Will Nick Saban and AJ McCarron be smiling after Alabama's big game against Texas A&M?
The much-hyped rematch between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M seems to be the only Week 3 game that anyone wants to talk about. However, this week’s slate of games offers up a few other intriguing matchups—such as UCLA vs. Nebraska, Ole Miss vs. Texas, Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina and Wisconsin vs. Arizona State—that feature plenty of interesting storylines.
Though the eyes of the nation may be focused on College Station, there will be plenty of other noteworthy action taking place around the country as well.
Here’s a look at predictions and breakdowns for every Saturday game.
Note: All lines courtesy of Covers.com. Games featuring FCS teams are not included, since many sports books do not offer lines on those games.
Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats
Spread: Louisville (-14)
Picks: Kentucky (+14), Over
Prediction: Louisville 38, Kentucky 28
Louisville has coasted to two easy wins at home against inferior opponents, but this week, the Cardinals will get a tougher test on the road against their in-state rival.
Ultimately, star QB Teddy Bridgewater should be able to make the plays necessary down the stretch to victory. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats give Louisville a tougher test than many expect.
Akron Zips at Michigan Wolverines
Spread: Michigan (-37)
Picks: Michigan (-37), Under
Prediction: Michigan 48, Akron 7
Akron is one of the weakest teams in the country. However, it’s hard to expect that Michigan will be giving 100 percent effort against the Zips, especially following such a big victory over Notre Dame last week.
Luckily, it won’t take much effort for Devin Gardner and the Wolverines offense to put up points against an Akron team that very nearly lost to FCS opponent James Madison last week.
Bowling Green Falcons at Indiana Hoosiers
Spread: Indiana (-2.5)
Picks: Indiana (-2.5), Under
Prediction: Indiana 34, Bowling Green 23
Bowling Green has one of the most underrated defenses in the nation.
However, the Falcons will likely have a tough time containing Indiana’s talented group of offensive skill-position players, which is headlined by receivers Kofi Hughes and Shane Wynn and TE Ted Bolser. Those three have combined to score nine touchdowns in the team’s first two games.
Virginia Tech Hokies at East Carolina Pirates
Spread: Virginia Tech (-8.5)
Picks: East Carolina (+8.5), Under
Prediction: East Carolina 24, Virginia Tech 20
East Carolina shocked Virginia Tech 27-22 back on opening weekend of the 2008 season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates pull off another big upset over the Hokies again.
With nine returning starters on both sides of the ball—including the powerful passing combo of QB Shane Carden and WR Justin Hardy—East Carolina is an experienced squad that has the talent it takes to upset the Hokies at home.
UCLA Bruins at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spread: Nebraska (-3.5)
Picks: UCLA (+3.5), Over
Prediction: UCLA 48, Nebraska 31
UCLA totaled 653 yards and 26 first downs in last year’s 36-30 win over Nebraska. I wouldn’t be shocked if they had an even better output in the rematch, considering how porous the Cornhuskers defense looks this year.
Bruins QB Brett Hundley has likely spent the last two weeks licking his chops, while watching tapes of a Nebraska defense, which ranks 100th nationally with an average of 6.4 yards per play allowed.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Oklahoma Sooners
Spread: Oklahoma (-24)
Picks: Tulsa (+24), Under
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Tulsa 16
I watched the entire West Virginia-Oklahoma game last week. I came away very underwhelmed and unimpressed with the Sooners offense.
With backup quarterback Blake Bell running the offense, I expect the Sooners to rely heavily on the running game and ride the Belldozer, Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. If they employ that strategy, I just don’t see them scoring enough to cover the spread.
Stanford Cardinal at Army Black Knights
Spread: Stanford (-30)
Picks: Stanford (-30), Over
Prediction: Stanford 45, Army 10
I’m always wary of betting on teams that have to fly across country and play an early game on an opposite coast. Still, even if the Stanford players are a bit jet-lagged for this game, it has all the makings of a lopsided blowout.
The Black Knights, who rely heavily on running the ball, averaging 53 rushing attempts per game, simply won’t be able to establish any type of ground game against Stanford’s stacked defensive front-seven, led by intimidating inside linebacker Shayne Skov.
Georgia State Panthers at West Virginia Mountaineers
Spread: West Virginia (-40)
Picks: West Virginia (-40), Over
Prediction: West Virginia 52, Georgia State 10
Luckily for West Virginia redshirt freshman QB Ford Childress, the first start of his collegiate career should be an easy one.
He’ll get to face a Georgia State squad that is undoubtedly the worst team on the FBS level. In their first two games of the season, the Panthers allowed an average of 36 points in their two losses to FCS opponents, Chattanooga and Samford.
