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April 19, 2019

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College football by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of Week 2

Kyler Murray to Rodney Anderson


Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (1) hands off to running back Rodney Anderson (24) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

Congratulations to Oklahoma and Notre Dame for winning the unofficial Week 1 college football betting championship.

No performances made more of a stir on Las Vegas sports books’ betting boards than Oklahoma’s 66-13 victory over Florida Atlantic as 21-point favorites, and Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Michigan as 2.5-point underdogs.

The pair of power programs came into the year among the favorites to win the national championship, as usual, but bettors were uncommonly wary. Florida Atlantic drew 53 percent of the action against Oklahoma at William Hill sports books, while Michigan commanding a whopping 72 percent versus Notre Dame.

Chalk up a couple wins for the house, and forget about gamblers keeping the Sooners and Fighting Irish at arm’s length any longer. Odds for both teams tumbled down in the futures, as they’re now tied at 15-to-1 to win the College Football Playoff at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook — behind only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia and Auburn.

Notre Dame senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush dropped from 50- to 30-to-1 to win the Heisman Trophy after pacing the Irish with 229 total yards. Oklahoma junior running back Rodney Anderson, meanwhile, fell to 20-to-1 after sitting at 30-to-1 following his short, efficient day of 100 yards and two touchdowns on five carries.

Oklahoma has swelled to a 30.5-point favorite at home against UCLA this week, after sitting 10 points shorter all summer in game of the year lines.

Talking Points hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success to start the year. The blog’s new initiative to pick every game made for a grisly 13-30-2 against the spread record to start the year — 3-3 on plays, 5-10-1 on leans and 5-17-1 on guesses.

But it’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time of catch up.

Check below for picks on every Week 2 game, separated by conference — with the home team taking precedence in non-conference games — listed in rough order of confidence and labeled with three separate confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.


Georgia State plus-24.5 at North Carolina State, over/under: 57.5 The Panthers are undergoing a rebuilding year, while the Wolfpack return enough players to make them a sneaky ACC threat for the second straight year. Senior quarterback Ryan Finley and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt make for particular standouts. Lean: North Carolina State minus-24.5.

North Carolina minus-16 at East Carolina, over/under: 60. The Pirates fell to 6-19 straight-up and against the spread under coach Scottie Montgomery with last week's 28-23 loss to North Carolina A&T as 13-point favorites. Even at home against a mediocre opponent like the Tar Heels, there's no reason to get behind the Pirates right now. Guess: North Carolina minus-16.

Penn State minus-9 at Pittsburgh, over/under: 56 There are a lot of reasons for optimism with Pittsburgh this year — namely a promising new quarterback in Kenny Pickett and an improved defense — but this isn't the situation to take advantage. This rivalry already figured to pull the best out of the Nittany Lions, even before they stumbled and nearly lost to Appalachian State last week. Guess: Penn State minus-9.

Big Ten

Duke plus-3 at Northwestern, over/under: 49 Despite opening with a conference win, Northwestern was unimpressive in its 31-27 victory over Purdue as a 1-point underdog. The Wildcats were outgained by nearly 2 yards per play, and had to hold on for the win even with a plus-3 turnover margin. Duke is experienced up and down its roster, and won't make as many mistakes for Northwestern to capitalize on. Play: Duke plus-3.

Virginia plus-7 at Indiana, over/under: 52 Looks like way too many points for a pair of teams evenly matched by almost every metric. And that doesn't account for the Cavaliers' edge in the coaching department with Bronco Mendenhall against the Hoosiers' Tom Allen. Play: Virginia plus-7.

Iowa State plus-3.5 at Iowa, over/under: 46.5 Bookmakers are giving Iowa State too much credit for its out-of-nowhere 8-5 straight-up, 10-3 against the spread season last year. The Cyclones are due to experience some regression this season, while the Hawkeyes appear on the rise after knocking around Northern Illinois in a 33-7 win as 10-point favorites in week 1. Lean: Iowa minus-3.5.

