#21 Stanford Upsets #2 Southern Cal (Again), #20 Notre Dame Knocks Off #10 Michigan State, Pittsburgh Slams #13 Virginia Tech, and Utah Nips #25 Brigham Young (Again) – It Ain’t Easy Being a Top 25 Target

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 3

Being an AP Top 25 team has its press, popularity and prestige, not to mention an excited fan base and boosters, but it also makes you a target for every somewhat good to mediocre team from Washington to Florida, from Maine to Mexico, not to mention the Mississippi Delta.

You have a huge target on your back. You had better be willing to defend your position or you will wilt under the pressure. Hello Southern California, Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Brigham Young—all 4 lost this week; it was déjà vu all over again as 4 top-ranked teams were upset last week.

#21 Stanford at home upset #2 Southern California 21-14, #20 Notre Dame on-the-road knocked off #10 Michigan State 14-3, unranked Pittsburgh at home, which lost its first 2 games, ripped apart #13 Virginia Tech 35-17, and unranked Utah at home nipped #25 Brigham Young 24-21 on a last-second blocked field goal attempt.

The biggest surprise was not that Stanford nailed Southern Cal again, but that Notre Dame traveled to Michigan State and beat the Spartans on their own turf.

Stanford was without Jim Harbaugh, the coach who led them to national prominence and now is doing the same for the NFL San Francisco 49ers, and was without Andrew Luck, the #1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts, a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, and arguably the greatest player in school history. No matter.

The Cardinal didn’t look like a world-beater after their first two games, but their memory is long. Like the fact that their win Saturday was their 4th straight against USC, meaning that star QB Matt Barkley went 0-4 against Stanford during his college career. Barkley led USC as it swamped Hawaii and Syracuse before it arrived at Stanford.

The Cardinal defense held Barkley to only 20 completions in 41 attempts for 253 yards, got 2 picks in the process, and held USC scoreless for the final 41+ minutes. They also sacked Barkley twice on the Trojans’ final drive. Josh Nunes threw a go-ahead, 37-yard touchdown to Zach Ertz, Stepfan Taylor rushed for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns and that was all that was needed.

Now Stanford has some steam after starting at 3-0 for the 3rd straight season for the first time in 40 years. Stanford travels to Washington next.

You could easily say that Notre Dame has arrived after Saturday’s upset win. The Irish defense, led by the inspired play of senior linebacker Manti Te’o, slammed the hammer down on one of the best defenses in the country. Te’o had 12 tackles, one for a loss, and broke up two passes, playing just a few days after the deaths of his girlfriend, who had a long battle with leukemia, and his grandmother.

Notre Dame’s swarming defense had 4 sacks (against a Michigan State that had not given up a sack this season), two more tackles for losses, and broke up 8 passes. All of this came after a sloppy start by the Irish that included George Atkinson running into a teammate on a kickoff return, a false start, and a timeout before the first snap of their offense.

So just how big was Michigan State’s loss? It was huge. After rising to #10 in the Top 25, the Spartans played like crap. They were slow, ineffective, not ready for prime time, and simply out coached.

So just how big was Notre Dame’s win? It was huge. It snapped a 6-game losing streak against ranked teams, and the Irish beat a top-10 opponent for the first time in 7 years. It was, and is, a signature win that could propel the Irish back into contention as a top team for years to come. Coach Brian Kelly has put together a quality team, just as he did in bringing Cincinnati to national prominence before arriving at Notre Dame.

The offensive line of Michigan State is so big and so slow my grandmother could outrun them. Notre Dame’s defensive line just ran over them, around them and through them. Newbie Spartan QB  Andrew Maxwell was not well (or good), he was swamped and ineffective passing, and the receivers weren’t any better. Lord help the Spartans; at least the Irish have Touchdown Jesus.     

