CFB Week 4: Clear your calendar for an epic Saturday slate
Last week's college football slate left a lot to be desired. Week 4 is so loaded that there's no time for pleasantries. Just business.
Clemson may not have a number next to its name, but even with a bizarre loss to Duke on the team's limited resume, it's still among the top 25 in the country. The problem is that Florida State might be the best team in the country.
I'll look past the Seminoles' late scare from Boston College - due to a scoop-and-score and a late touchdown drive in a two-score game. LSU dominating teams in the aftermath of getting worked by FSU in the opener tells me more about the Seminoles' ceiling.
With a spread under three, there's not enough leeway to back Clemson. The Tigers' brand is still strong, but their level of play against capable teams (Duke, Tennessee, South Carolina, Notre Dame) hasn't matched it lately. Like LSU, look for them to struggle on the ground, leaving Cade Klubnik looking downfield at suboptimal matchups. With overtime rules leaning on the two-point conversion, let's keep an eye out for Clemson money dropping this to -2, just in case.
Pick: Florida State (Shop for -2)
A week after a rare home loss, Alabama got its own mega-upset scare at South Florida while searching for a reliable quarterback. Jalen Milroe gets tapped back in, but how far do you downgrade the Crimson Tide to create this point spread?
Alabama came into the season with an estimated rating of 85/100 and was still there as 34.5-point favorites last week. However, the Tide opened as 6-point favorites suggesting that their rating dropped into the high 70s. With Milroe announced back in, Alabama's up to -7, so if the spread creeps through seven, it'll be time to hop on the Lane Train.
Pick: Ole Miss (+7, wait for +7.5)
Adding to the season-long complexity of tracking Colorado's rating, the team will be without Travis Hunter on Saturday, which hurts both sides of the ball.
The Buffaloes' rating (61) got a little high before last week's double-overtime win, and that same rating suggests Oregon should be -16.5 on Saturday. However, whether it's Hunter's absence or a recalibration of how good Colorado actually is, a rating of 54/100 makes three touchdowns more fair than you may think.
The Buffaloes hold up OK in the trenches, but they gave up 5.4 yards per carry to Nebraska and really haven't been able to run the ball. With a one-dimensional offense, Coach Prime will have less fun with these Ducks than during his Aflac commercials - but there's little interest in laying three converted touchdowns against a Shedeur Sanders-led offense.
Fundamentally, with wins over Florida and Baylor, Utah's far more battle-tested than the Bruins, who have assimilated Dante Moore against below-average teams. This trip to Salt Lake City is a different deal, and like Week 1, we'll back the Utes to be the more physical group on both sides of the ball, but waiting for the line drop some more is a prudent strategy.
Pick: Utah (-4, wait for -3)
With an opener of Oregon State -1.5, I was content to watch two good teams who don't get a lot of shine. But now that the woefully underrated Cougars - who handled Wisconsin relatively easy - are getting a field goal in The Palouse, sign me up. The Beavers have done well, but this is a step up in weight class and a massive jump in the environment for D.J. Uiagalelei.
Pick: Washington State (+3)
We loathe to suggest that the wrong team is ever favored, but getting any points with Notre Dame at home feels like a good deal. Hanging with a more polished Buckeye team in Columbus last season was a moral victory, but it's time to win in South Bend. Look for the Irish defense to be prepared for Ohio State's system. And they flipped the advantage at quarterback with Sam Hartman at the helm.
Pick: Notre Dame (+3)
The Iowa offense is still a tough watch, but the Hawkeyes are willing to grind it out with a more talented team. If the Nittany Lions plan to win this game by three scores, they'll have to earn it. That said, Iowa has put up mediocre offensive numbers against awful competition, and James Franklin is dying to punch in a late score. So this ranked-on-ranked game is going without a bet unless the line drops under two touchdowns.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.