Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/13/13
The Tailgater college football week 3 picks We witnessed some spectacular upsets last week, and it made for some interesting results against the spread. There were some hits and some misses for the Tailgater crew; only one of us finished with a winning record.  Few things are more humbling than going against Vegas. The second week results pulled the standings closer; here’s how each of us fared: Zach Bigalke: 6-4 Matt Strobl: 5-5 John Mitchell: 4-6 As we shake off the shock of watching BYU dismantle the ‘Horns, it’s time to move on to week 3.  It’s light on top-tier matchups (save Alabama at A&M), but there are plenty of solid games.  More importantly for ATS purposes, the slate is full of toss-ups. Virginia Tech Hokies @ East Carolina Pirates (+7.5) Mitchell: It’s hard to have a lot of faith in Virginia Tech with their offensive shortcomings. Even against lowly Western Carolina from the FCS, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas struggled. He completed 17-of-31 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Sure, the Hokies are the more talented team, but this is a road game for them as they travel to East Carolina, and I think Thomas will struggle for the third game in a row. The difference will be Virginia Tech’s defense, which is one of the very best in the country, and they’ll win the game thanks to them. But, I think the Pirates cover the 7.5 point spread. PICK: East Carolina Strobl: Simply put, the Hokies are a shadow of their former selves; while Frank Beamer still fields a solid squad, he hasn’t been able to rekindle the magic of those great defensive teams from a few year ago. That was evident in the blowout loss to Alabama, although it’s probably unfair to use the Tide as a measuring stick given the absurd talent level of that program. All that said, East Carolina is several rungs down the ladder, and I have to believe that despite its flaws, Virginia Tech can handle itself against the Pirates. However, this spread of slightly more than a touchdown makes me a little wary, and ECU has a history of covering as a home underdog. I think VT will create some breathing room, but as ‘dogs, the Pirates are 16-7 ATS at home. PICK: East Carolina Bigalke: The Pirates have been rapidly climbing up my BCS Buster Power Rankings with their play over the first two weeks of the season. Virginia Tech put up a spirited if futile fight against Alabama in their season opener before walloping Western Carolina last week. Their trip to Greenville, though, will test the Hokies’ offense this week. As John noted, the Catamounts held Thomas in check; against East Carolina, the offensive line will be tested by a front seven that’s tied for fourth in the country in sacks. On their home turf, the Pirates will easily cover the spread… and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if they knocked off the Hokies outright. PICK: East Carolina   Bowling Green Falcons @ Indiana Hoosiers (-2.5) Mitchell: All the optimism from Indiana’s opener was swept away after their 41-35 loss at home to Navy last week. The Hoosiers had no answer for the Midshipmen defensively. Indiana has an explosive offense that is averaging 550 yards and 54 points per game through two weeks. But even with those impressive numbers, they are 1-1 thanks to their complete lack of defense. And that’s likely to cost them again on Saturday when Bowling Green comes calling. The Falcons are the much more balanced team, boasting a very good defense, and an offense that is scoring 37.5 points per game through two weeks. Bowling Green’s defense will do enough to slow down Indiana’s offense, and the Falcons offense should rack up plenty of points led by Matt Johnson and Travis Greene. PICK: Bowling Green Strobl: Of course Vegas would make this a de factor pick ‘em and leave us no room to hedge. This line creates a forced choice in a game that could really go either way. Nate Sudfield and the Hoosiers have looked strong to open the year, but the Indiana defense was exposed by Navy in week 2. That’s concerning, becuase the Falcons attack is capable of putting up a lot of points in a short amount of time. Indiana could also be caught looking ahead to a matchup with the SEC’s Missouri Tigers, and Big Ten play opens the following game. If they fail to focus on Bowling Green, they’ll be sorry. PICK: Bowling Green Bigalke: The Falcons are another mid-major making waves this season. With wins already over Tulsa and Kent State — a pair of division champions last season — Bowling Green has positioned itself as a serious challenger for the MAC crown this season. Their trip to Bloomington will certainly result in a victory; the problem is that, after Navy won in Indiana last weekend, that win will be somewhat devalued. But a win is a