Upsets are one of the most exciting parts of any sport. As we move into Week 3 of the college football season, we start to get a feel for where teams lie. We also get a feel for teams that should be wary as they enter their Week 3 matchup. I give you the first volume of Upset Alert: Week 3 edition.
Florida State (-2.5) at. Syracuse
As everyone in the college football world knows, Willie Taggart’s start at Florida State has been less than ideal. After a blowout home opener against Virginia Tech, the Noles squeaked by FCS opponent Samford, a game in which they didn’t hold a lead until there was just 4:03 left in the game. Deondre Francois has been pretty meh, completing just 65% of passes with an even 3 touchdowns and 3 picks. On the flip side, Syracuse has been clicking on all cylinders, led by star QB Eric Dungey, who has thrown for 7 touchdowns, ran for another, and has barely had to play the second half in the Orange’s two blowout wins. The Cuse offense has totaled 117 points in its first two games, granted against Western Michigan and Wagner. The question in this game lies with Syracuse’s defense, which has not been tested yet. It features a very young and inexperienced secondary, which could be easily torn apart by Francois and the Noles. However, it is also a very aggressive secondary that has been able to already force more interceptions in the first 2 games than it did all of last season. The Carrier Dome can get loud, and as Clemson knows from last season, strange things can happen inside. Florida State is the first team on upset alert.
Vanderbilt at. 8 Notre Dame (-14)
After a big home opening win against Michigan, Notre Dame slept walked through a 24-16 win against Ball State. Now the Irish welcome in a 2-0 Vanderbilt team that not many people are talking about. Through its first two matchups against Mid Tennessee State and Nevada, the Vandy defense allowed just 8.5 points per game on defense while racking up 38 per game on offense. QB Kyle Shurmur has been solid, throwing for 4 touchdowns and no picks, while only taking one sack. I also like Vanderbilt’s depth at running back, effectively using 4 different backs through its first 2 games. On the flip side, since the second half against Michigan and the entire game against Ball State, Notre Dame’s offense has been stagnant. Brandon Wimbush has had a pretty rough campaign so far, completing 54.7% of passes while throwing 4 picks to just 1 touchdown. Tony Jones Jr and Jafar Armstrong have been steady in the backfield, but Ball State was able to counter this effectively by stacking the box and forcing Wimbush to throw. If Vandy can use this same strategy and move the ball against a tough Irish defense, watch out Notre Dame, you’re on upset alert.
Troy at. Nebraska (-10)
I don’t think Troy has the defense to keep pace with Nebraska, but if its offense can show up, the Trojans have a shot in Lincoln. Troy’s junior QB Kaleb Barker has been solid throwing the ball, but even more effective running. The Trojans ground attack has gone for 208 yards a game, but Nebraska should be able to counter this rather easily with a strong front 7. The key to Troy having a chance will lie in the arm of Barker. Nebraska was unable to stop Colorado’s passing offense whatsoever last weekend, and the holes in the secondary were obvious. There’s a good chance Adrian Martinez will be too much for Troy’s defense to handle, but never forget what happened in Baton Rouge a season ago. With a sleepy noon kickoff in Lincoln, don’t sleep on the Trojans.
Hawaii at. Army (-6.5)
I’m honestly just as surprised as anyone that Army is opening up as a 6.5 point favorite. Granted, Hawaii does have to travel all the way to upstate New York for a noon kickoff, but we’re talking about a lethal Rainbow Warriors offense led by QB Cole McDonald’s ridiculous 1165 yards and 13 TD with no interceptions. Granted, Hawaii’s defense has not been great, and the triple option presents a big challenge, but Hawaii has been able to keep its opponents in check on the ground. Hawaii’s offense will prove to be too much for the Black Knights to handle. I love my country, but Army better be on high alert when Hawaii rolls into town.
BYU at. 6 Wisconsin (-22)
These next three games are a little out there, but let’s present some arguments anyways. Wisconsin started off real slow against New Mexico last weekend, and can’t afford to do so against a stingy BYU team that has already knocked off a Power 5 opponent in Arizona. Furthermore, the Cougars narrowly lost to Cal this past weekend. Tanner Mangum hasn’t been great, but he’s been known to work some magic against Big 10 teams in the past. Truthfully, Wisconsin’s defense is most likely way too good to allow BYU to outscore them. If BYU can keep it close early and somehow take the beating of Wisconsin’s offensive line and run game, they have a legit shot of keeping it close. It would take a miracle, but it’s happened before. Watch out Badgers.
1 Alabama (-20.5) at. Ole Miss
Alabama has looked real impressive early on. But so has Ole Miss’ offense, led by senior QB Jordan Ta’amu and junior RB Scottie Phillips, who has averaged 10 yards per carry. Bama is by no means Texas Tech or Southern Illinois on defense, but if Ta’amu can control the game, it could be interesting. On the flip side, Tua Tagovailoa looks to be the real deal throwing the ball, and Alabama will look to also pound the ball early and often with Najee and Damien Harris. Alabama has the better defense and the better team, but it’s a Saturday night in Oxford. Things could get weird. Oh, and the scariest part? Ole Miss has nothing to lose.
4 Ohio State (-13) at. 15 TCU
This is a big game for both teams. Neither team has been tested so far, and obviously playing the game in Texas could be a big advantage for TCU. I really really like Dwayne Haskins under center for the Bucks, and Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins have provided a balanced rushing attack. There’s no denying that Ohio State is damn good. But don’t count out the Horned Frogs just yet. They’ve been able to average 49 points a game on offense and it hasn’t even gotten fired up to full force yet. All this talk about the hot starts for Oklahoma and West Virginia has left TCU almost out of the conversation in the Big 12. Saturday night could be a big statement for them.