Expert College Football Best Bets: Picks and predictions for Week 2

By Zachary Cohen  ( Senior Editor) 

September 9, 2023 04:14 AM

Week 2 college football best bets and predictions

The college football season is officially under way and VSiN is pumping out more content for it than ever. All of our college football stories and resources are available on this one page, where you'll also get best bets from all of my incredibly talented colleagues. But you'll have to keep reading this one to get my college football best bets every week. Through two weeks, I'm 7-5 for +1.67 units and I'm hoping to get better as the season progresses. That said, keep reading for the five plays I couldn't resist on the Week 2 slate. Also, make sure you periodically check back in here, as I often add plays at the bottom of the story. 

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

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at NC State Wolfpack

NC State’s Week 1 win over UConn might have been a little too close for comfort, but I’m not sure the final box score tells the whole story. While the Huskies rushed for 160 yards and 6.2 yards per carry against the Wolfpack, a lot of that came from a play in which UConn running back Victor Rosa broke a 71-yard touchdown run. That play was a little fluky and made NC State’s defensive numbers look a lot worse than they were, even though they were still pretty strong. If you take it away, the Huskies rushed for only 3.6 yards per carry. That performance would have been closer to what was expected from a Wolfpack defense that allowed fewer than 20.0 points per game in back-to-back seasons heading into this one. And I generally do believe NC State’s defense will be elite again this year. With that in mind, I think this defense will present some problems for the Notre Dame offense.

Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman has looked great in two games with Notre Dame thus far, throwing for 445 yards with six touchdowns and no picks. He has really opened up the Fighting Irish’s vertical passing game, but those games came against Navy and Tennessee State. Those are two miserable football teams, and this step up in competition will make things more difficult on Hartman and his teammates. Hartman also happened to have a three-pick game in a 30-21 loss to the Wolfpack in Raleigh last year, so he has had trouble with this scheme and environment in the past. I imagine he won’t completely put those troubles behind him, even with an improved supporting cast around him.

It's also hard to ignore the impact that Brennan Armstrong’s legs might have on this NC State offense. Armstrong might not be a better pocket passer than Devin Leary was, but he’s a better improviser and we saw that on display against UConn. Armstrong only threw for 155 yards against the Huskies, but he rushed for 96 yards and two scores in that game. That dual-threat ability will have Marcus Freeman’s defense scrambling quite a bit. Notre Dame’s defensive line was one of the biggest question marks the defense faced heading into this season, so I think the Wolfpack will be able to run rather effectively here. And if Armstrong’s legs also draw some attention from the Fighting Irish linebackers, NC State should be cooking with gas.

All in all, I think NC State is a better football team that it is being given credit for. And I think the Wolfpack will prove that this weekend. I’m playing this safe and taking the points, especially with it being over a touchdown in most spots. But I do feel NC State is a live ‘dog here.

Bet: NC State +7.5 (-110 - Would play to +7) 

Texas A&M Aggies at Miami Hurricanes

I was higher on this Miami team than most heading into the year, mostly because I have a lot of respect for new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry. I never thought talent was the issue with the Hurricanes last year, but I didn’t like the coaching staff they had in place. Now, rather than having big names calling the shots, Miami has two proven commodities working with a collection of high-level talent. And it showed in Week 1, as Miami earned a 38-3 win over Miami Ohio as a 16.5-point home favorite. The Hurricanes racked up 493 yards of total offense in that one, while allowing only 215 total yards on the other side of the ball.

Texas A&M will undoubtedly be a much better test in determining whether Miami is legit or not. But I do think the Hurricanes will be up for the challenge here. And I think Texas A&M’s question marks on the offensive side of the ball are a big part of that. I know Conner Weigman seems like a big upgrade compared to what the Aggies have had at the quarterback position in the past, and he did throw for five touchdowns in a Week 1 win over New Mexico. But I still don’t believe in this Texas A&M passing game, and that really goes back to Jimbo Fisher being the head coach. This situation isn’t all that different from the one in Clemson, as Fisher brought in Bobby Petrino as his big offensive coordinator hire. However, it doesn’t seem like Fisher is truly giving Petrino the reins. At some point, that will come to a head. And I do think Guidry will do a good job of getting his defense prepped for this game. And the home crowd, which should be amped up for this game, could make things uncomfortable for the Aggies offense.

The big question here is whether Tyler Van Dyke can play well enough to keep Miami in this game. But if something was clear in Week 1, it’s that Dawson isn’t asking for much from his quarterback. Van Dyke has a much-improved offensive line blocking for him and he’s being tasked with quickly distributing the ball to Miami’s playmakers. He did a nice job of doing so in Week 1 and I think he can deliver a solid performance in Week 2.

This is a game in which Texas A&M’s talent could be somewhat overwhelming for Miami. But I don’t think the Hurricanes are lacking for high-level athletes. And I think they’ll have a much better plan in place than their opponents. That should give them a chance of winning this game late, which is why I like taking the points. It’s also hard to ignore that the Aggies are 7-13 straight-up when playing on the road under Fisher.

Bet: Miami +4.5 (-115 - Would play to +3.5) 

Temple Owls at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Temple’s 24-21 win over Akron in Week 1 wasn’t all that inspiring, but I’m still relatively high on the Owls this year. Temple brought back 16 starters from a year ago, including quarterback E.J. Warner, Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s son, and nine members of last year’s defense. That’s generally what you look for in a team that is going to make a big leap from year to year, and I think Temple has what it takes to finish this season with a winning record. And I strongly believe the Owls can give the Scarlet Knights a scare in Week 2.

