College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 11, 2019

College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

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    Florida QB Feleipe Franks
    Florida QB Feleipe FranksJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Following a week with two games between AP Top 12 teams and four other contests in which ranked squads lost to unranked foes, Week 3 of the 2019 college football season figures to be...boring.

    That's rarely the case in this sport. If anything, the should-be-mundane weeks often end up being the most chaotic. But there's not a single ranked-against-ranked battle, and the majority of ranked-against-unranked games are supposed to be blowouts. The only Top 16 team favored by fewer than two touchdowns is No. 9 Florida (-8) at Kentucky, though we expect the Gators to cover with room to spare.

    That's just one of our 68 predictions for the games this week involving at least one Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team.

    Games involving AP Top 25 squads are listed in ascending order of national ranking. Remaining contests are listed in chronological order.


    Gambling lines are courtesy of Caesar's and are current through 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday. At time of publish, Caesar's does not have lines posted for any FBS vs. FCS games.

AP Nos. 25-21

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    Virginia QB Bryce Perkins
    Virginia QB Bryce PerkinsJared Wickerham/Associated Press

    No. 25 Virginia vs. Florida State (7:30 p.m. ET, Virginia -7)

    This is low-key the day's most important game. If Virginia wins, the ACC will keep two teams in the AP Top 25, and Florida State head coach Willie Taggart catapults to the top of any and all hot seat rankings—if he isn't already there. If the Seminoles win, then I suppose North Carolina becomes the new favorite to win the most bizarre Power Five division?

    Virginia should be victorious, though. Florida State's defense is even more of a catastrophe than it was last year, and the Cavaliers have one of the ACC's best defenses. James Blackman and Cam Akers have better long-term prospects than Bryce Perkins and the rest of Virginia's offense, but Wahoowa has the upper hand in this matchup.

    Prediction: Virginia 35, Florida State 27


    No. 24 USC at BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, USC -4.5)

    Lynn Swann's out-of-nowhere resignation as USC's AD throws an interesting wrinkle into the pregame talking points and postgame takeaways, but the Trojans look like the better team if we disregard that factor. That's because freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was masterful in last week's 45-20 win over Stanford, giving USC an offensive flair that was absent when JT Daniels ran the show.

    Slovis has also looked much better than BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who waited until overtime of Week 2 to get his first touchdown of the season. Unless running back Ty'Son Williams has a career day, USC will be too much for BYU's mediocre offense.

    Prediction: USC 28, BYU 21


    No. 23 Washington vs. Hawaii (7:30 p.m. ET, Washington -20.5)

    Hawaii has put a hurting on the Pac-12, upsetting Arizona in "Week Zero" before last week's come-from-behind win over Oregon State. But winning home games against bottom-tier teams doesn't mean the Warriors are about to waltz into Seattle and knock off the Huskies. Jacob Eason and Co. will rip through a defense allowing nearly 500 yards per game, while the Huskies D will provide a much stiffer test than anything Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald has faced.

    Prediction: Washington 52, Hawaii 17


    No. 22 Boise State vs. Portland State (10:15 p.m. ET, No Line Given)

    The final score wasn't pretty, but Boise State manhandled Marshall about as well as a team can manhandle a 14-7 game. The Broncos outgained the Thundering Herd 437-172, limiting them to negative-10 yards in the second half. Against a Portland State team that could barely move the ball against Arkansas, that defense will be more than enough.

    Prediction: Boise State 38, Portland State 7


    No. 21 Maryland at Temple (noon ET, Maryland -7)

    It's hard to know what to make of Temple after just one game against Bucknell, but Maryland looks like the real deal. The Terrapins stomped Howard 79-0 in their opener before an even more impressive 63-20 victory over what was supposed to be a darn good Syracuse defense. It kind of felt like Ohio State's 62-39 win over Michigan last November, albeit with substantially lessened national implications.

