Like Nick Saban, I am never satisfied. Also like Nick Saban, I find Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies to be delightful.
Two winning weeks in a row? Meh. It's about the process. I don't view this start as two winning weeks. Instead, I obsess over the games we lost. I judge the tape.
Still, I am encouraged by how Locks of the Week have kicked off 2021. After a 5-3-1 showing in Week 1, picks are now 8-4-1 on the year. We missed the boat on a few selections—more on that in a moment—although a positive foundation has been established.
Now, as we embark on Week 2, with actual games and performances to assess, it's time to adjust the performances we just witnessed with good, quality decisions.
Before I jump to my best bets of Week 2, here is what went right (and wrong) last weekend.
The Good: Georgia (+3) vs. Clemson: I loved this bet for months. Plain and simple. And while the game lacked offense of any kind, Georgia proved it will be a mighty obstacle all year long if its defense plays like that.
The Bad: Cal (-3) vs. Nevada: The game started wonderfully. Cal burst out to an early lead, and I thought we were in business. After that, it was all Nevada. This was not the best week for the Pac-12, and perhaps that's putting it mildly.
With that, we are moving on. Here are my Week 2 selections, using point spreads courtesy of DraftKings.
Ohio State (-14.5) vs. Oregon
It's a lot of points.
To take that theme a step further, it's a lot of points to be laying when you consider how lackluster Ohio State looked through two-and-a-half quarters against a good (but not great) conference opponent.
But I'm still going to lay those points, and here's why.
For starters, it looked like C.J. Stroud was finally able to get comfortable in the second half. Given the fact that it was his first start in a hostile environment, that seems plenty encouraging. In finding his comfort, we were also reminded just how ridiculous his wide receivers are.
Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave both looked the part, and I just don't think Oregon will have answers for either of them. The losses of Dru Mathis and Kayvon Thibodeaux, two of the Ducks' best defensive players, were huge in the opener. While the status of Thibodeaux remains unknown at the time of the piece, I still don't think the defense will have enough.
My biggest concern for Oregon, however, is the offense. After struggling at times against Fresno State in all areas, this is not the ideal opponent to be playing. Oh, and the environment. This promises to be a ridiculous home field advantage for Ohio State.
Buckeyes by a bunch.
East Carolina (+2) vs. South Carolina
The line movement in this game has been intriguing. East Carolina opened as a three-point underdog, quickly became a favorite and then resumed the role as an underdog a few days later.
Sure, the Pirates lost their opener to Appalachian State and didn't cover the nine-point spread in the process. But that game was played on the road against a quality team, and I expect a much better effort at home this time around.
South Carolina dominated its opening opponent, giving Shane Beamer his first win as head coach. That's the good news. The bad news is that it was Eastern Illinois. For added clarity, Eastern Illinois lost to Indiana State a week prior.
Zeb Noland, the grad-assistant-coach-turned-starting-quarterback, is a wonderful story for the Gamecocks. But wonderful stories don't make money, and East Carolina has been improving along the way.
Texas at Arkansas (Over 56)
This marks the second consecutive week I'm betting Texas and its opponent to hit the over. Thus far, this strategy is 0-1. The Longhorns and Louisiana fell a few points shy of hitting the over last weekend after a slow start.
I'm doubling down. Not emotionally. Never emotionally. I just envision more fireworks.
Texas really seemed to find its offensive rhythm in the second half, thanks largely to a healthy dose of running back Bijan Robinson. The fact that Arkansas had the No. 97 scoring defense in the nation last year also factors into this discussion. The Razorbacks allowed only 17 points in the opener, although playing Rice certainly helps those efforts.
The Hogs' offense also stalled in the early part of its opening game before getting going late. They should find some success moving the ball.
While I've gone back and forth on the spread, I side with Texas. But most of all, I side with points.
Team Points. Always and forever.
Michigan (-7) vs. Washington
Call me a sucker. I've heard much, much worse. And you know what? In this instance, you might be right.
The obvious play is Michigan. And those who have read this weekly piece for years know that is not normally where I like to side. I don't normally do obvious.
That said, I really like the Wolverines and I don't care how crowded that opinion is. In fact, I liked it long before Washington lost to Montana at home (scoring seven points in the process).
The takeaways from that game are alarming. The Huskies turned the ball over three times (all interceptions). Perhaps more concerning, however, is that they averaged only 2.4 yards per carry.
Again, this was Montana. (No offense to the Montana fans following along.)
Now, these kinds of clunkers happen to good teams early in the season. That is not to make an excuse for Washington. They just do.
Even if the Huskies improve—and they likely will—I still love Michigan. I was impressed with quarterback Cade McNamara. Although his performance came against Western Michigan, he looked completely in control.
I am not saying that Jim Harbaugh has completely fixed his program. There is a lot of work still to be done. But this feels like another moment to carry the momentum forward.
Kentucky (-5) vs. Missouri
The more I study Kentucky, the more I like.
To be clear, a 45-10 victory over Louisiana-Monroe isn't exactly a monumental football moment. The Wildcats were more than a four-touchdown favorite and acted as such.
But this is a team we are sleeping on a bit.
What really stuck out is the performance of QB Will Levis in the opener. The transfer, who came from Penn State, threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns in his debut. I know, I know. Louisiana-Monroe. But Levis is physically talented and could give Mark Stoops’ team an immediate jolt.
Missouri won its first game, although it did so somewhat unconvincingly. The Tigers beat Central Michigan 34-24 as a 14-point favorite. In doing so, Missouri was actually outgained in total yardage.
I can't help but wonder how that trend might carry forward against an offense with plenty of firepower.
Kentucky 37, Missouri 28.
Other Plays on the Card
Iowa vs. Iowa State (Over 46)
There are enough quality skill position players in this game to eclipse a relatively low total. While I struggle picking a side in a really fun matchup, it wouldn't shock me to see this game end up well above this number.
Troy (+4.5) vs. Liberty
This point spread has come down, although I'm still willing to jump in and grab the points. Liberty has become a darling of CFB after a quality season last year, although Troy is no joke. The Trojans look like a team that will make some noise this fall, and it starts right here.
Coastal Carolina (-25) vs. Kansas
It's simple. Kansas is really bad and Coastal Carolina is very good. While the point spread is almost jarring, the result will be anything but. The Chanticleers were brilliant in 2020, and they will be again in 2021. This final score will be ugly.
Utah (-7) vs. BYU
The losses of the past offseason showed for BYU, and those voids won't be filled overnight. I faded the Cougars in Week 1, and I'm doing the same in Week 2. Utah started slow in its opener and then picked it up. Although the game will be played on the road, I still like the Utes by double digits.
Odds accurate as of Wednesday.
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