Returning To The Graveyard

Every year I tell myself I’m not going to go. After Ohio State has strung so many victories together over Michigan, I tell myself I don’t need to go.

And then, somehow without even thinking, I find myself doing the same things I’ve done for the past several years during the week before the OSU-Michigan game. My car almost drives itself past the unassuming white house on Cardiff Road. Then it’s on to Ohio Stadium and just a few miles north on Olentangy River Road to Union Cemetery. I always seem to arrive around dusk and the expanse of trees usually makes it seem darker than normal. But I’ve made this trip so many times, I could make it blindfolded.

It was a raw evening – cold, windy and wet with rain alternating between a fine mist and those huge pellets that splash on the pavement when they hit. But there are tall inviting trees in proximity to the black granite marker at Section 12, Lot 37, Space 4, and I take my place beneath the rustling pines.

I stood there, transfixed on the monument and began to read aloud the words etched on the stone.

“And in the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love hears the rustle of a wing.”

As I pondered those words, and the wind continued to whistle through the trees, I was startled by what has become a familiar voice.

“Do you know who wrote those words?”

I whirled around to see the same stocky man I had seen a couple of years ago, standing just behind me. He always looked the same, wearing a red windbreaker, gray trousers and a stern look. A black baseball cap was jammed low over his gray hair, and he squinted at me through silver, horn-rimmed glasses.

“Well?” he said. “Do you?”

“Do I what?” I stammered.

“Do you know who wrote those words?”

I turned around to ponder the question, but before I could offer any reply the man already had the answer.

“Robert Green Ingersoll,” he said. “Great man, great orator. Great thinker. He was often very misunderstood but very principled. Knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to work hard to get it.”

“That sounds like someone else I can think of,” I said.

The man just stared back at me.

“Are you trying to patronize me, Son? Because if you think I don’t remember that you’re the sportswriter that comes around here every so often …”

“No, no, no. I meant it as a compliment,” I said.

He continued his glare before shaking his head and muttering something under his breath about my profession. Then he started to speak again.

“As a matter of fact, I’m glad for the company,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of things on my mind.”

“Such as?”

“Let’s start with the game being played this week. I feel no sense of urgency around here. I’ve even heard people saying the rivalry isn’t what it used to be anymore.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that, too,” I said. “I guess it’s because Ohio State has won so many games in a row.”

“Is it?” he shot back. “Well, let me tell you something. People who say that are goddamned fools, and if you believe it then you’re a goddamned fool, too. This is the greatest rivalry in sports. Not just football, mind you. All of sports. Always has been, always will be. When you begin to lose respect for the greatest rivalry in sports, then I don’t know what to say other than you’re a goddamned fool.”

“Well,” I said. “Michigan … um, I mean that other team is certainly having its problems again. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse defense. They’ve already given up more yardage and more points than in any season during their history.”

“And you think that means anything in this game?” he said. “That’s about what I’d expect from a sportswriter. I don’t know why I waste my time. Listen, Son. I don’t care how many points they’ve given up. This is a game where that kind of stuff doesn’t mean a damn thing.”

“I think it might this year,” I said. “Have you seen them play? They’re really not very good at all on defense.”

The old man rolled his eyes and shook his head again.

“That is just the kind of attitude I’m talking about,” he said. “Thinking you have the game won before it’s even played is the attitude of a loser.”

“I know they have a good offense and their quarterback is as exciting a player as I’ve ever seen play the quarterback position,” I said. “But do you honestly think Michigan has a chance? After all, it seems like Jim Tressel has won six in a row and eight of nine against them. That’s never been done before by any Ohio State coach in the history of the rivalry.”

“You’re talking to me about history? I know a thing or two about history.”

I could tell the man was getting a little agitated with me. His lips were stretched tight along his face and jaw seemed as if it was set in stone.

“Any Ohio schoolboy knows we have never beaten them this many times in a row. But do you know why?”

“No,” I answered. “Why?”

“Because it’s hard, that’s why. Goddamned hard if you ask me. I had some great teams over the years and couldn’t do it.”

You had some great teams?”

We had some great teams. I meant we had some great teams. Look, you can never go into any football game against any opponent and expect to win. You always have to expect the unexpected. That way you can adapt. You always have to adapt in this game. You start taking things for granted and pretty soon you’re through.

“You have to give the same kind of effort week in and week out if you’re going to be successful. Your opponent may be better than you sometimes. That’s just life. But hard work can make up for any lack of talent. There are going to be times when the guy across from you is just better, but if you work as hard as you can – really give it everything you have – then you have what it takes to be a champion. You might beat me but you’re not going to outwork me, and when I hear it said that this game is over before it is played … well, that just makes me sick to my stomach.

“Those seniors are going to be playing their last game in our great stadium. This game will be something they will tell their children and their grandchildren, and God willing, their great-grandchildren. You think they want that story to be about the time they lost to that school up north? And you’re playing for another championship. That’s what it’s all about. Every team wants to win a championship, but damn few have what it takes to actually win one.

“But you have to take this thing seriously. You have to understand that this game is the greatest game you will ever play in. Hell, it might be the greatest moment of your entire life. How you perform in this game will be a defining moment – now and forever. If you can’t understand that, you ought to get the hell out of the way and make room for someone who does.”

Off in the distance, I heard a familiar church bell chime the hour.

“Well,” the man sighed, “that’s what I think anyway. What I wouldn’t give for just one more time – one more time to be in that locker room, run out onto that field, smell that air, hear that band. Just look up and drink it all in. Experience all of that just one time in your life and then tell me how much this game doesn’t matter.”

He turned to leave, but as he walked away I called out, “Nice seeing you again.”

He waved but quickly stopped and turned to glare at me one last time.

“You tell ’em,” he said as he pointed a finger in my direction. “You tell ’em exactly what I said.”

I nodded.

“I always do, Coach,” I said. “I always do.”

Then, and only then, did I detect the faintest of smiles.

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Michigan will buckle it up tomorrow for the 107th renewal of what is known simply as The Game. The teams first met in 1897 and have played every season since 1918. The Wolverines lead the overall series by a 57-43-6 margin, including a 27-23-2 advantage in Columbus. However, the Buckeyes are 22-21-1 against their archrivals at Ohio Stadium.

** In the last 50 meetings overall, Ohio State holds a 26-22-2 advantage.

** The Buckeyes have won each of the last four games in the series played at Ohio Stadium. They haven’t enjoyed that kind of streak at home against the Wolverines since winning four in a row between 1968 and 1974. OSU has never won five straight home games in the series.

** Ohio State has won eight of the last nine games in the series for the first time ever. The Buckeyes are also gunning for an unprecedented seventh straight victory over Michigan.

** Since 1926, the overall series is dead even at 40-40-3.

** OSU head coach Jim Tressel is currently 8-1 against Michigan, and he is one of only four Ohio State head coaches in history with a winning record against the Wolverines. The others are Woody Hayes (1951-78) at 16-11-1, Earle Bruce (1979-87) at 5-4 and Francis A. Schmidt (1934-40) at 4-3. Hayes, Bruce and Schmidt are all members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

** Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is 0-2 against the Buckeyes. He is the first head coach in school history ever to lose his first two games in the series against Ohio State.

** Tressel is 28-4 with the Buckeyes in November. Rodriguez has a November record of 3-7 with the Wolverines.

** This marks the 17th time in series history that Ohio State and Michigan have played after Thanksgiving. The Wolverines hold an 8-7-1 advantage after Turkey Day, but the Buckeyes prevailed the last time the two teams met post-Thanksgiving. That was a 26-20 victory in Ann Arbor in 2001, 310 days after Tressel made his now-famous speech shortly after being hired as OSU head coach.

** With a victory over the Wolverines, Ohio State would clinch at least a share of the Big Ten championship. That would be the program’s sixth title in a row, matching the conference record set by the Buckeyes from 1972 to ’77.

** Should the Buckeyes win their sixth consecutive Big Ten title, it will mark the ninth straight season in which either OSU or Michigan has won or shared the conference crown. The last time neither team had at least a share of the trophy was in 2001 when Illinois took home the outright championship.

** Tressel is looking for his seventh Big Ten championship, which would tie him for fifth most on the conference’s all-time coaching list. Ohio State’s Woody Hayes (1951-78) and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (1969-89) share the career record with 13 championships each. Fielding Yost of Michigan (1901-23, ’25-26) had 10, Henry Williams of Minnesota (1900-21) had eight, and Amos Alonzo Stagg (1896-1932) of Chicago, Robert Zuppke of Illinois (1913-41) and Bernie Biermann of Minnesota (1932-41, ’45-50) each had seven.

** Should his team earn at least a share of the championship, Tressel would join elite company. Only two other coaches have won at least seven Big Ten championships in their first decade in the league. Schembechler won eight titles in his first 10 seasons at Michigan and Bierman won seven during his first decade at Minnesota.

** With its victory last week at Iowa, Ohio State has become the first team in Big Ten history to record six consecutive years with 10 or more wins.

** The last time a ranked OSU team lost to an unranked Michigan squad was in 1993. The Wolverines rolled to a 28-0 victory in Ann Arbor, and that game marks the most recent shutout in the overall series. The Buckeyes haven’t recorded a shutout over U-M since a 28-0 win in Ann Arbor in 1962.

** Since Rodriguez took over in 2008, Michigan has produced a 6-17 record in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have not experienced a stretch of futility like that since the 1930s when they lost 18 of 24 games between 1934 and ’38.

** During a 13-year span from 1979 to 1992, the record for the team entering The Game with the higher ranking was 9-3-1. In the 17 games since, the higher-ranked team has managed only a 9-8 mark.

** Since the two teams met in 1923 for the Ohio Stadium dedication game, a total of 7,638,051 fans have attended The Game. That’s more than any other college football game in America. Fifty-nine of those 87 games have been sold out, including the last 42 in a row.

** The Wolverines have 19 native Ohioans on their roster while the Buckeyes have five players from Michigan.

** Here is how the teams stack up against one another in a variety of the national statistical categories:
Rushing offense – Michigan 10th (257.4); Ohio State 17th (216.2)
Passing offense – Michigan 30th (257.2); Ohio State 55th (230.0)

Pass efficiency – Ohio State 10th (158.4); Michigan 16th (154.6)
Total offense – Michigan fifth (514.6); Ohio State 18th (446.2)
Scoring offense – Ohio State ninth (39.6); Michigan 15th (36.8)
Rushing defense – Ohio State third (86.4); Michigan 92nd (181.3)
Pass defense – Ohio State fifth (155.1); Michigan 111th (263.9)
Total defense – Ohio State third (241.5); Michigan 112th (445.2)
Scoring defense – Ohio State fifth (13.9); Michigan 99th (33.6)
Net punting – Michigan 53rd (36.9); Ohio State 96th (34.0)
Turnover margin – Ohio State seventh (plus-12); Michigan 101st (minus-7)
Punt returns – Ohio State 39th (10.1); Michigan 94th (6.0)
Kickoff returns – Ohio State 12th (25.2); Michigan 67th (21.5)

** Ohio State is remarkably consistent on offense regardless of the down. This season, the Buckeyes have averaged 6.5 yards on first down, 6.7 on second down and 6.6 on third down. OSU has averaged only 5.3 yards when going for it on fourth down, but the Buckeyes have converted eight of their nine fourth-down tries.

** The Wolverines will be trying to score quickly and score a lot. They are 5-0 this season when leading at halftime and 7-3 when scoring 20 points or more.

** Don’t expect a close game. In the previous 106 contests between OSU and Michigan, only 17 have been decided by three points or less. The Buckeyes hold a 6-5-6 edge in those games.

** Ohio State had a decided advantage this year in the kicking game. Senior kicker Devin Barclay has made 16 of 19 field goals and all 54 of his PAT attempts this season. Michigan redshirt freshman kickers Seth Broekhuizen and Brendan Gibbons have combined to make only 4 of 13 field-goal attempts and 52 of 54 PATs.

** Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson ran for 121 yards during last week’s 48-28 loss to Wisconsin and established a new single-season record for Division I-A quarterbacks. Robinson pushed his season rushing total to 1,538 yards, breaking the old mark of 1,494 set in 1996 by Beau Morgan of Air Force.

** With his 2,229 yards passing this season, Robinson has also become the first quarterback in NCAA history to top 1,500 yards both rushing and passing in a single season.

** Robinson has 3,767 yards of total offense this season and needs 233 more to become only the fourth played in Big Ten history to top 4,000 in a single season. Purdue quarterback Drew Brees did it three times from 1998-2000, setting the league record with 4,189 yards as a senior. Also eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark were Purdue QB Curtis Painter (4,092 in 2006) and Northwestern QB Brett Basanez (4,045 in 2005).

** With 78 yards last week against Iowa, OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor became only the 22nd player in school history to reach the 2,000-yard mark for his career. Pryor has exactly 2,000 yards on the ground and needs 67 more to move into the all-time top 20 past Jeff Logan (2,026, 1974-77) and Cornelius Greene (2,066, 1972-75).

** OSU tailback Dan “Boom” Herron can also join the 2,000-yard club soon. He needs only 68 more.

** Pryor’s 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Reid Fragel last week gave him 53 for his career, and he needs only five more to become the all-time leader at Ohio State in that category. Bobby Hoying (1992-95) is the career leader with 57 followed by Joe Germaine (56, 1996-98) and Troy Smith (54, 2003-06).

** Additionally, Pryor needs 264 more yards of total offense to become only the second player in school history to reach the 8,000-yard mark in that category. Pryor’s total of 7,736 ranks behind only Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81).

** Annual Senior Day festivities will be held prior to kickoff with 24 seniors suiting up in Ohio Stadium for the final time. They are Devin Barclay, Justin Boren, Bryant Browning, Chimdi Chekwa, Ricky Crawford, Aaron Gant, Cameron Heyward, Jermale Hines, Ross Homan, Garrett Hummel, Josh Kerr, Dexter Larimore, Chris Malone, Don Matheney, Jake McQuaide, Andrew Miller, Brian Rolle, Brandon Saine, Dane Sanzenbacher, Grant Schwartz, Scott Sika, Connor Smith, Devon Torrence and Taurian Washington.

