COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Five major takeaways from this week’s AP Top 25 poll

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Don't fall asleep on Virginia surviving the regular season unscathed ... in advance of a Conference Championship Saturday clash with No. 1 Clemson.

BATSBY Sports offers five spin-it-forward takeaways from the Week 3 action in college football … which offered a variety of Tier II upsets (BYU over USC, Arizona State over Michigan State, Temple over Maryland), but little else in terms of top-heavy drama.

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25

  1. Clemson (3-0)
  2. Alabama (3-0)
  3. Georgia (3-0)
  4. LSU (3-0)
  5. Oklahoma (3-0)
  6. Ohio State (3-0)
  7. Notre Dame (2-0)
  8. Auburn (3-0)
  9. Florida (3-0)
  10. Utah (3-0)
  11. Michigan (2-0)
  12. Texas (2-1)
  13. Penn State (3-0)**
  14. Wisconsin (2-0)**
  15. UCF (3-0)
  16. Oregon (2-1)
  17. Texas A&M (2-1)
  18. Iowa (3-0)
  19. Washington State (3-0)
  20. Boise State (3-0)
  21. Virginia (3-0)
  22. Washington (2-1)
  23. California (3-0)
  24. Arizona State (3-0)
  25. TCU (2-0)

NOTE: Penn State and Wisconsin are embroiled in a technical tie with AP voters.

a) Notre Dame remains a huge national draw, and that’ll certainly be the case on Saturday night, with the Fighting Irish taking on No. 3 Georgia in Athens.

How big is this showdown?

Every year, CBS has the option of one prime-time game with its SEC package, an honor which typically goes to LSU vs. Alabama in November.

However, given the crossover appeal of Notre Dame and prodigious strength of Georgia, CBS couldn’t resist the urge to put a massive spotlight on this matchup, which can only hope to replicate the impact of the Dawgs’ 20-19 victory in South Bend two years ago.

b) Ohio State hasn’t budged much in the national rankings, but that won’t deter us from pegging the Buckeyes (average score through three games: 46-10) as the prohibitive favorite for the Big Ten title.

There are no glaring weaknesses with the current roster, and that includes first-time starter Justin Fields (13 total TDs, zero INTs), potentially the nation’s fastest receiving corps and a defense that leads all Big Ten comers in sacks (14).

c) Florida’s frantic comeback win over Kentucky quickly became the stuff of legends, with the Gators — down 21-10 heading into the fourth quarter — posting three rushing touchdowns in the final minutes.

Of course, this victory might have had more cachet nationally, if Kentucky hadn’t previously lost quarterback Terry Wilson to a season-ending injury. But that’s hardly Florida’s fault.

The Gators can only play whoever’s on their schedule, and hope for the best, perception-wise.

Speaking of favorable slates, with all due respect to Tennessee and Towson, the Gators should carry a 5-0 record into their Oct. 5 mega-matchup with No. 8 Auburn.

d) UCF’s home demolition of Stanford (45-27) was impressive on three fronts:

**The Knights buried the Cardinal with a 28-point first quarter, suggesting Central Florida had circled this matchup on its to-do calendar for some time.

**Central Florida apparently stockpiles elite-level quarterbacks like Oklahoma or Ohio State.

Drop-back passer Dillon Gabriel was scintillating on Saturday, passing for 347 yards (only eight incompletions) and four touchdowns.

**Stanford deserves major props for going across the country and facing UCF in an early-time window. Of course, after this shellacking, it’s fair to wonder how many non-Florida-based Power 5 programs would be willing to accept future invites to Orlando?

e) Looking for a sleeper candidate to be 12-0 by the end of November, in advance of Conference Championship Saturday?

How about No. 21 Virginia, which already has two rock-solid wins on its resume (Pittsburgh, Florida State) and could be a Vegas favorite for every remaining ACC game on the regular-season docket.

NOTE: The ACC Coastal division has produced six different champions over the last six seasons Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh. Virginia would complete the 7 champs/7 years cycle, if the Cavaliers reached the conference title game.

The biggest on-the-horizon hurdle for UVa?

The road clash with Notre Dame looms for Virginia on Sept. 28; but it’s also a difficult date for the Fighting Irish, who will be coming off the supreme high — or devastating low — of encountering No. 3 Georgia the previous week.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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