You won’t find a more comprehensive set of game previews anywhere this side of the Atlantic!
FSU @ Louisville
Saturday – 12.30am (UK) – Louisville, Kentucky
Preview: Since Adam Fuller joined Florida State as their Defensive Coordinator, one particular quarterback has given him nightmares. Malik Cunningham and Scott Satterfield’s offense have dominated the ‘Noles in the two most recent meetings of the ACC rivals – with Louisville scoring a combined 79 points in those games.
However, this is seemingly a new FSU. After scraping past LSU in week one, Jordan Travis and co had their first bye week to prepare for Cunningham and the fast paced offense that the Cardinals run. Jared Verse, Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper have started the season in strong fashion, combining with a secondary led by Jammie Robinson to produce the 19th ranked defense in the nation going into week three.
Louisville got off to a sluggish start against Syracuse before flipping the switch against UCF on Friday night. In that game they forced John Rhys Plumlee to stand in the pocket and try to beat them through the air. A year ago it may have been possible for the Cardinals to pursue a similar strategy against Travis, but the dual threat is much improved in the passing game since the sides last met.
This one will be a battle of two very impressive QBs who can really take over a game on their day, the winner will likely be the team that can dominate in the trenches.
Key Matchup: Jared Verse (DE, FSU) vs Trevor Reid (LT, LOU) – Verse has exploded onto the scene for FSU. Against LSU he had two sacks, two and a half tackles for a loss and a blocked field goal. Reid can lack upper body strength, but his quick feet and athleticism mean he’s no slouch – if he can keep Cunningham upright then the Cardinals will do damage on offense.
Game Line: Florida State 2.5 point favourites at the time of writing.
Georgia @ South Carolina
Saturday – 5pm (UK) – Columbia, South Carolina
Preview: The Bulldogs haven’t allowed an opposition touchdown through two games in 2022, quieting any doubts that their defense would suffer from the large exodus of 2021 talent. Last weekend’s blowout of Samford was certainly expected, but many thought that Oregon would at least stay close in week one.
At the heart of the early season success is Stetson Bennett, last year’s National Championship winning quarterback. Through two games Bennett has looked composed and the Bulldogs have been comfortable taking the aerial approach as their first option, a marked change to recent years. South Carolina have only allowed 136.5 yards a game through the air so far this season, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Bulldogs revert to their usual ground and pound style on Saturday.
The Gamecocks stuttered past Georgia State in week one, before being outclassed against a strong Arkansas team last week. Everything points towards them falling to 1-2 this weekend, but if anyone can produce some magic to keep the game interesting it is Spencer Rattler. The Oklahoma transfer has made some impressive plays through the first two game, but he desperately needs the support of a productive running game to help set up play action opportunities.
Key Matchup: Kendall Milton (RB, GEO) vs Gamecocks’ Linebackers – South Carolina lost both Jordan Strachan and Mo Kaba for the season in the loss to Arkansas, making their woeful run defense even worse. Sherrod Greene and Terrell Dawkins could be the next men up, and they’ll face the unenviable task of limiting the talented Milton in this one.
Game Line: Georgia 24 point favourites at the time of writing.
BYU @ Oregon
Saturday – 8.30pm (UK) – Eugene, Oregon
Preview: Early risers in the UK could have enjoyed the end of BYU’s dramatic double overtime win over Baylor at the weekend. Thankfully any British fans of the Cougars or the Oregon Ducks can enjoy this one at the very friendly time of 8.30pm. What they’ll see is a battle between two teams that play differing styles of football.
Oregon got completely shut down by the aforementioned Georgia Bulldogs in week one, yet they rebounded in emphatic fashion on Saturday against Eastern Washington. Bo Nix was able to settle into his new offense, and he stood tall in the pocket to spread the ball around wherever possible. The Ducks’ coaching staff are excited by the young receivers they have coming through, none more so than Troy Franklin who caught ten passes from Nix at the weekend. The BYU secondary will no doubt provide a tougher opponent this week, but it’ll be a good test of where the new look offense is.
On the flip side, BYU’s offense could be characterised as chaotic by the layman, but that would be doing a huge disservice to Jaren Hall and his dual threat ability. The second year starter has speed to burn, and his ability in the pocket is seemingly on the up as well. Chase Roberts has seemingly appeared out of nowhere as the successor to Dax Milne for the Cougars, but Kalani Sitake will want to see more from the run game in this one.
Key Matchup: Noah Sewell & Justin Flowe (LBs, ORE) vs Jaren Hall (QB, BYU) – Hall likes to get out of the pocket a lot, if he’s allowed to run free then the result could be devastating for the Oregon defense. Luckily they have two highly rated linebackers in position to stop that, they should force Hall to throw a lot more – it remains to be seen what the outcome of that will be.
Game Line: Oregon 3.5 point favourites at the time of writing.
