College Football Betting: Odds, Tips, Picks for Biggest Week 2 Games

College Football Betting: Odds, Tips, Picks for Biggest Week 2 Games article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Trace McSorley, Bryce Love, Jake Fromm

College football’s Week 2 slate is kind of a strange one. But you’re going to bet it no matter what, right?

A handful of key games headline the day, including ranked teams as mid-sized road favorites. Meanwhile, plenty of Power 5 teams will be playing FCS and Group of 5 squads as massive favorites.

Let’s get to it, starting with Friday’s standalone game — TCU-SMU.

TCU-SMU Betting Odds, Picks

  • Odds: TCU -22.5
  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN2

>> All odds as of 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

The Sonny Dykes era in Dallas has picked up right where it left off.

Dykes coached SMU’s bowl game last season, a 51-10 loss to Louisiana Tech, just weeks after taking the job. The Mustangs then turned in one of the worst performances in college football in Week 1 on Saturday, getting outgained by nearly 300 yards in a 46-23 blowout loss to North Texas.

SMU was even worse than the final score indicates, since it scored 23 points in garbage time in the fourth.

TCU cruised to a 55-7 win over Southern in Week 1.

Last year, TCU beat SMU 56-36 in a game with more than 1,000 total yards.

Market Moves

By Danny Donohue

TCU has jumped from -17.5 all the way up to -22.5, passing over the key number of 21. With 76% of bets on the Horned Frogs, though, much of the cause for this move is simply public betting. Smart money is coming in on both sides, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see some SMU buyback if the line were to hit 23.

What sharps are in agreement on, however, is the total. It’s dropped from 64 to 58.5 behind only 28% of bets as smart money is pounding the under. Those 28% of bets account for 44% of dollars wagered on the total, confirming that sharps are behind the line move.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

The over/under for the TCU-SMU game is down to 58.5. In the last decade, when the over/under drops more than a full point for TCU under Gary Patterson, the under is 24-17 (+5.8 units), going under the total by a full field goal per game.

TCU has tilted to the under on the road with Patterson over the last decade, too, going 31-23 (+6.3 units), including 10-3 in the Horned Frogs’ last 13 road games. They’ve gone under the total by 12.1 points per game.

By John Ewing

As favorites of three touchdowns or more, TCU under Patterson is 26-21 (55%) ATS in the regular season since 2005. The Horned Frogs have excelled in this situation on the road, going 10-0 straight-up and 7-3 ATS.

Key Metrics

By Steve Petrella

1. TCU has routinely built excellent defenses under Patterson, with one major flaw — big plays.

Last season, the Horned Frogs were third-worst in the country at preventing explosive plays, per Football Study Hall. They’ve ranked outside the top 100 in each of the last three seasons.

2. SMU ran just 43 plays against North Texas last week, by far the lowest of any FBS team. But its 2.72 plays per minute ranked 21st.

The Mustangs had only two drives of more than three plays before the fourth quarter, and they went for a combined 29 yards.

Situational Angle

By Stuckey

With Ohio State on deck, TCU’s first half line (-13.5) or SMU’s second half line might be worth a look.

It’s possible Patterson pulls his starters and goes vanilla with his schemes sooner than normal if the Horned Frogs have a bigger lead. That way, he won’t give too much away to Urban Meyer and Co.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

Much will be made of TCU’s game with Ohio State next week in Arlington, and whether that will create a lookahead spot here. But I think there are several factors pointing to TCU as the valuable side (after all, SMU plays Michigan next week in Ann Arbor, not exactly a cupcake).

Although this is not a particularly passionate rivalry game (The Battle for the Iron Skillet), SMU has had a lot of trouble getting fans to its stadium, and with TCU just a 45-minute drive away, I think you could see a lot purple fans in the stands Friday night.

Whatever home-field advantage you give SMU in this spot in your power rating probably needs to be modified or at least reconsidered. There might not be much of one.

The other factor worth considering is the extent to which SMU was even worse than its final score against North Texas indicated last week. I wrote about this in the misleading final scores column as well, but SMU was down 36-0 to North Texas, a team that ranked 100th in S&P+ on defense last year and just 83rd in returning production on that side.

