College football Week 2 picks from Steve Makinen

September 7, 2023 02:55 PM

Steve Makinen is our main numbers guy here at VSiN, and his weekly best bets are a “greatest hits” compilation of system matches, betting trends analysis, and his proprietary power ratings, which can only be found right here at Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits | College Football Power Ratings

(odds as of September 7, 2:54 p.m. PT)



Illinois at Kansas (-2)

Matchup Analysis

Last season, Kansas was one of the teams that wound up with a losing record despite outscoring opponents. A lot of that was due to the fact that QB Jalon Daniels missed five games due to injury. In the games he missed, the offense dropped off about 10 PPG.

This season, the Jayhawks bring back 17 starters, and even without Daniels last week, they rolled to a 48-17 win over FCS Missouri State. He is expected to return for Friday’s contest, and that will be a huge boost to underrated head coach Lance Leipold’s team.

Illinois meanwhile, was one of the go-against winners on the Week 1 stability mismatches, as the Illini were nearly upset at home by Toledo. They survived a 30-28 decision by kicking the game-winning field goal in the final seconds. It was obvious that their defense wasn’t going to be able to live up to the standards set a year ago. That’s what happens when you have to replace a bunch of talented starters and the coordinator. If head coach Bret Bielema’s team thought Toledo and QB Dequan Finn were tough, wait till they get a load of Daniels.

Play: I like Kansas anywhere up to about 4.5



Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-7.5)

Matchup Analysis

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both cruised to opening week wins over FCS foes last Saturday, with the Bearcats doing it perhaps in more impressive fashion, putting up 66 points and 667 yards of offense on Eastern Kentucky. It was their first game in the post-Luke Fickell era, and it may have bought up a point or two on the line here for the upcoming matchup versus Pittsburgh. Going on the road to face Pitt at the stadium formerly known as Heinz Field is a far different animal. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s team brings back only half its starters but has a veteran QB in Boston College transfer Phil Jurkovec, and overall seems like the team more ready for this matchup. Bearcats didn’t show their true 2023 colors last week. This week they do.

Play: Take Pittsburgh -7.5 and anything within +/-2 points.

Tulsa at Washington (-35.5)

Matchup Analysis

Washington shook off a slow start last week versus Boise State to eventually roll to a 56-19 win. Quarterback Michael Penix was phenomenal for the Huskies, as expected, as their offense put up 490 yards through the air. Tulsa meanwhile, faced one of the worst teams in FCS level and allowed 250 yards in all to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

While the Golden Hurricane still won comfortably, this trip to Pac-12 country is an altogether different challenge. Especially for a first-year head coach with just nine starters back. The line here tells a big story, as at 35.5, the experts are almost daring bettors to take Tulsa.

This one has the potential to get ugly, as teams with low stability scores that win in Week 1 are usually overlooked as potential rout victims the next time out. With a number like 35.5, it feels like oddsmakers are baiting bettors to take the dog. If Washington puts up 59 points again, how does Tulsa even stay within 40?

Play: Take a determined Washington team -35.5

UNLV at Michigan (-36)

Matchup Analysis

Michigan did not qualify as a stability system play last week versus East Carolina and responded with a lackluster effort in a 30-3 win. How can a 30-3 win be considered lackluster you ask? Well, the oddsmakers expected a 45-9 decision based on the numbers they set for the contest. The Wolverines actually seemed more interested in making a statement about the suspension of head coach Jim Harbaugh than playing the game.

I expect a more focused effort this week against a UNLV team that comes off a 44-14 win over Bryant, a game that was much easier than thought. The Runnin’ Rebels earned their name by rushing for 283 yards. It won’t be that easy against powerful Michigan though, especially at the Big House. If UNLV can’t run the football, it won’t score more than 10 points. This is a tall task for an inexperienced, unstable team. Wolverines roll.

Play: Take Michigan to win big, with and point spread variance not coming into play

Appalachian State at North Carolina (-15.5)

Matchup Analysis

North Carolina looked very strong last week in turning back South Carolina in one of the featured games of opening weekend. Could this week’s home contest versus Appalachian State offer the chance for a letdown? Certainly, it could, but one of the main factors that this stability analysis highlights is that experienced and stable teams are better at dealing with such situations.

ASU has only half of its starters back for 2023, and its defense struggled in containing Gardner Webb last week. How much harder will it be to defend against QB Drake Maye and the rest of the talented Tar Heels offense? Head coach Mack Brown’s team has the talent and the veteran experience to not get tripped up here, and I think this game won’t be competitive into the fourth quarter, which is the point most favorites need to worry about getting beat.

Play: UNC puts up 40+ and wins by 17 or more

New Mexico State (+13) at Liberty

Matchup Analysis

Former Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze’s offense got off to a huge start at Auburn. His old team did reasonably well, putting up 34 points on Bowling Green in a 10-point win. Realistically though, the past few years’ Flames teams would have probably gotten 50. That is of concern as they get ready to host New Mexico State, a team already playing its third game on Saturday.

