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A pretty crumby start to the year. I have bad thoughts on bad teams who provided bad beats. Week 2 is usually ripe for overreaction, so hopefully, I can dial things in a bit, find those spots and get back on the right track. Ironically, I'm 3-0 in our featured game columns, but that doesn't count here! I had early leans on Georgia Southern and UConn, but those numbers have moved 1.5-2 points since they opened Sunday night. I still like them, just not as much. There are lots of road teams for me this week. And lots of spreads where a half point could make a difference, so do your part and hopefully find the safety.
Illinois (+3) at Kansas (Friday)
This is a case where I think the wrong team is favored as a result of last week's performances. Yes, Illinois struggled to defeat Toledo. Yes, the defense didn't look as stout as it did a year ago. I'd argue the merits of Toledo, however, as that was a dangerous opener. It's a tricky bet, too, as by kickoff, we could have clarity on Kansas QB Jalon Daniels' availability, which surely is going to move the line one way or another. What I do feel confident in, however, is Kansas won't average 6.4 ypc, nor will they hold Illinois to 2.7 ypc as they did to Missouri State last week. Give me the points to go with the better defense, and I expect the Illini to run the ball efficiently, to boot.
Notre Dame (-7) at North Carolina State
I'm still a believer that NCST OC Robert Anae will work his magic with QB Brennan Armstrong, and I'm scared I'm going too far the other way after backing the Wolfpack last week. But there were some major offensive warts; there's no reliable receiver or running back. The Wolfpack managed only 155 yards through the air, suffering through countless drops, and of their 209 yards rushing, Armstrong got 96 of them, not all on designed attempts. This is certainly a step up in class for the Irish, who have had their way with Navy and Tennessee State. But they have too many pieces on both sides. The defense will likely only be tested by the opposing offensive scheme, not personnel. RB Audric Estime gives them a bruising anchor, while QB Sam Hartman has been a welcomed addition to the passing game, routinely hitting chunk plays downfield. He's faced the Wolfpack multiple times previously as well. They did force him into three INTs in each of their last two meetings, but Hartman got 687 yards and five scores. NCST's front isn't what it used to be, and while they know how to pressure Hartman, look for Notre Dame to adjust too and allow him to find success and limit turnovers.
Purdue (+3) at Virginia Tech
Another spot where the wrong team is favored? Purdue was gashed through the air last week by Fresno State; that's likely going to happen a lot to the Bulldogs' opponents and could happen often to the Boilermakers in conference play, too. Virginia Tech looked better in their passing game against ODU last week, but the Monarchs are in the midst of a heavy rebuild, so consider me skeptical. The Hokies couldn't run the ball at all, nor could they stop it, gaining 2.5 ypc and allowing 4.7. What saved VT is ODU coughing up three fumbles, two in plus territory, and an interception. Purdue can limit the run, get more pressure on QB Grant Wells and force mistakes. We've seen that formula multiple times last season, and it repeats here. I'll take the points, but I don't hate Purdue on the moneyline.
Michigan (-36.5) vs. UNLV
Here's to hoping I'm not biting off too many points here. But UNLV is so severely undermanned. They are incredibly small up front, allowing 179 yards rushing (4.5 ypc) to Bryant last week. After the Wolverines struggled to run the ball last week against East Carolina (3.9 ypc), they'll get offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore back on the sidelines. Don't we expect a massive resurgence? Defensively, the Wolverines were great last week against ECU and should have minimal trouble stopping the Rebels rushing offense, which looked very one-dimensional last week. I see Michigan having no pushback and likely scoring defensively off a turnover, too.
Marshall (-2.5) at East Carolina
I'm not exuding a ton of confidence after Marshall narrowly beat Albany last week. But for a rebuilding defense, the results were encouraging. They allowed only 300 total yards, allowed only a 25 percent conversion rate on third down, and earned a massive seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Their near undoing was Albany churning clock, with 10 minutes more of possession. The Herd offense wasn't awful, getting 413 yards; they, too, just couldn't convert on third down and stay on the field. I trust QB Cam Fancher and RB Rasheen Ali to do enough to put up points here. We can't take much of anything away from ECU's beatdown at Michigan last week, but they are another rebuilding side with minimal experience. They rotated two quarterbacks without success and had six running backs take carries, none more than eight times. It's very much a work in progress that will take time to come together. That won't happen against the Herds' attacking defense.
Last week: 1-4, Season: 1-4
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A so-so start to the season, with two winners and three losers this past week. The wins were on Oklahoma and the USC over, while the losses were on Michigan, Iowa and the over in the North Carolina game. Though it was a losing week, the losses were close, while the wins came easy. I know that's no consolation, but at least we didn't need to sweat the winners.
We have one week under our belts, so things should start to get easier to handicap, but there's still a lot we don't know about these teams, so it's still wise to tread lightly for another week or two.
All lines courtesy of draftkings.com
Colorado (-2.5) vs Nebraska
My first thought on this game was the Buffs' were going to be too full on themselves after last week's win at TCU, but after thinking about it further and seeing this line stay below three points, I'm going to side with Colorado. I think part of the problem here is the perception of Colorado was so far off that people are having a hard time adjusting to the new reality. It never made sense to predict this team's season based on last season because the roster was almost entirely flipped. If you watched the game against TCU, you know that win was no fluke, now, maybe we'll find out that TCU isn't as good as we thought, but for now, let's just trust our eyes. As for Nebraska, the 'Huskers looked awful this past week at Minnesota, and I'm not sure they have the offense to keep up here.
