Isn’t college football the greatest? Only a week into it and we've already had some fun upsets and endless entertainment. Not to mention, many of the big boys in the AP's top five looked very beatable. This promises to be another great season.
In all that we went 3-and-3 with our Week 1 picks, and our metrics went in opposite directions as we were 7-and-5 in our YPP metric that does consider returning points and 8-and-10 in the version that doesn’t.
As we expected the early weeks will be highly unpredictable and Week 2 has some real numerical anomalies with very few games that stand out as good picks - at least by the numbers. Since our picks for the college game have always been more about fun and experimentation with the metrics, we’re calling an audible this week picking some games based purely off of feel.
In what promises to be another fantastic week of college pigskin, here are our picks against the spread with the usual upsets and big game hunting.
Picks of the week
South Carolina +2.5 at Missouri
Missouri is coming off a hot start with quarterback Drew Lock going off, passing for 521 yards and 7 touchdowns while beating down Missouri State. That’s got some folks excited for the Tigers after a down 2016 campaign.
But don’t overlook these Gamecocks who pulled off a really nice win against North Carolina State a week ago. Will Muschamp’s squad is returning 10 starters on offense and it showed as they put up 35 points against a talented Wolfpack 'D'.
That’ll be a problem for Mizzou who allowed 43 points to Missouri State and had the 90th ranked scoring defense in the FBS a season ago. Led by playmaking do-it-all wide receiver Deebo Samuel, South Carolina is the better team and they’ve already faced a real test this season. Give us the road dogs here in an early SEC East bout.
Idaho -6.5 versus UNLV
The Vandals haven’t necessarily been a football powerhouse through the years but they’re coming off a nice 9-and-4 season and have their star quarterback Matt Linehan behind the wheel.
While Idaho is coming off a slightly unconvincing Week 1 win (28-3 versus Sacramento State) that really pales in comparison to the Rebels 43-40 loss to Howard that really exposed UNLV's 'D'. Simply put, Vegas' defense isn’t good and the Vandals should put up points in this contest without too much trouble.
The question here is will the Rebels keep this close and cover the spread? To do so they’ll have to run the ball as the coaching staff doesn't seem to fully trust freshman quarterback Armani Rogers who was given limited pass attempts Week 1. The Vandals defense’s one strength is their run stopping ability which should allow them to match up well with the Rebels attack.
The Vandals winning by a touchdown seems like a good bet here.
Arkansas +3 versus TCU
Sure the Horned Frogs are in the top 25 (at 23) but that’s after beating Jackson State 63-0, not exactly Alabama. This should be an exciting game with two good offenses led by veteran quarterbacks.
This game will be close, but with it being played in Arkansas and 3 points in favor of TCU just seem disrespectful and entirely based on the Horned Frogs appearance in the national rankings. Arkansas has been the better program the last few seasons and has the better quarterback plus the home field. Give us the Hogs, Jackson State be damned!
Stanford +6 at USC
God bless the Pac-12 for giving us this type of great inner-conference battle this early in the year. Before you think this is simply an overreaction to last week's lack luster performance against Western Michigan allow us to explain.
Stanford’s beaten the Trojans the last two years and fairly comfortably too and the two years prior USC won by a combined 6 points in nail-biting victories in 2014 and 2013. Just based on that alone you should be concerned if you’re thinking of betting on SC.
The game will come down to Stanford being able to run the ball consistently, and I like their chances with running back Bryce Love having four returning starters up front blocking for him. On the other side, the Trojans have a green o-line and were very dependent on their run game a week ago. That won’t be so easy against a veteran Stanford defense that’s always stout especially on the ground. The Cardinal’s ability to create pressure will also be crucial as USC QB Sam Darnold struggled under duress a week ago while his line didn’t hold up.
With all the pressure mounting from the preseason hype, USC is facing a really tough test this week and they won’t win comfortably. Give us Stanford to cover.
Iowa -2.5 at Iowa State
Anything can happen in a rivalry game I get that, but 2.5 points just aren't enough here for a Hawkeyes team that’s been much better in recent history. The one risk in picking Iowa is that they don’t light up the scoreboard but the Cyclones offense hasn’t been consistently explosive and will face a very tough test in the Hawkeyes always stout defense.
Iowa's just the smart pick here, there's not much more to say.
Big game hunting
Clemson -5 versus Auburn
This is a great game that could really propel either team with a victory; Auburn has new quarterback Jarrett Stidham and has plenty of talent to make noise in the SEC, while Clemson now seems favored to win the ACC as Florida State lost their quarterback.
This one should be wide open with defenses being the more veteran units for either team. When playing each other a year ago this was a defensive struggle with Clemson eventually prevailing. The line at -5 is just enough to like the home team who undoubtedly have the better defense and one of the top units in the country. That’ll be a tough test on the road for Stidham and Auburn's offense. Give us Clemson to barely pull it off with a close touchdown win.
Oklahoma +7 at Ohio State
I’m likely going against my better judgment as I keep thinking “Lincoln Riley can’t beat Urban Meyer in 'The Shoe',” and yet here we are. Maybe I’m a sucker and I just like that +7 point spread but ultimately the questions about the Buckeyes' offense are still too much for me to feel safe taking them to win by a touchdown.
This game will be all about OSU’s phenomenal defense against the explosive Oklahoma attack with the Buckeyes undoubtedly having more talent, at least in the size and speed departments. Oklahoma can exploit the Buckeyes secondary that's lost lots of players and struggled at times last week against Indiana.
It could still be a blowout like a year ago but this Sooners team seems to match up much better against Ohio State than they did in 2016. Give us OU to at least keep it close and cover.
Notre Dame -5 versus Georgia
Georgia is ranked highly at 15 as they're a bit overrated thanks to their SEC pedigree. However, they've lost their starting quarterback for this game, forcing true freshman Jake Fromm to start. Both teams are talented and have lots of questions to answer this season after disappointing campaigns a year ago. With the home field advantage and fewer offensive questions, the Irish seem in a good spot to bring home a convincing win.
Georgia just looks like pretenders at this point; a big showing against the Irish would go a long way in reconsidering that position.