It's Wednesday, and you know what that means - it's time to make some college football picks!!!
Incredibly, we're already heading into Week 4, and it really feels like the sport as a whole is picking up. We have conference games across the board, some of the sport's best rivalries return this weekend, and overall, there's just a general feeling of football truly being in the air (except where I live, where it's supposed to be like 104 degrees this weekend - but that's neither here nor there).
First off, a few quick things: One, if you missed Wednesday's Aaron Torres Podcast, make sure to download as we had a legendary guest - former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. We talked about a bunch of different things, including whether he believes Urban Meyer will ever coach again or not.
Oh, you don't want to miss this one.
Finally, a quick reminder: This week's picks are presented by our presenting sponsor, Betfred Sportsbook. Betfred has all sorts of incredible deals, and for the third straight week, we'll have a special Aaron Torres Odds Boost - last week, you could've gotten Washington (-3.5) at +110, and picked up a nice chunk of change.
Now, to the picks:
Missouri (+7) at Auburn: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, remember last Saturday, at about 3:35 ET, when the CBS blimps were panning over Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Auburn crowd was rocking, and it looked like one of the most intimidating home venues we've seen in college football all season?
Yeah, well picture that for this Saturday - only the exact opposite. We have an 11 a.m. local time kick-off, an uninteresting opponent, and a fan-base that has not only given up Bryan Harsin, but it appears as though, Bryan Harsin have given up on as well.
Earlier this week he chirped at media members, telling them they don't know football - and history tells us, when a coach starts lashing out at the media, that's a pretty good sign he knows it's over. Then, a report on Wednesday that Harsin has basically stopped recruiting altogether.
Not ideal, I'd say. Not ideal at all.
Then there's Missouri, which isn't very good, but hasn't given up on its coach, and I believe moves the ball well enough to score points and keep things close - if not win outright. Yes, they've "only" played Kansas State, Abilene Christian and Louisiana Tech, but they have been able to move the ball, and their defense is actually somewhat improved. Even in their loss to Kansas State, it was more turnovers than bad defense which did them in.
I don't think either team is particularly good, but in front of a lifeless Jordan-Hare crowd, against a lifeless Auburn offense, I expect Missouri to keep things close - if not win outright.
BEST BET: Notre Dame at North Carolina (-1.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
I saw this one open as a pick, immediately jumped on it, and the money has continued to pour in on the Tar Heels. Maybe I'm a total square here, but this one is in fact my favorite bet of the week.
Look, I could break down all sorts of numbers, stats and advanced analytics, but the bottom line here is this: Notre Dame's offense just isn't good. Like, at all. They're down to back-up quarterback Drew Pyne (shout out to the Connecticut kid!) and an offensive line that was supposed to be a strength, isn't opening up nearly enough holes. On the season, Notre Dame ranks 102nd in rush offense and 110th in yards per carry.
As if that weren't bad enough, the defense - which was supposed to be a strength under Marcus Freeman - isn't significantly better, as they're giving up 351 yards per game. And to be clear, that wasn't just an Ohio State thing - they gave up almost 400 yards to Marshall and another 300 to Cal.
Again, I could be totally square here, but when you look at Notre Dame's inability to move the ball, one thing strikes me about this team: If the opponent can put up anywhere around 21 to 24 points in a game, they simply won't be able to keep up and you're going to win.
Well, one thing that North Carolina can do is put up yards and points, with Drake Maye (Luke's brother) passing for nearly 1,000 yards, 10 TD's and just one interception in three games.
Yes, the North Carolina defense isn't good, but Notre Dame isn't the team to expose them.
Back at home for the first time since Week 0, coming off a bye, I expect the Tar Heels to roll.
Minnesota (-3) at Michigan State (UNDER 51): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Yes, I hate taking road favorites, but screw it, your boy AT is rowing the boat!!!! And there are two things specifically I like about this game.
First, the one thing I have kept saying over the last few weeks in these picks: Trust your preseason prep! Well, all off-season, every time I looked into Michigan State, I kept coming back to the fact that I thought the Spartans were overvalued coming into the year. Look, we all loved the story last year, but the Spartans got a bunch of breaks along the way, and at some point, things would bounce the other way. They certainly did last week in a loss at Washington that wasn't really competitive until the end.
Fast forward to this week, and they now host a physical, tough Minnesota team. I know Minnesota hasn't played anybody, but can we go ahead and give PJ Fleck his due. Like, all the guy ever does is get criticized and critiqued, yet in the last two, non-Covid seasons, he's won nine games and 11 games.
