College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

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    Louisville QB Micale Cunningham
    Louisville QB Micale CunninghamMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The 2020 college football season is slowly building toward a full schedule as two dozen games are on the Week 3 slate.

    No. 17 Miami's trip to No. 18 Louisville highlights the action, which includes 11 ranked teams from the latest AP Top 25.

    Yes, the weekend is relatively thin on marquee matchups. Oklahoma State and Baylor are the only Big 12 teams in action, and the SEC is a week away from kicking off its 2020 campaign.

    Still, most AAC and ACC programs will take the field. And in this shortened season, every victory is meaningful.

    Note: Houston at No. 16 Memphis, No. 22 Army at No. 21 BYU and Virginia at Virginia Tech have all been postponed. Houston has since scheduled a game against Baylor.

AP Nos. 25-21

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    Pitt QB Kenny Pickett
    Pitt QB Kenny PickettKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Syracuse (0-1) at No. 25 Pitt (1-0), noon ET

    While Pitt crushed Austin Peay 55-0 and limited the FCS program to 139 yards, Syracuse had a horrible offensive day against North Carolina. The unit should improve throughout the season, but the earliest evidence is not promising for the Orange.

    Prediction: Pitt 31, Syracuse 16


    No. 24 Appalachian State (1-0) at Marshall (1-0), 1:30 p.m. ET

    Marshall quarterback Grant Wells earned some attention with 337 total yards and four touchdown passes in the opener. However, there is a huge difference between Eastern Kentucky and Appalachian State, which held Charlotte to a 36.7 completion rate and 4.7 yards per attempt with two interceptions. Wells may prove us wrong, but Appalachian State is the deserved favorite.

    Prediction: App State 30, Marshall 24


    No. 23 Kentucky (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, at No. 8 Auburn (noon ET)


    No. 22 Army (2-0)

    Next game: Saturday, Sep 26, at No. 13 Cincinnati (3:30 p.m. ET)


    No. 21 BYU (1-0)

    Next game: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. Troy (10:15 p.m. ET)

AP Nos. 20-16

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    Louisiana RB Trey Ragas
    Louisiana RB Trey RagasAssociated Press

    No. 20 Virginia Tech (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. NC State (8:00 p.m. ET)


    No. 19 Louisiana (1-0) at Georgia State (0-0), noon ET

    Despite just 272 yards of offense, Louisiana stunned Iowa State thanks to two special-teams scores. Head coach Billy Napier's history suggests the Ragin' Cajuns will have a productive offense, so they've earned the benefit of the doubt anyway. Georgia State hasn't played in 2020, so the Panthers are still an unknown. But after it finished 2019 with one of the nation's worst defenses, Louisiana is the easy pick.

    Prediction: Louisiana 38, Georgia State 24


    No. 17 Miami (1-0) at No. 18 Louisville (1-0), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Most attention will be on quarterback D'Eriq King leading a new-look Miami offense into Louisville, but the opposite matchup may define this ACC clash. Though the 'Canes are much stronger at the line of scrimmage, Louisville has an edge at receiver. If that disruptive front fails to generate pressure on Micale Cunningham quickly, Miami will be desperate for late heroics from King.

    Prediction: Louisville 34, Miami 31


    No. 16 Memphis (1-0)

    Next game: Friday, Sep. 25, at UTSA (8 p.m. ET)

AP Nos. 15-11

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    Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard
    Oklahoma State RB Chuba HubbardSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    No. 15 Tennessee (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET)


    No. 14 UCF (0-0) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Georgia Tech pulled off an upset win at Florida State in the opener and has a chance for a second surprise. UCF boasts one of the best scoring attacks on paper, but the last couple of weeks have repeatedly shown a rough start for many offenses. If Georgia Tech can take an early lead, this might get interesting. But we'll cautiously stick with quarterback Dillon Gabriel and UCF in a tight game.

    Prediction: UCF 27, Georgia Tech 24


    Austin Peay (0-2) at No. 13 Cincinnati (0-0), noon ET

    Austin Peay wraps up its three-game fall schedule with a trip to Cincinnati, and it probably won't go much better than last week. The Governors lost to Pitt 55-0, and the Bearcats are expected to have a top-tier defense in the AAC. Cincinnati needs to shake off some rust, but let's not complicate this one.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 45, Austin Peay 7


    Charlotte (0-1) at No. 12 North Carolina (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    One piece of evidence for the "slow offensive starts" statement comes from North Carolina, which mustered 10 points in the first three quarters of a 31-6 victory over Syracuse. Sam Howell threw two interceptions for only the third time in his career. But a showdown with Charlotte, which surrendered 308 rushing yards last week, offers a chance for UNC's offense to settle into the season.

