The season is a grind. Not just for players and coaches, but for those who regularly wager on the greatest sport on earth.
College football can test your emotions. What makes it great—the mistakes, the heinous kicking and the way officials handle targeting (don't get me started)—can all have a dramatic impact on the outcomes.
That was a theme throughout a strange Week 3. My picks finished 5-4 last weekend, which feels about right. It could've been better, and it certainly could've been worse.
On the year, picks are 17-13-1.
Before I dive into my Week 4 picks, here's what went right and wrong in Week 3.
The Good: West Virginia (-3) vs. Virginia Tech: This was close to being one of the worst beats of the year, but the Mountaineers hung on. Thank goodness for that. The early slate of games was a roller coaster, and this didn't help.
The Bad: Indiana (+4) vs. Cincinnati: Speaking of early games, this one had me flummoxed. The Hoosiers had four turnovers, allowed a kick-return touchdown and committed a ton of penalties. I knew the "L" was coming. I simply could not turn away.
With that, time for Week 4.
Arkansas (+5.5) vs. Texas A&M
I'm technically betting against myself with this pick. Allow me to explain.
Before the season, I bet Texas A&M to win the national championship. I liked the value (35/1), and I thought the Aggies would take a step forward after a strong 2020.
That hasn't happened; at least not yet. The loss of starting QB Haynes King, has certainly played a role. Although the offense was sputtering even before that.
Arkansas is the right team at the right time to take advantage. I've been impressed with the Hogs, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, and the trenches will be vital in this matchup.
The one thing I can't question is A&M's defense. It has been superb. This, along with Arkansas' play, is why the total is under 50.
This game will be ugly, which isn't necessarily bad. In fact, it will be a glorious kind of ugly. The Hogs are live.
Virginia (-4) vs. Wake Forest
First, a little recent betting history.
Last week, I won with both of these teams. Well, sort of.
I liked Wake Forest to win and cover against Florida State, and the Demon Deacons did their part. In fact, that game was more or less a blowout.
Virginia did its part, too. I picked against the Cavaliers in Week 3, and North Carolina dropped 59 points in a victory.
In defeat, however, Virginia was lively. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 554 yards in a loss, which actually seems quite difficult to do. But for this offense, I consider it an encouraging sign.
Wake Forest also plays on the road for the first time this year. And while we won money on this group last week, it's safe to say that the competition hasn't been superb.
Wins over Florida State, Norfolk State and Old Dominion make up the resume as of now, and that could be an issue.
Much love for last week, Wake. But there's no loyalty in this game. You know this.
Florida State (+2) vs. Louisville
Let's stay in the ACC and hark back once again to last week.
To call Florida State's season a dumpster fire thus far might be an insult to dumpster fires. No matter how you label the Seminoles' 0-3 start, it's probably not wrong. I jumped into that mix last weekend, but I'm jumping back on FSU for at least one week.
I'll pause for effect.
I find this point spread fascinating. Last week, I played Louisville (+7) against UCF. It was a brilliant game and a good cover—one I wish I included in Locks—although I can't say the Cardinals blew me away.
By the end of this week, Louisville will be a very popular play. And I partially understand why. At the same time, I expect Florida State to finally rid itself of the Jacksonville State hangover.
It won't be perfect, and that's probably being kind. Still, give me Florida State outright.
USC vs. Oregon State (Over 62.5)
While the removal of Clay Helton is a big story, the quarterback battle suddenly brewing is perhaps more meaningful when it comes to the Trojans' immediate future.
Jaxson Dart, owner of one of the greatest quarterback names in football history, looked excellent when he replaced an injured Kedon Slovis last weekend. His presence and play ultimately led USC from behind and plenty more against Washington State. The Trojans scored 45 unanswered points.
Regardless of who takes snaps, I love this over. Oregon State is quietly building a nice program, and the Beavers should have enough offense to make this game competitive. More importantly for this scenario, they have enough offense to do their part when it comes to the over.
If you are into late, long football games, this one's for you. It won't kick off until 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and it should take a good four hours.
See you there. I'll bring snacks.
South Carolina (+5) vs. Kentucky
This line just doesn't feel quite right. In fact, that's putting it mildly.
Granted, we just saw Kentucky struggle with Tennessee-Chattanooga. That could be a telling sign and can probably explain why this spread isn't larger.
Still, the Wildcats are 3-0. They are also one week removed from a win over Missouri—a win that could have been much larger if not for turnovers.
South Carolina was blown out in Week 3 by Georgia. (That happens.) The Gamecocks beat East Carolina the week prior—a victory that has aged well considering the Pirates just beat Marshall as a double-digit underdog last Saturday.
To me, this looks like an ugly football game. Not the good kind of ugly we will see elsewhere. Just, well, ugly.
South Carolina keeps it close enough.
Other Plays on the Card
Syracuse (+6) vs. Liberty
I'm actually excited to watch this game; maybe more than I should be. This is an ideal spot for Syracuse, which looks improved, to test one of the game's best Group of Five programs. An upset would not shock me whatsoever.
UCLA (-4.5) vs. Stanford
Last week was bad. There is no getting around it. But the loss to Fresno State might actually age well for UCLA. I still don't buy Stanford yet despite its win over USC a few weeks back.
Mississippi State (+2.5) vs. LSU
The matchup is odd, the styles are odd and the result could match. Mississippi State was undone by poor play (and officiating) last week. Coming home should help a great deal, and I think the Bulldogs win this outright.
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma (Over 55.5)
This number has come down considerably since it opened, which means it's time to pounce. I lost last week when I took the over in Nebraska-Oklahoma, although credit to the Cornhuskers for keeping that game close. This game? Fireworks.
Odds accurate as of Wednesday.
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