College football Week 3 betting preview

Week 3 college gridiron action kicks off Friday night in Tampa when the Matt Grothe and the South Florida Bulls host Mark Mangino's Kansas Jayhawks in a matchup of Top 20 teams. Grothe will be out to redeem himself for a poor performance against KU two years ago and will no doubt be looking for wideout Taurus Johnson and tight end Cedric Hill who have caught three of his five TD passes this season.

Week 3 is when we start getting serious on the college football scene. Teams are either getting into the thick of conference play, or they’re looking to build up their status against a non-conference opponent of the non-cupcake variety. While everyone is gearing up for Ohio State-USC on Saturday night, make sure to get a good handle on these other two games that have sharps talking this week.

No. 13 Kansas at No. 19 South Florida (-3½, 48½)
Friday, Sep 12, 8:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN2

Two underrated schools looking to make their way up the rankings go head-to-head on Friday night as South Florida (2-0, 0-1 ATS) hosts Kansas (2-0, 1-1 ATS).

This is the first real test for both teams, although the Bulls had their fair share of trouble with Central Florida last week. South Florida needed overtime to get by the Hurricanes 31-24, failing to cover as 13.5-point road favorites on the betting odds at the window.

USF needs a more complete effort if it expects to cash against Kansas, which has picked up right where it left off in 2007. The Jayhawks rolled past Louisiana Tech 29-0 last week as 21-point home faves, as the game played under the 53-point total listed by oddsmakers. The under was the fifth straight for Kansas dating back to last season, and its seventh in its last 10 games.

The total is all over the board, ranging from 47 to 50 depending on the sportsbook. Looks like bettors are having a hard time reconciling the Jayhawks’ under trend with the possibility that we could be in for a shootout between Kansas quarterback Todd Reesling and South Florida counterpart Matt Grothe.

No. 2 Georgia at South Carolina (+7½, 45)
Saturday, Sep 13, 3:30 p.m. (ET) CBS

If South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 ATS) is looking for an opportunity to make amends for their 24-17 upset loss at Vanderbilt last week, here’s its chance.

A win over Georgia (2-0, 1-0 ATS) would turn the trick, as well as turn the entire SEC on its head in the first full week of conference play. It’s not like it hasn’t happened recently – Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks surprised the Bulldogs 16-12 last fall as 3½-point road pups, and this time they’ll have the benefit of homefield advantage.

Handicappers could be using that as their hook into betting South Carolina, because public players are doing the opposite. About 75% of money on the spread has gone the way of Georgia, which means we will likely see some movement on the line in that direction before kickoff.

Squares are likely looking at the Bulldogs’ 56-17 drubbing of Central Michigan last week as 24-point home favorites, although it could simply be the combination of running back Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford. Moreno already has six touchdowns through two games, while Stafford is a Heisman Candidate in his own right.

Totals bettors should note the under has cashed in the last 11 meetings between the schools, a streak dating back to 1996.

No. 5 Ohio State at No. 1 USC (-11, 44½)
Saturday, Sep 13, 8:00 p.m. (ET) ABC

You get the feeling this game could be ugly. So ugly that all the preseason predictions putting Ohio State (2-0, 0-1 ATS) in the BCS championship game for the third straight year could be finished by the end of the night. That’s because everything points to a Southern California (1-0, 1-0 ATS) romp in this highly anticipated matchup.

Buckeyes RB Beanie Wells is doubtful with lingering soreness in his injured right foot, and doubtful is an optimistic evaluation for Ohio State backers. Jim Tressel doesn’t think Wells will play, and held the running back out of practice on Thursday morning. The Buckeyes need Wells at his best if they’re to cover against the Trojans, who are waiting for Ohio State after a week’s rest.

QB Todd Boeckman has struggled in his career against formidable opponents, evidenced by his difficulties against Illinois, Michigan, and LSU to end last season. Without Wells around to slow down the game, you have to be concerned about Ohio State’s ability to keep up with QB Mark Sanchez and the USC offense. Sanchez went 26-of-35 for 338 yards and three scores in the Trojans’ 52-7 pasting of Virginia two weeks ago as 21-point road favorites.