NCAA Football Predictions: Week 3 Opening Line Report and Picks
Good news those of you living in Florida: It looks as if Hurricane Florence will miss your state. Bad news: It could be a long college football season in the Sunshine State for the Big 3.
In Week 1, Miami, the highest ranked of the three entering the year, was largely dominated in its season-opening loss to LSU. Sure, the Hurricanes bounced back with a 77-0 thrashing of Savannah State this past Saturday, but my college intramural team likely could beat Savannah State.
Florida State was thoroughly dominated in its Week 1 home loss to Virginia Tech, already putting the Noles in an ACC hole (at least UM's loss was nonconference). Frankly, FSU might have looked worse this past Saturday in escaping at home against Samford, winning 36-26. The Noles were down 26-21 with under five minutes to go. Samford put up 525 yards of offense. That's just not acceptable. OK, maybe it was a short week for Coach Willie Taggart's bunch and a letdown game off the Virginia Tech loss, but come on.
However, the worst Florida school on Saturday was the one located in Gainesville as the Gators were beaten 27-16 at home by Kentucky, which ended a 31-game losing streak in the series. That streak was the fourth-longest in NCAA history in an uninterrupted series, behind Notre Dame over Navy (43 games, 1964-2006), Nebraska over Kansas (36, 1969-2004) and Oklahoma over Kansas State (32, 1937-68). UK hadn't won in Gainesville since 1979. For whatever reason, UF hasn't been able to find a capable quarterback since Tim Tebow graduated. Sophomore Feliepe Franks wasn't particularly good vs. Kentucky, completing just 17 of 38.
More bad news for first-year coach Dan Mullen: Starting cornerback Marco Wilson was lost to a season-ending injury and running back Adarius Lemons announced via social media that he intends to transfer - although he wasn't being used much.
No. 21 Miami is -10.5 this week at dangerous Toledo, FSU is -2.5 at Syracuse and Florida is -19.5 against visiting Colorado State. That CSU game is part of payment for that school letting Coach Jim McElwain leave for the UF job in December 2014. The game is part of the $7 million buyout Florida agreed to pay CSU, which gets $2 million for this one. McElwain is long gone from UF. Colorado State hasn't played Florida previously or any game in the Sunshine State since visiting Miami on Nov. 23, 1985.
Here are a few Week 3 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
No. 19 Central Florida at North Carolina (+14): Could the Golden Knights run the table again? They have looked the part through two games - and might be the state's best program again in 2018 -- under new head coach Josh Heupel by trouncing UConn and South Carolina State to extend their national-best winning streak to 15 games. Heisman Trophy candidate McKenzie Milton hasn't missed former coach Scott Frost yet. This is UCF's only road game against a Power 5 foe this year, so it needs to be impressive to impress the College Football Playoff committee - not that North Carolina is any good as was proven by a Week 1 loss at Cal and Week 2 blowout loss at East Carolina. Keep in mind that UNC is still dealing with the fallout of those 13 players suspended between 1-4 games due to secondary NCAA violations regarding the sale of team-issued shoes. They are all spread out. But one of the team's best defenders, end Malik Carney, is out here. The pick: UCF (find 13.5).
No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn (-10): This is the marquee matchup of the day, with the winner the clear top challenger to Alabama for the SEC West title. If you are wondering, the Tide visit Baton Rouge on the first Saturday of November and host Auburn in the season-ending Iron Bowl. LSU already has suffered a big loss to its terrific defense with sophomore linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson out for the season. He was a member of the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2017 after totaling 27 tackles and two sacks in 12 games. He had five tackles and sack in the season opener vs. Miami. Starting right tackle Adrian Magee was also hurt in that one and missed last week. He's in question for this one. LSU was unranked when it stunned No. 10 Auburn last year, rallying from down 23-14 in the fourth quarter. Auburn wouldn't lose again until the SEC title game. The pick: LSU (buy up or shop for 10.5).
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 TCU (-13.5): This one's from AT&T Stadium outside Dallas; the schools were supposed to play a home-and-home, but TCU bailed from that arrangement. OSU likely feels plenty comfortable at Jerry World as it won its last national title there against Oregon and beat USC there in last season's Cotton Bowl. Most Big Ten teams are wrapping up their nonconference schedules this week, but OSU trounced Rutgers last week and thus plays one more out-of-conference next Saturday. And that will be the return of Urban Meyer as a game-day coach. This is the last one he'll be suspended for, but he has been able to coach at practice since after Week 1. A win like this could put TCU in the early College Football Playoff picture. The Frogs do get to host Big 12 favorite Oklahoma this year. The pick: OSU.
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