ITA Staff Picks: Week Four

The staff was dominant when it came to picks in week three. Both Mike and Justin went 10-0 in picks while Grant and Jeff were 9-1. The standings are getting tighter and everyone is still in the race for an as yet undetermined prize.

Grant Atkinson: 31-3

Justin Cates: 30-4

Mike McDaniel: 29-5

Jeff Greenberg: 27-7

Jeff’s search for a sneaky upset continues. Is this the week he nails one? Conference play is beginning in earnest, so anything’s possible — especially in the ACC Coastal Division.

Here are our picks for week four:

Virginia (2-1) @ Boise State (2-1) (-12), Friday 8 p.m. on ESPN2

Justin Cates: Boise State wins.

Virginia is tough to figure out at this point. Quarterback Kurt Benkert (976 yards, nine TDS, one INT) has played well, but the only decent team the ‘Hoos have played was Indiana and the Hoosiers won handily. Boise is solid as usual and has the home blue field advantage.

Jeff Greenberg: Boise State wins.

Virginia got a big win over UCONN. But traveling to Boise isn’t easy. I think they lose a close one on the blue turf. Boise St win.

Grant Atkinson: Boise State wins.

UVA looked pretty impressive in their win over UConn last week. But don’t be fooled: the Huskies are really bad. I don’t see UVA winning a night game on the road against a solid Boise State team.

Mike McDaniel:  Boise State wins.

Boise has a good team this year, but they have a much more beatable team this year than in recent seasons. They’ll win here against the Cavaliers, but I think Virginia will give them a little bit of a scare early, especially when considering how well Kurt Benkert has played thus far.

NC State (2-1) @ #12 Florida State (0-1) (-12.5), Saturday 12 p.m. on ABC/ESPN2

Justin Cates: NC State wins.

FSU hasn’t played in weeks and it will be breaking in a new quarterback. It stands to reason they’ll lean on the run game, but NC State has been strong stopping the run so far to the tune of the 11th best run defense in the country. I feel something strange happening here.

Jeff Greenberg: Florida State wins.

This game is crazy interesting. The Seminoles haven’t played in 3 weeks and are starting a new QB. NCSU has to feel like they have a great chance to win. I think the FSU defense wins a tight one for them.

Grant Atkinson: Florida State wins.

Florida State has not played in 2 weeks, so they might be a bit (or a lot) rusty. They will also be breaking in a new QB after losing Francois to injury. Those factors may keep this game relatively close, but the ‘Noles just have too much talent for NC State to handle.

Mike McDaniel:  Florida State wins.

I’d love to pick NC State here because most people are now down on them after an up-and-down first three weeks to the season. With that being said, Florida State is at home, and should be motivated to put on a show after not playing a game in almost three weeks due to the hurricane. I’ll take the Seminoles to win, but NC State will cover on the road.

Kent State (1-2) @ #19 Louisville (2-1) (-43.5), Saturday 12:00 p.m. on ACCN Extra

Justin Cates: Louisville wins.

Louisville will get things back on track against a bad Kent State team. I’m not sure that the Cardinals will cover that massive spread though.

Jeff Greenberg: Louisville wins.

This may be an NFL preseason game. Jackson may only play one half. Louisville wins big.

Grant Atkinson: Louisville wins.

Last week, I said that Louisville was thin outside Lamar Jackson and that Clemson would beat them handily. Even I didn’t see the Cardinals losing by that much, though. Still, Kent State does not have the talent or stamina to compete with Louisville.

Mike McDaniel:  Louisville wins.

The only question here is whether or not Louisville covers -43.5. I can’t believe I’m saying this with such a huge line, but I think they will.

Pittsburgh (1-2) @ Georgia Tech (1-1) (-8), Saturday 12:20 p.m. on ACCN Extra

Justin Cates: Georgia Tech wins.

Pittsburgh just isn’t very good. There’s no defined quarterback and the skill positions aren’t producing. Georgia Tech is tops in rushing offense and will run roughshod over the Panthers.

Jeff Greenberg: Georgia Tech wins.

Pittsburgh’s QB question is getting worse, not better. That’s a tough spot to be in heading to Atlanta to face Paul Johnson’s offense. GT wins this game at home.

Grant Atkinson: Georgia Tech wins.

Georgia Tech really impressed me in both their games this year, even though they aren’t 2-0. Pitt, on the other hand, could just as easily be 0-3. The Yellow Jackets cover at home.

Mike McDaniel:  Georgia Tech wins.

Pittsburgh is an awful team that can’t defend the run or the pass. They yielded over 6.0 yards per carry to the last really good running back they faced, Saquon Barkley of Penn State, and Georgia Tech has a number of players who could be every bit as effective as Barkley against Pittsburgh on Saturday. Georgia Tech by two touchdowns…it’s my lock of the week.

Old Dominion (2-1) @ #13 Virginia Tech (3-0) (-28.5), Saturday 2:00 p.m. on ACCN Extra

Justin Cates: Virginia Tech wins.

The Hokies have to avoid the dreaded look ahead to Clemson, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem. Bud Foster will do well against a 17-year-old freshman quarterback.

Jeff Greenberg: Virginia Tech wins.

The Hokies should have a field day on defense. Would not be surprised to see a shutout here. VT wins.

Grant Atkinson: Virginia Tech wins.

After their second consecutive slow start, the Hokies scored 57 unanswered points to route the Pirates last week. While I don’t see another 64 point performance in the works, Virginia Tech should have no problem beating a shorthanded Old Dominion team.

Mike McDaniel:  Virginia Tech wins.

