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Ohio State is no longer undefeated, and that’s a real bummer for the Buckeyes.
But the thing is, it’s true what Urban Meyer says: His team’s goals are all still in front of it.
“Every goal is still alive,” Meyer said after Saturday's game. “We’re just not a great team right now. We’ve got to regroup and get guys healthy and get back and keep swinging.
“I talked to the team, and then Raekwon McMillan and some of the other leaders talked to the team. Let’s go, time to get to work.”
The Buckeyes lost in shocking fashion Saturday night, upended by Penn State when the Nittany Lions returned a blocked field goal try 60 yards for a touchdown.
At first glance, you’d think this flips the Big Ten on its head, and it is true that Ohio State can no longer be considered the favorite for the crowns it chases: the Big Ten East Division title, the Big Ten title and the national title. The favorite for those first two championships, at least, is now Michigan, which sits at 7-0, having dominated all but one opponent this season, while Ohio State dropped to 6-1 on Saturday night.
But until the Buckeyes suffer defeat No. 2, there’s really nothing stopping them from competing for and winning all those titles.
There are currently seven undefeated teams hailing from Power Five conferences: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, Baylor and West Virginia. That’s Ohio State’s competition for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Plenty will happen between now and when the selection committee picks the sport’s final four, meaning that list will be trimmed, if not completely emptied.
But the main point here is that as long as the Buckeyes take care of the rest of their business prior to the regular season’s final week — easier said than done, of course, with Nebraska still remaining on the schedule — things will come down to The Game, just as it they were going to before Saturday’s loss in Pennsylvania. If Ohio State enters its end-of-season date with rival Michigan with one loss and the Wolverines boast a spotless record, a win in The Game will still send the Buckeyes to Indy and could make all the difference in sending them to the Playoff.
Now, of course there’s no more room for error. Be it Nebraska or some other upset-minded opponent, Ohio State cannot trip up one more time, or its destiny will be out of its control.
And no longer do the Buckeyes look like the favorite for The Game. They might've prior to Saturday, and certainly last season's result is still in our minds. But the Wolverines are now not just equals with the Buckeyes, they're the favorites.
But as things stand, a one-loss group of Buckeyes with wins over Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and whichever team comes out of the West Division in the Big Ten title game will most definitely warrant a spot in the Playoff field.
As for Saturday? A heck of a college football game and a heck of a moment for Penn State. But Ohio State is still on pretty much the same path it was on before.
The five teams Notre Dame has lost to this season are a combined 10-19 when they don't play the Irish after yet another week in which Texas, Michigan State, N.C. State and Stanford lost in various levels of embarrassing fashion (Duke was spared on a bye week). Notre Dame can point to its narrow losses all it wants, but it hasn't played a difficult schedule at all to date.
Before running down the action from Notre Dame’s bye week, your weekly Irish opponent power rankings:
1. Navy (5-1)
2. Virginia Tech (5-2)
3. USC (4-3)
4. N.C. State (4-3)
5. Miami (4-3)
6. Stanford (4-3)
7. Syracuse (4-4)
8. Texas (3-4)
9. Duke (3-4)
10. Army (4-3)
11. Nevada (3-5)
12. Michigan State (2-5)
On to the games:
Texas: Lost, 24-21, at Kansas State
The Longhorns are 3-4 and Charlie Strong’s job is very much in jeopardy. It wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see them hit the seven-loss mark by mid-November with games against Baylor, at Texas Tech and against West Virginia looming.
Nevada: Lost, 42-34, to Wyoming
The Wolf Pack are 3-5 and need a major turnaround to reach a bowl game.
Michigan State: Lost, 28-17, at Maryland
Michigan State’s only wins are over FCS side Furman and Notre Dame. Their losses are to Wisconsin (by 24), Indiana (by three), BYU (by 17), Northwestern (by 14) and Maryland (by 11). The Spartans have to two of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State and not lose to Illinois and Rutgers to make a bowl game. In short: It’s not happening.
Duke: Bye week
The Blue Devils had the week off before a trip to Georgia Tech that’ll probably determine whether or not they reach bowl game this year.
Syracuse: Won, 28-20, at Boston College
Full credit to Dino Babers’ Orange for another win — getting to four this early in the season is a nice accomplishment in Year 1 heading things up at a difficult place to win. After a bye week, though, Syracuse gets Clemson, N.C. State, Florida State and Pitt, so getting to six wins is hardly a guarantee.
N.C. State: Lost, 54-13, at Louisville
A week after nearly knocking off Clemson, N.C. State was carved up by Lamar Jackson (20/34, 355 yards, 3 TDs, 17 carries, 76 yards, 1 TD), but more surprising was how ineffective the Wolfpack offense was. Ryan Finley threw two picks while the team combined to rush 25 times for only 14 yards.
Stanford: Lost, 10-5, vs. Colorado
Christian McCaffrey’s return (21 carries, 92 yards, 2 receptions, 26 yards) didn’t make a difference as Stanford reverted back to its baffling struggles a week after beating Notre Dame. After the game, David Shaw took responsibility for Stanford’s issues, saying “our personnel doesn’t reflect our production, and all the fingers point to me. That’s on me. That’s my responsibility to get the most out of the players we have.”
Miami: Lost, 37-16, at Virginia Tech
Notre Dame should heed these numbers:
Miami QB Brad Kaaya:— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 21, 2016
No Pressure: 67.5 comp%, 110.3 NFL passer rating
with Pressure: 32.4 comp%, 37.9 NFL passer rating
Meanwhile, Miami has fallen hard since starting the season 4-0. A one-point loss to Florida State and a seven-point loss to North Carolina weren’t awful, but getting blown out by three touchdowns on the road at Virginia Tech effectively took the ‘Canes out of the ACC Coastal race. Miami’s losing streak is now longer than Notre Dame’s coming into Saturday, for what it’s worth.
Navy: Won, 42-28, vs. Memphis
Navy rushed for 447 yards on 74 carries and quarterback Will Worth had 201 yards and three touchdowns as the MIds powered their way to another solid win. A tricky Friday trip to South Florida awaits before Navy faces Notre Dame in Jacksonville in early November.
Army: Lost, 35-18, vs. North Texas
A home loss against North Texas might be the death knell for Army’s hopes of reaching its first bowl game since 2010. The Black Knights’ remaining games: At Wake Forest, vs. Air Force, vs. Notre Dame. vs. Morgan State and vs. Navy. At best, there are only two wins in there, one would think.
Virginia Tech: Won, 37-16, vs. Miami
This was a nice rebound game for the Hokies after losing last week to Syracuse. Jerod Evans completed 21 of 33 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns and ran 19 times for 98 yards with a score, while Virginia Tech’s defense held Miami running backs Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton to 87 yards on 20 carries — with 41 of those yards coming on one Yearby carry.
USC: Bye week
With a home game against Cal on Thursday coming up, USC got Saturday off to rest up for what should be a high-scoring evening in Los Angeles.