The Big Ten is suddenly fun. By fun, we mean there's variety. Ohio State isn't necessarily dominating the conference like it has the past four years. The latest College Football Power Rankings have blessed the conference with six spots this week, placing almost half the league among the nation's hottest teams.
After a stirring win over Auburn at home, Penn State might be the best team in the league ... if the best team isn't Iowa and its stifling defense. The Buckeyes rebounded from that Oregon loss (though not many were interested in seeing it). After a bye week, Wisconsin remains in the middle of the pack.
The two biggest surprises might be Michigan and Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh's program finally has a quarterback. Well, so far at least, Cade McNamara has performed quite well. Sophomore Blake Corum is second in the Big Ten in rushing. Meanwhile, Mel Tucker has the Spartans at 3-0 and way ahead of schedule after an impressive win at Miami in the sweltering heat.
With so many teams finding so much success in the Big Ten, it has reached SEC levels of relevance with at least one game every week to focus on through November.
- Oct. 2: Michigan at Wisconsin
- Oct. 9: Penn State at Iowa
- Oct. 30: Michigan at Michigan State, Iowa at Wisconsin, Penn State at Ohio State
- Nov. 13: Michigan at Penn State
- Nov. 20: Michigan State at Ohio State
- Nov. 27: Ohio State at Michigan, Penn State at Michigan State
If we left any big ones out, call the Rose Bowl. It has reservations set aside for whoever comes in second or third.
|The Crimson Tide scored on their first three possessions then napped for a bit. Florida dominated the second half and came within a missed two-pointer of tying the game late. Alabama's vaunted defense gave up 439 yards. There is genuine reason for concern. For only the second time in 96 games dating back to 2014, the Tide rushed for less than 100 yards (91).||--||6-1|
|I was tempted to rank the Bulldogs at No. 1. They've been the most consistent team in the SEC with a point differential of 83 over three games. JT Daniels returned to throw three touchdowns against South Carolina. The defense allowed its first two TDs of the season. Did the Dawgs just become the SEC favorite?||--||7-0|
|The Aggies were going to rout New Mexico. That was certain. The game was attractive because it was the starting debut of quarterback Zach Calzada. Haynes King's replacement threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Oct. 9, when Alabama visits College Station, looms. The Aggies are 3-0 for the first time since 2016 and have won 11 in a row.||--||5-2|
|You knew the Ducks were destined when center Alex Forsyth correctly named Stony Brook's mascot. The FCS Seawolves did not fare well on dry land as Oregon scored 38 unanswered points after an early 10-7 lead. Pac-12 play begins this week against Arizona.||1||5-1|
|Fighting the officials and Auburn, the Nittany Lions persevered. It was a good old-fashioned grinder where the SEC officials lost track of downs and Penn State punted on third down. Sean Clifford made up for the tilted field, completing 28 of 32 throws. It was Penn State's first win over an SEC team at home since Alabama in 1985.||2||5-1|
|Defense continues to dominate in Iowa City. Kent State broke through to score only the third touchdown (in three games) against the Hawkeyes this season. Kent leads the nation in turnovers gained (10). Iowa is tied for fifth in that category (eight). Each team recovered a fumble. Hapless Colorado State is next.||2||6-1|
|If Nebraska wasn't so mistake prone, a seven-point win over Nebraska could have been a lot scarier. OU returned a blocked extra point for a defensive two pointer. Former All-Big Ten kicker Connor Culp has now missed five field goals and three extra points. For pure entertainment value, you need to see D.J. Graham's interception of Adrian Martinez.||1||7-0|
|The Bearcats are halfway through the toughest part of their schedule. They outscored Indiana 28-10 in the second half on the road. QB Desmond Ridder threw for a touchdown and ran for two. "This is huge. I feel like it's a weight lifted off our shoulders," Ridder said. He's already thinking ahead to the biggest game of the season in two weeks at Notre Dame. Win that and an undefeated Cincinnati has a chance at top four consideration.||4||6-0|
|If TreVeyon Henderson rushes for 277 yards against Tulsa, is there anyone there to see it? Ohio State's smallest crowd in 51 years witnessed an (eventually) easy victory over the Golden Hurricane. But, wow, did the Oregon loss really impact the Buckeyes' loyal fans that much? Only 74,000 showed up. Secondary coach Matt Barnes called defensive plays in place of embattled defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs.||1||5-1|
|Not allowing Purdue's big marching band drum in Notre Dame Stadium wasn't the best defense played by the Fighting Irish. They held the Boilermakers to one touchdown in a 27-13 win. ND's 26th straight home was also the eighth straight over Purdue. You might even say the Boilers were beaten like a drum.||1||5-1|
