Last week wasn’t a great start for Lucas’ surefire picks. The total record at the end of the Saturday mania was 3-5. The wins: Tulane (-4.5) vs. Houston – and in thrilling fashion too (look it up if you missed it), Notre Dame (+14.5) at Georgia, and Boston College (-7.5) at Rutgers. The losses: Northwestern (+9.5) vs. Michigan State, Utah (-4) at USC, BYU (+6.5) vs. Washington, Texas/Oklahoma State over 73 and Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. Auburn. My conclusion on all of this is simple: Trust the Process. Betting is a very hot and cold sort of thing (at least for me), and while some weekends utterly stink, others are far more fun. My advice: know how I’m doing recently so that you can decide to fade me or to scoop up all my ideas and use them for your own gain depending on my recent streaks. Now let’s jump into this week’s picks, shall we?

Spread: Penn State (-6) @ Maryland

I’ll admit, I’m still a little bitter with this Maryland team after I bought into the hype going into Week 3 and bet on them as they proceeded to lose to Temple as an eight-point favorite. This single bet on Maryland was in a seven-team parlay for me in which I went 6-1 with Maryland being the only loss. So yes, I’m still very, very upset with Maryland for costing me a significant amount of money just a couple of weeks ago. However, I promise that’s not the only reason I don’t like them to cover this spread.

The true genesis of this pick is centered around Penn State’s defense. I’m a big believer in the Nittany Lions’ defense, specifically their front seven’s ability to get after the QB. While Josh Jackson has been a big breakthrough player so far this year for Maryland, he hasn’t faced a defense of even close to the same caliber of talent as this Penn State squad. Maryland isn’t as bad as they’ve been in past seasons, but this is a bad matchup for them. Penn State has the athletes to contain this new-look Maryland attack in a way that Temple didn’t, which is great considering even the comparatively underpowered Owls were able to hold Josh Jackson to 15-38 (39.5%) for 183 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and a putrid QBR of 16.1. I expect PSU to have similar results and, by limiting Jackson, they can make this team more one-dimensional. Ultimately, I just don’t think Anthony McFarland is good enough to carry this team to a cover all by himself. Give me the Nittany Lions to cover here.

The Pick: Penn State (-6)

Spread: Kansas @ TCU (-16)

While both of these teams lost last week, I’ve been quite impressed by Kansas’ progression these past couple of weeks. After blowing out Boston College on the road two weeks ago, they lost this past weekend in a tough game against West Virginia. On the other hand, TCU has looked good the first two games, but got upset by SMU 41-38 last Saturday. The Horned Frogs are in the middle of a QB switch going from established starter Alex Delton to a virtual unknown in Max Duggan. With TCU’s recent QB struggles, and Kansas’ perceived progression, I like the Jayhawks to cover here. I do think TCU is the better team, but with a spread as big as 16, I’m comfortable taking the fighting Les Mileses to cover at the very least, and I think there’s a chance they could even pull this one off and win outright.

The Pick: Kansas (+16)

Spread: Virginia @ Notre Dame (-12.5)

I’m going to keep going back to the well here with Notre Dame as I still think they’re being underrated nationally despite putting up quite a fight against Georgia last week. I don’t think Virginia is nearly as good as I thought they’d be coming into the season and ND will have the best unit on the field at all times. Notre Dame should control this game from start to finish and win by at least two touchdowns. Give me the Irish.

The Pick: Notre Dame (-12.5)

Spread: Mississippi State @ Auburn (-10.5)

I was on the wrong side of Auburn last week and I won’t make the same mistake twice in a row. Mississippi State’s defense is a shell of what it was last year and while I do think the offense is improved from last season, it’s not enough to offset the big drop-off on defense. This is a bit of a letdown spot here for Auburn following a big win last week, but I just don’t think the Bulldogs will be able to move the ball effectively against this stiff Auburn defense. With Bo Nix looking better every week, I’m now comfortable enough with this offense to be able take them to win by at least 14 points and thus will be jumping on the Tigers at home.

The Pick: Auburn (-10.5)

Spread: Minnesota @ Purdue – Pick’em

I love taking pick’ems whenever possible, and this is one I feel good about. Purdue so far has lost their season opener on the road to a good Nevada squad, returned to West Lafayette and destroyed Vanderbilt before eventually getting killed by TCU at home in Week 3. The kicker with the TCU game is that they were without their starting QB Elijah Sindelar. In his two games thus far, Sindelar has completed 65% of his passes for 932 yards, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions – good for a sparkling 163.5 QB rating. From what I’ve heard thus far, Sindelar is expected to play in this game and that’ll be a huge boost for this Purdue offense if he is in fact able to return. However, if there’s late breaking news that he’s not playing, then I’d hop on the Minnesota side. Minnesota has grinded out three close wins over some not-so-great competition in the form of South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern. There is something to be said for being able to grind out close wins, but against this level of competition, I haven’t been impressed. This pick really comes down to if Sindelar is healthy or not because, if he plays, I’d definitely take Purdue; but, if he doesn’t, I’d stay away. The most recent updates I’ve seen are that he’s questionable to play, but Head Coach Jeff Brohm has been hinting towards a return this week.

The Pick: Purdue to win

Spread: Clemson (-27) @ North Carolina

I’ll start with this: Clemson has sleepwalked in all of their games so far this year. They’re still trying to break in a new defensive line group and Trevor Lawrence hasn’t yet been the Heisman candidate that we all expected him to be coming into this season. Now it’s very possible, likely even, that Clemson will get it rolling here at some point and just start laying waste to the rest of the ACC. But it simply hasn’t happened yet and there’s no reason to believe it’ll happen this week either. The luxury for them is that they don’t really have to anytime soon – as their schedule is very easy in an unimpressive ACC. I personally think this game might be the toughest game of the year for college football’s defending champions, which is saying something since UNC is currently 2-2 with losses to Appalachian State and Wake Forest.

However, I think this UNC team is pesky and – I must admit – I’ve sort of fallen in love with UNC’s freshman quarterback Sam Howell. He’s athletic, tough, and man can he sling that pill. He’s already led UNC to two comeback wins in his first two starts of his college career and what I love most about him is that the kid is just an absolute gamer who makes plays when his team needs it the most. I think the Tar Heels have got a special player for the near future to lead this program. I know this Clemson defense will likely test him, and probably expose a couple of his flaws as a freshman QB, but I think they have enough firepower to be able to keep it within three scores. If Clemson was rolling coming into Saturday, I wouldn’t touch this game; but, like I mentioned before, they haven’t fully clicked yet and, factoring in how much I like Sam Howell, I think the Tar Heels can definitely cover this spread and lose by a respectable 21 points or less points.

The Pick: UNC (+27)

Summary:

  1. Penn State (-6) @ Maryland
  2. Kansas (+16) @ TCU
  3. Virginia @ Notre Dame (-12.5)
  4. Mississippi State @ Auburn (-10.5)
  5. Minnesota @ Purdue – Purdue to win (if Sindelar plays; if not, the bet is off)
  6. Clemson @ North Carolina (+27)
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