I know Rutgers blew out Northwestern in a 24-7 win in Week 1, but the Wildcats don’t have legitimate Big Ten talent and there was nothing to be excited about with that team heading into 2023. Things were bleak before Pat Fitzgerald’s firing, and they got a lot darker afterwards. Now, Rutgers faces a team with legitimate hopes and expectations, and I think they’ll have a much tougher time putting the Owls away.

The thing I love about the Owls in this matchup is that they have a much better secondary than they have had in recent seasons. This Temple team has length and speed in the defensive backs room, and that could frustrate the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers’ passing game is going to be one of the worst ones in the Big Ten this year, as Gavin Wimsatt isn’t much of a thrower. And he doesn’t have a ton of noteworthy weapons either. Without an explosive passing game, it can be hard to blow teams out in college football. And that’s especially true when you throw in the fact that Warner can sling it. Last week, the sophomore threw for 292 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, and he won’t fear this Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights are very strong up front, but they’re attackable in the back.

It's also hard to ignore that these teams met a year ago, when Rutgers earned a 16-14 road win over Temple. That Owls team was a lot worse than this one, so they’re going to come into this one believing they can pull off the upset. Temple also happens to be 6-4 ATS when playing as an underdog under head coach Stan Drayton.

Bet: Temple +9.5 (-112 - Would play to +7.5) 

UCLA Bruins at San Diego State Aztecs

This total is a weird one because the Aztecs are known mostly as a defensive team. But San Diego State did give up 28 points against a miserable Idaho State team last week. So, this defense is burnable, and I’d expect the Bruins to put up a lot of points in this game. And that’ll especially be the case if freshman Dante Moore plays most of this game. UCLA gave Ethan Garbers the first shot at taking the starting job, but he struggled against Coastal Carolina in Week 1. Then, Moore came in and immediately gave the Bruins passing game a spark. He put two balls right on the money for star wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant, and that connection should be great for Over bettors in Week 2.

I’m also not completely sold on the UCLA defense. The Bruins made Grayson McCall uncomfortable in Week 1, but the Chanticleers’ undisciplined offensive line play didn’t help. And McCall is also lacking familiarity with new head coach Tim Beck’s offensive system. That caused him to cough up the ball a lot more than expected. I wouldn’t expect San Diego State quarterback Jalen Mayden to look quite as lost in this Week 2 game as McCall did, and his ability to run the football should also help the Aztecs march down the field in this one.

For what it’s worth, the Over is also 3-2 in the five games that San Diego State has played against Pac-12 competition under head coach Brady Hoke. Last year, a solid Aztecs defense gave up an average of 36.5 points per game in meetings with Arizona and Utah. So, the step up in competition might be a little too much for San Diego State’s defense. That has to make you somewhat confident in UCLA’s ability to hang a big number on the scoreboard here. The question is whether San Diego State’s offense will contribute to the Over. And I think it will.

Bet: Over 48.5 (-110 - Would play to 49) 

Oklahoma State Cowboys at Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State’s Week 1 win over Southern Utah was a tale of two halves. The Sun Devils had a 21-7 lead at halftime, and star freshman Jaden Rashada looked extremely comfortable executing new head coach Kenny Dillingham’s offense. However, a dust storm ended up delaying the game and really impacting the way the second half was played. Arizona State narrowly escaped with a 24-21 win, but it would have been nice to see a talented Sun Devils team win a bit easier. Still, there’s a lot to like about this group and Rashada looks ready to go immediately. And weather won’t be an issue for the Sun Devils on Saturday, with the forecast calling for nothing but intense heat.

Overall, I’m high on what Arizona State can do offensively. The Sun Devils have a solid group of receivers, a good workhorse running back in Sacramento State transfer Cameron Skattebo and a brilliant play-caller in Dillingham. With that said, I don’t think the team will have any trouble moving the ball against a Cowboys defense that was miserable last year and doesn’t show too many signs of improving heading in 2023. The Pokes also looked awful offensively against a lousy Central Arkansas team in Week 1, which isn’t that surprising considering dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders transferred to Ole Miss after last season. This Oklahoma State offense is nothing like some of the elite ones we’ve seen under Mike Gundy in the past, and that makes this a very winnable game for Arizona State.

It’s also never easy having to travel to the other side of the country for a game, especially in a rowdy environment. And until the Sun Devils give fans a reason to stop caring, there’s buzz surrounding this program for the first time in a while. So, there should be a great atmosphere in Tempe for this one, and the fans will be hungry to see their team try and pick up the first signature win in the Dillingham era. Once again, I’m taking he points in this spot. But I do think Arizona State wins this game. I might add a position on the moneyline.

Bet: Arizona State +3.5 (-108 - Would play to +3) 

Added Best Bets

Texas Tech +7 (-130) vs. Oregon

Rice +8 (-110) vs. Houston

Cal +5 (-110) vs. Auburn

More College Football 

CFB Games of the Week, Heisman Trophy Watch and College Football Playoff Picture

College Football Odds

College Football Betting Splits

Steve Makinen's College Football Team Power Ratings

VSiN College Football Betting Podcast

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