Cooper Neill / Associated Press
Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Week 1 was just a soft opening anyway.
That’s what anyone who lost on the first full slate of college football is likely telling themselves. That’s what I’m telling myself.
Buried in that record, however, is a mediocre 4-5 on plays. That can’t continue, and I’ll do my best to rectify it this week, which seems like a bigger deal than week 1 anyway.
For one, this is the first full football weekend with the NFL regular season returning on Sunday. And there are more big games — including but not limited to Texas A&M at Clemson and LSU at Texas — dotting the college schedule.
So trust in knowing our best betting days are still ahead of us, or maybe I’m just getting good at giving excuses for under-performing.
Read below for picks on every Week 2 college football game. They’re separated by conference, listed in rough order of confidence and labeled with three confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses. The overall record for the year stands at 27-16-2 (4-6 on plays, 9-1 on leans, 14-9-2 on guesses). Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
North Texas minus-3 at SMU, over/under: 73. North Texas’ Mason Fine versus SMU’s Shane Buechele is a quarterback battle worth watching. Fine probably has the edge individually, but Buechele is the only one with a defense behind him as the Mean Green gave up more than 450 yards to Abilene Christian last week. Lean: SMU minus-3.
Illinois minus-21 at Connecticut, over/under: 59.5. Does Illinois deserve to move out of the conversation of worst Power Five conference teams after last week’s 42-3 win over Akron as 18-point favorites? Uncertain. More definitive: Connecticut still belongs in the discussion of worst all-around teams after eking out a 24-21 win over Wagner. Guess: Illinois minus-21.
Central Florida minus-10.5 at Florida Atlantic, over/under: 68. Neither offense is currently up to these program’s reputation or standards, so under might be the best look in this game. Otherwise, it’s a coin-flip but betting against the Knights has backfired too frequently the last couple years. Guess: UCF minus-10.5.
Ohio plus-5 at Pittsburgh, over/under: 54. I hate to have missed this number opening 1.5 points higher, but it looks like the wrong team might be favored all together. The Bobcats graded out as more efficient than the Panthers last season and return more key players to go with a decisive coaching edge. Play: Ohio plus-5.
Texas A&M plus-17.5 at Clemson, over/under: 64.5. A little taken aback by the avalanche of action on Texas A&M, but it’s not enough to sway me from thinking this line is too big. The number is fair based on how the teams ended last season but there’s evidence piling up that the Aggies are improved — including their 41-7 romp over Texas State as 33.5-point favorites. Lean: Texas A&M plus-17.5.
South Florida plus-6.5 at Georgia Tech, over/under: 62.5. Unless the Bulls have started to turn on coach Charlie Strong — a real but slim possibility — then this looks like too many points. South Florida is loaded with experience while Georgia Tech is breaking in not only almost entirely new players but also a new system. Guess: South Florida plus-6.5.
Miami minus-4.5 at North Carolina, over/under: 47.5. Over might be worth a look as both teams’ offenses are better than they showed in their first games against tough defenses, Florida and South Carolina, respectively. A higher-scoring game should favor the more talented team, and there’s no debating Miami is the more talented team. Guess: Miami minus-4.5.
Louisiana-Monroe plus-21.5 at Florida State, over/under: 65. As long as Florida State is hydrated, it should have no problem mounting a blowout this week. The WarHawks are a work in progress on offense after losing most of their skill players, minimizing the likelihood of a backdoor cover. Guess: Florida State minus-21.5.
Old Dominion plus-28.5 at Virginia Tech, over/under: 55.5. Expect to see the Hokies thrown into a lot of parlays for their “revenge games.” But those narrative handicaps should cede to numbers, and the numbers say Virginia Tech is not a team that should give this high of a number to almost any opponent. Guess: Old Dominion plus-28.5.
Vanderbilt plus-7 at Purdue, over/under: 56.5. This is not the Purdue team of last year, as it breaks in almost entirely new core of players on offense. Until the betting market wises up to that fact, I’m happy to keep fading the Boilermakers. Play: Vanderbilt plus-7.
