Spread Options: College football Week 3 picks against the spread

·7-min read

The first two full weeks of the college football season have been tremendously entertaining. Last week was full of upsets and there's the potential for plenty more in Week 3.

It's only been two weeks, so I try not to react too much in either direction in my evaluation of these teams. I'll try to use what's happened in the early going to my advantage, but I'm still leaning on offseason research when making these picks.

And I'm off to an excellent start. After going 7-2 in Week 1, I went 5-1 last week. Will my hot streak continue? I must admit I wasn't a huge fan of what I saw on the board this week, but I've got six plays that made the cut.

Last week: 5-1

Overall: 13-4

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM.)

Western Kentucky at Indiana

Time: Noon | TV: BTN | Line: IU -6.5 | Total: 61.5

This Western Kentucky team is nowhere near as explosive on offense as it was last year with Bailey Zappe at quarterback, Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley at receiver and Zach Kittley as coordinator. WKU is 2-0 to start the season but the Hilltoppers found themselves in a one-score game with Austin Peay late in the fourth quarter in Week 0 and took advantage of six Hawaii turnovers in their second win. WKU lacks a dominant receiver and Division II QB transfer Austin Reed has just been OK.

Indiana, meanwhile, has already matched its win total from 2021 with a 2-0 start, but it hasn’t been pretty. The Hoosiers won an ugly one over Illinois in Week 1, getting outgained by nearly 100 yards in the process. And then last week the Hoosiers fell behind Idaho 10-0 before coming back to win.

IU has been committed to running the ball despite a lack of consistency and QB Connor Bazelak is completing only 54% of his throws. With IU’s offense mediocre at best and WKU’s offense overvalued based on last year’s performance, I feel like this total is too high.

Pick: Under 61.5

South Alabama at UCLA

Time: 2 p.m. | TV: P12 | Line: UCLA -15.5 | Total: 59

With Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback and Zach Charbonnet at running back, I trust UCLA to be able to put up points in bunches. The Bruins have scored 90 points through two games, but those games were against two bad opponents. South Alabama is a step up in competition.

The Jaguars routed Central Michigan on the road last week, putting up more than 500 yards of offense in the process. With Carter Bradley at quarterback and a solid group of wideouts, I think South Alabama will have enough success to get this over the total, even if it comes in garbage time.

Pick: Over 59

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) hands off the running back Zach Charbonnet (24) during an NCAA college football game against Alabama State in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) hands off the running back Zach Charbonnet (24) during an NCAA college football game against Alabama State in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

North Texas at UNLV

Time: 3 p.m. | Line: UNLV -3 | Total: 63.5

I usually don’t like to play the same team two weeks in a row, but I’m on UNLV again. Last week, UNLV covered (and nearly won) on the road against Cal. The Rebels had multiple chances to take the lead late in that game but just couldn’t get into the end zone when it mattered. They’ll have much more success against North Texas.

I have not been impressed by North Texas at all this season. UNT beat UTEP in its opener, but that 31-13 score was very misleading. UTEP outgained the Mean Green but failed to score on six of its nine trips into North Texas territory. The next week, UNT got blown out at home by SMU before a win over Texas Southern last week. Even in that win, the Mean Green managed to allow 458 yards to a TSU team that was limited to just 174 yards in a Week 1 loss to Prairie View.

North Texas’ defense might be very bad, and I trust UNLV to get the job done at home.

Pick: UNLV -3

No. 22 Penn State at Auburn

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: PSU -3 | Total: 48.5

Auburn did not look sharp last week in a 24-16 win over San Jose State in a performance that will likely send a lot of people toward Penn State in this matchup. I think PSU is the better team, but Jordan Hare Stadium is such a tough place to play that I have a hard time feeling confident in a side.

I’m much more confident that this will be a pretty low scoring game. Both of these defenses are strong and Auburn is going to have to get creative to have a chance to pull off an upset. PSU’s secondary is very good, but the linebacker group can be exploited. Additionally, PSU has more weapons than Auburn but still has some issues on the offensive line and Sean Clifford is prone to turnovers when he’s under a lot of pressure.

The under is 14-5-1 in Auburn’s last 20 games as an underdog, so that trend further pushes me to that side.

Pick: Under 48.5

No. 12 BYU at No. 25 Oregon

Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: Oregon -3.5 | Total: 58

On the heels of such a physical game against Baylor, going on the road to Oregon is going to be a tough task for BYU. The fact that the Cougars could be without their top two receivers again is going to make things tough going against an Oregon defense that is significantly better than what it showed in the season-opening loss to Georgia. I expect BYU to lean on its offensive line and the running game in this one, including some designed runs for QB Jaren Hall.

At the same time, I have very little confidence in Bo Nix and the Oregon offense. The Ducks are good up front, but I’m a little skeptical that this team has the personnel that really fits the kind of offense OC Kenny Dillingham wants to run.

These factors push me pretty comfortably toward an under. The under is 17-8 when BYU has been an underdog during Kalani Sitake’s tenure as head coach. When BYU is a road underdog during that time, the under is 9-4.

Pick: Under 58

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) looks to pass the football during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022 in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) looks to pass the football during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022 in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

San Diego State at No. 14 Utah

Time: 10 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Utah -21 | Total: 49.5

San Diego State beat Utah last season in triple overtime. That was the game the Utes made the switch from Charlie Brewer to Cam Rising at quarterback. Since then, the Utes have been one of the best teams in the country.

SDSU won 12 games last year based on a run-heavy offense and strong defense and special teams play. I believe the Aztecs are worse in all three areas this year. And through two games, a loss to Arizona and a win over Idaho State, SDSU has thrown for only 170 yards. Only Air Force and UMass have fewer passing yards.

After blowing multiple opportunities at the goal line in the season-opening loss to Florida, Utah played with a sense of urgency last week in a blowout win over an FCS team. With the loss to the Aztecs from last year in mind, this is a revenge spot for the Utes and I think they’ll win big.

Pick: Utah -21