Week three of the college football was the most telling yet. Powerhouses like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia proved their worth with dominating wins on Saturday. However, other top ten teams struggled, including Wisconsin and Auburn both falling at home.
Other teams outside of the top ten also had statement wins. #24 Oklahoma State rolled #17 Boise State, Texas crushed #22 USC and #12 LSU found a way to take down #7 Auburn on the road. This week provides another chance for teams to make a big statement. I will look at the top three games of the weekend and what impact they will have on the college football landscape.
#7 Stanford at #20 Oregon. 7:00 CT in Eugene, OR.
Both teams have looked great so far but something has to give in this huge Pac-12 North matchup. The victor will gain control of the division race and may be the Pac-12’s only chance to get in the playoff.
Why Stanford needs to win.
Stanford’s impressive 17-3 win over USC two weekends ago seemed to show how good the Cardinal are. However, after USC’s blowout loss to Texas, it is unclear what that win really means. Fortunately for Stanford, it has several other chances to make a statement to the committee. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, all of their toughest games come on the road. They travel to #20 Oregon and #8 Notre Dame in back to back weeks before taking on #10 Washington in Seattle later in the season. The game on Saturday will be a stiff test. A night game in Eugene is never easy and star Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is having a Heisman caliber season. The Cardinal defense that is allowing less than eight points per game this season will be challenged heavily. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinal need Bryce Love to be healthy and back to his normal self. The preseason Heisman favorite sat out Stanford’s game against UC Davis. If he is unable to play against Oregon, that will be a huge blow to the Cardinal offense. It is important for Stanford to pass these early season tests if they want to claim a Pac-12 championship and possibly a playoff berth.
Why Oregon needs to win.
There is excitement in Eugene for the first time in several years. After the Ducks’ run to the National Championship in 2014 with Marcus Mariota and Mark Helfrich, expectations were high. The Ducks quickly fell back to Earth after an 11-14 record in 2016/17. Former head coach Willie Taggart departed for Florida State and Oregon named Mario Cristobal their head coach. The change is already showing. The Ducks have put up over 50 points a game this season and are showing no signs of slowing down. Quarterback Justin Herbert has already thrown for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns and is getting Heisman recognition as a result. The defense is showing significant improvement as well. Oregon gave up almost 30 points per game last season but have held teams to just 20 points per game through three weeks. To pull off an upset on Saturday, the Ducks are going to need a strong showing from Herbert as well as a solid game by the defense. Expect them to rely heavily on the crowd and see if they can gain some momentum early.
#22 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama. 2:30 CT in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Texas A&M is one of only two teams to take down Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium within the past eight years. The Aggies will hope to channel the magic that Johnny Manziel used in 2012 to upset the Crimson Tide once again.
Why Texas A&M needs to win.
For the second time this season, the Aggies are taking on a top two opponent. Just two weeks ago, they took #2 Clemson down to the wire in a thrilling 28-26 loss. They hope to have better success against Bama. They will rely on the arms and legs of sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond. Mond was a key part of Texas A&M’s success against Clemson, throwing for 430 yards and three touchdowns. The Crimson Tide have already picked off opposing quarterbacks five times and will look to get in Mond’s head on Saturday. The Aggies hope the shake off the midseason rust that they have suffered from the past several season. Texas A&M is notorious for starting out strong and faltering as the season continues. The Aggies are 19-1 in the first five games of each of the past four seasons. The quick starts have not paid off, however, as Texas A&M has had a losing record in the final eight games of the past four seasons. The Aggies will look to turn that pattern around with a huge upset against Alabama.
Why Alabama needs to win.
Many experts thought that Alabama’s game last Saturday against Ole Miss was a “trap game”. When the Rebels scored a 75 yard touchdown on the first play of the game, people across the nation held their breath to see if the mighty Crimson Tide would fall. The nation was disappointed as Alabama responded with 62 unanswered points, showing why they deserve to hold the top spot in college football. This week, Bama takes on upstart Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa. The key phrase in that sentence is “in Tuscaloosa”. The Tide have lost just two games in eight years in Bryant-Denny stadium. Their dominance is further displayed in the fact that eleven wins have come against top 25 opponents. The game on Saturday starts a relatively easy stretch for the Crimson Tide before they close out their season with games against #6 LSU, #14 Mississippi State and #9 Auburn. Alabama proved last year that you can make the playoff without winning a conference title but it would be much safer for them to take care of business on Saturday and start on the path to an SEC championship.
#14 Mississippi State at Kentucky. 6:00 CT in Lexington, KY.
Nick Fitzgerald has led Mississippi State to a strong 3-0 start to begin the season. The Bulldogs have flown under the radar in the SEC with teams like Alabama, Georgia and LSU receiving most of the national attention. However, they have a chance for a big conference win on Saturday when they travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky.
Why Mississippi State needs to win.
After Dan Mullen left for Florida, the Bulldogs were left scrambling to find a coach. They decided on Joe Moorhead, the former offensive coordinator for Penn State. Moorhead has the Bulldogs looking like an elite team through three weeks. His team is led by senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is coming off a gruesome foot injury that sidelined him for the final few games of last season and likely kept him out of the 2018 draft. This year, he is on a mission to bring Mississippi State back to the national spotlight. The Bulldogs have looked superb thus far, outscoring opponents 150-26, including taking down Kansas State in Manhattan. It is crucial that Mississippi State starts off the conference season with a win, considering how tough the SEC West is this year. Games at #6 LSU and #1 Alabama await the Bulldogs and they still have to host #22 Texas A&M and #9 Auburn. When playing in such a difficult conference, it is very important to take care of business in games they favored in.
Why Kentucky needs to win.
Wait a minute, we’re talking about Kentucky… football? That’s right, the Wildcats are off to hot start, including a road win over Florida, a team Kentucky had not beaten in 31 years. Junior Benny Snell headlines a strong rushing attack that is averaging almost 300 yards per game. The Wildcats passed their first test by finally overcoming Florida. Now, they look to compete for an SEC East title. Luckily for them, they take on both South Carolina and #2 Georgia at home. Those two games may be deciding factors in the division race if Kentucky continues their early success. The game on Saturday against Mississippi State is another early challenge that the Wildcats must pass if they hope to make a name for themselves in a sport other than basketball.