Fresno State plus-2 at Minnesota, over/under: 47.5 Statistical measures indicate Fresno State could be a favorite here after it finished last season with nine wins in 11 games and picked up where it left off in smashing Idaho 79-13 as 25.5-point favorites last week. But none of the gaudy numbers the Bulldogs have racked up came against a defense as tough as the Gophers, or arguably against a coach as shrewd as P.J. Fleck. Lean: Minnesota minus-2.

New Mexico plus-34.5 at Wisconsin, over/under: 61.5 As usual, New Mexico figures to be overly reliant on its run game. As usual, Wisconsin's biggest defensive strength is shutting down the run. The Badgers could make it four straight seasons of finishing in the nation's top 10 for opponents' yards per rushing attempt this year. Guess: Wisconsin minus-34.5.

Eastern Michigan plus-17 at Purdue, over/under: 54.5 Purdue may have been the pick at minus-14, but the spread has swelled out of control. The betting market has been a little behind on Eastern Michigan anyway, as the Eagles improved to 19-7 against the spread over the last three seasons with a 51-17 blowout of Monmouth as 23-point favorites in week 1. Guess: Eastern Michigan plus-17.

Colorado plus-3.5 at Nebraska, over/under: 64.5 These teams look exceptionally even at the start of the year, with Nebraska at No. 60 in Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings to Colorado's No. 63. The Cornhuskers may deserve a little extra boost for home field advantage, however, with what should be a raucous atmosphere at Memorial Stadium after last week's opener against Akron was canceled. Guess: Nebraska minus-3.5.

Western Michigan plus-28.5 at Michigan, over/under: 56.5 There's no reason for panic over Michigan following its loss to Notre Dame. The Wolverines are going to be fine, but also preferable that quarterback Shea Patterson gets more comfortable in the offense before laying a big number. Western Michigan is explosive enough on offense — it gained 621 yards in a 55-42 loss to Syracuse as 5-point underdogs last week — that a backdoor cover is also a distinct possibility. Guess: Western Michigan plus-28.5.

Rutgers plus-35 at Ohio State, over/under: 63.5 Much to the delight of his team's many backers in sports books, Ohio State interim coach Ryan Day never let up in week 1 against Oregon State. The Buckeyes scored in the final minutes to make the final score 77-31 and cover the 40-point spread, a merciless approach that doesn't bode well for an overmatched conference opponent. Guess: Ohio State minus-35.

Big 12

Mississippi State minus-8.5 at Kansas State, over/under: 54 Hearing a lot about Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's long-sustained betting success going into this game, and his 12-5 against the spread record as a home underdog in his second stint at the school is certainly impressive. But all the trends and numbers cited came when Snyder had much better teams at his disposal. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is a top-10 team by metrics like F/+ rankings and it's worth betting the Bulldogs before the betting market catches up. Lean: Mississippi State minus-8.5.

Kansas plus-5 at Central Michigan, over/under: 51.5. This is a chance to take buying low to the extreme, after Kansas fell 26-23 to Football Championship Subdivision team Nichols in its opener to fall to 3-34 overall under coach David Beaty. But here's the thing — Nichols is just as good, if not better, than Central Michigan. Lean: Kansas plus-5.

UCLA plus-30.5 at Oklahoma, over/under: 64 Here's a hunch that UCLA's 26-17 loss to Cincinnati as 14-point favorites had more to do with the Bearcats being ahead of schedule in their rebuild than the Bruins being helpless under new coach Chip Kelly. The Bruins might be better off with freshman Bishop Gorman graduate Dorian Thompson-Robinson starting at quarterback, which looks likely this week after Wilton Speight left the Cincinnati game with an injury. Guess: UCLA plus-30.5.

South Alabama plus-33 at Oklahoma State, over/under: 63 Make no mistake — this will be a blowout. But South Alabama wisely plays at a slow pace, which should help keep Oklahoma State's possessions down. The Cowboys also have a much more difficult date with Boise State last week, so coach Mike Gundy could opt to pull players sooner than usual. Guess: South Alabama plus-33.