Central Michigan plus-35 at Wisconsin, over/under: 52. The Badgers are garnering as much newfound praise as any team in the nation, which is a signal that it’s time short them. The Chippewas are sure to be better under new coach Jim McElwain. Lean: Central Michigan plus-35.
Cincinnati plus-15 at Ohio State, over/under: 53.5. The Bearcats shaved as many as five points off this spread with last week’s 24-14 win over UCLA as 2.5-point favorites. The performance was highly impressive considering the Bearcats outgained the Bruins by 2 yards per play. But the Buckeyes are in a different stratosphere. Lean: Ohio State minus-15.
Syracuse plus-2 at Maryland, over/under: 58.5. The Terrapins have taken a lot of betting steam — this line opened at Syracuse minus-5 — but I need to see more than a blowout win over Howard to back a Mike Locksley-coached team. Syracuse has a major advantage on the sidelines in coach Dino Babers. Lean: Syracuse plus-2.
Rutgers plus-19.5 at Iowa, over/under: 49.5. Football fans like to poke fun at Iowa’s offense, but the Hawkeyes may actually have a good one this year with long-time quarterback Nathan Stanley and pass-catching running back Mehki Sargent. Covering big numbers against bad teams might not be as prohibitive as it once was for the Hawkeyes. Guess: Iowa minus-19.5.
Army plus-22.5 at Michigan, over/under: 48.5. This looks like a bad matchup for Army, as Michigan can strongarm the Cadets up front and won’t be deterred by a deliberate pace. Coach Jim Harbaugh hasn’t shown much mercy in blowouts, which diminishes the chances of an Army backdoor cover. Guess: Michigan minus-22.5.
Western Michigan plus-16.5 at Michigan State, over/under: 46.5. Michigan State averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per play in a season-opening 28-7 win over Tulsa. It’s a hint that the Spartans’ offensive shortcomings are still lingering and makes them not worthwhile as a big favorite against a tougher Week 2 opponent. Guess: Western Michigan plus-16.5.
Buffalo plus-30 at Penn State, over/under: 56. Loaded with playmakers and sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford, this might be the best offense Penn State has fielded recently even though it will take more notable wins for most to put it in the class with the Saquon Barkey/Trace McSorley teams. I’m happy to keep backing the Nittany Lions until that happens. Guess: Penn State minus-30.
LSU minus-6.5 at Texas, over/under: 55.5. Texas has too many edges to be pushing a touchdown underdog — including home-field, coaching and explosiveness. This could be disastrous as most of sharpest money is on the Tigers, but I’m just not convinced of their newfound offensive efficiency from one blowout over Georgia Southern. Play: Texas plus-6.5.
Coastal Carolina plus-7.5 at Kansas, over/under: 53.5. Coastal Carolina had a minus-5 turnover margin and still nearly beat Eastern Michigan in a 30-23 loss last week. Kansas, meanwhile, barely defeated Indiana State 24-17 while getting outgained in the contest. Play: Coastal Carolina plus-7.5.
Bowling Green plus-24 at Kansas State, over/under: 58.5. Both teams are in the midst of complete rebuilds, which makes it hard to know what to expect from them. There’s similarly no reason to get involved with either of them at this point in the season. Guess: Bowling Green plus-24.
UTSA plus-25 at Baylor, over/under: 57.5. If you believe that Baylor’s excessive amount of experience will translate to major improvement this season, then you must expect them to blow out UTSA. I believe Baylor’s excessive amount of experience will translate to major improvement this season. Guess: Baylor minus-25.
UTEP plus-34 at Texas Tech, over/under: 65. Perhaps in a bid to endear himself to fans, new Texas Tech coach Matt Wells stayed aggressive until the end in a 45-10 win over Montana State last week. If he keeps the same approach, and there’s no reason to doubt he will, then UTEP — who’s worse than Montana State — is in severe trouble. Guess: Texas Tech minus-34.
