Week 2 college football lines, odds, and best bets

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We had to use our gut in the first week, but now we have a single set of data to use. The next two or three weeks are the toughest weeks of the college football season to bet, as we haven't determined outliers or consistent trends for either offenses or defenses. We're still using our guts and prognostication, but sometimes the data doesn't jive. Which way do you play it?

But there's value to be found in that lingering lack of definition, and even on a terrible slate of games, there are four contests worth your attention. (You can find the full slate of Power 5 games on the board, with a few important mid-major games at the bottom of the page.)

Last week: 5-2 (Thanks, Dabo), 20 percent profit on even wagering

Best Bets:

Penn State +190 at Pitt

Weird stuff happens in rivalry games. The games have a chance to get particularly weird when one side isn’t admitting it’s a rivalry. Between two evenly matched teams, a six-point spread is massive. Would Penn State be two-or-three-point underdogs at home? I’m not high on the Nittany Lions — the defense has questions in the pass rush and I’m not buying quarterback Trace McSorley yet — but Pitt has failed to replace wide receiver Tyler Boyd, putting the passing game way behind to start the season, and the running game did not show much against Villanova in Week 1, averaging 2.53 yards per carry. Pitt’s offense ranked No. 125 in the latest S&P+ ratings.

The Pitt defense is excellent, but the Penn State offensive line showed something in their Week 1 win over Kent State and McSorley has an excellent 1-2 punch at running back and reliable receivers, led by Chris Goodwin. If McSorley manages the game and doesn’t try to win it singlehandedly (this is not a small request, this whole play could blow up on his arm hubris,) Penn State should be able to amass some offense, even against that strong Pitt defense. I’m not sure the same can be said for quarterback Nathan Peterman’s offense. Pitt only scored three offensive touchdowns against an FCS opponent and the passing game mustered only 5.5 yards per attempt.

This game should be close. Pitt was laying six — that moved to five in the week — for a game that should have a margin of one or two. The points are a worthwhile play, but you might as well look to nearly double your investment with a wager on Penn State’s money line.

South Carolina at Mississippi State -7

South Carolina has a bad offense and a not-so-great defense. They’re a known entity who needed everything they had and a bit of luck as well to beat one of the worst offensive teams in college football, Vanderbilt, last Thursday.

Mississippi State is coming off an embarrassing season-opening loss to South Alabama, a Conference USA team that isn’t supposed to reach a bowl game this year. This is what is defining them for the moment, but it undervalues the Bulldog offense’s potential.

The Bulldogs weren’t all that bad on offense against South Alabama. Two missed field goals and some woeful errors at the worst possible times brought about that ugly loss. There is a question of quarterback play, but Dan Mullen, perhaps more than any other coach in the country, deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to handling a quarterback rotation — if that’s what Mississippi State does Saturday.

Regardless, Mississippi State has a talented offense that should put up points on South Carolina.

Will the Gamecocks be able to muster 20? Can they stop Mississippi State from scoring 30? You willing to bet on it?

Ohio +125 at Kansas

Kansas won its first game since 2014 by beating Rhode Island in resounding fashion last week. The Rams are one of the worst programs in college football, but some are reading into the excellent play of the Jayhawks. They’re favored for the first time since Week 1 of last season.

I’m not buying it. Especially not against Ohio, which lost to Texas State in triple overtime last week, but was able to put up points and has a good coach in Frank Solich at the helm. Ohio is a team that has been at .500 or better for the last five years — they might be bad in 2016, but which is more likely, them having a bad Week 1 or Kansas suddenly being good?

Kansas is clearly improving, but beating a team that entered the season 5-41 in the last four seasons doesn’t prove anything. Ohio might be the road team, but history says that they should be able to handle the team with the 90th best offense and 103rd ranked defense (per Football Outsiders) The fact that you can get a quarter on top of the dollar makes it an all-day bet.

Double-down on: Virginia at Oregon -24.5

Bronco Mendenhall has a lot of work to do with this Cavs team, and that work isn’t going to get done in one week. Virginia was only able to muster 1.81 yards per carry against Richmond, the FCS team that blew them out last week. Oregon, against UC Davis, allowed only 2.7 yards per carry in Week 1. There’s not much of a reason to think that Virginia is going to be able to establish a run game capable of holding possession, which leaves them susceptible to getting boat-raced Saturday in Eugene.

