Week 3 NCAAF Picks
College football enters its third week of action and Saturday is chockfull of games. Our writers and handicappers hand out six college football picks for Week 3.
UCLA at BYU, Saturday 3:30 PM ET
For a program that has racked up plenty of victories lately, BYU has been relying on blocked kicks to win games perhaps more often than it would like.
Count UCLA as another team that has seen enough of such endings.
One season after the Cougars beat the Bruins on a blocked kick in a bowl game - and one week after 18th-ranked BYU secured a victory over another Pac-10 opponent in the same fashion - the teams meet for the third time since last September on Saturday in Provo.
BYU's 28-27 victory at Washington last Saturday immediately became a topic of controversy after Huskies quarterback Jake Locker cut the Cougars' lead to one on a touchdown run in the closing seconds.
UCLA certainly remembers the Cougars' strong special teams play. Trailing 17-16 in the closing seconds of last year's Las Vegas Bowl, Bruins kicker Kai Forbath had his 28-yard field goal attempt blocked by BYU as UCLA saw its seven-game winning streak against the Cougars snapped.
The Bruins, meanwhile, had ended BYU's 11-game overall winning streak with a 27-17 win in Pasadena last Sept. 8. First-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has called Saturday's game the "rubber match."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall's BYU team has won 24 of its last 28 games overall, including 14 in a row at home since a loss to Boston College in Provo on Sept. 3, 2005.
The win at Washington was BYU's fourth in its last five games against Pac-10 opponents, but the Cougars still fell three spots in the rankings after the close call.
Junior quarterback Max Hall threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, while junior tight end Dennis Pitta caught 10 passes for 148 yards and a score. Two games into the season, the Hall-to-Pitta combination has already connected 21 times for 361 yards.
In the two matchups with UCLA last year, Hall threw for 622 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Ohio State at USC, 8:00 PM ET
Either Southern California or Ohio State has played for the national championship each of the last four seasons.
One of those teams hasn't looked worthy of getting that chance this season, but could certainly change that on Saturday night by beating the other.
While the top-ranked Trojans are coming off a week of rest, the No. 5 Buckeyes are looking to show their most recent performance was just a fluke going into what is easily the most anticipated game of the young season.
Two of the top programs in college football history - they've met in the Rose Bowl seven times - are squaring off for the first time in 18 years in the first game of the season between a pair of top-10 teams.
The programs have not faced each other since USC's 35-26 road win on Sept. 22, 1990. It was the Trojans' fifth straight win over the Buckeyes and gave them an 11-9-1 edge in the all-time series - both teams have been ranked in 11 of those matchups.
A key factor in Ohio State getting its first win over USC since the 1974 Rose Bowl could be if quarterback Todd Boeckman can be effective against the Trojans defense.
Boeckman was 16-of-26 for only 110 yards without a touchdown last week, and he's often played poorly against top-caliber competition. In his final three games last season - facing Illinois, Michigan and LSU - Boeckman completed 35 of 62 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions as the Buckeyes went 1-2.
Penn State at Syracuse, 3:30pm ET
Amid suspensions, injuries and a recent dismissal, Penn State seems to be handling the perceived turmoil surrounding it just fine.
The No. 17 Nittany Lions will try to deliver a third straight impressive performance Saturday when they travel to Syracuse, renewing an old rivalry with the struggling Orange for the first time since 1990.
The mood around the University Park, Pa., campus has been tense since the offseason, when two defensive lineman were dismissed from the program for unspecified reasons, and the distractions have kept coming. Coach Joe Paterno suspended two starting defenders for the team's game last Saturday against Oregon State, four days after police allegedly found marijuana residue in an on-campus apartment they shared.
Penn State and Syracuse (0-2) met every season from 1922 to 1990 - the Nittany Lions lead the series 40-23-5 - but the rivalry went on hiatus once Penn State joined the Big Ten.
While the Orange were regular bowl contenders around the time the series wasn't renewed, they've become a bottom-tier program in the Big East in recent years. Syracuse came into this year 7-28 in three seasons under coach Greg Robinson, and it hasn't looked any better in 2008.
