Yes, we’re kicking ourselves for almost pulling the trigger on the Appalachian State-Texas A&M upset last week before ultimately chickening out. The Aggies looked lost on offense and generally uninspired, and now there are serious question marks about the A&M offense as the season progresses. This week, the only three games of real note are Penn State’s visit to Auburn, while A&M tries to beat back a resurgent Miami team and LSU faces off against Mississippi State. Most of the rest of the games are mismatches.
Week 1 record: 9-3(75.0%)
Season record: 21-6 (77.8%)
SOUTH FLORIDA at FLORIDA
South Florida got into the win column last week, but the win was over Howard, and the Bulls still gave up 20 points. That was a week after getting obliterated by BYU, but in the Cougars’ defense, BYU’s Week 2 victory over Baylor may mean there’s something really going on in Provo after all. Florida fell to Kentucky in a game that was surprisingly controlled, physically, by the Wildcats, at least to the point that it showed there still exists a gap between the Gators and other top teams. If Florida has any trouble at all in this game, it will be a major red flag, because the Bulls can’t stop the Gators. We assume.
South Florida 13
LOUISIANA-MONROE at ALABAMA
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GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina’s offense has improved. Now the bad part: the Gamecock defense is wretched, and it’s not entirely clear that Shane Beamer yet has the program on the path to improvement there. The offense, behind new QB Spencer Rattler, is good enough to cause Georgia some heartburn if the defense fails to shop up, but given the softness of South Carolina’s run defense, all Georgia will have to do is wait for a South Carolina kicker to boot the ball back and give the Bulldogs another possession. It’s possible, we suppose, that Rattler could have a Stephen Garcia-type day against Georgia and the Gamecocks pull a monumental upset, especially with the game in Columbia, but a meteor strike may be a safer place to bet your money.
South Carolina 24
YOUNGSTOWN STATE at KENTUCKY
Youngstown State is 2-0 in FCS but shouldn’t threaten the Wildcats. Of course, we’ve said similar about Kentucky before, and had it burn us. The Wildcat program seems to have the talent (curse?) of following up major milestone games with fall-aparts the next week. The QB talent alone, though, should be able to get Kentucky through if all else fails.
Youngstown St. 20
ABILENE CHRISTIAN at MISSOURI
Missouri really messed in its kit against Kansas State; a loss wasn’t completely unexpected, but the severity of it was. Missouri wasn’t even competitive in that game, and it might be time to start wondering whether Eliah Drinkwitz really has a grasp of what Missouri needs to do to reach the next level. Abilene Christian is 2-0 in FCS but the wins have been close and the games low-scoring. Missouri ought to be able to handle this task with relative ease, but after last week, nothing is guaranteed.
Abilene Christian 12
AKRON at TENNESSEE
Akron is coached by former Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, and so far in 2022, the results would look familiar to Bulldog fans still sore about his tenure. Akron had to go to overtime to beat FCS Saint Francis 30-23, then got shut out last week against Michigan State. Tennessee’s own defensive issues will probably keep the shutout out of play here, but there’s no way Moorhead’s sometimes-plodding offensive style is going to be able to keep up.
VANDERBILT at NORTHERN ILLINOIS
This is actually one of the most interesting games on the board thanks mostly to Vanderbilt’s newfound offensive competency. It’s not that the Commodores are lighting up college football, but they’ve scored 63, 42 and 25 points in their first three games, which are signs at least of having something resembling a pulse. The Commodores’ problem has instead been the defense, which ranks 108th after three games and honestly, that’s probably an overrate. Northern Illinois barely scooted by FCS Eastern Illinois in its opener, then barely lost to Tulsa last week. We pegged this a Commodore loss in the preseason but now it appears Vandy has a chance to stave off a 10-loss season with a win here. This could be the closest game on the docket.
N. Illinois 31
MISSOURI STATE at ARKANSAS
Arkansas finds itself back in the top 10 and suddenly a contender in the SEC West, especially after Alabama’s lackluster offensive showing against Texas. Missouri State should be a nice pillow game for the Razorbacks before the meat of the SEC schedule truly arrives.
Missouri St. 20
PENNSYLVANIA STATE at AUBURN
Penn State is 2-0 but the Nittany Lions don’t look quite as formidable as preseason analysts thought. The defense has been surprisingly porous, good news for an Auburn team that still doesn’t have a solid answer at quarterback and lacks the depth elsewhere to make up for it. Scoring 24 against San Jose State last week should be a warning sign that all is not well on that side of the ball, while the Tigers also haven’t been able to really close the deal defensively despite their other opponent being FCS Mercer. Jordan-Hare Stadium is a huge factor here; if the game were in State College, we don’t think Auburn would make things particularly close. As it is, both teams have enough holes where Auburn playing at home narrows the gap.
Penn State 27
MISSISSIPPI STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
If you’re looking for some entertainment, look here. On one hand is Mike Leach’s off-kilter Air Raid offense that is trying to work around a retooled offensive line, going up against the Brian Kelly experiment at LSU. LSU followed up an anemic performance in a loss to Florida State by running Southern off the field by halftime last week, and that’s relevant here because the big debate will center on whatever LSU’s offense can muster versus whatever Mississippi State’s defense can stop. The State secondary has been a little gimpy thus far, but LSU may not be able to pressure it. It depends on how much improvement the Tigers made from Week 1 to Week 2.
Mississippi St. 31
MISSISSIPPI at GEORGIA TECH
Ole Miss’ tour of also-rans continues this week with a visit to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. The Rebels will close out their nonconference gauntlet next week against Tulsa before embarking on its SEC schedule, but first must deal with a Yellow Jacket team that has fallen completely from the ranks of contending FBS program down to … whatever this is. Georgia Tech is, at least, coming off a win, but it was by just 35-17 over the likes of Western Carolina. Ole Miss bounced back from a lackluster opener against Troy to smother Central Arkansas last week and will face one of FBS’s worst offenses. Tech’s defense has done its best to bail out the offense, and so far, it’s been one of the better units at forcing turnovers, but with as much damage as Lane Kiffin can do as a playcaller, this one won’t be close for long.
Ole Miss 42
Georgia Tech 14
MIAMI at TEXAS A&M
The Aggies’ program is at a crossroads, coming off an embarrassing loss to Appalachian State and still devoid of any offensive flow. Suddenly, a game that looked almost in the bag prior to the season now has a very different profile. Miami comes in ranked 13th while A&M fell 18 spots to 24th after the loss to ASU. Miami has averaged 64 points per game through its first two contests, but those numbers came against Bethune Cookman and Southern Miss. So, what we have is a Miami team that hasn’t been tested yet, against an Aggie team that has looked lethargic in both its first two games. Jimbo Fisher has been fairly effective at bouncing up off the mat in the past when people counted him out, and he’d better find a way to do it again here. A loss more or less ends A&M’s season before October even starts.
Texas A&M 27
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN