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College Football Roundup: Week 3 Action Shakes Things Up

Breaking down the big games and key themes from week three of the college football season

Notre Dame fans – let the era of good feelings begin! It wasn’t easy – nor pretty – but the Fighting Irish secured their first victory under Marcus Freeman with a 24-17 win over Cal. Elsewhere around the college football landscape, the Pac-12 rose from the ashes, Oklahoma made a statement, Texas A&M righted the ship, and we received further confirmation that strange things are in the water down in Boone, North Carolina.

Now, let’s get to the Week 3 action.

TEXAS A&M 17, MIAMI 9

One week after putting up only 186 yards and 14 points against Appalachian State, the Aggie offense wasn’t much better with Max Johnson at QB. However, the defense was the story of the game. Miami ran 25 more offensive plays than Texas A&M and outgained the Aggies 392-264, but the Hurricanes could not convert when it mattered most. Without leading receiver Xavier Restrepo, QB Tyler Van Dyke was forced to check the ball down most of the night – averaging only 5.3 YPA – and when Miami did get into scoring position, the Canes couldn’t convert. Kicker Andres Borregales missed 2 field goals and Miami was just 5-14 on third down.

Both of these teams leave the game with more questions than answers. Miami needs to find playmakers in Restrepo’s absence, while the Aggies need to find offensive consistency heading into a challenging three-game stretch against Arkansas, at Mississippi State, and at Alabama.

WASHINGTON 39, MICHIGAN STATE 28

Last season, Washington only averaged 21.5 PPG, but new head coach Kalen DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grigg have completely turned around this Husky program. Washington blitzed Michigan State on Saturday behind the left arm of Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. Penix threw for 397 yards and 4 TDs, spreading the ball around to a talented receiving corps headlined by Ja’Lynn Polk, who had 3 TDs, and Jalen McMillan.

The offensive fireworks will get the headlines, but the Husky defense was just as impressive. Spartan RB Jalen Berger came into the game averaging 113.5 YPG on the ground, but he was held to just 27 yards on 13 carries. As a team, MSU ran for only 42 yards on 29 carries, a paltry 1.4 YPC. By the time the Spartans stopped trying to establish the run, Washington already led 39-14 and the game was no longer in doubt.

Washington leapt into the AP Poll at #18 this weekend and has a schedule that sets up very nicely for the Huskies to make a run at the Pac-12 title. They avoid both USC and Utah in cross-divisional games and do not face either of the Oregon schools until November.

OREGON 41, BYU 20

The fact that Oregon beat BYU isn’t surprising – the Ducks were favored, the game was at Autzen Stadium, and Oregon started the season with much higher expectations than the Cougars. What was surprising though is how Oregon beat BYU. The Cougars had looked like one of the most physical teams in the country through the first two weeks of the season but were pushed around from the first snap by an Oregon team that just two weeks ago was run off the field by Georgia. Credit to Dan Lanning for the improvement that the Ducks have shown in such a short amount of time.

One week after BYU held Baylor to just 2.9 YPC, Oregon averaged 4.8 YPC en route to 212 yards on the ground. Much of the rushing success was due to the dual-threat ability of Oregon QB Bo Nix, who threw for 222 yards and 2 TDs while adding another 3 rushing scores. If Nix can play like this the rest of the way, this Oregon team will be tough to beat.

Like so many other games, this one turned on a special teams play. Trailing 17-7 with 5:57 left in the first half, BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd missed a 38-yard field goal that would have cut the deficit to a touchdown. On the ensuing possession, Nix found Terrance Ferguson for a 15-yard score with just 24 seconds remaining. The Ducks took a 24-7 lead into the half and scored the first drive of the second half to push the margin to 31-7, icing the game.

McDONOUGH’S MUSINGS

~ BYU wasn’t the only team who had a special teams miscue swing the momentum of the game. As mentioned previously, Miami kicker Andres Borregales missed two field goals (on the second and third Canes drives of the game no less) and with the score tied 3-3, Tyrique Stevenson fumbled a punt which was recovered by Texas A&M. Three plays later, the Aggies punched in the first touchdown of the game. Over in Raleigh, after Texas Tech forced North Carolina State to punt on their first drive of the game, returner Drew Hocutt fumbled the ensuing punt, leading to a Wolfpack field goal and giving them momentum they would never relinquish on their way to a 27-14 win. Finally, in Baton Rouge, a Bulldog holding call wiped out an 88-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that would have put the Mississippi State into scoring position while only down 8 to LSU. The Tigers would go on to win the game 31-16.

~ Brian Kelly earned his first SEC victory with the LSU win over Mississippi State. The difference in the game was LSU QB Jayden Daniels, who transferred from Arizona State in the offseason. Daniels accounted for 303 total yards and 2 TDs, and constantly made plays with his feet to lead the Tigers to 21 fourth quarter points and the 31-16 victory.

~ Another player named Daniels had a big day as well, as Kansas QB Jalon Daniels threw for 158 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for another 123 yards and 2 TDs in the 48-30 Jayhawk victory over Houston. Kansas has been one of the best offensive teams in the country this season under Lance Leipold, his second at the school. Kansas is third in the country in scoring offense, averaging 53 PPG, and after punting on its first two drives against Houston (and falling behind 14-0), scored on 8 of the next 10 drives. The only two drives Kansas didn’t score on the rest of the game were at the end of the first half and end of the game. Kansas has a real shot of heading into an October 15th matchup at Oklahoma undefeated.

