Sunday Morning QB: Historical Win At Michigan

OK, this column isn't coming out on Sunday, but we can't very well change the name this late into it. We have a ton of notes from OSU's historical come-from-behind win at Michigan on Saturday. We answer the Ten Pressing Questions and also provide some bowl speculation. And we look at the Big Ten and college football picture at-large. This is a must-read if you are an OSU fan.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

First, let's take a look at OSU's win over Michigan:

* I have spent all day (literally) working on this column. I have so many thoughts and feelings and insights and comments to share on what we saw on Saturday.

OK, it's not Sunday morning any more. That's OK, I think we have some interesting things to discuss after what was another Ohio State moment on Saturday at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

On Friday, I posed Ten Pressing Questions for OSU's game at Michigan. Before getting into some other topics surrounding this game, let me answer those questions.

1. Which Troy Smith will show up for the Buckeyes? -- We felt it was unlikely that Smith would eclipse – or even approach – the 386 yards of total offense he put up against Michigan a year ago. He did end up in the ballpark, though, with a career-high 300 yards passing to go with 37 yards rushing.

But the end result – another stirring win over the rival Wolverines – was very much the same. The inconsistent Smith who had problems with San Diego State and had a couple of key turnovers in the loss at Penn State seems to be a distant memory.

This new Smith is a guy who stands in when he's supposed to, stays alive when he has to and takes off when he needs to. He is a killer and a winner in every sense.

"With the composure that Troy has, we have faith in him that he will get the job done," said receiver Santonio Holmes, who caught six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. "He's been our leader. We just kept faith in him and he led us back to the victory."

"He's a legend," left guard Rob Sims added on his friend Smith.

2. Can Antonio Pittman approach or eclipse the 100-yard mark? -- Pittman did not get his 100 yards; it only seemed like it.

But he did tote the rock 23 times for 85 yards, including the game-winning 3-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left. He also had four catches for 31 important yards as well. He continued his upward trend of strong running and never backed down from the challenge.

Pittman – and his offensive line – helped Ohio State hold the ball for over 31 minutes in the most important game of this or any other season.

"I knew we could put it all together and get it rolling," Pittman said. "It looked shaky at points in this game. But we got it all together and punched it in."

For the year, Pittman now has 1,195 yards and six touchdowns.

"If Pittman's not All-Big Ten, I don't know who is," said OSU right tackle Kirk Barton. "He's better than any back I've seen in the Big Ten."

3. Will Ted Ginn Jr. and/or Santonio Holmes get loose and make a big play on offense? -- Well, as noted above, Holmes certainly did. His 26-yard touchdown grab with 6:40 left put some teeth in OSU's late comeback bid. This touchdown gives him four career TD grabs against Michigan.

"Santonio is a guy, who as a receiver is open all the time," Smith said. "He can be guarded by three people and he'll still get open. That's the mentality that a receiver has to have. It doesn't matter where the ball is, you have to have the understanding that, ‘I have to go get the ball,' and Santonio does that. He is a great player."

Ginn had the classic up-and-down day. He muffed two punts that stalled OSU's bid to put the game away in the third quarter.

"That's tough," said OSU coach Jim Tressel, who improved to 4-1 against Michigan. "I think there was a lot of sun and the winds were swirling around. You just couldn't catch it clean. Those were tough conditions."

But, like Smith, when this game of all games was on the line, Ginn was present and accounted for. He had three catches on the final touchdown drive, including a nifty one-hander.

He ended the game with a career-high nine catches for 89 yards and took one more step toward becoming a complete receiver.

4. Can the Buckeyes avoid costly mistakes? -- Uh, no. But it didn't matter.

The Buckeyes rallied for the victory despite two turnovers and a shanked punt that led to scores, a missed extra point and field goal by usually steady Josh Huston, Ginn's two mishandled punt returns and two pass interference penalties in the end zone.

"Our guys just kept playing," Tressel said. "The ball was rolling around the wrong way and we weren't holding on it. We get a penalty here or there, a pass interference call. But our guys just kept playing. I can't remember one that was like that, but we'll remember this one today."

