College football fans are simple creatures. We have only one question: is my team any good?
We’re like an overly attached boyfriend with deep-seated self-esteem issues. We just want to be told we’re enough, that we’re worthy of praise and affection. Today, let’s examine a handful of Power 5 squads we didn’t expect to be undefeated through three weeks of play and determine whether or not they are actually good, whatever that means.
If you think your school is ranked too low, don’t worry. I’m actually wrong. Your team is an adorable little caterpillar ready to spread its beautiful butterfly wings in flight, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That said, you may not want to pay much attention when you get into your conference schedule.
I mean, they’re probably good, right?
Penn State (beat Purdue, Ohio, and Auburn)
Man. Look at quarterback Sean Clifford, proving you too can remain physically active deep into your adult life, even while balancing grad school and a small business.
The Nittany Lions are probably too good to be included in this list, but their .500 record over the last two seasons hasn’t inspired confidence. In the meantime, we have no choice but to anoint them as genuinely good. Now, we wait to see all the creative and mind-boggling ways in which head coach James Franklin will make us sure we were wrong.
Washington (beat Kent State, Portland State, and Michigan State)
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has now thrown for 40% of the yards and 67% of the touchdowns Washington’s passers generated last year. All of last year.
Sure, Michigan State’s secondary is more of a tertiary. And yeah, the Huskies don’t have much of a rushing attack. But anyone who’s watched a Kalen DeBoer offense knows the run is a social construct — there’s nothing a handoff can accomplish that a series of wide receiver screens can’t. Penix’s health is always a concern, and there are big question marks on the Husky defense, but 10 months ago Washington’s coach was punching one of his players. You’ll take the fun offense and you will like it.
Man, wouldn’t it be cool if they were actually good?
Kansas (beat Tennessee Tech, West Virginia, and Houston)
Kansas football might be the only program whose fanbase is less excited about its team than the rest of the country is. This year, we are all Kansas fans.
Except, perhaps, the teams that have to lose to the Jayhawks. During Kansas’ 48-30 victory Saturday, two Houston wide receivers got into a shoving match on their own sideline. That is what losing to Kansas does. The humiliation turns you against your fellow man, losing sight of your morals in a blind fury.
To all the teams that must fall to keep this twisted dream alive: your sacrifice is grave, but know it brings great joy to many.
Duke (beat Temple, Northwestern, and North Carolina A&T)
Thus far, Duke has bested one of the worst teams in the FBS, an FCS school, and Northwestern, which might as well be a free space on the Power 5 Bingo board. Needless to say, it’s a great time to be remotely competent.
The Blue Devils should remain tough defensively, and they appear to have a genuinely decent quarterback, which I’m pretty sure violates a decades-old university bylaw. The ACC Coastal is nothing if not a factory of unexpected divisional champions, so there’s reason for optimism in Durham.
Hey, it’ll be fun while it lasts, right?
UCLA (beat Bowling Green, Alabama State, and South Alabama)
Yeah, UCLA is probably gonna lose a game by about 30 this year. But no one — no one — is disputing its crown as the king of the lower half of Alabama.
Plenty of folks on Twitter pointed out how sparsely attended the Rose Bowl appeared Saturday. Let me assure you, that’s only because the majority of UCLA’s fanbase — millions upon millions of diehard Bruins — were watching from home, eyes glued to one of the countless screens across the immensely valuable Los Angeles television market.
Indiana (beat Illinois, Idaho, and Western Kentucky)
The Hoosiers may be the worst undefeated Power 5 team right now. Quarterback Connor Bazelak throws roughly 50 passes per game, each of them so gentle you can see the individual rotations of the ball in real time. Indiana could very well lose to Ohio State, Penn State and the Michigan schools by a combined 120 points. I assure you, no one in Bloomington cares. It’s 3-0.
Georgia (snuck by Oregon, Samford, and South Carolina)
After watching him complete 74% of his passes for 952 yards and five touchdowns with zero picks while also rushing for three scores, I am beginning to entertain the possibility — however slim it may be — that National Championship-winning quarterback Stetson Bennett will not lose his starting job to a sophomore this season. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself or anything.