Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa
When Mike Gundy has a proven trio at QB/RB/WR, his offenses tend to finish in the national Top 10. He has that trio in 2020 with Biletnikoff-finalist Tylan Wallace, 2,000-yard back Chuba Hubbard, and a dual-threat quarterback in Spencer Sanders. Last year as a freshman, Sanders had some turnover troubles, but flashed athleticism, speed, and an overall high ceiling. In his second season starting, look for more consistency and explosive plays for the offense. When the trio was healthy in 2019, Oklahoma State’s offense rated in the 83rd percentile of Pick Six Previews’ opponent-adjusted stats.
It’s not just Wallace at receiver; Dillon Stoner has added 500+ receiving yards in each of the past three seasons, and the extra bye week allowed Washington State transfer Tay Martin to get up to speed after scoring 18 touchdowns the past three falls up in Pullman.
The offensive firepower would be enough to take Oklahoma State here, but they now have a veteran defense to complement. 10 starters are back from a defense that surged late in 2019. Oklahoma State held their last six opponents below their season scoring averages, closing the season on a 5-1 run against-the-spread.
In fact, over the past five seasons, Oklahoma State leads the entire Big 12 in record ATS, going 37-25-3 (.592). Tulsa (AAC) was 4-8 straight-up in 2019, and already requested that this game be delayed a week from the original 9/12 date, after losing a ton of practice time due to medical precautions. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is ready to roll, and a scan of their new depth chart shows no injuries, no opt-outs, and no surprises.
PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA STATE 51, TULSA 24
PICK: OKLAHOMA STATE -23 @ -110
Last week UNC (-22) vs. Syracuse was one of my featured bets and it hit. It was an ugly 10-6 game after three quarters, but the fourth was ALL Tar Heels. And with that, Mack Brown becomes the first UNC head coach to open back-to-back seasons with Power 5 wins since… Mack Brown (1996-1997).
A slight question mark coming into the season for UNC was the defense, but they shined Saturday, holding Syracuse to just 2.8 yards per play. That ranked as the nation’s best among teams that played FBS opponents.
And while the offense wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard in the first half, the end result remained dominant. Sam Howell completed 74% of his passes, despite going against a complex 3-3-5 base defense that he won’t have to face the rest of the season. Much like how teams struggle against the rare triple option, the 3-3-5 defense is an outlier that only a handful of Power 5 teams use.
UNC is riding a 4-game win streak both straight-up and against-the-spread. No other preseason publication in America had UNC ranked higher than me, and I think we are still ahead of the curve here. Charlotte covered against App State, losing just 35-20, but the final score was deceiving. Charlotte allowed 500+ yards, was outgained by 200+ yards, and quarterback Chris Reynolds is currently dead last in FBS quarterback rating after his 11/30, 140 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT season debut.
I loved it at UNC -27.5 under the four-touchdown barrier, but still like it at -29.5.
PREDICTION: UNC 48, CHARLOTTE 17
PICK: UNC -29.5 @ -110
On the other end of Charlotte’s opener is a team that may be undervalued this week.
App State is 54-12 straight-up the past five seasons, which is 5th best in the entire nation. They dominate the Sun Belt Conference, who just went 3-0 against the Power 5’s Big 12 Conference. App State also has success against Power 5 schools as they beat both UNC and South Carolina last fall.
As noted in the UNC/Charlotte preview above, App State’s 35-20 score is a bit misleading. App State thoroughly dominated the game, and percentile-wise, the score should have been more lopsided. Outgaining an opponent by 200+ yards is notable. And holding an FBS quarterback to a 36% completion rate is even more notable.
Meanwhile, Marshall is getting a perception bump after they destroyed an FCS foe, Eastern Kentucky, who went 6-5 last fall and was blown out again Saturday 56-10 by West Virginia.
While Marshall has been above-average the past few seasons, App State is a proven commodity of strong, consistent, winning football.
PREDICTION: APP STATE 30, MARSHALL 23
PICK: APP STATE -4.5 @ -105
Austin Peay got mercy-ruled off the field Saturday as Pittsburgh jumped out to a 42-0 halftime lead and both sides agreed to shorten the clock in the 2nd half. Cincinnati won 11 games last year and was the AAC runner-up. Look for a 5-touchdown blowout here.
BET: CINCINNATI -33.5 @ -115
Another FBS/FCS mismatch. Over the past 5 years, Clemson is 60% ATS vs. FCS foes, and wins by an average of 48.5 points. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence opened with a 79% completion rate and 351 yards last week vs. Wake Forest. The starting offense will move the ball at-will, while the backups will have more success after some initial playing time in the 2nd half Saturday.
BET: Clemson -44.5 @ -120
Credit Duke’s defense for throwing some new looks at Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, frustrating him to scramble out of the pocket often. However, now the rust is off, and Notre Dame will get back to more complete football Saturday. I was impressed by new running back Kyren Williams and their freshman tight end Michael Mayer #87 who they’ve dubbed “Mini-Gronk.” USF only threw for 100 yards against The Citadel, and one of their three touchdowns came on a bizarre 0-yard punt return touchdown.
BET: Notre Dame -25 @ -120