Neal's Picks, presented by Service Specialists: Week 4
NEAL'S PICKS PALATIAL HEADQUARTERS -- You know, I remember back in August, before the season started, when the win-loss record for us at Neal's Picks was still pristine, when hope abounded.
I remember August, back when we were still changin' for the better. Wanting was enough. For me, it was enough to live for the hope of it all.
Yet here we are in September, and this is fast becoming a disaster. I'm not in last place, but I can see it from here. I'm already six games behind Brian Rippee, who has always sucked at this. There are rumors he has outsourced his picks to a professional, who is handling this anonymously for a price.
I think he did it but I just can't prove it. Again, I think he did it but I just can't prove it. Seriously, I think he did it but I just can't prove it. No body, no crime, but I ain't letting up until the day I die.
Looking back, I put too much trust in interns. I put way too much trust in Clark Lea and not enough in Eliah Drinkwitz and Mark Stoops. I trusted my friends in Monroe to cover a 33-point line, my pals in Tuscaloosa to do the same. This week, I got rid of the lead Norwegian intern, Ingrid.
Because Ingrid, I knew you were trouble when you walked in. So shame on me now. Flew me to places I'd never been. 'Til you put me down. Oh, I knew you were trouble when you walked in. Now I'm lyin' on the cold hard ground. Trouble, trouble, trouble.
At the end of the day, I just miss winning. I miss the Neal's Picks Trophy. I've held her twice and I miss her. Sometimes, in the darkest of moments, I can hear her. I walk over to the trophy case where she once shined so proudly, a beacon of past success and an inspiration for future victories. She's gone now, probably in Parham's basement next to his replica of the Magnolia Bowl Shop Class Trophy, but I think I can hear her mocking me.
"We are never ever, ever getting back together," I think I hear her singing sarcastically, mockingly. "We are never ever, ever getting back together. You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me. But we are never ever, ever, ever getting back together. Like, ever."
That hurts, of course. Like, a lot. But look, I'm a big boy. I can blame whoever I want and that changes nothing in the standings.
It's me. Hi. I'm the problem. It's me. At tea time, everybody agrees. I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror. It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.
The losing weeks, very clearly, have been mentally destructive. Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby and I'm a monster on the hill. Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city. Pierced through the heart, but never killed.
Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism -- like some kind of congressman? It's a tale as old as time. I wake up screaming from dreaming that one day I'll watch as the Neal's Picks Trophy is leaving and life will lose all its meaning for the last time.
But again, it's me. Hi. I'm the problem. It's me. At tea time and at picks time, everybody agrees.
So, on to the picks...
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Neal McCready: 7-4 overall, 4-6 ATS
Chase Parham: 7-4 overall, 4-6 ATS
Jeffrey Wright: 8-3 overall, 6-4 ATS
Brian Rippee: 7-4 overall, 6-4 ATS
Michael Luker: 7-4 overall, 3-7 ATS
For The Season:
Neal McCready: 30-9 overall, 10-17 ATS
Chase Parham: 31-8 overall, 11-16 ATS
Jeffrey Wright: 32-7 overall, 14-13 ATS
Brian Rippee: 31-8 overall, 16-11 ATS
Michael Luker: 30-9 overall, 9-18 ATS
All games Saturday
All times listed Central Daylight Time
All betting lines via DraftKings
All rankings via Associated Press
Auburn +7 at Texas A&M, 11 a.m., ESPN
Neal McCready: I have no idea why this line is so low. This shouldn't be close. I do want to watch Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze pretend not to absolutely detest one another. Neal's Pick: Texas A&M 38, Auburn 13
Chase Parham: I'm all for weird here. This line is too low, so I'm doing the logical thing and picking Auburn to cover. If I'm wrong, whatever. I have the trophy. My team is fat and happy. Parham's Pick: TAMU 31, Auburn 27
Jeffrey Wright: I see that it’s getting late early here at Neal’s Picks. Typically, we aren’t forced to pick 14 games until November-ish. However, Neal has chosen to get into his bag before the end of the first quarter. You hate to see it. Anyway, I’ll be starting this week with a system play of just taking Auburn. WRIGHT’S PICK: TEXAS A&M 28, AUBURN 24 (Publisher's note: This slander is inaccurate. While yes, we've picked a few CFL games from time to time and even a couple of high school games, we have always included Top 25 matchups here on Neal's Picks. I mean, What did you think I'd say to that? Does a scorpion sting when fighting back? They strike to kill and you know I will. You know I will. What do you sing on your drive home? Do you see my face in the neighbor's lawn? Does she smile? Or does she mouth, "F@*& you forever"?)
