Big Ten

Bring on The Game: Buckeyes survive Spartans after intercepting late two-point conversion attempt

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USA TODAY

Bring on The Game: Buckeyes survive Spartans after intercepting late two-point conversion attempt

Ohio State's season was on the line, and Mark Dantonio wanted to be the one to take it away.

Late in the fourth quarter Saturday, Spartans running back LJ Scott brought his team within a point of the visiting Buckeyes, 17-16, with a touchdown run that capped a stellar drive that looked mighty similar to the one that won last year's Big Ten Championship Game. That's when Dantonio decided he wanted the win on a cold, windy, sometimes-snowy afternoon in East Lansing, sending his offense back out onto the field for the two-point conversion try. A try is all the Spartans got, though, with Tyler O'Connor throwing into double coverage and his pass picked off in the end zone.

Ohio State ate up some clock, and even though it got the ball back, Michigan State turned it over again, allowing the Buckeyes to walk out of Spartan Stadium 17-16 winners.

The victory was no easy feat for the second-ranked Buckeyes, who are now 10-1 and will face off against rival Michigan in a titanic edition of The Game a week from now where a win could mean a ticket to the College Football Playoff.

It was just last season when Michigan State ended Ohio State's Playoff dreams, earning an ugly win in Columbus on a walk-off field goal that effectively knocked the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten title race and out of contention for a spot in the sport's final four. This one looked like it could follow a similar script from the start, with Scott taking a pass from O'Connor and dashing 64 yards to the end zone on the game's second play from scrimmage.

Later in the first quarter, J.T. Barrett evened things up by capping a short-field drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass lofted into the hands of Curtis Samuel. In the second quarter, though, Scott ripped off a 61-yard rush on a drive that ended in a Michigan State field goal. Ohio State answered with its own three-point kick on the following possession. An O'Connor interception and a Mike Weber fumble canceled each other out before halftime.

Both defenses came to play in the second half, something expected from the Buckeyes, who boast one of the nation's best units, but not so much from the Spartans, who have experienced defensive-line troubles all season and were without arguably their best defensive player in Malik McDowell. But punts were the only result over the first nine drives of the second half, the lone exception in there being an Ohio State touchdown drive on which Weber starred with a 52-yard rush and ended three plays later with a scoring carry.

The Buckeyes' lead stood at 17-10 until the Spartans rode Scott on a lengthy drive that gobbled up almost five minutes. Scott carried the ball eight straight times, starting with a 26-yard run to the Ohio State 30-yard line and ending with a one-yard touchdown rush that seemingly would tie the game. But Dantonio followed with his decision to go for two, and O'Connor's pass found the hands of a Buckeye defender.

Barrett managed to chew up two and a half more minutes before Ohio State was forced to punt. But after getting the ball back, disaster struck for the Michigan State quarterback, O'Connor getting sacked and fumbling on the first play of the new drive. O'Connor fell on his own dropped ball, but he pitched an interception to Gareon Conley on the next play, the 17th pick of the season for the Buckeyes' defense.

Ohio State gained just 310 total yards in this one, Michigan State turning in a strong defensive effort. The Buckeyes were stellar defensively, too, limiting the Spartans to just 334 total yards. Between Michigan State's two touchdown drives — one to start the game and one at the end of the fourth quarter — the Spartans kicked a field goal, threw an interception and punted seven times.

The day was dominated, at least offensively, by the two running backs. Scott was sensational, carrying the ball 19 times for 160 yards and a touchdown and catching two passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Plus, he did all the heavy lifting on Michigan State's final touchdown drive, with eight carries for 56 yards on that possession alone. Meanwhile, Weber was great for Ohio State, carrying the ball 14 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Barrett also had a big day running the ball, gaining 105 yards on 24 carries.

Barrett completed just 10 passes for 86 yards, while O'Connor completed just six passes and threw a pair of interceptions, plus the pick on the two-point conversion attempt.

The win didn't come perhaps as easily as some might have thought it would have for the Buckeyes, but it was a win nonetheless in another entertaining entry into this rivalry. Of course, the rivalry now on everyone's minds is The Game, which comes next week and could be the determining factor in whether Ohio State or Michigan makes it to the College Football Playoff. Even with a win in that contest, the Buckeyes might still miss out on the Big Ten title game. But their resume would be so stellar, the lack of competing for a conference championship might not matter. Ohio State stands at 10-1 on the season and 7-1 in the Big Ten after Saturday's victory in East Lansing.

Despite the effort, this was yet another loss for the Spartans, who now sit at 3-8 overall and 1-7 in conference play. A disastrous season that started with hopes of another run to the Playoff will end without a bowl appearance for the first time under Dantonio. The regular-season finale comes next weekend against Penn State, and it'll be another chance for Michigan State to play spoiler for a Nittany Lions team with its eyes on a Playoff berth.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?