College football Week 2 best bets: Six games with intriguing odds

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis passes against Miami of Ohio on Sept. 3.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis passes against Miami of Ohio on Sept. 3. Will the Wildcats play spoiler against Florida on Saturday?
(John Amis / Associated Press)

Welcome to Week 2 of the college football season. Each week, experts will make their best bets on select games. It was a rough Week 1, but we’re dusting ourselves off and we’re back at it for Week 2. Season record: 1-5-1. All games on Saturday; all times Pacific.


Alabama (-20, 65.5) at Texas, 9 a.m.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young warms up before a win over Utah State on Sept. 3.
(Vasha Hunt / Associated Press)

Danny Burke: Both of these teams are feeling pretty good about themselves, considering they both hung a 50-burger (and then some) in Week 1. The only difference is one of the teams did so without scoring in the entire fourth quarter, oh, and they shut out their opponent.


That team, of course, would be the Crimson Tide of Alabama. I’m not one for laying big spreads, nor am I someone who seeks to bet on a top team that everyone and their mothers are also wagering on, but this is a unique situation.

Coming into this season, we established that Alabama is far better than just about every team in college football (with the exception of maybe a few).

The good news for Nick Saban is Texas is not one of the exceptions.

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Sept. 22, 2023

Yes, the Longhorns’ expectations should be set higher. Yes, they have potentially a top QB in the country in Quinn Ewers, along with a star running back in Bijan Robinson. However, it’s only Week 2 and both of those guys will be put to the absolute test against what could be the most dominant defense in the land. Ewers may have a few good plays to cause some excitement, but ultimately he will fold against this lethal Crimson Tide defense.

On the other side, Bryce Young should not have many hiccups against this Longhorns defense. Young’s offensive line will protect him, and the skill players will make the necessary moves to create space.


Again, I don’t like laying big spreads, but getting the Crimson Tide as less than a three-touchdown favorite this season may come at a premium. So I’m going to take advantage while I can.

Pick: Alabama -20


UTSA (-2, 56) at Army, 9 a.m.

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris runs for a touchdown against Houston on Sept. 3.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Adam Burke: Situational spots should never be the sole justification for placing a bet, but I challenge you to find a worse spot in Week 2 than what Texas-San Antonio faces on the road against Army. This is a noon kickoff in West Point for the guys from San Antonio, who just lost in triple overtime to Houston at home in a huge big brother versus little brother matchup.

UTSA has Texas on deck, so the Roadrunners will get a crack at an in-state Power 5 program in Week 3. Will Jeff Traylor be able to get his team focused enough to take on Army’s run-heavy scheme? UTSA is a better team now than back in 2020, but Army won that game 28-16 and rushed for 5.1 yards per carry on 60 attempts.

It isn’t just that UTSA lost in heartbreaking fashion, it’s also that the Roadrunners’ defense was on the field virtually the entire fourth quarter against Houston, including an 18-play, 77-yard drive that took 10:30 off the clock.

The Black Knights couldn’t stop Coastal Carolina’s extremely efficient offense in Week 1 but did rush for more than five yards per carry and generated a couple of explosive pass plays for touchdowns. My power ratings show Army -2.5, so I think the wrong team is favored here. The spot just adds to the handicap as UTSA’s focus may be elsewhere in a game where discipline is the most important defensive characteristic.


Pick: Army +2 plus a ML sprinkle

USC lineman Tyrone Taleni left Samoa to pursue his dreams of playing college football. His parents watched him play for the first time Saturday.

Sept. 8, 2022


Akron at Michigan State (-34.5, 56), 1 p.m.

Michigan State wide receiver Keon Coleman catches a pass for a touchdown against Western Michigan on Sept. 2.
(Al Goldis / Associated Press)

Jeff Parles: Going with a 34.5-point favorite may seem daunting, but look for Mel Tucker’s team to run it up on their second straight MAC opponent. Michigan State put up nearly eight yards per play last week against Western Michigan and covered most numbers (pushed a few closing -22s). The Spartans’ defense was on the field for 73 plays and held the Broncos to an average of 4.6 yards per play.

Akron is coming off of an overtime victory against the football powerhouse of St. Francis (Pa.). Former Mississippi State and current Zips coach Joe Moorhead has a long way to go with one of the worst programs in the FBS. The Zips were outgained overall and by yards per play against St. Francis and have a track record of getting destroyed by Power 5 competition in recent years.

Last season, Akron couldn’t cover as 37.5-point underdogs at Auburn (60-10 loss) and as 48.5-point underdogs at Ohio State (59-7 loss). The last time the Zips covered against a Power 5 team was in 2018 against South Carolina as 28.5-point underdogs (28-3 loss).