Brian Rippee: A coaching mismatch colliding with a talent mismatch. What wins out? Usually the talent wins out, but I think Jimbo and his staff are that bad. Rippee's Pick: Texas A&M 27, Auburn 21
Michael Luker: I’m tempted to follow Jeffrey’s footsteps and bet on Auburn here as an emotional hedge, but I don’t think Auburn can keep up with Texas A&M’s offense. Luker's Pick: Texas A&M 34 Auburn 17
Kentucky -13.5 at Vanderbilt, 11 a.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: No mas, Clark. Adios. Neal's Pick: Kentucky 30, Vanderbilt 14
Chase Parham: It was UNLV for God sake. Vandy, we try so hard to not make fun of you and then you do things like that. I defended you against Mizzou last week. You made me into an idiot. Parham's Pick: UK 38, Vandy 20
Jeffrey Wright: Thankfully, on the week of way too many games to pick, I have consecutive system plays. Is Vanderbilt playing? Yes, therefore, we will be taking the other side. WRIGHT’S PICK: KENTUCKY 31, VANDERBILT 16
Brian Rippee: I can no longer back the nerds. Last week was the final straw. Rippee's Pick: Kentucky 35, Vanderbilt 13
Michael Luker: I’m an idiot for taking Vanderbilt over 3.5 wins this year. Luker's Pick: Kentucky 38 Vanderbilt 10
No. 19 Colorado +19.5 at No. 10 Oregon, 2:30 p.m., ABC
Neal McCready: And here come the Ls. The networks love Deion and rightfully so, so I'll be curious to see how they cover the losses. Neal's Pick: Oregon 52, Colorado 17
Chase Parham: I'm Team Jeffrey here. What the hell is this? Yes, we do top 25 games, but we don't do them in September. It's not like Neal is going to go back and try to prove me wrong. He couldn't even go verify that I won last season. Parham's Pick: Oregon 55, Colorado 38
Jeffrey Wright: Holy hell, laying this many points against a team that can score and will keep playing even after the game is decided is terrifying. However, I don’t think Colorado can get enough stops, and this feels like a bad spot for the Buffaloes because you can’t get up and stay up for a month straight. I also think that Vegas can’t figure out how to price Colorado because they have so much exposure on them. WRIGHT’S PICK: OREGON 49, COLORADO 24
Brian Rippee: Colorado and Deion have been a neat early-season storyline, but I think the reality of the Buffs' roster begins to set in here. No Travis Hunter in this game hurts Colorado, too. Rippee's Pick: Oregon 45, Oregon 24
Michael Luker: Losing Travis Hunter for three games is going to be difficult for Colorado to overcome. I have a feeling Oregon might score 50+ on this terrible Colorado defense. Luker's Pick: Oregon 55 Colorado 27
No. 22 UCLA +5 at No. 11 Utah, 2:30 p.m., FOX
Neal McCready: This has a sneaky good chance to be a really strong game. Give me the points here in a game no one east of the Rockies will watch. Neal's Pick: UCLA 31, Utah 28
Chase Parham: Apparently we cover Pac 12 games now because one crap conference to focus on outside of the SEC isn't enough. I want to pull for Utah in this one, so we'll just do that here. UCLA isn't very appealing outside of the uniforms. Parham's Pick: Utah 27, UCLA 17
Jeffrey Wright: Fading Utah at home is a terrifying proposition, but gamblers know that only the strong survive. Also, Utah at home is a lot scarier during night games. Also, I presume Cam Rising is going to make his first start, and I’ll bank on some rust. Finally, the Bruins are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 road games. WRIGHT’S PICK: UTAH 24, UCLA 21
Brian Rippee: This will be a fun one. I haven't watched a lot of UCLA yet this year and I am not sure how good Utah is. I will default to taking Kyle Whittingham at home. Rippee's Pick: Utah 30, UCLA 21
Michael Luker: I told myself after the Florida game that I wasn’t betting against Utah at home again. Luker's Pick: Utah 27 UCLA 20
No. 15 Ole Miss +6.5 at No. 13 Alabama, 2:30 p.m., CBS
