The Hodgepodge: Ohio State Has Found Its Mojo, Michael Penix Jr. is a Heisman Frontrunner and Missouri's “Thiccer Kicker” Drills a Game-Winning 61-yard Field Goal

By Garrick Hodge on September 18, 2023 at 11:35 am
Michael Penix
Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Ryan Day was the happiest man on the planet Saturday evening.

After two weeks of inconsistent offensive play, a quarterback competition and gripes about the new clock rules, the Ohio State head coach instead found himself talking about an explosive and productive offense in his postgame press conference, along with a defense that scored twice and dominated an overmatched Group of Five opponent by creating takeaways. 

Day said there was a sense of urgency in practice throughout the week, and it probably didn’t hurt that Kyle McCord had his best performance of the season a few days after getting a total vote of confidence as the Buckeyes’ full-time starting quarterback. 

Ohio State reminded the college football world it still boasts one of the most talented rosters in the country on both sides of the ball and recaptured its mojo en route to its 63-10 beatdown of Western Kentucky. To credit the Hilltoppers, part of why the game was as lopsided as it was stemmed from WKU playing to win, as odd as that sounds. WKU coach Tyson Helton consistently went for it on fourth downs from midfield or even in Hilltopper territory. In contrast, Indiana and Youngstown State were all too content to accept defeat, bleed out the clock and make it look as respectable as possible. 

None of that changes the fact that Ohio State held the type of offense it typically struggles against in check, established an effective run and pass game and is trending upward right before a monumental contest against Notre Dame. 

In recent history, the Fighting Irish are notorious for collapsing in a big spotlight. But like Ohio State, Notre Dame has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. 

The Fighting Irish have played one more game than the Buckeyes and have won comfortably in all four. Sam Hartman has reignited a Notre Dame offense that was hapless when Ohio State bested it in its season opener a year ago, throwing for 1,061 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions so far. The run game has been consistent, and they’ll get to host the Buckeyes at Notre Dame Stadium.   

In the final season of a four-team College Football Playoff, the game is close to a must-win for both squads, though both could feasibly make the playoff following a defeat if they ran the table afterward.

More importantly, Saturday serves as a massive measuring stick: Just how national championship caliber are these two teams? 

Buckeye spotlight of the week: Tyleik Williams

Williams’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant developments for Ohio State this season. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive tackle has been a disruptive force on the Buckeyes’ defensive line, totaling at least five tackles in each of the team's contests thus far and playing a prominent role in slowing down the opposing run game. 

Against Western Kentucky, Williams had seven tackles (one for loss), a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Ohio State will face its most daunting task so far this season in South Bend, where the Fighting Irish are running for more than 200 yards a game and quarterback Sam Hartman looks unflappable.  

To slow down Notre Dame, it starts up front for the Buckeyes, especially with the talent the Fighting Irish boast on the offensive line. Williams having another big night would go a long way in securing a victory against Notre Dame for the second straight year. 

Michael Penix Jr. is a Heisman candidate, Washington is rolling

Has anyone ever had a better college football glow-up than Michael Penix Jr.? Penix was toiling away at Indiana a few seasons ago with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of four to seven while battling a knee injury. One year later, he became the grand architect of a highly powered Washington Huskies offense. 

A popular preseason pick to crack the College Football Playoff this year, Washington saw its projected starting running back and right guard both suffer season-ending injuries, leading to a question of what the offense’s ceiling could really be. 

Well, three games in, Penix has not only ensured his team didn’t miss a beat, but he’s likely the Heisman frontrunner at the season’s quarter mark.  

Penix threw for more than 400 yards for the third straight week on Saturday, as Washington crushed a Michigan State team mired in chaos in a 41-7 road victory. So far, Penix has thrown for 1,332 yards (an average of 444 yards per game!), completed 74.3% of his passes and thrown 12 touchdowns with one interception. 

“I think he’s the best quarterback in the nation,” Washington junior wide receiver Rome Odunze told reporters after the game. “Week in, week out, he goes out there and proves it. He’s him. He really does this. I see it all the time. I see it every day in practice. So I know that’s him. I know he’s got even more in the tank. I’m just excited that you guys get to see.”

