While the Week 3 college football slate isn’t the best of the season, there’s still value to be found on the board. In this article, you can find our staff’s Week 3 college football best bets for this upcoming slate of Saturday football. Check out our YouTube channel for further discussion of the biggest games on the Week 3 slate. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 6-9 (-2.1 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 1-4 (-3.4 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 5-3 (+1.7 units)
Jacob Wayne’s Best Bets
I want to give a quick plug to my Tennessee vs. Florida matchup preview here. That game has my favorite play of the Week 3 slate, and I’m tracking it as an official best bet, but I won’t do another write up for it here.
South Alabama Jaguars at Oklahoma State Cowboys
Last week, I wrote about fading Oklahoma State as they traveled to face Arizona State. The Cowboys pulled out a 12-point win that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated – Arizona State had a post game win expectancy of 52%. Despite the loss, I’m comfortable fading this team once again.
I had several concerns about the Pokes heading into this season, not the least of which was their quarterback situation. So far, Mike Gundy has used all three of Alan Bowman, Garret Rangel, and Gunnar Gundy, and none have been particularly impressive. While that means South Alabama is forced to prepare for three different quarterbacks, it also means Oklahoma State can’t establish consistency in its passing game.
That’s problematic for the Cowboys against South Alabama’s “Swarm Defense” that returned nearly all of its havoc generating players in the front seven. Head coach Kane Wommack coordinated Indiana’s stifling defense that finished ranked 20th in points allowed in 2020.
I had concerns about South Alabama after they collapsed in Week 1 against Tulane, but it appears I underestimated just how deep and talented that Tulane team is after they pushed Ole Miss to the brink without starting quarterback Michael Pratt.
South Alabama starting quarterback Carter Bradley threw two interceptions against Tulane in Week 1, but I had to recontextualize that showing as Jaxson Dart had similar issues against Tulane last week.
Oklahoma State is still struggling to replace Spencer Sanders, who’s backing up Dart at Ole Miss. While that quarterback situation remains in flux, I’ll remain intrigued in fading the Pokes. South Alabama is one of the best Group of Five teams in the country and has every ability to win this game outright.
New Mexico State Aggies at New Mexico Lobos
I faded New Mexico State last week as I expected Liberty to get revenge on the Aggies after last season, and I’m happy to fade them once again this week. The Aggies won six of their final eight games to earn bowl eligibility last season, but the wins came against a laugher of a schedule that included two matchups with FCS teams.
That run to end last season artificially inflated their market rating, creating a good opportunity to fade them. That notion was only helped by the Aggies losing eight starters from last year’s defense. The new defense has looked awful so far, allowing 41 points to UMass in the opener, 21 to FCS Western Illinois, and 33 to Liberty last week.
Their in-state rival New Mexico came into the season with plenty of excitement. New offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent was beloved at UAB, where he coached an offense that ranked 14th in explosiveness and 35th in success rate last season. The Lobos also brought in UAB transfer quarterback Dylan Hopkins to run the Vincent offense.
The Lobos lost defensive coordinator Rocky Long to Syracuse, but former cornerbacks coach Tony Reffett takes over a defense that was 14th in passing EPA last year. I don’t expect New Mexico State quarterback Diego Pavia to have as much success as Hopkins in this matchup, and I believe Hopkins leads his team to a win.
Alabama Crimson Tide at South Florida Bulls
What’s that? You want a chalky big favorite with a spot in the AP Top 25? Alright, fine. Let’s talk about Alabama. I was all over Texas last week as they traveled to face the Crimson Tide, but Alabama’s loss didn’t make me think less of them as an elite team. Steve Sarkisian has assembled a national contender in Austin.
Jalen Milroe couldn’t hang with Quinn Ewers in that game – he completed a paltry 52% of his passes and threw two interceptions. Alabama’s quarterback competition is now reopened, and I’d expect to see drives of Milroe, Tyler Buchner, and Ty Simspon in this upcoming game against South Florida.
South Florida ranked dead last in the FBS in defensive SP+, EPA, and success rate last season, and it’s essentially a complete gut job for new head coach Alex Golesh and his staff. Golesh was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator last season, so he was part of an upset bid over Alabama, but I don’t see that coming close to happening here.
