What to watch: Week 4 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

While there were no ranked vs. ranked matchups in Week 3, there was still plenty to keep us entertained. Three ranked teams lost to unranked opponents and there were enough baffling coaching decisions — from Pat Narduzzi’s field goal attempt to Michigan State’s 12 men on the field penalty to Florida State’s disastrous final play — to dissect as we turned the page to Week 4.

Week 4 turns things back up a notch as we enter conference play with three ranked vs. ranked matchups conveniently scattered throughout the day. We should be in for a treat.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

(Note: All times ET, point spreads from FanDuel Sportsbook)

4. Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Texas -5.5

It feels like Oklahoma State has been flying under the radar to this point in the season. Mike Gundy’s team, after a disappointing 2018 season, is off to a 3-0 start, averaging 49.3 points per game in the process. The Cowboys actually trailed at halftime a week ago, but rode an impressive performance from running back Chuba Hubbard to a victory over Tulsa. Hubbard put up his second 200-yard performance of the year, this time going for 256 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-21 win. With 521 yards, Hubbard leads the nation in rushing. His teammate, wideout Tylan Wallace, leads the country with 390 receiving yards and has quickly built a rapport with impressive freshman QB Spencer Sanders. The OSU offense should present a big challenge for Texas.

The Longhorns shook off the tough Week 2 loss to LSU by dispatching Rice, 48-13, to improve to 2-1 on the year. Texas still has its sights set on a Big 12 title and has been impressive on offense to this point in the year. With his running back corps banged up, quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been carrying a heavy load. He already has 956 yards and 11 TDs through the air without throwing an interception. And with Oklahoma State, a team that has beaten Texas four straight times, coming into Darrell K. Royal Stadium on Saturday night, the Longhorns will have some reinforcements. Wide receiver Collin Johnson, center Zach Shackelford and linebacker Joseph Assai, all starters, are expected to play after missing last week.

Picks: Sam: Texas -5.5, Nick: Texas -5.5

3. No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Texas A&M -3.5

After its Week 1 triumph over Oregon, Auburn had a few more weeks to establish an identity before entering its gauntlet SEC schedule that begins in College Station against the 17th-ranked Aggies. The Tigers were predictably a little sluggish in a Week 2 win over Tulane, but the defense has played its part, allowing a combined 22 points over the team’s last two contests. As most freshmen QBs are, Bo Nix has been up-and-down. He has completed only 52.4 percent of his passes, but has been able to rely on a running game led by Boobie Whitlow. Whitlow’s 341 yards rank tenth in the country, but expect the Aggies to do all they can to stop the running game to force Nix to beat them through the air in his first true road game.

Though it’s still early in Year 2 of the Jimbo Fisher era, this is the kind of game that can show that Texas A&M is going to be a mainstay near the top of the SEC West standings in the years to come. The school has gone all-in with Fisher, and a win over a top 10 team like Auburn would be a tremendous early return on that investment. The Aggies are off to a 2-1 start with wins over two low-level opponents and a loss at No. 1 Clemson. A&M couldn’t muster much offense against the defending national champions and actually had fewer than 200 yards before a 91-yard scoring drive in the game’s final minutes. The Aggies will need a better effort to get the win this time around, especially from QB Kellen Mond. Playing at home in front of the 12th Man will be a nice boost.

Picks: Sam: A&M -3.5, Nick: A&M -3.5

2. No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin

Time: Noon | TV: FOX | Line: Wisconsin -3.5

Is this the week Michigan’s much-hyped new offense finally puts things together? The Wolverines have had two weeks to move on from the near-disaster against Army and prepare for the trip to Camp Randall Stadium for their first road test of the year. All offseason, we heard about how new coordinator Josh Gattis would overhaul the UM offense, but that unit has been unimpressive through two games, QB Shea Patterson included. The Wolverines needed two OTs just to beat Army at home. Saturday’s trip to Madison is a big chance to turn the corner, and another chance for a Jim Harbaugh-coached team to win a big game. He hasn’t done too well in these spots. And if this is the year the Wolverines finally emerge from the Big Ten East, they need to start clicking sooner rather than later.

