CFB Storylines Heading into Week 3
As the 2021 college football season continues, we already have seen the rise and fall of certain teams, a major coaching change and a few upsets. The third week of the season could be one of the most important with a major matchup in Gainesville as well as two teams out West coming off of big victories over high-ranked teams.
Game of the Week: Alabama @ Florida
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For the first time since 2011, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide head to the Swamp for a matchup with the Gators. A classic SEC matchup, Alabama has dominated the series as of late. Florida's last win over Alabama came in the 2008 SEC Championship Game, where the Tim Tebow-led Gators won 31-20 on their way to their second national championship in three years. Since then, it has been all Bama. The Tide have won seven straight, with four of these matchups in the SEC Championship Game (2009, 2015, 2016 and 2020).
So far this season, both teams are 2-0, but their circumstances are about as opposite as you can get. With first-year starter Bryce Young, Alabama has steamrolled their opponents. A 44-13 win over then-no.14 Miami followed by a 48-14 over Mercer shows the Tide are still rolling. Young has been absolutely incredible through his first two starts. So far, he has thrown for 571 yards and seven touchdowns while completing nearly 71% of his passes.
On the other side, no. 11 Florida finds themselves in a bit of a quarterback controversy. Longtime backup Emory Jones took the reigns of the offense this year, and was predicted to have immediate success. However, consistency has been a big issue for Jones. Through two games, he has thrown for 264 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. After struggling in the opening win against FAU, Jones looked new and improved against USF on Sept. 11. However, back-to-back interceptions in the third quarter followed by a turnover on downs from the one-yard line proved that he has a tendency to be a victim of quicksand (as explained by Keanu Reaves in "The Replacements"). However, there has been a renaissance at the quarterback position wearing the number 15. Anthony Richardson, in limited capacity, has many around the country calling for him to be the starter. After going 3/3 for 152 yards and two touchdowns as well as back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, Richardson has impressed early, but a hamstring injury will possibly limit him this week.
Needless to say, the latest matchup in this historic rivalry has the implications to be one of the best matchups in history, even though Alabama is favored by 15 points. Can the Tide extend their streak and continue their dominance, or can Dan Mullen and the Gators get their first win over the Tide since 2008 and their first win against the Tide at home since 2006? Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
First Major Head Coach Firing
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Heading into the third week of the season, a power-five team is already starting a search for a new head coach. After being upset 42-28 against unranked Stanford, USC announced that they had fired head coach Clay Helton, a position he had been in since midway through the 2015 season (he was also the interim coach for one game in 2013). His record as a head coach at USC stands at 46-23. He did bring one Pac-12 championship for the Trojans in 2017, but bad losses and a no showing of improvement led to Athletic Director Mike Bohn to make a change.
Entering as the interim is Donte Williams, who was named the cornerbacks coach and defensive passing game coordinator in Feb. of 2020. In Dec. of 2020, he was named the associate head coach. Williams will make his debut as the Trojans' interim head coach on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST at Washington State.
Cornerbacks coach Donte Williams is regarded as the top overall recruiter in the Pac-12 Conference. (Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)
Return of the Pac-12?
UCLA’s Kyle Philips, left, sprints down the sidelines as LSU defender Derek Stingley Jr. gives chase on a 45-yard touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game at the Rose Bowl. UCLA (2-0) is ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since early September of 2017 following the 38-27 victory. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The conference that is home to the team that won their very first college football playoff game, the Pac-12 has been noticeably quiet since Oregon beat FSU in the Rose Bowl in the 2014 season. Their only other appearance was in the 2016 season when Washington lost to Alabama 24-7. Already two weeks into the season, the conference out West boasts two realistic candidates for the playoffs- UCLA and Oregon.
Ohio State Buckeyes players carry the duck mascot off the field following their 35-28 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC
In Chip Kelly's fourth season, UCLA seems to have hit its stride and looks to prove that the hype is legit. In their second game, the Bruins upset no. 16 LSU 38-27 behind three touchdown passes from Dorian Thompson-Robinson and over 100 yards rushing from Zach Charbonnet. Sitting at 2-0 and now ranked no. 13, the Bruins have a very realistic chance to win the Pac-12 and make their first playoff appearance. They host Fresno State on Saturday night at 10:45 p.m. EST.
On the other side, Oregon has dominated the Pac-12 in recent years, but a combination of late losses and strength of schedule has kept them out of the playoffs. However, this season has already proven to be different for the Ducks. Last week saw them travel to Columbus for a matchup with no. 3 Ohio State. With star defensive players Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe out for the game, on paper, it seemed like the Buckeyes would dominate. However, head coach Mario Cristobal had other ideas. The dynamic duo of quarterback Anthony Brown and running back C.J. Verdell led the 12th-ranked Ducks to a 35-28 upset. Brown threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and Verdell added 161 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Oregon is now no. 4 in the AP Top 25.
The third week of the season sees three ranked matchups. Headlining this weekends games are no. 1 Alabama @ no. 11 Florida at 3:30 p.m. EST. Following that game, no. 22 Auburn travels to Beaver Stadium to take on no. 10 Penn State. Coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. EST on ABC. Finally, in a late night matchup out West, no. 19 Arizona State travels to Provo to take on no. 23, and recent Big 12 invitee BYU, who also recently ended a nine-game losing streak to rival Utah last weekend. The full game slate for this weekend can be found here.