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

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2019

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

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    After two long weather delays crushed any excitement viewers had for the rugged Cy-Hawk showdown between Iowa and Iowa State, it took the Cyclones' inability to field a punt to secure the Hawkeyes' fifth consecutive victory in the series.

    The 18-17 Iowa win looked exactly like you'd expect every game between these two teams would: ugly but beautiful.

    What wasn't pretty was No. 9 Florida's 29-21 road win at Kentucky that came at the expense of losing quarterback Feleipe Franks—who was carted off the field with a gruesome leg injury—for the year.

    Plenty of other teams posted style-point victories, while some of the early-season Cinderellas, such as USC, Maryland and Colorado, watched the clock strike midnight. So, how does all that affect the polls?

    Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—attempted to make sense of this madness we call college football. 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. Clemson (Last week: 1)
    2. Alabama (2)
    3. Georgia (3)
    4. Oklahoma (6)
    5. LSU (4)
    6. Ohio State (5)
    7. Notre Dame (8)
    8. Auburn (7)
    9. Wisconsin (10)
    10. Utah (12)
    11. UCF (19)
    12. Michigan (13)
    13. Texas (11)
    14. Penn State (15)
    15. Florida (14)
    16. Texas A&M (18)
    17. Washington State (20)
    18. Boise State (16)
    19. Oregon (17)
    20. Iowa (22)
    21. Washington (9)
    22. California (NR)
    23. Arizona State (NR)
    24. Oklahoma State (NR)
    25. TCU (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Memphis, Kansas State, Temple.

Who's Hot: Top 25 Offenses

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    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    Saturday was not supposed to be a barrage of upsets for the nation's top programs, and it wasn't.

    There were plenty of fringe shockers, like Air Force beating Colorado, The Citadel beating Georgia Tech, BYU toppling USC and others, but most of the teams at the top of the polls took care of business.

    Many of them added style points, too.

    If you like offensive juggernaut performances, Saturday was your day.

    Though Alabama seemingly got a handful from South Carolina in Columbia, once the smoke cleared, the Tide posted 47 points while Tua Tagovailoa dropped 444 passing yards on the Gamecocks. Georgia beat Arkansas State 55-0.

    Ohio State continued the Justin Fields show in a 51-10 conference-opening win over Indiana, and Notre Dame dumped 66 points on hapless New Mexico to tune up for its trip to Athens, Georgia, next weekend. Ian Book was especially scintillating with six total touchdowns against the Lobos.

    Central Florida got the College Football Playoff hype train churning again by lighting up Stanford for 45 points in a dominating win. Oklahoma and Jalen Hurts had no trouble on the road against UCLA, either. LSU shook off early-game sleepwalking to light up Northwestern State.

    The offenses were rocking, and the stars stole the show. That should get everybody excited for next weekend's loaded slate of games.

    Saturday was an appetite-whetter, a showcase across the nation for the top-rated teams as defenses try to find a way to slow down a group of offensive playmakers that have taken the sport by storm.

    Big numbers are being posted each week, and Saturday was a tune-up for a lot of programs that are ready to start conference play. It looks like they're in midseason form.

Who's Not: The Pac-12 (Especially Against the Mountain West)

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    Chris Gardner/Getty Images

    So which one's the Power Five conference again?

    It's trying times for the Pac-12 as it tries to find its way back to national football prominence, and Saturday was another step in the wrong direction, unfortunately. 

    After upstart Colorado upset Nebraska last week to start the season 2-0, the Buffaloes faced Air Force early Saturday afternoon. The Falcons were ready, though, building a 20-10 lead and hanging on for a 30-23 overtime victory to knock coach Mel Tucker's team from the ranks of the unbeaten.

    Things did not get better.

    USC and freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis were one of the better stories in the early going, especially after incumbent starter J.T. Daniels was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in the Trojans' first game. Though Slovis had his moments in a road game against BYU on Saturday, he made three critical mistakes.

    The final one sealed the Cougars' 27-24 overtime win when a Slovis pass was deflected and intercepted, leading to fans charging the field in Provo. Officials cleared the field to review the play, and after the pick was upheld, they got to storm it all over again.

    It's the second consecutive extra-session win for BYU, which stunned Tennessee in Knoxville last weekend.

    Washington held serve against Hawaii to help save a little face for the conference against the Mountain West, but the Pac-12 is just 5-4 against its other "little brother" in the West this season. 

    Speaking of Group of Five flubs, Stanford made the cross-country trip to UCF and was demoralized by the Knights in a resounding 45-27 setback. The Cardinal were never in the game, but they made it look a little more respectable late.

