Week 3 was another week that close to being a great one for college football underdog picks but ultimately fell just short of that. Vanderbilt nearly took out Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., but had to settle for the cover. North Texas was a smash hit, as the Mean Green went to Arkansas and thumped the Razorbacks outright.
Lessons learned include remembering that good teams playing at home are always difficult to beat, and (again) that playing Alabama skews everything. Arkansas State, an underdog pick in Week 2 that couldn’t cover a huge spread against the Crimson Tide, nonetheless took out one of Week 3’s underdog picks in Tulsa. Let’s just stay away from the superpower in Tuscaloosa for the time being.
This week, we mostly stay away from the plucky teams from smaller conferences and stick with some teams playing early games in their conference schedule. Lots of craziness awaits.
A final note: All of these picks should be considered ATS or straight up with some big odds in your favor for smaller bets.
Underdog pick No. 1: Minnesota
At Maryland (-3), noon ET, Big Ten Network
The shine that glowed from the Terrapins’ shells after a season-opening upset of Texas is gone after last week’s 35-14 debacle against Temple. It’s possible that this team, playing without suspended head coach D.J. Durkin, was able to make it work off of emotion for a couple of weeks but is now seeing the toll of missing its leader. But even if Maryland plays better than it did last week, Minnesota has been very solid thus far, pounding a bad team in New Mexico State, holding off a good one in Fresno State and then stifling a tricky opponent in Miami of Ohio. This is the Gophers’ first road trip, so there’s some risk there, but it feels like this line should be three points in Minnesota’s favor, not the other way around.
Pick: Minnesota +3
Underdog pick No. 2: Louisiana Tech
At LSU (-21), 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
LSU has been the surprise of the college football season thus far, notching top-10 victories against Miami and Auburn, both away from home. But what did the Tigers do in between? They slogged through a 31-0 home game against Southeastern Louisiana that wasn’t as dominant as that score shows. Ed Orgeron is an emotional coach who has a knack for getting the most out of his team in big games, but that can work against him when the Tigers play a team they’re supposed to pound. LSU will win at home, surely, but Louisiana Tech can play a little bit and is worth a play on the spread.
Pick: Louisiana Tech +21
Underdog pick No. 3: Tennessee
Vs. Florida (-4.5), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Volunteers burned the GMS college football underdog picks in their opener against West Virginia, so maybe this is an exercise in insanity, but we’re taking Tennessee again. The Vols are at home against a rival and eager to prove that under Jeremy Pruitt, they’re a legitimate threat again. Florida lost at home to Kentucky, and the Gators might struggle this year themselves. Picking them to cover a decent-sized spread on the road in a rivalry game seems insane, too. So we’re taking the Vols with the points.
Pick: Tennessee +4.5
Underdog pick No. 4: Arkansas
At Auburn (-30), 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Sticking with the SEC theme — and possibly the insanity theme — consider the Razorbacks here. Yes, Arkansas has lost back to back games to Colorado State and North Texas, and yes, Auburn has one of the season’s biggest wins, over Washington in its opener. But 30 points in an SEC game (that doesn’t involve Alabama)? That seems ridiculous. Arkansas is better than it has shown thus far and will surely play with some emotion after being embarrassed last week. Auburn also has scuffled on offense throughout the season, so 30 points seems like it should be enough to back the Hogs.
Pick: Arkansas +30
Underdog pick No. 5: Indiana
Vs. Michigan State (-5), 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
To wrap up the day, we go back to the Big Ten, where Indiana has quietly put together a nice early-season run. The Hoosiers’ three victories include a road win over Florida International and a quality win at home against Virginia. Now Indiana should have a juiced-up crowd for what’s by far its biggest game of the season so far. Michigan State was unimpressive against both Utah State and Arizona State in its first two games, and so the Spartans will put forth a quality effort here. But it’s possible these teams’ talent level isn’t all that different. And Indiana has momentum and a home crowd.
Pick: Indiana +5
SEASON RECORD: 7-10 ATS, 5-12 straight up
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