The Fifth Quarter: Week 9 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Chaos in the offing?
Don’t look now, but we could be in for an unprecedented controversy in the second-to-last year of existence for the BcS.  With five weeks left in the regular season, including conference championship game weekend in early December, there exists the very real possibility there could be four unbeaten teams from so-called BcS conferences left standing as No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame all held serve and remained unbeaten this weekend — and, yes, I’m discounting Louisville from title talk at the moment.  While the chance for an upset is always right around the corner — hello Oklahoma State and Oregon State circa 2011 and 2012, respectively — the schedules for all four teams suggest the worst-case scenario before a four-team playoff is implemented in 2014 could very well become a reality:

Alabama: at LSU, Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Auburn
Oregon: at USC, at Cal, Stanford, Oregon State
Kansas State: Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor, Texas
Notre Dame: Pittsburgh, at Boston College, Wake Forest, at USC

Again, there are plenty of late-season speed bumps for all five teams in the apocalyptic scenario for it to never fully come to fruition.  However, as an ardent anti-BcS proponent and even as I’d hate it for the teams and players involved, I would love nothing more than for that very thing to happen and further embarrass the sham that is the current system for determining a national champion, whether it’s in its last days or not.

Little Manhattan, big-time football
One of the best storylines in college football this season has been Kansas State’s ascension to the national stage, and in Week 9 K-State continued rolling right along.  Literally.  After falling behind No. 15 Texas Tech 10-3 early in the second quarter, the Wildcats scored on eight straight possessions, with the seventh of those possessions punctuated a minute later by an interception return for a touchdown.  That 52-14 run lifted K-State to its eighth consecutive win in 2012.  And further buttressed the case for Bill Snyder as it relates to national honors.  While there has been talk about the job Penn State’s Bill O’Brien has been doing in scandal-ridden Happy Valley, there’s only one logical choice for Coach of the Year honors all across the board.  What Snyder has done in Manhattan is nothing short of staggering and should be duly recognized for the masterpiece that it is.  Of course, having the presumptive Heisman front-runner — Collin Klein, two passing and two rushing touchdowns vs. Tech — doesn’t hurt, but it should take nothing away from the totality of Snyder’s 2012 work.

Can’t spell “Heisman Trophy” without “Manti Te’o”
Ben did an excellent job recapping the they’re-real-and-they’re-spectacular Notre Dame win over Oklahoma, so we’ll just touch on one angle of the fascinating 2012 story that is the Irish: linebacker Manti Te’o.  Simply put, the senior heart and soul of the Irish defense is, on a weekly basis, putting on the most dominating defensive display since Ndamukong Suh in 2009.  That year, the Nebraska defensive lineman terrorized opponents throughout the season and earned a trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist.  Based on his play thus far, Te’o deserves at least that much.  If Collin Klein, the presumptive front-runner at this point, were to stub his toe at some point, though, Te’o and the combination of his dominating play plus the poignant story attached to his 2012 season could become (gasp!) the first purely defensive player to take home the stiff-armed trophy.

Classy Vols
The heartbreaking injury suffered by Marcus Lattimore in South Carolina’s win over Tennessee did have one endearing moment, at least as much as could be had in such a devastating situation.  As Lattimore was being placed onto a cart to be taken into the locker room for further treatment, the running back was, understandably, surrounded by the entire Gamecocks squad.  In one of the classier moves you’ll ever see on a football field, though, the entire Volunteer team came across from their sidelines and did the same, with some offering personal “keep your head up” messages to the injured player.  “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like that,” head coach Steve Spurrier said of what UT did post-injury.  Top notch, Vols.  Top notch.  And, if you ever want to know what kind of player college football may have lost for good, that gesture from the opposing sideline spoke volumes.

Huskers: They are Legends
For the moment, at least.  Thanks to Nebraska’s 23-9 win over Michigan, the Cornhuskers and Wolverines are tied for first place atop the Big Ten’s Legends division at 3-1.  As the Huskers hold the head-to-head advantage, however, they tentatively sit in the driver’s seat with four conference games remaining — at Michigan State and Iowa and home games versus Penn State and Minnesota.  On the other side of the conference, and despite their overtime loss to Michigan State, Wisconsin is firmly in control of the Leaders division at 3-2; the next-best eligible team is Indiana at 1-3 and oh my goodness is the B1G just sad this season.

