College Football Expert Picks: Our Staff’s 15 Favorite Bets for Week 3
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jarrett Stidham, J.K. Dobbins and Tua Tagovailoa
- Our college football experts give their 15 favorite picks for Week 3 of the 2018 season.
- We have all types of bets covered with a healthy mix of underdogs, favorites and over/unders.
Despite cancellations related to Hurricane Florence, we still have a number of intriguing clashes between some of the nation’s biggest schools. And from a betting perspective, there is value to be had throughout the card.
The day will really start to pick up at 3:30 p.m. ET with a slew of high-profile games before we get some of the most anticipated matchups of September in prime time.
As we do every week during the season, we asked several of our staffers to give us their favorite college football side or total for Week 3 games on Saturday.
We will start with a few favorites a few of us actually agree on before finishing up with some underdogs worth considering and totals that look off the mark.
Let’s jump in with everyone’s favorite afternoon spot: the 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday SEC game on CBS.
*All odds for the picks pulled overnight on Sept. 14
Collin Wilson: Auburn -10 (vs. LSU)
3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
According to The Action Network power ratings, this number is short. The public perception has moved LSU from preseason No. 25 in the AP Poll to No. 12. Quarterback Joe Burrow has yet to play a game where he has completed more than half of his passes.
Nothing about the LSU rush or pass attack is explosive, and the one area to challenge Auburn is in its secondary. That challenge won’t come from the LSU offense.
I don’t think Auburn will have any issues protecting Jarrett Stidham, and the defense should force plenty of LSU three and outs. So far, Auburn ranks in the top 30 for efficiency on both sides of the ball. LSU made some offensive line changes this week, increasing the chances that the Auburn front seven causes havoc from start to finish.
Auburn gets its revenge in the Tiger Bowl.
Mike Johnson: Auburn -10 (vs. LSU)
3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
I’m on board with Collin here even though I actually was a huge fan of LSU after its Week 1 showing against Miami. Nick Brossette seemed to make people momentarily forget about Derrius Guice, and Joe Burrow looked like the quarterback the LSU faithful had been anticipating.
But the Tigers’ Week 2 showing against Southeastern Louisiana seems to be a better indicator of where this team is right now. Burrow and his wide receivers struggled in the passing game at times against an overmatched defense, and the offensive line struggled to get a push.
Every angle I usually look for to make my picks leads me to Auburn, which has an advantage in the following key areas:
- Front seven
- Head coach (although he makes me uneasy in this spot)
Add in the fact that Auburn has been incredibly good at home in recent years, and this has blowout written all over it. Auburn should put its foot down and expose the weaknesses of the Bayou Bengals.
Evan Abrams: Auburn -10 (vs. LSU)
3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
More Auburn love here. At the end of the season, I think we will look back at Week 1 and will have learned more about Miami in that game than we did about LSU.
Auburn has the advantage in this matchup in almost every phase, including offense, defense, coaching, QB play and experience. Not to mention: When two top-15 teams meet with a spread of a TD or higher, the favorite has covered the spread at a clip of 58.3% for 14.2 units, including 49-36-1 (11 units) in conference play.
A first-half play might not be bad either: In the same spot (two top-15 teams), a favorite of more than a FG in the first half is 68-54-2 against the first-half spread (+7.7 units), including 58-44-2 ATS (+8.7 units) in conference play.
Lay it with Toomer’s Corner.
John Ewing: Texas -3 (vs. USC)
8 p.m. ET on FOX
No. 22 USC has failed to cover in both of its games this season. Yet, a majority of spread tickets are on the Trojans as underdogs against Texas. Maybe casual bettors expect the Men of Troy to bounce back after losing last week to Stanford, 17-3.
Don’t count on it. Since 2005, ranked Power 5 teams coming off a loss have gone 85-124-5 (41%) ATS in their next game. Plus, there has been reverse line movement, an indication of sharp money on Texas moving the Longhorns from -3 to -3.5.
Josh Ward: Texas -3 (vs. USC)
8 p.m. ET on FOX
Texas had an opportunity to beat USC in Los Angeles last season before the Trojans escaped with a double-overtime win. This is a better spot for Texas to try to beat USC. The Longhorns are coming off last week’s home win against Tulsa, while USC is trying to bounce back from a 14-point loss to Stanford.
As John Ewing pointed out, it’s a good idea to fade a ranked team after a loss. Texas should pressure freshman quarterback JT Daniels after his shaky performance last week. Fade the Trojans this week and take Texas to avenge last year’s loss.
Brad Senkiw: Virginia -3.5 (vs. Ohio)
4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
I’m going right back to the well with the Wahoos after they came through for us a week ago as 6.5-point underdogs in driving rain at Indiana.
Despite a passing game that provided next to nothing, Virginia still had chances late to win the game outright.
