After a mundane week two, college football impressed the masses once again in week three, and as a result, this week’s rankings have a new look. Sure, the number one team is the same (at least for now), but huge strides were made this week by a trio of Midwestern teams who each had big wins over ranked opponents (okay, I guess saying Louisville is a Midwestern team is a stretch).
Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Alabama (3-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
Last Week: def. #19 Ole Miss, 48-43
This Week: vs. Kent State
The Crimson Tide finally bested their recent nemesis, beating Ole Miss for the first time since 2013, but it wasn’t easy, as Alabama had to rally from a 24-3 deficit, using a 45-6 run to make the Rebels the first Power Five team in 10 seasons to blow multiple 21-point leads in a season. At the 2:47 mark of the second quarter, Ole Miss had a 93.1% win probability (for an explanation of win probability, click here), giving tangible evidence of the strength of Alabama’s comeback. Quarterback Jaylen Hurts threw for 158 yards, but also ran for 146 on 18 attempts. The Crimson Tide host Nick Saban’s alma mater this week, the Golden Flashes of Kent State.
2. Louisville (3-0, 9th, 3rd)
Last Week: def. #2 Florida State, 63-20
This Week: at Marshall
The Cardinals dismantled Florida State, rushing for 314 yards in a 43-point win over the second-ranked Seminoles, who tied the third-largest loss of all time by a top two-ranked team in the AP Poll era. Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson accounted for five touchdowns, with four on the ground, and 362 all-purpose yards, including 146 rushing, as Louisville outgained Florida State 530-284. Louisville is now a consensus playoff team, but if they want to get there at the end of the season it won’t be easy, with a pair of top six teams remaining on the schedule, and both on the road (Oct. 1 at Clemson, Nov. 17 at Houston).
3. Clemson (3-0, 3rd, 5th)
Last Week: def. South Carolina State, 59-0
This Week: Thursday at Georgia Tech
After a couple of lackluster wins, Clemson shifted to another gear in a rout of South Carolina State that was so bad, the second half of the game was shortened by six minutes. The Tigers outgained the Bulldogs, 555-102, a stat so lopsided I groaned out loud when I read it. Yes, the opponent was a middling FCS team, but after the less-than-convincing wins the Tigers had the first two weeks, they certainly played better in this domination. The Tigers have a short week to prepare for Georgia Tech on the road, a game that they historically struggle with.
4. Michigan (3-0, 4th, 4th)
Last Week: def. Colorado, 45-28
This Week: vs. Penn State
The Wolverines trailed 21-7 after a quarter to upstart Colorado, but came back to beat the Buffaloes by 17. Jabril Peppers, who is listed as a linebacker, had nine tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and also gained 204 all-purpose yards, including a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 55-yard kickoff return. Michigan will now play nine straight conference games in the Big Ten, starting this week with a home game against Penn State, with a game against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor looming next week.
5. Ohio State (3-0, 21st, 2nd)
Last Week: def. #14 Oklahoma, 45-24
This Week: idle
Coming into the season, I knew the Buckeyes were talented and had the potential to reload, even with the loss of so much of their core from last year’s team, but I doubted that such a young team could win the tough games on the road, like Saturday’s test at Oklahoma. I was wrong. The Buckeyes were beyond convincing, winning by a three-touchdown margin over one of the preseason favorites to make the Playoff, with quarterback J.T. Barrett throwing for four touchdowns. Like Michigan, the men of the scarlet and gray now face nine consecutive conference games, starting Saturday with Rutgers coming to Columbus.
6. Houston (3-0, 5th, 6th)
Last Week: def. Cincinnati, 40-16
This Week: at Texas State
On the surface, with Houston beating Cincinnati by 24 and outgaining the Bearcats 506-307, it might look like the Cougars cruised to a win. However, after Cincinnati scored on the opening play of the fourth quarter, the Bearcats led 16-12, before Houston rattled off 28 straight points. Quarterback Greg Ward didn’t play his best game, but his two rushing touchdowns in the fourth aided Houston’s strong finish. With the Bearcats now behind them on the schedule, the Cougars will likely not face another serious test until November 17, when Louisville comes to Space City.
7. Stanford (2-0, 6th, 7th)
Last Week: def. USC, 27-10
This Week: at UCLA
Nothing stands out statistically in Stanford’s 17-point win over USC; the Cardinal were not necessarily dominant (although they did clearly have the best player on the field), but slowly tightened their grasp on the game. Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey accounted for 238 all-purpose yards, including 165 on the ground, and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). The Cardinal travel to the Rose Bowl on Saturday to meet UCLA, who they have beat in eight straight meetings.
8. Michigan State (2-0, 18th, 8th)
Last Week: def. #18 Notre Dame, 36-28
This Week: vs. #11 Wisconsin
The Spartans turned a close game at halftime into a 36-7 lead in South Bend, before a late Notre Dame rally nearly ruined the Spartans’ celebration plans. The win was in typical Michigan State fashion, with the Spartans possessing the ball for 37:57 of the 60 minute game, with Gerald Holmes rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and L.J. Scott rushing for 98 more and a touchdown. 11th-ranked Wisconsin comes to East Lansing on Saturday in a contest that could serve as an early-season Playoff elimination game.
9. Tennessee (3-0, 7th, 14th)
Last Week: def. Ohio, 28-19
This Week: vs. #19 Florida
While Tennessee does have the dominant Battle of Bristol win over Virginia Tech under their belt, their other two wins are not as impressive, including Saturday’s game with Ohio, which was a 21-19 game entering the fourth. The win over Appalachian State does not look as impressive now either, after the Mountaineers’ 45-10 home loss to Miami, but the Volunteers are still a very talented team, and remember: Tennessee is still a program who is learning how to win. We will know more about whether or not the SEC East will have to come through Knoxville after Saturday’s game, when #19 Florida comes to visit, starting a string of four consecutive ranked opponents for the Vols.
10. Wisconsin (3-0, 11th, 11th)
Last Week: def. Georgia State, 23-17
This Week: at #8 Michigan State
The Badgers survived a valiant upset bid from Georgia State, who took a 17-13 lead with 11:36 to play before Wisconsin came back to win by six, led by backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who replaced starter Bart Houston in the third with the Badger offense struggling. While the score raised some eyebrows in concern for Wisconsin, one stat raises eyebrows the other way: The Badgers held Georgia State to just 33 rushing yards. The Badgers will, plain and simple, have to play better starting this week, as they begin a brutal three game stretch in Big Ten play: Saturday at Michigan State, Oct. 1 at Michigan, Oct. 15 vs. Ohio State.
11. LSU (2-1, 12th, 18th)
12. Florida State (2-1, 2nd, 13th)
13. Baylor (3-0, 13th, 16th)
14. Nebraska (3-0, 17th, 20th)
15. Washington (3-0, 20th, 9th)
16. Miami (3-0, unranked, 15th)
17. Georgia (3-0, 15th, 12th)
18. Oklahoma State (2-1, 25th, unranked)
19. North Carolina (2-1, 22nd, unranked)
20. Texas A&M (3-0, unranked, 10th)
21. Oklahoma (1-2, 10th, 25th)
22. Ole Miss (1-2, 14th, 23rd)
23. Boise State (2-0, 24th, unranked)
24. Iowa (2-1, 8th, unranked)
25. Arkansas (3-0, unranked, 17th)
Fell from Rankings: Texas (2-1, Last Week: 16th), Notre Dame (1-2, 19th), Oregon (2-1, 23rd)
Also ranked in AP Poll: Florida (3-0, 19th), San Diego State (3-0, 22nd), Utah (3-0, 24th)