- Will any potentially tricky spots for ranked teams bring an upset this weekend? Our writers and editors make their picks for 13 of Week 3's biggest matchups.
Week 3 isn't the most compelling college football slate on paper—but then again, many of our writers and editors didn't forsee teams like Cal, USC, Minnesota and Colorado all winning last weekend. Week 3 does treat us to some intruging non-conference matchups like Wake Forest–UNC (yes, this is actually happening as a non-conference game), TCU–Purdue and Iowa State–Iowa, and several ranked teams like Florida, Washington State, USC and Maryland hit the road in potentially tricky spots. Our staff picks for 13 of the weekend's biggest games are below. To see our picks for this week against the spread, click here.
Scooby Axson: 18–6 (75%)
Michael Shapiro: 17–7 (70.1%)
Max Meyer: 17–7 (70.1%)
Tim Rohan: 15–9 (62.5%)
Molly Geary: 15–9 (62.5%)
Ross Dellenger: 14–10 (58.3%)
Laken Litman: 13–11 (54.2%)
Joan Niesen: 10–12 (41.6%)
North Carolina at Wake Forest (Friday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Laken Litman picks UNC: Can’t pick against Mack Brown now. North Carolina is 2–0, with both wins coming against Brown’s former Texas defensive coordinators: Will Muschamp at South Carolina and Manny Diaz at Miami. True freshman QB Sam Howell is gaining confidence—he’s scored four TDs without an interception and converted a fourth-and-17 on North Carolina’s game-winning drive to beat the Canes 28–25 last weekend. In Week 3 he faces the ACC’s second-worst defense in a trip to Wake Forest.
Washington State at Houston (Friday, 9:15 p.m., ESPN)
Max Meyer picks Washington State: This is the first time Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen have faced off against each other. The two have been on the same staff before (Valdosta State, Texas Tech) and are among the sharpest offensive minds in the country. So expect points by the bunches in this one. Washington State doesn't appear to have suffered that much of a drop-off from Gardner Minshew to new quarterback Anthony Gordon, who has looked sharp thus far. On the other side, D'Eriq King is one of college football's top dual-threat quarterbacks. In the end, this comes down to which defense I trust more to get stops in this game, and that's where I give the edge to the boys from Pullman.
Pittsburgh at Penn State (12 p.m. ET, ABC)
Ross Dellenger picks Penn State: This is the 100th matchup between these two in-state rivals and the fourth straight after they stopped playing for 15 years in 2000. The Nittany Lions have won nine of the last 11, but look out, because Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has made his players unavailable for interviews this week—a sure sign that the Panthers mean business. We all know how much media access and winning are linked. Shut down practice access, cut off assistant coaches, make freshmen unavailable, and you've got a recipe for success! Just look at Clemson, which makes available after every game its three coordinators, head coach and freshmen. The openness has had such an adverse effect on the Tigers, winners of two of the last three national titles.
Ohio State at Indiana (12 p.m. ET, FOX)
Michael Shapiro picks Ohio State: Ohio State faced its first true test of 2019 last week, and the Buckeyes passed with flying colors in a 42–0 victory over Cincinnati. Don't expect Indiana to bring much more of a challenge in Week 3, even at home. The Hoosiers beat Ball State by just 10 in Week 1, and more importantly, the talent disparity is simply too much to overcome. Justin Fields is the real deal under center and J.K. Dobbins is among the best running backs in the country. Indiana's struggles will only compound if it falls behind early against the Buckeyes' fearsome pass rush. Expect a couple of sacks from Chase Young, a touchdown run or two from Dobbins and another Buckeyes blowout in Bloomington.
Maryland at Temple (12 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
Tim Rohan picks Maryland: Two weeks into the season, Maryland has the No. 1 scoring offense in the country and is scoring 71 points a game. The Terrapins might not be able to keep that pace up, but they look dangerous already, playing in Mike Locksley’s multiple-look offense. Josh Jackson, the Virginia Tech transfer, has looked very impressive at quarterback, completing 59% of his passes for 541 yards and a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jackson and Locksley should be able to keep things rolling against Temple.
