But there was Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten), coughing up a nine-point lead and succumbing, 24-23, to the Illini. The Badgers took their first loss of the season a week before a trip to Ohio State that had looked like it might be a preview of the Big Ten title game.
It could still be, but the air has come out of next week’s matchup thanks to the Badgers’ fourth-quarter bumbling. Up 23-14 with the ball, Wisconsin gave Illinois some hope thanks to Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor’s lost fumble. The Illini needed only four plays to score a touchdown and cut the deficit to two.
Then Wisconsin committed another turnover, this one a Jack Coan interception to hand the Illini the ball near midfield. Illinois eventually maneuvered into field goal range, and James McCourt hit a 39-yarder as time expired to win it.
While Illinois (3-4, 1-3) got its first victory over a ranked team since 2011, the impact on Wisconsin is profound. The Badgers’ playoff hopes could have survived a loss at Ohio State next week. They can’t now that Wisconsin has absorbed arguably the biggest upset of the season.
Penn State. The Nittany Lions scored on three of their first four possessions, then held on for a 28-21 victory over Michigan under the lights in Happy Valley. Sean Clifford threw two touchdown passes to K.J. Hamler as Penn State improved to 7-0 and kept pace with fellow unbeaten Ohio State in the Big Ten East.
Oregon. The Ducks had quite the gut-check, down 14 on the road against Washington early in the third quarter. They would score touchdowns on three of their first four possessions in the second half, then stymie the Huskies three times in a row to close out a 35-31 victory.
It was a stellar second half for quarterback Justin Herbert, who finished with 280 yards and four touchdowns. And it also keeps Oregon (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) in the playoff picture. To stay there, the Ducks have to win out and get some help.
But the path to the Pac-12 North title is almost entirely cleared out. Oregon is up three games in the loss column on everyone in its half of the league except for plucky Oregon State, which picked off California on the road Saturday. It isn’t outlandish to think the Ducks could seal their division by the second weekend of November.
Navy. The Midshipmen rolled past South Florida, 35-3, to improve to 5-1 heading into next week’s date with Tulane. Malcolm Perry ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns for Navy, which allowed its fewest points to an FBS opponent since a 17-3 defeat of Army in 2009.
History. Those looking forward to the NCAA’s latest overtime tweak finally got their wish. Virginia Tech edged North Carolina, 43-41, in six overtimes, the first game to go to a two-point conversion shootout since the NCAA instituted a rule to do so starting in the fifth overtime this past offseason.
It was apropos the ACC’s Coastal Division, traditional home to an access of parity (mediocrity?) provided the first chance to do this. Perhaps more absurdly, both teams missed field goal tries in the third and fourth overtimes, and also had two-point conversion tries stopped in the fifth overtime before Hokie backup quarterback Quincy Patterson II finally ended it.
Jalen Hurts. The Oklahoma quarterback couldn’t have been much better in the Sooners’ 52-14 drubbing of West Virginia, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns while failing to complete just one pass. He also rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns as Oklahoma remained undefeated.
A.J. Dillon. It was a monster day for the Boston College junior, who rumbled for 223 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries in a 45-24 defeat of N.C. State.
Overall, the Eagles (4-3, 2-2 ACC) rushed for 429 yards. David Bailey, Dillon’s backup, got enough work to collect 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Wolfpack (4-3, 1-2).
Florida. It wasn’t a work of art, which was understandable a week after an exhausting loss at Louisiana State. But the Gators still controlled most of the fourth quarter en route to a 38-27 victory at South Carolina.
Kyle Trask threw for 200 yards and four touchdowns for Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC), which gets the first of its open dates next week before its annual meeting with Georgia in what could very well decide the SEC East.
The forward pass. At least in Georgia’s 21-0 defeat of Kentucky, the passing game was a borderline rumor. The Bulldogs’ Jake Fromm was 9 of 12 for 35 yards in the victory as Georgia bounced back from its loss to South Carolina a week ago. Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. was just 2 of 15 for 17 yards for the Wildcats. The teams combined for just 106 snaps, which is two less than Boise State had by itself in its season-opening defeat of Florida State.
Arizona State. The No. 17 Sun Devils (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) mustered just a field goal in their 21-3 loss to No. 13 Utah in a de facto playoff eliminator. Arizona State had issues with the pass as well; Jayden Daniels was 4 of 18 for 25 yards and an interception against the Utes (6-1, 3-1).
Missouri. Just when it seemed like the Tigers could be trusted after rattling off five consecutive victories, they went and dropped a 21-14 decision to a Vanderbilt team coming off a loss at home to UNLV. Anyone who wants a sentence to sum up the vagaries of college football, use that one.
As for the Tigers (5-2, 2-1 SEC), they still have back-to-back games against Georgia (Nov. 9) and Florida (Nov. 16) next month. There’s still a path to finishing atop the SEC East, though a bowl ban that remains under appeal and Saturday’s loss to the Commodores is a deflating combination for Barry Odom’s team.
Miami. The Hurricanes lost, 28-21, in overtime to rebuilding Georgia Tech and now share last place in the ACC’s Coastal Division with the Yellow Jackets.
Miami (3-4, 1-3) followed up a riveting defeat of Virginia with a lackluster showing against a Georgia Tech bunch that has struggled with its transition from playing the option to a more conventional offense. The coaches change, but the problems remain the same for the Hurricanes.