** The Game will be televised for the 44th consecutive year and 55th overall time. The first OSU-Michigan game ever televised was a 21-0 win by the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1947.

** Kickoff for tomorrow’s game will be shortly after noon Eastern. The game will be televised nationally by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror. (Most fans will be able to see the game on their local ABC affiliate. Those who don’t can catch it on ESPN.) For the second week in a row, Sean McDonough will have the play-by-play, Matt Millen will provide color analysis and Quint Kessenich will file reports from the sidelines.

** The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio channels 125 (Ohio State) and 122 (Michigan) and XM satellite channels 102 (OSU) and 143 (U-M).

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Nov. 23, 1984, Boston College quarterback hurled a 48-yard “Hail Mary” TD pass to wide receiver Gerard Phelan on the game’s final play, giving the Eagles a 47-45 win over Miami (Fla.) and sewing up the ’84 Heisman Trophy for Flutie.

** On Nov. 23, 1985, Iowa quarterback Chuck Long became the first player in Big Ten history to throw for more than 10,000 career yards when he led the Hawkeyes to a 31-9 victory over Minnesota.

** On Nov. 24, 1938, Texas scored a 7-6 upset win over Texas A&M, allowing the Longhorns to avoid a rare winless season.

** On Nov. 24, 1956, College Football Hall of Fame coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf made his final game a memorable one when his California team scored a 20-18 upset win over Stanford.

** On Nov. 24, 1979, third-ranked Nebraska and No. 8 Oklahoma squared off for the Big Eight championship in a battle of the unbeatens. The Sooners, led by tailback Billy Sims and his 247 rushing yards, eventually prevailed with a 17-14 win for their fourth outright conference title in seven years.

** On Nov. 25, 1916, Ohio State took a 23-3 victory over Northwestern to cap a 7-0 season and earn the school’s first Big Ten championship. It was the first of a league-record 18 outright championships and 34 overall conference titles for the Buckeyes.

** On Nov. 25, 1920, Texas defeated instate rival Texas A&M by a 7-3 score in the first college football game ever broadcast live on radio.

** On Nov. 25, 1950, Michigan and Ohio State combined for a Big Ten-record 45 punts during a game played in a driving snowstorm. The Wolverines won the game 9-3 in what has become known as the “Snow Bowl.”

** On Nov. 25, 1961, Rutgers completed its first undefeated season since 1876 with a 32-19 win over Columbia. The Scarlet Knights overcame a 19-7 deficit after three quarters, roaring to the victory by scoring four times in the fourth quarter.

** On Nov. 26, 1955, Tennessee halfback Johnny Majors and backup halfback Al Carter each threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally the Volunteers to a 20-14 victory over No. 19 Vanderbilt. The outcome prevented the Commodores from winning the SEC championship and securing a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

** On Nov. 26, 1988, for the first time in series history, Notre Dame and USC squared off undefeated and occupying the top two spots in the national polls. Irish quarterback Tony Rice rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown while cornerback Stan Smagala intercepted USC quarterback Rodney Peete and returned the pick for a score as No. 1 Notre Dame took a 27-10 victory.

** On Nov. 27, 1982, Auburn running back Bo Jackson rushed for 114 yards and led the Tigers to a 23-22 victory over Alabama. It was the final regular-season game for Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who finished a 38-year career with 323 victories. The game also marked a milestone for Auburn head coach Pat Dye. He became the first of 30 former Bryant assistants who had tried to beat the legendary coach since 1970.

** On Nov. 28, 1942, unranked Holy Cross scored a 55-12 rout of No. 1 Boston College, the most lopsided loss ever for a top-ranked team.

** On Nov. 28, 1975, Texas A&M protected its No. 2 national rating with a 20-10 win over fifth-ranked Texas, the Aggies’ first win at home over the Longhorns in eight years.

** On Nov. 28, 1981, No. 11 Penn State trounced No. 1 Pittsburgh by a 48-14 score, the largest winning margin in NCAA history for a ranked team over a No. 1 team.

** On Nov. 28, 2008, Eastern Michigan quarterback Andy Schmitt connected on an NCAA single-game record 58 of 80 pass attempts during a 56-52 victory over Central Michigan. The performance came six days after Schmitt went 50 for 76 in a 55-52 loss to Temple, and his 108 completions over a two-game span is also a college football record.

** On Nov. 29, 1935, Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger was named the winner of the inaugural Downtown Athletic Club Trophy as the outstanding college football player of the year. The following year, the award would be renamed the Heisman Trophy.

** On Nov. 29, 1958, Auburn protected its No. 2 ranking and extended its winning streak to 24 consecutive games with a heart-pounding 14-8 win over Alabama. The Tigers needed a defensive stop with 1:26 remaining in the game to preserve the victory.

** On Nov. 30, 1935, No. 2 SMU scored a come-from-behind 20-14 win over No. 1 TCU, giving the Ponies an undefeated regular season, the Southwest Conference title and a Rose Bowl berth. It would be another 71 years until a major conference had two unbeaten teams with records of at least 10-0 playing one another. That came in 2006 when Ohio State pulled out a 42-39 victory over Big Ten foe Michigan.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Auburn, Boise State, Oregon and TCU remain the only unbeaten teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (a.k.a. Division I-A) level this week. How many will there be next week?

** Should Auburn QB Cam Newton win this year’s Heisman Trophy, today’s game between Newton’s Tigers and Mark Ingram’s Alabama team would feature the fifth matchup of Heisman winners in a rivalry game. The others: Gino Torretta of Miami (1992) and Charlie Ward of Florida State (1993); Earl Campbell of Texas (1977) and Billy Sims of Oklahoma (1978); Gary Beban of UCLA (1967) and O.J. Simpson of USC (1968); and John Huarte of Notre Dame (1964) and Mike Garrett of USC (1965).

** Iowa is 7-4 and all four of its defeats have come on late fourth-quarter touchdowns – at the 3:57 mark to Arizona, 1:06 to Wisconsin, 1:22 to Northwestern and 1:47 to Ohio State. In case you have forgotten, the Hawkeyes were ranked ninth in the Associated Press writers’ preseason poll.

** When Penn State took a 41-24 victory over Indiana last weekend at FedEx Field, it marked the 66th different venue in which Joe Paterno had coached the Nittany Lions.

** Evidently Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure enjoys running in one direction for the entire game. During his team’s 49-27 win over Northwestern last Saturday at Wrigley Field, Leshoure set a new single-game school record by rushing for 330 yards. As you probably know by now, both teams were forced to play offense in the same direction after Big Ten officials decided a padded brick wall in the Friendly Confines was too close to the end zone. Leshoure eclipsed the single-game of 315 yards set in 1996 by Robert Holcombe during a 23-21 loss at Minnesota.

** Bad economy? What bad economy? Fox, which lost the BCS to ESPN and then fell short to ESPN again in an effort to telecast ACC games, made a preemptive bid for the new Big Ten championship football game. Fox will pony up at least $120 million over the next six years to broadcast the game, pumping an additional $20 million into conference coffers each year for just one game.

** With victories tomorrow, Michigan State and Wisconsin would clinch shares of the Big Ten championship. The Spartans haven’t taken home a conference title since 1990 while the Badgers haven’t won one since 1999.

** Notre Dame killed two birds with one stone last Saturday. The Fighting Irish became bowl-eligible in their first season under Brian Kelly with a 27-3 victory over Army at the new Yankee Stadium. And the Irish helped the two-year-old facility set an attendance record. With extra bleachers installed in the left and right field areas, the attendance of 54,521 established a new record for a sporting event held the facility which opened in 2009.

** The Irish are now 18-5-3 against Army in New York City ballparks that have hosted the World Series. That list includes old and new Yankee Stadium as well as three other venues that have fallen victim to the wrecking ball – the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and Ebbets Field.

** Count Ole Miss as one team that’s not afraid to play Boise State. The Rebels have contacted to play the Broncos in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to be played in the Georgia Dome.

** In case you missed it, former Michigan All-American running back Rob Lytle died last Saturday of a heart attack only eight days after his 56th birthday. A native of Fremont, Ohio, Lytle was a consensus All-American in 1976 and finished third behind Pittsburgh RB Tony Dorsett and USC running back Ricky Bell in that year’s Heisman Trophy balloting. He went on to a seven-year NFL career with the Denver Broncos, and holds the distinction of being the first player ever to score a touchdown in the Rose Bowl and a Super Bowl.

** On HBO’s “Real Sports” program this week, Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma was asked to outline his goal in life. The response: “My goal in life is to find some little scar on you, a little something, and I just want to pour some salt in there, rub some vinegar in it, then have some fun.” Look up the word “ass” in the dictionary and you will likely find a picture of Auriemma.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It was another spectacular week for the straight-up picks. We were 9-1, missing only the Upset Special when Michigan failed miserably – again – on Senior Day against Wisconsin. That is two Upset Special misses in a row, and either we’ll fall into one soon or we’ll stop picking upsets. The season record SU is now 106-19.

Against the spread, we have avoiding a losing streak all season – until now. Last week’s season-low mark of 3-6-1 was the second losing week in a row, and although we are still 72-48-5 for the year, we need to stop the bleeding.

Here are the games we’re watching this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

Ohio at Kent State: Back in September when the Bobcats were getting rolled by Ohio State, no one expected them to be where they are today. After starting the season 1-3, Frank Solich’s team has rattled off seven victories in a row and needs only to beat the Golden Flashes today to sew up its second straight MAC East title. Ohio has been able to right the ship because of an offense that relies heavily on a multi-pronged rush offense that averages 180.0 yards per game. That, however, plays into Kent’s strength. It leads the MAC and ranks No. 8 nationally against the run, allowing only 101.5 yards per game. Trouble is, the Golden Flashes sometimes have trouble putting points on the scoreboard. They have been held to 14 points or less in four games this season – all losses – and it’s difficult to see how they can score many more than that against the Bobcats … Ohio 21, Kent State 13. (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 2 Auburn at No. 11 Alabama: Talk about no respect. The Tigers have cruised to 11 straight victories and the SEC West title, they have the Heisman Trophy frontrunner in quarterback Cam Newton, and virtually no one gives them any chance to beat the Crimson Tide in the 75th Iron Bowl this afternoon. Part of that, of course, is the continuing investigation swirling around Newton. But part of it is because despite its two losses Alabama remains the defending national champion and to be the man you’ve got to beat the man. And to beat the man, the Tigers have to fly in the face of the fact that the Crimson Tide has won 20 straight home games and features a young, attacking defense that leads the nation with 21 interceptions. The last time Auburn visited Tuscaloosa, it got taken to the woodshed during a 36-0 Tide romp. Still, somehow, we’re not feeling the upset. This has been a magical season so far for the Tigers and we think it continues … Auburn 27, Alabama 24. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Colorado at No. 15 Nebraska: While Auburn has been dealing with the Newton mess for some time, the Cornhuskers have had a week of controversy after head coach Bo Pelini blew his top last week during a 9-6 loss to Texas A&M. Pelini developed a bad case of the you-know-what because he thought the Big 12 officials had it out for his team, and that boiled over to an unfortunate public chewing-out of quarterback Taylor Martinez, who was hurt and could not play. On the other sideline, the Buffaloes have already dealt with their off-the-field problems and have won two in a row since head coach Dan Hawkins was fired. A lot of people are picking the upset here, but Pelini should get his team back on the same page this week despite the short turnaround … Nebraska 27, Colorado 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 21 Arizona at No. 1 Oregon: Although nearly everyone is passing the Ducks straight through to the national championship game, they seem to be taking nothing for granted. This week, they entertain the upset-minded Wildcats, who may have the best defense the Quack Attack has faced to this point. Cal served up the blueprint on how to slow down Oregon’s offense two weeks ago by playing man coverage in the secondary and putting a safety to spy on QB Darron Thomas. Look for Arizona to do the same thing, but for that scheme to be successful the Wildcats are going to have to shore up their run defense. They gave up 422 yards rushing in losses to USC and Stanford, and Oregon features tailback LaMichael James, who leads the nation with an average of 158.0 yards. An upset of Auburn and big game from James in this one could throw a monkey wrench into the Heisman Trophy race, and these two teams have played some wild games the last couple of years. Fasten your seatbelts … Oregon 45, Arizona 38. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Boise State at No. 19 Nevada: Speaking of thrill rides, this game should provide plenty of entertainment. The Broncos know they have to keep winning to keep their national championship aspirations alive, and the Wolf Pack would like nothing more than to stomp on that dream. And don’t be fooled into thinking a Nevada win would be a major upset. The Pack certainly has the talent to pull off the upset with dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick (3,396 yards of total offense), running back Vai Taua (1,241 yards, 16 TDs), who just happens to be the NCAA career leader with 24 games of 100 or more rushing yards, and DE Dontay Moch, who is the active NCAA leader with 60½ tackles for loss. And yet, with all of that individual talent, the Pack falls short of the overall depth of Boise and that will make the difference … Boise State 35, Nevada 14. (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Virginia at No. 16 Virginia Tech: The Hokies are shooting for their first 10-game winning streak since 1999, and that’s not too bad for a team left for dead after season-opening losses to Boise State and I-AA James Madison. Tech has already clinched a spot in the ACC championship game, and the Cavaliers will likely be just a speed bump on the way. They come into the game with a 4-7 record and losers of three straight. UVA also has a losing streak going in this series – six in a row by a combined score of 185-72. It’s difficult to see how that trend changes much tomorrow, especially with the Cavs ranking 107th nationally against the run and the Hokies featuring the 19th best rushing offense in the country … Virginia Tech 34, Virginia 10. (12 noon ET)

