B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 3

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 13, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 3

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    Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
    Iowa head coach Kirk FerentzMatthew Putney/Associated Press

    On most Saturdays during the college football season, you should cancel all plans and just post up on the couch with pizza, beer and the remote controls for your multiple-screen setup. On those weekends, there's so much critical action that it's almost impossible to keep up with it all.

    Unfortunately, this is not one of those Saturdays. Not only are there no AP Top 25 vs. AP Top 25 showdowns, but there is only one game (Iowa at Iowa State) in which both teams received at least five votes in this week's poll.

    Translation: There are going to be an awful lot of blowouts.

    But there's inevitably going to be a wild upset or two, and potentially boring college football is always much better than no college football at all.

    To help you figure out what to expect, Bleacher Report's college football experts—David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—joined forces to offer up predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:

    • Will a single AP Top 25 team suffer a loss this week?
    • How badly are the nation's Top Five teams going to beat up on their inferior opponents?
    • Does West Virginia gain a single rushing yard against North Carolina State?
    • And will Trevor Lawrence finally get through a game without throwing a pick?

    Our experts are on the case to let you know.

No. 19 Iowa at Iowa State: Who You Got?

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    Iowa State QB Brock Purdy
    Iowa State QB Brock PurdyDavid K Purdy/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    Iowa State having an extra week to prepare adds a little extra intrigue to this question. Our only data point for the Cyclones in 2019 is surviving a triple-overtime clash with FCS foe Northern Iowa, while Iowa has showcased the elite defense I expected to see this season. Given the latter, I'll take the Hawkeyes. Either way, we're going to learn a lot about Iowa State this week.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Iowa State had a nightmare of a time trying to score against Northern Iowa, while Iowa's defense comes into this game fresh off a shutout of Rutgers in which the Scarlet Knights almost had as many turnovers (three) as first downs (five).

    But when the Cy-Hawk Trophy is on the line, rhyme and reason go right out the window. Some impossibly weird stuff is going to happen in a low-scoring affair, and the combination of home-field advantage and the extra week to prepare for this game will enable the Cyclones to eke out a key win over the Hawkeyes.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Iowa has won the last four meetings because it has more talented players and is mentally tougher. I thought that was going to change with Matt Campbell at Iowa State, but that season-opening near-loss to Northern Iowa was a real downer.

    How much can Brock Purdy carry this offense on his shoulders without David Montgomery? Can the secondary play better? These are questions that need answering, and the Hawkeyes are too rugged for the Cyclones to figure it out on the field this week. Look for Kirk Ferentz's team to make it five straight over its rival.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Iowa, a slight road favorite, is my pick. Giving Matt Campbell and his staff a bye week to get his team on track after shockingly needing triple overtime to beat UNI makes it tempting to pick the Cyclones. But the Hawkeyes are loaded with a quality offensive line once again, and the playmaking on defense will give Brock Purdy trouble all game long. 

Will No. 17 UCF Extend Its Winning Streak (Excluding Bowls) to 27 Games?

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    UCF RB Greg McCrae
    UCF RB Greg McCraeGary McCullough/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Fortunately for Stanford, K.J. Costello is expected to return. Had he not been healthy, I wouldn't hesitate to pick UCF. Although I'm taking the Knights anyway, I anticipate it'll be a tight fourth quarter before UCF's passing attack pulls away. Stanford's lack of versatility on offense is both frustrating to see and a big problem on the road.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Yes, the Knights get the job done at home, even if Costello is a full participant for Stanford and even if Brandon Wimbush doesn't start for UCF. (Although the latter might be a good thing for the Knights, given the big arm Dillon Gabriel has displayed thus far.) I can't rationalize buying stock in Stanford's offense, which hasn't been able to run the ball well since Bryce Love's injury midway through the 2017 season. The Cardinal have yet to score 21 points this season, and there's no way that would be enough against UCF.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Yes, it will. Stanford gets Costello back after last weekend's crushing loss to USC, but the Cardinal will be without both offensive tackles, including star Walker Little. Little was arguably the best offensive lineman in the country, so his season-ending injury was a major blow. The Knights will make just enough plays on defense to wreak havoc, they have better athletes, and the offensive balance for UCF will be the difference. The Knights will win 30-20.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Nope. This is it for that streak. Costello will give the Cardinal enough to overcome another quality UCF team. Expect whichever quarterback starts for the Knights to struggle as the Cardinal have an athletic, ball-hawking defense led by cornerback Paulson Adebo.

Can No. 24 USC Overcome Lynn Swann's Resignation to Win at BYU?

