NCAA Football Predictions: Week 4 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/15/2014
Pretty solid Week 3 on my NCAA picks even though Kentucky nearly made me look like an idiot as I expected the Gators would crush the Wildcats. Instead, it took UF three overtimes to avoid a huge home embarrassment. A loss there would have all but guaranteed that Will Muschamp was a goner after the season. I did call Houston covering at BYU in a bit of a letdown game for the Cougars as well as writing this about East Carolina-Virginia Tech, a letdown game for the Hokies :" I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see an outright ECU win here ." The Pirates did.
Here's a look at a few games that caught my eye for this week.
No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State (+9): Despite having seven teams in the Top 15 of the new Associated Press poll, I believe the SEC is a bit overrated this year. Thus, that should tell you where I'm going to lean on this great Thursday night matchup. Both teams have been off since Sept. 6. The big question here is whether Auburn will have big-play receiver Sammie Coates. He missed the Tigers' last game against San Jose State. Coates hasn't done much this year yet but last season had 42 catches for 902 yards (third nationally with 21.5 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns. K-State could definitely make a statement about getting into the College Football Playoff with an upset, but I don't expect the Wildcats to win at Oklahoma or Baylor later this season. KSU hasn't defeated a ranked nonconference team since knocking off No. 11 Southern California in 2002. I'm not saying it will win but will cover.
Rutgers at Navy (-4.5): I'm writing about this game because it gives me a chance to rag on the Big Ten again. It was another comical weekend for the conference with Indiana losing at Bowling Green and Iowa falling at home to Iowa State. The conference is now 1-10 against Power 5 opponents. Rutgers lost perhaps the biggest game in school history last week, 13-10 to Penn State in the Scarlet Knights' Big Ten home debut. I expect a major letdown from Rutgers here and love Navy. Plus, the Middies will get back starting QB Keenan Reynolds. He sat out last week's win over Texas State. Last year Reynolds rushed for 31 touchdowns, the most in NCAA history for a quarterback.
Utah at Michigan (-6.5): A loss here could be the final straw for UM head coach Brady Hoke if the Notre Dame blowout two weeks ago already wasn't. This should be a nice matchup of Michigan's Top 10 defense against what has been an explosive Utes offense. They are averaging 57.5 points per game in wins over Idaho State and Fresno State. Utah also had last week off to prepare for this one. Still, I like that UM is giving less than a touchdown. The Wolverines cover as long as they aren't looking ahead to the start of conference play.
No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State (-20.5): This is the game of the day on Saturday, the only matchup featuring two Top 25 teams. It's also a chance for Jameis Winston to perhaps regain his status as the Heisman Trophy betting favorite. He has fallen to second behind Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (at Washington State this week). The Seminoles haven't looked all that great in their first two games, but Clemson was clobbered in its opener by Georgia, so the Tigers might not be much of a test in Tallahassee. Winston torched Clemson last year for 444 yards passing and three scores while also running for a fourth. This line seems too high, though. I would probably wait to see if I could get +21.5, but I lean Clemson regardless.
No. 14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt (+21.5): This screams trap game for South Carolina after the Gamecocks got a huge win Saturday against Georgia. A loss there would have had USC essentially three games behind the Dawgs in the SEC East. This is also South Carolina's first road game, and it probably is more focused on the Sept. 27 matchup with No. 18 Missouri, the defending East Division champ. Vanderbilt is pretty bad, getting routed by Temple (Temple!) and Ole Miss before squeaking by Massachusetts on Saturday. Still, everything points to a sluggish USC team, so take the points.
No. 4 Oklahoma at West Virginia (+9.5): This is my upset of the week. West Virginia appears much improved from last season. The Mountaineers have a very potent offense behind quarterback Clint Trickett. They beat a pretty good Maryland team in the Terps' house on Saturday. The Sooners rolled Tennessee on Saturday but lost leading rusher Keith Ford for at least the next few games with a fractured foot. Ford has rushed for 194 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He is also Oklahoma's third-leading receiver with 100 yards. I love the points here, but I'm holding out hope for getting 10.5. This will be Oklahoma's first game of the season in enemy territory (I don't count a trip to Tulsa as enemy territory considering it was largely OU fans).
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