Big Ten Zebras Simply Need To Do A Better Job

Consider this my semi-regular screed on Big Ten officiating on the day before Illinois running back Daniel Dufrene makes his return to Ohio Stadium.

You remember Dufrene, don’t you? He’s the guy who took a simple draw play and ran 80 yards against Ohio State on the Fighting Illini’s second offensive play in 2007. On the next play, Illinois scored a touchdown and went on to upset the top-ranked Buckeyes, 28-21.

Of course, Dufrene clearly lost control of the football when OSU cornerback Donald Washington pushed him from behind, but the officiating crew headed by referee Stephen Pamon made no fumble call. Members of the Ohio State defense protested to no avail and the play was never reviewed.

Pamon and his crew made other questionable calls in 2007 and were even suspended for the final week of that season. Additionally, the Big Ten came under scrutiny for even allowing Pamon to don the zebra stripes … but I digress.

I was under the impression that every play in a Big Ten game was under review and the game was stopped while any questionable call was scrutinized by replay officials. Evidently, I was under a false impression. If an important play such as that one is not subject to review, then I’m not sure why you have replay at all.

In the aftermath of the loss, some fans blamed Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel for not calling timeout at that point and asking for a review but that was ludicrous. Not only did the play occur on the far sideline, college assistants do not have access to television monitors in the press box – and even if they did, by the time ABC replayed the fumble, it would have been too late to ask for a review.

I am not suggesting for one second that the no-call on that play cost Ohio State the victory. My argument is that the replay system was initially installed so that officials could get calls right. In this case, they got it wrong and that was and still is unforgivable.

We always hear about how the officials are only human and mistakes are sometimes made. It just seems that mistakes are made at an alarmingly high rate in the Big Ten. The latest cases in point have come during the early part of this season.

Last week, Purdue offensive guard Zach Reckman was caught by television cameras putting a late hit on an opponent. Northern Illinois defender Sean Progar recovered a Purdue fumble at the end of last week’s game and slid along the turf to preserve his team’s 28-21 upset of the Boilermakers. Reckman dropped a forearm on Progar as he lay prone on the ground, after which Progar’s teammate Alex Kube pushed Rechman off.

Cooler heads prevailed and the situation did not escalate. I know it was the end of the game, but why were there no penalty flags thrown? The Big Ten office obviously thought something should have been done since it suspended Reckman for this Saturday’s game against Notre Dame.

That’s not the first time the conference office has doled out a suspension despite no infraction being called on the field. The Big Ten suspended Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton for one game after he punched a Notre Dame player during the Sept. 12 contest between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.

Television replays show, midway through the second quarter of that game, that Mouton took a swing at Notre Dame offensive lineman Eric Olsen as they got up from a pile. Later, when the conference announced the suspension, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez said he never saw the punch and figured that an official would have called any infraction. That is probably the first time I have agreed with Rodriguez.

I realize that officials are not going to see every minute detail that happens on the field of play although that is supposed to be their job. But missing obvious fumbles and failing to see opposing players punch one another? That is simply unforgivable.

ELITE COMPANY

Dufrene’s long run against Ohio State in 2007 allowed him to join some elite company. He finished that game with 106 yards rushing, making him one of only 16 opponents to crack the century mark against the Buckeyes during the Tressel era.

The Buckeyes are 8-8 under Tressel when an opposing player rushes for 100 or more yards.

Anthony Davis of Wisconsin is the only player on the list to accomplish the feat more than once and he did it three times, rushing for 103 in 2001, 144 in 2002 and 168 in 2004. The Badgers beat Ohio State in ’01 and ’04, and lost a narrow 19-14 decision in ’02. (Davis was injured and did not play against the Buckeyes in 2003. His replacement, Booker Stanley, ran for 125 that year in a 17-10 win for Wisconsin.)

Garrett Wolfe on Northern Illinois holds the mark for most rushing yards by an OSU opponent in the Tressel era. Wolfe rolled up 171 yards in 2006, but his Huskies fell to the Buckeyes by a 35-12 score.

The most recent opponent to crack the century mark against the Buckeyes was USC tailback Joe McKnight, who had 105 yards in last year’s 35-3 win by the Trojans.

OSU-ILLINOIS TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Illinois will meet Saturday for the 96th time and the Buckeyes hold a 61-30-4 advantage in the series. OSU holds a 26-18-4 edge in Columbus although the Illini have won three of the four times they have been to Ohio Stadium, including a 28-21 upset of the top-ranked Buckeyes in 2007.

** Between 1988 and 1992, the teams met five times and Illinois won them all. In the 15 games since, the Buckeyes are 12-3 with all three losses coming in Columbus.

** The game will mark the Big Ten opener for both teams. Ohio State has a 69-23-4 record all-time in conference openers. Illinois is 46-60-7 all-time in league openers and has lost 12 of its last 13.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will mark his 300th game as a college head coach on Saturday. His career record is 220-77-2, good for a .739 winning percentage. Tressel was 135-57-2 (.701) in 15 seasons at Youngstown State and is currently 85-20 (.810) in eight-plus seasons with the Buckeyes

** Tressel is 4-2 against Illinois while Fighting Illini head coach Ron Zook is 1-3 vs. the Buckeyes.

** Tressel is 7-1 in Big Ten openers, with the only a 33-27 overtime defeat at Northwestern in 2004. The Buckeyes’ average margin of victory in the other seven games has been 24.6 points. Zook is 1-3 in his previous conference openers. The lone victory came in 2007 when the Illini took a 27-14 win at Indiana.

** Zook was defensive backs coach on John Cooper’s staff at Ohio State from 1988-90. Although those weren’t exactly the glory years, the Buckeyes were 3-0 against the Illini during that stretch.

** Zook’s career mark as a head coach is only 42-45 but he can boast one accomplishment most of his Big Ten counterparts cannot. Zook has coached his team to victories at Ohio Stadium and Michigan Stadium, and Joe Paterno of Penn State is the only other Big Ten head coach who can claim that feat.

** The Illini have faced a ranked OSU team on 36 occasions since 1942, and the Buckeyes have won 25 of those contests. In the Zook era, Illinois has a 3-12 record against ranked teams. Ohio State is 32-13 against ranked competition under Tressel.

** The Buckeyes and Illini vie for one of the more uncommon trophies in college football. Illibuck is a wooden turtle that goes to the winner of the game each year. The tradition began in 1925 with a live turtle being exchanged between the two schools. The turtle was selected because of its supposed long life expectancy. Unfortunately, the original Illibuck died only two years after the trophy game was inaugurated. Since 1927, nine wooden replica Illibucks have been carved, each with the scores from games on its back. The Illibuck is the second oldest trophy game in the Big Ten, surpassed only by the Little Brown Jug. Minnesota and Michigan have been vying for the Jug since 1903.

** Since 2006, Ohio State has held 42 opponents under 21 points. That is the best mark in Division I-A over that span, one better than Virginia Tech and three better than TCU. The Buckeyes are 39-3 in those games.

** The Illini offense enters the game ranked second in the Big Ten and 13th in the nation in rushing, averaging 247.0 per game. Ohio State enters the game having allowed only an average of 105.7 yards per contest to Navy, USC and Toledo.

** Sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor has played in only 15 games so far as a Buckeye, but he already has six with 200 or more total yards. Last week’s total of 372 against Toledo was the fifth highest single-game total in school history. Art Schlichter has held that record since 1981 when he totaled 412 during a 36-27 loss to Florida State. The OSU career mark for most games with 200 or more total yards is 19, held by Troy Smith (2003-06).

** Illinois senior quarterback Juice Williams needs only 171 yards of total offense against the Buckeyes to become his school’s all-time leader in that category. He needs 1,290 more to become only the sixth player in Big Ten history to amass 10,000 or more total yards in a career. The other conference players with that many total yards: Drew Brees of Purdue (12,692, 1997-2000), Brett Basanez of Northwestern (11,576, 2002-05), Curtis Painter of Purdue (11,511, 2005-08), Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (11,364, 1998-2001) and Chuck Long of Iowa (10,254, 1981-85).

** ABC and ESPN will telecast the OSU-Illinois using the reverse mirror method. ABC will show the game on a regional basis through most of Big Ten country, and the game will be available elsewhere on ESPN. Veteran play-by-play Ron Franklin and color analyst Ed Cunningham will have the call.

