In spite of posting a 5-1 Week 3 on the college gridiron, WagerBop got its first prediction of Week 4 incorrect before the games could even kick off.
Writing for one of our sister blogs at FanDuel, I predicted on Monday that lines for the interesting Illinois vs Chattanooga game on Thursday night would appear within 24 hours of game-time, even though the night’s marquee FBS vs FBS scrums were getting 100% of the early market action at Bovada, FanDuel Sportsbook, and elsewhere. Additionally, the scroll forecasted Illinois vs Chattanooga lines at Illinois (-30) points and Over/Under 50-plus. Considering that HC Bret “The Dilemma” Bielema scheduled an FCS foe for Thursday’s ceremonial home game specifically hoping that the Illini can score a ton of points, “50+” points on the O/U seemed conservative.
Days have gone by and no lines present at major sportsbooks. The few books who have taken-on markets for Illinois vs Chattanooga are offering lines that simply can’t be believed – Illinois at (-18.5) and Over/Under around (40) total points. I actually double-checked the odds page to make sure that CBS Sportsline wasn’t reporting halftime prop betting odds on the Thursday night game by mistake. The site’s regional betting partner has removed markets offering the low-balled O/U number, maybe because everyone was taking the high-side as I would.
But the question remains, which of the 2 bets touting Illinois’ offense to keep scoring is the more valuable? That’s going to be a theme of many of our picks this week, in which fat-payoff moneylines stand next to fairly wide spreads on the same live FBS underdogs. We’ll try to find some favorites to work into Week 4’s recommendation-mix too. Overall, though, we don’t want to “cost” our readers money on a winning pick again, as it happened in the Bowling Green vs Marshall contest last weekend.
After all, our 2022 college picks have been winning often enough that WagerBop loyalists can afford a couple of high-risk picks this round. The carnival trick as usual is to determine when only an ATS pick at 1-1 odds is still best.
Chattanooga Mocs at Illinois Fighting Illini (Thursday, September 22)
This has been a bizarre summer for the FCS against FBS competition, with the organization looking synchronously deeper and yet less elite at the very top. NDSU, the Football Championship Subdivision standard-bearer, lost to Arizona 31-28 last weekend, a far cry from the Bisons’ dominant outcomes in the 2010s over the FBS Top 25.
But then again, the FCS has also been responsible for more than a half-dozen upsets over the top division in 2022, including notable wins on the ledger over Power-5 schools and vaunted FBS independents. Northwestern lost to the Southern Illinois Salukis just two weeks after conquering Nebraska in Dublin and helping to put the final ink on the pink slip of former Cornhusker HC Scott Frost. Top-10 ranked Arkansas was embarrassed by Missouri State for 3 quarters on Saturday, with former Razorback coach Bobby Petrino proving his point with points to spare prior to the far-deeper SEC team taking over in the final frame and avoiding a pivotal defeat.
The Fighting Illini has established its ground game far quicker than projected on this scroll, which is another reason why fans should expect a careful Over/Under total on the “thrash-for-cash” Chattanooga contest (maybe not so “careful” at your betting book as the CBS one, but still a promising number if we don’t miss our guess). Illinois is certain to thrash the Mocs with 80-yard drives highlighting the Illini’s solid running backs on Thursday. But that doesn’t mean some of the Big Ten favorite’s scoring drives won’t be explosive, as rushers break into the secondary against a Chattanooga defense that has already allowed a lot of points to FCS opposition.
Remember that the Mocs petrified Kentucky in a close game early in the 2021 season, showing that Thursday’s visitors have more than enough moxie to tackle the Power-5. However, this year we are anticipating that mojo to show up in Chattanooga’s offense more than its defense. Preston Hutchinson, Chattanooga’s QB, is a cool customer, and the gifted Mocs tailback Ailym Ford singlehandedly demolished Wofford in a powerhouse 31-0 win.
Illinois has a 60% or better chance to cover a spread of less than 20 points, but our first choice would still be to snag any low-balled Over/Under line that surfaces again before kickoff.
WagerBop’s Picks: Illinois (-18) ATS or Over Total Points (Pending Line Below (50))
Nevada Wolf Pack at Air Force Falcons (Friday, September 23)
Why a Mountain West pick when there is an ACC game contending with Friday Night Lights too? Virginia is a potentially live underdog against Syracuse in a Friday kickoff that sportsbook users should investigate, with the Orange boasting a (-10) favorite’s spread after a demonstrative comeback win over Purdue. The consensus (-24.5) point spread on Air Force over Nevada, the latter among the FCS’s upset victims early in 2022-23, seems way too inflated to be accurate. Las Vegas may have been tricked by Air Force’s early scores.
The Falcons remain a solid, well-coached team with a more inventive offense than fellow service-academy programs. Bookmakers are assuming the Falcons will accumulate insurance points against heavy underdogs after watching Colorado Springs dust Northern Iowa and Colorado by several TDs in the early going of this season. Nonetheless, there was no “racking up” points as the Falcons were defeated in Week 3 by the Wyoming Cowboys 17-14.
Moreover, opponents who get blown out by service academies are still proving to be particularly vulnerable overall on the gridiron. Colorado, to wit, completed 5-of-21 passes with an interception against Air Force as J.T. Shrout, CU quarterback, failed to play at a Division 1 level. Bettors cannot expect the Falcons to blossom so easily against QBs who are on the mark, including Wyoming’s Andrew Peasley going 18-of-23 against Air Force.