5. Will Ohio State contain Michigan tailback Mike Hart? -- When Ohio State has had success against Michigan in recent years, it has been almost exclusively because the Buckeyes were able to stop Michigan on the ground.

That was the case in 2002, when OSU held Chris Perry to 76 yards on 28 carries. That was the case last year, when Hart finished with 61 yards on 18 attempts. (It was not the case in 2003, when Perry trampled OSU, but I digress.)

Ohio State came into this game with the nation's No. 2-ranked rushing defense at 78.7 yards per game. What did Michigan end up with? Uh, just 32 yards on 24 attempts. That's right. The University of Michigan lined up against Ohio State and averaged 48 inches per rushing attempt.

Hart had 15 yards on nine carries before leaving the game in the third quarter. He was Michigan's leading rusher.

How did they do it?

"There was nothing special," said OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk, whose seven tackles were second to Anthony Schlegel's team-high 10. "We didn't run any crazy defenses at them and we didn't blitz as much. We just played good gap sound, fundamental defense. With a great D-line like we have, you just have to do your job and everything should be all right."

6. Can the Buckeyes get pressure on Michigan QB Chad Henne and force some mistakes? -- Henne, a sophomore making his second start against Ohio State, was doggone impressive. He was 25 of 36 for 223 yards with a touchdown. He was sacked only once.

Henne made some magic happen with Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham and Jason Avant.

But, as we said above, when Ohio State has succeeded in making Michigan one-dimensional, it has been a recipe for success. As Michigan was trying to salt the game away, the OSU defense came up big.

"They did that little play to Breaston," Schlegel said. "We had guys flying over and they blocked it well. We had guys running from the back side all game. We stopped them, forced them to do that little pooch kick and the offense did the rest."

7. How will the OSU secondary handle UM's talented receivers? -- It was a tough day for OSU corners Ashton Youboty and Tyler Everett. Each was nabbed for pass interference in the end zone. I thought the Youboty call was a good one, while the Everett call appeared to be bogus.

Avant caught a perfect fade for a touchdown over Youboty and Manningham got loose for the game's longest play, a 38-yarder that set up just a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

"We're a bend but don't break type of defense," said safety Donte Whitner, who had four stops. "We didn't really get great pressure on him today, but we had great coverage. We had a couple of deep balls where we made some mistakes. We knew if we could stop the run they would complete some balls on us. We were going to give up one and take away the other.

"Our game plan was to make Henne beat us. There was no Braylon Edwards back there for him to just throw it up to. We wanted to make them drive the length of the field. They made a couple of good plays."

8. Can OSU pull out a tight game in The Big House? -- Yep, they aced this one with flying colors. So much for the hoo-hah that Tressel can't win a big game on the road.

"Coming into a game like this and a place like this where all of the fans are against you, they had the momentum," Hawk said. "But our offense came out and played unbelievable. They got the job done when they had to. They got two quick touchdowns for us and as a defense that makes it easier for us."

9. Will Josh Huston come through if the game is on the line? -- Huston almost got his shot, but Pittman's touchdown removed any need for Huston to have to kick even a short field goal for the win.

He, too, had kind of an up-and-down day. He made field goals of 47 and 25 yards, but missed an extra point and saw a 47-yard field goal sail wide right – although it should be noted that Michigan Stadium was somewhat of a wind tunnel.

But Huston said he was ready if he was needed.

"I'm sitting there and there's 40 seconds left and we have the ball at the 40," he said. "I'm thinking we may have a chance at the game winning field goal. I'm just getting mentally prepared for it. I'm just blocking out the wind and where you are and just getting focused."

Huston discussed his 47-yard miss.

"I hit it right where I wanted to," said Huston, who ended the regular season 20 of 24 on field goals. "The wind changed from left to right. It had been going from right to left. I put it right where I wanted to. I looked up and it was slowly creeping right."

10. Is Ohio State truly a Big Ten championship caliber team? -- We asked this one almost every week, and now we have the answer. That eight-week season is a real grind, but Ohio State came through it with flying colors.

