That wasn't part of the plan, Wisconsin. Wisconsin woke up Saturday eight days away from the program's biggest regular season game since... ever? No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 4 Ohio State, both teams undefeated, the chance to enter November with a clear spot in the Selection Committee's top four on the line. All Bucky had to do was beat Illinois.
Illinois 24, Wisconsin 23.
The Badgers out-gained the Illini by 105 yards and held the ball for nearly forty-one minutes but were undone by football's most important stats column: turnovers. A team that entered Saturday with five giveaways in six games and the nation's fourth-best turnover margin (plus-9) coughed up the pill three times, two fumbles that sparked two of Illinois' three touchdown drives and an interception that set up James McCourt's 39-yard game winner.
It was Illinois' first win over a top-10 opponent since stunning No. 1 Ohio State in 2007 and among the biggest point-spread upsets in college football history.
As for Wisconsin, the trip to Columbus is still on for next week, and suddenly a season that looked so promising is now officially in the danger zone. Paul Chryst's team will now most likely need to beat Ohio State twice to reach the Playoff, but the threat runs deeper than that. Minnesota, that team of happy, non-threatening Gophers, would suddenly have a 2-game lead over Wisconsin, assuming the Fighting Flecks can beat Maryland at home next week and the Badgers don't stun Ohio State in the Horseshoe.
What looked like Round 1 of a 2-part heavyweight epic could turn into a knockout blow for Wisconsin's championship hopes, thanks to one bad day in Champaign.
A chance for rebirth at Illinois? Saturday was Lovie Smith's 43rd game at Illinois. It represented his 12th victory, his fifth Big Ten win, and his high point in Champaign by a factor of 500,000.
Illinois is now 3-4 on the season; their remaining schedule calls for road trips to Purdue, Michigan State and Iowa and home dates with Rutgers and Northwestern. Illinois should beat Purdue, Rutgers and Northwestern, and a team good enough to beat Wisconsin is also good enough to beat Michigan State and Iowa. The flip side of that coin: a team that can lose to Eastern Michigan can also lose to Purdue, Rutgers and Northwestern.
Frankly, Josh Whitman's out-of-the-deepest-blue hiring of Smith has never looked like it worked, until Saturday. Now, the chance to make this hire stick has presented itself. What will the Illini do with it?
Penn State survives, while Michigan's title hopes end. When Penn State got up 21-0 in the second quarter, it looked like it would be 49-0 by the fourth quarter.
To Michigan's credit, it was not. The Wolverines pulled within 21-14 in the third quarter and within 28-21 in the fourth. In fact, the maize and blue's last three drives went 65 yards for a touchdown, 75 yards for a touchdown and 44 yards to the Penn State 3-yard line -- settling into real rhythm in a game that matters for the first time in the Josh Gattis era -- but Shea Patterson's two game-tying passes from the 3 fell incomplete. The last one, on fourth down with 2:01 to play, was just a brutal drop.
For Penn State, it's a true survive-and-advance game. The Nittany Lions go to undefeated Minnesota on Nov. 9 and to Columbus two weeks after that.
For Michigan, it's "horseshoes and hand grenades" territory, another agonizingly close loss to a top-10 opponent under Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines can still beat Notre Dame, they can still beat Michigan State and they can still, in theory, beat Ohio State, but, with two Big Ten losses now on the ledger, the realistic prospect of the first conference title under Harbaugh died in Happy Valley.
Oregon and Washington staged a fantastic college football game. One of the most underrated rivalries in college football was as good as ever as the Ducks and Huskies staged what was essentially the Pac-12 North Championship.
Justin Herbert threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns for Oregon. Jacob Eason countered with 289 and three for Washington. Oregon led 7-0 early, Washington then went on a 28-7 run, and then Oregon put the clamps down to end the game on a 21-3 run over the final quarter and a half. Trailing 31-21, Oregon pulled within three on this 4th-and-3 beauty to end the third quarter.
With the game on the line, Mario Cristobal leaned on his offensive line, calling six consecutive runs for 45 yards over the course of an 8-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to take a 35-31 lead with 5:10 to play.
Needing a touchdown, Washington moved to the Oregon 35 but pushed no further as Eason threw incomplete on 4th-and-3 to seal Oregon's 14th win in the last 16 meetings and, in all likelihood, the Pac-12 North title.
This scene in John Canzano's column for The Oregonian is great:
Cristobal stood shoulder-to-shoulder alongside his wife, Jessica, on the stadium ramp. The parents stared into her iPhone 11 while they held a FaceTime chat with their two young sons back in Eugene. (Watch it here.)
Matteo, 9, and Rocco, 8, were on the other end.
“The harder it gets,” their dad cried into the phone, “the better we play!"
The Ducks’ coach moved his face closer to the screen, and pointed with his free hand for emphasis: "The harder it gets!! ... The better we we play!!”
Larry Scott and everyone else in the Pac-12 offices have to hit their knees every night and pray that 11-1 Oregon and 11-1 Utah meet in San Francisco on Dec. 6 for the conference title.
