Welcome to the first edition of our weekly college football roundtable. We’ll be breaking down all things college football in this space each week, including what we learned from Week 3 and who’s up next on the schedule.
The the athletic is a college football roundtable that discusses the most recent games from Week 3.
7:45 a.m. Eastern Time
The White Out Game at Happy Valley reminded us that fans matter, highlighted the Big Ten’s depth, and shown how officiating can be troublesome.
In Week 3, however, there was more than one game. Here’s what our reporters learned about college football this week.
In a 41-20 victory against Tulsa, Ohio State made several defensive adjustments, including handing over defensive playcalling responsibilities from coordinator Kerry Coombs to secondary coach Matt Barnes. Ryan Day stated the modifications they made were encouraging, and he saw some improvements in the game, but there were still problems.
Despite the improvements, the defense still allowed 428 yards via the air in a game that was closer than it should have been. The Buckeyes led by seven points at halftime and another seven points late in the fourth quarter. C.J. Stroud threw for 185 yards and one score while also throwing an interception. Stroud didn’t have his greatest game and made several bad choices and passes, but the run game bailed him out. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Ohio State isn’t have to be excellent in the Big Ten.
Not when Penn State looked so terrific against Auburn, or when Iowa beat a top-10 foe, Iowa State, on the road. Both Michigan and Michigan State are undefeated. Wisconsin still has a chance to win the West and face Notre Dame. The Big Ten’s playoff route does not necessarily have to take them via Columbus.
While the verdict on football in Michigan is still out, the Nittany Lions seemed capable of hoisting the Big Ten flag this autumn. Despite the fact that the sport had plenty of parity during the first three weeks, Penn State looked the part. That cannot be said of Clemson, Oklahoma, or the Ohio State Buckeyes. In the selection committee meeting room, schedule strength counts, but so does the so-called eye test, and Penn State may end up with both.
On Saturday night, Sean Clifford became a 2.0 version of himself. The secondary was incredible, and Jahan Dotson put up a performance to remember. While Ohio State irons out its wrinkles, there are plenty of other teams in the conference that have the potential to break out of its shadow — and Penn State has already taken the first step. Heather Dinich is a writer.
Choosing to stay on campus
Penn State’s 28-20 victory against Auburn on Saturday night was right up there among the best games we’ve seen in college football this season. A White Out in Happy Valley, the sort of setting that characterizes the sport and all of its spectacle, is unlike anything else. Another request from that thriller: Let’s play all of the nonconference games on campus, or at least the majority of them.
College football is meant to be a family affair, with generations of family members gathering on campus to see their teams and alma maters compete against schools from other areas of the nation, then returning the journey in subsequent years. It’s encouraging to see a growing number of home-and-home series on the horizon in the coming years. Alabama-Ohio State in 2027 and 2028, Alabama-Notre Dame in 2029 and 2030, Georgia-Oklahoma in 2023 and 2031, Michigan State-Washington in 2022 and 2023, Michigan-Texas in 2024 and 2027, Clemson-LSU in 2025 and 2026, and Florida-Utah in 2022 and 2023 are among those scheduled. Let’s hope they keep coming. Chris Low (c)
Is there anybody who wants to win the Atlantic Coast Conference?
After three games, it’s clear that Clemson isn’t the same club that has dominated the ACC on the offensive side of the ball for the previous six seasons. In two games against Power 5 opponents, the Tigers have scored two offensive touchdowns. In three games, quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has completed fewer than 60% of his throws, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Clemson’s passing offense has also been hampered by the highly anticipated return of Justyn Ross. But perhaps most concerning is their inability to run and significant problems along the offensive line, which has resulted in a disorganized effort all around.
Whether it was Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman or Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne Jr., Clemson had a great mix of quarterback-running back strength throughout its six-year ACC domination. But, without a difference-maker at running back, Uiagalelei has been asked to do a lot more, and without a go-to game-breaker at receiving, the results have been very un-Clemson-like so far.
Clemson, according to Paul Finebaum, has been the most disappointing team this season.
