Northwestern (6-4, 6-1 Big Ten) is heading to the Big Ten championship game. The Wildcats clinched the Big Ten West Division crown on Saturday with a 14-10 win at Iowa on the same day Wisconsin and Purdue each lost, eliminating the Badgers and the Boilermakers from the running.
Clayton Thorson completed a 32-yard pass to Bennett Skowronek with 9:27 to play in the fourth quarter to give Northwestern a 14-10 lead after an instant replay confirmed the call on the field and an extra point. It is a play that will likely be played in the Northwestern highlights for years to come.
Northwestern still had some football to be played though, and the defense rose to the occasion by forcing Iowa to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. With a chance to add to the lead, however, Northwestern quickly saw their next drive stall in part due to a false start penalty on a 3rd & 1. With Iowa making their way to midfield on the following possession, the Northwestern defense forced Mekhi Sargent to fumble and Cameron Ruiz came up with the loose ball with 4:26 to play in the game. With one more chance, Iowa again fumbled away the football around midfield in the final minutes of the game.
Thorson completed 15 of 30 passes for 122 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, more than making up for the two interceptions he tossed earlier in the game on this particular day. Freshman running back Isaiah Bowser had a career day with 165 rushing yards and a touchdown. A fourth down run to pick up a first down in the final minute allowed Northwestern to run out the clock on the clincher.
Northwestern still has two more games to play in the regular season, beginning next week on the road at Minnesota. The Gophers just demolished Purdue, helping Northwestern accelerate their division-clinching scenario in the process. No matter what happens next week against Minnesota or the week after at home against Illinois, Northwestern will be heading to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1. Their opponent is still to be determined, although it will pit the Wildcats in a rematch against Michigan or against Ohio State. The Big Ten East Division may not be decided until the final day of the regular season when Ohio State hosts Michigan, although it is possible for the Wolverines to wrap up the East division next week with a win and an Ohio State loss.
Iowa has now lost three straight games and will have to try snapping their losing ways on the road next week at Illinois.
The playoff field is set for the FCS Playoffs. Defending national champion and No. 1 North Dakota State took the top seed overall but will face a challenging bracket if the Bison are to claim another national title this year.
As the top seed, North Dakota State will own home-field advantage in the Fargo Dome for as long as they are in the playoffs, with the exception of a possible national title game appearance, which will be played in Frisco, Texas on January 5. North Dakota State’s portion of the bracket includes No. 4 seed Kennesaw State (who was the No. 2 team in the FCS top 25) and last year’s national title runners-up from James Madison. The Dukes were not seeded in this year’s tournament with a record of 8-3, but they are always to be considered a dangerous opponent this time of year.
A handful of teams ended playoff droughts with this year’s bracket. East Tennessee State is making its first playoff appearance since 1996, ending the longest drought among this year’s playoff teams. Delaware and Southeast Missouri State are each back in the playoff for the first time since 2010. The field also includes three first-time playoff teams; Incarnate Word, Lamar, and UC Davis.
The FCS Playoffs begin next weekend.
Michigan running back and special teams player Berkley Edwards was carted off the field on a stretcher in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium on Saturday in a scary scene that paused the game for roughly 10 minutes. The morning after the Wolverines beat Indiana, however, there is good news to report on Edwards. Edwards shared an update on his Twitter account to tell his followers and Michigan fans he has been released from the hospital and he is OK.
“Just got out the hospital,” Edwards said. “[E]verything is good!”
Edwards followed that up to say he did not see the Indiana player who hit him (Cam Jones, who was ejected for the hit) and his head is still hurting a bit.
It is unknown at this time what the status of Edwards will be for Michigan’s regular-season finale at Ohio State this week. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will play in the Big Ten Championship Game as the East Division champion.
Send another coach through the coaching carousel. Multiple reports on Sunday say Texas State will move on from Everett Withers after this season. Football Scoop and The Athletic each reported news of the coaching change for the program.
According to Football Scoop, as reported by College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett, Withers will not coach for Texas State this week in the regular season finale against Arkansas State.
Withers was hired by Texas State prior to the 2016 season to replace Dennis Franchione. Texas State had back-to-back 2-10 seasons in his first two years on the job and the Bobcats are just 3-8 this season with one game remaining. This will be the fourth straight season Texas State has had no more than four wins (and it could be a fourth straight year with no more than three wins).
The former James Madison head coach will likely manage to find a job somewhere on a coaching staff, even if not as a head coach. Texas State is now looking for its third head coach since jumping up from the FCS to the FBS in 2012.
After arguably the biggest weekend in UCF football history, the Knights are now enjoying their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 of the season and second-highest ranking in program history. UCF moved up to No. 8 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll as they finally managed to jump ahead fo a couple of power conference programs that have been standing in the way the past few weeks.
Alabama claimed all 61 first-place votes from the AP voters this week. The top-ranked Crimson Tide are followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma as there were no changes in the top six. No. 7 Washington State, UCF, and LSU all took advantage of No. 12 West Virginia falling five spots after a loss at Oklahoma State.
UCF moved into a tie with LSU for the No. 8 spot in the ranking this week, but the Knights have officially moved ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes slipped to No. 10, dropping one spot.
Army is also making some headlines in the AP Top 25 by appearing in the ranking for the first time since 1996. Army cracked the Ap Top 25 at No. 23 to be in the AP Top 25 for just the third time since 1985.
Here is this week’s AP Top 25:
1. Alabama (61)
3. Notre Dame
7. Washington State
8. (tie) UCF
8. (tie) LSU
10. Ohio State
12. West Virginia
14. Utah State
15. Penn State
21. Boise State
22. Mississippi State
25. Iowa State