The most common refrain from college football fans and media alike over the weekend was, "Are any of these teams any good?" It was an easy response to see coming. On a weekend that didn't feature any matchups between ranked teams but instead saw an average spread of nearly 23 points in games involving ranked teams, everybody spent the week telling themselves, "It's the weeks like these that include the biggest surprises!"
Well, this week didn't. Ranked teams went 22-2. The two who managed to lose (Tennessee and Kansas State) did so on the road against SEC teams and were involved in two of the few games with single-digit spreads. Plus, you know, Tennessee losing at Florida isn't exactly a rarity. The Vols have lost 10 straight trips to The Swamp
However, while the other 22 ranked teams all won, many of the ones at the top of the poll looked ordinary. Georgia had to come back from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat South Carolina. Michigan won by 25 but turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions from J.J. McCarthy. Florida State looked as if nobody told it about the game it was supposed to play against Boston College until 15 minutes before kickoff, and barely escaped 31-29. Texas was tied 10-10 with Wyoming after three quarters. Then there was Alabama, taking out its frustration for a loss to Texas on South Florida by looking even worse than last week in a 17-3 victory.
But one team looked as dominant as it has every week all season. One team that seems to be flying under the radar despite starting the season ranked in the top 10 and looking every bit the College Football Playoff contender every quarter it's played.
Washington beat Michigan State 41-7 in East Lansing, Michigan, on Saturday evening, and it could've been so much worse. The Huskies led 35-0 at halftime. Michael Penix threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. Then, the Huskies called off the dogs. They put up another 304 yards of offense in the second half (finishing with 713 total) but ran the ball on nearly 60% of their snaps and removed Penix and other key starters. In truth, Washington could've put up 60 points on the Spartans if it chose to, but instead showed mercy on a team it will soon share a conference with.
As impressive as it was, it was nothing new for Washington and Penix. This team has been destroying everything in its path. The Huskies offense, led by Penix and three future NFL receivers in Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja'Lynn Polk, is in the top five nationally of nearly every statistic you can find or create. The 41 points the Huskies managed against Michigan State were its lowest scoring output of the season after opening with 56 against Boise State and putting up 43 against Tulsa.
Defensively, this team has yet to allow an opponent to score 20. It doesn't have the elite talent of a team like Georgia, nor has it been spectacular statistically, but it's been plenty good enough, and the best weapon it might have is Penix.
Teams are so terrified of what Penix and the Huskies' offense can do against them that it feels as if their only goal on offense is to keep the Washington offense off the field as long as possible, whether it means scoring points or not. And they should be terrified.
Fellow Pac-12 QB Caleb Williams won the Heisman last year, and Colorado's Shedeur Sanders is grabbing all the attention this year, but Penix is operating at an incredible level. Of 126 qualified QBs at the FBS level, Penix is one of only 22 averaging at least 11 air yards per attempt (an air yard is every yard a pass travels past the line of scrimmage before being caught; the national average per attempt is 9.0). Of those 22, Penix is the only one completing over 70% of his passes. He's at 74.3%. Nobody else is above 67.9% (Texas State's T.J. Finley). Penix is also only one of two to throw at least 100 passes.
In other words, Michael Penix drops back to pass more often than most, throws the ball further downfield than most, and completes those passes at a much higher rate than the shorter throws every other QB makes. He is a nightmare, and he's why asking if any of these teams are good is such a stupid question.
Washington is good. Very, very good. It's a wagon.
Time Machine Heisman of the Week
While we're on the subject of teams that have looked good every week, Notre Dame running back Audric Estime was born in the wrong era. These days, the Heisman Trophy is seen as a QB award, but there was once a time when running backs won it frequently. Alabama's Derrick Henry was the last to win it in 2015, but he's one of only three to do so this century. Alabama's Mark Ingram won it in 2009, and USC's Reggie Bush won in 2005 (though we're supposed to pretend he didn't).
