Every Friday, Kristen Ashly will preview three college football games scheduled for that week, choosing contests that are must-see based on match-ups, injuries, controversies, and other reasons. Which three games are on the watch list for Week 3?
Week 3 holds a slew of games with lots of upset potential; upsets based on conference match-ups, uneven talents, and underdog statuses. Week 2 certainly had its fair share of excitement, like Georgia’s huge showing against South Carolina in their SEC opener, but Week 3 has the potential to provide a better outlook for playoff season and conference finals.
Fans will get a clearer picture of conference races, but that’s not the only piece of drama this week brings. Hurricane Florence is gaining momentum near the east coast, and NCAA football is once again suffering because of the declining weather. Three games have been postponed or cancelled because of Florence: UCF at North Carolina, West Virginia at NC State, and East Carolina at Virginia Tech.
The cancellations due to weather has even caused the storm typical within college football: organizational differences. After ECU announced it would not be traveling to Blacksburg due to Florence’s impact on the Carolinas, Virginia Tech reached a new level of annoyed. Virginia Tech went as far as to tweet out their frustrations.
Statement from #Hokies AD Whit Babcock: “We certainly understand the need for safety, of course, we just felt that tomorrow, making the decision then, would’ve been more responsible and accurate. We informed ECU of this multiple times”… https://t.co/1KjR90v4Fv
— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) September 11, 2018
Virginia Tech responded to the news with an insensitive tweet that has since been deleted, as well.
Despite the tumultuous weather, there’s still football to be played. Let’s take a look at the top three games to watch this weekend, for Week 3 of NCAA football.
No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Auburn, Alabama
The focal point of this contest will be on defense. The teams are evenly matched defensively, which will certainly cause a struggle for both offenses for the majority of the game.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will need to pull through for his team, if they have any hope to win. Burrow had a solid outing against Miami, but he will need to reliably convert on third down passes.
Auburn’s room for growth lies on the offensive line, where the unit needs to show solidarity and strength where they have been failing to protect. Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham is a playmaker, but the offense will need to make serious changes to create opportunities to score.
The series between these two teams have historically been split down the middle, which could bode well for the Auburn Tigers, this year. The team that wants the win the most will need to reevaluate their offense, first. The winner in this bout will be one step closer to the playoff picture, and will likely be Alabama’s main challenger in the SEC West.
No. 10 Washington at Utah
Saturday at 10 p.m. ET in Salt Lake City, Utah
It’s not easy to grab a conference win at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In fact, this game is likely to be decided by a plethora of field goals.
Utah’s main concern will be how to complete drives and run the ball effectively. The offense had issues against Northern Illinois, and it won’t be any easier to compete against a top-ten ranked team. The Utes will need to remain consistent against Washington’s defense, especially within the red zone, so banking on opportunities when they arise will be key for Utah. Quarterback Tyler Huntley will be able to handle business in the opposite red zone, looking to add to the 18 red zone touchdowns he’s accumulated since last season. Huntley is a threat to run, but Utah will need more than a dual-threat leader.
Huskies quarterback Jake Browning can succeed in a game like this, if he is properly protected. If Utah makes the mistake of giving Browning time to survey the field, Washington’s offense will do some real damage. Washington will need to place at the top of the Pac-12 if they want any chance at the playoffs. Utah is 2-0, and Washington has a loss to Auburn, but the race is still either team’s to win.
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 15 TCU
Saturday at 8 p.m. ET at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
The heavily reported story in this case, is how a business decision moved the game from Fort Worth to Arlington. TCU will need to overcome this clear handicap.
Both teams have finished in the top 10 at least three of the last four seasons, so this is considered to be one of the most highly anticipated games of the week.
TCU’s offensive average is sitting at a large 443 yards per game, with 234 on ground and 209 through the air. Running backs Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson together have not produced more than one carry over 20 yards, and neither have scored. TCU’s lead rusher is currently their quarterback Shawn Robinson, with 10 carries, 112 yards, and three touchdowns, which doesn’t say much for the rest of the offense. Keep an eye on wide receiver KaVontae Turpin, who guided TCU to a win last week against SMU. Turpin might be the winning factor again against a highly ranked Ohio State.
Ohio State has looked good thus far, but they’ve played against Oregon State and Rutgers, so take their success with a grain of salt. The Buckeyes won’t have Urban Meyer on the sideline again this week, but that could just mean interim coach Ryan Day will be out to prove something to the nation (and the school’s administration). Ohio’s numbers have been hot, but it will be important to keep the fire burning against a fellow-ranked team.
Ultimately, this game will show the nation who is really good in a challenging situation, and who deserves the number next to their name.
Come back next week for a look at Week 4 and which three games are worth spending a Saturday with.
Kristen Ashly is a senior contributor for Nuts & Bolts Sports. You can follow Kristen on Twitter @KristenAshly.