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  • Our experts are largely in on underdogs again in Week 3, but Auburn stands out as a home favorite ready to grab a big win with SEC rival LSU coming to town.
By The SI Staff
September 10, 2018

Week 3 of college football is on the horizon, and our experts have locked in on some point spreads that they think will deliver winning results. Syracuse and San Diego State are well-positioned to win outright as home dogs, while Vanderbilt should be able to keep things reasonably close in South Bend. Meanwhile, in the game of the week in the SEC, Auburn is eyeing a statement win over LSU.

Florida State (-2.5) at Syracuse

Sat. 9/15, 12:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Syracuse +2.5

While Florida State's season-opening 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech was disappointing, there was reason to believe that the Seminoles were better than that final score would indicate. FSU actually outgained the Hokies, and didn't recover any of the game's six fumbles—a simple stroke of bad luck. With quarterback Deondre Francois playing his first full game since the 2016 season, it was easy to write off his three interceptions to rust. It wasn't time to hit the panic button just yet.

Now, it may be time to hit the panic button. Florida State eked out a 36-26 win over Samford on Saturday, needing a touchdown with 4:03 on the clock to take its first lead of the season. For a team that should have been out for blood after starting the season with a high-profile loss, it was a discouraging result at home against an FCS opponent. And while Francois bounced back with 320 passing yards and three touchdowns (and no interceptions), the defense took a huge step backwards: FSU allowed 475 yards through the air, only saving itself from total embarrassment with four interceptions.

Subpar pass defense will doom the Seminoles at Syracuse this week, where they'll face the ACC's longest-tenured starting quarterback in Eric Dungey. Dungey has thrown seven touchdowns through two games this season, and is the conference's second-leading rusher thanks largely to his 200 yards on the ground in the Orange's opener at Western Michigan. This FSU team hasn't looked equipped to face that type of versatility, and wouldn't be favored on the road if not for the program's reputation. –Sam Chase

Vanderbilt at Notre Dame (-14.5)

Sat. 9/15, 2:30 p.m. ET

Pick: Vanderbilt +14.5

“Can 2-0 Commodores beat Irish?” is one result of a Google search for “Vanderbilt football”—and it’s a fair question. The search result right below it reads, “Does Vanderbilt have a football team?”

Derek Mason still doesn’t get the respect he deserves, and his hard-working teams probably never will, considering the football factories in its conference. But I don’t think Mason or savvy bettors will mind as long as the Tennessee school best known for its academics plays like a public powerhouse. It has so far, taking care of business at home with a 31-point win over Nevada and a 28-point win over Middle Tennessee. Meanwhile, Notre Dame—which faced comparable competition last week in Ball State—scraped by to 2-0 with an eight-point victory.

Everyone knows that the Irish have a football team, but it doesn’t have the offense to match its national brand. Brandon Wimbush is more of a leader than a passer, and while that should result in a win for Notre Dame, they’ll fall to 1-2 against the spread. Meanwhile, Vandy is 9-4 ATS as a double-digit road underdog since 2013. Take the points, which includes a helpful hook. –Ed McGrogan

College Football
What We Know (and What We Don't) About the 2018 College Football Season After Two Weeks

LSU at Auburn (-10)

Sat. 9/15, 3:30 p.m. ET

Pick: Auburn -10

This is a head-to-head series that’s been dominated by the home team in recent seasons, as the host has gone 8-1 ATS in LSU–Auburn games since the start of the 2009 season, with the lone ATS loss being a 14-point LSU victory as a 17-point favorite in 2013. The last time Auburn was a home favorite against LSU was in 2014, when it won 41-7 as a 7-point favorite. Auburn’s 10-3-2 ATS mark over its past 15 regular season games against SEC opponents includes a 5-1-1 record at home and double-digit victories last November against both Georgia and Alabama, the teams that faced each other in this past January’s national title game. As impressive as LSU looked in a season-opening victory on a neutral field against Miami, miscues by the Hurricanes allowed the Tigers to allow graduate transfer Joe Burrow to merely manage the game, which he did to the tune of 5.8 yards per attempt and a completion rate of less than 50%. When considering that LSU managed just two first downs and 78 yards of total offense in the second half of an unimpressive 31-0 win against an overmatched FCS Southeastern Louisiana this past Saturday, it’s difficult to envision head coach Ed Orgeron’s squad generating the offense it will need to keep up with an explosive opponent in Auburn. –Scott Gramling

Arizona State (-3.5) at San Diego State

Sat. 9/15, 10:30 p.m. ET

Pick: San Diego State +3.5

Herm Edwards’s Arizona State career is off to a tremendous start, but it looks like the Sun Devils are overvalued just a bit here. ASU did beat Michigan State last week, but it appears the Spartans might have been receiving some unwarranted hype heading into the year. MSU has some big names, but it barely beat Utah State at home in the opening week of the season. Mark Dantonio's team followed up that performance by scoring just 13 points against an Arizona State team that doesn’t have much on the defensive side of the ball. The Sun Devils deserve some credit for that win, but people need to pump the brakes a bit.

Meanwhile, San Diego State played Stanford a lot closer than the 31-10 final suggests in Week 1. The Aztecs then pulled out a 28-14 win over Sacramento State that is best described as a dud. But Rocky Long’s team was likely just experiencing a letdown after losing a game it was so amped up for in the opener. Look for the Aztecs to get back on track against the Sun Devils, as their defense is good enough to give ASU a lot of problems. And playing in front of their home crowd, star RB Juwan Washington should be able to shake loose for a couple of big plays.

And for good measure, the Aztecs have an incredible run defense this year. That has been a good omen for the team in the past, as SDSU is 9-0 both straight up and against the spread coming off two consecutives games in which they allowed 75 or fewer rushing yards under Long. –Zachary Cohen

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