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On the Line: New life at Nebraska, arrival at App State, and Jimbo's biggest game yet

Week 3 also gives us Bobby Petrino's return to Fayetteville, North Dakota State's first FBS game in six years, and some interesting intersectional games

Mickey Joseph undoubtedly dreamed of this moment, though not like this. Joseph played quarterback at Nebraska from 1988-91 -- the Huskers went 39-9-1 in those years -- and entered coaching in the Omaha high school ranks. He spent nearly two decades bouncing around at the high school and divisional levels -- including two seasons as the head coach at NAIA Langston University -- before landing his first full-time FBS job in 2016, as Louisiana Tech's running backs coach. 

When Ed Orgeron landed LSU's full-time head coaching job in 2017, Joseph joined the staff as wide receivers coach. Two years later, Orgeron and Joseph were national champions, and Joseph coached one of the most loaded wide receiver rooms in college football history. Orgeron made Joseph his assistant head coach in 2020-21 but, as we know, Orgeron collapsed in on himself, and by 2022 Joseph was back at Nebraska.

Now he's the head coach at his alma mater -- simultaneously behind the 8-ball and with a world of opportunity in front of him. The odds of any interim head coach landing the full-time job are low, especially considering the team Joseph inherits has lost two of every three games for five-plus seasons now. These Huskers just aren't very good.

But Scott Frost's failure is Mickey Joseph's opportunity. Joseph has nine games with this bunch, three quarters of a full season.

The opportunity starts at 11 a.m. local time on Saturday, when Oklahoma comes to town (Fox). The Sooners are at once the sixth-rated team in the country and entirely untested; their wins thus far have come against UTEP and Kent State, at home, and they didn't look very good against Kent State. The Lincoln trip marks the first road game of the Brent Venables era. (For what it's worth, the 2021 Sooners struggled mightily away from Norman.) 

Nebraska should play with nothing to lose and everything to gain. In addition to Joseph, they're quarterbacked by Casey Thompson, who lit this same Oklahoma program up for a half at Texas before breaking his hand in the second half. 

Joseph, Thompson and the rest of the Huskers can't rewrite history with a win over Oklahoma on Saturday, but they can alter their futures.

Some people are calling Saturday night's game with Miami the most important of Jimbo Fisher's Texas A&M tenure. I'm not willing to go that far, but there is more than a simple non-conference win or loss on the line. 

Fisher's approval rating in Aggieland is the lowest he's been since Dec. 1, 2017, hiring. The Appalachian State debacle exposed issues everyone except the head coach, offensive coordinator, play-caller and QB-developer-in-chief could see. Jimbo is on record saying the execution of the offense was the problem in that 17-14 loss, not the conception behind it.

Fisher indicated he'll re-open the quarterback competition this week, and whispers are that LSU transfer Max Johnson will take the first snap against No. 13 Miami on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

No. 24 Texas A&M needs to reset the narrative with an up-to-potential performance on Saturday, while Miami gets to make its national debut of the Mario Cristobal era. If Tyler Van Dyke (9.13 yards per attempt in 12 career games) can get the Hurricanes to 28 points, can Texas A&M keep up? 

The comfort blanket for A&M fans entering the game is that Jimbo went 7-1 against Miami while at Florida State. But with No. 10 Arkansas, a trip to Mississippi State and a trip to No. 2 Alabama waiting in the next three weeks, that comfort blanket will be ripped off and thrown in the garbage if the Aggies don't win, and look seriously different in doing so.

Appalachian State arrives, in a different way. When the powers that be at ESPN mapped out the GameDay trailer's travels this offseason, the only debates in between their Sept. 10 and 17th shows would be whether they'd take the shorter but direct route on US-290 and TX-21, or the slightly longer but straight shot on US-79 in order to get from Austin to College Station. There are other big games on the Week 3 slate (we'll get to them in a minute), but jaunting from Alabama-Texas to Miami-A&M made lots of sense, especially since the latter game was a lock to air on ESPN.

One seismic upset later, and now the victor gets the spoils.

