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

Sep 14, 2021, 7:46 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2021, 7:50 am
Penn State running back Noah Cain (21) splits two Ball State defenders on a first half run during a...

Penn State running back Noah Cain (21) splits two Ball State defenders on a first half run during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Penn State defeated Ball State 44-13. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

(AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

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


More AP college football: and Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Green Bay Packers' Rasul Douglas reacts after a failed two-point conversion attempt by Tampa Bay Bu...
Associated Press

Packers proving they can win by relying on their defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers’ defense is meeting offseason expectations and giving this storied franchise a new look. A team that has relied on Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback production for the past three decades is winning primarily because of the defense. The Packers are scoring just 16 points per game thus […]
18 hours ago
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for a second term, speaks during a campaign rall...
Associated Press

Brazil’s Bolsonaro enlists Neymar on campaign stop

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro enlisted the help of soccer star Neymar on a campaign stop Wednesday, just four days before the country’s general elections. Bolsonaro visited a non-profit youth institute set up by Neymar in the city of Praia Grande and took a call from the Paris Saint-Germain player, who thanked […]
18 hours ago
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers, right, celebrates with defensive back Garrett Williams after defea...
Associated Press

Third-and-How? ACC top teams up their third-down success

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Few things cause more anxiety in football than third down. Convert, and your offense gains momentum. Fail, and it’s a stressful wait until you get the ball again. So far, the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including its four undefeateds in No. 5 Clemson, No. 10 North Carolina State, […]
18 hours ago
Honey bees are swept from an upright at the beginning of the NFL football game between the Tampa Ba...
Associated Press

Displaced Bucs avoid Ian, begin preparation to face Chiefs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who moved their football operations to South Florida to avoid Hurricane Ian, remain hopeful of being able to return home to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. The team practiced at the Miami Dolphins’ training facility on Wednesday, describing the experience as different, but insisting the disruption to their […]
18 hours ago
Oneil Cruz de los Piratas de Pittsburgh batea un doble ante los Rojos de Cincinnati, el miércoles ...
Associated Press

Newman’s single in 10th gives Pirates win and sweep of Reds

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kevin Newman hit a winning single in the 10th inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates rebounded from a blown three-run lead in the ninth to beat Cincinnati 4-3 on Wednesday and send the Reds to their 96th loss, their most since 2015. Kyle Farmer hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Chase […]
18 hours ago
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman tosses beer to fans on the 18th green during the final round of the LIV Go...
Associated Press

LIV Golf denies report of deal to buy TV time on FS1

Saudi-funded LIV Golf denied a report Tuesday that it was close to a U.S. television deal in which it would buy time to be shown on FS1. Golfweek cited multiple sources it did not identify in saying the agreement is still being finalized. It would go against what Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of […]
2 days ago
College Football Picks: Big Ten gets 5 big tests in Week 3