By the time we get to late October, many schools will go from contenders to pretenders. But for the time being, most teams off to 4-0 starts can accurately say they’re in the mix in terms of national-title contenders.
Alabama, LSU and Oregon aren’t shocking anyone with their unblemished records. Georgia and FSU also figured to be in the conversation at this point and they are. However, there are four schools in Kansas St., Florida, South Carolina and Notre Dame who are seemingly turning heads with each solid performance.
On the flip side, Oklahoma and Southern Cal have already lost and will need to win out and get help to get back into contention. Meanwhile, Michigan St. and Michigan look like the most overrated teams compared to their reputations going into the year.
Several other unbeaten schools are also worthy of mentioning. This group includes Stanford, which beat USC, along with three Big 12 teams in Texas, TCU and West Va.
To a lesser extent, let’s also credit Big East stalwarts Rutgers and Louisville for the noise they’re making. Last but not least, let’s keep our eyes on Oregon St., which has only played twice but has won outright as an underdog vs. Wisconsin and at previously-undefeated UCLA.
Kansas St. avenged an embarrassing blowout loss to Oklahoma last season by going into Norman and emerging with a 24-19 win as a 15 ½-point underdog. The Wildcats won the turnover battle 3-0 and were flagged just three times.
John Hubert rushed for 130 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. His nine-yard TD scamper midway through the fourth quarter put K-St. in front by a 24-13 count. Collin Klein threw for 149 yards and rushed for 73 and one score.
Bill Snyder’s squad has an open date this week. The Wildcats have four tough road games remaining on their schedule: at Iowa St., at West Va., at TCU and at Baylor.
Oklahoma also has an open date before it goes to Lubbock to face Texas Tech in a revenge contest. Of the Sooners’ nine remaining opponents, seven are still unbeaten.
Florida stayed perfect and covered the number for a third straight week with a 38-0 win over Kentucky, which was playing without starting QB Max Smith. The Gators easily took the cash as 24-point home favorites. They get an open date before hosting LSU at The Swamp.
Florida St. trailed by scores of 28-14 and 31-21 before rallying for a 49-37 win over Clemson as a 14-point home ‘chalk.’ E.J. Manuel led the ‘Noles to 667 yards of total offense by throwing for 380 yards and two TDs without an interception. RBs Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. both rushed for over 100 yards apiece.
FSU got ahead of the number with a 49-31 lead, but Clemson responded with a TD drive that was capped by a TD pass from Tajh Boyd to Brandon Ford on fourth and goal with 2:11 left.
Jimbo Fisher’s team plays three of its next four on the road, including back-to-back trips to USF and N.C. St. over the next two weeks.
Notre Dame has now beaten three Big Ten teams thanks to Saturday’s 13-6 win over Michigan as a six-point home favorite. The Irish’s defense intercepted Denard Robinson four times. Brian Kelly’s squad has Week 5 off before taking on Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago.
South Carolina improved to 4-0 and covered the number for the third straight time in Saturday’s 31-10 clubbing of Missouri at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks, who are now No. 4 in my Power Rankings, cruised to the easy spread cover as 10 ½-point favorites.
Steve Spurrier clearly has his best team since arriving in Columbia eight years ago. Finally, at long last, he appears to have an elite quarterback in Connor Shaw, who connected on 20 consecutive passes and threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns without an interception against the Tigers. Shaw had an 80-yard TD run erased by an illegal block.
With Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd, USC has playmakers galore. The defense looks stout and has a dominant player in sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Those factors led most sports books to open USC as a 21-point favorite at Kentucky in Week 5. This is the biggest spread for the Gamecocks in an SEC road game since they came into the league in 1992. They were favored by 22 at home vs. Kentucky in 2001 and by 21 vs. UK last season.
Oregon trounced previously-unbeaten Arizona by a 49-0 count as a 20 ½-point home favorite. The Ducks were led by their defense, which forced five turnovers and had two interceptions they returned for touchdowns. They go to Seattle on Saturday to face Washington St.
Speaking of Mike Leach’s Cougars, they fell to 2-2 when Colorado came to Pullman and got its first win of the year, 35-34, as an 18 ½-point road underdog. The Buffaloes trailed 31-14 early in the final stanza but came back and won on Jordan Webb’s four-yard TD run with 11 ticks remaining.
Webb threw two TD passes and rushed for two more. The Buffs host UCLA in Boulder this week.
LSU just barely dodged Auburn’s upset bid on The Plains on Saturday night. The Bayou Bengals held on for a 12-10 victory but never threatened to cover the spread as 18-point favorites.
Like Colorado, Miami also rallied from a 17-point deficit to win outright. The Hurricanes scored the last 17 points of regulation to force overtime and then won 42-36 at Ga. Tech as 14-point underdogs.
**B.E’s Bonus Nuggets**
--There are five teams with perfect 4-0 ATS records: Western Kentucky, San Jose St., Northwestern, Fresno St. and Ball St.
--After Alabama opened as a 33-point favorite vs. Ole Miss, most offshores had the Crimson Tide down to minus-31 as of early Tuesday morning. Rebels’ QB Bo Wallace has a shoulder injury but is expected to play in Tuscaloosa.
--Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton is ‘questionable’ Saturday at UMass due to abdominal injury. Tettleton has seven touchdown passes without an interception for the undefeated Bobcats.
--A few offshore books opened the total for Baylor at West Va. at 78. The number quickly shot up to 82, only to fall back down to 79 ½ by early Tuesday morning. This is the highest total of the season.
--As of early Tuesday afternoon, the status of Wisconsin star RB Montee Ball for Saturday’s game at Nebraska was ‘questionable’ after he left last week’s win over UTEP with a concussion. Most spots have the Cornhuskers favored by 13. The Badgers have been double-digit underdogs three times under Brett Bielema, going 0-2-1 ATS.
--Sportsbook.ag currently has the following lines in its Games of the Year section: Oklahoma -7 vs. Notre Dame, LSU -11 vs. South Carolina, Georgia -4 vs. Florida, Florida -4 vs. South Carolina, Notre Dame -5 vs. Stanford, Alabama -3.5 at LSU, Southern Cal -1 vs. Oregon, Oregon -13.5 vs. Stanford, Clemson pick ‘em vs. South Carolina and FSU -11 vs. Florida.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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