NCAA Football Predictions: Week 3 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/8/2014
If you are a fan of the Big Ten in football, all I can say to you is my condolences. There will not be a Big Ten team in the first College Football Playoff. That's just fact after what happened this past weekend. Michigan State's defense was shredded at Oregon, but at least the Spartans didn't embarrass themselves. They played pretty well for a half. Ohio State was punked at home by Virginia Tech. Michigan was destroyed at Notre Dame, getting shut out for the first time since 1984 (NCAA-record streak of 365 games). It was the first time MSU, UM and OSU all lost in the same day since Sept. 17, 1988. Oh, and Northwestern lost at home to Northern Illinois and Purdue was crushed at home by Central Michigan. The Boilers are pretty clearly the worst Power 5 team out there. Nebraska could have lost to McNeese State. Iowa should have to Ball State. Just so I'm not a totally glass half-empty guy, at least Penn State learned Monday that it suddenly is bowl eligible. The NCAA lifted its Jerry Sandusky sanctions.
Here's a look at a few opening lines that caught my eye for Week 3 (all games Saturday unless noted). I didn't have a great Week 2, but my top choice, East Carolina covering vs. South Carolina, did work out.
Houston at No. 25 BYU (-18.5), Thursday: Trap, trap trap! I will admit I got BYU wrong last week as I thought Texas would deliver a little payback for last season's blowout loss in Provo. Yeah, not so much as the Cougars won 41-7 in Austin. How about a little Taysom Hill for Heisman love? He had five touchdowns in the season-opening win over Connecticut and three more against the Horns. He's also completing 73 percent of his passes. Still, this smells like a letdown game for BYU. These two teams played one of the best games of 2013, with BYU winning 47-46 in a game that featured seven lead changes and saw the Cougars run an astounding 115 plays (tying FBS record). Houston had a cakewalk on Saturday vs. Grambling and no doubt was already game-planning for this one.
East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech (-11): The Pirates were good to me against South Carolina, and I love them at this number against the Hokies as well. Virginia Tech is 100 percent bound to suffer a letdown after that huge win in Columbus. That victory bumped Virginia Tech up to +6000 at Sportsbook.ag to win the national title. That won't happen, but the Hokies now look like the team to beat in the ACC Coastal. Their ACC opener is next week. Everything seems to set up against Tech. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see an outright ECU win here. The Pirates lost 15-10 at home to Virginia Tech last season.
No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina (+6): It's not a great schedule this week as this is the only matchup featuring ranked teams. If South Carolina loses this game, it can forget about playing for the SEC Championship because it would then be essentially three games behind the Dawgs in the East Division when you factor in the head-to-head tiebreaker. Georgia got to sit and rest this past weekend while USC was pushed by East Carolina. Dawgs running back Todd Gurley can really stamp himself a top Heisman contender if he goes hog wild against USC. Gurley has jumped into the co-favored role at +550 at Sportsbook.ag with Oregon's Marcus Mariota. I like the points here.
Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma (-20.5): The Sooners close out their nonconference schedule with what could be a tricky matchup. The Vols look vastly better than last year, easily handling a pretty good Utah State team in their opener and then what is usually a solid Arkansas State program this past weekend. However, UT will be without perhaps two injured starters here. Receiver Von Pearson (seven catches, 98 yards, TD) is for sure out, and tight end Ethan Wolf (eight catches, 46 yards) is questionable. Vols will cover.
Kent State at No. 22 Ohio State (-32): I think Urban Meyer is going to have his guys' attention in practice this week, don't you? I expect this one to be ugly.
Miami Ohio at Michigan (-30): I think Brady Hoke is going to have his guys' attention in practice this week, don't you? I expect this one to be ugly. Also, I don't think Hoke keeps his job after last week's debacle. Your 2015 Michigan head coach: Jim Harbaugh.
Kentucky at Florida (-17.5): This line seems comically low even though UF starting left tackle D.J. Humphries will miss the game with a high ankle sprain. Florida also lost senior tight end Jake McGee to a season-ending broken leg in Saturday's blowout of Eastern Michigan, ending UF's seven-game losing streak. People are sleeping on the Gators. They are better than you think. Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1987. That 27-game losing streak is the longest in-conference streak in SEC history.
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