College Football: Lindsey's 10 Most Important Games of Week 3

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College Football: Lindsey's 10 Most Important Games of Week 3
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Are Ryan Mallett and the Hogs Ready for the Dawgs?

Virginia Tech, apparently suffering a hangover from Week 1, failed to come to play and were upset by James Madison 16-13. Coach Frank Beamer has to be happy that the ink is dry on his contract extension.

Boise State took a big hit for the Hokies debacle as they lost several first place votes. Broncos fans have to be asking themselves what more must they do.

The Tide and Buckeyes looked very much the part of the top two teams in the country, both posting solid wins over Top 20 teams at home. 

The most surprising team of the week was the Ducks from Oregon.  At the start of the second quarter in Oregon’s game against the Volunteers, it appeared that the Ducks might get upset in Knoxville, trailing 13-3.  Oregon, however, woke up and scored 45 unanswered points, routing Tennessee 48-13 to make the biggest jump in the polls this week.  

Michigan’s Denard Robinson put on a video game performance against Notre Dame, accounting for 502 yards of total offense and a solid execution of the two minute drill to engineer the game-winning drive.  Robinson’s efforts propelled the Wolverines to the No. 22 spot in the college football rankings this week and himself into the Heisman Trophy race.

Week 3 will likely also have its share of upsets, surprises, and outstanding performances.  Last week, we got eight out of 10 selections right.  On the season, we are 11-4. 

Below are the 10 most important games of Week 3. 

 

No. 9 Iowa vs. No. 24 Arizona      

Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads said it best. “We got whipped,” Rhoads said. “I thought we played a helluva football team,” Rhoads said. “They’re talking about Iowa contending for a national championship, and they should. That’s a good football team. I don’t see weaknesses, and certainly played like that this afternoon.”

Of course, the Wildcats would like to play spoiler to the Hawkeyes to avenge their 27-17 loss in Iowa City last year.  

When the schedules were released, this game figured to be decided on the defensive side of the ball. Both teams have great defenses and the preseason hype appears to have been well deserved after two weeks. 

The Hawkeyes held their first two opponents to a total of 14 points and 432 yards.  Arizona has racked up better numbers, limiting their first two opponents to a total of 8 points and 354 yards.

What is surprising about this matchup is how well the teams have played offensively this season. Arizona's offense is averaging 504 yards a game and is 10th in the nation in passing at 344 yards a game. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is completing more than 83 percent of his passing attempts.

Iowa’s offense this year is not an afterthought, as they are averaging 227 yards rushing and 230 yards passing through the first two weeks. The Hawkeyes feature two solid running backs in Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton. Hampton missed all of 2009 with a torn ACL, however after his 84-yards-and-a-touchdown effort against the Cyclones, he appears to be completely healthy. 

If Arizona can stop the running game of Iowa, they will have a great opportunity to upset the Hawkeyes. Arizona is 15-1 since 2008 when they hold their opponents to under 120 rushing yards.  

Prediction—Arizona is motivated, but Iowa appears to be a team on a mission. Iowa beats the Wildcats 24-13. 

 

No. 4 Texas vs. Texas Tech

Texas is 2-0, ranked No. 4 in the Coaches poll, and will go into its third game of the year with its third starting running back.  Fozzy Whittaker will start over Cody Johnson, who started the opener against Rice, and Tre’ Newton, who started the second game against Wyoming. 

Mack Brown explained starting Fozzy because “he was the most productive in the [Wyoming] game and [w]e're trying to keep the hot back in the game. We're lucky we have three good backs.  When he was in the ballgame, he made the most happen. He had 45 yards after contact in this game.” 

The new run-oriented Longhorns offense has averaged 182.0 yards on the ground in the first two games, good for just 44th in the country. Whittaker has the fewest number of carries of the three backs (16), but the most yards (113) for a 7.1 average per carry. Johnson has 105 yards on 24 carries and Newton has 84 yards on 26 carries.

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville appears to be relishing the role of David to Texas' Goliath. When he was asked if he knew his team was the underdog against Texas, he shot back a smile and playfully asked, “We’re underdogs?” 

