College Football Week 3 Highlights

It is not even October yet and the top two spots in the college football rankings will look like they were copied from last November. With the USC Trojans losing on the road at Stanford Saturday night and with Alabama and LSU blowing away their opposition, the Crimson Tide and Tigers will occupy the top of the polls heading in to week four of the season, with little standing in their way between now and their Game of the Century, 2012 Edition.

If Louisiana Monroe wounded Arkansas last week, then Alabama took the kill shot in a 52-0 victory. LSU let Idaho hang around in the first half but left no doubt who the better team was in the second half of a 63-14 decision. With the Crimson Tide and Tigers flexing their muscles, it looks as though we will have a whole month and a couple of weeks to hype up this year’ meeting in Baton Rouge in early November.

Alabama returns home to play Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss before a bye week. The Crimson Tide then travel to Missouri and Tennessee and have a home game against Mississippi State before meeting LSU. The Tigers have a tougher stretch of games, including three straight games at Florida, home vs. South Carolina, and at Texas A&M but LSU gets a bye week before hosting Alabama.

The California football monopoly is in Palo Alto

For the first time in school history, Stanford won four consecutive games against USC. Stanford was far from impressive in their week one win against San Jose State, their first game in the post-Andrew Luck Era, but they rebounded for a convincing win last week against Duke. The question of whether or not this Cardinal team had the toughness to beat USC one more time was answered in a big way.

The Trojans were shutout in the second half and Stanford came from behind with quarterback Josh Nunes passed a pair of touchdowns from outside the red zone and making a nifty move running the football to pick up a key first down against a USC defense that has been mentioned as the weak link for the Trojans.

USC’s return to glory has now hit a speed bump and blew a tire. The good news is USC still has a good chance to get back in to the national championship picture. If you are going to lose, it is always best to do it early, on the road against a ranked team. USC’s schedule, though, is starting to look tougher and tougher by the week with UCLA starting to look solid, Arizona and Arizona State also showing some good things early, Oregon looming in November and Notre Dame making a statement

Should you buy in to Fighting Irish?

No. 20 Notre Dame put together a true statement game on the road in East Lansing, flat-out dominating No. 10 Michigan State, winning 20-3. The Irish held a 14-3 lead at the half and shutout Sparty in the second half, holding Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell to 77 yards on 19 carries and creating problems for quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who was 23-of-45 for 187 yards and sacked four times.

The leadership of linebacker Manti Te’o cannot be overstated. During an emotionally trying week in which Te’o’s grandmother passed away and a day later his girlfriend lost a battle with Leukemia, Te’o played strong all night long to lead the way for Notre Dame’s defense, limiting the Spartans to 237 yards of total offense. Notre Dame’s weak spot over the years has been their defense. If Saturday night was any sort of indication, that defense has finally arrived.

So,

is Notre Dame for real? The schedule is still a significant challenge, but if the Irish can play at the level they played Saturday night they should be in every one of them. Notre Dame fans were chanting, “We want Michigan,” after the game. Next week, the Irish will host the Wolverines in a rare Notre Dame prime time game.

What about Florida?

Florida may not be winning pretty but after three games this season it would be difficult to find a better closing team than the Gators. The Gators have outscored their opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter to avoid a week one upset bid by Bowling Green and pick up back-to-back SEC road wins at Texas A&M and revitalized Tennessee. Against the Vols the Gators finally put things together on offense and the defense forced a pair of turnovers. Is Florida the best team in the SEC East? I am not quite ready to make that statement just yet with games against LSU, Georgia and South Carolina all coming up in October, but it does seem the Gators know when to put the clamps down on a game, and that should certainly not be overlooked.

Utah fans invade Holy War

Did you stay up to watch the conclusion of The Holy War between No. 25 BYU and Utah? The fans in Salt Lake City nearly cost the Utes a win.

BYU trailed their biggest rivals 24-7 heading in to the fourth quarter after giving up 17 third-quarter points, but the Cougars battled back with 14 points in the fourth quarter. After a third down incompletion looked to be the final play of the game the fans clad in red rushed the field in celebration, but officials determined one second remained on the clock. Once the madness settled, BYU had a chance to kick a 51-yard field goal. Justin Sorensen had his long field goal attempt blocked by Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, sending the fans back on to the field again to celebrate a Utes victory. There was just one problem. The play was still live with BYU picking up the live football and attempting to advance it in desperation. The officials penalized Utah 15 yards and gave BYU one last try.

BYU was unable to take advantage of the extra opportunity, with Sorensen’s kick clanking off the upright. Finally, Utah fans could celebrate their win without penalty.

A feel good win for Penn State

It was as though 98,000 people breathed a sigh of relief all at once Saturday afternoon. Penn State picked up their first win of the season after a pair of tough losses and an off-season like no other. Penn State’s 34-7 win over Navy was also the first career victory for new head coach Bill O’Brien, who was quick and certain to deflect the attention to his players in the sort of fashion his predecessor Joe Paterno often did time and time again.

Player of the Week: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville quarterback

Watching my Twitter feed while Louisville was playing North Carolina made me realize that everyone was trying to take responsibility for introducing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the nation. That is because Bridgewater was lighting up the Tar Heels in the first half with three touchdown passes in the first half as the Cardinals put together a 36-7 halftime lead. North Carolina made things interesting in the fourth quarter but when all was said and done Bridgewater was 23-for-28 for 279 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The next time you get a chance to watch Louisville, do it.

Best Win of the Week: No. 20 Notre Dame 20, No. 10 Michigan State 3

The Fighting Irish showed they have a defense that needs to be respected. They have allowed just ten points per game after three weeks, and they effectively shut down the team many now consider the Big Ten’s best hopes to represent the conference on the national stage.

Worst Loss of the Week: No. 1 Alabama 52, Arkansas 0

Alabama recorded the largest road conference shutout victory by a top-ranked team since LSU defeated Tulane 62-0 in 1958 and the largest road shutout by a top-ranked team since Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 65-0 in 1987. It was the first time Arkansas was shutout at home since losing to Baylor 7-0 in 1966.

Just the Facts and Stats

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith now has as many touchdown passes (nine) as incompletions. (HT: @ESPNStatsInfo)

Arkansas’s 52-point loss was the worst SEC setback in school history but not even close to the school’s worst conference loss. Arkansas lost to Oklahoma by 103 points in the old Southwest Conference, back in 1918.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore now has 34 career touchdowns, passing former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and Harold Green for the most in school history.

Florida State mastered Wake Forest in Tallahassee. Wake Forest’s offense was held to zero or negative yards on half of their offensive snaps in the game. (HT: @TomahawkNation, via @tyhildenbrandt)

Wisconsin‘s offensive struggles continued against Utah State. In the first half alone the Badgers handed the football to Heisman hopeful running back Monte Ball. Not once did Wisconsin pick up a first down. (HT: @ByChrisJenkins, via @AP_Top25)

Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson had three touchdown catches in their win against Navy. Robinson is the first Nittany Lion receiver to have three touchdown catches since Graham Zug had three in a 2009 game against Michigan.

TCU won their first Big 12 game by beating Kansas on the road. With the win the Horned Frogs extended the nation’s longest active FBS winning streak to ten games.

At the Division 3 level, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s 46-game winning streak was snapped Saturday with a 7-6 loss to Buffalo State.

For uniform junkies, Yale has gone away from the outlined “Y” on the helmet and has returned to a traditional block “Y.”

 

This was originally published on Examiner.com by the author.

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About the author

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.