With week three of the college football season in the books, we seem to know less than we did when the season started. At the same time, we also know a little bit more. Like Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson? Remember how insanely special he was reported to be, with Tiger fans giddy at being an early season favorite to hoist the national championship trophy? How’s that one worked out so far?
Remember all that talk of how Ohio State was a year ahead of schedule last year, and with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Joey Bosa and 15 overall starters returning, they’d be a shoe-in to return to the playoffs and waltz right back into the title game?
Well, this is what makes the game so wonderful and utterly perplexing at the same time. Last week, we were pretty sure that the Buckeyes were the best team in the country. Today, we’re wavering, still trying to unravel their unimpressive 20-13 win over Northern Illinois.
Ohio State’s offensive deficiencies were apparent as the Huskies routinely placed nine defenders in the box to shut down the explosive Elliot in the running game. They taunted the quarterback tandem of Jones and Barrett, who have both been mediocre this year, to beat them with the passing attack, which looked woefully inadequate.
If Ohio State wants to reclaim their spot atop the rankings, they’ll need to do a better job of loosening up defenses through its use of Elliot. Last year, they controlled the line of scrimmage while getting some outstanding perimeter blocking from the receivers. This year, not so much.
With the Buckeyes looking shaky, you can’t even say that they are the best squad in the Big Ten right now. That would be Michigan State, who one could argue deserves to be ranked #1 overall.
With Ole Miss averaging 567 yards per game on offense and leading the country in points scored, they’ve got an argument for the top spot as well, especially after beating the #2 team in the country last week, Alabama, 43-37 on the road.
And do you recall the preseason prognosticators predicting doom for LSU this year? Well, with a speedy, stout defense ranked 6th in the country, an improved quarterback in sophomore Brandon Harris and perhaps the best young running back since Marcus Dupree, Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson in sophomore sensation Leonard Fournette, LSU, three weeks in, looks like a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking of Fournette, I hope you saw him running through Auburn’s defense, which is littered with NFL prospects, like a bad case of diarrhea on Saturday. He’s been the most dazzling player in the land at this early juncture of the year. In the dominant 45-21 trouncing, Fournette ran, dashed and gouged his way to 228 yards and three touchdowns on only 19 carries.
The Heisman race is just getting started, but his burst out of the starting blocks has everyone else staring at his back en route to claiming his bedroom in the Heisman House.
Can anybody make sense of the Pac-12 so far? I certainly can’t.
Stanford opens the year with a dreadful 16-6 loss to Northwestern, and then beats a super-talented USC squad, in the Los Angeles Coliseum, 41-31.
Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan looked like the guy he replaced a few years ago, Andrew Luck, by dissecting the Trojans to the tune of 279 passing yards, two TD’s and no interceptions while completing 18 of his 23 passes.
The Rosen One, aka UCLA’s freshman sensation Josh Rosen, came back to earth against BYU , albeit against a defense that boasts a bunch of 32-year-old vets who’ve returned from Mormon missions. (I slightly exaggerate, but you get the point.) He threw three interceptions against the Cougars.
The bright spot in UCLA’s 24-23 escape against BYU was running back Paul Perkins, who averaged 8.4 yards per carry while accumulating 219 yards on 26 carries.
THOUGHTS AND TIDBITS:
Keep your eyes on wide receiver Sterling Shepard and the Oklahoma offense, which detonated for 773 total yards against Tulsa under the direction of new coordinator Lincoln Riley and QB Baker Mayfield.
Boston College’s defense is outstanding. Despite their 14-0 loss to Florida State, the Eagles "D" held the Seminoles in check, sautéing explosive running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Everett Golson.
Michigan State, Ole Miss and LSU are the best teams I’ve seen so far.
Notre Dame might not be the same overrated squad that’s ranked highly to open the season, only to be brutally exposed along the way. Their 30-22 win over a very good Georgia Tech team was more dominant than the final score showed.
C.J. Prosise, a converted defensive back, has been spectacular so far this year as a tailback for the Fighting Irish. He sliced through the Yellow Jackets like a hot knife through margarine for 198 yards and three touchdowns. The injury to starting QB Malik Zaire may not have jeopardized the entire season as some have feared, as backup DeShone Kizer looks like he’s more than capable of running the offense.
(Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche, Photot Credit: USA Today)
My goodness gracious, I have not seen a college defensive lineman like Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche since Virginia Tech’s Bruce Smith and Tennesse’s Reggie White. He utterly abused Alabama’s offensive line. And Rebels QB Chad Kelley is the real deal. Some throws he made against Alabama looked like they were shot out of a cannon.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack’s knee injury stinks. I was looking forward to watching him harass offenses this year.
I can’t put Baylor in my top five just yet. When you open the season with SMU, Lamar and Rice, I can’t take you seriously. I’m looking forward to October 17th, when they play a West Virginia defense that’s ranked fourth overall in the country. If they mop the floor with the Mountaineers, I’ll begin to give them some credence.
Georgia QB Greyson Lambert, a transfer from UVA, was in the zone while practically pitching a perfect game in the Bulldogs’ 52-20 annihilation of South Carolina and the Ol’ Ball Coach. Lambert completed an NCAA record 24 of 25 passes.
Don’t be fooled by Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss. They beat themselves with five turnovers, Nick Saban and his staff will have them ready to bounce back. They’re still among the top five teams in the land.
Keep your eye on Texas A&M. Always explosive on offense, their defense has improved from last year’s philanthropy. Receiver Christian Kirk is a marvel.
THIS WEEKEND’S TOP GAMES
#9 UCLA vs #16 Arizona – This has the potential to be the game of the weekend. The Wildcats will be looking to crash the Top 10 with a win against the Bruins. Arizona’s quarterback Anu Soloman is one of the best kept secrets in college football. UCLA freshman Josh Rosen, aka The Rosen One, will be playing in his highest stakes game thus far.
#18 Utah vs #13 Oregon – Nice battle of top 20 teams as Oregon opens defense of its conference title. Should be a great match-up between the Ducks’ prolific offense against a strong Utes defense. Keep your eye on Utah running back Devontae Booker. It will be interesting to see how new Ducks QB Vernon Adams plays with a broken finger and if the offense can maintain its explosive track record. Look for Royce Freeman and Oregon’s running game to try to pick up the slack. Arizona linebacker Jared Morris is very solid.