College football Week 2 storylines: Biggest games, Heisman Trophy watch and College Football Playoff picture

By Zachary Cohen  ( Senior Editor) 

September 4, 2023 02:14 PM

Everything you need to know before betting college football in Week 2 

Week 1 of the college football season is in the books, and it was one that definitely could have used a little more drama. Outside of Colorado upsetting TCU and Florida State whooping LSU, there wasn't much to write home about. However, things should be a bit more exciting in Week 2, and I'm here to look at everything before it all begins. Each week, I'll do my best to point you in the direction of the games you need to be watching. I'll also try and get you up to speed on everything you need to know with regards to the Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff races. So, keep reading for my Week 2 musings. This slate is headlined by a meeting between Texas and Alabama, which should be very fun to watch. 

MORE: Check out our Pro Picks page for college football best bets from all of our analysts

Week 2 Games of the Week

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-7, 50.5) at NC State Wolfpack

Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman has already made this Fighting Irish offense more explosive. Notre Dame scored 42 points against Navy in Week 0 and followed it up with a 56-point performance against Tennessee State in Week 1. Hartman has thrown for 445 yards with six touchdowns and no picks, completing 82.5% of his passes in the process. But this NC State defense will test him in ways that the others couldn’t. Last year, NC State had a top-15 scoring defense. The team did lose quite a bit of talent from that group, but Dave Doeren’s defenses seem to always be good. Last year, Hartman struggled against the Wolfpack, throwing three interceptions in a 30-21 loss in Raleigh. This year’s game will be played in the same environment. Will an improved supporting cast help him turn things around? These are the types of games the Fighting Irish can’t afford to lose in order to achieve their long-term goals. But Brennan Armstrong and the Wolfpack will put up a fight here.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Colorado Buffaloes (-3, 58)

Well, a lot of people were wrong about Coach Prime and the Buffaloes. Colorado was a 21-point underdog against TCU last week, but the Buffaloes went into Fort Worth and came away with a 45-42 win. Shedeur Sanders was fantastic in that game, and Travis Hunter looks like a two-way star. Now, Colorado will be taken seriously the rest of the way, and the Buffs’ meeting with the Cornhuskers will be must-see TV. Will Nebraska recover from an embarrassing loss in which the team completely choked against Minnesota? One thing’s for sure: Jeff Sims and the Cornhuskers offense can’t possibly look worse than they did in that game. They should be able to move the ball against this Colorado defense, and the Huskers are a better defensive team than the Horned Frogs. But will that matter in what is sure to be an electric environment in Colorado’s home opener? Boulder is about to be bumpin’.

Ole Miss Rebels (-7, 62.5) at Tulane Green Wave

I know there are some bigger games on this weekend’s slate, but this is the one I’m looking forward to the most. I just don’t think Tulane was receiving enough love heading into the year. Willie Fritz’s team is fresh off a 12-win season and beat USC in the Cotton Bowl. Coming off a year like that, there should have been more buzz surrounding the program heading into 2023 — especially with quarterback Michael Pratt back to lead the offense. Pratt threw for 294 yards with four touchdowns and no picks against South Alabama last week, and the Wave rolled to a 37-17 win in that game. There were quite a few people that thought the Jaguars had a chance to win that game outright, but Tulane outclassed them in every way imaginable. Now, the Green Wave host Lane Kiffin and the Rebels in what could be a very high-scoring game. And I think Tulane is a live’ dog here.

Texas A&M Aggies (-4, 49.5) at Miami Hurricanes

I was higher than most on the Hurricanes heading into this season, and I felt really good about what I saw in their 38-3 Week 1 win over Miami Ohio. I don’t think the hiring of Lance Guidry was talked about enough in the offseason. Guidry oversaw an elite Marshall defense last year and he’s now working with high-level athletes in Coral Gables. It showed immediately in Week 1, with the RedHawks only totaling 215 yards against the Hurricanes. Now, it’s hard not to expect a very competitive game here. Miami still has a lot to prove before being taken seriously as a player in the ACC, but Texas A&M doesn’t exactly come into this game without question marks. How will quarterback Conner Weigman and this Bobby Petrino-led offense look against real competition? We’re going to find out very quickly.

Iowa Hawkeyes (-4, 36.5) at Iowa State Cyclones

I’d be lying if I said I was personally excited about this one. I’m normally all about the Cy-Hawk series, but the offense in this game is likely to be nonexistent — not that it wasn’t in previous years. And overall, it sucks knowing that Iowa State lost so much talent because of the gambling scandal. However, I’m aware of how big this rivalry is, so it had to make the Games of the Week list. And it will still be fun to see whether Iowa State can win in back-to-back years. Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes had won six in a row before losing 10-7 in Iowa City last year. Now, Matt Campbell’s group has a little momentum and should be aided by the fired-up fans in Ames. Also, quarterback Rocco Becht did some nice things in last week’s win over Northern Iowa, so not all hope is lost with the Cyclones offense.

Texas Longhorns at Alabama Crimson Tide (-7.5, 55.5)

A lot of people love Texas’ chances of winning the Big 12 this season, and that would naturally give the team a shot at making the College Football Playoff. However, that lofty goal comes down to the outcome of this game, as the Longhorns can use a signature win like this in order to pad their resume. The problem is that the Crimson Tide are still one of the best teams in the SEC. And while Kirby Smart has cracked the code and figured out a way to beat Nick Saban, the 71-year-old has still dominated his former assistants in the past. That means that Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian is fighting an uphill battle heading into this one. Also, without Bijan Robinson around to dominate games out of the backfield, Texas is still figuring things out a bit on offense. That might be hard to do against an Alabama defense that looks to be elite this season. The Tide are also playing this game in Tuscaloosa, where they rarely lose games.

