and #1 Alabama (Mac Jones) in the CFP Semifinals. Nobody else has beaten Brian Kelly’s men since 2017.
The Irish will be led by none other than the Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan. The former Badgers QB will face off against some familiar faces and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top. The Badgers rush defense is very strong so I can see Coan having plenty to do. If he produces anything like he did last week I’m confident of the upset here.
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 18, 2021
Florida Atlantic @ Air Force
There isn’t much to write about this one. The Falcons are four and a half point home favourites here and that looks like a banana skin. This game should be very close and even has the potential to become quite high scoring with two questionable defenses.
Florida Atlantic struggles against the run and we all know what Troy Calhoun’s men can produce on the ground. The Falcons will surely run up plenty of gains and probably convert for a few TDs too.
The flip side is that Air Force are defensively quite poor, especially in the air, and N’Kosi Perry is more than capable of causing them trouble. The Owls managed two TDs at the Gators in Week 1 before comfortable routs of more obliging opposition since. Perry is a distinct upgrade on Nick Tronti and I think there is a small element of 2020 baggage hanging over the Owls in terms of perception and odds. As good as Air Force are on the ground, they allowed over 440 passing yards to Utah State last week and I’m not sure they will keep Perry and company under wraps.
LSU @ Mississippi State
LSU scored five first-half TDs in a demolition of Central Michigan at Tiger Stadium last weekend and all appears good again in Baton Rouge. They opened up four point road favourites going to Mississippi State, although that has since dropped to 2.5 points. There is no doubting the quality Coach-O has at his disposal but you will have to judge this one for yourself. The Tigers were simply awful in their first two games, losing to UCLA before lumbering past lowly McNeese State Cowboys. Yes, they looked impressive against the Chippewas in Week 3, but then again who doesn’t. There is a lot of talk that Ed Orgeron is now in the hot seat and this game will go a long way towards dictating his future.
The Bulldogs will be raring to go for this one. They suffered their first loss of the season in Week 3, a 31-29 reversal on the road at Memphis, after some more horror refereeing decisions. One such call was so bad, a wrongly allowed 94 yard punt return for a TD in the 4th quarter, it even earned Miss State an apology from the SEC.
Trouble From On High
Miss State won this match-up last year and I think they have this LSU team’s number. Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense really took effect in his second year at Washington State and I think he might enjoy a similar sophomore year in Starkville. Yes, some other SEC teams clocked onto his approach last year (after putting 44 past LSU) but the Tiger’s defense does not look to have improved this term.
Despite back to back wins for LSU their defensive line has been a shambles. They have allowed nearly 900 yards so far and State has the weapons to put up a big score. If LSU defends the rush then it will play right into Mike Leach’s hands. If they try to adapt to the Bulldogs game they will be steamrolled up front. We said before the season that home advantage could play a big part and this is the sort of game I had in mind. If Mississippi State goes ahead early it could get ugly, but I expect another shootout with the Bulldogs barking at the end.
Clemson @ NC State
Clemson were one of the teams I was cold on before the season. Despite the media love-in we said that the Tigers would regress without Lawrence but goodness not even pessimistic me could have seen a regression like this coming. The Tigers needed a late TD to beat Georgia Tech 14-8 at home. They were 27.5 point favourites against the Yellow Jackets and only managed two scores. They scored just a single field goal against Georgia. Yes they obliterated South Carolina State (and had to pay them $500K for the privilege) but that means almost nothing against an 0-3 FCS school.
It would be unfair to put all the blame on DJ Uiagalelei. As uninspired as he has been, Clemson’s problems run a lot deeper. They have failed to register a score in 6 of the 12 quarters they have played so far. They just cannot seem to get the ball over the line.
Steady Improvements For State
NC State are something of an unknown quantity. They have comfortably won two games they were expected to win and were outclassed by Mississippi State in a game they were expected to lose. This game would have been pencilled in as a non-contest by most neutrals before the season started. Now I’m not so sure. The line has already moved from 16 to 10 and with Clemson looking vulnerable the home crowd will be rocking.
The Wolfpack have improved steadily over the last two years and return a serious chunk of talent. QB Devin Leary is back after a much improved 2020 and sees six of his top seven pass catchers return too. The entire running corp is also back. The jury is still out on the Clemson defense but I have a feeling State will score a couple. If they do I’m not sure how the Tigers get back into this one.
Houston We Have A Problem
Before last week’s rout of Grambling State the Cougars had scored 65 points this season, with nearly half coming in the first quarter of games. Now their aggregate Q1 score line is 38-0. Not every bookmaker offers Q1 spreads for this game but I would take almost any line available. My own bookie has Houston to score more than 7.5 points in the opening quarter at 29/20 and I’m all over that one.
Houston have failed to reach the over line in any of their games so far but I think that is something of a quirk. They are offensively impressive and relatively untested defensively and one of these days they will blow the points total away. Will Saturday be that day? Navy are a mess but they will have to score eventually. For no good reason I think the Midshipmen will come to life this weekend and manage to get a few scores on the board. They have been so poor that Houston will have almost no tape to prepare with and at their core Navy know how to run the ball. The line is a mere 48 points and considering the Cougars have scored 44 and 45 points in their last two games I think it will come into play. That leads nicely into my….
Low Bar, High Hurdle
The name still needs work for sure but so far this strategy is paying handsomely. For anyone who has not watched our stream or read my previous articles this strategy refers to games with a low points total and a relative big spread. We have called out five games so far this season as meeting the requirement and all five have comfortably gone over the points total.
This week there are a lot of games that could make the cut. Minnesota are expected to beat Bowling Green by 31 points but the over/under line is set at 50. The Falcons are objectively awful but I like this for the over. The Golden Gophers should steamroll Bowling Green but even with a garbage time score or two it’s hard to see them covering the spread without the points coming into play.
Similarly, Georgia are 35.5 point favourites against Vanderbilt but the points total is just 53. Michigan are 20.5 point favourites and home to Rutgers and the total is 49. Fresno, BYU and Houston round out the list for Week 4. I might be getting carried away by taking five but it’s hard to pick between these.
Coastal Carolina nearly made it but there is no value in a points total north of 65. The Iowa game is incredibly tempting too but their defense has been so impressive that a win to zero here would not surprise me.
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin – Notre Dame + 6.5 @ 10/11
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin – Notre Dame moneyline win @ 2/1
Florida Atlantic @ Air Force – FAU +4.5 @ 10/11
Florida Atlantic @ Air Force – FAU moneyline win @ 17/10
LSU @ Mississippi State – Miss State + 2.5 @ 10/11
(not enough additional value for the moneyline)
Clemson @ NC State – NC State + 10 @ 10/11
Clemson @ NC State – NC State moneyline win @ 3/1
Navy @ Houston – Houston Over 7.5 Q1 Points @ 3/2
Special Market Parley: Notre Dame win & O46.5 points, Miss State win & O56.5 points, Houston O7.5 Q1 points @ 51/1
Texas Tech (+10.5), SMU (+10) and Arkansas (+5.5) all caught my eye too but ultimately I just couldn’t make a case for them.
Continuing with our Lessons Learned series I want to look at some bad calls last week. We went against USC and Washington for what are probably best called non-footballing reasons. For different reasons I thought both would struggle and instead both won comfortably. So Lesson Learned #3 is to steer clear of off-field problems as much as possible. Never say never though, who knows what value might be found later in the season!