Edwards: Week 4 Primer

Originally published Friday night, 9/22/23.
Updated on Saturday, 9/23/23, at 10:07 a.m. Eastern.

What’s up, everybody?! My Week 3 picks were no bueno, as I limped to a 3-5 against-the-spread record. I’m now a mediocre 17-16 ATS for the season (52%, -1.38 Units) in college football. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of success with some player props I’ve released on my Twitter account, cashing winners galore (like Braelon Allen’s prop for rushing yards to go ‘over’ last night, which it did less than one minute into the third quarter) that don’t show up on my record page on VegasInsider because we don’t do player props in college football.

Anyhow, let’s look at this loaded Week 4 card. According to FOX’s Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica, this is the first time since 2006 that we’ve had a September Saturday featuring six games with Top-25 teams facing each other. I’ll throw out some stats, trends, picks, injury intel and more.

-According to Pro Football Focus, the highest-graded QBs in college football are as follows:

1-Tyler Van Dyke (94.0, Miami)
2-Shedeur Sanders (93.1, Colorado)
3-Conner Weigman (92.9, Texas A&M)
4-Michael Penix (92.6, Washington)
5-Darren Grainger (92.2, Georgia St.)
T6-JJ McCarthy (91.7, Michigan)
T6-Caleb Williams (91.7, USC)
T6-Jaxson Dart (91.7, Ole Miss)
9-Riley Leonard (91.2, Duke)
10-Dillon Gabriel (90.9, Oklahoma)

-Here’s how I ranked Saturday’s 12 best games:

1-Ohio St. at Notre Dame
2-FSU at Clemson
3-Colorado at Oregon
4-Ole Miss at Alabama
5-UCLA at Utah
6-Auburn at Texas A&M
7-Iowa at Penn St.
8-Arkansas at LSU
9-Oregon St. at Washington St.
10-BYU at Kansas
11-UCF at Kansas St.
12-Memphis vs. Missouri (in St. Louis)

Notre Dame (4-0 straight up, 3-1 against the spread) will host Ohio St. (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC. As of Friday night, most betting shops had the Buckeyes as three-point road favorites with a total of 55.5. The Fighting Irish were +135 or +140 on the money line. When these teams met in Columbus last year, Ryan Day‘s team won 21-10 but failed to cover the number as a 16.5-point road ‘chalk.’ Notre Dame has its best quarterback in decades. Sam Hartman has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 1,061 yards and 13 TDs without an interception in his first four games. Notre Dame RB Audric Estime is the nation’s leader in rushing yards (521). He also has five rushing touchdowns and an 8.3 yards-per-carry average. The Fighting Irish have compiled a 4-1 ATS record with three outright wins in five games as an underdog since Marcus Freeman took over for Brian Kelly. Ohio St. is 9-7-1 ATS in 17 games as a road favorite during Day’s tenure, but the Buckeyes are 0-4 ATS in their last four such spots.

-On Thursday morning, Utah was favored by six for Saturday’s Pac-12 opener vs. UCLA. This seemed to indicate that QB Cam Rising and/or TE Brant Kuithe were set to make their season debuts. However, the line dropped down to 3.5 late Friday afternoon. If Rising can’t go, Nate Johnson will start for a second straight week for the undefeated Utes, who have won the Pac-12 in back-to-back seasons. Utah has won 16 home games in a row and is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 home contests. The Utes are 5-1 both SU and ATS in their last six head-to-head meetings with the Bruins, who ended a five-game losing streak in this rivalry with a 42-32 win over Utah last year. FOX will provide the telecast at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Saturday morning that Johnson will start, and Rising’s availability remains in question. 

Clemson has won seven straight games over FSU, going 5-2 ATS in the process. As of Friday night, the Seminoles were 1.5-point road favorites for tomorrow’s noon Eastern kick on ABC. The Tigers haven’t been home underdogs since Lamar Jackson brought Louisville to Death Valley as a one-point road favorite in 2016. In a thrilling slugfest, Clemson knocked off the Cardinals, 42-36. FSU is 3-1 ATS in only four previous games as a road favorite during Mike Norvell’s four-year tenure.

-ESPN’s Thamel reported Saturday morning that FSU will be without starting OT Robert Scott, a second-team All-ACC selection in 2022, and safety Akeem Dent today at Clemson. Dent had 53 tackles and four passes broken up last year. He’s started 32 career games for the Seminoles, who remained unbeaten last week with a 31-29 non-covering win at Boston College. Center Maurice Smith is back today, though, after missing the win at BC.

-Clemson will be without its leading receiver Antonio Williams today vs. FSU. Williams has 15 receptions for 145 yards and two TDs in three games this season. He had 56 catches for 604 yards and four TDs in 2022.

I’m on Colorado +21 at Oregon in a 3:30 Eastern kick on ABC. Even without CB/WR Travis Hunter, I expect CU star QB Shedeur Sanders to continue to put up huge numbers against the Ducks’ defense. He still has plenty of weapons in WR Xavier Weaver (25 catches, 386 yards and two TDs), WR Jimmy Horn Jr. (26/247/2 TDs), RB Dylan Edwards (14/160/3 TDs +136 rushing yards, one TD and a 5.4 YPC average), TE Michael Harrison (11/113/2 TDs) and WR Tar’Varish Dawson (11/110/1 TD). Plus, the Buffaloes will see RB Alton McCaskill, the transfer from Houston, make his season debut. McCaskill started 12 times for the Cougars and has a 5.1 career YPC average. Texas Tech scored 30 points against Oregon despite committing four turnovers. I think CU has a better offense than the Red Raiders, and I’m confident the Buffs can score 35 points or more. If they do, that’s going to put Bo Nix and Co. on the hook for producing a big number if Oregon is going to cover.