OSU won its first Big Ten title since 2002 and fifth in 13 years. It is also the program's 30th overall.

"When our guys get to play for the Big Ten championship or play against Michigan, they want to be successful," Tressel said. "Our guys have wanted it badly all year. I think this was just a little bit of icing on the cake.

"Anytime you can beat a team the caliber of Michigan, it's huge. I had forgotten about the Big Ten championship stuff. We came through the door and they hand you a hat and they bring out the trophy. That wasn't even what we were out there playing for. We were playing the Wolverines, which is a thrill. It is so much fun to be a part of this game."

* With all of those questions answered, I have a few other comments and observations to make. I want to start with linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who suffered a broken ankle on the OSU defense's first play of the game.

What a tough break – literally and figuratively – for a guy who was such a huge part of OSU's success this year.

There has been no update regarding Carpenter's status. One would believe he would have only an outside shot of returning for the bowl game. His biggest hurdle, likely, is getting back to 100 percent so he can participate in the NFL draft combine.

It was truly a poignant moment seeing Carpenter, standing up on crutches, joining his teammates after the game and singing "Carmen Ohio" – on the field inside Michigan Stadium – for all he was worth.

Of course, his teammates made sure Carpenter had something to sing about.

"Losing a player like Bobby is tough," Hawk said. "He does everything for us. We let him know, ‘We're going to do this for you today, Bob.' He was on the sideline and supporting us. He helped us out a lot and told us what he was seeing.

"A lot of times we were running some nickel packages, but we didn't have Bobby rushing off the edge. Bobby is not only a great player but a great leader as well."

* With Carpenter out, true freshman James Laurinaitis filled in for Carpenter and did a fine job. He was credited with only one tackle, but seemed to be around the ball several times.

Likewise, fifth-year senior Andree Tyree was pressed into service as a blocking tight end after playing only sparingly in his previous 40-some games on the OSU roster. Tyree was found guilty of a holding penalty on OSU's first drive, but he was out there as the Buckeyes punched their game-winning touchdown into the end zone.

(In the press box, the comment was made that "Tyree is playing the best football of his life." That was countered by someone who said, "He is playing the only football of his life.)

Tyree shared his emotions after having such a big part in OSU's latest landmark victory.

"It meant everything in the world," he said. "In that locker room, there are many guys in there shedding tears. This was not a regular Big Ten game. To go out in this way, I couldn't ask for anything more. Those guys in there fought and gave it everything they had. I'm just real proud of the guys who came on this trip."

* Pittman's game-winning touchdown run was set up by sophomore Anthony Gonzalez's incredible leaping grab of a 26-yard Smith pass with 40 seconds left.

OSU had a first down at the Michigan 30, but was looking to put the game away. Smith avoided heat from UM linebacker David Harris and, in a move straight out of the Joe Montana playbook, backpedaled to buy himself some space and time. He rifled the pass downfield to Gonzalez, who went up to get the ball and absorbed a wicked hit by UM's Grant Mason. Gonzalez was knocked sideways and landed awkwardly – but he held on to the ball at the Michigan 4-yard line.

"I didn't understand why Santonio Holmes was hugging me," Gonzalez said, admitting he momentarily lost track of the bigger picture because he was focused simply on making the catch. "I didn't realize what kind of importance that play had on the game until everybody started going crazy.

"I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?' "

Gonzalez, who caught a long touchdown last year against Michigan, again played a big role in a win over the Wolverines.

"Anthony studies the game," Tressel said. "Every time I look in there, he's in there. He studies it during the game. He came up with a couple changes for us at halftime. We're going to have to start paying him and make him a member of the staff.

"He does whatever you ask. If you have unselfish people that are out there trying like crazy, usually good things happen to good people and that's what's happened with Gonzo."

* The Gonzalez catch was the biggest play to set up Pittman's touchdown. But the 12-play, 88-yard march saw Smith dial in like a surgeon, running a controlled passing game straight down the field.

"I was just sitting there telling myself, ‘Keep believing, keep believing,' " said senior safety Nate Salley. "Troy made some huge plays. Pittman finished it off with a great run."

