After two weeks at the top of the college football rankings, Alabama will have its hands full in Week 3 against Texas A&M.
The two SEC superpowers headline this weekend's slate of games. Given the way the Aggies have put points on the board in the first two weeks, we could see a new team atop the rankings.
The only other game on the schedule that features two ranked opponents is the contest between UCLA and Nebraska, as the Bruins head to Memorial Stadium to take on the Cornhuskers.
Notre Dame could fall out of the rankings with a loss to Purdue after being overwhelmed at the Big House against Michigan in Week 2. The Fighting Irish barely beat the Boilermakers last season in South Bend, winning by a score of 20-17.
All the rest of the ranked teams face opponents they should beat, but as usual we will likely see an upset or two.
Here's a look at the AP Top 25 Poll, followed by a closer look at the top games on the schedule.
|Ranking||Team||Points||Previous Ranking||B/R Ranking|
Alabama (1) at Texas A&M (6)
This is the game that will define the first half of the season.
If Alabama wins on the road, then the Crimson Tide will likely keep a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in the rankings and cruise into the BCS title game.
If the Aggies somehow find a way to repeat last year's phenomenal performance and knock off the reigning champs, then Alabama will almost certainly fail to three-peat in 2013.
Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel made news for all the wrong reasons this offseason, but since returning to action in the second half in Week 1, he's been incredible on the field. Through one-and-a-half games, Manziel has passed for 497 yards with six touchdowns and one interception, and he has added 55 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
He's been electric, but Johnny Football faces a stiff challenge on the road against Alabama this week.
'Bama's offense, on the other hand, was far from electric in Week 1. A.J. McCarron completed just 10-of-23 passes for 110 yards with one touchdown and an interception, and the team's running game only managed 2.8 yards per carry against Virginia Tech.
Which team will win this SEC battle?
The Aggies haven't been dominant on the defensive side of the ball, allowing 59 points to inferior opponents, so it's likely McCarron and his offense will start to find a rhythm on Saturday.
This means Manziel must be perfect in the passing game, and all eyes will be on him as he attempts to knock off the champs at home.
Prediction: Texas A&M wins 28-24
UCLA (16) at Nebraska (23)
Two exciting quarterbacks will be on display when the Bruins take on the Cornhuskers on Saturday.
Sophomore Brett Hundley has the potential to become a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL, and he leads a balanced offensive attack that put up 647 yards and 58 points on Nevada in Week 1.
Senior Taylor Martinez, who seems like he's been at Nebraska forever, leads a run-heavy offense that loves to wear opposing defenses down.
UCLA is 5-0 in its last five games against Big Ten teams, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
UCLA is 5-0 in its last 5 regular season games vs Big Ten teams. Play at Nebraska Saturday (Noon ET/ABC) #UCLAvsNEB— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 11, 2013
Nebraska's defense is a sieve against the run, which means UCLA will likely test them in this capacity early. The Cornhuskers gave up 219 yards to Wyoming, which isn't nearly as good as UCLA at pounding the rock.
The biggest key to this upcoming game will be whether or not Hundley can take care of the football. It's never easy winning at Memorial Stadium, and if Hundley turns the ball over early, the rabid crowd will fuel a Nebraska blowout.
Prediction: UCLA wins 48-35
Notre Dame (21) at Purdue
The Fighting Irish were found wanting this past weekend on the road in Michigan.
Quarterback Tommy Rees threw two costly interceptions to Blake Countess, giving the Wolverines extra chances to score—chances they took full advantage of in the win.
Even more alarming than the team's offensive hiccups was the fact that Michigan was able to do whatever it wanted to on offense.
Defense is the strength of this Notre Dame team. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt both made some big plays against the Wolverines, but the Irish allowed 460 total yards of offense—166 of which were against the run.
Purdue gave Notre Dame all it could handle last season on the road, and this year the Boilermakers are hosting. After losing badly to Cincinnati in Week 1, Purdue bounced back against Indiana State, holding the Sycamores to just 39 rushing yards, winning the game 20-14.
Which team will prevail?
If Purdue can shut down Notre Dame's running game, then Rees will have to win the game with his arm. Given his propensity to throw interceptions (26 in his career), nobody should be surprised to see him turn the ball over once or twice on the road this week.
Prediction: Notre Dame wins 28-20
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