Week 3 is very much a “prove it” weekend around college football. From major nonconference matchups to key early-season divisional battles, this Saturday has a little bit of everything to satisfy appetites from around the landscape. And with so many top-25 teams in action, there’s sure to be some shakeup in the polls, and maybe even the College Football Playoff race once the dust settles.
Get those televisions — yes, plural — ready because here’s a handy guide to direct you through the mayhem.
All times Eastern
The biggest games
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 15 TCU, ABC, 8 p.m.: This is a major opportunity for TCU to on the national stage. It would also show there’s a in the Big 12 conference race. The Buckeyes will travel to Fort Worth without coach Urban Meyer, though he will return from his three-game suspension next week for the Tulane game. Not having Meyer on the sidelines hasn’t mattered yet. Will that change against Gary Patterson’s team?
No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn, CBS, 3:30 p.m.: Regardless of the line, Auburn-LSU typically has some draw and there’s no exception here. Which offense is going to break through? Because that should be the difference with two defenses that, combined, have allowed one meaningful touchdown after two weeks. This has all the makings of your classic defensive slugfest. Though potentially on the lower-scoring side, this one should be a lot of fun.
No. 17 Boise State at No. 24 Oklahoma State, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.: This is an intriguing game nestled in the midday kickoff slot. It would be a nice win for Oklahoma State, no doubt about it. A statement win, in fact, could indicate that Mike Gundy’s team is a little bit better at reloading than expected. However, the bigger implications lie with Boise State. As a favorite to represent the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six bowl, this is arguably the most important game the Broncos will play all year.
Other big games
No. 22 USC at Texas, Fox, 8 p.m.: No, this still doesn’t have the Rose Bowl lore of 2006, but neither did last year’s game in Los Angeles between these two and it turned into a double-overtime thriller. Can this matchup deliver similarly? This feels like a must-win game even though it’s a nonconference battle early in the season. Texas desperately needs a victory of some quality to show any signs of progress under coach Tom Herman. With a loss, USC could start 1-2 for the second time in three years.
No. 10 Washington at Utah, ESPN, 10 p.m.: This one has #Pac12AfterDark written all over it, even if points end up being hard to come by. Utah is a tough place to get a win and Washington has concerns with its protection up front. The Huskies were a trendy preseason playoff pick. A second loss in September would all but officially derail those hopes.
No. 23 Arizona State at San Diego State, CBSSN, 10:30 p.m.: Herm Edwards went from college football punchline to a coach leading a 2-0, nationally ranked team on the road. Stanford had a ton of success against San Diego State in Week 1 throwing to massive wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Well, the Sun Devils have one of their own in N’Keal Harry. To be 3-0 heading into conference play would be a big win for Edwards’ debut.
No. 1 Alabama at Ole Miss, ESPN, 7 p.m.: Ole Miss has been that thorn in the keister for Alabama in three of the last four years, so how does this one play out? Ole Miss has the size and athleticism in the passing game to present problems for any defense. But can the Rebels make the necessary stops on defense? This will be Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s first true road start, by the way.
Houston at Texas Tech, Fox, 4:15 p.m.: It wouldn’t be surprising if this ended up being the game of the day heading into the primetime matchups. Houston is a mere one-point favorite and the line has already swung once. Cougars defensive lineman Ed Oliver is going to be the best player on the field.