College football Week 3: Picks and preview
Marvin Gentry/USA Today Images

College football Week 3: Picks and preview

It's already Week 3, and prominent programs like Ohio State and Clemson already have a loss. Both are part of the slate this weekend.

Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads at the time of publishing courtesy of DraftKings and subject to change) for this week's games featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25 and other intriguing matchups.

All times Eastern. Statistics in parentheses for 2021 unless noted.

 
1 of 25

No. 16 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPN2

No. 16 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPN2
David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports

This could be an intriguing matchup. Coastal has totaled 101 points in its first two games, but Kansas just scored 22 against the Chanticleers last weekend. Yes, Coastal has won five straight non-conference road games, but two came at Kansas and two more versus UMass. Buffalo was whacked at Nebraska last weekend, but it's won seven of the last eight home games against those outside the Mid-American Conference. This will be the first time since then-No. 8 Baylor on Sept. 12, 2014, that a Top 25, non-conference team will visit Buffalo.

Prediction: Coastal Carolina (-13 1/2)

 
2 of 25

No. 8 Cincinnati (2-0) at Indiana (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPN

No. 8 Cincinnati (2-0) at Indiana (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPN
Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

According to the Big Ten Network, Saturday marks the first time since Sept. 19, 1992, that league teams will face three Top 25 opponents. This matchup might be the best of the trio. The Hoosiers were walloped 34-6 at then-No. 18 Iowa to open the season, and hope for a better showing against this ranked opponent. That likely won't be easy considering the Bearcats outscored Miami (Ohio) and Murray State 91-21 to open the season. Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder (34-of-47, 538 passing yards, six touchdowns, one interception) and Jerome Ford (234 rushing yards, four touchdowns) have been hot out of the gate.

Prediction: Cincinnati (-4)

 
3 of 25

Michigan State (2-0) at No. 24 Miami, Fla., (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC

Michigan State (2-0) at No. 24 Miami, Fla., (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC
Richard Graulich/USA TODAY Sports

It's somewhat hard to believe that Michigan State last started 3-0 in 2015. But Miami has been less than stellar early on, especially while totaling 641 yards of offense against Alabama and barely beating Appalachian State, so it's possible that feat will again be accomplished. The Hurricanes' defense also must find a way to contain Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III, the Wake Forest transfer who has rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries in 2021.  

Prediction: Michigan State (+6 1/2)

 
4 of 25

Northern Illinois (1-1) at No. 25 Michigan (2-0), Noon, Saturday, Big Ten Network

Northern Illinois (1-1) at No. 25 Michigan (2-0), Noon, Saturday, Big Ten Network
Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Now, this is the start Michigan fans had hoped for in 2021. The Wolverines outscored Western Michigan and Washington 78-24. They've yet to commit a turnover and have a pair of potent running backs in Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, who have combined for 507 yards and six touchdowns through two weeks. NIU, though, pulled off a Week 1 road upset of Georgia Tech and feature ex-Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi (369 passing yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions), who threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns during the Spartans' 27-24 win at the "Big House" last season.

Prediction: Northern Illinois (+27)

 
5 of 25

Nebraska (2-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (2-0), Noon, Saturday, Fox

Nebraska (2-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (2-0), Noon, Saturday, Fox
Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The return of this storied rivalry -- for the first time since 2010 -- is getting much attention this week, but the reality is that it's unlikely to be a close contest. Yes, passion and pride will be on display, but Oklahoma just dropped 76 on Western Carolina, and the Cornhuskers have allowed an average of 44.3 points during their 12-game losing streak against ranked opponents. This could get ugly quite early.

Prediction: Oklahoma (-22)

 
6 of 25

New Mexico (2-0) at No. 7 Texas A&M (2-0), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network

New Mexico (2-0) at No. 7 Texas A&M (2-0), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies are undefeated and ranked in the top 10, but a broken leg has quarterback Haynes King out indefinitely. Meaning, the focus turns to backup Zach Calzada, who threw for 183 yards and tossed the game-winning touchdown to Isaiah Spiller in the fourth quarter of last weekend's 10-7 win over Colorado in Denver. However, Texas A&M should still be in good shape versus New Mexico, which has dropped 22 in a row against Top 25 opponents.

