Fickell’s Job Interview Begins In Earnest This Week

Despite the fact no one gives Indiana a chance to stay within three or four touchdowns of Ohio State tomorrow afternoon, the game will serve a valuable purpose other than just another victory for the Buckeyes. It will provide some insight into just what kind of head coach Luke Fickell has become.

It will also likely determine how much longer Fickell will be head coach of the Buckeyes.

The outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion for many, but with more difficult opponents on the horizon – and his team back in the thick of the Big Ten title game chase – Fickell is charged this week with keeping his team’s focus on the Hoosiers. That might not be the easiest of tasks since the Buckeyes are coming off such an emotional high following last week’s last-second victory over Wisconsin.

A natural byproduct of the win over the Badgers would be a letdown this weekend, and that would be especially unsurprising with the opponent ranked near or at the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive and defensive statistical categories.

However, the argument can and should be made that Ohio State is a team unable to afford the luxury of letting down against any opponent. The Buckeyes are just now beginning to show some life offensively and that uptick needs to continue. Likewise, it would be nice to see the defense – still the team’s strength – put together a complete four-quarter game even if it is against a lesser opponent.

That is Fickell’s main assignment this week. After eight games that have already featured a season’s worth of ups and downs, it will be interesting to see how focused on thumping an inferior opponent the Buckeyes will be.

Extrapolating that theory even further, let’s say the team is focused and takes care of business to the point that the game is out of hand by halftime. How much of a statement does Fickell want to make? Is he predisposed to taking his foot off the gas like his predecessor did so many times or does he more favor the more merciless style of Bret Bielema, who seems to delight in running up the score on lesser opponents.

One other thing to look for if the game gets out of hand early: Will Fickell rest his starters in favor of getting some meaningful playing time for his youngsters, i.e. new backup quarterback Kenny Guiton? One of the criticisms of Jim Tressel was that he sometimes stayed with his starters too long in games that were well in hand, sacrificing a chance to get some much-needed experience for part-timers.

Taking stock of the way the Buckeyes perform against Indiana will provide a window into Fickell’s coaching acumen as well as his philosophy, something we haven’t always been able to gauge because of the mostly frenetic nature of the past five months. It will be beneficial, of course, to dig a little deeper into the way Fickell goes about his business especially since every week from now through the end of the 2011 season will be a series of de facto job interviews for the coach.

Rumors persist that Urban Meyer will be head coach at Ohio State in 2012 regardless of how the Buckeyes finish this season. Yet, how could the university make a change if Fickell’s team wins its final six regular-season games and earns a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game? Then, let’s say OSU wins that game and goes to the Rose Bowl. That would mean a season with 10 victories and a record seventh straight conference title with Fickell the odds-on favorite to win Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. How does Ohio State proceed with a coaching change then?

Someone told me the other day that you make the change based solely on the fact that anytime you can get a coach with Meyer’s impressive body of work, the number of victories, titles and awards don’t matter. If you can get Meyer, you get him. End of story. Furthermore, you can head off any criticism of that decision by offering somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million annually to Fickell to stay on as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

The more I thought about that scenario – and the more I hear from people who should be in the know about these matters – the more I am inclined to think this is the path on which Ohio State is headed. Perhaps it will all work out for the best. Meyer can be the great savior everyone believes him to be and allow Fickell to remain in his hometown and work at his alma mater with the opportunity to continue to pad his résumé and perhaps become head coach again someday.

In the end, everyone wins.

If it’s such a great plan, though, why do I have such a sour taste about it?

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 85th time on Saturday with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 67-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 43-10-4 record in Ohio Stadium, including wins in each of the last nine games played in Columbus.

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 16-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.

** Since the Hoosiers took a 32-10 victory at Ohio Stadium in 1951, they have a 1-30-1 record in the Horseshoe. The lone victory was a 31-10 decision in 1987 and the tie was a 0-0 deadlock in 1959.

** Ohio State in its history has more victories over Indiana than any other team. The Buckeyes have 67 wins vs. the Hoosiers, 64 over Illinois, 59 over Northwestern, 54 over Wisconsin and 45 over Iowa.

** Since 2005, the Buckeyes are 17-1 during the month of November. During the same time frame, Indiana is 3-17 during November.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell will be going against Indiana for the first time as a head coach but he is a perfect 11-0 lifetime vs. the Hoosiers as a player and assistant coach. Fickell was 4-0 as a player from 1993-96 and 7-0 during his nine seasons as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Despite its recent problems in the series, Indiana has historically made life difficult for Ohio State head coaches in their first season. Dating back to 1913, first-year OSU head coaches are only 4-4-1 against the Hoosiers. That includes losses by John W. Wilce (7-6 in 1913), Wes Fesler (7-0 in 1947), Woody Hayes (32-10 in 1951) and John Cooper (41-7 in 1988). Ohio State head coaches who beat Indiana in their inaugural seasons were Francis Schmidt (33-0 in 1934), Carroll Widdoes (21-7 in 1944), Earle Bruce (47-6 in 1979) and Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001). Sam Willaman’s first team in 1929 played the Hoosiers to 0-0 tie, and in case you’re wondering about Paul Brown in 1941 and Paul Bixler in 1946, the Buckeyes and IU did not play in those seasons.

** Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his first season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 60 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88. Before that, you have to go back to Clyde Smith, whose Indiana team took a 32-10 win over Ohio State in 1951.

** Wilson was offensive coordinator on the late Randy Walker’s staff at Northwestern from 1999-2001 and was 0-1 vs. Ohio State during that time. The Buckeyes took a 38-20 win over the Wildcats in 2001.

** Indiana has 16 native Ohioans on its roster – 11 of which are on the Hoosiers’ two-deep (including special teams) – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are redshirt freshman tailback/linebacker Rod Smith of Fort Wayne and freshman defensive lineman Joel Hale of Greenwood.

** Wilson also has three native Ohioans on his coaching staff. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns is from Piqua, running backs coach Deland McCullough is from Youngstown, and assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Doug Mallory hails from Bowling Green. Mallory is the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, who was a member of Woody Hayes’ coaching staff at Ohio State from 1966-68.

** Two more familiar names are serving on Wilson’s staff as graduate assistants. Chris Shula, whose grandfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, is the GA in charge of defense while former Northwestern running back Noah Herron has the offense. Ohio State fans most likely remember Herron for his performance against the Buckeyes in 2004. He rushed for 113 yards and scored three times – including the game-winning touchdown in overtime – as the Wildcats scored a stunning 33-27 win in Evanston. That remains Northwestern’s only victory in its last 29 games against OSU.

** While an Indiana upset of Ohio State would be stunning enough, the odds of the Hoosiers shutting out the Buckeyes would be astronomical. Indiana hasn’t pitched a shutout against any opponent since a 10-0 win over Michigan State in October 1993 and hasn’t blanked Ohio State since that 0-0 tie in 1959. IU hasn’t won a game in which it shut out the Buckeyes since a 10-0 decision in 1937.

** OSU senior tailback Boom Herron’s 160-yard rushing effort last weekend pushed his career total to 2,468, good for 13th on the school’s all-time rushing list. Herron needs 182 more yards to pass Jim Otis (2,542, 1967-69), Calvin Murray (2,576, 1977-80) and Raymont Harris (2,649, 1990-93) and break into the all-time top 10.

** Herron failed to record a rushing touchdown last week for the first time in 13 games, so he remained 20th on the OSU career scoring list with 186 points. Immediately ahead of him on the list are Ryan Pretorius (190, 2005-08), Michael Wiley (200, 1996-99) and Chic Harley (201, 1916-17, ’19).

** Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson is only the second true freshman in program history to start at QB. The other was Tim Clifford in 1977, who started only one game for the Hoosiers that season.

** Roberson threw for 169 yards and rushed for 121 during last Saturday’s 59-38 loss to Northwestern. That marked the first time an Indiana quarterback had cracked the century mark through the air and on the ground since Kellen Lewis threw for 159 and ran for 148 during his team’s 42-20 win over Ball State in 2008.

** Roberson and sophomore running back Stephen Houston (151) both topped 100 yards on the ground against Northwestern, and that was the first time two Hoosiers had cracked the century mark in the same game since BenJarvus Green-Ellis (136) and Brian Lewis (128) turned the trick during a 37-31 overtime loss to Northwestern in 2003.

** Houston, a JUCO transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, has strung together five straight games with 60 or more yards rushing. That is the longest streak of its kind by an Indiana running back since Levron Williams did it during the final eight games of the 2001 season.

** OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil’s field goals of 39 and 22 yards against Wisconsin gave him a streak of 10 consecutive field goals, making him only the fourth kicker in program history with at least 10 straight three-pointers. Mike Nugent (2001-04) holds the school record with 24 in a row while Vlade Janakievski (1977-80) had streaks of 15 and 10 straight. Dan Stultz (1996-2000) also made 10 in a row.

** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 59 for 59 in career PATs. The IU school record of 107 extra points in a row is held by Pete Stoyanovich (1986-88), who never missed a PAT during his college career.

** This week’s game will be telecast on a regional basis by the Big Ten Network with the announce crew of Tom Hart (play-by-play), former Minnesota tight end/long snapper Derek Rackley (color analysis) and Lisa Byington (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 128 as well as XM channel 196.

** Next week, Ohio State travels to Purdue with kickoff time and broadcast affiliates still TBA. The Big Ten will not make an announcement regarding any its Nov. 12 games until after this weekend’s contests have been played.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** And then there were six. Only a half-dozen teams remain undefeated at the Division I-A level as we head into November. They are Alabama, Boise State, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford.

** Stanford had to go to three overtimes against USC before extending the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games. The Cardinal’s 56-48 win over the Trojans also snapped a streak of 10 straight games Stanford had won by 26 points or more, the longest streak of its kind since 1936.

** New Mexico extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 11 games when the Lobos dropped a 42-0 decision at home to Air Force. How bad has it gotten in Albuquerque? New Mexico has been outscored by a 160-7 margin the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic didn’t lose Oct. 29 because the Owls didn’t play. The Lobos and FAU remain the only winless teams this season at the I-A level.

** Another losing streak of note: Duke’s 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech marked the Blue Devils’ 44th consecutive loss to ranked teams. Duke hasn’t beaten a top-25 team since a 21-20 win over No. 22 North Carolina State in November 1993 and hasn’t claimed a victory over a top-10 team since 1989 when Steve Spurrier was head coach. That was a 21-17 home win over No. 7 Clemson on Sept. 30, 1989.

** Top-rated LSU and second-ranked Alabama marks the 46th time in history No. 1 has taken on No. 2 and the top-ranked team has a 26-17-2 record in the previous meetings. Most recently, top-ranked Auburn took a 22-19 win over second-ranked Oregon in January in the BCS National Championship Game. The last time a 1 vs. 2 matchup was staged in the regular season (not counting conference title games): No. 1 Ohio State scored a 42-39 triumph over No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18, 2006, in Ohio Stadium.

** How close are No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama? How about this: The Crimson Tide has scored 315 points and 40 touchdowns while the Tigers have 314 points and 41 touchdowns.

** You can argue all day and night about the level of competition against which he plays, but you cannot take the NCAA record for most career touchdown passes away from Houston QB Case Keenum. He shattered the mark last week by throwing for nine scores during his team’s 73-34 win over Rice, and Keenum now has 139 career touchdown passes. This year alone, he has completed 218 of 303 attempts (72.0 percent) for 3,219 yards, 32 TDs and three INTs. Those numbers, plus the fact he is No. 2 in the country in pass efficiency and his Cougars remain undefeated are enough to make me seriously consider putting Keenum on my Heisman Trophy ballot.

** Of course, topping my Heisman ballot is still Stanford QB Andrew Luck, who rallied the Cardinal last weekend to a three-overtime win over USC. Luck has completed 174 of 242 attempts (71.9 percent) for 2,218 yards, 23 TDs and four interceptions, and has added 113 yards and a couple of touchdowns rushing. But perhaps the best measuring stick of Luck’s leadership is how Stanford has performed this year in the red zone. The Cardinal are 45 for 46 in red-zone scoring chances, 36 for touchdowns.

** For everyone salivating over the prospect of Urban Meyer becoming the next head coach at Ohio State, we offer this nugget: Florida is in the throes of its first four-game losing streak since 1988 and the once-feared Gators offense scored a grand total of three touchdowns in four October games. That includes last week’s 24-20 loss to Georgia during which Florida totaled minus-19 yards rushing. Yes, Meyer is gone, but he recruited most of the underachieving players on this year’s UF roster.

** One of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper’s favorite sayings was “One week you’re sipping the wine, the next week you’re stomping the grapes.” Players and coaches from Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Purdue, Syracuse and Texas Tech know what Coop was talking about. Each of those teams upset ranked opponents on Oct. 22 and then each of those teams lost last Saturday by a combined score of 156-55.

** In its 41-7 loss to Iowa State, Texas Tech failed to record a touchdown pass for the first time in 70 games. The last time the Red Raiders hadn’t scored a touchdown through the air was a 12-3 loss to TCU in 2006.

** By the way, that win over Texas Tech was the largest margin of victory over a ranked team for Iowa State in school history. The Cyclones’ previous best was a 36-14 win over No. 20 Nebraska in 2002. The win over Texas Tech was also monumental in another way since Iowa State went into that game unranked. In their history as an unranked team playing a ranked opponent, the Cyclones are now 13-135.

** Congratulations to Missouri for its 38-31 overtime win over Texas A&M. It was an NCAA record 14th overtime game for the Tigers and they are 10-4 when working OT.

** Would you believe lowly Minnesota has a 2-3 record over its last five Big Ten games? Not only is that factoid true, both victories have come at the expense of Iowa. The Golden Gophers’ latest success in the Floyd of Rosedale series, a 22-21 upset of the Hawkeyes last Saturday, gave Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz (he of the $3.7 million annual salary) a career Big Ten record of an extremely pedestrian 55-45.

** Congratulations to Ferentz anyway for coaching in his 100th career conference game, a milestone only 13 men before him have achieved – Amos Alonzo Stagg of Chicago (201, 1896-1932); Woody Hayes of Ohio State (196, 1951-78); Bo Schembechler (170, 1969-89); Hayden Fry of Iowa (164, 1979-98); Robert Zuppke of Illinois (150, 1913-41); Joe Paterno of Penn State (149, 1993-present); Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin (128, 1990-2005); Murray Warmath of Minnesota (126, 1954-71); Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State (125, 1954-72); Ray Eliot of Illinois (116, 1942-59); Bill Mallory of Indiana (105, 1984-96); Lloyd Carr of Michigan (104, 1995-2007); and John Cooper of Ohio State (104, 1988-2000).

** How bad has it gotten for Kansas? The Jayhawks totaled only 46 yards of total offense last weekend while the defense surrendered 590 during a 43-0 loss at Texas. Among the 120 schools playing Division I-A football, Kansas ranks 118th in pass defense, 119th in rush defense and 120th in both total and scoring defense.