-DraftKings has Alabama with an updated season win total of 8.5 (‘over’ -135, ‘under’ +110) going into Saturday’s home game vs. Ole Miss on CBS at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Nick Saban is going back to Jalen Milroe as his starting QB.

-I got My Side Squad – the Eastern Michigan Eagles coached by Chris ‘The Underdog King’ Creighton – +7 at Jacksonville St. earlier in the week. As of Friday night, most spots had the Gamecocks favored by six or 6.5 points. If your number is 6.5, buy the half-point to the key number of seven and take EMU. The Eagles are 38-11-1 ATS in their last 50 games as underdogs. Rich Rodriguez‘s Jacksonville St. squad is off a 30-16 loss at Coastal Carolina.

I’m on South Carolina -6 vs. Mississippi St. in a 7:30 p.m. Eastern kick on the SEC Network. The Gamecocks are 11-4 SU and 10-5 ATS in 15 home games during Shane Beamer‘s tenure. Eight of those 11 wins have been by margins of nine points or more. They’re also 6-2 ATS as home ‘chalk’ on Beamer’s watch.

LSU LB Omar Speights (hip) is ‘out’ again for today’s home game vs. Arkansas. The Tigers will also be without safety Greg Brooks, who had to undergo emergency surgery earlier this week for a brain tumor. Arkansas star RB Rocket Sanders is ‘questionable,’ but I don’t expect him to return today and, if he does, he won’t be at 100 percent.

Kansas St. is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games as a home favorite. The Wildcats are in bounce-back mode Saturday when they host UCF. They’ll be without LB Daniel Green, who was lost to a season-ending injury in last week’s 30-27 loss at Missouri on a 61-yard, walk-off field goal by the Tigers’ Harrison Mevis. In three games this year, Green had 13 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s and one sack. In 2022, he recorded 58 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, three QB hurries, two sacks, two interceptions and two PBU.

Chris Klieman dubbed starting QB Will Howard as ‘questionable’ earlier in the week, prompting the Wildcats to be adjusted from -6.5 to -4.5. The number was all the way down to 3.5 earlier today but by early Friday night, it had climbed back up to -4.5.

UCF will definitely be without its starting QB John Rhys Plumlee, who is expected to return in early-to-late October. Timmy McClain made his first start for the unbeaten Knights last week.

If Howard can’t play (he’s a game-time decision), then K-St. true freshman Avery Johnson will get his first career start. Johnson was the prize of the Wildcats’ 2023 recruiting class who enrolled early and went through spring practice. He had 24 rushing yards on just four attempts at Missouri last week. With or without Howard, I lean to K-St. here.

K-St. will be without starting RB Treshaun Ward.

West Va. starting QB Garrett Greene is being called a game-time decision for today’s home game vs. Texas Tech. If he can’t go, Nicco Marchiol will start for the Mountaineers.

Auburn DB Keionte Scott had surgery on his right ankle Monday. According to Hugh Freeze, he will be out “for a considerable amount of time.” Scott had 10 tackles in the Tigers’ first three games. He contributed 53 tackles, four TFL’s, three PBU, two QB hurries, one interception and one sack. As of Friday night, Auburn was +8.5 or +9 for Saturday’s noon Eastern kick at Texas A&M on ESPN.

Missouri QB Brady Cook has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. Eastern kick vs. Memphis in St. Louis. ESPNU will provide television coverage. During the Tigers’ 3-0 start, Cook has completed 72.0 percent of his passes for 732 yards and five TDs without an interception. He also has three rushing TDs. As of Friday night, most spots had Missouri as a seven-point favorite.

Billy Napier‘s teams are 8-18 ATS in 26 games from the favorite role since the start of the 2020 campaign. He’s 2-6 ATS with three outright defeats as a favorite at UF. As of early Friday evening, most books had the Gators installed as 28-point home favorites vs. Charlotte.

South Alabama star WR Devin Voisin will miss the rest of the year after undergoing season-ending knee surgery. He had 64 catches for 871 yards and five TDs in 2022. Voisin had five receptions for 77 yards and one TD in the Jaguars’ first two games this year. Without him, South Alabama went to Stillwater and thumped Oklahoma St. 33-7 as a 7.5-point road underdog. The Jags host Central Michigan on Saturday.

Check out my story on the Week 5 look-ahead lines released early by DraftKings.

For more of my picks and analysis, check out this SEC Betting preview I did Thursday with Blake Lovell of Southeastern 14. If you like what you hear, feel free to subscribe to Southeastern 14’s YouTube channel and/or follow their Twitter account.

-Ex-Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne will start for Arizona St. in its home game vs. USC. ASU true freshman QB Jaden Rashada is expected to be out until late October. As of Friday night, most spots had the Trojans favored by 34.5 points. Kickoff on FOX is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

-As of Friday night, most books had Washington as a 20.5-point home favorite vs. California in a 10:30 p.m. ET. kick on ESPN. The Golden Bears have produced a 15-3 ATS record in their last 18 games as road underdogs.

-With QB Frank Harris still nursing turf toe, UTSA is expected to start Eddie Lee Marburger again today at Tennessee.

FAU QB Casey Thompson, a transfer from Nebraska, is out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL last week.

Nebraska QB Heinrich Haarberg will start again today vs. La. Tech. Jeff Sims (ankle) is expected to be available, though. As for La. Tech’s QB Hank Bachmeier, he’s only going to be available today in an emergency.

-For other ATS notes, check out Bruce Marshall’s Technical Edges for Week 4.

-One bettor at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS., risked $40,000 to win more than 829K on a 15-team parlay. Here’s who he or she has in that 15-teamer.