by Daniel Fappiano
On paper, not many would have expected college football’s third week to bring many fireworks. With just two matchups involving two top 25 teams, it seemed as if week three would be forgotten at the end of the year. However, the NCAA proved to be unpredictable once more, providing fans with hard hits, jaw dropping plays and another week of unforgettable college football.
The first of the two matchups came between #23 Tennessee and #24 Florida. Both teams struggled to move the ball on offense early in the game, mustering up just nine points through three quarters. Although, when the fourth quarter started those offense woes were thrown out the window, as the Gators and Volunteers racked up 37 points collectively.
The game was eventually won by Florida at a score of 26-20, following a 63 yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired. Quarterback Feleipe Franks, rolled to his right and threw across his body to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, winning the game for Florida and seal Tennessee’s fate.
Tennessee may not have come out with the win, but the best player on the field was undoubtedly Volunteer running back, John Kelly. In a game that had sloppy offense from both teams, Kelly was able to rush 19 times for 141 yards a touchdown. Florida might have won the game, but Tennessee found themselves a keeper in Kelly.
The Gators will look to continue their winning ways against the Kentucky Wildcats, whereas the Volunteers will look to get back on track against the UMass minutemen in Week Four.
While many expected #3 Clemson versus #14 Louisville to be the game of the week, the Tigers were able to march into Kentucky and stomp their way to a decisive 47-21 victory.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant did his best Deshaun Watson impersonation, completing 22/32 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown. He added 26 more yards and two more scores on the ground.
The Tigers’ running game as a whole was impressive, scoring two touchdown’s outside of Bryant’s, including an 81 yard score by Travis Etienne.
Of course when Louisville plays, all eyes will be on Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson. Jackson completed 21/42 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He added 64 yards on the ground through 17 rushes.
Jackson’s stat line is impressive. However, most of it came in garbage time. Clemson’s defense headed by Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, were able to show down the Cardinal QB and made him look like a pedestrian for three quarters. Overall, the Tigers made their mark as arguably the best team in the nation.
Clemson will take this momentum into Week Four against ACC foe Boston College. Jackson will look to get back on track in a much easier matchup against Kent State.
As for the rest of the teams ranked inside the top 25, most were able to escape Week Three with a win. Some notable performances included #5 Penn State’s 56-0 win over Georgia State, #2 Oklahoma’s 56-14 win over Tulane and #10 Wisconsin’s 40-6 win over BYU.
But while most of the ranked teams survived, four top 25 programs suffered tough losses to unranked teams. It’s important to note that while #4 USC won their game, it took two overtimes to beat unranked Texas.
The biggest upset of the week came in the form of Mississippi State’s 37-7 win over #12 LSU. The Bulldogs’ defense came to play during the 30 point win, holding All-World running back Derrius Guice to just 76 yards on 15 carries. Overall, Mississippi State’s defense had the Tigers’ number all night, allowing just 270 yards total.
However, while the defense shined, the true story is the play of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs’ quarterback completed 15/23 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 88 yards and two more scores.
Fitzgerald isn’t the most talked about QB in the SEC, but his light shined bright on Sunday night as he proved to be one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the NCAA. The true junior will have a chance to prove himself again in a tough matchup against #13 Georgia next week.
As for LSU, they’ll look to right the ship against Syracuse in Week Four.
Memphis was able to take down #25 UCLA by the score of 48-45. While most eyes were set on UCLA’s potential Heisman in Josh Rosen, it was Memphis QB Riley Ferguson who stole the show.
The true senior completed 23/38 passes for 398 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. Ferguson went toe to toe with a quarterback many expected to go first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, and won. He was able to limit mistakes while creating big plays in the victory.
Although Ferguson won the battle, Rosen looked strong in defeat. He completed 35/46 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. Rosen did make a few mistakes, including a pick six in the third quarter. But he proved why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, keeping his team in the game until the very end.
The Bruins will need to have short memory as they take on #19 Stanford next week. Ferguson will have another chance for big numbers when the Tigers take on Southern Illinois.
Vanderbilt was able to take down #18 Kansas State 14-7. In a game dominated by defense, the Commodores were able to shut down the Wildcats for the win.
Kansas State outgained Vanderbilt 277-270; however, Vandy’s ability to shut down Wildcats’ quarterback Jesse Ertz through the air was the key factor. Ertz completed just 10/28 passes for 76 yards and two interceptions. He did impress on the ground although, rushing 24 times for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Vanderbilt’s quarterback Kyle Shurmer had a decent game, completing 14/23 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown while rushing for an additional touchdown. His stat line wasn’t flashy, but his ability to limit turnovers was crucial during the one score victory.
The Commodores will have their hands full as they look to keep up the defensive pressure against #1 Alabama next week. Kansas State will hope to rebound against Baylor.
In the last game of the week, San Diego State was able to down #19 Stanford 20-17. Following a 22 minute power outage, the Aztecs were able to march down the field and score with just 54 seconds remaining for the win.
San Diego State had strong defense all night, limiting Stanford to just 254 yards of total offense. Most of that offense came on the ground as the Aztecs completely shut down the passing game, forcing Stanford QB Keller Chryst to complete just 9/20 passes for 72 yards and two picks.
On the Aztecs’ side of the ball, running back Rashaad Penny had a coming out party, rushing 32 times for 175 times and one touchdown. After losing Donnel Pumphrey to the NFL Draft, many expected the Aztecs to take a step back in the run game. Penny proved he could be a difference maker, making a name for himself on the national stage.
Looking ahead, Week Four should provide college football fans with some more exciting matchups. Big 12 action begins with #6 Oklahoma State taking on #16 TCU. Mississippi State, who is now ranked #17 following their defeat of LSU, takes on #11 Georgia. And two Pac-12 powerhouses collide, as UCLA tries to redeem their loss to Memphis against Stanford.