Ohio State fans in attendance at Ohio Stadium as well as those tuned in around the world on the Big Ten Network hoped they would be among the first to witness Urban Meyer’s sleek new Ferrari-type offense in the 2012 season opener against Miami (Ohio).
What they saw instead was the same kind of steamroller the Buckeyes have been accustomed to using against lesser opponents for the better part of the last century.
Despite anticipation to the contrary, Meyer has never intimated that his version of the spread offense resembles a pass-happy, basketball-on-grass type of attack. In fact, the head coach blanches at such comparisons. Therefore, the approach that piled up 56 points and 538 total yards – most of that coming in the final three quarters – was about what Meyer wants it to be. In other words, a game plan that features running the ball about 60 percent of the time.
In addition to resembling many OSU teams of the past, the Buckeyes really didn’t put on the kind of show one typically associates with a 56-10 win. To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t give Ohio State a much better overall grade than B-minus for its performance against the RedHawks.
The first quarter was especially troubling, so much so that Meyer called it embarrassing. After the opening period, Miami enjoyed a lopsided 172-48 advantage in total yardage, and had his receivers been able to help in even the slightest way, QB Zac Dysert would likely have staked his team to a 14-0 lead.
The Buckeyes might well have shifted gears from that point as they did from a much-smaller 3-0 deficit. But being down by two touchdowns at home to a 24-point underdog – especially for a team coming off a 6-7 season – would have at the very least caused some dry throats on the west sideline.
For all of the offseason pronouncements that he is improving as a passer, there were times when Braxton Miller didn’t show it. You could argue that as overly harsh in light of a 14-for-24 performance that was worth 207 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But there were times when the QB flat out missed open receivers and other times when his targets bailed him out with circus catches.
I can couch my criticism of Miller with the fact he remains only a sophomore still with fewer than a dozen college starts under his belt. But his athleticism is so off-the-charts that he is expected to throw the ball better than he does at times. Unfortunately, he remains very much a work in progress in that area.
Miller needs no such improvement with his running game, however, and the effortless move he made on Miami cornerback D.J. Jones was a gear-shift torn from the Walter Payton playbook. I seriously doubt Meyer wants his quarterback to run the ball 17 times every game, however, and the coach said as much after the game.
The play of the offensive line was steady but uninspiring. Again, with the promise that Meyer brought to the program, the thought was that the OL would be a streamlined, attacking type of unit. What the line showed against a smaller Miami defense was a mixed bag that included some good, some bad and some downright ugly.
Defensively, the Buckeyes seemed to play well up front despite getting to Dysert only twice. There was the fact that OSU held Miami to minus-1 yards in the rushing game, but the RedHawks can’t run the ball on anyone. They were dead last in the nation in that department last year for a reason.
Play from the Ohio State linebackers appeared to be a little uneven, and the Miami receivers created much more separation than should ever happen to a Big Ten secondary against MAC players. Had several catchable balls not been dropped, Dysert would have far exceeded an afternoon that still managed to produce 303 yards through the air.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if I was watching the same game as you. After all, Ohio State did score eight touchdowns and beat its opponent into submission by 46 points.
All true, of course. But the blowout was accomplished against a team from a mid-major conference, a team coming off a 4-8 season that is picked to finish no higher than third in its division this year. It was accomplished against a one-dimensional team that is not nearly the competitive equal of Ohio State.
Yet for all of my criticism, there was plenty to praise. Miller is only going to get better at throwing the ball. The offensive line will likely begin to become a more cohesive unit. The offense should become more diverse when Jordan Hall returns. The defensive line is already among the best in the nation, and the linebackers are improving. So, too, is a veteran secondary that is intent on creating more turnovers this year. Travis Howard’s two picks of Dysert is proof of that.
And perhaps best of all, solid play on special teams seems to have returned after a long hiatus. Bradley Roby recovered a mishandled punt snap to score a touchdown, Drew Basil was perfect on eight PATs, Ben Buchanan handled his new directional punting chores and still averaged 42.1 yards on seven attempts, and the Buckeyes held Miami to an average of only 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
All in all, it was a decent start – the kind of game a new coaching staff can use as a motivational teaching aid for any team beginning to believe the hard work is over when it has only just begun.
