College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 3

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 18, 2022

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 3

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    Texas A&M's Devon Achane (Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

    One week removed from getting stunned at home by Appalachian State and subsequently dropping 18 spots in the AP poll, the Texas A&M Aggies bounced back with a bend-don't-break defensive effort against the AP No. 13 Miami Hurricanes, winning the marquee Week 3 showdown by a final score of 17-9.

    Miami gained nearly 400 total yards, racked up 27 first downs and made it into A&M territory on seven different drives, but the 'Canes just could not find the end zone.

    As a result, Texas A&M surges from unranked back up to No. 17 in the B/R Top 25—with ballots from David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—while Miami free falls from No. 12 all the way to our first team out.

    Other considerable plummets come courtesy of Michigan State and Arkansas, but we'll have more to say about those teams shortly.

    Bleacher Report's Post-Week 3 Top 25:

    1. Georgia (Previous Week: 1)
    2. Alabama (2)
    3. Ohio State (3)
    4. Michigan (4)
    5. Clemson (5)
    6. Oklahoma (8)
    7. USC (6)
    8. Oklahoma State (10)
    9. Kentucky (9)
    10. Tennessee (13)
    11. Penn State (16)
    12. Ole Miss (19)
    13. Arkansas (7)
    14. NC State (18)
    15. Washington (NR)
    16. Utah (14)
    17. Texas A&M (NR)
    18. Oregon (NR)
    19. Wake Forest (17)
    20. Baylor (20)
    21. Texas (24)
    22. Syracuse (NR)
    23. Kansas (NR)
    24 (tie) BYU (11)
    24 (tie). Washington State (NR)

    Others Receiving Votes: Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Florida, Miami, Florida State

Who's Hot: Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon's Bo Nix (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

    Two weeks ago, Oregon looked like a wee bit of a dumpster fire.

    The preseason No. 11 Ducks allowed preseason No. 3 Georgia to score touchdowns on each of its first seven possessions of the game. And we're not talking about short drives, either. Georgia's average starting field position for those seven drives was its own 23.5 yard line, but the Dawgs just kept marching down the field, not even once needing to attempt a fourth-down conversion.

    And in that 49-3 loss, let's just say the offense looked as helpless as the defense.

    Under first-year head coach Dan Lanning, though, the Ducks have done a remarkable job of getting back on the proverbial horse, smashing Eastern Washington 70-14 in Week 2 before Saturday's more impressive 38-20 victory over No. 12 BYU.

    That first-team offense led by Bo Nix couldn't do anything against Georgia, but after scoring touchdowns on each of their first seven possessions against the Eagles, they followed it up with five touchdowns and a field goal in their first six possessions against the Cougars. (Nix had two passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.)

    As a result, the Ducks led 38-7 midway through the third quarter against a BYU team that was maybe, sort of creeping into the way-too-early College Football Playoff conversation.

    Oregon has a long, steep hill to climb to get itself back into that mix, but this was a huge first step in the right direction.

    The Ducks won't play USC during the regular season, and they'll get Utah at home in mid-November. If they can stay hot and get a nice road win over 3-0 Washington State next Saturday, an 11-1 regular season with the lone loss coming on the road* against the No. 1 team in the country is still feasible here.

    Oregon entered Week 3 at No. 25 in the AP poll and was nowhere to be found in our ranking, but that statement win gets the Ducks comfortably back into our Top 20. Expect a similar leap in Sunday's AP poll.

    *You can try to call it a neutral-site game since it was in Atlanta and not in Athens, but that was a road game.

Who's Not (Part 1): Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Arkansas' KJ Jefferson (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

    Every once in a while, an FCS team will upset a ranked opponent.

    Per NCAA.com, there have been six such games dating back to 1978, including Montana over No. 20 Washington in Week 1 of last season.

    An AP Top 10 team losing to an FCS opponent, though?

    That has only happened once, when Appalachian State (in)famously stunned No. 5 Michigan to open the 2007 campaign.

    That's still true after Week 3, but Missouri State head coach Bobby Petrino sure did have his former team's CFP life flashing before its eyes.

    Thanks in part to a pair of early Razorback fumbles, Missouri State jumped out to an early 17-0 lead over No. 10 Arkansas. Former Utah and Utah State quarterback Jason Shelley coolly led the Bears on three consecutive scoring drives, punctuating the final one with a 24-yard scramble for six points.

    The Razorbacks trimmed the deficit to three just before halftime and tied it up midway through the third quarter, but MO State jumped right back into the lead with a gutsy play-action fake on 4th and 1 for a 47-yard touchdown, and then extended the lead to 27-17 with a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

    That response made it feel like the Bears were going to pull off the historic upset, but the Razorbacks finally woke up and asserted their will.

    KJ Jefferson found Raheim "Rocket" Sanders two plays later for a 73-yard touchdown. And after the Hogs defense sacked Shelley on back-to-back plays and forced a three-and-out, Bryce Stephens returned a punt 82 yards for the first touchdown of his career and Arkansas' first lead of the game. The Razorbacks sealed the deal with a five-minute, 80-yard touchdown drive for a 38-27 victory.

    Rarely do you see a team plummet in the rankings after a victory by double digits, but the Hogs figure to drop at least a few spots after that nail-biter.

Who's Not (Part 2): Michigan State's Secondary for a Second Straight Season

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    Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Through the first two weeks, Michigan State's defense did a great job against the overmatched offenses of Western Michigan and Akron. Neither MAC team had a passing touchdown and finished with very similar pedestrian lines (21-of-36 for 193 yards; 20-of-35 for 203 yards) against a Spartans secondary that was routinely gutted last season.

