College Football

Week Three College Football Picks

Rare treat this weekend: each of the AP top three is on the road against a ranked opponent . . . and I think one of them’s gonna topple. As usual, lines from vegasinsider.com.

#6 Houston (-7.5) at Cincinnati

Houston sat its starting quarterback and running back during a 42-0 rout of Lamar and Cincinnati had a light scrimmage against Purdue, so both teams should be plenty fresh. Houston will need to be alert for this one: a road trip combined with a short week is never fun, and Cincy is feisty. If the Bearcats want to topple the Group of Five darling, they’ll need big plays. They’ve not been terribly efficient and the Cougs’ front can stuff their run. I expect Hayden Moore will get his shots downfield and make things interesting, but they spend a few too many drives going three-and-out in a hurry and Houston outlasts them. Houston 42, Cincinnati 31

#2 Florida State (-2) at #10 Louisville

Lamar Jackson can score a little, as evidenced by his thirteen touchdowns through two games, but does he have a supporting cast? The Cards dialed up 845 yards against Syracuse, but how it could have been a heck of a lot more had his receivers not dropped about a dozen passes. Meanwhile, a(n admittedly feisty) Syracuse offense diced up the Cards with big plays in the first half before wearing out in the second. Florida State isn’t going to wear out, and I didn’t see much from Louisville that suggests it can shut down Dalvin Cook or hassle Deondre Francois. The home crowd will be revved up but it doesn’t take the ‘Noles long to silence them, and Francois replaces Jackson as the media darling. Florida State 45, Louisville 28

#25 Miami (-3.5) at Appalachian State

New head coach Mark Richt (still feels like an episode of Wife Swap to me) has his Hurricanes at Category Five through two creampuff games, Running the Damn Ball with Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton and letting Brad Kaaya take the easy passes. Meanwhile, we all saw what Appalachian State nearly did to Tennessee in week one, getting physical and beating the Vols in the trenches over and over in a failed upset bid. Now they get to host the Hurricanes. The Mountaineers again muck up the trenches but Miami cracks off two or three big (and decisive) plays. Miami 27, Appalachian State 17

#22 Oregon at Nebraska (-3)

Man, I want to pick it. I really do. Nebraska deserves this one. Former Oregon State coach Mike Riley deserves this one. The Huskers can run on a porous Duck front, but I don’t trust Nebraska not to find fresh and innovative ways to lose games. Conversely the Ducks’ offensive depth chart still features such names as Royce Freeman, Devon Allen, Darren Carrington II, and Pharaoh Brown. Nebraska’s secondary is talented but green, and is unable to prevent Oregon from turning the game into a track meet. Oregon 49, Nebraska 38

#1 Alabama (-10.5) at #19 Ole Miss

Is Nick Saban feeling some pressure this week? He seemed even more grumpy than usual Saturday as Alabama beat the defending Conference USA champion by only four touchdowns, and Hugh Freeze and the Rebels own a two-game winning streak against the Tide. Last year quarterback confusion got the Tide off to a slow start in Tuscaloosa while Chad Kelly and co. built a lead that proved insurmountable. The Tide doesn’t have that problem this year, though this will be Jalen Hurts’ first road start. I expect a defensive battle, as the Land Sharks can clamp on Bama’s run game (which has been uncharacteristically slow). Can they also shut down Hurts’ arm? Why not? Chad Kelly makes some clutch throws and the hex continues. Ole Miss 24, Alabama 17

#12 Michigan State at #18 Notre Dame (-7.5)

Sparty got off to its usual lackadaisical start in a 28-13 win over Furman, but I expect Michigan State to be much more awake for its visit to South Bend. The Irish offense, quarterback battle seemingly solved, will be ready to do their part. The onus, then, falls squarely on the Spartan offense to score enough points. New quarterback Tyler O’Connor has toppled mighty foes on the road before (see: 2015 Ohio State) and shouldn’t be intimidated, but he’ll need help from a run game that is still trying to find its feet after a year of mediocrity. I’m not sure he’ll get it. Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 24

#3 Ohio State (-2) at #14 Oklahoma

Despite the opening week loss to Houston, all could be forgiven in Sooner Country by upsetting an incredibly talented but young Buckeyes team making its first road trip. Houston beat Oklahoma by stuffing the run and getting in Baker Mayfield’s face, who was uncharacteristically shaky in his handling of the pressure. He’ll be better this time, but Ohio State can force him into passing situations. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett and his young complement of wideouts and running backs have yet to be tested, but at least racked up ridiculous numbers in the paycheck games. Whichever team can control the ball (and keep the opposing explosive offense off the field) will win, and despite all evidence telling me that team will be the Sooners, I feel like this one is Ohio State’s to lose. Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 31

USC at #7 Stanford (-9)

Stanford’s two-touchdown margin over Kansas State belied a slugfest of a football game. While Ryan Burns was 14-of-18 passing, the Trees were bailed out by Christian McCaffrey’s signature explosive plays. USC will pose a tougher test yet, but Alabama gave Stanford plenty of tape on how to do what they do best: physically manhandle opponents. Also, I trust David Shaw and absolutely do not trust Clay Helton. Stanford 35, USC 24

And don’t sleep on this one: #17 Texas A&M at Auburn (-3.5)

I’m the biggest Gus Malzahn fan you’ll find, but his offense simply has not been up to the task since his Nick Marshall hasn’t been around. That the Tigers are favored against this defense, even at home, is baffling. Texas A&M 28, Auburn 13

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