It's Wednesday, and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks, baby!
Admittedly, last week didn't go quite as planned, as the picks went just 2-4-1 overall. Of course, in my defense, I could have never seen Jeff Brohm's refusal-to-run-the-football meltdown coming, nor Jaxon Smith-Njigba getting hurt at Ohio State. Or Illinois somehow finishing with over 100 yards more of total offense at Indiana and somehow ending in a push.
Still, those are excuses and as the old saying goes: No excuses, play like a champion!
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Now to this week's picks:
BEST BET: No. 1 Alabama (-13 - 1H) at Texas: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
From an intrigue perspective, Alabama-Texas is no doubt the game of the weekend. But from an actual excitement and competitiveness standpoint? Well, it's pretty far down the list.
Even Texas fans seem to just be hoping they don't get embarrassed by the Tide.
Which is why I like the first half line in this game. Betfred hasn't yet put out a line, but conservatively, -13 feels about right, and I'd bet it up to -17.
Why is that? Well, a few reasons.
One, we obviously know this Alabama team is on a revenge tour type season. As I said all off-season, it's one thing for Bama to have the best team in college football - that's normal. What's not normal is for them to come into the season with the best team in the sport, and a genuine chip on their shoulder. After losing to Georgia in a title game they easily could've won, they have just that. This is their first big test, and I think they're looking to make a statement.
Beyond that, there is the Texas factor, and I'll be blunt, I just don't think they're ready for this game. For all the excitement of this off-season, most of the hype came thanks to signing a loaded portal class and getting off to a hot start in 2023. The problem is, the portal class didn't really improve a defense that was bad last year, and the 2023 class obviously isn't coming for another year.
Oh, and if you need one more reason to back Bama, how about this: Texas will be starting two true freshmen on their offensive line, against arguably the best defensive line in college football.
I'll skip the sweat on a backdoor cover and take the first half. As I said, I'll play it up to -17, but expect it to be about -13.
South Carolina at Arkansas (-8.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
So, I'll be blunt, while Arkansas beat a Top 25 team to open the season, their play was a bit uninspiring. Not that they were bad, per se, but Cincinnati missed two field goals and had a costly turnover in Arkansas territory. The Hogs won. But the result of Week 1 could've been much different.
So what am I going to do this weekend: Back the Hogs, baby!
One, part of this is staying true to my preseason prep. I didn't really understand the South Carolina love this off-season, and they didn't exactly inspire me in Week 1. In that game they were outgained by Georgia State overall, gave up five yards per carry on defense and had just 79 rushing yards on 32 carries themselves. They were bad running the football and appear to be just as bad this year.
Which leads me to the most important point: In college football, styles make fights and I just believe the style plays nicely into Arkansas. They are tough and physical at the line of scrimmage, love to run the ball down your throat and stop the run.
They are two things South Carolina doesn't do well. Which is why I'm taking the Hogs to win, cover and go 2-0.
No. 20 Kentucky at No. 12 Florida (UNDER 52.5): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's skip straight past the 3:30 window to the night games, and one of the most suddenly intriguing matchups of Week 2. Everyone liked Kentucky coming into the season, and now they're facing a Florida team that captured America's hearts with a tough, physical, grueling win over Utah.
Let's start with the Wildcats though, because the reason I love the under so much comes from their sideline.
One, for all the excitement about the Wildcats this off-season, did you see their Week 1 game against Miami (OH)? They finished the game with a grand total of 50 yards rushing, on 29 carries. Not ideal. It doesn't help that their top running back Chris Rodriguez won't play in this game, and back-up Ramon Jefferson won't be available either.
I'd also add that Mark Stoops has historically gone conservative in big road games. Last year, Kentucky threw the ball for just 102 yards at South Carolina and 150 yards at Mississippi State (I'll take out their other two SEC road games from a season ago, Georgia and Vanderbilt, for obvious reasons).
Meaning, that even against a thin Florida defensive front I believe the Wildcats struggle to move the ball, and I think with a week to prepare for Anthony Richardson, UK does a better job reigning him in than Utah did.
If I had to take a crack at the score, I'd guess Florida wins a low-scoring game with Kentucky covering the +5.5. Something in the neighborhood of 24-20.
The smarter bet to me though, is the under.