OSU-CENTRAL FLORIDA TIDBITS
** This marks the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Central Florida. The Buckeyes began playing intercollegiate football in 1890 while the Knights first fielded a varsity team in 1979 as a Division III program. They advanced to Division II in 1982, moved up to the Football Championship Division (Division I-AA) in 1990 and have been playing at the Football Bowl Division (Division I-A) level since 1996.
** The game pits schools which boast among the largest student body populations in the country. According to 2011 attendance figures, UCF had 58,698 students while OSU had 56,867.
** Following last week’s 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio), Ohio State looks to go 2-0 for the seventh consecutive season. The last time the Buckeyes failed to open the season with two victories was 2005 when they lost a 25-22 decision at home in week two to eventual national champion Texas.
** Ohio State hasn’t started a season by scoring 50 points or more in back-to-back games since 1996. That year, the Buckeyes opened with a 70-7 win over Rice and before administering a 72-0 pasting of Pittsburgh.
** With last week’s win over Miami, Urban Meyer joined 21 other men who enjoyed a victory in their first game as head coach of the Buckeyes. OSU has had only 24 head coaches in program history and Meyer’s win over the RedHawks ran to 22-1-1 the opening-game record for first-year coaches. The only two coaches who failed to win their Ohio State debuts were Jack Ryder (a 40-0 loss at Oberlin in 1892) and Paul Bixler (a 13-13 tie with Missouri in 1946).
** While 22 OSU head coaches have won their inaugural game, only 13 have gone on to win their second game as well. The school record is held by Carroll Widdoes, who won his first 12 games as head coach of the Buckeyes in 1944-45.
** The 56 points scored by the Buckeyes was the second-most in an OSU head coach’s debut game. The school record has been held since 1913 when the Buckeyes set sail under John W. Wilce with a 58-0 whitewash of Ohio Wesleyan.
** The Knights are led by head coach George O’Leary, now in his ninth season in Orlando. O’Leary has a career record of 103-85, including an even 51-51 with UCF.
** Meyer is 1-0 lifetime against UCF and 3-1 for his career against current members of Conference USA. His 2006 national championship team at Florida defeated the Knights by a 42-0 final in the second game of that season. His only loss to C-USA came during his first season at Bowling Green when Marshall dealt the Falcons a 37-31 defeat. Marshall was a member of the MAC that season, but the Thundering Herd joined Conference USA in 2010. Meyer’s other two victories against current C-USA teams came at the expense of Southern Miss – a 17-0 victory in the 2003 Liberty Bowl while at Utah and a 34-7 decision in the 2006 season opener at Florida.
** Meyer and O’Leary have been on opposite sidelines twice before. In addition to the 2006 game between Florida and UCF, the 1999 Gator Bowl featured O’Leary’s Georgia Tech team vs. Notre Dame. Meyer was an assistant coach on Bob Davie’s Fighting Irish staff that season. Tech won the game, 35-28.
** O’Leary is 0-2 lifetime against current members of the Big Ten. Both losses came in 2004, his first season with UCF when the Knights finished 0-11. The team lost a 34-7 decision to Wisconsin that year as well as a 37-13 verdict to Penn State.
** Due to NCAA sanctions, neither team is eligible for postseason play in 2012 although UCF is currently appealing its bowl ban. The Knights were sanctioned because of recruiting violations in both football and basketball under previous athletic director Keith Tribble.
** Ohio State currently has a 62-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.
** The Buckeyes are 12-1-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA. OSU is 2-0 vs. Marshall and Rice, 1-0 against Houston and 7-1-1 vs. SMU. The only blemishes on that record are a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978 and a 32-27 loss to the Mustangs in 1950. A 45-7 win over Marshall during the vacated 2010 season represents the Buckeyes’ most recent game against a C-USA opponent.
** UCF is 0-6 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. The Knights are 0-2 vs. Penn State and Purdue as well as 0-1 against Nebraska and Wisconsin.
**Central Florida is 13-14 all-time against Ohio schools. That includes a 3-5 record against Akron, 2-1 marks vs. Bowling Green, Toledo and Youngstown State, a 2-2 record against Kent and 1-2 ledgers vs. Miami (Ohio) and Ohio.