Here is how the rest of the AP Top 25 fared in the 3rd week of play:

#1 Alabama went 3-0 on-the-road by shutting out Arkansas 52-0. Arkansas last year: The Razorbacks were 11-2, lost only to Alabama and LSU, and beat Kansas State 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas this year: The Razorbacks have already been upset by LA-Monroe 34-31 in overtime and now have been ripped a new one by Alabama 52-zip. Stick a fork in the Razorbacks, they are done. Roll on, Crimson Tide; don’t try eating that Razorback pig, it’s extremely unpleasant.

#2 Southern California on-the-road was upset by #21 Stanford 21-14. Stanford, now 3-0, won the second half 14-0, and the game. The Cardinal opened the season at home with a 20-17 win over San Jose State and followed it up with another 50-13 at home win over Duke, but was ready for USC. Suddenly, the Southern Cal Trojans do not look like the nation’s 2nd best team, and in fact they are not.

#3 LSU (Louisiana State) went 3-0 at home against a winless, inept, pathetic Idaho team, 63-14. So the Tigers have looked very impressive ripping apart North Texas, Washington and Idaho. The LSU Tigers had better not be reading their press clippings because SEC play is starting soon.

#4 Oregon went 3-0 at home by kicking AA Tennessee Tech in the butt, 63-14. Redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota threw for 308 yards and 4 touchdowns before the starters were pulled, and De’Anthony Thomas (aka DAT), arguably the FASTEST player in college football, had 222 all-purpose yards on only 10 touches, including a 59-yard TD scamper and a 16-yard TD catch. Thomas is so fast that players standing on the sideline can only say: “He went datta-way”.

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly, a man of few words who rarely, if ever, smiles, found himself 3 stiffs to feast on to start the season. The Ducks rolled up 652 yards of total offense on Tennessee Tech, and have scored 162 points on their first 3 opponents (54 points per game). Oregon runs a no-huddle, hurry-up offense, as in a play every 11 to 13 seconds.  

#5 Florida State went 3-0 at home by decimating Wake Forest 52-zip after scoring 38 unanswered points in the 1st half.

#5 Oklahoma, tied with Florida State for #5, was idle this week.

#7 Georgia went 3-0 at home by whipping Florida Atlantic 56-20. The Bulldogs led 49-14 after 3 quarters.

#8 South Carolina went 3-0 at home by not giving up any ground as the Gamecocks sent Alabama-Birmingham packing, 49-6. Some other top-ranked teams are going to have to lose, like Southern Cal, Michigan State and Virginia Tech.

#9 West Virginia at home easily handled AA James Madison 42-12 in an in-state rivalry game.

#10 Michigan State was upset at home by #20 Notre Dame 20-3. The Spartans had won 15 straight at home, including a win over the Irish two years ago on a fake field goal in overtime. Michigan State had its worst showing on offense at home since losing 20-3 to Central Michigan in 1991, 21 years ago. Notre Dame dominated this game, proving that Michigan State is no Top 10 team this year. Step aside Spartans, the Irish deserve to move up in the rankings.

#11 Clemson went 3-0 by crushing AA Furman 41-7.

#12 Ohio State went 3-0 at home by narrowly beating California 35-28. The California Golden Bears missed 3 field goals and had a touchdown called back by penalty, while the Ohio State Buckeyes gave up a whopping 512 yards and were manhandled for much of the 2nd half.

With 3:26 left and the score tied at 28, Braxton Miller lofted a 72-yard touchdown pass to an all-alone Devin Smith to put Ohio State ahead for good. Defensive back Alex Logan thought Miller was going to scramble on a 3-and-7 and charged ahead, but Miller found Smith, the man he left wide open, and it was an easy 6 for the Buckeyes.

#13 Virginia Tech in an away game was upset by unranked Pittsburgh 35-17. The Panthers, who had lost their first 2 games to AA Youngstown State 31-17 and Cincinnati 34-10, won easily, scoring in every quarter as the Hokies played like pig slop. Pitt’s Tino Sunseri passed for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns, and freshman running back Rushel Shell piled up 157 yards on 23 carries (6.83 yards per carry). Virginia Tech isn’t even close to being the 13th best team in the country, and Pitt is not as bad as its 1-2 record.