** Finally, a shout-out to senior receiver Michael Zweifel of Division III Dubuque (Iowa), who has established a new NCAA all-division record with 440 career receptions. The old mark of 436 was held by Scott Pingel (1996-99) of D-III Westminster (Mo.). Zweifel has 117 receptions for 1,665 yards and 22 TDs for the Spartans, who were 8-1 through Oct. 29. Zweifel also carries a 3.90 GPA while majoring in health, wellness and recreation, and has been named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and finalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top scholar-athlete in the nation.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 2, 1985, eighth-ranked Ohio State toppled No. 1 Iowa by a 22-13 score in Ohio Stadium. Future College Hall of Fame linebacker Chris Spielman totaled 19 tackles, capped by a late fourth-down stop of Hawkeyes tailback Ronnie Johnson inside the OSU 10-yard line. Spielman also had two interceptions as the Buckeyes pressured Iowa QB Chuck Long into throwing four picks.

** 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. White rushed for 322 yards, totaled 134 receiving and added another 122 on kickoff and punt returns.

** On Nov. 5, 1938, sixth-ranked Tennessee began a streak of 17 consecutive regular-season shutouts with a 45-0 win over Chattanooga. During the streak, the Volunteers won three SEC championships and two national titles while outscoring their opposition, 479-0.

** 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 single-game rushes in college football history. 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, 1947, Wisconsin and Iowa became the first teams to combine for three punt returns for touchdowns in a single game during a 46-14 win by the Badgers in Madison.

** 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.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It had to happen sometime. The highly-flying Forecast was grounded last weekend thanks to some unbelievable upsets – Iowa lost (again) to Minnesota and Texas Tech celebrated its win over Oklahoma a little too much and forgot to show up against four-loss Iowa State, dropping a 41-7 decision in the process.

Straight up, those were the only losses in an 8-2 week that puts us at 83-9 SU for the year. Unfortunately, we finally stumbled against the spread after three glorious weeks. Even with Ohio State’s Upset Special win over Wisconsin, we were 4-6 ATS, leaving us still way ahead at 58-31-1 for the season but determined not to let one bad week turn into two.

Here are the games we like this week.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

USC at Colorado: Time of give the devil his due. Lane Kiffin has taken a USC program reeling from NCAA sanctions and turned it into a pretty decent team. The Trojans came within an eyelash of knocking off national title contender Stanford last week, and get to use any leftover pent-up frustration tonight on the lowly Buffaloes. Colorado ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, something that ought to play into the Trojans’ strength, especially since QB Matt Barkley has thrown for 12 TDs in his last four games … USC 41, Colorado 14. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama: You can still argue about the overall depth of the SEC, but the discussion about the nation’s two best teams begins and ends with the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. The game should be a black-and-blue defensive struggle. Bama boasts the nation’s No. 1 defense in all four major categories – rush, pass efficiency, total yards and scoring – while LSU is among the top five in the same four categories. Scoring will be at a premium, meaning turnovers may play the huge role in determining the outcome. Neither team played last week, so they should both be more than ready to provide quite a show … Alabama 23, LSU 17. (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have won their first four home games by a combined score of 227-100, so you have to wonder how the Wildcats are going to slow them down especially after last week’s 58-17 loss to Oklahoma. The simple truth is that K-State will not be able to slow the Pokes down, but the Wildcats should be able to put a few more points on the board this week. While Okie State has one of the nation’s top offenses, its defense ranks 111th nationally in yards allowed. Even so, this one should be another clinic by Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden (2,710 yards, 22 TDs) and top WR Justin Blackmon (74 catches, 834 yards, 10 TDs) … Oklahoma State 56, Kansas State 27. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 4 Stanford at Oregon State: After last week’s triple-overtime scare at USC, you might tend to think the Cardinal will want to coast this week against the 2-6 Beavers. That shouldn’t be the case, especially since one of the few things Stanford QB Andrew Luck has never accomplished in his career is a victory in the state of Oregon. The Cardinal’s only blemish on last year’s record was a 52-31 loss to the Ducks in Eugene, and two years ago Luck was on the losing end of a 38-28 decision to Oregon State. He returns to Corvallis trying to further cement his front-runner status in the Heisman race and hoping to keep his team tuned up for next week’s home date against Oregon which will likely determine the champion of the Pac-12 North. It’s tough to envision any scenario in which the offensively-challenged Beavers could engineer the upset … Stanford 41, Oregon State 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 5 Boise State at UNLV: The Broncos will be busy in Sin City, but you can bet they will have at least one eye on the Alabama-LSU scoreboard. The loser of that game will likely slip in next week’s BCS standings, meaning Boise can inch closer to crashing the national championship part by taking care of business against the Rebels. That shouldn’t be too difficult a task since UNLV doesn’t do anything particularly well – the team ranks 116th nationally in total offense, 118th in scoring defense. Also, a win by the Broncos would push QB Kellen Moore’s record as a starter to 46-2 and make him the winningest quarterback in NCAA history … Boise State 45, UNLV 13. (10:30 p.m. ET. CBS Sports Network)

Northwestern at No. 10 Nebraska: One thing we have learned about the Cornhuskers in their first season as Big Ten members – they are tough to beat at home. Ohio State had them by three touchdowns late in the third quarter and NU escaped with a 34-27 win. Then last week, Michigan State sailed into Lincoln as one of the hottest teams in the nation and sailed back out again on the wrong end of a 24-3 beatdown. Next up for Nebraska is Northwestern and its high-octane offense behind QB Dan Persa, who now seems fully healed from his Achilles heel injury. Persa leads a proficient offense; trouble is, the Wildcats can’t seem to stop anyone on defense. They average 31.6 points per game offensively and give up an average of 31.5 defensively. That kind of ratio isn’t going to get it done in Lincoln … Nebraska 37, Northwestern 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 13 Houston at UAB: Cougars QB Case Keenum already has the NCAA record for most touchdown passes in a career and he needs only 267 more passing yards to become college football’s all-time leader in that department. Keenum might get that in the first half against the Blazers, who rank an abysmal 116th nationally in pass efficiency defense. As if Keenum wasn’t enough, Houston also has KR Tyron Carrier, who has an NCAA-record tying seven career kickoff returns for a touchdown. This one should get ugly in a real big hurry … Houston 77, UAB 7. (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Minnesota at No. 17 Michigan State: The Gophers are feeling pretty good about themselves for a change after last week’s 22-21 upset of Iowa. Contrast that with how Sparty feels after being run over by Nebraska. Actually, we should have foreseen both outcomes. Goldy beat Iowa for the second year in a row while the Huskers beat the Spartans for the sixth time in as many meetings. Last week was last week, however, and the smart money says look for an MSU bounce-back at home … Michigan State 35, Minnesota 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Purdue at No. 20 Wisconsin: College football is a game of emotion, but how difficult is it going to be for the Badgers to pick up the pieces after having their hearts cut out two weeks in a row? Well, playing the Boilermakers in Camp Randall should be just the tonic they need. The Badgers have won the last five meetings in the series by an average of nearly three touchdowns, and Purdue has dropped 13 straight road games to ranked opposition. Expect to be close very early and then watch Wisconsin keep its foot firmly planted on the accelerator … Wisconsin 52, Purdue 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Indiana at Ohio State: After last week’s emotion-filled victory over Wisconsin, the Buckeyes might be forgiven a little if they have trouble focusing this week. After all, the Hoosiers are likely the worst team in the Big Ten with a defense that would challenged to stop most high school teams. IU does have some offensive talent, most notably freshman QB Tre Roberson and JUCO transfer Stephen Houston at running back. Still, it’s difficult to imagine how IU could pull off the unimaginable, especially considering OSU’s current 16-0 run in the series … Ohio State 48, Indiana 14. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: USC (-21) at Colorado; LSU at Alabama (-4½); Kansas State at Oklahoma State (-21); Stanford (-20½) at Oregon State; Boise State at UNLV (+42); Northwestern (+18) at Nebraska; Houston (-27) at UAB; Minnesota (+28) at Michigan State; Purdue at Wisconsin (-25½); Indiana at Ohio State (-27).

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

If Not Fickell Or Meyer, Then Who?

For nearly six decades between 1951 and 2011, only four men occupied the head football coach’s office at Ohio State.

During those 60 years, Earle Bruce had the shortest tenure – nine years – and he won more than 75 percent of his games. Woody Hayes set the standard with a school-record 28 seasons, three consensus national championships and 13 Big Ten titles as well as a winning percentage of .761.

John Cooper was the head man for 13 seasons beginning in 1988 and despite all the criticism he endured, Coop still won at a 71.5-percent clip. His successor was Jim Tressel, who won seven Big Ten championships in 10 seasons, the 2002 national title and an .828 winning percentage.

What else do Bruce, Hayes, Coop and Tress all have in common? None of them left Ohio State on his own terms.

Once upon a time, before university officials decided continuity was a good thing, Ohio State was known as “The Graveyard of Coaches,” a particularly derisive nickname among the college football hierarchy. But it was a moniker well-deserved. During the 23-year period between 1929 and 1951 when Hayes was hired, the university had burned through six coaches including a future College Football Hall of Famer (Francis A. Schmidt), a future Pro Football Hall of Famer (Paul Brown) and a former local hero (three-time OSU All-American Wes Fesler).

Of the six coaches during that period, only Brown and his successor Carroll Widdoes left Ohio State of their own accord – Brown to join the U.S. Navy and serve in World War II, Widdoes because he didn’t like the pressure that came with being a head coach. Evidently that sentiment extended only to Ohio State since Widdoes later went to Ohio University and spent nine seasons as head coach there.

To be perfectly honest, Ohio State was a graveyard for coaches long before 1929. The Buckeyes had 12 different head coaches – including one that served two separate stints – between 1895 and 1913. Five of those coaches were with the team only one season, and the team had a different coach every season from 1909 to 1913.

After last weekend’s showing at Miami (Fla.), those in the Buckeye Nation convinced Luke Fickell is not yet ready for any head coaching assignment – let alone piloting one of college football’s elite programs – are more than ready to resurrect “The Graveyard of Coaches.”

The ready-made successor, of course, is Urban Meyer, the owner of an impressive résumé that includes being a native Ohioan, serving two seasons on Bruce’s coaching staff at OSU, earning a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio State, sporting an .819 career winning percentage and winning two national championships in a three-year span at Florida.

There is something of a monkey wrench in Meyer suddenly appearing on the OSU sideline in 2012, however. The timing might not be right for him to take the job.

Meyer retired (his word, not mine) from Florida after last season, citing health problems and a desire to spend more time with his family. We all know that spending more time with one’s family is often a hollow reason cited for walking away. Anyone remember Michael Jordan saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and then spending the following summer riding a bus through the Deep South while attempting to play minor-league baseball?

In Meyer’s case, though, spending more time with his family is a plausible reason for walking away from football. He has three children, including daughters who play volleyball at Georgia Tech and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively. Yes, Meyer has taken an analyst’s job at ESPN this year, but he can easily jet to wherever the Worldwide Leader assigns him and be back home in plenty of time to watch his daughters play volleyball.

Even if Meyer reneged on the spending-more-time-with-family thing, his health is apparently no joke. He is still only 47, but has experienced several health problems all related to stress.

Meyer stepped away from his duties at Florida for a couple of months following the 2009 season after which his health seemed to improve. But when he quickly returned to the sideline for last season, the stress returned and his health rapidly deteriorated again. Frequent chest pains, severe headaches brought on by a brain cyst – each malady diagnosed as stress-related – conspired to send Meyer into a forced retirement.

The question now is if Meyer will ever return to coaching, and if he does, will he or can he return to being the relentless recruiter and tireless offensive brainiac that placed him at the top of his profession? If the answer is yes, then any team out there will consider itself lucky to get him. If the answer is no, however, what then?

What white knight would Ohio State fans have come charging to the rescue should Fickell not be renewed for 2012 and Meyer not make himself available? (And please don’t say Bob Stoops or Jon Gruden. Stoops is not leaving Oklahoma and Gruden will coach again in the NFL or not at all.)

Nick Saban of Alabama? He has 4 million reasons every year not to leave Tuscaloosa.

Gary Pinkel of Missouri? He’ll be 60 next April and his career win percentage in 20-plus seasons at Toledo and Mizzou is a hardly eye-popping .634.

Mark Dantonio of Michigan State? Past heart problems, a career .589 winning percentage and close ties to Tressel. That’s three strikes and you’re out.

Les Miles of LSU? The Board of Trustees is not going there. Besides, the last time Ohio State hired an alum from That School Up North to be its head football coach was 1906.

Mike Stoops of Arizona? Just because he is Bob’s little brother doesn’t mean he is Bob’s clone. Mike’s 1-2 start with the Wildcats this season puts his career record at 41-47.

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator at Florida State? See above. Plus he’s never been a head coach.

Bo Pelini of Nebraska? Temperament seems to be an issue as do his interviewing skills. You have to at least wonder why he has made nine different stops in a 20-year coaching career.

My point is be careful what you wish for. Secretly hoping Fickell will fail just to pave the way for Meyer could be an exercise in futility because if he’s not ready to come back or simply doesn’t want the job, the other options just don’t seem all that inviting.

OSU-COLORADO TIDBITS

** Ohio State is 3-1 all-time against Colorado. The teams last met in 1986 when the Buckeyes took a 13-10 victory at Ohio Stadium. OSU’s other victories in the series came in 1985, a 36-13 verdict in Boulder, and a 27-10 triumph at the 1977 Orange Bowl. That marked the final bowl victory of Woody Hayes’ coaching career. Colorado scored its only win of the series with a 20-14 decision in Columbus in 1971.

** The game came about as the result of Colorado opening the season at Hawaii. Schools that travel to Hawaii are permitted a 13th regular-season game to help offset the expense of such a trip. Ohio State was looking for a home game to fill out its schedule, so the game came into being late last fall when the schedule-makers at ESPN noticed the open Sept. 24 weekend for both teams and suggested they play one another. CU agreed on the contingent that the game would be televised nationally.

** The game pits a couple of first-year head coaches who are alums and longtime assistant coaches at their respective schools. Luke Fickell was a four-year starter at Ohio State from 1993-96 who spent nine years on Jim Tressel’s staff from 2002-10. Joe Embree was an All-Big Eight tight end and served for 10 seasons under three different Colorado head coaches – Bill McCartney (1993-94), Rick Neuheisel (1995-98) and Gary Barnett (1999-2002).

** The Buckeyes are 55-26-2 all-time against current members of the Pac-12. In addition their record against the Buffaloes, they are 9-13-1 vs. USC, 8-0 vs. Oregon and Washington State, 8-3 vs. Washington, 5-1 vs. California, 4-4-1 vs. UCLA, 3-1 vs. Arizona, 2-0 vs. Arizona State and Oregon State, 1-0 vs. Utah and 2-3 vs. Stanford.

** The Buffaloes are 35-63-3 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to its record against Ohio State, CU is 18-49-2 vs. Nebraska, 4-1-1 vs. Wisconsin, 3-1 vs. Indiana, 3-0 vs. Minnesota, 2-0 vs. Iowa, 1-1 vs. Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State, 1-3 vs. Michigan and 0-3 vs. Michigan State. Colorado and Purdue have never played one another in football.

