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Rooting Guide: Which Week 3 games are most important for Penn State football?

The Week 3 slate doesn’t look great at first glance, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t matchups that will be critical to Penn State’s College Football Playoff hopes. Here’s your complete Week 3 viewing guide.



Penn State football, college football
Sep 9, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel gestures to the crowd during the second half against the Austin Peay Governors at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football got some help last week when Texas upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa. While the Longhorns jumped the Nittany Lions in the AP Poll, the long-term benefits of giving the Crimson Tide an early season loss should help. The cupboard of games looks pretty bare for this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean an upset or two isn’t possible. Who should Penn State fans be rooting for in Week 3 college football action?

Penn State football fans’ rooting guide: College football Week 3

While the Week 3 slate isn’t nearly as appealing as last week, there are still significant matchups that Nittany Lions fans should keep an eye on. Several Big Ten opponents face intriguing out-of-conference matchups, and there are several games that could shake up title races in the months to come. Here’s a complete guide on who to root for as Penn State football continues its pursuit for the College Football Playoff.

Virginia (0-2) @ Maryland (2-0) 7:00 p.m. ET (FRI) FS1

The Terrapins survived a 1st half scare last week against Charlotte, and will welcome Virginia to College Park in a primetime game Friday. The Cavaliers are coming off a heartbreaking late loss to James Madison, where they let the game slip away. This is another nonconference game that can help strengthen Penn State’s strength of schedule and aid the Big Ten with a Maryland win.

Louisville (2-0) @ Indiana (1-1) 12:00 p.m. ET BTN

The Cardinals have opened the season 2-0 after drubbing Murray State 56-0 in Week 2. Indiana bounced back after losing to Ohio State with a 41-7 win over Indiana State last week. The Cardinals open as a 9.5-point favorite in Bloomington, but this could be a sneaky game to watch during the noon slate. 

If the Hoosiers already have experience against Jeff Brohm-coached teams while he was the head man at Purdue. As usual in these Big Ten nonconference matchups, Penn State fans should be pulling for the Hoosiers.

No. 15 Kansas State (2-0) @ Missouri (2-0) 12:00 p.m. ET SECN

This should be one of the more competitive games in the 12 p.m. window as these two former Big 12 foes collide. Kansas State has looked solid in the first two weeks, and the defending Big 12 champs look like a contender to defend its crown. 

Missouri was a sneaky dark horse by many to compete in the SEC East. The Tigers are off to a slow start but are 2-0, nonetheless. The Wildcats open as around a 5-point favorite on the road. Considering Kansas State is a Big 12, and possibly potential College Football Playoff team this year, Penn State fans should be rooting for Missouri to pull off the upset.

Minnesota (2-0) @ No. 20 North Carolina (2-0) 3:30 p.m. ET ESPN

In a week that lacks ranked matchups, this one should at least intrigue most fans. The Tarheels escaped in double overtime against App State in Week 2, and appear vulnerable heading into their big matchup against the Gophers. 

Minnesota ground out a 25-6 win against Eastern Michigan last week. North Carolina opens around a touchdown favorite at home against Minnesota. While the Gophers aren’t on Penn State’s schedule this season, a win would help the perceived strength of the Big Ten.

Northwestern (1-1) @ No. 21 Duke (2-0) 3:30 p.m. ET ACCN

The worst team in the Big Ten got off the mat and beat Utep last week 38-7 despite being a slight underdog. Northwestern enters this matchup as a heavy underdog to Duke, and this one will probably be over quickly. It doesn’t hurt to root for the Wildcats to pull off the upset and help Penn State.

Virginia Tech (1-1) @ Rutgers (2-0) 3:30 p.m. ET BTN

The Hokies continue their Big Ten tour and will look to bounce back after losing to Purdue last week when they travel to Piscataway to play Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have an opportunity to start 3-0 and solidify themselves as a contender to make a bowl game as they enter this matchup as around a touchdown favorite. Both teams are going to be around the bottom of their respective leagues, so this game will be crucial if either hopes to have a chance at a bowl game. While painful, Penn State fans should be pulling against Brent Pry and for Rutgers.

No. 8 Washington (2-0) @ Michigan State (2-0) 5:00 p.m. ET Peacock

The fact this game was on a streaming platform should have been the storyline for this one. With all of the news out of East Lansing this week, maybe this game not being on a network will help us avoid our eyes from the drubbing that will most likely ensue. Mel Tucker is suspended, and the Spartans open as a 16-point underdog at home to Washington. Michigan State winning would help Penn State, but don’t expect it to happen.

No. 11 Tennessee (2-0) @ Florida (1-1) 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN

In a weak slate of football, this matchup is thrust into the primetime spotlight. Tennessee struggled against Austin Peay in Week 2. Whether the poor offense was from a simple playbook or is of actual concern remains to be seen. 

Florida bounced back from a Week 1 loss with a blowout win against McNeese State. The Volunteers enter as around a touchdown favorite in what could be one of the closest games of the week. It is always hard to win in the swamp, and Florida will look to use that home-field advantage to pull off the upset. Tennessee losing would give another College Football Playoff contender an early season loss and help Penn State.

Syracuse (2-0) @ Purdue (1-1) 7:30 p.m. ET NBC

This game could end up being one of the most exciting Big Ten games of Week 3. Last year ended with heartbreak for the Boilermakers as they lost late at Syracuse. This year, the game will be on national television under the lights at Ross-Ade Stadium. 

The Orange have been dominant to start the season with a 65-0 win over Colgate and a 48-7 win over Western Michigan. Purdue bounced back nicely from their opening week loss to Fresno State with a gritty 24-17 road win at Virginia Tech. 

Syracuse enters as a field goal favorite, and this one should come down to the wire. Penn State football fans should pull for the Boilermakers to make it two ACC wins in a row, giving the conference another signature win.

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Patrick is the Social Media Director and a staff writer for Basic Blues Nation. He covers Penn State football, wrestling, basketball, and ice hockey. Patrick is a Penn State alum, graduating in 2020. The Sweda family started getting Penn State Football tickets in 1966 and Patrick has attended over 170 games in his lifetime. He currently lives in Lancaster County Pennsylvania with his dog Newman.