College football Week 4 best underdog bets, picks and predictions: 3 home underdogs getting too many points
The Week 4 college football slate is an exciting one. We will be treated to 6 ranked matchups throughout the day and 6 additional games between undefeated teams. Furthermore, many teams open conference play this weekend, which should give us a better idea of how good some of these power conference programs are after starting the season with 3 inferior opponents.
Coming off a 3-0 week last week, we are now 6-3 on the season in this weekly piece. Let’s keep the momentum this week on a loaded card.
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Best Week 4 underdog bets
Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing.
Cincinnati Bearcats +14.5 (-110) over Oklahoma
The Sooners and the Bearcats are top 30 teams in rush rate, as they keep the ball on the ground on more than 55% of plays. Furthermore, Cincinnati – the home underdog – has a 6.6% rush rate over expected according to CFBGraphs, making it 1 of the 20 most run-reliant teams in the country. The Bearcats’ reliance on the ground game makes me believe they will do whatever they can to control the tempo of this game and keep the ball out of Oklahoma’s hands as much as possible. Oklahoma struggled offensively at times against SMU in Week 2, which is the strongest opponent the Sooners have faced to date that also happens to be rated lower than Cincinnati in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency. The Sooners averaged just 6.5 yards per pass and 4.0 yards per rush against the Mustangs and punted 4 times in the first half as a result of their poor production. Furthermore, Oklahoma’s offensive line ranks outside the top 40 in PFF’s pass blocking and run blocking grades despite playing the 108th-rated strength of schedule to this point according to Sagarin – which may be a matchup the Bearcats can exploit defensively.
In a hostile and unfamiliar road environment, I expect the Sooners to struggle a bit early on and for the Bearcats to be motivated and focused coming off a loss ahead of their first Big 12 game in program history. Look for Cincinnati to lean on its run game offensively in an attempt to shorten the game and for its defense to create havoc in the Sooners’ first game outside of their home state.
Michigan State Spartans +7.5 (-110) over Maryland
The Terrapins may be 3-0 SU this season with a talented veteran quarterback in Taulia Tagovailoa leading the offense, but they are 1-2 ATS with a couple of underwhelming performances in games against Charlotte and Virginia – 2 teams I have power rated outside the top 100. This will be their first true road game of the season, and conference road games have not been kind to the Terrapins in Mike Locksley’s tenure. Since 2019, the Terrapins are 5-12 SU in conference road games, which makes me hesitant to lay points with them in this matchup despite the off-the-field issues surrounding the Spartans.
For what it is worth, the Spartans are a top 40 team in pass rush grade and a top 30 team in run defense grade according to PFF despite last week’s blowout loss to Washington. If Maryland running back Roman Hemby is unable to find rushing lanes, Michigan State’s pass rush should generate pressure on Tagovailoa – something the Spartans were unable to do against Washington’s elite offensive line last week. Luckily for Michigan State, the Terrapins rank outside the top 70 in pass blocking grade. If the Spartans can get into the backfield, they should be able to force Tagovailoa into errant throws similar to last season when he carried a 7.7% turnover-worthy play percentage against opposing pressure. Simply put, I do not trust Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense on the road, and am happy to fade them in this spot above the key number 7.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +3 (-110) over Ohio State
The matchup between Notre Dame and Ohio State last year took place in Columbus and was a low-scoring affair despite CJ Stroud taking snaps for the Buckeyes. The Irish held Stroud to 6.6 yards per pass in Marcus Freeman’s first regular season game as head coach and even managed a lead at halftime, but the Irish could not muster a point after the intermission and eventually lost 21-10. This time around, the Irish will be at home with a quarterback advantage, as Kyle McCord has taken over for Stroud while Sam Hartman transferred into Notre Dame from Wake Forest. Through 4 games on his new team, Hartman is top 20 in PFF’s passing grade, adjusted completion percentage, and big time throw percentage – giving the Irish offense an element it did not have in the previous matchup.
Notre Dame’s offensive line has been solid thus far, allowing pressure on just 22% of Hartman’s dropbacks. This unit and the passing attack will be put to the test against Ohio State’s defense, which ranks 2nd in PFF’s pass rush grade and 1st in coverage grade albeit playing against the 98th-rated strength of schedule thus far per Sagarin. However, the presence of running back Audric Estime should take a little bit of pressure off Hartman and the pass catchers. Estime is the top rated rusher in the country according to PFF’s run grade and has a knack for making defenders miss. He averages 4.73 yards after contact per attempt and gains 8.3 total yards per carry, providing Notre Dame with a key piece to help maintain ball control and navigate the aggressive Buckeye defense. While Ohio State’s defense grades out at an elite level, the Buckeyes have yet to see an offense of Notre Dame’s pedigree with a quarterback that possesses Hartman’s down-field passing ability and a running back with Estime’s rushing ability.
Playing on the road in his first hostile opposing environment could be overwhelming for new starter Kyle McCord, especially early, so I expect the rushing attack to be a big part of the Buckeye game plan. Unfortunately for them, Notre Dame has a talented group of defensive tackles and linebackers that excel at stopping the run. Furthermore, Ohio State lost multiple key pieces from last year’s talented offensive line and will likely feel the effects of that on the road against Notre Dame’s front 7. All things considered, I do not see Ohio State’ offense separating itself from Notre Dame given the Irish’s offensive performance thus far with Hartman and Estime running the show, so give me the points with the home dog.
Honorable Mention: Ole Miss Rebels, Sam Houston State Bearkats