The Orange dropped their opener 30-10 on Aug. 30 at Northwestern, producing just 225 yards of offense, then were embarrassed 42-28 at the Carrier Dome by Mid-American Conference opponent Akron last Saturday.
Wisconsin at Fresno State, 10:30 PM ET
All it took for Wisconsin to move into the top 10 was a pair of comfortable home wins against overmatched opponents.
In order to stay there, the 10th-ranked Badgers will have to do a little bit more.
Wisconsin's first road trip of the year will be a challenging one, as the Badgers hope to justify their lofty ranking when they visit 21st-ranked Fresno State in the Bulldogs' home opener on Saturday night.
After rushing for more than 400 yards in its season-opening 38-17 victory over Akron on Aug. 30, Wisconsin proved it could throw last week, as quarterback Allan Evridge passed for 308 yards and a touchdown in a 51-14 win over Marshall at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers (2-0) also had six rushing touchdowns against the Thundering Herd, but standout back P.J. Hill was held to 3.2 yards per carry by a Marshall defense intent on making Wisconsin throw.
Fresno State has been especially tough at home under coach Pat Hill, going 51-12 there since his 1997 hiring. Wisconsin matches the highest-ranked team ever to visit Fresno, but the Bulldogs beat then-No. 10 Oregon State 44-24 on Sept. 2, 2001.
Wisconsin is the second of three BCS conference opponents on the schedule for Fresno State. Later this month, the Bulldogs visit UCLA, which is currently one spot outside of the top 25.
Oklahoma at Washington, 7:45 PM ET
Everything has gone according to plan for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose team's national championship aspirations are still alive two games into the season. Washington coach Tyrone Willingham hasn't been nearly as fortunate.
The third-ranked Sooners look to continue their impressive start on Saturday night when they visit the Huskies, who are hoping to bounce back from a disheartening defeat and avoid their third straight loss to a ranked team.
Oklahoma (2-0) opened the season with a 57-2 rout of Chattanooga before cruising to a 52-26 win over Cincinnati last Saturday. The Sooners have scored the fifth-most points in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and haven't trailed yet this season.
Though the Sooners' third consecutive 2-0 start isn't unexpected, it's given Stoops reason to be optimistic about the rest of the season.
Oklahoma defeated Washington 37-20 at home on Sept. 9, 2006 in the only previous regular-season matchup. Prior to that, the only time these schools met was in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1985, when the fourth-ranked Huskies beat the No. 2 Sooners 28-17.
East Carolina at Tulane, 3:00 PM ET
East Carolina has been college football's biggest surprise in the first two weeks of the season. This Saturday, the surprise would be if coach Skip Holtz's 14th-ranked Pirates lose.
In the Top 25 for the first time since 1999 and sporting its highest ranking in 17 years, East Carolina seeks to remain unbeaten when it visits Tulane in the Conference USA opener for both schools.
The Pirates (2-0) have enjoyed a dream opening to the 2008 season, with consecutive upsets of ranked opponents. In their Aug. 30 opener, they stunned then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 when senior wide receiver T.J. Lee returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a touchdown with 1:52 remaining. They posted an even more impressive win last Saturday, rolling past then-No. 8 West Virginia 24-3.
Including last season's Hawaii Bowl victory over then-No. 22 Boise State, East Carolina has won its last three games - all against teams in the Top 25.
The surprising run of success has the Pirates in the poll for the first time since 1999 - also the last time they opened a season 3-0. The No. 14 ranking is their highest since 1991, when a team led by future NFL quarterback Jeff Blake finished the season ranked ninth.
The last time the Pirates played an opponent that wasn't ranked, they faced the Green Wave (0-1). East Carolina piled up 219 rushing yards while beating Tulane 35-12 at home Nov. 27 in its regular season finale.
That victory was the second straight and sixth in seven games in this series for the Pirates, who hold a 7-2 edge over the Green Wave. Tulane, however, has won two of three meetings in New Orleans.
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