Bleacher Report's Week 3 College Football Awards
Perhaps Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor will win the Heisman Trophy in a few months, but he and the Badgers received a different, less flattering award from Bleacher Report after a stunning home loss to BYU on Saturday.
Though the top five teams in the Associated Press poll each won by double digits, it was a shake-up kind of weekend in the beautiful, wacky world of college football. Between bye weeks and games postponed by weather, there were only 20 ranked teams in action. And yet, Nos. 6, 7, 15, 17, 22 and 23 all lost—several of them in ugly fashion.
We don't exclusively focus on ranked teams for our awards, though.
Far from it, actually. More than half of this week's awards—some good, some bad—went to unranked teams, including Arkansas, Virginia, Northwestern, Texas Tech and Davidson.
So sit back and enjoy this Week 3 recap, starting with a rare (but necessary) mention of a game that didn't even involve an FBS team.
The Non-Saturday Game of the Week
Ten years ago, Davidson opened its men's basketball regular season with a 107-83 win over Guilford College. A junior by the name of Stephen Curry finished with 29 points, 10 assists and nine steals in what proved to be the team's best scoring output of the 2008-09 season.
So why was social media in an uproar over Davidson's 91-61 win over Guilford College on Thursday night? Did someone break Curry's program record for three-pointers in a game or something?
That's a football score?!
We normally only focus on games involving FBS teams in this space, but a bunch of FBS games were canceled because of Hurricane Florence and, holy cow, that's a lot of points.
Davidson did most of its damage on the ground, setting FCS records for both total yards (964) and rushing yards (685).
Six different Wildcats—Wesley Dugger, Coy Williams, Tyler Phelps, William Wicks, Eli Turner and James Story—had at least one rushing touchdown of more than 30 yards. The distances on Davidson's 10 (!!!) rushing touchdowns were, in chronological order: 60, 23, 40, 50, 62, 24, 38, 32, 63 and 58. All told, Davidson rushed 54 times at a rate of 12.7 yards per carry.
Even its three passing touchdowns came from 84, 76 and 74 yards as the Wildcats completed all eight of their attempts for an average of 34.9 yards.
And that leads us to what has to be the best factoid about this game: Davidson scored 91 points without taking a single snap in the red zone. Hell, the Wildcats ran only 10 plays from inside the Guilford 40.
It's hard to even imagine putting up such efficient numbers on the easiest setting of a video game. Well done, Wildcats.
The Actual Game of the Week
For the second time already this season, LSU picked up a huge win that few thought possible. In the battle of the SEC West Tigers, No. 12 LSU eked out a 22-21 road win over No. 7 Auburn on Cole Tracy's 42-yard field goal as time expired.
Several hours before that pivotal moment, this one got rolling when Jarrett Stidham threw an interception on the second play of the game. LSU capitalized with not one, not two but three third-down conversions on its subsequent 34-yard touchdown drive. After a week full of questions about the Joe Burrow-led offense, the quarterback completed two clutch passes and had an eight-yard scramble to set up the score.
After LSU tacked on a field goal midway through the second quarter, Auburn scored 21 unanswered points, taking what appeared to be a commanding lead. Stidham made up for the rough start with a third-down conversion on each of those three touchdown drives.
Auburn was also dominant on defense. From the 8:30 mark in the second quarter through the 8:30 mark in the fourth, LSU went three and out on five of seven possessions and scored just three points. Even though it was only a one-possession game (21-13), the margin seemed insurmountable.
Out of nowhere, Burrow hit Derrick Dillon for a 71-yard touchdown, opening the door for the game-winning and division-shifting field goal.
The Tigers still have home games against Mississippi, Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama as well as road tilts with Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M. This incredible 3-0 start may well still end in a 7-5 whimper. But Ed Orgeron certainly has more job security now than he did three weeks ago.
The Emerging Power-Conference Contender
Don't look now, but Boston College—which hasn't won more than seven games in a season since 2009—is emerging as the biggest challenger to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division.
At any rate, the offense is out of control.
In the season opener against Massachusetts, the Eagles scored 48 points in the first half before calling off the dogs. In last week's blowout win over Holy Cross, starters were already getting the rest of the day off in the first quarter. And in Thursday night's 41-34 win over Wake Forest, Boston College proved it can also score both on the road and against competent opponents.
