If there is one sure thing about college football, it is that there is no such thing as a sure thing.
“One week you’re drinking the wine, the next week you’re stomping the grapes” was one of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper’s all-time great sayings and Ol’ Coop sure knew what he was talking about.
Over the course of a few short hours last Saturday, the college football landscape turned upside down as one head-scratcher after another revealed itself.
South Carolina turned defending national champion Alabama from an invincible dynasty-in-the-making to just another one-loss team. Meanwhile, Michigan State exposed seemingly superhuman Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as just another Clark Kent, and lowly Illinois took advantage of several Penn State mistakes to post an unlikely 33-13 victory over the Nittany Lions, who were celebrating homecoming in Happy Valley.
Making those outcomes even more astounding was the historical significance of each game.
Before its 35-21 win over Alabama, South Carolina had never beaten a top-ranked team in four previous tries. Michigan State’s 34-17 win over Michigan was the Spartans’ third straight over their in-state rivals, and they haven’t enjoyed a three-peat in the series since 1965-67. And the Fighting Illini won for the first time in seven trips all-time to Happy Valley, and Joe Paterno lost for only the sixth time in 45 homecomings.
Want more proof of how topsy-turvy college football can be from week to week? On Sept. 18, California was brutalized by upstart Nevada of the WAC during a 52-31 blowout. One week later, UCLA traveled to Austin and handed then No. 7 Texas a 34-12 loss, the worst home defeat for the Longhorns since Mack Brown took over as head coach in 1998. So what happened when Cal and UCLA got together Oct. 9 for a Pac-10 showdown in Berkeley? The Bears raced out to a 28-0 first-half lead before putting the Bruins away by a 35-7 final.
What’s the point of all this? Simply a few cautionary tales for the suddenly No. 1-ranked Ohio State football team who would do well to remember another Coop-ism: “About the time you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, it’s time to check your hole card.”
There is little doubt in my mind that Ohio State deserves to be ranked the No. 1 team in the nation. I have maintained since the team’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon that I fully expect the Buckeyes to be playing for the national championship come next January. Now, halfway through the 2010 regular season, there is no reason to change my mind. Every team that remains on the schedule has been exposed in one way or another, and OSU will be favored – and rightfully so – in each of those final six games.
Wisconsin has been susceptible to the pass all season, and the Badgers allowed Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins to throw for 269 yards and three touchdowns. No offense to Cousins, but I’d take Terrelle Pryor over him every day of the week and twice on Saturdays.
Purdue has been decimated on offense by injuries and Ohio State will be seeking revenge for last year’s upset loss. Minnesota could be the worst team in the Big Ten right now, and a rebuilding Penn State might not be that much better than the Gophers.
That leaves Iowa and archrival Michigan.
The Hawkeyes have lost 11 of their last 12 against OSU as well as 14 of their last 17 to the Buckeyes in Kinnick Stadium, and the jury remains out on whether the Wolverines are truly back or not. They looked pretty good early last season, too, before finishing 5-7.
Of course, the national naysayers would have everyone believe the Buckeyes are too flawed to be a legitimate No. 1 team. Many of them are picking Wisconsin to upset OSU tomorrow night. The pompous prattlers believe there are too many underlying issues with Ohio State including an offensive line that is perceived to be underachieving, a relatively punchless running game, injuries that are depleting the defensive secondary and the ticking time bomb that is kickoff and punt coverage.
Granted, I have been among the chronic complainers about all of the aforementioned warts and blemishes. But it could very well be a case of nitpicking at unrealistic expectations.
The Buckeyes are currently the No. 6 team in the nation in scoring offense, so the offensive line must be doing something right. It may also interest you to know that the lackluster run game is generating 217.3 yards per game, and that ranks 20th in the country.
Season-ending injuries to C.J. Barnett and Tyler Moeller were bitter pills to swallow, but the OSU defense continues to soldier on and excel. It ranks third nationally in total defense and is the country’s sixth-toughest unit to score on.
And then there are the kick coverage units. Since allowing a 99-yard kickoff return to Ohio’s Julian Posey – a touchdown that was wiped out by a penalty – the Buckeyes have not only shored up their coverage, they have shut down the opposition. Over the past three games, they have allowed an average of only 15.8 yards on 24 kickoffs, and the punt coverage has been even better. Eastern Michigan, Illinois and Indiana averaged 2.4 yards on 10 punts.