** OSU fell out of the Associated Press’ top 25 this week for the first time since Nov. 20, 2004. It ended the nation’s longest active streak in the AP rankings at 103 straight weeks.

** The Buffaloes have not enjoyed a winning season since going 7-6 in 2005. Since then, they are a combined 22-42

** Colorado is working on a school-record streak of 18 consecutive road losses (not counting neutral sites). The Buffaloes haven’t won a true road contest since a 31-26 triumph at Texas Tech in October 2007.

** OSU and Colorado enter the game on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of penalties. The Buckeyes have been flagged only nine times for 67 yards in three games while the Buffaloes have been whistled 29 times for 270 yards.

** Ohio State’s last two opponents have each topped 300 yards of total offense marking the first time in seven years that has occurred against the Buckeyes. Toledo totaled 338 yards while Miami (Fla.) went for 363, marking the first back-to-back 300-yard games the OSU defense has allowed since a three-game streak in 2004 against Michigan State (407), Purdue (384) and Michigan (399).

** Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen will be seeking to end a streak of futility his predecessors have had against Ohio State. In their four previous meetings with the Buckeyes, CU quarterbacks have combined to throw for only 239 yards on 18-for-50 passing with two touchdowns against eight interceptions.

** Colorado is one of only nine Division I-A team with just one turnover so far in 2011, and the Buffaloes have gone back-to-back games without turning the ball over for only the sixth time in their history. No CU team has ever gone three straight games without a turnover.

** Colorado hosted Cal for its Sept. 10 home opener, but the game did not count in the Pac-12 standings. The game completed a previous home-and-home series between the two schools that was agreed upon before the Buffaloes joined the conference this year. As strange as that might sound, it isn’t the first time CU has played an opponent from its own league when it didn’t count in the conference standings. The Buffaloes played Northern Colorado in 1923 when both teams were members of the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference, but it didn’t count as a league game because Northern Colorado designated only two games on its schedule that season as conference encounters.

** Ohio State president Dr. E. Gordon Gee was president of the University of Colorado from 1985 to 1990. Gee left Boulder to become OSU president in 1990 and stayed through 1997 when he moved on to Brown (1998-2000) and later Vanderbilt (2001-07). Gee returned to Columbus in October 2007.

** The game will be televised by ABC/ESPN2 using the reverse mirror. (In case you have forgotten how the reverse mirror works, the game should be televised by your local ABC affiliate. If the game is not on that channel, look for it on ESPN2.) Veteran play-by-play man Mike Patrick will have the call along with former SMU running back Craig James providing color analysis. Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State kicks off the Big Ten season by hosting Michigan State. It will be an interdivisional contest since the Buckeyes are in the new Leaders Division while the Spartans are in the Legends. The game is set for a kickoff shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast again by ABC using ESPN on the reverse mirror.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 21, 1996, fourth-ranked Florida outgunned No. 2 Tennessee by a 35-29 final in Knoxville. The Gators raced out to a 35-6 halftime lead behind four TD passes by Danny Weurffel, but the Volunteers came back to make it close on three second-half scoring throws by Peyton Manning, who set a school record with 492 passing yards. The game was played in front of 107,608 fans at Neyland Stadium, then the largest on-campus crowd in college football history.

** Also on Sept. 21, 1996, linebacker Pat Tillman led the Arizona State defense to a 19-0 victory over top-ranked Nebraska, the first shutout of a No. 1 team since 1978.

** On Sept. 22, 1956, Notre Dame lost for the first time ever in September when unranked SMU scored a 19-13 upset in Dallas over the third-ranked Fighting Irish.

** On Sept. 22, 1990, Illinois tailback Howard Griffith set an NCAA record when he rushed for eight touchdowns during his team’s 56-21 romp over Southern Illinois in Champaign. Griffith tallied three of his TDs on consecutive carries and tied an NCAA record with four touchdowns in the third quarter. It was the most points ever scored in a college football game by a non-kicker.

** On Sept. 23, 1961, Rice stunned No. 5 LSU by a 16-3 score in front of a record home crowd of 73,000 in Houston. The Owls got a pair of touchdowns from quarterback Billy Cox and held the vaunted LSU offense, which featured future College Football Hall of Fame running back Jerry Stovall, to only a field goal.

** On Sept. 23, 1972, Purdue quarterback Gary Danielson ran for a career-high 213 yards but it wasn’t enough as 15th-ranked Washington erased a 21-0 halftime deficit and beat the Boilermakers, 22-21, in West Lafayette.

** On Sept. 24, 1983, seventh-ranked Iowa smothered No. 3 Ohio State during a 20-14 triumph in Iowa City. OSU quarterback Mike Tomczak entered the game as the nation’s leader in passing efficiency, but completed only 13 of 34 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. The victory snapped a 16-game losing streak for Iowa in the series. The Hawkeyes hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1962.

** On Sept. 24, 1988, Wyoming engineered erased a seven-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to score a 48-45 victory over Air Force. The Cowboys trailed by a 45-38 score when fullback Steve Bena scored on a 9-yard run with 1:30 showing on the clock. Wyoming kicked the PAT to tie the score, and then with just 45 seconds left, Air Force QB Dee Dowis lost a fumble at his own 42-yard line. That set the stage for freshman kicker Sean Fleming’s 27-yard field goal as time expired to give Wyoming the win.

** On Sept. 24, 2000, Penn State defensive back Adam Taliaferro was seriously injured near the end of his team’s 45-6 loss at Ohio State. Taliaferro was paralyzed from the neck down but thanks to quick action by doctors and trainers at Ohio Stadium, as well as the staff at the Ohio State Medical Center and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Taliaferro – after about eight months of intense rehabilitation – was able to regain full function of his arms and legs. He later graduated from Penn State before earned a law degree from Rutgers, and he is currently a practicing attorney in New Jersey specializing in corporate litigation.

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

** On Sept. 25, 1959, Georgia Tech linebacker Gerald Burch intercepted SMU quarterback Don Meredith with 1:32 remaining in the game to clinch a 16-12 victory for the Yellow Jackets over the No. 6 Mustangs.

** On Sept. 25, 1971, Michigan State head coach Duffy Daugherty notched career win No. 100 when the Spartans took a 31-14 victory over Oregon State in East Lansing. Future College Football Hall of Fame safety Brad Van Pelt returned two interceptions for touchdowns to fuel MSU’s win.

** On Sept. 26, 1953, a pair of legendary coaches – Frank Leahy of Notre Dame and Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma – patrolled the sidelines as the top-ranked Fighting Irish went to Norman and scored a 28-21 victory over the No. 6 Sooners. The loss was Oklahoma’s first in 15 home games and would the Sooners’ last defeat until 1957 when they would achieve an NCAA-record 47 consecutive victories.

** On Sept. 26, 1992, Hawaii kicker Jason Elam hit three field goals, including a 56-yarder, to help the Warriors to a 36-32 win in Honolulu over BYU.

** On Sept. 27, 1986, second-ranked Miami (Fla.) rolled to a 28-16 win over defending national champion and top-ranked Oklahoma. Three future College Hall of Famers were on the Orange Bowl sidelines that day – Miami safety Bennie Blades, Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer – but the afternoon belonged to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. The Miami QB threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns against the Sooners.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** When Auburn lost a 34-28 decision at Clemson on Saturday, it snapped the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games. Stanford now has the longest Division I-A win streak at 11.

** On the flip side of that coin, San Jose State has the longest current I-A losing streak at 13. There is a silver lining for the Spartans, however. They are double-digit favorites at home tomorrow against New Mexico State, which has lost 19 of its last 22 overall.

** Former Minnesota halfback Bruce Smith was honored by his old school Saturday prior to the Golden Gophers’ win over Miami (Ohio). Smith, who died of cancer in 1967, was honored as the school marked the 70th anniversary of his 1941 Heisman Trophy season. Smith is Minnesota’s only Heisman winner, and he received the stiff-arm trophy two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Smith, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972, served as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot in World War II.

** Even with crazy old Mike Leach long gone, Texas Tech is still throwing the ball all over the field. QB Seth Doege completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and five TDs last weekend during a 59-13 romp over New Mexico. Doege’s completion percentage of 90.9 percent established a new single-game Division I-A record for anyone with at least 40 completions.

** Tech piled up 624 total yards in that game, but even that paled in comparison to what Missouri did against Western Illinois on Saturday. The Tigers went for 744 yards during their 69-0 wipeout of the I-AA Leathernecks – 428 on the ground, 316 through the air. The yardage total set a single-game school record, breaking the previous mark of 665 yards set against Kansas in 1949.

** Georgia Tech did even better than Missouri, piling up a school-record 768 yards during a 66-24 win over Kansas. That broke the old mark of 706 set in 1948 against The Citadel. Most of the Yellow Jackets’ yardage came on the ground – 604 of it to be exact. That also broke the school’s single-game mark of 558 set against VMI in 1975.

** Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they have been almost unbelievably efficient so far, scoring a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage in each of their first three games. Against Kansas, they bettered even themselves – they scored on their first play from scrimmage in each half.

** Baylor has a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Robert Griffin III. He completed 20 of 22 passes for 265 yards and three TDs during the Bears’ 48-0 shutout of I-AA Stephen F. Austin. In two games, Griffin is 41 of 49 (83.7 percent) for 624 yards, eight TDs and no interceptions. Yes, you read that correctly – he has the same number of touchdown passes as incompletions.

** Did you catch Oklahoma State’s entertaining 59-33 win over Tulsa? Me either. Because of lightning and storms in the Tulsa area at kickoff time, the game did not begin until after midnight Sunday and finished at 3:35 a.m. Afterward, Okie State head coach Mike Gundy offered this salient observation: “I’m not sure why we had TV timeouts at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

** Congratulations are in order for several teams off to hot starts. San Diego State is 3-0 for the first time since 1981, Ohio University is 3-0 for the first time since 1976 and Florida International is 3-0 for the first time in program history.

** Here is the earliest bowl invitation on record: Navy has agreed to play in the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl. The invitation is predicated, of course, on the Midshipmen being bowl-eligible that year. Any Navy freshmen eligible to participate in that bowl are currently playing for their eighth-grade middle school team.

FEARLESS FORECAST

While commiserating over picking Ohio State to lose last week, we lost sight of the fact that we had another excellent week. We were 9-1 straight up, which pushes the season total to a stellar 28-4 so far. Better still, we’re way above the money line against the spread after last week’s 8-2 finish. That makes us 15-5 over the past two weeks and 19-10-1 ATS for the young season. It also means we’re playing with house money now.

Here are the games we like this week:

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Missouri at No. 1 Oklahoma: The Sooners enter this game looking for redemption since the Tigers handed them a 36-27 upset loss last season. For all intents and purposes, that loss knocked OU out of the national title picture, so the team has a little something extra to play for this week. None more than QB Landry Jones, who failed to complete a fourth-quarter pass against Mizzou last year. Of course, Oklahoma will have to try to slow down the Tigers who piled up more than 700 yards of offense last week during a 69-0 win over I-AA Western Illinois. Of course, the Sooners represent just a tad of an upgrade in competition from the Leathernecks … Oklahoma 28, Missouri 14. (8 p.m. ET, FX)

No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia: The Bayou Bengals invade Morgantown trying to keep their national title aspirations alive, but it won’t be as easy as some might think. The Mountaineers have a potent offense while LSU is still trying to find its offensive identity. Defensively, the Tigers should have the edge. After all, they faced a Mississippi State team last week that had averaged 46.5 points and 588.0 yards in its first two games and held the Bulldogs to 193 total yards in a 19-6 win. Something obviously has to give – West Virginia has won 16 of its last 17 at home while LSU has a regular-season winning streak of 35 in a row against nonconference opponents … LSU 27, West Virginia 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama: Despite the loss of quarterback Ryan Mallett to the NFL, the Razorbacks are 3-0 with their potent offense pretty much intact as they invade Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend. Unfortunately, the problem with most Bobby Petrino teams, the defense is not quite up the level of the offense. Last week during a 38-28 victory over Troy, the Hogs surrendered 457 total yards. That simply will not get it done against the Tide … Alabama 32, Arkansas 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Tulsa at No. 4 Boise State: We’ll make this one short and sweet. Broncos QB Kellen Moore is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as his 40-2 record as a starter attests. So far this year, he has completed 60 of 76 attempts (78.9 percent) for 716 yards and eight touchdowns, and Moore gets to pad those stats against a Golden Hurricane defense that ranks among the worst in the country against the pass. Add that to the fact Boise has won 60 straight at home against unranked opponents and you get this … Boise State 45, Tulsa 14. (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

South Dakota at No. 6 Wisconsin: It’s not completely clear how good the Badgers really are after three victories over lesser opponents, and the jury is likely to remain sequestered as they take on the Division I-AA Coyotes this week. South Dakota already has a victory over a I-A opponent this year, but that was against Minnesota and the Golden Gophers are no Wisconsin. Look for the Badgers to roll again this week and then gauge how really good they are next week when Nebraska invades Camp Randall … Wisconsin 38, South Dakota 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 9 Nebraska at Wyoming: Speaking of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are already champing at the bit to get their inaugural Big Ten season started. First of all, though, they have to travel to play in the rarefied air of Laramie. NU head coach Bo Pelini has made his reputation on being a defensive guru, but his Black Shirts remain a work in progress. They have given up more than 400 yards of offense in each of the past two games, something that definitely needs fixed before traveling to Wisconsin next week. It might need fixing before going to Wyoming since the Cowboys rank No. 16 in the nation in total offense, averaging 492.3 yards of total offense per game. This might be an entertaining game to watch … Nebraska 38, Wyoming 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Vanderbilt at No. 12 South Carolina: Surprise, surprise. Steve Spurrier has a Heisman Trophy candidate and he’s not a quarterback. Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore burst on the scene last year and seems to have a limitless upside. Last week, Lattimore ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks squeezed out a 24-21 victory over Navy. Expect more of the same against the Commodores, who are a surprising 3-0 because of an opportunistic defense that has already snagged 10 interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns … South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Rice at No. 17 Baylor: This intrastate battle will feature a pair of pretty good quarterbacks – one you probably know and one you probably don’t. Baylor is led by Robert Griffin III, who is steadily rising up everyone’s Heisman charts after having completely 41 of his first 49 pass attempts this season for eight TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, the Owls will counter with Taylor McHargue, who threw for a career-high 230 yards against Purdue two weeks ago in a 24-22 win over the Boilermakers. Unfortunately for McHargue, his team’s defense gives up yardage by the bunches and that will make the difference … Baylor 45, Rice 20. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)

San Diego State at No. 22 Michigan: The Wolverines could have a short stay back in the top 25 if the Aztecs have anything to say about it. SDSU rolls into Ann Arbor with a bunch of players still angry about the way former head coach Brady Hoke bolted after last season to take the Michigan job. And it’s not as if the Aztecs aren’t any good. Hoke built a pretty good program that is 3-0 and coming off a 42-24 pounding of Washington State last week. A couple of things are conspiring against the upset, though. First, the Aztecs have to fly three time zones east and play at what would normally be 9 a.m. for them. And they have seen nothing like Wolverines QB Denard Robinson, whom Hoke has finally allowed to have free reign over the U-M offense … Michigan 35, San Diego State 28. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Colorado at Ohio State: Perhaps last week’s 24-6 loss to Miami (Fla.) served its purpose by radically exposing the Buckeyes’ weaknesses and giving the coaching staff a close-up look at where the various leaks are located. Ready or not, freshman Braxton Miller will get the start at quarterback and his athleticism will help. But the Buckeyes will have to throw the ball – at least a little – to be successful, and that makes picking this game a little more of a crapshoot … Ohio State 20, Colorado 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Missouri (+21½) at Oklahoma; LSU (-5½) at West Virginia; Arkansas at Alabama (-11); Tulsa at Boise State (-28); South Dakota at Wisconsin (NL); Nebraska at Wyoming (+23½); Vanderbilt (+16) at South Carolina; Rice at Baylor (-20); San Diego State (+10½) at Michigan; Colorado (+16½) at Ohio State.

