So after Ohio and Louisiana last night the Week 3 college football slate is officially underway! Loads to get through today with a group of fantastic games on TV here in the UK, so without further ado, let’s get into it!
Michigan State Spartans (2-0) @ Miami Hurricanes (1-1) – Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Saturday 18th September – 5pm (UK)
Miami 6 point favourite at the time of writing
Before the season most people had this one chalked up as a fairly easy win for the Hurricanes, and judging by the point spread, some people still seem to be thinking that way. In reality, this could be a very difficult challenge for a ‘Canes team that has struggled through two different challenges to start their campaign.
Mel Tucker has gotten off to a flying start in his second year as Michigan State Head Coach, the perfect antidote to a disappointing 2-5 record in 2020. In week one, the Spartans piggybacked on a huge 250 yard performance from Kenneth Walker against Northwestern – puting the Big Ten on notice in the process. Week two presented an easy ride against Youngstown, but Sophomore QB, Payton Thorne, still looked impressive in a four TD outing.
Miami’s defense might be a different proposition for the Spartans offense, but if they’re to halt Thorne and Walker they’ll have to kick into a different gear in week three. A week one drubbing against Alabama is probably forgivable, given the star power on the Crimson Tide offense, but last week’s struggle against App State showed that this ‘Canes team is inexperienced on defense and lacking in star power on offense. Draft fans will want to keep an eye on Bubba Bolden who will be vying with Kyle Hamilton for the first Safety off the board in 2022.
Sixth year QB, D’Eriq King, is much like another QB Malik Cunningham, who I’ll mention later, he’s a dual threat player that carries his team on his back at times. He’s had to generate significant offense in the run game himself this season, putting up 79 yards in last week’s matchup. Cam’Ron Harris (RB) and Charleston Rambo (WR) are the main skill position weapons for Miami – they’ll need to be involved early and often if the Hurricanes are to avoid an upset this week.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1) @ #6 Clemson Tigers (1-1) – Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina
Saturday 18th September – 8.30pm (UK)
Clemson 28 point favourites at time of writing
This one should be fairly one sided. An injury hit Georgia Tech team travels to the colosseum that is Memorial Stadium to take on a Clemson team that has weathered a tricky start to the season. Despite those early season struggles, it’s hard to see the Yellow Jackets landing many significant punches on Dabo Swinney’s men.
If they’re to do so, they’ll be relying on Sophomore QB, Jordan Yates, to come up big in only his second start at the college level. Starter Jeff Sims got banged up in the season opener, and despite being dressed last week, he couldn’t play because of his arm injury. It’s questionable as to whether he’ll be able to contribute in any way this week, but after Yates’ four touchdown display against Kennesaw State, the safe move would be to roll with him again in Death Valley.
However, what the Yellow Jackets have that perhaps Clemson lacks is a strong running game. Starting back Jahmyr Gibbs is complemented nicely by Dontae Smith and Jordan Mason, and the trio should be able to cause an extremely dominant Tigers defense at least a few problems on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers’ defense has been one of the best in football so far in 2021, giving up 6 points through two games. The whole defense could be presented as stars here, but Andrew Booth has been the standout so far. Not only is Booth exceptional in coverage, he’s phenomenal when coming up to make the tackle – doing just that on two crucial situations against Georgia to prevent first downs.
But it’s on offense that Clemson have struggled to get things going so far this season. Against Georgia they could only put up three points, but more worryingly, starting QB DJ Uiagalelei only managed 171 yards, a TD and an INT through the air against South Carolina State. Granted, he did put two running scores up, but Swinney will be desperate to see a more dominant passing performance from the highly rated California native in this one.
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) @ #11 Florida Gators (2-0) – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida
Saturday 18th September – 8.30pm (UK)
Alabama 15 point favourites at the time of writing
The prime matchup of the weekend is this SEC clash between the Crimson Tide and Gators in what is a rematch of last year’s SEC Championship game.
How much does it say that Alabama are still 15 point favourites for a game between the first and eleventh ranked sides in the whole of college football and two of the best in the best conference?