This game will be played in drier conditions in Nashville because of Hurricane Florence, and the Cavs know they need this game for bowl eligibility.
In the midst of a QB controversy, the Bobcats struggled with converting third downs (27%) in their only game of the season against Howard. Virginia’s defense will simply be too tough for the Bobcats.
Matt Moscona: Alabama -21 (vs. Mississippi)
7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Through two weeks, we know that both Alabama and Ole Miss can score a lot of points. We also know that Alabama (10.5 ppg allowed) has a great defense. Ole Miss? Not so much. If Southern Illinois can move the ball at will against the Rebels, Tua and Co. will too.
Maybe Vegas will catch up with Bama, but not this week.
Ken Barkley: Kent State +35 (at Penn State)
Noon ET on FS1
Penn State blasted Pitt in prime time last week, which everyone surely remembers, and the Nittany Lions open conference play next week at Illinois. In between? A noon game at home with a visit from lowly Kent State, which will feature little attendance and energy and will be more about avoiding injuries.
Head coach Sean Lewis’ “Flash Fast” offense has already paid dividends compared to last season, as the Flashes led for a lot of their game at Illinois. They then destroyed FCS upstart Howard (a team that beat UNLV last year and almost upset Ohio this year).
The difference in talent on the field will be massive, but surely with this type of schedule spot and the Kent State offense more prone to scoring, the Golden Flashes can keep the margin under five touchdowns.
Danny Donahue: San Diego State +5 (vs. Arizona State)
10:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN
I didn’t have a penny on Michigan State-Arizona State last weekend, but I was pumped to see the Devils pull off the upset … so I could fade them this week as the public overreacts. Having them land in the Top 25 the following night was just icing on the cake.
A newly ranked Herm Edwards-led team is basically a public bettor’s dream, hence the 80% of bettors behind it, and fading heavy public teams in the bottom part of the top-25 rankings has been a profitable betting strategy.
Since 2005, taking a decent unranked team (fewer than two touchdown underdog) against a public opponent ranked between 20 and 25 has gone 87-54-3 (61.7%) ATS.
Stuckey: San Diego State +5 (vs. Arizona State)
10:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN
I agree with Danny here. Do not sleep on the fact that new Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales came from San Diego State. In fact, he was previously with SDSU head coach Rocky Long for almost two decades and implemented the same 3-3-5 scheme in Tempe. Well, nobody knows that scheme better than his mentor Long, who will know exactly how to attack it with the running game.
Arizona State has looked excellent the first two games, but it did play two opponents that had almost zero familiarity with the unique 3-3-5 defense. I think it also logically leads to an over play as well.
Peter Jennings: Massachussetts +4 (at FIU)
7:30 p.m. ET on beIN
I have UMass significantly higher in my power rankings and I love getting +4, even on the road.
Brad Kellner: Rutgers +3 (at Kansas)
12 p.m. ET on FSN
Every once in a while, Vegas oddsmakers give bettors a gift. Kansas being favored in a football game is the closest thing to Christmas you can find in September.
The Jayhawks haven’t won two games in a row since 2011, and head coach David Beaty is 2-32 against FBS opponents. This game will be impossible to watch, but it’s not impossible to bet on.
OVER OR UNDER?
PJ Walsh: Pittsburgh-Georgia Tech Under 52.5
12:30 p.m. ET on ACCN
When two teams that run the ball effectively play each other, the under has historically been a solid bet. Since 2005, the under is 215-165-7 (56.6%) when teams that average at least 215 yards rushing match up, which is what we get here.
Additionally, Georgia Tech ranks 116th in passing offense with Pittsburgh even worse at 124th. I fully expect both teams to focus on the ground game, keeping the clock moving.
Steve Petrella: Washington-Utah Under 47.5
10 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sure, late-night Pac-12 games are known for nonstop scoring. But not this one.
Winds of 15-20 mph are expected in Salt Lake on Saturday night, which could limit both passing attacks, even if you didn’t account for the two elite secondaries. Both defenses ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed per pass attempt in 2017, and are top five in defensive S&P+ so far this season (the Utes are No. 1).
Washington QB Jake Browning struggled to finish drives against Auburn, and while Utah has managed some explosive plays for once, its offense was inefficient against Northern Illinois and Weber State.
I expect the Washington offense to move the ball a little, but the Utes will struggle. And when the Utes have got All-American punter Mitch Wishnowsky bombing balls inside Washington’s 20, it will take Washington a little longer to put points up.
Jason Sobel: Alabama-Mississippi Over 71
7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Ole Miss has a good offense. Bama has a better offense. This one has all the makings of a shootout, with Saban’s squad hanging half-a-hundred on ‘em, while still allowing four or five touchdowns. All of which should make it a fun watch — and even more fun if you bet the over.