2018 NCAAF Week 3 Weekend Preview

September 14, 2018

This weekend has real potential to be the most exciting thus far for the still fledgling college football season.

It’s appropriate, with that being said, that the biggest college football fan I know will be joining the blog this week to make picks.

Just kidding.

My buddy Trent is a real champ when it comes to being a college football prognosticator, but he’s more of an NFL guy. So I hope to take my rightful place as leader in the head-to-head prediction game after this week, having dispatched of Keegan by a single game last weekend to close the gap to one in the overall score.

K. Becks – 5-5

Guests – 6-4

Before we take a look at the games to watch, here are mt “Three Thoughts” following the previous weekend:

1. It’s too early to tell if everyone was truly wrong about the Pac-12 coaching experiments, but it appears to be trending that way. After just two games, the supposed best hire (Chip Kelly at UCLA) is 0-2 guiding an offense that ranks next to last in the conference, averaging under 350 yards per game. The supposed high risk-high reward hire (Herm Edwards at Arizona State) is 2-0, having knocked off previously No. 15 Michigan State and rolling into Week 3 with aspirations of competing for the South division title. You play to win the game, so it’s looking like an easy case so far as to which is the more successful hire.

2. Despite the chink in Clemson’s armor last weekend, don’t expect the Tigers to have anything other than an easy road back to the CFP. No one in the ACC other than North Carolina State has the ability to throw on Clemson’s defense like the Aggies did last weekend, and the Wolfpack have to go to Death Valley to face Dabo Swinney’s team. Good luck, and good night.

3. Please, for the love of all things football, put Beth Mowins back into the Saturday noon ET slot for calling games. I think Mowins is great, truly, and makes the run of the mill ACC game between Georgia Tech and Wake Forest actually sound exciting. But I just can’t get into her MNF gig. Help us all out, ESPN, and let Beth thrive.

Let’s take a look at the top games to watch this weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#17 Boise State at #24 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This is the type of game that probably would not have been played prior to the CFP. The Broncos travel to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State for the front end of a home-and-home series that sees the Cowboys travelling up to the blue turf in 2021. If you’re a fan of offensive shootouts, then this is a can’t miss game this weekend. Neither team has failed to score fewer than 55 points in its first two games and there is a good chance at least one of these two will make it three in a row.

Although all eyes will be on the quarterback play of Brett Rypien for the Broncos and Taylor Cornelius for the Cowboys, it will be the defenses that will provide the X factor in this game. The Broncos are really experienced, especially in the secondary, so Cornelius will face his first real test as a starter this weekend. For the Cowboys, a new 4-2-5 defensive scheme instilled by new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles allows for aggressiveness but the Broncos haven’t utilized the tight ends much. Rypien is an assassin with the ball in his hands and will take full advantage of his receivers over the middle if Oklahoma State can’t execute their defensive assignments. Additionally, Boise State’s run game should play a big part in the game. The Broncos racked up an amazing 400 yards on the ground against Connecticut last weekend and Alexander Mattison is just the current feature in what has been a line of great backs to play for Boise State. The Cowboys also have a talented running back in Justice Hill, but the Broncos are tougher up front defensively.

It’s never easy to win a college football game on the road, especially against one that is ranked in the Top 25. The Cowboys seem to be rolling along just fine without Mason Rudolph behind center, which bodes well for Mike Gundy’s squad which prefers to win with overwhelming offensive performances. However, this Boise State team is very solid and has its sights set on a New Year’s Six bowl bid. If Rypien is as accurate as he has shown himself capable of being and the defense limits the Cowboys to a team that needs to rely heavily on the pass, I like the chances for the Broncos to steal one in Stillwater.

My Pick: 52-48 Boise State

Trent’s Take: This is a toughie…both teams have started the season 2-0 and both teams have scored 55+ points in each game. Typically, Cowboys ride Broncos until they are bucked off. But since Mike Gundy IS A MAN, (HE’S 51!) Cowboys hang on in a rodeo show that’s bound to entertain.

Oklahoma State – 52

Boise State – 49

#12 LSU at #7 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The SEC will take center stage on Saturday afternoon when two teams looking to position themselves as the number one contender to Alabama in the SEC West will face off. Both Auburn and LSU have a solid win under its belt, but a win in this game would serve as the true catalyst as far as the polls are concerned. Expect the victor to be breathing down the neck of everyone else in the top five come Sunday afternoon.

