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

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.

The return of the college football season did not disappoint.

Florida State posted an impressive victory over LSU in a top-10 matchup, and Duke shocked Clemson, but the biggest story of Week 1 was Colorado’s upset win over TCU to kick off the Deion Sanders era.

The Buffs, after going 1-11 last year, were three-touchdown underdogs but were able to show off Coach Prime’s brand new roster in a 45-42 win over a Horned Frogs team that played in last year’s national title game.

All eyes will be on the Buffs again early on Saturday, but the best game of the day will be the Texas-Alabama showdown in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. It’s also a weekend where several ranked teams go on the road to face unranked opponents, so there will be plenty of other upset possibilities in Week 2.

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 10 Notre Dame at NC State

Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: ND -7.5 | Total: 51

Notre Dame has been dominant through its first two games, but now has to go on the road to face a tough NC State team. The Irish outscored their first two opponents — Navy and Tennessee State — by a margin of 98-6. In those games transfer QB Sam Hartman totaled 33-of-40 passes for 445 yards and six touchdowns, orchestrating what appears to be a much-improved Notre Dame offense. We’ll see how much improvement there really is when they play at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

NC State, which opened its season with a 24-14 road win over UConn, has a transfer QB of its own. Brennan Armstrong, the longtime starter at Virginia, is now leading the charge for the Wolfpack alongside offensive coordinator Robert Anae. The two put up huge numbers together at UVA, but there are questions about the caliber of weapons on this NC State offense. Armstrong threw for only 155 yards in the UConn win, but he did rush for 96 yards and two scores. He’ll be a challenge for the Notre Dame defense to corral.

Nick Bromberg: Notre Dame -7.5, Sam Cooper: NC State +7.5

Nebraska at No. 22 Colorado

Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: CU -3 | Total: 59.5

The debut of Deion Sanders as Colorado’s head coach couldn’t have gone much better. Behind electric performances from Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter and Dylan Edwards, Sanders’ Buffs went into Fort Worth and shocked TCU. Colorado posted 565 yards of offense in the win, 510 of which came through the air via Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son. Will CU be able to replicate that kind of offensive success in its home opener in a game with a peculiar 10 a.m. local kickoff time?

Nebraska also has a new coach, but the first game for Matt Rhule with the Huskers did not go as well as it did for Colorado. Nebraska opened on the road at Minnesota last Thursday and lost 13-10 on a last-second field goal. It was a game Nebraska should have won, but the Huskers were doomed by four turnovers — including three Jeff Sims interceptions. The defense impressed, however, and the Huskers had some success with the ground attack. Nebraska will present a much different style than what Colorado faced with TCU. Will the Huskers be able to spoil Coach Prime’s first home game?

Nick: Colorado -3, Sam: Colorado -3

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders yells from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders yells from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

No. 20 Ole Miss at No. 24 Tulane

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Ole Miss -7 | Total: 66.5

On the heels of a triumphant 2022 season and an impressive season-opening win, Tulane will now welcome an SEC opponent to Yulman Stadium. The Green Wave won just two games in 2021 but bounced back in a major way by winning the AAC title and then upsetting USC in the Cotton Bowl last year. To start the 2023 season, Michael Pratt led Tulane to a 37-17 victory over South Alabama, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Pratt went 14-of-15 for 294 yards and four touchdowns while the defense forced five turnovers.

Defending the Ole Miss offense will be much more difficult for the Green Wave. Now in Year 4 under Lane Kiffin, the Rebels demolished Mercer — a ranked FCS team — by a margin of 73-3 in Week 1. Jaxson Dart completed 18-of-23 passes for 334 yards and four TDs, all of which went to Louisiana Tech transfer Tre Harris. This trip to New Orleans will provide a nice early season challenge before the competition heats up for Ole Miss, which started the 2022 season 7-0 before losing five of six down the stretch. The Rebels open SEC play in two weeks with a trip to Alabama and then a home game vs. LSU.

Nick: Tulane +7, Sam: Ole Miss -7

No. 23 Texas A&M at Miami

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Texas A&M -4.5 | Total: 51

We didn’t know that Texas A&M and Miami would go on to be two of the most disappointing teams in the country when they met last year in Week 3 in College Station. A&M won that matchup, 17-9, but both teams would go on to miserable 5-7 seasons, prompting big changes in the offseason. For the Aggies, now in Year 6 under Jimbo Fisher, it brought on the arrival of new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. Through one game, the A&M offense looked pretty good as Conner Weigman threw five touchdown passes in a 52-10 win over New Mexico. Can they keep it going on the road in South Florida?