** The Knights have bounced around conferences during the last several years. They were members of the Mid-American Conference from 2002-04 before joining Conference USA, and they will join the Big East beginning next year.
** Ohio State is currently ranked 14th in the Associated Press writers’ poll. The Buckeyes have been ranked by the AP more times – 790 weeks to be exact – than any other team in the nation. OSU has now in appeared in the AP in 45 consecutive seasons, tying Alabama for the longest active streak.
** The Knights have never beaten a nonconference top 25 opponent and have lost five of their last six games against ranked opponents, including a 30-29 loss at No. 22 Southern Miss last November. The team’s most recent victory over a ranked team was a 37-32 decision over No. 15 Houston in November 2009.
** UCF opened its season last Friday night with a 56-14 win at Akron. It represented the most points scored by the Knights against a nonconference foe on the road since a 64-30 win at Louisiana Tech in the 1998 season opener.
** This week’s game will like mark the largest crowd ever to watch the Knights play. The previous mark was set in 2002 when a crowd of 103,029 filled Beaver Stadium at Penn State to watch the Nittany Lions nip UCF by a 27-24 final.
** Braxton Miller rushed for 161 yards last Saturday, setting a new single-game rushing record for OSU quarterbacks. He broke the record of 146 set by Cornelius Greene during a 52-7 win over Wisconsin in 1974. Miller added another 207 yards through the air, giving him 368 total yards for the game. That marked the sixth-highest single-game total in program history. Art Schlichter holds the OSU mark in that category with 412 during a 36-27 loss to Florida State in 1981.
** In addition to his record rushing day, Miller tied Greene for the most recognized career 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback with four. Terrelle Pryor had seven 100-yard rushing games during his career, but the four he totaled during the 2010 season have been expunged from the school’s official record book.
** Miller pushed his career rushing total to 876 yards, leaving him 124 shy of becoming the 54th player in Ohio State history to crack the 1,000-yard mark.
** When senior co-captain Zach Boren scored his first career rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter against Miami, it broke an unusual scoring drought for Ohio State fullbacks. The last time an OSU fullback ran for a touchdown was Brandon Schnittker, who scored on a 1-yard run during the 2005 season opener, a 34-14 win over the RedHawks. But even that TD is disputed by some who believe Schnittker was technically running out of the tailback spot when he scored. If that is true, you have to go back one more year to 2004 when Branden Joe scored on a 4-yard run during a 21-10 win over Penn State.
** Miami finished last Saturday’s game with minus-1 yard in the rushing department. That marked the first time in four years the Buckeyes had held an opponent to negative yards rushing. Youngstown State had minus-11 yards on the ground during a 43-0 loss in the 2008 opener.
** Ohio State piled up 538 total yards against the RedHawks, the highest total yardage since Ohio State had 645 in a 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan during the vacated season of 2010. Considering only non-vacated seasons, it was the largest yardage total since the Buckeyes had 559 vs. New Mexico State in 2009. OSU won that game by a 45-0 final. The point total was the team’s best in a non-vacated season since a 58-7 victory over Northwestern in 2007. Meanwhile, the 56 points was the most any Miami team had surrendered since a 58-7 loss to Dartmouth on Oct. 3, 1942.
** Lost amid the hubbub of the first victory of the Meyer era was the fact the Buckeyes snapped their four-game losing streak. That meant the program avoided their first five-game skid since the final five games of the 1897 season. Ohio State, currently playing its 123rd season of intercollegiate football, has never lost six games in a row.
** ESPN2 will have the telecast of the season opener with Beth Mowins handling the play-by-play and former Ohio State and NFL receiver Joey Galloway providing color analysis. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.
** The game will also be telecast on Sirius satellite radio channel 113 and XM channel 196.
** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host Pac-12 rival California, which makes its first trip to the Horseshoe since 1971. The game will be telecast by ABC and will kickoff at 12 noon Eastern.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
** On Sept. 8, 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie kicked off his Heisman Trophy-winning season by throwing three touchdowns passes and rallying the Golden Eagles from a 31-14 deficit to a 38-31 upset over ninth-ranked Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham.
