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Northwestern clinches Big Ten West in 14-10 win at No. 21 Iowa

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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.

No. 10 Ohio State keeps Big Ten and playoff hopes alive with slugfest win at Michigan State

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It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. No. 10 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) leaving No. 18 Michigan State (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) with a 26-6 win means the Buckeyes are still in position to make their own case not just for the Big Ten championship, but also for a spot in the College Football Playoff field. For either of those goals to be obtained, however, Ohio State still ha some work to do moving into the final few weeks.

Ohio State’s defense certainly looked improved in the road win in East Lansing. After being dominated by Purdue two games ago and then after a shaky performance after a bye week against Nebraska last week, Ohio State’s defense played much better on Saturday. Of course, the Spartans offense has been a bit damaged and may have served as the perfect recipe for an ailing Ohio State defense. The Spartans had just two third-down conversion in 15 tries and the running game never found a way to get going.

Things were so difficult for Michigan State, Mark Dantonio called for a signature trick play that seemingly worked for a go-ahead touchdown only to see a penalty bring the score off the board. The Spartans also took an intentional safety in a 7-6 game and the punter backed up at the back of the endzone. In a defensive battle like the one unfolding, that appeared to be a decent gamble in an attempt to flip the field. Ohio State punted after four plays, but the Spartans were still pinned deep in their end, and the Buckeyes recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play run by the Michigan State offense. Suddenly, a one-point game had turned into a 16-6 lead for Ohio State.

Ohio State added a field goal to extend the lead to 19-6 after Michigan State fumbled on the first play of their next possession (for two fumbles in as many snaps by the Spartans, who had switched from quarterback Brian Lewerke to Rocky Lombardi). The teams then exchanged turnovers with Ohio State fumbling on the Michigan State four-yard line and Lewerke (who had returned to the game) being picked off by Shaun Wade.

Dwayne Haskins passed for 227 yards with a touchdown, and Urban Meyer found spots to get Tate Martell in the game as well. Although Michigan State’s Big Ten-leading rushing defense had contained Ohio State for much of the game, Mike Weber accounted for 104 yards and a touchdown in the game.

With the win, Ohio State continues to keep relative pace with Big Ten East-leading Michigan. The Buckeyes trail Michigan by one game in the loss column but will have a chance to win a head-to-head tiebreaker in the final game of the regular season as long as Ohio State does not lose next week. Ohio State will play at Maryland next week before returning home to host the Wolverines in two weeks, when a spot in the Big Ten championship game is expected to be on the line. And, of course, the game could carry some College Football Playoff implications.

Michigan State remains in third place in the Big Ten East, tied with Penn State but with a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Nittany Lions. A shot at the Big Ten East is now out of reach for Michigan State with head-to-head losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans now head to Lincoln, Nebraska next week to play a recently charged up Nebraska team. It could be a dangerous spot to be in for Michigan State.

No. 20 Penn State overcomes big day from Jonathan Taylor to beat Wisconsin

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor provided the first highlight of the day and had another strong day on the ground, but Miles Sanders provided similar production on the ground as No. 20 Penn State (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) sent the Badgers home with a 22-10 loss. The loss makes any chance of winning the Big Ten West even more of a challenge for Wisconsin with just two games to play.

Sanders carried the football 22 times for 161 yards and a touchdown to pace the Penn State offense. Trace McSorley left the game late in the first half after medical trainers had to look at his right knee on the field, but the Penn State senior captain returned in the second half to polish off a hard-fought win at home.

Taylor ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run on the third snap of the game for the Wisconsin offense, and Taylor continued to grind out yardage on the ground and make a few more sizable runs against the Nittany Lions. But Penn State’s defense, led by Shareef Miller, was up to the task and handled backup quarterback Jack Coan by forcing Wisconsin into a position where throwing the ball had to be the way to make a comeback. Coan was intercepted once on the 20 passes he attempted as Wisconsin seemed to think their biggest home run threat would come on the ground in the hands of Taylor.

Coan started the game for Wisconsin in place of Alex Hornibrook, who was questionable all week with a head injury, a problem that has been consistent in recent weeks.

With the loss, Wisconsin fails to make up any ground on Northwestern this week. The Wildcats, who lead the Big Ten West, play at Iowa today and have an opportunity to open up a massive lead in the division with a win in Iowa City. Wisconsin must win their remaining two games and hope Northwestern drops their next three games beginning today.