    The one thing that's making it difficult to pick Maryland to win in a blowout is the memory of 0-2 Temple's 21-point victory over 2-0 Maryland last September in College Park. Both teams have different head coaches, and Maryland actually has a quarterback now, but still.

    Prediction: Maryland 38, Temple 31

AP Nos. 20-16

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    UCF QB Dillon Gabriel
    UCF QB Dillon GabrielGary McCullough/Associated Press

    No. 20 Washington State at Houston (Friday 9:15 p.m. ET, Washington State -8.5)

    Gardner Mins-who? Washington State's new quarterback, Anthony Gordon, has thrown for an astounding 884 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. (Minshew was sitting at 733 yards, six scores and three picks after two weeks last year.) Granted, Gordon's games were against New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, but Houston's defense isn't anything special, either.

    Houston quarterback D'Eriq King is a potential game-changer. However, he hasn't been anywhere near as dynamic as he was before the knee injury that ended his 2018 campaign, and Washington State's defense has been solid over the past two-plus seasons. Friday night games were kryptonite for the West Coast Cougars last year, but they'll go on the road and take care of the Texas-based Cougars.

    Prediction: Washington State 45, Houston 35


    No. 19 Iowa at Iowa State (4 p.m. ET, Iowa -2)

    Iowa has won the last four games in this rivalry, but you're fooling yourself if you think you know what to expect in "El Assico."

    Common sense suggests the Hawkeyes will shut down the Cyclones, considering the former is holding opponents to seven points per game while the latter had just 10 points after 59 minutes against Northern Iowa. But no one was expecting a 44-41 barnburner two years ago when both teams were rock-solid on defense and just OK on offense. That said, let's go with Iowa State at home in a snail race to 20 points.

    Prediction: Iowa State 21, Iowa 18


    No. 18 Michigan State vs. Arizona State (4 p.m. ET, Michigan State -14)

    The Sun Devils stunned the Spartans in Week 2 last year, but there won't be a repeat in East Lansing. Michigan State's elite front seven is holding opponents to negative-3.0 rushing yards per game, and the Sun Devils have a true freshman at quarterback in Jayden Daniels, who will be on the road for the first time. That's a lethal combination for an offense that already wasn't prolific during wins over Kent State and Sacramento State. Elijah Collins should build on last week's breakout (17 carries for 192 yards) by pacing the Spartans to victory.

    Prediction: Michigan State 31, Arizona State 13


    No. 17 UCF vs. Stanford (3:30 p.m. ET, UCF -7.5)

    This one lost a little luster when Stanford got smoked by USC, but it's still one of the week's most intriguing games and UCF's biggest chance to prove it belongs in the College Football Playoff conversation. Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello is expected to play after he missed last week's game because of a Week 1 hit to the head, but what percentage health is he at? And will Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush or freshman Dillon Gabriel get the start for UCF one week after the latter led the Knights to a blowout win over Florida Atlantic?

    The mutual uncertainties in the passing game are an obvious wild card, but superior defense, a better running game and home-field advantage all point toward yet another regular-season win for UCF. As long as the Knights quarterbacks don't test their luck against defensive back Paulson Adebo too many times, they'll get the job done.

    Prediction: UCF 27, Stanford 23


    No. 16 Texas A&M vs. Lamar (7 p.m. ET, No Line Given)

    Lamar has lost six consecutive games against FBS opponents, each by at least a 35-point margin. That includes a 73-3 loss to Texas A&M in 2014 and a 77-0 loss to Texas Tech last year. And last week's overtime game against Mississippi Valley State doesn't exactly tell the tale of a program on the rise. If the Aggies don't win this by at least 50 points, it will only be because they spent most of the evening in "let's just run out the clock and stay healthy for next week's battle with Auburn" mode.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 56, Lamar 3 

AP Nos. 15-11

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    Oregon QB Justin Herbert
    Oregon QB Justin HerbertChris Pietsch/Associated Press

    No. 15 Oregon vs. Montana (10:45 p.m. ET, No Line Given)

    Justin Herbert threw for 310 yards and five touchdowns in Oregon's 77-6 victory over Nevada this past weekend and has been drastically more efficient than he was one year ago. And while Montana is better than your average FCS team, the Grizzlies won't supply much more resistance than Nevada did against this high-powered offense. Oregon might hit the over (65 per OddsShark) by itself.

