For the first time since 2007-08 during the Mark Mangino Era in Lawrence, Kansas is looking to go bowling in back-to-back seasons this year. Meanwhile, Illinois is hoping for a second straight bowl bid for the first time since 2010-11. As of Friday afternoon, most books had the Jayhawks listed as a 3.5-point home favorites with a total of 56.5 or 57. The Fighting Illini were +140 (DraftKings) to +155 (South Point and BetOnline) on the money line. KU star QB Jalon Daniels missed last week’s 48-17 non-covering win over Missouri St. as a 32.5-point home favorite.
But just like he did in four starts last season, backup QB Jason Bean played well in Daniels’s absence. Bean connected on 22-of-28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also had 41 rushing yards on only five attempts. RB Devin Neal, who ran for 1,090 yards and nine TDs with a 6.1 yards-per-carry average in 2022, had a team-best 94 rushing yards and one TD on 13 carries. He also had three receptions for 25 yards and one TD.
Daniels has been cleared to play after back issues kept him out of the opener, and ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg is reporting that Daniels will get the starting nod tonight. Daniels was a second-team All-Big-12 selection in 2022 when he had an 18/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and seven rushing TDs.
Illinois is 6-2 ATS as a road underdog during Bret Bielema’s three-year tenure, while KU is 3-2 ATS as a home favorite on Lance Leipold’s watch. The Fighting Illini won a 30-28 decision over Toledo last week.
I lean to the ‘over,’ especially if your number is 56.5 and you can buy the half-point to the key number of 56 (a multiple of seven), but it’s not a strong opinion. Eleven of KU’s 13 games in 2022 had 58 combined points or more and 10 of 13 had at least 62 combined points.
I’m certainly not sold on Colorado’s defense yet, but I’ve already gone hook, line and sinker for Sean Lewis’s high-octane offense that features QB Shedeur Sanders, CB/WR Travis Hunter, true freshman RB Dylan Edwards, WR Jimmy Horn Jr. and WR Xavier Weaver. You can read more about the Buffaloes’ thrilling season-opening win at TCU from me right here.
Coach Prime’s squad looked like the country’s best-coached team in Week 1. As of Friday afternoon, most spots had CU favored by 2.5 points vs. Nebraska with a total of 59.
The Cornhuskers, who are off a gut-wrenching 13-10 loss at Minnesota last Thursday, had two extra days of rest and preparation. They’ll have to deal with the altitude of Boulder, though, and the most electric crowd Folsom Field has had in decades. Nebraska has thrived as a road underdog in recent years, compiling an 8-0-1 ATS record in its last nine such spots.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon Eastern, which is 10:00 a.m. local time, on FOX.
My Picks: My favorite play is on Colorado’s Team Total ‘over’ 30.5 points, but I’m also on Colorado -2.5 and its Team Total to go ‘over’ 14.5 in the first half.
Tulane is poised to host its biggest home game in decades Saturday when Ole Miss comes to New Orleans for a 3:30 p.m. Eastern showdown on ESPN2. As of Friday, most betting shops had the Rebels listed as seven-point road favorites with a total of 66 or 66.5. I fired a play on this game to go ‘over’ 62.5 points on Sunday night, but the total had moved to all the way up to 67 by Wednesday afternoon. It’s inched down a bit since then and Circa had the lowest number (65) around 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday.
Lane Kiffin’s team blasted Mercer 73-7 in its opener last week, while Tulane beat South Alabama 37-17 as a 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Despite coughing up three fumbles, the Green Wave beat the Jaguars by three TDs. Remember, USA went 10-3 last year (and two of its losses were by five combined points at UCLA and vs. Troy, who had a combined record of 21-6 in 2022) and returned 18 of 22 starters. Nevertheless, Tulane QB Michael Pratt completed 14-of-15 passes for 294 yards and four TDs without an interception.
Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart found WR Tre Harris, a transfer from La. Tech, for three TDs passes in the first 3:15 of the first quarter last week. Dart connected on 18-of-23 throws for 334 yards and four TDs without an interception. The Rebels are going to be without two offensive weapons in WR Zakhari Franklin and TE Caden Prieskorn. Franklin (knee) is UTSA’s all-time leader in career receiving yards with 3,348, and he’s also the FBS active leader in career catches (262) and TD receptions (37). Prieskorn, a first-team All-AAC selection in 2022 before transferring from Memphis, isn’t expected to be ready until late September after undergoing foot surgery.
