What to Watch: Big Ten East set to become 2-team race again
No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan could, and should, create some separation at the top of the Big Ten East Division on Saturday and make it a two-team race to be decided once again on the last weekend of November.
The Buckeyes, with a win in Happy Valley, can all but end No. 13 Penn State’s hopes of reaching the conference championship game. The Wolverines will maintain their collision course with top rival Ohio State if they can overcome recent history and beat Michigan State in Ann Arbor.
Ohio State-Penn State is one of three AP Top 25 matchups this week. The others are N o. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State and No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee.
Since the Big Ten split into its current divisions in 2014, no East winner has had more than one conference loss.
Penn State already has a loss at Michigan and is a double-digit underdog at home to a Buckeyes team that is rolling on both sides of the ball.
Michigan State has won two straight over its in-state rival but is a three-touchdown underdog. The Spartans won last year because of Kenneth Walker’s 197 yards and five touchdowns. Walker isn’t there anymore, and the Spartans are a shell of the team that won 11 games.
The What to Watch rundown for this week of college football, presented by Regions Bank:
No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State. The Cowboys and Wildcats are tied for second place in the Big 12, and the winner will be a game behind or tied with TCU at the end of the day.
Oklahoma State extended its school-record home win streak to 13 games last week when it came from behind to beat Texas. The Cowboys have been pretty good on the road, too, and have won two of the last three in Manhattan.
The question is who will play quarterback for the Wildcats. Adrian Martinez left last week’s game against TCU because of a lower-body injury. Will Howard, who played well in Martinez’s place, would get the start if Martinez can’t go.
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker can add to his Heisman resume against the Southeastern Conference’s No. 2 defense in Kentucky. The Wildcats are allowing fewer than 300 yards per game and have held 11 straight opponents to 24 points or less.
Hooker played less than a half against Tennessee-Martin last week and still threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging an FBS-best 10.8 yards per attempt and thrown for 18 touchdowns against just one interception.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1 — Runs of 20 yards or longer allowed by UCLA.
5 — Blocked punts by South Carolina, most in the nation.
10 — Oregon’s streak of fourth-down conversions.
27.4 — Rushing attempts per game by Illinois’ Chase Brown, the highest average through a Week 8 since Chuba Hubbard’s 27.7 in 2019, according to Sportradar.
100 — Number of all-time meetings between Georgia and Florida when they play for the 90th time in Jacksonville, Florida, at what’s known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
UNDER THE RADAR
No. 20 Cincinnati at Central Florida
Is this the week the Bearcats’ long winning streak against American Athletic Conference opponents ends? Cincinnati has won 17 straight in the league and 19 when AAC championship games are included. The Bears are slight underdogs coming off close calls against South Florida and SMU.
South Florida third-year coach Jeff Scott is 4-24 and only one of those wins is against a Bowl Subdivision opponent.
A run of injuries has hindered the Bulls, to be sure, and there was a flicker of hope when they led a ranked Cincinnati in the fourth quarter before losing 28-24 three weeks ago. But 17 of Scott’s 24 losses have been by double digits. Even though he signed a two-year contract extension through 2026, patience could be wearing thin.
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