Last week ATS: 10-7 (4-2 National, 6-5 B1G)
As I said in yesterday’s national portion of MC&J, bad beats put a damper on what was a pretty successful first full weekend of the college football season. Northwestern looked like garbage for pretty much the whole game, somehow cut the score to 10-7 and looked like they were going to cover against Stanford. Then Northwestern went vintage Northwestern and fumbled the football, which Stanford recovered for a touchdown. It was just like a few years ago when Ohio State miraculously covered against the Wildcats in Evanston.
And don’t get me started about UMass going up 21-7 on Rutgers at the end of the first quarter and then allowing the Scarlet Knights to rattle off 41 unanswered points the rest of the way.
Army v. No. 7 Michigan (-22) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX
It was fun in the offseason to joke about Michigan losing to Army. Then Army struggled to get by Rice and all those jokes disappeared. I’m not saying that the Black Knights can’t beat the Wolverines, but it’s hard to have any confidence in the upset happening after Army’s performance in their opener.
Honestly though, Michigan didn’t look all that great in their opener either. The Wolverines beat Middle Tennessee State, but they fell far short of covering the number. Shea Patterson tossed three touchdowns, but the bigger story is how much Dylan McCaffrey got on the field. I’m not convinced the Wolverines utilize him quite as much when Big Ten play begins, but at least they are working to get him comfortable.
If Michigan can stop the run, they’ll be just fine in this game. Jim Harbaugh’s team certainly has the speed and athleticism on defense to slow down the Army attack, but the option attack always is tough to defend since it is so different. I have a feeling Army looks better this week than they did last week and keeps from getting blown out. The Black Knights hold onto the football just long enough to keep the deficit under three touchdowns.
Michigan 34, Army 14
Rutgers v. No. 20 Iowa (-19.5) - 12:00 PM EST - FS1
Pretty sure Rutgers should quit football after their performance in the season opener since it’s not likely to get much better than that. Texas Tech transfer McLane Carter threw for 340 and two touchdowns, while Isaih Pacheco rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns against UMass.
Iowa didn’t really do anything truly great in their season opener against Miami (OH) but by the time the clock hit 0:00 the Hawkeyes just barely covered against the RedHawks. Nate Stanley was steady and Iowa used a number of rushers to roll up 213 yards on the ground.
If Carter threw three interceptions at home against UMass, I’m scared to think what the Hawkeyes will do to him in Iowa City. At least Carter and Pacheco give the Scarlet Knights a little more of a spark on offense than they have in recent memory. This just feels like one of those weird games where Iowa plays down to their competition a bit and lets Rutgers hang around.
Iowa 28, Rutgers 17
No. 21 Syracuse v. Maryland (-1.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
It feels a little odd that Syracuse is starting the season with two road games, but I guess that just means the Carrier Dome will be rocking next week when Clemson makes the trip north. At least Syracuse won’t have to look at Hugh Freeze in the press box in a hospital bed this week.
The bad news for Syracuse is they’ll face a lot tougher opponent this week. The Orange shutout Liberty 24-0, but it was about as unimpressive of a win as a shutout can be. Tommy DeVito threw two interceptions in the victory. Dino Babers will need his team to play a lot better to earn their second road win of the season.
Maryland also shutout their opponent last week, but they did it in style, destroying Howard 79-0. Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson had a spectacular debut with the Terrapins, throwing four touchdown passes. The Terrapins continue to roll as the Orange get caught looking ahead to returning home next week to take on the top team in the country.
Maryland 31, Syracuse 24
Vanderbilt v. Purdue (-7) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
I just can’t trust Purdue. Unless they give the football to Rondale Moore on every play, there is always the chance the Boilermakers will fail in spectacular fashion. Prime example of this is last week, where they lost to Nevada 34-31 after they let the Wolfpack score 20 unanswered points.
Vanderbilt isn’t anything special but they do have some pieces. Ball State transfer quarterback Riley Neal didn’t play well. but it’s hard to fault him since he was going up against Georgia’s defense. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn should be able to find some more running room this week against a pretty sorry Purdue defense.
I figure until Purdue proves they are capable of not doing Purdue things, it’s a wise move to bet against the Boilermakers.
Purdue 33, Vanderbilt 30
No. 25 Nebraska (-4.5) v. Colorado - 3:30 PM EST - FOX
Former Big 12 rivals who aren’t in the Big 12 anymore battle for the second season in a row. Last year the Buffaloes won a wild 33-28 affair in Lincoln in Scott Frost’s debut. We are now in the second year of the Scott Frost era at Nebraska, and we can see signs of improvement. Even though the Cornhuskers struggled to put away South Alabama, the Nebraska defense looked a lot better.
Colorado has quarterback Steven Montez and dynamic wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. back, which should make Mel Tucker’s first season as head coach pretty exciting. With the talent Colorado has back, I was sort of surprised to see them as an underdog, even with Nebraska being ranked. I see this game being decided at the very end. I have Colorado winning, but if they lose I think it’s only by a field goal.
Colorado 30, Nebraska 27
Central Michigan v. No. 17 Wisconsin (-35) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Wisconsin is always weird with big spreads at Camp Randall. When you think they’ll cruise, then the Badgers struggle to find distance. When you think they won’t cover the number, that’s when they roll.
We know Jonathan Taylor is good, the question is how long he actually plays. If the Badgers get up big, then he could be pulled earlier than normal since Paul Chryst knows how critical he is to Wisconsin’s success. Don’t be surprised to see Tennessee and Houston transfer Quinten Dormady throw a couple touchdowns to keep the Chippewas inside the number.
Wisconsin 45, Central Michigan 17
Illinois (-21.5) v. UConn - 3:30 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
How bad is UConn? Illinois is laying 21.5 points to the Huskies on their home turf. Nothing good can come of trying to figure this one out. Unfortunately we have to, so I’ll go with the program that isn’t a complete dumpster fire. Illinois will probably make me regret this, but I think they know how to light up really bad teams, as evidenced by their rout of Akron last week.
Illinois 44, UConn 20
Buffalo v. No. 15 Penn State (-30.5) - 7:30 PM EST - FOX
I would be a lot more interested in this game if Buffalo still had Tyree Jackson at quarterback. The Bulls won their opener 38-10 over Robert Morris, but that tells me absolutely nothing.
Penn State rolled up 79 points against Idaho, giving the Big Ten two teams to hit that mark last week. The Nittany Lions won’t give the scoreboard such a workout last week, but they’ll put up plenty of points. I can’t say I think Penn State is as good as their ranking, but that won’t matter this week.
Even though I’m from Western New York, I don’t think the Bulls keep it close in Happy Valley. Penn State gets another big win before taking on their biggest rival Pitt next week.
Penn State 49, Buffalo 10
Western Michigan v. No. 19 Michigan State (-16) - 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Pretty sure it is in the Constitution that you have to bet against Michigan State when they are laying more than two touchdowns against a directional Michigan school. Somehow the Spartans will make things more difficult than they need to be. It’s what they do.
Michigan State 27, Western Michigan 14
Minnesota (-3) v. Fresno State - 10:30 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
It seems too easy. Minnesota struggled to beat South Dakota State last week, while Fresno State hung around USC. The Bulldogs are looking for a bit of revenge after they came so close to beating Minnesota in Minneapolis last year. Add in Fresno State being a home underdog to a Power 5 team and it’s a no brainer, right?
I’m not convinced it’s that easy. Nothing is ever that easy. South Dakota State is a great FCS program, so I wouldn’t put a bunch of stock in Minnesota struggling. Fresno State turned the ball over four times against USC, and I could see the Golden Gophers forcing some turnovers. P.J. Fleck’s squad puts together a better performance this week out west.
Minnesota 28, Fresno State 20
Cincinnati v. No. 5 Ohio State (-17) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
I’m pretty cruel for making you read through all those picks just to get to the only game you really care about. Ohio State had a chance to cover the spread last week, but they fell just short. The result was especially deflating after the Buckeyes were covering the spread after the first eight minutes of the game.
Quarterback Justin Fields was strong in his first start at Ohio State, doing damage with both his arm and legs. J.K. Dobbins not seeing much success on the ground was rather concerning, though. I think Dobbins might have to wait another week to get back on track, since Cincinnati does possess a pretty stout defense. One player who I could see having a better game this week is wide receiver K.J. Hill, who caught just three passes for 21 yards in the season opener.
The Buckeyes defense showed early improvement from last year’s edition, holding Florida Atlantic to just two plays of over 20 yards. The only area the Owls were able to find a little success was through the air, since the running game only accounted for 22 yards. Ohio State will face a tougher task this week since they have to slow down quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Michael Warren II.
This number felt pretty high when it was released. I know Ohio State is the more talented team, but it isn’t like Cincinnati is sloppy like Skyline chili. The Bearcats won 11 games last year and return 85 percent of their roster. Luke Fickell and a couple other Cincinnati coaches have Ohio State ties, so expect them to work hard to keep this game close. Cincinnati doesn’t upset the Buckeyes, but I think the Bearcats lose by just 10-14 points.
Ohio State 37, Cincinnati 24