Week 2 of college football involved so many incredible on-field storylines that to be focused on an administrative angle almost feels like a waste of time. But there is no doubt that the story with the most long-term legs will prove to be Nebraska’s coaching change, for Week 2 of 2022-23 is when the proud old program finally hit rock bottom.
After former skipper Scott Frost’s team lost yet another close-call contest against Georgia Southern on Saturday, Cornhusker boosters rapidly went into an ear-splitting rage, and the former UCF (and as of now, “former Nebraska”) head coach was fired at cost of at least $15,000,000 on Sunday of Week 3. Georgia Southern isn’t a patsy, in effect, the GaSo Eagles have made a marvelous head-coaching move by welcoming Clay Helton, the former USC skipper. Scores from Saturday, which included another classic top-10 upset for the Appalachian State Mountaineers, left absolutely no question that the FBS’s Sun Belt is the fastest-rising Group of 5 conferences. Nonetheless, the Nebraska AD was fed-up watching NU lose close games under Frost. Especially after having endured an upset defeat from Big Ten conference rival Northwestern in a neutral-site overseas opener. Leaving such an unproductive and detested former HC in place prior to the Nebraska-Oklahoma kickoff this weekend could have caused a full-scale rebellion among ticket holders, and even an embarrassing “virtual home game” atmosphere for the visiting Sooners in Lincoln.
Needless to say, if there are any other FBS teams on the verge of collapse, that would be a good thing to know prior to betting on this Saturday’s games. But the main lesson to be learned from the most-recent infamous episode at NU is that speculators must bet against the media more often than they pick against the public. Nebraska’s 5-22 mark in 1-score games was right there in hard print for everyone to see. Yet the constant drone of hype from TV talking heads – who truly don’t have time to analyze all of a college team’s players, nor celebrity coach’s weak points for that matter – clouds the issue until bookmakers and favorites’ bettors alike wind up paying a steep price for the program’s errors.
Oklahoma is a little bit chagrined following a “thrash for cash” Week 2 game that nearly turned into an expensive rankings-drop following a nervous bout with Kent State. Which of the 2 seminal programs is going to be better prepared for a very weird scenario, in that a “frigid” Sooner offense from the far-healthier team will meet the hot offense from a campus that’s ready to boil-over with grief? It may sound like a complicated puzzle, but thanks to the scrum’s early kickoff time, the game is among WB’s early-bird bets for best profits.
First, a look at betting markets on Friday’s action in Kentucky.
Florida State Seminoles at Louisville Cardinals (Friday, September 16)
Louisville’s Malik Cunningham was cast aside by the FBS betting community as a potential impact player in Week 2, a mistake that led to overly cocksure Central Florida gamblers taking steep losses on the moneyline and against the spread. The veteran went just 14-of-29 through the air against UCF, but was outstanding as a scrambler and option runner, as the Cardinals upset the Knights 20-14, keeping UCF scoreless in the 2nd half.
It is difficult to guess how Friday’s handicappers would compare Cunningham to Jordan Travis, Florida State’s QB, at least with the teams being so closely matched as betting picks. FSU claims a slim (-1.5) favorite’s margin on the point spread for a game with a healthy, but measured Over/Under line of (54.5) total points. FSU has started the season with a pair of smooth performances on offense, and the Seminoles’ acumen as a road team should be considered through the roof following FSU’s steely Baton Rouge triumph in Week 2.
So, what makes the ‘Noles such a tiny favorite’s pick? Undoubtedly, the Sunshine State school is in better shape on the gridiron than in roughly 4 out of 5 campaigns over the recent past. The answer can be found not with any faults in Travis’ game, but with an unexceptional ground attack against Louisiana State in which Travis was nearly Florida State’s leading rusher against the Tigers with 31 yards from scrimmage. Given the reputation of ACC powerhouses for recruiting championship tailbacks like Travis Etienne, some handicappers are delaying picks until FSU’s “average” run-blocking costs a W and the team regroups.
But then again, it would be a blunder to demote Florida State’s offensive line following a rough battle with the SEC, just as it was wrong for Las Vegas to cheapen Louisville based on Cunningham’s opening bout against churlish Syracuse. The run defense of Louisville wasn’t remarkable against Central Florida. In fact, the Knights ran for 208 yards against the Cardinals and lost mostly because John-Lee Plumlee, UCF’s quarterback, was “plum” outshined by his counterpart. A breakout Friday could be in the cards for FSU RBs.
UL’s coaches could be so pleased to have trampled UCF as an underdog that they’re not as worried as they should be about an OL that began 2022 by knocking against pure granite. That gives fans yet another good reason to favor Friday’s visitors.
WagerBop’s Picks: Florida State (-137) or ATS (-1.5)
Oklahoma Sooners at Nebraska Cornhuskers (Saturday, September 17)
Under interim coach Mickey Joseph, the Cornhuskers are still a heavy (+340) underdog on the moneyline for Saturday. Oklahoma snoozed through an opening 25 minutes of TD-less stalemate with the courageous Kent State Golden Flashes last week, but still remains an (-11.5) point spread pick for a game with a healthy (64.5) O/U line.
The offense of OU has a point to prove after looking a little deflated against Kent State, and Nebraska’s point-production has been the least concern of NU supporters. Those factors have led to FanDuel’s (64.5) Over/Under total for the ‘Huskers-Sooners clash, a sensible number that creates risk for low-side gamblers on what could be a wide-open angle.
