Here are five games I like against the spread for Week 3’s college football slate. Whether you fade or follow, good luck this weekend.
Purdue at Missouri, 3:00PM CT, Saturday
I swear this isn’t an irrational anti-Mizzou pick, born purely out of frustration from the last two weeks. From a leaky defense, to poor special teams play, to an underachieving (at least against South Carolina) Drew Lock, the Tigers obviously have issues. Still, this is more of a pick for Purdue than against Missouri.
The Boilermakers have improved significantly under new coach Jeff Brohm. They’re better than we thought they’d be at the start of the season. Purdue is 9-for-9 scoring in the red zone, with six touchdowns and three field goals. Despite rotating quarterbacks Elijah Sindelar and David Blough, they have developed cohesion offensively and running back Tario Fuller will be a bear for Mizzou on Saturday in Columbia. Purdue, even in a loss to Louisville in Week 1, has impressed. I can’t say the same for Mizzou and thus, I love taking the points in this spot.
The Pick: Purdue Boilermakers +7.5
UCLA at Memphis, 11:00AM CT, Saturday
This screams “trap” game. Why is Heisman hopeful Josh Rosen and the 2-0 Bruins only laying a field goal to an AAC team? It’s good practice to assume Vegas oddsmakers usually don’t make mistakes. That’s not to suggest they never get lines wrong, because that would be a fallacy, but that mistakes are few and far between for that bunch. Thus, why is the spread so low Saturday in Memphis? Probably because oddsmakers are well aware of how vulnerable the Bruins are on the ground, which is a bad sign for Saturday. The Tigers figure to have one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the nation this season thanks to Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr., who combined for 300 rushing yards and three scores in Memphis’ opener.
UCLA is also banged up defensively, with linebacker Kenny Young and safeties Adarius Pickett and Jaleel Wadood exiting last week’s win over Hawaii with injuries. Defensive lineman Boss Tagaloa also didn’t suit up and linebacker Josh Woods was ejected for targeting, meaning he’ll sit the first half versus Memphis. I’ll take the points with the home dog, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers pull off the upset.
The Pick: Memphis Tigers +3
Tennessee at Florida, 2:30PM CT, Saturday
Florida (the state) is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma while Florida (the team) is still dealing with suspensions. Coach Jim McElwain announced that the nine players who were suspended for the season opener against Michigan will remain suspended Saturday versus Tennessee. That list of players includes star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Granted, the Gators still have enough defensively to keep this game close and win it in the end. But given the issues UF has at quarterback (where freshman Felepie Franks is expected to start after turning the ball over multiple times versus Michigan) and offensively as a whole, five points is a lot to lay in a conference matchup.
The Pick: Tennessee Vols +5
Clemson at Louisville, 2:30PM CT, Saturday
Here it is…the big one. Winner instantly becomes the team to beat in the ACC. Loser, assuming they put together a respectable showing, becomes that intriguing one-loss team that, “you know, they should have beaten Clemson/Louisville back in September – they should be in the playoffs!” So, does Lamar Jackson get the best of Christian Wilkins and the dominant Clemson defensive line, or is he shut down like he was versus Houston and LSU a year ago? Backers of Clemson will sight Jackson’s struggles against the Cougars and Tigers as evidence that he can’t beat top defenses. That said, keep in mind he and the UL offense roasted Florida State for 62 points in Week 3 last year. The Seminoles were without all-world safety Derwin James for that matchup, but the Cardinals’ performance was impressive nonetheless.
I bring up that FSU meeting for another reason: Jackson was fresh, at least fresher than he was when he was snuffed by Houston and LSU later in the year. He hadn’t absorbed a season worth of punishment. Plus, and this is a bigger reason to like the Cardinals on Saturday, all of the offseason talk about how much he’s improved as a passer is legit. Jackson no longer looks to run first and pass second. Against Purdue and UNC the past two weeks, he showed the maturity of a pocket passer that can run, but doesn’t need to run in order to beat defenses. Granted, Clemson is not Purdue or UNC. This is the toughest defense Jackson has faced since LSU in the bowl game last year. Still, I have a hunch about the reigning Heisman winner this weekend.
The Pick: Louisville Cardinals +3
Ole Miss at Cal, 9:30PM CT, Saturday
One late game selection for my college football junkies on Saturday night. The Rebels didn’t look good a week ago against UT-Martin, which rushed for 219 yards and averaged five yards per attempt. That spells trouble for the Rebs this week, as Patrick Laird (subbing for the injured Tre Watson) rushed for 191 yards last Saturday versus Weber State. Cal is loaded offensively thanks to quarterback Ross Bowers and junior wideout Vic Wharton III, who has 10 receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown. I like the home dog, even though Cal has struggled versus SEC schools all-time (just 4-10).
The Pick: Cal Golden Bears +3.5