Northwestern at No. 7 Wisconsin: With quarterback Dan Persa controlling the offense, the Wildcats would have at least had a puncher’s chance at taking out the Badgers. But since Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon two weeks ago, NU is a completely different team. More succinctly put, their chances for the upset are slim and none – and Slim isn’t on the travel squad to Madison. The only question is how much of a score does Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema want to run up on the Wildcats. The Badgers will probably get leading rusher John Clay back this week after he missed two games with a sprained knee. Not that his team has missed him much. UW rushed for 357 yards last week during a 48-28 win over Michigan and rolled up 338 two weeks ago when the Badgers bullied Indiana, 83-20. Look for more of the same against the Wildcats, who rank a lowly eighth in the Big Ten against the run. Without Persa to at least give them a fighting chance, NU can do virtually nothing to prevent Wisconsin from punching its ticket to Pasadena … Wisconsin 55, Northwestern 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 24 Iowa at Minnesota: Things set up pretty well for a Golden Gophers victory here. The Hawkeyes really have nothing left to play for. After all, when you started your season with national title hopes, does it really matter if you wind up in the Gator Bowl or the Insight Bowl? The point is you may have a bunch of Iowa players simply going through the motions. For Minnesota, there is a lot more going on. It will be Senior Day at TCF Bank Stadium, and interim head coach Jeff Horton will try to make a case for getting the fulltime job. To be brutally honest, though, this game is a mismatch of talent. Despite their well-chronicled fourth-quarter collapses, the Hawkeyes still rank sixth in the nation in scoring defense. That is a category in which the Gophers rank 101st. What more do you need to know? … Iowa 35, Minnesota 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 3 TCU at New Mexico: Pity the lowly Lobos who go into tomorrow’s game knowing the Horned Frogs need style points to keep alive their hopes of playing for the national championship. TCU ranks among the nation’s top 10 in nearly every major statistical category, including No. 1 in total and scoring defense. Conversely, New Mexico ranks 100th or lower in nearly every category, including 118th in total offense, 119th in scoring defense and 120th in rushing defense. Considering the fact there are only 120 schools playing football on the Division I-A level, you begin to see how this could get out of hand very early … TCU 54, New Mexico State 7. (4 p.m. ET, Versus)

Michigan at No. 8 Ohio State: If you had no affinity whatsoever for the rivalry, it would be easy to dismiss this year’s version of The Game as an overhyped mismatch. What else could it be since the Buckeyes possess the No. 9 scoring offense in the country and Michigan possesses the worst defense in … well … the worst defense in Michigan football history. How bad are the Wolverines on defense? Three weeks ago, they actually celebrated after giving up 65 points against Illinois. Granted, it was after a three-overtime win, but celebrating after you had given up 65 points? Bo Schembechler’s 1972 team surrendered only 57 total points in 11 games. How bad can this one get? It all depends upon how bad Jim Tressel wants it to be, and the OSU coach simply has too much respect for the rivalry to let things escalate too much. Still, you can’t exactly tell your team to stop playing when those ugly winged hats are on the other side of the line of scrimmage … Ohio State 41, Michigan 14. (12 noon ET, ABC/ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Ohio (-3½) at Kent State; Auburn (+5) at Alabama; Colorado (+17½) at Nebraska; Arizona (+20½) at Oregon; Boise State (-13½) at Nevada; Virginia at Virginia Tech (-21½); Northwestern at Wisconsin (-23); Iowa (-14) at Minnesota; TCU (-43) at New Mexico; Michigan at Ohio State (-17).

Enjoy the games.

History Favors Buckeyes For Stretch Run

Admit it. You were worried at halftime last Saturday when Ohio State trailed Penn State by 11 points. You were the one throwing up his hands in disgust, wondering how you could stomach the Buckeyes playing in the Outback Bowl when many preseason predictions had them competing for a national championship.

I’ll admit to more than a little apprehension myself, especially since I knew no Ohio State team in the Jim Tressel era had ever come back to win after falling into a deficit larger than 10 points.

Of course, history can be a double-edged sword. Had any of us bothered to remember Penn State’s penchant for second-half collapses against the Buckeyes, the Pepto-Bismol could have stayed on the shelf.

First of all, the Nittany Lions have never played well in Ohio Stadium since joining the Big Ten and their 38-14 loss this season was their eighth in nine trips to the Horseshoe since 1993. Moreover, they have been outscored by 163 points in those nine games.

But it isn’t just that Penn State loses in Columbus – it’s how the Nittany Lions lose. Usually after taking a halftime lead and then pitching interceptions that the Buckeyes turn into touchdowns.

It should have come as no surprise, then, when Devon Torrence and Travis Howard returned interceptions for touchdowns this year. In the nine games at the Horseshoe against Penn State since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have tallied 16 interceptions and returned six of them for touchdowns.

In addition to the good feelings the Buckeyes have whenever Penn State comes to town, history also bodes well for Ohio State in terms of their final two games of the regular season. The Buckeyes are 14-2-1 in their last 17 trips to Kinnick Stadium, and the program is in the middle of a six-game winning streak against archrival Michigan while Tressel has beaten the Wolverines in eight of his previous nine tries.

What’s more, history sides with the Buckeyes in their quest for a second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. Their chief competition in the Run for the Roses is Wisconsin, but the Badgers must first successfully navigate a Nov. 20 trip to Michigan.

Before you dismiss the Wolverines’ chances in that contest, you should know Wisconsin hasn’t won in Ann Arbor since 1994 and one of Rich Rodriguez’s six Big Ten victories came against the Badgers – a 27-25 win in 2008 when Michigan overcame a 19-0 halftime deficit.

Also tied with OSU and Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten standings is Michigan State, which finishes its regular season Nov. 27 at Penn State. The Spartans have lost five of the last six in that series, including eight in a row at Beaver Stadium – six of those by margins of at least 19 points.

Should all of the aforementioned historical data hold true these next two weeks, Ohio State could be headed for a Rose Bowl date with someone other than a Pac-10 representative since Oregon remains undefeated and focused squarely on the BCS National Championship Game.

However, while history sides with Ohio State down the stretch, it does not favor the Ducks. They haven’t finished a regular season undefeated since going 7-0-1 in 1916, and the only unblemished record in program history was a 4-0 mark in 1895.

Naturally, those at Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Oregon will tell you where you can stick your history lessons. Penn State was likely whistling the same tune before playing Ohio State.

All I can say is that we would all do well to heed long-dead English historian Edward Gibbon who once wrote, “I know no way of judging the future but by the past.”

OSU-IOWA TIDBITS

** This will be the 63rd overall meeting between Ohio State and Iowa in a series that began in 1922. The Buckeyes enjoy a lopsided 45-14-3 advantage over the Hawkeyes, including a 17-6-2 record in Iowa City. OSU has won 11 of the last 12 in the series, and six of the last seven played at Kinnick Stadium.

** The game marks the 20th time in the series when both teams are ranked. The Buckeyes are 15-4 in those previous 19 games.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is 4-1 against Iowa while Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is 1-6 all-time against the Buckeyes. Ferentz got his only victory over OSU in 2004 when the Hawkeyes knocked starting quarterback Justin Zwick out of the game and rolled to a 33-7 win in Iowa City.

** While at OSU, Tressel has a 38-14 overall record against ranked teams and a 13-7 mark on the road against the top 25. Ferentz is 19-25 overall against ranked teams and 10-5 at home against top-25 opposition. Ohio State enters the game ranked No. 7 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, No. 8 in the Associated Press writers’ poll and No. 9 in the BCS standings. Iowa is No. 20 in the coaches’ and BCS rankings and No. 21 according to the writers.

** Tressel is 27-4 in November games at Ohio State. Ferentz is 22-16 in November while at Iowa.

** Tressel and Ferentz are old adversaries from their Division I-AA coaching days. Tressel led Youngstown State to a 38-17 victory in the 1990 regular-season finale over Maine and Ferentz, who was in his first season with the Black Bears.

** Tomorrow’s game is the final road game of the 2010 regular season for the Buckeyes. All-time, they are 67-47-6 in the final away game of the season and 7-2 under Tressel.

** Ohio State has won 20 of its last 22 Big Ten road contests. Iowa has won only 13 of its last 21 conference home games.

** Iowa junior safety Tyler Sash is one of the top defensive backs in Big Ten history in terms of interceptions. With two picks this season, Sash has 13 career interceptions and 392 return yards. He needs five more picks to break into the Big Ten all-time top 10 and only eight more return yards to become only the fourth player in league history with 400 or more. The longtime conference career leader in interceptions is Al Brosky of Illinois (1950-52) with 30, while the all-time interception return yardage leader is Jamar Fletcher of Wisconsin (1998-2000) with 459.

** When the Buckeyes scored their 38-14 victory over Penn State last week, it marked the 100th time in 125 games during the Tressel era that OSU had held an opponent under 24 points. The team’s record in those 100 games is 94-6.

** The Ohio State defense is tied for the national lead with 17 interceptions, two more than Iowa. Each team has returned three of those picks for touchdowns this season.

** OSU and Iowa rank first or second in the Big Ten in eight different statistical categories – scoring defense, rushing defense, total defense, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense, red zone defense, kickoff returns and pass efficiency.

** Iowa has 13 Ohio natives on its roster including three starters – quarterback Ricky Stanzi (Mentor Lake Catholic), receiver Darrell Johnson-Koulianos (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney) and defensive back Micah Hyde (Fostoria). Ohio has no native Iowans on its roster.

** Stanzi ranks No. 3 nationally in pass efficiency at 167.2 while Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor is No. 5 at 166.4. Each is within striking distance of one of the longest standing Big Ten single-season records, established in 1947 when Michigan quarterback Bob Chappuis had a passer rating of 175.3.

** Pryor has moved into second place in career total offense at Ohio State with 7,324 yards, behind only Art Schlichter (8,850, 1978-81), and has moved past Schlichter into fourth place all-time with 52 touchdown passes. Only Bobby Hoying (57, 1992-95), Joe Germaine (56, 1996-98) and Troy Smith (54, 2003-06) have more.

** Pryor is also nearing the top five in career passing yardage at OSU. He currently occupies eighth place with 5,541 yards and needs only 29 more to pass Mike Tomczak (5,569, 1981-84) for seventh place. Steve Bellisari (5,878, 1998-2001) is currently fifth while Smith (5,720) is sixth.

** Pryor has bumped his season passing total to 2,136 yards and become only the sixth Ohio State QB with back-to-back seasons of throwing for 2,000 yards or more. The others are Jim Karsatos (1985-86), Greg Frey (1988-90), Hoying (1994-95), Craig Krenzel (2002-03) and Smith (2005-06).

** OSU junior tailback Dan “Boom” Herron moved closer to the 1,000-yard mark with his career-high 190-yard effort last week against Penn State. The 5-10, 202-pound junior now has 824 yards for the season with two regular-season games and a bowl contest remaining. At his present pace, Herron would finish with 1,071 yards.

** OSU junior receiver DeVier Posey has caught at least one pass in 24 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the Big Ten. Posey, however, is only halfway to the school record of 48 consecutive games with at least one pass reception held by Gary Williams (1979-82).

** OSU senior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and Posey are steadily moving up the school list in career receiving yardage. Sanzenbacher (1,647) and Posey (1,609) currently rank 15th and 16th all-time, but could move into the top 10 by season’s end. Brian Robiskie (1,866, 2005-08) is in the No. 10 spot followed by Ken-Yon Rambo (1,849, 1997-2000), Jeff Graham (1,809, 1988-90), Cedric Anderson (1,707, 1980-83) and Terry Glenn (1,677, 1993-95).

** OSU senior kicker Devin Barclay converted on five more PATs last weekend, giving him 52 in a row this season and 64 without a miss during his career. Tim Williams holds the school record for consecutive PATs with 86 between 1991 and ’93.

** Kickoff for tomorrow’s game will be shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern, and the game will be televised in HD by ABC on a national basis. Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color analysis) and Quint Kessenich (sideline reports) make up the announce crew.

** The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio channels 122 and 125 as well as XM radio channels 102 and 143.

** Michigan comes to town next week for the traditional regular-season finale. Kickoff will be shortly after noon Eastern and that game will be televised by ABC/ESPN on a reverse mirror basis.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Nov. 15, 1941, College Football Hall of Fame head coach Eddie Robinson earned his first career victory as he led Grambling to a 37-6 win over Tillotson (Texas). Robinson eventually directed the Tigers to 408 victories in 55 years at Grambling.

** On Nov. 16, 1872, Yale played its first-ever football game, beating Columbia by a 3-0 score.

** On Nov. 16, 1957, Notre Dame stopped Oklahoma’s NCAA-record winning streak at 47 games with a 7-0 victory over the Sooners in Norman.

** On Nov. 16, 1991, BYU and San Diego State combined to score 104 points, but finished deadlocked at 52-52, the highest-scoring tie in NCAA history.

** On Nov. 16, 1996, Washington running back Corey Dillon set an NCAA record with 305 total yards in one quarter – 222 rushing and 83 receiving – during his team’s 53-10 win over San Jose State. Dillon’s 222 rushing yards also established a new NCAA record for rushing yards in one quarter.

** On Nov. 17, 1906, Kansas took an 8-6 victory over Nebraska, beginning the longest continuous Division I-A series, one that ends next season when the Cornhuskers join the Big Ten.

** On Nov. 17, 1923, Kansas City University lost a 131-0 decision to St. Mary’s (Kan.), capping a winless 0-6 season in which KCU was outscored, 623-0.

** On Nov. 17, 1956, Syracuse halfback Jim Brown set an NCAA record for single-game scoring, accounting for 43 points (rushing for six touchdowns and kicking seven PATs) during a 61-7 win over Colgate. Brown’s record stood until 1990 and still stands third all-time.

** On Nov. 18, 1961, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen led Utah State to a 17-6 win over intrastate rival Utah in Salt Lake City. The win moved Utah State to 9-0-1 for the season, the Aggies’ best record in program history and their only undefeated regular season since 1936.

** On Nov. 18, 1978, Oklahoma running back Billy Sims rushed for 209 yards in a 62-7 win over Oklahoma State and broke the Big Eight’s single-season rushing record in the process.

** On Nov. 19, 1966, top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing, a contest that has often been called “The Game of the Century.” Fighting Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty was knocked out of the game in the first quarter after getting sacked by Spartans defensive lineman Bubba Smith, and starting Notre Dame running back Nick Eddy missed the entire game after hurting his shoulder getting off the train in East Lansing. The Irish had the ball on their own 30-yard line with 1:10 to go in the game, but head coach Ara Parseghian chose to run out the clock, preserving the tie and his team’s No. 1 ranking. Notre Dame went on to win the 1966 national championship while Michigan State finished second.

