The start of the 2021 season has certainly been exciting with surprising results coming every week. As I dissected in The Monday After, teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll are going down at a higher rate than we've previously seen in the College Football Playoff Era.
That's awesome for fans, as it means we might finally get the chaotic season we've been missing. However, it hasn't been great for figuring out what to expect from a gambling perspective. Thankfully, The Six Pack is still performing well even after a 3-3 mark last week, and I've been able to find plenty of value on the board for Week 4.
Lock Pod: The Cover 3 crew break down Week 4 slate and give picks for Wisconsin-Notre Dame, Texas A&M-Arkansas, Oklahoma-West Virginia, Clemson-NC State, Top 25 upsets and underdog picks of the week
Sometimes, that value comes in games that aren't the most exciting, but they're all exciting if we're winning money. So let's make some together. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas: This is a huge game for me personally because I've been saying Arkansas might be the second-best team in the SEC West behind Alabama on the Cover 3 Podcast for the last few weeks. Naturally, that means I'm taking the Razorbacks in this spot, right? Well, no. I have some concerns about the Hogs heading into this neutral-site matchup on Saturday.
Arkansas is dealing with injuries along the offensive line. Namely, starting center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner have missed practice time this week. We don't know what their status will be for Saturday's game, and while I have a ton of respect for any offensive line coached by Sam Pittman, Texas A&M is a terrible team to be facing when yours is at less than full strength. If Arkansas is missing starters up front, it's hard to imagine it will be able to move the ball consistently enough to stay within a touchdown of the Aggies. That's why I have to back Texas A&M here. The good news, though, is that if Arkansas loses I can still maintain my take that it's the second-best team in the SEC West and would've won if it had its entire offensive line. It's important to find the silver lining. Texas A&M 27, Arkansas 20 | Texas A&M (-4.5)
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin: Dare I say it? Dare I utter the phrase that is sure to doom me? Yes, I dare. The wrong team is favored here. The game is being played at Soldier Field in Chicago -- basically halfway between both campuses -- so it's a perfect neutral site. Both teams have been somewhat lackluster to start the season, and while Wisconsin had an extra week to prepare, I'm concerned about its offense.
The Badgers have averaged 1.61 points per possession through two games, which ranks 90th nationally. A lack of explosive plays is the primary reason. Wisconsin has only three plays of 20 yards or more, making it difficult to score consistently. While the Irish haven't been amazing, they've been much better offensively and solid defensively. Give me the team that has at least shown it can score points against good defenses. Notre Dame 23, Wisconsin 20 | Notre Dame (+6.5)
Lock of the Week
Ohio at Northwestern: My name is Tom Fornelli, and I am not about to trust Northwestern to cover more than two touchdowns against anybody. Oh, I know Ohio is 0-3 to start the season, but I also know how bad Northwestern has looked. The Wildcats offense has struggled mightily, but that's nothing new. What's worrisome is how poorly the defense has played. It comes into Saturday's game ranked 84th nationally in yards allowed per play, 89th in points allowed per possession and 88th in available yards allowed (basically, how many yards you can allow based on where the offense starts with the ball vs. how many you're allowing). So now we're dealing with a team that has trouble scoring and stopping opponents from scoring.
Is that the kind of team you want to trust as a large favorite? Ohio has plenty of its own problems, but at least it's been able to move the ball. Finishing drives has been problematic, though. If we lose this bet, it will be because the Bobcats failed in the red zone. Northwestern 24, Ohio 14 | Ohio (+14.5)
Under of the Week
San Jose State at Western Michigan: San Jose State came into the 2021 season with high expectations. The Spartans won the Mountain West in 2020 and brought 25th-year senior Nick Starkel back at quarterback. But, for some reason, the Spartans offense has been nearly non-existent, ranking 113th nationally in points scored per drive at 0.89. Still, they've still managed to win two games thanks to a defense that ranks 22nd with 1.29 points allowed per drive. Western Michigan has been the opposite with a potent offense and bad defense. But at home, I expect the Broncos to look a bit better defensively thanks to an early start time for San Jose State (11 a.m. back home) and the potential for some howling winds through Waldo Stadium. Western Michigan 31, San Jose State 28 | Under 63 (-110)
Over of the Week
California at Washington: The Huskies were able to exorcise some demons last week. After scoring only 17 points in losses to Montana and Michigan, the Huskies put up 52 on Arkansas State. I don't expect them to put up 50 on Cal, but the Golden Bears defense has not looked as strong as it usually has under coach Justin Wilcox. The Bears rank 84th nationally in points allowed per drive. The total for this game would be more accurate if this were the Cal defense of the last few seasons, but my numbers suggest it isn't and the market hasn't caught up yet. So, let's all try to take advantage of it by going over here. Washington 31, Cal 24 | Over 46
Nerds of the Week
No. 24 UCLA at Stanford: What if Stanford is good? It's a question that's been bouncing around my head over the last couple of weeks. I had low expectations for the Cardinal coming into 2021, and nothing changed after watching them lose to Kansas State in Week 1. Then they beat USC so bad Clay Helton got fired, so I chalked it up to an embarrassing loss for the Trojans. But the numbers suggest it might have been the result of a team that's better than we realize playing to its potential. UCLA is coming off of an upset loss at home to Fresno State, so Stanford won't catch it sleeping. Still, the Cardinal should be able to move the ball in the air against this UCLA defense just like Fresno did. It runs counter to the Stanford we've grown accustomed to under coach David Shaw, but this team ranks second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Stanford's pass defense has been even better, allowing only 5.7 yards per attempt and as many touchdowns as interceptions (three). Stanford 31, UCLA 28
SportsLine Game of the Week
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 4, and which Top 25 favorite goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,000 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.