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Parker Washington
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Odds and Ends

Chalk Talk: Staff picks for big favorites in Week 4

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: September 22, 2022, 6:00 pm ET

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Favorites come in all shapes and sizes in college football. While double-digit spreads are a relative rarity at the pro level, those numbers can vary wildly on Saturdays as teams dip in and out of conference play or step up (or down) a level in competition.

And while it's often easy to be tempted to take a handful of points and hope for the best with a significant underdog, sometimes the favorites are favored for a reason. Each week our College Football staff will share their picks for which "chalk" favorite of 10 points or more will both win and, more importantly, cover the spread. (Note: We look at underdogs as well.)

Here are our staff's picks for Week 4, with some big numbers spread all across the country:

Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports): Penn State (-27.5) over Central Michigan

Penn State showed up last week against Auburn, one week after dominating Ohio in what could have been a look-ahead trap spot. The Nittany Lions are rolling on all cylinders this season, sitting 3-0 ATS, ML and to the Over. Penn State has covered its last five games against MAC opponents and eight of the previous 10 dating back to 2013, so Central Michigan should have their work cut out for them.

Central lost 58-44 to Oklahoma State in the season opener (loss of Jim Knowles was evident for the Cowboys) and South Alabama 38-24. While this spread is double what they have lost by in both of their early-season defeats, the Chippewas are going to struggle against the Penn State defense.

Central Michigan's Team Total (17.5) is juiced -140 to the Under, so I expect the Chippewas to struggle in the red zone. Penn State held Ohio to 10 points at home, then Auburn to 12 points on the road. On the other hand, Penn State's offense is attempting to score 35+ points for the fourth straight game - and possibly 40+ for the third consecutive outing. Penn State should roll in this spot.

(YTD Record: 1-2 ATS)

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Eric Froton (@CFFroton): LSU (-31) over New Mexico

Following their heartbreaking loss to Florida State in Week 1, LSU went out and sacrificed Southern (65-17) as HC Brian Kelly got up 58-0 before he backed off the throttle. The Tigers are coming off an impressive 31-16 victory over SEC West rival Mississippi State, where they held HC Mike Leach's air raid offense to just 289 total yards and 3-for-14 in third down situations. New Mexico opened with a convincing 41-0 win over FCS opponent Maine before getting throttled by Boise State, 31-14, where they accrued a paltry 123 total yards and eight first downs in the contest, before rebounding with a win over UTEP where they relied on an absurd seven turnovers and were actually out-gained 353 to 299 in total yards. Good luck repeating that.

New Mexico owns the third-worst passing offense in the country and ranks 126th in overall offensive strength. I think UNM struggles to move the ball in any fashion against the Tigers, and Kelly's squad could give the Lobos the same treatment they gave Southern: which is a decisive, bell-to-bell victory. I'm laying the 31 points with LSU and think the Tigers cruise to a cover here.

(YTD Record: 1-1-1 ATS)

Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas): Georgia (-13.5 1Q) over Kent State

The Georgia Bulldogs covered for me last week by shutting out South Carolina in the first half and easily covering the 14-point spread. This week I'm going back to the well, but this time I am taking a first-quarter spread. At -13.5, I know that Georgia will have to play a flawless first quarter, but perfection is exactly what Kirby Smart expects from his team.

Georgia shut out both Oregon and South Carolina in the first quarter of their games. They should do the same against a Kent State team that is 81st in total offense and has a turnover-prone QB in Collin Schlee. Offensively, I expect Georgia to roll behind QB Stetson Bennett. Kent State has one of the worst coverage grades in college football and was outscored 21-7 in the first quarter against Washington. I'm backing Georgia -13.5 in the first quarter to get off to a hot start against the Golden Flashes.

(YTD Record: 2-1 ATS)

Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB): Michigan (-17) over Maryland

One of the best traditions in the Big Ten is Maryland getting out to a 3-0 or 2-1 start and then getting waxed against their first real conference opponent of the season. You may remember last year's 4-0 start before the Terps played host to Iowa. Maryland entered that home game as a 3-point underdog and wound up losing by 37. In 2019, the Terps got off to a 2-1 start against subpar competition before losing by 59 to Penn State. Maryland faces a tough Michigan team this weekend and has to do so in Ann Arbor. Both teams are 2-1 ATS this season, and to be fair, Michigan's schedule hasn't been all that difficult, either.

That said, I've seen this movie before and refuse to go in another direction until I get at least one surprise ending. Michigan whooped Maryland (59-18) on the road last season and beat them by 31 when they played in 2019. Taulia Tagovailoa (895-6-1) has gotten off to another solid start to the year, but he has struggled at times against Big Ten powerhouses. Michigan's defense has allowed a 16.3% success rate to opposing offenses this season and is boasting an offensive success rate of over 60%. I'd love to see the Terps get it done on Saturday - or at least keep it close - but I can't pick them to do it given their recent lack of success against the big dogs.

(YTD Record: 2-1 ATS)