We already knew AJ Dillon is great. As a true freshman, he rushed for 1,256 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final seven games of last season. And against the Crusaders, he rushed six times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Suffice it to say, no one was shocked when he racked up 185 yards and a touchdown against the Demon Deacons.
But Anthony Brown's performance at quarterback was an eye-opener—and a terrifying one for the rest of the league.
Brown completed 16 of 25 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns without committing a turnover. That's quite the deviation from last September's game against Wake Forest, in which Brown finished 11 of 29 with three interceptions in a blowout loss.
It wasn't just the Demon Deacons who perplexed the then-redshirt freshman. In 2017, Brown completed 51.9 percent of his attempts, finishing with 11 touchdowns against nine picks. Among players who attempted enough passes to qualify, his 103.5 passing efficiency rating ranked 97th out of 99 and last in the ACC.
The Eagles won seven games in spite of Brown, not because of him.
If he keeps playing like he did against Wake Forest, though, watch out. Even with a treacherous four-week gauntlet looming late in the season—vs. Miami, at Virginia Tech, vs. Clemson, at Florida State—this offense could be good enough to do some damage. Boston College probably won't win the conference, but it is the highest hurdle standing between Clemson and another appearance in the ACC Championship Game.
The Statement Win of the Week
Boston College's win over Wake Forest was a nice heads-up about an ACC contender, but Oklahoma State's blowout of Boise State was the biggest statement win of Week 3.
The Broncos got on the board first with a touchdown early in the second quarter, but it was all downhill from there for what was the Group of Five's top candidate for a New Year's Six bowl game. The Cowboys scored the next 20 points and never looked back en route to a 44-21 victory.
The offenses were evenly matched, even though Boise State barely averaged one yard per rushing attempt. Oklahoma State outgained the Broncos by only eight yards.
The Cowboys blew the game open on special teams. A blocked punt in the second quarter set up a seven-yard touchdown drive. Another blocked punt in the third quarter was returned 13 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma State also dominated the kicking game with Matt Ammendola draining all three of his field-goal attempts, while Boise State's Haden Hoggarth missed from 26 yards out on his only attempt of the day.
In addition to that edge, the Cowboys got another solid performance out of Taylor Cornelius. The senior quarterback threw for one touchdown and rushed for two more. But unlike in his first two games as a starter for Mike Gundy, Cornelius didn't commit a single turnover in this one.
Justice Hill also notched a season-best 123 rushing yards with one touchdown. He is averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and the Cowboys haven't really called his number yet.
Oklahoma State is averaging 52.3 points per game. Lighting up the scoreboard against Missouri State and South Alabama didn't do much to move the needle, but taking care of business against Boise State could be proof this team is going to be a tough out in Big 12 play.
And the Cowboys don't face the other good teams in the conference (Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU) until November, so there's a good chance they'll be 9-0 before that season-ending gauntlet.
The Worst Conference of the Day
Five Big Ten teams had kickoffs at noon ET, but most of them overlooked their opponents.
No. 11 Penn State looked great in a 53-point blowout of Kent State. Indiana also had an easy time winning its home game against a Mid-American Conference opponent, smoking Ball State 38-10.
But Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska had drastically worse afternoons.
Rutgers didn't just lose at Kansas. The Scarlet Knights were dismantled 55-14. The Jayhawks forced six turnovers, including two pick-sixes. They also rushed for 406 yards, including three touchdowns of more than 50 yards each.
You expect that type of outcome when Rutgers faces Ohio State or Michigan...but Kansas? Goodness gracious. This game was unofficially a battle for the title of worst power-conference team, and it's going to be hard for any team to take that away from the Scarlet Knights.
At least Rutgers lost to a power-conference program, though.
Previously undefeated Maryland lost to previously winless Temple 35-14, and it wasn't even that close. Maryland managed just 195 yards and did not score on offense. (Its touchdowns came on an interception return and a blocked punt.) After racking up more than 400 yards in each of their first two games, the Terrapins didn't take a single snap in the red zone.
Last, but not least, Nebraska fell to 0-2 with a 24-19 home loss to Troy. Playing without quarterback Adrian Martinez—who injured his knee late in last week's loss to Colorado—the Cornhuskers shot themselves in the foot early with turnovers and poor special teams play. They were the better team for the final 35 minutes, but they couldn't recover from a 17-0 deficit.
