For complete results from the weekend in college football, check out Sports on Earth's scoreboard.
Sports on Earth Week 10 stories: Nittany Lions washed out by Spartans' field goal | ACC Coastal's clear for Hurricanes | Bucks stop here: Iowa routs Ohio State | Bedlam lives up to name in Oklahoma win
1. Wisconsin is probably the Big Ten's only playoff hope.
Yes, a two-loss team will make the College Football Playoff one of these years, perhaps even this season. It's nevertheless hard to see a two-loss team emerging out of this Big Ten with a playoff bid after the events of Saturday.
In Week 9, Ohio State came from behind to beat Penn State 39-38 in one of the biggest and best games of the season. Both followed that game with massive letdowns in Week 10, almost certainly dashing their playoff hopes.
The biggest surprise was Ohio State's trip to Iowa. Not only did the No. 6 Buckeyes get upset; they lost by thirty-one points, 55-24. Iowa had scored over 30 points only three times ever against Ohio State. This time it scored 31 in the first half and won by 31. After his fourth-quarter perfection in leading the comeback against Penn State, J.T. Barrett tossed four interceptions, including a pick-six on the first play of the game. Iowa repeatedly made Ohio State pay for its mistakes and got five touchdown passes from Nathan Stanley, stellar rushing performances from Akrum Wadley and James Butler and magnificent play from cornerback Joshua Jackson, who had three interceptions. Iowa was the more prepared and more aggressive team, and it's the second season in a row it has spoiled the playoff hopes of a Big Ten power after it upset Michigan a year ago.
At the same time -- after a delay of over three hours that halted the game in the second quarter -- No. 24 Michigan State beat No.7 Penn State 27-24 on a 34-yard Matt Coghlin field goal with no time left. The Lions dropped a pass on a fourth down when trying to drive for the go-ahead score, then committed a personal foul on a third-down stop to give the Spartans a chance for the winning score. Flaws that showed up in the Nittany Lions' loss in Columbus showed up again: Saquon Barkley's Heisman campaign has been derailed because the offensive line is getting no push, and the pass rush has collapsed, leading to Brian Lewerke picking apart the secondary.
Penn State will hope to win out, finish 10-2 and still go to a major bowl. Ohio State now faces a huge home game against Michigan State next week with the Big Ten East title potentially on the line, as the Spartans bounced back from their overtime loss to Northwestern to re-announce themselves as conference contenders.
But for all the attention on Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten East, the conference's playoff aspirations have shifted to the West, where No. 9 Wisconsin pulled away from Indiana, 45-17, behind 183 rushing yards from star freshman Jonathan Taylor. The Badgers are 9-0 with just two wins over teams that have winning records: Florida Atlantic and Northwestern. They have Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota left before the Big Ten title game and may not be able to afford a loss, given their lackluster resume.
After back-to-back semifinal shutout losses by its playoff teams, the Big Ten is now in serious danger of missing the playoff entirely if the Badgers slip up.
2. Miami and Clemson are on an ACC championship collision course.
Technically, neither the Hurricanes nor Tigers have clinched their division, but it feels like a mere formality for both now after they won games that likely served as ACC semifinals on Saturday.
In the afternoon, No. 4 Clemson added another quality win to one of the nation's toughest schedules, beating No. 20 N.C. State 38-31 in Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack entered the game with two losses, but they were undefeated in ACC play. They got off to an excellent start, intercepting Kelly Bryant on the first drive and quickly turning that into a 40-yard touchdown from Ryan Finley to Kelvin Harmon. But Clemson settled in and turned the tables when Ray-Ray McCloud came up with one of the best touchdowns of the year on a 77-yard punt return.
The game went back and forth for a while, and the Wolfpack held a 21-17 lead deep in the third quarter before a Clemson run that included an 89-yard touchdown by Tavien Feaster. N.C. State clawed back into the game and had a chance to tie late, but a fourth-down conversion was wiped out by an illegal shift, and Finley was subsequently intercepted on fourth-and-15.
In prime time, No. 10 Miami earned its most impressive victory of the season, building on a run of close wins by beating No. 13 Virginia Tech 28-10. Malik Rosier was intercepted three times, but the Hurricanes forced four turnovers and made big plays on offense to pull away, then clamp down for the win.
