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MC&J: Week 2’s national schedule is highlighted by Texas-Alabama

Plus, picks for seven other big national games on tap for Saturday.

Middle Tennessee v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 8-10 (2-6 National, 6-4 B1G)

Season ATS: 12-13 (6-9 National, 6-4 B1G)

Last week got off to a pretty good start before things started to go downhill starting Saturday night. South Carolina and LSU fell apart in the second half of their games, Clemson is a mess, Penn State had no interest in kneeling the game out up 16 points, and there were a couple other games that contributed to the losing week.

Still, for the first full college football slate of the year, it wasn’t a horrible week. There’s still a lot of season left, hopefully with more winners than losers out there.

National games

No. 10 Notre Dame (-7.5) v. NC State - 12:00 p.m. - ABC

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman will square off with a team he is quite familiar with. Prior to hitting the transfer portal to join the Fighting Irish in the offseason, Hartman played at Wake Forest, where he played three games against the Wolfpack. Hartman had a hard time finding much success against NC State, throwing six touchdowns and six interceptions in three games against the Wolfpack, winning just one of those three contests.

NC State dipped into the transfer portal as well to find their starting quarterback for this year, bringing in Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong. In their first game of the season against UConn, the Wolfpack leaned more on their running game, racking up 209 yards on the ground against the Huskies in the 24-14 win. Armstrong threw for just 155 yards in a game where NC State struggled to create any separation, with their biggest lead being just 10 points. To his credit, Armstrong did find some success running the football, rushing for 96 yards and a couple touchdowns.

Even though this game is in Raleigh, and it’s always uneasy taking a ranked team hitting the road to take on an unranked foe. Notre Dame has benefitted from playing an extra game so far this year. Hartman is playing at a high level, while the Notre Dame defense has the talent to put the clamps on Armstrong and the Wolfpack. Plus, the Fighting Irish won’t have to worry about Brian Kelly calling 167 passing plays in a hurricane.

Notre Dame 31, NC State 20

No. 12 Utah (-7.5) v. Baylor - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

Utah looked great to open the season last week, suffocating Florida in Salt Lake City 24-11. Even more impressive was the Utes didn’t have quarterback Cam Rising, who is recovering from a torn ACL. While it is unknown if Rising will be able to play this week, there are still reasons to back Utah in Waco on Saturday afternoon.

The biggest reason is just look at how terrible Baylor was last week. Not only did the Bears lose to Texas State 42-31, they also will be without quarterback Blake Shapen for a number of weeks after Shapen suffered an MCL injury in the fourth quarter of the opener. Stepping in for Shapen will be Mississippi State transfer Sawyer Robertson. It’ll be hard to trust the Baylor offense against a tough Utah defense, especially after the Bears ran for just 3.4 yards per carry in last week’s loss.

While it would be nice to have a better idea about Rising’s status for the game, I still like Utah with or without Rising. They benefit from taking on a Baylor team that is dealing with injury issues of their own. Maybe head coach Dave Aranda has his Baylor team lean into the adversity that they’re facing, but Utah has already risen to the occasion without their starting quarterback.

Utah 30, Baylor 17

No. 20 Ole Miss (-7) v. No. 24 Tulane - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN2

Even though the most anticipated game on Saturday is Texas-Alabama, the game between the Rebels and Green Wave could very well be the most entertaining game of the day. We know Tulane can hang with Power 5 competition after they beat USC in the Rose Bowl last year. Quarterback Michael Pratt returns for the Green Wave, and was nearly perfect in the opener against South Alabama, going 14-of-15 for 294 yards and four touchdown passes.

Ole Miss got an easy win to open up the season, crushing Mercer 73-7. Quarterback Jaxson Dart also tossed four touchdown passes, while running back Quinshon Judkins added two scores on the ground. Even though the Rebels had two wide receivers go over 100 yards in the easy win over Mercer, there has to be some concern that UTSA transfer Zakhari Franklin didn’t play last week, and it doesn’t sound like he’ll be available on Saturday. Franklin caught 174 passes for over 2,150 yards and 27 scores over the last two years.

I’m very tempted to go with Tulane to win this game straight up. I think in the end Ole Miss will end up pulling this game out since they are a little better, but there isn’t much of a gap between the two teams. This feels like a game that is going to go back and forth and in the end is decided by a field goal. I’m siding with Ole Miss to win because Lane Kiffin is a troll and will probably find a way to ruin the feel good story in the last few minutes of the game.

