2017 Week 3 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 15, 2017
By K. Becks

It’s really too early to make any sweeping statements about this college football season, so these intros will continue to be short until there is something real to talk about.

Last week was kind of ugly, from a head-to-head prediction perspective. At least for me.

I’m not quite sure how The Cheek Clapper correctly predicted a one-point victory behind a true freshman quarterback making his first start as a collegiate athlete, but that was the difference. Thanks to the Bulldogs, the overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks – 5-5

Guests – 5-5

This week, my buddy Jared will try to break the early stalemate. Jared is a quiet fella, but behind that unassuming facade is a stone cold killer, willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he achieves his ultimate goal. This week, the ultimate goal is beating me. Without doubt, there will be trash talking over copious amounts of craft beer on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at the top games to watch for Week 3 of the season.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#9 Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Panthers can’t be faulted for challenges themselves in the early going, taking on Top 10 opponents in back-to-back weekends. Last weekend was the in-state rivalry against Penn State, and this weekend is the battle to take down college football’s Million Dollar Mullet. This is by far Oklahoma State’s biggest test of the non-conference schedule and the second one taking place on the road, so it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can continue to march to victory with ease.

Mike Gundy’s team has been going about business as usual through two games, putting up a ton of points by way of an offense that is averaging over 570 total yards per game. What puts Oklahoma State in good position to continue its dominance, however, is the strong defense it appears to have. The Big 12 is in no way known for fielding particularly stifling defenses, but the Cowboys have done pretty well in the secondary against two teams that prefer to throw the football. Pittsburgh isn’t that type of team, but also doesn’t score a lot of points. The Panthers may have to get away from their comfort zone if they want to keep up with the Cowboys in this one, which could create the opportunity for Oklahoma State to create turnovers.

Offensively the Cowboys should be able to do at least as much as Penn State was able to do against Pitt last week, and potentially more. Defensively, the Pokes have the personnel to make Max Browne really uncomfortable behind center, and when the Nittany Lions did that Browne was forced into two interceptions. Last year the Cowboys battled all game long with Pitt at home – that won’t happen this year.

My Pick: 38-21 Oklahoma State

Jared’s Take: First off, I would like to start by saying that I know absolutely zero players on either team.  None.  Not a single one.  That being said, everyone knows that Pittsburgh and any team associated with them sucks.  As for Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon used to play for them and he was a stud! Just look at his NFL career if you have any doubts.  ‘Nuff said.  OSU wins, 44-13.

#10 Wisconsin at BYU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Like Pittsburgh, the Cougars have challenged themselves early in the season, facing two Top 15 opponents in the first four games in LSU and Wisconsin. Similarly to the Panthers, BYU has not been able to break through with a major upset, although defense has kept them in games and is good enough for Kalani Sitake’s team to break through at some point this season. The Badgers come into this game feeling good about their chances to head into Big 10 play unbeaten, but they better not look ahead to Northwestern until this one is over.

The Badgers currently lead the Big Ten in offensive yards per game, which is impressive despite it only being three weeks into the season. Nearly 300 of the 521 yards per game are gained on the ground, not surprising for a Wisconsin offense but interesting because its potential star is a true freshman. Jonathan Taylor became just the fourth player in school history to record a 200 yard rushing game when he did so against Florida Atlantic last weekend. BYU will need to find a way to contain Taylor, but at least it’s presumably only in the run game. The freshman has not caught a pass yet this year, but if the Cougars stack the box to stop the run, Wisconsin’s short passing game could be the most potent weapon in this one.

BYU hasn’t been all that effective offensively this season, and third year quarterback Tanner Mangum in particular has struggled. Mangum has twice as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns this season (2) and that will have to be flipped in this game for the Cougars to have a chance. If BYU’s offense doesn’t have its best game of the season and the defense can’t stop Taylor, this game will look very similar to the LSU contest two weeks ago. But I like Mangum to step up and give the Badgers a scare in this one; it will be close.

My Pick: 30-27 Wisconsin

Jared’s Take: This is an easy game to pick.  Wisconsin is in the Big Ten which has been tearing it up the past few years.  Would I really pick against a Big Ten team? Maybe. But not in this instance.  If you need any more convincing just look at BYU’s team.  They’re a little on the…uh…pale side…Wisc wins 41-7.

#23 Tennessee at #24 Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This storied SEC rivalry narrowly missed out on being Game of the Week, mostly because the schedule only has two games featuring two ranked teams this weekend. Tennessee narrowly survived Georgia Tech on Labor Day, needing double overtime to take care of the Yellow Jackets. The Gators did not look well put together in their game against Michigan on opening weekend, and with nine players suspended for the game, can you really blame Jim McElwain? Florida will be without those nine again on Saturday afternoon, but the excuse will be less effective in the eyes of Gator fans every time it has to be used.

Coach McElwain has decided to start freshman Feleipe Franks for this game, and it is already starting to look like Florida doesn’t really know what it wants to do at the quarterback position. Franks was slated as the starter against Michigan but only lasted two and a half quarters before he was pulled in favor of Malik Zaire. The freshman would have benefited greatly from a supposed give-me game against Northern Colorado, but that game was cancelled last weekend due to Hurricane Irma. Instead, Franks will get to face an SEC defense for his second (and potentially final) chance to impress his head coach. Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been tested yet by an FBS opponent with a traditional offense, but the Volunteers have looked potent in their own right on the offensive side of the ball. It took a little time, though, in the opener and this crowd will need to be taken out of the game early. Tennessee would benefit greatly by getting out of the gate strong.

