It's Thursday, and you know what that means - time for some Week 4 college football picks.
Oh, but these aren't just regular picks, because remember people: SEC football is... BACK BABY!
That's right after nine months in a college football abyss and another three weeks of watching way too much Central Arkansas, Marshall and Tulane, the big boys are back! And not only are they back, but they're playing each other. We got SEC on SEC action to open the season. Which sounds kind of dirty, I can't lie. And I kind of like it (insert appropriate emoji here).
So yeah, there's a lot of reason for excitement and here is another reason: On top of the SEC being back, the picks are on absolute fire heading into Week 4 of the football season (which is Week 3 for the picks and Week 1 for the SEC - got all that?). The picks went 3-1 last week (and that's only after our favorite bet - Georgia Southern was called off because of Covid) and were 4-1 the week before, bringing our total to 7-2 against the spread to start the year. Not too shabby.
Now we're shooting for a perfect, undefeated week.
But before we do, remember a few things. One: Just because the SEC is back, doesn't mean we're betting every game. I try to pick winners, not necessarily the biggest games. So I'll be staying away from a bunch of the SEC games this weekend. For the games I do not pick however, I did a short write-up at the bottom of this article explaining why I'm staying away.
Secondly, also remember that the picks are sponsored this week and every week by my good friends at MyBookie. If you use MyBookie and the promo code "TORRES" you automatically double your first deposit. So if you've never wagered before and are thinking of throwing $25 bucks on Alabama or LSU or Florida, this is the week to do it, and MyBookie will give you $50 to play with.
Anyway, I'm way too hot to keep talking, so let's get to this week's picks!!
Florida International at Liberty (-6.5): Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Look, I know it's game week in the SEC and we want to start by betting all the big boys, but again, it's not about having action on every game. It's about making the best plays. And in my opinion, believe it or not, Liberty as a little under a touchdown favorite is my favorite bet of the week.
Why do I like this matchup so much? Well put simply, it's about matchups.
For those who've forgotten, FIU is coached by Butch Davis, and there is no single, bigger Butch Davis fan than me. He is. after all, the architect of the greatest football team in the history of the sport, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Still, this ain't Miami, and this ain't 2001. And unfortunately, while I think he is a great coach and has been solid at FIU, they could struggle this year. The Golden Panthers (hell of a nickname, by the way) were just 6-7 a year ago, and lost their starting quarterback, running back and three of their top four wide receivers off that team. Not ideal. And keep in mind this is their season opener. And I do wonder how in sync the offense will be when they're playing at game speed with so many new faces.
Even worse for FIU however is that last year their run defense was abysmal, and this is about the worst team that they could be facing in the opener. Hugh Freeze - yup, remember, Hugh Freeze is the head coach at Liberty - has things rolling at the school, and the one thing they can do is run the ball, and run the ball at will. Freeze's club picked up 354 yards on the ground in their opener against a solid Western Kentucky defense that - at least on paper - is better than the FIU defense the Flames will face this weekend.
To me, this is advantage Liberty in a big way. Again, it's my favorite play of the weekend.
Iowa State (-2.5) at TCU: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Look, I know that it's easy to be down on Iowa State after their Week 1 loss to Louisiana. I get it. You're afraid to back them. And I can't blame you.
At the same time, the more I look back on that game, the more fluky I realize it was. Obviously we all got caught up in Rajun Cajun fever after that game, but if you look at the box score it's kind of a miracle they won. Of Louisiana's 31 points against the Cyclones, 14 came on special teams touchdowns - one kickoff return for a touchdown, and one punt return. Louisiana also scored on a touchdown pass of 78 yards. So essentially they got three touchdowns on busted plays, and if you take out that one, 78-yard touchdown pass, the Rajun Cajuns ended with under 200 yards of total offense. Under 200!!!
So overall, it really wasn't as bad of a performance for Iowa State as you might think.
Then on the flip side you have TCU, a team that always plays good defense but struggled mightily on offense last year (they finished seventh in the Big 12 in total offense). If that weren't bad enough, they've also missed quite a bit of practice these last few weeks because of Covid issues. Remember, they were supposed to kick off two weeks ago against SMU, but instead, weren't able to play at all. This will be their first game, while Iowa State is not only coming off a loss, but had a bye week to stew on it.