And he's done it with a very distinct style of play: They're going to run the ball at you, chew up clock and play sound defense.
This year may be the best version yet, as Minnesota currently ranks No. 2 nationally in rushing, averaging a staggering 312 yards per game, and No. 2 in total defense as well. Most importantly, they have one of the best run defenses in college football, allowing just 69 yards per game.
In other words, they're going to take away the run and make Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne beat them - the same Payton Thorne who's already thrown four interceptions in three games this season.
Then once they get up, Minnesota will take the life out of Michigan State (they currently rank No. 1 in time of possession this season).
Expect a low-scoring, physical game, and a Gophers win on the road. I'm thinking something like 21-10 and a Gophers cover and UNDER hit.
No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Arkansas (+1.5): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN (Arlington, TX)
Listen, I don't claim to be an expert on every rivalry that has ever been played in college football. What I do know though, is this:
Both these schools don't like each other
Under the lights at Jerry World, this thing is going to be ELECTRIC!
As for the game itself, well, I'll be honest: I think the wrong team is favored.
Look, I think Arkansas is far from a perfect team, and I think Bobby Petrino (of all people) exposed that last week. They're bad in the secondary and can't stop the pass, as they literally rank dead last in college football, in pass defense.
There's just one problem: Is Texas A&M really the team to expose that? I know the Aggies looked better with Max Johnson last week, and I know they were down two receivers to suspension, but even "improved" quarterback play, they still passed for a grand total of 163 yards.
To quote Alexis Rose, "Eww."
Then there's the other side of the football, where Arkansas does one thing exceptionally well: They run the ball right at you, averaging over 240 yards on the ground per game. Texas A&M ranks 83rd nationally in run defense and just gave up over five yards per carry on the ground to Miami on Saturday night at home.
Put simply, if Texas A&M can't expose Arkansas' weakness, nor stop their strength, are we sure the right team is favored?
My thoughts exactly.
A big pig invasion is coming to Jerry World on Saturday.
Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (UNDER 57): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
How lucky are Ohio State fans? Besides getting to watch one of the - if not the - most explosive offenses in college football, they've also gotten three, night home games before the end of September this season.
As that coach who wears khakis would say: WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US? And for Buckeyes fans who like to have a good time, the answer is "Nooooooobody!"
As for this game, well, it is worth noting that after putting up 77 points last week - 77!!!! - they are going to face the best defense, not only that they've seen so far, that they might see all year. Remember, that for all the hype of Georgia's historic defense last year, it was actually the Badgers - not Dawgs - who led college football in total defense.
This year, they haven't missed a beat, as they rank in the Top 15 in scoring defense, total defense and rush defense.
The problem for the Badgers, is of course the offense. which in their only game against a Power 5 team this year versus Washington, put up just 14 points (admittedly, they had a bunch of yards, but couldn't convert when it mattered). Against a rapidly improving Ohio State defense, I don't expect things to get much better.
In the end, I think Ohio State rolls, but the 18-point spread is too rich for my blood.
We'll say something like a 31-14 Ohio State win, with the UNDER cashing with ease.
No. 5 Clemson (-7.5) at No. 21 Wake Forest: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC: Weirdly, I can't remember most family members birthdays or to call on holidays, but I remember bad bets - and I explicitly remember taking Wake Forest against Clemson last year, and the Demon Deacons getting destroyed.
Either Wake is able to move the ball, and potentially pull the upset, or Clemson smothers them at the line of scrimmage and the Tigers win by three touchdowns. I have no idea which, which is why I'm staying away.
No. 7 USC (-6) at Oregon State: Saturday, 9:30 ET, Pac-12 Network: Last week took Fresno and the points against USC, and the Trojans went on to win by roughly...94 points. This one I'll stay away from, even though it feels like quite the trap on the road, against a tough, physical Beavers team.
No. 20 Florida at No. 11 Tennessee (-11) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: Every ounce of me wants to take Tennessee here, but even Tennessee fans feel like this is way too many points for the Vols to be comfortably giving at home. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that the Vols win and cover, something like 34-20, but if I'm not going to bet it myself, I can't advise you to do the same.
A reminder: The picks are brought to you by Betfred Sportsbook. New users can get $250 when they bet $50 on any game this weekend - good in Arizona, Colorado and Iowa only