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Ducking the Odds: 2016 College Football Week 4

Like Helfrich, Sean and Rusty go for two [weeks in a row of awful picks].

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Last week:

Rusty: 2-9-1

Sean: 4-7-1

This year:

Rusty: 8-22-1

Sean: 14-16-1


Two sub-.500 pickers? You can’t get content like this anywhere but ATQ.

Hoo boy, we got beat up, which I mostly blame on neither LA school covering. Also, Florida State bringing their JV team to Papa Johns Pizza Slice Stadium did not help, nor did App. State getting boat-raced by Miami or Pitt being unable to keep up with Oklahoma State.


Some very good matchups this week, especially in the Pac-12, plus a Wisconsin-Sparty showdown, and a set of decent games in the South. LET’S GET OUT OF THERE AND PICK UNDER .500!

Colorado at Oregon (-10.5)

Rusty and I could not pick this game this week, and the reasons were (in equal parts):

a) The line did not come out until late yesterday;

b) Brangelinavorce really affected both Rusty and me emotionally (#PrayForUs); and

c) As of press time, we did not have the result of the Nebraska-Ducks game from last week. Who won that darned thing?

S: Clemson (-13) at Georgia Tech

This line is bet down to 9.5 in a lot of places, which is kind of a surprise. But, frankly, Clemson hasn’t done enough to merit a ton of attention, and Georgia Tech has looked pretty damn good so far.

But Georgia Tech is the constant mystery. When I think they’ll be good, they’re suddenly bad. When I think they’ll choke, they beat Florida State. I’m in a pickle.

So I guess: which side of the ball, on what team, do I trust the most? I think it’s Clemson’s defense. And you know that at some point Deshaun Watson will wake up and go all Heisman all over someone. Why not the Yellow Jackets?

R: Clemson at Georgia Tech (+13)

Clemson is the fifth-ranked team in the country and are led by one of the best players in the country with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Watson has struggled along with the Clemson offense to get going. He’s only thrown for 692 yards, 56.9%, and 7 touchdowns to go with 3 interceptions.

Clemson’s 6-point win over Troy was concerning to anyone who was comparing them to the likes of Alabama or Ohio State. It is also important to note that Clemson only had a few days to prep for this game.

Georgia Tech is 3-0 but unranked. They topped SEC opponent Vanderbilt last week, dropping 38 points, but Vanderbilt lost to South Carolina, which, you know, isn’t good. The Yellow Jackets have only thrown 38 times this year.

The triple-option can pose severe problems to top teams. Defending it is completely different from defending every other type of offense. It is incredibly physical, works heavily on deception and reads, and playing “assignment football” just doesn’t work. However, against an elite defense I think the talent disparity is too far. If Georgia Tech falls behind it will be too much to overcome. I think this is the game that Watson breaks out. However, given that Clemson only had four days to prepare for Georgia Tech I think they cover.

S: USC (+1) at Utah

I don’t want to bet on either team. As Rusty detailed below, USC finds itself in the middle of a The Hills/Laguna Beach/Stephen Colletti/Justin Bobby situation. (And I am 100% secure with myself for making that reference.

Give me the Trojans. They seriously have nowhere to go but up. And, remember, they have now played two potential playoff teams (Alabama & Stanford), so Utah is definitely a step down in talent and depth comparatively. The shake-up at QB can only help USC, and I’ll take them to win this one in SLC.

(And, sidenote: “Sam Darnold” sounds like a fake name you provide to someone when you are in trouble as a teenager. “What’s your name, kid?” “Um....Sam.....ummmm...D.....Darnold(?).”)

R: USC (+1) at Utah

Much noise is being made about USC falling apart. There is a report that a player punched the coach, that a mutiny is occurring, and there is no faith in Helton. I think it’s a made up narrative that seems fun.

Sam Darnold is taking over for Max Browne at quarterback. Browne played uninspired football through three weeks, but only two of those with competitive because Alabama will ruin your season.

Utah is heading into this game 3-0 with a 20-19 win over BYU as their biggest win thus far. The Utes held Southern Utah scoreless in the opening weekend and doubled up San Jose State last weekend. Lines on both sides of the ball are well-known to be physically imposing, which could pose problems for the Trojans now that they will be six days removed from playing Stanford. Quarterback Troy Williams has thrown for 723 yards but thrown as many picks, four, as touchdowns.

I think this game against Utah, much like the game against Utah last year, will show that the first three games were tainted heavily by the blowout loss to Alabama. Or maybe I’m wrong and that this USC is just bad and falling apart at it’s foundation. But I’ll take USC in this one.

S: Oklahoma State at Baylor (-10)

Really struggle with this one. On one hand, this is a classic take-the-points-in-a-shootout game. On the other hand, college football always shows us that up is down and once I think I know something, I am proved to be an idiot.

