College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 3 Predictions for Every Game

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    After two weeks of action, we have 46 FBS teams that have gotten off to 2-0 starts, while another 14 are looking for answers after beginning 0-2. Both tallies will be lower after Week 3, as the schedule features six matchups of 2-0 teams and a clash of 0-2 squads.

    This week's slate only features one game pitting teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, but it should still be a competitive weekend with only seven of the 58 games featuring visitors from the FCS ranks. Another 19 FBS teams are on a bye, while Cincinnati finally gets its 2014 season underway after being kept on the sidelines to this point.

    Take a look at our predictions for every Week 3 contest, as well as our experts' picks for some of the weekend's top games, then give us your thoughts in the comments section on who will beat whom.

    Week 2 record: 61-13 (.824)

    Season record: 131-27 (.829)

Louisiana Tech at North Texas

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    When: Thursday, Sept. 11; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: North Texas rallied from a 10-0 first-half deficit to win 28-13 at Louisiana Tech last October in a Conference USA game.

    What to watch for

    Louisiana Tech (1-1) is playing its third straight road game to start the season, but the last one showed what the Bulldogs are capable of this year. They rolled over Louisiana-Lafayette, 48-20, getting 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Kenneth Dixon and 295 yards and two TDs from Cody Sokol on 22-of-33 passing.

    North Texas (1-1) bounced back from a woeful offensive effort in its opener at Texas by dominating SMU 43-6 at home. The Mean Green would have had the shutout if not for a touchdown allowed as time expired, but they still held SMU to 10 rushing yards while gaining 245 of their own on the ground.

    Tech's road win might have been a fluke, or it might be an indication that Skip Holtz has things on track in Ruston. We're going with the latter.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 26, North Texas 21

    Final: Louisiana Tech 41, North Texas 21

Houston at No. 25 BYU

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    When: Thursday, Sept. 11; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Taysom Hill threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning 11-yard score to Skyler Ridley with 1:08 left to give BYU a 47-46 road win over previously unbeaten Houston last October.

    What to watch for

    Houston (1-1) shut out FCS Grambling last week in a recovery from a 20-point home loss to UTSA the week before. Now the Cougars hit the road but are still looking for the offensive consistency they had in 2013, as quarterback John O'Korn and receiver Deontay Greenberry are still trying to get on the same page.

    BYU (2-0) has a pair of impressive road wins under its belt already, the last being a masterful 41-7 victory at Texas. The Cougars are 35th in FBS in total defense, but that effort has been masked by how good Hill has looked so far. The junior has 685 yards of total offense and is responsible for eight touchdowns already. 

    BYU ran an FBS-record-tying 115 plays against Houston last year, and it will want to play fast again here. The home crowd will only make the Cougars look better.

    Prediction: BYU 37, Houston 20

    Final: BYU 33, Houston 25

Toledo at Cincinnati

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    When: Friday, Sept. 12; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Toledo jumped out to a 13-0 lead and held on to beat Cincinnati 29-23 in October 2012 thanks to a touchdown each from the defense and special teams and five Jeremiah Detmer field goals.

    What to watch for

    Toledo (1-1) hits the road for the first time with a new quarterback under center, as sophomore Logan Woodside steps in for Phillip Ely after the latter tore his ACL in last week's loss to Missouri. Ely had thrown for 541 yards and four touchdowns on the year, but now the Rockets will become even more dependent on the running of sophomore Kareem Hunt, who has 284 yards and five TDs through two games.

    Cincinnati will amazingly be playing its first game of the season after two open weeks at the outset. The Bearcats will be led by Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel at quarterback, a move formally announced this week by coach Tommy Tuberville, per Tom Groeschen of USA Today, despite it being almost an open secret to that point.

    The Bearcats might have some rust, but they should also be nice and fresh.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 40, Toledo 24

    Final: Cincinnati 58, Toledo 34

No. 8 Baylor at Buffalo

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    When: Friday, Sept. 12; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Baylor gained a school-record 781 yards, with Bryce Petty throwing for 338 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-16 passing in a 70-13 home win over Buffalo last September.

    What to watch for

    On paper, there's not much for Baylor (2-0) to worry about as it heads on the road to face Buffalo (1-1). The Bears have won their first two games by a score of 115-6, winning their last contest against Northwestern State by 64 points without Petty or a few key receivers due to injury. And Buffalo just allowed 47 points in a loss to Army, a week after struggling to win by 10 at home to FCS Duquesne.

    But looks can be deceiving, which is why Baylor should be on upset alert when it makes the trip to upstate New York for a Friday game—its third in 13 days to start the season—in the final tuneup before Big 12 play.

    Petty sat out the last game after cracking two vertebrae in his back in the season-opening shutout win over SMU, and backup Seth Russell did just fine with 438 passing yards and five touchdowns. Art Briles said Petty will play, per Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports, and John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald wrote that having the senior get back into action is critical for the season's success:

    While Russell delivered a phenomenal first college start against Northwestern State, the Bears are going to need Petty's experience and leadership. Even if he has to play with some pain, it's going to be hard to hold him back.

    Buffalo's most notable player in school history, linebacker Khalil Mack, was taken in the first round of the NFL draft and won't be there to help the Bulls try to pull off the upset. What does remain is veteran quarterback Joe Licata, who threw for 401 yards and five TDs last week and tossed 24 touchdowns last season.

    Prediction: Baylor 46, Buffalo 23

    Final: Baylor 63, Buffalo 21

Indiana at Bowling Green

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Nate Sudfeld threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, one to Cody Latimer, while Tevin Coleman ran for 129 yards and two scores in a 42-10 home win over Bowling Green last September.

    What to watch for

    Indiana (1-0) was off last week after an unimpressive home win over Indiana State. Coleman looked great, rushing for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but Latimer's absence from the receiving corps made for a dull performance by Sudfeld.

    Bowling Green (1-1) crushed FCS team VMI last week in its first game since losing quarterback Matt Johnson for the year to a hip injury. James Knapke has taken over, but the Falcons offense will now be more centered on running back Travis Greene (220 yards, three touchdowns).

    Bowling Green is 3-16 all-time against the Big Ten, the last win coming in 2007 when it beat Minnesota in overtime. This is a great opportunity to improve that record.

    Prediction: Bowling Green 31, Indiana 28

    Final: Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42

Kent State at No. 22 Ohio State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Ohio State got a 90-yard punt return touchdown from Brian Hartline and a 70-yard interception return score by Donald Washington to pace a 48-3 home win over Kent State in October 2007.

    What to watch for

    Kent State (0-2) has lost twice at home by a combined 13 points, with its offense averaging just 13.5 points per game. Colin Reardon has looked OK at quarterback, but the Golden Flashes haven't been able to run the ball.

