1. Ohio State survives. For another week. There are two ways to look at No. 10 Ohio State's 52-51 overtime win at Maryland. Let's look at the positives first.
The Buckeyes took Maryland's and survived. They trailed by 14 points and three different times and trailed by seven twice in the fourth quarter. It was a Murphy's Law game in which the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times that effectively handed 14 points to Maryland -- a J.K. Dobbins fumble inside the Maryland 5-yard line and a tipped Dwayne Haskins passed that was raced back for a pick-six -- yet Maryland's fumble at the Ohio State goal line was recovered for a Terps touchdown. It was simply one of those games everyone runs into on the road in conference play... and Ohio State still found a way to win. The defense allowed 535 yards, yes, but the offense gained 688, as Haskins threw for 405 yards and scored six touchdowns, and Dobbins carried 37 times for 203 yards. It wasn't a pretty way to role into Michigan week with a trip to the Big Ten Championship and possibly the College Football Playoff on the line, but Ohio State is there and we all know this program's track record against That Team Up North over the past decade and a half.
And then there's the other way to look at Ohio State 52, Maryland 51. We can start at the game's final play.
I mean... he was open. A better throw and Maryland wins 53-52, eliminating Ohio State from the Big Ten and national title hunts before Michigan does it for them next week.
The problems Purdue exposed three weeks ago were there again on Saturday. Maryland ran for 339 yards and five touchdowns -- including 298 yards and three scores by running back Anthony McFarland. The Buckeyes played effective defense for one quarter -- the third -- but Maryland rolled 83 yards in nine plays when Ohio State tied it at 31-31 and then went 61 yards over six plays after the Buckeyes tied the game at 38.
Tyrell Pigrome, Maryland's backup quarterback, gained 181 yards on his six completions and had Maryland at the Buckeye 38 with a chance to win it in regulation before a pair of sacks sent the game in overtime. In the extra frame, Maryland scored in two plays before the ill-fated 2-point pass.
And if this was the only time Ohio State flirted with death, it'd be easy to write this off. But the Buckeyes were blown out by Purdue, needed a miracle to beat Penn State and struggled with Nebraska. Saturday wasn't an anomaly, it's a trend.
Get this defense wondering about what's coming side-to-side and you can hit them vertically. Michigan will do that next week, and they've got the Big Ten's best defense.
1a. Michigan had a battle on its hands, too. Trailing Indiana 17-15 just before halftime, No. 4 Michigan faced a 1st-and-goal from the IU 3. Rather than kick a field goal, Jim Harbaugh elected to go for it. Shea Patterson threw complete... for one yard, and the Wolverines came up empty. Michigan rolled up 507 yards of offense (250 passing/257 rushing) but settled for six field goals in a 31-20 win. Whatever. It's Michigan-Ohio State week.
2. UCF has its moment. On a November Saturday, UCF was the top attraction ESPN had to offer. GameDay was on campus to hype the No. 11 Knights' game with No. 24 Cincinnati, and ABC gave UCF-Cincinnati its Saturday Night Football showcase.
Josh Heupel's team rewarded that faith, playing its most complete game of the season in cruising to a 38-13 win -- No. 23 in a row. Against their best opponent to date, UCF was never in serious doubt. They led 7-6 after one, 21-6 at the half and 35-6 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
UCF owns the nation's longest winning streak and a self-proclaimed national championship. The Knights have been somewhat cagey about their absence from the national championship discussion -- to the point where a group of Knights fans planned to crash GameDay's Jacksonville show for the Florida-Georgia game before having to cancel due to the possibility it could get violent -- but the fact is UCF simply isn't going to make the College Football Playoff. They just don't have the schedule. It is what it is.
That said, UCF has garnered more publicity than any Group of 5 team since Boise State's Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma to close the 2006 season. Their No. 11 ranking is the highest by a Group of 5 team in CFP history and, again, they were the lead attraction for college football's lead network. It's not what UCF wants, but it's what they've got.
3. The Citadel had its moment, too. Now we see why Nick Saban was rightly freaked the heck out of this game. No. 1 Alabama came into Saturday's game against The Citadel looking to survive to next week's Iron Bowl. The Citadel wanted to poke the bully in the eyes and have some fun. Both teams accomplished their goals.
Alabama took a 7-0 lead on a Tua Tagovailoa pass, but The Citadel tied it on a 45-yard Dante Smith run.
Alabama reclaimed the lead on a 23-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal, and then The Citadel tied it with a 48-yard field goal of their own.
The Citadel kicked off to open the second half, but forced a fumble and took over, in a tie game in the second half against the No. 1 team in college football, at the Tide 31. The Bulldogs could not achieve a first down, and their 45-yard field goal was no good.