Prediction: New Mexico (+29 1/2)

 
7 of 25

No. 15 Virginia Tech (2-0) at West Virginia (1-1), Noon, Saturday, FS1

No. 15 Virginia Tech (2-0) at West Virginia (1-1), Noon, Saturday, FS1
Ryan Hunt/USA TODAY Sports

This could be the most entertaining game of the week, and if Virginia Tech is able to start 3-0 for the first time since 2017, then the Hokies just might be for real. They've allowed 24 points and recorded nine sacks and four interceptions. West Virginia, however, is riding a six-game winning streak at home, where it's also won 18 in a row against non-conference opponents. Mountaineers' running back Leddie Brown ranks among the national leaders with five touchdowns.

Prediction: West Virginia (-3)

 
8 of 25

Purdue (2-0) at No. 12 Notre Dame (2-0), 2:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC

Purdue (2-0) at No. 12 Notre Dame (2-0), 2:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

Hooking up for the first time since 2014, the Irish have won seven straight against their Indiana rivals. However, Purdue fans might have reason to believe that slide will be halted. Boilermakers quarterback Jack Plummer (45-of-61, 558 yards, six touchdowns, zero interceptions) is turning some heads. Meanwhile, Notre Dame's suspect offensive line has yielded 10 sacks and paved the way for just 197 rushing yards while the team's struggled to beat Florida State and Toledo. Should be interesting.

Prediction: Notre Dame (-7)

 
9 of 25

No. 1 Alabama (2-0) at No. 11 Florida (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

No. 1 Alabama (2-0) at No. 11 Florida (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, this is the game of the week. But will it really be as close as the 2020 SEC title game that Alabama won 52-46? That was the Tide's seventh consecutive victory in the series, and Bryce Young (46-of-65, 571 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions) seems good enough to extend that run. The Gators, meanwhile, might be at home, but their quarterback issue is messy . Emory Jones (two touchdowns, four interceptions) has struggled out of the gate and Anthony Richardson (6-of-11, 192 yards, two touchdowns) has become a quite popular backup.

Prediction: Alabama (-14)

 
10 of 25

Kent State (1-1) at No. 5 Iowa (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network

Kent State (1-1) at No. 5 Iowa (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Are the Hawkeyes the best team in the Big Ten? They seemed poised to be. Riding an eight-game losing streak dating to last season, Iowa has allowed 23 points and 572 total yards while beating then-No. 17 Indiana and then-No. 9 Iowa State by a combined 38 points. Kent State's Dustin Crum (4,483 passing yards 36 TDs in 39 career games) might be the best quarterback in the Mid-American Conference, but the Golden Flashes have been outscored by an average of 48.6 points during a 12-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents.

Prediction: Iowa (-22 1/2)

 
11 of 25

Tulsa (0-2) at No. 9 Ohio State (1-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Tulsa (0-2) at No. 9 Ohio State (1-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The level of concern among Ohio State supporters hasn't reached critical mass, but something has to be done about the Buckeyes' defense. Ohio State has yielded 66 points, 913 total yards, forced just two turnovers, and recorded only two sacks this season. Then-No. 12 Oregon totaled 505 of those yards against the Buckeyes during its 35-28 upset win at Columbus. That said, Tulsa has been outscored 235-83 during a six-game road losing streak against Big Ten opponents.

Prediction: Ohio State (-24 1/2)

 
12 of 25

Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-0 in ACC) at No. 6 Clemson (1-1, 0-0 in ACC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-0 in ACC) at No. 6 Clemson (1-1, 0-0 in ACC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC
Adam Hagy/USA TODAY Sports

Lost amid the overall concern of Clemson's 1-1 record is the fact it has allowed just 13 points and 491 total yards. That does not bode well for Georgia Tech, which bounced back from an opening, home upset loss to a pesky Northern Illinois group by beating nearby Kennesaw State. The Tigers have won six straight against the Yellow Jackets by an average margin of 30.7 points.

Prediction: Clemson (-28 1/2)

 
13 of 25

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Arkansas (2-0), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Arkansas (2-0), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

Is Sam Pittman the early frontrunner for national coach of the year? Beating then-No. 11 Texas was a huge step for his Razorbacks, a program that has not enjoyed a winning season since 2016. The Hogs' defense has been especially notable while allowing 564 yards, forcing five turnovers, and recording five sacks through two games. Since the start of the 1996 season, Georgia Southern has lost eight straight against Top 25 SEC teams by an average of 31.9 points.

