Picks for college football's biggest Week 2 games
As great as Week 1 was in terms of marquee matchups, Week 2 looks to be a complete snoozer. With no games on the schedule pairing ranked teams, I have also include three games between currently unranked teams that looked to be the most intriguing matchups of the weekend.
BYU at Utah
Line: Utah, -3.5
Last week against Southern Utah, Utah’s entire starting offensive line graded out negatively, giving up a combined two sacks and 12 pressures while also grading poorly against the run. BYU’s front seven meanwhile teed off on Arizona, racking up four sacks and 21 total pressures, and they should enjoy similar success against Utah’s weak link.
On the other side of the ball, while QB Taysom Hill is the headliner for the Cougars, it was RB Jamaal Williams who stole the show against Arizona. He ran for 162 yards on 29 carries and forced a staggering 11 missed tackles. This bodes well for BYU, as although Utah held their opponent scoreless last week, they missed 15 tackles themselves.
Prediction: BYU 23, Utah 20
Washington State at Boise State
Line: Boise St., -11.5
While Boise State’s defense torched Louisiana-Lafayette for six sacks and 22 total pressures, they’ll struggle to have the time it takes to consistently get after QB Luke Falk and Washington State’s quick passing game this week. Also, a significant portion of the Broncos’ pressure production (11 total pressures) last week came from blitzing LBs, something they’d do well to avoid too much of this week. The experience Falk was perfect against the blitz last week, completely passes all seven times Eastern Washington brought an extra man for three of his four touchdown passes.
Boise State is loaded with experience playmakers on offense, as WRs Cedrick Wilson and Thomas Sperbeck combined for 16 catches for 341 yards, with 193 yards coming after the catch. With their ability to make plays in space, the Cougars will need to significantly improve upon last week’s 10 missed tackles, six of them from the secondary.
Prediction: Washington State 45, Boise State 44
Penn State at Pittsburgh
Line: Pittsburgh, -6
New Penn State signal-caller Trace McSorley equaled the highest passing grade from the previous Nittany Lion starting QB in his first start last weekend, although he completed just three of 14 passes over ten yards. Despite a poor day from his run blockers, RB Saquon Barkley was his normal self, breaking seven tackles on his way to 106 yards rushing, 80 of them coming after first contact. Pitt’s defense missed a total of four tackles against Villanova last week, but will likely struggle to keep that total down against the ultra-elusive Barkley.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line did an outstanding job of keeping QB Nathan Peterman upright last week, as they accounted for just one total pressure allowed. The Penn State pass rush was conversely dominant, as it terrorized Kent State all day with 12 sacks and 46 total pressures.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Pittsburgh 21
Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama
Line: Alabama, -29
Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson were unstoppable against USC last week, as the duo put up three sacks and 11 total pressures. Tim Williams added five pressures of his own, while DT Dalvin Thompson notched three hurries. The quartet will look to continue its dominance against a Hilltopper offensive line that gave up just three total pressures, albeit against an immeasurably inferior opponent in Rice. QB Mike White was outstanding in his first start, completing 25 of 31 throws for 517 yards and three scores, with two of his incompletions being drops by his receivers. He’ll be hard-pressed to put up half that level of production against the nation’s number one team.
Prediction: Alabama 49, Western Kentucky 13
Troy at No. 2 Clemson
Line: Clemson, -36
Clemson escaped with a huge opening-weekend win against Auburn last weekend, as the offensive line had significant struggles in pass pro. RT Jake Fruhmorgen, LT Mitch Hyatt and C Jay Guillermo combined to give up eight total pressures, but should find pass blocking a bit easier this week, as Troy only mustered one sack and one hit against Austin Peay last week. Tiger linebackers Christian Wilkins and Kendall Joseph combined for 12 pressure and nine defensive stops, and look for them be highly productive against this week against the Trojans.
