• Needs some Week 4 betting advice? Our experts have you covered with their best bets for every Power 5 conference.
By The SI Staff
September 21, 2018

After finishing 5-3 last week, the SI college football staff is ready to roll for Week 4 with our top eight bets of the week.


No. 2 Georgia (-14.5) at Missouri

Georgia doesn’t need Alabama-like lines quite yet, but the Bulldogs may be heading that way. Normally, you’d stay far away from a 14.5-point road favorite in a division game between undefeated teams. But Missouri gave up 574 yards and a 10.4 yards per attempt average to Purdue’s David Blough last week. Everyone who plays offense for Georgia is better than everyone who plays offense for Purdue. And Georgia’s defense is unlike anything Missouri has seen all season or will see until … Oct. 13, when the Tigers play at Alabama. Missouri’s Drew Lock may be the first quarterback off the board in next year’s draft—and he may be the first pick overall—but his supporting cast may not be enough to allow the Tigers to hang with Georgia. Take the Bulldogs to cover. — Andy Staples

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No. 14 Mississippi State at Kentucky (+10)

The Bulldogs have covered in four consecutive games, but no one goes into Kroger Field and comes out … well, never mind. That said, the 3–0 Wildcats are on a hot streak, winning at Florida and handling Central Michigan and Murray State. State and QB Nick Fitzgerald provide the toughest test of a young season, and we’re banking on a close game in Lexington. — Ross Dellenger


Northern Illinois at Florida State: UNDER 45 Points

The Seminoles are 10-point favorites despite being 1–2 and looking like the worst Florida State team in years, and that's because Northern Illinois has looked particularly bad so far this season—especially on offense. I might even go so far as to pick Florida State to beat the spread, but the safer pick here, I think, is to take the under. Against their two Power 5 opponents thus far, the Huskies have managed seven and then six points, and the Seminoles can't be counted on for more than a handful of scores, either. — Joan Niesen

No. 8 Notre Dame at Wake Forest (+7.5) 

No one could be blamed for missing Wake Forest’s early work this season. The Demon Deacons’ two FBS games have been played on Thursdays: Their home game against Boston College was moved up into the afternoon by Hurricane Florence, and their season opener at Tulane was buried on CBS Sports Network. What you’ve been missing is a feisty team that can score just enough to scare anyone. True freshman quarterback Sam Hartman has stepped in for Kendall Hinton, who just finished serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules, and slung the ball around to Greg Dortch and a Sage Surratt, two dynamic receivers. Notre Dame’s offense has yet to put two good halves together, which is why its three wins have come by seven, eight and five points. A noon game in Winston-Salem doesn’t feel like the atmosphere that will jolt the Irish out of their sleepy start. — Eric Single

Big Ten

No. 18 Wisconsin (-3) at Iowa

Wisconsin and Iowa begin Big Ten play Saturday, with both looking to get off on the right foot. The Hawkeyes are 3–0, while the Badgers—a trendy preseason College Football Playoff pick—are coming off an upset by BYU and can’t afford a second loss on their résumé. The game could come down to a Heisman Trophy candidate in Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor going against Iowa’s stingy defense, which ranks first in the Big Ten and second nationally by limiting opponents to eight points and 209.0 yards per game on an impressive 3.5 yards per play.

Against the run, Iowa is second in the conference and third in the country, allowing just 42 yards per game. Its first three opponents were notably Northern Illinois, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, however, and this defensive unit has yet to see an explosive player like Taylor. Taylor is averaging 171.7 YPG on 6.7 YPC, the best in the Big Ten and second-highest mark in the country (behind Memphis’ Marshall Henderson). Despite last week’s loss to BYU, he still ran for 117 yards.

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It’s possible that the winner of this game will win the Big Ten West division and play for the conference title in December. I like Wisconsin to gain a leg up in that race by bouncing back here. — Laken Litman


No. 7 Stanford at No. 20 Oregon (+2)

I was really temped to pick my first favorite here because I think this is an excellent buy-low spot on USC, but we're going with another underdog since they've been so kind to us on our 3–0 start.

Oregon actually opened as a favorite here, but bettors will naturally side with the team that's beaten USC, San Diego State and UC Davis over one that's beaten Bowling Green, San Jose State and Portland State. The Cardinal also crushed the Ducks last season, though that was without an injured Justin Herbert.

Stanford has not faced a quarterback as talented as Herbert, and Oregon's offense has rolled against inferior competition this season, averaging 51.7 points per game (eighth in the country). Stanford leads all of college football by allowing 7.7 points per game thus far, but interestingly enough, the Cardinal have been susceptible to big plays (tied for 74th by allowing 14 plays of 20+ yards). Oregon's offense is eighth in the country with 22 plays that have gone for at least 20 yards, and the Ducks certainly have the firepower to turn those big plays into a lot of points in this clash. In fact, the Ducks lead the nation with 12 touchdown drives that took five or fewer plays.

I'm also a big fan of the talent on Oregon's defense, particularly its front seven. That group is headlined by defensive linemen Jalen Jelks and Jordon Scott along with linebackers Troy Dye and Justin Hollins, and it has been excellent at stopping the run so far. Jim Leavitt is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country and will have the Ducks prepped to stop Bryce Love, who hasn't looked as explosive to start this campaign.

This is a huge game to see whether the Ducks should be considered back among the Pac-12's top tier. Autzen will be electric on Saturday night and College GameDay will be in Eugene earlier in the day. Give me Oregon and new head coach Mario Cristobal making a huge statement with the upset. — Max Meyer

Big 12

Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma State (–14)

Lately, this has been a lopsided series, with Oklahoma State winning the last nine in a row by an average of 19 points.

In the games before, Oklahoma State used its powerful offense to simply outscore the Red Raiders, and only needed to make one or two stops to win the game.

Texas Tech is back with its usual method of not playing defense (it has already given up four plays of 50+ yards), but is finding a newfound adherence to running the football by totaling a nation-tying 13 scores on the ground.

The Red Raiders also have a new gunslinger in freshman Alan Bowman, who threw for a freshman Big 12 single-game record 605 yards and five touchdowns in a 63–49 win over Houston, breaking the mark of some guy named Patrick Mahomes.

College Football
Florida vs. Tennessee Betting Preview: Are the Gators Overrated on the Road?

The difference in the game will be that the Cowboys actually have a semblance of a defense and are capable of rushing the passer and creating havoc in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles's new 4–2–5 defense. Boise State found that out the hard way last Saturday when the Cowboys sacked Brett Rypien seven times and had 10 total tackles for a loss. — Scooby Axson

Bonus: Group of Five

Ohio at Cincinnati (–8)

We are in quite the slump here. A couple of bad beats (damn y’all, Tennessee and FAU!) have put us in a hole, and the only way to crawl out is, of course, to keep betting. The Bearcats have started 3–0 with romping wins at UCLA and against Miami (Ohio). Frank Solich brings to town a squad that barely beat Howard in Week 1. — Ross Dellenger

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)