The first two games of the college football season last Saturday certainly delivered the goods.
The Florida Gators outlasted the Miami Hurricanes in a sloppy but entertaining 24-20 victory and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (a recommendation of mine in last week’s column) won outright as 11-point underdogs against Arizona.
That was the appetizer. The main course, if you will, is this week which provides fans and bettors with the first full slate of action.
Oregon vs. Auburn is the biggest game on paper that we have this upcoming weekend so I decided to preview that matchup. Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn has landed on Bo Nix as his starting QB after winning a very hotly contested battle with Joey Gatewood for the position.
Oregon has its most talented team in years. The Ducks have a fantastic senior QB in Justin Herbert, a strong and experienced offensive line returning that combined has 153 career starts, a great group of skill position weapons at RB and WR along with what should be a very solid defense that returns seven starters and several playmakers.
However, Auburn’s defense and specifically their front seven is as good as any in the country and will pose a tremendous challenge for Oregon’s dynamic offense.
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The Oregon offense vs. Auburn defense is the critical matchup in this game. I like this Oregon team and initially considered backing them here as a slight underdog. But the Pac-12 was weak last season and it carried over into bowl season where the conference was awful and we already saw Arizona lose outright as double-digit favorites to Hawaii last weekend.
I simply can’t back a team in a conference that has been as putrid as the Pac-12 has been in non-conference games, especially going up against a very good SEC squad away from home.
The total of 56 has moved down slightly. I tend to agree. Oregon slowed down the pace offensively a bit in head coach Mario Cristobal’s first season after years of going at warp speed under Chip Kelly and then Willie Taggart. If you’re looking to make a play on this game, you may want to look to the total and perhaps the under.
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Now on to my picks and recommendations for this week after a 3-0 sweep in last week’s column.
College Football Thursday
Texas State at Texas A&M, Total 56: Texas State is shifting from a slow paced, weak offense to an improved and extreme uptempo offense this season under new head coach Jake Spavital and offense coordinator Bob Stitt trying to jump-start a squad that averaged only 18.3 points per game last season.
Tyler Vitt won the starting QB job and this will be his second season starting games for the Bobcats. I think it shows he is ready to step up considering he beat Gresch Jensen for the job who started at QB under OC Stitt when he coached at Montana.
Texas A&M’s defense must replace six starters in its front seven which is a concern. They have recruited some excellent talent on defense but it still might take time for the new faces to gel. The LB corps is inexperienced and the secondary struggled last season.
On the flip side, this should be a big season for QB Kellen Mond and the A&M offense. They return a very strong offensive line and have plenty of speed and talent in their skill position group with the potential to overwhelm the Texas State defense. Look for points in College Station on Thursday night. OVER
College Football Saturday
South Carolina vs. North Carolina, Total 63.5 (At Charlotte): This is another game in which the scoreboard can be expected to work overtime on Saturday afternoon in this neutral site contest at Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
South Carolina switched its offensive scheme to an uptempo offense midway through last season and it paid off. The Gamecocks’ scoring went up from that point on. They bring back a senior QB in Jake Bentley and the offense should be even better and get the benefit of facing a weak North Carolina defense.
North Carolina wants to play as fast as possible on offense under new head coach Mack Brown and OC Phil Longo who was known for extremely fast paced, Air Raid attacks at Ole Miss and Baylor. South Carolina’s defense was mediocre at best last season. Expect points in bunches. OVER
Louisiana Tech +20.5 at Texas: Longhorns head coach Tom Herman’s track record as a favorite has been every bit as bad as his track record as an underdog is good.
Texas was 3-7 ATS as favorites last season. They have battled injuries along the offensive line and at RB in fall camp. Sure senior QB Sam Ehlinger returns and he’s good but there are concerns all around him. The defense lost a lot from last season. The majority of their leading tacklers are gone as are both of their starting CB’s in the secondary.
Louisiana Tech lost a lot on defense too from last season but they have been solid ATS in stepping up in class games against Power five foes.
Head coach Skip Holtz is on a strong run of success in the underdog role. The Bulldogs were 4-1 ATS as underdogs last season and I believe they are primed to hang within this big number on Saturday against a Texas squad with question marks . LOUISIANA TECH
Last week: 3-0