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It's always fun to cash a ticket of any shape or size, but there's something special about taking an underdog and watching them go toe-to-toe with an opponent for the entire game.
Some teams deserve to be hefty favorites - we even highlighted a few we like in Week 4. But others are on shaky footing, either because of injury issues, situational circumstances or just an old-fashioned matchup against an undervalued opponent.
And while some underdogs are able to start with a handful of points and hang tight against the spread, others are able to flip the script entirely with an outright win. Just look at last week, when Eric Froton hit his third straight outright upset by backing Kansas on the road.
Here are our staff underdog picks for Week 4, with some big numbers spread all across the country:
Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports): Stanford (+13.5) over Washington
This is a weird line to me, considering Stanford has covered four of the past five meetings in the series and five of the previous seven.
The Cardinal turned the ball over far too many times against USC to cover, but they should clean up their act on the road at Washington this weekend. The Huskies passing attack, led by transfer QB Michael Penix, looked great against Michigan State. But Stanford will be more of a test despite what Caleb Williams did against them. I like the Over in this matchup, and if there will be points then Stanford has a favorable opportunity to keep this within two touchdowns.
Since 2000, Stanford is 8-2 ATS and 5-5 on the ML as an underdog in this series. The Cardinal have covered four straight as a dog against the Huskies, so keep riding that trend.
YTD Record: 0-3 ATS
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Eric Froton (@CFFroton): Boston College (+17.5) over Florida State
It's been a great early-season run, as all three of my Live Dog plays have won their games outright. So when I went to evaluate the Week 4 slate, I wanted to make sure I focused on the task at hand: winning the bet itself, as opposed to trying to shoot the moon again. The big spread pick I like this week is Boston College taking on a Tate Rodemaker-led Florida State team, who is favored by 17.5 points. Keep in mind, if starting QB Jordan Travis cannot suit up - which is very much in play - the untested Rodemaker takes over as the nominal leader of the offense.
FSU is also suffering from some massive losses on teh defensive side last week against Louisville, with three starting-caliber defensive linemen injured including sack master Jared Verse, who is rated as PFF College's fifth-best edge defender in the country thus far. Starting CB Omarion Cooper only played four snaps against the Cardinals last week before checking out, which is another factor point in BC's direction, as their passing has been lacking outside of WR Zay Flowers, who has 286 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his first three games.
It could also be a boost for BC's punch-less rushing offense that is averaging 48 yards per contest and still coming together after losing four starters from the OL in the offseason, including #1 NFLDC Zion Johnson. With a brutal ACC stretch on tap for the Seminoles (vs. Wake Forest, at NC State, vs. Clemson) I think the play is to save Travis, get Rodemaker some reps and escape with a 7-10 point win with a depleted lineup. Give me BC and the +17.5 points.
YTD Record: 3-0 ATS, 3 outright wins
Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas): Wake Forest (+7.5) over Clemson
Clemson owns Wake Forest, winning the last 13 meetings in this matchup and the last two by 21 and 24 points. In last year's meeting, Clemson overpowered Wake in the trenches and was able to speed up QB Sam Hartman. Through three games this year, Wake Forest's offensive line has looked impressive and grades out well. Clemson's defensive line has been their strength, but they have only racked up five sacks on the season.
I expect Wake Forest to be prepared and a potential live dog in this matchup, primarily because of how their secondary grades out and the strength of Hartman's passing game. Hartman and Wake should score on Clemson in front of a sellout home crowd. That puts the pressure on Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei, someone who's on the hot seat and hasn't been impressive to start the season. Give me the home team and the points.
YTD Record: 1-2 ATS, 1 outright win
Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB): Rutgers (+7.5) over Iowa
Iowa has done this funny thing through three weeks where they fail to score points. Sure, they put up 27 in a shutout win over Nevada - narrowly covering the 24-point spread, but the Hawkeyes managed just one touchdown through their first two games of the season. Quarterback Spencer Petras has thrown for 376 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while completing 48.1% of his passes.
Rutgers, on the other hand, is off to a 3-0 start after a close call against Temple in which they failed to cover an 18-point spread. It didn't help that the Scarlet Knights, whose offense has also struggled, managed just 59 yards through the air. But Rutgers will keep it on the ground as often as they can, rushing at a 61.3% rate on the season. Both teams are stout defensively, with opposing offenses having a 27.6% success rate against Iowa and a 33.5% success rate against Rutgers. This game could end in a 3-0 score and nobody would bat an eye. The fact that Iowa is giving more than a touchdown in this one is shocking to me. I'll take Rutgers and the points here in a game that could end in an outright win for the Scarlet Knights.
YTD Record: 1-2 ATS, 1 outright win