College Football Picks Week 4: BYU at Michigan, Georgia Tech at Duke, LSU at Syracuse, Tennessee at Florida, UMass at Notre Dame, Oklahoma State at Texas, Western Michigan at Ohio St

September 24, 2015

By Brad Carroll

 

There's just two matchups this week in college football that feature ranked teams playing each other, both from the Pac-12, but there are plenty of games with early College Football Playoff implications. In all, there are 12 big-time matchups this Saturday, and we have you covered with previews and analysis, plus our college football experts pick each game against the spread.

 

Below are the early Saturday games, featuring No. 22 BYU at Michigan, No. 20 Georgia Tech at Duke, No. 8 LSU at Syracuse, UMass at No. 6 Notre Dame, Tennessee at Florida, No. 24 Oklahoma State at Texas and Western Michigan at No. 1 Ohio State. Read our previews and picks from the late games here

 

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No. 22 BYU at Michigan, 12 p.m., ABC

The Spread: BYU +4.5; Michigan -4.5

 

Analysis: BYU had yet another chance to continue its miracle season with a late touchdown to beat another heavily-favored team, UCLA, last week, but quarterback Tanner Magnum ran out of magic, throwing a game-ending interception with 58 seconds to go. The Bruins held on for a 24-23 victory. BYU takes on another favorite this week in Michigan, where the run games for both teams could determine the winner. The Cougars allowed 296 rushing yards to UCLA last week, while the Wolverines have averaged 239.5 in their last two games, against Oregon State and UNLV. De'Veon Smith did struggled on the ground against UNLV, however, picking up just 33 yards. Ty Isaac had 114 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown run, in that game. The scary part for Michigan on offense will be the play of quarterback Jake Rudock, who has thrown five interceptions, and who's poor play led to a loss in the season opener against Utah. BYU has intercepted seven passes already this season, making for what could be a big-play defensive game Saturday. Still, playing at home should be enough to allow the Wolverines to slip by with a close victory.

Brad's Score: Michigan 27, BYU 24

Craig's Score: Michigan 27, BYU 20

Glenn's Score: BYU 35, Michigan 31 (upset pick)

Matt's Score: BYU 35, Michigan 21 (upset pick)

 

No. 20 Georgia Tech at Duke, 12 p.m., ESPN2

The Spread: Georgia Tech -8; Duke +8

 

Analysis: Last week I was the only one of our four college football experts to predict Georgia Tech would be upset at Notre Dame, but even I was stunned at how easily the Irish turned away the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said his team "played horrible" and was none too pleased with his team's effort, ripping nearly every position group for the 70 missed assignments he counted. The Yellow Jackets hope to bounce back against Duke in the ACC opener for both schools Saturday afternoon. Last year, the Blue Devils went on the road and upset Georgia Tech, just one of two losses that season for the Jackets. While Georgia Tech is reeling coming into this payback game, Duke also suffered its first loss of the season last week, falling to then-No. 17 Northwestern. With the Yellow Jackets wanting to put the sting of last week's terrible loss behind them, and the fact they want to exact some revenge against the Blue Devils from last year, it equals what should be a huge victory for the road team.

Brad's Score: Georgia Tech 38, Duke 20

Craig's Score: Georgia Tech 31, Duke 21

Glenn's Score: Georgia Tech 28, Duke 17

Matt's Score: Georgia 42, Duke 13

 

No. 8 LSU at Syracuse, 12 p.m., ESPN

The Spread: LSU -24.5; Syracuse +24.5

 

Analysis: In almost every Heisman trophy candidates resume there is one play that can be pointed to as the defining moment of a player's season. Everybody remembers Johnny Manziel's moment, when he ran around the field before throwing a touchdown pass and beating Alabama a few seasons ago. Well, LSU running back Leonard Fournette last Saturday against Auburn didn't have just one Heisman-worthy moment, but several, as he ran past, through, over and under everything in his way, rumbling for 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries. He was beyond impressive and has jumped to the top of many favorite lists for college football's biggest prize. And, oh yeah, LSU destroyed Auburn at home, winning 45-21 and taking a giant step toward forward as a legitimate title contender. Syracuse has the third best run defense in the country, but has risen to that stature against Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan, not exactly top-flight competition. The Orange are 3-0 and will be seeking their first 4-0 start since the 1991 season. Starting quarterback Eric Dungey might not play in this game, however, due to a head injury. Walk-on Zack Mahoney, who went 4-for-4 for 19 yards last week, could get the start. No matter who the quarterback is, this game will be all Fournette and the Tigers.

