Predicting All Top 25 Week 2 College Football Games Against the Spread
The 2012 college football season is off and running after an opening round of games over a five-day span, which makes it tough for sports handicappers to analyze box scores and newfound information in such a short amount of time.
I believe that one of the more important angles to analyze when looking over the college football betting odds (courtesy of SBR Forum) this week is how teams performed under new leadership, as 28 programs are being led by new faces this season.
The Ohio State Buckeyes passed the eye-test with flying colors in Urban Meyer's debut in Columbus, beating the Las Vegas number by 20.5 points in their 56-10 victory over the Miami University RedHawks last Saturday.
Let's take a closer look at this week's games featuring ranked teams from a betting perspective.
Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 21 Kansas State Wildcats
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The Miami Hurricanes are going to receive a lot of attention from sharp bettors this week, especially after coming away with a 41-32 season-opening victory over the Boston College Eagles as two-point road favorites.
Revenge is certainly in play, with the Hurricanes suffering a 28-24 setback as 12.5-point home favorites in last year's meeting, which places them in a nice 7-0 against-the-spread spot in that situation against non-conference opponents.
The Kansas State Wildcats opened up versus a much softer opponent, but must be respected due to their 42-2 straight-up record in September home games under longtime head coach Bill Snyder since 1992.
I'm going to back the Wildcats due to their 10-3 ATS record in their last 13 games dating back to last season.
Pick: Kansas State Wildcats -6.5
UCF Knights vs. No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes
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The Ohio State Buckeyes have a great chance to win their 59th consecutive regular-season non-conference home game versus unranked opponents on Saturday, facing an opponent that is making back-to-back trips to the state of Ohio for the first time in school history.
It doesn't seem to matter where Urban Meyer lands in terms of blowing out non-conference foes, as he has posted a remarkable 19-2-1 ATS record in this situation as a host.
Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes -17
East Carolina Pirates vs. No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks
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The South Carolina Gamecocks get ready for their home opener after coming away with a hard-fought road victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores in their conference and season opener.
Last year's meeting was incredibly sloppy on a neutral field, with both teams combining for nine turnovers.
The East Carolina Panthers aren't as dangerous when receiving points now that former head coach Skip Holtz is down in South Florida, but I'm going in this direction due to their 5-1-1 ATS run versus ranked teams.
Pick: East Carolina Pirates +23
Ball State Cardinals vs. No. 12 Clemson Tigers
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Sports bettors will find that both teams want to run as many plays as possible, as the Ball State Cardinals racked up a school-record 36 first downs on 96 total plays, while the Clemson Tigers snapped the ball 87 times.
Expect a high-scoring affair in Death Valley, with the Tigers going above the total for the eighth time in their last 11 home games.
Pick: Over 65.5
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
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The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be meeting a defending BCS National Champion for the second time in school history, suffering a 49-3 setback on the road to the Florida Gators on Sept. 1, 2007.
Eight true freshmen saw the field in Alabama's convincing 41-14 victory over the Michigan Wolverines as 13-point neutral-site favorites, as Nick Saban's program continues to reload with talent.
The Crimson Tide's perfect 18-0 mark in September since 2008 assures a straight-up victory, but I'm a fan of the Hilltoppers' 21-7-1 ATS record in their last 29 games.
Pick: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers +40
No. 2 USC Trojans vs. Syracuse Orange
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Flying across the country and having a major revenge game on deck isn't exactly the best situation to cover a spread of this size, but it's also a statement game for a program that dropped from the top spot in the AP Top 25 poll this week.
USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin can use this angle as extra motivation in practice this week, while also focusing on sending quarterback Matt Barkley back to the East Coast to potentially accept the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
The visitor also catches a break with this game being played at MetLife Stadium, which offers a better playing environment than the Carrier Dome.
Pick: USC Trojans -26
No. 11 Michigan State Spartans vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
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The Michigan State Spartans land in college football's biggest sandwich situation to open up the 2012 campaign, coming off a prime-time victory over the Boise State Broncos, while looking ahead to a revenge game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos was a four-year letterman and two-year starter in East Lansing, which has me taking the points in the first-ever meeting between these two in-state rivals in Mount Pleasant.
Pick: Central Michigan Chippewas +24
Air Force Falcons vs. No. 19 Michigan Wolverines
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The Michigan Wolverines weren't going to win the national championship this year, which should allow them to bounce back after last week's loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Second-year head coach Brady Hoke certainly has his hands full in making sure a letdown doesn't occur, but I like the program's 3-1 ATS mark as a favorite of 10.5 to 21 points the last two-plus years.
Air Force's triple-option attack has gone just 3-10 ATS in the first half of the season since 2010.
Pick: Michigan Wolverines -21
Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came away with a 50-10 victory over the Navy Midshipmen as 14.5-point neutral-site favorites in Dublin, Ireland, which was a bit of a surprise due to having eight of their 22 starters making their first collegiate start.
From a situational standpoint, the Fighting Irish are familiar in opening up their home schedule against the Purdue Boilermakers, winning 10 of 12 such meetings.
I'm going to lay the points in this spot, as Saturday's host out-gained the Boilermakers by a considerable 274-yard margin in last year's 38-10 win as road favorites.
Pick: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -14
No. 24 Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies
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I believe both head coaches will play this game close to the vest on Saturday with ESPN's College GameDay visiting College Station, which is why I'm predicting that these two teams will fall short of the posted total.
