September 15, 2010

Viewer's guide: Things get a little tougher

The third week of the season isn't getting the same type of build-up as Week Two, but plenty of good football is in store Saturday.

This is among the most interesting times of the season. Some major programs are moving away from playing cupcakes and facing more legitimate opponents. The first set of conference games are beginning. And potential BCS-worthy teams are starting to flex their muscles.

There's only one game between ranked teams this week: Iowa at Arizona. But six top-10 teams, including Iowa, go on the road this week.

Big 12 contenders Texas and Nebraska face their first road tests of the season, both with first-year starting quarterbacks. Arkansas goes on the road, too, to face a Georgia team stinging from the loss to South Carolina.

Here's a look at the top five games to watch Saturday, plus Thursday's and Friday's nationally televised prime-time games.

All times Eastern.

WEEK 3 VIEWER'S GUIDE
SATURDAY

ARKANSAS AT GEORGIA
When: Noon, ESPN
Broadcasters: Dave Pasch play-by-play, Bob Griese and Chris Spielman analysts
The line: Georgia by 2.5
Why you should watch: Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green doesn't play defense, but his suspension has come at the most inopportune time. In a two-week stretch, the Bulldogs will have seen the SEC's best freshman (South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore ran wild on them last week) and the SEC's best quarterback (it's Arkansas' Ryan Mallett this week, and he threw for 408 and five TDs against the Bulldogs last season). Georgia mustered only two field goals against South Carolina, and that certainly won't be enough against Arkansas. This will be another key game for Georgia's defense, which has a new coordinator and a new scheme, to prove itself. This also will serve as a barometer for whether Arkansas can be a legit SEC contender. A number to remember: The Razorbacks are 1-8 on the road under Bobby Petrino.

NEBRASKA AT WASHINGTON
When: 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Sean McDonough play-by-play, Matt Millen analyst
The line: Nebraska by 4.5
Why you should watch: Nebraska's competition gets a little better each week, from Western Kentucky to Idaho to a road trip to Washington, which defeated Syracuse 41-20 last week. Nebraska may be the only state in the country where no one is talking about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. That's because the Huskers have their own dual threat at quarterback in redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez, who became the first Nebraska quarterback to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games since 2003. Martinez's speed has been compared to Heisman winner Eric Crouch's. That's good for the Huskers, but can he win big games for a team expected to contend for the Big 12 title and more? The game also will be another chance for Washington quarterback Jake Locker to build his credentials in a matchup against a stout Nebraska defense.

CLEMSON AT AUBURN
When: 7 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
The line: Auburn by 6
Why you should watch: The ACC took its lumps last week with Miami (at Ohio State), Florida State (at Oklahoma), Virginia Tech (James Madison) and Georgia Tech (at Kansas) losing. Clemson could help the perception of the conference if it defeats Auburn. The key for Clemson will be shutting down Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. It's tough to get a good read on Clemson after Dabo Swinney's team had little trouble with North Texas and Presbyterian in the first two weeks of the season. But Clemson's should be the best pass rush and best secondary Newton has faced this season. Clemson defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Andre Branch have combined for five sacks this season.

TEXAS AT TEXAS TECH
When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2
Broadcasters: Ron Franklin play-by-play, Ed Cunningham analyst
The line: Texas by 3
Why you should watch: Both teams have had their lapses this season, but both are 2-0. Texas started slow against Rice and Wyoming, but had little trouble by the end of the second quarter. Texas Tech allowed SMU to score 13 unanswered points in the final 17:49 of the Red Raiders' opener. Texas coach Mack Brown is 3-3 in Lubbock and 32-4 in other Big 12 venues (Kansas State's is the only stadium where he has a losing record, at 1-2). Making the trip even more challenging for the Longhorns is that sophomore Garrett Gilbert will be making his first true road start. Despite the departure of Mike Leach, Texas Tech remains a pass-first team. Taylor Potts has attempted 87 passes and thrown for 652 yards in the first two games.

IOWA AT ARIZONA
When: 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Mark Jones play-by-play, Bob Davie analyst
The line: Iowa by 1.5
Why you should watch: Neither team has been seriously challenged this season. Iowa defeated Eastern Illinois and rival Iowa State by a combined 72-14. Arizona has been just as dominant, beating Toledo and The Citadel 93-8. Although Iowa and Arizona weren't preseason favorites in their conferences, both remain legitimate BCS contenders. The game could be determined by the defenses. The Hawkeyes, however, will be without defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who was hospitalized this week due to complications from diabetes. Arizona's offensive line has a tall task in stopping end Adrian Clayborn, who had 11.5 sacks a year ago. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been interception-free this season, but he'll be throwing against Wildcats cornerback Trevin Wade, who had five interceptions last season. Iowa won last season's meeting 27-17 behind 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Adam Robinson, who has been even more productive to start 2010.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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