Every team at every competitive level in every competitive sport has some flaws, and Ohio State has its share. But if the Buckeyes can simply play to the level of their own talent – and not down to the level of their competition – they can not only march their way to the national championship game, they can win it no matter the opponent.
They simply have to keep in mind how much better it is to drink the wine than to stomp the grapes.
** This marks the 76th meeting of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes hold a decidedly lopsided 53-17-5 record in the overall series including 24-10-2 in Madison. OSU has won four of its last five trips to Camp Randall Stadium. Since 1999, however, the series has been tight with the Buckeyes holding a slight 5-4 advantage.
** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is in his 10th season with the Buckeyes. He has an 100-21 overall record, including 4-3 against Wisconsin. He is 61-13 in the Big Ten and 35-14 against ranked teams. The Badgers are ranked No. 16 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll as well as the Harris Interactive Poll. They are No. 18 in the Associated Press writers’ poll.
** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in his fifth season with the Badgers. He has a 43-15 overall record, including 0-3 against Ohio State. He is 21-13 in the Big Ten and 5-10 against ranked teams. That includes an 0-4 mark against teams ranked in the top 10. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 this week in all three national polls.
** With 43 wins, Bielema is already sixth all-time in career victories among Wisconsin head coaches. He needs only four more to move into fourth place past Dave McClain (46, 1978-85) and Harry Stuhldreher (45, 1936-48). Barry Alvarez (1990-2005) is the school’s all-time winningest coach with 118 victories.
** Wisconsin hasn’t had much success over the years against top-ranked teams. The Badgers are 14-58-2 all-time against top-five opponents, a mark that includes 3-16 against teams ranked No. 1. However, all three of Wisconsin’s victories against top-ranked teams have come at Camp Randall Stadium.
** The last time the Badgers played a No. 1 team was in 2007 when they lost a 38-17 decision to Ohio State in Columbus. The last time Wisconsin beat a No. 1 team came in the 1981 season opener when the Badgers handed Michigan a 21-14 upset loss in Madison.
** The Buckeyes made their 94th appearance at the No. 1 spot in the AP poll this week, the third-highest total since the AP began ranking college football teams in 1936. Only Oklahoma (98) and Notre Dame (95) have been atop the poll more.
** Ohio State has an all-time record of 66-11-1 playing as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
** Wisconsin has played Ohio State six times when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and have a 1-5 record in those games. The only UW victory came in 1942 when the Badgers took a 17-7 win at Camp Randall Stadium in what has become known as “The Bad Water Game.” Several members of the OSU squad became ill after drinking tainted water on the train to Madison and the game wound up as the only blemish on the Buckeyes’ 1942 record. They still went on to win the school’s first-ever national championship that year.
** In the Tressel era, Ohio State is 13-6 on the road against ranked teams. The Buckeyes also have an eight-game winning streak in Big Ten road games against teams ranked in the AP top 25.
** Ohio State has won 19 of its last 20 conference road games. The only blemish during that streak was last year’s 26-18 upset loss to Purdue last season.
** OSU has a 27-13 record away from home in night games. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 16-10 after dark overall and that includes an 8-3 mark in Big Ten night games played on the road.
** Wisconsin has won 40 of its last 44 games at Camp Randall Stadium. That includes 13 of the last 14 with the only blemish a 20-10 loss to Iowa last season.
** The Badgers will be trying to get an early upper hand in the game. They are 32-4 under Bielema when they score first.
** Former All-America receiver Lee Evans will serve as honorary captain for the Badgers. Evans caught a 79-yard touchdown pass to give Wisconsin a 17-10 victory over Ohio State in 2003, a night game at Camp Randall that snapped the Buckeyes’ 19-game winning streak.
** As it has been so many times in this series, the game will feature a classic matchup between the irresistible force and the immovable object. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 240.8 yards per game while Ohio State ranks second in the conference against the run, surrendering an average of only 78.7 yards per contest.
** Wisconsin has been pretty good against the run this year as well. The Badgers rank third in the Big Ten, giving up an average of 108.2 yards per game, and they have allowed just one rushing touchdown so far in six games.
** In Tressel’s 121 games with the Buckeyes, opposing teams have totaled 175 or more yards on the ground only 11 times. Wisconsin has three of those 11 performances, including 179 two years ago during a 20-17 loss to Ohio State in Madison.
