This is the time when Conference games begin to be played and more attention is made to the kind of teams that may earn their place in the final four of the College Football Play Offs. Last week the Clemson Tigers won at the Louisville Cardinal to show the defending Champions have re-tooled in the manner that may help them get back into the Play Off spots, while the likes of the Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama Crimson Tide have big non-Conference wins under their belt that will keep them in the voters thoughts.
Alabama look more secure than Oklahoma because I think they are clearly the team to beat in the SEC, while the Sooners are playing in a really tough Conference in the Big 12 which also has incorporated a Championship Game. Oklahoma will do well to run the table with some of the competition they have coming up, although that doesn't seem the case in Week 4 as they head to Baylor as a near four Touchdown favourite.
The Big Ten is another Conference that looks to be one that will be fought out until the end with three or four really good teams that should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
Things will become clearer in the weeks ahead as the Conferences begin to take shape with those games beginning to separate the teams. The College Football season has already shown how much fun it can be and that should continue going into Week 4.
Army Black Knights @ Tulane Green Wave Pick: Two teams who will be running the triple option will meet one another in Week 4 and this is the kind of game that can determine whether a team can reach the six win number to become eligible for a Bowl Game in December. It is the Army Black Knights who have a 2-1 record so far in 2017 compared with Tulane Green Wave who are 1-2, while there is familiarity between the teams with the two Head Coaches both previously employed by Georgia Southern.
That familiarity has been spoken about in the build up to the game as both teams look to try different things to at least surprise the other in what they will be expecting. However any time you run the triple option Offensive schemes means there is only so much different that you can show an opponent.
One area where the Green Wave will be hoping they have an edge is the fact that they have already played the Navy Midshipmen, another team that runs the triple option which means they should have learned how to read plays that they are seeing. It doesn't mean it will be easy for them to shut down the Army Offense, but Tulane can't be in a bad position having seen the triple option just a couple of weeks ago.
Both teams were blown out by Power 5 Conference teams in Week 3 but neither Army or Tulane would have been expecting much different. Week 4 should be a lot more comfortable for the two teams with the opponent in front of them with the importance of earning the win not lost on either team.
Army and Tulane will feel they can run the ball effectively considering the way the Defensive Lines for each team have performed and both should have success moving the chains through much of the afternoon. The key match up looks to be the Army veteran Offensive Line taking on the Tulane veteran Defensive Line with the team controlling the line of scrimmage likely helping their team win the game.
On that front it is the Black Knights Offensive Line which has played up to the level expected, although Tulane are not really underachieving either. The difference is that Army have been running the ball much better than most would have expected and that should give the Black Knights a chance to keep the chains moving.
Army will still be hoping for more from Quarter Back Ahmad Bradshaw despite the performances he has helped to generate on the ground. Keeping Defenses off guard by throwing the ball is a key for the Black Knights, but they may feel they can get away with it a little bit in this game with the way their Offensive Line has played through the first three weeks of the season.
I have little doubt that Tulane will also have their successes on the ground after showing off what they can do against the Oklahoma Sooners last week. The departures in the Army Linebacker corps has shown up this season as they have given up plenty of yards on the ground at a pretty poor clip which is an area the Green Wave should be able to exploit even if their Offensive Line still believe they can improve.
One difference between the teams is that Tulane have been willing to air it out with a little more success than the Black Knights have had. They should be able to make some plays through the air against a Secondary that has given up some big plays, but Army will feel they can put some pressure on Johnathan Brantley, who played in place of Jonathan Banks at Quarter Back in Week 3 thanks to a Banks injury, when he does step back to throw the ball.
All in all this does feel like a game that may be decided by which team has the ball last. Penalties and turnovers are going to be a huge part of the game and will likely decide the winner, but it is likely to be a close game with both Army and Tulane having their success when the Offenses have the ball in their hands.
The Black Knights are 6-1-2 against the spread as the road underdog over the last couple of years while the road team and the underdog are both 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series between these teams. Taking the points with Army who look to be the better team of the two is the way to go in this one.
Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Houston Cougars Pick: A number of schools have taken the decision to add some tough non-Conference games on the schedule and both the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Houston Cougars are putting unbeaten records on the line in Week 4.
