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  • Which ranked SEC team is Ross Dellenger backing? Why is Joan Niesen backing an ACC team that is undergoing a major transition? Our CFB staff's Week 2 best bets.
By The SI Staff
September 06, 2019

After going 5-1 in Week 1 with our best bets, SI's college football staff is back with six more top plays for Week 2. Using the latest odds from William Hill before this piece publishes, here is who we think can win you some money.

SEC

No. 12 Texas A&M (+17) at No. 1 Clemson

Remember last year's Aggies-Tigers clash in College Station? Jimbo Fisher's club nearly pulled the upset, coming within a converted two-point conversion of tying Dabo Swinney and Co in the final minute. This spread seems insanely high for an A&M team that is even better than the one we saw come oh-so close last season. Will the Aggies win? Probably not. Will they lose by three touchdowns? Probably not. — Ross Dellenger

ACC

South Florida at Georgia Tech (-6) 

I'm picking Georgia Tech, which is a 6-point favorite against South Florida at home this weekend. South Florida has yet to score a point this season—it lost 49–0 to Wisconsin on Friday night—and though it'll certainly score against the Yellow Jackets, the first home game of Geoff Collins's Georgia Tech career will be a win, and by more than a touchdown. Both teams will probably show us a lot more of what they're capable of this weekend after being wildly overmatched in Week 1—but Georgia Tech and its refocused offense faced a tougher task than South Florida last weekend and performed far better. — Joan Niesen

Big Ten

Cincinnati (+16) at No. 5 Ohio State

Quarterback Justin Fields went 18-of-25 for 234 yards, threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score in his highly anticipated Ohio State debut. The 6’3”, 220-pound transfer from Georgia took the Buckeyes on scoring drives on their first four possessions, including a 51-yard TD run on the first series, and OSU rolled past Florida Atlantic 45-21. Despite the obvious talent disparity between opponents, Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins (added 91 rushing yards and a TD) looked like they’ll be a lethal tandem for new coach Ryan Day this season.

But, while Ohio State piled up nearly 500 total yards of offense and the defense held the Owls to 0.7 yards per rush, Cincinnati poses more of a threat this week. That’s because the Bearcats, coached by Ohio State alum Luke Fickell, have a more disruptive defense that surprised UCLA in Week 1 by getting pressure on the quarterback (Dorian Thompson-Robinson had two fumbles and two interceptions) and stopping the run (the Bruins amassed 62 rushing yards). That unit definitely faces a stiffer challenge this week in Columbus, but can still make things interesting and uncomfortable for a young Fields and Dobbins. The Bearcats can score, too—especially if they get Michael Warren going in the running game early. But of course, that can get tricky with two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line going up against Ohio State’s deep and dominant D. — Laken Litman

Big 12

Baylor vs. UTSA: OVER 58 Points

The Roadrunners may not be able to keep Baylor within three scores Saturday but expect UTSA to put up some points at McLane Stadium in Waco. Junior quarterback Frank Harris dazzled in Week 1—his first career start after a redshirt year and subsequent ACL tear—sprinting past the Incarnate Word defense with 123 rushing yards along and three touchdown passes. Baylor's defense should be more imposing than UTSA's FCS opponent in Week 1, yet Harris’s dual-threat talent is undeniable. The Roadrunners should hold up their end of the bargain on the over.

Baylor could even cross the 58-point threshold on its own on Saturday. The Bears hung 56 points on Stephen F. Austin in Week 1 and 45 points in their Texas Bowl win over Vanderbilt to close out 2018. Junior Charlie Brewer is perhaps the Big 12's most underrated quarterback. Matt Rhule remains a hot coaching commodity. Don't expect the Bears offense to slow one bit in Week 2. — Michael Shapiro

No. 6 LSU at No. 9 Texas (+6.5)

Since this line was initially announced, it has fluctuated from LSU as a 2.5-point favorite to now up to 6.5 for LSU. Texas scored 45 points last week against Louisiana Tech and has covered five of its last six games against the spread after scoring 40 or more points in the previous game. But LSU is also 6–2 ATS in its last eight road contests.

It’s no doubt a statement game for both schools, especially for the Longhorns considering the hype surrounding Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign and the talk that Texas is back. Prime-time game, big spotlight, take the points and the underdog Longhorns in this one. — Scooby Axson

PAC-12

Cal (+13.5) at No. 14 Washington

Jacob Eason’s monster Washington debut was one of college football’s biggest Week 1 storylines, and now it seems bettors are rushing to jump onto the Huskies bandwagon. Washington opened as an 11.5-point favorite hosting Cal, and that line has already moved to -14. But is this a potential Week 1 overreaction that bettors should be taking advantage of?

Both Washington and Cal opened the season by facing top-10 ranked FCS schools, playing Eastern Washington and UC Davis respectively. At first glance, Washington’s 47–14 win over EWU looks much more impressive than Cal beating UC Davis 27–13. But EWU lost 25 seniors and 13 starters from a team that lost in the championship game to North Dakota State in 2018. While dynamic quarterback Eric Barriere is still under center, there were a lot of new faces for the Eagles as they kicked off their 2019 campaign.

Washington lost a lot too from last year’s team, most notably quarterback Jake Browning, tailback Myles Gaskin and nine starters from one of the stingiest defenses in the country. The secondary was the most feared, as it was the only one in college football to not allow a single 40-yard-plus pass, but it had to replace nearly every impact player there, most notably corner Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp.

Sure enough, Washington gave up a 40-yard-plus pass against EWU. More concerning: The Eagles converted nine of their 17 third downs (47%). The Huskies have a lot of talent on that side of the ball, but the best time to face that defense is early in the season, when all their new pieces are still gelling together.

While Eason & Co. looked incredible, going from facing EWU’s defense to Cal’s is an enormous step up. The Golden Bears may have the best secondary in college football. Cal’s defense ranked second in CFB last season with 21 interceptions, and the four returning starters from that secondary combined for 20 of them.

Cal’s defense gave up an opening-drive TD to UC Davis after the Golden Bears fumbled the opening kickoff, but they allowed just six points the rest of the way after that. While 27 points against an FCS team isn’t anything to write home about, quarterback Chase Garbers did average 8.5 yards per throw while tailback Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 197 yards on 36 carries (5.5 YPC). Cal’s offense will struggle a decent amount this season, but again, the best time to face a Washington defense with several new starters is early in the year.

Obviously this is a much different offense with Eason than Browning, but I’d just like to note one thing from Cal’s 12–10 win over Washington last season. Gaskin was out for that game, and Salvon Ahmed, Washington’s current starter at tailback, ran eight times and mustered negative-two yards.

In what figures to be a low-scoring game (the current total is 43), 14 points is a lot. And I just don’t think Washington is that much better than Cal. Take advantage of the Week 1 overreaction, and take Cal and the points on an inflated line. — Max Meyer

Season record: 5-1

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