Oregon QB Justin Herbert vs. Arizona State -- The Sun Devils were most recently seen cowering in fear as Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek rained 543 passing yards and six touchdowns upon them. This was their worst showing of the year, but Shimonek is not the only quarterback who has taken advantage of this secondary. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers also unleashed unholy fire upon them with 398 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opener. While Herbert has just one game of multiple touchdowns in three tries this season, ASU will be gearing up to stop Royce Freeman -- they’ve actually done a nice job against the run this season -- and I expect an output along the lines of Herbert’s 365-yard, three-touchdown job on Nebraska two weekends ago.
TCU QB Kenny Hill vs. Oklahoma State -- Hat tip to my colleague Thor Nystrom, who has been handing out pamphlets on street corners proclaiming Hill’s virtues. The Artist Who No Longer Wishes to be Referred to As Trill thrilled with 365 yards and four touchdowns in a shootout win over SMU on Saturday. It was his second four-touchdown game in three contests this season (the other came against Jackson State). The Cowboys have been the cat’s meow in the early going this season, but next weekend’s affair will be the first time that they have had to face an offense that can move the ball. Factor in that if Oklahoma State does work out to a big lead, then Hill will be in catch-up mode and it’s the recipe for another giant performance.
Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway vs. Missouri -- With Kerryon Johnson out nursing a hamstring injury on Saturday, Pettway rushed for 128 yards and three scores in an uninspiring 24-10 win over Mercer. Guess who else was uninspiring on the day? That would be Missouri, who was blasted off the field by Purdue. Pettway’s 3.8 YPC to pick up those 128 yards is not ideal, but this was just his second game of the year thanks to a suspension in the opener. He also rushed for 74 yards against a stellar Clemson defense a week ago. Should Johnson be able to play, all bets are off, but Johnson struggled with injury last year, too. One to watch over the practice week.
Miami RB Mark Walton vs. Toledo -- And from the FBS darkness emerges The U. It’s easy to forget that the Hurricanes still play football -- they last did so in a win over Bethune-Cookman on September 2. Since then, Miami canceled its Week 2 game against Arkansas State with Hurricane Irma on the horizon, then was off on bye this weekend. But they’re playing a game next weekend! Walton did the expected good things against Bethune-Cookman and there’s no sample after that, so we’ll turn our lonely eyes to Toledo’s run defense. It did not exist against Tulsa on Saturday, as all three of D’Angelo Brewer, Shamari Brooks and Chad President surpassed 130 yards rushing on the ground. Walton will roll.
Louisville WR Jaylen Smith vs. Kent State -- Expect an angry, riled-up Louisville team to take the field for this one. They were thoroughly out-classed by Clemson on Saturday and Kent State will serve as the perfect punching bag. Look no further than what those aforementioned Tigers did to them in the opener in a 56-3 bludgeoning if you want an idea of what a class ACC outfit can do against the Golden Flashes. This could well end with a similar final score. Smith has been the epitome of consistency through three games, with his low-output coming in his 5-79-1 effort against Clemson. He has caught at least five passes in every game this season, with 100-yard receiving showings in each of the first two contests before Brent Venables and friends mostly clamped down on him. Love Smith’s consistency.
Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry vs. Oregon -- I’m still wait-and-see on the Ducks’ pass defense. They completely shut down Wyoming’s Josh Allen on Saturday, but it’s looking more and more like the Cowboys don’t have any play-making skill-position players surrounding the quarterback, which made Oregon’s day an easy one. They also surrendered three second-half touchdown passes to Nebraska’s Tanner Lee (who has otherwise been abysmal) in Week 2. In that contest, Huskers WR Stanley Morgan gouged Jim Levitt’s defense for a 7-103-2 receiving line. Oh, and Harry went off with 13 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech on Saturday. Traditional Texas Tech caveat applies, here, but Harry is a rock star and this game just screams first-to-50-points-wins.
Syracuse WR Steve Ishmael vs. LSU -- It’s always a bit difficult to feel truly confident in a lower-tier team facing off against a defense the caliber of LSU’s, but Ishmael is off to a blazing start to the year. Factor in a Tigers offense which just doesn’t have the giddy-up -- they ran a mere 58 plays against Mississippi State on Saturday and average just 67.5 a game (Syracuse averages 89, seventh-most in the country) -- and Ismael is going to have all the opportunities in the world. He has caught at least eight passes in all three of Syracuse’s games this season, has two double-digit reception showings and two games of at least 130 yards receiving. The one game not in that 130-yard receiving zone was his 14-catch, 116-yard disemboweling of Middle Tennessee in Week 2. Just about the only demerit on his season is that he has yet to find the end zone, but touchdowns are a fickle mistress.
Oklahoma TE Mark Andrews vs. Baylor -- All systems go for Andrews after suffering a knee scare against Ohio State last weekend. He came on strong in Saturday’s blowout of Tulane, catching four passes for 76 yards and, back in Week 1, rocked UTEP for 7-134-1. The Sooners are working through a number of options at running back and receiver, but Andrews is a mainstay and will remain so as long as he is healthy.
