Week 2 of the college football season was certainly unpredictable. It saw Ryan Day’s first regular season loss as head coach of Ohio State, the demise of USC and firing of Clay Helton, as well as several close calls for top teams, including Notre Dame and Texas A&M. While Week 3 may not possess the most exciting matchups on paper, there are certainly plenty of interesting games and narratives. The Group of 5’s best playoff chance in Cincinnati goes into Indiana hoping to preserve their season, and Alabama faces a tough upset-minded Florida team in Gainesville who plays an intriguing platoon of quarterbacks. Looking forward to this week of games, we give our best predictions and analysis using lines and odds from Barstool Sportsbook.
The Game: (8)Cincinnati @ Indiana
The Play: Cincinnati -4 (-107)
Why: Cincinnati has been untested thus far, but looks the part of a potential playoff contender. They return 14 starters off a team that nearly (and should have) defeated Georgia in the Peach Bowl to cap last season, and have run through their early week opponents this season. Indiana on the other hand, has been unable to continue their momentum in 2021 after a strong 2020. The Hoosiers went 6-1 in the regular season, only losing by 7 points to eventual CFP runner-up Ohio State, and looked great in doing so. Offensively, Indiana boasted dynamic weapons in QB Michael Penix Jr. and WR Ty Fryfogle, but unfortunately Penix suffered a torn ACL down the stretch of the season. Penix does not possess the same elusivity that made him so dangerous and forced defenses to always account for his rushing ability. After averaging over 3.5YPC in 2019 and 2020, Penix has averaged -3.3YPC in 2021, indicative of his immobility in the pocket (NCAA statistics attribute sacks to quarterbacks rushing stats). This has allowed defenses to key in on his passing, making him much more vulnerable, specifically in Week 1 against Iowa where he threw 3 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Cincinnati boasts a very strong and physical defense and I expect them to stifle Indiana’s rushing attack, forcing Penix to throw downfield. The game may be close early, but Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder is very experienced, and should be able to lead Cincinnati to at least a touchdown victory margin.
The Game: (16)Coastal Carolina @ Buffalo
The Play: Coastal Carolina -13.5 (-112)
Why: Buffalo comes into Week 3 off a 28-3 loss to Nebraska and a horrific offensive performance, averaging just above 4 yards per play (the general benchmark to contend for a game is around 6 yards per play). Coastal Carolina has looked great this year behind QB Grayson McCall who is 33/40 for 507 yards and 3TD this season and possesses a dynamic rushing attack averaging 238.5yds/game. Buffalo has a weak interior defensive line, which allowed 5.4YPC against Nebraska, and the game plan of the Chanticleers will likely be to run the ball, later opening up for play action passes. Coastal Carolina shouldn’t have too much trouble scoring, and Buffalo’s offense does not possess the weapons to keep pace.
The Game: USC @ Washington State
The Play: USC -8.5 (-110)
Why: The Trojans let go of Coach Clay Helton this week, and that is addition by subtraction. Under Helton, Trojan players looked to be disinterested, and the offensive style became predictable. Interim HC Donte Williams is a true players coach who will have his team ready. That jolt of momentum alone, along with the pure talent on the roster should be enough to defeat Washington State. The Cougars struggled in the opening week of the season, losing to Utah State at home. At best, they are a slightly above average offensive team, with an OF+ rating of .83, and a below average defense with a -.86 DF+ (F+ combines multiple metrics that weigh a teams scoring advantage per possession on a neutral field and opponent-adjusted measures of play-by-play efficiency). A motivated USC behind a very experienced QB Kedon Slovis should be able to exploit them.
The Game: Virginia Tech @ West Virginia
The Play: Va. Tech +3 (-113)
Why: It’s easy to see why West Virginia would be favored in this game, being at home in a rivalry game. The Mountaineers are a talented group, and probably should be 2-0, if not for a poor second half performance against a good Maryland team. Virginia Tech, though, is the better defensive team (DF+ of 0.79 compared to 0.53 for West Virginia), and is much better coached. That matters in rivalry games. The Hokies are led by veteran QB and Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister, who can be dynamic in leading an offense, causing problems with his rushing ability. Against a QB with a similar skillset in Taulia Tagovailoa, the Mountaineers had no response, allowing Tagovailoa to roam free throughout the backfield and pinpoint an open receiver at will. Tagovailoa has 332 passing yards on a 72.2 completion percentage and Burmeister may even be more mobile. The Hokies have a tremendous defense all-around and left Heisman candidate Sam Howell looking confused, forcing 3 interceptions as well as 2 more fumbles that were both recovered. This is a game that may be close early but I like Virginia Tech, and think they should win outright as well.
