College Football Expert Picks: 15 Favorite Bets for Week 2

College Football Expert Picks: 15 Favorite Bets for Week 2 article feature image
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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

  • Our college football experts give their 15 favorite picks for Week 2 of the 2018 season.
  • We have all types of bets covered with a healthy mix of underdogs, favorites and over/unders.

Saturday’s college football action is almost here, which bettors must be itching for after being forced to watch what was apparently football between the Eagles and Falcons on Thursday night.

As we will do every week during the season, we asked several of our staffers to give us their favorite college football side or total for this upcoming Week 2 Saturday.

We will start with five underdogs and five favorites our experts see value in — before finishing with a few totals and a couple quick grabs.

Let’s jump in with a noon kick.

*All odds for the picks pulled overnight on Sep. 7


DOG WATCHING

Collin Wilson: Duke +3 (at Northwestern)

Noon ET on ESPNU

Northwestern pulled out the victory against Purdue thanks in part to three turnovers, as the Boilermakers actually outgained the Wildcats.

Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s group left that game with a net yards-per-play differential of -1.57.

It’s hard to sustain success over the long run with a negative net YPP differential, especially when you convert only 6 of 18 third downs.

Duke was a different story in Week 1, avenging a 2017 loss to Army. The Blue Devils sold out to stop the run, which did leave them vulnerable to a few pass plays. However, Duke still finished with a net yards-per-play advantage of almost two yards.

The offense should have an easier time up front, as Northwestern will be without two defensive tackles.

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones should have a field day against the Northwestern secondary, as he did last year in a 41-17 blowout win. Take the points with the Dukies and add them to your round-robin moneyline parlay.

Brad Senkiw: Virginia +6.5 (at Indiana)

7:30 p.m. ET on BTN

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall may have been sandbagging a little this offseason when he told Virginia’s administration that only one third of his players are ACC-caliber.

I’m starting to think the Cavaliers are better than many thought — especially after seeing them handle FCS team Richmond 42-13 last week.

UVA will have the best playmaker on the field Saturday in running back Olamide Zaccheaus, while JUCO transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins looked pretty good in his debut. The dual-threat quarterback finished with nearly 300 total yards.

The Hoos can pull off the upset against an Indiana squad still searching for an identity and short on a running game. If not, I think they can certainly keep it close.

Ken Barkley: Arkansas State +36 (at Alabama)

3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Alabama sandwich games (as in, games between those against meaningful opponents) are typically very attractive, but even more so when they precede the conference opener.

The Tide generally play a very good team in Week 1, but then have one or two “easy” games before their conference opener, which has been against Ole Miss in recent years.

In the past five years, Alabama is 0-4-1 ATS the week before its conference opener.

I’m sure Nick Saban is infinitely more concerned about avoiding injury and running the clock in these games than he is about making a statement.

Arkansas State isn’t just some patsy such as Furman or Western Carolina, either. The Red Wolves can actually move the ball a little, and they’re more than capable of scoring a few touchdowns late.

This feels a lot like the Fresno State game last year, which Alabama dominated but ultimately won 41-10, failing to cover as a 43-point favorite.

Stuckey: Iowa State +4 (at Iowa)

5 p.m. ET on FOX

If you listen to our college football podcast, you know I’ve been waiting for this one. Just like the Iowa State seniors have been after losing the past three Cy-Hawk matchups — most recently in heartbreaking fashion in Ames.

I expect a senior-laden Cyclone defense to come out fired up after allowing 44 and 42 points the past two years to its in-state rivals. The Cyclones also switched defensive schemes in 2017 (after the Iowa game) to better fit their personnel.

On the other side of the ball, I expect running back David Montgomery to have a huge day on the ground against a vulnerable Iowa run defense.

The Hawkeyes are raw at linebacker, which showed against Northern Illinois last week. Yes, Iowa won 31-7 — but dig a little more deeply into that box score: NIU running backs ran the ball 24 times for 138 yards (an average of 5.75 yards per rush).

Iowa State gets its revenge — or at least keeps it close.

Danny Donahue: Kentucky +13.5 (at Florida)

7:30 p.m. ET on SECN

I love attacking the bottom part of the top 25, because when you really think about it, what makes the No. 25 team so special? It’s just some random, arbitrary number like 9, 42 or 106. If it really wanted to, the AP could rank every team from 1-130 and we’d no longer have “unranked” teams.

But because 25 basically serves as the accepted cutoff between good and not-so-good teams, the public tends to place too much value on teams with those little numbers next to their names.

With that said, unranked Kentucky heads to The Swamp to take on No. 25 Florida. The Wildcats, who have lost 31 straight to the Gators, are predictably getting fewer bets as underdogs of less than two touchdowns. Unranked teams in this spot have covered more than 60% of the time since 2005.

Wait for the +14 to pop, but I still like +13.5 if it never comes. Go ‘Cats.


Talking Chalk

Josh Ward: Mississippi State -8 (at Kansas State)

Noon ET on ESPN

Mississippi State is coming off an impressive 63-6 win over Stephen F. Austin in which the Bulldogs (without starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald) averaged 8.7 yards per play.

Well, Fitzgerald is back, and coach Joe Moorhead’s offense should be too much for a very average-at-best Kansas State team that barely held on at home against South Dakota in Week 1, winning 27-24.

In our latest The Action Network college football power ratings, Mississippi State is No. 11, while Kansas State is 61st.

