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NCAA Football Week 3 Preview

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BC Tailgate is the official home on Blogcritics for college football news, rants, and riffs. Every conference is covered — we don't play favorites to the big boys.

ACC by Geeves
Big East by Dan McGowan
Big Ten by Geeves
Big XII by Ben Miraski
Conference USA by Matt Sussman
Independents by Benjamin Cossel
MAC by Zach Baker
Mountain West by Matt Sussman
Pac 10 by Steve
SEC by Josh Hathaway
Sun Belt by Jerkwheat
WAC by Matt Sussman

Well, it looks just as we feared. Virginia Tech isn't just getting over the emotional offseason, they're also not as good as we thought they were. LSU showed us that rather handily. Tech's offense has been meager at best. I'm starting elsewhere, though.

West Virginia decided to copy Penn State and other big name schools by having their very own "Color-Out"s at their home games. WVU has chosen the "Black-Out", urging their students to wear all black, even though it isn't a school color. Fortunately for the Mountaineers (unfortunately, in this case, for those beloved Turtles), their combination of an extremely potent spread offense (where a new tailback shows up every weekend) and a swarming defense were no match for Maryland in a 31-14 game Thursday night.

Virginia and North Carolina will go at it down in Chapel Hill as Butch Davis looks to build on the semi-success he has managed thus far, but there is a far bigger pony show a little further south.

Georgia Tech and Boston College play this week, in a game that could very well be an early preview of the ACC Championship game. With the holes that were shot clean through Virginia Tech and Miami last week, these two teams have now become the front-runners in the conference, though Boston College may soon drop off that list as well. They may be 2-0, but their defense has been hit hard, allowing 775 yards in their first two games – 717 of those through the air. This week they'll get a real test, as the Ramblin' Wreck will send out newly anointed Heisman hopeful Tashard Choice and his backup, Jonathan Dwyer, who have combined for 470 yards and eight touchdowns in the season's first two weeks.

Everybody else is, you guessed it, playing teams we could care less about, including Virginia Tech's opportunity to recharge against Ohio University. I'll let you know when Duke wins, trust me.

Winners: Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech

–Geeves

No. 4 West Virginia did its job Thursday night, amassing 353 yards on the ground in a 31-14 blowout of ACC foe Maryland. Now its time for the rest of the Big East to keep pace.

Aside from Syracuse, who might have one of the five worst teams in America, the conference heads into week three unbeaten and has a good chance to remain that way considering Cincinnati and UConn play teams from the MAC and Rutgers hosts Norfolk State.

Pittsburgh finds itself in position to further the proof that the Big East isn’t just a three team league when it travels to East Lansing to play Michigan State. The Panthers will look to follow in the footsteps of the Bearcats and South Florida, who each defeated a BCS conference last week.

The Panthers have never beaten the Spartans in six previous meetings, including last year’s 38-23 whipping which saw the Big Ten school rush for 335 yards. If Pitt can contain the run, this game should be pretty close.

The only other game of note this week comes tomorrow night when No. 9 Louisville heads to Lexington to play Kentucky for the Governor’s Cup. You can expect to see a basketball-type score from this one, as both teams sport offenses ranked in the top ten nationally.

–Dan McGowan

If you had told me last month that this weekend's Michigan-Notre Dame game would be the premier "Dueling Winless Teams" matchup, I would've looked at you like you were snorting Vagisil. Unfortunately, this will be a rough weekend, since that game is the double whammy of being a) possibly the only interesting game in the conference and b) interesting for all the wrong reasons.

It's nice to see Chad Henne and the usual offensive suspects tally up 850 yards of offense through the first two games (though I'm still figuring out how they managed nearly 400 yards against Oregon but only scored seven points). Unfortunately, that talent has been rendered completely useless by a defense that has already allowed 1,000 yards (ranking them 108th in D-I in team defense, though incredibly, not the worst in the Big Ten).

Michigan's defense is absolutely terrible, and this may be their only shot at a win for a while. Notre Dame is the only team on Michigan's immediate schedule (see: Penn State, Northwestern) that has an equally bad defense and an offense incapable of taking advantage of Michigan's defenders. Charlie Weis is inviting riotous debate by starting uber-prospect Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. Clausen is an immense talent, but he's playing behind an offensive line that has allowed fifteen sacks in the first two games.

