Winners and losers Week 3: Did two unexpected contenders emerge with big wins?

Yahoo Sports Staff

Oklahoma State and LSU weren’t on many people’s radars at the start of the 2018 season. The Tigers started the season ranked at No. 24 in the preseason AP poll while Oklahoma State was relegated to the others receiving votes category.

After what happened on Saturday, both 3-0 teams should be safely inside the top 15 when the latest poll is released on Sunday.

Let’s start with the No. 12 Tigers, who upset No. 7 Auburn 22-21 on the road Saturday afternoon. While Alabama has obliterated everyone its faced so far in 2018, LSU has been the most impressive team relative to preseason expectations through the first three weeks of the season.

Had LSU gotten blitzed by Auburn — something that has happened a lot at Auburn recently — then it would have been easy to think that LSU’s Week 1 performance against Miami was a mirage and spurred more by Miami’s poor play than LSU’s excellence.

While no one is arguing that Miami did anything well that Sunday night, maybe it’s because LSU really did overwhelm the Hurricanes. LSU picked off Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham twice on Saturday including on Stidham’s first pass of the game.

After Auburn jumped out to a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter, LSU tightened the screws on defense again. Auburn’s last five possessions went punt, interception, missed field goal (52 yards), punt and punt.

We figured the LSU defense would be good in 2018. The offense was a big question mark. It wasn’t exactly thrilling against an Auburn team able to get pressure at times, but it was good enough. Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow threw for 249 yards and led scoring drives on LSU’s last two possessions for the final nine points of the game.

Given Burrow was playing just his third game for the Tigers, there’s reason to think it can get better even if we’re not going to ever confuse LSU’s offense with Oklahoma’s.

That improvement will be necessary if LSU wants to compete with the likes of Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama. The Tigers play all three of those teams in a row starting on Oct. 13. But with three winnable games before that stretch begins, LSU could enter that game against Georgia at 6-0. If you said you saw that coming, your house is probably decorated in purple and gold.

The No. 24 Cowboys are 3-0 after an impressive win over No. 17 Boise State that included two blocked punts. Oklahoma State closed as just a two-point favorite over the Broncos, who demolished Troy in Week 1 and UConn at home in Week 2. Troy won at Nebraska early on Saturday.

Along with Central Florida, Boise State has been considered one of the two best teams outside of the Power Five conferences. The Broncos were no match for the Cowboys, especially up front. Boise State struggled to establish any sort of run game, forcing quarterback Brett Rypien to hoist 56 passes. Rypien completed 39 of them for three touchdowns and 380 yards, but those stats were about as empty as the calories from the M&Ms you ingested earlier in the week.

OSU running back Justice Hill had 15 carries for 123 yards and a score and QB Taylor Cornelius had three total touchdowns in his best performance as a starter. Cornelius is taking over for longtime starter Mason Rudolph and has had a rocky start to his QB1 career. Cornelius was 15-26 passing for 243 yards and a touchdown and completed passes to six different receivers.

He’s now thrown for 971 yards and seven touchdowns through three games. The Cowboys brought in grad transfer Dru Brown from Hawaii to compete for the starting job but Cornelius hasn’t given Mike Gundy any opportunity to think about taking a serious look at Brown.

Much like Burrow at LSU — but in a distinctly different offensive system — Cornelius doesn’t have to carry his team’s offense given the strength of the supporting cast around him. But the better he plays, the higher Oklahoma State’s ceiling is. And it’s pretty easy to see Oklahoma State getting through the next few weeks undefeated too.

The Cowboys host Texas Tech and play Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas before November begins. With the exception of a Longhorn team that demolished USC on Saturday night, that’s a list of teams who aren’t going to contend for the Big 12 title. Oklahoma State getting through the first two months of the season at 7-1 or even 8-0 is now something that seems entirely possible.

On to this week’s winners and losers.


BYU: BYU picked up the biggest upset of the season so far by going into Madison and beating No. 6 Wisconsin, 24-21. The BYU defense kept Wisconsin Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor in check while limiting the Badgers passing game to just 190 yards. BYU’s offense wasn’t spectacular, but Squally Canada’s 118 yards and two touchdowns led the way. Canada’s 46-yard run in the fourth quarter set up the game-winning field goal. It’s a big win for BYU after a disastrous 4-9 record in Kalani Sitake’s second season. The defense looks as tough as it did under Bronco Mendenhall. It’s only three games, but this 2-1 start is very encouraging.

Alan Bowman, QB, Texas Tech: Bowman, starting for the injured McLane Carter, put up a ridiculous statline in a 63-49 win over Houston on Saturday. Bowman, a true freshman, completed 43-of-59 passes for a whopping 605 yards and five touchdowns. Bowman’s 605 yards set a single-game Big 12 record for a freshman. His favorite target was Antoine Wesley. Wesley set a Texas Tech record with 261 receiving yards on 13 catches, including three touchdowns. TTU improved to 2-1 with the win.