    Prediction: Oregon 59, Montana 24


    No. 14 Wisconsin (idle)

    Wisconsin has not allowed a point yet this season, and we know the Badgers will keep that shutout intact for at least one more week as they rest and prepare for the huge home game against Michigan on Sept. 21.


    No. 13 Penn State vs. Pittsburgh (noon ET, Penn State -17)

    Penn State has averaged 62 points in its first two games, but let's not get too excited about blowouts of Idaho and Buffalo. This Pittsburgh defense will give us a much better indication of whether the Nittany Lions offense is for real. But even if the Panthers hold Penn State to half its scoring average, their offense will have a hard time finding the end zone against this elite defense.

    Prediction: Penn State 34, Pittsburgh 12


    No. 12 Texas vs. Rice (8 p.m. ET, Texas -31.5)

    Texas' secondary is a hot mess, allowing 405.5 passing yards and 3.0 touchdowns per game. Those numbers should get a nice dose of regression to the mean against Rice, though, as the Owls didn't get their first passing touchdown of the season until the final two minutes of their second game. Look for Sam Ehlinger and Co. to let out some post-LSU frustration in this one.

    Prediction: Texas 52, Rice 7


    No. 11 Utah vs. Idaho State (4:15 p.m. ET, No Line Given)

    In the past decade, Idaho State has played 10 games against Power Five schools. In those opportunities, the Bengals are 0-10 with an average margin of defeat of 46.7 points. And not one of those opponents was ranked this highly by the Associated Press. Utah's offense isn't anywhere near as special as its defense, but get ready for a stomping all the same.

    Prediction: Utah 56, Idaho State 3

AP Nos. 10-6

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    Ohio State QB Justin Fields
    Ohio State QB Justin FieldsJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    No. 10 Michigan (idle)

    If any undefeated team needs a week off to lick its wounds, it's Michigan. The 2-0 Wolverines weren't exactly sharp in their opener against Middle Tennessee, and they needed a missed field goal at the end of regulation and two overtimes to eke out a win over Army. Stud wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) didn't play in either game, but perhaps this extra time off will be enough to get him on the field for the Week 4 showdown with Wisconsin.


    No. 9 Florida at Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, Florida -8)

    Last season, Kentucky shocked the college football world by snapping its 31-year losing streak against the Gators. Can the Wildcats make it two wins in a row in this SEC East battle? Probably not, considering quarterback Terry Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury this past weekend. At least they have some depth in the form of Troy transfer Sawyer Smith, but we wish him the best of luck against the defense that is leading the nation in sacks. Florida will physically dominate a low-scoring affair.

    Prediction: Florida 28, Kentucky 13


    No. 8 Auburn vs. Kent State (7 p.m. ET, Auburn -35)

    Auburn struggled to move the ball against Tulane, but we had the Green Wave's defensive line projected as the 10th-best in the preseason. Things should come a lot easier against a Kent State defense that has been a doormat for ranked Power Five opponents lately. The Golden Flashes have been outscored 320-29 in their last six tries dating back to 2013. Time to let Tigers quarterback Bo Nix build confidence.