Ignore KSU head coach Bill Snyder’s historical success as a home dog and look for Mississippi State to win by double digits.

Evan Abrams: Miami Ohio -1 (vs. Cincinnati)

8 p.m. ET on ESPN3

After failing to make a bowl last year, the RedHawks had very large expectations heading into 2018 with experienced senior QB Gus Ragland (42 TD, 8 INT in his career) and plenty of returning production on offense (72%) and defense (74%).

They also opened the season looking to end losing streaks to both Marshall (four straight) and Cincinnati (12 straight).

Well, after the RedHawks fell just short against the Thundering Herd (35-28), I expect a focused effort against a Cincy team playing its second straight game away from home after a major upset win on the West Coast in Week 1.

After positively adjusting Cincy’s power rating, our college football handicapper Collin Wilson still projected Miami-Ohio as a 9-point favorite in this game.

Cincy is getting too much respect for a win over a bad UCLA team. Ragland & Co. get their first win over in-state rival Cincinnati since 2005.

Matt Mitchell: Florida Atlantic -9.5 (vs. Air Force)

2 p.m. ET on FACEBOOK

Don’t overthink it, gang. Lane Kiffin is legendary for running up scores — and he’s fresh off getting his pants pulled down by Oklahoma on national TV. Meanwhile, Air Force is “flying high” after shutting out FCS Stony Brook.

After what was surely a brutal week of preparation in Boca Raton, it’s hard to envision any other outcome than the Lane Train running over the Fly Boys here.

Mike Johnson: Georgia -10 (at South Carolina)

3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

I know South Carolina is a sexy pick, and SC fans have been pointing to this game on the schedule since the 14-point loss last year. Columbia has been buzzing with the possibilities for this offense with quarterback Jake Bentley teaming up with offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon.

While South Carolina definitely has a plethora of playmakers on offense, the big men up front for the Dawgs are a mismatch for the Gamecocks.

Plus, Georgia still employs the tried-and-true recipe for success in college football:

  • Strong running game
  • Time of possession domination
  • Swarming defense.

South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel will find a way to make his presence felt, but I expect Georgia’s offense to feature a steady dose of eight-yard runs — which will in turn open up the play-action passing game.

I may have to sweat a little late, but the mismatch up front makes me feel good about the Dawgs.

Matt Moscona: Texas -23 (vs. Tulsa)

8 p.m. ET on LGHN

History repeated itself last Saturday when an unprepared Texas team lost to a less-talented Maryland team. Everyone remembers a year ago when a porous Texas defense gave up 51 points in a home loss to the Terps.

What few remember is the bounce back a week later in a 56-0 romp over San Jose State.

I suspect head coach Tom Herman will have his team angry and focused just as he did a year ago. I’ll gladly lay the points with UT in Austin in what should be a spirited effort against a bad Tulsa team.


Over or Under?

Steve Petrella: Kansas at Central Michigan Under 50

3 p.m. ET on ESPN+

This line has moved down a bit, and both teams play with a little pace, but I’m still comfortable at this price.

Kansas’ offense was absolutely abysmal in a home loss to FCS Nicholls State, averaging just 3.64 yards per play. The Jayhawks scored just 23 points despite an average starting field position of their own 38-yard line.

Central Michigan wasn’t much better at 3.86 yards per play — and without a +4 turnover margin, the Chips could have lost to Kentucky by 35 points instead of just 15.

Defensively, Kansas has a stout (relatively speaking) front seven that ranked 14th in stuff rate (running plays stopped at or behind the line) and top-70 in every defensive rushing metric maintained by Football Study Hall.

Led by linebacker Joe Dineen and nose tackle Daniel Wise, Kansas should slow down CMU’s only returning weapon from last season, running back Jonathan Ward.

Lastly, both teams got solid performances out of their punters last week. There’s nothing sweeter as an under bettor than having abysmal offenses repeatedly start inside their own 20.

John Ewing: Clemson-Texas A&M Under 54

7 p.m. ET on ESPN

In Week 1 wins, Clemson rushed for 249 yards against Furman, while Texas A&M ran the ball 61 times for a ridiculous 503 yards against Northwestern State.

When elite rushing teams (average 215+ yards per game) meet, under bettors have gone 135-89-4 (60%) since 2005.

Good rushing teams keep the clock moving, which shortens the game and ultimately helps the under.

Even though it’s only one game upon which to judge, I do think both teams will have outstanding running games. And I don’t think A&M wants to drop back much against the dominant Clemson defensive line.

Sean Newsham: Pitt-Penn State Over 55

8 p.m. ET on ABC

When these two teams faced off at Heinz Field two years ago, neither defense showed up in a game that featured 81 combined points.

Last year’s clash in Happy Valley saw only 47 points, but Pittsburgh did move the ball despite only scoring 14 points. Quarterback Max Browne just struggled to cash in on drives.

Pittsburgh’s defense should be relatively weak again this year, and Penn State showed last week in a near-loss to Appalachian State that its young defense may struggle early.

The Mountaineers scored 38 points and repeatedly gashed PSU for big plays.

With Pitt’s Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall providing a fierce test on the ground and Penn State’s ability to score with Heisman hopeful Trace McSorley, I expect plenty of fireworks in this in-state battle.


Quick Grabs

Peter Jennings: Colorado +166
Jason Sobel: Stanford -6