For Miami, Mario Cristobal changed both of his coordinators ahead of his second season coaching at his alma mater. He brought in Shannon Dawson from Houston to run the offense and Lance Guidry from Marshall to call the defense. In a Week 1 38-3 win over Miami (OH), the Hurricanes looked like a much more cohesive operation on both sides of the ball. While the defense limited the RedHawks to just 215 yards, the Hurricanes rushed for 250 yards and QB Tyler Van Dyke was an efficient 17-of-22 for 201 yards and a score. The A&M defense will present a much tougher obstacle in a game that carries significant weight for both programs. The losing coach will definitely face some backlash from the local fans.

Nick: Texas A&M -4.5, Sam: Miami +4.5

No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama

Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Alabama -7 | Total: 54.5

Is this finally the year Texas can take that leap back into college football’s elite? It feels like the Longhorns are the subject of offseason hype on an annual basis, and this summer was no different. The hype was warranted based on the talent of UT’s roster, but the Longhorns still need to prove it on the field. The Longhorns had an uneven first-half performance on offense in the Week 1 win over Rice and will need to be much sharper in a raucous prime-time environment vs. Alabama — their future conference foe in the SEC.

Alabama, meanwhile, was the subject of its own offseason storyline as Nick Saban tried to identify his starting quarterback after Bryce Young was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner all battled for the role in preseason camp. Milroe, Young’s backup in 2022, emerged as the top option and had a strong performance in the Tide’s Week 1 56-7 win over Middle Tennessee. Milroe went 13-of-18 for 194 yards and three touchdowns while showing off his excellent athleticism with 48 yards and two scores on the ground. Will he be ready for his first big moment?

Nick: Alabama -7, Sam: Alabama -7

Head-to-head ATS: Nick: 1-4, Sam: 4-1

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers signals his team during the first half of an NCAA football game against Rice, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers signals to his team during the first half of an NCAA football game against Rice, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Week 2 best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1)

Houston (-9.5) at Rice: The Cougars got a nice win in Week 1 over UTSA while Rice lost at Texas. After giving up just 14 to a UTSA team that’s one of the best in the AAC, Houston shouldn’t have nearly as much trouble with Rice as it did last season. The Cougars should win this easily. Pick: Houston -9.5

Arizona at Mississippi State (-9): Mississippi State rushed the ball 39 times and threw it 29 times in an easy win over Southeastern Louisiana. This offense is going to look a lot different in the Zach Arnett era. Arizona also got an easy win over an FCS opponent and should continue the improvement it showed in Jedd Fisch’s second season. This could also be a close game and the under feels like the right side as well. Pick: Under 60.5

Auburn (-6.5) at Cal: I’m not sure you can put much stock in either team’s Week 1 victory. Auburn blew out Massachusetts in the first game of the Hugh Freeze era while Cal scored a big win over a rebuilding North Texas team. Auburn rushed for nearly 300 yards against UMass, and I’m not sure that’s a repeatable performance. The Tigers win a relatively low-scoring game. Pick: Under 54

Sam Cooper (Last week: 1-2)

Troy at No. 15 Kansas State (-16.5): Troy lost a lot on defense from last year's Sun Belt title team and is going to have trouble handling the Kansas State offense. At the same time, I think Troy's offense will be able to score enough points to send this game over the total. That may not be a major ask — let's say in the range of 14-17 points. Pick: Over 51.5

SMU at No. 18 Oklahoma (-16): I'm really high on SMU this season and I didn't take away much from Oklahoma's blowout win over Arkansas State. The Mustangs have enough firepower on offense to put a scare into the Sooners in what should be a high-scoring game. Pick: SMU +16

No. 19 Wisconsin (-6.5) at Washington State: I thought Wisconsin was over-valued entering this season and I wasn't impressed with what I saw in the Week 1 win over Buffalo. Though I think the Badgers will be able to have some success running vs. WSU's defense, I'm skeptical the UW defense can keep the Cougars off the board enough to cover this spread in Pullman. Pick: Washington State +6.5

For other Week 2 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.

For Week 2 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, subscribe to the College Football Enquirer podcast.