Season ATS: 8-11 (3-4 National, 5-7 National)
Not exactly the start to the season that MC&J had envisioned, but at least last week’s picks weren’t all duds. LSU was able to stop some of the bleeding in my national picks before Florida State decided to rip off the band-aid and pick off the scab. I don’t know why I doubted that Alabama was going to be the buzzsaw that they have been of late in season openers. And don’t get me started on how badly I missed on Oklahoma.
The national schedule this week doesn’t quite have the quality matchups that we had to open the season, but there are still some winners to be had out there.
No. 18 Mississippi State (-9.5) v. Kansas State - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
I’m sure that at around 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday I’ll hate myself for picking against Kansas State. The season opener, where Kansas State scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to beat South Dakota 27-24 was probably just part of the con by crafty ol’ Bill Snyder.
Even though this has the feel of one of those games that Kansas State inexplicably keeps things close, I just can’t bring myself to pick the Wildcats. Mississippi State will get quarterback Nick Fitzgerald back from suspension. All Keyaton Thompson did in Fitzgerald’s absence was pass for 5 touchdowns and rush for two more in a 63-6 win over Stephen F. Austin.
Kansas State’s defense played solid football against South Dakota last week, but they won’t have nearly quite as much success trying to slow down Fitzgerald in new head coach Joe Moorhead’s offense. The Bulldogs defensive line causes havoc and creates some turnovers which Mississippi State cashes in on to beat the Wildcats by double digits.
Mississippi State 33, Kansas State 20
Arizona v. Houston (-3.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
I was originally going to put UCLA-Oklahoma in this slot, but once I saw the Sooners were 30-point favorites, I figured this tilt would be a little more entertaining to pick. Even though Arizona fell to BYU to open the season, the matchup between quarterback Khalil Tate and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver should be worth the price of admission.
Last week’s 45-27 win over Rice wasn’t pretty in the first half for Houston, with the Cougars trailing 24-17 at intermission, but Major Applewhite’s team made some major adjustments in the second half. Oliver started a season that could see him in New York in December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony with 13 tackles, with 3.5 of those tackles being for loss.
Kevin Sumlin’s debut as Arizona head coach was spoiled by a tough BYU squad, and things won’t get any easier this week. It’s obvious that the Wildcats didn’t want Tate to run as much, and they might struggle until they realize that they have to loosen the reins a little bit, even if it means Tate takes some more hits. Oliver has another big game and drops Arizona to 0-2 under Sumlin.
Houston 31, Arizona 24
No. 3 Georgia (-10) v. No. 24 South Carolina - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
We honestly learned nothing about either team in their season opener. Georgia blasted Austin Peay 45-0 last Saturday, while South Carolina beat Coastal Carolina 49-15. Not that they really need anymore help, but the Bulldogs will get Terry Godwin back this week, after last year’s second leading receiver missed the season opener with a calf strain.
Jake Fromm will get most of the headlines at quarterback in this game, but you can’t sleep on South Carolina’s Jake Bentley. The junior threw for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns in the season opener. Bentley will look to get the football to talented wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who returned to the field last week for the first time since breaking his leg in the third game of last season.
Georgia has won the last three meetings with the Gamecocks by at least 14 points, but I feel like this year will be a little closer. South Carolina always seems to play the Bulldogs tough, and they’ll give Kirby Smart’s team a scare in Columbia.
Georgia 30, South Carolina 27
No. 2 Clemson (-13) v. Texas A&M - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
Jimbo Fisher leaves Florida State, but he still has to deal with Dabo Swinney; this will mark the ninth-straight year the two head coaches have met. Fisher and Swinney have split their eight meetings, but Dabo has had the better of Jimbo lately, winning the last three.
Clemson predictably handled Furman in their first game of the season, beating the Paladins 48-7. Kelly Bryant started the game at quarterback, but all the headlines were made by freshman Trevor Lawrence, who joined Deshaun Watson as the only Clemson freshman quarterbacks to pass for three touchdowns in their first game with the Tigers.
Texas A&M also squared off with an overmatched opponent in their season opener, rolling up 503 yards rushing in a 59-7 win over Northwestern State. Trayveon Williams rushed for 240 yards and three touchdowns, but likely won’t find nearly as much running room against an outstanding Clemson defense.
Texas A&M has won 29 straight home games against non-conference opponents, but Clemson is the highest ranked non-conference opponent to visit Kyle Field. An unranked home underdog hosting a ranked opponent is tempting, but I’m having a hard time seeing the Aggies keeping this game within two touchdowns.
Clemson 37, Texas A&M 17
No. 15 USC v. No. 10 Stanford (-5.5) - 8:30 PM EST - FOX
If you would have told me that Bryce Love would only rush for 29 yards against San Diego State and but Stanford would still win by 21 points, I would have called you insane. With the Aztecs keying on slowing down Love, wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a huge game, recording 226 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Life after Sam Darnold started with a win for USC, but the Trojans didn’t really turn things on until the fourth quarter. Freshman J.T. Daniels threw for 282 yards and a touchdown, but I expect the Cardinal to harass Daniels all night long in Palo Alto.
USC enjoyed two wins over Stanford last year to halt a three-game losing streak in the series, but Stanford gets back to their winning ways this year. Love gets back on track against a USC rush defense that gave up 308 yards on the ground to UNLV.
Stanford 28, USC 17