The Best Game in Each Conference: Week 3

September 12, 2019

ACC: North Carolina at Wake Forest (FRIDAY)

 

 

It is hard to believe that a game between North Carolina, who went 2-10 a year ago, and Wake Forest - a team that up until Dave Clawson took over was a perennial cellar dweller in the ACC - is the best game to watch in a Power Five conference this week, but here we are. That is not to say, however, that these two teams aren’t better than in 2018 and this should be a good game. 

 

The Tar Heels are 2-0 after a gritty win over the Miami Hurricanes last week and Mack Brown has this team going in the right direction. The Demon Deacons have been impressive on the offensive side of the ball as they seem to score at will. 

 

This should be a pretty good matchup between two teams that want to stay undefeated and have some momentum going into the meat of their conference schedule. The Tar Heels have the veteran coach on their side and don’t want to stall their current path.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 28, Wake Forest 21

 

American Athletic: Stanford at No. 17 UCF

 

 

The Stanford Cardinal had a rough time against USC’s freshman phenom quarterback Kedon Slovis last week and they hope to get back on track as they travel across the country to face off against the UCF Knights in Orlando. The Knights come into this game with a 27 regular season game winning streak and a win over a Power Five team like the Cardinal would certainly do them a ton of good in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. 

 

The one thing that is different for the Knights from the 2017 and 2018 seasons is their quarterback position. McKenzie Milton was their guy for their undefeated runs over the last two years and would have been their guy in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU if not for an injury. Now, they have a legitimate quarterback controversy with three great players in Darriel Mack Jr, who took over for Milton last year, Brandon Wimbush - the Notre Dame transfer - and true freshman Dillon Gabriel, who has played much better in the first two games and seemingly has won the starting job against Stanford. This could play a big role in the game this week and all three could likely make an appearance. 

 

The Cardinal have a bit of a question at quarterback as well with injured veteran starter K.J. Costello being replaced for Davis Mills, the junior who threw for 237 yards in his first career start last week against USC. Expect to see Costello back this week, but without projected top ten draft pick Walker Little up front. Losing Little for the year to injury will play a big factor for the Cardinal. UCF gets past Stanford and keeps their streak alive...for now. 

 

Prediction: UCF 31, Stanford 26

 

Big 12: No. 19 Iowa at Iowa State

 

It is another first for College GameDay as they are finally heading to Aames, Iowa, somewhere that has been seething to have the GameDay crew show up. ESPN could not have picked a better game to show up for than the Battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy. This game is always an entertaining one and the 2019 version should be no different. 

 

The Cyclones are missing David Montgomery this year and it certainly showed in their season opener against FCS opponent Northern Iowa, who nearly came away with the upset. They had last week off and quarterback Brock Purdy should be ready to lead his team to a huge win. The Hawkeyes are looking to take the next step in the Big Ten and if they can get a win on the road against their biggest rivals, they could build momentum to a conference title run. 

 

This is should be a very good game between two good teams, but the Cyclones are not going to want to disappoint the GameDay crew. It should be a wild morning in Aames and an even better evening. Cyclones win a close one after shaking off the early season jitters. 

 

Prediction: Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

 

Big Ten: Pittsburgh at No. 13 Penn State

This is another big in-state rivalry that should be interesting to watch. However, I don’t think is going to be nearly as good a game as the previous matchup. Penn State is much better than people expected them to be this year, especially after losing Trace McSorley to the NFL and still trying to replace Saquon Barkley. 

 

Quarterback Sean Clifford has been a stout player for the Nittany Lions so far, throwing for nearly 600 yards and leading the team in rushing. Jan Johnson has also been a machine on the defensive side of the ball in his attempt to join the elite class of linebackers that have suited up in Happy Valley. 

 

Pitt has not been very good this year, getting beat up by Virginia and barely scraping by Ohio last week. This does not bode well against one of the top teams in the country on Saturday. The only thing Penn State cannot do is look past the Panthers to the Maryland Terrapins, who have been a hot team this year as well. 

 

Prediction: Penn State 42, Pitt 13

 

Conference USA: Southern Mississippi at Troy

 

It is difficult to predict what this game will produce, considering that fans have not seen much from either team. Troy played Week 1 against FCS Campbell and Southern Miss beat Alcorn State, a team that nearly won the Celebration Bowl in 2018, and lost to Mississippi State last week. This game should be a good gauge of how both of these teams should do in 2019. 

The Troy Trojans had a pretty good 2018 season, going 10-3 and winning the Dollar General Bowl. However, they are now without head coach Neal Brown, who left for West Virginia after last season. The Golden Eagles have fully adopted the Air Raid offense and wide receiver Jordan Mitchell has benefited with 227 yards and being on pace for nearly 1,400 yards this year. 

 

The Golden Eagles did not have a great 2018 season and they hope to get things turned around this year. A win over the defending Sun Belt champions could help their cause. 

