25 Key Storylines to Watch for College Football Week 3

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2012

25 Key Storylines to Watch for College Football Week 3

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    Week 2 of the 2012 college football season provided us with the first real big upset of the year, as Louisiana-Monroe shocked Arkansas. It was a loss that dropped the previously No. 8-ranked Razorbacks all the way out of the Top 25.

    Other than that stunner, the second weekend of the season didn't really feature much drama, as many of the games involving top-ranked teams ended up being boring blowouts.

    Now, as we enter Week 3, there are definitely a few intriguing matchups to finally get excited about.

    Alabama vs. Arkansas, USC vs. Stanford, Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, Florida vs. Tennessee and Cal vs. Ohio State all look like they could be very entertaining games.

    While this may not exactly be considered a huge weekend, there are definitely some interesting developments that will be worth following.

    Here's a look at 25 key storylines to watch in Week 3.

Will Tyler Wilson Play Against Alabama?

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    The status of Arkansas' star QB Tyler Wilson for this weekend's big SEC showdown with West division foe Alabama still remains uncertain.

    Wilson suffered a head injury in the first half of a shocking upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and he's reportedly still dealing with the aftereffects of the injury.

    The senior signal-caller is one of the most talented passers in the country. If he's unable to go, it would seem highly unlikely that the Razorbacks would be able to hang with the No. 1-ranked Tide.

    Brandon Allen, who replaced Wilson in the second half against the Warhawks, completed just six of his 20 pass attempts for 85 yards and also threw a key interception.

    If Allen is forced into action again on Saturday, Alabama's defense will likely feast on the inexperienced freshman.

Can the Arkansas Defense Stop Alabama’s Offense?

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    The health of quarterback Tyler Wilson isn't the only major concern for Arkansas as the team gears up for a pivotal matchup with Alabama.

    The Razorbacks also have to be focused on improving their play on defense after poor outings in the first two weeks.

    After giving up 322 yards and 24 points to FCS opponent Jacksonville State in Week 1, Arkansas followed up by allowing 550 yards and 34 points to Louisiana-Monroe in Week 2.

    The Razorbacks currently rank 86th in the nation in scoring defense and 88th in total defense.

    If the defense doesn't step its game up this week, the Tide's offense will steamroll right over the Hogs.

How Will USC Handle Its First Real Road Test?

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    After looking good but not great against a mediocre Syracuse team in Week 2, USC will now head out to Stanford for its first true road test against a ranked opponent.

    The No. 21-ranked Cardinal are obviously a different-looking team from the one that beat the Trojans 56-48 in triple overtime last year. Star quarterback Andrew Luck is gone, and so far his replacement Josh Nunes hasn't exactly looked stellar.

    Still, Stanford has one of the best running backs in the country, Stepfan Taylor, and some standouts on the defensive side of the ball, including DE Ben Gardner and linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov.

    If Nunes can handle the pressure and the defense steps up, the Cardinal could give USC a real test on Saturday night.

Matt Barkley Continues His March Towards the Heisman

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    Matt Barkley has certainly lived up to his preseason Heisman hype in the first two weeks of the season.

    Barkley has already thrown for 559 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

    Now, the highly-touted senior signal-caller will get to play in a true spotlight game when USC takes on Stanford this weekend.

    The current Heisman favorite has a chance to wow voters with a big performance on a national stage. It should be interesting to see if he can take full advantage of the opportunity.

Florida State Finally Plays a Decent Team

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    Through the first two weeks of the season, Florida State is averaging 62 points and 509 yards per game.

    The problem is, the Seminoles have played two weak FCS opponents—Murray State and Savannah State—and have yet to experience a real challenge.

    That will change this weekend when Wake Forest comes to town.

    The Demon Deacons just beat a quality North Carolina team in Week 2. Plus, they shouldn't lack confidence, given that they beat Florida State 35-30 last year.

    The Seminoles are clearly the more talented team on both sides of the ball. However, Wake Forest is always a well-coached team that plays hard.

    Jim Grobe's squad will be a much tougher opponent than the two FCS teams Florida State has faced this season.

Michigan State Searches for Revenge Against Notre Dame

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    No. 10-ranked Michigan State will be looking to avenge last year's 31-13 defeat to Notre Dame when it hosts the Irish on Saturday.

    This is shaping up to be a very physical, grind-it-out type of battle.

    The Spartans will be looking to test Notre Dame's stout front seven with a heavy dose of big bulldozer back Le'Veon Bell.

    Two of the last three matchups in this series have been decided by a field goal, and it wouldn't be surprising if this game comes down to the final minutes as well.

Braxton Miller Looks to Keep His Tear Going Against Cal

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    When Urban Meyer first took over as head coach at Ohio State last November, many Buckeyes fans were initially excited about the possibility of seeing QB Braxton Miller run Meyer's spread offense.

    So far this season, Miller has looked like an absolutely perfect fit for the spread system.