** The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio channel 123.

** Tressel and Zook will each wear patches on the sidelines in connection with the Coach to Cure MD project. College football fans around the nation on Saturday will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused entirely on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

** Next week’s game against Indiana will be the second and final prime-time affair of the year for the Buckeyes. Kickoff is scheduled in Bloomington at shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern, and the game will be telecast on the Big Ten Network.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** Sixty-one years ago today, Michigan head coach Bennie Oosterbaan started his coaching career better than anyone before him. On Sept. 25, 1948, the Wolverines took a 13-7 win over Michigan State in East Lansing, giving Oosterbaan his first victory in his first game as head coach. Michigan went on to finish the 1948 season with a perfect 9-0 record, marking the first time in college football history a head coach had achieved an undefeated season in his first year on the job. The feat has since been duplicated four times, most recently by Larry Coker of Miami (Fla.) in 2001.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Sept. 22, 1956, Notre Dame lost for the first time ever in September when unranked SMU scored a 19-13 upset in Dallas over the third-ranked Fighting Irish; on Sept. 23, 1972, Purdue quarterback Gary Danielson ran for a career-high 213 yards but it wasn’t enough as 15th-ranked Washington erased a 21-0 halftime deficit and beat the Boilermakers, 22-21, in West Lafayette; on Sept. 26, 1992, Hawaii kicker Jason Elam hit three field goals, including a 56-yarder, to help the Warriors to a 36-32 win in Honolulu over BYU; and on Sept. 27, 1986, second-ranked Miami (Fla.) rolled to a 28-16 win over defending national champion and top-ranked Oklahoma. Three future College Hall of Famers were on the Orange Bowl sidelines that day – Miami safety Bennie Blades, Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer – but the afternoon belonged to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. The Miami QB threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns against the Sooners.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The Big Ten kicks off its 114th season on Saturday with 10 of the 11 member teams opening conference play. (Purdue is odd man out; the Boilermakers host Notre Dame on Saturday night.) Parity has reigned over the Big Ten during the new millennium with seven teams winning or sharing the championship since 2000. See if you can guess the four teams that have not won or shared at least one Big Ten championship since 2000. The answer comes later.

** By going after his fifth consecutive Big Ten championship and sixth overall in nine seasons, Tressel is trying to join some elite company. The legendary Woody Hayes is the only head coach in league history to win at least five straight titles, and he holds the record with six in a row at Ohio State from 1972-77. Additionally, Tressel can join Bo Schembechler and Bernie Bierman as the only conference coaches ever to take home at least six league trophies in their first nine seasons on campus. Schembechler won seven in his first nine years at Michigan from 1969-77 and Bierman won six during his first nine seasons at Minnesota from 1932-40.

** Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka had himself quite a game last Saturday at Syracuse. Kafka opened the game by completing a school-record 16 consecutive pass attempts, and accounted for five touchdowns as the Wildcats lost a wild 37-34 decision to the Orange. In addition to throwing for a career-best 390 yards and three touchdowns, Kafka also ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. He became the first Big Ten player to score passing, running and receiving in the same game since Penn State quarterback Zack Mills in 2004.

** Head-scratching stat of the week: His team’s loss to Washington last weekend gave USC head coach Pete Carroll a fifth defeat against unranked competition in his last 89 games. Carroll has lost only twice to ranked teams in 32 tries over that same span.

** Washington became the fourth team in the last half-century to break into the Associated Press national rankings the year after it experienced a winless season. The others: South Carolina in 2000, Florida in 1980 and Northwestern in 1958. Of those three, only South Carolina was ranked at the end of the season. The Gamecocks finished No. 19 in the final 2000 AP poll.

** Congratulations to North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson, who has established a new NCAA record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Wilson’s new record is 329 – and counting – and hasn’t thrown an interception since Sept. 13 of last season during a 27-9 loss to Clemson. That pick was the only interception so far for the Wolfpack junior in 355 career attempts.

** The losses by Utah and BYU last Saturday temporarily derailed the Mountain West’s argument for being included in the BCS. Meanwhile, Utah’s loss to Oregon also ended the nation’s longest Division I-A winning streak at 16. Florida now owns the longest win streak at the I-A level. The Gators have won 13 games in a row.

** It has been a slow climb for Nebraska in its attempt to return to glory. Last week’s 16-15 loss at No. 14 Virginia Tech was the Cornhuskers’ 21st defeat in their last 22 games against teams ranked in the top 20.

** Here is the answer to our Big Ten championship trivia question: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota and Indiana have failed to win or share a league title since 2000. The Badgers won their most recent championship in 1999, their third over a seven-year span. The Spartans last won the crown in 1990 when they shared a four-way tie with Michigan, Iowa and Illinois. Meanwhile, the Gophers and Hoosiers haven’t won a Big Ten championship since 1967 when they shared the title with Purdue.

** The College Football Hall of Fame is on the move again. Situated in South Bend, Ind., since 1995, the Hall of Fame will move to Atlanta in 2012 in the hopes of drawing more visitors. The hall moved to South Bend from the Kings Island amusement park near Cincinnati primarily to take advantage of its proximity to Notre Dame. Supporters predicted it would attract more than 150,000 visitors a year, but it drew only about 115,000 people the first year and about 60,000 annually since. The National Football Foundation notified the city of South Bend in a letter Tuesday that it is terminating its agreement with the city when its current lease ends on Dec. 31, 2010. South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke indicated his city could close the facility before the end of 2010. He added that he was told the facility in Atlanta probably won’t be ready until 2012.

** The nominees list for the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class includes 18 players already enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. They are Cornelius Bennett (Alabama); Tim Brown (Notre Dame); Jimbo Covert (Pittsburgh); Ray Guy (Southern Mississippi); Steve McMichael (Texas); Sam Mills (Montclair State, N.J.); Jim Plunkett (Stanford); John Randle (Texas A&M- Kingsville); Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State); George Rogers (South Carolina); Donnie Shell (South Carolina State); Emmitt Smith (Florida); Chris Spielman (Ohio State); Pat Swilling (Georgia Tech); Joe Theismann (Notre Dame); Herschel Walker (Georgia); Danny White (Arizona State) and Doug Williams (Grambling).

FEARLESS FORECAST

The forecast isn’t exactly purring along in midseason form. We would have had a better week had Michigan State been able to hold on in the Upset Special against Notre Dame, and if we’d had to courage to actually pick Washington over USC rather than just talking about it.

As it was, the picks were 8-4 straight up and only 5-6-1 against the spread. That gives us a yearly total of 12-7 SU for the year and 8-10-1 ATS. Once again, we’ll try to do better.

Fresno State at No. 14 Cincinnati: The Bearcats are gaining a lot of attention this year, especially for playing a tough nonconference schedule that has already netted victories at Rutgers and Oregon State. The young defense remains a bit of a question mark, however, but UC can answer that one this week as it goes against Fresno State and its powerful running attack. Tailback Ryan Mathews is the nation’s leading rusher, and he totaled 234 last week against Boise State. The question is whether or not the Bulldogs can slow down Cincinnati QB Tony Pike, who has already thrown for 923 yards and eight TDs, and favorite target Mardy Gilyard, who has 23 catches for 265 yards and four touchdowns … Cincinnati 34, Fresno State 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Indiana at No. 23 Michigan: Everyone who predicted these teams to be undefeated at this point, please raise your hands. Maybe Rich Rodriguez really does have the Wolverines back on track after last year’s woeful start. Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier has gotten his share of early ink, but it’s the rejuvenated running game that has fueled U-M so far. Tailback Carlos Brown had a breakout game last week with 187 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries against Eastern Michigan, and the Wolverines are averaging 270.7 yards per game on the ground. That should make for an interesting matchup since the Hoosiers are 15th nationally against the run, surrendering an average of only 76.0 yards per game. Many assume Michigan will win this game, mostly because it hasn’t lost to Indiana in Ann Arbor in 42 years. I favor the Wolverines, too, but don’t go to sleep on the Hoosiers. This could be a lot closer than most people think … Michigan 27, Indiana 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 8 Boise State at Bowling Green: With Utah and BYU going down last week, it’s up to Boise State to continue to carry the BCS-busting flag. And with all due respect to our BG friends, the Broncos shouldn’t have any trouble this week. Yes, it’s a road game far from home for Boise, yes, the Falcons would seem to be better than their 1-2 record might indicate, and yes, BG gave the Broncos all they could handle last year on the Smurf Turf before falling by a 20-7 score. Boise State should be able to stuff Bowling Green’s run game – like everyone else so far this year – and create some turnovers in the passing game … Boise State 37, Bowling Green 13  (7 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Ball State at Auburn: If you wonder what happened to the Cardinals – last year’s MAC runners-up – the cold, hard truth is there wasn’t much left over after head coach Brady Hoke and quarterback Nate Davis left. It doesn’t help that Stan Parrish was named Hoke’s successor. Parrish’s first stint as a head coach came in the early 1980s at Kansas State where he posted an 0-26-1 record with the Wildcats before being replaced by Bill Snyder. With four more losses in as many games with the Cardinals – he took over for the team’s 45-13 GMAC Bowl loss to Tulsa – a Parrish-coached team is now winless in its last 31 games. And now it gets to face an undefeated SEC team on the road … Auburn 38, Ball State 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Notre Dame at Purdue: I’m going to confess that I’ve given up trying to figure out the Irish. They should have won at Michigan and lost, and they should have lost last week against Michigan State and somehow found a way to win. Of course, it’s not that easy to pin down the Boilermakers, either. They pounded on Toledo in the opener and played right with Oregon on the road before an inexplicable home loss to Northern Illinois. Notre Dame is banged up on offense – QB Jimmy Claussen has turf toe and top WR Michael Floyd is gone for the year with a broken collarbone – but Purdue has been struggling on defense. The Boilers are dead last in the Big Ten in scoring and total defense, meaning that if Claussen can walk at all, he’ll probably enough for the Irish … Notre Dame 35, Purdue 27. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Iowa at No. 5 Penn State: Anyone other than me underwhelmed by the Nittany Lions so far? Although it has three victories by an average margin of 23.3 points, Penn State has looked almost disinterested against opponents that are a combined 2-6 so far this season. JoePa’s team says that’s going to change starting this week, but it’s often difficult to try and simply throw the switch on emotion. While the Lions have been underachieving, the Hawkeyes seem a little more battle-tested. The last two weeks have produced a big win over instate rival Iowa State and a 10-point decision last week over Arizona. Add that to the fact that Kirk Ferentz evidently has Paterno’s number – Iowa has won six of the last seven in the series – and you have the recipe for an Upset Special … Iowa 23, Penn State 20. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Illinois at No. 13 Ohio State: Look for the Fighting Illini to get their share of yards on the ground. But I just think Williams remains too mistake-prone, especially for a senior, and the Illinois defense is still suspect. Pryor ran for 110 yards in last year’s game in Champaign and I look for more of the same this year in Columbus … Ohio State 27, Illinois 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-16½) at Bowling Green; Fresno State (+16) at Cincinnati; Indiana (+20½) at Michigan; Ball State (+33) at Auburn; Notre Dame (-7) at Purdue; Iowa (+10) at Penn State; Illinois (+14) at Ohio State.