The Wolf Pack scored 41 points in the shocking defeat to Incarnate Word, and prospered the weekend before that with 38 points in a victory over Texas State. Shane Illingworth, the Nevada signal-caller, is a tall, stocky figure whom the slender Falcons will have a hard time tackling while on the scramble. He hasn’t had anything close to a lousy “5-for-21” type of performance yet in 2022-23, not even last week while losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
WagerBop’s Pick: Nevada ATS (+24.5)
Duke Blue Devils at Kansas Jayhawks (Saturday, September 24)
The early games on Saturday introduce the theme of “point spread or moneyline” as tasty underdogs enjoy fatter than 2-to-1 ML odds and close to double-digit points ATS. For instance, Missouri could garner action at (+220) odds to upset Auburn on the road. Though Eli Drinkwitz’s team may be seen as too flaky to score an east-over-west SEC victory. A superior contender to win at (+270) moneyline odds is headed to take the field in Lawrence.
After whipping Temple, Duke is 3-0, Northwestern, and North Carolina A&T by notable scores, and yet the Blue Devils are still (+8.5) point underdogs at KU on Saturday. It could prove problematic to explain to a casual fan who has blown off FBS pigskin in 2022 why Kansas has become a favorite against unbeaten Power-5 teams. The Jayhawks may have stumbled upon their hottest offense in a generation if the Week 1-3 highlights are any indication. And the 3-0 upstarts have led the Big 12 in rushing yards so far and not allowed a single sack. It is perhaps a bad idea to pick against Kansas on the moneyline, but then again, the party vibe could possibly change against a Duke team that has been energized by a new coaching regime.
WagerBop’s Pick: Duke ATS (+8.5)
Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers (Saturday, September 24)
There is no mistaking when CFB analysts are high on a quarterback while down on his next foe. It is how point spreads as wide as (-10.5) appear in an SEC rivalry contest. The Volunteers have been piling up points during a 3-0 season start while punishing a pair of MAC opponents with a well-balanced offense led by QB Hendon Hooker. The Vols showed grit and determination against Pittsburgh in a game the team won in overtime in Week 3. On the flip side for Saturday, even Florida Gators fans are upset with QB Anthony Richardson after a depressing outing in Kentucky’s win over UF in each team’s 2022-2023 maiden conference clash.
But then again look from a broader viewpoint, and there is no excuse for Florida to be the (+320) underdog on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The Week 3 near-collapse of Arkansas illustrated how “thin” a top-15 ranking can be for a Power-5 icon just approaching its league ledger.
While Tennessee has the superior record coming into Week 4, the Florida Gators have battled through a much tougher schedule to get to 2-1, taking on some of the best student-athletes in the SEC, AAC, and Pac-12. The inconsistency of Richardson must be taken with the context of Florida’s lack of easy games to this point. It is easier for a team’s offense to look good and gather accolades when munching on cupcakes as UT has thus far.
The Volunteers are inundated by disappointing outings when under the spotlight of media microscope. If users are searching for the clash in which the underdog moneyline beats the ‘dog pick against-the-spread, this mid-afternoon SEC contest is the ticket.
WagerBop’s Pick: Florida (+320)
Northern Illinois Huskies at Kentucky Wildcats (Saturday, September 24)
We think the Kentucky Wildcats (-25.5) are a sturdy unit in 2022, or we would not have flaunted the Wildcats’ Week 2 victims as underdogs-to-win at Tennessee. It’s hard to fathom, however, why a favorite would be giving 25+ points on the spread when the team’s modus-operandi does not even involve 30+ point bashing of G5 teams.
There have only been a couple of significant blowout wins to UK’s credit over the past 2 seasons, and the Wildcats’ careful 31-0 triumph over Youngstown State showed that UK’s offense isn’t what bookmakers should associate with “insurance points.” The Huskies represent a spirited, prolific ‘dog that scored 9 combined times against Tulsa and Vanderbilt in games leading up to Saturday. The Huskies – who love to compete in prime-time kickoffs – could feel right at home in the chilly air that’s forecast this weekend to overtake Appalachia.
WagerBop’s Pick: Northern Illinois ATS (+25.5)
USC Trojans at Oregon State Beavers (Saturday, September 24)
Dozens of humble programs have made noise on the national stage via the thicker-than-ever transfer portal of 2022, while other traditional FBS doormats such as Rice and New Mexico struggle to win even more against the bolstered rosters of their conference adversaries. The currently unbeaten Beavers of Oregon State are firmly in the former camp, having unveiled a new-and-improved offense that trounced the Boise State Broncos, ran all over Fresno State in another conquest, and then piled up 68 points at home against characteristically stingy Montana State of the FCS in last week’s jubilant romp to get Oregon State to 3-0. The Beavers, in spite of a much tighter-than-expected (+6.5) point spread, may produce “rushes” of picks on the underdog hosts to cover the Vegas line late on Saturday.
When it comes to USC giving less than a TD + XP on the point spread when it comes to Southern Cal the bookmakers cannot have it both ways. Should the Trojans’ transfer-riffic lineup really be a favorite to reach the College Football Playoff, then USC should certainly be more than a 6 or 7-point favorite against a summer Cinderella team full of 3-star recruits, something that WagerBop remains cynical of. Southern Cal and Oregon State’s O/U (70.5) total line is a monstrous number that anticipates a wide-open game. But if that’s bound to be the case, it makes an even better motive to forecast a winning USC margin of more than a single touchdown.
The favorites this Saturday night will run into unforeseen trouble in the Pac-12…but most likely not in Week 4.
WagerBop’s Pick: Southern Cal ATS (-6.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.