By: Hunter Schmidt
Thanks to those of you who have read the first four weeks of “Finding The Edge.” The picks went 7-6-2 on Saturday after a disastrous Friday night where the picks went 0-3. Here is your weekly recap:
Week 3 Recap: 7-9-2, -2.9 Units
Season Long Recap: 28-25-3, +1.35 Units
Last week might have been one of the worst slates in recent memory, but the college football gods have blessed us with multiple Top-25 match-ups this week.
- Utah will travel to USC in a game that could potentially decide who wins the Pac-12 South Division. Utah won this game 41-28 a year ago, outgaining the Trojans by 336 yards. Kedon Slovis had three interceptions last week in the overtime loss at BYU after a big time performance against Stanford. He is trying to replace JT Daniels who was lost for the year due to a knee injury. More on this game later.
- Michigan will travel to Wisconsin to face a Badgers team that has outscored opponents 110-0 through two games. Jim Harbaugh has always been questioned due to his record in big games and his team hasn’t looked overly impressive through two games this season. Both teams had last week off, so they’ve had two weeks to game plan for the opposing side. This line was Michigan -6/-7 over the summer, but has moved to Wisconsin -3 after bookmakers have gotten a chance to watch both squads.
- Notre Dame will travel to Georgia where they seek revenge after the Bulldogs beat the Irish in South Bend by one point a year ago. Georgia rushed for 185 yards in that game, while the Irish put up just 55 yards against one of the toughest defenses in the country. The Irish gave up 249 rushing yards in Week 1 against Louisville, a team composed of athletes that wouldn’t sniff the field at Georgia. Georgia isn’t losing this game in Athens. The question will be if they can cover the spread.
- Other big games this weekend include Air Force traveling to Boise State on Friday night after knocking off Colorado last week. Auburn will take on Texas A&M at Kyle Field in what will be another tough environment for the freshman quarterback Bo Nix. Oklahoma State travels to Texas where they look to knock off the Longhorns for the fifth consecutive year.
It should be a great weekend of college football that will help develop the true contenders for the four spots of the playoff. Let’s dive into the picks for Week 4:
HOUSTON @ TULANE; 7PM CT on Thursday Night
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Tulane could make some noise in the ACC and I expect that to start Thursday night down in the bayou known as New Orleans.
Willie Fritz is going to be a hot name in coaching searches this winter, and I am looking at you Illinois. Tulane has allowed just 276 yards on average through three games defensively, but they’ll face a tough test against D’Eriq King and this Houston rushing attack.
The issue for Houston this year is going to be their defense. They’re giving up nearly 500 yards per game. I expect a balanced Tulane offense to take advantage of this Houston defense and control the clock before wearing them down in the late stages of this game. I like Tulane here going into their bye week.
The Play: Tulane -3 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
FIU @ LOUISIANA TECH; 7PM CT on Friday Night
Louisiana Tech has held opponents to just 21 points in two games since giving up 45 to Texas in the opener. There is no shame in that, as the Longhorns will put up at least 45 points on a variety of teams this year.
This week they will play an FIU team that is barely averaging over 300 yards per game, while scoring just 58 points in three weeks. Louisiana Tech has gone under the total in eight of their last nine games. I expect that trend to continue against FIU, a team that could be without James Morgan for the second consecutive week. He has practiced throughout the week but if he doesn’t play on Friday night, this line will drop at least a field goal or more.
I expect this game to be played in the low to mid 40’s.
The Play: Under 52 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
AIR FORCE @ BOISE STATE; 8PM CT on Friday Night
Air Force travels to Boise this week after covering and winning outright against Colorado last week. They’re 5-1-1 against the Broncos in the seven match-ups this decade, which also includes a 5-2 mark to the over.
Air Force is averaging 39 points per game and 454 yards per game, and even more impressively, they’re averaging over 7 yards per play as a triple option team.
Two things travel in college football: running games and defense. Air Force held an explosive Colorado offense to just 23 points last week, but they’ll face another explosive passing attack this week in Boise that is averaging over 340 yards per game. Boise is giving up 4.6 rush yards per attempt this season, which is encouraging for an Air Force team that runs the triple option.
