After a rather sleepy Week 2 in college football, the schedule in Week 3 is about as loaded as the opening weekend was. It’s the final big non-conference weekend as many schools will open conference play next week. The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all play just three non-conference games these days. The ACC and SEC are still at four. Here are five matchups to watch and their Sports Interaction NCAA football odds. Matchups on Saturday unless noted.
No. 6 Houston at Cincinnati
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET Point spread: Houston -7.5 NCAAF pick: Cougars
Realistically, there are only two games that Houston can lose in the regular season as the Cougars attempt to become the first non-Power 5 Conference team to reach the College Football Playoff. One of those games is Nov. 17 vs. Louisville. The other is this one. Cincinnati nearly upset the Cougars in Houston last year but UH made a late defensive stand and won 33-30. The teams were tied at 14 at halftime, but the Cougars scored 16 straight points to take command. The Bearcats had 589 yards of offense but turned it over three times. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. passed for 161 yards and two scores and rushed 16 times for 119 yards. Ward Jr. sat out Houston’s 42-0 win over Lamar in Week 2 but that was simply precautionary with the easy opponent and quick turnaround game here. So Ward will be in there against the Bearcats. Ditto top tailback Duke Catalon, who also sat vs. Lamar. Cincinnati is also 2-0 following easy wins over UT Martin and Purdue. The win over the Boilermakers was UC’s first road victory vs. a Big Ten team since 1957.
No. 2 Florida State at No. 10 Louisville
When: Noon ET Point spread: FSU -3 NCAAF pick: Seminoles
ESPN College GameDay will be on hand for this one. This should be FSU’s toughest road game of the regular season and if they win this, the only other major roadblock standing in their way of an unbeaten regular season would be home to No. 2 Clemson on Oct. 29. FSU (2-0) basically had a scrimmage in Week 2 with a 52-8 win over a Charleston Southern team that had several players suspended. Louisville (2-0) leads the nation in scoring (66.0 ppg) and Lamar Jackson has to be considered a Heisman favorite right now. After eight total TDs in Week 1 vs. Charlotte, Jackson was responsible for five more in a Week 2 rout of Syracuse. Jackson also had 610 total yards, the most by a player in a game in ACC history. Last year, Louisville lost 41-21 at No. 11 Florida State. Dalvin Cook rushed for 163 yards and two scores for the Seminoles. Jackson had 307 yards passing and three scores. The teams combined for more than 900 yards of offense.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 Ole Miss
When: 3:30 p.m. ET Point spread: Alabama -9.5 NCAAF pick: Crimson Tide
We all have our tormentors, no matter the walk of life. Alabama’s Nick Saban might go down as the greatest college football coach in history — if he’s not already. Since Saban arrived at Alabama, only two coaches have beaten him twice in a row: LSU’s Les Miles in 2010 & ’11 and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze the past two seasons. No current SEC coach other than Freeze has a winning record vs. Saban. Last year, the Rebels were No. 15 and upset the No. 2 Tide 43-37 in Tuscaloosa. It was the Rebels’ first win there since 1988 and Alabama’s first loss in a home SEC opener since 2002. Current Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly threw for 341 yards and three scores and ran for a TD. He’s going to need another huge game to pull off this upset. Alabama (2-0) warmed up for this with a 38-10 win over Western Kentucky, although Saban was not happy with the effort. Ole Miss (1-1) bounced back from a loss to Florida State by routing Wofford 38-13.
No. 12 Michigan State at No. 18 Notre Dame
When: 7:30 p.m. ET Point spread: Notre Dame -7.5 NCAAF pick: Spartans
These teams used to play just about every season, but Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement with the ACC forced the Irish to put this rivalry on hold for a bit (as against Michigan) so this will be the first meeting against the Spartans since 2013. The Fighting Irish (1-1) have no wiggle room to reach the College Football Playoff following their Week 1 loss at Texas. The Irish won their home opener on Saturday, 39-10 over Nevada. DeShone Kizer, now the unquestioned starter at QB, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score. Top Irish WR Torii Hunter Jr. out with a concussion sustained against Texas so monitor his status here. Sparty (1-0) was off last week. MSU didn’t play very well in a Week 1 28-13 win over Wofford. But having two weeks to prepare is a big advantage here and that’s why I like Spartans to cover.
No. 3 Ohio State at No. 14 Oklahoma
When: 7:30 p.m. ET Point spread: Ohio State -2.5 NCAAF pick: Sooners
This might be the non-conference game of the year, although it lost some luster when Oklahoma was beaten soundly at Houston in Week 1. Thus a loss here essentially eliminates the Sooners from the College Football Playoff — which they reached last year — even if they run the table the rest of the regular season and win the Big 12 title. The Buckeyes probably could still reach the playoff with a close defeat as long as they don’t lose in Big Ten play. It’s the first meeting between these powerhouses since 1983. OSU (2-0) has won its first two games a combined 125-13 but has played two weak opponents. OU (1-1) bounced back from that loss to Houston with a 50-17 win over UL Monroe in its home opener. The Sooners are home dogs for the first time in 16 years.