Despite a new Head Coach at the Houston Cougars, the transition was expected to be fairly comfortable for the players with an internal appointment in Major Applewhite being made. The Cougars have looked steady in their opening wins of the season, but this is a big step up for them against an improved Texas Tech team who need to produce a big season for Kliff Kingsbury.
A third losing season in four years might not be good enough for the Texas Tech decision makers when it comes to Kingsbury staying on as Head Coach. They will want to return to a Bowl Game in December but also can't afford to overlook the Cougars with the big home game against one of the favourites in the Big 12 Conference next up on deck.
The big challenge for the Red Raiders will be to show that their 'Air Raid' Offense is good enough to attack the Houston Cougars Defensive unit which has looked very good through the start of the season. Bringing back seven starters from the Defense which had some strong numbers in 2016 means the Cougars are experienced and they have shown how they have developed early in the season.
I don't think the Texas Tech play-calling will stick with the run for too long considering that may be the strength of this Houston Defense, while the Red Raiders themselves have not been able to find the consistent holes behind their Offensive Line. All of the pressure will be on Nic Shimonek at Quarter Back who has some strong numbers, but those have come against Defenses that simply do not play as well as the one he faces on Saturday.
If Texas Tech become predictable though, it will be a long day for them so expect them to keep trying to establish the run even if it will literally be like running into a brick wall. They will have to find some way to protect Shimonek too if they are going to have a chance for the upset here, but you have to think this Offensive unit will have more success against the Cougars than either Arizona or Rice have been able to do.
Much will be expected of Shimonek passing the ball, but Kyle Allen has begun life with the Houston Cougars very effectively at Quarter Back. Allen has been efficient since coming in as a transfer from the Texas A&M Aggies and he is facing a Secondary who are giving up big numbers as they did in 2016.
Allen should be the latest to take advantage of that in what the Houston Cougars are considering to be another potential shoot out. His only issues may come with turnovers, while Houston may also become a little predictable in what they are going to need to do to move the chains if they continue to struggle to run the ball.
That won't be any easier against the Red Raiders Defensive Line which has opened the season in really good form after an expected improvement from 2016. However no one would have tipped them to perform as well as they have in the opening two games and the Red Raiders may force the Cougars to have to take to the air if they want to move the chains consistently too.
This is another game that feels like it could be closely contested and one where I will take the points with the road underdog. I have a lot of respect for the way the Cougars Secondary have been playing, but this is a big test for them and the pressure will be on Kyle Allen in a potential shoot out.
Houston have a strong 18-6 record against the spread in their last twenty-four non-Conference games but they are just 4-8-1 against the spread as the home favourite. On the other hand the Red Raiders are 6-2 against the spread as the road underdog over the last couple of years and I do think they can stay within this number on Saturday.
Both teams have big Conference games to come next week, but the focus should be fully on maintaining an unbeaten run and I don't think there will be much between them which makes the points attractive here.
Alabama Crimson Tide @ Vanderbilt Commodores Pick: They remain the top team in the polls, but the Alabama Crimson Tide have not convinced as much as some people would have expected during their 3-0 start to the season. Now they go into SEC play, but there will no real concern with the early season form, especially as the Crimson Tide remain unbeaten and there is definitely some issues with so many of the other teams in this Conference.
The Crimson Tide certainly look the like the team to beat in the SEC which gives them pole position for one of the Play Off spots later in the season. There is plenty of football to play before those places are handed out and Nick Saban will not allow his team to look too far ahead when you think there are areas in which Alabama will want to show improvement.
Facing the surprisingly unbeaten Vanderbilt Commodores on the road is the first test in the SEC for the Crimson Tide. Vanderbilt were favoured to win their first two games, but they then upset the Kansas Wildcats in Week 3 which is the first they have beaten a Ranked non-Conference opponent in over seventy years.
That has to give the Commodores some confidence as they try to snap a twenty-one game losing run to the best team in their Conference. Vanderbilt's only real chance of success in this game is hoping that Alabama come in a play the worst game of football they have played in recent memory, but it does look a tall task and this may be all about trying to show the competitive fire.
The Commodores are going to struggle to run the ball against what could be the best Defensive Line in the SEC as that has been an issue for them throughout their three game winning run. More was expected from the Vanderbilt Offensive Line when it comes to running the ball in 2017, but they haven't hit their stride and they are unlikely to get on track here which means the pressure is on Kyle Shurmur at Quarter Back.
