College football's Week 3 slate is full of interesting action. Arkansas had a surprising defeat to Louisiana-Monroe last week but has a chance to knock off No. 1 Alabama this Saturday. The Razorbacks are heavy underdogs and could be without starting quarterback Tyler Wilson. The action in the SEC isn't limited to Arkansas-Alabama, as Florida-Tennessee meet in Knoxville for a crucial East Division showdown. Notre Dame-Michigan State, USC-Stanford, BYU-Utah and North Carolina-Louisville are some of the other top games to monitor this weekend.
Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3
1. Will Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson play against Alabama?
With or without Tyler Wilson, Arkansas has an uphill battle to beat Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks have lost their last five games against the Crimson Tide, including a 38-14 matchup last season. In addition to preparing for college football’s No. 1 team, Arkansas is still reeling from last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe. If Wilson can’t go, redshirt freshman Brandon Allen or junior Brandon Mitchell will get the start. The offense isn’t the only side of the ball dealing with question marks, as the Razorbacks have to play better on defense to beat Alabama. Even if Wilson plays, this matchup has all of the makings of an Alabama blowout.
2. SEC East Showdown
The Tennessee-Florida rivalry isn’t quite ready to become nationally relevant once again, but it’s getting closer. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts, and the winner of this game could challenge Georgia or South Carolina in the East. The Volunteers’ passing attack (353.5 yards per game) will be challenged by a Florida secondary that has yet to allow a passing touchdown this season. While Tennessee should be able to move the ball on the Gators’ secondary, it needs to establish the ground game and bring some balance to the offense. When Florida has the ball, all eyes will be on Jeff Driskel. The sophomore finished with 162 passing yards against Texas A&M but didn’t throw an interception. For the Gators to win, Driskel needs to be efficient, while running back MikeGillislee needs to get to at least 100 yards.
3. Can Matt Barkley finally beat Stanford?
The only Pac-12 team Matt Barkley hasn’t defeated during his illustrious USC career is Stanford. The Cardinal have won the last three games in this series and had a convincing 50-13 win over Duke last week. While Stanford has had success against the Trojans in recent years, Barkley should be able to win his final matchup against the Cardinal. Stanford’s secondary is allowing 290 yards a game and has yet to play a passing attack as skilled and talented as the Trojans'. The Cardinal’s rushing attack will test USC’s defense, but the Trojans simply have too much firepower on offense.
4. Can Michigan State remain unbeaten?
With Michigan and Nebraska losing in the first two weeks of the season, Michigan State is the Big Ten’s best shot at reaching the national title. The Spartans had a sluggish showing in the opener against Boise State but as expected, had a convincing win over Central Michigan last week. Michigan State takes on Notre Dame this Saturday, a team it has defeated two times in a row in East Lansing. The Irish handled the Spartans31-13 in South Bend last year. Quarterbacks will be in the spotlight in this game, as Michigan State wants to see progress from Andrew Maxwell, while this will be Everett Golson’s toughest challenge as Notre Dame’s quarterback. Golson did not finish last Saturday’s game against Purdue but has thrown for 433 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts thus far. With two young quarterbacks still finding their rhythm, look for a low-scoring, defensive game. Turnovers will play a large role in determining the outcome of this matchup, while it’s also important for both quarterbacks to get on track early in the game.
5. The Holy War
The Holy War is one of the nation’s top rivalry games and Saturday’s game will be an important one for both BYU and Utah. The Cougars lost 54-10 to the Utes last season and need to go unbeaten to have any shot at a BCS game. Utah is reeling a bit, as it lost to in-state foe Utah State last Friday and lost quarterback Jordan Wynn for the season with a shoulder injury. The stakes are always high when these two teams meet, but there’s an extra sense of urgency. The Utes need a good showing to erase last week’s disappointing effort, especially with Pac-12 play beginning on Sept. 22 at Arizona State. For the Cougars, it’s all about revenge and keeping BCS hopes alive. With both teams ranked in the top 20 in total defense, points could be at a premium on Saturday.
6. Intriguing Off-the-Radar Games
Wake Forest at Florida State – This is the first real test for Florida State. Games against Murray State and Savannah State didn’t give much insight into the Seminoles, who are expected to challenge for the national title. The Demon Deacons are a big underdog but are 2-2 in their last four games against Florida State. One area to watch for the Seminoles on Saturday will be a revamped offensive line.
Virginia at Georgia Tech – It’s only Week 3, but this is a crucial game for the Yellow Jackets. With an opening week loss to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech needs to win to keep its ACC Coastal title hopes alive. With a win over the Yellow Jackets, Virginia would be positioned to be the top challenger to the Hokies.
Arkansas State at Nebraska – After allowing 36 points to UCLA last Saturday, the Red Wolves won’t be an easy out for Nebraska. Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin ranks eighth nationally in total offense, while Tennessee transfer David Oku is averaging 96 yards a game on the ground. The Red Wolves may not win, but will give Nebraska all it can handle.
Connecticut at Maryland – Otherwise known as the Randy Edsall Bowl. Edsall had a messy departure from Connecticut and hasn’t won over all Maryland fans after a 4-10 start to his tenure in College Park. While Edsall facing his old team will be intriguing, the real matchup to watch is the Huskies’ defense against the Terrapins’ offense. Connecticut’s defense has allowed 10 points through the first two games of this year and could make life difficult on Maryland true freshman quarterback Perry Hills.
North Carolina at Louisville – The Tar Heels struggled to stop Wake Forest last week, allowing 327 passing yards to quarterback Tanner Price. North Carolina’s secondary will be under fire once again, as it looks to slow down Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Arizona State at Missouri – These two teams met for a 37-30 shootout last season, and there should be no shortage of points this Saturday. The Sun Devils are off to a fast start under new coach Todd Graham, while Missouri dropped its SEC opener to Georgia last week.
TCU at Kansas – The Jayhawks are reeling, especially after losing to Rice last week. The Horned Frogs easily took care of Grambling last Saturday, but this will be their first Big 12 game in school history. TCU should win without much trouble, but this is a historic moment in the program’s history.
Washington State at UNLV – The Rebels shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Cougars, especially after losing to Northern Arizona last week. However, it will be interesting to watch Washington State’s offense. Surprisingly, the Cougars have yet to get on track, and will likely have a new quarterback under center (Connor Halliday).