2011 College Football Picks: Week 2 Picks Against the Spread
Week 2 of the 2011 college football season features some big-time conference openers and long-time rivalries that will spark a huge betting interest in Las Vegas.
It's also important to note that more casual bettors will be in town due to a full slate of NFL games for its opening weekend.
Professionals are busy going over last week’s box scores in earnest, while the linesmaker is making necessary adjustments due to public perception.
Let's take a closer look at 14 top games from a betting perspective.
Arizona Wildcats at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-14)
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Revenge is on the minds of the visitor in this contest due to suffering a humiliating 36-10 defeat in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl against tonight’s host.
Arizona tallied a 41-10 win over non-FBS opponent Northern Arizona last week as 26-point home favorites. It was an uneventful contest against this handicapper’s alma mater.
Normally, revenge would give the Wildcats an edge as a double-digit underdog, but the Cowboys' explosive offense had pedestrian numbers in the bowl matchup.
Oklahoma State gained just 312 yards and was led by a defensive unit that picked off three passes, while amassing five sacks.
A major scheduling edge is also in favor of the Cowboys—heading on the road for two consecutive contests after this nationally televised event, while the Wildcats have their two toughest conference games ahead, hosting Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks.
Oklahoma State’s 14-6 ATS mark as a favorite the last two-plus seasons seals it.
Recommendation: Oklahoma State Cowboys (-14)
Missouri Tigers at Arizona State Sun Devils (-7)
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The second Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchup of the week has the Missouri Tigers traveling to the desert to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Sharp bettors completely ignored the fact that a preseason ranked team was getting points on the road in Week 2. The line was instantly bet up from six to its current standing of a touchdown.
Arizona State is ready to create a “Black Out” for this nationally televised contest on ESPN Friday, as the school will be debuting its all-black uniforms and helmets.
Missouri is definitely up against it, but also enters with 22 straight non-conference regular-season wins. The last time head coach Gary Pinkel tasted defeat against a non-Big 12 school during regular action was in 2005.
I’m more interested in playing the total, as the "under" is 7-1 in the Tigers' last eight road games, while the Sun Devils have fallen below the mark in 13 of 21 games.
Recommendation: Under (when available)
Oregon State Beavers at Wisconsin Badgers (-20)
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Oregon State’s 29-28 overtime loss at home to non-FBS opponent Sacramento State isn’t all that shocking when you realize the program played eight true freshman in the contest. The Beavers must still try and bounce back from such a loss for the first time since 1996.
Public perception will run rampant in Las Vegas this week, as Wisconsin dismantled UNLV (51-17) in its season-opening victory in front of an ESPN audience. Backers didn’t cash their tickets due to the Badgers being 35-point home favorites.
The line has already been driven up three points and will likely settle in around three touchdowns. That’s when underdog bettors should step in and wager with confidence.
Oregon State is 10-3 ATS as an underdog the past two-plus campaigns—including a perfect 2-0 mark when the spread settles in between 14.5 to 21 points.
Recommendation: Oregon State Beavers (+21 or higher)
Florida Atlantic Owls at Michigan State Spartans (-32.5)
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Who does the scheduling for Florida Atlantic? Five straight road games is a daunting task, especially when starting away from home against the likes of Florida, Michigan State and Auburn.
The main handicapping angle for this contest is that the Owls catch the Spartans in the same exact situation that led to a 30-17 road loss as 26-point underdogs a year ago.
Michigan State is looking dead ahead to a Week 3 road contest against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend.
Some will argue that Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio will be upset after a pedestrian victory over Youngstown State, but many don’t realize that’s the program that helped launch his coaching career back in 1986.
Gotta fade the Spartans—at least for one more week.
Recommendation: Florida Atlantic Owls (+32.5)
Toledo Rockets at Ohio State Buckeyes (-19.5)
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The Toledo Rockets have never scored against the Ohio State Buckeyes is a pretty telling statistic.
Ohio State's 17-0 straight-up record against Mid-American opponents is also a major obstacle for the nearly three-touchdown underdogs.
Something tells me that the Buckeyes are going to have their hands full, as the Rockets defense has playmaking ability.
Toledo forced five turnovers in its season-opening contest against non-FBS opponent New Hampshire, but that type of result has been the norm. Head coach Tim Beckman’s defensive unit was tied for 15th nationally a year ago in turnover margin.
Buckeyes head coach Luke Fickell will have trouble getting his squad focused for a second consecutive week against a MAC opponent, as a trip to South Beach looms large.
Recommendation: Toledo Rockets (+19.5)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (-6) at Auburn Tigers
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Rarely will I recommend playing a road favorite in a contest like this, but Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is an explosive 5-0 ATS as a road favorite.
It’s still a game to be very cautious in playing and likely one that many will not even think about wagering on.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is 2-0 ATS as an underdog at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers finished last year’s meeting in Starksville, with a 350-246 yardage advantage—in just their second game under the direction of some quarterback called Cam Newton.
If you must.
Recommendation: Mississippi State Bulldogs (-6)
Alabama Crimson Tide (-10) at Penn State Nittany Lions
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Absolutely no movement found in this line, as casual and professional bettors alike digest the fact that Penn State is a double-digit home underdog.
It’s warranted caution—the Nittany Lions have received points at Beaver Stadium just three times in the last four years.