Baylor is the Big 12's second best team. Two years after going 1-11, Baylor is 7-0 with a valid claim as the Big 12's Best Team (Non-OU Division). The Bears had been getting by on defense, elbow grease and some help from the zebras, but the Bears didn't need any of that on Saturday, putting together a 35-7 run to turn a 20-10 mid-third quarter deficit into a 45-27 win in a game the entire FootballScoop staff predicted them to lose.
Charlie Brewer completed 13-of-17 passes for 312 yards and a touchdown. JaMychal Hasty rushed 16 times for 146 yards and two scores. For the game, Baylor rolled up 536 yards on 54 snaps, good for 9.93 a pop. All this with a defense that came into Saturday No. 1 in the Big 12 in scoring defense and No. 3 in yards per play and passing efficiency. Speaking of defense...
How many wins did Les Miles leave on the table by not hiring Brent Dearmon straight away? A year ago, Dearmon was coaching NAIA ball. On Saturday night, he was likely a blocked extra point away from beating Texas in Austin.
In his first game since being promoted from analyst to offensive coordinator (with a heckuva contract to boot), Dearmon's offense put up 310 passing yards, 259 rushing and 48 points in a 50-48 loss to the Longhorns. All this in a game where KU missed two field goals and saw a blocked PAT returned for two points the other way.
KU's last four possessions went touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown. They scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, converting a 2-point conversion to take a 48-47 lead, but they made the critical sin of leaving Sam Ehlinger too much time.
While Texas is working hard to put together its worst defensive season ever, the Kansas approach looked a lot like the Boston College game in which KU went for 567 yards in a 48-24 drubbing of Boston College.
Still, the loss drops KU to 2-5, and the mind can't help but look back to the 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina and the 29-24 loss to West Virginia. Where would Kansas be if Miles had done the bold move he clearly had an eye on and just named Dearmon his offensive coordinator from the jump?
Your thoughts, Les?
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.
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Appalachian State
Odds and Ends
a. Hey, did you know the NCAA changed the overtime rules in the offseason? Now, once a game gets to its fifth extra sessions -- that's quintuple overtime -- teams will skip to alternating two point conversions. North Carolina and Virginia Tech staged the first such game on Saturday. After both teams missed field goals in the third and fourth overtimes, both teams then ran unsuccessful 2-point plays in the fifth overtime. Virginia Tech again stuffed UNC in the top of the sixth, then finally ended it in the sixth overtime.
It was the longest game in ACC history, and the second time this season Mack Brown's team has been a 2-point conversion away from a massive victory.
b. The political answer has to be Clemson, but you know if there's two teams Will Muschamp wants to beat as South Carolina's head coach it has to be Georgia, his alma mater, and Florida, his former employer. He got the former last week but couldn't get the latter. South Carolina led 17-10 in the third quarter but couldn't hang on, falling 38-27. It didn't help that the officials missed a false start on a 75-yard Florida touchdown run and a blatant offensive pass interference on a Florida touchdown pass.
c. That said, Dan Mullen and company deserve credit for winning on the road after playing Auburn and at LSU in consecutive weeks.
d. This play turned a potential 28-20 Alabama lead into a 35-13 Alabama lead.
e. This is how Jeremy Pruitt responded.
f. On the other side of that spectrum, Derek Mason went absolutely nuts after beating No. 22 Missouri. Vandy lost to UNLV a week ago, and beat a top-25 team on Saturday.
g. Jalen Hurts went 16-of-17 for 316 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-14 win over West Virginia. He also rushed for two scores. That is absurd.
h. No. 24 Appalachian State became the first ranked Sun Belt team to ever win a game, drubbing ULM 52-7.
i. I don't know what's going on here, but, uhhhh...
j. Shane Buechele threw a school-record six touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Temple, running No. 19 SMU to 7-0 for the first time since 1982. The Mustangs ran 109 plays for 655 yards.
k. Minnesota is 7-0 for the first time since 1960 after a 42-7 win at Rutgers.
l. We alluded to them above, but Utah deserves mention after winning the de facto Pac-12 South championship game, hammering Arizona State 21-3. The Utes limited freshman Jayden Daniels to 4-of-18 for 25 yards and an interception.
m. In his last two games, Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan is 14-of-32 for 49 yards and three interceptions.
n. Manny Diaz entered his first season at Miami with real optimism, but the 'Canes dropped to 3-4 with a loss to 2-5 Georgia Tech.
o. We live in a world where Wake Forest beats Florida State and it's not the 25th most surprising thing to happen that day.
p. Georgia Southern beat South Alabama in double OT last week and needed three to take care of Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
q. In a meeting of 5-1 teams, Memphis housed Tulane, 47-17.
r. BYU is 3-4 with wins over Tennessee, USC and now previously 6-0 Boise State. The Cougars jumped out to a 28-10 lead, let Boise State score 15 straight, then sealed the win by converting a 4th-and-1 at their own 34 with two minutes left.
s. Joe Burrow set LSU's single-season record with 29 touchdown passes. LSU has played seven games so far this season.
This has absolutely nothing to do with football, but Jose Altuve got to live a dream every single one of us has had at one point: hitting a home run to send your team to the World Series.