Week 2 college football best bets

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 


Week 2 of the college football season is here, with another Saturday of terrific matchups.

Our handicappers Adam Burke, Tim Murray, Wes Reynolds and Scott Seidenberg are here to give you their best bets for nine games on the weekend's card.

Season record: 5-2-2 ATS

Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.


Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-13, 51.5)

Burke: Teams that lose to FCS opponents early in the season have that stink on them for a long period of time, which tends to create some mispricing in the betting market. We’ll see how long it lasts for Tulsa, as the Golden Hurricane dropped the season opener to UC Davis by a 19-17 score as a 21.5-point underdog. Perhaps this Tulsa team was looking ahead to an in-state matchup against one of two big brothers in the Sooner State.

Oklahoma State had nothing to look forward to and still narrowly beat Missouri State 23-16. It was an uninspiring performance from the Cowboys with just 5.4 yards per play and just a 33-yard edge. Missouri State had 23 first downs to just 16 for Oklahoma State. Recently, Okie State has become more of a running team, but the Cowboys had just 1.9 yards per carry in that game.

Oklahoma State didn’t lose to its FCS opponent and Tulsa did, but the Golden Hurricane had 7.8 YPP in the game. Three turnovers and 12 penalties hurt Tulsa. UC Davis had 4.9 YPP, so the Golden Hurricane nearly outgained the opposition by three full yards per play. Losing games like that doesn’t happen often.

The Cowboys were a team that I had calculated a full win lower than their posted win total in my preseason projections and last week’s game seemed to validate that position, even though it went down as a win. Tulsa played better than last week’s result and 13 points is too many here. This is a decent team that fell on the wrong side of the turnover battle last week and paid dearly for it.

Pick: Tulsa + 13

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-2.5, 52) at Syracuse Orange

Burke: Rutgers had a very impressive Week 1 win on the scoreboard, but not on the stat sheet. The Scarlet Knights scored 61 points against a Temple team that turned the ball over five times. Rutgers had 61 points on just 4.56 YPP. The Scarlet Knights had offensive scoring drives of 26, 2, 28, 22, 55, 64, 17 and 62 yards. The defense had a pick-six and a safety.

It was a really misleading box score and one that doesn’t show how much Rutgers had problems moving the ball. QB Noah Vedral was the leading rusher and only had 138 passing yards on 27 pass attempts. That has been a theme at Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights have finished under 5.0 YPP each of the last five seasons.

Syracuse could not move the ball through the air against Ohio, either. The Orange threw for just 100 yards, while pounding the rock down with an advantage at the line of scrimmage. It will be tougher to have one of those against Rutgers, even though the Scarlet Knights are a bottom-tier Big Ten team.

We should have a lot of running plays in this one. With limited potential for explosive plays, these teams will have to earn their yards … and that lends itself to an under.

Pick: Under 52

UAB Blazers at No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs (-24.5, 46)

Burke: This is the kind of game where you see a spread that is more than 50% of the total and your immediate lean is to the underdog. After looking deeper at this game, that lean became a pick. The Blazers had a few extra days to prep for this game after playing a standalone matchup on Wednesday against Jacksonville State. Georgia played a huge game against Clemson and came out on top to move up to the No. 2 spot in the AP Top 25.

UAB has an experienced quarterback in Tyler Johnston III who shouldn’t be intimidated between the hedges at Sanford Stadium. This is a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff, so it could be a little bit of a sluggish start for the fans and for the host Bulldogs, especially after such a marquee matchup last week. UAB was likely able to incorporate some prep for the UGA game while Georgia had to be completely focused on Clemson.

The Blazers were sixth nationally last season in yards per play allowed with 4.69. Georgia brings better athletes than UAB sees on a weekly basis in Conference USA, but this is a team that plays strong, disciplined football and will still make the Bulldogs earn every yard -- and every point. With a low-scoring expectation, it doesn’t seem like the Blazers need to score too many points to cover this number either.

Georgia starts SEC play next week. UAB has a chance to really make a statement here and a great head coach in Bill Clark who should have the team fully prepared. Georgia may have a hard time matching that intensity and this UAB defense is good enough to keep this game close.