Clemson’s offense hasn’t looked this weak since 2014, leaving the ACC more open than ever for another club to come in and fill the gap. Clemson now has a 57.8 percent probability of winning the ACC again, according to ESPN FPI. However, the rest of the league has had a dreadful start to the season as well, and there is no obvious front-runner to take the title. With 13.4 percent chances to win the ACC, Virginia Tech is now the next best team in the conference, and the Hokies did not exactly assist the overall league with a difficult defeat at West Virginia on Saturday.
The ACC currently has a losing record versus Power 5 nonconference opponents, as well as numerous defeats against MAC schools and one FCS club. Florida State is off to its worst start since 1976; Miami was thrashed at home; and Pittsburgh was defeated by Western Michigan following a huge away victory against Tennessee. North Carolina, a preseason top-10 team, has bounced back after losing to Virginia Tech in the opener, but the Tar Heels will need some assistance just to get to Charlotte.
Since 2015, Clemson has served as the ACC’s flag bearer, serving as the conference’s lone playoff representative. With Clemson and almost everyone else in the conference floundering, the ACC may be looking back on a season they’d rather forget. Andrea Adelson’s remark
Is the Pac-12 the next Atlantic Coast Conference?
Clemson has kept the ACC relevant for many years while the rest of the league has languished in mediocrity or worse. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 has lacked a high-profile team capable of lifting the league as Clemson did. The Pac-12 had a number of strong teams in Tiers II and III that were constantly beating up on one other, lowering the conference’s national importance as a consequence.
This year, though, such is not the case. Oregon is the only unbeaten Pac-12 team with a lot of also-rans heading into the entire slate of league action. The Ducks are basically auditioning for the position that has previously been held by Clemson. It’s certainly a positive development for the Ducks, but it puts a lot of pressure on them to remain unbeaten in the conference. Because it’s a worst-case scenario if the Ducks miss the playoffs and the rest of the league struggles. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Florida should not be overlooked.
In the SEC, there are no moral wins. There are just victories and losses, and Florida lost to Alabama in the end. However, the manner in which the Gators lost should tell us a lot about their prospects in the future. Despite a shaky start and the absence of one of its greatest offensive weapons, Florida was just a two-point conversion away from sending the nation’s No. 1 team to overtime. The defense, which was so awful last season, wasn’t quite as dreadful this season, particularly in the second half. The Gators may be very good if they can cut down on pass interference penalties and make more than the odd open-field tackle.
No. 1 Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s three first-quarter touchdowns are enough to fend off No. 11 Florida’s comeback effort and win a 31-29 victory.
The offense, on the other hand, has shown the greatest potential. Despite the injuries, the line was outstanding. Emory Jones had the whole day to throw the ball, and after a shaky first quarter, he was pretty accurate. Coach Dan Mullen has a plenty to work with thanks to his running abilities and a strong backfield that includes Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, and Nay’Quan Wright. When quarterback Anthony Richardson returns from his hamstring injury, the team will have even more firepower.
While Florida was far from flawless against Alabama, and a defeat is a loss, Mullen and the Gators looked to have found something that might challenge Georgia in the East and pave the door for a rematch with Alabama in the SEC championship game. Alex Scarborough’s remark
Ole Miss adds another CFP contender to the SEC.
Lane Kiffin’s first season at Ole Miss was plenty of points and excitement, but his squad never seemed to be in contention for anything in the SEC. Kiffin’s second Rebels team is ready to achieve even higher heights. Not only has quarterback Matt Corral developed into a dynamic offensive leader, but the Ole Miss defense has limited its first three opponents to 24 points or less. Corral leads a balanced offense that averages 52.3 points and 635.3 yards per game, with over 1,000 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions. Early on, Sam Williams (four sacks) ignited the defense.
