NCF Nation: week 3 picks
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
I was 5-1 last week (missed picking Washington's upset of BYU) and am 11-3 for season.
This is a much harder week to project.
The BIG ONE
USC 28, Ohio State 17: I'd been thinking upset on this one for a while, so I expected to pick Ohio State. Felt the Buckeyes were due for a vindicating, national victory. But I can't get over this: USC is just freaking loaded with talent. The Trojans have no match in college football in terms of talent throughout their depth chart.
BYU 24, UCLA 20: Home-field advantage will help the Cougars pull out another tight one over a Pac-10 team. UCLA's defense will be far tougher on QB Max Hall, but I need to see some more from the Bruins offensive line before I completely buy in.
Oklahoma 42, Washington 17: The state of Oklahoma took the Seattle Sonics. Oklahoma State whipped Washington State. Now the Sooners are going to add a third chapter to this Okie drubbing of the beautiful state of Washington. A loss will drop Tyrone Willingham to a precarious 0-3 on the season.
Oregon 38, Purdue 27: The ducks will pull away late in the third quarter, their offensive tempo wearing down the Boilermakers. Still, it will be interesting to see how the touted Oregon secondary does against savvy Purdue QB Curtis Painter. And how Ducks QB Justin Roper reacts to a legit challenge on the road.
California 41, Maryland 17: No need to fear the turtle! Bears should roll against a team that struggled against Delaware and lost to Middle Tennessee State. But it's still a road game against a BCS conference foe. And it will be worth watching just to see what TB Jahvid Best does next.
Baylor 33, Washington State 30: Baylor gets the edge here because: 1. It's playing at home; 2. It didn't lose 66-3 last week. It appears the Cougars will use two QBs: Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina. That might spur the offense, but what about the D?
Oregon State 28, Hawaii 24: Beavers are back at home and that should help, but there are many issues on both sides of the ball, none bigger than a defense that forgot how to tackle. Here's a guess that QB Lyle Moevao plays well and wins this one by distributing the ball to his strong WR corps.
TCU 21, Stanford 17: The Horned Frogs are tough -- they welcome back 15 starters from a team that went 8-5, including a 38-36 win at Stanford in 2007. A second-consecutive road game might wear on the Cardinal, who are struggling to pass and to defend the pass.
Arizona 41, New Mexico 27: Mission accomplished for the Wildcats: A soft nonconference scheduled designed for a 3-0 start provides just that. Now, will that start provide a launching point for something other than Pac-10 mediocrity? That's the question.
Arizona State 33, UNLV 20: Should be a workmanlike effort from the Sun Devils as they bulldoze the Rebels on their way to a showdown with Georgia. The biggest goal in this game -- other than to win -- is to keep everybody healthy. And when we say "everybody," what we really mean is the offensive line needs to keep QB Rudy Carpenter away from harm, preferably standing without a grass stain on his pants.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12's record of 12-0 was impressive last week, but the first sweep in conference history should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Some of the opponents that the Big 12 teams beat barely had a pulse.
It will be a different story this week with more competitive games. I'm even picking a couple of Big 12 teams to lose. Here are my picks:
USF 23, Kansas 20 -- I still don't think the Jayhawks have enough of a ground attack to win what should be a tight defensive battle. Kansas QB Todd Reesing has been phenomenal this season, but his offense has got to be more balanced to expect a victory in this statement game for both programs. And don't be surprised if USF DE George Selvie is a disruptive force in this game against Kansas' young offensive tackles.
Iowa 27, Iowa State 14 -- Gene Chizik continued ISU's recent domination in the series with a 15-13 victory in Ames last season. But look for the Hawkeyes to return the favor with a convincing victory this season, mainly because of the tough inside running of Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton against the Cyclones' undersized front.
Baylor 27, Washington State 17 -- This should be a good indicator of the relative strengths of the Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences when their respective cellar-dwellers meeting. Baylor QB Robert Griffin will be the difference in this one. Look for him to make a couple of big plays against a Washington State team that has been outscored 105-16 in its first two games, ranks last nationally passing efficiency and scoring defense and is next-to-last in total offense.
