College Football Odds Week 3: Picks Against the Spread and Score Predictions

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 16, 2021

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mercer, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Top-ranked Alabama faces one the toughest remaining tests on its regular-season schedule Saturday when it visits The Swamp to take on No. 11 Florida in a crucial SEC clash.

It's one of three games on college football's Week 3 slate that pits two ranked teams against each other. All of those contests figure to have a significant impact on the Week 4 rankings, and there will probably be at least a few upsets with so many ranked teams facing off with unranked foes.

Let's take a closer look at the marquee matchups on this weekend's slate along with betting odds and score predictions.

No. 1 Alabama (-14.5) at No. 11 Florida

The well-oiled machine that is Alabama football has continued to steamroll opponents in the early stages of the 2021 campaign, beating Mercer and No. 14 Miami by a combined score of 92-27.

Quarterback Bryce Young has led the charge by completing 46 of his 65 passes (70.8 percent) for 571 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions to push himself to the forefront of the Heisman Trophy conversation.

He should face more resistance from a Florida secondary that's held opponents to 57.1 percent passing with just one touchdown allowed through the air during its 2-0 start.

"We're certainly looking forward to the challenge," Crimson Tide head Nick Saban told reporters about the clash with Florida. "It will kind of tell us a little bit about who we are, where we are, what we have to do to get there."

The toughest part of the game plan for Bama may be preparing to face two different Gators quarterbacks in Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Jones has remained the starter despite some impressive performances off the bench from Richardson, and head coach Dan Mullen confirmed both signal-callers will see the field against the country's No. 1 team.

"They know what we have scheduled going into the game," Mullen said.

This is a game where Florida may want to receive the opening kickoff rather than defer to the second half because it's almost impossible to fight back if you fall in an early hole against Alabama. Miami went down 7-0 within the first three minutes and it changed the entire feel around the Week 1 game as the Tide eventually built a 27-3 halftime lead.

Even if the Gators are able to keep it close initially, however, the Tide have once again looked a step above the rest in the first few weeks and should pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Alabama 38-21 (Bama covers)

No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State (-4.5)

Auburn may prove the better of these two teams over the course of the season because the running back tandem of Jarquez Hunter (257 rushing yards) and Tank Bigsby (241) is going to wear down a lot of opponents and open up the play-action passing game for Bo Nix, who has five touchdown passes and no interceptions through two games.

That said, heading into Beaver Stadium for Penn State's annual White Out game in a primetime matchup is a tough ask for any team. The atmosphere will be electric in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions' run defense has also been superb in wins over Wisconsin and Ball State. They've held the Badgers and Cardinals to a combined 2.96 yards per carry. Anything below four yards is solid, so keeping opponents below three yards represents elite play up front defensively.

One unknown is how Penn State will handle the rumors that have started to swirl around head coach James Franklin since USC fired Clay Helton on Monday. Franklin said he'll meet with team leaders to make sure the speculation about the high-profile coaching vacancy doesn't alter the squad's focus.

"As you guys know, I can't stand any form of distraction," Franklin told reporters. "So, I'll discuss this today with the leadership council so that we can make sure that all of our energy is on our preparation for Auburn. That's how we'll handle it."

If PSU quarterback Sean Clifford can continue to protect the football—no interceptions through two games after 16 picks over the previous two years—the Nittany Lions should hold the slight edge given what should be a significant home-field advantage.

Prediction: Penn State 24-23 (Auburn covers)

No. 19 Arizona State (-3.5) at No. 23 BYU

The winner of this game should make a pretty nice jump in the rankings ahead of Week 4, and if it's the Cougars the door will swing wide open for a potential undefeated regular season with no currently ranked teams left on the schedule after it already knocked off No. 21 Utah last week.

BYU hasn't looked dominant in wins over the Utes and Arizona, actually getting outgained 766-748, but it's protected the football (zero turnovers) and outscored opponents 27-10 in the second quarter to build a halftime lead its defense was able to hold on both occasions.

Arizona State's level of competition has been a little lower, but it's taken care of business in blowout fashion, beating Southern Utah and UNLV by a combined score of 78-24.

The key for the Sun Devils has been getting big plays on the ground to spark the offense. Five different players have registered a run of at least 20 yards through two weeks and nine of their 11 offensive touchdowns have come from the rushing attack.

That's a promising sign as ASU prepares to face a BYU defense that allowed Utah to run for 193 yards on 25 carries (7.7 YPC) last week.

This is another game that should come right down to the wire, but if Arizona State is close or ahead at halftime, its offense is built to wear opponents down in the second half.

Prediction: Arizona State 27-24 (BYU covers)

For a full list of Week 3 college football odds, visit FanDuel Sportsbook.

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