    The dual-threat quarterback has totaled 664 yards of offense and accounted for seven touchdowns in just two games.

    Miller will now have the chance to prove himself against a BCS-caliber opponent when the Cal Golden Bears come to Columbus this Saturday for an intriguing nonconference matchup.

TCU Makes Its Big 12 Debut

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    TCU has been one of the most consistently successful teams in the country in recent years. Since 2005, the Horned Frogs have averaged 11 wins per season and have made two appearances in BCS bowl games.

    Now, Gary Patterson's squad will finally get the opportunity to prove its worth in a BCS conference, as the team officially begins Big 12 play on Saturday at Kansas.

    The Jayhawks are the league's weakest team once again this year. TCU should have no trouble disposing of them in Lawrence this weekend.

    It will be good for the Horned Frogs to get that first conference win under their belt before the schedule toughens up with matchups against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma in the second half of the season.

Teddy Bridgewater vs. Bryn Renner Is a Quarterback Battle Worth Watching

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    If you're looking for a quality quarterback battle to watch this weekend, then tune in to the Louisville vs. North Carolina game on Saturday afternoon.

    Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and North Carolina's Bryn Renner are both second-year starters who are quickly developing into two of the best passers in the country.

    Bridgewater has completed 81 percent of his passes for 576 yards so far this season, while Renner has completed 61 percent of his throws for 507 yards.

Tennessee Searches for a Statement SEC Win Against Florida

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    Tennessee hasn't beaten Florida on the "Third Saturday of September" since 2004. However, this might just be the best Volunteers team we've seen since then.

    QB Tyler Bray and WR Justin Hunter are one of the best passing combinations in the country. The offensive line has improved since last year. And the defense has enough speed and athleticism to play with any other team in the conference.

    This will be Florida's second consecutive road game after a tough, physical battle with Texas A&M last week. The Gators will be a bit beaten up and vulnerable when they enter Neyland Stadium, and Bray, Hunter and company will be looking to pounce on them.

The Johnathan Franklin Show Continues

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    UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin has been one of the most impressive performers of the first two weeks of the season.

    Franklin currently leads the nation with 499 all-purpose yards, and he's scored four touchdowns in just two games.

    The 5'11", 195-pound senior has sparked the UCLA offense, and he played a huge role in the team's 36-30 win over Nebraska in Week 2.

    If Franklin can continue on the unbelievable pace he's set so far, it won't be long before we start talking about him as a legitimate Heisman contender.

Who Will Win the Holy War?

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    Utah and BYU will square off in the annual "Holy War" on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

    The Utes have won three out of the last four matchups between these two teams. However, BYU seems like it will have the advantage this year, especially since Utah will be playing with backup quarterback Jon Hays.

    The Cougars are currently ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season, and they'll be looking to stay there by picking up a big win over their in-state rival.

Randy Edsall Takes on His Old Team

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    Randy Edsall left UConn after the 2010 season on a high note. He had just led the Huskies to their first Big East championship and first-ever BCS bowl appearance.

    Edsall's first season at Maryland was an utter disaster, as the Terrapins went just 2-10 in 2011. Connecticut didn't fare much better, going just 5-7.

    Now, Edsall will square off with his old team on Saturday.

    The coach recruited many of the current players on UConn, and it should be a very sentimental game for him.

Penn State Searches for Its First Win

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    After a disappointing performance in a Week 1 loss at home to Ohio, Penn State looked like it was going to get back on track and pick up its first win of the season at Virginia. However, the Nittany Lions missed four out of their five field-goal attempts and ultimately fell 17-16.

    Bill O'Brien and his team are now back in Happy Valley, where they'll host Navy this weekend.

    It's been a rough first few weeks for O'Brien, but the coach should finally be able to pick up his first win as Penn State head coach with a victory over the Midshipmen.

Missouri Tries to Rebound Against Arizona State

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    Missouri failed to get the job done against Georgia in its much-anticipated SEC debut.

    The Tigers were outscored 32-10 in the second half of the 41-20 loss.

    Now, QB James Franklin and the rest of the team will be looking to rebound when they host Arizona State on Saturday.

    The Sun Devils are 2-0, and they've looked impressive under new coach Todd Graham so far.

    Nevertheless, Missouri is just a better overall team on both sides of the ball.

    If the Tigers aren't feeling any hangover effects from last week's loss, they should be able to get the job done in front of their home crowd.

Nebraska Tries to Rebound Against Arkansas State

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    Another team that will be looking to rebound after a tough Week 2 loss is Nebraska. The Cornhuskers came up short on the road against UCLA last week, and they'll now look to make up for it with a big outing against visiting Arkansas State.

    RB Rex Burkhead's status for the game is still unclear. Even if Burkhead doesn't play, though, QB Taylor Martinez should be able to guide the team to its second win of the season at home.

