Our Pledge To You


Can one-loss Buckeyes win their way to playoff? Better believe it

There’s a rumor going around that, somewhere in Chicagoland on Saturday night, a very sick, twisted individual was watching college football instead of Game 6 of the NLCS. I, for one, don’t believe such a thing could be true. But anyway, takeaways from Week 8:

1. Ohio State outgained Penn State by nearly 150 yards Saturday, possessed the ball for nearly 15 more minutes, had a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter … and lost the game. The Nittany Lions’ 24-21 victory in Happy Valley was an unexpected blow to the Buckeyes, who fell from second to sixth in the new AP Top 25.

But how damaging a defeat was it for OSU? In terms of the playoff, not very damaging at all. The Buckeyes have upcoming home games against current No. 7 Nebraska and No. 2 Michigan. Run the regular-season table from here, win the Big Ten title game and back to the playoff it is. Even if all the teams above OSU (excluding Michigan) win out, it’ll be a shock if the selection committee takes Clemson and Louisville from the ACC and leaves out the Big Ten champ.

That’s getting pretty far ahead, though. The Buckeyes have to press the reset button and play smarter and better beginning this weekend against Northwestern. Maybe not the best timing for the Wildcats to be visiting Columbus.

Even after their 24-21 defeat at Penn State, J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes are squarely in college football's playoff picture. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

2. It was a giant victory for Penn State coach James Franklin from the standpoint of job security. There’s no more beautiful feather in the cap than a win over Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. Meyer’s regular-season record now stands at 34-2. Franklin’s is 9-11.

3. By the way, Nebraska at No. 7 in the nation? Really? I’m not buying it. The next two Saturdays at Wisconsin and at Ohio State probably will back me up.

4. My Big Ten team rankings, 1-14: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers.

5. Is Wisconsin the best two-loss team in the country, as many analysts (and its No. 11 ranking) are saying? I lean toward No. 15 Auburn, which likewise is 5-2 after a 56-3 destruction of Arkansas. Go on, read that score again. Auburn rushed for 543 yards against the Hogs, who were ranked — and deservedly so — entering the game. The schedule still has at Ole Miss, at Georgia and at Alabama, but this team can beat anybody.

6. Oklahoma 66, Texas Tech 59. Each offense gained 854 yards, the combined 1,708 easily breaking the FBS record. High entertainment, sure, but these numbers are all you need to know about why Big 12 teams so often fail tough out-of-conference tests. No defense? No thanks.

7. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was a 1-to-2 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy before his giant afternoon (441 total yards, four touchdowns) in the Cardinals’ 54-13 blowout of North Carolina State. He can book that nonrefundable ticket to New York right now.

8. Not sure anyone other than Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers has a shot to challenge Jackson for the Heisman, and Peppers will have to make some huge plays defensively, offensively and as a return man to stay in the conversation. He didn’t do anything of note in Saturday’s 41-8 victory over Illinois, a win of sorts for Lovie Smith’s severely outmatched team.

9. LSU has played three straight terrific games since firing Les Miles. In Saturday’s 38-21 takedown of Ole Miss, running back Leonard Fournette needed only eight carries to break LSU’s single-game rushing record of 250 yards. Now the Tigers get a bye week to heal up and prepare for … any guesses? Alabama in Death Valley is going to be a classic.

10. Unbeaten, fourth-ranked Washington has looked dynamite from the jump this season, but the Huskies haven’t beaten anybody yet. (Sorry, Stanford and Oregon, it’s just that you guys are really bad.) It changes Saturday at No. 17 Utah. Dangerous spot for UDub.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com