You might like to know OSU is only 1-4 ATS in its past five home games against Illinois and that the Illini are 6-2 ATS in their last eight overall against the Buckeyes.

Focusing On Folly Of Fickle Fans

You may think Jim Tressel apologized yesterday for comments he made Tuesday about Ohio State fans.

Think again.

In case you need to be reminded, during his weekly press luncheon, Tressel mentioned some of the nasty comments and e-mails he had fielded in the wake of last Saturday night’s loss to USC. Of his poison pen pals, the coach said, “They’ve got to be some of the most unhappy people in the world, and I feel bad because we just made them less happy. I hate to be a part of making someone less happy. I mean, they’re already miserable.”

I don’t believe for a second the coach was talking about all Ohio State fans. Just the dim bulbs who think it’s OK to challenge Tressel’s coaching acumen, his approach to his chosen profession and probably even his manhood behind the anonymity of electronic mail.

Yesterday, the coach was asked about his Tuesday comments, and his reply was, “My dad taught me a long time ago, you’ll have a thousand chances to keep your mouth shut. Use every one of them.”

Later he added, “No one could have better fans than we do, and if anyone was half as miserable as we were on Sunday (and) Monday, I could understand them being miserable.”

A tinge of regret for what he said on Tuesday? Perhaps. An apology? I hope not because Tressel has nothing for which to apologize.

The truth is that a slice – thankfully a very small one – of the Ohio State fan base is radically fanatical, but that didn’t begin with Tressel.

Wes Fesler was a three-time All-American with the Buckeyes in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a conquering hero on the football field who was eventually enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. But when he returned as head coach of the team in 1947, the pressure from fans and alumni to win became so great that Fesler quit after only four seasons.

There were several times during Woody Hayes’ tenure when the seat under him got especially warm. That was never more true than the spring and summer months between the 1953 and ’54 seasons. In his first three years with the Buckeyes, Hayes compiled a 16-9-2 record and his team hadn’t finished higher than third in the Big Ten. A serious movement was afoot to get rid of Hayes before the 1954 season, a movement abated only by Ohio State athletic director Richard Larkins pledging to give the coach one more season to prove himself. The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship in 1954 and Hayes became a coaching legend. Imagine, however, what the Ohio State football program might look like today had the impatient critics gotten their way.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The whispering campaign questioning Tressel and his program that began following the BCS title game loss to Florida has been ratcheted up a few decibels. And things are getting nasty. Tressel would never share what is contained in the e-mails he receivers, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure it out. I get e-mails, too, and I can guarantee you that there is a definite slice of the Buckeye Nation who could only be described as miserable. Their vitriol is exceeded only by the lack of civility with which they spew it.

We shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. After watching the likes of Serena Williams, Joe Wilson and Kanye West fill our television screens for more than a week, we can surmise that if civility isn’t dead it must certainly be on life support.

Personally, I have any number of beefs with the way Tressel game-planned against USC. The fact of the matter is I wonder if he had much of a game plan at all. The offensive attack seemed to have no flow, and there were long periods of time when it seemed the coach was simply trying different things just to see if they would work.

The decision to punt rather than attempt a long field goal in the fourth quarter, the reluctance to put the ball in Terrelle Pryor’s hands – either on a sneak or on the edge – at the goal line in the third quarter, and the sequence of plays at the end of the first half that left USC enough time to drive for a tying field – I take exception to all of those things from Saturday night.

Those are kinds of things we should be discussing – civilly – rather than engaging in a debate only a fringe handful think we ought to have.

As I wrote in this week’s BSB, it is simply the ramblings of a handful of dull-witted know-nothings who suggest that Tressel is nothing more than a I-AA coach, that he won his national championship with players recruited by another coach, and that the time has come for Ohio State to begin looking in another direction.

Get a clue, folks. Tressel isn’t going anywhere nor should he. These big-stage losses notwithstanding, he has accomplished every goal he was hired to do.

Don’t believe me? How would you like to go back to the days of players assaulting one another in practice? How about the days of players registering 0.00 grade-point averages? Maybe you prefer four Big Ten championships spread out over a 15-year period rather than four in a row? How about a win over Michigan just every so often rather than one year after year after year?

There is no way to soft-sell the fact that Tressel has lost each of his last six games against top-5 opponents and that the offensive output in those games has been woefully inadequate. There is no getting around that and I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending there is.

Likewise, don’t insult mine by suggesting the university fire a guy who does everything he’s been asked to do and has done it with class.

OSU-TOLEDO TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Toledo are squaring off for only the second time in history. The Buckeyes rolled to a 49-0 win over the Rockets in Columbus in 1998. The teams are scheduled to play again in Columbus in 2011.

** Ohio State is making its first-ever appearance at Cleveland Browns Stadium and playing its 16th game in Cleveland all-time. The Buckeyes have an 8-6-1 record in C-town. Their most recent appearance was in 1991 when they took a 34-3 victory over Northwestern at old Municipal Stadium. OSU hasn’t lost in Cleveland since a 30-7 defeat to fifth-ranked Purdue in 1943.

** Following last week’s loss to USC, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is now 28-4 against regular-season nonleague opponents. His record with the Buckeyes is 52-7 against nonranked competition.

** Toledo head coach Tim Beckman is his first season with the Rockets and his first as a head coach. His team has split its first two games – a 52-31 loss at Purdue and a 54-38 victory over Colorado.

** Tressel and Beckman are both products of Berea (Ohio) High School and that isn’t the only synergy between the two. Beckman served as cornerbacks coach on Tressel’s staff at Ohio State in 2004 and ’05 before leaving to become defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State for two years. Beckman’s father, Dave, was also an assistant coach at Baldwin-Wallace when Tressel’s father, Lee, was head coach there.

** The Buckeyes own a 176-48-5 all-time record against Ohio schools and are 25-1 against members of the Mid-American Conference. The only blemish on that record against the MAC is a 12-6 loss to Akron in a game played Sept. 15, 1894, and the Ohio State Fair.

** OSU hasn’t lost to an Ohio school since a 7-6 defeat to Oberlin in 1921. The closest any instate rival has come since was a 7-7 tie achieved by Wooster in 1924.

** Toledo is only 5-13 all-time against Big Ten schools, but all five of those victories have come since 1992. The Rockets have defeated Purdue twice (1992 and ’97) as well as Penn State (2000), Minnesota (2001) and Michigan (2008).

** Ohio State last played a nonconference opponent in an NFL stadium in 2002 when the Buckeyes escaped with a 23-19 win over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium. Toledo’s most recent appearance at an NFL venue came in 2006 when the Rockets dropped a 45-3 decision to Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

** OSU sophomore tailback Dan “Boom” Herron has a nice little streak going. His 2-yard scoring run against USC last weekend marked the sixth straight game in which Herron has rushed for a touchdown.

** The game will be televised by ESPN-Plus and will be available throughout on Ohio on various local stations. For those of you who live outside Ohio, ESPN GamePlan may be your only option. Michael Reghi will have the play by play and Doug Chapman will provide color commentary. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** Seventeen outlets sprinkled throughout the country are listed as outlets for the ESPN-Plus telecast. Those include six in Ohio – WEWS (Channel 5) in Cleveland, WSYX (Channel 6) in Columbus, WKRC (Channel 12) in Cincinnati, WRGT (Channel 45) in Dayton, WTVG (Channel 13) in Toledo and WYTV (Channel 33) in Youngstown.

** Ohio State returns home next week to kick off the Big Ten schedule against Illinois. Game time is 3:30 p.m. in the Horseshoe and the telecast will be handled by the ABC/ESPN reverse mirror. That means the game will be shown on a regional basis by ABC throughout Big Ten country while the rest of the country will see the game on ESPN or ESPN2. As they say in the TV biz, check your local listings.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** Forty-three years ago today, Joe Paterno made his debut as head coach at Penn State. On Sept. 17, 1966, Paterno led the Nittany Lions to a 15-7 victory over Maryland in Happy Valley. The Terrapins, coached by Lou Saban, made a last-ditch effort to ruin Paterno’s debut but backup quarterback Phil Petry threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That victory was JoePa’s first of a Division I-A record 385 and counting.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: on Sept. 14, 1991, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk set an NCAA single-game record for freshmen by rushing for seven touchdowns during his team’s 55-34 win over Pacific; on Sept. 18, 1965, UTEP quarterback Billy Stevens established a new NCAA record for most total yards gained in a debut game with 483 yards in a 61-15 rout of North Texas; and Sept. 20, 1986, unranked Miami (Ohio) stunned eighth-ranked LSU, 21-12, in Baton Rouge. The Tigers committed seven turnovers in the game and had a punt blocked as Miami pushed its all-time record against SEC teams to an impressive 8-0-1.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** ESPN analysts may love to bash Ohio State but the Buckeyes continue to be moneymakers for the self-appointed Worldwide Leader. The OSU-USC telecast on Saturday netted a whopping 7.3 rating, making it the network’s most-viewed college football game in history. The game was also the highest-rated program of the night on any network. The 7.3 rating was the highest for a college game – regular season or bowl game – in 15 years.

