Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/14/14
College Football Week 2 Picks In case the offseason made you forget just how much Vegas loves to torment bettors, last week featured a nice mix of upsets, blowouts, and surprises.  Going Against the Spread is always a daunting proposition, and the FCS certainly didn’t help matters by going off on its big brother. Here are the picks for week 2. We each avoided a losing record last weekend, and look to keep things rolling. Note that all picks are made against the spread as defined by Yahoo! Sports.   Florida Gators @ Miami Hurricanes (+3) Bigalke: Essentially it comes down to a few questions here. Do you think Miami is back as a relevant national power? In a battle of strengths, will the Gators defense be able to chomp down on a burgeoning high-power Hurricanes attack? In a battle of weaknesses, will the Florida offense be able to score points against a green Miami D? Personally I think that it would be just about right for the Canes to win by a field goal at home, making this a push in general. Given that it’s a home match, I’m counting on the potential for some Duke Johnson fireworks as he tests the Gator front seven. Muschamp’s offense showed glimmers of hope against Toledo, but the defensive test ratchets up significantly now. I’m picking the home team to win on both strengths and weaknesses, meaning they should more than cover this underdog spread. PICK: Miami Mitchell: It will be strength versus strength when Florida and Miami meet up this weekend in their final scheduled regular season meeting. The Hurricanes bring in a powerful ground game led by Duke Johnson, who is one of the best running backs in the country. Johnson torched Florida Atlantic’s hapless defense in week one, but it will be a major step up in competition against Florida’s stingy defensive front. The Gators held a good Toledo offense to just 205 total yards in the Swamp, and they are itching to get a crack at Johnson and Miami. This figures to be a pretty good game, but I think Florida is the better team, and even on the road I’ll lay the points. PICK: Florida Strobl: The Gators have an edge in terms of overall talent. Why, then, do I have this nagging feeling about the ‘Canes? I can’t say I learned much about either team in week 1; FAU wasn’t a test for Miami and Florida didn’t look so great against Toledo. The Gators defense played well enough, limiting the Rockets to a mere six points, but it will take more offense to get past Miami. This one will likely come down to Florida’s rushing attack, and whether it can enjoy the same type of success it had last weekend. This is arguably the biggest game in a decade for the Hurricanes, and I think they could surprise. However, Florida usually does just enough to win these types of matchups. PICK: Florida   Bowling Green Falcons @ Kent State Golden Flashes (+7) Bigalke: With Dri Archer hobbled after injuring his left ankle on Kent State’s opening drive of the season, the Golden Flashes could be facing an uphill battle at home against one of the better defenses in the country you’ve probably been ignoring to date. Bowling Green hosted Tulsa last weekend and held the Golden Hurricane under 300 total yards of offense. Playing a conference opponent on the road should present little challenge for the Falcons, especially if that already-stout defense isn’t forced to game plan for its opponent’s best offensive weapon. While Kent State is a solid squad that likely would have busted into the BCS last season had it won the MAC championship over Northern Illinois, they’ve got a tall task trying to repeat that feat if Archer isn’t 110% healthy. PICK: Bowling Green Mitchell: This is a tough pick, especially with the status of Kent State’s best player, Dri Archer, up in the air after he injured his ankle early in their win over Liberty. Archer is a game-changer, and his uncertain status has to be the reason for the Golden Flashes being a seven point underdog on their home field. But, it’s also because Bowling Green is a better team than most realize. They boast one of the most underrated defenses in the country. The Falcons ranked 6th in the nation in total defense last season, and returned 9 starters. They held a Tulsa team that many pegged as the best team in the Conference-USA to seven points and 273 yards of total offense. Count me as a Bowling Green believer, and I think their defense will be a nightmare for Kent State, regardless of if Archer plays or not. PICK: Bowling Green Strobl: It isn’t 2012 anymore, and while the Golden Flashes have been putting together quality seasons of late, they’re likely to regress a bit in 2013. The loss of some key personnel, including coach Darrell Hazell, will lead to a period of transition for Kent State. Having this early season MAC matchup with BGSU won’t help matters; the Falcons thrashed Tulsa last week and look sharp to open the season. PICK: Bowling Green   Texas Longhorns @ BYU Cougars (+7) Bigalke: Maybe I’m just wacky, but some eerie things happened last weekend and I’ve got an odd feeling we might be on path this weekend for more odd happenings. Consider, for instance, the fact that BYU lost to Virginia. Or the fact that Texas looked horrible until they looked unbeatable. It just doesn’t feel like these trends are meant to stick, and in Provo the pendulum should swing back once again. The last time the teams played in Provo two years ago, Texas managed to survive 17-16. Though David Ash is finally looking like a competent quarterback in Austin, Kyle Van Noy and the Cougars should