Now, it’s reasonable to note that Florida (3-0, 1-0) would have probably lost had Kentucky kicker Chance Poore connected on a 34-yard field goal with 54 seconds to go. That miss capped the only one of the Wildcats’ final five drives on which they got any traction. Florida’s defense, which sputtered early, did its job in the final third of the game.
Moving forward, the Gators will have a new quarterback and eventually have to navigate a four-game stretch that includes Auburn, LSU and Georgia. That wouldn’t have been easy with Franks. But the upshot is Florida figured out on the fly how to win without its multiyear starting quarterback. That’s a good first step after absorbing such a significant loss.
Alabama quarterbacks, past and present. It’s safe to say a pair of former Crimson Tide teammates will be mentioned heavily in this year’s Heisman Trophy discussion.
There’s current Alabama starter Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns in a 47-23 rout of South Carolina.
A few hours later, Oklahoma graduate transfer Jalen Hurts piled up 289 yards and three touchdowns through the air in addition to 150 yards and a score on the ground as the Sooners shredded UCLA, 48-14.
Central Florida. The Knights took full advantage of their most high-profile chance to impress all season, throttling Stanford, 45-27, behind 347 yards and four touchdowns passes from Dillon Gabriel.
UCF (3-0) scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and produced points on six of its first seven drives to improve to 28-1 over the past three seasons and remain undefeated in the regular season since the start of 2017.
Will it ultimately help the Knights’ playoff hopes if they run the table? Probably not, since the Cardinal (1-2) was already coming off a loss to Southern Cal. With the likes of Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington still to come, Stanford might not end up a top 25 team at year’s end.
Nonetheless, the manner in which UCF disposed of the Cardinal is a reminder of just how strong the American Athletic Conference program is — and that it could be headed to at least the New Year’s Six structure for the third year in a row.
BYU. Another week, another overtime defeat of a Power Five school for the Cougars (2-1). A week after stunning Tennessee, BYU upended Southern Cal, 30-27. Dayan Ghanwoloku finished off the victory with an interception of USC freshman Kedon Slovis. It’s the second year in a row Kalani Sitake’s team has collected a pair of Power Five triumphs.
Next week’s visit from Washington ends the power-conference portion of the Cougars’ schedule, but they still have Boise State, Utah State and San Diego State to come. Nonetheless, chances are improving that BYU will be able to build on last year’s 7-6 record.
Will Muschamp’s checkbook. The South Carolina coach was none too pleased with the officiating in the first half of the Gamecocks’ 47-23 loss to Alabama, and he found a creative way to express it during his halftime interview with CBS:
The Gamecocks might not have done what they wanted against the vaunted Crimson Tide, but at least someone in Columbia is going to be able to make a little money slapping that sentence on a T-shirt. Hey, you take the bitter with the sweet.
Kansas State. K-State scored the final 14 points of a 31-24 victory at Mississippi State, its first nonconference road defeat of a Power Five school since 2011. The Wildcats improved to 3-0 in their first season under former North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman.
There was little to read into the Wildcats’ defeat of Nicholls (an FCS program) and Bowling Green (coming off a few dreadful seasons). But winning in Starkville is a welcome development for a team about to dive into Big 12 play.
Eastern Michigan. Staying on the topic of coaches whose success at lower levels could translate to a bigger stage, take a look at Chris Creighton, whose Eagles are making knocking off Big Ten teams into a tradition.
They edged Rutgers in 2017. They upended Purdue last year on a last-second field goal by Chad Ryland. And Saturday, Ryland struck again, connecting from 24 yards to secure a 34-31 triumph at Illinois. Eastern Michigan had never beaten a Big Ten team in 39 tries before 2017.
Creighton is bound to draw some attention from power-conference athletic directors for his ability to make the Eagles competitive when so many others have flopped badly over the past 30 years.
Temple’s red-zone defense. As conventional as the score of the Owls’ 20-17 defeat of Maryland was, the game was anything but. Take Temple’s defense, which bailed out a poor punting and coverage unit to deny the Terrapins points in four of their six trips inside the 20.
Maryland ran 21 plays in the red zone, managing 42 yards and two touchdowns. The Owls’ defense engineered a pair of goal line stands and also stuffed a fourth down in the final three minutes to help preserve what was then a 20-15 advantage.
Syracuse. The Orange upset Clemson two years ago and nearly knocked off the Tigers last season. Not this time. A week after getting clobbered at Maryland, Syracuse mustered just two field goals in a 41-6 loss to the defending national champs. At 1-2, this hasn’t been the follow-up to the 10-win season everyone in central New York dreamed of in the offseason.
Florida State. In a battle to see who could be more undisciplined in the final moments, the Seminoles “won” in their trip to Virginia. Which is to say they lost, falling to 1-2 with a 31-24 loss in Charlottesville.
Florida State had a strong effort in the lack-of-discipline department, committing 10 penalties for 83 yards. But Virginia came on strong, collecting four penalties for 59 yards on the Seminoles’ final possession.
But in the end, Willie Taggart’s team found a way to finish things off with a thud. After getting a first down at the Virginia 5-yard line with four seconds remaining, the Seminoles called a direct snap to tailback Cam Akers rather than spiking it and getting one clean chance to tie it. Or draw a pass interference penalty, which seemed like a decent bet, too.
Clay Helton. Losing athletic director Lynn Swann this week wasn’t a great development for Helton. Losing to BYU also does not bode well for a coach who managed to return after a 5-7 dip last season.
