25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 3

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 9, 2013

25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 3

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    The long-awaited rematch between Texas A&M and Alabama has finally arrived, as the Crimson Tide will travel to College Station for the biggest Week 3 matchup and one of the key games of the 2013 season.

    While all eyes will be on the two new rivals, a number of other questions are set to be answered over the weekend.

    Another key clash between Ole Miss and Texas features one program on the rise against another that could be set for a free fall.

    Elsewhere around the country, an abundance of teams will be revealed as pretenders or contenders in key weekend tilts.

    Also, three major matchups between the Pac-12 and Big Ten round out what should be an amazing Week 3 of the college football season. 

Alabama's Revenge

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    This was one of the major storylines of the whole offseason.

    Texas A&M was the only team to beat Alabama last season, and the Aggies did it in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide have been looking forward to taking revenge in College Station ever since.

    Alabama didn't look all there in Week 1 against Virginia Tech, likely because of the looming matchup with A&M.

    Now that the crucial contest is finally here, the Tide can focus fully on stopping Johnny Manziel and company.

    With a Southeastern Conference title and BCS championship hopes on the line, it is hard to pick against Nick Saban's bunch in such a big game.


How Far Can Ole Miss Climb?

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    Ole Miss cracked the Top 25 just in time to take on Texas, a team that is reeling from an upset at the hands of BYU and has fallen out of the rankings.

    Additionally, the Longhorns fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after the embarrassing defeat.

    Another win will give the Rebels a bump in the polls two weeks before their Sept. 28 matchup with Alabama.

    With a bye week between contests with Texas and Alabama, Ole Miss could make the Top 20 before taking on the Tide.

Will Texas Bounce Back?

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    This was supposed to be Texas' year to finally fight out of its slump and rise to the top of the wide-open Big 12.

    However, after a loss to BYU, it looks like the Longhorns are the same underachieving squad they have been since 2010.

    UT was bounced out of the Top 25 with the loss, but it could potentially turn its season around and perhaps regain its ranking with a win over Ole Miss.

    The Rebels and the Longhorns will have plenty to play for in their nonconference tilt in Austin.

Pac-12 vs. Big Ten: UCLA vs. Nebraska

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    Week 3 features three marquee matchups between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, the first of which will take place in Lincoln, Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers face off against the UCLA Bruins.

    The game will be a rematch of a thriller last year in Los Angeles, in which the Bruins emerged 36-30 victors.

    Now a known star, that win was the coming-out party for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. 

    He will need to have a big game yet again for the Bruins to top the Cornhuskers, who are coming off a 56-13 decimation of Southern Miss.

Pac-12 vs. Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State

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    Another battle between the Pac-12 and Big Ten will take place in Tempe, Ariz., featuring two teams that haven't allowed a point this season.

    That will likely change, as both Wisconsin and Arizona State boast explosive offenses.

    All three Badgers running back have eclipsed 100 rushing yards in each of Wisconsin's first two games.

    Arizona State will also challenge the Badgers defense, only the Sun Devils will do so with a balanced attack led by quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back Marion Grice.

Winston Continues Heisman Campaign

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    It is hard to believe that Jameis Winston has still only played one game in his college career.

    The Florida State quarterback caught the eye of the nation in his debut against Pitt and still leads the nation with an astronomical quarterback rating of 252.2.

    He will have another good opportunity to show off his skills as the Seminoles host Nevada, a game that will be televised on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday.

    The game should be a great measuring stick, as UCLA's dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley totaled nearly 350 total yards and four total touchdowns against the Wolf Pack in Week 1.

Michigan Moves on

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    Michigan registered one of the biggest wins of last weekend, beating rival Notre Dame, 41-30.

    After the emotional win under the lights in front of a record crowd of more than 115,000, the Wolverines will have quite the turnaround.

    This week they will host Akron for a noon ET kickoff.

    Will Michigan stay focused and motivated enough to take care of business at home?

How Will Ohio State Handle Cal's No. 1 Passing Offense?

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    Ohio State may have its eyes on a national title, but for at least this weekend, the Buckeyes need to keep their eyes in the sky.

    OSU will be faced with stopping the nation's No. 1 passing offense when it heads to Berkeley, California. The Golden Bears have averaged 472.2 yards per game through the air, including 460 yards against their first Big Ten foe, Northwestern.