The Panthers forced 4 turnovers as Pittsburgh’s win snapped Virginia Tech’s nation-leading, 13-game road winning streak. Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer is known for his special teams play that has led the Hokies to 211 wins under Beamer, but it is also a fact that Beamer’s teams have NEVER won after trailing by 3 touchdowns. When Pitt started the game by dashing to a 21-zip lead, Virginia Tech could kiss that one goodbye, and they did.

#14 Texas went 3-0 on-the-road by drop-kicking Mississippi 66-31. Maybe Texas is ready to take on the Big 12 this year.

#15 Kansas State went 3-0 at home by beating a 1-2 North Texas team, 35-21. The Wildcats remain unimpressive, and will have to start facing much better competition next week when Big 12 play starts.

#16 TCU (Texas Christian) traveled to Kansas and left with a 20-6 win. 

#17 Michigan at home in the Big House crushed winless 1-A newcomer Massachusetts 63-13.

#18 Florida went 3-0 on-the-road by scoring 10 final-quarter points to put away #23 Tennessee, 37-20.

#19 Louisville went 3-0 by barely beating North Carolina 39-34. Louisville blew a 36-7 halftime lead by allowing North Carolina score 20 last quarter points. The Cardinals have not been able to finish games strong, and will probably not remain in the Top 25 very long as they face tougher competition.

#22 UCLA went 3-0 at home and continues to impress with a 37-6 pounding of winless Houston. Now the Bruins must show they can win games as Pac-12 play starts when they next host Oregon State.

#24 Arizona went 3-0 at home by shutting out AA South Carolina State 56-zip. The Wildcats look really good under new Coach Rich Rodriguez, especially after polishing off Oklahoma State 59-38 last week. Trust me, something will hit the fan this week as Arizona travels to Oregon to start Pac-12 play. Rich Rod and his Wildcats had better be for real because Oregon is for real, as in real FAST.

#25 Brigham Young on-the-road was upset by Utah, 24-21, during an in-state rivalry that will cost the Cougars their place in the Top 25. BYU battled back from a 24-7 deficit with 14 points in the 4th quarter only to have their chance to tie the game ruined when Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei blocked Justin Sorensen’s 51-yard field goal attempt with 1 second remaining.

Utah fans rushed the field in a state of delirium, but were turned away when officials tacked on a 15-yard penalty, and BYU kicker Justin Sorensen had another shot from the 36-yard line. Unfortunately for BYU and fortunately for Utah, Sorensen’s second attempt clanked off the left upright, giving Utah the 24-21 upset win. That’s college football, folks, which can be exciting to the very end, and filled with excited-fan responses. The defeat was bitter for the BYU Cougars, who lost 2 years ago when another last-second blocked field goal won for the Utah Utes.

Here are the rest of the 18 “cupcake” games with the margin of victory or defeat for the 1-A teams:

+60 – Akron slammed AA Morgan State 66-6. You just knew something bad happened when the score ended up 666. Akron led 21-6 at the half and then won the 2nd half, 45-zero.

+58 – Vanderbilt crushed AA Presbyterian 58-nada. Good for the Commodores. The Presbyterian Blue Hose lost to 1-A Georgia Tech 59-3, so they have been outscored in their last 2 games 117-3. Next week Presbyterian plays someone on its own AA level, Furman, with a better chance to put some points on the board.

+52 – Hawaii unleashed a near-perfect defense while hosting AA Lamar, giving up only a safety while winning 54-2.

+50 – Tulsa stomped a mud hole in winless AA Nicholls State 66-16.

+44 – Illinois shut out winless AA Charleston Southern 44-0. The Big Ten put the whoop on a much smaller Big South team.