Tuberville is not conceding anything to Texas. “I think we’re a Top 25 team, but we’re not in it.” A win by the Raiders will definitely ensure that Tech is ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation.

Saturday's game, which will be nationally televised on ABC, figures to be the game of the year for Tuberville. Tech's first-year coach wants to make a good impression on the fan base, much like he did at Auburn—where he beat rival Alabama six times in a row to endear himself to the Tiger faithful. 

A win would also be a nice birthday present for Tuberville, who turns 56 on Saturday. The last year he coached on his birthday was 2004, when Auburn beat LSU 10-9 en route to an undefeated season, and Tuberville is 4-0 on his birthday as either a head coach or assistant coach.

Prediction—The Longhorns will spoil the birthday party festivities of Coach Tuberville by grinding out a 23-20 win.

 

Clemson vs. No. 16 Auburn

Auburn’s quarterback Cam Newton has been impressive in the first two games of the season, accounting for 322 passing yards, 241 rushing yards, and seven touchdowns. 

However, it has not all been smooth sailing for Newton and Auburn’s offense, as they were held scoreless in the second half against Mississippi State.

Fortunately for Auburn, their defensive unit came to play, limiting the Mississippi State Bulldogs to only 3.6 yards per play, the smallest amount of yards per play under coach Dan Mullen.  Auburn tackle Nick Fairley earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 2.5 tackles for loss, interception, and fumble recovery against Mississippi State. 

Clemson has had two games in which to get all of its players some experience with easy victories over North Texas and Presbyterian.  No single player has more than three receptions and 11 different players have at least one catch.  Clemson has also had the luxury of playing four quarterbacks in the first two games. 

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker, however, will likely get the bulk of the playing time against Auburn.  Parker has been sharp, throwing for 284 yards and four touchdowns in limited action. 

Parker has experience leading Clemson to upset a ranked foe on the road.  Last year, Parker threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-37 overtime victory of No. 8 Miami on October 24, 2009. 

Auburn has won the last 13 regular season games against Clemson. However, Auburn hasn’t played Clemson in the regular season in nearly 40 years.  Auburn defeated Clemson 23-20 in overtime in the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Prediction—Clemson, with a battle-tested quarterback, will begin to balance its ledger with Auburn with a 20-17 upset. 

 

Arizona State v. No. 11 Wisconsin 

Wisconsin is looking for revenge against Arizona State’s quarterback Steven Threet.  As a redshirt freshman, Threet led Michigan to the second biggest comeback in school history when he rallied them from a 19-0 third-quarter deficit to a 27-25 win over Wisconsin on September 27, 2008. 

Threet has grown and matured as a quarterback and is now more likely to hurt you with his arm than his feet, running Arizona’s no-huddle spread attack.  Threet has thrown for 630 yards, five touchdowns, and completed more than 67 percent of his passes in the first two games of the season. 

The Badgers secondary had a rough game last week as they allowed 252 passing yards to San Jose State.  The Badgers may attempt to slow the Sun Devils passing attack by making them one dimensional.

The Sun Devils had only 56 yards on 29 carries against Northern Arizona last week. 

On offense, Wisconsin will continue to rely on reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay, who has averaged 6.5 yards per carry through two games, totaling 260 rushing yards, and four touchdowns. The 255-pound junior has topped 100 yards in eight consecutive games.

If the Sun Devils fall flat, Arizona State could be in trouble, as their schedule stays difficult with games against Oregon and Oregon State. 

"As we get into this part of our schedule coming up," Wildcat coach Dennis Erickson said, "there is no mercy.  None whatsoever."

Prediction—The Badgers make the Wildcats one dimensional and win comfortably, 34-17.

 

Maryland vs. No. 21 West Virginia

Maryland and West Virginia are renewing their annual rivalry after a four-year hiatus.  Maryland has faced West Virginia more than any other non-conference opponent, and the Mountaineers lead the series 23-21-2.

It's clear that this rivalry means plenty to both sides. "We gotta get ready for a border war," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "Maryland is back on the schedule."  The schools announced Monday they will meet through the 2017 season.