I’ve done a mini U-turn already on Alabama – I thought they’d be in for a little bit of a down year.
They are not.
Bryce Young is looking poised and like a seasoned veteran, connecting on his passes at a really high rate. He’s keeping the scoreboard ticking over and running the offense like a veteran, despite having a lesser-thought-of group of receivers and Evan Neal aside, a less vaunted offensive line than usual for an Alabama side.
The lesson, Nick Saban and Alabama are omnipresent and will be omnipresent at the top of the rankings, no matter what. The machine just keeps on rolling and it has been all season so far with big wins against Miami and Mercer.
Florida on the other hand have had a little bit of disruption in the build up to this – Not on the field, since they sit 2-0 after wins against Florida Atlantic and South Florida but off the field.
Head Coach, Dan Mullen is rumoured to be interested in the newly-vacant Head Coaching position at USC. Will this be a distraction for the Gators?
There has also been the blow of losing middle linebacker Ventrell Miller indefinitely after he has had surgery on a torn biceps tendon – Miller is a player who affects the game in multiple ways with sacks, tackles for a loss and also an ability to get his hand on the football in the passing game.
Then there’s the potential controversy at QB with Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Richardson came in at the end of the South Florida game last week and ignited the Gators offense after Jones had thrown two interceptions.
Emory Jones just isn’t it, and it said a lot that in 3 passes, Richardson threw for 152 yards and 2 TDs, in 4 rushes he rushed for 115 yards and another TD – Albeit, I will say that this was against a tired South Florida defense.
Jones, 14/22 passing 151 yards, a TD and 2 picks, 13 carries for 81 yards and a score.
However, what’s the answer here? Start Jones against Alabama? Or throw Richardson in? Either way, Alabama wins. Heavily.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0) @ #2 Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) – Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
Sunday 19th September – 12am (UK)
Georgia 31 point favourites at the time of writing
Another game between two unbeaten SEC teams, yet we have the superior team as heavy favourites, this time by 31 points.
Do we see the issue that I have with the SEC being a tad overrated now? It’s great at the top but it’s a bit milquetoast in the middle and downright bad at the bottom. Georgia has had an excellent start to the season, opening with a tough 10-3 win over Clemson and then putting the sword to UAB 56-7. South Carolina has played Eastern Illinois and East Carolina which is fairly remarkable given their QB situation.
To fill in those who aren’t aware – Zeb Noland has played these two games for the Gamecocks due to an injury to projected starter, Luke Doty. However, what makes this more remarkable is that Noland had been recently hired by South Carolina as a graduate assistant coach, and wasn’t scheduled to play at all this year.
The original backup behind Doty was Redshirt Senior Jason Brown who had transferred in from FCS, St. Francis in Pennsylvania. Noland took practice reps to help the team out and Head Coach Shane Beamer was so impressed by the gap between the two, that he approached Noland about starting.
Noland’s previous QB career has spanned a couple of seasons being a backup at Iowa State before transferring to North Dakota State to mainly be Trey Lance’s backup for the Bison.
So how he will fare in the SEC and in particular this week against a Georgia defense which is right in the top echelons of college football, is an uncomfortable question from a Carolina prospective.
Georgia have looked very strong indeed so far this season and whilst they might not be the most expansive of teams, they are really solid, they do the fundamentals really well and they have a lights out defense which can run with the best of them – Just ask Clemson.
The Bulldogs really miss wide receiver George Pickens but they will have enough on offense but they should have enough to see off South Carolina here and by a good margin. Watch out for Georgia to run all over the Gamecocks, especially if JT Daniels isn’t able to start at QB. Daniels has been struggling with a strained oblique muscle and Head Coach Kirby Smart has stated that the only treatment for the injury is rest and seemed cautious to rush Daniels back and reaggravate the injury. Stetson Bennett or Carson Beck can probably get the job done here but if they’re in and not Daniels, I wouldn’t expect this game to be full of points and creative offensive play.