    Prediction: Auburn 63, Kent State 7


    No. 7 Notre Dame vs. New Mexico (2:30 p.m. ET, Notre Dame -35)

    New Mexico allowed Sam Houston State to throw for 443 yards and two touchdowns in its season opener, and Notre Dame's Ian Book is significantly better than any quarterback on that FCS roster. He and the Fighting Irish will have a field day against a Lobos program going nowhere fast. And don't be surprised if Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. sneaks onto the fringe of the still-way-too-early Heisman Trophy conversation following a huge day.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 54, New Mexico 17


    No. 6 Ohio State at Indiana (noon ET, Ohio State -16)

    Both of these Big Ten teams pitched Week 2 shutouts, but Ohio State's (Cincinnati) was far more impressive than Indiana's (Eastern Illinois). Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields has exceeded lofty expectations, while Indiana's offensive leaders (Michael Penix Jr. and Stevie Scott III) haven't been particularly good. Ohio State has laid some serious eggs on the road in recent years—a 55-24 loss at Iowa in 2017 and a 49-20 loss at Purdue last yearbut this one won't be a problem.

    Prediction: Ohio State 38, Indiana 10

AP Nos. 5-1

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    Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
    Alabama WR Jerry JeudyJohn Amis/Associated Press

    No. 5 Oklahoma at UCLA (8 p.m. ET, Oklahoma -23.5)

    Which is hotter: Jalen Hurts' performance as Oklahoma's quarterback or Chip Kelly's seat as head coach of UCLA? The Bruins are winless and a disaster on offense even though they played two games against Group of Five opponents, and they will conclude nonconference play with an embarrassing shellacking at the hands of the Sooners. Oklahoma won this game 49-21 last year, but this might be even uglier.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 52, UCLA 13


    No. 4 LSU vs. Northwestern State (7:30 p.m. ET, No Line Given)

    You don't need me to tell you that LSU will win. The Tigers blew out Georgia Southern two weeks ago and just scored a colossal road win over Texas. An 0-2 FCS team won't stop this runaway freight train. But I will tell you LSU will make it a point to establish the ground game against Northwestern State. Quarterback Joe Burrow will do enough good deeds to remain an early Heisman contender, but the Tigers need to infuse their backfield with confidence following consecutive mediocre performances in that department.

    Prediction: LSU 67, Northwestern State 6


    No. 3 Georgia vs. Arkansas State (noon ET, Georgia -33)

    Arkansas State is one of the better Group of Five teams, but the Sun Wolves probably wouldn't win a road game against Georgia Tech, let alone Georgia. The Bulldogs have gained more than twice as many yards as they have allowed, and the gap between how well they run the ball (7.4 yards per carry) and how well they defend the run (2.4 YPC) is ridiculous. Maybe Omar Bayless (16 receptions, 281 yards, 5 TD) will find the end zone again, but ASU won't come anywhere close to its 36.5-point scoring average.

    Prediction: Georgia 45, Arkansas State 10


    No. 2 Alabama at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, Alabama -25.5)

    Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster have been a solid one-two punch at running back for South Carolina, but it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Gamecockssans four-year starting quarterback Jake Bentley following his season-ending foot injuryeven make this one interesting. They allowed nearly 500 yards in the loss to North Carolina, and let's just say Alabama has more offensive firepower than the Tar Heels do. The only question is whether Jerry Jeudy scores multiple times before the backups take the field.

    Prediction: Alabama 49, South Carolina 14


    No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse (7:30 p.m. ET, Clemson -27.5)

    Unless Syracuse was playing the all-time most convincing game of possum by losing 63-20 to Maryland on Saturday, this won't be the noteworthy showdown we were expecting in the preseasoneven though Trevor Lawrence (three interceptions) hasn't had anything close to Heisman-level efficiency.

    The Terrapins gutted the Orange in the running game, averaging 7.9 yards per carry and scoring six of their nine touchdowns on the ground. Travis Etienne will bounce back from his Week 2 dud (16 carries for 53 yards) with something closer to the herculean performance he had against Syracuse last year (27 carries, 203 yards, three touchdowns). A Syracuse offense that has yet to score more than 24 points won't be able to keep pace.