Buckeyes hoist IneligiBowl trophy
Thanks to NCAA sanctions, neither Ohio State nor Penn State are eligible for the 2012 postseason, turning the Week 9 matchup of the top two teams in the Big Ten’s Leaders division into a de facto bowl game for both programs.  And, thanks to a dominating second-half performance, the Buckeyes can continue to stake its unofficial claim as the best team in the Big Ten.  With the score tied at seven coming out of halftime, OSU scored 21 third-quarter points to effectively put the game out of reach for a Nittany Lions’ offense whose NASCAR package was the equivalent of Danica Patrick on this Saturday afternoon.  The 35-23 win pushes the Buckeyes to 9-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer and keeps them on track for the only thing other than pride they still have to play for: the Leaders’ division trophy, for which they are still eligible even as they are ineligible for the Big Ten title game.

Marquise performer
Based on God-given ability, there’s likely not a better or more naturally-gifted player than Marquise Lee at the wide receiver position in all of college football.  Never was that more evident than in USC’s game against Arizona.  The true sophomore caught 12 passes for 255 yards… then decided to come out and play in the second half.  Lee finished with 16 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns, with the yardage total representing new school and conference records.  Lee actually totaled 469 yards as he returned three kicks for 123 yards and rushed once for one yard.  It was all for naught, however, the No. 10 Trojans dropped a 39-36 decision to Arizona,

Sammy no longer MIA
— In 2011, Sammy Watkins caught 12 touchdown passes and accounted for 1,219 receiving yards en route to an All-American season as a true freshman. This season? Yeah, not so much. Through Clemson’s first nine games last season, the wide receiver had hauled in 10 touchdowns; Thursday night, in the Tigers’ ninth game of the season, Watkins caught his first touchdown of the season. Entering the 42-13 dismantling of Wake Forest, Watkins had 202 yards receiving on the season; he matched his season total in the game. Yes, there was the suspension for the first two games of the season due to an offseason arrest, and yes there was the missed late-September game against Boston College due to illness, but the fact that we’re deep into October and a talent such as Watkins has crossed the goal line for the first time and matched his seasonal yardage total in a single game is one of the more under-the-radar developments of the 2012 season.

Off the SEChnide
Coming into Week 9, Missouri was one of just two teams in the country — lowly Hawaii being the other — that switched conferences for the 2012 season and had yet to win a game in league play.  Thanks to the gift that is Kentucky football, that’s no longer the case.  A 33-14 win over the hapless MWildcats gave Mizzou its first-ever win in SEC play and lifted the Tigers out of the East division cellar.  Despite the win, Mizzou showed that it still has a ways to go before it’s able to compete with the middleweights of the SEC, let alone the heavyweights like Alabama, Florida and LSU.

LOSERS

World’s Largest Penalty-Ridden Turnover Party
In the Florida-Georgia game, the two teams combined for nearly as many penalties (22) as points (26).  There were five interceptions and four fumbles lost for both teams, with the Gators committing six of those miscues — four fumbles, two interceptions.  The Bulldogs converted just one of 11 third downs in the 17-9 win, while the Gators averaged a paltry 1.7 yards on its 40 rushing attempts.  The two teams totaled 526 yards of offense, or 89 yards less than Oregon had in their win over Colorado.  Simply put, no amount of lipstick could mask this pig of a game… and as far as UGA’s concerned, it matters not a single bit.  Georgia, with wins over Ole Miss and Auburn the next two weeks, will clinch a second straight trip to the SEC championship game.  That qualifies this game as a thing of beauty to Bulldog Nation.

Beavers pelted from ranks of unbeatens
With another Upset Saturday in full effect, the final game of the night was the cherry on top of a ridiculously chaotic sundae.  Oregon State entered their game with unranked Washington as the No. 7 team in the country, the Beavers outgained the Huskies 427-293… but coughed the ball up four times in a stunning 20-17 road loss to UW.  Likely off the table?  OSU’s dreams of a spot in the Pac-12 title game and a seat at the BcS big-boy table.  A for-the-ages Civil War game against Oregon at the end of November.  While the season’s certainly not lost — a win over the Ducks could still lead to a division title — but the loss did put a significant dent in the feel-good story.  The loss is not exactly a surprise, however, as the Beavers had won their previous six games by a total of 58 points, including three by seven points or less and two by three points apiece.

