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1 - 3. Haters.
The long nightmare for Notre Dame haters ended late Saturday, as the Irish lost to Arizona State in Tempe, 55-31. ND (7-2) dropped in the polls (to #15 in the AP) and out of the running for a playoff spot. Even Touchdown Jesus can't save the Domers now, much to the delight of ND-detractors everywhere. No doubt dentists across the country sighed wistfully over the sports section Sunday morning: teeth gnashing brings in business.
In the SEC, one of the several contenders in the West division fumbled away any hope of a playoff. Auburn (#3 in the playoff rankings entering the weekend) suffered an upset to Texas A&M at home, which is not a "good loss" by anyone's measure. Now SEC haters can focus on Alabama. The Tide pulled out an OT win against LSU on the road and should leapfrog Oregon into the fourth position in the playoff rankings.
Big Ten haters reveled in Saturday's results as well. Ohio State put a hurt on Michigan State in East Lansing, effectively bumping the Spartans out of the playoff hunt. Now that MSU has lost the two biggest games on their slate (Sparty missed a chance at glory early in the season by losing to Oregon), they are out. The outcome robbed the Big Ten of any chance at a playoff berth, as even a win over Nebraska (the likely winner of the West) in the conference championship likely will not justify elevating Ohio State into the playoffs.
The Buckeyes' schedule isn't impressive: the conference is having a down year, many of the Ws out of conference came against the likes of Kent State, Navy and Cincinnati, and the L to Virginia Tech looks worse by the week as Va Tech (now 4-5) sinks in the ACC.
The Thundering Herd continue to take care of business, riding an unbeaten streak through Conference USA, and riding roughshod over opponents like Southern Miss (63-17). Sure, Marshall plays in a weak conference. Yes, the Herd have a feeble (#122) strength of schedule. But still, props.
5. Jerry Kill.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers crushed Iowa 51-14, much to the delight of head coach Jerry Kill who busted out some choice moves in the locker room afterward.
Minnesota seized control of Floyd of Rosedale, the trophy (inexplicably, a bronze pig) fought over between the two schools, and now only need a win over Wisconsin for the trifecta: the Little Brown Jug (wrested from Michigan), Floyd, and Paul Bunyan's Axe.
At 7-2 and 4-1 in conference, the Gophers will face three ranked teams (#14 Ohio State, #13 Nebraska, #25 Wisconsin) to close the season. Imagine: by winning out and triumphing in the conference championship, the Gophers could . . . no. We shouldn't even contemplate it. Well, why not. Minnesota could reach the playoffs. There. We said it. The two losses came against TCU (ranked #6 last weekend) and, regrettably, the lowly Illini. But the latter could be forgiven if all the other stars align.
6 - 10. The Suck ∞.
We reserve a special place in the Report's rankings this week for the worst game of the week, possibly of the season, and absolutely the most awful match-up of Power 5 teams. For Big Ten haters, fond of bashing the league's soft teams and boring pace, the Michigan-Northwestern game will prove rich fodder for years.
Embattled NU coach Pat Fitzgerald intended to echo Marine jargon in a post-game interview following a 48-7 loss to Iowa two weeks ago. Asked about the Wildcats' dreadful season (3-5 at the time, now 3-6), "Fitzy" told reporters, "Sometimes you have to embrace the suck." NU went well beyond embracing on Saturday. The 'Cats made it to third base.
In military speak, embracing the suck means soldiers need to buckle down (or strap in, or something), come to grips with an unpleasant (at best; more typical: Fallujah) situation and get to work. In NU terms, embracing the suck means taking a shot for every turnover, golf claps for first downs, high fives for turnovers (three vs. Michigan), twerking to penalties, and betting the "under" on total yards rushing (-9 on Saturday). We hear Northwestern students will "lake the posts" if the team can finish dead last in points per game in the FBS: the Mildcats rank 122nd, but at 18.0 PPG need even worse performances down the stretch to catch SMU, currently sitting at 9.6.
The Wolverines fared just as miserably. Michigan went a dreadful 1-for-12 on third down, netted just 109 yards through the air, and committed three turnovers of their own. You know the Maize and Blue are having an off year, to put it mildly, when commentators announce the team "only needs one more win" to reach bowl eligibility . . . in Week 11.
Haters should relish the lowlights, easily the worst plays (nine of them! NINE!) you will see in the Power 5 this season, ending with this game-ender:
Mike Luce is our man on campus - every Friday and Monday. He welcomes your comments.
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