Picks for college football's biggest Week 3 games
After no games between top 25 teams last week, the top three teams in the country face ranked opponents on the road this week. With big rivalry games also in South Bend and Palo Alto on Saturday night, this should be one of the most exciting weekends of college football in 2016.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 Ole Miss
Line: Alabama, -11
There are so many different ways to analyze this matchup, but what sticks out the most through two weeks is Mississippi QB Chad Kelly’s production against pressure. With a clean pocket this year, he’s completed 35 of 47 passes 442 yards and five touchdowns. When the rush has broken through, however, he has completed just six of nineteen throws and taken six sacks while throwing two picks and just two interceptions. Without pressure he’s enjoyed a QB rating of 129.9, but with it his rating plummets to 43.4. This plays right into Alabama’s hands, as their quartet of Jonathan Allen, Ryand Anderson, Tim Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson have thus far accounted for six sacks, six hits and 18 pressures. Expect both trend to continue this week, which means Alabama gets revenge from last year’s loss to the Rebels.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Ole Miss 14
No. 2 Florida State at No. 10 Louisville
Line: Florida State, -2.0
Florida State was slow out of the gates Week 1 against Mississippi, but caught, passed and lapped the Rebels by the end of the game. As expected, the Seminoles had their way with Charleston Southern last week, but will be without the services of S Derwin James for likely at least his month after suffering a meniscus tear in his knee. Louisville has meanwhile put up 132 points in two blowout wins, which has pundits already calling QB Lamar Jackson a Heisman candidate. The results of the past two weeks seem to suggest Louisville is capable of upsetting the Seminoles at home, but a suspect offensive line (C Tobijah Hughley ranks 133rd at his position through two weeks, while LT Geron Christian is 305th) for the Cardinals is a huge mismatch against the likes of DeMarcus Walker and Derrick Nnadi (Ranked first and ninth among all DTs in pass rush productivity), thus I expect our top-ranked QB to be brought back down to Earth on Saturday.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Louisville 28
No. 3 Ohio State at No. 14 Oklahoma
Line: Ohio State, -1.5
This game will be about who controls the line of scrimmage — something Ohio State has not done consistently well thus far despite two lopsided scores. Safety Malik Hooker has been a pleasant surprise for the Buckeyes, as he has already posted three highlight-reel interceptions this season, but we’ve yet to see the big names up front generate a consistent pass rush (Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis have combined for two sacks and no hits through two games). Oklahoma’s defensive line is deep and has dominated against the run (Houston averaged just 2.9 yards per carry rushing against the Sooners in Week 1). Expect the defense to shut down a Buckeye run game that hasn’t had consistent blocking this year (Remington watch-list candidate C Pat Elflein ranked 118 out of 122 centers in run blocking last week), and once that happens, expect EDGE player Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (fourth in the country in pass-rush productivity) to add to his early season totals of two sacks, six hits and two hurries.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 24
Colorado at No. 4 Michigan
Line: Michigan, -20.5
Michigan owns our highest-graded defense through two weeks, and has the star power at every level to stop a Buffalo attack that has posted 100 points in two weeks, albeit against competition no better than what the Wolverines have faced to date. DEs Chris Wormley, Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary all ranked in the top five nationally in overall grades last week, and the only way this shouldn’t continue this week is if Taco Charlton returns and takes significant chunk of the reps away from them.
Prediction: Michigan 48, Colorado 13
No. 6 Houston at Cincinnati
Line: Houston, -7.5
The Bearcats only lost to Houston by a field goal last year, but with star QB Greg Ward apparently ready to go for the Cougars, they’re unlikely to do better this year. The entire Cincinnati offensive line has graded in the red this year against the run, while the Houston defense held two future NFL RBs from Oklahoma (Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon) to just 71 yards rushing. Houston belongs where it is ranked, and will make a big statement in front of a national audience tonight.
Prediction: Houston 42, Cincinnati 21
USC at No. 7 Stanford
Line: Stanford, -8.5
The Cardinal had week two off after beating a game Kansas State week one, while USC recovered nicely by thrashing Utah State after embarrassing itself against Alabama the week prior. While I think Stanford will have its share of losses this season won’t finish anywhere near its current rank, this will not be one of the losses it suffers. The Trojans have missed 11 tackles through two weeks, and I expect that number to continue to climb with a matchup against Cardinal RB Christian McCaffrey this week.
