2015 College Football Week 3 Preview

Week 2 is unlikely to match Week 1. Week 2 is unlikely to match any other week. – Brent Blackwell, 2015 College Football Week 2 Preview

My bad. Week 2 wasn’t filled with prime matchups, matchups that were poised to help playoff decisions down the road, but it was filled with surprisingly entertaining games. USF hung with Florida State. Jacksonville State took Auburn to OT. Toledo beat Arkansas in a game so ugly highlights appear to have been launched into the sun to prevent human eyes from ever seeing them. Cal Poly and Lamar hung around against Arizona State and Baylor, respectively, before the better teams pulled away. It was an unexpectedly delightful weekend. I want to touch on a few games:

Michigan State/Oregon went as expected. Both teams looked great, and if they played 10 times, the record might very well be 5-5. I thought Oregon played a little better overall, with MSU making bigger plays on the big downs, stopping the Ducks over and over again on 4th down. It was a lot of fun to watch. Both teams are strong playoff contenders.

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Oklahoma/Tennessee’s final score was along the lines we expected, but the path to that score was a strange one. I certainly wouldn’t have expected Oklahoma to play so poorly for 3 quarters. Tennessee’s 4th quarter meltdown was a bit more predictable, though it was surprising as well. I’ve seen Butch Jones lose games for the Vols before. Ostensibly, he can be blamed for this one as well, but it was less obvious. Either way, for 2 hours the internet was all abuzz as to how Tennessee was back, baby!  They’re still dangerous and they’ll still probably irritate some very good teams down the line (like my Dawgs), but they’re not back. Not yet.

Western Michigan/Georgia Southern – I am putting myself on indefinite hiatus from talking about Georgia Southern as if I understand them at all. This is twice I’ve been totally wrong about their matchup.

Temple/Cincy – I noted last week that this could be a close game, and Temple won on the road by a single score, 34-26. It was also a big game for the American conference. Having won on the road at their biggest challenger for the conference title, I think Temple is now looking like the AAC favorite. The Owls could very well be 7-0 when they host Notre Dame on Halloween.

Finally, Jackonsville State/Auburn. Ugh. I can’t decide which of these teams I was less impressed with. Really, it should be Auburn. But there’s something so infuriating about watching a less talented underdog play really well for 4 quarters, only to start to think it’s something it’s not and folding up and playing conservative as a result. With :39 and 1 time out left, and needing only to move the ball 30-40 yards for a shot at a FG, or even a hail mary, JSU took a knee and played for overtime. The Gamecocks took that timeout home with them. Enjoy the moral victory.

Oh yeah, and this happened. Again:

The Ten Fourteen Closest Matchups of Week 3

I’m skipping the Heisman talk this week. It’s fun, but the field is just too large. We’ll revisit this feature later. Watch Nick Chubb, Cody Kessler, Derrick Henry, and Ohio State. There.

Now for the games, according to F/+, that should be closest. I’m expanding it to 14 this week because there are 14 pretty close matchups that stand out among the rest.

