Bleacher Report Expert Predictions for Week 3 in College Football

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    Jarrett Stidham

    Jarrett StidhamKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    College football games in the Carolinas are getting postponed left and right in preparation for Hurricane Florence, but there’s still plenty of Week 3 action in need of some expert prognostication.

    After a tough opening weekend, our six college football experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—were far more accurate in Week 2.

    If that momentum carries into Week 3, it’s going to be a tough Saturday for USC, Florida State and several others.

    The six experts peered into the future to make eight predictions on the weekend ahead, including:

  • Will TCU shake up the CFP picture against Ohio State?
  • Does LSU or Auburn emerge as the top challenger to Alabama in the SEC West?
  • Can Boise State keep its quest for an undefeated season going against Oklahoma State?
  • How many yards will Wisconsins’s Jonathan Taylor rush for against BYU?
  • And just how much offense will be on display between Houston and Texas Tech?

Our experts are on the case.

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    Dwayne Haskins

    Dwayne HaskinsJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    Ohio State, and by whatever margin the Buckeyes choose. I don’t think people realize just how talented this Ohio State team isand how much better it is with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback. Haskins is a legit NFL quarterback, while J.T. Barrett was just a great college quarterback. Haskins can make every throw, which allows Ohio State to use multiple weapons on the outside. Translation: Good luck, TCU.

                                  

    David Kenyon

    TCU scored a pair of non-offensive touchdowns in a 30-point win over SMU. On one hand, receiving that sort of production from the defense and special teams is outstanding. Conversely, there’s the dilemma of mostly ineffective offense against a bad team. Ohio State probably won’t have much trouble. Buckeyes by 18.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Give me Ohio State by a comfortable margin. Not a blowout. Not a close call. But by enough points that it’s both convincing and still within reach. I am curious to see how Haskins reacts to a difficult road environment. I also want to see how the Buckeyes defense deals with a quality offense. That being said, the talent gap between these two just feels too wide. I love what I’ve seen from Ohio State’s offense early on, and I expect that to continue. So give me the Buckeyes, 44-31.

                

    Kerry Miller

    How special are TCU’s special teams? It’s clear that Haskins and the Buckeyes are the superior offensive force, but the Horned Frogs are leading the nation in punt return yards. If TCU can get defensive stops, KaVontae Turpin can further swing the momentum at the drop of a hat by taking one to the house. Even with that X-factor in playand even with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer still not allowed on the sidelineI can’t justify picking against Ohio State here. Give me the Buckeyes by a final score of 42-27.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I’m not sold on TCU, which looks talented but raw with Shawn Robinson at QB. But head coach Gary Patterson always finds a way to make big games entertaining. Will he this week? Ohio State is one of the top five teams in the nation, and Haskins is on some kind of early-season roll. The Horned Frogs will keep this close for a while in a virtual home game, but the Buckeyes will run away with it in the second half. They’ve got too many horses.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Ohio State will be tested by Patterson’s Horned Frogs, but the Buckeyes’ track speed and explosiveness will overwhelm TCU eventually. OSU running back Mike Weber appears to be in his freshman year form again, and Haskins has one of the best arms in the country. It’s too much firepower for Patterson to overcome. Buckeyes by 13.

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    Nick Brossette and Joe Burrow

    Nick Brossette and Joe BurrowJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Joe Burrow played well in LSU’s win over Miami, and he will give the Tigers the ability to win big games in the SEC. But not this one. Not in his first SEC road experience in a hostile environment against Auburn’s nasty front seven. The LSU defense had some issues defending the deep ball against Miami, and not many quarterbacks in college football throw a prettier (see: accurate) deep ball than Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. I’m going with Auburn because there’s too much uncertainty with Burrow in his first SEC road start and too much to like about the Auburn front seven and Stidham in big games.

            