And then the route was on. Alabama scored on its next drive, then returned a Citadel fumble for a touchdown to go up 24-10 en route to a 50-17 blowout.
Alabama got the win it paid for, but The Citadel had its moment. They lived it, we lived it, and Alabama lived it.
4. West Virginia-Oklahoma State was... bedlam? After losing on a 2-point pass at No. 6 Oklahoma, you could be forgiven for assuming Oklahoma State would pack it in against No. 9 West Virginia. If you checked scores and saw WVU led 31-14 at the half, you probably assumed they had.
Oklahoma State turned the ball over four times, three of them in their own territory. It didn't matter. The Pokes' staff adjusted at halftime, and it showed.
Oklahoma State scored 10 straight to open the second half and forced a WVU punt, meaning they'd take over with a chance to tie the game at 31. But they never got that chance as Dillon Stoner fumbled the punt inside Cowboy territory.
Oklahoma State forced a field goal and kept battling. When Will Grier called his own number on a 4th-and-goal from the 6 -- the exact same play as the 2-point conversion to beat Texas -- WVU appeared to have the game in hand, leading 41-31 with 7:37 to play.
But the Cowboys kept hitting West Virginia's defense where it hurt as Taylor Cornelius popped off runs of 17, 13 and nine yards, the last of which went for a touchdown to pull OSU within 41-38 with 4:47 to play. After a WVU punt, Oklahoma State went 75 yards in seven plays -- six of them runs -- in less than two minutes, running every snap until Cornelius hit Tylan Wallace (after missing him on the 2-point play that would have beaten OU) for an 11-yard touchdown with 42 seconds left. Wallace was wrapped up by a Mountaineer cornerback at the 5-yard line and carried him in from there.
After watching leads of 31-14 and 41-31 turn into a 45-41 deficit, WVU went 61 yards in five plays and 40 seconds, setting up a do-or-die play from the Oklahoma State 14. Grier was flushed to his right and fired to David Sills in the end zone, but the pass was broken up.
5. West Virginia's loss turned Texas-Iowa State into a de facto Big 12 semifinal. With OU visiting WVU on Black Friday, No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State entered Saturday night's game in Austin knowing wins in their final two games would send them to Dallas to meet the OU-WVU winner.
And after allowing 500-plus yards in their past three games, the Texas defense carried the Longhorns to victory. With Cyclones running back David Montgomery suspended for the first half, Texas jumped to a 17-3 lead by hounding freshman quarterback Brock Purdy -- 5-0 as Iowa State's starter -- into the worst game of his young career, hitting 10-of-23 passes for 130 yards and an interception while hounding him into five sacks.
That 14-point halftime lead effectively took Montgomery out of the game for good, and Texas limited the Cyclones to 210 total yards and 12 first downs en route to a 24-10 victory.
Of course, we're in Year 9 of Texas's "We Can't Have Nice Things" decade, a spiral that started with Colt McCoy's freak shoulder injury in the 2009 national championship. Charging toward the goal line late in the first half, Sam Ehlinger (169 yards, two touchdowns to that point) aggravated the right shoulder injury that knocked him out of the Baylor game on Oct. 6 and did not return.
Ehlinger's status remains to be determined, and Texas visits Kansas Friday with a spot in the Big 12 Championship on the line.
5a. Zach Smith picked the wrong coach's wife to mess with. Here's what Michelle Herman wore to the game on Saturday.
5b. Speaking of Kansas.... How do you render Kyler Murray's 371-yard, 5-touchdown effort an afterthought? When you surrender 348 rushing yards (on 9.67 a carry) and 40 points to Kansas. KU came into the game averaging 142 yards per game and four a carry.
Oklahoma won the game 55-40, but Lincoln Riley had better prepare himself for a week where people focus more on the 40 than the 55.
Suffice to say, neither team will head into Friday night's showdown in Morgantown feeling great about itself.
6. Bill Clark should be the national Coach of the Year, but Brian Kelly should be on the medal stand. As I'm sure you're aware, Notre Dame went 4-8 just two years ago.
Brian Kelly pledged to re-examine, re-build, re-trench and re-load after that year. Many (understandably) scoffed whether such a reinvention could work nearly a decade into his tenure.
As if there was any doubt by now, the rebuild worked. Notre Dame went 10-3 a year ago, lost defensive coordinator Mike Elko to Texas A&M and now has his best team yet. The 2012 team that went undefeated and reached the BCS National Championship squeaked by people. The 2018 pounds them.
Facing their last credible threat before a guaranteed Playoff berth, No. 3 Notre Dame dominated No. 12 Syracuse 36-3. The Irish defense forced three turnovers, six sacks and pitched a shutout over the game's first 59 minutes.
