By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
California defense – Yes, the competition was tiny Presbyterian, but the Golden Bears allowed only 48 yards in Saturday’s game. No matter who you play, holding a team to less than 50 yards is an accomplishment.
Clemson – After struggling against Troy and Wofford, the Tigers turned in a better performance against Auburn. Coach Dabo Swinney needs to show some improvement this year and Saturday’s win was a step in the right direction.
FIU – The Golden Panthers are overlooked on the national scene, but once again, scored a solid victory. One week after beating Louisville, FIU knocked off UCF. Even with top receiver T.Y. Hilton sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Golden Panthers didn’t miss a beat. Keep an eye on FIU’s matchup against Duke on Oct. 1 – another BCS upset?
Florida – The Gators have now won seven in a row over Tennessee and look like a much-improved team in Will Muschamp’s first season. Don’t be surprised if Florida wins the SEC East this year.
Georgia Tech – There was a lot of doubt surrounding Paul Johnson’s team this year. After struggling at the end of 2010, many thought the Yellow Jackets would be lucky to reach seven wins. However, it’s time to reconsider those preseason picks. The Georgia Tech offense has posted over 60 points twice this year and demolished Kansas 66-24 on Saturday.
Iowa State – Behind the arm and legs of quarterback Steele Jantz, the Cyclones are 3-0 for the first time since 2005. Iowa State will hit conference play after a bye this Saturday, but should be in contention for a bowl trip.
Louisville – Snapped a four-game losing streak to Kentucky and bragging rights in the Bluegrass State are Louisville’s for the next year.
LSU – The offense hasn’t been flashy, but that’s not an issue. The Tigers can lean on one of the nation’s top defenses and rushing attacks to win games. LSU passed one hurdle in the tough two-game road stretch – beating Mississippi State 19-6 – and now heads to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina – With the struggles of quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks need to ride No. 21 to the SEC East title. Lattimore carried South Carolina to a win over Navy, rushing for 246 yards and three scores.
Miami – With a few more players back in the lineup from suspensions, the Hurricanes turned in an impressive win over Ohio State. This was also Al Golden’s first win as Miami’s coach.
Notre Dame – After outplaying their first two opponents and coming up empty-handed, the Irish defeated Michigan State to earn their first win of the year. BCS bowl hopes are still alive, especially when you look at the remaining schedule.
Oklahoma – Going on the road and winning against one of the top 10 teams in the country isn’t easy. Mission accomplished for the Sooners. It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma survived a huge test in its quest to play for the national title.
Texas – The Longhorns are 3-0 and appear to have found their quarterback. Case McCoy turned in a solid start on Saturday and has Texas on the right path, just before the Big 12 opener against Iowa State and Oklahoma on Oct. 8.
Utah – One week after a narrow loss to USC, the Utes blitzed rival BYU for a 54-10 victory. This win should provide some momentum as Utah has a bye week before hitting conference play for the rest of the season.
Vanderbilt – New coach James Franklin is off to a solid 3-0 start and continues to reel in the prospects on the recruiting trail. The Commodores defeated Ole Miss in a 30-7 rout on Saturday, but will get a step up in competition with South Carolina this week.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers had to hold on after allowing Maryland back in the game, but it appears the offense is starting to jell under new coach Dana Holgorsen. West Virginia has a huge test against LSU ahead this week.
Arizona – There’s no shame in losing to Stanford, but the Wildcats are mired in a slump. Arizona has lost seven out of its last eight games and face USC and Oregon in the next two weeks. Ouch. Coach Mike Stoops still has time to get his team back into a bowl this year, but getting off to a 1-4 start will be difficult to overcome.
Arizona State – After beating Missouri last Friday night, the Sun Devils looked primed for a breakthrough road win. Not so fast. Arizona State lost 17-14 to Illinois on Saturday, which dropped it out of the top 25. Although the Sun Devils still have a chance to win the Pac-12 South, this was a chance to make a statement on the road and they couldn’t deliver.
Auburn defense – This unit was a problem last year and through three games, it’s apparent the defense will be a weakness once again. The Tigers allowed at least 448 yards in every game this year, including 624 in Saturday’s loss to Clemson.
Boston College – Coach Frank Spaziani’s name has been quiet in hot seat talk, but it's going to heat up. The Eagles are off to a disappointing 0-3 start after losing 20-19 to Duke on Saturday. Boston College should get into the win column on Saturday with a game against Massachusetts, but making a bowl game appears very unlikely. It’s also uncertain if running back Montel Harris (knee surgery) will be ready to return anytime soon.
Big East – Like the Big 12, the Big East is in danger of falling apart. The conference has been picked apart again by the ACC, this time with Syracuse and Pittsburgh departing. The Big East could invite a few more schools – UCF, Houston or East Carolina – but what happens with the Big 12 will have an impact on what goes on with this conference.
College football – Its not often we will lump the entire state of college football into the loser category, but could we cool the realignment/expansion news on Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the games?
Northwestern – After winning its first two games of the year without quarterback Dan Persa, the Wildcats fell to Army on Saturday. Although stopping the Black Knights is not an easy task, this is a game Northwestern should have won.