Brad's Score: LSU 41, Syracuse 14

Craig's Score: LSU 42, Syracuse 20

Glenn's Score: LSU 35, Syracuse 21

Matt's Score: LSU 56, Syracuse 10

 

UMass at No. 6 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC

The Spread: UMass +28.5; Notre Dame -28.5

 

Analysis: On paper, this isn't even a contest, as Notre Dame is vastly superior to Massachusetts in every way. UMass moved to the FBS in 2012 and is winless in 10 meetings against Power 5 programs. The 0-2 Minutemen have had little success against all other opponents as well since moving up, with a win percentage of just .132. UMass did play well against Temple last week, even holding a three-point lead after scoring a go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 to go. But Temple blocked the extra point attempt and returned it for two points, then won the game with a field goal with 12 seconds to play to stun the Minutemen. UMass does have a star player in wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. He had 11 catches for 156 yards against Temple. But, of course, it would be one of college football's great upsets if Notre Dame were to lose this game. The Irish don't have the best record of covering big point spreads under coach Brian Kelly, however. The last three games where the Irish were favored by more than 24 points, each turned out to be a much closer than expected outcome. History says Notre Dame plays down to its competition, and winning by more than four touchdowns is always a lot to ask of the Irish.

Brad's Score: Notre Dame 38, UMass 13

Craig's Score: Notre Dame 40, UMass 10

Glenn's Score: Notre Dame 45, UMass 14

Matt's Score: Notre Dame 42, UMass 13

 

Tennessee at Florida, 3:30 p.m., CBS

The Spread: Tennessee +1.5; Florida -1.5

 

Analysis: Tennessee was one quarter away from being a perfect 3-0 coming into this matchup in the Swamp, not to mention a top 20 ranking and setting up what would be a very interesting SEC title campaign. But the Vols let a 14-point lead slip away against Oklahoma and then lost in overtime to ruin the perfect start. If Tennessee runs the table, however, it will play for the SEC championship and the College Football Playoff could be in its future with a win in that game. Of course, the Vols have a long way to go, and plays Georgia, Alabama and Missouri this season, all ranked teams. Tennessee's passing game is weak, but Jalen Hurd is a solid running back. He's rushed for 300 yards and five touchdowns this season. Florida suspended two players this week for drug offenses, including one player, starting cornerback Jalen Tabor, for refusing to take a test. The Gators are 3-0, beating New Mexico State, East Carolina and Kentucky. Florida didn't score in the second half against the Wildcats, but still won 12-9. Tennessee is much better than Kentucky and will pull off the minor upset in the Swamp.

Brad's Score: Tennessee 31, Florida 28 (upset pick)

Craig's Score: Tennessee 20, Florida 17 (upset pick)

Glenn's Score: Tennessee 38, Florida 20 (upset pick)

Matt's Score: Tennessee 21, Florida 17 (upset pick)

 

No. 24 Oklahoma State at Texas, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

The Spread: Oklahoma State -3.5; Texas +3.5

 

Analysis: Not many teams in the country have had a worst start to the season than Texas. First, the Longhorns were embarrassed on national television against Notre Dame, losing 38-3. Then, after a ho-hum victory over Rice, Texas lost in the worst possible way last week to California. After pulling off a tremendous comeback, scoring three straight fourth-quarter touchdowns, Texas kicker Nick Rose missed a potential game-tying extra point with 1:11 left that would have sent the game to overtime tied at 45. It was an unbelievable end to an unbelievable season for Texas, which also fired its athletic director the week of the game. At least the Longhorns may have finally found a playmaker on offense, in quarterback Jerrod Heard. He threw for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and sprinted for a 45-yard score that could have tied the game late. Oklahoma State is 3-0, but the wins have come against Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio and Central Michigan. The Cowboys have one of the best scoring offenses and scoring defenses this year, but again, the competition would lend itself to lofty numbers. Oklahoma State did force seven turnovers last week against Central Arkansas. Oklahoma State has won three straight games in Austin, including a 25-point win two years ago. Texas is going to get a big win soon, but it's not likely to come against a high-powered Cowboys squad.

Brad's Score: Oklahoma State 42, Texas 35

Craig's Score: Oklahoma State 38, Texas 31

Glenn's Score: Texas 28, Oklahoma State 24 (upset pick)

Matt's Score: Oklahoma State 35, Texas 13

 

Western Michigan at No. 1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC

The Spread: Western Michigan +31.5; Ohio State -31.5

 

Analysis: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said this week Cardale Jones will remain the starting quarterback, even with J.T. Barrett waiting in the background. Last week, Jones was benched after throwing two interceptions against Northern Illinois in a game the Buckeyes had to hold on to win, 20-13. Barrett led the only offensive touchdown of the game after entering in the second quarter, obviously not enough to take over the starting job. Overall, Ohio State is just 75th in the nation in total yards, averaging 411 yards. The Buckeyes gained just 298 yards against Northern Illinois. Ezekiel Elliott hasn't been able to have the big games on the ground we all became used to at the end of last season, either. If it wasn't for a strong defense, which scored last week, the Buckeyes might not be undefeated right now. Western Michigan rolled up 52 points and 628 offensive yards in a win over Murray State last week. Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 365 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 37-24 loss to Michigan State in the season opener. Ohio State should finally have a better offensive game this week, but Western Michigan, which played Michigan State close, won't let this game get too out of hand.

Brad's Score: Ohio State 50, Western Michigan 21

Craig's Score: Ohio State 45, Western Michigan 7

Glenn's Score: Ohio State 68, Western Michigan 14

Matt's Score: Ohio State 70, Western Michigan 17

 

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