Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Week 2 brought us an upset that could shake up the College Football Playoff picture. Will Week 3 be able to do the same?
Oregon was more than a two-touchdown underdog on the road against Ohio State, but managed to pull off a surprising 35-28 win. This week we’ve got two marquee matchups — No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida and No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State — with a bunch of intriguing games scattered throughout the day on Saturday.
That includes several ranked teams that are just single-digit favorites (or in Virginia Tech’s case, an outright underdog) against unranked opponents. Where will this week’s biggest upset emerge?
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: Oklahoma -22.5 | Total: 61.5
There are several interesting games in the noon window on Saturday, but we’d be remiss not to mention the rekindling of this classic rivalry. The two sides last played in 2010 as members of the Big 12, but this was one of the premier rivalries in the sport for decades, particularly in the 70s and 80s.
There’s a lot of nostalgia seeing these two on the field together, but times have really changed. Nebraska is struggling in the Big Ten and Oklahoma, the reigning six-time Big 12 champion, is on its way to the SEC. The Sooners (2-0) are again the Big 12 favorite and a CFP contender. Nebraska (2-1) is scratching and clawing just to get back to a bowl game.
Sam Cooper: Oklahoma -22.5, Nick Bromberg: Oklahoma -22.5
No. 8 Cincinnati at Indiana
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: Cincinnati -4 | Total: 50
This is one of the games Cincinnati has had circled. The Bearcats had an undefeated regular season in 2020, but were not even close to cracking a spot in the CFP mostly due to a weak schedule. This year, Cincy has road games against Indiana and Notre Dame that could serve as significant resume boosts. The Bearcats opened the year with easy wins over Miami (Ohio) and Murray State and are looking to get to 3-0 entering a bye week before traveling to South Bend on Oct. 2.
Indiana had a magical 2020 season, but that magic ran out early in 2021. IU opened the year ranked No. 17, but was trounced 34-6 by Iowa in Week 1. IU responded by beating Idaho last week and now gets a chance to prove itself against a top 10 team. With the home crowd behind them, Tom Allen’s Hoosiers should put up a much better effort than they did in Iowa City.
Sam: Indiana +4, Nick: Cincinnati -4
No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -14.5 | Total: 59
So far in 2021, it looks like Alabama is a step above the rest of the teams in the country. Even with a first-year starter at QB in Bryce Young and a bunch of fresh faces at receiver, the Tide offense looks as prolific as ever. The defense is loaded with talent, too, but is dealing with injuries to star players like Will Anderson and Christopher Allen.
Will Dan Mullen and the Florida staff come up with a plan to give Alabama a serious test? The crowd in Gainesville will be rocking, but it’s not exactly clear how the Gators plan to use their two quarterbacks: Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Jones has been the starter, but Richardson has been electric whenever he touches the ball. Through two games, he is 6-of-11 for 192 yards and two TDs passing with 275 yards and two scores rushing on just 11 carries. Could this be his coming-out party?
Sam: Alabama -14.5, Nick: Alabama -14.5
No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: PSU -5 | Total: 53
Auburn moved on from Gus Malzahn and now gets its first big test of the Bryan Harsin era. The Auburn offense has put up big numbers through two games, but it has come against Akron, one of the worst FBS teams, and Alabama State, an FCS team. A “White Out” environment at Beaver Stadium is one of the best in the country. Will Bo Nix and the Tigers be up to the task?
Penn State is much more battle-tested in the early going than Auburn. PSU opened the season with a road win over Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions followed that up by taking care of Ball State at home. Through two games, the defense has been stellar while an offense with a new coordinator, Mike Yurcich, is still finding its footing. Sean Clifford, PSU’s third-year starting QB, has avoided mistakes so far this season. He’ll need to keep that up for PSU to knock off Auburn.
Sam: Penn State -5, Nick: Penn State -5
No. 19 Arizona State at No. 23 BYU
Time: 10:15 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: ASU -4 | Total: 51.5
Arizona State has been able to fly under the radar in the Pac-12 South thus far. The other contenders for the division title — UCLA, USC and Utah — have all played in big games. ASU, meanwhile, has had two easy ones, a 41-14 win over Southern Utah and a 37-10 win over UNLV. Both of those wins came at home, and now the Sun Devils have a difficult road trip to Provo to face a BYU team riding high off of last week’s win over Utah.
The win last Saturday snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Utes, BYU’s biggest rival. Now the test for Kalani Sitake’s group is turning the page and refocusing on a new challenge. Many expected a significant drop-off for BYU compared to the top 15 ranking it held for most of the 2020 season. The offense has not been as high-powered as it was with Zach Wilson, but BYU has still found ways to beat two Pac-12 opponents (Arizona and Utah). Will ASU be the third?
Sam: ASU -4, Nick: BYU +4
Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 5-5, Nick: 4-6
Week 3 best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 4-2)
Nevada (-2) at Kansas State: Nevada took down Cal on the road in Week 1 and Kansas State struggled against Southern Illinois after Skylar Thompson left the game with a knee injury. Thompson is out for this one. That makes my pick pretty easy. Nevada goes to 2-0 against Power Five teams. Pick: Nevada -2
Arkansas State at Washington (-16.5): The Huskies are favored by a half point fewer than their combined points total through the first two games of the season. Arkansas State put up 50 in a Week 2 loss to Memphis and I think they’ll be lucky to get half that total in Week 3. I have no idea if Washington covers but I’m confident this game doesn’t go over. Pick: Under 57.5
Virginia at North Carolina (-9): The Cavaliers have looked good so far this season and North Carolina bounced back in Week 2 with a big win against Georgia State. While both teams put up big points totals in Week 2, I think the under is the right play here. The total seems too high. Pick: Under 65.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 3-3)
Minnesota at Colorado (-3): Both of these teams run the ball a ton. Minnesota is averaging 48 rushes per game, while CU is averaging 43.5 per game. Colorado’s defense is allowing just 2.5 yards per rush, but has a really inexperienced QB. Minnesota’s top RB is out for the year, but doesn’t have a lot of WR talent and hasn’t done much in the passing game. This should be low scoring. Pick: Under 49
Ball State at Wyoming (-7): Ball State got beat up by Penn State last week and now has to travel across the country to Laramie. Wyoming is a team that relies on its rushing game, but Ball State has been pretty solid in that area. There’s also a lot of wind in the forecast in Laramie for Saturday, which could cause some issues in the passing game. In Wyoming’s last 15 games as a home favorite, the under is 11-4. Pick: Under 53
Oklahoma State at Boise State (-3.5): Mike Gundy’s teams traditionally have been great on offense, but OSU has not looked good over the last two seasons. I don’t trust Spencer Sanders to go on the road and play at a high level in a raucous environment. This is the first Big 12 team to ever play on the blue turf, so Boise State fans will be fired up. Pick: Boise State -3.5
For other Week 3 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
For Week 3 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde subscribe to the College Football Enquirer podcast.