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#FITSPicks: NCAAF September 23

Can South Carolina bounce back? Will Clemson cover another huge spread? What about Georgia-MSU?

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Welcome to the fourth installment of #FITSPicks …

Each weekend of the 2017 college football season, our panel of experts has been offering up their predictions for both of the Palmetto State’s major college in-state matchups as well as three of the best Top 25 tilts on tap.  They’re graded twice: Whether they pick the correct outcome, and whether they win against the spread.

How have they fared so far?  Let’s take a look …

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#FITSPICKS: SEPTEMBER 2

#FITSPICKS: SEPTEMBER 9

#FITSPICKS: SEPTEMBER 16

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This week we welcome back our intrepid and drop dead gorgeous ex-columnist Liz Reardon – who picked with us during Week 2.  We’re also joined for a third week in a row by the author of our favorite college football Twitter account, Woody Whitehurst, who gets bonus points for working a Martin Scorsese reference into his Clemson pick this week.

Well-played, sir.  Well-played.

Liz and Woody are joined, as always, by our founding editor Will Folks and Pee Dee prognosticator Brant Branham.  Currently Branham has a one-game lead over Folks in picking against the spread, while Folks has a one-game advantage in overall record.

To the Week 4 matchups …

LA TECH (2-1, 1-0 CUSA) @ SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1, 1-1 SEC)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia S.C. – 3:30 p.m. EDT – SEC Network
Oddshark Spread Consensus: South Carolina -9
ESPN Matchup Predictor: South Carolina 92.4 percent

THE PICKS …

BRANT BRANHAM (12-8, 11-9 ATS) – SOUTH CAROLINA 24 LOUISIANA TECH 20

The Gamecocks are coming off a disappointing loss at home last week, and a major loss in the injury to their best player Deebo Samuel.  Still, they should should bounce back this week.  USC has got to establish a run game with only 257 yards total on the ground through three games.  They also need vast improvement on third down conversions – probably the result of being behind the chains due to their poor running game.  Cocks need to win the turnover battle, but should win ugly.

LIZ REARDON (7-3, 6-4 ATS) – SOUTH CAROLINA 35 LOUISIANA TECH 17

I’m taking the Cocks only because I could never bet against my own team. That’s really all I can say after last week.  For what it’s worth though, I think the spread is generous.  Hope I’m dead wrong.

WOODY WHITEHURST (8-7, 8-7 ATS) – SOUTH CAROLINA 24 LOUISIANA TECH 20

I had hoped that picking South Carolina last week would result in a jinx, but I didn’t realize it would summon the Chicken Curse.  The Gamecocks should get back on track against Skip Holtz’s Bulldogs this week, but they’re going to need to replace Deebo Samuel’s offensive production quickly to survive the rest of the year.

WILL FOLKS (13-7, 10-10 ATS) – SOUTH CAROLINA 23 LOUISIANA TECH 17

Everyone is talking about the injury to Deebo Samuel – and with good reason – but the loss of star offensive lineman Zack Bailey is another huge blow to the struggling Gamecock offense.  Also let’s not forget Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz is coming to Williams-Brice stadium with a chip on his shoulder.  So close to picking the upset in this one, but I think soon-to-be-embattled Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp ekes out a win.

FINAL SCORE: SOUTH CAROLINA 17, LOUISIANA TECH 16

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BOSTON COLLEGE (1-2, 0-1 ACC) @ #2 CLEMSON (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

Memorial Stadium, Clemson S.C. – 3:30 p.m. EDT – ESPN2
Oddshark Spread Consensus: Clemson -34
ESPN Matchup Predictor: Clemson 98.5 percent

THE PICKS …

BRANT BRANHAM (12-8, 11-9 ATS) – CLEMSON 48 BOSTON COLLEGE 10

Boston College has lost four straight against Clemson, but the Eagles 3-1 against the spread against the Tigers in those games.  After big wins against Auburn and Louisville – and a Top 25 matchup on the road in Blacksburg next week – it could be easy for the Tigers to take their foot off the gas a little.  But, Clemson doesn’t lose at home in September – winning eighteen straight.  Too much tiger O and D.

LIZ REARDON (7-3, 6-4 ATS) – CLEMSON 42 BOSTON COLLEGE 14

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’m taking Boston College and the points.  Clemson has a real game (sort of) next week and they might want to save up.

WOODY WHITEHURST (8-7, 8-7 ATS) – CLEMSON 45 BOSTON COLLEGE 17

I think this game ends up like the last 30 minutes of The Departed: everyone from Boston dies. I guess that makes Dabo Swinney Mark Wahlberg?  Tigers roll.

