The week 3 college football slate didn’t look very promising at the start of the season. But it turned out to be quite intriguing indeed, with three top-25 clashes and several other non-conference clashes likely to upend the perceived order.
In all, we are bringing seven contests to your attention on Saturday. They include Alabama’s marquee programs heading into hostile territory, a few independents hoping to protect their territory, and the renewal of a long-standing regional rivalry that once had conference championship implications. No, not that one. Read on.
# 1 in Alabama to # 9 in Florida
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Why watch: The Crimson Tide begins the SEC game with this trip to Gainesville. It’s a rematch of last year’s championship game, although Alabama and the Gators have undergone many personnel changes. Alabama’s offense, however, didn’t look much different with quarterback Bryce Young in charge. The constant big play potential is still there, this time with WR Jameson Williams and John Metchie III. The Florida attack has been revamped a bit with QB Emory Jones adding more mobility to the position, although he also has many deep threats led by WR Jacob Copeland.
Why this might disappoint: However, when Jones throws he is inclined to the selection, with four already in two games. It’s a recipe for disaster on the Crimson Tide. Freshman Anthony Richardson also impressed at QB for the Gators, but he twisted a hamstring and might not be at full speed. The Alabama defense could also be shorthanded with questionable LB Will Anderson with a leg injury, but the Gators could still struggle to keep up if Tide’s offense kicks off.
# 20 Auburn to # 12 Penn State
7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Why watch: The Brian Harsin era at Auburn started as planned with the Tigers scoring two easy wins over outclassed opponents. We’ll have more than one idea of their potential to challenge in the SEC this week as they face the harsh environment of a sleepless night at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions have rebounded from last season’s disastrous start with two solid wins to start 2021 and look set to face the Big Ten East again. Penn State QB Sean Clifford was stable, benefiting from the presence of a healthy RB Noah Cain as well as great play WR Jahan Dotson. Auburn QB Bo Nix has been flawless so far, but it remains to be seen if he can overcome the inconsistencies he has displayed in his first two seasons under center. RB Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby might help.
Why this might disappoint: But the Nittany Lions kept the Wisconsin racing game under control in an impressive Week 1 road win. If they can do the same against Auburn and get Nix to beat them in the air, it could cause trouble for the Tigers if he can’t deliver.
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No. 21 Arizona State to No. 23 Brigham Young
10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: The Cougars continue their first streak against the Pac-12 in the hope of going three on three. The Sun Devils, who became the first favorites in the South Division with UCLA, will look for a quality non-conference road victory. BYU QB Jaren Hall threw for 347 yards and ran for 128 more in his first two starts. His counterpart will be veteran ASU QB Jayden Daniels, also a dangerous double threat with 307 yards in the air and 165 on the ground so far.
Why this might disappoint: BYU faced stiffer competition from the start, and the Cougars will need to fill their collective pool quickly in the wake of last week’s emotional victory over arch rivals Utah. On the flip side, ASU committed 20 penalties in their first two outings, and the Sun Devils’ defense struggled early against UNLV last week. This could prove problematic if it happened again in Provo.
# 8 Cincinnati to Indiana
Noon ET, ESPN
Why watch: This is the first of two key non-conference games for Cincinnati in Indiana (at Notre Dame in Week 5) that the Bearcats must win to maximize their long-term offer to clinch the playoffs of the college football outside of the Power Five. Unfortunately for UC, the Hoosiers fell short of their promise as they lost their first game of the season at Iowa and now need the win just as much to regain their top 25 spot. IU entered the winning column in Week 2 against Idaho as quarterback Michael Penix shed rust from his first game back from injury. UC QB Desmond Ridder and RB Jerome Ford were a bit slow in last week’s preparation against Murray State, but they think they’re good to go.
Why this might disappoint: Penix needs to show he’s ready to challenge a quality defense, and the Bearcats definitely have one with an experienced secondary. UC was somewhat sloppy with the ball with four turnovers, a possible sign of trouble if the problem persists.
Purdue at No.10 Notre-Dame
2:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Why watchWhether the Fighting Irish deserve their high ranking or not, there’s no doubt their games have been captivating this season, winning in overtime at Florida State and then passing Toledo with a late score. Next is the state’s traditional rival, Purdue, with the Shillelagh Trophy on the line. The Boilermakers held their home opener against Oregon State before leveling up last week with a loss. in front of unhappy Connecticut. Purdue QB Jack Plummer has six no-pick kills in his first two outings, but is now facing Notre Dame’s much more accomplished secondary. The Fighting Irish could continue to integrate first-year QB Tyler Buchner to revive their racing game as a change of pace for starter Jack Coan.
Why this might disappoint: It’s hard to know what to expect from Purdue based on its early results. The Fighting Irish could indeed have superior talent at all levels and take control quickly. Here again, Notre Dame has not really shown its ability to push back its opponents.
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# 15 Virginia Tech in West Virginia
Noon ET, FS1
Why watch: There is another knowledge rebirth between former conference rivals in the same time slot, but we think this one will be more interesting than Oklahoma-Nebraska. It’s also a trophy game, although the Black Diamond Trophy has only been in play once since 2005. Plus, it’s a game that will tell us a lot about other teams besides the games. participants. The Hokies, who started the campaign with a withdrawal from preseason favorite ACC Coastal in North Carolina, hit the road for the first time. The Mountaineers’ start to the season hasn’t been so successful in a mistake-filled loss to Maryland, and with an upcoming trip to Oklahoma, they need a solid performance here. Tech’s early successes were marked by improved defense, led by DE Amare Barno. Mountaineers QB Jarret Doege must avoid it and hope RB Leddie Brown can contribute.
Why this might disappoint: The Hokies offense has not been a model of consistency, and QB Braxton Burmeister will have to resolve the Mountaineers’ defense which can be confusing at first. But if he can do it and give Tech a cushion early on, the WVU offense could struggle in catch-up mode. This course of events would quickly neutralize the home advantage of the Mountaineers.
Fresno State at # 13 UCLA
10:45 p.m. ET, Pac-12 network
Why watch: We apologize for pointing you to a game on a channel that might be hard to find, but, like the previous entry on this list, this late night special might also provide context to some past results. Recall that the state of Fresno gave Oregon everything it could manage the week before the Ducks destroyed the state of Ohio. If the Bulldogs give the Bruins a similar battle – and perhaps succeed in the upheaval – they will confirm their place as contenders in Mountain West. UCLA, meanwhile, are now established as a major player in the Pac-12 South and could use another quality non-conference win to add to their Week 1 triumph over LSU. And oh yes, the Bulldogs have won the last three meetings with the Bruins. Fresno State’s trigger is quarterback Jake Haener, who got off to a great start in 2021 with eight touchdown throws and no pick in three games. The Bulldogs also have a strong defensive front, backed by veteran DT Kevin Atkins, who could throw Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson off balance.
Why this might disappoint: RB Zach Charbonnet’s impressive start gave UCLA’s offense a powerful dimension to complete the aerial game. The Bulldogs aren’t likely to get blown up with their offensive firepower, but they won’t want to play from behind early on.
Follow varsity journalist Eddie Timanus on Twitter @EddieTimanus