Like last week, Week 3 brings plenty of meaningful and highly anticipated games for viewers all over the country. The non-conference slate is at a premium this week, with traditional powers set to do battle from all conferences. The build-up for a great Saturday begins with a showdown in the SEC when LSU visits the Bulldogs of Mississippi State today.
We tie a knot on the week when two top-five teams square off in a classic battle between FSU and Oklahoma. A lot of questions should be answered when the dust settles this weekend not only in conference, but also nationally.
Let's take a closer look at the top ten games of the weekend. I urge readers to leave a comment with some predictions of their own...
QB Andrew Luck looks to shred a suspect Arizona secondary.
It seems like every season Arizona gets a big-time upset over a top-tier team at home. This year's chance will come against the sixth ranked Cardinal. Stanford is led by Heisman front-runner, quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck hasn't had to be called upon this season as Stanford has rolled two lower-level opponents. This week will be more of a test and Luck will have to be sharp. The defense still has the same bite it had under Jim Harbaugh, which will continue to be a plus all season.
Arizona has Stanford right where they want them. A big night game in front of the home crowd should pose as a great atmosphere in Tucson. The Arizona offense is led by quarterback Nick Foles, who has thrown six touchdowns to six different receivers this season. Unfortunately, the run game and inconsistent defense has left the Cats at 1-1, with the loss coming in blowout fashion.
Prediction: Foles has been fantastic since he arrived in Tucson and should be fantastic when he lands in the NFL one day. Unfortunately the 2011 version of the Wildcats lacks greatness in other key positions.
I look to see Foles and his receivers get off to a fast start before being slowed sometime in the third quarter. Had this game been in Palo Alto I wouldn't give Arizona a chance. Arizona Stadium should keep it at least competitive. Luck will introduce himself to the 2011 season... Stanford - 37 Arizona - 23.
QB Taylor Martinex leads a potent Husker offense.
Last year's game in Seattle turned into a laugher, as Washington laid an egg in one of the more anticipated home games in recent memory. This year may be more of the same, as quarterback Taylor Martinez leads the way with six total touchdowns and over 600 yards of total offense.
Although vulnerable in last week's game against Fresno State, the Huskers still boast a talented defense that shouldn't have much trouble shutting down the Huskies one-dimentional attack.
One the opposite sideline will be a Washington team that limps in with two narrow wins over two below average opponents. Their opening win over Eastern Washington and last week's squeaker over Hawaii show that the Huskies are not only vulnerable, but downright beatable.
Running back Chris Polk has been one of the few bright spots for the Huskies this season averaging 116 yards a game. Unfortunately the defensive side of the ball has been suspect all season and won't find time to gel against a motivated Huskers team.
Prediction: I don't like Washington's chances in this one. I'd like to say the Dawgs will be able to hang around, but I'd be lying. Instead the Huskers should be able to move the ball however they please and roll to a victory.
I expect the the game to be under control by halftime. Washington misses Jake Locker more than they thought... Nebraska - 48 Washington - 17.
RB Jonathan Franklin anchors the UCLA attack.
Last year's loss proved to be the start of a horrific season for the Longhorns. This year the game moves to the Rose Bowl, where Texas looks for some revenge and a nice 3-0 non-conference slate.
Mack Brown finally decided to file the Garrett Gilbert experiment in favor of the Case McCoy- David Ash combination.
With plenty of talent and experience on the defensive side of the ball, the concern remains with the offense and if it can find a passing attack to compliment the run game.
UCLA comes in a dismal 1-1. Although they responded well after the heartbreak in Houston, UCLA's passing attack is still brutal. Coach Rick Neuheisel's seat continues to get hotter and it's rubbing off on his players. UCLA must set the tone early with running back Jonathan Franklin, who appears to be the anchor of the offense.
Prediction: I anticipate a close, low scoring game between these two. Both have struggled in the passing game, which tells me chunks of yards will be at a premium this Saturday.
I expect Franklin to be the difference and be one of the few bright spots on either offenses. UCLA will make fewer mistakes at home and Neuheisel will get to breath a bit easier. In a coin flip... UCLA - 24 Texas - 17.