** Also on Sept. 8, 1984, George Dwarn and Otis Cheathem became the first opponents ever to crack the 200-yard mark in rushing in the same game. Swarn totaled 239 for Miami (Ohio) while Cheathem ran for 219 as his Western Michigan team scored a 17-13 win over the RedHawks (who were the Redskins at that time).
** On Sept. 8, 1990, No. 16 BYU engineered a 28-21 upset victory over top-ranked and defending national champion Miami (Fla.). BYU quarterback Ty Detmer completed 38 of 54 passes for 406 yards and three TDs to kick off his Heisman Trophy campaign. The Cougars withstood a late comeback by the Hurricanes when DB Ervin Lee broke up a fourth-down pass at the goal line with 1:49 to play.
** On Sept. 9, 1972, UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon led the Bruins – who had won only two games the previous season – to a 20-17 upset win over preseason No. 1 Nebraska. Yes, that’s the same Mark Harmon who stars as Special Agent L.J. Gibbs on the CBS drama “NCIS,” not to mention the same Mark Harmon who is the son of 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon of Michigan.
** On Sept. 9, 1978, unranked Missouri gave new head coach Warren Powers a 3-0 upset victory over defending national champion Notre Dame in South Bend. The Tigers forced Fighting Irish QB Joe Montana into committing three turnovers, and Notre Dame failed three times on fourth-and-1 situations. The outcome marked the first time the Irish had been shut out since 1965.
** On Sept. 9, 2006, it was Overtime Saturday all across college football. A record seven games went into overtime, including a double-OT thriller when Boston College blocked an extra point to upset No. 18 Clemson, 34-33.
** On Sept. 10, 1966,Baylor shocked No. 7 Syracuse, taking a 35-12 victory in Waco in the season opener. Bears QB Terry Southall threw for four touchdowns in the game while tailback Floyd Little rushed for 102 yards and a score for the Orange. But a fumbled pitch to Little early in the game set the tone as Baylor scored to take a lead it would never relinquish.
** On Sept. 11, 1993, a then-NCAA regular-season record 106,851 fans were on hand as No. 10 Notre Dame scored a 27-23 upset over second-ranked Michigan. The Fighting Irish took a 24-10 lead at halftime and coasted the rest of the way, finishing the season with an 11-1 record and a No. 2 ranking in the season’s final poll.
** On Sept. 11, 1982, Michigan State kicker Ralf Moisiejenko cranked a 61-yard field goal on his first career three-point attempt, but it wasn’t enough as Illinois dealt the Spartans a 23-16 loss in Champaign.
** On Sept. 12, 1987, Michigan committed seven turnovers in a 26-7 loss to Notre Dame, the first season-opening home loss ever for head coach Bo Schembechler.
** On Sept. 13, 1986, Hayden Fry became the winningest coach in Iowa history when the Hawkeyes took a 43-7 win over Iowa State. The victory was No. 53 for Fry, who passed Forest Evashevski for most wins in school history. Fry was to coach 20 seasons in Iowa City and retired with 143 victories with the Hawkeyes.
**On Sept. 13, 1980, Louisiana-Lafayette managed to overcome an NCAA record-tying five lost fumbles in a single quarter to beat East Carolina, 27-21.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** It didn’t take long for the nation’s longest winning streak to go down. Northern Illinois entered the 2012 season with the longest win streak in FBS at nine, and the Huskies promptly dropped an 18-17 squeaker vs. Iowa at Soldier Field in Chicago. The nation’s longest win streak now belongs to TCU, which kicks off its 2012 season this weekend at home vs. Grambling State. The Horned Frogs have won their last eight in a row.
** Kansas and Tulane entered the season with the nation’s longest losing streaks at 10. The Jayhawks snapped their streak with a 31-17 win over South Dakota State last weekend, but the Green Wave pushed their slide to 11 straight games with a 24-12 loss to Rutgers.
** With its loss to Ohio last Saturday, PennState dropped a season opener for the first time since a 33-7 loss to Miami (Fla.) in 2001. The Nittany Lions hadn’t lost a season opener to a non-BCS conference team since 1967. That was a 23-22 loss at Navy.
