Best College Football Picks Against The Spread For Week 2 Saturday Early Games

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Get Ready

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, September 10, 2016 1:42 PM GMT

Saturday, Sep. 10, 2016 1:42 PM GMT

All three winners I picked on my top ATS picks for early Saturday games in Week 1 hit, but I only covered with Georgia Tech and West Virginia over Missouri. Here are three early college football picks for Week 2.

Penn State vs Pittsburgh (-4.5)
Noon ET kickoff from Heinz Field. On a Saturday with really no good matchups nationally, the battle for bragging rights in Pennsylvania and renewal of this once-great rivalry might be the most interesting game of the day. This will be the 97th meeting between the programs, with the first in 1893, which is more games than higher-profile rivalries such as Auburn-Alabama and USC-Notre Dame. It's borderline criminal the teams haven't met  since 2000. PSU hadn't even joined the Big Ten yet -- that move was part of the reason why this series was put on hold -- and Joe Paterno still had a sterling reputation. 

Thankfully, this is the first of a four-game, home-and-home series over the next four years. Penn State opened the season with a 33-13 win over Mid-American Conference school Kent State. It was only 16-13 at halftime. Saquon Barkley, one of the Big Ten's best running backs, had 105 yard and a TD on 22 carries. First-time starting quarterback Trace McSorley totaled 209 yards passing and two touchdowns. But that supposed new-look Nittany Lions offense didn't look much improved from 2015. Pitt didn't play much better in Week 1, beating FCS school Villanova 28-7. But it was great to see Pitt running back James Conner back on the field. He was the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year but battled Hodgkin's lymphoma last year. He rushed 17 times for 53 yards and a TD and caught a TD pass.

This game matters big-time to Pitt, while Penn State is saying publicly it's just another game. So, for our college football pick, go Panthers. PSU is 2-13-2 ATS in its past 17 road games.

Free College Football Pick: Pittsburgh Panthers -4.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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Utah State vs USC (-16.5)
An interesting 11 a.m. local time start here. Why did USC make Clay Helton its full-time coach again? Former USC athletic director Pat Haden lifted the interim tag off Helton following USC's 40-21 win over UCLA to clinch a spot in last season's Pac-12 Championship Game. But then the Trojans were manhandled by Stanford 41-22 and lost to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl. 

USC didn't look motivated or prepared at all last Saturday in Arlington, Texas, as the program was embarrassed 52-6 by No. 1 Alabama to fall out of the Top 25. The Trojans had just 194 yards in their worst loss since 1966. It was their first time without a touchdown since 1997. The Tide are loaded, but USC has way too much talent to lose like that. Max Browne struggled at QB in his first start, completing 14-for-29 for 101 yards and a pick, but to be fair he was under siege all night.  Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, one of the most electric players in the country and a likely Top-10 NFL pick next year, had just one catch. He could be seen fighting with some defensive players at Tuesday's practice. This seems like an unfocused team. Utah State basically had a scrimmage in Week 1, beating Weber State 45-6. Devante Mays had 208 yards and three scores on 18 carries. USU is visiting USC for the first time since a 17-14 loss in 2013.

I'm going to give USC the benefit of the doubt for one more week and say it bounces back and cover here. USC is 8-1 ATS in its past nine games after allowing at least 40 points in the previous game.

Free College Football Pick: USC -16.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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Nevada vs No. 18  Notre Dame (-28)
A 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Two ways to look at this game for the Irish as I see it. The first is that it could be a huge letdown effort on a short week following Sunday's night's epic 50-47 double-overtime loss at Texas. Or the Irish could be emboldened by a comeback from 17 points down to even force OT. Plus the offense played great despite Coach Brian Kelly stupidly rotating QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. I say stupidly because Kizer was clearly the better player, throwing for 215 yard and five scores while rushing for 77 yards and a  TD. Zaire did nothing, and as expected, Kelly officially named Kizer his starter this week. The Irish could be without top receiver Torii Hunter Jr. after he suffered a concussion vs. Texas. He caught four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown vs. the Horns. Nevada escaped FCS school Cal Poly 30-27 in overtime last week. Maybe the Wolf Pack were looking ahead to this game. Nevada is 4-21 all-time against ranked opponents. Its last win was in 2010 over Boise State.

I'm going to shop around for 27.5 by kickoff, but go Irish. They are 4-1 ATS in  their past five following an ATS loss. 

Free College Football Pick: Notre Dame 27.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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