Games to watch in Week 3 of college football season

Vicente Montalvo, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 17 Double Coverage flipbook.

Purdue @ No. 12 Notre Dame

Sept. 18, 1:30 p.m. CT, NBC

In a showdown between two undefeated programs for the Shillelagh Trophy, the Boilermakers roll into South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame almost saw its national championship aspirations slip away against Toledo in week two, escaping defeat with a touchdown and a minute to go in the fourth quarter. If head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish plan to shake thunder down from above, starting senior quarterback Jack Coan needs to stay healthy and mobile throughout the contest after suffering a dislocated finger in last week’s contest. Purdue has lost seven consecutive matchups to Notre Dame, but is this the year the Boilermakers end the lengthy losing streak and bring the Shillelagh Trophy home?

No. 22 Auburn @ No. 10 Penn State

Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. CT, ABC

Saturday will feature one of the best atmospheres in all of college football as the Nittany Lions and the Auburn Tigers duel it out in Happy Valley. Penn State will simultaneously welcome Auburn’s first year head coach Bryan Harsin to Happy Valley and the Tigers to the blinding Penn State white out. This will be only the third meeting between the two programs, and Harsin’s first major matchup in his new leadership role. Auburn junior quarterback Bo Nix, a once hopeful Heisman Trophy candidate, has a 75% completed passing rate and has tallied five touchdowns through week two. For the Tigers to steal a win on the road, Nix will have to up the ante on Saturday. If Penn State head coach James Franklin pressures Nix in the pocket, the Nittany Lions will be ringing the victory bell and celebrating a perfect start to the 2021 season.

No. 15 Virginia Tech @ West Virginia

Sept. 18, 11:00 a.m. CT, Fox Sports 1

For the first time since 2017, the Black Diamond Trophy is up for grabs between Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series — a series that has stretched since 1912 — but the Hokies have experienced the most recent success when squaring off against West Virginia. Between the two programs, the Hokies have secured the last 10 out of 13 meetings and look to improve that record with another win on Saturday. The Hokies have been rolling this season under sixth year head coach Justin Fuente as they head into week three.  Meanwhile, the Mountaineer faithful will look to capture the victory and sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in an upset victory as they send the Hokies back to Blacksburg.

No. 1 Alabama @ No. 11 Florida

Sept. 18, 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS

The Tide head into the Swamp’s hostile environment on Saturday for their first road game of the season. Under Florida head coach Dan Mullen’s defense, the Gators have an impressive linebacker trio led by senior Jeremiah Moon. Moon will look to rush the passer, attempting to force Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young to become frazzled under center. Saturday’s matchup will mark Young’s third game as Alabama’s starting quarterback after the departure of former Davey O’Brien Award winner and current NFL quarterback Mac Jones. Florida junior quarterback Emory Jones was the anticipated man to get the starting nod throughout the season, but Jones’ four interceptions in his first two games did not impress Mullen. Possibly taking over the Gator quarterback reins, redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson has looked explosive when taking snaps, but a hamstring injury suffered in week two could limit the redshirt freshman in this cross-SEC matchup. Regardless of who starts under center for the Gators, Mullen and team need to limit offensive mistakes because the Alabama defense will be waiting for every opportunity to shut down any sign of offensive life. Alabama has not lost to Florida since 2008, and the Gators look to end the Tide’s streak in Saturday’s afternoon showdown.

Tulane @ No. 17 Ole Miss 

Sept. 18, 7:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2

The last time Tulane won in Oxford dates all the way back to 1988. If the Green Wave wish to upset the Rebels on the road, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz will have to rely heavily upon freshman quarterback Michael Pratt. With a 60% completed passing rate, Pratt is enjoying his freshman campaign, throwing three touchdowns in week one against a powerful Oklahoma Sooners defense. Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, who missed the Rebels’ home season opener due to a positive COVID-19 test result and still came out with a win, must have his program present in week three and not focused on week four’s matchup against his former employer, Alabama. Pratt, however, is certainly capable of getting the tough job done. He could give the Green Wave an invigorating upset that has not been accomplished in ages.