Prediction: Clemson 49, Troy 14
Tulsa at No. 4 Ohio State
Line: Ohio State, -28.5
The Golden Hurricane torched San Jose State on the ground last week, averaging 6.1 yards per carry on its way to 329 yards rushing. They won’t find anywhere near that level of success against a Buckeye defense that missed just one tackle against the run and gave up only 3.5 yards per carry against Bowling Green last week. WR/RB Curtis Samuel had the breakout performance we were expecting against the Falcons in week one, as he racked up 262 yards from scrimmage and should be similarly dominant this week.
Prediction: Ohio State 52, Tulsa 7
UCF at No. 5 Michigan
Line: Michigan, -35.5
The Knights needed 51 carries to break 200 yards last week, but will be hard-pressed to gain 100 against one of the top defenses in all of college football. RG Chavis Dickey had an especially difficult day against South Carolina State, as he graded negatively in run blocking but also gave up two sacks and five QB hurries. Expect the Michigan defensive line to put up huge stats this week en route to another blowout win.
Prediction: Michigan 55, UCF 0
Idaho at No. 8 Washington
Line: Washington, -37
I enjoy Idaho potatoes; they’re a versatile food that can be prepared a wide variety of ways. The Idaho Vandals offense, however, showed against Montanta State it is anything but versatile, as QB Matt Linehan completed just eight of 22 passes for 128 yards. Now facing possibly the best team in the country west of the Mississippi river, don’t expect things to improve this week. One interesting note on Washington QB Jake Browning’s week one performance against Rutgers: Only three of his 27 attempts were outside the left hashes, and he completed two of those throws for a mere 14 yards. Look for a more balanced approach this week.
Prediction: Washington 55, Idaho 0
Akron at No. 10 Wisconsin
Line: Wisconsin, -24
Akron WR Damian Jones had a monster opening week, as he caught 11 of his 15 targets for 215 yards and three scores. While he won’t reach those totals against a Wisconsin team fresh off a monster win against LSU, expect QB Thomas Woodson to continue to force-feed him the ball this week. He completed 11 of 18 pass attempts over 10 yards last week, and should prove to be a significantly tougher opponent for the Wisconsin secondary than LSU’s Brandon Harris, who was just four of 11 with two interceptions in the same range.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Akron 14
UTEP at No. 11 Texas
Line: Texas, -28.5
Before Texas can truly announce itself as being “back,” it must first survive the buzz saw that is the Aaron Jones-led UTEP Miners. Jones torched New Mexico State last week for 242 yards on 30 carries, forcing 12 missed tackles along the way. He did put the ball on the turf twice, however, and will need to clean up his ball security if UTEP has designs of keeping this game under three scores. Look for Texas’ duo at QB to pick up where they left off against the Irish, and expect significantly better run blocking from the offensive line.
Prediction: Texas 41, UTEP 13
No. 13 Louisville at Syracuse
Line: Louisville, -14.5
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson scored a touchdown every 5.38 snaps he played last week, and if there’s a prop bet on whether he can duplicate the feat this week, I highly recommend taking the under. The Syracuse defense gave up just 97 yards passing to Colgate last week, but like Jackson, will not have a repeat performance this week. The key for Louisville’s defense will be getting consistent pressure on Syracuse QB Eric Dungey, who completed 30 of 35 passes last week when not faced with pressure from the opposing pass rush.
Prediction: Louisville 34, Syracuse 20
Louisiana Monroe at No. 14 Oklahoma
Line: Oklahoma, -46.5
Oklahoma has now been bullied in consecutive games, with a visit from Ohio State on the horizon for week three. They’ll finally get to be the bully this week, as Louisiana-Monroe won by 16 last week and yet missed 26 tackles. Houston missed 12 against the Sooners last week, it’ll be vital to watch this game with a friend, so as to not run out of fingers and toes to use for counting this week’s total.
