By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network
The last to defend
It was a week of heart-pounding finishes, gut-wrenching plays, and, in some cases, crucial clock mismanagement in the closing seconds; all are fair game in summarizing the week that was Week 3 of the college football season.
Most notable in this category is, of course, the game that dominated everyone's silver screen last Saturday (literally), the rain-and-lightning delayed match-up between Georgia and South Carolina. After taking a beating from No. 7 Texas A&M in Week 1, the Gamecocks proved they're still very much a player in the BCS title race, as they held on for a 38-35 win over the Bulldogs.
The game changer: the South Carolina defense, that, faced with a first and goal at their own four-yard line, held the 'Dawgs out of end zone on the final drive of the game. Yes, they got some help when Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan had a rare hiccup and missed the would-be game-tying field goal. Yes, they got some help when Georgia quarterback Hunter Mason intentionally grounded on first down of that drive, setting the Bulldogs back. But for a game that was so evenly matched -- both teams had over 400 yards of offense -- the key stat goes to the Gamecocks, who allowed just 18 first downs, while notching 27 of their own.
Game. Set. Gamecocks.
While the SEC's best duked it out in Columbia, some up-and-coming ACC teams were engaged in a battle royale of their own in Virginia, as the Cavaliers of UVA hosted No. 21 Louisville.
Following their near upset of UCLA in Week 1, the Cavs proved that they'll be hanging around this season with the best of the best -- and not just because kicker Ian Frye, he of the iron boot, tacked on crucial field goals of 35, 47 and 42 yards (that 42-yarder being the game winner).
Virginia took this one 23-21 after Louisville scored a pair of touchdowns to take the lead in the fourth quarter -- a definite cause for concern if you're coach Mike London. Nonetheless, when you consider the Cavs' sophomore quarterback, their four sophomore starters on the offensive line, and their mere three senior starters on either side of the ball.... it's time to give credit where credit is due.
Yet, perhaps the most crucial time-management skills at game's end (or lack thereof) leads us to Central New York and the matchup between the Cortland State Red Dragons and Brockport Golden Eagles.
Two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Brockport takes a 17-14 lead on a late field goal. However, that's only half the story: Cortland marches down the field, is at the one-yard line on fourth down, with no timeouts, and takes 25 seconds to decide to go for it.
False start on fourth down. Game clock hits :00. Game over. Golden Eagles win.
Talk about taking a "stand."
Week 3 Game of the Week: Penn State vs. Rutgers?
A "Jersey Girl" myself, it's common-known knowledge throughout the Garden State that, at least until the height of Greg Schiano's reign, if you wanted a "big-time" football university, you'd have to travel over the river and through the woods to Happy Valley -- or beyond.
In the eyes of Rutgers and Big Ten administration, that's now changed. And not because of Schiano, but because Penn State and Rutgers will now square off every season in conference play.
The game itself may have lived up to the hype on the scoreboard: a 13-10 score, a late comeback for the Nittany Lions -- a double reason for celebration following the lifting of NCAA sanctions on the Penn State football program -- and, overall, a decent performance by both squads.
But the real "game" that took center stage (since, needless to say, between the play and being broadcast on the Big Ten Network, the game did not perform that well outside the NY-NJ-PA viewing area) was Julie Hermann. Shocking. I know.
The embattled Rutgers Athletic Director apologized to Penn State after some RU fans wore "Ped State" shirts in reference to Penn State's Jerry Sandusky scandal. However, days later, she made a joke of her own at a fundraising event for the team, saying how Rutgers needed to "reach out and touch their donors."
Oh... that Rutgers is 2-1 and now has to face the triple-option of Navy this weekend before beginning continuing its brutal, inaugural, Big 10 schedule in two weeks? Nah. That's not B1G at all.
If the season ended today...
...it actually would be a lot of what you can expect by season's end -- at least in this writer's opinion. Florida State sits (and will sit) atop the ACC standings, but is joined by Louisville, Pittsburgh (?), and the aforementioned Virginia Cavaliers. Jameis Winston could play only a half of each of the Seminoles' remaining games and they would probably still make a bowl game, if not the BCS playoffs.