win, and a BCS-conference opponent is never anything to scoff about for mid-majors. The fact that Indiana is inexplicably favored, even at home, makes this an incredibly easy pick to make. PICK: Bowling Green   UCLA Bruins @ Nebraska Cornhuskers (-4.5) Mitchell: This is one of the top under card matchups on the college football slate. The Bruins won this meeting a year ago in Pasadena, and used that win to springboard a renaissance under head coach Jim Mora Jr. UCLA now makes the return trip to Lincoln to complete their home-and-home series. Both teams bring in potent offenses, and both have questions on defense. Everyone will be watching the quarterbacks as two of the best dual-threat guys in the country go head-to-head. Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez has improved immensely as a passer, and everyone knows how dangerous he is as a runner. UCLA’s Brett Hundley is just as dangerous in both facets. This game will come down to which defense is able to make the most plays, and my money is on the Huskers at home to avenge last season’s close loss. PICK: Nebraska Strobl: The ‘Huskers have several factors working in their favor. The obvious one is homefield advantage, but underlying that is an element of revenge stemming from last year’s loss to the Bruins. In that matchup, the Nebraska defense was embarrassed, and you better believe that coach Bo Pelini took that personally. Nebraska also gets an edge because its been tested in a close game. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been challenged by Wyoming in week 1, but the fact that they were able to finish well and preserve the win against a scrappy Cowboys team might come in handy in this one. In contrast, UCLA has played only one game, blowing out Nevada in week 1. With a layoff and an early start time, the Bruins could be rusty in Lincoln. I don’t think Nebraska is a great team this year, but I do think there’s enough pride and vengeance brewing, especially among the blackshirts, to push the home team to victory. PICK: Nebraska Bigalke: I’m still quite suspicious about Nebraska’s ability to outscore against another elite offense after watching Wyoming nearly knock off the Huskers in Lincoln on opening weekend. As much as we continue to talk about Taylor Martinez’s imminent breakout, he’s the figurehead of the nation’s 94th-ranked passing offense. I’ve got far more faith in Brett Hundley and the Bruins, who are ranked ahead of the Cornhuskers in every major offensive category. Even better for Mora’s team, UCLA is allowing 3.5 fewer points per game. This should be the weekend when the Blackshirts lay an egg and Nebraska suffers its first loss of the season, just like they did at the Rose Bowl last year. PICK: UCLA   Tennessee Volunteers @ Oregon Ducks (-27.5) Mitchell: There’s a lot of optimism in Knoxville after Tennessee’s 2-0 start under new head coach Butch Jones, and for good reason considering the fanbase hasn’t had much to cheer about in a few years now. While the program is heading in the right direction, they’ll see just how far they still have to go on Saturday in Eugene. The Ducks are simply on another planet, and the Volunteers’ defense, while opportunistic, won’t have much success against Oregon’s fast-paced explosive offense. Marcus Mariota is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he should shred Tennessee’s defense both through the air and on the ground. The always dangerous De’Anthony Thomas is good for a few big plays per game himself, and he’s averaging 8.7 yards per carry through two weeks. The Ducks should win with relative ease, and cover the spread along the way. PICK: Oregon Strobl: The Vols have looked surprisingly strong thus far, and I’m sure there’s some in-depth analysis that could be applied here justifying a Tennessee selection. The problem is, Oregon is really, really good. This one is propbably going to be another lopsided win for the Ducks, and a long, hard road trip for UT. PICK: Oregon Bigalke: Tennessee has moved beyond the Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley debacles with a solid 2-0 beginning to the Butch Jones era. Oregon hasn’t missed a single step now that Mark Helfrich has taken over for Chip Kelly in Eugene. This is a large spread, but the Ducks have proven time and time again that they can dominate good opponents… especially at Autzen. Three years ago these teams met in Knoxville, and Oregon won by five touchdowns. Tennessee is better than they were in that matchup, but Oregon also has an even more potent offense than they brought on that road trip to SEC country. A four-touchdown difference is entirely reasonable in this contest, and the only thing that sucks for this Duck fan is the fact that I couldn’t nab a ticket to Autzen for tomorrow’s showdown. PICK: Oregon   Alabama Crimson Tide @ Texas A&M Aggies (+7.5) Mitchell: The game of the week/year/century takes place in College Station on Saturday afternoon as the two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide look to avenge last season’s loss to Texas A&M in Bryant-Denny, which was the lone blemish in an otherwise perfect season. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel gave the Crimson Tide fits last season, and it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have made this season to slow him down. I think Alabama will slow him down a bit, with linebacker C.J. Mosley, one of the best in the nation at his position, spying him for most of the game. I also don’t see the Aggies’ defense, who have struggled in their first two games giving up nearly 30 points per game against Rice and Sam Houston State, being able to stop the Crimson Tide’s offense. AJ McCarron is itching to atone for last season’s mistakes, and sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon should have a big day. I think it will be close throughout, with Yeldon punching in a touchdown late to give the Crimson Tide a double-digit win. PICK: Alabama Strobl: There are a few things that I wouldn’t want to do under any circumstances. One of those is putting myself in Nick Saban’s crosshairs. Say what you will about the Alabama coach, his focus is like a laser beam, and at this moment he’s undoubtedly focused on avenging last year’s loss to the Aggies. A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been the talk of college football, and Alabama would like nothing more than to ensure that the buzz returns to Tuscaloosa. The line is understandable given the venue, but I expect the Crimson Tide to roll the Aggies by a comfortable margin. PICK: Alabama Bigalke: Kyle Field is Johnny Football’s schoolyard lot, and after steering the Aggies to a landmark victory last season in the enemy territory of Tuscaloosa he has the potential to remind everyone that he is more than a scandal waiting to happen. A shorthanded A&M defense gets back several key players who have been absent from the first two games due to suspension, and they proved last season that they could slow down Alabama’s offense. While McCarron and crew will get their chances for the Tide, this should come down to the wire. Either team should win this, but the final deficit shouldn’t be any wider than the five-point gap that separated the two teams last season. PICK: Texas A&M Washington Huskies @ Illinois Fighting Illini (+9.5) Mitchell: By name alone, this game doesn’t offer a lot of intrigue, but it does this season due to the starts by both teams. Washington is coming off a bye week after they pounded Boise State 38-6 in one of the more impressive wins of the season to date. Illinois is a hard team to put a finger on after they struggled to beat Southern Illinois in their opener, but then pounded Cincinnati a week ago. This game being played in Chicago gives an advantage to Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini, but Washington has an experienced quarterback in Keith Price who won’t be rattled by the road crowd. Illinois has fared well against the run this year, but they also haven’t seen a running back like Washington’s Bishop Sankey yet. Washington should win, but the 9.5 point spread seems a bit much with the long road trek that the Huskies have to make. PICK: Illinois Strobl: Even with the size of the spread, this matchup makes me uncomfortable. While the offense has been busy piling up points in the early going, we’ve seen two completely different result from the Illini defense. In week 1 the team struggled to beat Southern Illinois, but the bounce-back effort against Cincinnati was far more impressive. Washington dominated BOise State, but is that level of effort repeatable? Particularly on the road against a team that can score? Hard to say, but the big picture hints that this might be a close contest. The Huskies may win, but the Illini should be able to keep it within single digits. PICK: Illinois Bigalke: Without Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the field, the Huskies obliterated Boise State. Now that the start tight end is back from his one-game suspension for an offseason DUI, Keith Price has one more weapon with which to attack the Illini defense. Illinois has impressed over the first two weekend, their upset of Cincinnati last week setting back the AAC in its first season after rebranding from the Big East. Bill Cubit has turned Nathan Scheelhaase into a much-improved quarterback, but I could see this game against the Huskies creating a minor setback for the signal caller. Thought they have to travel two time zones to Champaign, the Huskies should win this game by double digits. PICK: Washington   UCF Knights @ Penn State Nittany Lions (-5.5) Mitchell: This is an intriguing