Week 3 of the college football season is here, with another Saturday of terrific matchups.
Our handicappers Adam Burke, Tim Murray and Scott Seidenberg are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Season record: 10-7-2 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
Michigan State Spartans at No. 22 Miami (FL) Hurricanes (-6.5, 56.5)
Burke: Michigan State is doing its best to prepare for Saturday’s game against Miami, but the task is easier said than done. Temperatures will be in the mid-to-upper 80s with thick, oppressive and humid conditions pushing the heat index up near 100. The Hurricanes have been a chronic underachiever, but it hasn’t really been from a lack of talent or athleticism.
Sparty will have its hands full with the athletes for the Hurricanes, including QB D’Eriq King. During his media availability on Tuesday, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker noted that the Spartans don’t have a scout team player capable of emulating what King brings to the table. Tucker also talked about Michigan State practicing inside with the heat turned up, but these are real conditions that are hard to simulate.
This line also feels like an overreaction. Michigan State has been impressive beating Northwestern and Youngstown State, but the Wildcats look to be on a downswing this season with a pathetic offense and the Penguins are an FCS team, albeit a decent one. Miami opened with Alabama, which was going to end poorly one way or another, and a close win over an Appalachian State team that is almost always a game opponent against FBS foes.
My line coming into the season on this game was Miami -17.5, and I haven’t seen enough evidence to warrant this big a difference from that initial rating. This line has enough recency bias to make Miami worth a bet at -6.5 with the heat, humidity and simply a more talented roster.
Pick: Miami (FL) -6.5
Kent State Golden Flashes at No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (-22.5, 56.5)
Burke: I actually waffled back and forth on taking the side or the total in this game. Iowa is ranked in the top five for the first time since 2015 when George Kittle and CJ Beathard were terrorizing Big Ten defenses. The Hawkeyes have beaten two ranked teams so far, knocking off No. 17 Indiana and No. 9 Iowa State.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes appear legit. Iowa has allowed 4.27 yards per play in two games and has forced seven takeaways. Offensively, though, the 61 points that Iowa has scored are remarkably misleading. That was something I mentioned in my box score study article coming out of Week 2: Iowa has managed a whopping 3.84 YPP. That is better than Rutgers, Georgia State, Navy, UConn and Louisiana-Monroe. Akron, Texas State, Rice, New Mexico State, USF, and UNLV are the six teams just ahead of Iowa.
That is some sad company.
That would make 22.5 a tough number to cover, but extra possessions and a stifling defense just might be enough to do it. Kent State plays at a very fast pace, but Iowa does not -- and the game plan from Kirk Ferentz will likely be to play keep away and control the clock.
Even if Kent State runs a lot of plays, the Golden Flashes had just 336 yards on 75 plays against Texas A&M in Week 1. Iowa will run a ton and should also be able to get Kent State off the field enough to keep this one under the total.
Pick: Under 56.5
Tulsa Golden Hurricanes at No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes (-24.5, 61)
Burke: Somebody with some influence came in on Tuesday and bet on Tulsa to drive this line down to 24.5. I don’t understand the move. Ohio State’s defense was talked about at length during and after the Oregon game. What has gotten lost is that the Buckeyes had 612 yards of offense in that game. They turned the ball over on downs three times in plus territory and CJ Stroud threw the game-ending interception on the other side of midfield.
Oregon has athletes. Even Minnesota has recruited at a pretty solid level under PJ Fleck. In both games, no one has been able to guard Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, or Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Stroud has made some freshman mistakes, but he has weapons galore on that field. Oklahoma State doesn’t have that. UC Davis doesn’t have that. Tulsa is stepping way up in class here.
At this point, Ohio State needs style points. The Buckeyes now have to claw back into the College Football Playoff picture and that means running up the score whenever possible. There should be a ton of frustration let out this week on a Tulsa team that simply doesn’t match up athletically.
Stroud is still working his way through the playbook as a first-time starter, so Ohio State should be able to run this one up. The Buckeyes haven’t been as impressive as many had hoped, but this should be a chance to flex some superiority against an undermanned team.
Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes -24.5
Utah State Aggies at Air Force Falcons (-8.5, 54)
Burke: Looking for context clues throughout the week is important when handicapping. There has been a heavy move to the over in this game, with the total now sitting at 54 (up from 50.5). Everybody knows what Air Force is going to do in this game, but the suddenly dynamic Utah State offense is the reason behind the move. Also note that the total has gone up, while the spread has gone down, an implication that Utah State will have success offensively.
The Aggies are putting up numbers we haven’t seen since Chuckie Keeton was running Matt Wells’ offense. Through two games, Utah State has averaged nearly 6.8 YPP in wins over Washington State and North Dakota. Air Force beat FCS Lafayette and then Navy, a game that temporarily got Middies OC Ivin Jasper fired until Ken Niumatalolo lobbied for Jasper to return to the staff as the quarterbacks coach.
Things haven’t been going well for Navy for a while and Lafayette was no match for the option. The assignment for Utah State will be to remain efficient on offense, because possessions could be limited with that option attack. The Aggies’ coaching staff has been massively upgraded with HC Blake Anderson from Arkansas State, OC Anthony Tucker from UCF and DC Ephraim Banda from Miami (FL).
Anderson brought former Arkansas State starter Logan Bonner with him and it has paid off, as Bonner has completed two-thirds of his passes for 533 yards and a 5-2 TD:INT ratio in two games. The Aggies have also rushed for over five yards per carry.
Utah State can definitely maximize its possessions enough to stay within this number. Furthermore, sprinkle the money line in this one. After the toxic reign of Gary Andersen, this is a team playing with a higher level of morale and a much higher level of efficiency. Don’t be surprised if the Aggies win outright.
Pick: Utah State + 8.5
Florida State Seminoles at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (-5, 61.5)
Murray: Following a thrilling but heartbreaking 41-38 OT loss against Notre Dame on Sept. 5, Florida State was in an obvious letdown spot hosting FCS Jacksonville State last Saturday night. But should they have lost to the Gamecocks? Obviously not.
The Seminoles closed as a 28-point favorite at Circa Sports. According to ESPN’s Cole Cubelic, FBS teams were 173-0 SU as at least a 28-point favorite against non-FBS schools over the last four seasons. Yikes. Additionally, last Saturday was the first time Florida State lost to an FCS team since the FCS/FBS split back in 1978.
When looking at Saturday’s game, ask yourself this question: How big of an underdog would Florida State have been at Wake Forest following the Notre Dame game? Yes, the Irish squeaked past Toledo 32-29 last Saturday but it is doubtful Florida State would have been more than a field goal underdog last weekend in Winston Salem. This spot screams overreaction to an ugly loss. I’m not excusing the loss but the Seminoles did own a 17-7 lead with the ball at the Jacksonville State 1-yard line with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. If Florida State punches it in on third down, the Seminoles win and no one is concerned about the state of the program.
Now, the Seminoles hit the road looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1976, Bobby Bowden’s first season at Florida State. The pressure is on for second-year head coach Mike Norvell. “This football team’s not going to quit,” Norvell said earlier this week. “We have to build and get better, and we’re going to.” Wake Forest has a host of starters returning from last year including QB Sam Hartman and RB Christian Beal-Smith. The Demon Deacons did lose RB Kenneth Walker III – 264 yards rushing and four TDs against Northwestern -- to Michigan State. The Florida State defensive line has been impressive through the first two games, holding Notre Dame to just 65 yards on 35 attempts and Jacksonville State to 108 yards on 39 attempts.
McKenzie Milton will make his second straight start at quarterback for Florida State and despite being on the road against a veteran Wake Forest team, I will back the desperate team getting north of a field goal.
Pick: Florida State + 5
Georgia Southern Eagles at No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks (-23.5, 52.5)
Seidenberg: This is a dangerous spot for the Hogs. Coming off the emotional thrill of beating Texas and now staring straight ahead at a matchup with top-10 team Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium. It’s reasonable to expect a less than stellar effort against lowly Georgia Southern. Now that we got the narrative out of the way, let’s focus on how the game will play out.
