With two road victories against Power Five competition in three weeks, the Penn State No. 23 took care of business in September and set his sights on nine or more regular-season wins.
Saturday’s 41-12 victory at Auburn even included beauty points. For starters, winning by 29 points against an SEC opponent even as underdog as the Tigers speaks for itself.
Add an offense that has gained 477 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per pass attempt. Two freshman running backs with extreme potential, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, combined for 176 yards and four touchdowns — one, Singleton’s 54-yard scoring in the fourth quarter, put a damper on the concept of SEC speed.
Defensively, PSU forced four turnovers, harassed Auburn quarterback TJ Finley and held the Tigers’ rushing game to just 119 yards on 36 carries.
More than the narrow season-opening victory at Purdue, the victory validates the Nittany Lions’ place in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches poll and hints at the growing possibility that PSU could land in the New Year’s Six.
To enter one of these big bowl games, the Nittany Lions must avoid stumbling against the third and fourth tiers of the Big Ten – Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers – and earn a share in the four games that will determine whether they earn all kinds of national respect: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan State.
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After two average seasons under James Franklin, the victory at least guarantees that PSU deserves inclusion among the top teams in the conference. For Auburn, there’s only one way this will end: with a coaching change.
The Nittany Lions, Tigers and others top the list of winners and losers for Week 3 of the 2022 season:
No. 24 Oregon will regain some credibility and earn a spot near the top of the Pac-12 power rankings after handing No. 14 Brigham Young a 41-20 loss. Bo Nix and the Ducks’ offense totaled 439 yards, 24 first downs and 11.4 yards per pass attempt, delivering the second strong performance in two weeks after starting the year with a blowout loss to Georgia. While that loss may linger in the minds of some voters, passing the Cougars by three touchdowns should solidify Oregon’s place among the teams to beat in the conference race.
Alabama, Georgia, etc.
Another weekend of matches against uneven competition resulted in a lopsided winning streak for the best of the best in FBS. Four of the top teams in action Saturday afternoon — No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 5 Michigan and No. 6 Oklahoma — won by a combined score of 219-28. A week after struggling to put away Texas, the Crimson Tide had three non-offensive touchdowns in a 63-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
On the same day the school hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay,” the Mountaineers pulled off the most incredible end to the opening month of the season. With his team behind rival Sun Belt Troy 28-26 with two seconds left and the ball near midfield, Appalachia State quarterback Chase Brice’s desperate uprising was knocked down by a group of defenders from Troy and deflected into the arms of wide receiver Christan Horn, who caught the ball around the 7-yard line and weaved around the right side to complete the unlikely victory. It was a memorable week for the Mountaineers, who upset Texas A&M last Saturday.
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin is the next Power Five coach facing extremely tough job security after the Tigers’ nasty home loss. As Auburn’s first loss of the season, Saturday’s performance comes just seven days after the Tigers struggled to put away San Jose State and just as the team turns to SEC play . Auburn will face Missouri next weekend in a must-watch game before facing LSU, Georgia and Mississippi.
The first victory of the Marcus Freeman era almost didn’t: Notre Dame managed to slip past California 24-17 after knocking down the Golden Bears’ possible tying shot in the end zone at the end of time allotted. While the win should relieve some pressure amid a very poor start to the year, attacking issues remain a major concern. The Fighting Irish gained just 297 yards in 64 games against an opponent who ranked 50th nationally in yards allowed per game despite facing UC Davis and UNLV to open the year.
Beating Oregon would have given BYU two wins over teams that could end up winning a Power Five championship, joining last week’s double-overtime win over No. 19 Baylor. That would have sent the Cougars up in the coaching poll and in position to crush the college football playoffs with an undefeated regular season, especially with high-profile games still to come against Notre Dame and Arkansas. Although still within reach of a nine-win season, BYU won’t be a factor in the race for the top four.
With interim coach Mickey Joseph on the sidelines in place of Scott Frost, Nebraska scored the first and last points in a non-conference rivalry game against No. 6 Oklahoma. Unfortunately, those two touchdowns didn’t go away. only sandwiches a 49-point barrage that represents the latest low point in this stumbling program. Led by another 100-yard game from running back Eric Gray, the Sooners racked up 580 yards of total offense and had 31 first downs while holding Nebraska to just 4.3 yards per play.
Defense of Georgia
Well, the Bulldogs gave up a touchdown. It took until the final moments of the fourth quarter of South Carolina’s blowout and involved the backup defense’s backups, snapping Georgia’s touchdown streak to start the year at 179 minutes and 7 seconds. The Bulldogs have now given up 10 points in three games. How embarrassing, right?