Michigan has one last big hurdle remaining before what would the Wolverines’ first College Football Playoff appearance, and it is an Ohio State team that looks a little lost.
The Game is three weeks away. Michigan plays at Rutgers next week and has Indiana at home the week after. Then the Wolverines go to the Horseshoe and for the first time since Jim Harbaugh became the head coach in Ann Arbor it will do so clearly having the better team.
On a showdown Saturday that figured to whittle the field of playoff contenders, No. 5 Michigan continued its revenge tour, humiliating Penn State in the Big House. Michigan’s defense might be the best in the country and its offense has found an identity behind quarterback Shea Patterson and running back Karan Higdon.
Two weeks off did not fix the Buckeyes.
Ohio State ran the ball better in a close victory against Nebraska, but they were still sloppy with penalties and turnovers and the Huskers had plenty of success against a defense that played with a short-handed secondary.
Nebraska fans can take heart that their team is getting better under Scott Frost and they seem to be in good hands at quarterback for the next few years with Adrian Martinez. As for the Ohio State, every week is a struggle on the field — which almost inevitably leads to more speculation about coach Urban Meyer’s state of mind and his future with the program — no matter how much he tries to make it a nonissue.
These are odd, angst-filled days at Ohio State. And yet, the Buckeyes could still make the playoff if they win out, beating Michigan along the way.
The Buckeyes have dominated the series for more than a decade, winning 13 out of 14 and all three since Harbaugh took over. Maybe Ohio State can fix its many issues over the next couple weeks on the road against Michigan State and Maryland. But the team the Ohio State is now will be hard pressed to keep Michigan out of the Big Ten championship for the first time. And the Big Ten West is likely to throw out Northwestern as its representative in Indianapolis.
The Wildcats were the last team to come close to beating the Wolverines, jumping out to a 17-0 first half lead. Since then, Michigan has outscored the opposition 164-48. It’s not quite the run Clemson has been on since that day, when it rallied from 23-13 in the fourth quarter against Syracuse and has since outscored its opposition 254-36. Michigan’s run has come against better competition, though.
Conventional wisdom has been building recently that Clemson is the closest thing to Alabama right now. Michigan is making a case that it might not be that far behind the top two.
FOR THE WIN
Dana Holgorsen and No. 12 West Virginia were going for the win all the way on their final drive against No. 15 Texas, and Will Grier converted the winning 2-point conversion to keep the Mountaineers in first-place in the Big 12.
Holgorsen rarely gets mentioned as being among the best coaches in college football, and that’s probably fair. He has only won one conference title and that was when West Virginia was still in the Big East. But in some ways Holgo has become a little undervalued during his seven seasons West Virginia, known as much for his mad scientist hair and love of Red Bull than being a sharp offensive who fields winning teams without highly ranked recruits.
The transition for West Virginia to the Big 12 program was not a small task. Holgorsen guided the Mountaineers through it with only one losing season. Holgorsen’s overall record is 60-38, and in the Big 12 he is 37-30.
There are always rumblings that he might be on the lookout for other jobs and that he and athletic director Shane Lyons don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Now Holgorsen’s team is a legit playoff contender heading down the stretch, with a home game against Oklahoma to finish the season, and maybe he is the conference’s coach of the year.
An ESPN anchor issued an on-air apology to Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey after political commentator and LSU fan James Carville went on “College GameDay” and touted a conspiracy theory that the league office favors Alabama. ESPN partners with the conference on the “SEC Network” and plenty of fans believe the network has a bias toward the league because of the business relationship. There is no real evidence to back this up, but this will do nothing but feed that perception.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
No. 6 Georgia is going back the SEC championship game after brushing off Kentucky. The Bulldogs still have playoff hopes to protect down the stretch, with games against Auburn and Georgia Tech. But the Bulldogs showed they are still far and away the class of the SEC East, outscoring divisional opponents 233-105. … Next week’s big game? Try Clemson going to No. 24 Boston College. Clemson can clinch the ACC Atlantic with a victory, but BC would have the inside track to the division title if it can pull the upset. It might be the first time this season ESPN’s “College GameDay” goes to the site of an ACC game … For years, Texas A&M seemed to wilt in November under Kevin Sumlin. Well, the Aggies’ first November game under Jimbo Fisher had a familiar feel, blowing a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead at Auburn … Navy looks like it is headed toward its worst season since going 2-10 in 2002. The Midshipmen were shutout for the first time since 2012, losing to Cincinnati.
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