Asking a team with a new starting quarterback to cover a 40-point spread is certainly no easy task, but considering how terrible Georgia State is, Childress should be able to get the job done.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Arkansas Razorbacks
Spread: Arkansas (-23)
Picks: Arkansas (-23), Over
Prediction: Arkansas 48, Southern Miss 17
Both of these teams are coming off rather forgettable Week 2 games. Arkansnas showed some glaring vulnerabilities in a lackluster 31-21 victory over Samford, while Southern Miss was obliterated 56-13 at Nebraska.
Bret Bielema should have his team more focused and motivated for this game, and the Razorbacks should have a big bounce-back performance at home.
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Spread: Wake Forest (-2.5)
Picks: Louisiana-Monroe (+2.5), Over
Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 37, Wake Forest 24
Last year, Louisiana-Monroe looked solid against the three BCS opponents they played—they beat Arkansas and lost to Auburn and Baylor by just a combined eight points.
With 17 returning starters from last season, including dangerous dual-threat QB Kolton Browning, this is a Warhawks team that knows what it takes to beat a BCS foe. Browning should be able to lead them to a big win over Wake Forest.
New Mexico Lobos at Pittsburgh Panthers
Spread: Pittsburgh (-22)
Picks: New Mexico (+22), Over
Prediction: Pittsburgh 35, New Mexico 17
At this point in the season, it’s tough to really evaluate what Pittsburgh has to offer, considering the only performance we’ve seen from the Panthers so far is a terrible showing in a 41-13 blowout loss to Florida State back in Week 1.
It’s tough to trust Pitt to cover a 22-point spread against a New Mexico team that will be looking to pound the ball with RB Kasey Carrier and eat up the clock.
Eastern Michigan Eagles at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Spread: Rutgers (-28)
Picks: Eastern Michigan (+28), Under
Prediction: Rutgers 34, Eastern Michigan 13
Eastern Michigan was thoroughly dominated in a 45-7 loss to Penn State last week. However, I expect the Eagles to be a little bit more effective this week against a Rutgers team that will likely be looking ahead to a much more prominent matchup with Arkansas next Saturday.
Though it’s highly doubtful that Eastern Michigan will be able to go into Piscataway and pull off an upset like their MAC counterpart, Kent State, did last year, the Eagles should at least do enough to cover the four-touchdown spread against a disinterested Rutgers squad.
Boston College Eagles at USC Trojans
Spread: USC (-13.5)
Picks: Boston College (+13.5), Under
Prediction: USC 23, Boston College 13
We know the majority of the USC fan base has lost faith in Lane Kiffin.
The big question, though, is have the Trojans players lost hope in their head coach?
If they have, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see another flat offensive performance from the Trojans against a solid Boston College defense, which is led by the standout senior linebacker duo of Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto.
Nevada Wolf Pack at Florida State Seminoles
Spread: Florida State (-35.5)
Picks: Florida State (-35.5), Over
Prediction: Florida State 66, Nevada 17
Nevada’s defense looked dreadful in a 58-20 loss to UCLA back in Week 1, giving up 647 total yards of offense to the Bruins. Unfortunately, the Wolf Pack will likely look even worse against Florida State’s powerful offensive attack, led by budding star freshman sensation QB Jameis Winston.
Winston and his dangerous running back duo of James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman should run wild on Nevada’s outmatched defense.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Duke Blue Devils
Spread: Georgia Tech (-8.5)
Picks: Georgia Tech (-8.5), Under
Prediction: Georgia Tech 35, Duke 17
Georgia Tech has won nine straight games against Duke, and that streak should continue with another this year. The Yellow Jackets’ triple-option rushing attack—led by sophomore QB Vad lee and the powerful duo of David Sims and Zach Laskey—will simply be too much for Duke’s defense to handle.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Texas A&M Aggies
Spread: Alabama (-7.5)
Picks: Alabama (-7.5), Over
Prediction: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 28
Johnny Manziel is the player that everyone’s been talking about all week. However, the two players who will actually make the biggest impact in this mega-matchup are Alabama QB AJ McCarron and RB TJ Yeldon.
McCarron, Yeldon and the rest of the Tide offense should do plenty of damage to a Texas A&M defense that allowed an average of 6.1 yards per play and 29 points in the first two games of the season.
Alabama has too many playmakers on both sides of the ball to lose this game, plus Nick Saban’s squad has the all-important revenge factor working in its favor.