~ Appalachian State continues to be must-see TV. In week 1, the Mountaineers scored 40 points in the fourth quarter yet somehow still lost 63-61 to North Carolina. Last week, Appalachian State scored a stunning 17-14 victory at Texas A&M. However, this week may have topped them all. Trailing 28-26 after Troy took an intentional safety, Chase Brice connected with Christan Horn off a deflection for an incredible last-second 53-yard Hail Mary touchdown to give the Mountaineers the 32-28 victory. Next week, Appalachian State hosts James Madison, which qualifies for appointment viewing in 2022.

~ The award for the worst finish of the week goes to Purdue. After catching the go-ahead touchdown pass, senior TE Payne Durham was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting the Syracuse crowd. On the ensuing PAT, a Purdue coach received an unsportsmanlike conduct, meaning the Boilermakers were forced to kick off from the 10-yard line, giving the Orange great field position. Syracuse drove the length of the field – helped by 2 additional Purdue penalties that converted 2 third downs to keep the drive alive – and Garrett Shrader found Oronde Gadsen II with 7 seconds remaining to give the Orange a 32-29 win. Purdue could easily be 3-0, but instead find themselves sitting at 1-2 due to poor late game execution against Penn State and Syracuse.

~ Notre Dame’s ugly win over California was reminiscent of the 2019 Irish win over Virginia. In that game, Notre Dame went into halftime trailing, was limited throwing the ball, and played sloppily, getting penalized nine times. However, the defensive line took over the game in the second half and would not be denied, racking up 8 sacks and 13 TFLs, while forcing 5 turnovers. On Saturday, the Irish didn’t force any turnovers (that counted), but a strong second-half performance from the defensive line coupled with the offense doing just enough, was again the formula for success.

STOCK UP FROM THE WEEKEND

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~ The Pac-12 – The top-tier of the Pac-12 made a major statement on Saturday against quality competition, as Oregon pummeled BYU 41-20, Washington blitzed Michigan State 39-28, USC ran away from Fresno State 45-17, and Utah handled San Diego State 35-7. Left for dead after Oregon and Utah losses in Week 1, the Pac-12 figures to be playing meaningful football in November for the first time in a few seasons. Will this conference cannibalize itself again, or can the league secure its first CFP berth since Washington in 2016?

~ The Big 3 – Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State look to be a couple steps of everyone else (except maybe Oklahoma) through the first three weeks of the season. Georgia continued its offensive explosion with a 48-7 victory over South Carolina, Alabama cruised to a 63-7 win over UL Monroe, and Ohio State put up 11 touchdowns in a 77-21 victory over Toledo.

~ Penn State – The Nittany Lions scored one of the most impressive victories of the weekend in a 41-12 beatdown of Auburn. The Tigers are down this year, but a victory on the Plains – especially by 29 points – is still tough to come by. Freshman RB Nicholas Singleton continued his fast start to the season with 124 yards and 2 TDs, and Penn State forced 4 Auburn turnovers. With upcoming home games against Central Michigan and Northwestern, Penn State should head to Ann Arbor undefeated on October 15th.

~ North Carolina State – With a sputtering offense struggling to find a rhythm, the Wolfpack defense forced 4 turnovers to spur a 27-14 victory over a Texas Tech team that had knocked off Houston in Week 2. North Carolina State’s defense has allowed only 12.3 PPG so far and is a big reason the Wolfpack are still undefeated. QB Devin Leary needs to get on track next weekend against UConn before NC State heads to Clemson on October 1st.

STOCK DOWN FROM THE WEEKEND

~ Nebraska – With a sold-out crowd and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff pregame show onsite, Nebraska started with a ton of energy in the first game under interim coach Mickey Joseph. The Huskers went right down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive…and then wouldn’t score again until Oklahoma led 49-7. Scott Frost needed to go, but this is not going to be a quick fix.

~ Purdue – As stated above, were it not for two last-second touchdown drives, Purdue would be undefeated. Alas, the Boilermakers sit at 1-2 and only have themselves to blame. In addition to the 4 penalties Purdue committed after scoring the go-ahead touchdown, the Boilermakers had 9 others for 138 total yards. That’s not a recipe for winning games.

~ Arizona State – On Sunday, Arizona State announced that Herman Edwards had been fired, ending one of the strangest college football coaching experiments in recent years. Edwards had managed to hang on despite a sprawling NCAA investigation, but a listless home loss to Eastern Michigan was a bridge too far. With a massive student body and growing state population that is improving the quality of high school football, this is a program that should be better than it is.

~ Georgia Tech – If this isn’t rock bottom, I’m not sure what is. On Saturday, Georgia Tech was demolished 42-0 by Ole Miss in a game the Yellow Jackets were outgained 547-214 on their home field. Like Arizona State, this is a program that should be better than it is, located in arguably the capital of the most football-crazy region of the country. This was always going to be a make-or-break year for Geoff Collins, and with poor on-field results, declining fan interest, and the perception that your program is a farm team for the SEC (hello, Jahmyr Gibbs), it will be surprising if Collins survives the season at this point.

BEST GAMES OF WEEK 4

  • #5 Clemson at #21 Wake Forest, 12 PM, ABC
  • #17 Baylor at Iowa State, 12 PM, ESPN2
  • #20 Florida at #11 Tennessee, 3:30 PM, CBS
  • Notre Dame at North Carolina, 3:30 PM, ABC
  • #10 Arkansas at #23 Texas A&M, 7 PM, ESPN
  • Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State, 7:30 PM, ABC
  • Stanford at #18 Washington, 10:30 PM, FS1

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