Wisconsin entered Ryan Field averaging 47 points per game – with an admittedly small sample, having played twice – and scored seven against Purple. Not a single Badgers reader made the red zone; their only touchdown came on a 49-yard bomb in the first quarter. After committing just one rollover in two games, Wisconsin had five on Saturday, including first-year quarterback Graham Mertz’s first three career interceptions.For the fourth time in five games, Northwestern threw a shutout in the second half. The longer the game lasts, the stronger the defense becomes.
It’s a quintessential victory for Pat Fitzgerald: gritty, resilient and perfectly happy to win a one-match slog that ends with a few more games made by his team than by the opponent. But it didn’t make sense for Northwestern to be a one touchdown underdog – not before the game, not after.
“We expected this,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t surprise anyone in our program. It was not upset tonight in our locker room. We fully expected it.
We have Feisty Fitz, Chip On The Shoulder Fitz, Dare to disrespect us Fitz after the game. When ESPN analyst Joe Galloway said earlier in the week that the Wildcats had “a bunch of Rece Davises running,” it turned into an instant Northwest scoreboard.
“It really scared our guys, I’m not going to lie,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought it was incredibly disrespectful. And this is not the first time. ”
After disrespect comes respect. How should we classify Northwestern?
The IS Top Ten ranked the Wildcats 9th last week, while the AP had the Wildcats 19th and the coaches 20th. This week, they’re taking a significant step forward – and depending on the strength of the calendar, maybe they should be even higher.
The Ohio State’s 5-0 is built against the Big Ten teams with a combined 6-12 record. Northwestern’s 5-0 is built against the Big Ten teams with a combined 10-9 record. The Buckeyes have scoring and attacking style points… but they’ve played a decent team so far.
Ultimately, however, these two teams are on track to settle it on the field Dec. 19 in Indianapolis. Don’t see this as an easy victory for the state of Ohio.
Now for the Top Ten:
Last game: beat Kentucky, 63-3
Next match: Auburn Saturday
Even by Alabama standards, it was a vicious Wildcats stake. The Crimson Tide passed the Wildcats by 330 yards and let the reserves do most of the work in the second half. Nick Saban’s side have given up three points in total in their last two games. Now comes what should be a bloodlust game for ‘Bama. Auburn knocked Tide out of the college football playoffs a year ago – and although the Tigers have been playing better in recent weeks, they’re going to be sizable underdogs at Tuscaloosa.
2. Notre Dame
Last game: Beat Boston College, 45-31, November 14
Next game: Friday in North Carolina
After a week to rest and heal some bodies, the Fighting Irish embark on an interesting Black Friday match at Chapel Hill. It’s a good quarterback game, with Ian Book playing some of the best football of his life (nearly 750 yards on offense overall the last two games) against Tar Heels shooter Sam Howell (leading the ACC in efficiency of pass, Trevor Lawrence included). The difference: Notre Dame also has a tusk; UNC not so much.
Last match: Lost to Notre Dame, 47-40, November 7
Next game: Pittsburgh Saturday
It will now be more than a month between games for Trevor Lawrence, after the strange late postponement of the Florida State game on Saturday morning for the COVID-19 issues. Florida State has reportedly been reluctant to play for the Tigers after one of their offensive linemen tested positive after arriving in Tallahassee and traveling with the team. Clemson was clearly not happy with the decision. It’s life in 2020, when nothing is guaranteed and the games can evaporate at any time. Presumably, Lawrence will still remember how the quarterback worked when he finally got to play again.
4. State of Ohio
Last match: Beat Indiana, 42-35
Next game: at Illinois on Saturday
As my colleague Ross Dellenger wrote on Saturday, the victory over the Hoosiers – although significant – was another example of Ohio State’s failure to finish as a dominant team. Absolutely give Indiana credit, which is a legitimate team, but the Buckeyes have a defense that has so far been unable to shut the door on their opponents. Giving up 491 passing yards, the most since 1985, will leave some doubts creeping in.
Dernier match: Beat UCF, 36-33
Next match: at the Temple on Saturday
The Bearcats pulled off their biggest test of the season against the Knights, falling 14-3 early and 25-22 in the fourth quarter before taking command. It was another great performance from quarterback Desmond Ridder, who racked up nearly 400 total offensive yards and four total TDs leading the multiple returns. Luke Fickell made it interesting with some weird decisions in the final two minutes, but it all worked out for the top Group of Five playoff contender.
FORDE: Desmond Ridder’s rise was perfectly out of script
Last game: beat Wisconsin, 17-7
Next game: at Michigan State on Saturday
The Wildcats simply need to pass the Spartans, Minnesota and Illinois (combined record 5-9) to end the Big Ten regular season unbeaten for the first time in 25 years and an unbeaten regular season for the first time … history.
7. Texas A&M
Final game: beat South Carolina, 48-3, Nov. 7
Next match: LSU Saturday
The Aggies are all but gone due to two weeks of COVID-19 issues. Their willingness to get back into the game will be vital, as they might need a few style points to stay in the game for a playoff spot. Their ranking ahead of Florida is based on the head-to-head victory in October.
Dernier match: Beat Vanderbilt, 38-17
Next game: Kentucky Saturday
The Gators haven’t led any of their last three games after a quarterback, but they led by a group at the end. Florida has scored 38 or more points in every game, maintaining Kyle Trask’s stature as the top Heisman Trophy contender. The path to Atlanta and an SEC Championship game against Alabama is still pretty smooth and straightforward.
Dernier match: Beat North Alabama, 66-14
Next game: San Diego State on December 12
In terms of contention in the playoffs, the Cougars had to beat Alabama. Or even UAB. Not North Alabama, an upgraded FCS school. The win didn’t accomplish anything, and unless another game is arranged before the season finale against the Aztecs, BYU is running out of quality winning opportunities.
Last game: beat UCLA, 38-35
Next game: at Oregon State on Friday
The Ducks become the first Pac-12 team to crush the SI Top Ten after winning a ping-pong match with the Bruins. Oregon needs some defensive work after giving up 462 yards and 35 points to a UCLA team playing its backup quarterback. But his own quarterback, Tyler Shough, had another big game (334 passing yards, three touchdowns). The best thing that could happen to Oregon is for Washington to keep rolling (2-0) and create a big game for the Pac-12 North Championship on December 12.
Also Considered: Indiana, Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Miami, Colorado, Nevada