    David Kenyon

    I still have major concerns about LSU’s passing game. Southeastern Louisiana isn’t exactly Auburn, and LSU needed to use extra blockers to keep Joe Burrow protected. That’s a bad sign against Auburn on the road. The Tigers win this one.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Let me first say that I absolutely love this matchup. If you love watching defensive linemen toss offensive linemen around like they’re mannequins, this is the game for you. (Note: I enjoy this.) The problem for LSU is that Auburn has so many more offensive weapons, starting with Stidham. With that said, I don’t see this as a blowout. I could see a blender of a game with few points scored, ending with Auburn having to gut out a win. This should be a glorious, ugly football game, and I am here for it.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Despite playing the starters for basically the entire game, LSU managed only 335 yards and 31 points against Southeastern Louisiana. If you came away from that game thinking, “Oh yeah, that offense is ready for a road game against Auburn,” you’re doing this wrong. LSU’s D is the real deal, though, so I’m not expecting Auburn to turn this into a blowout. But LSU probably needs to finish at least plus-three in turnover margin to have a realistic shot here. I’ll take Auburn in a 24-10 defensive war.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    It looks like Ed Orgeron has much-improved quarterback play this year with the addition of Burrow, but LSU still doesn’t have enough playmakers on offense to beat Alabama, Auburn or maybe even Mississippi State. Auburn gets LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is important for Gus Malzahn’s team. Points will be at a premium in this one, and I like Auburn to get the home win, 27-17.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Despite shocking the nation with their blowout of Miami on opening weekend, the LSU Tigers still don’t have an offense capable of threatening an elite defense. Burrow’s inexperience has shown in each of their two games, while the offensive line struggled against Southeastern Louisiana. Auburn will control the trenches and stifle LSU’s offense, doing just enough to win comfortably.

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    Brett Rypien

    Brett RypienSteve Conner/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    Neither team has beaten anyone of significance, though Boise State’s season-opening demolition of Troy is the best of the combined four wins by these two teams. That gameon the road in a tough environment, Troy’s biggest home game in yearswas good preparation for this week’s road tilt in Stillwater. Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien is playing well (73.2% completion rate, 7 TD, 0 INT), and Boise State is more active on defense this season. I’ll take Boise State.

            

    David Kenyon

    Give me Oklahoma State and all the points these offenses want. This is a massive game for Boise State’s postseason ceiling, since a New Year’s Six slot will likely go to the Broncos, UCF or Florida Atlantic. But I’ll stick with the home team.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    The more I see of Boise State, the more I love. Last week, the Broncos totaled more than 800 yards in a single game. Sure, it came against UConn, but 800 yards! That will be harder this week on the road against a difficult opponent in a challenging environment, but this is the right time to play an Oklahoma State team still trying to find its identity after losing a lot of talented players. I’ll take the Broncos in what could be the sneaky awesome game of Week 3.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Not only has Oklahoma State been incredible on offense thus far this season, but it has done so without most of its stars accomplishing much. Weak opposition or not, scoring 56.5 points per game while Justice Hill, Jalen McCleskey and Dillon Stoner average a combined 19.5 touches is kind of ridiculous. The Cowboys could find another gear in this home game, and that would be enough to win a game in which both sides might score in the 40s.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Boise State is the nation’s best Group of Five team this year, and that will show in a sterling resume win over the Fighting Mullet of Mike Gundy. Hill will have a big game against the Broncos, but this Boise offense is legit, and not just because it racked up 818 yards on the smurf turf last weekend. The Broncos have everything you need, and head coach Bryan Harsin will have his best team this year because of it. This may be Boise State’s biggest game in five or six years, and it’ll answer the call.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Boise State will emerge as the victor from this intriguing matchup. The Broncos have experience advantages across the board, starting with Rypien and senior wide receiver Sean Modster. Those two have been explosive thus far, totaling 241 yards through two games. Oklahoma State will challenge the Boise State’s athletes with Hill and a deep set of receivers, but the Cowboys are going to be stretched too thin trying to stop the Broncos’ balanced offense.

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    Clay Helton

    Clay HeltonMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Matt Hayes

    This might be the week of multiple upsets. Three teams in the Pac-12 go on the road in tough spots: Washington (at Utah), Arizona State (at San Diego State) and USC (at Texas). ASU hasn’t played as the favorite, and San Diego State has a strong defense and run game. USC and freshman quarterback JT Daniels are staring at a desperate Texas team. But I’m going with an upset way off the radar: Toledo at home over Miami. Toledo can score on any team in the country, and if the Miami offense continues to give away the ball in big gamesthis is a big game for Toledothe Canes are in trouble.

            

    David Kenyon

    I don’t trust Texas at all against USC. San Diego State quarterback Christian Chapman is hurt, so Arizona State should be safe. The last time Miami was a popular choice to lose against an unranked team, it won by 35. Toledo has the firepower, but I’m not going there. Beyond the matchups between two ranked teams, I think it’s another quiet week.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    There aren’t a ton of great options here. The college football season is still stretching out its legs, and the result is a smattering of ranked-versus-unranked games that might not be all that close. However, San Diego State gets No. 23 Arizona State coming off a huge win. The possibility of a letdown is there.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Several of the sneaky challenging games on the East Coast have been washed out by Hurricane Florence, but expect another late-night, #Pac12AfterDark game to shake up the rankings. No. 23 Arizona State is playing a tough road game against San Diego State, and No. 10 Washington may well pick up its second loss of the season at Utah. The Utes are suffocating on defense, and they have some unfinished work on their minds after almost upsetting the Huskies last year.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    As we say down South, the pickins are slim this week. The only ranked opponents who could be in danger of losing are Washington (to Utah) and USC (to Texas). While all may survive, I think the Longhorns will get a resounding early-season payback win over the Trojans despite losing to Maryland and looking awful in a win over Tulsa last weekend. USC’s youth showed on the road at Stanford, and it will in Austin as well.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    USC. There are several possibilities here, including Utah-Washington and BYU-Wisconsin, but those ranked teams have extreme strengths that will eventually wear out their undermanned opponents. Meanwhile, the youthful Trojans play a Texas Longhorns team that frankly needs to win. Head coach Tom Herman isn’t in any sort of hot water, but the program is ready for a jolt of excitement. USC’s inexperience on offense will show in Austin.

