Week 3 was an unusual week for many teams, as several top teams slumped out of the gate and nearly lost to inferior opponents. Ohio State led lowly Tulsa by a mere seven points late in the fourth quarter before pulling away, Georgia Tech was two goal-line plays away from taking Clemson to overtime in Death Valley, and of course, UK needed a pick-six to stave off disaster against FCS Chattanooga.
But it wasn’t all just what-ifs and almost-upsets. Michigan State made paste out of Miami in the tropics, Western Michigan knocked off Pittsburgh one week after the Panthers’ road victory in Knoxville, and Memphis beat an SEC team at home partly thanks to that team’s SEC referees they brought with them.
Let’s crown some winners:
Winning in The Swamp ain’t easy for anyone, especially when Florida has had you circled on the calendar for months and sings “I won’t back down” before every 4th quarter. Critics will scoff at the blown lead, but I’m impressed with the late defense and how the Tide held on to beat a Top-15 team on the road.
Non-conference scheduling is an amazing freedom that takes you out of the brutal grind of your league and gives you a chance to tune up against different playing styles, as well as earn quality victories for the bowl selection people to remember. Most teams who use that freedom to call an SEC squad to town end up regretting it, but Memphis improved to 3-0 against Mississippi State in a wild, back-’n’-forth, and controversial game. They’ll look to keep piling the wins up as AAC play starts soon.
3. Penn State
The White Out was in full swing for Penn State against Auburn and boy did they cash in. The Big Ten is loaded this year and will offer many more opportunities for the Nittany Lions to ascend the rankings and contend for the playoff. Everyone’s forgotten about 10 months ago when they started 2020 0-5.
2. Fresno State
Well look at what we have here! Remember after Week 0 when I said that unless the Bulldogs beat Oregon we wouldn’t be seeing them ‘round these parts again? Who would’ve thought that UCLA would smash Hawaii, outlast LSU, rise to fame in the AP Poll, and fall to Fresno State in a thriller that would send the Bulldogs into the polls to take their place! I’m genuinely impressed!
1. Michigan State
The Spartans just continue to amaze! This is the team that always has a terrible offense, putters to a mediocre 6-6 record, and occasionally surprises but never gets on the national radar. Now they drop 38 on Northwestern in Chicago and Miami in the Sunshine State. Their next four opponents are Nebraska, Western Kentucky, Rutgers, and Indiana—all beatable if they play like they did against Miami. Can they actually get us to remember their 2015 CFP appearance with a flashy 7-0 start going into the Michigan game (which is in East Lansing)? They sure look like they’re planning on it. Wow...just...wow. They’re one of the biggest winners of this young season, and the biggest winners of Week 3.