Missouri 41, Nevada 17 -- Chase Daniel will be explosive early and watching in a ball cap from the sidelines by the second half. The Tigers need to show some defensive improvement after struggling performances in their first two games and the return of S William Moore and LB Van Alexander certainly will help. They might have some trouble with underrated Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, who repeatedly befuddled Texas Tech last week, but should easily prevail.
Nebraska 37, New Mexico State 17 -- The Aggies might have had a better chance to compete in this one before having their first game postponed because of weather concerns. New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook will make some plays against Nebraska's developing defense, but not nearly enough. Nebraska has beaten the Aggies by a combined margin of 125-0 in two previous games in the series. Hal Mumme's offense will score this time, giving them a pyrrhic victory of sorts.
Oklahoma State 48, Missouri State 6 -- History was made last week when OSU's talented trio of Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Zac Robinson became the first trio in Big 12 history to go for 200 yards rushing and receiving and 300 yards passing in the same game. Their numbers won't be as impressive against Terry Allen's team -- only because they likely won't be playing during the second half. OSU cruises in this one.
Texas Tech 61, SMU 20 -- Don't be surprised if this one lasts for more than four hours with all of the passes that will be thrown at Jones AT&T Stadium. Tech QB Graham Harrell will be intent on making up for a pedestrian performance last week in Nevada. And something tells me that Mike Leach is going to want to make a statement to June Jones about who has the most prolific passing offense in the Lone Star State. SMU has lost 10 straight games on the road and 12 in a row to Tech since last beating them in 1986.
Oklahoma 41, Washington 17 -- The Sooners' sizzling offense has hung half-a-hundred against each of their opponents this season. It won't be as easy this time around, but still a comfortable statement victory on the road -- something that OU didn't do very often last season. It will be interesting to watch multi-talented Washington QB Jake Locker against the speedy Sooner defense, keyed by emerging freshman LB Travis Lewis.
Last week: 12-0 (100 percent). Season: 23-1 (95.8 percent).
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
Boise State 24, Bowling Green 17: The Broncos have had a week off to jell while Bowling Green battled through a bad loss at home to Minnesota. And almost no one beats Boise State on its home field.
Temple 28, Buffalo 10: For the first time since 1970, Temple will triumph over Buffalo using one of the best pass defenses in the country to keep quarterback Drew Willy in check.
Central Michigan 35, Ohio 14: The adrenaline rush of playing their home-state rival has worn off and the Bobcats will be dropped back to reality by Central Michigan.
East Carolina 21, Tulane 3: This is going to be a clash of defenses, but I think East Carolina's wins out because it's been a little more battle tested. No hangover for the Pirates, but the weather could be a factor.
Arkansas State 21, Southern Miss 13: I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on this one. I think Arkansas State is a better all-around team than Southern Miss and the fact this is a home game for the Red Wolves puts them over the top.
Texas Tech 42, SMU 20: Texas Tech is coming off a rough week against Nevada and will be looking to gets its offense back on track against a porous SMU defense. SMU will be able to score, but not enough to keep up.
Navy 32, Duke 28: Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is back on the field and he should be able to share the rushing load. Were it not for a few mistakes last week, Navy would be 2-0. It rebounds this week.
Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14: I'm not sold on either of these teams, but Weis' bulletin board material and Michigan's defensive line send this one over the top for me. Notre Dame Jimmy Clausen might be sacked five times this weekend.
Alabama 38, Western Kentucky 10: After a terrible performance against Tulane, Alabama rebounds to take out some aggression on Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers scored 13 points against its last BCS opponent.
TCU 28, Stanford 17: TCU continues its comeback tour against Stanford this week and starts to open some eyes to another power school in the Mountain West. If the Horned Frogs can eliminate turnovers, they should have this game in hand early.
UCLA 28, BYU 17: I know, I called this a win in the infinite wisdom of August. But after seeing both these team play, I'm not so sure. Kevin Craft has a dual quarterbacking personality, so depending on which shows up, this game could go either way.