    Ohio State (1-1) lost at home to Virginia Tech in one of the worst offensive performances by the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in years. The Buckeyes offense has been less than crisp so far, and while their vaunted defensive line has contributed 20 tackles for loss, that unit hasn't been as spectacular as hoped.

    OSU doesn't lose to Mid-American teams—it is 21-1 all time, falling to Akron in 1894—and will use Kent as a testing ground to get things right for the Big Ten.

    Prediction: Ohio State 41, Kent State 13

    Final: Ohio State 66, Kent State 0

Ohio at Marshall

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Ohio used four Marshall turnovers and a pair of Beau Blankenship rushing touchdowns to fuel a 34-31 home win last September.

    What to watch for

    Ohio (1-1) has managed only 20 points through two games, gaining just 223 yards and scoring a lone field goal at Kentucky last week. The Bobcats are struggling to replace longtime starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton, with Derrius Vick getting replaced early against Kentucky by JD Sprague.

    Marshall (2-0) has had little trouble through its first two games of its very easy nonconference schedule, using wins over Miami (Ohio) and New Hampshire as tune-ups for Conference USA play. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has thrown for 528 yards and five touchdowns and has added more mobility to his game to make him more dangerous.

    Marshall wins handily.

    Prediction: Marshall 37, Ohio 14

    Final: Marshall 44, Ohio 14

UCF at No. 20 Missouri

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Missouri got a 66-yard punt return touchdown from Marcus Murphy and an 80-yard TD catch from Dorial Green-Beckham in a 21-16 win at UCF in September 2012.

    What to watch for

    UCF (0-1) has had extra time to recover from its long trip to Ireland for the season opener, where it rallied late behind backup quarterback Justin Holman only to see Penn State win on a field goal at the buzzer. The Knights have gone to Holman for this game, but they will need a running game to accompany him to avoid being 0-2 for the first time since 2005.

    Missouri (2-0) looked quite good on the road last week, winning by 25 points at Toledo and making the storyline of coach Gary Pinkel returning to his old school a non-issue. Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes, and he has three different targets that are all looking reliable to this point, while Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have been solid on the ground.

    Missouri was sluggish in its home opener but will be more pumped for this challenge.

    Prediction: Missouri 30, UCF 20

    Final: Missouri 38, UCF 10

Boise State at Connecticut

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Boise State (1-1) heads east for the second time in three weeks, hoping to fare better on offense than it did in the 35-13 opening loss to Ole Miss in Atlanta. The Broncos were more effective moving the ball at home against Colorado State, gaining 676 yards with Jay Ajayi rushing for 219 yards and two touchdowns and Grant Hedrick throwing for 352 yards and two scores.

    Connecticut (1-1) had to dig itself out of a 10-3 first-quarter hole to beat FCS Stony Brook 19-16 at home, giving Bob Diaco his first win as coach. The victory wasn't impressive in the least, though, with the Huskies only managing 223 yards and quarterback Chandler Whitmer's 29 rushing yards serving as the team high.

    UConn got crushed by BYU two weeks ago at home and will face a similar fate here.

    Prediction: Boise State 34, Connecticut 14

    Final: Boise State 38, Connecticut 21

East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Virginia Tech got two passing touchdowns from Logan Thomas and a stellar defensive effort to pull out a 15-10 win at East Carolina last September.

    What to watch for

    East Carolina (1-1) missed a golden opportunity to pull off a major win last week at South Carolina, falling 33-23 after leading by six points twice in the first half. Now the Pirates have to visit another tough venue with an opponent riding a wave of momentum from its own road upset.

    Virginia Tech (2-0) has returned to the national spotlight after winning 35-21 at Ohio State, the first nonconference foe to win at Ohio Stadium since 2009. The Hokies accomplished that thanks to strong quarterback play from Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and their typical swarming defense, which terrorized OSU passer J.T. Barrett into three interceptions and seven sacks.

    Shane Carden is a far more experienced and accomplished quarterback, but last year he had one of the worst games of his career at home against Tech. He threw for 158 yards and was intercepted three times, and many of those same defenders are back, along with longtime coordinator Bud Foster.

    The Hokies' biggest worry has to be suffering a letdown, with Brewer telling Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times, "The big emphasis this week is not having any step back after a big emotional win like that. ... That win is going to mean a heck of a lot more if we can continue to win and get it done each week."

    Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, East Carolina 23

    Final: East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21

Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Georgia Southern (1-1) could very easily be 2-0 in its first season of FBS play, falling late at North Carolina State in the opener before obliterating FCS Savannah State 83-9 last Saturday. The Eagles rushed for 564 yards and 10 touchdowns against Savannah, averaging more than 10 yards per carry out of their triple-option offense.

    Georgia Tech (2-0) also runs the option and has averaged 285 yards per game on the ground to this point. The Yellow Jackets have also looked good on defense, intercepting Tulane's Tanner Lee three times last week to help set up short fields.

    With two run-heavy teams, this game could be done in less than three hours. Or it could take forever with constant first downs and scoring. Either way, Tech gets the edge.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Georgia Southern 27

    Final: Georgia Tech 42, Georgia Southern 38

Pittsburgh at Florida International

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Ray Graham ran for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-17 home win over Florida International in October 2010.

    What to watch for

    Pittsburgh (2-0) has been a bit of a surprise so far, not for winning, but for doing so with such a dominant run game paced by sophomore James Conner. The Panthers are averaging 356 rushing yards per game, with Conner scoring four touchdowns in the opener and then gaining 214 yards with a score at Boston College last week.

    Florida International (1-1) has split home games against FCS teams, beating Wagner last week after falling to Bethune-Cookman for the second year in a row in its opener. The Golden Panthers are still a work in progress on offense, but their defense has allowed only 17 points through two games after giving up 37 per game last season.

    Pitt will run all over that improved defense and move to 3-0 for the first time since 2009.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, Florida International 16

    Final: Pittsburgh 42, Florida International 25

Syracuse at Central Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Syracuse crushed Central Michigan 47-7 in September 1999.

    What to watch for

    Syracuse (1-0) has had time to work on what went wrong in its narrow double-overtime win over Villanova two weeks ago, when it had to sweat out a missed field goal at the end of regulation and then stop a two-point conversion in OT to survive. Terrel Hunt missed the second half of that game after getting ejected for throwing a punch, but he will be back under center and needs to keep his cool.

    Central Michigan (2-0) won impressively at Purdue last week and is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2002. Senior running back Thomas Rawls has been the offensive star, rushing for 276 yards and three touchdowns so far, while the Chippewas defense has been solid in allowing 33 points in two games.

    Getting an ACC team to come to Mount Pleasant is a huge deal, and Central Michigan will play up for that opportunity.

    Prediction: Central Michigan 26, Syracuse 24

    Final: Syracuse 40, Central Michigan 3

West Virginia at Maryland

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Maryland held West Virginia to 175 yards of total offense and forced six turnovers in a 37-0 home win over the Mountaineers last September.

