The college football season is just getting started, and the competition off the field is nearly as heated as the competition on game day.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap
USF at Maryland
Maryland’s defense couldn’t contain Bowling Green’s passing attack in Saturday’s upset loss. Good news for the Terps: USF will struggle to throw the ball.
Fox’s prediction: Maryland 28–14
Air Force at Michigan State
Air Force has amassed 822 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground in two games this season, but hasn’t faced a team as hell-bent and as capable as Michigan State at stopping the run. The most important storyline is how Michigan State responds to its signature win over Oregon.
Fox’s prediction: Michigan State 38–21
Illinois at North Carolina
Illinois has responded to the firing of Tim Beckman by pounding Kent State and Western Illinois by a combined score of 96–3. Then again, that’s what Big Ten teams should do to Kent State and Western Illinois. North Carolina’s Marquise Williams bounced back from three interceptions in Week 1 with three total touchdowns in Week 2 against North Carolina A&T.
Fox’s prediction: North Carolina 35–24
Nevada at Texas A&M
When the Aggies get rolling, watch out. Texas A&M scored 70 points in a three-quarter span between the end of the Arizona State game and the start of the Ball State game. Nevada last week gave up 301 rushing yards at home against Arizona.
Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 49–17
Northwestern at Duke
New Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk is off to a good start throwing the ball, but that’s against Tulane and North Carolina Central. Northwestern’s pass defense is off to a good start (4.1 yards per attempt, 0 TD, 3 INT), but that’s against Eastern Illinois and risk-averse Stanford.
Fox’s prediction: Northwestern 31–28
Northern Illinois at Ohio State
Ohio State was understandably uneven in its win over Hawaii, only five days after the road trip to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes should return to form here. NIU’s offense is averaging 7.8 yards per play, but the Huskies’ defense has been suspect against UNLV and Murray State.
Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 49–20
Auburn at LSU
Auburn hasn’t always been playing with a full deck on defense, but the close call with Jacksonville State — and the ease at which the Gamecocks moved the ball — was alarming. With uneven quarterback play by both Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson and LSU’s Brandon Harris, the respective run games may be the difference. In that case, LSU’s may have the edge with Leonard Fournette.
Fox’s prediction: LSU 17–13
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
Injuries are piling up at Notre Dame as the Irish have lost starters at quarterback, running back and defensive tackle since the preseason. And remember, Notre Dame was having difficulty with Virginia before Malik Zaire got hurt. Georgia Tech has topped 60 points in each of its first two games but hasn’t faced anyone close to Jaylon Smith, KeiVarae Russell and so on.
Fox’s prediction: Georgia Tech 31–28
Nebraska at Miami
Nebraska and Miami both have streaky offenses, which makes sense for the Cornhuskers and a new coaching staff. For Miami, not so much.
Fox’s prediction: Nebraska 28–21
South Carolina at Georgia
The Gamecocks are in a bit of trouble. Starting quarterback Connor Mitch is out. Running back Brandon Wilds wants the ball more. And the defense is giving up 6.4 yards per play. Not everything is perfect at Georgia, particularly at quarterback. But the Bulldogs have Nick Chubb. That’s what matters.
Fox’s prediction: Georgia 31–14
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver)
Colorado has been surprisingly effective running the ball while Colorado State is still trying to find its way on offense after benching quarterback Nick Stevens (two interceptions) against Minnesota.
Fox’s prediction: Colorado 21–17
Texas Tech at Arkansas
Arkansas has been passing the ball more 53 percent of the time, a wildly high rate for a Bret Bielema-coached team. With the Razorbacks coming off the loss to Toledo, the Hogs may try to return to what’s worked in the past. That’s particularly true for a matchup with Texas Tech, which surrounded 438 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to Arkansas a year ago. Of course, the Red Raiders would be advised to throw the ball with Patrick Mahomes averaging 9.1 yards per attempt with eight touchdowns and one interception in two games.
Fox’s prediction: Arkansas 31–21
Cal at Texas
The Texas offense may have found the right formula with Jay Norvell calling plays and Jerrod Heard running them. The Longhorns averaged 7.3 yards per play against Rice. Cal’s defense is still in rebuilding mode, but the Bears have yet to face an offense similar to what they’ll see in the Pac-12 schedule. Quarterback Jared Goff, a 73-percent passer, may be the difference here.
Fox’s prediction: Cal 35–21
Florida at Kentucky
Kentucky hasn’t defeated Florida since 1986, but the Wildcats came close in Gainesville last season. Buoyed by a 26-22 win at South Carolina, Kentucky has reason to believe this is the year to end the losing streak. Florida regressed from Week 1 to Week 2. With 12 penalties for 105 yards and ineffective offense against East Carolina, Florida looked more like a Will Muschamp team than anything under a new regime.
Fox’s prediction: Kentucky 24–17
Pittsburgh at Iowa
New Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi plans on rotating quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Nathan Peterman, all without the security of James Conner running the ball. Call us skeptical. Meanwhile, Iowa seems poised to surprise with the efficient C.J. Beathard securely under center.
Fox’s prediction: Iowa 24–14
Stanford at USC
Other than USC athletic director Pat Haden’s bizarre on-field conversation with officials, this game was a snooze last season. Stanford’s red zone ineptitude cost the Cardinal the game. Stanford has yet to cure its ills in that department (two touchdowns in seven trips inside the 20).
Fox’s prediction: USC 31–21
Rutgers at Penn State
Penn State gave up no sacks last week against Buffalo, but Christian Hackenberg is still No. 1 in the country in time spent on the turf. That's how bad the 10-sack opener was agains Temple. For all the issues at Penn State this season, Rutgers might be in worse shape. Embattled coach Kyle Flood suspended his top player, receiver Leonte Carroo, indefinitely after an incident outside the stadium after Saturday’s game against Washington State.
Fox’s prediction: Penn State 21–10
SMU at TCU
Injuries are piling up at TCU, putting the Horned Frogs’ outlook for the College Football Playoff at risk. TCU should still have the personnel to beat SMU, but the Frogs need to be mindful that SMU was competitive for a half against Baylor in the opener.
Fox’s prediction: TCU 42–28
Ole Miss at Alabama
Ole Miss has never defeated Alabama in back-to-back seasons and has one win in Tuscaloosa (1988) in school history. The odds are stacked against the Rebels, but they have to like the team they’re taking to Bryant-Denny. Ole Miss has topped 70 points in back-to-back games, something that hasn’t happened in the SEC since Steve Spurrier brought the Fun ‘n’ Gun to Florida. Alabama’s defense surely will be tougher.
Fox’s prediction: Alabama 42–35
BYU at UCLA
BYU’s wild finishes and the injury to Taysom Hill has obscured that the Cougars’ defense is nasty again, holding teams to 2.8 yards per carry. That gives us a great matchup between the BYU defense and perpetually underrated UCLA running back Paul Perkins. Bruins freshman quarterback Josh Rosen will have much on his shoulders, but he seems ready.
Fox’s prediction: UCLA 35–31
Last week: 16–4
Season to date: 31–9