Rusty: 6-13 (One week and I’m back in this)
S: Florida State (-3) at Louisville
Lay 'em and laugh. I know Louisville has been lighting up the scoreboards, but they've been playing JV teams. FSU's defense is as nasty and fast as any in the country, and I think they give Lamar Jackson some serious fits here. Besides that, Deondre Francois put on a performance only a few quarterbacks in the nation could duplicate during that second half vs. Ole Miss. He is steady, accurate, and - so far - unflappable. I think this is a chance for FSU to state its case for the playoff.
R: Florida State (-3) at Louisville
Louisville so far has played a couple weak teams. They opened with Charlotte, a start-up FBS program, and Syrcause, who is, well, Syracuse. For Louisville to win this game Lamar Jackson would have to have the game of his life. Probably would need 500 yards of offense by himself throwing and passing.
Francois has been great through two games. It’s almost like he went to a high school whose only purpose is to create top athletes, oh wait, that’s exactly what it was made for. Pair him Dalvin Cook, who I think is easily one of the best backs in the country and churns out yards despite weak blocking, and there’s a very dynamic offense.
Florida State has the better units in the trenches. The Seminoles will be able to gameplan for for Jackson and limit him and basically dare his teammates to make a play.
S: Colorado (+20.5) at Michigan
CU has a chance to catch the ear of college football, and I think they will. After beating one rival (Colorado State) and one cupcake opponent (Idaho State) by a combined score of 100-14, I think they sneak up a little bit on Michigan. I don't think they win this one, but I think a 14 or 17-point loss isn't out of the question.
R: Colorado at Michigan (-20.5)
The Buffs look significantly better than they did the last couple years, where they also looked much more improved year-to-year. They’ve score 100 points their last two games and it doesn’t matter to me who they played. This team can put points on the board.
Colorado State and Idaho State are very different from The Wolverines are winning at every phase of the game. They block kicks and have huge returns on special teams. They make offenses one dimensional and slowly eliminate any function the team has going for it. Lastly, they wear down the defense over time. Michigan is a top team. They might not be able to handle Ohio State but their execution and talent are good enough to beat teams that they should easily beat, and by a fair margin.
S: Oregon (+3) at Nebraska
This line tells me Vegas doesn't know what to do with either team. Although Oregon hasn't really stopped the run, Nebraska hasn't had a super-strong rushing attack, struggling mightily on the ground against Wyoming.
R: Oregon (+3) at Nebraska
Homer pick. Not going to lie. There are totally valid reasons that either team could win. So my reasoning is that Armstrong threw a lot of near picks in their game against Wyoming that the Cowboys simply dropped. The Wyoming QB threw five picks, which is why you see such an inflated score, but turnovers are much more about the offense making a mistake than it is about the defense making a play. The Cornhuskers were able to take advantage of Wyoming selling out on the run but Oregon has thrived in the past making a team one-dimensional, no matter how much they might sell out on the run. Oregon’s offense will be able to make more plays than Nebraska’s offense.
S: UCLA (-3.5) at BYU
I like BYU's defense, but if the Cougar offense can't score more than 18 or 19 points, they're in trouble here. I don't love taking a road favorite at high altitude, especially a team as moody as UCLA. But with all the talent the Bruins have, if they don't win this one by 14, there are problems in Westwood.
R: UCLA (-3.5) at BYU
The UCLA defense might have gotten off to a rough start after giving up 21 to UNLV. The offense, led by college football’s anointed golden one Josh Rose, kept it close with TAMU even with making a lot of mistakes.
Utah is not an easy team to play. The only reason BYU was able to stay in it was because Utah committed six turnovers.. The Utah lines are very physical and can wear a team down. BYU has also played two close games back-to-back and now have to play a conference favorite. Altitude may play a factor.
UCLA will not shoot itself in the foot the way Utah did. The Bruins have more talent and more depth. Their offense is also much better than BYU’s. The Cougars just won’t be able to keep up.
S: Miami at Appalachian State (+3.5)
We selected this game because, honestly, App. State is like secretly kind of good. And, somehow, amidst the almost-constant NCAA investigations in Coral Gables, some athletic director agreed to send the 'Canes on a road game to Boone, NC. Go figure. But keep in mind that the Mountaineers have taken SEC East favorite Tennessee to the wire, and beaten a solid Old Dominion team soundly last week. Miami has beaten two of the three Florida teams I forget (Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic; Florida International is the other) soundly, but has not played anyone of consequence. So I'll be contrarian and take the home dog here, if for no other reason than it would be a great story. So let's do this, Mountaineers!
R: Miami at Appalachian State (+3.5)
We don’t really know anything about the Hurricanes at this point. They played Florida A&M, who has probably one of the best bands in the country, and Florida Atlantic. It’s been a good start for Mark Richt to have a couple easy opponents to build momentum and fine tune the new systems.
As Sean wrote, Appalachian State is actually good. Last year they had one of the best defenses in the country and they have strong fundamentals, especially when tackling. We saw how much trouble their defense gave a Tennessee squad that just lit up Virginia Tech, a team famous for their defenses.
What tips the game in favor of the Mountaineers is that they have played a top team and are battle-tested. Miami has to get acclimated to a good team. Appalachian State is ready to go.
S: Pitt (+3.5) at Oklahoma State
I'm riding Pitt this year. I really like their no-nonsense style, and have to root for James Conner. Granted Okie State's style will be a challenge for Pitt's defense, but I think Pitt has the defensive talent to rush the passer and disrupt things. And I don't think Okie State will be able to stop Pitt's run game, especially after that debacle last weekend. Take the points. And watch for Pitt outright.
R: Pitt (+3.5) at Oklahoma State
If there was ever a game that could be reversed because of an official’s error it was Central Michigan’s win over the Cowboys. Central Michigan was awarded an untimed down at the end of the game that they should not have been given.
Pitt’s win over Penn State was the blowout that just never seemed to happen. The Panthers earned a 3-point win over the Nittany Lions while only having to throw 15 times for 91 yards. They averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
This game is really a toss-up. I like Pitt’s ability to keep it on the ground despite whatever the defense may be doing and they’re going against a Big-12 defense. I’ll take the points on the road.
S: Michigan State (+7.5) at Notre Dame
I don't think Notre Dame's defense is good enough to stop anyone of consequence, and I trust any Mark Dantonio defense to do its job. Michigan State, despite its big losses from last year's squad, is owed the benefit of the doubt. MSU last visited Notre Dame in 2013, and lost by 4. I expect that kind of performance here. I expect the Spartans to slow it down, muck it up, and hold Notre Dame to 24-ish points. Take the points. Take Sparty Party.
R: Michigan State at Notre Dame (-7.5)
This is really a tough one to pick, especially with the line on the bad side of the key point. But let us take a look at who Michigan State has played thus far: a 28-13 win over Furman at home. The two teams played pretty evenly in terms of statistics.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, is already tested and hungry. If they lose another game this year they are out of the playoff hunt for good. There is no coming back. There’s a lot you can learn from yourself in a loss and the game against Texas probably gave a lot of insights into how to get better. The Golden Domers topped Nevada 39-10.
I like that Notre Dame has played a top opponent, played on the road, and is pretty much at full steam. It’s now or never and I think that they’ll succeed this time.
S: Texas A&M at Auburn (-3.5)
These two teams have been mysteries for several seasons now. I don't trust either offense, but I trust Auburn's defense. So I'll take the home team. Strange to me that the War Eagles would even be favored in this one, so I'll grab onto that feeling and take the Tigers to cover at home.
R: Texas A&M (+3.5) at Auburn
Auburn kept it close with Clemson in their 19-13 loss at home. What can’t be undersold is how poor the offense looked. They were the opposite of Texas in the sense that they have multiple quarterbacks but zero idea of how to use any of them. Last week, Sean White took all the reps at quarterback but against Auburn he looked average at best.
I think the Texas A&M offense will be able to outscore Auburn. TAMU also played against a top quarterback already and they handled it fine. If the Aggies are able to slow the run, which I think they will, they’ll be able to get a ton of pressure on the pass rush with Myles Garrett. I think Auburn is too one-dimensional on offense and won’t be able to keep pace.
S: Ohio State (-2.5) at Oklahoma
I would take this if it were 10. I think the Buckeyes win this one by two touchdowns. Ohio State is overlooked and talented, just the way they like it. OU has talent, sure, but Ohio State's young team is as talented as any roster in the country. I think Ohio State's balanced attack and experience at QB can attack and wear down OU's defense which has not looked great. Lay the points. Look for a decisive Buckeye victory.
R: Ohio State (-2.5) at Oklahoma
This is the easiest pick of the week. Oklahoma was exposed against Houston. Don’t get me wrong, Houston is a great team, but Oklahoma struggled. The Sooners only averaged 2.7 yards per carry and had eight fewer first downs than Houston did.
