- After landmark wins last week, Boston College and Troy stand out as two favorites that could be primed for letdowns in Week 4.
College football is all about the unexpected, and Week 3 delivered with plenty of highlight plays and surprising results. On our end for Week 3, we delivered a 3-1 record with our best bets. Looking ahead to Week 4, who should bettors have their eyes on for strong plays against the spread? Our experts have all the answers.
FAU at UCF (-14)
Fri. 9/21, 7:00 p.m. ET
Pick: UCF -14
When a Power 5 team completely annihilates inferior competition, you might gloss over the result. But when a Group of 5 team does it, you might start to take notice. UCF has done whatever it has wanted in two runaway wins this season, and with a full week of rest—its game against North Carolina was postponed due to Hurricane Florence—it will set its sights on FAU. Both teams will be highly motivated going into this in-state rivalry game, but only one has a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback: the Knights’ McKenzie Milton. The last time the Owls faced a talent like that, in Week 1 against Oklahoma, they were shredded by Kyler Murray. Florida Atlantic can put up points, but its secondary is susceptible to the big play, which FCS Bethune-Cookman took advantage of last week.
UCF is favored in almost all of its games, which leads to some giant spreads—it failed to cover last game as a 52-point favorite against South Carolina State. But in the last eight games Central Florida has been a favorite of 20 points or fewer, it is 5-2-1 ATS. In front of its home crowd, look for UCF to try and run up the score against Lane Kiffin’s squad in a high-profile game that voters will be watching. –Ed McGrogan
Boston College (-6.5) at Purdue
Sat. 9/22, 12:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Purdue +6.5
Boston College is nationally ranked for the first time since 2008, having ascended to No. 23 in the country after a 41-34 victory at Wake Forest last Thursday. After blowout wins over UMass and Holy Cross to start the season, it was the Eagles' first win over a Power 5 opponent.
This week, BC travels to take on a Purdue squad that holds the dubious distinction of being the best 0-3 team in the country. A Week 2 loss to Eastern Michigan has been the Boilermakers' only real dud, as tight losses to Northwestern and Missouri—in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively—could have gone either way. Purdue showed an especially strong sign of life in its defeat to the Tigers, predictably getting carved up by star Missouri quarterback Drew Lock but getting a startling 572 passing yards of its own from David Blough. The Boilermakers outgained Missouri before losing on a last-second field goal.
Against Wake, Boston College not only got 185 yards from star running back AJ Dillon, but also career-highs in passing yards (304) and touchdowns (5) from sophomore quarterback Anthony Brown—and still only won by a single score against a Deacons team playing with its starting quarterback suspended. The Boilermakers are dying for a win, and their early-season misfortune has them undervalued at +6.5 at home. –Sam Chase
TCU (-2.5) at Texas
Sat. 9/22, 4:30 p.m. ET
Pick: TCU -2.5
Texas appears to be receiving some serious love from Vegas after a 37-14 victory over USC in Austin, but this is still the same team that lost to Maryland and barely beat Tulsa at home. Meanwhile, the only blip on TCU’s resume is a 12-point loss to an elite Ohio State team last week—and that game was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. And since renewing this rivalry in 2012, the Horned Frogs have consistently flexed on their in-state foe. Gary Patterson’s team has won and covered in four straight and five of the last six against Texas. And the Horned Frogs haven’t just beaten the Longhorns, they’ve absolutely pummeled them. TCU's average margin of victory in the last four meetings is 30 points per game.
This year’s game has the potential to be yet another blowout. TCU is loaded with playmakers all over the field, and quarterback Shawn Robinson won’t have to worry about an OSU-level pass rush here. He should have more open windows to make throws, and a lot more room to make plays with his legs. WR KaVontae Turpin should also have his fingerprints all over this game. In Week 1, versatile Maryland wideout Jeshaun Jones rushed for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and threw for a touchdown against the Longhorns. Turpin possesses the same game-changing ability. And defensively, the Horned Frogs have all the tools to disrupt Tom Herman’s offense. TCU’s secondary is especially difficult to make plays against, so look for the Horned Frogs to make things tough on inconsistent Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger. –Zachary Cohen
Troy (-7) at Louisiana-Monroe
Sat. 9/22, 7:00 p.m. ET
Pick: ULM +7
While this appears to be a textbook spot for a letdown from a Troy team coming off an impressive straight-up win as a 10-point underdog at Nebraska, that’s not the only reason to like Louisiana-Monroe in this spot. The Warhawks have won four of the past five meetings between these teams, and they’ve won each of the past four games the teams have played in Monroe. The last time Troy was a road favorite against ULM, the Warhawks won by 14 points as a 17-point underdog. Although ULM is coming off a 48-10 loss at Texas A&M last week, the Warhawks only trailed 24-10 at halftime, thanks in part to the Aggies returning a blocked field goal 78 yards for a touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining in the half. It was also the second straight road game for ULM following a straight-up win as a six-point underdog at Southern Mississippi the prior week. While a moneyline play is warranted here at anything north of +200, the wise move is to take the points in a game between what appears to be a pair of evenly matched teams. –Scott Gramling