** From the file titled “At Least They Knew They Were In A Fight” comes this report from USC. Freshman QB Matt Barkley (bruised shoulder) and All-America safety Taylor Mays (sprained knee) were on the limited-duty roster for at least three days. Barkley was injured when OSU defensive end Nathan Williams planted him while Mays was injured on a sideline play when he tried to deliver a big hit against OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Mays says he’s going to play this week at Washington, but look for the Trojans to rest Barkley and use backup Aaron Corp against the Huskies.

** One week after throwing the football all over the lot, the Big Ten reverted to tradition. Eight conference wideouts had 100 or more receiving yards during week one while only one running back cracked the century mark. Last year, the running backs wrestled the spotlight back with six performances of 100 yards or more. They were led by John Clay of Wisconsin with 143 yards in his team’s win over Fresno State. Purdue tailback Ralph Bolden ran for 123 yards against Oregon, and he leads the Big Ten and the nation with an average of 178.5 yards per game.

** Here’s a little trivia game you can play at your next tailgate. Name the four active coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame. The answer comes later.

** The Big Ten boasts several excellent kickers, including Philip Welch of Wisconsin, who booted a 57-yard field goal last week against Fresno State. As good as that kick was, it still is only the second-longest of the young season by a conference kicker. Purdue’s Carson Wiggs blasted a 59-yarder in the opener against Toledo.

** Welch’s field goal was the third-longest in Wisconsin program history. John Hall kicked a 60-yarder in 1995 while Pat O’Dea has held the school record for more than a century. O’Dea kicked a 62-yarder in 1899, and perhaps even more amazingly, it was a drop kick. O’Dea also drop-kicked a 60-yard field goal in 1899, giving two of the six longest field goals in Big Ten history.

** Speaking of kickers, Brett Swenson of Michigan State needs only four more field goals to become only the 10th player in Big Ten history with 60 or more career three-pointers. Swenson also needs only four more points to reach 300 points only nine conference kickers before him have reached that career plateau.

** Anniversary wishes to historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia. This weekend, the venerable old facility will kick off its 115th season of football when Penn hosts Villanova. Franklin Field is the NCAA’s oldest stadium still operating for football games.

** Longtime Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter Rick Telander recently had an interesting take on major college programs feasting on soft nonconference schedules. He said the small schools serving as sacrificial lambs should extract the maximum amount from their hosts: “Delaware State, a cupcake with a home stadium with a capacity (7,000) that would fit into Michigan Stadium (106,000) 15 times, is playing the Wolverines next Saturday in Ann Arbor and is taking home, for the sad satisfaction of all those whooping, belly-dragging, I-love-to-tear-the-wings-off-flies Michigan fans, $550,000. Not bad, but come on, Hornets – where’s your negotiating skill set? Montana State got $650,000 for lying down in front of Michigan State and allowing itself to be eviscerated. And Western Kentucky (that’s the part near Missouri, I believe) got $700,000 to let Tennessee eat its liver.”

** Here is your trivia answer: The four active coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame are Joe Paterno of Penn State, Bobby Bowden of Florida State, Chris Ault of Nevada and John Gagliardi of Division III St. John’s. The quartet has combined to win a mind-boggling 1,412 games during their collective careers.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The forecast got off to a shaky start, thanks mostly to late fourth-quarter leads neither Notre Dame nor Ohio State could hold. As a result, we were only 4-3 straight up and 3-4 against the spread.

We hope to do better this week, and we’ve got a full slate of games beginning with tonight’s West Coast battle.

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 10 Boise State at Fresno State: The Broncos have been pretty much unbeatable in the WAC since 2002, winning 54 of their 56 conference games over the past seven seasons. One of their losses was in Fresno back in 2005 when the Bulldogs were ranked in the top 25. A lot has transpired since then – Boise has gotten better while Fresno has perhaps taken a step back. That was never more evident than in last year’s 61-10 blowout on the Smurf Turf. And the Broncos may be even better this season … Boise State 49, Fresno State 10. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAME

Tennessee at No. 1 Florida: Consider this week one in Lane Kiffin’s ongoing education. You may remember back in March when Kiffin, shortly after being hired at Rocky Top, said Florida head coach Urban Meyer was a cheater when it came to recruiting. Kiffin later apologized and received a reprimand from the SEC, but if you think Meyer and his team have forgotten, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you real cheap. Expect the Gators to take Kiffin to school before taking his team out back to the woodshed for a different kind of lesson. I look for Meyer to put his foot on the gas coming out of the locker room and never let up … Florida 64, Tennessee 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Texas Tech at No. 2 Texas: This going to be short and sweet. No Lubbock, no Michael Crabtree, no chance … Texas 45, Texas Tech 24. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 3 USC at Washington: Several teams need to be on upset alert this week and the Trojans are one of them. First-year Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian was formerly offensive coordinator in Hollywood for Pete Carroll, and if there’s anyone who should know USC and how they go about things, it would be Sarkisian. The question is whether he has enough talent to do anything about it. U-Dub quarterback Jake Locker is still one of the best-kept secrets in college football and he could do some damage with his arm and his legs. The Trojans went to Oregon State last year after their win over Ohio State and we all remember how that turned out. Something tells me Carroll will not let that happen again although this is going to be closer than a lot of people think … USC 34, Washington 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

North Texas at No. 4 Alabama: The Crimson Tide haven’t exactly looked like the No. 4 team in the nation so far, and that probably continues this week. Their season-opening win over Virginia Tech was tidy enough but last week’s 40-10 victory over Florida International was not representative of the final score. This weekend, Bama gets another team from the Sun Belt Conference, and while there should be no upset alert, how interested Nick Saban gets his team will dictate the final margin of victory. North Texas is 0-13 against ranked teams since 1996, and the Mean Green has been outscored by a whopping 297-23 margin in its last five games against top-10 competition … Alabama 41, North Texas 7. (12:20 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Temple at No. 5 Penn State: There really isn’t much to say about this one. You have to go back to 1941 to find a Penn State loss in this series. (Contrary to popular belief, Joe Paterno was not yet patrolling the sidelines in Happy Valley.) Since that loss 68 years ago, the Nittany Lions are 33-0-1 in the series and have outscored the Owls by a 122-3 margin in their last three meetings. Temple has had a week off to prepare, but the team might have been working on fundamentals after blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and losing to Sept. 3 to Villanova. This gets as ugly as JoePa wants it to get … Penn State 41, Temple 3. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Florida State at No. 7 BYU: The Cougars are riding the crest of two huge road victories to get their 2009 season started. Now, they return to Provo to see if they can protect their lofty ranking and an 18-game winning streak at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It shouldn’t be difficult. The Seminoles are but shadows of their former elite selves, losing in week one to Miami (Fla.) and then needing a pair of late scores last week to avoid a monumental upset loss at home to Division I-AA opponent Jacksonville State. BYU doesn’t get enough credit for its defense, which is giving up an average of only 77.5 yards on the ground this season. That doesn’t exactly bode well for FSU, which has a running game that is ranked 99th in the nation. Old Man Bowden will have to rely on quarterback Christian Ponder to get it done, and you remember what the Cougars did to Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in week one … BYU 28, Florida State 7. (7 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 8 Cal at Minnesota: The Bears are one of the sexy picks as a dark horse for the national championship. Before that happens, of course, they’re not only going to have to get past USC, they’re going to have to learn how to win on the road. Jeff Tedford’s team has lost four in a row on the road and eight of its last nine. This week, they travel cross-country to take on the Gophers, who haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Nevertheless, Goldy has found a way to win its two season-opening contests. Syracuse and Air Force aren’t exactly in Cal’s league, though. The Bears, led by running back and Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best, are averaging 293.0 yards rushing so far this season. The Gophers are dead last in the Big Ten against the run, surrendering an average of 175.5 yards per game … Cal 31, Minnesota 21. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