    What to watch for

    West Virginia (1-1) has had one of the best passing games in the country through two weeks, with Clint Trickett throwing for 713 yards but only three touchdowns. The Mountaineers were able to get some confidence on defense by shutting out Towson last week, but they still aren't good enough on that side of the ball.

    Maryland (2-0) has managed to avoid a loss despite turning the ball over seven times, tied for fourth-most in FBS through two weeks. A balanced run game has helped pick up the slack for a passing attack that hasn't gotten into rhythm yet.

    Last year's result was a major anomaly in this series, with West Virginia having won the previous seven meetings. If the Mountaineers are going to compete in the Big 12, they'll need to be able to win a road game or two, starting here.

    Prediction: West Virginia 30, Maryland 24

    Final: West Virginia 40, Maryland 37

Massachusetts at Vanderbilt

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; noon ET

    Last meeting: Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns in Vanderbilt's 24-7 win at Massachusetts last September.

    What to watch for

    Massachusetts (0-2) had its best chance in two-plus years as an FBS program to pull off a signature win, but instead it blew an 11-point second-half lead to fall 41-38 at home to Colorado. Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel threw three touchdown passes, but the Minutemen don't have a run game to balance things out.

    Vanderbilt (0-2) may have locked up the distinction of being the worst power-conference team in the nation after its first two showings, getting outscored 78-10 at home, including 41-3 to Ole Miss in its SEC opener last week. First-year coach Derek Mason has reopened the quarterback competition, as his passers have combined to complete 22 of 59 passes for no touchdowns and four interceptions.

    If Vandy can't win this one, it might not win any.

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 33, Massachusetts 19

    Final: Vanderbilt 34, Massachusetts 31

No. 21 Louisville at Virginia

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Virginia edged Louisville 16-15 in October 1989, a year after Louisville won a 30-28 contest.

    What to watch for

    Louisville (2-0) has looked good so far, including in its ACC opener against Miami, but now we get to see if the Bobby Petrino 2.0 Cardinals can also perform well on the road. Will Gardner hasn't put up the kind of huge numbers you'd expect from a quarterback in this offense; instead, Louisville has been a powerful running team behind Dominique Brown and L.J. Scott.

    Virginia (1-1) has looked better than a year ago, but the Cavaliers have still been uneven to start this season. It squandered chances to pull a major upset against UCLA in the opener and then was outgained in a 45-13 win over FCS Richmond.

    Louisville has looked crisper, and it will take this one to get a 2-0 jump on the competition in the ACC's Atlantic Division.

    Prediction: Louisville 29, Virginia 24

    Final: Virginia 23, Louisville 21

Air Force at Georgia State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Air Force (1-1) and its run game have averaged 345 yards so far this season, but last week at Wyoming, the Falcons only managed 2.9 yards per carry and fell 17-13 in their Mountain West opener. Quarterback Kale Pearson responded to the running difficulties with 226 passing yards, but that's not really the Falcons' game.

    Georgia State (1-1) hasn't had any trouble moving the ball or scoring, but it also hasn't been able to do much to stop its opponents from doing the same. Last week the Panthers lost 34-31 to New Mexico State, blowing a 14-point lead and allowing the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left.

    Air Force will be the toughest opponent yet for GSU, too tough to take down.

    Prediction: Air Force 38, Georgia State 34

    Final: Air Force 48, Georgia State 38

Wyoming at No. 2 Oregon

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Wyoming (2-0) has already been stamped as new coach Craig Bohl's team, using defense to overcome a lack of talent and skill on offense to pull out a pair of low-scoring wins. The Cowboys have tried to control the clock on offense, which will be essential to stick with Oregon.

    Oregon (2-0) is coming off of one of the biggest nonconference wins in program history, rallying in the second half to run past visiting Michigan State. Marcus Mariota and his skill players took over in the third and fourth quarters, and the Ducks are once again dominant as both a rushing and passing team.

    This will be the first time Bohl, who won the last three FCS titles at North Dakota, will have lost to an FBS program since 2009. And it won't even be close.

    Prediction: Oregon 51, Wyoming 14

    Final: Oregon 48, Wyoming 14

UC Davis at Colorado State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    UC Davis (1-1) beat Division II Fort Lewis by 35 last week after opening the season with a shutout loss at Stanford. That dropped the Broncos' record against FBS teams to 2-11, with their last win coming in 2010 at San Jose State.

    Colorado State (1-1) lost its Mountain West opener at Boise State last week and is playing its home opener after beating rival Colorado in Denver to start the season. The Rams' run game was shut down at Boise, but quarterback Garrett Grayson had a huge game with 434 yards and three touchdowns, but also two interceptions.

    Look for CSU to return to rushing prowess and win big in front of the home crowd.

    Prediction: Colorado State 43, UC Davis 17

    Final: Colorado State 49, UC Davis 21

Indiana State at Ball State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ball State opened the 2003 season with a 31-7 win over Indiana State.

    What to watch for

    Indiana State (1-1) is coming off a 49-14 win over Tennessee Tech after managing just 170 yards in a loss at Indiana to start the season. The Sycamores last beat an FBS team in 2011, downing Western Kentucky.

    Ball State (1-1) blew a 13-3 lead at Iowa last week, allowing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns while managing only 219 yards of offense. The Cardinals are 107th in passing offense, as Ozzie Mann has yet to settle in as the replacement to longtime starter Keith Wenning.

    This will be a chance for Mann to gain some confidence, with Ball State earning a second win over an FCS team this season.

    Prediction: Ball State 31, Indiana State 16

    Final: Indiana State 27, Ball State 20

Alabama A&M at UAB

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Alabama A&M (1-1) has a win over Division II Tuskegee and has lost to North Carolina A&T. The Bulldogs are 0-3 all-time against FBS teams.

    UAB (1-1) has shown massive improvement from last season in just two games under new coach Bill Clark. The Blazers have scored 82 points, including 34 in a loss at Mississippi State last week, and are averaging 519 yards per game.

    The Blazers will match last season's win total and move to 2-0 this season against teams from Alabama (they beat Troy on Aug. 30).

    Prediction: UAB 48, Alabama A&M 19

    Final: UAB 41, Alabama A&M 14

Kansas at Duke

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Todd Reesing threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns in Kansas' 44-16 home win over Duke in September 2009.

    What to watch for

    Kansas (1-0) tried to give away its opener last week, leading 34-7 before giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns to FCS team Southeast Missouri State. The Jayhawks were efficient on offense, though, particularly with a running game that managed 261 yards despite losing several projected contributors to academics or injuries during the preseason.

    Duke (2-0) so far hasn't looked like it's missing offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, now at Florida. The Blue Devils are averaging 43 points and 509 yards per game, with quarterback Anthony Boone thriving as the lone passer. He's thrown for 515 yards and five touchdowns and added a pair of rushing TDs at Troy last week.

