Week 3’s biggest games lived up to the hype, and yet no team in the top 10 lost.
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide looked mortal in their trip to the Swamp as the Florida Gators pushed them all the way to the final seconds, but the defending champion — and reigning juggernaut — of college football once again proved why it has that status.
Auburn made the SEC’s first visit to a Big Ten campus in 90 years but couldn’t earn the conference a win as the Penn State Nittany Lions defended their turf in front of a stadium full of fans clad in white. The victory shot the Nittany Lions up the Power Rankings as the biggest mover of the week.
Both Clemson and Ohio State got all they could handle from unranked opponents but held on to win late, while Georgia and Oregon rolled in expected wins.
The Power Rankings might not have shifted much near the top, but the second half of the rankings saw lots of change following a few upsets and close calls. Michigan State and Kansas State climb into the rankings following 3-0 starts to the season while Miami and Kentucky fall out of the ranks after poor performances on Saturday.
With the action of Week 3 in the rearview, it’s time to take a look at college football’s Power Rankings.
It wasn’t pretty near the end, but Alabama did what it had to in order to get out of the Swamp alive. The Crimson Tide beat Florida 31-29 in a nail-biter of a game that exposed some of the Tide’s flaws, whether it was a porous defense, a lackluster offensive line or undisciplined play that resulted in far too many penalties. Perhaps most troubling was the front seven, which wore down in the second half and struggled to stop the run. With Ole Miss’ high-tempo attack coming to Tuscaloosa in two weeks, coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding have a lot of work to do. — Alex Scarborough
South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Georgia Bulldogs: Full Highlights
A week ago, it was Stetson Bennett tying a school record with five touchdown passes in a 56-7 rout of UAB. On Saturday, it was JT Daniels‘ time, as the Dawgs’ starting quarterback returned to the lineup and passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns to lead Georgia to a 40-13 romp over South Carolina. Bennett did make an appearance late in the first quarter (after Daniels had thrown a touchdown pass on the previous possession) and was intercepted. It was Daniels’ show from there, along with a menacing Georgia defense, as the Dawgs won their SEC opener with ease. — Chris Low
When Iowa’s offense shows up, the Hawkeyes are a playoff contender. They gained 440 yards and put up 30 points on Kent State, and that was more than enough for an Iowa defense that sacked Golden Flashes quarterback Dustin Crum seven times (Lukas Van Ness and Joe Evans led the way with two each). With Iowa up 16-7 in the third quarter, Riley Moss recovered a Bryan Bradford fumble in the Iowa end zone. That was the last time KSU threatened. Tyler Goodson rushed for 153 yards, and with one touchdown in each quarter, Iowa cruised. — Bill Connelly
It took some time for the Ducks to pull away from Stony Brook, but they’ll happily take a 48-7 win to wrap up the nonconference schedule undefeated. Starting QB Anthony Brown completed 14 of 18 passes for 159 yards with a TD before coach Mario Cristobal was able to get important game reps for both Ty Thompson (6-for-9, 82 yards, 2 TDs) and Jay Butterfield (2-for-3, 22 yards). After giving up a 75-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter, the Oregon defense settled down and allowed just 169 yards the rest of the way. — Kyle Bonagura
Few teams have been tested through the first three games more than the Nittany Lions, who own one-score wins over both Wisconsin (road) and Auburn (home). Quarterback Sean Clifford had only four incomplete passes on 32 attempts and repeatedly found electric wide receiver Jahan Dotson, the best player on the field against Auburn (78 receiving yards and a touchdown, 22-yard pass, 16-yard punt return). PSU’s defense struggled at times with Tank Bigsby and the Auburn run game, but Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie continued to spark the unit with five tackles and three quarterback hurries. — Adam Rittenberg
Cincinnati couldn’t get anything going offensively in the first half against Indiana. The Hoosiers’ defense frustrated quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was only 10-of-19 for 94 yards and one interception. A targeting penalty on Indiana gave the Bearcats a little momentum late in the first half, and Cincinnati was able to cut the score to 14-7 going into the break. That seemed to spark some momentum as Cincinnati scored 28 points in the second half to seal the victory. It wasn’t pretty, but Cincinnati stayed undefeated after beating a good Big Ten team 38-24 on the road. — Tom VanHaaren
Bryce Young tosses three first-quarter touchdowns, but Florida rallies only to be stopped in the fourth quarter on a failed two-point conversion.
