3rd & 1: This Week’s Top 3

This week’s Top 3 features two teams who continue their dominance, while another upsets a big name team in their home territory.

No. 1 Alabama – If there were any questions or concerns about Alabama they were answered Saturday night in a 66-3 victory over Ole Miss.

The Crimson Tide appeared to make a statement of sorts, one that may have included that two straight wins by the Rebels in 2015 and 2016 didn’t bother them.

Alabama scored 21 points within the first quarter for the second week in a row, starting with Northport, Alabama native Bo Scarbrough in a 6-yard run. The play of the game came shortly after when Levi Wallace intercepted for 35 yards, the defense’s first touchdown of the season.

Jalen Hurts, who ran 10 yards for his own touchdown in the second quarter, completed 12 for 19 for 197 yards. Hurts also went 101 in rushing yards.

No. 2 Clemson – King of the ACC? It appears to be that way after the Clemson Tigers defeated Virginia Tech 31-17, a victory appears closer than what it actually was.

Clemson started strong when quarterback Kelly Bryant threw 60 yards to Tavien Feaster, and only allowed the Hokies a field goal in the first half.

The Tigers did an excellent job at taking care of the ball all while forcing Virginia Tech to turnover the ball three times.

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel went 22 yards with an interception return, recovered a Hokie fumble, and had 10 tackles.

No. 3 Oklahoma – The Sooners didn’t play in Week 5, but return for a Big 12 match-up against Iowa State on Saturday, October 7th.

Notables: Ronnie Clark reached the end zone for the first time in his college football career, running 9 yards to score the last of nine touchdowns against Ole Miss.

Troy University defeated LSU in a 24-21 surprise upset in Death Valley.

The Trojans didn’t allow the Tigers any chance to score within the first half, but the LSU managed to score three times in the second half starting with a 7-yard pass to Foster Moreau.

Moreau scored again late in the fourth to put the tigers within a field goal chance to tie up the game and force overtime, but came up short. The loss is LSU’s second of the season.

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3rd & 1: This week’s Top 3

This week in college football was one for the books, especially for the No. 1 team in the country – who let their on-field performance speak for itself.

Clemson overcame early problems for a dominating performance of their own, while Oklahoma’s run game reached a season high.

No. 1 Alabama – The Tide didn’t stop rolling Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee. They went on a smashing shutout and proved that you should never say you want Bama, unless you really mean it.

Alabama’s offense set a program-record with 38 first downs and were 72 yards away from having the best yardage total of all time, while Damien Harris scored more touchdowns in a single game than all of last season -reaching the end zone twice within the first quarter and one in the third.

Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went 8 for 10 in 103 yards. The most impressive play for the second-string QB being when he used a spin move to avoid a tackle and connected with DeVonta Smith for a 27-yard touchdown.

The No. 1 team face their first challenge of the season against Ole Miss. Where will they stack up against the Rebels? Will their defense and offense work strongly together? While a shutout victory is unlikely, they should remain undefeated after Saturday night’s game.

No. 2 Clemson – When the offense fails, the defense excels – that’s how the Clemson Tigers defeated Boston College.

It may look like the No. 2 team outplayed the Eagles on paper, but it was the total opposite. For three quarters of the game, Clemson struggled to move the ball. They only scored once in the first half of the game, a 11-yard run by quarterback Kelly Bryant.

Bryant threw two interceptions, but redeemed himself with two touchdowns of his own.

Kendall Joseph and AJ Terrell both had an impressive game. Joseph racked up a dozen sacks, while Terrell was responsible for getting the Tigers a fourth quarter interception.

Clemson head to Virginia to take on No. 12 Virginia Tech. The Tigers main concern heading into this game is putting together a 60-minute effort.

No. 3 Oklahoma – It was a little too close for comfort for Sooners fans against Baylor.

Oklahoma scored three times in the first quarter and only gave up one touchdown to the Bears, but things took a turn for the worse when Baylor had four straight unanswered scoring drives.

Oklahoma regrouped late in the third for a 48-yard touchdown with Jeff Badet, while Trey Sermon, who only saw fourth quarter playing time, was responsible for OU’s last two touchdowns of the game.

The Sooners struggled at stopping Baylor all game and allowed their opponent to score with less than two minutes to go, but it wasn’t enough.

Oklahoma doesn’t face anyone heading into Week 5 and will have home advantage against Iowa State. Playing Sermon throughout 60 minutes could be a vital element heading into Big XII play.

