Week 3 of the college football season is marked by some momentous nonconference matchups and the beginning of conference play for some.
Playoff resumes are already being built, and games such as Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, Michigan State vs. Notre Dame and Florida State vs. Louisville will only serve to bolster the playoff odds for each of the winners.
Outside of the high-profile matchups, there are plenty of opportunities to run into a trap game. We watch college football for its unexpected nature, and with the Top 25 seeing fairly major changes in each of the first two weeks of the season, safety is not a luxury many top teams have.
Here’s a look at the latest AP poll along with the Top 25 schedule for this week, the latest lines from Odds Shark and predictions for how each game is going to wind up.
Top Games to Watch
Florida State vs. Louisville
The Louisville Cardinals have been doing some impressive things on the periphery of college football.
Lamar Jackson has been putting up cartoonish numbers early this season. ESPN Stats & Info provided some insight into just how dominant he’s been in Louisville’s first two contests:
But it’s one thing for Jackson to dominate the likes of Syracuse and Charlotte. It’s quite another when he’s facing Florida State.
This game is sure to be an offensive shootout with each team’s quarterback prominently featured. Florida State freshman quarterback Deondre Francois has already proved that he can perform under the bright lights, as he threw for 419 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Ole Miss.
Now, he’ll have the opportunity to put up those kinds of numbers against a Top 25 opponent.
But the Seminoles might run into some problems slowing down Jackson with safety Derwin James set to miss the game due to injury.
As Rece Davis of ESPN noted, that could be important, because James has been partially responsible for getting the Noles into the right coverage.
James’ absence might be the X-factor that nudges the odds in favor of the Cardinals pulling off an upset at home.
Louisville 35, Florida State 31
Michigan State vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s playoff chances took a huge hit when the Irish lost to Texas to open the season, but Brian Kelly and Co. have an opportunity to get some of that playoff momentum back against Michigan State.
The No. 12 Spartans come in ranked six spots ahead of the No. 18 Irish, but Notre Dame is the favorite in South Bend.
Some of that is due to the fact that the Spartans are an even bigger unknown than most teams in the college football landscape right now. They had a bye in Week 2, so the only time we’ve seen Michigan State play was in its 28-13 win over Furman.
That might not sound like an impressive performance, but Mark Dantonio’s defense was dominant as usual, giving up just 3.53 yards per play.
That’s stifling defense, but Deshone Kizer might be the best quarterback in the country. As Matt Jones noted, even in the loss to Texas, the quarterback put up crazy good numbers:
The Irish face a high-pressure game in what amounts to a Week 3 must-win, but Kelly believes that the loss to Texas has prepared them to play in the kind of atmosphere they’ll see Saturday night, per Matt Freeman of Irish Sports Daily:
I think Texas is as big of a moment that most of these young kids had, 102,000 on the road. So I’m of the opinion that they’ve already played that game. They’ve already been in that experience. We’re going to be home for the second time. The routine will be what it is. The opponent obviously will be a better opponent, a much better opponent.
The Spartans aren’t to be underestimated, but Notre Dame has too much to play for to pick against them in this one. Kizer is well on his way to becoming a top pick in the next NFL draft, and the rest of the team is now a little more seasoned than the Spartans, who have some youth of their own.
Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 21
Ohio State vs. Oklahoma
The Ohio State-Oklahoma matchup is the better-looking cousin of the Notre Dame-Michigan State game.
You still have a Big Ten school looking for a huge resume boost against a Power Five nonconference team on the road, but the brand recognition is even greater with Ohio State involved.
On the surface, the line seems like it’s a trap. One team has laid to waste its first two opponents. The other opened up the season with a double-digit loss to Houston.
But this is college football, and things aren’t always as they seem.
Despite what both teams have done this season, Ed Feng of Bleacher Report’s algorithms still give Oklahoma a 61 percent chance of beating Ohio State and actually ranks their playoff chances slightly above the Buckeyes’.
On some level, it makes sense. As dominant as the Buckeyes have been this season, there are still plenty of players on the roster who have never played in a big game before. This one will definitely qualify.
A big key to beating Oklahoma will be containing Baker Mayfield. The Sooners quarterback is capable of making plays that very few quarterbacks in college football can.
“I liken him to when I was with the [Chicago] Bears going against Brett Favre,” co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said, per Austin Ward of ESPN. “He’s that unpredictable. He’ll be scrambling this way and chuck it that way. How do you coach [against] that other than be disciplined and stay with your guys?”
If there’s a secondary that looks like it’s up to the challenge, though, it’s Ohio State’s. It already leads the nation with 18 passes defended and seven interceptions.
That should be the difference as Mayfield‘s gambling can also lead to turnovers against the right defense.
Ohio State 28, Oklahoma 21
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News