College Football Picks: Week 2 Predictions for Every Game

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 9, 2020

College Football Picks: Week 2 Predictions for Every Game

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    Kansas RB Pooka Williams Jr.
    Kansas RB Pooka Williams Jr.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Week 2 of the 2020 college football season will mark the next phase of easing our way back into the proverbial swimming pool.

    It started two weeks ago with the FCS opener between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas. There were nine games involving FBS teams last weekend, but neither a ranked team nor a Power Five squad was on the docket. This week, both the ACC and Big 12 will take the field, but the SEC will not, and there's nary a contest pitting two Associated Press Top 25 teams against one another.

    That might sound like a complaint, but it's actually a blessing. After months of not knowing whether there would be any football, diving straight in with a gargantuan Alabama-Georgia type of showdown would have been a shock to the senses. A little bit of limbering up before the big games is a good thing for players, fans and media alike.

    And it's not like this is a pithy slate. We've got arguably the best nonconference game of the year coming up Thursday night, followed by a Saturday with at least five games in each of the early afternoon, midafternoon and evening windows. And if you can't get excited about a late-night kickoff featuring a pair of returning 1,000-yard rushers in Coastal Carolina's CJ Marable and Kansas' Pooka Williams Jr., maybe you don't love college football as much as you thought.

Game of the Week: UAB at Miami

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    Miami TE Brevin Jordan
    Miami TE Brevin JordanPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    UAB at Miami, 8 p.m. ET Thursday (ACC Network)

    UAB will certainly get some prime-time viewing from this most unusual college football season. The Blazers were the first FBS team to take the field this season, beating Central Arkansas 45-35 on Thursday. This Thursday, they'll play the only game of the night with a chance to pull off what would be one of the biggest wins in program history.

    UAB is 6-50 all-time against current Power Five opponents. Two of those wins came against Baylor while the Bears were mired in a 14-year streak (1996-2009) of sub-.500 seasons. Two of the other wins were against TCU in the early 2000s while the Horned Frogs were in Conference USA. The Blazers also beat a pretty bad Mississippi State team in 2004. But they did have an impressive win over LSU in 2000—one month into Nick Saban's first season as the Tigers head coach.

    Whether this would top that Y2K-era victory is an argument we can have if the upset happens, but a road win over Miami would be a massive statement for sure.

    Meanwhile, the home favorite in this matchup is breaking in some key transfers and hoping to get off on the right foot after a disappointing 13-13 record over the past two seasons.

    Former Houston quarterback D'Eriq King was a critical acquisition for a team that—how do we put this nicely?—has not quite excelled in the quarterback department as of late. Former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell was supposed to be that exciting pickup last offseason, but he was never given a chance. Things should be different with King, and it should infuse Miami with the offense necessary to contend in the ACC.

    The Canes also picked up the best available edge-rusher in Quincy Roche (Temple). He had 13 sacks last year and 26 over the past three years. We were initially giddy about getting to watch him line up opposite Greg Rousseau for one year, but Roche will instead replace Rousseau, who opted out.

    The UAB offense looked potent in the opener against Central Arkansas, but it better eliminate the turnovers if it wants to have any chance in this one. In the first half, a UAB interception was returned to the 4-yard-line, setting up one UCA touchdown. There was a fumble returned for a touchdown before intermission. Gaffes like that against Miami would result in a blowout. I expect this one will be a little close for Canes comfort, though.

    Prediction: Miami 38, UAB 27

AP Top 10 Teams in Action

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    Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
    Clemson QB Trevor LawrenceRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC)

    For a ranked team, opening the season on the road against a conference foe probably seems like a nerve-wracking proposition.

    In reality, it hasn't been much of a problem of late.

    No. 3 Georgia routed Vanderbilt 30-6 in Week 1 last season. No. 21 UCF stomped Connecticut 56-17 to open the 2018 regular season. And No. 20 Virginia Tech followed suit with a 24-3 victory over No. 19 Florida State a few nights later. No. 1 Ohio State got an early scare at Indiana to begin the 2017 season, but the Buckeyes cruised to a 49-21 victory. Kenny Hill led No. 21 Texas A&M to a surprise 52-28 rout at No. 9 South Carolina in 2014. And Jameis Winston and No. 11 Florida State won 41-14 at Pittsburgh in 2013.

    That's six consecutive Week 1 games in which the ranked road team defeated a conference opponent by at least 21 points, and that trend should continue in Winston-Salem on Saturday night. All the same, it should be a good early look at Trevor Lawrence's new favorite targets as Clemson adjusts to life without Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Diondre Overton.

    Prediction: Clemson 45, Wake Forest 14


    Missouri State at No. 5 Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View)

    If you want to watch this blowout, get ready to pony up $54.99 for the privilege.

    The Bears went 1-10 last season. Over the past decade, they are 0-13 against FBS opponents with a combined score of 665-171. All 13 of those games were decided by at least two touchdownsoften more like six or seven touchdowns.

