In the college football world, the heavyweights take center stage. The big matchups get the big audiences, and not to mention the big money. This week, however, we focus on the games fans might otherwise ignore. Games where the underdogs of the past get overlooked. I’m here to tell you, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” So without further ado, I give you your Week 3 matchups to watch out for.
North Dakota State (2-0) @ 13 Iowa (2-0), 11:00 AM CDT ESPN2
If you pay much attention to college football at all, you know who North Dakota State is. The Bison will step onto the familiar stage that is an FBS stadium on Saturday. The five-time reigning FCS national champions roll into Iowa City glowing with confidence, and why shouldn’t they? The Bison haven’t lost a game to an FBS team since 2009. In that stretch, they’ve taken down three Big 12 foes (Kansas ‘10, Kansas State ’13, and Iowa State ’14), along with Minnesota in 2011, and Colorado State of the Mountain West in 2012.
This proves to be a different challenge for the perennial “giant killers”. The Iowa Hawkeyes finished an unblemished 12-0 regular season in 2015, before falling in their final two games. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes are off to a strong start in 2016 but they aren’t taking NDSU lightly. In a press conference earlier this week, Ferentz said on the Bison’s championship culture, “It carries over to this year. They’ve already had two overtime wins. If you look at their team right now, they don’t have a guy in their program that hasn’t been part of a championship. They have great belief in what they do, and for good reason.”
This is honestly one of my favorite matchups of the season thus far. The Bison are a solid team and they generally serve their FBS opponents a nice fat slice of humble pie, but will this one be any different? I say no. In my opinion, this will be a thriller down to the end, but look for some veteran big plays down the stretch from North Dakota State’s defense. Leading tacklers Nick DeLuca and MJ Stumpf anchor the linebackers, and with Iowa’s rushing attack the Bison ‘backers will need to come up big.
JACKSON’S PICK: NDSU 27-24
25 Miami (FL) (2-0) @ Appalachian State (1-1), 11:00 AM CDT ESPN
Mark Richt is undefeated as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. But then again, I think I would be too against Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic. The Canes whooped up on FAMU to open up the Richt era, and the offense shined, putting up over 500 yards in just over 22 minutes of possession. The defense looked even better, allowing just 3 points even though the Rattlers had the ball for nearly 2/3 of the game. But again, I stress that FAMU isn’t exactly a formidable foe. FAU put up a bit more of a fight in week two but still the Canes flexed their muscles in a 38-10 win. Offensively however, junior Quarterback Brad Kaaya threw 2 picks without finding the end zone. Where Kaaya struggled, Mark Walton picked up the slack, rushing for 155 yards and four scores on just 17 touches. I’ve got mixed feelings on the U.
On the other sideline, Appalachian State tried to tear apart the football world on opening night. The Mountaineers led then 9th ranked Tennessee in the fourth quarter before falling in overtime. On the road, in Knoxville, Tennessee, David came oh-so-close to slaying Goliath, but fell just short. Lead by senior running back Marcus Cox, the Mountaineers took out their frustrations in week two against Old Dominion in a 31-7 route. Cox rushed 18 times for 133 yards and 4 scores.
The Mountaineers are new to the FBS, but that won’t scare them. Appalachian State has beaten big time teams before. Most notably beating Michigan at The Big House back in 2007. But never before have they hosted a juggernaut like Miami in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The 24,000 seat stadium tucked away in the trees will be full like never before. Tickets are currently selling for $184 at the cheapest on StubHub! The environment will be unlike any ever experienced at Appalachian State, however I think that Miami will have just a little too much for the Mountaineers.
Hold on to your seats folks, because this one might be a barnburner. Louisiana Tech has proven of late that they can hang with power five conference teams. Last season, they took Kansas State to triple overtime on the road, as well as taking Arkansas down to the wire in Fayetteville just two weeks ago. This time, the Bulldogs take on Texas Tech in Lubbock, and before you write this off as a Red Raider win, let me drop some knowledge on you.
In just two games, Texas Tech has given up 85 points. 68 of them came last week against Arizona State. That’s right, the only quality opponent the Red Raiders have faced thus far nearly dropped 70 on them, along with 650 yards of total offense. That right there should be enough to get you to question this Texas Tech defense. If there’s one thing you should be confident in, it is Texas Tech’s offense. Lead by junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Red Raiders have put up 124 points through two games. Mahomes has thrown for 10 touchdowns and over 1000 yards. That right there is a stat. Over 1000 passing yards in just two games makes you think maybe Mahomes can bail out his defense.
For Louisiana Tech, head coach Skip Holtz and his squad have a few weapons at their disposal. For example, the wide receiving core, led by senior Trent Taylor (256 yards, 3 TD’s) and junior Carlos Henderson (109 yards). The Bulldogs have a fairly pass heavy offense but that’s only because they’re currently still coming off of replacing Kenneth Dixon, who scored 87 touchdowns in his Louisiana Tech career, which is second best all time in NCAA history. However, Jared Craft will see the majority of the carries for LA Tech, having rushed 23 times for 163 yards and a score so far. As for the quarterback situation, senior Ryan Higgins will drive the bus for the Bulldogs. This is just his first year as a starter, having played behind Jeff Driskel last season, but he’s still a veteran with a lot of skill, not to mention plenty of tools around him to put points on the board.
I could go on and on about both of these teams and their offenses, but what will really prove to be important is their defenses, and in my honest opinion, Texas Tech has some real problems there. With Texas Tech’s weak secondary, I think the Bulldogs will capitalize one too many times on some blown coverages.
When the Colorado Buffaloes roll into Ann Arbor on Saturday, they may be sporting a different look than usual, at least according to their depth chart. The story behind this is that Jim Harbaugh doesn’t believe in making his two deep known to the public, but when Michigan asked Colorado for theirs, that’s where the fun began. Colorado’s public relations director, and I assume a few others, got a little creative and changed the names and information of every player on the chart. Most surprisingly, Colorado decided to make a change at starting quarterback. According to the depth chart, Elmer Fudd will be making his first career start under center for Colorado, and when asked how he felt about losing his job, Sefo Liufau said: “It’s disappointing, but I’ll have his back the whole way.” On the defensive side of the ball, watch out for the safety combo of Bernie Sanders and Bill Walton. Walton’s length combined with Sanders’ strategy will be sure to make Michigan pay for it.
All jokes aside now both of these teams are relatively untested, but Michigan would seem to hold the playmaker advantage. Michigan has whooped up on Hawaii and Central Florida, two very down teams, and Colorado has done virtually the same against Colorado State and Idaho State. Seriously, neither of these squads have played anyone. So we don’t exactly know what we’re going to get yet. From the looks of it, Colorado is a much more confident group this year, especially under Liufau’s direction offensively. Sefo, aside from having the coolest name on the team, has thrown for over 500 yards, and ran for 120 more. Combining that with the rushing attack of Junior Phillip Lindsay, Colorado’s offense will surely be the toughest task for Michigan through three weeks.
Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan team didn’t think Colorado’s depth chart was funny, and I have a problem with that. What I don’t have a problem with is Michigan’s offense. Wilton Speight takes the snaps for the Wolverines, and makes every one of them count. The junior has thrown for over 500 yards and 8 scores in just two games this season, and to back him up true freshman running back Chris Evans has rushed for 147 yards and 2 TDs on just 17 touches. Miichigan can and will score against Colorado, but will Michigan’s defense trip up the Buffs? The answer to that question is yes. Yes, they can. Safety Jabril Peppers will lead the charge for the Wolverine Defense and, if I had to guess, I would say he will be the one to make the game changing plays when it counts.