Former Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon is out with an injury, so Byrum Brown has been starting, and he has a 52.2% completion rate against Western Kentucky and Florida A&M. If he can’t find success against those opponents, there’s no way he will against Alabama’s squad of NFL-bound defenders.
Angry Nick Saban is the best Nick Saban, and he’ll be seething after his team lost at home to Texas last week. I fully expect Alabama to use South Florida like a punching bag in this game and win by 40+ points rather easily.
Kody Malstrom’s Best Bets
From Washington to Louisville, check out Kody’s best bets for the Saturday slate below.
Washington Huskies at Michigan State Spartans
After opening -7.5 on the look ahead line, -10.5 after week one, and -14 after week two, is it crazy to say that the Huskies still have value at -16? While it sounds crazy, it certainly is the right play as they are firing on all cylinders while the Michigan State program is currently in disarray.
Off field distractions aside, the real handicap comes on the field as Washington is bringing a pass attack that the Spartans have not had to deal with in their limited two game sample. Michael Penix Jr has quickly built a case for the Heisman, leading a Huskies offense that ranks top-10 in both Pass Success Rate and Pass PPA.
Their Pass Explosiveness has dipped yet that comes with their hyper efficient offense as Washingotn buries opposing defenses with their quick throws across the middle. Ramping up the pace and daring opposing secondaries to creep up before getting beat over the top.
On paper, Michigan State’s defense has the advanced metrics to combat this pass attack. They currently rank top-20 in both Def Pass Success Rate and Def Pass Explosiveness.
While that seems like a potential issue, you need to look at who the Spartans have played so far this season. Their two games leading up to this matchup have been against Central Michigan and Richmond. Not exactly world beaters.
Penix should have no issue with shredding the middle of the Spartans defense apart, beating them with speed in an offense that is built to create separation with their playmakers.
On the other end, the Spartans are ill-equipped to match the Huskies scoring pace. The weakness in the Huskies defense has been their inability to limit the run and the Spartans do not possess any sort of lethal ground game. This forces them to try and beat them through the air, battling a secondary that ranks 25th in Def Pass Success Rate.
Factor in Washington’s tendency to be hyper aggressive in the second half and we can rest assured that a backdoor opportunity will most likely not be present. Take Washington up to as high as -17 as their offense should have a field day against the Michigan State defense.
Best Bet: Washington -16
Louisville Cardinals at Indiana Hoosiers
After stumbling out of the gate in the first half against Georgia Tech, Louisville has gone on a tear. Their ground game has taken over and opened up the rest of the offense while they cruised to a comeback win against the Yellow Jackets and a rout against Murray State.
As for Indiana, their offense has had troubles in the form of finding stability at quarterback. Their initial contest against Ohio State provided little answers, going into their second week matchup against Indiana State with hopes of one of them pulling away. After an impressive limited showing, it looks like Tayven Jackson has won the starting job.
While finding a quarterback for the future is great, they now have to deal with going against one of the better secondaries in football. They rank first in Def Pass Success Rate and sixth in Def Pass PPA.
Granted the quality of the two game sample has not been great, but Tayven Jackson hardly serves as a step up in competition. Louisville should have little issue with continuing their back field pressure and forcing the opposing quarterback to throw into ill-advised windows.
With Indiana struggling to find any sort of down field consistency on offense, this will lead to stalled out drives and early outs. Exactly what Louisville’s offense needs as they iron out the kinks in their new scheme.
The new look offense has had its fair share of ups and downs as Jack Plummer struggles with taking care of the ball as he has thrown for three interceptions to his four touchdowns. Not exactly ideal for a team that wants to up their pass rate.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they have one of the best ground games in the nation thanks to star running back Jawhar Jordan. Jordan has led this Cardinal offense to a first ranked Off Rush Success Rate while also clocking in at second in Rush PPA and 25th in Rush Explosiveness.
This is a major issue for the Hoosiers defense as they rank a lowly 80th in Def Rush Success Rate. They constantly surrender more than half the distance to gain, giving opposing offenses a higher quality chance of converting.
