Week three of the 2020 college football season featured some interesting match ups, but the most exciting moments to come out of this week occurred far from the field of play. The Big Ten’s announcement that it will play a shortened conference-only season starting in late October and the release of its new schedule this weekend has Hawkeye fans salivating about watching their team back in action. Iowa’s season opener against Purdue on October 24 can’t arrive fast enough.
Yet Iowa’s smooth return to the gridiron is not guaranteed, something which the broader college football landscape has made clear. Games between Baylor and Houston and Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern were cancelled this week due to coronavirus outbreaks, while Memphis has already announced the cancellation of its September 25 game against UT-San Antonio, the second consecutive Tigers game to be axed for COVID-related concerns. Meanwhile, Florida State head coach Mike Norvell is being quarantined after testing positive for the virus, while LSU coach Ed Orgeron stated last week that most of his team has already contracted COVID. Excited as Iowa fans may be at the prospect of watching the Hawkeyes suit up this fall, one has to hope that the Big Ten’s decision to reverse course and play football in 2020 was truly based more on purported breakthroughs in testing and the advice of medical experts than on public pressure or financial concerns. Fingers crossed that the Hawkeye players and staff can make it through this season in good health.
When Iowa does eventually kick off for the first time, it will dive headfirst into a season already in full swing. Oklahoma State proved that the Big 12’s week two struggles against non-Power Five teams were no fluke, as the eleventh-ranked Cowboys needed to score 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarters to escape an upset bid by Tulsa. Mike Gundy’s squad is one of several teams whose struggles out of the gate in 2020 serve as a strong reminder of just how disruptive this off-season has been and how badly even established offenses can struggle with precision and timing when forced to prepare in sub-optimal conditions. Iowa enters this season with a first-year starter at quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes the otherwise experienced offense around him to gel.
Philip Montgomery’s Tulsa squad were not the only hurricanes in action this weekend. Miami’s offense ran roughshod over Louisville in its 47-34 road victory over Louisville while the Canes pass rush was disruptive enough in the first half to stop the high-powered Cardinals attack from keeping pace. While the race for the ACC crown will probably come down to fellow week three winners Clemson (49-0 over the Citadel) and Notre Dame (52-0 over South Florida), Miami could be an interesting dark horse to watch. D’Eriq King is a poised and experienced signal caller who can make plays with both his arms and his legs, and the Hurricanes boast several explosive skill players who can seriously stress an opposing defense.
Finally, the Group of Five teams provided fans with some interesting action for the third week in a row. Navy appeared to be taking on water after being swamped by the Tulane Green Wave but managed to stay afloat and rally from a 24-0 halftime deficit to win 27-24 on a walk-off field goal. Navy, which runs an offense that looks more out of place in 2020 than it would in 1920, completed its largest ever second half comeback by accidentally discovering that this whole “forward pass” thing might actually have some merit to it; we’ll see whether that carries into their future games. Meanwhile, Iowa fans who have adopted the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns as their favorite team until the Hawkeyes return to action were treated to a compelling 34-31 overtime win over Georgia State powered by a strong game from running back Elijah Mitchell. Finally, #23 Appalachian State, who looked shaky in its opening win over Charlotte, had the odds catch up to them this week in a 17-7 loss to Marshall, raising questions as to whether a team on its third coach in three years can sustain the high level of success they’ve achieved of late.
Iowa fans may have to wait another month before the Big Ten begins its season, but with more interesting match ups happening next week and the return of the SEC on the horizon, they should have plenty of college football action to hold their interest in the meantime.