College Football

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY PICKS: Week Four

Well, after an undefeated first two weeks I finally came crashing back to earth Saturday, whiffing on three picks last week. Regression to the mean comes for us all. But things really start to get interesting now with Big 12 and Pac-12 starting conference games this week, including the matchup that will be my first major upset pick of the year.

Also adding point spreads to the picks to get some of you nitpickers off my back. (Looking at you, Dad.)

CINCINNATI at MEMPHIS (-4.5)

Short week for both teams, both coming off shootout wins. Memphis has been one of the sneakiest commodities in college football under head coach Justin Fuente (who somehow hasn’t been hired away by a Power Five school yet), who had a brutal defense in 2014 and has added an explosive offense. Quarterback Paxton Lynch is completing 77% of his passes for six scores and no picks for 10.6 yards per attempt (pretty good). Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel is probable for tonight despite suffering a shoulder injury against Miami (OH) Saturday, and while he’ll play, you probably don’t want to be a step slow against this defense. MEMPHIS 35, CINCINNATI 27

BOISE STATE (-3) at VIRGINIA

Really surprised to see the Cavaliers as a home underdog against a Bronco offense that hasn’t really hit its stride yet. Virginia so far has lived and died by the big play, ranking sixth in offensive explosiveness and 107th in defensive explosiveness. The Boise State defense has been prone to allow those big plays but has otherwise done an admirable job stuffing opponents . . . so this could be one of those games where both teams try to heave the ball as far as they can and barely move the ball otherwise. VIRGINIA 23, BOISE STATE 20

#22 BYU at MICHIGAN (-5.5)

On a neutral field in a neutral environment I take BYU by two touchdowns . . . but coming off highly emotional games against Nebraska, Boise State, and UCLA, I wonder how much the Cougars will have left in the tank for this one, especially given that Michigan will be content to pound power left, power right, power left again for 60 minutes. BYU’s defensive line is good but they’re gonna be tested hard this week. MICHIGAN 23, BYU 16 (Read NCB’s preview of this game here.)

#24 OKLAHOMA STATE (-4) at TEXAS

What looked like a layup for the Pokes a couple weeks ago now looks a lot more intriguing with the breakout performance of Jerrod Heard against Cal last Saturday. Heard personally accounted for 527 yards of total offense in a losing effort. On the other sideline, OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph has been precisely as advertised through three games, albeit against woeful opponents. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Texas defense got gashed by a Cal offense running a similar style to their own. I don’t anticipate Heard putting up video game-type numbers a second week in a row, but this will be the first real challenge for the Cowboy defense, but I still like them against a Texas team that probably hasn’t miraculously solved its offensive woes. OKLAHOMA STATE 34, TEXAS 27 (Read NCB’s preview of this game here.)

#3 TCU (-7) at TEXAS TECH

Here it is, my first major upset pick of the season. Texas Tech went on the road and proved its offensive credentials against Arkansas, controlling tempo and moving the sticks with Patrick Mahomes‘ steady arm and mobility. TCU’s defense hasn’t been itself thanks to graduation and injuries, and while a Gary Patterson-coached unit is never too far away from an elite status, I don’t think they find it Saturday. Granted, Trevone Boykin and the talented Horned Frog offense should find the Tech D plenty pliable, as well. I want to pick a 56-50 type score for this one but these games that look to be surefire shootouts on paper almost never go that way. TEXAS TECH 42, TCU 39 (Read NCB’s preview of this game here.)

#14 TEXAS A&M (-7) vs. ARKANSAS (Arlington, TX)

What is going on at Arkansas? The Razorbacks have an efficient offense that can move the chains and aren’t turning the ball over, but are 93rd in red zone efficiency, meaning Toledo and Texas Tech have been able to pull off upsets. Factor in that the Hogs’ defense, a strength in 2014, can’t get anybody off the field and things aren’t nearly as rosy for Bret Bielema and Co. as a lot of people assumed they would be. Texas A&M, meanwhile, has surprised with a stifling defensive line to go along with its streamlined passing game. TEXAS A&M 34, ARKANSAS 17

#9 UCLA (-3) at #16 ARIZONA

In another universe this would have been a showcase of incredible linebackers Scooby Wright and Myles Jack . . . and while Wright will return this week, Jack is now out for the season. The Wildcats will have their defensive lynchpin and the Bruins won’t, and the Wildcats have been known to slay giants before. ARIZONA 24, UCLA 23

#18 UTAH at #13 OREGON (-14)

I really like the way Utah plays offense, spreading defenses out and threatening spread looks, and the running power. But they lack the consistent downfield passing threat that others have used to attack the Ducks, and even with questions about quarterback health I think Oregon handles this game just fine. OREGON 38, UTAH 24

#19 USC (-5.5) at ARIZONA STATE

Will Sark Sark two weeks in a row? The Trojans laid down a clunker performance against Stanford last Saturday, but the Sun Devils haven’t looked quite together yet at any point this season. While USC suffered a defeat, it wasn’t due to the offense. Cody Kessler is still completing 79% of his tosses 9.3 yards per attempt, and has yet to throw a pick. Even if the Trojans have another off night I don’t see the Sun Devils keeping pace. USC 33, ARIZONA STATE 24

LAST WEEK: 4-3

SEASON: 17-3

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