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The best upset picks for Week 3 of the college football season

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

September 13th, 2021

If you like upsets, you’ve come to the right sport. After a wild weekend that saw Ohio State, USC, and Florida State all lose in shocking ways, we’re looking forward to Week 3 when the next round of underdogs will get their chance to bark.

Here are five games with major upset potential in the week ahead.

Purdue vs. Notre Dame

Sat, September 18 2021, 6:30 PM

Notre Dame

Moneyline

-275

Spread

-6.5

Total

O 59.5

Purdue

Moneyline

+195

Spread

+6.5

Total

U 59.5

Notre Dame is 2-0 straight up while sitting 0-2 against the spread, and in Week 3 they face regional rival Purdue for a game that will give one of these teams their first loss of the season.

The Irish have struggled in each of their opening wins, narrowly defeating Florida State on the road in an overtime game where they squandered an 18-point lead with porous run defense. Last week it was Toledo that took them to the wire, holding the lead late until a tough throw by quarterback Jack Coan sealed the victory, 32-29.

The Irish have talent, but clearly aren’t a top 10 caliber team, and keep winning despite their obvious vulnerabilities. Now they must face a Purdue team that has veteran third-year quarterback Jack Plummer running the offense and an elite wide receiver in David Bell. Bell is averaging 18.2 yards per catch with three touchdowns through two games, and should get an opportunity at the next level.

I have gone against the Irish in their first two games, and I’ll continue to ride that train until it shows signs of slowing down.

Auburn vs. Penn State

Sat, September 18 2021, 11:30 PM

Penn State

Moneyline

-230

Spread

-6.5

Total

O 53.5

Auburn

Moneyline

+185

Spread

+6.5

Total

U 53.5

The Auburn Tigers have new head coach Bryan Harsin, who comes from Boise State and is still developing his offense with players recruited and groomed by Gus Malzahn. Boise has always had an "anyone, anywhere" mentality, and I expect Harsin to bring that to this roster as well.

Penn State easily put up 44 points against lightweight Ball State last week, but in their first game their offense was anemic against Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s defense is elite, but it was still an unimpressive showing.

Auburn has played two cupcakes to start their season, so this will be their first true competition of the year. However, QB Bo Nix has athleticism and grit, and this is still an SEC roster with lots of talent that should relish this atmosphere. If Harsin is the answer for this program, a big road win against a Big Ten blue blood would certainly be a huge first step.

Florida State vs. Wake Forest

Sat, September 18 2021, 7:30 PM

Wake Forest

Moneyline

-240

Spread

-6.5

Total

O 61.5

Florida State

Moneyline

+190

Spread

+6.5

Total

U 61.5

Florida State looked horrible in their Week 2 loss as 28-point favorites against Jacksonville State, but there were a lot of self-inflicted wounds that can likely be corrected. From the start, the Seminoles' offense looked unconvincing and lazy. The coaching staff did the player no favors, rotating multiple players at every skill position, and the result was a shocking loss on a Hail Mary in a defensive play call that was simply inexcusable.

But beyond the loss, some clear signs of improvement are occurring with Florida State, most notably in the play of their offensive and defensive lines. Several defensive line transfers have significantly upgraded the pass rush, and they have eight sacks through two games after accumulating just nine in all of 2020.

The 'Noles have the talent edge, and the culture appears improved from past rosters. If head coach Mike Norvell sticks with his best options and doesn’t continue to cycle through young players in pursuit of depth and equal playing time, the Seminoles team we saw against Notre Dame will be good enough to get its first win of the season on the road.

Arkansas State vs. Washington

Sat, September 18 2021, 8:15 PM

Washington

Moneyline

-715

Spread

-16.5

Total

O 58.5

Arkansas State

Moneyline

+480

Spread

+16.5

Total

U 58.5

The Huskies' defense is elite and will absolutely keep Washington in a lot of games this season. The offense, however, is lost and ineffective, and will keep them from winning a lot either.

The Huskies are now 0-2 straight up and 0-2 against the spread, and with a new coaching regime there is very little reason to think they will pivot off their current course this early in year one. To cover double-digit spreads, the favorite has to score points either methodically or in spurts, and nothing about this Huskies offense appears capable of either.

The Sun Belt has recently shown no fear in taking on power conference foes, and Arkansas State was able to put 50 points on the scoreboard last week.

USC vs. Washington State

Sat, September 18 2021, 7:30 PM

Washington State

Moneyline

+230

Spread

+9

Total

O 61.5

USC

Moneyline

-295

Spread

-9

Total

U 61.5

This is probably the most obvious live underdog on the whole card, and for that reason might actually make it feel like the biggest "dog trap", but clearly things are in turmoil at USC. Head coach Clay Helton’s seat has never been hotter, and after an ugly 42-28 loss to Stanford, so many questions have arisen about this roster’s toughness.

A road trip to Pullman has never been the cure for the Trojans’ woes, and USC has only covered the spread in 17 of their last 54 road trips.

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