West Virginia, in their last four meeting with the Terrapins, have been successful running the ball, as they have averaged over 300 yards rushing. Running back Noel Devine should see plenty of playing time. 

The Mountaineers' quarterback, Geno Smith, however, can throw the ball. Smith completed 32 of 45 passes for 316 yards against Marshall last weekend. 

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is cautiously optimistic about his club this year.  "I think this team has a chance to be very good. I've said that all along," Friedgen said. "And what I see happening is just what I thought."

The pollsters are in agreement, as the Terps received consideration in both the USA Today coaches’ and Associated Press media polls this week.

Coach Friedgen has used both Jamarr Robinson and Danny O’Brien at quarterback this year, and both players have played well splitting time under center. Sophomore defensive lineman Joe Vellano has gotten off to a quick start this year. Vellano has 2.5 sacks after registering none last year.

West Virginia's defense recently suffered a blow when starting cornerback Brandon Hogan was suspended indefinitely from the team after being arrested for drunk driving.  The senior has 25 career starts and ranks fourth on the team with 11 tackles this season.

Prediction—Maryland will hang around for a while, but West Virginia should pull away in the second half, 31-17.


No. 12 Arkansas vs. Georgia

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has quietly posted Heisman type numbers in his first two weeks completing 73 percent of his passes while throwing for 701 yards and six touchdowns. Mallet had a terrific game against Georgia last year, albeit a losing one, as he had 408 passing yards and five touchdowns.

The Bulldogs, however, are a different team this year, especially given that they have a new defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham and a new defensive scheme.  Grantham, who came to Georgia after spending the past two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, has installed a new 3-4 scheme.

Arkansas will be without running back/kick returner Dennis Johnson, who was injured last week.  "He had an internal injury that did require surgery. We're not even thinking about a timetable for his return right now. We're just thinking about his health. Hopefully, he'll improve. He's been doing well," Coach Bobby Petrino said about Johnson.

Georgia may be without Georgia receiver A.J. Green.  Green would be a big loss for Georgia, as he had a huge game against Arkansas last year, catching seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Green drew a four-game suspension from the NCAA for selling his game jersey from last year's Independence Bowl for $1,000. Georgia has appealed Green’s suspension, and Georgia is hopeful to hear good news from the NCAA soon that Green will be cleared to play.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray will likely feel more comfortable at home this week against the Razorbacks. Of course, Murray would feel even better with Green in the lineup.

Prediction—If Green plays, Georgia should win 28-24.  If the NCAA says no to Mr. Green, Razorbacks 31-21.


No. 18 USC v. Minnesota

The Trojans have fallen several spots in the AP poll despite getting off to a 2-0 start.  Minnesota has, well, dropped off the deep end after looking utterly helpless on defense against Football Championship Subdivision South Dakota in a 41-38 home loss.

Why so glum in Los Angeles?  Hawaii racked up 588 yards against them in Week 1, the offense could only muster 17 points against Virginia last week, and the Trojans have committed more penalties than any other team in college football.

"(That's) probably the most miserable 2-0 locker room I've ever been in," said Kiffin, whose squad slipped two spots in the AP Poll. "Which is good. Our players understand we have to play much better."

Why so glum in Minnesota?  The Gophers surrendered 444 yards of total offense to the Coyotes; South Dakota had 352 passing yards on Minnesota.  South Dakota didn’t upset Minnesota—they imposed their will on the Gophers.

"It is certainly an unacceptable loss on our part," Coach Tim Brewster said. "This is a hard one to move on from."

The good news for the Gophers is that they expect to have their only returning defensive starters, safeties Kim Royston and Kyle Theret, back in the lineup for the first time this season. Royston was sidelined with a leg injury, and Theret was suspended for violating team rules.

The Gophers must find a way to regroup for USC, which, despite its shortcomings, has won 18 consecutive non-conference games and 10 straight against Big Ten opponents by an average margin of 21.7 points.

This game is important in that conditions are ripe for us to have our first firing of a head coach.  

In Tim Brewster, you have a coach who is at the end of his rope going against a coach in Lane Kiffin who is not afraid to try and run up the score.  Kiffin’s Trojans went for two-point conversions on their first three possessions in their opener against Hawaii.