While the other top game in the 3:30 PM ET slot with provide the offensive fireworks, fans of the defensive struggle will prefer to tune in to this one. Although both Joe Burrow and Jarrett Stidham have the ability to be a couple of the top quarterbacks in the SEC, neither has really done much to take a step in that direction in the early part of the season. Each has just two passing touchdowns and Burrow’s completion percentage is currently under the 50 percent mark. Auburn’s ground game is good enough to mask any struggles that Stidham may have, but LSU is stout again the run and so Stidham may be called upon in important situations on Saturday. In fact, that can be said for both quarterbacks – the defenses give up 74 (LSU) and 74.5 (Auburn) yards per game on the ground, respectively.

While Burrow and the rest of the LSU offense haven’t exactly put up stellar numbers, the results are hard to argue with so far. Miami probably isn’t for real, but LSU took it to the Hurricanes in Week 1. However, Miami doesn’t run the ball nearly as well as Auburn, so the first real test for the LSU defense comes this week. Unless LSU’s offense is hiding something we don’t know about, I see Auburn dictating the pace of the game and bottling up most of what LSU wants to do offensively. As long as the Auburn kicking game isn’t as bad as Miami’s was in Week 1, the home Tigers will win this game.

My Pick: 21-14 Auburn

Trent’s Take: This is some classic (southern comfort food for Kyle’s soul) SEC football right here. Although both teams have been tested and are 2-0 to start the season, LSU’s offense looked out of sync in the second half their last game against South Eastern Louisiana despite a deceptive score of 31-0, while Auburn completely blew it last year in this matchup. I’ll give this one to Auburn as they come into Saturday with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Also, how do you pick against a team with a JaTarvious at running back?  Wasn’t he in a Key and Peele skit?

Auburn – 28

LSU – 24

#4 Ohio State vs. #15 TCU [game in Dallas] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The marquee matchup this for the week takes place in Jerry’s World, which based on proximity would normally bring one to the conclusion that this is essentially a home game for the Fort Worth based TCU Horned Frogs. However, Ohio State fans travel as well as anyone in the country, and it’s a safe bet for just about any large city in the United States that there is a fairly large contingency of Buckeye alum in the area. In other words, don’t expect either side to have much of an advantage in the crowd noise department – this is a true neutral site affair.

Through the first two games of the 2018 regular season, Dwayne Haskins has the Buckeye faithful ready to break out the phrase “J.T. who?”. The redshirt sophomore is absolutely lighting it up behind center, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns to just one interception. Haskins is second in the Big Ten in passing yards, 55 yards behind leader Brian Lewerke but also having thrown 19 fewer passes than Lewerke. Statistics aside, Haskins possesses an ability with his arm that hasn’t been seen in Columbus since Troy Smith willed his way to the Heisman Trophy over a decade ago. We’ll surely get the chance in this game to assess whether TCU’s defense, which allowed an impressive 111 yards of offense through the air against a pass happy SMU team last Friday, is the real deal. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, there is a two headed monster in the Buckeyes backfield with Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. It will take a tremendous effort to slow down Ohio State’s offense.

As much as TCU would prefer to win this game with its defense, it’s likely that Shawn Robinson and the rest of the Horned Frogs offense will need to keep pace with an Ohio State offense that has been humming in the absence of Urban Meyer on the sideline. The Buckeyes are a bit shaky in the defensive secondary so Robinson should be able to land some punches in this one, but I doubt he’ll last 12 rounds. Ohio State is comfortable giving up a few big plays and will do that in this game, but it won’t matter in the long run.

My Pick: 41-27 Ohio State

Trent’s Take: Ohio State is 4-1-1 against TCU all time, and this Saturday’s matchup will be the first time these two teams play outside of the Buckeye state. Both teams seem to have great defenses, as well as competent offenses.

Ohio State takes this one. We all know that Ryan Day is competent..but something tells me that Brutus will have his own headset…

Ohio State – 42

TCU – 35

#22 Southern Cal at Texas (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

There was a time when this matchup would have been the biggest non-conference game of an entire season, but these two programs have certainly seen better days. That is most true for Texas, which has had trouble evening cracking the Top 25 ever since Mack Brown resigned in 2013. However, last week’s 17-3 defeat at the hands of Stanford is an indication that Clay Helton has his worked cut out for him this year in Los Angeles. While a victory over an unranked Texas squad isn’t exactly something to use for a CFP bid argument, this is still a chance for both teams to prove things aren’t entirely lost for 2018.

