Teams that need to make a statement in week three
Last week the College football world witnessed several upsets that reminded us it’s still any given autumn Saturday.
This weekend won’t have as many Power Five programs in action, but will feature the season’s first matchup of ranked teams. Not to mention two Big 12 teams will be taking the field for the first time this fall.
It’s still an opportunity for several Group of Five programs to make a statement. Plus a couple of ACC teams get a chance to rebound and get back on the winning track. Bottom line, every game matters and no team is too powerful to take the week off.
Cincinnati: If there was ever a chance that a Group of Five team could crack the Playoffs, the 2020 season is the year. The Bearcats are currently ranked No. 13 in the latest AP Poll, their best since 2009. Not to mention Cincinnati is the highest-ranked Group of Five team entering week three. Austin Peay has an 0-2 start and is an inferior opponent for Cincinnati. There’s no denying some pressure will be on Luke Fickell to represent for all the little brothers of the sport and keep the non-Power Five programs relevant in the Playoff conversation. Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder is one of the league’s best, with 38 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions over the past two seasons. Fickell will depend on him to improve a Bearcats offense that finished 80th nationally in total yards per game. On defense the Bearcats should be able to dominate will likely shutout the Governors like Pittsburgh did last week.
Duke: The Blue Devils surprisingly played decent on the road last week in South Bend. Although Duke lost to a top-10 Notre Dame team, the game was a closer than the score indicated. Chase Brice threw for 259 yards, but Notre Dame’s defense held Duke scoreless in the fourth quarter. Not to mention the Blue Devils backfield only managed 73 yards on the ground. However, Boston College is next up on the slate and will be breaking in a new coach. The Blue Devils only played the Eagles three times during the past decade, and haven’t clashed since 2015. However, Duke has won the past two meetings. Holding onto the ball will be key for Cutcliffe’s team because losing two fumbles again might wind up costing them another victory. The time to strike while the skillet is hot is now for Cutcliffe’s team and the road through the ACC doesn’t get any easier. After all, Duke hasn’t started 0-2 in ACC conference play since 2016.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets pulled off the best upset last week that consisted of ACC teams. Geoff Collins’ team looked vastly improved in year two and was dominant against the run against Florida State. Not to mention the Yellow Jackets racked up 438 yards of total offense, a big step up from the 286 they averaged per game last season. However, Central Florida has been arguably the best Group of Five team as of recent, with three-straight double-digit win campaigns. The Knights are No. 14 in the latest AP Poll and they feast on opportunities of playing Power Five opponents. Still, this will be the perfect opportunity for Georgia Tech to show that last week’s win was no fluke. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims showed promise after he threw for 277 yards against an elite Seminole defense. A win over the Knights would mean the Yellow Jacket’s first crack in the top-25 for the first time since September of 2015.
Miami: The College football world noticed the Hurricanes’ improvement on offense last Thursday. Although it was against UAB, Miami steamrolled for a jaw-dropping, 337 yards on the ground and didn’t reveal much of the new playbook. D’Eriq King wasn’t asked to do much, but be a great game manager for the Hurricanes. Now Miami has to travel on the road to play a talented Louisville team under the lights. The College Gameday boys will be in the building and for a second-straight game all eyes will be on King. Unlike the Blazers, the Cardinals’ offense can put points on the board and the Hurricanes will have to throw the ball more often to trade punches in what should be a shootout game. Manny Diaz wants his team to build on the momentum they established in their first game. However, Louisville looked vastly improved on both sides of the ball from a year ago. It’s the season’s first matchup of ranked teams so something has to give.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels looked extremely overrated in their first game and needed a 21-point fourth quarter to pull out the victory. Quarterback Sam Howell had an average outing because he threw two interceptions and struggled with consistency at times. However, it was North Carolina’s defense that was the most impressive against Syracuse. The unit only allowed 202 total yards to the Orange, including a mere 68 on the ground. The potential is there for the Tar Heels to be a legitimate top-25 team and they should be able to show their worth this Saturday. Charlotte is the little brother and should be a cakewalk for North Carolina. The Tar Heels are expected to more sharp on offense, without three turnovers and several penalties again. After all, Mack Brown’s team is sitting at No. 12 in the latest AP Poll, their highest ranking since December of 2015. If North Carolina has any trouble with its’ in-state foe, it might be time to hit the panic button. So expect an extremely motivated Tar Heel team for game two.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were one of three Big 12 teams that had their game postponed from pandemic complications. Now Oklahoma State will be one of two Big 12 teams in action for week three. Mike Gundy’s boys needs a great showing after the league’s debacle last Saturday. The Cowboys are No. 11 in the AP Poll, their highest ranking since October of 2017. After the rollercoaster off season Oklahoma State had, motivation shouldn’t be a problem. Gundy has arguably the best running back in the nation in Chuba Hubbard, a NFL ready wide receiver in Tylan Wallace and a plethora of returning starters on defense. However, the Cowboys sometimes play down to the level of their competition. The underdogs usually play loose and have nothing to lose. Regardless of the matter Oklahoma State has outscored in-state foe Tulsa 99-45 over the past two meetings. College football fanatics are expecting more of the same. Although the Cowboys have a pattern of doing better under the radar instead of the in the spotlight, Gundy should have them ready.
Syracuse: Although the Orange suffered a 25-point loss last week, they showed how scrappy they can be. Syracuse was a three-touchdown underdog to North Carolina, but the score was 10-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Playing the top-20 Tar Heels close should be more than enough motivation for Dino Babers’ team, plus their defense generated three turnovers. Syracuse needs to run the ball much better though, after having only 68 yards on the ground last week. Tommy DeVito can’t continue being the teams’ leading passer and rusher. The quarterback needs his teammates to step up in order to keep opposing defenses from keying in on him. It’s going to be a tall order for a second-straight game because the Orange will be going up against another top-25 team. Pittsburgh was one of two FBS squads that had a shutout victory last Saturday. Syracuse’s secondary will be facing another talented quarterback in Kenny Pickett. Babers usually thrives as an underdog and this will be another opportunity. It’s still any given autumn Saturday.