Once Gonzalez had made his big catch, Salley said the OSU bench exploded in euphoria.

"We felt like we had it won," Salley said. "You don't want to get too happy too soon. You're on the 4-yard line, but anything could happen. When he made that catch, I was like, ‘Thank you, lord.' That was a huge play. We had to calm down and wait until they got into the end zone to celebrate, especially since we had to go back out on defense."

* Of course, Michigan got the ball back with 24 seconds left on its own 20. Henne immediately completed a 22-yard pass to Avant to give his team a Hail Mary chance to pull out the win. But that pass was never thrown. As the clock moved inside 10 seconds, Henne threw underneath to tight end Tyler Ecker in the left flat at the Michigan 48.

Michigan was out of timeouts and Ecker failed to get out of bounds before Everett could get him to the ground.

The Wolverines were helpless as the final five seconds ticked off the clock and fans shrieked from every corner of The Big House. OSU safety Donte Whitner had a perfect view of the final play.

"I'm thinking, ‘What is this guy doing? Why does he think he's going to go 65 yards and they had no timeouts?' " Whitner said. "I'm like, ‘Yeah, thanks for staying inbounds.' Tyler Everett or either A.J. or Anthony Schlegel made that play. I can't jump up there because I'm a deep guy. If I jump up there and they throw over our head, the whole state of Ohio is going to hate me.

"It's great. It's great. I'm just glad he stayed inbounds. I'm glad they coached them to stay inbounds. My hat goes off to them for staying inbounds."

* Of course, that final play touched off a massive OSU celebration as the Buckeyes and the band rushed onto the field in complete delirium.

Holmes was spotted running toward the OSU contingent in the southwest corner. There were hugs and the postgame prayer ritual, led by Brandon Schnittker. The game ball went to the family of former OSU wrestler Ray Mendoza, a Marine who was killed in action in Iraq earlier this week.

Defensive end Mike Kudla found Holmes, put his arm around him and said, "I love you, man."

Tressel and Smith were all smiles as they did a postgame interview arm in arm with ABC's Jack Arute.

Of course, there were some tears flowing as the team convened to sing the alma mater – amid public address announcements that the folks on the field should leave so the Michigan band could play.

Nobody on the team is all-business more than Hawk. But even he flashed a smile as the Buckeyes celebrated such a dramatic win.

The players were heard to chant "M-S-U" as they headed up the tunnel, hoping that Michigan State would knock off Penn State and assure OSU a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

Cigars – unlit, of course -- circulated among OSU officials, coaches and upperclassmen outside the locker room.

Huston was the first player into the media room after Tressel and Smith wrapped up their joint press conference. This was the sixth time he's been around for an Ohio State-Michigan game.

"This is great for the team," he said. "We did everything we could to win this game. We lost the special teams and we lost the turnover margin, but we won the game. Ninety percent of the time that doesn't happen. It's special. This is my fourth pair of Gold Pants – the first pair that I've actually deserved, I guess. I'm just excited."

* At least three Buckeyes have some thinking to do regarding their future. Holmes, Whitner and Youboty could all contemplate a jump to the NFL.

Whitner, OSU's emerging strong safety, shared his thoughts on that subject after the game.

"It's up in the air," Whitner said. "I'm going to go in and talk to Coach Tress. I'm going to see what's best for me and what's best for the football team."

* OSU welcomed Eddie George as its honorary captain for the game. George was 1-2-1 in his career against Michigan with the two losses painful ones that scrapped unbeaten seasons in 1993 and '95 in Ann Arbor.

"To see a guy who's been through everything he's been through – to play in the Super Bowl – to come here and tell us that doesn't compare to the Ohio State-Michigan game, that let's you know how important it is," Salley said. "You just try the best you can to make the most of this moment. We'll never get this back. No one can take this away from us. We're going out our senior year as Big Ten champions. We beat Michigan in The Big House."

George was grinning from ear to ear afterwards as he got to finally see an OSU win at Michigan Stadium.

"And to help Eddie feel a little bit better, that's great," Salley added.

