A happy return to you, my fellow degenerate. Welcome back to Edge Sorting, the weekly gambling column here at HERO Sports that focuses on college football games that don't have the full attention of bookmakers.
It's Week 4 of the 2018 college football schedule, and that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. This is around the time where conference play really gets underway — both of my favorite teams open conference play at home this week — so it's time to get serious about wins and losses.
But Week 4 is also the time where we, as fans or as gamblers, start to believe we understand a team. Take the Seminoles. If you were paying close attention from Day 1, you probably knew weeks ago that Florida State's offensive line was hot garbage. But now, after a Week 3 pounding at the hands of the Syracuse Orange, everyone knows. Late September is the season of forming narratives around teams. By now, we have just enough information to start pulling scrumptious baked goods out of our Easy Take Ovens.
And while we're on the topic of Week 4, let's not forget about the most important subject of all: me! Loyal readers know that ya boy is 18-6 through three weeks of college football. Saint Oliver I am not, but I can help you pay down your student loans awfully fast.
On to the Week 4 Picks!
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Hand to God, I have no idea why NC State is not, at minimum, a touchdown favorite over Marshall. Ryan Finley is an NFL quarterback who leads a highly efficient offense. The defense isn't going to blow you away, but it's solid. This is one of the four best teams in the ACC.
My best guess here is that the computer models that do some of the preliminary leg work for bookmakers see this game as close because Marshall is undefeated and NC State got played tough by an FCS school (James Madison) in Week 1. If this is the case, and NC State is being punished for a tight game with JMU, then we're going to leverage the living hell out of this line. JMU is a top-50 team in Division I football, regardless of the conference it plays in, which means there is value baked into this NC State game.
Marshall might be 2-0, but they are not in the same league as NC State. They are not even in an adjacent league to NC State. The Wolfpack win this game by multiple scores. I'll give you the highest level of guarantee I can offer — I personally have $1,000 on this game.
Pick: NC State -5
Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
Hey, remember that crazy game last weekend where UConn and FCS Rhode Island got into an insane shootout, and the two teams combined for over 100 points? Yeah, that's not going to happen here. Syracuse actually plays some defense, so temper your offensive expectations for the Huskies here, lest you think UConn is running some sort of Big 12 offense.
Syracuse is going to run the ball a lot, and UConn isn't going to score too much. I don't just think this game goes under — I think this game goes way under. Syracuse wins, 41-14.
Pick: UConn/Syracuse Under 76
North Texas (-13) at Liberty
Saturday, 6:00 p.m.
Kids, let me tell you about the parable of the man who checked the line early in the week. It's a story about a man who, with careful planning and attention to detail, logged onto a sportsbook on Monday afternoon to find the point spread for North Texas at Liberty was a mere 3.5 points.
"Holy shit!" the man said. (In this parable, the hero is a gambler, so we're going to give him a pass on four-letter words.) "That's, like, a really terrible line!"
The man ran out of his apartment in a state of bewilderment, looking for someone to talk to about this incredible discovery. "Have you seen the North Texas point spread?" he asked his incredibly attractive neighbor, hoping they could finally have that first meaningful conversation that leads to romance.
"Who are you and why are you in my apartment?" the woman replied. "Get out before I call the police."
As the man walked away, all he could think to himself was, "Call the police? I'll just go ahead and call them myself."
We walked into his apartment and grabbed his cell phone.
"Hello, operator? I'd like to report a crime. Yes, it's a crime I'm about to commit myself. Please send the police to my address. Because before this point spread gets radically adjusted, I'm going to murder this line."
Pick: North Texas -13
Maine (+7) at Central Michigan
Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT
Central Michigan is 0-3 with losses to Kansas, Kentucky, and Northern Illinois. They're playing against FCS Maine this weekend, which already upset Western Kentucky two weeks ago. The Black Bears have great corners and a really strong run game. They also had a bye last week, which means two weeks of prep for an FBS team that isn't very good in the first place.
I like Maine win this game outright. I think Maine is a better team than Central Michigan, so give me the Bears plus the points.
