Yes, it's early. No, Miami has not played a power-conference opponent yet. But after take-no-prisoners results against Florida A&M and FAU (combined score: 108-13), the Hurricanes took on the most awkward possible non-conference matchup — a road game against Appalachian State — and romped from nearly the opening kickoff.
The Mountaineers began the season by nearly beating Tennessee in Knoxville and welcomed the Hurricanes to town with upset intentions. But Miami scored touchdowns on three of its first 16 plays, and when ASU rallied to within 24-10 in the third quarter, the Hurricanes put the game away with three touchdown drives. Appalachian State was a popular upset pick; Miami won by 35.
Early returns can be misleading, but at the very least, my S&P+ rating is set up to take most seriously in September the things that tend to be most sustainable through November. With Miami's schedule, all we could ask for was complete dominance. That's what we got.
Brad Kaaya is completing 66 percent of his passes. Mark Walton, Joe Yearby, and Gus Edwards have combined to average 8.3 yards per carry. Stacy Coley has been an efficient No. 1 target, and freshman Ahmmon Richards is averaging 15.6 yards per target. The line is opening holes and keeping Kaaya upright.
On defense, the marriage of aggressive coordinator Manny Diaz and über-aggressive line coach Craig Kuligowski has worked as well as possible. Miami ranks first in defensive line havoc rate; against the run, the Hurricanes have combined efficiency (fifth in opportunity rate, 21st in rushing success rate) with invasiveness (first in stuff rate).
Miami has treated inferior opponents as drastically inferior opponents, in other words.
The Hurricanes traded up when they got rid of Al Golden and landed former Georgia coach Mark Richt. (Georgia, by the way, is on the "underachievers" list below, so far.) This new marriage couldn't have started any better over the first three weeks.
Is Miami for real? Hard to say this early, obviously, but we won't have to wait too long to get a clear answer. In October, the Hurricanes will play at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame while hosting Florida State and North Carolina. Four of five opponents currently rank 26th or better in S&P+. But Miami is playing like The U and is apparently going to be dressing like The U, too. What more can you ask for?
6 teams moving up and 6 teams moving down
Because opponent adjustments aren't that reliable yet, preseason projections still account for more than 50 percent of the S&P+ ratings. This built-in conservatism prevents too many major early-season moves. But with standout play (good or bad), a few have seen their standings shift a good amount.
Teams with the worst movement from preseason S&P+ projections through Week 3:
- Bowling Green (down 25 spots, from 60th to 85th)
- Washington State (down 16, from 46th to 62nd)
- Northwestern (down 16, from 49th to 65th)
- Appalachian State (down 16, from 57th to 73rd)
- Buffalo (down 16, from 107th to 123rd)
- Georgia (down 15, from 12th to 27th)
Teams with the best movement from preseason S&P+ projections through Week 3:
- Colorado (up 19 spots, from 86th to 67th)
- Memphis (up 19, from 78th to 59th)
- Miami (up 16, from 31st to 15th)
- Wisconsin (up 16, from 36th to 20th)
- Indiana (up 14, from 58th to 44th)
- Texas State (up 14, from 120th to 106th)
Colorado's rise has been impressive. The Buffaloes destroyed Colorado State in the season opener and gave a strong Michigan team a scare for quite a while in Ann Arbor. (They also developed a template for how to actually enjoy yourself while preparing for a huge game.)
Meanwhile, Memphis has not yet missed a beat after losing head coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech and quarterback Paxton Lynch to the Denver Broncos.
4 second-half takeaways
Missouri gained 471 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per play against Georgia on Saturday night in Columbia. That's 307 more yards than the Tigers managed against the same team a year ago, and their 27 points were 21 more than they had managed in the last two meetings with UGA combined.
Plug one leak, and another opens. Mizzou has figured out how to move the ball, but after red zone failures cost the Tigers in a 26-11 loss to WVU, turnovers were deadly against the Dawgs. They committed four of them in the second half, and five overall, in a 28-27 loss.
Drew Lock's full-game stat line — 23-for-38 for 376 yards, three scores, and the three picks — was awfully strong, but Mizzou managed only seven points after halftime.
An improving Tiger defense couldn't stop Isaiah McKenzie from making a brilliant fourth-down catch with 90 seconds left to seal a Georgia win. After three straight close calls, Kirby Smart's Dawgs remain undefeated.