    There'd be a lot more to discuss if these schools were playing basketball, but instead this should be a convincing win for Duke.

    Prediction: Duke 41, Kansas 20

    Final: Duke 41, Kansas 3

Miami (Ohio) at Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Michigan edged Miami (Ohio) 16-6 at home in September 2008 for the first win in Rich Rodriguez's ill-fated three-year tenure with the Wolverines.

    What to watch for

    Miami (0-2) has lost 18 straight games and might have squandered its best chance to end that skid last week by losing at home to FCS Eastern Kentucky. First-year coach Chuck Martin has his hands full with the rebuilding project, and without any semblance of a run game, progress will be slow.

    Michigan (1-1) is coming off its first shutout loss in 30 years, getting crushed 31-0 at Notre Dame in the final game of that series. The Wolverines offense was almost nonexistent, and it didn't help they committed four turnovers. Aside from receiver Devin Funchess catching nine passes for 107 yards, there was nothing to speak of there.

    Enter the RedHawks, who are going to be the healing aid for a lot of teams this year.

    Prediction: Michigan 50, Miami (Ohio) 15

    Final: Michigan 34, Miami (Ohio) 10

Arkansas State at Miami (Fla.)

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Miami crushed Arkansas State 42-10 in November 1997.

    What to watch for

    Arkansas State (1-1) hung with Tennessee on the road for a while before losing 34-19, but there's still things to be happy about from that defeat. The Red Wolves need to get better on third down and avoid penalties, though, if they're going to have a chance to compete in such games against power opponents.

    Miami (1-1) looked great on defense in crushing FCS Florida A&M 41-7, but the offensive inconsistency from the opening loss at Louisville was still there. The Hurricanes seem to not want to rely on Duke Johnson's running ability, but so far freshman QB Brad Kaaya has looked raw. 

    Miami will win, but this won't be easy.

    Prediction: Miami 27, Arkansas State 21

    Final: Miami 41, Arkansas State 20

North Carolina State at South Florida

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Matt Grothe threw for 259 yards and a touchdown to pace South Florida to a 41-10 win at North Carolina State in September 2008.

    What to watch for

    North Carolina State (2-0) has had to rally to beat a pair of transitioning FBS newcomers in the first two games of the season, both at home. While that's troubling on some levels, the fact the Wolfpack have been able to come back is a sign of progress. They'll need to get better defensively, though, to do anything once ACC play begins.

    South Florida (1-1) led Maryland at the half last week before falling by a touchdown, a game in which starting quarterback Mike White was hurt on the first offensive play. White, who fractured bones in his left (non-throwing) wrist and forearm, may still be able to go this week, according to Joey Johnston of The Tampa Tribune.

    If White can play, it will be close, but NC State wins regardless.

    Prediction: North Carolina State 28, South Florida 27

    Final: North Carolina State 49, South Florida 17

Arkansas at Texas Tech

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas Tech beat Arkansas 38-21 in November 1991, the final year before Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the SEC. Despite the loss, the Razorbacks held a 28-7 edge in the all-time series.

    What to watch for

    Arkansas (1-1) ended its 10-game losing streak with one of the most efficient offensive performances in FBS history, beating FCS Nicholls State 73-7 and gaining 684 yards on just 54 offensive plays. The Razorbacks led 56-0 at the half, scoring eight TDs on just 20 plays before halftime.

    Texas Tech (2-0) has had a much rougher go of it to start this season than expected, holding on late at home against Central Arkansas and then coming from behind to win at UTEP. The Red Raiders are throwing the ball as well as ever but have also been able to run with more efficiency than in the past.

    This old SWC rivalry will be a good game throughout, but Tech will get it done late.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 37, Arkansas 28

    Final: Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28

Iowa State at Iowa

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Iowa ended a two-game skid to rival Iowa State with a 27-21 road win last September.

    What to watch for

    Iowa State (0-2) looked like a completely different team during the middle of last week's 32-28 home loss to Kansas State, executing efficient offense and making stops on defense. But that all went away in the fourth quarter, and the Cyclones dropped what would have been a huge win for on-the-hot-seat coach Paul Rhoads.

    Iowa (2-0) has won its first two games, both at home, by a combined 12 points. It needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally past Ball State last week, and quarterback Jake Rudock has had to throw the ball far more than the Hawkeyes would like so far. That happens when your quarterback, with 53 yards, is the team's leading rusher at this point.

    Reports that left tackle Brandon Scherff underwent minor knee surgery haven't been confirmed by Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. He only said Scherff has "got an opportunity to play," according to Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register. Without Scherff, Iowa would have to turn to others to protect Rudock, so this game could be a neck-and-neck affair.

    Prediction: Iowa 27, Iowa State 17

    Final: Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Aaron Murray threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns while Todd Gurley added 132 rushing yards and a score to pace Georgia to a 41-30 win last September over visiting South Carolina in the SEC opener for both teams.

    What to watch for

    Georgia (1-0) was off last week after outrunning Clemson down the stretch in a 45-21 home win. Todd Gurley set a school record with 297 yards of total offense, rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns while adding a 100-yard kickoff return TD. The Bulldogs defense stepped up huge in the second half by holding Clemson to 15 yards and one first down.

    The Bulldogs haven't won at South Carolina since 2008, losing the last two games by a combined score of 52-13. Most teams have come up short at Williams-Brice Stadium as of late, though the Gamecocks saw their 18-game home winning streak end on Aug. 28 when Texas A&M came in and blew them out.

    South Carolina (1-1) rebounded from that loss with a 33-23 home win over East Carolina, but again it gave up a lot of passing yards. Through two games, the Gamecocks have allowed 416 yards per game through the air, which ranks third-worst in FBS.

    The Gamecocks have the double-edged sword of trying to avoid getting torched through the air again but at the same time trying to load the box to slow down Gurley. With too much focus on Gurley, Georgia senior quarterback Hutson Mason could be in line for a career day.

    "Were gonna throw it," Mason told Seth Emerson of The Telegraph. "And I hope we throw it the first play of the game."

    A second SEC loss could doom South Carolina's conference hopes, while a second home loss might send the season into a tailspin.

    Prediction: Georgia 37, South Carolina 33

    Final: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35

Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 14 Ole Miss

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brandon Bolden rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 80 yards and a score to give Ole Miss a 43-21 home win over Louisiana-Lafayette in November 2010.

    What to watch for

    Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) was blown out by 28 points at home against Louisiana Tech last week, one of the more perplexing results of the season so far. The reigning Sun Belt champions allowed 533 yards and committed three turnovers, playing poorly right before their big opportunity against an SEC team.

    Ole Miss (2-0) has looked dominant on the scoreboard thanks to a great fourth quarter against Boise State and an all-around strong performance at Vanderbilt last week. But the Rebels have to block better up front, having allowed 19 tackles for loss through two games. Despite that issue, Bo Wallace has thrown for 707 yards and five touchdowns.