Arizona 31, New Mexico 17: The Wildcats have beaten up on the non-BCS this season and though this game will be closer, Arizona will still come out ahead. New Mexico's offense just isn't on the same page yet.
Michigan State 42, Florida Atlantic 28: I thought Michigan State would be a sleeper in the Big Ten, so I'm not predicting much of a struggle here. As I said before, FAU is great in the non-BCS, but it's not quite ready for the bigger stage.
Kentucky 21, Middle Tennessee 3: The Wildcats haven't allowed more than three points in any game this season, and though the offense is spotty, the defense has made me a believer. I don't think MTSU can combat it.
Illinois 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 14: This game will be intriguing to watch two great mobile quarterbacks, but that's where the intrigue ends. Illinois has better athletes and should win this game fairly easily.
Fresno State 28, Wisconsin 24: The Badgers have been beating up on MAC teams at home, but this is a non-BCS of a different color. Fresno State is excellent at home. If Fresno State can get its offense moving early, the Bulldogs will have the advantage.
Missouri 45, Nevada 17: Nevada had a great defensive effort against Texas Tech, but Missouri's line is better and its quarterback is more mobile. Not to mention it has more weapons. It will be interesting to see what the ground game does with the loss of Luke Lippincott.
Hawaii 35, Oregon State 31: Welcome back Tyler Graunke. The Hawaii offense will look a little more familiar this week with Graunke and so I'm calling the upset. Oregon State has given up a ton of points in its losses and I'd look for more in this game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
A mere four games comprise the Big East slate this week. But at least they're all against BCS opponents and three of them can be considered toss-ups. On to the picks:
North Carolina 23, Rutgers 17: An 0-2 start with both losses coming at home would be disastrous for Rutgers. I'm saying disaster strikes. Of course, that means picking a team that struggled opening week against McNeese State and has lost seven straight games to Big East opponents. But something looked a little off about the Scarlet Knights in their first game, and Butch Davis will be ready for his former Miami protégé, Greg Schiano.
South Florida 28, Kansas 21: The Bulls already had a good test at Central Florida and passed, while the Jayhawks fattened up at home with Florida International and Louisiana Tech. The lack of a credible running game will cost Kansas against an aggressive Bulls defense that will be jacked up in front of a rocking Raymond James Stadium.
Connecticut 17, Virginia 6: The perfect opponent for the low-scoring, defense-heavy Huskies. Virginia has managed just 23 points in two games, while UConn hasn't allowed a touchdown yet. It might not be pretty, but Connecticut will gladly take the 3-0 record.
Penn State 52, Syracuse 14: Jim Brown and Floyd Little will be at the Carrier Dome, along with the ghost of Ernie Davis one day after the premiere of "The Express." None of them currently play for the Orange, however. Hope the movie is good.
Last week: 5-2. Season results: 10-5 (66.7 percent).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
This week needs no introduction. It boasts an excellent selection of games around the Big Ten, certain to destroy my nearly spotless season record. Two matchups with the Pac-10 and another with a non-BCS power from the West Coast headline the slate, which will largely determine public opinion about the Big Ten until the bowl season.
Expect a bunch of offense on Saturday, except in South Bend.
Michigan State 44, Florida Atlantic 23 -- Rusty Smith and the Owls offense will test the Spartans, who need their line to generate pressure and their patchwork secondary to hold together. But Florida Atlantic's defense has looked awful so far and it's only a matter of time before Javon Ringer gets going again. Quarterback Brian Hoyer and wideouts Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham should have big games as well.
Minnesota 45, Montana State 14 -- The audition to replace running back Duane Bennett begins as Minnesota gets a long look at junior Jay Thomas and freshmen DeLeon Eskridge and Shady Salamon. The Gophers lost to a FCS team (North Dakota State) last year, but quarterback Adam Weber won't let it happen again. Montana State running back Demetrius Crawford tests Minnesota's front seven.
Illinois 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 24 -- Until Illinois' defensive line starts playing to its potential and stopping the run, teams will continue to put up points. Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux is very dangerous on the move, so linebackers Brit Miller and Martez Wilson need to track him. Juice Williams continues to put up huge numbers against an overmatched defense.
