What to watch: Week 2 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

Things in the college football world will begin to pick up a bit this week. 

Over the weekend (and into Monday night) we were treated to nine games involving FBS teams, but no teams from the Power Five conferences had stepped on the field just yet. 

That changes this week as teams from the ACC and Big 12 will kick off their seasons, starting with Miami’s home game against UAB on Thursday night. While the Big 12 games are all non-conference affairs, we’ve got four ACC conference games on the menu for Saturday. That includes No. 1 Clemson’s 2020 debut as well as the first sighting of Notre Dame with an ACC logo on its jerseys. 

Unprecedented times, indeed. 

(Note: All times ET, point spreads/totals from BetMGM)

UAB at Miami

Time: 8 p.m. (Thursday) | TV: ACCN | Line: Miami -14 | Total: 54.5

On Thursday night we’ll be treated to the debut of D’Eriq King as the quarterback at Miami. King was electric at Houston, especially in 2018, and redshirted the 2019 season to give himself the chance for one final go-around in 2020. Instead of sticking it out at UH, he left for Miami and should give the Hurricanes some sorely needed stability and talent at the position, albeit just for a year. Miami finished 2019 on a sour note, losing to Florida International, Duke and Louisiana Tech. Manny Diaz is hoping his second season in charge gets off to a strong start. 

UAB is Yahoo Sports’ pick to win Conference USA, so it won’t be an easy opener for the Hurricanes. UAB started its season with a 45-35 victory over Central Arkansas last Thursday. The game wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate as UCA capitalized on a few short fields and scored twice in garbage time. Nonetheless, it was a good dress rehearsal for the Blazers before a trip to Coral Gables. UAB has 18 starters back from its 2019 team that went 9-5, including RB Spencer Brown. Brown rushed for 127 yards and a TD last week. 

Sam Cooper: UAB +14, Nick Bromberg: Miami -14

Louisiana at No. 23 Iowa State

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: Iowa State -11.5 | Total: 57

Saturday’s noon window has a handful of quality games to flip through, including the ACC opener between Syracuse and No. 18 North Carolina, a team that has received a ton of offseason hype. The Arkansas State vs. Kansas State game should also be pretty competitive, but our pick here is a Sun Belt vs. Big 12 matchup: Louisiana vs. No. 23 Iowa State. 

Behind Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy is the top returning quarterback in the Big 12. Purdy threw for 3,982 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2019 for the Cyclones, who went 7-6. That was a bit of a disappointment for ISU, a program that has seen its expectations heightened under Matt Campbell. Under Campbell, ISU has been a middle-tier Big 12 team. Some think 2020 could be the year the Cyclones could become legitimate conference title contenders. That quest will start against Louisiana, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. The Ragin’ Cajuns went 11-3 in 2019 while averaging nearly 500 yards per game.

Sam: Louisiana +11.5, Nick: Iowa State -11.5

Duke at No. 10 Notre Dame

Time: 2:30 p.m. | TV: NBC | Line: Notre Dame -19.5 | Total: 54.5

Notre Dame’s debut as a temporary ACC member will come on Saturday in South Bend against Duke. The Irish, in a season without the Big Ten and Pac-12, have to feel like they have a chance to reach the College Football Playoff. Whether they have enough talent remains to be seen. Notre Dame does have a proven commodity in Ian Book back at quarterback for his third year as starter, as well as one of the country’s top offensive lines and a really strong defense. The skill position players, though, are mostly unproven.

Duke, following the departure of QB Daniel Jones to the NFL, struggled offensively in 2019 and finished the season with a 5-7 record. Before that, David Cutcliffe coached the Blue Devils to a winning record in five of the previous six seasons, so it’s hard not to envision somewhat of a bounce-back season in 2020. The addition of Chase Brice should help that cause. Brice was the backup QB behind Trevor Lawrence at Clemson the past two seasons and will finally get his chance to start.

Sam: Notre Dame -19.5, Nick: Duke +19.5

Notre Dame makes its debut as a temporary member of the ACC on Saturday against Duke in South Bend. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Notre Dame makes its debut as a temporary member of the ACC on Saturday against Duke in South Bend. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

No. 1 Clemson at Wake Forest

Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Clemson -33.5 | Total: 60

It's a national championship or bust at this point for Clemson. The Tigers have reached the CFP in five straight seasons, winning two national titles in the process. Dabo Swinney’s team fell to LSU in last year’s title game, snapping a 29-game winning streak. It was the first defeat in Trevor Lawrence’s college career. Before he goes to the NFL — where many expect he’ll be the No. 1 pick — he wants to win another title. Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne are the headliners on the nation’s No. 1 team, but look out for defensive lineman Bryan Bresee. The No. 1 recruit in the 2020 class is listed as a co-starter at defensive tackle and will make his collegiate debut on Saturday. 

