Week 3 Viewing Guide: A Stacked Noon Slate, Penn State Seeks to Jump Ahead of Ohio State and BYU Terrorizes the Pac-12

By George Eisner on September 18, 2021 at 8:35 am
Coastal Carolina mascot
David Yeazell – USA TODAY Sports

With Ohio State not kicking off until the late afternoon, here are a host of other college football matchups from around the country we have our eyes on this Saturday.

NoonersAlbert Cesare | Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo: Albert Cesare | Cincinnati Enquirer

Too Many to Choose!

Week 3 features probably the best noon slate college football fans — and Big Ten fans in particular — will have all season that does not include a meeting between two top 25 teams. These games will serve as great time-killers while Buckeye fans anxiously await Ohio State retaking the field to avenge their loss from last week.

Here is how, when and why to watch the five best college football games kicking off at noon today:

  • #8 Cincinnati vs. Indiana, 12 p.m. on ESPN
    In a sign of the coming apocalypse, a team that is not the Buckeyes is currently the highest ranked Ohio-based college football program in the AP Top 10.

    Cincinnati has thoroughly dominated its first two contests and is looking to make a statement against its first Power 5 opponent. That would be an Indiana team still seeking to bounce back from their sideswiping at the hands of Iowa two weeks ago. Luke Fickell smells the College Football Playoff.
  • #15 Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia, 12 p.m. on FS1
    The Black Diamond Trophy is up for grabs this weekend, a symbol of the rich coal heritage in the Appalachian Mountains and one of the most beautiful rivalry awards in all of college football. Like the Backyard Brawl, it is one of the many great annual Big East feuds that has been lost in wake of the conference's gradual dissociation from college football.

    This is only the second game between these bitter rivals in the last 15+ years despite over 50 prior meetings since 1912 and 33 straight from 1973-2005.
  • #16 Coastal Carolina vs. Buffalo, 12 p.m. on ESPN2
    The Chanticleers are no longer college football's best kept secret. If you have not yet granted yourself the opportunity to witness one of the most dynamic offenses in modern college football, here is a perfect chance for you to watch a team that would probably give Kerry Coombs fits if the Buckeyes had them on the schedule today.

    Fortunately, Ohio State fans can witness the grace of Grayson McCall and Coastal Carolina's pistol-based triple option from a comfortable distance prior to the late-afternoon matchup with Tulsa.
  • Michigan State vs. #24 Miami (FL), 12 p.m. on ABC
    Michigan State might be good again. The jury remains out, but an impressive win on the road over Northwestern in the season opener quietly has Mel Tucker and the Spartans shaping up to give the Big Ten East more trouble than the division previously anticipated.

    This will be a great opportunity to evaluate the legitimacy of the looming threat in East Lansing, as MSU will take on a Miami team that scored a win over Appalachian State in primetime last week, but still seeks to avenge their embarrassment against Alabama two weeks ago.
  • Northern Illinois vs. #25 Michigan, 12 p.m. on BTN
    Does Jim Harbaugh smell blood? Michigan is 2-0 after a win over Washington last week and currently has an almost identical SP+ ranking to Ohio State.

    Write off the Wolverines at your own peril, but there could be a sleeper opportunity for sadness in Ann Arbor today when Michigan takes on their second MAC team of the season in Northern Illinois. Rocky Lombardi, the Huskies' new quarterback, traveled to the Big House last season and upset 13th-ranked Michigan while playing the best football game of his career for Michigan State.

AfternoonersGary Cosby – USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gary Cosby | USA TODAY Sports

#1 Alabama vs. #11 Florida, 3:30 p.m. on CBS

The game you will probably want to flip to when Ohio State/Tulsa goes to commercial or the half. Alabama remains a freight train on greased rails at the moment, but Florida's ongoing quarterback dilemma adds a wrinkle of intrigue to this game that the Crimson Tide's contest against another Sunshine State team earlier this month simply did not have.

The Gators had no problems handling South Florida last weekend, but fans of the team are understandably perplexed about the current leader of the offense after the performances of each quarterback. Emory Jones – the more pedestrian of the two and presumed starter –did run and throw for a touchdown in the first half, but it was Anthony Richardson that stole the show for the Gators throughout the game.