Shurmur did end the regular season playing some good stuff in 2016 and he has opened this season in decent nick too, but this is the best Defensive unit has will have seen so far. In saying that, Alabama do have room for improvement with the Secondary looking to reduce the passing yards they have given up, although that can be helped by finding a more effective pass rush than what has been generated so far.
The Quarter Back hasn't thrown a pick this season and Shurmur will likely be given the time by his Offensive Line to make plays which should mean he can help sustain some drives, although the consistent moving of the chains is not likely to happen.
If Vanderbilt are serious about this upset, they will have to lean on the Defensive unit who have been playing at a really high level in 2017. Derek Mason has really focused on the Defensive performances of the Commodores since coming in as Head Coach and this looks another strong Defensive unit has has put together.
The key to this game will be the line of scrimmage as the Alabama Offensive Line tries to overwhelm the overachieving Vanderbilt Defensive Line. The dominance that Alabama have shown behind their Offensive Line has been the key to how well they have performed so far in 2017 and once again you have to think Alabama will be looking to control that line of scrimmage to set up the rest of their Offense.
Jalen Hurts has shown he is a mobile Quarter Back who is happy to use his legs to move the chains and that may slow down the kind of pass rush pressure Vanderbilt have found in their first three games. While he has been better running, Hurts has shown he is efficient enough with his passing to be given the respect he deserves when he does drop back although Alabama will be hoping the Quarter Back can start producing some bigger numbers with his arm.
Doing that will just give the Crimson Tide a little more balance going forward, but in this game Alabama have to feel they can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball which can see them win this game. I think that will also see Alabama begin to wear down Vanderbilt as the game progresses and I can see them forcing Kyle Shurmur into a couple of mistakes which allows the Crimson Tide to pull away for the win and cover.
All credit has to be given to Vanderbilt for being 9-3 against the spread as the home underdog since Mason took over as Head Coach. However the Crimson Tide are 6-1 against the spread as the road favourite and they have won the last twelve against Vanderbilt by 15 points per game although the last game came in 2011 and those numbers may not be as relevant now.
It is a huge spread when you look at it on paper, but the Crimson Tide can create the turnovers to pull away for a win by 20 plus points and so I will back Saban and his team to cover here.
TCU Horned Frogs @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: After last weekend it may be tough to oppose the Oklahoma State Cowboys again, but I am going back in although this time with another team Ranked in the top 25 as the TCU Horned Frogs come to town with some revenge on their minds.
The Cowboys have dominated the head to head with TCU, but make no mistake about the importance of this game for two of the leading contenders in the Big 12 Conference. Both teams are unbeaten and both have impressed with big road wins, Oklahoma State blowing out Pittsburgh in Week 3 and TCU beating SEC's Arkansas in Week 2.
Most will point this out to be a match up that will be determined by the power Cowboys Offensive unit going up against an experienced and strong TCU Defensive unit. However that may be underrating the teams on the other side of the ball which makes this a more competitive game and one where the points being given to the Horned Frogs certainly feel like being too many.
Bringing back Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill and James Washington has given the Cowboys the kind of triplets which will make them a threat to any team they face. Offensively it will be difficult to shut them down completely, but the Horned Frogs have to have faced with an experienced unit they have brought back in 2017 to give them a chance to limit the damage Oklahoma State can do.
It has to be said that I do think Hill will be established running the ball despite the strong numbers the Horned Frogs Defensive Line have generated through their first three games. The veteran Offensive Line Oklahoma State can trot out onto the field should have the advantage and I do think the Cowboys will be able to rip off some chunks of yardage on the ground, and that should make the Rudolph to Washington connection that much easier to come.
Rudolph has produced some huge numbers for the Cowboys already and I imagine he is going to have another big game even if the TCU Secondary may be the best one in the Big 12 this season. The key will be to try and do enough at the line of scrimmage to force Rudolph to throw from third and long, but ultimately I do think the Cowboys are going to be able to get going Offensively.
So the question for me really comes down to whether I think the TCU Defensive unit can do enough to at least give Kenny Hill and the ten returning Offensive starters a chance to compete in what may be a shoot out. The bottom line is I do think TCU can score enough points to keep them within the spread even if they are most likely to go down to a loss in Stillwater.
