The Week 4 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by an intriguing battle in the ACC Atlantic Division as Florida State hosts NC State in the Seminoles’ first game since Labor Day weekend. Elsewhere, it’s a battle of the Bulldogs in the SEC as Georgia and Mississippi State meet in a game that could decide the league’s second-best team. Also, LSU hopes to rebound from last week’s loss to Mississippi State when Syracuse comes to town, and Utah leaves the state for the first time this season for its Pac-12 opener at Arizona. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
NC State (+10) over Florida State
NC State whiffed on its first attempt to make a statement nationally, losing in Week 1 to South Carolina — though it did outgain the Gamecocks 504-to-246 in the seven-point loss. The Wolfpack have responded with wins over Marshall and Furman. Now, they dive into league play with the always-difficult trip to Tallahassee. This will be the home opener for Florida State and its first game since the Sept. 2 loss to Alabama. It will also be the first start for true freshman quarterback James Blackmon, who has the difficult task of replacing the injured Deondre Francois. Facing NC State’s talented defensive line will be a challenge for the young QB.
Florida State 24, NC State 20
Mississippi State (+6.5) over Georgia
The CBS crew will be in Nashville for the Vanderbilt-Alabama game, but the most impactful SEC game of the day likely will be in Athens. Mississippi State has been one of the most impressive teams nationally through three games, outscoring its competition by an average of 48–9 while averaging 3.5 yards per snap more than its opponents. And the schedule has not been soft with the exception of Charleston Southern in Week 1. The Bulldogs won at Louisiana Tech and rolled past LSU at home with ease. Georgia is 3–0 with a win at Notre Dame on its résumé. The defense has been terrific, allowing only 14.3 points per game. The offense has been inconsistent, which can be expected when you’ve started a true freshman at QB twice and one of your games was at Notre Dame.
Mississippi State 28, Georgia 27
Syracuse (+23.5) over LSU
Perhaps no result three weeks into the college football season has been more surprising than LSU’s 37–7 loss at Mississippi State. Yes, it was only one game, but it was a worst-case scenario for Ed Orgeron, who desperately needs to prove to his fan base that he is not the same coach who went 3–21 in the SEC in four seasons as the boss at Ole Miss. The Tigers’ passing attack showed no signs of improvement in the first test for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and LSU’s usually reliable defense had no answer for Mississippi State’s efficient offense. Syracuse is still rebuilding under second-year coach Dino Babers, but this team is capable of scoring a bunch of points. When healthy, quarterback Eric Dungey is a legitimate dual threat — and we know what happened the last time LSU faced a dual-threat QB (Hint: It was last week).
LSU 30, Syracuse 20
Utah (-3) over Arizona
Utah’s surprising decision to go with sophomore Tyler Huntley as the starting quarterback has worked out well for the most part. The Utes are 3–0 and averaging 476.7 yards per game — a good but not great number considering the level of competition to date. Huntley has been efficient throwing the ball and has rushed for at least 50 yards in every game. Arizona has feasted on Northern Arizona and UTEP — on the scoreboard and the stat sheet — but struggled in its only game against a quality opponent, losing 19–16 to Houston at home. The key to beating Rich Rodriguez’s team is to stop the running game, something that Utah has done especially well so far this season.
Utah 24, Arizona 20
Texas Tech (+6) over Houston
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury entered the 2017 season on the hottest of hot seats, but the Red Raiders are off to a solid 2–0 start that includes a more-impressive-than-most-realize 56–10 win over FCS power Eastern Washington and a 52–45 victory over Arizona State. One thing is for sure: The Raiders are proving they can score points without Pat Mahomes at quarterback. And Houston is proving that it will remain relevant with Major Applewhite in charge. The Cougars opened the season with a solid 19–16 win at Arizona and followed up with a dominant 38–3 win over Rice. Kyle Allen, the former five-star recruit who began his career at Texas A&M, is completing an amazing 86.2 percent of his passes and averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. The star for Houston, however, is sophomore Ed Oliver, arguably the finest defensive player in college football.
Texas Tech 34, Houston 30
Wake Forest (-4.5) over Appalachian State
What does Wake Forest need to do to get some respect from the boys in Vegas? The Demon Deacons are 3–0 and have won their three games by an average score of 44–9 — and one of the games was on the road at Boston College. Here’s a stat that shows just how far this program has come in recent years: Wake Forest has scored 16 touchdowns in three games after scoring a total of 29 during the entire 2016 season. In 2014, Dave Clawson’s first season, the Deacons scored 14 touchdowns. App State is a very good Sun Belt team but was manhandled in its opener against Georgia and only beat Texas State by seven points last week. Wake rolls.
Wake Forest 30, Appalachian State 14
Duke (-3) over North Carolina
Duke hits the “road” for the first time this season, making the short trip to Chapel Hill after rolling past NC Central, Northwestern and Baylor with surprising ease. The most impressive aspect of Duke’s hot start has been its work on defense. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in total defense (223.0 ypg) even after playing two Power 5 opponents. They’ve been outstanding against the run, allowing a total of 143 rushing yards in three games. North Carolina is feeling the effects of some huge personnel losses after last season. The Tar Heels are 1–2, with home losses to Cal and Louisville and a win at Old Dominion. Larry Fedora appears to have settled on a quarterback; redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt received a majority of the snaps in the win at ODU, relegating grad transfer Brandon Harris to backup duty.
Duke 34, North Carolina 30
Purdue (+10) over Michigan
Michigan’s Big Ten opener looked like a gimme … until Purdue started scoring tons of points under Jeff Brohm. The Boilermakers are averaging 35.7 points per game and have played two Power 5 opponents away from home. This is not a fluke. Brohm’s teams at Western Kentucky ranked in the top 10 in total offense and the top six in scoring offense in each of his three seasons at the school. Michigan’s defense has been outstanding, as expected, but the offense continues to underwhelm. According to Bill Connelly’s numbers from SB Nation, the Wolverines rank 108th nationally in offensive efficiency (with a 36.8 percent success rate) and 118th in finishing drives (3.4 points per trip inside the 40-yard line).
Michigan 27, Purdue 24
Missouri (+19) over Auburn
Arguably no team had a worse Week 2 than Missouri, which lost at home to Purdue 35–3 one week after losing its SEC opener (also at home) to South Carolina. Barry Odom is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the game, but the Tigers are allowing an SEC-worst 442.7 yards per game. That being said, the 19-point spread seems like a lot for this one. Missouri has struggled offensively in its two games against FBS foes, but this is a team that is capable of scoring plenty of points. Auburn is still a work in progress offensively with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. There’s no shame in losing to Clemson, but it was a bit surprising that the Tigers scored only six points and had such trouble protecting the quarterback. They have had 500-plus yards in the other two games (wins over Georgia Southern and Mercer).
Auburn 33, Missouri 20
Toledo (+13.5) at Miami (Fla.)
Miami remains the only FBS team in the nation that has yet to face another FBS opponent. The Hurricanes are 1–0 with a 41–13 win over Bethune-Cookman in Week 1. Toledo, meanwhile, already has three wins, including a road win at Nevada and a 54–51 thriller over Tulsa that featured 1,227 yards of offense. The Rockets feature one of the nation’s most unheralded quarterbacks in Logan Woodside. The senior threw for 4,129 yards with 45 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season and already has 1,004 yards and eight TDs in 2017. This offense can move the ball.
Miami 37, Toledo 33
Last Week: 6–4