Prediction: Arkansas (-23 1/2)

 
14 of 25

South Carolina (2-0, 0-0 in SEC) at No. 2 Georgia (2-0, 0-0 in SEC), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

South Carolina (2-0, 0-0 in SEC) at No. 2 Georgia (2-0, 0-0 in SEC), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Joshua L. Jones via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

We can harken back to 2019 when South Carolina rolled into Athens and came out with a double-overtime 20-17 victory over Georgia. This, however, is a better Bulldogs team that held then-No. 3 Clemson to three points and a solid UAB program to seven. And, yielding 354 total yards in the process. The Gamecocks might be 2-0 but needed a rally and last-second field goal to win at East Carolina last weekend.

Prediction: Georgia (-31 1/2)

 
15 of 25

Virginia (2-0, 0-0 in ACC) at No. 21 North Carolina (1-1, 0-1 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Virginia (2-0, 0-0 in ACC) at No. 21 North Carolina (1-1, 0-1 in ACC), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina is trying to find its form and should be a better team than the one that opened with a loss on the road, amid a raucous crowd against Virginia Tech. Now, the Tar Heels have dropped four straight against Virginia by a total of 26 combined points. Despite Carolina's recent issues against the Cavaliers, star quarterback Sam Howell has been very good against them, throwing for 796 with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in two games. That said, keep an eye on Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong (48-of-67, 744 yards, seven TDs, one INT).

Prediction: North Carolina (-9)

 
16 of 25

Stony Brook (1-1) at No. 4 Oregon (2-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network

Stony Brook (1-1) at No. 4 Oregon (2-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The Ducks made Week 2's biggest statement by rushing for 269 yards and rolling up 505 total during a 35-28 win at then-No. 3 Ohio State. While we don't expect a letdown against this FCS opponent, there might not be much to judge Oregon in this follow-up where its starters are likely to be pulled relatively early in the contest. What we do know, is that the Ducks are certainly a team to watch more so than ever going forward.

Prediction: Oregon (OFF)

 
17 of 25

No. 22 Auburn (2-0) at No. 10 Penn State (2-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

No. 22 Auburn (2-0) at No. 10 Penn State (2-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC
John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

This is truly a proving-ground moment for Auburn, which has outscored Akron and Alabama State 122-10 to open the Bryan Harsin era. Bo Nix (29-of-39, 383 yards, five TDs, zero INTs) is certainly doing his part. But, this will be the Tigers' first real test of 2021. Penn State will be aiming for a seventh straight victory, and turned heads by holding then-No. 12 Wisconsin to 297 yards in its 16-10 victory to open the season. Meanwhile, Nittany Lions receivers Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington have combined for 20 catches and 271 yards.

Prediction: Penn State (-6)

 
18 of 25

Tulane (1-1) at No. 17 Mississippi (2-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Tulane (1-1) at No. 17 Mississippi (2-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2
Petre Thomas/USA TODAY Sports

After Tulane gave Oklahoma a run for its money at Norman to open the season, Ole Miss likely won't be taking anything for granted. The Green Wave have scored 104 points already this season. So, the Rebels defense will need to be on its toes. Yet, this game has all the makings of a high-scoring, barn-burner. Ole Miss star Matt Corral has been as good as advertised while completing 66.2-percent of his passes for 662 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Prediction: Tulane (+14)

 
19 of 25

No. 19 Arizona State (2-0) at No. 23 BYU (2-0), 10:!5 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

No. 19 Arizona State (2-0) at No. 23 BYU (2-0), 10:!5 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

Looking for some late-night intrigue, this might be one's best bet. Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels (307 passing yards, 162 rushing yards) gets a lot of love, but their defense has yielded just 24 points and 379 total yards while beating Southern Utah and UNLV each by 27 points. Now comes the real test against BYU, which just ended its Holy War drought and beat ASU rival Arizona to open the season. Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (36-of-58, 347 yards, five TDs, zero INTs) is making some folks in Provo forget about Zach Wilson.

