1. Ohio State won the chess match of the season. There was a lot that happened in No. 4 Ohio State 27, No. 9 Penn State 26, but the game boiled down to this: a 4th-and-5 with 1:22 remaining and the ball at the Ohio State 45. A first down gave Penn State a great chance to win the game, a stop won it for Ohio State.

Armed with three timeouts, James Franklin called a timeout before the play. Urban Meyer called timeout after seeing Penn State’s alignment, and then Penn State called a second timeout after seeing Ohio State’s defense. Every one of the record 110,000-plus inside Beaver Stadium knew Penn State was going to put the ball in Trace McSorley’s hands, the senior playmaker has been through as many fires as any quarterback currently in college football, and he was enjoying perhaps the best night of his career — 286 passing yards, 175 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Penn State was going to win or lose on his shoulders.

After the third timeout, Penn State went to the line and McSorley checked with the sideline three separate times before the ball finally snapped just before the play-clock expired. Ohio State crashed the line of scrimmage and McSorley… handed the ball off. Chase Young stuffed Miles Sanders for a loss of two yards, and the best Penn State quarterback in a generation watched as the Nittany Lions lost the one game this season they had to win.

“They changed looks, so we called a timeout and had some discussions,” Franklin said. “We obviously didn’t make the right call in that situation, and that’s on me, nobody else. Obviously, it didn’t work. We have called something similar like that in other situations, and it broke for big plays, but that is on us. That is on me.”

1a. Simply put, this is a Herb Brooks-style ‘take to your f’n grave’ game for Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 13-0 lead, surrendered that lead in a span of seven game minutes, then raced back to grab a 26-14 lead with eight minutes to go. With Ohio State’s offense on the ropes, Penn State allowed the Buckeyes to go 75 yards in three plays to pull within 26-21, and then move 96 yards in eight plays to take the lead.

Even still, Penn State out-gained Ohio State by more than 100 yards (492-389) and nearly 1.5 a snap (6.47-5.11). The Nittany Lions penetrated the Ohio State 45-yard line nine times in 17 possessions. This is how those drives ended:

  • Punt
  • Field goal
  • Missed field goal
  • Field goal
  • Turnover on downs
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Punt
  • Turnover on downs

That’s 20 points on nine tries, good for 2.22 points a trip. Combine that with a fumble at their own 25 that quickly turned into Ohio State’s first touchdown and you’ll know what images will haunt the Penn State’s staff dreams for the next 12 months.

Penn State’s season is far from over. The Nittany Lions are a great candidate to return to the New Year’s Six, but they’ll need two Ohio State losses to reach the Big Ten Championship. Good luck with that.

2. Worst case scenario (almost) becomes the immediate case scenario at Clemson. Dabo Swinney on Monday named Trevor Lawrence as Clemson’s starter, and on Wednesday Kelly Bryant announced he was transferring. This was (and is) an unfortunate situation where there were really no heroes and no villains. Swinney did what was best for Clemson, and Bryant utilized his newfound freedom to do what’s best for him.

There was one caveat, though. No. 3 Clemson was now officially Lawrence’s team… for better or worse. The Tigers roster listed only three quarterbacks behind him — all freshman, and two walk-ons. What if Lawrence got hurt?

It took less than two quarters to reach What If territory. On a scramble down the sideline, Lawrence took a hit to the head. He remained down on the sideline for several minutes, made a pit-stop in Clemson’s injury tent and did not return to the game after suffering from concussion-like symptoms.

With Lawrence out, Clemson turned to redshirt freshman Chase Brice for the biggest snaps of his life. The Tigers trailed 13-7 when Lawrence exited and found themselves down 23-13 with 12:58 left in the game. This was danger territory — not just for Saturday’s game, but for the season.

The Tigers raced 75 yards in six plays to pull within 23-20, then caught a break when a 4th-and-1 conversion that would’ve put Syracuse in Clemson territory with under six minutes to play was called back due to an illegal lineman downfield. Clemson took over at its own 6 with exactly six minutes to play and relied on Travis Etienne (27 carries, 203 yards, three touchdowns) to traverse the field, with the help of a game-saving 20-yard strike from Brice to Tee Higgins on a 4th-and-6 with under three to play. Etienne scampered in untouched on a 2-yard run with 41 seconds left to complete a 14-0 rally to win, 27-23.

2a. So, what happens now? Lawrence’s status remains undetermined. Swinney said afterward Lawrence looked “really good” after the game. “Hopefully he’ll bounce back and be OK.”

But does Bryant return to the team? Do Clemson’s coaches reach back out one last time to see if Lawrence’s injury leads to a change of heart for Bryant? Would his teammates welcome him back?

Who knows, but Clemson doesn’t believe he’s coming back.

