Week 3 is in the books, meaning we have unofficially completed the first quarter of the 2013 college football season. Let’s take a look back and see what transpired over the first three weeks.
Watch Out for the Little Guy
It happens every year: teams load up their non-conference schedule with cream-puff teams in order to get a few easy wins and get a step closer to bowl eligibility. These teams are just supposed to take their check, suffer a humiliating defeat, and then go on their way.
This year, somebody forgot to mention the “loss” part to the FCS.
The little guys have had enough, and they have sure showed it. In the first week of the season, eight FCS teams pulled off upsets. Some weren’t surprising–Georgia State and South Alabama are both transitioning to the FBS and are basically still at the level of FCS teams–but most were downright shocking.
Sure, North Dakota State is the defending FCS champion and a powerhouse at that level, but Kansas State is the defending Big 12 champion and was a game away from playing for a national title last year. Oregon State had a tremendous year last year and started the year ranked in the top 25, yet the Beavers fell to Eastern Washington and became just the fourth ranked team to lose to a lower-level opponent. San Diego State was a dark horse Mountain West contender but fell handily to Eastern Illinois.
The most surprising results were definitely UConn and South Florida. It wasn’t just that both teams lost at home, it’s that they got blown out. Towson ran all over UConn in an easy 33-18 victory while McNeese State was up 33-7 over South Florida at halftime en route to a 53-21 win.
The upsets have continued as Maine knocked off UMass while Fordham took down Temple on a last-second Hail Mary this past weekend.
Game of the Millennium
Rarely has the most-anticipated game of the year been played so early in the season, but that was indeed the case as #1 Alabama and #6 Texas A&M squared off Saturday afternoon in College Station. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Aggies handed Alabama its only loss last year.
Both teams came into the year harboring SEC and national championship aspirations, and the winner of Saturday’s colossal showdown figured to have the inside track in the SEC West. Manziel and the Aggies raced out to a 14-0 lead, but AJ McCarron brought the Tide back and shredded A&M’s defense as the Crimson Tide scored 35 unanswered points. Alabama’s Heisman contender was a sterling 20-of-29 for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions.
The game figured to be over at that point, but Manziel reminded everyone why he’s the reigning Heisman winner. He went 28-of-39 for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns with 2 interceptions–including a costly pick-six–and tacked on 98 rushing yards. His favorite target was Mike Evans, who finished with an absurd stat line: 279 yards and a touchdown on only 7 receptions for an otherworldly 39.9 yards per catch. Manziel twice got A&M within a touchdown at 35-28 and 49-42, but the Aggies ran out of time.
There is no truth to the rumor that missing persons reports were filed with College Station PD for both defenses after nobody saw them at all on Saturday. The Crimson Tide ran all over the Aggies, racking up 568 yards of total offense, including 234 on the ground. Alabama’s vaunted defense was torched, giving up a school-record 628 yards of offense to Texas A&M. Those questions about whether A&M’s spread attack would work in the SEC?
Yeah, they’ve been answered.
Rise of the Pac-12
The first three weeks have made one thing abundantly clear: the Pac-12 is good and deep this year. The league is clearly the strongest league outside of the SEC and the one most likely to de-throne the champs. Oregon has boat-raced everyone it’s faced thus far, including a 59-14 shellacking of Tennessee last weekend.
ACC Flexing Its Muscles
For the past few years, the former Big East and the ACC have been derided as the weakest of the BCS conferences. The leagues continuously failed to produce legitimate national title contenders and generally performed poorly in marquee contests against other conferences.
The ACC is keen to change that perception and is doing well thus far this year. The league’s top two teams, Clemson and Florida State, are both undefeated and ranked in the top ten. Clemson is currently ranked third and opened the season with a win over SEC power Georgia while Florida State is rolling behind quarterback Jameis Winston.
Miami appears to be back on the right track after a downturn in recent seasons as the Hurricanes defeated another SEC titan in in-state rival Florida.
Unlike the ACC, the AAC has not done much to improve its perception. Louisville has lived up to its billing, but a weak schedule stands to keep Louisville from climbing much higher.
Aside from the Cardinals, the rest of the conference hasn’t done its part. Cincinnati, generally considered the league’s second-best program, got crushed by woeful Illinois 45-17 in week 2. Rutgers lost to Fresno State of the Mountain West on opening night. South Florida and UConn suffered the aforementioned horrible losses to FCS opponents, and the Bulls followed that up with a loss to Florida Atlantic. Temple also lost to an FCS foe.
With most conferences having adopted a nine-game schedule, that means that conference play begins in earnest this week. The matchups will get better, and we’ll start to get a better idea of who the contenders are and who is just pretending.