There are many things that could be decided this weekend, including the futures of Mack Brown and Bo Pelini, the plight of Notre Dame and the legitimacy of Auburn and Michigan State. Tennessee needs to beat Florida for the first time in what feels like 50 years, Arizona State needs to prove last weekends win against Wisconsin wasn't a gift and Notre Dame needs to win to keep itself in BCS title contention.
Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC) @ No. 19 Florida (1-1, 0-0), 3:30 pm: Florida has eight straight wins against Tennessee. It gets worse for the Volunteers. They are 0-17 against ranked teams. Making matters worse, the Vols were crushed by No. 2 Oregon 59-14 last week. Granted the Ducks have an NFL-type offense, but Tennessee hasn’t been a factor on the national scene in over half a decade. Vols QB Justin Worley actually wasn’t completely terrible against Oregon, completing 13 of 25 passes for 126 yards and a TD. He has five TDs and one interception on the season. He’ll need to be more efficient than 13 of 25 passing to penetrate Florida’s stingy defense. The Gators have given up 22 points in two games, including just 16 in a loss against Miami on September 7. Look for Florida’s offense, which struggled mightily against Miami, to bounce back in a big way.
Michigan St. (3-0) @ No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1), 3:30 pm: Are the Spartans for real? The 3-0 record looks impressive, but one of those wins was against FCS opponent Youngstown State. The other two were against Western Michigan and South Florida. South Florida, incidentally, got crusted by Florida Atlantic (28-10) and McNeese State (53-21). We can’t see the Spartans overcoming the Irish offense, especially if Tommy Rees continues to light it up. The junior signal caller has thrown for 969 yards, 7 TDs and two interceptions. He’s thrown for 309 or more yards in each of Notre Dame’s three games. The quarterback situation at Michigan State had been unsettled through the first three games with Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell splitting time. It looks like Cook will be the main man after completing 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards and 4 TDs in a 55-17 drubbing of Youngstown State. Can Cook elevate his game against a legitimate defense? Don’t bet the house on that one.
South Dakota State (3-0) @ Nebraska (2-1), 3:30 pm: Under normal circumstances this game would not be mentioned as something to watch. But after getting blasted by UCLA last week (Nebraska led 21-3 and got outscored 38-0 the rest of the way), coupled with coach Bo Pelini’s profanity-laced tirade berating Cornhusker fans, every game Nebraska plays will be under a microscope. This could be moot, because there is a very real possibility that Pelini could be out of a job by Saturday. South Dakota State is 3-0, but its wins are against Butler, North Dakota and SE Louisiana. Barring a total collapse on the part of the Nebraska, this should be an easy bounce-back game for them.
No. 23 Arizona State (2-0, 0-0 PAC 12) @ No. 5 Stanford (2-0, 0-0), 7 pm: Arizona State was fortunate to get by Wisconsin last week. If not for a snafu by the officials, the Sun Devils would be 1-1. That notwithstanding, Arizona State’s offensive has been pretty efficient. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly has thrown for 652 yards, 5 TDs and one interception through two games. Although he didn’t throw a TD against Wisconsin, he did throw for 352 yards. Defense will be a huge problem for Arizona State, which got blitzed for 231 yards on the ground. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 193 yards on just 15 carries and two touchdowns. Stanford, while extremely potent on offense, has also had some issues on defense. The Cardinal allowed Army to run for 284 yards rushing against them in their 34-20 win. Granted Army is a running team, the Black Knights averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Making matters worse Army played most of the game with its two top rushers in Raymond Maples and Larry Dixon. All of that said, Stanford has the tools to control the game with running back Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney has 236 yards and three TDs in two games. If he can get going against Arizona State’s porous defense, look out!
Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) @ No. 6 LSU (3-0), 7:45 pm: Will the real Tigers please stand up? Auburn has made a strong statement so far, with three wins over Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. Corey Grant (230 yds, 2 TDs) and Tre Mason (206 yds, 2 TDs) lead a two pronged attack at RB that has been devastating. Auburn will need to do everything it can to keep LSU’s potent offense off the field. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger’s brilliance (797 yds passing, 9 TDs, 0 INT) has been understated and underrated this season. If Auburn allows receivers Jarvis Landry (5 TDs) and Odell Beckham (4 TDs) to run wild, LSU will run wild…all over Auburn’s defense. Look for the real Tigers (LSU) to emerge.
Kansas St. (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) @ Texas (1-2, 0-0), 8:00 pm: It’s no secret that Texas coach Mack Brown is on the spot. Texas is 22-16 overall and 11-15 in the Big 12 the last three seasons. You’d think Brown, with two National Championship game appearances and nine or more wins in 12 of his 15 seasons at Texas, would get more support. Not these days. A fourth straight subpar season will likely be the end of Brown in Texas. As for the game, Kansas State has been less than impressive as its two wins were against La-Lafayette and Massachusetts. The Wildcats fell to North Dakota State in their season opener, one of the worse losses in recent Kansas State history. KSU QB Jake Waters already has 5 interceptions this season, which could be the opening Texas needs. But even if the Longhorns figure out Waters, they have to stop the run. Texas has given up 822 yards on 117 carries the last two weeks. That includes an eye-popping 550 yards to BYU. They gave up 245 in a 44-23 loss to Ole Mississippi last week. Another week of that could end Brown’s tenure before thanksgiving. Texas QB David Ash (concussion) didn’t play against Ole Mississippi. Senior Case McCoy started in his place. Ash is still questionable to play this weekend. Another week without Ash means another loss for Texas.
No. 12 Stony Brook (1-1, 1-0 CAA) @ Villanova, 3:00 pm: Losing to Buffalo in five OTs was a tough pill to swallow For Stony Brook. But it did prove that Stony Brook has the tools to play against anyone anywhere. Stony Brook's offense performed well against Buffalo as Marcus Coker ran for 115 yards and Lyle Negron threw for 300 yards and two TDs. Negron must get 6-4 WR Malcolm Eugene involved early, because Villanova will be out for blood to avenge last year's playoff loss to Stony Brook. There is also Villanova's 0-2 start. The Wildcats have turned the ball over 9 times this season, including five times in a 27-24 loss at Fordham on September 7. Villanova QB John Robertson along with RB Kevin Monangai and WR Jamal Abdur-Rahman have to protect the ball. It won't be an easy game, but Stony Brook has been toughened up thanks to its challenging early schedule.