Michigan (-36.5) vs UNLV
I'm going back to the well here because I feel like Michigan should have covered this past week, but the Wolverines just let up too early. That or they didn't pour it on enough in the first half, but whatever the case, I think this is a spot where we see a true blowout. UNLV beat powerhouse Bryant University this past week, but along the way, the Rebels allowed 4.5 per carry on 40 carries…against Bryant. I wasn't aware Bryant had a football team until 10 minutes ago. This past week, Michigan scored early in the 2nd half but did nothing after that. This week, it'll be different because of that run defense. Instead of just running the clock down in the second half this week, Michigan will actually be moving down the field on the ground and scoring points as well.
Under (36.5) Iowa at Iowa State
I've always had a rule never to take an under unless there was at least one good defense on the field. When we're dealing with totals in the 30s, though, you obviously need more than one good defense. Heck, you need more than two good defenses; you need some serious ineptitude on offense as well, and guess what, folks? We've got it all here! Much to the dismay of Iowa fans, the offense did not look any better this past week against Utah State. Iowa failed to crack 200 yards passing and cranked out a whopping 2.4 per carry on the ground. As for Iowa State, the Cyclones couldn't even muster 200 yards total! It's hard to envision a total going under when it's set so low, but once this game is 7-3 at the half, you'll wonder how it could ever go over.
Under (37.5) UTEP at Northwestern
Have I ever told you about my rule concerning unders? Well, rules are made to be broken; that's what I always say. There is no good defense here that I can tell, but there appears to be offensive ineptitude across the board. I actually watched a bit of the Northwestern game this past week against Rutgers, and you talk about absolutely nothing to offer on offense; my goodness, the Wildcats looked terrible. UTEP, meanwhile, has played two games against teams that you've probably never heard of, and the Miners have managed just 45 points total. I suppose there could be a load of errors in this game that lead to easy scores, but if either of these teams are required to put long drives together, there's just no way they hit the over here.
Oregon (-6.5) at Texas Tech
I realize that this looks like a trap, but I'm going in anyway. Texas Tech lost this past week at Wyoming, but it wasn't the loss so much that has me worried; it's the fact that the Red Raiders had to battle all day and into two overtimes, only to come up short. Oregon, meanwhile, barely got loose this past week while putting up 81 points against Portland State; they should be ready to go a full 60 minutes this week. I don't think this will be easy, but I like that Oregon has a veteran QB who knows how to win on the road. If the Ducks plan to accomplish anything big this year, they simply can't slip up in this spot.
Last Week: 2-3-0; This Season: 2-3-0
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I took it on the chin in Week 1. I underestimated Colorado and Tech and overestimated N.C. State and TCU. Still, 2-3 isn't a bad way to start the year, especially when there's so much to discover about many premier teams. I'm anticipating a better showing in Week 2.
Notre Dame (-7.5) @ NC State
I expected a bit more from the Wolpack's passing game against UConn last week, but the reunion of Brennan Armstrong and OC Brandon Anae didn't deliver as promised in the team's opener. If N.C. State has a hope of winning against the Irish; they'll need to ramp up their aggressiveness with the offensive playcalling and open up the offense. Sam Hartman is no stranger to playing in Raleigh after spending the lion's share of his college career with the Demon Deacons, and his past struggles with the Wolfpack's 3-3-5 defense are a check in the underdog's favor. I don't think it will be enough to stem the tide in this matchup.
Utah (-7.5) @ Baylor
The Utes proved that they don't need Cameron Rising to win, and it looks like they'll lean on the tandem of Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson once again unless the news changes later in the week. The Bears will also be playing without starter Blake Shapen (knee) and will pin their hopes on Sawyer Robertson to right the ship. Baylor was able to score on Texas State but allowed an embarrassing 42 points, losing by 11. They'll need to show up with a better defense against the Utes, who look as potent as ever on offense.
Colorado (-2.5) vs. Nebraska
Vegas must know something we don't because this spread is way too narrow. Nebraska lost 13-10 to Minnesota in a game fraught with mistakes. Although Jeff Sims ran the ball out of the backfield for almost 100 yards, he threw three picks and failed to ignite the passing game. The Cornhuskers also committed seven penalties, coughed up a fumble, and basically gave this game away. Conversely, the Buffaloes are the talk of the town after their spectacular showing against TCU last week, and I seriously doubt there will be a hangover game looming for Prime Time and his crew of transfers. No one will be caught off guard by Colorado's lightning-fast pace any longer, but I don't see how the Huskers can withstand the offensive onslaught in a hostile environment.
UTEP (-1.5) @ Northwestern
Rutgers tore up the Wildcats last week, and we shouldn't be surprised. The long shadow of scandal loomed over Northwestern last week, and it showed in their lackluster play. Although UTEP dropped their first game against Jacksonville State, they led in several categories and should have won. Their difficulty on third down was their Achilles heel, and they also failed to stop the run game, giving up 208 yards. Northwestern's Evan Hull was a bright spot for the Wildcats, and he could cause UTEP's run defense some problems, but I have faith in the Miners' offensive game plan. It's an evenly matched game, but I'll side with the slight favorite.
Alabama (-7) vs. Texas
You'll rarely see a rookie quarterback set records in his first game, but Jalen Milroe did just that last week. Mlroe became the first quarterback in Alabama history to throw for three touchdowns and run for two touchdowns in a single game. Granted, the Tide rolled against lowly Middle Tennessee, and they'll face Quinn Evers and a high-octane offense this time around. I do not doubt that Alabama has revenge on their minds, as penalties and mistakes thwarted their chance to beat Texas last season. I'd feel a bit differently if this game was in Austin this week, but I predict a long afternoon for the Longhorns in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has had this game circled on the calendar, and he'll have his team ready.
Week 1: 2-3