B1G gains amid Pac-12 losses. Buckeyes, Badgers keep poundin' away. Wilcox watch.

Things we learned in Week 7. . . Well, things I Iearned, anyway.

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It's lonely at the top. The Pac-12 can stop fretting about having an unbeaten team on shaky College Football Playoff ground.

Washington joined Washington State in having a rough weekend, falling 13-7 in a shocker at Arizona State. That leaves no unbeaten Pac-12 teams, if you're keeping score at home.

What that means in Flyover Country is that Penn State, or Ohio State, or Wisconsin—one of them will be there—just moved up in the playoff pecking order. They also received yet another memo that one slip on the tarmac can change your whole itinerary.


Dabo Swinney and Mike Leach probably would vote to preserve the sanctity of Friday night football for high schools.

It certainly did nothing for their sanity. Clemson lost 27-24 at Syracuse. And Washington State got drilled 37-3 at Cal.

As my buddy Blau pointed out, this could be a path to the New Orleans semi-final for Clemson for a College Football Playoff berth. . . as the No. 4. . . playing Alabama, the No. 1.

Wouldn’t that be special?


The Wazzu beatdown at Cal was so thorough that I have only two words for it: Justin Wilcox.

If Texas A&M rumors can fan so much heat in Happy Valley that James Franklin needs to reaffirm his vows with Penn State, imagine what will happen when the Pony Express arrives in College Station with the news about Cal’s pounding of the unbeaten Cougars?

Here’s the Big Ten angle: Wilcox spent last year as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Here’s the reason folks in Berkeley should start passing the collection plate: Before Wisconsin, the well-traveled Wilcox, 40, made stops at USC (2014-15), Washington (2012-13), Tennessee (2010-11) and Boise State (2006-09), all as defensive coordinator. Yup, Chris Petersen hired Wilcox to be Boise’s DC when he was 26. Before that, he was Cal’s linebackers coach in 2003-05.

Besides Petersen and Paul Chryst, he worked for Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin and Jeff Tedford. So Wilcox has seen a lot.

Born in Eugene, he was a DB at Oregon. He’s a West Coast guy. And one way or another, Wilcox, who's in the first year of a five-year deal at a reported $1.9 million a year with Cal, is going to be getting a big raise. Very soon.


Remember last year, when Penn State beat Ohio State and was left to howl at the injustice of it all when the Buckeyes were invited to the College Football Playoff instead of the Nittany Lions?

I’m thinking Oklahoma has a chance to be this year’s Penn State.

If I was drawing up a playoff bracket based on how I expect the season to play out, it would go like this.

1, Alabama (rock solid). 2, Ohio State (open to discussion). 3-5, TCU, Georgia, Clemson (wildly disputed).

Barring upsets—which is of course ridiculous, but still fun—everybody runs the table, except for Georgia, which loses close to Alabama. That puts the Horned Frogs on solid ground, and opens the Georgia-vs. Clemson debate.

Don't think too deeply about this. This scenario will change. Early. And often.


I know. I know. I’m the only rankman—small r, I’m no Rankman—who has Ohio State ranked ahead of Penn State.

You heard it here first.

1, Ohio State (1 last week): Urban Meyer is making Nick Saban’s point. If media accolades are ``rat poison,’’ then being dissed for having no offense must be mother’s milk.

2, Wisconsin (2): Up 14-0 on Purdue in the opening 10 minutes, held on for a 17-9 win despite three turnovers on a gloomy day in Madison. It won’t look like a good win. But Badgers showed resilience, not exposure. And Purdue is very solid.

3, Penn State (3): Rested and refreshed after a week in which they did nothing heavier than toss aside Franklin-to-Texas A&M rumors, Nittany Lions now turn attention to Saturday night meeting with Michigan.

4, Michigan State (4): Nice turnaround continues in East Lansing as L.J. Scott pounds out 194 yards and two TDs.

5, Michigan (5): Narrow 27-20 OT escape at Indiana was another pick-and-shovel job. Can Harbaugh come up with a bulldozer for trip to Penn State?

6, Iowa (6): Schedule-maker, who has been Hawkeyes’ friend some years, not looking that way this year. Already 1-2 (Penn State, Michigan State) in Big Ten, with Ohio State and Wisconsin still on tap. . . and this week’s trip to Northwestern is no gimme, either.

7, Purdue (7): Made the Badgers sweat. Which isn’t easy to do, especially on a chilly, rainy day in Madison. Big Ten’s most improved team in hunt for first bowl since 2012.

8, Indiana (11): A great effort by IU in OT loss to Michigan. But that’s 22 straight losses in the series. It’s no fun to be an ``other’’ in the best division in the nation.

9, Northwestern (12): Righted listing ship with must-win at Maryland for first Big Ten victory. Iowa and Michigan State come to Evanston next two weeks. After shaky start, they’re all kinda must-wins now.

10, Nebraska (8): Destroyed by Ohio State? Check. A week off before dangerous trip to Purdue? Check. Finding way to hire Scott Frost? Check.

11, Maryland (9): Rebuild continues. But barring major upset (or two), no soup (bowl) for you. Not even turtle soup.

12, Minnesota (10): Looking like rougher first-year ride for P.J. Fleck than anticipated. Did you see him land on his keister scooting down the sidelines vs. Sparty? He’ll dust himself off and get it done, though.


13, Rutgers (T-13): Absolutely dominant in 35-24 win at Illinois that was not as close as the score indicated. Never mind that Rutgers beat ``the Rutgers of the Midwest.’’ Impressive statement for the future.

14, Illinois (T-13): Wait till. . . let me get back to you on that. Not all of the GAO data in yet.[/membership]