The opening weekend of college football was electrifying, but week three could be even better. There are numerous games that could decide divisional winners, but there are also some of the best non-conference matchup of the year. Enough of the intro talk, though, let’s get to the games.
Non-Power 5 Schools Playing on the Road
We got our first glimpse of this on Thursday night, as the Cincinnati Bearcats actually led in the fourth quarter before the Houston Cougars rallied for a 40-16 victory. Everyone has Houston on the potential playoff radar, and Tom Herman’s group didn’t do anything to spoil that against Cincinnati.
There are other non-Power 5 schools fighting for a playoff spot, though.
The San Diego State Aztecs don’t have half the schedule that Houston does, but the Aztecs are coming off a 45-40 victory over The California Golden Bears. Crazier things have happened in college football, and if they are 13-0 at the end of the year, they would very likely at least have some argument for the Playoff. The Aztecs need to take care of business every week, though, and they will travel to Dekalb on Saturday to take on Northern Illinois. The Huskies are 0-2 at this point, but they aren’t many years removed from being the darling of college football. Watch for this to be a potential trap game for San Diego State.
Also on the potential Cinderella story list is South Florida. The Bulls are 2-0 and have matchups with Florida State, Cincinnati, and East Carolina looming. Saying they will get into the College Football Playoff is a long shot, but they will have the potential to make that argument with an unblemished record.
They are led by junior running back Marlon Mack, who is probable for this week’s game at Syracuse. He has eclipsed the 1000-yard mark (1,381 yards last season) two years in a row, and the Bulls will need him to step up in the next few games. South Florida has to get past Syracuse first, though. According to Vegas, the Bulls are currently a 14-point favorite, but the Orange are making strides offensively in Dino Babers’ first year as head coach.
Another big game and potential upset that is getting overlooked is Miami @ Appalachian State. The Mountaineers gave Tennessee a big scare in week one, and they will look to take down Miami at home this week. App State’s road to the playoff looks cloudy after losing to the Volunteers, but a win over Miami could help that cause. The Hurricanes are currently a 3.5 point favorite, according to Vegas.
ACC, Pac-12, SEC on the Line
The game getting the most steam this week is Florida State and Louisville. The ACC Atlantic is crowded with Clemson also in the mix, but the winner of this matchup will put themselves in the driver’s seat moving forward. The Seminoles have been the most consistent team in the conference since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach, but Lamar Jackson and Louisville will have something to say about that Saturday.
The Cardinals quarterback is off to a hot start and another big performance could put him squarely in the Heisman conversation.
The excitement doesn’t stop there, though. In the Pac-12, you also have a big matchup between Stanford and Southern Cal, which is a rematch of last year’s conference championship game. After the embarrassing 52-6 loss to Alabama two weeks ago, Clay Helton and company have a chance to start in the win column in conference play.
Speaking of Alabama, it will travel to Oxford and try to stop a two-game skid against Ole Miss. The Rebels are a dangerous team offensively, and a win Saturday would be a good first step to getting to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. After two straight losses to Hugh Freeze, all the pressure is on Nick Saban and the Tide here. Like the ACC Atlantic, the SEC West is also crowded with good football teams, so the winner here will start off conference play on the right foot.
Also in the SEC is the Mississippi State-LSU matchup. People were ready to dismiss Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs after the opening loss to South Alabama, but quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was superb in the 27-14 win over South Carolina a week ago. LSU is a team still searching for answers offensively, and another stale effort on that side of the ball could mean trouble. The Bulldogs have found an offensive rhythm and will be looking to get revenge for last year’s 21-19 loss to the Tigers.
Other Non-Conference Games
Behind Florida State/Louisville, the other game garnering national attention is Ohio State at Oklahoma. With the loss to Houston, this is a make-or-break game for Oklahoma. The Sooners’ national title hopes could disappear with a loss, but a signature win over No. 3 Ohio State could put them right back in the conversation. Remember, this team lost to Texas early last season and rebounded to make the College Football Playoff.
This is also an important game for Ohio State. One of the Power 5 conferences is going to get left out of the playoff bracket, but a win here would be huge for the Big Ten. A lot of people look at this as Ohio State versus Oklahoma, but in a bigger way it represents the Big Ten versus the Big 12. This game is a wonderful opportunity for both of those conferences to make a statement.
Other games of note that could affect the College Football Playoff are Texas at California, Michigan State at Notre Dame, and Oregon at Nebraska.
This figures to be another big weekend of college football, and there are numerous teams that have a chance to impress the College Football Playoff committee.