SabreBetrics: Week 4 CFB Betting Guide – Starting Conference Play

As thrilling as many of the non-conference matchups have been to start the season, there’s no replacing the excitement of watching conference rivals duke it out. As followers of the ACC Coastal division know, anything can happen once conference play starts. This Saturday is our first chance to watch, and bet on, a significant number of conference matchups.

Allow me to make a few suggestions on which games have the most value.

Virginia Week 4 Forecast

  • Syracuse -10 vs. Virginia. Under 54.

Virginia’s performance against Old Dominion was about as frustrating and stressful as you can get in a victory. Untimely penalties, red zone inefficiency, and issues with ball security nearly cost the Hoos a game that should not have been close in the fourth quarter.

Despite gaining 513 total yards of offense, the Cavaliers could only muster 16 points. They are the first team since 2000 to total more than 500 yards of offense and put up fewer than 20 points. Though there has been significant defensive improvement from a year ago, the offense has not been clicking through three games.

Now the Cavaliers must travel to Syracuse for the first time since 2005 and play against former coaches Robert Anae and Jason Beck, architects of last year’s dynamic offense. Anae has leaned more heavily on the run game since moving to central New York. After finishing sixth nationally in total rushing yards in 2021, Sean Tucker remains a centerpiece of the Orange offense. Despite a dip in his yards per rushing attempt numbers this season, Tucker has played a more significant role catching passes out of the backfield. Quarterback Garrett Shrader is also a dangerous runner, accumulating 201 yards on the ground with 46 carries through three games. This two-pronged rushing attack puts a lot of pressure on opposing linebackers and safeties, creating openings in the passing game when teams stack the box. Shrader has taken advantage of these situations, completing 66.2% of his passes with an 8-to-0 touchdown to interception ratio.

Syracuse is most vulnerable with its pass defense. The Orange have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 75% of their passes with an average of 7.5 yards per pass. This defense could be just what the doctor ordered for a beleaguered UVA offense. Still, it is tough to feel confident about Virginia’s prospects given the poor execution we have witnessed through three games. Traveling on the road to a domed stadium with a short week to prepare provides an additional layer of complexity.

Virginia is 0-3 against the spread and has been under the point total in its first three games. Unfortunately, I see both trends continuing for another week. Syracuse 31-16 over the Cavaliers.

Week 4 Best Selections

  • Season record: 6-7-2. It’s always a great weekend when you end with a winning record. Purdue’s last second collapse put a damper on the festivities, but 3-2 is still a respectable showing. Let’s keep the positive momentum going with five picks from the slate of conference games.

Michigan State +3 vs. Minnesota: Many bettors were surprised to see the undefeated and No. 11 Spartans as an underdog when traveling to previously untested Washington. It was a clear case of sportsbooks knowing something that the public didn’t. I see this line as a bit of an overreaction to one poor performance by Michigan State. This will be Minnesota’s first game without talented wideout Chris Autman-Bell, who sustained a leg injury against Colorado and will require surgery. The Gophers will likely have to rely more heavily on their formidable ground game and running back Mohamed Ibrahim. However, Michigan State has one Big Ten’s best rushing defenses, allowing only 2.7 yards per carry thus far. I will take the home team in a bounce back situation.

Florida +10.5 at Tennessee: Josh Heupel has rejuvenated the Tennessee program by creating an offensive juggernaut. The Volunteers rank second nationally with 52 points per game and third with 554 yards of offense per game. However, I am skeptical that Tennessee will be able to match these numbers against the brunt of the SEC schedule. Expect Billy Napier to use his talented run game (currently fourth in the nation with 6.7 yards per rushing attempt) to manage the clock and keep Tennessee’s vaunted offense off the field. Despite a middling performance against USF, the Gators already proved with a Week 1 victory against Utah that they have the talent to compete against high-level teams. Florida also has recent history on its side, winning 16 of the last 17 meetings in this rivalry. This is the largest opening point spread for the Volunteers against Florida in 25 years. Tennessee may have the better team, but I will take the points.

