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Top takeaways from college football Week 3

A loaded slate of games Saturday led to the first big eruption of upsets around the nation, and college football Week 3 provided thrills in bunches.

Nebraska was stunned by Troy, Syracuse blew Florida State out of the water with a blowout win at home, Akron took down Northwestern, and BYU shocked the world beating Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium.

In addition to the big upsets, Week 3 was flush with crazy plays, including the craziest punt return for touchdown I’ve ever witnessed and a comedy of errors that proved to be the difference in the Vanderbilt-Notre Dame game.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look back to see what we learned in college football Week 3.

Darrell Henderson is one of the best running backs in the nation

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Memphis play much the past couple of years, then you’ve missed out on witnessing an artist perform. Tigers running back Darrell Henderson has been carving up opposing defenses with amazing performances.

Last weekend, he went off to the tune of 212 yards and three touchdowns against Navy. On Friday night at home against Georgia State, he was at it again with 233 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including this incredible 54-yard scamper that broke one poor guy’s ankles.

Through three games, Henderson has 521 yards and six touchdowns rushing, and he’s averaging a mind-boggling 14.5 yards per carry.

Kyler Murray emerges as Heisman front-runner as Sooners pass tough road test

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Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State gave the Oklahoma Sooners all they could handle on Saturday, but every time the Cyclones dished out a challenge, Kyler Murray responded. Displaying an ice-cold demeanor, he was once again nearly flawless through the air and dazzled with his feet.

The Sooners punted just twice in their payback game against Iowa State. Murray led seven scoring drives, keeping the chains moving while completing 21-of-29 passes for 348 yards with three touchdowns (including this amazing 75-yard strike to Hollywood Brown), and most importantly no interceptions. He added 77 yards on 15 carries as well.

On the season, Murray has completed 67 percent of his passes for 863 yards with 10 total touchdowns and just one interception. On top of that, he’s got Oklahoma looking like a playoff contender, which makes him a legitimate Heisman front-runner right now.

Penn State has some serious offensive firepower

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Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley was a special, invaluable player during his time at Penn State. But now that he’s gone, it’s clear the Nittany Lions aren’t lacking playmakers to fill the void.

On Saturday against Kent State, six different players either ran for or caught passes that went at least 20 yards, four of them went for at least 40 yards, and freshman receiver Daniel George made school history with a 95-yard reception for a touchdown.

Oh, and Trace McSorley casually scored five touchdowns in the 63-10 rout. Sure, it was Kent State, but this kind of firepower is still pretty rare.

Troy is no joke

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Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last year when Troy went into Tiger Stadium and took down LSU? That was a huge upset that proved to be a cherry on top of a 11-2 season for the Trojans. Well, they were at it once again on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, where they handed Scott Frost and Co. a second straight loss to open the season.

Riding a two-touchdown performance by running back B.J. Smith, a fantastic punt return touchdown by Cedarius Rookard, and a three-turnover performance by their defense, the Trojans pulled off the second huge upset in less than a calendar year.

Adding insult to injury, Nebraska literally paid them to do it — to the tune of $1.15 million. Maybe big-time programs will finally recognize that these Trojans are no cupcake.

Willie Taggart is already on the hot seat

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State isn’t going to fire Willie Taggart. The school is on the hook for far too much money, and three games is far too little a sample size to be thinking about moving on. With that being said, you have to believe that people in Tallahassee are starting to wonder if they didn’t make a huge mistake.

The Seminoles are 1-2 this year after being absolutely torched on Saturday by Syracuse. The offense is a jumbled-up mess, and it has scored exactly one touchdown in the past eight quarters of play.

Taggart is supposed to be an offensive-minded genius who was brought on to help Deondre Francois, Cam Akers and Co. become a formidable unit. So far, Florida State’s offense is about as impressive as a weeks-old chip you found under your couch cushion.

So, while there’s no chance Taggart is getting fired right now, he is absolutely on the hot seat. If things don’t start to change, and soon, his tenure at FSU will be brief.

