Recapping College Football’s Top Winners and Losers from Week 3 (2021)

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| September 20, 2021 12:33 pm PDT

Week three of the 2021 college football season is in the books. We nearly had a few monumental upsets. The points were flowing for a few that were much better than most expected.

There were plenty of struggles from squads that came into the season with lofty expectations. Many of the teams failed to play up to those standards and lost their confidence and focus.

We have seen a different team every week thus far, and I cannot wait for the Week 4 slate to arrive. Here are your top winners and losers in college football from the third weekend of games.

Winner: Michigan

Jim Harbaugh came into the season on the hottest of seats. Expectations were low compared to the years prior. Nobody had Michigan winning or even contending in the Big Ten East.

Harbaugh has failed to win a game at Michigan as an underdog (0-11), but the team has looked great thus far. Their ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage has been vital. When Michigan cannot run the ball, they often struggle.

They dismantled Northern Illinois 63-10, and they didn’t even score in the fourth quarter.

No worries, Michigan ran for 373 yards to go along with their eight rushing scores. It has been a committee backfield, but Blake Corum and Hasaan Haskins have been stars. The tandem combined for five rushing scores and 181 yards on the ground.

Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are all on the schedule, but the Wolverines look like they could play with all three of them thus far.

Loser: State of Florida

One of Miami’s issues for years has been controlling the line of scrimmage. Their inability to slow Kenneth Walker down was a challenge. He ran all over the Canes’ defense for 172 yards.

He just toyed with them at times, it seemed.

Quarterback Payton Thorne looked like the next Jeff Smoker out there. Miami’s defense was abysmal, and Manny Diaz is the one to blame.

Diaz has done next to nothing to change the program’s ability to improve as a team. Their lack of discipline shows with penalties and simple gap assignment football on defense. They cannot run the ball and are all or nothing with D’Eriq King.

Florida State is off to their first 0-3 start since 1976. Bobby Bowden was in his first season, and they finished 5-6 that year. They won double-digit games in three of their next four seasons, but something tells me these current Noles won’t accomplish such a task.

The passing attack has fallen off a cliff. The defense has been an issue for years, and their inability to come away with any defensive stops has been a trend.

UCF lost on the road to Louisville on Friday night, too.

After tying the game in the final minutes, they turned Louisville over to have a chance to win in regulation or overtime. Instead, Dillion Gabriel ended up throwing the game-winning pick-six to Louisville. To make matters worse, Gabriel ended up fracturing his clavicle in defeat.

The Gators played outstanding and deserve some love, but they had a strong shot at upsetting mighty Alabama. They came up short after they failed to execute their two-point conversion. Poor execution against Alabama will get you every time.

Overall, it was a bad weekend for Florida in general when it comes to college football.

Winner: Michigan State

Mel Tucker could be the way too early national choice for Coach of the Year. It is still September, but this team could win eight games.

Most had them with a losing record this season, and they have all but clinched their trip to the postseason after their road victory in Coral Gables.

They made Miami one-dimensional on offense and have put together solid offensive numbers.

Kenneth Walker is a stud back, and he’s put himself into the 2021 Heisman conversation.

Here are his numbers so far this season.

  • 57 rushing attempts
  • 493 rushing yards
  • 8.6 YPC
  • 5 TDs

They also have speed at wide receiver and have made the most of it thus far.

Payton Thorne became the first Sparty signal-caller to throw for four or more touchdowns in consecutive games since Connor Cook in 2015.

Loser: Utah

The Utes were in the preseason Top 25. They currently sit at 1-2 after their latest loss to San Diego State in double overtime.

Utah still has USC, Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon on the schedule. They will lose to every one of those teams if they continue to struggle on both sides of the ball.

Winner: Cincinnati

The Bearcats have been clutch in the regular season under Desmond Ridder. The Bearcat signal-caller put together his 15th game with both a rushing and passing touchdown.

The quarterback knows how to win, and Luke Fickell deserves high praise.

He has been linked to other high-profile jobs, specifically USC. The Bearcats nearly upset Georgia in the Peach Bowl last season, and this team is no fluke.