After a solid opener against UNLV, true freshman JT Daniels got a taste of what Power 5 college football is really like against Stanford last weekend. The talented signal caller was held to just 215 passing yards and threw two picks, which were costly in a game that didn’t feature a lot of scoring. The worst part is that Daniels ended up suffering a bruise to his throwing hand that could very well affect his play this weekend. The offensive woes weren’t entirely Daniels’s fault, however. The offensive line allowed 4 sacks, which is something that could plague Southern Cal this entire season. Fortunately for the Trojans, Texas hasn’t been particularly stellar on the defensive side of the football so if Daniels isn’t too hampered by his hand injury, there should be more success in moving the ball than there was against the Cardinal. On the other side, Texas’s offense is akin to a cannon that continually misfires. There is a lot of talent available, starting with quarterback Sam Ehlinger, but for some reason the Longhorns haven’t been able to put it all together under Tom Herman. Texas will need Ehlinger to take care of the football, because Southern Cal may opt to chew up clock with the run game if Daniels isn’t at 100 percent, putting offensive possessions at a premium.

Last year’s battle between these two teams was an instant classic, which came as a bit of a surprise considering the number of offensive weapons that the Trojans had at the time. This year Southern Cal is working on replacing those weapons and thus far, it remains a work in progress. However, I expected Texas to take a step forward this season and right now, it appears progress under Herman has stagnated. While going to Austin and winning at Darrel K. Royal Memorial is never an easy task, I don’t have faith in the Longhorns to pull off the upset here. Something tells me Texas will let a golden opportunity slip through its fingers.

My Pick: 31-28 Southern Cal

Trent’s Take: Hook’em

Texas – 28

USC – 21

#10 Washington at Utah (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

Two of the best coaches in all of college football will face off in this game, and there is a long history between these two. Chris Petersen and Kyle Whittingham have been going at it since the days when Utah was a perennial Mountain West Conference contender and Boise State was introducing itself as a consistent giant killer playing in the WAC. The rivalry will be renewed on Saturday night, and this game means more than just a good start to conference play. With another loss, Washington would have an extremely difficult time finding a way to the CFP.

Through the first two games of the season, statistically Utah has by far the best defense in the Pac-12. However, the Utes haven’t faced competition quite like Washington yet, so it’s difficult to approach Utah’s numbers with more than a “wait and see” attitude. Offensively, the Utes are in good position with Tyler Huntley at quarterback and could give the Washington defense as much trouble as Jarrett Stidham of Auburn did two weeks ago. Huntley is confident and athletic and has the ability to stretch Washington’s defense, which is still trying to find its footing in 2018. If he can do that, a pretty solid quarterback duel will ensue. Jake Browning appears to have regained his 2016 form as far as accuracy is concerned, but needs to cut down on the turnovers still to be a true Heisman contender. Ball safety will be paramount in this game, as the Utes are currently -4 in turnover margin this season. As tough as they may be, if Utah loses the turnover battle, it will lose this game.

Those that have not been to Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City probably wouldn’t guess this, but it is one of the most difficult places to play in the Pac-12 as an opposing team. Utah appears to have something brewing this year with Huntley and a potentially lockdown defense, but this game is the team’s first true test. Luckily, it’s at home. While I don’t think Petersen’s offense will be entirely stifled by the Utes, there’s a good chance what Kyle Whittingham has been doing through the first two games isn’t just due to the competition level. I expect the Huskies to win this game, but not by a wide margin.

My Pick: 23-21 Washington

Trent’s Take: I’m not a betting man (I’m sure most people in Utah are not either..), but if I was, I would bet my money on Washington. They have won 10 out of 11 games historically in this matchup, most recently winning 4 out of 5 since 2011. Although Utah has a great defense, have they really been tested against Weber State and Northern Illinois? The Utes may have beaten the Huskies last week, but this week’s Huskies are a whole lot meaner.

Washington – 17

Utah – 10

5 To Flip To

Florida State at Syracuse (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Willie Taggart era has not gotten off to a good start. Florida State looks lost offensively and Syracuse has the ability to score a lot of points. Seminoles fans should be worried about this one.

#21 Miami [FL] at Toledo (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Rockets posted 30 points on the Hurricanes when this game was played in Miami last year. Expect a similarly high scoring affair with the potential for Toledo to keep the game even closer this time around.

Vanderbilt at #8 Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

Another year, another Notre Dame team struggling with inconsistency. The Fighting Irish raised eyebrows with a close call at home against Ball State, suggesting the win over Michigan was aided by the emotions of a big game as much as actual talent on the field. Vanderbilt isn’t the SEC’s best, but if Notre Dame plays like it did last week, anything is possible.

BYU at #6 Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Cougars take a break from Pac-12 competition and travel to Madison to take on the run heavy Badgers. This is one of Wisconsin’s more intriguing matchups of the entire season, which isn’t the most complimentary remark.

#1 Alabama at Mississippi (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Without a postseason trip to look forward to, the Rebels will play all season with the intent of ruining other teams’ aspirations of playing college football post-December. As a perennial CFP contender, Alabama stands as one of the most to lose on Mississippi’s schedule this year.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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