Tennessee Volunteers at Oregon Ducks
Spread: Oregon (-27.5)
Picks: Tennessee (+27.5), Under
Prediction: Oregon 38, Tennessee 23
Oregon’s offense has looked unstoppable so far this season, averaging 62 points and 664 yards in the first two games of the year. However, the Ducks have yet to face a defense with as much talent and athleticism as Tennessee’s.
The Volunteers' monstrous 350-pound powerhouse nose tackle Daniel McCullers can clog up running lanes, while highly instinctive linebacker A.J. Johnson can hunt down ball-carriers from sideline to sideline. They also have one of the strongest offensive lines in the nation.
I know the Ducks offense is capable of lighting up a scoreboard, especially at Autzen Stadium, but 27 points just seems like too much to be giving up to a talented and capable SEC squad.
Ball State Cardinals at North Texas Mean Green
Spread: Ball State (-3)
Picks: North Texas (-3), Over
Prediction: North Texas 34, Ball State 28
This game features a battle of two underrated senior signal-callers: Ball State’s Keith Wenning and North Texas’ Derek Thompson.
The outcome will likely be determined by which quarterback can make the most big plays through the air. I expect Thompson to be the one who wins the battle, since he should be able to take advantage of a Cardinals secondary that ranked 95th nationally in pass defense last year.
Northern Illinois Huskies at Idaho Vandals
Spread: Northern Illinois (-28.5)
Picks: Northern Illinois (-28.5), Under
Prediction: Northern Illinois 45, Idaho 13
Northern Illinois isn’t the same caliber of team as the squad that won 12 games and a MAC championship last year.
The Huskies still have plenty of talent, including dynamic dual-threat QB Jordan Lynch. They should be able to pick up an easy win over an Idaho team that was outscored by an average 41-8 in its first two games.
Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones
Spread: Iowa (-2.5)
Picks: Iowa (-2.5), Under
Prediction: Iowa 27, Iowa State 13
Iowa State has won the last two meetings between these two teams, but it appears that this year’s matchup favors the Hawkeyes. Nonetheless, Iowa should be able to ride RB Mark Weisman, who averaged 140 yards on the ground in his first two games, to a much-needed win over their in-state rivals.
UCF Knights at Penn State Nittany Lions
Spread: Penn State (-4.5)
Picks: UCF (+4.5), Under
Prediction: UCF 27, Penn State 21
Penn State’s highly touted freshman QB Christian Hackenberg has looked as good as advertised so far during his debut campaign, but he has yet to go toe-to-toe with a quarterback as good as Central Florida’s Blake Bortles.
I expect Bortles to outplay Hackenberg and lead the Knights to a statement win on the road.
Washington Huskies Vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Spread: Washington (-9.5)
Picks: Illinois (+9.5), Over
Prediction: Washington 38, Illinois 34
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase looks like he’s put his dismal 2012 season in the rear-view mirror, as he’s shown dramatic improvement in the team’s first two games. Now, the senior signal-caller will have the chance to really prove himself against the No. 23-ranked Huskies in a spotlight game at Soldier Field.
Washington’s defense looked outstanding in a dominant 38-6 victory over Boise State in Week 1. Still, it’s tough to trust a team that’s gone just 8-18 away from the confines of Husky Stadium during Steve Sarkisian’s tenure.
This is shaping up to be a back-and-forth affair. It could go right down to the wire.
UMass Minutemen at Kansas State Wildcats
Spread: Kansas State (-39)
Picks: Kansas State (-39), Over
Prediction: Kansas State 56, UMass 10
The last time these two teams played, Kansas State managed to barely beat the Minutemen 21-17 at home.
This game, however, won’t be nearly that close. The Wildcats’ explosive receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson should have fun toying with a UMass secondary that is allowing over 10 yards per pass attempt.
Memphis Tigers at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Spread: Middle Tennessee (-7.5)
Picks: Middle Tennessee (-7.5), Under
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 30, Memphis 21
These two Tennessee schools have squared off in each of the past four seasons. The Blue Raiders won three of those matchups and outscored the Tigers by an average score of 33-24.
Middle Tennessee State should once again prevail in this year’s matchup due in large part to a balanced offensive attack that is averaging 438 total yards of offense per game.
Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks
Spread: South Carolina (-14)
Picks: Vanderbilt (+14), Under
Prediction: South Carolina 23, Vanderbilt 17
In recent years, the games between these two teams have been pretty low-scoring. In fact, the average score in the last five matchups has been just 19-11 in favor of the Gamecocks.
I expect this game to continue the trend of low-scoring affairs.