** On Nov. 19, 1983, Oregon and Oregon State battled to a 0-0 tie in Eugene, the final scoreless tie in NCAA history due to the institution of overtime beginning in 1994.

** On Nov. 20, 1976, Kentucky took a 7-0 victory over Tennessee and marked its first victory in Knoxville in a dozen years. Running back Greg Woods raced 68 yards with a pass from QB Derrick Ramsey for the only score in the game, and clinched the Wildcats’ first bowl bid since 1952.

** On Nov. 20, 1982, SMU quarterback Lance McIlhenny drove his team 80 yards for a touchdown in the late going to forge a 17-17 tie with ninth-ranked Arkansas. SMU running back Eric Dickerson – who teamed with fellow running back Craig James to form the “Pony Express” (a.k.a. “The Best Backfield Money Could Buy”) – rushed for 81 yards in the contest to break the all-time Southwest Conference career record held by Earl Campbell of Texas. The tie denied SMU a perfect season and the national championship, but the Mustangs still finished the season ranked No. 2 with an 11-0-1 record.

** Also on Nov. 20, 1982, Stanford band members entered the field to celebrate what they believed was an upset victory over California. As time expired, however, the Golden Bears used five lateral passes while weaving through the Cardinal band to score a touchdown as Kevin Moen mowed down a Stanford trombone player in the end zone. After five minutes of deliberation, officials awarded Cal the 25-20 victory, resulting in one of the most unorthodox victories in college football history.

** On Nov. 20, 1999, TCU running back LaDanian Tomlinson set the NCAA single-game rushing record when he carried 43 times for 406 yards during a 52-24 win over UTEP in Fort Worth. Tomlinson’s 287 second-half yards also tied an NCAA record for rushing yards in one half.

** On Nov. 21, 1981, BYU tight end Gordon Hudson set an NCAA record for tight ends with 259 receiving yards during a 56-28 win over Utah.

** On Nov. 21, 1992, Washington State QB Drew Bledsoe threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns during a snowstorm in Pullman, leading the Cougars to a 42-23 upset of fifth-ranked Washington.

** On Nov. 22, 1875, Harvard took a 4-0 victory over Yale in the first-ever meeting of the Ivy League schools. They will celebrate their 127th meeting tomorrow in a series led 65-53-8 by the Elis.

** On Nov. 22, 1969, Michigan defensive back Barry Pierson returned a punt for a touchdown and intercepted three passes as the No. 12 Wolverines shocked defending national champion Ohio State with a 24-12 upset in Ann Arbor. It was the opening game in what became known as the legendary “Ten-Year War” between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** A couple of them were a bit shaky last Saturday, but Auburn, Boise State, Oregon and TCU remain the only unbeaten teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (a.k.a. Division I-A) level this week.

** Auburn QB Cameron Newton’s father, Cecil, admitted last week that he tried to shop his son’s talent to the highest bidder but that Cam had no knowledge of the plan. Meanwhile, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweeted last weekend, “Interesting note about Auburn, they have hired ex-NCAA (Committee on Infractions chairman) Gene Marsh to work on Cam Newton issue. They intend (to) fight it all the way.” Robinson, by the way, is the guy who broke the Reggie Bush story in 2006 and nailed ex-North Carolina assistant John Blake earlier this fall. In other words, he is an extremely credible source who knows a little something about NCAA investigations.

** For what it’s worth, SI.com football writer Stewart Mandel has both Wisconsin and Ohio State winning out, predicting the Badgers to the Rose Bowl against Boise State and the Buckeyes to the Sugar Bowl for a rematch of the 2007 national title game with LSU.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema made no apologies for his team’s 83-20 victory last week against Indiana. Even though the Badgers scored on a 74-yard pass play in the fourth quarter while leading the Hoosiers by 56 points, Bielema said the long TD was a broken play made by a second-string quarterback who “needed the work.” People would probably accept that explanation/excuse had the Badgers not still been throwing the ball earlier this season while enjoying a 42-3 lead over Division I-AA Austin Peay. Bielema also instructed his team to attempt a two-point conversion Oct. 9 after taking a 41-16 lead over Minnesota with 6:39 remaining in the game.

** The 83 points scored by the Badgers was the most in a game since an 85-0 victory over Marquette in 1915.

** Thanks to starting quarterback Dan Persa rupturing his Achilles’ tendon, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins will make his first career start for Northwestern tomorrow when the Wildcats square off against Illinois at Wrigley Field. Making the start even sweeter for Watkins? He is a suburban Chicago native.

** That game at Wrigley Field will be the first college football game played in “The Friendly Confines” since 1938 when DePaul used to play its home games there. The last time Wrigley Field hosted a football game on any level was December 1970 when the Chicago Bears played their final home game there before relocating to Soldier Field.

** Another MLB venue will host a college football game this weekend when Army faces Notre Dame tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. It marks the first college game for the new facility which opened in 2009, but the Black Knights and Fighting Irish played nearly two dozen times at old Yankee Stadium between 1925 and 1969. Tomorrow’s game will be the first college football game at any venue called Yankee Stadium since 1987 when Central State (Ohio) took a 37-21 win over Grambling in front of a crowd of 29,411.

** While Northwestern and Illinois play at Wrigley Field tomorrow, Indiana and Penn State will square off at FedEx Field, the Landover, Md., home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. The two league games will mark the first time Big Ten contests have been staged at neutral sites since 2000. Penn State took a 27-24 victory over Indiana that year at the old Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.

** Congratulations to Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone. His team’s 13-10 win last Saturday over Rutgers came him 11 victories in his first two seasons with the Orange. Marrone’s predecessor Greg Robinson had only 10 wins in four years on the job.

** When Notre Dame toppled No. 14 Utah last week, it ended a particularly ugly 11-game losing streak against top-15 teams. The Fighting Irish hadn’t beaten a top-15 team since a 17-10 win over Michigan in September 2005.

** How bad have things gotten for Texas? After a 33-16 home loss to Oklahoma State last weekend, the Longhorns dropped to 4-6 and have to win their remaining games against Florida Atlantic and instate rival Texas A&M to avoid becoming the first team ever to fail to qualify for bowl eligibility the year after playing in the BCS championship game.

** Division III Williams (Mass.) finished off a magical season last Saturday with a 31-16 victory over instate rival Amherst. The Ephs completed a perfect 8-0 victory and normally would be headed to the NCAA playoffs. However, they are part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which for some reason bars its members from postseason play.

** It could be the same old, same old for the Division III playoffs this season. Mount Union (Ohio) and Whitewater (Wis.) finished the regular season undefeated again and were placed on opposite sides of the 32-team bracket. The Purple Raiders and the Warhawks have met in the D-III championship game each of the past five seasons. Mount Union won the title in 2005, ’06 and ’08 while Whitewater took home the trophy in 2007 and ’09.

** On the flip side of the Division III coin, Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Wis.) had the NCAA’s longest losing streak at 33 games until a 14-6 win last Saturday afternoon Rockford College (Ill.). The Crusaders intercepted four passes in the victory, and ran one back 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The Forecast is stuck in a rut – albeit a pretty good one. We were 8-2 again with last week’s straight-up picks, missing only the Upset Special that had Georgia beating Auburn and the inexplicable Notre Dame win over Utah. The yearly record is now 97-18 in straight up picks.

Against the spread, the bubble finally burst. It was a losing week although not too bad at 4-6. We’re still well above the money line at 69-42-4 ATS for the season, but looking to end the losing streak at one.

Here are the games we’re watching this week.

TONIGHT’S GAME

Fresno State at No. 4 Boise State: The question no longer seems a matter of whether the Broncos will get a BCS invitation – it’s which one they will receive. It could be the Rose Bowl should Oregon win out and play for the national championship. Or it could be the title game should the Ducks and/or Auburn slip up sometime in the next couple of weeks. Either way, if the Broncos keep winning, they should be in line for a big-money BCS game for the second year in a row and third time in the last five seasons. First things first, though, and the Bulldogs are no slouch at 6-3. They have a pretty good offense and can score some points, plus they know how to win on the Smurf Turf. Fresno beat Georgia Tech on the headache-inducing blue carpet in the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl. The Bulldogs are less effective when playing the Broncos in Bronco Stadium, though, losing their last four visits there by an average of 34.5 points … Boise State 41, Fresno State 17. (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 7 Wisconsin at Michigan: Do you think it’s possible Bret Bielema has been running up scores all season in preparation for an anticipated track meet with the Wolverines? Bielema’s team has topped the 30-point mark seven times this season and comes off an 83-20 win last week over Indiana, the highest point total for the winning team in a Big Ten contest since 1950. The Badgers may need all the points they can score against the Wolverines, who average 37.7 points and 521.8 yards per game. U-M also runs the kind of finesse offense that can negate some of Wisconsin’s power. Can Michigan score enough points to win, though? That’s the big question as a leaky defense that has given up 30 or more points six times this season goes against a team that seemingly has no problem keeping its foot on the accelerator for 60 minutes. Ann Arbor hasn’t exactly been friendly to the Badgers over the years, and their 6-21-1 record there is proof of that. There is an indication that Michigan QB Denard Robinson has finally hit the proverbial wall, but maybe he has one more superlative performance in him. Here is your Upset Special … Michigan 49, Wisconsin 45. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 10 Oklahoma State at Kansas: There has been a changing of the guard at the top of the Big 12 South this season and the Cowboys are leading the way. With Texas and Texas Tech at the bottom of the standings, and Oklahoma visiting Stillwater on Nov. 27, Okie State needs victories in its final two games to have what it hopes will be a rematch against Nebraska in the conference title game. Before any of that can happen, though, the Cowboys have to take care of business this week in Lawrence. The Pokes have who could be considered the best college quarterback nobody knows in Brandon Weeden (3,391 yards, 27 TDs), and a receiver everyone knows in Justin Blackmon, who leads the nation with 1,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t bode well for the Jayhawks, who rank 104th nationally in pass defense … Oklahoma State 38, Kansas 10. (12 noon ET, FSN)

Purdue at No. 11 Michigan State: If the Spartans win their final two games, the worst they can do is a share of the Big Ten championship which would be their first title since 1990. For that to happen, QB Kirk Cousins is going to have to get things back in gear. Three weeks ago, the junior QB threw three interceptions in the team’s 37-6 loss to Iowa, and he followed that with a season-low 131 yards plus another pick during a 31-8 win over Minnesota. Now, after an open week last Saturday, Cousins will try to conjure up good thoughts against the Boilermakers. He threw for 208 yards and three TDs last season when Michigan State pulled out a wild 40-37 decision over Purdue in West Lafayette, a game the Boilermakers led 34-23 early in the fourth quarter. Inconsistency on both sides of the ball cost Purdue dearly in that game, and the Boilers are having the same kind of problems against this year. They are in the middle of a four-game slide that has seen them outscored by a 154-39 margin … Michigan State 34, Purdue 10. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Troy at No. 23 South Carolina: While Auburn, LSU and Alabama have gotten most of the headlines this season, perhaps the most intriguing story in the SEC comes out of the East as the Ol’ Ball Coach and his Gamecocks have clinched a spot in the conference championship game. Now the assignment is to avoid a letdown since the team finishes its regular-season schedule with a pair of nonconference games. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore has slowly made a name for himself this season, and the freshman workhorse (202 carries so far) needs only 36 more yards to crack the 1,000 mark. That would make him only the sixth player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season and the first since Derek Watson had 1,066 in 2000. Lattimore shouldn’t have any problem getting his yards against the Trojans, who allowed 448 yards on the ground last week in a 52-35 home loss to Florida International … South Carolina 34, Troy 20. (12:21 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Appalachian State at No. 22 Florida: The giant killers from Division I-AA get another shot at Goliath this week when the Mountaineers invade the Swamp and try to take down the Gators. By now, every college football fan knows Appalachian State went into Ann Arbor in 2007 and knocked off Michigan. Since then, however, the Mountaineers have struggled against I-A competition, losing a 41-13 decision to LSU in 2008 and a 29-24 verdict to East Carolina last year. Year in and year out, however, Appalachian State is a I-AA national title contender and 2010 is no different. The Mountaineers are 9-1 and rank fourth nationally in scoring offense. That should be a source of concern – at least a little bit – to Florida head coach Urban Meyer, whose team has underachieved in its first year after Tim Tebow ascended to the NFL. Still, despite being only 6-4, the Gators are still pretty good on defense and special teams and that will more than make the difference in this game … Florida 31, Appalachian State 14. (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Mississippi at No. 5 LSU: The Tigers have gotten mighty full of themselves since their 24-21 win over Alabama two weeks ago. Head coach Les Miles says his team should have the chance to play for the national championship – big talk for a team that isn’t even going to play for its own conference title. LSU would probably do well to keep its mouth shut and simply tend to its own business, which includes trying to solve the Rebels who have beaten the Tigers two years running. This year’s Ole Miss team bears little resemblance to the ones of 2008 and ’09, however, as Houston Nutt’s team is smack dab in the middle of a 4-6 rebuilding season. The Rebs have had trouble scoring points all season and that won’t get any easier against an LSU unit that ranks sixth in the nation in scoring defense … LSU 34, Mississippi 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 20 Virginia Tech at Miami (Fla.): After season-opening losses to Boise State and I-AA James Madison, the Hokies have slowly climbed back up the polls with a workmanlike eight-game win streak. They can clinch another berth in the ACC title game with a win over the Hurricanes, who have overcome some adversity of their own this year. Miami, which got punked early in the season by Ohio State and then destroyed Oct. 9 by Florida State, lost quarterback Jacory Harris three weeks ago in an upset loss to Virginia. Harris remains out with a concussion but the Hurricanes have won two in a row behind freshman QB Stephen Morris. Of course, those two victories came against Maryland and Georgia Tech, teams with defenses that rank seventh and ninth respectively in the ACC. The Hokies are No. 7 nationally in pass efficiency defense and have the services of CB Jaron Hosley, who leads the nation with seven interceptions … Virginia Tech 21, Miami 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

New Mexico State at No. 21 Nevada: The Wolf Pack need to avoid any slipups this week if next Friday night’s encounter with Boise State is to mean anything. That shouldn’t be a problem since the Aggies’ defensive weaknesses fit snugly into Nevada’s wheelhouse. Behind QB Colin Kaepernick (3,017 total yards, 32 TDs), the Pack ranks third in the nation in total offense and fourth in scoring while New Mexico State is 101st in total defense and 110th in scoring defense. Making matters worse for the Aggies is the fact starting quarterback Matt Christian will miss his second game in a row with an undisclosed injury. If you’re thinking Nevada could get caught looking ahead, you could hang your hat on the fact New Mexico State went into Mackay Stadium in 2008 and came out with a 48-45 victory. But the Aggies have lost 10 straight WAC road games since then, so don’t get your hopes up too high … Nevada 52, New Mexico State 20. (4:05 p.m. ET, No TV)

No. 9 Ohio State at No. 13 Iowa: To be brutally honest, there is no way the Hawkeyes should have three losses this season. You can explain away one flat performance per year, and the Buckeyes certainly had theirs at Wisconsin. But Iowa has had at least four so-so outings this season and it has lost three of those four. (The fourth was an 18-13 win over Indiana, a game the Hawkeyes really should have lost.) The cold, hard truth is that Iowa hasn’t played especially well since its 37-6 drubbing of Michigan State three weeks ago. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the team has been away from home since then, and perhaps it’s not. After all, the Hawkeyes have never played particularly well at home against Ohio State with only two victories over the Buckeyes in Kinnick Stadium in 17 tries since 1964. Those facts, along with Jim Tressel’s halftime speech from last week still ringing in his team’s ears, all spell only one thing – another win for Brutus and more heartache for Herky … Ohio State 31, Iowa 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Fresno State (+30½) at Boise State; Wisconsin at Michigan (+4½); Oklahoma State (-24) at Kansas; Purdue at Michigan State (-20); Troy (+22) at South Carolina; Appalachian State at Florida (N/L); Mississippi at LSU (-16); Virginia Tech (-2) at Miami-FL; New Mexico State (+38) at Nevada; Ohio State (-3) at Iowa.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. Save a drumstick and some pumpkin pie for me and we’ll talk again next week.