If you include the bowl game shellacking that Dykes’ crew took last season, that’s not a pretty picture being painted thus far in the quest to replace Chad Morris.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t better days ahead, just that there’s very little reason to expect a bounceback effort here with so many adjustments ongoing, especially on offense. I like TCU at the current numbers of 22/22.5.

Penn State-Pitt Betting Odds

  • Odds: Penn State -8.5
  • Over/Under: 55
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ABC

>> All odds as of 7 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

We still don’t know how Penn State will fare this season after it lost its star running back, offensive coordinator and so many key defensive pieces this offseason. Saturday night could give us a clearer picture.

The Nittany Lions meet rival Pitt in prime time, looking to bounce back from a near-shocker against Appalachian State last week.

These two teams have split the first two meetings in their four-game series set from 2016-2019. The 2016 Pitt win played a major part in keeping Penn State out of the College Football Playoff.

Market Moves

By Danny Donohue

It’s been a roller coaster for this line since it opened. Right off the bat, it took a nose dive from -9 to -7.5, but was since bet right back up to -9. With close to 50-50 betting, it looks to be anyone’s guess where it’ll end up, as sharps have yet to make a clear mark on it.

The total, however, seems to have sharp bettors in agreement. It’s fallen from 58 to 56 behind only 43% of bets on the under, as those bets have accounted for 80% of the money wagered, meaning sharps are expecting this one to stay under the total.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

Early betting action has moved Pittsburgh from a home underdog of +9 to +8.5. Historically, the Panthers have been profitable as an underdogs of 7 or more points, but there is a clear split:

  • Home 3-7 ATS
  • Road 14-4-1 ATS

By Evan Abrams

James Franklin is 52-37-4 ATS (58.4%), profiting bettors 12.7 units in his career at Vanderbilt and Penn State. Since taking the Vandy job in 2011, Franklin is the eighth-most profitable coach in FBS.

In his career as a head coach with Vandy and Penn State, Franklin is 12-4-1 ATS (+7.6 units) when failing to cover the spread by double digits in his previous game, like he did last week against App State. In those 17 games, Franklin’s teams are covering by 10.2 PPG.

Key Metric

By Steve Petrella

The Action Network’s home-field advantage ratings give Pitt 1.74 points on the spread for being at Heinz Field — 101st of 130 teams in FBS. Our power ratings have Penn State 12 points better on a neutral field, meaning this line should be higher than 10, just based on the metrics.

Despite the proximity and Penn State’s alumni base in Pittsburgh, Panthers fans seemed to represent slightly more of the record crowd at Heinz Field in 2016.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

Conventional wisdom the past couple years has been that Pitt thinks this game is infinitely more important than Penn State does. The two teams have played almost 100 times, but the rivalry may be ending after next year’s installment.

Penn State is back to being nationally prominent and recruiting at a top-15 level, and Pitt is…not doing those things. The most recent installment of the rivalry has been relatively successful for the overlooked Panthers, even if just from an ATS standpoint — two years ago they beat Penn State as a small favorite before the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten. And last year they barely covered as a 21-point dog, losing 33-14.

This year, I think the number is a little too small, and a bit of an overreaction to what we saw last week. Is Penn State really that much worse than previous years’ teams, or was this a case of a defense with two returning starters and a lot of new playmakers making a lot of first-time mistakes against a team that almost always engineers upset bids?

If you downgrade Penn State too much,  you’re not giving that App State staff enough credit for how it prepares for contests against Power 5 teams. After an overtime scare last week, it’s hard to imagine Penn State overlooking anyone at this point, with so many fixes to engineer, especially in the secondary.

My guess is this week of practice is amped up a bit more. The return of two defensive-line rotation players who missed last week’s game should help, too.

Pitt disposed of Albany last week, and while 33-7 seems dominant enough, there are still questions to ask. On the bright side, it was 33-7 at halftime, with Kenny Pickett having three total touchdowns at quarterback.

On the other hand, the starters, including Pickett, played every second-half possession except the final one, and scored zero additional points, turning it over twice. Albany ended up pretty close in both total yards and first downs in the final numbers.

