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Week 3 College Football Picks: Challenge the Athlon Sports Experts


The college football season is off to a roaring start, and the competition off the field is almost as heated as the action on it.

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Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior editor Rob Doster:

Ohio at Tennessee

The Vols finally lived up to their preseason hype — to an extent — in the Battle at Bristol, as the defense forced five Virginia Tech fumbles and quarterback Josh Dobbs accounted for five touchdowns in Tennessee's 45–24 win in front of 156,990 fans. There won't be quite as many people there this week, but expect the Vols to continue to work out the kinks in front of an appreciative home crowd.

Doster's pick: Tennessee 35–13

Miami at Appalachian State

You can be sure that Canes coach Mark Richt won't allow his team to overlook a scrappy bunch of Mountaineers who took Tennessee to the wire in Week 1. Richt is probably cursing the schedule makers who have Miami traveling to App State in one of the more head-scratching road dates of this season. The Canes will be tested but should survive.

Doster’s pick: Miami 28–17

Florida State at Louisville

With apologies to Ohio State-Oklahoma, this looks like the game of the week. The ESPN GameDay crew will be in Louisville to watch an explosive pair of offenses in a key ACC matchup. Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson’s video-game numbers in Bobby Petrino’s offense are going to be hard to ignore come awards season, although Florida State should provide a little more resistance than Charlotte and Syracuse. Don't blink in this one, or you'll miss something.

Doster’s pick: Florida State 38–34

Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech

Tech is still a bit of an unknown quantity following a tight win over Boston College and a workmanlike victory over Mercer. The Jackets' option offense will face a challenge in Derek Mason's tough Commodore defense, but the key might be a Vanderbilt offense that showed signs of surprising balance in a win over Middle Tennessee.

Doster’s pick: Georgia Tech 24–17

Oregon at Nebraska

This might be the most important week of the Mike Riley era in Lincoln so far. A win over a ranked Oregon team would do wonders for Riley's job security, but beating Oregon is something that Riley couldn't do when he was at Oregon State. This game should be revealing for both teams, which are both a bit of a mystery at this point.  

Doster's pick: Oregon 27–24

Alabama at Ole Miss

Of Alabama’s three losses since the start of the 2014 season, two of them have come to the Rebels. To say that Nick Saban has this game circled on the schedule might be an understatement. The Tide appear to have no weaknesses, and a Bama team motivated by revenge might be one of the most frightening things in college football.

Doster’s pick: Alabama 38–17

Boston College at Virginia Tech

Tech will be looking to regroup after a number of self-inflicted wounds in the loss to Tennessee. Justin Fuente's offense showed some potency amid all the fumbles, and if Tech improves its ball security, it can score on anyone, including a stingy Boston College defense. 

Doster's pick: Virginia Tech 28–14

Colorado at Michigan

Mike MacIntyre has clearly made progress in Boulder, but this game should provide a true measuring stick. The Buffs have improved their team speed and athleticism, but Michigan is a different proposition from Colorado State and Idaho State.

Doster's pick: Michigan 37–21

Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State

These two teams enter this matchup at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. The Panthers are sky-high following a thrilling, emotion win over Penn State, while the Cowboys are fresh off a gut-punch loss to Central Michigan. Both coaches have their work cut out this week to keep their teams on an even keel. 

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Doster's pick: Oklahoma State 28–27

East Carolina at South Carolina

The Pirates continued their ACC mastery with a 33–30 win over NC State. The SEC is a different animal, although South Carolina is vulnerable and limps in following a lopsided loss to Mississippi State. The Gamecocks are struggling to find consistency at the quarterback position. 

Doster's pick: East Carolina 24–21

Texas A&M at Auburn

It's not too early to call this an elimination game in the SEC West. Kevin Sumlin's high-flying Aggies offense will face its biggest test thus far against coordinator Kevin Steele's Auburn defense, which shut down the vaunted Clemson offense in Week 1. This might be the most intriguing matchup on the SEC slate this week.

Doster's pick: Texas A&M 27–21

Mississippi State at LSU

The alarm of a loss to South Alabama gave way to optimism following Mississippi's State's 27–14 win over South Carolina. Still, a trip to Baton Rouge is a tall order for a rebuilding group of Bulldogs. Les Miles may be fighting for his job this season, giving the Tigers a needed sense of urgency going into this matchup.  

Doster's pick: LSU 24–14

Ohio State at Oklahoma

A win over the talent-laden Buckeyes would restore a little sheen to “Big Game Bob” Stoops’ reputation, which has taken a hit with some recent high-profile flops. Stoops will look to quarterback Baker Mayfield, who fell on his sword following the Houston loss, to bail out a shaky Sooner defense, which couldn’t stop Houston and figures to struggle against an explosive Ohio State attack led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, now fully in control and free from the distraction of a QB controversy.

Doster’s pick: Ohio State 37–24

Georgia at Missouri

The jury is still out on both of these teams. Georgia narrowly averted a humiliating loss to FCS opponent Nicholls, and we'll soon find out if that was just a hiccup, or if there a significant problems in Athens. Look for a steady diet of Nick Chubb against a Missouri defense that is vulnerable to the run.

Doster's pick: Georgia 24–21

North Texas at Florida

The Mean Green figure to provide a nice tune-up for the Gators heading into their key SEC East showdown with Tennessee. Florida looked impressive on both sides of the ball in their SEC opener, a 45–7 rout of Kentucky. 

Doster's pick: Florida 41–7

Michigan State at Notre Dame

The Irish’s loss to Texas revealed some defensive deficiencies, although Brian Kelly has to feel good about his DeShone Kizer-led offense. We didn’t learn a whole lot about the Spartans in their lackluster 28–13 win over Furman except that they are a bit inexperienced in spots and have some work to do to live up to Mark Dantonio’s high standards.

Doster’s pick: Notre Dame 21–17

Duke at Northwestern

The Wildcats are 0–2 and coming off a 9–7 loss to FCS team Illinois State, giving this game a must-win feel for Pat Fitzgerald's crew. The Devils, coming off a frustrating loss of their own (to Wake Forest), could be just the tonic that Northwestern needs.

Doster’s pick: Northwestern 14–13

USC at Stanford

The tables have turned in this rivalry, as Stanford is the established program with a winning culture while USC is searching for an identity as the Clay Helton era struggles to find its footing. The Cardinal appear to have the edge on both lines of scrimmage — not to mention a leading Heisman candidate in Christian McCaffrey.

Doster's pick: Stanford 24–14


Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen gives UCLA a puncher's chance in any game, although the Bruins are struggling to stop the run and lack a big-play receiver. The Cougars are facing a third Pac-12 team in a row after splitting tight contests with Arizona and Utah. 

Fox’s pick: UCLA 21-20

Texas at California

Charlie Strong finally seems to have things going at Texas, and a Longhorns offense that has been unstoppable thus far has to be licking its chops at the prospect of facing a Cal defense that is allowing 38 points per game. Look for the Horns to keep Bevo fat and happy this week.

Doster's pick: Texas 34–24