Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (book of quarterback juggling tricks sold separately in Tuscaloosa):
Third Quarter: Undefeated, Unranked ... Any Good?
There are 18 undefeated and unranked teams left in the FBS ranks. We’re still gathering intel on whether they’re actually good or just benefiting from a lenient early schedule. A quick Dash breakdown of most of the 18:
Auburn (21). Sagarin rank: 27th. Schedule rank: 165th. Notable win: at California. How good are the Tigers: Better than they were before Michigan State transfer quarterback Payton Thorne arrived in May, that’s for sure. Thorne had a 400-yard total offense game for Auburn Saturday against Samford, including a career-high 123 rushing, having taken command of the offense. The rest of the Auburn offense has been solid but not spectacular. The defense has been good, leading the SEC in fewest yards allowed per play at 4.17 and tied for the lead in takeaways with seven. The next four games will tell us how Hugh Freeze’s first season is going to pan out: at Texas A&M, Georgia, at LSU, Mississippi. First loss: Saturday at A&M.
Kentucky (22). Sagarin rank: 38th. Schedule rank: 191st. Notable win: none. How good are the Wildcats: Hard to say now, but perhaps sneaky good in the weeks to come. Transfer quarterback Devin Leary (North Carolina State) has posted progressively higher efficiency ratings in every game, and transfer running back Ray Davis (Vanderbilt) has emerged as a big-play threat. The Kentucky defense is last in the SEC in third-down conversion rate allowed (47.7%), which is a concern given the level of competition to date. First loss: Florida Sept. 30.
Rutgers (23). Sagarin rank: 50th. Schedule rank: 96th. Notable win: Virginia Tech. How good are the Scarlet Knights: Capable of six wins for the first time in a decade, and capable of making Michigan slightly uncomfortable in the Big House Saturday. The last time Rutgers won its first three games all by 17 points or more was 2007. There is not a lot of pop in the passing game, but neither are there interceptions—the Knights are one of 14 teams that are yet to throw the ball to the wrong team. This is a classic wood-chopping Greg Schiano team, riding running back Kyle Monangai (357 rushing yards and five touchdowns) and stopping the other team’s running game (second in the Big Ten in both rushing yards allowed per game and per play). First loss: Saturday at Michigan.
Maryland (24). Sagarin rank: 40th. Schedule rank: 203rd. Notable win: none, unless you insist on considering winless Virginia notable. How good are the Terrapins: Not great, but the schedule offers an opportunity to start 5–0 and potentially win up to nine games. The Terps have started very slowly the last two games, trailing Charlotte and Virginia both 14–0 before getting untracked and dominating the second half. An offense that in the past has been over-reliant on quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s arm is off to a more balanced start, averaging 176 yards rushing yards and 296 passing. First loss: Sept. 30 against Indiana.
Louisville (25). Sagarin rank: 34th. Schedule rank: 114th. Notable wins: Georgia Tech and Indiana. How good are the Cardinals: Inconsistent but intriguing, and potentially undefeated when Notre Dame comes to The ’Ville in October. The streakiest team in the country outscored Georgia Tech by 20 in the second half of the season opener and Indiana by 21 in the first half Saturday—but was outscored by 15 in the first half by the Yellow Jackets and 14 in the second half by the Hoosiers. Louisville has big-play threats at receiver (Jamari Thrash is averaging 23.5 yards per catch) and running back (Jawhar Jordan checks in at 10.75 yards per carry), plus has been solid defensively. First loss: Notre Dame on Oct. 7.
Syracuse (26). Sagarin rank: 32nd. Schedule rank: 168th. Notable win: at Purdue. How good are the Orange: Capable of causing some ACC tumult in the weeks ahead, although the season-ending injury to star tight end Oronde Gadsden II is a significant blow. Quarterback Garrett Shrader was at his dual-threat best in West Lafayette, producing 379 yards total offense—more than half of which came on the ground. A defense that made great strides under former coordinator Tony White looks every bit as good under White’s former mentor, Rocky Long, who has been coaching since the Earth cooled. First loss: Oct. 7 at North Carolina. The Dash is calling the upset in the Dome of Clemson Sept. 30. Syracuse has a history of making the Tigers sweat and the schedule favors the Orange, with Clemson coming off a showdown with Florida State Sept. 23.
