Wrapping up the weekend that was in the Land of 10, Week 8 …
The Point After
In one night, James Franklin didn’t just toss a monkey off his back. He managed to get rid of a whole stinking barrel.
Before Saturday evening’s euphoric 24-21 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium, Penn State’s embattled football coach had been 0-7 in his Nittany Lions tenure versus the Big Ten’s Big Three of the Buckeyes, Michigan and Michigan State.
And the fun didn’t stop there. It was also …
- The first Penn State win over a top-2 team since Notre Dame in 1990
- The first victory against a top-2 team at home since taking out Nebraska in 1982
- The first top-5 win as an unranked team since a victory over Ohio State in 1964
- The first victory over a top-5 team, period, since topping Arizona in 1999
- The first road loss for Urban Meyer at Ohio State after opening his Buckeyes tenure with 20 straight wins away from Columbus
But here’s the crazy part: Saturday wasn’t just a moment — it could damn well turn into a springboard. The remaining five teams on Franklin’s slate have at least three losses each, and the Nittany Lions get the most venerated — on paper — in Iowa (5-3) at home. In fact, according to Kenneth Massey’s statistical projections, there’s an excellent chance Penn State (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) finishes the regular season by winning out:
Because of that 49-10 stinker of a setback at Michigan to open league play back on Sept. 24, a 7-1 Big Ten record might still not be enough to win the East outright. And that’s OK. For one, Franklin has never won more than nine games a season as an FBS coach.
Reaching 10-2 in the regular season would prove to be more than just a personal milestone; it would be the Nittany Lions’ first campaign of double-digit victories since 2009. And a sign that the ceiling for Franklin in Happy Valley is finally moving in the right direction — up.
Things that impressed the CFP committee
- All the Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) do is take care of business, this time a workmanlike 41-8 throttling of Illinois at the Big House. Trips to Michigan State (No. 68 Sagarin) and at Iowa (No. 34) don’t look as daunting as a month ago, although the Wolverines are 2-4 over their last six trips to Kinnick Stadium dating back to 2001. It’s a night kickoff, and the Hawkeyes are 5-2 since 2010 in tilts that start after 6 p.m. Eastern.
- As with Penn State’s schedule, every game remaining on the Buckeyes’ schedule is winnable — at least, every one up until The Game on Nov. 26 vs. Michigan. Ohio State had been living dangerously against Indiana and Wisconsin, too, before the Nittany Lions exposed pass-protection and special-teams issues that will have to get cleaned up before Team Harbaugh rolls into Ohio Stadium.
And the thing that didn’t
- He wasn’t accurate (eight completions on 23 attempts), but Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley revealed a new chink in the Buckeyes’ defensive armor, using his legs to create time in the pocket or, more often, to simply keep the chains moving (19 carries, 63 rushing yards, one rushing score). For one night, at least, Ohio State faced a signal-caller who managed to out-Barrett J.T. Barrett.
One man’s rolling Heisman Ballot (Big Ten edition)
- Jabrill Peppers, OLB/QB/PR, Michigan. So far: 17.8 yards per punt return, 30.6 per kick return, and 10 tackles for losses.
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State. Decent enough night, statistically (28-for-43 passing, 243 through the air), but neither the deep ball nor scrambling (26 rushing yards on 17 carries) could bail him out.
- Tommy Armstrong, QB, Nebraska. Another week, another record — in Saturday’s win over Purdue, the Huskers signal-caller became the Big Red’s all-time leader in pass completions.
Thanks for coming, hope we didn’t hurt your boys too bad
Michigan 41, Illinois 8
The battle of the only two Super Bowl coaches to ever face one another in a college game wasn’t much of a battle at all. The Wolverines lined up in their wacky, 10-man “centipede” formation in the first quarter — and scored. Up 34-0 with 10:35 to go in the game, coach Jim Harbaugh on 4th-and-1 green-lit a fake punt. The direct snap was bobbled and the runner tackled for a loss, but Harbaugh made his point, whatever point that was. Did we miss the part about Lovie Smith saying he wanted to start a rivalry with Michigan, too?
Not even a pro like Dave Revsine can spin this bad boy
Maryland 28, Michigan State 17
When it rains for Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, it monsoons. Senior linebacker Riley Bullough got ejected for targeting. Defensive back Montae Nicholson and Demetrious Cox left with injuries. As a season spins down the drain, Dantonio is burning redshirts left and right, with nine true freshmen having already been called into duty because of health or personnel quagmires.