What is also of concern is that Liberty allowed 191 yards rushing and 6.2 yards per rush to the Falcons. NMSU has averaged 554+ yards of balanced offense in its first two contests, a win and a loss. Head coach Jerry Kill’s team is a returning bowl team that brought back nine offense starters, including QB Diego Pavia. The Aggies' offense should help them compete in a game that stacks up as one of their tougher challenges of the season.

Play: Take NMSU as anything over a DD dog

UAB at Georgia Southern (-5.5)

Matchup Analysis

UAB and new head coach Trent Dilfer are one of the 2023 teams that sport a stability score of 0 heading into the season. The Blazers had a fortunate reprieve last week by opening against North Carolina A&T, an opponent they handled comfortably. It gets a lot tougher this week as they travel to take of Georgia Southern.

Head coach Clay Helton’s team has 12 starters back and brought in former Tulsa QB Davis Brin through the transfer portal. The Eagles rolled in their opener, holding The Citadel to 14 yards through the air in a 34-0 win. This may seem like a relatively even matchup on paper, but stability scores of 0 are automatic play against teams for me early.

Play: Georgia Southern rolls by 10 or more

North Texas at Florida International (+14)

Matchup Analysis

Mother Nature provided what was supposed to be an edge for North Texas against Cal last week, but the stability edge the Bears enjoyed outweighed that aspect by far as they capitalized and added a notch to the win column for our system. UNT is back on the short end of another stability mismatch this week against Florida International, a team already playing its third game of the season.

The Panthers are 1-1 SU and ATS but playing far better defensively than offensively in the early going. Perhaps that can change this week, as the Mean Green allowed 58 points and 669 yards to Cal. For as bad as FIU has been, I ask myself here…does an unstable program coming off a 37-point home loss deserve anywhere near a 14-point road favorite line?

Play: Take FIU here at anything in doubled-digits

Texas at Alabama (-7)

Matchup Analysis

Does something feel fishy about the line for Week 2’s top clash between Texas and Alabama? Alabama beat Texas by 1 last year in a game that was as close as the score indicated. Now, on paper, it looks like Texas is better and Alabama may be a little worse than in 2022. So why are the Tide still the TD favorite?

Well, for one, Alabama typically is unbeatable at home, and comes in on a 17-8 ATS home run overall, and 17-8 ATS in their last 25 home games versus ranked teams. The trends also indicate that Texas has been exactly the opposite on the road overall, and on the road against ranked teams (3-12 ATS in the last 15). There is also a system from the analytics report this week that shows when two ranked teams square off, home single-digit favorites or underdogs are on a 38-14-2 ATS run.

Despite the fact that Texas is actually a stability play this week, I’m going to side with head coach Nick Saban’s team, as they seem to have a chip on their shoulder about this game, and I like what I saw last week from their offense and new QB Jalen Milroe.

Play: Take Alabama -7 and anything single digits

Stanford at USC (-29)

Matchup Analysis

There are times when a stability mismatch goes against some of the stronger principles I use when wagering. Last week, it was quite obvious that there was too much unfound hype going with Hawaii in their home opener against Stanford. The line moved from the Cardinal favored by a TD at opener to around -3 at kickoff. It was still Pac-12 versus Mountain West mind you. It wasn’t more than a quarter into the game that I regretted making the play, despite the “stability” margin.

For this week, however, I think Stanford’s better-than-expected performance is allowing us to get an underpriced USC team on the system. Prior to last week, this number would have been well into the 30’s. Now, with bettors thinking the Cardinal “aren’t that bad,” the line has settled at -29. Guess what? I still think Stanford will be really bad this year, and USC is WAY better. The Trojans are scoring 61 PPG in their first two outings. They are also far more experienced. After Stanford allowed 355 yards through the air to Hawaii, I have a hard time seeing their defense get the USC offense off the field even a single time. Why wouldn’t this game be a rout?

Play: Take USC wins by 35 or more

Auburn at California (+6.5)

Matchup Analysis

There are 11 games this weekend in which there are Power Five level road favorites playing in what would be considered tough and unfamiliar environments. In my opinion, I would speculate that at least five or six of them could be in some trouble, as these are tough situations to beat. One of the teams I look at that could be upended is Auburn.

Obviously, Tigers’ fans have to be thrilled with what they saw last week in the blowout win over UMass. Head coach Hugh Freeze’s new offense fared well, particularly in the ground game. However, Auburn rand the ball about 60% of the time last week and did it successfully.

Typically, Freeze’s teams have been the opposite lately, choosing to pass nearly 60% of the time. They will have to do so this week against Cal, particularly if the Golden Bears have the success at the line of scrimmage they did last week in the rout of North Texas. The Bears held UNT to 41 yards and 1.5 YPR, while gaining 357 yards and 6.4 YPR themselves offensively. This is a difficult spot and a difficult matchup against what appears to be an improved Cal team.

Play: Take the home dog here on anything over 4.5

For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 2 College Football Analytics Report.

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