App State becomes the 78th university to host GameDay, joining a list that includes the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, and Williams College.

The game itself won't draw a huge audience (vs. Troy, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+), but by their simple presence, College Football's Preeminent Pre-Game Show is placing its Home Depot-built scepter on App State's shoulder, acknowledging that the Mountaineers have arrived.

Other Games: 

-- Florida State at Louisville (7:30 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN): Louisville plays on a Friday night for the second straight week. Can they upset a Florida team for the second straight Friday? Meanwhile, Florida State took last week off after their Sunday night survival of LSU. Can Mike Norvell's team back that performance up?

-- No. 1 Georgia at South Carolina (noon ET, ESPN): Georgia took its foot off the gas early against Samford last week. South Carolina won't get the same luxury. I'm putting the over/under on Gamecock offensive touchdowns at 1.5. 

-- Youngstown State at No. 9 Kentucky (noon ET, SEC Network): In a reverse homecoming (is that a thing?) for Youngstown natives Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow, Kentucky plays its first game as an AP Top 10 team since Oct. 14, 2007.

-- South Alabama at UCLA (2 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks): Non-conference scheduling is a constant push-pull between entertaining your fans and preparing your team for a long season. UCLA's non-conference slate: Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama. In related news, no one is going to UCLA games. 

-- Old Dominion at Virginia (2 p.m. ET, ACC Network): The Monarchs already knocked off Virginia Tech to open this season. Can they now beat UVa to claim, ahem, dominion over the Commonwealth State's flagship programs? I have no idea what happened to Virginia's offense last week in their 24-3 loss at Illinois last week, but Tony Elliott needs to make that performance an aberration and not a trend. 

-- Cal at Notre Dame (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC): Marcus Freeman is already the first Notre Dame coach to start 0-3, now he looks to avoid the Irish's first 0-3 start to a season since 2007. The Irish and Golden Bears play for the fifth time ever and first since Sept. 23, 1967; Notre Dame holds a 4-0 lead.

-- No. 12 BYU at No. 25 Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox): According to the AP poll, Cougars-Ducks is the second biggest game of the week. Was Georgia 49, Oregon 3 more about UGa or Oregon? We'll find out here. This is the first meeting between BYU and Oregon since 2006, and the all-time ledger sits at 3-3. Not only is Kalani Sitake's program 23-4 since 2020, it's 5-0 against the Pac-12 in that span.

-- No. 20 Ole Miss at Georgia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): If you think SEC teams don't play each other often enough now, consider this. Ole Miss and Georgia Tech coexisted in the SEC from 1933 to '63; they met once in the regular season in those 31 seasons. Saturday marks the Rebels and Yellow Jackets' fifth all-time meeting.

-- No. 22 Penn State at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS): While we're on the topic, Penn State's visit marks the first time a Big Ten team has played at Jordan-Hare Stadium... ever! Auburn began playing at Jordan-Hare only in 1939, so it does make sense why they haven't gotten around to it yet. Win this game and Penn State will likely be 5-0 when Michigan comes to Happy Valley on Oct. 15, while for Auburn this is the first of six games against currently ranked teams. 

-- Colorado at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2): There are two schools of thought when evaluating the difficulty of college football schedules. For a highly-ranked teams, the most difficult schedule is one that features six FCS teams and six AP Top 10 teams. For a middle-of-the-pack-or-below-team, a more difficult schedule is 12 games against teams ranked between, say, 35 and 70. I say this because Colorado's non-conference schedule is a home date with TCU, then trips to Air Force and Minnesota, followed by a Pac-12 slate without an obvious win. Pound for pound, CU's schedule is the most difficult in the country.

-- ULM at No. 2 Alabama (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network): Both of these teams have already played Texas, so Alabama claims the Crimson WarHorn trophy with a victory, while ULM can force a 3-way tie. 

-- Mississippi State at LSU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State was the first team to illustrate LSU had a post-championship hangover problem, when the Bulldogs went to Tiger Stadium and won, 44-34, to open the 2020 season. In 2021, LSU escaped Davis Wade with a 28-25 win. It's been a long time since these programs have been as close as they are now (State hasn't taken two straight in Death Valley since 1981-83). Brian Kelly already lost his opener, and Mike Leach's team has a good opportunity to make Kelly drop his SEC opener, too.

