Spread Options: College football Week 2 picks against the spread

The return of college football was glorious. Week 1 was full of action from Thursday to Monday, but now it’s time to get settled into the rhythm of the months-long grind of the college football season.

Part of that is trying to gauge overreactions to Week 1 performances. It takes a few weeks for the markets to really reflect how good (or bad) some of these teams are, so leaning on offseason research is still a key to finding ways to be profitable.

And Week 1 was quite profitable for me as my picks went 7-2. It won’t be that good every week, but it’s a great place to start the 2022 season. Let’s see what Week 2 has in store.

Last week: 7-2

Overall: 8-3

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

Louisville at UCF

Time: 7:30 p.m. (Fri) | TV: ESPN2 | Line: UCF -5.5 | Total: 61.5

Louisville had one of the most disappointing performances of Week 1, losing to Syracuse 31-7 as a 4.5-point road favorite. In the loss, Louisville had a turnover on downs at the goal line at the end of the first half and then two interceptions in the third quarter that were really deflating.

It was one of the worst games I can recall QB Malik Cunningham playing, but I expect him to bounce back on Friday night against UCF. I was also very encouraged by two transfers on Louisville’s offense — running back Tiyon Evans and receiver Tyler Hudson. Evans rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while Hudson caught eight passes for 102 yards.

I still believe in Louisville’s offense, but the defense looked a lot like the one that struggled last fall. UCF, with John Rhys Plumlee now starting at quarterback, is going to play fast and put up a lot of points. I think the winner of this game scores at least 40, so give me the over.

Pick: Over 61.5

Duke at Northwestern

Time: Noon | TV: FS1 | Line: NW -10 | Total: 58.5

Northwestern had a week off after its big win over Nebraska in Dublin while Duke opened up the year with a 30-0 win over Temple.

It was a good start for the Mike Elko era at Duke, but Temple might be one of the worst teams in the country. I don’t trust Duke to cover this number on the road, but I’m also not super into the idea of needing Northwestern to win by double digits. With that said, I’m looking at the total.

Offensively, Northwestern wants to lean on the run game with Evan Hull and Cam Porter and play ball control — especially at home. That’s long been Pat Fitzgerald’s general philosophy and that lends itself to an under.

In Northwestern’s last 30 games as a home favorite, the under is 23-5-2. And in Northwestern’s last 30 games as a double-digit favorite, the under is 19-9-1.

Pick: Under 58.5

South Carolina at No. 16 Arkansas

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: Arkansas -8.5 | Total: 53

Arkansas lost a few key players in the secondary to injury in its season-opening win over Cincinnati, but I’m not sure South Carolina has the offense to take advantage of it.

Spencer Rattler struggled in his Gamecocks debut, throwing two interceptions while under a lot of pressure from the Georgia State defense. Really, the South Carolina offense struggled as a whole, putting up 306 total yards. That included barely averaging three yards per attempt in the running game (sack-adjusted). Also, included in the team’s 35 points were two blocked-punt touchdowns and two field goals of 50-plus yards.

GSU is a good Sun Belt team, but Arkansas is a good SEC team. The Razorbacks should have a big day on defense and with K.J. Jefferson and Raheim Sanders on the ground offensively.

Pick: Arkansas -8.5

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) had a strong season-opening win over Cincinnati last week in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) had a strong season-opening win over Cincinnati last week in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

UNLV at Cal

Time: 4 p.m. | TV: P12 | Line: Cal -13 | Total: 48.5

Cal was not impressive in its Week 1 win over UC Davis. The Aggies turned it over on downs in Cal territory twice in the first half (including once inside the 10), threw a pick-six early in the second half and threw another interception deep in Cal territory late in the third. Even with all of that happening, Cal only took a 27-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

Cal only out-gained UC Davis 415-387 and averaged just 4.3 yards per rush. UNLV has really struggled so far in Marcus Arroyo’s tenure, but the Rebels started to figure some things out late in 2021. Albeit it was against Idaho State, the Rebels still looked explosive when they jumped out to a 45-0 halftime lead in their opener. The combination of QB Doug Brumfield and WR Ricky White (a Michigan State transfer) is going to give Cal problems.

Under Justin Wilcox, Cal has been good for bettors in an underdog role but not as a favorite. Cal is 5-10-1 ATS as a home favorite and just 2-6 ATS as a double-digit favorite with Wilcox as head coach. UNLV can cover this number.

Pick: UNLV +13

Arizona State at No. 11 Oklahoma State

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: OSU -11.5 | Total: 57.5

Sure, Oklahoma State allowed 44 points to Central Michigan last week but the Cowboys had a 51-15 lead at one point in that game. I was expecting a drop-off from the Oklahoma State defense, but I don’t think giving up all of those garbage time points really means a whole lot. In fact, it could be a bit of a wake-up call entering Week 2.

What stuck out to me more from that game was Oklahoma State’s pace on offense. I’m still not a huge Spencer Sanders fan, but I think he can benefit from a spread-out, up-tempo style we’ve seen from Mike Gundy in years past.

If the Cowboys get out to another fast start against Arizona State, I don’t think ASU has the weapons to keep up. The Sun Devils don’t have much at receiver and want to lean on QB Emory Jones and RB Xazavian Valladay in the run game. That won’t work too well if they have to play from behind.

Pick: Oklahoma State -11.5

Oregon State at Fresno State

Time: 10:30 p.m. | TV: CBSSN | Line: OSU -1 | Total: 60.5

I don’t really envision a scenario in this game where both teams don’t score at least 30 points. Fresno State was content to go into cruise control in its Week 1 win over Cal Poly, but it still put up 549 yards in a 35-7 win. I expect Jake Haener and the Bulldogs to be much more aggressive in this one.

Oregon State, meanwhile, was impressive in a Week 1 win over Boise State. Boise State’s turnovers helped that cause, but it was still a strong performance from a Beavers program that has steadily improved under Jonathan Smith. OSU, though, has been much better at home in recent years, particularly on defense. During Smith’s tenure, the over is 14-6 in Oregon State’s road games. I’m expecting a lot of points.

Pick: Over 60.5