It’s just Week 3, but after a lull in Week 2, it came with speed and fury. Narratives were defined, seasons were ruined, and we established a new Heisman Trophy frontrunner.
It was a show-me Saturday. Some showed more than others. Some would like another shot at it they probably won't get.
That's college football for you.
Here’s what we learned in an eventful Week 3:
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY SportsJamie Rhodes
USC is in desperation mode
There’s a real chance that the Trojans finish the season with a losing record for the first time since 2000. USC didn’t stack up against Stanford Saturday in a 27-10 loss. At 1-2, they go to Utah next week and still have Colorado, Cal, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, and Notre Dame remaining on the schedule. The Trojans look soft both physically and mentally, and considering the talent level on that team, coaching will likely be called into question soon.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Notre Dame's season is over
The Irish don’t have a conference to win, so when their playoff hopes went up in smoke Sunday, so did their season. The Irish were manhandled by Michigan State in a way that the box score won’t show. It wasn’t until MSU decided the game was done that Notre Dame clawed back into the contest. Notre Dame is playing for a nice bowl game for the rest of the season, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is playing for his job.
Soobum Im-USA TODAY SportsSoobum Im
The service academies can play
Army is 3-0. Navy is 3-0. Air Force is 2-0. For this first time since 1958, all three service academies are undefeated after three weeks of play. Back then, it was a tie that prevented the blemish —Air Force tied Iowa in Week 2 — leaving all three programs with a record of 8-0-1. It might be a while before Army loses, too — they play Buffalo next week, then have a bye before Duke, followed by games against Lafayette, North Texas and Wake Forest. Air Force and Navy meet Oct. 1.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsDanny Wild
Bama can counterpunch with a freshman QB
Alabama was on the ropes, trailing by 21 points for the first time since 2009 Saturday when it turned the game around and won on the road. That defense is absurd, even if the secondary is showing signs of weakness early in the season — again. But the most impressive aspect of the win wasn’t how defense and special teams turned the game around — it was how freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts handled the pressure for the first time. He passed the test. There will surely be more moving
Matt Bush-USA TODAY SportsMatt Bush
Michigan State should be a contender in the loaded Big Ten East
It was fair to doubt Michigan State heading into Saturday, and not all the questions have been answered about the Spartans’ offense, but man, what a defensive performance Mark Dantonio’s team turned in against Notre Dame. The Spartans boast one of the nation’s truly elite defensive lines — they can get pressure with three on any down — and the remain one of the toughest outs in football. With Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and even an improving Penn State, the Big Ten East might be the most interesting division in football.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY SportsMatt Cashore
Ohio State is scary good
This is Urban Meyer’s rebuilding team. These are the not-quite-there-yet guys. And while Oklahoma might have been the most overrated team in the nation entering the season, Saturday’s win in Norman was wildly impressive from the Buckeyes, who have put themselves atop a three-team heap of excellent in the Big Ten East. If the Buckeyes keep this up — and who can say they won’t, at this juncture — Meyer is going to make Nick Saban’s throne atop the college football coaching hierarchy double-wide.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Pac-12 “title game” might be Stanford-Washington in two weeks
If you’re looking for parity, the Pac-12 should be your league. But parity doesn’t pay in college football, and the Pac-12 has an uphill climb to put a team in the College Football Playoff. Luckily for the Pac-12, the league has two excellent, CFP-worthy teams in Washington and Stanford, but as both are in the Pac-12 North, their Friday, Sept. 30 matchup in Seattle is a de-facto title game. The league office is going to be begging for the rest of the year that the winner of that contest doesn’t falter the rest of the year.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY SportsJennifer Buchanan
Defense wins championships
Sorry Texas, you have to beat Cal — even if you’re robbed at the end of the contest. Oklahoma, you’re out. Notre Dame, done. Florida State, we’ll try again. Texas A&M might have something going, though.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY SportsShanna Lockwood
Houston is going to need a lot of help to make the playoff
There are five major conferences and four spots in the College Football Playoff. Houston isn’t a member of any of those conferences, so you can see the problem there. The Cougars’ best win, Oklahoma, also doesn’t look so awesome after it took another shellacking Saturday in Norman. Add in Houston’s struggles for 50 minutes against Cincinnati (with the committee surely watching) and three top-heavy divisions having the bulk of Top-10 teams and Houston’s path has become even more treacherous. Houston needs to be praying every day between now and Nov. 17 that Louisville doesn’t slip — they’re going to put that end-of-season game to be the top to their resume.