College News & Analysis

College Football Week 3: Schedule, odds, picks and game previews

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws under pressure from Mercer linebacker Isaac Dowling (3) Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.] Alabama Vs Mercer

PFF is here to provide everything you need to know ahead of the second full week of college football.

Below, you’ll find the college football Week 3 schedule, game lines, a guide to PFF Greenline betting picks and a game preview for the most notable matchups. Please note that the lines are courtesy of our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change up until kickoff.


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NEBRASKA at NO. 3 OKLAHOMA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 P.M. EST | FOX

Spread: Oklahoma -22 (-115)
Total: 61.5
Moneyline: Oklahoma -1600, Nebraska +900

Oklahoma has to put the pedal to the metal against every opponent from here on out after barely scraping by Tulane in Week 1.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler and the Sooners did just that in Week 2, with their 76-0 routing of Western Carolina. Rattler played far better football, recording zero turnover-worthy plays en route to a 91.7 PFF grade.

Every position group looked as if they were out for blood last week, and they will be again this week against a Nebraska team that ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten in PFF's power rankings and reportedly tried to cancel this game in the offseason.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


NO. 8 CINCINNATI at INDIANA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN

Spread: Cincinnati -3.5 (-105)
Total: 50.5
Moneyline: Cincinnati -170, Indiana +150

This is the first of two consecutive opportunities for Cincinnati to cement itself as worthy of College Football Playoff consideration.

Desmond Ridder looked like a new quarterback in his season opener against Miami of Ohio. He got the ball out quickly and accurately underneath, and he also connected on big plays downfield on the few opportunities there. He left the game with an 84.3 PFF grade. 

In Week 2 against Murray State, it was a tale of two halves. 

Desmond Ridder by half vs. Murray State in Week 2
1st Half 2nd Half
54.1 Passing Grade 74.4
-0.09 EPA per pass 0.75
4.2 Yds per att 15.8
7-7 Score in half 35-0 (Cincy)

Indiana may not be at the level many expected them to be at entering this game, but Cincy simply can’t afford to get off to a sluggish start through the air. 

On the other hand, the Bearcats defense has had no issue getting back to speed, as their defense as a whole is currently the second-highest-graded unit in the FBS. With a ferocious pass rush up front and strong coverage on the back end, the Bearcats have allowed a mere 4.5 yards per pass attempt. 

Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has proven to be capable of leading a big-play offense despite the horrendous opener against Iowa. After all, he led the Power Five in big-time throw rate in 2020 (10.3%) and earned a passing grade above 80.0 for the second consecutive season. The big question is, will he get by the Bearcats pass rush?

The Hoosiers offensive line is still in brutal shape, but Penix tends to get the ball out before the pass rush gets home — he has taken just 11 sacks on 158 pressured dropbacks in his career.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.

NO. 15 VIRGINIA TECH at WEST VIRGINIA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | FS1

Spread: West Virginia -3 (-105)
Total: 50.5
Moneyline: West Virginia -145, Virginia Tech +125

West Virginia will get another crack at defeating a quality Power Five football team after losing their opener to Maryland. The Mountaineers struggled in virtually every facet that day: Quarterback Jarret Doege earned a 49.0 PFF grade, the backfield didn’t have a single breakaway run of 15-plus yards and the coverage unit gave up two 60-plus yard passing touchdowns that swung the Terps’ win probability by double-digits. 

It won’t be easy for Doege and Co. to light the fireworks in the passing game against the outside cornerback duo of Jermaine Waller and Dorian Strong, who have given Virginia Tech the fifth-highest-graded outside corner room among Power Five programs through Week 2.

Virginia Tech’s passing offense is a little concerning after Week 2. While they did get by Middle Tennessee comfortably, quarterback Braxton Burmeister didn’t help much as a passer (53.8 passing grade). To add to that, they lost their top pass-catcher — tight end James Mitchell — for the rest of the season due to injury.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


PURDUE AT NO. 12 NOTRE DAME

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 2:30 PM EST | NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -7.5 (-115)
Total: 58.5 (-105)
Moneyline: Notre Dame -290, Purdue +230

This screams trap game for the Fighting Irish, who face a six-week span that includes games against Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, USC and North Carolina after this showdown with the Boilermakers.

