2023 College Football: Week Three Winners and Losers
Posted: 2023-09-17

Per Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY: The impossible can happen on any college football Saturday, even one without any matchups of teams in the US LBM Coaches Poll and as many games between Power Five and Championship Subdivision opponents as there were non-conference games between two teams from the Power Five.

There was even a window of time when the impossible seemed, well, possible: South Carolina led No. 1 Georgia 14-3 at halftime and had the two-time defending national champions on the ropes.

What Kirby Smart told the Bulldogs in the locker room is between Smart and the Bulldogs, though the language probably veered into the TV-MA territory. The message was delivered, and it was received. Georgia held the Gamecocks scoreless in the second half and won 24-14 behind 269 yards on 7.7 yards per throw from Carson Beck and 118 rushing yards from Daijun Edwards.

The Bulldogs will have games like this — even last year's juggernaut had to overcome a pair of double-digit deficits, including in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Ohio State. And after easing into the season against Tennessee-Martin and Ball State, Georgia had to combat a different level of talent and athleticism, and needed two quarters to get back up to speed.

Crisis averted. Winning streak intact. The Bulldogs will stay atop the Top 25 and continue a march toward college football immortality in an effort to become the first program to threepeat in the modern era.


There was never a realistic scenario that saw Billy Napier fall into danger of being the latest Florida coach to be jettisoned ahead of schedule despite last year's losing record and this season's uneven start. But you can't overstate the importance of a 29-16 win against No. 9 Tennessee in terms of breathing fresh life into Napier's tenure and providing a glimpse into his end goal: a physical team looking to run at and through opponents to take pressure off quarterback Graham Mertz. The Gators mostly did just that, racking up 191 rushing yards on 42 carries with three scores while Mertz completed 19 of 24 throws for 166 yards without an interception. The offense sputtered in the second half, so this is obviously not a finished product. But this is an overall performance Florida can build on during a four-game stretch against Charlotte, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina before facing Georgia on the final Saturday of October.


The hottest story in college football keeps delivering in front of a captive national audience. Down 28-20 with under two minutes left and 98 yards from the end zone, No. 21 Colorado tied the game with 32 seconds left and then beat rival Colorado State 43-35 in overtime to avoid a possibly deflating loss before meeting No. 13 Oregon and No. 5 Southern California to start Pac-12 play. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw 348 yards and four touchdowns despite playing much of the game without Travis Hunter, who was injured in the first half after taking a late hit on the sideline. (Late hits and personal fouls were kind of the Rams' thing.) The win will definitely keep Colorado on the national radar heading into next weekend's matchup against the Ducks, but the close call revealed flaws some of the best teams in the Pac-12 will be able to exploit.


Two weeks after losing handily to No. 3 Florida State in the season opener, No. 14 LSU provided an impressive response with a dominant 41-14 win against Mississippi State. Jayden Daniels completed 30 of 34 attempts for 361 yards and four total touchdowns, with most of the damage going to wide receiver Malik Nabers, who erupted for 13 catches for 239 yards and both scores. Defensively, the Tigers limited Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers to just 11 completions in 28 attempts for 103 yards and gave up just 94 rushing yards, 52 yards coming on one play. This was the sort of well-rounded performance that speaks to the Tigers' ability to repeat atop the SEC West and contend for the playoff.


An unbelievable, make-your-blood-boil delay of game penalty with seconds left seemed to doom Missouri's chances of beating No. 15 Kansas State in regulation and, should the Tigers lost in extra frames, might've placed coach Eli Drinkwitz under an white-hot spotlight even before the start of SEC play. But the kicker saved the day: Harrison Mevis — the 245-pound senior known as the "Thicker Kicker" — drilled an SEC-record 61-yard field goal with room to spare to lift Missouri to the 30-27 win. Just like Drinkwitz drew it up, right? The win moves Missouri to 3-0 with Memphis and Vanderbilt next on the schedule, leaving the Tigers in range of a spot in the Top 25 before hosting LSU on Oct. 7.

Ohio State

The offense has stirred to life. No. 4 Ohio State scored 35 points in the second quarter and beat Western Kentucky 63-10, racking up 562 yards of offense with 9.4 yards per play against one of the better teams in the Group of Five. After a few sluggish weeks to start the season amid the loss of star quarterback C.J. Stroud, the Buckeyes seem poised to again rank among the best in the Big Ten and Power Five behind All-America wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Stroud's replacement, Kyle McCord. Harrison finished with 126 receiving yards, including a 75-yard score, and McCord completed 82.6% of his passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.

Brian Ferentz

We've covered the metrics placed on Iowa's embattled offensive coordinator a few times already this season, but a quick refresher: For Ferentz to get back on his previous two-year rolling contract, the Hawkeyes must win at least seven games and average at least 25 points per game, or a total of 350 points over the course of a 13-game season. After scoring 44 points through two games, both wins, Iowa tacked on a meaningless score with 33 seconds left to beat Western Michigan 41-10, the program's highest point total since dropping 51 points on Maryland in 2021. This leaves the Hawkeyes at 85 points on the year, or 28.3 points per game, and things are looking up for Ferentz.