Head coach Dan Mullen indicated that Jones will remain the starter but that Florida will continue to use two quarterbacks, which would indicate that Richardson can play against Alabama. The Gators are not likely to threaten the Crimson Tide into the second half, but if Richardson catches fire and Mullen commits to the hot hand, this could become an uncomfortable afternoon for Nick Saban's squad.

Mississippi State vs. Memphis, 4 p.m. on ESPN2

W I L D C A R D   of the   W E E K

When Alabama pulls four touchdowns ahead of Florida with ten minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, you can start flipping the OSU/Tulsa commercials over to this game instead. The meeting today between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Memphis Tigers is ripe for a shootout, with two opposing quarterbacks that have combined to post over 1,300 passing yards through the first two weeks of the season.

One might think Mike Leech's SEC squad would have the inherent edge offensively, but the Tigers also boast two running backs that have averaged over eight yards-per-carry through the first two games of their schedule. Memphis receiver Calvin Austin III has caught all four of the wideout room's touchdown passes this season and will look to add to that total this afternoon.

The Bulldogs are no slouch, but have started a bit slow this year on the heels of a one-point win in their opener over Louisiana Tech and a two touchdown victory last weekend over North Carolina State. The game is a true toss-up with a spread of -3.5 in favor of Mississippi State, and figures to be the best game on the schedule today between two unranked teams.

PrimetimeMatthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Matthew OHaren | USA TODAY Sports

#22 Auburn vs. #10 Penn State, 7:30 p.m. on ABC

In the same spirit as finding out if Michigan State warrants legitimate monitoring in advance of its date with Ohio State, tonight's showdown between Penn State and Auburn presents a chance to see how the Nittany Lions deal with the pressure of being a top-10 team on the national stage.

Though Penn State deserves credit for its win over Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions’ true effectiveness in the grand scheme of college football — if it exists — will be on full display this evening. The Nittany Lions had the benefit of being a preseason underdog on their way into Madison and eked out a win over the Badgers after 60 minutes of some of the most unpalatable football the Midwest has ever witnessed. There is an outside possibility that Penn State will go to the locker room scoreless for the second time in three games tonight.

Auburn has a cumulative +112 point differential through two weeks this season, which includes wins over Akron – Ohio State's next opponent – and the illustrious Alabama State. It is tough to evaluate a team that has scheduled turnstiles for the first half of its out-of-conference slate, but Bo Nix figures to give James Franklin's defense more of a handful than either of the first two quarterbacks the Nittany Lions faced.

Saturday Night FeverJeffrey Swinger | USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Jeffrey Swinger | USA TODAY Sports

#19 Arizona State vs. #23 BYU, 10:15 p.m. on ESPN

If you followed our late-night advice last weekend, you got to witness arguably the best feel-good win of the day when BYU scored its first Holy War win over Utah in over a decade. While it does not make up for an Ohio State loss, it is still nice to see fans rushing the field again to celebrate historic triumphs of their schools.

Now, the Cougars are seeking their third win over a Pac-12 South team in as many weeks. With Arizona and Utah already disposed of, BYU wants to cement its status as one of the premier forces in the Mountain Time Zone after entering the AP Top 25. Brigham Young opened with a 10-0 start to its schedule last season, but that beginning featured no wins over any Power 5 opponents unlike this year.

Jaren Hall — Zach Wilson's replacement at quarterback — has been remarkably cool and efficient through two games. He was the clear star of the BYU's win over Utah, regularly extending plays and making accurate throws with versatile arm strength.

In fact, Hall may have an even greater ceiling than Wilson in the sense that he offers more as a runner. He finished last week's game eight yards shy of 100 against the Utes' stingy rushing defense, and would have had even more had this 65+ yard rushing touchdown not been called back on a questionable penalty.

This will be the first time Arizona State has visited Provo in almost 25 years. Finish off the college football Saturday by watching Kalani Sitake's golden boys take on Herm Edwards' potential rule-breakers.

On the Radar for Next Week

  • Noon: #12 Notre Dame vs. #18 Wisconsin, 12:00 p.m. on FOX
  • Afternoon: #7 Texas A&M vs. #20 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
  • Buckeyes: Akron vs. #9 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. on BTN
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