This article is part of our College Football Picks series.
College Capper: Bowl Season Week 2 Expert Picks
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Stop me if you've heard this before; another down-trending week where I'm struggling to find the right angle given the limited options. I've slipped below .500 for the first time all year and am coming off my worst week of the season, clearly shaking my confidence. Simply disappointing after how great the first two months of the year were. Plan for a rebound, or fade hard as we wrap up the season, the choice is yours!
Wake Forest (-1.5) vs. Missouri
My play here is simply that Wake QB Sam Hartman is going out a winner. Wake's defense is so brutal, it's going to make Missouri's limited passing attack look elite. And given opt-outs, I'd be playing Luther Burden heavily in DFS formats, but that's not my forte. Missouri's pass defense stats are so sporadic; they are allowing 7.1 ypa overall, a favorable number, but a 15:10 TD:INT ratio overall. However, nine of those 15 touchdown passes have come over the last four games. Hartman needs one touchdown pass to become the ACC's all-time leader in scoring throws. I'm betting he moves well past that, and leads a game-winning drive to cement his legacy at Wake.
East Carolina (-7.5) vs. Coastal Carolina
I'm clearly struggling this bowl season, but in fairness, I made all of my picks for our pick 'em in about three minutes as I packed for an international anniversary trip. But it seems obligatory to include my best bet in this column. I'm very skeptical on Grayson McCall playing a full four quarters, if at all, given the pursuit of him by Power 5 schools. They are without head coach Jamey Chadwell as well, and I really don't see them being interested here. On the other side, ECU will have fifth-year starter Holton Ahlers under center for his final game. He posted a career-best 23:5 TD:INT ratio and 67.1 percent completion rate. I've seen no mention of dynamic RB Keaton Mitchell sitting this out either. I think the Pirates send out the face of their program in style while CCU heads into a major transitory offseason.
Duke (-3) vs. Central Florida
Duke has overachieved all year, and that's my play here again. They want to play in this game, where as I doubt UCF's motives in what they likely expect is a game beneath them given preseason expectations. It's also going to be cold in Annapolis, futher dampening the Golden Knights' spirts. Finally, Duke has been elite against the run, allowing 3.2 ypc, 120.3 ypg and eight touchdowns all year. They won't shut down UCF, but they'll be coached up to slow them enough to be victorious.
Kansas (+3.5) vs. Arkansas
With the highest total of the entire bowl season, this should be a fun one. It's an odd setup however; Kansas has QB Jalon Daniels forcing his way into action after a one-game return from injury, while Arkansas has some 19 opt-outs, but QB KJ Jefferson will play before making a decision on his future. The Hawgs likely have the talent even with their absencses, but in a back and fourth game, I'll take the points and back the likely more motivated Jayhawks.
Oregon vs. North Carolina under 73.5
We've seen how uncompetitive North Carolina can be when they play top-tier teams. And with Bo Nix still piloting the Ducks, that's exactly what I expect to play out here. UNC's defense is so porous, Oregon should have no problem stretching this out early. Yes, that lends itself to an Oregon cover, especially when paired with the fact that UNC is seemingly Drake Maye and nothing else offensively. But I'll go against my normal line of thinking and target the total here rather than the spread. Oregon wins, and likely wins big, but I think they'll be respectful, all while UNC struggles to score without Josh Downs stretching the field. 42-21 works nicely here.
Last week: 1-4; Season: 39-41
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A solid start to bowl season as I hit on three of my first four plays. Since the weeks overlap a bit, as of this writing (Wednesday night), I still have one play left to be settled on Thursday. Let's take a quick look back before we get to the picks for this week.
The lone loss was the first game of the week where I had the over on the UTSA-Troy game. UTSA never found its offense and Troy didn't exactly light it up either. That can happen after a long layoff. The first win was on the under the Cincinnati-Louisville game. As expected, both teams struggled on offense, but Cincy really struggled, which came in handy as this game was ahead of pace at the half. The next win was on the under in the SMU-BYU game as the total was just set too high for two teams that were missing key players on offense. The final win was on Fresno State, which had no problem with a depleted Washington State team.
We're starting to find a rhythm with these bowl games, and we are seeing the effect that all of these missing players are having. To this point, nothing really unexpected has happened yet, but there's a long way to go.
All lines courtesy of draftkings.com
Houston (-7.5) vs Louisiana
Laying over a TD with a team like Houston is a little risky is its defense is not exactly stout, but Louisiana has lost a couple key pieces on offense and I'm not sure the Ragin' Cajuns will be able to keep up in this one. Houston's offense should be just fine as Clayton Tune and Nathaniel Dell are both set to play in this one. Louisiana is nothing special on defense and there's no reason to think that the Cougars will have trouble both moving the ball and scoring. The only question with Houston, as always is can the defense hold up a few times to get the space needed to cover this number. I think they can, but if you aren't as sure, the over could be a good play as well.
Wake Forest (-1.5) vs Missouri
Wake Forest did not meet expectations this year on any front. The defense wasn't good and the offense wasn't good enough. Sam Hartman started strong, but he and the entire offense struggled in the middle of the season and never really hit full stride. If these teams had met during the regular season, I would have sided with Missouri, but as has been the trend this bowl season, one of two teams is getting hit really hard with personnel losses. As you can guess, in this game it's Missouri, which loses a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. We might actually get to see the full octane 'Deacon offense in this game.
Memphis (-7.5) vs Utah State
Perhaps the mass exodus of Aggies is already built into this line, but something tells me it hasn't risen quite enough. On paper, these teams look fairly equal as they both enter with 6-6 records, but factor in all the player defections on Utah State and these teams are nowhere near equal. The defections are mostly on the offensive side, but perhaps the biggest issue for the Aggies is its defense. The Aggies surrendered over 30 points per game while allowing almost 200 yards per game on the ground. Memphis relies more on the pass than the run, but the Tigers are fairly proficient at both. All the main players are back on offense for Memphis which means they'll have no problem putting up points in this spot.
Wisconsin (-3.5) vs Oklahoma State
There may not be another bowl game hit quite as hard with player losses than this one. Both teams lost their starting QBs, but that will have a much larger impact on the Cowboys than the Badgers as the Badgers are a run heavy team. Oklahoma State lost much more on defense than the Badgers, which will also have a large impact on this game. The biggest factor however might be the energy of these teams. Though Wisconsin had a tough season, the Badgers have renewed hope for the future as Luke Fickell will be the HC starting next season. OSU meanwhile fizzled down the stretch and its starting QB, Spencer Sanders, who has been there for ages, decided to enter the transfer portal. This wasn't some fly by the night QB, he was the identity of this team for the past couple years, and he decided to move on. That has to sting.
Duke (-3.5) vs UCF
Like the Missouri game, if this were a regular season matchup, I'd probably be siding with the other team, but the circumstances here are just too much to overcome for UCF. It's not enough that the Knights will likely be down to their 3rd-string QB, but they'll also have to navigate this game without their OC, who moved to UNC on December 15th. Duke will be mostly intact for this game and there's no reason to think the Blue Devils will struggle to move the ball against a UCF defense which also lost a few players.
Last Week: 3-1-0, Season: 39-38-0