Western Kentucky plus-7.5 at Florida International, over/under: 55.5. The Panthers went 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less last season; the Hilltoppers went 0-4. That’s left the former overvalued and the latter undervalued. Lean: Western Kentucky plus-7.5.
Wake Forest minus-19 at Rice, over/under: 58. Week 1 overreactions don’t only come on the biggest level; bettors can just as easily be swayed by bottom feeders. No, one decent Rice showing — losing 14-7 as 23.5-point favorites to an Army team that it matched up well against — doesn’t mean the Owls are no longer one of the worst teams in the nation. Guess: Wake Forest minus-19.
UAB minus-9.5 at Akron, over/under: 47.5. UAB ranks 112th in the nation by the SP+ ratings after Week 1 — please ignore that Akron sits at 127th for this stretch of an argument — and is therefore not to be trusted laying points on the road. Guess: Akron plus-9.5.
Minnesota minus-3 at Fresno State, over/under: 46.5. Fresno State’s 31-23 loss to USC as 14.5-point underdogs is a little misleading considering the Bulldogs were down by 18 points before the Trojans lost quarterback J.T. Daniels. Minnesota is one of the most experienced teams in the country; Fresno State is one of the most inexperienced teams in the country. Lean: Minnesota minus-3.
Arkansas State plus-1 at UNLV, over/under: 63.5. The RedWolves are in somewhat of a rebuilding year while this is the season the Rebels have built towards. It feels strange to say in Week 2, but this is a must-win for UNLV as its bowl hopes would appear unrealistic after a potential loss to Arkansas State. Lean: UNLV minus-1.5.
Marshall plus-12 at Boise State, over/under: 57. Falling into a big hole, as Boise State did in trailing Florida State by 18 points early last week, should weigh every bit as heavily as climbing out of it, which the Broncos managed by winning 36-31 as 6.5-point underdogs. They’ll have no time to recover as Marshall is explosive, experienced and favored to win the Conference USA. Lean: Marshall plus-12.
Oregon State plus-6 at Hawaii, over/under: 78.5. There’s often some slightly hidden value on Hawaii early in the season before its worn down from crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean repeatedly. The Warriors also match up well with the Beavers and should welcome a shootout. Guess: Hawaii minus-6.
Tulsa minus-7 at San Jose State, over/under: 52.5. Don’t lay points on the road with bad teams if it can be avoided. That rule strengthens when it’s a bad team making an incredibly rare trip west out of a game with one of the most physical teams in the nation in Michigan State. Guess: San Jose State plus-7.
California plus-13.5 at Washington, over/under: 43.5. Washington’s power rating is unjustly downgraded because of how many inexperienced players it’s currently breaking in. That ignores Chris Petersen’s long track record of high-level recruiting and program stability, which makes this Huskies team every bit as strong as the last few. Play: Washington minus-13.
San Diego State plus-8 at UCLA, over/under: 45.5. I’d prefer not to get involved in this game, but the support piling up on UCLA to raise this line 1.5 points through a key number is making it hard to avoid. Led by hard-hitting edge rusher Kyahva Tezino, San Diego State’s defense is impermeable and poised to give a still-developing UCLA offense fits. Lean: San Diego State plus-8.
Nebraska minus-4 at Colorado, over/under: 63.5. Closest game of the week alert. SP+ rates Nebraska at No. 54 in the nation, and Colorado No. 55. That makes any points the play. Lean: Colorado plus-4.
Northern Illinois plus-21 at Utah, over/under: 43.5. The Huskies are breaking in a new coach in Thomas Hammock, so I’m not sure they deserve the boost for prior-season consistency that oddsmakers are factoring in. This is also a strange and difficult trip for Northern Illinois. Guess: Utah minus-21.
UNR plus-24.5 at Oregon, over/under: 61.5. Too many bettors remain enamored with the Ducks, sending this line up as much as 3.5 points despite the team coming out of last week’s collapse against Auburn with a number of injuries. They could overwhelm the Wolf Pack with talent, but at this price, there’s only one way to look. Guess: UNR plus-24.5.