-- Toledo at No. 3 Ohio State (7 p.m. ET, Fox): Saturday marks Toledo's 1,031st football game, dating back to 1917. It will be the Rockets' first time on network television. 

And what an opportunity it is to shine a light on Jason Candle's program (pun intended). Toledo is 0-3 against Ohio State all-time, and has never beaten an AP ranked team higher than No. 9. 

Ohio State is 40-3 all-time against the other Ohio FBS teams. All three losses came in the 19th century. 

-- Texas Tech at No. 16 NC State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Last week, Texas Tech defeated a ranked non-conference opponent (No. 25 Houston) for the first time since 1989. A win Saturday gives Tech its first win at a ranked non-conference foe for the first time since 1973, which also happens to be the only time in school history the Red Raiders have accomplished that feat. So, the optimistic's take is that the Joey McGuire era could get off to the best start of any coaching regime in TTU history. Tech brings the nation's top passing offense to Raleigh, while NC State will use the No. 14 pass efficiency defense. 

-- Missouri State at No. 10 Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, SEC Network+): Oh, you know. Just Bobby Petrino's return to Fayetteville. ESPN's Chris Low has a nice look at his disgraceful 2012 exit. "Unfortunately, I will always get to carry that with me, how it ended there," Petrino said.

-- Jacksonville State at Tulsa (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+): Jacksonville State has knocked off an FBS foe in two straight seasons. Here's their only opportunity to make it three. 

-- No. 11 Michigan State at Washington (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC): The Spartans and Huskies are 4-0 combined with collective scores of 184-39, so this gives us an opportunity to separate contender from pretender. This is Michigan State's second visit to Husky Stadium, the first coming in 1970. 

-- South Florida at No. 18 Florida (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network): Florida made its first visit to USF last year, a 42-20 Gators win. On Saturday, USF treks to Gainesville for the second time ever. 

-- SMU at Maryland (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1): If you like passing yards and points. SMU's Tanner Moredcai is 11th in the country in efficiency, hitting 41-of-63 for 644 yards with seven touchdowns against one interception, while Maryland's Tualia Tagovailoa is 51-of-65 for 681 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. 

-- Nevada at Iowa (7:30 p.m., BTN): Iowa enters the game 131st of 131 in yards per game (158), yards per play (2.8) and points per game (seven)... and four of their 14 points came on defense. How long will these numbers hold? 

-- UTSA at No. 21 Texas (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network): Jeff Traylor has been complimentary about UT's performance against Alabama and appreciative of his two years in Austin, where he broke into college football. But make no mistake: this is a Jihad Game for UTSA. The former Texas high school coach would make a major statement with by leading UTSA past UT, in the first meeting between the two UT system schools, in the state capital. Furthermore, somewhere between 50 and 100 percent of the Roadrunners imagined themselves playing at Royal-Memorial Stadium, as Longhorns. 

Combined with the fact that UT is coming off the Alabama game, will start either a gimpy QB2 Hudson Card or QB3 Charles Wright (the redshirt freshman has never thrown a college pass), and I'm telling you a 1-point victory would be a major accomplishment for either team.

-- UTEP at New Mexico (8 p.m. ET): UTEP is looking to sweep the New Mexico schools for the first time since... 2021.

-- San Diego State at No. 14 Utah (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2): The Aztecs and Utes were once colleagues in the WAC, the Mountain West... and maybe one day in the Pac-12? SDSU won 33-31 in triple overtime last season, the first meeting since Utah left the Mountain West. Utah had won five straight before that. 

-- North Dakota State at Arizona (11 p.m. ET, FS1): It's North Dakota State's first game against an FBS team since their Sept. 17, 2016 win at No. 13 Iowa. FBS teams simply stopped playing them. In fact, NDSU has won six in a row against the FBS, which is tied with Kentucky for the third-longest active winning streak against FBS opponents.