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What to watch: Week 3 college football viewing guide, picks against the spread

Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.

Week 2 of the college football season brought us Texas' triumphant road upset over Alabama and another exciting victory by Deion Sanders and Colorado. What will Week 3 have in store?

On paper, the schedule isn't very exciting as there isn't a single ranked vs. ranked matchup. But these overlooked weekends are often when the some of the most shocking upsets of the season emerge.

And with eight different ranked teams going on the road to face unranked opponents, at least one major surprise feels likely.

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 14 LSU at Mississippi State

Time: Noon | TV: ESPN | Line: LSU -9.5 | Total: 54.5

LSU was ranked No. 5 to start the year but came up short in a high-profile matchup with Florida State in Week 1. Now down at No. 14, LSU has the chance to start gaining confidence and stacking some wins as SEC play gets underway. The Tigers rebounded from the FSU loss by blowing out Grambling at home last weekend, and now they are headed on the road to Starkville to face Mississippi State. LSU was gashed for nearly 500 yards of offense in the FSU loss. Will the defense put up a better fight against the Bulldogs?

Mississippi State is in its first season under Zach Arnett, who was promoted to head coach from defensive coordinator following the death of Mike Leach. In the offseason, Arnett made some changes, notably going away from Leach’s famous Air Raid offense. Through two games, the Bulldogs have run the ball on 63% of their offensive plays. Last year, only 32% of MSU’s plays were runs, so it’s a drastic change. It has worked through two games as the Bulldogs improved to 2-0 with a 31-24 overtime win over Arizona over the weekend. Now they will take a step up in competition and put that new offense to the test against LSU.

Nick Bromberg: MSU +9.5, Sam Cooper: LSU -9.5

No. 14 LSU will look to distance itself from its ugly season-opening loss to Florida State as it opens SEC play on the road against Mississippi State this weekend. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
No. 14 LSU will look to distance itself from its ugly season-opening loss to Florida State as it opens SEC play on the road against Mississippi State this weekend. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

No. 15 Kansas State at Missouri

Time: Noon | TV: SECN | Line: K-State -5.5 | Total: 48.5

Kansas State won the Big 12 and went to the Sugar Bowl last fall and is now off to a 2-0 start in 2023, the program’s fifth season under Chris Klieman. A big concern for K-State entering the year was replacing do-it-all RB Deuce Vaughn, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys. Through two games, the duo of DJ Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward has combined for 294 yards on 54 carries while QB Will Howard has thrown for 547 yards and five TDs with two rushing scores.

K-State will face much tougher opposition this week as it heads on the road to face Missouri. The Wildcats blasted Missouri 40-12 in Manhattan last year and the Tigers are looking for payback. While K-State has won its two games by a margin of 87-13, Missouri hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant. The Tigers topped South Dakota 35-10 in Week 1 before an underwhelming 23-19 win over Middle Tennessee last week. Missouri averaged only 4.9 yards per play while surrendering seven tackles for loss and four sacks to the MTSU defense. The Tigers will need a much better effort to pull off the home upset over K-State.

Nick: K-State -5.5, Sam: Missouri +5.5

South Carolina at No. 1 Georgia

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: UGA -27.5 | Total: 54.5

On the heels of consecutive national titles, top-ranked Georgia has flown under the radar through two weeks. The Bulldogs predictably blew out UT Martin and Ball State, winning by a combined margin of 93-10, as they worked in a bunch of new pieces. That includes new starting QB Carson Beck, who has thrown for 577 yards and three TDs while completing 72.1% of his attempts. UGA has been dealing with quite a few injuries in the early going. While WR Ladd McConkey’s status is still up in the air, Kirby Smart said RB Daijun Edwards is expected to return for the SEC opener vs. South Carolina.

South Carolina closed out the 2022 regular season with big wins over Tennessee and Clemson but got off to a rough start to this season with an ugly 31-17 loss to North Carolina. Last week, the Gamecocks trailed Furman 14-7 midway through the second quarter but were able to storm back and win 47-21 behind a strong performance from Spencer Rattler, who went 25-of-27 for 345 yards and three TDs. The Gamecocks struggled to run the ball vs. Furman and have already allowed 10 sacks. That’s not a promising sign heading into Athens.

