NCAA Football Week 3 Picks: Top 25 Team Predictions After LSU Win

If you love college football, the Week 3 action will make you feel like a fat kid in a candy store!  It kicked off with an SEC West showdown with Les Miles and the LSU Tigers on the road against Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs and it ends with Andrew Luck and the physical Stanford Cardinal in the desert at Arizona.

Mid-September is sure to blow the first two weeks out of the water.  After a quick vacation in the gulf, I’m more than ready to tackle a weekend jam-packed of looming trap games, close calls, high-stakes inner and outer conference matchups, exciting and completely crowd-pleasing thrillers and earth-shattering upsets that will take the college football landscape by storm.

Last Week’s Results: 18-2 (39-4 Overall)

I was unable to assemble my picks for this week before the Top 25 action got underway due to time constraints from a vacation and around-the-clock construction work going on with the house.  Analogous to Week 2 when I broke down Notre Dame-Michigan in surrogate for Arizona and OK State, I’m taking Texas at UCLA—a game with a solid amount of national interest—since I missed out on LSU at Mississippi State.

Please note the rankings are not based on the AP, USA Today or the BCS that will enter the equation later on in the season.  Rather, they’re established weekly by

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Eastern Michigan at No. 25 Michigan (Sat, 12:00pm EST)

Brady Hoke and Michigan are somewhat of a long-shot to win the Big Ten Legends division.  However, they’re off to a steady 2-0 start and will have no trouble continuing their unbeaten streak with a breather against Eastern Michigan.  Prediction: Michigan 52, Eastern Michigan 7

Florida A&M at No. 24 South Florida (Sat, 7:00pm EST)

South Florida encountered few obstacles maintaining focus following one of the biggest wins in program history over the Fighting Irish with a 37-7 smashing of Ball State.  Look for more of the same as the Bulls bulldoze the Rattlers.  Prediction: South Florida 42, Florida A&M 10

Tennessee at No. 23 Florida (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

The race in the SEC East heats up in the swamp on Saturday.  The Gators have won the past six meetings and lead the all-time series, 21-19.  Florida is the first team on upset alert this week.

Tennessee signal-caller Tyler Bray looks to give the Gators’ starting corners Cody Riggs and Marcus Roberson fits if he can have solid protection in the pocket, especially with Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter in the aerial attack.  That’s easier said than done, though with Florida’s stellar front four.  Expect a good one here.  Prediction: Florida 28, Tennessee 20

No. 22 Ohio State at Miami (FL) (Sat, 7:30pm EST) 

There’s a rumor floating around that there will be a special section of the stadium for NCAA investigators that are scrutinizing The Ohio State and “The U” on Saturday night.  I haven’t heard whether or not it’s true, but I do know something for certain—I’ll continue investigating both unproven, controversy-riddled teams when they take the field.

Don’t expect a ton of points.  Ohio State looks to limit mistakes and maintain premier status on defense, especially against the run as Miami has home-field advantage after a week of rest.  The Buckeyes are on upset alert and fall short in the closing seconds.  Prediction: Miami (FL) 23, Ohio State 20

No. 20 Auburn at Clemson (Sat, 12:00pm EST)

Auburn leads the all-time series 34-11-2 against Clemson and won last year’s meeting, 27-24.  No team came closer to derailing Cam Newton and Auburn’s perfect season in 2010 than Clemson—despite barely cracking a bowl appearance.

The Tigers—the ones with home-field advantage and revenge on their minds—are poised to pull the trigger.  Auburn is the third team this week on upset alert.  Both programs have had close calls already this season and Auburn comes in with momentum.  But it won’t be enough.  Prediction: Clemson 31, Auburn 27

No. 19 West Virginia at Maryland (Sat, 12:00pm EST)

Geno Smith and the high-flying Mountaineers are the fourth team on upset alert this week.  The Terrapins have the home field, the crowd, a week of rest, better-than-dreadful uniforms and face a test with the words “trap game” written all over it.  West Virginia leads the tight-knit series, 24-21-2.

Maryland possesses the talent offensively to assemble momentum-changing touchdown drives and the defense to slow West Virginia’s unbalanced attack.  Another sluggish start and looming distraction with LSU on tap Week 4 leads to an extremely entertaining upset.  Prediction: Maryland 36, West Virginia 33

UL Monroe at No. 18 TCU (Sat, 2:00pm EST)

Louisiana Monroe’s warm welcome to the season continues at TCU after dealing with Florida State and before facing Iowa to end the month of September.  The Horned Frogs haven’t lost a home-opener under Gary Patterson in 10 years.  The streak continues with ease here.  Prediction: TCU 55, UL Monroe 10

Stephen F. Austin at No. 17 Baylor (Sat, 7:00pm EST)

Robert Griffin is a dark horse Heisman hopeful.  Baylor is a dark horse contender in the Big 12.  Stephen F. Austin is a contender…in FCS.  ‘Nuff said, right?  Baylor leads the series, 3-0.  The Bears won the last meeting in 1947, 34-0.  The Bears are also well-rested and confident.  Prediction: Baylor 44, Stephen F. Austin 6