manage to unsettle him enough to force a few bad decisions. By keeping it close defensively, BYU will beat the spread this weekend. PICK: BYU Mitchell: Another scary Vegas spread. Texas used a big second half to blowout New Mexico State, and BYU looked less than impressive in a loss to Virginia. So, why is this a seven point spread? I really have no idea, other than the fact that the game is being played in Provo. The Cougars’ offense struggled against the Cavaliers, and they’ll go up against a strong and experienced Longhorns defense that brought back nine starters from last season. Texas QB David Ash also looks much improved, while Cougars QB Taysom Hill went 13-for-40 last week. Points could definitely be at a premium, but I like the ‘Horns to win by more than a touchdown. PICK: Texas Strobl: At first blush, this spread begs bettors to take the Cougars. There’s no on-field justification for thinking that BYU will keep it within 27, much less 7. What do the oddsmakers know that we don’t? Despite this chicanery, there’s no way I’m taking a team that was foiled by Virginia. No disrespect to the Cavs, but Texas is in a whole different league, literally and proverbially. The ‘Horns started slow but found their stride last week against sacrificial lamb NMSU, and though BYU may not be so easy a target, a single touchdown should be a piece of cake. PICK: Texas   Western Kentucky Hilltoppers @ Tennessee Volunteers (-13) Bigalke: I know Tennessee looked pretty damn good against Austin Peay… but that was AUSTIN PEAY, for crying out loud. This is a huge jump up in the quality of competition, and Bobby Petrino’s Hilltoppers will be hungry to go 2-0 in SEC play this season before returning to their Sun Belt schedule. Not only is Western Kentucky a better team than one might presume based on conference affiliation, but Tennessee could also get caught looking ahead to their cross-country trip to Eugene. With the Ducks looming on the schedule, not only will Western Kentucky cover a 13-point spread but they will also threaten to upset the Volunteers altogether at Neyland Stadium. PICK: Western Kentucky Mitchell: Bobby Petrino is looking to slay an SEC opponent for the second week in a row after taking down Kentucky last week. Regardless of his off the field transgressions, you can’t ignore his success on the field. He’s one of the best coaches in the country, and he’ll have his Hilltoppers well prepared for their trip to Knoxville. Tennessee certainly has a long way to go, but there were some positive takeaways in their opener against Austin Peay. While they didn’t amass many yards in the air, new starting quarterback Justin Worley managed the game well and threw more touchdowns (3) than incomplete passes (2). Their running game was impressive, even against an FCS opponent, as they raced to 315 yards on the ground on a 6.1 yards per carry clip. The Vols have one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and they should dominate in the trenches and be good enough to win. However, I do believe that this game will be close and Western Kentucky keeps it closer than two touchdowns. PICK: Western Kentucky Strobl: The Hilltoppers handled Kentucky with ease, winning even more comfortably than the 35-26 margin suggests. Granted, Tennessee is quite a bit better than its SEC East counterpart, but this feels like too large a spread. It’s hard to know for sure since Tennessee hasn’t yet been tested (sorry, Austin Peay), but I like the ‘Toppers to keep this one within ten. And who knows, maybe WKU can eliminate the turnovers and handle a second consecutive SEC foe. PICK: Western Kentucky   South Carolina Gamecocks @ Georgia Bulldogs (-3) Bigalke: Despite losing to Clemson, Georgia is favored on Saturday against the other top-ten school from South Carolina. The Gamecocks, who have defeated the Bulldogs each of the past three seasons, had a solid win against North Carolina in their season opener. Jadeveon Clowney is also likely to be determined to make a national impression against the Bulldogs, after his performance against the Tar Heels was pilloried for a lack of monster sacks and flying helmets. This season could turn ugly quickly for Mark Richt after this game, looking far more like 2011 than 2012 thanks to a tough early schedule. That defense simply isn’t ready to stop the Gamecocks, even between the hedged. PICK: South Carolina Mitchell: This is a curious spread considering both teams’ start to the season and the fact that South Carolina demolished Georgia last season in Columbia. But, the Bulldogs are a desperate team coming off last week’s loss to Clemson. Georgia entered the season with National Championship hopes, and an 0-2 start would be an absolute disaster in Athens. This is a huge SEC East tilt on the second weekend of the season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the winner of this game end up in Atlanta in December. Georgia’s offensive line looked shaky against Clemson, and that’s bad news with Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks coming into town on Saturday. Even though this curious Vegas spread has me wanting to pick the Bulldogs, I’ll stick with my gut and take South Carolina. PICK: South Carolina Strobl: If not for a couple of Aaron Murray gaffes, the Dawgs likely would have walked out of Death Valley with a close victory. Georgia lost wideout Malcolm Mitchell for the season thanks to an ill-fated celebratory leap, and coach Mark Richt must already feel his BCS chances slipping away. This is a high-pressure matchup that’s about as close to a must-win