Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, September 11, 2017
The third and final week of full-blown non-conference games is here. And, after last week?s strong lineup of game, this week?s slate lacks much pizzazz.
The best game looks like Wisconsin?s trip to BYU, but this isn?t a vintage Cougar squad as it is struggling on offense.
Here is a look at the Best of Week 3, as Michigan State and Maryland are off and the FIU-Indiana game was canceled.
Best game: Wisconsin at BYU. The Badgers are looking good coming off easy home wins vs. Utah State and Florida Atlantic. Still, the Cougars could be a difficult out, especially at home. But BYU has struggled out of the gate, going 1-2. The Cougars have lost two in a row, getting shut out in New Orleans by LSU (27-0) and falling at home to Utah (19-13) last week. The offense isn?t clicking, having notched just 33 points in three games. The all-time series is 1-1, with both games taking place in Madison. Wisconsin won in 2013, while BYU prevailed in 1980 behind Jim McMahon.
Best head coach matchup: Air Force?s Troy Calhoun vs. Michigan?s Jim Harbaugh. Calhoun has been at Air Force since 2007, going 78-53 overall and 45-35 in league play with nine bowls in 10 years. Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to 10 wins in each of this first two years in Ann Arbor. Prior to that, he took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl and made Stanford a Pac-12 force.
Best coordinator clash: Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator Tony Franklin vs. Minnesota defensive coordinator Robb Smith. Franklin is considered one of the top offensive minds in the business as his offense has ranked in the top 10 nationally the last five years in passing, three times in total offense and twice in scoring. Smith came to Minnesota from Arkansas where he spent the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach. In 2016, Smith?s defense was at its best in the second half, as Arkansas allowed only 51 points in the third quarter and 73 in the fourth quarter. Minnesota has yielded just 21 points in two games this year.
Best QB battle: Purdue?s David Blough vs. Missouri?s Drew Lock. Blough hasn?t started a game, but he has come on for Elijah Sindelar (who also is good) in each of the first two tilts and played well, especially last week vs. Ohio. Blough is hitting 74 percent of his passes for 410 yards with five touchdowns and two picks. He was sharp last week, hitting 11-of-13 passes for 235 with three TDs. Lock is connecting on 53 percent of his passes for 766 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions. Lock tossed seven TD passes in the opener vs. FCS Missouri State but had some issues last week vs. South Carolina.
Best chance for an upset: Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee. The Gophers need to be careful when 1-1 Middle Tennessee comes to town. The Blue Raiders have gone to bowls in three of the last four seasons and have a talented QB in Brent Stockstill, the son of MTSU coach Rick who led his team to a win at Missouri last year. Middle Tennessee is coming off a 30-23 win at Syracuse a week after losing at Vanderbilt. MTSU will not be intimidated.
Player on the spot: Rutgers QB Kyle Bolin. The offense couldn?t get going in an ugly home loss to Eastern Michigan. Bolin completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and was picked off twice. The Scarlet Knights went 4-16 on third down. The attack needs to come to life vs. FCS Morgan State.
More Week 3 notes:
- Purdue?s trip to 1-1 Missouri is interesting. The Boilermakers are coming off an impressive home win vs. Ohio after pushing Louisville to the limit in an opening loss. The Tigers are a mess, especially on defense. How bad is it? Mizzou fired its defensive coordinator after the unit got shelled in a win vs. FCS Missouri State and lost to South Carolina last week. And the DC wasn't even the guy who called the defense; head coach Barry Odom does. Purdue is 6-2 all-time vs. Mizzou, winning the last three. The teams last met in the 1980 Liberty Bowl, with the Boilers taking a 28-25 decision. Purdue last played in Columbia in 1953, as Mizzou won, 14-7.
- Illinois plays at South Florida on a Friday night. It will be a tall task vs. an AP No. 22 Bulls squad from the American Athletic Conference whose game last week vs. UConn was called off because of Hurricane Irma. USF is thinking big coming off an 11-2 season and has a new coach in ex-Texas leader Charlie Strong after Willie Taggart took the Oregon job. And USF has a top signal-caller in Quinton Flowers, a monster dual-threat who will pose a big challenge for a young Fighting Illini defense that is playing well.
- Iowa takes on 1-1 North Texas in what is a respite between a trip to Iowa State and visit from Penn State. North Texas-where Hayden Fry coached before getting the Iowa job–went 5-8 last season and has been to just two bowls since 2004.
- Michigan is coming off a sleepy home win vs. Cincinnati as it welcomes Air Force and its triple-option offense, which is never easy to prep for and play against. The Wolverines have won the two all-time meetings, the last coming in 2012. Air Force is 1-0 and was off last week.
- Ohio State will look to rebound from its worst home loss since 1999 vs. Army, the first ever meeting between these schools. The Black Knights are 2-0 and are well-coach under Jeff Monken, coming off an 8-5 season, a bowl win and their first win vs. Navy since 2001.
- Penn State has what amounts to a ?scheduled bye? with 0-1 Georgia State coming to State College. The Panthers just started playing football in 2010. Georgia State went 3-9 last year and hasn?t posted a winning mark since a 6-5 debut in 2010. Penn State should be able to empty the bench and name the score.
WEEK 3 GAME RANKINGS
1. Wisconsin at BYU
2. Purdue at Missouri
3. Air Force at Michigan
4. Illinois at South Florida
5. Middle Tennessee at Minnesota
6. Northern Illinois at Nebraska
7. Army at Ohio State
8. Bowling Green at Northwestern
Florida International at Indiana (canceled)
10. North Texas at Iowa
11. Georgia State at Penn State
12. Morgan State at Rutgers