Each week, I take a glance at the college football schedule for the following week to see which teams might get caught looking ahead. Since a lot of you seemed to enjoy this piece for Weeks 1 and 2, I decided to share the spots I have circled for the next two college football weekends.
More importantly, it signals to me which teams could potentially hold back or pull their starters earlier than usual against an inferior opponent if they have a big game on deck.
It might lead me to a pregame position or a decision to back the favorite in the first half instead of the full game. Or I may just have the game circled as a potential second-half spot.
Other times, I don’t think it means anything. It’s certainly more art than science and my projections trump all, but it’s at least information you should have at your disposal when handicapping a card, in my opinion.
Let’s first take a look at the seven games I have circled on this week’s card. I’ll then highlight the three biggest spots to keep in mind heading into next week.
Did someone order a sandwich?
Arkansas comes off an enormous upset win over Texas that resulted in a fine by the SEC for rushing the field. It will have to pick up the confetti and come out mentally ready for Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack this week before a date in Arlington with Texas A&M.
Oh, and after that, the Hogs will have three more conference games against ranked opponents.
There’s enormous potential for the Razorbacks to come out flat here. Plus, who could blame head coach Sam Pittman for simply wanting to get out of this one with a victory while staying healthy and not showing much on tape?
Georgia Southern has been an abject disaster to start the season. The Eagles barely pulled out a win in their opener against FCS Gardner Webb and then got demolished by Florida Atlantic, 38-6.
However, there’s reason for optimism and why this might be a good chance to buy low on them outside of the horrible spot for Arkansas.
Georgia Southern projected starting quarterback Justin Tomlin, who has plenty of prior experience running the offense, did not suit up for the first two games due to an academic suspension. As a result, head coach Chad Lunsford had to turn to former Tulane running back Amare Jones, who simply does not have the tools as a passer or even pitcher.
Lunsford did make a change last week by starting true freshman Cam Ransom, who also got time in the opener. He had some success before exiting in the second quarter with a leg injury with Georgia Southern leading 6-0 and driving.
Lunsford decided to go with freshman Sam Kenerson, who subsequently fumbled inside the 10 late in the second quarter. Instead of potentially going up 13-0, it all went downhill from there, as Kenerson just clearly doesn’t have a firm grasp on the varied option attack.
Well, Tomlin will return under center this week, which should be a huge boost for this offense, which has talent at running back and plenty of returning experience along the offensive line.
It could also see the return of projected starting RB JD King, who has missed the first two games with an injury.
Plus, catching over three touchdowns with a slow-paced option offense will always pique my interest.
Iowa continued its impressive start to the season, following up a blowout win over Indiana with a sixth-straight victory over Iowa State.
Could the Hawkeyes be in for a bit of a letdown after two extremely emotional wins to kick off their 2021 campaign?
It’s certainly possible, and this might be the best time to sell high on Iowa, which benefited from two pick-6s in the opener and a 4-0 turnover advantage against the Cyclones in a game in which it averaged fewer than three yards per play.
That turnover luck can’t persist indefinitely, and the offense still really lacks explosiveness.
Kent State does at least have an excellent quarterback in Dustin Crum. However, the undersized Golden Flashes will be at a severe disadvantage in the trenches.
For what it’s worth, fading the usually conservative Iowa as a large favorite has turned a very nice profit historically. In fact, since 2005, Kirk Ferentz is the least profitable head coach as a double-digit favorite out of 343 coaches in our Action Labs database. The long-time head man in Iowa City owns just a 24-40-1 (37.5%) ATS record as a 10-plus point favorite.
I’ll be taking a long hard look at the Flash Fast offense this week catching over three touchdowns. Hopefully, their kicker doesn’t miss a bunch of chip shot field goals as he did in Week 1 to cost them a cover against Texas A&M.
The Tree are fresh off a monumental upset over rival USC in a game they closed as 17-point underdogs. Now, they have to travel to Nashville for a game against lowly Vanderbilt with three straight conference games against ranked opponents:
- vs. UCLA
- vs. Oregon
- at Arizona State
It’s a very similar situation to the one Arkansas finds itself in.
I think there’s a bit of value on the Commodores at anything above 10. After a horrendous home loss to ETSU to open the season, Vandy picked up a road victory at Colorado State.
You could see the drastic week-over-week improvement under new head coach Clark Lea, who can certainly build on that victory.
The Rockets come off a deflating loss against Notre Dame in a game they easily could’ve won in South Bend.
Now, sandwiched in between that game and a revenge date with reigning MAC champion Ball State, they have to focus on a home contest with 0-2 Colorado State.
If there was ever a time to buy low on the Rams, this is it after two straight home losses to open the season against an FCS school and Vanderbilt.
I’m just not sure I trust head coach Steve Addazio, who might have already lost this team. I’m still baffled by that hire.
Can Ole Miss stay focused on the Green Wave this week with a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama next week?
Tulane already showed it can hang with the big boys in a five-point road loss to Oklahoma in a game the Sooners connected on three 50-plus field goals. It won’t be scared of this SEC stage.
And do you really want to lay 14 with this Ole Miss defense? I’m also pretty sure Lane Kiffin wants to show as few wrinkles as possible with the Crimson Tide on deck.
Stop the presses. We have a 2-0 Rutgers football team in Piscataway.
The Scarlet Knights have a great opportunity to start out 3-0 at home against Delaware, but they better not get caught peeking ahead to Michigan and Ohio State in the two subsequent weeks.
The Blue Hens have a very respectable FCS program that made it to the FCS semifinals in the spring. They started out 2-0 and come into this one ranked No. 6 in the latest FCS poll.
Delaware has some intriguing skill position talent and an experienced defense. However, I do worry about its offensive line and special teams. Blocked punts have been an issue, and Greg Schiano’s team excelled on special teams last season.
It’s still a very high number in a sleepy spot against a Delaware team that won’t be afraid of the stage, especially since a lot of these same players went to Pitt in 2019 and lost, 17-14.
The Ducks find themselves in the potential letdown of the week after pulling off a massive road upset over Ohio State as 14-point dogs. Fortunately for Oregon, it takes on Stony Brook at home.
The Seawolves will travel across the country to Eugene with a 1-1 record, including a win over Colgate and a home loss at the hands of New Hampshire.
They went 1-3 in the spring before canceling their final two games.
Their attacking front seven is the strength of the team, while the passing offense is anemic. It’s hard to imagine them doing much on offense.
I also have three major spots circled for next week if you want to stay ahead of the game.
The Hoosiers take an odd nonconference trip down to Bowling Green to take on a new and improved Western Kentucky offense.
It’s a game for IU sandwiched in between a pair of matchups with top-10 opponents in Cincinnati and Penn State.
The Wildcats should improve to 3-0 this upcoming weekend at home against Chattanooga. Can they remain focused on South Carolina in Week 4 and not get caught looking ahead to back-to-back home games against Florida and LSU?
Head coach Mark Stoops will have his work cut out for him in keeping UK focused on the task at hand.
Assuming the Bruins take care of business against Fresno State this weekend, the hype train will only build in Westwood after such a promising start.
Before an enormous Pac-12 showdown in Tempe against Arizona State that could decide the division, they will first take a trip to the farm to take on Stanford, which has already pulled off one upset over an LA team this season.