College football games, Week 3: SEC West and Big 12 take the spotlight with key matchups


We don’t know yet if LSU has a quarterback. We do know LSU has a no-B.S. quarterback.

When asked about this week’s matchup with Auburn, Joe Burrow replied, “We’re going to have to throw the ball to win the game. And if we can’t, then we’re going to lose the game. It’s pretty simple.”

In that moment, Burrow, LSU’s celebrated transfer from Ohio State, eliminated the typical cliches and tap-dance answers that typically accompany the run-up to these big games. 

He also put the game squarely on his right arm.

Good. Accountability is always the best policy weather it’s game breakdown or blaming your unemployment on “the climate in America.”

That’s why it’s good to cut to the chase with the SEC’s two biggest games this week.

LSU vs. Auburn is the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. It may not matter in the big picture if you believe that Alabama, Georgia and Clemson have already separated themselves from the field. But that’s why we play the games. Burrow will have to throw (effectively) to win against a monstrous defense at Jordan-Hare. He has not thrown effectively so far. Burrow’s 47.7 percent completion percentage is the fourth-worst among qualifying NCAA quarterbacks. And that’s come in games against Miami and FCS Southeastern Louisiana.

The Bayou Bengals haven’t won at Auburn since 2012, but the defense is salty enough to make it a game.  In a contest that should define the best challenger to Alabama in the SEC West, Auburn is more offensively efficient, but take LSU and the points.

1. Alabama, Ole Miss and mangos: I’m fairly certain this the first time two native Hawaiian quarterbacks have started against each other in the SEC, at least in a game this big. Tua Tagovailoa (Ewa Beach, Hawaii) is the nation’s top-rated Power Five passer and already a Heisman Trophy candidate. Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu (Pearl City, Hawaii) has thrown the third-most touchdown passes (eight) without an interception. (The leader in that category, Cole McDonald, plays for Hawaii but is from California. He’s tossed 13 touchdowns with no interceptions.)

Since 2014, Bama is 2-2 against the Rebels and 48-1 against everyone else. But the author of those Ole Miss wins, Hugh Freeze, ain’t walking through the door Saturday. Ole Miss has shown an ability to score (60 points per game). Alabama has shown an ability to win national championships.

2. Take your time coming back Urb: Not only has interim coach Ryan Day not screwed it up, the Ohio State powerhouse that Urban Meyer built keeps humming along. Heading into TCU, quarterback Dwayne Haskins has two more incompletions (11) than touchdown passes (nine). Only nine Power Five defenses have allowed teams to complete less than half their passes. Ohio State is one of them.

The Buckeyes are bigger and stronger than the Horned Frogs, who are typically built on speed. The 12 ½-point line seems about right. The TCU clash marks the last game Ohio State’s embattled coach sits out. Does Urb need to come back?

3. Troubled waters in Stillwater: This is Boise State’s last best chance to make a statement to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee at No. 24 Oklahoma State. Why? The No. 17 Broncos’ remaining schedule includes exactly none of the 41 teams receiving votes in the current AP Top 25.

The last time Boise State beat a ranked nonconference opponent on the road, Mike Bellotti was the coach (2008). Oklahoma State’s offensive line outweighs Boise State’s defensive line by an average of 48 pounds. Very quietly, Bryan Harsin has built the Broncos back to a Chris Petersen-era level.

4. Florence wrap: As of Thursday afternoon, at least eight FBS games were cancelled because of Hurricane Florence. First, sympathies and prayers to all of those involved. Second, way down the list of concerns, there are these possible football implications:

  • West Virginia at NC State: One less game for Mountaineers QB Will Grier to make his Heisman statement. One less game for WVU to sharpen its game before the Big 12 schedule begins Sept. 22 vs. Kansas State.  
  • UCF at North Carolina: A big exhale for Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora. However, No. 18 UCF should be afraid, very afraid in terms of the New Year’s Six chase. Boise State is playing. The Knights are not. How does playing one less game impact the Knights’ chase for a second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl? It didn’t hurt last year.
  • Marshall at South Carolina: The Gamecocks may need this nonconference win for several reasons. Biggest: A tune-up before consecutive SEC games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
  • Georgia Southern at Clemson: The Eagles miss a pay day. The Tigers miss a chance to sharpen QB Trevor Lawrence’s skills.

5. I’m just going to leave this right here regarding USC-Texas: The losing coach is going to get loads of crap. He’ll be 1-2, probably a longshot for their conference title and facing “Why aren’t we better questions?” three weeks into the season. Some USC loyalists are down on Clay Helton for having the temerity of not getting the Trojans into the playoff after two full seasons as coach. Some of the same impatience exists with Tom Herman, who is 8-7 in his second season. Good luck to both guys. I wouldn’t want to be the loser.

6. Spanning the globe: Hawaii is making its second-longest road trip in history in traveling to Army (4,955 miles). The longest was last season to UMass (by 51 miles). This trip is so long that Google Maps has to show the entire Earth to portray the distance. It may be time to rank the Warriors if they’re the first team in the country to start 4-0.

google-maps-hawaii.jpg


Google Maps

7. The Herm Edwards Magical, Fun-tastic, Coaching Fun-Time Hour: The Sun Devils coach gets a big break in a testy road trip to San Diego State. Aztecs quarterback Christian Chapman is expected to be out with a left knee sprain. Without Chapman, SDSU struggled to beat Sacramento State. Arizona State hasn’t been 3-0 since 2016.

8. Ain’t No Love: Bryce Love’s absence this week against UC-Davis (undisclosed injury) will not make a difference this week. But the Cardinal are eight days away from a fairly big matchup with Oregon. Stay tuned.

9. Quick kicks: Am I the only one concerned over tailback Rodney Anderson’s season-ending injury at Oklahoma? Guess so. Replacements Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton have combined to average 7.7 yards per touch in all-purpose yards (running, returning, receiving) in their careers … Utah (vs. No. 10 Washington) hasn’t beaten a top 10 team since 2013. Quarterback Tyler Huntley needs to get it going behind a Utes’ offensive line that gave up six sacks to Northern Illinois last week … Saturday marks 729 days since UCLA (home vs. Fresno State) has won a true road game. The Bruins haven’t started 0-3 since 1971 … Put Colorado’s Laviska Shenault (vs. New Hampshire) on your Heisman list. The sophomore from Texas leads all Power Five receivers in catches and yards per game. He is on pace to catch 149 balls for 2,522 yards … If it were only about football. This is the last game before Maryland (vs. Temple) is scheduled to get at least one of the independent reports regarding the deceased Jordan McNair. Coach D.J. Durkin remains suspended … Michigan (vs. SMU) went 364 days between touchdown catches by a receiver until three last week vs. Western Michigan …  Kansas, a 2 ½-point favorite vs. Rutgers, hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2011. According to our own Tom Fornelli, it’s also the first time KU has been favored against an FBS team since 2010.

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