Total players will be watching to see if the line rises above its current position due to the "under" being 6-0 in the Crimson Tide’s last six games as a road favorite of 10.5 to 14 points.
It fits nicely with the Nittany Lions falling below the number in their last seven September contests.
Recommendation: Under (when available)
Nevada Wolf Pack at Oregon Ducks (-27)
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Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas basically stated that last week’s loser of the LSU game would likely not have a chance of winning the national championship.
Ducks head coach Chip Kelly may have had the same thoughts in his head after dropping a 40-27 contest at Cowboys Stadium.
Why in the world would a bettor want to lay nearly four touchdowns with that being the case?
Granted, Nevada is beginning life after quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s NFL draft.
The Wolf Pack are also one of a few teams nationally that have yet to play a game this year.
Head coach Chris Ault has put together a daunting schedule in his 27th year—playing four consecutive road games against Oregon, San Jose St., Texas Tech and Boise State to begin the year.
The line has moved 5.5 points in Oregon’s favor since being released—eliminating virtually all value in playing the home favorite.
Just can’t suggest the Wolf Pack due to their 1-7 ATS mark as double-digit non-conference underdogs, but don’t go crazy on laying the deflated Ducks.
Recommendation: Oregon Ducks (-27)
Virginia Tech Hokies (-20) at East Carolina Pirates
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The linesmaker was obviously impressed with Virginia Tech’s 66-13 dismantling of Appalachian State as 26-point home favorites, but I’m not the least bit interested in laying nearly three touchdowns on the road here.
East Carolina led by 17 points against South Carolina last week on a neutral field—before getting outscored by a 56-20 margin the rest of the game.
It’s certainly a somewhat deflating defeat, but it’s important to note that they lost the yardage battle by just six yards in the contest.
The game was also unlike most last week, as both teams combined to turn the ball over nine times.
Virginia Tech’s 2-9 ATS mark in the second of back-to-back non-conference games confirms a play on the other side.
Recommendation: East Carolina Pirates (+20)
TCU Horned Frogs (-2.5) at Air Force Falcons
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Air Force doesn’t create the same type of problems that Baylor created against the TCU defense, but the game really comes down to a psychological test for the Horned Frogs.
The last time the Horned Frogs lost was a 17-10 bowl defeat to the Boise State Broncos to end the 2009-10 season. TCU head coach Gary Patterson had a whole offseason to get his team ready to bounce back and a veteran quarterback at his side.
The Falcons are being asked to make up a huge disparity in numbers from last year’s 38-7 road loss in the series, as they were out-gained by an incredible 331 yards.
Bettors will likely side with the boys from Colorado Springs, CO, as they are 4-1 ATS as home underdogs under fifth-year head coach Troy Calhoun.
Recommendation: Air Force Falcons (+2.5)
South Carolina Gamecocks (-3) at Georgia Bulldogs, Total 50.5
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With both teams playing high-scoring games last week, I can’t wait to exploit the total that linesmakers will be putting out.
After all, last year’s slugfest resulted in a 17-6 South Carolina home win as three-point favorites—staying well below the 44.5-point total.
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier elected to run the ball 51 times in that contest and will likely not stray away from that recipe Saturday.
The "under" is 4-1 when the Bulldogs are home underdogs of three points or fewer, while the Gamecocks have slipped below the number 11 times in 15 opportunities as a road favorite.
Recommendation: Under 50.5
Fresno State Bulldogs at Nebraska Cornhuskers (-28), Total 50
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Fresno State head coach Pat Hill continues his “Play them anytime, anywhere” mantra after suffering a 36-21 loss to California on a neutral field last week.
Total players will receive some value in the total this week due to Nebraska failing to score in the fourth quarter in its 40-7 season-opening win over Chattanooga. The score fell below the 58-point total.
Don’t expect these teams to be pedestrian in this one, especially Fresno State, who has been involved in absolute shootouts in marquee non-conference road games the past two years.
The Bulldogs suffered dropped both contests against Ole Miss (55-38) and Wisconsin (34-31), but the number of points is all that counts.
Recommendation: Over 50
Utah Utes at USC Trojans (-10)
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Going for two-point conversions after every touchdown is going to cost USC Lane Kiffin one of these weeks, and no time is better than the Pac-12 opener for both schools.
Utah brings in a spectacular 18-7 ATS mark as dogs when playing teams that made up the former Pac-10, and offensive coordinator Norm Chow is comfortable in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum press box—a former play-caller for the Men of Troy.
It’s seemingly a mismatch in terms of discipline and Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham wins the battle.
Trojans’ bettors are a wallet-emptying 3-10 ATS at home the last two-plus seasons.
Recommendation: Utah Utes (+10)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-4.5) at Michigan Wolverines
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You heard it here first: Notre Dame’s season is lost if they fail to come out of Ann Arbor with a victory.
Over. Done with. Lost.
Granted, this contest isn’t a conference game, but it has that feel when these two bang helmets on the gridiron.
The linesmaker has sent out a mind-boggling line to the casual bettor, but a significant message to the professional.
Michigan fans can only hope that first-year head coach Brady Hoke can snap a troubling 0-3 ATS trend as home underdogs of 3.5 to 7 points.
Don’t fall into the trap.
Recommendation: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-4.5)