Last season TCU really struggled against an under-rated Oklahoma State Defense, but they are much more experienced now and that figures to play a big part in the outcome of this game. In all levels of the Offense the Horned Frogs have brought back experience and the early Oklahoma State Defensive Line numbers may have been down to the level of competition faced rather than being a long term trend for the team.
TCU have been able to establish the run very effectively behind their Offensive Line and I think they should be able to do the same as the Cowboys and rip off some big gains on the ground which will keep Hill and the Offense in third and manageable situations. That should give Hill the chance to be able to make some plays downfield against a Cowboys Secondary that may begin to be exposed once they get into Big 12 play.
That is what I am leaning towards and I think the Horned Frogs can keep up with the powerful Cowboys Offense in this one, and that makes getting almost two converted Touchdowns worth of points look very appealing. The Cowboys have been an inconsistent home favourite to back, but TCU are 12-3 against the spread as the road underdog through recent years and I like Gary Patterson's men keeping this one competitive.
Toledo Rockets @ Miami Hurricanes Pick: Hurricane Irma has had a big effect on the people of the Caribbean and Florida and clearly that was the biggest concern for people rather than the sports teams that have been displaced. The Miami Hurricanes have been in a position where they have had to cancel or postpone games and that means they are back in action in Week 4 for the first time since Week 1.
It is hard to know how the players will react to what is the longest break they will have experienced once the season begins. There may be some timing issues and that could be a problem if the Toledo Rockets can bring in the kind of Offensive firepower that has helped them begin the season 3-0.
The questions for the Rockets, who could be the top team in the MAC Conference this season, is whether they are Defensively sound enough to compete with a Power 5 Conference. Their Offense is also not going to be used to playing too many Defensive units as strong as the one the Hurricanes will send onto the field and I do think that ultimately makes the difference in this game and proves to be a significant reason the Hurricanes cover the spread in the win too.
While there isn't a lot of numbers to look at through the 2017 season for the Hurricanes, this is a Defensive unit that brought back eight starters from 2016. Manny Diaz worked wonders with this crew last season and he is back at Defensive Co-Ordinator with an experienced team who will they can be as good as any Defensive unit in College Football.
The strong Defensive Line from 2016 should be even better in 2017 and I do think it will be difficult for the Rockets to run the ball as well as they have in their previous three games. Those came against teams that simply don't have the same level of talent as this Hurricanes team, and I think the Rockets could be made relatively one-dimensional in this one.
Logan Woodside has plenty of experience at Quarter Back for the Toledo Rockets and leaning on him will not be a bad option for the road underdog. He has picked up from where he left off in 2016 and Woodside may make some really nice plays against a Miami Secondary that is perhaps not as strong as last season. Woodside has been well protected by his Offensive Line, but Manny Diaz is someone who brings the pressure up front and it will be interesting to see how Toledo's Line deals with that after the Hurricanes produced 37 Sacks in 2016.
I would still expect Toledo to have their moments, but the Defensive unit will have to really improve on their early season play if the Rockets are serious about the upset. The Toledo Defensive Line was expected to be much improved this season, but so far teams have been able to run the ball effectively and Miami are expected to have an improved rushing attack this season.
Establishing the run will put the Rockets under pressure and will mean Malik Rosier won't be forced into doing too much at Quarter Back in his second career start for the Hurricanes. Taking over from Brad Kaaya was going to be a big task, but Rosier can be helped by a strong rushing Offense as well as the fact that Toledo haven't really generated much of a pass rush and so the Quarter Back should be given time when he does drop back to throw the ball.
The Hurricanes have now won thirteen straight home non-Conference games and those have come by an average of 33 points per game. After having a couple of unexpected weeks off I think the Hurricanes will come out to play hard ahead of their ACC Conference opener at Duke next Friday night and I expect they will eventually begin to pull away from Toledo who will be challenged by the best Defensive unit they will see all year.
Miami should have more consistent drives that end in Touchdowns compared with Toledo who may have to settle for Field Goals and I like the home favourite to cover in this one. The Hurricanes are 11-5-1 against the spread as the home favourite in recent years and the Rockets are 1-3 against the spread in their last four games against Ranked opponents.
I do think Toledo have their moments, but some big Defensive plays from the Miami Hurricanes can help break up a few more drives and I think the home team win by closer to three Touchdowns than two.
