What a great weekend to settle into the recliner, sit back, and watch an excellent day of college football. Week number three has a number of top matchups, including an SEC doubleheader that will certainly set the stage in both the East and West divisions. Other critical non-conference matchups on this weekend's slate are sure to shape the national title picture as the conference season looms on the horizon. It's time to break down this weekend's key matchups that dot the college football landscape.
GAME OF THE WEEK
#5-LSU at #6-Auburn
The top matchup in the 3rd weekend of action is an SEC West clash between rivals Auburn and LSU. The past two seasons, these teams have played thrilling games with Auburn winning 10-9 in 2004 and LSU returning the favor by winning 20-17 in OT last year. Both teams have come out of the gate with their defense on fire, as Auburn has yielded 14 total points in their two games while LSU has only given up 6 points in their two contests. Expect yet another defensive struggle on the plains of Auburn this weekend. Letís look further in-depth at how these two Southern rivals matchup against each other.
As previously mentioned, the Auburn defense sets the tone for the team, shown this past Saturday as Mississippi State could only muster 161 yards of total offense as Auburn absolutely overpowered their SEC foe 34-0. The Tiger defense generates a great deal of pressure and will look to force LSU QB JaMarcus Russell into making crucial mistakes. So far this season, Russell has been given a great deal of time, as the Tiger offensive line has been stout in pass protection. If the LSU line can provide Russell with time to throw, he is capable of picking apart the Auburn pass defense. On the flip side, LSU is still looking to generate a more consistent rushing attack as their leading runner in the first two games generated just 46 and 47 yards respectively. Their biggest challenge awaits Saturday, as Auburn will attack the LSU front with an aggressive and fast linebacking corps combined with a great set of defensive ends.
The LSU defense has been just as overpowering as the Auburn defensive unit so far this season. Against Arizona, the Tiger defenders were all over the field, as Arizona was limited to 152 yards on offense. The outstanding speed of the LSU defense combined with an excellent secondary will provide Auburn with a major challenge. LSU is likely to focus on shutting down Auburnís stud running back Kenny Irons, who was held in check by Mississippi State this past weekend. Auburn QB Brandon Cox, who has been solid so far this season, will need to step up and make big plays for Auburn to win this matchup. This has all the makings of another classic defensive battle that will come down to the final possession in the 4th quarter.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
#8-Florida at #11-Tennessee
After blasting California in week 1, Tennessee survived a huge scare last week, sneaking one out against an upset-minded squad from Air Force. The Volunteers offense continues to impress as QB Erik Ainge tossed 3 more touchdown passes after throwing 4 versus Cal. The Gator defense is coming off a much improved performance against a good Central Florida offense, as Florida was able to pitch a shut-out. The Volís Ainge will be looking to counter the Gator defense by working with his #1 target in Robert Meachem, who has been basically unstoppable in Tennesseeís first two games. Gator QB Chris Leak has also been quite impressive as he works with his excellent pair of wide-outs in Percy Harvin and Dallas Baker. A night game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville is always an event, and this has the makings of a contest with high scoring potential.
#10-Michigan at #3-Notre Dame
Notre Dame is coming off a home opener that saw the Irish dominate Penn State in all facets of the game. QB Brady Quinn was able to pick apart the PSU defense as he had time in the pocket to survey down the field. The Michigan defense must find a way to generate a strong pass rush to slow down the Irish passing attack. One of the questions coming into the season was the Notre Dame offensive line, but this unit is quickly developing and is providing Quinn with ample opportunity to work with his great offensive weapons. Michigan will look to pound RB Mike Hart at the Notre Dame defensive front and chew up yardage and the clock, keeping the Irish offense on the sideline. UM QB Chad Henne and the Wolverine passing game will need to work down the field in order to open up the running lanes, as so far this season, Michigan has used a conservative and close range passing attack. Michigan has lost two straight to Notre Dame and would like nothing more than to put a major dent in the Irish's championship hopes and launch Big Blue to the forefront of the national picture.
Nebraska at #2-Southern Cal
The Trojans had a week to rest up after their 50-14 shellacking of Arkansas, while the Huskers were in cruise control in pasting Nicholls State 56-7. USCís offense looked like it did not miss a beat in their opener as QB John David Booty passed for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Nebraska defense has not been challenged yet, and the unit will need to play above its head against the Trojans. The Huskers' offense has been balanced in their first two games, and although against weaker competition, all signs point to Nebraska working towards gaining that critical balance between the run and the pass. Nebraska will look to get RB Marlon Lucky on track early to slow down the aggressive and attacking USC defensive front and provide Zac Taylor with time to throw the ball. The step up in competition cannot get bigger for Nebraska, and the revamped Husker offense will need to keep pace with a USC offense that will put points on the board.