The Florida Gators are used to playing in Southeastern Conference games, as they look to win their eighth straight road opener against such opponents, while the Texas A&M Aggies move over from the Big 12 Conference.
Expect both teams to try grinding it out on the ground behind experienced offensive lines.
Pick: Under 53
No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers vs. Oregon State Beavers
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Fans in Madison, Wisc., expect the football program to win their first two games of the season, as the Wisconsin Badgers have done just that since 2002.
I'm not exactly a fan of learning that the Big Ten Conference is 6-29-1 in regular-season road games against Pac-12 opponents since 1990, but I'm also aware that Badgers head coach Bret Bielema is 4-0 when traveling out west or to Hawaii.
Sports bettors will find that the Badgers are 2-6 ATS as a road favorite the last two-plus years, which fits nicely with Beavers head coach Mike Riley never being a home underdog of 7.5 to 14 points during his time in Corvallis.
Pick: Oregon State Beavers +8
Fresno State Bulldogs vs. No. 4 Oregon Ducks
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The Oregon Ducks possess the fastest-running offense in college football, which is represented in the fact that they've won the time-of-possession battle just nine times in 41 games under head coach Chip Kelly.
I'd be more inclined to take the points if Pat Hill was on the sidelines, but Fresno State is being led by Tim DeRuyter, who is the 17th coach in program history. The Bulldogs haven't beaten a ranked foe since 2004.
The Ducks really didn't get to play their starters very much last week due to scoring 50 points before the break, which is why I like them to improve to 5-0 ATS when playing the middle game of a three-game stretch inside Autzen Stadium.
Pick: Oregon Ducks -33.5
Washington Huskies vs. No. 3 LSU Tigers
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The Washington Huskies haven't been in Southeastern Conference territory in 39 years, which is why this is a measuring stick-type game for head coach Steve Sarkisian.
I believe that quarterback Keith Price has the ability to make some plays in this contest, improving the program's record to 5-0 ATS in its last five games as an underdog of 18 or more points.
Tread carefully in this spot, as the LSU Tigers have won 21 of their 25 games against current members of the Pac-12 Conference, which includes an unblemished mark in four opportunities under head coach Les Miles.
Pick: Washington Huskies +24
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks vs. No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks
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The Arkansas Razorbacks will play this game in Little Rock, and nobody will be talking about it in the stands with the Alabama Crimson Tide on deck. It's pretty clear that they'll sleepwalk to a victory in this spot, considering they've won 20 straight non-conference games inside War Memorial Stadium.
There's plenty to like offensively in playing the favorite, considering the Razorbacks began the year as the only Southeastern Conference team with a quarterback who has a 3,000-yard season in his career, while also possessing a running back who has gone over the 1,000-yard mark in rushing.
Opening up a season against a ranked opponent is nothing new for the visitor, as the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks have done just that the last four years.
I believe that experience serves them well here, with the underdog covering for the fifth time in the last six series meetings.
Pick: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks +30.5
No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. UCLA Bruins
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Quarterback Taylor Martinez was recruited along with seven others from the Southern California area, which is one of the main reasons that I expect a focused effort out of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in this spot.
The Cornhuskers would love to make two trips to the Rose Bowl this year, as they may get that opportunity if they win the Big Ten Conference.
I'm not a huge fan of fading the UCLA Bruins in one of their best situational spots, as they've covered 14 of 17 home openers against non-conference foes, but none of that success came under first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr.
Pick: Nebraska Cornhuskers -5.5
No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs vs. Missouri Tigers
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The Georgia Bulldogs have gone 7-4 in Southeastern Conference openers under the direction of head coach Mark Richt, which includes a 4-1 record on the road.
Based on those numbers alone, I believe the Bulldogs are the only play, especially considering that the Missouri Tigers are coming over from the Big 12 Conference.
With that being said—just about everyone else is thinking the same thing, which is worrisome with the betting odds moving in the other direction.
Pick: Georgia Bulldogs -2
New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 17 Texas Longhorns
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The Texas Longhorns are the second-winningest program in college football history, which is why I'm a bit puzzled about them starting off a season against the Wyoming Cowboys and New Mexico Lobos.
Sports bettors will notice that the host is 1-3 ATS in its last four games versus Mountain West Conference opponents, but the Lobos have failed to cover their last two tries as road underdogs of 35.5 to 42 points.
Lay it, if you play it.
Pick: Texas Longhorns -38
No. 18 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Arizona Wildcats
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The Oklahoma State Cowboys have been a money-making machine away from Stillwater over the years, posting a 20-7-1 ATS record, but the printing press is going to run out of ink in Tucson.
Former Michigan and West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez is entering just his second game as the new front man in the desert, but the Arizona Wildcats haven't been a home underdog of 10.5 to 14 points in at least the last 15 years.
I'm not interesting in laying this type of number on a team that doesn't hit the road against until Oct. 13.
Pick: Arizona Wildcats +13
Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 25 Stanford Cardinal
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The Stanford Cardinal possess a punishing running attack, but will no longer dominate opponents from a statistical standpoint without quarterback Andrew Luck under center.
In perhaps the most eye-catching box score of the opening week, the Cardinal were actually out-gained by eight yards in earning a 20-17 victory over the San Jose State Spartans as 25.5-point home favorites.
The Duke Blue Devils have a capable offense, which fits nicely with their 9-1 ATS mark after passing for 280 yards or more in their previous game.
Pick: Duke Blue Devils +15