3. Does this make other backup QBs change their minds? On Aug. 26, Scott Frost announced Adrian Martinez as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. Tristan Gebbia was gone within hours and joined the Oregon State roster by that Thursday. Martinez was injured that Saturday, but instead of taking snaps for Nebraska, Gebbia watched on TV from Corvallis.

And now a similar situation is playing out at Clemson. This isn’t exactly the same since Bryant is a senior, but will the “backup quarterbacks are one heartbeat away” cliche coming true slow the tide of in-season quarterback transfers?

4. Notre Dame is officially your Chaos Candidate. While quarterbacks leave their team in-season elsewhere, Ian Book has risen from Notre Dame’s fifth quarterback to the Irish’s savior. He bailed the Irish out of last season’s Citrus Bowl win, sat behind Brandon Wimbush for the first three games of this season and has set Notre Dame’s offense on fire after winning the job a week ago. His 368 yards and five touchdowns ignited No. 8 Notre Dame to a 56-27 win at Wake Forest last week — the most points in an Irish road game in 15 years — and he was even better against No. 7 Stanford on Saturday, hitting 24-of-33 passes for 278 yards with four touchdowns while rushing 15 times for 47 yards.

Notre Dame scored 24 of the game’s final 27 points, turning a 14-14 tie into a 38-17 blowout. Simply put, the Irish thumped the Cardinal, out-gaining them 550-229 while winning the first downs battle 29-10.

Brian Kelly’s team is now 5-0 and doesn’t face a ranked opponent the rest of the way.

There are already only four seats at the table for the five power conferences, and a 12-0 Notre Dame is absolutely getting in the Playoff. So what two conferences are getting left out? Heck, if Alabama and Georgia go 12-0, we might be asking which three conferences will be without a chair when the music stops on Dec. 2.

5. Oh, that one felt good. Over a two decade stretch from 2005 to 2025, the SEC has sent Florida to Starkville a total of two times. Those visits happened to come in Dan Mullen’s first year at Mississippi State after leaving Florida, and on Saturday, in Mullen’s first year at Florida after leaving Mississippi State.

Mississippi State did not attempt to hide the fact it had a problem with Mullen (and AD Scott Stricklin, a State alum) leaving Starkville for a conference school. A local ice cream joint changed one of the items on its menu from The Mullen to The Lateral Move after Florida hired away its coach.

“If State loses this game, it will be one of the most devastating losses on the fan base ever,” former Mississippi State media relations staffer Gregg Ellis told Sports Illustrated. “They want to see Dan go down.”

And, really, it was a credit to Mullen that Mississippi State should have won the game. Mississippi State won eight games a year ago, Florida won four. Mississippi State also had the better quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald, a Tim Tebow imitation that hadn’t spoken to Mullen since he departed Starkville.

Fitzgerald carried or threw the ball 46 times on Saturday, but those 46 touches covered just 130 yards as Florida came away with a 13-6 win. A 20-yard toss from running back Kadarius Toney to wide receiver Moral Stephens at the 8:26 mark of the third quarter was the only touchdown of the game, which proved to be enough as the Bulldogs covered just 73 yards in the second half. A brutal night for the Mississippi State offense ended in a brutal way.

This is not a rivalry — rivalries don’t happen when you play twice in 15 years — but Florida treated the Mullen Bowl like a rivalry game, including a Gatorade bath for its victorious coach.

This isn’t just a devastating loss loss for State’s psyche, either. The Bulldogs were 3-0 and ranked No. 14 in the country entering last weekend’s games. Now they’re 3-2 (0-2 SEC) with No. 10 Auburn, No. 5 LSU, Texas A&M and a visit to No. 1 Alabama in the next six weeks.

6. West Virginia passes its first test, though it got interesting. After winning its first three games by 26, 35 and 29 points, No. 12 WVU played its first true road game of the year, and what a trip it was — an early kickoff at No. 25 Texas Tech before a packed house 1,500 miles from campus.

The game started as well as it realistically could have, as Will Grier fired three touchdown passes and the Mountaineers jumped to a 28-7 lead after one and 35-10 at the half. After knocking Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman out of the game, the second half figured to be a mere formality.

But the Red Raiders blanked WVU’s offense in the second half, while Jett Duffey ignited the Tech offense, throwing for 186 yards and rushing for 86 more. After trailing by 25 at the half, Texas Tech took the field with 4:23 to play knowing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion likely meant overtime. West Virginia needed a play from its defense, and West Virginia got one.

WVU won the game, 42-34.

The 4-0 Mountaineers get Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor before the real fun begins with a Nov. 3 trip to Texas.

7. Texas A&M beat Arkansas, but the talk surrounding this game won’t be about the final score. Jimbo Fisher aggressively grabbed the facemask of Aggies linebacker Tyrel Dodson, captured below.