Oklahoma at Oregon
The Sooners do not appear to be firing on all cylinders as of yet and against Oregon, Oklahoma will need to be at the top of its game. Oklahoma will continue to pound the ball behind Heisman hopeful, Adrian Peterson who this past weekend had 32 of the teamís 35 carries on the game. In order to win a game of this magnitude on the road, Oklahomaís QB Paul Thompson will need to continue to develop the downfield passing game, and so far Thompson has done well in taking the controls from the departed Brett Rhomar. Oregon is coming off an extremely tough road battle, as they survived their visit to Fresno State by converting a late fake field goal to score the winning touchdown. The Ducks gave up big chunks of yardage to Fresno State on the ground so Peterson could have a huge afternoon. Playing this game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene gives the Ducks an edge as the Oregon crowd will be in a frenzy all afternoon.
#15-Miami at #12-Louisville
Talk about night and day for the Louisville offense as the Miami defensive unit comes to town after the Cardinals amassed 674 yards of offense against an outmanned Temple team. Even without RB Michael Bush, who was lost for the season due to injury, the Louisville offense remains powerful behind the arm of QB Brian Brohm and the running of Kolby Smith. The Miami defense played a great game against Florida State and demonstrated their tremendous team speed, basically shutting down the Seminole offense. The Miami offense still needs to get on track as the offensive line continues to struggle to generate a running game, and the Canes will need a solid rushing attack on Saturday to keep the Louisville offense off the field. Miami QB Kyle Wright is capable and has weapons, especially TE Greg Olsen, but needs time to allow the plays to develop downfield. These teams played a classic two years ago as Miami made a late comeback to knock off Louisville 41-38, and this has the makings of yet another tight contest.
Clemson at #9-Florida State
Florida State survived a major upset bid from the Sun Beltís Troy Trojans last week, needing a late interception to set up the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. FSU must find a way to establish a rushing attack as Lorenzo Booker has not yet been able to get on track, and the leading Seminole rusher versus Troy was Antone Smith with 25 yards. Clemson is without its leading linebacker, Anthony Waters, and Boston College was able to take advantage of his absence this past weekend in cranking out yardage versus the Tiger defense. The Clemson offense has looked great as QB Will Proctor has been excellent so far this season, and RB James Davis has emerged to lead a tough ground game. Florida State will need to get refocused if they plan on beating a Clemson team that will be playing with their conference title hopes on the line.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Maryland at #4-West Virginia - Thursday 6:30 PM CDT
Maryland must increase its offensive production to overcome a West Virginia team on a mission. These two former Eastern independent rivals continue to meet every season.
Iowa State at #14-Iowa - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Iowa struggled mightily without QB Drew Tate in an OT win over Syracuse, while ISU was sluggish in knocking off pesky UNLV. This in-state rivalry always generates interest, and Iowa City will be rocking.
Brigham Young at Boston College - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Both teams are coming off impressive showings as BC made a nice comeback to dispatch Clemson, while BYU was busy dismantling an impressive Tulsa team.
Michigan State at Pittsburgh - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Michigan State got its offense back on track this weekend in blasting Eastern Michigan, while Pittsburgh took care of Cincinnati. This the type of game that the Big East needs to win to start developing respect on the national scene.
Fresno State at Washington - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Fresno State is coming off a tough loss to Oregon in a great game that the Bulldogs had a chance to win. Washington gave Oklahoma all it wanted for a half before the Sooners wore down the Husky defense.
San Diego State at Wisconsin - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Wisconsin has yet to be tested, while San Diego State is looking to rebound after falling just short in a late comeback attempt versus UTEP in week 1. Wisconsin better to be ready to play as SDSU is talented enough to pull off the upset.
Baylor at Washington State - Saturday 4:00 PM CDT
Washington State bounced back in a big way from their loss to Auburn, taking out their frustrations on Idaho. If Baylor hopes to end its long-standing bowl drought, winning a game like this on the road is a huge step in the right direction.
Texas Tech at Texas Christian - Saturday 5:30 PM CDT
Tech is coming off an OT thriller in a 38-35 win over in-state rival UTEP. Another Texas rival is on the slate this week, and the Horned Frogs would like nothing more than to knock off a Big 12 foe and extend the nationís longest current winning streak which now stands at 12.
North Carolina State at Southern Miss - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
NC State is off to a rough start after giving up a late drive in a loss to Akron, while Southern Miss played well in their opener in a loss to Florida. If the Wolfpack fall short again on Saturday, the season is likely to be lost with tough ACC foes looming ahead.
Colorado State at Nevada - Saturday 8:00 PM CDT
Nevada is off to an 0-2 start, getting bombed by Arizona State this past weekend, while Colorado State tripped up their rival Colorado. Nevada is a good team and needs to get on track in their home opener.
UNLV at Hawaii - Saturday 11:05 PM CDT
Hawaii is always interesting to watch when they play at home as their offense provides major fireworks. UNLVís defense played great against a very good Iowa State offense, but this week the challenge gets even tougher.