Week 3’s full slate of action offers plenty for fans and bettors to get excited about, but it’s the three contests between ranked teams that stand out.
Up first, Florida heads to SEC rival Tennessee in what used to be, and could soon be again, one of college football’s best rivalries. USC then makes the trip north to Stanford for a grudge match in the Pac-12. To close things out, a primetime showdown between Notre Dame and Michigan State has everything set for an anybody-could-win affair.
Of course, everybody expected #1 Alabama’s trip to Arkansas to be a ranked matchup, but an historic fall from the rankings following the Razorbacks’ loss to Louisiana-Monroe put paid to that. With it looking increasingly unlikely that Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson will play, the competitiveness of that game has taken a nosedive as well.
Here then is a look at those three ranked matchups in full, starting in Knoxville, Tenn.
#18 Florida at #23 Tennessee
(6:00 PM ET) With a defeat of conference newcomer Texas A&M, #18 Florida (2-0, 1-0 road) got off to a winning start in conference play last Saturday, and went 2-0 on the young season. #23 Tennessee (2-0, 2-0 home) has beaten both North Carolina State and Georgia State in the early going, with QB Tyler Bray averaging 321.5 yards per game with a 78.3 percent pass completion rate.
Florida represents a tougher opponent than the Volunteers have yet to face. Still, oddsmakers like Tennessee’s chances (just) deeming the Knoxville team 3-point favorites. Three points is nothing at home, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Florida was to take the game, especially with a strong head-to-head record over recent years. The Gators have won eight straight against the Vols. The over/under is set at 48 points.
An argument can be made for either side but one this is all but certain: this is going to be a close one.
#2 USC at # 21 Stanford
(7:30 PM ET) Trojans’ QB Matt Barkley has never beaten Stanford, a monkey he’d like to get off his back before heading into the NFL Draft next year. #2 USC (2-0, 1-0 road) has put up big numbers against Hawaii and Syracuse but hasn’t quite looked like the beast most predicted heading into the season.
#21 Stanford (2-0, 2-0 home) began life post-Andrew Luck with a narrow victory over San Jose State before beating Duke with a less than spectacular offense. The Cardinal has never beaten USC four years running, so will be looking to make history Saturday night.
USC is favored by nine points heading into the game with the over/under set at 57 points. With Penn State transfer Silas Redd giving the Trojans a much needed backfield threat and keeping defenses honest against the run, USC will likely come out of Palo Alto with a third win, leaving Stanford’s Top 25 ranking in jeopardy.
#20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan State
(8:00 PM ET) After signing an agreement with the ACC this week, Notre Dame focus will have to be back on the field in Saturday night’s primetime game. The Fighting Irish (2-0, 1-0 road) will visit a Spartan Stadium that hasn’t been kind to them of late. It’s been six years since Notre Dame won there.
#10 Michigan State (2-0, 1-0 home) will be looking to solidify its number one position in the Big Ten. To do so, the Spartans’ defense will need to continue the strong play that has seen it not give up a touchdown this season. On the offensive side of the ball, Le’Veon Bell will hope to gain more rushing yards than last year’s 27-yard effort against the Irish.
Michigan State is 6-point favorites, a number no doubt based on homefield advantage. The over/under is set at 44. Expect a relatively low-scoring game with both teams trying to assert dominance on the ground. The winner will most likely be the team who’s defense steps up.
AP Top 25 (Week 3 Fixtures)
#1 Alabama (2-0) @ Arkansas (1-1)
#2 USC (2-0) @ #21 Stanford (2-0)
Idaho (0-2) @ #3 LSU (2-0)
Tennessee Tech (2-0) @ #4 Oregon (2-0)
Wake Forest (2-0) @ #5 (tied) Florida State (2-0)
Florida Atlantic (1-1) @ #7 Georgia (2-0)
UAB (0-1) @ #8 South Carolina (2-0)
James Madison (2-0) @ #9 West Virginia (1-0)
#20 Notre Dame (2-0) @ #10 Michigan State (2-0)
Furman (0-2) @ #11 Clemson (2-0)
California (1-0) @ #12 Ohio State (2-0)
#13 Virginia Tech (2-0) @ Pittsburgh (0-2)
#14 Texas (2-0) @ Ole Miss (2-0)
North Texas (1-1) @ #15 Kansas State (2-0)
#16 TCU (1-0) @ Kansas (1-1)
Massachusetts (0-2) @ #17 Michigan (1-1)
#18 Florida (2-0) @ #23 Tennessee (2-0)
North Carolina (1-1) @ #19 Louisville (2-0)
Houston (0-2) @ #22 UCLA (2-0)
South Carolina State (1-1) @ #24 Arizona (2-0)
#25 Brigham Young (2-0) @ Utah (1-1)
* #5 (tied) Oklahoma (2-0) has a bye in Week 3