B/R Experts Answer Biggest College Football Questions for Week 3
In the seven days since our last batch of college football expert predictions, five Week 3 games were postponed or canceled, a new contest was incredibly added to the Week 3 schedule, the Big Ten's fall season was "un-postponed" and, oh yeah, the Big 12 went 0-3 against the Sun Belt.
So, yeah, we're totally confident in our collective ability to predict what will happen this coming weekend.
Jokes aside, we've got a nice little slate on tap. Things will look more enticing when the SEC joins the mix next Saturday and even more so when the Big Ten jumps into the fray in late October. Still, there's a great ACC showdown Saturday night, and how often do you get to watch three ranked Group of Five teams playing intriguing road games?
Well, this weekend you will, and Bleacher Report's college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard—have answers to the hottest questions, such as:
- Will Miami or Louisville emerge victorious from that big ACC game?
- Does Georgia Tech have another upset win up its sleeve?
- Which quarterback will put up the most yards this week?
- And are we seriously going to have Big Ten football before Halloween?
Our experts are on the case.
No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville: Who You Got?
I've wavered on this pick all week because Micale Cunningham threw some passes last Saturday against Western Kentucky that he probably wouldn't get away with against Miami. And while Louisville has a strong identity, defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips can create huge problems if Cunningham is rolling right so often again.
But last season, Miami never won in six chances when having at least eight days to prepare. That's a coaching problem. I'm still in see-it-to-believe-it mode with a Manny Diaz-led team. Give me Louisville in a close one.
Anyone else find it odd that both of these teams are ranked in the AP Top 20? Just me? Maybe I'm still adjusting to rankings without multiple conferences. It just looks weird. But even if both these teams are slightly overvalued in this bizarre start to the year, the contest itself should be quite good.
Although I love D'Eriq King's game, I like Louisville in this spot. Cunningham has the chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and this could be a breakout game for him. Throw in running back Javian Hawkins, who should bounce back from a sluggish opener, and this offense could be delightful as the season progresses. Give me Louisville (and the over, if you're into such things).
Before last week, I would have picked Louisville. But Miami's 337 rushing yards against UAB were game-changing. The Hurricanes didn't have a single 200-yard rushing performance against an FBS opponent last season. That includes being held to 51 yards by Central Michigan and 74 yards by Louisiana Tech, so save your "But it was only UAB!" retorts.
King already has this offense looking better than it has in at least three years, and Cam'Ron Harris had some impressive runs against the Blazers. Hawkins and Co. will put up a good fight, but I've got to go with the Hurricanes against a Cardinals defense that has had a lot of trouble slowing down opposing running games over the past few seasons. Miami 28, Louisville 23.
King is the real deal, and the Hurricanes didn't have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to rack up 495 yards against UAB last week. Miami forced three turnovers in a lopsided 52-27 victory when these teams met last year, and while it should be a closer game this time, the Hurricanes still have the advantage thanks to their high-powered offense.
If there is a "surprise" team in the ACC this year—can't really consider North Carolina a surprise with all the hype—it's Louisville. It's possible Scott Satterfield is one of the five best X's and O's coaches in the nation, and to do what he did at Louisville in just one year was remarkable. Cunningham is playing at a high level and has plenty of weapons, and Miami's defense has holes. I like the Cardinals to win, though King will keep Miami close.
More Yards: Chuba Hubbard Rushing vs. Tulsa, or The Citadel at Clemson?
I'll take The Citadel, which is admittedly less fun. Hubbard ran for 256 yards against Tulsa last season, and the Golden Hurricane are rebuilding the defense. It's plausible he'll do something similar. But in a likely blowout while Oklahoma State eases everyone back into game shape, Hubbard might have only 175 and call it a day.
Against South Florida last week, The Citadel totaled six points on 284 yards. Last season, Hubbard averaged 161 rushing yards per game. For as good as Hubbard is—and he's the best running back in the country—I will reluctantly side with The Citadel. It will likely lose by 45 or more points, but I am counting on those #GarbageYards against the fourth-string defense to help push this one over the edge.
The outcome will be close, but The Citadel edges out a win. (Not against Clemson, though. Seriously, that outcome will be bad.)
If we're talking about a full game (which we are), I've got to go with The Citadel. Just like they did in 2017 against Clemson, the Bulldogs will probably put together some sort of "Down by 50-plus points, facing third-string defenders, 60-yard garbage time" scoring drive to get close to or just beyond 200 total yards in the game.
And even though Hubbard had four games last season with at least 220 rushing yards, I don't expect a repeat of his 256-yard game against Tulsa. It's more likely he gets to around 150 by the end of the third quarter before sitting out the final period of a comfortable Cowboys victory.
The Citadel needed 54 carries to get to 200 rushing yards with its triple-option offense last week against a USF team picked to finish last in the AAC media poll. The Bulldogs won't get half that against the Clemson defense. Meanwhile, the nation's leading rusher in 2019 kicks off his season against a Tulsa defense that ranked 90th against the run with 185.1 yards allowed per game last year. Advantage: Hubbard.
