Week 3 of the 2016 college football season really throws us into the action, with four games between ranked teams: #2 Florida State in an ACC clash with #10 Louisville, #1 Alabama playing at #19 Ole Miss, #12 Michigan State facing #18 Notre Dame, and #3 Ohio State travelling to Norman, facing #14 Oklahoma.
The weekend actually opens on Thursday with #6 Houston playing on the road against Cincinnati in the first conference game for both 2-0 teams. The Bearcats’ wins have come against Purdue and Tennessee-Martin, while Houston have shutout Lamar and beaten Oklahoma, traveling away from home for the first time this season. With Greg Ward back in action, it’s going to be very difficult for Cincinnati to stop the Cougars offense.
Besides the big games, other top 10 teams in action will be Clemson playing at home to South Carolina State. Yes, it should be easy, but their struggles in the previous week against Troy suggest it’s not going to be too much of a surprise if the Tigers struggle again as they have in the beginning of this season. Number 9 Wisconsin shouldn’t have too much trouble facing Georgia State, who are 0-2 to start the season, and probably will be looking for their first win elsewhere.
Number 4 Michigan will be playing at home against Colorado, surprisingly 2-0 to start the season. This is the fifth meeting between the two teams, last meeting in 1997. Colorado won the 1994 encounter, back when they were one of the best teams in the nation. The two other top 10 teams in action will be Washington (#8), playing at home against Portland State, which means they should go 3-0 after 60 minutes, and #7 Stanford, hosting USC, who lost twice to the Cardinal last season, and are likely to finish week 3 with a 1-2 record, although upsets aren’t something that this rivalry is a stranger to.
What about the big games. Can Louisville upset Florida State? It’s going to be difficult. The Seminoles allow only 67 yards per game on the ground, which means Lamar Jackson has his work cut out for him. The Cardinals have just one win against the Seminoles, back from 2002, losing in 2015 and 2014, when even a 21-0 lead wasn’t enough. They’re going to need that kind of start to make sure Florida State don’t come back this time.
Alabama have lost their last two games to the Rebels, a team many feel is built every offseason to handle the Crimson Tide, similar to Arkansas, only a bit better. Like any game against the Crimson Tide, the key is to not let their offensive and defensive line run you over. Ole Miss have only 67 rushing yards per game through the first two weeks. If they can’t breach the Alabama front seven and put some pressure on their secondary, their streak of upsets is going to end.
The Spartans coming to South Bend renews a rivalry that’s been asleep for a couple of years. Notre Dame have won their last three games, with Michigan State not winning in South Bend since 2007. The Spartans didn’t look very good in week 1 despite their weak opponent, while the Irish have bounced back from their dramatic defeat in Texas. I’m not sure what’s an upset here, but the Spartans have a lot more at stake in this one.
And for the big one, Ohio State visiting Oklahoma. This is only the third game between the two teams, both winning in enemy territory before. Vegas has Ohio State as a 1.5 points favorite. If the Buckeyes are allowed to run for around 300 yards again, no matter how good Baker Mayfield and his offense will be, it’ll turn into the second loss this season for Oklahoma, and another big game loss for Bob Stoops. The Buckeyes are averaging 313.5 yards per game.
Other potential upsets? North Dakota State are coming to #13 Iowa, which could become interesting, despite the FCS-FBS difference. Miami (#25) playing at Appalachian State has a huge red upset flag all over it. Oregon (#22) coming to Nebraska could go either way, facing a coach that’s been on the sidelines against the Ducks for many years, losing to them for many years as well. Auburn made things difficult for Clemson on their visit, and they should do the same to #17 Texas A&M. And #11 Texas playing on the road, even if California shouldn’t be very good, is another test to see if Charlie Strong finally has the team where he wants it.