Get college football best bets for the Saturday 9/23/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Florida State vs. Clemson, UCLA vs. Utah, Colorado vs. Oregon, and Ohio State vs. Notre Dame.
College Football Week 4 Best Bets – Saturday Slate (9/23/23)
Welcome to Week 4 of the college football season. Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun Saturday. This is just the seventh weekend with seven games between ranked teams since the AP poll debuted in 1936. Here, we break down some of the biggest games of the day in our best bets article. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel where we’re covering these games, as well.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 8-11 (-2.3 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 2-5 (-3.5 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 7-3 (+3.7 units)
Jacob Wayne’s Best Bets
Kody and Schwartz did an excellent job of breaking down some of my other favorite plays of the day, so I’m going to give you guys an in-depth write up for Florida State vs. Clemson here. I also wrote up some situational spots I’m playing at the bottom of this article.
Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Tigers
Clemson broke my heart in Week 1 as they collapsed on the road against Duke in an embarrassing 28-7 loss. Now, they find themselves unranked (which is absurd, by the way) ahead of a massive game against Florida State. They’re also home underdogs for the first time since 2016. This is rare territory for Dabo Swinney’s team.
The night before that Clemson loss to Duke, we saw Florida State earn one of the biggest wins of the season so far against LSU. Those two results were a shock to the system, and they resulted in a shift in the spread in this game with Florida State now the team favored by 2.5 points – Clemson was -2.5 in the look ahead line over the summer.
Clemson’s high-powered offense under new coordinator Garrett Riley was nowhere to be found in Week 1, but it’s starting to come to fruition – Cade Klubnik has seven touchdowns in his last two games. The former five-star recruit was making his first true road start in Week 1 and the Durham crowd was relentless – he’s a better player than he showed that night.
Florida State’s defense has been vulnerable to start this season, and their near loss against Boston College last week was jarring. The Eagles generated 13 explosive plays, more than they had combined in their two prior games against Northern Illinois and Holy Cross.
Florida State also ranks just 111th in EPA per rushing play allowed, so we should see the backfield duo of Will Shipley and Phil Mafah have plenty of success. Riley frequently used Max Duggan as a runner last year at TCU, and Klubnik could be a factor on the ground here.
Jordan Travis deserves plenty of praise, but let’s not forget that Clemson had him figured out last year – he completed just 57.1% of his passes against the Tigers and was held to a 36th percentile rate in EPA per dropback. Now, he’s going on the road to play in one of the most hostile environments in the country.
Florida State is being crowned by everyone as the clear ACC winner and a national title contender while Clemson is being kicked to the curb. I can’t help but feel like we’ve reached the top of the market on the Seminoles, who are 1-9 in their last ten games in Death Valley. I’m backing Dabo Swinney with his back against the wall.
Best Bet: Clemson +2.5 (or ML)
Kody Malstrom’s Best Bets
Check out Kody’s week 4 college football best bets below, including predictions for UCLA vs Utah and Colorado vs Oregon.
UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes
Both units came into the season with controversy at the quarterback position as the Bruins had to settle a quarterback duel while the Utes had to deal with Cam Rising’s injury. While the Bruins quickly found their answer in Dante Moore, Utah is still dealing with the injury uncertainty to their star quarterback as he is listed as questionable heading into this matchup.
Whether he is good to go or not I believe the wrong team is favored as the Bruins have a massive advantage when on defense. Their front seven was expected to highlight this side of the ball with steady improvement and they have performed well thus far. They now get the benefit of scheming around a one dimensional offense that has found little success in the passing department and has had to rely on their ground game to get the offense moving.
It’s not as if their ground game has found consistent success either, ranking a lowly 77th in Def Rush Success Rate. Early down success has been a struggle, putting added pressure on their offense to convert longer distances which is never a recipe for success.
While UCLA’s defense creeps toward league average in Success Rate, this unit really shines when they get backed past the 40 yard line. Once in scoring position, UCLA’s defense has done a masterful job at protecting the end zone with a high ranked Def PPA. Big gains are also negated, ranking near top-10 in Def Explosiveness.
On the flip side, Utah has still maintained respectable defensive metrics. Especially in the pass department, boasting a top-10 rank in Def Pass Success Rate. The issue is that they have been fortunate enough to experience a lack of pass rate, now having to shape back up against Dante Moore who has been electric under center.
Factor an upgrade in the pass department as well as a second level that has to deal with Carson Steele and this has all the makings for downfield success on the Bruins end. Expect a heavy dose of big gains when UCLA has the ball, constantly putting themselves in scoring position and setting a scoring pace that the hobbled Utes can not keep up with.
Best Bet: UCLA ML
Colorado Buffaloes at Oregon Ducks
Colorado took the nation by storm by ripping off a perfect 3-0 start to their season and now has their sights set on their toughest opponent to date. The Oregon Ducks.
