College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 3 Top 25

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2018

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  Tee Higgins #5 of the Clemson Tigers leaps over Charles Oliver #21 of the Texas A&M Aggies to make a catch and runs for a 64 yard touchdown in the second quarter at Kyle Field on September 8, 2018 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

On a streak-ending Saturday that saw few upsets and many of the nation's top teams hold serve, it was more about style points than who lost.

While powerhouses Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio State continued to build their impressive early-season resumes, Clemson survived a 28-26 scare on the road against Texas A&M at Kyle Field.

Notre Dame avoided a post-Michigan hiccup by barely beating Ball State, 24-16, and Stanford announced its return to the Pac-12 picture with a patented Cardinal thumping of USC in Palo Alto, California.

So, how did all that action affect our rankings?

Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

Here is our Week 3 poll:

  • 1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
  • 2. Georgia (T-3)
  • 3. Clemson (2)
  • 4. Ohio State (T-3)
  • 5. Oklahoma (5)
  • 6. Auburn (6)
  • 7. Wisconsin (7)
  • 8. Washington (9)
  • 9. Stanford (11)
  • 10. West Virginia (10)
  • 11. Notre Dame (8)
  • 12. LSU (12)
  • 13. Mississippi State (15)
  • 14. Penn State (13)
  • 15. TCU (14)
  • 16. Virginia Tech (18)
  • 17. UCF (17)
  • 18. Oregon (21)
  • 19. Boise State (20)
  • 20. Michigan (22)
  • 21. Texas A&M (NR)
  • 22. Miami (25)
  • 23. Boston College (NR)
  • 24. Utah (NR)
  • 25. Houston (NR)

Others receiving votes: Utah, Duke, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan State, Arizona State, Oklahoma State


Who's hot: Stanford Cardinal

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

David Shaw and his rugged Stanford Cardinal team are back to being a Pac-12 force. That was on full display Saturday night when a young USC team visited and left town looking like a bunch of frustrated freshmen in a 17-3 loss.

A week after disposing of San Diego State to open the season, the Cardinal played yet another dominant game, manhandling the Trojans in all areas. Bryce Love forgot his off-night against the Aztecs with 136 rushing yards, and K.J. Costello added 183 through the air.

Perhaps most impressive was the defense, which hearkened back to several years ago when the Derek Mason-led units were among the nation's best, stifling some of those stout USC and Oregon teams. 

With the Trojans mounting a last-ditch effort, Malik Antoine intercepted JT Daniels to cap a frustrating night for the talented freshman signal-caller. It put the perfect punctuation on the contest for Stanford. Antoine added another pick for good measure.

"I'm going to say this in the most respectful way possible: All we hear about is all the great athletes at USC. We've got great athletes," Shaw told Fox's Bruce Feldman during the postgame interview. "It was a good matchup, and our guys play well. We can play much better."

They were just as athletic and more physical, too.

It remains to be seen if Shaw's team can be a national force, especially because its old-school brand of football stands out as an anomaly. They field a hard-nosed defense, run the ball between the tackles and play exceptional special teams. 

It'll be interesting watching the clash of style between Stanford and Oregon on Sept. 22, and Washington looms later. But the Cardinal should be firmly in the conversation as one of the most impressive early-season teams with Saturday's thorough handling of USC.


Who's not: SEC East "pretenders"

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach Will Muschamp of the South Carolina Gamecocks watches on before their game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Im
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

One team's upset hopes were quickly history. The other squad made the wrong kind of history.

It was a bad day to be a ranked SEC East team not named Georgia.

All the talk about South Carolina's being a trendy upset pick over the visiting Bulldogs fizzled in a flurry.

Nothing was flashy about Georgia's 41-17 annihilation of the Gamecocks. But it didn't change the fact that the 'Cocks got clocked in every facet of the game in what was supposed to be a marquee matchup.

The Gamecocks allowed three Georgia running backs to score, yielded 30 first downs and endured a pedestrian performance from quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw two interceptions, including a momentum-squelching early pick that gave the Bulldogs the game's first score.

Will Muschamp's team also finished with a measly 54 rushing yards. All of that equalled a rout at the rocking Williams-Brice Stadium.

Meanwhile, Kentucky erased 31 years of misery and recent years of oh-so-close losses by going into the Swamp and upsetting AP No. 25 Florida with a gutsy performance and a 27-16 final tally. It proved ranking the Gators after Week 1 was premature, and there's still a long way to go for that rebuild.

At this point, it looks like smooth sailing into the SEC title game for Georgia unless somebody emerges in that scuffling division. The Wildcats may be legit, but Florida didn't look good Saturday night.

Neither the Gamecocks nor Gators should be in this week's polls.