Kyle Busch Wins at New Hampshire

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Busch secured his way into Round 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with his win Sunday during the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch led 187 of 300 laps toward his third win of the season. The win is also the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s third win at the 1.058-mile track and the 41st of his career.

Busch missed being in a multi-car wreck on Lap 150 when the No. 3 of Austin Dillon made contact with Kevin Harvick. The contact ultimately turned the 2014 MENCS Champion sideways.

Harvick’s teammate Kurt Busch and Jeffrey Earnhardt had nowhere to go when they hit the Mobil 1 Ford.

“That was pretty intense,” Busch said “That was some ‘Days of Thunder’ stuff over there. You couldn’t see anything. It was just a wall of smoke over there off of Turn 2. I was listening to my spotter and basically was told to stop, and I was like ‘Sounds like a good idea.’

“I just checked up as much as I could. Of course, I was trying not to get run into from behind. I didn’t know who was behind me – I knew Matt (Kenseth) was there. But all in all, just a great day. We ran up front all day long, we executed, we did what we were supposed to do, and it’s awesome to win here in the Granite State in front of these fans.”

Kasey Kahne heads to the Monster Mile as the No. 16 seed in the playoff standings. The Hendrick Motorsport driver is in a must-win situation after a broken rear suspension sent him to the garage for repairs on Lap 263.

Kahne returned, but finished in the 35th position, 11 laps behind the leader.

Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski clinched their positions into the Round of 12 based on points. Larson finished second, while Keselowski finished fourth, his 12th top-5 of the season.

The MENCS head to Dover International Speedway on Sunday, October 1st, where eight positions are on the line to remain in contention for the 2017 Championship.

Will Jimmie Johnson recover from his summer slump and find Victory Lane at the track he hold 11 victories at? Find out on October 1, 2017 at 2 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

3rd& 1: This Week’s Top 3

It’s week 2 and a new team is at number 2!

This week’s Top 3 features Alabama as the top contender, an upset, and the Tigers defending their territory.

No. 1 Alabama – Running game, running game, running game.

Did I mention running game?

Alabama’s number one aspect against Fresno State was their ability to run the football, despite showing improvement in passing. Alabama is known for their running game, but what will happen when a stronger opponent turns the tables on the Crimson Tide and they are forced to pass?

It may never become an issue, but another issue heading into Week 3 sheds some light on why it needs to be considered: Third downs.

Alabama ranks 118 of 130 FBS teams – a major drop of its 34th ranking a year ago and it’s 43.8 percentile. Alabama is successful in all other plays, improvements here will carry the team when it is severely necessary.

No. 2 Oklahoma  – Oklahoma’s defense carried the Sooners to an outstanding victory and their quarterback to the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

The Oklahoma defense only allowed the Buckeyes one touchdown scoring drive and three field goals throughout 60 minutes, while Baker Mayfield lead the offense and completed 27 of 35 passes for 386 yards with two touchdowns and a field goal for a 31-16 victory.

Oklahoma made a case for themselves Saturday night and if Mayfield’s stats continue on the rise with a strong defense, we could be looking at a national championship contender.

No. 3 Clemson – It was a tight kept score for Clemson versus the Auburn Tigers at Memorial Stadium, who remain at No. 3 this week. The Clemson Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage and kept their opponent from reaching the end zone successfully.

Clemson struggled early on and appeared to be in trouble when Kelly Bryant went down with an injury. The injury was minor however and he returned for their first scoring drive before halftime.

The Clemson Tigers returned from the half for their second, and final, touchdown when Kelly Bryant ran 27 yards into the end zone – avoiding a tackle as he did. In addition, the defense protected their lead by getting to Auburn’s quarterback with a total of 11 sacks.

Clemson has a lot going for them, and could gain additional momentum with more yards-per-carry and keeping turnovers at a minimum.

Kyle Larson Wins at Richmond, Playoff field is set

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Kyle Larson earned his fourth win of the season Saturday night at Richmond Raceway in overtime, after the No. 15 of Derrick Cope scraped the wall to bring out the seventh caution of the night.

Larson won the race off pit road and took the lead on Lap 403 during the Federated Auto Parts 400, but contact between the No. 11 and No. 78 Toyota’s sent Truex into the Turn 1 wall.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night. The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs.

“It came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him (Truex) into (Turn) 1, and I was pretty excited about that. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Truex, the regular-season champion, finished 20th, while Hamlin earned a top-5 finish.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth all earned their way into the 2017 Playoffs based off points, but it was the Joe Gibbs Racing driver who experienced the most pressure.

