Three must see college football games this weekend

After a second straight week of chaos, that saw USC fire Clay Helton after a blow-out loss to in-state rival Stanford, we should be in for a somewhat quieter third week of college football.

The decision to fire Helton was not a surprising one for USC, what was is the fact it wasn’t done in January after the bowl game was over. His inability to recruit at the level needed to sustain the level of success that is expected of Trojan football is what ultimately doomed him. It’s going to be interesting to see where Southern California goes with its coaching search, and there are already many rumors about where they could go with it.

One of the names that’s been linked to the Trojans’ coaching search is Penn State’s James Franklin. He’s had to publicly refute the rumors — while his agent, I’m sure, is in contact with both the ADs of Penn State and USC in order to get his client a raise — as his program is heading to one of its biggest non-conference games in the last 20 years.

No. 22 Auburn vs. No 10 PSU

Easily the biggest match-up of week three, in college football, is No. 22 Auburn’s first road trip against a Big Ten opponent in 90-years; the Tigers will be heading up to Happy Valley to take on No. 10 Penn State in an early season match-up between two top-25 times. While neither of these teams are considered contenders for one of the four playoff berths, this will be a match-up that will impact the conversation around conference depth and who’s got the tougher path to the playoffs.

While Auburn’s offensive numbers have looked impressive throughout their first two games of 2021, it’s important to keep in mind that they’ve played Akron and Alabama State. In those two games they’ve averaged 61 points per game while allowing five points per game on average. The Tigers have beaten the snot out of teams their two body bag games — a body bag game is where a big school pays a small school a metric boat load of cash to get its ass kicked.

Meanwhile the Nittany Lions started off their season by hitting the road for a week one conference game against (then ranked) No. 12 Wisconsin. It was a beautiful display of the Big 10’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive style for the first half. Eventually the Lions offense got rolling and they were able to punch in a pair of touchdowns in the second half to give them a narrow 16-10 road win. James Franklin’s squad followed that up that impressive win opening up a can of whoop ass on Ball State.

Penn State’s defense is dominant and its going to get a major test against an explosive Auburn offense on Saturday afternoon. Auburn’s defense is a major unknown heading into this crucial road match-up and it’ll be interesting to see what the stuttering Lions’ offense is able to do against it.

Network: ABC

Kickoff: 4:30 PM PT

Prediction: Circa Sports has PSU as five point favorite at home with the over/under on the point total being 53.5. I’d take Penn State to cover the spread, and the under on the points.

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Michigan State vs. No.24 Miami

Miami was this year’s week one whipping boy for Alabama and now gets another non-conference match-up against a Power 5 foe. Michigan State is coming into this game after a two touchdown win over conference foe Northwestern and a pasting of FCS patsy Youngstown State.

Sparty’s offense has been explosive in its first two games, especially against Northwestern where they averaged 8.8 yards per carry. The offensive line has been a huge strength, their passing attack….not so much. Against Youngstown State, the Spartans passing tended to hit on the big plays and sputter on mid- to short- yardage. Fortunately for them the rushing attack was able to tear up huge plays with consistency and that’s going to be a potential problem for them against the Hurricanes.

In Miami’s week one game against Alabama they held the Crimson Tide to 3.9 yards per carry; in week two, the Hurricanes held Appalachian State to 3.3 yards per carry. Both of those teams struggled to move the ball on the ground which forced them to rely on the passing game. They’ll be able to force the Spartans into a lot of passing situation that might be tricky for its offense to pull off on the road.

The big question mark is going to be Miami’s offense and to see how they’ll do against a stout defensive front seven. If the offensive line can provide time for the quarterback it should open up holes in the ground game.

Network: ABC

Kickoff: 9:00 AM PT

Prediction: Circa Sports has Miami as eight point favorites at home and the over/under at 56.6. Neither of these offenses inspire a lot of confidence, so take the under; also I have Sparty covering the spread but still losing.

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No. 19 Arizona State vs. No. 23 BYU

Of these two squads, BYU is the only one to face consistent test as the Mormon Cougs beat their first two Pac-12 foes. While the fightin’ Herm Edwards have yet to be truly tested after two fairly easy home wins against a group of five and FCS foes.

Arizona State’s two games have been a prime example of what a power five program should do to schools from smaller conferences. Against UNLV, Sparky averaged six yards per passing attempted and 6.2 yards per carry; against Southern Utah they owned the aerial attack while averaging 5.6 yards on the ground. The Sun Devils offensive line has been crucial to its offensive success so far and that’s will need to continue during #Pac12afterdark.

As for the stormin’ Mormons, the Cougars earned a comfortable 24-16 win over Arizona by averaging 4.7 yards per carry and then stretching the field through the air when they needed to. Against their in-state rival Utah, BYU was slightly more effective on the ground despite only averaging five yards per pass attempt. BYU is going to need to be able to stretch the Sun Devils defense out horizontally to keep the pressure off of quarterback Jaren Hall; a couple of well placed screens or runs outside the tackles could really make a difference.

Sparky’s first road trip of the season is also their first real test too and it’ll be in front of a hostile Provo crowd. It will be interesting to see how the offensive line is able to handle it. If the big boys up front struggle for ASU, then it could lead to a couple of game deciding turnovers — those are what hurt Utah, particularly down the stretch.

Network: ESPN

Kickoff: 7:15 PM PT

Prediction: This is the closest of the lines that we’ve looked at so far as BYU is favored by 3.5 points at home. I don’t trust that Arizona State’s offense will be able to keep up with BYU’s more aggressive rushing attack, or that its defensive line will be able to control the line of scrimmage; take the stormin’ Mormons to cover the spread.