The Pac-12 and SEC standings also shape up as many would figure -- although the SEC West has emerged as a cut above it's East Division counterpart, with all but one of the division's seven teams beginning the year 3-0.
The teams to watch come BCS qualifying time, though, will be those on the West Coast not named the Ducks or the Bruins: Washington, Oregon State and Arizona State have all gone undefeated to begin the season.
And then there is the B1Ggest thing to hit the college football scene, the Big 14... I mean Big Ten.
Heading into the year, I fully expected Michigan and Michigan State to roll through conference play, yet both already have a loss to their record -- and the now playoff-eligible Nittany Lions sit atop the standings.
Don't know what will be more telling for Penn State's season: its Oct. 11th match up with the Wolverines... or traveling to Michigan's bitter rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes, the following weekend (or a combination of both simply taking a toll on this young offense).
While you were away... triple overtime in Indiana
You thought Georgia-USC was wild? Should've been in Indiana -- they play until the sun goes down. Or, at least Rose Hulman and Illinois College did last Saturday, as this D3 match up went into triple overtime. Final score? 74-68, tying the NCAA Division III record for points in a game.
I would give you the whole list of statistics, but let's just say Rose-Hulman had 824 total yards of offense. More than Georgia and USC combined. Moving on....
What to watch for
The headliner for Saturday's lineup, is, as much as it pains me, the real "Clash of the SEC Titans," Florida and Alabama. With Auburn's win over Kansas State on Thursday night, it's all the more crucial for the Crimson Tide to remain perfect in hopes of sticking around come BCS time.
For the Gators, my personal sleeper pick to emerge from the SEC East, it's about inching away from the rest of the pack -- and a win over Alabama would be more than just a few inches.
As "awe-inspiring" as the SEC may be, how about those Cavaliers taking on BYU this weekend? With a near upset of UCLA and last week's win over Louisville, does a win this weekend give Virginia a spot in the AP Top 25 -- or at least make them a frontrunner in the ACC not named Florida State? The independent BYU Cougars are 3-0 to begin the year, including a win over Texas, so it won't be easy, but it would be a statement.
You'll find in this weekly column that as a life-long resident of New Jersey, Rutgers holds a special place in my heart. Thus, I have no issue with being critical of it. Bearing both in mind, this weekend's matchup between the Scarlet Knights and the Midshipmen of Navy will be a good test for the B1G expectations of Rutgers -- especially facing off with the triple option.
In other Big Ten action, relative newcomers Maryland and Syracuse are off to 2-1 and 2-0 starts, respectively, and face off at the Carrier Dome this Saturday. Does it sound bad that this game will decide who hangs in the cellar with the Scarlet Knights in the bottom of the standings?
Who to watch for
No A.J.? No "Girlfriend Watch?" Here's a SIMple solution: Blake Sims, quarterback of your No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Remember him from his brief appearances over the last two years -- including in the Tide's 42-14 route in the 2012 BCS National Title Game? Yup, same kid.
Same kid who's also got a 75 percent passing completion percentage through the first three games. Same kid who had three touchdowns last week alone -- two in the air, one on the ground.
But will that same kid stake his claim as the leader of this Crimson Tide offense, let alone Crimson Tide nation? No bigger (or better) stage to prove it on then against the Gators this weekend.
For your reading pleasure
...or viewing... College GameDay's feature on Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, who is from a troubled neighborhood in Miami.
It does bear similarities to something you should read -- Bryan Mealer's Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town -- who's central character, Kelvin Benjamin, may ring a bell for those Florida State fans...
You heard it here first
This. Everything about this. Rutgers, I may be tough on you sometimes, but Eric LeGrand is the man. This one in regards to the Falcons' demolition of the Buccaneers on Thursday night.
The last laugh
Did you really think I wasn't going to pick this? Hey, Fido, play dead!
Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16
By MIA O'BRIEN