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    USC QB Kedon Slovis
    USC QB Kedon SlovisMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    We all watched the same Kedon Slovis last week, yes? What a debut as a starter. BYU's secondary has played a couple of superb games to begin the season, but I'd be stunned if that unit can handle USC's trio of standout receivers―Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Michael Pittman Jr. USC wins.

                

    Kerry Miller

    USC will improve to 3-0 regardless of its vacancy at athletic director. It might become a distraction in the long run, but it won't matter against a BYU run defense that has allowed more than 240 yards in each of its first two games. Slovis was a revelation at quarterback in last week's beatdown of Stanford, but Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr will be the stars of this one.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Things are heading in the right direction for the Trojans. They've found a star in Slovis, who has shown he can get the ball to the many weapons around him. The Trojans still have defensive issues and offensive line problems, but BYU is nowhere near athletic enough on the perimeter to keep up with the Trojans. Last weekend's emotional win over Tennessee was followed by a cross-country trip back to Provo. Eventually, all that mileage will take its toll. The Trojans will win this one easily.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Yes. BYU doesn't quite have the athletes needed to score with USC, even with the Trojans breaking in a new quarterback. I have a feeling the resignation of Lynn Swann is the start of major changes that'll come this year, but Slovis' emergence and the presence of Graham Harrell as offensive coordinator could save the program's fate in 2019.

Which Other AP Top 25 Teams (If Any) Will Lose to an Unranked Foe?

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    Michigan State RB Elijah Collins
    Michigan State RB Elijah CollinsAl Goldis/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    What a remarkably soft opening to the season. Other than Cal knocking off Washington at like 5 a.m. ET last week, has there actually been a surprising result in the AP Top 25? I don't think so, and I believe that trend continues in Week 3. Michigan State would've been on upset alert, but that offense looked tremendously fresh in Week 2 compared to the opening game. Sparty should take down Arizona State.

                

    Kerry Miller

    The only one I'm remotely concerned about is No. 21 Maryland at Temple. The Josh Jackson-led Terrapins are leading the nation in scoring at 71 points per game, but they lost by 21 to the Owls last September. Also, betting on a newly ranked team playing on the road against a competent foe seems like a bad idea. I expect Maryland to win, but it would be the least surprising loss by a ranked team (aside from the three games we've previously discussed).

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I think Arizona State overlooked Sacramento State last weekend in an uninspiring 19-7 win. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a star in the making, and running back Eno Benjamin is one of the best players at his position in the country. The Spartans are off to a nice start and get the Sun Devils at home, but Herm Edwards' team has too much speed for them to overcome. I like ASU getting an upset. They beat Sparty at home a year ago and are even better this season.

             

    Ian Wharton

    None, but Houston has the chance to put a lot of pressure on Washington State. It's essentially a home game for Houston since the game is at NRG Stadium, and we can count on it being a shootout between two great offensive coaches.

What Will Be the Combined Margin of Victory by AP Nos. 1-5?

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    Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts
    Oklahoma QB Jalen HurtsSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Clemson over Syracuse by 24 points, Alabama levels South Carolina by 31, Georgia knocks out Arkansas State by 37, LSU dispatches Northwestern State by 51 and Oklahoma crushes UCLA by 38. A mere 181 points between the five teams.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Even though three of the five are playing on the road against Power Five opponents, it's going to be blowout city across the board. UCLA (hosting No. 5 Oklahoma) might be the biggest dumpster fire in the country, and neither South Carolina (vs. No. 2 Alabama) nor Syracuse (vs. No. 1 Clemson) is anywhere near the fringe contender we were anticipating two weeks ago. All five will win by at least a 27-point margin, with the wild card being how mercilessly LSU wants to destroy Northwestern State. I'll say the combined margin of victory is 197 points.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    In total, 160 points. These are going to be five laughers, even though Alabama's and Clemson's opponents could pose a bit of a fight for at least the first half. South Carolina doesn't have the weapons to stay close, and 'Bama eventually will pull away by 25 points. The Tigers won't have the same trouble with Syracuse as they did in recent years. If Maryland dominated that defense, imagine what Trevor Lawrence will do. That's another 30-point win. Georgia and LSU will dispatch their cupcakes by 40 apiece, and the Sooners will cruise to a 25-point win over UCLA.

             

    Ian Wharton

    A combined 259 points. The only game I see having a spread under 30 is Clemson at Syracuse. It's just one of those weak slates where an upset within the AP Top Five is unimaginable.

Over/Under No. 1: 9.5 Rushing Yards for West Virginia Against NC State?