Michigan Wolverines @ Purdue Boilermakers Pick: There won't be many times you can oppose the public when backing one of the big schools in College Football to win and cover a game, but this one of those as the Michigan Wolverines come in as a big favourite to win on the road at the Purdue Boilermakers. This is a Big Ten Conference game, but the public seem to be behind the Boilermakers, although the spread has moved in favour of Michigan which suggests some sharp money has come in for them.
Being a square or a sharp is not as important as it once was with both taking some tough breaks at times.
I have to say I do like the Michigan Wolverines despite what has been a low key start to the season after tough wins over the Cincinnati Bearcats and Air Force Falcons. The Wolverines were big favourites in both games, but failed to cover in the home wins, while the public are behind the home underdog who played Louisville close and beat the Missouri Tigers as an underdog in Week 3.
You can understand why the Boilermakers are liked in this spot considering how well they have begun the season with an experienced Defensive unit and a returning David Blough at Quarter Back who is expected to be better than in 2016. Compared that to the Wolverines who have had their starting team from 2016 gutted going into the new season and Purdue do make an interesting home dog.
Michigan can make up for the lack of experience with the clear talent they have recruited under Jim Harbaugh and that has shown up in their wins so far this season. Defensively they remain as strong as 2016 despite the losses which has seen just a single starter return, and they have shown that by controlling the line of scrimmage.
The Wolverines Defensive Line have huge expectations and they have dominated by stopping the run and it will be difficult for the Boilermakers to really get their Backs established. That will mean this is Blough's biggest test at Quarter Back this season as he throws into a Secondary that love getting themselves some Interceptions when the pressure up front comes at the QB in third and long spots.
It is where Blough could find himself and his protection has not held up as much as he would have liked, despite the strong numbers posted. That is an area Michigan will look to make their talent show up as they have really been able to pressure the Quarter Backs they have faced this season and have a Defensive Line that is expected to impose itself on this game.
They should be able to restrict what Purdue are able to do Offensively, but the biggest question for Michigan is can they score enough points to cover this spread?
So far Michigan have been bogged down and that has seen them have to kick way more Field Goals than they would have liked as they have struggled to get the ball into the End Zone. Wilton Speight has experience from his time Quarter Backing the Wolverines last year, but he has not really performed well since his collarbone injury and I do think John O'Korn could replace him if things don't improve.
This should be a good chance for Speight to produce some solid numbers against a Purdue Defensive unit that is plenty experienced, but who have not been able to completely shut down teams. The Boilermakers are clearly better than they were in 2016, but this is a team against whom you can establish the run, while the lack of pass rush pressure they have generated up front should give teams the time to throw down the field for solid gains.
Ty Isaac has been running the ball really well for the Michigan Wolverines and he is likely to be the most important player for the road team against this improved Boilermakers Defense. He should at least limit the mistakes that Speight is making at Quarter Back by keeping Michigan in third and manageable spots and I think the Defensive unit will then make some big plays that helps the Wolverines cover on the road.
Michigan haven't been a great road favourite to back, but Purdue are 1-10 against the spread as the home underdog over the last two seasons before covering against Louisville. It feels like there may still be some mental issues to overcome for the Boilermakers against one of the best teams in their Conference and Michigan have won the last three games by at least 11 points each time.
I will look for the Defensive unit to step up for Michigan and help them cover on the road on Saturday as they get their Conference games off to a winning start.
Bowling Green Falcons @ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Pick: After four winning seasons in a row which saw a couple of Head Coaches move on to bigger and better things, Mike Jinks took over at Bowling Green and they have had a difficult thirteen months in competitive action. A losing season in 2016 followed by a 0-3 start to 2017 will have put Jinks under pressure as Head Coach and I am not sure things will get better for him.
The Falcons may be facing a 1-2 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders team, but the latter have had a couple of really difficult games on their schedule. While that doesn't mean to say that Bowling Green have had a cupcake of a schedule themselves, it does mean that Middle Tennessee have beaten the teams they have been expected to and Bowling Green have not.
It has been something of a surprise that the Falcons have not been able to move the ball as effectively as they would have liked, but they may find more room in this one. The space will mainly come through the air though as Middle Tennessee's Defensive Line have been better than was advertised, while the Falcons have struggled to establish the run.