Penn State @ Auburn
Saturday – 8.30pm (UK) – Auburn, Alabama
Preview: One of the most intriguing matchups of week three involves two ‘nearly’ teams of recent years. Both Penn State and Auburn manage to assemble good teams every year, but it’s been a while since they’ve been serious contenders at the top of their respective conferences.
It’s highly unlikely that the status quo changes in 2022, but both teams come into this one at 2-0 and both teams have got reason to be optimistic. For Penn State, that optimism is centred around Nick Singleton. After several years of running back by committee, Singleton emerged as a dominant force against Ohio in week two. Time will tell if he’s got what it takes to be the week in, week out bell cow – but the coaching staff have been full of praise for the freshman and it seems he’ll get every chance to be that guy.
Auburn had a tough end to the 2021 season, but the resilience shown by Bryan Harsin’s men in their victory over San Jose State indicates they’ve turned a corner and are ready to win. That victory did however highlight the question marks around the Tigers’ QB situation, with both TJ Finley and Robby Ashford seeing the field. Finley continues to be listed as the starter this week, and he’ll be excited to see starting receiver, Malcolm Johnson Jr, back on the field.
Last season’s reverse fixture saw a 28-20 Penn State victory, something that is clearly motivating the Auburn playing staff. If the home side can get some pressure on Sean Clifford then they’ve got every chance of moving to 3-0.
Key Matchup: Eke Leota (DE, AUB) vs Olu Fashanu (LT, PEN) – with the home-field noise at their back the Tigers’ defensive line should be driven on towards Clifford. Eke Leota is a man mountain coming off the edge and he made several game changing plays against San Jose State. Standing in his way this week is Olu Fashanu, a player that James Franklin has been full of praise for since the preseason. May the best man win.
Game Line: Penn State 3 point favourites at the time of writing.
Mississippi State @ LSU
Saturday – 11pm (UK) – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Preview: An early-season SEC West matchup should give fans a little insight into how things will shake out between the mid-tier teams in the conference. Mississippi State have clearly had the more impressive start to the season, with wins against Memphis and Arizona under their belt. Much of that is down to the solid play of QB Will Rogers, whose big arm and solid pocket presence just brings an air of calm to the Bulldogs’ offense.
LSU were unlucky against Florida State, it’s not every week you lose a game on a blocked PAT with time expired, but they bounced back with a trouncing of Southern last weekend. Garrett Nussmeier still managed to turn in a nightmare performance despite the 65-17 scoreline, and it would appear that Jayden Daniels will be the starting signal caller going forward.
The tight game line demonstrates how close this one feels on paper, but the LSU defense feels like it may just hold the upper hand over the Mississippi offensive line at this point. The Tigers boast a formidable front that is likely to trouble a conventional pocket passer, and Brian Kelly will be chomping at the bit to showcase he can out-coach his SEC peers.
Key Matchup: Mehki Garner (CB, LSU) vs Caleb Ducking (WR, MSU) – Ducking has had a huge start to the year, catching three touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season. His 6’5” frame makes him an imposing matchup for any opposition CB and he’s been targeted a lot in the red zone. Garner has won the starting corner job for the Tigers over the last two weeks and he’ll have his mind set on following the long list of LSU defensive backs who have made the jump to the NFL.
Game Line: Mississippi State 2.5 point favourites at the time of writing.
Miami @ Texas A&M
Sunday – 2am (UK) – College Station, Texas
Preview: Texas A&M spared a lot of team’s blushes last weekend. On a day which saw a number of big name programmes fall to upsets, the Aggies’ defeat to App State felt like the worst of the bunch. It wasn’t the case that they got blown away, but Jimbo Fisher’s team just couldn’t get the ball moving at all – with Haynes King throwing for less than 100 yards. That performance has led to reports that Max Johnson will take the first snap under center at the weekend, he’ll bring a big play threat but LSU fans will remember that he could go down injured at any moment.
Their opponents come into the game with a lot of hype but also some striking deficiencies. Miami’s offensive line was poor last weekend against Southern Miss, with Tyler Van Dyke coming under pressure throughout the game. Thankfully for Mario Cristobal, Ole Miss transfer, Henry Parrish took over in the run game, allowing Van Dyke to lean on some play action calls and a fleaflicker to put the game to bed.
Defensively, A&M struggled against Camrun Peoples and App State’s run game. There’s every chance that the Hurricanes come out the blocks and try to stuff Parrish and co down the Aggies’ throats early, before reverting to Van Dyke’s monster arm once the game progresses. Whether A&M can soak that up and finally kick their offense into life is the key question.
Key Matchup: Miami offensive line vs A&M defensive line – this feels very obvious, but whoever wins the battle in the trenches will win this game. Miami has every chance of going into College Station and leaving with a win, but if they fail to pass block then they’ll leave with a dinged up TVD and not a lot of points on the board. It’ll be fascinating to see which unit emerges on top.
Game Line: Texas A&M 5.5 favourites at the time of writing.
By Andy Moore – @ajmoore21