My guess is Notre Dame will be the one remaining winless.

As for the rest of the conference, they're still playing "Musical Ass-Kicking" with the same podunk teams. Iowa sends the pitiful Syracuse Orangemen home to play Illinois, while they stay home to beat up Iowa State. Ohio State lets Akron head to Indiana while they head out west to play Washington. Northwestern, Penn State, and Wisconsin will get their jollies by pummeling Duke, Buffalo, and The Citadel, respectively, and Minnesota will probably play another barnburner against Florida Atlantic since they are that one Big Ten team with a worse defense than Michigan.

Okay, maybe there's one more interesting game, but I have absolutely no clue what might go down between Pitt and Michigan State, considering the Spartan's unimpressive win against Bowling Green and Pitt's rather ho-hum games against Eastern Michigan and Grambling.

Winners: Michigan, Michigan State, Florida Atlantic, and every other team playing a scrub squad. And yes, I am picking against Minnesota all year until they prove they can have four good quarters in a row.

–Geeves

If I hadn’t made a third prediction on my site last week, my record against the spread would have been pretty pathetic at this point. Apparently believing in TCU and Miami last week was the wrong thing to do (although Fresno State did me right).

This week though, there is no doubt in my mind about the featured game in the Big XII. Nebraska is in trouble as they take on National Championship game favorite, USC.

Surprisingly, it is the defense that worries me. You may wonder how a defense which has given up less than 300 yards on average over the first two weeks could worry someone. However last week, I watched Wake Forest, whose offense is not USC’s caliber, drive consistently down the field against Nebraska. Then Nebraska’s defense would make a big stand inside the 10 yard line to keep control of the game.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove attributed a lot of the problem to missed tackles, 12 by his count, against Wake Forest.

“We need to improve on our fundamental techniques,” Cosgrove said. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Improvement better be on the list. USC is not going to be as easily tamed as Wake was in the red zone. And USC is going to be a heck of a lot harder to bring down than Wake Forest.

No upset prediction this week. USC is going to win and cover(-10).

Likely Winners: Kansas (Toledo), Kansas State (Missouri State), Missouri (Western Michigan), Baylor (Texas State), Oklahoma (Utah State), Oklahoma State (Troy), Texas (Central Florida), Texas A&M (UL-Monroe), Texas Tech (Rice)

Likely Losers: Colorado (Florida State), Iowa State (Iowa), Nebraska

Upset potential: Colorado over Florida State

–Ben Miraski

Hoo, boy. They may have had a tough schedule, but the conference went just 2-5, including 1-2 against BCS conference bottom-feeders. East Carolina's back-and-forth game with North Carolina ended with a last-second field goal to give the Pirates their first win of the season. Patrick Pinkney threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. He's … what's the word … good at football.

ECU will break ground in the conference schedule, playing host to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. USM has had the Pirates' number in recent years, but the Pirates are favored to win this one and take the early lead in a wide open CUSA East.

Marshall may have given West Virginia an in-state scare, but that Marshall halftime lead disintegrated into a 25-point deficit once the dust settled. Fortunately — hopefully — their next game against FCS school New Hampshire will provide their first win of the season. But are we so sure? UNH has won its last two games against FBS schools (Northwestern last year, Rutgers in '04) and although they are coming off a loss to James Madison, they are still ranked 12th in the FBS poll. With first-string quarterback Bernard Morris doubtful to play with a hurty toe, you could see another upset here.

The most evenly matched game could be Tulsa's home game against BYU. The Golden Hurricanes' power to stage an upset is almost as potent as are beat reporters' ability to write preview articles in one-sentence paragraphs.

What if we all did that?

That might be annoying.

It already is.

The biggest challenge in the conference belongs to Central Florida, when they host No. 6 Texas this weekend. Wait, not challenge. Inevitable embarrassing loss. The two words sound alike.

–Matt Sussman

The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky were able to pound out some much needed revenge this last week annihilating West Virginia Tech 87-0 while Army was the only other independent seeing a mark in the win column last week. As we head into week three, I say everyone but Army pulls a win.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan
If you had asked me three weeks ago about this game, I, like most, would have said Michigan was going to destroy the Irish. Here we are, so many weeks later, and guess what, it’s hard to tell which program is in worse shape. Head coach Charlie Weis spent a lot of time this week working on the offensive front line, lord knows he needed to with a Division 1-A leading 15 sacks allowed. Weis also mentioned it’s time to let his young quarterback go, spreading out the offense.

