BY TODD FUHRMAN
Well, we would like to welcome Alabama back to top-flight college football after a two-week mountain west interlude. At least for another week the Crimson Tide silenced any detractors with their systematic destruction of an upstart Vanderbilt team; reaffirming their rightful place atop the Bet The Board pecking order. Meanwhile, Clemson looked like an average football team for three quarters before finding another gear allowing them to pull away from Boston College in the fourth quarter. Then, there was Oklahoma who gave their fans the biggest scare, trailing floundering Baylor well into the 2nd half before dodging a late onside kick to sneak out of Waco with a single-digit victory.
This is your friendly reminder that no team, regardless of pedigree, will look like world beaters every time they take the field. That’s why you have Bet the Board’s Top 10, to provide some consistency in the knee jerk world of college football pollsters. Also, for those that judge the merits of a football team solely on win/loss record you might want to avert your eyes with a team we still include inside our Top 10 despite their resume lacking a W.
Here’s the updated look at our Bet the Board top 10 after Week 4:
4) Penn State
5) Ohio State
10) Florida State
For the second straight week Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers make our underrated list (we’re choosing to ignore Florida State for the time being). Auburn appeared to get things going offensively last weekend against Missouri (but who doesn’t), covering easily on the road despite a heavy 18-point price tag. This weekend they’ll host a Mississippi State team playing its 2nd straight road game and third straight against SEC heavyweights. Unfortunately, for Dan Mullen’s beleaguered bunch this could mark the first game where Auburn has its talented running back core of Kam Martin, Kamryn Pettway, and Kerryon Johnson all ready and willing to contribute. Defensively, the Tigers stop unit is as good as they come allowing opponents a paltry 3.4 yards per play, placing them behind only Michigan and Clemson for top honors. Until we see otherwise, Auburn still remains the biggest threat to ending Alabama’s dominance in the SEC West.
Overrated: Washington State
The Washington State Cougars are a trendy upset pick this Friday to knock USC from the ranks of the unbeaten. We can’t really argue with that logic considering USC plays its second straight road game traveling to Martin Stadium with sub 50 temperatures in the forecast. Regardless of that result, Wazzu remains one of the nation’s most overrated teams. Sure, Luke Falk has a chance to make a living at the next level and his 130 of 169 for 1,378 yards with a 14:1 TD to INT ratio is nothing to scoff at through four games. However, the Cougars haven’t exactly faced a murders row to start the season; Boise State (53), Nevada (97), and Oregon State (103) all rank outside the top 50 in yards per play differential. Let us also not forget Washington State trailed Boise 31-10 in their own building into the 4th quarter before an improbable comeback aided by Broncos’ miscues let them steal a win in overtime. Yes, that same Boise team that was just annihilated in its own building by college football powerhouse Virginia. Again, we’re not saying Washington State can’t upset USC this week, but water ultimately meets its level and fading the Cougars should become rather profitable in the near future.
Double Digit Dog of the Week: Northern Illinois +11.5 (3-1 ATS)
Tulane has been very good to us in this section, even if we had to veer from our double-digit dog commitment last weekend to muster a HERCULEAN comeback against Army. We’ll return to our roots this week and back Northern Illinois fresh off a bye week that came at the perfect time. All NIU has done this season is play Boston College to a field goal loss at home and beat a name brand Big Ten program in Nebraska on the road. Now, the Nebraska game comes with an asterisk since the Huskies needed two pick 6’s to win outright but their defense, especially on the ground, held the Huskers in check all night. That’s exactly where our edge comes in this game; leaning on a NIU run defense that ranks 6th in the country surrendering just 2.7 yards per carry tasked with limiting electric Aztec running back Rashaad Penny. However, stats only tell part of the story here. Instead, it’s the scheduling situation that gets us to the window with a NIU ticket Saturday. The Aztecs have run a 3 week gauntlet that saw them upset both Arizona State and Stanford before braving the elements in Colorado Springs to slip by conference rival Air Force. Who could blame them if they let down a bit before resuming conference play next week against UNLV? Revenge is a dish best served cold and NIU was thumped in Dekalb 42-28 a year ago. Players would love nothing more to return the favor on the road fresh off an early season bye to announce NIU’s return to mid major relevance in 2017. Look for the Huskies to quietly improve their road record against the spread to 11-3 in their last 14 after giving San Diego State all they can handle and then some Saturday night.