Every Thursday during the college football season, theScore's sports betting writers release their best bets for the week. Each member has been given a fictitious $1,000 bankroll to manage throughout the season. If you decide to follow any of the picks, please gamble responsibly.
All lines are courtesy of theScoreBet as of Thursday morning.
Season record: 5-4, +$2
Line: North Texas -19
Last week, North Texas covered its first game in, like, a decade. Talk about some market overcorrection from early in the 2018 season when the Mean Green couldn't lose.
But we might eventually look back and give North Texas the benefit of the doubt regarding its early-season struggles. The defense was battered by an improved and undefeated SMU team in Week 2 and played extremely well in a narrow road loss to Cal. Now the Mean Green are at home against one of the worst teams in the nation, and it's not a great spot for UTSA.
The Roadrunners gave up 63 points to an uptempo Baylor offense in Week 2, then had to pack it in tight and prepare for Army's triple-option attack last weekend. Now they're tasked with covering a talented Mean Green offense from sideline to sideline. Despite the recent displays of North Texas' shortcomings, it's a good spot to lay the chalk.
Pick: North Texas -19 ($40)
I might screw around and bet every Clemson over this season. I'll probably lose more than I win, but I can't resist rooting for Clemson's future NFL wide receivers to completely own opposing secondaries. Oh, and the Tigers also have Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.
Clemson just put up 600-plus yards on Syracuse in a game that went under the total. That's maddening, but it won't persuade me to stray from a vaunted offense. Also, Charlotte is finally moving with some tempo, and the 49ers have put up 40 points or more in every game. The analysis for Clemson overs is the same every week for me: The Tigers will score at will and you'll only need a little help from the opponents. Don't sleep on the Niners' offense, which will do enough to get this over the total.
Pick: Over 62 ($40)
One of the worst totals on the board for Week 3, this might be the result of an overreaction to Arkansas' 55-34 shootout win over Colorado State. The problem is that San Jose State, unlike its fellow Mountain West affiliate that came to town last weekend, doesn't have an offense. Arkansas is already atypically defensive-minded this season (ranked No. 83 in SP+ offense, No. 42 in SP+ defense), and last weekend, the offense took advantage of a truly horrendous Rams defense. This total is inflated and the line is one of my largest disagreements for the weekend.
Pick: Under 60.5 ($50)
Season record: 2-4, -$12
Line: Michigan State -9.5
What's wrong with Michigan State? The Spartans laid an egg at home against an offensively challenged Arizona State team as 15.5-point favorites at some books - marking Mark Dantonio's sixth loss in his last seven games as a 10-point favorite or better.
Now the Spartans play a Northwestern team with a similar profile: dreadful offensively, but stout enough on defense to give Michigan State trouble. Since 2015, Dantonio's teams are 3-9 against the spread as a road favorite and 8-14 ATS overall when giving more than a touchdown, including 1-3 ATS on the road.
Don't forget about Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's three straight wins over Dantonio by scoring an average of 40.7 points, all as an underdog. Sparty is the better team, but it doesn't have enough firepower to garner such a gaudy road line.
Pick: Northwestern +9.5 ($40), Northwestern ML ($10 to win $33)
With the way Cal is playing defense, it's a wonder this total isn't in the 30s. The Golden Bears are riding a streak of five straight unders with 11 in their last 12 games, including eight straight on the road. On the other side, Ole Miss has gone under in five of its last six games, albeit with higher totals in its first season under offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.
During the Golden Bears' money-making run, nine of their 11 unders would have also gone below Saturday's line of 41.5. Cal's defense should make things hard on emerging freshman quarterback Matt Corral, who's found success targeting Elijah Moore but hasn't completed more than five passes to anyone else.
Justin Wilcox's offense shouldn't strike much fear into the Rebels' defense, especially not on the road, where the Bears have averaged 17.2 points as a 'dog dating back to last year. Hit the under here on a reasonable total amid Cal's profitable run.
Pick: Under 41.5 ($35)
Season record: 2-4-1, -$91
Line: Washington -6
Last week I gave out Air Force +4 because Colorado was in a terrible spot coming off two emotional wins. This week, we have what may be the best spot of the entire season to fade a team with BYU.
The Cougars' first three games resulted in a loss to hated in-state rival Utah, an overtime win at Tennessee, and an overtime win at home over USC. That's three emotional games without a bye. Now, BYU faces a Washington team that's more talented and easily handled the Cougars last season 35-7. It's difficult for college kids to get up emotionally for three weeks in a row. BYU is trying to do it for a month straight.
The Huskies lost to Cal for the second year in a row, but don't read too much into it. Justin Wilcox has built one of the top defenses in the country at Cal and they match up well with the Huskies. Washington is still outgaining opponents by 133 yards per game this season, and BYU has been outgained in all three of its games. Sooner or later, the Cougars' luck will run out. I'm going with sooner - as in, Saturday afternoon.
Give me the better coach and the team laying under a touchdown against a BYU squad in an absolute horrible spot. I've hit two best bets in a row, and the Huskies are my favorite play through the first four weeks of the season.
Pick: Washington -6 ($100)
Season record: 0-5-1, -$269
Line: Washington -6
BYU put on quite a show in the last two weeks with overtime wins as underdogs against both Tennessee and USC. This feels like a hard reality check for them, though. The Cougars largely rode their luck against a mediocre Vols team. Before BYU tied the game courtesy of what was essentially a Hail Mary, Tennessee had 150-plus more yards of offense.
When the Cougars played USC, the freshman in Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis reared its head. He turned the ball over three times, which wound up being the difference. The Cougars shouldn't get those gifts Saturday. Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason is legit, and this Washington team is a significant step up in class from the Trojans and Vols. While BYU will be a popular underdog coming off those two wins, this has all the makings of a classic letdown spot.
Pick: Washington -6 ($50)
Line: Tulane -5
There’s no doubting the talent Houston has on offense in quarterback D'Eriq King and running back Kyle Porter, but the Cougars stumbled to a 1-2 start in non-conference play. Their pedestrian offense is in desperate need of a spark. Unfortunately, a Tulane defense that's 18th in ESPN's efficiency rankings doesn't give them a get-right spot. Meanwhile, Houston's 91st-ranked defense has been putrid against the run, and that's exactly how the Green Wave like to attack.
Don't expect the Cougars to do much to slow senior dual-threat quarterback Justin McMillian and Tulane's stable of running backs as they hand Dana Holgorsen his third loss of the season in his AAC debut. I feel even better about this pick with sharp money pushing the line up to -5 after opening at -3, despite public money pouring in on the Cougars.
Pick: Tulane -5 ($50)