Remember when some were openly wondering why we would even bother to play out the season? That Braxton Miller spin move sure was pretty.
Ezekiel Elliott, now Ohio State's only realistic Heisman candidate after they opened the season with four hopefuls, broke off second-half TD runs of 55, 65 and 75 and finished with 274 rushing yards to take the pressure off another inconsistent effort from Cardale Jones.
A few hours earlier, Michigan State hit the snooze button on the second half, nearly blowing a 21-0 lead in a 24-21 home win over 1-4 Purdue. The Spartans are now 0-5 against the spread, a glaring reminder that they haven't looked as dominant as a Top-5 team should. That 31-28 home win over Oregon no longer looks as strong given what Utah managed in Eugene, winning 62-20. Western Michigan and Central Michigan will be bowl-bound, but aren't among the top three in the MAC.
We won't really know just how good Mark Dantonio's Spartans are until Oct. 17 when they visit Ann Arbor and Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines, likely as a small road favorite of 3-to-4 points. Michigan looks like the fourth-best team in the conference, just ahead of unbeaten Iowa and behind undefeated Northwestern.
What Pat Fitzgerald has already accomplished in Evanston on the heels of back-to-back 5-7 seasons is a great story. Legitimately, the Wildcats have the best resume in the conference, possibly tops in the entire country, having defeated Stanford and Minnesota at home while also winning at Duke. However, with Wisconsin slumping, this weekend's visit to Michigan looms as the toughest test for a team that could conceivably run the table if it pulls an upset. The Wolverines opened as 7.5-point favorites.
If Northwestern manages to win and runs the table to set up a battle of unbeatens between themselves and the Michigan State/Ohio State winner in a Dec. 5 Big Ten Championship, the loser likely won't have enough quality wins to beat out one-loss teams from most of the other Power-5 conferences.
Iowa is undefeated, but visits Northwestern in its toughest game the rest of the way on Oct. 17. It doesn't play either Michigan school or the Buckeyes and wouldn't beat any of those teams anyway.
Nebraska has talent, but lost close games to BYU, Miami and now Illinois. The Badgers are a shell of themselves. The Gophers aren''t as good as they hoped to be. Penn State, despite top QB prospect Christian Hackenberg, is hard to watch. The newest members, Maryland and Rutgers, are in the midst of tumultuous seasons.
See what we're getting at? Because the league, collectively, is having major issues, there isn't going to be enough respect for a 1-loss Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern or Iowa to crash the postseason party. It's undefeated or bust, Big Ten rep. There can only be one. There should only be one.
NCAA Football Week 3 recap snapshot
1. Ohio State 34 Indiana 27, 2. Oklahoma St. 36, Kansas St. 34, 3. Clemson 24 Notre Dame 22
1. Elliott: 23-274 yds 3 TDs at Indiana, 2. Trevone Boykin: 20-35 32 yds 5 TD, 52 rushing yds vs. Texas, 3. Leonard Fournette, LSU: 26-233 yds 3 TD vs Eastern Michigan.
1. Florida freshman QB Will Grier threw a 36-yd TD pass to Demarcus Robinson with Ole Miss star Robert Nkemdiche bearing down on him to open the scoring in Florida's 38-10 rout of Ole Miss. 2. In a game whose total closed at 90, Baylor RB Shock Linwood bbegan the avalanche on his team's third play from scrimmage, exploding for a 79-yard run to help start an eventual 63-35. 3. Only because of the history involved, Georgia's Nick Chubb breaking off an 83-yard third-quarter TD run to help save some face in the 38-10 defeat to Alabama claims this spot. Running right through the Crimson Tide defense is an accomplishment in and of itself, but the fact it helped tie Herschel Walker's school record of 13 consecutive 100-yard rushing games seals the deal. He'll look to make the mark all his at Tennessee.
