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Friday, 20 September 2019

College Football Week 4 Picks 2019 (September 20-21)

The last two weeks have been very difficult as far as the College Football Picks have gone with back to back losing weeks hurting the pride.

It is a very long season so there is no reason to panic just yet, but I do want a much better performance all around in Week 4 which gets underway on Thursday.

This has been a busy week for myself so the NFL Picks will be out either late Friday or early Saturday as I don't have a play for Thursday Night Football. Instead the College Football Week 4 Picks post is up in that place with further picks to be added to this thread.

Hopefully the turn around begins in Week 4. Below I have also updated the season stats with Week 3 results added to the numbers.

Utah Utes @ USC Trojans Pick: Schools like USC are not used to missing out on the big New Year's Day Bowl Games, let alone the post-season entirely so the pressure is increasing on Clay Helton as Head Coach of the Trojans day by day. Losing to the BYU Cougars in Week 3 means the Trojans are not expected to be challenging for a PlayOff berth, but they are coming in off a 5-7 season and you would have to wonder what the plan will be if USC are beaten at home by the Utah Utes on Friday.

Things are not being helped by the fact that JT Daniels has been lost for the season and the starting Quarter Back Kedon Slovis was fourth on the depth chart a few months ago. Slovis showed some real promise in the win over the Stanford Cardinal, but his inexperience was on display in the Week 3 loss to the BYU Cougars and now has to face the very strong looking Utah Defensive unit.

In most cases you would think a team would try and protect a Quarter Back like Slovis by running the ball, but that looks a very difficult task for the Trojans in this game. The Utes Defensive Line has only given up 2.7 yards per carry for the season and they will feel keeping Slovis in third and long spots will be a win for them.

At that point they can unleash something of a pass rush to try and get after Slovis and force the young Quarter Back to make errors. The Utah Secondary might be amongst the very best in College Football and this does feel like a very difficult test for the USC Trojans and especially if the players have perhaps lost faith in their Head Coach.

For Utah things could not have gone much better in their 3-0 start to 2019 and the blow out win at rivals BYU will only have increased the confidence and belief around this team. This is an experienced team on both sides of the ball and being able to call on a veteran Quarter Back and Running Back gives the Utes an edge and the chance to win their first road game at the USC Trojans in over 100 years.

I expect Zack Moss will be able to help establish the run with the Utah Offensive Line looking like one that will expect to push around the Trojans Defensive Line. Moss and Quarter Back Tyler Huntley have both had strong showings on the ground and it should keep the Utes in a good position to move the chains, while it will also be important to open up play-action for Huntley.

The USC Secondary has not really played up to the level you would expect, but they did lose key players from that unit in the NFL Draft and Utah can take advantage. If they are throwing out of third and short you would really like the chances of Utah moving the chains throughout this game and I do think they are capable of winning it.

A poor record in Los Angeles to face USC has to be a concern when backing Utah, especially as they are favoured to win this game. However USC have been a poor home team under Clay Helton when it comes to the spread, while they are a miserable 2-7 against the spread as the underdog.

USC are also 0-11 against the spread when set as the underdog of less than 8 points and I am going to back Utah to not only win this game, but make a statement they are ready to compete for a spot in the College Football PlayOffs.

LSU Tigers @ Vanderbilt Commodores Pick: I was not really fully convinced by the LSU Tigers and thought they might have some difficulties when visiting the Texas Longhorns in a legit road game in Week 2. They didn't just the win the game, but the Tigers won well and now you have to see a team that could potentially gatecrash the College Football PlayOffs. The schedule is not the most straight-forward and could be the biggest test for the Tigers, but they can open SEC play by laying down a marker to the likes of Alabama and Auburn.

To be fair to the Crimson Tide, they did win very well at South Carolina in Week 3 so the Tigers have to travel to Nashville focusing on themselves as they have been given a very big spread to cover. It is an exact number that the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Vanderbilt Commodores by in Week 1 of the 2019 season, but the Commodores are coming into this one off a Bye.

Head Coach Derek Mason will be hoping it has given his team a chance to just hit the reset button after back to back blow out defeats to open the season. In his time as Head Coach here, Vanderbilt have not played well coming out of a Bye Week and I think that has to be a concern when you think of the level that LSU have been operating at to move to 3-0.

Ed Orgeron has to be very happy with what he has seen from his Tigers team, but this is not a Head Coach who is going to be easily satisfied. The Offense is working well overall, but Orgeron will be looking to establish the run and ask the Offensive Line to open much bigger holes than they have through the first three games of the season.

LSU certainly have a chance of doing that because the Commodores Defensive Line has been giving up huge chunk plays and allowing 6.3 yards per carry from their first two games. If the Vanderbilt Defensive Line can't clamp down a little bit, this is going to be a very long day for them as they face a Tigers team that may finally have an elite Quarter Back running things.

Joe Burrow didn't quite reach 3000 passing yards in 2018, but the experience has clearly helped the Quarter Back take the next step. He is helping the Tigers average way over 400 passing yards per game and Burrow has been well protected which has allowed him to decimate Secondaries. Now he will be licking his lips at facing a Vanderbilt Secondary that has allowed 332 passing yards per game and who have been unable to generate any pressure up front.

