Games to Watch: Week 3

Week 2 gave us tons of great games. Of the games I picked last week, I will say the following: Texas is finally back, Colorado has the makings of a legit PAC 12 contender, Ole Miss can take the fight to Alabama. Week 3 does not have any crazy heavy hitter match-ups like last week, but there are still some fun and interesting games to watch. One a rematch between two BIG 12 and MAC teams, a prove it game for Golden Gophers and Tar Heels, and finally a prime time Sun Belt Sickos game on the NFL Network. Hold on to your butts, here are my “Games to Watch” Week 3 Edition.

Iowa State at Ohio
12:00PM Kickoff on ESPNU (9/16)
Current Records:
Iowa State: 1-1 (0-0 BIG 12)
Ohio: 2-1 (0-0 MAC)

This is an interesting match up, I wrote in my “Games to Watch: Week 0” article that Ohio had high hopes this season and a showdown with Iowa State was looming. I think this game will set the tone for both teams the rest of the season. If Ohio wins, taking down a BIG 12 team, they become the premiere team in the MAC, and Matt Campbell’s Head Coaching job starts to really heat up in Ames. While the flip side if Iowa State wins they moves into conference play 2-1 feeling good, and Ohio drops to 2-2 wondering where they would be if Kurtis Rourke was 100% healthy (we will get to that soon).
Iowa State lost last week to rival Iowa 20-13. The Cyclones fell into a 20-3 hole, slowly clawed their way back to cut the lead to 7 but that was it, turn the ball over on downs with 1:23 left to play. They lost the game by leaving points on the board via their own mistakes/turnovers and not taking advantage of turnovers. On the opening drive they had a 36 yard field goal blocked, and in the 2nd quarter the defense managed to intercept Iowa QB Cade McNamara but two plays later gave it right back when Rocco Becht threw a pick-6. The Cyclone offense was just held in check most of the game by a very solid Hawkeye defense, holding them to 290 total yards of offense (203 passing | 87 rushing), the one turnover, all while Iowa State held the ball for over 30 minutes of the game. This is a younger Cyclone team, Rocco Becht is a Freshmen QB, leading rusher Cartevious Norton is a Sophomore, and second best running back Abu Same III is a freshmen. Defensively through two games the Cyclones allow 257 total yards per game (148 passing | 109 rushing) while only generating 3 turnovers (3 INTS). This defense should be able to hold the Bobcats back, but it all depends on the QB situations for Ohio.
Losing Kurtis Rourke to an injury in Week 0 hurt the Bobcats, dropping a very winnable game against SDSU. Rourke made his return last week against FAU (looking a little rusty), going 18-29 for 203 yards, 1 TD | 2 INT. The very first offensive play of the game, Rourke threw a INT, but Ohio got the ball back literally the next play picking off Owl QB Casey Thompson. Rourke’s other INT was pick-6. Ohio did end the first half with a 13 yard TD pass from Rourke to Will Kacmerk to cut the lead to 10-7. The second half was “all” Bobcats, a O’Shann Allison rushing TD, and an Alex Case 39 Yd field goal extended the lead to 17-10 and that was all she wrote. Runningback Seth Bangura continues to be a consistent presence for the Bobcats, having 51 carries for 217 Yds, yet no TDs yet (they will come don’t worry). My two big take aways for Ohio in Week 2: Rourke looks rusty, the offense is pretty inept without him, though third string QB Parker Navarro adding a much needed spark in Week 1 against Long Island, going 5-7 for 60 Yds, 2 TD | 1 INT. The second take away is Ohio has a very solid defense this season. Allowing only three offensive TDs in three games while allowing 236.3 Yds a game (172 passing | 64.3 rushing).
Iowa State is favorited in this game -2.5 points, honestly rightfully so, its a BIG 12 team vs a MAC team. I expect this to a be a close lower scoring game with lots of defensive stops, whether it be punts/turnovers/turnover on downs. This game screams team with the ball last will win. Ohio’s key to win is for Rourke to start of strong, look for him to reconnect with his go to receiver from last season, Sam Wiglusz. While Iowa State needs to finish drives with some type of points even if its field goals. My gut and the homer in me says Ohio wins a tight game.

Minnesota at #20 UNC
3:30PM Kickoff on ESPN (9/16)
Current Records:
Minnesota: 2-0 (1-0 BIG 10)
UNC: 2-0 (0-0 ACC)