** UW quarterback Scott Tolzien is completing 69.7 percent of his attempts so far this season and his career percentage of 65.8 is the best in school history. Tolzien has the third-best career completion percentage among active Division I-A quarterbacks who have played 20 games or more. Only Case Keenum of Houston (68.9) and Kellen Moore of Boise State (66.8) rank ahead of the Wisconsin QB.
** You should not expect a shutout in tomorrow night’s game. Wisconsin hasn’t been shut out since a 34-0 loss to Syracuse in the 1997 season opener and the Buckeyes haven’t been blanked since a 28-0 loss at Michigan in the 1993 regular-season finale.
** Wisconsin has 13 Ohio natives on its roster. Ohio State has no Wisconsin-born players.
** Camp Randall Stadium, which opened in 1917, is the fourth-oldest on-campus stadium in Division I-A. The only older facilities are Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech (1913), Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State (1914) and Nippert Stadium at Cincinnati (1916).
** With last week’s win over Indiana, Ohio State became one of only seven bowl-eligible teams so far this season. The others are Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, Nevada, Oregon and TCU.
** Wisconsin senior David Gilreath is one of the most prolific kickoff return men in Big Ten history. He already holds the conference record with 116 career kickoff returns and is third all-time in kickoff return yardage with 2,514. Derrick Mason of Michigan State (1993-96) is the Big Ten career leader with 2,575 yards on kickoff returns.
** With 315 yards of total offense last week against Indiana, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor increased his career total to 6,518 and moved past Steve Bellisari (6,496, 1998-2001) into fourth place on the school’s career list in that category. The top three are Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81), Bobby Hoying (7,151, 1992-95) and Troy Smith (6,888, 2003-06).
** With his sixth career game of 300 or more yards of total offense, Pryor tied the school record set by Joe Germaine (1996-98).
** Pryor also increased his career passing yardage to 4,754 and pushed his way past Craig Krenzel (4,493, 2000-03) into ninth place on the school’s all-time list. Jim Karsatos (5,089, 1984-86) is currently eighth.
** OSU kicker Devin Barclay is currently tied for the nation’s third-longest streak of consecutive games with at least one field goal. Barclay has had at least one field goal in seven straight games. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh is first with 14 in a row while Dustin Hopkins of Florida State is second with eight. Danny Hrapmann of Southern Mississippi and Collin Wager of Penn State are tied with Barclay at seven.
** This week’s game will be telecast by ESPN with the marquee primetime announce crew of Brent Musberger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color analysis) and Erin Andrews (sideline reports). The game will also be telecast by ESPN3-D with Dave Lamont, Tim Brown and Ray Bentley on the call. Kickoff is set for shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern. (That is 6 p.m. local time if you’re in Madison.)
** Madison will this week’s site of ESPN’s College GameDay, which begins at 9 a.m. Eastern on ESPNU and continues at 10 a.m. on ESPN.
** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 90 and 122 as well as XM channels 143 and 196. Sports Radio USA will also broadcast the game with Rich Cellini and former Northwestern head coach Gary Barnett on the call.
** Next week, Ohio State returns to Ohio Stadium to Purdue in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 12 noon Eastern and the game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY
** On Oct. 11, 1975, Division II schools Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Davidson (N.C.) College combined to set an NCAA single-game rushing record as the Bears topped the Wildcats, 69-14. Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for an amazing 837 yards while Davidson added 202, establishing a new NCAA record with 1,039 combined rushing yards on 111 attempts.
** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter. The Huskies proceeded to score 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory, establishing a MAC record for most points scored in a fourth-quarter comeback win.
** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.
** On Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record 55 carries to lead the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.
** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.
** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”
** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.
** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss went into Oxford and engineered a 30-14 upset over fourth-ranked Mississippi and Heisman Trophy candidate Archie Manning.
** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost Auburn a second consecutive national championship.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** The number of undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level is down to a lucky 13. Alphabetically they are Auburn, Boise State, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU and Utah.
** With Alabama’s loss last weekend, Boise State now owns the nation’s longest current winning streak at 19. Western Kentucky, which lost a 28-21 decision Oct. 9 to previously winless Florida International, ran its losing nation-long losing streak to 25.
** Michigan State has started 6-0 for the first time since 1999 and will be looking for a win this week against Illinois to push that mark to 7-0. The Spartans haven’t won that many games to start a season since they were 9-0 at the beginning of the 1966 campaign, a season that resulted in the second of their back-to-back national championships under head coach Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty.
