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Weekly Picks

Thor's Week 2 ATS Picks

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: September 11, 2020, 6:13 pm ET

Welcome to a fresh season of ATS picks. In the table below, you'll find the Adjusted Thor Line (ATL), calculated through a system I devised for determining line value. You'll see the ATL referenced with each game and throughout the column. Good luck to all in their wagering endeavors this fall! 

 

Day Away Home VI Line ATL Line value
9/12 Tulane Green Wave South Alabama Jaguars 10 Tul -3 USA +3
9/12 UL Monroe Warhawks Army Black Knights -22 Army -10.5 ULM +11.5
9/12 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Kansas Jayhawks -6.5 CC -4 CC +10.5
9/12 Charlotte 49ers Appalachian State Mountaineers -17 Appy -17 --
9/12 UTEP Miners Texas Longhorns -43 Tex -50 UT +7
9/12 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Iowa State Cyclones -11.5 ISU -10.5 Lou +1
9/12 Arkansas State Red Wolves Kansas State Wildcats -13 -14.1 KSU +1
9/12 Syracuse Orange North Carolina Tar Heels -23 UNC -21 SU +2
9/12 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Florida State Seminoles -12.5 FSU -10.5 GT +2
9/12 Duke Blue Devils Notre Dame Fighting Irish -20.5 ND -17.5 Duke +3
9/12 Clemson Tigers Wake Forest Demon Deacons 34 Clem -30 WF +4
9/12 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Louisville Cardinals -12 Lou -11.5 WKU +0.5
9/12 UTSA Roadrunners Texas State Bobcats -7 UTSA -1 UTSA +7

Coastal Carolina (+6.5) at Kansas

ATL: Coastal Carolina -4

 

Per Brad Powers, Coastal Carolina holds the largest spring practice advantage over its opening-game foe. While the Chanticleers had 15 practices this spring, the Jayhawks had exactly zero.

My ATL (Adjusted Thor Line) system actually shows Coastal Carolina as a 4-point favorite. Seeing over 10 points of line value in this system is historically rare, and generally involves a player injury later in the season.

In this case, the line just appears to be flat off due to discrepancies of the conference these teams come from, not from a qualitative analysis of the teams themselves.

With star RB Pooka Williams now a junior and boasting two strong senior receivers, Kansas may well be slightly improved in 2020 – they had a full offseason under OC Brett Dearmon, who took over the job with great fanfare mid-season last year and almost orchestrated an upset of Texas – but the Jayhawks are breaking in a new starting quarterback, three new offensive linemen, and will almost assuredly be abysmal on defense again.

Kansas’ recent history in OOC games versus non-marquee opponents doesn’t inspire confidence. Just last year, in this very same game in this very same venue, Coastal Carolina upset Kansas 12-7. The Jayhawks also failed to cover as a 7.5-point favorite over FCS Indiana State, winning 24-17. In 2018, KU lost to FCS Nicholls 26-23 in OT as 6.5-point favorites.

Stylistically, this isn’t the best matchup for the Jayhawks. Coastal Carolina is good at one thing and one thing only: Running the ball (averaged almost 200 rushing YPG last year). KU had a bottom-10 rush defense overall last year and were bottom-30 in SP+ stuff rate.

The Chanticleers return their starting RB and four starting offensive linemen. Consider them a live ‘dog ahead of Saturday’s game, which has a wonky 9p CST kickoff, Les Miles apparently having convinced FS1 to give him the “Pac-12 After Dark” game.


Louisiana (+11.5) at Iowa State

ATL: Iowa State -10.5

 

My system shows a minimal amount of line value on the Ragin’ Cajuns. More so than a value proposition, I see Louisiana as a tricky stylistic matchup in the opener for the Cyclones.

While Matt Campbell and crew have done wonders to increase the talent level in Ames over the past few years, the Cyclones continue to struggle along the offensive line. Last year, despite having a promising young back in Breece Hall, ISU was bottom-15 in the country in SP+ rushing explosion and bottom-50 in rushing success rate.

Even over the past three-year resurgence of the program – in which ISU went 7-6 or better each campaign – the Cyclones have struggled early. Last year, they began 2-2, needing 3OT to beat FCS Northern Iowa. The year before, 1-3, including a non-cover win against Akron. That regular season ended with a three-point win over Drake as 40.5-point favorites. In 2017, ISU started 2-2.

While the Cyclones always get up for cross-state rival Iowa (a game that won’t be played this year) and Big 12 conference games, they’re 1-3 ATS over the past two years against non-P5 regular season opponents.

If ISU isn’t ready on Saturday, put them on upset alert. Louisiana is one of the best teams in the G5. HC Billy Napier returned after a brief dalliance with Mississippi State, and he’s joined by star senior QB Levi Lewis and RBs Elijah Mitchell and RB Trey Ragas, the latter two of whom are going to play in the NFL.

The Cajuns were one of the nation’s most efficient offenses last year, putting up a school record 37.9 ppg and 494 ypg despite heavy injuries along the offensive line. They were also explosive, ranking top-10 in yards per play. This year, seven starters are back on that side of the ball. The stingy defense also returns seven starters.

ISU QB Brock Purdy must be slowed for ULL to stay within the number, and that feels feasible, because three-quarters of ULL’s Sun Belt-best secondary returns.


UNC (-23) vs. Syracuse

ATL: UNC -21

 

This looks like a juicy buy opportunity on the underdog on the surface – and my system even shows a little line value on the Orange – but there’s a reason pro bettors are all over UNC.

The Tar Heels are a young team on the rise coming off a great summer, with no reported COVID cases and oodles of returning talent.

The Orange, coming off a down season, are already battling a rash of injuries in addition to a string of opt-outs. It may be a long start to the season for HC Dino Babers. Babers’ players lost practice time when they refused to take the field for a brief spell in early-August, particularly valuable since Syracuse swapped defensive coordinators and are shifting schemes on that side of the ball.

With only four Syracuse defensive starters returning, this feels like a recipe for a blowout in Chapel Hill.


UTSA (+7) at Texas State

ATL: UTSA -1

 

My system actually believes UTSA should be the slight favorite.

Texas State is getting a lot of love for playing SMU tough in the opener. But over the past three years, they’ve beaten exactly one FBS team by double-digits.

These teams look qualitatively similar in a vacuum, though Texas State has the benefit of having already played while UTSA had a small COVID outbreak recently and is breaking in a new staff and transitioning to new schemes. If the Roadrunners can weather those storms, they’ll have a shot to win outright.


Stay Away

UL-Monroe (+22.5) at Army

 

Army just ran over Middle Tennessee 42-0, and lots of people saw them do it, leading to an inflated line – my system says this game should be Army -10.5. But it’s exceedingly hard to back them after they lost 11 days of practice in late-August following a COVID outbreak. On top of that, Army is one of the nation’s best rushing offenses, while ULM was a bottom-three run defense last year.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!