** How bad was Michigan’s 41-14 season-opening loss to Alabama? How about the most lopsided season-opening loss for the Wolverines in their 133-year existence? And you thought all that worst-ever stuff left Ann Arbor when Rich Rodriguez did.
** Speaking of Rodriguez, his debut at Arizona was a successful one. The Wildcats piled up 624 total yards on their way to a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo.
** If you want proof that the Big Ten has evolved from a running conference to one that throws the ball with much more frequency, look no further than the opening week stats. Only four Big Ten players cracked the 100-yard mark in rushing – and one of those was OhioState quarterback Braxton Miller – while nine players threw for 200 yards or more. Among the QBs topping the 200-yard mark was Tyler Martinez of Nebraska, who threw for a career-best 354 yards and five TDs during his team’s 49-20 win over Southern Miss.
** MichiganState has enjoyed back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and that success is paying off – literally. The Spartans have sold 68,831 season tickets this year, a new school record.
** As long as we’re talking about Sparty, here is a nice little stat: Since 2010, MSU is a sparkling 9-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer.
** File this name away for future Heisman reference: USC sophomore receiver Marqise Lee. He scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage last week in the Trojans’ convincing 49-10 win over Hawaii, and later added a 100-yard kickoff return. For the game, Lee had 10 receptions for 197 yards.
** Kudos to Eric Wolford, third-year head coach at DivisionI-AA YoungstownState. Wolford guided the Penguins to a 31-17 upset at Pittsburgh last weekend, spoiling the debut game for Panthers head coach Paul Chryst. YoungstownState typically schedules a I-A school every year, but that was its first victory over an upper-division opponent since a 26-20 win over KentState in 2000. Jim Tressel was the Penguins’ head coach in that one.
** Kudos also to veteran coach Dennis Franchione, who resurfaced at Texas State last year. Franchione’s Bobcats moved up to Division I-A status this year and celebrated Saturday with a 30-13 stunner at Houston. How stunning was that victory? Houston offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned on Monday.
** California welcomed a sellout crowd to renovated Memorial Stadium on Saturday, and then promptly dropped a 31-24 decision to Nevada. It was the Bears’ first on-campus game in 21 months, and their first home loss to the Wolf Pack since 1903.
** Notre Dame radio analyst Allen Pinkett, who was sent home from Ireland for saying the Fighting Irish needed more “criminals” on the roster, will be suspended for two more games. In case you missed what Pinkett told a Chicago radio station last week: “I’ve always felt like to have a successful team you’ve got to have a few bad citizens on the team. That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension which creates edge on the football team.” Sanctimonious outrage ensued, and Pinkett later apologized, saying he chose his “words poorly and that an apology is in order for these inappropriate comments.” The trouble is that Pinkett is being penalized for offering his opinion – something the Fighting Irish ostensibly pays him to do.
** It’s fairly safe to say that Western Kentucky is the worst field-goal kicking team in college football. The Hilltoppers, who made only 5 of 20 field-goal attempts last year, were 0 for 3 in their 2012 season opener Saturday. It didn’t seem to matter, though. WKU swamped I-AA opponent Austin Peay by a 49-10 final at beautiful Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.
** Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain snapped one of the longest streaks in college football last week. McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama, became the first Rams head coach in 42 years to win his debut with a 22-17 victory over instate rival Colorado. The last CSU head coach to win his first game with the team was Jerry Wampfler, whose Rams took a 28-9 win at New Mexico State in the 1970 season opener.
** Perhaps you heard about Kent State linebacker Andre Parker running 58 yards the wrong way with a muffed punt last Thursday night. The strangest thing about the play wasn’t that Parker got mixed up and started running toward his own goal line. It was the fact that Parker’s teammates were blocking for him and Towson players were chasing him, finally forcing him out of bounds before he reached the end zone. Not that it mattered much. The Golden Flashes rolled to a 41-21 victory.
** FCS member Savannah State, which finished 1-10 last season, pocketed about $385,000 for its athletic department budget by playing its 2012 season opener at Oklahoma State. That came out to about $4,600 per point since the Cowboys put an 84-0 spanking on the Tigers. Savannah State gets a little more this week (475K), but is likely in for a similar beatdown when it travels to Florida State. The Seminoles rolled to a 69-3 win over I-AA Murray State in their opener.
