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September 19, 2010
Experts: Week 3 awards, what we learned
Tom Dienhart's Week 3 awards
What we learned in Week 3
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
Texas' defense is as good as Mack Brown said it would be. Before the season, Brown said this Longhorns defense could be the best he has had in his 13 years in Austin. He wasn't exaggerating. The Longhorns' defense allowed Texas Tech's offense just one touchdown, forced three fumbles and recorded three sacks. This isn't Mike Leach's Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders still have plenty of offensive weaponry. But what really raises eyebrows is that the Longhorns held Tech to minus-14 rushing yards. Even if sacks and a bad-snap fumble aren't included, the Red Raiders rushed for only 36 yards. That's a Tommy Tuberville team rushing for 36 yards. Texas' defense is one of the best in the country.
Arizona's Nick Foles ranks among the nation's premier quarterbacks. Foles usually is left out of the discussion of the country's best quarterback and overshadowed by Stanford's Andrew Luck, Washington's Jake Locker, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Boise State's Kellen Moore. But he should be grouped with them after passing for 303 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Wildcats to a wild 34-27 upset of Iowa, which has one of the nation's best defenses. Foles, who has completed better than 78 percent of his passes, is 10-3 as the Wildcats' starting quarterback.
Arkansas is legit. The Hogs waded between the hedges and toppled tumbling Georgia 31-24. Arkansas is 3-0 and heads home for perhaps the biggest game next weekend, with Alabama visiting. Ryan Mallett and the offense have been as good as advertised. The defense? More will be revealed against the loaded Crimson Tide attack. Beat Alabama, and Arkansas becomes a top-five team with Mallett at the front of the Heisman line.
Nebraska is the best team in the Big 12. The Huskers were absolutely dominating in a 56-21 victory at Washington, ending any hope Huskies QB Jake Locker had at the Heisman by holding the supposed No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft to 4-of-20 passing for 71 yards and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Nebraska redshirt freshman QB Taylor Martinez looked like a Heisman contender in running for 137 yards and three scores and passing for 150 yards and a touchdown. This last lap around the Big 12 is going to be fun.
West Virginia may have the best quarterback in the Big East, and that makes the Mountaineers the favorite. The Big East started the season with two sophomores -- Rutgers' Tom Savage and USF's B.J. Daniels -- heading the list of the most seasoned conference quarterbacks. The inexperience under center is part of the reason the league is having a rough start. West Virginia sophomore QB Geno Smith, though, is playing the best of any quarterback in the Big East right now. He led fourth-quarter scoring drives of 96 and 98 yards to beat Marshall last week, then completed his first 10 passes with two touchdowns in Saturday's 31-17 victory over Maryland. Don't get too excited, though: The Mountaineers shouldn't start printing Heisman advertisements. After all, it's just Marshall and Maryland. Even so, West Virginia has reason for optimism in the Big East race. Savage and Daniels have struggled at times, and Connecticut and Cincinnati are limping into conference play. All signs point to Pitt and West Virginia battling for a BCS bid out of the Big East. And thanks to Smith, WVU looks like a clear favorite.
Michigan isn't all the way back yet. Denard Robinson has deserved every accolade he received through the first two weeks of the season, but Michigan has a long way to go before it should be considered a Big Ten contender. That was painfully clear against FCS member Massachusetts. The Wolverines' defense allowed 438 yards to the Minutemen. Given Michigan's first two games, I could forgive the Wolverines for letting up to a small degree against an FCS opponent. Michigan pulled away to a 35-17 lead, as it should have, but what happened in the second half was unforgivable. The Wolverines gave UMass a chance of pulling an Appalachian State as UMass tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns. After winning 42-37, Michigan should beat Bowling Green and Indiana in the next two weeks, but the Wolverines could be headed for another late-season collapse if their defense and Robinson's supporting cast don't start to pull their weight.
The Pac-10 is a three-team race. There were numerous questions about the league heading into the season, with most centering on which teams would step up with USC ineligible for the title. After three weeks, it looks as if Arizona, Oregon and Stanford are the three legit contenders. Each has a powerful offense, though there are concerns on defense. Still, even without the Trojans, the Pac-10 race should end up being the most entertaining of all.
The Big Ten was overrated in the preseason. Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin were preseason top-10 teams, but only Ohio State looks the part. Iowa lost at Arizona, which certainly isn't embarrassing. But Iowa's defense was dominated, and that has to be worrisome to coach Kirk Ferentz. The good news for Ferentz is that his Hawkeyes will see just one offense that good the rest of the season (Ohio State's). Wisconsin had desultory performances in season-opening wins over UNLV and San Jose State (a combined 1-5, with the only win a five-point affair over a FCS team), then was lucky to hold off Arizona State by one Saturday. Who else in the Big Ten scares anybody? Penn State with its true freshman quarterback? Michigan with its one-man offense and questionable defense? Michigan State with its shaky defense? Northwestern? Minnesota? Purdue? Illinois? Indiana?
Mark Ingram is just fine. Missing the first two games of the season may have cost Ingram a realistic shot at winning a second consecutive Heisman, but he showed Saturday he's back at peak form. In his 2010 debut, Ingram ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries as Alabama trounced Duke 62-13. Ingram reached the 100-yard mark after just three carries and certainly didn't look like someone who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has guts. He made the most daring move of the season Saturday when he called for a fake field goal with the Spartans trailing Notre Dame 31-28 in overtime. On fourth-and-13 from the 28, Dantonio called for a fake field goal, and holder Aaron Bates responded by throwing the winning touchdown pass to Charlie Gantt. While it's uncertain whether the touchdown should have counted -- still photos showed the play clock at zero before the ball was snapped -- the audacity of Dantonio's decision isn't up for debate.