Why should you care? Because his other hand is wrapped like a club
Like Northwestern (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) right now, Kyle Queiro can apparently do no wrong:
Only one word can sum up this play: WOW! https://t.co/qZ6OukHnG2
— College Football (@FA_College) October 22, 2016
Ask A Silly Question Results: Folks want Nebraska-Oklahoma to be a thing again — and a Big Ten thing, too
There’s regular math, and there’s Kirk Ferentz math
- You’re down eight at home to Wisconsin with five minutes left.
- You drive to the Badgers 20, where the drive stalls on fourth-and-5.
- Instead of going for it, you kick a field goal. And miss said field goal.
- You wind up losing by eight, and this happens after the game:
For all you Kirk Ferentz lovers. Math is hard. pic.twitter.com/sXl64teQqo
— Kent Klooster (@ELDeuceK) October 23, 2016
Under the radar
unit dude of the week
Perry Hills, QB, Maryland
Meet your new Big Ten leader in passing efficiency (151.8). The senior out of Pittsburgh got the last laugh against the Spartans, completing 21 of 27 throws for 200 yards and two scores. For the season, Hills has completed 66.4 percent of his attempts and tossed eight scores — already matching his personal season high for touchdown passes — with just two picks.
On-the-radar unit of the week
Michigan’s defensive line
The Wolverines are the only Big Ten team still allowing fewer than three yards per carry (2.9) and less than 100 rushing yards per contest (96.0). As good as Wisconsin has been at getting opposing offenses off the field on third down (24.7 percent conversion rate), Michigan is more than 10 points better, allowing only 12 conversions on 92 attempts — a paltry 13 percent.
Then again, maybe Ferentz was on to something
Last play of the half, and MSU asked Michael Geiger to outrun the entire Maryland defense from 35 yards out. How do you think it went?
— Bryan Mac (@Bry_Mac) October 23, 2016
Can’t decide which was more unbelievable for #Spartans. Bullough’s 3 PFs & ejection in 11 min or the fake FG-run from 28, really 35 yards
— Jonathan Schopp (@JPSpartan) October 23, 2016
Welcome to the Hot Seat, pal
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Wait. What are you doing here? The Spartans (2-5, 0-4) are threatening to become the first defending Big Ten champion or co-champion since Northwestern in 2000 and 2001 to finish its follow-up season last or tied for last in the division or conference. Michigan State has lost five in a row for the first time since 1991, and one of the league’s flagship football programs has East Lansing talking like it’s a basketball town again.
Fake Bo Pelini tweet(s) of the week (flu shot edition)
Wow! We gave vaccines to 3,962 Badgers today. Thanks for making your community a healthier place.
— UHS UW-Madison (@UHS_Madison) October 21, 2016
@UHS_Madison why did you do that
— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) October 21, 2016
— UHS UW-Madison (@UHS_Madison) October 21, 2016
3 games coming up we’d seriously pay to watch
- Nebraska at Wisconsin (7 ET, ESPN). The top two teams in the West finally scrap, although the math dictates that the Badgers — with two league losses — are the ones who probably can’t afford a slip here.
- Michigan at Michigan State (noon ET, ESPN). Last October feels like a very, very, very very long time ago. Pulling a Penn State and spoiling Big Brother’s undefeated season might be the last genuine pleasure Gang Green has left. And on paper, it looks as if it might be a bridge too far.
- Maryland at Indiana (3:30 ET, ESPNU). Who doesn’t love the over? The Terps and Hoosiers have scored a combined 63.5 points, on average, in their last two meetings — with both squads winning on the other school’s home turf.
The takeaway number
The record of the only four teams to average allowing less than a point per game in the first quarter since the fall of 2003. Wisconsin, which shut out Iowa in the opening 15 minutes last Saturday, has given up six first-quarter points in seven contests, or 0.86 per tilt. The four programs to keep that sort of clip up over a full season posted a .784 winning percentage and averaged 10 victories: Louisville in 2013 (12-1); Notre Dame in 2012 (12-1); Utah State in 2012 (11-2), and Auburn in 2008 (5-7). Take out the Tigers, and the Badgers are rolling in the company of three squads who posted a combined mark of 35-4.