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College Football Week 3 Preview: Florida State vs. Louisville among the big games

Critical conference matchups headline the third week of the season

Louisville v Syracuse
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Similar to week one, week three of the college football season boasts multiple ranked matchups. With a few critical early conference matchups early, and a couple huge out-of-conference matchups late, week three could provide a major boost for a few one loss teams.

*All rankings reflected in Coaches Poll.

#2 Florida State at #10 Louisville, noon, ABC/WatchESPN.com

Both teams play Clemson later, but the winner of this one controls their fate to the ACC Championship game and ultimately the College Football Playoff. Florida State is coming into the game off a comeback win over Ole Miss and a drubbing of FCS Charleston Southern. Led by Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook, the ‘Noles haven’t had any trouble working the scoreboard, racking up 97 points in their first two games. Freshmen QB Deondre Francois has adjusted to the starting position nicely with five touchdowns. The Cardinals enter the game off of a 62-28 thumping of Syracuse last week. Combined with the 70 scored in week one against Charlotte, the Cardinals have scored 132 points through two games and now have a Heisman Trophy candidate of their own in QB Lamar Jackson. The sophomore is coming off 199 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last week vs. Syracuse. He has also been excellent through the air, with nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns through two games. This one should be a great start to the day with the noon kickoff.

NCAA Football: Wofford at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Alabama at #17 Ole Miss, 3:30pm, CBS/CBSSports.com

The Tide breezed through week one with a 52-6 hammering of Southern Cal, while Ole Miss let a 28-3 first-half lead slip in their loss to Florida State. Both took care of easier games on the schedule last week, with the Tide defeating Western Kentucky and the Rebels winning against FCS Wofford. The Tide have revenge on the mind after suffering their only defeat of last season to the Rebels in a wacky 43-37 game in Tuscaloosa. Freshman Jalen Hurts appears to have taken a step ahead of Blake Barnett in the QB race, with the dual-threat QB getting the start last week. The Tide’s offense didn’t look that great last weekend, but the defense has already shown it is ready to match the level of the former title winning teams. The Rebels’ playoff hopes took a big dent with the way they lost to Florida State, but with a win on Saturday, the Rebels will control the SEC West race. Although history shows a defeat to Ole Miss won’t derail Alabama’s playoff aspirations, they certainly don’t want to lose to them again. An interesting tidbit: Chad Kelly is trying to become the first QB to defeat a Nick Saban-coached team in back-to-back seasons since New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees did it at Purdue, while Saban was head coach at Michigan State.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado at #5 Michigan, 3:30pm, Big Ten Network/BTN2Go

The Buffs have already ruffled the Wolverines’ feathers this week: Michigan does not release a depth chart, and the Buffs decided to poke some fun, releasing a depth chart that included many fictional characters and other athletes (i.e. Elmer Fudd, Happy Gilmore, Austin Powers, and the Hanson brothers from Slap Shot. Harbaugh didn’t take too kindly to the joke, calling it "a waste of time" on a radio show this week). The Buffs are also breaking out the throwback uniforms for their trip to Ann Arbor, the ones worn during the "Miracle at Michigan" when Colorado QB Kordell Stewart launched a Hail Mary from his own 27 yard-line to the end zone for a 27-26 upset victory in 1994. Colorado, a program that has struggled for a number of years now, are off to a 2-0 start and ranked in the top 20 in points, passing, and rushing through the first two games. The offense, led by dual-threat senior QB Sefo Liufau - who already owns 75 Buffaloes records - has been very efficient through two games. If the Buffs can score early they could hang around for a little while, but Michigan ultimately has too much talent to suffer a defeat.