I know everyone wants to fade Iowa State in this spot, but I actually love them for the same reason. They're the better team, and hungry off a game they should have won.
Mississippi State (+16.5) at No. 6 LSU: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Ahh, it's the debut of the "SEC on CBS" and if there is one way to celebrate the eccentric, over the top insanity of this league, how about this: Mike Leach vs. Coach O in Week 1!!
That's right baby! With so much crazy stuff happening in the world over the last few months, it's easy to forget that we get Mike Leach in the SEC this season. If there is one silver lining in all of 2020 this has to be it.
Beyond just Leach's arrival in the league, I actually like his team here. Not to win outright. But to cover the more than two touchdowns they're getting against the defending national champions.
That's because as great as the LSU story was a season ago, they've lost basically everyone from that team besides Coach O. They lost a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. Both their offensive and defensive coordinators (Joe Brady and Dave Aranda) have left for greener pastures. Fourteen total players were drafted off last year's team, including four other first rounders besides Burrow. Oh, and the one consistent who was back for their offense this year Ja'Marr Chase (a potential top five pick at wide receiver) opted out of the season and will go pro.
So yeah, I don't want to call it an "empty cupboard" at LSU. Because LSU recruits way too well to call it an empty cupboard. But let's just say it is a total restart from last year.
And if all that weren't enough, LSU has had to start and stop practice all fall long because of Covid.
So when you take in the myriad of factors I just listed and add them in with the fact that Mike Leach's offense is pretty tough to prepare for if you've never seen it, everything points to the Bulldogs covering. I don't think they win this one outright, but it only takes one or two broken plays for them to get some garbage points on the board and cover the spread.
This line opened at 18 and has already moved in our favor. Get in before it's too late.
UTEP at UL-Monroe (-9.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Remember a few weeks ago when I said Texas (-21.5) in the first half against UTEP was my favorite bet of the week? And remember when Texas was up 45-0 at halftime? And remember why I was so convinced it was the best bet of the day?
Oh yeah, it's because UTEP is the worst team in FBS football. I'm not even sure there is a close second. Here is the Miners resume so far: Outside of the Texas game (which was over by the of the first quarter), the Miners two other games were two narrow escapes against FCS schools. They beat Stephen F. Austin 24-14, in a game that they were up just 17-14 going into the fourth quarter. And they were tied with Abilene Christian going into the fourth quarter last week before eeking out a 17-13 win.
Again, we're not exactly talking about Alabama or Florida here.
On the other sideline it'd be easy to worry about UL-Monroe, but let me flip it a different way. Yes they're 0-2, and yes they lost both games by double-digits. But their opener was against Army, a team that is essentially impossible to prepare for, especially when the game was scheduled on short notice. And last week Texas State beat them in Monroe, but it was a game where the Warhawks actually outgained them.
This is all a long-winded way of me saying UTEP isn't as good as their 2-1 record would tell you, and UL-Monroe isn't as bad as their 0-2 record would indicate either. Not to mention, UL-Monroe knows this is probably their best chance all season to get a big, convincing, dominating win.
For the first (and maybe only) time this season, say it with me: Roll with UL-Monroe.
No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas (UNDER 52.5): Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
We discussed Mike Leach's debut earlier in the picks, and with that said...
Welcome to the SEC, Sam Pittman! No pressure! You've just got to face a Top 5 team and program you recently coached at in your debut. But again, don't sweat it. You'll be fine. No worries!
Yes, I'm being sarcastic, but I will say, if there was a time for Arkansas to keep things respectable against Georgia, it's here. First off, at the time that I'm publishing this article, the Dawgs still don't even know who their quarterback will be. Regardless of who it is, you have to imagine that Kirby Smart and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken will want to keep things close to the vest. One of their QB options has yet to throw a single college pass (D'Wan Mathis). The other is a transfer who has basically played a half of football in the last 20 months (JT Daniels).
On top of that, go ahead and look at Georgia's schedule. I know they want to show off their fancy new offense now that Monken has been hired, but they also face Auburn next week and travel to Alabama in Week 4. You really think they want to open things up? Or you think they want to do the typical Georgia thing, where they get a big lead, suffocate you with their defense and get out of town with an easy victory as they get ready for one of their biggest rivals next week?