Maryland looks to go 2-0 and restore a once proud program.
Very interesting game this year in College Park. Both teams bring in quarterbacks who aren't short of yardage. The Terps had two weeks to prepare after their emotional opener over Miami. Quarterback Danny O'Brien had a big day in that one, going for over 300 yards. Maryland's defense, although not sturdy, plays opportunistically.
West Virginia brings in a nice passing game of it's own, along with a defense ranked 19th in total defense. They have also played Norfolk State and Marshall, so the jury still appears to be out on the Mountaineers. Quarterback Geno Smith has gotten off to a suburb start and has yet to turn the ball over.
Prediction: Great rivalry game that usually gives us a close contest every year. I expect this year to be no different with a game that should be decided by turnovers. The talent and chemistry points go to WVU, but everything else points to Maryland.
I like Maryland to rally behind a rowdy home crowd and force turnovers to give them another emotional win. I'll change my pick if they wear those disgusting helmets again...Maryland - 33 West Virginia - 30.
RB Michael Dyer has yet to lose at Auburn.
Auburn's close win over the Tigers last year helped propel their undefeated season. This year's game changes location, but should be just as competitive. Auburn comes in undefeated after two narrow victories over Utah State and Mississippi State. Led by runningbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, Auburn will look to wear down the untested Clemson defense.
Clemson hits game three of its four-game home stand. Auburn will most definitely pose a much tougher test than the first two opponents who came through Death Valley. It's tough to get a read on Clemson's offense, which appears to be a well-oiled machine, strictly because of its level of competition thus far. I like the idea of home-field advantage in this one.
Prediction: It's no secret that Clemson plays better at home - much better. This game should be no different. Auburn has been shredding on thin ice the past two weeks and it's about time they get picked off.
The magic must run out and this week the Tigers of Auburn hit the road for the first time of this young season. Home-field advantage gets Clemson the win...Clemson - 27 Auburn - 21.
QB Kirk Cousins leads a balanced Spartans offense.
Notre Dame may come into this game 0-2, but that might make this game that much more significant. An 0-3 start would be detrimental to a program looking to get back in the national spotlight.
Throw in the fact that expectations surround the Irish this season and you have the start to a very disappointing season. The scary thing is that there have been too many bright spots for the Irish this season to be 0-2. After pummeling South Florida and controlling Michigan for 55 minutes, it's easy to infer that the Irish should be 2-0 and be ranked in the top 10.
MSU boasts a defense who gave up 48 total yards and one first down in its contest last week. Nevermind the fact it was against Florida Atlantic, that's good defense no matter who you play.
Sparty can also play some offense, too. Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads a very balanced attack that figures to exploit the Irish with two runningbacks and a consistent passing game.
Prediction: It's hard to picture ND starting this season 0-3, but that will be reality come Saturday. Michael Floyd will get his numbers this week, but MSU is too good for the rest of the Irish offense.
The game will start close, but will shift towards MSU by the final quarter. Expect the Spartans' offense to wear down ND with a fresh, two-runningback ground game... Michigan State - 23 Notre Dame 16.
The Swamp could be the difference on Saturday for the Gators.
This game used to decide the SEC East. Recently, it has posed as a minor speed bump in Florida's road to the BCS.
On paper, Florida should control this game from start to finish. Running back Chris Rainey has been the motor for the Gator offense, accumulating over 300 yards of total offense. He has given the SEC nightmares for years.
New quarterback John Brantley has shown more consistency and the defense has given up a total of three points. From a talent standpoint, Florida should win running way.
Tennessee comes in at 2-0 after an impressive home win against Cincinnati in week 2. Quarterback Tyler Bray has lived up to his hype as a prep with seven touchdowns in two games. Derek Dooley has already made strides in the right direction his second year on the job and should continue to do so as the season progresses.
Turnovers will be the key if Tennessee is going to have a chance. From a defensive standpoint, the Florida offense out-mans the Volunteer defense significantly.