* Saturday's win may go down as the most dramatic Ohio State win ever at Michigan. My research shows it may, indeed, be the first time OSU has ever scored the winning points in the final minute of a game at Ann Arbor.

OSU improved to 18-30-4 all-time at Michigan with the come-from-behind win.

"You win the game and you lose the turnover margin," Schlegel said. "I think we just wanted it more. The guys never quit. We dug deep down at the end of the game. The offense pulled out and made some huge plays. It was great watching the offense move down the field at the end. It was awesome."

My research found six previous OSU wins at Michigan that also went down to the wire:

1963 – OSU won 14-10 on Don Unverferth's 5-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. That play helped erase a 10-point deficit.

1965 – The Buckeyes prevailed 9-7 as Bob Funk, who earlier missed an extra point, hit a 28-yard field goal with 1:15 left.

1975 – OSU pulled out a 21-14 win to clinch the Rose Bowl bid. The Buckeyes trailed 14-7 late, but Cornelius Greene converted a third-and-17 predicament with a pass to Brian Baschnagel. That helped set up a Pete Johnson TD run. Then, after OSU's Ray Griffin returned an interception 29 yards to the Michigan 3, Johnson slammed his way into the end zone for the winning score with a scant 2:19 left. In terms of the stakes of the game, this 1975 win at Michigan may compare the most to the one on Saturday.

1979 – OSU won the famed Buckeye Block Party game 18-15 as Jim Laughlin blocked a punt and Todd Bell returned it 18 yards for the winning touchdown with 11:21 left. The win sent an unbeaten OSU team to the Rose Bowl.

1981 – The Buckeyes won 14-9 behind Art Schlichter's 6-yard touchdown run with 2:50 left. Fullback Vaughn Broadnax cleared out two UM defenders to pave the way to the score. OSU won a share of the Big Ten as a result.

1987 – OSU sent Earle Bruce out in style with a 23-20 win as Matt Frantz made a 26-yard field goal with 5:18 left. Frantz atoned for missing a late 47-yard field goal in OSU's 26-24 loss to Michigan a year earlier.

* This win marked the eighth time Ohio State has won at least a share of the Big Ten title in a year that included a win at Michigan. It's the first time OSU won in Ann Arbor in a conference championship season since 1981.

The others were 1935, 1955, 1957, 1961, 1975 and 1979.

* Ohio State is assured of nothing worse than a bid to the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2. If the Buckeyes are able to go on and win their bowl game, it would mark just the third time in school history that the Buckeyes would follow a win at Michigan with a bowl victory.

The last time it happened was in 1981, when OSU went on and defeated Navy in the Liberty Bowl.

If OSU plays in a BCS bowl or the Capital One, we would consider those bowls as the equivalent of a New Years' Day bowl. OSU has followed a win at Michigan with a win in a New Years' Day bowl or its equivalent just once in school history. That was 1957 – yes, 48 years ago – when the Buckeyes downed Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Of course, OSU turned down a Rose Bowl berth following a win at Michigan in 1961.

* Following the game there were murmurs about Michigan coach Lloyd Carr's job security as the Wolverines lost to OSU for the fourth time in five years and ended the regular season 7-4 overall.

Carr's record against OSU is now 6-5. It seems pretty clear that the worm has turned in this rivalry and things could easily get worse with Michigan due to visit Ohio State next year. (That will be on Nov. 18, mark your calendar.)

But I can't imagine any scenario where Carr is asked to resign. He was given a deal before the year where he can become an associate AD whenever he decides to step aside. He did win the national championship in 1997, after all, and Michigan did play in the last two Rose Bowls.

* The questions are being raised about Ohio State's bowl status. I think OSU will remain in the hunt through the BCS selections on Dec. 4. (Translation: The Big Ten's bowl partners may need to wait a while before they fill out their slots.)

Of course, the Big Ten pressed ahead in 2002, when commissioner Jim Delany assumed correctly that Iowa would get an at-large bid to the BCS. I don't think he can make that assumption this time around, though. There are still too many variables to take into account.

