Winners and Losers of Week 3 in College Football
After a week's worth of debating whether Clemson's defensive front seven could shut down Louisville's dual-threat quarterback, Clemson's dual-threat QB was one of the biggest winners of Week 3, leading the Tigers to a 47-21 beatdown of the Cardinals.
Kelly Bryant threw for 316 yards and had three total touchdowns, making Clemson fans forget about Deshaun Watson the same way Watson made them forget about Tajh Boyd. If he can keep putting together games like that, there's a case to be made that Clemson is the favorite for another national championship.
But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. Let's first focus on all of the action in college football's third week of the 2017 season.
Heisman favorites had incredible games, and the fourth quarter of a certain SEC showdown had enough excitement to carry an entire afternoon. A certain candidate for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft didn't fare quite as well. Nor did LSU or Nebraska.
Read on for the rest of the Week 3 biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
Last week was a nightmare for Brandon Dawkins. Arizona's quarterback fumbled once in Houston territory and fumbled another time on his own 3-yard line, resulting in a safety. He was pulled early in the fourth quarter and only got back on the field for the final drive because Khalil Tate had an even worse drive-killing turnover. Dawkins finished the night with just 204 total yards and no touchdowns in a home loss to a Group of Five school.
He was much, much better on the road against UTEP.
Dawkins completed 18 of 21 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 133 yards and three more scores in the 63-16 destruction of the Miners.
Dating back to 2000, only six other quarterbacks have thrown at least three touchdowns while also rushing for 100 yards and three touchdowns, and that list is exclusively noteworthy players: Lamar Jackson, Johnny Manziel, Dak Prescott, Tajh Boyd, Trevor Knight and Chad Kelly.
Granted, UTEP is not a good team. In Week 1, the Miners allowed Oklahoma's three QBs to complete 32 of 36 passes for 496 yards. The following week, they gave up 306 rushing yards in a loss to Rice. But there's no "quality of opponent" asterisk to be a part of that club, and Dawkins was darn near perfect in the win.
Loser: Chase Hatada, Boise State
Generally, we try to avoid giving "Loser" slides to individual players, because it's just not nice to call a player a loser. (Coaches are fair game, though.) But when Chase Hatada tried to end another man's life with the crown of his helmet, an exception was necessary.
More often than not, helmet-to-helmet hits that result in targeting penalties are either accidental or ill-advised attempts to break up a reception or force a fumble. There are still guys out there who lead with their head far too often, but noticeable strides have been made in recent years in the quest to eliminate the use of one's helmet as a weapon.
Hatada's hit (h/t to Cork Gaines of Business Insider for the clip) on New Mexico QB Lamar Jordan, though, was just plain reprehensible.
Jordan was running away from two other pass-rushers and just trying to throw the ball out of bounds on a 3rd-and-11 play late in the first half. Shortly after Jordan released the throw—but long enough that Hatada had plenty of time to know the ball was gone—Hatada launched himself helmet first into Jordan's chin. (The penalty gave New Mexico a first down rather than forcing the Lobos to punt, so, this was bad on multiple fronts.)
It was a tough play to watch, but the hardest part was seeing Jordan stumble when coaches tried to help him off the field; ESPN then showed him in the tunnel, being helped to the training room.
Needless to say, Hatada was ejected, and Jordan did not return—however, he did tweet the following morning that he's "OK (and) ready to get back on the field." By rule, Hatada should be allowed to play all of next week's game against Virginia, but we'll see if the Mountain West Conference intervenes with a suspension.
Winner: Quinton Flowers, South Florida
The first two games of South Florida's season were...not great. Opening with San Jose State and Stony Brook, the Bulls were supposed to emphatically back up their preseason ranking while the "Quinton Flowers for Heisman" campaign hit the ground running (and passing).
Instead, Flowers was just OK during an unimpressive start to the year for South Florida. The Bulls went 2-0, but they fell behind by a 16-0 margin early against SJSU and were tied with Stony Brook in the fourth quarter. Flowers was held below 300 total yards in each game and didn't look crisp or confident.
Things were back to normal in Friday's 47-23 win over Illinois.
Despite slipping and sliding all over turf still recovering from Hurricane Irma, Flowers paced USF to its 20th consecutive game scoring at least 30 points, and then some. Heck, the senior QB accounted for 30 points by himself with five total touchdowns.
