The season is two weeks old and two teams in the top five of the preseason AP Top 25 already have a loss.
No. 5 LSU lost to No. 8 Florida State in Week 1 and preseason No. 4 Alabama lost 34-24 to preseason No. 11 Texas on Saturday night. Both games could prove pivotal when the College Football Playoff rankings are released at the end of the season.
With Week 3's non-conference slate looking pretty bleak before conference play really gets going in Week 4, we figured now was a good time to rank the best non-conference victories through the first two weeks of the 2023 season. Here are our 10 biggest non-conference wins so far.
10. Texas State 42, Baylor 31 (Week 1)
This is a game that many college football fans will forget by the end of the season. But it was Texas State’s first win over a Power Five opponent and a sign that the school could soon be a Group of Five power like UTSA has become in recent seasons. Former Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne’s first game with the Bobcats couldn’t have gone any better and will do a lot for in-state recruiting.
9. Utah 24, Florida 11 (Week 1)
Florida was an absolute mess to start the season. But that shouldn’t take away from an Utah team that played two quarterbacks as Cameron Rising is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in the Rose Bowl. With Colorado’s quick rise and the offenses of Oregon, Washington and USC in the Pac-12, it’s easy to overlook Utah. But the defending Pac-12 champions are going to be in the mix again in 2023 and lost to the Gators a season ago.
8. Oregon 38, Texas Tech 30 (Week 2)
It wasn't pretty, but the Ducks got a significant win in Lubbock on Saturday night. Yes, Texas Tech is 0-2 for the first time since 1990, but this is still a team that could make significant noise in the Big 12. Oregon trailed for much of the second half before taking the lead for good on a short field goal with less than two minutes to go. The Ducks then covered the spread with less than a minute to go as Tyler Shough was hit as he threw and Jeffrey Bassa returned the pass for a pick-six.
When this game was scheduled a decade ago, it was impossible to envision this being one of the better games of the weekend. But after Kansas and Illinois each had their best seasons in years in 2022, Friday night’s contest had real intrigue. And Kansas looked great. It’s the third consecutive non-conference win over solid opposition for the Jayhawks after wins over Houston and Duke a season ago, and it also showed why QB Jalon Daniels was the preseason offensive player of the year in the Big 12.
6. Washington 56, Boise State 19 (Week 1)
The Huskies showed just how dangerous they can be in their demolition of the Broncos to open the season. Michael Penix Jr. threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns as Boise State couldn’t do anything to stop Washington’s deep passing game. Boise State is still a favorite in the Mountain West and could easily be a 10-win team by the end of the season. If Washington is in the playoff mix as November rolls around and Boise is rolling in the MWC, the Huskies’ Week 1 win will be weighted heavily by the selection committee.
5. Washington State 31, Wisconsin 22 (Week 2)
The Cougars continued the Pac-12's excellent record through the first two weeks of the season on Saturday night. QB Cam Ward threw for 212 yards and rushed for 43 as Washington State showed how the Pac-12 looks to be the deepest conference in college football. Six Pac-12 teams entered Week 2 in the AP Top 25 and that number could be seven if the Cougars sneak into the poll on Sunday. The Pac-12 may be dissolving after the end of the 2023 season, but it could be going out with an incredible grand finale.
4. Miami 48, Texas A&M 33 (Week 2)
The 2022 season was a disaster in Mario Cristobal’s first year in Miami. Saturday’s win over the Aggies was the opposite of that. QB Tyler Van Dyke had his best game since 2021 with 374 yards and five touchdowns as the Miami offense torched Texas A&M’s defense. While the Aggies have underachieved the last two seasons, there’s enough from the A&M offense over the past two weeks to think the Aggies will be better in 2023. This could be a step toward Miami getting its swagger back and making the race for the ACC title really, really interesting.
3. Colorado 45, TCU 42 (Week 1)
The Buffaloes are the biggest story in college football after their Week 1 win over TCU and pulling away from a mistake-prone Nebraska team on Saturday. You could make the case that Colorado’s win deserves to be even higher on this list. But TCU lost a lot from its College Football Playoff team of a year ago and it’s possible to say that Colorado is both good and still unproven. We’ll learn a lot more about the Buffaloes at the end of the month with back-to-back games against Oregon and USC.