Prediction: Stanford 27, USC 14
Georgia State at No. 9 Wisconsin
Line: Wisconsin, -34.5
Star OLB Vince Biegel registered just one hurry on 20 pass rush reps last week against Akron. Expect him to rebound in a big way this week, as the Georgia State offensive line has given up 25 total pressures through two games.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Georgia State 7
No. 11 Texas at Cal
Line: Texas, -8
As the total points suggests, this matchup promises to be one of the most explosive games of the week. Both of Cal’s games this year have seen more than 81 points scored, so expect that trend to continue, albeit with the nation’s highest graded passer through two weeks, Longhorn QB Shane Buechele, putting more distance between his team and the Bears than San Diego State did the week prior.
Prediction: Texas 52, Cal 31
No. 12 Michigan State at No. 18 Notre Dame
Line: Notre Dame, -7.5
Notre Dame’s opening week loss to Texas already doesn’t appear as bad as it originally did, and I don’t think the bye did a young Spartan squad any favors after the lackluster performance against Furman week one. Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer has completed 30 of 34 passes less than 20 yards through the air from the line of scrimmage this year, and should be able to continue his efficient start against a vulnerable Spartan secondary.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 20
Ohio at No. 15 Tennessee
Line: Tennessee, -27.5
Don’t let Ohio’s 91 points scored through two games fool you – last year Texas State had the 18th-worst defense in FCS, while Kansas was dead last. If this game hits the over, it’ll be because Tennessee RBs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara are having big days, not because the Bobcats are keeping pace.
Prediction: Tennessee 44, Ohio 14
No. 16 Georgia at Missouri
Line: Georgia, -6.5
After Georgia’s embarrassing effort last week, it will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs rebound. RB Nick Chubb has run for 101 yards on just 12 carries when running either left of center or off his left guard, totals he almost assuredly won’t duplicate this week against Missouri nose tackle Terry Beckner Jr. If forced to pass, QB Jacob Eason could be in for another rough day with future first-round pick OLB Charles Harris (nine total pressures through two games) attacking him and the highest-graded cover corner in the country in Aarion Penton lurking in the secondary.
Prediction: Georgia 20, Missouri 10
No. 17 Texas A&M at Auburn
Line: Auburn, -3.5
This is a game for the scouts, as Aggies DE Myles Garrett (14 total pressures) and Tigers OLB Carl Lawson (8 total pressures) should both be high picks come April. This should be a tight defensive battle to the finish.
Prediction: Auburn 20, Texas A&M 17
Mississippi State at No. 20 LSU
Line: LSU, -14
Mississippi State’s front seven has graded out extremely well against the run this season, led by OLB A.J. Jefferson and his 11 stops and zero missed tackles. LSU should have enough talent elsewhere to counteract its disastrous QB situation, but this big spread is worth taking a shot at.
Prediction: LSU 17, Mississippi State 10
No. 21 Baylor at Rice
Line: Baylor, 30.5
Rice’s defense has already missed 18 tackles this year, while Baylor’s RBs have broken 27. Uh oh.
Prediction: Baylor 56, Rice 14
No. 22 Oregon at Nebraska
Line: Oregon, -3
If this game had been last week it would have been the runaway game of the week, as it features two explosive offenses from teams that are probably a bit better than their rankings suggest, especially Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ defensive line has been outstanding against the run so far, and has also racked up 28 total pressures. Look for the Cornhuskers to make enough stops to win what should be an entertaining affair.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, Oregon 28
No. 23 Florida at North Texas
Line: Florida, -36.5
Florida QB Luke Del Rio has completed just eight of 18 passes when under pressure this year with an interception, no touchdowns and a QB rating of 32.6. Fortunately for him, this week’s opponent features a defensive line that has produced just two sacks and three hits this year.
Prediction: Florida 37, North Texas 7
Texas State at No. 24 Arkansas
Line: Arkansas, 31.0
After a thrilling overtime win at TCU, an Arkansas secondary that gave up 375 yards passing and missed eight tackles will happily welcome the bye week.
Prediction: Arkansas 49, Texas State 10
No. 25 Miami (FL) at Appalachian State
Line: Miami (FL), -3.5
Appalachian State gets another crack at one of the Power Five blue-bloods, as it almost took out Tennessee in week one. Miami should prove to be a tougher matchup as long as QB Brad Kaaya is on, but him must improve his intermediate and deep passing, as he has yet to complete a pass longer than ten yards from the line of scrimmage and outside the hashes (0-6).
Prediction: Miami (FL) 34, Appalachian State 17