|You can blame a hold-your-breath win over Georgia Tech on a two-hour weather delay. You can blame it on an offense that is still finding its legs. But you better believe Clemson would be out of the playoff race if it didn't have a defense that has yet to give up a touchdown. GT was stopped at the goal line on fourth down to preserve, well, the season.||2||4-2|
|We interrupt this season to present the annual head-scratching Pac-12 clunker that cuts into the credibility of the conference. The Bruins, who we lauded as defensively improved, were creased all night by Fresno State QB Jake Haener. If you don't know Haener, he's a Washington transfer who leads the country in passing yards and has already thrown 10 touchdowns, the last with 40 seconds left to beat the Bruins.||8||5-2|
|The perfect opponent following an imperfect loss to Iowa. The Cyclones systematically destroyed UNLV, 48-3. After being pulled against the Hawkeyes, Brock Purdy completed 21 of 24 passes while throwing three touchdowns. The Rebels are 0-9 under Marcus Arroyo.||1||4-2|
|Dan Mullen was upbeat following a gut-wrenching, two-point loss to Alabama. He should have been. He coached a QB who struggles to throw, Emory Jones, to a career-high in passing. Without injured freshman sensation Anthony Richardson, Florida outscored Alabama 26-10 after falling behind 21-3. Mullen has injected the Gators with a confidence that suggests they can push Georgia in the SEC East.||1||4-3|
|Bye. Which Wisconsin will show up in a showdown against Notre Dame: the one that handed the game to Penn State, or the one that routed Eastern Michigan? Seriously, we don't know who the Badgers are yet, especially with Iowa being the class of the Big Ten West.||--||3-3|
|The Cougars are looking exactly like they did last year in that magic 11-1 season. Slot in QB Jaren Hall for Zach Wilson, and it seems that way. Hall threw for two scores and RB Tyler Allgeier ran for another TD. The win over Arizona State was the third straight over a Pac-12 opponent. It's time to start talking about a New Year's Six bowl for the Cougars after their 14th win in their last 15 games.||1||5-2|
|Fayetteville might be the happiest place in the world right now. The Razorbacks remain undefeated after an easy win over Georgia Southern. K.J. Jefferson threw for a career-high 366 yards. This was a benchmark win. In the last two games against the Eagles, Arkansas won by a point and lost. The result sets up the rivalry game against Texas A&M at Jerry World.||1||4-3|
|Harbaugh finally has a quarterback (McNamara). Harbaugh has a complimentary running game (Corum, who contributed three of seven rushing TDs vs. North Illinois). Harbaugh has coaching credibility. Now the question must be asked: Does Harbaugh have the best team in the Big Ten?||1||6-0|
|You're going to become familiar with Kalen DeBoer. In his first 10 games as Fresno's coach, he's led the Bulldogs back to relevance. The former Indiana and Fresno offensive coordinator has three NAIA national titles to his credit. Now he has beaten a top 15 team on the road in UCLA. It's time to also consider Fresno as a New Year's Six bowl candidate.||NR||5-2|
|Welcome back to the Heisman Trophy race, Sam Howell. The Tar Heels QB threw for five TDs and ran for 112 yards. One-man band? Maybe he needs to be when Virginia scored 39. Weep for Cavaliers QB Brennan Armstrong, who threw for 554 yards and four touchdowns yet lost by 20.||1||4-3|
|Max Johnson threw five TDs in an easy win over Central Michigan. Now comes the hard part in the SEC. Consecutive games against Mississippi State, Auburn, Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama. That UCLA loss could really, really hurt.||1||4-3|
|Remember the fourth quarter the next time someone mentions a northern team coming to South Florida. Michigan State scored 21 in the fourth to pull away from Miami, 38-17. In that quarter, the Spartans converted a fumble into a score and drove a combined 111 yards for three touchdowns. How's that for beating the heat (index: 97 degrees)?||NR||7-0|
|The Rebels could have scored 100. They settled for 61 in a rout of Tulane. Matt Corral became the third SEC player to throw for two scores and run for four. Altogether, his seven touchdowns (three passing, four running) were a school record. Lane Kiffin finally called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. Ah, sportsmanship.||1||5-1|
|Virginia Tech had one of the best wins of the season (over North Carolina). Now the pressure may raise again on coach Justin Fuente. Braxton Burmeister nearly rallied the Hokies back from a 20-point deficit only to see a desperation fourth-down pass fall incomplete in the waning seconds. Leddie Brown ran 80 yards for a Mountaineers score. This makes up for the loss to Maryland, which has proved itself with a 3-0 start.||NR||2-4|
|QB Will Howard runs so upright it looks like he's going to be knee-capped on every play. We mention this because Howard, a backup, outplayed Nevada's Carson Strong, who some have as the overall No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Howard, subbing for the injured Skylar Thompson, threw 10 times but rushed for 56 yards and two scores.||NR||3-3|
Out: Coastal Carolina, Arizona State, UCF, Virginia Tech