USC at BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Max Meyer picks USC: True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis looked incredible in his first career start against Stanford, but now has a tough task on his hands in his first road game. BYU could be a rabid home atmosphere hosting the Trojans, and the defense was the best in the country at preventing explosive plays last season. Zach Wilson led the Cougars to a miraculous win over Tennessee this past weekend, and he has the capability to move the ball early and often vs. USC's inexperienced secondary. Next week is the Trojans' biggest game of the season, hosting Utah in what will go a long way toward deciding the Pac-12 South winner. USC can't afford to look past this game—BYU is good and the Vegas line of 4 reflects that. But in the end, the Trojans' talent prevails and they squeak by in Provo.
Stanford at UCF (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Joan Niesen picks UCF: Both Josh Heupel's and David Shaw's teams have dealt with quarterback injuries early; each started its backup in Week 2, but to opposite results. UCF won big, and Stanford lost by a 25-point margin. Yes, K.J. Costello will be back for the Cardinal while UCF still doesn't know who it'll start, but even with that uncertainty, there's no reason to bet against the Knights' offense, which has averaged 55 points over its first two weeks. Defensively, Stanford will present more of a test than the Knights have yet faced, but the Cardinal did allow USC nearly 500 yards of offense on Saturday.
Alabama at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Joan Niesen picks Alabama: If Alabama wins by fewer than 20 points, I'll be shocked. South Carolina's offense flexed with Ryan Hilinski at quarterback on Saturday, putting up 72 points on Charleston Southern, which made for a fun story, and maybe the Gamecocks are even better with the true freshman under center. All that means in this context, though, is that maybe they'll score more than the 10 points New Mexico State did on Saturday. There's no world in which this isn't an Alabama blowout, as the Nick Saban machine marches onward into SEC play.
Iowa at Iowa State (4 p.m. ET, FS1)
Laken Litman picks Iowa State: Iowa is 2–0 after shutting out Rutgers, while Iowa State needed triple OT to knock off Northern Iowa in the season opener and was off in Week 2. The Hawkeyes head into this matchup without their starting left tackle and a depleted secondary thanks to injuries, while the Cyclones are still figuring out who QB Brock Purdy’s top offensive weapons will be after losing Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery to the NFL. This rivalry game, which is the site of ESPN’s College GameDay, could go either way. But give the slight edge to Iowa State at home.
Florida at Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ross Dellenger picks Florida: The revenge game for the Gators. Florida had won 31 consecutive games over Kentucky, a streak that dates back to 1987 before a 27–16 home loss last year. Expect a tight battle, and the Wildcats might very well pull this one off, but we're siding with the Gators in a coin-flip type match in Lexington.
TCU at Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
Scooby Axson picks TCU: TCU and Purdue haven’t faced each other since 1970 and after this game won’t see each other until 2030. Purdue’s success has been on the shoulder of all-world talent Rondale Moore and quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who leads the nation in passing yards but is also questionable to play with a concussion. If Sindelar can’t play, Purdue will turn to redshirt freshman Jack Plummer. The Frogs also have quarterback issues, playing senior Alex Delton and true freshman Max Duggan and will use their own dynamic playmaker in wide receiver Jalen Reagor to create matchup issues in the secondary. This game could come down to who has the ball last.
Clemson at Syracuse (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Orange gave Clemson everything it could handle in each of the last two seasons, including winning in 2017, but they limp into this one after a blowout loss to Maryland and with the hype for this game at least somewhat deflated. The 'Cuse defense got exposed in Week 2 and now has to go up against Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Co.—good luck! Syracuse is likely better than its showing on both sides of the ball last weekend (and a home game vs. No. 1 in primetime is a great way to quickly reset your focus), but that might not show through against a formidable Tigers team.
Florida State at Virginia (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Scooby Axson picks Virginia: Florida State has dominated this rivalry since entering the ACC in the mid-1990s, but times have changed quickly. The Seminoles come into this game with the conference’s worst defense, and have already have given up 13 plays of 20 or more yards and allowed its two opponents so far to convert 47% of their third-down tries. Virginia is the ACC’s highest-scoring offense, led by quarterback Bryce Perkins, a legitimate dual-threat player who can exploit the Seminoles porous defense. Florida State could be in for a long night, as Virginia’s defense has been stout with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.