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

Déjà Vu? Season Has Distinctive ’08 Feel So Far

See if any of this sounds familiar.

Ohio State whips up on an undermanned foe in the season opener, yielding less than 100 total yards on defense and rolling to a shutout victory by more than 40 points. The following week, the Buckeyes inexplicably fall behind an instate opponent from the Mid-American Conference before making a comeback – which includes getting a touchdown on a 69-yard punt return.

Now, in the week three, OSU gets ready for a primetime road game in a place that hasn’t been very friendly to them in the past. The Buckeyes enter the game with their No. 1 tailback unavailable, causing some consternation in the offensive game-planning. And there is a fifth-year senior at quarterback with an ultra-talented freshman behind him, biding his time before he gets his chance at glory.

The aforementioned isn’t a rehash of what has happened so far this season for the Ohio State football team. It is an instant replay of the start of the 2008 season, featuring so many similarities it is quite simply mind-boggling.

In 2008, the Buckeyes began the season against Division I-AA Youngstown State and ground the Penguins into dust, allowing a mere 64 yards en route to a 43-0 victory.

Two weeks ago, Ohio State put on an uncannily similar performance against Akron, holding the Zips to only 90 total yards during a 42-0 win.

In 2008, the Buckeyes followed their powerful season-opening win with a lackluster victory over instate MAC rival Ohio. The Bobcats held a 14-6 lead in the second half before Ohio State came back to secure a 26-14 triumph helped in part by Ray Small’s 69-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Last week, OSU fell behind instate MAC rival Toledo before a comeback – fueled in part by a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chris Fields – allowed the Buckeyes to pull out a 27-22 decision.

That brings us to week three of the season. In 2008, Ohio State traveled to USC for a nationally televised night game in the L.A. Coliseum, a place where the Buckeyes hadn’t done very well over the years. The team had won only two of seven games it had played there, and had lost their last three in a row by a combined score of 91-6.

OSU went to the West Coast without one of their top offensive weapons – No. 1 tailback Beanie Wells was sidelined with a foot injury. That put the pressure on the coaching staff to devise a game plan spotlighting fifth-year senior quarterback Todd Boeckman, who was beginning to hear footsteps from his backup, talented freshman Terrelle Pryor.

This year, Ohio State travels to Miami, Fla., and plays in a state where the team has played nine times before but won only twice. The Buckeyes head to the Sunshine State with No. 1 tailback Boom Herron sidelined for the third game of his five-game suspension, and the team will be led into battle by fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Bauserman. Behind Bauserman on the depth chart is talented freshman Braxton Miller.

We know what happened in 2008. Ohio State took an early 3-0 lead and then got crushed, 35-3, by a USC team that featured such future NFL stars as quarterback Mark Sanchez and linebackers Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing. Boeckman had a particularly ugly performance, throwing for only 84 yards and pitching two interceptions. One of those was a 48-yard pick six by USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, who unceremoniously steamrolled Boeckman on his way to the end zone.

By the time the team played Sun Belt weakling Troy the following week, Boeckman had been benched and Pryor was the new starting quarterback for a season that wound up with a 10-3 record and 24-21 loss to a Colt McCoy-led Texas team in the Fiesta Bowl.

The point of this walk back through time? Only because it appears history has already repeated itself this year and if Ohio State wants to avoid another nationally-televised failure, perhaps the coaching staff will look at the playbook utilized at USC three years ago and do the direct opposite.

Not that the 2011 Miami team is the equivalent of the 2008 USC squad. Far from it. The Hurricanes have had more than their share of problems this year including a particularly nasty episode with the NCAA that is only now in the early stages of investigation. Additionally, they are a mistake-prone team seemingly more interested in playing off their bygone national championship era than rising to the level of their own talent.

Be that as it may, Miami is playing at home and playing for pride. Because of the offseason problems that cost the Buckeyes their head coach and starting quarterback not to mention most of their national prestige, the Hurricanes believe they have a wounded opponent coming to town and Ohio State’s performance last week against Toledo did nothing to dispel that notion.

To help with their self-confidence, the Buckeyes can point to last year’s 36-24 victory in Columbus – a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate – but many of those who came up with big plays last year against the Hurricanes are gone. Pryor threw for 233 yards and ran for 113 more while kicker Devin Barclay tied a school record with five field goals. Also, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa had two interceptions and defensive end Cameron Heyward took a pick back 80 yards to set up one of the team’s touchdowns.

Yet as well as the Buckeyes played last year, they could have played much better. The offense got inside the Miami 25-yard line on 10 occasions and came away with only three touchdowns, while special teams allowed the Hurricanes to return a kickoff and a punt for scores – the only time that has happened to Ohio State in its history. Both return men – Lamar Smith and Travis Benjamin – will be on the field for Miami tomorrow night.

To be brutally honest, Ohio State cannot afford the mistakes it made last year against the Hurricanes if it expects to come home with a victory. Last week’s performance made that abundantly clear.

This is a team that is desperately trying to keep its head above water until Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and offensive tackle Mike Adams return in week six. This is a team that remains undecided at the quarterback position. This is a team that is shaky – at best – in the kicking game. And this is a team that continues to search for its own identity.

Most of all, this is a team at a crossroads with tomorrow night’s game serving as a signpost to indicate if the Buckeyes truly are ready for primetime.

OSU-MIAMI TIDBITS

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell is only the 12th Ohio State head coach in history to win his first two games. A victory over Miami tomorrow night would make him only the ninth OSU head coach to win his first three. The most recent to accomplish that feat was Earle Bruce, who won his first 11 in 1979.

** Bruce was also the most recent OSU head coach to win his first road game with the Buckeyes. That was a 21-17 victory at Minnesota in ’79. Since then, John Cooper lost his road debut, a 42-10 blowout loss at Pittsburgh, and Jim Tressel dropped a 13-6 decision at UCLA in 2001, a game postponed one week after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

** Counting Fickell’s victory over Akron in this year’s season opener, Ohio State head coaches are 21-1-1 in their debut games with the Buckeyes. The record is not nearly as good in their first road test – only 7-13-2.

** Ohio State enjoys a 3-1 edge in the all-time series with Miami. The Buckeyes took a 10-0 win in Ohio Stadium in 1977, a 31-24 double overtime victory in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship Game, and a 36-24 win in the Horseshoe last season. The Hurricanes’ lone win in the series was a 23-12 decision in the 1999 Kickoff Classic played at old Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands.

** The Buckeyes are 15-7 all-time against teams that are current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. In addition to being 3-1 against the Hurricanes, OSU is 3-0 vs. Boston College, 2-0 vs. North Carolina State, 1-0 vs. Virginia, 3-1 against Duke and North Carolina, 0-1 vs. Clemson and 0-3 against Florida State. OSU has never played Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest or Virginia Tech.

** The Hurricanes have a 31-22 record against teams currently in the Big Ten. In addition to being 1-3 against Ohio State, Miami is 4-0 vs. Iowa and Michigan State, 5-1 against Purdue, 5-5 vs. Nebraska, 2-2 against Northwestern and Wisconsin, 1-1 vs. Indiana and Michigan, and 6-7 against Penn State. The Hurricanes have never played Illinois or Minnesota.

** This game marks the first regular-season game Ohio State has played in the state of Florida. The Buckeyes have played nine previous times in the Sunshine State – all bowl games – and have posted a 2-7 record. All nine of those games have been bowl contests with the only wins a 27-10 victory over Colorado in the 1977 Orange Bowl and a 10-7 decision against BYU in the 1985 Citrus Bowl.

** When Miami return man Lamar Miller scored on an 88-yard kickoff return last year against the Buckeyes, he became the first Hurricane to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Devin Hester ran one back 100 yards at North Carolina State in 2004.

** When Miami junior Travis Benjamin took a punt back 79 yards late in the second quarter against Ohio State last year, it marked the first time the Buckeyes had surrendered a touchdown on a punt return since Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson ran one back 87 yards in 1997. Michigan won that game by a 20-14 final.

** It might surprise you to know the Ohio State offensive line has not surrendered a sack in three straight games and 90 consecutive pass attempts. That is the third longest such streak in Division I-A behind UAB (119) and Oklahoma (112).

** The Hurricanes will honor former All-America defensive tackle Russell Maryland (1986-90) at halftime during tomorrow night’s game. Maryland is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year following a career that included national championships in 1987 and ’89 and an Outland Trophy win in 1990.

** Sun Life Stadium is the seventh different name under which the 75,540-seat facility that is home to the Hurricanes has been known. The facility opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium and bore that name for the first decade of its existence. Since then, the stadium has also been known as Pro Player Park (1996), Pro Player Stadium (1996-2005), Dolphins Stadium (2005-06), Dolphin Stadium (2006-09) and Land Shark Stadium (2009-10).

** The game will be televised by ESPN with veteran play-by-play man Brad Nessler joined by former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge with color analysis. Holly Rowe will file sideline reports. Kickoff is set for shortly after 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to take on Colorado. The game is set for a kickoff shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN2 using the reverse mirror. (In case you have forgotten how the reverse mirror works, the game should be televised by your local ABC affiliate. If the game is not on that channel, look for it on ESPN2.)

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 14, 1991, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk set an NCAA single-game record for freshmen by rushing for seven touchdowns during his team’s 55-34 win over Pacific.

** Also on Sept. 14, 1991, Texas A&M freshman tailback Greg Hill ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns as the Aggies rolled to a 45-7 victory over LSU in College Station. Hill’s yardage total marked the best debut performance by a freshman in college football history.

** On Sept. 15, 1973, Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin began his NCAA record streak of 31 consecutive games of rushing for 100 yards or more. Griffin had 129 yards as the Buckeyes rolled to a 56-7 victory over Minnesota in Ohio Stadium.

** Also on Sept. 15, 1973, Oklahoma gave head coach Barry Switzer a win in his first game with the Sooners, a 42-14 victory over Baylor in Waco. Switzer would go to post a 157-29-4 record with three national championships and 12 Big Eight titles in 16 seasons with OU.

** On Sept. 17, 1966, Joe Paterno made his debut as head coach at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to a 15-7 victory over Maryland in Happy Valley. The Terrapins, coached by Lou Saban, made a last-ditch effort to ruin Paterno’s debut but backup quarterback Phil Petry threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That victory was JoePa’s first of a Division I-A record 402 and counting.

** On Sept. 17, 1988, No. 10 Florida State got a pair of outstanding special teams plays to score a 24-21 upset at third-ranked Clemson. FSU’s Deion Sanders returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and then cornerback LeRoy Butler took a fake punt 76 yards to set up Richie Andrews’ game-winning 19-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining.

** On Sept. 18, 1965, UTEP quarterback Billy Stevens established a new NCAA record for most total yards gained in a debut game with 483 yards in a 61-15 rout of North Texas. In that game, Chuck Hughes of UTEP also set an NCAA record when he caught 10 passes for 349 yards. His 34.9 yards-per-catch average is the best single-game average in NCAA history for players with at least 10 catches.

** On Sept. 19, 1952, Duke took a 20-7 win over South Carolina in the inaugural game of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

** On Sept. 20, 1986, unranked Miami (Ohio) stunned eighth-ranked LSU, 21-12, in Baton Rouge. The Tigers committed seven turnovers in the game and had a punt blocked as Miami pushed its all-time record against SEC teams to an impressive 8-0-1.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** With the obvious exception of its fan base, there were likely very few tears shed when Notre Dame lost a last-second decision to Michigan on Saturday night. Fighting Irish fans continue to combine a unique blend of arrogance and suspended reality, believing their favorite team remains relevant in the national championship picture. (The Irish haven’t finished a season as a consensus top-10 team since 1993.) Still, you might have felt just a sliver of sympathy for UND after its latest collapse against Michigan. The Wolverines have beaten Notre Dame the last three years, scoring the winning points with 0:11, 0:27 and 0:02 showing on the clock.

** A crowd of 114,804 jammed into the Big House to watch Michigan’s come-from-behind (twice) victory over the Irish. That broke the Michigan Stadium record of 113,090, set during the 2010 season opener against Connecticut, and marked the largest crowd ever to watch a football game – college or pro.

** Four Big Ten quarterbacks passed the 100-yard mark passing and rushing last weekend. They were led by Denard Robinson of Michigan, who threw for 338 and added 108 more on the ground to account for 446 of the Wolverines’ 452 yards against Notre Dame. Also breaking the century mark through the air and on the ground were Taylor Martinez of Nebraska (219 passing, 166 rushing), MarQueis Gray of Minnesota (211-110) and Kain Colter of Northwestern (109-104).

** With his performance against the Irish, Robinson jumped from sixth to third on the Big Ten list for career rushing yards by a quarterback. Robinson now has 2,207 yards and leapfrogged over Rick Leach of Michigan (2,176, 1975-78), Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State (2,164, 2008-10) and Rickey Foggie of Minnesota (2,150, 1984-87). Robinson now trails only Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (3,895, 1998-2001) and Juice Williams of Illinois (2,557, 2006-09).

** Indiana has certainly had its problems in recent years with three straight losing seasons. But the Hoosiers, who are currently 0-2, haven’t lost two games to open a season since 2003 when they finished 2-10 under head coach Gerry DiNardo.

** Minnesota is also 0-2 to start the season for the first time since the 1992 team lost its first three under first-year head coach Jim Wacker.

** Illinois is 2-0 for the first time since 2005 – Ron Zook’s first season – a mini-winning streak that was followed by nine consecutive losses. Things might be different this time around, though. During last weekend’s 56-3 romp over South Dakota State, the Fighting Illini gave up only 96 yards of total offense. That marked the first time since 1998 that Illinois had held an opponent under 100 total yards.

** After his first six seasons at Virginia Tech, head coach Frank Beamer had a record of 24-40-2. Since then, Beamer is 176-55 (a .762 winning percentage) and secured his 200th victory with the Hokies on Saturday when his team rolled to a 66-13 rout of Division I-AA Appalachian State.