I think it’s safe to call that a mixed bag against an FCS team — no matter how qualified it may be.

I think whatever Penn State’s best is right now, you’re going to get it Saturday, and considering the talent advantages at basically every position, that should be enough to cover the number.

The Pick: I’m taking Penn State at anything under 10.

Georgia-South Carolina Betting Odds

  • Odds: Georgia -10
  • Over/Under: 56
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

>> All odds as of 7 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Is this a reset year for Georgia, by the new Georgia standards, anyway? We’ll have a much better idea this weekend.

The Bulldogs play a pivotal conference game at South Carolina on Saturday. If the Gamecocks pull off an upset as 10-point underdogs, the SEC East race will get a whole lot more interesting.

Market Moves for Georgia-South Carolina

By Danny Donohue

After opening as a 9-point favorite, Georgia is up to the key number of -10. This game is close to 50-50 betting, so a touch of sharp money is the cause of the move. Our line predictor does expect that this line will fall back inside 10 points, however.

The story of the total is a bit more exciting. It’s risen from 51.5 to 56.5 behind 52% of bets — not enough to cause such a drastic move. Over the past few days, sharps have been steadily pounding the over, causing oddsmakers to adjust with a higher number.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

In SEC games, South Carolina is the most profitable team in the conference as a home underdog of 10 or more points at 13-4-1 ATS. Under Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks are 3-0-1 ATS.

By Evan Abrams

The Georgia-South Carolina over/under opened at 51.5 and has since been bet up to about 56. When two SEC teams see their over/under rise a point or more since 2005, the under cashes at a rate of 55.6%, profiting bettors 23 units in that span.

When the total sits below 60, that rate balloons to 58.1%, profiting bettors 29.6 units.

Weather Report

By Mark Gallant

The average temperature in South Carolina is expected to be a toasty 90 degrees, which has historically led to more points.

In nearly 150 games in our database, the over has hit 59.2% of the time with a temperature of at least 90 degrees.

However, you’d be a bit late to the party if you took the over now, since the over has moved five points.

Key Matchups

By Steve Petrella

South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel against Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker is certainly the most interesting matchup.

Samuel is electric in so many ways — he averaged an absurd 11.4 yards per target and 68% catch rate with six total touchdowns (three receiving, two return, one rushing) in three games before breaking his leg. Baker is one of the best coverage corners in the country.

Pro Football Focus ranked Baker as the No. 7 overall player in the country entering the season. It ranked Samuel No. 33.

But the other coverage matchup could be much more important than Baker vs. Samuel.

Opposite Baker will likely be Georgia true freshman Tyson Campbell, who has to deal with Bryan Edwards. Edwards caught 64 passes for 793 yards on 101 targets last season and developed into Bentley’s favorite target — even more than first-round tight end Hayden Hurst. With Samuel back, South Carolina has two dangerous weapons against a somewhat green Bulldogs secondary.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

As you see from the trends above, this is the role Will Muschamp was born for — huge underdog. Although I lost money on Coastal Carolina last week playing against Muschamp as a big favorite (the Chanticleers came up just short), this is really where you want to back him.

In last year’s game in Athens, the Gamecocks were outgained 438-270, and the Bulldogs had almost twice as many first downs, yet Muschamp and company easily covered as 23.5-point dogs, losing by just 14.

South Carolina played that game without running back Rico Dowdle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who were injured earlier in the year. They’re both back, and each scored a touchdown last week. In general, South Carolina’s actually pretty healthy on the two-deep, something you could basically never say last season.

With each team having such minimal returning defensive production, the Gamecocks’ offense will have to do the heavy lifting here. Considering what an unknown quantity Georgia’s defense is this year (we have only last week’s vague data point to go off of), and how much they have to replace, catching them this early could really benefit South Carolina.

I won’t be betting the game given how much uncertainty is involved on both sides, but would lean the Gamecocks at the current numbers.

Clemson-Texas A&M Betting Guide

  • Odds: Clemson -12
  • Over/Under: 54
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

>> All odds as of 10 a.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

For two coaches so familiar with each other, there are still so many unknowns in this marquee nonconference clash.