Eastern Michigan at No. 25 Michigan: Are the Wolverines really back? My jury is still out because I don’t think a come-from-behind victory at home against Notre Dame is all that impressive. Still, to give Michigan its due, it didn’t fold against the Domers and any victory at this point in the Rich Rodriguez era is a good victory. The Wolverines had better guard against feeling too good about themselves, though. The Eagles gave Northwestern all it could handle in Evanston last week before losing on a late field goal, and Eastern head coach Ron English – Lloyd Carr’s defensive coordinator from 2003-07 – would like nothing more than to prove Michigan made a mistake when it passed him over to hire Rodriguez. This smells like a possible upset but U-M is 8-0 all-time against Eastern and it’s tough to go against that much history … Michigan 27, Eastern Michigan 24. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Michigan State at Notre Dame: Neither of these teams are where they thought they’d be heading into their annual showdown. Both suffered late hiccups last week at home and are looking for redemption. Sparty’s loss to Western Michigan exposed the relative youth and inexperience of Mark Dantonio’s team while the Irish defense collapsed late against Michigan and remains a work in progress. That doesn’t exactly bode well for the home team since MSU boasts quarterback Kirk Cousins. He leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency and is sixth nationally. The visitor has gotten the best of this series of late, winning seven of the last eight, and Michigan State is currently working on a six-game winning streak in South Bend, the longest of any opponent in the 78-year history of Notre Dame Stadium. Quite honestly, I don’t know what the oddsmakers are thinking about as they install the Irish as prohibitive favorites. I guess it just means this is your Upset Special … Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Northern Illinois at Purdue: I wonder if anyone else out there is wondering if the Boilermakers are truly for real. In their first two games under new head coach Danny Hope, the team skewered Toledo and then gave Oregon all it wanted last week before dropping a 38-36 decision. If you know anything about the Ducks, it is that there are nearly unbeatable in Eugene, so a two-point loss is nothing for Purdue to hang its head about. This week, Hope’s Eternals return to West Lafayette to host the Huskies, who have only one win and one tie to show for 34 previous games against Big Ten competition including a 28-20 loss to Wisconsin in the season opener. The Boilers are trying to start 3-0 for only the fourth time in the past 10 seasons … Purdue 31, Northern Illinois 20. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 11 Ohio State at Toledo: After last week’s loss and the ensuing wave of criticism enveloping their head coach, I believe the Buckeyes will do something they haven’t done in quite some time. I think they will avoid looking past a perceived lesser opponent and get the job done in Cleveland. If you’re looking for something else to hang your hat on, understand that the last four times a former Jim Tressel assistant has gone up against his old boss, Tressel has won every time and by an average margin of 24.0 points … Ohio State 38, Toledo 14. (12 noon ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-7) at Fresno State; Tennessee at Florida (-29); Texas Tech at Texas (-17½); USC (-18) at Washington; North Texas at Alabama (-32); Temple at Penn State (-28); Florida State at BYU (-6½); Cal at Minnesota (+14); Eastern Michigan (+25) at Michigan; Michigan State (+10½) at Notre Dame; Northern Illinois (+13) at Purdue; and Ohio State (-20½) at Toledo.

Just so you know, the Buckeyes are 5-0 ATS in their last five road games. Enjoy the games.

Ohio State Can Beat USC, And Here’s How

I’ll come right out and say it now. Ohio State will beat Southern California on Saturday night.

That’s not a gut feeling, that’s not wishful thinking. It comes from analyzing a few key factors in the game and coming to a logical conclusion.

Most people remember only one thing about last year’s game – the final score. The Trojans buried the Buckeyes to the tune of 35-3, sending down another cacophonous chorus of how Ohio State feasts on Big Ten cupcakes every season and folds like an old card table in big games.

Those of us who were in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last year know things were not exactly as bad as the final score indicated. Critics conveniently forget that the Buckeyes actually held an early 3-0 lead. After forcing a three-and-out on the Trojans’ opening possession, Ohio State strung together a 17-play drive against the USC defense, a march that lasted 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Granted, the offense bogged down in the red zone and wound up settling for a field goal. The fact remains, however, that the Buckeyes held a 3-0 lead with 3:06 remaining in the first quarter and to that point had outgained the Trojans by a 73-1 margin.

USC quickly got itself untracked on its next possession as quarterback Mark Sanchez moved his team 74 yards in only seven plays – four of them passes – for a touchdown and a lead the Trojans would never relinquish.

The Buckeyes stayed in the game, though. After USC made it 14-3 early in the second quarter, Ohio State put together another sustained drive that could have tightened things considerably. With Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor sharing the quarterback duties, the team moved from its own 24-yard line to the USC 16. Unfortunately, a holding call on the Buckeyes wiped out a short first-down gain, pushing them back to the 26. After a 5-yard gain, another holding penalty pushed them back to the USC 31. Two plays later, kicker Ryan Pretorius pushed his 46-yard field goal attempt wide to the right.

And still Ohio State was in the game. The defense forced another three-and-out on the Trojans’ next possession, and the Buckeyes took over after a punt at their own 20. Backup tailback Dan Herron rushed for 11 yards on first down, and two plays later, Pryor rushed for 11 more.

At that point in the game, OSU trailed by a 14-3 score but still had proved it could hold its own. Both teams had exactly 146 total yards at that point, and the only thing separating the teams seemed to be the Buckeyes’ penchant for shooting itself in the foot.

Then, rather than simply aiming for the foot, they shot themselves through the heart. Boeckman tried to thread a sideline pass into double coverage, USC linebacker Rey Maualuga made a relatively easy interception and that was that. Maualuga returned the pick 48 yards for a touchdown and the Buckeyes were toast. You could make a strong argument that the entire team quit in the second half – 177 total yards before the break, 30 after intermission. The Trojans added two more third-quarter touchdowns before Pete Carroll decided to take his foot off the gas.

If you choose to concentrate on what happened in the game from the Boeckman interception on, you would undoubtedly come to the conclusion there is no way Ohio State can win Saturday night’s game. If, however, you would like to analyze what happened in the first half, you could come to an entirely different conclusion.

HOW IT CAN BE DONE

As I see it, there are two keys for an Ohio State victory along with one intangible that no one seems to be talking about.

First and foremost, Ohio State must play error-free football – both between the lines and between the ears. That is an imperative. The Buckeyes have lost only six times over the past three seasons, and in four of those games they committed more penalties than their opponent.

More important than the penalties themselves is when they were committed. Remember the pass interference and roughing-the-passer calls during Texas’ second-quarter touchdown drive in the Fiesta Bowl? Remember the pass interference on Penn State’s only touchdown drive last year? Remember the roughing-the-punter penalty in the national championship game against LSU? Crucial calls at critical times, each of which could have meant the difference between losing and winning.

To eliminate such crippling penalties, Saturday night’s game must have the Buckeyes’ full attention. Full concentration on nine of every 10 plays is not going to get it done. Simply put, the Ohio State players on the field have to give themselves every opportunity to win. The Trojans are plenty good enough – they won’t need any help.

The second-most important key to this game will be getting pressure on USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Again, this is an imperative. I don’t care how gifted Barkley is. He is a freshman, starting only his second game as a collegian and his first on the road. The Buckeyes have to get to him – early and often – and prevent him from establishing any kind of rhythm.

If OSU is to beat the Trojans, it will have to employ the same kind of pressure defense it used in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas QB Colt McCoy. The difference is that McCoy was a veteran quarterback, finishing his third season as a starter, and he was able to stand in against the hard-charging Ohio State rush. Even so, relentless pressure caused McCoy to fire 17 incompletions. He was also sacked four times, equaling a season high. That was against a guy who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting.

It was a marked change from McCoy’s performance when the Buckeyes traveled to Austin in 2006 to face defending national champion Longhorns. McCoy was a freshman, starting only his second game as a college player, and he caved to the Buckeyes’ pressure game. He completed only 19 of 32 attempts in that 24-7 loss to OSU, and averaged a career-low 4.81 yards per attempt. The Buckeyes intercepted him only once and sacked him only once in that game, but they knocked McCoy down so many times early that he started to get gun-shy and short-armed several passes in the second half.

That is the key to success against Barkley. It will be more difficult because USC has a better running game than Texas had in 2006. Rush the quarterback too much and Joe McKnight & Co. will make you pay. Still, if Barkley spends more time on his feet than on his rear end in the first quarter, it may be a long night for the Buckeyes.

Lastly, only one team has ever beaten OSU in back-to-back seasons with Jim Tressel at the helm. That was Wisconsin in 2003 and 2004.

Tressel has lost a lot of his luster in the wake of so many recent big-game losses. But I happen to think the guy can still coach. That’s why you saw some unusual things last weekend in the opener against Navy. The reserve on the opening kickoff. Screen passes and short flips to running backs. Throwing out of the I-formation and running out of the shotgun.

Those things were designed to give USC a few additional things to think about. The same holds true for playing backup quarterback Joe Bauserman in the second quarter. I think that was to give Bauserman some meaningful playing time because Tressel plans to employ Pryor as a wide receiver against the Trojans the way he did against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl.

There is a reason why only one team has ever beaten Tressel in back-to-back seasons since he’s been at Columbus. Regardless of what his critics say, he can and will make adjustments – and that could make the difference Saturday night.

So, what’s my prediction? Stay tuned.

OSU-USC TIDBITS

** Tressel enjoys a 51-6 record at Ohio Stadium. With the Buckeyes, he is 28-9 overall against ranked teams and 8-7 against those ranked in the top 10.

** Ohio State is 9-12-1 against USC in the all-time series. That breaks down to a 6-8-1 mark in regular season games vs. the Trojans and 3-4 in the Rose Bowl. Overall against Pac-10 teams, the Buckeyes are 50-24-2, including a 44-17-2 mark in regular-season contests.

** Southern Cal is 67-27-2 against the Big Ten, which includes a 49-18-2 mark in the regular season. The Trojans are also on a nine-game winning streak against Big Ten teams, games in which they have outscored the opposition by an average of 26.8 points.