Big East bushMACked again
Two weeks ago, the Little Conference That Couldn’t was one of the surprises of the 2012 season, boasting more undefeated teams — Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers — than any other conference not initialed “SEC.”  After Week 9?   Yeah, not so much.  One week after the Bearcats dropped their first game of the season to Toledo, the No. 15 Scarlet Knights served as the conference’s latest MACrificial lamb, with Kent State — they of the 7-1 Golden Flashes — traveling to Piscataway and heading back to Ohio with a 35-23 win.  Kent State forced seven turnovers in beating a ranked team for the first time in the program’s history, ending a losing streak of 22 straight games against ranked opponents.

Reverse MACtion
The Midwestern conference’s lone shot at playing BcS buster is no more.  Ohio University, which was ranked last weekend in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since 1968, came into their game with conference rival Miami of Ohio sporting an unblemished 7-0 record and ranked as the No. 23 team in the country.  The Bobcats’ dream season came to end, however, as the RedHawks found itself on the winning end of a 23-20 score. The loss dropped the Bobcats into a third-place tie in the MAC East, behind Kent State and Bowling Green.

Wolfpack special teams not so special
It’s one thing to lose late to a bitter in-state rival.  It’s another animal entirely to do so on account of a collective special teams gaffe.  With under 30 seconds remaining and the game tied at 35 — and surely headed to overtime — the Wolfpack punted to the Tar Heels’ Giovani Bernard.  73 yards later, and with just :13 left, UNC had a 43-35 lead and the ballgame firmly stuffed into its back pocket.  The game-winning return capped a wild day for the Tar Heels as they jumped out to a 25-7 lead, then fell behind 35-25 before scoring 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points.

Southern aMiss
Last season, Southern Miss finished the year at 12-2, claiming the Conference USA championship and a bowl win.  Head coach Larry Fedora subsequently left for North Carolina… and the Golden Eagles have completely unraveled under first-year coach Ellis Johnson.  The 44-17 loss to Rice was the eighth straight to open the 2012 season, with the losses coming by an average of 20 points per game.  USM and UMass, in its first year at the FBS level, are the lone winless teams in major college football.  It’s unlikely Johnson is in any type of danger of losing his job after just one season, but, if the losing continues through the end of 2012, he’ll enter 2013 squarely on the hot seat.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 6 Oregon State , Washington :

— No. 16 Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31: This was not your ordinary ranked-vs.-unranked matchup Friday night as the Bearcats, up until last weekend, were one of three undefeated Big East teams.  That fact showed as UC extended the Cardinals into overtime before the ‘Ville both snapped its four-game losing streak to this Big East foe and stayed unbeaten on the season.  This close shave continued a 2012 trend for the Cardinals; after winning the first two games by a combined 46 points, they’ve won the last six by a total of 31, including five by seven points or less.

— No. 17 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35: Despite the loss of its top running back, the Gamecocks were able to hold off a game Volunteers squad and put a halt to a two-game losing streak.

— No. 19 Stanford 24, Washington State 17: Tied at the half at 10-all, the Cardinal hung on for a closer-than-expected win over the two-win Cougars.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — First real test of the 2012 season?  Passed with flying colors.  Next weekend, though, is the test for the Tide.(Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 6 LSU

2. Oregon — The Ducks buffaloed (see what I did there?) their way to 56 points and 447 yards of total offense in the first half in a resounding evisceration of Colorado.  The relative cakewalk the 2012 season has been for UO comes to a halt next week as the Ducks travel to USC, followed by back-to-back games against ranked teams (Stanford and Oregon State) to close out the regular season. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at USC

3. Kansas State — Road wins over then-No. 6 Oklahoma and then-No.13 West Virginia added to the thrashing of No. 15 Texas Tech is enough for me to push the Wildcats into the No. 3 hole.  Well, that and the Gators’ loss, of course. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Oklahoma State

4. Notre Dame — For the first time this season, the Irish enter my little corner of the rankings world.  The win over Oklahoma pushed the Domers to 8-0 for the first time since 2002, and they won’t be truly tested again until the season-finale against USC. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Pittsburgh

5. (blank as no one is worthy)

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

— Auburn’s Gene Chizik: The latest data point that Chizik’s not long for The Plains?  At Jordan-Hare Saturday, the Tigers were down to Texas A&M 42-7 at the half, trailing in total yards by a staggering 464-91 count.  The most damning part of the evening, however, was the fact that the stadium was less than half full before the gun sounded on the second quarter.  There’s only one thing worse than a pissed-off fan base, and that’s an apathetic one.  If that’s indeed where the Tiger faithful are at the moment, Chizik is in deeper trouble than his president’s letter earlier in the week suggested.

