Clear Your Schedule | Week 3, 2023

By Brian Wilmer -

Greetings, earthlings!

This week features one of the slates that is drawing heavy criticism on Twitter, X — or hell, whatever it’s now called — for being too “thin”. To translate, it is not a weekend loaded with “name-brand” matchups. Stop focusing on “big” games, kids. They’re fun, but there’s more to life.

Lest I get into a sermon, off we go.

Sunday Stories

It’s time for the four biggest stories from the week prior in college football. Agreement is not required, but I always appreciate it.

Battle in Brookings: Speaking of not following name brands, we said here last week that you needed to watch Montana State-South Dakota State. Hopefully, you followed that advice. The matchup of the top two teams in FCS in the Beef Bowl did not disappoint, as the ‘Jacks survived a wild end-of-game flurry — and what most thought was a game-winning touchdown toss — to knock off the Bobcats, 20-16. SDSU limited Montana State to just 26.7 percent (4-for-15) on third downs and forced two red-zone field goals in late stops to help secure the win. The rankings did not suffer — both teams are still in the top two or three, depending on your poll of choice — and I’m pretty confident in saying that anyone who watches FCS football would sign up for that one again in Frisco. That said, there are a lot of good teams biting at their heels.

FCS near-misses:  There was a little FCS-on-FBS crime last week, as Fordham trekked to Buffalo and claimed a 40-37 victory to go with its check. Southern Illinois also claimed an FBS decision, knocking off Northern Illinois, 14-11. There were some other opportunities, however. Boston College clipped Holy Cross, 31-28, in a downpour. New Hampshire dropped a 45-42 decision at Central Michigan. Morgan State fell to Akron, 24-21. Finally, in one of the most exciting results of the night, Fresno State scored a 34-31, two-overtime result against Eastern Washington.

What’s Brian’s sure-to-be-incorrect prediction for the FCS team that gets one this week? I’m going with North Dakota on the blue turf.

Weather rules the day:  Many Saturday games were delayed by weather, including two of the bigger games in the Old Dominion. Virginia featured the bigger story, where freshman Anthony Colandrea went 20-for-26 for 377 yards and two scores. The ‘Hoos were still unable to hold on — despite covering — against JMU, as the Dukes scored 12 unanswered in the final quarter and knocked off UVa, 36-35. Colandrea returned to the bench this week  as a reward, and the 0-2 Cavaliers face off with former ACC rival Maryland in yet another bad matchup.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, fought back from a 17-0 deficit early in the second quarter to draw level on a TD toss from Grant Wells to Jaylin Lane just before the interval. The Hokies then fell apart on offense in the second half, with Hudson Card providing the lone second-half score on a two-yard TD run midway through the fourth. Liberty got another solid effort under center from Kaidon Salter and 106 rushing yards from Quinton Cooley to top New Mexico State, 33-17.

Not for nothing, but the Commonwealth Cup looks to be unwatchable, yet again.

Texas, the opposite of front:  Alabama minus-7 seemed like the sucker bet of the year going into last week. The Longhorns laughed at that number — and the single-digit home losses in Nick Saban’s career — in a 34-24 victory in Tuscaloosa. Texas scored 21 fourth-quarter points in the victory, with two Ewers-to-Mitchell hookups accentuating the outburst. Ewers carved the Tide defense, going 24-for-34 for 349 yards and three scores. The usual — ha — stumbling block of Kansas looms for the ‘Horns after a sneaky tough contest with Wyoming this weekend. Oh — and there’s that Red River Showdown hanging out early in October…

Bad Bets

And now for the time that I show off my complete lack of handicapping skills. I make no claims to the contrary. With that, here’s what you’ll read every week:

I’ll pick four games each week, with many not in the huge P5 windows, because I tend to color outside those lines a bit. I’ll just pick straight lines as they are listed on the day I pick them — no money lines, no teasing, nothing else.  I’ll keep track of my record as the season goes along, and you can trash me in the comments each week for my lack of prediction prowess.

NOTE:  None of the text within is meant to serve as gambling advice. This is largely meant for parody and light-hearted review. At no point should any of the picks in this article be construed as gambling advice offered by or me.

Week 2

JMU (-6) at Virginia 
JMU 36, Virginia 35. We already mentioned most of this outcome earlier. Good teams win, great teams cover — I guess, anyway.

Nebraska at #22 Colorado (-3) 
Colorado 36, Nebraska 14. The Buffaloes are 2-0, Matt Rhule looks more like Panthers Matt Rhule than Baylor or Temple Matt Rhule, and now every media member with a pulse will be in attendance for Colorado-Colorado State.

#20 Ole Miss at #24 Tulane (+7.5)
Ole Miss 37, Tulane 20. Tulane had a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Rebels outscored them 30-3 the rest of the way. No half points, though.

#11 Texas at #3 Alabama (-7)
Texas 34, Alabama 24. And now you see why I always tell you I’m not offering gambling advice.

Week 2 (1-3 last week, 2-6 this season)

#15 Kansas State (-4) at Missouri (noon, SECN)
Liberty (-3) at Buffalo (noon, CBSSN)
East Carolina at Appalachian State (-8.5) (3:30, ESPN+)
Western Kentucky (+29.5)
at Ohio State (4:00, FOX)

And finally, here are the four “under-the-radar” games I’ll be watching this week and how to watch them. I’ll also include lines if there are any — for informational purposes only, naturally, as outlined in the above disclaimer. I don’t yet have a name for this section. All times are Eastern.

#5 Idaho (2-0) at Cal (1-1) (4:00, Pac-12 Network):  Jason Eck’s Vandals are fun! Idaho got a big FBS win in their last outing, clobbering Nevada in a 33-6 decision. They have a shot at another in Berkeley against a Cal team that looked quite ordinary in a loss to Auburn last week.
LINE:  NA as of press time.

UMass (1-2) at Eastern Michigan (1-1) (2:00, ESPN+)All the excitement around UMass following its Week 0 victory over New Mexico State feels like years ago, as the Minutemen have dropped their next two and venture to Rynearson Stadium in search of something to right the ship. If you’re near Ypsilanti, drop in — the in-the-door price starts at $8.
LINE:  Eastern Michigan -7.

Murray State (1-1) at Middle Tennessee (0-2) (7pm, ESPN+):  The resurrection of a long-time rivalry takes the turf at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium Saturday night. Nick Vattiato has gotten off to a great start for the Raiders, completing 43-of-68 tosses against two SEC foes. MTSU came close to a win at Faurot Field against Missouri last Saturday night, before finally succumbing in a 23-19 decision to the Tigers. Murray got thumped by in-state foe Louisville, 56-0, the last time out, but will look to make the most of a trip to Murfreesboro before things get really tough in MVFC action.
LINE:  NA as of press time.

JMU (2-0) at Troy (1-1) (7pm, NFLN)The Dukes travel to Alabama off the high of a road win against an ACC opponent and will be greeted by a game Trojan club to open Sun Belt play. Troy is the defending league champ, and this is a fun conference opener between two teams that will look to hoist a banner this season. As a side note, these two former 1-AA powers have only played against each other with both at that level, and only in the first round of the playoffs. Troy won the only game played between the two in its facility, a 27-7 final in 1999.

LINE:  Troy -2.5.

Don’t let people tell you this is a bad weekend to watch college football. Every weekend is a great weekend when the ball is in the air.

Happy trails, folks.

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