Ohio State is probably the most talented team in the country north of the Mason-Dixon line and that will really show in this game. JT Barrett is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the Buckeyes have done what they are supposed to do against the opening opponents of Bowling Green and Tulsa.
Oklahoma isn’t good enough on offense to take advantage of the youth on the Buckeye defense and the talent and depth advantage in favor of Ohio State will start to show later in the third quarter and throughout the fourth quarter as they pull away.
S: Alabama (-10) at Ole Miss
So, yeah, Alabama looked invincible vs. USC two weeks ago. Then they looked sleepwalk-y against WKU last Saturday. Ole Miss plays an offensive style that gives Alabama fits, and I think their defensive front has enough dudes to chase around Bama's young QB. But the fact that Ole Miss's secondary is so depleted really troubles me. Also the lack of any meaningful run game for the Rebels will pose some challenges on 3rd and 2 and with ball control. And, obviously, Saban has been needling his guys all year about Ole Miss's 2-game win streak in this rivalry. I think that ends this year in Oxford. Unfortunately, Alabama covers this one easily and gets some revenge on the Rebels.
R: Alabama (-10) at Ole Miss
In a total overreaction to week 1 I think that this may be peak Alabama. Their new quarterback, Jalen Hurts, is a dual-threat who is great when he only has to throw 11 times in a game, and he has the speed to run around you and the strength to run over you. By week 8 this team will be a juggnernaut and might get every coach in the SEC West fired.
I’m not putting a ton of stock into Alabama struggling (relatively) with Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers have one of the best offensive units in the country. That matchup was a classic case of a let down, trap game.
Ole Miss looked unbelievable in week 1 against Florida State until the second half started. The Rebels turned to be very turnover prone and gave up 419 yards through the air. With the potential to make a lot of mistakes and either the lack of depth or fortitude to keep up for a full 60 minutes this could be a warning sign of real trouble in the Grove.
If there is a team that can shock the Tide it would be Ole Miss. The Rebels have stunned the Tide at home the last couple years and mobile quarterbacks, such as Chad Kelly, have given Saban’s defenses a lot of trouble. I just think the Tide will feast off of mistakes and won’t give nearly as much to the defense as the Florida offensive line did.
S: USC (+7.5) at Stanford
I don't know if Stanford has enough offensive flash to win by more than a TD. Sure, Christian McCaffrey is a beast, but the lack of inspired quarterback play on the Farm, which has been a mainstay since 2009, concerns me in this matchup. Say what you want about USC, but they're talented. And they have the names/recruits on defense to be elite. Can they put it together? I don't know. but I also don't trust Stanford to win this one by more than 7. Take the points.
R: USC (+7.5) at Stanford
The Trojans are really one of the more talented teams in the country and this is their first year back at full strength after the NCAA handed down all of the bogus penalties. USC got blown out by Alabama but that said a lot more about Alabama than it did the Trojans.
USC has also had Stanford’s number two of the last three years. The game against Utah State was a great bounce-back performance, basically giving an off-season after playing the most physical team in the country.
Stanford’s new quarterback, Ryan Burns, did look really good against Kansas State. He made a lot of really impressive throws. However, the Cardinals did not have a great performance on offense or defense against a team with a lot less talent and less experience. The Cards do have a bye heading into this game.
The two weeks will have been a huge gain for the Trojans and I think they’ll keep it close against Stanford.
S: Texas at Cal (+7.5)
I don't trust Texas's secondary to keep up with Cal's passing attack, and weird things happen in Berkeley when the crowd decides to show up. I in no way think Cal can win this game. But I'm hesitant to lay points on a road favorite coming up against an explosive passing offense. Texas had better win this game, but it might be a #Pac12AfterDark situation for the Longhorns.
R: Texas (-7.5) at Cal
The wait for Charlie Strong’s team might be over. The Longhorns had a huge win at home in overtime against top-10 ranked Notre Dame. Strong used both quarterbacks effectively and used tempo masterfully against the Irish. Then Texas followed up that win with a blowout over UTEP.
Cal had a win over Hawai’I to start the year off, which is basically meaningless, and lost a close one to San Diego State this past weekend. Cal benefited from three big turnovers and some dumb choices against the Rainbow Warriors and allowed 6.5 yards per rush. The Golden Bears did shoot themselves in the foot with four turnovers against San Diego State but they also have up 7.1 yards per rush.
Texas will be able to take advantage of Cal’s below-average job of stopping the run. I think the Longhorns will wear down Cal over the course of the game and extend the lead with the help of a few extra turnovers. Cal does have the offense to keep this close but they might just be too mistake prone and too inexperienced this early in the year.