The soft launch of the 2022 season is over, and it's time for the real college football weekend to begin. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed last week's toe dip into the inviting waters, but the limited slate didn't offer the robust menu at our gambling disposal this week.
Of course, I might have enjoyed it more had I won either my Game of the Week or Lock of the Week bets and done better than 2-2. Alas, I did not, but I suppose 2-2 is better than 0-4, right? Plus, should the losses count in Week 0? Just something to think about.
Anyway, there are some of the same caveats this week that we dealt with last week. The season's early weeks can be the most difficult to bet because we're working with minimal information. Many coaches won't release depth charts or tell us who their starting quarterback is as they try to gain any advantage over their opponent. That works out a lot better for them than us, but I still found six bets I feel good about this weekend.
All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook
Games of the Week
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State: There will be four teams in the College Football Playoff, and there are probably somewhere between 10 and 12 teams that have a realistic chance to be one of the four when the dust settles. Both of these programs are in that group and have reached the playoffs multiple times. For 2022, however, I believe there are only two teams in the country capable of winning the national title. Ohio State is one of them. Notre Dame is not.
That's not a knock on Notre Dame because the Irish can certainly make the playoff. It's more of a statement about how much better than everybody else (except Alabama) I expect Ohio State will be. The Buckeyes have a Heisman favorite in QB C.J. Stroud, a potential top-five pick at receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, like 15 other future NFL receivers, and one of the country's best running backs, TreVeyon Henderson. The one hole it had last season was a talented but predictable defense, which hurt it against other talented teams. The arrival of new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will solve that.
This is an Ohio State team that will put up at least 40 points per week, and you have to figure out a way to keep up with that. Can a Notre Dame team with a new QB and a lack of a proven receiving threat on the exterior do that? Maybe! Michael Mayer is an excellent asset in the passing game, but you need game-breakers to keep up with the Buckeyes, and I'm not convinced the Irish have them yet. Ohio State 41, Notre Dame 20 | Ohio State -17
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia: The defending national champions open their title defense against the man who helped run their defense last year. Dan Lanning was the defensive coordinator of one of the most impressive units I've ever seen, and he's now getting his first crack at running a program at Oregon. With or without Lanning calling the plays, I expect the Georgia defense will remain one of the best in the country, even with the players it lost. Kirby Smart and his staff have done too good a job of recruiting that side of the ball to expect a drop-off.
The problem Georgia faces here is that Oregon has a lot of talent on defensive, too. Mario Cristobal might've left for Miami, but he did not leave the cupboards empty. His recruiting prowess in Eugene was his biggest selling point to Miami -- that, and the whole being a Hurricane himself thing -- and I believe this Oregon defense will give the Georgia offense trouble. I'm also skeptical that an Oregon offense likely led by Auburn transfer Bo Nix will find life easy. In other words, it's difficult for me to imagine this one becoming a shootout. Georgia 31, Oregon 17 | Under 53
Lock of the Week
Boise State at Oregon State: It's me, the person who seems to be unreasonably high on Boise State heading into the season. Boise State was our original Group of Five darling, but in recent years it has been replaced by other programs like UCF and Cincinnati. After going 12-2 and winning the Mountain West in 2019, the Broncos have gone 12-7 over the last two seasons and failed to win the league. They've almost been forgotten, but while Andy Avalos' first season didn't hit the heights Boise fans are accustomed to reaching, I believe Year 2 will see the Broncos again competing for a conference title.
The first evidence of that will come Saturday night when they hit the road to face an Oregon State team I've been high on over the last few seasons. However, the Beavers' defensive dam has been too leaky. The Beavs ranked 89th nationally in defensive success rate last season and 100th in defensive EPA, allowing opponents to score on 40.1% of their possessions (102nd). It's hard to trust teams as a favorite when they play poorly on defense. Boise State 28, Oregon State 24 | Boise State +2.5
Personal Narrative of the Week
Penn State at Purdue (Thursday): You can easily paint yourself into a corner when you work in this industry. You spend the entire offseason preparing for the fall, and you're constantly asked for opinions about which teams are overrated and underrated. Well, I spent the offseason telling everybody who asked (and some who didn't) that Penn State was the most underrated team in the Big Ten and that Purdue was the most overrated. It never occurred to me that they were opening the season against each other, and we'd get an idea of how smart or stupid I was off the bat.
But here we are, and I'm sticking to my guns. My thought process isn't overly complicated. Penn State is too talented to keep playing at the lackluster level it has the last two seasons. Purdue is not at the level where it can lose all the key players it did from last season's team and not expect to suffer a step back, even if only a slight one. There's a reason a Penn State team that went 7-6 last year is favored on the road against a Purdue team that went 9-4. Don't overthink it. Penn State 27, Purdue 20 | Penn State -3.5
Under of the Week
Army at Coastal Carolina: I love nothing more than betting the under in games between service academies because they all run the option offense, which keeps the clock running and limits possessions. Coastal Carolina is not a service academy, but the same principle applies here. Coastal runs the triple option, it just runs a more modern and exciting version. And while it looks different, Coastal still runs the ball nearly 60% of the time at the end of the day.
Also, as fun as Coastal's offense is, its defense took a step back last season and wasn't great against the run. That will work to Army's advantage and allow the Knights to control the clock and keep the Chanticleers offense off the field. I like Coastal to win and its chances of covering. However, I don't like either nearly as much as I like the under. Coastal Carolina 24, Army 20 | Under 53.5
Upset of the Week
No. 7 Utah at Florida: We're adding something new to The Six Pack this season. I've always limited the picks in this column to bets on the spread or total. I'm including an Upset of the Week, where we'll bet an underdog on the money line. For those unfamiliar, a money line bet is strictly betting on a team to win. It doesn't matter how much it wins by, it just has to win.
The Florida Gators are our first choice. Listen, I love Utah. I think the Utes are the best team in the Pac-12, and if they win this game they have a legitimate shot of reaching the College Football Playoff. The problem is that I don't make a habit of betting on teams playing on the road against SEC teams and winning too often because it doesn't happen often.
There are questions about Florida in its first year under Billy Napier, but while it might not be good enough to challenge Georgia in the East, it's still a good team -- a good team playing at home in an environment a lot of other teams aren't used to dealing with. It's an advantage Utah fans are familiar with themselves when teams visit Salt Lake City. Florida wins this game often enough to be worth betting. Florida 27, Utah 24 | Florida (+118)
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
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