Throwing the ball should lead to some success, but the key for the Falcons is keeping Middle Tennessee honest. If they are stuck in third and long situations, the Offensive Line protection has broken down for Bowling Green and I would expect Middle Tennessee to take advantage when you think of the pass rush pressure they have been able to generate.
That pressure hasn't led to the number of Interceptions the Blue Raiders would have liked, but it does mean they will be able to slow drives and force Bowling Green to settle for Field Goals rather than Touchdowns which could be the key for the home favourite covering this number.
So far the Blue Raiders bigger concerns have come Offensively as they have not been able to produce quite as well as they did in 2016. Last season they were able to dominate behind the Offensive Line, but losing key starters has had an effect on how they have been able to run the ball so far. Some of that may be down to the opponents they have faced though and Middle Tennessee have to be confident going up against a Bowling Green Defensive Line which has so far not shown the improvement that was expected of them.
Brent Stockstill has had back to back impressive seasons at Quarter Back for the Blue Raiders and seeing his side have a little more running room should help him produce his best game of 2017. Interceptions have been an issue against the better Defenses he has faced, but this is not one of those and a Secondary who have allowed over 300 passing yards per game is one that Stockstill should be able to dominate.
There hasn't been a lot of pressure generated by the Falcons Defensive Line which should mean Stockstill gets time as long as he is not throwing from third and long spots all night. This looks a great chance for Middle Tennessee to earn some momentum to take into the Conference games which begin next week for them and I can see the Blue Raiders winning this one.
They beat Bowling Green by 20 points on the road in 2016, but this is likely to be a least a Touchdown closer. That will still be enough for the Blue Raiders to cover the spread though and I will back them to win and cover on Saturday. Bowling Green are also 0-8 against the spread in their last eight non-Conference games and I will look for Middle Tennessee to extend that run.
UTSA Roadrunners @ Texas State Bobcats Pick: Picking any team to cover a big spread like the one we have in this game is a tough decision, but it is made more difficult when you think the two teams involved are playing in the CUSA and Sun Belt Conferences. You would think that would even up the playing field, but it does look like the UTSA Roadrunners are one of the better teams in their Conference and playing the Texas State Bobcats who are still learning a new system.
That should mean the Roadrunners have the edge and they are being favoured by almost two Touchdowns to win on the road in Week 4. This is the first they are being favoured by double digits on the road and I will be interested to see how the players react to that, even if most will insist they don't know the spreads from the week.
In this day and age that is hard to believe and only feeling the pressure of being such a heavy favourite should go against the UTSA Roadrunners. They have opened the season with a 2-0 record despite playing at the Baylor Bears from the Big 12 and that victory will have given this team the belief to take into this final non-Conference game before the CUSA games begin.
Many tipped up the UTSA Defensive unit as being perhaps the best one in the Conference and they have shown that in their first couple of games. It certainly is expected to pose a problem for the Texas State Offense which is averaging just 12 points per game so far this season.
The Bobcats have struggled to run the ball and figure to have little room to get untracked in this one against a UTSA Offensive Line which is holding teams to 3.5 yards per carry so far. This comes the season after finishing with a 4.3 yards per carry total against them and the Roadrunners Defensive Line is expected to have taken a step forward in 2017 which will make it tough for the Texas State Running Backs to find a way to be established.
All of that puts more pressure on the Offensive Line when it comes to pass protection as they have struggled to keep Damian Williams upright at Quarter Back. Williams has come in as a transfer from SEC Mississippi State, but he has been given little time by the Offensive Line and is expected to be faced with plenty of pressure from the Roadrunners when he does drop back to throw the ball.
To add to that, Williams is facing a Secondary that has been really good when you think they have played a Big 12 team on the road already. Pressure up front has led to Interceptions in the Secondary and the Bobcats could have a tough day moving the chains with any kind of consistency.
Instead Texas State will have to lean on a Defensive unit that is expected to be much improved in 2017 and who have played reasonably well so far. The Defensive Line has been very strong for the Bobcats and it looks like it will be up to Dalton Sturm at Quarter Back rather than Jalen Rhodes at Running Back that the UTSA Offense has to go through.