"You can't just sit there and take baby steps," Weis said. "I would rather not open it up, but you have to open it up to give you an opportunity to score points. You have to make sure that you don't hang your quarterback out to dry, but you put your team in a position where you can score."

This could either be disastrous, i.e. the Notre Dame line doesn’t figure it out, or could pay off handsomely against a Michigan defense prone to getting beat on the big play. The Wolverines will be playing at the Big House which is usually a good thing for them, but if they don’t come out strong in the first half this crowd is going to turn on them and Coach Lloyd Carr, who is probably fighting for his coaching life right now. All that said, Notre Dame takes this one is a messy affair.

Navy vs. Ball State
Okay, so the Midshipmen didn’t look so good against a Rutgers team that took them apart. At a Tuesday press conference, coach Paul Johnson didn’t mince words noting that Navy’s failure was spread out evenly around the entire camp.

“These guys need to understand how we win here. We aren't very good right now. We are awful. I've done a horse crap job. I'm going to do a better job. I can make them play faster I think,” Johnson said.

Good thing for Navy, the Scarlet Knights were their toughest opponent in the 2007 campaign. We now return you to your regularly scheduled cream puff season. Navy heads home to take on Ball State who dropped Eastern Michigan last week 38-16. Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will have to improve on his 5-12 with 3 interceptions performance if the Midshipmen are to come out of this one with a victory.

Navy figures it out and gets the home victory.

Army vs. Wake Forest

Seems everyone is having offensive line troubles this year:

“Our offensive line needs to play better and at a more consistent level which will allow us to do a lot of things, including running the ball and protecting the quarterback,” said Army Head Coach Stan Brock. “Our tight ends again had a good game. The running backs were solid, did the best they could with the blocking that was provided to them.”

And Army actually got a win this past week against Rhode Island 14-7! Army will have their hands full with last year's ACC champions, Wake Forest, who are still looking for their first win this season – they’ll get it against the Black Knights.

Western vs. Eastern Kentucky

The Battle of the Bluegrass kicks off rivalry week for these two schools. Eastern took last years contest knocking off the Hilltoppers, 26-21. That won’t be repeated this year. Western Kentucky liked the taste of revenge in their 87-0 victory over hapless West Virginia Tech and look to even the score with the Colonels.

–Benjamin Cossel

It's safe to assume Saturday could be a difficult day for Mid-American Conference football teams. Of the 11 games on the schedule, 10 are non-conference games, and on paper, they don't look too promising.

The only conference game this week is Northern Illinois against Eastern Michigan, a game in which both teams are looking for their first win.

Northern Illinois was stunned last week after wasting a 31-14 lead against Southern Illinois and losing, 34-31. Perhaps an even bigger loss to the Huskies came when tailback Montell Clanton suffered an Achilles tendon injury that will likely keep him out the rest of the season. Clanton had rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown through two games.

Eastern Michigan is looking to snap a six game losing streak against NIU, and will look to jump start its defense, which allowed 38 points and 306 passing yards to Ball State's Nate Davis in last week's loss. Davis also threw for four TDs. Offensively, quarterback Andy Schmitt will look to spark an EMU offense that has struggled. The team managed just 262 total yards against the Cardinals last week.

In non-conference games, again, it could be a long week. Ohio travels to No. 18 Virginia Tech, while Toledo will try to salvage its first win of the season at Kansas. Ball State will play an improving Navy team (which showed brief moments of hope against Rutgers), and Purdue will face the best the conference has to offer in quarterback Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan.

The most intriguing non-conference game might be Akron at Indiana. After staying close with the No. 10 Ohio State into the second half a week ago, the Zips' defense has shown it can hang with one of the country's best teams. Led by Andre Jones' 10 tackles and a sack, Akron made things tough on Ohio State, but couldn't score any points offensively.

It will be a challenge against Indiana, which has won its first two games by scoring a combined 92 points.

Buffalo might have the most difficult week, as it takes on No. 12 Penn State. Western Michigan will look to pull somewhat of an upset against Missouri, while a regional game sees Miami battle with a familiar face in Brian Kelly and Cincinnati.