The Aggies had a convincing 34-0 win over New Mexico and saw the defense keep the Lobos in check all game. New Mexico finished the game with 122 total yards on offense and no touchdowns. That included only 33 passing yards from New Mexico quarterback Terry Wilson. Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada threw for 275 yards and had three touchdowns. Running back Isaiah Spiller went over the 100-yard mark and had a rushing touchdown as well. This was a good bounce-back game for the Aggies after an underwhelming 10-7 win over Colorado the previous week. — VanHaaren
It wasn’t exactly the Game of the Century, but the Sooners showed a little defensive muscle when the offense wasn’t quite sharp, as Lincoln Riley put it. There was also an incredible play-of-the-year-worthy interception by D.J. Graham of Adrian Martinez that stopped a Nebraska drive at the 3. The Sooners had 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks and held Martinez to 34 yards on 17 carries, about 50 yards below his 2021 rushing average. They held the Huskers to just 95 yards rushing overall. Spencer Rattler didn’t provide many explosive plays, but Riley said he was “learning to win” and was pleased with how he controlled the game in the 23-16 win. — Dave Wilson
When it came down to it, Florida was a missed extra point away from taking Alabama into overtime. While that might be oversimplifying what happened, it is also true that not many expected the Gators to give the Tide a fight — especially after trailing 21-3 early in the game. But Florida gashed Alabama on the ground, rushing for 258 yards and four touchdowns to slowly chip away at the lead and put itself in position to try to tie with a 2-point attempt. Though the Gators ultimately lost 31-29, coach Dan Mullen said afterward that this is a game they can build off, with the ultimate goal to see Alabama again in Atlanta in the SEC championship game. — Andrea Adelson
It took much longer than expected, because of a nearly two-hour weather delay and the simple fact that this wasn’t supposed to be much of a game at all, but Clemson eventually survived a stiff, frustrating test from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets actually outgained the Tigers 309-285 and held an already spotty Clemson offense to just 4.3 yards per play. But the Clemson defense made a late goal-line stand — James Skalski stuffed a shuffle pass to Dylan Deveney on fourth-and-goal — and made one final stop following a safety. This could have been a disaster in about 17 different ways, but Clemson held on in the least impressive possible fashion. — Connelly
Quarterback Matt Corral joined exclusive company at Ole Miss on Saturday night in the Rebels’ 61-21 demolition of Tulane, and that company, believe it or not, didn’t include any of the Mannings. Corral accounted for seven touchdowns by the midway point of the third quarter, matching Arnold “Showboat” Boykin’s school record for total touchdowns in a game, which was set in 1951. Corral had four touchdown runs in the game and also threw three touchdown passes. Four of those touchdowns came in the first half as Ole Miss built a 40-21 lead at the break. The start of the game was delayed by nearly two hours because of lightning. — Low
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly knew his team would have growing pains early this season, especially because of a rebuilt offensive line that already is dealing with injuries. So he doesn’t seem too concerned about his offense’s inconsistency during a 3-0 start. The Irish averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, and quarterback Jack Coan was sacked four times against the Purdue Boilermakers in a 27-14 win. The Irish were starting their third-team left tackle, Tosh Baker, after Blake Fisher (knee) and Michael Carmody (ankle) went down with injuries in the first two games. The Irish won’t have much time to get better with next week’s game against No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in Chicago coming fast. — Mark Schlabach
This game, surprisingly, went late into the fourth quarter before Ohio State was able to put it away. The Buckeyes were up by only seven against Tulsa in the fourth quarter until Garrett Wilson caught a touchdown pass to put the Buckeyes up 14. This game was too close for comfort and was full of mistakes for Ohio State. One bright spot was true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson, who broke a school single-game rushing record for a freshman running back, rushing for over 270 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-20 win. Ohio State came away with the win, but there’s a lot to clean up. — VanHaaren
The Cyclones collected their winnings early and left Las Vegas with an easy 48-3 victory against overmatched UNLV. Iowa State allowed just 121 total yards in a game that served as a good bounce-back opportunity from last week’s deflating loss to Iowa. Quarterback Brock Purdy completed 21 of 24 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, while Breece Hall ran for 100 yards on 21 carries. — Bonagura
Ranked for the first time since 2016, the Razorbacks assured they would stay in the polls for another week, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead on Georgia Southern and cruising, 45-10. The Hogs nearly tripled the Eagles’ yardage (633-233), and KJ Jefferson made the most of his 23 passes, completing 13 for 366 yards and three scores, including third-quarter strikes of 60 yards to Warren Thompson and 91 to Treylon Burks. This one was as easy as it was supposed to be, and now the focus moves to a huge Week 4 battle with Texas A&M. — Connelly