Prediction: Oklahoma 62, Louisiana-Monroe 6
Arkansas at No. 15 TCU
Line: TCU, -7.5
Arkansas squeezed out a one point win against Louisiana Tech last week, struggling to move the ball on the ground despite outstanding run blocking from LT Dan Skiller, LG Hjalte Froholdt and C Frank Ragnow. The backs struggled to create, breaking just one tackle and averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. TCU meanwhile got into a shootout with South Dakota State, due in large part to poor secondary play. The unit gave up 333 yards passing and three touchdowns, and missed six tackles. The Horned Frogs will need another big performances again from DT Aaron Curry (two sacks, four other pressures and no, he’s not that Aaron Curry) and linebackers Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson (18 combined tackles, nine run stops).
Prediction: TCU 41, Arkansas 38
Iowa State at No. 16 Iowa
Line: Iowa, -15
Iowa won this matchup by 14 last year on the road, and is a more experienced, cohesive team hosting its in-state rival this year. The key matchup to watch this week will be Iowa State LT Jaypee Philbert Jr. squaring off against Iowa DE Anthony Nelson. Nelson was a dominant force on the pass rush last week against Miami (OH), as he racked up three sacks, while Philbert gave up eight total pressures to Northern Iowa. Last year’s second-best Big Ten team should have no issues dispatching last year’s second-worst Big 12 team.
Prediction: Iowa 38, Iowa State 10
Virginia Tech at No. 17 Tennessee
Line: Tennessee, -11.5
This is easily the most intriguing matchup of the week involving a ranked team, as the Hokies look to have the defense to stifle a Tennessee offense that struggled last week against Appalachian State. Virginia Tech is led by CB Greg Stroman, who last week against Liberty caught two more passes than the receivers he defended did and broke up a third. If the Hokies can get to Volunteer QB Joshua Dobbs they’ll likely pull off the upset, as last week Dobbs on seven drop-backs on which he faced pressure took two sacks and his only completion was to a Mountaineer.
Prediction: Tennessee 14, Virginia Tech 10
Central Michigan at No. 22 Oklahoma State
Central Michigan might have the offense needed to compete for the MAC championship this season, but lacks the defensive talent to hang with one of the most explosive offenses in college football. The Cowboys’ top offensive playmaker had a tough 2016 debut, as James Washington dropped two balls and managed just 35 yards receiving. As a sophomore he had three games with over 100 yards receiving and a total of eight touchdowns in those games, and should have a similar game this week against the Chippewas.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 49, Central Michigan 17
SMU at No. 23 Baylor
Line: Baylor, -32
Scandal and new head coach aside, this is still a Baylor team loaded with experienced offensive talent. While Seth Russell threw for four touchdowns, it was the Bears’ run game that dominated play, as it averaged 6.2 yards per carry on its way to racking up 274 yards. SMU may have enough offensive fire power to put a few scores on the board, but that will only mean Baylor’s starting offense will see more playing time than usual this time of year.
Prediction: Baylor 59, SMU 21
Virginia at No. 24 Oregon
Line: Oregon -24.5
This is not the dominant Oregon team we’ve become accustomed to, but then again this is the Virginia we’ve come to expect. After a 17-point home loss to FCS Richmond that saw the Cavaliers put up just 63 yards on the ground, it’s hard to envision Oregon’s top playmakers RB Royce Freeman and WR Darren Carrington not having big enough days for the Ducks to cover this spread.
Prediction: Oregon 49, Virginia 16
Florida Atlantic at No. 25 Miami (FL)
Line: Miami (FL), -24.5
Last week against Southern Illinois, Florida Atlantic LT Dillon DeBoer and LG Tarrick Thomas combined to give up 12 total pressures, while Miami DE Joe Jackson and OLB Demetrius Jackson accounted for two sacks and 5 other pressures while rushing against Florida A&M’s left side. It will be a long day for the Owls.
Prediction: Miami (FL) 49, Florida Atlantic 12