DENVER (CBS4) – We’re rapidly approaching Week 3 of the college football season, and even though conference races haven’t heated up yet, there’s been plenty of action already. This week brings a mix of big matchups and quick victories.
Here are five games that are going to be worth keeping your on TV:
1. Ole Miss vs. Alabama – This game is interesting for one big reason: both teams were really good last year and both teams took surprising steps backwards. For the first time since the 2008 SEC Championship game, Alabama will not be the clear favorite going into this game.
Alabama and Ole Miss put up video game numbers in their first two games. Yes, the Tide put the smack-down on Wisconsin in the season opener, but Wisconsin never put up much of a fight. Then they beat Middle Tennessee State, but only by 27 points. The Bama of old would have put up at least 50, not 37.
Ole Miss is also a bit of a quandary, but in a different way. They put up great numbers, but against weaker competition in UT Martin and Fresno State. Ole Miss beat Bama last year, but with a different cast. Their quarterback, Chad Kelly, was playing at a junior college last year. Now in the SEC West, it’s a bit different.
That’s pretty much what you can expect from this game. Yes, 50 points will be scored. Yes, Alabama is favored, but only by one touchdown. Watch the quarterbacks and how they work the offense. Ole Miss is third in total yards, while Alabama is 18th, while nether rank in the top 30 in total defense. This one should be a shootout.
2. Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech – Notre Dame might be the hardest team to predict in all of college football. In the preseason and early season they were hailed as a playoff contender and dark horse to win the National Championship. That took a big hit last week when they struggled to beat a mediocre Virginia team. When quarterback Malik Zaire went down with a season-ending ankle injury, the team’s ability to make the playoff took an undeniable hit. Some still see them as a threat. Only time will tell if that is true.
Georgia Tech has a Top 25 defense. They can also run the triple option under head coach Paul Johnson, who has one of the greatest option minds in the game. The Irish’s defense is barely in the Top 50, statistically. Look for the Yellow Jackets to dominate on offense, wearing Notre Dame’s defense down and eventually breaking them. It’s debatable whether or not Notre Dame’s offense can keep up with a brand new, inexperienced quarterback running the offense, and guiding star wide receiver Will Fuller.
3. UCLA vs. BYU – Is there any team in the country through the first two weeks of the season more exciting than BYU? They’re 2-0 with both of those wins coming on last-second Hail Mary passes into the end zone. Oh, by the way, they also lost their starting quarterback in the first game of the season, but their offense hasn’t missed a beat. They proved that when they beat a ranked Boise State team.
Their schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as they travel to Los Angeles to take on No. 10 UCLA. The reason their win streak most likely stops there is not because their offense stops clicking. It will most likely be because their defense can’t keep up with UCLA’s machine. The Bruins have been putting up crazy numbers, racking up 515 yards a game and averaging 35 points per game so far.
Quarterback Josh Rosen has been nothing short of fascinating to watch. His completion percentage of 65 percent and his quarterback rating of 142.1 is outstanding. Not enough for you? How about this — he’s a freshman.
4. The Mountain West vs. the Pac-12 and the Big 10 – Nine of the 12 teams in the Mountain West Conference play against either Big 12 or Pac-12 teams. That could be either really good or really bad.
In Week 1, the Mountain West went 10-2. Granted, it was against much lesser opponents, but when 84 percent of your conference wins on any given day, that’s okay.
Considering the Mountain West plays nine out of 12 games this weekend against either Pac-12 or Big 10 teams, you can bet most of them will at least be worth a watch. Look mainly at Air Force vs. Michigan State (option attack vs. a Top 15 rushing defense), San Jose State vs. Oregon State (Both defenses rank in the Top 50, and OSU is only a touchdown favorite), and of course, Colorado vs. Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, mostly just because it’s a rivalry game, and regardless of conference or level of play, rivalry games are always can’t miss.
Last weekend the Mountain West only saw one win with Air Force’s come-from-behind win at home against San Jose State.
It’s very likely some these teams will lose. Some will lose by quite a bit. The great thing about sports though, is that anyone can beat anyone. That number in front doesn’t mean anything.
5. Stanford vs. USC – After years of scandals following them around, USC is finally back in the national spotlight, nobody is surprised. Their ability to pump out NFL-quality talent year after year is unmatched, really. They may prove that yet again this year with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s a true sophomore, so he can’t bolt for the NFL for another year, but if he keeps playing at the level he has so far (14 rec., 281 yds., 3 TDs in 2 games), don’t be surprised if he does as soon as he can.
These two teams have traded upsets in recent years. In 2012, No. 21 Stanford beat No. 2 USC 21-14. In 2013, then-unranked USC beat No. 5 Stanford, possibly costing them a trip to the National Championship Game. Saying these two teams don’t really like each other is a bit of an understatement. No. 6 USC goes into this game favored by 10 points, but with rivalry games, it’s hard to count the underdog out. The Trojans are the favorite Saturday, thanks to a great home field advantage unlike any other in college football. Don’t count the Cardinal out, though. They were upset as double-digit favorites earlier this year, and they’re all but eliminated from the national conversation, but that doesn’t mean their season is over. A win over a Top 10 team would go a long way toward getting them back on track.
BONUS GAME: Northwestern vs. Duke – A seemingly meaningless non-conference game between two teams that will have a tough time ultimately competing for a conference crown, this has the potential to be Saturday’s most exciting game.
On defense, Northwestern has been the pleasant surprise of 2015. Junior Cornerback Matthew Harris is third in the FBS in interception yards, on just two interceptions. That means when he picks the ball, he finds the open field. That’s invaluable if you’re a defensive coordinator, and if you’re an offensive coordinator, it keeps you up late at night. Duke, on the other hand, has a Top 10 defense so far this season. Just seven points were given up all year, and an average of 230 yards per game they give up. Those numbers are outstanding.
On offense, Northwestern has been pedestrian at best. However, back on week one, they beat a favored Stanford team and picked by some to make a playoff run this year. That stat is hard to ignore.
The edge on offense here goes to the Blue Devils though. Ranked ninth in the country so far, they’ve been prolific scorers, averaging 46 points per game and racking up nearly 1,200 yards so far. The balance, though, is what gives them their edge — 286 average yards passing and 299 average rushing yards means they can get it done in the air and on the ground.
Ben Warwick is a writer and producer at CBS4 and a huge sports fan. He is an avid fan of most Colorado teams, but was raised to watch the Dallas Cowboys play on Sundays. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenCBS4.