College football rankings: Houston joins Bottom 25 after Cougars stumble through Big 12 debut game

25. Boise State1-2After a nightmarish 0-2 start, the Broncos finally got a win against FCS foe North Dakota. While Boise State should be on its way out of the Bottom 25 soon, games at San Diego State and Memphis over the next two weeks will be challenging and could keep the reigning Mountain West champions in futile company even longer. (Last week: 6)24. UAB1-2The Trent Dilfer experiment is off to a rocky start. It’s no surprise that the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback has a solid passing attack, but the Blazers gave up a total of 90 points in losses to Sun Belt foes Georgia Southern and Louisiana over the past two weeks. Games against Georgia and Tulane are up next, so UAB could be hanging in the Bottom 25 for a while. (NR)23. Houston1-2Houston lost at lowly Rice in Week 2 and was just throttled at home by TCU. Frankly, the Cougars are fortunate not to be 0-3 as they snuck away with a 17-14 victory over UTSA in Week 1. Year 1 in the Big 12 looks like it could be a long and ugly ride. We’ll see if fifth-year coach Dana Holgorsen survives it. (NR)22. South Florida1-2It hasn’t exactly been pretty for South Florida through three games under first-year coach Alex Golesh, but this team just played Alabama close. Don’t be shocked if the Bulls reach four wins this season and match the total number of victories that predecessor Jeff Scott posted in three seasons on the job. (21)21. North Texas1-2If you like to watch football games that feature lots of points, cue up North Texas. The Mean Green rank 41st in total offense and 130th in total defense. The average total points scored in North Texas games through three weeks is 80.3. It may not be good football, but it’s certainly action packed.  (10)20. Middle Tennessee1-2Middle Tennessee would probably like another crack at Alabama considering how weak the Crimson Tide have looked since throttling the Blue Raiders 56-7 in Week 1. South Florida had Bama on the ropes late into the fourth quarter. Why did MTSU simply roll over and play dead when it had a shot at the Bammers? (8)19. Navy1-2Navy nearly won at Memphis last Thursday, suggesting that progress has been made since an ugly season-opening loss to Notre Dame. But, the Midshipmen have a long voyage ahead to be the program that won 11 games twice at its peak under former coach Ken Niumatalolo. (14)18. Northern Illinois1-2Northern Illinois began the season by upsetting a Boston College team that nearly upset Florida State last week. Then, it lost to an FCS team and followed up by amassing just 149 yards during a 34-11 Week 3 loss to Nebraska. So, the real question here is how in the world did FSU almost lose to Boston College? (NR)17. UTEP1-3Arizona quarterback Jayden De Laura typically gives away interceptions like a benevolent neighbor gives away Halloween candy. Still, the Miners failed to pick off De Laura in their 31-10 loss on Saturday. This team ranks 110th nationally in team passing efficiency defense, and that’s against some weak competition. (20)16. Akron1-2Akron is incomprehensibly bad at running the football. Even in its lone victory, a 24-21 win over FCS foe Morgan State, the Zips netted only 4 yards on the ground. FOUR yards against an FCS team! And the Zips only won that game because a fumble returned for a touchdown in the final minute. (NR)15. Connecticut0-3The Huskies appear to be on a fast track to nowhere after breaking through last season for their first bowl appearance since 2015. The Huskies beat FIU 33-12 on the road last season and just lost 24-17 at home to the Golden Panthers. With games against Duke, Tennessee and Boston College still ahead, the margin for error has evaporated if Jim Mora’s club is going to make consecutive bowls. (17)14. Colorado State0-2Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The Rams were so close to a stunning upset of Colorado in front of more than nine million TV viewers before allowing a 98-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes against the Buffs. Then, with an opportunity to attempt a 2-point conversion and win the game in overtime, coach Jay Norvell played it safe and kicked the extra point. Throw in 17 penalties for 182 yards and the Rams have no one to blame