Week 3 college football picks, bold predictions led by the Alabama-Florida showdown

·5 min read

Alabama has already passed one test against a school from the Sunshine State with flying colors. Here's hoping the No. 1 Crimson Tide get much better competition this week at No. 9 Florida than they did against Miami in the opener.

While the two SEC schools have met in the conference title game in three of the last six seasons, including last year, this will be the first matchup in Gainesville in a decade and will provide Alabama quarterback Bryce Young his first road test of his career. The Gators can shake things up in the conference and the polls by pulling off a huge upset.

Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III avoids Florida defenders after making a catch during the third quarter in the 2020 SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III avoids Florida defenders after making a catch during the third quarter in the 2020 SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The other major matchup involves the SEC, but in a non-conference showdown. No. 20 Auburn travels to No. 12 Penn State in a rare matchup of Big Ten and SEC foes during the regular season. The Nittany Lions already hold one win against a ranked opponent – Wisconsin – and a second would further their case for being the top team in their league. The Tigers had two easy games to start, so we will get a better evaluation about the Bryan Harsin era Saturday.

MAKE YOUR PICKS: Free contest lets you predict 10 college football games

BOWL PREDICTIONS: Georgia, Oregon join College Football Playoff field

BIG OPENING: USC coaching search towill include the biggest names, best teams

The third showdown of ranked opponents sees No. 23 Brigham Young host No. 21 Arizona State one week after beating in-state rival Utah. Another win by the Cougars would establish them as a possible New Year's Six contender, while the Sun Devils hope to build some momentum with a big win before Pac-12 conference play.

Bold predictions

In the crazy world of college football, there are always surprises and unexpected results. Some of our experts offer their forecasts for some unlikely events this weekend.

Scooby Axson

Nebraska, a three-touchdown underdog, will give Oklahoma a closer than expected game because there is nothing to suggest that the Sooners are capable of playing a full 60 minutes, especially when they get big leads on teams. In reality, the Cornhuskers have no business being on the same field as Oklahoma in terms of the talent disparity, but one lackluster performance may not cost the Sooners this week but may down the line.

Jace Evans

If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one, the old football aphorism goes, but Florida coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday he is still planning to rotate starter Emory Jones and dynamic redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson under center Saturday when the No. 9 Gators play host to No. 1 Alabama. The Crimson Tide are making their first visit to The Swamp since 2011, but Florida’s giant question marks at QB will turn a super-hyped top-10 showdown into just another Bama beatdown with the Crimson Tide winning by at least three touchdowns.

Paul Myerberg

BYU stays unbeaten and beats Arizona State, making coach Kalani Sitake the latest trendy contender for the opening at Southern California. A win for the Cougars might say more about ASU, which has the talent to win the Pac-12 South but has been dealing with allegations of recruiting violations.

Erick Smith

For an unbeaten team in the top 10, Notre Dame has looked shakier than any contender with narrow wins against Florida State and Toledo. There might be extenuating circumstances in both games, but the trend is not a good one with underrated Purdue coming to town Saturday. If the Irish don't wake up the echoes this week, they'll be able to write off their playoff hopes because the Boilermakers are capable – as they showed in 2018 against Ohio State – of winning big against bigger opponents. The victory would also go a long way toward taking some heat off Jeff Brohm after two injury riddled seasons.

Eddie Timanus

It's a big weekend for the Mountain West Conference, with four league members slated to take on ranked opponents and a couple others getting opportunities against Power Five competition.

Expect at least one Top 25 upset from the league. New Mexico isn’t likely to make much headway at Texas A&M, and UNLV, though playing at home, could be in for a long night against an angry Iowa State bunch. Fresno State has already given Oregon a tough battle and could do the same at UCLA.

The team most likely to pull off the win is Boise State. The Broncos are still smarting after letting their opener at Central Florida get away, but they got into the win column last week and now get a chance to take down Oklahoma State on the blue turf. The Cowboys won their first two contests to retain their preseason ranking but haven’t looked all that good in the process. Look for the Broncos to prevail in front of a fired-up crowd in Boise.

Dan Wolken

Oklahoma State is going to regret scheduling this series with Boise State, which began in 2018 when the Cowboys got a surprising 23-point win in Stillwater. The tables are going to be turned in a major way here. After losing the opener in adverse conditions at UCF with the long rain delays, the humidity and the travel, this is kind of a must-win spot for Boise State and they'll pounce on the opportunity to get a Power Five team in their house. Oklahoma State's offense has been pretty pedestrian so far this season. It hasn't broken the 30-point barrier against either Tulsa or Missouri State and really struggled to throw the ball last week. Boise State should win this game comfortably by two or three touchdowns.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football picks: Predictions for Top 25 NCAA games in Week 3