By: Matt Doherty and Liam O’Brien
Welcome to the first edition of the WTBU College Football Super 8. Staff writers Matt Doherty and Liam O’Brien will pick their eight favorite games to bet each week during the season.
The first weekend of the college football season was good to Liam, as he fared 4-1 on spread picks while splitting 2-2 on over-unders. Hopefully, Week 2 yields a similar result and we can help you get in the good graces of your bookie.
Liam: Mississippi State (-9) over Kansas State
Analysis: What if I told you the Bulldogs rolled to a 57-point win in their season opener without their starting quarterback and Heisman candidate Nick Fitzgerald? Backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson filled in admirably for Mississippi State, slicing Stephen F. Austin apart for five touchdowns through the air and two touchdowns on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats barely survived South Dakota State at home. Kansas State was careless, turning the ball over four times while failing to force a turnover. There is no clear solution for them at quarterback, as Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton were a combined 13 of 28 for 152 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on Saturday.
These quarterbacks will have to bounce back quickly against a scary Bulldogs defense which limited Stephen F. Austin to 254 total yards in their season opener. Mississippi State’s defense should be able to cause some disruption and help Fitzgerald re-acclimate himself to game action with ease.
Pick: Mississippi State -9
Matt: South Carolina (+10.5) over Georgia
Analysis: This is Year 3 in the Will Muschamp era which means it’s time for the obligatory “jump”. Coming off a 9-4 season, the Gamecocks are ranked 24th in the AP poll and rolled past Coastal Carolina, 49-15, in Week 1. On Saturday, Muschamp and Co. will search for a program defining win against SEC rival and third ranked Georgia.
Quarterback Jake Bentley and do-it-all wide receiver Deebo Samuel make up one of the best duos in the country and will stretch the Dawgs D. Samuel is already talking trash as well. When asked about star Georgia DB Deandre Baker by reporters on Tuesday, Samuel responded “Who?”. The Cocks are solid on both sides of the ball (19th in offensive efficiency and 69th on defense).
But the biggest advantage South Carolina will have on Saturday is the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd, who will be waving towels and jamming out to ‘Sandstorm’ all afternoon. 10.5 points is way too much and I expect South Carolina to cover and push Georgia to the brink. Always trust a home dog against a conference rival.
Pick: South Carolina +10.5
Liam: Penn State (-8.5) over Pittsburgh
Analysis: Penn State almost threw away any chance at the College Football Playoff last Saturday with a near loss to Appalachian State, a team with a history of taking down Big Ten behemoths in the opening week of the year. Nevertheless, they survived, with Heisman candidate Trace McSorley tossing a touchdown pass to wide receiver KJ Hamler to tie the game with 42 seconds left before the Nittany Lions won the game in overtime.
Despite the scare, there were still positive takeaways for Penn State on the offensive side of the ball. They put up 434 yards of total offense, 205 yards in the rushing game, garnered just two penalties and did not turn the ball over. The narrow result was a classic case of a heavy favorite taking their foot off the gas against a lesser opponent as PSU held a 24-10 lead at halftime.
Running back Miles Sanders averaged 4.8 yards per carry en route to two touchdowns in the first game of the post-Saquon Barkley era and expect him to deliver more of the same production in his Pittsburgh homecoming. The Panthers allowed 142.4 rushing yards per game a season ago and head coach Pat Narduzzi documented his teams inability to tackle in the season opener in a press conference earlier this week.
Pick: Penn State -8.5
Matt: Nevada (+9.5) over Vanderbilt
Analysis: Death, Taxes, and Vanderbilt football underperforming. The Dores have been the laughing stock of the SEC for years and head coach Derek Mason is squarely on the hot seat in Year 5. In fact, the most relevancy the Vandy football program has had in the past decade came when former quarterback Jordan Rodgers won the Bachelorette.
