College Football Week 2 Underdog Odds & Picks: Our Favorite Moneyline Bets, Including East Carolina & Troy
John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Keaton Mitchell (25) running back of East Carolina.
For the past three seasons on our college football betting podcast (now Big Bets on Campus), Collin Wilson and I pick our two favorite moneyline underdogs for each Saturday’s slate.
Last week, we came oh so close to sweeping the card with UCLA getting home with relative ease and Florida State falling in overtime. For Week 2, we have two short home pups — one at noon and one in primetime.
- 2018-20: 39-67 +5.1 units
- 2021: 1-1 +0.3 units
If you’re feeling lucky, a parlay of both pays around 4.5-1 odds.
Wilson: East Carolina +110
- Spread: South Carolina -2
- Over/Under: 57
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 11
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ESPN2
- Location: Greenville, NC
The focus on the Gamecocks’ opener against Eastern Illinois centered around a graduate assistant getting a spot start at quarterback. While Zeb Noland filled in admirably with four touchdowns, the defense and special teams got South Carolina the cover against a simply overmatched opponent. The Gamecocks currently lead the nation in defensive big play percentage and have the second overall rating in coverage, per PFF.
However, you obviously can’t take too much from those metrics after just one week against an inferior FCS opponent. The defense had major questions coming into the season after getting gutted in the secondary. That remains a major point of weakness that East Carolina can exploit.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers is one of the most talented Group of Five quarterbacks that many have never heard of. Last week, he threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns, committing just one turnover over worthy play against a top tier Sun Belt defense. Ahlers met and exceeded national average success rate in Standard and Passing Downs, generating two explosive drives in 11 possessions.
Averaging 7.1 yards per play in Standard Downs kept Ahlers from low percentage third downs, which is a good sign for this week. Keaton Mitchell was the most explosive player on the field, averaging over 11 yards per touch on the ground and through the air. He can have a big game against a raw SC defensive backfield.
On offense, after returning from injury, quarterback Luke Doty may get the start for South Carolina in his first game of the season against an East Carolina defense fresh off Appalachian State.
SC will also get top running back Kevin Harris back, but ECU stuffed 12 of the 35 runs attempted by the Mountaineers and limited drives past the 40 yard line to an average of 3.8 points. It also finished with seven tackles for loss and limited Appalachian State to just two touchdowns in five red zone drives. It’s an improving unit that I think can stall enough SC drives to win this game.
The Action Network projection lists East Carolina as a small favorite, so there’s pure value on taking ECU as a home dog. Additionally, the Pirates will be the more rested team after playing on Thursday in Week 1.
I’m buying this Group of Five team to pull off the mini upset over an SEC squad in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. And maybe SC gets caught looking ahead to next week’s matchup with Georgia.
Stuckey: Troy +160
- Spread: Liberty +4
- Over/Under: 62
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 11
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN+
- Location: Troy, AL
I expect a major improvement across the board in Year 3 of head coach Chip Lindsey’s tenure. He will have a very experienced roster to work with one season after losing four games by a combined 12 points. Troy was a team I had circled as a “team to buy” early headed into the season, so I’m not surprised I show value here in a game I make close to a coin flip.
Troy upgraded at quarterback with Missouri transfer Taylor Powell, who will enjoy a running back room loaded with depth and experience. The offensive line returns all five starters, led by two All-Sun Belt players in left tackle Austin Stidham and center Dylan Bradshaw.
An improved offensive line (and quarterback) should have a positive ripple effect throughout the entire offense. After replacing three starters last year, the Trojans showed significant signs of progress as the season wore on, allowing just five sacks over the final five games after allowing 17 in the first six.
The Trojans will have to replenish its wide receiver room with three of four starters no longer with the team after Kaylon Geiger transferred to Texas Tech, but there’s enough talent on the outside to work with. Most importantly, I think they can control the Liberty pass rush, which is the strength of the Flames’ defense.
Plus, I have serious doubts about how good this Liberty defense really is. Last season, it only allowed an uber-impressive 20.5 points per game — over a full touchdown lower than 2019 — even with a schedule that included three Power 5 teams.
However, the Flames certainly benefited from playing five anemic FBS offenses (WKU, FIU, UL Monroe, Southern Miss and UMass) in addition to two FCS schools (North Alabama and Western Carolina).
Their numbers were certainly helped by playing those teams in seven of their 10 regular-season games. And it’s not like Syracuse lit up the scoreboard last year.
Liberty did hold its own against NC State, holding the Pack to 15 points, but the Flames had already lost their starting quarterback for the year. While there is some talent on that side of the ball, this is still a defense that allowed 35 and 38 points to Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina.
Look, Liberty will put up points with their fast-paced, up-tempo, dynamic RPO attack. It’s an explosive unit, led by pro prospect quarterback Malik Willis and the current career FBS rushing yards leader DJ Mack with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country.
But Troy should also have ample opportunities to put points on the board against a Liberty team that I think is a bit overvalued in the market. Give me the home dog Trojans on the moneyline in a game I think could come down to which team has the ball last.
(Also, look out for Troy linebacker Carlton Martial, an absolute tackling-machine who could very well end up leading the country in that category.)