Lamar Jackson Battles the Clemson Defense: College Football Week 3 Preview
The 2017 college football moves into its third week with key battles in the SEC and ACC. Here’s what to expect:
Friday, September 15
Is South Florida Ready for Post-Irma Football?
Illinois at (22) South Florida | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.; 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
After powerful Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Sunshine State last weekend, Floridians can be excused for not making football a priority these days. However, 22nd-ranked South Florida (2–0) will host Illinois (2–0) in Tampa as scheduled on Friday night. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN; it’s sure to be emotionally compelling television.
USF cancelled last week's game against Connecticut because of the storm, and its team hasn’t practiced since Thursday. The Bulls must quickly ready themselves to play against a Fighting Illini squad that topped Western Kentucky last Saturday. Running back Darius Tice is South Florida’s key offensive weapon; the Bulls defense needs to stop Illinois running back Mike Epstein, who had 111 yards in last week’s win.
Saturday, September 16
Will Tennessee or Florida Drop Out of the Rankings?
(23) Tennessee at (24) Florida | Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Twenty-fourth-ranked Florida will host No. 23 Tennessee in an Southeastern Conference (SEC) battle in Gainesville on Saturday. The status of the game was in doubt after Hurricane Irma washed over the Sunshine State last weekend. Florida (0–1) cancelled last Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado, their first scheduled contest since a disappointing season-opening loss to Michigan. The Gators need to win this week to stay in the AP Top 25.
Led by quarterback Quinten Dormady, the Volunteers (2–0) have scored 42 points per game in consecutive wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana State. They’ll face a tougher test with a Florida defense that scored two return touchdowns against the Wolverines. Like the Gators, Tennessee needs this win to stay in the AP rankings.
Can Lamar Jackson Pass the Clemson Test?
(3) Clemson at (14) Louisville | Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kent.; 8 p.m. (ET) on ABC
Reigning Heisman Trophy–winner Lamar Jackson has been putting up video-game-like stats as his 14th-ranked Cardinals have rolled to a 2–0 start. Jackson now has more than 1,000 yards of total offense thus far in 2017, but he’ll face a much stiffer challenge when third-ranked Clemson visits for an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game this week. The Tigers (2–0) registered 11 sacks in last week’s dominant victory over Auburn. They’ll likely try to keep Jackson in the pocket — and in their sights — throughout the game.
Just as important for Clemson: quarterback Kelly Bryant must stay protected and in control of the offense. Louisville’s defense has been suspect thus far and putting up points is one way to incentivize Jackson to drop back and pass, instead of run. If the Cardinals can get a win, they should stay in the college football playoff picture throughout the season.
Will USC Play at Home Every Week?
Texas at (4) USC | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Fox
The schedule-maker obviously loves fourth-ranked USC (2–0), which will play its third consecutive home game this Saturday when it hosts now-unranked Texas. The Trojans, who will finally play a road game at Cal next week, were impressive in beating Stanford last Saturday. The key: quarterback Sam Darnold, who completed 21 of 26 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinal. Darnold could have another huge day against a Longhorns defense that was victimized for 51 points by Maryland in Week 1.
Texas (1–1) did shut out San Jose State 56–0 last week. The Trojans defense won’t know if the Longhorns’ stud quarterback Shane Buechele or freshman QB Sam Ehlinger will start. Buechele sat out last week’s win with a shoulder injury. Running back Chris Warren III took over the load, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns. If he does that again, USC is in trouble, even at home.
Hurricanes-Seminoles Rescheduled for October 7
(17) Miami at (11) Florida State | Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida residents would much rather be focused on the annual meeting of Miami and Florida State than Hurricane Irma cleanup, but that’s what many fans will be doing this weekend. The game between the 17th-ranked Hurricanes and the 11th-ranked Seminoles in Tallahassee has been postponed to Oct. 7. The three-week delay will give both Miami (1–0) and Florida State (0–1) time to work through their schedules and perhaps be more focused. Either way, FSU will be without quarterback Deondre Francois, who was lost for the season to a knee injury suffered in the team’s Week 1 loss to top-ranked Alabama.
These teams aren’t the only Florida schools coping with scheduling issues due to Hurricane Irma’s wake: Central Florida canceled its home game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, and Florida International cancelled its road game at Indiana.