When Auburn met No. 22 Penn State last season, it was an opportunity for an exciting win early on in Bryan Harsin’s tenure. One year later, the matchup at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday was a tenure-saving opportunity. That’s how fast the narrative can change in the SEC.
Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario was on display as the Tigers were dominated in every aspect during a 41-12 loss to the Nittany Lions. Auburn averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and let Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford move the ball at will. Freshman Lions running back Nicholas Singleton outplayed his counterpart, Tank Bigsby, by a mile, while both T.J. Finley and Robby Ashford threw interceptions.
The seat was already hot for Harsin after a brutal offseason and poor showing against San Jose State a week ago. With bad Missouri and LSU teams on the horizon, the embarrassing, ineffective loss to Penn State in front of 87,000 strong may be remembered as the moment that Harsin ran out of rope.
Here are more winners, losers and overreactions from around the college football world in Week 3.
Washington: The Huskies scored a combined 97 points against Kent State and Portland State, but a battle with No. 11 Michigan State proved the gaudy offensive numbers were no fluke. Transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was in his bag, throwing for 397 yards — hitting nine different receivers — and four touchdowns against a high-profile Big Ten opponent. Washington was one of the worst offenses in college football a year ago, scoring just 21.5 points per game in a 4-8 season. Coach Kalon DeBoer has quickly turned things around, and now has the Huskies as a serious contender in the Pac-12 after tonight. Washington should be the biggest poll riser on Sunday.
Basketball schools: The biggest and best in college basketball are dominating on the gridiron. North Carolina and Kentucky were projected to be contenders. Kansas, Duke, Syracuse and Indiana were all supposed to be cellar-dwellers. Well, surprise! The basketball powers are a combined 18-0 three weeks into the season, including a perfect 6-0 against Power Five competition. Ironically, the schools with basketball titles since 2000 that are supposed to have the best football — Baylor, Florida and Michigan State — all have losses.
Oklahoma: The No. 6 Sooners handed Nebraska one of its darkest losses in program history with a 49-14 decision that wasn’t as close as the final score. Oklahoma emptied the clip offensively, and caused major issues defensively. With losses by Baylor, Texas and Kansas State already, the Sooners are the new Big 12 frontrunner once again.
BYU: One week ago, after a top-10 win over Baylor, we were ready to throw the Cougars into the playoff mix. Instead, BYU had the hangover of all (sober) hangovers in a disappointing 41-20 loss to No. 25 Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Oregon physically demolished BYU’s impressive front, rushing for 212 yards. BYU quarterback Jaren Hall played well, but the Cougars could not create any other opportunities outside of the short passing game. The Cougars had a real shot to run the table and compete for a College Football Playoff spot, but those dreams are over now.
Colorado: Kansas is 3-0. Duke is 3-0. Vanderbilt is 3-1. Arizona is 1-1, and has looked promising. And then there’s Colorado, which is quickly staking its claim as the worst Power Five team in college football after losing 49-7 against Minnesota. The Buffaloes have been outscored 128-30 through three games, and have produced just one 100-yard passer.
“I feel good about our attitude about playing the game,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell told reporters after the game. “We’re just not very good at really playing it effectively and proficiently.”
Unless Colorado digs up an arcane rule that grants four touchdowns in exchange for a positive attitude, Dorrell’s squad might not win a game this season.
Georgia is better than last year: Maybe it’s sacrilegious to believe the Bulldogs could be better after losing 15 players to the NFL Draft, but No. 1 Georgia’s start to the season is unbelievable. The ‘Dawgs began the year with a 49-3 dismantling of Oregon, and on Saturday, they completed a 48-7 evisceration of South Carolina. The only score for the Gamecocks came with 53 seconds left in the game.
But while Georgia has held its first three opponents to seven or fewer points for the first time since 1954, the offense has actually been more impressive. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has 952 yards passing and five touchdowns without a pick through three games, along with three rushing scores. Georgia has 95 combined points against FBS foes.
If the defense hasn’t regressed — and early returns are good — this impressive offensive efficiency might give Georgia an even higher ceiling. After winning it all last year, that’s a scary thought.
Big Ten’s middle class is a mess: Week 3 featured most of the Big Ten playing winnable games. The results varied. Southern Illinois handed Northwestern the first FCS-over-Power Five win of the season. Purdue allowed Syracuse to march down the field in 40 seconds for the win. Nebraska allowed 49 straight points against Oklahoma in a rivalry game.
The close calls might have been even worse. Indiana needed overtime and a 51-yard field goal to edge a Western Kentucky team starting a Division II quarterback transfer. Rutgers needed a late stop to eke out a 16-14 win over a horrendous Temple team. Add those results to Wisconsin losing to Washington State at home, Iowa scoring seven against South Dakota State and Michigan State getting run out of the building by Washington.