Can Louisiana-Monroe Upset Another SEC Team?

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    Louisiana-Monroe pulled off the biggest shocker of the 2012 season when the Warhawks took down then No. 8-ranked Arkansas 34-31 in a thrilling overtime upset victory.

    The team will head back out onto the road to face another SEC West team, the Auburn Tigers, this weekend. The Tigers have struggled in their first two games, losing to Clemson and Mississippi State.

    QB Kiehl Frazier's lack of consistency and the defense's struggles have really hindered Auburn. However, Gene Chizik's crew will have the chance to get out of the 0-2 hole at home against the Sun Belt squad on Saturday.

Will Pittsburgh’s Defense Step Up Against Virginia Tech?

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    Pittsburgh's defense has looked pretty pitiful in the first two games of the season.

    The Panthers have given up an average of 32.5 points and 422.5 yards per game in their two losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.

    The bad news is that Pitt's defense will now have to face one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, when the Hokies visit Heinz Field.

    If new coach Paul Chryst can't figure out how to fill the holes on his team's defense this week, Thomas and the Hokies could really embarrass the Panthers.

Rutgers and South Florida Begin Their Quests for a Big East Championship

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    No. 19 Louisville may be the favorite to win the Big East this season, but two other teams that could compete for a conference title are Rutgers and South Florida.

    The Scarlet Knights and the Bulls will begin their quest for a championship when they meet on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.

    The last two games between these teams have been decided by a combined four points. This year's contest has the chance to be another close game that comes down to the last possession.

Can Virginia Slow Down Georgia Tech’s Rushing Attack?

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    Georgia Tech is currently averaging 330 rushing yards per game, which isn't good news for Virginia.

    The Cavaliers defense could have some trouble slowing down QB Tevin Washington and the Yellow Jackets' deep stable of running backs when the two teams meet up in Atlanta this weekend.

    Even though Virginia Tech is the clear-cut favorite to win the ACC Coastal division this season, both Georgia Tech and Virginia could be factors in the race as well.

    This is an important early conference clash for both teams, and the winner should gain a lot of momentum before conference play really kicks into full gear.

Wisconsin Tries to Regroup at Home

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    Wisconsin looked putrid in its 10-7 loss on the road at Oregon State this past weekend.

    The Badgers offense did not show any type of efficiency, energy or rhythm, and overall Wisconsin just didn't look anything like the team that won a Big Ten title last season.

    Bret Bielema and his team will now get the chance to regroup at home when they take on Utah State at Camp Randall Stadium, a place where they happen to be 40-3 since 2006.

    The bottom line is Bielema's squad simply can't afford another poor performance against Utah State this Saturday.

We Get Our Second Look at Johnny Manziel

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    Even though Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel wasn't able to lead the Aggies to victory over Florida in his debut performance last Saturday, he still showed some incredible flashes of his physical ability.

    Manziel completed 23 of his 30 passes for 173 yards and also ran for 60 yards and a touchdown in the 20-17 loss to the Gators.

    The athletic and instinctive 6'1", 200-pound freshman looks like he could develop into one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football this season.

    It should be fun to see what Manziel can do for an encore performance when A&M travels to Dallas to take on SMU on Saturday.

Should Texas Be on Upset Alert?

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    On paper, Texas seems like the type of team that should hammer Ole Miss this weekend.

    You have to take into consideration that this is the Longhorns we're talking about. It's a team that hasn't exactly been the model of consistency over the past two seasons.

    Most Las Vegas books installed Texas as 10.5-point favorites for this game, which is definitely the type of low spread that will raise a few eyebrows.

    A little-known fact most fans probably didn't realize is that the Rebels are currently the most productive offense in the SEC, averaging 551 yards per game

    Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace is an athletic dual-threat quarterback who can make plays with both his arm and his legs. Wallace could cause a lot of problems for Texas' defense if the Longhorns don't take him seriously.

LSU, Georgia and South Carolina Will All Feast on Cupcakes

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    Alabama vs. Arkansas is the SEC showdown that everyone is focusing on this weekend.

    While the Tide and the Razorbacks are squaring off, the SEC's other three Top 10 teams—LSU, Georgia and South Carolina—will all be feasting on cupcake opponents.

    The Tigers host 42-point underdog Idaho, the Bulldogs will host 43-point underdog Florida Atlantic and the Gamecocks will host 34-point underdog UAB.

    If Alabama wins, it's almost a certainty that we'll see four SEC teams in the Top 10 once again in next week's polls.

Which Offense Will Score More Points, Oregon’s or West Virginia’s?

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    Oregon and West Virginia have two of the most explosive offensive attacks in college football this season.

    Both teams just so happen to be going up against FCS opponents this weekend.

    The Ducks take on Tennessee Tech at home, while the Mountaineers will travel to FedExField to battle James Madison.

    It should be interesting to see which team will put up the most points this weekend before deciding to call off the dogs.