The big game of college football Week 3 is Alabama-Texas A&M, and that game, along with a couple other marquee TV games, are previewed here. The SportsNotebook’s college football coverage closes out our prep for the weekend with eleven other games that are worth at least finding out the score when you get caught up on the events of Saturday.
Vanderbilt-South Carolina (7 PM ET, ESPN): South Carolina is giving two touchdowns in this game, and if they aren’t ready to play, that’s going to be a tough number to cover. The Gamecocks defense looked soft last week at Georgia and I’m frankly still mad at them. One advantage they have here—while Vandy’s become a solid program, they don’t have the offensive weapons to do a lot of damage. South Carolina wins it but grab the Commodores and the points.
Mississippi State-Auburn (7 PM ET, ESPN2): This is an important game in the pecking order of the SEC West. Mississippi State has enjoyed the status of the “nice, competitive team”, but Auburn is showing some signs of life under first-year coach Gus Malzahn.
The Tigers beat Washington State—a win that looks even better now that the Cougars have won at USC—and then followed up with a win over a good Sun Belt team in Arkansas State. Saturday night at home against the Bulldogs will tell us how far Auburn has come, and whether Dan Mullen’s program in Starkville might show some slippage. Mississippi State should have quarterback Tyler Russell back from a concussion and running back Lardarius Perkins back from a foot injury that kept him out last week.
And one more conference tilt, this one from the ACC….
Georgia Tech-Duke (3:30 PM ET, ESPNU): Georgia Tech needs this win to retain its status as a prime challenger to Miami in the ACC Coastal Division. The Yellow Jackets buried Elon in a tuneup game, and now Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is out. The flip side is that Boone hadn’t really established himself in his first year as a starter with two games under his belt. Duke has bowl aspirations, but needs to find someone who can get the ball to Jamison Crowder.
Bowling Green-Indiana (Noon, ESPNU): This is a big game for both teams. If Bowling Green wins, they set themselves up, along with Northern Illinois, as MAC teams with a shot at an undefeated season with a win over a Big Ten opponent.
Indiana lost to Navy last week and with the Hoosiers having bowl aspirations this year, you don’t want to have two losses on your record before conference play even starts.
Virginia Tech-East Carolina: The Pirates are another midmajor team with high hopes and an explosive quarterback in Shane Carden. The Hokies defense showed its mettle against Alabama, basically shutting down the Tide offense and now gets a new challenge with Carden.
Perhaps the most intriguing question will be whether Logan Thomas and the rebuilding VT offense can move the ball. They got a pass before the non-performance against Alabama for obvious reasons. They got no credit for a good showing against Western Carolina for obvious reasons. Now we need to Thomas and his mates pile up points against a team that’s good, but defensively challenged.
Marshall-Ohio: Rakeem Cato, quarterback of the Thundering Herd is one of the best players on the mid-major radar. His offense has dropped 107 points in a pair of tune-ups. Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton is pretty good himself, and Marshall’s defense isn’t very good.
This game is a good testing ground for determining whether the MAC or C-USA is the better conference, something that could matter if each league gets unbeaten teams into the BCS conversation.
ROSE BOWL SATURDAY
The Big Ten & Pac-12 are tussling in Week 3. The two marquee games surrounding ‘Bama-A&M on the TV schedule are Wisconsin-Arizona State and UCLA-Nebraska. Then there’ these two…
Washington-Illinois: If Washington is going to be a contender in the Pac-12—and by contender I mean win around nine games, since asking them to beat Oregon or Stanford in the North Division isn’t really realistic—then I want to see the Huskies put a smackdown on Illinois in Soldier Field.
Illinois showed its first signs of life in the year-plus reign of head coach Tim Beckham when they pounded Cincinnati last week. That makes it a good test for Washington, if they can run the ball with Bishop Sankey and veteran quarterback Keith Price can play well on the road.
Ohio State-Cal (7 PM ET, Fox): Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller is going to play and that removes at least some of the suspense from this one. I’m still interested to see if Cal quarterback Jeff Goff can put up huge numbers again, as he did against Northwestern. I don’t have any doubt Ohio State will win, but if they aspire to a national championship run, I’d like to see their defense get the job done against an offense that’s enjoyed early success.
Notre Dame-Purdue (8 PM ET, ABC): I’m only putting this game on the list because it’s the game Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit will call, which has to be the worst programming decision of the young season, even allowing it was probably made months ago. Notre Dame’s defense was not up to snuff last Saturday night in Ann Arbor and new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell has a significant rebuilding project on his hands.
Ole Miss-Texas: I’ve paired this game with ND-Purdue, because this is the one that Brent & Herbie should be at. Ole Miss has all that young talent thanks to the successful recruiting of second-year head coach Hugh Freeze. They nipped Vanderbilt in the opening game and now take on a Texas team that’s reeling after being literally overrun by BYU last week (550 yards on the ground for the Cougars).
Ole Miss can also move the ball, with versatile quarterback Bo Wallace, while Texas QB David Ash is out. A lot of pressure on Mack Brown in this home tilt that deserves more exposure than just the Longhorn Network. Texas is a three-point favorite coming in.
And one more, just to humor my obsession with thinking Pitt is still going to be good…
New Mexico-Pitt: Both teams hoping to make a bowl game and both may end up needing this game before it’s all said and done. The visiting Lobos have a fantastic running back in Kasey Carrier. Pitt’s defense is experienced, and needs to establish that their Labor Day Night humiliation at the hands of Florida State was more about the Seminoles than the Panthers. If Carrier gets rolling watch out, because Pitt’s offense is still incompetent.