With a massive edge in the ground game and a secondary that will wreak havoc against the new Indiana starting quarterback, take Louisville on the spread at no higher than -10.
Best Bet: Louisville -9.5
Will Schwartz’s Best Bets
Like Wayne, I’d like to give a quick shout out to myself; I wrote the Lineups matchup preview for Florida St vs Boston College and will be tracking the over as one of my best bets. I’m not going to write it up a second time here, so I encourage you to go check out that piece, it’s one of my favorite plays of the week.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at North Carolina Tar Heels
Last week, I got burned by putting too much faith in UNC’s offense, and it should’ve been a double-burn; they didn’t come anywhere close to covering their three-score spread against Appalachian State, and if it wasn’t for a twice-shanked game winning field goal that forced overtime, the over wouldn’t have hit either.
This week, we will be making no such mistake. We also have a bit more information than we did last time; I was operating under the premise that the NCAA would make the right choice at their midweek session and clear Devontez Walker to play, giving the Tar Heels offense a massive boost. That did not happen, as the NCAA once again failed its players, and Drake Maye was left without an excellent target. But at least this week, we finally have an answer, and can proceed accordingly.
Georgia Tech transfer Nate McCollum did in fact make his team debut, although he wasn’t particularly productive as he grabbed just one catch for eight yards. He’s clearly in some sort of adjustment period, and there’s no guarantee that it ends this week. Overall, the UNC offense hasn’t been as automatic as I’d hoped it would be early on, due in part to an o-line that PFF barely considers to be top-100 in the nation.
Minnesota continues to have a strong defense-first identity, but it’s beginning to border on defense-only. After a mostly-brutal showing against Nebraska that was salvaged at the end due to some classic Nebraska game-blowing shenanigans, QB Athan Kaliakmanis was once again mediocre at best against Eastern Michigan, passing for just 117 yards on 15 attempts, including an interception. That game script didn’t ask much of him, but against a MAC team that does not feature a top-100 secondary in the Nation, you’d have to expect better.
The ground game is a bit more of a moving target; the team picked up an inefficient 55 rushing yards against Nebraska, before absolutely annihilating Eastern Michigan in that arena. Against a surprisingly competent North Carolina defense, things might be different. I’m expecting very little from Minnesota’s offense, and surely not mid to high 40s from UNC against a solid Gophers defense.
Best Bet: u51 points
Colorado State Rams at Colorado Buffaloes
After three seasons at FCS Jackson State, where he inherited a team that had just gone 4-8 and won 23 games over his last two seasons, Deion Sanders is taking his “Primetime” nickname literally once again. Boulder, Colorado will be the site of both ESPN’s College GameDay and Fox’s Big Noon college football feature shows for this in-state matchup between Colorado and Colorado State. Yes, this is due in part to a weak slate, but Sanders’s Buffs have become must-watch football, especially on offense.
Let’s talk about the younger Sanders, Deion’s son and starting quarterback Shedeur. He’s an undeniably talented player with obviously a great football background, but it would’ve been hard to predict just how quickly and well he’d acclimate to Power Five football. After debuting with a 510 yard 4 touchdown performance at TCU, it was fair to wonder if Sanders could do it against an actual defense. Then he turned around and snapped off nearly 400 more yards against a theoretically much better Nebraska defense in a second high-volume, high-pace, zero-turnover showing.
Colorado’s offense is certainly legit, and they should have absolutely no problem putting up points against a Colorado State squad that allowed 50 points to Washington State in their only outing ahead of their bizarre week two bye. The Rams also racked up 24 points against Wazzu, a couple more than the “new-look” Wisconsin offense led by Tanner Mordecai, and while many of those came in the fourth quarter of a not-close loss, they could and should be in the same position against Colorado this weekend.
Colorado State is also poised to fully shift to Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi at quarterback after he thoroughly outplayed Clay Millen as the two split snaps against Washington State. The bye is a huge boost here, as it gives them extra time to make the transition an give Fowler-Nicolosi some first-team snaps. With an elite offense on one side, an intriguing one on the other, and no sign of viable defense either way, it’s hard not to bet on the points in what should be a fun, even if not particularly close, high-altitude shootout.
Best Bet: o60.5 points