Bottom line: Helton is already under intense scrutiny and will soon have a new boss. Regardless of the valid problems the Trojans face in the here and now — namely, having a true freshman quarterback learning on the fly — every loss makes it more likely change will be coming to Los Angeles at season’s end.
Illinois. The Illini have lost to a Group of Five school in each of Coach Lovie Smith’s four seasons after the defeat at home against Eastern Michigan. It isn’t so much the opponents (Western Michigan in 2016 and South Florida in 2017 and 2018 were the others) as it is that Illinois can ill-afford to lose its nonconference games if it’s going to make a run at bowl eligibility.
The decision to hire Smith two decades removed from his last stint on a college campus by a program defined by its upheaval didn’t make a ton of sense at the time and looks less and less like it can work out now.
Georgia Tech. Of all the teams to get bumfuzzled by an option team from the FCS, it would have to be the Yellow Jackets. The Citadel rushed for 320 yards and made a 37-yard field goal in overtime to seal a 27-24 defeat of Georgia Tech, which saw triple-option maestro Paul Johnson depart after last season.
New coach Geoff Collins was likely to have a rough transition as the Yellow Jackets turned back to a more conventional offense. Nonetheless, a loss to an FCS school that ran a similar system to the one Georgia Tech just discarded wasn’t part of the immediate vision.
Five things to take away from the Week 3’s Friday appetizers:
Kansas makes a breakthrough. The first two weeks of the Les Miles era at Kansas were not particularly encouraging. The Jayhawks escaped FCS foe Indiana State, then lost at home to Coastal Carolina. Same old sputtering Kansas, or so it seemed.
The Jayhawks proceeded to drub Boston College, 48-24, on Friday, ending a 48-game road losing streak against Power Five opponents that began Oct. 18, 2008, against an Oklahoma team that featured Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray.
Kansas got a combined 308 rushing yards from Khalil Herbert and Pooka Williams, and Andrew Parchment hauled in two touchdowns and 100 yards receiving. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks’ defense didn’t allow a point in the second half. It’s enough to create a little hope for the future for football in Lawrence, something that’s been in short supply for the last decade.
Boston College was feeble. The Eagles (2-1) would have been in for criticism if they lost to Kansas at home by even a point. To give up 7.9 yards per play and 48 points to the Jayhawks was a borderline “let’s-get-the-coach-fired” performance.
Boston College can still find its way to the Addazio Line; it’s won exactly seven games in five of Coach Steve Addazio’s six seasons, and could again considering the ACC’s Atlantic Division isn’t a monster. But it also knows just how low its floor can be. Even under relatively favorable conditions, that might not be easy to shrug off.
Washington State was the better Cougar. Mike Leach’s bunch rallied for a 31-24 defeat of Houston to improve to 3-0. The Cougars (Wazzu edition) handled their business in typical fashion, with senior Anthony Gordon throwing for 440 yards and three touchdowns.
Washington State gets UCLA at home next week, meaning there’s a good chance it will be undefeated heading into a trip to Pac-12 South favorite Utah at the end of the month.
North Carolina nearly had another comeback in it. It’s tough to call Tar Heels Coach Mack Brown a comeback kid. It’s not an unfair way to describe his team.
The Tar Heels erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter of their season-opening defeat of South Carolina, then scored a go-ahead touchdown with 61 seconds left last week to upend Miami. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Brown’s bunch on Friday almost wiped out a 21-point hole in the second half.
Instead, Wake Forest improved to 3-0 with a 24-18 victory thanks to quarterback Jamie Newman (two rushing touchdowns, one passing TD), wideout Sage Surratt (169 yards, 1 TD) and linebacker Justin Strnad (15 tackles). The Demon Deacons dominated the first half, and did just enough late to hold on for a victory in what was scheduled as a nonconference game.
Bottom line: Wake Forest continues to show some staying power, but North Carolina (2-1) is clearly much improved under Brown.
It’s worse than bad at UCLA. It’s boring.
The optimism hadn’t faded at UCLA at this time a year ago. Not quite, anyway. The Bruins had just gotten trounced 49-21 at Oklahoma, right in line with expectations for the pairing of a perennial playoff contender against a program starting over.
Still, Coach Chip Kelly was supposed to invigorate the Bruins, just as he had Oregon a decade ago. An encore in the college game was possible after his sabbatical in the NFL. Surely, by the time Oklahoma made the return trip to the Rose Bowl in a mere 53 weeks, Kelly would have worked his magic and achieved a degree of relevance.
Instead, UCLA is 3-11 under Kelly. The Bruins are worse than irrelevant, more so than losses to Cincinnati and San Diego State to open this season suggest. They fall short of a more stringent standard than wins and losses. They are boring, No. 126 nationally in total offense (239.5 yards per game) and tied for 119th in scoring offense with a pair of 14-point outings.
Oh, and Oklahoma is still Oklahoma, facing UCLA again Saturday night in Pasadena as a three-possession favorite. It would leave UCLA with consecutive 0-3 starts for the first time since 1919-21 — the program’s first three years of existence.
This was not what UCLA thought it was getting for its five-year, $23.3 million investment in Kelly. While patience is an underutilized virtue, the results are so far out of line with Kelly’s reputation at the college level that it’s already fair to wonder if he can turn things around.
There was reason for the Bruins to be hopeful about their future at this time last year. Now? Saturday’s announced crowd of 36,951 (or roughly 55,000 shy of capacity) wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence from UCLA fans.