What’s gotten into Kansas?

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One week after breaking the longest road losing streak in college football history, Kansas served up a can of you-know-what to Rutgers, blowing out the Scarlet Knights 55-14.

It was a pretty surprising result. Not so much that Kansas won, per se, but just how much of a dominating effort it was by the Jayhawks. Even head coach David Beaty was stunned by how the game turned out, saying, “I don’t really know, to be honest with you,” when asked what’s gotten into the team.

The offensive line and running game absolutely dominated, culminating with a 400-yard, four touchdown rushing effort. This may not be the norm for Kansas going forward, but the past couple of weeks have been a welcome change for the team and its fans.

Luck of the Irish won’t carry them through the rest of this season

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Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We can point to a couple of key moments in Saturday’s game against the Commodores that played a key role in Notre Dame staying undefeated. The first was an incredibly lucky development in which Vandy had two chances to score a touchdown but ultimately couldn’t secure the ball in the end zone, resulting in a touchback for Notre Dame.

The second was in the game’s final minutes, as the Fighting Irish shot themselves in the foot a couple times with costly penalties that kept Vanderbilt’s offense on the field. It wasn’t until Kalija Lipscomb failed to hang onto a catchable pass on fourth down late in the game that Notre Dame really had the victory in hand.

Brandon Wimbush was once again a problem, and the defense wasn’t sharp.

If we’re being honest, the Fighting Irish were lucky to win Saturday against Vanderbilt. That’s the second time in as many weeks that this statement is true, and it doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the season.

Joe Burrow gives LSU a fighting chance to make some playoff noise

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Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

It takes some serious stones to go into Jordan-Hare Stadium, overcome the noise that accompanies that monument to SEC football, and then stare down one of the best defenses in the nation.

That’s exactly what Joe Burrow did on Saturday as he guided the Tigers to a gutty 22-21 victory over the Auburn Tigers. It wasn’t always pretty — Burrow completed less than half his passes, after all — but he made big plays when his team needed them the most, including on the game-winning drive.

Burrow didn’t turn the ball over. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Jarrett Stidham, threw two costly interceptions — the first of which turned into seven points for LSU on the game’s opening drive.

The Tigers haven’t had a competent quarterback in years. Burrow has shown the past three games that he’s going to remain calm under pressure and take care of the football. On a team that features such a strong defense and running game, that’s a scary combination that should serve LSU well the rest of the way.

OK State wrangles huge early win over Boise State

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Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State Cowboys put together a tremendous all-around game Saturday against an impressive Boise State team to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien had a very strong day passing the ball but had little support up front. Oklahoma State’s defense clamped down in the trenches in a huge way, forcing four fumbles while holding their opponent to just 34 total yards on 31 carries.

On offense, the Cowboys executed extremely well, both on the ground and through the air. Taylor Cornelius scored three touchdowns total, running back Justice Hill went for 123 yards and a score, and receiver Tylan Wallace led all receivers with five catches for 105 yards.

It was a huge statement win for Mike Gundy and Co.

We see you, Alan Bowman 

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Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In just his second career start, Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman, a freshman, went off. Bowman threw for 605 yards and five touchdowns on 43-of-59 pass attempts. The yardage broke the Big 12 freshman record previously set by Patrick Mahomes, who’s currently balling out in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Crazy enough, the throw that broke that record ended up settling into the hands of Antoine Wesley, who broke the Texas Tech single-game receiving yards record on the same play.

The entire game was an offensive explosion, as Texas Tech and Houston combined for 1,067 yards and 112 points. Bowman was the star of the show, helping the Red Raiders romp to a 63-49 win.

Wisconsin didn’t trust Jonathan Taylor when it mattered most

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Saturday’s game, Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor had already lost fumbles in both of Wisconsin’s first two games. It’s a trend that’s carried over from last season, when he lost three fumbles in the team’s final five games.

We note this because on Saturday against BYU, Taylor was not the guy Wisconsin counted on to pound the rock in scoring range. He finished the game with no scores, and BYU held him to a very impressive 4.5 yards per carry — impressive because he averaged 6.8 yards per carry for his career entering Week 3.

