Week 3 college football picks, games, odds: Florida, Washington State on upset alert

Most of the lines for college football's top 25 in Week 3 are laugh-out-loud funny -- to the point where you'd be better off avoiding them altogether. No. 7 Notre Dame at -37.5 over New Mexico? No. 16 Texas A&M at -43.5 over Lamar? No. 4 LSU at 49.5 over Northwestern State??

Hmmm ... gross!

But sometimes, weeks that seem bad on paper can end up better than expected. Maybe heavy favorites are looking ahead. It's college football, after all, and 18-to-22-year-olds tend to be a bit unreliable. Somewhere, things have the potential to go off the rails. 

Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. But in the spirit of the upset, I generally avoid games where lines are within a touchdown, though there will be some exceptions. Similarly, I'll only go with moneyline picks when the payout is around 2:1. Maybe a little less, definitely when it's more. 

Finally, I like to go on the record with my picks by keeping tabs. The scoring system is exactly the same as it is for our weekly expert picks with season-long tallies against the spread (ATS), straight-up (SU) and moneyline picks (ML). Since there were no upset alerts in Week 1, we're starting from scratch.

Important disclaimer: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread or moneyline, not rankings.

Week 2 results
ATS: 2-1
SU: 2-1
ML: 1-1

No. 20 Washington State at Houston

When: Friday, 9:15 p.m. ET | Where: Houston, Texas | Line: Washington State -8.5

Why it's listed: Winning on the road is tough. Winning on the road on a short week is tougher. Houston got its get-right game under its belt vs. Prairie View A&M, so this Dana Holgorsen-Mike Leach matchup should deliver. 

Houston's key to the game: You don't want to rely on turnover luck as an X-factor, but Houston has forced at least one takeaway in 19 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. The biggest thing is that quarterback D'Eriq King needs to be the best player on the field, especially with his legs. He's been good this season, though overshadowed in Week 1 by Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts

Washington State's key to the game: The Cougars have done a perfect job of spreading the ball around with three receivers already over 10 catches. Houston's pass defense ranks 111th nationally. A total mismatch. 

Pick: Houston forced one whole punt against Oklahoma, and it was with four minutes remaining in the game. Washington State can score at-will, too, and that's probably enough to keep it at arm's length. ATS: Houston, SU: Washington State

No. 21 Maryland at Temple

When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Line: Maryland -8.5

Why it's listed: The Terps have college football's top scoring offense ... but the line is only 8.5 in their favor (and falling). That stands out. Obviously, putting 79 points on Howard is eye-popping, but not overly difficult. And, who knows, maybe Syracuse really is taking a big step back this year. The point being, how much do we know about Maryland? While the Penn State home game isn't for another two weeks, some look-ahead potential definitely exists. 

Temple's key to the game: While all the focus is on Maryland's offense (read below), the Owls have playmakers of their own. Quarterback Anthony Russo has several notches on his belt and the running game was great against Bucknell. While that's not much to go off of, maybe Tempe has enough in the arsenal to keep up with Maryland. 

Maryland's key to the game: If Mike Locksley's offense keeps clicking, then this game is over early. Quarterback Josh Jackson has been an undeniable upgrade and the skill positions are rattling off chunk yardage at an alarming rate. 

Pick: After scoring 142 points in the first two games, I can't imagine Maryland's offense suddenly goes absent. That group will make enough plays to win, but if oddsmakers are to be believed, maybe Temple gives them a run. ATS: Temple, SU: Maryland

No. 9 Florida at Kentucky 

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Lexington, Kentucky | Line: Florida -9.5

Why it's listed: This game is likely to go one of two ways. Either Florida jumps out to big lead and never relinquishes control, or Kentucky keeps this thing interesting for four quarters. The latter possibility is why we're here. While losing quarterback Terry Wilson for the season isn't great news for Kentucky, transfer Sawyer Smith was decent enough at Troy to mitigate its impact. 

Kentucky's key to the game: Can Smith move the offense at least as well as Wilson did? Look, no one is happy about Wilson's injury, but it's not like Kentucky was winning games because of him. If Smith can perform at least similarly to Wilson, Kentucky has at least a shot. 

Florida's key to the game: Did the offense actually get right against UT-Martin, or was that a byproduct of the matchup? This is a well-coached Mark Stoops defense and this will be another good early-season test to see where the Florida offensive line is. Of course, too, one has to wonder what kind of game we get out of quarterback Feleipe Franks.  

Pick: The over/under is set at 50.5 and the under is very much in play. The defenses keep this one low-scoring and probably ugly for stretches at a time. And, what the heck, I'll say Smith pulls out some second-half heroics. ATS: Kentucky, SU: Kentucky

Duke at Middle Tennessee 

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Murfreesboro, Tennessee | Moneyline: Middle Tennessee +220

Why it's listed: Power Five teams hitting the road against Group of Five opponents have taken their licks; Missouri and Purdue can attest. Duke remains largely a question mark while Middle Tennessee at least gave Michigan a fight for a half. This is a good payout for a possible upset. 

Middle Tennessee's key to the game: Sophomore quarterback Asher O'Hara has done a nice job succeeding longtime starter Brent Stockstill. Can he keep up the production (292 yards per game) against a Duke defense that's prone to giving up big plays?

Duke's key to the game: Can the ground game get going? Duke has been streaky with running the ball, but Middle Tennessee is allowing more than 5 yards per rush. If the Blue Devils are going to find consistency, it'll be here. 

Pick: Middle Tennessee +220

Northern Illinois at Nebraska

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET | Where: Lincoln, Nebraska | Line: Nebraska -14

Why it's listed: Possible hangover game for the Cornhuskers after Colorado came from behind to beat them in overtime last week. Coach Scott Frost clearly still has work to do. Northern Illinois hung with No. 11 Utah for a half, so it's shown it can play up for Power Five games. 

Northern Illinois' key to the game: Containing Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is priority No. 1. He's a big-play threat that requires constant attention not only in terms of keeping him in front of you, but on the back end too when plays break down. He finds yardage when it's not always there to start. 

Nebraska's key to the game: Giving the ball away three times is a surefire way to let your opponent back into the game. If Nebraska doesn't play clear against NIU, it's giving them an opportunity to hang around. The Cornhuskers just haven't been a complete team yet. 

Pick: Northern Illinois has enough veteran players to not be rattled by supposedly better programs. But does it have the offense to keep up for four quarters? Nebraska would need to disappear for stretches on end which, as we saw last week, is possible. ATS: Northern Illinois, SU: Nebraska 

So what picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which national title contender gets a huge scare? Visit SportsLine to see which college football teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, all from a proven computer model that has returned over $4,500 in profit over the past four seasons.

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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