Zipping around the weekend that was in college football …
One of nation’s bounceback teams might have spoiled the season of one of the sport’s surest things.
On one side of a 24-21 victory Saturday was Brigham Young, a program known for decades for its offensive brilliance and consistently competitive teams. Yet the Cougars were 4-9 last year, and it’s safe to say the stakes for Coach Kalani Sitake were high entering the season.
On the other was Wisconsin, which suffered its first nonconference loss at Camp Randall Stadium since 2003 after kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed a 42-yard field goal with 36 seconds left. Its 41-game nonconference winning streak had been the longest in the nation.
For the Badgers (2-1), there is almost no path to the playoff that doesn’t involve it winning 10 in a row. There is little opportunity — if any, depending on just how good Iowa is and whether Northwestern recovers from its loss to Duke — for high-end victories available against the Big Ten’s West Division. If Wisconsin was going to fritter away its mulligan, it seemed more likely to happen at Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern or Penn State.
But for the moment, BYU (2-1) might be more interesting. The Cougars opened the year by spoiling Kevin Sumlin’s debut at Arizona and then were perfectly competitive (if not especially interesting) in a 21-18 loss to California.
Saturday yielded another tight game. BYU hasn’t really figured out its offense yet (it had 287 total yards against California and 311 at Wisconsin) behind methuselean quarterback Tanner Mangum, but it strung together plays when it had to and has played solidly on defense (allowing 4.7, 5.5 and 5.5 yards per play in its first three games).
As an independent, the Cougars’ schedule is a hodgepodge, but there’s a healthy dose of interesting games. BYU might have already spoiled Wisconsin’s season. Could it do the same to Washington in two weeks?
Akron. Beat Northwestern, 39-34, its first victory over one of the Big Ten’s 14 current schools since 1894.
That’s a year before the Big Ten was founded and 19 years before the word “Akron” entered the school’s name (it was originally called Buchtel College). In any case, it’s a significant victory for the Zips (2-0) and Coach Terry Bowden. Yes, that Terry Bowden.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes (3-0) survived Coach Urban Meyer’s absence, using a flurry of big plays in the third quarter to create some distance in a 40-28 victory over Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs basically played Ohio State even, with one notable exception — a pair of defensive touchdowns that provided some separation.
LSU. This week’s reminder that recruiting never stops and takes some crazy turns centers on the Tigers’ 22-21 victory at Auburn.
Kicker Cole Tracy, a graduate transfer who began his career at Division II Assumption, drilled a 42-yard game-winner as time expired for LSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC). Quarterback Joe Burrow, who didn’t announce he was transferring from Ohio State until May, threw for 249 yards and a touchdown and had a better day than Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham (16 of 28, 198 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions).
With both playing key roles, Ed Orgeron’s Tigers claimed a rare victory on the Plains and, coupled with an opening week defeat of Miami, own one of the more impressive resumes in the sport.
Kyler Murray. Another year, another Oklahoma offensive buzz saw and another Sooners quarterback who will generate some Heisman Trophy buzz.
Murray completed 21 of 29 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-27 defeat of Iowa State, and he also rushed for a team-high 77 yards as the Sooners (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) piled up 519 total yards and avenged their only conference loss of last season.
Iowa State won’t be the best team Oklahoma encounters, but it was feisty enough to stick within a touchdown until the final minutes. The Sooners will need an offense that can keep pressure on Big 12 opponents, and Murray looks like he’s capable of doing just that.
Syracuse. Okay, it’s increasingly clear Florida State is a degree of terrible it didn’t even touch during its uneven 2017 season. Things are not good in Tallahassee, and Willie Taggart’s 1-2 team returns home after a 30-7 loss at Syracuse.
But say this for the Orange: It has bagged a brand-name victory in each of its three seasons under Coach Dino Babers. It beat Virginia Tech in the Carrier Dome two years ago. It knocked off Clemson at home last season. And now it’s upended Florida State in commanding fashion. Don’t look now, but Syracuse (3-0) is halfway to bowl eligibility.
Kansas. The Jayhawks (2-1) have won consecutive games for the first time since 2011 after blasting Rutgers, 55-14. It marked the first time Kansas scored 40 points against an FBS foe since 2011 in a 45-42 defeat of Northern Illinois (the second of the team’s previous back-to-back wins). Saturday’s 55 points were the most the Jayhawks have mustered against an FBS foe since Todd Reesing threw six touchdown passes in a 76-39 pummeling of Nebraska in 2007.
The world outside of Tuscaloosa. After its 62-7 rout of Mississippi, Alabama has outscored its first three opponents 170-28 while averaging 544.7 yards per game. A quarter of the regular season is in the books, and no one has come close to making the Crimson Tide sweat.
USC’s offense. In back-to-back losses to Stanford and Texas, the latter a 37-14 setback in Austin on Saturday, the Trojans have managed a total of 17 points, averaged 324.5 yards and scored once in 13 second-half possessions. The Pac-12 South power has a lot to work on as it returns to league play Friday against Washington State.
Maryland. The Terrapins’ drive results in their 35-14 loss to Temple: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, halftime, punt, punt, downs, interception, interception, end of game. Woof.
It took an interception return and a blocked punt return to get Maryland (2-1) on the board, but maybe the most telling number of all was the 29 plays it ran in the first three quarters. It was an inept performance, and the absence of two starting tackles didn’t help. Still, it’s not a great sign with some stingier Big Ten teams waiting on the horizon.
Arkansas. Spotted North Texas (a good Conference USA team) the first 17 points in what became a 44-17 victory for the Mean Green. Combined with last week’s loss to Colorado State, and the Razorbacks are well on their way to a forgettable first season under Coach Chad Morris.
Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 0-2 for the first time since 1957 after dropping a 24-19 decision to Troy. Nebraska has lost six consecutive home games, and it paid Troy $1.15 million for its successful visit to Lincoln. To reiterate a point from last week: Nebraska’s problems weren’t going to be fixed instantly by a coaching change. And they haven’t been.
Boise State. So much for those hopes of an unbeaten season. The Broncos lost, 44-21, at Oklahoma State, and now their chances of landing the Group of Five’s spot in a New Year’s Six bowl hinge on (a) them running the table and (b) all the top teams in the American Athletic Conference all losing a game at some point in the next 11 weeks.