** Welcome back, Tennessee. The Volunteers were 18-20 over the past three seasons, but they are currently 2-0 following last weekend’s 45-23 romp over Cincinnati. Head coach Derek Dooley’s team is led by a bunch of talented sophomores, including quarterback Tyler Bray, who completed 34 of 41 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Bearcats. UT gets a better gauge on its rebuilding project this week when the Vols travel to Gainesville to take on Florida, a team they haven’t beaten since 2004. In the six games since, Tennessee has been outscored by a 180-83 margin.

** Remember Eastern Michigan, the team Ohio State hung 73 on last season? Well, the Eagles are back in the air with a 2-0 start for the first time in 22 years. Of course, the two victories have come against a pair of Division I-AA opponents, but third-year head coach Ron English will take any win he can get. EMU, which plays at Michigan this week, hasn’t had a winning season since going 6-5 in 1995, and the Eagles haven’t been to a bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl where they took a 30-27 win over San Jose State.

** Any football aficionado can tell you it’s a pretty sure bet that any team losing the turnover battle by a 5-0 margin will likely lose. Of course, gamblers can tell you there’s no such thing as a sure bet. North Carolina turned the ball over five times Saturday to none for Rutgers, but the Tar Heels still managed a 24-22 win.

** Oberlin remains the last Ohio school to beat Ohio State, a 7-6 victory over the Buckeyes in 1921 – the year before Ohio Stadium was completed. The Yeomen don’t play Ohio State any more, but they still have an intercollegiate football program and celebrated a 42-0 victory last weekend over Kenyon. It marked the first shutout victory for Oberlin in 29 years.

** Congratulations to Alan Moore, who kicked an extra point Saturday for NAIA Faulkner (Ala.) during the Eagles’ 41-19 win over Ave Maria (Fla.). What makes Moore’s PAT so noteworthy? He is a 61-year-old Vietnam War veteran and grandfather of five who is now the oldest person ever to play in a college football game.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Last week, we were 8-2 straight up to move to 19-3 on the young season. We were almost as good picking against the spread, going 7-2-1 to get above the breakeven mark at 11-8-1 for the season. Now all we have to do is keep our heads above water.

Here are the games we’re watching this week:

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 4 Boise State at Toledo: Based upon the Rockets’ performance last week at Ohio State, you might be tempted to take them in an upset. You might but we’re not. The Broncos invade the Glass Bowl after a 35-21 season-opening win over Georgia and a week off. No offense to Joe Bauserman, but Toledo is going to face a much more polished quarterback this week in Kellen Moore, who would probably be the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite if not for a guy named Andrew Luck. Look for Moore and his teammates to take care of business … Boise State 45, Toledo 14. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State: The Sooners rolled – and we mean rolled in every sense of the word – to a 47-17 win over the Seminoles in Norman last year and most observers think it will be pretty much the same tomorrow night in Tallahassee. Much has been made of the rebuilt FSU defense, which ranks third in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring. But those stats have been accumulated against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and Division I-AA Charleston Southern. There is no doubt Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles pointed in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are still a ways away from elite status and this game represents just a little bit more than Fisher’s team can chew right now … Oklahoma 31, Florida State 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

North Texas at No. 2 Alabama: For all of those opponents who thought the Crimson Tide offense would sputter this year after the departure of graduated QB Greg McElroy, here’s some bad news – they still have Trent Richardson at tailback. Richardson and new running mate Eddie Lacy have pummeled opponents so far this year, combining for nearly 300 yards in only two games. Next up is the Mean Green, who enter Bryant-Denny Stadium with a defense that has given up an average of 545.5 yards in two games so far this year. We smell a rout … Alabama 49, North Texas 7. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 6 Stanford at Arizona: The Wildcats escape the frying pan only to jump into the fire. They took their lumps during a 37-14 loss at Oklahoma State last weekend and now draw the high-flying Cardinal in their Pac-12 opener. QB Andrew Luck gets all the pub, but Stanford has a pretty good running game, too. Evidence is last week’s 44-14 rout of Duke when the Cardinal piled up 205 yards on the ground to only 30 for the Blue Devils. When you realize Zona had only 41 yards last week against Okie State, you get a feel for where this one’s headed … Stanford 34, Arizona 10. (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 7 Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois: Things might be a little tighter for Bucky this week than you might imagine. First, they are on the road for the first time (the game is at Soldier Field in Chicago) and the Badgers aren’t exactly road warriors – seven of their last eight losses have come away from Camp Randall. Secondly, the Huskies are coached by former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who might know a thing or two about stopping the Wisconsin ground game. Unfortunately, Doeren will also have to stop QB Russell Wilson, who has been superlative in his first two games, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes for 444 yards and five TDs … Wisconsin 37, Northern Illinois 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Idaho at No. 9 Texas A&M: It seems rather amusing to hear the pundits opine that A&M wanting to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC serves as a distraction for this game. Maybe if the Aggies were playing someone a little stronger than the Vandals, who gave up 478 yards in their season-opening loss to Bowling Green. They are liable to give up even more this week since A&M trots out an offensive attack led by efficient QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Cyrus Gray, who has run for 100 yards or more in eight straight games … Texas A&M 47, Idaho 10. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)

Missouri State at No. 12 Oregon: We pretty much know the Ducks’ routine by now – run up the score on lesser opponents and then struggle with the big boys. No one would confuse the Bears with the big boys, especially after being preseason favorites to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference. They are basically going to Eugene to pick up their checks and try to keep Oregon from scoring in triple figures … Oregon 62, Missouri State 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CSN)

No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are beginning to get a complex about playing teams from Michigan. The Wolverines have literally cut out their hearts on last-second plays the last three years, and Sparty has beat UND four of the last six times they have met. Last year featured another fantastic finish with Michigan State scoring a touchdown off a fake field goal for a 34-31 overtime victory. This year, it could be just as close provided the fact Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t keep shooting itself in the foot with turnover after turnover. The Irish rank No. 13 nationally in total offense but dead last among 120 Division I-A teams in turnover margin. That stat alone tilts the pick … Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 27. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

No. 8 Oklahoma State at Tulsa: If they entertain the slightest notion of an upset, the Golden Hurricane will have to figure out a way to slow down Okie State WR Justin Blackmon. The junior already has 20 catches for 272 yards and two TDs this year and is working on an NCAA record streak of 14 straight games with at least 100 yards receiving. Blackmon caught three TDs last year against Tulsa during a 62-38 romp in Stillwater, and if you think the Hurricane have gotten any better at pass defense, know this: they gave up 417 to Oklahoma in their season opener … Oklahoma State 48, Tulsa 21.  (10 p.m. ET, FSN)

No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (Fla.): To say we’re conflicted about this game would be an understatement. Does Ohio State have the ability to win this game? Absolutely. Will the Buckeyes win? In light of what happened last week against Toledo, that’s a good question. We keep going back to last year’s game and all of the production OSU has lost since then. We’re also bothered by a lack of execution on special teams this year, something that kept the Hurricanes in last year’s game. It all makes for a most uneasy feeling … Miami 26, Ohio State 21. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-20) at Toledo; Oklahoma (-3) at Florida State; North Texas (+46) at Alabama; Stanford (-9½) at Arizona; Wisconsin (-16½) at Northern Illinois; Idaho at Texas A&M (-35½); Missouri State at Oregon (-47½); Michigan State (+5½) at Notre Dame; Oklahoma State (-13) at Tulsa; Ohio State at Miami-FL (-3).

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

Dawn Of New Season Remains Saving Grace

Richard III had his winter of discontent and Ohio State certainly had a similar summer. Who knew the business of building a perennial college football powerhouse would devolve into defending yourself about the way you built it?

Thankfully, most of that is behind us now. And as we wait for some sort of closure regarding the NCAA mess – something that could take up to another month or so – Ohio Stadium stands in readiness for another football season.

A noontime kickoff under a bright September sky by the banks of the Olentangy River means the beginning of a new season made far sweeter by the bitterness of the past eight months. But no matter how much the NCAA, the media and some of its own coaches and players try to ruin it, college football will always remain one of the preeminent fall activities throughout the country.

Of course, we’re a little prejudiced in Columbus because nothing could be better than the first glimpse of TBDBITL coming down the ramp, the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs being grilled at tailgate parties, the roar that goes up when the team bolts from the tunnel and the first strains of “Hang On Sloopy.”

I won’t lie to you. Last May, when Jim Tressel was forced to resign, I felt like I had been kicked the gut to the point where I seriously questioned whether I wanted to cover Ohio State football any more. I wasn’t particular close to Tressel – no one in the media was – and there were times when the guy seemed moody or prickly just because he could get away with it. Still, I kind of liked the way he went about his business, micromanaging everything from offensive play-calling to which players graced the front of the gameday program.

Tressel had his share of detractors, though. Every public figure does. But no matter if you loved the guy or hated him, you had to respect the bottom line. During his decade-long tenure with the Buckeyes, he accomplished things no Ohio State head coach ever has. At the top of that list was nine victories over Michigan in 10 tries.

For about a six-week period, I was in an angry funk. Yes, Tressel lied to his superiors and that sets the absolute wrong tone for someone who is supposed to be above that sort of thing. But I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that his punishment did not fit his crime. Slowly but surely, however, I cooled off and so did the weather. The closer we got to actually playing football again, the better I seemed to feel. I imagine it’s like that for a lot of you.

The Ohio State football program has weathered many storms and it will weather many more. I’m sure there were those in 1928 who believed the Buckeyes would never be the same after the resignation of longtime coach John W. Wilce. The sentiment was likely the same in 1944 when Paul Brown went off to World War II. And I know how people felt following Woody Hayes’ all-too-public meltdown on national television in 1978.

I don’t have the slightest idea what kind of a head coach Luke Fickell will make. I have known Luke for a long time – since he was a high school wrestler at Columbus DeSales – but he’s never been the lead dog. He wasn’t as a four-year starter on the Ohio State defensive line and he never has been during a coaching career that began as a grad assistant on John Cooper’s OSU staff in 1999.

It is doubtful Luke knows the avalanche headed his way. He can prepare all he wants, but until you are in the meat grinder that is being the head football coach at Ohio State, you have no idea how white-hot that spotlight is going to be. Some thrive on it, some despise it and some get devoured by it. I don’t need to name names. You all know who I’m talking about in each instance.

Regardless of how Fickell handles the intrinsic pressure that comes with the unreasonable expectation of winning every game by at least 40 points, though, his bottom line will remain constant. For every head coach at Ohio State, the success formula is really quite simple: Win and you can stay. Lose and you can pack your bags.

Fortunately for Fickell, the cupboard left to him by Tressel is far from bare. There are a lot of new faces in the starting lineup – even more after the announcement of yesterday’s suspensions – but the Buckeyes have recruited so well over the past several years and talent always has a way of rising to the top. Additionally, the Buckeyes can take advantage of a fairly soft schedule that features no more than three or four bona fide landmines.

How will the team do under its new head coach? I think the answer is similar to how the program will survive in the wake of a particularly mean-spirited NCAA investigation that sullied its reputation. Very well, thank you.

OSU-AKRON TIDBITS

** Ohio State kicks off its 122nd season of intercollegiate football tomorrow against Akron. The Buckeyes have won 32 consecutive home openers, not tasting defeat since a 19-0 loss to Penn State in the 1978 season opener.

** OSU head coach Luke Fickell makes his debut this weekend. The last time the Buckeyes went into a season with a man who had no previous head coaching experience was 1946. Assistant coach Paul Bixler was elevated to the head coaching position and his first game resulted in a 13-13 tie with Missouri. That also marked the last time a first-year Ohio State head coach failed to win his opening game with the Buckeyes.

** The Zips are led by second-year coach Rob Ianello, whose team struggled to a 1-11 record last season. Ianello is not unfamiliar with playing against Ohio State, however. He was on staff at Wisconsin from 1990-93 and again in 2003 and ’04 during which time the Badgers posted a 3-2-1 record against the Buckeyes. Ianello was also on Charlie Weis’ staff at Notre Dame in 2005 when Ohio State rolled to a 34-20 victory in the Fiesta Bowl.

** Fickell may be in his first season as a head coach, but his staff has a combined 184 years of experience as college assistants or staff members.

** Fickell also knows a little bit about Akron. He got his first full-time coaching job there, serving as defensive line coach on Lee Owens’ staff in 2000 and 2001. OSU recruiting coordinator John Peterson also spent time in Akron. He coached the Zips’ offensive line for Owens from 1995-98.

** Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel also began his coaching career at Akron. Tressel was a graduate assistant on Jim Dennison’s staff in 1975 and was a full-time assistant for Dennison from 1976-78.

** Akron is embarking upon its 111th season of intercollegiate football. The Zips haven’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2005, and they haven’t won a season opener since 2007 when they took a 22-14 victory over Army at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

** All-time, the Buckeyes are 105-12-4 in season openers. The team’s last opening-game loss came in the 1999 Kickoff Classic, a 23-12 loss to Miami (Fla.) in East Rutherford, N.J.

** In season home openers, OSU is 109-8-4 all-time.

** Ohio State is working on a streak of 56 consecutive regular-season victories over unranked nonconference opposition. The last time the Buckeyes lost in the regular season to an unranked foe was a 42-10 loss at Pittsburgh in 1988.

** OSU also has a 57-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 28-1 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference. The only blemish on that record against the MAC remains a 12-6 loss to Akron in a game played Sept. 15, 1894, at the Ohio State Fair.

** The Zips are 1-6 lifetime against Ohio State with the only victory coming with that win in 1894. The Buckeyes won the last meeting between the two schools, a 20-2 snoozefest in 2007.

** Akron is 1-22 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to their 1-6 mark against OSU, the Zips are 0-4 vs. Penn State, 0-3 against Indiana, 0-2 vs. Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and 0-1 against Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Akron has never played Michigan, Minnesota or Northwestern.

** Akron is facing a ranked team for the first time since 2009 when it opened the season with a 31-7 loss at Penn State. The Zips are 1-21 all-time vs. ranked opponents with the lone win a 34-20 defeat of No. 25 Marshall in November 2002.

** Since 2005, Ohio State has allowed only 10 opponents to rush for 100 yards or more. That is the third-best figure in Division I-AA, trailing only Boston College (eight) and Alabama (nine).

** Ohio State is 399-107-20 in Ohio Stadium since the facility opened in 1922. That is a .778 winning percentage. All-time in Columbus, the team is 542-154-35, good for a winning percentage of .765.

** Over the past nine seasons, the Buckeyes have enjoyed a 60-5 record at home, good for a .923 winning percentage. Since 2002, that is tied with Oklahoma for the third-best home mark in Division I-A. Only Boise State (56-0, 1.000) and TCU (49-4, .925) have done better over that time frame.

** Although last season was technically vacated, OSU recorded 10 wins or more for a Big Ten-record sixth consecutive season.

** The Buckeyes are the only Division I-A team to have finished in the top 10 of the final Associated Press writers’ poll in each of the last six years.

** ESPN will have the telecast of the season opener with Syracuse alum Dave Pasch on the play-by-play, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer and former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman handling color analysis and former Johns Hopkins All-America lacrosse player Quint Kessenich providing sideline reports. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host another MAC team in Toledo with former OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman in his third season as head coach. The game will be telecast by the Big Ten Network and will kickoff at 12 noon Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Aug. 31, 1996, No. 18 Kansas State took a 21-14 victory over Texas Tech in the inaugural Big 12 conference game. The Red Raiders nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but K-State safety Mario Smith broke up a fourth-down pass deep in his own territory with 44 seconds remaining to secure the win.

** On Sept. 1, 2007, Appalachian State engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, going into Ann Arbor and pulling off a 34-32 shocker over No. 5 Michigan. The Wolverines trailed much of the game but managed to take a 32-31 lead with 4:36 to play before QB Armanti Edwards led the Mountaineers on a 69-yard drive for a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left. U-M responded and got all the way to Appalachian State’s 20-yard line, but the Wolverines’ field-goal attempt was blocked with six seconds remaining the Mountaineers secured Division I-AA’s first-ever victory over a top-five Division I-A opponent.

** On Sept. 1, 1984, BYU began its march to the national championship with a 20-14 upset at No. 3 Pittsburgh. Cougars QB Robbie Bosco threw for 325 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown to Adam Haysbert with 1:37 remaining in the game. The victory vaulted BYU from unranked to No. 13 in the national polls. The contest was also the first regular-season college football game ever televised live by ESPN.

** On Sept. 2, 1989, Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard score with 23 seconds remaining, to lead the Golden Eagles to a 30-26 win over No. 6 Florida State.

** On Sept. 3, 1983, seventh-ranked Florida State barely escaped a season-opening loss, scoring a late touchdown to squeeze past unranked East Carolina, 47-46, in Tallahassee.

** On Sept. 4, 1993, Penn State scored its first Big Ten victory with a 38-20 win over Minnesota.

** On Sept. 5, 1981, Lamar University engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, beating defending Southwest Conference champion Baylor, 18-17, in Waco. Lamar kicker Mike Marlow booted a 42-yard field goal with three seconds left to account for the winning points. It was the first time in history that a Division I-AA school had beaten a I-A school.

** On Sept. 6, 1986, third-ranked Miami (Fla.) overcame a 15-9 second-half deficit for a 23-15 over Florida, ending the Gators’ 21-game home winning streak.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Congratulations to our old pals up north who are out to prove they are unafraid of lightning striking them twice. Michigan has scheduled a rematch with Appalachian State in 2014.

** Proving that a decent idea can be ground into the dust, Nike will provide its so-called Pro Combat uniforms to selected schools again this year. Boise State, Georgia and Oregon will unveil theirs tomorrow while other teams will wear them throughout the season. Ohio State is scheduled to suit up in its Pro Combats when the Buckeyes host Wisconsin on Oct. 29.

** On the off chance that you give a rip, ESPN released this week preseason predictions by its cadre of college football analysts. Eighteen analysts picked conference champions as well as national title participants. In the Big Ten, Wisconsin was selected by nine of the analysts while Ohio State got five votes and Nebraska garnered four. Those voting for the Badgers were Ed Cunningham, Rod Gilmore, Brian Griese, Desmond Howard, Brock Huard, Danny Kanell, Matt Millen, David Pollock and Chris Spielman. OSU received the nod from Mike Bellotti, Todd Blackledge, Bob Davie, Kirk Herbstreit and Urban Meyer, while Nebraska got votes from Lee Corso, Dan Hawkins, Craig James and Jesse Palmer.

** Eleven of the analysts picked Alabama to make the BCS National Championship Game while Oklahoma also received 11 votes to make the title game. However, only five analysts – Bellotti, James, Meyer, Miller and Pollock – picked the Crimson Tide to play the Sooners for the championship. To see all of the picks, click here.

** How about a little Heisman Trophy trivia? Name the Division I-A school with the most all-time wins that has never had a Heisman winner. The answer comes later.

** Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson enters the 2011 season with 2,053 career rushing yards, seventh on the all-time Big Ten list among quarterbacks. He needs only 98 more to move into the top five, but Robinson has a ways to go to catch Antwaan Randle El, who rushed for 3,895 yards while quarterbacking Indiana from 1998 to 2001.

** Minnesota return man Troy Stoudermire needs only 97 yards in kickoff returns to become the all-time Big Ten leader in that department. Stoudermire enters 2011 with 2,929 kickoff return yards, second only to David Gilreath of Wisconsin, who became the conference leader just last season. Gilreath finished his career with 3,025 yards on kickoff returns.

** Penn State kicker Collin Wagner takes a streak of 85 consecutive PATs into this season. That ranks as the sixth longest streak in Big Ten history behind J.D. Carlson of Michigan (128, 1989-91), Brett Conway of Penn State (119, 1994-96), Chris Summers of Purdue (111, 2006-08), Pete Stoyanovich of Indiana (107, 1986-88) and Tim Williams of Ohio State (86, 1991-93).

** Four Big Ten kickers were named to the preseason watch list for the Groza Award, given annually to the top placekicker in college football. Wagner wasn’t one of the four. They were Derek Dimke of Illinois, Mitch Ewald of Indiana, Dan Conroy of Michigan State and Philip Welch of Wisconsin. Dimke led the Big Ten in field goals last season with 24 and Wagner tied for second with 20.

** According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 5.5 ranked as the fifth-lowest in the country for July. Perhaps that is one reason why Oklahoma State has surpassed 34,000 season tickets sold this year, breaking the school record set in 2009.

** The Fiesta Bowl has been moved from Jan. 5 (a Thursday) to Jan. 2 (a Monday). No, I don’t know why.

** In other bowl news, the Humanitarian Bowl – the one played outside in Boise, Idaho, in mid-December – has changed its name. Henceforth, the game will now be known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

** Talk about planning ahead: Notre Dame and Navy recently announced they have agreed to continue playing one another in football through at least the 2026 season.

** Pity the poor punters in last Saturday’s Division III game between Saint Augustine’s College (Va.) and Virginia Union. The game was played the same afternoon Hurricane Irene rolled into the area and four punts during the contest traveled less than 10 yards. That included one that went for minus-9 and another than went for minus-1. There was also a fifth punt that blew out of the punter’s grasp before he could get the kick away. Saint Augustine also fumbled six times during the 12-0 loss.

** Here is the answer to our Heisman trivia. Going into the 2011 season, the top five winningest programs that have never produced a Heisman Trophy winner are Tennessee (789), West Virginia (691), Georgia Tech (679), Virginia Tech (678) and Arkansas (669).

FEARLESS FORECAST

Last season is going to be a pretty tough act to follow here at Forecast World Headquarters. The straight-up picks finished with a 118-24 record (that’s a .831 winning percentage) while we had a solid 81-55-6 mark against the spread.

In case you’re keeping score at home, that makes the career numbers 1,521-450 straight up (77.2 percent) and still fairly well above water against the spread at 765-685-25 (good enough for 52.7 percent).

Yeah, we’re pretty solid in the black with these picks but remember it’s all in fun and there are many more picks based on gut feelings than any inside information. Nevertheless, we enjoy making the picks, so off we go for another year.

Here are the games we’re watching this week:

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Youngstown State at No. 17 Michigan State: With Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio State taking up most of the summertime oxygen in the Big Ten, Sparty has been a tad overlooked. MSU returns a boatload of talent on offense, including veteran QB Kirk Cousins (2,825 yards, 20 TDs a year ago) and ultra-productive tailback Edwin Baker (1,201 yards, 13 TDs) … Michigan State 42, Youngstown State 7. (7:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 14 TCU at Baylor: The Horned Frogs have several new starters, including sophomore Casey Pachall taking over at quarterback for the graduated Andy Dalton, as they begin their final season in the Mighty Mountain West. Their goal remains the same, however – upset the college football apple cart by crashing the BCS party. Before they can think about that, they need to contend with the Bears and their quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a preseason Heisman candidate after throwing for a school-record 3,501 yards last year. Unfortunately, Baylor isn’t quite as strong on defense and that will make the difference … TCU 31, Baylor 21. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Utah State at No. 23 Auburn: Hopefully, the Tigers squeezed every ounce of enjoyment they could out of last year’s national championship run. This year, it’s back to reality without Heisman winner Cam Newton and the specter of an NCAA investigation looming over the program. Not that those problems should have much of an impact this week with the Aggies coming to town. Utah State is one of the weakest programs in I-A with 13 consecutive losing seasons and a 1-54 all-time record against ranked opponents … Auburn 38, Utah State 6. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

Chattanooga at No. 10 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers begin life as Big Ten members by hosting the Mocs, who are coming off their second consecutive 6-5 season. Chattanooga typically schedules a big-name Division I-A school each year and those games turn out about the way you would expect. Since 2008, the Mocs have played Oklahoma, Alabama and Auburn have lost all three by a combined score of 164-26. Don’t expect anything different this time around … Nebraska 42, Chattanooga 0. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Minnesota at No. 25 USC: Since new Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill says he likes challenges, he should be very happy. Not only is he charged with a huge rebuilding project, he gets to start it at a venue that has been very unkind to Big Ten teams. Since 1960, the conference is a dismal 2-17-1 when traveling to the Coliseum to play the Trojans. The last time the Golden Gophers were there was 1979 and they came home with a 48-14 loss. Quite frankly, that final score seems about right … USC 48, Minnesota 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Western Michigan at Michigan: The Brady Hoke Era gets under way in Ann Arbor and if it is to go any better than the Rich Rodriguez Era, the Wolverines will have to figure out a way to play some defense. Last year, U-M ranked dead last in the Big Ten in scoring and total defense – meaning they gave up more points and more yardage than any other team in the conference. This should be a pretty good barometer on what Hoke has done during the offseason to shore up the stop troops since the Broncos throw the ball around pretty well with returning QB Alex Carder (3,334 yards, 30 TDs). This one might be closer than a lot of people think it will be … Michigan 37, Western Michigan 31. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Tulsa at No. 1 Oklahoma: Every year it seems the Sooners are early favorites to make a run at the national championship, and every year it seems they fall just short of that goal. This time, OU may be for real. QB Landry Jones (4,718 yards, 38 TDs) leads a potent offense and the Sooners are also pretty good on defense despite the absence of linebackers Travis Lewis (broken foot) and Austin Box, who tragically died over the summer due to an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers. The Golden Hurricane enters the game on a seven-game winning streak, and they have posted three 10-win seasons in the past four years. Still, it’s difficult to see how they can break through, especially with Oklahoma protecting its No. 1 status as well as a 36-game home win streak … Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 10. (8 p.m. ET, FX)

No. 5 Boise State vs. No. 19 Georgia: Mark Richt is on the hot seat in Athens, and that chair is about to get even hotter. The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-7 campaign, their first losing season since 1996, and their opening-night assignment in the Georgia Dome is figuring out how to slow down the ultra-talented Broncos. Leading the Boise attack is Heisman-worthy QB Kellen Moore (3,845 yards, 35 TDs), who has a gaudy 38-2 record as a starter. As good as the Broncos are on offense, they are extremely underrated on defense and that is where they will win this game … Boise State 20, Georgia 17. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU: This is easily the most-hyped game of the first weekend since it is basically a national championship elimination bout. The winner solidifies his résumé while the loser can begin making plans for next year. The Ducks obviously have great team speed, led by Heisman candidate LaMichael James, who needs only 20 yards to become his school’s all-time leading rusher. Then, there are the Tigers with their messy quarterback situation that resulted in starter Jordan Jefferson being suspended. There are folks in the bayou, however, who believe their team will be better off with Jarrett Lee under center anyway. Add that to the fact LSU has the better defense and, after all, they are from the SEC, and you smell what we’re cooking here … LSU 26, Oregon 22. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Akron at No. 18 Ohio State: There is little use in rehashing the Buckeyes’ summer of discontent. Ohio State has played intercollegiate football for the past 121 years and there is every indication the program will continue for at least another 121, so who occupies the head coach’s office and who takes the snaps as quarterback is largely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. When the pigskins begin to fly, OSU fans regain their singular focus. They simply want their team to win and look good doing so. That shouldn’t be much of a problem in the opener against the Zips, who were one of the worst teams in all of Division I-A last year. However, with the Buckeyes having so many new faces in so many new positions – not the least of which is Luke Fickell – we don’t foresee things getting too much out of hand … Ohio State 31, Akron 7. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

SUNDAY’S GAMES

Marshall at No. 24 West Virginia: If not for ESPN’s summertime obsession with Ohio State, the all-sports network might have been focusing on these two programs. The Mountaineers had a messy coaching change and were placed on a two-year probation by the NCAA while one of the Herd’s top receivers was recently charged in connection with a string of armed robberies. No wonder both of the programs are ready to get back to some football … West Virginia 41, Marshall 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SMU at No. 8 Texas A&M: These former Southwest Conference foes get together for what could be the final time in the foreseeable future as the Aggies prepare to bolt for the SEC. While A&M has gotten most of the preseason hype, the Mustangs feature one of the best quarterbacks you’ve probably never heard of. Kyle Padron (3,828 yards, 31 TDs) flourished in head coach June Jones’ system – what quarterback doesn’t flourish with Jones? – and that always gives SMU a puncher’s chance. What Jones’ teams typically lack is a creditable defense and that will make the difference here … Texas A&M 37, SMU 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Youngstown State at Michigan State (-34); TCU (-3½) at Baylor; Utah State at Auburn (-22); Chattanooga at Nebraska (-34½); Minnesota at USC (-23); Western Michigan (+14½) at Michigan; Tulsa at Oklahoma (-24½); Boise State (-2½) vs. Georgia in Atlanta; Oregon vs. LSU (-3½) in Dallas; Marshall at West Virginia (-23); SMU at Texas A&M (-14); and Akron (+34) at Ohio State.

Enjoy opening weekend, have a safe Labor Day holiday and we’ll see you next week.

Why Is Something So Easy So Hard For So Many?

It is always more than a little amusing when national college football pundits gather after each regular season to breathlessly pronounce that “This year the BCS got it right.”

Oh, really? Just because two undefeated teams from major conferences finished one-two in the final Bowl Championship Series standings doesn’t necessarily mean the BCS “got it right.” It simply means the two teams everyone wanted to see play one another in the national championship game will play one another in the national championship game.

In my humble opinion, this year more than any other in recent memory screams for a playoff at the Division I-A level. And I’m not talking about a Cinderella team like TCU – undefeated for the second season in a row – getting the shaft and not playing for the title. I’m talking about major conference teams such as Ohio State and Michigan State not even being in the national championship conversation.

The Buckeyes were once the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, yet after losing a game in mid-October they were literally never heard from again. Meanwhile, the Spartans were one of the feel-good stories of the entire college football season, overcoming their head coach’s heart attack to play an inspired brand of football and earn a share of their first Big Ten championship in 20 years.