My Picks: As previously noted (above), I have in an in-pocket play on ‘over’ 62.5 points that’s no longer available. I’m certainly not against it in the mid-60s, but it’s hard for me to endorse at the higher number. Although I know Willie Fritz and his star QB Pratt will be amped and ready to go, I think Ole Miss breaks open a tight game and starts to get a little separation late in the third or early in the fourth quarter. It’s not a huge opinion, but I’m on Ole Miss -7 thinking it will win by 10-14 points.
Alabama is a seven-point home favorite vs. Texas. This is a rematch of the Crimson Tide’s 20-19 comeback win at Texas as a 21-point road favorite last year.
By the time there was 10:25 left in the third quarter of last week’s opener vs. Middle Tennessee as a 39.5-point home ‘chalk,’ Alabama had scored the game’s first 42 points and went on to collect a 56-7 win. QB Jalen Milroe threw 47, 48 and 29-yard TD passes and had a team-high 48 rushing yards and two TDs on seven attempts. The Crimson Tide played a clean game without any turnovers and merely two penalties.
Texas won a 37-10 decision over Rice, but the Longhorns failed to cover the number as 35.5-point home favorites. Steve Sarkisian’s squad scored only one TD in the first half.
On Sark’s watch, Texas has lost outright in six of its nine road assignments, and five of those six road losses have been by margins of seven points or more. The Longhorns are 0-3 ATS in three games as road underdogs during Sark’s tenure.
Alabama is 15-5-1 against the spread in its last 21 games as a home favorite. Kickoff on ESPN is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
My Pick: Alabama -7
Eastern Michigan owns an incredible 25-4 ATS record in its last 29 games as a road underdog. The Eagles are 37-9-1 ATS in 47 games as underdogs – whether at home, on the road or at neutral venues – since the 2015 regular-season finale. They won outright at Arizona St. last season and finished the year with a 9-4 straight-up record. EMU is on a five-game winning streak after winning last year’s final three regular-season games, their bowl game and last week’s opener. Chris ‘The Underdog King’ Creighton’s team is a 20.5-point road ‘dog at Minnesota.
However, the Gophers have scored just 17, 20, 31, 10, 23 and 13 points in QB Athan Kaliakmanis’s six career starts. In last week’s 13-10 home win over Nebraska, PJ Fleck’s team was down 10-3 facing a fourth-and-10 play with 2:46 remaining. Kaliakmanis needed WR Daniel Jackson to make a diving, toe-tapping TD catch to score Minnesota’s first TD. When Nebraska fumbled on its next drive just inside of Gopher territory, Minnesota was able to recover, gain some yards and kick a 47-yard, walk-off field goal to win.
My Pick: Eastern Michigan +21 (buy the half-point from +20.5 to +21 if necessary).
After Sunday’s huge win over LSU by a 45-24 score in Orlando, FSU is in a letdown spot at home vs. So. Miss for an 8:30 p.m. Eastern kick on the ACC Network. As of Friday afternoon, most books had the Seminoles installed as 31-point favorites with a total of 53. Jordan Travis had a rushing TD and threw for 342 yards and four TDs compared to only one interception against the Tigers, who led 17-14 at halftime even though they failed on a pair of sustained first-half drives when they were stopped on fourth-and-short plays in the red zone. But the ‘Noles scored 31 unanswered points to start the second half and coasted into victory lane. Michigan St. transfer WR Keon Coleman had a spectacular debut in garnet and gold, hauling in nine receptions for 122 yards and three TDs. I’m not sold on FSU’s defense that gave up 494 total yards to LSU, but the ‘Noles appear to have one of the nation’s top offenses along with Washington, USC, Ole Miss and Oregon.
My Pick: FSU Team Total ‘over’ 40.5 or 41 points, and I’d like it all the way up to 42.
Finally, we’ve got some Pac-12 After Dark during Saturday’s late-night feel-good hours. By late Friday afternoon, Auburn was a six-point road favorite at California, while the total was 54 or 54.5. The Golden Bears were +190 on the money line for this 10:30 Eastern kick on ESPN.
During Justin Wilcox’s seven-year tenure, Cal is 10-4 ATS in 14 games as a home underdog and 26-10 ATS in 36 underdog roles.
