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MC&J: Alabama is nearly a three-touchdown favorite over Texas in Week 2 national action

A clash between future SEC foes in Austin tops the national slate this week.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

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)

This week’s picks around the Big Ten can be found here.

National games:

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

No. 1 Alabama (-20) v. Texas - 12:00 p.m. - FOX

There’s no doubt that Steve Sarkisian is building something in Austin. The former Alabama assistant was able to lure Quinn Ewers back to Texas, and soon enough Arch Manning will be taking snaps in burnt orange. Bijan Robinson is arguably the best running back in the country, while Xavier Worthy is a talented wide receiver.

Even though Texas is trying to restore themselves as a national power, they don’t have the depth that Alabama has. The Longhorns might be able to break some big players on the Crimson Tide, I just don’t see Ewers and company being able to do it throughout the game. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young makes it look too easy, with his six touchdowns last week showing that his Heisman season last year wasn’t a fluke.

In a few years this is going to be a conference matchup, since the Longhorns are headed to the SEC. This isn’t the type of game that makes Texas rethink leaving the Big 12, but it does show just how much work Sarkisian and company have to do if they want to have success in the conference. Texas may hang around a bit before the superior depth of Alabama takes over.

Alabama 45, Texas 21

South Carolina v. No. 16 Arkansas (-8) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

Arkansas got a really good win in their season opener, downing Cincinnati. Even though the Bearcats aren’t quite at the level that they were last year, Luke Fickell’s team never gave up in the game, and every time Cincinnati looked like they might be able to pull the upset Arkansas responded. The Razorbacks were perfectly balanced last week, throwing for 223 yards and rushing for 224 yards.

It feels like forever ago when Spencer Rattler was one of the best quarterback prospects in the country. The Oklahoma transfer was far from impressive in his debut with the Gamecocks, passing for 227 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 35-14 win over Georgia State. South Carolina actually scored more points from blocked punts in the game, recording two touchdowns on blocked kicks.

Having said all that, I like the Gamecocks to cover here. South Carolina does have a really good pass defense, which could keep quarterback KJ Jefferson in check. Rattler is a little more comfortable in his second start at his new school. Arkansas wins, but they seem to have a habit of making things a little more difficult than they need to be.

Arkansas 31, South Carolina 28

No. 24 Tennessee (-6) v. No. 17 Pitt - 3:30 p.m. - ABC

Tennessee wasn’t tested at all in their first game of the season, beating up on Ball State 59-10. Quarterback Hendon Hooker picked up where he left off last year, accounting for four touchdowns in the rout. Josh Heupel really has the Tennessee offense cooking, with the Volunteers scoring 45 points or more in their last four games.

While Tennessee had an easy go of it last week, Pitt was pushed to the limit by West Virginia in The Backyard Brawl. USC transfer Kedon Slovis passed for over 300 yards in his first start for the Panthers. Slovis might not has as much help this week, as running back Rodney Hammond Jr. suffered an injury against the Mountaineers and his status for the game is in doubt.

What worries me about backing Pitt is how much the victory over West Virginia took out of them. Tennessee was able to easily defeat Ball State last week, getting their starters out of the game without suffering an injuries. The Mountaineers really should have beat Pitt last week. This week Tennessee does what the Mountaineers couldn’t do.

Tennessee 44, Pitt 34

No. 25 Houston v. Texas Tech (-3) - 4:00 p.m. - FS1

When I first looked at this line I was a little surprised, especially when I found out Texas Tech would be without Oregon transfer quarterback Tyler Shough. Luckily for the Red Raiders they have Donovan Smith, who threw four touchdowns last week in an easy win against Murray State. After having some issues on offense the last few years, it looks like new head coach Joey McGuire has Texas Tech back to running the offense we have become accustomed to.

