After further review: Week 3
Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and once again the results from the weekend prove that one should never judge a book by its cover. The "weak" slate of action ended up producing its share of drama, shaking up the Top 25 rankings a bit.
Plenty of storylines played out across the country by the end of Saturday evening. Here are my biggest takeways from the weekend's action.
• The Gamecocks are still alive. Steve Spurrier and South Carolina defeated Georgia 38-35 in what was simply a must-win game for the Gamecocks because a loss would have meant that the Bulldogs would have needed to lose three times in order for the Gamecocks to pass them in the SEC East standings. South Carolina still has plenty of work to do to shore up its defense, but the Head Ball Coach has to feel good about sitting at 2-1 after a brutal opening part of the schedule that included games against Texas A&M, East Carolina and Georgia — three offenses that are just absolutely loaded. And Lorenzo Ward's unit stiffened when it mattered most. The 'Dawgs were primed to take the lead late in the game after Damian Swann’s interception with just over 5:00 to play. Mark Richt's squad had first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, were moved back to the 14 after an intentional grounding, and the usually steady Marshall Morgan (he had set an SEC record with his 20th consecutive made field goal) missed a 28-yard attempt wide right. Why didn't offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and the 'Dawgs just try to pound it in the end zone with Todd Gurley, who is arguably the best player in the country? Then, with 1:26 left in the game, the Gamecocks faced fourth and inches near midfield. A first down would ice the game, and that's exactly what quarterback Dylan Thompson delivered after officials placed the ball forward barely enough for Gamecocks to retain possession. Thus, Georgia suffered its third consecutive loss in Columbia, and new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will have to make some adjustments after his defense did not look like the unit that shut out Clemson in the second half of Week 1's big win. Of course, the last time Georgia lost in Columbia, its season ended up turning out pretty well. Two years ago the squad was smoked by the Gamecocks but still won the East and almost beat Alabama with a spot in the BCS title game on the line. Can the 'Dawgs remain in the race and still contend for a College Football Playoff spot?
ICONBob Stoops and the Sooners are dangerous.
• OU's defense is special. The Sooners beat Tennessee 34-10 in Norman on Saturday night, and if you're an Oklahoma fan you have to be really excited about the team's chances for a spot in the first College Football Playoff. Cornerback Julian Wilson's long interception return for a touchdown (one of two Sooner picks in the end zone) highlighted a defensive performance that could become the norm in Norman. Since coming back to the school, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has steadily transformed the unit into a more aggressive, determined bunch. The Vols couldn't run (take away the 74 yards that came on two fourth-quarter rushes by freshman running back Jalen Hurd, and the Vols only had 38 yards on 31 carries), and quarterback Justin Worley was pressured and harassed throughout the evening. The Sooners finished with five sacks and 12 tackles for loss as they looked like one of the more physical and fast defenses in the country. At Tennessee, there is no question that Butch Jones has the Vols headed in the right direction in Year Two of his tenure. They will be a tough 'out' week in and week out in the SEC, but they were no match for the Sooners this past weekend.
• ECU stomps out the Hokies' momentum. One week after Virginia Tech went to Columbus and upset Urban Meyer and Ohio State, the Hokies laid a big egg at home against East Carolina, which played South Carolina very tough the previous weekend. Pirates offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley put in an aggressive game plan that racked up 502 total yards against a Hokies defense that battered Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett the previous Saturday. The 28-21 final was not indicative of how dominant ECU was in the first half, when the Pirates used big plays to rack up 370 yards in the first two quarters. Mistakes by the Pirates cost them what should have been a overwhelming halftime lead over the Hokies. If I'm SMU athletic director Rick Hart, I'd be very interested in Riley for the vacancy created by the resignation of June Jones. I wouldn't care about the fact that he is only 31 years old. Youth sells, and the native Texan's coaching stock is certainly rising after his star QB Shane Carden threw for 427 yards, the third-most ever against a Hokies defense.
• USC falls victim to a trap game. The stat of the week — perhaps the stat of the year outside of Kenny Hill's passing yardage in Week 1 against South Carolina — has to be Boston College's 452 yards on the ground in its upset of USC on Saturday night. A week after beating Stanford in a physical Pac-12 tilt, USC looked slow and tired defensively as it allowed 310 more yards against the Eagles than its run defense had averaged through the season’s first two weeks. Depth was always going to be a concern this season for Steve Sarkisian's squad — not top-tier talent. It looks as if a lack of fresh bodies could be an issue during the physical grind of a full season as the Trojans work their way through the final year of scholarship issues. The saving grace for 'SC? It was a nonconference loss.
• According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley suffered a slight hyper extension of his left elbow but is expected to be fine by the end of the week. The Bruins were without the services of their star signal-caller for much of the team's game on Saturday against Texas. However, Jerry Neuheisel — son of former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel — was pressed into action and helped rally the Bruins. Was there anything better this weekend than Jerry Neuheisel getting carried off the field by his teammates after the win? Neuheisel completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns after Hundley was injured in the first quarter.
• Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson scored two defensive touchdowns in the team's win over Illinois and was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week. Expect the defender to continue to get carries here and there, and he'll have a legitimate chance to at least remain in the Heisman Trophy discussion as long as the Huskies are relevant in the Pac-12 race. Head coach Chris Petersen had said that Thompson caught the coaching staff's eye with a 57-yard touchdown run earlier this season and would "play it by ear" when considering Thompson in the offensive backfield.
• Speaking of Walter Camp, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was named the national offensive player of the week after the Mountaineers' signal-caller helped his team amass 694 yards on 108 plays in a wild win over Maryland. The senior passed for 511 yards as the WVU up-tempo attack looks dangerous once again one year after struggling at t he QB position and actually getting shut out by Maryland 37-0. What a difference a year makes, as Saturday's win was so huge for head coach Dana Holgorsen.
• Penn State may be winning ugly, but the Nittany Lions are sitting at 3-0 after their road win at Rutgers, which was playing its first Big Ten game. James Franklin's squad, which is now eligible for the postseason, has been able to remain unbeaten despite problems in the red zone. PSU is one of the most inefficient teams in the entire country in that area, which is something that needs to be fixed before getting into the meat of conference play. And while quarterback Christian Hackenberg has the tools to be an NFL first-round draft pick in the future, he still has a ton of development to go through in State College. And that's a scary thought because his talent is obvious.
• Mike London deserves a lot of praise for the job he is doing at Virginia this fall. Arguably occupying the hottest coaching seat in the country, London and the Cavaliers snapped their 11-game FBS losing streak with a win over Louisville just two weeks after they gave UCLA all it could handle. There is a good deal of talent on the defensive side of the ball for the Cavaliers, and they'll face a very good BYU quad on the road next. It's a very difficult early season slate, but it looks as though London has the Cavs stabilized a bit.
• It was another rough week for the Big Ten. The league suffered losses by Maryland, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue, so the conference is now 1-10 against teams from the Power Five leagues. That's not great news for Michigan State, which is the league's best chance to make the College Football Playoff with one loss.
• In three games, Fresno State has been outscored 166-59.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.