If only Estime had been born in the 20th century. There was a stretch from 1972 to 1983 when a running back won the award every year. Then, after Doug Flutie won it in 1984, a running back claimed the award six times from 1985 to 1999.
Now, we don't even mention running backs as candidates, and Estime is proof. Have you heard his name mentioned as a Heisman candidate? I haven't, and talking about this sport is my literal job. You've heard his teammate Sam Hartman mentioned a lot, but Estime seems anonymous despite leading the nation in rushing. Estime has rushed for 521 yards on the season, 67 more yards than anybody else. He's averaging 8.3 yards per carry with five touchdowns and is an absolute nightmare to tackle.
While Estime is undoubtedly helped by having Sam Hartman in the same backfield and one of the best offensive lines in the country blocking for him, once the ball is in his hands, he's doing a lot of the work himself. He has averaged 4.73 yards post-contact on his carries. Among running backs with at least 50 carries, nobody else comes all that close to that mark. Troy's Kimani Vidal is at 4.44. Per PFF, Estime's 28 tackles avoided is more than any other back in the country.
Defenses can't load the box because of Hartman; his offensive line opens holes for him, and then Estime blows you up. Assuming Notre Dame reaches a bowl (if not more), Estime is on pace to finish the season with 1,693 yards, which would be a new record for Notre Dame, surpassing Vagas Ferguson's 1,437 yards in 1979. The 16 touchdowns Estime's on pace for would tie him for second-most all-time, one shy of the 17 Ferguson scored in 1979 and Allen Pinkett finished with in 1984.
Can you imagine the Heisman hype a running back on pace to break records at Notre Dame would've received 25 years ago? Today, most casual fans probably don't know his name.
Worst Tackle Attempt of the Week
First, I want to commend Tennessee's Kamal Hadden for trying. He was lined up at corner on the opposite side of the field from Florida's Trevor Etienne. Hadden didn't care. He made the trip across the field and threw his hat into the ring after watching his teammates repeatedly fail to tackle Etienne.
OK, maybe "threw his hat into the ring" doesn't accurately describe what happened here. How about Hadden deciding to gently caress Etienne with his shoulder before chasing him in a futile pursuit that ended with a somersault? Again, full credit to Hadden for at least giving the effort that plenty of defensive backs in his position wouldn't have. But the effort is only part of the battle.
Thicc Kicker of the Week
Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis is listed at 5-foot-11, 243 pounds, looks every bit the measurement, and perhaps more. He put all 243 pounds of that body into this kick on Saturday to help the Tigers reach 3-0.
Oddly enough, while the 61-yard field goal is the longest in SEC history, it is not the longest in Missouri history. Tom Whelihan hit a 62-yarder during the 1986 season when Missouri was still a part of the Big 8-one of those quirks of conference realignment.
Whoopsy Daisy Rate Chart of the Week
|Lowest Whoopsy Daisy Rate
|Highest Whoopsy Daisy Rate
4. Gunnar Watson, Troy
7. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
If you missed it last week, I. It tracks how often a quarterback fumbles or throws an interception (a Whoopsy Daisy). Here's an update after Week 3 with players like Illinois' Luke Altmyer and Virginia's Anthony Colandrea charging up the board.
Catch of the Week
This spectacular one-handed touchdown grab by BYU's Chase Roberts proved to be the difference in BYU's 38-31 win over Arkansas. The Razorbacks took a 31-21 lead on the Cougars early in the third quarter, but never scored again as BYU finished with 17 unanswered to get the win and improve to 3-0 on the season.
Defensive Player of the Week
Old Dominion cornerback LaMareon James had an incredible week. In the second quarter, with the Monarchs already beating Wake Forest 7-0, James scooped up a fumble and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Then, after Wake cut Old Dominion's lead to 17-7, James did it again with the 66-yard pick six in the highlight above.
That's two defensive touchdowns in one game. It's incredible James didn't end up at Iowa. Unfortunately, those two touchdowns were one fewer than the Monarchs needed, as Wake Forest came back to win the game 27-24.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!