Ohio State quarterbacks - The Buckeyes offense was apparently left behind in Columbus. Quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Joe Bauserman combined to complete 4 of 18 throws for 35 yards and one interception. Ohio State will need a lot better play from its quarterbacks to think about a Big Ten title.
Ole Miss and Houston Nutt – The Rebels were flat out embarrassed in Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt. The offense ranks as one of the worst in the nation, while the defense has struggled to stop the run. Coach Houston Nutt’s seat was warm entering the year, but it’s going to get a lot hotter if the Rebels can’t turn it around. Looking at the schedule, there are few guaranteed wins left for Ole Miss.
Mississippi State – The Bulldogs didn’t play terribly in Thursday night’s defeat to LSU. However, this was a prime opportunity for Dan Mullen’s team to earn a statement win in SEC play. Mullen has yet to beat a SEC West team outside of Ole Miss and Thursday's contest was a good chance to score a huge upset, while announcing the Bulldogs as a SEC West contender.
UCLA – The Bruins had an unimpressive win over San Jose State in Week 2 and followed that up with a lethargic effort against Texas. UCLA is now 1-2 and has road trips against Oregon State and Stanford up next. If the Bruins start 1-4, it’s a safe bet they won’t go bowling and Rick Neuheisel could be on his way out.
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve made his return to the lineup in Saturday’s win over Southeast Missouri State. Marve completed 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards and one score. This was his first appearance since tearing his ACL against Toledo last September.
Just how bad is Memphis? The Tigers defeated FCS foe Austin Peay 27-6 on Saturday. The Governors just reinstated scholarship football in 2006 and kept within range of the Tigers most of the night. Will Larry Porter survive for a third season?
An interesting note while taking a look through the national leaders: Two quarterbacks rank in the top 10 for rushing yards per game – Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez.
There were some significant injuries in Week 3, including Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter and Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov. With conference play approaching, injuries are going to be a real concern for coaches.
It looks like the quarterback question marks will continue at Penn State for another week. In Saturday’s 14-10 win over Temple, Matt McGloin completed 13 of 19 for 124 yards, while Rob Bolden completed 9 of 17 for 92 yards and one interception.
Looking Ahead to Week 4
A small sample of what’s ahead
NC State at Cincinnati (Thursday)
Could be an offensive shootout with both teams struggling on defense.
UCF at BYU (Friday)
Cougars need to find some answers after Week 3 blowout loss to Utah.
North Carolina at Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets’ option attack faces tough battle against North Carolina defensive line.
Florida State at Clemson
Key game for ACC Atlantic positioning. Will EJ Manuel play for Florida State?
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
Irish still need to find a cure for the turnovers, but Panthers struggling to get solid QB play.
LSU at West Virginia
Mountaineers starting to click on offense, but LSU defense is a tough matchup.
San Diego State at Michigan
Simply put, this is the Brady Hoke bowl.
California at Washington
Golden Bears look like a much-improved team, but Huskies eager to get back on track.
Arkansas at Alabama
Razorbacks offense faces a difficult matchup against Crimson Tide defense.
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M
Can the Aggies defense slow down Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden?
Missouri at Oklahoma
Sooners can’t afford a letdown against upset-minded Tigers.
USC at Arizona State
The top two teams in the Pac-12 South?
Oregon at Arizona
Wildcats struggling and things won’t get any easier with Ducks traveling to Tucson.
Injuries from Week 3
Alabama S Robert Lester – back spasms – will play in Week 4
Arizona State DE Junior Onyeali – knee – questionable to play in Week 4
Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen – ankle – questionable to play in Week 4
Clemson RB Andre Ellington – hamstring – expected to play in Week 4
Clemson OL Mason Cloy – shoulder – should play in Week 4
FIU WR T.Y. Hilton – hamstring – questionable to play in Week 4
Florida State QB EJ Manuel – bruised shoulder – questionable to play in Week 4
Florida State WR Kenny Shaw – concussion – questionable to play in Week 4
Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell – ribs – will play in Week 4
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase – shoulder – expected to play in Week 4
Iowa State QB Steele Jantz – strained foot – expected to play in Cyclones’ next game
Louisville QB Will Stein – arm – uncertain to play in Week 5
Louisville CB Andrew Johnson – ankle – uncertain to play in Week 5
Michigan State OL Skyler Burkland – leg – uncertain to play in Week 4
NC State LB Terrell Manning – knee – uncertain to play in Week 4
Ole Miss QB Randall Mackey – thigh bruise – questionable to play in Week 4
Purdue DE Gerald Gooden – elbow – will likely return for Week 5
Stanford TE Coby Fleener – concussion – questionable to play in Week 5
Stanford LB Shayne Skov – knee – status uncertain for Week 4
Tennessee WR Justin Hunter – knee – out for the remainder of 2011
Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne – knee – expected to miss 2-4 weeks
UAB QB Bryan Ellis – knee – uncertain for Week 4
Utah OT Tony Bergstrom – knee – likely out 2-3 weeks
Virginia Tech WR Dyrell Roberts – broken arm – out for the remainder of 2011
Virginia Tech OL Andrew Lanier – knee – questionable for Week 4