Let me say that Auburn's demolition of Alabama and Georgia Tech's upset of Miami (Fla.) really helped Ohio State. There will be less clamor to get two teams in from the SEC and ACC, respectively. The winners of the championship games in those two conferences will be in and that should probably be it.

Notre Dame, with a win at Stanford Saturday, is in the BCS somewhere as an at-large team. The rules read that the Irish are in with a 9-2 season or better and a top-12 BCS ranking.

That only leaves one at-large spot left and I really only see two teams in play for it – Ohio State and Oregon. Now is when the politics will be played. (I am assuming that Virginia Tech should qualify as the ACC champ. I don't believe that Miami or the SEC title game loser has a shot as an at-large.)

I may be off base – like we all were in 2003, when we thought OSU would play Miami in the Orange and the Buckeyes were sent back to the Fiesta Bowl instead – but this is how I see it working out:

USC meets Texas in the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl will get the first choice and will take Notre Dame. The Orange Bowl will then take the ACC champ, likely Virginia Tech, as its "host" school. (They have a choice of the ACC or Big East champion.) The Orange will then get to select Virginia Tech's opponent, and it is my inclination they will go for Penn State.

PSU will travel like never before after a 10-1 season and first Big Ten title in 11 years. Plus, you have the storyline of Joe Paterno, who will be 79 years old on game night.

The Fiesta would then get to pick ND's opponent. It will be a tough call between Oregon and Ohio State. In Oregon's favor, the Ducks are 10-1. Plus, the Fiesta folks had them in 2001 and are aware of how well they do (or do not) travel.

Working against Oregon are several things, though. Its loss was a 28-point blowout at home to No. 1 USC. Its nonconference schedule was light with Houston, Montana and Fresno State. And, well, it's Oregon and nobody really cares beyond the confines of the campus.

Contrast that with Ohio State, which has reeled off six straight wins. The two losses were a three-pointer to No. 2 Texas and a seven-point loss at Penn State. OSU at least played a BCS conference team in the nonconference with Texas. There are over 13 million people in Ohio and OSU is a proven ratings winner with ABC, which will have a good bit of input on the bowl selections.

Moreover, this scenario was why the BCS was created – to provide fans with compelling match-ups beyond the national title game. Ohio State-Notre Dame would carry some cache as just the fifth ever meeting between these schools.

"Ohio State has got a very exciting offense," Fiesta Bowl rep Alan Young told the Akron Beacon Journal. "Ohio State-Notre Dame, that would be a great match-up. They have only played four times. We're just realizing how important that would be."

New OSU athletic director Gene Smith, a Notre Dame alum, will certainly be working around the clock to try and assure a possible ND-OSU match-up. And, coming from Arizona State, he certainly would have plenty of contacts in Tempe to try and get that deal done.

There is the slightest chance that the Orange Bowl would bypass PSU for OSU, but it seems unlikely. Either way, the Fiesta is sitting in the catbird seat with either ND-PSU or ND-OSU almost assured (if they want it).

"Big Ten teams travel well," said Orange Bowl rep Phillip Smith outside Michigan Stadium. "We had Iowa in our game a few years ago and they brought 30,000 people."

The Buckeyes are convinced that they made their case. Their comments:

Hawk -- "We hope so, but that's out of our hands. We'll have to see what happens."

Pittman -- "Just (make it) a BCS game. That's very important to me. No Alamo Bowl."

Schlegel -- "We didn't achieve the goal of winning the national championship, but we did win the Big Ten. We'll have to wait and see about a BCS berth. It's just the character of the guys. To come out here and work every day to get better. We just wanted it. We had to adapt and overcome. It was an all around great team effort."

Whitner -- "If you think about those losses, they were two losses by a total of 10 points to two top-five teams. Penn State is No. 5 and Texas is No. 2. Where does that put us? We went to Penn State and had a chance to win that game at the end. We had Texas. With a couple of defensive stops, we beat Texas. If we play a little bit better in those two games, where does that put us? It puts in the Rose Bowl. We're one of the best teams in the country – offense, defense, we have some great players."