Pick: UAB + 24.5

No. 21 Utah Utes (-7, 49) at BYU Cougars

Burke: The Utes were my favorite season win total over from a Power 5 conference coming into the season. My personal win total projections had Utah more than a win higher than the market number. This is a team that got a big boost at QB from Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer and Kyle Whittingham is one of the top coaches in college football in my estimation.

The Utes have won nine straight in the Holy War and have gone 6-3 ATS in that span. BYU didn’t look like a team capable of hanging with Utah last week. The Cougars only had 5.6 YPP against an Arizona defense that was terrible in five games last season and allowed 6.4 YPP in 2019. That was also an Arizona team with a brand-new coaching staff.

Arizona threw the ball effectively on the BYU defense in Week 1, something that Brewer and the Utes should be able to do as well. My personal power ratings have this game lined at Utah -10 after downgrading BYU a point for last week’s performance.

Running against Utah has been a futile endeavor the last several years, as the Utes have held opponents under four yards per carry in six of the last seven seasons. That puts a lot of pressure on Jaren Hall and we haven’t seen him in many spots like this, while Brewer is a multi-year starter. It looks like a big number, but Zach Wilson isn’t walking through that door for the Cougars.

Pick: Utah -7

Washington Huskies at Michigan Wolverines (-7, 48.5)

Murray: Week 2 is the ultimate overreaction spot in college football. After losing to FCS Montana as 22.5-point favorites, you have to ask yourself a question: Is Washington really that bad? The Huskies spent most of the offseason as a slight favorite for Saturday’s showdown in Ann Arbor, but after the Week 1 loss Washington is now a touchdown underdog. The Huskies are just the fifth ranked team to lose to an FCS team since 1978 (when Division I football split). The three most recent ranked teams to fall to an FCS foe won the next week by a touchdown or more. (Oddly enough, the lone team to lose the next week after falling to an FCS opponent was Michigan in 2007.)

We do need to face the facts, though: Washington was bad last Saturday. After a touchdown drive to open the game, the Huskies’ next 12 drives did not produce a point. Washington did not get inside Montana’s 30-yard line on any of those drives. Washington was missing its top three wide receivers last weekend -- Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, and Jalen McMillan -- but that’s no excuse when facing Montana. QB Dylan Morris threw three interceptions. The strength of the Huskies is defense this year with eight starters back from last year’s team. Washington held Montana to just 232 total yards. Michigan cruised against Western Michigan in Week 1, but lost its top WR Ronnie Bell for the season in the 47-14 victory.  

Washington head coach Jimmy Lake did not mince words earlier this week about the embarrassing loss to Montana. “We should not have played the way we played on Saturday night and that’s why I feel so bad for our fans, for our supporters,” Lake said. “They should be disappointed. They should be pissed, just like we are. All we can do now is move forward here and make amends.”

First step? Covering on Saturday night at the Big House. As one of the preseason favorites to win the Pac 12, the Huskies can’t be that bad. Expect a better effort from Washington. 

Pick: Washington + 7

Reynolds: The Huskies were one of six FBS teams to be upset in their opener by an FCS club. In fact, “U-Dub” was the largest favorite (-22.5) on the board to lose outright and did so against Montana, despite holding the Grizzlies to only 232 yards of total offense. After scoring on the opening drive, Washington never scored in the final 55 minutes of play. Morris threw three picks and the Huskies only rushed for 65 yards (2.7 yards per carry). The word “unimaginative” has been used frequently to describe offensive coordinator John Donovan’s pro-style attack. However, Washington was down its top four wide receivers, which allowed Montana to stack the box and key on the run. 

Meanwhile, Michigan clearly overperformed the expectations of the betting market that came against them by easily dispatching of Western Michigan, one of the favorites in the MAC, 47-14. The Wolverines did most of the damage on the ground with 335 yards on 43 carries (7.8 YPC). Returning starting quarterback Cade McNamara was efficient (9-for-11, 136 yards, 2 TD) and true freshman J.J. McCarthy also threw for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, it was not a day without tumult as Bell, who had a 76-yard touchdown, was carted off the field with a leg injury and is now out for the season. 

