After an exciting Week 3, I have four games that I like in Week 4. After three full weeks of games, the college football landscape has become clearer. As a result, the lines have been set more efficiently.
Despite more data coming in on all 130 FBS programs, there is still value to be found. Most of the games that have been played so far have been lopsided non-conference games. As we ease into mainly conference play, we will have more close games.
Below, I discuss four games I am betting that are expected to be close.
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CFB Week 4 Predictions
#12 Notre Dame (3-0) vs #18 Wisconsin (1-1)
Usually for my best bets I tend to avoid the high-profile games and instead focus on games between minor teams. For Week 4, I am making an exception for the matchup between Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
Both the Fighting Irish and Badgers are ranked in the AP Top 25 and the game will be played in Chicago at Soldier Field. Despite being expected to receive a high volume of bets, I believe that betting lines for this game can be beat.
Before the season started, DraftKings offered game of the year odds where you could have bet on high-profile games well in advance. For this game, DraftKings as well as other books such as BetMGM, BetRivers, and FanDuel set Wisconsin as a 1.5-point favorite. With four weeks of the season in the books, the consensus line has moved to Wisconsin -5.5.
To me, the line movement has been strange based on Wisconsin’s body of work. In Week 1 against Penn State, the Badgers’ offense looked inept as they lost 16-10. In that game, neither team scored in the first half. For a strong defensive team with a weak offense, it seems odd that Wisconsin is almost a touchdown favorite against another strong team in Notre Dame.
Year after year, Notre Dame quietly contends for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Under long-time head coach Brian Kelly, the Fighting Irish have finished in the AP Top 25 in seven out of the last nine seasons. In two of the last three seasons, Notre Dame qualified for the College Football Playoff.
The largest reason why the betting markets are less bullish on Notre Dame’s chances against Wisconsin is because the Fighting Irish had near losses against Florida State and Toledo to start the season. However, in the FSU game, Notre Dame had a large lead and played better than their three-point overtime victory suggests.
I expect the Fighting Irish to bring their A-Game on Saturday afternoon and that is why I believe that they pull off an upset as an underdog.
Prediction: Notre Dame 21, Wisconsin 17
Best Bet: Notre Dame Money Line +180 at Caesars (would bet up to +140)
Wager: 1 Unit
In my opinion, Saturday’s game is close to a toss-up, which is why Notre Dame as a +180 underdog is appealing to me.
I am not too worried about Notre Dame’s weak performances against Florida State and Toledo as this is a team that should be expected to have growing pains. To start the season, the Fighting Irish returned only three offensive starters.
As the Fighting Irish players get more game level experience, they will improve. Against a Wisconsin team that underperformed at home against Penn State, Notre Dame should probably be favored. That is why I have no issue taking the Irish moneyline, even if the line moves up to +140.
#7 Texas A&M (3-0) vs #16 Arkansas (3-0)
Besides Notre Dame/Wisconsin, the other big game this coming weekend is between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Arkansas Razorbacks. This contest will also take place at a neutral site, with the teams taking the field on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Both Texas A&M and Arkansas play in not only the SEC, but the same division in the SEC West. As two ranked teams that play in the shadow of Alabama in the same division, both teams need to win this game to contend for the conference championship.
After finishing 2020 with a 3-7 record, the Razorbacks have started the season with a 3-0 record. Most impressively, they beat Texas 40-21 as a six-point underdog. As a result of the Texas upset, Arkansas has been vaulted into the AP Top 25. However, the jury is still out on the Razorbacks.
Last year, Arkansas was a strong defensive team with a weak offense. This year, the Razorbacks have shown off a more potent offense, but they have yet to face a defense like Texas A&M’s. The Aggies are allowing just 5.7 points per game this season, the fewest among all 130 FBS teams. Even though they have only played cupcakes, that level of defensive domination is still an impressive feat.
Under head coach Jimbo Fisher, TAMU went into this season with the 6th best defense according to college football analyst Phil Steele. Last year against only SEC competition, the Aggies allowed just 21.7 points per game. Even though there are questions about Texas A&M’s offense under quarterback Zach Calzada, the defense should carry the day against Arkansas.
