Usually by the Week 3 preview of the college football season, we have a pretty good sense of what we are going to see. We can tell which teams are going to give us something to hone in on. This season is different. Maybe it is the schedule. Maybe it is the storm-delayed/canceled games. Or, perhaps it is some teams under-performing, or over-performing. Or, maybe it is just going to be that kind of wild season. Let’s see if the Week 3 Preview can give us any clues going forward.
College Football Preview; Week 3
UCLA (2-0) @ Memphis (1-0); Saturday 12n EDT, ABC
This game could be an offensive showdown with two strong armed quarterbacks. Or it could be a game dominated by the running backs since neither defense has shown an ability to slow the run so far. Or, because it is a 9am start on UCLA’s clock, the Bruins may not have finished their toaster waffles yet, and they could get off to a slow start. The Tigers got by Louisiana-Monroe in week one by eight points and then had week two against Central Florida canceled by Hurricane Irma.
In the ULM game, Memphis, as a team, rushed for 319 yards on only 39 carries. They will face a Bruins defense that has given up nearly 600 yards combined on the ground to Texas A&M and Hawaii. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson is also a question mark so far. After a 2016 season in which he threw for 3,776 yards, he got only 97 on 10 of 25 passing in the opener. UCLA has no such quarterback concerns. Rosen has thrown for 820 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in two games. UCLA has major injury concerns on defense. Linebacker Kenny Young, and defensive backs Adarius Pickett and Jaleel Wadood were injured in the Hawaii game and their status for this week is a Jim Mora secret. Linebacker Josh Woods has to sit the first half due to a targeting penalty.
If you are looking for any sign on the game, maybe it is momentum. Going back to the fourth quarter of the A&M game, UCLA has scored 84 points over the last five quarters.
Tennessee (2-0) @ Florida (0-1); Saturday 3:30pm EDT, CBS
Most years, this is a critical game in the SEC East and this season is no different. We just don’t necessarily know what that means. Florida got hammered by Michigan in week one and then had week two against Central Florida canceled by Hurricane Irma. Tennessee needed a missed two-point conversion in double overtime to get the first week win against Georgia Tech. They then abused an undermanned Indiana State team 42-7 in week two.
The Vols are coming into the game having given up 535 yards rushing to Georgia Tech. In most cases, that would be a problem. However, Florida has yet to show it can run the ball, having gained 11 yards rushing in the Michigan game. For that matter, they only garnered 181 passing yards between their two quarterbacks, starter Felipe Franks and back-up Malik Zaire. In case you are wondering, it was Zaire with the better stats in week one.
Tennessee has shown a little more balance with 308 team rushing yards and 456 passing, (most of that coming from Quinten Dormady). The loser of this game faces a stiff nine-week long uphill battle in the division as both Georgia and South Carolina appear to be very legitimate. Tennessee has not won in Gainesville since 2003. If they cannot do it Saturday, there is no telling when they will again.
Clemson (2-0) @ Louisville (2-0); Saturday 8pm EDT ABC
This is a game that while we may not be sure of what we are going to get, it is safe to assume it is going to be fun. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has 771 yards passing and 246 rushing in two games for Louisville. Behind the stats of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the Cardinals are averaging 615 yards of offense per game in wins over Purdue and North Carolina.
Clemson cannot compete with those numbers offensively, not without the weapons they lost from last season’s national championship team. However, the Tigers have an outstanding defense that could challenge Jackson like few others will this entire season. Clemson sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham 11 times last week, and they only gave up one play of more than 20 yards. It figures to be a great match-up.
Flip the field though and that could be the decider. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has 417 yards passing so far, and the rushing attack has produced 449 as a team. Neither of those stats are going to light the world on fire, but they don’t have to against Louisville. The Cardinals defense is 102nd in the country in rushing yards given up and 110th in passing.
If the Cardinals can step up on defense, they can make a game of this. If not, Clemson takes strong control of the ACC.
Texas (1-1) @ USC (2-0); Saturday 8:30pm EST, Fox
This one makes the list because it is two legendary, blue blood programs. Stick around to watch the pre-game hoopla. See the bands. Watch that white horse on the SC sidelines. After that, this is the one game of the day where we probably know what is going to happen.
The Longhorns got beat at home by Maryland in the coaching debut of Tom Herman. They came back in week two to beat up on San Jose State 56-0, in a game that proves little, but makes your stats look better. Statistically, Texas does not have one quarterback, they have two; which means they have none. Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger have passed for a combined 592 yards with Buechele getting most of the work.
They go into the weekend playing against a USC team that dominated a very good Stanford program on both sides of the line of scrimmage last weekend. Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold had a sketchy game in week one against Western Michigan but came back completing 80% of his passes, (21-26) for 316 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinal. His offensive line was giving him all day to throw. It helped that the Trojans had 307 yards rushing against a physical Stanford defense. Texas brings in the best defensive secondary USC has faced yet, and Darnold does have a propensity for forcing throws, (4 interceptions already). That may be the one thing that keeps Texas in the game for a while.
If you get bored with the game you can ponder how USC’s media notes for the week claim they are undefeated against Texas despite losing the 2006 BCS championship game.