Editor’s note: Every Thursday during the season, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel will present their picks for the week.
Below are Week 3’s selections.
EAST CAROLINA (+11) at VIRGINIA TECH (Noon, ESPN)
Mandel: Trap game! Trap game! The Hokies can’t afford to come out flat following last week’s road upset of Ohio State, because the Pirates’ Shane Carden will make them pay. But the Hokies showed last week just how much their offense has improved thanks to transfer QB Michael Brewer. And it sure is nice to have two corners the caliber of Kendall Fuller and Brandon Faycson against a passing team. Virginia Tech 24, East Carolina 20.
Feldman: I expect some letdown from the Hokies after their huge road win at Ohio State, and ECU has some legit firepower led by QB Shane Carden, who is much more of a passing threat than young J.T. Barrett. Still, I think Tech’s corners — all of ‘em: Kendall Fuller, Brandon Facyson, Chuck Clark and Donovan Riley — and the Hokies’ talent at all three levels of the D will keep the Pirates from pulling the big upset. Virginia Tech 20, ECU 17.
WEST VIRGINIA (+3.5) at MARYLAND (Noon, BTN)
Mandel: After a disappointing performance in 2013, West Virginia seems to be getting its groove back on offense. Clint Trickett is completing 75 percent of his passes — not bad when Alabama was one of the opponents. I don’t have much of a read on Maryland yet. Terps coach Randy Edsall is familiar with the Mountaineers’ personnel from last year’s 37-0 rout. Maybe his defense shuts down Trickett, but I’m leaning toward WVU. West Virginia 38, Maryland 28.
Feldman: The spark is back in the Mountaineer offense. Clint Trickett’s connected on 75 percent of his passes in WVU’s first two games, and Dana Holgorsen’s scheme and skill talent will be a big step up from what the Terps have seen so far this season. Maryland does have a couple of terrific receivers, too, but a good WVU secondary should be able to slow them down some. West Virginia 28, Maryland 24.
Mandel: Nobody saw either game, but the Red Raiders were less than impressive in their wins over Central Arkansas (42-35) and UTEP (30-26). Arkansas, meanwhile, has shown improvement from last year’s 3-9 debacle, particularly quarterback Brandon Allen, who’s thrown six touchdowns. The Razorbacks are going to spoil the party for a couple teams this season. I just don’t see it happening in Lubbock, where Raiders QB Davis Webb will have a big day. Texas Tech 38, Arkansas 35.
Feldman: Kliff Kingsbury’s squad has been very sluggish so far, but they face a Hogs team that was brutal against the pass last season. The Hogs’ talented RBs figure to have a good day against a mediocre Tech defense that was pounded by UTEP’s Aaron Jones last week. If this game were in Arkansas I’d be tempted to go with the Hogs, but my hunch is that the Red Raiders will shake off the rust and be too much for the undermanned Arkansas D. Texas Tech 34, Arkansas 27.
IOWA STATE (+10) at IOWA (3:30, ESPN)
Mandel: The Cyclones showed me more in their near-upset of Kansas State last week than the Hawkeyes have in their uninspiring wins against Northern Iowa and Ball State. Meanwhile, Iowa will likely be without standout tackle Brandon Scherff (knee) and possibly defensive end Drew Ott (scooter accident). But it’s going to be tough for ISU to bounce back quickly from last week’s heartbreaker, even against its cross-state nemesis. Iowa 21, Iowa State 14.
Feldman: The last three meetings have been decided by a combined 12 points and expect this one to be a tight one, too. The Cyclones gave K-State all it could handle last week and I think they’ll hang around against a Hawkeye team that really struggled last week against Ball State. Iowa 17, Iowa State 13.
GEORGIA (-6) at SOUTH CAROLINA (3:30, CBS)
Mandel: Georgia has spent two weeks hearing they’re now going to win the national championship. South Carolina has spent two weeks hearing they’re not very good. And the Dawgs have scored a combined four touchdowns in their past four trips to Columbia. I’ve got Georgia as one of my playoff teams and even I think they’ll be fortunate to get out of town with a W. The good news is this will be their toughest game for two months. Georgia 17, South Carolina 14.
Feldman: The Dawgs’ loaded backfield led by the great Todd Gurley faces the nation’s No. 123 defense that is allowing 567 yards a game. I was tempted to go with the Dawgs in a runaway, but there’s a little curious history that gave me pause. Carolina was actually a 4.5-point favorite in the summer and after a clunker of an opener at home against A&M and the Dawgs D’s solid debut against Clemson that’s flipped. Worth noting though: Steve Spurrier is undefeated in his last six games as a home underdog: 5-0-1. Georgia 28, South Carolina 20.
