The return of the college football season was glorious, and now it’s time to turn the page to Week 2.
Week 1 was a mixed bag, as I went 4-3. I had three comfortable winners (including Florida State +2.5), an extremely lucky winner (the Oregon State vs. San Jose State over), two ugly losers (South Alabama and Illinois) and another loss in which I was doomed by the hook (UCLA -14.5).
The key to betting Week 2 is gauging overreactions to Week 1 performances. It takes a few weeks for the market to really reflect how good (or bad) some of these teams are, so leaning on offseason research is critical. Let’s see how things go.
Last week: 4-3
(Note: All times ET, games listed chronologically)
No. 10 Notre Dame at NC State
Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: Notre Dame -7.5 | Total: 51
Notre Dame has put up big numbers on offense through two games but has done so against inferior competition. Things ramp up significantly with a trip to NC State on Saturday, and I think the Irish are in for a close game.
Some of the questions I had about Notre Dame in the preseason have not been answered. I still am skeptical about the skill-position talent (particularly receiver) and the ability to get after the quarterback on defense. NC State is strong in the front seven, has really good cornerbacks and gave Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman fits when he played for Wake Forest. In his three games vs. Tony Gibson’s defense, Hartman has thrown for 923 yards, but he has completed only 54.9% of his passes, with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
On the other side, I like the ability for QB Brennan Armstrong to make some plays. Robert Anae, NC State’s OC, has a knack for scheming things open, and Armstrong is a veteran player who can beat you with his arm and legs. NC State is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 as a home underdog, and I think the Wolfpack can keep this within a TD at home.
Pick: NC State +7.5
Troy at No. 15 Kansas State
Time: Noon | TV: FS1 | Line: K-State -16.5 | Total: 51.5
Troy is coming off a Sun Belt title but lost a lot from last year’s incredible defense, including all-time NCAA tackles leader Carlton Martial and defensive coordinator Shiel Wood. I think the Trojans will have trouble dealing with the Kansas State offense, a unit that doesn’t play at the extremely methodical pace it used to employ. The Wildcats return QB Will Howard and all five starters up front, have a strong RB duo with DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward and feature an intriguing group of young receivers.
I don’t want to lay a big number with Kansas State vs. a Troy team that has won 12 straight games, but I do like the over. Troy wasn’t very good on offense last year, but I think there’s some opportunity in this game. Kansas State’s defensive line is a bit light on the interior other than Uso Seumalo, who is coming off an injury, and the secondary is working in new pieces. The Wildcats weren’t challenged at all in their opener vs. Southeastern Missouri. We probably need somewhere in the range of 14-17 points from the Trojans to get this over the total.
Pick: Over 51.5
Texas State at UTSA
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN+ | Line: UTSA -13 | Total: 65.5
Texas State was basically the Group of Five version of Colorado this offseason, with the number of transfers the new coaching staff brought into the program. Just like with Colorado, the new team jelled quickly and pulled off a major upset over Baylor.
I don’t think the offensive performance was a fluke. G.J. Kinne, Texas State’s new coach, put up huge numbers at Incarnate Word and likes to play an uptempo style. That means there is potential for a shootout here with UTSA, a team that also plays fast on offense. The Roadrunners lost to Houston in Week 1, scoring only 14 points despite 417 yards of offense. The performance included an uncharacteristic three interceptions from QB Frank Harris. UTSA will bounce back and put up way more points this weekend at home against a leaky Texas State defense.
Pick: Over 65.5
SMU at No. 18 Oklahoma
Time: 6 p.m. | TV: ESPN+ | Line: Oklahoma -16 | Total: 69
Despite losing QB Tanner Mordecai to Wisconsin, I’m really high on SMU this season. The Mustangs have Preston Stone, one of the top recruits in program history, stepping in at quarterback and a roster filled with transfers from Power Five programs on both sides of the ball. In the opener vs. Louisiana Tech, SMU jumped to a 31-0 halftime lead and then coasted the rest of the way, knowing what was on deck in Week 2 — a trip to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma destroyed Arkansas State 73-0 in its opener, but the Red Wolves are one of the worst teams in the country. I expect the Sooners to be better than they were last year in Brent Venables’ first season as head coach, but I don’t think they should be this big of a favorite against a quality SMU team. I think SMU will be able to put up a lot of points on Oklahoma’s defense.
Pick: SMU +16
No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Alabama -7 | Total: 54.5
I think it’s pretty clear that Alabama is going to lean more on the run this season. The Crimson Tide are strong up front, with good backs and tight ends and an average receiver room (by Alabama standards). The offense is going to include designed runs for QB Jalen Milroe and look to hit explosive pass plays off of play-action.
That general plan of attack — plus Alabama having one of the best defenses in the country — is why I’m going with the under here. I expect the Tide to lean on physicality, especially playing at home. Texas has an underrated defense, but I have concerns about the offense despite such a loaded receiver room. UT is unproven at running back, and I can’t trust Quinn Ewers to make big throws on the road.
I think this can turn into a game in which the winning team scores in the upper 20s.
Pick: Under 54.5
No. 19 Wisconsin at Washington State
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Wisconsin -6.5 | Total: 58.5
Wisconsin has received a lot of hype following the hire of Luke Fickell, but I’m not very high on this team aside from the running back pairing of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi. Those two combined for 298 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries last week in the win over Buffalo and should have success against a Washington State defense that lost a lot of production at defensive tackle and linebacker.
However, there wasn’t much else to be impressed by on the Wisconsin side. Tanner Mordecai and the passing game were underwhelming, and Buffalo — a mediocre MAC team — had some success moving the ball. Now the Badgers are going to take a cross-country trip to play in a very tough environment. Expecting the Badgers to win, let alone cover this spread, is a big ask.
Wisconsin’s defense this year just isn’t as good as perceived. The Badgers lost a lot from their front seven, including DT Keeanu Benton and pass-rushing LB Nick Herbig (both now with the Steelers), and have questions at corner.
Washington State, which is 9-4 ATS as a home underdog since 2015, brought in Ben Arbuckle as offensive coordinator, and the group looked great in a Week 1 win over Colorado State. I think the Cougars can win this game outright, so I’ll gladly take the points. I lean to the over, too, but +6.5 is the official play (even though I suspect 7 might be available later in the week).
Pick: Washington State +6.5