The Chanticleers escaped what will be one of their most difficult road trips of the season, and earned the program’s first win against a school from the Mid-American Conference. Coastal Carolina, which entered the game averaging 50.5 points, still racked up 456 total yards, but had a difficult time distancing themselves from the Buffalo Bulls. They were tied at 14 at the half, and a 28-17 lead was fleeting. Buffalo used a 16-play, 92-yard scoring drive to close the gap to 28-25 with 2:41 remaining, but the Chanticleers’ strong running game was the difference. Shermari Jones averaged 9.3 yards per carry (16 carries, 149 yards) for Coastal. — Heather Dinich
The Wolverines defense was stifling against Northern Illinois, only allowing 18 pass yards and 90 rush yards in the first half. Michigan led 35-3 after the first two quarters, and the offense looked much more balanced with quarterback Cade McNamara throwing 191 yards on eight completions in the first half. The Wolverines finished with 373 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns in the 63-10 win. The ground game has been impressive through the first three games with 1,076 rush yards on the season. — VanHaaren
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Indiana Hoosiers: Full Highlights
Life is good in Provo. Coming off last year’s 11-1 season, the Cougars have secured membership in the Big 12 and started the year with three straight wins against Pac-12 teams. The Cougars never trailed in their 27-17 win against No. 19 Arizona State, as quarterback Jaren Hall completed 15 of 27 passes for 214 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. BYU will have a chance to make it 5-0 against the Pac-12 with games against Washington State and USC later in the year. — Bonagura
The good vibes from UCLA’s win against LSU two weeks ago didn’t last long. After not playing last week, UCLA returned to the Rose Bowl with a 40-37 loss to Fresno State. UCLA went ahead 37-33 with 54 seconds left. It didn’t hold up. Fresno State QB Jake Haener, limping badly from a hit on the previous drive, led the Bulldogs on a 6-play, 75-yard drive and won the game on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Cropper with 14 seconds left. It’s a disappointing loss for UCLA, but the Bruins are still probably the favorite in the Pac-12 South. — Bonagura
There were times that North Carolina looked like a nationally ranked team on Saturday night and times the Tar Heels looked a tad lost. But in the end, they had Sam Howell, and his five touchdown passes were enough for North Carolina to hold off previously unbeaten Virginia in a wild 59-39 win at home. Howell connected with four different players on scoring tosses, as North Carolina raced out to a 24-7 lead early in the second quarter, then stumbled into halftime trailing 28-24 before pulling away in the second half for its second consecutive blowout victory after losing the season opener to Virginia Tech. — Low
The Spartans put on a show on the road against a ranked opponent in Miami to get its third win of the season. It’s the first time since 2015 that Michigan State has won its first three games of the season, and they did it in convincing fashion against the Hurricanes. Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne threw for four touchdowns. He is the first Spartans quarterback to throw four touchdowns in consecutive games since 2015 when Connor Cook did it. The defense gave up over 300 passing yards to Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story of how well the defense played. Two interceptions helped the Spartans defense keep Miami to only 17 points in the win. — VanHaaren
The Badgers enjoyed an early open week before another measuring-stick game against Notre Dame in Chicago. Wisconsin’s passing game remains atop its priority list as the Badgers are averaging only 175.5 air yards per game without a passing touchdown in two contests. A defense that once again looks nationally elite won’t be enough if Wisconsin can’t become more efficient on third down (36.4% conversions) or in the red zone (four touchdowns on 10 chances). The Badgers defense is set to get a boost with the return of linebacker Leo Chenal, who missed the first two games after testing positive for COVID-19. — Rittenberg
Bryan Harsin’s team handled the White Out and a raucous atmosphere at Beaver Stadium reasonably well, but the step up in competition against Penn State proved to be too much. The Tigers defense struggled to apply pressure or stop Penn State’s wide receivers and tight ends. While quarterback Bo Nix executed some nice back-shoulder throws, he couldn’t rally his team in the end, as an odd fade pass call on fourth-and-goal sailed incomplete. Tank Bigsby (102 rushing yards, two touchdowns) will be a problem in SEC play, but Auburn still needs to commit to him more at times. — Rittenberg
Arizona State showed it’s still not ready to be a banner program in the Pac-12 in a 27-17 loss to BYU. Not that others in the conference are doing much better, of course. A win against BYU could have been a pivotal moment for ASU. Instead, the Sun Devils committed 16 penalties for 121 yards and turned the ball over four times. They fell behind early and couldn’t erase a 14-point halftime deficit. — Bonagura
Kansas State moved to 3-0 with a convincing 38-17 win over Nevada. The Wildcats and Wolfpack were tied at 17 after three quarters, but the Kansas State rushing attack started to roll in the fourth quarter. Three rushing touchdowns followed, and the Wildcats defense shutout Nevada for a comfortable victory. Not only is Kansas State out to an undefeated start, but the opening week win over Stanford is looking better and better. — Shea Carlson