    If Cal has success through the air, the Buckeyes may struggle to keep up, particularly if quarterback Braxton Miller is out of the lineup.

    Miller has been tabbed as "day-to-day" leading up to OSU's contest with the Golden Bears.

Kliff Kingsbury's Big 12 Debut

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    Texas Tech has looked great, particularly on offense, in new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's first two games at the helm.

    TTU ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing offense, thanks to the exceptional play of walk-on true freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    Next for the Red Raiders is a home game against TCU, which affords Kingsbury the chance to post a marquee win in his first Big 12 game.

    The Horned Frogs will be without quarterback Casey Pachall, who was injured last week against Southeastern Louisiana.

    A win over TCU could send TTU into the Top 25.


Gus Malzahn's SEC Debut

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    Similar to Texas Tech, Auburn will have a chance at a substantial victory in Gus Malzahn's first SEC game as a head coach of the Tigers.

    Auburn didn't win a single SEC game last season, so there's no doubt Malzahn will be out to change that Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

    Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are facing a daunting SEC slate that features LSU, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, so Dan Mullen's team can't afford too many losses.

    Will the Malzahn Era in Auburn start with a signature SEC win?

Notre Dame and South Carolina Look to Rebound

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    South Carolina and Notre Dame are both coming off heartbreaking losses, but neither has time to pout.

    Notre Dame will travel down the state of Indiana to take on Purdue, while South Carolina will host a talented Vanderbilt squad in need of a win in SEC play.

    USC and ND should both be able to handle their business and win.

    However, neither can afford to look back at the results of the previous week, or an upset will be in order.

Dri Archer vs. LSU Defense?

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    Kent State's multitalented star Dri Archer sat out Week 2 against Bowling Green with an ankle injury.

    If he is healthy, his matchup against the LSU defense will be one of the more intriguing matchups of Week 3.

    A look back reveals a similar matchup between LSU and West Virginia's all-purpose star Tavon Austin, to whom Archer has been compared. Against the Tigers, Austin tallied nearly 300 all-purpose yards in 2011.

    KSU will need a similar showing from Archer to keep up with the Tigers in Baton Rouge.

    In addition to its punishing defense, LSU has been great offensively, thanks to the record start by quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Bye Week Blues

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    Three of college football's hottest teams will be off Week 3.

    Clemson, Georgia and Miami (Fla.) each will be sitting on the couch watching this weekend's action.

    All three will need to remained focused as they approach conference play.

    Florida also has Week 3 off and will host rival Tennessee on Sept. 21.


Can Kentucky Derail Louisville?

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    Kentucky looked outstanding in a Week 2 win over Miami of Ohio.

    Still, the Wildcats may not even make a bowl game, especially after their Week 1 loss to Western Kentucky.

    For this season, Mark Stoops' group may have to settle for acting as giant killer, until enough talent is stockpiled to seriously compete in college football's toughest league.

    UK has a great chance to be that giant killer against rival Louisville this week. The Cardinals have BCS hopes, and their quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a Heisman frontrunner.

    If Kentucky pulls off the upset, it could spoil Bridgewater's Heisman aspirations and will undoubtedly sink UL's BCS hopes.

Fresno State Looks to Prove Top 25 Worthiness

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    Fresno State is on the fast track to be this year's Boise State.

    The Bulldogs already notched one win over a BCS conference opponent in Rutgers and will have a shot at another when they take on Colorado this weekend.

    If a win over the Buffaloes isn't enough to send Fresno State into the Top 25, a win over Boise State the following week should be.


Will USC Right Ship Against Boston College?

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    Southern California is in a very bad place right now.

    The last time we saw the Trojans, their fans were booing head coach Lane Kiffin off the field as they lost to Washington State.

    USC will have to turn things around fast in Week 3 against Boston College, as another unacceptable loss may earn Kiffin the midseason axe.

    Step 1 for the Trojans will be actually having some acceptable quarterback play against the Eagles.


How Much Will Oklahoma State Score?

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    Oklahoma State scored 56 points against Texas-San Antonio last week, but they are still off the pace they set offensively a year ago.