Flowers threw touchdowns to four different receivers, finishing the night (early in the fourth quarter) with 280 passing yards. He also ran for 106 yards and a fifth score. It was the fifth time in his career he accounted for five touchdowns, as well as the fifth time he went for at least 375 combined passing and rushing yards.
In both categories, don't expect this to be the last, either.
Loser: Discipline Between Illinois and South Florida
There's sloppy college football, and then there's Illinois vs. South Florida.
The first half of this game was unwatchable, because there was a flag thrown for almost every minute that ran off the clock. Both teams racked up more than 100 penalty yards before the intermission—Illinois committed 12 penalties for 110 yards; South Florida was even worse at 14 for 130. All told, there were 100 more penalty yards (240) than total yards of offense for Illinois (140) in the half.
This wasn't just some trigger-happy officiating crew calling all sorts of ticky-tack fouls, either. The vast majority of the 26 first-half penalties were just poor execution or frustration.
SB Nation's Richard Johnson chronicled the full list of penalties in a running diary, which included eight false starts and one each of illegal shift, offside, substitution infraction, delay of game and 12 men on the field. In other words, half of the penalties were because these teams couldn't figure out how to legally line up for a snap.
They fell short of the FBS record for penalties in a game (42). Flags were much scarcer in the second half, as the teams combined for just five penalties after the intermission. Per a graphic that ESPN showed during the game, though, the 26 first-half penalties were the most in one half of a game since 2004.
In addition to all of the penalties, there were multiple turnovers and multiple kicks blocked before the first quarter even ended. Execution was a foreign concept in this one.
Winner: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
In last year's 45-38 shootout against Pittsburgh, Mason Rudolph set a career high with 540 passing yards. Star deep threat James Washington did most of that damage with nine catches for 296 yards and two scores, but Rudolph was making mincemeat of the Panthers secondary, regardless of his target.
Draft scouts for the Bengals, Browns and Ravens might want to take note of this guy's propensity for torching Pittsburgh, as Rudolph was even more ridiculous against the Panthers this time around.
The Heisman candidate completed 20 of 28 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns. He had nine passes that went for at least 20 yards, including strikes of 40, 48, 54 and 69 yards.
And that was just in the first half.
Rudolph did remain in the game for one second-half drive before head coach Mike Gundy decided to call off the dogs in the 59-21 rout. By the time Rudolph was done, he had 497 passing yards and four different receivers with at least 100 yards. The only misstep of the day came on his final throw, an interception that broke a streak of 231 pass attempts without a pick.
As a side note: How about the starts the Cowboys have had this season? They had already put up 35 points before Pittsburgh finally got on the board. In Week 1, they jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Tulsa. Last week, it was 44-0 before South Alabama scored. All told, the Pokes have outscored their opponents 59-0 in the first quarter this season.
Loser: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Thus far, the Tanner Lee experience at quarterback has been a rough one for Nebraska. The transfer from Tulane threw four interceptions in last week's loss at Oregon, and he just had an even tougher afternoon at home against Northern Illinois.
After leading the 'Huskers all the way down the field to the NIU 10-yard line on the opening drive, Lee threw a pick-six to Shawun Lurry—the 13th time in his career that the senior intercepted a pass. Later in the first quarter, Lee threw another touchdown to the wrong team. This one went to Jawuan Johnson. Those were the only points scored in the first half by either team.
Lee would throw a third interception in the fourth quarter, but we don't mean to harp entirely on his performance. He did have two rushing touchdowns and threw for 299 yards to his own receivers. The rest of the team did next to nothing to help him in the 21-17 upset.
Nebraska ran for just 85 yards as a team and was only able to force one turnover (a muffed punt) against a team that coughed up the ball three times last week against Eastern Illinois. And when the Cornhuskers finally did storm back to take the lead, they immediately allowed the Huskies to march right down the field for their only offensive score of the game.
Northern Illinois has been a serious thorn in the Big Ten's side. The Huskies won road games against both Iowa and Purdue in 2013, won at Northwestern in 2014 and darn near messed around and upset No. 1 Ohio State in 2015. And after it lost so many key pieces from last season, this was expected to be a bit of a rebuilding year for Nebraska.
Still, this was the most surprising result from the early slate of games.
Winner: Anthony Miller, Memphis
Anthony Miller had 1,434 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season, eclipsing 100 yards in a game on eight occasions. But despite serving as one of the most prolific returning players in the country, he's known by few casual fans.