Salley -- "It's out of our hands. We've done everything we can. We definitely want to be in a BCS bowl. That would be huge for us. Hopefully, we can go down to Florida and see my family. Anywhere we go will be great. After the season we've had, we've worked so hard. When you're Big Ten champs, I think you deserve to be in the BCS."

Around the Big Ten:

* Congrats of course to No. 5 Penn State, which won 31-22 at Michigan State to wrap up its second Big Ten title and first since 1994. The win could assure venerable coach Joe Paterno Big Ten and maybe even national coach of the year honors. PSU was just 4-7 a year ago. Paterno got win No. 353.

Michael Robinson ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and passed for another, and Alan Zemaitis had three interceptions for Penn State.

Amazingly, Penn State, which won the tiebreaker with Ohio State with the win in October, will make its first BCS appearance since it was instituted in 1998.

Michigan State stumbled across the finish line (again), missing postseason play (again) at 5-6 after posting a 4-0 start and an early win over Notre Dame.

* Northwestern's Brett Basanez threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another pair of scores to help the Wildcats beat Illinois 38-21. Basanez (10,164) is the third Big Ten quarterback to pass for more than 10,000 yards, joining Purdue's Drew Brees and Iowa's Chuck Long. Illinois was winless in the conference under first-year head coach Ron Zook.

* Iowa jumped on visiting Minnesota for a 35-0 lead and cruised to a 52-28 win. Ed Hinkel had seven catches for 151 yards and four touchdowns.

* Purdue routed host Indiana 41-14, feasting on five IU turnovers. Kory Sheets scored three TDs and Dorien Bryant had two for the Boilers.

And a glance at headlines nationally:

* Top-ranked USC had to go deep into the night to dispatch pesky No. 16 Fresno State 50-42. The teams combined for 935 yards total offense. Fresno State led 21-13 at halftime and edged ahead 42-41 with 9:47 left. But USC rallied with a late LenDale White TD and a field goal and then intercepted a pass by FSU's Paul Pinegar near the goal line to thwart a late threat.

Reggie Bush was incredible with 513 all-purpose yards. That included 23 carries for 254 yards and two TDs as well as three catches for 68 yards and eight kick returns for 151 yards.

* No. 3 Miami (Fla.) was holding out hope of reaching the title game. But those hopes vanished as Georgia Tech sacked Kyle Wright seven times, took advantage of key penalties on two touchdown drives and made a pair of late defensive stands to knock off the Hurricanes 14-10 at the Orange Bowl. The loss opens the door for Virginia Tech to supplant Miami in the ACC title game.

* Virginia Tech's Cedric Humes ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns and the No. 7 Hokies downed archrival Virginia 52-14. The Hokies can clinch a berth to face Florida State in the first-ever ACC title game with a win over North Carolina.

* No. 11 Auburn clinched at least a share of the SEC Western Division title for the fifth time in six seasons with a 28-18 victory over No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

* No. 4 LSU beat Ole Miss 40-7, holding the Rebels to 7 yards rushing and handing them their worst loss in Oxford in 56 years. LSU clinches a piece of the SEC West crown and a spot in the title game with a win over Arkansas.

* No. 14 Georgia earned the SEC East title and a spot in the conference championship game as D.J. Shockley threw for 159 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-13 win over Kentucky.

* One year after going 0-11, Central Florida beat Rice 31-28 for a spot in the Conference USA title game. The Golden Knights ended the nation's longest losing streak at 17 games earlier this season.

* The news was not so good for Temple, which lost to Navy 38-17 to its season winless on the field for the first time since 1959. The Owls also finished 0-11 in 1986 after forfeiting six wins for using an ineligible player.

* Clemson cooled off No. 19 South Carolina 13-9. The Gamecocks were bidding for wins over Florida, Tennessee and Clemson in the same year. James Davis rushed for 145 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown run for Clemson. Clemson has won four straight and eight of nine over its instate rival.

* Kansas State coach Bill Snyder rode off into the sunset with a 36-28 win over Missouri. K-State was college football's only 500-loss team when he arrived in 1989, but he made the Wildcats a perennial contender in the Big 12.

* Making his first start for Utah, Brett Ratliff threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns – including a 25-yard game winning TD in overtime – during a 41-34 win over rival BYU.