While we understand not trusting Taylor in red-zone situations, it was stunning when the Badgers kept him on the sideline during their two-minute drill. Ultimately, he was not a factor in the key situations for his team, which stunningly lost to the Cougars, 24-21.

This isn’t a good look for a player many have thought had the edge to win the Heisman Trophy this year.

Stanford and Oregon stumbling into Week 4 showdown

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Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Two would-be contenders in the Pac-12, Stanford and Oregon, are gearing up for a critical Week 4 clash that could have everything to do with how things shake out atop the Pac-12 North in the long run. Both teams won in Week 3, but it’s safe to say neither was sharp going against some pretty uninspiring competition.

Justin Herbert made some of his signature huge throws in key moments but completed less than half his passes while turning the ball over twice against San Jose State.

K.J. Costello threw two picks of his own against UC Davis, which actually held an early lead as Stanford got off to a sluggish start in its 30-10 win.

Perhaps these sloppy performances were due to a lapse in concentration against easy opponents. Whatever the reason, they need to get cleaned up before next weekend when they take the field for a prime-time matchup next Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.

USC was overrated, and JT Daniels isn’t ready for the spotlight

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Based on the way USC played in its first two games, it was surprising to me that they entered Week 3 ranked No. 22 in the nation. Safe to say, after what transpired on Saturday night in Texas, nobody will be overrating this Trojans squad.

The Longhorns took USC behind the woodshed with a dominant second half, winning by the blowout score of 37-14. Along the way, USC’s offensive line completely fell apart, the special-teams unit went into the abyss, and freshman quarterback JT Daniels imploded.

Daniels hasn’t looked like a worthy starter for three weeks now. Including Saturday night’s debacle, he’s completed just 68-of-117 passes (58.1 percent) for 819 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. The Trojans look like a five- or six-loss team right now, and Daniels looks lost.

Alabama’s offense is astonishingly potent

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Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

It really just doesn’t seem fair right now what the Crimson Tide are doing. We all know that Alabama annually features the most stacked roster of talent the nation has to offer (minus, perhaps, the kicker position).

But at least in the past we could count on the ‘Bama offense to sometimes regress to a plodding machine which tended to give good teams a chance of hanging with this juggernaut.

That’s a thing of the past. The emergence of Tua Tagovailoa as the undisputed starter has supercharged Alabama’s offense. Saturday’s absolute demolition of Ole Miss was a clear example, as the Crimson Tide went up 49-7 at halftime (Ole Miss’ seven points coming on the game’s first play, no less) before cruising to a 62-7 victory.

It’s the first time in the Nick Saban era that Alabama has scored 50-plus points in three consecutive games.

That’s terrifying.

Ohio State is a darn juggernaut

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

TCU gave the Ohio State Buckeyes a real run for their money in the first half of play Saturday night in Arlington, Texas. The Horned Frogs went into halftime up by one point after Ohio State missed a field goal at the end of the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, Darius Anderson rushed for his second touchdown of the game to give TCU an eight-point lead, and seemingly, all the momentum.

Mind you, at this point in the game, Nick Bosa had already exited with an apparent groin injury. So, the Horned Frogs appeared to be on the verge of an upset.

Then Ohio State flipped a switch.

Dwayne Haskins found Parris Campbell for a 63-yard touchdown. A few plays later, big defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones adeptly picked off a shovel pass and romped 28 yards for a touchdown — the second defensive touchdown of the game for Ohio State.

While TCU did bounce back with a nice score afterward, Jones’ touchdown was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Buckeyes controlled the rest of the game and won handily, 40-28, over a very good Horned Frogs squad.

The important things to note here are that they did this without Bosa, in what was for all intents and purposes a road game that seemed to be slipping away from them. And they did it with interim head coach Ryan Day manning the helm.

The Buckeyes are going to be difficult for any team to stop this year. Period.

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Friday, 14 December 2018