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    WVU RB Kennedy McKoy
    WVU RB Kennedy McKoyBrian Bahr/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    I'll take the over, but the fact I had to legitimately consider the question is ridiculous. Even excluding sack yardage―which counts against rushing yardage in college―NC State has surrendered less than 100 rushing yards in two games. Minus sacks, WVU has 90 rushing yards in two games. Fifty isn't a lot, but that's my guess for West Virginia's total in this one.

                

    Kerry Miller

    I'll undoubtedly be in the minority here, but give me the under. Factoring in sack yardage, I think the Mountaineers finish with a negative rushing total.

    West Virginia is averaging 1.1 yards per carry and just ran for 30 yards against a Missouri defense that allowed 297 rushing yards against Wyoming in Week 1. Meanwhile NC State has held opponents to 1.0 yard per carry and was expected to have a significantly above-average defense this season. If the Wolfpack jump out to an early lead, West Virginia will abandon the run midway through the second quarter. A few fourth-quarter sacks of Austin Kendall will drop the 'Eers below zero rushing yards.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    This is an easy over. Come on! West Virginia is averaging 32 rushing yards per game and the Wolfpack are allowing 24.5. That means we should expect a balmy 28-30 yards, which would triple that total! In all seriousness, head coach Neal Brown will have to embark upon a total rebuild to mold the Mountaineers in his image, but they're going to have to be able to run the ball to win any games. Look for them to force the issue this weekend. It'll be ugly, though, and they'll still lose to NC State.

             

    Ian Wharton

    This is a grim line, but it's fair considering that the Mountaineers rank second-to-last in rushing with only 64 yards on 56 carries. Brown inherited a mess of a program. That being said, let's go with the over. They'll accidentally break off a chunk run to eclipse 10 yards total.

Over/Under No. 2: 79.5 Points Between Texas Tech and Arizona?

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    Texas Tech QB Alan Bowman
    Texas Tech QB Alan BowmanJohn E. Moore III/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    I want the over. Rooting for the under is no fun. Thus, I will be pulling for the over. But I have a suspicion that Arizona's offense will not cooperate with us. Again, hopefully I'm wrong! Life's too short to bet the under. (It's a good thing I'm not wagering anything.)

                

    Kerry Miller

    Over. Over. One thousand times over. This is the perfect storm of high-octane offenses and defenses that fall somewhere between mediocre and downright awful. Arizona is averaging 51.5 points and has allowed more than 40 in each of its first two games. Texas Tech is putting up 41.5 per game, and let's just say shutting down Montana State and UTEP isn't enough to convince me that defense is good for a change. Remember, the Red Raiders shut out Lamar last year and played a 63-49 game against Houston seven days later. An identical score against Arizona is a realistic possibility. 

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I'm going under here because you never know what you're going to get with the nightmare marriage between Noel Mazzone's offense and Khalil Tate's skill set. The Wildcats could come out on fire, or they could fall in a two-score hole and get discombobulated. The two teams will score plenty of points, but I think it'll fall just shy of 80 in a Red Raiders win.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Over. This is the best candidate for the highest-scoring game of the week, and it's one of the latest games on the schedule. "Pac-12 After Dark" is a real thing, folks, even when one of the teams isn't within the conference. Matt Wells' Red Raiders will be up for the late-night offensive showdown.

Over/Under No. 3: 0.5 Interceptions from Trevor Lawrence Against Syracuse?

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    Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
    Clemson QB Trevor LawrenceJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    One interception, but I'm not too concerned about it. Lawrence should have yet another productive day against a Syracuse defense that surrendered 296 yards and three touchdowns through the air to Maryland last week. Clemson should cruise to a win in the Carrier Dome.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Over, but as was the case in Clemson's first two games, it won't matter. After pacing the offense to an early multiple-touchdown lead, Lawrence will get lackadaisical with a pass in the direction of Andre Cisco, who incredibly has one interception in five of his last six games. More importantly than the interception, this will be the game where Lawrence finally starts padding his 2019 passing touchdown total, tossing at least three of them in an easy win.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Under. For whatever reason, the Heisman hopeful has looked anything but so far with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Part of that is because he played a good defense in Texas A&M, and part of it was flat-out rusty play in the opener against Georgia Tech. Syracuse's defense is bad, and the Tigers are going to get their passing game on track in a big way Saturday. Lawrence will have an unblemished line in the box score.

             

    Ian Wharton

    I'll go under. Lawrence has taken full control of this offense this year, and he's had a few reckless decisions in his first two games. But he played better last week, and should continue on that trajectory with a mistake-free game.