Week 3 College Football Pace Report, Picks: 3 Bets for Tennessee vs. Florida, TCU vs. Houston & More

Week 3 College Football Pace Report, Picks: 3 Bets for Tennessee vs. Florida, TCU vs. Houston & More article feature image

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Houston quarterback Donovan Smith.

After a very exciting Week 2, Week 3's slate of college football is pretty dull from a high-profile game perspective. But that doesn't mean there isn't value on the board, especially in the totals market

With head coach and coordinator changes, the transfer portal and quarterbacks in new systems, we can't really rely on each team's pace numbers from last season.

Instead, we have to take it on a case-by-case basis. So, until Week 4 — one more week — plays per minute and plays per game numbers will not be provided.

If you're new to this piece, we'll take an in-depth look at the totals market using yards per play, Success Rate, Finishing Drives, plays per minute and more.

Using those metrics — along with a look at the weather and key injuries — the goal is to hopefully help bettors beat the market before Friday and Saturday morning.

Let's kick things off with three over/unders to bet in Week 3.

Tennessee vs. Florida

Saturday, Sept. 16
7 p.m. ET
Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
Florida Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

It's only Week 3, but nobody is running a faster pace than Josh Heupel's Volunteer offense, which checks in at 19.1 seconds per play.

Tennessee was not at its best last week in a look-ahead spot against Austin Peay, but this offense is going to be one of the best in college football.

Quarterback Joe Milton has been OK through his first two starts, putting up 6.7 yards per attempt. However, he does hold a 75.3% adjusted completion percentage.

Milton has been in the Tennessee program since 2021. He started the final two games of the season last year after Hendon Hooker suffered an ACL injury and lit Clemson up in the Orange Bowl game, throwing for three touchdowns while averaging 9.0 yards per attempt.

Being in Heupel's system for the third year should be a huge benefit for Milton, and there shouldn't be a massive drop-off from Hooker to him.

He has a whole host of weapons back as well. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman are gone, but the next three pass-catchers are back. Plus, Tennessee added Dont'e Thornton Jr. from Oregon, who was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.

The one-two punch of Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright is back in the Volunteers' backfield after combining for over 1,500 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago. Tennessee ranked 13th in both Rushing Success Rate and EPA/Rush last season and already is averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a team through two games.

Florida's defense didn't hold up very well against Utah's backup quarterback in the opener, as the Utes averaged 5.1 yards per play.

The Gators return five starters and lose their top five tacklers, which isn't great for a defense that finished 119th in Finishing Drives Allowed and 100th in EPA/Play Allowed.

Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz takes over starting quarterback duties for the Gators, and his opening game against Utah wasn't as bad as it seemed. He went 31-of-44 for 333 yards on 7.6 yards per attempt with a 71.6 PFF passing grade and an 82.3% adjusted completion percentage.

He drove the Gators inside Utah's 40-yard line five times, but Florida came away with just 10 points.

Mertz took a lot of criticism at Wisconsin, and a lot of it was a little unfair, in my opinion. His numbers weren't that of an elite quarterback, but he was an above-average signal-caller in a run-heavy offense.

Image via PFF.

He basically had three bad games and was forever known as a terrible quarterback, which is just not the case.

Florida also returns its top two backs, Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne, after both averaged over 5.0 yards per carry last year and led Florida to the top spot in explosive rushing.

Defensively, Tennessee has a ton of depth across its front seven, but the secondary may be a bit of an issue. In 2022, the Vols ranked 60th in EPA/Pass Allowed and 77th in PFF coverage grade. They were outstanding against an FCS transfer quarterback in the opener against Virginia, but we'll see how they fare when they have to face a quality quarterback in Mertz.

I have 63.7 points projected for this game, so I like the value on over 58.5 or better.

BYU vs. Arkansas

Saturday, Sept. 16
7:30 p.m. ET
BYU Odds
-110o / -110u
Arkansas Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Arkansas has cruised by two easy opponents to begin the season, but there has been a pretty big change with its offense.

The Hogs played at a top-20 pace nationally under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, but they've slowed things down under Dan Enos, going from 24 seconds per play to 29 seconds per play.

Arkansas has the most lethal rushing combination in the country with quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders.

Jefferson averaged 5.6 yards per carry with a staggering 4.05 yards per carry after contact last season, per PFF. Meanwhile, Sanders put up 6.4 yards per carry with a PFF rushing grade of 87.4 and 65 forced missed tackles.

The key for Arkansas — as it appears through two games — is going to be winning the time of possession battle with its rushing attack, especially considering the new rule change.