WILL FOLKS (13-7, 10-10 ATS) – CLEMSON 49 BOSTON COLLEGE 3

I went against the grain back in week one and predicted the Tigers then-unproven offense would cover a ridiculously large point spread against Kent State.  They did.  Watch them do it again at home against the hapless Eagles.  There will be no let-down at Death Valley this weekend, but watch out for Virginia Tech next week.  Beamerball is back in Blacksburg and Clemson could be in real trouble against the Hokies.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 34 BOSTON COLLEGE 7

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#17 MISS. STATE (3-0, 1-0 SEC) @ #11 GEORGIA (3-0, 0-0 SEC)

(Via @HailStateFB)

Sanford Stadium, Athens GA – 7:00 p.m. EDT – ESPN
Oddshark Spread Consensus: Georgia -3
ESPN Matchup Predictor: Mississippi State 53.7

THE PICKS …

BRANT BRANHAM (12-8, 11-9 ATS) – GEORGIA 23 MISSISSIPPI STATE 17

These Bulldog teams don’t play each other often, but Georgia has won five of the last six straight up.  However, Mississippi State is 3-1 against the spread.  MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald is a solid, dual-threat quarterback who has accounted for 25 touchdowns over his last six games, and will be tough for Georgia’s defense to stop.  Still, I think the home Bulldogs get it done, and win and cover.

LIZ REARDON (7-3, 6-4 ATS) – GEORGIA 28 MISSISSIPPI STATE 21

This is really a must win game for UGA.  I don’t like to pull for the Dawgs – but I think they’ll pull it out and beat the spread.

WOODY WHITEHURST (8-7, 8-7 ATS) – MISSISSIPPI STATE 35 GEORGIA 28

After bludgeoning LSU to death last week, I really like Mississippi State.  Starkville is a terrible town and those fans deserve something good to happen to them.  Also if Georgia keeps winning, their fans will be (even more) insufferable and no one wants that.

WILL FOLKS (13-7, 10-10 ATS) – MISSISSIPPI STATE 30 GEORGIA 21

Nick Fitzgerald is the most underrated quarterback in the country.  His gaudy offensive numbers from last season – his first year as a starter – compare favorably to numbers put up by Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.  I think his playmaking and a stout MSU defense get it done between the hedges.

FINAL SCORE: GEORGIA 31 MISSISSIPPI STATE 3

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DUKE (3-0, 0-0 ACC) @ NORTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-1 ACC)

(Via @TarheelFootball)

Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill N.C. – 7:30 p.m. EDT – ESPNU
Oddshark Spread Consensus: North Carolina -1.5
ESPN Matchup Predictor: North Carolina 51.9 percent

THE PICKS …

BRANT BRANHAM (12-8, 11-9 ATS) – NORTH CAROLINA 27 DUKE 24

The Tar Heels defense is sketchy at best, giving up almost 1,200 yards in losses to California and Louisville. Duke is 3-0 against the spread so far this season, but I’ll still take the blue bellies.

LIZ REARDON (7-3, 6-4 ATS) – DUKE 35 NORTH CAROLINA 28

I’m so glad I’ll be at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. just so I don’t have to watch this one. I’ll take Duke because there’s only room for one Carolina in my life.  And honestly, who cares about this game?

WOODY WHITEHURST (8-7, 8-7 ATS) – DUKE 27 NORTH CAROLINA 21

Duke actually looks like a pretty good team this year and UNC couldn’t stop a runny nose. Not that it matters who wins, because there won’t be anyone at the game to witness it.

WILL FOLKS (13-7, 10-10 ATS) – DUKE 30 NORTH CAROLINA 28

Why are we picking this game?  I think Brant knows something the rest of us don’t – or maybe he’s just a sucker for those spiffy Air Jordan uniforms worn by North Carolina.  Either way, I think freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt has a big game for UNC against the team he originally committed to – but I doubt it will be enough thanks to that terrible Tar Heel defense.

FINAL SCORE: DUKE 27 NORTH CAROLINA 17

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#16 TCU @ #6 OKLAHOMA STATE

(Via: @TCU Football)

Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater OK – 3:30 p.m. EDT – ESPN
Oddshark Spread Consensus: Oklahoma State -11
ESPN Matchup Predictor: Oklahoma State 68.8 percent

THE PICKS …

BRANT BRANHAM (12-8, 11-9 ATS) – OKLAHOMA STATE 47 TCU 31

Cowboys have beaten the frogs four of last five.  Mason Rudolph is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and Oklahoma state is second in the nation in both scoring offense and yards per game.  Although TCU is 13-1 straight up during its last fourteen September games, I don’t think they have enough firepower to keep up.  Cowpokes win and cover.

LIZ REARDON (7-3, 6-4 ATS) – OKLAHOMA STATE 42 TCU 35

I’ve always randomly pulled for TCU. I love their mascot (the Horned Frog) and back in the early 2000s they had a quarterback named Tye Gunn (no relation.)  So, go Frogs!

WOODY WHITEHURST (8-7, 8-7 ATS) – OKLAHOMA STATE 38 TCU 20

If the University of South Carolina had recruited Rock Hill native Mason Rudolph, their program may not be the dumpster fire it is today.  I’m forever ever grateful to Steve Spurrier and his staff for laying down on the job the last three years they were there. OSU wins big.

WILL FOLKS (13-7, 10-10 ATS) – OKLAHOMA STATE 40 TCU 24

I really want to be contrarian and pick the Horned Frogs here, but OSU’s offense is simply too good.  It’s not just stud quarterback Mason Rudolph, either – the Cowboys’ wide receiver corps is loaded with talent and they boast a balanced rushing attack, too.  Just too much firepower.

FINAL SCORE: TCU 44 OKLAHOMA STATE 31

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Banner via Travis Bell Photography