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MC&J: Week 3’s national slate has Tennessee looking for their first win at Florida in 20 years

Plus six other predictions for interesting games outside the Big Ten on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Tennessee Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last week ATS: 10-9 (3-5 National, 7-4 B1G)

Season ATS: 22-22 (9-14 National, 13-8 B1G)

All things considered, last week wasn’t a bad week. It would have been nice to be in the ballpark when it comes to my Ohio State final score prediction, but there is still plenty of season left. Even though I have been terrible with my national picks, I have made up for it with a couple solid weeks of Big Ten predictions. Hopefully we can get the national record on the right side of .500 soon.

National games

No. 14 LSU (-9.5) v. Mississippi State - 12:00 p.m. ET - ESPN

After falling apart in the second half against Florida State in their first game, LSU rebounded with a 72-10 win over Grambling last week. Jayden Daniels tossed five touchdown passes in the blowout, as the Tigers rolled up over 600 yards of offense on their overmatched opponent. Saturday’s contest in Starkville kicks off a stretch for LSU that will see them on the road for three of their next four contests.

Until I checked in on last week’s Arizona-Mississippi State game last week as it was heading to overtime, I had completely forgot Will Rogers is still the quarterback of the Bulldogs. This isn’t quite the same Mississippi State offense that we had become used to before the passing of head coach Mike Leach. The Bulldogs can run the football a bit, with Jo’Quavious Marks rushing for 250 yards and three scores in the first two games of the season.

Even though I know LSU has a higher ceiling because of the talent they have, it’s never easy to go into StarkVegas and grab an easy win. The cowbells are going to be in full force on Saturday afternoon, which makes me think the Bulldogs are going to push the Tigers to the limit. I’m still not completely sure if LSU is as good as we were thinking they were prior to the season, so I’ll take the unranked home team to keep things close against a ranked conference foe.

LSU 31, Mississippi State 27

No. 15 Kansas State (-4.5) v Missouri - 12:00 p.m. ET - SEC Network

Heading into last week, I was thinking that Troy might give Kansas State a game since the Trojans were returning a lot of starters from last year, while I wasn’t quite sure what we’d see from the Wildcats now that running back Duece Vaughn is in the NFL. Kansas State wouldn’t even entertain the idea of being upset, hammering Troy 42-13 in Manhattan.

While Kansas State has starting quarterback Will Howard returning, Missouri also has their starter from last year back. Brady Cook has completed 31-40 passes through two games, tossing three touchdowns. Cook’s favorite target has been Luther Burden, who has caught 15 passes already this season. Even though Cook has been smart with the football, it hasn’t translated into a ton of points, as the Tigers have scored 58 points in wins over South Dakota and Middle Tennessee State.

Even though this game is in Columbia, I like Kansas State with a rather short line. I do like some of the pieces Missouri has with Cook and Burden, I just think the Wildcats are a better team as a whole. Kansas State’s defensive line has been tremendous so far this year, and I think they push around a Missouri offensive line that has been inconsistent through the first two games. The Wildcats beat their former Big 12 foe by at least a touchdown.

Kansas State 34, Missouri 23

South Carolina v. No. 1 Georgia (-27.5) 3:30 p.m. ET - CBS

We’ll finally find out a little more about this Georgia team. The Bulldogs dominated their first two games of the season, but they didn’t really have to work too hard to lay beatdowns on UT-Martin and Ball State. It’ll be interesting to see how Georgia and Carson Beck responds if they do get a little pushback from South Carolina in this game, since the Bulldogs haven’t had to deal with any adversity in their first two games.

I wonder what type of spread we would have seen for this game if South Carolina hadn’t dropped their season opener to North Carolina. Despite the loss to the Tar Heels, Spencer Rattler’s stat line through two games has looked good, with the former Oklahoma quarterback completing 55-of-66 passes for nearly 700 yards and three passing touchdowns. Rattler will now try to solve a Georgia defense that has only allowed 10 points in two games this season.

Four touchdowns feels like a lot to lay with a Georgia team that hasn’t played anyone yet this season. Beck and the offense have been able to plod along and put up 40+ points in their first two games, but they could be without wide receiver Ladd McConkey, who missed last week’s game with a back injury. I don’t think the Bulldogs are on upset alert, I just think Rattler and the Gamecocks could score some points in garbage time to make the final score look a little more respectable.