Boise is just 19-36-1 ATS at home since 2010 and is typically overvalued on the blue turf in Boise. I’ll stick with Air Force and the points here as I hate betting the totals in service academy games.
The Play: Air Force +9 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
UTAH @ USC; 8PM CT on Friday Night
Could this end up being a Friday night battle for the PAC-12 South? Time will tell, but Utah is coming off a 31-0 victory over Idaho State where the starters played just one series in the second half before getting the rest of the night off.
USC is coming off an overtime loss against a physical BYU team and now has to face an even more physical Utah team. The Utah defense is only giving up 9.7 points per game and 239.3 yards per game. This will be a tough test for Kedon Slovis, who threw three interceptions a week ago against BYU.
I expect Utah to control this game on the ground with Zack Moss, while capitalizing on the mistakes USC will make. Kyle Wittingham has a major coaching advantage against Clay Helton, whose seat will get a lot warmer after consecutive losses.
The Play: Utah -3.5 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
WESTERN MICHIGAN @ SYRACUSE; 11AM CT
Western Michigan gave Georgia State a severe reality check, trouncing them 57-10 last week. This offense is electric and should be able to put up points against a struggling Syracuse team that isn’t what they have been under Dino Babers.
Their defense is allowing nearly 500 yards per game and will face a Western Michigan team that has a balanced attack. Tommy Devito has struggled this year and is a big part of why this team is only averaging 16.7 points per game.
This game should be high scoring as both defenses have major question marks. The total is a little high for me, but I do like the underdog in this match-up. I wouldn’t be shocked if Western Michigan wins outright, but Syracuse shouldn’t be favored by nearly a touchdown over any respectable opponent right now.
The Play: Western Michigan +6 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
COASTAL CAROLINA @ UMASS; 12PM CT
UMASS has just become an auto fade at this point. Coastal Carolina has already beaten a Kansas team on the road (who just went to Boston College and dismantled them) and now they’ll travel to a road game where 10 people might be in the stands.
Coastal’s defense is only giving up 229 yards per game and while their offense isn’t super explosive, UMASS is giving up nearly 50 points per game and over 500 yards. UMASS will struggle to score against this defense and they can’t stop anybody, so Coastal will be able to move the ball.
I expect this game to be a rout and I was hoping the market hadn’t caught up to UMASS. I thought maybe this number would be under 14 and it would be a 2 unit play. Regardless, still playing the Chanticleers for a unit.
The Play: Coastal Carolina -16.5 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Units
LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE @ OHIO; 1PM CT
Ohio gets to play at home after consecutive road losses to Pitt and Marshall, but the competition doesn’t get any easier as they’ll face a Louisiana Lafayette team that is averaging 590 yards per game.
That total is a little inflated due to their 77-6 win against Texas Southern this weekend, but this offense is legit. They’re averaging over 330 yards per game on the ground and as I said, that travels in college football.
Ohio is giving up over 450 yards per game. I expect Louisiana Lafayette to control this game with their ground attack and take advantage of an Ohio defense that allowed 305 rushing yards a week ago to Marshall. Give me the Ragin’ Cajuns and the points.
The Play: Louisiana Lafayette +3.5 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
APPALACHIAN STATE @ NORTH CAROLINA; 2:30PM CT
North Carolina couldn’t manage a third straight fourth quarter comeback against Wake Forest last week and looked downright awful in the first half. Sam Howell looked much better in the fourth quarter and will face an Appalachian State team that is 13-4-2 ATS in their last 19 games, including a 6-1 ATS streak on the road.
The Mountaineers had a bye week and had two weeks to prepare for this game against the Tar Heels. Appalachian State put up 56 points against Charlotte two weeks ago and has a very powerful offense. Their defense looked pedestrian compared to years past against Charlotte. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game became a shootout, but I like Appalachian State to knock off the Tar Heels.
Appalachian State came very close to beating Penn State a year ago, taking them to overtime before losing by seven. I think they get the job done here and the struggles for ACC teams continue.
The Play: Appalachian State +3.5 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
The Play: Over 58 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
South Carolina @ Missouri; 3PM CT
These two teams combined for 72 points a year ago in a complete monsoon in Columbia, South Carolina.