UCF Knights (2-0) @ Louisville Cardinals (1-1) – Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
Saturday 18th September – 12.30am (UK)
UCF 6.5 point favourites at the time of writing
This is a really interesting game to kick off the weekend’s action. The Knights have got off to a barnstorming start, putting up 99 points in wins over Boise State and Bethune-Cookman. Louisville struggled on opening day against Ole Miss, but then came roaring back to beat Eastern Kentucky in week two.
The fact that UCF open up at nearly a touchdown favourite shows just how high analysts and the bookies are on them as a team this year, and their future status as a Big 12 team has only given them an added boost. Gus Malzahn has had his critics over the years, but his willingness to mould the Knights offense to the playmaking ability of Dillon Gabriel has worked wonders so far, with the junior signal caller firing on all cylinders in both of their early season games.
They come up against their hardest test so far in a fairly young Louisville defense, headlined by Kenderick Duncan (FS), Monty Montgomery (LB) and Qwynnterrio Cole (SS). But UCF will be confident of getting the job done with a strong receiving core and a pair of workhorse Running Backs in Isaiah Bowser and Trillion Coles.
On the other side of the field it is pretty much a one man show, Malik Cunningham is very much the modern QB. He’s most dangerous with the ball in his hands, running at an isolated DB, but he’s also capable when stepping up in the pocket as a passer. In their week two win, Cunningham threw for 277 yards and a TD, whilst carrying the ball into the end zone for two more scores – the Knights will be desperate to keep him quiet this week.
However, a young star is emerging that could aid Cunningham and the Cardinals this season. Freshman receiver Ahmari Huggins-Bruce had a monster game in week two, putting up 150 yards on four receptions out of the slot. For an offense that lost experienced starters across the board to the 2021 NFL Draft, Huggins-Bruce’s emergence could be huge. Look for him to be targeted a lot in week three as the Cardinals try to keep up with UCF’s big play offense.
Ahmari Huggins-Bruce breaks clear Photo Credit: ACC
#19 Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) @ #23 BYU Cougars (2-0) – LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Sunday 19th September 3.15am (UK)
Arizona State 2.5 point favourites at the time of writing
This week’s night owl game over on the West Coast is between Arizona State and BYU, another game this week between a pair of unbeaten teams.
Could BYU do an Arizona double this week?
The Cougars turned over Arizona in week 1 and then followed it up with a mighty win over their near rivals Utah last week.
The BYU offensive game plan revolves around running back Tyler Allgeier, as he put in solid displays against both Arizona and Utah with 94 and 97 yards respectively on the ground. Allgeier doesn’t offer a great deal in the passing game but it doesn’t seem to matter to BYU as they just keep feeding him.
With two Power-5 wins under their belt, there should be nothing to fear as they continue their tour of the Pac-12 South and face off against Arizona State. ASU are a talented team who have players who are the best in this game but as we saw last year and at the start of this – Albeit BYU have lost a few of their best players in the offseason – BYU don’t really back down when they come up against what are perceived to be bigger and better programmes. See the Boca Raton Bowl against UCF last year.
Despite that, on the other side of this game, by the same token, Arizona State will have nothing to fear either. Which should make this a really outstanding spectacle.
The Sun Devils QB, Jayden Daniels is a super-talented passer, albeit he has his weaknesses, which again, could mean thrills and spills in this game.
Daniels is a little bit like Levi Lewis of Louisiana, whom I wrote about in the Thursday Night Special of the TV Preview – He’s a livewire with a lot of athleticism and the ability to make plays with his legs, however, what Daniels has over Lewis is that he has much more arm talent, which again, should make this game an exciting prospect.
Daniels has been efficient as a passer through two games and last week against UNLV he also racked up 122 yards on the ground.
The Sun Devils aren’t all about the pass, they did most of their damage on the ground in both of their previous games – with 228 and 287 yards on the ground. One of the stars of the ground game so far has been my guy Rachaad White. White has 4 TDs and 200 all-purpose yards, which is a really strong start to the year and I’ll be looking for him to carry on adding to these numbers in the early hours of Sunday morning – Like I said last week, it’s another early morning game that is worth staying up for or setting your alarm for.
By Lee Wakefield (@Wakefield90) & Andy Moore (@Ajmoore21)