If Purdue can pull off the upset, it’s going to be because of their passing offense. Quarterback Jack Plummer is among the most underrated passers in the country, and their receiving unit — led by David Bell — has plenty of talent, as well.

Plummer has earned a solid 77.3 PFF grade through two weeks of play. Bell has been his go-to pass-catcher as expected, and he has put up an 89.8 PFF grade in his two games, having broken eight tackles on 13 receptions.

Notre Dame will present an entirely different challenge for that Purdue offense, which has faced Oregon State and UConn so far. That said, the Irish haven’t lived up to the hype on that side of the ball. They have given up a higher rate of big plays under new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman than they did under Clark Lea. The Irish’s scoring drive allowed rate has jumped 10 percentage points year over year to the ninth-worst in the Power Five.

The Notre Dame offense also has its fair share of concern. It took a touchdown within the final two minutes of play to get by Toledo. As impressive as it was that quarterback Jack Coan dislocated his finger the play before that, he had a subpar day overall, resulting in a 61.1 passing grade. The offense simply couldn’t find its groove, failing to generate positive expected points added per play. It marked just the second time in the PFF College era where the Irish did so against a non-Power Five opponent.

It’s do-or-die time for the Fighting Irish. 

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


NO. 1 ALABAMA at NO. 11 FLORIDA 

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS

Spread: Alabama -15.5 (-110)
Total: 58.5
Moneyline: Alabama -720, Florida +500

It’s been two weeks of college football, and Alabama is still a juggernaut. They are first in PFF’s Power Rankings by a wide margin and have a 39% chance of winning the national championship.

Quarterback Bryce Young has looked like a star in the making. He has no issue making plays when knocked off rhythm and avoids sacks at a rare level for someone his age. He has averaged 11.0 yards per attempt under pressure and has taken only two sacks on 29 pressured dropbacks.

Florida has gotten after the quarterback at a high level this season, ranking fifth in the Power Five in pass-rush grade, but the coverage unit will have to step up going up against a quarterback like Young. The Gators currently rank second-to-last in team coverage grade among Power Five programs.

On offense, the Gators will be hoping that the accuracy issue starting quarterback Emory Jones has suffered with through the first two weeks of play is just a fluke. Jones has been the rushing threat Florida expected him to be, and he is making the right reads in the passing game, but he has struggled to actually hit the receiver where he needs to. Over 41% of his passes beyond the line of scrimmage have been deemed uncatchable the last two weeks. For reference, Kyle Trask’s rate in 2020 was nearly half that (22%).

And for those hoping to see exciting backup Anthony Richardson take over the offense, don’t get your hopes up.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


KENT STATE at NO. 5 IOWA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | BTN

Spread: Iowa -22.5 (-115)
Total: 56.5
Moneyline: Iowa -2000, Kent State +1000

The college football world knows Iowa has an elite pass coverage unit. The Hawkeyes have two of the five highest-graded outside corners in college football with Matt Hankins and Riley Moss, and they rank eighth among the 130 FBS programs in coverage grade through Week 2. And they got there facing two ranked teams, Indiana and Iowa State.

This game against Kent State will be all about the passing offense trying to find its groove. Iowa ranks 121st in the FBS in successful pass play rate this season.

Quarterback Spencer Petras owns a 60.1 passing grade over the last two seasons. He won’t turn the ball over often, but he’s not going to connect for many explosive plays, either. Iowa needs the latter to make major noise in 2021.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


GEORGIA TECH at NO. 6 CLEMSON

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | ABC

Spread: Clemson -28.5 (-110)
Total: 52
Moneyline: Clemson -4500, Georgia Tech +1800

It may not seem like it, but this is a pivotal game for Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, given his poor start to the 2021 season.

A pass can be given for a poor performance against a defense like Georgia’s, but the same can't be said for his game against the FCS program South Carolina State.

