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College football Week 4 picks: Expert predictions and odds

Yes, things are looking grim. And I’m not here to make an excuse for my college football struggles. I’m here to make many:

1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

2) My NFL picks in this newspaper are 23-9 (and out tomorrow!), so I can’t be completely washed up.

3) Favorites went 15-0 straight up and 14-1 against the spread in the games from the column last week.

4) I have a newborn and a toddler and my brain is quickly disintegrating.

Which defense works best?

If you lean toward No. 3 — a mind-blowing aberration — you probably believe, like me, that underdogs will tip the scales in their favor shortly. But I don’t have time to wait. We need wins now.

Coincidentally, 80 percent of the selections this week are underdogs. What could go wrong?

Kent State (+45.5) over GEORGIA

Perhaps you missed the Golden Flashes giving our LIU Sharks a 63-10 beat-down last week. Or more important, that the Bulldogs have failed to cover all seven games as favorites of at least 40 points under head coach Kirby Smart.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart
Georgia coach Kirby Smart

MICHIGAN (-16.5) over Maryland

For his next trick, Taulia Tagovailoa will perform his famous disappearing act. In five winless matchups against ranked opponents, Johnny Drama has eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while the Terrapins have lost by an average of 32.4 points, including a 41-point home defeat to Michigan last season.

WAKE FOREST (+7.5) over Clemson

The Demon Deacons haven’t lost at home in two years and the outright upset is in play. Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman threw for 312 yards in the meeting last year and should have even more success against a secondary that ranks among the nation’s bottom half despite its soft early schedule. Unreliable, turnover-prone DJ Uiagalelei could be in for a long day against a Wake defense averaging two interceptions per game.

Texas (-6.5) over TEXAS TECH

The Longhorns have won four straight games in this series, while averaging nearly 56 points per game. This year, the defense — which is allowing fewer than 17 points per game. smothered Alabama and held UTSA to three second-half points — will take control.

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Florida (+10.5) over TENNESSEE

The 11th-ranked Volunteers have received a lot of hype, but what have they done to deserve double-digit respect? They crushed two mid-majors and beat a shorthanded Pittsburgh squad without its quarterback, following a 7-6 season in which they went 1-4 against ranked opponents. The 20th-ranked Gators’ historic dominance in the rivalry is irrelevant, but their 38-14 win last year over Tennessee holds significance, as does Florida’s pair of tight battles against top-13 teams (Utah, Kentucky) this season.

Notre Dame (+1.5) over NORTH CAROLINA

The Fighting Irish should be playing with far less pressure away from home, following their first win of the season. Quarterback Drew Pyne will look noticeably improved against one of the nation’s worst defenses, while the Tar Heels’ freshman QB, Drake Maye, will return to Earth in his first start against a power program.

WASHINGTON STATE (+6.5) over Oregon

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix

The Cougars spent nearly a decade ignoring defense under former head coach Mike Leach, but that has put the school in position to start 4-0 for the first time in five years. Washington State, which is 5-1 against the spread in its past six home games, could cause chaos for an Oregon offense led by inconsistent QB Bo Nix. The Cougars are allowing fewer than 13 points per game, have forced seven turnovers this season and have 14 sacks, which is tied for second nationally.

Arkansas (+2.5) over Texas A&M (at Arlington, Texas)

The battle will be won in the trenches. Raheim Sanders will top 115 yards rushing for the fourth straight game, while the shaky Aggies offense will unravel against a front averaging the fourth-most sacks in the nation.

RUTGERS (+7.5) over Iowa

I don’t know if either team will crack double digits. I know not to rely on Iowa to score more than once.

Betting on College Football?

Wisconsin (+18.5) over OHIO STATE

Most of the Buckeyes’ toughest games of the past three seasons have come at the Horseshoe, including a Week 1 win over Notre Dame. Wisconsin’s top-10 defense is even better equipped to frustrate Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day’s supposedly unstoppable attack in the largest point spread of this series since 1996.

Vanderbilt (+40.5) over ALABAMA

The Commodores finally look ready to escape the SEC basement, with head coach Clark Lea’s switch to talented freshman quarterback AJ Swann giving Vanderbilt its most optimism in years. I look forward to Nick Saban discussing “rat poison.” That never gets old.

Kansas State (+13.5) over OKLAHOMA

The Wildcats got caught looking ahead and lost outright as a two-touchdown favorite against Tulane. Head coach Chris Klieman will have his team better prepared for the Big 12’s best, having won two of three meetings against the Sooners, with the loss last year by six points.

OREGON STATE (+6.5) over Usc

It isn’t fun to take on a team playing as well as the Trojans, but the Beavers (3-0) — who beat USC, 45-27, last season — haven’t lost at home since 2020 and are averaging 45.7 points per game. Lincoln Riley’s newly formed USC core is due to commit its first turnover of the season.

Best bets: Michigan, Arkansas, Kansas State
This season: 16-27-2
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19

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