  1. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame – F/+ sees little difference between the teams so far, though their seasons couldn’t have been more different. Notre Dame is already dealing with a majory injury, but they’ve blown out a power 5 opponent and had a dramatic victory against another. Georgia Tech has been on cruise control, blowing out Alcorn State and Tulane. Tech’s defense had some issues last year, especially with teams that could throw the ball. F/+ doesn’t factor in the Malik Zaire injury, so Tech might have a slight edge here. Either way, it’s one to watch.
  2. California at Texas – It’s another good game to learn about these teams. Has Texas turned things around since the opening night debacle against Notre Dame? Is Cal for real? For both teams, Week 3 should really help us figure them out going forward.
  3. UTEP at New Mexico State – 3 of these teams’ first 4 opponents were Florida, Arkansas, and Texas Tech. They are thrilled to see one another.
  4. Central Michigan at Syracuse – Syracuse passed the Wake Forest test, so now they get a slightly tougher opponent (sorry, Wake). CMU played Oklahoma State somewhat closely in the opening week, but with first night jitters and all that, I’m not sure how much that told us.
  5. East Carolina at Navy – This one should be fun. Two very different styles of offense (air raid vs ground option) and two very similar styles of defense (they don’t play any).
  6. Buffalo at Florida Atlantic – FAU went to OT in week 1, so they’re no stranger to close games.
  7. Stanford at USC – In September, F/+ still carries a heavy weight from preseason projections. It decreases every week, but for the first month, to keep single game outliers from tipping the scales too strongly, it keeps the projections in play. This is why Stanford is projected to hang with USC, but I think Stanford can hang with USC. The Northwestern game was an unmitigated disaster, and Shaw outdid himself with a punt from UCF’s 33 yard line last week. It’s some ridiculously bad 4th down strategy from an otherwise pretty good football coach. USC’s final tallies have been great so far, but the offense has just out-talented everyone. Kessler taking 5 sacks in week 1 was worrisome, but he took no losses against the Vandals in week 2. This is his first real defensive test, and with all the hand wringing over Stanford’s offensive decision making, the defense appears to be vintage Cardinal.
    It's time to start paying attention to USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 14 catches for 281 yards and 3 TD so far. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    It’s time to start paying attention to USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 14 catches for 281 yards and 3 TD so far. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
  8. Utah State at Washington – Just a couple of average teams getting together for an average game. 12th year Senior Chuckie Keeton leads the Aggies against the Huskies.
  9. San Jose State at Oregon State – Both are bad, but I suspect Oregon State might not be as bad as they’ve played, so I could see this one not being as close as F/+ suggests.
  10. Southern Mississippi at Texas State – Real bad teams playing some real bad, real close, football.
  11. Nebraska at Miami – Both have looked similarly good against really weak competition, and Nebraska made the simple mistake of scheduling BYU during their “hand of God” season. Should be a good one.
  12. Northwestern at Duke – Not sure what I can make out of this game, other than maybe a hat, a brooch, or a pterodactyl.
  13. Pittsburgh at Iowa – Iowa won convincingly in the battle for the stupidly named Cy-Hawk trophy last week, and the F/+ projections don’t know that James Conner, perhaps the best running back in the FBS (yeah, I said it, but I also said perhaps), is out for the year.
  14. Auburn at LSU – Oh, we can talk ourselves into the idea that Auburn will get shelled here. Louisville played them close, and UL turned around and lost to Houston. And then there was JSU. But guys, guys. This is Auburn. It’s what they do. It’s also Les Miles. Close games is what he does. Oddly, however, they haven’t done a ton of close games with each other lately. The last 4 contests have been decided by 35, 2, 14, and 34 points. So maybe what they really do is unpredictability.

Your Hour by Hour Viewing Guide

Helping you, your TV, and your remote’s recall button plan your weekend.

Thursday

7:30 – Clemson at Louisville, ESPN – The season has started pretty terribly for Louisville (good, go Falcons), but don’t count them out completely. In the preseason we thought this might be a good one, and it’s too early to bail on preseason thinking. Also, weird stuff happens on Thursday night football. It’s the only game on, so watch it.

Friday

8:00 – Florida State at Boston College, ESPN – Last year, at the Doak, Steve Addazio’s Eagles nearly pulled off this upset. Now they get the Noles at home, and on a weeknight to boot. FSU is much better, so I wouldn’t expect an upset, but keep an eye on this game just to be sure.

9:00 – Idaho State at Boise State, CBS Sports Network. This is a backup game, nothing more. You have got to really hate the NFL to watch this.

10:00 – New Mexico at Arizona State, Pac 12 Network – Not a great game, but if you’ve got the channel, it’s better backup channel viewing than Boise State.

Saturday

12:00 – There’s nothing too attractive here, but lots of possibly interesting games. I think Illinois/North Carolina on ESPN2 could be sneaky good, but I don’t know that I’d want to watch it from the beginning. I might watch Texas A&M/Nevada on the SEC Network, with Air Force/Michigan State on ABC as the backup, but there’s really no right or wrong way to go here. The best bet might just be paying attention to the bottom line and watching whatever’s close. Or better, pull up ESPN’s scoreboard, adjust for all FBS instead of the top 25, and just flip it to a channel when there’s a red zone alert.

12:30 – ESPN3 adds CMU/Syracuse and Northwestern/Duke to your options. I kind of like Northwestern/Duke, and will likely make it the primary game at this point.

2:00 – If you’re into BDSM, Georgia State visits Oregon on the Pac-12 Network.

3:30 – Two great games should grab your attention: Georgia Tech/Notre Dame on NBC is the primary game to watch, and Auburn/LSU on CBS should be the backup. Dump all other games unless there’s a noon game with a thrilling finish. Then head to the networks. If either starts to get out of hand, you’ve got Miami/Nebraska on either ABC or ESPN2 to keep an eye on.

