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  • Which ranked SEC team is Ross Dellenger backing? Why is Joan Niesen backing an ACC road favorite facing another Power 5 team? Our CFB staff's Week 3 best bets.
By The SI Staff
September 13, 2019

After going 3-3 in Week 2, our staff's best bets are 8-4 on the season. But we have six more best bets for this weekend's slate, including some juicy favorites.

SEC

Arkansas State at No. 3 Georgia (-32.5)

This is a lot of points. That's almost five touchdowns and extra points, but the Bulldogs have one of the best squads in the nation, and they're hosting a team that lost to SMU earlier this year. This is the Bulldogs' final warmup before hosting Notre Dame in what's expected to be a top-10 matchup in Athens. We're 1-1 on our SEC Best Bets on the season, losing on a bad beat in Week 1 (thanks, Oregon) and winning due to some last-second heroics in Week 2 (thanks, Texas A&M!). — Ross Dellenger

ACC

NC State (-6.5) at West Virginia 

Yes, the Wolfpack are favored by nearly a touchdown on the road, but West Virginia hasn't shown many signs of life in 2019—especially on offense, where it's scored just 27 points in two weeks and averaged just 232.5 yards per game. It's particularly struggled to establish the running game—against Missouri, it had just 30 net yards—rendering its offense one-dimensional, and NC State should be able to limit the Mountaineers' scoring enough to win by at least a touchdown. It's early, but the Wolfpack defense has looked sharp, and it appears the team has at least somewhat addressed its shortcomings against the passing game from 2018. — Joan Niesen

Big Ten

No. 21 Maryland (-7) at Temple

Maryland—yes, Maryland—leads the nation in scoring offense after two weeks (averaging 71 points per game). The Terps and their new unstoppable attack, led by Virginia Tech transfer QB Josh Jackson, have outscored Howard and No. 21 Syracuse 142-20 while racking up 1,273 total yards on 7.9 yards per play. They’re now ranked in this week’s AP Poll for the first time since 2013, coming in at No. 21.

Can Temple, which has only played one game so far, do anything to slow Mike Locksley & Co. down? The thing is, the Owls also need to worry about Maryland’s defense, which has had no issues getting to the quarterback. The Terps are second in the country right now with 12 sacks (Florida is No. 1 with 15)—through two games.

Temple was strong in its season opener, crushing Bucknell 56-12 in Rod Carey’s debut as head coach. QB Anthony Russo made some big throws and went 32-of-41 for 409 yards passing with four touchdowns and an interception. A veteran defense held the Bison to 211 total yards and 4-of-17 on third down.

Last year, the Terps also started off 2-0 and were then promptly upset by Temple, 35-14, in Week 3. Maryland should be able to avenge that loss this week, but this is still a sneaky matchup. The Owls were off last week and have had extra time to prepare. Expect them to make things interesting by making big plays and keeping up with the pace. But the Terps will eventually put this thing away in the fourth quarter. — Laken Litman

Big 12

No. 5 Oklahoma (-23.5) at UCLA

Even in Los Angeles, slating Oklahoma as slightly over a three-touchdown favorite over UCLA feels a touch disrespectful. The Sooners haven't missed a step transitioning from Kyler Murray to Jalen Hurts, and the Bruins are only in year two of their rebuild under Chip Kelly. An all-out embarrassment feels more likely than an upset.

Oklahoma's offense is perfectly in sync through two contests. Hurts has completed 82.9% of passes for 591 yards and six touchdowns, additionally leading the Sooners in rushing. Trey Sermon may be the Big 12's best back. CeeDee Lamb could shine every Sunday in 2020. Do we have any evidence UCLA can slow this high-octane attack after finishing No. 104 in points allowed last season? College defenses couldn't stop Kelly at Oregon nearly a decade ago. Lincoln Riley has assumed the mantle of college football's best offensive mind, and Oklahoma should continue to rack up the points away from home on Saturday. — Michael Shapiro

Kansas at Boston College (-20.5)

Let’s face it, if you have been betting against Kansas, especially in the past couple of years, chances are you have made a profit quite often. The Jayhawks might be the worst team in the entire country, but here is something to consider: Kansas is 4-0 against the spread in its last four games following a loss. That is the good news. Now for the reality: How are the Jayhawks going to stop Boston College running back AJ Dillon or the rest of the Eagles offense? Better yet, how are they going to generate offense themselves? Kansas has scored a grand total of 31 points in its two games… against Indiana State and Coastal Carolina. This Friday night special has rout written all over it, so take Boston College just for the sake of another gambling win. — Scooby Axson

Pac-12

Air Force at Colorado: Air Force +2.5 first half

This opening line immediately jumped out to me because it was just Colorado as a 1.5-point home favorite over Air Force. It’s gone up since then, but it’s interesting to see how oddsmakers view the Buffaloes. Even though I was impressed with the comeback win over Nebraska, I’m still not sold on Colorado, particularly its defense. 

Despite bringing in former Georgia and Alabama defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to be its head coach this offseason, Colorado has allowed 6.49 yards per play in its first two games, which ranks 114th in the country.

I’m particularly concerned about Colorado’s inability to stop rushing attempts near or behind the line of scrimmage. At first glance, you see Colorado has only allowed 4.03 yards per carry, which ranks 83rd. But the Buffaloes are tied for ninth in the country in sacks, and negative yardage on sacks impacts rushing numbers, which skews the YPC here.

So let’s dive deeper on Colorado’s run defense, particularly the players up front. Per Football Outsiders, Colorado’s defensive line ranks 117th in opportunity rate (percentage of opponents’ carries that gain at least four yards) and 125th in stuff rate (percentage of carries that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage). As you would expect from a triple-option team, Air Force rarely gets stopped at or behind the line scrimmage (11th in stuff rate in 2018) and the Falcons sure look like they’ll get nice chunks of yardage on a lot of their carries in this one.

While Air Force’s run defense was excellent last season, the Falcons did not do a great job against the pass. The Falcons were really banged-up on the back end, though, and returned three senior starters from that secondary. If this group can stay healthy, it should be improved from last season. Going up against quarterback Steven Montez and star wideout Laviska Shenault is no easy task, but a goal for new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson is prioritizing the rushing attack more.

Having only a week to prep for the triple option is tricky, and a Colorado defense that has struggled stopping the run this season could very well be gashed early and often before second-half adjustments from Tucker. In fact, the Buffaloes have been outscored in first halves 38-21 in two games, while outscoring opponents in second halves/OT 62-24, so at least Tucker’s halftime adjustments have worked thus far.

Colorado has also benefitted massively from turnovers, as its +5 turnover differential is tied for second in college football. But with similar personnel last season, Air Force had the 23rd-lowest number of giveaways, despite poor fumble luck—the Falcons lost 10 of their 15 fumbles (66.7%, which was tied for 115th in the country). Colorado’s defense has already had trouble getting stops, and if it isn’t forcing turnovers or generating sacks, that could lead to some big trouble.

This is the first time the two in-state rivals have faced off in 45 years, and Air Force will be amped to have a shot to prove itself against the best collegiate football team in Colorado. Even though the Falcons went 5-7 last season, all seven of those losses were by 10 points or fewer. I really like the spot here for Air Force, and I’m expecting a very tight game in Boulder, with the underdog making a statement in the first half. — Max Meyer

Season record: 8-4

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