Week 8 - Still A Lot to Play For
By Martin Magers
New number two!
After nearly losing in Madison last weekend to the Badgers, Ohio State had to travel to Happy Valley for a night game with the struggling Nittany Lions. For most of the game, it looked as though the Buckeyes would escape with a win, but PSU’s special teams came up big with a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter en route to a shocking upset over OSU. It was James’ Franklin’s biggest win since he took over in Happy Valley in 2014.
The questions now are: 1) Can Michigan beat the Buckeyes in Columbus and go to its first Big Ten Championship game? 2) If Ohio State can win out, including beating Michigan in the last week of the regular season, can it still make the playoff?
To answer the first question, Michigan probably has the talent to match up with Ohio State this year, and Jim Harbaugh certainly has a gameplan to work with now that Ohio State has shown vulnerability the past two weeks. It’s interesting to note that Ohio State needed overtime to beat a Wisconsin team that Michigan handled with relative ease, sans the field goal team, and lost to a Penn State team that Michigan utterly annihilated. That said, every legitimate football fan knows the transitive property doesn’t mean a thing. Oh, and The Game is in Columbus… As far as whether Ohio State can still make the playoff, the short answer is that they can, but they’ll need help. It’s unlikely the committee would invite a one loss Ohio State team if the other Power 5 conference champions are undefeated. However, if even one other Power 5 conference produces a champion with a loss on its resumé, OSU’s chances skyrocket.
Big road games
• Michigan travels to East Lansing: Michigan will look to remain perfect on the season and get revenge against the struggling Michigan State Spartans after last year’s fluky finish to the rivalry game. The Wolverines are a heavy road favorite, but if there is one thing Mark Dantonio can do, it’s get his team ready to play Michigan. This game could wind up lopsided, but don’t be surprised if the Spartans play their best game of the year.
• West Virginia travels to Stillwater: The Mountaineers are putting together a surprising season, but this week they put their perfect record on the line against a good Oklahoma State team on the road. WVU is favored by 4 on the road (as of Monday night), but I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see Oklahoma State pull the upset.
• Washington travels to Salt Lake City: Washington is expected to represent the PAC 12 in the college football playoff, but first they need to take care of business against Utah in hostile Salt Lake City, not an easy place to win on the road.
• Nebraska travels to Madison: Nebraska has quietly climbed to #7 in the AP Poll, but this week they take on #11 Wisconsin in Madison. This is a big litmus test for the Cornhuskers.
• Clemson travels to Tallahassee: Clemson has had its fair share of close calls this year, and Florida State is good enough to make them pay, especially in Tallahassee.