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

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2021

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

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Despite a lack of marquee games on the Week 3 schedule, college football still provided us some absolute beauties throughout the day.

    The game of the weekend was Alabama needing a fourth-quarter two-point conversion stop to drain the Swamp and hold off Florida 31-29 in a game that showed plenty of cracks in the crimson armor. The other Iron Bowl participant, Auburn, took Penn State to the brink in Happy Valley before losing 28-20.

    Contenders Oklahoma and Clemson won closer-than-expected nail-biters while pretenders like Virginia Tech and early-season darling UCLA wilted.

    As always Bleacher Report's college football brain trustDavid Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—tried to make sense of it all, casting a ballot after the Week 3 results. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.


    B/R's Week 3 Top 25

    1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
    2. Georgia (2)
    3. Oregon (T-3)
    4. Iowa (5)
    T-5. Cincinnati (6)
    T-5. Penn State (T-10)
    7. Oklahoma (T-3)
    8. Florida (9)
    9. Clemson (7)
    T-10. Ohio State (8)
    T-10. Ole Miss (15)
    T-10. Texas A&M (12)
    13. Notre Dame (14)
    14. Coastal Carolina (T-10)
    15. Michigan (16)
    T-16. Arkansas (19)
    T-16. BYU (NR)
    T-18. UCLA (13)
    T-18. Wisconsin (20)
    20. Auburn (25)
    21. Michigan State (NR)
    22. Iowa State (18)
    T-23. Kentucky (23)
    T-23. North Carolina (NR)
    T. 23. San Diego State (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Liberty, Kansas State, Maryland, Fresno State, Memphis

Who's Hot: Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    Penn State used white-out to erase Auburn's hopes of a massive road upset in Bryan Harsin's first season on the Plains.

    Instead, the Nittany Lions performed for a raucous crowd decked out in all-white on their way to a 28-20 win over a Tigers team that looks way ahead of schedule, was big, physical and posed the type of test worthy of a top-25 opponent.

    James Franklin's PSU team was simply better in the end, thanks to a defense led by Jaquan Brisker and Co. Other than an impressive 15-play, 75-yard drive by Auburn that featured a run-heavy diet early in the third quarter, PSU swarmed the ball all night, harassed Bo Nix and kept turning up the pressure.

    It's been the blueprint all year for the No. 10 Lions, and Brisker was involved in the two biggest plays. Auburn elected to throw a fade on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line on its penultimate drive, but Brisker and the receiver got tangled up, and no flag (rightfully) was thrown.

    Brisker also deflected Nix's prayer from the 26-yard line on the game's final play to secure the win.

    "We've been playing championship-level football all year long because we're being assignment-sound, playing with heart, but we've also got big players stepping up in special moments," Franklin told the ABC broadcast crew postgame. "I think Brisker's a great example of that."

    PSU quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns, receiver Jahan Dotson had a big game, and the Lions overcame their inability to close the game with short-yardage conversions. They looked like the top-10 team they are, and the tests continue with a trip to Iowa City in a couple of weeks.

Who's Not: UCLA Bruins

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    UCLA's shocking loss to Fresno State late Saturday night ended one of the early-season, feel-good stories of college football.

    Now, coach Chip Kelly's Bruins must regroup if they're going to make the noise in the Pac-12 many thought they would just a week ago. They'd surged in the early season, upsetting LSU and building a brand of being a tough, hard-nosed team that runs the football and plays good defense.

    That wasn't the case in a shocking 40-37 loss to Fresno State that saw the Bulldogs build a big lead, squander it and see UCLA take the lead late only to blow it. Led by Washington transfer signal-caller Jake Haener, the Bulldogs used a last-minute touchdown drive to beat the Bruins.

    Haener finished with 455 passing yards, and he could hardly stand entering the final drive after being hit in the ribs. Coupled with running back Ronnie Rivers and his 136 yards, the Bruins had no answers all night in the loss.

    On the flip side, UCLA couldn't get its running game going, either, and that's what has carried the Bruins all season. Neither Zach Charbonnet or Brittain Brown could get anything on the ground, and UCLA was whipped at both points of attack.

    Kelly's team can still make plenty of noise in the Pac-12, but this is a massive blow to all the positivity surrounding that program. They are building things back, but inconsistency like this is a tough gut-punch to what had been one of the best stories in the sport so far.

Fun Fact: Alabama's Dominance over the SEC East Continues (Barely)

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    James Gilbert/Getty Images

    There are a ton of hallmarks to express Alabama's sheer dominance of college football during the Nick Saban era.

    It can be measured nationally, intra-conference, divisionally, versus coaches and even versus opponents. But perhaps no stat can make you drop your jaw like this one: the Crimson Tide simply don't lose to the SEC East.

    They rarely lose at all, of course, but Saturday's nail-biting, Swamp-draining 31-29 win for the top-ranked Tide over the Florida Gators marked 'Bama's 32nd consecutive victory over an opponent from the other side of the conference. Want to put that into perspective?

    The last SEC East quarterback to beat Alabama was South Carolina's Stephen Garcia in 2010. Yes, 11 years ago.

    Florida gave the Tide all they could handle, and quarterback Emory Jones threw for 195 yards, rushed for 77 more and led an offense that shredded UA for 440 total yards.

    But it still wasn't enough, thanks in part to a missed Chris Howard extra point earlier in the game that forced Florida to go for two late in what should have been a game-tying touchdown.

    Instead of the heroics, though, Jones wound up like all the rest of the SEC East quarterbacks in the past decade-plus. According to ESPN, it was also Alabama's eighth consecutive win over the traditional beast of the East and Saban's 11th win against zero losses when facing Dan Mullen.

    Alabama's dominance runs deep, but the Tide have to keep improving if they're going to run the table again this year. They were exposed at times on Saturday, especially by UF's rushing attack.

What to Watch For: Coan Battling His Old Buddies and 2 Divisional Grudge Matches

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Jack Coan had plenty of happy times in red and white, leading Wisconsin to the Big Ten championship game and a Rose Bowl berth in 2019, but he left the Badgers as a graduate transfer.

    Now, he's leading the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish's attempt to return to the College Football Playoff. Though it hasn't always been pretty so far this season, they're undefeated and getting the job done.

    The path back to a title chance runs through his old teammates, though, as Coan makes his return next weekend to take on the No. 18 Badgers in Soldier Field in Chicago. Wisconsin couldn't hold up its end of the bargain in adding luster to the game after a season-opening loss to Penn State.

    If Brian Kelly's team wins, it will give the coach his 106th win as the Irish coach, passing the legendary Knute Rockne. Coan's grudge match against old friends isn't the only game to watch, though. 

    The weekend's biggest showdown  happens in another NFL stadium (AT&T Stadium in Dallas) at 3:30 p.m. ET in a marquee game that could determine Alabama's biggest SEC West competition. Though Ole Miss will have something to say about that, too, Texas A&M and Saturday's opponent, Arkansas, look like contenders.

    The No. 7 Aggies are having to navigate the early season without starting quarterback Haynes King, and after the Hogs' blowout win at home over Texas last weekend, coach Sam Pittman looks like he's got a rushing juggernaut on his hands. This one should be fun.

    Finally, though it isn't a game between ranked opponents, watch West Virginia's trip to Oklahoma. The Sooners have looked soft on defense so far, and they aren't as explosive offensively as expected. If they don't turn it around, the Mountaineers could pull an upset.

    There's plenty more college football action where that came from, too. Who knows when an upset is going to sneak up on us?