Best coaching jobs:
1. Word is that Nick Saban lit up his team prior to the start of the Georgia win, taking them to task in the locker room after not liking what he saw in the pre-game warmups, likening it to the mood prior to the Ole Miss loss. Getting the Tide's attention obviously paid off. 2. With a lopsided upset of the Rebels, new Florida head coach Jim McElwain seems to already be more popular in Gainesville than predecessor Will Muschamp ever was. He had every facet of the Gators squad ready to play. 3. Even though they fell, what Indiana's Wilson nearly accomplished with backups in the backfield against Ohio State deserves to be lauded. Embattled Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell also kept his team from quitting in East Lansing, nearly coming all the way back to pull off a monumental upset.
Worst coaching jobs:
1. If it often looks like Brian Kelly throws his kids and fellow coaches under the bus, it's because he does. It's his turn to get steamrolled since his decisions on two-point conversions against Clemson, from going for it too early on the first one to a brutal playcall at the end, falls solely on his shoulders. 2. Mike MacIntyre had the vulnerable Ducks in his building and failed to capitalize. Although there were numerous wasted opportunities to surge ahead, the game swung when he got into a physical confrontation with defensive assistant Joe Tumpkin, shoving him twice after the safeties coach picked up an awful penalty on the sideline. Berating his coach was an awful look and did nothing to inspire his Buffs. 3. Camp Randall wasn't rocking in the 10-6 loss to Iowa because Paul Chryst's team couldn't get out of its own way offensively, managing just six points. The first-year Wisconsin head coach is having a difficult time in his return to Madison, where he was a quarterback in the late 80s and a wildly successful offensive coordinator from 2005 to '12 under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema.
Close calls and bad beats:
Bowling Green was a popular play after notching consecutive covers against Maryland, Memphis and Purdue, two of which were outright wins. Visiting a Buffalo team that has fallen off since the graduation of Khalil Mack, public money came in on the Falcons -7.5 and looked like a smart bet as they surged out to a 21-6 halftime lead and finished off a 10-play, 94-yard drive on the first play of the 4th quarter to go up 28-9. Those were their final points, while the Bulls scored on two straight drives and closed within 28-22. Even more painful, BGSU drove down to the Bulls 24-yard line on its final drive, but took knees after exhausting all of UB’s timeouts.
Ohio, another of the MAC’s top teams, was the public choice in laying just 2.5 on the road against Terry Bowden’s Akron Zips. The Bobcats led and were covering for most of the game after scoring the first TD 10:03 into the first quarter to go up 7-3. Akron chipped away with three field goal after falling behind 14-3 and lost just 14-12. Ouch.
‘Bama’s win over Georgia featured sadness for everyone who felt that game would feature plenty of fireworks despite the inclement weather. Although the Crimson Tide did the heavy lifting, Chubb’s huge run trimmed the deficit to 38-10 and created a situation where one more score in the final 15:10 would’ve delivered the over of 50.5. The fourth quarter was scoreless.
Over backers were rooting hard for Notre Dame to deliver a two-point conversion in its improbable comeback bid at Clemson once it pulled within 24-22. Despite the torrential rain, the number only fell to 49 from its starting point near the mid-50s early in the week before the effects of Hurricane Joaquin were factored in. If the Irish had scored, a push was guaranteed. They didn’t. Getting 2.5-3 points, Notre Dame did cover, which meant their inability to punch in the two-spot spelled a bad beat for Clemson-backers who were up comfortably much of the night.
Florida State’s interception of Wake Forest in the end zone late not only prevented a massive upset bid, but also delivered the under. Boise State led 49-0 at halftime against Hawaii, but won only 55-0, coming in under the posted total of 56.5.
Finally, in perhaps the worst beat of the weekend, New Mexico State was tackled by New Mexico in the end zone with just 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter, sealing a tough win by adding a couple of points to go up 38-29. The total ended up closing at 66, so that safety crushed under bettors, netting the over by a single point.
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook (Hamstring, day-to-day), Michigan LB Mario Ojemudia (Achilles, OFY), Kansas QB Montell Cozart (Shoulder sprain, Out indefinitely), Kansas QB Deondre Ford (Thumb, OFY), Florida State DB Nate Andrews (Knee, out indefinitely), Michigan State DB RJ Williamson (Torn bicep, out indefinitely).
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA