PFF’s college football Week 3 roundup
Kevin Connaghan breaks down the best and worst performances in college football -- along with the biggest surprises -- in our Week 3 roundup.
PFF’s college football Week 3 roundup
Best team performance: Ole Miss Rebels
The most anticipated game of the week saw Ole Miss travel to Tuscaloosa to take on an Alabama team out to revenge last season’s defeat. Things didn’t exactly go to plan for the Crimson Tide — two fumbled first quarter kick returns certainly didn’t help Alabama’s cause. At quarterback sophomore Cooper Bateman had earned the start over Jake Coker, but three points from four drives and an awful interception saw Coker take the reins. The Crimson Tide offense was certainly more productive with Coker, but the turnovers continued with two further picks.
Offensively, passing game was key for the Rebels, with QB Chad Kelly throwing touchdown passes to three different wide receivers — Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core and Laquon Treadwell. The first of them came on a wild play — under pressure from an errant snap, Kelly tossed the ball in the general direction of a well-covered Treadwell, the ball was deflected into the path of Adeboyejo who took it to the house. Not exactly how the play was drawn up, but they’ll take it. Kelly found a wide-open Core for the second and hit Treadwell with a jump ball for the third to put Ole Miss up 43-24. Alabama brought it back to 43-37, but the Rebels held on for a terrific win.
Worst team performance: Missouri Tigers
There were a few candidates for the worst team of the week, but Missouri’s difficulty in dealing with UConn at home earned the nomination. To be specific, it was the Missouri offense that struggled — the defense held up its end of the deal, holding the Huskies to just 233 total yards and six points. However, the Tigers could muster just nine points and 270 yards of offense of their own, and two of those points came from the defense. Missouri QB Maty Mauk had a -5.3 overall grade through the first two games, and carried that form into this game, passing for 145 yards and an interception. Mauk did score the game-winning touchdown on goal line run, but was benched for Drew Lock as Missouri tried to kill the game in the fourth quarter. A win is a win, and Missouri remain undefeated, but they are highly unlikely to continue that way if the offense continues like this in SEC play.
Best individual performance: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Auburn had been unconvincing through the first two weeks of the 2015 season, but facing offensively-limited opponents had let them off the hook. That certainly wasn’t the case in Baton Rouge, as LSU pulverized Auburn on the ground, led by running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournette opened the game with a 71 yard carry and never let up, finishing with 228 rushing yards and three touchdowns at a sensational 12.0 average per carry. His +3.1 overall grade as a freshman in 2014 was good, but not special, particularly not when compared to other standout freshman runners like Georgia’s Nick Chubb or Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Fournette was again good in the season opener against Mississippi State, but this was the breakout performance LSU fans have been waiting for.
His second touchdown was the signature play. Good blocking got Fournette to the second level untouched. Once there, he stepped past one defender, shrugged a second over his shoulder and juked inside the third for a fantastic score.
Worst individual performance: Patrick Towles, QB, Kentucky
This was supposed to be Kentucky’s chance to end their 28-game losing streak against the Gators. After ending one winless streak with a road win against South Carolina last week, the Wildcats were primed to end another and they blew it — none more so than QB Patrick Towles.
It’s not all on Towles of course. The running game faltered, and the offensive line struggled to handle the Gators defensive front. Even so, Towles went 8-for-24 and threw two picks, and his 33.3 percent completion rate is the worst he’s posted as a starter. Towles had opened the season well enough, his -0.4 overall grade through the first two weeks was a marked improvement from his 2014 form. His +1.8 passing grade against the Gamecocks was the best we’d seen from him, but the Florida defense seems to have brought out the worst.
Biggest surprise of the weekend: Stanford upsetting USC
Stanford and USC entered this game seemingly headed in different directions. USC started the year hot, admittedly against questionable competition, while Stanford had stumbled out of the blocks against Northwestern. The general narrative had been that this game would give USC the chance to lay down a marker in the Pac-12. The early going suggested that they might do just that as USC took a 21-10 lead mid-way through the second quarter — and then things unravelled as Stanford scored twice to reach half-time with the lead.
A Stanford offense that had looked stagnant in the first two weeks strangled the life out of the game, not only claiming 65.8 percent of possession, but finishing those long drives with points. In the bigger picture it’s a result that likely hurts the conference — after all, Stanford already have that loss to Northwestern on their record. Yet, the Cardinal won’t care about that one bit as they got their Pac-12 campaign off to a great start.