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Week 3 Watch Guide: Clemson-Louisville, USC-Texas & a battle in the SEC

Revenge games headline Saturday’s lineup

Louisville v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Last Saturday night lived up to the hype in the four match-ups between ranked teams highlighted by the now 2nd ranked Oklahoma Sooners winning in Columbus 31-16 over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who dropped from 2nd to 8th in the AP Poll. Week 2 also saw #3 Clemson win 14-6 over Auburn, USC end Stanford’s winning streak in the rivalry 42-24 behind Heisman hopeful Sam Darnold’s four touchdowns, and Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm go into South Bend and come out with a 20-19 victory in the Bulldogs’ first trip north of the Mason Dixon line since a 1965 matchup with the Michigan Wolverines.

Week 3 brings it’s own set of fireworks with a huge rematch of last year’s offensive showcase in #3 Clemson versus #14 Louisville and another rematch of what some consider the 2006 Rose Bowl between the Texas Longhorns and the 4th ranked USC Trojans. We’ll also look at one of the two SEC battles to cap off an exciting third week of the season.

#3 Clemson at #14 Louisville, Saturday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m. (ABC); Clem -3.0

Revenge will be the name of the game Saturday night at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium when the Clemson Tigers visit the Louisville Cardinals. Last season in Death Valley the Tigers pulled out a 42-36 win in an offensive shootout. Reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson racked up 457 yards of offense with four touchdowns and was three yards away from tying the game and an extra point away from a huge win when the clock struck zero. Clemson and quarterback Deshaun Watson used that game as a launching pad on it’s way to their first national championship since 1981.

Both teams lost a lot of talent to the NFL last year but the Cardinals bringing back Jackson gives them a decisive edge at the quarterback position. The Tigers junior quarterback Kelly Bryant has had to acclimate very quickly as the starter with back to back games against ranked opponents. Last week, Bryant led Clemson to a 14-6 victory over the Auburn Tigers in Death Valley. Bryant finished the night with 181 yards passing on 19-of-29 attempts but did his damage on the ground with 19 rushes for 59 yards and scoring both touchdowns for the Tigers. As predicted though, this one was decided on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers held Auburn to 117 yards of offense and only 38 yards rushing, the strength of Auburn’s offense.

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

To say Lamar Jackson hasn’t lost a step would be a huge understatement. The junior quarterback had himself a day last week on the road at North Carolina. In leading Louisville to a 47-35 win in Chapel Hill, Jackson put on a show by completing 25-of-39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns and added 132 yards rushing and another three touchdowns on the ground. His 525 yards of total offense against the Tar Heels has already put Jackson over the 1,000 yard mark in total offense through two games which is remarkable in it’s own right. Add in the fact that he came into this season with a target on his back as he’s attempting to be only the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner ever yet Jackson continues to amaze. He will have a big opportunity Saturday night to help those repeat Heisman chances against a very strong Clemson Tiger defense. Freshman wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick, 8 receptions for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns, and junior wideout Jaylen Smith, 17 receptions for 300 yards and a touchdown, are Jackson’s top targets and they both have put up big numbers in only two games. His receivers will be relied on Saturday night to spread out that tenacious Tiger defense.

The last three games between these teams have been decided by six points or less and has been decided on the final play, but the Tigers have won all three. I think we’ll see a Louisville team that’s ready for redemption at home. Clemson’s defense is going to make some plays but I just think Louisville’s offense is too dynamic and the Cardinals will pull the upset Saturday night by a field goal.

Texas at #4 USC, Saturday Sept. 16, 8:30 p.m. (FOX); USC -15.5

11 years after one of the greatest games ever played, the 2006 Rose Bowl, the 4th ranked USC Trojans will finally have their chance at revenge when the unranked Texas Longhorns visit the Coliseum Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Fast forward a decade and a lot has changed for both programs. Many of those USC wins were vacated because of the investigation into Reggie Bush’s alleged illegal benefits he received while he was a Trojan and the school was hit with sanctions reducing scholarships and post season play. The Trojans are just now getting back to the upper echelon of college football under head coach Clay Helton and hope to continue that upswing Saturday night. Texas on the other hand has fallen on tough times since that Rose Bowl victory. Gone is fan favorite Mack Brown who in 2009-2010 got back to a national title game but was overpowered by the Alabama dynasty that was just starting their run. Charlie Strong lasted three seasons but was constantly scrutinized for his coaching style and discipline of players. That brings us to today. New head coach Tom Herman had high expectations coming into 2017, but a Week 1 loss to Maryland 51-41 had the boo birds back out. Last week, Texas was able to get back on track with a 56-0 win of San Jose State and hopes to have some momentum heading into Saturday night’s matchup.