Boston College +17.5 at Florida State: Early season wins over LSU and Louisville have Seminoles fans excited that Mike Norvell has finally turned the once-prestigious program around. Conversely, Boston College has struggled out of the gate with losses against Rutgers and Virginia Tech. Still, I will take my chances that the Eagles can keep this one competitive. Florida State will likely be without talented quarterback Jordan Travis who injured his leg against the Cardinals. Though his replacement Tate Rodemaker was able to secure the win, he only completed 50% of his passes and threw 2 interceptions. Boston College will need to lean heavily on its stout defense, which has allowed only 4.4 yards per play thus far.

James Madison +7.5 at Appalachian State: Every Appalachian State game has been appointment television this season. Last week, the Mountaineers needed an improbable Hail Mary touchdown pass to win a home game against Troy. This followed an upset victory at Texas A&M and a frenetic home loss against North Carolina. None of these games had a margin of victory of more than four points. At some point, Appalachian State has to feel the effects of emotional fatigue. I am betting on it occurring this week against Sun Belt newcomer James Madison. The Dukes have smashed inferior competition to open the season, averaging 548 yards per game while only allowing 12 rushing yards per game. Given Appalachian State’s penchant for playing in close games, I’ll take the points.

Clemson -7 at Wake Forest: Though Clemson’s offense has struggled at times this season, the defense has been as good as advertised. The Tigers’ front seven is stacked with NFL-ready talent and has held opposing teams to 1.9 yards per rush attempt. Wake Forest has not been as effective with its “slow mesh” run concepts this season, averaging only 2.6 yards per rush attempt. This has put a lot of pressure on the Deacs passing game and quarterback Sam Hartman. I do not think that being one-dimensional on offense is a formula for success against Clemson. After watching Wake Forest give up 36 points to Liberty last week, Dabo Swinney has to be salivating at an opportunity get his offense in gear.

Parlay/Teaser of the Week

  • Season record: 1-2

We got our first teaser win of the season thanks to North Carolina State and Notre Dame (though the Irish really made bettors’ lives stressful in the last minute). This week, we are pivoting to a money line parlay. This requires us to pick two teams to win their respective games, regardless of the spread. Since I focused on conference play in the previous section, I have picked two non-conference matchups for the parlay.

  • Texas to win at Texas Tech: The Longhorns seemed to be suffering from an Alabama-induced case of “close loss hangover” in the first half against UTSA. However, Bijan Robinson’s overpowering running abilities propelled Texas to a comfortable 21-point victory. With quarterback Quinn Ewers still recovering from an injury, Robinson has provided Texas with a much needed dose of big-play potential. Texas Tech enters this rivalry contest following its worst offensive performance of the year, surrendering four turnovers and four sacks to NC State in Raleigh.
  • Temple to win against UMass: The Minutemen have one of the worst offenses in the FBS, averaging only 32.5 passing yards per game. Temple does not have a high-powered offense either, but it is much more balanced than UMass. Following a close loss to Rutgers, Temple should have confidence that it can win this game at home against an inferior opponent.

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

It has been a difficult few months for fans of the Pac-12. With USC and UCLA departing for the Big Ten in 2024, there is considerable uncertainty about the viability of the “Conference of Champions.” However, this past weekend provided a glimmer of hope about the future of West Coast football. Washington celebrated a home victory against No. 11 Michigan State, while Oregon defeated No. 12 BYU in Autzen Stadium. Incredibly, it was the first time that the conference provided two wins against ranked teams on the same day since September 14th, 2013.

Perhaps when the ACC finally crumbles under the pressure of college football realignment, Virginia will join with the Ducks and Huskies to form a new conference. “The Coastal” has a certain ring to it.

SabreBetrics is a Virginia graduate and longtime fan of The Sabre. The opinions expressed in this article are not directly associated with The Sabre and are intended for recreational use only. Sports betting should be a fun activity, not a stressful one. Please do not bet more than you can reasonably afford to lose.

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