College football picks and predictions against the spread for Week 3

Week 3 of college football has pivotal matchups around the country, but what are our picks and predictions for the slate?

Look, Week 2 was not kind to essentially anyone last week. I mean, we even got our first head coach firing of the season. Unlike Clay Helton, however, I’m back at it in Week 3 with our college football picks and predictions.

College football Week 3 picks and predictions

Week 3 is unlike last week as there are a ton of interesting matchups across the nation. Our college football picks and predictions piece takes a look at 10 of the most exciting matchups with in-depth analysis. But here are some of the top games and their spreads, all up to date via DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday at 12 PM ET.

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Thursday:

  • Ohio @ Louisiana (-19.5)

Friday:

  • UCF @ Louisville (+7)
  • Maryland @ Illinois (+7.5)

Saturday:

  • Cincinnati @ Indiana (+3.5)
  • Nebraska @ Oklahoma (-22)
  • Michigan State @ Miami (FL) (-6)
  • Virginia Tech @ West Virginia (-2.5)
  • Boston College @ Temple (+14.5)
  • Minnesota @ Colorado (-3)
  • Alabama @ Florida (+14)
  • Georgia Tech @ Clemson (-28)
  • Florida State @ Wake Forest (-4.5)

 

  • USC @ Washington State (+8)
  • Mississippi State @ Memphis (+3)
  • South Carolina @ Georgia (+31)
  • Auburn @ Penn State (-5)
  • Virginia @ North Carolina (-7.5)
  • Stanford @ Vanderbilt (-11)
  • Oklahoma State @ Boise State (-3.5)
  • Arizona State @ BYU (+3.5)
  • Fresno State @ UCLA (-11.5)

While we didn’t have great success a week ago, we still finished a mere missed extra point from breaking even. After going 7-3 in Week 1, we went 4-5-1 in Week 2. The current record sits at 11-8-1, still in the positive for the season.

That being said, it’s important to see where you went wrong each week, make adjustments, and come back stronger for your next week of college football picks and predictions.

The wins:

  • Rutgers (-2) @ Syracuse
  • Cal (+11.5) @ TCU
  • Iowa (+4.5) @ Iowa State
  • Houston (-8) @ Rice

The losses:

  • Florida (-29) @ USF
  • Toledo @ Notre Dame (-17) 
  • Georgia Southern (-7) @ Florida Atlantic
  • Buffalo (+14) @ Nebraska
  • Texas (-6.5) @ Aransas

The tie:

  • Memphis (-5) @ Arkansas State

Friday’s pick and prediction

Here’s how to bet this Friday’s slate.

UCF (-7) @ Louisville

Time and Channel: 7:30 PM ET, ESPN

Legend has it, Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield has a side chick. That side chick’s name is “outside zone,” as he runs it essentially every offensive carry. Though they are usually terrific on OZ carries, the Cardinals have been suspect with a young, shaky offensive line in 2021.

The offensive line has struggled to maintain leverage and strength at contact points with their defenders. Those struggles have carried over to pass protection as well, as Malik Cunningham hasn’t had time to get past a single second read, it seems.

Combine the fact that Louisville loves outside zone with UCF’s run defense — that has limited both opponents to under 2.0 yards per carry this season — and you’ve got a significant mismatch. Expect Satterfield’s side chick to be exposed by this UCF defense. Knights stop the run, pressure Cunningham, and win easily.

Saturday’s college football picks and predictions against the spread

Here’s how you can attack this excellent Saturday slate.

Coastal Carolina (-14) @ Buffalo

Time and Channel: 12:00 PM ET, ESPN2

The Chanticleers are an incredibly diverse team. Not just in the way they stop teams on offense but how they run their offense in general. They are a triple-option team with spread offense principles. Call them what you want — their offense wins them ball games.

Coastal held Citadel’s triple-option attack to just 225 yards on 54 carries before stunting Kansas’ rushing attack to fewer than 100 yards, aside from quarterback scrambles. Buffalo’s offense is predicated on running the ball, and the Chants have proven the ability to stop the run.

Buffalo’s defense allowed Adrian Martinez to throw for nearly 250 and run for another 113. Look for Grayson McCall to set the tone early and Buffalo to struggle to keep them out of the end zone all game.

Cincinnati (-3.5) @ Indiana

Time and Channel: 12:00 PM ET, ESPN

Cincinnati’s defense hasn’t really been tested since Week 1, and even that’s a stretch. Desmond Ridder has proven the ability to find all levels of the field but has shined bright in one area. Ridder’s middle-of-the-field throws are perhaps college football’s best.

The greatest thing about Ridder’s success to the middle is that it stays away from talented Indiana CB Tiawan Mullen. Flipping it around, Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner has the chance to shadow talented Indiana WR Ty Fryfogle, perhaps eliminating the only proven threat the Hoosiers have in 2021.

Cincinnati proves their worth and ultimately stays in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth on Ridder’s arm.

Virginia Tech (+2.5) @ West Virginia

Time and Channel: 12:00 PM ET, FoxSports 1

The “Lunch Pail Defense” is back and perhaps as good as ever. They’ve proven capable of taking out the best player from either of their opponents through two weeks. They stymied UNC QB Sam Howell in Week 1, intercepting him 3 times. Tech then limited Middle Tennessee State to 2.2 yards per carry, outside of one quarterback scramble in garbage time.

The Hokies have athletes fully capable of dominating at all levels on defense, and this is all without even talking about QB Braxton Burmeister. The loss of TE James Mitchell will hurt, but Tré Turner and Tayvion Robinson are more than capable. Jarret Doege will have to play mistake-free football. Even then, the Hokies will absolutely still record at least 1 takeaway.

Tech’s the better football team, playing just north of Blacksburg. Scrub the home-field advantage away from WVU, and Tech wins on the strength of their stalwart defense.

Boston College (-14.5) @ Temple

Time and Channel: 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU

The Eagles are quite banged up with the exit of Phil Jurkovec and uncertainty around a few other players. However, the Owls entered the 2021 season banged up and missing several key players. Transfer QB D’Wan Mathis was less than impressive and replaced by QB Justin Lynch a week prior.

Though Lynch had a decent performance against Akron, the BC defense is nothing like the Zips. Temple’s defense will struggle to get pressure on the passer and stuff the interior against a stout offensive line, both of which were crucial for their win over Akron.

The Eagles air it out early with Dennis Grosel but cram it down their throat late.

Baylor (-18) @ Kansas

Time and Channel: 3:30 PM ET, Big 12 Network/ESPN+

The Bears’ offensive line is not only the best in the Big 12, but they’re making a claim to be the best in the country after two games. The Eric Mateos Effect is real, and if this isn’t your first time here, you would know that by now. Jacob Gall mauled interior defensive linemen, and the Bears’ entire offensive line found success at every level.

Kansas’ defense doesn’t have the players to stack up to this offensive line and should struggle at the point of attack all game long. Baylor’s ability to cover will come from their defense, specifically safety JT Woods and LB Dillon Doyle. Both players have the ability to stick with Kansas QB Jason Bean on scrambles and designed carries, the only thing remotely successful for Kansas this season.

Northwestern (-2.5) @ Duke

Time and Channel: 4:00 PM ET, ACC Network

The Wildcats lost handily to Michigan State in Week 1, but that is in no way saying they’re not better than Duke. They got better and healthier with a late surge to beat Indiana State. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils played starters longer than they should have against North Carolina A&T.

Northwestern is limiting quarterbacks to less than 150 yards per game through the air. Gunnar Holmberg will be in for a long night against the Wildcats’ defense. If Northwestern can keep Mataeo Durant in check, and more importantly, avoid a repeat of their performance against MSU, they win. Hunter Johnson exacts revenge on a former ACC rival.

Arkansas State (+16) @ Washington

Time and Channel: 4:15 PM ET, Pac-12 Network

If their marquee matchup against Michigan proved anything, the Huskies are in desperate need of a victory and small wins in Week 3. They’re certainly a better team overall than Arkansas State, but the Red Wolves have the tools to keep it competitive on offense.

The biggest development in this game will be the rather porous Arkansas State secondary against a Washington aerial assault that, well, isn’t an assault at all. Washington QB Dylan Morris is averaging 6.3 yards per pass and has 1 touchdown against 3 interceptions.

The Red Wolves are no strangers to points, and they’ll certainly score enough to hang with Washington.

UAB @ North Texas (+13)

Time and Channel: 7:30 PM ET, check your local listings

Speaking of scoring points, that’s exactly what this North Texas offense does. The world watched as Georgia QB Stetson Bennett dotted the field with whatever kind of throw he wanted against UAB last week. The QB situation for the Mean Green isn’t quite that of Georgia’s, but they still go, go, go.

UAB’s defense should be a revitalized unit against what was a disastrous performance against Georgia. They threw the ball 17 times for just 47 yards with 3 interceptions from QB Tyler Johnston III. If UAB can’t get their patented zone-rushing scheme working, the Blazers should be in for a long night on defense.

Fresno State (+11.5) @ UCLA

Time and Channel: 10:45 PM ET, Pac-12 Network

Fresno State QB Jake Haener is the real deal — he’s just been buried on late-night games for the nation to miss. No difference here in the late window on the hard-to-watch Pac-12 Network. Haener has the tools to keep pace with UCLA.

Fresno State’s defense has proven to be capable of slowing teams down as well (even halting Oregon better than Ohio State was able to do). The high has to come crashing down soon for Chip Kelly and the Bruins, and my bet is on this aerial assault from Haener being the crescendo.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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