Tulsa plus-23 at Texas, over/under: 61.5 Don't write Texas off just yet, as it was actually more efficient than Maryland despite the week 1 loss, which was largely due to a minus-3 turnover margin. All that being said, the asking price feels a bit high this week against a Tulsa team that rarely has much trouble moving the ball. Guess: Tulsa plus-23.


Michigan State minus-5.5 at Arizona State This line sat at minus-10 all summer, meaning Michigan State's 38-31 week 1 escape of Utah State coupled with Arizona State's 49-7 blowout over UTSA made for a large effect in perception. But should it have? Still easier to trust proven Spartans coach Mark Dantonio over college-football neophyte Herm Edwards. Lean: Michigan State minus-5.5.

USC plus-6 at Stanford, over/under: 56.5 Price on the Cardinal has shot up two points since earlier in the week, but they didn't show enough in week 1 to justify such confidence. Despite beating San Diego State 31-10 as 14-point favorites, Stanford's offense mainly seemed to consist of throwing jump balls to 6-foot-3 senior receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a strategy that won't work against USC's more skilled defensive backs. Guess: USC plus-6.

California plus-3 at BYU, over/under: 46.5 BYU opened as a 1-point favorite, which might have made this an even tougher call. The Cougars' defense looked formidable in drastically slowing Arizona in a 28-23 upset win, but Bears coach Justin Wilcox is more familiar with his personnel than Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin was and should have a better plan of attack. Guess: California plus-3.

San Jose State plus-34 at Washington State, over/under: 53. Washington State coach Mike Leach has never been known for letting up prematurely, and that might come into play against a San Jose State team that graded out as the nation's worst last year during a 2-11 straight-up, 5-8 against the spread season. Oh, and the Spartans followed the down year with a 44-38 loss to UC-Davis as 2.5-point favorites last week in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Guess: Washington State minus-34.


Georgia minus-10 at South Carolina, over/under: 56.5 A trendy underdog is always a big turn-off, and South Carolina is drawing enough action to keep this point spread deflated. The Gamecocks were extremely fortunate to break out with a 9-4 season last year, and are still at a major talent discrepancy to the Bulldogs. Lean: Georgia minus-10.

Clemson minus-12.5 at Texas A&M, over/under: 54.5 If there's any coach who knows how to prepare for Clemson, it should be Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, who went 4-4 straight-up — though 3-5 against the spread — against the Tigers while at Florida State. Kyle Field is one of the toughest places to play in college football, and this spread is preemptively inflated with the expectation of most bettors pounding Clemson closer to kickoff. Lean: Texas A&M plus-12.5.

Wyoming plus-18.5 at Missouri, over/under: 52.5 Willing to give Wyoming the benefit of the doubt for its second-half collapse against Washington State last week, where it was outscored 28-3 to lose 41-19 as 3-point underdogs. The Cowboys' other three halves of football this season have all been impressive, and they have enough defense to limit the Tigers, which continue to implement a new offense. Lean: Wyoming plus-18.5.

UNR plus-9.5 at Vanderbilt, over/under: 63.5 Line is tight so there's no reason to bet this game, but there will be plenty of information to be gleaned. If Wolf Pack senior quarterback Ty Gangi can build on his recent breakout against a defense as strong as Vanderbilt's, then UNR might be in position to exceed expectations in Mountain West Conference play. Guess: UNR plus-9.5.

Arkansas minus-13.5 at Colorado State, over/under: 70. The thought of laying this many points with a defense as full of holes as Arkansas' is cringe-inducing, but it might be better than the alternative. Colorado State was nauseatingly-horrendous last week against Colorado, getting outgained by more than 5 yards per play in a 45-13 loss as a 8-point underdog. Guess: Arkansas minus-13.5.

Arkansas State plus-36.5 at Alabama, over/under: 66.5. Alabama coach Nick Saban can put up as many points as he wants against Arkansas State. It's just that he typically doesn't care to score enough to cover in these types of games. The Crimson Tide have gone 5-10 against the spread when laying at least four touchdowns in non-conference play over the last five years. Guess: Arkansas State plus-36.5.