Both Brutus and Sparty finished the season with 11-1 records, and at least Ohio State drew a big-money BCS bowl assignment. Michigan State gets the Capital One Bowl for its trouble and a date with defending national champion Alabama. The message to the Spartans and virtually every other Big Ten school not named Ohio State or Michigan? Win your conference’s automatic BCS bid because you literally have no chance at a BCS at-large berth.

Then there is Stanford. The Cardinal also finished 11-1 with their lone loss a 52-31 decision Oct. 2 at Oregon. Stanford won its last seven games in a row by an average margin of 22.0 points and rose all the way to No. 4 in the final BCS standings. But because of a new BCS rule, the Cardinal is not able to play in the Rose Bowl for what would likely be an entertaining matchup with Wisconsin. Stanford must truck itself across the country to face Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

TCU and Boise State have been behind the proverbial 8-ball all season, each of them knowing the tiniest of slip-ups would be costly. Boise owned the nation’s longest win streak before a 34-31 overtime loss Nov. 26 to Nevada, and the Broncos will face No. 19 Utah in the totally meaningless Las Vegas Bowl three days before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have won 26 of their last 27 games and will be able to match their tenacious defense against Wisconsin’s offensive juggernaut in Pasadena. Of course, no one gives TCU much of a chance – except the oddsmakers, who have installed the Frogs as early 2½-point favorites.

So while Oregon and Auburn get this year’s BCS goldmine, nearly everyone else gets the shaft. And the sad truth of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can easily make a case for a month-long, 12-team playoff by simply seeding the teams according to the final BCS standings and giving the top four teams a first-round bye.

This year for example, the aforementioned format would give byes to Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Stanford with first-round matchups pitting No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Missouri, No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 LSU, No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Boise State, and No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Michigan State. In that first round alone, you have three superlative games including OSU and LSU playing a rematch of the 2007 national title game, Oklahoma looking to avenge its Fiesta Bowl loss four years ago to Boise State, and a classic SEC-Big Ten battle between Arkansas and Michigan State.

For the second-round games, the lowest ranked winners would play the highest ranked of the top four teams. For argument’s sake, let’s say each of the higher ranked teams won their first-round games. That means you would have the following second-round matchups: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 8 Arkansas and No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 5 Wisconsin in one bracket, and No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 3 TCU vs. No. 6 Ohio State in the other.

The winners of those games go to the BCS Final Four, which could be made up of the current BCS bowl games. Then the two winners play for the national championship – again in one of the current four BCS venues to be played on a rotating basis. Television cleans up with advertising revenue, colleges put a billion extra dollars into their coffers, and fans get a month filled with March Madness excitement culminating with one true champion decided on the field of play.

It is so stunningly simple to implement with the result being a win-win situation for all parties involved. Makes you wonder why something so easy seems so difficult to so many.

FAIR OR UNFAIR – YOU DECIDE

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin accepted an agent-sponsored trip to Miami of which he posted photos on his Twitter account. Austin’s penalty: Suspended for the entire 2010 season.

Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was reportedly at the same Miami party as Austin. Dareus’ penalty: Suspended for the first two games of the 2010 season.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green sold a game-worn jersey for $1,000 to a man with agent ties whom Green had met through Facebook. Green’s penalty: Suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl made telephone calls to prospective recruits during the NCAA’s non-contact period. Pearl’s penalty: Suspended for the first eight SEC games of the 2010-11 season.

USC freshman running back Dillon Baxter accepted a cross-campus golf cart ride from a fellow student who works part-time for a sports agency. Baxter’s penalty: Suspended for one game.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s father admitted to shopping his son’s services to the highest bidder with some reports claiming as much as $180,000 was the asking price. NCAA rules clearly stipulate that no player or his representative can ask for or accept money during the recruiting process. Yet because Newton’s father claims his son had no knowledge of his actions, the NCAA has declared Newton eligible to play this season.

There is no doubt that Newton will be named the winner of the Heisman Trophy tomorrow although I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that some voters left him off their ballots.

Was it fair for those voters to anoint themselves judge and jury against Newton when the NCAA has ruled him eligible? Likewise, is it fair for Newton to continue to play under the cloud of an NCAA investigation that appears to be disingenuous at best?

Fair or unfair? You decide.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Dec. 4, 1976, Texas handed Arkansas a 29-12 loss in Austin in the final game for both coaching legends Darrell K. Royal of the Longhorns and Frank Broyles of the Razorbacks.

** On Dec. 6, 1987, American college football ventured to Australia for the first time. Wyoming scored a 24-21 victory over Texas-El Paso in a Western Athletic Conference contest staged in Melbourne. The game drew 22,000 fans to the 100,000-seat capacity Victoria Football League Park and Cricket Grounds.

** On Dec. 6, 2003, Kansas State captured its first Big 12 championship with a 35-7 upset of top-ranked Oklahoma in the conference title game. The previously undefeated Sooners looked to be in control early when tailback Kejuan Jones opened the scoring with a 42-yard touchdown run, but the No. 13 Wildcats shut down OU from there and let an explosive offense take over. Tailback Darren Sproles rolled up 323 yards of total offense, quarterback Ell Roberson threw for four touchdowns, and the KSU defense limited Oklahoma to its lowest scoring output since 1998.

** On Dec. 7, 1996, Army erased an 18-point deficit and tallied a 28-24 victory over Navy. At the time, it was the largest comeback in the 96-year history of the series.

** On Dec. 7, 2002, Marshall claimed the Mid-American Conference championship with a thrilling 49-45 win over Toledo. The Thundering Herd took the early lead and enjoyed a 28-17 halftime lead before the Rockets roared back on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns from tailback Trinity Dawson. The teams traded early fourth-quarter scores, and then Marshall QB Byron Leftwich hit wide receiver Darius Watts with a game-winning 40-yard touchdown with only 49 seconds remaining. Leftwich finished the game with 402 yards passing and four touchdowns.

** On Dec. 8, 1959, the first NAIA championship contest was staged between St. Joseph (Ind.) and Montana State. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and both schools were awarded NAIA championship trophies.

** On Dec. 8, 2001, Hawaii quarterback Nick Rolovich threw for 543 yards and eight touchdowns as the Warriors hung a 72-45 upset on previously unbeaten BYU.

** On Dec. 9, 1876, Yale finished an undefeated season with a 2-0 victory over Columbia in a game held in Hoboken, N.J. The Bulldogs finished their season with a perfect 3-0 record, their third undefeated season in the first five years of football at the university.

** On Dec. 9, 1914, Carlisle (Pa.) scored a 20-3 victory over Alabama in Birmingham. It marked the final game coached at Carlisle by the legendary Glenn “Pop” Warner, who also coached at Georgia, Cornell, Pitt, Stanford and Temple and compiled a record of 312-104-32 during a 44-year coaching career.

** On Dec. 9, 1935, University of Chicago halfback John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger won the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy awarded to the outstanding player east of the Mississippi River. Berwanger was a runaway winner over Army halfback Charles “Monk” Meyer, Notre Dame halfback William Shakespeare and Princeton halfback Pepper Constable. One year after Berwanger won the award, it was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy in honor of legendary college coach John Heisman, who died in October 1936.

** On Dec. 11, 1977, College Football Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson led his Grambling State team to a 35-32 victory over Temple in the Tokyo Bowl. The Tigers’ victory marked one of the first wins by a historically black college over a Division I-A opponent.

** On Dec. 12, 1925, Hawaii topped Colorado State, 41-0, in Manoa, Hawaii, to push the Warriors’ winning streak to 18 games. It also snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Rams. Hawaii was coached at the time by Otto “Proc” Klum, the winningest coach in school history, who earned a reputation for running up the score on opponents. Twice during the 1926 season, the Warriors scored 101-0 victories.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** When Auburn and Oregon meet in the national championship game, the Tigers will be trying to protect the SEC’s streak of four consecutive titles. The streak began in 2006 when Florida rolled to a 41-14 victory over Ohio State. LSU defeated Ohio State for 2007 title, Florida won again in ’08 with a victory over Oklahoma, and Alabama dumped Texas, 37-21, in last year’s game.

** Auburn will be seeking its first national championship since 1957 while Oregon is looking for its first-ever title.

** Here are the regular-season individual statistical champions for 2010:

Rushing yards – LaMichael James, Oregon, 1,682

Rushing TDs – LaMichael James, Oregon, 21

Passing yards – Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 4,629

Passing TDs – (tie) Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, and Dominique Davis, East Carolina, 36

Total offense – Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 4,705

Receptions – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, 118

Receiving yards – Greg Salas, Hawaii, 1,675

TD receptions – Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, 18

Punting – Chas Henry, Florida, 46.41

Punt returns – Shaky Smithson, Utah, 19.7

Punt return TDs – Cliff Harris, Oregon, 4

Kickoff returns – William Powell, Kansas State, 34.6

Kickoff return TDs – Eric Page, Toledo, 3

Scoring – Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State, 137

Field goals – (tie) Danny Hrapmann, Southern Mississippi, and Josh Jasper, LSU, 26

Total tackles – Luke Kuechly, Boston College, 171

Sacks – Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson, 15½

Tackles for loss – Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue, 26

Interceptions – (tie) Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, and Mana Silva, Hawaii, 8

** In case you missed it, former Illinois defensive star Al Brosky died Nov. 28 at the age of 82. Brosky played with the Fighting Illini from 1950-52 and was a member of the school’s 1951 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship teams. He finished his career with 29 interceptions, a Division I-A record that still stands. Brosky was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

** Once again, here is the schedule for the BCS games: Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif.; Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.; Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La.; BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 10, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Despite picking both Auburn and Oregon to get upset, it wasn’t a bad final week of the regular season for the Forecast. Those were the only two misses in a 5-2 week to leave the straight-up season record at 118-24.

Against the spread, we were oh-so-close to a perfect week. In seven games, we had a push and three losses – Boise State was giving 37½ and beat Utah State by 36; Oregon State was getting 17½ at home against Oregon and lost by 17; and Oklahoma was giving 3½ to Nebraska and won by 3. As the saying goes, however, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and drive-in movies. The 3-3-1 week made us 81-55-6 ATS for the season.

The Fearless Forecast will take the next couple of weeks off and we’ll check back in when the real bowl season (a.k.a. the BCS) gets under way. Until then, have a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous holiday season.

My Take On RichRod And The OSU-Michigan Rivalry

In the days leading up to the 107th renewal of what we refer to around here simply as The Game, I spent a lot of time with friends and family – not to mention appearances on several sports talk shows – defending the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

Because I grew up during “The Ten-Year War” between Woody and Bo, I have the utmost respect for what truly has been the greatest rivalry in American sports over the years.

With that respect comes a tremendous amount of reverence for bygone days when both teams were national powers, when a Big Ten championship trophy was more important than the national title, and when the Rose Bowl was truly The Granddaddy of Them All.

Of course, it’s simply not that way anymore and to pretend it is would be foolish. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Perhaps clinging to what was once the mystique of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is a childish thing. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

Mirroring the ups and downs of everyday life itself, the rivalry is cyclical and always has been. With the exception of the first dozen or so games in the series when OSU was nothing more than a glorified club team, the rivalry is nearly a draw. Since Chic Harley finally led the Buckeyes to their first victory over Michigan in 1919, the series shows 44 victories for Ohio State, 45 for the Wolverines and four ties.

Things have tightened considerably over the past decade because Jim Tressel has won nine times in 10 tries against Michigan including the last seven in a row. Anyone with even a passing interest in Ohio State football knows that is an unprecedented run of success, and every Buckeye fan savors each and every one of those victories.

Yet as each year passes, and each win over Michigan seemingly becomes a foregone conclusion, the greatness of the overall rivalry seems to erode bit by bit.

There is a new generation of young Ohio State fans who have never known their favorite team to lose to Michigan. As the OSU winning streak gets longer and longer, who could blame them for never fully understanding why a game against Michigan holds any more weight than a game against Wisconsin? After all, there always seems to be the danger of losing to the Badgers. Not so against the Wolverines.

Likewise, there is an entire generation of Michigan fans being weaned on a legacy of losing to Ohio State. Not that I really care about that because along with a respect for the rivalry that was ingrained into me at an early age, so, too, was a hatred for anything maize and blue.

But that hatred was healthy and it was born from respect for a feared enemy. After all, no team in college football has more all-time wins than Michigan. It has a record 42 Big Ten championships. It counts 11 national titles. It is the home of Fielding Yost and Tom Harmon and Gerald Ford. Beating Michigan always meant you were beating the best. It always meant something special. Now? Houseflies generate more buzz than a victory over the Wolverines.

I realize every college program experiences its ups and downs. For example, this season Texas became the first team in the BCS era to miss out on bowl eligibility just one year after playing for the national championship. Notre Dame counts only one 10-win season since 2002 and hasn’t seriously contended for a national title in nearly 20 years. No matter how good you are for how long, the pendulum eventually swings the other way.

How long it swings against Michigan seems totally up to current university officials. Far be it from me to give any advice to them, but their course seems clear. If what has occurred over the past decade has been enjoyable – especially these past three seasons when your team has been completely outclassed by Ohio State and outscored by a 100-24 margin – then by all means keep your status quo and we can have this same conversation throughout the next decade.

Then again, if you are interested in making this great rivalry competitive again, look yourselves in the mirror and admit the obvious. Rich Rodriguez was the wrong hire at the wrong time for the wrong program, and it is time to make a change.

The argument against Michigan making a coaching change – and I’ve heard it from both Ohio State and Michigan fans – is that Rodriguez is John Cooper incarnate and OSU kept Cooper around for 13 seasons. While that is true, the comparison of the two coaches is a weak one.

There is no getting around the fact that Coop was 2-10-1 against the Wolverines, and many of those 10 losses were epic failures. But where the debate loses credibility is when you match the relative talent of the teams Cooper fielded vs. those so far in the Rodriguez era at Michigan.

Despite losing the rivalry game so many times during Cooper’s tenure from 1988 to 2000, the Buckeyes still managed to finish nine of those 13 seasons in the national rankings including five times as a top-10 team. Three times – in 1993, ’95 and ’96 – the Buckeyes entered The Game with an undefeated record. Eight times during the Cooper era, the OSU-Michigan contest had a direct bearing on how the Big Ten championship was decided.

How many times have the Wolverines finished among the top 25 during Rodriguez’s tenure? How many times have they entered the Ohio State game with an undefeated record? How many times have they played the Buckeyes with the Big Ten title on the line?

Lumping Cooper and Rodriguez together is an unfair apples-to-oranges comparison. Despite his shortcomings in the season’s final two games, I have always and will always maintain Coop did a creditable job at Ohio State. Likewise, there was no doubting his prowess as a recruiter who populated his teams with a host of future NFL stars – a couple of who are still active contributors in the league. How many players on the current Michigan roster do you believe will one day play in the NFL? For that matter, how many of them do you think could even start for Ohio State right now?

Perhaps you believe if Rodriguez is given the same kind of time that Cooper was afforded, he will bring Michigan back to prominence. After all, he turned West Virginia into a national power, didn’t he? The answer to that question would depend upon your definition of a national power.