I fully expect to see the Tigers moving the ball very comfortably whenever the Offensive unit has it in their hands and Burrow can have another big game. However I do think the LSU Defensive unit has a point to make having not really started off in the manner you would expect when you see they have yet to play one of the top teams from the SEC.

The win at Texas was clearly a challenging test for the Secondary, but the Tigers will be disappointed with the amount of passing success teams have had against them so far. This is an area that they will need to improve to achieve their aims in 2019, but they should have a much better statistical day when facing the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Up front it has proven to be very difficult to run the ball against LSU and the Commodores Offensive Line have also had issues opening holes for any of the Running Backs. I expect the Tigers to keep Vanderbilt in third and long spots, but Riley Neal at Quarter Back has thrown for over 250 passing yards per game in 2019 and might exploit one or two holes that LSU have left.

Unfortunately for Neal, he is not going to have an easy day waiting for those holes to open up if the Offensive Line can't protect him better than they have. From third and long the Tigers should be able to get after Neal and force errant throws and I think that will lead to LSU pulling away and blowing out this SEC opponent.

LSU have been very strong in the SEC under Ed Orgeron with a 12-4 record against the spread in the last two seasons while Vanderbilt are 1-6 against the spread in their last two seasons as the home underdog. The Tigers are also 7-1 against the spread as road favourites of more than 12 points when their opponent is coming in off a straight up loss.

There is no doubt this is a big spread if Vanderbilt have fixed some issues through their Bye Week, but the Tigers look like a very good team at the moment and I will look for Joe Burrow to make enough plays to move them clear over the course of the game.

Auburn Tigers @ Texas A&M Aggies Pick: The SEC looks to be as competitive a Conference as ever and in Week 4 we have a very big game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Auburn Tigers. These two teams are both in the same SEC West Division which is headed up by Alabama and LSU so the losing team will already be behind the black ball, while the winning team will move forward and expect to compete for a Division title.

The Auburn Tigers come in with a 3-0 record and their biggest victory is the one over the Oregon Ducks. The Tigers rallied from 15 points behind to earn the victory which has given the players a shot of confidence after a relatively disappointing 8-5 record in 2018 and Auburn will feel very good about their chances of being unbeaten going into the game against LSU if they can win at Kyle Field for the third time in a row since the Aggies joined this Conference.

Texas A&M are 2-1 having beaten two overmatched opponents, but falling to the Clemson Tigers on the road. The Aggies did not really compete against Clemson so this is a big test for them, but the experience of Kellen Mond could be a real factor in the battle of the Quarter Backs.

The teams have a similar style of play as they look to establish the run to open up the passing game and so far both teams have been successful doing that. However Clemson held the Aggies to 2 yards per carry in the win over them in Week 2 and that will be music to the ears of the Tigers of Auburn whose Defensive Line is amongst the very best in College Football.

Auburn will be looking to stop Texas A&M up front and force Mond to beat them through the air. The pass rush pressure generated by the Tigers could also help slow down the Aggies in this one, although Mond has shown enough in his young career to believe he can make some big plays and try and put his team in a position to win the game.

This is an Auburn Defensive unit that has played well though and I expect the Tigers to try and control the clock when they have the ball in the hands of their own Offense. Bo Nix is a young Quarter Back so Auburn have to try and help him as much as possible by giving the ball to JaTarvious Whitlow and have him try and establish the run.

The Aggies Defensive Line have produced some strong numbers up front in their first three games, but some of those are down to the level of opposition faced. They did play well against Clemson though and that means the Aggies have to be respected and both trenches are going to be the key to the outcome of this game.

Whitlow should have some successes though with the way the Auburn Offensive Line has been playing and that should slow the Texas A&M pass rush and give Nix a bit more time at Quarter Back. It is a tough road environment to play in for any young player, but the Auburn Defensive unit can help the Quarter Back and I think this has the makings of a close game and thus having more than a Field Goal worth of points looks very appealing with the underdog.

There are some nice trends in favour of Texas A&M that does just cloud things, but the road team is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven between these teams. Texas A&M have been a strong home favourite under Jimbo Fisher, but I think Auburn will use the motivation of being a dog to better effect than they have in recent years and I think the can keep this close and potentially win outright.

I expect the Auburn Offensive Line to just perform slightly better than their Texas A&M counterparts and that can be the reason the Tigers are able to cover on the day.

Oregon Ducks @ Stanford Cardinal Pick: It is not very often you will see the Stanford Cardinal down as a home underdog and this is a team that usually has thrived in the spot by going 5-0 against the spread on the last five occasions it has happened. However I am going to look for that streak to end when they face Pac-12 North rivals Oregon Ducks on Saturday in Week 4 of the 2019 season.

Injuries have crippled the Stanford Cardinal who have opened up with a 1-2 record having suffered blow out defeats to USC and UCF in back to back weeks. They have never won fewer than eight games under David Shaw, but even that mark looks like one that may be beyond Stanford with one of the more difficult schedules on paper.

