If you are new to the sport that is college football, let me fill you in on a little secret. EVERY WEEK IS CRAZIER THAN THE LAST!!!
During Saturday’s afternoon slate alone, a Top Five team allowed the most points in program history, two more trailed by multiple touchdowns and a squad that went 12-0 last season lost to an FCS opponent. Even without the night slate—which was loaded with name-brand matchups—enough had already happened to fuel a news cycle. Players, teams and coaches saw their stocks rise and fall considerably.
Let’s take a look at where the pieces landed as the winners and losers of Week 3 takes flight.
Winner: Louisville. Is there a more dangerous team in college football right now than the Cardinals? Louisville demolished No. 2 Florida State by 40 points this week, handing them its largest defeat in program history. Quarterback Lamar Jackson tore the Noles’ defense apart, tallying up 362 out of Louisville’s 530 total yards of offense. It’s only been three weeks, but the Cardinals have busted out the best points per game (65.0) and yards per game average (679.3) in the nation.
Oh yeah, don’t forget about the defense. Louisville neutralized Florida State’s premiere tailback – Dalvin Cook– to 56 rushing yards the entire game. In total, the Cardinals have surrendered 20.6 PPG and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to a 48.2 completion percentage. As they rise in the polls, so will the expectation that they can navigate past fellow ACC behemoths. More obstacles await them as they travel to Clemson on Oct. 1 in Death Valley and to Houston on Nov. 21 to face the sixth-ranked Cougars and Greg Ward Jr.
Loser: Florida State. Coming into the week, the Seminoles were flying high after untapping redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois’ potential in a time of need versus Ole Miss in Week One, plus a retooled pass rush behind DeMarcus Walker and Ro’Derrick Hoskins.
However, both were nowhere to be found in its embarrassing setback to the hands of an upstart Louisville squad. Florida State looked overmatched from the outset, as they were constantly beaten by read options up the middle from Lamar Jackson, who also made the Noles pay in single-coverage. After back-to-back encouraging performances during the first two weeks, Francois downplayed it by revealing freshman growing pains, such as completing only seven of his 18 passes for 101 yards and finishing with a 16.1 QBR. Even Florida State’s most proven offensive piece, running back Dalvin Cook, was locked up for 3.4 YPC average and zero touchdowns.
It’s important that FSU puts this unsettling loss behind them as quick as they can, for games like this can snowball in a hurry. The Seminoles have stiff road tests at unbeaten USF and Miami (FL) before their anticipated home matchup with Clemson in mid-October.
Winner: Ohio State. Death. Taxes. Urban Meyer showing up in marquee games. Saturday was no different during the Buckeyes’ dazzling win over Oklahoma in Norman. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was efficient against an opportunistic Sooners’ secondary, completing 60 percent of his passes for 152 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Weber ran for a methodical 123 yard output as Ohio State slowly finds answers after Ezekiel Elliot’s departure.
By the way the season has played out for the first three weeks, it only seems natural that Meyer’s Buckeyes are flourishing under no pressure whatsoever. Remember, Ohio State lost 12 starters to the NFL Draft last spring. Playmakers such as Elliot, wide receivers Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas, linebacker Joey Bosa, and defensive back Eli Apple made up a big portion of Meyer’s recent dominance. But so far gaps have been filled, roles changed, and Ohio State has come up big in every which way in this young season.
Loser: Mark Helfrich. When there’s a chance for free points, you just got to whiff at it. Oregon Ducks’ head coach Mark Helfrich made a tactical error by going for five two-point conversions on Saturday – converting only one of them – as they failed to attempt an extra point all-game. In the end, it cost Oregon as they fell to Nebraska in Lincoln, 36-32.
Oregon’s loss doesn’t hurt them in the big picture. They still possess a clear path to the Pac 12 Title Game. However, legitimate questions still circle around the defense which gave up a 3rd & 12 and 4th & 9 during Nebraska’s game-winning drive late in the 4th quarter. Quarterback Dakota Prukop hardly found rhythm in the pocket, only throwing for 146 yards despite 14 completions. As for Helfrich, criticism is only going to get worse as he looks to guide a roster that still contains explosive players to nine or 10 wins.
What other things did we learn?
- Lamar Jackson is in a class by himself: Currently, the Heisman race is Lamar Jackson….and no one else. In Louisville’s first three games, Jackson has already accounted for half of the amount of passing yards (913) and 66 percent of passing touchdowns (8) than he did throughout his entire freshman season in 2015. By his explosiveness as a runner and steady accuracy in the pocket, he has lit a fire under the Cardinals’ offense. Jackson cleared his first hurdle against a stingy Seminole defense this week – tearing them up with ease. But there are still several stiff tests left in the burgeoning sophomore’s path. With a trip to fifth rank and defending ACC Champion Clemson in Week 5 as well as a road test versus No. 6 Houston, we’ll know a lot more about Louisville’s candidacy and Jackson’s Heisman fate soon.
- North Dakota State continues to make us look like fools: Dear FBS athletic directors, DO NOT schedule the North Dakota State Bison anymore. Evidenced by their upset win over 13th ranked Iowa, it marks NDSU’s fifth victory over an FBS opponent the past six seasons (Kansas in 2010, Minnesota in 2011, Colorado State in 2012, Kansas State in 2013, Iowa State in 2014 and now Iowa in 2016). Ironically, North Dakota State has just four less FBS wins than Kansas in that span.
- Is it danger time for the Sooners?: Oklahoma knew the road back to the College Football Playoffs would be arduous based off their imposing OOC schedule. But did anybody expect this? Two September losses already have shattered Bob Stoops’ Sooners hopes of a playoff run…and we aren’t even into conference play yet. Despite the gunslinger Baker Mayfield pushing Oklahoma’s offense, the inefficient running combo of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have brought them down. Only once has one of the Sooners’ workhorse tailbacks rushed for over 100 yards – Joe Mixon last week versus ULM. Outside of that OU is averaging 158 total rushing yards a game. While that’s serviceable, it’s not enough to keep up with the explosive offenses in the Big XII.