    Had ULL not lost so badly at home, we might have considered the chance of an upset here, but not anymore.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 21

    Final: Ole Miss 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 15

Mississippi State at South Alabama

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Mississippi State overcame a sluggish performance to beat South Alabama 30-10 in 2012.

    What to watch for

    Mississippi State (2-0) is averaging 533 yards and 48 points so far, with dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott throwing for eight touchdowns along with a rushing score. Prescott is injury-prone, though, and without him, the Bulldogs would be a completely different team, one that might not be able to overcome allowing 435 passing yards like they did to UAB last week.

    South Alabama (1-0) won its opener 23-13 at Kent State last week, its fourth straight win dating back to last November. The Jaguars now get to host an SEC team for the first time in program history, with senior running back Jay Jones expected to lead the charge.

    With a visit to LSU next week looming, Mississippi State will overlook this one and head home a loser.

    Prediction: South Alabama 28, Mississippi State 23

    Final: Mississippi State 35, South Alabama 3

Minnesota at TCU

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Minnesota squeaked out a 9-7 win over TCU in September 1974, the only time the Golden Gophers and Horned Frogs have met in football.

    What to watch for

    Minnesota (2-0) has gotten off to a solid start behind the running of David Cobb, who has 291 yards and two touchdowns. But for the Golden Gophers to do anything this year, they'll need quarterback Mitch Leidner to be sharp, and he might not be available after injuring his knee in last week's win over Middle Tennessee. Minnesota is also short several guys on defense because of injury.

    TCU (1-0) took last week off after an impressive opening win over FCS Samford, but this will serve as more of a barometer for how the Horned Frogs' revamped offense fares. They gained 555 yards in that game, with Trevone Boykin throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns, spreading the ball around effectively and efficiently.

    A short-handed Minnesota won't be able to hang with the home team.

    Prediction: TCU 40, Minnesota 20

    Final: TCU 30, Minnesota 7

Illinois at Washington

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bishop Sankey ran for 208 yards and a touchdown and Keith Price added 342 passing yards and two scores in Washington's 34-24 win over Illinois in Chicago last September.

    What to watch for

    Illinois (2-0) has needed late comebacks to win against FCS Youngstown State and Western Kentucky, both at home. Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt has been the difference in both games, as the quarterback has thrown for 741 yards and seven touchdowns to make up for a run game that's averaging 2.5 yards per carry.

    Washington (2-0) went from a defensive struggle at Hawaii to an all-out offensive shootout last week against FCS Eastern Washington. The Huskies have won both, but allowing seven passing touchdowns and 52 points to a lower-division team has to be of concern for coach Chris Petersen.

    Washington won't give up as many points this time around, but it still could be a high-scoring affair.

    Prediction: Washington 40, Illinois 30

    Final: Washington 44, Illinois 19

Western Michigan at Idaho

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Nathan Enderle threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-13 win at Western Michigan in October 2010.

    What to watch for

    Western Michigan (0-1) managed 456 yards and 34 points on the road against a power-conference team in its opener but still lost at Purdue. With an extra week to prepare for the long trip to Idaho, the Broncos will have had time to fix what went wrong defensively in that game.

    Idaho (0-1) made its second trip down south and actually got to play last Saturday, losing its Sun Belt opener 38-31 at Louisiana-Monroe after the opener at Florida was washed out. The Vandals gained 442 yards and were nine seconds away from reaching overtime before giving up the game-winning score.

    A pair of teams looking for something to build on will throw everything out there, and the scoreboard at the Kibbie Dome might not be able to handle that.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 49, Idaho 45

    Final: Western Michigan 45, Idaho 33

Army at No. 15 Stanford

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kevin Hogan threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns while Tyler Gaffney ran for 132 yards and a score in Stanford's 34-20 win at Army last September.

    What to watch for

    Army (1-0) had no trouble moving the ball in its 47-39 win over Buffalo, especially when it came to its option run attack that churned out 341 yards. But the Black Knights also didn't defend the pass well, giving up 401 yards and nearly blowing a huge lead down the stretch.

    Stanford (1-1) made nine trips to the 30-yard line or better against USC last week and ended up with only 10 points in a disappointing home loss. The Cardinal couldn't execute in the red zone, which negated the great effort it put forth in slowing down USC's uptempo attack.

    The Cardinal will rebound thanks to Army's inferior defense.

    Prediction: Stanford 37, Army 19

Southern Mississippi at No. 3 Alabama

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alabama notched a 30-21 win over Southern Mississippi in September 2005, its fifth straight win over the Golden Eagles and 35th in 42 all-time meetings.

    What to watch for

    Southern Mississippi (1-1) held on to beat FCS Alcorn State 26-20 last week, but through two games the Golden Eagles are still a long way from being competitive against quality opponents. Mississippi State whupped them 49-0 the week before, and Alabama is far better than the Bulldogs.

    Alabama (2-0) moved the ball with ease against Florida Atlantic and made major defensive improvements in the 41-0 win last week, and this game will be another chance for the Crimson Tide to get things settled before SEC play. Look for both Jake Coker and Blake Sims to show what they can do at quarterback again, but also look for the Tide to make sure the run game is sound.

    If lightning strikes in the second half again, like it did against FAU, the margin will be wide enough to end this one early as well.

    Prediction: Alabama 55, Southern Mississippi 6

    Final: Alabama 52, Southern Mississippi 12

Eastern Michigan at Old Dominion

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Eastern Michigan (1-1) returned to its handily losing ways last week, playing punching bag to Florida's new-look offense in a 65-0 drubbing. The Eagles are averaging just 258 yards on offense through two games.

    Old Dominion (1-1) held its own at North Carolina State until the final quarter, but in the end it dropped to 1-5 the past two seasons against FBS teams as it transitions up from the FCS ranks. Senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been sharp so far, hitting on 71.9 percent of his passes.

    This will be the first time the Monarchs have hosted an FBS opponent, and while it isn't the toughest of foes, the convincing victory will still be significant for the program's development.

    Prediction: Old Dominion 51, Eastern Michigan 20

    Final: Old Dominion 17, Eastern Michigan 3

Northern Illinois at UNLV

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northern Illinois steamrolled UNLV 62-14 in October 1995.

    What to watch for

    Northern Illinois (2-0) has picked up where it left off the past few seasons, even without do-everything quarterback Jordan Lynch available. The Huskies won 23-15 at Northwestern last week, their fifth win against the Big Ten in eight tries over the past six seasons, and through two games, they are averaging 322.5 rushing yards.

    UNLV (1-1) had to overcome four turnovers to win 13-12 at home against FCS Northern Colorado last week, and in two games it has managed only 26 points. The Rebels are inexperienced on offense, and it's shown so far.

    NIU has won 16 straight true road games, dating back to October 2011. UNLV beat an FCS team at home by one point. Need we say more?

