Philadelphia, PA – I will be giving out plenty of Week 1 college football selections later in the week, but this column highlights 10 solid plays between weeks 2 and 5.
Week 2 boasts four key choices starting off with San Diego State at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a young and inexperienced front seven on defense while San Diego State's strength is its ground attack. In addition, the Aztecs have an extremely underrated defense, one that returns 14 of its top 16 tacklers.
These two teams have met three times (all since 2001) and San Diego State has covered in each game with an average deficit of 13 points.
Take the Aztecs plus the points at Ohio State.
Game two features Louisiana at Kansas State. The Ragin' Cajuns have won nine games each of the last two seasons. They also have covered matchups at Oklahoma State, Arizona and Florida since 2011. Furthermore, the last time they played Kansas State, they came away with a 17-15 victory in 2009 - a season both teams finished 6-6.
Kansas State begins this season with just two returning defensive starters as well as a new quarterback. Moreover, the odds are strong the Wildcats will be favored by double digits, especially since Arkansas is a 10.5-point choice at home against Louisiana in Week 1.
Take Louisiana plus the points at Kansas State.
Baylor hosts Buffalo in a game the Bears will be favored by close to three touchdowns. However, Buffalo's defense should not be taken lightly. Over the final six games in 2012, the Bulls allowed an average of 22 points per game (ppg). They also return eight of their top 10 tacklers.
On the other side, Baylor finished 113th nationally in scoring defense last year and 123rd in total defense. Offensively, the Bears break in a new quarterback and three new starting linemen.
Take Buffalo plus the points at Baylor.
The final Week 2 contest pits Arizona at UNLV. The Wildcats have a new starting quarterback along with a host of new receivers. In fact, their top three receivers from last year might not even participate. Austin Hill tore his ACL in the spring and is out for most (if not all) of the season, Dan Buckner graduated and David Richards has yet to practice this summer and is questionable for the game.
Sure, the Wildcats will count on running back Ka'Deem Casey, but UNLV's run defense is improving and the more times Arizona runs the ball, the more time is taken off the clock.
UNLV has been solid as a home underdog of late, covering nine of its last 12 opportunities. On the other hand, Arizona is 2-9 as a road favorite since 2008.
Take UNLV plus the points versus Arizona.
WEEK 3 AND BEYOND
Arizona State hosts Wisconsin on Sept. 14. The Sun Devils ran the ball 59 percent of the time last year and their stable of backs rushed for 4.5 yards per carry, the team's highest total since 1997. Meanwhile, the Badgers allowed 3.9 yards per carry in 13 Football Bowl Subdivision games a season ago.
However, don't expect Arizona State to hurt Wisconsin solely on the ground. Taylor Kelly should have a field day against a Badgers' secondary that returns just one starter.
Wisconsin, a club going through a transition period with a new head coach, has not fared well away from home against western-based squads. Oregon and Stanford both defeated the Badgers in the past two Rose Bowls while Oregon State upset them in Corvallis early last season.
Take Arizona State over Wisconsin.
Week 4 has a host of solid wagers involving Wyoming, Arizona State (once again), Hawaii and SMU.
Wyoming gets the nod at Air Force, especially since the Falcons are at Boise State the week before and at Nevada the week after. In addition, Wyoming has more than held its own against Air Force in recent years, covering the last four meetings. Moreover, head coach Dave Christensen and the Cowboys have had this game circled since last season's controversial one-point Air Force victory in a game Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith did not play.
Take Wyoming over Air Force.
Following its game against Wisconsin, Arizona State takes its act to Stanford. The Cardinal open their season at home against San Jose State and then travel all the way to New York to face Army. They are home for the Arizona State game the following week but the back-and-forth travel may takes its toll while the Sun Devils played at home their first two contests.
Take Arizona State plus the points over Stanford.
Hawaii is at Nevada in a similar situation as Stanford since the Wolf Pack have a home game on Sept. 7 followed by a contest at Florida State on Sept. 14. They then travel westward to face Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors have covered the last two contests at Nevada and will do so again in 2013.
Take Hawaii plus the points at Nevada.
Texas A&M hosts SMU in a game that might be difficult to predict prior to the start of the season since no one knows what will happen with Johnny Manziel. However, even if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is in uniform, one has to wonder how much he and his teammates will have left in the tank just one week after taking on Alabama. Furthermore, SMU has a bye week in Week 3, which will get the Mustangs fully prepared for the Aggies.
Take SMU plus the points at Texas A&M.
Finally, Week 5 has Tulane traveling upstate to take on ULM. The Green Wave will have payback on their mind after getting pounded by the Warhawks last year, 63-10. Tulane was held to 151 total yards in a game started by third- string quarterback D.J. Ponder. Don't forget, the Warhawks are at Baylor the week before and play their first conference game against Western Kentucky five days later.
Take Tulane plus the points at ULM.