College football picks, Week 4: Oklahoma State, TCU ready for a shootout
The Big 12 race starts in earnest on Saturday when No. 16 TCU travels to Stillwater to take on No. 6 Oklahoma State in a game that could end up deciding who makes the conference championship game.
Apart from the Big 12 shootout, Alabama plays a vastly overachieving Vanderbilt team, while UCLA and Stanford try to get back on track after crushing losses. Oh, and there’s that undefeated battle between Georgia and Mississippi State as well.
Sporting News is 17-7 on the season and 4-4 during Week 3 after a string of upsets.
Here’s what we’ve got for Week 4 (point spreads provided courtesy of VegasInsider.com as of Sept. 18).
College football picks, Week 4
Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. Arkansas (Arlington)
Is it too soon in the season to characterize this is a must-win game? Nope. Both teams are fighting to stay relevant in the SEC West race, and a loss here pretty much ends the season before it really gets going. Arkansas’ offense has stagnated with the loss of Rawleigh Williams III, and Austin Allen hasn’t taken control of the offense like the Razorbacks need him to. A&M’s defense isn’t good, but the Aggies — who, by the way, are likely playing for Kevin Sumlin’s job — at least know how to score. Bret Bielema goes 0-5 against Texas A&M.
Pick: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 24
No. 1 Alabama (-19.5) at Vanderbilt
The Tide’s offense has improved each week this season, but faces a Vanderbilt D that ranks first nationally in yards allowed (198 per game), pass defense (95.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (4.3 points per game). Still, Vanderbilt’s offense hasn’t faced a defense of this caliber all season, even if Alabama has struggled with depth issues at linebacker. The Tide minimize mistakes and make enough plays on offense, while the defense stymies a Vanderbilt team that struggled in a 270-yard outing against Kansas State.
Pick: Alabama 31, Vanderbilt 10
No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State (-11.5)
The fireworks should fly in this battle for No. 2 in the Big 12. Mason Rudolph has 1,135 yards and 11 touchdowns to one interception, while TCU’s Kenny Hill has completed 75 percent of his passes for 737 yards and eight touchdowns to two interceptions. The Horned Frogs can attack the Cowboys with a balanced offensive attack with running backs Darius Anderson and Kyle Hicks as well — but if we’re picking based on pure offensive firepower, we’re picking the Cowboys.
Pick: Oklahoma State 52, TCU 38
No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia (-6.5)
Mississippi State made a statement against LSU, upending the Tigers in a 37-7 blowout. That said, they won’t catch Georgia off guard in Athens. Regardless of whether Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm starts at quarterback for Georgia, this game will be decided by the running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who help the Dogs rush for 230 yards a game. How will they fare against Mississippi State’s front seven, who have given up just over 100 rushing yards per game while securing 6.5 sacks? Georgia returns 10 of 11 defensive starters from last year, and they’ll need all of them to corral Nick Fitzgerald.
Pick: Georgia 30, Mississippi State 27
No. 4 Penn State (-12.5) at Iowa
Iowa’s defense will have its hands full against the best quarterback-running back duo in the country with Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. The Hawkeyes rank 60th in pass defense (218.8 yards per game) and rush defense (180 yards per game). McSorley, meanwhile, has seven interceptions to two interceptions, while Barkley is averaging 8.9 yards a carry and has five total touchdowns. This could get out of hand if Penn State gts started scoring early.
Pick: Penn State 35, Iowa 21
Notre Dame (-4.5) at Michigan State
Notre Dame’s double-headed rush attack of Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush go up against a Michigan State team that allows only 91.5 yards per carry this season. The Spartans have two weeks to prep for the Fighting Irish, but is going up against a defense that hasn’t given up more than 20 points a game this season? It’ll be close, but look for Notre Dame to squeak by.
Pick: Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 24
No. 7 Washington (-10) at Colorado
Colorado has started the season 3-0, something the Buffaloes couldn’t accomplish when they went 10-4 last season, but remain unranked. That can change with a home win against Jake Browning and the Huskies. The Buffs should slow running back Myles Gaskin — who has yet to rush for double-digit carries or hit the century mark this season — putting the onus to win squarely on Browning, who has eight touchdowns to one interception this year. That’s bad news for Colorado, considering they give up 212 passing yards a game.
Pick: Washington 42, Colorado 28
UCLA at Stanford (-9.5)
What to make of this one? Neither defense has played well this season, consistently ranking in the bottom half of the country in total yards, rushing defense, pass defense and points allowed. Josh Rosen is a playmaker at quarterback for UCLA, but he can’t do it on his own. Stanford, at least, has a serviceable quarterback in Keller Chryst to complement running back Bryce Love, who is averaging an absurd 12.2 yards per carry in 2017 — and about to go against a defense that gives up 275.0 yards a game on the ground. Expect lots of points in this one, and a Cardinal win.