Reporting Matt Ryan
The college football season is nearly a month old. The first three weeks of the season have included many great matchups, with each game of the week living up to the hype so far. Clemson beat Georgia in a 38-35 thriller on opening weekend, the Bulldogs rebounded seven days later by ending their three-game losing streak against South Carolina, and the much anticipated “Game of the Year” between Alabama and Texas A&M was a 49-42 thriller. This weekend doesn’t feature a marque matchup of similar magnitude, but there are still plenty of games to be excited about over the next three days.
10. #3 Clemson at North Carolina State (7:30pm, Thursday, ESPN): The college football weekend begins with the third ranked Tigers traveling to Raleigh. Clemson has won eight of their last nine games against NC State. It will be a big test for the Wolf Pack, who barely got by Richmond last weekend with a 23-21 victory.
9. Kansas State at Texas (8pm, ABC): The hot seat is heating up again for Mack Brown, after crushing back-to-back losses for the Longhorns. Texas fired their defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, after a 40-21 loss to BYU and surrendered 30 unanswered points to Ole Miss, despite a 23-14 lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The Wildcats rebounded from an opening weekend loss to North Dakota State, with easy wins the past two weekends and will look to take their next step towards a third consecutive 10+ win season.
8. West Virginia at Maryland (3:30pm, ESPNU): Maryland is off to their first 3-0 start since 2001, which was also the last time they were conference champions. The Terrapins may not get past Florida State and Clemson this year, but a win over the West Virginia could further establish them as a surprise team in their final ACC season. A loss to Maryland could begin another poor year for the Mountaineers, with Big 12 play resuming next weekend. Their next three opponents will be Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech.
7. Arkansas at Rutgers (3:30pm, ESPN): The Bret Bielema era in Arkansas has gotten off to a great start with three double-digit victories to start the season. A win in Piscataway for the Razorbacks would equal their win total of four games from a year ago. They now face their first real test of the season in an East Coast road trip to face the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers only blemish of the season is a 52-51 overtime road loss to Fresno State. This will be their final game, before AAC play begins next week against SMU.
6. North Carolina at Georgia Tech (12pm, ESPN): The Yellow Jackets have gotten off to a dominant start in 2013, crushing Elon 70-0 in week one and their 38-14 road win over Duke last Saturday. It was a complete opposite start for the Tar Heels, who were beaten 27-10 on the first night of the season against South Carolina. A road trip to Atlanta will be a good test to see where North Carolina ranks among the ACC hierarchy. Georgia Tech won last year’s contest in Chapel Hill 68-50.
5. Michigan State at #22 Notre Dame (3:30pm, NBC): Unlike their series with the Spartan’s in-state rival, this rivalry will stay intact when the Fighting Irish join the ACC next season. Michigan State heads to South Bend with the nation’s 12th best scoring defense (12 points per game) and is looking to end their two game skid against Brian Kelly’s squad. The showdown in South Bend is beginning of the toughest part of Notre Dame’s schedule with games against Oklahoma, Arizona State, and USC to follow.
4. Tennessee at #19 Florida (3:30pm, CBS): Old rivals will meet in this SEC East matchup, coming off disappointing losses in their previous games. The Volunteers got off to a great start on the road against Oregon, opening with a 7-0 lead only six minutes in to regulation. Marcus Mariota and the Ducks responded by scoring 59 unanswered points and totaling nearly 700 offensive yards. Florida had a bye week, after a 21-16 road loss to Miami, in which the Gators had five turnovers and nearly double the offensive yards that the Hurricanes had.
3. Boise State at Fresno State (9pm, Friday, ESPN): It may not be the most high profile or anticipated game this weekend, but this Mountain West Conference showdown could have major BCS implications. Boise State’s bid for a major bowl likely ended, after their 38-6 opening night loss to Washington, but Fresno State still has a great chance to be this year’s BCS buster team. The Broncos are the toughest test remaining on the Bulldogs path to a 12-0 regular season. Fresno State beat Rutgers, 52-51, in overtime on opening weekend.
2. #23 Arizona State at #5 Stanford (7pm, FOX): The Sun Devils begin conference play on the road against the fifth ranked Cardinal. They climbed in to the rankings this week, after beating Wisconsin in one of the more bizarre endings ever seen in a college football game. Stanford easily won their first two games of the season (34-13 over San Jose State and 34-20 over Army) and will now face one of the dark horse contenders in the Pac-12. This is the only matchup of the weekend involving two teams ranked in the top 25.
1. Auburn at #6 LSU (7:30pm, ESPN): The Gus Malzahn era has gotten off to a great start in The Plains. Auburn is off to a 3-0 start in 2013 and saw its 10 game SEC losing streak end last weekend against Mississippi State. An upset in Baton Rouge against the other Tigers, could push them in to the rankings, for the first time since the start of the 2011 season. This game marks the beginning of a difficult five game stretch for the Bayou Bengals who face Georgia next weekend, begin October traveling to Mississippi State, host Florida on the 12th, followed by a visit to Oxford to face Ole Miss.