Expectations turned upside down in Week 3 of college football season

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By BRIAN HARTNETT
College Contributor Network

The main thing we learned from Week 3 of the college football season is that most of what we learned in Weeks 1 and 2 wasn't exactly true. At least that's what it felt like.

Teams that had looked invincible a week earlier fell to unranked squads. Powerhouses played lackluster games and Heisman hopefuls were relegated to the sidelines. Call it just another week in the chaos that is big-time college football.

The Georgia-South Carolina game showed that first impressions aren't everything. The Bulldogs entered the game as a widely talked-about playoff contender following their definitive 45-21 season-opening romp over Clemson, but they got off to a slow start and couldn't execute inside the red zone with the game on the line.

On the other hand, the Gamecocks defense, which had been dismantled in a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M in Week 1, made plays when it needed to and showed that the SEC East race may be more wide open than previously thought.

The other USC -- this one of Southern California -- traveled cross-country riding high off a victory against Stanford one week earlier. The Trojans defense had held a physical Cardinal offense to 128 rushing yards, but they couldn't stop Boston College on the ground, giving up 452 rushing yards to the Eagles.

USC didn't just have trouble against the run; it had trouble with the run, accumulating only 20 yards on the ground against a Boston College defense that had allowed Pittsburgh to run for 303 yards eight days prior.

Virginia Tech had earned a spot in the top 25 after a road win against Ohio State in Week 2, but the Hokies just as quickly dropped out of the polls with a 28-21 home loss to East Carolina.

Meanwhile, the same Buckeyes team that Virginia Tech had topped looked like it was out for blood, pummeling Kent State 66-0. Granted, Kent State isn't likely to become the next MAC giant-killer, but the victory was a nice rebound for Ohio State, which only has one ranked opponent remaining on its schedule as of now.

To make matters even worse for Virginia Tech, its in-state rival in Charlottesville -- a Virginia team that had lost 11 consecutive conference games -- snuck past new ACC member, and potential conference dark horse, Louisville on a late field goal.

The aforementioned teams weren't the only ones to struggle this past weekend, as several other big-name programs were challenged.

One week after its 31-0 prime time win over Michigan, Notre Dame trailed Purdue until the final seconds of the first half. The Wolverines didn't have an easy recovery either, as they were tied with a winless Miami (Ohio) squad until well into the second quarter. Florida needed three overtimes to avoid losing to Kentucky for the first time since 1986. Heck, even Oregon trailed Wyoming after one quarter of play.

UCLA and Arizona State also survived scares, although both squads had more legitimate reasons for their struggles. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley went out with an elbow injury in the first quarter of the Bruins' game against Texas. But Jerry Neuheisel, the son of UCLA's former head coach, led the Bruins to a comeback win over the Longhorns.

Arizona State senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who had helped the Sun Devils pull away after a tense first half with Colorado, went down with a foot injury at the end of the third quarter, casting doubt on his ability to play against UCLA in less than two weeks.

This column isn't all doom and gloom, however. There were plenty of top-tier programs that played well and not just against cupcake opponents.

Behind 360 all-purpose yards from quarterback Taysom Hill, BYU displayed its offensive prowess in a 33-25 win over Houston. Oklahoma took down another member of Bob Stoops's favorite conference -- the SEC -- with a 34-10 win over Tennessee. And Texas A&M racked up five touchdowns, despite possessing the ball for less than 17 minutes in its 38-10 victory against Rice.

While Week 3 victories count just as much as those in Week 12, they'll only have continued meaning if teams can remain consistent and not fall victim to opponents, whether they be conference rivals, non-conference tests or mid-majors.

And there will be plenty of such tests next weekend, which comes as either the end of non-conference or the start of conference play for many programs. Auburn-Kansas State, Clemson-Florida State, Florida-Alabama, Oklahoma-West Virginia, Virginia-BYU and Miami (Florida)-Nebraska highlight just some of Week 4's programming.

For many teams, this week will be centered around focusing on a quality victory that will put them one step closer to January's College Football Playoff.

But for us fans, maybe it's best to expect the unexpected. Because as this past weekend showed, college football can often teach us that what we think we know can all change in the span of one game.


Brian Hartnett is a senior at the University of Notre Dame with a major in Marketing and a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Originally from central New Jersey, he's also a fan of the Yankees, Nets and New York Giants. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianGHartnett
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