** The Big Ten leads all conferences with five quarterbacks currently ranked among the nation’s top 12 in pass efficiency. Rick Stanzi of Iowa, who leads the conference and is third nationally, is followed Dan Persa of Northwestern (fourth), Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor (sixth), Kirk Cousins of Michigan State (ninth) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson (12th). The SEC has four quarterbacks ranked among the top 12 while the WAC, Pac-10 and Big 12 have one each.
** TCU has been one of the top defensive teams in the country for several years but the Horned Frogs accomplished a rare feat last weekend with their 45-0 win over Wyoming. It was TCU’s second straight shutout, something that hasn’t occurred for that program in 55 years. The Frogs last posted back-to-back shutouts in 1955 when they blanked Texas Tech, Arkansas and Alabama in succession on their way to the Southwest Conference championship.
** Is LSU a team of destiny or are the Tigers getting by on pure luck? Half of their wins have come cardiac style – a goal-line stand against North Carolina, a last-second penalty against Tennessee and a favorable review following a fake field goal against Florida. The Bengals from the Bayou should have no trouble getting to 7-0 since they play I-AA McNeese State this week. After that, it’s make or break time – at Auburn on Oct. 23 and home with Alabama on Nov. 6.
** There was no luck involved in Utah’s 68-27 dismantling of Iowa State last week. The Utes piled up a staggering 1,026 yards when you add their total offense to kickoff, punt and interception returns.
** Congratulations to Army, Air Force and Navy. The military academics are currently 12-5 after victories by all three last Saturday. Air Force (5-1) rolled to a 49-27 win over Colorado State, Army (4-2) went on the road to take a 41-23 victory over Tulane, and Navy (3-2) scored a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining to squeeze out a 28-27 win at Wake Forest. The key to the academies’ success this season? Running the football. Air Force is No. 1 nationally in rushing while Army is No. 9 and Navy is No. 10. By the way, the last time all three service academies finished the season with winning records was 1999.
** Congratulations also to South Carolina. When the Gamecocks knocked off top-rated Alabama, it completed a rare trifecta for the school. In the same calendar year, the SC basketball team defeated No. 1 Kentucky and the baseball team downed top-ranked Arizona State. The only school to knock off No. 1 teams in those three sports in the same calendar year was Florida in 2007.
** Figure this one out (if you can): In its first five games, Alabama averaged 229.8 yards per game on the ground. In its previous game before upsetting the Crimson Tide last week, South Carolina gave up 334 rushing yards to Auburn. Then last Saturday, Alabama had only 36 yards on the ground.
** Call it the power of television. Boise State received 138 new student applications after its Sept. 25 football game against Oregon State was broadcast nationally in primetime by ABC. That may seem like a modest number but it was nearly double the amount received by the school after a typical weekend.
** The team you don’t want to play after they’ve had a week off? Oklahoma. The Sooners are 14-3 under head coach Bob Stoops after a week off and that includes a perfect 12-0 mark at home. Bear that in mind if you’re thinking Iowa State has a chance to go into Norman this week and pull the upset. OU had last week off after a 28-20 victory over Texas on Oct. 2. One more thing: The Sooners are also 11-0 during Stoops’ tenure in games that have immediately followed the Red River Shootout.
** The Pasadena City Council on Monday approved a $152 million renovation plan for the 88-year-old Rose Bowl stadium. Construction will run in three phases beginning in January and ending in 2013 to avoid disrupting games. The number of luxury seats will be increased from about 550 to 2,500, and the facility will get a new scoreboard, safety improvements, more restrooms and more concession stands. The city plans to pay for the upgrade with federal stimulus funds, a bond issue, money from the Tournament of Roses and profits from previous games.
** Kent State will honor former quarterback Josh Cribbs on Oct. 30 by retiring his No. 9 jersey. Cribbs, who holds the NFL record with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns, set several marks during his four seasons with the Golden Flashes from 2001-04, including the career passing record with 7,169 yards. Cribbs will be only the fourth former Kent player to have his jersey retired. The others are running back Eric Wilkerson (40), Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive end Jim Corrigall (79) and Pro Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (99).