 

Prediction: Southern Mississippi 34, Troy 23

 

Mid-American: Georgia State at Western Michigan

 

The Georgia State Panthers have been one of the most intriguing teams to watch this season. They scored a huge win over the Tennessee Volunteers, which looks a little less impressive after the Volunteers’ Week 2 loss to BYU, and then barely scraped by FCS Furman in a comeback win. They travel up to Kalamazoo to play the Western Michigan Broncos, who have had an inauspicious start to their season. 

 

Panther quarterback Dan Ellington is having a terrific start to his senior year. He has thrown for seven touchdowns - he only threw 12 in 2018 - and is a leading rusher for Georgia State with 147 yards and a touchdown. The defensive front for the Panthers has been scary good as well, which could spell trouble for the Broncos on the ground. 

 

Western Michigan has racked up over 600 yards through the air but have barely cracked 150 on the ground in two games. This sets up a scenario where Georgia State should be able to get to 3-0 a year after going just 2-10. The Panthers should be able to get the win, but in a fun, high-scoring contest. 

 

Prediction: Georgia State 44, Western Michigan 35

 

Mountain West: Hawaii at No. 23 Washington

 

If you would have told me the Washington Huskies would be 1-1 right now and already fighting for their lives in the Pac-12 North, I would have told you that was insane. But here we are after the Huskies dropped their game to Cal 20-19 last week. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are upset-minded this week as they are off to a hot 2-0 start and have already knocked off two Pac-12 foes this year, albeit they were Arizona and Oregon State. 

 

Cole McDonald has been nearly untouchable in the Rainbow Warriors’ Air Raid offense. He has thrown for 799 yards and eight touchdowns, but has also thrown five interceptions. However, the Huskies’ defense has not been the same it has been in the past and that could be a big help for Hawaii. 

 

However, Washington does have Jacob Eason under center and Salvon Ahmed carrying the load. I believe they will control the ground game and keep McDonald and his two 200-plus yard receivers off the field. The Huskies keep Hawaii from making it 3-for-3 against the Pac-12.

 

Prediction: Washington 35, Hawaii 21

 

Pac-12: Air Force at Colorado

 

The Colorado Buffaloes are an up-and-down team and have been so for the last few years. But, I do believe they have figured things out and this could be the year they make a run at a conference title and even a spot in the College Football Playoff. They will take on in-state foe Air Force and will have to keep the Falcons from breaking big runs if they are going to get to 3-0. 

 

The Falcons get the job done on the ground as all the service academies do. But simply, this probably will not be enough to pull the upset on Colorado, despite the team getting a huge 48-7 win over Colgate, one of the best defenses in the FCS from 2018. 

 

Colorado boasts an impressive group of receivers and projected top NFL pick Laviska Shenault Jr. has not really even got his season going yet. Steven Montez has really matured over the last few years and that has shown with over 600 yards passing, including an incredible 96 yard pass last week against Nebraska. The Buffaloes should get this win easily as they will be able to score at will. 

 

Prediction: Colorado 35, Air Force 14

 

SEC: No. 9 Florida at Kentucky

 

This game was adversely affected last week in the Kentucky-Toledo matchup when quarterback Terry Wilson went down for the season with a knee injury. He was going to be the catalyst in the Wildcats’ bid for a huge upset over the Florida Gators, who lost to Kentucky for the first time last year. 

 

The Wildcats, now led by quarterback Sawyer Smith, are looking to pull out the upset. Smith is unfamiliar with the speed of SEC football, but not college football as he led Troy to a Sun Belt championship and win in the Dollar General Bowl in 2018. It will be interesting to see how he will be able to compete against the Gators in his first SEC start. 

 

The Gators’ defense should make a big impact in this game as the team has 15 sacks through two games. If they can put pressure on Smith, this game could get ugly quick. However, despite the scary Gators’ defense, I am taking Kentucky to pull the upset thanks to a gritty performance from Smith and Kash Daniel leading the Wildcats’ defense with some big plays in coverage. 

 

Prediction: Kentucky 20, Florida 14

 

Sun Belt: Memphis at South Alabama

 

 

The South Alabama Jaguars are better than people think they are after they took the Nebraska Cornhuskers offense to the limit in their season opener. However, the Memphis Tigers have a big win over Ole Miss under their belt this year. This game could end up being one of the more underrated games of Week 3. 

 

The Jaguars have not got a ton of work through the air, but they focus a lot of their offense on the ground. They have racked up almost 500 yards on the ground in two games with Tra Minter recording 226 of them. The Memphis Tigers come in with a balanced attack on offense with Brady White looking more and more like an NFL quarterback each week and their rushing attack getting better every game. 

 

Memphis hopes to be the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six Bowl this year and they will have to continue to play like they have if they want to. Memphis might struggle early, but they will pull away in the second half. 

 

Prediction: Memphis 38, South Alabama 17

 

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