Week 3 of the college football season began Thursday night with Boise State’s 28-14 victory over New Mexico. But there is plenty to look for this weekend, including the Heisman Trophy winner facing the reigning national champions and a fierce SEC rivalry game.
Here are some thoughts, observations and things to pay attention to in college football’s Week 3 action.
** Clemson-Louisville is the best game on the docket this weekend. The winner of this contest will move into the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic Division race, while the loser will need a lot of help to advance to the league title game.
** This is one of the most intriguing matchups we will see all season. The Tigers D proved that it’s the best defense in the land last weekend, recording 11 sacks while limiting Auburn to just 117 yards. On the other hand, Lamar Jackson threw for 295 yards and added another 162 on the ground against a Clemson defense that was one of the top units in the country last year. He’s also improved his accuracy from last season, completing 64.7% of his passes for an average of 9.1 yards per attempt.
** The flip side of this matchup will ultimately decide who wins the contest. It’ll be interesting to see if Clemson uses Kelly Bryant in the run game (19 carries for 59 yards versus Auburn) against a Louisville D that ranks third nationally against the run (34 yards per game).
** I have no idea what to expect from the Tennessee-Florida game. Sure, the Volunteers earned a “W” last season, but the Gators have won the previous 11 meetings. Considering that UT hasn’t posted two straight victories in this series since 2003 and 2004, history suggests that Florida will win.
** The biggest unknown coming into this contest is the Gators offense. Yes, it struggled against Michigan, but so would most other offenses against a top 10 defense. The key will be getting Jordan Scarlett and the running game going.
** It’s important that Florida get on the board early against a Tennessee team that has a penchant for winning games late (just ask Georgia Tech). Volunteers QB Quinten Dormandy has played extremely well in the second half this year, completing 65.2% of his passes for an average of 10.4 yards per attempt.
** Although the voters in the AP might disagree, the top game in the SEC this weekend is LSU at Mississippi State. I’m eager to see how Danny Etling – who’s thrived in Matt Canada’s offense, completing 22 of 31 passes for 398 yards – fares against Todd Grantham’s aggressive scheme. Under his leadership, the Bulldogs D currently ranks sixth in total defense and third in yards per play.
** Of course, the LSU defense has posted impressive numbers as well, ranking fifth in total defense in 13th in yards per play.
** The most underrated game of the weekend is Louisiana Tech-Western Kentucky, which could be a preview of the C-USA championship game. In two meetings last year, the teams combined to score 209 points and racked up a total of 2,151 yards. Although some of the names have changed, expect another high scoring contest.
** Ditto for Cal-Ole Miss. The quarterback duel between Ross Bowers (363 yards and four touchdowns versus North Carolina) and Shea Patterson (60-of-78 for 918 yards and 9 TDs) will be worth the price of admission.
** Texas has absolutely no chance to upset USC this weekend. (Hey, what was all that one in a million talk?) The Longhorns defense allowed 8.31 yards per play against Maryland and gave up 507 yards against Cal last year. That doesn’t sound like a unit that’s ready to stop Sam Darnold, who is averaging 10.3 yards per attempt and completing 74.4% of his passes this season.
** This week’s upset special is Central Michigan over Syracuse. The Chippewas secondary leads the nation in interceptions, picking off eight passes in the first two games. On the other side of the ball, the offense – led by former Michigan QB Shane Morris – is one of the most explosive units in the country, ranking 16th nationally in yards per game. Behind a stellar effort on both sides of the ball, CMU will win its third straight contest and enter the NY6 Bowl conversation.
** Random rant: why are people so upset about ESPN College GameDay heading to New York City next weekend? With all due respect, there are more important things to worry about, such as the devastating damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the wildfires in Montana.