Stanford v USC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Trojans will be a heavy favorite after their offensive showcase last week in their 42-24 win against the 14th ranked Stanford Cardinal. Quarterback Sam Darnold completed 21-of-26 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns to go with two interceptions. Wide receiver Deontay Burnett had an impressive day with 9 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Expect to see another big day from the junior wideout. Texas has played three quarterbacks through two weeks after a shoulder injury to starter Shane Buchele against the Terrapins Week 1. The running game carried the way last week with 406 yards against the Spartans and junior Chris Warren III had 166 of those yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.

USC has too much offensive firepower for the Longhorns to defend it all. USC will win this one by two touchdowns and get their revenge a decade later for that Rose Bowl loss. Quarterback Sam Darnold will have a three touchdown day and the running back duo of Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr will be too much to stop.

#23 Tennessee at #24 Florida, Saturday Sept. 16, 3:30 p.m. (CBS); UF -4.5

The 24th ranked Florida Gators have had a rough start to the 2017 season. After announcing the suspension of nine players prior to an opening loss in Arlington, Texas to the Michigan Wolverines, 33-17, Hurricane Irma caused the Gators to cancel last week’s home game against Northern Colorado and severely alter their practice and media schedule over the past two weeks. Unfortunately for them, an SEC East battle was what they get as they come out on the other side of mother nature’s wrath. Florida will also have some revenge on their mind after a loss in Knoxville last season 38-28 to the Vols that snapped UF’s 11 game win streak in the rivalry. Florida led that game 21-0 before Tennessee ran off 38 straight points and finally ended their bitter losing streaks to their rivals.

The Vols kicked off the 2017 season with an exciting and remarkable come from behind 42-41 double overtime victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Labor Day. Tennessee trailed by 14 points in the 4th quarter and after junior running back John Kelly’s 4th rushing touchdown of the game tied it with 1:29 remaining the game. The Vols had to block a 36-yard field goal attempt on the last play of regulation to force overtime. After trading touchdowns in the 1st and 2nd overtime, Georgia Tech went for the two point conversion and the win but the Vols defense stepped up to stop the Yellow Jackets and walk out of Atlanta with the win. Junior quarterback Quinten Dormady, in his first start, went 20-for-37 for 221 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Vols to their season opening win. Saturday he will be relying on Kelly who has over 200 yards and four touchdowns after two games and sophomore wide receiver Marquez Callaway who stepped up in a big way Week 1 with four receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech v Tennessee Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Gators announced earlier this week that the nine players suspended for the opener remain suspended for Saturday’s showdown with the Vols. Redshirt freshman quarterback Felipe Franks will again get the start after a decent showing Week 1 against the Wolverines. Franks completed 5-of-9 attempts for 75 yards but was pulled after a fumble in the 3rd quarter for graduate transfer Malik Zaire. The Gators were without their lead returning running back and wide receiver and only managed 154 yards of total offense against Michigan. They will need some of their younger skill players to step up against the Vols whose defense allowed 655 yards of offense Week 1 against the Yellow Jackets which should give them some confidence heading into the matchup.

I think the Gators offense will make some players Saturday but not enough to come away with the win. Quarterback Quinten Dormady has shown some flashes through two weeks and he’ll continue to fill the shoes of the departed Josh Dobbs as he leads the Tennessee Volunteers to a 10 point win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and puts the Vols in the drivers seat in the SEC East.

Other Saturday games of note:

#12 LSU at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. (ESPN); LSU -8.0

#9 Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh, Noon (ESPN); OK St -12.5

#10 Wisconsin at BYU, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Wisc -17.0

Colorado State at #1 Alabama, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); Bama -28.5

#19 Stanford at San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. (CBSSN); Stan -9.0