** Congratulations to quarterback Sam Durley of Division III Eureka (Ill.) College, who set an NCAA single-game record by throwing for 736 yards during his team’s 62-55 win last Saturday over Knox. Durley completed 34 of 52 attempts with five touchdowns. The previous NCAA mark was 731 yards, set by Zamir Amin of Division III Menlo College (Calif.) in 2000. David Klinger of Houston holds the Football Bowl Subdivision single-game mark with 716 yards against Arizona State in 1990.
** Durley’s record-breaking game also allowed Eureka to amass 821 total yards, breaking the previous school record of 744. If you think Eureka College sounds familiar, it is probably because it is the alma mater of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
It was a pretty good kickoff to the 2012 season here at World Forecast Headquarters with a perfect 10-0 start straight up and a 6-4 record against the spread. We’ll try to keep it going with these games:
Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama: For any other team, this could be a trap game. After gearing up to begin the season against Michigan, and opening the SEC schedule next week at No. 8 Arkansas, one might forgive the Crimson Tide if they overlook the Hilltoppers. That probably won’t happen, though, since Alabama has its sights set on becoming the first team to win back-to-back national championships since Nebraska in 1994 and ’95. WKU won its season opener for the first time since 2005, piling up 596 total yards on its way to a 49-10 win over I-AA Austin Peay. Last time we checked, though, Austin Peay represents slightly lesser competition than the Tide … Alabama 45, Western Kentucky 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 788)
No. 2 USC vs. Syracuse: The Trojans are headed cross-country to throw a 22nd birthday party for quarterback Matt Barkley in MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets. Hopeful of spoiling the proceedings is Syracuse, although no one gives the Orange much of a chance. Senior QB Ryan Nassib completed 44 of 65 pass attempts last week for 470 yards and five TDs, but it wasn’t enough as the Orange dropped a wild 42-41 decision to Northwestern. Syracuse surrendered a six-point lead with 2:40 left in the game when backup QB Trevor Siemian marched the Wildcats 75 yards for the winning score. If a sophomore backup can do that to the Orange defense, imagine what Barkley will do on his birthday … USC 49, Syracuse 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
No. 11 Michigan State at Central Michigan: After playing the first eight games of this series at home, Sparty is making his first-ever trip to cozy Kelly/Shorts Stadium with its modest capacity of 30,255. The Chippewas have never been a particularly easy out for Michigan State – CMU has won three of the previous eight meetings including a 29-27 victory in 2009. But the Spartans exacted their revenge last year with a 45-7 pounding of the Chips, a beating that included three rushing touchdowns from Le’Veon Bell. Considering the fact that Bell is now the focal point of Sparty’s offense, this year’s game should yield a similar outcome … Michigan State 38, Central Michigan 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)
Air Force at No. 19 Michigan: After getting squashed by Alabama last Saturday night, the Wolverines will try to regroup against a Falcons team that rolled to a 49-21 victory over I-AA Idaho State in its opener. The U-M defense got run over by the Crimson Tide, while the Flyboys employ a triple-option attack that has led the nation in rushing since the beginning of the 2010 season with an average of 317.1 yards per game. Defensively, the Falcons are no great shakes, though, and Michigan welcomes back RB Fitzgerald Toussaint from a one-game suspension. These two teams haven’t met since 1964, and Air Force has lost 19 in a row to ranked opponents. But you just get a feeling this might be a little closer than some people think … Michigan 38, Air Force 29. (3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2, DirectTV 209)
