The first two weeks of College Football have been nothing short of sensational, as we have already seen two Top 5 teams come up short in blockbuster matchups. Week 3 is set to be a great one, so let's dive right into the best games on tap.
All times are in Eastern Time.
Michigan State @ No.24 Miami
9-18-21, 12:00 PM, ABC
After back-to-back weeks of beating up on inferior opponents, the unranked Spartans are hitting the road to square off against the 24th ranked Miami Hurricanes. Michigan State has had a good start to the season, but will they be able to run the ball against the stout Miami front? On the other hand, Miami got obliterated in the season opener against Alabama, then followed that up with a late second victory over Appalachian State. This is an out of conference matchup that will most likely not have many implications on the line, but this matchup will tell us a lot about both teams. For the Spartans, we will learn if this team is one to compete in the Big Ten East, and we should expect to see if Miami can bounce back from a lackluster start to the season on the offensive side of the ball.
Keys to the Game:
The Hurricanes have struggled to get anything going through the air in the first couple weeks, and it has mostly been D'Eriq King playing hero ball. Miami's talented offensive line will need to protect King in the pocket long enough for receivers to come open downfield. Miami's defensive line has been their biggest strength this season, but they have struggled to stand up to the run. For Miami to win, they need to contain Kenneth Walker. If Walker runs wild, that sets up the play action game and the Spartans offense could be clicking on all cylinders. Michigan State does have a solid receiving core led by Jayden Reed, but their quarterback play is not the greatest. Payton Thorne needs to play within the system of the Spartans offense, which he has done a good job of doing early in the year. If Miami can force the game to rely on the arm of Payton Thorne, Hard Rock Stadium could be in for a big time Hurricane win.
Players to Watch:
No.9, RB Kenneth Walker, Michigan State
No.1, WR Jayden Reed, Michigan State
No.3, SS Xavier Henderson, Michigan State
No.1, QB D'Eriq King, Miami
No.3, WR Mike Harley, Miami
No.21, SS Bubba Bolden, Miami
Score Prediction: 34-23, Miami
N0.1 Alabama @ No.11 Florida
9-18-21, 3:30 PM, CBS
The top ranked Crimson Tide had a sloppy game against unranked Mercer, but still came away with a 48-14 victory. Against a far better team in the Gators, Alabama cannot get off to a sloppy start or their outcome could be a little different than last week. Nick Saban was not pleased in the slightest with how his team played, so you should expect to see a much more energetic and smarter Alabama team than what we saw against Mercer. For the Gators, they are replacing the big three of Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, and Kadarius Toney. The Gators identity is to run the football right up a team's through, as they ran for 400 and 363 yards in their first two games. Dan Mullen has a plethora of talented backs at his disposal along with two athletic rushing style quarterbacks. However, Gators quarterback Emory Jones has only thrown for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air in the first two weeks, while throwing 4 interceptions.
Keys to the Game:
Florida's best shot at winning is to run the ball all over the Alabama defense, and they are certainly capable of it. Alabama's defense features the best linebacking group in the country led by Christian Harris, so even though Florida possesses an elite backfield, it will be difficult to rely only on the ground game with what the Tide have on the other side of the field. Alabama will try and force this game to be won on the arm of Emory Jones, as he has not proven he can beat a team with his arm yet. In all likelihood, the Gators defense will have to turn over the Alabama offense and give Emory Jones and Florida favorable field position. Jones will have the opportunity to make big time throws, and he must make them if the Gators are going to have any shot at pulling off what would be a colossal upset. For Alabama, they need to get off to a better start than they did last week, and they also need to clean up the silly mistakes. If the Crimson Tide play mistake free football, they'll cruise right past the Gators.
Players to Watch:
No.9, QB Bryce Young, Alabama
No.8, LB Christian Harris, Alabama
No.31, DE Will Anderson, Alabama
No.5, QB Emory Jones, Florida
No.51, LB Ventrell Miller, Florida
No.5, CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Score Prediction: 44-17, Alabama
No.22 Auburn @ No.10 Penn State
9-18-21, 7:30 PM, ABC
The SEC showdown between Alabama and Florida may be the highest ranked game of the week, but don't let rankings fool you, the Auburn/Penn State game will have fireworks all night long, but maybe not the fireworks fans are accustomed to. The matchup between Auburn and Penn State in Happy Valley will be a low scoring clock management game, so if you like defense, get the popcorn and buckle your seat. Auburn opened their season with back-to-back easy wins over smaller schools, and they did it with an elite rushing attack led by Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter. Penn State on the other hand, opened their season with a difficult road game against a Top 15 Wisconsin team, but the Nittany Lions defense led by Ellis Brooks and Jaquan Brisker shut down the Wisconsin offense.
Keys to the Game:
Both Sean Clifford for Penn State and Bo Nix for Auburn have a lot of experience in big time games, so both quarterbacks should be able to handle the emotions that come with a game of this magnitude. Auburn is a team that likes to run the football all over the field, so the Nittany Lions linebackers will have to key on the run game. Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith are more than capable of stopping the run, but they will have their hands full with the best backfield in the country. For the Tigers, their biggest task is converting in the red zone. Penn State's defense allowed Wisconsin to drive the ball down the field, but the Nittany Lions stiffened when the field condensed. Auburn is not the team to strike big in the passing game, so if they do not convert in the red zone, they could give Penn State opportunities to win a close game. The Lions’ top wideout, Jahan Dotson, is one of the best deep threats in the country. If the veteran Auburn secondary can take Dotson out of the game, Sean Clifford would need to find another guy to target, and that guy hasn't emerged for the Nittany Lions yet.
Players to Watch:
No.4, RB Rank Bigsby, Auburn
No.10, QB Bo Ni, Auburn
No.9, LB Zakoby McClain, Auburn
No.5, WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
No.13, LB Ellis Brooks, Penn State
No.1, SS Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
Score Prediction: 20-17, Auburn
Other Games to Watch
No.8 Cincinnati @ Indiana
9-18-21, 12:00 PM, ESPN
Score Prediction: 38-21, Cincinnati
Virginia @ No.21 North Carolina
9-18-21, 7:30 PM, ACCN
Score Prediction: 41-23, North Carolina
No.19 Arizona State @ No.23 BYU
9-18-21, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Score Prediction: 34-20, Arizona State