Prediction: Texas A&M 30, Arkansas 10
Best Bet: Texas A&M -5.5 (-110) at Caesars (would bet up to -9.5)
Wager: 1 Unit
In my opinion, Texas A&M is the best SEC program that isn’t Alabama. The Aggies are even better than Georgia, Florida, and Auburn. If Arkansas hadn’t beaten Texas, then chances are TAMU would be nearly a two-touchdown favorite in Saturday’s game.
Between two strong defensive teams, we should expect a low scoring game as evidenced by the 47.5-point total. A low point total typically makes backing a near touchdown favorite dangerous. However, in my opinion the gap between these two teams is so large that taking the TAMU spread is a good bet.
Louisville (2-1) at Florida State (0-3)
In an ACC conference matchup, Florida State hosts Louisville on Saturday afternoon. The Seminoles are winless this season after their first three games.
Last week against Wake Forest, FSU lost 35-14 despite being only a 4.5-point underdog. Shockingly, this was not the program’s most embarrassing defeat of the season as the Seminoles lost at home to Jacksonville State 20-17 in Week 2 as a 27.5-point favorite. When you pay an FCS program like Jacksonville State $400,000 to play you at home, you should win by a large margin.
In their last two games, FSU has struggled to score touchdowns as the offense only manufactured 14 points against Wake Forest and 17 points against Jacksonville State. One reason for the struggles is quarterback McKenzie Milton, who has only one passing touchdown and three interceptions in two starts. Additionally, Milton has a 16.5 QBR which ranks 118th amongst FBS quarterbacks.
Louisville, quietly unlike Florida State, has exceeded expectations this season. The Cardinals may have lost their season opener 43-24 against Ole Miss, but the Rebels are a top 25 team this season. In their last game against UCF, a leading group of five program, Louisville won 42-35 as a seven-point underdog.
In that game quarterback Malik Cunningham played like Michael Vick with a Madden cheat code. Cunningham had 265 passing yards, 99 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. As a dual-threat quarterback, it is hard for opposing defenses to prepare for Cunningham. Additionally, Cunningham is complemented by a capable running back in Jalen Mitchell.
The question for Saturday is if a surging Louisville team can cover as a 2.5-point favorite on the road against a sinking Florida State ship.
Prediction: Louisville 38, Florida State 17
Best Bet: Louisville -2.5 (-110) at BetMGM (would bet up to -6.5)
Wager: 1 Unit
I am not one who believes that motivation makes a difference in handicapping sports. Athletes are competitive and theoretically they try their best in every game at the college level to get drafted into the NFL. However, for Florida State I will make an exception.
FSU has failed to exceed their low expectations this season and it is not inconceivable that they could finish at the bottom of the ACC. Louisville has played well recently and they have an explosive offense. That is why they are worth backing as small favorites against the Seminoles.
Indiana (1-2) at Western Kentucky (1-1)
It is not a marquee matchup, but Saturday night’s non-conference matchup between Indiana and Western Kentucky is a fascinating matchup from a betting angle.
Indiana is a Big Ten team that opened the season ranked in the AP Top 25, but is now unranked after losses against Iowa and Cincinnati. This is a sharp difference from last year’s Indiana team that finished with a 6-2 record and was ranked as the 12th best team in the country.
Western Kentucky is a Conference-USA team that finished with a 5-7 record in 2020. This season, WKU is 1-1 and the jury is still out on them. As a home team, the oddsmakers expect the Hilltoppers to lose by less than two touchdowns.
This game will likely come down to how Indiana’s defense handles WKU’s air raid offense. The Hilltoppers offense has a passing play percentage of 69.4%, which is the fourth highest in the FBS. This is a strong departure from last year where they had a more balanced offense that passed on only 52.25% of their offensive plays.
Indiana is a strong defensive team. They may have gotten off to a slow start this season, but going into the season, Phil Steele rated their defensive backs as the 7th best unit in the country.
With Western Kentucky normally playing cupcakes as a C-USA team, the Hilltoppers should have their hands full against a solid Big Ten program like Indiana.
Prediction: Indiana 28, Western Kentucky 7
Best Bet: Indiana -9 (-110) at Caesars (would bet up to -14)
Wager: 2 Units
At only nine points, Indiana is a bargain against Western Kentucky. If Western Kentucky played Cincinnati and Iowa, they would have lost by an even bigger margin than Indiana did.
The Hoosiers are a strong Big Ten defensive team that should contain the Hilltoppers air raid offense. I feel so confident about this bet that I would bet the spread up to 14 points.