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6:00 – Georgia/South Carolina on ESPN. Georgia is favored by 17 points, which seems about 5 points too high. As a Georgia fan, this game scares the hell out of me. It’s South Carolina, and SC always plays UGA so well. They lost their starting QB, but in a Georgia fan’s mind, the SC backup is the new Heisman favorite. They’ll run for 250 yards, pass efficiently for 200 more, and win 34-31 after some kind of weird outlier play goes in the Gamecocks favor. Marshall Morgan missing a <30 yard field goal, or some weird fumble from Nick Chubb, or Greyson Lambert‘s happy feet force him into yet another dancing/jumping pass that goes straight to a defender. It’s always something. But the broad college football observer disagrees, knowing that every team has things that can go wrong. Georgia has been really good this year. South Carolina hasn’t. Georgia should win by several scores thanks to great open field running and very impressive defense.

7:00 – Finish out the 3:30 games and stay tuned to UGA/SC, but there are a couple of games at least worth a mention here. Texas Tech plays Arkansas on ESPN 2, which has some intrigue as to whether the Razorbacks can bounce back from the Toledo mess. On CBS Sports, Colorado State faces Colorado in their annual matchup. Colorado is favored, for reasons I can’t really figure out. CSU took Minnesota to OT last week and should be the better team this year.

7:30 – With Temple’s week 1 win over Penn State, Florida now owns the nation’s longest winning streak against a single opponent, having beaten Kentucky 28 straight times. Last year’s game was very close, and this year’s, available on the SEC Network, could be again. I wouldn’t really want to watch this game, but keep an eye on the score. However, a far more fun game is available at the same time – Cal/Texas on Fox. That’d probably be my backup behind UGA/SC.

8:00 – If you’re unaffiliated with any playing team, the primary game should now be Stanford/USC on ABC, with Cal/Texas as the backup.

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9:15 – Ole Miss at Alabama, on ESPN. Oh my. The first thing that jumps out at me is this – why didn’t CBS pick this for the 3:30 slot? ESPN really lucked out, as there’s a good chance this is the SEC game of the year. They’re the two best SEC teams so far, and last year’s game was pretty big on a national level. I like the Tide here. Ole Miss is relatively untested. They’ve looked great in those subpar matchups, and Chad Kelly has been very impressive so far. It’s the game of the week, as far as I’m concerned. Watch this game. Even if your team is playing, watch this game. Make Stanford/USC the backup.

10:30 – BYU at UCLA, Fox Sports 1 – That Mormon luck will likely dry up in this one, but what if it doesn’t? So far, the Cougars are a neat story with fun endings. If that continues in this game, they won’t be just a cute story any more. Keep watching ESPN and ABC, unless one of those gets out of hand. Keep this one on the radar, though.

11:00 – Northern Arizona at Arizona, Pac 12 Network – If you have the Pac 12 Network, this will be the last game of the night. Wait until all others are done, as this is just a game to finish your bourbon and fall asleep to.

The Full Slate

A quick explanation of a couple of columns:

F/+: F/+ is Football Outsiders’ method of ranking team strength. It’s presented as a percentage and all set against an average FBS team. So, if Team X has a F/+ rating of 12.3%, that means that, by this metric, they’re 12.3% better than the average FBS squad. It encompasses many things that make teams successful, like drive success, explosiveness, and efficiency, all weighted for quality of opponent, but it isn’t an end-all, be-all metric. There’s no such thing. It’s just a far more helpful metric than the collected votes of a bunch of middle-aged beat writers. For the first 4 weeks of the season, they mesh 2015 results with the preseason projections.

S&P+: Developed by Bill Connelly, S&P+ is the “+” half of the F/+ rankings. These are presented as scoring averages, but don’t take that part too seriously. It is a nice combination of two pretty basic concepts: efficiency and explosiveness.  The S stands for Success Rate, and it is a better way of looking at teams on a per-play basis than yards. A play is deemed successful if it gains at least 50% of needed yards on 1st down, 70% of needed yards on 2nd down, and 100% on 3rd/4th. Success Rate is just the rate of how often an offense is successful in this regard (or how successful a defense is at preventing this). Explosiveness is measured as points per play. It’s a pretty detailed calculation, but it’s an intuitive one, based on expected point totals from field position. If you want the nitty gritty details, check this out. I listed S&P because it breaks down to both offensive and defensive totals, which gives you an idea of which side of the ball a team might be better on. Remember, these are projections combined with one week of data. In some cases, the early results can get a bit wonky, but as the year goes on they’ll be more reliable. (Note: As the numbers on S&P+ are still a little weird, I’ve omitted them for this week and likely will again next week. Enjoy the blank space!)