However, Nebraska’s defense is expected to fly to the football in the 1st half, and will only wilt with exhaustion late in the game as Oklahoma’s blocking starts to win the day. While the prop-betting lines for Nebraska vs Oklahoma are not yet accessible at FanDuel Sportsbook, shrewd readers are advised to look for a prop pick on “1st Half O/U Total Points” and bet the low-end of any number between (29.5) and (32.5). Because of how NU’s defense responds to upheaval, and not really because of how Oklahoma’s attack started against KSU.
WagerBop’s Pick: 1st Half Total Points (Under)
California Golden Bears at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Saturday, September 17)
Last Saturday, Texas A&M – and the SEC – were far from the only brands to be mortified by the Sun Belt. Notre Dame lost to Marshall, a Sun Belt newcomer, to drop to 0-2 on the season, playing a defense that looked nothing like UND’s brave struggle against Ohio State.
The Fighting Irish are likely to rally around the Golden Dome on a crisp Saturday, hoping to secure a convincing win to reset the season, a consideration that’s helping UND draw a (-10.5) favorite’s point spread on Saturday against Cal. That is not a “sentimental” betting angle, but simply what Las Vegas odds-makers would tend to predict from any hyped organization having suffered an 0-2 start. Though Notre Dame clearly plays up-and-down with competition, making the winless hosts a dodgy double-digit pick ATS. In 2022, UND probably can only hope to blow out schools that are totally incompatible.
The question that should be asked is whether the Golden Bears will play the role of an overwhelmed underdog in South Bend. Early-season returns show there’s not much chance of that. The Cal passing game by QB Jack Plummer has looked as lively as California’s deep committee of offensive backs throughout 2 victories and 0 losses thus far, and save for a spate of a few bad breaks in Week 2, Cal ought to have beaten UNLV by 14+ points.
WagerBop’s Pick: California ATS (+10.5)
Marshall Thundering Herd at Bowling Green Falcons (Saturday, September 17)
The tailbacks of Marshall’s Thundering Herd have lived up to their nickname in consecutive glorious weeks to start the year. Following a remarkable win over none other than Notre Dame, it’s not only clear that the Herd’s offense is a force to be reckoned with, but it is beginning to look as though moving to the Sun Belt could be something of a strange watershed for a school that had been trapped in a rankings-rut playing against C-USA opponents. Marshall and Appalachian State could be on a “sunny” collision course.
But then again, in Week 3, we’re not sure it is time to cast Marshall as a (-17.5) point spread favorite over a MAC rival, especially on the road. Much like Saturday’s visitors, Bowling Green could be keyed up by the media attention that is now focused on the hyped Herd’s conference rivals. The delight of Marshall’s historic upset from Week 2 could cause a hangover that players and coaches don’t even see coming. Distractions like having beaten Notre Dame are the last thing you would expect a C-USA school to be dealing with, although it would seem wise to start expecting these things from the Sun Belt more often.
WagerBop’s Pick: Bowling Green ATS (+17.5)
Toledo Rockets at Ohio State Buckeyes (Saturday, September 17)
It is simpler to find the best pick on Ohio State (-31.5) and Toledo, as the prime-time game’s O/U (60.5) point-total handicap may epitomize the most conservative Over/Under line to exceed 60 predicted points seen yet this season – or in the new decade at that.
Bookmakers have forsaken the simple game-control angle that Toledo is a wide-open team, instead focusing on the MAC’s tenacious defense against Oklahoma in Week 2, as well as on the OSU Buckeye defense’s obvious potential to shut down a Group-of-5 opponent.
Incomplete passes stop the clock and slow down completions for 1st downs. The aggressive offense of Toledo will pass the bean whether or not the Rockets are winning 13-10 or trailing 55-6. The feast-or-famine pattern of Toledo’s trying turns, combined with the Buckeyes’ potential to rack-up 600 or 700 yards of offense and maybe a couple of defensive scores, makes a 62-24 final more likely than any slow-paced schlock in Columbus.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (60.5)
UTSA Roadrunners at Texas Longhorns (Saturday, September 17)
Another mental-game angle plays into the calculation for Texas vs UTSA on Saturday night. Texas (-10.5) is surely upset to have lost to Alabama in a 1-point game, yet it is not as if the Longhorns played poorly to blow the chance at a historic upset in the 4th quarter. Bryce Young, Alabama’s amazing QB, made an All-Pro level play to escape the pass rush and earn the Crimson Tide a final field goal try, or else the SEC powerhouse would have been sacked and upset in a stunning defeat. Steve Sarkisian’s staff should be skilled enough to know they are probably poised to dial up a better game from their student-athletes this weekend than if Texas would have beaten Alabama, whichm would have ushered-in a firestorm of reporters and fans and a subsequent hangover-effect or overconfidence bug against UTSA.
The UTSA Roadrunners have to be the happiest 1-1 team that’s ever played ball, having lost a Week 1 cliffhanger to Houston in overtime and then dominating the tough Army Black Knights the following weekend in another overtime battle the following. But while gifted for a Group-of-5 brand, Texas San-Antonio has to be getting wrung out by the drama.
Roadrunners hav been eluding Wil E. Coyote and blowing up “ACME” missiles for a virtual 9-10 quarters of combat over an 8-day span. The Texas Longhorns are feeling a top-15 season following the optimistic heart-breaker against Alabama. Such a situation puts a C-USA underdog in a poor position to challenge Texas for 4 quarters and cover a modest point spread as of the final whistle on hostile turf.
WagerBop’s Pick: Texas ATS (-10.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.