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MC&J: Can Ohio State cover a 44-point spread against Arkansas State?

After last week’s huge season-opening win over Notre Dame, the Buckeyes host Arkansas State on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Notre Dame at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 1 ATS: 7-8-1 (2-5-1 B1G, 5-3 National)

Season ATS: 11-11-1 (4-5-1 B1G, 7-6 National)

Going nearly .500 in the first week of the college football season isn’t all that bad. What makes it sting so much is we were so close to a number of underdog upsets. West Virginia, Purdue, and Illinois were all leading in the last five minutes of their games. UTSA was up 21-7 and had multiple chances in overtime to knock off Houston. At least Florida came through, which is funny because it was the “upset” I was least confident in.

Week 2 B1G picks:

Duke v. Northwestern (-10) - 12:00 p.m.- FS1

Evanston will host the Nerd Bowl on Saturday when Northwestern takes on Duke. The Wildcats had last week off as they traveled back from Ireland after downing Nebraska 31-28 in Dublin. Ryan Hilinski threw for 314 yards and two scores, while Evan Hull added 119 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

New Duke head coach Mike Elko had a successful debut last week, shutting out Temple 30-0. Riley Leonard also threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. The win was Duke’s first since last September of last year when they beat Kansas, snapping an eight-game losing streak.

Even though I think Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most overrated coaches in the country, I do like Northwestern here. The Wildcats are rested and have a great running back combo in Hull and Cam Porter, along with a defense that is usually tough to do much against. Duke’s shutout was more of a fluke that Northwestern’s win in Ireland, and it’ll show on Saturday.

Northwestern 27, Duke 14

Ohio v. Penn State (-25.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ABC

If Penn State was smart they’d move this game to the evening so they could do their stupid “whiteout” thing against a team from Ohio. The Nittany Lions obviously should pull out all the tricks they can against the Bobcats, who won 24-14 when the teams met in State College in 2012.

Penn State was able to survive last week against Purdue in West Lafayette. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Sean Clifford knows what to do when his back is against the wall since he has been quarterback of the Nittany Lions for 75 years. The Penn State offense still has some concerns though, as they were only able to average 3.1 yards per carry against the Boilermakers.

I would love to pretend the Bobcats have a shot to upset the Nittany Lions in State College like they did 10 years ago. Sorry Ohio fans, it isn’t gonna happen. Penn State routinely handles MAC teams with little problem under James Franklin, while Ohio is rebuilding under whatever a Tim Albin is. The Nittany Lions had a couple extra days to recover from the win against Purdue and prepare for Ohio, but they don’t really need it.

Penn State 44, Ohio 13

Washington State v. No. 19 Wisconsin (-17.5) - 3:30 p.m. - FOX

Usually Wisconsin early season non-conference games can be boring, but this games does have some areas of intrigue. Not only will Washington State be visiting Camp Randall, running back Nakia Watson will be returning to Madison, where he started his college career. Watson ran for 117 in Washington State’s season opener against Idaho.

The Badgers aren’t hard to figure out. A heavy dose of Braelon Allen, hope Graham Mertz doesn’t make any mistakes, and trust your defense. Wisconsin wasn’t tested against Illinois State last week, and has a layup against New Mexico State next week, so this will be their only chance to play a real team before heading to Columbus in a couple weeks.

Wisconsin wins here, but they’ll get a test from the Cougars and quarterback Cameron Ward, who was one of the best FCS quarterbacks when he was with Incarnate Word. The Badgers do have some problems against teams that can throw the football a little, which is why I think Washington State can stay within 17 points.

Wisconsin 24, Washington State 20

Maryland (-27) v. Charlotte - 3:30 p.m. - Stadium

I’m not exactly sure why Maryland is playing at Charlotte. I guess that tells you just where the Terrapins stand when it comes to their hierarchy in college football. You would never see Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, or any of the other national powers do something like that. Then again, Maryland isn’t anywhere close to a national power.

The Terrapins were close to covering the 24-point spread last week. Buffalo hung around just enough to stay within the number. Even though the Terrapins are on the road, Charlotte is really bad, losing their first two games by a combined score of 84-37. After falling to FAU in their season opener, the 49ers lost to William & Mary last week. If Charlotte can’t even beat an FCS school, what chance do they have against Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins? I can’t see Charlotte keeping this within 30 points.

Maryland 51, Charlotte 17

Akron v. No. 14 Michigan State (-34.5) - 4:00 p.m. - BTN

Akron needed overtime to beat Saint Francis last week. If the Zips can barely get an FCS team that hasn’t won more than seven games in the last decade, what chance do they have against Michigan State? Remember last year when Akron came to Columbus and were beaten 59-7 by Ohio State? This game is probably going to look a lot like that. Running backs Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard get plenty of work as they jockey for carries ahead of next week’s game at Washington.

