Well, here it is. The biggest Indiana football game in living memory.
No. 9 IU is 4-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1987, but this is bigger than that. Those Hoosiers dropped a September game to Kentucky and eventually finished third in the Big Ten and outside the AP Top 25. The last time Indiana appeared in the AP Top 10 was Sept. 22, 1969. The last time IU appeared in the AP Top 10 in November was 1967, which was also the last time this program sniffed a Big Ten championship.
In practical terms, we’re talking about the biggest Indiana football game since the 1968 Rose Bowl, when No. 4 Indiana met No. 1 USC.
Meanwhile, this game (noon ET, Fox) is No. 3 Ohio State’s fourth Top 10 showdown in the last 365 days. It’s their 15th since 2016, according to The Athletic‘s Matt Brown. Kids sign Indiana dreaming to play in these games; kids sign with Ohio State expecting to.
For Ohio State, this game simply replaces the stakes Ryan Day and company expected to carry against Penn State and/or Michigan. Aside from Indiana, Maryland is the only other B1G East team with less than three conference losses just four games into this season. And considering the ongoing outbreak in Maryland’s football facility, the Terps might just eliminate themselves from title contention before they get back on the field.
But for Indiana, this is everything. A trip to No. 10 Wisconsin (more on them below) still awaits, but Tom Allen’s team could lose that and still win the Big Ten East, advance to the Big Ten Championship and even reach the College Football Playoff with a loss in Madison so long as they win in Columbus. This program has won all of two Big Ten championships, and they didn’t even get to play in the Rose Bowl after the first one.
For anyone under 60, this is the biggest Indiana game of your lifetime. In strict terms, it’s the biggest game since that ’68 Rose Bowl, a game where the Hoosiers were never really competitive against John McKay, OJ Simpson and the mighty Trojans in a 14-3 loss.
What kind of fight can they put up this time?
Here’s what’s on the line in the rest of college football this weekend.
No. 7 Cincinnati (7-0, 5-0 AAC) at UCF (5-2, 4-2 AAC) — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This game’s meaning is more symbolic than anything. Even a 61-0 UCF victory wouldn’t change all that much, since the Knights would still need one more Cincinnati loss to overtake the Bearcats in the AAC standings.
What it could be, though, is the last gasp of a dynasty and the coronation of another.
UCF spent two years ruling the American from above, strutting around their nominal peers with an arrogance that can only be earned with two straight undefeated regular seasons. Cincinnati ended UCF’s 19-game AAC winning streak last October, a milestone victory en route to the program’s first American title two months later.
In an immediate sense, a Cincinnati win here would all but eliminate UCF from AAC title contention for the first time since 2016 while putting the Bearcats on the doorstep of reaching back-to-back American title games.
But even more importantly, Cincinnati has an opportunity to climb to heights never reached by UCF — and drive the Knights’ sword deep inside their own chainmail in the process. The Bearcats are No. 7 in the AP poll, which equals UCF’s highest regular-season ranking in the midst of their 25-game winning streak. The first College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday, and if the Bearcats come in at No. 7 there they’ll surpass the highest ranking UCF ever earned.
If and when that happens, Cincinnati would use the credibility UCF’s 2017-18 run brought to the American as a stepping stone to climb even higher than the Knights ever got.
No. 4 Clemson (7-1, 6-1 ACC) at Florida State (2-6, 1-6 ACC) — noon ET, ABC
That same dynamic we just described above has played out in a big way in the ACC. It’s a fact that the winner of the Clemson-FSU game has gone on to play for the ACC championship every year since 2009, but nowadays that’s a bit like saying “Either a Republican or a Democrat will win a Senate race in Oklahoma.” It’s true in only the most obvious, insulting sense.
Florida State hasn’t played Clemson within one score since 2016, and the only drama here may be to see if Dabo Swinney’s team has the desire and/or Mike Norvell’s team has the fight to keep Clemson from topping the 49-point margin of victory record Clemson set in 2018.
Kansas State (4-3, 4-2 Big 12) at No. 17 Iowa State (5-2, 5-1 Big 12) — 4 p.m. ET, Fox
No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) at No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) — 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Last week’s Big 12 schedule consisted solely of two games that meant nothing toward the race to Dallas, this week gives us only two games that mean everything.
The stakes for all four teams competing in Farmaggedon and Bedlam are largely identical: win and retain control of your Big 12 destiny, lose and fall deeply behind in the race.
Five Big 12 teams (these four plus Texas) are still in the running for the Big 12 title. With four games among the 5-team group still to play, we’re still too far out to project what happens if X beats Y. Instead we’ll simply lay out how all five stand against the other four.
Win(s) over: Oklahoma
Lost to: Oklahoma State (plus an additional loss to WVU)
Yet to play: Iowa State, Texas
Win(s) over: Oklahoma
Lost to: Oklahoma State
Yet to play: K-State, Texas
Win(s) over: Texas
Lost to: K-State, Iowa State
Yet to play: Oklahoma State
Win(s) over: K-State, Iowa State
Lost to: Texas
Yet to play: Oklahoma
Win(s) over: Oklahoma State
Lost to: Oklahoma (plus an additional loss to TCU)
Yet to play: K-State, Iowa State
In general, you want to root for the teams you beat and against the teams that beat you. For instance, Oklahoma could still miss the Big 12 Championship if Kansas State beats Iowa State, the Wildcats and Cyclones both beat Texas, and Oklahoma State drops another game along the way.