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    Deondre Francois

    Deondre FrancoisDon Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Florida State at Syracuse. It’s time to see what this FSU team is made of. There’s plenty of talent; those four straight top-six recruiting classes from Jimbo Fisher didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Willie Taggart. But it’s clear FSU is having problems adjusting to the new staff. Nearly every team does. Can Taggart and his staff right the ship in a dangerous road game against a team that can score points in bunches?

            

    David Kenyon

    What is Florida State? Through two games, it sure doesn’t appear to have a dangerous offense complemented by a talented defense. Syracuse may give Florida State a chance to put up 30-plus points, but the Orange are plenty capable of doing the same. A 1-2 start would look bad for Taggart, and it’ll be must-watch viewing if FSU is in trouble (again).

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Can I say Kansas-Rutgers? I just said Kansas-Rutgers, didn’t I? Good. Because I am going to watch this game, because I am a professional. Ultimately, however, I could see Miami-Toledo being a sneaky-good, important game we gravitate toward. Toledo can score, and the Hurricanes might have a much tougher challenge than they anticipate. If that game isn’t close, I can always go back to Kansas-Rutgers.

                    

    Kerry Miller

    My eyes are already on No. 5 Oklahoma at Iowa State. The Cyclones shocked the nation by knocking off the Sooners in Norman last season, and they now get Oklahoma in Ames fresh off a devastating, season-ending injury to Sooners running back Rodney Anderson. But I don’t think we’ll be buzzing because of a brewing upset. Rather, I think the Sooners annihilate the Cyclones and move ahead of the SEC runner-up in the still-way-too-damn-early College Football Playoff conversation.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    It isn’t one of the earliest games Saturday, but the 2:30 p.m. game between Notre Dame and Vanderbilt is intriguing. A lot of national attention is always on the Fighting Irish, and though they should take care of business at home, this is a fairly sound Commodores team with capable, competent quarterback play with Kyle Shurmur at the helm. Last year, Vanderbilt shocked college football with an upset of Kansas State in Week 3 before falling back to earth. The Irish will win, but this one won’t be in hand until late.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Florida State-Syracuse. What’s better than an ACC matchup that features one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country (Eric Dungey) and a team desperately needing to prove its viability (Florida State)? This noon ET game could come down to the wire if the Seminoles find their rhythm on offense early. If they don’t, Dungey can carve up their secondary. Either way, it’s a must-watch early game.

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    Jonathan Taylor

    Jonathan TaylorStacy Revere/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    I’ll take the under. BYU will load up to stop Taylor and the Wisconsin run game, just like it did to Arizona QB Khalil Tate last week. That means Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook will have to shoulder the load early. Throw early, run late. Taylor will get his 100 yards, but not more than 164.5.

            

    David Kenyon

    Over, and it happens on an explosive run early in the fourth quarter. Hornibrook played a near-perfect game against BYU last year, but I don’t anticipate he’ll repeat that. The Badgers will need Taylorwho had 128 yards in the 2017 matchupto shoulder a heavier load.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Over, because Taylor is on an absolute roll and will probably remain on a roll for the rest of his college career. If it weren’t for his fumbling issues, he would be the perfect college running back. Regardless, he’s coming off a career-high 253-yard performance against New Mexico. BYU hasn’t been atrocious against the run through two games, but this isn’t a brick wall, either. Assuming Taylor gets his normal workload, I’ll say he finishes with 173 yards and two touchdowns. Just another day at the office.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Only two players have rushed for at least 165 yards against BYU in the past 13 years: UCLA’s Paul Perkins in 2015 and Utah’s John White in 2011. Oddly enough, they both did so in Week 3 of those respective seasons, and there’s about to be a third member of that club. Taylor is more or less Wisconsin’s entire offense at this point. He should get around 30 carries for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I’m going to take the under, barely. But that’s only because I like Hornibrook and his improved group of receivers. The Cougars upset Arizona in Week 1, but they lost to Cal a week ago and are sputtering defensively against the run, as they’re 83rd nationally in yards allowed per game. Wisconsin will ride Taylor, but look for him to finish with 140 yards and a pair of scores in a decisive victory for the Badgers.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Over. BYU is allowing 4.29 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s offensive line is the best in the country and will make Arizona’s and Cal’s rushing attacks look benign in comparison. Taylor is a phenomenal talent in his own right, and he’ll eclipse 165 yards by the end of the third quarter since the Badgers still can’t trust Hornibrook. 