They travel to South Bend to take on the Irish in two weeks, but their road victory over Indiana was impressive. The defense won this game by forcing critical errors against the Hoosier offense towards the goal-line.

Loser: ACC Coastal

The entire division had another bad weekend. We already talked about Miami, but Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech lost to unranked foes.

Pittsburgh had previously knocked off Tennessee in a hostile environment. To come back and lose outright at home to Western Michigan is disappointing.

Kenny Pickett threw for 382 yards and six passing scores.

Yet, the Panthers’ defense allowed 517 yards of offense and forced zero turnovers in the loss.

Virginia Tech was a slight underdog at West Virginia, but they were down two scores to start the game. They were playing catch-up the entire game and dropped out of the Top 25.

This division is an absolute mess.

Winner: Brian Kelly

The Irish have not looked great through the first three weeks, but Kelly is a Hall of Fame coach for a reason. He continues to find ways to win games even when his team doesn’t play their best.

After knocking off Purdue at home, Kelly tied the Irish record for most wins as a head coach with Knute Rockne.

Notre Dame Head Coach Career Wins
Knute Rockne 105
Brian Kelly 105
Lou Holtz 100
Ara Parseghian 95
Frank Leahy 87

For Kelly to be one win away from surpassing Rockne speaks volumes.

Notre Dame could still lose some games coming up as the schedule gets more challenging, but Kelly deserves love. He was disliked by many fans years back but has since turned the Golden Domers into a Top 10 program.

Loser: Indiana and Northwestern

These two underrated squads had fantastic 2020 campaigns. The Wildcats finished No. 10, and Indiana finished No. 12 after some of the best seasons the programs have ever witnessed.

Both Big Ten squads are currently 1-2, with a slim shot of getting back into the Top 25 like last season.

The Hoosiers had their chances against Cincinnati, but they could not convert near the goal-line. A few turnovers were costly, but Indiana failed on a fourth and short and got stuffed.

Northwestern was trailing Duke 30-7 entering the fourth quarter. While they lost a lot of offensive production from last year, the defense has been horrid. They allowed 558 yards of total offense to the Blue Devils.

Yikes.

Winner: Ole Miss, Georgia, and BYU

Matt Corral and the Ole Miss offense is electric right now. Corral combined for seven scores against Tulane and now has 14 on the season.

He became the first SEC player to post three passing scores with four rushing scores in one game.

Look at the production he’s put up on the year so far.

  • 997 passing yards
  • 9 TDs
  • 0 INT
  • 196.9 passer rating 

The Rebels are averaging over 50 points a game. They are the top offense in the FBS, and it might not be that close either.

Georgia continues flexing their muscles. Their defense is the best in college football, and they will be heavily favored to reach Atlanta at 12-0.

BYU has been amazing thus far. They have won games over the AP Top 25 in consecutive weeks for the first time in program history. These Cougars could be 11-0 before they end their season at USC.

Kilani Sitake is the top pick for national Coach of the Year at the moment.

Loser: UCLA

Fresno State is worthy of staying in the Top 25 for a while after upsetting UCLA. Jake Haener was a superstar. The Bruins were patting themselves on the back all week, and many were ready to give them the Pac-12 South in early September.

Excluding Oregon, the entire conference has one loss with a boatload of games left to play still. Throw the Pac-12 in as the big loser of the week.

Which team do you have faith in besides Oregon?

People ask and wonder why the Pac-12 gets left out of the CFP. It is losses like these from UCLA that end up being costly.

The Bulldogs look like one of the better squads in the Mountain West and beyond after two weeks. They deserve all the credit, but UCLA was exposed. The defense deserves a lot of the blame, and they have plenty of work ahead of them.

Looking to Week 4 in College Football

Week three in college football was full of excitement. The losers from this past week will need to showcase their talent and confidence and get back on the winning side.

Losing teams allow complacency to occur and things snowball when struggles continue. The Week 4 slate of games is even better on paper, which could make for the best week of the season.

For the pro side of things, check out week two NFL winners and losers.

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