CFB Wrap-Up: Takeaways from Week 3's biggest games
College Football Wrap-Up recaps the most important developments from the day's action and examines their significance moving forward.
Florida steamrolls Tennessee
Tennessee entered Saturday's game versus Florida without a win at The Swamp in 20 years. Despite that dubious record, the Volunteers found themselves 6.5-point favorites against the Gators based on last year's results and each program's start to the 2023 season. That winless run in Gainesville will now reach a 22nd year after Florida steamrolled the 11th-ranked team in the country for a dominant 29-16 victory.
Florida's recipe for success wasn't complicated: run the ball right at Tennessee and use play-action off that to move it. It was a bold approach considering the Volunteers entered the contest with a top-20 rush defense, but it worked well immediately. Trevor Etienne ran for a career-high 172 yards, and Graham Mertz connected on 19 of 24 passes for 166 yards and a score. Florida held the ball for over 37 minutes of action, enough to keep the potent Volunteers offense on the sideline. A year after hanging 38 on Florida, Tennessee failed to crack 20 and struggled to sustain drives.
The importance of the win for Billy Napier can't be underestimated. Following a disappointing end to last year and a rough opener at Utah, the second-year coach was under the microscope in Gainesville. Saturday's performance certainly bought him some time to continue his rebuild for the Gators.
As for Tennessee, the result serves notice to the rest of the SEC that this year's program lacks the pop that we saw last year with Hendon Hooker at quarterback and the duo of Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman out wide.
Coach Prime breaking box-office records
The way Deion Sanders' first season with Colorado has unfolded would be almost unbelievable by movie standards. The network shows and celebrities came to Boulder expecting a show this weekend, and the Buffaloes gave them that and then some. While it was Colorado's worst showing of the young season, it was by far the most dramatic - thrilling the big names in attendance, from The Rock and Kawhi Leonard to Lil Wayne, and those watching at home, like LeBron James.
Shedeur Sanders showed multiple times that he can rise to the moment and deliver in the clutch. After Colorado State held the talented passer in check for the majority of the contest, Sanders went 98 yards in the final minutes of the contest with a 45-yard touchdown strike to Jimmy Horn Jr. bringing the team within two. A perfect two-point conversion would send the game to overtime. The quarterback's final magic act in the extra sessions - an incredible evasion of the rush to find a wide-open receiver for another two-point conversion - supplied the points that would eventually win the game. The Jackson State transfer didn't just shine on the field either: He dropped a magnificent postgame interview in which he claimed he went "(Tom) Brady mode" for the late 98-yard drive.
The ending paints a rosy picture of a performance that was ugly for almost the entire contest. Colorado State had an outrageous 17 penalties for 182 yards, turned the ball over four times, and still almost won the game. If the Buffaloes repeat Saturday's performance over the next two weeks, Oregon and USC will blow them away.
However, that doesn't matter right now, as Colorado became just the fourth team in FBS history to start 3-0 after losing at least 11 games the previous season. Tune in next week from Oregon where we'll see what Coach Prime has for an encore to the epic scenes from Boulder against a blockbuster opponent.
Defending champ Georgia appears in 2nd half
The Georgia team we saw in the second half of Saturday's win over South Carolina looked capable of completing a historic three-peat this season. That was a welcome sign for Bulldogs fans - because the team that played the opening 30 minutes in Athens looked like anything but a two-time defending national champion.
The defense struggled to contain Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks, as the opposition found the end zone twice to put up 14 points by halftime. The offense once again lacked explosiveness under new coordinator Mike Bobo, as four drives resulted in just three points at the break. Georgia moved the ball on drives of 62 and 73 yards but bogged down in the red zone and made 1-of-2 field goals. That prompted Bobo's name to trend on social media throughout the opening half, which is never a good sign for a college football coordinator.
However, the second half was a throwback to the Georgia team that's now won 20 straight games and 21 consecutive at home. The defense flipped the script on Rattler with two interceptions, three forced punts, and a turnover on downs. The offense scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions in the half to pull away from the competition.
Georgia won despite only showing up for half the game. The good news for Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs is they don't face a currently ranked team until Nov. 11 when they host Ole Miss. That leaves plenty of time to tighten things up and get back in championship mode.
Alabama's offense is broken
Nicholas Lou Saban has forgotten more football than 99.9% of people will ever learn, but even the most casual fan can identify that the Alabama offense is broken. A week after Jalen Milroe piloted the unit in a loss to Texas, Saban opted for Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner at quarterback versus South Florida. The decision was almost as big a disaster as the terrible weather in Tampa. Buchner was a shocking 5-for-14 for 34 yards before getting pulled for Ty Simpson, who was slightly better but still underwhelming in a 5-for-9 performance for 73 yards. The offense's inability to move the ball kept the score tied 3-3 at the half.
Alabama rode running backs Roydell Williams and Jase McClellan in the second half to eventually win 17-3, but it was an incredibly troubling display for the Crimson Tide. The South Florida defense had allowed 41 points to Western Kentucky in its only previous FBS game.
