10 things to know in college football for Week 3
From Lamar Jackson's first true test to the state of the Big 12 conference, here's your one-stop shop for Saturday.
10 things to know in college football for Week 3
Most of us probably woke up last Saturday morning, looked at Week 2’s schedule of games and let out a collective yawn.
Shame on us.
This past weekend’s action exceeded everyone’s expectations and was the reminder we all needed that the passion and unpredictability of college football always makes it a must-watch.
With that in mind, Week 3’s slate of games has plenty of matchups to get excited for, several of which could be season defining for teams. So before Saturday arrives and we get lost in it all again, here are 10 things you need to know heading into Week 3 of the college football season:
- Lamar Jackson faces his first real test against Florida State
Lamar Jackson has been unbelievable in his first two games this season, accounting for 13 total touchdowns and leading the nation’s QBs in overall grade. He’s been running through defenses with ease, totaling 318 yards on the ground and forcing 11 missed tackles on just 31 carries. Jackson is far from a one-dimensional player though. His PFF QB Rating of 121.10 currently is tops in the country and he’s shown a great ability to throw the deep ball, possessing the nation’s top accuracy rating on throws traveling more than 20 yards downfield. Of course, the caveat to all of this of is that those numbers were put up against the Charlotte and Syracuse defenses which would not be considered strong units by nearly any measure.
This weekend’s matchup against Florida State however will be Jackson’s first real test as he faces a Seminoles defense that is full of talent. Losing star safety Derwin James to injury last week is a huge blow, but FSU has a host of other playmakers on defense, starting with defensive tackle DeMarcus Walker and his ridiculous five-sack performance against Ole Miss in Week 1. In what should be an exciting matchup between two highly talented teams, Lamar Jackson has the chance to prove his explosive first two games were no anomaly and that he’ll be a consistent force throughout this season.
- Week 3 could define Oklahoma’s season
Oklahoma’s season has not gotten off to the start they were hoping, losing their first game to the up and coming Houston Cougars and dropping from their preseason top-5 ranking down to No. 14 in this week’s polls. Week 1 losses can often doom a college team’s season, but Oklahoma is in great shape to climb its way back into the playoff discussion if they can grab a win this weekend against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have two of the most exciting players in the country in running back Curtis Samuel and QB J.T. Barrett, both of which can take over games with their explosive ability. Samuel has made plays from all over the field this season, doing equal damage as a receiver and runner and grading out as one of the top backs in the nation through two weeks. Barrett looks to have improved as a passer, earning one of the best deep ball accuracy ratings (57.1 percent) in the nation so far this year. The Sooners’ first order of business will be trying to establish a running game with their two-headed backfield of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon who both graded very well for us last season but have been underutilized thus far. With OU’s defense not playing up to standards, their best bet may be winning the time of possession battle and keeping Samuel, Barrett and the rest of the Ohio State offense off the field as much as possible. A win this weekend helps ease the pain from Week 1’s loss and should have Oklahoma right back in the thick of the playoff picture.
- It could be a long night for Chad Kelly
After a rough outing in Week 1 against Florida State, Chad Kelly bounced back this weekend with a solid performance against Wofford, earning one of the top passing grades in the nation and posting an adjusted completion percentage of 85.2 percent, eighth-best this week. That’s the good news. The bad news? Chad doesn’t get to play Wofford again. This week Alabama comes to town and their defense has been other-worldly through two games this season. While they excel in nearly every category, getting after the passer may be their specialty as they’ve collected 35 total pressures this season, 25 of which have come from the trio of Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Tim William. That’s probably the last thing that Chad Kelly and the Ole Miss offense wants to hear as Kelly has had some real issues this season when facing pressure. On throws from a clean pocket, Kelly is completing 74.5 percent of his passes and has an NFL rating of 129.9. Those numbers drop to just 31.6 percent and a 43.4 rating on plays where Kelly is under fire, something he’ll have to drastically improve upon if the Rebels have a fighting chance this weekend.
- Get to Know Matt Linehan and Luke Falk
Matt Linehan and Luke Falk are typically not named when listing the nation’s top QBs, but both players deserve to be in the discussion and will have a chance to square off this weekend when Idaho goes on the road to play Washington State. Linehan entered this season with the sixth-best grade among returning QBs and was especially effective when throwing the ball deep, posting a 49.2 percent accuracy rating on throws 20+yards downfield. Linehan has gotten off to a slower start this year, but has still shown the same kind of accuracy that made him so successful in 2015. For Washington State, Falk has picked up right where le left off last season, currently ranking near the top of the nation in overall grade, completion percentage (78.0 percent) and accuracy under pressure (72.7 percent), all areas he excelled in last season. Idaho vs. Washington State may not be one of the marquee matchups this weekend, but it will feature two of the best under-the-radar quarterback prospects in the country.
- California vs Texas could be a shootout
Offensive production, and QB play in particular, has typically not been the strong point of The Texas Longhorns under head coach Charlie Strong, but this year’s team has a new look with freshman QB Shane Buechele and the hire of new OC Sterlin Gilbert. Buechele has looked impressive through two weeks of play, putting up strong grades and excelling when throwing deep with a 57.1 percent accuracy rating on throws traveling 20 or more yards downfield. This weekend the Longhorns travel to California to take on the Golden Bears and former Big-12 QB Davis Webb, who is equally capable of putting up points in a hurry. Cal’s offense is one of the most potent in the nation so far this season in large part due to Webb’s play through two games. Webb has already thrown for nine touchdowns and will look to beat Texas down the middle of the field where he’s done most of his damage this year. If you’re looking for a defensive battle, you may want to flip to a different channel. Expect a lot of points and a high play count from both offenses Saturday night.
