Week 3 of the 2016 college football has been recorded in the figurative record books. The enduring conclusion is we wasted a solid eight months projecting forward to the season. Heck, we wasted a lot of time last week projecting forward to Week 3.
The Top 15 entered the weekend facing an array of challenges. A couple looked great. Some teetered. Some fell. Some look like they will fall at some point.
Second-ranked Florida State hit the road for Louisville. The Cardinals abused the Seminoles from the opening whistle until the starters came out, leading by as much as 53 points. Louisville averaged 10.8 yards/pass and 6.8 yards/carry. The Cardinals’ defense thwarted 11 of 13 FSU third-down attempts and held Dalvin Cook to 54 yards on 16 carries. Derwin James was not that vital for Florida State.
The Seminoles did win the vital time of possession battle, because Louisville was just scoring too quickly. Five Cardinals touchdown drives took six players or fewer while going 60 yards or more.
Is it too soon for the Bobby Petrino back to the SEC speculation? Perhaps, because a Louisville playoff bid may preclude that possibility (though they still face Clemson and Houston on the road). It would be awful for Petrino to dump Louisville a second time for an LSU or an Auburn after this season. It would also be very Bobby Petrino.
No. 1 Alabama won a slugfest with Ole Miss, 48-43, but looked rather vincible. The Crimson Tide averaged five yards/pass and conceded more than 10 yards/pass. They trailed 24-3 at one point. They nearly blew an 18-point lead in the final three minutes. The difference: the Tide returned a fumble, interception, and a punt for a touchdown. The good thing for Alabama? Road trips to LSU and to Tennessee look far less intimidating than they once did.
Michigan, who sidled up to No. 4 as others lost, were beaten down by Colorado, for a quarter. The Buffaloes came in with a gameplan and made their athleticism at WR and corner count. Half-full: Michigan rebounded and outscored the Buffaloes 38-7 over the final three quarters. Half-empty: Michigan was trailing in the third quarter and was quite fortunate Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game. It’s still nice to have Jabrill Peppers, though.
Wisconsin, who rocketed into the Top 10 after hanging on in their home state against LSU, struggled with Georgia State in a 23-17 win. The Badgers had to change quarterbacks to revive their passing game. They had no answer to Georgia State’s. How good is Wisconsin? The next four games – at MSU, at Michigan, Ohio State, at Iowa – should tell us a great deal.
Speaking of Iowa…the Hawkeyes became the sixth-straight FBS victim trampled by the North Dakota State Bison, falling 23-21 at home. NDSU, in essence, out Iowa’d them. They ran the ball. They stopped the run (34 yards on 25 carries for Iowa). They made fewer mistakes and gave themselves multiple chances to win. We’ll toot our own horn for calling it preseason.
Texas, who rocketed up the rankings after tying Notre Dame at home, lost on the road to Cal. Tennessee survived and advanced to 3-0, with a slogging, single-digit win over (the) Ohio University.
Don’t expect that Top 15 to coalesce next week. Tennessee, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M play ranked opponents. Miami will slide up as others fall, and hast yet to play a Power 5 team.
Off to a Poor Start, How Bad Will 2016 Get?
Oklahoma: The Sooners began the season ranked No. 3. They were media members’ fourth-favorite to reach the playoff. Then, they opened with a close-ish loss to Houston that turned on a “kick six.” Ohio State delivered a decisive, three-touchdown beatdown in Norman.
Oklahoma may win the Big 12. Barring chaos, it’s hard to see that warranting a playoff berth. The Sooners still have to handle TCU (road) and Texas (neutral) the next two games for that to even be a discussion.
Notre Dame: The Irish began the season preseason No. 10. Deshone Kizer is good. The defense? Not so much. Notre Dame lost to Texas on the road in overtime. Despite a late rally, Michigan State beat them soundly in South Bend. They are out of the college football playoff discussion.
The Irish should rebound. Their next three opponents – Duke, Syracuse, and North Carolina State – are a combined 0-5 against FBS teams. Then they face Stanford and Miami at home. That defense faces back-to-back option attacks. This feels like a regression to Brian Kelly’s well-trod 8-win territory.
USC: Dropping away games vs. Alabama and at Stanford surprised few. Producing just one touchdown with their offensive talent level surprised many. On the positive side, Stanford did not blow USC away like Alabama did. Two big plays made the difference. On the negative side, the book on them is written. Run early. Run often.
How bad would things have to be for Clay Helton to be let go in his de facto second year? That may come into play. USC is already two losses down. They close the season with Oregon, at Washington, at UCLA, and Notre Dame. Cal, Arizona, and Colorado were each one-score games for USC last year. This could get ugly.