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Kern: Buckeyes give Nittany Lions a helping hand

SO, DO you think the folks in Happy Valley were sweating out what was going on out in Columbus on Saturday afternoon?

Penn State guard Brian Gaia carries the Big Ten East Division trophy as the team celebrates a 45-12 win over Michigan State.
Penn State guard Brian Gaia carries the Big Ten East Division trophy as the team celebrates a 45-12 win over Michigan State.Read moreAbby Drey

SO, DO you think the folks in Happy Valley were sweating out what was going on out in Columbus on Saturday afternoon?

Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) finally did its part by outlasting Michigan (10-2, 7-2) in double overtime. And a few hours later seventh-ranked Penn State (10-2, 8-1) took care of the rest with a 45-12 win over visiting Michigan State (3-9, 1-8). That gave the Nittany Lions the East Division title via the head-to-head tiebreaker, which wouldn't have been the case had Michigan found a way to hang on.

They'll play No. 6 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) Saturday night in Indianapolis for the championship. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish fourth in its half of the conference. Remember, the Nits were 2-2 following a 39-point loss at Michigan and were down by three with 54 seconds left the next week at home against Minnesota before winning in OT.

Just make sure to send the dreaded Buckeyes a fitting Christmas card.

The Nits trailed 12-10 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter they were up by 19, courtesy of three Trace McSorley touchdown passes. He'd add a fourth with 3 1/2 minutes left. Last November they lost 55-16 at MSU. Obviously they didn't forget.

McSorley went 17-for-23 for 376 yards, which was more than enough to offset Saquon Barkley rushing for 14 yards on 12 carries. The Spartans, one year removed from the playoffs, had 109 on 42.

Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992. Two years later it went 12-0 and should have at least got a co-national title instead of finishing No. 2 behind Nebraska. The Nits tied with Ohio State in 2005 and 2008 (they beat the Buckeyes in each of those seasons).

They haven't played the Badgers since 2013. They've won four of the last five meetings. Wisconsin is 1-2 in Big Ten finals. It lost the inaugural one to Michigan State in 2011, 42-39. The next year it beat Nebraska, 70-31. Two years ago it lost to eventual national champ Ohio State, 59-0.

The winner can at least make an argument for getting into the four-team playoff field. A Washington loss to Colorado in Friday night's Pac-12 final would help. Or a Clemson loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC matchup. Why stop thinking big now?

Temple 37, East Carolina 10

A group of seniors who lost the first six games of their North Broad careers (and 10 of the first 11) four years ago for first-year coach Matt Rhule went out with a six-game regular-season winning streak.

The Owls (9-3, 7-1) will play at Navy (9-2, 7-1) for the American Athletic Association title on Saturday afternoon. Last year they lost at Houston in the final. Their only conference title was in 1967, in the Middle Atlantic.

They actually trailed in this one, 7-0 early in the first quarter, the first points they'd given up in 10 periods. The only other points the visitors would get is a field goal early in the fourth. By that time the Pirates (3-9, 1-7) were down by 17.

Jahad Thomas rushed for 152 yards and two TDs on 24 attempts. Phillip Walker went over 10,000 career passing yards, a program first. The Owls had no penalties for the first time in over 10 years.

Navy has won 15 straight at home, the longest streak in FBS. It just won at SMU 5-7, 3-5), 75-31.

Villanova 31, St. Francis (Pa.) 21

The Wildcats (9-3) are headed to South Dakota State (8-3), the only team this season to beat top seed and five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State.

They earned the right by beating the Red Flash (7-5), who were making their first playoff appearance, at home in a first-round matchup.

The Jackrabbits had one of the eight opening byes.

Andy Talley, who is retiring after 32 seasons on the Main Line, improved to 9-2 at home in the postseason. He'll be on the road for as long as the Wildcats can keep his farewell tour going.

It was 31-7 at halftime. St. Francis scored early in the fourth on a long interception return and again near the end on a short run.

Zach Bednarczyk threw three TD passes, one week after he tied a career-high with four at Delaware. The Wildcats rushed for 241 yards, 214 more than the visitors.

If the Talley era gets extended once more they'd most likely have to travel to North Dakota State.

In 2010, coming off a national title run, the Wildcats won by 30 at top-ranked Stephen F. Austin and then won by 18 at new No. 1 Appalachian State before losing by 10 at eventual champ Eastern Washington, the team that had moved to the top of the polls.

Michael Jack's Top 10

1. Alabama (12-0). Beat Auburn, 30-12. Saturday: SEC title game vs. Florida in Atlanta. Is 3-4 against Gators in championship games. But Tide has taken last five meetings, by average of 25 points, including two finals. Last year it was 29-15 en route to national title.

2. Ohio State (11-1). Beat Michigan, 30-27 in double overtime. Next: bowl or playoff game to be determined. Wins at Oklahoma and Wisconsin should be enough to get Buckeyes into four-team postseason field. It's supposed to be about the entire body of work.

3. Clemson (11-1). Beat South Carolina, 56-7. Saturday: ACC title game vs. Virginia Tech in Orlando. Have won last three meetings, including 2011 ACC final, by an average of 23 per.

4. Washington (11-1). Beat Washington State, 45-17. Friday: Pac-12 title game vs. Colorado in Santa Clara, Cal. Has won last six meetings. Last four weren't close.

5. Michigan (10-2). Lost at Ohio State, 30-27 (2OT). Next: bowl or playoff game TBD. Wolves did beat Colorado (by 17), Penn State (by 39) and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks. Even though it happened two months ago it still counts.

6. Wisconsin (10-2). Beat Minnesota, 31-17. Saturday: Big Ten title game vs. Penn State in Indianapolis. Haven't met since 2013. Badgers are 1-2 in championship game. Lost to Ohio State two years ago, 59-0.

7. Penn State (10-2). Beat Michigan State, 45-12. Saturday: Big Ten final vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis. Won last two meetings (by seven and in OT), and four of last five.

8. Oklahoma (9-2). Idle. Saturday: vs. Oklahoma State. Beat Cowboys last year on road, 58-23. Last two meetings in Norman went to OT.

9. Colorado (10-2). Beat Utah, 27-22. Friday: Pac-12 final vs. Washington in Santa Clara, Cal. Hasn't won a conference title since 2001 in the Big 12.

10. Oklahoma State (9-2). Idle. Saturday: at Oklahoma. Won at Oklahoma two years ago. If only the Cowboys hadn't lost at home to Central Michigan on Sept. 10 on goofy last play that should've never even been allowed to happen. Then again, it was Central Michigan at home.

Next in line: Southern Cal (9-3), Florida State (9-3), West Virginia (9-2), Western Michigan (12-0) and Navy (9-2).

Michael Jack's Fraud Five

Louisville - Shouldn't be losing at home to Kentucky, especially when you score 38. Maybe it was a hangover from Houston the week before. And maybe Lamar Jackson is no longer such a lock to get the Heisman.

Mississippi - Shouldn't be losing 55-20 at home to Mississippi State. It wasn't that long ago that both of those teams were pretty good.

Nebraska - It's OK to lose at Iowa. But 40-10 seems a bit much.

Washington State - It's OK to lose to Washington, even at home. But maybe not by 45-17, especially with a trip to Pac-12 final on the line.

Tennessee - Shouldn't be losing at Vanderbilt, especially after you led by 14 early in the second quarter, to go to 8-4. Remember when Vols were ranked in Top 10 in early October? Probably neither do their fans.