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Charlotte is 41-point underdog at Clemson on Saturday

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

There is a strong temptation in college football to define teams early in the season, especially when a traditional power delivers a high-profile clunker.

That’s where No. 11 Michigan is as the Wolverines head into the first really big Big Ten game of the season. They face No.  13 Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday. Last we saw coach Jim Harbaugh’s team it was surviving an overtime scare at the Big House against Army.

As is the case with most blue blood programs — no pun intended — non-Michigan fans generally revel in the Wolverines’ every misstep. And with Harbaugh, the coach college football fans love to hate, rooting against Michigan has never been more popular. It’s as if everybody not wearing maize and blue is suddenly from Ohio.

As cringe-worthy as Michigan’s new-fangled offense was against Army, inspiring a litany of doom-and-gloom takeaways, the Wolverines can flip that narrative and renew the playoff talk they opened the season with by handling a bunch of Badgers who have yet to allow a point.

The first three weeks of the season have been light on games matching ranked teams. There have been just three, none last week. There are that many this weekend, plus a few other teams (No. 10 Utah, No. 12 Texas and No. 16 Oregon) that want to be thought of as playoff contenders facing potentially tough conference tests.

The picks:


No. 10 Utah (minus 3½) at Southern California

It’s getting late early for the Trojans, who have not lost to the Utes at the Coliseum since joining Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011 … UTAH 28-24.

Air Force (plus 8) at No. 20 Boise State

Falcons have played the Broncos well since they have been Mountain West rivals … BOISE STATE 35-24.



Charlotte (plus 41) at No. 1 Clemson

Tigers have two more sacks (14) through three games this season than they had at this point last season with one of the most decorated defensive lines in recent history … CLEMSON 49-7.

Southern Mississippi (plus 38½) at No. 2 Alabama

Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa has thrown at least four touchdown passes in a game eight times, a school record. He has started 18 games in his career … ALABAMA 56-14.

No. 7 Notre Dame (plus 14) at No. 3 Georgia

Another big game against an elite opponent that will be very difficult for the Irish to hang with … GEORGIA 35-17.

No. 4 LSU (minus 23) at Vanderbilt

Commodores’ pass defense has been terrible and LSU QB Joe Burrow has been one of the best passers in the country … LSU 45-20.

Miami, Ohio (plus 39) at No. 6 Ohio State

Led by preseason All-America DE Chase Young (five), the Buckeyes are second in the nation with 14 sacks … OHIO STATE 49-7.

No. 8 Auburn (plus 3½) at No. 17 Texas A&M

Tigers have won all three meetings in College Station since the Aggies joined the SEC … TEXAS A&M 24-22.

Tennessee (plus 14) at No. 9 Florida

That matchup of Florida defensive line vs. Tennessee offensive line looks like a big advantage for the Gators … FLORIDA 28-10.

No. 11 Michigan (plus 3½) at No. 13 Wisconsin

Wolverines have lost four straight at Camp Randall, dating to 2005 … WISCONSIN 24-20.

Oklahoma State (plus 5½) at No. 12 Texas

Longhorns have lost four straight in the series, so maybe they’re not really back until they take care of the Cowboys? … TEXAS 34-28.

No. 15 UCF (minus 12) at Pittsburgh

UCF freshman QB Dillon Gabriel is averaging 11.6 yards per pass and has yet to throw an interception … UCF 31-21.

No. 16 Oregon (minus 10) at Stanford

Cardinal have won three straight meetings, but the current version looks nothing like what we have become accustomed to under coach David Shaw … OREGON 35-23.

UCLA (plus 18½) at No. 19 Washington State

Progress would be keeping it close into the fourth quarter for the Bruins at this point … WASHINGTON STATE 38-21.

Old Dominion (plus 30) at No. 21 Virginia

You know what, Cavaliers fans? Your team hasn’t been this good in so long, just go ahead of rush the field as much as you want … VIRGINIA 38-7.

No. 22 Washington (minus 6½) at BYU

Cougars trying to make it three straight against Power Five teams … WASHINGTON 31-23.

No. 23 California (plus 2) at Mississippi

Cal has the look of a one-week wonder in the rankings … MISSISSIPPI 24-20.

Colorado (plus 7½) at No. 24 Arizona State

Good week for a breakout game for Suns Devils RB Eno Benjamin against a wonky Buffs run defense … ARIZONA STATE 28-17.

SMU (plus 9½) at No. 25 TCU

Horned Frogs have won seven straight in the crosstown Battle for the Iron Skillet … TCU 38-24, BEST BET.


Houston (plus 5) at Tulane, Thursday —  @jefe172

This is the fourth game in 18 days for the Cougars … HOUSTON 28-27, UPSET SPECIAL.

Utah State (minus 4) at San Diego State — @realjakemcneil

QB Jordan Love and the Aggies have the No. 1 offense in the Mountain West; Aztecs are No. 2 in defense … SAN DIEGO STATE 28-27.

Appalachian State (plus 3) at North Carolina — @matthewepley

The wrong team might be favored here … APPALACHIAN STATE 28-24.

Louisville (plus 6½) at Florida State — @R_Barnes407

Every week is a referendum on the Seminoles now … FLORIDA STATE 31-23.

West Virginia (minus 4½) at Kansas —  @OKTXARPoke

Last time the Jayhawks won three games in September was 2009, which was also the last time Kansas won more than three games in a season … WEST VIRGINIA 28-21.


Last week: 15-8 straight; 15-8 against the spread.

Season: 54-17 straight; 36-32-2 against the spread.

Upset specials: 0-3 (straight up).

Best bets: 1-2 (against the spread).


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/APTop25CollegeFootballPoll and https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25



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