** Also taking advantage of the Cleveland Browns’ off week will be the University of Texas, which plans to retire the jersey No. 12 worn by former quarterback Colt McCoy on Oct. 30. The Longhorns’ career leader in touchdown passes and passing yardage, McCoy will become the sixth Texas player to have his number retired. The others – quarterback Vince Young (10), Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell (20) and Ricky Williams (34), Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne (22) and College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Tommy Nobis (60).
** NAIA rivals Union College (Ky.) and Bethel University (Tenn.) had a good old-fashioned shootout last Saturday that featured 139 points and 1,501 yards of total offense. When the dust finally settled, Union had scored an 84-55 victory behind tailback Armond Smith, who rushed for 312 yards and five touchdowns on only 16 carries. Amazingly, the combined point total was not an NAIA record. That was set at 141 in 1994 when Southwestern College (Kan.) scored a 79-62 victory over Sterling (Kan.) College.
** The initial BCS standings of the 2010 season will be released Sunday. They will be revealed on ESPN at 8:15 p.m. Eastern. And just so you know: Only six of 12 times has the team ranked No. 1 in the first BCS standings of the season gone on to play in the national championship game.
It was wild last weekend across the college football landscape with plenty of upsets. We still managed to perform fairly well but slipped to a season-low 9-4 week straight up that puts the yearly ledger at 57-9. Against the spread, we were back above water again with an 8-5 mark. The ATS scoreboard is now a pretty stellar 38-25-3 for the season.
Here are the games we’ll be watching this week.
Boston College at No. 16 Florida State: Would you believe the Seminoles are the highest ranked team in Florida this week for the first time since 2005? That’s right. After rolling to a 45-17 victory over Miami (Fla.) last weekend, the Fighting Jimbos are looking at their best start in five years. On the other side of the field will be the Eagles, who are headed in the opposite direction. BC has lost three in a row, its longest losing streak since losing six straight in 1998. What’s worse is that the Eagles haven’t even been in any of those three games, losing to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and North Carolina State by a combined score of 94-30. Those are all decent teams but none that would be confused for a powerhouse this year, so it stands to reason BC’s struggles will continue when it visits Tallahassee … Florida State 31, Boston College 14. (12 noon ET, ESPN)
Illinois at No. 13 Michigan State: The next time someone tries to explain away a loss because a team was distracted, bring up the Spartans. How much more of a distraction can you have than your head coach suffering a midseason heart attack and being away from his full-time duties? That is exactly what has happened with Mark Dantonio, and yet his team is off to its best start since 1999. This week the Spartans will try to keep things going against the upstart Fighting Illini, who played Ohio State tough two weeks and took Penn State to the woodshed last week. This should be a battle of strong defenses with veteran MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins figuring to outplay freshman counterpart Nathan Scheelhaase of Illinois … Michigan State 23, Illinois 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)
Texas at No. 5 Nebraska: How good are the Cornhuskers? We don’t really know for sure because although they have rolled to a 5-0 start by outscoring their opponents, 208-64, Nebraska has played five teams with a combined 10-15 record. How much of a step up in competition does Bo Pelini’s team take this week? Again, we really don’t know for sure. The Longhorns are unranked for the first time since 2000 and staring at their first three-game regular-season losing streak since 1997. One thing we do know for sure: Nebraska has had this game circled ever since a 12-10 loss to Texas in last year’s Big 12 Championship Game. The Longhorns have won eight of the past nine meetings in the series, but history isn’t going to be of much help to the Mack Attack this time around … Nebraska 41, Texas 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
No. 15 Iowa at Michigan: The Wolverines get a shot at redemption this week after their high-flying offense was grounded last week in a 34-24 loss to Michigan State. Unfortunately for U-M, the Hawkeyes come to Ann Arbor with a defense that is one of the best in college football. Iowa ranks No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 4 in total defense, allowing only 10.2 points and 242.2 yards per game. Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot afford to make the mistakes he made last week and expect to do anything against the Hawkeyes. He led a second-half comeback last year against Iowa, but threw a pick in the final minute before the Hawkeyes finally salted away a 30-28 victory. Could it be that close again this year? Michigan is 23-5-3 at home against the Hawkeyes and has won 11 of the last 15 in the overall series. But it’s just difficult to believe the Wolverines can find enough holes in that Iowa defense to outscore the Hawkeyes … Iowa 27, Michigan 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