matchup as Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenberg, who set the Nittany Lions’ freshman record for passing yards last week against Eastern Michigan, go up against a Central Florida defense that has given up just seven points in their first two games. This will be the biggest test to date for Hackenberg, but fortunately for him this is a home game and he’ll have the Beaver Stadium crowd behind him as he looks to lead Penn State to their first 3-0 start since 2009. UCF QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson will give Penn State’s defense headaches at times, but I do think this will be a relatively low scoring game with both defenses winning their respective battles. I’m torn on this, and when in doubt, pick the home team. So I’ll lay the points. PICK: Penn State Strobl: It’s tempting to dismiss UCF, but a quick look at the numbers is all you need to know that the Knights mean business. They have an efficient quarterback in Blake Bortles, a stingy defense, and a coach in George O’Leary who has the chops to hang with the power programs. Penn State is still working its back toward finding its identity; after struggling to an ugly win over Syracuse, the Lions looked good in thumping Directional Michigan, but that type of win doesn’t tell us much about how the team will handle a quality opponent. UCF hasn’t yet been tested at all, with easy wins over Akron and FIU. Because the Knights have to come to Happy Valley, I’m leaning Penn State, even with a spread that bascially required a touchdown victory. But freshman QB Christian Hackenberg will need to be on point in order for his squad to cover. PICK: Penn State Bigalke: Yes, this game is in Happy Valley. Yes, Penn State has looked pretty damn good two weeks into the second season of its four-year Sandusky sanctions. But UCF has also looked strong after moving from Conference USA to the AAC in the offseason. Like John I believe this will be a really close game, with both teams fielding top-20 defenses. Bortles and the Knights should keep this one close right to the final whistle, and while Penn State very well might survive UCF on Saturday I just cane see them doing it by more than five points. Hackenberg is good, but he’s taking on the toughest defense he’s seen this year and the freshman will make some mistakes to prevent the Nittany Lions from pulling away with this one. PICK: UCF   Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Purdue Boilermakers (+20.5) Mitchell: Purdue has looked downright lousy in their first two games under new head coach Darrell Hazell, who certainly looks to have his work cut out for him with the Boilermakers. Purdue got housed by five touchdowns to a Cincinnati team that in turn was blown out by Illinois in their next game, and then they narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss to Indiana State last week. There is a potential let down factor here for the Fighting Irish after their loss to Michigan last week and with Michigan State looming on the schedule next week. I figure Notre Dame comes out motivated to make up for last week’s loss, and they dispatch Purdue with relative ease. PICK: Notre Dame Strobl: Last week’s loss to Michigan showed that this Notre Dame is not on par with the 2012 edition. But going to the Big House and facing an improved Wolverines team is a far cry from lining up opposite Purdue. The Boilermakers simply aren’t very good, and while I like their future prospects under Darrell Hazell, 2013 is going to be a rough year in West Lafayette. PICK: Notre Dame Bigalke: Notre Dame was right there with a chance against Michigan, and while the Irish lost the battle in the Big House they’ve shown that last season wasn’t entirely a fluke. The game will be played in West Lafayette, but the location really doesn’t matter. The Boilermakers have plenty of growing pains ahead under Hazell, and this is just another painful bump on Purdue’s path as they struggle to regain the respectability of the Joe Tiller era. Purdue has little offense to speak of, they allow more points than Notre Dame on average, and they’re going to slide to 1-2 on the season after suffering a demoralizing blowout to the Fighting Irish. PICK: Notre Dame   Wisconsin Badgers @ Arizona State Sun Devils (-5.5) Mitchell: The nightcap to this college football Saturday could turn into one of the best games of the day. Neither of these teams have yielded a single point so far this season against inferior competition. Wisconsin boasts shutouts of Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech, while Arizona State shut out Sacramento State in their season opener. That’ll change for both sides on Saturday. Even with a new coach, Wisconsin is still Wisconsin as the Badgers have raced to 780 rushing yards in two games on an 8.2 yards per carry clip. Sophomore QB Joel Stave has a couple of interceptions so far, and he’ll have to take care of the football in Tempe because any mistake could prove detrimental to Wisconsin’s chances. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly was spectacular in their opener, and senior RB Marion Grice is one of the most underrated players in the country. The Big Ten has traditionally struggled when making the trek out West, and I see more of the same on Saturday night. Look for a close game, but I like the Sun Devils by a touchdown. PICK: Arizona State Strobl: I have no idea who’s going to win this as neither team has faced anything resembling real competition. What I’m going on here are two things; the venue, and the size of the spread. I’ll give the Sundevils and edge for hosting, but anything more than a field goal suggests that we know something meaningful about the relative quality of these two squads. I don’t think that’s the case. Both teams are likely to surrender their first points of the season and both are going to see their first true test. Whichever side responds is the side that will stay unblemished, but there’s no reason for me to think this game won’t be tight. Therefore, I’ll take the Bagders to (at least) cover. PICK: Wisconsin Bigalke: No matter which tailback has carried the rock for the Badgers, they’re churning up yardage with three 100-yard rushers in each game so far this season. Arizona State leaned more on its passing game in the win over Sacramento State. For both teams, though, this will be the toughest test each has faced so far in 2013. With the current state of the Pac-12 South, the Sun Devils would quickly become a division co-favorite with UCLA if they can knock off Wisconsin. But the Badgers, which entered the season under the radar after a six-loss finish in 2012 and the defection of Bret Bielema to the SEC, will keep this one close enough to beat that spread. Either team could win, but this one should come down to the wire in the desert. PICK: Wisconsin   Upsets of the Week Mitchell: California Golden Bears (+16) over Ohio State Buckeyes With Braxton Miller unlikely to play, there’s a lot being asked of senior quarterback Kenny Guiton as the Buckeyes travel to Berkeley to take on California. To his credit, Guiton performed well last week against San Diego State when he was thrust into action after Miller went down. But this is a step up in competition, and it’s a road game. California looked solid in their season opener to Northwester, but were ultimately upended by a better team, and they were nearly upset by Portland State last week. Still, California’s new offense will be tough for Ohio State to contain as freshman QB Jared Goff leads the No. 1 passing offense in the country through two weeks. Now, I do think the Buckeyes will win, but this spread is too high for me with the uncertainty surrounding Braxton Miller.   Strobl: Oregon State Beavers (+3) over Utah Utes This might seems risky given the Beavers’ performance against Eastern Washington. And indeed, it’s hard to know just how good Oregon State really is, since beating Hawaii only goes so far in restoring fans’ confidence. On the other side is a Utah team that slipped past a solid Utah State at home before dismantling poor Weber State. The line here tells us that Vegas sees a toss-up; the Utes get the requisite three points for hosting, but that’s it. My gut tells me that’s the right call, and I have a hunch that Oregon State will bounce back with a solid performance in week 3. Sean Mannion leads an offense that can score in bunches, and Utah might have trouble keeping pace. The Utes lost wideout Kenneth Scott to an ankle injury in week 1, and tailback appears to be a big question mark for Kyle Whittingham and company. I like OSU to escape with a narrow victory.   Bigalke: Kent State Golden Flashes (+37) over LSU Tigers The fact that Dri Archer is returning to the field, after injuring his left ankle on the first drive of the season, is a good sign for Kent State as they travel to Baton Rouge this weekend. Night games in Death Valley are never easy for visitors, but Kent State has the potential to at least trade punches on the scoreboard. That bodes well for the Golden Flashes covering a spread that has been stretched out beyond five touchdowns. Last year Archer racked up 78 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries against Kentucky; while LSU naturally has a far better defense, Archer should find the endzone at least once. LSU had a 39-point victory over UAB last weekend, but Kent State should be at least three points better than the Blazers on their visit to Tiger Stadium.   THIS SEASON: Strobl: 12-8-0 Bigalke: 11-9-0 Mitchell: 10-10-0

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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