One thing to look out for with the Razorbacks is they only had two starters returning on the offensive line. However, head coach Sam Pittman did bring in a transfer from Florida and is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. We may see a bit of a drop-off once the Hogs face a quality opponent, but it won't be drastic.

The BYU defense pitched a shutout in its opener against Sam Houston, holding the Bearkats to just 185 total yards. Most importantly, the Kats only averaged 1.6 yards per carry.

The Cougars are pretty stout in their front seven, returning five of their top six tacklers. However, they were one of the worst teams in the country against the run last season, so Arkansas could very easily control the clock in this game.

BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis transferred to his third school after a lackluster season at Pitt. In 2022, he had a PFF passing grade of just 72.7 with 12 big-time throws compared to 16 turnover-worthy plays.

The problem for Slovis, as you can see below, is that he was pretty bad under pressure at Pitt.

Image via PFF.

His numbers under pressure are important because BYU is completely rebuilding its offensive line. The two players with starting experience had to change positions to allow a number of transfers that came in to play their natural positions. Testing things on the offensive line won't make for a good recipe against an SEC defensive line.

In addition, BYU is playing at about the same pace as Arkansas right now (29 seconds per play) after averaging 26.6 seconds per play a season ago.

I only have 44.9 points projected for this game, so I like the value on under 51.5 points and would play it down to 50.5.

Pick: Under 51.5 (Play to 50.5)

TCU vs. Houston

Saturday, Sept. 16
8 p.m. ET
TCU Odds
-115o / -105u
Houston Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

With Kendal Briles as the new offensive coordinator, TCU is playing at a lightning-quick pace. The Horned Frogs rank third in pace, running a play every 20.2 seconds. That isn't really surprising considering Briles' offense finished top-20 in seconds per play at Arkansas in 2022.

The Horned Frogs offense was one of the best in the nation last year, and given what we've seen through two games and considering the transfers they brought in, I'm not sure we're going to see a massive drop-off like some may have expected.

They played in a crazy high-scoring affair with Colorado in the opener, putting up 42 points and averaging 6.9 yards per play.

Chandler Morris was supposed to be the starter last season before getting injured, which allowed Max Duggan to slide in and lead TCU to the national title game.

Morris was inefficient in the game against Colorado and committed three turnover-worthy plays, but he bounced back against Nicholls this past weekend, going 26-of-30 for 263 yards and two touchdowns with a 92.5 PFF passing grade.

The biggest thing for the TCU offense is the addition of running back Trey Sanders and wide receiver JoJo Earle from Alabama.

Sanders was a five-star recruit and the second-ranked running back in the country coming out of IMG Academy. He never really featured as the main back for the Crimson Tide and dealt with multiple injuries. He scored three touchdowns against Colorado in the opener and was limited to just five carries against Nicholls after suffering an injury against the Buffs. So, we'll see if he's unleashed against Houston on Saturday.

The Cougars defense was pretty bad in 2022, finishing 93rd in EPA/Play Allowed, 69th in Finishing Drives Allowed and 71st in Success Rate Allowed. They return seven starters but lose both of their starting safeties and their top linebacker.

They put up a solid performance against UTSA in the opener and then gave up 470 yards — and over 400 yards through the air — to JT Daniels and Rice last weekend in a 43-41 double-overtime loss, so it seems they're still having issues.

Donovan Smith transferred to Houston from Texas Tech after starting four games for the Red Raiders. However, he really wasn't that great of a passer.

He recorded a PFF passing grade of just 65.1 while averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and posting only six big-time throws compared to 11 turnover-worthy plays. He's been pretty average through his first two games with the Cougars, but Smith is really at his best when he can utilize his running ability.

Smith ran for three touchdowns against Rice last weekend and has already gained over 100 yards on the ground through two games.

Speaking of the rushing attack, Dana Holgorsen went into the transfer portal and tried to upgrade the running back position by plucking Tony Mathis Jr. from his old stomping grounds in West Virginia. Mathis averaged only 4.2 yards per carry in 2022, but he's a very elusive back who forced 33 missed tackles and posted 15 runs over 10-plus yards.

The Cougars also return their top two rushers from last year in Stacy Sneed and Brandon Campbell. What we've seen so far is that all three are splitting carries, but Mathis is averaging 6.1 yards per run, so he may emerge as the lead back.

TCU's defense returned only seven starters from a unit that ranked 103rd in both explosiveness allowed and Finishing Drives Allowed. They got torched for well over 500 yards against Colorado in the opener, so it seems nothing has changed.

I have 69.4 points projected for this game, so I like the value on over 62.5 and would play it up to 64.

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