Alabama: The Tide crushed Ole Miss 62-7 Saturday night. That’s a slacker of a game after last years’ 66-3 beatdown of the Rebels in Tuscaloosa a year ago. The passing game looks dynamic with Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy caught two touchdowns. Plus Alabama made an Ole Miss offense that’s looked like one of the best in the country play horribly. Ole Miss scored within the first 20 seconds of the game and never sniffed the end zone again. Jordan Ta’amu finished the game 7-22 passing.

North Texas: Through three weeks, North Texas, now 3-0 and averaging 49.3 points per game, looks like the best team in Conference USA. On a day where every Group of Five conference earned a win over the Power Five, the Mean Green was perhaps most impressive. UNT marched into Fayetteville and came away with a decisive 44-17 victory over SEC foe Arkansas, forcing six turnovers in the process. Mason Fine threw for 281 yards in the win, but the highlight was this trick punt return touchdown by Keegan Brewer.

Kansas: By beating Rutgers on Saturday, Kansas has now won back-to-back games for the first time since the 2011 season. Yes, really. The Jayhawks did it in emphatic fashion, too, with a 55-14 beatdown of the Scarlet Knights. In the win, Kansas put up 544 yards of offense — 400 of which came on the ground. Meanwhile, the defense forced six turnovers, including returning two interceptions for touchdowns.

Temple: Temple bounced back from a rocky 0-2 start (losses to Villanova and Buffalo) by going into College Park and beating Maryland on the road. And it wasn’t even close. The Owls dominated, 35-14. Our favorite play was the one-yard touchdown run by Freddie Booth-Lloyd. One-yard runs usually aren’t too noteworthy, unless it’s a 6-foot-1, 330-pound defensive lineman running the ball.

Just beautiful.

Penn State’s celebration: The touchdown celebration Penn State QB Trace McSorley does with tackle Ryan Bates is just tremendous. Who doesn’t love a good belly rub?

The new celebration from Trace McSorley and Ryan Bates is just a delight. (via FS1)
The new celebration from Trace McSorley and Ryan Bates is just a delight. (via FS1)


Northwestern: Akron. The Wildcats lost to Akron. Northwestern fell 39-34 to the Zips on Saturday night to drop to 1-2 on the season. It feels like months ago when Northwestern beat Purdue on the Thursday night of Week 1 to make us all wonder if the Wildcats had what it took to contend in the Big Ten West.

Now we’re wondering what the heck’s going wrong in Evanston after Northwestern blew a 21-6 halftime lead. It’s the first time Akron’s beaten a Big Ten team since 1894 when the school, then named Buchtel College, beat Ohio State. The Big Ten wasn’t even a thing at that time. And Akron’s coach was a guy by the name of John Heisman. He sounds familiar, doesn’t he?

Illinois: Oh, poor Illinois. Lovie Smith’s squad looked like it was on its way to a 3-0 start with an impressive win over South Florida. Instead, the Illini blew a 19-7 fourth quarter lead and lost 25-19. USF scored the winning touchdown, a 50-yard toss from Blake Barnett to Darnell Salomon, with 2:24 to go. To say Salomon was wide open would be an understatement.

Blake Barnett’s winning touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon (via BTN).
Blake Barnett’s winning touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon (via BTN).

Houston-Texas Tech refs: In the play below, Houston somehow was allowed to throw the ball twice on one play. For real. The initial throw wasn’t even close to a backward pass. How the Cougars got away with that, for a 31-yard gain nonetheless, is completely outrageous. The play set up a Houston touchdown, too. Texas Tech, however, went on to win.

Rutgers: We went over this in the Kansas portion of the post, but it can’t be overstated how poorly Rutgers played on Saturday. In a 55-14 loss to Kansas — Kansas! — the Scarlet Knights gave up 400 rushing yards on defense and committed six turnovers on offense, including two pick-sixes. Chris Ash now has a 7-19 record in his three seasons. Not great.

Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech went into Pittsburgh on Saturday and laid an egg. The Yellow Jackets did not muster a single point in the first half and eventually lost 24-19 to the Panthers, a team fresh off a 51-6 loss to Penn State. It was 21-0 at halftime and a score in the last minute of regulation made the final score look much closer than the game actually was. Some curious decision making by Paul Johnson did not help matters. He called for a fake punt from his own 28 in the first quarter and went for it on fourth down from the Pitt 23 in the second quarter. Both plays failed.

Oregon State: The Beavers’ rough season continued with a loss to Nevada. During the game, Boise State broke out the turnover chainsaw. It was only logical that the turnover chain would be followed by the turnover chainsaw imitator, right?

We’re not sure what to think about the chainsaw. On one hand, it makes sense given Oregon’s logging roots. On another, Beavers don’t need chainsaws. They don’t have the hands to operate them and they can just use their teeth for their dam-building needs.

A chainsaw on the sidelines also seems a little dangerous. Thankfully there doesn’t look to be an actual chain on it.

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