Ole Miss 38, Tulane 35

No. 23 Texas A&M (-4.5) v. Miami (FL) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC

Everything about this game is hilarious. Road rash enthusiast Bobby Petrino is now the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, which feels like a perfect fit since the Aggies are essentially one big goofy cult. Miami’s top booster John Ruiz is under financial investigation, so “Tha U” is closer to being back than we all think. As if that wasn’t enough, since nobody in Miami actually wants to go to Hurricanes games, the school is giving away tickets to the Georgia Tech game if fans purchase a ticket to Saturday’s game.

So, which team that went 5-7 last year has made more strides? I feel like with the addition of Petrino, as well as Conner Weigman stepping up to take over at quarterback, gives Texas A&M the edge. Miami does have some pieces with quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and a few others, but I just don’t see them as the better team in this game. Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies sweep the home-and-home series with the Hurricanes.

Texas A&M 34, Miami (FL) 24

No. 11 Texas v. No. 3 Alabama (-7) - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN

All offseason there was speculation that Alabama might fall off this year. Not that it was crazy talk since the Crimson Tide had to replace Bryce Young and were bringing in a new offensive coordinator. Even though it was just one game against Middle Tennessee State, Alabama looked really good in their opener. Jalen Milroe is going to be a problem for opposing defenses, as he threw for three touchdowns against the Blue Raiders, and added another two scores on the ground.

Texas has had this game circled on their calendar for a year after falling just short of beating the Crimson Tide last year in Austin. Quinn Ewers certainly hasn’t yet played in an atmosphere like he’ll see Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. I feel like things aren’t going to go well for Ewers and company. Former Saban assistants haven’t had much success against their former boss, and I feel like that trend continues for Steve Sarkisian. Alabama beats Texas for a second straight year, this time by more than just a point.

Alabama 33, Texas 21

No. 13 Oregon (-6.5) v. Texas Tech - 7:00 p.m. - FOX

I’m not going to pretend that I watched one second of Oregon’s season opener. The Ducks did exactly what they were supposed to do against Portland State, beating the Vikings 81-7. Bo Nix tossed three touchdowns and running back Bucky Irving rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries.

Unlike Oregon, I did watch a healthy amount of Texas Tech’s opener since I bet on the Red Raiders to score over 31.5 points. After scoring 17 points in the first quarter the Red Raiders had trouble getting their offense going until late in the fourth quarter and in the two overtimes in the game. Wyoming ended up winning because they were able to convert their two-point conversion in the second overtime.

A trip to Lubbock is never easy, and Texas Tech will want to put together a spirited performance for their quarterback Tyler Shough, who transferred from Oregon. Even with all that, I’m still going to ride with the Ducks, who are better on both sides of the football. Nix adds to the case he is stating to be a Heisman Trophy finalist, while Shough fails to get revenge against his former team.

Oregon 45, Texas Tech 28

Stanford v. No. 6 USC (-29.5) - 10:30 p.m. - FOX

I’m a little puzzled by this spread. I get that Stanford was a very tough watch last year, but they showed some promise in their win at Hawai’i in their season opener. Quarterback Ashton Daniels injected some excitement into the offense of the Cardinal, finding tight end Benjamin Yurosek nine times for 138 yards and a score. Running back Casey Filkins is back for Stanford, while E.J. Smith, son of NFL legend Emmitt Smith returns after suffering a knee injury last season.

Is USC the more talented and athletic team? Undoubtedly. The Trojans have handled their business in their first two games of the year, crushing San Jose State and Nevada. Caleb Williams has thrown nine touchdowns already this season, as he looks to become the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner.

Do you want to trust a team with a defense coached by Alex Grinch to win by at least 30 points? If you do, you have more guts than I do. No matter the record, there aren’t many huge blowouts in the series between USC and Stanford. The last time USC won by at least 30 points was back in 2006. I just don’t see a huge blowout happening in the final meeting between the schools as conference foes.

USC 41, Stanford 21

Auburn (-6.5) v. Cal - 10:30 p.m. - ESPN

Even though neither of these teams are currently ranked, I’m actually pretty intrigued by this game. Both teams almost hit 60 points in their first game of the season, as Auburn scored 59 points against UMass, while Cal ran up 58 points at North Texas. The Golden Bears rolled up 357 yards on the ground in their season opener, with Jaydn Ott accounting for 188 yards and two scores.

Auburn also did some damage on the ground last week, rushing for 289 yards against the Minutemen. Cal might have been a punching bag recently, but asking Hugh Freeze to go out west and beat a rejuvenated Cal squad by at least a touchdown in Berkeley in his second game in charge might be asking a little too much. The Golden Bears adds to the tremendous start to the season for the Pac-12 by upsetting the Tigers.

Cal 31, Auburn 27