While the Colorado story has been wonderful for the sport of football, they may be in way over their head this time around as Oregon is poised to pick their number and put it up on the board. The advantages leap off the page when comparing both sides of the ball, especially when digging into the trenches.
Colorado is severely undersized on both sides of the line and now face one of the best two way lines in football. While they have done a masterful job at utilizing their size to create gaps with pulling schemes and quick outs to their playmakers, the same concept will not fly when their line is pushed back from the opening rip.
Shedeur Sanders will be running for his life with nearly every pass play, constantly throwing on the run into clogged passing lanes. The ground game will be unable to get anything going with a massive mismatch in stuff rate, having to rely on getting to the outside against a respectable Oregon linebacking unit.
On the flip side, Bo Nix and company should have no issue with moving the ball down the field as Colorado has been horrendous on defense. They rank an abysmal 119th in Def Pass Success Rate and 85th in Def Rush Success. Simply put, they constantly allow opposing offenses to clear more than half the distance to gain and get favorable field position.
Defensive Havoc and Finishing Drives does not grade out much better, ranking well below average as well. Factor in an Oregon offensive line that will give Bo Nix plenty of time to make the right read and limit his own tendency to throw in less than ideal windows and Oregon’s extended drives should result in points with ease.
This line opened at -16.5 and I would play this all the way up to -21. Oregon has massive advantages at nearly every position of the field and will look to make a statement win against the built up Colorado hype.
Best Bet: Oregon -20.5
Will Schwartz’s Best Bets
Check out Will’s week 4 college football best bets below, including predictions for Ohio St vs Notre Dame and Florida St vs Clemson.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This game is basically Christmas for college football fans in the Midwest, a region that loves the game nearly as much as the South but never quite gets the same amount of press. As a marquee Midwestern clash between two of the top teams in the country, I’m expecting a total grinder with talented defenses on both, where points are at a premium.
Ohio State’s offense has looked completely lost to start the season despite an overwhelming amount of skill position talent headlined by superstar wideout duo Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka and running back TreVeyon Henderson. Of course, those positions can only get you so far if you haven’t figured out the quarterback position, which the Buckeyes have not after enjoying the services of C.J. Stroud and Justin Fields over the past four seasons. Kyle McCord has not lived up to the billing so far, nor has Devin Brown in limited action.
The Buckeyes are going to be fine in the long run, especially at the quarterback position, but after the start they’ve had, Notre Dame stadium is not likely the setting for a big “get right” performance for McCord. They’ll be going up against an iron-clad Notre Dame defense, led by a pair of star cornerbacks to counteract that excellent OSU receiving corps, who have helped to earn Notre Dame the nation’s fifth-best per-snap EPA against the pass this season.
Notre Dame, however, has likely their best quarterback in years in Wake Forest Sam Hartman, who is making a push to be considered one of the very best passers in the country. Hartman has led the Notre Dame air attack to the third-best EPA per play in the country, as he’s tossed 13 touchdowns to no interceptions, including a dismantling of his old nemesis NC State.
Hartman will be challenged much more than he has been to this point by a strong OSU defense, including a star pair of edge rushers who can put on the pressure, a real issue for Hartman, but with the help of star tackle Joe Alt, Hartman should be able to find enough plays to deliver the win.
The line of 3.5 is of course a very significant one, as it gives Notre Dame the opportunity to lose at home by a field goal and still cover. It’s not available everywhere anymore, but you can still find it if you shop around, and I would encourage you to do exactly that to secure the best value possible.
That being said, Notre Dame on the moneyline is not a bad play at all. We’re talking about a Heisman-candidate quarterback, a top defense, and one of the sport’s best home field advantages, all at plus-odds. I’m also a huge fan of the under here, between OSU’s quarterback issues and the caliber of defense on both sides, I’d be shocked to see either team get into the 30s, let alone both.
Best Bet: Notre Dame +3.5, u55.5 (Split wager, half unit per bet)
Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Tigers
With an absolutely loaded Saturday slate, it’s hard to believe that a matchup between the #3 team in the country and an unranked squad could register as one of the games of the week, but with a Clemson team with plenty of talent that has underperformed thus far, that’s where we’re at.
The result in this one is actually a tough one, as Vegas has done a nice job setting the line, but the over is going to be one of the plays of the week from several of us here at Lineups, including myself.
The Seminoles offense has been an absolute juggernaut so far this season, starting with an opening-day dismantling of a talented LSU squad. Quarterback Jordan Travis has been outstanding and is viewed as at least a fringe Heisman contender, as he has developed a quick and strong connection with MSU transfer wideout Keon Coleman, who scored thrice against LSU. Even without Coleman not really contributing at all, Travis had a solid game against Boston College, as Johnny Wilson racked up over 100 yards through the air, while Jaheim Bell picked up 76 and a score. This is a deep offense, and can hurt you in numerous ways.