That should change after what he did in a 48-45 win over No. 25 UCLA.
It's not just that he had nine catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. It's how he got them.
Miller went full-extension for a 41-yard grab with a defender running stride for stride beside him. It was one of the most impressive two-handed catches we'll witness all season. Miller later caught one pass thrown a bit behind him, spun and gained 35 yards on a 2nd-and-24 play. And on his second TD, he caught the ball at the 2-yard line and had the awareness to spin and extend the ball across the plane for six points.
Miller was just one huge piece of the puzzle, though. Riley Ferguson threw for six touchdowns, and the Memphis defense returned two Josh Rosen (terribly thrown) interceptions for a combined 102 yards.
The Tigers have now beaten a ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons, and it's looking like they will be the AAC's best chance of handing South Florida a loss—though, they wouldn't play the Bulls until the conference championship game.
Loser: Baylor Bears...Yet Again
In a testament to how far this program has fallen, Baylor was expected to lose to Duke by 10.5 points, but the Bears couldn't even keep it that close.
We mean no disrespect to Duke with that statement. The Blue Devils are 3-0 and just beat the tar out of Northwestern seven days ago. Based on this start, they might have a say in who wins the ACC Coastal Division. But Baylor has played in more bowl games in the last seven years than Duke has been invited to in the past 56 years combined.
This year, though, Duke is rolling, and Baylor might be the worst Power Five team in the country.
Zach Smith completed just 12 of 34 pass attempts. He was intercepted three times, including a back-breaking pick-six early in the fourth quarter. The Bears barely averaged 2.0 yards per carry on offense while allowing senior tailback Shaun Wilson to run for 176 yards and two scores. In total, Baylor committed four turnovers and 100 yards' worth of penalties in the 34-20 loss.
Coming into the day, Baylor was one of just three Power Five teams with a 0-2 record. The others were North Carolina and Rutgers, each of which obliterated their Week 3 opponent. That means the Bears are the only 0-3 team left in the bunch, and it's officially time to start wondering whether they'll win a game all year.
At the very least, it looks like they're headed for a 0-6 start with the next three coming against Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Couple that with the six-game losing streak at the end of the 2016 regular season, and the Bears are in quite the prolonged downward spiral.
Winner: Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
For Wisconsin, the biggest question coming into the year was Alex Hornibrook's accuracy. While splitting snaps with Bart Houston in 2016, Hornibrook completed just 58.6 percent of his pass attempts with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He was a little better in the first two games of this season (60.8 percent completion, four TDs, one INT), but there were concerns about how those numbers in home games against Utah State and Florida Atlantic would translate to Big Ten play.
Week 3 was a different story, though, as Hornibrook was oh-so-close to perfection in a 40-6 blowout of BYU.
The lefty was 18-of-19 for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Save for the closing drive on which Wisconsin got down to the BYU 5 before running out the clock, Hornibrook led the Badgers to points on six of their eight offensive possessions.
The run game will remain Wisconsin's bread and butter. It has rushed for at least 234 yards in each of the first three games. But Hornibrook might be one heck of a Plan B from here on out.
Loser: Boston College's Rush Defense
Boston College defended the run relatively well through the first two weeks of the 2017 season. The Eagles gave up more than 150 yards in both games, but they held their opponents (Northern Illinois and Wake Forest) to just 3.7 yards per carry and two scores. Of the 87 rushes against them, only one went for 30 or more yards.
Then Notre Dame came to town.
The Fighting Irish ran for 515 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 10.1 yards per carry. Josh Adams had runs of 36, 64 and 65 yards, finishing the afternoon with a career-high 229 yards on the ground. QB Brandon Wimbush also had his fair share of big runs with gains of 32, 46 and 65 yards en route to 207 yards and four scores of his own.
Notre Dame couldn't get anything going in the passing game. Between Wimbush and Ian Book, the Fighting Irish were just 11-of-27 for 96 yards with an interception. Yet, they dominated in a 49-20 road blowout.
It has been a tale of two Notre Dames thus far this season, though. It ran for 422 yards and five touchdowns in a Week 1 win over Temple, but was held to 55 yards on 37 carries last Saturday against Georgia.
Which one will show up next week against Michigan State (a team that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this year)?