* Vanderbilt snapped a 22-game losing streak to instate rival Tennessee, winning 28-24. Earl Bennett caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler with 1:11 to go. The losing streak to one school was the second longest active losing streak, trailing Navy's 42-game losing streak to Notre Dame. The loss denies Tennessee a bowl bid.

* No. 21 Texas Tech stunned Oklahoma 23-21 as Taurean Henderson scored on a 2-yard run as time expired. The win snapped OU's five-game winning streak over Tech.

* Brady Quinn threw two touchdown passes as No. 6 Notre Dame routed Syracuse 34-10 in South Bend. Syracuse lost its eighth straight -- its longest losing streak since losing its final game of 1972 and the first eight games of 1973.

* Freshman Jonathan Stewart had a pair of touchdowns, including a 97-yard kickoff return to open the second half, and No. 10 Oregon dominated rival Oregon State 56-14 in a foggy rendition of the Civil War.

* Heisman Watch: OK, it takes a big man to admit he was wrong. I have been behind USC's Matt Leinart all season. However, ever USC's Reggie Bush has a game like that one, I have to switch my first-place vote to Bush. Wow. Leinart is still two and Texas' Vince Young is three. Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and OSU's A.J. Hawk would round out my top five, probably.

* My new top 15: Another week, another huge upset with Miami (Fla.) losing. So we now go with: USC, Texas, Penn State, LSU, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Oregon, Auburn, Miami (Fla.), Georgia, West Virginia, TCU, Fresno State.

* My new bowl projections: I have moved things around: Rose, USC-Texas; Orange, Virginia Tech-Penn State; Sugar, LSU-West Virginia; Fiesta, Ohio State-Notre Dame; Capital One, Wisconsin-Auburn; Outback, Michigan-Georgia; Alamo, Iowa-???; Sun, Minnesota-???; Music City, Northwestern-???

* Games To Watch: Toledo-Bowling Green (Tuesday), Pitt-West Virginia (Thursday), Texas-Texas A&M (Friday), Arkansas-LSU (Friday), Nebraska-Colorado (Friday), Wisconsin-Hawaii (Friday), Virginia-Miami, North Carolina-Virginia Tech, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida State-Florida, Notre Dame-Stanford.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 3, Miami (Ohio) (6-4), lost to Bowling Green 42-14, Nov. 15; at Ohio, Nov. 21.

Sept. 10, Texas (10-0), idle, Nov. 19; at Texas A&M, Nov. 25.

Sept. 17, San Diego State (5-6), beat Wyoming 34-21, Nov. 19; at Hawaii, Dec. 3.

Sept. 24, Iowa (7-4), beat Minnesota 52-28, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Oct. 8, Penn State (10-1), beat Michigan State 31-22, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Oct. 15, Michigan State (5-6), lost to Penn State 31-22, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Oct. 22, at Indiana (4-7), lost to Purdue 41-14, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Oct. 29, at Minnesota (7-4), lost to Iowa 52-28, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Nov. 5, Illinois (2-9), lost to Northwestern 38-21, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Nov. 12, Northwestern (7-4), beat Illinois 38-21, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Nov. 19, Michigan (7-4), lost to Ohio State 25-21, Nov. 19; regular season complete.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Penn State* (10-1, 7-1)

Ohio State* (10-2, 7-1)

Wisconsin (8-3, 5-3)

Michigan (7-4, 5-3)

Northwestern (7-4, 5-3)

Iowa (7-4, 5-3)

Minnesota (7-4, 4-4)

Purdue (5-6, 3-5)

Michigan State (5-6, 2-6)

Indiana (4-7, 1-7)

Illinois (2-9, 0-8)

*-Shared Big Ten championship.

Nov. 19 Results

Iowa 52, Minnesota 28

Northwestern 38, Illinois 21

Ohio State 25, Michigan 21

Penn State 31, Michigan State 22

Purdue 41, Indiana 14

Nov. 25 Game

Wisconsin at Hawaii, 9:05 p.m. (ESPN2)


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