NCAA Football: UC - Davis at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

#21 Oregon at Nebraska, 3:30pm, ABC/WatchESPN.com

The Ducks are not expected to contend for the playoff this season, with Stanford being the overwhelming favorite in the Pac-12, but they can pick up a resume booster with a win in Lincoln. Head coach Mark Helfrich still runs the fast paced offense, but with grad transfer QB Dakota Prukop, an All-American at FCS power Montana State a year ago who picked the Ducks over Alabama. Against UC Davis (FCS) and Virginia, Prukop threw six touchdown passes, rushed for one, and has yet to turn the ball over, but he will have a more difficult time this week in Nebraska. Huskers head coach Mike Riley is no stranger to the Ducks, spending fourteen years (’97-’98, ’03-’14) as the head coach of the Ducks’ rival, Oregon State. Considered the third favorite in the Big Ten West behind Iowa and Wisconsin, a win over Oregon could spring-board the Huskers toward challenging for the division. With the schedule after Oregon, there is even a realistic possibility the Huskers could be 7-0 before traveling to Wisconsin in late October if they were to top the Ducks. Senior dual-threat QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., who is back for his senior season, has had turnover problems since becoming the Nebraska starter mid-way through his freshman season, turning it over 46 times in 35 games. He fumbled three times last week vs Wyoming but was able to recover all of them, but threw his first interception of the season. If Armstrong can take care of the football, the Huskers have a good chance of upsetting Oregon at home.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

#8 Michigan State at #18 Notre Dame, 7:30pm, NBC/NBC Sports Live Xtra

After being upset on the road in Texas in week one, Notre Dame now has the opportunity of upsetting a rival at home. The Fighting Irish lost the overtime thriller in Austin but rebounded with a big win over Nevada last week. Michigan State started out with a shaky win over Furman (FCS) in week one. In what was sort of un-noticed, mainly due to Tennessee’s struggles in week one, the Spartans were only ahead by a touchdown midway through the fourth. The Spartans have had a week off in between the 28-13 win over Furman and the trip to Notre Dame. The Spartan defense appears to be solid as usual under USC alum Mark Dantonio. Led by potential a first round draft pick in defensive tackle Malik McDowell, the defense will be able to make some stops to help out the offense. The Spartan offense revolves around sophomore running back LJ Scott, who carried the ball twenty times for 105 yards and a touchdown in week one. Senior QB Tyler O’Connor is now the full-time starter, replacing Connor Cook from last season. Last season O’Connor got his first career start in the Spartans’ upset win at Ohio State. O’Connor started well vs Furman, tossing three touchdowns. For the Fighting Irish, the offense hasn’t missed a beat. With Deshone Kizer now the starting QB over Malik Zaire, the Irish managed to put up 47 (37 in regulation) and 39 points in their first two games. The big problem against Texas was the defense. The Irish had a rough time tackling Longhorn QB Tyrone Swoopes, giving up three rushing touchdowns. They were also beaten over the top a few times by Longhorn freshman QB Shane Buechele. If the Irish can stop Scott, they should be able to put up enough points at home to top the Spartans.

Houston v Oklahoma Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

#4 Ohio State at #14 Oklahoma, 7:30pm, FOX/FOX Sports GO

The biggest out-of-conference game of the weekend takes place in Norman. Oklahoma got its first win of the year last week against Louisiana-Monroe after losing to Houston week one. Even though the Sooners dropped the game to Houston, they can get right back into the playoff conversation with a win Saturday night. The Buckeyes enter the contest on the back of a 48-3 win over Tulsa and a 77-10 drubbing of Bowling Green in week one. After throwing a pick-6 on the Buckeyes; first drive of the season against Bowling Green, QB JT Barrett threw six touchdown passes against the Falcons. In the second week, the Buckeyes went heavy in the run game due to poor weather conditions in Columbus. The defense already has racked up seven interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (who turned it over twice against Houston) must protect the football if they want to pull of the upset. This will be the first time Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops have met since the 2009 BCS National Championship Game, when Meyer’s Florida Gators defeated the Sooners for the Gators’ second straight title.

Others To Watch

Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech, 12:30pm, ACC Network (regional)/TheACC.com

#20 Texas A&M at Auburn, 7pm, ESPN2/WatchESPN.com

Mississippi State at #22 LSU, 7pm, ESPN/WatchESPN.com

#13 Georgia at Missouri. 7:30pm, SEC Network/WatchESPN.com

USC at #6 Stanford, 8pm, ABC/WatchESPN.com

#16 Texas at California, 10:30pm, ESPN/WatchESPN.com