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Week 3 takeaways: The biggest things we learned from the week

Thoughts on Lamar Jackson, Ohio State, Alabama’s defense, Gus Malzahn’s hot seat and much more.

Lamar Jackson is your star, Ohio State might be your new national title favorite, and Alabama’s defense is shaky, but ferocious. Week 3 delivered some blowouts, some thrills and a full day of entertainment. Here are the main takeaways from the week:

Lamar Jackson is your newest superstar

He was responsible for eight touchdowns in his first game of the season, but the opposing defense was Charlotte. He racked up five more last weekend against Syracuse, but most were hesitant to put too much stock in that performance either.

Then came the Florida State game. And on that day, Lamar Jackson was thrust from stud to superstar. Many commented that Jackson’s play was reminiscent of Michael Vick’s at Virginia Tech ... and then Vick weighed in.

The Cardinals’ 63–20 annihilation of the Seminoles was Jackson’s show, with him flummoxing the Florida State defense with his feet and opening it up for long pass plays. The Seminoles were missing star safety Derwin James, but it’s unclear if that would have made any difference. Head coach Bobby Petrino’s playcalling and Jackson’s athleticism had the Seminole D flat-footed, running the wrong direction and whiffing tackles all afternoon.

The sophomore quarterback rushed for four touchdowns for his second consecutive game, bringing his total to 10 for the season to go along with eight passing touchdowns. He’s averaging 155 rushing yards per game and 9.5 yards per carry. The numbers are preposterous, and his play is every bit as exciting as the numbers indicate.

NIESEN: Jackson, Louisville make huge statement in blowout of Florida State

...But Louisville isn’t your national title favorite, Ohio State is

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer described the Buckeyes’ 45–24 rout of Oklahoma as a “coming of age game.” It looked more like a team ready to contend for a national title. Despite his team’s relative youth in the secondary and in the backfield, Urban Meyer’s team throttled Oklahoma in every facet of the game.

The defensive line kept Baker Mayfield under constant pressure and forced three interceptions; the offense exploited every seam in a confused Oklahoma defense. Sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown caught four touchdown passes, including what will likely be the catch of the year. Sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore nabbed two interceptions that were both excellent reads of Mayfield. Curtis Samuel (a junior) and Mike Weber (a freshman) combined for 221 yards rushing on 29 carries and a touchdown.

Ohio State announces itself a playoff favorite with rout of Oklahoma

It doesn’t matter how young this team is, it’s utterly dominant. Junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, one of the few veteran presences, only needed 14 completions on 20 attempts to finish with four touchdowns while looking several steps ahead of the Sooners.

In an understandable if ridiculous moment of denial, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops pulled out the ol’ “Take a look at the tape” defense.

Normal people saw that Ohio State tuned up Oklahoma for four quarters and ended the Sooners’ playoff hopes.

Alabama had its hiccups, but its defense remains ferocious

The impossible appeared to be taking hold when Ole Miss took a 24–3 lead over Alabama in the second quarter. Nick Saban hadn’t lost to the same program three consecutive times since he was at Michigan State, and the Rebels looked on their way to knocking off the Crimson Tide for the third straight time.

And then Alabama’s defense played angry

Despite the toughness of Chad Kelly and the skill of Ole Miss’s receivers (Evan Engram, Demore’ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo), the Tide overwhelmed Ole Miss’s offensive line. Da’Ron Payne, Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen all showcased why they likely give any offensive coordinator night tremors. Quarterback pressure was the key in triggering two defensive touchdowns—one 75-yard interception return by the 295-pound Allen and a three-yard fumble return by Payne—and Alabama further proved that even if its secondary struggles, its more aggressive defensive schemes will give any offense fits.

• STAPLES: Hurts shows youth, then maturity in Alabama’s win over Ole Miss

As for Ole Miss? The Rebels earned the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Power Five team in 10 years to blow multiple 21-point leads.  

Gus Malzahn’s seat is hot

Auburn lost at home 29–16 to Texas A&M and Malzahn, once hailed as one of the foremost offensive minds in college football, can’t be feeling too comfortable. Malzahn is now 2–10 in his last 12 SEC games and received a lukewarm performance from quarterback Sean White. Auburn is already fading in the SEC West and is miles away from its hated in-state rival, all of which could cost Malzahn his job if he can’t right the offense sometime soon. Malzahn tried out the more mobile John Franklin III, but couldn’t ever find the tempo he usually seeks out of his offense.

Texas A&M might be one of the nation’s surprises, but this is a team that has started seasons well before crashing at the end. Unless the Aggies win the SEC West and the Tigers rebound from this loss, Malzahn can’t be feeling too comfortable.

Stop scheduling North Dakota State!

With its 23–21 win over Iowa on Saturday, North Dakota State has now defeated six consecutive FBS teams. The Bison have more wins against FBS teams since 2010 than Kansas. At this point, losing to North Dakota State is a higher-quality loss than most FBS teams outside of the Power Five (and plenty of teams within it). The Bison outgained the Hawkeyes 363–231 and outrushed them 239–34.

North Dakota State beats Iowa for sixth straight FBS win

At this point, North Dakota State needs to be considered one of the best college football programs in the country. The world’s best talent is never going to flock to Fargo, but what Chris Kleiman has at NDSU should be studied and admired by any coach.

Oklahoma and Notre Dame will not be a part of your playoff

Did you pick either Notre Dame or Oklahoma into your playoff? It’s time you rewrite those selections. The Irish defense was so bad that head coach Brian Kelly openly ripped his own coaching staff after the 36–28 loss. The Sooners got credit for a touchdown that should have never counted, and were still torched by Ohio State on their home turf. Oklahoma didn’t help itself with an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule, but it didn’t look like a team primed to be one of college football’s best in its losses to Houston and the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame's playoff hopes are dead after losing to Michigan State

Baker Mayfield’s quarterback play has been too wily and inconsistent, and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops may not have a job by the end of the season. Notre Dame’s pitiful defense is wasting the talents of a spectacular young QB in DeShone Kizer, and the Irish look like a team headed for the Pinstripe Bowl, not the Peach Bowl.

James Washington will torch you

Oklahoma State bounced back from last week’s controversial loss to Central Michigan with a 45–38 weather-beaten win over Pitt. Quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for an astonishing 540 yards and senior running back Rennie Childs had a career afternoon with four touchdown runs, but it was wide receiver James Washington who showcased why he’s one of the nation’s most electric home-run threats.

Washington pulled down 296 yards, the most of any receiver this season, including a 91-yard touchdown grab. The Cowboys entered the season as a playoff darkhorse, and if Rudolph and Washington can find the same chemistry they showcased on Saturday evening, they could be a major threat to any team in the Big 12.

Chad Hansen is a darn stud

He left high school with just one scholarship offer: Idaho State. Now he’s the nation’s leading receiver, and it’s unclear who is going to catch him. Hansen was the star of Cal’s 50–43 win over Texas on Saturday night, reeling in 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 40 catches for 546 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Hansen is every bit as effective on the outside as he is in the slot, and he spent all of Saturday night torching a suspect Texas secondary. Cal’s defense remains one of the nation’s worst, but its offense will make for some entertaining shootouts as the season goes on.