Pick: Maine +7
MORE FCS: It's Time for GameDay to Return to Fargo
FCS GAME OF THE WEEK
Sam Houston State (+1.5) at Nicholls
Saturday, 4 p.m. EDT
Sam Houston State is a perennial FCS power that graduated its two-time Walter Payton award-winning quarterback, Jeremiah Briscoe, last season. It's early, but it looks like the Bearkats are struggling in the wake of Briscoe's departure. So far, they've had an unconvincing win over a meh Prairie View A&M team, and a home loss to North Dakota. Not North Dakota State, mind you. North Dakota.
Nicholls will want to bounce back from last week's conference-opening loss at McNeese with what is, in all liklhood, a playoff berth-sealing win over Sam Houston.
This game opened as a pick em, and Nicholls has been bet up to a 1.5-point favorite. Remember, this is the same Nicholls team that beat Kansas three weeks ago. The Colonels may have lost last week, but we still know that we're getting a good team when we back them. I can't say the same about Sam Houston, which is why I'm betting this game. Nicholls looks to be a clearly better team; Sam Houston is being propped up by its recent program success. In reality, I think Nicholls should probably be a 4-6 point favorite here.
Pick: Nicholls -1.5
WEEKDAYS ARE FOR GAMBLING
Penn State (-28) at Illinois
Friday, 9 p.m. EDT
Y'all know I love some weeknight unders, and it's not like getting burned one week in September is going to push me off my shtick. Penn State is playing a pretty crappy Illinois team, and this game just screams under. It's pretty easy to envision. Penn State is on the road on a Friday night, and the offense takes a little while to wake up. Illinois is a clearly inferior team, but the Nittany Lions are only up 13-3 at halftime. McSorley kicks it into high gear halfway through the third quarter, and Penn State ends up winning 44-10. Then, I go to bed smiling, because weeknight unders make me giggle.
Pick: Penn State/Illinois Under 60
THE MASSIVE FAVORITE
Virginia Tech (-27.5) at Old Dominion
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
This game is going to be really ugly. Virginia Tech had an improptu bye week last Saturday, thanks to Hurricane Florence, while ODU lost to Charlotte.
I knew ODU was bad — I've talked about it before in this very column — but I didn't know they were lose-to-Charlotte bad. I don't care if this game is in Norfolk… 27.5 points is not enough of a deterrent for me to fade a top-20 team playing against a bottom-20 team. Honestly, I'd probably take this at -35.
Pick: Virginia Tech -27.5
HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE
Texas Southern (+49.5) at Houston
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Houston is clearly on the post-Herman slide, and it's probably never been clearer than after a game that saw the Cougars give up 63 points to Texas Tech. Fortunately, they've got a get-right game against Texas Southern, a SWAC team that is… well, they kind of suck. Even for an FCS school.
But here's the thing. Since the start of the 2012 season, Houston has won a football game by 50 points or more exactly one time. It was two years ago, during the Herman-Houston peak, and it was a game against Texas State, which plays no defense at all. So if you're looking for a fun ride, try putting half a unit or so on Texas Southern plus a billion points. I think it stands a decent chance to cash.
Pick: Texas Southern +49.5
WEEK 3 REVISITED: Chase Calls Syracuse Upset, Harvard Blowout & More
2018 PICKS RECORD SO FAR: 18-6
Week 3 was not a great time for the parlay, as Georgia State put us out to pasture before the Saturday games could even begin. This week, I've constructed a parlay that will at least get us to the noon kickoffs.
As always, please remember — the parlay is a lottery ticket. I've already given you the real moneymakers.
- Central Florida ML
- NC State -6
- UMass ML
- UConn/Syracuse U76
- South Florida ML
- Virginia ML
- West Virginia ML
- TCU/Texas O49
- Virginia Tech -28
- North Texas ML
- Michigan ML
- Maine +7
- Harvard -16.5
- Nicholls pk
- Nicholls/Sam Houston State Under 67.5
15-leg parlay, $5 to win $2,678.15
And with that.. we're out of here 'til next week. I feel pretty confident that this we'll be our fourth straight winning week. Our leverage over bad lines is still shockingly high, given that we're creeping up on October.
Tonight is Thursday night football, and I'm betting on the Cleveland Browns to win (and cover) a football game! What a time to be alive.
Good luck in Week 4, and don't forget — fortune favors the bold!
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: The Big 12's Path to the Playoff