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Fearless Rick's 2011-12 College Football Week 3 - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | September 15-17, 2011

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Thursday, September 15

8:00 pm LSU (-3 1/2, 48 1/2) at Mississippi State - An outstanding match-up in the SEC starts college football's third week of play and fans couldn't be happier to have the Tigers at the Bulldogs in what should be one of the more exciting contests of the weekend.

LSU has steamrolled to a 2-0 record, beating Oregon, 40-27 in Week 1 and following that upset with a 49-3 romp over Northwestern State. Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson is still suspended indefinitely, but Jarrett Lee, who has plenty of game experience, has filled in like a pro.

Mississippi State lost, literally at the goal line, 41-34, at Auburn last Saturday after decimating Memphis in Week 1. The Bulldogs have a grinding, deliberate offense guided by QB Chris Relf and RB Vic Ballard, who has 301 yards and 4 TDs in two games.

The difference will be the LSU defense, which stoned Oregon and may be one of the best in the nation.

Prediction: Tigers 29 Bulldogs 20

Friday, September 16

8:00 pm Boise State (-20, 58 1/2) at Toledo - The Toledo Rockets are 1-1, but proved last week at Ohio State - in their 27-22 defeat - that they are capable of staying on the field with just about any college team but they won't be playing just any team on Friday night, as the Boise State Broncos roll into town.

The Broncos had last week off after cruising past Georgia in their season opener, 35-21, displaying a solid blend of balanced offense and hard-hitting defense which has them ranked in the top five in national polls.

Toledo had some nice take-aways from the Ohio State game, though mostly negative things they'll need to clean up if they intend to compete with the Broncos. The Rockets missed one field goal, botched the snap on another and gave up a TD on a punt return, in addition to being penalized 14 times for 102 yards.

A short work week may prepare the Rockets well for Boise, as they won't have time to dwell on their near-upset at Ohio State and if they clean up the mistakes, they should - at home - keep this one close.

Prediction: Broncos 34 Rockets 24

8:00 pm Iowa State at Connecticut (-4 1/2, 44 1/2) - The Huskies are not the same team they were in 2010, plus, coach Randy Edsall, who built the UConn program has moved on to the ACC as head coach at Maryland.

The team is not stable at quarterback, where three different players have taken on the role in their first two games - a 35-3 home opening win over Fordham and a 24-21 loss, last week at Vanderbilt.

Iowa State will be facing it's first opponent outside the state in their first road game of the season. The Cyclones are 2-0, after gutting out a 20-19 win over Northern Iowa and then winning in triple overtime, 44-41, over Iowa, last week.

Iowa State features the play of junior QB Steele Jantz, who went 25-of-37 for 279 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Hawkeyes. The Cyclones bring to Connecticut an offense that could be the best the Huskies face all season and while the UConn defense may be up to the task, the offense is still not ready for a foe of this caliber.

Prediction: Cyclones 27 Huskies 20

Saturday, September 17

12:00 pm West Virginia at Maryland (-1, 54 1/2) - Maryland fams are stoked over an ACC contest in just their second game of the season. The Terps upset Miami, 32-24 on September 5, and have had plenty of time to prepare for this key contest.

West Virginia is 2-0 with easy wins over Marshall and Norfolk State, but those teams are a far cry from what Maryland brings to the table. The Mountaineers haven't established a smooth offensive attack, though QB Geno Smith has improved over last season, making better decisions, but the running game has not been up to usual West Virginia standards.

Facing one of the best pure passers in the country, Danny O'Brien, the stout West Virginia defense will be up against a non-stop Maryland assault, and the Terrapin defense showed up well against Miami. At home and well-rested the Terps are favored and can win despite losing their last five in a row to West Virginia.

Prediction: Terrapins 24 Mountaineers 21

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12:00 pm Auburn at Clemson (-3 1/2, 59) - Clemson plays its third straight home game Saturday, hosting the reigning kings of college football, Auburn, who are fresh off a thrilling 41-34 home win over Mississippi State, in a battle of Tigers. Clemson, like Auburn, is 2-0, though their wins have not been convincing: 43-19 over Troy and 35-27 against Wofford, and they'll have to step it up if they intend to keep up with Auburn, who has the nation's longest winning streak at 16 straight.

The two teams have met three times and every game has been won by Auburn, by 4, 3 and 3 points, including last season's 27-24 win at Auburn, but, despite the 3-0 record SU, Auburn is just 1-2 ATS in those games. While Auburn has an edge offensively, the Clemson defense is the dominant unit, and Clemson is also 16-5 in their last 21 home games.

This looks like the place where Auburn's win streak ends.

Prediction: Clemson Tigers 28 Auburn Tigers 24

3:30 pm Tennessee at Florida (-9 1/2, 50 1/2) - The Florida Gators have absolutely owned the Volunteers in this annual match-up, winning six straight dating back to 2005 and the Vols have lost by nine points or more the last three times they've visited the swamp.

Tennessee has looked solid in wins over Montana, 42-16, and last week over Cincinnati, 45-23, but the Gators have done nothing wrong, beating Florida Atlantic, 41-3, in Week 1 and UAB, 39-0, last week.

Those two romps don't tell much about the Gators except that their focus may just be defense this season, and for good reason. The defense is tied with UCF for the least scored upon (1.5 ppg) and has allowed only 101 rushing yards, but the offense has had trouble converting in the red zone. Meanwhile, Tennessee sophomore QB Tyler Bray has completed 51-of-65 passes for 698 yards, 7 TDs and no interceptions.

Bray looks like the guy to take some of the bite out of the Gators and get the Vols a long-wanted win.

Prediction: Volunteers 31 Gators 27

3:30 pm Michigan State at Notre Dame (-4 1/2, 51) - It's put up or shut up for the Fighting Irish, off to an o-2 start that's been plagued by red zone turnovers by the offense in both defeats. It's almost impossible to believe that the Irish are favored, and by more than a field goal, though one could make a case that the Irish, without the turnovers, would have won both of their first two games this season.

Still, turnovers are a fact of life, and Notre Dame's quarterbacks, Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist, are young and inexperienced, a stark difference from the Spartans' Kirk Cousins, who has 31 games under his belt. He also has a pair of wideouts, Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham, who have accounted for 23 catches and 303 yards in Michigan State's first two wins.

Also, the Spartan defense completely overwhelmed Florida Atlantic last week in their 44-0 romp, holding the Owls to one first down and 48 total yards. As good as the Fighting Irish defense is, the Spartans may be better. Look for the mild upset.

Prediction: Spartans 26 Fighting Irish 23

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2011, 2012, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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