Week 3 College Football Group of 5 Parlay: 3 Picks for Ohio vs. Iowa State, Alabama vs. USF & More (Sept. 16)

Week 3 College Football Group of 5 Parlay: 3 Picks for Ohio vs. Iowa State, Alabama vs. USF & More (Sept. 16) article feature image

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke.

We’re trending in the right direction after hitting two of our three picks last week, but it’s time to break through with a parlay winner here in Week 3.

This week, we start in MAC Country as the Iowa State Cyclones look to rebound from a deflating Cy-Hawk loss to their hated in-state rival. Ohio, meanwhile, is in search of its fourth win over a P5 opponent since 2012. Could it catch the ‘Clones napping during an early kickoff and pull off some magic at Peden Stadium?

It’s rare that this column gets to rub elbows with college football royalty, but with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide traveling to play a Group of Five squad on the road, Alabama is fair game this week.

After that, we return to our roots, free-falling down the board before latching onto an intersectional matchup between Liberty and Buffalo in Western New York for our final pick.

Saturday, Sept. 16
12 p.m. ET
Iowa State Odds
-110o / -110u
Ohio Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

The hope, at least in the preseason, is that Kurtis Rourke’s surgically repaired knee would hold up and that the Bobcats offense would be a top-30 unit. After a hot start in their opener, Rourke was knocked out of the game, and the offense has floundered for the past 11 quarters.

The good news is that Rourke and wide receiver Sam Wiglusz shook off the rust last week and avoided any injury setbacks.

But the real story — and frankly, the surprise of the Bobcats’ 2023 season thus far — has been their defense. Through three games, while facing two likely bowl teams, the Ohio defense is giving up just 13.3 points per game.

But their underlying metrics are even better than that. Ohio ranks 25th in Quality Drives Allowed on defense, a metric that isn’t turnover-dependent. If you're interested in a defense’s ability to create negative plays, Ohio has you covered there as well, checking in at 15th in Havoc Rating.

And from a consistency standpoint, the Bobs are 36th in tackling, according to PFF.

Then you have Iowa State, limping into Athens after an emotional loss to Iowa in which it spotted the Hawkeyes a 17-0 lead.

After a 4-8 season, a gambling scandal and a loss to their arch-rivals, it’s easy to foresee a sleepy start for the Cyclones against Ohio in an 11 a.m. body clock kickoff.

Toss in Iowa State’s inability to get anything going on the ground, and it feels as though the Brock Purdy/Breece Hall days were a decade ago.

I would play Ohio in this matchup as long as I'm getting plus-money.

Play: Ohio ML +135

Saturday, Sept. 16
3:30 p.m. ET
Alabama Odds
-115o / -105u
South Florida Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

This week, I wrote about the emergence of Zombie Alabama.

Basically, whenever a Nick Saban team is highly ranked (top six or better) and drops an early-season game, his teams respond with a vengeance after being left for dead. In the last three such instances, Alabama has gone 25-2 straight up and 15-12 against the spread.

And despite a 10-point loss to Texas, I’m still bullish on the Tide’s week-to-week potential at the window.

Their run defense remains elite, evidenced by them stoning the Texas running game for four quarters. Longhorn running backs averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and broke just one run of over 10 yards. In the opener, Middle Tennessee mustered just 211 total yards and seven points. I view the Blue Raiders as a better team than this South Florida squad in a Year 0 rebuild.

And it bears mentioning that this South Florida defense could be in the running for worst in the nation after giving up 374 passing yards to Florida A&M’s Jeremy Moussa.

One added bonus in this game is the Tide’s need to get meaningful reps for Tyler Buchner and/or Ty Simpson. Jalen Milroe should tear up the SP+’s 128th-ranked defense, and once they empty their bench, I expect Alabama to continue running its offense just as it did in the opener.

Alabama scored touchdowns on four of its five second-half drives before kneeling the clock out.

My power rankings call for this spread to be set at 40, so anything south of 35 is a play for me in this spot.

Play: Alabama -32 (Play to -34.5)

Saturday, Sept. 16
12 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Liberty Odds
-110o / -110u
Buffalo Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

The pregame tailgates will include beef on weck and Buffalo wings, but the on-field action will be far less enticing on Saturday at UB Stadium.

Buffalo built a stable program under Lance Leipold, posting a 24-10 record with a pair of bowl wins in his final three years. But Maurice Linguist has been simply treading water, now 11-16 in two-plus years at the helm. And his team is coming off a humbling loss to Fordham in which the Rams dropped 40 points on the Bulls.

Last season, Buffalo papered over an average MAC roster by taking a lot of chances on defense. Brandon Bailey, the wunderkind defensive coordinator, worked miracles and helped Buffalo lead the country in Havoc for the first time in program history.

Bailey left in the offseason for Georgia Southern, and the early returns without him are jarring. Buffalo has given up 78 points in two games, and the advanced metrics are even worse. The Bulls defense ranks 125th in points per opportunity allowed, 105th in explosiveness allowed and is absolutely dreadful against the run (129th in PPA).

That last stat is critical against a Jamey Chadwell-coached team.

Chadwell’s offenses are complicated to prepare for and find ways to put defenders in conflict on nearly every play. Multiple formations, including the pistol, help the Flames attack opponents on the ground from every angle.

This offensive philosophy opens things up in both the running and passing games.

Kaidon Salter, a Tennessee transfer, has enormous upside as a dual-threat, and Chadwell is unlocking it. Through two games, he’s kept a clean sheet in terms of turnovers and has accounted for six total touchdowns and 544 total yards.

Liberty has moved the ball well on the ground (248 YPG, eighth) against two bowl teams from last season, and it's strung together drives by converting 54% of its third-down opportunities (22nd). This already looks like a classic Chadwell team.

Defensively, Liberty’s appreciable strength through two games has been its pass defense, which is a good thing when facing a solid Buffalo passing attack. The Flames rank 12th in Success Rate when the ball is in the air.

One final piece that I consider a nice bonus is that Chadwell is very familiar with his opponent because he faced them in each of the past two seasons as the head coach of Coastal Carolina. He won both games and knows exactly what to expect vis-à-vis travel logistics and his pregame routine.

Play: Liberty -3.5 (Play to 5.5)

Calabrese's Week 3 Group of Five Parlay (+755)

  • Ohio ML +135
  • Alabama -32
  • Liberty -3.5

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