    Prediction: Clemson 42, Syracuse 17

The 5 Best Unranked Battles

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    Arizona QB Khalil Tate
    Arizona QB Khalil TateRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    North Carolina at Wake Forest (Friday 6 p.m. ET, Wake Forest -3)

    First things first: This is officially a nonconference game, even though both teams are in the ACC. It is also Wake Forest's third consecutive Friday night game for some reason. Neither of those plays a factor in our prediction, but it's a weird game all around.

    North Carolina is the country's most surprising 2-0 team, considering the Tar Heels went 5-18 over the previous two seasons before opening this yearwith true freshman Sam Howell starting at quarterbackwith back-to-back games against teams that didn't miss the preseason AP Top 25 by much (South Carolina and Miami). They eked out come-from-behind wins in both of those games, and they'll do the same in Winston-Salem against a solid Wake Forest offense.

    Prediction: North Carolina 35, Wake Forest 31


    Kansas State at Mississippi State (noon ET, Mississippi State -7.5)

    Kansas State blew out lowly Nicholls and Bowling Green. Mississippi State squeaked by Louisiana and didn't exactly dominate Southern Miss. Neither team is ranked, and Kansas State didn't even receive a single vote in this week's AP poll. But one of these teams will be 3-0 in advance of its first conference game. That could be the difference between 5-7 and bowl eligibility.

    Tommy Stevens suffered an upper-body injury against Southern Miss, and the Bulldogs will be in trouble if he can't play, considering would-have-been backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson entered the transfer portal about two seconds after he lost the QB battle. Assuming Stevens is a go, though, Mississippi State should win at home.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Kansas State 21


    NC State at West Virginia (noon ET, NC State -6.5)

    West Virginia's offense—especially the run gameis a mess. And North Carolina State's defense—albeit against East Carolina and Western Carolina—has been sensational. If those trends continue, this one could play out similarly to WVU's 38-7 Week 2 loss to Missouri. But this is a key game in the endless search for an ACC challenger to Clemson. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Wolfpack, but that narrative would change in a hurry with a statement road win.

    Prediction: NC State 35, West Virginia 16


    North Texas at California (4:15 p.m. ET, California -13.5)

    North Texas should be a good litmus test for California's potential on offense. Led by quarterback Mason Fine, the Mean Green will move the ball and get a few scores, even against this excellent Golden Bears defense. But any competent offense should be able to score against North Texas' D. Even Abilene Christian put up 31 points and 456 yards of total offense in the opener. If Cal is to be taken seriously as a Pac-12 contender following last week's upset of Washington, it has to score at least 40.

    Prediction: California 42, North Texas 24


    Texas Tech at Arizona (10:30 p.m. ET, Texas Tech -2.5)

    In terms of total offense, No. 6 (629.5 yards per game) hosts No. 9 (557.5 yards per game) in a nightcap bound to be filled with fireworks. Arizona has also allowed more than 40 points in each of its first two contests, which is about on par with what its defense has been doing for a half-decade. The Red Raiders will probably get the road win, and the over (76) will cash before the end of the third quarter.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 56, Arizona 49

The Rest of the Slate (1/2)

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    Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder
    Cincinnati QB Desmond RidderTony Tribble/Associated Press

    Kansas at Boston College (Friday 7:30 p.m. ET, Boston College -21)
    Prediction: Boston College 38, Kansas 13

    Chattanooga at Tennessee (noon ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Tennessee 42, Chattanooga 21

    Eastern Michigan at Illinois (noon ET, Illinois -7.5)
    Prediction: Illinois 27, Eastern Michigan 24

    Furman at Virginia Tech (noon ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Virginia Tech 45, Furman 23

    Miami-Ohio at Cincinnati (noon ET, Cincinnati -17)
    Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Miami-Ohio 14

    The Citadel at Georgia Tech (12:30 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Georgia Tech 35, The Citadel 13

    Air Force at Colorado (1 p.m. ET, Colorado -3.5)
    Prediction: Air Force 24, Colorado 21

