The second Saturday of October was one full of surprises across the country.
Here are five college football takeaways from Ohio State’s blowout of Maryland, Michigan State’s upset of Michigan and beyond.
1. It’s Penn State, Ohio State and everyone else in the Big Ten because of quarterback play.
The biggest games in the league so far this season have had something in common: They were all defensive slugfests.
Penn State topped Iowa because Trace McSorely led a drive when the Nittany Lions had to have one.
Michigan State beat Michigan because John O’Korn could not.
The Spartans beat Iowa because… someone had to win.
Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett has been the catalyst as the Buckeyes have destroyed four straight inferior opponents with game plans far superior to what paralyzed them against Oklahoma.
Should make for quite the showdown later this month, eh?
(The jury remains out on Wisconsin and Big Ten pass efficiency leader Alex Hornibrook until they play somebody, but he’s not someone you game plan for.)
2. Iowa State’s upset of Oklahoma is great news for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes still need more help in the playoff race.
In 2014, we learned the quality (or lack thereof) of a loss wasn’t necessarily a big deal to the playoff committee. The bigger problem is that loss serving as a tiebreaker, be it real of de facto.
That’s what kept Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game the last two seasons, and it would work that way if OSU and Oklahoma are both one-loss champs this December.
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Since the Sooners won at Ohio State, I have thought OU would have to lose two games for the Buckeyes to get into the playoff over them. An undefeated Oklahoma team would have gone into the Big 12 title game basically with nothing to lose. The Sooners would have already topped everyone in their league and have perhaps the best nonconference win in the country as upset insurance.
Oklahoma still has an advantage over OSU, but it was greatly diminished Saturday.
There’s also undefeated TCU to worry about, but Oklahoma will take care of them or essentially be eliminated when they clash on Nov. 11 in Norman.
3. Meanwhile, we’re one step closer to chaos in the Pac 12.
Stanford knocked Utah from the ranks of the unbeaten, leaving only Washington and Washington State, who of course play each other at the end of the regular season.
Both have to play Stanford and Utah before that plus another quality opponent in the conference championship game.
Seems unlikely anyone comes out of that league undefeated, which would leave room for a one-loss Big Ten champion and one-loss Oklahoma in the playoff if it comes to that.
4. Maybe Clemson has one more challenge than we anticipated.
North Carolina State looked impressive on offense while knocking off Louisville on Thursday night, and the Wolfpack hosts the defending national champions Nov. 4.
The ACC title game could mean a date with currently undefeated Miami (though I’m not buying them as a real contender) or a rematch with Virginia Tech (those can get tricky sometimes).
Of course, one loss probably won’t be the end of the world for Clemson given the difficulty of their schedule.
5. Things could still get weird in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State surprised me and probably most of college football by outlasting Michigan on Saturday night.
It was not a thing of beauty, but that’s usually the case for Mark Dantonio’s teams.
Does it mean the Spartans are better than we thought?
I’m not buying them as true contenders yet, but they’ll have all the opportunities they need to prove themselves with Penn State and Ohio State still to come.
Michigan is not finished, but Jim Harbaugh’s team has a major issue at quarterback it has to work out.