Purdue at No. 22 Notre Dame: Not sure what we learned about either of these teams last week. The Boilermakers routed I-AA Eastern Kentucky by a 48-6 final while the Fighting Irish went all the way to Ireland to sink Navy, 50-10. Purdue gets starting QB Caleb TerBush back from a one-game suspension, and it will be interesting to see how the Boilers operate with TerBush and backup Robert Marve, who threw for 295 yards and three scores last week. Meanwhile, the Irish showed some defensive pluck against the Middies while the running attack led by Theo Riddick (107 yards, two TDs) and George Atkinson III (99 yards, two TDs) ground Navy into dust. Notre Dame sports a 55-26-2 advantage in the overall series, including wins in the last four meetings and six of the last seven … Notre Dame 38, Purdue 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Washington at No. 3 LSU: The Huskies will try their luck at Tiger Stadium, where LSU has won 18 in a row, and they’ll try to engineer the upset without running back Jesse Callier (torn ACL) and starting right tackle Ben Riva (broken forearm). The Tigers allowed only 219 yards in last week’s 41-14 home victory over North Texas, and that total would have been much, much lower had LSU not surrendered pass plays that covered 50 and 80 yards. Obviously, U-Dub will try to test LSU’s secondary with QB Keith Price, who threw for 222 yards and a score in the Huskies’ season-opening win over San Diego State, a 21-12 decision over the Aztecs. Just don’t expect Price to have much success … LSU 41, Washington 7. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)
Louisiana-Monroe vs. No. 8 Arkansas: The Razorbacks started slowly last week before rolling to a 49-24 win over I-AA Jacksonville State as John L. Smith’s first game as a head coach since 2004 was a successful one. This week, the Hogs travel down the road from Fayetteville to Little Rock to welcome the Warhawks, who are making their 2012 debut. Louisiana-Monroe returns 15 starters, including eight on offense, and enters this season with a load of optimism. But the program has not finished above .500 since returning to Division I-A in 1994, and the team is 0-25 lifetime against ranked opponents. Add in an 0-for-9 career performance against the Razorbacks, and it is liable to be a long evening for Todd Berry’s team … Arkansas 41, Louisiana-Monroe 13. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)
New Mexico at No. 17 Texas: We haven’t heard much from the Longhorns the last couple of years, but the Mack Attack believes it is ready to make another title run this year. Of course, that belief gets tested beginning in late September when UT runs a three-week gantlet that includes No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 9 West Virginia and No. 5 Oklahoma, but first things first. The Lobos are next on the docket, and first-year head coach Bob Davie (yep, that Bob Davie) has his players believing in his triple-option attack after last week’s 66-21 rout of I-AA Southern University. History doesn’t exactly favor Davie’s team, however. The Lobos have lost their last 12 in a row to ranked opponents, and they have lost 21 straight road contests … Texas 37, New Mexico 17. (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)
No. 18 Oklahoma State at Arizona: The Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson got started on the right foot last week with a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo. The final shouldn’t have been that close since the Wildcats piled up 624 yards of offense. But some of the things that plagued RichRod during his tumultuous stay at Michigan – turnovers, defensive lapses, a poor kicking game – raised their head in the opener. This week, the margin of error is much less against the Cowboys, who took no prisoners during last week’s 84-0 blowout of I-AA Savannah State. If you like offense, you’ll probably enjoy this one … Oklahoma State 56, Arizona 35. (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
UCF at No. 14 Ohio State: If you think the Knights are just another pushover on a soft nonconference schedule, think again. UCF, which welcomed Terry Bowden back to Division I-A coaching with a 56-14 smackdown at Akron, features some pretty nice weapons. QB Blake Bortles was extremely efficient while throwing for 168 yards and three TDs, RB Latavius Murray ran for 108 yards and a score, and the UCF defense created four turnovers. Of course, Zippy is not to be confused with Brutus. Ohio State’s offense, with QB Braxton Miller at the controls, represents a much more formidable opponent for UCF, who gave up 325 yards and 19 first downs last week. Plus, a bad shoulder is likely to keep Murray on the sideline. But the Knights are approaching this game as they would a bowl (they’re ineligible for the postseason, too), so that could provide some added incentive. Just not enough … Ohio State 38, Central Florida 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Western Kentucky (+40) at Alabama; USC (-26) vs. Syracuse; Michigan State (-20) at Central Michigan; Air Force (+22) at Michigan; Purdue at Notre Dame (-13½); Washington at LSU (-23½); LA-Monroe (+30½) at Arkansas; New Mexico (+38½) at Texas; Oklahoma State (-10) at Arizona; UCF at Ohio State (-18).
Enjoy the games and we’ll talk again next week.