Written By: William Buchert
College football fans all across the midwest have been waiting for this past Saturday to come for weeks. With that being said, the return of Big Ten football didn’t disappoint. The rest of college football didn’t stop though, there was excellent football being played all over the country.
Friday night marked the return of Big Ten football featuring #14 Wisconsin hosting conference rival, Illinois. This was a revenge game for the Badgers as one year ago, the Illini knocked off the 6th ranked Badgers on a game-winning field goal winning the game 24-23 and completing the biggest upset in College Football last season. Unfortunately for Illinois, Wisconsin came out with something to prove. Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz especially. Mertz, a redshirt freshman, took over the starting role after Jack Coan had to undergo foot surgery and was ruled out indefinitely. Mertz started the game 17/17 tying the most completions in a row in school history. Mertz tossed 5 touchdown passes, three of which were to tight end Jake Ferguson, which also tied the most touchdown passes in one game in school history. There were questions about how Wisconsin would perform now that Jonathon Taylor is gone and Graham Mertz answered those questions. Wisconsin won the game 45-7. The biggest loss came to Wisconsin on Sunday though as they found out that Graham Mertz tested positive for coronavirus and will have to quarantine for 21 days according to Big Ten rules.
Saturday featured 3 great Big Ten ranked matchups. Ohio State started the day off hosting Nebraska. Ohio State started the game off slow defensively, allowing Nebraska to drive down the field. Justin Fields was perfect all game, never seeming to make a bad decision. Fields picked apart the Huskers defense throwing 21 passes and completing 20 of them! Fields also was a running threat, as he ran the ball 15 times for 54 yards and a touchdown. At halftime the Buckeyes led 24-14. The defense came out to play in the second half though and balled out, helping the Buckeyes win the game 52-17. In the 4th quarter, Justin Fields rolled out of the pocket at the 5 yard line and flipped a pass into the back of the endzone to freshman receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba who made arguably the catch of the year as he was able to elevate to get the ball and come back down barey getting his foot on the ground for a touchdown. After the game ended, Ryan Day apologized to Nebraska and Scott Frost for scoring a late touchdown making the game 52-17 instead of simply taking a knee. Day said he didn’t have the right personnel in the game since the backups were in.
Ohio State’s matchup next week will be against Penn State for a Halloween weekend battle. Penn State will come out with energy after being upset this week by Indiana. Both teams struggled to find any offense and were reliant on the defenses to step up, and they did. With two minutes left in regulation, there were less than 350 yards combined from both teams. Penn State struggled to run the football with their backs, largely due to an inexperienced backfield after Journey Brown opted out. Shaun Clifford was the only thing that kept Penn State in the football game as he ran for 119 yards and a touchdown. Penn State took the lead 28-20 with 1:42 left in the game. This set up Michael Penix Jr. to drive down the field, making gutsy throws, while running in the game tying touchdown and 2 point conversion. Penn State striked first in overtime taking the lead 35-28. Penix Jr. then responded with a 9 yard touchdown pass to Whop Philyor. Indiana then decided to go for the win by going for 2. Michael Penix Jr. rolled out left and then dove for the pylon while being hit simultaneously by a defender. The ruling on the field was that it was a touchdown and that the ball barely crossed the white line. After the review, the call was upheld giving Indiana the upset win. It was a very controversial call and could’ve gone either way. Penn State fans believe they were robbed while Hoosier fans are ecstatic.
College Gameday was in Minnesota this weekend featuring a matchup between #18 Michigan and #21 Minnesota. Joe Milton made the start at QB for Michigan and was the first QB to start under Harbaugh that was recruited by Harbaugh. Milton balled out and so did RB Zach Charbonnet who had a 70 yard touchdown run to set the tone. Michigan blew out Minnesota 49-24, giving Wolverines fans some hope for December 12th when they play Ohio State. Meanwhile for Minnesota, the boat was sunk.
