College Football Best Bets Week 3: Saturday Night’s Top 4 Games To Bet, Including Iowa State and LSU
Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured: Oklahoma State Cowboys football team.
- Oklahoma State, LSU and Iowa State are all in action on Saturday evening.
- Marshall has been picture-perfect through two games, and now faces East Carolina.
- Check out our staff's best bets for the final window of Week 3 in college football.
Last week’s late-night slate wasn’t pretty for the favorites as Stanford stunned USC on the road and BYU edged Utah in the Holy War.
More underdogs could pull off shockers this week — or at least cover the spread and earn you some cash — as Iowa State faces UNLV, LSU takes on Central Michigan and Boise State hosts Oklahoma State on the Smurf Turf.
Our experts have everything you need to know to properly execute your bets and close Week 3 with a bang.
Use the table below to navigate between previews and find your favorite spots and betting values for Saturday night.
Check out our Staff's Best Bets for All 3 Saturday Kickoff Windows:
Saturday College Football Best Bets for Week 3
Picks for Today's Evening Kickoffs
The set of college football team logos below reflects each of our staff's best bets for the Week 3 college football Saturday evening slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific pick discussed in this article.
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Photos via Getty Images.
East Carolina vs. Marshall
6 p.m. ET
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Marshall has been incredibly dominant through its first two games, blowing out Navy on the road 49-7 and gaining a whopping 7.41 yards per play in a win over North Carolina Central, 44-10.
Last season, the offense was a run-heavy unit, as the Thundering Herd kept the ball on the ground 58% of the time. They were very effective in doing so by averaging 4.5 yards per carry and ranking 34th in rushing success.
However, this season, they’ve leaned on sophomore quarterback Grant Wells, who’s has improved so much from last season that he’s averaging 8.8 yards per passing attempt through his first two games.
Wells also has his top two targets back in wide receiver Corey Gammage and tight end Xavier Gaines, and gets the benefit of having the best offensive line in Conference USA.
The Thundering Herd’s line returns three key talents, all of whom have started the past three seasons. Marshall's offensive line completely dominated the line of scrimmage last season — ranking inside the top 15 in offensive line yards, sack rate, and havoc allowed.
East Carolina’s secondary was supposed to be one of the best in the AAC coming into the season, but after giving up 9.25 yards per attempt to Appalachian State and 8.1 South Carolina, they hardly look like the dominant unit that ranked 20th in terms of coverage, per PFF.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers has been pretty average for East Carolina the past few seasons, but his first two games this year have been horrible.
Ahlers is only throwing for 5.6 yards per attempt and has three interceptions. Ahlers is a decent quarterback, but the problem is he's one of the most turnover prone signal callers in college football. Over the past three seasons he has 22 interceptions and 12 fumbles, which is not going to bode well against one of the best defenses in the entire nation.
So far this season, Marshall has allowed a total of 17 points through its first two games and is allowing under four yards per play. This is carryover from last season when the Thundering Herd ranked in the top 30 in defensive line yards and sack rate, along with being fourth in finishing drives.
Along with being stout up front, Marshall is one of the most fundamentally sound defenses in the country, having ranked second in tackling last season, perPFF.
Oh, and they also have all four starters back in a secondary that ranked seventh in terms of coverage last season and only allowed 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which was the 15th best mark in FBS.
I have Marshall projected as a -19.30 favorite at home, so I love them at -9.5 and would play it up to -15.
Pick: Marshall -9.5
Central Michigan vs. LSU
7:30 p.m. ET
This is honestly a fade on LSU more so than it’s a play on CMU. I’ve been preaching to the clouds on how awful this LSU squad has been since 2020.
Losing an exodus of talent from one of the greatest teams we’ve ever witnessed, LSU is a shell of its former self.
Joe Burrow & Co. led one of the greatest offensive performances we’ve ever seen en route to their championship.
Flash forward to today and you wouldn't even recognize the level of play.
Ranking near the bottom of the barrel in Rush Success and Line Yards, this LSU squad has been having all sorts of trouble running the ball. Not a single running back has over 70 yards total this season.
This doesn't bode well against a feisty CMU squad as the Chippewas were a top-two team in the nation last season in run stopping. They’re currently in the top 30 in Def. Rush Success this season.
If LSU wants to avoid the upset, it’ll need to rely on the arm of Max Johnson. He’s been having a good season so far. This is partly because of LSU’s amazing Pass Block rating of 18th, giving him ample time in the pocket to make plays.
CMU struggles to get to the quarterback, but it has a decent secondary to disrupt the pass. I believe the CMU defense will do enough to limit the talent differential between the two teams in order to keep them within the number.
I grabbed a small piece at +20, knowing this would move down since the opening. I will also be looking to grab more on the live play if this jumps over +21.
Pick: Central Michigan +20
Oklahoma State vs. Boise State
9 p.m. ET
Back in the dog days of July, I don’t think many lookahead lines would’ve had Boise State as four-point favorites for this matchup against the visiting Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Throw in the fact that the Cowboys are still the undefeated outfit, while the Broncos have split their first two, and this line would be even more surprising.
Much of this can be explained by an Oklahoma State offensive unit that continues to sputter. Explosive offenses have been the hallmark of Mike Gundy’s teams in Stillwater, but since last season, there continues to be much to be desired.
The offensive line has a bit more continuity from a year ago, but they’re not getting much of a push at all. Couple that with an inexperienced wide receiver group and it’s easy to see why.
Despite all of that, I am still backing the Cowboys here for two main reasons.
- The Cowboys’ defense continues to fly under the radar as one of the more reliable units in the country. Malcolm Rodriguez anchors this group at the linebacker spot and Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling lead an extremely experienced secondary. Hank Bachmeier is a very solid veteran QB for the Broncos, but he’ll have his hands full facing this group.
- Secondly, I’m betting on an offensive uptick from the Cowboys. Spencer Sanders missed the opener due to COVID-19 protocols, but he slowly settled his way back into the offense last week against Tulsa. I expect Mike Gundy and OC Kasey Dunn to draw up a lot of RPO’s, giving Sanders the chance to use his legs. The Broncos’ defense allowed a whopping 573 total yards to Dillon Gabriel and the UCF offense.
Oklahoma State has won its last six road non-conference games and is 5-7 on the road overall. I trust Gundy to make some adjustments and have this team ready to go as they invade the blue turf.
Give me the Pokes and the points in what should be a fun Saturday night battle in Boise.
Pick: Oklahoma State +4
No. 14 Iowa State vs. UNLV
10:30 p.m. ET
By CJ Vogel
It’s in your best interest to continue to fade Iowa State.
Despite coming into the year with a plethora of Preseason All-Big 12 honorees, the Cyclones have simply been outperformed in the first two weeks of the season. Granted Iowa is a very talented defense, Brock Purdy struggled through the air with three interceptions.
While UNLV enters with an unappealing 0–2 record, there’s some reason to buy stock in its defense.
UNLV opponents have scored touchdowns on just 45.5% of drives that have entered the red zone. Even though the preference would be not to allow 11 red-zone trips in two games, the defense has stepped up in key situations and should be able to replicate that against a Cyclone team that hasn’t been able to get on the right path offensively.
Iowa State’s bread and butter was handing off to Breece Hall in 2020, yet so far this season, the Cyclones are averaging just 111.5 rushing yards per game, good for 105th in the country.
Relying on Purdy to cover a 30.5 point line is something I’m not buying. I feel comfortable taking UNLV up to a four-touchdown buffer.