Stanford plus-1 at USC, over/under: 45. Too much variance in this game to feel strongly on either side after both teams came out of Week 1 with lengthy injury reports. The casualties quarterbacks K.J. Costello, who’s questionable for the Cardinal, and J.T. Daniels, who will miss the rest of the year for the Trojans. If Costello plays, Stanford will have a big edge. Guess: Stanford plus-1.
BYU plus-3 at Tennessee, over/under: 53. Tennessee suffered the worst loss of Week 1, a 38-30 defeat to Georgia State as 24.5-point favorites that’s every bit as ugly as it sounds. But the Volunteers were shaping up as a touchdown or more favorite against the Cougars before the embarrassment. This is therefore the betting market’s biggest over-reaction to Week 1. Play: Tennessee minus-3.
Tulane plus-18 at Auburn, over/under: 51.5. Terrible spot for the Tigers, which must come off of their primetime comeback win over Oregon to face the triple-option and one of the best-coached teams in the country. Don’t be surprised if LSU transfer Justin McMillan looks like the best quarterback on the field at times for Tulane. Play: Tulane plus-18.
Eastern Michigan plus-14.5 at Kentucky, over/under: 53.5. Eastern Michigan is light up front, which is a big issue considering the trenches are Kentucky’s strength. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has spoken so highly of his perceived-to-be rebuilding team that it might be time to start taking notice of the Wildcats as a potentially undervalued side. Lean: Kentucky minus-14.5.
Southern Mississippi plus-16 at Mississippi State, over/under: 50.5. Watch out now that Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead has a quarterback who can actually throw in Tommy Stevens. Buy signs are on the Bulldogs until further notice. Guess: Mississippi State minus-16.
Arkansas plus-7 at Ole Miss, over/under: 50.5. A few rogue full touchdown lines are still floating around after the spread was bet down at most shops. The Razorbacks might be worth grabbing at plus-7 as these teams look pretty evenly-matched and will throw everything they can at each other in a contest that will likely leave the loser as the SEC West cellar dweller. Guess: Arkansas plus-7.
West Virginia plus-14 at Missouri, over/under: 62. Everyone take a deep breath before continuing to bury these teams for their Week 1 performances. Missouri thoroughly outplayed Wyoming but was undone in a 37-31 loss by bad turnover luck, and West Virginia outlasted a tough FCS opponent in James Madison, pushing the spread in a 20-13 win. Both teams are bet-ons moving forward, making it unfortunate they play each other this week. Guess: West Virginia plus-14.
New Mexico State plus-55.5 at Alabama, over/under: 64.5. The Crimson Tide will absolutely cover this spread if they care to, but therein lies the problem. Alabama coach Nick Saban has routinely avoided embarrassing opponents by slowing down and turning his strategy vanilla at the end of blowouts. Guess: New Mexico State plus-55.5.
Charlotte plus-21.5 at Appalachian State, over/under: 53.5. The Mountaineers showed no growing pains under new coach Eliah Drinkwitz in a season-opening 42-7 victory over East Tennessee State, and as long as there are no growing pains, they could be a top 20 team in the nation. Zac Thomas is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation. Play: Appalachian State minus-21.5.
Liberty plus-13 at Louisiana-Lafayette, over/under: 66. Second-year coach Billy Napier has the Rajun Cajuns humming, bringing in a pair of highly-regarded recruiting classes and seeing results immediately. It’s a route Liberty’s Hugh Freeze hopes to follow but there wasn’t much evidence of it in an offensively anemic 24-0 loss to Syracuse as 19.5-point underdog. Guess: UL-Lafayette minus-13.
Wyoming minus-7 at Texas State, over/under: 47.5. Take last week’s divergent results out of it — Wyoming’s 37-31 upset over Missouri as 15-point underdogs and Texas State’s inability to move the ball in a 41-7 loss to Texas A&M as 33.5-point underdogs — and this spread is likely a couple points lower. Both those games had extenuating circumstances — Wyoming won because of turnovers and Texas A&M has a different class of players — that should be considered. Guess: Texas State plus-7.