5. Cincinnati 36, UCF 33
Is that going to be enough? The UCF brand name is strong enough to make this look like a fantastic road win, but this isn’t the UCF of the last few years. However, the Bearcats held the nation’s No. 1 offense to 359 yards and QB Desmond Ridder threw for 338 yards and two score and ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns. There’s still likely a hard ceiling on how high UC can get in the CFP chase, but it’s a road win over UCF. It’s still a big deal.
4. Georgia 31, Mississippi State 24
O that’s just great. Georgia has its quarterback, and now the defense and running game are struggling. JT Daniels threw for 401 yards and four scores, and he had to because the O line did nothing against the MSU defensive front. Georgia ran for eight yards. Eight. When you’re being outgained by Mississippi State – who ran for 22 yards – there’s a problem.
But Georgia isn’t winning the national title this year, or the SEC, or the East, so for now, all that really matters is that it has its quarterback. Now all the other parts have to come back to form.
3. Oklahoma 41, Oklahoma State 13
Well there we go, Oklahoma. Was that so hard?
The defense played with an attitude from the start, and while it helped that OSU QB Chuba Hubbard had an ankle injury and QB Spencer Sanders was knocked out of the game, pitching a shutout in the second half was amazing no matter what.
But this was about Oklahoma showing off its explosion against a strong team. Spencer Rattler didn’t throw an interception against the Cowboy D, put it away early and finished with 301 yards and four scores, and Rhamondre Stevenson hammered out 141 yards. It’s too late for the CFP, but OU now firmly established itself – with some due respect to Iowa State – as the Big 12’s best team.
2. Northwestern 17, Wisconsin 7
There are several ways to look at what happened to the Badgers. 1) Northwestern exposed Wisconsin’s lack of a typical superstar back to rely on, even though Jalen Berger is going to be good. 2) The Badgers were without most of their top receivers both before the game and as it went on. 3) Graham Mertz played like a quarterback in his third game and without any open receivers to throw to, and 4) …
Northwestern is really that good.
The program has a strange mind-meld on Wisconsin. With the five takeaways, that’s 25 over the last nine meetings between the two. The defense came up with third down stop after third down stop, but the amazing aspect to the win was how Northwestern won even though Wisconsin sort of went Wisconsin.
Northwestern couldn’t run at all – just 24 yards – Wisconsin held the ball for over 37 minutes, and it outgained the Cats by over 100 yards. But five turnovers, eight penalties for the Badgers to one turnover and one penalty for Northwestern – ball game. And now Pat Fitzgerald should get his team to the Big Ten championship for the second time in three years.
1. Ohio State 42, Indiana 35
If the Ohio State secondary can’t handle Michael Penix – who threw for 491 yards and five scores – what’s going to happen against Mac Jones, or Trevor Lawrence, or Kyle Trask when it really counts? At the end of the day, Ohio State basically won the Big Ten East with this, but if it’s possible to hang up 42 points and feel like it was a loss, this was it.
However, even though Justin Fields made way too many mistakes to go along with his 300 yards and two scores – with 78 rushing yards and a touchdown – Master Teague was terrific with 169 yards and two touchdowns, and the defensive front held a punchless IU ground game to -1 yard.
Here was the main difference, though. Indiana had the energy, and it played like a team with unwavering confidence. Ohio State played at times like a team that was trying not to lose – and that included the massive mistake by coach Ryan Day to not kick a field goal to go up ten late, and instead, go for it deep in IU territory – but it got the win, it’s 4-0, and national title dream is still on track.