The Irish will head to Los Angeles next week to face a reeling USC team, losers in four of their last five. A win there and Notre Dame is in, perhaps to face a rematch with Alabama in Miami.
7. They're (probably) not getting in the Playoff, but Washington State is on fire. A week after running off 31 straight points to beat Colorado, No. 9 Washington State tore Arizona apart in a #Pac12AfterDark showcase.
The Cougars led the Wildcats 55-14... at the half. Gardner Minshew was 28-of-33 (hitting 11 different receivers) for 311 yards and five touchdowns, while Arizona gave away two touchdowns with fumbles, one at the Washington State goal line and one in their own end zone.
Just watch this.
Minshew finished with seven scoring strikes and Wazzu won 69-28.
Remember, Wazzu's only loss came at USC, a game that hinged on a targeting no-call the Pac-12 acknowledged as a full-on officiating scandal. The Cougars strength of schedule let them down, both in non-conference -- they played Wyoming, San Jose State and Eastern Washington -- and in conference, where no other Pac-12 team is in the top 15.
But this Washington State team plays harder and has more fun playing hard than anyone in the country right now. They'll host Washington on Friday night with the winner taking the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 North.
7a. The Pac-12 South achieves near perfect symmetry. The Pac-12 South has existed as a division for seven years. On Saturday, Utah became its sixth champion.
8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in this year's NFF-FWAA Super 16 poll. Here's this week's ballot.
- Notre Dame
- Washington State
- Ohio State
- West Virginia
- Penn State
9. Odds and Ends
a. We touched on this above, but Chip Kelly won his first Battle of Los Angeles as UCLA held off USC, 34-27. The 3-8 record doesn't look pretty, but the Bruins have improved as the season has worn on.
b. Speaking of new staffs that started poorly but have gotten better, Nebraska beat Michigan State 9-6, with all 15 points coming on field goals. After starting 0-6, Nebraska has won four of its last five with the lone loss coming by five in Columbus.
c. The 9-6 score was fitting, as it was the first meeting between Nebraska and Michigan State since Husker punter Sam Foltz and Spartan punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident when driving home from a kicking camp in July of 2016.
d. Florida State's bowl streak lives to see another day. The Seminoles moved to 5-6 with a 22-21 upset of No. 20 Boston College, meaning they'll play Florida Saturday with their 36-year bowl streak on the line.
e. Derek Dooley went into Neyland Stadium and dropped 50 on the Vols as Mizzou trucked Tennessee 50-17. That one had to feel good.
f. Ole Miss is on a bowl ban this year, so the Rebels have nothing to lose other than their pride. You might think Matt Luke might use the situation to play aggressively, but you'd be wrong. Trailing Vanderbilt 29-26, Luke elected to kick a 32-yard field goal with 40 seconds left rather than go for a 4th-and-1 from the Vandy 15. The kick was good, but Ole Miss lost the game 36-29 in overtime.
g. Mississippi State either pounds people or doesn't score at all. The Bulldogs came into Saturday averaging 41 points in their six wins and four in their four losses. They beat Arkansas 52-6 on Saturday.
h. It's hard to say you're impressed with an SEC team's win over a Conference USA team, but Texas A&M's 41-20 win over UAB was impressive. The Blazers entered Kyle Field as a trendy upset pick and left with a firm reminder what separates C-USA from the SEC.
i. Hardest luck loser of Saturday: Colorado State. The Rams completed a game-winning Hail Mary to beat No. 23 Utah State 30-29, but receiver Preston Williams was ruled to have stepped out of bounds before touching the ball, wiping off his 64-yard touchdown catch and turning a 30-29 win into a 29-24 loss.
j. Wyoming scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes to rally past Air Force, 35-27.
k. Wisconsin trailed Purdue 27-13 with under 10 minutes to play, then rallied to force overtime and survived 47-44 in triple overtime.
l. Speaking of overtime, FCS No. 7 Jacksonville State met FCS No. 2 Kennesaw State at the Atlanta Braves' SunTrust Park and staged a doozy. Jacksonville State outlasted Kennesaw State 60-52... in five overtimes.
m. Speaking of FCS games in baseball stadiums, Harvard won the 135th edition of The Game but first at Fenway Park, beating Yale 45-27.
n. Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Columbia clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1961-62 (think about that for a second) with a 24-21 win over Cornell. Somewhere, Andy Bernard weeps.
o. No. 2 Clemson trailed Duke 6-0 after the first quarter. They won the game 35-6.
p. Pitt secured the honor of playing Clemson for the ACC Championship with a 45-14 win over Wake Forest.
10. And finally... If this week seemed boring, don't fret. It's Rivalry Week.