College football’s second week was about measuring stick games. We realized Oklahoma is a real playoff contender. We realized Georgia should be the SEC East’s favorite, by a good margin. We realized Stanford isn’t as close to USC as we might have thought. We realized Michigan isn’t as close to playoff contention as we might have thought.
For most teams, however, we still don’t really know what we’re getting. Two games is a small sample size and things can always change as teammates build chemistry during the year. But this is the last week of non-conference play en masse, which means it’s the last week to make early judgements. Let’s make the most of them. Here are college football’s studs and duds for Week 3.
Stud: Oklahoma State
Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to describe Pitt on the road as a serious test. Panthers quarterback Max Browne looked abhorrent last week and the team didn’t put up much of a fight at College Station. However, Pitt is much better than Tulsa and South Alabama, who Oklahoma State played in their first two games. If the score ends up looking similar to the 44-7 shellacking the Cowboys put on South Alabama last week, it’s time to start taking them seriously as challengers to Oklahoma in the Big 12.
Kansas finally has some competition at the bottom! After Baylor started off the year with losses to FCS Liberty and UT-San Antonio, the Bears can lay claim to being the Power Five’s worst team. Their quarterback, Anu Solomon, has completed just 43.6 percent of his passes. Through two games, running back John Lovett has just 161 rushing yards, less than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley had in Week 1 alone. Their defense gave up 48 points at home to an FCS team. Don’t expect things to turn around at Duke this weekend.
A rivalry game, the week after a devastating hurricane, in a sold-out Ben Hill Griffin Stadium? Yeah, Florida’s going to want this one. The Gators looked atrocious in Week 1 against Michigan, but Tennessee is nowhere near the defensive team the Wolverines are. Florida doesn’t need much out of their offense here, just enough to supplement a defense that gave up just 16.8 points per game last season. Moreover, there’s a good chance most of the players that were suspended against Michigan, like star receiver Antonio Callaway, will be reinstated by Saturday. The Gators should be able to nab a momentum-building win in this one.
Dud: Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s home opener last week was against FCS Nicholls State, making it the perfect chance for Sumlin to right the ship. Instead of blowing the doors off an FCS team and putting Week 1’s collapse behind them, the Aggies won by just 10 points. The game was tied as late as halfway through the fourth quarter. A&M plays Louisiana-Lafayette, a mediocre Sun Belt team this week, which would normally be looked at as an easy win. However, it’s hard to see it that way now. If the Aggies drop this one, don’t be surprised if Sumlin is out by the end of the weekend.
Stud: Jeff Brohm, head coach, Purdue
Through two games, Purdue looks…really fun? The Boilermakers gave Louisville a scare in Week 1, then came back and blew the doors off Ohio last Friday night. Brohm’s newly installed offense looks explosive and Purdue will make it to a pretty good bowl game is they keep playing like this. The offense shouldn’t slow down much this week, as the Boilermakers face Missouri in Columbia. The road environment will be tough, but the Tigers fired their defensive coordinator just this week. Purdue should run roughshod.
There aren’t many games on this week’s schedule with upset potential (which probably means there will be 15 upsets, but we’ll digress). One of the few is Wisconsin-BYU. At LaVell Edwards Stadium with the Badgers having looked underwhelming thus far, there would seem to be at least a chance for the upset. Don’t count on it. In three games this season, the Cougars have scored a grand total of 33 points. Combined. And one of those games was against an FCS team. Against a Big Ten defense looking for a statement win, that won’t fly. This one may not even be competitive.
Stud: Ohio State
After a blowout home loss temporarily derailed the Buckeyes’ playoff train, Urban Meyer’s squad will be looking to lay the boom. Army is the perfect team to do it against. The Black Knights may be 2-0, but their schedule has been a piece of cake. Don’t get fooled into thinking Army can hang with the best of the Big Ten. Ohio State will remind everyone that they deserve to be in the playoff picture in this one.
Dud: Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
This week’s game against Oregon is a huge test for Josh Allen. The junior quarterback has some alarming splits when it comes to quality of competition. This is his last chance to prove himself against the Power Five during the regular season. When draft time rolls around, this is a game we’re going to talk about in regards to Allen. Problem is, there just isn’t much evidence he’ll change the trend. Two weeks ago, he looked overwhelmed against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Why should it be any different against the Oregon Ducks? At this point, we have to see it to believe it.
Stud: Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
Has there been a player more impressive than Jackson this season? Louisville’s signal-caller has 771 passing yards, 239 rushing yards, and eight combined touchdowns in just two games. That doesn’t even seem possible. With the Cardinals playing Clemson in prime time, there is perhaps no game more important to both Jackson’s case to win a second straight Heisman Trophy and Louisville’s playoff chances. And there is, undoubtedly, no quarterback in nation you’d rather have than Jackson. The junior will get it done on Saturday and put the Cardinals in the playoff picture.
