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Saturday rundown: Takeaways from Week 12's top games

theScore logo theScore 2020-11-22 Dane Belbeck
a man standing in front of a crowd © David K Purdy / Getty Images Sport / Getty

theScore runs down the top storylines and developments from Saturday's college football games, and what it all might mean moving forward.

Gundy has an Oklahoma problem

Sixteen matchups, two wins; it's safe to say Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State have an Oklahoma problem. The latest edition of the Bedlam Series looked eerily similar to almost all previous matchups in the Gundy era, with the Sooners dominating from the opening kickoff for an impressive victory. It's now the 10th double-digit win for Oklahoma since Gundy took over the Cowboys program.

Oklahoma State's stout defense had no answer for Lincoln Riley's attack, with Spencer Rattler throwing for 301 yards and four scores and Rhamondre Stevenson adding 141 yards on the ground.

This contest was key in the Big 12 race, with Iowa State now sitting alone at the top with a 6-1 conference record and a smooth path to the title game. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas have two losses each, with the Sooners having played one more conference game than the other two - they hold the tiebreaker by winning both matchups with those schools this season.

Georgia's offense shines with JT Daniels

The highly touted USC transfer finally made his Georgia debut on Saturday, instantly impactful in a 31-24 win over Mississippi State. Daniels became the first Georgia quarterback since Aaron Murray in 2013 to throw for 300-plus yards and four touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats and Info. The 20-year-old finished with 401 yards through the air - over 150 yards more than the Bulldogs passed for as a team in the last two games combined. His brilliance on Saturday certainly makes one wonder what might have been if he had been healthy enough to play in the losses to Alabama and Florida earlier this year.

Northwestern outmuscles Wisconsin

a baseball player holding a football ball: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It sure isn't pretty, but Northwestern football remains the most effective brand in the Big Ten West for 2020. The 19th-ranked Wildcats pulled off the upset Saturday, outmuscling No. 10 Wisconsin 17-7 in a defensive struggle.

Graham Mertz looked like a first-year starter playing without his top two receivers, as the Wildcats defense confused the young standout, intercepting him three times. The secondary swarmed the Badgers' pass-catchers, holding them to just 5.5 yards per catch and keeping them to a paltry 3-for-16 on third-down conversions.

The Wildcats are never going to put up style-points on offense, especially with a rushing attack that gained just 24 total yards Saturday. Thankfully, quarterback Peyton Ramsey bailed them out with a couple of big-time throws when needed, including this dime for a second-quarter touchdown.

Northwestern now faces back-to-back road games at Michigan State and Minnesota before finishing with a home contest versus Illinois. The combined record of their remaining opposition is 5-9. It's time to start preparing yourself for a Northwestern-Ohio State matchup in the Big Ten title game.

Cincinnati deserves CFP respect

A Group of Five program has never qualified for the College Football Playoff, but Cincinnati absolutely deserves serious consideration in this shortened season. The Bearcats turned in an impressive performance in Orlando on Saturday, escaping with a 36-33 victory at UCF. Cincinnati's dominant defense was on full display yet again and held the nation's top offense to just 359 total yards of offense - well below the season average of 619.1 per contest. The Bearcats now have road games at Temple and Tulsa remaining before the AAC title game. If the squad can run the table, they could make things very difficult for the CFP committee when it comes time to make the final rankings.

DeVonta Smith makes history for Alabama

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Alabama's famed recruiting class of 2017 added yet another notch to the record books on Saturday, thanks to the electric DeVonta Smith. The standout senior - who joined the Crimson Tide the same year as Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Najee Harris, Tua Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones - set the new SEC record with his 32nd career touchdown grab in the win over Kentucky. Ruggs and Jeudy got the accolades last year and Jaylen Waddle was a Heisman candidate before his season-ending injury, but Smith has remained a quiet star for the Crimson Tide. Expect him to make a lot of noise between now and next year's NFL Draft.

Penn State dips to historic low

How bad has 2020 been going for Penn State? The Nittany Lions have had a football program since 1889, and Saturday's loss at home to Iowa marked the first time they've started a season 0-5.

It didn't matter whether it was Sean Clifford or Will Levis at quarterback, the Nittany Lions failed to top the 25-point mark for the fourth straight contest. The offense turned the ball over four times, and the defense allowed 24 first downs and 361 yards of total offense.

Penn State has been hit hard by opt outs and injuries, but the display on the field is still shocking at times for a program that has a significant amount of talent. The Nittany Lions have three games remaining on the shortened schedule. They need to win them all if they want to avoid failing to hit the three-win mark in a season for the first time since 1932.

Ohio State win brings about questions

a football player holding a bat on a baseball field: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Jamie Sabau / Getty Images Sport / Getty

First, let's cover the good news from Saturday because there was a significant amount for Ohio State. The Buckeyes got their fourth win of the season and remain firmly set toward a College Football Playoff spot. Led by Master Teague, the rushing attack showed it can absolutely carry the offense if the passing game is struggling. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave reminded everyone they might be the best receiver duo in the Big Ten. The rushing defense actually held Indiana to negative yards on the ground.

Now that we've appropriately praised the No. 3 team in the country, it's time to raise some questions of a program with national title aspirations. The secondary has some serious explaining to do, as Michael Penix absolutely torched the Buckeyes for 491 passing yards and a whopping five touchdowns. Receiver Ty Fryfogle was responsible for 218 of those yards with a trio of touchdowns. While the Indiana passing attack is one of the best in the Big Ten, it pales in comparison to the likes of Alabama, Clemson, or Florida - three schools Ohio State would likely face in the College Football Playoff.

We've become so used to Justin Fields' dominant showings that an off game from the star pivot really stands out. Fields threw as many interceptions Saturday as he had over the previous 476 pass attempts in his career. Despite that, the Hoosiers failed to score any points off those turnovers.

The worst game of the season for Fields still somehow resulted in 300 passing yards and two scores through the air, another nod to just how incredible he's been this season. The rest of the Big Ten schedule won't demand much from Fields, but the quarterback will need to get back to his top form as Ohio State gears up for the playoffs.

Trask keeps piling up TDs

Kyle Trask's push for the Heisman continues at warp speed, as the Florida quarterback put up gaudy numbers again Saturday at Vanderbilt. With three touchdowns against the Commodores, Trask now has 31 through the Gators' first seven games of the season. That mark sets a new SEC record for most touchdowns at that point of the season, breaking the previous record of 29 held by Joe Burrow and Tim Couch.

The win also marked the ninth straight game the Gators have scored 35-plus points, a new school record. With Fields struggling Saturday versus Indiana, the Heisman race might mirror the SEC race - Florida and Trask versus Alabama and Mac Jones.

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