Big Ten

Northwestern becomes first FBS team ever to win three straight games in overtime

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USA TODAY

Northwestern becomes first FBS team ever to win three straight games in overtime

The Cardiac Cats were at it again.

For the first time ever, an FBS team won three straight games in overtime. That team? Northwestern. The Wildcats grabbed an overtime win at Nebraska on Saturday, the third in a row they won in extra time.

This one didn't require the three overtime periods that last week's upset of Michigan State did, but it involved some late heroics nonetheless.

The Huskers took a 21-17 lead on a pick six in the third quarter, but Cats quarterback Clayton Thorson redeemed himself with a game-tying touchdown run in the fourth quarter, a seven-yard scoring dash that knotted the score at 24 with five and a half minutes to go. That touchdown drive was setup by Godwin Igwebuike's interception of Tanner Lee with Nebraska inside the red zone.

Then Pat Fitzgerald put on his riverboat-gambler hat in overtime, sending his offense back out on fourth and goal from the one-yard line, with Thorson plunging in for the go-ahead score. Northwestern's defense forced a three and out on Nebraska's ensuing possession, ending the game.

The Cats racked up 475 total yards in this, their fourth straight win. Justin Jackson rushed for 154 yards. Jackson, Thorson and Jeremy Larkin combined to score four rushing touchdowns. The Northwestern defense picked off Lee three times.

Saturday's win followed the triple-overtime victory over Michigan State and the win prior, an overtime victory against Iowa. Northwestern now boasts a 6-3 overall record and a 4-2 mark in Big Ten play. Though two games behind unbeaten Wisconsin, Northwestern is all alone in second place in the Big Ten West.

And after a crazy day in the conference, only Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State have better conference records than the Cats.

See how they stack up: Week 9 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 9 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 9 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Georgia (8-0)

The Dawgs are just beating up on everyone, most recently clubbing Florida 42-7 in the Cocktail Party. It looks like a no-doubt collision course with Bama for the SEC crown — but Georgia’s actually beaten some teams.

2. Alabama (8-0)

The Tide are obviously rolling and beating the brains out of everyone. They’ve allowed more than 10 points in just two of their eight games. But their best win to this point is … Texas A&M?

3. Notre Dame (7-1)

The Irish continue to run all over any and every team that lines up across from them, most recently dispatching of a good NC State team in impressive fashion. Josh Adams has 1,169 rushing yards on the season, which is a lot.

4. Ohio State (7-1)

There might not be a more impressive win this season than what the Buckeyes did against Penn State on Saturday. J.T. Barrett looked like the best quarterback in the country in leading an 18-point comeback and jaw-dropping one-point win.

5. Penn State (7-1)

Despite a narrow loss in The Shoe, the Lions might still be the Big Ten’s best team on a neutral field. But now they’ll need Ohio State to lose to get to that neutral field in Indianapolis.

6. Wisconsin (8-0)

Style points were in short supply in a snooze-worthy win over Illinois this weekend, though an offensive lineman did score a touchdown. Still, the Badgers are undefeated and barring a shocking loss will have a chance to play for a Playoff spot in the Big Ten title game.

7. Oklahoma (7-1)

There would be no upset bid for Texas Tech this weekend, and Baker Mayfield and the Sooners were back to looking the part of Big 12 heavyweight. And thanks to TCU’s loss, they’re once more the team to beat.

8. Miami (7-0)

Somehow the Canes are still unbeaten despite coming very close to losing numerous times throughout the last few weeks. That included sweating out a win over one-win North Carolina this weekend.

9. Clemson (7-1)

With Kelly Bryant healthy, Clemson looks like itself. With undefeated Miami teetering and a win over Virginia Tech already in the bank, this could be the Tigers’ ACC to lose once more.

10. TCU (7-1)

You don’t just walk into Jack Trice Stadium and walk out with a win! The Frogs were the latest victims of the Attack of the ‘Clones, and so now their inside lane to the Big 12 title is gone.

11. Oklahoma State (7-1)

Bedlam ought to be fun this week, as Mason Rudolph & Co. got their mojo back and rained 50 points down upon West Virginia this weekend. Hopefully the balls aren’t as slick as they were in Morgantown. So many turnovers.

12. Virginia Tech (7-1)

The Hokies just keep going about their business, unbeaten in all seven of their games not against Clemson. That includes a current three-game winning streak where they’ve outscoring opponents 106-20.

13. Washington (7-1)

The Pac-12 is in full-blown nightmare mode with what seems like no good Playoff contenders. Washington has the best chance with its one-loss record, but is anyone thinking the Pac-12 gets somebody into the final four right now?

14. Iowa State (6-2)

Matt Campbell’s ‘Clone army is slaying Big 12 giants left and right these days. If only Iowa State hadn’t lost in overtime to Iowa, it’d be a top-10 team right now. The ‘Clones are currently tied atop the Big 12 standings with wins over Oklahoma and TCU — two of the teams they’re tied with.

15. UCF (7-0)

After USF’s loss this weekend, UCF is the Group of Five’s last remaining unbeaten. And the Knights are a darn good one, too, averaging 51 points a game for the FBS’ best offense.