Winner: Cam Phillips, Virginia Tech
Over the past few years, Virginia Tech has struggled when playing at East Carolina. The Hokies are 3-1 in their last four games there, but they failed to score more than 17 points in any of those three wins. And early returns Saturday seemed to be that they were headed for another struggle against the Pirates, as they trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Cam Phillips made certain things didn't stay interesting for long.
Virginia Tech's star receiver had 14 receptions for 189 yards and three touchdowns. It was mostly dink-and-dunk stuff in the first half, but he had touchdown catches of 31 and 45 yards in VT's 34-point third quarter. What temporarily looked like a potential upset turned into a 64-17 laugher in which the Hokies pulled their starters with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Phillips put up solid numbers in Virginia Tech's first two wins over West Virginia and Delaware. He entered the afternoon with 228 receiving yards and two scores. Now with 27 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdowns on the season, he's going to be at or near the top of the national leaderboard in all three categories heading into next week's game against Old Dominion.
By the time he goes up against Clemson in Week 5, Phillips might be regarded as the most dangerous receiver in the country.
Loser: First 3 Quarters of Tennessee vs. Florida
Call it great defense if you want, but the first three quarters of the afternoon's big SEC showdown was ugly, hideous, no-good football.
As was the case in Florida's opener against Michigan, it had a great first drive. Against the Wolverines, the Gators marched 46 yards down the field to put three points on the board. Against the Volunteers, it was a 15-play, 65-yard drive for a field goal.
As was also the case in Week 1, Florida's offense disappeared shortly thereafter. Over the course of the next 41 minutes, the Gators gained just 111 yards, punting on four of six drives and fumbling on a fifth.
Yet, they outscored Tennessee 10-3 during that stretch because the Volunteers could not execute to save their lives. They moved the ball a heck of a lot better than Florida did—240 total yards during the same window—but they didn't do a darn thing with it. Tennessee kickers missed three field goals and quarterback Quinten Dormady threw three interceptions—one after having the ball on Florida's 1-yard line and one that was returned for a touchdown.
But even that pick-six didn't come until early in the fourth quarter. These teams entered the final period with a total of nine points scored and two fanbases furious with their offensive coordinators.
Winner: The 4th Quarter of Tennessee vs. Florida
Out of nowhere, this turned into a shootout in the fourth quarter. Zero touchdowns were scored in the first 45 minutes, but there were five touchdowns and a field goal in the closing 15 minutes. After averaging five minutes per point scored in the first three quarters, Florida and Tennessee combined to average 24.3 seconds per point in the fourth.
Florida got the party started with a defensive touchdown, but it was all about the offenses after that. After combining for 402 yards of total offense in the first three quarters, the Gators and Volunteers racked up 420 yards in the span of eight drives.
Tennessee finally figured out that John Kelly was its best source of offense, feeding its star back over and over again. He would finish the day with 141 rushing yards, 237 all-purpose yards and a score. One-hundred fifty of those yards came in the fourth quarter. (Hard to believe the Vols didn't even give him a chance to punch in a touchdown when they were down inside Florida's 5-yard line in the third.)
Despite Kelly's heroics, Florida had the last laugh—while we were all laughing about its horrible clock management. With two timeouts remaining, Jim McElwain and the Gators inexplicably let more than 40 seconds run off the clock in the first three plays of their final drive. As it turns out, though, they were just setting up what will be one of the most memorable plays of the entire 2017 season.
After not completing a single pass that went for more than 22 yards in the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds, Feleipe Franks stepped up and launched a 63-yard Hail Mary that Tyrie Cleveland caught with no time left on the clock for a 26-20 win.
Long story short, Florida fans and impartial viewers who love drama were handsomely rewarded for suffering through the first 75 percent of this mess.
Loser: LSU Tigers
We could have gone any number of directions with this one. Mississippi State, Nick Fitzgerald, MSU's entire defense or the relentless pursuit of D-lineman Jeffery Simmons all could have been winners. Alternatively, LSU's rush defense, its entire offense or Ed Orgeron could have been losers.
But let's just keep it simple and give the Tigers an L for ending up on the wrong side of the most surprisingly lopsided game of the young season—a 37-7 loss to unranked-for-a-few-more-hours Mississippi State.
There was nothing fluky about this one. The Bulldogs simply worked the Tigers into a helpless pulp. Both teams got out to a bit of a slow start with five consecutive punts. Once Mississippi State got rolling, though, it was like watching a snowball gradually turn into an avalanche.