Rodriguez’s record for his first four years in Morgantown was a pedestrian 28-21 before he turned it on to post a 32-5 mark during his final three seasons. His best finish came in 2005 when the Mountaineers finished 11-1, won an outright Big East championship and took a 38-35 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Even during that season, however, the sustainability of Rodriguez’s coaching philosophy was being challenged due to his lack of diversity on offense. Behind freshmen Steve Slaton at running back and the mobile Pat White at quarterback, the Mountaineers were the No. 4 rushing team in the nation but ranked a lowly 115th in passing. The following year, with Slaton and White as sophomores, West Virginia finished 11-2 and won the Gator Bowl over Georgia Tech, but the team was still one-dimensional with the nation’s No. 2 rushing attack and No. 100 pass offense.

It was the more of the same in 2007 when the Mountaineers needed only a season-ending victory over Pittsburgh to play for the national title and couldn’t get it done. Despite possessing the nation’s No. 3 running offense, West Virginia was dealt a 13-9 loss by the Panthers, who entered that game with a 4-7 overall record.

The simple truth of the matter is that the Big Ten is a northern conference built on power football.

In this day and age, obviously you need team speed and at least some kind of diversity in your offensive playbook to compete. But to be a year-in and year-out contender for this conference championship, you must be able to run the football and you must be able to play stone-cold defense. On wet, windy, gray November days in the Big Ten, either you run the football and play defense or you’re so much garbage by the side of the road.

The tradition of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is steeped in that smash-mouthed mentality, and you don’t need much football acumen to connect the dots between the Buckeyes’ six consecutive Big Ten championships and the fact they have ranked among the nation’s top 10 defensive units in each of those six seasons.

Where has Michigan’s defense been ranked during Rodriguez’s three-year tenure? The Wolverines were 67th in yardage allowed in 2008 and 82nd last year before bottoming out at 109th this season. In terms of points allowed, they were 84th nationally during his first season, 77th last year and 102nd this year.

In other words, Michigan isn’t getting better – at least on defense. The stark reality of the numbers indicates the Wolverines are getting worse. Much worse.

Rodriguez is fond of the saying “You’re either the hammer or the nail,” but with a one-dimensional offense, a horrible defense, a three-year overall record of 15-21 and a Big Ten mark of 6-18, his program sure as hell isn’t a hammer. It isn’t even a nail. It’s more like a toothpick.

As far as that is concerned, I admit I’m conflicted. Any Ohio State victory over the Wolverines is a wonderful thing to be cherished, but how satisfying are countless victories if they come against a defenseless opponent? I contend a Michigan program that is merely a shadow of its former self is not good for the Big Ten and not good for the OSU-Michigan rivalry.

For better or for worse, the reputation of the conference as a whole – and that of Ohio State to a great degree – is predicated on the Michigan football team being a national power. And if that is ever going to happen again in the near future, the decision in Ann Arbor seems clear. Rodriguez has to go.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** On Nov. 30, 1940, Washington’s Ernie Steele became the first player in college football history to return two kicks for a touchdown in a single game. Steele returned a kickoff 87 yards and took a punt back 83 yards as his 12th-ranked Huskies to a 33-9 victory over Washington State.

** On Dec. 1, 1951, sixth-ranked Georgia Tech forced an NCAA-record 13 turnovers (five fumbles and eight interceptions) during a 48-6 victory over instate rival Georgia.

** On Dec. 2, 1990, Houston quarterback David Klinger set a new Division I-A single-game record by throwing for 716 yards in a 62-45 victory over Arizona State.

** On Dec. 3, 1885, former Ohio State football coach Francis A. Schmidt was born in Downs, Kansas, Schmidt was one of the most accomplished and colorful coaches in college football history. He played at Nebraska, where he earned a law degree, and later rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. Schmidt began his head coaching career in 1919 and served stints at Tulsa, Arkansas, TCU, Ohio State and Idaho. While with the Buckeyes, he became the first (and still only) head coach to beat Michigan in each of his first four tries and Schmidt also instituted the Gold Pants Club to mark each victory over the Wolverines. Schmidt retired from coaching following the 1942 season and died two years later of a heart attack at the age of 58. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

** On Dec. 3, 1994, the Southeastern Conference championship game was a thriller. Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left, and the No. 6 Gators squeezed out a 24-23 victory over undefeated and third-ranked Alabama.

** On Dec. 5, 1993, Wisconsin went all the way to Tokyo to score a 41-20 win over Michigan State, clinching the Badgers’ first Rose Bowl trip in 31 years.

** On Dec. 6, 1873, Yale defeated Eton Players of England by a 2-1 final. It was the first college football game in the U.S. played with 11 men on each side.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** With one week to go in the regular season, Auburn, Oregon and TCU are the only unbeaten Division I-A teams left standing. Special congratulations to TCU, which completed its second straight regular season with perfect a 12-0 record, the first back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons in school history.

** Knowing what we know about conference tie-ins and which bowls pick first in the at-league selection process, it looks like Oregon and Auburn in the BCS National Championship game, Wisconsin and TCU in the Rose Bowl, the Big 12 champion vs. the Big East champion in the Fiesta Bowl, Arkansas vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and the ACC champion vs. Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

** What could throw a monkey wrench in the aforementioned bowl matchups is a South Carolina upset of Auburn in the SEC championship game. That would knock the Tigers out of the national championship game and likely move TCU into their place. Auburn would likely still be a BCS at-large team and would probably meet Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. It would also put South Carolina into the Sugar Bowl and probably knock a 10-2 Arkansas team out of the BCS and into the Capital One Bowl where the Razorbacks could commiserate with Michigan State, which finished 11-1.

** When Boise State went down last Friday night, it stopped the nation’s longest win streak at 24 games. Auburn now holds the longest winning streak at 13.

** The Tigers have been remarkably resilient this season. They are 12-0 but have trailed in eight of those games, four of them by 13 points or more. They trailed by 17-3 at the half before rallying for a 27-24 overtime win over Clemson; fell behind by 13 in the second quarter before taking a 35-27 win over South Carolina; fell into an early 21-7 hole during a 49-31 win over Georgia; and somehow made up a 24-0 deficit last Friday before storming back to take a 28-27 victory over Alabama.

** In addition to the longest winning streak being snapped, so, too, was the nation’s longest losing streak last week. Akron took a 22-14 victory over Buffalo last Friday night, ending the Zips’ 11-game skid. San Jose State and Memphis now share the nation’s longest losing streak. Each has lost nine in a row.

** With his team’s victory over Michigan, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel moved into the all-top 10 in Big Ten coaching wins. The Buckeyes’ 37-7 victory over the Wolverines gave Tressel his 66th conference win, tying him for 10th place on the all-time list with George Perles of Michigan State (1983-94) and Murray Warmath of Minnesota (1954-71). Tressel needs four more league wins next season to catch his predecessor at OSU, who currently holds down the No. 9 spot. John Cooper totaled 70 Big Ten wins with the Buckeyes from 1988-2000.

** When Michigan QB Denard Robinson totaled 105 yards rushing last week against Ohio State, he became the second opposing player to crack the century mark this season vs. the Buckeyes. The other was Wisconsin running back John Clay, who had 104 during his team’s 31-18 win over OSU in mid-October. In the 127 games during the Tressel era, the Ohio State defense has surrendered a 100-yard performance only 18 times and the Buckeyes are 9-9 in those games. Only three of those 100-yard games have been turned in by quarterbacks – Zack Mills of Penn State (138 in 2001), Jake Locker of Washington (102 in 2007) and Robinson.

** Congratulations to my father-in-law’s alma mater. Miami (Ohio) went from 1-11 last season to 8-4 and playing in the Mid-American Conference championship game this year.

** Congratulations are also in order for Stanford, which pitched three shutouts this year for the first time since 1969; South Florida, which had two overtime wins this season to run its all-time record to 9-0 in OT; and Ohio State, which lost only two fumbles all season. By way of comparison, Auburn lost eight fumbles this season and Oregon lost 13.

** The Sun Belt conference has imploded this season with nine teams having at least five losses. Florida International has already clinched at least a share of the league championship, but the Golden Panthers are barely bowl-eligible at 6-5.

** Wisconsin shattered the school record for scoring this season, piling up 520 points. That obliterated the old mark of 446 points set in 2005. The Badgers also scored 70 or more points in three games this season for the first time in their history.

** By all accounts, Randy Shannon cleaned up the mess that was the Miami (Fla.) football program when he took over in 2007. His reward? Shannon was fired one day after his Hurricanes lost to South Florida and finished 7-5. His four-year record at the school was 28-22. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was named interim coach for the Hurricanes’ bowl preparation.

** The regular season isn’t over yet and already three I-A head coaches have been axed. In addition to Shannon, Bill Lynch is out at Indiana and Louisiana-Lafayette has dismissed Rickey Bustle. Lynch was 19-30 in four seasons with the Hoosiers but only 6-26 in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Bustle had an eight-year record of 41-65 with the Ragin’ Cajuns, including a 28-31 mark in the Sun Belt conference.

** Washington is about to temporarily lose one of college football’s loudest home-field advantages. Renovation of Husky Stadium will begin in November 2011 and the Huskies will move their base of operations to Qwest Field – home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks – until the project is completed in 2013.

** Here is the schedule for the BCS games: Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif.; Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.; Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La.; BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 10, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

FEARLESS FORECAST

After playing lights-out for most of the season, the Forecast took a small step backward last week with misses in three upset games – Kent State over Ohio, Minnesota over Iowa and Nevada over Boise State. Nevertheless, it was still a 7-3 week straight up to move the season record to 113-22.

Against the spread, we broke a two-week losing streak with a 6-4 finish. That makes us a rock-solid 78-52-5 for the year.

Even though Ohio State’s regular season is over, there are a couple of tasty treats before the final BCS standings are announced Sunday. Here are the ones we like.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Rutgers at No. 24 West Virginia: The Mountaineers are looking to put an exclamation point on a pretty good season by securing a win here and at least a share of the Big Least championship. WVU head coach Bill Stewart really couldn’t have picked a better opponent since his team is 31-4-2 all-time against the Scarlet Knights, including wins in all 16 games that have been played in Morgantown. Tailback Noel Devine (855 yards, 6 TDs) gets most of the West Virginia publicity, but this game will likely be won by the Mountain Men’s defense. They are ranked among the top 10 nationally in sacks while Rutgers freshman QB Chas Dodd has been sacked 16 times in the last two games … West Virginia 27, Rutgers 14. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Utah State at No. 11 Boise State: Here as Forecast World Headquarters, we have beat the drum for the Broncos all season. That said, they knew their margin for error was razor-thin so we have no sympathy for last week’s overtime loss to a pretty good Nevada team. This week, Boise gets to try and start a new winning streak against the Aggies, a team that hasn’t played since a 28-6 loss to Idaho on Nov. 20. Yes, that’s the same Idaho team that got streamrolled by a 52-14 score on Nov. 12 by Boise State. You might also want to know Utah State is working on a 27-game losing streak against ranked opponents … Boise State 49, Utah State 7. (3 p.m. ET, WAC Sports Network)

No. 17 Nevada at Louisiana Tech: If you had doubts about the Wolf Pack, you need only look back at last week when they wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit against Boise State and racked up 528 yards on a defense that had been ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense. The Pack has as potent an offense as you’ll find in college football with the one-two punch of RB Vai Taua (1,372, 17 TDs) and QB Colin Kaepernick (2,671 yards and 20 TDs passing, 1,029 yards and 17 TDs rushing). Not that La Tech is any slouch on offense. The Bulldogs feature RB Lennon Creer, who has totaled 1,132 and 10 TDs, second-best in the WAC behind Taua. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs are deficient on the other side of the ball, ranking 114th nationally in total defense. The Wolf Pack will likely suffer a little letdown following last week’s big win, but not enough for any upset … Nevada 34, Louisiana Tech 14. (3 p.m. ET, WAC Sports Network)

No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State: No rivalry game has more unpredictability than the Civil War. The Ducks are a prohibitive favorite this year because, well, because they have won 11 straight games by an average margin of 32.2 points while the Beavers have lost three of their last four. But Oregon State is playing at home and needs this victory to get bowl-eligible. Meanwhile, Oregon is already talking about the national championship game. Seems to us that the last time the Ducks flapped their bills unceasingly, Ohio State taught them a lesson in humility at the Rose Bowl. Two weeks ago, Cal reminded everyone how to defend against Oregon’s point-a-minute offense. Just a hunch – a big one – but we’re thinking an Upset Special that sends the final BCS standings into a tizzy … Oregon State 26, Oregon 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 19 South Carolina: We’re not going to lie. We have seldom rooted for Steve Spurrier because of his gigantic ego. In this one, however, we’ll give the Ol’ Ball Coach a pass since every signpost points to dirty dealings involving Auburn QB Cam Newton and the NCAA refuses to do anything about it. Most people have forgotten that these two teams played already this season, and the Gamecocks held a 20-7 lead in the first half and were still leading 27-21 after three quarters before Newton threw a pair of late TD passes for a 35-27 win. South Carolina has enough offense to match Auburn with QB Stephen Garcia (2,646 yards, 18 TDs) and RB Marcus Lattimore (1,114 yards, 17 TDs), and the Gamecocks also feature the No. 5 rushing defense in the country. So why not pick the upset? Why not indeed? … South Carolina 27, Auburn 24. (4 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 21 Florida State vs. No. 15 Virginia Tech: While the Hokies have pretty much run roughshod over the rest of the ACC in recent years, they have typically had nightmares about the Seminoles. FSU beat Tech to win the 2000 national championship, beat them in ’05 for the ACC title, and then beat the Hokies again two years ago, 30-20, when Tech was favored. That the Hokies have come off the mat for 10 straight wins after season-opening defeats to Boise State and I-AA James Madison is remarkable, but it is also remarkable the Seminoles have won nine games after the offseason turmoil that accompanied the ouster of longtime head coach Bobby Bowden. We are always reluctant to pick the Hokies in a nationally televised night game because they rarely perform well on the big stage. But since this seems to be the week for playing hunches. Therefore … Virginia Tech 27, Florida State 23. (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 13 Nebraska: Billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium provides the setting for what will be the Cornhuskers’ swan song as Big 12 members. This time next year, Nebraska hopes it will be preparing for the first-ever Big Ten championship game while the title contest in the Big 12 disappears due to that conference’s shrinking membership. Since Nebraska isn’t exactly leaving on the best of terms, do you think it’s possible that at least some fans around the Dallas area will show up to root for archrival Oklahoma? It is a redemption game for the Sooners, who lost 10-3 to the Huskers last season, and especially for QB Landry Jones, who was intercepted five times in that game. How in the world could you go against someone named Landry playing in Cowboys Stadium? … Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 17. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Rutgers (+21) at West Virginia; Utah State at Boise State (-37½); Nevada (-9) at Louisiana Tech; Oregon at Oregon State (+16½); Auburn (+6) vs. South Carolina; Florida State vs. Virginia Tech (-3½); Oklahoma (-3½) vs. Nebraska

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.

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