Each week, I will use this space to tell you what I think are a few of the best bets heading into the weekend. I will also throw in an upset of the week, which will be a team that is at least a touchdown underdog that I am picking to win outright.
Connecticut at Navy (-3.5): Despite the fact that Navy lost its starting quarterback, Tago Smith, to a season-ending knee injury and had to pull a backup out of the stands, the Midshipmen turned in a decent performance against Fordham. Meanwhile, UConn was struggling to beat Maine 24-21. The concerning thing about the Huskies is that they didn’t make a lot of mistakes to keep the Black Bears in the game. They committed just one turnover and had only three penalties. UConn’s rush defense was good, but Navy is a different animal. Pick: Navy (-3.5)
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt (-5.5): Middle Tennessee is one of the favorites in Conference USA and looked sharp in its first game, albeit against Alabama A&M. Vanderbilt looked like, well, Vanderbilt. The Commodores played some good defense against South Carolina, but struggled to score. The anchor they wear on their uniforms is an apt avatar for the offense. Vandy only scored more than 20 points once last season, and just three times the season before that. That means that even if they win, and I don’t think they will, it’s going to be close. Pick Middle Tennessee (+5.5)
Wake Forest at Duke (-5): Wake Forest is another team that struggles to score. Maybe it’s the color scheme. The Demon Deacons only scored more than 20 points against FBS opponents twice last season — both in losses — although one of those was against Duke. Wake Forest’s last three wins have come by scores of 7-3, 3-0 and 17-14. Unless the Demon Deacons can hold Duke way down offensively, this figures to be a long day. Pick: Duke (-5)
Upset of the Week
Cincinnati at Purdue (+6.5): You could argue that this is the pivotal game of Purdue’s season, and therefore, Darrell Hazell’s coaching tenure. A win gives the Boilermakers an outside shot at a bowl. A loss and new Athletic Director Mike Bobinski might as well get the search process started for Hazell’s replacement.
Both teams had some first-game sloppiness on defense last week as they each faced FCS opponents. However, Purdue’s offense — especially on the ground — was pretty solid (so maybe it’s not the color scheme), while Cincinnati’s offense struggled some before pulling away. Last week, the Bearcats gave up over 100 yards to a running back to a running back who isn’t as good as the Boilermakers’ Markell Jones. Purdue plans to give Jones the ball a lot, and if Cincinnati can’t slow him down, the Boilers won’t just cover, they will win. Pick: Purdue (+6.5)
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Best College Football Bets: Vanderbilt, Wake Forest look to get on track