Prediction: I expect this game to be one of the better games of the weekend. Both teams look to make statements as Tennessee attempts to re-introduce itself to the SEC and Florida tries to show it's still among the nation's elite.
As stated earlier, Florida has the talent to blow this game open early. I don't think they will. The Tennessee passing attack will explode early, but in the end the Gators defense will come up with enough big plays in The Swamp... Florida - 45 Tennessee - 34.
Coach Les Miles will have his Tigers ready Thursday night.
Thursday's night showdown should be a good one in the SEC West this week.
Third-ranked LSU comes in at 2-0 after taking care of Oregon in this season's first heavyweight fight. Among other things, it showed that Jarrett Lee may be the Trent Dilfer of the SEC. He was smart in the opener and let his play-makers do the rest. The LSU defense is scary-good, but should be tested by an explosive Bulldog offense.
It will be interesting to see if Mississippi State can rebound after its deflating loss to Auburn last week. After racking up over 500 yards of total offense against the Tigers, their inability to close eventually cost MSU the game and a 2-0 start.
Led by dual-threat quarterback Chris Reif, the Bulldogs will look to keep LSU guessing. Mississippi State can move the ball, but as seen last week, they have a tough time closing.
Prediction: Dan Mullin will have his team ready to play in front of a raucous home crowd - that's for sure. The problem is LSU may have one of the best defenses in the country. Throw in the fact that LSU's offense doesn't make mistakes and you got yourself a very tough out no matter where the game is held.
MSU will score a few early, but I have a tough time going against LSU especially after what they did to Oregon... LSU - 34 Mississippi State - 24.
Even Brutus served a one-game suspension last year.
I honestly have no idea who is and who isn't suiting up for this one. The sad thing is that in a few months this game could be taken out of the record books... for both schools.
Ohio State is the more complete team with and without the suspensions. Both schools are still breaking in new coaches, but at least the Bucks' has been in the program for a while.
Quarterback Joe Bauserman plays the role of an OSU quarterback tremendously. He's nothing special, but he'll get the ball to the right people. The awe factor is lacking for the Bucks this season, but like always, they will win the turnover battle nine out of ten times.
the 'Canes appear to be in a much worse spot. Even with the turmoil of all the suspensions, the Canes still break in a new head coach and find themselves staring down a tough schedule. Quarterback Jacory Harris makes his season debut against a team that ruined him last season. the 'Canes also get members of their defense back, which proved to be costly two weeks ago at Maryland.
Prediction: The Canes will come out ready to play - they have to. This game will include a lot of emotion for both teams, but the Canes especially need to respond well after their loss to the Terps. The home crowd will play a factor and the speed of the Canes will make things interesting.
Overall, the two contrasting styles of play will be fun to watch. I just have a tough time picking against OSU when their opponent is in such shambles... Ohio State - 26 Miami - 24.
Landry Jones looks to solitify the Sooners at the top this week.
The game of the week takes place in Tallahassee between the Sooners of Oklahoma and the Florida State Seminoles.
Florida State sports a top-five ranking for the first time since 2005. Quarterback E.J. Manuel appears to be the real deal, and the Noles' defense has future professionals at several positions.
Coach Jimbo Fisher appears to have the program in the right direction and a win over the Sooners will prove that they are back to championship-caliber. Unfortunately the Noles have yet to see a team with any sort of a pulse.
Likewise, the top-ranked Sooners' only game came in winning fashion against Tulsa. Quarterback Landry Jones leads one of the nations best and most complete offenses. OU's all-time leading receiver, Ryan Broyles, will be all over the field Saturday giving the Seminoles fits. The Sooners are no stranger to big games and should use the experience they have at key positions to create opportunities for themselves.
Prediction: I still feel FSU is one year away from contending for a championship and this game will show why. The Sooners are too poised and although cliche', they have indeed been here before. On the contrary, Florida State breaks in not only a quarterback, but also a coach who have yet to feel the pressure of a game of this magnitude. FSU stages a comeback, but comes up short... Oklahoma - 35 Florida State - 27.