16. Stanford (6-2)

Without Bryce Love, the Trees were horrendous against a real bad Oregon State team and needed a late touchdown to sneak out of Corvallis with a 15-14 win. Ugh. Get well soon, Bryce.

17. NC State (6-2)

The Wolfpack’s six-game win streak finally got busted by what looks like a juggernaut of a Notre Dame team. And now comes Clemson. And to think they could’ve had a shot at a 10-win regular season if not for a confounding opening-week loss to South Carolina.

18. Auburn (6-2)

The race for the third-best team in the SEC is extraordinarily unexciting. Auburn is probably the winner as of this moment, but the poor Tigers have to play both Georgia and Alabama in November. So yeah.

19. LSU (6-2)

So maybe it’s LSU? The Bayou Bengals — a team that lost to Troy — could emerge as the SEC’s third-best team because they only have to play one of the top two teams (Bama) in the season’s final month.

20. USC (7-2)

USC back?!? The Trojans demolished Arizona State by a 48-17 score. They can still actually win this year’s whacky Pac-12, but they’ll have to go through menacing Arizona, of all teams, to do it.

21. Arizona (6-2)

Arizona’s quarterback, Khalil Tate, is quietly having one of the best seasons of any player in the country. He’s played in only six games yet ranks 13th in the land in rushing yards. This weekend in a rout of Wazzu? 275 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, 146 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

22. Michigan State (6-2)

While you were watching the fantastic finish between Ohio State and Penn State, Sparty was busy getting upset in triple overtime by Northwestern. A great game in which Brian Lewerke was clutch as heck, but Sparty’s perfect conference mark is now kaput.

23. Memphis (7-1)

After South Florida lost its undefeated season this weekend, Memphis gets to be the new No. 2 in the Group of Five thanks to the Tigers having a much better resume than the Bulls: that awesome win over UCLA plus wins over other good Group of Five teams like Navy and Houston.

24. Mississippi State (6-2)

Six wins and just two losses to Georgia and Auburn? Give Mississippi State some credit. Dan Mullen’s done a good job down there, and so now he might be rewarded (if that's what you want to call it) with the Florida job.

25. Washington State (7-2)

Quite the tumble for the Cougs, who went from a perfect 6-0 to 7-2 thanks to a pair of huge road losses to Cal and Arizona. The first came by 34 points, the most recent by 21.

Others receiving votes:

South Florida (7-1)

There's no margin for error when you're trying to be a Group of Five team of the year. The Bulls lost to Houston and now can really only play spoiler in that season-ending battle against UCF.

Oregon (5-4)

The Ducks have lost three of their last four and four of their last six. But they just beat a previously believed to be good Utah team 41-20. So that’s something. God, the Pac-12 is weird.

West Virginia (5-3)

The balls in Morgantown were real slippery on Saturday. That’s really the only explanation for the ‘Neers’ turnover woes: five of ‘em including four Will Grier interceptions.

Toledo (7-1)

Toledo is 7-1. They play in the MAC. That is all.

Wake Forest (5-3)

The Deacs dropped 42 points on Louisville on Saturday, which might say something about the Deacs but more likely says something about Louisville.

Michigan (6-2)

Hello, Brandon Peters! Jim Harbaugh finally pulled the trigger on a quarterback change, and the results were instant. The fact they were playing Rutgers probably had nothing to do with it, right?

South Carolina (6-2)

I figured I had to give some mention to the Gamecocks being a two-loss SEC team. But so is Kentucky, so maybe I didn’t have to.

Northwestern's end-zone interception seals triple-overtime upset of Michigan State

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AP

Northwestern's end-zone interception seals triple-overtime upset of Michigan State

Northwestern sure is getting used to this overtime thing.

For the second straight game, the Wildcats needed more than 60 minutes to determine a winner, and for the second straight game, the Cats scored a win in extra time. This time, it was Northwestern taking down the 16th-ranked team in the country, Michigan State, in a 39-31 thriller in Evanston.

The Cats nearly won it in regulation, breaking a 10-all tie with a fourth-quarter, trick-play touchdown pass from Justin Jackson and holding a seven-point edge into the game's final minute. But Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke led the Spartans on a last-minute scoring drive, tying the game with a touchdown with 25 seconds left and forcing overtime.

Clayton Thorson pitched a touchdown pass in the first overtime, a feat matched by Lewerke. Lewerke put the Spartans in front in the second overtime, only for Jackson to tie the game with a scoring rush. Thorson tossed a 22-yard pass to Flynn Nagel on the third play of the third overtime and tacked on a two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game before Michigan State got its shot.

But on the Spartans' second play, Lewerke dropped the ball, picked it back up and heaved a throw to the end zone, where Nate Hall intercepted the pass and ended the game.

It was a thrilling finish to an uncharacteristically offense-heavy game for both teams. Northwestern finished with 432 total yards, Thorson passing for 356 of those. Lewerke racked up an astonishing 445 passing yards and threw four touchdown passes, the bulk of Michigan State's 540 total yards.

It was the Spartans' first loss in conference play and just their second loss on the season. The Cats moved to 5-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten with their third straight win.

Northwestern will try to make it four straight when it travels to take on Nebraska.