No. 16 Arizona State at Illinois (Sat, 7:00pm EST)

The Fighting Illini have a chance to make a dent this season and do have home-field advantage against Arizona State.  Moreover, the Fighting Illini have a points scored to allowed ratio of 89-18 compared to the Sun Devils’ 85-44.  This all means little in Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening, as Arizona State wins in comfortable fashion. Prediction: Arizona State 31, Illinois 14 

No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

Notre Dame is favored in Vegas, but my upsets are based on rankings.  Michigan State is on upset alert—the fifth team this week.  Prior to last season, Brian Kelly (’04-’06) and Mark Dantonio (’07-’09) were the last two coaches at Cincinnati.

ND: The Fighting Irish are equipped with the 13th best offense in the nation, but also lead the country in turnovers with 10.  The pass defense is 74th and 51st against the run.  Notre Dame needs to respond and avoid not only a third 0-3 start in program history, but also back-to-back disappointing defeats to its rivals from Michigan.  Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 45-28-1.

MSU: The Spartans are shooting for their 7th victory in the past eight visits to South Bend.  Michigan State is entering this week’s test with its highest ranking against Notre Dame since 1979—when the 7th-ranked Spartans lost to the Irish.  These teams have a knack for playing down to the wire.  Expect more of the same.  Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 24

Arkansas State at No. 14 Virginia Tech (Sat, 4:00pm EST)

The Hokies survived the inevitable trap game with East Carolina.  Now they look to blow the house down against the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.  Prediction: Virginia Tech 51, Arkansas State 9

Navy at No. 13 South Carolina (Sat, 6:00pm EST)

Consistency hasn’t been an issue for Navy—defeating Delaware, 40-17 and Western Kentucky, 40-14.  South Carolina will present plenty of problems, but the Gamecocks will have their hands full as well.  South Carolina leads the series, 4-3 and has won the last two get-togethers.  Navy’s stunning 38-21 upset in 1984 put a dagger in the hearts of 2nd-ranked South Carolina (9-0).

Back to this matchup—the Midshipmen’s tricky triple-option, which churned over 400 yards on the ground last week and the Gamecocks’ lethal, high-powered offense leads to loads of points, exciting, eye-catching plays and the defensive coordinators tearing up on the sidelines.  You’ll also see a heavy dose of Marcus Lattimore.  Prediction: South Carolina 41, Navy 28

Troy at No. 12 Arkansas (Sat, 7:30pm EST)

Arkansas has its last opportunity to get in the hang of things against Troy before facing ‘Bama and A&M.  Troy QB Corey Robinson will do some damage against Arkansas, but the razor-sharp Razorbacks offense will overpower the Trojans defense.  Prediction: Arkansas 48, Troy 20

Washington at No. 11 Nebraska (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

The series is tied, 4-4-1.  This is the third get-together in the last year.  The Huskers smashed Washington last September in Seattle, 56-21.  The Huskies responded with a stunning 19-7 upset in the Holiday Bowl.  Nebraska is the 6th team on upset alert this week.  Washington is without Jake Locker and Mason Foster; Nebraska is without Prince Amukamara and Roy Helu.

Setting the tone early with Taylor Martinez will be pivotal to avoiding the upset for Nebraska.  Washington has an edge through the air against a less-than-stellar Cornhuskers secondary, but the game is in Lincoln.  Look for a great one.  Prediction: Nebraska 34, Washington 26

No. 10 Oklahoma State at Tulsa (Sat, 10:00pm EST)

Another trap game?  It’s on the road after all.  The pokes travel to College Station on Sept. 24.  Moreover, it’s a really late night game—and an in-state rivalry to boot.  All of these factors only increase the possibility of a shocking upset.  Oklahoma State is the 7th team on upset alert.

Stats: Oklahoma State leads the series, 39-27-5.  However, Tulsa leads the series at home, 22-14-2 and has won five or last seven meetings in Tulsa.  Nonetheless, OK State enters the test with a five-game winning streak on the road and has won 9 of its last 10 road games as well.

You’ll here G.J. Kinne and his go-to target Bryan Burnham’s name used often, but not as frequently for good reasons as Brnadon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.  The Golden Hurricane try to take the college football landscape by storm.  The team has already dealt with Oklahoma and Tulane on the road and finishes the month of September with OK State and Boise State.  Damn, I feel for you, Tulsa.  They’ll make things fun-to-watch and interesting, but the Cowboys start to pull away in the 4th quarter.  Prediction: Oklahoma State 56, Tulsa 38

Missouri State at No. 9 Oregon (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

Quack Attack destroyed the Wolfpack like a fire extinguisher, 69-20.  Add into the equation that Arkansas beat the Bears of Missouri State like a drum 51-7 in the season opener, I’m moderately interested to see just how many style points Oregon can put up this week.  Prediction: Oregon 63, Missouri St. 6