Neal McCready: I once got fired from my successful radio show in Mobile for saying a game against ULM -- one Alabama subsequently lost -- was losable for the Crimson Tide. Literally, I lasted 48 hours. I didn't even make it to Saturday. So, all these years later, I'm still a little gun shy to pick against the Tide. I think this is a fourth-quarter game, with Ole Miss having the better quarterback and Alabama having the better defense. Everything in me tells Ole Miss wins, except for this nagging thing in my gut that says we're all burying Alabama way too soon. Neal's Pick: Alabama 28, Ole Miss 27
Chase Parham: I think Ole Miss is going to be more healthy than any of the three games so far this season on offense, and that should open up the middle of the field. Alabama has quarterback and offensive line issues, and I think the Rebels have the best player on the field. This is close and going to drive both fan bases crazy in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss has won twice in Tuscaloosa ever. That always sticks in my mind. The key here is Lane not coaching differently because it's Alabama. He wants it so badly. Parham's Pick: Alabama 37, Ole Miss 34
Jeffrey Wright: I have no idea. On the one hand, the eye test says that this line is a gift, and you should just take the points because Alabama has no offensive identity while Jaxson Dart is playing some of the best football of his career. On the other hand, you can make the argument, as Lane did, that Alabama has more talent at every other position, is healthier than the Rebels, and is in a favorable spot returning home for a game that they’ve historically dominated. I’ll trust my eyes in this spot and take the team with the better quarterback that is playing good football. Also, I will remind myself that Alabama is just 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine divisional games. WRIGHT’S PICK: OLE MISS 27. ALABAMA 24
Brian Rippee: I haven't the slightest clue as to how this game will shake out. Alabama has a bad offensive line, has waffled at quarterback, and has talent on defense but has struggled to consistently generate a pass rush and has had some secondary gaffes. Ole Miss is in the same boat on the latter defensive questions. The Rebels aren't fully healthy, but have the better quarterback and better collective offense. As for Lane Kiffin finally beating Nick Saban, if not now, then when? Rippee's Pick: Ole Miss 35, Alabama 27
Michael Luker: Look, it’s hard to win on the road in the SEC, regardless of who you’re playing. This game will be close and I truly could see it going either way, but I have to give a slight lean to Alabama here. Bryant-Denny is a tough place to play, and Alabama's defense is legit. I still have questions with the Ole Miss run game and their defense in general, but I believe they will cover the spread. Luker's Pick: Alabama 27 Ole Miss 21
UTSA +20 at No. 23 Tennessee, 3 p.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: UTSA could be without its quarterback again Saturday while facing an embarrassed and likely pissed off Tennessee team. I'll lay points. Neal's Pick: Tennessee 45, UTSA 21
Chase Parham: Tennessee is going to take out its frustrations from Florida like how the NCAA punishes some random state school when LSU breaks rules. Parham's Pick: UT 42, UTSA 20
Jeffrey Wright: I’m afraid that this is the squarest play of the week. However, if you haven’t gotten your eyes on UTSA this year, it’s possible that this game might not be a good spot for the Roadrunners, they just might not be good. Also, Harris has been hurt this season, and they are not functional without him. UTSA is just 2-6 ATS the last two seasons when playing teams not in Conference USA, and Tennessee is 6-1 ATS following a loss under Josh Huepel. WRIGHT’S PICK: TENNESSEE 41, UTSA 17
Brian Rippee: I am not sure why this line isn't larger. I am going to continue to follow my theory of 'if it doesn't make sense, lean into it'. I will ride with the Roadrunners. Rippee's Pick: Tennessee 28, UTSA 20.
