Observations from Week 8 in college football: Illinois-Penn State nine-OT game was tedious, gimmicky

·4 min read

Illinois and Penn State made history Saturday. It wasn't good history.

The first nine-overtime game in college football came in the first year of the new NCAA rule legislating that teams must attempt a two-point conversion starting in the third extra period.

The change was instituted with safety in mind, hoping to shorten the length of extra time needed to determine a winner. LSU and Texas A&M famously went seven overtimes in 2018, even after both teams were required to attempt a two-point conversion after the completion of the second extra period.

What unfolded after the Fighting Illini and Nittany Lions both kicked field goals in the first overtime, though, was tedious and gimmicky. It felt unnatural, resembling a soccer shootout more than actual football. Whether you like the rule of the first two overtimes with teams from the opposition's 25-yard line, there's significantly more strategy and special teams play a factor.

There were 10 consecutive misses in overtimes three through seven. It was also disjointed. Two plays were run on one end of the field and then the teams switched to the opposite end for the next session. Trick plays were tried and failed. Illinois lost its quarterback to an arm injury. plus its running back. The game took nearly four hours, so the concerns about safety weren't alleviated.

It mercifully ended after made conversions in the eighth period set the stage for the Fighting Illini to win on its following possession.

Illinois wide receiver Casey Washington (14) celebrates his game winning catch in the ninth overtime against Penn State.
Illinois wide receiver Casey Washington (14) celebrates his game winning catch in the ninth overtime against Penn State.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Oregon escapes, Penn State falls out of playoff race

Proponents will love the drama that the game created. And the fact that Illinois knocked off No. 8 Penn State makes the game memorable. But it was ugly and felt like an inappropriate way to end such a tight contest. Hopefully, this will be the exception and not the rule of how overtimes end.

Three other observations from Saturday:

Clemson meets its match and its ACC streak looks over

This wasn't a case of luck running out for the Tigers after several close wins kept them with a feasible chance of winning the conference for the seventh consecutive season. Pittsburgh was the better team Saturday when it convincingly got a huge victory that stamped the Panthers as the clear favorite in the ACC.

There's still a potential path for Clemson to somehow win the Atlantic with Wake Forest unbeaten and North Carolina State losing to Miami (Fla.) in the hours after the Tigers suffered a second conference loss in a season for the first time since 2014. That's just wishful thinking at this point because there's little likelihood that even a likely rematch against Pitt would end any differently.

The Big 12 is up for grabs

It wasn't just the close win by Oklahoma at Kansas that makes this the case, though the Sooners more resembled a middling team than a playoff contender against the Jayhawks. The problems that were there when Spencer Rattler was the quarterback still exist: The offensive line struggles to consistently open holes and the defense is leaky and unable to get off the field, even if it is battling injuries. Caleb Williams, Rattler's replacement, showed he's still developing as a true freshman as OU failed to score in first half of a game in which they were favored by 38 points.

Three teams are queued up behind Oklahoma in second place in the league. Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State all have one loss as a result of their round-robin of games against one another that saw the Bears beat the Cyclones and lose to the Cowboy. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State on Saturday. The Sooners haven't played any of the three teams, so each will have their shot at taking down the six-time league champions. It's possible that Oklahoma misses the Big 12 title game if it doesn't get things sorted out quickly, especially with games at Baylor and Oklahoma State next month.

Ohio State peaking at the right time

The Buckeyes slipped to the back of the playoff conversation after their loss to Oregon in Week 2. They've slowly and quietly grown into a serious contender with freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud leading an offense that ranks first in yards and scoring per game. A maligned defense that wobbled against the Ducks has played much better, albeit against weaker competition.

Saturday's rout of Indiana was on after the Hoosiers were forced down to their third quarterback. It wouldn't have made a difference in determining the winner, but the 54-7 score was flattering.

Now comes the fun part. Penn State visits next week and there's games against unbeatens Michigan State and Michigan in November. That loss to Oregon will be a distant memory should Ohio State keep rolling all the way into the Big Ten title game. With the way the Buckeyes look right now, it is hard to bet against them.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 8 observations: Nine-OT game felt gimmicky