Just like in school, college football’s first week saw a couple casualties. There’s always that kid in class you can tell isn’t going to make it.
Week two, despite not a single matchup of ranked teams, was entertaining enough. Generally speaking, this is the easiest part of the semester. There aren’t many serious assignments. You nod in-and-out of consciousness during class and, for the most part, you’re still all good. Sorry, Cowpokes.
Before you realize it, we’re in the third week already. By now, professors have stopped caring if you like them. Seemingly, they’re out for blood and here comes that first exam. Chances are it’s going to make you wish you’d paid better attention and taken higher quality notes.
Six of the top 10 teams in college football are playing what I consider “real games” this week. These are the tough tests in week three:
#6 Houston at Cincinnati
Thursday night on ESPN
By no means is Cincinnati a great team, but playing your first true road game against a conference foe in primetime on a Thursday is certainly a challenge. Account for the way the Bearcats and the record-breaking Nippert Stadium crowd showed up, and this game qualifies as a tough test.
It was good to see Houston follow up its solid win over Oklahoma two weeks ago. No, the Cougars did not dominate an inferior opponent until late. Still, Houston is a legitimate national title contender.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Houston gave up a touchdown, opening up a 16-12 deficit, Cincinnati failing a two-point try. The Cougars answered with an efficient 10-play, 61-yard drive, going up 19-16.
Then they intercepted a pass on the following drive and Greg Ward Jr. led them 60 yards down the field, using 11 plays for a second consecutive touchdown drive. Cincinnati’s next drive was another interception, this one a house call. The first play of the next drive was a second consecutive pick six.
All of a sudden it was 40-16 with 3:40 left. I bring this up because those who didn’t watch will look at the score and laugh, not knowing it took the Cougars’ best to finally dispose of the Bearcats.
This was a great game, but the most interesting part is that it’ll be a Big 12 matchup next year. That’s right, keep that expansion mumbo jumbo rolling.
It’s no secret Houston is the prize pig for the weakest of the Power 5. Interestingly, the Cincinnati Bearcats stepped up to the occasion and gave us an unusually exciting Thursday night game. I think that scores them major points with the Big 12 big wigs.
Anyway, the Houston Cougars came away with a win similar to the one they’ll need every week the rest of the season to keep the Power-5-Playoff-busting dream alive.
#2 Florida State at #10 Louisville
Saturday noon on ABC
It’s really a shame that these two, along with Clemson, are all in the Atlantic division, while the Coastal can’t boast one team legitimately on the same level. Essentially, this is an ACC semi-final. The early season aspect makes it all the more interesting.
Lamar Jackson needs to do his thing if he’s going to be a serious Heisman contender this fall. He’s wowed us with big numbers and flashy plays against inferior teams, thus far. As Famous Jameis reminded them against Ole Miss two weeks ago, the Seminoles ain’t no puppies.
Winston goes on to say, “We got the best running back in the whole damn league,” referring to the best college running back in the whole damn country, Dalvin Cook. Watch Cook feast on the Cardinals.
#1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss
Saturday 3:30 p.m. on CBS
The Tide have lost but thrice in the past two seasons. Two of those losses have come at the hands of the Rebels. Recent history is telling us this is the toughest test for Nick Saban and the big, bad Bama boys. I believe in superstitious stuff like that.
This’ll be closer than the experts think. Break out your best bowties and slickest seersuckers. It’s a game day at the Grove with Verne and Gary.
#3 Oh*o State at #14 Oklahoma
Saturday 7:30 p.m. on FOX
Incredibly, Oh*o State still hasn’t lost a true road game under Urban Meyer. That includes one game in a ranked opponent’s barn in each of his four seasons as Head Buckeye.
You all know I have no love for Oh*o State, but I think it’s absolutely awesome it’s playing this game in Norman, Oklahoma.
The kicker is: Oklahoma cannot afford to take another loss, even if it is a non-conference contest. I’m curious how, if, that motivates the Fighting Covered Wagons.
I’ll be focusing on the quarterback play. We’ve got two of the most electric QBs in the nation, J.T. Barrett and Baker Mayfield, going head-to-head. Expect a flurry of points late as these two go back-and-forth, after they get warmed up.
USC at #7 Stanford
Saturday 8 p.m. on ABC
USC could well have yet another average team that’ll live on unwarranted hype. Still, this is a real rivalry game that Stanford will not be looking past.
The Cardinal took both the regular season square-off and the Pac-12 Championship Game last year. The Trojans won the two matchups previous to that, including the last time this rivalry was played at Stanford, in 2014.
Five Progress Reports Pending
We learned a good deal about Houston on Thursday night. You don’t have to go out on a limb to say that we’ll know much more about five other top ten teams after this weekend.
Good luck on your exams. Hope you did a little studying in-between beers.
E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.
Photo: Flickr user – Ken Lund