— Tennessee’s Derek Dooley: The Vols are just 4-17 in SEC play in two-plus seasons under Dooley, 1-12 since the start of the 2011 season.  UT’s last conference win came in overtime against Vanderbilt Nov. 19.  The Knoxville natives are restless and are no longer drinking the Dool-Aid, and the clock is certainly ticking on coach’s time on Rocky Top.

— Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: Phillips has actually out-Dooley’d the coach he beat last year, going 4-18 in the SEC the past two-plus seasons.  The Wildcats could be one of four SEC programs in search of a new head coach at season’s end, joining UA (probably), UT (probably) and Arkansas (definitely).

HE SAID IT
“There’s a lot at stake down the stretch and we could still have a really good season.” — UT head coach Derek Dooley, presumably stated with a straight face and everything.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I still can’t believe it. I’m still shaking right now. After that I started crying. I couldn’t hold my emotions back.” — North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard following his game-winning punt return for a touchdown.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“He told us to kick ass.” — SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, when asked what former President George W. Bush said to the Mustangs in his pregame speech prior the Memphis game.

PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is a photo of Jordan-Hare Stadium, snapped by al.com just as halftime of the A&M-Auburn game commenced:

Yeah, Chizik might be in a bit of trouble.

YOU DON’T SAY?
Braxton Miller became the third different Big Ten quarterback and the first Ohio State quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (twice) are the other two.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— During a stretch of 65 seasons — 1927-1988, 2006-08 — Kansas State won 168 games.  In 21 seasons under Bill Snyder, K-State has won 167 games.  Snyder has led the Wildcats to 14 winning seasons; in the 80 non-Snyder years, KSU has had 16 plus-.500 seasons.  And one more note on arguably the most underrated head coach in college football history: K-State has been to 15 bowl games in their history, with 13 of those appearances coming on Snyder’s watch.

— You might as well go ahead and write Jarvis Jones‘ name in Sharpie as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week: in the upset win over Florida, the Georgia linebacker was credited with a career-high 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

— Auburn’s 63-21 loss to Texas A&M was the worst home loss in school history, and the points were the most given up by the Tigers since 1917.  The 671 yards allowed were also the most ever surrendered by AU in a single game.

— In the past five games — two of them of them losses — Texas has given up 1,299 yards rushing.  That’s more than what nine teams gave up all last season.

— Kansas has now lost 16 consecutive Big 12 games.  Their last win in conference play came Nov. 6, 2010, against Colorado, which is now a member of the Pac-12.  Their last win against a team still in the Big 12?  Oct. 10, 2009, over Iowa State.

— With the 31-17 win over Illinois, Indiana snapped its 11-game Big Ten losing streak.  Still, the Hoosiers are just 4-32 in conference play since 2008.

— Playing in just his third game at Oklahoma since being cleared by the NCAA, Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders set school records for most receptions in a game (15) and a quarter (eight).

— It was a record-setting Thursday night all around for Clemson as Watkins’ 202 receiving yards broke the school mark that was just set earlier this year by DeAndre Hopkins (197), while Tajh Boyd‘s 428 yards passing surpassed Charlie Whitehurst‘s 420 yards in 2002.

— North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns against North Carolina… in the first half alone.  Glennon finished with 467 yards and five touchdowns in the 43-35 loss to the Tar Heels.

— In the above game, UNC running back Giovani Bernard accounted for 304 total yards: 135 rushing, 95 receiving and 74 on punt returns.

Connor Shaw threw for a career-high 356 yards in the win over Tennessee.

— The 70 points by Oregon in its 56-point throttling of Colorado set the school record for a conference game.

— Steele Jantz set career highs with 381 yards passing and five touchdowns in Iowa State’s 35-21 win over Baylor.

Max Tuerk became the first true freshman to start a game at left tackle in the storied history of the USC football program, protecting Matt Barkley‘s blind side in the loss to Arizona.

–- SID Stat of the Day, Thursday Night Edition: Clemson did not score in the third quarter of the win over Wake, marking just the second quarter all year in which the Tigers did not score.