In the Big 12, a potential future championship matchup occurred between #6 Oklahoma State and #17 Iowa State. Despite playing in the Big 12, defense was actually being played. Two of the best running backs in the nation dominated in the game, Breece Hall for Iowa State and Chuba Hubbard for Oklahoma State. Both had over 130 yards and 1 touchdown. Hubbard and Oklahoma State keep their playoff hopes alive as they won the game 24-21, improving to 4-0 on the season.
In a battle to win the AAC, #9 Cincinnati and #16 SMU battled it out in Dallas. Both teams were undefeated with explosive offenses and respectable defenses. SMU lost star receiver Reggie Roberson earlier in the week, which really hurt the SMU offense and QB Shane Buechele. While SMU struggled to put up points, that was not a problem for Cincinnati. QB Desmond Ridder ran all over the Mustangs defense as he had 178 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns. Cincinnati won the game 42-13 making their record 4-0 on the year, giving them a legit shot at making the playoffs.
The top team in the country played on Saturday as well. Coming off a 73-7 win, Clemson didn’t look anything like that team from a week ago. Although they had stars on offense and defense injured, they still had the best player in America and future number 1 pick l, Trevor Lawrence on their team. Syracuse has given Clemson struggles every year since they joined the ACC and Saturday was no different. After going down 17-0 Syracuse closed the gap to 27-21 in the third quarter and forced Trevor Lawrence to throw his first pick 6 of his college career. With all that being said, Clemson won the game by almost 4 touchdowns and the backups were playing in the 4th quarter. Clemson dominated the second half winning the game 47-21.
#2 Alabama and Tennessee had a showdown in Knoxville Saturday afternoon. On the very first play of the game, Jaylen Waddle had to be carted off the field, transported to the hospital and ruled out for the season after his leg got rolled up on a kick return. Waddle was a big reason for Mac Jones’ success this year and Bama will miss him. Alabama didn’t skip a beat the rest of the game as Jones and Najee Harris dominated Tennessee all day. Alabama won the game 48-17.
3rd ranked Notre Dame faced off against Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon. A week after squeaking past Louisville 12-7, critics were saying Notre Dame was overrated and not worthy of being the #3 team in the country. Notre Dame silenced those critics as Ian Book was able to get out his slump and they took down Pitt 45-3.
UNC, a fellow ACC foe was also considered to be heavily overrated after losing to a horrible Florida State team. UNC came out to play against in-state rival NC State. In 1 of 4 ranked matchups this week, UNC showed why they were hyped up. Sam Howell threw for 250+ yards and the dynamic duo at running back showed out. Javonte Williams ran for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns and Michael Carter ran for 106 yards and a touchdown. UNC won the game 48-21.
Other ACC games happening Saturday featured Virginia and 11th ranked Miami in extremely wet conditions in South Florida, and an upset in Winston Salem as Wake Forest knocked off #19 Virginia Tech. In Miami, a defensive slugfest happened due to the weather, making it hard to get any yards. D’Eriq King’s 322 passing yards proved to be enough as Miami fended off the Cavaliers comeback, winning the game 19-14. Wake Forest was able to upset Hendon Hooker and the Hokies in large part because of true freshman linebacker Nick Andersen. Andersen picked off Hooker 3 times and had 11 tackles. Christian Beal-Smith also ran for 129 yards, leading Wake Forest to a 23-16 victory.
A group of 5 teams in BYU, Marshall, and Coastal Carolina were all unbeaten heading into the weekend. All of them are exiting the weekend undefeated as well. BYU and Heisman hopeful QB Zach Wilson absolutely dominated Texas State throwing for 287 yards and 4 touchdowns winning the game 52-14. BYU improves their chances to make the playoffs. Marshall improves to 5-0 on the year as they defeat FAU 20-9. Coastal Carolina pulls away late from Georgia Southern 28-14 also improving to 5-0.
In another great weekend of college football action, next week is even more exciting. Gameday will be headed to Happy Valley next weekend to cover Ohio State vs Penn State. Many other great rivalries will be happening next week as we will only be 1 week away from Pac 12 football returning!
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