On the Wake Forest side, it’s a return to the starting lineup for QB Sam Hartman. Hartman started ahead of Jamie Newman (who was expected to start at Georgia this year before opting out) in 2018 before going down with an injury. The Demon Deacons also have one of the ACC’s top defensive linemen in Carlos Basham. Basham had 18 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2019. 

Sam: Clemson -33.5, Nick: Wake Forest +33.5

Western Kentucky at Louisville

Time: 8 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: Louisville -11.5 | Total: 58

If the Clemson-Wake Forest game turns into a blowout pretty quickly, make sure to flip over to ACC Network (if you have it) for a fun matchup between Western Kentucky and Louisville. WKU is Yahoo Sports’ pick to win Conference USA’s East division in 2020. The Hilltoppers, in their first season under Tyson Helton, won eight of their final 10 games and finished the year with a 9-4 record. More known for offense in previous years, this WKU’s team’s strength is its defense. That unit has nine starters returning, including its top six tacklers. On offense, Maryland transfer Tyrrell Pigrome will start at QB.

Louisville is also an ascending program in its second year with a new coach. Scott Satterfield inherited a mess from Bobby Petrino and somehow coached the Cardinals to eight wins in 2019. UL returns three stars on offense: QB Micale Cunningham (2,065 passing yards, 482 rushing yards), RB Javian Hawkins (1,525 yards, 9 TDs) and speedy receiver Tutu Atwell (70 catches, 1,276 yards, 12 TDs). The Cardinals could be a surprise contender in the ACC in 2020. 

Sam: Western Kentucky +11.5, Nick: Louisville -11.5

Louisville running back Javian Hawkins rushed for 1,525 yards in 2019 as a redshirt freshman. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Louisville running back Javian Hawkins rushed for 1,525 yards in 2019 as a redshirt freshman. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 2’s best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: N/A)

Arkansas State at Kansas State: Arkansas State scored just 24 against Memphis in Week 1 and I like a KSU defense that brings back six starters. Couple that with an efficient offense that doesn’t push the pace and I think KSU wins comfortably in a relatively low-scoring game. Pick: Under 55

Georgia Tech at Florida State: Florida State should be better than it was last year. It has to be. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech is still in the midst of its transition from Paul Johnson's triple-option offense to a more traditional system. I think Florida State wins this by 17 or so. Pick: Florida State -12.5

Coastal Carolina at Kansas: Let’s get nuts. CCU is getting nearly a TD against an opponent that it beat 12-7 a year ago. I’m not convinced Kansas is going to be much better, even if they will have the best player on the field in Pooka Williams. Coastal, meanwhile, is a sleeper team in the Sun Belt as it brings back most of its offensive contributors. Pick: Coastal Carolina +6.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 3-2)

UL Monroe at Army: ULM’s offense is going to put up a better fight than Middle Tennessee’s did, but Army is still going to completely control the pace of play. ULM ranked 128 out of 130 FBS teams in rush defense in 2019. This game was added to the schedule on Aug. 24 and, to make matters worse, ULM’s defensive coordinator abruptly resigned last week. Pick: Under 54.5

Georgia Tech at Florida State: New FSU coach Mike Norvell is known for producing high-scoring offenses, but FSU should be stronger on defense, especially to start the season. Georgia Tech, in Year 2 of its transition out of the triple option, has some intriguing young players but quarterback is a big question mark. I don’t think we’ll see very many points. Pick: Under 53

Tulane at South Alabama: As I noted on Tuesday, South Alabama has been excellent as an underdog. After its Week 1 upset over Southern Miss (in which it was a two-TD underdog), USA has covered the spread in seven of its last nine games, was 4-1 as home underdogs in 2019 and 7-4 overall against the spread as an underdog last year. Oh, and Saturday’s game is USA’s first game at its brand new stadium. I’ll ride this wave. Pick: South Alabama +9.5

For Week 2 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde, subscribe to the Yahoo Sports College Podcast.

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