As always, the college football season offers a number of surprises, and after three weeks or 25 percent of the games played, we’re seeing some trends that may shape the remainder of the season. We’ll look at those trends here and what this may mean in the coming weeks.
SEC is the Best — Well, duh. As expected, the SEC is the conference to beat. After three weeks, Alabama and LSU are ranked 1-2, and four other teams are also in the top 25. The SEC will once again field a team to play for the national championship, perhaps even serving up both teams as they did last year. Everyone else can cry about it, but when your conference is so dominate, there isn’t much that can be said.
Notre Dame Rolls — Notre Dame is rolling, but not just on the gridiron. The university’s announcement last week that it would depart the Big East for the ACC will shake up college football. Although the Fighting Irish wasn’t a football playing school in the Big East, it played in other sports and won more than 100 conference titles since the mid-1990s. With its tough schedule, it will be hard for the Irish to run the table this year, but the possibility of winning at least 10 games is a strong one, something we haven’t seen in quite some time.
USC Tumbles — Some call it an upset, seeing that Andrew Luck no longer plays for the Stanford Cardinal. Given that the Trojans lost their fourth consecutive game in this series, that statement is not accurate. What the Cardinal showed us on Saturday is that the Trojans are a very good, but beatable team. We also saw that Matt Barkley’s Heisman Trophy quest may have gone up in flames as he threw two picks and completed just 20 passes for 254 yards and no touchdowns, well below heroic numbers.
Louisville Announces — The Big East Conference is a shell of its former self, but still has a few very good teams that can easily be overlooked. The Louisville Cardinals are ranked No. 19 and played championship-caliber football against the North Carolina Tarheels on Saturday, but only for the first half. It nearly lost a 36-7 halftime lead, winning 39-34. QB Teddy Bridgewater is himself a Heisman hopeful, and has completed 81 percent of his passes so far this season. A healthy Louisville team may run the table this year and take an Orange Bowl invite if it is snubbed for the BCS national championship game.
Game On — Several match ups this weekend will have enormous consequences, particularly for the losers. No. 18 Michigan travels to No. 11 Notre Dame, the Wolverines toughest test since an opening-day wipe out at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Notre Dame has much riding on this game and wants to demonstrate that it is for real. One week after pulverizing the Miami Hurricanes, No. 15 Kansas State had its hands full with North Texas, putting the game away in the 4th quarter. The Wildcats visit the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners, itself fresh off of a bye week. K-State is looking for respect, something they’ll get if they win on Saturday. Also of note is No. 10 Clemson at No. 4 Florida State and No. 22 Arizona traveling to No. 3 Oregon, with the home teams favored in each contest.
Among the surprises this season include Arkansas and Virginia Tech, a pair of teams that showed much promise before the season began. The Razorbacks looked positively listless in a 52-0 shellacking at the hands of Alabama on Saturday. Also, Va. Tech was supposed to dispatch a winless Pitt, but the Panthers woke up and mauled the Hokies, 35-17. Pitt shook off its early season pathetic play and dominated Tech, which now looks like a mere pretender for the ACC crown.