    It was a Saturday full of disappointment for the conference, even if Arizona State did hang on and beat No. 18 Michigan State, 10-7.

Fun Fact: Maryland Falls Flat as a Front-Runner

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    New Maryland coach Mike Locksley's program was one of the top stories of the college football season through the first two weeks, averaging 71 points per game in dominant wins over Howard and Syracuse.

    After those 79-0 and 63-20 victories, it didn't seem reactionary to have the Terrapins ranked No. 21 in the AP poll. Graduate transfer quarterback Josh Jackson looked excellent in the first two weeks as well.

    But all that momentum came crashing down after Saturday's sputtering 20-17 loss to Temple in Philadelphia, dampening the excitement for Sept. 27's tilt against Penn State in College Park.

    Maybe we should have seen it coming. When the Terrapins are ranked, they get flipped onto their backs.

    The last time Maryland was ranked was in 2013 when the No. 25 Terrapins played Florida State. The eventual national champions dominated in a 63-0 win. 

    Temple won't win the title, but the Owls are still a good Group of Five program with quarterback Anthony Russo leading the way and first-year head coach Rod Carey, who replaced Geoff Collins (who went to Georgia Tech) after a successful tenure at Northern Illinois.

    Temple whipped Maryland last year and held on with two fourth-quarter defensive stands inside the 10-yard line this year.

    According to ESPN, Maryland has lost its last four games in which it was ranked, with an egg-laying minus-129-point differential in those contests. Though the Terps led the nation with a plus-122 point differential entering the game, it was a familiar, futile outcome.

    Now it's a five-game losing streak for the Terps as a ranked team, and they've got to regroup to play the Nittany Lions following an off week.

What to Watch For: Conference Battles Plus a Big One (and the Fun Starts Friday)

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    Utah at USC (9 p.m. ET Friday)

    Well, so much for a showdown between ranked Pac-12 opponents.

    The Trojans ruined that by losing on the road to BYU, but that doesn't mean they will lie down against the Utes.

    Friday night represents a major showdown between Pac-12 South opponents who'll try to establish an early, huge notch in their belts. Arizona State looks like it will have a say-so in the division, too, but Kyle Whittingham's Utes are perhaps the league's best team. They'll try to reassert that Friday.

                     

    Air Force at Boise State (9 p.m. Friday)

    You might think it's odd to have this game highlighted, but this should be a fun Group of Five contest. Unfortunately, it's going head-to-head with Utah-USC on Friday night.

    The Falcons have plodded along for several years under longtime coach Troy Calhoun, but they got a massive perception-boosting win over Colorado on Saturday to drop the Buffaloes from the ranks of the unbeaten. Boise State already topped Florida State this year too.

    Don't sleep on this game.

                 

    Michigan at Wisconsin (Noon, Saturday)

    How good are Jack Coan and Wisconsin?

    We'll all find out early Saturday afternoon when the Badgers host Michigan in a massive conference battle for this time of year. For that matter, we'll know a lot more about the Wolverines too.

    Jim Harbaugh's team hasn't looked anything like a title contender in unimpressive wins over Middle Tennessee and Army. Meanwhile, Wisconsin dominated South Florida and Central Michigan.

    But that's South Florida and Central Michigan, right?

    Competition ramps up next weekend, and everybody will get to see who's a pretender and a contender in the Big Ten.

                   

    Auburn at Texas A&M (3:30 p.m.)

    There should be no questions about Alabama or LSU in the SEC West. Those two are legit.

    If there's to be another contender on that side of the SEC ledger, it'll be one of the two teams that will get together Saturday afternoon in College Station.

    Auburn is young, but the Tigers defense is loaded with playmakers, and freshman quarterback Bo Nix does a lot of good things for coach Gus Malzahn. 

    The Aggies lost to Clemson, but a lot of teams lose to the defending national champions. This is still a talented squad with a lot of weapons, and it gets AU at home. This should be a good one.

             

    Notre Dame at Georgia (8 p.m.)

    The rematch between the Fighting Irish and Bulldogs will dictate both programs' narratives for the remainder of the season. 

    If Brian Kelly's team is a legitimate College Football Playoff contender this year, a win in Athens would go a long way toward proving that. Georgia looks strong everywhere, but the Bulldogs haven't played anybody significant yet.

    That changes Saturday night in a must-watch, prime-time battle.

                 

    Other matchups, such as Tennessee heading the Swamp to take on Florida, a renewed Pac-12 rivalry between two teams that need to return to national relevance in Oregon-Stanford, and a rugged Big Ten tilt between Michigan State and Northwestern aren't just filler, either. Washington at BYU has promise too.

    This is the week we've all been waiting for.

               

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