Welcome to college football in 2020, when scoring touchdowns is bad.
The biggest story from the weekend was the Big Ten's return, and the biggest story from within the Big Ten wasn't Ohio State looking like we all expected Ohio State to look. Nor was it Michigan's offense suddenly looking potent or Wisconsin changing to some dairy-rich version of an Air Raid offense. Hell, it wasn't even Rutgers winning its first Big Ten game since Nov. 4, 2017.
Nope, it was Indiana finally doing what it never does despite coming up inches short. Indiana beat a ranked team. Since the 2014 season, Indiana had been tied or held the lead against 10 ranked opponents. It had lost them all. There were other close calls where the Hoosiers were seemingly in the game with a chance to pull off an upset but fell apart late.
So you could forgive any self-respecting Indiana football fan in their candy-striped pants on Saturday if they weren't letting themselves get too excited about the team's 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter over No. 8 Penn State. They were correct in their assessment because Penn State wins that game in any world that made sense. But this is 2020, and nothing is allowed to be normal, so of course Penn State scored a touchdown that lost it the game. With under two minutes to go, Indiana was trailing 21-20 and turned the ball over on downs at its 14. The Nittany Lions took over with 1:47 left on the clock, and Indiana had one timeout. Visual evidence below:
Now, James Franklin has taken a lot of heat for what transpired, and deservedly so. Penn State should've just run the clock. I'm no math genius, but if the play clock is 40 seconds and there are three downs before fourth, that means roughly 90 seconds could have come off the clock with three kneel downs, coach. Then, assuming you kick a field goal, there are only 12 seconds or so left with a four-point lead.
Still, if you decide to run a play, running the ball up the middle is defensible. But, you know, you need to let your player be aware of the situation. Devyn Ford clearly was not, though you can see it dawning on him as the play developed.
This is the moment when Ford first hits the hole, and I only call it a hole because that's what we usually call it in this sport. In reality, it's not so much a hole as it is a gaping canyon ripping open within the earth itself in front of Ford, leading him directly to his doom.
Notice all the Indiana defenders who are definitely doing their darnedest to try and stop Ford from achieving his ultimate goal of scoring a touchdown.
Now, we've all seen it before. The television camera angle can be misleading, so let's check it from a different angle to make sure there really is all that space between Ford and anything remotely resembling an Indiana defender.
OK, so the empty space is confirmed.
Now, it's at this point when Ford notices something is up. He's not quite sure yet, but after a few more steps, you see the moment of realization. You see Ford look to his left and realize nobody is coming to tackle him.
When this happens, Ford is at the 6-yard line -- a full 18 feet (maybe I am a math genius?) away from the end zone. I'm not a finely tuned athlete, but six yards is enough distance for me to bring my not-finely-tuned body to a complete stop when I'm in a light jog. Apparently, it is not enough distance for Ford because, well, he does not come to a complete stop until it is too late.
It is not until Ford is in his third stride after realizing what's happening that he decides to stop, and that third stride brings him to the end zone, much to the delight of the Indiana defenders who worked really hard not to tackle him on the play.
So, yes, this was a comedy of errors on so many parts. First, it was on James Franklin and the Penn State coaching staff for not kneeling. Then there was the mistake of not letting the players know the situation even after they decided to run a play. Finally, there was the delay between Ford's mind and body. But this was not the last mistake! No, there was one more that has seldom been brought up, but it's one I wish more football coaches were aware of.
Penn State could have rectified its mistakes by going for two after the touchdown. The Nittany Lions were already up seven, and an extra point made it an eight-point deficit. So it's still a one-score game with 1:42 on the clock for Indiana. That's a situation Indiana can come back from to force overtime, and did.
But had Penn State gone for two and converted, the game would have been over. It would have been a two-score game, and Indiana's chances of coming back from such a deficit would've been minuscule compared to the odds they had being down eight. And if the two-point conversion fails, Penn State is still up seven points, and its win probability doesn't change a whole lot.
Wow, I really am the math genius.
Photo of the Week
Of course, all that tomfoolery led to the ultimate moment of the weekend: Indiana quarterback Michael Penix stretching for the goal line on the two-point conversion that gave Indiana the win. Did he make it? I have no idea. If you're an Indiana fan, you have every right to believe he did. If you're a Penn State fan, you have every right to feel like he didn't.
All that matters is that the officials said he did, so it's an Indiana win, and it also led to this tweet, so it was worth it.
Apology of the Week
It turns out that apologizing for scoring touchdowns is all the rage in college football these days. Not only did Franklin have to apologize for scoring against Indiana, but Ohio State coach Ryan Day felt the need to apologize to Nebraska's Scott Frost as well. According to Day, he owed Frost an apology for allowing his offense to score a touchdown late in its 52-17 destruction of the Cornhuskers.
