Guys, I can’t lie: Until last Saturday, I had forgotten how much I love college football. There really is nothing like waking up on Saturday morning, rolling out of bed and then sitting around, and watching 12 hours of college football – having no idea what the storylines will be by the end of the day, but knowing they’ll be insane. In the case of this past weekend college football lived up to that insane reputation, as - in no particular order - Hugh Freeze coached from a freaking hospital bed, Tennessee had a meltdown for the ages, an Oregon meltdown which may have cost them a College Football Playoff berth in Week 1, and so, so, SO much more.
So yeah, there’s nothing better than college football. Well except when your college football picks start off the season on fire! Overall, I am 5-2-1 overall through Week 0 and Week 1 – and woaaaaah buddy, am I ready to keep rolling heading into Week 2.
And with that, let’s get to this week’s picks.
Now before we get started, a few disclaimers as always. One, I’m not here to necessarily pick all of the big games, but instead, the ones that appear to have the best value to me. So if you’re an Alabama fan mad that I’m not previewing New Mexico State, I’m sorry. But the point spread is insane, and I just don’t want to sweat out a 55-point win, when in reality Bama will probably pull most of its starters by halftime. Same with Cincinnati-Ohio State. I have no truly strong opinions on this one, and would rather stay away than try and force a pick I don’t trust.
So that’s the first disclaimer.
And secondly, remember, that this year’s picks are presented by my good friends at MyBookie.AG. And that if you are planning on gambling this weekend, go to MyBookie and use the promo code “TORRES” at checkout, to receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.
Also, just like last week I will be doing a Periscope on behalf of MyBookie on Saturday morning to preview the day’s games. Here is last week’s if you missed it. And if you want the picks early, make sure to follow the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Instagram page where I post the picks first.
Alright, enough small talk. Let’s get to the picks:
West Virginia at Missouri (-14): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Of my 10 biggest regrets in life, nine involve stuff I did in college and the other is not sticking with my guns and taking Wyoming to cover against Missouri last weekend. Now look, I’m not saying I would have picked the Cowboys to win straight up – I wouldn’t have. But I did believe they were good value coming into the weekend.
Why do I say that? For starters, Wyoming is a sneaky tough place to travel to, mainly because they play at the highest elevation in college football. There really is no way to prepare for a trip to Laramie. Two, Missouri has one of the wildest schedule quirks I’ve ever seen in college football: They opened on the road at Wyoming, and then… are you ready for this… they now play five straight home games from there. FIVE STRAIGHT. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. The Tigers don’t play another road game until October 19th!!
Point being, it was easy to see how Missouri could overlook Wyoming last weekend. How they could walk into that game with a, “Let’s just get through this game and we’re on easy street” mindset, with the upcoming schedule they have. The problem of course is that they didn’t get through it.
And because of all those factors, I don’t think Missouri is nearly as bad as they looked last weekend. Remember, despite the loss they still finished with over 500 yards of total offense, and were it not for one disastrous stretch in the second quarter – where they gave up a defensive touchdown and two offensive TD’s of 60+ yards – would have still found a way to win. West Virginia on the other hand is as bad as that narrow 20-13 victory over James Madison looked. The Mountaineers didn’t score a point in the first half before rallying for victory.
Tigers win easy here.
No. 25 Nebraska at Colorado (UNDER 64 ½): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. FOX
Because the noon ET kickoff window was so light on good games last week, I ended up watching a ton of South Alabama-Nebraska. And during that game I learned two very important things: Nebraska’s defense is pretty good. And their offense is abysmal.
Seriously, don’t let the 35-21 final score last week fool you. Nebraska got those 35 points thanks to two defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown, and if it weren’t for all those non-offensive points, they probably would have lost. It was similar with Colorado, who scored 51 points last week, but got a defensive touchdown and broke off a few big plays late to make their game look more one-sided than it actually was.
So if Nebraska had trouble scoring at home, I doubt it will get any better on the road. And the Cornhuskers defense – the best unit of four on the field – should slow down Colorado.
Therefore, if you take two offenses that weren’t nearly as good as they looked in Week 1, it will likely lead to a low-scoring, sloppy game. Every fiber of my being wants to take Colorado and the points (they opened as a 4.5-point home underdog and are already down to 3.5). Instead, I’ll stick with the UNDER here.
No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson (UNDER 64 ½): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
This is one of the two marquee matchups of the day, and I already know what you’re thinking: Torres, enough with the UNDERS. Trust me, I wish I could come out here and just call for the Texas A&M upset straight up. Or for a high-scoring shootout.
Then again, I also wish I were still on a beach in Hawaii. Unfortunately, as my grandma used to tell me, we don’t always get what we want.
And in the case of this game I actually think its super low scoring, for a few reasons.
1. For the game to become high-scoring, it would require Jimbo Fisher to open things up and be aggressive offensively. Do you really think that on the road, against the No. 1 team in the country, Jimbo is going to get super aggressive? Or will he stay conservative and try to control the clock with the run game?
