Five. And oh.
Building on the opportunistic start of Iowa and Purdue, which rallied to win, Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan State also won their bowl games.
That gave the Big Ten a 5-0 record with three games to go: Penn State vs. Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, and Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Orange Bowl, also on Saturday. Michigan takes on South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
And in news you won’t find anywhere else, APBA simulations of the upcoming Alabama-Clemson and Georgia-Oklahoma national semi-finals came up with some surprising result in pretend nail-biters that resembled their real Bama-Clemson nail-biters of the last two Januarys.
BUCKEYES HAVE IT
Led by a fierce defensive line, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 24-0 second-quarter lead and then shut the door for a 24-7 win. After being shoved around early, USC regrouped solidly in the second half and knocked on the door. The trouble was, every time it seemed to be knocking, it dropped the groceries.
Ohio State wound up winning the turnover battle 4-1, and scoring 21 of its 24 points off of Trojan turnovers.
Although snubbed by the College Football Playoff and booted from their traditional Rose Bowl home by the playoff, the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions put on a good show at the Cotton Bowl in the Dallas Cowboys palatial stadium.
Ohio State snapped a seven-game losing streak against USC.
J.T. Barrett finished his career as the Big Ten’s total-offense leader (12,697 yards), surpassing Drew Brees. Sam Darnold, the first USC QB to pass for 4,000 yards in a season, has until Jan. 15 to decide whether he’ll return or declare for the NFL draft, which might mean an all-expenses-paid trip to Cleveland.
THE WILD, WILD CATS
I’ve known Pat Fitzgerald since he was an undergraduate, and I know a lot about him. I didn’t know he was such a riverboat gambler, though.
With 2:36 left, and leading 24-17, Fitz called a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 at his 39 yardline. He said his QB made it; the referees said the QB didn’t.
With that short field, Kentucky scored. But Northwestern held on for a 24-23 win at the Music City Bowl in chilly Nashville when the Blue Grass Wildcats opted to go for two against the Lake Michigan Wildcats.
Fitz also called a ridiculous reverse pass on 4th-and-1 at the Kentucky 2 yardline earlier in the fourth quarter. No dice there, either.
The win gave Northwestern its fifth 10-win season in school history.
Oh, and by the way, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson left at the start of the second quarter with an ugly knee injury, although Fitzgerald said afterward the injury might not be as serious as it looked. That opened the heart-warming door for fifth-year senior Matt Alviti, who’s more of a scrambler than a thrower.
No worries, Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65.
Fitzgerald was furious at the first-half targeting ejection given to linebacker Paddy Fisher, his leading tackler.
Kentucky drew the most controversial ejection, though. Its star rusher, Benny Snell Jr., was tossed in the second quarter for rejecting the assistance of an official who offered to help him up. The heartless ref ejected Snell for making contact with an official.
Brutal, the ESPN crew said repeatedly. TMGcollegespots agrees.
SPARTY PARTY BY THE SEA
Michigan State cruised past Washington State 42-17 at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, completing a turnaround season that saw it finish 10-3 after that shocking 3-9 disaster in 2016.
Brian Lewerke passed for 213 yards and three TDs, and ran for 73 yards to lead the Spartans.
CRIMSON TIDE? IN A THRILLER?
Our friend John Herson, owner of iconic APBA Games, pitted Alabama vs. Clemson, and came up with a game very similar to their meetings in the last two College Football Playoff championship games: A contest that went down to the wire.
Alabama prevailed 34-30 in the APBA simulation.
“It was a fantastic game to roll,’’ Herson said, “and it came down to the final play of the game. But you are going to have to read about it in the funny papers.’’
He even included a simulated newspaper account of the simulated game.
DAWGS: SEE YOU LATER, SOONERS
The APBA simulation of the Rose Bowl was even more shocking. Georgia surprised Oklahoma 37-35 as Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield threw five touchdowns and five interceptions.
“Mayfield only has one interception number on his card—a 1 out of 36 possibility – and I rolled that number five times,” Herson said. “Sometimes dice can be a funny thing.”
Down 34-14 in the fourth quarter, Mayfield threw three touchdown passes to give Oklahoma a 35-34 lead before Georgia won on a 50-yard field goal with eight seconds left.
What I’d like to see is a simulated Ohio State vs. Alabama.
No, I’m not going to whine about the Buckeyes deserving to be in the playoff. They played their way out of the playoff picture with two losses, including a brutal blowout at Iowa.
But if we’re talking about which team is better, it would be interesting to see what the APBA result would be.