Rhodes has run the ball well, but the Bobcats strength up front should mean there isn't as much room to move as the UTSA Roadrunners have had in their previous two games. Instead they may lean on Sturm to throw the ball against a Secondary that has given up some big plays to open up the rushing lanes, although Sturm will have to be aware of how much pressure Texas State have managed to generate on the Quarter Backs they have faced.
Last season the Offensive Line struggled in pass protection and that does look to be the case again in 2017, although it will be interesting to see if the Bobcats can maintain the push they have found so far. That could be a key to the entire game because otherwise you would have to think the UTSA Defensive unit is likely to produce the biggest plays and give the road favourite every chance to cover.
Texas State are 2-4 against the spread as the home underdog under Head Coach Everett Withers, but that is balanced out by the UTSA Roadrunners being in a strange position of favoured on the road by double digits. The Roadrunners are 4-1 against the spread in their last five non-Conference games though and I think they can make a few plays through their Defensive unit which helps them overcome a big number.
Oregon Ducks @ Arizona State Sun Devils Pick: The Oregon Ducks have moved back into the Rankings for the first time in a year and the public are once again behind them as they visit the Arizona State Sun Devils. Willie Taggert has come in as Head Coach for the Ducks and helped them begin the season with a 3-0 record, so it comes as no surprise the public want to get behind them against the 1-2 Sun Devils.
Todd Graham has to be feeling the pressure as Head Coach of Arizona State who have had two losing seasons in a row and are unlikely to tolerate a third. There will be a disappointment with how the non-Conference schedule went ahead of their Pac-12 opener against Oregon, but this is a team who have been competitive and could easily be at least 2-1.
You can understand the mark that has been set by the layers with Oregon as the big road favourite when you think how the two teams have played. The Ducks win over Nebraska doesn't look as good after the Cornhuskers were beaten at home in Week 3, but they have produced big numbers in all three wins and that makes them dangerous for the home team.
The Arizona State Defensive unit were expected to be a lot better across the board in 2017 after injuries helped produce some horrific numbers in 2016, but so far that has not shown up. The Sun Devils have allowed at least 30 points in each of their three games played, and the concern is that they have been attacked both on the ground and through the air with considerable success both ways.
Now they face a balanced Oregon Offense that should be able to move the chains up and down the field for most of the afternoon. Fast paced Offenses have been a feature of Oregon for a number of years and they look to have another one here that should be able to have their way with the Arizona State Defense.
One area where the Sun Devils have been effective is getting pressure up front, but failure to stop the run will likely mean Oregon are in comfortable down and distances throughout the game. That will make it tough to stop Justin Herbert at Quarter Back and Royce Freeman at Running Back and should mean the Ducks are successful scoring plenty of points here.
It might surprise, but I think the Sun Devils are better than they have shown and I am looking for them to keep with the Ducks in what should be a shoot out. Manny Wilkens has played well at Quarter Back, but he has not been helped by an Offensive Line which has struggled with their pass protection again this season and a limited rushing Offense has only exacerbated that issue.
Running the ball was a problem in 2016 and has been a problem again in 2017 and that is going to be a key to this game. If the Sun Devils can get to the level expected, they can at least slow down the pass rush enough to give Wilkens a chance against this improved Oregon Secondary.
Wilkens himself has played well, but the Quarter Back can't do it all himself and the Sun Devils earning the upset looks a long shot. However I think they are better than they have shown this season and I am expecting a huge effort from them in their first Conference game which will give the Sun Devils a chance to keep this close.
Getting more than a two Touchdown start on the points looks a big number for the Arizona State Sun Devils unless they have already given up on Todd Graham. Oregon have dominated the head to head between these teams in recent years but they are just 2-8 against the spread in their last ten Conference games.
Arizona State are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven at home and I will back the home underdog in the belief that they may have their best effort of the season reserved for this game.
MY PICKS: Army Black Knights + 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders + 6.5 Points @ 1.86 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 18.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs + 13 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes - 13.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
UTSA Roadrunners - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Arizona State Sun Devils
Week 3: 2-6-1, - 4.14 Units (9 Units Staked, - 46% Yield)
Week 2: 2-3, - 1.09 Units (5 Units Staked, - 21.80% Yield)
Week 1: 1-3, - 2.09 Units (4 Units Staked, - 52.25% Yield)
Season 2017: 5-12-1, - 7.32 Units (18 Units Staked, - 40.67% Yield)