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Alabama-Arkansas, Notre Dame-Michigan State headline Week 3


The late Patrick Swayze had one of the worst, yet best, lines in the movie "Roadhouse" -- one of the worst, yet most-televised, films ever made.

"Pain don't hurt."

Some of college football's best players would vehemently disagree.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson took a blow to the head against Louisiana-Monroe, then watched while his team inexplicably blew a fourth-quarter lead and suffered a stunning loss in overtime. Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead sprained his knee early against Southern Miss on Sept. 1 and had to stay on the sideline while his Huskers lost to UCLA last week. USC will be without center Khaled Holmes (lower-leg injury) and defensive end Devon Kennard (torn pectoral muscle) for multiple weeks, while fellow Pac-12 favorite Oregon lost two senior starters (safety John Boyett and guard Carson York) for the season to knee injuries.

One of the more heartbreaking moments of the college football season so far was when Missouri left tackle Elvis Fisher, a sixth-year senior who missed 2011 with a left knee injury, suffered an obviously painful right-leg injury after being rolled up on in a pile against Georgia.

Injuries can affect a player's status as an NFL prospect as well as his team's chances on the field. Most of the players mentioned above probably won't see a major dip in their standing among NFL scouts. However, guys like Fisher, those who have missed significant time with previous injuries, will have difficulty persuading teams to draft them, unless doctors are convinced their health problems are in the past.

So here's to the health of the players involved in Saturday's top college football matchups. The fates of their teams -- and their professional futures -- hang in the balance.

All games are scheduled for Saturday; all times listed are Eastern.


Alabama at Arkansas, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Whether or not their 6-foot-3, 220-pound, strong-armed gun-slinging quarterback plays, the Razorbacks will attempt to establish the ground game with upright-running junior Knile Davis (6-0, 226) and bowling ball-like senior Dennis Johnson (5-9, 213). They'll have their hands full; Alabama's opponents always find it tough to move senior defensive linemen Jesse Williams (6-4, 320), Quinton Dial (6-6, 304) and Damion Square (6-3, 286). The Crimson Tide also boast a slew of future pro linebackers, including Nico Johnson (6-3, 245).

Arkansas will have problems consistently stopping junior quarterback A.J. McCarron (6-4, 210) and a stable of young backs running behind an outstanding offensive line that includes two potential first-round picks: tough and intelligent center Barrett Jones (6-5, 302) and sturdy yet mobile guard Chance Warmack (6-3, 320). Razorback linebackers Tenarius Wright (6-2, 252) and Alonzo Highsmith (the 6-1, 233-pound son of the former NFL linebacker and current Green Bay Packers scouting executive of the same name) will undoubtedly be busy Saturday afternoon.

Florida at Tennessee, 6 p.m., ESPN

Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray (6-6, 215) is once again healthy enough to stretch the field with his plus arm and the help of junior receivers Justin Hunter (6-4, 200) and Cordarrelle Patterson (6-3, 205). Patterson had his coming-out party against N.C. State and All-American cornerback David Amerson on Aug. 31, catching six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown (and also scoring on a 67-yard run) in the Vols' 35-21 victory. For Florida to slow down that passing attack, hard-hitting safeties Josh Evans (6-2, 201) and Matt Elam (5-10, 202) will have to help the Gators' young corners. They'll also need strong and agile junior defensive linemen Sharrif Floyd (6-3, 303) and Dominique Easley (6-2, 280) to get past Tennessee left guard Dallas Thomas (6-5, 310) and his linemates and force Bray to move his feet in the pocket.

Florida sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel (6-4, 237) can move the ball through the air. He can also get first downs on the ground, behind ascendant left tackle Xavier Nixon (6-6, 314) and wide-bodied left guard James Wilson (6-4, 323), a sixth-year senior. Tennessee doesn't have much experience up front, but feisty senior corners Marsalis Teague (5-11, 182) and Prentiss Waggner (6-2, 182) will constantly challenge Florida's receivers.

USC at Stanford, 7:30 p.m., FOX

Stanford doesn't start many seniors, but playmaking senior linebackers Shayne Skov (6-3, 242) and Chase Thomas (6-4, 248) will challenge a USC offensive line equally bereft of experience. They'll need to make an impact, or quarterback Matt Barkley (6-2, 230) will team with one of the country's best receiving duos in junior Robert Woods (6-1, 190) and sophomore Marqise Lee (6-0, 195) to shred the Cardinal's young secondary.