Five with the most at stake in Week 8
1. Oregon. The Ducks’ defense has manhandled its past five opponents, and its toughest remaining task might just be at Washington on Saturday. Oregon (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12), already two games clear of everyone in the Pac-12 North in the loss column, won’t have many chances to seriously impress the playoff committee and the Huskies (5-2, 2-2) already have a couple missteps. Nonetheless, this might be as much of a spotlight as the Ducks muster the rest of the way.
2. Michigan. The Wolverines (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten) have offered some reasons for caution even since their drubbing at Wisconsin. They managed only 10 points in a defeat of Iowa, then nearly squandered a four-touchdown lead at Illinois before scoring twice late to pull away. Their playoff hopes would effectively end with a stumble at Penn State.
3a. Arizona State and 3b. Utah. It’s another playoff eliminator in the Pac-12. Both the Sun Devils and Utes are 5-1, and the winner will secure a head-to-head edge in the South Division while emerging as one of no more than two Pac-12 teams with less than two losses.
4. Penn State. The 6-0 Nittany Lions are at the front end of the crux of their schedule, and a night home game against Michigan provides both the opportunity to impress and the chance to falter. Without using a mulligan here, it’s not hard to envision Penn State in the Big Ten and national title discussions heading into a Nov. 23 trip to Ohio State.
5. Florida. The Gators (6-1, 3-1 SEC) have to regroup after running into a buzz saw in Baton Rouge last week. They’ll visit South Carolina, which must reload the musket after its double-overtime defeat of Georgia.
Takeaways from Week 7’s weeknight appetizers:
Ohio State keeps cruising. No rust for the Buckeyes, who came out of an open date by pulverizing Northwestern, 52-3, as Justin Fields threw for 194 yards and four touchdowns. The Wildcats mustered only 199 yards as the Buckeyes improved to 7-0.
Ohio State has surrendered 35 points over its last six games, and it will face a similarly skilled defense next week when Wisconsin comes to Columbus. It will be the best test yet for a team playing as well as anyone in the country.
Stanford is in trouble. This isn’t so much about the Cardinal’s 34-16 loss to UCLA as it is what is to come. Are there three wins to be had against Arizona, Colorado, Washington State, California and Notre Dame to secure bowl eligibility? Almost certainly not with a third-string quarterback, and maybe not even at full strength.
Stanford (3-4, 2-3 Pac-12) has earned 10 consecutive postseason invitations, carving out a clear-cut identity along the way. Sometimes the Cardinal would have a star quarterback to run a dynamic offense. Failing that, there would always be a level of physicality that would allow it to figure out a way to thrive. Thursday’s 55 yards on 30 carries against UCLA was the latest sign Stanford is just unremarkable this season.
Pittsburgh’s formula is working again. Don’t get too carried away with a 27-20 victory at Syracuse on Friday. Nonetheless, that’s four victories in a row for the Panthers (5-2, 2-1 ACC), who would seem to have as good a chance as anyone to claim the wide-open Coastal Division.
Pittsburgh ticked plenty of boxes against the Orange. A 100-yard rusher? Check (A.J. Davis). A capable defensive performance built on pressure up front? Check (Nine sacks while keeping Syracuse to 4.2 yards a play). Enough of a passing game to keep opponents honest? Check (Kenny Pickett was 18 of 33 for 232 yards and two touchdowns).
Updating last week’s rankings, which factor in Heisman voting trends (in favor of quarterbacks, players on top-five teams, against receivers and defensive players) as much as on-field performance.
1. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2,011 yards, 27 TD, 1 INT passing; 35 yards, 2 TD rushing). The Crimson Tide’s newly minted career passing touchdown leader is human; he did, after all, throw his first interception of the season. But as the most high-profile player on the nation’s No. 1 team, here’s guessing he’d be the choice of the most Heisman voters as of now. (Last week: 1)
2. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (1,758 yards, 17 TD, 3 INT passing; 630 yards, 8 TD rushing). It’s tough to imagine Hurts’ showing against Texas — four total touchdowns while throwing for 235 yards and rushing for 131 — did anything to damage his chances. (LW: 2)
3. QB Joe Burrow, Louisiana State (2,157 yards, 25 TD, 3 INT passing; 59 yards, 2 TD rushing). Thoroughly shredded Florida (21 of 24 for 293 yards and three touchdowns) to further solidify himself in what looks like a three-man top tier. (LW: 3)
4. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (1,298 yards, 18 TD, 1 INT passing; 283 yards, 8 TD rushing). With the Buckeyes on their first open date, there was no movement this week for Fields. His toughest tests --- against Wisconsin (Oct. 26), Penn State (Nov. 23) and Michigan (Nov. 30) --- are still to come. (LW: 4)
5. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (825 yards, 14 TD rushing; 15 receptions for 136 yards and 4 TD). Went about his business in the Badgers’ blowout of Michigan State, running for 80 yards and two scores on 26 carries. That’s a perfectly solid day against a good defense, but it won’t move the needle. (LW: 5)
6. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (1,094 yards, 13 TD rushing, 5 receptions for 22 yards). Even with the 4-2 Cowboys’ first open date last Saturday, Hubbard still leads the country in rushing by more than 250 yards. He had more rushing yards than 79 FBS teams. (LW: 6)
7. RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State (826 yards, 6 TD rushing; 7 receptions for 44 yards and 1 TD). Another candidate who didn’t play last week. (LW: 7)