It’s not a college football Saturday without primetime action and #Pac12AfterDark.
Luckily, our experts have Washington vs. Michigan (8 ET), San Diego State vs. Arizona (10 ET) and Stanford vs. USC (10:30 ET) on lock as more money is to be made before transitioning into NFL mode.
All three picks made by our college football staff are below, and the table can be used to navigate successfully to your top option of the night.
Otherwise, get ready for what should be a thrilling night — featuring the No. 14 Trojans and Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines — to cap off Week 2.
Check out our Staff’s Best Bets for All 3 Saturday Kickoff Windows:
Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 2
Picks for Today’s Evening Kickoffs
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our college football staff’s best bets for Saturday’s Week 2 slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick discussed in this article.
|Noon||San Diego State +2.5|
|2 p.m.||Stanford +17.5|
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Photos via Getty Images.
Washington vs. Michigan
8 p.m. ET
By Doug Ziefel
This line is a massive overreaction to a Washington Huskies team that is coming off a shocking upset loss to Montana.
Now, the Huskies were not just outplayed in their season opener, they were awful offensively with the exception of their opening drive — though the offense was without its top three receivers and lost another to injury early on in the game.
With the status of the three Huskies receivers currently being week-to-week, the offense gets to prepare with the talent that is left, and there is still plenty of it.
Washington possesses one of the best offensive lines in the country. Running behind that line is a Doak Walker Award preseason watch list honoree in Richard Newton.
Alongside Newton, Quarterback Dylan Morris is due for some positive regression after his performance against Montana. This week of practice gives him time to gel with the current receiving options, which includes preseason first-team All-Pac-12 nominee tight end Cade Otton.
The Michigan Wolverines’ performance in Week 1 also contributes to the inflation of this line. They overpowered directional rival Western Michigan in a 47-14 victory.
The Wolverines did it in style as well. They had a number of explosive plays on offense and special teams. Though the team’s explosiveness will now be dampened mightily with the loss of top wide receiver Ronnie Bell.
Washington’s defense is also a big step up in competition for Cade McNamara and the Wolverines offense. The Huskies ranked eighth in defensive Havoc and ninth in Sack Rate last season. The secondary will also challenge the explosive passing game of Michigan, as it ranked 16th in coverage.
The Huskies have all the tools to go in the Big House and defeat the Wolverines, but we all should take advantage of tremendous value in the spread.
Our Action Network PRO Projections make the Huskies only 1.5 underdogs. I’m more than comfortable with taking the Huskies all the way to +3.
Pick: Washington +7
San Diego State vs. Arizona
San Diego State
10 p.m. ET
San Diego State’s offense is built on having a consistent rushing attack. Over the past two seasons, the Aztecs have run the ball on over 61% of their plays, and this season, their rushing attack will once again be lethal.
They did struggle to establish the ground game in the first half against New Mexico State but ended up with 248 yards on the ground and averaged 5.9 yards per carry on Saturday night.
The rushing attack is led by second-team All-MWC running back Greg Bell, who carried the ball for a whopping 5.6 yards per carry in 2020. But in terms of Success Rate, the Aztecs struggled, ranking 108th in Rushing Success Rate.
However, the rushing attack is going to improve this season, as San Diego State gets four of its five offensive linemen back from a group that had a top-15 run blocking grade a year ago, per Pro Football Focus. It will have a big advantage against an Arizona front seven that allowed 5.9 yards per rush last season.
The Aztecs potentially have the best defense in college football outside of the Power Five, as last season, they ranked fifth nationally in terms of EPA per play.
Last season, they were the No. 1 team in the country in terms of Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Stuff Rate, and Power Success Rate Allowed.
They lost only one starter from their front seven, and what takes this Aztec defense to the next level is creating Havoc, ranking 18th nationally a season ago. Arizona ranked 88th in preventing Havoc last season and ranked in the bottom-15 of college football in terms of pass blocking, per PFF.
Arizona is going through a ton of transition right now with a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator. There are going to be some growing pains in Tucson.
They also have a new inexperienced quarterback in Gunner Cruz, who looked fine last Saturday, throwing for 7.5 yards per attempt against BYU. But he’s going to be in for a rude awakening going up against one of the best defenses in college football from a season ago.
I have San Diego State projected as a -6.78 favorite, and Collin Wilson’s PRO Projections have San Diego State projected as a -2.9 favorite, so I love the Aztecs at +2.5.
Pick: San Diego State +2.5
Stanford vs. No. 14 USC
10:30 p.m. ET
Who’s ready for the first edition of #Pac12AfterDark? I certainly am and especially in a matchup between two teams that have had some great battles in recent memory.
Stanford heads to Los Angeles after a disappointing opening loss to Kansas State in which the Cardinal did not score until the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Trojans handled San Jose State in their opener, with Kedon Slovis playing a really solid game and Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram averaging almost six yards a pop on the ground.
This is a do-or-die year for Clay Helton, so he certainly understands the importance of getting off to a strong start in conference play.
When evaluating this game, I keep coming back to the Cardinal for two reasons.
No. 1, David Shaw officially named sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee as the full-time starter in practice this week. McKee split time with Jack West in the opener and played much better than his counterpart.
This change will give the offense some continuity, and I expect McKee to step up now that he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder.
Secondly, in what has become an awesome rivalry game over the years, 17.5 is just way too many points for me to not take the dog in this matchup. Shaw has beaten USC six times since 2011, and two of his four defeats came by a field goal or less.
Stanford will slow this game down, and it can absolutely battle the Trojans in the trenches.
Shaw has to be feeling a bit of heat himself after losing some of the momentum the program had in the last 3-4 years.
I understand that this isn’t a Cardinal offense of the mid-2010s featuring a Christian McCaffrey or Bryce Love, and the overall skill talent is not on the same level as the Trojans. Don’t care. I will take Shaw over Helton any day of the week from a schematic standpoint, and I fully anticipate an inspired Stanford effort to avoid an 0-2 start.
There’s one last item worth mentioning — take a look at the pictures of the Coliseum from last week. The USC home crowd environment is nowhere near as intimidating as it once was.
Give me the Cardinal and the points, and I would not be shocked in the slightest if this is a one-possession game late into the fourth quarter.
Pick: Stanford +17.5