If Florida State–Miami had not been bumped to Oct. 7 by the onset of Hurricane Irma, Week 3 would feature rematches of three games that tell important chapters of the past two decades of college football history. Instead, we’ll just have to settle for USC–Texas (which 11 years ago at the Rose Bowl brought an end to one dynasty and gave two powerhouse programs a new set of legends) and Clemson-Louisville (which last October helped propel the Tigers towards a successful title game rematch with Alabama, this decade’s dynasty). This Saturday doesn’t have the primetime logjam that stressed out impartial college football fans a week ago, but tough choices still abound as several top teams face their first true tests of the season. Can Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma State take their offensive pyrotechnics show on the road against Pitt? Does Josh Rosen’s magic work outside of Pasadena? Will Kansas State’s status as Big 12 sleeper pick take a hit after a road trip to an SEC stadium?
Below, our writers and editors make their picks for Week 3, then take turns defending them. The list of pickers: Andy Staples, Bruce Feldman, Joan Niesen, Chris Johnson, Eric Single, Molly Geary and Scooby Axson.
Chris Johnson: 20–6 (76.9%)
Molly Geary: 19–7 (73.1%)
Joan Niesen: 18–8 (69.2%)
Eric Single: 18–8 (69.2%)
Bruce Feldman: 16–6 (66.7%)
Andy Staples: 17–9 (65.4%)
Scooby Axson: 6–6 (50%)
UCLA at Memphis (Noon ET, ABC)
Bruce Feldman picks UCLA: This is a long trip for the Bruins, and the 9 a.m. PT kickoff won’t be easy. They hope flying in a day early will remedy that. Worse still, UCLA could be down four starters on defense. Josh Rosen has been superb out of the gate, and the Memphis defense gave up a bunch of big plays against a suspect Louisiana-Monroe attack. I’ll go with the Bruins here, but I expect Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson to give them some issues.
Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh (Noon ET, ESPN)
Joan Niesen picks Oklahoma State: Don't count Pitt out in this one even after its loss to Penn State last week. It'll be close, but I still have to go with Oklahoma State here, which should be able to score early and often against the Panthers.
Notre Dame at Boston College (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Scooby Axson picks Notre Dame: Whatever is ailing the Fighting Irish in the wake of a deflating loss to Georgia, playing a team as offensively challenged as Boston College, who have lost four straight to Notre Dame and just lost by 24 to Wake Forest, should brighten the outlook in South Bend ... at least for this week.
Tennessee at Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Andy Staples picks Tennessee: What happens when the resistible force (the Florida offense, which averaged 3.6 yards a play in a loss to Michigan) meets the movable object (the Tennessee defense, which allowed 6.8 yards a play in a double-overtime win against Georgia Tech)? We're about to find out.
Wisconsin at BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Eric Single picks Wisconsin: This is a battle of slow starters: The Badgers have needed a half or so to get separation from Utah State and Florida Atlantic; the Cougars needed three halves of football before they scored a touchdown against an FBS opponent. With quarterback Tanner Mangum hobbled by an ankle injury, it’s hard to see the BYU offense having enough firepower to match dynamic freshman running back Jonathan Taylor and the rest of the the Badgers’ ground game.
LSU at Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Chris Johnson picks LSU: The Tigers face their first real test of the season after drilling BYU and Chattanooga. Mississippi State is going to beat someone it’s not expected to in the SEC, but it won’t be LSU.
Oregon at Wyoming (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
Joan Niesen picks Oregon: Even after Oregon allowed Nebraska to get close in the second half of last Saturday’s win, I still think the Ducks (especially their offense) have enough to win at elevation against Wyoming, which has been lackluster on offense so far this season despite having NFL draft darling Josh Allen under center.
Kansas State at Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Molly Geary picks Vanderbilt: If you’re sleeping on the Commodores, don’t. Neither team has been tested yet, but Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmer has had an excellent start, leading the nation in QB rating through two weeks. Meanwhile, Jesse Ertz and the Wildcats’ offense have been firing on all cylinders. This has the makings of a close one, but the Commodores will make a statement with a win at home.
Clemson at Louisville (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Andy Staples picks Clemson: Lamar Jackson nearly led Louisville to an upset of the Tigers in Death Valley last year, but Clemson turned the ball over five times in that game. If Clemson protects the ball, its superior defense should allow the Tigers to prevail.
Texas at USC (8:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Chris Johnson picks USC: This game pits two national powerhouses loaded with highly regarded recruits, but only one of them is ready to compete for a national championship this season. That will be plain at the Coliseum on Saturday.
Ole Miss at Cal (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Eric Single picks Ole Miss: Neither team has faced a defense of any note so far in 2017, and that will still be the case after this Saturday. Quarterback Shea Patterson has completed nearly 77% of his passes through two games, so the Rebels get the edge in a first-to-50 shootout.
Stanford at San Diego State (10:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
Bruce Feldman picks Stanford: Stanford returns to Southern California after getting mauled by USC last week. The Aztecs are no cupcake. They had no trouble whipping Arizona State last week, and running back Rashaad Penny is off to a fantastic start. I think the Cardinal will respond well after last week’s dismal showing and take advantage of some miscues (San Diego State averages 11 penalties a game).