Thoughts, Observations, and Things To Watch For In Week 3

Week three of the college football season looks like it’ll be an exciting one, featuring four games between top 25 opponents. Here are some notes, stats, and observations to pay attention to.

  • Just how good is the Georgia Tech option attack, which averages 457.5 yards per game and a whopping 8.47 yards per carry? We’ll find out when the Jackets face a stingy Notre Dame defense that’s allowed just 3.17 yards per attempt.
  • The reverse of that matchup is equally intriguing, with DeShone Kizer making his first career start against a Tech defense that ranks 22nd nationally in total defense, giving up just 260 yards per game.
  • Make no mistake about it: Kizer can get the job done for the Irish. He’s played well in limited action over the first two games, going 6 of 8 for 83 yards and 2 TDs when Notre Dame was either tied or trailing.
  • Here’s a number to keep an eye on: 7. It’s the number of TFLs the Tech front seven averages per game… which is also the average number of TFLs the Irish have allowed per game.
  • Thanks to Tanner Mangum’s late-game heroics, BYU’s stellar run defense has gone largely unnoticed. The Cougar front seven has done an excellent job stuffing the run against Nebraska and Boise State, holding them to just 2.79 yards per carry. The D has been even tougher to run against on third down and short (defined here for purposes of clarity as fewer than 6 yards), allowing its opponents to -5 yards on 7 carries in these situations.
  • UCLA will counter with Paul Perkins, who led the Pac-12 in rushing last season, and ran for 151 yards on 18 carries last week.
  • Josh Rosen has been solid as well, completing 32-of-44 passes for 365 yards and 2 TDs on second and third down this season.
  • BYU will have to do a better job on third down to pull off the upset against the Bruins. The Cougars are 91st nationally in third down conversions, moving the sticks just 11 times in 32 opportunities. Things won’t get any easier this week against a UCLA defense that’s held its opponents just 6 of 29 conversions on third down.
  • Random stat of the week: Mangum has not attempted a pass in the red zone this year.
  • Although Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring (74.5 ppg) and ranks third in total offense (634.5 ypg), it’s the defense that holds the key to victory. How well the Rebel D – which is 26th nationally in fewest yards per play (4.21) – fares against an Alabama offense that averages 517 yards per game will determine whether the team pulls off the upset for the second year in a row.
  • That won’t be an easy task. Crimson Tide running backs Derrick Henry (7.21) and Kenyan Drake (6.71) have a career average of more than 6.5 yards per carry against ranked opponents.
  • History favors Alabama in this matchup. Ole Miss is 1-24 all-time against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. The lone win was a 22-12 victory back in 1988.
  • What will Auburn’s defense do for an encore this year? It’ll be tough for the Tigers to match last season’s performance against LSU, in which the Bayou Bengals completed just of 8-of-24 passes and went 0-for-13 on third downs.
  • While Les Miles’ team will try to establish the run, don’t be surprised to see it mix in some play action, especially on first down. Brandon Harris has done well throwing the ball on first down, completing 17 of 27 passes for 160 yards and 4 TDs in his career.
  • Keep an eye on Air Force – Michigan State as a potential upset. Adjusting to the triple option just one week after facing Oregon is no easy task.
  • It’s also worth noting that the Falcons beat Boise State last year, racking up 286 yards of total offense.
  • On the other hand, the Spartan defense ranks fourth nationally against the run (70.5 ypg, 2.14 ypc) and 21st in tackles for a loss. Negative plays tend to disrupt option offenses.
  • Another note about Air Force: An injured Nate Romine is out. Karson Roberts becomes the new starting quarterback for the Falcons.
  • The most underrated game of the weekend is Northwestern versus Duke. With very little fanfare, each team has quietly raced out to a 2-0 start. It’ll be interesting to see how Thomas Sirk and the Devil offense — ranked 9th nationally in total offense — fare against a stout Wildcat defense that’s allowed just 189 yards per game (3rd in the country).
  • Memphis – Bowling Green is a close second. Sure, it’s a game between “mid majors,” but these teams are much better than people realize. After all, both squads come into the game ranked in the top 10 in total offense, with Memphis fourth and Bowling Green tenth. While those numbers would make the game interesting enough, the contrast in styles is worth watching. The Tigers get the job done primarily on the ground (10th nationally, 299 yards per game), whereas the Falcons lead the nation in passing (with 462 yards per game).

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.