You’re Entitled To Your Own Opinion, Not Your Own Facts

It is always a source of amusement and bemusement to visit college football message boards and watch while fans rationalize their favorite team’s shortcomings.

Case in point: Penn State fans took particular exception to longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston’s piece on Wednesday that compared the independent Penn State teams of the 1970s and ’80s to Boise States and TCUs of today. You can read the column for yourself here but the gist of what Livingston wrote was that the pre-Big Ten Nittany Lions feasted on lesser opponents and padded their yearly records on soft schedules – the same knock Boise State and TCU face these days when trying to elbow their way into the national championship picture.

To say Nittany Lions fans disagreed with Livingston would be a gross understatement, which is fine in the overall scheme of things. After all, doesn’t almost everyone come to the defense of their favorite team? Where the Blue and White faithful lost me, though, was when they insisted their team would have competed for plenty of Big Ten championships throughout the 1970s and 1980s when Ohio State and Michigan won or shared 17 of the 20 league titles.

As the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once stated, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

First of all, if Penn State would have contended for all of those championships before joining the conference, why don’t the Nittany Lions have more Big Ten titles than the one outright championship they won in 1994 and the two crowns they shared in 2005 and 2008? Why have they had at least three league losses in 10 of their 17 previous seasons as a conference member?

Much of the argument about how the Nittany Lions would have fared in the Big Ten during the ’70s and ’80s came as a result of Penn State’s record against Ohio State before the Nittany Lions became a conference member. It was 6-2 although four of those victories came before 1966 when Joe Paterno took over as head coach.

The cold, hard truth for Nittany Lions fans is that Paterno has never had much success against Ohio State (he is 8-13 vs. the Buckeyes all-time) and that is especially true when he brings his team to Ohio Stadium. JoePa has rolled into Columbus on 10 previous occasions – often times with one of the nation’s top-ranked teams – and rolled back out again eight times a loser. That includes a 1-7 record as a member of the Big Ten, eight games during which his team has been outscored by 139 points.

Can’t believe things have been that lopsided in Columbus for Paterno? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

1993 – On a cold, snowy late October afternoon, the Buckeyes welcomed JoePa to the Big Ten by rolling to a 24-6 win. OSU piled up 380 yards of total offense, led by running back Raymont Harris, who exploded for 151 yards. It was a virtuoso performance by Ohio State on defense as well. The Buckeyes snagged four interceptions and held the Lions without a touchdown for the first time that season.

1996 – Penn State came to Columbus with a perfect 5-0 record and the No. 4 ranking in the country and limped home on the business end of a 38-7 verdict. QBs Stan Jackson and Joe Germaine each threw for two touchdowns as the Buckeyes had 565 yards of total offense. Tailback Pepe Pearson ran for 141 yards on 28 carries while backups Joe Montgomery and Jermon Jackson combined for 138 more. The Nits, who managed only 68 yards rushing as a team, scored on their final possession to avoid their first shutout in nine years.

1998 – The seventh-ranked Lions brought cold and rainy weather with them to the Horseshoe and actually had a 3-0 lead before the Buckeyes stormed away with a 28-9 win. OSU scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half – the first when linebacker Jerry Rudzinski recovered a fumble in the end zone and the second when Germaine connected with tailback Michael Wiley for a 20-yard tally. Again, the Ohio State defense was able to hold Penn State in check. The Lions had only nine first downs and 181 yards of total offense, and 34 of their 59 offensive plays either went for a loss or no gain.

2000 – Thunder and lightning delayed kickoff for about 20 minutes and Penn State would probably have been better off had officials postponed the game indefinitely. Ohio State rolled to a 45-6 blowout, the largest defeat for the Lions since Paterno had been head coach. The Buckeyes had 397 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Steve Bellisari, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. Penn State committed three turnovers, including a fourth-quarter fumble that OSU defensive end Mike Collins scooped up and returned 11 yards for a touchdown.

2002 – As most games were during the national championship run, this was a nail-biter as Penn State held a 7-3 halftime lead. OSU’s fortunes turned on a third-quarter interception by Chris Gamble that he returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Mike Nugent later added a 37-yard field goal to account for the final 13-7 score. The Ohio State defense clamped down on the Lions once again, holding them to only 179 total yards. Tailback Larry Johnson, who was coming off a 257-yard performance the week before against Northwestern, was held to a season-low 66 yards against the Buckeyes.

2004 – First-quarter touchdowns on special teams and defense staked Ohio State to an early lead in what would eventually become a 21-10 win. Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt 67 yards to get things started and Tyler Everett returned an interception 24 yards to give the Buckeyes a quick 14-0 lead. OSU head coach Jim Tressel kept things pretty simple for his relatively new starting quarterback Troy Smith while the defense forced three Penn State fumbles and grabbed two interceptions.

2006 – The Nittany Lions held a 3-0 lead at halftime before the Buckeyes got things in gear in the second half for a 28-6 victory. Antonio Pittman’s 12-yard touchdown run finally got OSU on the board in the third quarter before a trio of fourth-quarter TDs – including interception returns by Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith – turned a close game into a rout.

2008 – Penn State finally broke through with a 13-6 victory in a game that featured very little offensive firepower. The teams traded second-quarter field goals for a 3-3 halftime score, and then Ohio State forged ahead 6-3 on a 36-yard field goal by Aaron Pettrey with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter. The game hinged on a fumble by Terrelle Pryor midway through the fourth quarter that set up the winning touchdown for Penn State. Ironically, Pryor had only one man to beat for what would have been an OSU touchdown but that man managed to punch the ball out of the freshman quarterback’s grasp.

In addition to so many losses, the Horseshoe has been Penn State’s personal House of Horrors on several other levels. It was where defensive back Adam Taliaferro was injured in 2000 (not permanently, thank goodness) and where JoePa had his infamous potty break in ’06.

For whatever reason, the Nits typically play tight in Ohio Stadium, allowing the OSU defense to create turnovers and providing plenty of scoring opportunities for the Buckeyes. With a former walk-on as the starting quarterback, that would appear to be a plausible scenario for what will transpire tomorrow afternoon.

Then again, maybe the Nittany Lions broke the Horseshoe’s spell with last year’s win – at least that’s what Penn State fans think.

OSU-PENN STATE TIDBITS

** This marks the 26th overall meeting between Ohio State and Penn State, and the Buckeyes enjoy a slight 13-12 advantage. OSU has an 8-6 overall edge in games played at Ohio Stadium, but a lopsided 7-1 advantage in games played at the Horseshoe since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is 6-3 against Penn State. That includes a 3-1 record in Columbus.

** Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is 8-13 all-time against Ohio State. That includes a 2-8 record against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

** Both coaches are noted for getting their teams to peak at the right times. Tressel is 26-4 in November games at Ohio State (a .867 winning percentage) while Paterno is 115-34-2 (.768) during the month.

** Paterno has a 32-16 record following an open date. That includes a 14-5 mark since 1994.

** Tressel is not as successful coming off an open week. The Buckeyes are only 2-4 during the Tressel era following off weeks. Only one of those six games was played at Ohio Stadium, however, and OSU won that one in 2002 by a 51-7 score over Kent State.

** Five of the last nine games in this series have been determined by seven points or less. However, there have been some notable blowouts over the years. Penn State rolled to a 63-14 win at Beaver Stadium in 1994, and Ohio State returned the favor six years later in Ohio Stadium with a 45-6 wipeout. Throughout the overall series, the average margin of victory for OSU is 15.4 points. When the Nittany Lions win, their average margin is 15.1 points.

** Several series trends would seem to favor Ohio State. The higher ranked team has won 17 of the last 19 meetings and the home team has won 12 of the 17 games played since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. The Buckeyes enter tomorrow’s game ranked No. 7 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, No. 8 in the Associated Press writers’ poll and No. 9 in the BCS rankings. Penn State is unranked.

** The game will be only the second-ever regular-season matchup between coaches who have combined for 600-plus career wins. Paterno (400) and Tressel (237) currently total 637 career victories. That breaks the record set last year when the two coaches squared off with 616 career wins.

** An interesting fact: Paterno has 400 career victories at Penn State while the other 10 Big Ten head coaches have 367 combined at their schools.

** Last Saturday’s victory over Northwestern not only marked win No. 400 in Paterno’s long career, it was also his 89th Big Ten victory. He needs one more to become only the fifth conference coach with 90 or more league wins. The others are Woody Hayes of Ohio State (152, 1951-78), Bo Schembechler of Michigan (143, 1969-89), Amos Alonzo Stagg of Chicago (116, 1896-1932) and Hayden Fry of Iowa (98, 1979-98).

** With the exception of Ohio State, Penn State has had its way with Ohio teams over the years. The Nittany Lions are 20-2-1 against other Ohio schools with the lone blemishes a 24-6 loss to Toledo in 2000, a 14-3 loss to Cincinnati in 1983 and an 8-8 tie at Western Reserve in 1895.

** Penn State is traditionally one of the least penalized teams in the nation and that is true again in 2010. The Nittany Lions are No. 2 nationally this week with only 27.8 penalty yards per game. In its last four games played against the Buckeyes, Penn State has incurred only nine penalties for 60 yards. During the same four games, Ohio State has been flagged 23 times for 221 yards.

** Some of the numbers associated with Paterno’s longevity at Penn State are astounding. Since he became head coach in 1966, there have been 864 head coaching changes in Division I-A football. Counting his time as an assistant, Paterno has been on the sidelines for 688 games in Happy Valley. He is the all-time leader in bowl game appearances (36) and bowl victories (24), and there have been 1,050 players earn varsity letters during JoePa’s tenure as head coach.

** By taking on the Rose Bowl champion Buckeyes, Penn State becomes the first team ever to play road contests against three winners of BCS bowls from the previous season. The Nittany Lions have already played at Alabama, which defeated Texas by a 37-21 score in the national title game, and at Iowa, which took a 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Penn State lost to both the Crimson Tide and Hawkeyes earlier this season by identical 24-3 scores.

** To say the Ohio State and Penn State programs are traditional powers would be a bit of an understatement. Going back six decades to 1950, OSU is the winningest program in college football with a 505-155-15 record, good for a .759 winning percentage. Oklahoma is second at 526-164-17 (.755) and Penn State is third at 504-180-7 (.733).

** Something has to give tomorrow. Ohio State has won eight of its last 10 conference home games while Penn State has won eight of its last 10 conference road games.

** The game pits two of the nation’s best defenses in getting the opponent off the field. Ohio State ranks No. 4 nationally in third-down efficiency defense while Penn State is No. 7. OSU opponents have converted only 33 of 113 third downs (29.2 percent) while the Nittany Lions have allowed only 34 of 113 (30.1).

** As so often happens in rivalry games, the outcome could hinge on turnovers and Ohio State would appear to have the edge in that department. The Buckeyes lead the country in turnover margin with an average of plus-1.44 per game. The Nittany Lions are way down in a tie for 67th with their average of minus-0.22 per contest. Overall, OSU is plus-13 for the season in turnovers while PSU is minus-2.

** Penn State senior tailback Evan Royster is his school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,652 yards. Earlier this season, he motored past Curt Warner (1979-82), who had 3,398 yards during his career with the Nittany Lions. Royster still has some work to do in terms of rushing touchdowns, however. He has 27, which ranks seventh all-time on the Penn State record books. Lydell Mitchell (1969-71) is the school’s career leader in that category with 38.

** After allowing only one opposing player to crack the 100-yard mark in a span of 22 games, the Nittany Lions have surrendered 100-yard efforts in each of their last four contests. Ironically, three of the four games have resulted in Penn State victories. Illinois tailback Mikel Leshoure totaled 119 yards during his team’s 33-13 win over PSU on Oct. 9, and then Minnesota tailback DeLeon Eskridge had 111 yards against the Nittany Lions on Oct. 24 but his Golden Gophers lost a 33-21 decision. A week later, Michigan QB Denard Robinson rushed for 191 yards and three TDs during his team’s 41-31 loss, and last week it was Northwestern QB Dan Persa, who scrambled for 109 yards and two touchdowns during Penn State’s 35-21 come-from-behind win.

** OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues his assault on the school record books. He has moved into second place in career total offense with 7,275 yards, behind only Art Schlichter (8,850, 1981), and has tied Schlichter for fourth place all-time with 50 touchdown passes. Only Bobby Hoying (57, 1992-95), Joe Germaine (56, 1996-98) and Troy Smith (54, 2003-06) have more.

** Pryor is also nearing the top five in career passing yardage at OSU. He currently occupies eighth place with 5,402 yards and needs 168 more to pass Mike Tomczak (5,569, 1981-84) for seventh place. Steve Bellisari (5,878, 1998-2001) is currently fifth while Smith (5,720) is sixth.

** Additionally, Pryor needs only three more passing yards to reach 2,000 for the second straight season. Only five Ohio State QBs have had back-to-back seasons throwing for 2,000 yards or more – Jim Karsatos (1985-86), Greg Frey (1988-90), Hoying (1994-95), Craig Krenzel (2002-03) and Smith (2005-06).

** Counting conference games only, Ohio State junior tailback Dan “Boom” Herron ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing at 88.4 yards per game. Only Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (132.2) and Iowa tailback Adam Robinson (105.2) have better league averages.

** Kickoff for tomorrow’s game will be shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The game will be televised using the ABC/ESPN reverse mirror meaning viewers will be able to watch the game either on their local ABC station or on ESPN. Here is your coverage map. Disney will employ its primetime announce crew for the contest – veteran play-by-play man Brent Musberger, color analyst Kirk Herbstreit and sideline spokesmodel Erin Andrews.

** ESPN College Gameday with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, Herbstreit and Andrews will return to Columbus tomorrow, marking its 13th visit to the OSU campus. The show kicks off at 9 a.m. Eastern on ESPNU before switching to ESPN at 10. The Buckeyes are 9-3 following the pregame show’s previous trips to Columbus.

** The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio channels 91 and 125 as well as XM radio channels 102 and 196.

** Next week’s game at Iowa will kick off from Kinnick Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. That game will be televised by ABC on a regional basis.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Nov. 10, 1984, backup quarterback Frank Reich of unranked Maryland engineered the biggest comeback in NCAA history at the time, leading the Terrapins from a 31-0 halftime deficit to a 42-40 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl.

** On Nov. 19, 2007, Navy and North Texas combined to score the most points in a regulation college football game when the Midshipmen outlasted the Mean Green, 74-62, in Denton, Texas. North Texas QB Giovanni Vizza threw for 478 yards and eight touchdowns while Navy rushed for 572 yards and scored eight TDs on the ground.

** On Nov. 11, 1939, Texas Tech and Centenary combined for an NCAA-record 77 punts in a rain-soaked, 0-0 tie in Shreveport, La.

** On Nov. 11, 1955, at a campus pep rally, Texas cheerleader Harley Clark became the first to raise his forefinger and pinky pointed upward and his middle two fingers curled under this thumb – the “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign.

** On Nov. 11, 1989, Duke scored a 35-26 upset of North Carolina State despite Wolfpack QB Shane Montgomery throwing an NCAA-record 73 passes for a school-record 535 yards.

** On Nov. 12, 1966, quarterback Bob Griese led Purdue to a 16-0 victory at Minnesota and secured the Boilermakers’ first-ever berth in the Rose Bowl.

** On Nov. 12, 1983, UCLA needed only a tie against Arizona to secure a Rose Bowl bid, but kicker John Lee’s field-goal attempt sailed wide as time expired and the Bruins dropped a 27-24 decision.

** On Nov. 13, 1982, Southern Mississippi engineered a 38-29 upset of Alabama, ending the Crimson Tide’s 57-game home win streak. The Golden Eagles were led by quarterback Reggie Collins, who rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns, while tailback Sam Dejarnette added 153 yards and two scores. Before the loss to Southern Miss, Alabama hadn’t tasted defeat in Tuscaloosa since 1963.

** On Nov. 13, 1993, ESPN’s College Gameday made its first-ever on-campus broadcast. The popular college football pregame show debuted in 1987, but it wasn’t until six years later that GameDay got out of the studio and hit the road. The first telecast was from South Bend to cover the 1-vs-2 matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame, and featured host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso and Craig James. The result was an upset victory by the second-ranked Irish, who took a 31-24 win over the No. 1 Seminoles. (Corso picked Florida State to win, by the way.) The Seminoles managed to rebound from the loss, going on to beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and capture the national championship.

** On Nov. 14, 1959, No. 12 Georgia came from behind for a 14-13 victory over eighth-ranked Auburn and the Bulldogs clinched their first SEC championship in a decade. College and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton led the Bulldogs to the win, connecting with split end Bill Herron for a touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds of the contest.

** On Nov. 14, 1970, a charter jet carrying Marshall University’s football team crashed near Huntington, W.Va., on a return trip from a game with East Carolina. Everyone on board, including head coach Rick Tolley, team members, coaching staff and several Thundering Herd boosters, died in the single worst air tragedy in college sports history.

** On Nov. 14, 1992, Iowa State stunned seventh-ranked Nebraska with a 19-10 upset in Ames. Third-string quarterback Marv Seiler, starting only because it was Senior Day, bolted 78 yards to set up the game-clinching touchdown for the Cyclones.

** On Nov. 14, 1998, second-ranked Kansas State took a 40-30 win over No. 11 Nebraska to clinch the Big 12 North title, the first football championship of any kind for the Wildcats since 1934.

** On Nov. 15, 1890, Minnesota and Wisconsin squared off for the first time in what has become the most-played series in college football history. The Gophers took a 63-0 victory in Minneapolis that day, and the two teams have played one another every year since.

** On Nov. 15, 1879, Princeton unveiled the novel approach of using blockers to help the ball-carrier advance the ball down the field. The new angle evidently was successful as the Tigers scored a 1-0 victory over Harvard. (In those days, you had to score four touchdowns to tally a single point.)

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level has shrunk to only four: Auburn, Boise State, Oregon and TCU.

** Wouldn’t a national championship game between Oregon and TCU be the best matchup? After all, the Ducks own the nation’s No. 1 offense while the Horned Frogs boast the nation’s No. 1 defense. And before you begin denigrating TCU’s schedule, understand that the teams it has beaten have a combined record of 44-50 this year. Meanwhile, the Ducks have beaten teams with a combined record of 32-50. (Of course, if you want to play that kind of game, Auburn blows both Oregon and TCU out of the water. The Tigers have beaten teams with a combined mark of 55-36.)

** When TCU thumped Utah last weekend to the tune of a 47-7 beatdown, it represented the Utes’ worst home loss since a 50-10 loss to Colorado State in 1989. Utah went 4-8 that season under head coach Jim Fassel. The team hasn’t lost at home by more than 40 points since a 56-6 loss to BYU in 1980.

** What do each of these schools have in common: Oregon, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Nevada, Arkansas State, Duke, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Tulsa, BYU, Navy, Tennessee and Kansas. Each one of them – all 15 – topped the 50-point mark last week. Auburn, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois and Tulsa all topped 60 and Navy went over the 70-point mark, rolling to a 76-35 win over East Carolina. That set a modern single-game record for scoring by the Midshipmen, and was their biggest output since a 121-0 win over Colby College (Maine) in 1919.

** Michigan’s 67-65 triple overtime game against Illinois set a Big Ten record for most points scored in a single game. The previous high-scoring conference game was in 1902 and featured 119 points – all by Michigan in a 119-0 victory over instate rival Michigan State (then known as Michigan Agricultural College). The last Division I-A game to produce more points than the Wolverines and Fighting Illini was on Nov. 10, 2007, when Navy outlasted North Texas by a 74-62 final in regulation.

** The previous Big Ten record for points scored in a single game was 115 set Oct. 9, 1995, when Minnesota outlasted Purdue by a 59-56 score.

** Last year, Michigan and Illinois met once on the basketball court. The final score: Illinois 51, Michigan 44.

** Kansas came back from a 45-17 deficit with less than 12 minutes to play and somehow pulled off a 52-45 win over Colorado. The Jayhawks scored on a 13-yard run with 11:05 remaining and followed by recovering the onside kick, throwing a 38-yard touchdown pass, returning a fumble 28 yards for a TD, intercepting a pass, running 6 yards for a score, forcing a punt and then running 28 yards for the winning touchdown with 52 seconds remaining. Freshman running back James Sims scored all three rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter for Kansas, finishing the game with 123 yards and four scores.

** One man’s pleasure is another man’s pain. While first-year Kansas head coach Turner Gill was celebrating that big comeback victory, it was the proverbial straw that broke Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins’ back. After his team blew that 28-point lead – the largest collapse in the 121-year history of the CU football program – Hawkins was fired Tuesday. He posted a 19-39 record with the Buffaloes after being lured from Boise State in 2006.

** During last week’s 35-21 win over Northwestern, Penn State got 134 yards on the ground from senior tailback Evan Royster and another 131 from freshman Silas Redd. It marked the first time the Nittany Lions had a pair of running back rush for 130 yards or more in the same game since Lydell Mitchell (221) and Franco Harris (145) accomplished the feat during a 44-14 win at Iowa in 1971.

** Congratulations to Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who chalked up career victory No. 100 last weekend when his Hawkeyes came from behind for an 18-13 win over Indiana. Ferentz has 88 wins at Iowa to go along with the 12 he recorded during a three-year stint at Division I-AA Maine from 1990-92.

** Congratulations also to New Mexico, which snapped its nine-game losing streak last weekend with a 34-31 victory over Wyoming. The Lobos overcame a 24-17 deficit early in the fourth quarter and got a 38-yard winning field goal from junior kicker James Aho as time expired. That leaves Akron with the nation’s longest current losing streak. The Zips ran their drought to 10 consecutive games last Saturday, dropping a 37-30 decision in double overtime to Ball State.

** Conference realignments and schools jumping leagues means the end of some traditional rivalries. Tomorrow, Kansas and Nebraska will meet for the 105th consecutive season, the nation’s longest uninterrupted streak of meetings in college football. That streak ends next year when the Cornhuskers move to the Big Ten. The Jayhawks and Huskers have met 116 times overall, and that is third only to Minnesota-Wisconsin (119) and Kansas-Missouri (118).

** Another bowl game has changed its name, this time before its inaugural game has even been played. The Dallas Football Classic is now to be known as the TicketCity Bowl, and it will be played Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl. (As you may or may not know, the Cotton Bowl is no longer played at the Cotton Bowl. It’s now played at Cowboys Stadium.) Teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 are scheduled to participate in the first-year TicketCity Bowl.

** If you are keeping score at home, the Big Ten has eight bowl affiliations – Rose, Capital One (ex-Citrus, ex-Tangerine), Outback (ex-Hall of Fame), Gator, Insight (ex-Copper), Texas (ex-Houston), TicketCity (ex-Dallas Football Classic) and Little Caesar’s (ex-Motor City).

FEARLESS FORECAST

The Fearless Forecast enjoyed another prosperous week, missing only the Texas A&M upset of Oklahoma and the pinball wizardry between Michigan and Illinois. Another 8-2 finish pushed the yearly record to 89-16 in straight up picks.

It was also another winning week against the spread. We went a sparkling 7-3 to push the ATS record to 65-36-4 for the season. If things keep going this way, we’ll be moving Forecast World Headquarters to Las Vegas.

Before we get too full of ourselves, though, here are the games we’ll check in on this week.

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 4 Boise State at Idaho: As instate rivalries go, this one doesn’t exactly measure up to the Civil War or the Iron Bowl. That’s probably because the Broncos have won 11 straight in the series and routinely blow out the Vandals. It is likely to be that way again this year since Boise State is coming off a 42-7 victory over Hawaii, a game during which it racked up a school-record 732 total yards. Two weeks ago, Idaho gave up 494 yards during a 45-10 loss to Hawaii. After being passed by TCU in the BCS standings, Boise State probably knows by now it is the longest of shots to play for the national championship. But that probably won’t prevent the Broncos from trying to impress any remaining undecided voters … Boise State 52, Idaho 7. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Indiana at No. 7 Wisconsin: The Hoosiers nearly caught Iowa napping last week with the Hawkeyes coming off an emotional win over Michigan State. This week, IU tries its luck against Bucky, who may be guilty of looking ahead to a game at Michigan that could have a Rose Bowl bid hanging in the balance. The Hoosiers have lost 19 of their last 21 Big Ten games, including the last 10 in a row, but they seem to be getting close to ending that drought. They lost a 20-17 decision to Northwestern two weeks ago and that 18-13 game to Iowa last week when receiver Damarlo Belcher failed to hang onto a touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining. Wisconsin will likely be without leading rusher John Clay (knee), but the Badgers have plenty in reserve with Montee Ball and freshman James White operating against an IU defense that ranks ninth in the conference … Wisconsin 31, Indiana 14. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 14 Utah at Notre Dame: Both of these teams are coming off agonizing losses and are no doubt looking in the mirror wondering what happened. The Utes were poised to make a national championship statement last week before getting demolishing by TCU in a 47-7 loss that was the team’s worst home defeat in 21 years. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have had two weeks to come to grips with a 28-27 loss to Tulsa and the very real possibility of missing out on bowl season for the third time in the last four years. Notre Dame will start freshman Tommy Rees at quarterback after Dayne Crist suffered a season-ending knee injury during the loss to Tulsa, but what Brian Kelly’s team could really use is a running game. The Irish average a measly 113.4 yards per game on the ground and that ranks 100th nationally. A new quarterback and no running game against the Utes, who despite last week still average 41.0 points per game? Sounds like trouble – again – for the Domers … Utah 31, Notre Dame 13. (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Georgia at No. 2 Auburn: When does Cam Newton cease to become an asset and start becoming a distraction for the Tigers? In case you have been off on safari or hiking the Appalachian Trail lately, you know the Heisman hopeful is being surrounded by allegations he was shopped around by an agent before signing with Auburn. There doesn’t seem to be any solid proof, although the FBI is now investigating and where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. No one with the Tigers is ready to say the Newton story is becoming a distraction, but how could it not be? On the opposing sideline this week is a hungry bunch of Bulldogs. They know no one gives them much of a chance for the upset this week, but they are also content in the knowledge they are playing their best football of the season. After a dismal 1-4 start, UGA has won four of its last five. Better still, the Dawgs have no trouble firing themselves up to play Auburn. They have beaten the Tigers four times in a row to take a 53-52-8 lead in the overall series. We haven’t picked too many Upset Specials this season, but we’ve got a hunch about this one … Georgia 27, Auburn 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

