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MC&J: Alabama-Florida takes center stage in Week 3’s national schedule

Alabama will be looking for their eighth straight win against the Gators, plus picks for five other solid national contests.

Mercer v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 6-10 (3-3 National, 3-7 B1G)

Season ATS: 15-16-1 (7-6 National, 8-10-1 B1G)

This week’s picks for the games involving B1G teams can be found here.

National games:

No. 15 Virginia Tech v. West Virginia (-3) - 12:00 PM EST - FS1

It feels like a crime that Virginia Tech and West Virginia don’t play every year. From 1991 to 2003 the two schools were members of the Big East contest, with the Hokies holding an 8-5 edge during that time. Overall, West Virginia is 28-23-1 against Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have won the last three meetings.

Virginia Tech surprised me a bit by taking down North Carolina in their season opener. The Hokies might have a little more than to work with than I originally thought heading the season. One hit Justin Fuente’s team has taken recently is they lost tight end James Mitchell for the rest of the season due to injury.

While there is a lot of things that West Virginia does right, what worries me about the Mountaineers is the issues they had with turnovers against Maryland. West Virginia turned the football over four times against the Terrapins, and we could see another repeat performance against a tough Virginia Tech defense. This game is going to be a grind. Virginia Tech plays a little smarter football, which is why I like them to make it four in a row against the Mountaineers.

Virginia Tech 24, West Virginia 20

No. 1 Alabama (-14.5) v. No. 11 Florida - 3:30 PM EST - CBS

A very popular pick this week seems to be Florida. I don’t know if I’m buying it. Alabama looked invincible in their season opener against Miami. Even though the Crimson Tide has had to replace a lot of offense this year, they always have backups that could start on pretty much any other team in the country. Bryce Young has tossed seven touchdowns in the first two games of the season, with two of those going to former Ohio State wide receiver Jameson Williams.

Florida has also had to replace some offensive pieces this year. Gone are Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson have been fine for the Gators so far this year, but this will undoubtedly be their toughest test. Florida will get a little help since Alabama will be without linebacker Christopher Allen, and Will Anderson has been dealing with some injury issues.

I get wanting to take Florida with the points, especially after how the Gators played Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last year. The problem is I just don’t know how Florida is going to pass the football in this one. If the Crimson Tide jump out to an early lead it will make the Gators one-dimensional. I just think Alabama ends up smothering Florida in Gainesville. While the score won’t be as lopsided as when Alabama beat Miami a couple weeks ago, the Crimson Tide will win by at least 17.

Alabama 38, Florida 17

USC (-8) v. Washington State - 3:30 PM EST - FOX

USC is finally free! I’ve been saying for years that Clay Helton was not a good coach, and the Trojans finally pulled the trigger on sending Helton packing after USC quit against Stanford last week. I expect that we’ll see a lot better performance from the Trojans since they can play a little more relaxed now that Helton has been kicked to the curb.

Washington State has coaching issues of their own. The thing is, their coaching issues are mainly from an off-the-field issue, as Nick Rolovich has refused to get the COVID-19. While that’s Rolovich’s choice, it is obviously not helping the team’s performance on the field. The Cougars lost in their season opener before beating up on Portland State last week.

I expect we’ll get a big day from Kedon Slovis and the USC offense. Washington State has been awful on defense, which will play right into USC’s hands. While the Cougars will put up some points, the Trojans will get enough stops to add to Rolovich’s woes.

USC 41, Washington State 28

Tulane v. No. 17 Ole Miss (-14) - 8:00 PM EST - ESPN2

This could be one of the most exciting games of the weekend. Both Tulane and Ole Miss can put points on the board, so the better bet for this game might be the over, which sits at 76. In each of their first two games this year, both teams have scored at least 35 points.

Tulane has already shown they can hang with one of the best teams in the country this year, only losing by five against Oklahoma in their season opener. What was more impressive about the Green Wave was they didn’t give up in the game despite falling behind the Sooners by 23 points.

Lane Kiffin’s team looks like they could be a contender in the SEC West. Obviously the Rebels will know where they stand in a couple weeks when they take on Alabama. Matt Corral has thrown six touchdowns already this year, and the Ole Miss offense is averaging 600 yards per game.

What I like about taking Tulane in this game is even if they do fall behind by a few scores, they have the offensive firepower to at least thrown some touchdowns late in the game to bring the final deficit closer. I think we get a focused Ole Miss squad since they have a bye next week before taking on Alabama, but Tulane is up to the task and keeps things close enough.

Ole Miss 45, Tulane 34

No. 19 Arizona State (-4) v. No. 23 BYU - 10:15 PM EST - ESPN

BYU has certainly been tested so far this year. The Cougars are already 2-0 against Pac-12 teams, taking down Arizona and Utah in the first two games of the year. Not only did BYU snap their losing streak against Utah last week, they pretty much dominated their rivals, which is something I didn’t see coming. Jaren Hall has done a great job taking over for Zach Wilson, throwing five touchdowns this year.

We still don’t know a lot about Arizona State since they have only played Southern Utah and UNLV so far this year. Sparky has Jayden Daniels at quarterback, which should help in the hostile environment they’ll face in Provo. The thing is, Daniels is going to face a ton of heat from the BYU pass rush. To me this game feels like a toss-up, so I’ll side with the home team and the points.

BYU 27, Arizona State 24

Fresno State v. No. 13 UCLA (-11) - 10:45 PM EST - Pac-12 Network

UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. Chip Kelly has the Bruins on the rise. Zach Charbonnet continues to impress now that he has the Michigan stink off of him, rushing for 223 yards and four touchdowns in two games. Even more impressive for UCLA has been their rush defense, which is giving up just 37.5 yards per game.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, Fresno State is going to take to the air in the game. Jake Haener, who started his college career at Washington, is lighting it up passing the football, throwing for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns through three games. The Fresno State defense has been pretty good as well, holding Oregon largely in check in the close loss to the Ducks a few weeks ago.

UCLA had a bye last week, which means they’ve had two weeks of hearing how great they are. Not that the Bruins aren’t talented, I just don’t know if LSU is quite as good as everyone thinks they are. Fresno State has proved they are a good team, so I see this game being decided by single digits. UCLA is pushed to the wire, much like Oregon didn’t win until late against the Bulldogs.

UCLA 35. Fresno State 31