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Controversial rankings and the Battle for the Big Ten - Week 9 Highlights

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

It was a decisive week in the Big Ten, and huge news emerged from the College Football Playoff selection committee's controversial first set of rankings. Despite the AP Top 25, often referred to in the broadcast, print media and this blog, which is determined by the sports media, and the self-explanatory Coaches Poll, the decision on who gets into the end of season top four and College Football Playoff, is purely determined by the selection committee. The six teams at the top of their initial rankings:

  1. Georgia 8-0

  2. Alabama 7-1

  3. Michigan State 8-0

  4. Oregon 7-1

5. Ohio State 7-1

6. Cincinnati 8-0

No.2 in the AP rankings, Cincinnati's hopes of making the playoff will hinge on how strongly Notre Dame finish the season, thanks to their 24-13 victory over the Fighting Irish earlier this season. Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State, with one loss all sit above the unbeaten Bearcats, who are punished by their lighter schedule. If Georgia or Auburn can beat Alabama and condemn them to a two-loss season, then perhaps the Bearcats have another opportunity to get into the playoff.

Ohio State's end of November contest with Michigan State suddenly has enormous implications, for either team and also Cincinnati. The next few weeks will be fascinating to watch.

Here's my highlights of the week:

The Big Ten...

No.6 Michigan 33-37 No.8 Michigan State

Michigan State's Charles Brantley sealed the Paul Bunyan Trophy with a spectacular interception (Image credit: @jakemayphoto)

With both teams coming into this Big 10 showdown with 7-0 records, there was more than just the Paul Bunyan Trophy at stake for the winner. Michigan's Cade McNamara set the tone for a thrilling game with a 93-yard touchdown pass to Andrel Anthony before being replaced by J.J. McCarthy at quarterback. The Wolverines started confidently and were up 30-14 late in the third quarter.

Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III stamped his authority on the game and a tilt at the Heisman Trophy with 23 carries for 197 yards rushing and a staggering five touchdowns. His 58-yard run brought the Spartans back to 30-28 before Payton Thorne's pass to Jayden Reed gave Michigan State a 2-point conversion and a 30-30 tied game.

"I don't feel it was a Heisman moment, just a great team win." Kenneth Walker III on what probably was a Heisman moment.

Charles Brantley's spectacular one-handed interception gave Michigan State the win and the lead in the Big Ten East. Mel Tucker became the first Spartans coach to win their first two games against Michigan.

No.20 Penn State 24-33 No.5 Ohio State

TreVeyon Henderson has fifteen touchdowns for Ohio State this season (Image credit: AP/Jay LaPrete)

Ohio State's season is gaining momentum. They have put themselves back into the College Football Playoff picture with a home win over Penn State, their fifteenth straight over the Nittany Lions, with a November 20th showdown with 8-0 Michigan State likely to decide the Big Ten.

In Ohio State's glittering array of offensive stars, the one shining the brightest is TreVeyon Henderson. The Buckeyes' running back ran for 152 yards on 28 carries, the highlight being a 68-yard scamper to the Penn State goal line. He ran in the touchdown on the next play, taking him to fifteen for the season. C.J. Stroud passed for 305 yards and a touchdown while Penn State QB Sean Clifford completed 35 of 52 pass attempts for 361 yards, a touchdown and interception.

No.9 Iowa's season appears to be in freefall. Having reached the heady heights of the Top Four, they fell ten places with a humbling 27-7 defeat to Wisconsin in Madison. The Badgers' strong running game was too much for the Hawkeyes, down 20-0 in a first half where they could only muster 17 yards of offense. Wisconsin have now won four in a row and move to 5-3. Minnesota ran for 308 yards in a 41-14 demolition of Maryland, moving to 6-2, also taking a share of the Big Ten West.

The contenders...

No.1 Georgia 34-7 Florida

Can anyone stop Georgia's run game? (Image credit: 247 Sports)

Can anyone score enough points to beat this impregnable Georgia team? Their rivalry game with Florida, also known as The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, took place at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville.

Georgia's defense dominated as the Bulldogs took a 23-0 lead. They have allowed less than 14 points for eight consecutive games, a school record stretching back to 1942. Florida couldn't handle Georgia's run game, allowing Stetson Bennett to stretch the field with passes to his speedy receiving corps. If Kentucky lost to Mississippi State, then Georgia would advance to the SEC championship game, with three games to spare.

No.12 Kentucky 17-31 Mississippi State

Will Rogers led Mississippi State to an upset win over faltering Kentucky (Image credit: AP/Rogelio V. Solis)

Georgia are in the SEC Championship game. Mississippi State upset Kentucky with a record-setting performance from Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers, The Mississippi State's sophomore signal caller completed 36 of 39 passes - an SEC record 92% completion rate - throwing to 12 different receivers, moving his team to 5-3.

His opposing number and namesake, Will Levis, struggled by comparison, throwing three interceptions as Kentucky, previously considered the surprise package in the SEC, slipped to 6-2.

