-- Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Ole Miss all had lofty hopes this year, but all have two losses already. Florida State has only one loss but got beaten bad enough for two.
This week we'll explain which of the Week 3 losers is the most likely bubble-burst candidate, which team sniffing around the top 10 doesn't belong in the top 30, what the oddsmakers think of Louisville's national title chances now and how one of the week's biggest winners smashed one of the most remarkable streaks in point-spread history.
The Chips were in an obvious letdown spot last week after their controversial big win in Stillwater, but this veteran team has outstanding leadership. Quarterback Cooper Rush told his teammates last week that "this needs to be our statement game, not Oklahoma State" to prove that the team could handle success. And after a rocky first half against an up-and-coming UNLV squad, Rush and the offense delivered, turning a 21-14 deficit into a 44-21 victory.
This is a tough, physical, well-coached team with great experience and unity. Western Michigan is the most talented team in the MAC, Northern Illinois is the reigning overlord and Toledo is always tough, but the Chippewas have plenty of championship ingredients as well.
In its last nine games, the K-State offense has made 36 trips to opposing red zones, producing 26 touchdowns and 10 field goals. This unit has far better talent at the skill positions than last year's edition and is improving steadily to complement the Big 12's best defense and special teams. The Cats are a contender in the wide-open Big 12.
The biggest challenge facing the Notre Dame program right now is that without conference positioning to play for, the team's single stated goal each year is to earn a College Football Playoff berth. That means the Irish are at risk of being bubble-burst after falling out of playoff contention each year. The idea that a two-loss team isn't out of the hunt in September is a tough sell for the coaches, and going too all-in on that would leave the staff in a bigger bind when the third loss hits. It's going to be hard for all the top teams with hopes and expectations of national relevance to get off the mat after a second loss, but that goes double for the independent Irish. It will be difficult to summon the same determination each week following a goal-denying loss, and the Notre Dame coaching staff has a difficult task finding motivational answers right now.
Wildly overranked at No. 11 in the AP poll, the Bulldogs will post a good record in the soft SEC East, but this team is barely among the nation's top 40 or so now, let alone good enough to sniff the top 10. Inexperience on the roster and staff, size and strength along the offensive line, lack of overall depth and poor special teams are all issues that will cost this team games going forward.
The Frogs took a rare home loss to Arkansas two weeks ago and are now 0-3 ATS with a defense that's allowing 34 points and more than 400 yards per game. But Gary Patterson isn't panicking and neither should you. This team is getting better each week and will be a season-long factor in the Big 12 race.
Games of interest, Week 4
We are convinced that Baylor will be an outstanding team by November and that Jim Grobe will coach this outfit well beyond this season. But even with that bullish view, the Bears' slow start against the number shouldn't be surprising. With all this team has gone through, some level of initial locker room division is inevitable, and it takes even an ace coach like Grobe some time to get everybody rowing in the same direction. Baylor is 0-3 ATS while laying an average of nearly 40 points in the meantime, and now the Bears are asked to give double digits to a very good Oklahoma State squad. The Cowboys throw and catch it well as usual, and a salty defensive line gives the stop unit a chance to get off the field.
There will be a time for backing an improved Baylor later in the season, but prices are still a little inflated. It's worth noting that Grobe's teams -- clearly wired to ease off the throttle in blowouts sooner than the echo-of-the-whistle mindset under Art Briles -- have gone under the total in all three games so far.
Stanford has beaten UCLA eight straight times, seven by more than a touchdown, and the Bruins have managed 350 yards of offense just twice in those eight games. We've been adamant from the beginning that Jim Mora would never win a Pac-12 title at UCLA, and now he's quietly easing onto the hot seat after covering just 10 of his past 29 games. The performance hasn't matched the talent at any point during Mora's five-year run, and his teams have been outhit, outcoached and generally dominated by David Shaw's Stanford teams. Bruins backers better have solid reason to think that 2016 will somehow be different before taking a field goal in this lopsided series.
Movers and shakers
After three weeks, there are seven teams priced lower than 20-1 to win the national title at the Westgate Superbook. Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State and Washington are the only four we take seriously, but the oddsmakers say that Louisville, Clemson and LSU are still very much in the mix.
Michigan State is still seen as a long shot to get past Michigan and Ohio State en route to a Big Ten title for the second straight year. The Spartans' national championship odds remain steady at 60-1 despite the big win over Notre Dame.
LSU is 0-3 ATS, but new quarterback Danny Etling has shown the oddsmakers something in a game and a half of action. LSU's price shortened from 18-1 to 12-1 this week.
Oklahoma and Notre Dame were naturally among the teams that saw their odds lengthen, each moving from 25-1 to 100-1. Florida State was 6-1 last week and rose to just 25-1 after being demolished by Louisville
Tennessee took yet another dip at the window after struggling against Ohio, moving from 18-1 to 25-1.
Last week we mentioned that Army could start a season 3-0 as well as win and cover three straight games for the first time since 1996, the only 10-win season in school history. The Knights played with passion for fallen teammate Brandon Jackson in a 66-14 demolition of UTEP. Army was a four-point road favorite in El Paso, which makes the victory so historically remarkable that it gets this section all to itself this week.
Here is every game Army has played as a road favorite between that 1996 season and last week:
So 13 outings as road chalk in the past 20 years produced:
Twelve straight-up losses, by an average of more than two touchdowns.
One win -- narrowly, over possibly the lowliest program in the FBS.
That's the streak that went down last week in El Paso, and it was a very inspired team that snapped it.
As for the Knights' chances to buck history once again and duplicate the feat in Buffalo this week: Laying two touchdowns as this emotionally drained team hits the road for the third time in four weeks is strictly for those who like to bet on lightning striking twice.