Akron’s roster is still not ready to compete against FBS competition, especially high-end Power 5 teams. Expect more misery for the Zips against the Spartans, and I’m laying the 34.5 points with the home team.

Pick: Michigan State -34.5 (good to -35)


Northern Illinois at Tulsa (-6, 62), 4 p.m.

Northern Illinois Huskies running back Harrison Waylee carries the ball against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1.
(Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press)

Adam Burke: After how bad Wyoming looked in Week 0 against Illinois, you can understand why Tulsa’s Week 1 performance wouldn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. The Golden Hurricane allowed 40 points to the Cowboys, but two of the touchdowns came on defense or special teams. Meanwhile, Tulsa racked up 460 passing yards, more than 500 yards of total offense and found a way to lose the game.

I pay close attention to short field goals in high-scoring games, and Tulsa had two of them in regulation to go along with another in overtime. A loss is always going to grab more attention than a win, but Tulsa, which did get bet up last week, was the right side against Wyoming based on the box score.

Northern Illinois, meanwhile, was very lucky to beat Eastern Illinois — an Eastern Illinois team that went 1-10 last season and lost five of six games in Ohio Valley play. NIU managed 6.8 yards per play but was also +2 in turnovers and struggled to put away a weak FCS opponent. This is not a team I was high on coming into the season, as NIU won five regular-season games by six points or fewer, including three by one point. The Huskies were 6-2 in MAC play with a -1 point differential.


I’d expect Tulsa to bounce back here. Its passing game looks like a weapon against an NIU squad that ranked 108th in passing yards per attempt last season and only mustered three interceptions. My line is -8, so anything under the key number of seven is a decent play.

Pick: Tulsa -6

UCLA football’s attendance woes continue under coach Chip Kelly. There are numerous factors that could contribute to the low turnout.

Sept. 8, 2022


Kentucky at Florida (-6, 52.5), 4 p.m.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson scrambles during the first half of a win over Utah on Sept. 3.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Jeff Parles: Anthony Richardson’s Heisman campaign got off to a rip-roaring start last week with a dominant performance in Florida’s upset victory over Utah. Richardson was able to do whatever he wanted with his legs and his arm against an elite defense. His Heisman odds were cut all the way down to 22-1 at DraftKings, a proper move off of a big-time showing.

Meanwhile, Kentucky was methodical in its Week 1 win and cover over MAC foe Miami (Ohio). Will Levis threw for more than 300 yards and the Wildcats defense took over after the Redhawks’ first-quarter touchdown drive.

This line feels like an overreaction to Florida’s impressive victory over Utah. Before the season, I was expecting this to be Florida -3, and those who bet the openers at Circa seem to agree with my thought process (Circa opened this game Florida -7).


I picked Kentucky to win this game in my season predictions. After the Wildcats looked the part in Week 1, there’s no reason to back off of that just because Florida won a coin-flip game against a good team. Even without getting the best of the number, this is still very much a buy on Kentucky.

Pick: Kentucky + 6

Josiah Norwood, a fifth-year senior and one-time former UCLA walk-on, made a big impact in the Bruins’ season-opening win over Bowling Green.

Sept. 5, 2022


Arizona State at Oklahoma State (-11, 57.5); 4:30 p.m.

Arizona State quarterback Emory Jones passes against Northern Arizona on Sept. 1.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Adam Burke: The level of dominance Oklahoma State showed against Central Michigan was obscured by an offensive flurry from the Chippewas in the fourth quarter when backups were on the field and the game was already decided. The Cowboys led 44-15 at halftime in their 58-44 Week 1 win and Spencer Sanders threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns.

The Cowboys scored 58 points despite having the ball for less than 24 minutes, racking up 531 yards on 73 plays. Central Michigan outgained Oklahoma State but had 311 of its 546 yards in the second half while trailing by a mountain of points. It looks as though Mike Gundy’s team may shift from the ground-and-pound style — winning with running plays and defense — to focus more on throwing the ball, as the Cowboys did in the days of Brandon Weeden, Zac Robinson and Mason Rudolph.


Arizona State is a team I was down on coming into the season because I don’t believe in what Herm Edwards is doing. Jayden Daniels transferred out and Emory Jones came in from Florida, but there are a lot of issues with the program, including an inquiry into recruiting violations that led to the resignations of several assistant coaches and talk of letting Edwards go. One of the coaches was defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce, once thought to be Edwards’ successor in Tempe.

Xazavian Valladay ran all over Northern Arizona last week, but the Lumberjacks aren’t a very good team out of the Big Sky. Nothing happened last week that made me change my perspective on Arizona State, but Oklahoma State’s performance was eye-opening. My line on this game is Oklahoma State -17, so it’s my biggest overlay and my favorite play of Week 2.

Pick: Oklahoma State -11

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