“I was just trying to make the point — I don’t want you out there fighting. Make the play, shut your mouth, and go on,” Fisher said afterward. “Learn to put your pride away and go on the sideline. There ain’t no sense to go out there and push and shove and do dumb things out there when you’re locked in on a game.”

After the game, Dodson tweeted a supportive message of Fisher.

8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in this year’s FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here’s this week’s ballot.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Clemson
  7. UCF
  8. Washington
  9. Penn State
  10. LSU
  11. West Virginia
  12. Auburn
  13. Kentucky
  14. Stanford
  15. Texas
  16. Michigan

9. Odds and Ends

a. Last week’s thesis was that the college football season is not one 12-game season, but a series of 12 one-game seasons. Exhibit A: After beating Virginia Tech, Old Dominion went on the road and lost to East Carolina.

b. Exhibit B: Virginia Tech went on the road and beat No. 23 Duke, 31-14.

c. Jake Browning was absolutely sizzling in No. 11 Washington’s 35-7 hammering of No. 20 BYU. The senior hit 23-of-25 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns, in the process reaching the 100-touchdown mark and setting Washington’s all-time passing record.

d. Michigan rallied from the third largest deficit in school history, climbing out of a 17-0 hole to beat Northwestern, 20-17.

e. Best game you didn’t see: Hawaii at San Jose State. SJSU jumped out to a 17-3 lead, Hawaii came back to force overtime at 31-31. Both teams scored to open the extra frame, and then both teams took turns missing game-winning field goals. It was actually the fifth missed field goal of extra time that allowed Hawaii to emerge with a 44-41 win in five overtimes, pushing Nick Rolovich’s crew to 5-1 on the year and 2-0 in the Mountain West.

f. You ever seen a player give up a sack and score a touchdown on the same play? You have now.

Georgia won the game, 38-12.

g. Jeremy Pruitt and Scott Frost can share in the New Head Coach Blues.

Purdue beat Nebraska 42-28, dropping the Huskers to 0-4 on the year and handing the program its now-school record eighth straight loss.

h. Over the past two seasons, Eastern Michigan has played in 12 one-score games. The Eagles are 3-9 in said games. After beating Purdue 20-19 on Sept. 8, EMU has lost to Buffalo 35-28, lost to San Diego State 23-20 in overtime and, on Saturday, lost to Northern Illinois 26-23 in three overtimes.

i. With two minutes remaining, a 24-21 lead and the ball at the Florida State 21, Louisville had a first-and-10 and the game in hand. Three runs would expire FSU’s two remaining timeouts and take the clock to the 1-minute mark. A first down ended the game. Bobby Petrino called a pass, and it was intercepted. Florida State scored in less than a minute, and the ‘Noles won the game, 28-24.

j. Last week’s 28-21 near miss at Oklahoma did not leave a hangover for Army. The Black Knights went to 4-0 Buffalo and whipped the Bulls, 42-13.

k. League play began with a pair of upsets in Conference USA. First, Middle Tennessee rallied from a 24-10 deficit to beat Florida Atlantic 25-24, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 38 seconds remaining.

l. In the West Division, Louisiana Tech went to Denton and erased a 21-6 deficit to end North Texas’s 9-game home winning streak, 29-27. The Bulldogs blocked a 46-yard field goal with 33 seconds left to hold on to the win. UNT’s last home loss before Saturday? To Louisiana Tech in 2016.

m. Alabama’s offense isn’t just Alabama Good. It’s historically good.

Alabama beat Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14, moving Nick Saban to 14-0 against his former assistants.

o. No. 5 LSU racked up nearly 600 yards of offense and 33 first downs in churning Ole Miss to the tune of a 45-16 win. The Tigers get Florida and Georgia in the next two weeks.

p. After challenging the school to “fire my ass” if things were really that bad, things got worse for Randy Edsall and Connecticut as Cincinnati hammered the Huskies, 49-7.

q. The Year of the Basketball School took a hit with losses by Duke, Kansas and Syracuse, but Kentucky is 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and second since 1984 after a 24-10 win over South Carolina.

r. Baylor threw for 400 yards on Oklahoma, but Kyler Murray threw for 432 of his own, rushed for 45 more and accounted for seven touchdowns in a 66-33 OU win.

s. What is going on in Tucson?

The Wildcats lost to USC 24-20, dropping them to 2-3 on the year.

t. In a game of conference championship hopefuls, Fresno State took care of Toledo, 49-27.

10. And finally… Please say a player for Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie. The linebacker collapsed on the sideline during a game at Vanderbilt and had to be rushed into emergency head surgery.

“Football’s what we do, not who we are,” Derek Mason said. “I know what it is to be a coach. I know what it is to have a player who’s injured. At the end of the day, when serious injuries happen, football becomes secondary.”

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.