NUGGETS

Ohio State remains unbeaten while looking imminently beatable. To these eyes, the game-within-the-game that would decide No. 3 Ohio State and No. 9 Indiana was what happened when Justin Fields threw the ball. The Buckeye quarterback entered Saturday with as many touchdowns as incompletions (11), while Indiana’s defense had snared 10 picks — the most in the nation through four games.

Turns out, that wasn’t the deciding factor at all. Indiana got Fields three times but turned those picks into zero points.

Indiana couldn’t stop Ohio State’s running game — 50 carries for 307 yards — but in turn the Buckeyes couldn’t stop Indiana’s passing attack. Michael Penix racked up five touchdowns and 491 yards on 51 throws, and it was his pick-six that provided the decisive margin in Ohio State’s 42-35 victory.

The Buckeyes never trailed, led 35-7 at one point and out-rushed Indiana by 308 yards (the defense held IU to minus-1). And yet the Hoosiers sacked Fields five times, and Indiana scored four touchdowns in five drives over one stretch in the second half.

That’s become a theme for Ohio State this season — get up big, then coast to the finish line. That, and an increasingly porous pass defense; Ohio State entered Saturday tied for 60th in the country and will fall after Penix’s 5-touchdown performance.

If the standard for this season is to win the Big Ten and reach the Playoff, then Saturday was a massive success for Ohio State. But we know it’s not. If Michael Penix, Jr., could do that to Ohio State’s defense, what will Trevor Lawrence and/or Mac Jones and/or Kyle Trask do?

Indiana proved it belongs. Based on what we saw in Columbus and elsewhere on Saturday, Indiana can lay a credible claim as the Big Ten’s second-best team. Tom Allen’s postgame speech says they’re not satisfied with that.

Northwestern is going to do it again. Perhaps only Auburn can match the year-over-year volatility of Northwestern’s 2018-20. Pat Fitzgerald’s went 8-1 and won their first Big Ten West title in ’18, then immediately slunk to last place (1-8) in the division while fielding one of the least threatening offenses in recent Big Ten history (126th in scoring, 128th in yards per play).

And so naturally they’re going to win the division again in 2020.

The offense’s numbers are only marginally better — the Wildcats are 117th in yards per play — but they’ve managed to outscore their opponents all five times this season, including over No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday. No. 18 Northwestern lodged three picks of Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz and recovered two fumbles in a 17-7 win, which is how you win a game where your offense gains 263 yards and goes 2-of-15 on third down.

With Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois waiting (combined record: 5-9), it’s entirely possible we’ll see undefeated Ohio State and undefeated Northwestern meet in Indianapolis with the Big Ten title and a Playoff berth on the line.

Michigan and Rutgers staged the game of the day. If you like ugly drama, Michigan and Rutgers was more entertaining than The Bachelorette.

Rutgers jumped out to a 17-0 lead, which prompted Jim Harbaugh to pull sophomore quarterback Cade McNamara off the bench. He sparked a 35-10 run in favor of the maize and blue, but Rutgers tied the game with a 4th-and-9 touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining, then a 2-point conversion.

Michigan, who beat Rutgers 52-0 last season, missed the field goal to open OT, but Rutgers missed it right back. Both teams scored in the second overtime, and Michigan’s Hassan Haskins went airborne to reach the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the one to put the Wolverines up 48-42 in triple OT.

That proved to be enough, as Dax Hill intercepted Noah Vedral’s fourth down heave to seal Michigan’s 964th win as a program and its first overtime win over Rutgers.

A day of firsts at Coastal Carolina. Coastal Carolina played in FCS quarterfinal games in 2013 and ’14, but Saturday’s game was the biggest in school history. Ranked No. 15 in the country, the Chanticleers hosted two-time defending Sun Belt champ Appalachian State for a de facto SBC East Division title game.

App State led for most of the way, claiming advantages of 7-0, 17-9, 20-15 and 23-21, but the Mountaineers never put the game away. The key moment came midway in the fourth. When Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall fumbled a would-be touchdown run into the end zone for a touchback, App took over at its own 20 with a 2-point lead and 8:48 remaining. A steady 5-minute touchdown drive would put the game out of reach, but Coastal’s Alex Spillum intercepted Zac Thomas near midfield.

Coastal scored on the ensuing possession, then added a topper when D’Jordan Strong scored a pick-six to hand the Chants a 34-23 win.

The win…

— Makes Coastal the first 8-0 team in Sun Belt history
— Is Coastal’s first over App in seven tries
— All but clinches Coastal’s first trip to the SBC title game. Jamey Chadwell’s team will need one win over its final two conference games to clinch a berth opposite Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Championship.

That’s better than winning an FCS quarterfinal, isn’t it?

Don’t look now, but Oklahoma is probably going to win the Big 12 again. Way back on Oct. 10, Oklahoma was thisclose to being an unprecedented 0-3 in Big 12 play. The Sooners had blown leads to K-State and Iowa State and nearly did the same to Texas before holding on for a 4OT victory.

