It’s true: we are off to a mediocre 5-5 start for our weekly picks segment. Last year we ended up nearly at 55 percent, so I feel like there are some winning weeks right around the corner. Those could very well start with Week 3. Here’s hoping.
This is the part of the college football schedule where you can’t overthink things. The marquee games of the opening weeks have come and gone. Now, before teams get into conference play, the Power 5 schools often schedule a game they think will be good for their resume. Thus, I’m not going to get too cute here. This is a week where favorites can hold serve before conference madness begins.
No. 18 Iowa at Iowa State
The Cy-Hawk Trophy has been owned by the Hawkeyes over the past four years. Iowa State hasn’t beaten its in-state rival since 2014. Last year, Iowa defended its home field with a 13-3 win that covered the 3.5-point line. This is the first time ESPN’s College Gameday will set up in Ames, and the fans will be on a different level come kickoff.
Iowa State is coming off a bye week, which under normal circumstances would be a big deal. But surprisingly, the Cyclones are just 2-8 straight up in their last 10 games off an open week. In Week 1, Iowa State was lucky to survive a triple-overtime scare against Northern Iowa, and the poor showing dropped ISU out of the Top 25. QB Brock Purdy fumbled on the 2-yard line, which would have ended the game if the Panthers had recovered. Luckily for Iowa State, they didn’t, and the Cyclones ended up punching in the winning touchdown to get their first victory.
Iowa comes into this game red hot after steamrolling Rutgers 30-0 last week in Iowa City. They also cruised in their opener against Miami of Ohio and have crept up in the rankings. On defense, the Hawkeyes are giving up only 185 yards per game and have looked great despite returning just four starters from last year’s squad. The other side of the ball features two NFL-caliber tackles and QB Nate Stanley, who has completed 64 percent of his passes so far. Iowa can run the ball with anyone in America, but Stanley’s arm might be the difference in this year’s team.
While this game has been decided by six points or fewer in five of the last eight seasons, Iowa’s dominance in this rivalry should continue. It’s a road game for the Hawks, but there will be plenty of black and gold in Ames.
While I like Iowa to win this game, take a look at the first half under of -21.5 as well. This will be like a heavyweight title fight, with both sides taking stock of the other early in the game. Iowa has scored 17 and 20 in their first games in the first two quarters while Iowa State only scored three in the first half vs. UNI.
PICK: Iowa -2.5
No. 13 Texas vs Houston
Texas is licking its wounds after losing at home to LSU by 7, failing to cover the 6.5-point line. While you can be encouraged that the Longhorn offense scored 38 points and QB Sam Ehlinger threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, the UT defense couldn’t get the big stops it needed. Texas also didn’t convert on two 4th down and goal situations in the first half. Those could have changed the game.
Rice is getting Texas at the worst time. The Owls are 1-41 against UT since 1966, but this will be an angry bunch playing in front of—a ton of alums who live in Houston. Thus, this is technically a home game for Rice, but not in reality. The last time these two teams played it was in 2015 and the Owls lost 42-28, covering a 14.5 line. However, Rice just gave up 41 points at home to Wake Forest. Moreover, the Owls have scored only 28 total points this season.
UT will be able to name its score in this one, but given the loss last week, this will get ugly. I’m comfortable laying a big number here. Tom Herman left the University of Houston after just two seasons for the job in Austin and still recruits the city of Houston very hard. Rice couldn’t stop Wake last week. There is no way they slow down UT this week. Longhorns win big.
PICK: Texas -32
No. 23 Washington vs. Hawaii
How about Hawaii? The boys from the islands have taken down back-to-back Pac-12 schools to open the season. If anyone thought Washington might be taking Hawaii lightly, wins over Oregon State and Arizona to open the season put an end to that. Hawaii’s offense is putting up 38 points per game, but can the Rainbow Warriors do it on the road against a top 25 opponent?
Historically, the Rainbow Warriors are a different team away from home. UH is 6-24 straight up in its last 30 games on the road. That said, the Warriors did go 2-3 straight up in roads games last year. The problem is that Hawaii doesn’t play many away games against Power 5 schools. It’s 1-9 SU over the last five years in non-conference road games. All time, UH is 30-61 against Pac-12 schools as well, having covered just two times in its last 12 games on the road.
Washington lost to Cal last week in a rain-delayed mess of a game, making this game even worse for Hawaii. The Huskies had a chance to be the top-ranked Pac-12 school all year after Oregon lost to Auburn. But losing to Cal was a shock. This is an angry bunch of dogs heading into this one.
Take a look at the first-half line with Washington laying just 11.5. I like that, and I really like a blowout win for Washington here.
PICK: Washington -21
No. 17 Central Florida vs. Stanford
A Pac-12 team going on the road across the country to play this game against a ranked Group of 5 opponent should be commended. This is a really hard place to play, and the Cardinal is coming off a loss to USC last week. For UCF, this is a massive opportunity to show that the blowout wins over Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic were not due to a lack of competition and it belongs among the elite programs in the country.
However, this game will be highlighted by who is coming back for both teams.
The Cardinal get QB K.J. Costello back. He went down in Week 1 with a head injury. Costello was great against Northwestern before his head slammed into the turf and looks to continue where he left off last season; read: 29 touchdowns. One big issue for Costello will be on the offensive line where both starting tackles look to be out for this game for Stanford.
For UCF, QB Darriel Mack is back and will press for playing time after freshman Dillon Gabriel didn’t look great against FAU. Transfer Brandon Wimbush might also be available to play in this game after sitting out last week with an undisclosed injury. Head Coach Josh Heupel has yet to name a starting QB, but he has several options for an offense that put up 43 points per game last year and has averaged 48 so far this year.
This is too much to ask of Stanford, even with the quarterback returning for this game. UCF has had this game circled all summer and the Golden Knight fans know their team has to make a statement this week. I don’t think UCF misses this rare opportunity to have a Power 5 team in their house.
PICK: UCF -8
No. 25 Maryland at Temple
Is Josh Jackson going to be in the Heisman race this year? So far, the Maryland QB has done nothing but put up incredible numbers for the Terps in two blowout victories. In those games, Jackson threw as many touchdowns as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, as many yards per pass as Oregon’s Justin Herbert, and a passer efficiency rating on par with Texas’ Sam Ehlinger. Last week against then-No. 22 Syracuse, Jackson threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Temple is a team built on defense, and the Owls only gave up 12 points in their opener against Bucknell. Last season, Temple was a 15-point underdog on the road and came away with a 35-14 blowout over the Terps. Maryland only had 63 yards of passing in that game, something that will surely change now that Josh Jackson is under center.
Maryland has played well in the first game on the road in recent years, including winning six of their last seven contests. Temple is taking a big step up in competition in their second game and even though they had an extra week to prepare, I think the Terps want revenge for last season.
I’m going to ride this turtle till I get thrown off.
PICK: Maryland -7