Northern Illinois is not very good, so we can get that part out of the way. But the Cornhuskers are in the win column for the first time under Matt Rhule after bottling up the Huskies in a 35-11 victory that saw another strong performance from a defense that may be one of the top four or five units in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers gave up just 26 rushing yards on 22 carries to help smooth the way for redshirt freshman quarterback Heinrich Haarberg, who replaced an injured Jeff Sims and threw for 158 yards, ran for a team-high 98 yards on 21 carries and had three total touchdowns.



Take away the helmet. Ignore the scowling Nick Saban on the sideline, if you can. Forget about the national championships, the history, the reputation, the legacy of success. If this wasn't Alabama — let's say it was Auburn instead — would this team be sniffing next week's Top 25? One week after losing at home to No. 4 Texas, the Crimson Tide were drawn into a dogfight against South Florida and barely escaped with a 17-3 win that raises another series of difficult questions about the state of the offense under new coordinator Tommy Rees and what Saban plans to do at quarterback. He replaced Jalen Milroe with Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner only to see Buchner struggle, completing just 5 of 14 attempts for 34 yards, before turning things over to redshirt freshman Ty Simpson, who hit on 5 of 9 throws for 73 yards and might be the starter moving forward. While Alabama was able to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in 189 games, this does not resemble a team capable of winning the SEC West, let alone getting back to the playoff and winning the national championship. Through three games, this is Saban's weakest and most flawed team since his debut season in 2007.


Losing to Florida isn't quite an annual tradition, but it's close: Tennessee has won just twice in this series since its victory in 2004, making it one of the most one-sided rivalries in the Power Five. The issues on display Saturday — penalties, pre-snap miscommunication, substandard play on both lines, MIA leadership from the sidelines — are deeply concerning, however, and if not cleaned up in the next few weeks could easily steal the momentum developed during last year's breakthrough. The good news is that the schedule is friendly, by and large, especially given Alabama's mediocrity and Texas A&M's unpredictability.


Few coaches needed a marquee win more than West Virginia's Neal Brown, and a 17-6 win against rival Pittsburgh definitely fits the bill. But the result says more about the listless and disappointing Panthers, a cold-and-colder bunch that seems so inept offensively that just getting to a bowl game will demand a major in-season overhaul at quarterback and in general scheme. Transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec went 8 of 20 for 81 yards with three interceptions and has completed 34.6% of his throws in two games against Power Five teams. This wasted a solid showing from the defense, which held WVU to 2

Oklahoma State

Try this score on for size and see how it feels: South Alabama 33, Oklahoma State 7. It's the sort of loss that brings the Cowboys plummeting all the way back to reality after a so-so start against Central Arkansas and Arizona State; while OSU won both games, there were warning signs that spoke to the concerns around longtime coach Mike Gundy's team in the preseason. One, quarterback play, might be a season-long problem. Alan Bowman, Garrett Rangel and Gundy's son, Gunnar, combined for 16 of 35 passing for 114 yards and an interception. South Alabama allowed Tulane to hit on 14 of 15 throws for 294 yards and four touchdowns in the opener.

Iowa State

A dreadful run-up to the regular season that saw the program and broader athletics department embroiled in a gambling scandal has bled into a miserable start for Iowa State, which is now 1-2 after managing just 271 yards of offense and a single score in a 10-7 loss at Ohio. The Cyclones have dropped 14 of 21 games and are again one of the worst teams in the Big 12 after finishing last in the conference a year ago. Once one of the hottest names in coaching, connected at times to openings at Michigan and elsewhere, Matt Campbell's reputation has taken a tremendous hit since the start of last season.

Virginia Tech

These are dark days in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech is now 1-2 after giving up 256 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry and losing 35-16 to Rutgers, dropping second-year coach Brent Pry to 1-9 in games against Power Five competition. The Hokies do nothing well, including such basics as block, tackle, run or pass, and seem destined to spend this year near the bottom of the ACC. Again.

The winless seven

Only seven teams are still winless after the first three weeks of the regular season: East Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia, Sam Houston State, Buffalo, Nevada and Colorado State. The most surprising is probably ECU, which has made back-to-back bowl games under coach Mike Houston and will have to scramble from here to get to six wins. UConn were a surprising bowl team last season but have taken a clear step back following losses to Georgia State and Florida International.

College Football Week 3 winner: Missouri

Missouri notched one of the biggest wins on Saturday as they knocked off 15th-ranked Kansas State at home.

The game was tied in the fourth quarter and Missouri was driving to get into field goal range when a delay of game pushed the ball from the 39 to the 44. That meant a 61-yard field goal — the longest in the SEC.

However, Harrison Mevis drilled the 61-yarder with room to spare, giving head coach Eli Drinkwitz a defining win. Missouri is also 3-0.

College Football Week 3 loser: SEC chances of two playoff teams

Missouri got an upset win, however, the loss by Tennessee means that the SEC has just two unbeaten teams right now: Georgia and Ole Miss.

Tennessee was supposed to be the second-best team and was dominated by a Florida team that got beaten soundly by Utah from the Pac-12. Just saying. Vanderbilt also lost to UNLV, while Arkansas suffered a 38-31 loss to Arkansas.

Georgia was even down 11 at the half to South Carolina before rallying for the win. Flat out, Alabama looked terrible in its 17-3 win over South Florida. Tyler Buchner was benched. Ty Simpson also didn’t lock down the position, so the Tide have work to do.