The 2023 college football season moves into Week 2 with a lot of interesting matchups on tap. The biggest story from Week 1 of the season was Colorado’s huge upset of TCU. The Buffaloes were 20.5-point underdogs but not only covered, they won outright. Deion Sanders’ instant makeover made a lot more progress than many people were expecting. Now Colorado prepares for its old Big Eight and Big 12 rival, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That’s just one of several very intriguing games coming up this Saturday. Let’s take a look:
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Colorado Buffaloes
Odds: Colorado -3.5 at Bovada Sportsbook
The Deion Sanders era started with a huge splash at Colorado. Coach Prime had his team ready to play against TCU, a school which made the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last season and defeated Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team in a playoff semifinal.
Colorado beat TCU 45-42, with quarterback Shedeur Sanders throwing for over 500 yards and star recruit Travis Hunter playing 145 snaps, dividing his time between both sides of the ball. Hunter played receiver on offense and cornerback on defense. He caught a touchdown pass and intercepted a pass in the same game. He was phenomenal. Playing the amount of snaps he played would have been remarkable in any set of circumstances, but his performance took on extra magnitude because it occurred in 100-degree heat in Fort Worth, Texas.
The conventional wisdom surrounding Colorado before the season was that with all the transfers going in and out of the program in a relatively short period of time – mostly after the April spring game, not before it – there wouldn’t have been enough time for the coaching staff to get all the players on the same page. To be sure, the Colorado defense looked like a mess against TCU, but the offense could not have functioned much better than it did. Scoring 45 points and rallying on multiple occasions, the Colorado offense thrived with Sanders throwing the ball, Hunter and other receivers catching the ball, and offensive coordinator Sean Lewis calling the shots. Deion Sanders’ hire of Lewis might have been the most important decision he made when he came to Colorado. Lewis might be on the market for a head coaching job at the end of this 2023 college football season.
Colorado has done something which has shocked and amazed the college football world. Now we will see if the Buffaloes maxed out in one week and are due for a hard crash, or if they are built to last. They will go against a Nebraska team which lost a one-score game to Minnesota, 13-10. Nebraska regularly lost one-score games under previous coach Scott Frost. The Huskers lost a lot of second-half leads under Frost. These patterns continued in the Minnesota game under new coach Matt Rhule. The defense looks really good, but the offense looks like a disaster. Colorado should be able to take advantage of Nebraska’s lack of offensive firepower and win a relatively close and ugly game.
Pick: Colorado -3.5
UCF Knights at Boise State Broncos
Odds: UCF -3.5 at BetOnline
This is a fascinating game. UCF is a member of the Big 12 Conference, but it used to be part of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which marketed itself as a Power Six conference. That’s a reference to the Power Five conferences (ACC, Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12) and an implied statement that the AAC is the best Group of Five conference in the country (AAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, CUSA, MAC). The Mountain West hates that “Power Six” advertising approach used by the AAC. Therefore, even though UCF is now a Big 12 team, Boise State probably still associates UCF with the AAC and resents the Knights for their Power Six label from past years.
UCF beat a very bad Kent State team in Week 1. Boise State lost by a lot to the Washington Huskies, a top-10 team. Did Washington’s excellence give Boise State sufficient preparation for this game versus UCF, or is Boise State simply not that good a team? We’ll get answers to these questions in this game. Ultimately, the Boise State defense should be able to do enough to win against UCF’s potent offense.
Pick: Boise State +3.5
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at NC State Wolfpack
Odds: Notre Dame -7.5 at BetOnline
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish play several games against ACC teams each year. Notre Dame is not an official member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Irish do have a vote at ACC membership meetings. It was Notre Dame which recommended that Stanford, Cal, and SMU be invited to the ACC. North Carolina State was one of four ACC schools which originally voted against Notre Dame’s proposal. However, NC State then reversed its vote and said yes to the Irish’s plan. Stanford, Cal and SMU will therefore join the ACC next year. Now Notre Dame and NC State meet on the football field.