Wisconsin will look to rebound on the road again next week with a trip to Purdue. Penn State will play their final road game of the year next week at Rutgers. A chance at winning 10 games this season is still in the mix for Penn State. James Franklin’s program must win their remaining two regular season games and their bowl game in order to pull off a third straight 10-win season for the first time in Penn State history since 1980-1982.

Khalil Tate runs for over 200 yards (again) in another record-setting romp for Arizona

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A college football Saturday can be a very long day. You get up early, eat some breakfast with the sun peeking through and, depending on your time zone, won’t go to bed until it gets dark — in Hawaii.

But let me tell you, no matter how long the day can drag on, watching Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate should be on your list of things to absolutely tune in for every single week. I mean it, every single week.

The Heisman contender had another stellar outing on #Pac12AfterDark this week, which should come as no surprise given that the Wildcats were playing a pretty bad Oregon State team at home (they won 49-28) and set a new school record for rushing yards in the process. The opponent doesn’t really matter though because Tate is just so fun to watch and might be the closest thing we have to a human cheat code in the real life version of NCAA Football.

Just watch this 71 yard touchdown run he had and pay attention to that extra gear the final 30 yards or so he uses to simply blow past some defenders that had an angle on him:

According to the school, that was Tate’s fifth rush of 70 or more yards on the season and his 11th rushing touchdown on the year, which ties him for 8th all-time (Trung Canidate) in single-season school history. Keep in mind he’s only been the starter — at quarterback — for six games.

All told he finished the game against the Beavers with 206 yards on the ground and two scores in just three quarters-worth of work, while also throwing for 68 yards on 5-of-7 passing. That puts him at 1,293 yards for the season — on just 111 carries for what would be an FBS record 11.6 yards/carry if he keeps things up.

We were all pretty impressed with the video game numbers that Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has been putting up but Tate has been just as good if not more so after taking over as the starter for Rich Rodriguez. There are still two games left in the regular season for the Wildcats (against Oregon and in-state rival Arizona State), which gives us two more opportunities to see if anybody can stop the most dynamic player in the country right now.

Biscayne Beatdown: No. 7 Miami destroys No. 3 Notre Dame to state playoff case

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Heading into Saturday’s showdown with No. 3 Notre Dame, there were still plenty of questions about whether No. 7 Miami was a bona fide College Football Playoff contender. By the time the night was over, it’s safe to say there were no more doubts.

The Hurricanes brought back plenty of memories of those title contenders from yesteryear — and created several more over four quarters — after a nostalgia-filled rout of the Irish at Hard Rock Stadium, delivering a 41-8 Biscayne Beatdown that will reverberate well beyond South Florida and could allow the team to move into the top two of the polls by next week.

As much as the night was about the offense looking sharp, it was the swarming Miami defense that ruled supreme with their best effort of the year coming in the biggest game of the season. The team racked up five sacks and nine tackles for loss, combining with four ‘turnover chain’ appearances to utterly shutdown the previously prolific Notre Dame attack. That helped lead to 24 points the other way, seven of which came off Trajan Bandy’s first career interception that he returned 65 yards for an eardrum-shattering pick-six.

That was off the arm of backup quarterback Ian Book, who entered briefly  in the second quarter to replace an ineffective Brandon Wimbush (119 yards passing, one touchdown, two INTs). Star tailback Josh Adams spent most of the second half on the exercise bike after appearing to suffer an undisclosed injury and recorded only 40 yards on the ground as the Irish put up points with only seconds left in the third quarter to avoid a shutout.

Though things slowed down after halftime, it was another efficient effort on the other side for head coach Mark Richt’s offense to build upon what they’ve been doing the past few weeks. Quarterback Malik Rosier was solid throwing the football even if the stats weren’t eye-popping (137 yards, 1 TD) and also managed a rushing score that broke things open early on. He teamed up with Travis Homer (146 yards) and DeeJay Dallas (53 yards, two scores) to form quite the deadly combo in the backfield.

The end result of all that carnage in South Florida? Given No. 1 Georgia’s loss to No. 10 Auburn earlier in the day, it’s possible that Richt’s current team could pass his old one in the standings on both Sunday (AP/Coaches Polls) and Tuesday (selection committee). They’ve already clinched their first ever ACC Coastal Division title and will play Clemson for the conference title in what sure seems like a quarterfinal game up in Charlotte in a few weeks.

As for Brian Kelly’s side, their second loss of the year should end any hopes of reaching the playoff after that kind of lopsided result. The Irish still figure to be in a New Year’s Six bowl if they win out and could remain in the top 10 but it’s pretty clear that any hopes of aiming higher need to be reset after that kind of game against a potential playoff team in Miami.