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 31, UNLV 23

    Final: Northern Illinois 48, UNLV 34

Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Reggie Whatley's 96-yard kickoff return touchdown with six minutes left gave Middle Tennessee a 34-29 win at Western Kentucky in November 2012, when both teams were in the Sun Belt Conference.

    What to watch for

    Western Kentucky (1-1) led in the fourth quarter at Illinois last week before falling 42-34, a week after destroying Mid-American champion Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers offense has looked great under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, with quarterback Brandon Doughty thriving to the tune of 866 yards and eight touchdowns in two games.

    Middle Tennessee (1-1) fell behind 28-0 at Minnesota before picking things up in the second half to lose 35-24, but too many turnovers and no ability to stop the run doomed the Blue Raiders. Austin Grammer has looked both good and bad at quarterback, as Minnesota intercepted him three times.

    The way WKU was able to better hang with a Big Ten team on the road gives it the edge in this Conference USA opener.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 41, Middle Tennessee 33

    Final: Middle Tennessee 50, Western Kentucky 47 (3 OT)

UTSA at Oklahoma State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: J.W. Walsh threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma State's 56-35 win at UTSA last September.

    What to watch for

    UTSA (1-1) did well to slow down Arizona's high-powered offense last week but couldn't make a play late, and it fell 26-23 at home in what would have been another huge victory for the rising program. The Roadrunners are experienced and heady but still have to get over the hump with a signature win.

    Oklahoma State (1-1) had to turn to Daxx Garman at quarterback early in its 40-23 win over FCS Missouri State after J.W. Walsh went down with a right foot injury. He was in a boot earlier this week, with his status still uncertain for Saturday. Garman brings some extra mobility, but what the Cowboys really need more than anything is a consistent run game.

    UTSA isn't good enough—yet—to win on the road against someone like OK State.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 40, UTSA 24

    Final: Oklahoma State 43, UTSA 13

Wake Forest at Utah State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Wake Forest (1-1) has gotten off to a slow start under new coach Dave Clawson. While the defense has been solid in allowing just 24 points, the Demon Deacons have managed to score only 33 of their own. True freshman quarterback John Wolford has completed 70 percent of his passes but only has 388 yards and two touchdowns at this point.

    Utah State (1-1) needed special teams and defensive touchdowns to beat FCS Idaho State 40-20 last week, though it was still a vast improvement from the 38-7 loss at Tennessee the week before. The Aggies have struggled mostly because quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who missed most of last year with a knee injury, has completed only 47.7 percent of his throws with 260 yards and one TD.

    Two programs looking for consistency will make for a hard-fought game, but the travel and a slowly improving Keeton will give Utah State the edge.

    Prediction: Utah State 30, Wake Forest 21

    Final: Utah State 36, Wake Forest 24

Tulsa at Florida Atlantic

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Tulsa (1-1) leaves the state for the first time this season after beating Tulane and then getting crushed by Oklahoma, both at home. The Golden Hurricane have gotten a solid passing effort from Dane Evans but are in need of a rushing game, as they rank 101st nationally at 124 yards per game.

    Florida Atlantic (0-2) is at home after opening with a pair of budget-balancing blowout losses at Nebraska (55-7) and Alabama (41-0). The Owls probably aren't as bad as those scores would indicate, but so far we've yet to see what new coach Charlie Partridge has been able to do. The Owls have averaged only 172.5 yards per game and scored just one touchdown while allowing 702 yards a contest.

    FAU is dedicating its field in honor of Howard Schnellenberger, the former coach who got the program started. Look for the Owls to feed off that ceremony to get into the win column.

    Prediction: Florida Atlantic 29, Tulsa 25

    Final: Florida Atlantic 50, Tulsa 21

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 10 LSU

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: LSU crushed Louisiana-Monroe 51-0 at home in November 2010 despite only 251 yards of total offense, using five turnovers and two defensive touchdowns.

    What to watch for

    Louisiana-Monroe (2-0) has managed to pull out a pair of one-touchdown home wins over struggling programs Wake Forest and Idaho, but that's not likely going to help the Warhawks in Baton Rouge. North Carolina State transfer Pete Thomas has looked good at quarterback, throwing for 384 yards last week, but this will be a huge upgrade in defenders to deal with.

    LSU (2-0) hasn't allowed a point in 87 minutes and 24 seconds of game action, blanking Wisconsin down the stretch in its comeback win and then shutting out Sam Houston State last week. Offensively, though, the Tigers are still showing growing pains, especially quarterback Anthony Jennings and his 47 percent completion rate through two games.

    The Tigers haven't lost a nonconference game in forever, winning 47 straight during the regular season. Don't expect that to end here.

    Prediction: LSU 48, Louisiana-Monroe 16

    Final: LSU 31, Louisiana-Monroe 0

Abilene Christian at Troy

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Abilene Christian (0-2) nearly knocked off Georgia State on the road on Aug. 27 before falling at home to Northern Arizona last weekend. The Wildcats are transitioning from Division II to FCS and have lost their two games against FBS teams (including last year at New Mexico State) by a combined six points.

    Troy (0-2) has been outscored 82-27 to start the season as it searches for new leadership on offense. The Trojans are giving up 471 yards per game and are looking to avoid starting 0-3 for the first time since joining FBS in 2001.

    The Trojans have gone 14-0 against FCS teams as an upper-division team and will use this game as a confidence booster before heading out to Georgia the following week.

    Prediction: Troy 37, Abilene Christian 30

    Final: Abilene Christian 38, Troy 35

Kentucky at Florida

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Matt Jones ran for 176 yards and a touchdown to pace Florida to a 24-7 win at Kentucky last September, its 27th straight win over its SEC foe.

    What to watch for

    Kentucky (2-0) has already matched its win total from a year ago, outscoring opponents 79-17 in the process. But the Wildcats haven't been challenged by either opponent, not to the level they'll be pressed in SEC play, so Patrick Towles' solid quarterback play and the strong defensive numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Florida (1-0) looked very impressive in its first actual game, winning 65-0 over Eastern Michigan (after lightning and rain canceled the opener against Idaho) to end a seven-game losing streak. The Gators gained 655 yards, the most under Will Muschamp, with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper putting quarterback Jeff Driskel and his running backs in position to thrive.

    This game will serve as a reality check for both teams, but more so for Kentucky.

    Prediction: Florida 40, Kentucky 14

    Final: Florida 36, Kentucky 30 (3 OT)

Purdue vs. No. 14 Notre Dame (at Indianapolis)

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tommy Rees threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, both to DaVaris Daniels, in a 31-24 Notre Dame win at Purdue last September. It was the Fighting Irish's sixth straight win over the Boilermakers.

    What to watch for

    Purdue (1-1) erased any momentum that might have come from its opening win over Western Michigan by losing handily at home to Central Michigan. The Boilermakers are giving up 36 points per game and now have to face a far tougher opponent than what the Mid-American has had to offer so far.

