All lines courtesy of SI Sportsbook. Last week: Forde 4–3, Johnson 3–4. Season: Forde 12-10-1, Johnson 10-12-1.
USC (-21.5) at Colorado
Johnson: Colorado. Oregon exposed CU last weekend and left no doubt. I don’t think the Trojans have the ability to flatten the Buffs with their defense like Oregon was able to. USC struggles to tackle, CU offensive coordinator Sean Lewis has already found ways to get his players in space and exploit defensive deficiencies, especially with running back Dylan Edwards. There's also a severe backdoor cover element here for the second week in a row I want to respect.
Forde: Colorado. This week’s Home ’Dog Festival starts in Boulder. The Oregon game was a perfect storm of bad for the Buffaloes. From the injury to two-way star Travis Hunter to going on the road against a very good opponent after playing a double-OT rivalry game that ended after midnight the week before, Colorado was vulnerable, and the Ducks were supremely pumped to put the Buffs in their place. This week, the scales tip a little closer to even. Back at home, at altitude and playing against a defense that gives up yards and points, Colorado should at least be in this game. I don't think the Buffs win, but I do think they cover in a high-scoring affair. (Also, for those who dismissed the Buffs’ 3–0 start as the product of bad competition, all three defeated opponents are undefeated since then—TCU is 3–0, Nebraska is 2–0, Colorado State is 1–0.)
Michigan (-17) at Nebraska
Johnson: Michigan. It’s almost like Michigan has a template for these games. They get up, they stay up and they choke the life out of the game. They’ve basically played the same game four weeks in a row so far this season. Make that five.
Forde: Nebraska. The Wolverines haven’t been on the road yet, and they’re taking on the No. 1 rushing defense in the Big Ten. For a team built on establishing the run, it won’t be easy. Nebraska’s quarterback change from error-prone Jeff Sims to Heinrich Haarberg should at least give them the best way to stay in the game—limiting turnovers. Two years ago in Lincoln, Michigan barely escaped with a victory that springboarded it toward the playoff. Michigan will win again this time, but it might be another full-game battle.
Georgia (-14) at Auburn
Johnson: Georgia. I expect Auburn to have a little razzle-dazzle to open this game, because it’ll need it to move the ball on Georgia. But in the end, the cream rises to the top. There’s just no way Auburn’s quarterback situation can keep up over the course of the game, even if things start well.
Forde: Georgia. The Bulldogs have been slow starters, appearing a bit bored with the level of competition they’ve faced thus far and knowing there is bigger game to hunt later in the year. This opponent should get their attention—not because the Tigers are good, but because they’re a rival and this is a road game in one of the most deafening stadiums in the land. So I don’t expect Complacent Georgia when this one kicks off. I’ll be a bit surprised if Auburn scores more than 10 points in this game.
LSU (-2.5) at Ole Miss
Johnson: LSU. The Tigers are better than the unit you saw in Week 1 against Florida State; in fact they’re much better. Ole Miss has no problems with bad teams, but when the talent cranks up, they don’t follow suit … and they won’t here.
Forde: LSU. Lane Kiffin is an unserious coach, and I’m not picking him against a serious counterpart. Jaxson Dart may be able to find some holes in the Tigers’ secondary, but not as many as Jayden Daniels will find in the Rebels’. And don't look now, but Harold Perkins is cranking up his Minister of Mayhem Act again (three tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles the past two games).
Alabama (-14.5) at Mississippi State
Johnson: Alabama. Alabama’s wounded and dynasty dying blah blah blah. Save it for a week. This Bulldogs team is undergoing a severe makeover. Alabama’s talent is too great, especially on defense, for me to be concerned about a severely retooling unit without a clear identity to press the Tide’s defense.
Forde: Alabama. The Crimson Tide has covered five straight against the Bulldogs. Let’s make it six. Mississippi State’s defense, ranked 13th out of 14 in the SEC, could help Alabama continue to get well offensively. Still a long way to go to win the West, but sweeping (and covering) against the Mississippi schools is a solid start.