as it gets in mid-September. On the other side of the field is an SC team that looked god but not great against the Tarheels. Will a hostile Athens environment help Clowney and company ratchet up their play? Or will it lead to a critical early-season defeat? In the end this is almost a toss-up for me, but I’m leaning… PICK: Georgia   West Virginia Mountaineers @ Oklahoma Sooners (-21) Bigalke: The Mountaineers had a tough time taking care of business against William & Mary over the weekend, but don’t read too much into it — lots of teams had tough weekends with FCS opponents, though the Tribe were a 2-9 team last season rather than a defending or recent national champion. Oklahoma, meanwhile, held Kolton Browning and Louisiana-Monroe scoreless. Dana Holgorsen’s crew should manage to put some points on the board in Norman, though will it be enough to cover this spread? Last year this game went down to the wire before the Sooners prevailed 50-49 in Morgantown. While Oklahoma shouldn’t have to sweat Saturday’s game that much, WVU should be able to keep it within three touchdowns PICK: West Virginia Mitchell: Neither of these teams were particularly impressive in week one. West Virginia barely defeated William & Mary from the FCS, although surviving against against an FCS team in week one should be considered an accomplishment. It appears Dana Holgerson has a lot of work to do in Morgantown, and he’ll need to do it quickly as they head to Norman. The Sooners struggled offensively in freshman quarterback Trevor Knight’s first game. He tossed three touchdowns, but he was just 11-of-28 through the air for 86 yards. His running was a new dynamic for the Sooners’ offense, however, as he gained 103 yards on 13 carries. Defensively the Sooners were impressive though, as they held Kolton Browning and a high-flying Louisiana Monroe offense to just 166 yards of total offense. Expect them to frustrate the Mountaineers in a similar way and cover the spread. PICK: Oklahoma Strobl: With each passing week, Oklahoma is going to get more comfortable with its new personnel, particularly under center. Trevor Knight seems to be the man for the moment, but Blake Bell is waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, the rest of Sooners made it look like business as usual in week 1. In contrast, the Mountaineers played in a manner harkening back to their pre-Rich Rodriguez days. I need to see much more from WVU before I can pick them, even with this large of a spread. PICK: Oklahoma   Arkansas State Red Wolves @ Auburn Tigers (-10.5) Bigalke: Gus Malzahn takes on the team that he led to a Sun Belt title last season as Arkansas State comes to Auburn. The Red Wolves used their warm-up game wisely, pummeling Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-11 to prove their offense is just fine without Malzahn calling the shots. Auburn survived a trip to Pullman, beating Mike Leach’s Cougars 24-17. We’ve seen the Tigers nearly lose games at home to Sun Belt competition in recent seasons, and this might be the year that it all comes together for the mid-major in the fight. Arkansas State probably won’t rush for over 500 yards and eight touchdowns like last weekend, but they’ll cover on the trip to the Plains to give their old head coach headaches. PICK: Arkansas State Mitchell: Arkansas State would like nothing more than to knock off their old head coach Gus Malzahn on the Plains on Saturday. Both teams are 1-0, but Auburn showed some of the same weaknesses last week against Washington State that caused them to go 3-9 a year ago. The Cougars managed 464 yards, mostly through the air, but they also gained 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. Auburn won because they took advantage of three interceptions by Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday. Nick Marshall also struggled in his first collegiate start, throwing for less than 100 yards. But, Auburn’s ground game looked terrific led by Corey Grant, who ended up with 146 yards on just nine carries. Look for heavy doses of him and Tre Mason as Auburn should impose their will up front. I don’t think this will be a blowout by any means, but I do think the Tigers win by a pair of touchdowns. PICK: Auburn Strobl: Auburn continued to be one of the luckiest teams in the FBS with its week 1 win over Washington State. A series of gift interceptions helped the Tigers win Gus Malzahn’s debut. That fact leaves me torn on the outcome of this one. Wazzu is hardly a powerhouse, yet came within a play or three of best Auburn on the Plains; will Malzahn’s former squad have better luck? Arkansas State is no pushover, and it know’s its opponents tendencies. Of course, that familiarity cuts both ways, and Malzahn will have a pretty good idea of what the Red Wolves can do. I want to go ASU, but Auburn tends to eke out wins in these types of contests. PICK: Auburn   Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Michigan Wolverines (-4) Bigalke: So it’s the last game at the Big House between the Irish and the Wolverines for a while. This might not be the biggest rivalry for either team, but it is a pretty intense one nonetheless. Who do you trust more, Devin Gardner or Tommy Rees? People have harped on how Turnover Tommy had no interceptions or fumbles against Temple; now he has to prove it was no fluke against a team Brady Hoke will have more than ready to fight. Michigan looked perfectly comfortable beating the Chippewas by half a century in the opener, but Central Michigan and Notre Dame are completely different beasts. This should be a