    Notre Dame (2-0) is coming off a 31-0 win over Michigan, ending that series with its first shutout ever against the Wolverines. The Fighting Irish have been far better than expected so far, with quarterback Everett Golson looking like a completely different quarterback from the one who managed games in 2012. Defensively, the retooled front seven has made great strides already and could end up being a major strength.

    This game is being played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which is going to be the closest Purdue gets to playing in a bowl-game atmosphere this season.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 53, Purdue 10

    Final: Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14

Penn State at Rutgers

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Penn State stomped Rutgers 59-34 in September 1995, its seventh straight win over the Nittany Lions.

    What to watch for

    The addition of Rutgers (along with Maryland) to the Big Ten has been met by a lot of quizzical looks since it was first announced, but as the Scarlet Knights get set to play their first conference game, they're one of the few teams in the league that has played well from the outset this season.

    Senior quarterback Gary Nova is third in FBS in passing efficiency, throwing for 563 yards and six touchdowns and completing 67 percent of his attempts with only one interception. Under the guidance of former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, he's looked as good as ever in his long college career.

    Now he and the Knights get a chance to make a big splash in the Big Ten against their old nemesis. Penn State has won 22 of the 24 meetings in the series, which ended in the mid-1990s when Penn State stopped convincing Rutgers to be a sacrificial lamb on its nonconference schedule most years.

    New Jersey has historically been a big recruiting ground for Penn State, with players like wide receiver Bill Belton saying he chose that school over Rutgers because he "wanted to play big-time college football," according to Dan Duggan of The shots to each other's bow have continued this week, including Rutgers coach Kyle Flood referring to the upcoming opponent as "the team from Pennsylvania," per Duggan.

    James Franklin has gone early and often to sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg to move Penn State's offense, with Hackenberg following up his school-record 454-yard performance against UCF with 319 yards against Akron. Rutgers gave up 532 passing yards and five touchdowns to Washington State's Connor Halliday, so it could be a long evening for the Knights secondary.

    Prediction: Penn State 34, Rutgers 28

    Final: Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

New Mexico State at UTEP

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jameill Showers threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a score in UTEP's 42-21 win at rival New Mexico State last September.

    What to watch for

    New Mexico State (2-0) has opened with two wins for the first time in 15 years and won on the road last week at Georgia State with a last-second touchdown pass. The Aggies are brimming with confidence heading into back-to-back games against their Southwest rivals.

    UTEP (1-1) squandered a chance to pull off a major win when it fell late at home to Texas Tech, a week after knocking off New Mexico on the road. The Miners have been paced by sophomore running back Aaron Jones, who leads the FBS in rushing with 384 yards and five touchdowns.

    UTEP has won the past five games against its Rio Grande rivals, and while NMSU is better than it's been in a long time, it won't be able to stop Jones.

    Prediction: UTEP 37, New Mexico State 33

    Final: UTEP 42, New Mexico State 24

No. 9 USC at Boston College

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cody Kessler threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in USC's 35-7 home win over Boston College last September.

    What to watch for

    USC (2-0) put forth a magnificent defensive effort in winning 13-10 at Stanford to open Pac-12 play last week, stuffing the Cardinal constantly in enemy territory. The Trojans offense sputtered after setting records the week before, but by being able to win without that attack, they showed they'll be a real contender this season.

    Boston College (1-1) lost 30-20 to Pittsburgh on Sept. 5 in its ACC and home opener, and so far the Eagles' entire offense has consisted of Florida transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy. Murphy has thrown for 307 yards and two touchdowns and leads the team with 210 rushing yards.

    USC benefits from this game being played at night, offsetting time difference issues. Otherwise it might be in for a tougher fight.

    Prediction: USC 34, Boston College 17

    Final: Boston College 37, USC 31

Southeastern Louisiana at Tulane

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tulane opened the 2011 season with a 47-33 win over Southeastern Louisiana behind 267 passing yards and three touchdowns from Ryan Griffin.

    What to watch for

    Southeastern Louisiana (2-0) has outscored Jacksonville and Southern Utah by a combined 85-17 to start the year, with Oregon transfer quarterback Bryan Bennett throwing for 535 yards and four touchdowns so far. The Lions are 5-18 all-time against the FBS but haven't posted a win since 1981.

    Tulane (0-2) has stumbled out of the gate with a double-overtime loss at Tulsa and then a setback against Georgia Tech in the first game played at its new stadium. Freshman quarterback Tanner Lee has thrown for 435 yards and five touchdowns, but after getting intercepted three times against Tech, he was pulled because of heat issues and "some dings," according to Andrew Lopez of

    The Green Wave will need Lee at full strength and playing well to avoid going 0-3, but even with him, it won't be a slam dunk.

    Prediction: Southeastern Louisiana 36, Tulane 30

    Final: Tulane 35, Southeastern Louisiana 20

No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas (at Arlington, Texas)

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas forced four turnovers and ran for 284 yards in a 49-20 win at UCLA in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    UCLA (2-0) has been inconsistent and unimpressive so far, needing its defense to come through huge in a 28-20 win at Virginia only to see that same unit get beaten up by Memphis in a 42-35 home win last week. Brett Hundley came alive at quarterback in that game, throwing for 396 yards and three touchdowns on 33-of-44 passing, but besides him, not much else looked good.

    Texas (1-1) has one of the most embarrassing home results in recent memory, losing 41-7 to BYU and never showing much of a fight in the process. Injuries on the offensive line and to quarterback David Ash, who is out indefinitely with a head injury, only contributed to the problems. Charlie Strong's team is a major work in progress and could be in for a very long and painful season.

    This game is at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, which means those in attendance will be subjected to watching Texas' struggles on that giant video board above the field.

    Prediction: UCLA 30, Texas 17

    Final: UCLA 20, Texas 17

Tennessee at No. 4 Oklahoma

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oklahoma beat Tennessee 26-24 to win the 1968 Orange Bowl.

    What to watch for

    Tennessee (2-0) has posted a pair of solid home wins against notable mid-majors, but the difference between playing Utah State and Arkansas State in Knoxville and visiting Oklahoma is huge. And the Volunteers will be doing it without at least one key offensive player, and possibly another, due to injuries sustained Saturday in the 34-19 win over Arkansas State.

    Junior receiver Von Pearson is out with a high ankle sprain, while freshman tight end Ethan Wolf is questionable with a knee injury according to Steve Megargee of The Associated Press (h/t The Tennessean). Those two have combined for 15 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown, meaning senior quarterback Justin Worley will have to rely on other weapons.

    Oklahoma (2-0) saw cornerback Zack Sanchez go down with a shoulder injury early against Tulsa last week, but Bob Stoops has said the standout defensive back should play against the Volunteers, per Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World. The Sooners were able to hold down Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans even without Sanchez, but Worley is more experienced and has more options at his disposal.