So, why isn’t Okie State worth 10 points? Because I think Baylor feels a little forgotten in the national discussion. (And well-deserved.) And I think they have just as much perimeter talent as always. And, most importantly, their defense - though they have only played cupcakes - has given up only 27 points in three weeks (7, 13, 10).

So I may regret it, but I’ll lay 10 on the Bears.

R: Oklahoma State (+10) at Baylor

The Bears haven’t played anybody and it might seem like there is not a huge dropoff but not having Art Briles as head coach will hurt in these types of competitive games. Quarterback Seth Russell has thrown for 761, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions but only a 59% completion rate. They have three running backs over the 200-yard mark but no one has broken away from the pack.

Oklahoma State’s lone loss was to Central Michigan on a play that technically never should have happened but both officiating crews were basically asleep at the wheel. Through three games the Cowboys have scored 61, 30, and 45. Mason Rudolph has already thrown for 1017 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The Cowboys can score a lot of points. With Baylor knocked down a couple notches without Briles I think they won’t be able to outpace Oklahoma State by two touchdowns. It’ll be a high-scoring affair, but the fighting Gundys will cover.

S: Wisconsin at Michigan State (-6)

I feel pretty strong about Sparty in this one. Wisconsin has QB problems and some beat up running backs. Granted, their defense is super stout. But I think Michigan State showed its offense is no slouch, scoring 36 at Notre Dame. This is a matchup of very similar styles of play, and I think Michigan State has the pretty definitive edge, and an advantage (albeit slight) in the passing game.

R: Wisconsin (+6) at Michigan State

Wisconsin and Michigan State both have a great win. Wisconsin beat LSU in the opening weekend where the Tigers showed that they still are uncertain how the mechanics of a forward pass work, or possibly even the philosophy about why one should do a forward pass. Michigan State beat Notre Dame by ten points in South Bend, and the game wasn’t even that close.

Michigan State has the edge at quarterback and both teams have a workhorse running back. These teams are very similar in both types of play and what has been proven on their schedule. I’ll take the points in this matchup because there is just a lot of unknown.

S: Arkansas at Texas A&M (-2.5)

Trevor Knight is no savior, but he’s capable enough to give A&M a nice offensive attack. Arkansas has had some nice performances, but I think A&M has been better-tested. And you have to love what A&M’s defense, and especially its pass rush led by Myles Garrett, might be able to do against Arkansas. I like that I get less than a field goal for this one, so I’ll lat the 2.5 on the Aggies.

R: Arkansas at Texas A&M (-2.5)

The Texas A&M offense is moving well with Trevor Knight at the helm. The Aggies scored 31 on UCLA and 29 on an Auburn squad that Clemson struggled against. Defense end Myles Garrett still shows nearly every down why he is a top draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Arkansas was in a shootout against TCU that took overtime to square away. The Razorbacks do have Austin Allen at quarterback who is throwing at 67.1%, nearly 700 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Rawleigh Williams III has also already carried the ball 71 times for 354 yards.

The Arkansas offense may be more of a bruiser compared to UCLA but the talent level is similar. The Aggies have played against two good offenses and defenses and come out on top. I like TAMU to take this one at home.

S: Georgia at Mississippi (-2)

Similar to USC, Ole Miss has played (and lost) to two very, very good teams in Florida State and Alabama, and blew massive leads both times. I really, really can’t see Georgia keeping up with Ole Miss’s explosive passing attack, and I really, really duper-super can’t see Georgia catching up if they get in a hole. Lay the two. Ole Miss has good home field advantage, and I think they do enough defensively to hold down Nick Chubb.

R: Georgia at Mississippi (-2)

Georgia does know how to persevere. They came from behind against a good North Carolina defense. They topped Nicholls by two at home and beat Mizzou by 1 on the road. Kirby Smart is off to a 3-0 start, which looks great on paper even if the team doesn’t necessarily pass the eye test.

Ole Miss is a team that doesn’t know how to keep a lead. They looked unbeatable against Alabama and Florida State in the first halves but completely fell apart in the second. Ole Miss has been one of the most talented teams in the country the last two seasons but haven’t been able to put it together for every game every season.

I have doubts that the Bulldogs can come back from a 14 to 17-point deficit, which is what I think Ole Miss will be able to put together. The Rebels are much more talented on both sides of the ball. Georgia running back Nick Chubb is only as good as his linemen and I think the landsharks are going to be doing a lot of work on an offense without a great quarterback.