If USC imposes a beat down on Minnesota, we may see Minnesota’s Athletic Director Joel Maturi announcing on Monday morning that an interim coach will be taking over for the rest of the season.

Prediction—USC 42-24 over Minnesota. The Gophers will have to take solace in the fact that they will be able to keep the game relatively close until the end. 

 

No. 10 Florida vs. Tennessee

Tennessee is a young football team that played very well in the first half against a strong, experienced Oregon team last week. This week, Tennessee faces another very tough test, going up against the Gators.

Volunteer fans will likely wonder what is going to happen if Tennessee finds itself in the game in the second half—will the Vols rollover or will they press the issue to the end?

Florida fans, on the other hand, are wondering what is going on with their team.

Gators’ receiver and punt returner Chris Rainey has apparently been suspended from the team after Gainesville police filed a report that Rainey sent the text “Time to Die,” to a girlfriend after leaving her home on Monday night.  Rainey was taken into custody and charged with aggravated stalking.

When Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was asked about Rainey’s status, he said, “Chris Rainey is not a part of our team right now.  That’s really all I have to say on that.”

The alleged victim appeared in court and told Judge Denise R. Ferrero that she does not fear Rainey, but she was concerned about retribution from the public following all of the media attention.

“I don’t want him arrested,” she said.  “When the police came, I signed papers to not press any charges. I don’t fear for my safety... People all over the country have been calling my cell phone. I’m not afraid of him.  I’m more afraid of all the repercussions.”

Many will be looking to see how Florida coach Urban Meyer handles the Rainey situation.  Meyer has said in the past that, as a father of daughters, he has very little tolerance for any crime against a woman. Meyer has a chance to use his pulpit to make something positive out of a very negative situation.

Prediction—Florida has won the last five meetings between the teams, and while the off-field distractions will likely affect the Gators, Florida should beat Tennessee 28-20.

 

No. 8 Nebraska v. Washington

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini called his defense’s performance an “absolute embarrassment” in their win over Western Kentucky in Week 1. 

The Black Shirts responded with seven sacks and five interceptions, returning two of the five interceptions for touchdowns against Idaho last week. 

The Cornhuskers, however, will likely find things much more difficult against Washington’s quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Jake Locker. Locker appears to be a player with enough talent to warrant an NFL team drafting him in the first round.

Of course, Cornhusker fans aren’t worried as the last three quarterbacks with dazzling resumes have struggled against Nebraska. 

Kansas' all-time leading passer Todd Reesing completed less than 50 percent of his passes while averaging just six yards. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones was intercepted five times. Colt McCoy of Texas was sacked nine times and was also intercepted three times in the Big 12 Championship game last year.

Nebraska, however, better come prepared to play as the Huskies are not going to be intimidated playing a top 10 team.  Last year, Washington upset No. 3 USC 16-13 in the third week of the season.

Will history repeat itself?

Prediction—The quarterback play of Nebraska’s redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez will likely be more important than the play of Locker. If Martinez doesn’t turn the ball over, Nebraska should win a hard fought game 21-17.

 

Louisville vs. No. 25 Oregon State

Dear Beavers,

We just wanted you to know that we are really looking forward to you coming to see us at our place next week.  There is no need to bring anything as we will have everything taken care of on our end.

We do however have one favor to ask of you.

We would really appreciate your efforts if you could pick up a win this week against the Cardinals.  We were thinking that a three touchdown victory should do the trick.

I know several of us are hoping that you will find yourself in a better neighborhood next week; we think a No. 15 ranking would like good on you.

We ordinarily would not ask this of you, but, you see, the Hokies put us in a bind. Coach Beamer and his boys left something when we got together and, somehow, some fellow named James Madison caused several of our friends to find someone else to support in the polls.

As you know, it is so hard these days to find someone who truly believes in you and will not sell you out to the highest bidder.

Well, until we see you next week, best of luck against the Cardinals.

Your friends,

The Broncos

Prediction—Oregon State should roll over the Cardinals, given that they have been warned not to pull a Hokie; Beavers 34-16 over the Cardinals.

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