I really liked what I saw out of South Carolina last week playing at Alabama. True freshman, Ryan Hilinski, threw it 57 times for 324 yards and two touchdowns. I still have questions about Missouri’s defense after they gave up 297 rushing yards.
Missouri has a high powered offense that is averaging nearly 40 points and 475 yards per game. South Carolina gave up 483 yards to North Carolina in Week 1 and 571 yards in Week 3 to Alabama. We can throw out their Week 2 game because they played Charleston Southern.
I expect Missouri to get at least 500 yards in this match-up and north of 40 points. That means I just need 27 from a South Carolina team that will look to spray the ball all over the field for a second consecutive week with one of the best true freshman quarterbacks in the country.
The Play: Over 63.5 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
Ball State @ North Carolina State; 6PM CT
Ball State games have combined for an average of 72 points per game this year thanks to a high scoring offense (37.3 points per game/488 yards per game) and an awful defense (34.7 points per game/432.7 yards given up).
I was high on the Wolfpack defense after two weeks before they proceeded to get shredded by West Virginia last weekend for a total of 44 points and 445 yards. The Mountaineers came into that game after a 171 yard and 7 point performance at Missouri.
North Carolina State should score in the high 30’s in this match-up, which means we just need 17 points from Ball State. That is feasible against a defense that will be looking ahead to their game with Florida State next week. I think this game lands in the 60’s when all is said and done.
The Play: Over 56 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
CHARLOTTE @ CLEMSON; 6:30PM CT
Trevor Lawrence, nor Clemson have looked as impressive as they did a year ago, but Clemson has three months to figure this out because they don’t play a team that will put up a fight until the playoff.
Charlotte is averaging just over 47 points and 500+ yards of offense per game. They’re not going to put up those kinds of numbers against a Clemson defense that is giving up less than 260 yards per game, but they don’t have to with a spread this high.
They put up 41 against a good Appalachian State team and should be able to get at least 14 here. This spread is way to high for a Charlotte team that is undervalued in the market right now.
The Play: Charlotte +42 The Risk: 1.1 Units To Win: 1 Unit
NEBRASKA @ ILLINOIS; 7PM CT
Nebraska looked like they got a few things figured out offensively last week against NIU, putting up 44 points in a rout of the Huskies. The good news for them is they get to face a defense that gave up 480 yards last week to Eastern Michigan.
I was watching the Illinois defense get shredded by Mike Glass and thinking, “Dear God, what is Adrian Martinez going to do to them?”
Nebraska was terrible defensively on the road last year and they didn’t look much better in Boulder two weeks ago. I expect this game to be a shootout with whatever team makes the fewest mistakes coming away with a win. This total is way to low for teams that combined to score 89 points last season. Two units on the over please.
The Play: Over 63.5 The Risk: 2.2 Units To Win: 2 Units
Toledo @ Colorado State; 9:15PM CT
This was one of my favorite plays this week until it was announced that Colin Hill is out for the season with a torn ACL. Backup quarterback Patrick O’Brien, a Nebraska transfer, was 7/10 with a 75-yard touchdown last week after the injury.
He will get a new weapon this week with Nate Craig-Myers gaining eligibility after having to sit out the first three games due to transfer regulations. Colorado State games have averaged 75 points per game this year due to their defense giving up nearly 40 points per game. This week they face a Toledo team that is putting up 34.5 points per game and scored 45+ in nine games last year.
The Colorado State offense has been putting up good numbers, averaging over 500 yards per game and 34.3 points. I imagine their offense stays uptempo, but the injury makes me worried they get more conservative.
These are two high powered offenses, but the injury makes me worried Colorado State gets more conservative. That’s why I’m only playing this total for a half unit. The Toledo team total would be worth a look at 41 or lower, but that number hasn’t been posted as of writing.
The Play: Over 67 The Risk: .55 Units To Win: .5 Unit
That’s it. 14 plays for Week 4 including the first two unit play of the season on that total in the Illinois – Nebraska game. I tweaked a few things in my analysis this weekend, trying to dive deeper into the trends of these series in previous years, as we are getting into conference play. Luckily, we will not be betting on Friday the 13th this week and hopefully I can make back a few units.
Thanks to those of you reading the column. Be sure to give it a share on Twitter or Facebook.
Best of luck this weekend!
Cover photo via: Aaron Babcock
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