Minnesota vs UNC is a really fun Non-Con matchup in Week 3. Both teams are 2-0, one of those wins being a too close for comfort win, the other being just a solid victory. UNC has high hopes this season and with Clemson looking weaker and weaker the time is now to make a statement in the ACC, and QB Drake Maye’s Heisman hopes. On the other side Minnesota looks to win a very weak BIG 10 West (who am I kidding, it’s always weak).
Lets start with the away team, Minnesota. After beating Nebraska in a tight one during Week 1 and handling business against MAC foe Eastern Michigan, PJ Fleck has the Golden Gophers off to a respectable start (I want to also note Minnesota is on a 4 game win streak dating back to last season). In the Post-Tanner Morgan Era, Athan Kaliakmanis takes the reigns as starting QB. The offense is averaging 332 total Yds (156.5 passing | 175.5 rushing), Kaliakmanis only has 313 passing yards so far with 1 TD | 2 INTS. The bulk of the Gopher O is coming from the rushing attack, Darius Taylor and Sean Tyler have been taking care of business, Darius with 34 carries 196 Yds 1 TD, while Sean has 27 carries 134 Yds. Defensively to Minnesota is allowing 223.5 total yards (92.5 passing | 131 rushing), but remember who those opponents were, Nebraska and Eastern Michigan. It’s still early in the season (obviously) but that close win against Nebraska Week 1 looks worse and worse each week, Colorado crushed the Cornhuskers last week and I would put their offense on par with UNC, and not to slight Eastern Michigan (they have improved dramatically since Chris Creighton took over) but they don’t have a super powerful offense like UNC.
Man I bet UNC never wants to schedule Appalachian State ever again, barely escaping with a victory two straight years in a row, this past weekend winning 40-34 in 2OT. One of college footballs top Quarterbacks and Heisman hopefully, Drake Maye, is having a slow start to the season, going 45-62 for 477 Yds, 2 TD | 2 INT and 82 rushing Yd 1 TD, in two games. The Tar Heel offense is being carried by its running game right now, and it was the running game that saved them against App State. Running back Omarion Hampton is cruising with 271 Yds and 5 TD ( 234 Yds, 3 TD against App State) without that monster performance they probably would have lost. The offense is averaging 238.5 passing Yds and 243.5 rushing Yds a game, but with a QB like Maye this offense should be popping off in his second year as starter. Looking at the defense, against South Caroline and App State, the Tar Heel D is allowing 422.5 total Yds (314 passing | 108.5 rushing), so if you are Minnesota this is the week you want your passing game to finally take that next step.
North Carolina is the favorite at -7.5, I think that is a little generous to Minnesota. I expect this game to go very similar to UNC vs South Carolina (UNC won 31-17), Maye making some big plays (maybe an INT) running backs running over the Gopher D. While Minnesota finally sees some life in the passing game but it’ll be too little too late. UNC wins this game.

James Madison at Troy
7:00PM Kickoff on NFL Network (9/16)
Current Records:
JMU: 2-0 (0-0 Sun Belt)
Troy: 1-1 (0-0 Sun Belt)

Alright, this game is for the “sicko” college football fans out there: because who would watch a Sun Belt conference game between James Madison and Troy during prime time on the NFL Network of all channels? Me, me I am that sicko. Why do you ask? Because James Madison is a fun team and making noise in just their second season at the FBS level, taking down a Power 5 team (talk about that in a moment), while Troy is a an exciting team (12-2 last season) even though they are 1-1 with a Power 5 loss. This game is without a doubt my Game of the Week.
James Madison has had just about the best first season and half for a team making the jump from the FCS level to FBS, going 8-3 in 2022 and missing out on a Bowl Game due to the stupid rule first year FBS teams are on “probation”, hell they were even ranked for one week at #25. The Dukes continue the momentum from last season starting 2-0 with a big win over a Power 5 school, Virginia in the ACC. Last week the Duke’s scored 12 unanswered points in the 4th Quarter, taking the lead with 55 seconds left, sealing the deal for their first win over a Power 5 team (lost last season to Louisville 34-10), winning 36-35. The Duke’s offense is averaging 415.5 total Yds (201.5 passing | 214 rushing) and is led by QB Jordan McCloud. Running backs Kaelon Black and Ty Son Lawton are the top rushers, Black leading the team with 150 yards while Lawton leads with 3 TDs. Love to shoutout special teams when I can, kick Camden Wise is 100% on all kicks, extra points 8/8 and field goals 2/2, very solid. The defense was put to he test last week against Virginia, giving up 35 points, and allowing 395 ads. The positive is that they only allowed 18 total rushing yards. On the season their defense averages 301.5 total Yds a game (261.5 passing | 40 rushing). The problem is seems with the Dukes is they take the lead early then get complacent, defense gets lazy allowing big plays to happen. The offense is good enough to play catch up but the secondary needs to be on their A game constantly.
The Trojans are 1-1 on the year, defeating FCS opens SF Austin week 1 48-30, then last week losing to #15 Kansas State 42-13. QB Gunnar Watson leads the Trojan O, he is a 6th year Senior (Redshirt/Covid Year), he is off to a solid start, 31-54 365 Yds and 5 TD | 2 INT. The player to watch on Troy is running back Kimani Vidal, he has 331 rushing yards through 2 games but has yet to find the endzone, rushing wise only one back has a TD and that’s Karris Williams. Watson spreads the ball around pretty evenly, none of his receivers have over 100 Yds so far, the closest is tight end Ethan Conner with 75 Yds, most receivers/tight ends/running backs in the the passing game all some where between 3-6 catches each on the season. In total the offense is averaging 413 total yards (207 passing | 206 rushing), legit 50/50 offensive production. The Trojan defense is having an okay start too (minus the buzzsaw that is Kansas State’s offense) they are allowing 318.5 total yards (193 passing | 125.5 rushing), a player to keep your eye on on the defensive side f the ball is cornerback Reddy Steward. Steward is having an outstanding start to his Senior year, through 2 games he has 9 tackles (8 solo) 2 INT with one being a pick-6. In his career he has 7 INTs and 3 TDs, I think he will make the leap to the NFL no problem.
Troy is the favorite in the game -2.0, its a home game for the too. I’m going with the hot team though, James Madison. Fresh off a huge win over Virginia I expect them to keep that momentum going (quick note: they are on a 5 game winning streaking dating back to last season). Expect a high scoring, over/under is at 48, do not be surprised if it goes over JMU is averaging 35 points a game.

-Wil Weddington (@Wil_Weddington)