We’re breaking down some of the biggest movers in our top 25 and revealing our TRACR projection model’s NCAA football picks for Notre Dame-Central Michigan, Tennessee-Florida, and the rest of the biggest matchups.

The New No. 1

Though they’ve cruised to three impressive victories, the new No. 1 in our TRACR rankings isn’t getting much love in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have only crept up from No. 13 in the initial AP poll to ninth heading into Week 3 of the 2023 college football season. The Irish were seventh in the preseason TRACR rankings before moving up to the top spot following their 45-24 victory over North Carolina State out of the ACC and previous No. 1 Alabama’s 34-24 loss to Texas.

TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that evaluates how well a team performs based on who it plays. The model, which is trained on over 10 years of data, is based on an EPA (expected points added) calculation weighed by who teams play. It rewards big wins over good teams and punishes losses to bad ones or even wins that are closer than expected.

A team with a TRACR of 0.0 is considered an average team in the FBS. The rankings, along with projected record, probability of running the table and chances of becoming a bowl-eligible team, are being updated throughout the season on our TRACR college football rankings page.

Led by Audric Estime’s four touchdowns, Notre Dame is second in the nation in TDs from scrimmage with 19 – only the USC Trojans out of the Pac-12 have more (22). The Irish rank second in offensive TRACR (25.2), again behind only USC (27.3) and last year’s Heisman winner Caleb Williams.

ND QB Sam Hartman has thrown for 10 touchdowns and no interceptions, and Estime is averaging 8.0 yards per carry for the College Football Playoff hopefuls.

But the Trojans have a minus-0.4 defensive TRACR that’s barely better than average and the Irish have a -4.2 defensive mark that ranks 10th in the country. Notre Dame has also forced five turnovers while only allowing 10.0 points per game.

The other teams who currently rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive TRACR? The Michigan Wolverines, Alabama Crimson Tide, Texas Longhorns and Ohio State Buckeyes. That’s pretty good company.

teams ranking in both offensive and defensive TRACR top 10

The Irish don’t figure to have a difficult time holding on to the top spot with a date against the Central Michigan Chippewas in Week 3. In fact, there’s only one matchup involving a pair of TRACR top 25 teams on this weekend’s slate.

Tennessee at Florida

That football game takes place at The Swamp on Saturday when No. 23 Florida takes on No. 15 Tennessee on ESPN. It’s not only projected to be the closest contest of any top-25 matchup in Week 3, but it’s also the highest-rated game per SmartRatings.

SmartRatings is an AI-based platform that calculates excitement ratings based on six primary variables: pace, parity, novelty, momentum, context and social buzz. It has this showdown at a 74, which places it in the “good game” category.

Last season, a pair of future NFL Draft picks dueled in Knoxville. Hendon Hooker threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 112 more and a score as Tennessee held on late for a 38-33 win over Anthony Richardson and the Gators.

The Swamp, however, has been a house of horrors for the Volunteers, who have lost nine in a row in Gainesville by an average of 16.0 points since their last win in 2003.

So who are the underdogs? Which teams are the best bets? How do they compare to expert picks and the sportsbooks’ moneyline odds? Here are our model’s college football picks for Notre Dame-Central Michigan, Tennessee-Florida, and all the TRACR top 25 matchups.

Week 3 NCAA Football Picks

TRACR No. 1 Notre Dame 99.3% over No. 122 Central Michigan

No. 2 Michigan 99.1% over No. 115 Bowling Green

No. 3 USC is idle

No. 4 Alabama 98.3% over No. 107 USF

No. 5 Ohio State 94.6% over No. 69 Western Kentucky

No. 6 Florida State 99.0% over No. 121 Boston College

No. 7 Texas 98.0% over No. 102 Wyoming

No. 8 Georgia 89.6% over No. 50 South Carolina

No. 9 Oklahoma 93.0% over No. 81 Tulsa

No. 10 Washington 82.8% over No. 38 Michigan State

No. 11 Miami (FL) 99.4% over (FCS) North Carolina Central (Miami won 48-7 on Thursday)

No. 12 Penn State 84.1% over No. 57 Illinois

No. 13 Oregon State 96.9% over No. 126 San Diego State

No. 14 Utah 99.0% over (FCS) Weber State

No. 15 Tennessee 60.1% over No. 23 Florida

No. 16 Wisconsin 83.1% over No. 66 Georgia Southern

No. 17 Kansas State 83.7% over No. 65 Missouri

No. 18 Oregon 89.0% over No. 92 Hawaii

No. 19 Syracuse 78.5% over No. 54 Purdue

No. 20 Clemson 92.4% over No. 110 Florida Atlantic

No. 21 Auburn 98.1% over (FCS) Samford

No. 22 UCLA 98.5% over (FCS) Bethune-Cookman

No. 24 Ole Miss 69.3% over No. 46 Georgia Tech

No. 25 Memphis 94.1% over No. 125 Navy 

On the outside looking in are No. 26 North Carolina and No. 27 Minnesota. The LSU Tigers bounced back from their opening loss to FSU with a 72-10 win over Grambling State and are 28th, while Duke moved up to 29th after beating Clemson and Lafayette.

Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes have moved up to 58th in our rankings following wins over TCU and Nebraska. The Buffaloes opened the season 114th and now face rival Colorado State in the “Rocky Mountain Showdown.”

This one should be fun to watch after Rams coach Jay Norvell took a shot at Colorado’s “Coach Prime” on his weekly radio show.

Sanders responds to questions during a news conference after the team's practice in August.
Sanders responds to questions during a news conference after the team’s practice in August. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“I sat down with ESPN today,’ Norvell said. “And I don’t care if they hear it in Boulder. I told them, ‘I took my hat off, and I took my glasses off.’ And I said, ‘When I talk to grown-ups, I take my hat and my glasses off.’ That’s what my mother taught me. They’re not going to like us no matter what we say or do. It doesn’t matter. So, let’s go up there and play.”

Our model gives Colorado a 63.9% chance of quieting Colorado State.

Check out our complete college football predictions and rankings here. And follow us on X and Instagram for more.