Alabama is vulnerable, Penn State is rising and Cincinnati is looking to make a move

Bryce Young scores three touchdowns in the first quarter, but Florida rallies after a failed two point conversion in the fourth quarter. (2:12).
Alabama is mortal. This is intuitively understandable, since Nick Saban and his players are both human. Alabama was not theoretically mortal during the Swamp's 31-29 final quarter. Its flaws were evident.

Although the ground game was plagued by brick walls against Brenton Cox Jr., the Florida defensive front, Brian Robinson Jr. & Jase McClellan eventually converted the crucial third-down runs Alabama required.

Bryce Young, Crimson Tide quarterback, seemed overwhelmed by the Florida crowd at times. However, his three TD passes in quarter one gave the Tide the margin it needed to survive.

In a second frenetic, physical half, the defense was often in trouble. However, Florida needed a two point conversion to tie the game at 3:10. Bama stopped the play.

These cracks were exposed by Florida with the QB it wanted benched and a defensive coordinator who spent a decade playing SEC punchline. Nothing was more romantic than a date night at Applebee's (why is that song not going away?) It was just physical, relentless football. The Gators were so close to taking down the college football season.

People forget that Rocky lost his fight with Apollo Creed in his first fight. Taylor Swift won the 2009 VMA despite Kanye West’s passionate plea for Beyonc. There are no moral victories. Only losses with upside.

Although Florida lost Saturday's match, there were positives for both the Gators and college football. Florida is keen to rematch the match, so it's not surprising. It's only in the second film that Darth Vader cuts Luke's hand off and covers Bryce Young with carbonite, if Dan Mullen is Dan Mullen. Alabama is mortal, and as wise philosopher Lloyd Christmas suggested, there's still a chance.

Alabama may not be as dominant in the sport as it was in 2020. This is despite the fact that it has been dominating the sport for 13 seasons with very few exceptions. It's possible that the Tide will catch up to all the coaching turnover, all the early departures from the NFL, and the endless targets pinned on the players' chests,

There is a possibility that the elite class of teams, including Oklahoma, Clemson and Notre Dame, are also vulnerable. Over three weeks, all have revealed their faults, some with deep wounds.

The next wave of potential contenders could make this season memorable. All four of the winners were Iowa, Texas A&M and Georgia. Auburn was swept aside by Penn State in a sea dominated with white. Penn State was so sure of its dominance, it could afford to take third place. James Franklin can ask USC to add another zero to that contract offer. Auburn used an old Gus Malzahn strategy on the final goal-to go drive.

It's possible that some underdogs might find their way into the penthouse for the first time since years. Cincinnati made its case against the Power 5 foe. Michigan State is now 3-0. Michigan has been the dominant state. New Jersey has almost as much to look forward too with Rutgers than the new Sopranos movie.

These are challenging times for college football. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, 18 ranked teams have lost in three weeks -- a record for the AP poll era. Even if Saturday's game didn't result in a reshuffle of the deck, it did show that the game was not rigged and that the house does not always win. (In this analogy Kansas is chain-smoking at penny slots.

There's a greater chance that Saban was playing with us and convincing us to relax. He gave his team a quick shot of rat poison to repel us from Alabama's unstoppable assault on college football with the same intensity as the Applebee's ad (please stop it!). You can see the rest of this article.

It is still Alabama after all. Saban and Co. will be content to watch you celebrate your moral victory. They'll choose the ones that are counted in the standings.

Panic Meter

Clemson's offense seems to be sputtering. The defense at Ohio State is in disarray. Spencer Rattler's Heisman hopes have been dashed. Fans should panic! We look into the numbers to find our answer.

Spencer Rattler: Is it time for concern? Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

Clemson's offense

Panic Level: Anvil hanging by thread

Three games into the season and D.J. Uiagalelei has more interceptions that TDs. The ground game is dead. Clemson is currently up to two touchdowns against two FBS opponents. It's one thing for Clemson to lose against an elite Georgia defense. It's one thing for a FCS opponent to be a little flat. It's quite another to score seven points against Georgia Tech in the fourth quarter, when the team lost to Northern Illinois. Tony Elliott, the offensive coordinator, is in a difficult position due to the lack of a downfield passing game. Clemson did not have a completion of over 17 yards on Saturday. The offensive line's inability to open running lanes (4 yards per carry for the Tigers) has also made it difficult. Uiagalelei is a big guy, but it doesn't matter if there's not one open downfield. Will Shipley is an emerging star but can't move through a stacked box consistently. Clemson is in dire need of style points, as he doesn't have another big-stage game on his schedule. Clemson's current style is cargo shorts and a bag for the fanny.