Northwestern 37, Southern Illinois 21 -- C.J. Bacher and his receivers regain their timing against a Salukis defense that gave up 31 points to Hampton in the opener. More importantly, running back Tyrell Sutton gets on track after cramps limited him against Duke. Running back Larry Warner and the SIU offense should keep things close for a while, but Northwestern pulls away in the third quarter.
Iowa 31, Iowa State 21 -- The home team has won the last four Cy-Hawk Trophies, and though the Hawkeyes haven't been tested this fall, they'll prevail at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa State's struggles to defend the run hurts against blossoming back Shonn Greene. Expect an early hiccup for quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but Iowa's acknowledged starter settles down in the second quarter.
Penn State 51, Syracuse 10 -- Syracuse has a big weekend on tap with the premiere of "The Express," a film about Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. The actual game will be the lowlight. Syracuse allowed 42 points to Akron at home last week, and Penn State provides a much tougher test. Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and Stephfon Green run all around the Carrier Dome.
Oregon 44, Purdue 31 -- This will be a shootout for a while before Oregon pulls away on the field and on the scoreboard. Purdue's coaches gushed all week about the Ducks' team speed, and it will take a phenomenal game plan from defensive coordinator Brock Spack to keep Oregon in check, especially with his fastest linebacker, Jason Werner, sidelined. Joe Tiller's record-setting win will have to wait a week.
Michigan 21, Notre Dame 10 -- The Wolverines' veteran defensive line is the difference against a still shaky Fighting Irish offensive front. Jimmy Clausen won't spend as much time on the ground as he did last year in Ann Arbor, but Michigan defensive end Tim Jamison should cause some havoc. Quarterback Steven Threet makes a few mistakes before moving the ball with short passes, and a Michigan running back breaks a long touchdown run.
USC 31, Ohio State 24 -- The Buckeyes perform better than many expect, but there are just too many factors going against them. USC never loses in L.A. -- at least not to formidable opponents -- and the bye week should benefit the Trojans. Ohio State's defense generates an early turnover, but the offense won't be able to keep up for four quarters without a fully healthy Chris "Beanie" Wells. Terrelle Pryor makes a big play and a bone-headed one, and the Buckeyes' national title hopes fade -- at least for now.
Wisconsin 28, Fresno State 27 -- I had Fresno State winning this game until a conversation Tuesday night with a Wisconsin player (check back Friday to see who he was). The Bulldogs certainly provide an incredible challenge, but the Badgers avoid another slow start and start pounding away with their running backs. All-American tight end Travis Beckum makes his debut and comes up with a big catch or two in the fourth quarter as Wisconsin survives.
Season record: 19-2
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We start to get a better feel for the league this weekend, as a couple of conference games trickle onto the schedule. No. 2-ranked Georgia travels to South Carolina, and No. 9-ranked Auburn visits Mississippi State. I'm starting to think that Georgia's the best team in the league now, certainly the most complete team. It still remains to be seen how the Bulldogs weather the loss of top linemen Trinton Sturdivant and Jeff Owens once they get into the teeth of their brutal schedule. Ole Miss had a nice showing last week in a heartbreaking loss at Wake Forest, and unbeaten Vanderbilt is the surprise of the league so far. Just don't tell Bobby Johnson that. He said the Commodores' 24-17 victory over South Carolina last Thursday wasn't all that surprising to him. My record through two weeks is a ho-hum 16-5. I was 8-1 last week with my only miss being the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game. The word is that the Head Ball Coach is trying to get Vanderbilt off the schedule next year after two straight losses to the Commodores. On the other hand, how much do you think Johnson has enjoyed beating up on South Carolina the last two years? He's from Columbia, S.C., still has family there and graduated from Clemson. Here are my picks for Week 3:
Auburn 21, Mississippi State 16: Talk about ugly wins. Mississippi State won last season despite completing just five passes and finishing with 200 total yards. Neither offense is what you'd call dynamic this season, and both defenses are pretty salty. Sylvester Croom's club will keep this one close at home, but not close enough.