Farmaggedon is perhaps the most even rivalry game in college football. Iowa State leads 50-49-4, which means a K-State victory would even the ledger for the first time since 1918. That was Game 2 of this series. Saturday is Game 104.
Bedlam, on the other hand, is the most lopsided annual rivalry in college football. OU leads 89-18-7 and, cruelly, the best stretch of football in OSU history has only seen the gap widen. Oklahoma has taken five straight and 15 of 17. History is somewhat on Oklahoma State’s side, however.
Saturday is the 7th time ever (5th since 2009) that Oklahoma State enters Bedlam ranked higher than Oklahoma. Cowboys are 3-3 in such games.
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) November 18, 2020
No. 9 Indiana (4-0) at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) — noon ET, Fox
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) at No. 19 Northwestern (4-0) — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
By Saturday night, we could be looking forward to a Dec. 5 game pitting No. 4 Indiana and No. 8 Wisconsin as a mere prologue in an eventual two-part epic. Or we could be talking about a 2018 rematch of the Big Ten title game, which saw a 45-24 Ohio State win over Northwestern.
Either way, this game’s winner will be the clear leader in the West, where the story will be Wisconsin closing in on its seventh Big Ten Championship appearance in 10 seasons or Northwestern, who went 8-1 in B1G play in 2018 and 1-8 in ’19, moving toward a rare first-to-worst-to-first run.
Rice (1-1, 1-1 C-USA) at North Texas (2-3, 1-2 C-USA) — 2 p.m. ET, ESPN3
UTSA (5-4, 3-2 C-USA) at Southern Miss (2-6, 1-3 C-USA) — 3 p.m. ET, ESPN+
No division has been ravaged by Covid Cancelations quite like the C-USA West, and so no race is as convoluted as the C-USA West.
First-place UAB is just 2-1 in league play and hasn’t played all month, which is how you get a game like Rice at North Texas — pitting one team that’s played all of two games against another that hasn’t played since Oct. 24 — with divisional stakes on the line.
UTSA has gotten off nine games with just one postponement, a loss to UAB among them. So the Roadrunners need to win out and UAB to drop two more games. Which means UAB has to play two more games at some point.
No. 21 Liberty (8-0) at NC State (5-3) — 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Every game is the biggest in school history for Liberty. In addition to playing for their highest ranking in school history and the first 9-0 start in school history, the Flames could complete a 3-game swing through the ACC at 3-0. Nothing may top beating in-state foe Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, but that wouldn’t stop the Flames from savoring every morsel of wolf meat.
#MACtion: Great for exposure, terrible for this feature.
San Diego State (3-1) at Nevada (4-0) — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
San Jose State (4-0) at Fresno State (3-1) — 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
We’ve got two undefeated teams taking on 1-loss opponent, but one of these games is bigger than that.
Thanks to two straight cancelations in SEC country, CBS is sending its No. 1 crew — Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and company — to Reno rather than give them two straight off weeks. The voices that spend their fall Saturdays narrating the actions of Joe Burrow, Nick Saban and [pick your SEC celebrity here] will turn their focus on San Diego State and Nevada. The typical Mountain West Saturday game gets around 300,000 viewers; this one could get 10 times that.
No. 20 USC (2-0) at Utah (0-0) — 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s USC’s third game, and its third straight game against an opponent making their season debut. The Trojans needed late comebacks to beat Arizona State and Arizona, and simple odds tell you the third time won’t be the charm. Will Utah be rested or rusty?
LSU (2-3) at Arkansas (3-4) — noon ET, SEC Network
This game means nothing in the standings (hence the 11 a.m. local time SEC Network designation), but that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless.
A year ago, LSU was the No. 1 team in the country and pounded Arkansas 56-20, dropping the head coach-less Hogs to 2-9. LSU’s 36-point margin did not cover the 42-point spread.
Fast forward to this week and Arkansas opened as a 1-point favorite. The 43-point flip is believed to be the largest on record. (LSU is now a 2.5-point favorite.)
Please sit for a moment and contemplate transporting yourself to a Tiger Stadium concourse on Nov. 23, 2019 and explaining to a fan of either team that this game would become a tossup in one year’s time.
Appalachian State (6-1, 4-0 SBC) at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-0, 5-0 Sun Belt) — noon ET, ESPN2
The Sun Belt established its championship game in 2018. In both games to date, App State represented the East Division, Louisiana-Lafayette repped the West and App State won the game.
ULL has already won the West for the third time in as many years. A win wouldn’t quite do the same for App, but it would get the Mountaineers most of the way there.
Coastal, meanwhile, can clinch its first Sun Belt Championship appearance with a victory here. For a program that didn’t launch football until 2003 and didn’t join the Sun Belt since 2017, we’re probably talking about the biggest game in school history. If nothing else, it’s the biggest one since 2014 FCS quarterfinals.