    Prediction: North Carolina 45, Charlotte 17


    Tulsa (0-0) at No. 11 Oklahoma State (0-0), noon ET

    During the 2019 matchup, Tulsa ceded 506 yardsincluding 256 rushing yards to Oklahoma State star Chuba Hubbardin a 40-21 defeat. Given that Tulsa needs to replace a majority of its defense in 2020, it's fair to expect another comfortable win for Hubbard and the Cowboys in the season opener for both teams.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 44, Tulsa 20

AP Nos. 10-6

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    Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
    Notre Dame coach Brian KellyPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    No. 10 Texas A&M (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m. ET)


    No. 9 Texas (1-0)

    Next game: Saturday, Sep. 26, at Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. ET)


    No. 8 Auburn (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. No. 23 Kentucky (noon ET)


    South Florida (1-0) at No. 7 Notre Dame (1-0), 2:30 p.m. ET

    As long as Notre Dame can quiet USF's rushing attack, the Irish will improve to 2-0. Even excluding three sacks, they limited Duke to 96 yards on 27 attempts. South Florida scampered for 302 yards on 7.7 yards per carry against The Citadel, but it would be incredibly impressive for that to carry over Saturday afternoon.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 34, USF 13


    No. 6 LSU (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. Mississippi State (3:30 p.m. ET)

AP Nos. 5-1

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    Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
    Clemson QB Trevor LawrenceRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    No. 5 Florida (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, at Mississippi (noon ET)


    No. 4 Georgia (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, at Arkansas (4 p.m. ET)


    No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0)

    Next game: Saturday, Sep. 26, vs. Kansas State (noon ET)


    No. 2 Alabama (0-0)

    Season opener: Saturday, Sep. 26, at Missouri (7 p.m. ET)


    The Citadel (0-1) at No. 1 Clemson (1-0), 4 p.m. ET

    Clemson steamrolled Wake Forest 37-13 in the season opener. Trevor Lawrence threw for 351 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, and Travis Etienne amassed 149 yards from scrimmage. The All-American duo should have another excellent day opposite The Citadel, which allowed 6.3 yards per play to USF in Week 2.

    Prediction: Clemson 52, The Citadel 7

The Next Best Games

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    Baylor QB Charlie Brewer
    Baylor QB Charlie BrewerRay Carlin/Associated Press

    Houston (0-0) at Baylor (0-0), noon ET

    Head coach Dana Holgorsen took advantage of the four-game redshirt rule in 2019 and basically tanked the season. This unexpected trip to Baylor is the first chance to see whether the strategy might pay off. Baylor will have a new offense and a rebuilt defense, so it's not exactly clear what to expect from either side. We'll lean on Baylor's talent in a fascinating game.

    Prediction: Baylor 28, Houston 20


    Boston College (0-0) at Duke (0-1), noon ET

    Though the Blue Devils lost at Notre Dame, Chase Brice showed a calm demeanor in the pocket and a bit of elusiveness. The Clemson transfer ended his debut 20-of-37 for 259 yards with one rushing score. While that's by no means a stellar showing, it inspired more confidence in Duke's offense than anticipated. Boston College hopes new head coach Jeff Hafley can turn around a defense that allowed 32.2 points per game in 2019, but that's not a one-week process.

    Prediction: Duke 27, Boston College 20


    SMU (1-0) at North Texas (1-0), 6 p.m. ET

    Defense? Who likes defense? SMU and North Texas racked up 554 and 721 yards in their respective openers, so a high-scoring game is likely. SMU earned a 49-27 victory in last year's matchup and returns star quarterback Shane Buechele, but the offense is adjusting to new coordinator Garrett Riley. It probably won't be as comfortable this time around for the Mustangs.

    Prediction: SMU 38, North Texas 31


    Louisiana Tech (0-0) at Southern Miss (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Did you know Southern Miss has a new coach? Jay Hopson is gone, leaving offensive coordinator Scotty Walden in charge. Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, has a new quarterback and a revamped defense and dealt with multiple stoppages due to Hurricane Laura and COVID-19 protocols. Look, we're not ashamed of lacking a good answer; the context for this matchup is unique. We'll lean toward Jack Abraham and a Southern Miss offense that actually has some stability.

    Prediction: Southern Miss 27, Louisiana Tech 22

The Rest of the Slate

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    Arkansas State upset Kansas State in Week 2.
    Arkansas State upset Kansas State in Week 2.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Navy (0-1) at Tulane (1-0), noon ET

    Prediction: Tulane 31, Navy 21


    Liberty (0-0) at Western Kentucky (0-1), noon ET

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 34, Liberty 21


    Stephen F. Austin (0-1) at UTSA (1-0), 3 p.m. ET

    Prediction: UTSA 31, Stephen F. Austin 17


    Florida Atlantic (0-0) at Georgia Southern (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Prediction: FAU 26, Georgia Southern 23


    Troy (0-0) at Middle Tennessee (0-1), 4 p.m. ET

    Prediction: Troy 20, Middle Tennessee 16


    Central Arkansas (1-1) at Arkansas State (1-1), 7 p.m. ET

    Prediction: Arkansas State 38, Central Arkansas 20


    Texas State (0-2) at Louisiana-Monroe (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Prediction: Texas State 29, Louisiana-Monroe 23


    Campbell (0-1) at Coastal Carolina (1-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m ET.

    Prediction: Coastal Carolina 34, Campbell 17


    Wake Forest (0-1) at North Carolina State (0-0), 8 p.m. ET

    Prediction: NC State 24, Wake Forest 20


    Abilene Christian (0-0) at UTEP (1-1), 9 p.m. ET

    Prediction: UTEP 27, Abilene Christian 10