Michael Luker: This is a sneaky line. Tennessee looked awful against Florida and UTSA has a solid team that will be motivated to play. I think I'm going to take the points here. Luker's Pick: Tennessee 35 UTSA 20
Arkansas +18 at No. 12 LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN
Neal McCready: Warm up the hot seat meter in Fayetteville. Look, BYU isn't bad. Kedon Slovis is quite good, in fact. Rocket Sanders could return this week, but Arkansas was awful up front and undisciplined in the defensive secondary. That combination can get you run out of Tiger Stadium. Neal's Pick: LSU 41, Arkansas 21
Chase Parham: It's just too many damn points. LSU is going to win, and I don't think Arkansas will truly challenge, but I can't give three scores to the Tigers in this one. Parham's Pick: LSU 40, Arkansas 27
Jeffrey Wright: I think I’m destined to be wrong about LSU every week this season, but I actually like this spot for Arkansas. They’re coming off of a loss to BYU that College Football Data gave Arkansas a 96-percent postgame win expectancy. Also, LSU looked like the team it was billed during the preseason last week, so I’ll take the three scores. WRIGHT’S PICK: LSU 35, ARKANSAS 24
Brian Rippee: I never thought LSU was as bad as it showed against Florida State, but I also don't think it is as dominant as it looked against Mississippi State. Why would you take Arkansas in this spot? That's right! Because it makes no sense. Rippee's Pick: LSU 30, Arkansas 27
Michael Luker: Arkansas looked bad against BYU. They blew a lead multiple times, but the thing that worries me the most is their offensive line play, especially considering Sam Pittman is a former offensive line coach. LSU looked good against Mississippi State. Maybe they just had a bad half against Florida State. Luker's Pick: LSU 38 Arkansas 17
No. 14 Oregon State -2 at No. 21 Washington State, 6 p.m., FOX
Neal McCready: If you want a fun game between two well-coached teams with contrasting styles, here you go. This has a chance to be very entertaining. Neal's Pick: Oregon State 27, Washington State 24
Chase Parham: Oregon State is the play. That's a good football team with some balance and depth. I feel awful for the Beavers. Plenty of slapstick programs should be in conference purgatory instead of OSU. Parham's Pick: Oregon State 34, WSU 24
Jeffrey Wright: I love my Beavers. Give me Beaver all day and all night. Oregon State is 13-3 ATS since last season with an average cover margin of over eight points per game. They’re also 7-2 ATS in conference play during that span. WRIGHT’S PICK: OREGON STATE 31, WASHINGTON STATE 24
Brian Rippee: What a great slate of soon-to-be-extinct PAC 12 this week. I'll reflect fondly on the memories. I think Oregon State is much better than Washington State. Rippee's Pick: Oregon State 38, Washington State 20
Michael Luker: Oregon State plays really hard and that program has been built the right way. It's a shame that they are Mountain West bound. Washington State is good, but I'll lay the points with an experienced Oregon State team. Luker's Pick: Oregon State 28 Washington State 20
Charlotte +28 at No. 25 Florida, 6 p.m., SEC Network +
Neal McCready: Billy Napier had a nice week. He's building a really strong recruiting class, too. Neal's Pick: Florida 49, Charlotte 10
Chase Parham: Ole Miss has a road game against Charlotte on one of its future schedules. Buy that out and play someone with a pulse. Parham's Pick: Florida 45, Charlotte 16
Jeffrey Wright: If you remove the SEC’s Group of 5 team, Vanderbilt, the league is 8-3 ATS against Group of 5 teams. I know this feels like a square play, but Charlotte is that bad. WRIGHT’S PICK: FLORIDA 45, CHARLOTTE 10
Brian Rippee: Billy Napier stock has already had an wild amount of fluctuation this season. I think it continues to trend upward after a crucial win last week. Rippee's Pick: Florida 50, Charlotte 17
Michael Luker: Sure. Luker's Pick: Florida 47 Charlotte 17
Memphis +6.5 vs. Missouri, The Dome at America's Center, St. Louis, Mo., 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
Neal McCready: That was a monumental win for Missouri last week, but the Tigers might be down a quarterback going against a solid Memphis team. I think Mizzou wins, but I bet it's scary. Neal's Pick: Missouri 24, Memphis 21
Chase Parham: Eli Drinkwitz should have treated that kicker to the best steak dinner in Columbia. I mean he put all the lipstick on that pig of late-game clock management. Parham's Pick: Mizzou 30, Memphis 27
Jeffrey Wright: THIS LINE STINKS!!! In the same way that the K-State line told me to take Missouri, this line tells me to take Memphis, but I’ve watched Memphis (because I have to). I have to assume that this line suggests that Vegas isn’t confident that Cook will play. Give me the points. WRIGHT’S PICK: MISSOURI 24, MEMPHIS 20
