College Football

MHJ’s Tough Cover Column: This Week in College Football (Top 25 and picks)

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s debut edition of the Tough Cover Column, we went over my favorite futures in the 2022 NFL market. We will definitely check in on those around the halfway point between Week 8 and Week 9 to see how we’re doing. But I wanted to switch it up this week and talk about some college football.

I absolutely HATE the board of games to pick from for Week 2 of the NFL due to a lack of strong convictions (besides the Washington Commanders “upsetting” the Detroit Lions), but I find the Week 3 slate in college football incredibly interesting. I like a nice mix on underdogs and favorites and I’m also willing to make some “square” type plays this weekend.

Before we get to that, I’m going to rank my Top 25 every week in college football.

MHJ’s Top 25 (AP Ranking in parentheses)

  1. Georgia(1)
  2. Alabama(2)
  3. Ohio State(3)
  4. USC(7)
  5. Michigan(4)
  6. Clemson(5)
  7. Kentucky(9)
  8. Arkansas(10)
  9. BYU(12)
  10. Miami(13)
  11. Tennessee(15)
  12. Oklahoma State(8)
  13. Oklahoma(6)
  14. Texas(21)
  15. Michigan State(11)
  16. NC State(16)
  17. Mississippi State(NR)
  18. Kansas State(NR)
  19. UCLA(NR)
  20. Florida(18)
  21. Utah(14)
  22. Oregon State(NR)
  23. Wake Forest(19)
  24. Penn State(22)
  25. Ole Miss(20)

First up this week, we’ve got action TONIGHT!

Florida State -1.5 @ Louisville, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

  • I got this one early at -1.5 but I would bet FSU up to a field goal favorite.
  • FSU is looking for their first 3-0 start since 2015. They are 16-6 against Louisville in the history of the match-up.
  • The Seminole defense ranks second in the ACC and 19th in the country with only 256 yards allowed per game.
  • They have also been exceptional on the ground on offense, rushing for 269 yards per game which puts them at first in the ACC and fifth in the country.
  • Jordan Travis was 5-3 in 2021 and has started 2-0 in 2022. Mike Norvell may have struggled to start his tenure but he has done a great job reimagining the offense around Jordan Travis.
  • But this is a spot where I’m betting against Louisville instead of betting on FSU.
  • I just can’t erase Syracuse’s 31-7 drubbing of Louisville.
  • FSU wins by at least a touchdown.

Now, let’s dive into a LOADED College Football Saturday.

Nebraska +11 vs. Oklahoma, 12 p.m.

  • This is a game where the line is telling you a ton. Most expected Oklahoma to be a two-touchdown favorite or better against a disappointing and reeling Cornhuskers team.
  • Even though I have to say I’m nowhere near as high on Oklahoma as the AP voters were (#6), they are clearly the much better roster here. But sometimes that’s not all that matters in football.
  • I’m a big believer in a team getting fired up for a game the week after a coach gets fired in most cases. It’s been incredibly profitable in the NFL and we’ve seen it plenty of times at the collegiate level as well, especially in the Power 5.
  • Mickey Joseph is the new Nebraska coach and has a heck of a story. He is the first black head coach of any sport in Nebraska’s history. He also played QB for Nebraska until an injury against…Oklahoma ended his playing career and forced him to pursue a teaching and coaching career. He was also a member of the 2019 LSU coaching staff who destroyed Oklahoma in the playoffs.
  • Not only is this a first game with a new coach full of hope but this is a storied and historic rivalry. The fans in Lincoln, Nebraska will have absolutely no problem getting up for this game and providing Nebraska with a real edge.
  • Nebraska’s offense has not been the problem. Casey Thompson has been very good at QB and has history against Oklahoma as the former Texas QB. He threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-48 loss against OU last year against the debuting Caleb Williams. He’s out for revenge.
  • Anthony Grant is third in the country at just under 143 yards per game at running back for Nebraska.
  • I think Nebraska scores enough to keep this close and I’m starting to have a feeling that Mickey Joseph is going to be the story of the weekend.

Rutgers -17 @ Temple, 2 p.m.

  • Can’t believe I’m laying 17 points with the RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS in Week 3, but here we are.
  • I am rationalizing this bet by choosing to think of it as betting against Temple rather than betting ON Rutgers.
  • Temple needed to block three punts to beat Lafayette at home by 16.
  • Greg Schiano says that Rutgers is filling buses of fans to the Linc to take over.
  • Vegas looks at this game around the 31-14 number, but I’m expecting more like 35-10 Rutgers.

UCLA -14 vs. South Alabama, 2 p.m.

  • This UCLA team is not getting nearly enough credit by the national media, the AP Top 25 voters, or apparently the oddsmakers in the desert of Las Vegas.
  • I understand that the Sun Belt is the hot conference right now, but I think UCLA is the most underrated team in the country.
  • UCLA was 9-3 ATS last year and return Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, who missed last week but should play this week.
  • UCLA has won five straight dating back to last year and have averaged just under 48 points per game with each win coming by at least 24 points.
  • I think UCLA is laying in the weeds to start 5-0 and host Utah on October 8.
  • UCLA comes out and makes a statement at home and lays the Smackdown on South Alabama, like Chip Kelly likes to do as a big favorite dating back to Oregon.

BYU +4 @ Oregon, 3:30 p.m.