** Carroll is a perfect 6-0 against Big Ten teams – 38-17 over Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl, 28-14 over Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl, 32-18 over Michigan in the 2007 Rose Bowl, 49-17 over Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl, 35-3 over Ohio State during the 2008 regular season, and 38-24 over Penn State in the 2009 Rose Bowl. That computes to an average margin of victory of 21.2 points over Big Ten competition for Carroll-coached teams.

** OSU is 121-10-4 all-time in home games played in September. With the Buckeyes, Tressel is 23-1 in home games during September. The lone blemish on that mark was the 25-22 loss to eventual national champion Texas on Sept. 10, 2005.

** Carroll is 10-4 in road games with USC during the month of September. That includes last year’s 27-21 loss at Oregon State, the Trojans’ only blemish during a 12-1 campaign.

** Carroll is working on a seven-game winning streak in road openers. The only loss he experienced in a road opener while at USC came in his first season. The Trojans dropped a 24-22 decision at Oregon in 2001 on their way to a 6-6 finish. All-time, Southern Cal has a 76-27-8 record in road openers.

** The Trojans have won each of the last six meetings in the series, including three straight Rose Bowls between 1974 and ’84 that were determined by three points or less. Ohio State hasn’t beaten USC since a 42-21 win in the 1973 Rose Bowl, and hasn’t tasted victory over the Trojans in Ohio Stadium since a 17-0 shutout in 1964.

** Despite leading the overall series, USC is only 3-4 in Columbus. Their most recent trip was in 1990 and is best remembered for being called with 2:36 remaining because of heavy thunderstorms in the area. The Trojans rolled up 331 yards on the ground that day, including a career-high 199 by tailback Ricky Ervins, and took a 35-26 victory.

** Southern Cal’s six-game winning streak against the Buckeyes is the longest for any Ohio State opponent in more than 80 years. Michigan was the last opponent to win as many as six consecutive games against OSU. That streak occurred between 1922 and 1927. No school has beaten Ohio State seven times in a row since the Wolverines won nine consecutive games in the series between 1901 and 1909.

** Ohio State has a 32-15 all-time record in night games (determined by a 5 p.m. or later kickoff). That includes a 6-2 mark in Ohio Stadium since 1959. USC is 133-34-4 at night, including 36-11 on the road.

** Carroll is the active Division I-A leader in winning percentage. His 89-15 record computes to an .856 percentage, putting him well ahead of Florida head coach Urban Meyer (84-17, .832). Tressel (219-76-2, .741) currently occupies the No. 7 position in winning percentage among active coaches.

** The game will be ESPN’s featured Saturday night game with Brent Musberger providing play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit doing color commentary and Lisa Salters on the sidelines. Kickoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern.

** Herbstreit will be joined by Chris Fowler and Lee Corso as ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasts from its usual location at the northeast corner of St. John Arena. This will mark GameDay’s 24th appearance in Columbus since 1996.

** The game will also be broadcast in 3-D to a handful of movie theaters around the nation. That kind of broadcast requires different kinds of cameras and evidently an entirely different announce crew as well. Mark Jones, Bob Davie and Ed Cunningham will provide coverage on the 3-D broadcast. Venues that will show the 3-D telecast include the Rave at Polaris in suburban Columbus and the Galen Center at USC as well as theaters in Hartford, Conn., and Hurst, Texas.

** If you are nowhere near a television or theater, Sirius Satellite radio will have the broadcast on channel 121.

** Next week, Ohio State hits the road for the first time this season. The Buckeyes head for Cleveland Browns Stadium to take on instate rival Toledo. Kickoff is shortly after 12 noon Eastern. The game will not be televised nationally although Channel 6 will carry the game in Columbus while other local outlets should have it around the state of Ohio. Those of you who live out of state will likely have to make a small donation to the Worldwide Leader and order the game through ESPN GamePlan.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** Twenty-six years ago today, Florida and USC played to a wild finish in the Coliseum. On Sept. 10, 1983, the 15th-ranked Gators were on the verge of a 19-13 upset victory when they stopped the No. 9 Trojans on fourth down with seconds remaining in the game. A Florida penalty on the play gave USC new life, however, and quarterback Sean Salisbury connected with receiver Timmie Ware as time expired to tie the score at 19. All the Trojans had to do was kick the extra point to pull out the win, but a bad snap resulted in the game ending in a 19-19 tie.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: on Sept. 8, 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie kicked off his Heisman Trophy-winning season by throwing three touchdowns passes and rallying the Golden Eagles from a 31-14 deficit to a 38-31 upset over ninth-ranked Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham; on Sept. 9, 1972, UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon led the Bruins – who had won only two games the previous season – to a 20-17 upset win over preseason No. 1 Nebraska; on Sept. 12, 1987, Michigan committed seven turnovers in a 26-7 loss to Notre Dame, the first season-opening home loss ever for head coach Bo Schembechler; and on Sept. 13, 1986, Hayden Fry became the winningest coach in Iowa history when the Hawkeyes took a 43-7 win over Iowa State. The victory was No. 53 for Fry, who passed Forest Evashevski for most wins in school history. Fry was to coach 20 seasons in Iowa City and retired with 143 victories with the Hawkeyes.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** If the opening-week slate of games is any indication, the Big Ten has officially transformed itself from a running conference to one that relies more and more on the passing game. The first week of the 2009 season produced eight different Big Ten receivers who totaled 100 or more yards, led by Minnesota’s Eric Decker with 183. Meanwhile, only one conference running back cracked the century mark – Purdue sophomore Ralph Bolden, who exploded for 234 yards against Toledo.

** Speaking of Decker, his nine catches in the Gophers’ season-opening win over Syracuse gave him 186 career receptions. He needs 14 more to become only the 10th receiver in Big Ten history to reach the 200 mark in career catches. Decker still has a way to go to catch the all-time conference leader. Taylor Stubblefield had 325 receptions from 2001-04 at Purdue.

** Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs is rapidly earning the reputation for being a big-time performer. Near the end of the first half of the Boilermakers’ win over Toledo, Wiggs shattered his own school record by booting a 59-yard field goal. He set the old mark last year with a 53-yarder against Ohio State. As good as Wiggs’ effort was, it still only tied him for the seventh-longest field goal in Big Ten history. Morten Andersen of Michigan State has held the record at 63 yards since 1981. Anderson’s kick came during a 24-13 loss at Ohio State.

** Minnesota unveils its new TCF Bank Stadium this weekend, hosting Air Force. It marks the first time since 1981 the Gophers have played on campus. Kickoff is 6 p.m. local time and the contest will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

** The ACC suffered through a nightmarish first weekend, going 4-6 against nonconference opponents including losses to two Division I-AA opponents. Duke fell by a 24-16 score to Richmond while Virginia suffered a monumental meltdown against William & Mary. The Cavaliers committed seven turnovers during a 26-14 loss to the Tribe. W&M redshirt freshman defensive back B.W. Webb was the star of the game, picking off three interceptions and returning one of them for a touchdown.

** Our condolences to New Mexico. The Lobos lost their season opener by a 41-6 score to Texas A&M, making it four years in a row that New Mexico has dropped its season opener. Even worse is the fact the Lobos have failed to score a touchdown in their season opener four years in a row. In those four games, UNM has been outscored 94-21.

** The Draddy Trophy is getting a new name. The so-called “academic Heisman,” given annually to the top scholar-athlete in college football, will now be known as the Campbell Trophy. It has been renamed in honor of Bill Campbell, current chairman and former CEO of the Intuit software company and a former player and coach at Columbia. The award had been named after the late Vincent de Paul Draddy, who played quarterback at Manhattan College and went on to develop the Izod clothing brand. The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, which is in charge of handing out the Draddy/Campbell Trophy, did not give a reason for the name change. But we can all gue$$, can’t we?

** Evidently pizzas are selling better than cars even in Detroit. The game formerly known as the Motor City Bowl has been renamed the Little Caesar Pizza Bowl. In this case, there is no mystery surrounding the name change. Financially-strapped General Motors and Chrysler ended their sponsorship of the game, set for Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit.

** My book, “The Die-Hard Fan’s Guide to Buckeye Football,” and is now on bookshelves nearly everywhere. It’s available at Barnes & Noble, Border’s, Books-A-Million and online at Amazon.  The book is a fan-friendly guide that covers the OSU football program from its roots in the late 1800s and goes through the 2008 season. There is lots of historical data, stories, photos, player rankings by decade and even a quiz to test your Buckeye football knowledge. I had a lot of fun putting it together and I hope you’ll pick up a copy.

** I will be signing copies of the book at the Barnes & Noble location at 1598 N. High St. (formerly Long’s Bookstore) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Stop by and say hello if you’re in the area.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Thanks to thousands of requests (OK, one or two), we’re dusting off the Fearless Forecast for another year. Last season, we finished a respectable 98-37 straight up and 70-60-1 against the spread. That makes us 1,282-389 straight-up (76.7 percent) and fairly well above water against the spread at 620-551-17 (good enough for 52.9 percent).

As I say every year, this is just for fun. I make more picks based on how I feel that what I actually know. Nevertheless, off we go for what we hope will be an outstanding season that has us all convening next January in Pasadena. (By the way, the rankings are always from the AP.)

