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Further Review: Bama-Clemson III? Penn State or Wisconsin in the B1G?

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has the Tigers in prime position to storm back to the playoff. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It’s still mid-September, but people already are freaking out about:

Alabama-Clemson III: Somewhere along the way, as Clemson was thrashing Louisville 47-21 on the road Saturday, it seemed to dawn on America all at once that the defending champion Tigers are no worse than the second-best team in the country. I’d put them in the No. 1 spot ahead of Alabama, but either way the Tigers and Tide might be bound for a third consecutive matchup in the title game.

Dabo Swinney’s defense is off-the-charts good. And there’s nothing to apologize for where quarterback Kelly Bryant, the successor to Deshaun Watson, is concerned. He looks like a guy who can do it all.

Penn State’s playoff debut: Ohio State has a loss. Michigan continues to underwhelm offensively. The Big Ten is 3-for-3 at getting a team into the playoff, and right now the Nittany Lions — a mere plus-127 in scoring differential through three games — are carrying the 4-for-4 flag.

Bedlam: Oklahoma is ranked third in the new Associated Press Top 25. Oklahoma State comes in at sixth. Is there a hotter rivalry in 2017 than Sooners vs. Cowboys? The competition between the teams’ respective quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, will be fierce, too.

Question of the week

Is Northern Illinois the best team in the state?

No, we’re not counting the Bears. (Should we?) The Huskies get to play the cool card all they want after winning 21-17 at Nebraska in Week 3. What a victory for coach Rod Carey, under whom NIU now is 4-1 against the Big Ten. Even better, beating the Big Red in Lincoln is something Carey’s players will smile about for the rest of their lives. It’s special.

Which makes this kind of hard to say: The Huskies probably will get creamed in their next game, Sept. 30 at San Diego State. Ask Stanford, a 20-17 loser Saturday to SDSU, how good the Aztecs are.

Say what?

‘‘There is nothing more fun than just going out there and kicking someone’s butt.’’

Salt, meet wound. That was Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald after the unranked Bulldogs wiped the floor with No. 12 LSU by a SEC-rattling score of 37-7. It was the biggest margin of victory for the Bulldogs in the 111-year history of the series.

Big Ten power rankings

1. Penn State (3-0): Think Saturday at Iowa will be easy? Oh, no, it won’t.

2. Wisconsin (3-0): These Badgers are going to run the ball on everybody. Quite the plot twist, right?

3. Ohio State (2-1, 1-0 Big Ten): Where has quarterback J.T. Barrett’s downfield touch gone?

4. Michigan (3-0): Are we supposed to be impressed by the Wolverines’ five field goals against Air Force?

5. Iowa (3-0): There seem to be more pieces in place than there were last season. A 2015-like Hawkeyes surprise.

6. Maryland (2-0): The Terps were off, but the team they beat in Week 1 — Texas — made them look good with a great effort at USC.

7. Purdue (2-1): About that 35-3 blowout of Missouri on the road? Yes, Boilers, it got our attention.

8. Minnesota (3-0): The Gophers have a defense that’ll give them a fighting chance in every game.

9. Indiana (1-1, 0-1): The Hoosiers can rest for only so long on three good quarters against Ohio State.

10. Michigan State (2-0): Does Notre Dame want any part of Sparty on Saturday in East Lansing?

11. Northwestern (2-1): Come on, Cats, pick a personality already.

12. Nebraska (1-2): Tom Osborne is only 80. Maybe he can be coaxed back under a headset?

13. Illinois (2-1): At least the Illini didn’t fare quite as poorly as the Bears in Tampa.

14. Rutgers (1-2): A blowout of Morgan State doesn’t begin to make up for that loss to Eastern Michigan.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.



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