  • I have fallen in love with the 2022 Brigham Young University football team, while it seems that the oddsmakers have not.
  • I’m backing them confidently for the third straight week.
  • BYU is ranked 12th in the AP Top 25, but I ranked them ninth. I’m a bigger BYU guy than anybody you’ll find at this point.
  • Jaren Hall gives BYU such a huge QB advantage over Bo Nix and Oregon.
  • People are making a big assumption that Oregon only got blown out by Georgia because Georgia is awesome. Those same people assume Oregon will bounce back and compete to win the Pac 12.
  • I don’t understand the confidence for a quick bounce back in the first year of the Dan Lanning Oregon Ducks with Bo Nix playing QB.
  • This certainly ain’t Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks and it’s not even Mario Cristobal’s Oregon Ducks. I think this is going to be a down year for Oregon and I think BYU is a legitimate playoff darkhorse.
  • Kalani Sitake has coached BYU for seven years while Dan Lanning is a brand new coach at Oregon. I think there will be a massive coaching and preparation advantage for BYU.
  • Vegas expects about a 31-27 Oregon win, I’m looking at a 34-24 BYU win. I don’t think Oregon’s offense can hang with BYU’s.

Mississippi State -2 @ LSU, 6 p.m.

  • The line is telling you all you need to know here.
  • This is yet another name brand team that the public are overrating in LSU.
  • LSU showed us who they were in that Florida State game. This team is devoid of the athletes all over the field that we’ve seen in years past in Death Valley.
  • Mississippi State is the single most criminally underrated team in the country, unranked by the AP Top 25.
  • Mississippi State ranks second nationally in time of possession, averaging 39:04 on offense through two games. They will control the clock in this game.
  • Will Rogers is completing 78.8% of his passes while throwing for 763 yards. He has also added nine touchdowns with only two interceptions.
  • He is one of the 5-10 best quarterbacks in the country, while LSU has a big question mark with Jayden Daniels, who struggled through the air against Florida State.
  • The Bulldogs won their last meeting with LSU in Death Valley in 2020, and I believe history will repeat itself. Mississippi State wins 31-20.

Michigan State +3.5 @ Washington, 7:30 p.m.

  • This is 100% a sucker/square bet, but sometimes you have to ignore your better judgment and go with your eyes and brain.
  • I’m ignoring the mantra of “Vegas Knows” but I just can’t rationalize this spread.
  • I understand that it’s a road trip across the country but I don’t understand what could possibly make Washington 3.5 points better than Michigan State.
  • Two wins against Kent State and Portland State do not mean that Kalen DeBoer has completely fixed the program, as opposed to Mel Tucker, who ACTUALLY rehabilitated the Michigan State program last year.
  • Tucker is 6-0 ATS in non-conference games with Michigan State.
  • I’m a bit lower (#15 in my Top 25) on Michigan State than consensus in the AP Top 25 (#11) but I still think there is a massive gap between Michigan State and Washington.
  • Payton Thorne has struggled but I think Michigan State keeps this as an ugly game that stays low-scoring and I think Washington’s offense will oblige since I’m not enthused by Michael Penix Jr.
  • I view this as a 24-17 Michigan State win.

Miami +6.5 @ Texas A&M, 9 p.m.

  • Again, this might just be as square as square gets.
  • But this is my favorite play of the week, even without star Wide Receiver Xavier Restrepo.
  • We’re in Jimbo Fisher’s 5th year at Texas A&M and it feels like we’re in the exact same spot that they were when they gave him a massive contract.
  • He’s recruited as well as anyone in the country but his team has not played up to those same standards, as referenced by their embarrassing loss to Appalachian State. and they have failed miserably at finding a quarterback.
  • Haynes King has shown me enough to believe that he is not good enough to play QB at a legitimate Power 5 school and the Max Johnson optimism that I’ve seen on Twitter is curious. LSU moved on from him because he wasn’t good enough, which is not going to change in College Station.
  • Jimbo is running a severely outdated offense with a huge question mark at the most important position. They rank 120th in the country in terms of EPA.
  • With their offense playing this way, I cannot imagine picking them in any of their next 4 games(vs Miami, vs Arkansas, @ Mississippi State, @ Alabama) and I believe I’ll be fading them in at least a couple of those games.
  • Obviously, their offense scoring 14 points and looking miserable is the chief cause of concern in Aggieland but I’m not sure that there aren’t concerns on the defensive side of the ball.
  • The App State Mountaineers went 9-of-20 on third down and 3-of-5 on fourth down while holding possession for 41:29. If Texas A&M had trouble with Chase Brice and Appalachian State’s offense, who’s to say that they won’t have those same problems with Tyler Van Dyke and Miami’s offense.
  • Miami is running a very modern offense with a star QB in Tyler Van Dyke and a renowned offensive genius at playcaller in Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis.
  • I liked Miami to beat Texas A&M when looking at the schedules in July and going through the futures market. I have Miami’s Over on wins and Texas A&M’s Under on wins. Ultimately, with those preseason opinions that have only been completely validated on both sides, I would be a complete and total fraud if I didn’t hammer Miami GETTING 6.5 points with what we’ve seen thus far.
  • I could see a 24-17 outcome in favor of Miami. This year, “it’s all about the U”.

You can follow Mark Henry Jr. on Twitter (@MarkHenryJr_) and listen to the Tough Cover Radio Show every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio The Gambler.

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