Spencer Rattler

Panic Level: The check engine lamp is on

Rattler is clearly an outstanding QB with tons to offer, but the standard for Lincoln Riley QBs has been set high and he has not met it yet. After narrowly beating Tulane in the opener, Rattler was a subpar 23-of 34 for 214 yards with a TD in a win 23-16 over Nebraska. It goes back even further. Oklahoma's first 39 games saw it surpass 500 yards of offense for the 31st time. However, it has not reached that mark in any of the 17 games since 2019, and Rattler has only achieved it against Texas Tech and Kansas State (in losses), two FCS opponents, and last year's win over an uninterested Florida. What gives? Is Riley losing his touch? Rattler is not living up to his potential. Are the tough SEC defenses putting Oklahoma off track? We'll just call it a blip for now. It's still possible to make the Big 12 schedule work, but it isn't very extensive.

Cincinnati's playoff hopes

Panic Level: Did we forget to turn off the oven?

The problem with using strength-of-schedule to determine playoff rankings is that Cincinnati won what should have been an impressive road win at Indiana, which included a dominant second quarter. What if Indiana isn’t the same team as it was last year? In two weeks, the Bearcats will be able to win a major victory for the committee when they visit Notre Dame. The Irish have been at best lackluster so far this season. How about the UCF game on October 16? After Friday's defeat to Louisville, there's little hope for the Golden Knights. This was supposed be the first year that the Group of 5 had a legitimate playoff challenger with a schedule worth considering -- but teams don't have control over what happens in the 11 remaining games. The Bearcats looked as if they could play with any team during their fourth quarter win over the Hoosiers. But don't be surprised if we hear the same old refrain about poor competition when the first ranking is released.

Notre Dame

Panic Level: Our portfolio is heavy in GameStop

Jack Coan has been great. The Wisconsin transfer has averaged 8.5 yards per passing with eight touchdowns and only two picks in three games. One of those was a last-second heave against Florida State. However, that doesn't mean Ian Book isn't important to the Irish. Problem? The O-line. Book was a master at extending plays and scurrying from the pocket to get help when needed. But Coan is not a runner. Last year's Irish line was outstanding, with three members being selected in the first three rounds. What now? The Irish have been struggling up front. Coan has been under pressure regularly. Kyren Williams' 51-yard touchdown run in Saturday's 27-13 victory over Purdue was a notable exception. The ground game managed just 69 yards on 33 runs. Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech are the next defenses to be beaten by Purdue. If the O-line does not take a major step forward, things could quickly turn ugly for the Irish.

Ohio State

Panic Level: A flight attendant is twisting a roll of ducttape.

The good news is that Ohio State ran up 316 yards against Tulsa, a win of 41-20. This was just 13 yards more than its previous two games. Bad news: The defense's revamped defense gave up 428 yards in the air after giving up 269 ground. The Buckeyes may be out of playoff contention by October if the defense scheme becomes a whack-amole every week. Worse, Michigan might actually be good. The horror. The horror.

The Ducks are the only ones that can stand on their own

Here's some good news for Pac-12: There is an Oregon-based playoff contender.

The bad news? All other information.

After Arizona State and UCLA lost Saturday, the Pac-12's only undefeated team is now the Ducks. The Pac-12's woeful 16-16 record for out-of-conference games combined with Arizona's defeat to Northern Arizona means that the Pac-12 has finished Week 3 with a terrible 10-10 record against teams from outside the Power 5.

UCLA's loss was especially disappointing. In the last three minutes, the Bruins lost two leads, including a 75-yard, six-play TD drive to Fresno State that took 40 seconds. The good news is that the end came at 2:30 AM. ET, and almost no one saw it because it was on the Pac-12 Network.

The Bowden Bowl is now available

Florida State's poor performance against Wake Forest (35-14) and Seminoles' first ever 0-3 start since 1976 did not convince fans to look into their eyes. Instead, they were able to watch another miserable slog with major implications for FSU.

Bobby Bowden’s son Terry led Louisiana-Monroe's win over Jackson State (12-7), a team coached by Deion Sanders, who is arguably Bobby Bowden’s greatest all-time player.

It was vintage Bowden-era FSU. Ah, no. They didn't. FSU fans would have enjoyed this more than the game itself.

It's a Sparty Party

Michigan State is now 3-0 for first time since 2015. 2015 was the year that it reached the College Football Playoff. On Saturday, it defeated Miami 38-17. This was the third consecutive season in which the Spartans have scored more than 38 points. Sparty has only reached that milestone three times from 2018 to 2020. They are now led by QB Payton Thone (4 passing TDs Saturday), and have a dominant running back in Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III (322 yards rushing) as well as a tight defense.

The Big Ten could have a surprise team, in other words.

The Spartans' three victories have come against a team that had a season highlight with a free-falling cat and an FCS foe, as well as a Big Ten rival who lost to Duke on Saturday. Perhaps we can temper our enthusiasm a bit.

Here's something we hope you won't forget years later: We are always curious about who will replace Nick Saban at Alabama. It is likely to be in 2063, after the Tide wins their national championship on the moon. Tucker has been with Saban twice (at LSU, Alabama) and has also coached defense three years in the SEC (at Georgia). He also has over ten years of NFL experience. Tucker could be an interesting name to watch over the next decade, even though most of the others mentioned don't seem likely to want to succeed a legend (Dabo SWinney, Kirby Smart), or are unqualified. Our prediction is still a Saban Hologram powered by an artificial intelligence that Tucker created while he was on vacation.

