No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 17 Mississippi Rebels (+9.5)
Defending national champion Alabama is already out of the gate with a 2-0 SU and ATS record. The Crimson Tide opened the year with a 52-6 shellacking of Southern California as a 13.5-point neutral-site favorite, then dumped Western Kentucky 38-10 laying 27 points on Saturday.
Mississippi (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) blew a big lead against Florida State in its opener, losing 45-34 as a 4-point neutral-site underdog. The Rebels then rolled past FCS foe Wofford 38-13 Saturday, but fell miles short as 43-point home faves.
The Rebels dealt ‘Bama its only loss last year, 43-37 catching 9 points on the road.
“Both teams had somewhat of a warmup game last week, but Alabama has looked much better collectively during the first two weeks,” Lester said. “It’s going to be tough for Ole Miss to shake off that early loss, and we felt confident opening up ‘Bama as a decent favorite.”
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners (+2)
The Buckeyes have shown no mercy through the first two weeks of the season, piling on Bowling Green 77-10 as a 27.5-point home chalk in Week 1, then drubbing Tulsa 48-3 laying 28 points at home Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Sooners were dealt an upset opening loss by rapidly rising Houston, falling 33-23 as 13-point favorites at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. Oklahoma took out its frustration on Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday with a 59-17 home victory, though the Sooners fell a few points short against the spread as 46-point favorites.
“If Oklahoma beats Houston in the opener, we probably make the Sooners a small favorite here,” Lester said. “But that might have been a mistake, as these squads look far apart, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Look for the spread to move up before down.”
No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Notre Dame (-7.5)
Michigan State comes in at 1-0, but that stems from an uninspired 28-13 Week 1 victory as a 37.5-point home favorite against Wofford, as the Spartans had a bye in Week 2. Notre Dame is more battle-tested, losing an overtime thriller at Texas 50-47 in its opener, then besting Nevada 39-10 Saturday as 27.5-point home chalk.
“With the Spartans coming off an idle week, it really feels like they should be less of a ‘dog here,” Lester said. “But we know the square support will be there on Notre Dame, so had to be wary of that.”
No. 2 Florida State Seminoles at No. 10 Louisville Cardinals (+2.5)
Florida State (2-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) has the lofty ranking, but is laying less than a field goal in its ACC opener. The Seminoles opened the year with a stirring comeback victory, topping Mississippi 45-34 as 4-point neutral-site favorites, then beat up on FCS foe Charleston Southern 52-8 Saturday in an unlined home game.
Louisville (2-0 SU and ATS) opened conference play in convincing fashion Saturday, whipping host Syracuse 62-28 laying 17 points, after a 70-14 beatdown of Charlotte as a 38.5-point home fave in Week 1.
“This is going to be a great gauge as to where these teams are early,” Lester said. “Florida State has seen a quality opponent, but this is going to be a gritty road test for freshman quarterback Deondre Francois. He was very jittery the first half or so against Ole Miss and then settled down. He’ll have to come out poised from the start to get a win here.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.