On the fifth weekend of college football three games had a significant impact on the playoffs which seem far off but have already begun with elimination games. No game was quite as important as the Ohio State visit to Happy Valley for a white-out showdown with Penn State. The game was fabulous entertainment with a flipflopping scoreboard and last-minute heroics and controversies to argue on Twitter. However, to the winner went all the spoils. Ohio State’s victory makes them the first odds-on favorite to be a part of the playoff since their remaining schedule appears to be manageable. Thanks to the schedule-makers, the Buckeyes’ cross-over opponents from the Western Division of the Big Ten are Purdue and Minnesota. Enough said.
Twitter erupted when Penn State gave the ball to the tailback on a 4th down and 5 yards to go play from the Ohio State 43 yard line with 1:16 left in the game. All evening, quarterback Trace McSorley had been the entire Penn State offense so what was coach James Franklin thinking? Franklin has been roasted for the call, but the Nittany Lions didn’t lose the game on that play. That was the tenth time Penn State had driven the ball from its own territory into Buckeye territory—an amazingly high number for any game against any opponent—and it became the sixth time they came away with no points. Twice they had settled for field goals. So, that final bad play call wasn’t the first bad call for Penn State. Penn State converted only three times on seventeen third down opportunities. The bad play calling had happened all night long. On average for ranked teams, Penn State should have had ten more points on the scoreboard and should have been running out the clock.
Ohio State didn’t play well, either, scoring only four times on sixteen possessions—the average is over 40 percent—and converting just four of sixteen third downs while racking up an embarrassing seven three-and-outs. But the Buckeyes are likely the first team into the playoffs.
The second most important game of the weekend was Stanford at Notre Dame. For the second week in a row, the Irish played surprisingly well (a grade of 106.15), which confuses fans who watched them post F-grades in two earlier wins. Like the Buckeyes, the Irish now have a manageable schedule but they won’t win a conference championship game, so the jury is still out on a Notre Dame playoff appearance. Stanford, of course, is out of the competition. Even if they beat Washington and win the Pac-12, their title won’t be as highly regarded—the Pac-12 is weak again in case you haven’t noticed—as titles for Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, etc.
The third important game involved a third string quarterback leading Clemson to a come-from-behind victory over Syracuse. The quarterback’s performance will go down in Clemson folklore as a season-saving prayer that was answered but the fact is that Clemson’s game grade of 71.62 didn’t help them secure a spot in the playoff, it merely kept them from being eliminated from the playoff. One comment on Kelly Bryant’s decision to transfer: selfish.
The best game grade of the weekend was earned by Oklahoma (107.01), followed by Notre Dame and Alabama. The problem for Alabama is that they have yet to face LSU, Auburn and Georgia, the toughest set of elimination games remaining for any playoff contender. This week we added Miami back at No. 8 after consecutive good performances and that makes the Canes the most underrated team as compared with national polls.
For a complete list of ranked teams and weekend playing performance grades, visit www.nemosnumbers.com. If you want to know how the numerical grades are calculated, find a copy of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics wherever you buy books.