College Football Week 3: Picks Against the Spread

Jeff Grant@@JeffGrantSportsContributor ISeptember 12, 2011

College Football Week 3: Picks Against the Spread

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    The 2011 college football season zooms into its third week, and many professional bettors will start adjusting their power rankings based on this year's results with two weeks of data available for most teams.

    Saturday night's featured contest between the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners and No. 5 Florida State Seminoles will already serve as the second matchup this year between teams ranked in the Top Five nationally.

    The first matchup was played in the opening week when the then-No. 4 LSU Tigers roared to a 40-27 victory over the previously-ranked No. 3 Oregon Ducks as 3.5-point neutral-site underdogs at Cowboys Stadium.

    Let's take a look at 10 games featuring at least one ranked team from a betting perspective.

No. 3 LSU (-3) at No. 25 Mississippi State

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    I'd really like to know what the betting odds on this matchup would have been if Mississippi State (1-1) didn't drop a 41-34 contest to Auburn as 5.5-point road favorites.

    The Bulldogs will play their first contest in Starkville this season, but will have a few things going against them.

    First off, LSU (2-0) has already played one of the best spread option offenses in the country, handing Oregon a 40-27 loss at Cowboys Stadium two weeks ago.

    Secondly, the Tigers didn't have to expend much energy heading into a short week, registering a 49-3 home win over Northwestern State.

    LSU improves to 8-1 ATS in this series when playing as the road team.

    Recommendation: LSU Tigers (-3)

No. 4 Boise State (-18) at Toledo

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    It was a near-miss of having every newspaper's headline in the state of Ohio to read, "Holy Toledo!" Saturday afternoon.

    The Toledo Rockets (1-1) dropped a 27-22 contest to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 2 as 17.5-point road underdogs inside Ohio Stadium. 

    It's certainly a deflating loss and difficult to get over in a span of five days.

    Boise State (1-0) enjoyed a week off after an impressive 35-21 neutral-site victory over the Georgia Bulldogs and will look to win the second meeting in this series.

    The Broncos destroyed the Rockets 57-14 inside Bronco Stadium a year ago as 38-point favorites.

    I'd love to back the home underdogs in this contest, but many bettors will fall into the trap of playing the Rockets due to last week's performance.

    Boise improves to 6-1 ATS as a road favorite.

    Recommendation: Boise State Broncos (-17)

No. 18 West Virginia at Maryland (-1.5)

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    The Maryland Terrapins (1-0) fall into a huge scheduling advantage of getting a week off after their 32-24 win over the Miami Hurricanes as four-point home favorites.

    Terrapins head coach Randy Edsall also finished his tenure at Connecticut with consecutive spread victories over Saturday's opponent.

    West Virginia (2-0) is traveling on the road for the first time this year under a first-year head coach, and many in Morgantown will not even be talking about this perceived victory.

    A home game against the LSU Tigers looms large the following week.

    Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 31-of-44 passes for 348 yards against an athletic Hurricanes' defense, which will serve him well here.

    Recommendation: Maryland Terrapins (-1.5)

No. 18 Auburn at Clemson (-3.5)

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    The Clemson Tigers (2-0) will snap a 14-game losing streak to the Auburn Tigers (2-0) and gain revenge from a heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss last year as 7.5-point road underdogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    Auburn overcame an early 17-0 deficit in 2010, as quarterback Cam Newton pulled off one of his many come-from-behind efforts, eventually leading to a national title.

    I still have memories of how banged up opposing signal-caller Kyle Parker was during the nationally-televised broadcast in a losing effort.

    He's gone, but Tajh Boyd is ready to step in and deliver under center.

    Take down the goal posts, because fans will be trying to bring them down Saturday afternoon inside Clemson Memorial Stadium.

    Recommendation: Clemson Tigers (-3.5)

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 23 TCU (-28.5)

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    The TCU Horned Frogs (1-1) responded in a big way after their season-opening loss to Baylor, picking up a 35-19 win over Air Force as one-point road underdogs.

    It's now time to exhale with the first of three consecutive home games this Saturday.

    Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) was handed a 34-0 shutout loss in Tallahassee as 30.5-point underdogs in Week 1, but that experience will serve them well in Fort Worth.

    A closer game than most will anticipate.

    Recommendation: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (+28.5)

No. 7 Wisconsin (-16.5) vs. Northern Illinois

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    The Northern Illinois Huskies (1-1) were caught looking ahead to this matchup, falling 45-42 on the road to the Kansas Jayhawks as four-point road favorites last Saturday.

    It's important to note that this game will be played inside Chicago's historic Soldier Field. The Huskies haven't been this size of an underdog on a neutral field in at least the past 19 years.

    Wisconsin (2-0) has been one of the more visually impressive teams in the nation, picking up home victories over Oregon State (35-0) and UNLV (51-17).

    Expect the Mid-American Conference underdogs to give the Big Ten powerhouse favorites a spirited fight.

    Recommendation: Northern Illinois Huskies (+16.5)

Washington at No. 10 Nebraska (-16.5)

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    The Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0) will be worked tirelessly in practice this week under head coach Bo Pelini, escaping with a 42-29 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs as 28-point home favorites in Lincoln.

    Pelini will also have the team's undivided attention in showing last year's 19-7 defeat as 11.5-point favorites in the 2010 Holiday Bowl to this Saturday's opponent.

    Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian knows his team will be walking into a hostile environment and will not have Jake Locker to lead the offense, as he's now playing on Sundays for the Tennessee Titans.

    Big Red in the "Blowout of the Week."

    Recommendation: Nebraska Cornhuskers (-16.5)

No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame (-5)

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    I'm walking straight into what's called a "Las Vegas trap" to professional handicappers. 

    Notre Dame (0-2) has been sent out as five-point home favorites despite dropping its first two games against Michigan (35-31) and South Florida (23-20).

    The only way I was going to back the Fighting Irish in this contest was if head coach Brian Kelly had never lost three games in a row in his collegiate career.

    That angle closed quickly in researching Notre Dame's three consecutive losses to Stanford, Michigan State and Michigan last year.

    Michigan State (2-0) has played absolutely no one, but has covered its last seven trips to South Bend. Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins will move to 3-0 ATS when standing under center in this rivalry.

    Recommendation: Michigan State Spartans (+5)

Tennessee at No. 16 Florida (-9.5)

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    The Tennessee Volunteers (2-0) are searching for their first "signature win" under head coach Derek Dooley.

    It will happen Saturday night inside The Swamp.

    Dooley's squad picked up one of the more impressive wins during the 2011 college football season thus far, coming away with a 45-23 win over Cincinnati as four-point home favorites.

    Florida (2-0) has done nothing wrong in opening wins over UAB (39-0) and FAU (41-3), but it's simply time for Tennessee to break a string of six consecutive losses in the series.

    Former Gators coach Urban Meyer made it a priority to win these types of SEC games in Gainesville, but he'll be watching this edition as an ESPN analyst.

    Upset of the Week: Tennessee Volunteers (+9.5)

No. 1 Oklahoma (-3) at No. 5 Florida State

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    The Oklahoma Sooners (1-0) will ride the arm of quarterback Landry Jones to victory Saturday night in Tallahassee. 

    If you look closely at the Florida State Seminoles' (2-0) four losses in 2010, there's a common theme of failing to step up against opposing teams with a quality player under center.

    Jones torched the youthful Seminoles secondary in Norman last year, throwing for 380 yards and four touchdowns.

    Florida State's cornerbacks have gained a ton of experience since that forgetful day, but will have to wait on gaining revenge.

    Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is on a mission.

    Recommendation: Oklahoma Sooners (-3)