Greetings, College Football fans! This crazy season is off to quite the hot start (as noted and predicted by my fellow columnist Cole Stefan), with an insane 25 AP Top 25 teams losing already. Last week, I once again went 3-2, which is roughly my goal. I picked the underdog to cover the spread in three out of my five picks, and two of those underdogs won outright (NC State over Clemson and Arkansas over Texas A&M). My other win came in the thrilling UConn loss against Wyoming. I was correct with my pick, but wrong with my reasoning. I thought if UConn kept it close too early, then got blown out, there would be no time to cover the spread in garbage time, but instead they led for most of the game and nearly tied things at the end, shattering the 29.5 point spread. As we move into this week’s action, we have a great slate of games, which should be plenty of fun to pick, but more importantly, watch.
Stratton’s record so far: 6-4 (.600)
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia (-18.5) (Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN):
This one is perhaps the most intriguing of the week, with Arkansas having an impressive resume, dominating ranked Texas and Texas A&M, while Georgia’s only ranked game came against a fraudulent Clemson team that just lost to NC State. Tight end Brock Bowers has been sensational for the Bulldogs so far, catching four touchdown passes in as many contests. Arkansas running back Trelon Smith has a nice ability to punch the ball into the endzone as well, already going for six three times. Given the Razorbacks’ performances against the duo of Texas schools, the spread is just too large here. They may not win, but it will certainly be closer than 18.5.
The pick: Arkansas
No. 7 Cincinnati (-2.5) at No. 9 Notre Dame (Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on NBC):
Last week, I questioned how real the Fighting Irish’s hype was ahead of their game against Wisconsin, where they pulled away in the fourth quarter to win by 28. Wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. played sensationally in that game, catching two touchdowns despite quarterback Jack Coan’s early departure. Coan is supposed to be back this week, which is a positive sign for Notre Dame. Cincinnati, on the other hand, has not played any real competition yet, winning all their games by double digits. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder has looked great this year, but take it with a grain of salt. The scene at Notre Dame Stadium will be electric, leading the Irish to not only cover the spread, but also to victory.
The pick: Notre Dame
No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama (-14.5) (Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS):
At the end of the day, Alabama can’t be anybody but Alabama. Quarterback Bryce Young has absolutely lit up the stat sheet, throwing for 1,124 yards and 15 touchdowns in just four games, two of which came against Top 15 opponents (Miami and Florida). Although dominant, Ole Miss has not played any ranked teams so far, beating Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane. The Rebels have outscored their opponents 158-62 to this point, but will have trouble continuing at their torrid pace. Alabama is proven and just too good to deny in this primetime matchup at home.
The pick: Alabama
No. 21 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State (-3.5) (Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2):
Baylor and Oklahoma State are strikingly similar teams this season. Both are undefeated, and they each played their first ranked game last week and won a close matchup. Oklahoma State has excelled at winning close games this season, with their largest margin of victory sitting at 11 points as seen in their win last week over No. 25 Kansas State. Baylor escaped Iowa State last week in a two-point victory but blew out Kansas and Texas Southern in the preceding weeks. On paper, the matchup looks incredibly even given the tight spread, but the play of Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon has been great, with 823 yards and seven touchdowns. Look for the Bears to cover in a very loud Boone Pickens Stadium.
The pick: Baylor
UConn at Vanderbilt (-14.5) (Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU):
This game is interesting to say the least. Instagram account CFB Kings referred to the matchup as the “Toilet Bowl”, with the Huskies sitting at 128th in ESPN’s FPI, compared to Vanderbilt’s 121st. After getting dominated for the first four games of the season, UConn turned things around last Saturday, starting freshman Tyler Phommachanh and leading the Huskies to just a two-point loss to Wyoming. The Commodores are not coming off quite the same success, losing 62-0 to No. 2 Georgia last week in a game where they were trailing 35-0 in the first quarter. Vanderbilt also lost to FCS school ETSU early in the season, demonstrating their lack of quality. There isn’t really reason to believe the Huskies don’t cover here. One team is trending in the right direction, the other is not. Plus, UConn has covered in two straight games under Phommachanh.
The pick: UConn