Kentucky plus-14 at Florida, over/under: 49 New Florida coach Dan Mullen is clicking and drawing rave reviews from his players, which should lead to the Gators beating the Wildcats for a staggering 32nd straight year. Two touchdowns feels like the appropriate margin, so therefore the only reason to take the favorite is because the spread seems more likely to go up than down, meaning minus-14 could wind up as slight value. Guess: Florida minus-14.


Memphis minus-7 at Navy, over/under: 68 Navy needs a while to break in an extremely inexperienced roster, while Memphis is loaded with veterans and poised to pick up right were it left off with 10 wins last year. After averaging nearly 9 yards per carry last season, Tigers' junior running back Darrell Henderson racked up 76 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in a 66-14 season-opening win over Mercer. Lean: Memphis minus-7.

Georgia Tech minus-3.5 at South Florida, over/under: 62.5 Forget the conference affiliations; South Florida might actually have the more talented roster. Charlie Strong has picked up where Willie Taggart left off and recruited at a high level, meaning the Bulls should have enough to make things interesting with the Yellow Jackets. Lean: South Florida plus-3.5.

Buffalo plus-4.5 at Temple, over/under: 50.5 Every year, there's a team or two that inexplicably lose to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent in week 1 before bouncing back and playing well the rest of the year to make the defeat look like the ultimate anomaly. Temple, which has a solid defense and a promising-though-erratic offense, might fit the role this year after losing to Philadelphia rival Villanova 19-17 as 14.5-point favorites. Lean: Temple minus-4.5

Arizona plus-4 at Houston, over/under: 71 Yes, it was an inauspicious start for new Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin, who's come under fire for his playcalling in a 28-23 loss to BYU as 11.5-point favorites in week 1. But Houston was quietly just as unimpressive, as it was locked into a battle with Rice into the fourth quarter before pulling away for a 45-27 win but failing to cover the 25.5-point spread. Guess: Arizona plus-4.

TCU minus-21.5 at SMU, over/under: 58.5 Few teams in the nation had a worse debut than the Mustangs, which got outgained by nearly 300 yards and were down 36-0 at North Texas before scoring three garbage-time touchdowns. This spread adjusted three points in the aftermath, but that might not be enough with TCU simultaneously looking like a sleeping giant. Guess: TCU minus-21.5.

Conference USA

Baylor minus-15 at UTSA, over/under: 51. Looks like two teams headed in different directions, as Baylor has improved, experienced players stretching down its depth chart in coach Matt Rhule's second year. Meanwhile, UTSA's 49-7 loss at Arizona State as 17-point underdogs hints it could decline for the third straight year under coach Frank Wilson. Lean: Baylor minus-15.

Appalachian State minus-14 at Charlotte, over/under: 48 Tough spot for the Mountaineers, which must try to regroup after coming within minutes of shocking Penn State as 24.5-point underdogs in a 45-38 loss. The potential for a less focused performance is vast, so this looks like too many points to give. Guess: Charlotte plus-14.

Air Force plus-9.5 at Florida Atlantic, over/under: 67.5 Might have a case of overreacting to week 1 here, as Florida Atlantic would have likely been a two-touchdown favorite if it only kept it close with Oklahoma. Air Force gave up a national-high 6.2 yards per rushing attempt last season, and now-junior Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary ranked in the top 25 in the country with 6.4 yards per rushing attempt. Guess: Florida Atlantic minus-9.5.

Louisiana-Monroe plus-5.5 at Southern Miss, over/under: 68 Hard to back the Golden Eagles with star quarterback Kwadra Griggs suspended indefinitely, but junior-college transfer Jack Abraham at least looked capable in his stead with 242 passing yards and four touchdowns in a 55-7 win over Jackson State. The Warhawks could be just as vulnerable given their long-running issues in the defensive backfield. Guess: Southern Miss minus-5.5.

