Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up in the next podcast.
1. Down go the Nittany Lions
Entering the fourth quarter of Penn State’s contest with Ohio State on Saturday, it looked as if the Nittany Lions were going to cruise to a statement road victory, one that could lead them to a top-2 seed in the College Football Playoff. 15 game-minutes later, Penn State would need a prayer and then some to stay in the playoff hunt.
Ohio State beat Penn State 39-38 on Saturday, and they shut down Saquon Barkley to an extent. Barkley finished with just 44 rushing yards on 21 carries. Barkley still flashed his talent quite a bit, but the end stats weren’t pretty. This isn’t uncommon. Against Indiana, he finished with 56 yards on 20 carries. Against Northwestern, he ended with 75 yards on 16 carries, but most of them came on a long run near the end of the game.
Barkley may still be the leading Heisman candidate and Penn State may still be a top-four team in the country, but it’s going to be quite tough for the Nittany Lions to oust Ohio State in the Big Ten standings and earn a spot in the playoff.
2. Can anyone stop the Buckeyes?
Meanwhile, Ohio State proved its legitimacy on Saturday. The Buckeyes had picked up fruitless victories against UNLV, Army, Maryland and more. This one, not so much. Following its win, the Buckeyes look like the best team in the Big Ten.
Ohio State finishes the season with home games against Michigan State and Illinois and road contests versus Iowa and Michigan. All of those should be pretty easy victories. Michigan will come to play but Ohio State looks just about unstoppable right now.
Speaking of unstoppable…
3. …J.T. Barrett
It took Barrett a very, very long time to reach his potential, but for Ohio State fans, it looks like it’s worth the wait. The senior completed 33 of 39 passes for 328 yards and totaled four touchdowns and no interceptions against one of the best defenses in the country.
He also stepped up in a big game! The last four weeks didn’t come off as total flukes. Barrett’s numbers on the season are ridiculous. He has compiled 2166 yards, 25 touchdowns and just one interception. At the beginning of the season, Michael called Barrett a liability. By the end, Michael may be calling him Heisman.
Photo: The Daily Northwestern
4. Can Northwestern run the table?
The odds became very, very possible following the Wildcats’ 39-31 victory over Michigan State on Saturday. Northwestern held its ground and may lead the pack among the non-elites in the Big Ten. Right now, it would be reasonable to place the Wildcats fourth in Big Ten power rankings.
And looking at Northwestern’s schedule, each game appears winnable. The Wildcats will face Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois with a chance to finish the season 9-3.
Watch them go into the final week 8-3 and lose to Illinois.
5. MSU may be embarking on a losing skid
Michigan State really needed to win last week for momentum-sake. Instead, the Spartans dropped a road contest to Northwestern with the meat of their schedule looming ahead. Michigan State now has Penn State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. I’ll be interested to see how quarterback Brian Lewerke and the rest of that young squad responds to the loss against Northwestern.