Michigan State 54, Akron 10

Iowa State v. Iowa (-3.5) - 4:00 p.m. - BTN

After watching Iowa last week, it’s hard to imagine the Hawkeyes scoring four points, let alone winning by at least that many. The Hawkeyes totaled 166 yards in a 7-3 victory over South Dakota State last week, using two safeties to dispatch the Jackrabbits. Apparently Kirk and Brian Ferentz had to see more of awful Spencer Petras at quarterback this year. Petras was as terrible as advertised, going 11-of-25 for 109 yards and an interception on Saturday.

As bad as Iowa’s offense is, their defense is that good. Iowa State has not only lost their last six meetings with their in-state rival, they have only scored more than 17 points in one of those contests. Things won’t get any easier this year as the Cyclones have to replace quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall. Even though Iowa looked awful last week, it’s hard to not back the Hawkeyes in El Assico until Matt Campbell can prove he can beat Kirk Ferentz.

Iowa 21, Iowa State 10

Virginia v. Illinois (-4.5) - 4:00 p.m. - ESPNU

If Illinois was truly turning the corner, they’d be 2-0 right now. Instead, the Fighting Illini showed no killer instinct, allowing Indiana to hang around last week, which allowed the Hoosiers to score a late touchdown to beat Bret Bielema’s team. Running back Chase Brown has been great, he just hasn’t gotten much help on offense.

This line is a little puzzling to me, especially after what we saw when these teams met last year in Charlottesville, when Virginia won 42-14. I know that this year’s contest will be played in Champaign, but other than that there isn’t much different. Brennan Armstrong threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns last year, and he still key targets Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson at his disposal. The Cavaliers are just the better team, plain and simple.

Virginia 31, Illinois 20

Georgia Southern v. Nebraska (-23.5) - 7:30 p.m. - FS1

What exactly has Nebraska done this year that suddenly makes you think they are going to put everything together and win by at least 24 points? Even though the Cornhuskers won last week against North Dakota, they took their sweet time to put some distance on the Fighting Hawks.

Georgia Southern does have a few things going for them. Not only do they have Clay Helton as their head coach, they brought in Buffalo transfer quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who threw for 367 yards and four scores in a 59-7 win over Morgan State. Until Nebraska proves they can play a complete game, fade them when they are laying this many points.

Nebraska 38, Georgia Southern 24

Hawai’i v. No. 4 Michigan (-51.5) - 8:00 p.m. - BTN

This week is J.J. McCarthy’s time to shine! Last week Cade McNamara got the start and it was a truly Cade McNamara performance, going 9-of-18 for 136 yards and a score. The Wolverines didn’t need McNamara to do much more than that in a 51-7 victory over Colorado State.

The cupcake gets a little fluffier this week with Hawai’i visiting Ann Arbor. The Rainbow Warriors are worse than Colorado State, as evidenced by Hawai’i losing Timmy Chang’s head coaching debut 63-10 to Vanderbilt a couple weeks ago. If Hawai’i can’t stay within 50 points at home against Vanderbilt, they have no chance of doing so on the road against Michigan.

Michigan 66, Hawai’i 7

Arkansas State v. No. 3 Ohio State (-44) - 12:00 p.m. - BTN

Just win, baby! After a slow start to last week’s game, that’s what Ohio State did, making some second half adjustments to send Notre Dame back to South Bend with a 21-10 loss. Thankfully the Buckeye defense came to play, since the offense had some issues early, which were compounded by the loss of Jaxon Smith-Njigba to injury. While head coach Ryan Day doesn’t expect Smith-Njigba to miss much time, there wouldn’t be much harm for sitting the standout wide receiver this week, and maybe even next week to give the injury time to heal.

There was quite a hilarious coaching matchup last week when Arkansas State and Butch Jones took on Hue Jackson’s Grambling squad. Jones and company easily defeated Jackson and the Tigers, 58-3. The Red Wolves have a familiar name at quarterback, as Florida State transfer James Blackman is taking the snaps. Along with Blackman, Arkansas State also has former Ohio State running back Brian Snead, who was dismissed from the team after he was accused of rape.

As much as I don’t want to see it, this feels like a perfect scenario for a bit of a hangover for the Buckeyes. After starting the season with an emotional game under the lights against a high-profile opponent, now they are playing a nooner against an inferior team. Even just a couple early drives not ending in touchdowns could be what decides whether the Buckeyes cover or not. Plus, Ryan Day said there could be more rotations on defense, which we all saw how well that worked over the last few years. 44 points feels just a touch high for this one.

Ohio State 55, Arkansas State 14