Against a defense that gave up a total of 10 points in the first two weeks, Mississippi State scored on seven consecutive possessions. If we count Donald Gray's 35-yard punt return as part of the possession that started the run, the Bulldogs gained at least 48 yards on each of those seven drives, effortlessly moving the ball on the Tigers.
And on the opposite side of the field, LSU could not do anything. After scoring a touchdown midway through the second quarter, they amassed just 25 yards and one first down on their next four drives—and that lone first down came on a defensive pass interference called on third down.
Putting all those numbers another way, there was a 27-minute stretch from the second through fourth quarters in which Mississippi State had more points (30) than LSU had total yards, including penalties (25).
Winner: The Luke Falk-to-Tavares Martin Jr. Connection
One of the most surprising no-shows of the first two was the combination of Luke Falk and Tavares Martin Jr. Falk had thrown for at least 4,450 yards and 38 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons as the primary QB in Mike Leach's pass-happy attack. And with both Gabe Marks and River Cracraft out of the picture, all signs pointed to Martin's (64 receptions, 728 yards, seven TD in 2016) becoming the star receiver.
Early on, though, that wasn't the case. Martin had just four receptions for 16 yards in the opener, and Falk only found him three times for 21 yards before the QB exited the game against Boise State due to concussion-like symptoms.
At long last, the duo found its stride time and again at home against Oregon State's atrocious defense.
Martin's first target of the game went for a 21-yard touchdown, and he was just getting started. He finished the day with 10 catches for 194 yards and three scores.
Most of his damage came in back-breaking fashion, too. The first TD came on a 3rd-and-6 play. The second one was on 4th-and-goal. And the third TD was a 57-yard strike on 3rd-and-22. Nine of his 10 receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown.
Falk did spread the ball around a good bit, though. He had 27 other completed passes for 202 yards and three more scores, pacing the Cougars to an easy-looking 52-23 win over the Beavers.
Loser: Josh Allen's Draft Stock
It was a fun ride, gang.
NFL draft scouts hyped the heck out of Wyoming QB Josh Allen to the point where people were talking about him as both the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft and a strong candidate for the 2017 Heisman. He's built like an ideal quarterback and has a great arm, but good golly, Miss Molly, it is not working for him with the Cowboys.
A good chunk of the problem is Wyoming's receiving corps. No matter how good a quarterback is, there's only so much he can do if his receivers can't get open or catch passes that hit them square in the hands. But that doesn't change the fact that Allen's numbers have been tough to look at.
In this particular performance, he was 9-of-24 for just 64 yards with an interception and no touchdowns in a 49-13 blowout loss to Oregon. Had this been just a one-off situation, there wouldn't be anything to worry about. Wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong defense and what have you. However, this is just the latest piece in a trend that is rather damning for Allen.
Here are the stat lines in his three career games against Power Five schools:
- 52-17 loss to Nebraska (9-10-16): 16-of-32, 189 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT
- 24-3 loss to Iowa (9-2-17): 23-of-40, 174 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
- 49-13 loss to Oregon (Saturday): 9-of-24, 64 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Total: 48-of-96 (50.0 percent completion), 427 yards, 1 TD, 8 INT, 74.1 QB efficiency rating
Again, the receivers play a part in that, but those are brutal stats. Hard to believe any team would spend a top-five pick on a guy who can't seem to read competent college defenses.
Winner: Royce Freeman, Oregon
Oregon's offense is back in a huge way, and Royce Freeman is the biggest reason.
If you'll recall, Freeman ran for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman and followed it up with 1,836 yards and 17 more scores as a sophomore. But an injury-riddled 2016 yielded "just" 945 yards and nine touchdowns.
It seems safe to declare that Freeman is back to form.
The 6'0" speedy bowling ball has rushed for at least 150 yards and two scores in each of his first three games. In Saturday's win over Wyoming, it was 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also had a career-long 50-yard reception to push his combined total for the day over the 200-yard mark. Freeman now has as many touchdowns in 2017 (nine) as he had all of last season.
Freeman may be putting up the most impressive individual stats, but he is just one part of a well-oiled offensive machine. As a team, the Ducks are now averaging 285.3 rushing yards and six touchdowns per game. They are also putting up 56.0 points per night with Arizona State and California on tap in the next two weeks.
Whatever the FBS record is for points scored in a single month, Oregon may threaten is this September.
Loser: SEC Media Days Poll
In addition to Mississippi State's aforementioned rout of LSU, there were two other shocking results in the SEC Saturday night.
The more noteworthy of the two was Vanderbilt's 14-7 win over No. 18 Kansas State. Earlier this week, I wrote a bit about this Commodores defense, which entered the week ranked in the top five nationally in yards allowed per game, yards allowed per play, points allowed per game and third-down conversion percentage. They kept it rolling against a Kansas State team that had scored 55 points in each of its first two games. The Wildcats were 4-of-16 on third downs and had just 277 total yards.
Elsewhere, Kentucky scored a bit of an upset on the road against South Carolina. The Wildcats got some help from Gamecocks kickers, who missed three field goals and an extra point—10 points that proved to be the difference in the 23-13 final score—but they played a much more impressive game than in their first two close wins over Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky. Benny Snell Jr. led the way with 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to scoring three upsets in Week 3, one other thing these three 3-0 SEC schools had in common is that not a single one of the 242 voters at SEC media days predicted them to win their division. The consensus was that all three would finish outside the top four in their respective divisions.
It's early, but it sure does seem like everyone was sleeping on these teams.
If they're for real, we'll find out next week. Mississippi State travels to Georgia while Kentucky and Vanderbilt face Florida and Alabama, respectively.
Winner: Clemson's Offense
There wasn't a single question mark regarding Clemson's defense after it sacked Jarrett Stidham 11 times and held its first two opponents without a touchdown. The offense, however, was considerably less than championship-level in the 14-6 win over Auburn in Week 2.
After it dropped 47 points on the road against Louisville, though, it might be time to start planning for Clemson's third consecutive trip to the national championship.
Kelly Bryant took a few sacks he probably shouldn't have, but the junior was otherwise spectacular, throwing for 316 yards and running for 26 more. In the head-to-head comparison with Lamar Jackson, Bryant matched the dual-threat superstar at three touchdowns and only lost—if we can even call it a loss—the total yards battle by a 381-342 margin.
With the QBs playing to a draw, Clemson's rushing attack took over.
Excluding Bryant's four sacks for negative-35 yards, the Tigers ran the ball 44 times for 332 yards. Freshman Travis Etienne had the biggest strike, sprinting down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown, but the Cardinals had no answer for any portion of Clemson's five-headed rushing assault.
The Tigers might not jump to No. 1 in the AP poll because neither Alabama nor Oklahoma lost, and poll logic is dumb, but they just smoked No. 14 Louisville seven days after manhandling No. 13 Auburn. They'll be No. 1 on my ballot.
Loser: Defenses in Tulsa vs. Toledo; Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
There were a lot of Week 3 games with over/under lines in the mid-70s, so it's no surprise that there were a few scoring bonanzas.
Two of the evening games stood out from the crowd, though.
First up was the shootout between Tulsa and Toledo. Though the Rockets had a one-play, 75-yard drive on their first possession, the Golden Hurricane led 28-7 midway through the second quarter and appeared to be cruising to an impressive road win.
That's when all of the points started happening. Excluding Tulsa's two-play drive in the final 28 seconds of the first half, these teams combined to score on 12 of the final 15 possessions of the game. Tulsa punted twice, opening the door for Toledo to come all the way back for a 54-51 victory. The Rockets had five touchdowns on plays that went for 49 or more yards as Logan Woodside threw for 458 yards and six touchdowns. Tulsa kept things interesting with three players rushing for at least 130 yards each and a combined six scores.
Not to be outdone, Arizona State and Texas Tech went back and forth for 1,109 yards and almost 100 points.
As has been the case for quite a few years, Texas Tech threw a ton. Nic Shimonek put up huge numbers as a result. Starting for just the second time in his career, Shimonek passed for 543 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. Wide receivers Keke Coutee and Dylan Cantrell were his favorite targets, combining for 20 receptions, 346 yards and three scores.
Somehow, the Sun Devils kept pace for a while. Manny Wilkins threw for 326 yards and three scores of his own, and the team ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns. But Arizona State failed to score on each of its final two drives, falling just short in a 52-45 victory for the Red Raiders.
Winner: A Rosy Rematch
It seemed like every media outlet with any sort of college football coverage posted an article or video reminiscing about the 2006 Rose Bowl in preparation for the first battle between Texas and USC in nearly a dozen years. Clips of Vince Young and Mack Brown were everywhere you looked.
