There's been a lot of talk about how there aren't any big games this week, and there's plenty of truth to it. We don't have a single matchup between ranked teams, and of the 20 games that feature ranked teams against FBS opponents (there are four against FCS teams), the average point spread is 22.9 points. Only two (Minnesota vs. North Carolina and Tennessee vs. Florida) have spreads in the single digits.
When we have weeks like this, there's always somebody quick to point out that "it's the weeks when you least expect it that have the craziest results!" I appreciate the effort, but I'm not sure it's true. Every week has crazy results; you have lower expectations for them in weeks like this. Given the spreads on these games, I don't think we'll see anything all that crazy.
Where I see the advantage in weeks like this is in my freedom picking games for this column. I include two Games of the Week here and have to find a pick for both. I'm not always overly confident in the pick, but they're the biggest games, and you wonderful readers want picks for them.
But this week? This week, I have plenty of room to find picks I genuinely like. So while these big games might not be as big as you'd like, the value is there.
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Games of the Week
No. 11 Tennessee at Florida: Remember last season when Tennessee put up a billion points on everybody not named Georgia, but because of its defense, you felt like it needed every single one of them? This year, the Vols are basically the opposite. The offense that finished 10th last season nationally with an explosive pass rate of 20.1% currently ranks 99th with a rate of 12.1%. It turns out it doesn't matter how strong your arm is if you aren't putting the ball in the right place.
Defensively, the Vols have been fantastic. They rank third in success rate, fourth in sack rate and 14th in havoc rate. Yes, the Austin Peay game skews these numbers, but the Vols were just as lethal against Virginia. This week, they face a Florida offense that ranks 89th in sack rate allowed. If Florida wants to pull off the upset, it will look to limit possessions and slow this game as much as possible. Whether it's successful or gets beaten, I don't see a scenario where the Gators score many points. So, for the first time in the history of The Six Pack, we are betting a team total. A true "where were you?" moment for this column. The Pick: Florida Under 26.5 (-115)
South Carolina at No. 1 Georgia: While we're on the subject of struggling offensive lines, let's talk Gamecocks. So far this season, South Carolina ranks 122nd in sack rate allowed, 102nd in pressure rate allowed and 122nd in yards before contact per rush. I can't see why that would be a problem against a team like Georgia! You know, the team that has sent roughly eleven billion defensive linemen to the NFL in the last two years.
Considering how much trouble South Carolina has had offensively, I can't give them the benefit of the doubt on the road against Georgia. They aren't likely to light up the scoreboard. Now, Georgia hasn't been great offensively, either. It has struggled to run the ball, but there's more under the surface here. Kirby Smart's Georgia teams typically don't run it up on opponents. However, in the last two meetings, Georgia has outscored South Carolina 38-14 in the second half of games despite being up by a combined score of 50-6 at halftime. And they weren't just handing the ball off in the second half of those games. Even after Carson Beck replaced Stetson Bennett in the third quarter last year, the Dawgs were taking some shots downfield. The Pick: Georgia -27.5 (-110)
Lock of the Week
FIU at UConn: I came into the season ready to fade UConn. I bet the under on their regular season win total of 5.5 because I expected regression. This team finished 6-7 last year but caught more than its fair share of lucky breaks in some of those wins. Considering the Huskies are 0-2 with losses to NC State and Georgia State, I'm feeling good about that. I felt even better when the news broke this week that UConn's starting QB, Joe Fagnano, is out for the rest of the season. Fagnano transferred to UConn from Maine, where he was the starter under Nick Charlton, now the offensive coordinator at UConn.
He was the hand-picked selection to run the offense after UConn struggled at QB last year. It's not a great development, though Ta'Quan Roberson (who suffered a season-ending injury of his own last year) may improve the situation. I don't see it happening this week, nor do I believe the market has caught on to FIU yet. The Panthers are far from good, but they've won two games against Maine and North Texas, thanks to the ability to hit big plays in the passing game. That's another concern for a UConn team that ranks 86th nationally in EPA allowed per dropback and 118th in defensive success rate against the pass. The Pick: FIU +7.5 (-115)
Under of the Week
UMass at Eastern Michigan: So far, we haven't seen a massive difference in how games have been played due to the new clock rules. Last season, games featured an average of 54.59 points on 68.7 plays per game for each team, and the under cashing 50.3% of the time. This year, we've seen 53.81 points per game on 67.3 plays per game for each team, and unders cashing 51.1% of the time. Sure, there's a difference, but nothing significant enough that sample size concerns can't be dismissed.
However, the two teams in this game have not seen much of the ball. UMass has averaged 56.7 plays per game on offense, which ranks 128th nationally. That's better than Eastern Michigan, which is at 50, the lowest in the country. Perhaps that's for the best because the Minutemen haven't done much with the ball when they have had it. They rank near the bottom of the nation in almost every key statistic I look at, so I won't list them all here. Granted, neither team has been incredible defensively, but I don't think we'll see the same kind of offensive fireworks here that we've seen in UMass' first three games. The Pick: Under 52.5 (-108)
Weeknight Game of the Week
Navy at Memphis (Thursday): I don't want to habitually pick on the service academies, but I don't think the market has caught onto Navy yet. I know this team got crushed by Notre Dame in its opener, and it's easy to dismiss that as "well, it was Notre Dame," but I don't think that's the whole story. Navy had plenty to do with it, too. There was a serious weather delay last week, but the Navy scoring only 24 points against Wagner doesn't inspire much confidence.
Nor does the fact Navy has lost four straight to Memphis, with the last two losses by a combined score of 72-30. Memphis threw for over 415 yards against the Mids last season, and I don't see this year going much differently. The Mids don't generate pressure and don't have the athletes at corner to cover for very long. Memphis has two dominant wins under its belt already and should add a third to its resume Thursday night. The Pick: Memphis -14 (-112)
Backyard Brawl of the Week
Pitt at West Virginia: One thing you have to do to be successful in betting on college sports is be prepared to abandon your opinions when you see evidence that you were wrong. This game is an excellent example because I spent all offseason thinking it was only a matter of time before a poor start doomed Neal Brown to be the first coach fired. Meanwhile, I was optimistic about Pitt and thought the Panthers would do their typical seven to nine-win thing. Welp, here we are in Week 3, and I'm much more concerned about Pitt than WVU.
Pitt is in a tricky spot. It has a mostly immobile QB in Phil Jurkovec playing behind an offensive line seemingly incapable of protecting him. Pitt ranks 106th in sack rate allowed and has allowed Jurkovec to be pressured on 44% of his dropbacks. That's nearly half! As you'd expect, that ranks 125th nationally. While the West Virginia defense is hit-or-miss and can be exploited in the secondary, it ranks sixth nationally in havoc rate and has 18 tackles for loss through two games. That kind of disruptive presence combined with being at home has me thinking the Mountaineers will emerge from this brawl standing, if barely. The Pick: West Virginia -1 (-110)
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week