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts vs. Vanderbilt -- Sneaky upset potential for this game as a whole. The potential for Hurts to struggle in this spot is not even sneaky. Vandy has allowed just 13 points for the campaign, with wins over rock-solid outfits Middle Tennessee and Kansas State on their way to a 3-0 record. Hurts has not attempted more than 18 passes in a game this season. Expect Nick Saban to play this one very close to the vest. I would not be surprised if Hurts finished with around 150 passing yards, maybe fewer.
Clemson QB Kelly Bryant vs. Boston College -- OK, admittedly, the Eagles have had a tough time of things on defense early in the season, surrendering a combined 83 points to Wake Forest and Notre Dame over the past two weekends. I still believe in Harold Landry and the rest of that cast, one of the best in the country a year ago. And this is an obvious spot that could slow Bryant’s roll after he threw for 316 yards and accounted for three scores in an impressive performance against Louisville on Saturday. The Tigers have a huge contest against Virginia Tech in two weeks and this is very much a look-ahead spot, so much as that’s a possibility with a well-oiled machine like this. Bryant has not thrown for more than one touchdown in a game this season.
Appalachian State RB Jalin Moore vs. Wake Forest -- What to make of Mr. Jalin Moore and his strange, confounding year. Nothing good, nothing good. Moore probably bottomed out in terms of productive failure with his nine-carry, 14-yard showing in a win over Texas State on Saturday -- 12 of those yards coming on one carry -- but even if that’s the statistical nadir of his season, it’s not like he was ripping it up in the two previous games, either. Moore rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries against Georgia in Week 1 and followed that up with 57 yards on nine carries against Savannah State in Week 2. He’s going to break out eventually. It just won’t be against Wake, who is allowing an average of 92 yards on the ground.
Arkansas RB Devwah Whaley vs. Texas A&M -- It might just be one year too soon for Whaley, who was supposed to serve as backup to Rawleigh Williams III this year before Williams decided to retire in the offseason due to a history of neck injuries. After rushing for a respectable 60 yards on 12 carries against Florida A&M while receiving limited work in a blowout opener, Whaley scuffled to 32 yards on 11 carries in a Week 2 loss to TCU. He and his Razorback teammates were off on bye this weekend and now face a Texas A&M team surrendering just 78 yards on the ground, good for seventh-best in the country. Whaley needs to show it before he can be trusted.
Colorado WR Shay Fields vs. Washington -- Fields has done steady work this season, logging at least 65 yards receiving in all three of Colorado’s games. The fun stops here. Washington is still finding their way on defense without Budda Baker and friends, but they’ve yet to cave in a game this season and I trust Chris Pedersen to more or less keep Fields under lock-and-key. Last year, Washington limited him to just two catches for 26 yards when the two teams met up in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Missouri WR J’Mon Moore vs. Auburn -- Hey, look, it’s two disappointing teams! Say what you want about Auburn’s offense, but the defense does come to play, having allowed 31 total points on the year. Missouri, on the other hand, might as well not have even been on the field against Purdue on Saturday. Moore has managed a combined six catches for 80 yards -- no touchdowns -- in losses to South Carolina and the Boilermakers over the past two weekends. There’s not much trustworthy on either side, but I trust Auburn’s defense well enough.
Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray vs. NC State -- It’s just a tough spot for Murray. Not so much because of the Wolfpack, who I view as a shaky defensive squad on the whole (no matter how scary that line is), but more because a confluence of circumstances. Murray caught three passes for 29 yards against Alabama, which will happen, but also saw his starting quarterback go down injured in that game and has not played in two weeks due to all things Hurricane Irma. Maybe three-star true freshman James Blackman swoops in to save the season, but that can’t be expected, especially not in his first collegiate start. It’s important to remember that Murray posted a modest 27-441-5 receiving line last season. That includes his two-catch, two-touchdown 104-yard melting of Michigan in bowl action this past winter, but we’re talking very concentrated flashes of fun. He has yet to prove that he can do it on a weekly basis.
Georgia TE Isaac Nauta vs. Mississippi State -- Nauta was impressive as a freshman, putting up 29 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns last season. It hasn’t come so easily during the current campaign, be it due to quarterbacking upheaval after Jacob Eason suffered a knee injury or another factor (no injuries have been reported). Whatever is the case, Nauta has just three catches for 33 yards in two games this season. He also allegedly took the field against Samford on Saturday, but came away with zero catches. We just saw Mississippi State shut down an LSU offense that boasts shaky quarterback play. Dawgs true frosh Jake Fromm possesses talent to the moon, but he’s not there yet and Mississippi State will close up this passing game, same as they did to LSU and Louisiana Tech each of the past two weekends. Nauta’s odd year will continue for at least one more week.