You have to wonder if the Gamecocks are still thinking about last week’s critical division loss to Georgia, instead of focusing their full attention on the Commodores. If they are, Vanderbilt could definitely make things interesting.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Cal Golden Bears
Spread: Ohio State (-15.5)
Picks: Cal (+14.5), Under
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Cal 27
This is a bit of a tricky situation for Ohio State. After feasting on two cupcake opponents to start the season, the Buckeyes now have to go on the road to face a Cal team that played them pretty tough in Columbus last year.
What’s most concerning is the health of QB Braxton Miller, who left last week’s game with a knee injury. If Miller isn’t able to play, that’s a lot of pressure to put on Kenny Guiton in a tough road environment.
The Buckeyes better be careful in Berkeley, because Cal’s got some dangerous game-breakers in RB Brendan Bigelow and receivers Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs.
Florida Atlantic Owls at South Florida Bulls
Spread: South Florida (-12.5)
Picks: Florida Atlantic (+12.5), Under
Prediction: South Florida 23, Florida Atlantic 13
South Florida’s offense has been nonexistent so far this season. The Bulls are currently tied for 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 119th in total offense, averaging just 13 points and 248 yards per game.
This week, they happen to be playing one of the few teams in the country, Florida Atlantic, that actually has a worse offense than them. This game is shaping up to be an ugly, low-scoring defensive “battle.”
Kent State Golden Flashes at LSU Tigers
Spread: LSU (-36)
Picks: LSU (-36), Over
Prediction: LSU 58, Kent State 17
LSU managed to cover a 34.5-point spread against UAB last week. The Tigers have another huge spread to cover this week. This is a Kent State team, however, that gave up 41 points at home in a loss to Bowling Green last week, so the potential for this game to be a huge blowout is certainly high.
QB Zach Mettenberger and the rest of the Tigers offense are playing like they have something to prove, as they continue to sit in the shadows of their higher ranked SEC West division counterparts, Alabama and Texas A&M.
LSU will be looking to roll up the points against another inferior opponent at home.
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers
Spread: Auburn (-6)
Picks: Auburn (-6), Over
Prediction: Auburn 34, Mississippi State 23
It’s obvious that new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has added some much-needed life into this team, especially on offense. The Tigers are averaging 34 points and 431 yards per game thanks in large part to the running back trio of juniors Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis Payne.
The three-headed backfield should shine once again this week against a Mississippi State defense that gave up a whopping 286 rushing yards to Oklahoma State back in Week 1.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at South Alabama Jaguars
Spread: Western Kentucky (-8.5)
Picks: South Alabama (+8.5), Under
Prediction: Western Kentucky 28, South Alabama 23
After pulling off a big win over Kentucky in Week 1, Western Kentucky came back down to earth in a big way last week—the Hilltoppers got trampled by Tennessee 52-20.
After getting manhandled by the Volunteers last week, you have to wonder how much energy the Hilltoppers will have on the road this week. Though Western Kentucky is clearly the more talented team, I question whether or not Bobby Petrino’s squad will have a full tank of gas for this game.
Maryland Terrapins at Connecticut Huskies
Spread: Maryland (-6.5)
Picks: Connecticut (+6.5), Under
Prediction: Maryland 21, Connecticut 16
Last year, Randy Edsall failed to beat Connecticut, the program he helped build for over a decade, as Maryland came up short against the Huskies 24-21 at home. This time around, Edsall should be able to pick up a victory over his former school, but it will likely end up being another close, low-scoring contest.
Kansas Jayhawks at Rice Owls
Spread: Rice (-6.5)
Picks: Rice (-6.5), Over
Prediction: Rice 41, Kansas 28
Last year, Rice went to Kansas as a double-digit underdog and managed to pull off a 25-24 upset over the Jayhawks.
With 19 returning starters from last season, the Owls are an even better and more experienced team this time around. Rice QB Taylor McHargue should be able to exploit a Kansas secondary that tied for 116th nationally in pass defense last season.
UTEP Miners at New Mexico State Aggies
Spread: UTEP (-4.5)
Picks: UTEP (-4.5), Under
Prediction: UTEP 28, New Mexico State 20
UTEP’s passing combination of QB Jameill Showers and WR Jordan Leslie will prove to be too much for New Mexico State’ secondary to handle.
Ole Miss Rebels at Texas Longhorns
Spread: Texas (-3)
Picks: Ole Miss (+3), Under
Prediction: Ole Miss 37, Texas 27
It’s only Week 3, but you can already smell the panic in the air in Austin.
Following Texas’ utterly embarrassing defensive performance against BYU last week—the Longhorns allowed 550 rushing yards—Mack Brown relieved Manny Diaz of his defensive coordinator duties and he tapped Greg Robinson to take over the struggling unit.
