Now for a recap of five things we learned from the non-AQs after Week 3.
1. TCU is the best team in Texas. You might have thought so before, but after watching the Horned Frogs beat Baylor 45-10 and Texas struggle to beat Texas Tech 24-14, it is safe to say it now. Heck, TCU might even be better than Boise State at this point. The defense has come on strong despite losing Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington and two experienced cornerbacks in Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders, turning back two vastly different offenses in Oregon State and Baylor. TCU held the Bears to 263 total yards of offense and sacked Robert Griffin three times. Andy Dalton, meanwhile, had only two incompletions the entire game, and running back Ed Wesley added a career-high 165 yards rushing with two touchdowns. For those skeptic s out there who think the Longhorns would beat TCU, my answer is this – both defenses are terrific, but a senior quarterback with 32 career wins takes it over Garrett Gilbert.
2. Boise State can win with style. But is that going to be enough to impress voters and computers? The Broncos easily handled Wyoming, scoring 37 straight points en route to the 51-6 rout in Laramie. But as we have so often heard, this game is simply one of many against “cupcakes” ahead for the Broncos. There are reasons to believe this schedule could prove to be more difficult than people realize. Oregon State is next, and several WAC teams have shown signs of life – Hawaii looked good in its first two games; Fresno State and Nevada are playing extremely well; and Utah State is much improved. These teams don’t stack up to the SEC, but they aren’t pushovers, either. Just ask California.
3. Conference USA is wide open. After Houston saw both Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner go down with injuries against UCLA late Saturday night, the Cougars’ fortunes have completely changed. Both players are out for the season, the school announced Sunday night -- Keenum with a torn ACL and Turner with a broken clavicle. That opens the door for the rest of Conference USA. They simply are a different team without their best player. This is two games in a row now that Keenum has been injured trying to make a hit on an interception. Coach Kevin Sumlin had talked to Keenum about trying to avoid making tackles, but the competitive nature got the best out of the former Heisman Trophy candidate.
4. Temple is living up to the preseason expectations – so far. You may not have thought that after the struggles in the first two games of the season, in which the Owls needed a field goal to win it at the end of regulation against Villanova and in overtime against Central Michigan. They had been outgained through the first two weeks of the season. Connecticut outgained them, too, but the Owls put together a dominating fourth quarter to come from behind and win 30-16. Temple is 3-0 for the first time since 1979. The win was its first against a team from an automatic qualifying conference since beating Syracuse in 2004 – when Temple was still in the Big East. Now comes a big litmus test to see how the Owls truly stack up – they hit the road to take on Penn State in Week 4.
5. This could be the year for another team to win the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy has won the trophy seven straight years, but watch out for Air Force. Navy (2-1) put together a nice performance against Louisiana Tech in a 37-23 win, led by Ricky Dobbs’ arm and not his legs, but the Midshipmen have had injury problems and looked inconsistent overall this season. Air Force (2-1) played Oklahoma extremely close in a 27-24 loss Saturday and has veteran leadership in Tim Jefferson, Asher Clark and Jared Tew, who are running the triple-option to near perfection. The defense is also improved. Air Force is at Wyoming this week and Navy has a bye before their huge game in Colorado on Oct. 2.