Washington plays in arguably the deepest conference top to bottom nationwide — it’s still weird typing that — so a storybook ending is far from a guarantee. But at this rate, the Huskies’ Nov. 4 matchup with USC may set scoring records if Penix keeps up his ridiculous pace.  

Missouri gets a ranked win on a 61-yard field goal

The SEC continues to have one of its worst showings against other Power Five conference teams in years three weeks into the season with a 5-7 record. But arguably the league’s best nonconference win of the year came from a team that the 13 other SEC fanbases often snicker doesn’t belong in the conference in the first place. 

Nonetheless, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz delivered a much-needed statement victory over a former Big 12 rival with a 30-27 win over formerly ranked Kansas State in Columbia Saturday. Wideout Luther Burden, a five-star prospect out of high school, lifted the Tigers with a seven-catch, 114-yard and two-touchdown performance. Still, the star of the day was kicker Harrison Mevis, endearingly nicknamed by fans as the “Thiccer Kicker” due to his 5-foot-11, 243-pound stature. 

Mevis drilled an SEC record 61-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Tigers to victory and a 3-0 record. The specialist was on a skid entering the contest, too, only converting one of three field goals in the two games prior while also missing a PAT. But none of that mattered Saturday.

“The past is what makes you what you are now,” Mevis told reporters after the game. “I’m better because of my misses. I think this team is better because of the adversity we have had over the last four years.”

What was fun and what was wacky about Week 3

Week 3 had a lot of fun things

  • Credit to Deion Sanders and Jay Norvell. They did something I did not think was humanly possible: Make Colorado v. Colorado State must-see TV. Honestly, Sanders needs to host a seminar on trash-talking because he has to be the GOAT at it. 
  • After winning one game last season, the Buffs improved to 3-0 after completing a comeback against Colorado State that involved an impressive game-tying touchdown drive in the final minute of regulation. However, with upcoming games against Oregon and USC, Colorado may come back to reality soon.
  • Fresno State has gotten away with highway robbery this season. Having beaten Purdue in Week 1, the Bulldogs bested their second FBS team of the year Saturday, dominating Arizona State 29-0. After playing two “buy” games where it has the disadvantage on paper, Fresno State has been paid a total of $2.45 million for two wins. 
  • It was a good day for a couple of Group of Five teams in Ohio, with Ohio University taking down Iowa State in Athens and Miami (OH) ending a 16-game losing streak to Cincinnati. 
  • As if we needed another reason to root for Oregon State this season, then the Beavers go ahead and DRAW UP A PLAY FOR A LINEMAN THAT GOES FOR A TOUCHDOWN. 
  • LSU running back Kaleb Jackson delivered the biggest punishment on a defender I’ve seen in quite some time.
  • Nay’Quan Wright running over Alabama safety Caleb Downs wasn’t far behind Jackson’s hit.
  • Neither Pittsburgh nor West Virginia is that great this year, but I maintain that the backyard brawl is one of college football’s most underrated rivalries. 
  • Random, wild stat of the day: Sixty-one of 133 FBS teams have a punter from Australia on their roster (Jesse Mirco says hello). 
  • North Carolina continues to impress on the field, as the Tar Heels handled Minnesota comfortably on Saturday. But the Tar Heels’ fans brought it too, shouting a unified “We Want Tez” in response to wide receiver Tez Walker being ruled ineligible by the NCAA for no apparent reason.
  • Let’s take a moment to appreciate both this formation and play by Southern Miss that almost worked.