Unfortunately, Robinson’s first test will be a tough one, as he’ll have to figure out how to stop an Ole Miss offense that is loaded with explosive playmakers.
When you add in the fact that the Rebels are looking to avenge last year’s embarrassing 66-31 loss to the Longhorns, this looks like it could be another long night for Texas fans.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purdue Boilermakers
Spread: Notre Dame (-20.5)
Picks: Notre Dame (-20.5), Over
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14
After coming up short in a loss to Michigan at the Big House last week, Notre Dame will be searching for a big bounce-back win on the road against in-state rival Purdue.
The Irish beat the Boilermakers by just three points in last year’s meeting. But this year’s game is shaping up to be a much more lopsided affair.
The Irish defense, led by run-stuffing extraordinaire Louis Nix, should keep the Boilermakers offense bottled up, while Tommy Rees and the Irish offense cover the three-touchdown spread.
Marshall Thundering Herd at Ohio Bobcats
Spread: Marshall (-8)
Picks: Marshall (-8), Over
Prediction: Marshall 45, Ohio 31
Marshall’s offensive attack has looked nearly outstanding in the first two weeks of the season. The Thundering Herd come into this game ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense and 14th in total offense, averaging 53 points and 550 yards per game.
It’s tough to quantify just how good those numbers are, considering the games were against Miami (Ohio) and Gardner Webb. Still, I’ve been impressed with the balance Marshall is showing on offense this year.
If QB Rakeem Cato and RB Steward Butler can continue the pace they’ve set so far, the Thundering Herd should make a big statement on the road against a quality Ohio team.
Western Michigan Broncos at Northwestern Wildcats
Spread: Northwestern (-30)
Picks: Northwestern (-30), Over
Prediction: Northwestern 51, Western Michigan 17
Northwestern’s offense has looked terrific so far this season, averaging 46 points and 544 yards in wins over Cal and Syracuse.
The Wildcats should continue that offensive roll against a weak Western Michigan squad, which just lost to FCS school Nicholls State last week. The Wildcats haven’t been asked to cover this kind of high spread very often in recent years, but they’ve now got the offensive firepower it takes to get the job done.
Oregon State Beavers at Utah Utes
Spread: Utah (-3)
Picks: Utah (-3), Over
Prediction: Utah 38, Oregon State 28
Oregon State has been one of the most disappointing teams of the first two weeks of the season. A week after shockingly getting upset at home by Eastern Washington, the Beavers turned in a rather ho-hum performance in a 33-14 win over Hawaii last week.
They now have to go on the road to face one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country, Utah’s Travis Wilson. If Wilson continues to play at the same level we’ve seen from him in his first two games as a starter, the Beavers defense could be in a lot of trouble.
Central Michigan Chippewas at UNLV Rebels
Spread: UNLV (-7.5)
Picks: UNLV (-7.5), Under
Prediction: UNLV 31, Central Michigan 21
UNLV has gotten destroyed by superior BCS teams in consecutive weeks. The Rebels followed up a 51-23 loss to Minnesota in Week 1 with an even more embarrassing 58-13 defeat against Arizona last week.
Luckily, the Rebels should find much more success this week against a Central Michigan team that is giving up an average of 40 points per game. RB Tim Cornett and WR Devante Davis should have plenty of opportunities to create big plays against the Chippewas.
Wisconsin Badgers at Arizona State Sun Devils
Spread: Arizona State (-5)
Picks: Wisconsin (+5), Over
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Arizona State 27
Gary Andersen's first road game as the head coach at Wisconsin is certainly a tough challenge.
Arizona State is one of the most underrated teams in the country, and the Sun Devils are led by two of the most underrated offensive players in college football: QB Taylor Kelly and RB Marion Grice.
Still, the Badgers have plenty of standout playmakers of their own, including the dynamic duo of running backs Melvin Gordon and James White.
Though Arizona State’s disruptive DT Will Sutton is capable of causing havoc in the interior, I still think that the Badgers will be able to ride Gordon and White to a big win on the road.
UTSA RoadRunners at Arizona Wildcats
Spread: Arizona (-24.5)
Picks: UTSA (+24.5), Over
Prediction: Arizona 49, UTSA 28
After sitting out Arizona’s season-opener due to a suspension, star RB Ka’Deem Carey returned to the lineup last week against UNLV and he certainly made his presence felt, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries.
Carey should have another big outing in front of the home crowd this week against UTSA. However, I don’t think the Wildcats defense will be able to do enough to prevent the RoadRunners from coming up with another cover against a BCS foe for the second straight week.