Unfortunately, the Burke’s Best Bet series here at HunterSportsPicks.com began with a dud. The Boise State Broncos did enough damage on offense against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns to force the firing of the team’s defensive coordinator. We move on from that disastrous selection to a bountiful Week 2 card. Overreactions are commonplace in all betting markets early in the season and that’s true of this week in the college football investment community. There are some good wagering options to consider, but the top pick this week is on a team that will be completely outclassed.
Virginia vs. Oregon College Football Preview
Date/Time: Saturday September 10, 10:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from MyBookie
College Football Betting Favorite: Oregon -24.5
We, the collective handicapping ‘we’, feel like Bronco Mendenhall knew what he was getting into with the Virginia Cavaliers. If he didn’t before, he certainly does now after Richmond from Division I-AA hung 37 points on the Cavaliers to spoil Mendenhall’s debut game with UVA. The football factory at Oregon just keeps churning out athletes and many of them were on display in the Ducks’ 53-28 win over UC Davis. While Mendenhall dropped to 0-1 SU and ATS with Virginia, Mark Helfrich improved to 34-8 SU. He did, however, fall to 25-17 against the spread.
The day wasn’t a total loss for Virginia in Week 1 because Kurt Benkert looked really good. The East Carolina transfer was 26-of-34 for 264 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Considering Virginia had fewer than 264 passing yards in nine of their 12 games last season, that was a great sign. What wasn’t a great sign was that Cavaliers backs and Benkert combined for just 1.8 yards per carry on 21 attempts. Running the ball successfully is something you have to do in Eugene to keep the explosive Ducks off of the field. Not running the ball against Richmond seems really concerning. It isn’t particularly indicative of anything since it happened three years ago, but Oregon rolled 59-10 in Charlottesville back in 2013. This is the conclusion of that home-and-home agreement.
The Cavaliers passing game was good. The four turnovers were not good. The fact that the Spiders held the ball for nearly 40 minutes was not good. But, above all, it was the 524 yards that stood out the most from this Week 1 game. Virginia allowed Richmond to convert 10-of-17 third down attempts, while they converted only two of their 10 tries. Why should things go any different on Saturday? Mendenhall brought over most of his BYU staff and there’s some talent to work with here, but it’s hard to see major adjustments in one week’s time with a long trip to the Pacific Northwest to factor into the equation. Virginia has two really solid tacklers on the defense, but there aren’t many big play guys that are going to alter this game.
Laying a big number like this is never fun, but it’s a lot easier to take when the favorite is stunningly loaded. Dakota Prukop’s first FBS start was a success, as the Montana State transfer went 21-of-30 for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Royce Freeman’s Heisman campaign started a little quiet with just 87 yards and two touchdowns, but he only had 11 carries. UC Davis obviously isn’t much of a team, as they went 2-9 last season and lost by 20 points to Hawaii, but all of the pieces are here and all of the athleticism is here for Oregon to hang a blowout on a subpar FBS team. You can bet that the primary players will play a lot more this week.
Defensively, it was kind of a mess for Oregon. Ben Scott threw for 303 yards, but the 28 points were a little bit misleading. UC Davis scored on a short field to open the scoring and then had three long touchdown drives after the game was decided. Defensive coordinator Brady Hoke wasn’t very fond of his defense before the season and this is a group that gave up 38 points per game last season. As lackluster as Hoke’s head coaching career was, he’s now seen this defense between the lines against live competition and not many people question his chops as a defensive mastermind. He inherited a front seven with very little experience and things should get better week by week. Between the travel and the massive athleticism gap, this number looks short.
Burke’s Week 2 Best Bet: Oregon Ducks -24.5
The only real worry here is whether or not Oregon starts looking ahead to next week’s trip to Lincoln. The Cavaliers are sure to take the field embarrassed with last week’s performance against Richmond, but this is a 10:30 p.m. ET kick in Week 2. It doesn’t matter how early in the week Virginia heads to Eugene, they’re not going to be ready for that time change. Nobody likes to lay big prices, but this one seems justified, even with the fact that Virginia’s loss to Richmond bumped this line up a few points.
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