San Diego State at No. 4 TCU: After watching the Horned Frogs take apart Utah last week, we are totally convinced TCU is the best team in college football this season. If the Frogs get the chance, they will win the national championship with a combination of the nation’s best defense and an offense engineered by crafty QB Andy Dalton (2,242 yards, 19 TDs). This week, Dalton and his classmates will participate in Senior Day festivities at Aron Carter Stadium, where the Frogs have won 19 straight games. The Aztecs are having their best season in more than decade, riding an impressive season so far from freshman running back Ronnie Hillman (1,044 yards, 12 TDs). But while SDSU has been more productive this season, it’s doubtful the Aztecs can do much against TCU. The Frogs have won all five previous meetings in the series by an average of 28.8 points … TCU 45, San Diego State 10. (4 p.m. ET, Versus)

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 5 LSU: Now that Alabama has lost for the second time, SEC apologists have anointed the Tigers as the one-loss team with the best chance of jumping Boise State and/or TCU to play for the national championship. That seems a foolhardy assertion, especially in light of the fact LSU has won at least three of its games with smoke, mirrors, magic and out-and-out luck. The Bengals from the Bayou likely won’t need any of that good future this week against the Warhawks. They have played two SEC teams already this season and lost both by large margins – 31-7 vs. Arkansas in early September and 52-3 at Auburn less than a month later. ULM struggles to score points (19.9 per game) and gives up too many (30.9) to entertain any notion of an upset … LSU 41, Louisiana-Monroe 7. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Kansas at No. 8 Nebraska: It has been a whirlwind week for Jayhawks head coach Turner Gill. Last week, his team erased a 28-point deficit in the fourth quarter and roared from behind for a 52-45 win over Colorado. This week, Gill returns to Lincoln where he was a star quarterback in the early 1980s and assistant coach from 1992-2004. It will probably be a difficult homecoming for Gill, however, as the Cornhuskers get QB Taylor Martinez back this week after missing one game with an ankle sprain. Martinez is a dual threat, having thrown for 1,161 yards and nine TDs while adding 886 yards and 12 more scores rushing. That kind of two-pronged attack doesn’t exactly play to the Jayhawks’ strength. Their defense ranks 108th nationally against the run and 109th in pass efficiency … Nebraska 45, Kansas 17. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

No. 1 Oregon at California: Who is going to step up and try the same power scheme that Ohio State used to beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl? Anyone? Anyone at all? So far, no one has been able to challenge the Ducks because no one has tried to negate their speed with power. As a result, the Quack Attack keeps putting up arena league numbers such as 54.7 points and 567.2 yards per game. This week could be a little different since the Bears arguably have the best defense the Ducks have seen thus far. Cal tops the Pac-10 in total defense and Jeff Tedford’s team likes playing at home. They are 4-0 in Memorial Stadium this season and have outscored the opposition by a 189-34 margin in those four contests. Unfortunately for the Bears, they are hit-and-miss on offense and that just won’t do against the Ducks … Oregon 41, California 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

No. 6 Stanford at Arizona State: The Cardinal are on their way to one of their best seasons in a long time, but they will need to be on upset alert this week in Tempe. Stanford has lost on four consecutive trips to Sun Devil Stadium, failing to experience victory since a 50-30 blowout in 1999. It seems the team would be poised to break that losing streak, especially since ASU has forgotten how to win a game against highly-ranked opposition. Just this season, the Devils have lost by one point to Wisconsin and they probably gave Oregon as much as any opponent has this season during an eventual 42-31 win for the Ducks. Just last week, Arizona State took a 33-29 lead with 6:59 to go against USC only to see a PAT kick returned for two points and a late field goal give the Trojans a 34-33 victory. Those kinds of games begin to wear on teams near the end of the season, especially teams that have to play against someone like Cardinal QB Andrew Luck, who has thrown for 2,219 yards and 21 TDs this season. Look for the Devils to stay in it most of the way but find somehow to blow the upset … Stanford 30, Arizona State 23. (7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

Penn State at No. 9 Ohio State: In the wake of a three-game winning streak and Joe Paterno’s milestone victory No. 400, the Nittany Lions are getting a lot of love lately. The question is: Do they deserve it? QB Matt McGloin has thrown for 475 yards and five TDs the past two weeks, but he only got the job when starter Rob Bolden was sidelined with a concussion. And McGloin has feasted on the likes of Michigan and Northwestern, the two worst pass defenses in the Big Ten. Defense has also been problematic. The Nits are only a middle-of-the-pack unit that often gives up a lot of yardage. Despite being 6-3 on the season, they have surrendered at least 349 total yards in six games this season including each of their last five. Add in the fact that Penn State has seldom played well at Ohio Stadium since joining the Big Ten, and this one really shouldn’t be that close … Ohio State 37, Penn State 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-34½) at Idaho; Indiana (+22) at Wisconsin; Utah (-5½) at Notre Dame; Georgia (+8½) at Auburn; San Diego State at TCU (-26); Louisiana-Monroe at LSU (-31); Kansas (+35) at Nebraska; Oregon (-19) at California; Stanford (-5) at Arizona State; Penn State at Ohio State (-17½).

Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week.

Buckeyes Have To Keep Playing Like Champions

On the day before each Ohio State football game, Buckeye Sports Bulletin staffers offer their predictions on the upcoming contest in our electronic newsletter. Before the Oct. 30 matchup with Minnesota, this is what I wrote:

“In a season that has already featured plenty of Jekyll-and-Hyde moments, which costumes will the Buckeyes don Saturday night when the Golden Gophers throw their Halloween party at two-year-old TCF Bank Stadium?

“Will OSU come dressed as an efficient passing team as it did against Indiana and in the second quarter last week against Purdue? Or will the Buckeyes resemble Swiss cheese as they have so often this season on special teams?

“Will the team show up as a locomotive, grinding out the tough yardage on the ground as it did late in the game at Illinois? Or perhaps the Buckeyes will feel unmotivated and just throw something together at the last minute as they appeared to do early against Wisconsin.

“The scariest thing about this Ohio State team? It is nearing the three-quarter pole of the 2010 season still in the middle of an identity crisis. The Buckeyes don’t yet know what kind of team they want to be and decision time is rapidly running out.

“Not that it will matter much against the Gophers, who occupy last place in the Big Ten standings and deservedly so. OSU should go to Minnesota and win by 50 points because that’s what championship teams do. But are the Buckeyes a championship team or simply masquerading as one?

“Stay tuned.”

Hindsight being 20/20, we now know Ohio State didn’t quite win by 50 points, but it did play like a championship team while rather easily dispatching the Golden Gophers. Like most title contenders, the Buckeyes manufactured their own points and then made Minnesota pay dearly whenever it made a mistake.

OSU piled up 507 yards on offense and tacked on another 184 in hidden yardage – 154 on kickoff and punt returns and 30 more on John Simon’s fumble return for a touchdown. The Buckeyes scored nearly every way a football team can score – running, passing, kicking a field goal, blocked punt, fumble return. About the only thing missing was a kick return for a touchdown, and junior Jordan Hall nearly provided that by taking a back punt 70 yards to the Minnesota 2.

Yet, there were flaws. Early pass-coverage breakdowns the Gophers exploited for a quick first-quarter touchdown. Terrelle Pryor’s brain cramp of an interception in the second quarter near the goal line after Hall’s long return. Devin Barclay’s missed 21-yard field goal. Still too much yardage surrendered on kickoff returns.

You may argue that criticizing a handful of mistakes during a 52-10 blowout victory is nitpicking of the highest degree. I would argue that any number of those mistakes can cost the Buckeyes and cost them dearly during the final three games of the regular season.

Despite what happened to previously undefeated Michigan State at Iowa, the cold, hard truth of the matter is that Ohio State must play flawless football against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan to close the season. It goes without saying that the Buckeyes must win all of those games, but they also have to play well while accomplishing those victories.

After the BCS standings were revealed Oct. 31 and Ohio State didn’t budge out of the No. 11 spot – while an idle Wisconsin moved up from 10th to ninth – it now appears the Buckeyes have very little wiggle room if they want a sixth straight bid to a big-money Bowl Championship Series game.

Several years ago, the BCS took style points and/or margin of victory out of the equation to determine its participants, but I maintain those facets of competition continue to play a vital role in the human polls which still make up two-thirds of the BCS standings. Therefore, Ohio State not only has to win out, it has to win out convincingly.

Perhaps it is unfair to ask that of any team. But whoever said life was fair? Right or wrong, the team’s losses in back-to-back national championship games still hang around the program’s neck, and nearly everyone outside the Big Ten looks for the smallest of excuses to downgrade anything OSU does.

The only way for the Buckeyes to combat that is to play like the championship team they are supposed to be.

YOU MAY THINK YOU KNOW …

The Big Ten championship race heads into its final month with four teams remaining in the title hunt. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa are in a virtual tie – each has only one conference loss – but if you think you can look at the remaining schedules of those four teams and figure out what’s going to happen, you might have another thing coming.

The marquee game remaining on the conference schedule would appear to be Nov. 20 when Ohio State visits Iowa with the loser facing almost certain elimination from the championship race. There are several other intriguing matchups, however, involving each of the front-runners. Those games include Iowa traveling to Northwestern on Nov. 13, Wisconsin playing at Michigan on Nov. 20 and Michigan State visiting Penn State in the Nov. 27 regular-season finale for both teams.

History runs deeply through each of those games.

Ohio State has had its way with Iowa over the years. The Buckeyes are 44-14-3 all-time against the Hawkeyes and haven’t lost a game in the series since 2004. In addition, playing at Kinnick Stadium has never been much of a problem for OSU. The team is 14-2-1 on its last 17 trips there.

Iowa fares much better all-time against Northwestern, boasting a 46-20-3 advantage over Northwestern in a series that began in 1897. But current Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz has struggled against the Wildcats. He is only 4-5 during his career against NU, and that includes losses in four of the last five meetings.

Meanwhile, Michigan has had its troubles in the Big Ten since Rich Rodriguez took over as head coach in 2008. But the Wolverines still enjoy a lopsided 49-13-1 advantage over Wisconsin in their all-time series, and the Big House has been a House of Horrors for the Badgers. They haven’t won there since 1994, and their most recent trip was in 2008 when Michigan overcame a 19-0 halftime deficit for a 27-25 victory.

Likewise, visiting Happy Valley has seldom been a happy experience for Michigan State. The Spartans have lost five of the last six in the series, including eight in a row at Beaver Stadium – six of those by 19 points or more.

Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Nov. 1, 1880, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice was born in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Considered one of the greatest American writers of the first half of the 20th century, Rice penned arguably the most famous line in college football history when he wrote, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again,” dubbing the famed Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in 1924. Rice later joined with U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Army head coach Earl “Red” Blaik to create the National Football Foundation in 1947.

** On Nov. 3, 1962, third-ranked USC Trojans handed No. 9 Washington its first loss of the season with a 14-0 shutout in Los Angeles. Quarterback Pete Beathard threw and ran for a score to carry the Trojans to victory. The win helped propel USC to the first of four national titles won under College Football Hall of Fame coach John McKay.

** On Nov. 3, 1984, Ohio State rolled to a 50-7 victory over Indiana, giving future College Football Hall of Fame coach Earle Bruce his 100th career win.

** On Nov. 4, 1967, Miami (Fla.) ended Virginia Tech’s regular-season winning streak at 14 with a 14-7 upset in Blacksburg.

** On Nov. 4, 2000, No. 23 Northwestern upset No. 12 Michigan in a 54-51 shootout in Evanston. Northwestern tailback Damien Anderson, who carried for 268 yards and two scores, dropped a fourth down pass in the end zone late in the game that seemingly sealed the Wildcats’ fate. But on the ensuing Michigan possession, cornerback Sean Wieber forced Wolverines tailback Anthony Thomas to fumble, which was recovered by cornerback Raheem Covington. The turnover set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from NU quarterback Zak Kustok to wide receiver Sam Simmons with 20 seconds to play to clinch the victory.

** Also on Nov. 4, 2000, Utah State running back Emmett White established a new NCAA single-game record with 578 all-purpose yards as the Aggies took a 44-37 win over New Mexico State.

** On Nov. 5, 1955, three future College Hall of Famers – coaches Bowden Wyatt of Tennessee and Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech as well as UT tailback Johnny Majors – were all at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville as the Volunteers and Yellow Jackets played to a 7-7 tie.

** On Nov. 5, 1960, third-ranked Minnesota forced three turnovers and scored a 27-10 upset of top-ranked Iowa.

** On Nov. 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton squared off in Brunswick, N.J., for what has often been described as the first-ever game of American football. The 1869 game – won 6 “runs” to 4 by Rutgers – bore little resemblance to what football is known as today. For example, each side used 25 men on a 120-yard field and the rules were said to be a mixture of rugby and soccer. Players attempted to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal, and throwing or carrying the ball was not allowed.

** On Nov. 6, 1971, Colgate and Bucknell combined to run the ball 141 times, setting an NCAA record for the most rushes in a college football game. The Raiders rushed 82 times while Bucknell racked up 59 carries, and the teams combined for 440 total rushing yards. Colgate won the game by a 47-24 score.

** On Nov. 6, 1976, Houston highlighted its first season as a member of the Southwest Conference with a stunning 30-0 victory over Texas. The Cougars were led by defensive tackle Wilson Whitley as the Longhorns were limited to only eight first downs in their worst conference loss ever under legendary head coach Darrell Royal.

** On Nov. 7, 1925, Andy “Swede” Oberlander threw a then-NCAA-record six touchdown passes as Dartmouth rolled to a 62-13 win over Cornell. One week later, the Big Green took a 33-7 victory over Chicago to finish the season with a perfect 8-0 record and the national championship.

** On Nov. 7, 1959, unranked Tennessee stopped Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon on a fourth-quarter two-point conversion run and preserved a 14-13 upset over No. 1 LSU, ending the Tigers’ 19-game unbeaten streak.