Clemson is still a little mysterious on offense — quarterbacks Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence both played against Furman, but who will be called on in crunch time on Saturday?

We don’t know Texas A&M’s ceiling under Jimbo Fisher. Will the Aggies’ rise to national relevance begin on Saturday, or will the Clemson defense suck the life out of Kyle Field as soon as the game begins?

Let’s dive in.

Market Moves

By Danny Donohue

Clemson has moved from -11 to -12 — a minor jump considering the lack of games that are decided by 11 or 12 points. So if there’s any sharp action behind the move, it’s not much. With no market-wide steam moves to speak of (yet), it appears that oddsmakers have simply bumped up the line to account for the Clemson money they’ve received.

As for the total, well, it depends which opening number you’re using to tell exactly what’s going on. Only 35% of bets are on the over, but those account for 65% of dollars wagered. We may be looking at a potential sharp over move as more bets start to come in.

Weather Report

By Mark Gallant

Widespread rain and thunderstorms will be moving through the College Station area all day Saturday and Sunday, which could lead to a delay or possible postponement if there is lightning in the area.

Key Metrics

By Steve Petrella

  1. Clemson QB Bryant generated a “turnover-worthy play rate” of 10.5% against lowly Furman, the worst of any ACC QB in Week 1, per Pro Football Focus. He also had negative expected points added on his dropback passes, which shouldn’t happen on the No. 2 team in the country when it’s a 40-point favorite.
  2.  Texas A&M’s offensive line ranked 38th in sack rate but 107th in adjusted line yards last season, meaning it pass blocked better than it run blocked. Clemson’s defensive line, which returns everyone, was 19th in line yards and first in sack rate.

The Aggies relied heavily on the ground game against Northwestern State last week, rushing for 503 yards on 61 carries in the blowout win.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

You’d think a top 5 team favored by double digits against a nonconference Power 5 team would be overrated, but you’d be wrong.

Teams in that spot such as Clemson have gone 36-13-1 (74%) ATS since 2005 in this situation, but in the last five seasons these teams are 9-9-1 ATS.

By Evan Abrams

The Aggies haven’t defeated a top-5 team at Kyle Field since 2002, defeating No. 1 Oklahoma. Since that game, A&M have come close, losing by one score three times and by two scores or fewer in all six losses.

The big question: How has A&M done as a home dog? Since 2005, all 14 SEC schools have been listed as a home underdog in at least four games, and the Aggies are the only school to not win a game as a home dog in that span: A&M is 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

We really have no idea what these teams are yet.

Sure, they both beat up on FCS opponents, and Texas A&M outperformed spread expectations slightly (while Clemson did not), but that still leaves a giant question mark.

One thing about early season big program vs. big program nonconference games is that they occur when we don’t know nearly enough about each team to make logical decisions. How did you feel about Oklahoma going into Columbus last year? Looking back, how would you have felt in December?

As these games continue, it’s better to embrace the unknown and recognize it as unknown rather than assume greatness where none has been proven.

Is Texas A&M really ready for this game? Week 2 of an entirely new coaching staff and a brand new offensive system, one that works much differently than that of the previous regime.

Is Lawrence really ready to see snaps in this game for Clemson? This isn’t Furman at home. If it’s Bryant, will he be plagued by the same inconsistency against elite athletes on defense like he was in big games last year?

So many questions, and based on what we DO know right now, my numbers are very, very close to the current market prices. I would pass there, but with A&M figuring to see a lot of Bryant in this game, and the run-happy Kellen Mond against Clemson’s defensive line on the other side, I think the under has a lot of value here at 54.5.

Even if Lawrence gets in eventually, will Clemson really let him turn it loose in this type of environment?

My guess is you see a game much closer to Clemson-Auburn last year early on, where the Tigers defensive line completely pummeled Jarrett Stidham and a workmanlike effort from the Clemson offensive line secured a hard-fought victory.