Uiagalelei has opened up the year with a 54.6 passing grade through two games. He has more quarterback-fault incompletions (nine) than completions (seven) on throws of 10 or more yards downfield. The accuracy problem that he flashed in his two spot starts as a freshman looks like a big issue in 2021.

The Clemson quarterback has one of the strongest arms in the country, but he has yet to piece together the other intricacies of quarterback play, making the arm worthless until that changes. Georgia Tech is one of the best Power Five programs, but they do have a quality defensive front that can give a good fight against Clemson’s offensive line and put the pressure on D.J.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


NO. 22 AUBURN at NO. 10 PENN STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | ABC

Spread: Penn State -6 (-110)
Total: 53
Moneyline: Penn State -225, Auburn +185

After Auburn beat Akron and Alabama State to start the season, we still don't know all that much about the Tigers. It’s clear that running back Tank Bigsby and their defensive unit as a whole are elite assets, but there are some questions to be answered with the passing game.

Quarterback Bo Nix has struggled against quality defenses in his career, and Penn State falls in that category this year. Nix has a career 66.4 passing grade against Power Five defenses. Throw in the fact that there isn’t one wide receiver on the roster who served in a major role for Auburn before this season, and the questions continue to grow.

Penn State is fresh off a thrashing of Ball State, which saw Nittany Lions linebacker Jesse Luketa earn PFF Defensive Player of the Week honors. Between him, safety Jaquan Brisker and edge defender Arnold Ebiketie, this Penn State pass defense has been in tip-top shape through two weeks.

The defense is tied for third among FBS teams in coverage grade through Week 2. But shutting down the pass isn’t really the worry; it’s stopping Bigsby, who is the best running back in college football.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


VIRGINIA at NO. 21 NORTH CAROLINA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | ACC Network

Spread: North Carolina -9 (-110)
Total: 67
Moneyline: North Carolina -350, Virginia +270

Brennan Armstrong has played as well as a quarterback can two weeks into the season. He leads college football with a 94.9 PFF grade and has been the biggest reason his program is second in the Power Five in explosive pass play rate (25.6%). 

On the other sideline is Sam Howell, who looked like the big-armed, elite passer many were expecting in Week 2 after a lackluster opener in Blacksburg that ended in an upset loss. Howell earned a 56.8 PFF grade against Virginia Tech and raised that to 94.0 against Georgia State in Week 2. The latter performance featured five big-time throws on deep balls, a metric he led the FBS in as an underclassman in 2019 and 2020 combined.

These two quarterbacks could give us a high-scoring affair to tune into on Saturday.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


NO. 19 ARIZONA STATE at NO. 23 BYU

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 10:15 PM EST | ESPN

Spread: Arizona State -3.5 (-110)
Total: 51.5
Moneyline: Arizona State -170, BYU +150

This week will tell us a lot about the Arizona State Sun Devils, who have only faced Southern Utah and UNLV this season.

Despite the lesser competition, quarterback Jayden Daniels has struggled to execute a downfield passing offense. He has yet to record a big-time throw and has earned a 67.7 passing grade on throws of 10-plus yards downfield.

That’s not where Daniels wins, though. He wins with his athleticism on the ground. He has picked up eight runs of 10-plus yards on 16 carries this year, 13 of which were scrambles. This has been the story of his career.

Jayden Daniels in his collegiate career
Play type EPA per play generated
Passing (no scrambles) 0.05
Designed runs -0.27
Scramble runs 0.49

BYU is more of a proven team after beating previously ranked Utah in the Holy War for the first time in over a decade. The passing offense has been rolling, generating 0.26 expected points added per pass through two games. That’s not to say quarterback Jaren Hall can’t improve some, as his PFF grade from a clean pocket is over 16 points lower than on pressured plays.

Click here for PFF Greenline’s cover probabilities for side, total and moneyline.


THE REST OF THE FBS SLATE:

OHIO at LOUISIANA

Thursday, Sep. 16 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN

 

UCF at LOUISVILLE

Friday, Sep. 17 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN

 

MARYLAND at ILLINOIS

Friday, Sep. 17 | 9:00 PM EST | FS1

 

NEW MEXICO at NO. 7 TEXAS A&M

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | SEC Network

 

NO. 16 COASTAL CAROLINA at BUFFALO

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN2

 

MICHIGAN STATE at NO. 24 MIAMI (FL.)