These were never the teams that were going to represent the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff, but outcomes like these hurt the league. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State each play all three of these teams this season, so their strengths of schedule just got less impressive.
Things didn't get better for the Big Ten later in the day, either. Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois all lost games they should have won. Brutal.
The Hot-Seat Humdinger
We are now 25 percent of the way through Willie Taggart's first season as the head coach at Florida State, and the early returns are...not great.
It started with an ugly 24-3 home loss to Virginia Tech. The awful optics continued in Week 2 against FCS program Samford, which the Seminoles did not lead until late in the fourth quarter. And it didn't get any better in Saturday's 30-7 loss to Syracuse.
The game was over long before Florida State finally put those seven points on the board. The 'Noles went three and out seven times and had two other "drives" in which they got a big gain on the first play and punted four snaps later. And it even took them six snaps from inside the Syracuse 10 to punch one in.
The Florida State offensive line is so atrocious that it made Syracuse—which allowed more than 900 combined yards of offense against Western Michigan and Wagner—look like a pass-rushing machine. The Orange recorded only four sacks, but they must've gotten 20 hits on Deondre Francois. Left tackle Abdul Bello was as effective as a turnstile, and right tackle Derrick Kelly II might as well have been a mannequin.
But this isn't groundbreaking news. FSU's O-line has been just plain bad for several years.
What's astounding is that neither Francois nor Taggart has done anything to combat the issue. Instead of calling screen passes or short routes with three-step drops, the Seminoles offense is stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day infinite loop in which Francois is looking downfield while the pocket collapses around him over and over again.
If they don't figure out how to move the ball soon, the Seminoles are headed for their worst season since before the United States bicentennial. They're already 1-2 with potential losses remaining against Louisville, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Boston College and Florida.
Taggart isn't on the hot seat just yet, if only because Florida State would owe him more than $20 million. But if the 'Noles sputter to a 3-9 or 2-10 type of disaster, it's going to at least be a conversation.
The Season-Saving Drive of the Week
To put it lightly, Notre Dame hasn't been impressive in any of its three victories this season.
The Fighting Irish looked great in the first half of their season-opening win over Michigan. However, since taking that 21-3 lead over the Wolverines, they have outscored their opponents only 49-47. And it's not like they're slogging through the meat of their schedule. We're talking about home games against Ball State and Vanderbilt.
But Notre Dame is 3-0 and still in the College Football Playoff conversation thanks to a clutch fourth-quarter drive against the Commodores.
Vanderbilt outplayed Notre Dame for most of the second and third quarters, but it didn't put a touchdown on the board until late in the third, trimming its deficit to 16-10. If the Irish didn't put together a big drive on the subsequent possession, all the momentum would have been in Vandy's hands.
Brandon Wimbush rose to the challenge.
In what was otherwise an ineffective passing performance, Wimbush completed all four of his attempts for 53 yards on the 11-play TD drive. And on 4th-and-inches at the Vanderbilt 3, he got the drive-saving first down on a quarterback sneak.
Ian Book recorded a passing touchdown on the next play, but Wimbush got the Fighting Irish into that position.
Going for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal was a bold call by Brian Kelly, but it turned out to be the right one—not just because Notre Dame ended up getting six points, but because Vanderbilt could have been in position late to kick a game-winning field goal had the Fighting Irish taken three.
The Season-Destroying Loss of the Week
OK, fine, maybe season-destroying is a bit of an extreme description of Wisconsin's upset loss to BYU. If the Badgers win every remaining game, they'll be 12-1 with a Big Ten title, road wins over Michigan and Penn State and a neutral-site win over (probably) Ohio State. That resume would certainly be worthy of consideration by the College Football Playoff selection committee and maybe even a lock, depending on how things shake out in the other Power Five conferences.
But if you can't win a home game as a 23.5-point favorite, are we supposed to believe you can win all those other games?
The wild thing is the Cougars didn't even play that well. Tanner Mangum barely completed 50 percent of his passes and threw for a grand total of 89 yards. They got only 14 first downs, and the Badgers outgained them by 83 yards.
The difference in the game, though, is that four of BYU's five drives that went at least 15 yards resulted in points. Wisconsin, on the other hand, had four drives of 24 or more yards that ended in zero points, including the 68-yard march at the end of the game that concluded with the missed field goal that would have tied it.