I'm going to go with The Citadel, but not by much. This team mustered just 284 total yards against South Florida in a 27-6 loss a week ago, and while the Bulls do have former Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott as head coach, they are assuredly not Clemson.
Still, with the Bulldogs playing from way behind and the Tigers emptying their bench, they will approach 250 or more yards. Not sure Hubbard will be on the field long enough to muster that many.
How Will No. 19 Louisiana Fare in Program's 1st Week as a Ranked Team?
I'm expecting a solid win for Louisiana this week. While returning both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown like they did against Iowa State is unsustainable, the Ragin' Cajuns didn't have a great offensive showing in the upset.
Levi Lewis' 78-yard touchdown pass sparked the win, but they averaged just 3.5 yards per play otherwise. The offense is always strong under head coach Billy Napier, though, and has plenty of room to improve this weekend.
What Louisiana was to Iowa State last week, Georgia State could be to Louisiana in Week 3: a pesky underdog capable of scoring points and sustaining enough drives to make the game interesting.
A seven-win team last season, Georgia State upended Tennessee in Week 1 and played well early on before losing to better teams deep in the year. But the Panthers are playing their first game of the season, so there's quite a bit unknown.
Louisiana looked the part. It also looked balanced against a Cyclones team with more talent top to bottom. I'll take the Ragin' Cajuns to win, but the 17-point underdogs cover.
Louisiana is the third Sun Belt team in the past five seasons to make its first appearance in the AP poll. And things did not go well for the other two. In November 2016, Troy squeaked in at No. 25 with an 8-1 record, only to lose 35-3 to Arkansas State the following Thursday. Appalachian State faced a similar fate in October 2018, losing 34-14 to Georgia Southern just four days after making its AP Top 25 debut.
At least ULL isn't playing on a Thursday? The Ragin' Cajuns will defeat Georgia State, though, which had a terrible defense last season, and which has to replace both its starting quarterback and starting running back. Louisiana wins by two touchdowns.
The Ragin' Cajuns are heavy favorites after a convincing 31-14 victory over a ranked Iowa State team last weekend. Their special teams unit came up big in that upset with kick and punt return touchdowns. The offense managed just 14 first downs and will need to do a bit more this week, assuming ULL doesn't get two scores in the return game again.
Still, the Ragin' Cajuns should have no problem staying undefeated against Georgia State.
Georgia State will not have a repeat of its season-opening shocker over Tennessee a year ago. The Vols were lost offensively at that point, and Louisiana is certainly not. The Panthers had an awful defense last year, and with Lewis and crew clicking, the Ragin' Cajuns will outclass Georgia State. They probably will even cover the double-digit spread, and Napier's star will continue to rise.
Will Georgia Tech Improve to 2-0 by Upsetting No. 14 UCF?
After watching a ton of offenses struggle last week in season openers, I'm far less confident that UCF's returning players will enjoy a fast start. But my pick isn't changing from the Knights because their defense should limit Georgia Tech as UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel and Co. shake off the rust and seal the deal in the second half.
A difficult aspect of early-season outcomes is interpreting what they mean. Georgia Tech's victory last week could be a solid win. Or, if recent Florida State history holds, it could be a meh result.
But give me UCF. Gabriel was excellent for the Knights last year as a freshman, and we could see him blossom into a star in short order. Offensively, it just feels like UCF will be too much, and that starts with him. The Yellow Jackets will counter with Jeff Sims at QB, who also looks like an exciting player in the making. But UCF is better and more established in too many places.
Not to take anything away from Georgia Tech's surprising road win over Florida State, but that game felt like more of a "The Seminoles aren't good" statement than a "The Yellow Jackets are a contender" statement.
I might be wrong. In fact, I hope I am, because the ACC needs more teams that at least have a snowball's chance in hell at beating Clemson. But this veteran, fringe-playoff-contending UCF team will be more than ready to get this road win over a Power Five program. It should be a high-scoring affair, but I like UCF to get a 35-28 victory.
Last week's win over Florida State was more of an indictment on the Seminoles than a coming-out party for Georgia Tech. Sims threw two interceptions, and the running game produced just 4.0 yards per carry. The defense looked good, but the UCF offense will pose a much tougher test with Gabriel leading the way. The Knights win by at least a touchdown.
This one is tough to pick, but if the Yellow Jackets get a banged-up Jahmyr Gibbs back at running back for this game, I'm going with GT.
Gabriel and the mastery that is head coach Josh Heupel's offense will be much more difficult to contain than Florida State was a week ago. Tech confused Seminoles QB James Blackman for much of the evening, and he looked discombobulated, even though FSU has more talent. Tech is well-coached, and if Sims takes a big jump from Week 1 to 2, the upset will happen.
Fine, I'm picking it. Bees win 31-28.
AP No. 23 (Iowa State) Lost Week 2. Does It Happen Again for Appalachian State?
Ever a cautious prognosticator, I'm sticking with Appalachian State. Every year, this defense is extremely stubborn, and I just can't go against the Mountaineers versus a Group of Five (Group of Three?) opponent.