But there was no way the rematch could have lived up to that kind of hype, right? Per OddsShark, USC was a 16.5-point favorite, and even that seemed a bit generous, given how Texas played in a Week 1 loss to Maryland and how USC played in a Week 2 beatdown of Stanford.
The stakes obviously weren't anywhere near as high as they were in the Rose Bowl, but you wouldn't know it from the way Gus Johnson was losing his mind at every turn in a way that only Gus Johnson can.
USC's Sam Darnold threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-24 double-overtime win, but it was a tipped Darnold pass that landed in the hands of Texas DB DeShon Elliott with :19 seconds remaining second quarter that set the stage for a wild game.
Neither team scored in the first 27 minutes, and then there were three touchdowns in the final 2:40 before halftime, making 14-7. Scoring was again at a premium for the rest of regulation until true freshman Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorns on a 14-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. They scored with 45 seconds remaining to take a 17-14 lead only for Darnold to finally put together a solid second-half drive for a game-tying field goal.
With shades of the most recent Rose Bowl, USC won the game on a field goal kicked with no time left on the clock.
Here's hoping things will be just as bonkers when the Longhorns and Trojans meet again next September.
Loser: Everyone Who Punts to Dante Pettis
How many times does a player need to return a punt for a touchdown before teams stop kicking him the ball?
Evidently, seven is not the answer, as punters are still inexplicably giving Dante Pettis a chance to do something on special teams.
Washington's senior wide receiver/punt returner took one punt to the house in each of his first two games this season, and he extended that streak to three with a 77-yard return against Fresno State. To Blake Cusick's credit, he tried to angle the punt out of bounds. However, it didn't quite get there. And after Pettis juked the first would-be tackler almost out of his cleats, he was off to the races.
Pettis now has eight career punt returns for touchdown and already has 233 punt-return yards this season.
He also finally got on the scoreboard with some offensive touchdowns. Pettis had 15 receiving touchdowns in 2016, but he was shut out in Washington's first two games. He made up for lost time with five receptions for 92 yards and three scores in the 48-16 rout.
Winner: Justin Wilcox, California
One month ago, California was supposed to be a disgrace. Athlon Sports had the Golden Bears ranked 76th in the nation. Sports on Earth had them at No. 79. SB Nation said 84th. USA Today projected them to go 2-10 overall.
You get the idea. After losing leading passer Davis Webb, leading running back Khalfani Muhammad and leading receiver Chad Hansen, the Bears had no one drinking the Justin Wilcox Kool-Aid in his first year as head coach.
No one except for his players, apparently.
Building on a surprise Week 1 road win over North Carolina (UNC was favored by two scores) and a subsequent win over Weber State, California carried a 2-0 record into Week 3's late-night showdown with Ole Miss.
Despite picking off Shea Patterson twice in the first quarter, the Golden Bears fell behind 16-7 before rallying for one more win than they were supposed to have all year.
It wasn't pretty. Ross Bowers barely completed 50 percent of his pass attempts and had more interceptions than touchdowns (2-1). The leading rusher only had 78 yards. Not a single play went for more than 28 yards. And the kicker missed two field goals in the 40-49 yard range.
But in a turn that no one who has watched this program in recent years could have seen coming, Cal buckled down on defense, shutting out the Rebels for the final 43 minutes of the game.
Loser: Stanford Cardinal
Since traveling to Australia for the season opener and opening a can of you-know-what in a 62-7 win over Rice, Stanford hasn't looked like the team we're used to seeing.
If your preseason supposition was that the Cardinal would struggle early in the season, you were probably banking on their having difficulty running the ball without Christian McCaffrey. That hasn't been the case, though. Bryce Love has rushed for at least 160 yards in all three games, including a 184-yard, two-touchdown performance Saturday night against San Diego State. Love was also the star of the show in last week's loss to USC (160 yards rushing).
The problem is he's flying a solo mission.
Despite Love's 184 rushing yards, Stanford only had 174 as a team against the Aztecs. Keller Chryst was just 9-of-20 for 72 yards and two interceptions. And not that any team can slow down Rashaad Penny this year, but they let SDSU's star running back amass 206 all-purpose yards in the 20-17 upset.
Its dreams of winning the Pac-12 are effectively already dead, but Stanford better wake up in a hurry or it risks failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2008. UCLA is up next, and the Cardinal still have games against Oregon, Washington, Washington State, Notre Dame and California.
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.