barnburner, though I could see the Wolverines pulling away late to win by a touchdown. PICK: Michigan Mitchell: This should be another tight game between these two, which is what we’ve come to expect in recent seasons. Both teams looked good in their first games as they handled a pair of non-AQ schools with relative ease. The big question mark for Notre Dame, last season’s national runner-up, was Tommy Rees trying to replace Everett Golson. Those worries were put to bed, at least for a week, after Rees’ three touchdown performance against Temple. Devin Gardner had three touchdowns of his own against Central Michigan (2 rushing, 1 passing), but he also had a pair of interceptions. He’ll have to take care of the football better if the Wolverines want to win this game. Turnovers were the main impetus for Michigan’s loss to the Fighting Irish in South Bend last season. I do think Michigan will win, but with this almost certainly being a close game, the four point spread gives me a little room for error and I’ll take the Irish and the points. PICK: Notre Dame Strobl: I’m still not buying Tommy Rees, end of story. Brian Kelly can be as wily as he wants, but at the end of the day, his signal-caller hasn’t shown the chops necessary to handle a program like Michigan. On the road in the Big House, facing a squad that looked dangerous against poor, overpowered CMU, the Irish are in for a much different experience than they enjoyed against Temple. It’s not in my nature to support That School Up North, but Michigan by a touchdown makes sense to me here. PICK: Michigan   San Jose State Spartans @ Stanford Cardinal (-25.5) Bigalke: Everyone expects Stanford to pick up right where it left off as the Pac-12 champion last season, but we haven’t seen the Cardinal take meaningful snaps since last year’s Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. San Jose State shut out a Sacramento State team that upset Colorado in Boulder last year. This will be a battle of quarterbacks, as David Fales bolsters his NFL credentials and Kevin Hogan looks to improve on his head-turning rookie season. Both teams should be able to put up points, which means that this Bay Area battle could and should be far closer than Vegas seems to expect. Yes, it is Stanford… but this Spartan squad is no slouch itself. PICK: San Jose State Mitchell: I’ve got Stanford pegged as the No. 2 team in the country, so I’m eager to see them open their season after having a bye in week one. Both teams bring in really good quarterbacks as Stanford’s Kevin Hogan looks to launch his Heisman campaign on Saturday. The Cardinal was a different team last season when he became the starting quarterback, as he guided them to a Rose Bowl victory. On the other side, San Jose State’s David Fales is one of the most under appreciated signal callers in the country. Even against a defense as stout as Stanford’s, Fales should have some success. Stanford should win, probably even easily, but Fales and the Spartans will cover the spread. PICK: San Jose State Strobl: This is the quintessential Vegas spread. Big enough to give pause, but not so big that it makes the Spartans a shoe-in to cover. Plus, this is a de facto week 1 game for the Cardinal; having yet to see them play, it’s hard to know how good this team really is. SJSU is a quality opponent and Stanford, as good as it is, could be dealing with some rust in its debut. I like the Cardinal to win handily, but four touchdowns is too much to expect. PICK: San Jose State   Upsets of the Week Bigalke: FIU (+24.5) over UCF While these two teams have never been in the same conference — FIU moved to Conference USA this year, just in time for UCF to move to the AAC — but these two Florida schools still always have plenty to play for when they face one another. Competing against the big three schools in the state is a lot easier when you’re the dominant mid-major in the bunch. UCF is ostensibly a BCS-conference team this year, with the former Big East still maintaining its AQ status for one more year, but while the Knights knocked off Akron easily last week the Golden Panthers will be fired up to play a state rival. UCF should win, but to expect over three touchdowns in the margin of victory might be too steep.   Mitchell: Washington State (+15.5) over USC I’m not sure that Washington State is good enough to upset USC, but I do think they’ll be able to keep the loss under 16 points. Mike Leach’s bunch looks improved from a year ago, and if it wasn’t for some costly turnovers by quarterback Connor Halliday, they probably walk out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win last Saturday. It’s hard for me to trust USC as a three score favorite over anybody right now with their question marks on offense. Neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek looked very good under center against Hawaii. I figure USC’s running game led by Tre Madden and Justin Davis, along with their defense should be enough to eek out a win over the Cougars, but I’d be surprised if it was by more than two touchdowns.   Strobl: Wake Forest (+3) over Boston College Wake hardly looked good against lowly Presbyterian last week, but the Eagles looked equally flawed against FCS squad Villanova. Home field advantage aside, I’m really not seeing any reason whatsoever to give BC the edge in this Friday night tilt. Expect an ugly matchup all-around, but in the end, I think the Deacons escape Chestnut Hill with the W.   THIS SEASON: Strobl: 7-3-0 Mitchell: 6-4-0 Bigalke: 5-5-0  

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