    Meanwhile, Oklahoma has won five consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles and has played in four of the past five College Football Playoffs.

    The Sooners are breaking in a new quarterback (redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler) and basically an entirely new running back depth chart in a year in which offseason prep work was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But if Missouri State pulls off this road win, it would easily supplant Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007 for the title of most outrageous upset in college football history.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 59, Missouri State 10


    Duke at No. 10 Notre Dame (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

    Notre Dame's Ian Book threw for four touchdowns and rushed for more than 100 yards in a 38-7 road victory over Duke last November. Given the preseason expectations for these teamsNotre Dame is a College Football Playoff candidate; Duke is a strong candidate to challenge Georgia Tech for worst record in the ACCthis rematch in South Bend could be even uglier.

    As with the Clemson wide receivers, though, the intriguing part of this game is getting a glimpse at Notre Dame's running back situation. Sophomore Kyren Williamswho had just four carries for 26 yards last yearhas emerged as the probable starter, but C'Bo Flemister, Jafar Armstrong, Jahmir Smith and freshman Chris Tyree are all hoping an early splash against the Blue Devils could land them at No. 1 on the depth chart.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Duke 14

The Rest of the AP Top 25

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    North Carolina RB Michael Carter
    North Carolina RB Michael CarterBen McKeown/Associated Press

    UTEP at No. 14 Texas (8 p.m. ET on Longhorn Network)

    Fun fact: By defeating Stephen F. Austin 24-14 on Saturday night, UTEP has already matched its highest win total in the past three seasons. The Miners were winless in 2017 and went 1-11 in each of the last two years.

    They surely won't remain undefeated for long. Whether Texas is "back" and ready to vie for a national championship remains to be seen, but the Longhorns shouldn't have any problem with UTEP. Even in 2016 when Texas went 5-7, the Longhorns still beat the Miners 41-7. The final margin will just depend on when Tom Herman opts to take his foot off the gas.

    It should be a fun game to let highly touted freshman running back Bijan Robinson loose, though.

    Prediction: Texas 59, UTEP 7


    Syracuse at No. 18 North Carolina (Noon ET on ACC Network)

    This might look dumb in a few weeks (or even in a few days), but I'm all in on North Carolina entering Thanksgiving weekend with an undefeated record and firmly entrenched in the College Football Playoff debate.

    The Tar Heels went only 7-6 last year, but those six losses came by a combined 26 points, including one game that took six overtimes. They then won their final three games (including their bowl game against Temple) by a combined 122 points, and quarterback Sam Howell and four players who had at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season are back.

    Just to have four players reach 1,000 yards in a season is wild enough. The only other Power Five team to pull that off in the past decade was Oklahoma in 2018. But to also retain those four players and the starting quarterback is one heck of a luxury. Look for the Tar Heels to open the year with a statement win over a team that lost its top running back, its top wide receiver and all five player who tallied at least seven tackles for loss last year.

    Prediction: North Carolina 48, Syracuse 13


    Louisiana at No. 23 Iowa State (Noon ET on ESPN)

    If a ranked team is going down this week, it's going to be Iowa State.

    I say that not because the Cyclones needed three overtimes to win their season opener against Northern Iowa last year but because Louisiana is much better than your average Sun Belt team. The Ragin' Cajuns went 11-3 in 2019 with a competitive loss to Appalachian State and a solid effort in a season-opening loss to Mississippi State.

    From that team, they bring back two running backs, Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, who have combined for more than 4,000 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns over the past two seasons and a quarterback, Levi Lewis, who quietly threw for more than 3,000 yards with a 26-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. They also have back a ton of key pieces from a defense that held opponents to 19.7 points per game.

    Brock Purdy and Co. should get the job done, but this seems like a game destined to come down to the wire.

    Prediction: Iowa State 27, Louisiana 24

Early Saturday Games

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    Charlotte QB Chris Reynolds
    Charlotte QB Chris ReynoldsBrian Westerholt/Associated Press

    Charlotte at Appalachian State (Noon ET on ESPN2)

    The Appalachian State defense does not do well with run-pass option or triple-option offenses. Georgia Southern has given the Mountaineers fits in recent years, and Charlotte put up 41 points against them last September. Appalachian State won by 15 because the 49ers defense is not good, but I expect another high-scoring affair with Charlotte dual-threat quarterback Chris Reynolds having another big day. It won't be enough for the upset, though.

    Prediction: Appalachian State 49, Charlotte 35


    Eastern Kentucky at West Virginia (Noon ET on FS1)

    Eastern Kentucky managed just seven first downs in a 59-0 loss to West Virginia, and it's hard to imagine this game going much better. The Mountaineers went through quite the rebuild last season after needing to replace quarterback Will Grier and his three favorite targets, David Sills V, Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms. This game may be an early indication of whether the Mountaineers have an offense better than the unit that posted a disappointing 20.6 points per game last year.