Here are the games we’ve watching this week:

Syracuse at No. 7 Penn State: I guess the first thing you should know is that the Nittany Lions have won 22 straight games at home against non-ranked opponents. That includes a 55-13 win over the Orange last year. This is a different Syracuse team, of course, with first-year head coach Doug Marrone and new quarterback Greg Paulus. The Orange will get better over time, but they’re no match right now for JoePa’s team in Happy Valley … Penn State 38, Syracuse 7. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Western Michigan at Indiana: IU nearly spit the bit last week before finally escaping with a 19-13 win over I-AA foe Eastern Kentucky. Meanwhile, the Broncos looked shell-shocked against Michigan a week ago, giving up 31 first-half points to the Wolverines en route to a 31-7 loss. On paper, any Big Ten vs. MAC matchup usually tilts toward the Big Ten team. I have this sneaky feeling the Hoosiers are going to have problems with WMU quarterback Tim Hiller, who has topped the 3,000-yard mark each of the past two years. But Indiana QB Ben Chappell may also be in for a treat since the Broncos surrendered three touchdown passes to Michigan’s young quarterbacks last week … Indiana 26, Western Michigan 24. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Houston at No. 5 Oklahoma State: To be perfectly honest, I believe the Cougars are vastly underrated and the Cowboys are a little bit overrated. In Houston, you have a team that can score in bunches behind quarterback Case Keenum, who threw for 359 yards and four TDs last week in his team’s 55-7 rout of Northwestern State. The fact of the matter is that Houston was one of only five teams that averaged more total offense per game last year than Oklahoma State. Of course, the Pokes impressive in their opener, taking a 24-13 victory over 13th-ranked Georgia from the big, bad SEC. This one has the makings of an entertaining shootout, but Houston has a penchant for turning the ball over in marquee games … Oklahoma State 49, Houston 31. (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

No. 18 Notre Dame at Michigan: The so-called experts are pitching comeback seasons for both of these former heavyweights. Sorry, I’m not buying – at least not yet. I know the Irish have a schedule soft as a baby’s bottom, but I’m still not sold on Charlie Weis coaching a team to nine or 10 victories. Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, Rich Rodriguez just doesn’t have enough horses yet to resurrect what once was one of college football’s elite programs. If it was coaching alone that won games, I’d pick the upset in a heartbeat. I just think the Domers have too much talent on their side of the field … Notre Dame 31, Michigan 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 24 Kansas at UTEP: There is one possible Heisman Trophy candidate that no one has talked about. That’s Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing, who has the misfortune of playing in the same conference as Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and whoever’s under center at Texas Tech. Reesing, who threw for 3,888 yards and 32 TDs a year ago, started his senior season last week with 208 yards and two TDs during the Jawhawks’ 49-3 win over Northern Colorado. He also ran for 79 yards and two more scores. There could be more of the same this week in El Paso. The Miners, who ranked 115th in Division I-A last season in total defense, gave up 309 yards in their 23-17 opening loss at home to Buffalo … Kansas 42, UTEP 24. (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports)

Purdue at Oregon: You might have expected these teams to be headed in different directions than what they are. The Boilermakers made new head coach Danny Hope a big winner in their opener with a 52-31 spanking of Toledo. Meanwhile, the Ducks fell 19-8 last Thursday night at Boise State, a game that is going to be more remembered for Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount cold-cocking Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after the game. Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, who suspended Blount for the remainder of the season, has had better weeks. As for the Boilers, we get to find out if last week’s offensive explosion (52 points and 535 yards) was the real thing or a one-game aberration. I’m thinking it was the latter, especially if the Ducks play like they have something to prove … Oregon 35, Purdue 14. (10:15 p.m. ET, FSN)

No. 3 USC at No. 8 Ohio State: After last year’s game, no one gives the Buckeyes much of a chance to beat the Trojans and that’s reflected in OSU being seven-point underdogs at home. The point everyone seems to be missing is that USC starts a freshman at quarterback against a team that’s hungry for a big win. Add that to 105,000-plus boisterous fans in the Horseshoe and I think you can smell what’s cooking … Ohio State 26, USC 24. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Syracuse at Penn State (-28½); Western Michigan at Indiana (-1½); Houston at Oklahoma State (-16); Notre Dame (-3) at Michigan; Kansas (-11) at UTEP; Purdue at Oregon (-11); USC at Ohio State (+7).

And just so you know, USC is 1-4 ATS in its past five games on the road.

New Year, Different Team, Same Goals For Ohio State

Everyone seems to think Florida will repeat as national champions this season and I can certainly see why. The Gators return a veteran team, including quarterback Tim Tebow and all 22 members of the defensive depth chart for last year’s title game.

The question is how badly the Gators want another title. There is a reason why no team has ever won back-to-back BCS championships: it’s damned hard. If wanting the title and fielding a veteran team was all there was to the equation, Ohio State would be defending the championship.

I went back to read what I wrote about the Buckeyes heading into last season and a lot of it is downright painful. Under the headline “Time For Ohio State To Prove It’s The Best,” I wrote an open letter to the 2008 team, a squad filled with veterans who had watched other teams before them squander national championship possibilities.

“No team in college football in 2008 has more talent than you,” I wrote. “No team has more experience than you. No team has more returning starters than you. No team has more candidates for postseason awards than you. And no team has the chance to make more history than you.

“I know that you have already made the sacrifices necessary to go for a national championship. I know about the countless hours in the weight room since late January, the gallons of sweat you’ve spent on the practice field during 7-on-7 drills this summer, the hours upon hours of film study.

“But listen up, guys. Every young man who plays major college football makes those sacrifices. Those things alone don’t make national champions. You have to want it. You can’t just talk about wanting it. You have to want it – you have to want it so deep within your bone marrow that you’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to get it.

“If you don’t want it that badly, you can resign yourself to personal glory and soothe yourself with a nice, fat NFL contract next year. After all, only one of Ohio State’s six Heisman Trophy winners ever won a national championship ring. Most of them came close, of course, but no one gets a trophy for getting close.

“If you want it – truly want it – go out and get it. No team on your schedule – not even supposedly mighty USC – is as good as you are.

“On paper, you are the best team in college football. All you have to do is go out and prove it.”

Hindsight being 20/20, we know that the 2008 Buckeyes did not “go out and get it.” On paper, they may have stacked up well against any other team in America, but where it mattered – on the playing field – there were three losses. Last time I checked, you don’t win a national championship with three losses.

Now, in less than 24 hours, the 2009 title chase begins. The championship talk centers around Florida, and if by some off-chance the Gators stumble, most of the so-called experts look for No. 2 Texas or third-ranked Oklahoma to make a title run. (Can’t be both, of course. They play one another Oct. 17.)

The rest of the top 10 is a flawed bunch, which includes No. 6 Ohio State and its relatively inexperienced lineup.

On the surface, the preseason No. 6 ranking would seem a little high. Where are the points going to come from? No proven tailback, no proven receiver and a young, still-improving quarterback working behind a revamped offensive line. Even the defense, which should be considered the strength of the team, must shake off the losses of All-America linebacker James Laurinaitis and Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.

Of course, trying to figure out which teams will peak in which years is kind of like trying to time the stock market. Every member of the Buckeye Nation knows the team was primed for a national championship run in 2003, yet won it all a year before. On the surface, OSU would appear to be a stronger candidate for BCS honors in 2010 that it does this season.

And yet there are possibilities.

The schedule is certainly friendly enough. With the exception of the Nov. 7 visit to Penn State, the games against the perceived toughest opponents – USC, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa – will all be in Ohio Stadium.

Additionally, with all of the inexperience comes a boatload of talent. According to Scout.com, over the past three recruiting seasons, the Buckeyes have signed 41 players with four- or five-star ratings. Over the same span, Big Ten rival Penn State has signed 29. Meanwhile, Texas has signed 45 players with four or five stars, Florida has signed 44, USC has signed 41 and Oklahoma has signed 33.

I know that recruiting is an inexact science, but you, me and Aunt Martha can pretty much separate the four- and five-star performers from the rest of the pack. And you’re telling me Ohio State shouldn’t be able to compete for the national championship against those other media darlings?

Why not this year? Terrelle Pryor is a superstar in the making. Neither Dan Herron nor Brandon Saine are the bruiser Beanie Wells was, but they have a lot of talent and both seem eager as hell. For all of the hand-wringing we’ve done since spring about the offensive line, do you honestly think guys like Justin Boren and Jim Cordle are going to let that unit underachieve?

Likewise on defense. Who wants to be the guy who misses an assignment and has to go back into the huddle to face down Doug Worthington or Thad Gibson or Kurt Coleman?

I don’t want to want to climb out on any limbs and predict a national championship run for the 2009 Buckeyes. There are just too many variables, too many things that have to fall into place, too many bounces that have to bounce the right way. Besides, take another look at what I wrote about last year’s team and tell me how adept I am at telling the future.

Somehow, though, I just have this nagging feeling that this could be a season where the Buckeyes confound their critics. I guess we’ll begin to find out starting tomorrow.

PLAYING SERVICE ACADEMIES

Throughout the first part of its existence, and especially during World Wars I and II, Ohio State squared off against many teams made up of military personnel. However, when the Buckeyes host the Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday, it will mark only the second time a service academy team has played at Ohio Stadium and only the fifth time ever Ohio State has played an academy team.

OSU and Navy have met three times previously in football matchups with the Buckeyes holding victories in all three games.

