College football winners and losers from Week 3: Michigan, Southern Cal, Wake Forest on rise; ACC disappoints again


Alabama surged in front 21-3 against Florida but needed almost every second of four quarters to beat the Gators, raising some questions about whether the Crimson Tide are quite as invincible as they looked through two games.

Oklahoma met old rival Nebraska and struggled putting the Cornhuskers away in the Sooners’ second mediocre performance of the young season against FBS competition.

Cincinnati remained unbeaten against Indiana and can start planning ahead to the trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 2. Virginia Tech was the latest casualty in the hugely disappointing ACC. Many Big Ten teams looked like true contenders.

Those teams and others top the winners and losers from Week 3 of the season.



Winning in Gainesville against the No. Even though the Tide are happy to have won 3-0, 9 Gators deserve to be celebrated. The biggest problem is the state of the running team. It was dominant last year but has been struggling under Bill O’Brien’s direction. After running for 91 yards on 28 carries against the Gators, the Tide are averaging only 3.9 yards per carry. Alabama is not producing enough yards to be national champions again.


The Bearcats topped Indiana 38-24 and will have an extra week to get ready for the biggest game in program history. Cincinnati will be traveling to Notre Dame on Oct. 2 to try to score a second win against Power Five competition. This will allow them to become the first Group of Five to really factor in the playoff debate. To get there unblemished, the Bearcats had to climb out of a 14-0 hole in the second quarter and weather a rowdy, back-and-forth third quarter before pulling away from the Hoosiers in the fourth. Quarterback Desmond Ridder finished with 246 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.


Michigan’s first three games have painted the Wolverines as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten championship and the New Year’s Six. UM wrapped up non-conference play with a 63-10 win against Northern Illinois keyed by another powerful performance on the ground. Four players gained at least 40 yards, three scored at least twice and the offense at large went for 373 yards and eight touchdowns on 48 carries. That gives the Wolverines 1,056 rushing yards and 15 scores through three games.

Michigan State

And the Wolverines’ in-state rivals continue to impress under second-year coach Mel Tucker. Pegged to finish near the bottom of the East division, the Spartans are now 3-0 with two Power Five wins after knocking off Miami (Fla.) 38-17 on the road. A combination of Tucker’s constant flipping of the roster and an influx of transfer talent has produced a team that is good enough to qualify for bowl eligibility by October.

Kansas State

The Wildcats beat Carson Strong and Nevada 38-17 without starting quarterback Skylar Thompson and will have an argument to earn a spot in next week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. With Thompson out, Kansas State’s running game was used to help the Nevada defense. The Wildcats ran for yards and four touchdowns. Overall, the Wildcats ran for 269 yards and four touchdowns while holding the Wolf Pack to 25 yards on 23 carries.

Southern California

For one day, the focus was on the Trojans’ on-field performance and not the job opening that may be one of the dominant themes of the 2021 season. USC was quite impressive under Donte Williams as interim coach, replacing Clay Helton earlier in the week. Down 14-0 until under a minute left in the first half and with quarterback Kedon Slovis injured, the Trojans got 391 passing yards and four touchdowns from backup Jaxson Dart and beat Washington State 45-14.

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Wake Forest

It may be too soon to call this the best team of Dave Clawson’s tenure, which has seen the Demon Deacons reach six straight bowl games and post a pair of eight-win seasons. But the potential is there for a breakthrough finish and a push for the Top 25 after Wake barely broke a sweat in a 35-14 win against overmatched Florida State. The Demon Deacons are now 3-0 and have several wins before facing tough opponents in November. Clawson is not often mentioned in the ACC or Power Five as one of the top coaches, but he may finally be recognized.



Miami’s 21-point loss to Michigan State was the low point in another low week for the ACC, which already has suffered a series of devastating setbacks before the end of September. The ACC was already dealing with losses to Clemson and North Carolina, three of the top preseason contenders in the league. That was joined Saturday by Miami’s horrible loss, Pittsburgh falling 44-41 to Western Michigan and Virginia Tech’s 27-21 loss at West Virginia. Boston College is the only ACC team that looks the part after a win at Temple.

Florida State

How bad will it get for FSU and coach Mike Norvell? One week after losing in heartbreaking fashion to Jacksonville State, the Seminoles dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 1976 — legendary coach Bobby Bowden’s first season — after giving up 484 yards of offense and 27 first downs in the ugly loss to the Demon Deacons. At this point, the only clear win on the schedule is Massachusetts at home on Oct. 23. Could the Seminoles lose more than eight games for the first time since 1974?


The Huskies scored 21 points in the second half against Army after failing to score one point in eight quarters of play against Fresno State and Purdue. (Not to mention losing 38-28 to Holy Cross.) Unfortunately, the Huskies also gave up 52 points and 397 rushing yards to the Black Knights, who held onto possession for more than 40 minutes and smothered the worst team in the FBS.


One of the surprise Power Five teams of 2020, the Buffaloes will head into Pac-12 play at 1-2 after being destroyed by Minnesota in a 30-0 loss. A far cry from last week’s competitive 10-7 loss to Texas A&M, the Buffaloes allowed 441 yards of offense, 277 on the ground, and gained just 63 yards on 45 plays. Colorado hadn’t been shut out since losing 28-0 to Washington State in 2017 or been held under 100 yards of offense since gaining 76 yards in a 48-0 loss to Stanford in 2012.

Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg

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