The obvious and central story in this game is Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman. The signal-caller knows NC State well because he has annually faced the Wolfpack as a college quarterback. Remember: Hartman faced NC State all the time when he was at Wake Forest. Now at Notre Dame, he will have a better offensive line surrounding him, and he will have a better defense supporting him. It’s hard to bet against Hartman in this situation. His familiarity with NC State should be a real plus for the Irish on the road in Raleigh.
Pick: Notre Dame -7.5
Utah Utes at Baylor Bears
Odds: Utah -7.5 at MyBookie
Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who led Utah to consecutive Pac-12 championships and Rose Bowl appearances, did not play in Utah’s season opener last week against the Florida Gators. Rising has been recuperating from an injury, and he hadn’t made quite enough progress to be given the green light against Florida. While his status for this Baylor game is not official or confirmed, the word inside the Utah camp is that Rising is likely to play. Contrast that against Baylor’s quarterback situation, in which Blake Shapen is out for a few weeks, forcing the Bears to go to their backup quarterback.
Utah’s defense looked extremely good against Florida, while Baylor’s defense did not look good at all in a home-field upset loss to Texas State last week. Baylor was a 27.5-point favorite and lost outright to a small-conference opponent. It now loses its starting quarterback while Utah is probably getting back its QB1 for this game. If you put all these pieces of the puzzle together, it’s hard to bet against Utah here.
Pick: Utah -7.5
Texas Longhorns at Alabama Crimson Tide
Odds: Alabama -6.5 at BetOnline
This is the biggest game of Week 2, and it’s a rematch of last year’s game in which Alabama was largely outplayed by Texas but scrambled back in the final minutes to win by one point. Texas’s defensive line smoked Alabama’s offensive line and made it really hard for Alabama to function. However, an injury to Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers limited what the Longhorns were able to do on offense.
Entering this game, Ewers is back for Texas, and he is healthy. However, he did not have a smooth season opener this past weekend versus Rice. It will be fascinating to see if Ewers – who played well against Alabama last year before getting hurt – can stay healthy and play a complete 60-minute game. Alabama goes into this game with Jalen Milroe, a running quarterback, under center. Can Milroe give Alabama a different dimension and identity on offense which can throw the Texas defense off balance? These are great sources of drama heading into the ballgame. Ultimately, trusting Nick Saban to beat former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian feels like a sound and logical observation.
Pick: Alabama -6.5
Texas A&M Aggies at Miami Hurricanes
Odds: Texas A&M -4.5 at Bovada
This is a rematch of a game played last year in which A&M beat Miami 17-9 and both offenses looked atrocious. This year, Miami’s offense is still sputtering. Texas A&M’s offense looked good against New Mexico … but that’s a source of slight concern: Miami is not New Mexico. Just about every team in the United States is better than New Mexico. Texas A&M has a lot to prove in this game. Miami does as well, but Texas A&M faces a lot more pressure than Miami does in 2023. Give A&M the edge on the road in South Florida.
Pick: Texas A&M -4.5
Oregon Ducks at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Odds: Oregon -6.5
This is a fascinating game because Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough, who transferred from Oregon, now faces his former team. Expect the Ducks to read Shough really well and force him into mistakes.
Pick: Oregon -6.5
Auburn Tigers at California Golden Bears
Odds: Auburn -6.5 at BetUs
This is a highly improbable matchup, with an SEC team flying across the country to play a Pac-12 team in a late night game. New Auburn coach Hugh Freeze should be able to get his players to score in bunches against Cal’s defense. Auburn really should be able to run away with this game.
Pick: Auburn -6.5
Wisconsin Badgers at Washington State Cougars
Odds: Wisconsin -6 at Nitro Betting
This is a rematch of last year’s game, in which Washington State won on the road in Wisconsin. The Badgers, under new coach Luke Fickell, will try to gain revenge. Wisconsin’s defense should be able to stand up to the challenge, but the offense might not be consistent enough to cover the spread.