No.2 Cincinnati 31-12 Tulane

The big news around Cincinnati this week revolved around their current exclusion from the top four rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The now 8-0 Bearcats scored 17 unanswered second-half points against Tulane as QB Desmond Ridder threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns against the Green Wave.

No.10 Ole Miss 20-31 No.18 Auburn

Bo Nix led Auburn to victory over Ole Miss in a crucial SEC game (AP/Butch Dill)

A strong performance from former five-star recruit Bo Nix gave Auburn a pivotal win over Ole Miss in the SEC. Nix ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, completing 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards. ensuring Auburn remain the lead challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. Ole Miss lost Matt Corral to injury before returning fo an 11 yard touchdown run. This was the first game in two years that the Mississippi quarterback hasn't thrown a touchdown pass. Ole Miss squandered two 4th down conversion opportunities when they were 28-17 down. They slip to 6-2. while Auburn are heading for an Iron Bowl decider with Playoff implications against in-state rivals Alabama.

In the ACC...

Duke 7-45 No.13 Wake Forest

Arguably college football's dark horse, Wake Forest overwhelmed ACC rivals Duke to move to 8-0, their best start in program history. Sam Hartman is impressing at quarterback and will be in the minds of NFL general managers when he does move to the Draft. He put up 402 passing yards, throwing three touchdown passes, running for a further two and 61 yards. He still has two years of eligibility left, don't be surprised to see him contend for a first round NFL Draft pick in 2023, and for the Demon Deacons to win the ACC this year and knock on the Playoff door.

UNC's disappointing season continued with a 34-44 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. Kyren Williams ran for over 200 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown run. No.17 Pitt stumbled with a 34-38 defeat to Miami in a game where the two quarterbacks combined for 900 yards passing. Pitt's Heisman contending quarterback, Kenny Pickett, surpassed the great Dan Marino as his college's leading touchdown passer, moving on to 83. Tyler van Dyke, Miami's freshman under center, completed 32 of 42 passes for 428 yards and three touchdowns.

Clemson returned to winning ways with a 30-30 win over Florida State, moving to 5-3.

In the Big 12...

Texas 24-31 No.16 Baylor

Baylor made their statement for the Big 12 with a convincing win over Texas (Image credit: The Baylor Lariat)

Baylor moves to 7-1 in a remarkable turnaround for a team that struggled last season. Texas, true to form this season, took an early lead and were 21-17 up early in the fourth quarter, their fifth loss after a fourth quarter lead in the last two seasons. They move to 4-4. Steve Sarkisian has a lot of work to do.

Baylor are vying for the second spot in the SEC with No.15 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys thrashed Kansas 55-3 to keep themselves in contention while No.22 Iowa State lost 38-31 to West Virginia


Virginia 49-66 No.25 Brigham Young

This was a wild game featuring 1,322 total yards of offense and an unbelievable catch from Virginia's Dontayvion Wicks. His quarterback. Brennan Armstrong had a career day, passing for 337 yards and four touchdowns, additionally running in another two. He also rushed for 94 yards, cementing himself in Cavaliers' history as their all-time single-season leader in passing yards.

BYU, a season after losing Zach Wilson to the New York Jets in the NFL, continue to impress. Wilson's replacement, Jarren Hall passed for 349 yards while Tyler Allgeier, arguably the game's MVP, ran for an eye-popping 266 yards and three touchdowns.

Liberty thumped UMass 62-17 as Malik Willis's form continues to improve. He passed for four touchdowns and 307 yards and faces Matt Corral and Ole Miss this weekend in a game likely to be filled with NFL scouts looking for their next quarterback.

Games to look out for this week:

No.14 Auburn travels to face No.12 Texas A&M in a crucial SEC showdown. Can Bo Nix and the Tigers keep their momentum going?

Staying in the SEC, No.3 Alabama hosts LSU in Tuscaloosa, knowing they can't afford to lose. Ed Orgeron would love to score an upset win over the Crimson Tide in his last few weeks in Baton Rouge.

Can No.9 Wake Forest keep their quest for ACC title contention alive with an in-state collision with preseason favourite North Carolina in Chapel Hill?

Here's this week's AP Top 25...

Rank Team Record

1 (1) Georgia 8-0

2 (2) Cincinnati 8-0

3 (3) Alabama 7-1

4 (4) Oklahoma 9-0

5 (8) Michigan State 8-0

6 (5) Ohio State 7-1

7 (7) Oregon 7-1

8 (11) Notre Dame 7-1

9 (6) Michigan 7-1

10 (13) Wake Forest 8-0

11 (15) Oklahoma State 7-1

12 (18) Auburn 6-2

13 (14) Texas A&M 6-2

14 (16) Baylor 7-1

15 (10) Ole Miss 6-2

16 (23) UTSA 8-0

17 (25) Brigham Young 7-2

18 (12) Kentucky 6-2

19 (9) Iowa 6-2

20 (-) Houston 7-1

21 (24) Coastal Carolina 7-1

22 (-) Penn State 5-2

23 (19) SMU 7-1

24 (-) Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1

25 (-) Fresno State 7-2

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