College football Winners and Losers from Week 3: Clemson’s defense dominates –

 In Sports

Say this for
Texas Longhorns
Southern California Trojans
: They know how to draw up memorable games. Nearly 12 years after the 2006 Rose Bowl for the BCS national championship, the Longhorns and Trojans played in another thriller, even if the stakes were lower. USC got the 27-24 double-overtime win, but not without causing a few heart conditions throughout the great Los Angeles area. 

Less dramatic was
Clemson Tigers
win over
Louisville Cardinals
. The Tigers’ defense was the star of the game, limiting former Heisman Trophy winner
Lamar Jackson
to one touchdown through the first three quarters. From this game to
Florida Gators
incredible Hail Mary win over
Tennessee Volunteers
, a lot happened in Week 3 of the college football season.

What were the highlights from Saturday of Week 3? What were the moments some programs want to forget? We hash out the best and worst below with this week’s version of Winners and Losers. 

Winner — Clemson’s defense (again): The final tally of the box score says Louisville had 433 yards and 21 points against Clemson, but that’s kind of a lie. Not the numbers — those are true — but things were never that good for the Cardinals. Clemson did just about everything right to make quarterback Lamar Jackson uncomfortable in the pocket. The Tigers’ defensive line did a fantastic job getting pressure in different ways and linebacker
Dorian O’Daniel
baited Jackson into a pick. Clemson won with a blend of straight-up, hat-on-hat force and disguised alignments. On defense alone, Clemson is playoff material. 

Loser — Louisville: Even at home, at night, and with the best quarterback in the game, it was going to be a tough task for Louisville to beat Clemson. Given the Cardinals’ pass protection issues, this felt like a potentially bad matchup. Still, did anyone think Louisville would have just one touchdown by the fourth quarter? And that score was on a heck of a creative play by Jackson. All of this begs the question: Where would Louisville be without its reigning Heisman winner? Part of what makes great players great is what they’re worth in wins. How many wins is Jackson worth by himself? 

Winner/Loser — Texas’ defense: Yeah, Texas lost to USC 27-24. Yeah, the Longhorns had an all-too-familiar, facepalm-worthy defensive lapse right before the end of the first half when they allowed a 56-yard touchdown pass. Tell me you didn’t watch that game and see a night-and-day difference between Week 1 and Week 3, though. The most impressive area of improvement was in run stopping. The Trojans didn’t even average two yards per rush. Defensive tackle
Poona Ford
had a game with his penetration and run stuffing, and linebacker
Malik Jefferson
was showing off incredible vision and closing speed. This has been such a liability for Texas over the past few years and it was, from start to finish, the best it’s been in a long time. That’s a positive sign. 

Loser —
Auburn Tigers
drive chart:
Don’t let a quiet 24-10 win over Mercer distract you from the fact that the Tigers had 12 offensive possessions and either punted, failed to score or turned the ball over on eight of them. Auburn’s offense statistically wasn’t a mess — quarterback
Jarrett Stidham
threw for 364 yards. Still, the failure to finish drives is just another problem for this offense that hasn’t taken off like many thought it would. When it comes time for SEC play, can Auburn get it done?

Winner — Tennessee running back
John Kelly
Other than Florida’s game-winning Hail Mary, Kelly was about the only good thing in the Tennessee-Florida game. Kelly’s hard running kept the Vols’ offense alive with the junior finishing at 19 carries for 141 yards and a score. For all of Tennessee’s offensive ineptitude (more on that below), he was the bright spot. And he’ll remain that bright spot throughout the season. Hint to the Vols coaching staff: Feed him. 

Loser — Tennessee coach Butch Jones: The only reason why Jones is listed and not Florida coach Jim McElwain is because McElwain’s team won 26-20. To be sure, neither coached anywhere close to their best game. The Vols squandered scoring opportunities in plus-territory and the red zone. Play calling was routinely either conservative, unnecessarily cute or questionable given down-and-distance situations. It took seemingly forever to feed Kelly the ball on offense — he was practically nonexistent in goal-line situations — and the Vols were somehow not lined up correctly for the Gators’ Hail Marry attempt. It’s easy to question play-calling in a loss, but this was bad game management by Jones in almost every aspect.  

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