The Andrew Luck-less Cardinal passing offense is now led by three juniors: quarterback Josh Nunes (6-4, 225) and tight ends Levine Toilolo (6-8, 265) and Zach Ertz (6-6, 252). However, senior power back Stepfan Taylor (5-11, 215) must also have success for Stanford to beat USC. Look for senior Trojans defensive end Wes Horton (6-5, 255), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey (6-0, 210) and hard-hitting NFL legacy safety T.J. McDonald (6-3, 205) to make plays at each level of the defense.

Notre Dame at Michigan State, 8 p.m., ABC

Junior Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell (6-2, 244) has the size and agility to make the future ACC-affiliated Fighting Irish happy they didn't sign on with the Big Ten. Bullish right guard Chris McDonald (6-5, 298) and tackle Fou Fonoti (6-4, 296) lead the way for Bell up front; Notre Dame senior Kapron Lewis-Moore (6-4, 306) must occupy them to free up tackling machine Manti Te'o (6-2, 255). Irish safety Zeke Motta (6-2, 215) might not be drafted as highly as his mentor, 2012 first-round pick Harrison Smith, but look for him to make plays against both the run and pass this weekend.

When Notre Dame has the ball, check out the interior battle between Irish center Braxston Cave (6-3, 304) and powerful Spartans defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White (6-2, 330). The strong hands of junior Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert (6-6, 251) will grab the attention of NFL scouts; Irish running back Theo Riddick (5-11, 200) can do the same, if he shows promise as a change-of-pace option after spending two seasons as a receiver.


Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State, 12 p.m., FSN

Former Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley picked off former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden twice in this matchup last year, propelling himself into the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Detroit Lions. The Ragin' Cajuns' tall and long cornerback Melvin White (6-3, 191) and elusive receiver Javone Lawson (6-1, 183) could similarly impress NFL scouts with strong games against the Cowboys this year.

Tennessee Tech at Oregon, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Tech's junior receiver, Da'Rick Rogers (6-3, 205), would no doubt rather be playing against Florida with his former Tennessee teammates this weekend, but his indefinite suspension from the Vols forced him to transfer out of the FBS so he could play in 2012. While Oregon's explosive offense will keep the game from being competitive, NFL scouts will be watching closely to see if Rogers competes against the Ducks' young cornerbacks on every play, regardless of the score.

North Carolina at Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong brought cornerback Adrian Bushell (5-11, 184), whom he coached at Florida when he was the Gators' defensive coordinator, to the Cardinals before last season, and Bushell went on to earn second-team All-Big East honors. He'll have to face a talented passing combination in junior North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner (6-3, 215) and his NFL-sized receivers, Erik Highsmith (6-3, 190) and Jheranie Boyd (6-2, 190). Scouts will also watch to see how Louisville center Mario Benavides (6-4, 287) anchors against and mirrors Sylvester Williams (6-3, 305), UNC's surprisingly agile nose tackle. Benavides must protect up-and-coming sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (6-3, 220).

Texas A&M at SMU, 3:30 p.m., FSN

SMU's Estonian-born defensive lineman Margus Hunt (6-8, 275) didn't impress with his play against Baylor in the season opener, but he gets another chance against one of the top junior left tackles in the country in Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel (6-6, 310). Mustangs running back Zach Line (6-1, 230), on the other hand, has excelled while coming back from a season-ending foot injury. Aggie linebackers Sean Porter (6-2, 230) and Jonathan Stewart (6-4, 244) and defensive end Damontre Moore (6-4, 250) will need to be disciplined in their play, and not just focused on quarterback Garrett Gilbert (6-4, 220), a transfer from Texas.

Portland State at Washington, 4 p.m., FX

The Vikings'Marquis Jackson (6-5, 260) has bounced from junior college to Texas Southern to PSU. Though he never made a big-time conference like the Pac-12 or SEC like twin brother Malik (chosen by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of April's draft after playing at USC and Tennessee), Marquis has NFL-quality size, strength and athleticism. He and his Vikings might find some tough sledding, however, against a Washington team looking to bounce back from a 41-3 drubbing at the hands of LSU last week.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter

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