ILLINOIS (+13.5) at WASHINGTON (4, FOX)
Mandel: Illini QB Wes Lunt has been as advertised so far, throwing for more yards (741) than all but four quarterbacks nationally. He had to love watching tape of Eastern Washington QB Vernon Adams Jr. throwing for seven TDs against the Huskies last week. But I still have more faith in Shaq Thompson and the Washington defense rebounding than I do the Illini’s perennially terrible D playing well enough to win on the road. Washington 42, Illinois 24.
Feldman: Chris Petersen’s D has been really suspect in the first two games — well, except for 350-pound DT Danny Shelton. QB Cyler Miles came back from suspension to spark the UW offense and they should be a little too much for the visiting Illini, although Wes Lunt (7 TDs, 1 INT, 67 percent completion rate) should do some damage against the Huskies’ secondary. Washington 30, Illinois 21.
PENN STATE (-3.5) at RUTGERS (8, BTN)
Mandel: I watched these teams practice on consecutive days last March. Penn State clearly had the superior quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, but Rutgers looked more talented at the other skill positions. And oft-maligned QB Gary Nova looks considerably improved under new mentor Ralph Friedgen. He and RB Paul James will have enough success against Penn State’s defense to counter Hackenberg and give the Scarlet Knights a triumphant Big Ten debut. Rutgers 24, Penn State 21.
Feldman: The Nittany Lions’ D has been pretty good, holding opponents to 262 yards per game, although RU’s terrific Paul James will give them some trouble. However, expect Christian Hackenberg and a potent group of young wideouts and athletic tight ends to gash an underwhelming Rutgers pass defense. Penn State 27, Rutgers 23.
Mandel: Boston College QB Tyler Murphy struggled for much of his one season as starter at Florida and did not fare much better last week against Pitt, going 10-of-28 for 134 yards. That does not bode well against Leonard Williams and the Trojans’ D. Their best hope is that USC is hungover from last week’s Stanford win and jet-lagged from the cross-country trip east, but even then BC doesn’t likely have the firepower to hang with the Trojans. USC 31, Boston College 10.
Feldman: As much drama as Steve Sarkisian’s program has had, a long trip to the East Coast might not be a bad thing, especially since they won’t have to deal with an early kickoff. The Eagles have looked dreadful so far, but maybe mobile QB Tyler Murphy can make a few plays against a Trojan program that in recent years (under other defensive coordinators at least) has struggled with running quarterbacks. Even still, while BC may have an experienced O-line, they just don’t have enough speed to stay with the Trojans for four quarters. USC 34, Boston College 14.
TENNESSEE (+20.5) at OKLAHOMA (8, ABC)
Mandel: We may get a good sense of how far the Vols have come since Butch Jones’ arrival, not by whether they win (which they won’t) but whether this young group is more competitive in Norman than last year’s team was in a 59-14 Week 3 loss at Oregon. The guess here is Tennessee’s defense keeps Trevor Knight and the Sooners in check for a half before it gets away from them. Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 13.
Feldman: The Sooners have looked dominant thus far and they’ll be getting a visit from one of the youngest teams in the country. I think Butch Jones’ bunch is still a year or so from being ready for a test like this, and they’re just too green on both lines to stay competitive in Norman. Oklahoma 27, Tennessee 10.
UCLA (-7.5) vs. TEXAS (8, FOX)
Mandel: UCLA has certainly had its issues, particularly up front, but Texas flat-out doesn’t have players right now. Add receiver Jaxon Shipley to the list of missing persons on offense. Expect the Bruins’ defense to blow up the ‘Horns’ patchwork O-line and slow down Texas’ only real hope, its running game. QB Brett Hundley doesn’t run nearly as often as BYU’s Taysom Hill but his ability to get out of the pocket will still cause problems – if he has time to throw. UCLA 21, Texas 0.
Feldman: The Bruins struggled in their first two games a lot more than most expected. Their O-line has been terrible, giving up more negative yardage plays than anyone in the country, but they are getting a little healthier and despite this one being played in Texas, UT is just way too undermanned on offense to knock off a Bruins team with a bunch of studs in its front seven. UCLA 24, Texas 12.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN (+18) at GEORGIA TECH (Noon, FSN)
Mandel: Sadly, Paul Johnson’s former school moved away this year from running his old triple-option offense, negating a potential mirror-image game. But new coach Willie Fritz’s spread-option attack is doing just fine. Georgia Southern, a year after winning at Florida, fell 24-23 at NC State in its opener, then racked up 695 yards (including 599 on the ground) in an 83-9 win over Savannah State. And you know the FBS newcomers will be fired up to face an in-state ACC school. Georgia Southern 27, Georgia Tech 24.
TOLEDO (+11) at CINCINNATI (Friday, 7, ESPNU)
Feldman: The Bearcats are facing an experienced O-line and pretty good MAC program that’s had two weeks to get the kinks out, and even though the Rockets are without Phillip Ely at QB, Matt Campbell is very encouraged by the depth and talent he has right behind the Bama transfer. Toledo 24, Cincy 23.