The teams first met in 1930 when the Buckeyes took a 27-0 win over the Midshipmen. The game, played at the old Municipal Stadium in Baltimore, snapped a three-game non-winning streak for Ohio State. After beginning the 1930 season with home shutouts over Mount Union and Indiana, the Buckeyes lost a 19-2 decision at Northwestern and a 13-0 verdict at home to Michigan before playing Wisconsin to a 0-0 tie.

Against the Middies (who know prefer to be known simply as the Mids), Ohio State rediscovered its offense and scored four touchdowns. One of those was a scoring pass from three-time All-American Wes Fesler to receiver Dick Larkins, who would later serve 23 years as OSU athletic director.

The following season in 1931, Navy came to Columbus and was victimized by another well-known Ohio State All-American. Sid Gillman gathered in a tipped pass for a 35-yard touchdown reception as the Buckeyes rolled to a 20-0 homecoming victory in Ohio Stadium.

OSU and Navy would not meet again for 50 years until the Liberty Bowl matched the two schools following the 1981 season. The underdog Midshipmen erased an early 10-0 deficit and stormed to a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter.

But the Buckeyes came back with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Gayle to regain the lead with two minutes left in the third period, and then Art Schlichter threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Anderson early in the fourth quarter. It was Schlichter’s 50th career TD pass, a school record that would stand until Bobby Hoying broke it in 1995.

Navy made things interesting with a touchdown and two-point conversion with eight seconds left to make it 31-287, but OSU recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. The win snapped a string of four consecutive bowl losses for the Buckeyes and began a postseason stretch that saw Ohio State win five of six bowl games.

OSU’s other contest against service academy competition would just as soon be forgotten by most Buckeye fans. That one occurred after the 1990 season and resulted in a 23-11 Liberty Bowl loss to Air Force.

The Buckeyes had missed out on a chance to go to the Rose Bowl that season following a 31-3 loss to Michigan, and the team was bitterly disappointed at being relegated to the Liberty Bowl. That disappointment showed in their performance although OSU actually enjoyed an early 5-0 lead in the game. They got a safety in the opening minutes and a 28-yard field goal from Tim Williams later in the opening period, but the Falcons scored touchdowns in the second and third quarters to build a 13-5 lead.

OSU cut the margin to 13-11 early in the fourth quarter on tailback Robert Smith’s 29-yard run, but the Buckeyes would get no closer. Air Force sealed the win in the final three minutes with a 47-yard field goal and a 40-yard TD on an interception return.

The Buckeyes totaled only 214 yards of offense in the game, including 80 on the ground. Meanwhile, the Falcons’ wishbone attack was worth 254 rushing yards.

The outcome had far-reaching repercussions for head coach John Cooper’s program at Ohio State. The Buckeyes suffered through one of their worst recruiting seasons in recent memory – many experts rated their efforts as only sixth-best in the Big Ten.

OSU-NAVY TIDBITS

** Ohio State kicks off its 120th season of intercollegiate football against Navy on Saturday. The Buckeyes have won 30 consecutive home openers, not tasting defeat since a 19-0 loss to Penn State in the 1978 season opener. OSU is also 2-0 all-time on Sept. 5 – a 20-19 win over Louisville in the 1992 home opener and a 34-17 victory at West Virginia in 1998.

** OSU head coach Jim Tressel is 17-5-1 in season openers, including a perfect 8-0 at OSU. The last time he walked off the field with a loss in an opener was 1995 when Kent State handed Youngstown State a 17-14 defeat.

** The Midshipmen are led by second-year coach Ken Niumatalolo who is 8-6 overall at Navy. Niumatalolo is the first coach to lead Navy to a bowl game in his inaugural season as head coach.

** Navy has won three straight season openers and is 6-1 in the triple option era. The only loss during that span was a 23-20 defeat to Maryland in 2005. This, however, is the first time since 1999 the Mids have opened the season against a ranked opponent. That season, Navy dropped a 49-14 decision to No. 10 Georgia Tech.

** While the Buckeyes are 3-1 all-time against service academies, the Midshipmen are 26-40-3 all-time against teams from the Big Ten. Navy last played a Big Ten opponent in 2002 when it lost a 49-40 shootout against Northwestern in Annapolis. The Mids haven’t enjoyed a victory over a Big Ten team since 1979 when they took a 13-12 win at Illinois.

** Navy last defeated a top-10 team on Nov. 17, 1984, when the Mids upset No. 2 South Carolina, 38-21, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

** Ohio State is 385-106-20 in Ohio Stadium since the facility opened in 1922. That is a .773 winning percentage. All-time in Columbus, the team is 528-153-35, good for a winning percentage of .762.

** Over the past six seasons, the Buckeyes have enjoyed a 38-4 record at home, good for a .905 winning percentage. Since 2003, that is the fourth best home mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision (better known as Division I-A). Only Boise State (38-1, .975), Oklahoma (37-1, .974) and USC (35-1, .972) have done better over that same timeframe.

** No one gives Navy much of a chance to topple the Buckeyes, but everyone who takes the Midshipmen lightly does so at their own risk. Not only has the Naval Academy led all Division I-A teams in rushing in each of the past four seasons, it is also working on a streak of six consecutive years with eight or more victories.

** Navy is trying to win a record fifth straight NCAA rushing title this year. Before the Midshipmen’s current streak, no team had ever won the rushing title more than twice in a row.

** The Mids own 13 victories over BCS-conference opponents since 2003. That number is tied with Utah for the most by a non-BCS team over the last six seasons.

** Congratulations to Ohio State’s newly minted captains – defensive lineman Doug Worthington, linebacker Austin Spitler and safety Kurt Coleman. The last time the Buckeyes had an all-defensive lineup at captain was in 2002 when Donnie Nickey and Mike Doss helped lead the team to the national championship.

** ESPN will have the telecast of the Ohio State-Navy game. The announce team will feature Dave Pasch with the play-by-play and a pair of former Big Ten All-Americans – OSU’s own Chris Spielman and Bob Griese of Purdue – providing the color commentary. Kickoff is set for 12 noon Eastern.

** In addition to his ESPN duties, Spielman will be honored at the Navy game for his election to the College Football Hall of Fame. On hand to help honor Spielman will be National Football Foundation board member and Hall of Fame running back Archie Griffin.

** Saturday’s pregame will also feature a flyover conducted by The Fighting Bengals of VMFA(AW)-224 stationed at MCAS Beaufort in Beaufort, S.C. The Fighting Bengals just returned from a deployment to Iwakuni, Japan. One of the pilots will be former Navy offensive lineman Grant Moody, who lettered for the Midshipmen in 2003.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host Southern California in one of the most eagerly anticipated matchups of the young season. That game will also be televised by ESPN with a kickoff scheduled shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** Twenty-five years ago today, Miami (Fla.) notched its second straight victory over a No. 1-ranked team. Eight months after knocking off top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and winning their first-ever national championship, the Hurricanes dealt preseason No. 1 Auburn a 20-18 loss in the 1984 Kickoff Classic, held at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. A late fumble by Auburn running back Bo Jackson led to the go-ahead field goal by Miami freshman kicker Greg Cox.

** Also occurring during this week in college football: On Sept. 2, 1989, Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard score with 23 seconds remaining, to lead the Golden Eagles to a 30-26 win over No. 6 Florida State; on Sept. 4, 1993, Penn State scored its first Big Ten victory with a 38-20 win over Minnesota; and on Sept. 5, 1981, Lamar (Texas) University engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, beating defending SWC champion Baylor, 18-17, in Waco. Lamar kicker Mike Marlow booted a 42-yard field goal with three seconds left to account for the winning points. It was the first time in history that a Division I-AA school had beaten a I-A school. Lamar, which ended its football program in 1989, is scheduled to resume intercollegiate play in 2010.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** You may want to keep tabs on Lane Kiffin’s first season as head coach at Tennessee. The Volunteers currently hold the distinction of being the major college program with the longest streak since back-to-back losing seasons. Tennessee, which went 5-7 last year to get Phil Fulmer fired, hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1910 and ’11. Which team currently has the second-longest streak? That would be Ohio State, which hasn’t posted back-to-back losing campaigns since 1923 and ’24.

** College teams playing in NFL stadiums is becoming popular. Colorado and Colorado State recently agreed to play the next 10 games in their series at Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos. A little closer to home, Indiana and Penn State will play in 2010 at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. That is technically a home game for the Hoosiers even though FedEx Field is some 700 miles from Bloomington.

** Fact: NCAA rules stipulate no football player can spend more than 20 hours per week, and no more than four hours per day, during the season on “controlled activities.” Fact: The 20-hour rule is one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules that every program bends. Fact: The excuse that “everyone else does it” is no excuse at all. Fact: Michigan should have gone ahead, bit the bullet and hired Les Miles. Fact: Rich Rodriguez should have remained at West Virginia.

** Welcome to five institutions who field intercollegiate football programs for the first time in 2009. The newbies are Old Dominion in Division I-AA, the University of New Haven (West Haven, Conn.) and the University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, Texas) in Division II, and Anna Maria College (Paxton, Mass.) and Castleton (Vt.) State College in Division III. Anna Maria and Castleton kick off their inaugural seasons playing one another Saturday in Castleton.

** In case you haven’t heard, I have a book coming out. It is called “The Die-Hard Fan’s Guide to Buckeye Football,” and is scheduled for release Sept. 8. You can purchase it now (at a discount) at such online booksellers as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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