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ABC

 

NORTHERN ILLINOIS at NO. 25 MICHIGAN

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | Big Ten Network

 

CHATANOOGA at KENTUCKY

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN+/SEC Network+

 

SE MISSOURI at MISSOURI

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN+/SEC Network+

 

TENNESSEE TECH at TENNESSEE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN+/SEC Network+

 

WESTERN MICHIGAN at PITT

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

ALBANY at SYRACUSE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ACC Network

 

BOSTON COLLEGE at TEMPLE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPNU

 

UCONN at ARMY

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 12:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network

 

MINNESOTA at COLORADO

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 1:00 PM EST | Pac-12 Network

 

NEVADA at KANSAS STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 2:00 PM EST | Big-12 Network & ESPN+

 

TULSA at NO. 9 OHIO STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | FS1

 

SMU at LOUISIANA TECH

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | CBS Sports Network

 

FLORIDA STATE at WAKE FOREST

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN

 

DELAWARE at RUTGERS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | Big Ten Network

 

EASTERN MICHIGAN at UMASS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST

 

BAYLOR at KANSAS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | Big-12 Network & ESPN+

 

LONG ISLAND at MIAMI (OH.)

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+

 

BRYANT at AKRON

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN3

 

ELON at APP STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN+

 

IDAHO at OREGON STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST

 

USC at WASHINGTON STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 3:30 PM EST | FOX

 

GEORGIA SOUTHERN at NO. 20 ARKANSAS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST | SEC Network

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE at MEMPHIS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST | ESPN2

 

NORTHWESTERN at DUKE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST | ACC Network

 

BALL STATE at WYOMING

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST

 

COLORADO STATE at TOLEDO

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST | ESPNU

 

SACRAMENTO at CAL

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:00 PM EST

 

ARK STATE at WASHINGTON

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 4:15 PM EST | Pac-12 Network

 

MURRAY STATE at BOWLING GREEN

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 5:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

MIDDLE TENNESSEE at UTSA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN+

 

FORDHAM at FAU

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

EAST CAROLINA at MARSHALL

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 6:00 PM EST

 

OLD DOMINION at LIBERTY

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 6:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

SOUTH CAROLINA at NO. 2 GEORGIA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN

 

CHARLOTTE at GEORGIA STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN+

 

FIU at TEXAS TECH

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | Big-12 Network & ESPN+

 

TROY at SOUTHERN MISS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN+

 

GRAMBLING at HOUSTON

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN+

 

FLORIDA A&M at USF

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN+

 

INCARNATE WORD at TEXAS STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

UTAH at SDSU

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:00 PM EST | CBS Sports Network

 

STONY BROOK at NO. 4 OREGON

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | Pac-12 Network

 

CENTRAL MICHIGAN at LSU

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | SEC Network

 

UAB at NORTH TEXAS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST

 

FURMAN at NC STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN3

 

UTAH STATE at AIR FORCE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 7:30 PM EST | FS2

 

TULANE at NO. 17 OLE MISS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN2

 

STANFORD at VANDERBILT

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPNU

 

RICE at TEXAS

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST | Longhorn Network

 

JACKSON STATE at UL-MONROE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

ALCORN STATE at SOUTH ALABAMA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN3

 

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE at NEW MEXICO STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 8:00 PM EST

 

OKLAHOMA STATE at BOISE STATE

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 9:00 PM EST | FS1

 

NORTHERN ARIZONA at ARIZONA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 10:00 PM EST | Pac-12 Network

 

NO. 14 IOWA STATE at UNLV

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 10:30 PM EST | CBS Sports Network

 

FRESNO STATE at NO. 13 UCLA

Saturday, Sep. 18 | 10:45 PM EST | Pac-12 Network

 

SAN JOSE STATE at HAWAI’I

Sunday, Sep. 18 | 12:30 AM EST | FS1

 

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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