They’ve been the league’s best team since then, outscoring foes 198-64 in four convincing victories.

Saturday’s was the most impressive of them all, as No. 18 Oklahoma jumped out to a 21-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game and then yawned their way to a 41-13 victory over No. 14 Oklahoma State.

The Sooners doubled the Cowboys’ yardage (492-246) and limited Pokes passers to a paltry 168 yards on 40 passes, while also holding Oklahoma State’s running game to 2.8 a carry.

Rhamondre Stevenson has the running game cooking (141 yards on 26 carries) and when the run game cooks, Spencer Rattler has a menu of wide open receivers that allow him to rack up 12.5 yards per attempt and four touchdowns on 24 throws.


FRIES

The Super 16. Here’s this week’s FootballScoop Super 16 poll.

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Clemson
  5. Florida
  6. Cincinnati
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Indiana
  9. BYU
  10. Northwestern
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Coastal Carolina
  13. Oregon
  14. Miami
  15. Georgia
  16. Iowa State

Seen and Heard

Seen 

What is going on here?

Oof.

Easy for me to say as I sit on my couch, but I’ve always wondered why this doesn’t happen more often.

Heard

“How about the Fighting Rece Davises, huh? How about the Fighting Rece Davises, Joey Galloway?
— Pat Fitzgerald, taking joyous exception to Joey Galloway’s comment saying Northwestern looked like a bunch of Rece Davises.

“That’s the most ludicrous crap I’ve ever heard. Next question.”
Justin Fuente on if he’d consider taking over play-calling duties. Virginia Tech lost to Pitt 47-14.

“The last I checked, you get nothing for time of possession.”
— Tempo offense evangelist Nick Saban following Alabama’s 63-3 win over Kentucky. The Tide possessed the ball for 31:05, for the record.

Odds and Ends

a. After a 35-day layoff, North Texas returned to the field and beat Rice, 27-17. After starting 1-3 and 0-2 in Conference USA play, the Mean Green are still in the hunt in C-USA’s Wacky West.

b. On Oct. 10, Tennessee was 2-0, riding an 8-game winning streak and ranked No. 14 in the country. Today they’re 2-5 and riding the first 5-game streak of double-digit losses in school history following a 30-17 setback to No. 23 Auburn.

c. In a separation game in the Big 12 race, No. 17 Iowa State beat Kansas State like they stole something. Matt Campbell’s team out-gained K-State 539-149, won first downs 26-9 and won the game 45-0. The Cyclones are now alone in first place in the Big 12 at 6-1 in league play.

d. Here’s how Purdue lost to Minnesota on Friday night. Get our your microscope and let the rest of us know if you spot offensive pass interference.

e. NC State ended No. 21 Liberty’s bid at a perfect season, and they ended it like this.

f. Cincinnati went to Orlando and beat UCF, 36-33. This was a landmark, changing-of-the-guard victory for the Bearcats last year, awarding the AAC East title to Cincinnati after two years in UCF’s custody. Saturday’s win was… a solid road win over a pretty good opponent. The Bearcats are 8-0 and 6-0 in conference play; UCF is 5-3 and 4-3.

g. The final play was nearly a complete disaster for Luke Fickell’s team. With the ball at UCF’s 1-yard line, Cincinnati called timeout before a third-and-goal play with 49 seconds to go. A touchdown would end it, but a simple run would almost end it. Gerrid Doaks was stuffed on the run, but the timing was such that Cincinnati could snap it with three-ish seconds and use its fourth down play for a kneel down as time expired. Except the snap went wide and quarterback Desmond Ridder had to dive to beat three Knights defenders to the loose football. He recovered, barely.

h. Penn State is 0-5 for the first time in school history after falling 41-21 at Iowa.

i. After losing four 1-score games so far this season, Texas State pulled out a 47-45 win over Arkansas State. Calvin Hill’s 6-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds left sealed it.

j. Cal began the year with Pac-12 title hopes. Such hopes are pretty much gone after a 31-27 loss at Oregon State.

k. Nevada moved to 5-0 on the year after a 26-21 win over San Diego State. This game was played on CBS with the SEC game (Ole Miss-Texas A&M) postponed.

l. The good news for Georgia: JT Daniels threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns on 10.6 an attempt in his first start for No. 12 Georgia. The bad: the Dawgs rushed for eight yards and beat last-place Mississippi State 31-24 despite State being under the SEC’s 53-man threshold.

m. Illinois thumped Nebraska 41-23 and then deleted this amazing tweet afterward.

n. Only a slightly smaller turnaround than last season, LSU rallied to beat Arkansas 27-24 one year after frying the Hogs 56-20.

o. If you’re looking for the worst game of the weekend, search no further. 2-6 Louisville beat 1-7 Syracuse 30-0 on Friday night.


DESSERT

On this, the final Saturday before Thanksgiving, Utah became the 128th of 128 teams to join the fall season. The Utes fell to No. 20 USC 33-17.

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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.