The Game: Mississippi State @ Memphis
The Play: Over 64.5 total points (-109)
Why: Memphis, the air raid, and the over. Memphis is fresh off a 55-50 victory over Arkansas State, while Mississippi State comes off of a (surprisingly) low scoring 24-10 win over NC State. In the Tigers victory, they looked extremely content to trade scores, and showed no inclination to play any defense in the secondary, and committing more than their fair share of defensive penalties down the stretch. The Tigers are led by QB Seth Henigan who threw for over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns in that game, and RB Bryan Thomas, who averages over 10 yards per carry on the season. The Bulldogs dominated their week 2 game over a very good NC State. They came out victorious 24-10, but the game was not in contention whatsoever. Bulldogs QB Will Rogers has thrown for 96 passes in 2 games under Coach Mike Leach’s air raid style offense and there is no reason to expect any other outcome against Memphis who certainly will be willing to trade offensive blows. This game should be close, but more importantly, it will be a high scoring thriller.
The Game: (1)Alabama @ (11)Florida
The Play: Over 59 total points (-110)
Why: Alabama looks the part of the nation’s best team, with an F+ rating of 2.55 (Georgia is 2nd at 2.14). They’re a complete team, with talent at every position. If the Tide did have a weakness though, it would certainly be its secondary. This secondary may finally be tested by Florida in week 3. The Gators possess 2 very talented quarterbacks that have both seen plenty of game action this season in Anthony Richardson and Emory Jones. Jones is the team’s leading passer this season (but has been turnover prone), while Richardson in his sparing use is the team’s leading rusher at 275 yards on a measly 11 carries. Alabama’s offense is much too talented to be contained and will be able to break some big chunk plays, but Florida at home shouldn’t be a pushover. I expect to see plenty of game action for both of the Gators QB’s, and for this to cause enough trouble for Florida to score some points.
The Game: Minnesota @ Colorado
The Play: Under 48 total points (-109)
Why: Both teams will come into this game hoping to run the ball and win the time of possession battle. Colorado enters Week 3 off a stout defensive performance where they limited Texas A&M to 10 points, but were not able to come away with a victory. Since losing star RB Mo Ibrahim, the Gophers have not been the same, going from averaging 5.4 yards/play against Ohio State to 4.5 yards/play against Miami OH without Ibrahim, a much inferior opponent. At the point of his injury, the Gophers were embroiled in a tight battle against Ohio State, but allowed the Buckeyes to pull away as soon as he left late in that Week 1 clash. Without Ibrahim, the Gophers will lean on the short passing game of QB Tanner Morgan as well as a capable replacement in running back Treyson Potts. The Buffaloes favor this style of play as well, as they do not have dynamic weapons, and will lean on running back Jarek Broussard and QB Brandon Lewis’ rushing abilities. A universal desire to play at a slow pace and the Buffaloes skilled defensive line will lead to this game going under the total points threshold.
The Game: Oklahoma State @ Boise State
The Play: Boise State -3 (-127)
Why: Oklahoma State struggled mightily in Week 1 without QB Spencer Sanders, but even with him playing in Week 2, not much improvement was seen. Oklahoma State narrowly escaped with a 28-23 win over a poor Tulsa squad. The Cowboys seem to have an extreme difficulty in rushing the ball, and this seems to be causing problems in moving the ball downfield with their passing game. Even in only playing only 1 game, Sanders is still the Cowboys leading rusher with a measly 62 total rushing yards. While Boise State does not have a very strong defensive unit, it is still better than any unit the Cowboys have faced so far. The Broncos are a talented group, and nearly shocked UCF at home before collapsing their 3 touchdown lead. In Week 2 though, Boise State rebounded and demolished UTEP 54-13. Besides one crucial interception against UCF, QB Hank Bachmeier has looked more than competent, and on the home blue turf of Boise State, they should get the victory.