Week 2 college football picks, games, odds: Georgia, Stanford on upset alert in tough tests
Six ranked teams are favorites on the road in Week 2
Week 1 of the college football season is one big guess. After months of no college football, it was suddenly everywhere. Guessing the results can be and often is a mixed bag. Of the Wake Forest vs. Tulane and Virginia Tech vs. Florida State -- ended up coming to fruition. Wake Forest needed overtime to hold off Tulane and Virginia Tech unexpectedly handled Florida State 24-3., only two --
Week 2 has a sleepier vibe to it with only two games pairing top-25 teams. However, six ranked teams are on the road as favorites. You'll find five on this list. These supposedly less interesting slates on paper have been known to produce some unexpected outcomes.
Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. Remember: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread, not perception or rankings, though they are both taken into consideration. On that note, I generally avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them. To make things more interesting, I'm also going on the record with the picks and keeping tabs. The scoring system is exactly the same as it is for our weekly expert picks with season-long tallies against the spread (ATS) and straight-up (SU).
Week 1 results
Upset picks: 2-3
Picks to date: 2-3
ATS to date: 3-2
SU to date: 2-3
On to this week's picks ...
No. 18 Mississippi State at Kansas State
When: Saturday, Noon ET | Where: Manhattan, Kansas | Line: Mississippi State -9.5
Why it's listed: While Kansas State's 27-24 come-from-behind win over South Dakota was uncharacteristic, it's not concerning just yet. If we know one thing about Bill Snyder, it's that his game-week prep is as good as any coach in college football. Playing K-State is typically one of the least-fun things to do; whether you win or lose is kind of irrelevant.
Kansas State's key to the game: The Snydercats were oddly sloppy in Week 1, losing the turnover battle by a mesmerizing -4. The Wildcats obviously can't afford to be that careless with the ball again. Otherwise, there won't be a come-from-behind win.
Mississippi State's key to the game: This will be the first game of the season for Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald after serving a one-game suspension. Will he show up a little rusty -- remember: he's also coming off of a devastating season-ending ankle injury -- or is he better than ever in Joe Moorhead's offense? If Fitzgerald is a difference-maker, Mississippi State probably covers.
Pick: Mississippi State has an outstanding defensive front and weapon at quarterback. The fact it's nearly a double-digit favorite on the road says something. However, if you give me Kansas State as a home dog, four out of five times I'm taking Kansas State to cover. ATS: Kansas State, SU: Mississippi State
No. 3 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Columbia, South Carolina | Line: Georgia -10.5
Why it's listed: Isn't it obvious? It's a top-five team going on the road against a divisional rival, one that just so happens to be good.
South Carolina's key to the game: Wide receiver Deebo Samuel needs to be the dude for which Georgia simply doesn't have an answer. The play here should be to keep Samuel in the slot often and utilize him out of the backfield where he's not constantly paired up on first-team All-SEC corner Deandre Baker. The more creative, the better.
Georgia's key to the game: Georgia doesn't get knocked off keel that often. While the Bulldogs proved last year they could win in a shootout -- against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, of all teams -- that's not typically their game. When the defense excels, it's only a matter of time before the offense starts taking over. It sounds simple, but defense really is key.
Pick: The Gamecocks have just one win vs. a ranked team under Will Muschamp. Analysis: not great. They're certainly good enough to win this game, but between Georgia's defense and the weapons on offense, there are too many problems. ATS: South Carolina, SU: Georgia
No. 13 Penn State at Pitt
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET | Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Line: Penn State -8.5
Why it's listed: Without overreacting, Penn State's defense was porous against Appalachian State. Was that a matter of game plan and/or readiness, or do the Nittany Lions have some real problems? Pitt's offense has a couple of playmakers to test them.
Pitt's key to the game: Quarterback Kenny Pickett is a fun player. When there's a play to be made, he'll make it. If this game is close in the fourth quarter like Penn State's opener was, Pickett becomes a player to watch.
Penn State's key to the game: Finishing the fourth quarter defensively. That sounds cliche, but the Nittany Lions have had a hard time with this over the past year or so. Last season, Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska all had big offensive showings in the fourth. So did App State, and it nearly cost Penn State the game.
Pick: Who knows yet if quarterback Trace McSorley will win the Heisman. However, he's proven both at home and on the road that if Penn State needs a throw, he's going to make it. ATS: Pitt, SU: Penn State
No. 17 USC at No. 10 Stanford
When: Saturday, 8:30p.m. ET | Where: Palo Alto, California | Line: Stanford -5.5
Why it's picked: This falls inside the touchdown rule, but the line has moved again by another point towards Stanford as of this writing. And, well, with a shortage of notable games on Saturday, this one is important enough that it'll do. Look at it this way: USC at best would be a pick 'em at home. So, yeah, this would be a big deal and there are some conference race implications to show for it.
USC's key to the game: This is not the first time defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has faced this Bryce Love/J.J. Arcega-Whiteside combo before. Historically, Love was the much bigger factor. It's a little different this time. Love is still associated with the Heisman, but Arcega-Whiteside's stock has shot up in a flash. Can USC defend both well now?
Stanford's key to the game: The Cardinal were able to pull away from San Diego State without Love as a factor (18 carries for just 29 yards). That is much less likely to happen against USC. The Trojans gave 308 yards on the ground to UNLV, but the Rebels have options with quarterback Armani Rogers. With Stanford, it's clear what it will do. So it needs to do it well.
Pick: Stanford was my initial pick straight up, but I like the idea of USC's freshmen stars, quarterback JT Daniels and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (great name), announcing themselves on the big stage. Maybe they end up looking like what they are: freshmen playing in their second game, first on the road and first against a ranked opponent. No one would blame them. Or maybe they end up being something special. ATS: USC, SU: USC
No. 15 Michigan State at Arizona State
When: Saturday, 10:45 p.m. ET | Where: Tempe, Arizona | Line: Michigan State -6.5
Why it's listed: Because it would be -- and, dear reader, this cannot be stressed enough -- extremely on brand of Arizona State coach Herm Edwards to give us the first full-fledged #Pac12AfterDark of 2018.
Arizona State's key to the game: It's going to be the connection between quarterback Manny Wilkins and receiver N'Keal Harry. That's the matchup problem for the Spartans. Utah State had a lot of success throwing the ball on them last Friday. Harry is emerging as one of the for next year's draft class.
Michigan State's key to the game: There were a lot of red flags about the Utah State game, but the blocking up front was particularly glaring. If that problem persists against Arizona State, chances are this is going to at least feel like a long season. It all starts with protection.
Pick: Michigan State is an interesting favorite at -6.5 In fact, the line has shrunk some more no doubt because of Sparty's struggles last week. Though this is a game Michigan State should win, Arizona State has a key matchup that'll be a pain in the butt. ATS: Arizona State, SU: Arizona State
So which teams should you back in Week 2 of the college football season? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected final score for every FBS matchup, all from the model that nailed its final seven picks of the 2017-18 season and has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three seasons.
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