Kenseth’s day concluded after suffering damage in the most intense way.

An ambulance stopped on the apron before the pit road entrance and drivers scrambled to avoid the vehicle, but Kenseth was not that fortunate. Kenseth plunged into the back of the No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer.

Joey Logano, who’s win in April was deemed encumbered, was in a must-win situation to make the playoffs. The Team Penske driver came up one position short of the victory.

“Yeah, it stings a little bit,” Logano said. “Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond (record) for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.”

“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”

Ryan Newman finished third, while Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Chicagoland Speedway on September 17 to kickoff the start of the playoffs. Truex won the event a year ago, while Elliott finished third after leading 75 laps.

Can Elliott earn his first career MENCS victory and punch his ticket into the next round? Find out on September 17, 2017 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

3rd & 1: This week’s Top 3

College football is back and that, for one, is worth celebrating. If you are in this week’s Top 3, that’s another. Make no mistake that even teams here have room to improve and there is plenty of time for that.

The Top 3 for this week each kicked off the start of the 2017 season with a win, which isn’t a surprise by any means, but let’s discuss what each team should do to keep it that way heading into week 2.

No. 1 Alabama – The 16-time National Championship winning team came out on top against Florida State University after struggling to maintain field position for majority of the game. It’s easy to say that Alabama has the No. 1 defense in the country, but even the top defense has some improvements to make if they want to add to the dynasty that Coach Nick Saban has created.

While Alabama’s defense is where they expected it to be, it was in large part to special teams. Special teams are an excellent advantage, but someone else needs to be there when they fall. Improvements with blocking would be a big improvement for Alabama heading into the first home game of the season against Fresno State.

No. 2 Ohio State – The start of the 2017 season was a slow one for the Buckeyes, who failed to score until the end of the first half against Indiana. They picked up the pace and retook the lead in the third quarter, scoring four more times throughout the second half.

Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins had a fantastic college debut, rushing for 181 yards – a new school record previously set 15 years ago by Maurice Clarett.

Ohio State will have their first big test when Oklahoma comes to Columbus. The Buckeyes defeated the Sooners 45-24 a year ago in Oklahoma’s territory. How will they fair in their own? An early scoring drive could carry the No. 2 team to another victory, and the return of Mike Weber could be another key to it.

No. 3 Clemson – The defending National Champions dominated against their first opponent of the season, Kent State. The Tigers scored 21 points within the first quarter and only allowed the unranked team a field goal in the 2nd quarter. They returned after the half to match their 1st quarter effort, ending the day 56-3.

A similar feature could easily carry Clemson to another victory versus the Auburn Tigers, where they won by a touchdown a year ago. Clemson has won the last three match-ups and holds home advantage heading into their next.

Denny Hamlin wins the Southern 500

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Denny Hamlin battled through some adversity Sunday night, but that didn’t hinder the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the win or pulling into Victory Lane.

The “Flying 11” did exactly that after Hamlin made a mistake with 44 laps remaining in the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Hamlin missed the entrance to pit road and was forced to come back around for his final pit stop of the night, exiting in the 14th position.

Hamlin drove through traffic while cutting into Martin Truex Jr’s lead, and regained on Lap 365 when Truex cut a tire.

“That’s as hard as I can drive,” Hamlin said, “What can I say–it’s the flying 11. It means everything to me. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, this is a throwback to my history – this is for Ray Hendrick, Bugs Hairfield, Wayne Patterson, Eddie Johnson, the short track guys that I grew up watching.”

Hamlin swept the weekend at Darlington Raceway just as he did seven years ago, when he last won the prestigious event.

“This one’s sweeter,” he acknowledged, “going through the adversity we did.”

Truex, who finished eighth despite his late trouble, clinched the regular season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship after leading 34 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the event.

“It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car,” Truex said. “I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on.”

Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-5, while Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray finished inside the top-10.

Only one race remains for someone to make their way into the playoffs with a win. Chase Elliott, Kensth, and McMurray remain on the bubble, and Clint Bowyer is on the outside looking in.

A win is now Bowyer’s only chance. He finished last after suffering an engine failure on Lap 18.

The MENCS head to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 9th for the last race before the start of the 2017 playoff season. Hamlin is the defending race winner. Can he win for the second week in a row?

Find out Saturday, September 9th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC Sports Network.