6th in F/+
We'll put aside the general tackiness of this hire, that it sets an awful example for players (if you're into that sort of thing) ... that Louisville is basically welcoming back the guy who cheated on the program, then dumped it seven years ago ... that there's a chance that, despite the "baby, I've changed" rhetoric, he leaves Louisville for a sexier job again in the coming years ... that even though we know that winning is all that matters, we don't necessarily enjoy having that principle shoved so blatantly in our faces.
Indeed, let's put that aside. This makes quite a bit of sense on paper ... we think.
That's what I wrote about two and a half years ago, when Louisville hired Bobby Petrino for the second time. I think every word of that first paragraph still rings true, but I maaaaaay have been understating things a bit at the end.
Louisville is 3-0, third in the AP poll (with more first-place votes than No. 2 Ohio State), and, despite preseason projections that are still holding them down, a solid sixth in F/+, which combines my S&P+ with another rating.
The Cardinals nearly handed Florida State its worst loss ever on Saturday, a 63-20 pasting that could have been even worse if Petrino hadn't shown a bit of mercy. Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his blistering pace with 216 passing yards and 155 rushing yards, and his supporting cast was nearly as good: James Quick caught seven of seven passes for 122 yards, and Brandon Radcliff rushed 14 times for 114. The UL defense dominated in the trenches, holding Dalvin Cook to 3.4 yards per carry and sacking Deondre Francois five times.
This was an outright demolition. Yes, the FSU defense is a shell of its pre-injury self. Yes, Francois is a redshirt freshman. But this doesn't happen. And it happened at the hands of Petrino's Cardinals.
(By the way, don't scroll around on that coaching grades piece to see how right or wrong I was about some of the 2013-14 hires.)
(You looked, didn't you ... hey, I always say coaching hires are crapshoots. Grading them isn't any easier.)
A 15% passing-downs success rate
Fun with stats, part 1: Ole Miss' Chad Kelly had a phenomenal game against Alabama in Oxford on Saturday; not including a period when the game briefly fell into garbage time, the senior completed 15 of 18 passes on standard downs for 297 yards, a lofty average of 15.7 yards per attempt.
Fun with stats, part 2: Ole Miss' Chad Kelly suffered from severe glitches in Ole Miss' tight loss to Alabama in Oxford on Saturday. The senior completed only four of 12 passes on passing downs for 58 yards and an interception. His average of 4.8 yards per pass attempt on passing downs meant the Rebels were doomed the moment they fell behind schedule.
This was a game that proved the value of splitting things into standard and passing downs. Against one of the best defenses in the country, Ole Miss was as good as anyone at staying on schedule, managing a 39 percent success rate on standard downs.
But the moment they fell behind, doom followed. They managed only a 15 percent passing-downs success rate, bad even considering the competition. And with the run game nonexistent (Akeem Judd and Eugene Brazley: 18 carries, 55 yards; percentage of carries that gained at least five yards: 11.1), Kelly bore too much pressure to succeed. Ole Miss scored 43 points on the Tide, but offensive struggles were a major reason why a huge lead turned into a huge deficit.
26 carries and sacks
Houston survived what will probably end up one of its tougher AAC tests on Thursday, hitting the accelerator late to cruise at Cincinnati, 40-16. Cincy took a brief lead early in the fourth before Houston scored twice, then landed back-to-back pick sixes to make the winning margin a little gaudy.
Against a team they almost lost to last year, the Cougars did what they needed to remain undefeated. But that included asking quarterback Greg Ward to attempt 42 passes and rush 23 times. That would be a lot of hits to take even if Ward didn't have a banged-up shoulder that appeared to impact his accuracy on certain passes.
That he still completed 27 of 39 and rushed for 95 yards (and fought off a series of blocks to make a key tackle on a Cincinnati fumble return late in the first half) says a lot about his talent and heart. But ... Houston could have as many as 11 more games to go. That's a lot of hits to take this early.
62 points in three damn weeks
Lamar Jackson is setting one hell of a scoring pace at the moment. The Louisville quarterback, fresh off of a torching of the Florida State defense, has run for 10 touchdowns in three games, has thrown for eight more, and heads into Week 4 the Heisman favorite.
Your weekly Lamar Jackson update pic.twitter.com/XIAVyRIhX3— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) September 19, 2016
He isn't the nation's leader at personally entering the end zone, however. That would be Arizona State's Kalen Ballage, who has scored 10 touchdowns and a two-point conversion. His current scoring average of 20.7 points per game would have ranked second in the Pac-12 last season ... in basketball. Nobody else in FBS has more than seven touchdowns. (And seven's a lot!)