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What To Watch For In Week 3 Of The 2021 College Football Season

Historic rivalries and three games between ranked opponents headline this weekend's matchups.

After a weekend with few notable matchups, college football bounces back in a big way on Saturday with three games between ranked opponents, a pair of historic rivalries and one potential trap game.

The slate includes Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma (12 p.m. on FOX), No. 8 Cincinnati at Indiana (12 p.m. on ESPN), Purdue at No. 12 Notre Dame (2:30 p.m. on NBC), No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida (3:30 p.m. on CBS), No. 11 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State (7:30 p.m. on ABC) and No. 19 Arizona State at No. 23 BYU (10 p.m. on ESPN).

The Cornhuskers and Sooners are meeting 50 years after the “Game of the Century,” when No. 1 Nebraska topped No. 2 Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day in 1971. This game has lost some of its luster because of conference realignment and the fact that the Cornhuskers are a shell of their former selves, but there’s still no love lost between the two programs – and that makes it worth tuning in for a few quarters.

Everyone expects a blowout, and rightfully so as the Sooners’ offense, led by quarterback Spencer Rattler, is among the best in college football. But a truly disastrous showing could signal the end for Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, who is 0-8 against ranked opponents during his four-year tenure.

Heading into the season, most had Saturday’s game between the Bearcats and Hoosiers circled on their calendar as one with potential College Football Playoff implications, with Cincinnati looking for a win on the road against a Big Ten opponent and Indiana hoping to prove that last year’s record was not a fluke.

This, too, has lost some of its shine after the Hoosiers were thoroughly beaten by Iowa in the season opener, but now gives them a chance to play spoiler and get back on the right foot. The Bearcats and head coach Luke Fickell, meanwhile, can’t get caught looking ahead to their matchup with Notre Dame in two weeks.

Speaking of the Fighting Irish, they could just as easily be 0-2 as 2-0 after knocking off Florida State in overtime in the season opener and needing a last-minute touchdown to beat Toledo at home last week. Now, they get the Boilermakers at home with the Shillelagh Trophy on the line.

If you don’t believe this to be a rivalry, look no farther than the pettiness showed by Notre Dame by not letting Purdue use the home tunnel to bring the “World’s Largest Drum” to the game for the first time since 1979. Perhaps the Boilermakers will end another streak that dates back to the 1970s by knocking off a top-10 team on the road for the first time since they took down the second-ranked Fighting Irish in 1974.

The Crimson Tide have already passed one test against a school from Florida, handily defeating Miami in the season opener. Now they head back to the Sunshine State to take on the Gators in a rematch of last year’s SEC Championship game.

This marks the first road test for Alabama quarterback and early Heisman Trophy favorite Bryce Young, so expect some growing pains early on due to the raucous crowd. But Florida will be rotating between signal-callers Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson, and that will make it difficult for the Gators to pull an upset.

The other game of the day pits the Big Ten against the SEC, as the Tigers travel to Happy Valley for the Nittany Lions’ annual “White Out.” Both programs are viewed as an afterthought in their respective conferences and the race for the College Football Playoff, but a victory would put Alabama or Ohio State on notice.

Auburn hasn’t played a Big Ten opponent on the road in 90 years, and the atmosphere at Penn State is arguably the best in the sport. Can Tigers quarterback Bo Nix continue his hot start to the season and quiet the crowd or will the Nittany Lions get their second victory over a ranked opponent this season after winning at Wisconsin in Week 1?

Saturday comes to a close with a late-night matchup between the Sun Devils and Cougars, who are looking for their third win over a Pac-12 opponent in as many weeks. Both of those victories came in convincing fashion, too, as BYU has yet to trail and dominated the time of possession in the latter.

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Arizona State should be a much more formidable challenge, though, specifically on defense. But it’s easy to wonder if their dominance is the result of lesser opponents, seeing as they’ve only played Southern Arizona and UNLV thus far. A win over BYU would prove they’re contenders in the Pac-12 South.

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