The other difference was Squally Canada. The senior running back got only 11 carries, but he turned them into 118 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Heisman candidate, Jonathan Taylor, managed only 117 yards on 26 carries as the Cougars focused their defensive energy on slowing him down and daring quarterback Alex Hornibrook to win the game.
Considering Hornibrook was unable to do so, it's a formula we'll likely see more of in Big Ten play.
The Biggest No-Show of the Week
There were a lot of strong candidates for this award this week, but it's downright alarming how far Arkansas has fallen.
Even when things were awful at the beginning of Bret Bielema's five-year tenure, at least the Razorbacks generally took care of business against nonconference competition—particularly those from the Group of Five. But after losing to the Mountain West Conference's Colorado State in Week 2, Arkansas was obliterated by Conference USA's North Texas on Saturday.
Prior to Maleek Williams' 68-yard touchdown with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Arkansas averaged 1.9 yards per carry. Its quarterbacks also threw six interceptions. Even with that touchdown, the Razorbacks were embarrassed 44-17.
The sad thing is this was a subpar effort as far as the North Texas offense is concerned. Mason Fine averaged 431 passing yards and completed 72.2 percent of his attempts in Weeks 1 and 2, but those figures were 281 and 53.3 against Arkansas. Meanwhile, the Mean Green averaged only 3.3 yards per carry.
But Arkansas just did not want to win this game.
The teamwide lack of effort was so blatant the Razorbacks even gave up a 90-yard punt return touchdown when they simply didn't bother to play through the whistle.
It has been 66 years since Arkansas failed to win at least three games in a season and 86 years since its last season with zero or one wins. At least the Razorbacks beat Eastern Illinois in Week 1, because these guys might not win again.
The Three-Headed Monster of the Week
Virginia's 45-31 win over Ohio was one of the least noteworthy results of the week. The 2-1 Cavaliers probably still won't win enough games to become bowl-eligible, and the loss did nothing to change the Bobcats' chances of winning the MAC.
And yet the Cavaliers had arguably the most impressive QB-RB-WR trifecta.
Bryce Perkins was on fire throwing the ball. He completed 25 of 30 attempts for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Heck of a performance by a fourth-year junior who hadn't taken a snap until two weeks ago and who had completed 52.1 percent of passes this season.
Most of those yards went to Olamide Zaccheaus, who made nine receptions for 247 yards and two scores. He had an 86-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 77-yarder in the fourth. It was only the second time in the senior's career that he scored multiple touchdowns in a game, and he eclipsed his previous career high in yards (141) by more than 100.
In spite of all that passing offense, Jordan Ellis had one heck of a game on the ground, too.
Two weeks ago, the senior set a career high with 146 rushing yards and matched a career high with two touchdowns, but he broke both of those personal records against Ohio. With help from a 75-yard score in the first quarter, Ellis rushed 19 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
Add them together, and Zaccheaus and Ellis had 418 yards. All other Virginia rushers and receivers combined for 134 yards—and no one had a single gain of more than 16 yards. Rather impressive to score 45 points while relying on just two dudes.
The FBS Points-a-Palooza
It's no surprise Houston vs. Texas Tech turned out to be the highest scoring game of the week. The contest was even the subject of one of the weekly questions to our experts.
All the same, there was a ridiculous amount of offense in the Red Raiders' 63-49 victory over the Cougars.
D'Eriq King had one heck of an individual performance in a losing effort. The Houston quarterback threw for 431 yards and five touchdowns—two each to Marquez Stevenson and Keith Corbin—and also rushed for 47 yards and a score.
He's hardly the first player to throw for five touchdowns in a loss. Heck, Colorado State's K.J. Carta-Samuels did it three weeks ago, and it has happened in at least one bowl game in four of the past five years. But 400 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a loss? This is only the 10th time that's happened since 2000.
And the reason it resulted in a loss was Alan Bowman.
The Texas Tech quarterback threw for 605 yards and five touchdowns. It was only the eighth time since 2000 anyone has thrown for at least 600 yards and five scores, but Texas Tech is responsible for five of those performances.
Bowman was far from the only star for the Red Raiders, though. Antoine Wesley made 13 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns. And Ta'Zhawn Henry rushed for 111 yards and four scores when Texas Tech was't busy destroying Houston through the air.
The two offenses combined for 112 points and 1,339 yards. That might hold up as the mutual offensive explosion of the year.
