Pick ’em Week 3
Even without a top-five matchup, this weekend should reveal plenty about college football’s biggest and most exciting programs.
Who is a legitimate contender to win its respective division and perhaps reach the College Football Playoff? Who, to this point, has been overrated and overhyped?
Let’s find out.
No. 23 Tennessee versus No. 24 Florida
Alex: Saturday will serve as the Gators’ home opener, one they’ve been itching to play, no doubt. With rival Tennessee coming to town and last week’s game against Northern Colorado cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, Florida will be hungry and feeling as though it has something to prove following its loss against Michigan. After a near loss to Georgia Tech in week one, the Vols will enter the swamp hoping to set the tone for the SEC East and leave Gainesville victorious. However, the raucous atmosphere combined with a stifling Gator defense should be enough for Florida to get the W.
Josh: The Swamp will be filled with thousands of rowdy Gator fans chomping at the bit for a win. Junior quarterback Quinten Dormady will look to give the Volunteers their first winning streak in the series since 2004. The Gators, on the other hand, have more questions than answers. Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett, among others, are still suspended. Neither Malik Zaire or Feleipe Franks has seized control of the quarterback job. Tennessee wins using a heavy dose of running back John Kelly.
No. 3 Clemson versus No. 14 Louisville
Alex: Lamar Jackson is out for revenge. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will look to prove his team can compete with the best of them. The game should be a shootout, similar to how it played out last year. Clemson was able to lean on its home crowd and experienced signal-caller Deshaun Watson last year, but the Cardinals will have the advantage in both categories this year. Because of that and Lamar Jackson’s increased ability to throw the ball downfield with accuracy, Louisville comes out on top.
Josh: Lamar Jackson versus Deshaun Watson was one of the top quarterback matchups of 2016. Watson is gone. Jackson remains. The Louisville signal-caller is back to his Heisman form this year, shooting for a signature win. But the Cardinals are feeling the loss of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Mississippi State. On the Clemson side, junior quarterback Kelly Bryant has waited patiently behind Watson. With many of the same skill players returning on offense, the Clemson advantage lies on the defensive side of the ball. Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant compose the best defensive line in college football. Their ability to make plays allows Clemson to win.
No. 4 USC versus Texas
Alex: The last time these two teams got together, they were playing in the Rose Bowl for a national championship. Vince Young played like a man possessed, converting on a fourth down for the winning touchdown in the final moments and ultimately winning the game for Texas. But that was 11 years ago. While one team has College Football Playoff expectations this year, the other is just trying to become bowl eligible. Going against a Longhorn defense that was all but eaten alive against Maryland during week one, quarterback Sam Darnold should have a field day and lead the Trojans to victory in the Coliseum.
Josh: In a rematch 11 years in the making, the Trojans and Longhorns are set to square off in Los Angeles. Texas will wish it had Vince Young back because USC’s quarterback is on the same level as Matt Leinart. Sam Darnold got his season going last week in an impressive showing against Stanford and its formidable defense. Texas has its work cut out after giving up 51 points to Maryland. Tom Herman has inherited a team with many holes, and the Trojans will have their most complete team since Pete Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks. USC wins in a blowout.
No. 18 Kansas State versus Vanderbilt
Alex: Vanderbilt has been on the come-up recently. This is a team with one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC – and a defense to match. Head coach Derek Mason exudes a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, and it translates onto the field when the Commodores play. Going up against a very talented Wildcat team, Vanderbilt will hope to prove it’s a major player in the SEC East. A highly ranked but unproven Kansas State team will arrive in Nashville as the favorite, but once the ball is kicked off, the nation will see what Vanderbilt is made of. Vanderbilt wins and catapults into the top 25.
Josh: If one were to bet on this game, take the under; Derek Mason and Bill Snyder each preach defense and run-based offenses. Fifth-year senior quarterback Jesse Ertz leads the Wildcats as a true dual threat anywhere on the gridiron. Vanderbilt has an experienced running back in Ralph Webb, one of the more underrated players in the SEC, and a dangerous quarterback in Kyle Shurmur to match. Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt team gets a signature win.