College Football Picks: Big Ten gets 5 big tests in Week 3

This week it is the Big Ten that gets an opportunity to make a statement.

The Pac-12 was in the spotlight last week, and while the conference as a whole didn’t fare well going 3-5 in nonconference games against FBS opponents, Oregon’s upset at Ohio State was a potential season-shaper.

The Big Ten has five teams facing ranked nonconference opponents on Saturday. According to the Big Ten network, that hasn’t happened since October 4, 1975.

The main event is Saturday night in Happy Valley with No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State, a rare SEC-Big Ten regular-season game matching ranked teams in a home stadium. The last was No. 3 Alabama’s 27-11 victory at No. 23 Penn State in 2011.

The only other time a ranked SEC team has played at a Big Ten school was Georgia at Michigan in 1965. The Bulldogs won 15-7.

Elsewhere Saturday, four games have unranked Big Ten teams facing ranked nonconference foes. The Big Ten is an underdog in each and the road team in three of them, so keep expectations modest.

Especially for Nebraska, which is a three-touchdown underdog against Oklahoma in a meeting that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Game of the Century between the Cornhuskers and Sooners. Nostalgia might be the only appeal of this matchup of former Big Eight/12 rivals.

Purdue (at No. 12 Notre Dame) and Michigan State (at No. 24 Miami) are both single-digit road underdogs and Indiana is underdog at home against No. 8 Cincinnati.

Nether is ranked, but Minnesota at Colorado is another Power Five vs. Power Five there for the taking for the Big Ten.

The Big Ten’s best, Ohio State, took a hit last week, but the rest of the league can pick up the slack on Saturday.

The picks with lines from FanDuel Sportsbook:


No. 1. Alabama (minus 15 1/2) at No. 11 Florida

The last Gators QB to beat the Tide was Tim Tebow; ‘Bama has won seven straight meetings, the last three in the SEC championship game ... ALABAMA 42-28.

South Carolina (plus 30 1/2) at No. 2. Georgia

Bulldogs might get QB JT Daniels back, but figure they’ll play it safe against an SEC rival that barely squeaked by East Carolina last week ... GEORGIA 35-10.

Nebraska (plus 22 1/2) at No. 3. Oklahoma

Last meeting came in the 2010 Big 12 championship game; since parting ways, the Huskers are 80-60 and Sooners are 108-25 ... OKLAHOMA 45-21.

Kent State (plus 22 1/2) at No. 5. Iowa

Hawkeyes have scored at least 25 points in eight straight games (all wins), a school record ... IOWA 41-14, BEST BET.

Georgia Tech (plus 28 1/2) at No. 6. Clemson

Tigers have a 29-game home winning streak and seven straight wins against the Yellow Jackets ... CLEMSON 45-10.

New Mexico (plus 28 1/2) at No. 7. Texas A&M

Lobos start former Kentucky QB Terry Wilson, who has completed 73% of his passes for six touchdowns ... TEXAS A&M 49-13.

No. 8. Cincinnati (minus 3 1/2) at Indiana

Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder is averaging 11.4 yards per attempt but the Hoosiers will be a huge step up in competition from his first two games ... CINCINNATI 27-20.

Tulsa (plus 27 1/2) at No. 9. Ohio State

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day didn’t exactly give a vote of confidence to defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs following another shoddy defensive performance ... OHIO STATE 52-21.

No. 22 Auburn (plus 6 1/2) at No. 10. Penn State

Tigers don’t get to these parts much; Auburn’s only previous regular-season road game against a Big Ten team was 1931 at Wisconsin ... PENN STATE 24-20.

Purdue (plus 7 1/2) at No. 12. Notre Dame

Irish have won seven straight and nine of 10 against the Boilermakers, but they haven’t played since 2014 ... NOTRE DAME 28-22.

Fresno State (plus 11 1/2) at No. 13. UCLA

Bruins are looking to go unbeaten in nonconference games for the first time since 2015 ... UCLA 34-21.

No. 14. Iowa State (minus 30 1/2) at UNLV

Been kind of a disappointing start to the season for the Cyclones; nothing like a trip to Vegas to forget your troubles ... IOWA STATE 35-10.

No. 15. Virginia Tech (plus 2 1/2) at West Virginia

Longtime rivals have played only once since 2017 and haven’t played on campus since 2005 ... VIRGINIA TECH 23-21.

No. 16. Coastal Carolina (minus 13 1/2) at Buffalo

Bulls probably would have preferred hosting the Chants from Myrtle Beach in late October ... COASTAL CAROLINA 31-24.

Tulane (plus 14 1/2) at No. 17. Mississippi

SEC championships: Rebels, six; Green Wave, three ... OLE MISS 41-28.

No. 19. Arizona State (minus 3 1/2) at No. 23 BYU

Cougars, bound for the Big 12, trying to go 3-0 against the Pac-12 ... BYU 27-24.

Georgia Southern (plus 23 1/2) at No. 20. Arkansas

Razorbacks have won consecutive games for the first time since 2017 and look to go 3-0 for the first time since 2016 ... ARKANSAS 34-13.

Virginia (plus 8 1/2) at No. 21. North Carolina

Get to know Cavaliers QB Brennan Armstrong, who has thrown for 744 yards and seven touchdowns in two games ... NORTH CAROLINA 38-31.

Michigan State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 24. Miami

Are the Spartans for real under second-year coach Mel Tucker? ... MICHIGAN STATE 31-28, UPSET SPECIAL.

Northern Illinois (plus 26 1/2) at No. 25. Michigan

Wolverines are 34-1 against MAC schools ... MICHIGAN 45-14.


UCF (minus 6 1/2) at Louisville, Friday — @ChristDavis034

Last time the Knights and Cardinals played was 2013, the one season both were members of the American Athletic Conference and UCF’s upset help send it to the BCS ... UCF 34-30.

Minnesota (plus 1 1/2) at Colorado, Saturday — @40buffdad

Second straight week with a nonconference Power Five game for the Buffs ... MINNESOTA 21-19.

Southern California (minus 8 1/2) at Washington State, Saturday -- @Keith_Clark—

What to expect from the post-Clay Helton Trojans? ... USC 27-21.

Florida State (plus 4 1/2) at Wake Forest, Saturday — @gregnole

Seminoles trying to avoid first 0-3 start since 1976, the late Bobby Bowden’s first season as coach ... WAKE FOREST 28-26.

Oklahoma State (plus 3 1/2) at Boise State, Saturday — @jeremyhansen15

Cowboys are second-to-last in the Big 12 in yards per play; not what you’d expect from a Mike Gundy team ... BOISE STATE 27-24.


Last week: 14-7 straight; 12-9 against the spread.

Season: 28-15 straight; 24-19 against the spread.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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