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College football winners and losers, Week 3: Can we skip to Lamar Jackson vs. Alabama?

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Running through the highs and lows from Saturday afternoon’s action:

WINNER: Louisville. When Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson roasted Charlotte for eight total touchdowns in the first, caution was still warranted. The 49ers, after all, are a second-year FBS program.

When Jackson scaled a Syracuse defensive back in a single bound and otherwise did as he pleased during a monster Friday night showing last week, it was still fair to wonder just how good the Cardinals were. They had just shredded a defense unlikely to stop many opponents this season.

And when Jackson helped demolish No. 2 Florida State, 63-20, on Saturday? Okay, there’s no reason to question much anymore. The sophomore is frighteningly good — and so is Louisville, No. 10 with a bullet.

The final damage for Jackson: Four rushing touchdowns to go 146 yards on the ground, plus 216 yards and a touchdown passing. For the year, he’s up to 464 yards and 10 TDs rushing, which would be great at this stage if he was only a running back. But he also has thrown for 913 yards and eight TDs.

The numbers are nutty, but shredding Florida State provided validation Louisville’s first two opponents couldn’t have — both for Louisville (3-0, 2-0 ACC) as a team and Jackson as an individual.
The Seminoles were without injured defensive back Derwin James, which would have mattered if this game was close. It wasn’t. Florida State still had loads of talent, and still couldn’t do anything to fluster Jackson. Somewhere, there’s an old Head Ball Coach who’s probably a bit jealous someone else became the first to drop 60 points on the Seminoles.

And then there’s this opinion, from one of the best rushing quarterbacks college football has ever seen.

There’s not much to add to that.

The legend of Lamar Jackson is growing. He’s 19.

WINNER: North Dakota State. The Bison took both the check and the victory at Iowa, getting a stop of the defending Big Ten West champs and then promptly marched for the game-winning field goal as time expired in a 23-21 triumph.

This is nothing new for the five-time FCS champions, who have won six consecutive games when they’ve played up. The run started in 2010 against Kansas, and the Bison have since defeated Minnesota (2011), Colorado State (2012), Kansas State (2013), Iowa State (2014) and now Iowa.

Sure, Iowa had won 14 consecutive regular season games, but anyone paying attention this decade should only be left wondering one thing: Why in the world do schools keep tempting fate by scheduling the boys from Fargo?

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LOSER: Perspective. The only way Iowa’s loss qualifies as some cataclysmic upset is if (a) polls are considered a superior evaluative tool to actually watching teams play and (b) all FCS teams are considered inferior to all FBS outfits.

Anyone still believing the former is not very imaginative. Anyone believing the latter just isn’t all that smart. The ability of FCS powers like Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to segue into the sport’s top level in recent years makes it clear the best programs at a lower scholarship level are better than plenty of teams with more resources.

Let’s be clear: North Dakota State’s victory was not a massive stunner. Iowa shouldn’t have lost that game at home, and would probably win a best-of-seven series. It counts as an upset, but even if there was a little number next to the Hawkeyes’ name and North Dakota State has fewer scholarships to dole out, it isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as some would have you believe.

WINNER: Alabama. The Crimson Tide erased a 21-point deficit in a victory for the first time since 1989. The victim then? Mississippi. The victim Saturday? Also Mississippi. While the Rebels are showing a habit of squandering chances against highly regarded teams (see: Labor Day against Florida State), a lot of this had to do with Alabama’s penchant for non-traditional scoring opportunities.

The Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0 SEC) returned a fumble, a punt and an interception for touchdowns in their 48-43 victory in Oxford. If there’s a relatively painless way to climb out of a 24-3 hole, getting 21 points when your offense isn’t on the field is probably it.

Also of note: Alabama’s two-game slide against Mississippi is over, though it certainly got harrowing after the Rebels scored 13 points in eight seconds late in the fourth quarter.

LOSER: Virginia. Bronco Mendenhall’s first season continues to get worse. Virginia wasted a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 13-10 loss at Connecticut and also managed to miss a 20-yard field goal on the final play of the game. The Cavaliers are one of three Power Five teams without a victory this season; Iowa State and Northwestern are the others.

WINNER: Miami. The Hurricanes blasted Appalachian State, 45-10, and were never seriously threatened in their first dicey test of the year. Miami (3-0) has outscored its first three opponents 153-23 and has not looked remotely vulnerable under new Coach Mark Richt. That could easily change soon enough, but it’s still a good look for a program that hasn’t lived up to its past glory over the last decade.

LOSER: Illinois. The latest Big Ten team to lose to Western Michigan, which was clearly the superior outfit in a 34-10 triumph in Champaign. If Lovie Smith wasn’t already aware of the daunting task in front of him with the Illini (1-2) and last week’s blowout loss to North Carolina didn’t hammer it home, this setback surely did. Meanwhile, Broncos Coach P.J. Fleck’s stock continues to rise.

WINNER: Nebraska. Might the favorite in the Big Ten West reside in Lincoln? With Iowa’s loss, Wisconsin’s scare against Georgia State and Northwestern’s shaky start, the 3-0 Cornhuskers are looking better and better. After a 35-32 defeat of No. 22 Oregon, Mike Riley’s second season at Nebraska is off to a much better start than his first. Plus, he got the better of the Ducks — something that rarely happened during the latter half of his time at Oregon State.

Ohio State at Oklahoma (9:10, Fox): This game lost a little luster when the Sooners lost their opener, but it’s still a pairing of two of the steadiest programs in the country. Oklahoma’s playoff hopes will vanish with a loss.

Michigan State at Notre Dame (7:30, NBC): The visiting Spartans come off a bye week and head to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish as a long-running series is renewed. Expect some references to the 1966 Game of the Century, a 10-10 tie between the undefeated teams that November.