Georgia Southern is a triple-option team. While Arkansas spent some time during the offseason preparing for this game, it’s one thing to practice against your own guys, and another seeing a team run it against you. The goal for the Eagles will be to run, run and run some more in this one. They get a huge boost, too, with Junior QB Justin Tomlin getting his first action of the season after serving a two-game academic suspension. Tomlin has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his 16-game career. The atmosphere on Saturday in Fayetteville won’t bother him.
This game is important as Georgia Southern is soul searching; the Eagles barely beat FCS team Gardner Webb and fell to FAU. Getting Tomlin back under center will help solidify their offense. Defensively, they need to stop the big plays: Of the nine touchdowns they have allowed this season, eight of them have come through the air. Former Miami QB N’Kosi Perry torched them for 332 yards and 4 scores last week. But thankfully, passing isn’t the strength of the Arkansas offense. It’s the running game that the Hogs will look to dominate this game. Keeping the ball on the ground could help the Eagles gain some confidence on defense.
This Georgia Southern team that would love nothing more than to solidify its season with a statement performance against an SEC opponent.
Pick: Georgia Southern + 23.5
Mississippi State Bulldogs (-3, 64) at Memphis Tigers
Seidenberg: Boy, the Memphis offense has looked good this year, scoring 97 total points in its first two games and averaging 633.5 yards per game. Freshman QB Seth Henigan has been fantastic (682 yards, six TDs). Now the Tigers face a Mississippi State team that is not exactly known for their defense. They played well last week, forcing three turnovers against NC State, but overall they still allow an average of 352 yards per game. Offensively, this hasn’t looked like a traditional Mike Leach offense. The Bulldogs are averaging 29.5 points and 375.5 yards per game.
Memphis has a lot of play for at home. This is a program that continually is overlooked, despite being a breeding ground for coaches. (Justin Fuente, Mike Norvell, now Ryan Silverfield). When Big 12 expansion was the topic of conversation, Memphis wasn’t considered. There’s a negative perception about this program that Ryan Silverfield understands and wants to correct. This week, Silverfield spoke about this game against Mississippi State and said:
“I can’t sit here and say it’s just like any other game. There’s a heightened sense of it. When you play a national brand in your home stadium, it’s great. It’s good for recruiting. It’s good for the fan base. It gets people excited throughout the city. Obviously winning the football game can go a long way to just continue that excitement. The reality, it’s a different perception from those from the outside looking in and I understand the importance of that.”
I’m going to be looking to feed off this motivation factor. Memphis has recently pulled off upsets against bigger programs at home, knocking off Ole Miss in 2019, UCF and Houston last year. In fact, the Tigers are 9-3 ATS against SEC opponents with winning records, including 6-1 ATS at home. I’m riding with Memphis to pull off a home upset once again and change the perception about this program.
Pick: Memphis + 3
Fresno State Bulldogs at No. 13 UCLA Bruins (-11.5, 63)
Seidenberg: Look out Bruins, the Bulldogs are coming to play. QB Jake Haener has been terrific, passing for 1,009 yards, 8 TDs and zero INTs in his first three games, while completing 73.6 percent of his passes. Against Oregon, Haener threw for 298 yards and a touchdown; in their win over LSU, UCLA allowed Max Johnson to throw for 330 yards and three scores. The Fresno defense meanwhile, held the Ducks to just 358 yards of offense. By comparison, Oregon had 505 yards of offense against Ohio State. Fresno State played well enough to win that game in Eugene, and you better believe the players and coaches are excited about another chance to beat a Pac-12 opponent. The Bulldogs defense can get to the quarterback, and they’ll need to in order to contain Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
For the Bruins, there may be a little bit of a letdown after their win over LSU. Yes, I know they had a week off, but they are still feeling themselves and looking ahead to their conference opener against Stanford next week. With a Pac-12 South title on their minds this season, it’s easy to see the Bruins go through the motions against Fresno State, looking to get a W and moving on. They don’t want a fight, but a fight is exactly what Fresno State is going to give them. I know this is a much better Chip Kelly team, but UCLA is 2-6 ATS under him as a nonconference home favorite. Look for Fresno State to keep this close, with the backdoor potential always being open. I’ll take the points.
Pick: Fresno State + 11.5