The defense, however, is a definite issue. BC hung 29 points on them, which is concerning on the surface, but doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The Eagles only scored 31 against FCS Holy Cross, and 24 against MAC squad Northern Illinois. They also picked up 18 penalties and failed to convert two point after tries, so the 29 point output is a relative shocker, as BC even outgained the Seminoles with 457 yards compared to FSU’s 350.
This defense can’t stop anything, and they’re absolutely not going to stop Clemson, who have evened out a bit since a rough opening game against Duke in which they were impossibly rough in the red zone. Cade Klubnik used a couple of games against inferior competition to settle in as the starting quarterback, while running back Will Shipley has continued his solid play from last year.
This Clemson offense is also 28th in the nation in terms of fewest seconds per offensive snap, so the game should move along at a quick enough rate to give both teams plenty of chances to score. The Tigers’ defense has been solid thus far but hasn’t gone up against any units close to the caliber of FSU, although they did struggle against Duke and Riley Leonard, so it’s easy to imagine a bit of an adjustment period against the Seminoles’ attack.
Best Bet: Over 55
Jacob’s Situational Spots
Heading into Week 4, there are a number of games with teams that may find themselves in a position to either lookahead or get caught up on last weeks results. Some of these teams and games are as follows:
Army Black Knights at Syracuse Orange
Syracuse hosts Clemson next week, and you can bet they’ll be looking ahead to that game. Last year, they held a 21-10 halftime lead over Clemson in Death Valley before the Tigers scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win 27-21. That sets up a sleepy spot with a noon kickoff against Army.
Syracuse lost its star wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II for the remainder of the season with a foot injury, and they were already working through replacing running back Sean Tucker, who had over 1,300 yards from scrimmage last year, and is now playing in the NFL. That leaves Syracuse without its top two playmakers from last year.
The coaches resorted to running Garrett Shrader 25 times last week, and he came through with 195 yards and four touchdowns. However, that workload is unsustainable for him, and I expect Syracuse to save his legs for the Clemson game. That will leave their offense without much explosiveness here.
Army’s offense is perhaps even more difficult to prepare for now with its new scheme. The traditional triple option offense now has a passing element as Bryson Daily has 447 yards and four touchdowns through three games. Army is coming off a Friday upset over UTSA, and the Black Knights come in with momentum and extra rest.
Best Bet: Army +14 (play to +13)
Charlotte 49ers at Florida Gators
I hammered Florida last week as they were home dogs to Tennessee, and they dominated the Volunteers from start to finish, getting revenge from their loss last year. As a result, Florida is ranked for the first time in almost a year, and the vibes in Tallahassee are high. Billy Napier seems to be righting the ship.
Next week presents another revenge opportunity for the Gators as they travel to face Kentucky after the Wildcats beat them in the Swamp last year. First, the Gators host a lowly Charlotte team that went 3-9 last year and is 1-2 to start this season. Three Florida players are suspended for the first half, including two starting offensive linemen. That could have a negative effect on their ability to run the ball and operate in play-action, which is the backbone of their offense.
I won’t turn this into a biopic, but I’ll just say this – Biff Poggi is a national treasure. A former history teacher turned hedge fund manager, Poggi is now the Charlotte head coach, and he’s on a self-proclaimed “war path” after his team had a disappointing Week 3 home loss.
I won’t try to sell you on any positional advantages for Charlotte – this is a complete mismatch on paper. However, this is the type of situational play I’ll take every time and live with the results. In a similar “sandwich” spot last year, between games against Tennessee and Kentucky, Florida needed a late touchdown drive to escape with a home win against a South Florida team that finished with a 1-11 record.
Best Bet: Charlotte +28 (play to +27.5)
Sam Houston State Bearkats at Houston Cougars
There’s something broken about Houston this season. The Cougars beat UTSA in Week 1 despite a win probability of less than 30% before losing outright to Rice in a game where they trailed 28-0. Last week, they laid an egg against TCU, finishing with an ugly 4th percentile EPA per play rate on offense.
Now 1-2, the Cougars have clearly missed the talents of quarterback Clayton Tune and wide receiver Tank Dell. Their offense has been offensive as they rank 128th in total EPA on that end. This week, they have to face a stifling Sam Houston State defense that has allowed just 27 combined points through two games to BYU and Air Force.
The Bearkats enter this game off a bye week, and you can bet head coach K.C. Keeler will have his guys ready for this opportunity. Keeler is one of four active coaches in the FBS with 200+ career wins, and he’s the only FCS coach to win a national championship with two different teams.
Sam Houston State’s offense has been nonexistent – they have 3 total points through two games – but this game has a total of just 38 points so they might not need to score very much to keep within the number here. Houston also has a look ahead to their biggest game of the year against Texas Tech, so this is very much a sleepy spot for them.
Best Bet: Sam Houston State +12.5 (play to +10)