College Football Power Five: Alabama vs. Texas and 3 Other Top Picks

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Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws downfield against the Utah State Aggies during NCAAF Week 1 on September 3, 2022. Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images/AFP

The wonderful thing about early-season non-conference games is how quickly head coaches dismiss the residual effect of a game’s outcome.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian was busy Monday laying the foundation for his expected loss this Saturday in Austin vs. No. 1 Alabama.

“It’s one game, you know?” Sarkisian said. “I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is this is going to be the game that’s going to define our program. It might, it might not. I’m not that concerned about it.”

Gettysburg Matchup Preview

Imagine if some generals involved in the most memorable wars in history thought the same way, such as:

GETTYSBURG, Va. – Confederate General Robert E. Lee, fresh off his army’s rousing win at Chancellorsville, said Tuesday the upcoming matchup in Gettysburg against the Union army was no bigger than any other battles fought by the Confederates.

“It’s all about staying on an even keel and taking it one battle at a time,” Lee said. “You can’t make the moment bigger than it really is. We can’t worry about who we’re fighting. This week is about our improvement over the last battle, which we were fortunate to win despite some fundamental mistakes, such as poor bayoneting. It’s been a point of emphasis this week.

“We’re prepared for anything. I like our chances.”

On to the NCAAF odds and our Week 2 Fab Four picks:

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns

Saturday, September 10, 2022 – 12:00 PM EDT at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

Steve Sarkisian is one of 12 current FBS head coaches who worked under Alabama coach Nick Saban, winning a national championship ring in 2020 in his second and final year as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator.

Saban is 25-2 against head coaches who’ve been on his staff, the losses coming last year to Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the national championship game.

Saban Goes on the Road

Playing a road game at an opposing Power Five conference team stadium is a rarity for Saban. Of Alabama’s 15 regular season non-conference games against Power Five schools, the Tide is 14-1 having played at:

  • Neutral sites 12 times (11-1)
  • Home once (1-0)
  • True road games twice (2-0) at Duke in 2010 and at Penn State (2011)

Yes, Alabama’s trip to Austin is the Crimson Tide’s first true road game versus a Power Five team in more than a decade. Absence makes the heart stronger and Alabama’s national title game loss to Georgia last season has the Tide playing with renewed resolve, which is a code word phrase for “pissed off.”

In the last three regular-season games vs. non-conference Power Five teams, the Tide has covered point spreads of:

  • -24 vs. Louisville
  • -32 vs. Duke
  • -19 vs. Miami

They did so by recording victory margins of 37, 39 and 31 points, respectively.

The Tide will beat Texas and the spread like they are ordering Waffle House hash browns that are smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped and topped.

Translation: Hash browns with onions, melted American cheese, hickory smoked ham, diced grilled tomatoes, jalapenos, mushrooms and chili.

NCAAF Pick: Alabama -19.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators

Saturday, September 10, 2022 – 07:00 PM EDT at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

No new head coach had a better debut last weekend than Florida’s Billy Napier (another former Nick Saban assistant).

He took over a Gators’ program that previous head coach Dan Mullen ran into the ground because he thought he was an offensive genius (and wasn’t). Napier waved magic quarterback fairy dust over 59 percent passer Anthony Richardson and handled Pac 12 favorite and then No. 7 Utah a 29-26 defeat.

Richardson accounted for 274 of Florida’s 451 yards of total offense with 168 yards passing and 108 rushing, including three TDs. Most importantly, he made good decisions, had no interceptions and helped the Gators convert 7 of 12 third-down situations.

Wildcats and Dark Horses

Kentucky, everybody’s preseason dark horse to challenge for the Eastern Division title, must adapt to being the hunted rather than the hunters for the first time in decades. The Wildcats, who sputtered and puttered in their 37-13 season-opening win over Miami of Ohio, are already down to their fourth-string running back.

Leading returning rusher Christian Rodriguez is serving a four-game suspension (for unknown reasons) to open the season. Reserve running backs Ramon Jefferson and JuTahn McClain are out indefinitely with injuries sustained in last Saturday’s win.

That leaves redshirt freshman RB La’Vell Wright and returning starting quarterback Will Levis to make plays behind a mostly new offensive line that allowed four sacks and produced just 50 yards rushing.

The Gators win and cover the spread in The Swamp.

NCAAF Pick: Florida -6 (-108) at Heritage Sports

Duke Blue Devils vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Saturday, September 10, 2022 - 12:00 PM EDT at Ryan Field

Two football programs that have two of the highest average Academic Progress Rates in NCAA Division 1 over the last 10 years (Northwestern 994, Duke 990) meet in the unofficial Mensa Invitational to battle for the Einstein Cup.

Duke is one game into Bill Elko’s first season as head coach. Elko, who served as Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator for three years, is making the adjustment to coaching athletes whose grade point average almost matches the 40-yard dash times of the players he left behind at A&M.

Elko, in true textbook first-time head coach cliche fashion, has implemented the motto of G.R.I.N.D. into the Duke program: G = Grit, R = Relentless Effort, I = Integrity, N = Live in the Now, D = Dependable.

Quiz Bowl Overtime

While Duke blanked Temple, 30-0, in Elko’s maiden voyage Saturday – new Dookies starting QB Riley Leonard completed his first 15 passes and finished 24 of 30 for a career-high 328 yards – Northwestern has been on sabbatical since the coaching brilliance of Nebraska’s Scott Frost handed the Wildcats a 31-28 Week Zero win over the Huskers on Aug. 27 in Dublin, Ireland.

Northwestern starting QB Ryan Hilinski, a transfer portal refugee from South Carolina, threw for 314 yards and two TDs. He should crack 300 yards again vs. Duke as the Wildcats win and barely cover.

Both teams have petitioned the NCAA to implement a unique overtime period (if one is needed) in which both teams compete in a sudden-death College Quiz Bowl to decide the outcome.

NCAAF Pick: Northwestern -10 (-108) at Heritage Sports

Samford Bulldogs vs. Georgia Bulldogs

Saturday, September 10, 2022 – 04:00 PM EDT at Sanford Stadium

With its SEC opener a week away vs. South Carolina, Georgia coach Kirby Smart decides to rest his starters and instead use an all-star lineup of Georgia’s teams from the 1980s.

Seeing 60-year former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker ready for action, Sanford and Son head coach Fred Sanford has “the big one” and is airlifted to an Atlanta hospital for observation. Georgia to cover an astronomical spread with our last NCAAF pick.

NCAAF Pick: Georgia to Cover (Odds TBD)

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.