    Prediction: West Virginia 52, Eastern Kentucky 3


    Louisiana-Monroe at Army (1:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN)

    Army crushed Middle Tennessee last weekend, scoring a touchdown on every possession in a 42-0 victory. It was a sensational start for a squad looking to bounce back from a disappointing 5-8 campaign. Though Louisiana-Monroe has an excellent running back in Josh Johnson, look for the Black Knights to improve to 2-0 against a defense that allowed 252.7 rushing yards per game last year.

    Prediction: Army 38, Louisiana-Monroe 14

Midafternoon Saturday Games

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    Florida State QB James Blackman
    Florida State QB James BlackmanJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Georgia Tech at Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC)

    As one of just four Week 2 instances of Power Five teams squaring off, this one is at least moderately intriguing. However, Georgia Tech is probably going to be grappling with Arkansas, Kansas and Vanderbilt for the title of worst Power Five team this fall. Even though Florida State is breaking in a new head coach (Mike Norvell) after three consecutive disappointing seasons, the Seminoles should win comfortably. 

    Prediction: Florida State 35, Georgia Tech 17


    Campbell at Georgia Southern (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU)

    Campbell has faced three FBS opponents in the past six years: Troy in 2019, Coastal Carolina in 2018 and Appalachian State in 2014. And in those three games, the Camels allowed an average of 290.3 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Enter Georgia Southern, whose triple-option offense ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game last year and which returns all three of its leading rushers. This is going to get ugly.

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 63, Campbell 10


    Arkansas State at Kansas State (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1)

    Arkansas State racked up more than 4,000 passing yards last season en route to an 8-5 record, and the Red Wolves bring back both quarterbacks—Layne Hatcher and Logan Bonner—who led that aerial assault. They did, however, lose their top two receivers—Omar Bayless and Kirk Merritt—and must open the season on the road against a team that fielded arguably the best secondary in the Big 12 last year. This should be one of the better games of the day, though.

    Prediction: Kansas State 34, Arkansas State 27


    UTSA at Texas State (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2)

    Texas State impressively held its own in its season opener against SMU. The Bobcats didn't win, but losing 31-24 was much better than the 47-17 loss the Mustangs handed them last year. You have to like their chances at home against a team replacing a ton of starters from a bad defense.

    Prediction: Texas State 37, UTSA 24


    Austin Peay at Pittsburgh (4 p.m. ET on ACC Network)

    Austin Peay scored the first touchdown of the fall on a 75-yard run on its first play from scrimmage. From there, though, the Governors managed just 258 yards against a Central Arkansas defense that allowed 45 points to UAB. Pittsburgh isn't much of a threat to contend in the ACC this year, but the Panthers have more than enough returning pieces from an eight-win team to cruise.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 35, Austin Peay 10

Saturday Night Contests

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    Louisville WR Tutu Atwell
    Louisville WR Tutu AtwellMike Strasinger/Associated Press

    The Citadel at South Florida (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

    South Florida sure did drop off a cliff after star quarterback Quinton Flowers graduated. The Bulls had one of the best offenses in the nation in 2016 and 2017, but they were at the opposite end of the spectrum in 2019, averaging just 330.8 yards and 20.8 points per game. There's almost always at least one FCS-over-FBS upset in Week 1, and this is as good a spot as any.

    Prediction: The Citadel 24, South Florida 21


    Tulane at South Alabama (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2)

    South Alabama was dreadful for most of last season, but the Desmond Trotter-to-Jalen Tolbert connection that went for 214 yards and five touchdowns over the final two games returned in a big way for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening road win against Southern Miss. With Tulane replacing its starting quarterback, primary running back and two best wide receivers from last season, I like the Jaguars' chances to start 2-0.

    Prediction: South Alabama 28, Tulane 24


    Western Kentucky at Louisville (8 p.m. ET on ACC Network)

    Running back Javian Hawkins is Louisville's more well-known star after a redshirt freshman season with 1,525 rushing yards, but Tutu Atwell was the bigger story in the Cardinals' 38-21 neutral-site win over Western Kentucky last year. He made four receptions for 141 yards and three touchdowns, and he's back to terrorize the Hilltoppers once again.

    Prediction: Louisville 48, Western Kentucky 21


    Houston Baptist at Texas Tech (8 p.m. ET on Big 12 Network/ESPN+)

    Houston Baptist gave up 57 points and 721 yards in Saturday night's loss to North Texas, and the Mean Green were breaking in a new quarterback. Alan Bowman and the Red Raiders are going to have a field day.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 66, Houston Baptist 13


    Coastal Carolina at Kansas (10 p.m. ET on FS1)

    As teased in the intro, this should be a fun late-night battle between 1,000-yard rushers. Kansas' Pooka Williams Jr. recorded 109 total yards when these teams met last year, but CCU's CJ Marable posted 168 yards and two touchdowns in the Chanticleers' 12-7 victory. Les Miles will have his guys better prepared for their Sun Belt foe this year.

    Prediction: Kansas 27, Coastal Carolina 21


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