Ranking the top Week 3 college football games you should be watching on Saturday.
1. Air Force at No. 5 Michigan State, Noon, ABC
The Spartans can rest easy now that they’ve gotten past Oregon, right? Not with Air Force coming to town. The Falcons’ triple-option attack ranks second nationally in rushing offense (411 yards per game) and 13th in yards per carry (6.23). But that offense won’t have quarterback Nate Romine, who suffered a knee injury last week and could miss the rest of the season. Now Karson Roberts, a senior, takes the helm with hopes of upending Michigan State in East Lansing. Still, perhaps Sparty shouldn’t worry too much; the Falcons haven’t beaten a ranked team on the road since topping No. 23 Cal in 2002.
2. No. 23 Northwestern at Duke, 12:30 p.m., ESPN3
Duke averaged 46 points in its wins against Tulane and North Carolina Central, but a couple of victories over cupcakes haven’t pushed the Blue Devils into the top 25. That could change if Duke gets by No. 23 Northwestern. The Wildcats have yielded just 3.0 points per game, fourth nationally, and are one of four teams yet to allow a touchdown this season. Folks in Durham are now accustomed to winning thanks to the program-building of coach David Cutcliffe, so taking care of business at home is an expectation.
3. Nevada at No. 17 Texas A&M, Noon, SEC Network
Brian Polian got a little heated in Nevada’s 44–20 loss to Arizona last week. The coach was flagged for two unsportsmanlike penalties, and his school responded by fining him $10,000. If Polian thought the Wildcats were tough, he'll need to prepare himself for a trip to College Station. Texas A&M looked particularly dangerous in an opening-week 38–17 win against Arizona State and followed that up with a 56–23 victory over Ball State. Fans of offense should tune in to watch the Aggies’ quarterback duo of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray.
1. No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 8 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC
In 2007 then-Navy coach Paul Johnson led the Midshipmen to a 46–44 triple-overtime upset at Notre Dame. This week Johnson returns to South Bend with a 2–0 Georgia Tech squad that won the Orange Bowl last season. The Yellow Jackets have averaged an FBS-leading 8.47 yards per carry through two wins over Alcorn State and Tulane. Quarterback Justin Thomas and company hope to keep that offense rolling against a Notre Dame defense that has yielded 15 points per game. But the Irish must overcome a host of injuries, including a season-ending ankle fracture to starting quarterback Malik Zaire. Can sophomore passer DeShone Kizer keep Notre Dame’s playoff shot alive?
2. No. 18 Auburn at No. 13 LSU, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Auburn might be 2–0, but that record isn’t fooling anybody. The Tigers needed overtime to dispose of FCS foe Jacksonville State last week. Hyped quarterback Jeremy Johnson has thrown five interceptions through two games, and now Johnson must handle a hostile crowd in Death Valley. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether LSU can make plays in the passing game. Brandon Harris threw the ball just 14 times in last week’s 21–19 win over Mississippi State. Running back Leonard Fournette recorded a career-high 159 rushing yards and three scores against the Bulldogs, but LSU might need a more balanced attack if Auburn’s defense plays to its potential.
3. Northern Illinois at No. 1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2
Ohio State’s 38–0 win over Hawaii last week didn’t sit well with Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer. “I don't think we played particularly well,” Meyer told reporters this week, “but I'll never let that get in the way because it kind of bothers me when you take away from the effort of the other team.” Neither Cardale Jones (12 of 18 for 111 yards) nor J.T. Barrett (8 of 15 for 70 yards) threw a touchdown pass or took control of the game. Meanwhile, visiting Northern Illinois, the reigning MAC champ, is humming on offense behind quarterback Drew Hare, who has completed 78% of his throws thus far. The Huskies might not be a cakewalk for the Buckeyes.
1. No. 15 Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama, 9:15 p.m., ESPN
Given the SEC’s relative implosion in Week 2, Alabama suddenly looks like clearly the most competent team in the conference. Now the Crimson Tide faces their biggest test of the season against Ole Miss’s offense. Sure, the Rebels have only played Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State, but they scored at least 73 point in both games. Can quarterback Chad Kelly, the FBS leader in passing efficiency (233.97), carry this offense against defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and Alabama’s front seven? Oh, and let’s not forget the revenge factor: Ole Miss stunned then-No. 1 Bama in Oxford last season.
2. Cal at Texas, 7:30 p.m. FOX
Perhaps the Longhorns’ first game of the year—a 38–3 rout at the hands of Notre Dame—wasn’t a good barometer for where the program stands in its multi-year rebuild. After all, the Fighting Irish could be playoff contenders. A visit from Cal should provide a better perspective on Texas’s problems. Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff is one of the most talented passers in the country and has completed 73% of his throws so far. Cal’s defense, meanwhile, has yet to be tested. Quarterback Jerrod Heard and running back Johnathan Gray could get the Longhorns rolling at home. That’d be good news for Texas, which needs positive headlines after firing athletic director Steve Patterson earlier this week.
3. Stanford at No. 6 USC, 8 p.m., ABC
After appearing vulnerable in a 16–6 loss at Northwestern in Week 1, Stanford looked more like Stanford in a 31–7 victory over Central Florida last week. But a USC attack averaging 57 points per game should be a tougher obstacle for the Cardinal defense. Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler has delivered on early Heisman hype, completing 79% of his throws through two games. Stanford will likely need more from touted running back Christian McCaffrey (3.9 yards per carry this season) to handle USC’s defense. History suggests this will be a close game: The Trojans have won two straight over the Cardinal by a combined six points.