Auburn star RB Jarquez Hunter is expected to make his season debut after missing last week’s 59-14 win over UMass as a 35-point home favorite due to a one-game suspension. Hunter had 675 rushing yards, seven TDs and a 6.5 YPC average in 2022. He also had 17 receptions for 224 yards and two TDs.
Although I lean Auburn, I’m not messing with Wilcox in the role of ‘dog that he’s consistently thrived in since arriving in Berkeley.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-The curtains on the Saturday slate will be jerked for an 11:00 a.m. Eastern kick in Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest will host Vanderbilt on the ACC Network. As of Friday afternoon, most books had the Demon Deacons listed as 10-point home favorites. The Commodores will be looking to avenge a 45-25 home loss to Dave Clawson’s team from last season. Vandy owns a 7-3 ATS record as a road underdog during Clark Lea’s three-year tenure, while the Deacs are 20-14 ATS as home favorites since the start of the 2015 campaign. According to PFF College, Vandy true freshman Sedrick Alexander is the nation’s highest-graded Power-Five RB to date, forcing seven missed tackles on just 14 carries that he’s turned into 89 rushing yards and two TDs with a 6.5 YPC average. I haven’t pulled the trigger on a play in this game, but I do lean ‘over’ 57 points. If the number were to move down to the key number of 56, I’d probably have to get a small bite of the ‘over.’
–NC St. is a 7.5-point underdog vs. Notre Dame for a noon Eastern kick on ABC. The Wolfpack are 3-0 ATS with two outright wins in its last three games as a home ‘dog.
-DraftKings has Tennessee installed as a seven-point road favorite at Florida in its Week 3 look-ahead lines. The Vols haven’t tasted victory in Gainesville since 2003 when Casey Clausen led UT to a 24-10 win over Ron Zook’s Gators. The Vols have lost nine games in a row at The Swamp, and they’re 2-16 in the last 18 head-to-head meetings against UF.
-Other Week 3 look-ahead spreads via DraftKings: Penn St. -12.5 at Illinois, UNC -6 vs. Minnesota, Kansas St. -2 at Missouri, Colorado -17 vs. Colorado St., Washington -16 at Michigan St., LSU -7.5 at Mississippi St., Pitt -2 at West Virginia, Georgia -24.5 vs. South Carolina and Troy -3.5 vs. James Madison.
–Arkansas RB Rocket Sanders is ‘out’ of Saturday’s home game vs. Kent St. due to a lower-body injury sustained in last week’s 56-13 win over Western Carolina as a 37.5-point home favorite. The Razorbacks are 38-point home ‘chalk’ vs. the Golden Flashes, who lost 56-6 at UCF in last Thursday’s season opener.
-Baylor QB Blake Shapen will be out for the next 2-3 weeks due to an MCL injury. Transfer QB Sawyer Robertson, a four-star recruit out of high school who went to Mississippi St. to play for Mike Leach, will make his first career start for the Bears on Saturday as eight-point home underdogs vs. Utah. Cam Rising was finally fully cleared to practice with no restrictions earlier this week. He’s being called a game-time decision, but I suspect it’s going to be Bryson Barnes starting and Nate Johnson also getting playing time again Saturday in Waco. The Utes, who beat Florida 24-11 last week as 5.5-point favorites for their 15th straight home win, have struggled to a 3-8 ATS mark in their last 11 games as road ‘chalk.’ With Weber St. at home on deck, Rising can work on his strength and conditioning for two more weeks and be ready for Utah’s home opener vs. UCLA on Sept. 23.
–Missouri is a 21-point home favorite vs. Middle Tennessee. The Tigers are an abysmal 3-8 ATS in their 11 games as home favorites during Eli Drinkwitz’s tenure.
–San Diego St. is a 13.5-point home underdog vs. UCLA. The Aztecs are 4-2 ATS as home ‘dogs during Brady Hoke’s tenure, and they’re 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games as home ‘dogs. The Bruins are 4-2 ATS in six spots as road ‘chalk’ on Chip Kelly’s watch.
–Louisville beat Murray St. 56-0 as a 44-point home favorite in Thursday’s lone college football game. The 56 points nudged ‘over’ the 55.5-point total on Harrison Bailey’s 34-yard TD pass to Joey Gatewood with 9:44 remaining. Yes, Bailey is the former UNLV and Tennessee QB, and Gatewood is the former QB at Auburn, Kentucky and UCF.