Week 3 had a lot of wacky things too

  • What do I and Colorado State kicker Jordan Noyes have in common? We’re both 31. I think that’s about where the similarities end between me and the college football-playing England native who is a father of three children, though.
  • It's hard to find a worse loss of the week than Arizona State’s total dud against Fresno State, but Oklahoma State getting drubbed 33-7 to South Alabama might top it. That’s what happens when you rotate three quarterbacks in, I suppose. 
  • Maryland was clinging to a seven-point lead over Virginia entering the fourth quarter on Friday. Then Virginia signal-caller Anthony Colandrea threw three interceptions on three consecutive passes. The game ended 42-14. 
  • Travis Hunter, one of the sport’s most exciting players, will miss a few weeks because of a blatant cheap shot.
  • It wouldn’t be Iowa if they weren’t getting some of their points via defense or special teams, right?
  • It’s astounding how much of a mess Alabama is right now. The Crimson Tide still don’t have an answer on a quarterback going forward and were consistently beat up front against USF. Nick Saban does not look like he’s having fun.
  • Speaking of Saban, his former assistant Lane Kiffin is playing some major mind games ahead of their matchup this week by announcing to the media he believes Alabama has demoted its defensive coordinator from watching the film. Saban’s next press conference will be interesting. 
  • Good news for Boston College: After being hapless for two weeks, the Eagles seem to have found themselves a quarterback in Thomas Castellanos, who nearly carried them to an upset over Florida State by throwing for more than 300 yards and rushing for almost 100. The bad news: It committed 18 penalties, including a facemask on what would have been a third down stop late in the game, which would have given the Eagles a chance for a go-ahead drive. 
  • Tennessee may have lost a game in the swamp for the 10th straight time, but my man Joe “throw a football over them mountains” Milton is always ready to square up if necessary.
  • Not this man’s finest hour.

Nepotism tracker 

Oh yeah, Brian Ferentz is cooking with gas now.

The goal: 325 points across 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game. 

Last game: Iowa 41, Western Michigan 10 

Points tallied this season: 85 

If the season ended today: Iowa would finish averaging 28.3 points per game. Hang the banner in Kinnick Stadium. Ain’t no stopping this offense now.

Up next: Iowa faces Penn State, who allowed 13 points in a 30-13 win over Illinois.

Game of the Week

No. 4 Florida State (3-0) vs. Clemson (2-1), noon, ABC

Season record: 2-2

My pick: Florida State -1

Breakdown: It’s unfortunate to choose only one game from a loaded slate in Week 4. But considering nearly every reader of this website will be tuned in to NBC in primetime Saturday, we’re going with the early kickoff between two ACC rivals. Florida State continues to have College Football Playoff aspirations but played poorly against one of the worst teams in the conference that bailed the Seminoles out by committing 18 penalties. Meanwhile, Clemson was embarrassed by Duke in Week 1 but could get right back into the conference title race with a win over FSU. I like the Seminoles to finally get the Clemson monkey off their back, get their first win over the Tigers since 2014 and end Dabo’s playoff hopes before September ends. 

These Week 4 matchups are ridiculously great

I can’t just highlight one game from this week. Look at all these matchups on tap. 

  • Ohio State v. Notre Dame in a top-10 matchup. 
  • Ole Miss v. Alabama in the “is this the fall of the Roman Empire” bowl. 
  • UCLA v. Utah, which becomes much better if Cam Rising finally makes his debut. 
  • Colorado v. Oregon in the “how long can Prime keep this up” bowl. 
  • Oregon State v. Washington State in the “why do we have to go to the Mountain West when we’re both awesome” bowl.
  • Iowa v. Penn State in what will be the best defense Drew Allar has faced in his career so far.

And a bit of an underrated game, Jim Harbaugh returns from his suspension as Michigan faces an undefeated Rutgers squad. We’re gonna have a lot to recap next Monday.

Hodgepodge team classifiers after Week 3

We’re officially a fourth of the way into the season. Many teams are still undefeated heading into Week 4, but this upcoming week will surely shift around a lot in next week’s classifiers, depending on results.  

CFP contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas, USC, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma

Better win out if you want to be in the CFP: LSU, Alabama, Clemson

New Year’s Six Bowl contenders: Oregon State, Iowa, North Carolina, UCLA, Ole Miss

Fun Group of Five teams: Tulane, Fresno State, Toledo, Wyoming, Ohio, Texas State, Western Kentucky, James Madison, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Georgia State

Could be a fun year for them: Colorado, Washington State, Kansas, Miami, Duke, UCF, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, Air Force, BYU

Could be a long year for them: Texas Tech, Baylor, South Carolina, Nebraska, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Houston

Might be looking for a new coach at the end of the year: Virginia, Boston College, Indiana

There’s already an interim coach: Northwestern 

A former head coach is back with the team as an assistant because the current head coach is suspended: Michigan State

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