Five Questions

Is Clemson better than Alabama – again?

Yeah, yeah, it’s too early to make any definitive statements, even though the Tigers throttled Lamar Jackson (forget the garbage time yards and points) a week after completely shutting down Auburn. That’s two straight wins over Top 15 opponents for Dabo Swinney’s club. It’s really the quick development of QB newcomer Kelly Bryant that’s the difference for Clemson now. He’s a better passer than Jalen Hurts and hasn’t allowed his lack of experience to be an issue. Alabama is very good again. Clemson – right now – might be slightly better. Again.

What 71-year-old streak came to an end on Saturday?

Vanderbilt hadn’t beaten a ranked non-conference opponent since 1946. That drought ended with a 14-7 victory over No. 18 Kansas State, with the Commodores moving to 3-0. They should savor it while they can. Alabama is next this Saturday.

The best non-Power 5 team right now is …?

South Florida, 3-0 after handling Illinois easily, is the highest ranked of the best of the rest. But you can make a case for 3-0 San Diego State, which beat Stanford a week after winning a laugher at Arizona State. And you can throw 2-0 Memphis into the mix after its 48-45 victory over UCLA. The Tigers have beaten a ranked team each of the past three seasons now. Don’t sleep on 2-0 Houston either. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.  

Has a five-touchdown passing game merely become the equivalent now of, say, a 150-yard rushing performance?

It sure seems that way. Nine different quarterbacks passed for at least five touchdowns last weekend and four – Memphis’ Riley Ferguson, Toledo’s Logan Woodside, Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek and Washington State’s Luke Falk – passed for six. That’s compared to 11 players who rushed for 150 yards or more during last week’s games.

What was the best game no one paid attention to last weekend?

From a pure entertainment standpoint, it had to be Toledo’s 54-51 victory over Tulsa. Logan Woodside passed for six TDs for the Rockets, who overcame an early 28-7 deficit to win on Jameson Vest’s 33-yard field goal as time expired. It had plenty of action and scoring – including a successful two-point conversion – in the final 10-minutes-plus, with Tulsa’s backfield trio of D’Angelo Brewer, Shamari Brooks and QB Chad President combining to rush for 423 yards and six TDs. Toledo, by the way, is 3-0 now.


On the Rise

Mississippi State (3-0)

Bulldogs’ stunning 37-7 rout of LSU was their largest margin of victory in the 111-game series. Next up: At Georgia on Saturday night.

Virginia Tech (3-0)

Hokies are 3-0 for the first time since 2011 after Saturday’s 64-17 romp at East Carolina, and QB Josh Jackson (8 TDs with no interceptions this season) looks to be a keeper. Looming is that Sept. 30 home game against Clemson.

Kentucky (3-0)

Hold off on breaking out the basketballs just yet. Wildcats’ 23-13 victory over South Carolina gives them a chance for their first 2-0 SEC start since 1977 when they host Florida on Saturday night.


On the Decline

Boston College (1-2)

Just an embarrassing defensive effort against Notre Dame, with two Irish players rushing for 200 yards-plus as part of a 515-yard rushing day (on 51 carries). Heat up that coaching search.

Nebraska (1-2)

Talk about clumsy timing: The school gave coach Mike Riley a one-year extension early last week. Then he lost at home to Northern Illinois. Hard to find a sanction-free program that has fallen faster and harder than Nebraska’s.

Kansas (1-2)

It’s not much fun picking on the Jayhawks, but they did lose their 42nd straight road game with Saturday’s 42-30 setback at Ohio U.


Who’s Hot

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF

Single-handedly overwhelmed Illinois by passing for 280 yards and four TDs and rushing for 106 and another score.

Justin Wilcox, head coach, California

Bears’ first-year coach is off to a 3-0 start after Saturday’s victory over Ole Miss (after opening with a win at North Carolina) and faces a major test Saturday at home against USC.

Riley Ferguson, QB, Memphis

His 398-yard, six TD passing game triggered the 48-45 upset of UCLA – though it’s nothing new for the Tigers, who have beaten a ranked opponent each of the past three seasons.


Who’s Not

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Scouts from 16 different NFL teams came to see the 6-5, 240-pound senior against Oregon – and he flopped badly, going 9-of-24 for 64 yards in a 49-13 loss.

Michah Anthony, safety, Tennessee

Maybe it wasn’t all Anthony’s fault, but how do you allow Florida’s Tyrie Cleveland to get behind you with no time left for the game-winning 63-yard touchdown?

Josh Conklin, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh

After “holding” Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph to 45 points and 540 passing yards last year, Conklin’s defense allowed 497 passing yards and five TDs to Rudolph in a 59-21 home loss. Rudolph had 423 passing yards in the first half as the Cowboys scored TDs on their first seven possessions.


Playing it Forward

The top three games of the coming week

TCU (3-0) at Oklahoma State (3-0)

The elimination game to see who gets to challenge Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Horned Frogs have looked sharp despite a defensive lapse against SMU last week. OSU is averaging 54 ppg behind Heisman hopeful Mason Rudolph.

Mississippi State (3-0) at Georgia (3-0)

Georgia warmed up for the ESPN prime time game by stretching its limbs against Samford, and has passed its only test so far (at Notre Dame). Mississippi State comes off an impressive 37-7 rout of LSU and looks primed for this road challenge.

Washington (3-0) at Colorado (3-0)

The rematch of last year’s Pac-12 title game represents the first test for the homestanding Buffs. Washington QB Jake Browning and explosive returner/WR Dante Pettis have also been building to this first challenge of the year. Huskies have been a little spotty at times this year.


Story Lines


  1. James Franklin continues to exude class. With Penn State leading 56-0 and 11 seconds left, the Nittany Lions’ coach opted to ice Georgia State’s kicker by calling a time out before a 31-yard field goal try. The kick misfired and Franklin preserved his shut out – and continued to lose respect. He’s just a petty man.


  1. Archie Griffin can exhale. He will remain the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner after this year. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson wasn’t terrible in the home loss to Clemson, but he wasn’t Heisman-caliber worthy either. There’s no disputing Jackson’s hold-your-breath ability. But winning and elevating your team have to matter too. He was cut slack last year despite four losses. There are too many candidates this year for that to happen again. Unless Jackson goes on an other-wordly tear (and against some quality opposition), Griffin’s place in history is safe again.


  1. Is it any wonder the Chargers moved out of San Diego to Los Angeles? Saturday’s Stanford-San Diego State game at San Diego Stadium was delayed 25 minutes in mid-game when the lights went out on the 50-year-old facility. It’s too bad, too, because the 3-0 Aztecs have looked to be a Top 25-caliber team so far, beating Arizona State and Stanford in consecutive games. They deserve better, especially after two straight 11-win, Mountain West championship seasons.


Tom Luicci was the national college football and basketball writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. from 1979-2014. The snarkiness is all Jersey./membership]