Old Big 12, new Big 12 on collision course

By Ralph D. Russo

The Associated Press

There is a developing College Football Playoff race between an outgoing Big 12 school and an incoming Big 12 school.

No. 2 Cincinnati, heading to the Big 12 at some point, and No. 3 Oklahoma, leaving the Big 12 at some point, remained undefeated Saturday, though neither was at its best.

The Sooners trailed Kansas — yes, that Kansas (1-6) — 10-0 at the half before Caleb Williams led a 35-13 second half that put away the 38-point underdog Jayhawks.

“I’m excited for the win, but we played poor football in the first half,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said.

The Bearcats trailed Navy (1-6) deep into the first half before leading by three at the break. Cincinnati looked as if it had pulled safely away in the third quarter, then needed a late interception to finally seal a seven-point victory.

“We’ve got to find ways, especially on the road, when you’re up, whatever it is, 13 points or something, to kind of close things out,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “That’s probably the only thing that I’m somewhat disappointed we couldn’t and didn’t do today, but we needed a challenge and we got one.”

Winning ugly is still winning, and in a season where nine top-10 teams have lost to unranked teams, including two on Saturday, maybe don’t get too caught up in style points.

For Cincinnati (7-0), which has nothing else but double-digit victories on its resume, one sluggish clunker is no reason to panic. Almost as important to the Bearcats on Saturday: No. 13 Notre Dame handled Southern California fairly easily to keep their signature victory against the Irish looking good.

For Oklahoma (8-0), the struggles with Kansas looked familiar. The Sooners have won five one-score games, and Saturday would have been six if they didn’t punch one in from short range in the final minute.

The emergence of freshman quarterback Williams has brought the explosiveness back to the Sooners’ offense. He is a difference-maker. The defense that was expected to be one of the best in the Big 12 is simply not.

So who is better? The Sooners or Bearcats, one of the three American Athletic Conference teams the Big 12 has announced will join the league to help replace SEC-bound Oklahoma and Texas?

Throw away the Power Five benefit of the doubt for the Sooners and it could be a tough call.

Both teams will have winnable homes games next week (OU vs. Texas Tech; UC vs. Tulane) before the College Football Playoff selection committee gets to weigh in, but a Cincinnati-Oklahoma debate could be one of the juicer possibilities for the stretch run.

Wonder who Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be rooting for?

That’s a lot of OTs

The new overtime rules put in place this season by the NCAA were intended to decrease the chances of marathon games that go beyond three possessions for each offense.

Illinois and No. 7 Penn State blew up that plan with an epic performance of ineffective offense that produced the first nine-OT game in NCAA history.

The Illini and Nittany Lions went through the first two OT periods, matching field goals and tied at 16. The third round now goes to a 2-point shootout under the new rules. One play for each team from the 3 yards out.

Never has 9 feet felt so far away.

The Big Ten teams put up five straight double zeros before trading 2s in the eighth possession. The Illini finally won it in the bottom of the ninth with a score after stopping Penn State.

Credit Illinois with its first huge upset under coach Bret Bielema.

The Nittany Lions (5-2) have now lost two straight heading into a road game at No. 5 Ohio State next week that is difficult to see being much of a fight with the way Penn State is playing offense.

And the way Ohio State is playing offense. The Buckeyes dropped 44 on Indiana — in the first half.


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