In other games, Kent State plays Deleware State and Temple travels to Connecticut.

–Zach Baker

You know that feeling in Tetris where you build a perfect mound of blocks on the left, leaving a huge pipe open for a long stick, and you wait and wait for that piece to come, and just when you're running out of time, you clog the opening with an ell-piece, then the long stick finally shows up, and you're screwed? That's exactly what happened to MWC teams last week. (Don't question the metaphor.)

They could have cleaned up against the power conferences, notably three top 10 teams. They were all within striking distance in the fourth quarter. UNLV had a late lead on No. 5 Wisconsin. Colorado State was only down six to No. 10 California. And TCU, essentially the Mountain West's top bower card, was tied with No. 7 Texas headed into the final frame.

But Wisconsin slammed the door with a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes to spare, escaping Las Vegas with a 20-14 win. Cal struck quickly with two consecutive touchdowns, and a comeback by the Rams wasn't enough in a 34-28 Cal victory. And Texas poured it on in the fourth, outscoring TCU 24-3 to win 34-13.

That's more aggravating than starting off a Tetris game with three straight z-pieces.

In fact, the league only had two victories, one being a conference game. Air Force pulled off a room temperature upset, winning 20-12 on the road. And Wyoming went to 2-0 with a win over hapless Utah State.

The tough schedule continues. Utah hosts No. 11 UCLA (who, I failed to mention, beat Mountain West denizen BYU by 10 points last week), Wyoming plays a pissed off Boise State team, UNLV hosts the Haka happy No. 24 Hawaii, San Diego State skitters off to Arizona State, and New Mexico buses over to play the U. of Arizona. Then in conference games, TCU played Air Force, and Air Force played TCU. It should be noted that those last two games are in fact the same game and occurred Thursday night, and was meant to signify that the game is crucial to both teams' chances. That and I accidentally typed it out that way, but I liked the way it looked so I kept it.

–Matt Sussman

So last week, what did we see? We saw a unranked Oregon team look like superstars against Michigan. We saw California work out a marginal win against a team they should have put to the flame. And we saw USC… oh wait, no we didn't. So what do we have up this week?

#1 USC at #14 Nebraska (Saturday 8:00EST)
So the #1 Trojans finally play a game worth watching. Nebraska barely squeezed out a win last week against unranked Wake Forest, and USC is coming off a week of rest that they probably would rather have not had. If for no other reason, you should watch this game so you have an explanation for your girlfriend as to why http://www.booties4booty.com/ is in your browser history.

Fresno St at #19 Oregon (Saturday 7:00EST)
Belotti's Ducks went into Michigan last week and looked nothing short of stellar against a quality opponent; and they were rewarded with a #19 ranking for it. Look for Dennis Dixon to have another big day against Fresno. Fresno, on the other hand, is a team that is notorious for giving Pac 10 teams fits. So don't look for them to roll over in this game.

#10 Ohio St at Washington (Saturday 3:30EST)
The Huskies beat #22 Boise St. last week, but are going to have their work cut out for them this week against The Ohio State University. This is the second of seven games that the Huskies have against ranked teams this year. This has to be one of the hardest schedules in the country.

The Rest (there sure are a lot of Mountain West teams here)
#11 UCLA at Utah (Saturday 5:00EST)
Idaho St at Oregon St (Saturday 6:30EST)
LA Tech at #8 California (Saturday 6:30EST)
San Jose St at Stanford (Saturday 10:00EST)
San Diego St at Arizona St (Saturday 10:00EST)
New Mexico at Arizona (Saturday 10:00EST)
Idaho at Washington St (Saturday 10:00EST)

–Steve

The biggest news in the SEC this week is that I will be making my 2007 debut in Tuscaloosa. This is my first trip to Bryant-Denny of the season and it turns out this game is one of the more interesting of the week.

Alabama couldn't stop stud back Darren McFadden his freshman year when they had NFLers DeMeco Ryans, Mark Anderson (NFC D-ROY and runner-up), and Roman Harper. They couldn't stop him last year without those guys. I don't see them stopping him this year with a front that is both undersized and undertalented. This is not a recipe for a 'Bama victory.

