An age-old argument will get another bullet point this week. Fans of the SEC and Big Ten have been at odds for decades about which conference reigns supreme in college football and, until recently, that debate was to be had. This week, two of the heavyweights from each conference – No. 22 Auburn and No. 10 Penn State – square off in one of college football’s most electric environments, Beaver Stadium.
While Auburn versus Penn State might be the marquee matchup of the weekend, the Cincinnati Bearcats get a test on the road against Indiana. It’s a potential statement game for Cincy, which is looking to become the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff.
Let’s take a look at the best matchups of College Football Week 3 with accompanying betting lines.
College football Week 3 odds
Top games of College Football Week 3
No. 8 Cincinnati () at Indiana
It’s not often that a program from the Group of Five is favored over a Power Five team at this level. The Hoosiers are off to a tough start but are still a good football team. However, they’re at home and are still underdogs against Cincinnati – which is projected for 10 wins this year. This game features two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the midwest– Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
One matchup to watch is Cincy’s electric defense, including their returning cornerback tandem of upperclassmen Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, against Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle. Fryfogle torched Ohio State’s secondary a season ago for three scores in a near-upset. Gardner and Bryant (and occasionally nickel corner Arquon Bush, also a returning starter) will have their hands full with the Hoosiers.
The game’s been picked up on ESPN and Cincinnati versus Indiana has the potential to be the matchup of Week 3.
No. 1 Alabama () at No. 11 Florida
If this year’s matchup is anything like last year’s SEC Championship Game, we’re in for a treat. Both teams have new quarterbacks and new WR1s, but the foundational talent and coaching is still in place. Florida quarterback Emory Jones squares off against an experienced and deep Alabama secondary led by safety Jordan Battle. Battle, a senior, is a projected first round pick and benefits from a strong pass rush, led by Will Anderson Jr.
Florida’s top corner, Kaiir Elam, gets Alabama star receiver John Metchie III. The Gators’ secondary in 2020 was a liability, dragging the team to allowing their most points per game in over six decades. If they maintain their level of play from the first two weeks, Bryce Young and Alabama’s receiving corps may have a field day.
Though the Tide are heavy favorites in this one, don’t discount Florida. Dan Mullen has a track record of being able to hang with the big boys of the conference.
Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma ()
Will this game be a tightly-contested slugfest on the field? Probably not. However, this is one of the most interesting matchups of Week 3 since it’s a revival of an old Big 12 rivalry. The Cornhuskers were a powerhouse in the 1990s behind a transformational offense led by Tommie Frazier. Today, Oklahoma is the powerhouse with a transformational offense under coach Lincoln Riley.
Nebraska at the very least returns a very experienced defense, with five players returning for their NCAA-granted fifth season. Their lack of a pass rush turned into a lackluster defense a season ago, something the Huskers will need to find in order to hang with the Sooners. Nebraska hasn’t proven to be very good on the field this season– having dropped their opener to Illinois. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is looking for another College Football Playoff berth after stumbling out of the gate a season ago. The Sooners should be able to outpace Nebraska in this one.
Look past the potential for an easy Oklahoma win and soak in a rivalry matchup we haven’t seen since 2010.
No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State ()
Similarly to Ohio State and Michigan’s inter-conference matchups a week ago, a lot of pride is rolling on this Auburn versus Penn State game. While Auburn may not be the SEC’s elite team anymore, they’re still a competitive team that helps bolster the SEC’s argument for top dog. The Tigers have a tough test heading to Happy Valley for a primetime game on national television (ABC), though.
Penn State won their last four games of the 2020 season and began to look like the team we expected. However, the Nittany Lions will have to find a new front seven, with just one player returning. Auburn returns four starting offensive linemen, making this a battle Penn State will have to put special focus on. Penn State’s secondary returns a ton of experience, though, which should be an advantage against Bo Nix and a brand new receiving corps.
The Nittany Lions are favored at home, but this should be a neck-and-neck matchup between two of the premier programs from the Big Ten and SEC.