VisitorF/+Off. S&P+Def. S&P+HomeF/+Off. S&P+Def. S&P+FavoriteTimeTV
Clemson42.2% (15th)Louisville19.6% (35th)Clemson (-5.5)Thursday - 7:30ESPN
Florida State44.2% (13th)Boston College2.0% (60th)Florida State (-7.5)Friday - 8:00ESPN
Idaho Staten/an/an/aBoise State35.1% (21st)No LineFriday - 9:00CBS SN
New Mexico-30.0% (106th)Arizona State36.8% (20th)ASU (-27.5)Friday - 10:00Pac 12 Network
Savannah Staten/an/an/aAkron-36.3% (111th)No LineSaturday - 12:00ESPN 3
USF-30.8% (107th)Maryland-11.9% (78th)Maryland (-7.0)Saturday - 12:00ESPNU
UNLV-42.6% (120th)Michigan19.4% (36th)Michigan (-34.0)Saturday - 12:00Big Ten Network
Air Force-13.4% (81st)Michigan State47.8% (8th)MSU (-26.0)Saturday - 12:00ABC
Kent State-18.8% (92nd)Minnesota8.5% (46th)Minnesota (-24.0)Saturday - 12:00Big Ten Network
Buffalo-30.8% (108th)Florida Atlantic-24.9% (100th)EVENSaturday - 12:00
Nevada-12.2% (79th)Texas A&M36.9% (19th)Tex A&M (-34.0)Saturday - 12:00SEC Network
Illinois-3.8% (67th)North Carolina10.9% (44th)North Carolina (-9.5)Saturday - 12:00ESPN2
Connecticut-29.6% (103rd)Missouri34.8% (22nd)Missouri (-21.5)Saturday - 12:00ESPN
Wake Forest-20.8% (93rd)Army-39.7% (116th)Wake Forest (-6.0)Saturday - 12:00CBS SN
Tulsa-14.6% (84th)Oklahoma38.8% (16th)Oklahoma (-31.0)Saturday - 12:00FS1
Central Michigan-21.0% (94th)Syracuse-17.3% (89th)Syracuse (-7.0)Saturday - 12:30ESPN3
Northwestern7.9% (47th)Duke16.0% (39th)Duke (-3.5)Saturday - 12:30ESPN3
Georgia State-39.8% (117th)Oregon55.2% (3rd)Oregon (-44.0)Saturday - 2:00Pac 12 Network
SE Louisianan/an/an/aOhio-18.0% (91st)No LineSaturday - 2:00ESPN3
Rice-27.2% (102nd)North Texas-41.9% (119th)Rice (-8.5)Saturday - 2:30
Temple9.0% (45th)Massachusetts-36.9% (114th)Temple (-10.5)Saturday - 3:00ESPN3
Ball State-4.2% (68th)Eastern Michigan-63.0% (128th)Ball State (-5.5)Saturday - 3:00ESPN3
Memphis2.0% (61st)Bowling Green-14.4% (83rd)Memphis (-3.5)Saturday - 3:00ESPN3
Louisiana Tech4.3% (55th)Kansas State30.7% (26th)KSU (-9.0)Saturday - 3:00
Troy-45.8% (123rd)Wisconsin31.6% (24th)Wisconsin (-34.5)Saturday - 3:30Big Ten Network
Northern Illinois2.6% (59th)Ohio State67.4% (2nd)Ohio State (-34.5)Saturday - 3:30ABC / ESPN 2
Cincinnati6.2% (51st)Miami OH-43.7% (121st)Cincinnati (-20.0)Saturday - 3:30ESPN3
East Carolina-2.7% (66th)Navy3.1% (57th)Navy (-4.0)Saturday - 3:30CBS SN
Norfolk Staten/an/an/aMarshall12.9% (42nd)No LineSaturday - 3:30
UTSA-46.7% (124th)Oklahoma State20.7% (34th)OSU (-24.5)Saturday - 3:30FS1
William & Maryn/an/an/aVirginia-0.5% (65th)No LineSaturday - 3:30ESPN3
Virginia Tech31.3% (25th)Purdue-14.3% (82nd)VT (-6.0)Saturday - 3:30ESPNU
Georgia Tech45.0% (11th)Notre Dame42.7% (14th)GT (-2.5)Saturday - 3:30NBC
Nebraska24.6% (30th)Miami FL17.0% (38th)Miami (-3.0)Saturday - 3:30ABC / ESPN 2
Auburn37.0% (18th)LSU45.9% (10th)LSU (-7.0)Saturday - 3:30CBS
NW Staten/an/an/aMississippi State29.0% (27th)No LineSaturday - 4:00SEC Network
Austin Peayn/an/an/aVanderbilt-10.6% (77th)No LineSaturday - 4:00SEC Network
WKU6.0% (52nd)Indiana-16.8% (86th)Indiana (-1.5)Saturday - 4:00ESPN News
Woffordn/an/an/aIdaho-48.8% (127th)No LineSaturday - 5:00ESPN3
Utah State6.8% (48th)Washington0.5% (62nd)Washington (-6.0)Saturday - 5:00Pac 12 Network