Syracuse at UConn (+23): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
Yes, I'm a UConn guy, but no, this is not a homer pick. This is, quite honestly one of my favorite bets of the weekend.
But let me go back to being a homer here for half a second, because all off-season long I was hyping up the Jim Mora era at UConn, and then I went ahead and stayed away from betting them in Week 0 against Utah State. Shame on me, as they easily covered a near-30 point spread, and nearly won the game outright. Among my biggest regrets in life, it's right up there, alongside about 37 different things I did on my first trip to Vegas back in 2009.
But beyond that, I actually do like this matchup, and it's because of Mora. In one off-season he has infused both talent via the transfer portal (UConn signed somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen Power 5 transfers this off-season) as well as excitement. And against a true rival of the school, in a night game, I believe the crowd at Rentschler Field (or "The Rent" as the kids call it) is going to be the best it's been in years.
Add in the fact that Syracuse is coming off a big home win to open the season, and has four straight home games after this, and I believe it's a good situational spot to catch them.
I expect the Huskies to continue to run the ball well (star back Nathan Carter is third nationally in rushing yards) and play good enough defense to keep things close late.
I won't be a homer and call for the outright upset. But after my regret of not taking UConn against Utah State, I will not make the same mistake again.
No. 10 Baylor at No. 21 BYU (-3): Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Up top I mentioned the idea of staying true to my preseason prep, and I think it's important I do it here. If you heard or listened to any of my work prior to the season, I said that I believed Baylor was the most underrated team in college football coming into the year.
Look, it's not that I don't like Dave Aranda, but at the same time, here is what Baylor lost off last year's 12-2, Big 12 champion: A 1,000 yard rusher, its best wide receiver, multiple All-Big 12 defenders, including a safety who led college football in interceptions and overall, the most draft picks of any Big 12 team.
I do think the Bears are talented, but a Top 10 team in the country? They're simply not a program built to lose that much and not miss a beat.
Of course on the flip side is BYU, a group which returns 18 starters off a team that won 10 games last year. And to their credit, boy did they look good in Week 1, going to South Florida and absolutely streamrolling the USF Bulls. Even if USF is bad, flying across country, putting up 38 first half points and cruising to victory isn't something we should overlook.
Look, I could go on and on, but I believe despite the ranking, the better team is favored.
Give me those cougars (love some cougars!) at home in Provo.
Mississippi State at Arizona (+10.5): Saturday, 11 p.m. ET, FS1
If you listened to any of my preseason content, you know that I thought Mississippi State was the most undervalued team. But this is an awful spot for them.
The Bulldogs had their season opener delayed by three hours because of weather, finishing well after midnight central time. They now have to fly across country, play a 10 p.m. CT kick-off, all before flying back for their SEC opener a week from now.
If that doesn't reek of "trap game" I don't know what does.
It certainly doesn't help that I believe, you could argue, Arizona was the most surprisingly impressive team of Week 1 of the college football season. While Arizona didn't get the credit of USC or LSU in terms of their work in the transfer portal, Jedd Fisch did as good a job as anyone, especially considering the Wildcats were coming off a 1-11 season a year ago.
Well, it was on display last Saturday, when the Wildcats went on the road, to face a San Diego State team opening a brand new stadium and destroyed them. They also put up 38 points on a team that ranked in the Top 15 nationally in total defense last year. It was thanks to a pair of those transfers, quarterback Jayden de Laura and wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who had three touchdowns.
Like UConn, there is genuine excitement around Arizona and for a Saturday night home game, i expect the crowd to be great.
Mississippi State probably wins. Arizona covers.
Tennessee (-6.5) at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: I was all ready to back Tennessee here, but then our TorresOnTennessee account brought up a great point: Pat Narduzzi has faced Josh Heupel three of the last four years, and won two of them. Pitt has been able to move the ball in the last two.
I think Tennessee wins, the familiarity scares me.
No. 10 USC (-9) at Stanford, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: I've talked a lot about staying true to my preseason prep, and I really believe Stanford is legitimately terrible. Like "3-9" type bad.
But Stanford has weirdly owned USC through the years, winning two of the last three, and four of the last five at home. And there wouldn't be anything more square than backing USC as a big road favorite, off of a huge season-opening win.
I can't think of one reason to back Stanford. But USC is way too square for me.
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