Miami faces its biggest game of the season next Saturday vs. Notre Dame, a showdown that has playoff implications for both. It will not, however, impact the ACC standings. Miami is 6-0 in the conference and in clear control of the Coastal, with ACC games against Virginia and Pitt left. Clemson is 6-1 with Florida State left. Clemson's loss at Syracuse reminded us that there are no guaranteed wins, but it would be a surprise if the ACC title game doesn't feature Miami's first trip and Clemson's fifth, possibly serving as a playoff play-in game.
3. Baker Mayfield has taken a significant lead in the Heisman race.
By no means is the race over, especially with Oklahoma facing another showcase game against TCU next week. But consider what happened to the other top Heisman contenders in Week 10:
- Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, the frontrunner for much of the year, had 14 carries for 63 yards, three catches for 33 yards and a 20-yard pass in a 27-24 loss at Michigan State that dropped Penn State to 7-2.
- After missing last week's game with an ankle injury, Stanford running back Bryce Love had a 52-yard touchdown but finished with just 69 yards on 16 carries in a 24-21 loss at Washington State.
- After a ridiculous run of games that included one of the best quarterback performances of the year against Penn State, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 18 of 34 for 208 yards, three TDs and four INTs and rushed for 63 yards in an embarrassing 55-24 loss at Iowa.
- Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 48-37, but running back Josh Adams had only five carries for 22 yards before exiting with an injury.
- Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate made some big plays in the second half to finish with 161 rushing yards and 146 passing yards, but he threw two picks and the Wildcats lost 49-35 to USC.
Then there's Mayfield. Mayfield already had one of the greatest performances of the year in leading Oklahoma to a win at Ohio State. On Saturday, he dominated Bedlam again, leading the Sooners to a 62-52 win at Oklahoma State. He threw a couple interceptions, including what was nearly a disastrous one in the red zone late, but he completed 24 of 36 passes for 598 yards and five TDs and also rushed for a TD. He averaged an absurd 16.6 yards per attempt and 24.9 yards per completion.
After back-to-back top-four finishes in the Heisman vote the past two years, there's little doubt that Mayfield is the frontrunner entering Week 11. He could take an insurmountable lead with a strong performance against TCU.
4. Hopes for an interesting finish in the SEC are pinned on Auburn.
Auburn got great performances from Jarrett Stidham (268 yards, three passing TDs) and Kerryon Johnson (29 carries for 145 yards) to easily beat Texas A&M 42-27 on the road. The No. 14 Tigers are 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the conference and technically control their own destiny in the SEC West. Unfortunately, that destiny includes visits from No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama in two of the final three weeks of the regular season.
After Auburn won in College Station, Georgia and Alabama followed by staying undefeated by each winning 24-10. Georgia beat South Carolina and clinched the SEC East behind an efficient game from QB Jake Fromm and more dominant defense, and Alabama beat LSU for the seventh straight time despite a lackluster effort in the run game.
The Crimson Tide do take some defensive injury concerns into next week's trip to Mississippi State, but it's likely that Auburn is the toughest remaining obstacle for both Georgia and Alabama before they can meet in the SEC title game with a playoff bid at stake.
5. USC is close to a lock for a Pac-12 title game trip.
The Trojans struggled to finish the job against Khalil Tate and the explosive Arizona offense for a while in the second half, but ultimately the Wildcats' defense was no match for Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II and the USC offense. Darnold completed 20 of 26 for 311 yards and two TDs. Jones rushed for 194 yards and three TDs, with a 52-yarder setting up a short touchdown after a back-breaking Tate interception. USC actually out-gained Arizona 642 to 380
I asked RichRod what concerns him about the defense. "We gave up 650 yards and 50 points. Those are my concerns."- Michael Lev (@MichaelJLev) November 5, 2017
USC's two losses overall will likely disqualify it in the playoff race, but it is 6-1 in the Pac-12 South, a game in the loss column ahead of the Arizona and Arizona State teams it just beat. The Trojans are on track for the Pac-12 title game against one of Washington, Washington State and Stanford. Wazzu beat Stanford on Saturday, but both still have to play Pac-12 North leader Washington, which has one loss and crushed Oregon 38-3.
Like the Big Ten, the Pac-12's playoff hopes appear to be tied to one team, except the Huskies already have a loss.