Wake Forest (27). Sagarin rank: 64th. Schedule rank: 164th. Notable win: Vanderbilt, allegedly. How good are the Demon Deacons: Good enough to outscore Old Dominion 20–0 over the final 18:50 Saturday. Also bad enough to fall behind Old Dominion 24–7 before coming back. Give Wake credit, it has remained viable thus far after losing its all-time leading passer, Sam Hartman, to Notre Dame. Dave Clawson keeps finding and developing skill talent, and his defense produced the most sacks in a single game this season against ODU with 10. First loss: Oct. 7 at Clemson.
Central Florida (28). Sagarin rank: 25th. Schedule rank: 142nd. Notable win: at Boise State. How good are the Knights: Good enough to cause some disruption in the Big 12. This looks like a trademark Gus Malzahn offense, ranking second nationally in rushing yards (299.3 per game) and mixing in enough passing to lead the nation in total offense (617.7 yard per game) even after the injury to starting QB John Rhys Plumlee. Of course, trademark Malzahn teams often drop a game or two they shouldn’t, too. So stay tuned on that. First loss: Saturday at Kansas State.
Fresno State (29). Sagarin rank: 66th. Schedule rank: 81st. Notable wins: at Purdue, at Arizona State. How good are the Bulldogs: Legit good. Again. As usual. Jeff Tedford is the most under-appreciated coach in the country. With two road wins over power-conference competition, there is no reason why Fresno is unranked other than being Fresno, which is the voters’ problem. The Bulldogs are not very formidable running the ball and protecting the passer, which can create issues finishing drives (they attempted seven field goals against Arizona State, making five). But they can throw and catch and have been opportunistic defensively, generating 10 turnovers. First loss: maybe at Wyoming Oct. 7? If not then, it might be November.
Missouri and Memphis (30). These two unbeatens will play Saturday in St. Louis, in what was originally scheduled as a Memphis home game. Mizzou reportedly expressed an interest in buying out of the game, and the compromise was to play a semi-home game for the Tigers in a city where it has thousands of alumni and fans.
Sagarin rank for Missouri: 59th. Schedule rank: 99th. Notable win: Kansas State. How good are these Tigers (as opposed to the Memphis Tigers): Perhaps capable of their first seven-win season since 2018. They earned one of the bigger wins of the Eli Drinkwitz era, beating the Wildcats on a 61-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis on the final play. Mizzou has unleashed receiver Luther Burden, who arrived as the No. 1 wideout recruit in the nation last year but struggled to get going in 2022. No struggles this season: He has 22 catches, 327 yards and three touchdowns. He’s helped out quarterback Brady Cook immensely. First loss: LSU Oct. 7.
Sagarin rank for Memphis: 68th. Schedule rank: 207th. Notable win: none. How good are the Tigers (as opposed to the Missouri Tigers): They won a wild one over Navy last week but really haven’t played anyone else. Old Dominion transfer running back Blake Watson has been a dynamic addition. Quarterback Seth Henigan can cover the spectrum, looking great or shaky from drive to drive. Coach Ryan Silverfield likely still has work to do to secure his continued employment. First loss: Saturday against Missouri.
BYU and Kansas (31). Another matchup of unranked unbeatens … and now Big 12 colleagues. This will be the Cougars’ first game as a member of the conference—or any conference since 2010.
Sagarin rank for BYU: 41st. Schedule rank: 139th. Notable win: at Arkansas. How good are the Cougars: They are 3–0 through clean living and opportunism, not via greatness. BYU won at Arkansas despite being outgained by 143 yards and giving up a punt-return touchdown. The Cougars have shown little ability to run the ball thus far, and quarterback Kedon Slovis has largely been in game manager mode. First loss: Saturday at Kansas.
Sagarin rank for Kansas: 49th. Schedule rank: 124th. Notable win: Illinois. How good are the Jayhawks: They remain a potent offensive team and a sketchy defensive one, looking pretty dominant against Illinois but struggling to put away winless Nevada. Quarterback Jalon Daniels has not gotten his running game revved up yet; we’ll see if that changes this week. First loss: at Texas Sept. 30.