Brian Rippee: Another rotten one here. I figure this is reflective of Brady Cook's status being in doubt. I will take the Tigers here. Ok, that's a cop out. Will take the black and gold version of the Tigers. Rippee's Pick: Missouri 27, Memphis 17
Michael Luker: As of 12:00 on Tuesday, Missouri QB Brady Cook is questionable with a knee injury for this weekend. This feels like a trap game for Missouri, who is coming off of a really emotional win against Kansas State. I think they gut another game out, but Memphis will keep it close. Luker's Pick: Missouri 28 Memphis 24
UAB +40 at No. 1 Georgia, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Neal McCready: So many points. Can UAB get to 10? I'll guess not. I hate these lines. Neal's Pick: Georgia 49, UAB 7
Chase Parham: I think I've missed on every Georgia game this season. Counting on that crap offense to score more than 40 points is why I have the record I do. Parham's Pick: Georgia 45, UAB 3
Jeffrey Wright: I will continue to bet on Georgia until they cover. Also, UAB is 0-7 ATS on the road over the last two seasons. WRIGHT’S PICK: GEORGIA 49, UAB 6
Brian Rippee: It's been tough sledding so far for Trent Dilfer at UAB. I don't think it gets any better this week. Rippee's Pick: Georgia 49, UAB 3
Michael Luker: These Georgia lines absolutely suck. Luker's Pick: Georgia 47 UAB 6
No. 6 Ohio State -3 at No. 9 Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m., NBC
Neal McCready: Another game that should be very entertaining. If Ole Miss wins, you guys are going to have so many good games to turn on in the background of your drunken celebrations. I think Sam Hartman is good enough to pull this off. Neal's Pick: Notre Dame 30, Ohio State 28
Chase Parham: I've been picking Notre Dame to win straight up all week. I'm going with the better quarterback. This is also the reason I may be wrong about the Ole Miss game. Parham's Pick: ND 27, Ohio State 24
Jeffrey Wright: I can’t decide which side of this game is square. However, I know Notre Dame has the better quarterback. Also, Notre Dame is 6-1 straight up as a home underdog since 2013, and Ohio State is 0-4 as a road favorite during the last two seasons. WRIGHT’S PICK: NOTRE DAME 27, OHIO STATE 24
Brian Rippee: Notre Dame has the better quarterback and is playing at home. I won't make it any more complicated than that. This could be a week in which we learn that Ohio State is not as good as its ranking. Rippee's Pick: Notre Dame 30, Ohio State 24
Michael Luker: My audit professor went to Notre Dame. Go Irish. Luker's Pick: Notre Dame 38 Ohio State 34
No. 24 Iowa +14 at No. 7 Penn State, 6:30 p.m., CBS
Neal McCready: Can Iowa's defense score 14 points? I'll bet they don't. It'll take that for the Hawkeyes to win. Neal's Pick: Penn State 30, Iowa 13
Chase Parham: Out of principle, I take Iowa with getting double-digit points. Phill Parker is trying to save Mr. Nepotism's job. Parham's Pick: Penn State 24, Iowa 13
Jeffrey Wright: Iowa hasn’t covered against a top-10 opponent since beating the fraudulent Iowa State team back in 2021, and Penn State is a perfect 3-0 ATS. However, they scored a garbage touchdown against West Virginia to cover, and last week they won the turnover battle 5-0 and barely covered against Illinois. I’ll take Iowa’s defense against a young quarterback. WRIGHT’S PICK: PENN STATE 24, IOWA 13
Brian Rippee: I think Penn State is very good and I will not ride with a team whose offensive coordinator is required to meet points total thresholds to remain gainfully employed. Rippee's Pick: Penn State 21, Iowa 7
Michael Luker: Penn State has gone somewhat under the radar this year. Happy Valley is no easy place to play. Sorry, Neal. Luker's Pick: Penn State 28 Iowa 10
Mississippi State +4.5 at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: Shane Beamer and the boys sucked me back in last week. That was an impressive effort in Athens. Can they channel it at home against Mississippi State? I think so. Neal's Pick: South Carolina 30, Mississippi State 23
Chase Parham: I believe in Spencer Rattler. I don't think Carolina is talented outside of him, but I know State has an identity issue. Parham's Pick: USC 31, MSU 20
Jeffrey Wright: What a way to close out the week at Picks. This line stinks, but I’ll continue the thought that Vegas is struggling to price State. The Bulldogs are an auto fade until further notice. WRIGHT’S PICK: SOUTH CAROLINA 27, MISSISSIPPI STATE 17
Brian Rippee: I watched the entire Mississippi State-LSU game last week. The Bulldogs are very bad. Rippee's Pick: South Carolina 30, Mississippi State 10
Michael Luker: I mentioned it earlier, but Mississippi State looked absolutely awful against LSU. Their offensive personnel is not fit to run the type of offense that Arnett wants to run. I said it last week, but Mike Wright deserves more snaps. South Carolina needs to be thankful for Spencer Rattler, who is honestly doing all he can do. There's not a ton of help around him, but it won't matter this weekend. Luker's Pick: South Carolina 31 Mississippi State 14