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2022 Post-Week Three CFB Roundup

Jalon Daniels, Kansas
Reactions & Thoughts

Another Brutal Day For The Big Ten West: Is there a single Power Five division that's had a rougher go of it over the season's first three weeks than the Big Ten West? It's clear that head coaching was not the only issue at Nebraska, as the 'Huskers were routed by Oklahoma in their first game under interim head man Mickey Joseph. Then, Purdue fell to 1-2 after a heart-wrenching defeat on the road to Syracuse. Then there is Northwestern, who also fell to 1-2, losing to previously winless FCS opponent Southern Illinois. The lone remaining undefeated in the division is none other than the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who pounded Colorado over the weekend, but have yet to face a formidable foe and may be without star wide out Chris Autman-Bell for an extended period of time. For years, this division has taken a backseat to the Big Ten East, but usually the strength of consistent programs like Wisconsin and Iowa. That just doesn't appear to be the case this season, which means the Big Ten Championship Game could be particularly one-sided in 2022. 

USC Has Arrived Earlier Than Expected: The USC Trojans had a splashy offseason, reeling Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams away from Oklahoma and bringing in a bunch more talent in the transfer portal. We knew they would be much improved from the 4-8 team we saw in 2021, but through three weeks, they've looked like the Pac-12's best team. These last two weeks were prime upset alerts against Stanford and a tough Fresno State team, but Riley's club rolled, including a 45-17 victory on Saturday. It's not just that this team is 3-0, but how effortless they've made it look; the offense has been unstoppable all season and the defense has made major strides in just one offseason. The schedule the rest of the way looks very favorable, with the only game 'SC may not be favored in being a road tilt with Utah. If they can survive that, it's not unrealistic to start taking College Football Playoff, which felt a bit overly ambitious at the start of the year.

Is There Any Stopping Georgia?: Conventional thought through the offseason was that the reigning National Champion Georgia Bulldogs may take a slight step back in 2022, thanks in large part to all the departures on the defensive side of the ball. Over the first three weeks, that thought seems to have been laid to rest. The Bulldogs have been absolutely terrifying so far this fall, with another comfortable victory over the weekend in their SEC opener over South Carolina. This team hasn't taken any steps backwards, in fact they are looking even better than last year's team. That has been particularly true of an offense that is looking terrific at the moment, with Stetson Bennett at the controls. It's early, but Bennett seems to have taken up the mantle as the Heisman frontrunner, while the Bulldogs are the team to beat, unless someone proves otherwise.

Which Direction Does Arizona State Go?: The coaching carousel keeps on spinning, with a new name added to the list. Herm Edwards was let go on Sunday after an embarrassing loss to Eastern Michigan in the midst of an NCAA investigation. He was always a bit of a strange hire and despite some early success, was not able to turn the Sun Devils into consistent contenders in the Pac-12. However, this is a job that really intrigues me. ASU has all the resources to be a winner, as a massive school with a hefty athletics budget inside a talent-rich state. But, it just hasn't happened yet, and several bad coaching hires over the last few seasons have sent the program sliding in the wrong direction. There's not an obvious direction the Sun Devils go in now that Edwards is out, but I'm sure you'll see the usual names thrown out there, such as Matt Campbell, Luke Fickell, maybe Matt Rhule. Two names I'm keeping a close eye on are Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze and Oregon State defensive coordinator Trent Bray. Freeze seems to have restored his reputation after what transpired at Ole Miss and is doing great things with Liberty. While he's a Southeast guy, there's no doubt in my mind he would bring in big talent at ASU and win. Bray wouldn't be as flashy and it's unlikely ASU would go with someone so untested, but I think he's a great candidate. He's played a major role in helping turn around Oregon State's defense, a team that is currently 3-0, and he's from Arizona originally. He served as interim head coach at Nebraska in 2017 after they fired Mike Riley.