USC-Stanford Betting Guide

  • Odds: Stanford -6
  • Over/Under: 55.5
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FOX

>> All odds as of 2 p.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

USC beat Stanford twice last season en route to a Pac-12 title,

The Trojans struggled against UNLV last week before pulling away in the fourth quarter. Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello looked great against San Diego State, but the Cardinal couldn’t get the running game going.

Time to dig more deeply.

Market Moves for USC-Stanford

By Danny Donohue

Public money has moved Stanford from -4 to -6, as the Cardinal have attracted 76% of bettors to this point.

While sharps haven’t taken a side, they have hit the over, causing the total to rise two points despite 53% of bettors taking the under.

Key Injuries for USC-Stanford

By Stuckey

If you watched the Stanford-San Diego State game, you couldn’t help but notice the lack of push on the Stanford offensive line. The Aztec defensive line absolutely dominated in the trenches, which prevented Bryce Love from ever getting on track (18 attempts for 29 yards).

Well, one of the reasons for those struggles was the Cardinal didn’t have potential All-American center Jesse Burkett. Instead, they had to roll with redshirt freshman Drew Dalman. The drop-off was significant, and Burkett was ruled out once again for this upcoming weekend.

Speaking of offensive line issues, USC should get its center and team captain Toa Lobendahn back this week (he missed last week), but is dealing with a number of injuries along the line.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

In all regular-season games since 2005, the favorite has received a majority of spread tickets in more than 80% of games. Casual bettors love the chalk.

But in Top 25 matchups, they are more likely to take underdogs, believing the teams are equally matched. Thus, they take the points and hope for a competitive game.

In showdowns between ranked teams, the favorite has received a majority of tickets only 62% of the time.

Favorites in these matchups have been undervalued going 313-263-11 (54%) ATS since 2005.

By Evan Abrams

The role of the underdog has not been friendly to the Trojans in recent years. Since October of 2014, USC is 1-10 SU and ATS in its last 11 games as an underdog, failing to cover the spread by a whopping 10.1 points per game over that span.

Two of the Trojans’ 10 losses in that span have come against Stanford, and USC scored a total of 32 points in the two losses.

Head coaches David Shaw and Clay Helton have very different histories at their current schools. Shaw, who is 6-3 ATS (+2.8 units) against USC and since becoming the head coach of the Cardinal in 2011, is the most profitable Pac-12 coach in-conference games (+14.3 units).

On the other side: Since hiring Lane Kiffin in 2010, USC has had four different head coaches. Helton is the least profitable USC coach over that span (-8.6 units), not to mention USC is 5-14-1 ATS (-9.5 units) in road/neutral-site games under Helton.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

I don’t generally put myself inside the mind of a head coach, but I do really wonder what Helton’s game plan is going to be here.

There has to be a part of him that wants to let JT Daniels sling it all over the field, but in his first road game as a college player, and a conference road game at that, against a traditionally-stingy defense, wouldn’t conservative be the better approach?

We actually have seen a pretty similar set-up to this game — two years ago, when Helton took then-starter Max Browne and future top pick but then-young gun Sam Darnold to the Farm, where USC lost 27-10. With two young quarterbacks, Helton opted for play-calling heavy on the run, except in unique situations such as the two-minute drill before halftime.

Regardless of the level of aggression USC tries to implement, the fact remains its offense THIS year struggled for most of the game against UNLV Saturday.

The final score may say 43-21, but it was 19-14 USC after three quarters, and this was against a UNLV defense that was 114th last year in S&P+ defensive rankings. The last touchdown was basically scored as USC was just trying to run out the clock.

I can’t put that much value in the offensive performance of the Cardinal at home against a mediocre version of San Diego State last week, as this will still be a significant step up in class.

Any value on the Cardinal is now gone, in my opinion, with the number closer to a touchdown. I would still lean toward the under at 56.5, with both defenses being the stronger units and USC less likely than normal to get aggressive on the road with its still-learning freshman QB.

By Stuckey

As illustrated above, there are major questions with both offensive lines. That makes me want to look at the under, since both teams should have trouble sustaining drives.

USC has the corners to match up with Stanford’s jump ballers, and a freshman quarterback making his first road start in a hostile environment will force the Trojans to be conservative. I think the under is the look.