It's clear Alabama's defense is one of the stronger units in the conference and can keep the team afloat in the SEC West. However, if Bama has any hopes of winning its division, it needs a drastic improvement at quarterback. Saturday showed that Milroe is likely going to have to be the man at that position as the conference schedule gets rolling for the Crimson Tide. The struggles will also shine an increased light on the hire of Tommy Rees as the offensive coordinator in the offseason. Rees' tenure at Notre Dame produced some solid offensive output, but it was often the area on the field that held the Fighting Irish back from moving into the elite class of national programs.
One thing to watch if the Crimson Tide can't sort out their offensive woes is how long they last in the AP Poll. Alabama has been in the top 25 for 248 straight polls dating all the way back to 2007. Its resume in 2023 doesn't exactly build the strongest argument for remaining there much longer.
Penix pads Heisman case
Caleb Williams and Shedeur Sanders might be getting the majority of the hype among Pac-12 quarterbacks, but nobody's playing better than Michael Penix Jr. The Washington star continued his torrid start to the season with a brilliant performance at Michigan State on Saturday. The senior put up 473 yards and four touchdowns in just three quarters of the blowout win.
Penix now has a whopping 1,332 yards passing with 12 touchdowns this season.
Michigan State looked overmatched from the opening kickoff in its first game without suspended coach Mel Tucker. After scoring 31 and 45 points in the opening two weeks, the Spartans couldn't get anything going on offense and didn't crack double digits. With Maryland and Iowa on deck before the bye week, Michigan State could be 2-3 in a real hurry.
Florida State escapes at Boston College
Perhaps it was the massive date with Clemson awaiting next week. Maybe it was overlooking Boston College due to its lackluster start to the season. Whatever the reason, No. 3 Florida State came very close to disaster in Chestnut Hill on Saturday. The Seminoles raced out to a 31-10 lead in the second half before allowing 19 unanswered points to make it a nervy finish.
Boston College somehow stayed in the game despite committing a program-record 18 penalties - including a final facemask penalty on a late third-down stop that essentially ended the contest. This is the same Eagles program that opened the season with a loss at home to Northern Illinois and barely escaped against FCS Holy Cross last week. Sophomore quarterback Thomas Castellanos had never thrown for more than 201 yards in a game before but looked unstoppable Saturday, joining some elite company.
While the narrow win will cause some concern for the Seminoles, the health of star quarterback Jordan Travis might be the more pressing issue. Travis injured his left arm right before halftime but played the remainder of the contest. After touchdowns on the opening two drives of the third quarter, the offense sputtered, and Travis appeared to avoid running when the chance presented itself.
Florida State travels to Clemson next week. Though the Tigers didn't look sharp in an opening-week drubbing to Duke, they still present a very tough test. If Florida State repeats Saturday's performance down the stretch next week, it's unlikely to escape Death Valley with the win.
LSU's dynamic duo
LSU offered a very strong reminder Saturday of why it belongs in the conversation about the country's best school at producing wide receiver prospects. The Tigers have sent Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Kayshon Boutte, and Terrace Marshall Jr. to the league in recent years. It's probably a safe bet to say Malik Nabers is next on that list. The standout junior absolutely torched the Mississippi State secondary all afternoon in Starkville, piling up a whopping 188 yards receiving in the opening half alone. Nabers would finish with 239 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 13 catches as LSU rolled the Bulldogs 41-14.
If Nabers was the MVP, quarterback Jayden Daniels was a close second. The senior passer completed an outrageous 30 of 34 throws for 361 yards - the best completion percentage in school history among quarterbacks who had at least 25 attempts. He also added 64 yards and two scores on the ground.
After struggling mightily in the second half of the opening-week loss to Florida State, the LSU offense has been rolling. Brian Kelly's program has now scored a combined 113 points over that span, with Daniels accounting for nine scores. That's the type of production LSU needs if it hopes to repeat as SEC West champion.
Thiccer Kicker wins it for Missouri
The man known as "Thiccer Kicker" is everyone's new favorite football player - aside from fans in Manhattan, Kansas. Harrison Mevis supplied a legendary moment Saturday to secure a rivalry win for Missouri over No. 15 Kansas State. Mevis pounded through a 61-yard field goal as time expired to win the contest and send the raucous home crowd into a frenzy.
The senior kicker, who's listed generously at 5-foot-11 and 243 pounds, filed for a trademark on the nickname late last year. He certainly lived up to the billing, as the winning field goal was the longest kick in the history of the SEC, according to conference communications director Chuck Dunlap.
Iowa drops a 40-burger!
Though Iowa may not play in the biggest game each week, the team's race to 325 points is one of the most enthralling storylines of the season. For those new to the situation: The Hawkeyes must average 25 points per game over the schedule and win seven times for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to keep his job when his contract ends next summer. That makes it a total of 325 points for the 12-game campaign and the bowl contest. Through two games, the Hawkeyes had yet to top the 25-point mark and were once again struggling to find points early against Western Michigan. Safe to say Ferentz had that in mind when Cade McNamara threw an interception right before halftime:
However, the Hawkeyes were finally able to get rolling in the second half and top the 25-point mark for the first time. The final number was 41 in the comfortable victory, which now puts them ahead of the 325-point pace for the season. You can tell the Iowa cheerleaders might not be used to scoring many points based on how "smoothly" the celebration went.
Iowa will face its toughest task of the young season next week with a road trip to undefeated No. 7 Penn State.