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College Football Picks Week 3: Odds, Predictions, Schedule, Rankings for Top 25

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The Penn State Nittany Lions proved over the first two weeks of the college football season that they have one of the best defenses in the FBS.

    In Week 3, Penn State puts that early success to the test with a home clash against the Auburn Tigers, who lead the FBS in scoring defense.

    Auburn’s totals are skewed because it played one of the worst teams in the FBS and an FCS team in its first two games, but those numbers could be notable for betting purposes.

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    Penn State is favored by just under a touchdown, while the projected total is 53 points. Saturday night’s clash at Beaver Stadium might not get there if the defenses we saw in the first two weeks show up.

    Auburn-Penn State is one of three Top 25 clashes on the Week 3 schedule. One of the others involves Auburn’s biggest rival in the SEC.

    The Alabama Crimson Tide are set to face their second top-15 test of the season against the Florida Gators. Saturday’s game differs from the opener against the Miami Hurricanes because it is a true road game in The Swamp.

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    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    Saturday, September 18

    Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma (-22) (Noon, Fox)

    New Mexico at No. 7 Texas A&M (-27.5) (Noon, SEC Network)

    No. 8 Cincinnati (-3) at Indiana (Noon, ESPN)

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    No. 15 Virginia Tech at West Virginia (-2.5) (Noon, FS1)

    No. 16 Coastal Carolina (-10) at Buffalo (Noon, ESPN2)

    Michigan State at No. 24 Miami (-6) (Noon, ABC)

    Northern Illinois at No. 25 Michigan (-27) (Noon, BTN)

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    Purdue at No. 12 Notre Dame (-7) (2:30 p.m., NBC)

    No. 1 Alabama (-15) at No. 11 Florida (3:30 p.m., CBS)

    Kent State at No. 5 Iowa (-22.5) (3:30 p.m., BTN)

    Georgia Tech at No. 6 Clemson (-28.5) (3:30 p.m., ABC)

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    Tulsa at No. 9 Ohio State (-25) (3:30 p.m. FS1)

    Georgia Southern at No. 20 Arkansas (-23.5) (4 p.m., SEC Network)

    South Carolina at No. 2 Georgia (-30.5) (7 p.m., ESPN)

    Stony Brook at No. 4 Oregon (N/A) (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)

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    No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State (-6.5) (7:30 p.m., ABC)

    Virginia at No. 21 North Carolina (-9) (7:30 p.m., ACC Network)

    Tulane at No. 17 Ole Miss (-14) (8 p.m., ESPN2)

    No. 19 Arizona State (-2.5) at No. 23 BYU (10:15 p.m., ESPN)

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    No. 14 Iowa State (-30.5) at UNLV (10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

    Fresno State at No. 13 UCLA (-10) (10:45 p.m., Pac-12 Network)

                 

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Predictions against the spread in bold.

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    Penn State put together one of the best starts of any Top 25 team.

    In Week 1, the Nittany Lions went into Camp Randall Stadium and shut down the Wisconsin Badgers offense.

    James Franklin’s team followed that up with a 44-13 home win over the Ball State Cardinals in Week 2.

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    Penn State ranks inside the top 20 in the FBS in scoring defense with 11.5 points allowed per game. That unit will be put to the test again Saturday versus Bo Nix and Auburn.

    Nix led Auburn to 122 points in the first two weeks, but that is not a particularly notable statistic given the teams the Tigers have played. The Akron Zips are viewed as one of the worst teams in the FBS, and the Alabama State Hornets play in the FCS.

    The Auburn quarterback struggled in most of his road performances last season. He had two games with under 200 passing yards, and he was intercepted on six occasions. He did not throw a touchdown pass in either of his road clashes with Top 25 foes.

    Even if the Auburn defense, which leads the FBS in rushing yards and points per game conceded, translates to a road game against a Big Ten foe, there is no guarantee Nix will back that up with a strong outing of his own.

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    Sean Clifford does not have an overwhelming advantage over Nix at quarterback, but he has been consistent at home.

    Clifford threw three touchdown passes versus the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium last season and had multiple passing scores in all five of his home games in 2020. He went 21-of-29 with 230 yards, one passing score and a rushing touchdown in his home opener against Ball State in Week 2.

    Penn State’s defense held Ball State’s rushing attack under 100 yards, and it kept Wisconsin’s passing unit beneath 200 yards in Week 1.

    If the Nittany Lions get the same consistency from their defense and Clifford does not make many mistakes, they could end up at 3-0 with a pair of Top 25 victories.

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    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    It is hard to pick against the Alabama Crimson Tide in any capacity right now.

    Bryce Young and Co. steamrolled Miami and had their way with the Mercer Bears at home in Week 2.

    Alabama’s SEC opener against the Florida Gators presents a different type of challenge. The Gators built up some momentum over the past two weeks and should have plenty of motivation to compete with the Tide in a rare game against them in Gainesville, Florida.

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    The Crimson Tide last made the trip to Gainesville in 2011. The past three meetings between the programs occurred in the SEC Championship Game. Nick Saban’s team won two of those games by 14 points or fewer.

    Florida’s two-quarterback system of Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson has the potential to keep Alabama’s defense off balance. Jones and Richardson combined for 456 passing yards and 430 rushing yards versus the Florida Atlantic Owls and South Florida Bulls.

    Florida does not have a dynamic playmaker like it did last season in Kyle Pitts or Kadarius Toney, but it has enough talent to keep the ball on its side and stay close with Alabama.

    The spread bet is based solely on how Florida contains Alabama’s explosiveness on offense. One way to do that is for Jones and Richardson to be methodical in their approach and keep the ball for extended periods of time. Of course, that strategy only works if the Gators convert long drives into touchdowns. Dan Mullen should have a good base of how to play to the strengths of the new signal-callers.

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    Florida’s rushing defense could help get the ball back to the pair of quarterbacks. The Gators held Florida Atlantic under 100 rushing yards and limited South Florida to 109 yards on the ground.

    If Florida’s front seven contains running back Brian Robinson Jr. and forces Young to make all the plays, the SEC East side has a chance to remain close. After all, this will be Young’s first true road game as Alabama’s starting quarterback, and he could be susceptible to more mistakes.

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