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College Football Week 3: Five Games To Watch

Alix Fitch, Johnie Freatman, Andrew Parrone, Kate Rooney, Omar Shamout |
September 15, 2011 | 4:08 p.m. PDT

Sports Staff

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones leads the No. 1 Sooners into Tallahassee (John Silks)
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones leads the No. 1 Sooners into Tallahassee (John Silks)
After a week that saw an instant classic in Michigan-Notre Dame and many other thrilling finishes, the college football world is abuzz in anticipation about what is ahead.

Here's a look at how Neon Tommy writers predict five of this week's biggest games. We begin with a top-five showdown that has potential national title ramifications. (All picks without scores are straight up.)

Oklahoma (-3.5) at Florida State

Alix Fitch: Oklahoma - OU is the team to watch for this season. They are strong overall and will be a challenge for Florida State, which is looking to get to the next level under Jimbo Fisher.

Johnie Freatman: Oklahoma 38, Florida State 24 - 
Give credit to coach Jimbo Fisher for getting the Florida State program back on track. However, Oklahoma just has too much firepower. The connection between QB Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles will be in full effect as OU coach Bob Stoops tries to show that this year's team won't lose the "big game" - something that has haunted the Sooners in the past.

Andrew Parrone: Oklahoma 42, Florida State 27 - 
FSU has the benefit of playing in the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium. But Landry Jones is better than Florida State QB E.J. Manuel, so that home field advantage doesn't mean a lot. It's always a good idea to go with the better quarterback when the rest of the matchup is a toss-up.

Kate Rooney: Florida State - A thirst for revenge will get you far in football, and the 'Noles haven't forgotten the way it felt to be manhandled by the Sooners last season. This time around, FSU boasts one of the best defenses in the nation and a quarterback who can pass and rush--components strong enough to keep OU guessing on both sides of the ball.

Omar Shamout: Oklahoma 31, Florida State 14 - 
Landry Jones just has too many targets to choose from against a secondary that is used to playing Duke and Wake Forest. It'll be closer than last year, but FSU isn't quite back to the top-tier of college football yet.

LSU coach Les Miles (Wikimedia Commons)
LSU coach Les Miles (Wikimedia Commons)
LSU (-3.5) at Mississippi State

Fitch: LSU - Mississippi State is a good team but won't be able to match up to LSU, especially after the Tigers' stellar performance against Oregon.

Freatman: LSU 27, Missisippi State 10 - 
The only thing better than home-field advantage in the SEC? LSU's defense. The Tigers totally stymied Oregon and will have another banner day against Mississippi State. With the SEC West as challenging as it is, LSU can't afford to lose a game like this if it hopes to win the division.

Parrone: LSU 30, Mississippi State 24 - 
The Tigers passed their first test of the year with flying colors, while the Bulldogs came up about a yard short of passing theirs. LSU's defense shut down Oregon's rushing attack, so they should be able to handle Mississippi State in Starkville.

Rooney: LSU - Even without their starting quarterback, the Tigers mustered a solid beatdown of an excellent Oregon team and a full-on thrashing of poor Northwestern State. This first SEC contest will be LSU's toughest so far, but the Bulldogs are no match for their physicality.

Shamout: LSU 24, Mississippi State 10 - 
After seeing LSU shut down the most formidable offense in the nation on opening weekend, it's tough to imagine the Bulldogs running game out-muscling the Tigers' defensive line on Thursday night.

Ohio State (+2) at Miami

Fitch: Miami - After the Jim Tressel scandal, the Buckeyes are struggling to maintain the powerhouse program they've long had. The Hurricanes are a rebuilding program, but with Ohio State struggling against Akron last week, Miami has a solid opportunity to come out with a win.

Freatman: Miami 28, Ohio State 24
 - After two close escapes against inferior competition, the Buckeyes are living dangerously, almost as dangerously as both these programs have conducted themselves off-the-field. Look for Miami QB Jacory Harris to play with a lot of motivation in his return and lead the 'Canes to a home win.

Parrone: Ohio State 31, Miami 21
 - Something tells me that this game would have been more entertaining if Nevin Shapiro were still around. Both teams are still dealing with offseason suspensions, but Ohio State is pretty clearly the more talented team no matter who is missing for the Buckeyes.

Rooney: Ohio State - This game has been dubbed Suspension Showdown, but it won't be much of a contest--the Buckeyes are more skilled at nearly every position. Look for Jacory Harris, back Saturday from a one-game suspension, to make some big plays, but it won't be enough for the win.

Shamout: Ohio State 34, Miami 28
 - The Buckeyes are still missing some key personnel due to suspension, but the Miami players returning from their one-game bans might still be rusty. Will they be able to gel in time?  It'll be wild and wooly, but I think the Buckeyes escape Miami with a win in a meeting of teams on the NCAA's death row.

Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees
Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees
Michigan State (+5) at Notre Dame

Fitch: Notre Dame - 
The Irish are currently in a slump after a loss at Michigan last week dropped them to 0-2. However, if they manage to play with more efficiency and fewer turnovers, they are sure to bring home their first win.

Freatman: Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24 - 
Coming off consecutive heartbreaking losses, things get no easier for Notre Dame. Though there's no doubt the Irish are capable of moving the ball, Michigan State is a far more complete team. Expect Kirk Cousins to manage the game well and the Spartans defense to do just enough to send the Irish faithful into a state of utter panic.

Parrone: Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24 -  
The 2-0 team that just held Florida Atlantic to 48 total yards of offense, or the 0-2 team that has yet to have both offense and defense show up to the same game? Notre Dame will play a more complete game this week, but MSU is simply the better team at this point in the season.

Rooney: Notre Dame - 
The Irish are too good to drop three in a row, period. Sure, the Spartans look more physical than they have in years, but what's plagued Notre Dame is really nothing more than silly mistakes that drew penalties and created turnovers. They're better than that, and they'll prove it this week.

Shamout: Notre Dame 27, Michigan State 17 - 
ND can't possibly go 0-3. Can they? Can they?

(Sparrowman980/Wikimedia Commons)
(Sparrowman980/Wikimedia Commons)
Texas (-4) at UCLA

Fitch: Texas - The Longhorns are looking for revenge from last year's disaster and should get it in a game that pits two quarterbacks getting their first start of the season.

Freatman: Texas 28, UCLA 14
 - With Case McCoy now in at quarterback and freshman sensation Malcolm Brown at running back, it's a new era for Texas. The Bruins may be effective on the ground but Texas has a stout run defense and lots of good memories of the Rose Bowl.

Parrone: Texas 34, UCLA 13
 - Hmm, is this a trick question or something? I wouldn't pick the Bruins even if they hadn't almost gotten beaten by San Jose State. Texas will get revenge for last year's embarrassing loss to the Bruins.

Rooney: Texas - Neither team has a stable quarterback situation, and Texas could easily have dropped last week's matchup with BYU. But the Longhorns were impressive last week against the run, and let's face it... rushing is what got UCLA its only win of this season.

Shamout: UCLA 21, Texas 20
 - This will be Rick Neuheisel and UCLA's annual September peak before the slow fade to December, and Texas QB Case McCoy won't quite be able to lead his team to a win.

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