but themselves for failing to get across the finish line in a rare national showcase game. (12)13. Arkansas State1-2Arkansas State beat Stony Brook 31-7 for its victory of the season in Week 3. Now, the Red Wolves have only been outscored 117-34. Third-year coach Butch Jones is just 2-14 in Sun Belt play through two years, and nothing suggests this team is trending upward as league play arrives this week. (3)12. Kent State1-2After mustering a total of 12 points in losses against Power Five foes in the season’s first two weeks, the Golden Flashes seemed eager for a role reversal in Week 3 as Central Connecticut State visited for a buy-game. Kent State led 38-0 on its way to a 38-10 victory. Now, it’s back to harsh reality in the form of a road game vs. Fresno State. (2)11. Hawaii1-3Hawaii is about to play its fifth nonconference game of the season, and this is only Week 4. But, even after 240 minutes worth of game action, it’s still tough to identify this team’s strength. It certainly isn’t running the football or playing defense. Quarterback Brayden Schager is slinging it around, but he’s on pace to throw close to 20 interceptions. (NR)10. Virginia0-3Virginia led 14-0 at Maryland behind the inspired play of freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea. Then, the wheels came off as the Terrapins scored 42 unanswered and forced four turnovers while reinforcing just how long of a season this may be for the Cavaliers. (10)9. Tulsa1-2The Golden Hurricane were forced to play Washington and Oklahoma the past two weeks, which is a nightmare scenario for any defensive coordinator, especially at the Group of Five level. It went like you’d expect as Tulsa was outscored 109-27. (9)8. Ball State1-2After taking beatings and paychecks at Kentucky and at No. 1 Georgia, Ball State deserved a visit from an FCS foe. It got one when Indiana State came to town in Week 3. Still, the Cardinals had some trouble, leading just 10-0 at halftime before a 28-point fourth quarter explosion in a 45-7 win. (6)7. Massachusetts1-3UMass managed to lose 19-17 at Eastern Michigan, despite producing nine more first downs and 93 more yards. Four turnovers will do that to you. The Minutemen show signs of improvement from last season’s 1-11 campaign, but self-sabotage is a troubling trend. (7)6. Western Michigan1-2Western Michigan led Iowa 7-0 on the road at the end of the first quarter and was ahead 10-7 just minutes before halftime. Then the Hawkeyes closed the game on a 31-0 run. The Broncos mustered just eight first downs and only seven completed passes. Yikes. (6)5. Southern Miss1-2Southern Miss starts Sun Belt play this week against Arkansas State in a Bottom 25 battle. Conference play couldn’t get here fast enough for the Golden Eagles, who were out scored 87-16 in losses to Florida State and Tulane the past two weeks. (5)4. Central Michigan1-2Remember in 2021 when Central Michigan went 9-4 with a Sun Bowl victory over Washington State in coach Jim McElwain’s third season? It seemed like the former Colorado State and Florida coach might be on the cusp of a career revival, but the Chippewas are just 5-10 since then. (9)3. East Carolina0-3Just a year ago, this program appeared to have turned a corner under coach Mike Houston as the Pirates finished 8-5 with near-upsets of NC State and Cincinnati. Now, the Pirates are 0-3 following double-digit losses to Sun Belt foes Marshall and Appalachian State. ECU has not reached 300 yards in a game yet this season. (5)2. Buffalo0-3Buffalo let Liberty quarterback Kaidon Salter throw for five touchdowns and run for a sixth in the Flames’ 55-27 win over the Bulls in Week 3. Performances like that are why Buffalo ranks 128th in total defense through three weeks. Even Fordham from the FCS put up 40 points against the Bulls in an embarrassing Week 2 loss for a program that is coming off a bowl win. (2)1. Nevada0-3After a spending a significant portion of the 21st century as a punching bag, Kansas took sympathy on Nevada last week. The Jayhawks know what it’s like to stink, and they let the Wolf Pack lose with dignity for the first time this season. Nevada tied the game in the fourth quarter before falling 31-24. This was clear progress after a 33-6 loss against FCS foe Idaho in Week 2. (1)

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