Three weeks into the college football season and it looks like the hierarchies in each conference are established. The early slate has seen favorites emerge and disappointing seasons start to take shape.
Which means Week 3 is bound to blow up in unexpected ways. This is, after all, college football. Nothing ever goes as planned and upsets are inevitable.
If something is going to shake up the college football world this week it's going to be a pretty massive upset. Only one Top 10 team faces less than a double-digit spread. While that game (Clemson at Louisville) will likely be the game of the week, there are still some good matchups within the Top 25 that could have long-term ramifications.
Here's a look at the Week 3 rankings and matchups, with spreads courtesy of OddsShark and predictions for the most intriguing lines on the slate.
Week 3 Rankings and Predictions
- Alabama (-29) vs. Colorado State
- Oklahoma (-34.5) vs. Tulane
- Clemson (-3) at No. 14 Louisville
- USC (-15.5) vs. Texas
- Penn State (-38.5) vs. Georgia State
- Washington (-33) vs. Fresno State
- Michigan (-24) vs. Air Force
- Ohio State (-30) vs. Army
- Oklahoma State (-13.5) at Pittsburgh
- Wisconsin (-17) at BYU
- Florida State vs. No. 17 Miami (FL) Oct. 7
- LSU (-7) at Mississippi State
- Georgia vs. Samford
- Louisville (+3) vs. No. 3 Clemson
- Auburn vs. Mercer
- Virginia Tech (-21.5) at East Carolina
- Miami (FL) at No. 11 Florida State Oct. 7
- Kansas State (-4) at Vanderbilt
- Stanford (-9.5) at San Diego State
- TCU (-19) vs. Southern Methodist
- Washington State (-21) vs. Oregon State
- South Florida (-17) vs. Illinois Sept. 15
- Tennessee (+5) at No. 24 Florida
- Florida (-5) vs. No. 23 Tennessee
- UCLA (-3.5) at Memphis
No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville
The ACC matchup between Clemson and Louisville is undoubtedly the game of the week on this otherwise iffy slate. Not only are both teams ranked in the Top 15, they are also evenly matched and no game has more on the line in terms of conference supremacy.
It's likely that the winner of this game becomes the odds-on favorite to win the conference now that Florida State is without quarterback Deondre Francois.
Last year's Clemson-Louisville game at Clemson was a donnybrook in which the Tigers were able to outscore the Cardinals, 42-36 on the way to Deshaun Watson and company's national title.
This year's version of the game is likely to be a little more defensive. Two games isn't a great sample size, but the Tigers are No. 2 in the nation in yards allowed per play. The Cardinals have struggled to stop the pass, but they are third in the nation in rushing defense on a per-carry basis (1.55 yards per carry).
That means it's going to come down to a battle of which offense can get something going. That favors the Cardinals. Even against a defense as terrifying as Clemson's, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the kind of electrifying playmaker that can turn a game on his own.
ESPN Stats & Info broke down just how historic his first two games this season are:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Lamar Jackson has 2 of the 3 seasons since 2000 in which a player accounted for 1,000 yards of offense through his team's first 2 games. https://t.co/O8v9Uht7Mq2017-9-9 19:29:38
With the Cardinals playing well against the run, their best bet is to let junior quarterback Kelly Bryant air it out against the Louisville secondary. That plays right into what Louisville wants to do, which is to turn this into a quarterback battle.
Jackson gets a huge feather in his cap toward another Heisman by coming up big against Clemson here, and Louisville becomes the division favorite.
Prediction: Louisville 28, Clemson 24
No. 18 Kansas State at Vanderbilt
Don't look now, but Kansas State and Vanderbilt is one of the best matchups of Week 3. That might say something about Week 3 as a whole, but it really is an interesting matchup between two teams who are looking to make noise this season.
For the Wildcats, this is their shot to make a statement in the Big 12. Oklahoma stunned Ohio State and TCU picked up a win against an SEC opponent in Arkansas, now the Wildcats will have the opportunity to pick up their own road win against a Power 5 opponent.
For Vanderbilt, this is a litmus test to see where they are as a program. Bill Snyder's rough and tumble Kansas State team is one that Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason would like to emulate.
"As I look at [Kansas State], it's a much different challenge," Mason said, per Yahoo Sports. "It's equipped from top to bottom. Coach Snyder is one of the best in the business. They're one of the most physical teams. When you look at how they play football, it's the style I've wanted to play since I got here."
The 'Dores showing they can not only play with K-State, but beat them at their own game would be a huge step for the program. Mike Bratton of Saturday Down South pointed out that it would represent a first for Vandy:
SEC Mike @MichaelWBratton
Vanderbilt hasn't beaten an AP ranked non-conference opponent since 1946, 0 for last 18 tries. Commodores host #17 Kansas State Saturday2017-9-13 03:06:46
Neither of these teams have played a Power 5 opponent to this point, but both have looked as good as possible considering their competition.
Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz and Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur are fourth and fifth, respectively, in quarterback rating. Both defenses rank in the Top 25 in yards allowed per play, with Vanderbilt playing especially well at 2.89 yards allowed.
Against better competition all of those stats are bound to fall, and Kansas State's experience may win out here. They are a senior-laden team coming back from a 9-4 season and have more recent success.
Prediction: Kansas State 24, Vanderbilt 16
No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida
Hurricane Irma put this game and its location in doubt, but it will, in fact, be played at the Swamp on Saturday. The Vols are looking to start a winning streak in this rivalry after breaking an 11-game drought against their SEC East rivals.
It isn't often that a Week 3 game is truly a must-win, but Florida head coach Jim McElwain really needs to beat Tennessee to avoid going 0-2. The Gators haven't started a season with back-to-back losses since 1971, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel (h/t Paul Finebaum of the New York Times).
The Gators come into the game as a favorite, but it's hard to figure out why. It certainly can't be anything the team showed against Michigan. They got abysmal quarterback play out of Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire in a 33-17 loss.
Tennessee on the other hand has at least proved that it can put points on the board. Junior running back John Kelly has been a dual threat for the Vols as they've put up 42 points in back-to-back weeks.
The Vols showed a lack of physicality on defense in giving up 655 yards to Georgia Tech. Of course, unless the Gators plan on putting in the option over the weekend, you can only extrapolate so much from that game about the Volunteer defense.
Instead, it's easier to anticipate that they will have an easier time aligning to and defending Florida's anemic offense at this point. With the confidence of snapping Florida's streak last year the Volunteers have enough on offense to outpace Florida.
Prediction: Tennessee 25, Florida 21