Wrapping up the weekend that was in the Land of 10, Week 10 …
The Point After
Whenever the College Football Playoff committee gets together to play Rock, Paper, Scissors, we know the drill: Zero losses usually wins out over all. So the arguments about the validity of the Washington Huskies, 9-0 and currently holding the No. 5 spot in the College Football Playoff — and thanks to Texas A&M, they’re going to be moving up — usually start and end there
But hang on a minute. As of early Sunday morning, the top of the Massey composite of computer rankings and polls looked like this:
While the cream of the Sagarin ratings looked like this:
In both cases — both very sound statistical cases, take ’em or leave ’em — the same pattern emerges. Ohio State sits at No. 3 in the Sagarin; Washington is fifth. Massey has the Buckeyes No. 4, Huskies No. 5.
And welcome to the rub.
Humans say you don’t punish a team in a Power 5 league that hasn’t lost. The computers say humans are full of crapola, and comparing bodies of work favors Ohio State, and beating Nebraska — a good team, not a great one, but a legitimately ranked one, regardless — by 59 points tends to leave an impression. Binary or otherwise.
Our overlords in the digital clouds also make a very salient point: Whatever shame there was for the Fighting Urbans in losing at Happy Valley is surely gone now. Penn State has taken the juice from a 24-21 win over Ohio State back on Oct. 22 and spent the past fortnight acting as it was an affirmation instead of a fluke, laying 62 on a Purdue team that had it coming and then 41 more on a decent Iowa side that never saw what hit it. The Lions (7-2) that struggled with Pitt and Temple and got stomped by Michigan in September are gone now, a caterpillar that emerged from the cocoon as a butterfly brandishing a set of nunchucks. And a long list of names.
To put it another way, the Buckeyes lost in crazy fashion to a team that looks darn near certain to close the regular season with 10 victories and crash the top 10. If the eye test truly is fluid, and you put Washington and Penn State on a neutral site right now and let them start swinging, which school would you wager to come out on top?
So why are we punishing Ohio State for this again?
The Buckeyes have a Top 10 Sagarin win (at Wisconsin); The Huskies have none. Ohio State is 3-1 vs. the Sagarin top 30; Washington is 2-0. The Bucks’ strength of schedule rank: 28; U-Dub’s: 68. Not every perfect record stands on the same pedestal.
Urban Meyer gets this, which probably explains some of the throat-stomping against a Huskers bunch that was already down on the canvas. Meyer has never been particularly merciful when there were pollsters or ex-coaches to impress, but at least the hammering feels calculated, professional, almost detached. As opposed to, say, Jim Harbaugh, his counterpart at Michigan, who can’t help but make every twist of the shiv he just plunged into your back feel personal.
Meyer waterboards you because he knows has to; Harbaugh is the sort of Bond villain, by contrast, who seems to take an almost perverse delight in the process. In a lot of ways, they deserve each other.
At the moment, they both deserve to be in the four-team bracket, too. Shivs and all.
Things that impressed the CFP committee
- The Huskers (7-2) aren’t the same, granted, without a healthy Tommy Armstrong at the helm. But things were getting out of hand well before Nebraska’s senior signal-caller left the fray, and the Buckeyes’ 62-3 victory was tied for the second-largest among two top-10 teams in the history of the Associated Press poll.
- It was the first time Ohio State had dropped 50 or more points against another top-10 program since laying 50 on Michigan in 1968.
- The Wolverines’ average margin of victory in six Big Ten contests: 37 points. Take out a seven-point win over Wisconsin, and it’s 43 points per win.
And the thing that didn’t
- The Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium turned the clock back to 2004 — a year Big Red faithful would like very much to forget. The 59-point defeat was the largest since a 70-10 throttling at Texas Tech 12 years ago, and the three points scored were the fewest for Nebraska against a conference foe since netting only a field goal at Oklahoma, also in 2004. That was then-coach Bill Callahan’s first season, and that was the first Big Red team since 1961 to finish with a losing campaign (5-6). The margin was such that it seems unlikely the Huskers will be able to play their way back to New Year’s Six bowl consideration, short of reaching the Big Ten conference title game and pulling off an upset in Indianapolis.
One man’s rolling Heisman Ballot (Big Ten edition)
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. After nine games and 1,055 rushing yards, has almost passed last year’s seasonal total (1,076) already.
- Jabrill Peppers, OLB/QB/PR, Michigan. Relatively quiet: Five tackles, one stop for a loss, 19 rushing yards, 14 return yards.
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. His 94 career touchdowns responsible for are just one behind ex-Purdue great Drew Brees.
Thanks for coming, hope we didn’t hurt your boys too bad
Michigan 59, Maryland 3
So now Captain Khakis is on a crusade to get quarterback Wilton Speight on the Heisman Trophy short list, too. Wonderful. Secondaries at Iowa and Indiana, consider yourselves officially warned.
Not even a pro like Dave Revsine can spin this bad boy
Illinois 31, Michigan State 27
Just when you think Sparty’s hit rock bottom, the bottom keeps sinking. Michigan State is 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the Big Ten. Next week: A visit from Rutgers, which sports an identical record. And the Knights aren’t just a must-win for pride — they’re a must-win for sanity. Michigan State’s regular season ends with a visit from Ohio State on Nov. 19 and a trip to white-hot Penn State on Nov. 26.
Ask a Silly Question Results: You say, of all the ranked teams, Nebraska has the toughest road to reach the College Football Playoff
Welcome to the Hot Seat, pal
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Two weeks to prepare. Total yards: 234. Rushing yards: 30. Third down conversions: 2-for-10. Could it be that the Hawkeyes (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) are dragging down North Dakota State’s computer numbers, rather than vice versa?
— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) November 6, 2016
Fake Bo Pelini tweet of the week (Perspective Edition)
HAHA LOOKS WHO SUCKS AT PUNTING YARDS
OHIO STATE: 0
— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 6, 2016
Alumni of the week
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (Indiana)
Who else? The former Hoosier standout hit .412 in the World Series, posted an OPS of .971 and an OBP of .500 and — most impressively — punched the Curse of the Billy Goat square in the face. This Bud’s for you, slugger.
2013: B1G Champ
2014: B1G Champ
2016: World Series Champ
— Indiana Baseball (@HoosierBaseball) November 3, 2016
3 games coming up we’d seriously pay to watch
- Michigan at Iowa (8 ET, ABC). Big Blue is running through the league the way Godzilla ran through Tokyo. But Kinnick Stadium has never been especially kind to the Wolverines. Especially at night.
- Minnesota at Nebraska (7:30 ET, BTN). If the Gophers ever wanted to make a division-shaking statement — they couldn’t against Iowa — then this is their moment.
- Penn State at Indiana (noon ET, ABC/ESPN2). Barkley is gathering steam, and the Hoosiers are leaking. But two of the last three matchups in Bloomington have been decided by six points or fewer.
The takeaway number
The last time the Big Ten had three schools among the top 6 national leaders in fewest points allowed per play — defensive efficiency — against FBS opponents. Michigan came out of Week 10 tops in the country, at 0.171, while Ohio State climbed to No. 4 (0.204) and Wisconsin to No. 5 (0.207) after their defensive efforts on Saturday. In 2009, Nebraska (0.149) finished first overall, while Ohio State (0.190) and Penn State (0.200) wound up third and fifth, respectively.