Ranking every college football team after Week 3: Washington is back on the rise
What a difference a year makes in Seattle.
A year ago at this time, Washington was 1-2 with losses to FCS Montana and Michigan in which the Huskies scored 17 combined points. On Saturday, the Huskies scored 39 points in a dominant win against a Michigan State team that was ranked No. 11 in the AP poll. And the game wasn’t nearly as close as the 39-28 final score. Washington had 503 total yards and averaged 9.9 yards per pass. With the win to move to 3-0, the Huskies have moved into the top 25 in this week’s edition of The Athletic 131.
Washington’s fall off a cliff under former head coach Jimmy Lake en route to a 4-8 record last season was stunning because it happened so quickly. This was a program that won 32 games from 2016 to 2018 under Chris Petersen. Recruiting had gone relatively well , and it’s one of the best-resourced programs in the West. But the offense had become anemic.
Enter Kalen DeBoer and Michael Penix Jr. DeBoer has won basically everywhere he’s been. He’s 82-9 as a head coach, including a 67-3 stretch at NAIA Sioux Falls from 2005 to 2009. He helped turn around Indiana and Fresno State as the offensive coordinator, then went back to Fresno State and produced a 9-3 record in his second season as head coach.
Penix was electric as Indiana’s quarterback when healthy, but he dealt with several injuries. He’s reunited with DeBoer in Seattle, and Washington football is fun again. Through three games, he’s completing 66 percent of his passes for 359.7 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
Everyone wrote off the Pac-12 after Week 1, but we may need to reevaluate that. Washington is the biggest reason why.
Here is the latest edition of The Athletic 131.
The only change in this group is USC’s move up to No. 8 after a 45-17 win against Fresno State. The Trojans look like the best-case scenario under Lincoln Riley right now. The offense is electric. The defense has shown holes ( 81st in yards per play), but it’s fourth in the nation with 10 takeaways. The trip to Oregon State this week will be an interesting test.
Michigan is a dominant 3-0 but has played three of the worst teams in the country. A home game against Maryland this week will be the first time we can actually begin to evaluate the Wolverines.
The polls have come around to put Georgia at No. 1, and its Week 1 win against Oregon looks even better now after the Ducks’ dominant win against BYU.
Penn State’s 41-12 win at Auburn has quickly changed the view on what is possible for this team. Auburn may not be a good team, but the Nittany Lions were able to run for 245 yards against a good front. The aforementioned 41-20 Oregon win at BYU suddenly makes the Pac-12 look much better now to go with USC, Washington and Utah, which beat San Diego State 35-7.
Texas, Wake Forest and Ole Miss also move into the top 25. The Longhorns avoided an Alabama hangover and pulled away from UTSA in the second half, Wake Forest held off Liberty and Ole Miss pounded Georgia Tech 42-0.
The polls have Utah ahead of Florida and Baylor ahead of BYU, and the coaches poll has Michigan State ahead of Washington. Why? I have no idea. In these rankings, when two teams are close, the head-to-head winner gets the advantage, especially three weeks into the season.
I saw a lot of comments about Minnesota’s ranking last week. It’s barely moved in the rankings because it’s played two of the worst teams in the country and an FCS team. It’s the same reasoning with Michigan and with Ole Miss. It’s not a negative and not a positive. Sometimes you get jumped if someone else has a more impressive win. Minnesota was No. 39 in my preseason ranking and still sits there now. Beat Michigan State, and it’ll most likely be in the top 25.
North Carolina’s win against Appalachian State continues to look better, and the Mountaineers’ Hail Mary win against Troy coupled with Texas A&M’s win against Miami was a boost as well. Maryland’s 34-27 win against SMU was a solid performance.
Kansas and Syracuse! KU is in the top 35 after a 3-0 start with road wins against West Virginia and Houston. Syracuse is 3-0 with wins against Louisville and Purdue. It’s not hard to see a 5-0 Orange start going into the NC State game. Tulane makes the biggest jump this week, from No. 110 into the top 50 after a win against Kansas State to move to 3-0. Notre Dame’s close escape from Cal coupled with Marshall’s loss to Bowling Green drops both teams . Arizona’s 31-28 win against North Dakota State was impressive as an underdog, and the Wildcats are officially a pretty good team.
Several teams slipped into this group with losses — Purdue, Texas Tech, Houston, UTSA and Auburn — but there’s not much movement otherwise. Indiana barely escaped Western Kentucky and Rutgers barely escaped Temple, but both are 3-0. Wyoming’s 17-14 win against Air Force moved the Cowboys to 3-1, with the loss to Illinois.
Vanderbilt’s comeback win at Northern Illinois to move to 3-1 is a real sign of progress for the program. Rice’s 33-21 win against Louisiana was one of the most surprising results of the weekend. Eastern Michigan won at Arizona State, becoming the first MAC school to win a regular-season game against the Pac-12. Northwestern has followed up its Ireland win against Nebraska with losses to Duke and FCS Southern Illinois at home.
South Alabama let a win at UCLA slip away with a field goal as time expired, and Troy let App State win on a Hail Mary. Tough losses. San Diego State is now 1-2 with two blowout losses to Pac-12 teams. Very quickly, this doesn’t look like the Aztecs of old.
(Top photo of Michael Penix and Kalen DeBoer: Joe Nicholson / USA Today)