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College football Week 3 winners and losers: Nebraska finally got what it wanted, and it's still unhappy

Nick Bromberg and Sam Cooper
·12-min read

Nebraska publicly talked about how it wanted fall football more than any other Big Ten school. On Wednesday, the Big Ten said fall football would happen on Oct. 24.

Nebraska is still not happy.

The conference unveiled its schedule on Saturday and its existence gave Nebraska another chance to complain. The Huskers open at Big Ten favorite Ohio State on Oct. 24 before Big Ten West favorite Wisconsin travels to Lincoln for Week 2.

“For obvious reasons, I was hoping we could dissemble the schedule because of unique circumstances and rebuild it to be fair for each school in the conference,” athletic director Bill Moos told the Omaha World-Herald on Saturday. “I was outspoken on that, to the point where they heard it from me every day. The rationale was there, I didn’t think we needed to follow it. Nebraska is playing five AP preseason top 25 teams. Ohio State is playing two.”

“I’m sure my friend [Ohio State athletic director] Gene Smith is smiling today. His friend Bill Moos is not. I’ve got a good football team with a great football coach that deserves a break here or there to start getting back on track to being a contender in the Big Ten West.”

Weaker teams play tougher schedules because their opponents are better. And when you’re ranked like Ohio State was in August, there are fewer ranked teams in your conference that you can play. It’s simple math. Ohio State’s schedule was already set to be easier than Nebraska’s.

The Big Ten’s logic in building the schedule was also simple. Nebraska was scheduled to play Ohio State and Penn State and Rutgers before the pandemic hit as part of its nine-game schedule. Ohio State was its protected crossover opponent, and Penn State was scheduled to visit Lincoln while Rutgers was one of five originally-scheduled road games. That math left the Rutgers game on the chopping block as the Big Ten sought to make sure each team had four home games and four road games in 2020.

Yet here we are with a Nebraska that ended up getting its way still finding something to gripe about. Nebraska’s tantrum when the Big Ten initially postponed the football season to the spring was childish and hilarious. Yeah, it’s one of just two schools in the Big Ten that doesn’t have a pro sports team in the same state. But Nebraska is also the only show in town because it’s in a state with five electoral votes, the fewest of any Big Ten state.

If Nebraska wants a break, it needs to start setting itself up for those breaks on the football field. The once-proud Big Eight team has fallen flat on its face lately in the Big Ten. This is a Nebraska team that lost to Northern Illinois at home in 2017, to Troy at home in 2018 and had a four-game losing streak in 2019 to fall out of bowl contention. You can’t complain about logical scheduling when you’ve won 13 games over the past three years.

- Nick Bromberg

Here are this week’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

Miami: Miami’s new-look offense was mighty impressive in a 47-34 road win over Louisville on Saturday night. With Houston transfer D’Eriq King leading the way, the Hurricanes put up nearly 500 yards of offense, including consecutive 75-yard touchdown plays in the third quarter. Miami has been plagued by poor quarterback play for years, but things seem to be solidified for 2020, at least. Next on the schedule for Miami is rival Florida State. After that? No. 1 Clemson.

Navy: Things were looking very bleak for Navy. After getting destroyed 55-3 in their opener by BYU, the Midshipmen trailed Tulane 24-0 at halftime on Saturday, mustering only 59 yards of offense through two quarters. In the second half, though, Navy uncharacteristically came out throwing and did so with great success. Dalen Morris, who did not start, had completions of 24, 44, 32 and 15 yards as he led Navy on a wild comeback. His 32-yard touchdown pass to Mychal Cooper (plus the two-point conversion) tied the game at 24-24 with 13:22 to play. Bijan Nichols then drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Navy a dramatic win that was the biggest second-half comeback in school history.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 19: Dalen Morris #8 of the Navy Midshipmen throws a pass against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on September 19, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Dalen Morris led Navy's come-from-behind win over Tulane on Saturday. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

UCF: UCF’s offense is a well-oiled machine. The Knights racked up a whopping 660 yards in their 2020 debut, a 49-21 road win over Georgia Tech. It was a strong effort, especially on the heels of Tech’s win over Florida State last week. The Yellow Jackets hung tough for a while, but were doomed by five turnovers. UCF took advantage of those mistakes with Dillon Gabriel leading the way with 417 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson were his top two targets, combining for 16 catches for 259 yards. Tre Nixon caught four passes for 94 yards and two scores. The Knights gashed the Yellow Jackets for 243 yards on the ground, too.

Boston College: The debut of Jeff Hafley at Boston College was a strong one. In a 26-6 road win over Duke, the Eagles put up 384 offense while forcing five turnovers on defense. Phil Jurkovec, the quarterback transfer from Boston College, completed 17-of-23 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite targets were receiver Zay Flowers and tight end Hunter Long. Flowers had five catches for 162 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. Long caught the other touchdown and had seven catches for 93 yards overall. We’re not going to get carried away after one game, especially considering Duke’s two fumbles inside the BC 10-yard line, but it was hard not to be impressed with BC’s performance in Hafley’s first game.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs scored a dramatic comeback win over Southern Miss on Saturday night. Louisiana Tech won 31-30 thanks to a TD with 18 seconds left that was initially ruled as an incomplete pass. But Griffin Hebert was able to get one foot down after catching a pass from Luke Anthony and the PAT put the Bulldogs ahead.

Southern Miss was up 27-10 with 7:36 to go in the third quarter but was outscored 21-3 in the final 22-plus minutes of the game. It was a bad way to end the debut for interim coach Scotty Walden. He took over for Jay Hopson after Southern Miss’ Week 1 loss to South Alabama.