Idaho at No. 8 Texas A&M (Sat, 7:00pm EST)

Idaho’s offense and special teams can vandalize any opponent in any given week.  But the Vandals won’t be doing much in College Station.  Despite the Aggies having way too many distractions when idle and facing three ranked teams in the next four weeks, Texas A&M takes care of business.  Prediction: Texas A&M 53, Idaho 19

No. 7 Wisconsin at Northern Illinois (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

Russell Wilson and Wisconsin are dangerous.  A 51-17 win over UNLV and 35-0 shutout against Oregon State—the first shutout of the season for a BCS school—is a sign of great things to come.  Nevertheless, the Badgers could be less lethal on the road.  The Dam Workers put all of their resources into stopping the run last week and it paid dividends for Wilson and company, as they developed a great level of confidence moving forward.

Northern Illinois has the home field, a tough-to-stop and prolific no-huddle offense and head coach Dave Doeren, a former Wisconsin defensive coordinator who would love to lead the Huskies to a stunning upset.  It will be some tough sledding, however.  Prediction: Wisconsin 41, Northern Illinois 24

No. 6 Stanford at Arizona (Sat, 10:45pm EST)

Arizona leads the series against Stanford, 14-12.  A potential trap game looms in the desert. Stanford looks to pound it out in the ground game and keep things as a physical, slug-it-out contest rather than an arm’s race between Andrew Luck and Nick Foles.

Arizona will attack the Cardinal pass defense because Stanford’s 2nd-ranked run defense won’t allow an inch.  In addition, about 70 percent of the Wildcats’ calls have been pass plays and approx. 88 percent of the yards have come through the air.

Stanford is the 8th team on upset alert this week.  Look for an extremely entertaining conference battle.  Home-field advantage is huge for Arizona, but Stanford has Luck on its side.  Prediction: Stanford 31, Arizona 22

No. 5 Boise State at Toledo (Sat, 8:00pm EST)

Let the style points and endless debates begin!  Holy Toledo, the Rockets almost defeated the Buckeyes last week!  The MAC favorites are no push-over.  The high-flying Rockets are playing under the lights on Friday night with home-field advantage.  That kind of has a trap game ring to it.

Moreover, as points out, the Broncos have “struggled with a few games like this—think Tulsa 2009, Southern Miss 2008—in the past.”  These teams both strive for balance.  All-American WR/KR Eric Paige keeps Toledo in this game.  Prediction: Boise State 48, Toledo 34

No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 4 Florida State (Sat, 8:00pm EST)

It’s the Game of the Week and could later be dubbed the Game of the Year.  It’s at the pinnacle of early season marquee matchups.  Two great coaches, two of the nation’s most tradition-rich programs and two Top 5 teams go toe-to-toe in Tallahassee with ESPN College Gameday on hand.   There’s also national title implications, off-the-field stories as big as what’s happening on the field and top-tier offense, defense and special teams units.  Oklahoma is on upset alert.

My head and heart aren’t on the same page.  With revenge in mind and a lot to prove in front of the home crowd, I like Florida State’s chances.  The ‘Noles can also utilize the special teams advantage.  Oklahoma has the better quarterback in Landry Jones, but E.J. Manuel certainly can deliver as well.

The front seven units will have their way against less-than-stellar offensive lines and unproven backfields.  Ryan Broyles and the Sooners’ aerial attack will create plenty of havoc.  However, the Seminoles secondary has made some strides since last season’s meeting.  Composure, coaching and the crowd—the three Cs—should be the keys to this game.  I’m going out on a limb and calling for the upset!  Prediction: Florida State 28, Oklahoma 25

North Texas at No. 1 Alabama (Sat, 7:30pm EST)

The Tide have had some trouble getting rolling offensively, but the defense has been out-of-this-world.  Fortunately, wide out Darius Hanks returns to the field and this week provides more time to grow and develop—especially in terms of depth—before dueling it out with Arkansas.  The Mean Green won’t leave Tuscaloosa with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Prediction: Alabama 49, North Texas 0

Texas at UCLA (Sat, 3:30pm EST)

Garrett Gilbert is out; sophomore Case McCoy (younger brother of Colt McCoy) and freshman David Ash will share the snaps under center.  Last year’s 34-12 loss in Austin against the Bruins was an embarrassment.  This week’s performance won’t be overly impressive, but the ‘Horns get the job done.  Texas ties up the series, 3-3 with conviction.  Prediction: Texas 35, UCLA 20

Verse of This Piece: “As a tree gives fruit, healing words give life, but dishonest words crush the spirit.”—Proverbs 15:4

Who are your picks?  Agree or disagree with my thoughts?  Let me know below!

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  • Dcunited_81

    Last time I checked the Wisconsin vs. NIU game was a Soldier Field, not exactly a road game, btw… just saying!!!

    • Michael Gartman

      Thanks for the feedback, Dcunited_81.  You’re right about that.  I knew there was a game in Soldier Field this week!  Hope you enjoyed the article!