Georgia wins. But with a new quarterback and a huge game next week, it's low scoring enough for the UNDER to be the play here.
No. 5 Florida (-14.5) at Ole Miss, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: Call me crazy, but I'm in the small minority that isn't buying the Florida hype this year. The Gators are awesome, but Kyle Trask just doesn't scream "playoff quarterback" to me and their defense did lose a bunch of key pieces. As for Ole Miss, I love Lane Kiffin, but the guys who are on this roster aren't really built to play in his system.
My lean here would be the UNDER of 57, but I'll just stay away. I could see Florida winning by three touchdowns (the line has moved to reflect that). I could see Kiffin's surprising Florida and the Rebels losing 34-24 and covering. And I think there could be enough points where the OVER would be in play. So again, just a stay away.
Kansas State at No. 4 Oklahoma (-28), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX: On the one hand, Kansas State beat Oklahoma last year, so you know the Sooners will be fired up. On the other hand, Kansas State has a ball control offense, that is going to try to take the ball out of Spencer Rattler's hands and keep this game low scoring. On the other, other hand, Kansas State tried to do the "ball control" thing against Arkansas State a few weeks ago and gave up 34 points in a loss. I actually like the UNDER of 60.5 more than I do the spread itself here. But not enough to make it one of my official picks.
No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn (-7.5), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Kentucky has become the trendy play here, and the line movement reflects that. It opened at 10 in some books, and is down to 7.5 for the game. And there's a good reason why, Kentucky's best asset - their run game - will go against a rebuilding Auburn defensive line.
Had this line stayed at 10, I probably would've taken the Wildcats, because to blunt, I think they can win outright. But the touchdown and change just scares me, especially with QB Terry Wilson coming off major knee surgery. Kentucky could outplay Auburn for large chunks of the game and still lose 24-14 or something in that neighborhood. So again, I'll just stay away, with my lean being to take Kentucky.
No. 13 UCF (-27.5) at East Carolina, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC: Look, there is no bigger UCF fan than me. They play fast, are fun to watch and put up a ton of points. But you know who else put up a ton of points last year? East Carolina. Admittedly, they gave up basically as many, but that's not the point. Central Florida could score 60 here, but I do worry that they give up too many where the line is no good. The over/under is also absurdly high (76.5). So I'll just be staying away... and watching the fireworks from my couch.
No. 2 Alabama (-28) at Missouri, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: It's taking every fiber of my being to not bet Alabama in this game. You think I'm kidding, but I literally had to delete all the apps off my phone, transfer funds to off-shore accounts (don't tell the IRS!) and change my password on MyBookie to not throw every dollar I have on the Tide here.
Look, Alabama is going to win this game. And I believe in my heart of hearts they're going to cover the spread. Nick Saban is a monster. But he's especially a monster when he's had more than a week to prepare for a team. Let alone, when he's had more than a week to prepare his team against a first year head coach. Let alone when he's had more than one week to prepare for a new coach, when his team spent all off-season being angry about missing the playoff.
My only concern here is that Missouri's defense was pretty good last year (16th in the country) and that Alabama gets up so big, so fast, that they call off the dogs, start to get the backups (specifically quarterback Bryce Young) some reps and Missouri ends up getting a back door score late. Just as easily as I could see Alabama winning 51-7, I could see them up 38-7 and Missouri ripping off a late score to cover the points.
Oh, and one more thing: As of right now, 95 percent of public bets are on Missouri. NINETY FIVE! Gotta stay away here. As much as I don't want to.
No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network: This line just makes no sense at all - which absolutely terrifies me. Had I guessed the point spread when the number came out, I would have put it around Tennessee as a touchdown favorite, so the fact that they're only giving 3.5 points means something is up here. I'm going to stay away, with the full understanding that I'll be kicking myself come Saturday night that I didn't take advantage of the easiest bet of 2020.
Vanderbilt at No. 10 Texas A&M (-30.5): Texas A&M wins, but with Alabama next week and Florida the week after, my guess is they don't show all that much. Forgive me, but I just want to be sweating out a Vandy drive at 11 o'clock at night to determine whether they lose by 28 or 35 just to make (or lose) a few bucks. There are just better opportunities this weekend.
Picks on the season: 7-2 ATS
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