NCAA Football Predictions: Week 3 Opening Line Report and Picks
I absolutely hate Week 3 of the college football season. That's because the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all play nine conference games. So, in many cases, this week will be their last nonconference matchup and they schedule cupcakes to essentially get a scrimmage in before the rugged conference slate. For example, in the Big Ten, Illinois hosts Eastern Michigan, Minnesota hosts Georgia Southern, and Nebraska welcomes Northern Illinois (we won't mention UNLV at Northwestern because our editor is a Rebels alum).
In the Big 12, Oklahoma State is at Tulsa and Texas faces Rice. Some Pac-12 teams really are taking it up a notch with California facing North Texas, Oregon State vs. Cal Poly (as bad as the Beavers are, they may lose that), Utah vs. Idaho State, and Oregon taking on Montana.
To be fair, some schools from those conferences are playing quality opponents. You will see a couple of Pac-12 teams below. Arizona State is visiting No. 18 Michigan State (-12) Texas Tech is at Arizona (+3) and No. 5 Oklahoma visits UCLA (+21.5). In the Big 12, Iowa State hosts No. 19 Iowa (-1) West Virginia welcomes NC State (-7), Mississippi State hosts Kansas State (TBA), and TCU is at Purdue (-2). Among Big Ten quality games this week (if not already mentioned) are No. 21 Maryland at Temple (+7), and Pittsburgh at No. 13 Penn State (-17). Ohio State opens Big Ten play at Indiana. The Buckeyes, who are 14-point favorites, have lost just nine times in the series and not since 1988. However, Indiana has covered seven of the past eight, all as double-digit underdogs.
Here are a few Week 3 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
No. 20 Washington State at Houston (+7), Friday: Mike Leach can make a stud quarterback out of just about everyone it seems. Still shocked that some bigger Power 5 program hasn't hired him yet, although Tennessee nearly did in 2017. Leach is a bit of a weirdo but in a good way. In a minor surprise, Wazzu senior Anthony Gordon beat out Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud for the starting QB job even though Gubrud was one of the best FCS quarterbacks the previous few seasons and Gordon had thrown all of five passes entering the year. He has put up prolific numbers the first two weeks, albeit against New Mexico State and Northern Colorado. One of Leach's coaching proteges is Houston's Dana Holgorsen, the former West Virginia coach. This should be a wildly entertaining offensive shootout and might be the highest-scoring game of Week 3 (probably on a Friday all year) if it's not Texas Tech-Arizona late Saturday. Pick: WSU but will buy it down to -6.5 if it doesn't move on its own.
Stanford at No. 17 Central Florida (TBA): This is a rare chance for Central Florida to prove something against a very good Power 5 program and not at a neutral-site stadium. Of course, the Knights have gone unbeaten the past two regular seasons but were shunned by the College Football Playoff committee. They would upset Auburn in the Peach Bowl following the 2017 season and lose a competitive game to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl after last season. I'm not sure how UCF lured Stanford all the way across the country, but in theory if the Knights win out this season - they also visit Power 5 Pittsburgh next week - they might have a much more compelling case for the playoff since a good nonconference foe is finally playing them in the regular season. Unfortunately, Stanford is no longer ranked, which hurts UCF's strength of schedule. The last ranked nonconference team to visit Orlando was South Carolina in 2013. Not yet clear if Stanford QB KJ Costello will play. He missed Saturday's loss at USC with a head injury. That defeat knocked Stanford out of the Top 25. I expect UCF to be a short favorite here even if Costello plays. Pick: UCF.
No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse (+26.5): Could the Orange catch the Tigers a bit flat off their 24-10 win over No. 12 Texas A&M in Week 2? I doubt that because Syracuse has given Clemson fits recently, so Dabo Swinney won't be lacking motivation - plus, frankly, this might be the only game Clemson realistically will lose this regular season. Two years ago, Clemson was ranked No. 2 when it lost 27-24 in the Carrier Dome. That was the Tigers' last regular-season defeat. Last year, they should have lost at home trailing 23-13 in the fourth quarter and with Trevor Lawrence knocked out of the game injured and Kelly Bryant having already left the program. Former sixth-string QB (seriously, he was sixth at one point) Chase Brice played well in Lawrence's spot, and stud running back Travis Etienne rushed for two fourth-quarter scores (he had three overall), including the winner with 41 seconds left. This year's Orange fell out of the Top 25 after getting spanked 63-20 at Maryland on Saturday. This is Syracuse's home opener, and those are way too many points. Pick: Syracuse.
Doc's Sports is offering a great deal for new clients - you can get $60 worth of free college football picks with no obligation. No credit card is needed, and you will never have to deal with a salesman. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . Also, get three handicappers for the price of one when you sign up for a full-season football package! Click Here for details . Get free weekly free college football picks at Doc's Sports free football picks page.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of this Weeks College Football Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Football Picks