Week 2 is always fascinating in college football because some reactions to Week 1 results are justified and some are just overreactions. DraftKings Sportsbook opened this game at Michigan -1.5 over the summer, while Circa Sports was first to market this past Sunday to post Michigan -4. Early action came on Michigan from sharp bettors driving this up to -7. However, this strikes me as wiseguys getting out ahead of the number to potentially go over the top with some buyback on the underdog with the better defense.

Pick: Washington + 7

Illinois Fighting Illini at Virginia Cavaliers (-10, 55)

Murray: The start of the Bret Bielema era in Champaign has been a wild ride. The Illini opened the season with a 30-22 win over Nebraska as a 7-point underdog. Last weekend, in a classic letdown spot, UTSA stunned Illinois, 37-30. The Roadrunners closed as 4.5-point underdogs. UTSA is one of the favorites to win the C-USA this year.

Now, Illinois hits the road for the first time this season and is a 10-point underdog against Virginia. Illini starting quarterback Brandon Peters left the Nebraska game early with a shoulder injury and has not played since. As of Monday, Peters had not been cleared for contact but was going through active drills. If Peters returns, he is a slight upgrade over Art Sitkowski. The Illini running game should also receive a nice punch back with the return of Chase Brown. Brown rushed for 540 yards last year and was not available last weekend. Running back Chase Hayden could also be back for the Illini.

Virginia crushed FCS William & Mary 43-0 last weekend to open the season. QB Brennan Armstrong was terrific in the win, throwing for 336 yards and four touchdowns.

Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET in Charlottesville, so it could be a bit of a sleepy start to the game. With health improving in the backfield for the Illini, expect Bielema’s squad to keep the game close. Illinois opened as a 13-point underdog at Circa and money quickly moved the line down. 

Pick: Illinois + 10

Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones (-4.5, 46)

Seidenberg: It’s the first time there will be a Top 25 matchup in The Battle for the Cy-Hawk trophy. Iowa looked very impressive in its blowout win over Indiana last week, while Iowa State had a sluggish start against Northern Iowa. Both teams have lofty expectations this year, and that could add to the intensity of this rivalry game.

The Hawkeyes defense was dominant against the Hoosiers. They were all over Michael Penix, forcing three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). And they allowed just 77 yards on the ground, granted, the game was at hand by halftime. I expect Breese Hall to struggle to get going against this defense. Brock Purdy was fine last week and so was Spencer Petras, but whichever QB can convert the big-play chance down the field without turning the ball over will win this game.

Iowa feels good about its running game after Goodson ripped off the long one early against Indiana, so expect them to try and establish him early again. Iowa’s defense is hungry after two pick-sixes last week. I believe this game will be played tightly and I see a low-scoring intense affair decided by a FG or less. Iowa has won five straight in this series and seven of the last 10; the three games Iowa State won were all decided by a FG. I’ll gladly take the 4.5 in a game Iowa could very easily win outright. 

Pick: Iowa + 4.5

Memphis Tigers at Arkansas State Red Wolves (-6, 63.5)

Seidenberg: Butch Jones brings a ton of experience to this Red Wolves sideline. He spent the last three seasons as an assistant on Nick Saban’s staff. It is his first taste of the Paint Bucket Bowl, but he is certainly no stranger to rivalry games. Arkansas State has a two-quarterback rotation now with James Blackman and Layne Hatcher. If the name Blackman sounds familiar, it’s because he was the QB at Florida State under three different head coaches. He has the talent to take over a game. Jones said both Blackman and Hatcher will continue to split time. Preparing for two quarterbacks is a difficult task for any coaching staff.

Memphis will roll out true freshman Seth Henigan, who was not supposed to be the starter going into the season; it was going to be Arizona State transfer Grant Gunnell. Gunnell won’t be ready for a few more weeks so Henigan has the pressure of knowing he will eventually be losing his job. I see both teams being able to trade points. I think the QB shuffling for Arkansas State will help keep the Memphis defense at bay and there could be some big plays made down the field due to missed assignments. The Red Wolves are certainly live ‘dogs in this one.

Memphis is 0-4 ATS on the road under HC Ryan Silverfield while Arkansas State is 4-1 ATS in its last five September games and 8-1 ATS as a nonconference home dog. 

Pick: Arkansas State + 6

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