For the second week this season, there have been rumblings, nationally, about the slate of games college football offers. The complaint is often the lack of top 10 or top 25 matchups.
Looking beyond teams’ rankings, we find the top 16 games that matter this week during college football’s fabulous Week 3 slate. These are the games to watch.
The 16 Storylines and Games to Watch in Week 3
LSU at Mississippi State
The SEC West might be wide open this season, and starting 1-0 is obviously the goal in this battle between Jayden Daniels and Will Rogers.
An LSU Tigers win means all of their season’s goals of a conference championship and a playoff appearance are still attainable. Mississippi State would still be 2-1, but an FCS win and a seven-point win over Arizona might not look good anymore.
A Mississippi State win puts them at 3-0, and there will be a lot of momentum around Mississippi State and their new offensive scheme. A win also gives head coach Zach Arnett his first SEC win in his first SEC game. All of the hype around LSU would be gone, and the season would boil down to trying to steal wins over ranked opponents.
Tennessee at Florida
The pressure is on in this boom-or-bust game. This is Joe Milton’s chance to make a statement and Billy Napier’s chance to prove Florida can compete near the top of the conference.
If Tennessee wins, they have their first win in The Swamp since 2003, and playoff talk will begin to swirl in Knoxville. Assuming he plays a role in the win, Joe Milton’s Heisman hype will begin to pick up. A 1-2 start for Florida will definitely put pressure on Billy Napier, and questions of his ability to win big games will arise.
If Florida wins, it takes a lot of pressure off of Billy Napier. A big win at home against a rival will make fans feel much more comfortable, and Florida could become the biggest threat to Georgia in the SEC East.
Kansas State at Missouri
If Kansas State wins, they can start proving that they may have been written out of the Big 12 race too soon. Will Howard will have taken care of business against a solid Missouri defense. This is also an opportunity for Kansas State’s defense to have another great game after shutting down Troy’s offense last week.
If Missouri wins, they’ll already be halfway to last season’s win total, and they would lock up a big non-conference win. They will also prove that their defense can win them games, especially with the help of their defensive line.
Minnesota at North Carolina
If Minnesota wins, they’ll have a solid 3-0 start to the season before diving back into conference play, which includes cross-divisional opponents Michigan and Ohio State. If they are able to slow down Drake Maye, they can prove themselves capable of slowing down Michigan or Ohio State later in the season, or Minnesota will find offensive life and go score-for-score with North Carolina.
If North Carolina wins, they’ll have wins over South Carolina and Minnesota before conference play begins. North Carolina avoids Florida State in the conference, and with Clemson looking weaker than normal, North Carolina will be mentioned in ACC championship talk, Playoff talk, and Heisman talk for quarterback Drake Maye.
South Carolina at Georgia
Georgia faces their first Power Five team of the season on their quest for a three-peat. As four-score favorites, this game may be viewed as another “easy win on Georgia’s schedule,” but South Carolina may have one of the better offenses Georgia faces this season until the SEC Championship game.
If South Carolina wins, sound the alarms because we have entered “The Year of the Upset,” and the SEC East race is wide open. Spencer Rattler likely exploited holes in the Georgia defense, and the Gamecocks’ offensive line stepped up to protect Rattler and get the run game going.
If Georgia wins, things likely went as expected, but it still gave us an opportunity to learn about Georgia and answered questions about their slow starts offensively and if their defense is still in the elite category.
Tulane at Southern Miss
If Tulane wins, they can still reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the second consecutive season. Tulane will be looking for revenge after last season’s loss, and they are ready to bounce back after a tough loss to Ole Miss last Saturday.
If Southern Mississippi wins, it would be a great bounce back after a bad loss to a great Florida State team. It would once again prove that Southern Mississippi is good enough to beat one of the top Group of Five programs in the country and give them momentum heading into Sun Belt Conference play.
Penn State at Illinois
Drew Allar is a must-watch quarterback, going on the road in the Big Ten with Luke Altmyer on the other side of the ball.
If Penn State wins, momentum will continue to grow for the Nittany Lions, and if he plays like he did through the first two games, the “Drew Allar for Heisman” talk will begin to circulate through the media. The 2022 Illinois team will start to look like a one-and-done run, with the 2023 team starting the season with only a two-point win over Toledo followed by two losses to Power Five competition.
If Illinois wins, they’d get their first win over a ranked opponent since 2021 when they beat a top ten Penn State and top 20 Minnesota. For Penn State, the Heisman Trophy and the Playoffs will be very difficult to achieve and would have to be done in spectacular fashion by including wins over Ohio State, over Michigan, and in the Big Ten championship game.
BYU at Arkansas
This will be a fun game between Kedon Slovis and KJ Jefferson. BYU’s first game against a Power Five school as a Power Five school. Both offenses have looked sluggish at times, so this game could come down to who makes the big plays.
If BYU wins, most likely their offense saw improvement from the 14 points they put up against Sam Houston in week 1, probably on the shoulders of Kedon Slovis. But more importantly, their defense had another strong outing, and there should be excitement about bringing that defense into Big 12 play.
If Arkansas wins, they will be added to the list of teams competing at the top of the SEC West. The hope would be to see a balanced performance of a good offense and a good defense, but BYU shouldn’t be a big offensive threat.
