Fairway’s Football Forecast: College Football Picks Week 3

The Week 3 NCAA free pick series, where we are looking for value plays and underdogs in NCAA football. Fairway's Football Forecast examines four games looking for a maximum payout

Identifying College Football Underdogs and Parlays for Profit

Losing week 2 and a tough pick-6 in the closing minutes last week turned our No. Illinois +10.5 pick from an easy winner into a late loser, 17-6. Utah had the ball inside their own 20 yard line leading 10-6 with less than 3 minutes to go, but couldn’t get a first down to run out the clock. A punt and 40-yard pick-6 turned the tide. Line shopping at the sportsbooks is always important, as most still won with the line moving to +12.5 on game day.

We continue our risk vs. reward and search for value and live underdogs in our weekly pursuit of profit. Competitively-priced underdogs are always worth examining, as many of these barking 'Dogs can not only have your wager secured in the later stages of a football game, but some will also have a solid shot to win outright. Such was the case with Northern Illinois, and we’ll try to avoid the rough and hazards and make more birdies each week on the gridiron.

We’re seeing some significant line adjustments and moves, including totals, as the bookmakers adjust to the market, power ratings and some of the perception and performances of teams. As is annually the case during the opening four weeks of the college football season, there is over-reaction to some team's performances, both good and bad, and often line value to be had with public perception not always clear. Many bettors will have a tougher time supporting 'bad' or poor performing teams early in the season, and still line up with more Power 5 teams against smaller conference teams who are better than many realize. But the proof will be in the pudding, and it's up to us and you to have the balls to play value and not fall for the bait that is often an inflated line against a poor performing or even underrated team.

That said, college football is often a momentum sport, so the trick is the find the treat for those teams that can bounce back from poor performances, and other 'Dogs playing well but not getting enough credit in the marketplace or playing a team that is not as good as their current play has shown. We do play favorites, and are willing to ride a hot hand. But for this exercise and our weekly college football forecast, we're looking to isolate underdogs that can bite and deliver the green.

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Follow along in Fairway's Foursome as we fire for the flag and go for the green in our weekly pursuit of profit (doggy style) with Fairway's Football Forecast.

Here's a brief recap of some underdogs of note that won outright last week. We'll keep to FBS games and opponents only.

South Florida (+3.5) vs Georgia Tech – Bulls won 49-38
Eastern Michigan (+15) at Purdue – Eagles won 20-19
Duke (+3) at Northwestern – Blue Devils won 21-7
Navy (+6.5) vs Memphis – Midshipmen won 22-21
East Carolina (+15) vs North Carolina – Pirates won 41-19
Buffalo (+4.5) at Temple – Bulls won 36-29
Colorado (+3) at Nebraska – Buffaloes won 33-28
UL Monroe (+6) at So. Miss – Warhawks won 21-20
Kentucky (+13.5) at Florida – Wildcats won 27-16
Arkansas at Colorado State (+13.5) – Rams won 34-27
Michigan State at Arizona State (+6) – Sun Devils won 16-13

This week's underdog plays – Shop lines at the leading offshore sports books.
116 Toledo (+11) vs Miami, FL – Rockets Money Line +325
126 Syracuse (+3) vs Florida State – Orange Money Line +130
173 North Texas (+7) at Arkansas – Mean Green Money Line +210
210 San Diego State (+6) vs Arizona State – Aztecs Money Line +175
$20 3-Team Money Line Parlay = $1,646
$20 4-Team Parlay = $220

Miami at Toledo – Rockets won 11 games last season and may be stronger this season. Toledo will be rested and ready for redemption off an early season bye week, while Miami sort of had one last week too, with a 77-0 wipeout of Savannah State. But ‘Canes looked outclassed with poor play vs. LSU in opener and a balanced Toledo offense with solid offensive line and strong skill players at RB and WR can score. Miami rolled over the Rockets last season 52-30 when they were a top-15 team and riding a 10-game winning streak until troubles surfaced, along with losses at the end of the season, and to start this year against LSU. ACC affiliation and brand name won’t shatter Toledo in the Glass Bowl, where the Rockets also have the stronger special teams and will put up a stronger challenge.

Syracuse vs Florida State free pickFlorida State at Syracuse – Trouble for new coach Taggert and his Indians as the Seminoles try to straighten things out on the conference road. Syracuse has lost 1-straight to FSU, but nearly snapped the streak last year outgaining FSU by 120 yards in a 27-24 defeat. Now the high-scoring Syracuse offense that piled up 50+ points in it’s opening two games can take advantage of a weakened FSU team that was shut down by Virginia Tech 24-3 in the opener, as QB Francois threw 3 INT’s. Last week the ‘Noles allowed 525 yards including 475 passing to FCS Samford and only escaped 36-26 thanks to 5 Sanford turnovers. Florida State won’t escape this week as ‘Cuse QB Dungey and coach Babers boys tomahawk the Seminoles.

North Texas at Arkansas – That stench you smell is a porky pig that got roughed up and Rammed at Colorado State last week as a 13.5-point favorite in a 34-27 defeat. Now the stinky hogs return home to play a better and more complete non-power 5 team in North Texas, who has lost 19-straight games to SEC opponents, but is 5-0 ATS in their last five against the superior SEC. First-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris came over from SMU, where his Mustangs defense were annually deficient. Arkansas was out-rushed by E. Illinois in its ugly opener and gained just 80 yards on the ground against an inferior foe. Last week Arkansas allowed nearly 400 passing yards to Colorado State. That should have North Texas QB Fine ready to fire, as he’s passed for more than 900 yards in the Mean Greens 2-0 start. Big step up in class to SEC opponent on the road, but this Razorback team is hogwash.

San Diego State underdog pickArizona State at San Diego State – Last week we gave out Arizona State (+6) as a bonus pick on these pages and the Sun Devils wore down Michigan State in the 2nd half for a ‘Death in the Desert’ 16-13 victory. It was a solid spot for new ASU coach Herm Edwards’ team, who will try to avoid a letdown off that big home win and now traveling for the first time with the big game against Washington on deck. San Diego State tries to rally after losing their starting QB Chapman and DL Hall last week to injuries, a big blow to a pair of seniors who will be out up to 6 weeks and 3 weeks respectively. Still, while we soften our stance a bit on SDSU, we still roll with Rocky Long’s solid 3-3-5 defense, which is also ASU’s defensive scheme with its new defensive coordinator coming over from San Diego State. Less scoring likely again.

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay