The Hugh Freeze Era got off to a victorious start when the Auburn Tigers marched to an easy win in Week 1.
Week 2 offers a more difficult test, though, as his squad must cross multiple time zones to face the California Golden Bears on Saturday night. Still, college football odds have the Tigers as touchdown favorites.
The Bears also had a triumphant return to the field a week ago and seem to be entering this home game brimming with confidence.
This is a close matchup and a tight handicap considering both teams put forth similar results in Week 1 and are picked to finish in the bottom half of their respective conferences. With that being the case, is there value on the underdog?
I break down the matchup and give you my best college football betting picks for California vs. Auburn below.
Auburn vs California best odds
Auburn vs California picks and predictions
Hugh Freeze did a good job rebuilding an underwhelming Auburn roster by signing a Top-5 transfer class this offseason.
His Auburn Tigers got the ball rolling with an easy 59-14 victory over UMass, but I’m not sure there's much to take away from that game as the Minutemen were simply outmatched. The Tigers struggled defending the rush early but tightened that up after the first drive of the game.
Lead running back Jarquez Hunter missed the game and while it was announced he would travel with the team for this upcoming game, I didn’t find that update to be indicative of his status against the California Golden Bears — college teams can travel with as many players as they’d like, and I’d expect the wording to be different if Hunter was for sure suiting up and playing.
There were more takeaways from Cal’s opening 58-21 victory over North Texas. The offense looked great under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, piling up 669 total yards of offense in his spread offense. The rushing attack was especially potent, taking 56 carries for 347 yards and six scores.
Starting quarterback Sam Jackson V was injured and his status is unknown for this contest. Backup Ben Finley completed 24 of 34 attempts a week ago for 289 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He’d fill in if Jackson were to miss this clash with the Tigers.
Although both teams blew out their respective opponents in Week 1, I was more impressed with the Golden Bears. Their starting quarterback went down early and they still demolished a team that was projected to go to a bowl game.
Auburn, meanwhile, allowed lowly UMass to rack up 140 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry. The defensive front seven was a concern heading into the season after ranking 113th in EPA per rush a year ago, and it remains a question mark heading into a matchup with a terrific running back in Jaydn Ott.
The sophomore exploded for 178 rushing yards and two scores in Week 1 after breaking out last year with 1,242 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns as a true freshman.
Cal looking more impressive in Week 1 is only one factor. Another is that Auburn may be without its best offensive player in Jarquez Hunter. It’s easy to say running backs don’t matter, but Hunter is a special talent and is a huge part of this offense considering the passing attack is full of question marks.
The Tigers completed just 56% of their passes for 203 yards and a single touchdown against the Minutemen. Post-spring addition Payton Thorne isn’t a difference-maker at quarterback while the receiving room is well below SEC standards.
Another factor is that the Tigers will be making a cross-country trip to play in a game that kicks off at 9:30 p.m. local. They’ve lost six straight road games and are playing against a Cal team that typically plays better at home, rattling off a 7-2 ATS record in its last nine Saturday games at California Memorial Stadium.
I'll take the points with the home team. I believe the new-look offense under Spavital is being underrated in the market and there are a lot of signs pointing toward the home team and the points.
My best bet: California +7 (-115 at Unibet)
Auburn vs California same-game parlay
Here’s a two-legger SGP that’s anchored by my best bet on Cal against the spread. The play I’ll add to that is the Bears to go Over their team total of 23.5.
I have some serious concerns about Auburn’s rush defense after it surrendered 6.8 yards per carry (sack-adjusted) to a bad UMass team. Ott is one of the best running backs in the country and looks poised for a monster season with former North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Bloesch taking over as run game coordinator and offensive line coach.
Some people may have forgotten about Spavital’s prowess as an offensive coordinator considering his most recent run as Texas State’s head coach didn’t go very well.
I haven’t forgotten — he found great success at three different stops (Texas A&M, Cal, West Virginia) from 2014 to 2018 and was brought in by Justin Wilcox to bring some much-needed fresh air to this offensive attack.
Not intended for use in MA.
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Auburn vs California spread and Over/Under analysis
Auburn is a trendy road favorite, moving from -5.5 at open to -6.5 at current. The line is headed in the Tigers’ direction and -7 is also available. The total opened at 56.5 but has since moved down to 54.5 at most locations.
Cal has been headed in the wrong direction defensively for years despite playing for a coach in Wilcox who many view positively for his work on that side of the ball.
Last year was a trainwreck, though, as the Bears finished 128th in success rate. The defensive front was a weakness, ranking 115th in line yards and 124th in front seven HAVOC. That’s not great news when facing an SEC team.
Hugh Freeze is a smart offensive coach who seems to find ways to generate points regardless of his personnel. I see no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t be able to put up some points against an overrated Cal defense.
Auburn has a new defensive coordinator in Ron Roberts, a former Dave Aranda mentor who was essentially run out of town after Baylor’s disappointing 2022 campaign. Considering Baylor was upset by Texas State in its 2023 opener, it’s fair to question if Roberts wasn’t the problem after all.
The Tigers run a 3-4 and are led by a strong secondary featuring two great corners in Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James. I’m not sure this group is 100% healthy, however, as Pritchett missed the opener with an ankle injury. Given that the defensive front is a potential weakness, I think Cal can build on its early-season success in Spavital’s scheme.
I view this as a close game where both teams find some offensive success while not completely breaking out. It’s competitive on both sides of the ball and should be back and forth for much of the game.
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Auburn vs California betting trend to know
Auburn is 0-6 in its last six road games. Find more college football betting trends for Auburn vs California.
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Auburn vs California game info
|California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
|Saturday, September 9, 2023
|10:30 p.m. ET
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