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The Big Ten’s much-anticipated Halloween Showdown still has two marquee games. But one of them isn’t the game everyone had been anticipating.

All eyes will be on No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 8 Michigan State. Both teams are in the top 10 for their Uncivil War for the first time since 1964.

But Penn State-Ohio State? Phooey.

Vegas says No. 5 Ohio State is a 17-1/2-point favorite.

The Buckeyes’ recent play says that point spread might be low.

After Ohio State lost to Oregon 35-28 and sputtered to a 41-20 win over Tulsa after leading by just seven points in the fourth quarter, the world dismissed the Buckeyes as a national-championship candidate.

Since then, when no one was looking, Ohio State has dismantled four opponents by a 231-44 count, an average of 57.7 to 11. Against Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana, its last three opponents, Ohio State's offense has scored touchdowns on 20 of its 24 drives with C.J. Stroud at quarterback.

Stroud has grown up and learned to get the ball in the hands of the talented skill players around him. A defense that was porous has gotten its act together.

No question, it looks weird for Ohio State to be ranked ahead of No. 7 Oregon. Does anyone think, though, that the Ducks would beat the Buckeyes if they played a rematch this week? The matchup that would be fascinating. . . Ohio State's juggernaut offense vs. Georgia's world-class defense. On Jan. 10, at the College Football Playoff championship game in Indianapolis.

Now that Penn State looks like another game in which Ohio State pads its blemished resume, the second Halloween treat in the Big Ten has become. . . No. 9 Iowa at unranked Wisconsin.

Not a sexy game. Not a game that will have any bearing on the national championship. Not a game that will be loaded with. . . touchdowns.

But it should be an old-fashioned defensive battle that will be critical to determining the Big Ten West.

It’s not a game the outside world will care about. In modern times, the adage that ``defense wins championships’’ ought to be accompanied by, ``Yeah, but check out the scores of the national championship games in the College Football Playoff era.’’. . . 52-24, 42-25, 44-16, 26-23, 35-31, 45-40. And 42-20.

The over/under for Iowa-Wisconsin is 37. If it goes over, take the ``over’’ on turnovers, too.

That said, the winner will make a strong statement about winning the Big Ten West. Yes, Minnesota (3-1 in Big Ten play) is still very much in the mix, with head-to-heads remaining against both the Badgers (2-2) and the Hawkeyes (3-1). So is Purdue (2-2), until its back-to-back games against Michigan State and Ohio State—if it survives this week’s trip to Nebraska.

But Wisconsin and Iowa are the way to bet. Even though the Hawkeyes got stuffed by the Boilermakers, who could not deal with the Badgers’ running game a week later. And even though Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz—who threw only eight passes at Purdue on Saturday—remains a top contender for college football’s Enigma Award.

No disclaimers are needed, though, for Michigan’s trip to Michigan State. The Wolverines are a three-point favorite, but that seems to be based on their uniforms rather than their performance this fall.

Michigan has been tough and workman-like. Michigan State has done some of that. But it also has been spectacular at times in a way that Michigan has not matched.

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The Spartans are in a class by themselves when it comes to college football’s Surprise Team of 2021.

Running back Kenneth Walker III is very much in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy.

And coach Mel Tucker, who has orchestrated the Spartans’ revival, will be on the radar of teams who are looking for a coach—and have the bank accounts to get his attention. Don’t know that it will happen. But the analogy to Nick Saban leaving East Lansing for Baton Rouge means Tucker could be jetting off to any number of locations without shocking the college football world.

Talk about giving new meaning to the phrase, ``Go Green!’’

Meanwhile, Penn State-Ohio State now looks like a mismatch rather than a pivotal contest. The Nittany Lions, who seemed to be the real deal after early-season wins over Wisconsin and Auburn, are reeling from back-to-back losses to Iowa and—gulp!—Illinois, which pulled out a ridiculous nine-overtime 20-18 victory on Saturday.

That bested the previous record of seven overtimes, but it should come with a super-sized asterisk. It also should stand forever as the record—because the NCAA or whoever is in charge should change the overtime format.

Going to two-point conversions after two rounds from the 25 yardline does not cut it. Maybe start at the 10 yardline? Figure it out.

One thing that is self-evident: The Nittany Lions’ failure to have a capable backup quarterback has put their season in danger of one of the widest mood swings imaginable.

A team that looked College Football Playoff-worthy when it was 5-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation going into its game at then-No. 3 Iowa now stands 5-2, with games remaining against the Buckeyes on Saturday, plus Michigan and Michigan State. And the team that lost to Illinois on Saturday also faces Maryland and Rutgers, which will be hungry.

Has anybody ever gone from No. 4 in October to not being bowl-eligible?

The key reason, of course, is that Sean Clifford, who played hurt vs. Illinois, is a shadow of his earlier self. With an undisclosed upper-body injury, he no longer runs the ball.

And the giveth-and-taketh Transfer Portal led to Penn State being very wobbly at quarterback after Clifford.

The Nittany Lions also could point to other key injuries to explain how a team that led Iowa 17-3 in the second quarter before its season started unraveling could fall this far this quickly.

But as the great philosopher Ron Zook once told me: ``Nobody cares.’'

The biggest question about the Nittany Lions for the rest of this season: What about James Franklin?

Will what is shaping up as a very disappointing season grease the way for him to leave? His name has come up for myriad big jobs—USC? LSU?—lately. And in recent years.

Do the suitors lose interest? Does Franklin want to right the ship in Happy Valley? Or does he prefer to start fresh, assuming he can still secure a top job?

This assumes, of course, that things don’t go well against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. A reasonable assumption at this point.

That said, there will be many interesting games as the Big Ten heads down the stretch. They just won’t involve Penn State.