S: Florida (+10) at Tennessee

Easy pick. In a matchup of elite defenses, I like the Gators to cover. Now, of course, Luke Del Rio won’t play for Florida here, but I think there is enough offense for Florida here to cover 10, especially when Tennessee hasn’t showed an ability to score points, even against inferior defenses. Florida has won a bunch of these matchups in a row, and I think that continues here.

R: Florida (+10) at Tennessee

College Gameday is going to be in Knoxville for the game that will decide who represents the SEC East in the conference championship game. Florida will be without quarterback Luke Del Rio who suffered a knee injury in their last game. Purdue transfer Austin Appleby will being taking snaps and he has thrown all of five passes so far this season.

Florida is really going to lean on its ground game against the Volunteers. The Gators have four running backs near or over 5 yards per carry, which is a strong sign that the offensive line is responsible for the majority of the running game’s success.

Tennessee followed up an unimpressive performance against Appalachian State on the first Thursday game of the season with a 45-24 win over Virginia Tech. That score is misleading, because the Hokies turned the ball over five times. Virginia Tech produced a lot of offense but made a ton of mistakes.

These teams are very similar and Florida has had the edge the last couple years. The problem might be Butch Jones. I like that Florida is getting 10 points. I like the Gators in a competitive but at times sloppy game.

S: Boise State (-14) at Oregon State

Boise State is a young team that made some mistakes in almost blowing a lead against Wazzu at home. I don’t think that continues. Boise State may be the best defense the Beavers have faced, and I think they’ll have a tough time scoring points against the Broncos. The oddsmakers watched Boise struggle against Washington State, yet still set this line at two touchdowns in a road game. I’ll take the Broncos, but only tentatively.

R: Boise State at Oregon State (+14)

The Beavers topped a lower level team last week, which is an improvement upon previous years. Oregon State looks much better in Gary Andersen’s second year as head coach. When the team travelled to play the Gophers they had the chance to take the lead multiple times and a few anti-clutch plays near the end

Last week Boise State struggled against Washington State, who previously had lost to Eastern Washington. The Broncos only won by three points and also failed to cover the spread.

I like Boise State to win this game, but Oregon State will cover. OSU quarterback Darell Garretson has made every pass attempt thus far and former quarterback Seth Collins, Victor Bolden Jr., and Ryan Nall make a solid trio of receivers.

S: Cal (+4.5) at Arizona State

Though Cal has been known as the worst defensive unit in the Pac-12 for a couple of years, I think Arizona State might have the worst crew in the conference now. Cal’s offense is legit, and maybe better than last year’s - which is nuts to say, without the #1 overall draft pick.

Tempe is not that tough a place to play, and I think Cal can win this game. I’ll take that small line on the Bears, who are better than I thought they would be.

R: Cal (+4.5) at Arizona State

The California Golden Bears have scored 51, 40, and 50 points the last three weeks. At home they shocked Texas who everybody thought was back on top. Quarterback Davis Webb absolutely shredded the Longhorn secondary.

Arizona State scores a lot of points but also allows a ton of points. They had a huge game against Texas Tech, winning 68-55, and running back Kalen Ballage tied the NCAA record with 8 touchdowns in a single game. Last week, the UT-San Antonio Roadrunners gave the Sun Devils all they could handle.

I like Cal to win this one straight up. It will be a shootout, neither team has excellent defense, so it really is a true toss-up, so take the points.

S: Stanford (+1) at UCLA

This line has swung in Stanford’s favor, and the Cardinal are now a 3-point favorite here. Rightfully so. Stanford has shown normal Stanford stuff: solid defense, elite line play, reliable run game. UCLA has been underwhelming thus far (although I will say they have faced two very good defensive squads in Texas A&M and BYU). They get no relief with a visiting Stanford squad. This one feels like a 24-17 road win for Stanford.

R: Stanford (+1) at UCLA

UCLA had a good lead on the BYU Cougars before letting them make it look like a game with a 17-14 final score. Josh Rosen has been off to a less than great start after everyone anointed him as the next great quarterback during the offseason. Rosen has thrown for 917 yards at 60.5% but has thrown four interceptions and four touchdowns. Three of those interceptions came against Texas A&M, whose pass rush was too much for the Bruin offensive line.

Christian McCaffrey, an early Heisman favorite, is leading Stanford’s offense. Stanford topped Kansas State in the opener 26-13 and looked really good against USC in a 27-10 win. Ryan Burns has proven himself a more than capable quarterback making some really impressive throws.

UCLA’s defense is very talented and was the stronger of the platoons. I think they’ll push Stanford’s rushing attack and force Ryan Burns to beat them. Burns will air the ball out, keep the Bruin defense honest, and then McCaffrey will help the Cardinal pull away late. Stanford has shown they can beat top competition. It would also be a very Stanford thing to do to show a team that everyone is hyped on is not all that.