"I will say this, you know I just want to say it publicly, and I'm going to text Scott (Frost)," Day said. "You know, at the end of the game there, if I could do that again, I would have taken a knee. I feel bad about that at the end of the game. I had a younger quarterback into the game and I didn't feel like we had the personnel to take the knee and I probably should have done that so I just want to publicly apologize for that to Scott."
First of all, publicly apologizing for scoring too many points against a team during your press conference is low-key savage when you think about it. It's like saying you're too humble to accept an award while standing on stage accepting an award. I respect it, Ryan.
The problem is that Frost isn't the person you owe an apology to. I'm the person you should be apologizing to. On The Cover 3 Podcast this week, the Under 68.5 was one of my locks of the week. That touchdown pushed the total to 69 points! That's not nice! That's not nice at all!
I would appreciate it if you would take some time at your next press conference to apologize to all the Cover 3 listeners who followed my advice and me. Thank you.
Block of the Week
Auburn freshman tight end J.J. Pegues is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the country. Pegues is listed at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, and while he does things nobody his size should be able to do, he's also capable of absolutely obliterating defenders with blocks like this one.
Stat of the Week
Northwestern beat Maryland 43-3 in Evanston on Saturday night, marking the first time the Wildcats had scored 40 points or more in a Big Ten game since a 42-17 win over Illinois in 2017. Northwestern fans had to be thrilled to see the offensive explosion, but our stat doesn't come from the scoreboard directly.
No, the stat of the week is the win being the 100th of Pat Fitzgerald's tenure as Northwestern's coach. Northwestern is a football program that began play 128 years ago in 1892. It has won 540 games in that time, meaning that Fitzgerald has now been the head coach for a full 18.5% of the program's wins. Taking it a couple of steps further, Fitzgerald was a Northwestern player for 24 wins and an assistant coach for 26 of them. That brings his win total on a Northwestern sideline in some capacity to 150 wins, or 27.8% of Northwestern's football wins.
He's been somewhat important to the program.
Tweet of the Week
For those who might be unaware of the official state delicacy of Minnesota.
The True Worst Coaching Decision of the Week
OK, so it's going to be hard to wrestle that title away from Franklin and Penn State, but Baylor coach Dave Aranda made a horrific decision against Texas on Saturday. When you hire a defensive coordinator to be your head coach, it's only a matter of time before they remind you that they were a defensive coordinator.
With over 10 minutes remaining in the first half of a 3-3 game, Aranda had his team punt on a fourth-and-12 from the Texas 30-yard line. The punt resulted in a touchback, giving Texas the ball at the Texas 20.
In other words, had Baylor gone for it, it wouldn't have made much of a difference had it come up short and turned the ball over on downs. But the thing about defensive coordinators is they always believe their defense can get a stop and get the ball back. That's not what happened here. Texas marched 75 yards before Tom Herman made his own questionable decision to settle for a 23-yard field goal fourth-and-goal from the five. Still, what matters here is that Texas outscored Baylor 24-13 from that punt on, which Baylor deserved after it decided to punt.
Hurdle Attempt of the Week
We've seen exponential growth in attempted hurdles by ballcarriers in recent years. It's a direct result of defenders being coached to go low while tackling to help avoid targeting penalties. Sometimes it works to great effect for the ballcarrier. Other times, like when Houston's Marquez Stevenson attempted a hurdle against Navy on Saturday, it fails hilariously.
The Other Tweet of the Week
Honestly, I could write a weekly column on how coaches are (or aren't) wearing masks this season.
Rankings Complaint of the Week
All right, so this week's complaint is minor, but it's worth pointing out. Coastal Carolina is a team I have grown quite fond of since last season, and it is currently ranked No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll after a 5-0 start. While the Chanticleers deserve it, they are ranked in no small part due to the fact that many members of college football Twitter pushed for it to happen. And that's fine! The rankings don't mean anything! Twitter influences actual elections; it's not a big deal if it does the same to college football rankings.
But maybe Coastal Carolina isn't the only team that deserves that love? Coastal Carolina is 5-0, and its best win is over Louisiana. Its five wins have come by an average of 16.6 points. Well, Liberty is 6-0, has a road win over Syracuse and is winning by 20 points per game. In other words, it has played a similar schedule to Coastal, has one more win and is winning by more points per game. So, if Coastal deserves to be ranked, doesn't Liberty as well?
I mean, do we really need an 0-0 USC in the rankings right now?
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!