Top Betting Options for Week 2: Highlighting Our Experts’ Best Bets for College Football Afternoon Slate (Sept. 11)
Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Cal Golden Bears.
A top-15 showdown between Ohio State and Oregon holds national championship implications in the early window, but the afternoon slate is filled with three games our college football experts have their eyes on.
Saturday afternoon features multiple chances to win some money as Florida Atlantic faces Georgia Southern, Cal duels TCU and Bowling Green matches up with South Alabama.
Our experts also had multiple picks for the top-10 matchup between Iowa and Iowa State and the service academy game between Navy and Air Force.
The day won’t end here for bettors, though, as our writers have their favorite picks for the evening and late-night games.
Check out all four afternoon bets below and use the table to navigate, but also don’t forget about our top picks from the early and evening windows.
Check out our Staff’s Best Bets for All 3 Saturday Kickoff Windows:
Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 2
Picks for Today’s Late Afternoon Kickoffs
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for Saturday’s Week 2 slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick discussed in this article.
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Photos via Getty Images.
Georgia Southern vs. Florida Atlantic
3:30 p.m. ET
Florida Atlantic’s offense struggled in 2020, and it didn’t show any improvement last week against Florida.
The offensive line allowed 32 pressures on 40 dropbacks and had a laughable 14.6 pass blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus.
Overall, FAU had a very poor -0.197 Expected Points Added Per Play and had only two successful drives out of 11 possessions.
This was a group that ranked outside the top 100 in Success Rate and Points Per Drive last season, so Week 1 was nothing out of the ordinary.
FAU’s defense was the strength of the team in 2020, though, and figures to still be the top unit on the team despite losing defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
This was a top-10 group in terms of Points Per Drive last season, and although it was outmatched against Florida’s run game, it did an incredible job against the pass, allowing just 4.4 yards per attempt.
Georgia Southern likely won’t be going to the air very often here, considering its 77% rush rate last season, but it’s unlikely to find the same type of success on the ground that Florida did.
Long-time quarterback Shai Werts has transferred to Louisville to play receiver, so there will be a new face taking over the Eagles’ triple option this season. The early returns weren’t great, considering they were outgained on a per-play basis by Gardner Webb last week.
On defense, Georgia Southern should have an advantage in the trenches, coming off top-10 rankings in Stuff Rate and Line Yards in 2020.
Additionally, a pass rush that ranked 34th in pressure rate last season should be able to find quite a bit of success against an offensive line that got whipped in pass protection last week.
I show value on this total compared to my projection of 43.1 and could see both offenses having a long day here.
Pick: Under 48
Cal vs. TCU
3:30 p.m. ET
Cal and TCU are somewhat similar teams.
The strength of each team is its defense — specifically the secondary. This sets up a matchup that favors each defense against both offenses whose quarterbacks, Chase Garbers and Max Duggan, haven’t always been the best pocket passers.
Garbers suffers from a lack of dynamic playmakers around him, and he will need to make plays with his feet to keep Cal in this game. However, Garbers has struggled with injuries throughout his time in Berkeley, and the Golden Bears were wisely reluctant to let him run last week.
Duggan significantly improved his accuracy from 2019 to 2020, but he improved from one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks to one with about-average accuracy.
He will be challenged by the consistently strong Cal cover three defense, and TCU will need to run the ball with Duggan and its backs and make some big plays to cover.
Instead of betting the spread, I love the value on the under. Both defenses should have the upper hand, and both offenses will keep the ball on the ground and limit turnovers, thus shortening the game and preventing short-field opportunities for the offenses.
With the exception of an occasional big play from the Horned Frogs, both teams will have to move the ball methodically down the field, and I don’t trust either quarterback to consistently make the necessary plays from the pocket to do that and put up touchdowns against the opposing defenses.
Cal @ TCU this weekend
A rematch of the greatest game ever played: 2018 Cheez-It Bowl.
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 6, 2021
While I don’t expect as low-scoring of a game as the infamous (or famous) 10-7 overtime win for TCU over Cal in the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, this game will stay below 48 total points.
Pick: Under 48
Air Force vs. Navy
Check out all of our staff’s favorite bets for Saturday’s service academy matchup below.
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
4 p.m. ET
Bowling Green Team Total Under 17.5 (-115)
South Alabama’s defense wreaked havoc in head coach Kane Wommack’s debut.
It forced four turnovers and was perfect after allowing an opening-quarter touchdown, thrashing Southern Miss, 31-7, in essentially a coin-flip game.
I’m investing in the unit again Saturday.
Wommack routinely game-planned for Big Ten offenses while serving as the defensive coordinator at Indiana the last two seasons. He held six of its eight opponents in 2020 under the team total; the lone exceptions were Ohio State and Penn State, the latter of which needed overtime to surpass the number.
Wommack brought over defensive coordinator Corey Batoon from Liberty to serve in the same role at South Bama. Dating back to the start of last season, Batoon’s units have held eight of the last 11 opponents under the total during the regular season — not too shabby, considering three of those in 2020 were ACC foes.
The program also added two assistants from the MAC — one from Kent State, another from Akron -— who saw Bowling Green last season.
The highlight in Week 1 for Bowling Green, meanwhile, was stringing together back-to-back 11-play drives against Tennessee to notch field goals. Otherwise, it punted eight times and turned the ball over twice on downs in the 38-6 loss.
The Falcons have scored 17 points or fewer in six of their last seven dating back to 2019, with six of those contests against fellow MAC programs.
This is a cakewalk for a defense the market’s heavily underrating, behind an elite defensive-minded head coach who wasn’t even happy with his team’s 24-point win as a two-point favorite last week.
I firmly believe Wommack and his staff would rather saw off their own rotator cuffs with wooden spoons than allow more than two scores to a program of Bowling Green’s caliber.
Pick: Bowling Green Team Total Under 17.5 (-115)
4 p.m. ET
South Alabama -13.5
You always want to try and avoid playing the transitive property game in college football, but you’re telling me that South Alabama is going to beat Southern Mississippi, 31-7, in a dominant performance, and then only lay -13.5 against Bowling Green?
According to our Action Network Power Rankings, Bowling Green ranks 128th in the country, and according to SP+, they are 124th.
South Alabama held Southern Mississippi to just 258 total yards and 2.9 yards per carry.
This Falcons offense has been dreadful the past couple years. Quarterback Matt McDonald looks like he has never thrown a football before, posting the worst completion percentage in the country last season.
The rushing attack posted a -0.583 EPA/rush in Week 1, the second-worst mark among all teams last week. Bowling Green might not score, and if it does, it won’t be much.
That means the South Alabama offense just needs to manage a couple scores, which should be more than doable behind quarterback Jake Bentley.
That’s right, Bentley is somehow still in college. He spent four seasons at South Carolina and played last year for Utah. Now in his sixth year, he has played in 40 games, throwing for 8,678 yards and 63 touchdowns in his college career.
Bentley will look early and often to all-conference wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. Tolbert is a legit NFL prospect and one of the best wideouts in the Group of Five. He was second in the Sun Belt in receiving last year and racked up 168 yards on five catches in Week 1.
With Kane Wommack taking over as head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator for Indiana, I trust this defense to keep the Falcons offense at bay.
Bentley is a veteran quarterback and should have no problem putting up points against this defense.
I like South Alabama -13.5 and would play it up to -16.5.
Pick: South Alabama -13.5
No. 10 Iowa vs. No. 9 Iowa State
Check out all of our staff’s favorite bets for Saturday’s Cy-Hawk rivalry game below.