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    Tua Tagovailoa

    Tua TagovailoaKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Oregon QB Justin Herbert. Maybe he’ll play the whole game this week against San Jose State. If he does (and I doubt he will), he might throw for more yards than his first two games combined (531)he didn’t finish either gameand at least five touchdowns.

            

    David Kenyon

    Tua time! Alabama laughed Ole Miss off the field 66-3 last season, but the Rebels should be significantly more competitive this time around. That doesn’t mean I trust the defense in the slightest, though. Tagovailoa has been terrific so far, while Ole Miss has surrendered a 60.6 completion percentage and 710 yards in two games.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Tua Tagovailoa is on his own planet right now in terms of production, flare and everything else that factors in when it comes to the Heisman, and I don’t see that changing against Ole Miss. I am curious how a road environment disrupts his rhythm, although it might not matter considering Ole Miss just gave up 629 yards to Southern Illinois. Tagovailoa might not have the most yards or touchdowns on the day, but the way he’s maximizing his throws—13 completions for 228 yards and four scores last week—is so intriguing. I see no reason why that won’t continue.

                

    Kerry Miller

    The best individual stat line will belong to Herbert, because he’s destroying Oregon’s atrocious nonconference schedule. However, beating up on San Jose State isn’t going to get him much attention. Rather, the most noteworthy Heisman performance of the week will come from Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. He accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in last week’s win over UCLA, and he could have a repeat performance against Iowa State. Plus, you just know he’s going to have at least one highlight-reel display of absurd athleticism.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    It’s hard to envision Tagovailoa doing anything other than shredding Ole Miss after watching that Rebels pass defense last weekend against Southern Illinois, but the pick here is Herbert. The Ducks play San Jose State, which is allowing an average of 433 passing yards per game, next-to-last nationally. Herbert is going to shred his opponent in three quarters of play this weekend.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Benny Snell Jr. for Kentucky. As the Wildcats built momentum after upsetting Florida last week to snap their 31-game losing streak, they get to beat up on Murray State this week. Snell already has 300 yards through two games, and he may add another 200 this week. The powerful runner is a force to bring down. The only concern is whether Kentucky will put this one away before Snell gets huge numbers.

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    Ed Oliver

    Ed OliverThomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    Matt Hayes

    Let’s get the easy one out of the way first: more than 1,000 yards combined is a lead-pipe lock. If you’re asking which defense gets more stops, that’s also a lead-pipe lock: Houston. The Cougars win, but it all depends on how many points they give up. Let’s go with a total points line of 84: a 49-35 win for Houston.

            

    David Kenyon

    A tame 71 total points. This could be hilariously wrong, and I—unlike Herm Edwards, apparently—enjoy a high-scoring shootout. However, both defenses had a terrific Week 2 and will be confident entering this game. They probably won’t leave that way, but a quieter first quarter than expected will keep this below 100.

                            

    Adam Kramer

    Last week, these two teams combined to score 122 points. That’s largely in part because Texas Tech beat poor ol’ Lamar, 77-0. Lamar doesn’t have Ed Oliver, however, and I don’t see the Red Raiders having nearly the same ease in blocking the best player in America. Both teams will ultimately get theirs, although I feel like Houston will get more. Let’s go with 888 total yards and 88 points—riding the eights hard—and a Houston win.

                

    Kerry Miller

    This is one of those games where the over/under (71.5) is going to be off by at least 25 points, but I have no idea in which direction. Last week, Memphis vs. Navy was supposed to be a scoring bonanza, only for the Midshipmen to eke out a 22-21 win. My guess is that this one goes in the opposite direction, with these teams combining for 1,300 yards and 107 points. Texas Tech wins 59-48 in a shootout with a maximum of four punts.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I‘m going to say 1,075 total yards and the Cougars win the game, 45-33, so that’s 78 total points.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Houston was impressive last week, capitalizing on an Arizona team dealing with its own issues. D’Eriq King is a star capable of putting up over 400 yards this week for the Cougars, so the Red Raiders will need to be running on all cylinders. I’ll say there’ll be a total of 1,147 yards and 83 points. Cougars will win.

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