This column gives out four picks per week: the game of the week, a favorite, an underdog and a wildcard, which can be anything (another favorite or underdog in a game that might fly under the radar, or a total, for Example). Hopefully we’ll all be in good spirits when the clock hits zero in the national championship game in Houston on January 8th.
All spreads were taken from DraftKings Sportsbook on Wednesday. Always east.
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No. 18 Colorado (-23.5) vs. Colorado State
Saturday’s schedule is grim as there are no games featuring two ranked teams. So we’ll break down coach Deion Sanders’ first Rocky Mountain showdown against Colorado State.
The Rams come into the game having already had their bye week and have already made one quarterback change despite having only played one game: Coach Jay Norvell announced this week that Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi will replace Clay Millen, who will lead the football Bowl Subdivision led in completion percentage last season (72 percent), but averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt in Colorado State’s 50-24 loss to Washington State on Sept. 2. Fowler-Nicolosi replaced Millen against the Cougars and threw two touchdown passes, although both came after a good play out of bounds.
But I’m less interested in the Rams’ offense and more interested in their defense, which allowed Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward to throw for 451 yards and three scores in the opening game. Colorado State allowed eight plays from scrimmage of at least 20 yards in a game; 61 FBS teams have allowed fewer and all have played at least two games. A few of them played three. Colorado’s offense has gained at least 20 yards on 13 plays, which ranks 19th nationally, and their mouths must be watering thinking about what quarterback Shedeur Sanders and wideouts Xavier Weaver and Travis Hunter did against this defense reachable.
I won’t think about it too much. The Colorado-Colorado State rivalry used to be hotly contested, with the Rams winning seven of 16 meetings between 1999 and 2014. But Colorado State has had a bad program for years, losing its last four games against the Buffaloes by an average of 26 points (and some of those Colorado teams weren’t that great either). Coach Prime also doesn’t seem like the type to slow down in subsequent games against Oregon and USC, especially in a rivalry game. The Buffs storm.
Penn State (-14.5) at Illinois
No. 2 Michigan and No. 6 Ohio State may be ahead of the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions in the Associated Press Top 25, but Penn State has looked more impressive in two season-opening victories than either of its two main Big Ten rivals. Quarterback Drew Allar appears to have lived up to the hype, completing 43 of 55 passes for 529 yards and four touchdowns, running backs Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton have combined for five scores and the Nittany Lions defense leads the nation in overall success rate on , quick success rate and expected points per passing game.
Illinois’ defense has fallen off a cliff after allowing just 4.39 yards per game last season, No. 2 nationally behind Iowa. In a narrow win over Toledo – the Fighting Illini needed a last-second field goal to win by two – and a no-contest loss at Kansas, Illinois allowed 6.28 yards per play, which ranks 115th nationally. The Fighting Illini haven’t corrected their penchant for committing penalties either: A year after ranking 98th in penalty yards per game, Illinois is 123rd after two games, often allowing opposing offenses to extend drives or defeat them to grant free yards.
On offense, quarterback Luke Altmyer leads Illinois in rushing, but 72 of his 139 yards came on a long touchdown run against Kansas. Again, the Nittany Lions’ defense is far superior to anything the Fighting Illini have seen before. The offense could be, too, and that margin is oddly small, perhaps because Penn State has only played a down-and-out West Virginia-Delaware team from the Football Championship Subdivision. I think the Nittany Lions have a role to play here.
Northwestern (+18.5) at Duke
The results of the games played in Week 1 have too much influence on this range.
Duke bullied Clemson — what a strange way to do it, but it’s true — and opened the season with a 28-7 win. But a look at the box score shows that the lead perhaps should have been a little narrower. The Tigers drove at least to the Duke 12-yard line four times, but only managed seven points after a missed field goal and two lost fumbles. Clemson also made three more attempts past midfield, but scored no points, missed another field goal and converted it twice in losses. Most fans, however, will only remember Duke thrashing mighty Clemson in a nationally televised game on Labor Day night when there were no other games competing for viewers’ attention.
Likewise, Northwestern opened the season with a game against Rutgers, played on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend at noon, with no other games drawing spectator attention. So everyone who was watching remembers that the Wildcats went bust and the Scarlet Knights got a 24-7 win. Still, Northwestern held Rutgers to just 3.9 yards per play, which isn’t bad. The Wildcats followed that up with a clear 38-7 win against UTEP last weekend, despite being a small underdog at home.
If Northwestern can get its fast-paced game going against a Duke defense that ranks 118th in success rate against the run, the Wildcats can run the clock — by keeping the Blue Devils’ dynamic quarterback Riley Leonard off the field stay away – and stay within calling distance here.
Florida International (+8.5) in Connecticut
3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
What exactly did the Huskies do to deserve to be such a big favorite, especially considering the points are tight with a total score of just 42.5? They have scored 14 points in each of their games this season, each of them a loss. Yes, UConn. Starting quarterback Joe Fagnano was forced out of last weekend’s 35-14 loss to Georgia State in the second quarter with a season-ending shoulder injury. And yes, substitute Ta’Quan Roberson put up respectable numbers in relief, but his two touchdown passes sent the game completely out of control in the fourth quarter when he also threw an interception. Roberson was Connecticut’s starter entering the 2022 season, but suffered a season-ending injury of his own during the Huskies’ second offensive attack of the season. Then he was beaten out for the starting spot by Fagnano this season. That doesn’t make me believe that an offense that ranks 104th in overall success rate and 113th in rushing success rate will improve all that much.
Florida International’s offense is just as bad, ranking 125th in success rate despite scoring 46 points in its win over North Texas last weekend (it’s to be expected that many teams will score a lot of points against North Texas this season). But running backs Kejon Owens and Shomari Lawrence combined to average 7.3 yards per carry and score four touchdowns against the Mean Green, and the Huskies are allowing five yards per carry (117th nationally). The Panthers’ defense has also been at least somewhat respectable, especially against the run, so it seems unlikely that Connecticut will gain momentum in that regard.
UConn. was a great story last season, reaching a bowl game after winning just four games total in the previous four seasons. But I think that this points distribution is too focused on last season’s successes and not enough on the reality of this season. The Panthers can maintain this distance.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/14/colorado-colorado-state-betting-preview/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage College Football Betting Preview: Coach Prime and Colorado Roll Again