Scully’s NCAAF takeaways: Chuba Hubbard is hitting his stride
The Big Ten returned to the gridiron and featured the only notable upset of Week 8, as Indiana knocked off No. 8 Penn State.
Second-ranked Ohio State, which started slowly but still blew out Nebraska, 52-17, will host Penn State in Week 9. Other games to watch include Texas vs. Oklahoma State and Memphis vs. Cincinnati.
Here are my three takeaways for Week 8 of the 2020 college football season.
Indiana gambles after Penn State miscue, Penix delivers
Michael Penix Jr. became part of Indiana football lore with an acrobatic stretch for a two-point conversion, and Indiana escaped with a 36-35 overtime victory over Penn State.
Indiana elected to go for the win in the first overtime period, and head coach Tom Allen had faith in Penix, who made one big play after another down the stretch. The sophomore quarterback willed Indiana to its first win over a top 10 team since 1987, which snapped the second-longest active FBS losing streak at 42 games.
Penix rallied Indiana to a late touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime. He scrambled for the score both times, but he wasn’t effective for long stretches against Penn State’s formidable defense earlier in the game, as he completed only 19 of his 36 passes for 170 yards. Indiana’s defense deserves credit for holding Penn State to only seven points until the final play of the third quarter.
The loss really stung for Penn State. The Hoosiers benefited from a controversial call on the two-point conversion — the ball appeared out of bounds before Penix reached the pylon — and officials let the ruling on the field stand after a review.
However, the Nittany Lions have nobody to blame but themselves. They gave away the game late in regulation, when Devyn Ford ran 14 yards for a touchdown, instead of taking a knee.
Indiana, which trailed by a point, wouldn’t have been able to stop the clock, with only one timeout remaining, so they intentionally let Ford score.
The blunder led to the late-game heroics from Penix.
Cowboys make statement in Big 12
Oklahoma State laid claim to Big 12 superiority with a comfortable defeat of Iowa State in Week 8.
The No. 6 Cowboys kept Iowa State mostly in check. They gave up a meaningless touchdown (except for bettors) in the final minute to win by a 24-21 margin.
Defense led the way, as Oklahoma State held Brock Purdy to 162 passing yards, and Spencer Sanders overcame a pair of interceptions in his first game back (he was injured in the opener) to throw for 235 yards and run for 71 more.
Iowa State had some success on the ground. Breece Hall rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, but the Cyclones struggled to contain Chuba Hubbard. The preseason first-team All-American paced Oklahoma State with 139 rushing yards, and Hubbard is starting to look comfortable behind his new offensive line.
Now 4-0, Oklahoma State is seeking its first Big 12 title since 2011. After they host Texas in Week 9, the Cowboys will head to Manhattan, Kansas for a showdown against Kansas State, which has a 4-0 record in the Big 12. Kansas State will start an unheralded freshman quarterback after it lost Skylar Thompson for the year, though.
Oklahoma State’s biggest rivalry game, the Bedlam Series, will take place in Week 12 (Nov. 21), when the Cowboys visit Oklahoma.
Mertz shines for Wisconsin, but status now uncertain
A Wisconsin passing attack? It may sound counterintuitive, but Graham Mertz has brought a new dimension to the Badgers.
The redshirt freshman put his big arm on display in Friday’s opener, when he completed 20 of his 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns, as Wisconsin routed Illinois, 45-7. He earned Big Ten Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors for the performance.
However, Wisconsin fans were left despondent, following reports of a positive COVID-19 test for Mertz on Sunday. Results of a follow-up test are pending, and if confirmed, Mertz would be sidelined for a minimum of 21 days.
From Kansas, Mertz is the top-ranked quarterback recruit Wisconsin has ever signed. His dynamic debut sparked enthusiasm for a quality program that has relied upon a bruising ground game for decades.