- Danny Etling takes over at LSU
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has had a difficult start to the season, earning a 58.5 PFF rating in his Week 1 game against Wisconsin and then being pulled due to poor play last Saturday against Jacksonville State. Purdue transfer Danny Etling took over for Harris after the benching and seemed to provide a spark for the stagnant LSU offense. Etling was not perfect by any means, completing just one pass beyond 10 yards and struggling under pressure with a 25 percent completion rate, but his play was enough to earn this weekend’s start against Mississippi State. Led by linebacker A.J. Jefferson, the Bulldogs have a strong front seven that will look to shutdown Leonard Fournette and the LSU ground game, forcing Etling to beat them through the air. The Mississippi State secondary has largely struggled so far this year with only Jamal Peters earning a positive coverage grade, but Etling will still have to prove he’s able to win with his arm. How Etling performs in his first SEC conference game will tell us a lot about whether or not he’s truly the answer the Tigers have been searching for at quarterback.
- USC vs Stanford features two of the best offensive weapons in college football
Two of the most dynamic skill position players in the country will be on display when USC takes on Stanford this weekend. USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are both able to score from anywhere at any time and will be looking to get back to form after slow starts to their seasons. Smith-Schuster was held to just one catch against Alabama in Week 1 but did have a nice bounce back this past weekend with a two touchdown performance against Utah State. And while McCaffrey put up solid numbers against Kansas State on opening weekend, it was his lowest graded game since the first week of the 2015 season. USC will be hoping to secure that statement win they couldn’t grab in Week 1 while Stanford will look to fix issues from their opener while continuing to establish themselves atop the Pac-12. The ability of both Smith-Schuster and McCaffrey to take over a game at any time will play a big role in the outcome of this matchup.
- Two strong defenses face off in Texas A&M at Auburn
This weekend’s A&M/Auburn matchup may have a slightly different feel than the usual shootout of years past. Both teams enter their first conference game with high performing defenses and some uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball. Auburn opened the season with a loss to Clemson, but was highly effective in slowing down DeShaun Watson and the high powered Clemson attack, pressuring the star QB on roughly one out of every three dropbacks. The majority of this pressure came from defensive end Carl Lawson who has graded out as one of the top edge defenders in the nation through two weeks. After rotating through three different QBs in Week 1, Auburn seems to have settled on Sean White going forward which should at least provide a sense of stability to the offense.
A&M also boasts one of the top edge rushers in the nation in Myles Garrett, an improved linebacker corps led by Otaro Alaka, and a playmaking secondary that held talented UCLA QB Josh Rosen in check during their Week 1 matchup. The A&M offense has seen mixed results through two weeks under new QB Trevor Knight who has completed just 34 percent of passes thrown beyond 10 yards, but has ultimately gotten the job done in their two wins. Whichever team’s offense is able to manage the rush and avoid costly turnovers should have the advantage in this SEC showdown.
- A lot is at stake in the Michigan State vs Notre Dame matchup
Michigan State currently sits at No. 12 in the AP polls but after a less than impressive showing against Furman in Week 1, they’ll need to steal a win in South Bend against Notre Dame this weekend to justify that ranking. The Spartans offense was lackluster in their opening game and will have to get better performances out of new starting QB Tyler O’Connor (57.9) and running back LJ Scott (64.7) against the Irish. Notre Dame bounced back after their Week 1 loss to Texas with a sound win against Nevada, but a victory this weekend against a ranked opponent will go a long way towards getting their playoff hopes back on track. The defense will have to improve after missing 24 tackles against Texas two weeks ago, but the talent is there, especially along the defensive line with Isaac Rochell and Daniel Cage leading the way. On offense, it looks like they’ve settled on DeShone Kizer as the starter at QB, which in our opinion was the right decision. Kizer has one of the top PFF QB Ratings in the nation this season at 98.87 and has the ability to carry this team going forward. It’s only Week 3, but the outcome of this matchup will play a big role in shaping the rest of Notre Dame’s season.
- The Big 12 looks to recover
The Big 12 has a reputation for high-powered offenses and porous defenses. Unfortunately for the conference, that stigma held true this past weekend as half of their teams lost non-conference games, some of which were to lesser opponents. Among the lowlights were Oklahoma State losing a heartbreaker to Central Michigan on a wild play that probably should have never happened, TCU falling in a double OT thriller to Arkansas, and Texas Tech getting outpaced by Arizona State in a defense-optional 68-55 shootout. This weekend’s slate of games offers a chance at redemption with several enticing matchups. Oklahoma plays host to Ohio State in what could be a season-defining game for the Sooners, Oklahoma State looks to rebound against the James Conner led Pitt Panthers in Stillwater and Texas travels to California to take on the high powered Cal offense. The Big 12’s road to recovery starts this weekend as they look to remain relevant in the playoff discussion.