Like Michigan, Wisconsin is also 2-0 and has not played the toughest competition. But the Badgers have won far more comfortably than the Wolverines. How does 110-0 sound? That’s the combined scores of UW’s wins over South Florida (49-0) and Central Michigan (61-0). Not allowing a single point is impressive no matter the opponent, but defense has rarely been an issue for Wisconsin. Offense, however, has sometimes been hard to come by. Last year, the Badgers knew they could rely on 2,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor, but the passing attack left a lot to be desired. Entering 2019, sophomore Jack Coan edged out prized freshman Graham Mertz to win the starting QB job and has looked much-improved to this point in the year. In two games, Coan has already thrown for more yards (562) than he did in five games in 2018 (515). Will he be able to keep that solid start going against a really strong Michigan defense?

Picks: Sam: Michigan +3.5, Nick: Wisconsin -3.5

1. No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia

Time: 8 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Georgia -14.5

Welcome to a September game with College Football Playoff implications on both sides. For Notre Dame, Georgia is the most significant opponent on the schedule and could be by a significant margin unless Michigan is undefeated when the Irish travel to Ann Arbor on Nov. 26. A win over the mighty Bulldogs would do wonders for Notre Dame’s CFP resume. And if we’re really being honest with ourselves, it’s hard to envision the Irish making it back to the CFP without an undefeated regular season. That’s what happened last year before a trouncing from Clemson in the semifinals. This year, Notre Dame is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Louisville and New Mexico. Louisville presented more of a challenge than the Irish expected and QB Ian Book seemed to be off his game that night. Brian Kelly seemed intent on boosting Book’s confidence against New Mexico and he finished the afternoon with 360 yards passing, 46 yards rushing and six total TDs.

With games against Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M and, in all likelihood, Alabama in the SEC title game, there’s a little more wiggle room for Georgia to overcome a loss and reach the CFP. But Georgia enters Saturday’s game as a two-touchdown favorite, so that doesn’t seem all that likely. After watching the Bulldogs play so far this season, it’s understandable why the spread is what it is. Through three games, Georgia has outscored its opponents 98-23, albeit against subpar competition. But there is no obvious weakness on this team. Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift highlight the offense at quarterback and running back, respectively, while the defense has playmakers at all three levels. Georgia has talked all offseason about taking that final jump as a program, and that ascent should start in this game.

Picks: Sam: Notre Dame +14.5, Nick: Notre Dame +14.5

Records ATS to date: Sam: 9-9, Nick: 9-9

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm passes against Arkansas State during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm passes against Arkansas State during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Week 4’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 3-6)

Tennessee at No. 9 Florida (-14): If the Volunteers are the dumpster fire we think they are, this shouldn’t be much of a test for Florida. Or maybe the loss of Feleipe Franks is a lot bigger than we think and Florida may struggle a bit in Kyle Trask’s first start of the season. If Florida is really a top 10 team, the Gators should have no issue here. Pick: Florida -14

Nebraska at Illinois (+13.5): I’m still not sold on the Huskers after the second-half meltdown that happened in Boulder. But I’m definitely not sold on Illinois after early struggles at UConn and a home loss to Eastern Michigan. I think Nebraska wins this one pretty easily. Pick: Nebraska -13.5

SMU at No. 25 TCU (-9.5): It’s time to shout out SMU, who has started 3-0 for the first time since 1984. That run comes to an end this weekend, however. The Frogs may be underrated at No. 25 in the AP poll. Pick: TCU -9.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 3-5-1)

Michigan State at Northwestern (+9.5): After what happened last week, how can anybody honestly expect Michigan State to cover 9.5 points on the road? I know Northwestern’s offense has struggled — the total in this game is 38 — but I think Pat Fitzgerald’s team will keep things close enough. Pick: Northwestern +9.5

West Virginia at Kansas (+4): Kansas is riding high after smashing Boston College last Friday, but I think this line is a bit of an overreaction to that win. I was down on WVU early in the season, but they seemed to really find a groove offensively against NC State. Give me the Mountaineers comfortably. Pick: West Virginia -4

Baylor at Rice (+26): Two weeks ago, Baylor was a 25-point favorite at home over UTSA and won by 49. After a week off, I expect a similar result against Rice. The Owls are improved, but don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Bears. Pick: Baylor -26

For Week 4 picks from Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel, subscribe to the Yahoo Sports College Podcast.

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