Welcome to the college football overreaction index, where we examine the most important storylines from the past weekend of games to determine what’s worth paying attention to and what’s getting a little too much attention.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 3.
Same old Maryland.
The No. 21 Terps’ 20-17 loss to Temple will sting for awhile, especially considering how many chances Maryland had to salvage a sloppy performance. There’s the missed 42-yard field-goal attempt; a failed fake field goal; coming up short two separate times on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line; and failing to turn a 7-yard punt by the Owls and a 55-yard punt return inside the 5 into points late in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps even more deflating is how quickly the momentum from the hot start under first-year coach Mike Locksley was brought to a sudden halt. The Associated Press Top 25 ranking, the program’s first since 2013 and the reward for a feel-good 2-0 run, was short-lived. Instead of heading into a Friday night Big Ten home opener against No. 13 Penn State next week with a chance to plant their flag as a force to be reckoned with, the Terps will have to prove their fast start wasn’t a fluke.
Becoming a program on par with Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten East was always going to take time. But the arrival of quarterback Josh Jackson and fellow transfers Shaq Smith, Keandre Jones and Tyler Mabry added depth and talent at positions that sorely needed it, and, combined with Locksley’s coaching and two straight top-30 recruiting classes in 2017 and 2018, there was hope for a season that defied modest expectations.
That kind of season is still on the table. Consider how much progress Maryland has shown. Take Locksley himself, who seems to have improved as a coach after spending time under Nick Saban at Alabama. Take the players, who put themselves in position to win multiple times with big plays Saturday but just failed to execute in a few critical moments. Take the victories on the recruiting trail, which began with four-star safety Nick Cross on Signing Day and continue with a 2020 class ranked 37th in the nation.
There were plenty of jokes Saturday about Maryland seemingly turning the corner yet again, only to fall flat in another loss to a lesser opponent. (The last time the Terps won as a Top 25 team was in 2006. Since then, according to ESPN, 93 other teams have won at least one game while in the Top 25). You might be tempted to make them yourself and believe this is the same old Maryland. That would be unwise. There are clear signs of improvement in College Park, and while a loss to Temple might muddy the picture and take some of the excitement away from the beginning of the season, the future is bright.
It was not a banner weekend for the ACC. Boston College fell to Kansas, which earned its first road win over a Power 5 team in nearly 11 years, ending a 48-game skid. Georgia Tech lost to Football Championship Subdivision level The Citadel in overtime. Virginia Tech needed a second-half comeback to beat FCS Furman. North Carolina State was routed by a rebuilding West Virginia.
Four years ago, Virginia was 4-8 and Wake Forest was 3-9. Now, those two programs are perhaps all alone in the conference’s second tier behind No. 1 Clemson, each standing at 3-0 after quality wins over the weekend.
The Demon Deacons held off North Carolina in a nonconference game (yes, really) and have a very real chance at starting 6-0 for the first time since 1944. The No. 25 Cavaliers, meanwhile, fought back to win against Florida State to get to 3-0 for the first time since 2005.
Leading the charge are a pair of dynamic, unsung quarterbacks in Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman and Virginia’s Bryce Perkins. Outside of Trevor Lawrence, they might be the two best in the conference.
What does all this mean for the ACC? It’s unclear. How Florida State and Virginia Tech finish the season and what they decide to do with their head coaches will tip the balance of power. But with the Seminoles and Hokies struggling, Miami trying to recover from an 0-2 start under first-year coach Manny Diaz and preseason darling Syracuse dusting itself off after back-to-back blowout defeats, the pecking order could be changing. In the meantime, Virginia and Wake Forest are seizing the moment.
This is the year Central Florida gets its playoff shot.
Give credit to UCF. The Knights knew nothing less than a rout of Stanford would earn them any respect, and they responded with a 45-27 win.
It marked UCF’s 28th win in its past 29 games, and the Knights scored at least 30 points for the 29th straight game — the longest streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1936.
They also might have found their long-term answer at quarterback. Freshman Dillon Gabriel threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns in his second start, perhaps solidifying his spot over Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush and incumbent Darriel Mack Jr.
The problem is, UCF won’t get many more opportunities to make a statement to the playoff committee. Entering Saturday, ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked the Knights’ remaining schedule the 76th toughest in the nation. To have any chance at becoming the first Group of 5 team to reach the playoff, they’ll need to not only go undefeated, but do so in dominant fashion, winning games the way they did Saturday. They’ll likely need some upsets in the top of the rankings, too, leaving some deserving Power 5 teams with one or even two losses.
UCF will keep knocking on the door. The question will be how loud.
Franks, the Gators’ starting quarterback, suffered a gruesome ankle injury against Kentucky, knocking him out for the season. With No. 9 Florida trailing 21-10, redshirt junior Kyle Trask stepped in and led touchdown drives on three of the Gators’ next four possessions to escape with a 29-21 victory.
On top of being a standout dual-threat quarterback, Franks was Florida’s vocal leader. But he had been sloppy with the ball Saturday, throwing an interception and fumbling to set up the Wildcats’ go-ahead touchdown early in the game.
There’s no doubt Franks is more talented than his backup, but Trask might be more capable of leading the offense. Trask, who was a backup quarterback in high school to Houston’s D’Eriq King at Manvel High in Texas but still earned a three-star rating, led the Gators to 19 straight points Saturday night, often extending plays in the pocket and making use of his size (6 feet 5, 239 pounds) on a 4-yard touchdown run.
Trask will have time to get settled as the starter, facing woebegone Tennessee and FCS Towson at home in the next two weeks before battling Auburn in Gainesville. Plus, Florida coach Dan Mullen helped turn Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott into stars, and his track record with quarterbacks was one of the main reasons he was hired.
If anyone can help Florida cope with the loss of its starter, it’s Mullen, and the Gators defense is good enough to keep games close. Franks’ injury stings, but it doesn’t stop Florida from competing for an SEC East title.