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College football: Week three preview and predictions

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A vanilla weekend of college football ahead

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville
Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back against the LSU Tigers during the first half at Camping World Stadium. 
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The second week of college football had shining moments under the brightest of lights.

Georgia winning at Notre Dame in a tight defensive battle. Baker Mayfield had an outstanding performance for Oklahoma, getting revenge against Ohio State from last year’s embarrassing loss.

However, this week’s action won’t have many scintillating matchups. The lights will be a bit dimmer in week three of the college football season, with only two games involving teams both in the top-25.

Appetizers

Texas at (4) Southern California

Saturday, Sept. 16th, 8:30 p.m.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

It’s a rematch of one of the greatest bowl games in history. Texas and USC battled in the 2006 Rose Bowl till the very end, giving us as exciting of a game we’ll ever see. Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Vince Young were some of the most elite players that college football has ever seen, and while this matchup in 2017 lacks the hype that surrounded 2006, there is still plenty on the line for both teams.

The hype surrounding Texas cooled in Tom Herman’s debut loss against Maryland, and sizzled against San Jose State in a shutout victory, but the mixed results are all we have. This glamorous showdown against a big, brand-name team like USC is exactly what can get Herman back in Texas’ good grace. If Texas’ defense can pressure Sam Darnold, they should be able to create turnovers and stall USC’s offense like an awfully familiar storyline that took place in 2006. The Longhorn secondary can make plays, and the defense started to tackle cleaner against San Jose State — but it’s San Jose State.

But, Sam Darnold is a top-5 pick for a reason. USC is the No. 4 ranked team in the nation for a reason. Texas has athletes and talent, but the level isn’t nearly as close as it was in 2006. USC’s talent level will thrive on both sides of the ball, and Darnold will star for the second consecutive week. USC pulls away in the fourth quarter and breaks it open.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California
Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter under pressure from Stanford Cardinal cornerback Quenton Meeks (24) during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(12) LSU at Mississippi State

Saturday, Sept. 16th, 7 p.m.

Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS

Mississippi State has beaten LSU just once since pulling off a 17-16 win in 1999. The LSU defense has looked elite, and they gain star DE Arden Key from suspension. The Tigers didn’t allow BYU to move the ball the entire game, shutting out the Cougars. The Tigers have only allowed 339 yards of total offense over the first two games. They also lead the nation in run defense thus far.

However, Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald is a talented player who can push LSU if he’s given time in the pocket, or room on the outside for long runs. He’ll challenge the defense early on, but LSU will bare down and take over a tightly knit, defensive game. LSU will win a close, low-scoring game.

NCAA Football: Chattanooga at Louisiana State
LSU Tigers running back Derrius Guice (5) runs against the Chattanooga Mocs during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Main Course

(23) Tennessee (24) Florida

Saturday, Sept. 16th, 3:30 p.m.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL

Florida had an ugly performance against Michigan in a 33-17 loss, and had their second game against Northern Colorado postponed because of Hurricane Irma. Tennessee has won a hard-fought game against Gerogia Tech, and blew out Indiana State the following week.

UF’s offense has many question marks on offense right now, and their running game was underwhelming against Michigan. But this Tennessee defensive front can be challenged by a good running game, and UF will provide that in their matchup on Saturday. Florida needs to dominate possession and keep this a low-scoring game if they’re to win.

Tennessee won’t light up the scoreboard, but QB Quinten Dormady is coming off a nice day against ISU, showing the Vols are capable of leading a balanced attack on offense. If they can have an effective passing game, the outcome will be very different.

This will be a typical SEC matchup that will be the first to 13, wins. Florida will edge Tennessee at home with a late field goal.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan
Florida Gators quarterback Malik Zaire (8) scrambles against the Michigan Wolverines at AT&T Stadium.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dessert

(3) Clemson at (14) Louisville

Saturday, Sept. 16th, 8 p.m.

Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY

QB Lamar Jackson may be the best player in college football, and looks like the early favorite to win his second consecutive Heisman. Jackson had an admirable performance last year against Clemson in South Carolina, and could have an even stronger performance at home this year. Jackson will be a handful for Clemson to handle, but it’s Louisville’s defense that will have to play at a higher level to clinch a win against Clemson.

Clemson’s tremendous defense had 11 sacks against Auburn last week. Don’t expect Jackson to have a career day against them. Purdue and North Carolina don’t have the pass rush that Clemson has, and Louisville’s offensive line will be on their heels. The Tigers’ QB Kelly Bryant looks like a star in the making, but this will be his first road test against an angry Louisville team seeking revenge. Expect Bryant to have a solid game but show a few growing pains along the way.

This game could be a defensive, low-scoring game, or a shootout between the two star quarterbacks. Expect a result that lies somewhere in between; a defensive first half, and a high-scoring second half. Louisville prevails at home, and Jackson takes over the fourth quarter.

NCAA Football: Louisville at North Carolina
Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports