February 27, 2024


It could be many of the teams occupying the top 25 slots in college football were looking ahead a week to their conference openers. Or it could be some of those teams aren’t as good as first thought. Or maybe they just needed a wakeup call.

Whatever the reason, several ranked teams — Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama and Texas, to name a few — got off to slow starts against teams they should (and in some cases did) beat handily.

Not everyone got out of Saturday unscathed. No. 11 Tennessee once again lost in the Swamp and No. 15 Kansas State lost on a 61-yard walk-off field goal by Missouri.

Here’s a look at whether those slow starts and closer-than-expected finishes affect the power rankings after Week 3.


The Bulldogs’ first real test of the season (sorry UT Martin and Ball State, but it’s true) was a little dicey. South Carolina jumped out to a lead thanks to the strong play of Spencer Rattler, throwing and running the football. And the Georgia offense couldn’t get anything going in the passing or the running game. Then came the second half. It was as if Kirby Smart’s squad remembered they’re the defending national champions. Suddenly the defense was stifling, and the offense was owning the line of scrimmage. Twenty-one unanswered points later and Georgia cruised to victory. Quarterback Carson Beck was once again solid, but you have to wonder if he’ll have a breakout game at some point, whether it’s at home against UAB next week or the week after when the Bulldogs go on the road for the first time this season at Auburn. — Alex Scarborough

Up next: vs. UAB (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)


The team’s third and final game without coach Jim Harbaugh on the sideline was messier than the others. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who had not thrown an interception in the first two contests and had just three outside of last season’s CFP loss to TCU, was picked off three times by Bowling Green. McCarthy finished with only 143 passing yards. Michigan committed four turnovers and converted only 1 of 5 third-down chances. The Wolverines will need to be sharper against an improved Rutgers team next week. Their defense remained stellar, holding Bowling Green to 205 yards and collecting a season-best three takeaways, three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins had an interception and a tackle for loss, and cornerback Mike Sainristil had a sack and two tackles for loss as Michigan did not allow a touchdown. — Adam Rittenberg

Up next: vs. Rutgers (noon ET, Big Ten Network)


A win is a win, but the truth is the Seminoles are lucky to have left Boston College with a victory. Boston College outplayed Florida State for wide stretches — controlling the ball and the clock on offense, while quarterback Thomas Castellanos gave the FSU defense fits. Though Florida State built a 31-10 lead in the third quarter, two costly fumbles — including a scoop and score, kept the Eagles in the game until the final minute. BC ended up outgaining Florida State 457 to 340 in yards in the 31-29 loss. The Seminoles dropped a spot in the power rankings. There will be plenty for the Seminoles to clean up before a huge ACC showdown next week at Clemson. — Andrea Adelson

Up next: at Clemson (noon ET, ABC)


Having played in Week 0, the Trojans got an early bye week before they head to Arizona State for their first road game of the season and the start of the true test of their schedule. The Sun Devils could present a trap game of sorts for USC, but even if Lincoln Riley’s team steps over ASU with ease, what awaits them is a daunting set of matchups against Colorado, Utah, Notre Dame, Washington and Oregon. The first three games of the season showed USC has one of the best offenses in the nation and improved defense. The rest of the season will show if that will be enough to take them to the playoff and beyond. — Paolo Uggetti

Up next: at Arizona State (9:30 p.m. ET)


Texas has a history of showing up for big games, then suffering letdowns. When Wyoming tied the Longhorns after a 17-play, 10-minute field goal drive in the third quarter, it looked like another lull was well underway. Instead, Texas responded brilliantly. Xavier Worthy scored on a 44-yard catch-and-run, kick-starting a 21-0 run over four minutes early in the fourth quarter, and the Horns cruised 31-10. Quinn Ewers had a quiet day (11-for-21 for 131 yards and two scores), but Jonathon Brooks rushed for 164 yards on 21 carries, and despite a major time-of-possession disadvantage — Wyoming had the ball for 38:47 — this one ended up comfortable. It’s on to Big 12 play for the Horns. — Bill Connelly

Up next: at Baylor (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)


The Buckeyes are still a bit of a mystery as they gear up for a Week 4 clash at Notre Dame, but they should feel better about their offense and quarterback Kyle McCord after a 63-point performance against Western Kentucky. McCord, officially named the starter on Tuesday, completed 19 of 23 pass attempts for 318 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, finding Marvin Harrison Jr. for a 75-yard score. Ohio State’s 35-point second quarter marked its highest since 2019 and its second-highest in the past 20 seasons. “We needed to take the next step,” coach Ryan Day said of his offense. The defense overcame a leaky first half to shut out Austin Reed and Western Kentucky in the final 30 minutes and hold the Hilltoppers to 284 total yards. Linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers led the defense, but Ohio State still needs much more from a talent-stocked line going forward, beginning next week against Sam Hartman and the Irish. — Rittenberg

Up next: at Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)


Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. played just three quarters against Michigan State and threw for 473 yards, five touchdowns and completed 77% of his passes. Everything seemed to work on offense for Washington and Penix, who became the first quarterback in Washington history to throw for 400 yards and three or more touchdowns in the first three games of the season. While the Huskies’ offense racked up 713 total yards, the defense did its part, holding MSU to 53 rushing yards and making it difficult for the Spartans to do much of anything the entire game. — Tom VanHaaren

Up next: vs. Cal (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)


Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Penn State and Illinois did not take this game to nine overtimes the way they did in 2021. The Nittany Lions beat the Illini 30-17 in what Penn State coach James Franklin called, “a pretty Big Ten win on the road.” Quarterback Drew Allar threw for 208 yards, but did not have a touchdown pass. His running backs came through, with Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton both finding the end zone. The Nittany Lions defense had four interceptions by four different players. — VanHaaren

Up next: vs. Iowa (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


The Irish head into their massive home showdown against Ohio State at 4-0, although some corrections need to be made after a choppy first half against Central Michigan. Quarterback Sam Hartman added three more touchdown passes to his season total (13), including a 76-yarder to Chris Tyree and a 75-yarder to Tobias Merriweather, and eclipsed 300 passing yards for the first time in a Fighting Irish uniform. But tackling issues and penalties in the first half allowed CMU to hang around for a while, and Hartman took a few more hits than Notre Dame would like with such a talented offensive line. But running back Audric Estime continued his strong season with 176 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and four players had 60 receiving yards or more. For the first time since 1900, Notre Dame scored 40 or more points in its first four games to open a season. — Rittenberg

Up next: vs. Ohio State (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)


On his way to completing 13 of his 21 passes on the afternoon, Nate Johnson accumulated 264 total yards (193 passing) and two touchdowns (one rushing) as Utah cruised to a 31-7 win against Weber State. Pac-12 play begins next week for the two-time defending conference champs, who face UCLA and Oregon State the next two weeks. Led by a rushing offense that churned out 231 yards, Utah controlled the clock in holding a 40:05 to 19:55 advantage in time of possession and had a season-high 424 total yards. The Utes’ defense held the Wildcats to 127 total yards (100 in the first half), with linebacker Lander Barton‘s 23-yard interception return for a score highlighting a stingy performance for defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley’s unit. — Blake Baumgartner

Up next: vs. UCLA (3:30 p.m. ET)


After battling for a close win against Texas Tech last week away from home, the Ducks welcomed Hawai’i to Eugene and seemed to get back on track in every facet of the game as they blew out the Rainbow Warriors 55-10. Bo Nix led the way throwing for 247 yards and three touchdowns with only six incompletions, and the Ducks’ running game provided balance with 201 yards. Oregon’s defense, meanwhile, held Hawai’i to 59 rushing yards and only 201 total yards of offense. It was a complete performance for a team that needed it as they welcome a surging Colorado team to Autzen Stadium. — Uggetti

Up next: vs. Colorado (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)


Oregon State used its running game to pull away from San Diego State 26-9 in its last tune-up before its Pac-12 opener next week at Washington State. Damien Martinez ran 15 times for 102 yards to spearhead a ground game that saw quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and offensive lineman Joshua Gray tally rushing scores. Uiagalelei had an uneven day passing, completing 14 of his 30 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but Oregon State did put up a season-high 475 total yards. Atticus Sappington helped the Beavers’ offense settle into the game early by converting on a pair of field goals. Defensively, linebacker Andrew Chatfield recorded two of Oregon State’s six sacks as the defense made the Aztecs’ offense one-dimensional in limiting them to 70 rushing yards (23 in the first half). — Baumgartner

Up next: at Washington State (7 p.m. ET)


Maybe the Tigers will look back on the second half against Florida State as a blip on the radar. Maybe not. But the last two weeks — first beating Grambling and then opening up SEC play with a win at Mississippi State — they have looked more like the playoff contender we expected entering the season. The offense has been sharp, starting with quarterback Jayden Daniels. Against the Bulldogs, he started out a perfect 13-for-13 passing. And most importantly, he was decisive and willing to take shots downfield, throwing touchdowns of 26 and 33 yards to Malik Nabers. Up next is a home game against Arkansas and a chance to make up for one of the worst offensive performances of last season when the Tigers barely won with one touchdown, two field goals and less than 300 total yards. — Scarborough

Up next: vs. Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)


If USF was supposed to be the game where Alabama figured out who its starting quarterback would be this season, the answer wasn’t readily apparent in a closer-than-expected win in which the offense looked inept. Tyler Buchner, the Notre Dame transfer, got the start and was underwhelming, completing just 5 of 14 passes for 34 yards and no touchdowns before he was pulled. Ty Simpson, Buchner’s replacement, wasn’t convincing either. When Simpson wasn’t getting sacked, he completed 5 of 9 passes for 73 yards. His only touchdown was a 1-yard run at the end of the game. Oddly enough, the best runner of the bunch, Jalen Milroe, didn’t get a single snap despite starting the first two games. So who knows what happens next? Maybe Saturday’s SEC opener against Ole Miss will be freshman Dylan Lonergan‘s turn. Maybe it’s a rotation until someone separates themselves. But through three games, there’s no clear frontrunner. — Scarborough

Up next: vs. Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


For the second time in three games, Oklahoma topped 60 points, walloping Tulsa 66-17. Playing on the road for the first time in 2023, Dillon Gabriel was very much at home, completing 28 of 31 passes — 90.3%, a school record for completion rate (minimum 25 passes) — for 421 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. OU led 28-0 after one quarter and, not including a clock-killing drive at the end of the game, scored on nine of 11 possessions. The defense suffered a couple of second-quarter miscues but recorded 15 tackles for loss, their most since 2019. The Sooners enter their final Big 12 campaign having won three non-conference games by a combined 167-28. That’ll do. — Connelly

Up next: at Cincinnati (noon ET)


In spite of being without leading receiver Tre Harris (knee injury) and top running back Quinshon Judkins being at less than 100% (upper back injury), the Ole Miss offense still managed to move the football well against Georgia Tech thanks in large part to the efforts of quarterback Jaxson Dart. Dart, who was up and down a week earlier against Tulane, carried the load in the running game, rushing for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He also completed 10 of 18 passes for 251 yards and a score. And the defense was solid, limiting the Yellowjackets to 23 points and less than 4 yards per carry. — Scarborough

Up next: at Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


A week after struggling to beat Appalachian State, the Tar Heels were in full control in a 31-13 win over Minnesota — capping a strong 3-0 start against a tough nonconference schedule (App St. + two P5 wins). Nate McCollum, playing healthy for the first time this season, had 15 catches for 165 yards and a score — showing why the Tar Heels signed him as a transfer from Georgia Tech. The 15 receptions are the second-highest total in school history. Drake Maye threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns, as North Carolina relied on their star quarterback because their run game was relatively ineffective (105 yards, 2.8 yards per carry). — Adelson

Up next: at Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET, ACC Network)


The Buffaloes escaped in college football’s most thrilling game of the young season, but despite the double-OT win against Colorado State, the performance raises concerns about how they will fare when the level of competition increases. Still, the character required to put together a comeback without Travis Hunter in the second half was impressive. QB Shedeur Sanders had a slow start, but was incredible down the stretch and completed 38 of 47 passes for for 348 yards with four touchdowns. — Kyle Bonagura

Up next: at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)


Jordan Waters‘ two first-half touchdowns and a running game that racked up 268 yards allowed Duke to take care of business against Northwestern. Quarterback Riley Leonard was on point from the jump, completing 15 of 20 passes for 219 yards while adding 97 yards and two scores on the ground. Jalon Calhoun (112 receiving yards) and Jordan Moore (56 receiving yards) each caught five passes as Leonard continued his early season magic in guiding the offense to 487 total yards. In two weeks, the Blue Devils welcome Notre Dame to Durham, North Carolina, and they’ll do so with tons of momentum. Mike Elko’s team held Northwestern to just 106 total yards in the first half as Duke seized control early. — Baumgartner

Up next: at UConn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)


The Hurricanes did what was expected in a 48-7 win over Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night. The starters dominated. Tyler Van Dyke threw for 247 yards and two scores, Xavier Restrepo had 120 yards receiving, and the team rushed for 240 yards. What had to make Miami fans happy: no letdown factor against an overmatched opponent. The Hurricanes were able to build off what they did against Texas A&M, and will be favored once again next week at Temple — their first road game of the season. — Adelson

Up next: at Temple (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)


The Vols hadn’t really been tested this season, and it showed Saturday in a 29-16 loss at Florida. They melted under the crowd noise of the Swamp and committed a sea of pre-snap penalties. Even more concerning for coach Josh Heupel and the Vols: They took a beating at the line of scrimmage. Florida running back Trevor Etienne had a career-high 172 rushing yards, and the Vols’ offensive line didn’t have a great night opening holes for its running game or protecting quarterback Joe Milton III. Like any quarterback, Milton is going to catch a lot of the blame. He made some mistakes, missed some throws and needs to be more consistent in the passing game. But the guys around him on offense need to play better, and Tennessee needs to prove it can play at a high level in a raucous environment. That’s three straight road losses going back to last season where the crowd clearly bothered Tennessee. — Chris Low

Up next: vs. UTSA (4 p.m. ET, SECN)


Cameron Ward and the Cougars displayed no signs of letting up after last week’s upset of Wisconsin. They weren’t caught looking ahead to Oregon State next week to start Pac-12 play, either. Ward completed his first 12 passes of the game, highlighted by touchdown passes to Kyle Williams and Lincoln Victor. Washington State put up touchdowns on each of its first six possessions of the game, a stretch that began with an 8-yard Ward touchdown run on the game’s opening possession. Ward ended his day 20-of-26 passing for 327 yards and four TDs, finding nine different receivers in the process. Victor hauled in six receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. All told, the Cougars scored touchdowns on nine of their 12 drives on the way to piling up 715 total yards in a thrashing of Northern Colorado. — Baumgartner

Up next: vs. Oregon State (7 p.m. ET)


Freshman Dante Moore started things off with a bang, throwing for a 67-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and following it up with two more touchdown drives in the first quarter. The Bruins were up 21-0 on NC State halfway through that first quarter, allowing Chip Kelly to finally do what he said he would do: play all three quarterbacks. Both Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and Ethan Garbers saw time under center for the Bruins in the 59-7 blowout, and while Schlee had two rushing touchdowns, including a 57-yarder, Moore still looked every bit the part of UCLA’s starter, throwing for 182 yards on only 12 attempts. Four UCLA backs ran for touchdowns while the Bruins’ defense didn’t allow a score until well into the fourth quarter. — Uggetti

Up next: at Utah (3:30 p.m. ET)


Coordinator Brian Ferentz’s offense finally reached the 25-point threshold as Iowa scored a total of 31 in the second and third quarters alone. Behind Leshon Williams (145 yards) and a 254-yard rushing attack, Iowa reached 40 points for the first time since 2021. But the team’s third win came at a cost, as star tight end Luke Lachey sustained a significant ankle injury and left the field on crutches. He had been Iowa’s only consistent receiving threat. Quarterback Cade McNamara had some shakiness for the second straight game, completing only 9 of 19 pass attempts with two interceptions and two touchdowns. Linebackers Nick Jackson and Jay Higgins led Iowa’s defense, which shut out Western Michigan in the second half. — Rittenberg

Up next: at Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


When your opponent has an enigmatic but cannon-legged kicker, don’t let the game come down to a last-second field goal. Kansas State learned this lesson the hard way. Will Howard threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, but the Wildcats allowed Missouri’s Brady Cook to top him — 356 yards, two scores — and fell 30-27 in Columbia when Harrison Mevis drilled a 61-yard field goal as time ran out. K-State seemingly took control of the game in the third quarter, turning a 17-14 halftime deficit into a 24-17 lead, but Luther Burden III‘s second touchdown reception gave Mizzou a lead, and after KSU tied the game with five minutes left, the table was set for Mevis’ heroics. The Wildcats lost a coin-toss game to Tulane in non-conference play last year, then moved on to win the Big 12, so they’ll probably respond well. But this one must sting a bit. — Connelly

Up next: vs. UCF (8 p.m. ET, FS1)



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