KJ Costello was back at Quarter Back last week, but the Offensive Line is down a couple of starters and all of the pressure is on Costello to make the plays needed to move the chains. Bryce Love has moved on to the NFL and it was always going to be difficult to replace his production at Running Back, but the injuries on the Offensive Line are also contributing to Stanford's struggles to establish the run.

They are not expected to have a lot of joy in this one as they try and move the ball against an Oregon Defensive Line holding teams to under 3 yards per carry. That adds to the pressure on Costello at Quarter Back who is trying to build some chemistry with young Wide Receivers on an Offense that returned just 4 starters from 2018.

Costello is not expected to have a lot of success throwing into this Secondary from third and long spots and he will also be under pressure by the Oregon pass rush. With the Ducks slowing down the Stanford Offense, Justin Herbert and the Oregon Offensive unit could have a very good day putting up strong numbers with field advantage likely going to be won by them for much of the day.

Justin Herbert surprisingly turned down the chance to enter the NFL Draft to stay in school with Oregon for one more year and it will be a good decision if he can take the Ducks to the Pac-12 Championship. The defeat to the Auburn Tigers will likely prevent Oregon from making the College Football PlayOff, but they should have won that game and bounced back to move to 2-1 heading into Week 4.

He will be hoping that there is some consistent support from the running game to help keep the Offensive unit in third and manageable spots, That has been the biggest problem for the Oregon Offense so far, but Herbert has been lighting up the scoreboard and looks to be facing a Secondary that can't help but give up some big plays.

The Stanford pass rush has not been as effective as they would like and the Secondary have allowed almost 300 passing yards per game. It should be a good chance for Herbert to show what he is capable of at a reasonable kick off as far as Eastern Time viewers are concerned and I think the Ducks can snap their run of losses to the Cardinal.

Stanford did have a strong trend as a big underdog, but that was snapped last week and the favourite is 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series. This feels like a game in which Stanford have too many injuries on the Offensive Line to beat an Oregon team playing with triple revenge and I will look for the Ducks to produce a statement win with a cover of a very big number.

UCLA Bruins @ Washington State Cougars Pick: Most were expecting the Washington State Cougars to take a step backwards having won 20 games in the last two seasons while having Quarter Backs who are now starting in the NFL (through injury, but still). However Mike Leach has got his system firmly in place in Pullman and Anthony Gordon looks to become the latest Quarter Back to come in and have a big season through the air.

The Cougars are 3-0 as they enter Pac-12 play and this is a team who will certainly feel they are a contender in the North Division. The schedule is tougher so it is hard to imagine Washington State reaching the 11 wins they earned last season, but the start has built confidence and they are big favourites to see off the UCLA Bruins in Week 4.

While the Cougars have begun 3-0, UCLA have lost all three games played and they have been blown out at home by the Oklahoma Sooners in Week 3. Chip Kelly needs time to get his system entrenched here, but most were hoping for a quicker fix than what they are seeing as the Bruins struggle on both sides of the ball.

The fans have been hoping some changes would be made with the most logical being the starting Quarter Back after Dorian Thompson-Robinson continues to struggle. Some of the problems have to be attributed to the Offensive Line which has not opened up running lanes as they would like nor protect Thompson-Robinson at the Quarter Back position.

There is a chance that the Bruins get on track in this one as Washington State have allowed 4.7 yards per carry, but any third and long spots are going to be tough for UCLA to convert. The Cougars Secondary has played well thanks to an effective pass rush up front and Thompson-Robinson has to be wary of the turnovers which have been blighting his performances in the first three weeks of the season.

Moving the ball could be tough for the UCLA Bruins, but the same can't be expected of the Washington State Cougars. Max Borghi has begun things on the ground with the Running Back helping Washington State to some big chunk plays on the ground which opens up the passing game for Anthony Gordon.

Borghi and the Cougars are picking up 5.1 yards per carry and will be running into a UCLA Defensive Line which has struggled to bring down runners. It will mean Anthony Gordon has play-action and short yardage situations in front of him and so far the young Quarter Back has been pretty special with 12 Touchdown passes thrown along with just 2 Interceptions.

Washington State are averaging almost 500 passing yards per game which is clearly not sustainable, but I do think the Cougars will have a lot of success in this one too. UCLA's Secondary have allowed a little under 280 passing yards per game and I do think the Cougars will have the balance on the Offensive side of the ball that allows them to move the ball up and and down the field with a lot of success all day.

These schools are playing one another on the Football field for the first time since 2016 and in that time UCLA have slipped back and Washington State have become much more competitive.

This is a massive number for Washington State to cover, but I do think they are playing well enough to do that. They can't overlook UCLA with a big game against the Utah Utes on deck, but I don't think that will be the case at home and I think the Cougars will have too much Offense on the day.

MY PICKS: Utah Utes - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 24 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Auburn Tigers + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Washington State Cougars - 18.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 11-14, - 4.08 Units (25 Units Staked, - 16.32% Yield)

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