    But in its first real test of this season, No. 11 Michigan State failed miserably at unranked Washington.

    Former Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. was able to do just about anything he wanted through the air against the Spartans.

    On six of Washington's first seven possessions, Penix had a completion that went at least 22 yards. And in the other, he had four completions of at least 10 yards, including the 17-yard strike to a wide-open Ja'Lynn Polk in the end zone just seconds before halftime.

    All told, he torched the Spartans for 397 yards and four touchdowns—almost all of it in the first three quarters—in leading the Huskies to a fairly convincing 39-28 upset.

    For fans in East Lansing, it's deja vu all over again.

    Not only did Penix throw for a combined 606 yards and five touchdowns in two starts against Michigan State in 2019 and 2020, but games like these were all too commonplace in 2021.

    Eight of Michigan State's 13 opponents threw for at least 280 yards and multiple touchdowns in 2021, including four cases of at least 400 yards and three or more scores through the air. And if they don't figure something out soon, the Spartans are headed for a world of trouble against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Maryland later this season.

Fun Fact: Georgia's Defense Finally Allows a Touchdown

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    Georgia's Nolan Smith (4) and Smael Mondon Jr. (2) (Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The No. 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs entered Week 3 with the stingiest defense in the nation, allowing just one field goal through its first two games against Oregon and Samford.

    And until the bitter end against South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, it looked like they might pitch yet another shutout to get that scoring average down to a preposterous 1.0 points allowed per game.

    But with a 48-0 lead and the backups on the field against South Carolina's No. 2 QB, Luke Doty was able to lead the Gamecocks 45 yards for a touchdown. He sealed the deal with a 13-yard scoring strike to Traevon Kenion on 3rd and 11 with less than a minute remaining in the game.

    Thus ended a touchdown-less streak by Georgia's defense of three hours, nine minutes and 21 seconds dating back to the fourth quarter of last year's national championship victory over Alabama.

    That's slightly longer than Avengers: Endgame (three hours and two minutes); not quite as long as Titanic (three hours and 14 minutes). And during that time, Georgia outscored its competition by a margin of 150-3.

    It has been a decade since the last time a team repeated as national champion (Alabama in 2011-12), but Georgia sure is looking like a strong candidate to do so with a defense that inconceivably might be even better than it was en route to allowing 10.2 points in 2021.

    For what it's worth, impenetrable D was also the recipe for Alabama's repeated success 10 years ago. The Crimson Tide allowed 8.2 points per game in 2011, followed by 10.9 in 2012.

    It's just incredible that this Georgia team lost its defensive coordinator and had five defenders taken in the first round of the NFL draft (eight defenders drafted overall) and hasn't missed a beat.

    Best of luck to Kent State next weekend. The Golden Flashes were held to three points by Oklahoma in Week 2, and they will struggle to even do that much damage against Georgia.

Looking Ahead: Conference Play Heats Up with at Least 1 Big Game in Each P5 League

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    Tennessee's Hendon Hooker (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    There has been a smattering of intriguing intra-conference action within the first three weeks of the season, but Week 4 is when business really picks up.

    Let's just go league-by-league to drive the point home.

    ACC: No. 5 Clemson at No. 19 Wake Forest (Noon ET). It's arguably the biggest game of the weekend and probably the biggest game of the entire ACC season. Wake Forest has an insatiable offense, but can the Demon Deacons defense—which narrowly survived 37-36 against Liberty on Saturday evening—make the stops necessary to pull off the home upset?

    Big 12: No. 17 Baylor at Iowa State (Noon ET). No. 21 Texas at Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. ET) is also a big one, but Iowa State looking to improve to 4-0 at the expense of the ranked Bears should be the marquee game of the early slate. In each of the last three meetings between these programs, the home team won by a single possession. Last year's game came down to a two-point conversion attempt in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

    Big Ten: Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (7:30 p.m. ET). Wisconsin got clipped by Washington State in Week 2, so this won't be the ranked-vs.-ranked showdown we were anticipating in the preseason. But that Badgers defense is, per usual, no joke, holding each of its first three opponents to between 242 and 253 total yards. Got to assume Ohio State will do better than that, but maybe Wisconsin will at least threaten to snap the Buckeyes' eight-game winning streak in this series.

    Pac-12: No. 25 Oregon at Washington State (4 p.m. ET), No. 7 USC at Oregon State (9:30 p.m. ET) and No. 14 Utah at Arizona State (10:30 p.m. ET). Take your pick, really, with all three of the league's ranked teams going on the road to face a competent foe. Both Washington State and Oregon State are a perfect 3-0, and Arizona State at least put up a respectable fight in its Week 2 loss at then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. Could be one of those weeks in which the Pac-12 does itself no favors in the quest to end its CFP drought.

    SEC: No. 18 Florida at No. 15 Tennessee (3:30 p.m. ET). Shoutout to No. 10 Arkansas at No. 24 Texas A&M (7 p.m. ET), but Gators-Volunteers is where it's at this week as we continue our eternal quest to figure out whether Florida QB Anthony Richardson is a legitimate star or just an occasional highlight hero. Alternatively, perhaps this could be where Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker splashes into the Heisman conversation, what with his 36 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns and just three interceptions since transferring to the Vols last season.

    Bonus Nonconference Game: Duke at Kansas (Noon ET). Duke and Kansas play big games against each other in men's college basketball at least a few times per decade. But would you care to guess at the last time Duke and Kansas both started out a football season 3-0? It actually has happened, but not since seven decades ago in 1952. And if the Jayhawks win this one, it would be their first season with at least four wins since 2009. Take it to the bank that everyone will be tweeting about this game next Saturday afternoon.

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