No. 10 Utah at Wyoming: You think potential BCS busters Boise State or TCU get no respect? How about the Utes? They have been bludgeoning opponents without remorse the past couple of weeks, averaging 60.0 points over their last three games. Of course, their marquee win so far is a 27-24 victory over an underachieving Pittsburgh team, so maybe Utah is getting more respect than it deserves. On the field, things don’t figure to be much different this week as the Cowboys should be the Utes’ latest victim. They have already played Boise and TCU, losing those games by a combined score of 96-6. Wyoming has one of the worst attacks in college football this year, ranking 120th of 120 Division I-A teams in rushing and total offense and 118th in scoring. It all spells blowout … Utah 62, Wyoming 6. (6 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)
McNeese State at No. 9 LSU: Thanks to some good fortune – some would say divine intervention – the Tigers have managed to claw their way to six victories in as many games and need a win this week for the program’s best start since 1973. Lost amid all the talk of how lucky LSU has been is the fact that Les Miles has himself a pretty stout defense. The Tigers rank fifth nationally in total defense and sixth against the run, allowing an average of only 80.7 yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for their Division I-AA opponents, who will be without leading rusher Marcus Wiltz, who has undergone season-ending knee surgery. After all those close calls the past couple of weeks, the Bayou Bengals should be able to breathe a little easier this week … LSU 34, McNeese State 3. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)
Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma: The Sooners are flying under the BCS radar – as much as the undefeated No. 6 team in the nation can fly under the radar. It could be that OU hasn’t exactly been dazzling so far, winning four of its five games by eight points or fewer. For some reason, the Sooners aren’t getting much out of their running attack even though senior tailback DeMarco Murray (551 yards, nine TDs) is generally regarded as a future NFL star. Murray should be able to find some holes this week since the Cyclones rank 102nd nationally against the run and gave up 239 yards and four touchdowns to Utah’s ground game during a 68-27 loss last week … Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 14. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)
No. 3 Boise State at San Jose State: So you wanna be a college football coach do you? Take the plight of first-year San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre. His team has already faced Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada, and lost to those ranked teams by a combined score of 166-33. Now the high-flying Broncos invade northern California looking to make a statement so they can stay in the forefront of the BCS national championship discussion. Pity MacIntyre and his Spartans, who have had trouble moving the ball this year no matter who the opponent has been … Boise State 52, San Jose State 3. (8 p.m. ET, WAC Sports Network)
Mississippi at No. 8 Alabama: It really doesn’t seem fair that nearly every Crimson Tide opponent this year plays Alabama after an off week. South Carolina used that formula – along with a withering run defense – to knock off the defending national champions last week. This week, Ole Miss gets its turn after taking last week off to prepare for its trip to Tuscaloosa. The extra week of preparation was probably a welcome one. The Rebels have lost six in a row in the overall series, nine in a row at Bryant-Denny Stadium and 23 of their last 24 in Tuscaloosa. First-year quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is getting more and more comfortable running the Rebels offense, and Ole Miss has won four of its last five against ranked opponents. But you have to believe the Tide players will be in foul mood after last week’s loss and looking for someone on which they can take out their frustration … Alabama 31, Mississippi 13. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin: Ranked teams. Night game. Nationwide television audience. How much hype do you need as the Buckeyes try to stay atop the national rankings with a trip to rowdy and raucous Camp Randall Stadium? There are about a thousand storylines but really only one key – the Ohio State defense against the Wisconsin running game. Simply put, if the Buckeyes can stonewall the one-two punch of John Clay and James White ( a combined 1,177 yards and 17 TDs), the OSU offense that has been purring so well behind Terrelle Pryor has the ability to run away with the game. How practical is it to believe the Buckeyes can stop Clay and White? Michigan State drew up the blueprints when Sparty held the Badgers to a season-low 165 yards on the ground in a 34-24 win two weeks ago. When the UW run game sputters, quarterback Scott Tolzien struggles. That means turnovers and that means this one won’t be nearly as close as most people think … Ohio State 41, Wisconsin 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Boston College(+22) at Florida State; Illinois at Michigan State (-7); Texas at Nebraska (-10); Iowa (-3) at Michigan; Utah (-20) at Wyoming; McNeese State at LSU (N/L); Iowa State at Oklahoma (-21½); Boise State (-40) at San Jose State; Mississippi (+20½) at Alabama; Ohio State (-4) at Wisconsin.
Enjoy the games and we’ll chat again next week.