The Morning Call
Big Ten title could be Indiana vs. NU
The spotlight on the Big Ten this weekend, as two crucial matchups could help decide who meets in the conference title game in December.
Here’s what to watch in college football for Week 12:
Hope for the Hoosiers?
No matter what happens next, this is already one of the best Indiana football seasons ever. There was Michael Penix Jr.’s unforgettable stretch across the goal line to topple No. 8 Penn State in overtime. A 17-point beatdown of Michigan to end a 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines. A shutout of Michigan State to move to 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1987.
Now, with its highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since
1967, the No. 9 Hoosiers have a chance to do something nobody ever thought was possible at the basketball school:
Win a Big Ten title.
Don’t laugh. Sure, No.
3 Ohio State looms on
Saturday, with the Buckeyes looking like one of the best teams in the country behind future top draft pick Justin Fields. And sure, those wins over Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State don’t look so great now that those teams a combined 2-10. But by virtue of his recruiting connections at his old high school coaching days in Florida, Tom Allen has built a program that proved it can hang in one of the nation’s toughest divisions.
Big Ten bonafides
Ohio State’s recent dominance in the Big Ten East is rivaled only by Wisconsin’s in the West. Both schools have won four division titles since the league moved to its current division format in 2014 and have met in the conference title game two of the past three seasons. That just might change this season.
If it does, it’s going to take a heroic effort from Northwestern. Wisconsin has played just two games this season, but it has outscored those opponents 94-18. The Badgers rank third nationally in efficiency, according to ESPN’s SP+, with a crushing defense and a powerful rushing attack. Quarterback Graham Mertz wasn’t asked to do much against Michigan, but he showed in a nearly perfect debut against Illinois that he’s capable of handling plenty.
So what chance do the Wildcats have? It starts with the defense, which ranks fifth nationally in efficiency after holding its first four opponents to 20 points or fewer and forcing 10 turnovers. This weekend could end with Northwestern and Indiana on track to meet for the Big Ten title in December. What a weird year.
Can anyone stop Cincinnati?
Cincinnati’s quest for an undefeated season and a spot in the College Football Playoff fittingly faces its toughest test against a Central Florida team that has come the closest to cracking the field.
The Knights went 12-0 in 2017, but that wasn’t enough to sway the committee. So why do the Bearcats have a chance? Not only have they been winning, but are doing so in dominant fashion. The average score of their seven straight victories has been 42-12. Style points matter for potential playoff teams, and more so for a Group of Five team trying to prove it belongs.
That dominance needs to continue Saturday. UCF is 5-2, and boasts one of the nation’s best offenses led by one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, Dillon Gabriel.
Bedlam bragging rights
There’s a running joke among the college football community that there are only three possible results for the annual rivalry game called “Bedlam”: Oklahoma wins close, Oklahoma wins in a rout or Oklahoma wins by a medium amount.
The 81-18-7 series lead for Oklahoma speaks to that dominance, especially recently. The Cowboys have won just two meetings since 2003.