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2011 NCAA College Football – Week Three Preview

#5 Florida State takes on top-ranked Oklahoma this week.
Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

This week, things start getting interesting in college football with a handful of conference games, a couple of contests between ranked teams and, arguably, the non-conference game of the year under the lights in Tallahassee. Here are the highlights for the Top 25:


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN]

A top-five game between two of the premiere programs in college football history, the winner of this showdown could well be setting themselves up for another national championship run. It is a game that should feature some great individual matchups, as Sooners’ quarterback Landry Jones and record-setting receiver Ryan Broyles take on a Seminoles’ defense that has given up just 275 yards and 10 points through two games this season. Oklahoma destroyed the Seminoles in Norman last year, 47-17, but this game will likely be much more competitive.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:30 PM ET on Fox Sports South]

North Texas is 0-2 and gave up 690 yards to Houston last Saturday. This week, they go on the road to an Alabama team that is #2 in the nation and looking to start 3-0 for the eighth straight year. Don’t expect much drama in this one.


[Thursday, Sep. 15 at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN]

LSU’s offense hasn’t missed a beat without suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson, rolling up 89 points the first two weeks of the season. This week, the vaunted LSU defense will face a challenge as they go on the road against a Bulldogs team that ranks fifth in the nation in total offense. Mississippi State’s challenge will be to avoid the mistakes that cost them in last week’s heartbreaking loss to Auburn, in which the Bulldogs were stopped twice inside the two-yard line with under a minute to play. LSU has won 11 in a row in this series.


[Friday, Sep. 16 at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN]

Toledo came within a couple of plays of upsetting Ohio State last week, but they get another chance to play giant killer with the Broncos coming to town for a Friday night showdown. The Rockets will face a tough challenge slowing down Broncos senior quarterback Kellen Moore, who completed 82 percent of his passes in Boise’s season-opening win over Georgia. The #4 Broncos are the highest-ranked team to ever play a game at Toledo.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 10:45 PM ET on ESPN]

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is averaging over 400 yards passing per game, but he’ll need some help from an anemic running game that currently ranks 115th in the nation at just 58 yards per game.  Stanford is riding a 10-game winning streak and is averaging over 50 points per game this season. This game marks the Pac-12 opener for both schools.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN3]

The Russell Wilson experiment has certainly been a success as the NC State transfer has completed almost 80 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in Wisconsin’s two wins this year. But Northern Illinois, while certainly undermanned in this game, has a talented signal caller of their own in run/pass quarterback Chandler Harnish (510 yards passing, 169 rushing and 11 total touchdowns through two games). Although technically a Northern Illinois home game, the game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago, so expect a healthy dose of the Badger faithful to make the trip.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 10:00 PM on Fox Sports Net]

Oklahoma State’s record-setting offense hasn’t missed a beat under new coordinator Todd Monken, rolling up 98 points and almost 1,300 yards of offense in two games this year. While most of the focus has been on the Brandon Weeden-to-Justin Blackmon combination, the Cowboys have found a potent running game with sophomore RB Joseph Randle rushing for 250 yards and four touchdowns this year. Tulsa is playing their second in-state top 10 opponent this year; they lost at #1 Oklahoma 47-14 in week one.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:00 PM ET on Fox Sports Net Pay-Per-View]

After a bye week which focused on the Big 12 soap opera around A&M’s planned move to the SEC, the Aggies return to action against a Vandals team who are taking on a top 10 team for the fifth consecutive year.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 6:00 PM ET on ESPN2]

If you like the ground game, this could be the game for you. Navy’s triple-option offense leads the nation in rushing yards (400.5 per game), while the Gamecocks are led by star running back Marcus Lattimore (288 yards and four touchdowns this season).  South Carolina may be undefeated, but they are certainly not without their flaws, having given up almost 40 points per game and needing three non-offensive touchdowns to beat Georgia last week.  Gamecocks’ coach Steve Spurrier is 42-0 against non-BCS AQ conference schools.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC]

This will be the rubber match of a three-game series between these two teams in the last 12 months.  Nebraska rolled up 533 yards of offense in a 56-21 win in Seattle early last year, but managed only 156 in a 19-7 loss in the rematch in last year’s Holiday Bowl. Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez, who was hobbled with foot and ankle injuries at the end of last season, is healthy again and giving Huskies defenders memories of his 137-yard, three-touchdown rushing effort last September.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on Comcast SportsNet Northwest]