“Trainwreck” is not an applicable term for the Gators right now. The team is still ranked and there is the opportunity to right the ship quite easily, given that the SEC East appears to be wide open and this is the conference opener for both teams. But if Franks struggles and the Gators are relying heavily on the defense again, questions will be asked. McElwain was brought in to help erase the memory of Will Muschamp, not remind fans in Gainesville of those days. Unfortunately, I think that the Gators will be lost offensively until the suspended players return.

My Pick: 31-20 Tennessee

Jared’s Take: Ah yes, the Peyton Manning – Tim Tebow Bowl. Wait – they’re both still on these teams, right? No? Tebow plays what now?! Nevermind then. Now that Irma has come and gone, just like my ex! (please don’t laugh at that, I need help), Florida is looking to play its first home game of the season. No way they take the “L” in this game especially after losing to Xichigan. Fla wins 34-27.

#18 Kansas State at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Bill Synder’s Wildcats are ranked in the Top 25, but the team has yet to play an FBS opponent this season. Vanderbilt, long the laughing stock of the SEC (hey, not everyone came to campus to play football), is looking to claw its way to respectability among the traditional powers in the sport. A win in this game would go a long way in establishing that respect and also clue the country in on a potential contender in the SEC East race.

Kansas State doesn’t play flashy football, but they have a group of capable performers on each side of the ball that give them the ability to win every game it will play this season. Jesse Ertz is a very solid quarterback and does not make many mistakes – a perfect leader for a Synder coached team. Ertz may be overshadowed in this game by Vanderbilt’s star, however. Ralph Webb is primarily a running back but worked in the offseason to become a capable threat at receiver as well. It’s not a gimmick, either. The second team All-SEC performer in 2016 has over 100 yards receiving already this season and will continue to be used as a dual threat for the Commodores. Vanderbilt’s defense has looked strong so far this season, but if Webb & Co. can become potent, the Commodores are extremely balanced.

As much as it pains me to say this, the upsets are going to start happening inside the Top 25 this week and Kansas State is fresh meat. Playing on the road is difficult enough, but against a rising SEC school with a very talented offensive skill player only complicates things. The Wildcats will play their typical smart, disciplined football, but I like the way that Vanderbilt took care of business on the road against Middle Tennessee State in Week 1. The Commodores will have Nashville rocking on Saturday night after a nice upset victory.

My Pick: 24-21 Vanderbilt

Jared’s Take: Kansas State has scored 55 points in two straight games. I say they make it three straight. As for Vanderbilt, they’re a football team, but they make a better basketball team. I say stick to basketball. KSU wins 55-20.

#3 Clemson at #14 Louisville (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

There are a lot of expectations for this game, undoubtedly stemming from the fact that the 2016 version of this matchup was one of the best of the prior season. Much has changed, however, on both ends. Louisville still has Lamar Jackson, but he is a more refined quarterback and not simply relying on spectacular athleticism to get by in games. The defending national champions are without their star quarterback of last season, but have gotten good production out of his replacement thus far. This game sets the tone for the ACC Coastal Division title race.

As mentioned above, Lamar Jackson may still possess the ability to hurdle over defenders into the end zone, but he is starting to find ways to utilize his cannon for an arm to lead the Cardinals offense down the field. While this only creates more headaches for defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the Tigers have allowed an average of 40 yards per game through the air this season. I don’t care who you’ve played, that is impressive. The Clemson defense has had to replace NFL talent all over the field the past two seasons but still have the personnel to deal with Jackson. And that will be the biggest factor in this game. If Jackson tries to do too much, the Tigers will stop the Louisville offense. But if Jackson trusts in his teammates’ ability to make plays, then this game will be a back-and-forth offensive shootout, much like last year.

Much has been made of Kelly Bryant’s first start on the road, but Clemson’s offense isn’t the Kelly Bryant Show. This team returned nearly the entire offensive line from last year and has run the ball more times (79) than it has passed (66) so far this season. Bryant will definitely have moments where he needs to step up in this game, but not to the extent that Jackson will need to for Louisville. Additionally, I’m not sold on Louisville as a complete football team after its first two games – Clemson has looked far better defensively.

My Pick: 37-30 Clemson

Jared’s Take: Possibly the biggest game of the week, the reigning National Champions versus the reigning Heisman winner.  But will this game live up to the hype? I don’t believe so.  If Kent State can score three points on Clemson’s defense then Lamar can score at least seven with his shiny new helmet. No matter what, Clemson can’t get a zero on the field, whether it’s the opponent’s score or from the marching band (Go Bucks). But I think Louisville’s defense is the difference in this game.  They can light up the scoreboard but they won’t be able to stop Clemson enough times. Clem win 33-23.

5 Games to Flip To

#25 UCLA at Memphis (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Chosen One’s heroic comeback against Texas A&M was historic, but also begs the question “where is UCLA’s defense?” Memphis can score a lot of points.

Notre Dame at Boston College (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Fighting Irish don’t get a break after being narrowly defeated by Georgia. Boston College is hungry for a victory over its Catholic rival.

#12 LSU at Mississippi State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Starkville is not an easy place to open up an SEC campaign, which is what LSU will do on Saturday evening. The Tigers have looked strong defensively through two games, however.

Oregon at Wyoming (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Ducks score a lot of points and Wyoming has issues punting. But the Cowboys do have the potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, so if you can find it on TV, it’s worth a look-in.

Texas at #4 Southern California (Saturday, 8:30 PM ET)

The Trojans proved me wrong last weekend, pummeling Stanford at home. This does not bode well for Texas, which looked lost defensively against Maryland.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Jared did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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