Here's To Early Season Turnarounds: One of the best parts about college football is seeing programs turn things around after a brutal season. There are several notable programs off to impressive starts in 2022, from 3-0 Florida State to 3-0 Syracuse, to 3-0 Duke. The coolest may be Kansas, who has been the worst Power Five program in the country for over a decade, but is off to an undefeated start. It's not the Jayhawks just beating up on FCS schools over Group of Five teams, either. They went out and beat West Virginia two weeks ago then ran past Houston over the weekend, a team fresh off a 12-win 2021. I firmly believe Lance Leipold is the most underrated coach in college football. Whether it's at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Buffalo, or now Kansas, all he does is win football games.

Weekly Awards

Offensive Helmet Sticker: Jalon Daniels, QB, Kansas

Speaking of Kansas, let's give some love to quarterback Jalon Daniels, who had a huge week against Houston. The junior personifies what it means to be a true dual-threat, as he went for 158 yards and three touchdowns through the air and added 123 and two scores with his legs. He did so against a Houston defense that was strong last season, although seems to have taken a step back in 2022. The QB position at Kansas has been a revolving door this past decade-plus, but it looks like they have their guy in Daniels. He has 10 total touchdowns over the season's first three weeks and has looked in command of the offense.

Defensive Helmet Sticker: Jaren Kanak, LB, Oklahoma

Oklahoma pounded Nebraska over the weekend, with both sides of the ball operating at incredibly high levels. While Dillon Gabriel engineered an impressive offensive showing, youngster Jaren Kanak proved to be the leader of the Sooner defense. The one-time Clemson commit followed head coach Brent Venables to Norman and it appears to be paying dividends. He showed out on Saturday, leading the team with 10 tackles, three of them solo. Kanak was also a constant presence in the Cornhusker backfield, leading the team with four pressures. It seemed like every time Casey Thompson turned around, the freshman was in his face, crippling any hopes of Nebraska developing a rhythm on that side of the ball. After such a showing, it will be fascinating to see what he does as an encore; he has all the talent to be a truly disruptive force for years to come at OU.

Team of the Week: Washington Huskies

First-year head man Kalen DeBoer should be an early frontrunner in the National Coach of the Year race, as he was come in and engineered a quick turnaround in Seattle. After a disastrous 4-8 2021 that included Jimmy Lake's firing, Washington is out to a 3-0 start, punctuated by an impressive victory over Michigan State. It was an 11-point win for the Huskies, but the reality is that the game was not that close; UW dominated in every aspect and deserve to be a Top 25 team. Next up is a fourth straight home game, this time against Stanford, before a road test with UCLA tells us what this team is really about in 2022.

"Small-School" Team of the Week: Southern Illinois Salukis

Winless and heading into a road Big Ten stadium, Southern Illinois could have rolled over and let Northwestern run away with a victory. Instead the Salukis were ready, managing to tie the Wildcats at halftime then scoring two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter to shock NW in Evanston. This looks like another down year for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats, but that shouldn't overshadow this victory for Southern Illinois. They never looked intimidated by the moment and made the most out of it, capitalizing on four Northwestern turnovers to pull off an upset as a two-touchdown underdog. The Salukis may still slip to the bottom of the tough Missouri Valley Conference, but that should not take away from how impressive this win was. 

My Top 25

Current Rank                Last Week

1. Ohio State Buckeyes        (1)

2. Georgia Bulldogs              (2)

3. Alabama Crimson Tide      (3)

4. Clemson Tigers                (4)

5. NC State Wolfpack            (5)

6. Oklahoma Sooners            (7)

7. Arkansas Razorbacks        (6)

8. Michigan Wolverines        (8)

9. USC Trojans                    (9)

10. Utah Utes                       (13)

11. Tennessee Volunteers    (14)

12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons    (11)

13. Cincinnati Bearcats        (16)

14. Texas A&M Aggies        (18)

15. Oregon Ducks                (20)

16. Minnesota Golden Gophers    (17)

17. Oklahoma State Cowboys        (19)

18. BYU Cougars            (12)

19. Kentucky Wildcats     (22)

20. Miami Hurricanes        (11)

21. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers    (21)

22. Baylor Bears        (23)

23. Ole Miss Rebels    (24)

24. Washington Huskies    (NR)

25. Oregon State Beavers    (25)

Receiving Notes: Florida Gators, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Syracuse Orange, Iowa State Cyclones

Dropped Out: Michigan State Spartans (#15)

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