** On Nov. 7, 1970, Northwestern fullback Mike Adamle set a new Big Ten record for carries by rushing 48 times for 192 yards and four touchdowns as his Wildcats took a 28-14 win over Minnesota.

** On Nov. 8, 1975, unranked Kansas ended No. 2 Oklahoma’s 28-game winning streak by going into Norman and carving out a 23-3 upset victory. The defending national champion Sooners committed seven second-half turnovers and were held to their lowest scoring output in nine seasons. They rebounded, however, and went on to defeat Penn State in the Orange Bowl for a second consecutive national title.

** Also on Nov. 8, 1975, freshman cornerback Savann Thompson’s interception with 59 seconds left set up the game-winning field goal as Stanford shocked No. 9 USC, 13-10, in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

** On Nov. 9, 1912, Carlisle (Ind.) used the double wing formation for the first time and rolled past a confused Army team, 27-6. Leading the Indians was legendary fullback Jim Thorpe while the Cadets featured a team that included nine future generals, including five-star general and future U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Our weekly count of the undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level is getting easier. Only five remain: Auburn, Boise State, Oregon, TCU and Utah.

** When the NCAA said Thursday that Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez did not fail to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program, Rodriguez breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not so for U-M officials and alumni who may have entertained notions of firing the coach after this season. Had the NCAA ruled against Rodriguez, Michigan could possibly have fired him with cause and voided the remainder of his contract. As it stands now, if the university wants to off Rodriguez after this season, it would owe him the approximately $7.5 million remaining on his original six-year, $15 million deal.

** Legendary head coach Joe Paterno goes for career victory No. 400 tomorrow when his Penn State team takes on Northwestern. When he reaches the milestone, Paterno will become only the third coach in NCAA history with 400 or more career wins – John Gagliardi of St. John’s (Minn.) has 476 and counting while the late Eddie Robinson won 408 at Grambling. Paterno is currently in his 45th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions, and tomorrow’s game will mark his 535th as head coach at Penn State. That is exceeded in college football history only by Amos Alonzo Stagg, who coached 578 games at the University of Chicago.

** Congratulations to Illinois head coach Ron Zook. All but relegated to the coaching trash pile, Zook has resuscitated his program this season and the Fighting Illini are 5-3. That marks only the third time in the past 20 seasons the team has won at least five of its first eight games. Additionally, the blowout wins over Indiana and Purdue the past two weeks represented the first back-to-back victories by 30 points or more by the Illini since 1944.

** According to a story in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi’s top three candidates to replace Tim Brewster are Chris Peterson of Boise State, Jim Harbaugh of Stanford and Gary Patterson of TCU. If that is truly his wish list, Maturi had better find an old lamp and start rubbing it really, really hard. The Minnesota AD should be a bit more realistic and interview former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski (now in the UFL) or Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman (a former Minnesota QB from 1974-75). Then, of course, there is South Florida head coach Skip Holtz, son of Lou Holtz who was head coach of the Golden Gophers in 1984 and ’85.

** When Oregon scored the game’s final 24 points in its 53-32 victory over USC last weekend, it was simply the continuation of a season-long trend for the Ducks. They have now outscored their opponents by an overwhelming 170-38 margin in the second half.

** Two guys who should at least be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation are both sophomores. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, who suffered an ACL tear last year, has almost singlehandedly gotten the Bears bowl-eligible for the first time in 16 years by throwing for 2,592 yards and 20 TDs against only five interceptions. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has 62 receptions for 1,112 yards and 14 TDs. His touchdown receptions lead the nation as does his 17.9-yard average per catch.

** Before last season, there had been only seven times in Division I-A history when a player had rushed for at least 1,000 yards and thrown for at least 2,000 in the same season. Last year, three players did it, and three more are on pace to accomplish the feat this year. In 2009, Joe Webb of UAB, Dwight Dasher of Middle Tennessee and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada joined the 1,000-2,000 club, while Denard Robinson of Michigan (1,287 rushing, 1,509 passing), Cam Newton of Auburn (1,122-1,573) and Kaepernick (771-1,670) are nearing those milestones this season.

** Robinson is nearing a Division I-A single-season record for most rushing yardage by a quarterback. After racking up 191 last week against Penn State, Robinson has 1,287 for the season and that is a new Big Ten record. He needs only 208 more to break the I-A record of 1,494 set in 1996 by Air Force QB Beau Morgan.

** Talk about planning ahead. When Michigan State and Boise State announced last week they would play one another next season, the schools also revealed they had signed a contract to play a home-and-home series in 2022 and 2023.

** Some eyebrows were raised when Brady Hoke left a pretty sweet deal at Ball State two years ago to take over a San Diego State program that hadn’t had a winning season in a decade. Now the Aztecs are 6-2 – making them bowl-eligible for the first time in 12 years – and both of their defeats have been by a field goal.

** Oklahoma junior receiver Ryan Broyles has had a good last couple of weeks, establishing new school records in back-to-back home games. On Oct. 16, he broke his own single-game mark with 15 receptions during a 52-0 win over Iowa State. Then last week, Broyles set a new OU record with 208 receiving yards as the Sooners rolled to a 43-10 win over Colorado. Broyles ranks No. 1 nationally with 9.75 receptions per game and No. 3 in yardage per game at 127.3.

** Another week, another bowl game name change. Henceforth, the EagleBank Bowl will be known as the Military Bowl. The game, played at antiquated RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., is set for Dec. 29. UCLA took a 31-20 victory over Temple in last year’s EagleBank Bowl.

** Hawaii has the distinction of becoming the first school to accept a bowl invitation in 2010. The Rainbows will make their sixth appearance since 2002 in their hometown Hawaii Bowl, set for Dec. 24 in Honolulu. (It probably should be noted that the Hawaii Bowl’s agreement with the WAC stipulates that Hawaii gets an automatic bid if it is bowl-eligible and not headed to a BCS game.)

** In case you missed it, Ohio State’s game next Saturday with Penn State will kick off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The game will be televised by ABC using the ESPN reverse mirror.

** Game times have also been set for the Buckeyes’ final two regular-season games. They will play Nov. 20 at Iowa at 3:30 p.m. ET and host Michigan on Nov. 27 at noon Eastern.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The Fearless Forecast is having a season to remember as we move into November. Last week was another winner, missing two blowouts because Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State failed to show up in their respective games. We were 8-2 for the week which puts us at 81-14 straight up for the season.

Against the spread, it was another winning week at 6-3-1 and that runs the ATS record to a mighty fine 58-33-4 for the year.

Since there is no Ohio State game, we’ll focus on some of the other matchups occurring this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 9 Wisconsin at Purdue: This one shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. The Badgers will line up and try to blow the Boilermakers off the line of scrimmage, using the Big Ten’s second-ranked scoring offense against a defense that is eighth in the conference in scoring. Purdue has been decimated by injuries this season and Danny Hope’s squad may be down to its third-string quarterback against UW. Starter Robert Marve is already out with season-ending knee surgery while his backup Rob Henry is dealing with a painful laceration on the index finger of his throwing hand. Not that the Badgers need much help. They have won four in a row in the series, including the last two by a combined score of 61-3 … Wisconsin 35, Purdue 7. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Minnesota at No. 14 Michigan State: Entertaining notions of playing for the national championship just one week ago, Sparty had better regain his focus in a hurry if he wants to avoid spending New Year’s Day at the Capital One Bowl. The anticipated hangover after such a crushing defeat would be of concern to Mark Dantonio under normal circumstances but these aren’t normal circumstances. Somehow, someway, his Spartans have lost three in a row to the Golden Gophers, including last year’s 42-34 shocker. Of course, Minnesota has lost seven straight Big Ten contests since then and Tim Brewster – the mastermind of those wins over MSU – has been fired. Goldy showed very little emotion last week against Ohio State and we presume things will be about the same this week … Michigan State 38, Minnesota 17. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 16 Iowa at Indiana: Anyone who continues to scoff at the importance of special teams play should know that the Hawkeyes would be in the national title conversation had they not had special teams breakdowns that led directly to their two losses. Last week, Iowa showed exactly how strong it can be when it throttled Michigan State. Woe, then, to the Hoosiers if Herky plays that way again this week. A sidebar to this game is that each head coach – Kirk Ferentz of Iowa and Bill Lynch of Indiana – are going after career victory No. 100. It is Senior Day at Memorial Stadium, but IU is working on a nine-game conference losing streak and the Hoosiers don’t appear capable of doing much against Iowa’s staunch defense … Iowa 37, Indiana 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Illinois at Michigan: Before Rich Rodriguez got to Ann Arbor, the Wolverines had beaten the Fighting Illini nine out of the last 10 times the two teams had played. Since then, things have turned 180 degrees in the series. Two years ago during Rodriguez’s first season, the Illini rolled to a 45-20 victory and wound up with a 5-7 record. Last year, Ron Zook’s team finished a dismal 3-9, but one of its victories was a 38-13 romp over Michigan in Champaign. The point of all this? Zook has a 2-0 record against Rodriguez but is only 13-30 against the rest of the Big Ten. And the Zookster has beaten RichRod with some of his weaker teams. What do you think he can do this year with what is probably his best team since the Rose Bowl squad of 2007? Here is a mini-Upset Special … Illinois 37, Michigan 27. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

Chattanooga at No. 2 Auburn: Is it just me or are only Big Ten schools criticized for soft schedules? One of the nation’s top teams essentially takes this week off with a glorified scrimmage against the I-AA Mocs. Chattanooga has won five of its last six games and can put some points on the board behind QB B.J. Coleman, who at least knows a little bit about SEC football – he began his college career at Tennessee. Coleman’s favorite target is receiver Joel Bradford, who is the leading receiver at the I-AA level with 1,027 yards and seven TDs. That’s the good news for the Mocs. The bad news? Auburn is an unblemished 20-0 in the overall series that began in 1926, and that includes a 76-10 wipeout in 1995 the last time Chattanooga visited Jordan-Hare Stadium. It probably won’t be that bad this time but with a team vying for national title honors and a quarterback seemingly headed for the Heisman Trophy, it certainly could be … Auburn 52, Chattanooga 14. (1 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Washington at No. 1 Oregon: Everyone passing the Ducks directly through to the national championship game has evidently failed to notice one tiny little fact: Oregon hasn’t played much of anyone yet. There is no doubt the team’s video game stats of 54.9 points and 572.9 yards per game are dazzlingly impressive. But they have been achieved against eight opponents that have combined for a 24-41 record, and that includes Stanford at 7-1. The beat goes on this week against the Huskies, who will be without star quarterback Jake Locker. Locker, who has a fractured rib, is the guy who makes U-Dub go and the Huskies are a completely different team without him. In other words, with Locker they might have had the slightest of chances to pull the upset. Without him, the Huskies have no chance … Oregon 52, Washington 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 3 TCU at No. 5 Utah: This will likely be one of the best college football games of the season and many will miss it because of their prejudice against non-BCS conference schools. Let me tell what you’ll be missing. First, the Horned Frogs have the No. 1 defense in the nation and probably would even if they played in the SEC. They have allowed a total of only 78 points in nine games all season. Secondly, you have the Utes, who have the nation’s sixth-toughest defense to score on. Something has to give, of course, because both teams have excellent offensive attacks as well. Utah averages 45.3 points per game while TCU is at 40.8. The Frogs ran away with last year’s contest, taking a 55-28 win in Fort Worth, but they have never won in three trips to Salt Lake City – at least until now … TCU 23, Utah 18. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports)

Hawaii at No. 4 Boise State: There is little doubt the Broncos have been merely going through the motions for the past few weeks. Victories over the likes San Jose State and Louisiana Tech evidently don’t excite them any more than those around the nation who believe the Broncos should never have a chance to play for the national championship. This week, however, things should be a little bit different. Like any boxer with a knockout punch, the Rainbows have a chance for the upset if things go exactly their way. As with most years, Hawaii has the No. 1 passing offense in the country and QB Bryant Monitz has thrown for 3,247 yards and 25 TDs this season. Those numbers would strike fear into most defenses except that Boise ranks No. 8 nationally in pass defense. The Warriors are the last team to beat the Broncos in a regular-season game – 39-27 in Honolulu in 2007 – but they’ve come up empty on their four trips to Boise, losing by an average of 30.0 points per game … Boise State 42, Hawaii 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 7 Nebraska at Iowa State: The Cornhuskers desperately wanted to beat Texas in their final season as Big 12 members, so they will now try to do the next best thing – knock off the Cyclones who knocked off the Longhorns. Iowa State also knocked off Nebraska last year when the Cornhuskers committed eight turnovers during a particularly ugly 9-7 affair. A couple of those turnovers were attributed to NU running back Roy Helu Jr., who ran for a school-record 307 yards last week when the Huskers won a 51-41 shootout with Oklahoma State. The one-two rushing attack of Helu (807 yards, 8 TDs) and QB Taylor Martinez (886 yards, 12 TDs) should be more than enough this year since the Cyclones rank 10th in the Big 12 and 99th nationally against the run … Nebraska 41, Iowa State 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

No. 8 Oklahoma at Texas A&M: Are the Sooners for real? We’re about to find out as they embark upon a season-ending slate that includes three of their last four games on the road beginning this week in College Station. A&M is only 5-3 but has won back-to-back games over Kansas State and Texas Tech, finding a new quarterback in the process. Junior Ryan Tannehill threw for a school-record 449 yards last week in the Aggies’ 45-27 win over Tech and that helps make up for the loss of top running back Christine Michael, who is out with a broken leg. Since a 17-16 win at College Station in 2006, the Sooners have outscored A&M by a 173-52 margin, topping 60 points in each of the last two years. It seems doubtful that will happen again this time with these two teams much more evenly matched. But OU has won seven in a row in the series and should run that streak to eight … Oklahoma 26, Texas A&M 20. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Wisconsin (-19½) at Purdue; Minnesota (+24) at Michigan State; Iowa (-17) at Indiana; Illinois (+3½) at Michigan; Chattanooga at Auburn (N/L); Washington at Oregon (-35); TCU (-4) at Utah; Hawaii at Boise State (-20½); Nebraska (-18) at Iowa State; Oklahoma (-3) at Texas A&M.

Enjoy the games and we’ll talk again next week.

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