Games start Saturday at noon EDT.
Cincinnati @5 Ohio State (-16), 12 pm edt on ABC
The Cincinnati Bearcats should consider this game as an opportunity to enter the playoff discussions. UC coach Luke Fickell was a part of the Ohio State Buckeyes staff from 1999-2016 (minus 2001 with Akron) as a graduate assistant, strength trainer, linebackers’ coach, defensive coordinator, and even interim head coach. Junior Michael Warren (RB) showed why he was the focal point last week against UCLA after carrying the ball 26 times for 92 yards and a TD. Also, the defense was alive, managing to force four turnovers (2 Fumbles & 2 INT).
For the Buckeyes, sophomore Justin Fields (QB) was prolific in his debut against FAU. Fields threw for 234 YDS and 4 TDs while also adding 61 yards on the ground. It was a complete performance after experiencing little action in 2018 with Georgia. The best statistic on the defense was their ability to produce 12 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. But OSU Coach Ryan Day said his team has plenty of opportunities to grow.
The Bearcats are a young and talented team. However, I'm taking the Buckeyes as they held FAU to 22 rushing yards and junior defensive end Chase Young will disrupt Cincy sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder. But Cincy will keep it competitive for over a half.
Pick: Ohio State (-16)
USF @ Georgia Tech (-6), 2 pm EDT on ACCN
The USF Bulls had an abysmal performance against the Wisconsin Badgers getting shutout 48-0. Senior Blake Barnett (QB) completed less than 45% of his passes and produced three turnovers in the process. However, the offensive struggles for the Bulls weren't all on Barnett. The receiving corps dropped numerous catchable balls and couldn't capitalize on solid schemes by offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell. It's hard to point out any bright spots from last week. However, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets managed to do something unexpected of them last week. They were able to pick off Clemson sophomore QB and Heisman favorite Trevor Lawerence twice. The Yellow Jackets committed to the ground game, rushing for 157 yards on 45 attempts. Tech Coach Geoff Collins said he's been mixing up the offense with the triple-option and trying to move to a more conventional scheme. Collins will have the opportunity to do this against a weak USF defense.
Overall, I find it hard for the Bulls to cover in this road game. The Yellow Jackets will be ready to pounce on what seems to be an anemic USF offense and based on its performance against Clemson, Georgia Tech's offense is better than expected.
Pick: Georgia Tech (-6)
Illinois @ UConn (+20), 3:30 pm EDT on CBSSN
The UConn Huskies have already tied their win total from last year after defeating the Wagner Seahawks 24-21. Junior Kevin Mensah had a field day on the ground rushing for 144 yards and 1 TD. It was an impressive victory for the Huskies as they gave up nearly 50 PPG in 2018. The Fighting Illini are looking for their best season in the past few years after crushing the Akron Zips by a score of 42-3.
Junior Brandon Peters (QB) showed his accuracy on display throwing for 163 yards and 3 TDs. Peters transferred from Michigan at the end of the 2018 season after getting beat out by Senior Shea Patterson for the starting role. I think Illinois could be better-than-expected in 2019 and they've got a manageable schedule and a defense that looks legit.
Pick: Illinois (-20)
18 UCF @ FAU (+10.5), 7 pm EDT on CBSSN
Last year, the UCF Knights came away victorious after defeating the FAU Owls by a score of 56-36. However, with the loss of star quarterback McKenzie Milton, this year's game seems a bit more up in the air. Graduate Transfer Brandon Wimbush (QB) and freshman Dillion Gabriel (QB) are expected to fill the hole after throwing for a combined 300 yards and 5 TDS in a 62-0 shutout against FAMU. The Owls will also look different on offense after losing Devin Singletary (RB) to the NFL. Senior Harrison Bryant (TE) hauled in a team-high 6 catches for 79 yards in their 45-21 opening game loss to Ohio State.
Pick: UCF (-10.5)
North Texas @ SMU (-3.5), 7 pm EST on ESPN3
North Texas Senior QB Mason Fine is arguably one of the most polished quarterbacks the Mustangs will face all season. Fine threw for 383 yards and 4 TDs with a 75.7% completion percentage against Abilene Christian. Senior Rico Bussey Jr. (WR), coming off a breakout season, also had a strong performance after collecting 156 yards and 1 TD in the air.
SMU Coach Sonny Dykes collected a big win this past Saturday after being a road underdog against Arkansas State. Junior Reggie Roberson Jr. was the unsung hero after collecting 180 yards in the air but the biggest surprise was the defense, which managed to contain State's high-volume offense. Senior Dolante Scott (DE) was a man on a mission collecting 4 tackles for loss and a sack.
North Texas is a similar team to Arkansas State and if the SMU defense can perform the way it did last week then this might be a sleeper team in the American.
Pick: SMU (-3.5)
Tulane @ 10 Auburn (-18), 7:30pm EDT on ESPN2
The Tulane Green Wave and Auburn Tigers each pulled upsets this past weekend. The Green Wave accounted for 350 yards rushing and 4 TDs against the FIU Panthers. It was running back by committee as senior Darius Bradwell, Freshman Cameron Carroll and junior Stephon Huderson combined for over 200 yards rushing. The rush defense was superb as they held FIU to 59 total yards.
The Auburn Tigers are coming off a thriller against 11th ranked Oregon. Freshman QB Bo Nix didn't have a night to remember competing less than 50% of his passes but he did manage to throw a last-second touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Seth Williams. Senior Jeremiah Dinson (DB) seemed to be the most impactful member of the defense collecting 13 total tackles.
Tulane will go bowling but Auburn should be able to win and cover. Nix will be more comfortable in his second appearance.
Pick: Auburn (-18)
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