Marshall, though, may have found itself a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Grant Wells finished his season debut with a scorching 13.3 yards per attempt, 307 yards and four touchdowns. This will be closer than anticipated, but still an App State win.
While Appalachian State has become somewhat of a regular in the AP Top 25, Marshall will be a tough test with an offense that can put up points. Of course, it's hard to take much from the 59-0 victory Marshall unleashed on Eastern Kentucky last week. (It's Eastern Kentucky, after all.) But Marshall closed incredibly strong last season, winning six of its final eight games. And if Wells is anything close to what he showcased in the opener at quarterback, this will be an intriguing team.
Give me Marshall in a mild upset and a great game. Thundering Herd 31-27.
I'm taking Marshall in a slight upset over No. 23 Appalachian State. Can't glean much from the Thundering Herd's 59-0 win over Eastern Kentucky from two weeks ago, but Wells looked good. It's also worth noting they put up those 59 points without getting much of anything from All-Conference USA running back Brenden Knox. If he brings his A-game Saturday, Marshall should have more than enough offense to knock off the Mountaineers.
Marshall demolished Eastern Kentucky with a 627-166 advantage in total yards and a 59-0 showing on the scoreboard. It was an FCS opponent, but that kind of domination is tough to ignore. Now the Thundering Herd have a home game against No. 23 Appalachian State, who needed a 14-point fourth quarter to pull away from a mediocre Charlotte team last week. Give me the upset.
We don't know a whole lot about Marshall yet, but this game looks like a toss-up. Ultimately, the Thundering Herd will win. Different calibers of opponents, sure, but Marshall looked much better in its opener than Appalachian State did.
Who Throws for the Most Yards in Week 3?
Staying in Denton, I'll take SMU quarterback Shane Buechele. He racked up 367 yards in the opener against Texas State, and North Texas surrendered 480 to Houston Baptist. Between his typical volume and the expected pace of this game, Buechele should have another huge stat line.
I'll take Louisville's Micale Cunningham. I've already stated why he could be poised for big things this year, and I really like him in this spot. He threw for 343 yards in the opener, and we could get a similar output here.
While Miami's defense should present a much more formidable challenge, that team isn't equipped to slow a player like this. At least not yet. Stat-line prediction: 25-of-38, 361 yards, three touchdowns.
Well, for the first time this season, it won't be Houston Baptist's Bailey Zappe. But I will go with the guy who has the good fortune of facing the North Texas secondary that Zappe torched in Week 1. Buechele threw for 367 yards in leading the Mustangs to a season-opening win over Texas State. It's perfectly reasonable to expect something in excess of 400 yards against the Mean Green.
Let's go outside the box a bit and say Duke quarterback Chase Brice has a big week. The Clemson transfer threw for 259 yards against a good Notre Dame defense last week, and now he's facing off against a Boston College team that ranked 122nd in the nation with 285.5 passing yards allowed per game in 2019. His first career 300-yard outing could make him this week's top passer.
Well, I was going to pick UNC's Howell against Charlotte, but that game isn't happening. Maybe Trevor Lawrence against The Citadel? There's no way he'll still be in the game in the fourth quarter, but that's a classic "keep getting acquainted with the new receivers" type of opponent. He should easily eclipse 300 yards.
Next Big Ten College Football Game Will Be Played Before or After Oct. 27, 2020?
Editor's Note: This was published prior to the Big Ten schedule release.
The Big Ten will stick to its schedule and the protocols will be followed and nothing will go wrong and the season will open Oct. 23 as planned and it'll be great to have Big Ten football back on the field and someone please get me a beer.
The Big Ten says games will be played the weekend of Oct. 24, and as we know the Big Ten is never wrong publicly. (Insert pause for laughter.)
It will be before Oct. 27, though. And while we can knock the Big Ten for the disaster of the past six weeks, I am just thrilled it's back. We'll see how players and teams adapt over the next month while attempting to get into playing shape, but it does feel as concrete as things have been in some time.
My prediction? We will get at least one game on Friday, Oct. 23—a little under-the-lights action and a much fuller lineup the next day. Bring on Big Ten football.
I have no idea, but I'll say after Oct. 27. I find it hard to believe they can responsibly throw together a season in the span of five weeks, but who knows. It would be nice to get a positive surprise in 2020 for a change.
But if the Big Ten does come back and the Pac-12 does not, I hope we can somehow force the Big Ten to fill the #Pac12AfterDark void. There's no such game this week, and that Coastal Carolina-Kansas game last Saturday wasn't fulfilling enough. Hook me up with a little Minnesota vs. Nebraska action until 1:30 a.m. on the East Coast. Then the season might start to feel normal.
The Big Ten Conference badly misread the room when it postponed fall sports, no doubt assuming that the other major conferences would all follow suit. Now that the league has announced a firm return date by way of a unanimous vote from its presidents and chancellors, it simply can't afford the optics of another postponement. Game on.
They'll play on the weekend of Oct. 24. No matter what the conference's intentions were, the way it handled everything has been a public relations nightmare. The more interesting question is if the College Football Playoff committee takes enough notice of an eight-game season, if it happens.
Odds via DraftKings.