Last week I took UTSA to beat Houston. The Cougars showed tremendous fight, rallying from 21-7 down and then surviving multiple overtimes against the Roadrunners. Unfortunately for Houston, next up is a place that has been a house of horrors for them. Texas Tech has not only won nine of 10 games against Houston, with the last time the Cougars winning in Lubbock coming in 1990.

I feel like I’ve never won a game in Lubbock. If I back the Red Raiders, the opponent wins. If I pick against the Red Raiders, then they find a way to defend their home turf. The smart pick in this game looks like it’s Houston, since I’m taking Texas Tech here.

Texas Tech 38, Houston 34

No. 20 Kentucky v. No. 12 Florida (-6) - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN

Over the last few years Kentucky-Florida has been one of the more interesting matchups in college football, with only one of the last five meetings being decided by more than 11 points. We’ve come a long way from Kentucky being a pushover in the SEC, since Mark Stoops has really turned around the culture in Lexington.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their backs will be against the wall in Gainesville on Saturday night. Running back Chris Rodriguez was suspended before the season, and even though the length of the suspension isn’t known, it doesn’t sound likely Rodriguez will play this week. On top of that, running back Ramon Jefferson suffered a season-ending injury last week. The lack of depth in the backfield was evident last week, with the Wildcats running for just 50 yards against Miami (OH).

I know this is a prime spot for a letdown for Florida after a huge win last week against Utah. If Kentucky was going to be at full strength, I could see them beating the Gators here. I just don’t see the Wildcats having enough to stay within a touchdown here. Will Levis against Anthony Richardson is going to be a fun battle, but Florida builds on their tough win last week.

Florida 34, Kentucky 23

No. 10 USC (-8.5) v. Stanford - 7:30 p.m. - ABC

Even though they only played Rice last week, if USC plays like they did all year, they are going to have a great shot at making the College Football Playoff. After suffering through the Clay Helton Era, which lasted way too long, it feels like the Trojans have their swagger back with Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams having come to Los Angeles from Oklahoma.

I just don’t think Stanford has the fire power to keep up with USC here. Even though the Cardinal looked good in a 41-10 win over Colgate, they aren’t going to have nearly the same success against USC. Don’t forget that Stanford was 3-9. Those problems don’t just go away overnight. Well, unless you are USC and bring in one of the best head coaches in the country, along with his blue-chip quarterback.

USC 37, Stanford 21

Arizona State v. No. 11 Oklahoma State (-11) - 7:30 p.m. - ESPN2

What exactly is left at Arizona State? Quarterback Jayden Daniels is now at LSU. Running back Rachaad White is in the NFL, while Chip Trayanum transferred to Ohio State to play linebacker. Herm Edwards was able to lure quarterback Emory Jones to the desert, but it’s not like Jones was all that special at Florida.

It’s no secret I don’t care for Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. I do recognize that the Cowboys have a strong team, even without defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. Spencer Sanders feels like he has been quarterback in Stillwater for 43 years, which will help the offense continue to roll. Last week Sanders threw for 406 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-44 win over Central Michigan. Even though the Cowboys aren’t as strong on defense, I don’t think the Sun Devils have the pieces to take advantage of Oklahoma State’s rebuilding defense.

Oklahoma State 42, Arizona State 23

No. 9 Baylor v. No. 21 BYU (-3) - 10:15 p.m. - ESPN

This should be a really fun game late Saturday night. It feels like both teams are pretty evenly matched, and both actually rolled up 573 yards on offense in easy wins in their season openers. The Bears are coming off an outstanding 2021 that saw them make the Sugar Bowl, but Dave Aranda does have some holes to fill on both sides of the football.

Soon enough this is going to be a Big 12 battle, as BYU has already accepted a bid to join the conference. The Cougars come into this game with plenty of experience at quarterback with Jaren Hall under center, as well as a defense that always feels like it is one of the toughest to crack in the country. Even though Baylor is ranked higher, the Cougars always feel like they hit an extra gear when they have a big game under the lights in Provo.

BYU 31, Baylor 24

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.