Week 4 College Football: 5 Upsets to Consider Chasing

by Aaron Brooks
on September 21, 2017

Though the college football season technically kicked off nearly a month ago, this week feels like the unofficial start to the campaign.

There have been a few great matchups, like Alabama/Florida State in Week 1 and Oklahoma/Ohio State in Week 2. But a lot of teams like to warm up against softer opponents before getting their conference seasons underway, and most of those squads will face division rivals for the first time here in Week 4.

With the start of conference play comes some great underdog betting opportunities, due to the familiarity that rival programs have with one another. Here’s a look at 5 potential upsets that you may want to consider betting on this weekend (with BetOnline’s point spread and moneyline odds in parentheses).

1. Arizona (+3.5, +147) over Utah, Friday, 10:30 p.m.

arizona football
Certain teams simply don’t match up very well against certain opponents, and that’s been the case recently for the Utes when they face Arizona.

Even though Utah’s defense is typically strong against the run, the Utes have had a difficult time shutting down the Wildcats’ zone-read offense. Arizona has put up 34 points or more in 4 of the last 5 meetings and pulled off the outright upset in 3 of the last 4 times it was an underdog to the Utes.

We also don’t know for sure how good this Utah defense really is. Sure, the Utes have held each of their first 3 opponents to 16 points or less, but those wins came over North Dakota, an offensively-challenged BYU team, and San Jose State. The Pac-12 opener will be a big step up in class for Utah, and they could also be guilty of looking ahead to next week’s home game versus Stanford.

Arizona enters this game as a very live underdog after a confidence-boosting 63-16 whipping of UTEP last week, when the Wildcats covered the spread by 22 points. Arizona also seems to relish the opportunity to play on national TV on Friday nights, covering the spread in 10 of its last 12 in that situation.

Early money in this matchup has been on the Wildcats, moving Arizona down from +4.5 on the opening point spread to as low as +3 at some sportsbooks by the middle of the week. The extra security of +3 or +3.5 could come in handy in a close game, but I’m also tempted by the +147 moneyline return.

2. Michigan State (+4, +165) over Notre Dame, Saturday, 8 p.m.

After suffering through a horrific 2016 campaign, are the Spartans on their way back to being a power in the Big 10?

It’s probably a little early to answer that question, considering Michigan State has only faced Bowling Green and Western Michigan. But the fact that the Spartans covered the spread by a touchdown or more in each of those games suggests they might still be undervalued.

We’ll get a much better sense of where the Spartans really stand on Saturday night when the Irish come to town.

But even when Michigan State was really bad last year, Sparty still gave Ohio State all it could handle last year in Lansing, losing by just 1 point to the powerful Buckeyes.

Notre Dame’s strength on offense this season is its running game, averaging 7.5 yards per run and 330.7 yards per contest. However, Michigan State is known for its ability to shut down opposing ground games, and the Spartans are allowing just 3 yards per carry so far this year. I’m not convinced that junior QB Brandon Wimbush has the downfield accuracy necessary to beat Michigan State through the air, especially in an emotionally-charged Saturday night showdown.

3. Kentucky (+2.5, +115) over Florida, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

kentucky football
What exactly have the Gators done to merit the favorite’s role here?

Don’t let that fancy little #20 in front of Florida fool you. The Gators are a mess on offense right now, and it’ll be a challenge to put up points visiting a conference rival that has yet to allow more than 17 points in a game this year.

Both of Florida’s touchdowns in a season-opening 33-17 loss to Michigan came on interception returns, and the Gators were outgained 433-192 in yards. Last week, Florida managed just 14 first downs, yet escaped with a 26-20 win over Tennessee because it returned yet another interception for a touchdown, then won the game on a 63-yard Hail Mary on the final play.

Kentucky has lost 30 straight games to the Gators, but that should only serve as extra motivation for the Wildcats to snap the streak. And this might be Kentucky’s best chance in a long time to end that run of futility, as the Cats go into this game with a 3-0 record – including a 10-point victory as 6-point underdogs last week in South Carolina.

The point spread value on the Wildcats is basically gone after Kentucky moved from +4 at the opener to +2.5 by the middle of the week (though you could get +3 -120 at Bovada on Wednesday and the line may move back up at other shops). At this point, you’re probably better off to take the plus money with Kentucky on the moneyline.

4. Pittsburgh (+7.5, +260) over Georgia Tech, Saturday, 12:20 p.m.

The Pitt Panthers are the only road team on this list of 5 upsets to consider this week, but we’ve seen how dangerous Pittsburgh can be as a visitor.

Last year, the Panthers went into arguably the toughest place to play in college football – Death Valley in Clemson – as 21.5-point underdogs and pulled off the outright upset of the eventual national champion Tigers. So forgive Pitt if a visit to Georgia Tech doesn’t quite intimidate them.

This 7.5-point spread is more about how bad Pittsburgh has looked the last 2 weeks and how good Georgia Tech looked in a season-opening 1-point loss to Tennessee, followed by a rout of Jacksonville State. Just one month ago, however, Bovada listed Pitt with a higher projected season win total (7) than the Yellow Jackets (6.5). These are 2 fairly evenly-matched teams, and now we’re getting more than a touchdown with the underdog simply because of early-season results.

If anything, the Panthers’ back-to-back blowout losses against Penn State and Oklahoma State should make them more focused to turn things around. The visiting team has covered the spread in each of the last 4 meetings between these ACC rivals, including a pair of outright upsets.

Add it all up, and the +260 moneyline return available on the Panthers is worth a serious look.

5. Colorado (+10.5, +355) over Washington (Saturday, 10 p.m.)

Revenge is a powerful motivator in football. And the Buffaloes have plenty of it on their mind as they welcome the Huskies to Boulder for their Pac-12 opener.

Last year, Colorado rebounded from a 4-9 disaster in 2015 to enjoy a dream season. Until facing Washington in the conference championship game, at least. The Huskies humiliated Colorado 41-10 in the Pac-12 final, outscoring the Buffaloes 27-3 in the second half. Now Colorado gets another chance to gain some respect against last year’s national semifinalists, and that chance comes at home.

“You can’t ever forget it. Our young men will use it as motivation,” Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre told reporters. “I won’t have to say much about it at all.”

Many expected the Buffaloes to come back to earth this season following the departure of senior quarterback Sefo Liufau. But Steven Montez has looked more than capable in his first 3 games as Colorado’s starting QB, with the Buffs ranking 27th in the nation in passing yards per game.

Requiring a 10.5-point underdog to win straight up is asking a lot, and taking the points with the Buffaloes is a much safer play. If you do decide to back Colorado, however,

I suggest you at least consider sprinkling a bit on the moneyline because of the great moneyline value available on the home dog.
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