The Oregon offense scored with efficiency, showed balance, and still left something to be desired in their Week 1 win. At home, against a team that allowed 524 yards to an FCS team the week before, anyone on the other side of this line is begging that Oregon is sloppy and disorganized. The Ducks are a team with something to prove, though, with a Heisman candidate in the backfield who should be able to pad the stats this week — a four-score margin doesn’t seem quite enough.


The rest of the board:

All odds via VegasInsider at the time of publishing.

Friday

Maryland -11.5 at FIU: FIU isn't half-bad, but neither is DJ Durkin.

Louisville at Syracuse +15: Look ahead game and a home dog — can't say no to that.

Saturday

Boston College -16 at UMass: Eagles showed me something against Georgia Tech in Ireland.

Arkansas at TCU -7.5: Which is more likely: TCU had a bad game or Arkansas is poised to have a dominant offense this season?

UCF +35.5 at Michigan: That's a lot of points to concede to a fast-paced offense.

Eastern Michigan +24.5 at Missouri: You can't buy the Mizzou offense until it scores 40.

Cincinnati at Purdue +210 (+5.5): Darrell Hazell's Purdue teams are 0-6 at home after a win, but that money line is too good to pass.

Ball State +17 at Indiana: Hoosiers' offense looks disjointed. Ball State is disciplined enough to make this interesting.

Louisiana-Monroe +46.5 at Oklahoma: That's a lot of points.

Central Michigan +21 at Oklahoma State: We'll find out what the Pokes' defense is made of. CMU isn't half bad.

Akron +23.5 at Wisconsin: Akron is bad, but Wisconsin won't be focused on them.

NC State -5.5 at ECU: Who's going to stop Matt Dayes?

Tulsa +28.5 at Ohio State: The Golden Hurricane can score enough to hold the margin, while Ohio State has one eye on Oklahoma.

Troy at Clemson -35: The Tigers have some frustration to take out on a cupcake.

Northern Illinois +15 at South Florida: Slow down that USF hype train — the Huskies can still play.

Wake Forest +5 at Duke: Final score: 2-0…

UConn +200 (+4) at Navy: UConn's defense can hold Navy in check. The offense needs a big week, but the value is there in a low-scoring game. Moneyline play.

UTEP +30.5 at Texas: Let-down game against a team that can run the ball. Easy cash.

Arkansas State +20 at Auburn: Three-man quarterback rotation against a mid-major with something to prove. That's just enough of a margin to get me to bite.

Kentucky +16 at Florida: The Gators needed every minute to beat UMass. Kentucky's defense is bad, but it can score. Will the Gators be able to take advantage? Hard to see it.

Nevada +28 at Notre Dame: A big game against Michigan State next week for the Irish. They'll win, but not by four touchdowns.

Idaho at Washington -37.5: The Huskies need to put up massive scores to help the Pac-12 in playoff selection. This is a chance to do so.

Western Kentucky +28.5 at Alabama: WKU will put up enough points to hold the margin. Bama isn't going to go all-in with Ole Miss looming next week.

Middle Tennessee State +175 (+4.5) at Vanderbilt: It's a defacto home game, and Vanderbilt's offense isn't going to be able to keep up with the Raiders.

FAU +14.5 first half at Miami (-25): Then you can turn it off. Miami should cover.

Virginia Tech +11 at Tennessee: Not buying the Vols until they force me.

SMU +32 at Baylor: Insane backdoor cover potential.

Iowa State +15 at Iowa: There will only be seven possessions in this game.

Wyoming +24.5 at Nebraska: There will only be nine possessions in this game.

Utah State at USC -16: An evil line. Avoid.

Washington State at Boise State -10.5: Boise is too offensively gifted to not put up big points on Wazzu.

BYU at Utah -3.5: The Utes' defense should win this game.

UNLV at UCLA -26: UNLV is getting better, UCLA is angry now.

Texas Tech +165 (+2.5) at Arizona State: Wait, the Sun Devils are favorites? Pat Mahomes is going to put up 50. Can Arizona State top that?

Cal at San Diego State -7: Cal's defense is terrible and their offense is going to need time to gel. SDSU is one of the best mid-majors in the nation in a big-time home game.