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

It was Herm Edwards, of all people, who saved the day

To spare upset alerts from going a resounding 0-for in Week 2, Arizona State did, in fact, secure the home upset over Michigan State. After a rough day of blowouts by Mississippi State, Georgia and Penn State, there was only one thought heading into the late-night Big Ten/Pac-12 battle ... 

Week 3 overall has a bevy of upset potential from which to choose. No. 4 Ohio State goes on the road to No. 15 TCU as a double-digit favorite. No. 12 LSU and No. 7 Auburn play, too, and that's been even series for the past decade. Yet, it's a somewhat surprising line at -9.5 for Auburn. Even off the radar, there are a couple of choices with Power Five teams going against quality Group of Five opponents. 

Each week, I'll give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. Remember: "upset" is defined first and foremost by the point spread, not perception or rankings, though they are both taken into consideration. On that note, I generally avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them. To make things more interesting, I'm also going on the record with the picks and 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) and straight-up (SU). 

Week 2 results

Upset picks: 1-4
ATS: 1-4
SU: 1-4

Picks to date: 3-7
ATS to date: 4-6
SU to date: 3-7

On to this week's picks ... 

No. 21 Miami at Toledo

When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: Toledo, Ohio | Line: Miami -10

Why it's listed: The Hurricanes needed to pull away from Toledo in last year's game and the Rockets can definitely hang up some points. #MACtion might make an appearance early Saturday.  

Toledo's key to the game: Miami's quarterback Malik Rosier continues to hold on to the starting job despite his struggles. The Rockets defense needs some early stops and maybe a turnover to get the Canes trying to play catch-up. That'll force Rosier into even more uncomfortable situations. 

Miami's key to the game: The Hurricanes allowed LSU to score on six of its first nine possessions, and the Tigers had 10 points of of turnovers. The Canes defense obviously can't get off to the same start and the offense can't put the defense in bad situations with which to start. 

Pick: Miami was humbled by LSU in the opener, but there's enough talent to rebound. Toledo once again makes this one tough and Rosier may struggle, but the defense rebounds just enough to make key stops. ATS: Toledo, SU: Miami

Troy at Nebraska

When: Saturday, noon ET | Where: Lincoln, Nebraska | Line: Nebraska -11.5

Why it's listed: The important detail is the health of Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez. He sustained a bad-looking knee injury against Colorado and all signs point to him being a game-time decision. Nebraska's quarterback depth is at a premium, too. If he's severely hampered or otherwise sidelined, this game becomes a lot more interesting. 

Troy's key to the game: The Trojans gave up a ton through the air against Boise State, nearly 11 yards per attempt and four touchdowns. Nebraska's passing attack may be hampered by its quarterback injury and depth. But if the Huskers are still getting eight or more yards per pass attempt, Troy's going to fall behind. 

Nebraska's key to the game: The running game needs to have a big day because that's likely what Troy will focus on stopping. Greg Bell and Devine Ozigbo will have to have good games. 

Pick: Chances are Martinez will play seeing as he's the only scholarship quarterback. His effectiveness will be something to monitor, though. Otherwise, it's walk-on backup Andrew Bunch. Nebraska is better, but the uncertainty is the draw. ATS: Troy, SU: Nebraska

No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Auburn, Alabama | Line: Auburn -9.5

Why it's listed: Vegas likes Auburn at home by nearly double digits. That's an interesting line, though Auburn is actually 4-1 in the last five meetings at home against the spread vs. LSU. On paper, though, this one looks more evenly matched from a defensive standpoint. 

LSU's key to the game: Quarterback Joe Burrow has to show up again in critical situations. He was decent in third-down passing situations against Miami and chances are LSU will be in plenty of those against Auburn. Burrow's conversion percentage will be an important stat. 

Auburn's key to the game: How does the offensive line look? Because protection was non-existent against Washington in Week 1. Granted, the Huskies have an excellent defensive front, but facing LSU will be a far better measuring stick than Alabama State. Auburn's quarterback Jarrett Stidham is a playmaker, but he won't be able to do everything himself. 

Pick: History says take Auburn to cover. However, both defenses are so dang good that if this game is lower scoring at all -- the over/under is 45 -- it's going to be harder to win by 10. ATS: LSU, SU: Auburn

North Texas at Arkansas

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | Where: Fayetteville, Arkansas | Line: Arkansas -7

Why it's listed: Arkansas is in a precarious situation. It surrendered, in classic BERT fashion, an 18-point second half lead in a Week 2 loss to Colorado State. North Texas, like the Rams, can put up points in bunches. Arkansas has a size advantage, but this is a hangover loss waiting to happen. 

North Texas' key to the game: Protect quarterback Mason Fine. He is valuable but small -- two things that don't often go well together in football. He's the nation's leading passer at 431 yards per game and eclipsed 4,000 yards through the air a season ago. Yet, he is normal sized ("listed" at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds) which means he is terribly undersized, relatively speaking. Arkansas, meanwhile, is not undersized. Hits like these may turn him into ash. 

Arkansas' key to the game: It must continue to work the ground game. Yes, the Razorbacks have changed offensive philosophies, but running the ball was the best thing they did against the Rams. Lean on it again and it should wear down North Texas' defense. In the final 20 minutes or so, it'll be the difference. 

Pick: North Texas is good enough that Arkansas can't afford to let the past live in the present. The Colorado State loss was rough, but some environmental issues (road game in altitude) can play a factor. Now the Razorbacks are back home. If they're slow out of the gate, they'll be in trouble. ATS: North Texas, SU: North Texas

No. 10 Washington at Utah

When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET | Where: Salt Lake City, Utah | Line: Washington -6.5

Why it's listed: The Huskies are just under a full touchdown favorite on the road against an unranked team. Rice-Eccles is a tough stadium to get a conference win. First one to 20 might do it. 

Utah's key to the game: Running the ball effectively and finishing drives were problems against Northern Illinois. Washington's defense won't make anything easy, either. Both defenses, in fact, have been excellent in the red zone, so making the most of limited chances will be paramount.

Washington's key to the game: Jake Browning is a darn good quarterback, but we've seen the Huskies' offense completely fall apart when he doesn't have protection. He's not a guy who's going to create a ton on his own, try as he may. When he has time to survey the field, though, he's excellent at dropping dimes. 

Pick: There might be some offense in between the 20s, but this one has a strong field goal vibe. Who can get that one unexpected touchdown to push their team over the edge? Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley has 18 red zone touchdowns dating back to last season and is more of a threat to run. ATS: Utah, SU: Utah

So which teams should you back in Week 3 of the college football season? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected final score for every FBS matchup, all from the model that nailed its final seven picks of the 2017-18 season and has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three 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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