College football winners, losers of Week 3 include Michigan, USC, ACC

Alabama surged in front 21-3 against Florida but needed almost every second of four quarters to beat the Gators, raising some questions about whether the Crimson Tide are quite as invincible as they looked through two games.

Oklahoma met old rival Nebraska and struggled putting the Cornhuskers away in the Sooners' second mediocre performance of the young season against FBS competition.

Cincinnati remained unbeaten against Indiana and can start planning ahead to the trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 2. Virginia Tech was the latest casualty in the hugely disappointing ACC. Several Big Ten teams looked the part of true contenders.

Those teams and others top the winners and losers from Week 3 of the season.



Winning in Gainesville against the No. 9 Gators should be celebrated, even if the Tide have a few concerns coming out of the 3-0 start. There's no bigger issue than the state of the running game, which was simply dominant a year ago but has struggled under the direction of new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. After running for 91 yards on 28 carries against the Gators, the Tide are averaging only 3.9 yards per carry. That level of production is not good enough for Alabama to run the table and repeat as national champions. 


The Bearcats topped Indiana 38-24 and will have an extra week to get ready for the biggest game in program history. On Oct. 2, Cincinnati will travel to Notre Dame and attempt to notch a second win against Power Five competition and become the first Group of Five team to truly factor into the playoff debate. To get there unblemished, the Bearcats had to climb out of a 14-0 hole in the second quarter and weather a rowdy, back-and-forth third quarter before pulling away from the Hoosiers in the fourth. Quarterback Desmond Ridder finished with 246 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.


Michigan's first three games have painted the Wolverines as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten championship and the New Year's Six. UM wrapped up non-conference play with a 63-10 win against Northern Illinois keyed by another powerful performance on the ground. Four players gained at least 40 yards, three scored at least twice and the offense at large went for 373 yards and eight touchdowns on 48 carries. That gives the Wolverines 1,056 rushing yards and 15 scores through three games. 

Michigan State

And the Wolverines' in-state rivals continue to impress under second-year coach Mel Tucker. Pegged to finish near the bottom of the East division, the Spartans are now 3-0 with two Power Five wins after knocking off Miami (Fla.) 38-17 on the road. An influx of transfer talent and Tucker's ongoing flip of the roster has yielded a team good enough to secure bowl eligibility by the end of October.

Kansas State

The Wildcats beat Carson Strong and Nevada 38-17 without starting quarterback Skylar Thompson and will have an argument to earn a spot in next week's USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. With Thompson sidelined, Kansas State used its running game to loosen up the Nevada defense and churn out five scoring drives lasting eight or more plays. Overall, the Wildcats ran for 269 yards and four touchdowns while holding the Wolf Pack to 25 yards on 23 carries.

Southern California

For one day, the focus was on the Trojans' on-field performance and not the job opening that may be one of the dominant themes of the 2021 season. And USC looked pretty good under interim coach Donte Williams, who replaced Clay Helton earlier this week. Down 14-0 until under a minute left in the first half and with quarterback Kedon Slovis injured, the Trojans got 391 passing yards and four touchdowns from backup Jaxson Dart and beat Washington State 45-14.

MORE: Trojans plane tips backward on tarmac

Wake Forest

It may be too soon to call this the best team of Dave Clawson's tenure, which has seen the Demon Deacons reach six straight bowl games and post a pair of eight-win seasons. But the potential is there for a breakthrough finish and a push for the Top 25 after Wake barely broke a sweat in a 35-14 win against overmatched Florida State. Now 3-0, the Demon Deacons have several winnable games ahead before a tough run of opponents in November. Clawson is very rarely mentioned among the best coaches in the ACC and the Power Five but may finally get the national attention he's deserved.

Demon Deacons linebacker Joshua Sosanya tackles Seminoles wide receiver Ontaria Wilson.

Texas-San Antonio

UTSA is 3-0 under second-year coach Jeff Traylor after beating Middle Tennessee State 27-13 behind another 100-yard game from running back Sincere McCormick, an All-America contender. Losses by Marshall (42-38 to East Carolina) and Charlotte (20-9 to Georgia State) have left the Roadrunners as the only undefeated team in Conference USA and the current favorite to win the league's East division. Next week's trip to Memphis marks the Roadrunners' biggest test to date.

San Diego State

The Aztecs continue to chew up teams from the Pac-12. San Diego State is 2-0 against teams from the Power Five league this season and 7-2 since 2016 after beating Utah 33-31 in a wacky, three-overtime game that seemed well in the Aztecs' corner before Utah stormed from 14 points down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. SDSU keeps getting solid production from running back Greg Bell, who went for 119 yards against the Utes and has cracked the 100-yard mark seven times in his 10 games since transferring into the program from Nebraska.

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