Big Ten college football picks, odds in Week 3: Penn State, Michigan State face tough nonconference tests – CBS Sports

  • October 2, 2022

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After a hellacious Week 2 for the Big Ten West, which included Wisconsin’s home loss to Washington State, Northwestern’s home loss to Duke, Iowa’s home loss to Iowa State and Nebraska’s home loss to Georgia Southern, the league could use a little redemption. Week 3 brings that opportunity as 13 Big Ten squads play nonconference games against opponents with varying degrees of prestige.
On the one end, No. 4 Michigan is hosting a UConn program that is 5-34 since 2018. Then, on the other end of the spectrum are Nebraska and No. 11 Michigan State. The Cornhuskers are double-digit home underdogs against No. 6 Oklahoma in Mickey Andrews’ first game as interim coach since Scott Frost’s firing on Sunday. The Spartans, meanwhile, are underdogs on the road against Washington.
Wins in either of those two games would help repair whatever damage may have been done to the Big Ten’s reputation during last week’s run of upset losses. While No. 22 Penn State is favored at Auburn, a Nittany Lions victory on the road against an SEC West opponent would stand out, as would a Purdue road win over 2-0 Syracuse in a game regarded as a toss-up by oddsmakers.
As the Week 3 action approaches, let’s take a deeper dive into the Big Ten slate and make some picks.
Penn State won this game 28-20 at home last season with Sean Clifford completing 28 of 32 passes for 280 yards against an Auburn pass defense that turned out to be the Tigers’ biggest weakness. There is no evidence Auburn’s secondary has improved, and the Nittany Lions may be better offensively in Year 2 under coordinator Mike Yurcich. Star receiver Jahan Dotson is gone after catching 10 passes against Auburn last season, but Penn State has an excellent pass-catching trio this season in Mitchell Tinsley, Parker Washington and Keandre Lambert-Smith.
Look for at least one player from that group to break out against a Tigers defense that showed a few cracks in an uninspiring 24-16 win against San Jose State last week. With Auburn’s offense notably lacking in punch, the Nittany Lions’ aerial attack should be able to secure a cover — even if they can’t run the ball, which is pretty much the expectation at this point. Pick: Penn State (-3)
While the emotional release of Scott Frost’s firing is surely cathartic for Nebraska fans, the reality is that the Cornhuskers are 1-2 and haven’t even played a good team yet. So, the worst may be yet to come this season. Oklahoma should become the first in a procession to beat Cornhuskers while they’re down.
The Sooners offense started out with four straight punts in a 33-3 win against Kent State last week but snapped out of it and scored on their next five possessions. The Golden Flashes may also be better defensively than Nebraska, which surrendered 642 yards to Georgia Southern last week in Frost’s final game. Oklahoma isn’t great yet in Year 1 under coach Brent Venables, but the Sooners are good enough to lay a whooping on the Cornhuskers’ beleaguered defense. Pick: Oklahoma (-11.5)
This Washington team has already proven to be vastly different from the one which lost 31-10 at Michigan in Week 2 of last season. But it will still be playing just its third game under new coach Kalen DeBoer and its first against a power conference opponent. Michigan State hasn’t proven much, either, with two wins over MAC opponents. But it’s encouraging that the Spartans haven’t allowed a passing touchdown yet after how bad their secondary was last season.
Perhaps Washington State’s stunning road win over Wisconsin last week changed the calculus for what some people expect in a game with similar ingredients here. But even if Michigan State isn’t as good offensively as it was during an 11-2 season last year, it should still be able to beat a transitioning Washington program. Pick: Michigan State (+3.5)
Toledo has outscored opponents 82-10 so far this season, which sounds impressive until you consider the foes were LIU of the FCS and UMass, who were a combined 3-19 last season. The Rockets now go on the road for the first time this season to play an Ohio State team that will be looking to hit its stride ahead of its first Big Ten game against Wisconsin in Week 4. 
A lackluster offensive showing in a Week 1 win over Notre Dame appears to have cooled Vegas on these Buckeyes just a bit. But they scored easily in a 45-12 win over Arkansas State last week, and the defense has allowed just one touchdown through two games under new coordinator Jim Knowles. These in-state foes have only played three times before, and the Buckeyes covered this spread comfortably in two of those games. The one time they didn’t was in the 2011 season, which was the transition year between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. Pick: Ohio State (-31.5)
There should be some significant COS in this game, leading to a lower points total than expected. If you’re unfamiliar, COS stands for Competent Opponent Shock, and it’s what can happen when you play a decent opponent for the first time. In this case, it could impact both offenses. 
Each team ranks among the top-10 nationally in yards per play with Maryland atop the list at 8.64, but neither team has played an opponent that is even remotely competent defensively. That will change when they play each other. Even though neither team is a defensive juggernaut, both are lightyears more competent in that respect than who the other played in the first two weeks. That should snap some of these offensive numbers back to reality and keep this from becoming just a total offensive firefight Pick: Under 73.5
Given that Rutgers beat Temple 61-14 last season, and the Owls have not improved since then, this is an easy pick. The Scarlet Knights’ running game should carry it to a comfortable cover. Temple is 1-1 with a 30-0 loss at Duke and a 30-14 win over Lafayette, which is a bad FCS team. Even that 16-point victory wasn’t cemented until the fourth quarter for the Owls, who are trying to find their way under first-year coach Stan Drayton. 
Rutgers is 2-0 with a 22-21 win over Boston College and a 66-7 drubbing of Wagner. The Scarlet Knights piled up 212 yards rushing in Week 1 against a BC team that turned around and allowed just 3.2 yards per rush in a loss at Virginia Tech last week. Temple won’t have an answer for Rutgers on the ground. Pick: Rutgers (-17.5)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which favorites will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,400 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.

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