Fun fact: Kansas beats Central Michigan, 31-7, to snap a nine-year road losing streak

LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 1: Wide receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. #14 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates a touchdown against Nicholls State Colonels at Memorial Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Maybe it's a little poetic that the last time the Kansas Jayhawks football team won a road game, the No. 1 song in the nation was "I Gotta Feeling (That Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night)" by the Black Eyed Peas.

They didn't play at night, but Saturday was a great day to be a Jayhawk.

The sad thing is, their last road win was all the way back on Sept. 12, 2009. That's a streak of futility consisting of 46 consecutive losses away from home. The good thing for the Jayhawks is that streak of ineptitude is over.

They join the Kentucky Wildcats for getting the biggest gorilla off their backs Saturday.

That win was so long ago (against UTEP) that the notorious Mark Mangino was the head Kansas coach, muddling through his final season in Lawrence.

The Jayhawks used an opportunistic defense to force six Chippewas turnovers, and they celebrated appropriately afterward.


Fun Fact No. 2: Buckeyes add to historic excellence

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 08: Artur Sitkowski #8 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights throws a pass while under pressure from Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first quarter of the game at Ohio Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With yet another lopsided, soul-crushing 52-3 win over an overmatched Rutgers team, Ohio State added to its impressive early-season resume.

It also made it into some elite company, joining rival Michigan as the only college football teams in history with 900 or more victories, according to ESPN Stats & Info. There have been many brilliant players and legendary coaches to lead the Buckeyes, and they hope this season is special, too.

After a headline-filled offseason, Ohio State has proved the Urban Meyer suspension hasn't affected its on-field play. Dwayne Haskins is an early-season Heisman Trophy candidate, there are waves of talented running backs and the defense looks as strong as any in the nation.

The Scarlet Knights had no answers for OSU. They shouldn't hang their heads too low; 899 other teams felt the same way after playing the Buckeyes.


Keep an eye on: a pair of AAC sleepers

Jason Behnken/Associated Press

Most of the Group of Five conversation so far has centered on Central Florida and Boise State, and rightfully so. Both of those teams have solid rosters and should be in the mix for a major bowl all year.

But another couple of American Athletic Conference squads are quietly sneaking up on solid early seasons after registering wins over Power Five opponents Saturday.

South Florida has moved on from the Quinton Flowers era with former Alabama and Arizona State quarterback Blake Barnett, and it looks like his third school is the charm. He racked up 202 passing yards, 91 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in a 49-38 win over Georgia Tech.

Fellow AAC member Houston dominated Arizona 45-18, smothering quarterback Khalil Tate early to drop head coach Kevin Sumlin to 0-2. With new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles dialing up dimes and the Ed Oliver-led defense looking stout at times, the Cougars may make some noise in the conference, too.

Both teams are worth monitoring. Either could wind up representing those "other" conferences in big bowls.


What to watch for

Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

LSU at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET)

This game could be everything for the SEC West that Georgia-South Carolina was supposed to be (and wasn't) for the East. That side of the conference is by far the deepest again, and the two sets of Tigers look like contenders.

Between these teams, Mississippi State and possibly even Texas A&M, Alabama will have a tough road to the SEC title game again in 2018. Both of these defenses are playing stellar, and both teams feasted on cupcakes in Week 2.

Jordan-Hare Stadium will be rocking, and if LSU wins, Ed Orgeron's program stability looks a whole lot stronger.


Ohio State at TCU (8 p.m.)

Haskins is one of the two candidates, along with Oklahoma signal-caller Kyler Murray, for the breakout early-season star.

The Ohio State first-year quarterback starter is efficient, possesses a big-time arm and is posting remarkable numbers. But the Buckeyes head to AT&T Stadium for a prime-time showdown with TCU on Saturday that would go a long way toward proving they're once again for real.

If the Buckeyes can get pressure on young Horned Frogs quarterback Shawn Robinson, it could be a long game. These are the types of matchups TCU coach Gary Patterson normally has his players prepared for, so it'll be interesting to see if that remains the same.

This should be a fun nonconference feast for us all.


USC at Texas (8 p.m.)

This matchup in Austin is the early front-runner for the Overrated Bowl, but that doesn't take away much of the intrigue of the Trojans' return trip in the series after last year's 27-24 win in double overtime.

The Longhorns followed a season-opening loss to Maryland with a sputtering 28-21 win over Tulsa on Saturday, and the Trojans showed their youth in a stumbling road loss to Stanford. Now, both teams must get back on track to satisfy expectations.

Neither squad really was predicted to win its conference, but these are two young, talented teams in need of a spark. They're powerhouses in name only, but it still should be a fun game.


Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and and recruiting data courtesy of 247Sports. Odds provided by OddsShark.

Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.


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