R: 4-7 (I'll do better, I swear)
This week of games is... not great. But hey, there are a few worth checking out. As usual, we pick the games against the spread and you know to bet the other side.
R: Arkansas at TCU (-4)
The Razorbacks dropped their opening game at home to Louisiana Tech, 21-20. The defense returns nine starters and played decent. It's tough to win any game when you turn the ball over twice and go 3/12 on third down. Austin Allen threw two picks and was sacked multiple times, putting the average yard per carry at 2.7.
TCU won a shootout over a solid but not great South Dakota State. The Horned Frog defense gave up 10.7 yards per pass, which is somewhat concerning given that they have eight starters from last year back. However, I'm not going to put too much stock into a first game.
But a pick has to be made and I like TCU to cover. TCU has a lot of speed on offense and can score a lot of points on offense. I think it is more likely than not that Arkansas falls behind and their offense, meant to hang onto a lead, won't be able to catch up. The new quarterback for Arkansas still has some growing pains and that will continue against TCU
S: Arkansas at TCU (-4)
This line has shot up to -7.5 since it opened, indicating that a lot of public money is on the Horned Frogs. Neither of these teams looked super impressive last week, with Arkansas struggling to beat Louisiana Tech (I think a missed XP doomed the Bulldogs), and TCU needing til the 4th quarter to put away FCS South Dakota State (the Fighting Jackrabbits!). I think TCU has more upside here. Arkansas is notorious for needing until October to coalesce, and TCU is super-talented on defense. I'll lay the 4 here, but would be hesitant to lay 7.5 or whatever the line is at gametime, just because I know the Hogs have a penchant for taking the air out of the ball and competing with teams it shouldn't.
R: Virginia at Oregon (-20.5)
The Ducks are getting a lot of criticism for their opening performance against UC-Davis but Virginia had an even worse day. The Cavaliers, now led by Bronco Mendenhall formerly of BYU, was at one point down 30-7 to FCS Richmond and a final score of 37-20. The offense turned the ball over four times, they went 2-10 on third down, and gave up over 500 yards. Virginia also struggled running the football only totaling 38 yards on the day with 1.8 yards per carry.
Oregon held UC-Davis to 2.7 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per pass. The offense averaged 6.8 yards per carry and 9 yards per pass with four freshmen starting on the offensive line. The biggest gains are made between week one and week two and I expect Oregon to make a jump and cover.
S: Virginia at Oregon (-20.5)
Lay all of the points. After a humiliating 17-point loss to an in-state FCS "rival" Richmond, the Cavaliers now have to fly all the way across the country and play Oregon under the lights at 10:30 PM Eastern time. Woof. Tough task. Now, I wasn't in love with the Oregon offense last week, but I was encouraged by the defensive effort and consistency. And I also know that the Ducks' skill players are just too good to be contained by any defense. Ducks cover.
R: South Carolina (+9.5) at Mississippi State
The Gamecocks started us out on Thursday with a small win over Vanderbilt, 13-10. South Carolina even turned the ball over twice. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards stood out with eight receptions for 101 yards.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State dropped their opening game to South Alabama. I don't think we know yet how rough the Bulldogs are going to have it without Dak Prescott. Prescott accounted for a vast majority of the offense the last two years and his talent showed in the first few preseason games for the Cowboys.
The line is way too big for two teams that are bottom of the barrel in their divisions. We have no idea where these teams actually are. With a win over a conference opponent I think the Gamecocks have shown a little more and will cover.
S: South Carolina (+9.5) at Mississippi State
This line is already bet down to 6.5, and for good reason. Neither team looked good last week, but MSU undoubtedly looked worse in their opening day loss to the South Alabama Jaguars. And, in only putting up 20 points, some of the air went out of the sails of the formerly-great Bulldog offense. South Carolina didn't look great, either, but they at least got an SEC win against Vanderbilt. I'll wager on Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football. Take the points. This one might be a 17-13 final, either way. Or even more boring than that.
R: Virginia Tech v. Tennessee (-9) at Bristol Motor Speedway
The Hokies got a 36-13 win over the Liberty Flames last week, which really doesn't tell us anything. There are eight starters back on offense and seven back on defense. Justin Fuente is in his first year after coming over from Memphis where we ran one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. Bud Foster returns on defense so I wouldn't expect much of a dropoff on that side of the ball.
Tennessee struggled against Appalachian State. But Appalachian State is a pretty good team with a great defense. I'm not reading too much into that bad start other than I don't think the Vols are national championship contenders.
I think Tennessee will bounce back. Joshua Dobbs is better than the 16/29, 192 yards, 1/1 performance. The talent and speed is just a little too much for the Hokies.
S: Virginia Tech (+9) v. Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway
The logistics of this game and its location are kind of baffling. [And awesome.] 150,000 people are expected to pack the Speedway, just 9,000 fewer people than live within the city limits of Eugene. This is the most freaking American thing ever and I'm 100% in.
And, I guess we should talk about the actual game.
