The Big 10: Week 14 madness, playoff forecast and why Illini, Wildcats fans are so alike
Bowl-bound Illinois hosted rival Northwestern in a late-November game at Memorial Stadium that actually mattered, and the joint was empty. Illini fans and Wildcats fans supposedly aren’t fond of each other. Don’t they realize they are each other?
Don’t know about you, but I still could use a long nap after Week 14 of the college football season.
And maybe another hot shower.
It was all just too much — in a can’t-get-enough kind of way, of course.
It started with Elijah Moore costing Ole Miss a shot at victory against rival Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night by getting flagged for — what else? — crawling like a dog and lifting his leg, as if to urinate in the end zone, after a late touchdown.
It ended with a dizzying flurry of key Saturday finishes, none more dramatic than Alabama’s 48-45 loss to Auburn after Crimson Tide kicker Joseph Bulovas doinked a 30-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright in the waning moments of the Iron Bowl.
It was a lot for the rest of the season — starting with conference-title games this weekend — to live up to.
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. The playoff four: After more than doubling up Michigan 56-27 in Ann Arbor, can Ohio State (12-0) — No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings — lose to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and still make the playoff?
Yes and no.
Yes, the Buckeyes could play well in defeat and still get in. No, they can’t lose to the Badgers. To be clear, that’s a between-the-lines assessment. Sorry, Bucky, get ready for another clobbering.
No. 2 LSU (12-0) will be in the playoff whether it wins or loses to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game. The Bulldogs (11-1) must win their way in.
No. 3 Clemson faces Virginia for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown, a joke of a mismatch. The Tigers are in.
It almost certainly boils down to Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor. If the Utes (11-1) top Oregon in the Pac-12, they’ll slide into the No. 4 spot, barring a true shocker of a decision by the selection committee. If the Utes lose and the Sooners (11-1) beat Baylor (11-1) — again — in the Big 12, it’ll be Oklahoma. If the Utes lose and Baylor avenges its lone loss, it should be the Bears.
3. Oh, you: Lots of folks out there just assume Oklahoma is more fit than Utah to take on one of the biggest of the big boys in the playoff. They’re wrong.
The Sooners’ 34-16 Bedlam victory at Oklahoma State was extra-impressive because of how complete it was — a dominant effort, not a shootout. But that’s the way the Utes have beaten teams all season. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.
4. B1G hits: The Big Ten might need some time to recover from Week 14, too, and not in a good way.
Where does Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program go after being reminded in no uncertain terms that it has no business sharing a field with Ohio State? The Buckeyes are the Jordan Bulls. The Wolverines are — take your pick — the Cavs, Knicks or Pacers. No shot.
Minnesota was so close to doing something magical, then Wisconsin came to town and blew up the Gophers’ season 38-17. Good luck trying to reclaim the Paul Bunyan Axe next year in Madison, Gophs. Not happening.
Nebraska needed a victory to go bowling, but Iowa walked out of Lincoln with a 27-24 victory. Should we just stop paying attention to the Huskers once and for all? Yeah, maybe we should.
5. Excuses U: It was cold! It was wet! It was windy! It was Thanksgiving weekend!
Bowl-bound Illinois hosted rival Northwestern in a rare late-November game at Memorial Stadium that actually mattered, and the joint was empty. Illini fans and Wildcats fans supposedly aren’t fond of each other. Don’t they realize they are each other?
6. Lynn Bowden, your table is ready: No player in America has done more for his team than the Kentucky receiver-turned-quarterback, who rushed for 284 yards and four touchdowns in a victory against rival Louisville.
Bowden took over the offense with seven games to go after the injury-depleted Wildcats were fresh out of quarterbacks. With pass plays all but out the window, Bowden led his team to a 5-2 finish and bowl eligibility. It all could’ve gone to pot in Lexington. Bowden refused to let it.
7. A Rutgers revival? Somehow, the school seems to have managed not to screw up a chance to bring back Greg Schiano as coach. Schiano’s teams averaged roughly eight victories from 2005 to 2011 and missed a bowl only once. The punching-bag days will end — and soon.
8. 10-2? Boo-hoo: As we gear up for championship games and playoff selections, fans of Alabama — and, to a lesser extent, Notre Dame, Oregon, Minnesota and others — are crying in their beer.
Get a grip, people.
9. That’s what he said: ‘‘They don’t want us in there, anyway.’’
That was Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, referring, in classic paranoid-college-coach fashion, to the playoff committee. The same committee that’s about to, you know, include the Tigers for the fifth year in a row.
10. And another thing: Someone’s head had to roll at Northwestern after a 3-9 season, but offensive coordinator Mick McCall — shown the door after a 12-year run in the position — is no scapegoat. This move had to happen if the Wildcats are going to regain the ground they lost in 2019.