Hokies win big here at home to set up a showdown with Clemson next Saturday night.

Boston College (1-2, 0-1) @ #2 Clemson (3-0, 1-0) (-34), Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Justin Cates: Clemson wins.

BC has some weapons, but still lacks firepower on offense. The Tigers’ defense may actually be better than a year ago which is terrifying.

Jeff Greenberg: Clemson wins.

Clemson is the best team in the country in my opinion. BC is underperforming this season. The Tigers will handle this one easy.

Grant Atkinson: Clemson wins.

Clemson has been more and more impressive with each passing week. Even though their offense is somewhat inexperienced, they had no trouble scoring last week, and that defense is absolutely incredible. They will be riding high into a much anticipated matchup with the Hokies next week.

Mike McDaniel:  Clemson wins.

Clemson wins in a drubbing here, covering the -34 scoring line while continuing to set the Boston College offense back to the remedial age.

Toledo (3-0) @ #14 Miami (1-0) (-13.5), Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ACCN Extra

Justin Cates: Miami wins.

Like the Seminoles, Miami hasn’t played since the opening week and may be a little rusty. Toledo can score points and may well cover, but I think Miami’s superior talent wins out.

Jeff Greenberg: Miami wins.

This one could get tricky early considering Miami has had such a long layoff. The Hurricanes should be fresh and may use the chaos to play inspired football.

Grant Atkinson: Miami wins.

Just like FSU, Miami has not played in two weeks. Unlike FSU, their first game was against an inferior opponent, so we really don’t know much about them. This game will probably not give us much more of a look, since the Canes should easily handle Toledo at home.

Mike McDaniel:  Miami wins.

Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside has thrown for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns already, making this the first true offense Miami has played this season. The Hurricanes are coming off of a hiatus due to the effects of Hurricane Irma, and will be playing in their first game since the opener against Bethune-Cookman. We don’t know much about Miami yet, but we know plenty about Toledo and their offense. Miami has a better roster on paper and should win the game, but don’t be surprised if Toledo keeps this thing within a couple of scores.

Wake Forest (3-0) (-4.5) @ Appalachian State (2-1), Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3

Justin Cates: Wake Forest wins.

Wake is off to an outstanding start and has an excellent shot to keep things rolling. This is not an easy road game, hence the close spread, but the Demon Deacons should pull it out.

Jeff Greenberg: Wake Forest wins.

This is not an easy road trip for the Demon Deacons. The Mountaineers have not looked sharp yet and Wake Forest has. I think they take care of business in the mountains.

Grant Atkinson: Wake Forest wins.

The Demon Deacons have really impressed during this non-conference season. Sure, their schedule has not been particularly difficult, but they have dominated each of their first 3 games. App State will provide their first semi-test, and I think Wake is up to the challenge.

Mike McDaniel:  Wake Forest wins.

Appalachian State is a good program with a solid quarterback in Jake Lamb. There are plenty of reasons to like them to win this game, but I’m taking Wake Forest as a sentimental pick because they very well may not win another game for over a month. After Saturday, Wake Forest hosts #12 Florida State, goes on the road to #2 Clemson and a very good Georgia Tech, plays #19 Louisville at home, and then goes on the road to Notre Dame. Good luck.

Duke (3-0) (-2.5) @ North Carolina (1-2, 0-1), Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Justin Cates: Duke wins.

The Blue Devils knocked off a much better Tar Heels squad last season, and this year UNC is scuffling a bit. This will be a major test for both teams and should be a great game.

Jeff Greenberg: Duke wins.

Rivalry time in Chapel Hill. Victory Bell at stake. Since 2012 the team that wins the turnover battle has won this game. Vegas is moving towards the Heels. With all of the injuries I think UNC loses a tight one.

Grant Atkinson: Duke wins.

UNC put up a lot of points last week, but against an inferior opponent. Duke has more quality wins and, in my opinion, a much better coach. The UNC faithful should fill about half the stadium (unless it’s raining, in which case 1/4 of the stadium), but Duke will pull out a win against their hated rival.

Mike McDaniel:  North Carolina wins.

I’m not buying Duke’s defense being as good as it’s been so far this season, but perhaps I will be proven wrong after the first real test against an offense coming into its own in North Carolina. If Daniel Jones plays well for Duke and the defense shuts down the Tar Heels, I’m all in on the Blue Devils being a serious contender in the Coastal. Until then, I’m picking the Tar Heels to win as the home underdog.

#Syracuse (2-1) @ #25 LSU (2-1) (-22.5), Saturday 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2

Justin Cates: LSU wins.

I expect Syracuse to make some noise, but the program just isn’t at a point yet to knock off SEC talent. LSU will be ready after a rude smackdown last week at the hands of Mississippi State.

Jeff Greenberg: LSU wins.

Nobody wants to be in Cajun Land after dark. The brown liquor odor will be nice and strong in Death Valley by kickoff. Question is, can LSU control Syracuse’s offense? Could be a closer game than expected.

Grant Atkinson: LSU wins.

LSU is simply a much better team than Syracuse. Outside QB Eric Dungey, the Orange don’t really have very many playmakers. Look for LSU to cover in this one.

Mike McDaniel:  LSU wins.

LSU wins this one, but Syracuse should play well. Dino Babers is no stranger to having his teams perform when the lights are brightest so they won’t go away silently. The real question comes on defense, where Syracuse will have to stop one of the best running backs in the SEC in Derrius Guice. That’s going to be their main issue in this one, but I favor Syracuse to cover +22.5, especially if this game becomes some sort of a shootout.

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