    While the game will serve as the biggest test so far for each team, for Tennessee, it will be a real barometer to see how far this young squad has progressed.

    "I think it's gonna be a great challenge for these youngsters, but I think it's needed in our evolution and our maturity as a football team," Vols coach Butch Jones said Monday, per Wes Rucker of 247Sports.

    Tennessee is better, but it still isn't ready for prime time and will struggle on the road and under the lights.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Tennessee 17

    Final: Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

Navy at Texas State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Navy ran for 407 yards in a 21-10 home win over Texas State in November 2012.

    What to watch for

    Navy (1-1) rebounded from its opening loss against Ohio State by running over Temple 31-24 on the road. The Midshipmen ran for 487 yards, with quarterback Keenan Reynolds getting back on track to the tune of 173 rushing yards and two touchdowns out of the triple-option alignment.

    Texas State (1-0) was off last week, giving it an extra week to try to game-plan for a way to stop the option. It will be one of two games the Bobcats have to deal with that kind of running offense, as it hosts Georgia Southern later this season in a Sun Belt Conference game.

    Navy will give Texas State some good film to use for preparation in that next option matchup.

    Prediction: Navy 33, Texas State 20

    Final: Navy 35, Texas State 21

Portland State at Washington State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Washington State racked up 638 yards of offense in a 48-9 win over Portland State in September 2008.

    What to watch for

    Portland State (1-1) eked out a 45-38 win over Division II Western Oregon after falling at Oregon State to start the season. The Vikings are 2-22 all-time against the FBS, last beating New Mexico in 2006.

    Washington State (0-2) saw its defense fail to make a stop in an opening loss to Rutgers and then had its normally potent offense stall at Nevada last week. The Cougars lead the FBS in passing offense thanks to Connor Halliday's 921 yards and six touchdowns, but they're second-to-last in rushing offense with just 22 yards per game on the ground.

    The Cougars are 18-0 all-time against FCS teams. Look for them to win another one but also try to establish some semblance of a rushing game.

    Prediction: Washington State 37, Portland State 20

    Final: Washington State 59, Portland State 21

Rice at No. 7 Texas A&M

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Johnny Manziel threw three second-half touchdown passes after sitting out the first two quarters because of an autograph-related suspension in Texas A&M's season-opening 52-31 home win over Rice last September.

    What to watch for

    Rice (0-1) got a week off to lick its wounds after getting pounded at Notre Dame, and now it has to deal with an even more explosive offense in the form of A&M. The Owls are going to face their lumps early but can only hope to be battle-tested when it comes time to defend their Conference USA title.

    Texas A&M (2-0) has scored 125 points in its first two games, but more impressive has been that it's only allowed 31 points in that span. A year ago, Rice had that much in just the opener, but the Aggies' young defense is making plays and gaining confidence.

    The more A&M is able to grow on defense, the tougher it's going to be to beat.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 51, Rice 17

    Final: Texas A&M 38, Rice 10

No. 16 Arizona State at Colorado

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Taylor Kelly threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in Arizona State's 54-13 home win over Pac-12 foe Colorado last October.

    What to watch for

    Arizona State (2-0) let New Mexico stay in sight for the first half before it blew past the host Lobos for a 58-23 win last week. It was the first time the Sun Devils won a nonconference road game in eight years, and they did it by rushing for 423 yards (the most since 1996). D.J. Foster has been a hard runner, gaining 363 yards so far, while quarterback Taylor Kelly has been efficient.

    Colorado (1-1) rallied to win 41-38 at Massachusetts last week to avoid what would have been a bad loss. The Buffaloes have been very pass-heavy so far, and when Sefo Liufau isn't able to get the job done, their defense has failed to step up.

    ASU won the Pac-12 South last season and will get an early jump on another division title with another solid road win.

    Prediction: Arizona State 44, Colorado 23

    Final: Arizona State 38, Colorado 24

Nebraska at Fresno State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ameer Abdullah returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help Nebraska to a 42-29 home win over Fresno State in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    Nebraska (2-0) needed a highlight-reel 58-yard touchdown catch from Ameer Abdullah—who hadn't been effective in the run game—to beat FCS McNeese State last week. The Cornhuskers were shaky all game but still managed to stay unbeaten because of that big play and solid overall effort from quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.

    Fresno State (0-2) has matched last year's loss total already, and it's looked really bad in doing so. The Bulldogs have given up 111 points, and opponents have averaged 613.5 yards, second-worst in FBS, while their own offense has been inefficient and mistake-prone. Neither Brian Burrell nor Brandon Connette has stepped up to be anything close to what Fresno had the last three years with quarterback Derek Carr.

    As bad as Fresno has looked, though, Nebraska doesn't play as well on the road and will struggle on this trip.

    Prediction: Fresno State 31, Nebraska 27

    Final: Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19

Nevada at Arizona

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Sept. 13; 11 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Matt Scott threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the final 46 seconds to lead Arizona to a miracle comeback in a 49-48 win over Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl.

    What to watch for

    Nevada (2-0) has pulled out a pair of close games at home to start the season, including last week's 24-13 win over Washington State in which it slowed down the Cougars' potent passing game. The Wolf Pack haven't scored a lot, but quarterback Cody Fajardo has managed to look solid as a thrower and runner after suffering through an injury-plagued 2013.

    Arizona (2-0) held off UTSA 26-23 on Sept. 4 by playing lockdown defense on third down in the second half and getting a huge rushing effort from true freshman Nick Wilson. Wilson ran for 174 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, giving the Wildcats a 100-yard rusher for the 19th straight game dating back to the 2012 season.

    Arizona will improve that mark to 20 consecutive games and move to 3-0 for the third straight season.

    Prediction: Arizona 37, Nevada 21

    Final: Arizona 35, Nevada 28

Northern Iowa at Hawaii

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Sunday, Sept. 14; 12 a.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Northern Iowa (0-1) hasn't played since losing 31-23 at Iowa on Aug. 30. The Panthers outgained the Hawkeyes in that game, with quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen throwing for 380 yards and running back David Johnson racking up 203 yards receiving with a score. UNI has 10 wins against FBS teams, winning at Iowa State to open the 2013 season.

    Hawaii (0-2) scored 23 points in the fourth quarter last week to make a blowout against Oregon State look more competitive with a 38-30 score, but in that game the Warriors lost running back Joey Iosefa and linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams to injuries. Iosefa, who had 197 yards and four touchdowns so far this year, broke his ankle and will be out up to six weeks, while Garcia-Williams tore his ACL and is done for the season.

    Hawaii hasn't been consistent on offense yet, and it faces a major challenge that will result in its first loss to an FCS team since 2000.

    Prediction: Northern Iowa 40, Hawaii 35

    Final: Hawaii 27, Northern Iowa 24

    Follow Brian Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.


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