    After three weeks last year, the Cowboys were averaging more than 62 points per game. As of Week 2, they have only averaged 38.5. Big 12 rivals Baylor and Texas Tech have both averaged more than 50 points per game thus far, and Baylor is No. 2 in the nation with an average of 69.5 points per contest.

    It's time for OSU to step it up against lowly Lamar.

Oregon Offense vs. SEC Defense

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    Oregon hasn't had any problem putting points on the board this season.

    The Ducks have outscored their two opponents 125-13—and both of their final scores were relatively merciful.

    UO will have a tougher test in Week 3 against an SEC defense in Tennessee that has allowed just 10 points per game.

    While the Volunteers don't have the defense on par with Alabama, LSU or Florida, it will be an interesting measuring stick for the Oregon offense before Pac-12 play begins.

Just How Good Is Maryland?

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    Maryland has demolished its first two opponents to start the season.

    However, wins over Florida International and Old Dominion don't reveal much about a team. UMD's slate becomes progressively more difficult over the next three games, though.

    The Terrapins travel to Connecticut, face rival West Virginia in Baltimore and finally travel to Florida State.

    Starting this week against UConn, Maryland's true colors will be revealed.

Will Rice Top Kansas Again?

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    Kansas is off to an eerily similar start to last season.

    In 2012, KU began with a 31-17 win over South Dakota State. This year, the Jayhawks won their opener over 31-14 over South Dakota.

    Last year, they turned around and lost at home to Rice, sparking an 11-game losing streak.

    Again this year, KU will take on the Owls, this time in Houston.

    Will Rice send Kansas spinning yet again? Or have the Jayhawks made a marked improvement in their second year under Charlie Weis?


Oregon State Starts Pac-12 Play

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    After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Eastern Washington in Week 1, Oregon State was able to rebound against Hawaii.

    The Beavers will travel to Utah this weekend for their Pac-12 opener and will be out to prove that they shouldn't have been written off so quickly.

    Quarterback Sean Mannion is No. 2 in the nation in passing yardage.

    Look for the Beavers to right the ship against the Utes.

Reeling Rivals: Iowa and Iowa State

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    It may be a rough year for both teams in the Hawkeye State.

    Iowa State started with a loss to FCS Northern Iowa and then had a week to prepare for its contest with Iowa.

    The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, had a rough start of their own, losing to Northern Illinois before notching a lackluster 28-14 win over Missouri State.

    The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is always unpredictable and will be even more so with both clubs struggling heading into their clash in Ames this Saturday.

Where Is West Virginia's Offense?

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    West Virginia finished 2012 No. 9 in scoring offense and No. 117 in scoring defense.

    Two weeks into 2013, the Mountaineers have flipped the script and rank No. 109 in scoring offense and No. 31 in scoring defense.

    While WVU is surely enjoying the defensive turnaround, a major question still remains: What happened to head coach Dana Holgorsen's vaunted offense?

    The Mountaineers still haven't decided on a quarterback. Holgorsen said the competition is open to three signal-callers—Paul Millard, Clint Trickett and Ford Childress—during Monday's Big 12 teleconference.

    Will one of these quarterbacks take the reins in Week 3 and lead WVU against Georgia State and beyond?

Can OU Avoid Upset Against Tulsa?

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    Oklahoma has also had its share of offensive struggles, particularly last week against West Virginia. 

    The Sooners turned the ball over four times, allowing the Mountaineers to stay within reach of an upset in Norman.

    OU will have to use this weekend's contest with Tulsa as an opportunity to improve, without looking ahead to Notre Dame at the end of the month.

    In the up-for-grabs Big 12, Oklahoma is still a favorite, but it will have to improve to best rival Oklahoma State and others.

Are Illinois and Washington for Real?

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    Washington recorded one of the biggest wins of Week 1 as it all but ended Boise State's BCS hopes.

    The Huskies had Week 2 off, so they will have an opportunity Week 3 to show that they can play at a consistently high level.

    Illinois, meanwhile, is off to an enigmatic 2-0 start.

    The Illini notched just a one-possession win over Southern Illinois to start the season, only to turn around and wallop Cincinnati 45-17 in Week 2.

    One of these teams will be exposed as a pretender when they clash Saturday in Chicago.