South Carolina28.2% (28th)Georgia52.6% (5th)Georgia (-17.0)Saturday - 6:00ESPN
The Citadeln/an/an/aGeorgia Southern-5.0% (69th)No LineSaturday - 6:00ESPN3
Furmann/an/an/aUCF0.3% (63rd)No LineSaturday - 6:00ESPN3
NC Centraln/an/an/aFIU-24.5% (99th)No LineSaturday - 6:00
Charlotte-29.9% (105th)Middle Tennessee-13.3% (80th)MTSU (-20.0)Saturday - 7:00
Southern Mississippi-36.6% (112th)Texas State-29.9% (104th)Texas State (-3.0)Saturday - 7:00ESPN3
Murray Staten/an/an/aWestern Michigan-9.1% (74th)No LineSaturday - 7:00ESPN3
Missouri Staten/an/an/aArkansas State-9.6% (75th)No LineSaturday - 7:00ESPN3
Texas Tech4.0% (56th)Arkansas34.0% (23rd)Arkansas (-11.5)Saturday - 7:00ESPN2
Western Carolinan/an/an/aTennessee27.2% (29th)No LineSaturday - 7:00ESPNU
NC State6.5% (49th)Old Dominion-32.3% (109th)NC State (-18.5)Saturday - 7:00
Colorado-21.2% (95th)Colorado State0.3% (64th)Colorado (-3.0)Saturday - 7:00CBS SN
Florida12.6% (43rd)Kentucky-8.3% (73rd)Florida (-3.0)Saturday - 7:30SEC Network
California5.4% (53rd)Texas3.0% (58th)California (-7.0)Saturday - 7:30FOX
Rutgers-17.0% (87th)Penn State14.5% (41st)Penn State (-10.0)Saturday - 8:00Big Ten Network
UTEP-43.8% (122nd)New Mexico State-47.1% (125th)UTEP (-2.5)Saturday - 8:00ESPN3
Mainen/an/an/aTulane-24.1% (98th)No LineSaturday - 8:00ESPN3
South Alabama-36.6% (113th)San Diego State-7.4% (72nd)SD State (-17.5)Saturday - 8:00
Pittsburgh14.5% (40th)Iowa6.2% (50th)Iowa (-5.5)Saturday - 8:00Big Ten Network
Stanford38.2% (17th)USC44.3% (12th)USC (-10.0)Saturday - 8:00ABC
San Jose State-21.9% (96th)Oregon State-15.5% (85th)OSU (-7.5)Saturday - 8:00Pac 12 Network
SMU-38.3% (115th)TCU46.8% (9th)TCU (-37.5)Saturday - 8:00FSN
Iowa State-17.1% (88th)Toledo4.8% (54th)Toledo (-8.0)Saturday - 8:00ESPN News
Wyoming-41.6% (118th)Washington State-6.6% (71st)WSU (-24.0)Saturday - 8:30Pac 12 Network
Ole Miss47.8% (7th)Alabama68.3% (1st)Alabama (-7.0)Saturday - 9:15ESPN
BYU20.8% (33rd)UCLA48.9% (6th)UCLA (-17.0)Saturday - 10:30FS1
Utah22.3% (31st)Fresno State-24.0% (97th)Utah (-14.0)Saturday - 10:30CBS SN
Northern Arizonan/an/an/aArizona22.2% (32nd)No LineSaturday - 11:00Pac 12 Network
UC Davisn/an/an/aHawaii-33.3% (110th)No LineSaturday - 11:59
About Brent Blackwell 172 Articles
Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at www.cfbtn.com.

3 Comments

  1. I love what Temple has done thus far, and wrote about them myself in my own look at what are some must win games for teams this week. https://bengunby.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/must-win-games-in-week-three-you-betcha/

    But, I also think Memphis and Houston are going to have something to say about that conference before all is said and done. The Temple story though is fascinating to me.

    And boy, I feel ya on Georgia Southern. I picked Western Michigan to cover easily last weekend. Oooops.

    • I had WVU/GSU as a high scoring affair. I thought maybe WVU would cover the 19, but it’d be something along the lines of 49-27 or so. And as for WMU, I thought it’d be really close. I’ll take another look at GSU in October, and not a moment sooner.

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