2. Florida State 45, LSU 24 (Week 1)
The Seminoles’ second straight Week 1 win over LSU could be what vaults FSU back to national relevance. The Seminoles were one of the best utilizers of the transfer portal in the offseason and that showed a week ago with former Michigan State wide receiver Keon Coleman’s performance and two catches for 49 yards from former South Carolina tight end Jaheim Bell. While preseason expectations for LSU might have been overinflated after its trip to the SEC title game a season ago, this could be a win that is a CFP tiebreaker for the Seminoles if they’re 11-1 at the end of the regular season.
1. Texas 34, Alabama 24 (Week 2)
Texas has a signature win and looks like a possible College Football Playoff contender. Yes, it’s early, but Texas hasn’t sniffed the four-team playoff and was clearly the better team on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. The offensive line held up against Alabama’s defensive front and Quinn Ewers showed why he could be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Yes, this is an Alabama team that looks to be a work in progress — at least compared to previous Nick Saban teams — but Texas showed Saturday night that it can be ready to compete right away when it joins the SEC in 2024.
- Nick Bromberg
Here are the rest of this week's winners and losers.
Notre Dame: Notre Dame took a step up in competition this week, overcame a weather delay and used a fourth-quarter, three-touchdown flurry to pull away and beat NC State 45-24 in Raleigh. The Irish led just 24-17 late in the third quarter when Sam Hartman was sacked and fumbled the ball back to NC State. The Wolfpack had a chance to tie the game, but the Irish defense stood up and NC State missed a field goal. From there, Notre Dame closed out the game with three consecutive TD drives while picking off NC State QB Brennan Armstrong in the process. Hartman wasn’t as sharp as he was in Notre Dame’s first two games, but he still finished with 286 yards and four touchdowns.
Miami: Miami’s first season under Mario Cristobal did not go well, so Saturday’s 48-33 beatdown of No. 23 Texas A&M had to feel good. The Hurricanes fell behind 17-7 thanks to a pair of special teams blunders but were able to rally in a major way. Tyler Van Dyke threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns, three of which went to Jacolby George. But the biggest play of the game may have been a 98-yard kickoff return right after A&M settled for a short field goal from deep in Miami territory. The rest of Miami’s non-conference schedule is very navigable, so there’s a chance the Hurricanes enter ACC play with a 4-0 record. Could Miami make some noise in the conference race?
Washington State: Washington State was pushed to the side during this summer’s realignment craziness, but that hasn’t affected the football team through two weeks. WSU went on the road and crushed Colorado State, 50-24, last week before welcoming No. 19 Wisconsin to Martin Stadium on Saturday. Things got dicey for a few minutes, but WSU was able to pull out a 31-22 victory to improve to 2-0. Cameron Ward threw for 212 yards and two TDs in the upset while the defense forced three Wisconsin turnovers. The win meant a lot for coach Jake Dickert and the WSU community.
Jake Dickert gold.
Asked what this upset over No. 19 Wisconsin means for Pullman: "Everything...we belong in the Power Five." pic.twitter.com/4AWIY4Rlka
— Alyssa Charlston (@Alyssacharlston) September 10, 2023
Colorado: Deion Sanders’ Buffaloes struggled with a stout Nebraska defense in the first half, but they overcame those early issues to pull out a 36-14 win in Sanders’ Folsom Field debut. The Buffs were aided by four Nebraska turnovers, but they scored on seven of eight drives from late in the first half to the fourth quarter with QB Shedeur Sanders leading the way. Sanders threw for 393 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score in the win. Xavier Weaver was his top target with 10 catches for 170 yards and a TD. Next for the 2-0 Buffs is a visit from in-state rival Colorado State before Pac-12 play opens with a trip to Oregon.
Kansas: After getting back to a bowl game for the first time since 2008 last season, Kansas is going to be a handful for opposing Big 12 teams to deal with again in 2023. The Jayhawks posted an impressive 34-23 win over Illinois on Friday night, and the game wasn’t as close as the final score makes it seem. Kansas led 28-7 at halftime and grew its lead to 34-7 late in the third. Jalon Daniels threw for 277 yards and two TDs in the win while the Jayhawks racked up 262 rushing yards as a team.