The Fools' Gold Touchdown of the Week
Ole Miss got out to one hell of a start against Alabama: one offensive snap; one touchdown. Jordan Ta'amu connected with D.K. Metcalf for a 75-yard score, and the Rebels took a 7-0 lead.
Maybe they could pull off a big upset.
(Pause for raucous laughter.)
Not only did Ole Miss not score again, but Alabama had piled up 49 points before halftime. The game ended in a 62-7 blowout.
Tua Tagovailoa had another strong showing at quarterback for the Crimson Tide, completing 11 of 15 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Second-string quarterback Jalen Hurts had a fine night as well, throwing for 85 yards and two scores. Alabama also got rushing touchdowns from Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs.
Basically, it did whatever it wanted.
Alabama darn near finished with as many touchdowns (eight) as Ole Miss had first downs (nine).
The Crimson Tide got only a couple of huge plays—most notably Jerry Jeudy's 79-yard receiving touchdown midway through the first quarter—but they demoralized Ole Miss 10 yards at a time.
Watching the first half was like watching a cat play with its food. On a weekend during which the Nos. 6 and 7 teams in the country lost and No. 8 nearly lost, it was ridiculous to watch the No. 1 squad waltz to a road win over a respectable foe.
Let's give a not-so-honorable mention to USC in this space, too. The Trojans jumped out to a 14-3 lead over Texas in the first quarter only to get outscored 34-0 the rest of the way. As if that's not disturbing enough, they had minus-37 rushing yards over the final 39 minutes of their ugly loss to the Longhorns.
The Meltdown of the Week
There's a fine line that separates a game from being defined as a comeback win by one team or a meltdown loss by the other, but what Northwestern did against Akron qualifies as the latter.
The Wildcats led the Zips 21-3 at halftime, and the yardage discrepancy was a joke. Akron gained more than 16 yards on only one of its first eight possessions, one of which ended in a fumble that set Northwestern up at the 7-yard line for an easy touchdown. In addition to the margin on the scoreboard, the Wildcats had 230 yards of offense compared to the Zips' 73.
Signs of life were minimal for the underdog.
But Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gifted Akron three second-half touchdowns.
He threw a 97-yard pick-six late in the third quarter, got strip-sacked for a touchdown midway through the fourth and threw another pick-six three plays later to put a bow on the Zips' 36-7 run. Thorson did throw for three touchdowns, but that was only enough to undo the damage he did.
Even though Akron was outgained by 124 yards and committed 140 yards of penalties, it pulled off the road upset.
As previously mentioned, it was a rough day for the Big Ten. This loss in the final game of the day meant the league went 6-7 in Week 3 with losses to the American Athletic Conference (two), Big 12, MAC, Sun Belt and SEC and one independent team.
The Co-Heisman Studs of the Week
It was a weird week for the still-too-early Heisman conversation.
Per OddsShark, there were 10 players who entered Week 3 with Heisman odds better than 40-1. Two of them (McKenzie Milton and Will Grier) didn't play because of Hurricane Florence. A third (Bryce Love) didn't play because of an injury. One didn't play well in a loss (Jonathan Taylor). Two others didn't play well in wins (D'Andre Swift and Justin Herbert).
That's six of the 10 favorites who either got a DNP or posted a dud. And while the front-runner (Tua Tagovailoa) played well, he attempted only one pass or rush in the final 41 minutes of Alabama's blowout win over Ole Miss, so his numbers weren't eye-popping. And even though Penn State QB Trace McSorley accounted for five touchdowns (two passing, three rushing), he only completed 50 percent of his pass attempts against Kent State.
But there were two contenders who played well in close road wins.
Early in the day, Kyler Murray carved up Iowa State. The Oakland Athletics draft pick threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 77 yards while leading the Sooners to a little bit of revenge for last year's loss to the Cyclones. The Oklahoma rushing game took a noticeable step backward in its first game without Rodney Anderson, but the offense as a whole continued running like a well-oiled machine under Murray's lead.
In the evening, Dwayne Haskins put on a show. The Ohio State quarterback threw for 344 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in a 40-28 win over No. 15 TCU. A pick-six and blocked punt in the third quarter turned the tide in the Buckeyes' favor, but Haskins' play kept Ohio State in a game in which the defense allowed more than 500 yards.
Both quarterbacks should build on their performances in Week 4 in their final nonconference games of the season. Murray draws Army, while Haskins ought to have a field day at home against Tulane.