Boise State wide receiver Akilian Butler (81) looks up from under the pile of players he dragged in to the end zone for a touchdown against Connecticut in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 62-7. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)
Boise State wide receiver Akilian Butler (81) looks up from under the pile of players he dragged in to the end zone for a touchdown against Connecticut in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 62-7. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

The ceiling for teams outside the Power Five in the College Football Playoff race seems to be set pretty low — as any Central Florida fan will be quick to point out.

Maybe Boise State can bust through it this year. To do so, Saturday's game at No. 24 Oklahoma State will be crucial for the 17th-ranked Broncos.

Boise State's trip to Stillwater is one of three games matching ranked teams in week three of the season, along with No. 4 Ohio State against No. 15 TCU in Arlington, Texas, and No. 7 Auburn hosting No. 12 LSU.

The Broncos have mashed their first two opponents (118-27), a good start for the preseason favorite in the Mountain West. Quarterback Brett Rypien might be leading the best Broncos team since coach Chris Petersen's BCS busters.

Could the Broncos, or any team outside the Power Five, make a serious run at a playoff spot? Well, UCF went undefeated last season but never did better than 12th in the selection committee rankings, much to the chagrin of Knights athletic director Danny White and American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco.

The Broncos might have a better chance, though much is dependent on beating Oklahoma State — and the Cowboys then playing well the rest of the season.

The weather is doing UCF no favors. The Knights' game at North Carolina this weekend was canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. Last year, UCF had a game against Georgia Tech washed away. Though considering how poorly North Carolina has played so far, UCF's strength of schedule might be better off without the Tar Heels.

The picks:

No. 1 Alabama (minus 21) at Mississippi

The Ole Miss receivers, including preseason All-America A.J. Brown, will test the Tide's inexperienced secondary — but 'Bama might score 70 ... ALABAMA 42-24.

Georgia Southern (plus 33) at No. 2 Clemson

Tigers tune up for Georgia Tech's triple-option next week with Georgia Southern's ... CLEMSON 49-14.

Middle Tennessee (plus 33) at No. 3 Georgia

Bulldogs have scored at least 40 in both games this season. The last time they reached 40 the first three games was in 2011, when they did it in five straight .... GEORGIA 52-14.

No. 4 Ohio State (minus 12½) vs. No. 15 TCU at Arlington, Texas

Can the Horned Frogs' fast, but not particularly stout, defense stop the Buckeyes combo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber? ... OHIO STATE 35-17.

No. 5 Oklahoma (minus 17) at Iowa State

Last time the Cyclones won two straight against the Sooners was 1961 ... OKLAHOMA 38-14.

BYU (plus 21) at No. 6 Wisconsin

Cougars are averaging 4.68 yards per play (113th in the country) and the Badgers (allowing 4.37 ypp) are no team to figure out problems against ... WISCONSIN 38-14.

No. 12 LSU (plus 9½) at No. 7 Auburn

From 2004-06, the average score in this series was Auburn 12, LSU 10. Feels like one of those ... AUBURN 15-9.

Vanderbilt (plus 14½) at No. 8 Notre Dame

Irish will need some offense this week to match experienced Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur ... NOTRE DAME 28-23.

No. 10 Washington (minus 6) at Utah

Utes couldn't generate much offense against Northern Illinois last week; these Huskies will be even tougher ... WASHINGTON 24-16.

Kent State (plus 34) at No. 11 Penn State

Flashes are led by QB Woody Barrett, a former four-star recruit who transferred from Auburn ... PENN STATE 49-14.

Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 32½) at No. 16 Mississippi State

Bulldogs RB Kylin Hill is averaging 10.04 yards per carry and looking a little Saquon Barkley-esque for coach Joe Moorhead, the former Penn State offensive coordinator ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 45-10.

No. 17 Boise State (plus 2½) at No. 24 Oklahoma State

Wrong team is favored ... BOISE STATE 28-21.

SMU (plus 35) at No. 19 Michigan

Another chance for the Wolverines to get some offensive rhythm before Big Ten play ... MICHIGAN 51-14.

San Jose State (plus 41½) at No. 20 Oregon

If the first three opponents (Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State) combined their rosters, they'd probably still lose to Oregon by four touchdowns ... OREGON 56-13.

No. 21 Miami (minus 10) at Toledo

Rockets offense made the Hurricanes work in South Florida last season ... MIAMI 34-21.

No. 22 Southern California (plus 3½) at Texas

Feels like one of those Legends of Rock concerts where the bands are famous, but way past their prime ... TEXAS 24-23.

No. 23 Arizona State (minus 4½) at San Diego State

Who had Herm Edwards as the best new hire in the Pac-12 South with Chip Kelly and Kevin Sumlin? Liar ... ARIZONA STATE 21-14.



Boston College (minus 6) at Wake Forest, Thursday — @chrisstephenesq

With Florida State struggling, second best in the ACC Atlantic — behind Clemson — is up for grabs ... BOSTON COLLEGE 28-24.

Rutgers (plus 3) at Kansas — @BrandonOCook

Jayhawks looking for first two-game winning streak since 2011 ... RUTGERS 20-17.

Missouri (minus 7) at Purdue — @SportsFanatic62

Boilermakers have buried themselves with turnovers (minus-4) and penalties (90 yards per game) in 0-2 start ... PURDUE 31-28, UPSET SPECIAL.

Duke (plus 6½) at Baylor — @osogrisdemars

Blue Devils lost starting QB Daniel Jones and star CB Mark Gilbert to injuries; Bears looking for 3-0 start ... BAYLOR 28-23.

Houston (minus 1) at Texas Tech — @novig69

Cougars will try to add a victory against the Big 12 to the one against the Pac-12 they got last week ... TEXAS TECH 35-31.


Last week: 17-2 straight; 11-8 against the spread.

Season: 33-7 straight; 23-16-1 against the spread.

Upset specials: 2-0 (straight up).

Best bets: 2-0 (against the spread).


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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