— Tweet Stat of the Day, from Mark Story of Kentucky.com: “With loss to Missouri, UK all-time record is 579-580-44. Last time UK under .500 (44-45-6) was after falling to Transy in 1902 finale.”

— Navy rushed for 512 yards in a 56-28 win over East Carolina.

FINAL THOUGHT
If the rumors concerning the severity of Lattimore’s injury are true — we’re not going to touch on them until the situation is confirmed by South Carolina — it would be one of the most devastating injuries a football player can suffer.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the classy young man as he works his way through a situation that’s rough physically, mentally and emotionally.

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.

Alabama and Penn State land two Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists

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Th semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award were unveiled on Monday, and it goes to show how good the defensive secondaries are for Alabama and Penn State. The Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions were the only schools with two semifinalists out of the 13 total players to be announced as semifinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive back.

Alabama is represented by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Levi Wallace. Alabama has one Jim Thorpe Award winner in the history of the award (first awarded in 1986), with Antonio Langham winning the award in 1993. Penn State is looking for the first Jim Thorpe Award winner in school history. Marcus Allen and Grant Haley have been named semifinalists for the award this year, giving Penn State a chance to have a player win the award.

Other notable players named as a semifinalist include Florida State’s Derwin James and Duke’s Jeremy McDuffie and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC all have three semifinalists. The winner of the award will be announced during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7 on ESPN.

2017 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists

Marcus Allen, Penn State
Quin Blanding, Virginia
Jalen Davis, Utah State
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Grant Haley, Penn State
Derwin James, Florida State
Jeremy McDuffie, Duke
Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Justin Reid, Stanford
Dominick Sanders, Georgia
Levi Wallace, Alabama
Denzel Ward, Ohio State

College football’s Week 9 mid-afternoon schedule is loaded

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The Week 9 schedule in college football is lacking for too much buzz in the primetime slot this week, so you will want to stay plugged in in the middle of the afternoon. Before Virginia Tech, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Washington State all get into action in the primetime slots across the networks, the biggest games of the day will have already been played.

This week’s 3:30 pm ET time slot is stacked and highlighted by three games between ranked opponents, all with various conference championship and/or playoff implications on the line. And because the World Series is scheduled to have a game Saturday night, FOX has reserved a colossal Big Ten matchup for the 3:30 pm time slot this week. As good as the game may be, it will have some stiff competition from each of the the other networks.

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

The game of the week will take place in the Big Ten. After a dismantling of Michigan’s defense, Penn State heads to Columbus to take on a rested Ohio State squad looking for revenge for their lone regular-season loss from a season ago. Saquon Barkley will be in the spotlight once again, but don’t overlook J.T. Barrett’s recent string of success. The winner of this one is likely heading to the Big Ten championship game to face Wisconsin. But the way this season is going, both teams could still very much be on the College Football Playoff radar if the Buckeyes win a close one.

No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 14 NC State (3:30 p.m ET, NBC)

You can probably consider this one an elimination game just before the College Football Playoff selection committee gets to work. Each team enters with one loss, which makes a second loss nearly devastating for playoff hopes. Josh Adams running the ball is tough to slow down, but NC State has already locked down wins against Florida State and Louisville, so they are feeling confident off a bye week. A loss for the Wolfpack dings the ACC a bit, but of course, NC State remains undefeated in conference play with Clemson at home coming up soon. A two-loss NC State could end up hurting the ACC’s playoff chances.

No. 3 Georgia vs. Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Bulldogs have been ruling, but throw the records out when these two teams face each other in Jacksonville, right? The bottom line is the Gators lack any offensive punch so it will be up to Florida’s defense to find a way to keep the game within reach just in case Georgia makes a costly mistake. A Georgia win puts the Bulldogs one giant step closer to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

No. 25 Iowa State vs. No. 4 TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

The Cyclones have cracked the top 25 rankings and are hoping to score another upset to stay there. This week, Matt Campbell and his rising program host TCU with a chance to remain in the hunt for an appearance in the Big 12 championship game. It is probably unlikely Iowa State reaches the conference championship game, but we can no longer assume a loss for Iowa State any given week.

Other midafternoon games worth noting

No. 12 Washington vs. UCLA: Huskies still on the playoff radar but need to be impressive moving forward.

No. 17 USF vs. Houston: Bulls look to score nice win to stay near the top of Group of Five pecking order.