I watched a decent chunk of the Tennessee/App. State game, and I was pretty turned off by generally uninspired play by the Vols. They seemed moody, afraid to fail, and got pushed around by a lesser-talented Mountaineer team. They might bounce back and play great in this big-venue, weird game, but it's not something I would bet on. I'll take Virginia Tech, who always plays good defense and has nowhere to go but up offensively with Justin Fuente now at the helm. Give me the Hokies and the points. Not inclined to put money on a road favorite that hasn't proved its mettle. Vols need to prove themselves before they merit that kind of consideration from me.
R: Utah State (+14) at USC
Utah State took care of Weber State. Sure, Weber State isn't that good, but Utah State did what they were supposed to do and how they should handle that caliber team. They rushed for 428 yards and averaged 9.7 yards per carry.
USC got throttled by Alabama 52-6. I think Alabama is in its final form and this may be peak college football. Also, Lane Kiffin definitely ran up the score as high as he possibly could. The Trojans only rushed for 64 yards and passed for 130. They were held without a touchdown. This says a lot more about Alabama than it does about USC.
I like Utah State here because playing Alabama is really hard because of how physical the Tide is. I think USC will win this game but after being beaten up I think 14 points is a lot to give up.
S: Utah State (+14) at USC
I mean, you can't underestimate the sting of one of the all-time worst losses in program history. And the drubbing from Alabama certainly was that for the Men of Troy. To paraphrase SB Nation's own Dan Rubenstein, who put it best in the recent [link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0mghIz8oX8] Wake Up College Football! [/link]: when you have all the 4-star and 5-star guys the whole country wants, and then to come out against Alabama (with plenty of time to prepare) and fail miserably in all three phases of the game, you've got a real coaching problem within the program.
So, yeah, I'm taking those points and betting on the Aggies. Maybe USC is an 8-4 team waiting to blossom. But maybe they're just as bad as that first week would suggest. Until we have more data points, I'm not betting on them to cover a two-touchdown spread, especially against a Utah State team that has a penchant for physical defense.
R: BYU at Utah (-4.5)
BYU played well against an Arizona squad that is predicted by many to be near the bottom of the PAC-12 South division. BYU returns a lot of experience, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
Utah had an underwhelming offensive performance only scoring 24 points while shutting out Southern Utah. Southern Utah was absolutely shut down on offense, held to 42 yards through the air and 116 on the ground. Utah also returns a lot of experience on both lines.
Line play for Utah is always so solid and Troy Williams looked good in their season opener. I also like that the Utes get this game at home. This game will be a good barometer for how good both of these teams actually are.
S: BYU (+4.5) at Utah
BYU looked pretty legit, at least defensively, against Arizona last weekend. Utah's offense leaves a lot to be desired. BYU's rushing game looks strong with Jamaal Williams at tailback and Taysom Hill back in the starting spot. And we know #SackLakeCity is ready for the challenge. So what to we do in a rivalry game, where all things appear even? We take the points. And I think BYU is ready to end the Utes' 5-game win streak in the Holy War. Watch out for BYU, who had better win this thing if they have hopes to make some noise with their exceedingly difficult upcoming schedule.
R: Washington State (+12) at Boise State
The Cougars lost to Eastern Washington last week, but then the Cougars lost to a terrible Portland State team last year and their season turned out fine. Luke Falk went 41/51 for 418 yards to go with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Meanwhile, Boise State demolished Louisiana Lafayette 45-10. The Broncos passed for 246 yards and rushed for another 158. They held the Ragin' Cajuns to 2 yards per carry and 5.6 yards per pass.
Last year it took Washington State a few games to get going so I don't think they will win this game. Washington State can score a lot and I like that I can get 12 points in this matchup.
S: Washington State (+12) at Boise State
This might be my lock this week. Despite the loss to an FCS school last week, people forget (A) just how good EWU is, and (B) that Wazzu did the EXACT SAME THING in their 2015 opener (to Portland State) before setting fire to the Pac-12. I don't know what to make of Boise State this year, despite knowing that they're going to be a quality team no matter what. They looked good in their opener against the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. But I don't think they have the goods to boat-race a talented WSU squad who is probably super-pissed about losing to Eastern Washington. Take the points in the sure-to-be shootout here. The over/under for points is 74 for Sark's sake!
R: Texas Tech (+5) at Arizona State
Patrick Mahomes II led Texas Tech to a 69-17 win over the Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks throwing 30/43 for 483 yards and 4 touchdowns. Even more impressive was the Red Raider defense that only gave up 5.7 yards per pass and 1.7 yards per rush while forcing two interceptions.
In the desert, Arizona State beat the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 44-13. Quarterback Manny Wilkins threw 20/27 for 180 yards but also was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Again, with both teams we are not sure with how good they actually are given the competition they played. Texas Tech gets six starters back on both sides of the ball while the Sun Devils have four on offense and six on defense. I like Arizona State to win a close one. Both offenses are going to score a lot but Arizona State is a little more diverse on offense.
S: Texas Tech (+5) at Arizona State
Texas Tech came out of nowhere and put a beat down on Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl. Arizona State may remember that, and have some motivation in this game, but I'm not sure they can do much about it. Patrick Mahomes is the next video-game-numbers quarterback for Texas Tech, and I think he puts that on display against an Arizona State defense that hasn't been that good since Will Sutton was drafted by the Bears. Take the points. And probably grab the moneyline on the Red Raiders.