The upside is that Arkansas can't pass — even with injured Marcus Monk. The downside? They won't have to, based solely on the matchup. The Tide has the speed to pursue east-west and defend the vertical passing game; they're vulnerable to downhill running attacks.

Alabama is going to have to play defense by having a good offense. They have to turn this game into a pinball-Arena style shootout or play keep away with budding star RB Terry Grant. They must score and score often. Another big play from return specialist Javier Arenas — another budding Tide star — might be the key to victory.

Alabama is better top to bottom but Arkansas' strength matches up against a Tide weakness. It's not impossible and being at home will help, but I see this as an Arkansas victory and a long evening for me.
The other big matchup pits 2-1 Tennessee against the undefeated defending National Champion Florida Gators, who haven't been tested yet this year. This game has huge SEC East implications. We'll know more about both teams by Sunday morning.

–Josh Hathaway

Week Three of Sun Belt action finds our heroes with several games in which they just might be able to pull off an upset or two.

The action starts Friday night with Oklahoma State visiting Troy. Normally, I’d be all over this game as a potential upset special, but considering Troy is coming off of games against Arkansas and Florida, they just may be out of gas for this showdown. Saturday’s slate provides a few more options for Sun Belt glory with Minnesota traveling down to Florida Atlantic and with Southern Methodist traveling to Arkansas State. Both of these match-ups provide an excellent opportunity for the SBC to get an elusive non-conference victory. In other action, Louisiana-Monroe travels to Texas A&M, Louisiana-Lafayette hosts McNeese State, and Middle Tennessee gets the opportunity to become LSU’s latest victim.

My favorite game of the week will be on ESPNU Saturday at 3:30 EST. The fightin’ Neds of FIU get their long-awaited rematch against the Miami Hurricanes. Don’t forget to bring your concealed weapons permit.

Jerkwheat

So, hey, about November 23. My dream of an undefeated Boise State-Hawaii showdown is slightly curbed, seeing as how, well, one of the teams is now 1-1. Boise State got sort of trounced by Washington, while Hawaii barely held onto a win against a mediocre Louisiana Tech team.

So maybe neither are as impressive as their pre-season hype made them out to be. But they're still mid-major powerhouses. And Hawaii's still 2-0, albeit dropping in the rankings.

Moving forward, the WAC has three road games against ranked non-conference college kids. Winless Utah State goes to play No. 3Oklahoma, and if you're in any NCAA elimination leagues this year, um, this is your game to pick. LA Tech travels to California and Fresno State plays Oregon — the most winnable of these three.

In fact, there are no WAC games this week, so the entire week's rather throwaway. San Jose State might be able to win a game in a Pac 10 team's backyard, because that team is Stanford. Boise State tries to start a new winning streak against Wyoming, while Nevada hosts FCS team Nicholls State and New Mexico State waits for UTEP to show up to their doorstep, which won't take long since it's less than an hour drive.

–Matt Sussman

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  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Jerkwheat

    I have to disagree with the sentiment that Alabama is better top-to-bottom than Arkansas. This is probably Nutt’s most talented overall team since he has been there. Dick wasn’t quite as bad as his numbers indicated against Troy, but all he has to be is average. Overall though, these two teams are about as even as could be. I can’t wait to watch it. I expect to be throwing things at my tv and cursing Nick Saban by 7:25.

    Plus, simple math shows that 1 Darren McFadden>100 Everyone Elses

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    For whatever reason, I’m really intrigued by that Michigan State-Pittsburgh game.

    Eastern Michigan will upset NIU, putting at least one Washtenaw County team in the win column.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Jerkwheat

    I agree on State-Pitt. I expect it to be one of the better matchups of the day. That said, while State and Pitt are playing, my tv will be focused on the Chippewas and Purdue. I don’t imagine I’ll get to see DAN (not David) LeFevour too many more times on tv this year.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Prediction: Purdue 61, Central Michigan 55

  • http://www.theidandi.blogspot.com Chris McVetta

    Cleveland State 55, Michigan 3

    Like Lt. Frank Drebin: “I know a great place for Viking food.”

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    A nice, hearty point for Geeves on seeing the FAU upset.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “All that said, Notre Dame takes this one is a messy affair.”

    You were one three letters off.

  • Evan

    football and all the other sports suck

  • Evan

    there is only one sport that i do like and thats pinball