Georgia 38, South Carolina 17

No. 11 Tennessee (-6.5) v. Florida - 7:00 p.m. ET - ESPN

2003. That was the last time Tennessee won at The Swamp. Not only have the Gators dominated the Volunteers in Gainesville, they’ve had their way with Tennessee overall in the rivalry for most of the past 20 years, winning 16 of the last 20 meetings. Last year the tide started to shift a bit, with the Volunteers winning 38-33 in Knoxville.

After not being able to do anything in their season opener against Utah, Florida was able to restore a little bit of confidence last week with a 49-7 win over McNeese State. The Gators ran all over the Cowboys, rolling up 327 yards on the ground in the victory. This week the Florida offensive line will have to be on point since Tennessee has a strong pass rush.

Even though the Volunteers should get pressure on the quarterback, at least Florida has a veteran behind center in Graham Mertz who has experience being under fire. While Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton has a cannon for an arm, I’m still not sure if he is as good as some people seem to think he is. Tennessee ends their losing streak in Gainesville, just not by more than a touchdown, as this game comes down to the wire.

Tennessee 33, Florida 30

BYU v. Arkansas (-8.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - ESPN2

Last year we got Arkansas fans going out to Provo, and this year we have BYU fans going to Fayetteville. I just wish I was there to see both games since I’m sure they were two incredible social experiments when it comes to fans traveling to areas out of their comfort zones.

Not only should this game be a fun fan experience, the football should be pretty good. We’ll have two experience quarterbacks squaring off. BYU’s starter is Kedon Slovis, who is now playing for his 14th school at the college level, while Arkansas has 14-year starting quarterback KJ Jefferson. Even though Jefferson already has five touchdown passes, it doesn’t feel like the Razorback offense is clicking. Some of that could be because they haven’t had to be at their best against Western Carolina and Kent State.

Last year Jefferson tossed five touchdowns in Arkansas’ 52-35 win over the Cougars. This year’s contest doesn’t feel like it’s going to be quite as high-scoring, especially since the Razorbacks will be without running back Raheim Sanders. BYU’s defense has looked very tough so far this season. The Cougars are going to play Arkansas tough, keeping things closer than last year’s meeting with the Hogs.

Arkansas 28, BYU 24

TCU (-7.5) v. Houston - 8:00 p.m. ET - FOX

Following their loss to Colorado to open the season, TCU bounced back with a 41-6 win over Nicholls last week. Unlike the Horned Frogs, Houston fell 43-41 in double overtime to Rice after beating UTSA 17-14 in their opener. It feels like the one thing we know about both teams in this game is that we know nothing.

Despite restoring some their confidence after beating up on a FCS opponent, I still don’t think much of TCU. The Horned Frogs lost so much from last year’s team on both sides of the football. I already didn’t think much of TCU’s defense after seeing some of their performances late last season, and I don’t really think they did much to improve the unit.

I probably wouldn’t be picking this contest if there were a few more quality games on the schedule this week. Since it’s a primetime game on national television I figured I might as well include it with the rest of the slate being rather weak. Despite their setback last week, I still like Houston getting a touchdown and the hook. I have faith that Dana Holgorsen will have something for a suspect TCU defense, while the Horned Frogs are still trying to recover from the losses of quarterback Max Duggan and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley.

Houston 35, TCU 31

Colorado State v. No. 18 Colorado (-22.5) - 10:00 p.m. ET - ESPN

Deion Sanders might be new to the state of Colorado, but I’m pretty sure he gets what this rivalry means. Especially since it’ll be the first time since 2019 that the teams have battled in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Who knows, Coach Prime might be somewhere else coaching next year if the money is right, so it could be the only chance he has to put it on the Rams.

Next week the Buffaloes have to travel to Oregon to play the Ducks, so all the good feelings about Colorado’s start to the season might not last much longer. Expect Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter, and the rest of the Buffaloes to make some big plays in front of the home crowd. If Washington State can put 50 up on the Rams, just imagine what Deion is going to want his team to score.

Over three touchdowns might seem like a lot to be laying for a Colorado team that doesn’t have a ton of depth with all the transfers during the offseason. I’ll be more worried about that next week. This week we’ll see Colorado out there having fun and piling up points against a Colorado State team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2017.

Colorado 48, Colorado State 21