Nick: UGA -27.5, Sam: UGA -27.5

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) has been off to a strong start this season, his first as the Bulldogs' full-time starter. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) has been off to a strong start this season, his first as the Bulldogs' full-time starter. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

No. 8 Washington at Michigan State

Time: 5 p.m. | TV: Peacock | Line: UW -16.5 | Total: 57.5

A lot can change in a year. In Week 3 of last year, Michigan State was coming off an 11-win season and was 2-0 and ranked No. 11 in the country as it headed to Seattle to face Washington. The Huskies had endured a miserable 4-8 record in 2021 and were hoping to make a statement in the program’s first big game under new coach Kalen DeBoer. They did just that, beating the Spartans 39-28 in a game that was not as competitive as the final score made it seem. Washington would go on to win 11 games while MSU went a disappointing 5-7 to miss a bowl game.

The circumstances for the rematch are much different. Washington is ranked in the top 10 and is so electric on offense that it looks like a possible College Football Playoff contender. Michigan State, though off to a 2-0 start, saw head coach Mel Tucker get suspended over the weekend after being accused of sexual harassment. With Tucker suspended, MSU secondary coach Harlon Barnett was promoted to interim head coach and Mark Dantonio — MSU’s head coach from 2007 to 2019 — is back on staff. How will the Spartans respond without their head coach?

Nick: MSU +16.5, Sam: Washington -16.5

No. 11 Tennessee at Florida

Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: UT -6.5 | Total: 58.5

Tennessee is looking to get back into the national conversation after an awesome 11-win 2022 campaign. The Vols are off to a 2-0 start in 2023, but last weekend’s win over Austin Peay was a bit underwhelming. In a game where UT was favored by nearly 50 points, the score was tied 6-6 late in the first half and then 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter in an eventual 30-13 win. Joe Milton has been solid in his first year as UT’s starting QB, but not quite as efficient as Hendon Hooker was last year. How will Milton handle the toughest road SEC environment he’s faced in his career? Tennessee hasn’t won in Gainesville since 2003.

Florida, now in its second season under Billy Napier, posted a 49-7 win over McNeese last weekend to improve to 1-1. The Gators were featured in a nationally televised Week 1 game at Utah and it did not go well. Florida gave up a 70-yard touchdown on Utah’s first play from scrimmage and was doomed by untimely penalties and miscues in a 24-11 loss. Without some of those self-inflicted wounds, the game likely would have been much closer. Will the Gators be able to avoid those mistakes at home and pull off a big upset?

Nick: Tennessee -6.5, Sam: Florida +6.5

Head-to-head ATS: Nick: 3-7, Sam: 7-3

Florida hosts Tennessee in its SEC opener. While The Vols are favored, they haven't won in Gainesville since 2003. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Florida hosts Tennessee in its SEC opener. While The Vols are favored, they haven't won in Gainesville since 2003. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Week 3 best bets

Nick Bromberg (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 4-2)

UL Monroe at Texas A&M (-36.5): The A&M offense has been pretty good over the past two weeks; it certainly wasn’t the reason why the Aggies lost to Miami in Week 2. The Warhawks have scored just 41 points in wins over Army and Lamar, but I have enough confidence this will be the third over in three games for the Aggies. Pick: Over 53.5

Pitt at West Virginia (-1): The Panthers’ loss to Cincinnati was one of the surprises of Week 2. But I’m not sold on West Virginia at all and think Pitt is the better team. The Panthers are 23-14 against the spread after a loss under coach Pat Narduzzi and also 29-12-1 ATS on the road. Those are two trends I’m backing. Pick: Pitt +1

BYU at Arkansas (-7.5): The Razorbacks scored 21 points on offense in their Week 2 win over Kent State while BYU scored just 14 in its season-opening win over Sam Houston. Despite a big win over an FCS opponent in Week 2, I don’t trust the BYU offense and think this game is going to be much different than the 52-35 Arkansas win from a season ago with Arkansas RB Rocket Sanders out. Pick: Under 47.5

Sam Cooper (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 3-3)

East Carolina at App State (-9.5): ECU has really struggled to pass the ball, but the Pirates showed some mettle on defense against Michigan and then limited Marshall to only 3.4 yards per rush last week. I think ECU can find a way to muck it up and play a low-scoring game against an App State team that wants to lean on the run and is coming off a tough, double OT loss to North Carolina. Pick: Under 49.5

James Madison at Troy (-2.5): I like the spot here for Troy, which had a sloppy win in Week 1 over an FCS team and then got blasted on the road by Kansas State. Troy is the defending Sun Belt champion and should find some success against a JMU team riding high after beating Virginia. Pick: Troy -2.5

Georgia Tech at No. 17 Ole Miss (-19): Ole Miss is dealing with a bunch of injuries and has a trip to Alabama next week. This feels like a major lookahead spot for the Rebels against a Georgia Tech team that always plays hard and is 6-1 ATS as an underdog under Brent Key. Pick: Georgia Tech +19

For other Week 3 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.

For Week 3 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, subscribe to the College Football Enquirer.