Oregon Ducks (-6.5, 66.5) at Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech’s Week 1 loss to Wyoming took a little shine off this Week 2 matchup, but it's still possible the Ducks are in for a game here. The Red Raiders definitely disappointed in Week 1, but they still returned 17 starters and were considered a sleeper to win the Big 12. Another interesting element heading into this one is that Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough used to play for Oregon, where many believed he’d develop into a future first-round draft pick. Now, Shough will be tasked with out-dueling Bo Nix. That might prove to be a difficult task with Oregon coming off an 81-7 beatdown of Portland State. Nix threw for 287 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in that game. And Oregon rushed for a total of 348 yards. Do the Red Raiders have the firepower to keep up with that? And can head coach Joey McGuire get his defense up for the task of coming away with a few timely stops? I’m not as confident after the Wyoming game.

College Football Futures

Heisman Trophy Watch

A lot of people were worried that Caleb Williams would run away with the Heisman Trophy again, and it’s still too early to rule that out. Williams is still +450 after throwing for 319 yards with five touchdowns and no picks against Nevada. He has now thrown for 597 yards with nine touchdowns and no picks this season, and he has made some Mahomes-like throws to dazzle fans and voters. Overall, if he continues to play this well, he’ll likely win it for a second year in a row. As unfair as it might be, it feels like he started the year in first and everybody else is chasing him. But some of his peers made strong first impressions in Week 1.

Michael Penix Jr. is somebody that I didn’t mention in last week’s column, but he is now second on the board (+800) after having thrown for 450 yards with five touchdowns and no picks against what should be a good Boise State defense. Penix Jr. doesn’t quite make the plays that scream “Heisman moment” but he is incredibly accurate and always seems to make the right reads. He’ll continue to put up huge numbers in an offense that always has wideouts unmarked down the field.

Jordan Travis, my personal best bet to win the award, also put on a show in Week 1. In the biggest game of the weekend, Travis led Florida State to a 45-24 win over LSU. That’s a game that could have legitimate College Football Playoff implications and Travis threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards and a score. It was a remarkable performance from one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, and it saw him go from +1400 to +1000. Better days could also be ahead, as that LSU defense isn’t nearly as bad as some of the ones the Seminoles will face moving forward.

Jalen Milroe is another player that performed at a very high level in Week 1, and he’s another that I have been touting for quite some time. I gave Milroe away as a +6000 bet to win the award in our 2023 VSiN College Football Betting Guide, and I also tweeted that people should take him at +4000 or +5000 directly after he was named Alabama’s starting quarterback. Milroe ended up being +2500 by the time kickoff rolled around, and he’s now down to +2000 after lighting up Middle Tennessee. Milroe went 13 for 18 for 194 yards and threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Blue Raiders. He also rushed for 48 yards and two scores, and his ability to use his legs is a huge part of the reason I think he’s very live in this market.

Two other players that I need to talk about before moving on are Colorado’s Sanders and Hunter. Both players were north of +20000 odds heading into Week 1, but they both went off in an unexpected upset win over TCU. Sanders threw for 510 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, which is actually in line with what we heard about him during camp. Meanwhile, Hunter had a key interception in the red zone on the defensive side of the ball, and he also hauled in 11 catches for 119 yards on offense.

Sanders and Hunter are now listed at +3000 heading into Colorado’s Week 2 meeting with Nebraska, and it isn’t hard to figure out why. I still think the Buffaloes won’t be good enough to support a Heisman winner, but I was wrong about Colorado heading into Week 1. And I do think that Hunter has a slight chance of being in the conversation at the end of the year. His ability to make plays on both sides of the ball could make him college football’s version of Shohei Ohtani. If the Buffaloes win eight or so games this year, how can you make an argument that anybody was more valuable to their team than a guy that played at a high level for an entire game, rather than just half of it?

College Football Playoff Picture

We quickly learned that Florida State is a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. The Seminoles were a little fortunate to be playing the Tigers without Maason Smith last week, but a blowout win over LSU is impressive no matter what. The Seminoles need to clean up their tackling in the secondary, as that really hurt them at times in Week 1. But Florida State's offense is as explosive as anyone's, and the defense came up with some big stops against Jayden Daniels and a very good LSU offense. 

This week, we'll learn a lot from what happens in that meeting between Texas and Alabama. If Milroe is up for the challenge in a matchup like this one, there won't be many reasons to worry about Alabama's offense. It'll also be interesting to see how the Crimson Tide hold up defensively in that game. People have really written off Saban's team, but I still think there's tremendous upside any time you have a roster this talented. I also believe Alabama will have a chip on its shoulder all year long. That's scary to think about. 

One team to watch this week that's a little off the beaten path is Utah. The Utes were able to easily defeat Florida in Week 1, which was big considering Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe were sidelined. Now, they'll be expected to go on the road and take care of business against a Baylor team that lost to Texas State last week. The Bears will also be without starting quarterback Blake Shapen against the Utes. The reason this is all important is that this game with Baylor looked like it could trip Utah up early in the year. With that no longer being likely, the Utes have some time to get healthy before a Week 4 showdown with UCLA. If they have Rising and Kuithe back by then, they'll suddenly love their chances of winning the Pac-12 and doing something special this season. They're a lot more talented than people realize. 

I'll also be watching Ohio State pretty closely over the next few weeks. While Georgia and Michigan easily won their Week 1 games, the Buckeyes looked miserable against Indiana. If Ryan Day can't get his offense fixed in a hurry, can we really consider Ohio State a title contender? 

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