Alabama 38, Western Kentucky 7: Nick Saban warned his young club about touching that hot stove last week, and the Crimson Tide didn't listen. They were nearly burned in a listless 20-6 win over Tulane. That's probably the best thing that could have happened to the Tide, who'll play like a nationally ranked team and roll this week.
Ole Miss 41, Samford 14: You wonder how much hangover the Rebels will have after such a disappointing loss last week to Wake Forest. They might start slow, but should win going away as they eye their SEC opener next week against Vanderbilt. This is a chance to get the running game going, especially freshman Enrique Davis.
Tennessee 48, UAB 17: The Vols are still steaming about their West Coast gag at UCLA in the opener. Those who know Phillip Fulmer best say they've never seen him this mad. His team isn't as bad as it looked in the loss to the Bruins. But it still remains to be seen if the Vols are a legitimate threat in the Eastern Division race this season.
Kentucky 24, Middle Tennessee 10: Rich Brooks is still not ready to say his defense is one of the best in the league. The Wildcats have to play some real competition before anybody can say that. But you heard it here first: They're pretty darn good. Consistency on offense is the chief concern in the Bluegrass right now. Is freshman Randall Cobb the answer at quarterback?
Vanderbilt 27, Rice 24: Now comes the hard part for the Commodores, handling success. They've struggled in this role when they've had chances to break through in recent years. Rice is plenty potent offensively and will throw the ball all over the field. Vanderbilt's faster on defense than it's been in the past, though, and that will be the difference.
LSU 42, North Texas 10: You know LSU has to be chomping at the bit to get back on the field and play a game. The Tigers might be a little rusty after taking last week off in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav, but they're also as healthy as they've been. The defensive line only gets stronger with the return of senior Charles Alexander at tackle.
Georgia 27, South Carolina 14: This will be Georgia's first true test against a good defense. The Bulldogs have scored and moved the ball at will to this point. The Gamecocks are good enough defensively to stay in the game. They're just not good enough offensively to win it. When's the last time you could say that about s Steve Spurrier team?
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
OK, so my scores haven't always been dead-on, but I'm 17-4 with the picks heading into this week. (Games I missed were BC/Georgia Tech, Maryland/Middle Tennessee, Virginia Tech/ECU and Clemson/Alabama).
Here's what I've got for Week 3:
UNC 28, Rutgers 10 -- Both teams want to prove their lackluster performances in the season openers weren't their true identities, but Fresno State exposed Rutgers' flaws and a young offensive line. After just one game, the Scarlet Knights trail the Big East in several statistical categories, including scoring offense.
Connecticut 24, Virginia 7 -- The Cavaliers will be taking an inexperienced quarterback on the road against the defending Big East champs. Virginia barely got away with its 17-16 win last season, and that was with a veteran team. UConn returns 19 of 24 starters from its 2007 roster.
Clemson 24, NC State 20 -- The matchup between the Wolfpack's much improved defensive line against the Tigers' inexperienced offensive line will keep this game close, but Clemson has the home field advantage and the veteran quarterback.
Duke 38, Navy 35 -- Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis accounted for five touchdowns against the Midshipmen last year with four passing and one rushing. If that's going to happen again, star receiver Eron Riley needs to be on the field and 100 percent. The Midshipmen have the nation's top rushing offense.
California 41, Maryland 21 -- Considering Maryland kicker Obi Egekeze hasn't made a field goal yet, I'm not factoring one into their score. The Terps should show improvement but will have a tough time matching Cal's speed.
Georgia Tech 21, Virginia Tech 14 -- The Hokies are holding opponents to 96 rushing yards per game. Considering the Yellow Jackets are averaging 255.5 on the ground, that's going to be tough to keep up. Virginia Tech is still trying to find its identity and Paul Johnson is catching them at the right time.
Florida State 52, Chattanooga 3 -- The only thing that would prevent this from being another walloping on an FCS school would be the Seminoles looking ahead to the Wake Forest game. This should be another easy tune-up and a chance to get almost two dozen rookies more snaps.
OFF: Boston College, Miami and Wake Forest
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State