2. Even if Jimbo decided to get aggressive, it would require Kellen Mond to make big plays with his arm. No disrespect to Mond – who is much improved under Fisher – but I’ll believe that he is able to make big plays with his arm against a defense this good when I see it.
3. It would require Clemson to light up a Texas A&M defense – a defense which has basically been un-light-up-able since Jimbo Fisher and Mike Elko got to College Station. Do you know that the Aggies have given up more than 28 points just once since Fisher and Elko got to Texas A&M? It was at Alabama last year. Not sure if you remember it or not, but Alabama was pretty freaking good.
Add it all up and this one has all the makings of a low-scoring, relatively close game.
I’m not calling for the upset, but instead something like a 28-17 Clemson win, and an easy under hit.
Western Illinois at Colorado State (-9): Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET
I generally try to stay away from picking FCS games because 1) It’s really boring 2) It’s impossible to know how motivated a team will be when playing FCS teams and 3) The lines are usually completely out of whack.
Which is why this one makes no sense to me. Colorado State is only a nine-point favorite? I just don’t get it. Last week the Rams actually outplayed instate rival Colorado and if it weren’t for four turnovers, would have won that game. Western Illinois meanwhile lost its season-opener to North Alabama.
Maybe I’m totally underestimating how good North Alabama is (kidding… I think). And maybe I’ll regret betting on Colorado State here.
But this is one I’m willing to live with if I’m wrong. I think the Rams cruise to an easy win.
San Diego State at UCLA (-7): Saturday, 4:15 ET, Pac-12 Network
One of the things that I find interesting about covering sports is how I can tune into a sporting event that the entire world is watching, watch from beginning to end, and have a completely different opinion on the end result as everyone else. I’m not saying one opinion is right or wrong. I just think it’s interesting.
Which brings me to last week’s UCLA-Cincinnati game. I watched from a bar in Hawaii (sick brag, I know) and when the game went final I was surprised to see what the reaction was. It seemed like almost universally everyone agreed that UCLA was awful and Chip Kelly is an overrated coach.
Well, I can’t lie, I just didn’t see it that way.
Maybe it was the cold beverages I was drinking during the game, but I saw things completely different. What I saw was a UCLA team go on the road, and play competitively against a Cincinnati team that won 11 games last year. I saw a team that is improved drastically on defense since Kelly took over (remember, they ranked 123rd nationally in total defense the year before Kelly arrived). And I saw an offense which had two crippling fumbles in the red zone that cost them the game. If UCLA converts both into touchdowns they win.
So yes, I expected more from Chip Kelly. But no, I don’t think UCLA was nearly as bad as everyone made them out to be.
Which is why I like this pick so much. If UCLA had just taken care of the ball against Cincinnati, they could have beaten them. Now they return home to face San Diego State, a team which is coming off a 7-6 season and had arguably the worst performance of an FBS team that won last week. The Aztecs beat FCS school Weber State 6-0, in a game which they put up a grand total 238 yards of total offense.
Again, UCLA has a ways to go, but I just don’t believe they’re as bad as everyone thinks. They get the comfortable win here.
Arkansas at Ole Miss (-7 and UNDER 55): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Honestly, I don’t think either of these teams is very good. But in defense of Ole Miss, they lost on the road, to what might be the best Group of Five team in college football at Memphis. I’m not excusing it. But we may look back on that game and realize it’s not quite as bad as we thought. Especially since the Rebels held the high-powered Memphis offense to just 15 total points.
But Arkansas? I watched most of their game against Portland State, and they were just flat out awful. Unlike Ole Miss, they didn’t have the excuse of playing a decent opponent. Or being on the road. They were just bad. What’s especially concerning is that the passing game - which is Chad Morris’ bread and butter - looks just as abysmal as last year. The run game was great, but won’t be able to move the ball like they did against Portland State against Ole Miss.
In the end, I think there’s a possibility that Ole Miss might not be totally terrible. But Arkansas? That’s another story altogether. I’ve got the Rebels and the UNDER here.
No. 8 LSU at No. 9 Texas (+5 ½): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Full-disclosure, I’m completely conflicted on this one. If I were grading my confidence in each of these picks, this one would probably be last.
But as the kids say, the show must go on.
Ultimately, I think LSU is the better team here, think they win and think Texas is a little bit overrated. I also think that LSU is going to try to make Texas one-dimensional and take away the run game. If they can do that, than its Sam Ehlinger against those LSU DB’s, and I like the LSU DB’s.
However, there are two reasons that I believe that while LSU will win outright, Texas will cover in a close game.
One, while it will be tough for Texas to put up points, I actually think it will be tough for LSU as well. Remember, LSU is running their new high-powered spread attack. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it’s a spread that Texas sees every week in the Big 12. Texas defense will be plenty prepared for the Tigers.
The second thing is Tom Herman. The guys is basically lights out in big games. Over the course of his career, Herman has a staggering 13-2-1 record against the spread when he is an underdog. Just insane.
To me, LSU is the better team.
But on the road, against a team that should be able to match up with them well, I’ll go ahead and Texas and the points.
LSU wins 27-23.
But Texas covers.