Here are the Commodores’ next four opponents: Kansas State, Alabama, Florida, Georgia. Yikes. Even after making it to a bowl game in 2016 and winning the first two games of this year, Vanderbilt isn’t ready for that kind of stretch. With Georgia looking like a legitimate contender, Florida may be the only winnable game the Commodores have for the next month. Things could get depressing in Nashville, and fast.
The Trojans proved early doubters wrong last week with an 18-point win over Stanford, arguably their closest competition in the Pac-12. Now it’s time for a victory lap. Despite 2006 Rose Bowl nostalgia, Saturday’s game against Texas doesn’t figure to be close. The Longhorns are already dealing with an injury to quarterback Shane Buechele and, even after blowing out San Jose State last week, the stink from Texas’ loss to Maryland is still wafting around Darrell K Royal Stadium. This team isn’t ready to compete with USC.
Dud: Ole Miss
With the Runnin’ Rebels banned from bowl games and playing for pride, weirdness is bound to ensue. They may be talented, but talent doesn’t mean much without motivation. Ole Miss has nothing to play for and there could be additional punishments levied against the school once this is all said and done. At a certain point, players are going to start to think about themselves and looking at transfers. And with the schedule ramping up this week, as Ole Miss travels to Berkley to face California, that point could be pretty soon.
Stud: Jake Bentley, quarterback, South Carolina
South Carolina’s sophomore signal-caller has quietly strung together a strong start to the year. Through two games, both wins, Bentley is averaging over seven yards per attempt with four touchdowns and just one interception. Those weren’t easy games either; the Gamecocks faced NC State in a neutral site and Missouri on the road. Now, they’re back home against a defense that gave up over 30 points per game last season. It’s not hard to like their chances.
Dud: The schedule
During this early part of the season, the goal is to learn something about each team every week. This Saturday, however, doesn’t afford many teams that opportunity. After an absolutely packed Week 2, this week’s slate feels like a letdown. There are some great games on the schedule, like Clemson-Louisville, but not many. Florida State-Miami being cancelled (rightly) doesn’t help, but the schedule didn’t look that good even before that. Tennessee-Florida being this week’s second-best game doesn’t exactly whet the appetite. Purdue is a fun team, but they shouldn’t be playing one of Saturday’s marquee games. Let’s get conference play started already.
When it comes to the national title, nobody is even sniffing the Crimson Tide right now. They held Florida State to just seven points in the opener, then it was business as usual against Fresno State last Saturday. They face a talented Colorado State team this week, but the fact of the matter is the Rams have no chance in this game. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. We’re only two weeks into the season and it already feels like the rest of the SEC is playing for second.
Don’t look now, but the SMU Mustangs may have what it takes to keep up with TCU in a shootout. In each of their two games this year, SMU has dropped a 50-burger, albeit on lesser competition. Though this game will be played in Fort Worth and TCU’s defense was impressive last week, we know from experience that the way to beat the Horned Frogs is by outscoring them. The Mustangs look like a team to do it.
Stud: Tyler Hillinski, quarterback, Washington State
Luke Falk will, in all likelihood, start for Washington State on Saturday. But after Hillinski went 25/33 with three touchdowns in relief last week, leading the Cougars to a comeback win in three overtimes, Falk best watch his back. Now that head coach Mike Leach has seen what Hillinski can do, he may have a quicker hook for Falk should he struggle against Oregon State on Saturday. The Beavers should be an easy opponent for Wazzou, but things can always go wrong. If they do, the starting job could be Hillinski’s to win.
With two weeks of rest and UCLA traveling halfway across the country to face them, the Tigers have become a popular upset pick. Lest we forget that Memphis was a poor defensive team projected to decline even further this season. Their secondary may have experience, but UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is red-hot, averaging 9.8 yards per attempt through two games. He should be able to pick apart any Group of Five team right now.
The Cornhuskers have posted one of the more disappointing 1-1 records in the country thus far. Their win was a far-too-close game against Arkansas State, their loss a failed and frustrating comeback attempt at Oregon. With the team back in Lincoln this week and facing Northern Illinois, the circumstances are ripe for a blowout victory. Mike Riley’s squad may not be a playoff contender, but they won nine games last season. It’s time for them to remind people of it.
Dud: Danny Etling, quarterback, LSU
It feels almost tired to talk about LSU’s quarterback problems at this point, but there isn’t a single player more pivotal to his team’s chances of national contention than Etling. And through two games, he hasn’t done much. Even as the Tigers have breezed to easy wins against BYU and UT-Chattanooga, Etling has attempted just 31 throws. In other words, head coach Ed Orgeron hasn’t displayed much confidence in the senior quarterback. The Tigers don’t have much to fear this week at Mississippi State, but if this game becomes close, it could expose Etling. The only thing LSU has done in hiding the problem thus far is make clear that the problem still exists.