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College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

Cincinnati RB Jerome FordJeff Dean/Associated Press

No. 10 Penn State (2-0) vs. No. 22 Auburn (2-0), 7:30 p.m. ET

According to ESPN’s football power index, this one is a top-10 showdown between No. 8 Penn State and No. 10 Auburn.

We have no idea yet if Auburn is actually good or if it has just capitalized on a laughably weak early schedule. Either way, the Tigers ran rampant in victories over Akron and Alabama State by an average score of 61-5. Bo Nix has a passer efficiency rating of nearly 200, both Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter are averaging better than 10 yards per carry and the defense has completely shut down the run, holding those first two opponents to 67 yards on 64 carries.

But now it’s time to crank the “degree of difficulty” scale way up for a road game against a Penn State team that has also been excellent on defense and has yet to commit a turnover on offense.

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In my eyes, this one all boils down to which third-year starting quarterback cracks first. And given that premise, the venue will play a huge factor. In nine career true road games, Nix has averaged 180 passing yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Sean Clifford, on the other hand, has 26 touchdowns against just six interceptions when playing at home. Look for the Beaver Stadium whiteout to produce a key win for the Big Ten.

Prediction: Penn State 27, Auburn 20

       

No. 9 Ohio State (1-1) vs. Tulsa (0-2), 3:30 p.m. ET

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Tulsa has yet to record a passing touchdown, and in its Week 1 loss to FCS school UC Davis, the Golden Hurricane allowed 311 passing yards.

Enter: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who despite a slow start for the second successive game, just lit up Oregon’s defense for 484 yards and three touchdowns. And because that performance came during a losing effort, the Buckeyes figure to be even angrier than usual in this one.

I’m not sure just how many points Ohio State is going to score, but I’m pretty darn sure Tulsa won’t be able to keep pace.

Prediction: Ohio State 59, Tulsa 20

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No. 8 Cincinnati (2-0) at Indiana (1-1), Noon ET

This game lost a little bit of its luster when preseason No. 17 Indiana nose-dived out of the AP Top 25 following a 34-6 Week 1 loss at Iowa, but it’s still one of two massive opportunities for Cincinnati to strut its stuff for the College Football Playoff selection committee.

The Bearcats offense got out to an unusually slow start this past Saturday against Murray State. The defense forced three first-half interceptions, but it was a 7-7 ballgame at halftime.

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The second half went much more according to plan with Jerome Ford rushing for three touchdowns while the defense pitched a 35-0 shutout, but Cincinnati will need to hit the ground running if it wants to win this road game against Indiana.

And I suspect they will, because that slow start against Murray State may have been a case of the Bearcats getting caught looking ahead to this game. They’ll put their best foot forward on offense, and the great defense will stifle an Indiana offense that has been considerably less than crisp thus far.

Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Indiana 23

          

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No. 7 Texas A&M (2-0) vs. New Mexico (2-0), Noon ET

Games against ranked opponents have gone about as well for New Mexico in recent years as you might expect. The Lobos have played 15 such foes dating back to 2010, losing 14 of those 15 games by at least a 28-point margin. (The lone exception was a three-point loss at home against No. 24 Boise State in 2012.)

Simply put, this is an ideal opponent for a “get right” game for Texas A&M after it barely eked out a 10-7 victory over Colorado in Week 2.

Starting quarterback Haynes King suffered a fractured leg against the Buffaloes, so it will be the Zach Calzada show for the foreseeable future. It won’t much matter in this game, though. Texas A&M should be able to run the ball early and often, and it will provide much stiffer resistance to Kentucky transfer Terry Wilson than the quarterback has faced thus far against Houston Baptist and New Mexico State.

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Prediction: Texas A&M 38, New Mexico 9

        

No. 6 Clemson (1-1) vs. Georgia Tech (1-1), 3:30 p.m. ET

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei started two games last season and was sensational, averaging 390.5 passing yards and 3.0 total touchdowns per game.

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Thus far, year No. 2 has not been anywhere near as impressive.

Not only did he have a rough game against Georgia’s oppressive defense, but he didn’t throw it much better against South Carolina State, going 14-of-24 for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He did have a pair of short rushing touchdowns in that 49-3 rout of the FCS foe, but Clemson isn’t going to come anywhere near its usual level of excellence until he starts moving the ball through the air as well as Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson and Tajh Boyd used to do.

The Georgia Tech defense has held each of its first two opponents under 140 passing yards, but those opponents were Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State. Clemson torched the Yellow Jackets for 500 passing yards last season, so this is a major litmus test for determining whether this Tigers team has the offense to legitimately contend for a title. Even if Uiagalelei struggles again, though, look for Clemson to win the game on defense.

Prediction: Clemson 42, Georgia Tech 10

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