Florida International plus-1 at Old Dominion, over/under: 51.5 Old Dominion's no-show in a 42-point loss to Liberty last week demonstrated why the Monarchs have been practically un-bettable since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision five years ago. They have only one profitable season at sports books in the span. Guess: Florida International plus-1.


Ball State plus-34.5 at Notre Dame, over/under: 62.5 "Letdown spot" is an overused handicapping term, especially when it comes to teams that are well-coached with enormous personnel advantages. Notre Dame is well-coached under Brian Kelly, and has an enormous personnel advantage over Ball State. Lean: Notre Dame minus-34.5

Liberty plus-9.5 at Army, over/under: 58.5 The Flames may surpass the Sooners for easiest cover of week 1, engulfing the Old Dominion Monarchs 52-10 as 5-point underdogs including going up 14-0 in less than six minutes. The new Football Bowl Subdivision program probably won't keep it up, but Army hasn't covered this large of a spread at home against a fellow FBS team since 2005. Guess: Liberty plus-9.5.


Cincinnati plus-1 vs. Miami (Ohio) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, over/under: 50.5 RedHawks suffered a heartbreaking, last-minute loss to the Bearcats last year in the Battle for the Victory Bell, a rivalry game that already figured to mean more to them before Cincinnati's big upset at UCLA last week. Motivation could play a factor with Miami's senior-laden roster determined to make the most of their last chance to beat Cincinnati. Lean: Miami (Ohio) minus-1.

Maryland minus-16 at Bowling Green, over/under: 65.5 Bowling Green led Oregon on the road into the second quarter. Yes, the Falcons ended up fading to a 58-24 loss to push the 34-point spread but the early success showed coach Mike Jinks might be ready to make a third-year leap with his squad. Lean: Bowling Green plus-16.

Utah minus-10 at Northern Illinois, over/under: 48 Wish it was a different Pac-10 or power-five team making the trip to DeKalb, Illinois, because Northern Illinois is capable of surprising at Huskie Stadium. But it might be a little bit too much to ask to crack Utah, which has one of the best defenses in the nation and held Weber State to 63 total yards in a 41-10 season-opening win. Guess: Utah minus-10.

Mountain West

Connecticut plus-31 at Boise State, over/under: 64 The line has climbed in most shops, and not without reason. This game will kick off at 10:15 p.m. Eastern time, putting the feeble Huskies in an even more unfavorable position than they already were in traveling 2,600 miles to play on Albertsons Stadium's blue turf for the first time. Lean: Boise State minus-31.

Rice plus-17.5 at Hawaii, over/under: 72 Hype on Hawaii has gone wild after two straight high-scoring upset victories to start the season. The Warriors will almost surely improve to 3-0 in Saturday's final kickoff, but the Owls showed improvement last week and lost by only 18 points to a stronger Houston team. Guess: Rice plus-17.5.

New Mexico State plus-24 at Utah State, over/under: 62.5 All it took was one competitive showing at Michigan State for Utah State to go from undervalued to overvalued in the betting market. This line jumped up as much of a touchdown, putting the Aggies as a bigger favorite than they ever projected to be this season. Guess: New Mexico State plus-24.

UTEP plus-24 at UNLV, over/under: 55.5 UTEP rates as the worst team in the nation by F/+, but it's a recipe for disaster to lay this many points with UNLV. The Rebels are just 5-10 against the spread as a favorite under Tony Sanchez, and this is 11 points more than they've ever given a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in his tenure. Guess: UTEP plus-24.

Sun Belt

Massachusetts plus-2.5 at Georgia Southern, over/under: 62.5 Don't be fooled by Boston College hammering UMass 55-21 as 20.5-point favorites last week — The Minutemen have a lot to be excited about when they're playing opponents on their own level. Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Andrew Ford will be the best player on the field at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. Lean: Massachusetts plus-2.5.

UAB minus-10 at Coastal Carolina, over/under: 55. Chanticleers battled Blazers to a 30-23 loss on the road last year, and should be improved this year despite struggling in a 49-15 loss at South Carolina as 31-point underdogs. Guess: Coastal Carolina plus-10.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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