We will always have 7-0

A week ago, Colorado scored a touchdown against Texas A&M in the second quarter and continued to push the No. 5 Aggies pushed the No. 1 spot, but fell 10-7.

These were great times for the Buffaloes.

Colorado took a 7-0 lead and has since run 93 plays, rushing for 226 yards (or 2.43 yards per play) and totaling zero points.

The 30-0 defeat to Minnesota on Saturday was especially troubling. Colorado ended the game with just 63 yards and -19 yards of total ground. This was the lowest output of a Power 5 team's Power 5 teams since Kansas managed only 21 yards against TCU in 2017.

Week 3 shoutouts

This is a glass half-full column. Here's some positive energy to help programs that are in dire need.

Congratulations to... UConn

UConn lost Saturday's game to Army 52-21, but the Huskies won the 34th drive against FBS competition. Storrs will forever be remembered for the celebration. The statue to honor Tyler Phommachanh’s miracle (made of elbow macaroni and popsicle sticks) should be completed by week's end.

We are so proud of... Long Island University

After a disappointing 42-7 defeat to Miami (Ohio), LIU's three-game streak against FBS teams has been mercifully ended. The combined score for the Sharks (that's the name of their team, we looked it up), has increased from 0-3 to 156-17. We now know the source of all Division I offers for Bishop Sycamore player. Long Island, unlike the shabby high school, has a great academic reputation. We assume this is because of programs like Billy Joel studies or iced tea Chemistry.

We are grateful to the University of Southern California for their support!

Yes, the Trojans' big win over Washington State, 45-14, was a great turning point after Clay Helton's firing. It's even more impressive that they pulled it off after going down 14-0, and without Kedon Slovis (a player who was injured), as well. What we love most about Saturday's USC game is that the Trojans are now the rare group that can respond to someone who asks, "Remember that crazy thing that happened at an airport tarmac?"

Bryce Young sits pretty high atop Heisman Race. James Gilbert/Getty Images

Heisman Five

How many preseason contenders have been so bad off the radar in the first three weeks of the season? It's been difficult for Rattler, Uiagalelei and Sam Howell. Tate Martell? It's currently a race for two QBs, with the rest of class wide open.

1. Alabama QB Bryce Young

Young cleared a huge road test, throwing three touchdowns and avoiding any mishaps in a wild game at the Swamp. Young, unlike Mac Jones last season, is spreading the ball around to ensure he doesn’t have any pesky receivers steal the award.

2. Ole Miss QB Matt Corral

In his game against Tulane, Rattler only managed two touchdowns. Halftime saw Corral increase that number by two touchdowns. The Ole Miss QB continues his dominance, and the only thing that would beat Nick Saban vs. Lane Kiffin in the SEC West would be a Heisman Race between their two QBs. Matt Corral, Ole Miss QB, has maintained his dominance. AP Photo/Bruce Newman

3. Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker

Walker started Week 3 with +7500 odds of winning the Heisman, but he racked up 189 yard and a touchdown in the upset win for Michigan State. Walker has rapidly become the most productive back in the country, averaging 8.7 yards per rush over three games.

4. Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

It was an ugly day for Stroud, but his TD pass to Garrett Wilson proved decisive as Ohio State escaped another too-close-for-comfort game against Tulsa. Stroud's best news is that the Buckeyes ground game was huge, which should make it more difficult for defenses to shut down Ohio State's passing game.

5. Michigan RB Blake Corum

The No. The No. 5 spot in our rankings every week goes to an off the-board candidate. Corum was a big hit in Michigan's 63-10 win against NIU. Corum was able to carry 13 times for 125 yards, and three touchdowns in this win. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he is the first Michigan player to rush for 100 yards in all three of his games since Mike Hart, his position coach, achieved it in 2007.

Play of the Day: Under-the-radar

It's Memphis' average punt return TD of 94 yards. It's actually pure confusion, and later it was revealed to have been a mistake. The punt is sent towards the end zone, but Mississippi State bats it back into play. Instead, Austin sprints in and grabs the ball. He then runs 94 yards to the goal.

Play 1:11 Memphis punt returninger swoops into the play to score bizarre 94 yard TD Mississippi State appears down on a punt but Memphis WR Calvin Austin III grabs the ball and returns the ball 94 yards for touchdown.

The game that's under-the-radar

It was an old-school defensive showdown between SEC East rivals Kentucky and Tennessee and ... oh, no, that was actually Tennessee-Chattanooga, and the FCS Mocs had a 16-14 lead over the Wildcats early in the fourth quarter. Kentucky remained undefeated thanks to Will Levis' 31-yard touchdown pass and a 95 yard pick-six. The Wildcats' game against Tennessee will be much smoother.


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