Marshall: Score one for Conference USA. A few game postponements opened up the coveted 3:30 CBS window for Appalachian State’s trip to Marshall. App State is the two-time defending Sun Belt champion, but Marshall was the better team on Saturday in a 17-7 home victory. The Thundering Herd rushed for 216 yards while the defense limited App State to just 96 yards on 33 carries. Brenden Knox’s 138 rushing yards were key to the win, but the play of the day was made by safety Brandon Drayton, who chased down App State tight end Mike Evans near the goal line and punched the ball loose. His teammate, Nazeeh Johnson, pounced on the loose ball for a touchback to give the ball back to the offense. Awesome effort.

Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns are going to stick around in the Top 25 for another week. Louisiana went on the road and upset ranked Iowa State last week, but started off slow on Saturday against Georgia State. The Panthers stormed out to a 14-0 lead and led 21-7 early in the third, but Louisiana kept battling. The Cajuns reeled off 21 straight points to take a fourth-quarter lead, but GSU eventually forced overtime. Once the game reached the extra sessions, Elijah Mitchell sealed the victory with a touchdown run. Mitchell had a huge day: 164 yards and two TDs on 16 carries.

SMU: SMU’s 31-24 win over Texas State in Week 1 was a little underwhelming, so it came out and made a statement this weekend against North Texas. The Mustangs put up a ridiculous 710 yards of offense in a 65-35 road win over North Texas. Shane Buechele threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns while Ulysses Bentley rushed for 227 yards and three scores on just 19 carries. Best of all? The Mustangs did not commit one single turnover.

LOSERS

Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State was lucky to escape its season-opener against Tulsa with a win. After an offseason full of off-field tumult and high expectations on the field, the Cowboys were mostly lifeless in a 16-7 win over Tulsa. OSU lost starting QB Spencer Sanders to an injury in the first quarter and looked totally uninspired for long stretches. For a team with such a strong collection of talent on offense, it’s surprising they looked that bad without Sanders. No. 2 QB Ethan Bullock looked out of place, but No. 3 QB Shane Illingworth at least was able to lead a few scoring drives. If it wasn’t for the ineptness of Tulsa, Gundy’s group would be 0-1.

Tulsa: Tulsa had so many chances to pull off a huge upset against Oklahoma State, but just could not stop shooting itself in the foot. In a 16-7 loss, the Golden Hurricane was 0-for-12 on third down and committed 15 penalties — including way too many involving the play clock. One of those penalties, a false start on third-and-goal, took what would have been the go-ahead touchdown off the board. The next play, Tyler Tipton missed a 26-yard field goal that would have tied the score at 10-10 with under 10 minutes to play. Instead, the Cowboys maintained a 10-7 lead and would eventually tack on two more field goals to escape with an ugly win.

Oklahoma State linebacker Calvin Bundage (1) hits Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith (11) as he gets off a pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Tulsa blew multiple opportunities in a 16-7 loss to Oklahoma State. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Syracuse: It looks like it’s going to be another long year for Syracuse. After eight wins combined in Dino Babers’ first two seasons, the Orange came out of nowhere to win 10 games in 2018. But another losing season (5-7) followed in 2019. With the way Babers’ team has performed through two weeks in 2020, a winning record would be shocking. Syracuse was blown out 31-6 by North Carolina last week. This week it was a 21-10 loss to No. 25 Pittsburgh. The Orange mustered just 171 yards of offense and 69 of those yards came on one play. So far this season, Syracuse has scored 16 total points while allowing 14 sacks. Not good.

South Florida: USF is in for a really rough year as it begins its rebuild under Jeff Scott. When the Bulls managed to throw for only 102 yards against The Citadel last week, you knew they were in for a challenging afternoon when they traveled to Notre Dame. A 52-0 loss was even worse than expected. Notre Dame scored touchdowns on its first four drives and never looked back. ND outgained USF 428-231 (including 280 rushing yards) and limited the Bulls to just 2-of-15 on third-down tries. Next on the schedule is a trip to Florida Atlantic before AAC play begins.

Wake Forest: NC State had miserable 4-8 record in 2019 that included just a 1-7 mark in ACC play. On top of that, the Wolfpack had the conference’s worst offense, averaging just 22.1 points per game. In NC State’s 2020 debut, however, it moved the ball and scored with ease against a porous Wake Forest defense. In all, the Wake defense surrendered 463 yards of offense in a 45-42 loss. Even worse, NC State did all of that with Bailey Hockman, projected to be a backup, starting at quarterback. Hockman didn’t need to do all that much because his backs were busy gashing the Wake defense for 270 rushing yards and four TDs.

Middle Tennessee: Through two games, Middle Tennessee has been outscored 89-14 in losses to Army and Troy. If the 42-0 loss to Army was bad, Saturday’s home opener against Troy was not a whole lot better. The Blue Raiders were blown out yet again, this time by a 47-14 margin, The Trojans led 26-7 at halftime, 40-7 after three quarters and finished the afternoon with 496 yards of offense. Meanwhile the MTSU offense struggled again with three quarterbacks combining to go 21-of-34 for 154 yards, one TD and three interceptions. The run game was worse: 87 yards on 27 carries. That’s barely three yards per carry. Yikes.

Western Kentucky: WKU has gotten off to another rough start. The Hilltoppers opened 2019 1-2 before winning eight of their final 10 games. This year, it’s an 0-2 start with losses to Louisville and Liberty. Losing to a tough ACC team like Louisville is one thing, but dropping the home opener 30-24 as two-touchdown favorites to Liberty is a tough look. WKU was supposed to have one of Conference USA’s best defenses, but it was gashed for nearly 500 yards by the Flames, including 354 rushing yards.

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