Washington at Michigan State
If Washington wins, it will significantly help their playoff hopes, as they need every win they can get early in the season before a very difficult run of games against Oregon, USC, Utah, Oregon State, and Washington State in the second half of the season.
Penix Jr. will have an opportunity to continue to rack up scores as Washington continues to lean on him on every play.
If Michigan State wins, it would be a huge win without Mel Tucker and put Michigan State in a place to move on. It would also get Michigan State to a 3-0 start. As mentioned above, a Washington loss would make their path to the playoffs very difficult with no room for error against a difficult schedule.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia
If Pitt wins, it’s an important bounceback after last week’s loss to Cincinnati. It should mean that Phil Jurkovec improved from that game and has at least some flow with the offense. Pitt needs their offense to generate more big plays. Against Cincinnati, some of their drives were too long and allowed too much time for mistakes and, ultimately, turnovers.
If West Virginia wins, it will be a big positive for Neal Brown, who has a losing record at West Virginia. The pressure is on for Brown to start winning. This would be a hit to a Pitt team that came into the season with high expectations.
Alabama at USF
Alabama goes on the road at an American Conference school, their first away game at a Group of Five school since they played at Hawaii in 2003, and they bring a lot of questions about their offensive performance with them.
If Alabama wins, their season goals and playoff hopes are still intact. The questions will be about evaluating how they looked on the road and how Tyler Buchner looked, who is expected to start at quarterback for the Crimson Tide.
If USF wins, it would be their first win vs. an AP Top 10 team since beating #5 West Virginia. It also means Tyler Buchner didn’t work out as the starter, and most likely Milroe got put into the game, and Alabama still didn’t get it figured out.
Oklahoma at Tulsa
Tulsa gets the opportunity to host an in-state opponent in Oklahoma.
If Oklahoma wins, things continue to look up after a disappointing 2022 season. They’ll likely be favored in their next two Big 12 games, setting them up to be undefeated headed into The Red River Rivalry against Texas.
If Tulsa wins, it would be a massive turnaround after a non-competitive performance against Washington. Roman Fuller, the third-string quarterback, pulled off one of those backup quarterback miracles, or Tulsa was able to get one of their top two quarterbacks back on the field.
Oklahoma would be worried about seeing little to no improvement from last season, and despite last week’s win against SMU, only scoring 28 points would mean the offense doesn’t have what it takes to be competitive.
Wyoming at Texas
If Wyoming wins, it would, of course, be a huge upset. The “Texas is Back” run would have only lasted seven days. It would derail Quinn Ewers’ Heisman hopes. Wyoming would move to 3-0, they would become the top dog in the Group of Five, and everyone would know quarterback Andrew Peasley.
If Texas wins, they continue on their post-Alabama track with Playoff hopes. They’ll head into conference play as the favorites, and Quinn Ewers will continue to attract the attention everyone waited to see last season.
Fresno State at Arizona State
Fresno State already has a win over Purdue and will try for a second Power Five win.
If Fresno State wins, they’ll start the season 3-0 with two wins over Power Five schools. Mikey Keene to Eric Brooks has been the go-to for Fresno State this season, so that will likely be the key to a Fresno State victory. This would set Fresno State up to reach a New Year’s Six bowl if they can win the Mountain West Conference. Things will begin to look bleak for Arizona State as they’ll be 1-2 with a close win over Southern Utah.
If Arizona State wins, it can put them back on track after allowing a second-half comeback to Oklahoma State last weekend. Elijah Badger has been the key receiver for Jaeden Rashada, and that connection will be needed to get this offense moving. Fresno State would drop their first game of the season, but possibly make a New Year’s Six bowl appearance out of reach.
James Madison at Troy
If James Madison wins, they’ll prove, for the second season in a row, that they were fully ready for the transition to the FBS level. They will also prove they will be at the top of the Sun Belt Conference, despite the fact that they are still ineligible to play for the Sun Belt championship. Troy might have to take a look at themselves after a poor performance against Kansas State last week, then a 0-1 start in conference play.
If Troy wins, it can help them get back on track offensively after last week’s disappointing play. Troy is one of the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference this season and expects to get off to a 1-0 start. We expect to see more out of Gunnar Watson after only completing 53% of his passes for one touchdown and one interception last week.
Colorado State at Colorado
College GameDay, Big Noon Kickoff, and more are all headed to Boulder, Colorado, to cover the excitement around Colorado.
If Colorado State wins, it would pop the bubble around Colorado that has been growing since the hiring of Deion Sanders at Colorado. Despite Colorado’s recent struggles, Colorado State hasn’t beaten Colorado since 2014.
If Colorado wins, the Shedeur Sanders for Heisman talk will continue. Despite being over 20-point favorites, another win will prove that this Colorado team is for real. The stage will be set for a huge matchup next weekend against Bo Nix and Oregon.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss
Haynes King, the Texas A&M transfer, gets his shot against Ole Miss.
If Georgia Tech wins, it would be a huge win for new head coach Brent Key and show that he got things turned around quickly at Georgia Tech. A win would make the loss to Louisville look like a fluke, and expectations for the remainder of the season would skyrocket. The loss would be a huge blow to Ole Miss. It would look like things could spin out of control for Ole Miss very quickly as they go on the road against Alabama then host LSU.
If Ole Miss wins, we should expect another strong performance from Jaxson Dart. They’ll have a lot of energy heading into a huge game against Alabama and know they have a show at winning the SEC West this season.