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Three Games to Watch: Week Three

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

After two weeks of great games, the week three slate is a little thin on big-time match ups. There are only two games between ranked opponents (with Florida State-Miami getting postponed), and many top teams are playing weak non conference opponents before starting conference play. There is one Pac-12 conference game, and only three Pac-12 teams face Power Five non conference opponents this week. There are some sneaky road games against Group of Five teams that could prove difficult for Pac-12 teams. This is a week that could help sort out the middle of the Pac-12, but it is also a week that prove disastrous for the conference if teams like Stanford or UCLA loses. Those have been covered some here. We will instead focus on the two ranked match ups and one Pac-12 game against a Power Five team.

#23 Tennessee at #24 Florida 1:30 p.m. MT CBS

Why are we featuring a game between two overrated SEC teams? Well, because it is one of only two games between ranked teams. Personally, I do not think Florida should be ranked, but they are, so it makes the list. Florida still likely has nine players suspended. Tennessee scraped out a comeback win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta in week one, while Florida fell to Michigan in week one and did not play last week due to Hurricane Irma.

Who to root for and who will win

It does not really matter who wins and loses for the Utes because the loser falls out with a loss most likely. I guess cheer for Tennessee because a Florida loss would make the Gators 0-2. I also think the Volunteers win this one. Florida has no offense, especially with the suspensions. The Utes are just outside the AP top 25 at No. 26. They get SJSU at home and should handle their business, and a loss by one of these teams might finally get Utah into the top 25. The other games featuring teams ranked 20-25 (the most likely teams to fall out with a loss) are No. 25 UCLA at Memphis, Oregon State at No. 21 Washington State, and SMU at No. 20 TCU. WSU and TCU are both favored by more than three scores, so UCLA is the only team that could realistically fall, which would not be good for the Pac-12.

#3 Clemson at #14 Louisville 6:00 p.m. MT ABC

This is the primetime game on ABC, and ESPN College GameDay will broadcast live from Louisville’s campus. They were present for this game at Clemson last year, and it was a great game, with Clemson holding on to win 42-36. These primetime games on ABC are usually great match ups and often get the GameDay crew to come to campus. Lamar Jackson has reminded people why he won the Heisman Trophy last year. He has looked electric in two games this fall, topping 350 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in both outings so far. Clemson, the defending national champions, has a great defense and possibly the best defensive line in the country. They recorded 11 sacks on Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham last week. Can they stop Jackson or will this game turn into a shoot out, and can the Clemson offense without Deshaun Watson keep up if that happens? This game is also at Louisville, so the Tigers will not get the big home field advantage afforded to them at Death Valley.

Who to root for and who will win

Neither team will fall out of the top 25 with a loss, so this game really has no bearing on Utah. With Florida State losing quarterback Deondre Francois for the year, Clemson and Louisville might be the two favorites in the ACC Atlantic division. This game could decide who wins one of the better divisions in football. If Jackson wants to be the first repeat Heisman winner since Archie Griffin (and only the second ever), this is a game where he needs to shine. He is facing the defending national champions with the eyes of the nation watching. If he has a big game, he is likely the Heisman favorite again. Can Clemson rise to their first big challenge on the road in the title defense? This game is a tough one to call, and I think it all comes down to Jackson. If Clemson’s defense can contain him, they win the game, but I do not think they can. Jackson shredded a great Clemson defense last season on the road, and I think he will be even more impressive this season at home, Louisville wins in a close one.

Texas at #4 USC 6:30 p.m. MT FOX

Get ready to hear about the 2006 Rose Bowl... a lot. That was the last meeting between these two teams, a game Texas won, but not according to USC, who claims they are 4-0 against Texas. USC vacated all of their games from the 2005 season from their official record, including their lone loss on the season, to Texas in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game. This game will likely be far less entertaining. Neither team is as talented as their 2005 counterparts. USC had Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart while Texas had Vince Young. USC has a Heisman hopeful again this year with quarterback Sam Darnold. The Trojans are 2-0 and sit atop the Pac-12 standings with their win last week over Stanford.

Who to root for and who will win

USC is the frontrunner in the Pac-12 South and for good reason. However, cheer for the Trojans in this one. It does Utah no good if USC falls in a non conference game, and it would hurt the Pac-12’s reputation. I also do not see Texas coming into L.A. and getting the win. I do not think the Longhorns defense can stop USC’s offense.