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Week 3 Pickoff: Alabama-Texas A&M leads the way

Texas A&M-Alabama: A new rivalry with history
SI's Andy Staples talks about Texas A&M traditions, the history between the Aggies and the Crimson Tide and how it's about time we got down to football.

Who will win Saturday's much-anticipated showdown between Alabama and Texas A&M? Can UCLA outscore Nebraska on the road in Lincoln? How will Urban Meyer and Ohio State fare in a cross-country matchup with Sonny Dykes and Cal?

My picks for all of this week's top games are below. For more Week 3 walk-up coverage, check out the Mailbag, Andy Staples' Walkthrough, my feature on Texas A&M's defense and Martin Rickman's breakdown of the Bruins-Cornhuskers matchup.

Saturday, Sept. 14
 
Noon ET (ABC) No. 16 UCLA (1-0) at No. 23 Nebraska (2-0)
It's tough to pick against the Huskers at home -- but it's harder to imagine that a Nebraska defense that allowed 602 yards to Wyoming in Week 1 and starts two true freshman linebackers will be able to slow Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley. Granted, Nebraska counterpart Taylor Martinez could go off on an unproven UCLA D, but star linebacker Anthony Barr will help force a couple of turnovers.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) No. 1 Alabama (1-0) at No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0)
Try as Alabama coach Nick Saban might, there's no magic plan for stopping Johnny Manziel. If the Tide take away his running opportunities, he'll make plays through the air, and vice versa. But 'Bama's D is too talented not to get its share of stops. Tide quarterback AJ McCarron could have a field day against an Aggies' defense playing its first game with several formerly suspended starters.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC) Tennessee (2-0) at No. 2 Oregon (2-0)
Since the Ducks' 48-13 win in Knoxville in 2010, Oregon has played in three BCS games, while the Vols have played in one Music City Bowl. Both teams have new coaches, but while Tennessee's Butch Jones is in rebuilding mode, Oregon's Mark Helfrich inherited a roster that has only gotten better. Unless the Vols can produce five turnovers in six plays like last week, this one could get ugly.
 
6 p.m. ET (BTN) No. 19 Washington (1-0) vs. Illinois (2-0) in Chicago
Washington might have preferred to play another game last week following its 38-6 rout of Boise State in Week 1. Led by quarterback Keith Price and tailback Bishop Sankey, the Huskies will try to push the tempo against an Illini D that performed well last week against Cincinnati. Much-improved quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will keep Illinois close, but Washington simply has more weapons.
 
7 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 4 Ohio State (2-0) at Cal (1-1)
A cross-country trip to face a high-flying offense with star quarterback Braxton Miller's health in question is enough to put the Buckeyes on upset alert. Cal gave Ohio State fits in Columbus last fall, but the Buckeyes are far more explosive on offense than they were at this time in 2012. Their defense may give up yardage, but they'll pressure Bears quarterback Jared Goff and force a few turnovers.
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPN) Vanderbilt (1-1) at No. 13 South Carolina (1-1)
Vanderbilt could still have a very good season, but it will play its second tough SEC game in three weeks. The Gamecocks' defense figures to rebound following last week's disappointing performance at Georgia. Quarterback Connor Shaw and tailback Mike Davis pose problems for the Vandy defense, but most of all, Williams-Brice Stadium can be deafening for an opponent at night.
 
8 p.m. ET (LHN) No. 25 Ole Miss (2-0) at Texas (1-1)
Firing Manny Diaz and installing Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator six days before facing an explosive Ole Miss offense is hardly a positive omen for Texas. That's especially true when Quandre Diggs says things like this: "[Robinson] is behind, so we have to continue to teach him the things we know." Quarterback David Ash is questionable and RB/WR Daje Johnson is out. That's a lot of turmoil.
 
10 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1) Oregon State (1-1) at Utah (2-0)
So far, so good for the Dennis Erickson-coordinated Utah offense, which put up 70 points last week against Weber State. Quarterback Travis Wilson looks comfortable, and the Utes are running the ball well. They take a big step up in competition this weekend, but the Beavers' D has not fared well against mobile quarterbacks. Wilson added that element to his repertoire this season.
 
10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 20 Wisconsin (2-0) at Arizona State (1-0)
The Badgers have faced UMass and Tennessee Tech. The Sun Devils' lone foe was Sacramento State. In other words: We don't know much about either team yet. Wisconsin is still running the ball like mad, averaging 390 yards per game, but Will Sutton and ASU's D are built to stuff the run. Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly and company will become the first team to score on the Badgers.
 
*UPSET SPECIAL*
 
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET (BTN) UCF (2-0) at Penn State (2-0)
UCF has held two overmatched opponents (Akron and FIU) to a combined seven points while scoring touchdowns on 48 percent of its possessions. Nittany Lions freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been solid, but he could struggle against an athletic Knights' defense. Underrated UCF quarterback Blake Bortles doesn't commit many turnovers and will handle the noise at Beaver Stadium.
 
Record Last Week: 4-6               Record This Season: 16-7
 

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