With that being said, it feels like every year Vandy struggles against an inferior non conference team and I expect that to happen again on Saturday. Nevada hung 72 points and 636 yards on FCS Portland State in Week 1 en route to a 53 point victory. For context, Oregon, who is ranked 23rd in the AP Poll, is a 49.5 point favorite against Portland State this week.
Per Football Outsiders, the Wolfpack are actually rated higher than Vanderbilt and post similar efficiencies on both sides of the ball. The Commodores totaled just 270 total yards against a bad Middle Tennessee team last week.
Nevada alum Colin Kaepernick has dominated the news all week but don’t be surprised if his alma mater makes headlines with an upset win.
Pick: Nevada +9.5
Liam: Arizona State (+6.5) over Michigan State
The first statement win of Herm Edwards’ tenure at Arizona State could come this Saturday. The last three ranked non-conference opponents to travel to Tempe have all lost, and the Sun Devils managed to take down fifth-ranked Washington at home last season.
Expect a similar result this weekend as the Spartans looked unprepared in a 38-31 squeaker of a victory over Utah State in the season opener. Quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for two touchdowns but was loose with the ball, losing a fumble and throwing a pick-six. The lackadaisical attitude that Lewerke brought to protecting the football against the Big Blue will not bode well against the opportunistic Arizona State defense, which has taken a nation-best 17 interceptions back for touchdowns over the last seven seasons.
The Spartans were torched in the passing game last week, allowing 319 yards. The going only gets tougher against the Sun Devils, who bring the formidable combination of quarterback Manny Wilkins (237 yards, two touchdowns) and receiver N’Keal Harry (six catches, 140 yards, two touchdowns) to the mix.
Pick: Arizona State +6.5
Matt: Baylor vs. UTSA Over 50.5
Analysis: Following a disaster 2017 season, Baylor matched its win total from last year with a 55-27 shellacking over FCS Abilene Christian to open up the season. The Bears totaled 606 yards, including 295 on the ground. Meanwhile, UTSA allowed 266 rushing yards and 49 points to Arizona State in Week 1.
But the reason I love this over is because the Bears have a poor defensive unit that just surrendered 27 points at home to an FCS team. Both teams are ranked in the bottom third in defensive efficiency. I predict a 38-24 victory for Baylor with the over hitting easily.
Pick: Over 50.5
Liam: Boise State (-31) over UConn
The Broncos were favored by just 10 points last week against Troy before stampeding their way to a 56-20 victory. The bookmakers have adjusted to the firepower of Boise State’s offense by making the line high for their Week 2 matchup versus the Huskies. But expect the result to be similar.
Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in his season debut and he will have his way with the UConn defense. The Huskies allowed 356 passing yards last Thursday to UCF’s McKenzie Milton in a 56-17 drubbing on their home field.
UConn quarterback David Pindell is a fun one to watch, posing the ability to break a defense down with his legs. But, his theatrics will not be enough for the Huskies to pose a threat to Boise State in their home opener on the famed blue turf.
Pick: Boise State -31
Matt: Rice vs. Hawaii over 71
Hawaii has recaptured the glory days of 2007 when Colt Brennan guided the Rainbow Warriors to the Sugar Bowl. Hawaii is the lone 2-0 team in FBS, averaging 51 points per game. Speaking of Colt Brennan, sophomore QB Cole MCDonald has looked like a reincarnation of Brennan, throwing for 846 yards and 9 touchdowns in the first two games.
The red-hot Warrior offense is licking its chops going up against a Rice defense that is 122 out of 130 in defensive efficiency. Hawaii has played in two shootouts already this season, surrendering 34 and 41 points, so Rice should be able to score. Expect another high octane output on the island.
The best part of this game is that it starts at midnight eastern time, so I’m sure many degenerates will be staying up until the wee hours of Sunday morning hoping the over cashes. It will.
Pick: Over 71
Bonus Pick: Oregon (-49.5) vs. Portland State
Season Record: Liam 0-0, Matt 0-0