Picking College Football's Biggest Games: Week Three
Here we go. Week Three is by far the best week of matchups so far this college football season.
Kansas at South Florida starts the football weekend, and Wisconsin at Fresno State ends it. Sandwiched in the middle are Michigan at Notre Dame, UCLA at BYU, and perhaps the game of the year (at least until TWLOCP), Ohio State at USC.
This is going to be one weekend of college football you won't want to miss. Clear your schedule and make sure you have enough tailgating supplies, because you can't miss a single second of action.
As I gaze into my crystal ball, this is how I see Week Three unfolding.
No. 13 Kansas at No. 19 South Florida
Line: South Florida -3.5
Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe have put up some impressive numbers in their first two games, but game three will be the first true test for the Jayhawks.
Matt Grothe was a redshirt freshman in 2006 when the teams met for the first time. The Jayhawk defense gave the quarterback some trouble, but Grothe may give Kansas more trouble as a junior. He threw for 346 yards and three scores, including a 25-yard game-winner in overtime to senior wide receiver Taurus Johnson, last Saturday in a 31-24 victory at Central Florida.
Prediction: South Florida, 38-32
No. 14 East Carolina at Tulane
Line: East Carolina -13.5
East Carolina, after two upset victories to begin the season, finds itself in the role of favorite this week. Senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney has been outstanding so far, completing 80.4 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Green Wave have two wins against the Pirates in nine tries, and the odds for a victory in this game are low. Tulane has lost 33 consecutive games against ranked opponents, including last week's 20-6 loss to Alabama.
Prediction: East Carolina, 28-10
No. 2 Georgia at South Carolina
Line: Georgia -7
After playing two overmatched opponents, Georgia looks to show they were worthy of the preseason No. 1 ranking as they open SEC conference play. Matthew Stafford has shown much improvement so far this season, but he has struggled in his career against the Gamecocks.
Despite allowing only an average of 181.5 yards of total offense (11th nationally), the Gamecocks are 1-1 after last weekend’s upset loss to Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks will try to regroup against one of the nation's most talented teams.
Prediction: Georgia, 34-20
UCLA at No. 18 BYU
Line: BYU -9
UCLA stunned the world after a heroic second half performance against Tennessee by first year quarterback Kevin Craft. After a week to prepare for BYU, Craft and the Bruins will be itching to prove they were no fluke. UCLA’s defense will need another stellar performance in order to slow down Max Hall and the Cougars.
BYU needed a blocked extra point to stave off Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington last week. The Cougars will need another big day out of Hall and tight end Dennis Pitta, who have already connected 21 times for 361 yards this season, in order to beat the pesky Bruins.
Prediction: UCLA, 27-24
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Line: Virginia Tech -8
The Yellow Jackets are still getting the hang of Paul Johnson’s option based offense, but despite only gaining 235 yards of total offense in last week’s win over Boston College, Georgia Tech is getting big plays out of Josh Nesbit and Jonathan Dwyer.
Virginia Tech is also inexperienced offensively and have struggled mightily in their first two games, a loss to East Carolina and a lackluster win over Furman. The Hokie defense will need to play a great game if they hope to stop the Jackets' tricky offense.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 24-20
No. 16 Oregon at Purdue
Line: Oregon -7
The Ducks will take the nation’s best offense on the road this week after piling up 688 yards of total offense last week. Tailback Jeremiah Johnson, who was injured in last week’s game, will return to the lineup this week, but the Ducks are loaded and had seven rushing touchdowns last week.
Purdue led the Big Ten in total offense last season and had the top passing attack. The Boilermakers return quarterback Curtis Painter and will rely heavily on their passing game. The problem for Purdue is that Oregon has one of the best secondary units in the country.
Prediction: Oregon, 45-31
Michigan at Notre Dame
Line: Michigan -2.5
On a day when Notre Dame is dedicating a statue of former coach Lou Holtz, the Irish will look to beat their biggest rival. The Notre Dame offense will need to play much better against Michigan’s defense if they hope to go 2-0 on the season.
Michigan hasn’t set the world on fire offensively, but they have a talented defense that improved from week one to week two. One thing in Michigan’s favor is that they’ve already faced a tougher opponent than Notre Dame this season. Of course, Utah isn’t a rival.
Prediction: Notre Dame, 27-24
No. 3 Oklahoma at Washington
Line: Oklahoma -20
The Sooners have scored 109 points in two games, and they scored 52 last week against a very good Cincinnati defense. Oklahoma will be the away team for the first time this season. The last time the Sooners went on the road in the Pac-10, they lost to Oregon after an obviously erroneous call by Pac-10 officials. Five erroneous calls may not make a difference in this one.
Washington lost a heartbreaker at home last week to BYU. The Huskies will need an even bigger performance out of their talented quarterback Jake Locker, who I guarantee will hand the ball to an official if he scores this week. The Husky defense will have to play the game of their lives.
Prediction: Oklahoma, 47-24
Game of the Week
No. 5 Ohio State at No. 1 USC
Line: USC -11
The game that would be is finally here. In 2006, had USC not lost to UCLA in the final game of the regular season, it most probably would have played Ohio State for the National Championship.
Last season, the dream matchup seemed inevitable until West Virginia choked against Pitt and Missouri lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, opening the door for the Buckeyes to bypass the Rose Bowl and play in their second consecutive National Championship Game.
Now the wait is over.
Ohio State needs this game desperately in order to gain back the nation’s respect after two consecutive National Championship losses. The Big Ten Conference needs this game after seeing its Rose Bowl representative get pasted by the Trojans time and time again.
Ohio State has a lot of talent, but after a lackluster win over Ohio last week, the entire nation has lost the last shred of confidence it had in the Buckeyes.
For the last week—for the last year—Ohio State has been hearing two things about 100 times a day: two consecutive National Championship losses and the game against USC.
USC had a brilliant showing in their opening game, a 52-7 rout of Virginia. That win was enough to vault the Trojans to the number one ranking from the number three spot, despite convincing wins by the teams in front of them. Since that game the Trojans have heard nothing but how great they are.
They are a very talented team. But Ohio State is not Virginia.
This one comes down to a few key points.
The Ohio State defensive line must control the line of scrimmage against a young and inexperienced USC offensive line, the Buckeyes must get pressure on Mark Sanchez, who is talented but has yet to take a hit in the heat of battle, and Ohio State must win the turnover battle.
If the Buckeyes do those three things, they win. If not, USC wins.
Prediction: Ohio State, 27-23
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 21 Fresno State
Line: Wisconsin -1.5
The Badgers' first road trip of the year may be their toughest of the season. Wisconsin can run the ball, this we know, but Badgers' quarterback Allan Evridge will need to repeat the success he had last week against a much weaker opponent. The Badgers may still be without superstar tight end Travis Beckum, who has yet to play this season because of a nagging hamstring injury.
Fresno State have had a week to prepare for the Badgers, and I’d be willing to bet they are going to stack the line and make Evridge beat them with his arm. Lurking in the talented secondary is Marvin Haynes, who had two interceptions in week one.
Prediction: Fresno State, 27-24
Last Week: 13-5 Against the Spread: 9-9
Overall: 26-10 Against the Spread: 9-9
Photo courtesy of FoxSports.com
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