Prediction: BYU (+ 3 1/2)

 
20 of 25

No. 14 Iowa State (1-1) at UNLV (0-2), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS Sports Network

No. 14 Iowa State (1-1) at UNLV (0-2), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports

Looking for a way to jump-start a struggling offense? Head to the desert where UNLV has allowed 72 points and 933 total yards through its two games. Iowa State hopes the Rebels will continue to be generous with hopes of breaking out after totaling just 33 points against Northern Iowa and Iowa. Who would have thought that three games into the Cyclones' season that Brock Purdy would still be looking to throw his first touchdown pass? Or preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Breece Hall would have just 138 rushing yards on 39 carries.

Prediction: Iowa State (-30)

 
21 of 25

Fresno State (2-1) at No. 13 UCLA (2-0), 10:45 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network

Fresno State (2-1) at No. 13 UCLA (2-0), 10:45 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

One must go back to 2015 for the last time UCLA opened with three straight victories. However, it was only three years ago when Fresno State rolled over the Bruins 38-14 in the most recent meeting between the schools. Actually, Fresno has won the last three against UCLA, and its lone 2021 defeat came 31-24 at then-No. 11 Oregon on Sept. 4, so there should be no intimidation factor. The Bruins, though, appear to be a focused group that's back in action following a week off after stunning then-No. 16 LSU 38-27 earlier this month. UCLA has benefited from Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet, who's rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns.

Prediction: Fresno State (+11 1/2)

 
22 of 25

Maryland (2-0, 0-0 in Big Ten) at Illinois (1-2, 1-0 in Big Ten), 9 p.m., Friday, FS1

Maryland (2-0, 0-0 in Big Ten) at Illinois (1-2, 1-0 in Big Ten), 9 p.m., Friday, FS1
Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

Maryland is trying to start 3-0 for the first time since 2016. However, the Terrapins have lost 21 of their last 25 Big Ten road contests. This 2021 version, though, has Taulia Tagovailoa (48-of-63, 606 yards, six TDs, zero INTs) leading the way and a defense that's forced five turnovers and recorded five sacks. Illinois, meanwhile, looks to avoid a third straight defeat but reportedly will have quarterback Brandon Peters back from a Week 0 injury.

Prediction: Maryland (- 5 1/2)

 
23 of 25

Nevada (2-0) at Kansas State (2-0), 2:05 p.m., Saturday, Big 12 Network/ESPN+

Nevada (2-0) at Kansas State (2-0), 2:05 p.m., Saturday, Big 12 Network/ESPN+
Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports

A nice little under-the-radar matchup we have here. Nevada has already won at California this season and boasts one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Carson Strong (56-of-82, 693 yards, six TDs, one INT). Meanwhile, Kansas State knocked off Stanford 24-7 to open the season. However, the Wildcats must immediately overcome the indefinite loss of veteran quarterback Skylar Thompson (5,261 career passing yards; 1,116 career rushing yards) to a knee injury.

Prediction: Nevada (-2)

 
24 of 25

USC (1-1, 0-1 in Pac-12) at Washington State (1-1, 0-0 in Pac-12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox

USC (1-1, 0-1 in Pac-12) at Washington State (1-1, 0-0 in Pac-12), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Now that the inevitable has happened and coach Clay Helton's been fired, USC must focus on bouncing back from last weekend's costly 42-28 home loss to Stanford. Washington State has scored 67 points through its first two games, but also yielded 50 to Utah State and Portland State. So, it would not be surprising if the Trojans suffered a second straight upset. The Cougars won the last time these schools met at Pullman in 2017.

Prediction: Washington State (+8 1/2)

 
25 of 25

Oklahoma State (2-0) at Boise State (1-1), 9 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Oklahoma State (2-0) at Boise State (1-1), 9 p.m., Saturday, FS1
Brett Rojo/USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State has looked rather pedestrian while beating Missouri State and Tulsa by a combined 12 points. Quarterback Spencer Sanders (4,245 passing yards, 32 TDs, 20 INTs in 21 career games) is back for the Cowboys, who beat Boise at home in 2018. Now they head to the blue turf, where the Broncos have lost just twice in their last 52 home games against unranked, non-conference home opponents.

Prediction: Boise State (-3 1/2)

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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