+39 – Washington dealt a beat down to AA Portland State 52-13. The Huskies, who got beat up at LSU last week, led 45-zip at the half as their offense found their rhythm, and they also scored touchdowns on defense and special teams. Washington gets a bye week and then hosts Stanford.

+ 37 – Duke took it to AA North Carolina Central 54-17 to settle another in-state rivalry for another year.

+34 – Iowa State spotted AA Western Illinois a field goal in the 4th quarter while winning, 37-3.

+28 – Miami of Florida over AA Bethune-Cookman 38-10 in an in-state rivalry game.

+ 25 – Baylor over AA Sam Houston State 48-23 in another in-state rivalry tilt.

+24 – Texas-San Antonio on-the-road upended AA Georgia State 38-14. The Roadrunners, new to the 1-A big time this year, are currently running fast, winning their 3rd straight game to start the season.

+16 – Cincinnati over AA Delaware State 23-7.

+11 – Syracuse over AA Stony Brook 28-17 in an in-state rivalry match.

+11 – Iowa over AA Northern Iowa 27-16 in another in-state rivalry tilt.

+11 – Nevada had its hands full with AA Northwestern State, but managed to get it done, 45-34.

+8 – San Diego State over AA North Dakota 49-41. It’s a good thing that the Aztecs have an offence; it’s not cool when a 1-A school gives up 41 points to a 1-AA school. 

Minus 2 – Wyoming was upset at home by AA Cal Poly 24-22. Cal Poly got it done by winning the 2nd half, 10-7. Ouch. For years, Wyoming used to win at home against better teams, but apparently that was then and this is now. So exactly when did the Cowboys from Laramie fall off the saddle?

In the first 3 weeks of the season, there were 75 cupcake contests among the 216 games played (34%), and 1-A teams won 67 of the 75 cupcake games (89%).

In other in-state rivalries this week:

Ball State from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) upset Indiana from the Big Ten, 41-39.

Middle Tennessee over Memphis 48-30.

Texas A&M on-the-road stomped a mud hole in Southern Methodist (SMU), 48-3, for in-state bragging rights.

Central Florida (UCF) at home turned away Florida International 33-20.

And a drum roll from the Western Kentucky band for the best victory of the week:

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers from the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) upset in-state rival Kentucky from the Southeastern Conference (as in the mighty SEC, the toughest conference in the nation), 32-31. Western Kentucky Coach Willie Taggart threw caution to the wind, gambling in overtime on a trick play with running back Antonio Andrews hitting quarterback Kawaun Jakes on halfback pass for a 2-point conversion following a touchdown.

Jakes took the shotgun snap and fired a lateral pass to Andrews, who took several steps to his right before pulling up and lofting a pass to the wide-open Jakes near the left sideline, where a slew of blockers were waiting to escort Jakes into the end zone and secure the victory. Andrews did not disappoint during the game either, rushing for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Western Kentucky’s victory was not a fluke—the Hilltoppers had 4 interceptions, raced to a 17-0 lead, led 17-10 at the half and 24-17 after 3 quarters. The win was Western Kentucky’s first ever over an SEC opponent, the first victory over a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conference opponent since the Hilltoppers made the full-time jump to 1-A play in 2009, and the first victory in 4 tries against Kentucky—the Commonwealth’s big-time, flagship university.

In other stats and game worth noting:

Arizona State, with impressive early season wins over Northern Arizona and Illinois, lost to Missouri on-the-road, 24-20.

Eight unranked teams have quietly started the season at 3-0. They include Iowa State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Ohio, Rutgers, Texas-San Antonio and Texas Tech. How many will lose their first game when league play starts? Time will tell in the next 2 weeks.

This post and all other posts on college football over the years can be found at Ed Bagley’s College Football (http://ed-bagley-college-football.com) and Ed Bagley’s Blog Archives (http://ed-bagley-blog-archives.com).

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