Cincinnati: Cincinnati is off to a very good start in its first season under Scott Satterfield. The Bearcats improved to 2-0 on Saturday with a 27-21 road win over Pittsburgh. The Bearcats jumped out to a 20-7 halftime lead and then withstood a Pitt rally to hold on for the victory. In the win, Corey Kiner rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown while Emory Jones, now at his third school, threw two TD passes. On the other side, the defense limited Pitt to only 262 yards of offense. Cincy has one more non-conference game (Miami Ohio) before beginning Big 12 play for the first time.
Baylor: Baylor is off to a miserable start to the season. The Bears dropped to 0-2 with a 20-13 home loss to No. 12 Utah. BU had a 13-3 lead late in the third quarter, but just could not hang on. Sawyer Robertson, starting for the injured Blake Shapen, threw an ugly interception with 1:35 remaining while the game was tied. That turnover set up Utah’s game-winning touchdown. Utah was playing with backup QBs Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson again, but Baylor could not take advantage. Saturday’s performance came on the heels of a miserable 42-31 win loss to Texas State in Week 1.
Nebraska: Nebraska just can’t get out of its own way. The Huskers were doomed by four turnovers in their season-opening loss to Minnesota. And then on Saturday against Colorado, the Huskers committed four more turnovers — three of which came in the first half. Nebraska actually kept the high-powered Colorado offense in check for most of the first half, but a pair of Jeff Sims fumbles and then an interception thrown by Sims opened the door for Colorado to jump out to a 13-0 lead. The Buffs then poured it on in the second half en route to a 36-14 win. Matt Rhule will have to wait a little longer to get his first win with the Huskers.
"I don't know, Matt Rhule may have to find somebody else to play quarterback for (Nebraska), because [Jeff] Sims is costing his team games."- Gus Johnson, seconds before Jeff Sims throws an interception 🏈🎙️ pic.twitter.com/qOv5WXM4cy
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 9, 2023
Houston: Houston opened the season with a strong win over UTSA, but wasn’t able to keep the momentum going. The Cougars lost to city rival Rice in double-overtime on Saturday, falling 43-41. It was an ugly game for UH, which fell behind 28-0 by the midway point of the second quarter. The Cougars managed to fight all the way back and force overtime, but their two-point conversion try in 2OT fell incomplete and Rice completed the upset. That’s not a good loss for Dana Holgorsen.
Northern Illinois: NIU went on the road and upset Boston College 27-24 in Week 1. How did the Huskies respond in Week 2? They lost at home to Southern Illinois, an FCS program that went 5-6 last year. NIU was shut out in the first half and tried to rally late, cutting the deficit to 14-11 with 14:13 to play. From there, NIU threw two interceptions, punted and turned it over on downs and couldn’t take the lead. NIU outgained SIU 360 yards to 219 and still lost.
Buffalo: NIU wasn’t the only MAC team to lose to an FCS opponent. Buffalo did it too. The Bulls lost 40-37 at home to Fordham, allowing 459 yards of offense in the process. Buffalo had a late lead, but allowed Fordham QB CJ Montes to throw his fifth touchdown pass of the game with 2:37 to play. It proved to be the game-winner as Buffalo’s game-tying field goal try in the final minute missed to the left. Buffalo has now lost to an FCS team in back-to-back seasons. The Bulls lost to Holy Cross last year on a last-second Hail Mary.
Nevada: Not to be outdone by its MAC brethren, Nevada suffered its own FCS loss on Saturday. And this one was in blowout fashion. Nevada lost 33-6 at home to Idaho. Idaho is the No. 7 team in the FCS Top 25, but it was still an embarrassing showing from the Wolf Pack. Nevada was outgained 463 yards to 266 and didn’t reach the end zone a single time in the loss. Now 0-2 on the year, Nevada will host Kansas and go to Texas State before opening Mountain West play. It could be a long year.
North Texas: Another Group of Five team that could be in for a very tough season is North Texas. UNT gave up 669 yards and 58 points to Cal in its season-opening loss and then turned around and lost 46-39 to Florida International. FIU had 514 yards of offense in the win, which is more than it had combined in its previous two games this season — a 22-17 loss to Louisiana Tech and a 14-12 win over Maine. That’s right, FIU scored 31 total points in its first two games before managing to drop 46 on the North Texas defense.