Oregon (averaging 48 points per game) should have little trouble with the FCS Missouri State Bears, who are 0-2 and giving up 39.5 points per game. The Ducks were originally scheduled to play Utah this week as a non-conference game, but that game was scrapped when the Utes joined the Pac-12.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 4:00 PM ET on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and Fox Sports Net]

The Hokies’ defense has been dominant and, while Arkansas State can put up some offensive numbers (481 yards per game this season, against lesser opponents), it is unlikely the Red Wolves will have much success putting the ball in the end zone. The real question mark is the Virginia Tech offense, which has struggled to find any consistency. Hokies sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas has completed just 43.6 percent of his passes this year.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN Gameplan]

Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson is reportedly ready to start this week after suffering a mild concussion last week against Missouri State. The Hogs have scored the second-most points through two games in school history, while the defense is much-improved over a year ago, giving up just five points per game.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on NBC]

After an 0-2 start and the heartbreaking loss at Michigan last weekend, things don’t get a lot easier for the Fighting Irish this week with  number 15 Michigan State coming to town.  Notre Dame has rolled up 500-plus yards of offense in both of its games this season, but has committed five turnovers in each of them. This game has gone down to the wire the last two years, including last year’s thriller that featured a fake field goal in overtime for the Spartans win and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffering a mild heart attack immediately following the game.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on CBS]

Florida’s defense has yet to allow a score this year, while the young Vols are putting up almost 44 points per game behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray, who’s completed 78 percent of his passes for 698 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions this season. Tennessee has lost six straight to the Gators and 10 straight on the road to ranked teams.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN]

Both teams will be somewhat shorthanded coming into this game, as NCAA suspensions have taken their tolls on both sides. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has been reinstated after missing the Hurricanes’ week one loss at Maryland. He’ll go against Ohio State senior Joe Bauserman who has been solid (four touchdowns, no interceptions) but unspectacular (28-46 for 352 yards) and is making his first road start.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPNU]

The Mountaineers have put up more than 44 points per game this season, but have struggled to run the ball (just 72 yards per game, 109th in the nation). Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien threw for 348 yards and a touchdown in the Terps’ week one win over Miami. West Virginia has won five straight in this series.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:00 PM ET; no television]

After a thrilling come-from-behind upset win over TCU in week one, the Bears should have an easier time of things this week. Baylor has outscored SFA by a combined 153-0 in three previous meetings.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN Gameplan]

South Florida has outscored its previous two opponents 46-0 in the first half, and that trend will likely continue against the Florida A&M Rattlers, whose only win this year came against a Division II school. South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels set career highs in attempts, completions and passing yards in last week’s 37-7 win over Ball State.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 12:00 PM ET on ABC]

The defending national champions continue to find ways to win close games, last week stuffing Mississippi State twice inside the two-yard line with just seconds left to secure their 17th straight victory. Both teams have proven susceptible to the run — Auburn ranks next-to-last in rush defense, while Clemson allowed FCS Wofford to rush for 272 yards last week. Auburn has won 14 straight against Clemson, but the last two games have both gone to overtime.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 7:00 PM ET on Big Ten Network]

Coming off the high of their 37-30 overtime win over Missouri, the Sun Devils hope to avoid a letdown as they take to the road for the first time this year. This will be the first real challenge for Illinois, which has beaten Arkansas State and South Dakota State by a combined score of 89-18.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC]

After a horrific start (2-8 for eight yards, two interceptions and three three-and-outs in five possessions), Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert was benched in favor of a rotation of sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash, who rallied the Longhorns to a 17-16 victory over BYU last week. This week, coach Mack Brown says that McCoy and Ash will both play, while Gilbert has been demoted to third string.


[Saturday, Sep. 17 at 2:00 PM ET on MountainWest Sports Network]

TCU head coach Gary Patterson is still looking for answers on the defensive side of the ball, where his unit, which led the nation in both scoring defense (12 points per game) and total defense (228 yards per game) a year ago has given up an average of 39.5 points and 490 yards per game this season. The ULM Warhawks are 0-21 all-time against ranked opponents.


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