College Football Week 3: 7 Things We Learned After the Third Week of the Season

Michael TerrenceCorrespondent IIISeptember 18, 2011

College Football Week 3: 7 Things We Learned After the Third Week of the Season

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    We are three weeks into September, and the college football season has already provided some thrilling moments.

    Notre Dame appears to be either snake-bitten or downright bad. The Irish let two games slip away, but were finally able to win at home against Michigan State.

    LSU looks like a team on a mission, and they might have found their quarterback for the season.

    Speaking of finding a quarterback (or backs), Texas used one named McCoy to pick up a huge victory at the Rose Bowl.

    Iowa showed us it ain’t over 'til it's over, Penn State was nearly upset by Temple and Oklahoma and Florida State provided one of the most exciting (and violent) games of the young season.

    Here are seven things we learned Week 3 of the college football season.

7. Texas Is Ready to Compete with the Nation's Best

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    Welcome back to the national stage, Texas. The Longhorns avenged last year's beatdown against UCLA and finally may have found their quarterback of the future.

    Case McCoy followed in his brother's footsteps as quarterback of the Longhorns. The young McCoy threw for 168 yards and two touchdown passes in his debut for Texas. The end result was a 49-20 victory for Texas on the road.

    The young offense put up 488 yards of total offense and used a balanced attack to befuddle the UCLA defense all afternoon. True freshman running back Malcolm Brown ran for 110 yards and a score, and Fozzy Whittaker added in two more touchdowns on the ground.

    Texas still has some growing pains they will have to overcome, but they look like a dark-horse contender in the Big 12 if nothing else. The Longhorns will play at Iowa State in two weeks before making a trip to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry game, and after that, Texas plays host to Oklahoma State.

    With a solid running game and a number of playmakers on offense, expect the Longhorns to pull off an upset or two before the season is over.

6. Notre Dame Won, but the Road Ahead Is Tough

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    Notre Dame’s season has been a roller-coaster ride, and we’re only three games in.

    The Irish let games against South Florida and Michigan slip away because of bad defense and costly turnovers.

    They were determined not to let it happen a third time. Notre Dame took it to Michigan State and pounded the Spartans, 31-13.

    The offense was good as usual. Irish tailback Cierre Wood ran for two touchdowns, and Tommy Rees threw a 26-yard strike to T.J. Jones.

    Turnovers continue to be an issue for Notre Dame, though. Rees fumbled the ball away and threw an interception. Notre Dame would turn the ball over three times before the game was over.

    The Irish defense did force two turnovers of their own and held Michigan State to 13 points.

    Notre Dame should enjoy the win while they can—their upcoming schedule doesn’t figure to get any easier. Next weekend they travel to Pittsburgh to take on an angry Panthers team. They play at Purdue the following week before playing three straight at home.

    However, the trip home doesn’t look to be all that inviting. The Irish host Air Force, USC and Navy.

    November games with Maryland and Stanford also loom ahead.

    They can forget about any BCS aspirations, because Notre Dame will be lucky just to make a bowl game.

5. Stanford Is Ready to Challenge Oregon for the Pac-12 Title

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    They are not the flashiest team, but Stanford took care of Arizona on the road in impressive fashion.

    Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and 325 yards in a 37-10 victory. Running back Stepfan Taylor ran for 153 yards, and the Cardinal racked up 567 yards as they picked up their 11th straight victory.

    After a tight first half, the game was far from decided, but Stanford’s defense came up big, holding Arizona scoreless in the second half.

    With Luck, the Cardinal have the best signal-caller in the nation, and after three weeks, they look ready to compete with the best in the nation.

    Oregon is the clear-cut favorite to win the Pac-12 North division and the conference championship, but Stanford figures to at least challenge them.

    Stanford plays three of its next four games at home and should cruise through their schedule. Stanford’s next big challenge should come Oct. 29 when they play at USC.

4. The SEC Is Still the Best Conference in Football

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    It may be a new season, but the SEC still looks like the best conference in America. There are three teams ranked in the Top 10 (LSU, Alabama and South Carolina) and at least four others (Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn) who are serious contenders to challenge, if not win, the conference.