    Florida Atlantic at Ball State (2 p.m. ET, Florida Atlantic -2.5)
    Prediction: Florida Atlantic 27, Ball State 20

    Norfolk State at Coastal Carolina (2 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Coastal Carolina 21, Norfolk State 17

    Akron at Central Michigan (3 p.m. ET, Central Michigan -3)
    Prediction: Central Michigan 17, Akron 16

    Georgia Southern at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. ET, Minnesota -15.5)
    Prediction: Minnesota 38, Georgia Southern 19

    Army at UTSA (3:30 p.m. ET, Army -17)
    Prediction: Army 30, UTSA 10

    East Carolina at Navy (3:30 p.m. ET, Navy -7)
    Prediction: Navy 27, East Carolina 13

    Memphis at South Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, Memphis -19)
    Prediction: Memphis 41, South Alabama 20

    Oklahoma State at Tulsa (3:30 p.m. ET, Oklahoma State -14)
    Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Tulsa 17

    UNLV at Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET, Northwestern -18.5)
    Prediction: Northwestern 35, UNLV 7

    Bethune-Cookman at Miami-Florida (4 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Miami-Florida 49, Bethune-Cookman 7

    Colorado State at Arkansas (4 p.m. ET, Arkansas -9.5)
    Prediction: Arkansas 27, Colorado State 24

    Louisville vs. Western Kentucky (4 p.m. ET, Louisville -10)
    Prediction: Louisville 31, Western Kentucky 21

    Southeastern Louisiana at Ole Miss (4 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Ole Miss 45, Southeastern Louisiana 10    

The Rest of the Slate (2/2)

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    Purdue WR Rondale Moore
    Purdue WR Rondale MooreMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Cal Poly at Oregon State (4:15 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Oregon State 40, Cal Poly 18

    Idaho at Wyoming (5 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Wyoming 45, Idaho 9

    Louisiana Tech at Bowling Green (5 p.m. ET, Louisiana Tech -10.5)
    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31, Bowling Green 14

    Buffalo at Liberty (6 p.m. ET, Buffalo -5)
    Prediction: Liberty 21, Buffalo 17

    South Carolina State at South Florida (6 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: South Florida 27, South Carolina State 3

    Southern Mississippi at Troy (6 p.m. ET, Troy -2.5)
    Prediction: Troy 28, Southern Miss 24

    Massachusetts at Charlotte (6 p.m. ET, Charlotte -19)
    Prediction: Charlotte 37, Massachusetts 21

    Ohio at Marshall (6:30 p.m. ET, Marshall -5.5)
    Prediction: Ohio 25, Marshall 20

    Duke at Middle Tennessee (7 p.m. ET, Duke -6.5)
    Prediction: Middle Tennessee 31, Duke 30

    Georgia State at Western Michigan (7 p.m. ET, Western Michigan -9)
    Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Georgia State 27

    Murray State at Toledo (7 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Toledo 44, Murray State 10

    New Hampshire at FIU (7 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: FIU 17, New Hampshire 14

    Texas State at SMU (7 p.m. ET, SMU -17)
    Prediction: SMU 38, Texas State 18

    Weber State at Nevada (7 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Nevada 35, Weber State 14

    Southeast Missouri State at Missouri (7:30 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Missouri 51, Southeast Missouri State 3

    TCU at Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET, TCU -2.5)
    Prediction: Purdue 31, TCU 28

    Texas Southern at Louisiana (7:30 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Louisiana 56, Texas Southern 12

    Missouri State at Tulane (8 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Tulane 35, Missouri State 11

    Northern Illinois at Nebraska (8 p.m. ET, Nebraska -14)
    Prediction: Nebraska 38, Northern Illinois 17

    San Diego State at New Mexico State (8 p.m. ET, San Diego State -15.5)
    Prediction: San Diego State 28, New Mexico State 10


    Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.