The competition for Ole Miss will only grow harder, but the Rebels may be the SEC’s third-best CFP candidate, behind Alabama and Georgia. Texas A&M has a case, but quarterback Haynes King is out with an injury, and the Aggies don’t have a playmaker like Corral. Although Texas A&M’s defense is stronger than Ole Miss’, previous playoff participants have benefited from a mix of great offense and adequate defense. Before Ole Miss plays Alabama in two weeks, Kiffin loaded up on rat poison, but the Rebels have Arkansas, LSU, and Texas A&M all coming to Oxford later this autumn. Adam Rittenberg’s remark
Tradition is important.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers went to Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday for a nonconference game during the 50th anniversary season of the 1971 Game of the Century, 11 years after their previous meeting and 50 years after playing arguably the sport’s most flawless game. Except for No. 3 Oklahoma, for whom every game is a playoff referendum, there were no high stakes. Between 1948 and 1995, the two teams won or split conference championships in 44 of the 48 years of the Big Seven/Big Eight era. They were in the same conference for 90 years and played each other every year for 70 of those years. One has been ranked in 62 of the 72 games between them in the AP poll period (since 1936), including 45 of their last 46 meetings. Barry Switzer spoke on the video screen before to the game and stated, “Winning is the greatest part of this rivalry. CHAMPIONSHIPS.”
Despite the fact that Oklahoma and Nebraska are now in separate leagues and on distinct trajectories, Saturday’s game demonstrated that tradition still counts. Icon Sportswire/David Stacy
The game didn’t feel the same with the Huskers coming off four consecutive losing seasons and the Sooners in the top five. That was not reflected in the atmosphere of the game. Fans swarmed Campus Corner on Friday night, chanting “Go Big Red!” and wearing the block N on their shirts, caps, and Johnny Rodgers jerseys. A sellout crowd of 84,659 cheered as the game began. The game was much closer than anticipated, with the Huskers limiting the Sooners to their lowest point total since 2016. After the game, Lincoln Riley remarked, “Both teams rose to the occasion.” “It was a difficult game with a lot of meaning for both schools and fan groups.” These are the kinds of contests and rivalries worth saving as the sport continues to fall apart at the seams. Dave Wilson is an author.
Penn State’s officiating disaster warrants more investigation.
It’s a difficult job to officiate college sports. Every week, calls go unanswered, and the majority of fan/coach conspiracy ideas regarding the men and women in stripes are entirely unfounded. Fans should also be aware that many nonconference games are refereed by crews from the visiting team’s league.
Still, there’s no justification for what occurred on Saturday night at Penn State. How did an experienced SEC crew — including a replay official — lose track of the downs early in the second quarter during a Penn State possession? After several discussions, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin attempted to notify the crew of the mistake, but everyone still got the down incorrect, forcing a premature Penn State punt. Consider what might have happened if Penn State had lost. Franklin would have struggled to maintain his conciliatory demeanor after the game.
Officials are held responsible for their work, albeit the most of it is in the form of decreased game assignments. On the largest stages, the best crews should receive the greatest missions. The SEC, on the other hand, has to examine closely at what happened Saturday, particularly because it was an experienced crew, to guarantee that a counting-downs mistake doesn’t happen again. Adam Rittenberg’s remark
At Utah State, Blake Anderson is a miracle worker.
There are lots of surprising names among the 34 remaining undefeated FBS teams — Rutgers, Texas Tech, Arkansas — but Utah State deserves special attention.
The Aggies were a total disaster a year ago. They went 1-5, with each of their defeats being by at least 19 points. Only once did the offense score more than 16 points. Gary Andersen was dismissed after just 16 games in his second tenure as head coach.
Anderson was ready for a change at Arkansas State following his first losing season with the Red Wolves. He arrived to Utah State in December, bringing QB Logan Bonner with him, and began the process of rebuilding a team that had been in steep decline.
So far, the outcomes have been outstanding. Utah State defeated Washington State in Week 1 after coming back from a deficit. A week later, the Aggies thrashed North Dakota. Saturday, the Aggies overcame Air Force 49-45 after overcoming an early hole. They’ve scored 97 points in their last two games, which is more than they did the whole previous season (93). WR Deven Thompkins has 454 receiving yards, which is 55 more than anybody else in the country.
It remains to be seen if Utah State can compete in a competitive Mountain West, but Anderson’s early results have been better than anybody could have reasonably anticipated. David M. Hale (David M. Hale)
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