    No. 2 Alabama pitched a shutout against North Texas 41-0 and looked every bit as good as their ranking indicated.

    LSU beat Mississippi State in a physical game on Thursday for the Tigers' second victory over a ranked opponent in their first three games.

    No. 10 South Carolina held off a pesky Navy team and has arguably the best running back in the nation in sophomore Marcus Lattimore.

    Florida and Tennessee both showed they belong in the Top 25, and Florida looks like they are serious contenders not just to win the SEC East, but the whole conference.

    With a number of big games still on the schedule, it is highly likely that every team in this conference will taste defeat. However, a one-loss SEC champion is still a likely shoo-in to play in the BCS National Championship.

    Florida and South Carolina look to be the most likely candidates in the East, and Arkansas, LSU and Alabama are the favorites in the West.

    The picture should clear up a little next week when Arkansas and Alabama face off.

3. Oklahoma Proved They Deserve Their No. 1 Ranking

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    The Oklahoma Sooners survived their first road test against a Top Five opponent. It was an ugly and rugged affair that saw multiple players leave the game with injury.

    Starting quarterback E.J. Manuel went down with an injury in the third quarter. However, backup Clint Trickett threw a 56-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 13.

    While some teams may have collapsed under the pressure, the Sooners hung tough. Landry Jones hooked up with wide receiver Kenny Stills to take a 20-13 lead late in the game, and Florida State failed to answer.

    The Oklahoma defense was tough all night, forcing three turnovers and recording six sacks. No turnover was bigger than Javon’s Harris' late in the fourth quarter, which effectively sealed the game for the Sooners.

    Oklahoma didn’t trounce the Seminoles like last year, but they survived a tough game early, and figure to be favored in the rest of the games they play this season.

    Oklahoma showed they have the speed, the talent and the skill to make it to the BCS Championship.

2. Boise State Is for Real and Deserves Some Respect

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    Two weeks ago, Boise State went on the road and beat Georgia in convincing fashion.

    On Friday night, they went to upset-minded Toledo and crushed the Rockets.

    Boise State’s Heisman hopeful, Kellen Moore, threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-15 victory. Although it’s a victory against a low-profile opponent, it is impressive nonetheless.

    A week ago, Toledo nearly knocked off then-No. 17 Ohio State in Columbus and had won their last four games against ranked opponents at home.

    Toledo was able to play Boise State close for most of the first half before being steamrolled in the second half.

    Boise State's defense held Toledo to under 100 yards rushing, and the Broncos' offense put up 610 total yards of offense.

    Boise State is not likely to move up in the rankings and will most likely drop as other Top 25 teams defeat more high-profile opponents in the coming weeks.

    The only other notable games on Boise State's schedule appear to be mid-November games against No. 23 TCU and undefeated San Diego State.

    Regardless, this team has proven time and again that they can play with anyone in the country, and if they run the table, they deserve to play for the BCS Championship.

1. LSU Looks Like the Best Team in College Football

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    While many top teams start the season by facing relatively weak opposition, LSU has faced two Top 25 foes in the first three weeks of the season. They dismantled Oregon and the Ducks' high-powered offense in Week 1, and on Thursday, The Tigers allowed just six points in a bruising, but impressive victory in Starkville.

    LSU looks to be near midseason form. In their first two games, Mississippi State averaged more than 300 yards rushing; against LSU, the Bulldogs managed a mere 52 yards. The Tigers' defense is smothering, as it forced two turnovers and had four sacks against Mississippi State while allowing a mere 193 yards of total offense.

    LSU’s offense wasn’t bad either. Quarterback Jarrett Lee threw for 213 yards and a score. Tailback Spencer Ware also chipped in 107 of the team's 158 rushing yards.

    The season is young, but Lee’s emergence at quarterback makes LSU a serious national title contender.

    After the game, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen stated his team had, "just played the best team in the nation."

    After three weeks, it’s hard to disagree with his assessment.