Miller Deserved A Heisman Invitation

Drivers who back into parking spaces. Double-stuffed Oreos. The fiscal cliff. Coaches in the Big Ten who didn’t think enough of Braxton Miller to make him their first-team all-conference selection.

There are so many things in this world that I just don’t get, and Miller finishing second to Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez on the coaches’ All-Big Ten was one more of them. Of course, the coaches look even more foolish now that Miller has won the Silver Football award, symbolic of the Big Ten’s most valuable player.

But there are some Ohio State fans that persist in the notion that Miller remains an average (at best) quarterback. Part of the downside of playing quarterback, of course, is that the hometown fans are never going to be satisfied. But I still cannot fathom how so many Buckeye Nation denizens believe Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is much more deserving of the Heisman Trophy than Miller.

First of all, Klein is not going to win the trophy. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be announced as the winner tomorrow night with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o a fairly distant second. Still, Klein earned an invitation to New York City and the official presentation ceremonies over Miller and USC receiver Marqise Lee.

Lee was no doubt eliminated for two reasons: He played for an underachieving team that lost five times this season, and he is only a sophomore. That means he can take his nation-best 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 TDs and get ready to pad those stats against Georgia Tech (No. 82 nationally in pass efficiency defense) in the Sun Bowl.

There were likely two reasons why Miller was eliminated as well. The first is that he is a sophomore, and the second was that he played for a team ineligible for postseason play. As a result, Miller got only cursory recognition during the season, and as the race for the national championship heated up, he was hardly mentioned at all.

It didn’t help Miller’s candidacy that his stats fell off during the final two games of the season. During the 21-14 overtime victory at Wisconsin, Miller was clearly frustrated as the Badgers keyed on him to the point that 23 carries netted only 48 rushing yards. His 10-for-18 performance for 97 yards and no touchdowns in the passing department was hardly Heisman-worthy, either.

The following week against Michigan, Miller was much better in the passing game, completing 14 of 18 attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown. But he struggled again on the ground, picking up only 57 yards on 20 carries.

Of course, those are the raw numbers. Dig a little deeper and you will find that Miller’s most effective month of the season was November when he failed to throw a single interception and rallied his team to a pair of overtime victories. Miller was also money with the game on the line. During the fourth quarter, he averaged 11.7 yards per attempt, threw for five touchdowns against only one interception, and had a passer rating above 205.

Then there is the totality of Miller’s body of work for 2012. Does anyone truly believe Ohio State would have completed a perfect 12-0 season without Miller at the controls? Even if all you look at are raw numbers, he should not be penalized because opposing defenses began to sell out just to stop him. The simple fact is that others on the team – i.e. Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown – began to step up their games because of him.

Does Miller remain largely an unfinished product as a college quarterback? There is virtually no disputing that. But 2012 marked the first season he has received any kind of high-level coaching. If he can make the same kind of progress over the next 12 months that he made over the past 12, there will be no way to prevent him from being a Heisman favorite in 2013.

That said, Miller’s 2012 numbers could be difficult to replicate. He broke Ohio State’s 17-year-old single-season record for total offense with 3,310 yards. He became the first OSU quarterback in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,271. Along the way, he totaled six games of 100 yards or more to give him a school-record-for-quarterbacks nine in his career. For some perspective on that last stat, All-American Bob Ferguson and Heisman Trophy winner Howard “Hopalong” Cassady had only nine 100-yard games during their Ohio State careers.

Miller also threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, completing 148 of 254 attempts (58.3 percent). Those are solid-if-unspectacular numbers – although very similar to those put up by Klein. The K-State senior completed 180 of 272 attempts (66.2) percent for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also pitched seven interceptions to six for Miller. That computes to one pick for every 38.9 attempts for Klein, and one every 42.3 attempts for Miller.

Add in the fact that Klein (3,380) and Miller (3,310) were virtually tied in total offense, and their teams combined for a 23-1 record, and I fail to see how Klein was so much better that he deserved an invitation to New York while Miller did not.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Dec. 8, 1914, representatives from Oklahoma and Rice attended a meeting in Houston and joined as charter members of what became the Southwest Athletic Conference.

** 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. 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, College Football Hall of Fame icon Glenn “Pop” Warner coached his final game at Carlisle (Pa.) Indian School. The Indians traveled to Birmingham and came home with a 20-3 victory over Alabama. Warner, who also coached at Georgia, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Stanford and Temple, 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 W. 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. 9, 1961, Baylor scored a 24-9 upset victory over No. 10 Utah State in the long-forgotten Gotham Bowl. The game was played in New York City at the old Polo Grounds during a driving snowstorm and featured eight turnovers by the Aggies. Baylor was led by halfback Ronnie Bull, who rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Don Trull, who threw for one score and ran for another. Utah State was led by future College and Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Merlin Olsen. The Gotham Bowl was only played twice. Following the 1962 game in Yankee Stadium, a 36-34 win by Nebraska over Miami (Fla.) played in 14-degree weather, the contest faded into the history books.

** On Dec. 11, 1971, first and only East-West Black All-Star Game was held in Houston. The contest, which featured all-star teams comprised only of African-American players, featured a 19-10 victory for the East over the West before only 5,156 fans.

** 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.

** On Dec. 12, 1981, Eastern Michigan celebrated its first (and still only) postseason appearance with a 30-27 win over San Jose State in the California Bowl.

** On Dec. 14, 1995, overtime was used for the first time ever in a Division I-A game. Toledo took a 40-37 win in OT over Nevada in the Las Vegas Bowl.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Wisconsin is only the second unranked team to make a BCS bowl (Connecticut was the first in 2010) and the Badgers are the first five-loss team to enter a BCS game. It would seem prudent for the Bowl Championship Series to have some sort of mechanism in place to prevent teams with more than two losses from playing in the marquee bowls, but since the BCS is going away after next season anyway …

** And then there is the curious case of Louisiana Tech, a 9-3 team featuring the nation’s No. 1 ranked scoring offense. The Bulldogs aren’t going to any bowl because athletic director Bruce Van De Velde turned down an invitation from the Independence Bowl for a better offer that never came. Tech long snapper Josh Cuthbert promptly qualified himself for Tweet of the year with this gem: “Way to go athletic director #yousuck.”

** It’s a whirlwind kind of season for Rod Carey. The former offensive lineman at Indiana began the year as a junior member of Dave Doeren’s coaching staff at Northern Illinois. After the Huskies’ season-opening loss to Iowa, Carey was promoted to offensive coordinator when predecessor Mike Dunbar was diagnosed with cancer. Then the day after NIU defeated Kent State in the MAC Championship Game, Carey was promoted to head coach after Doeren left to take the job at North Carolina State. That means Carey’s first assignment as head coach will be in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.

** Baylor finished the regular season with six consecutive victories to finish at 7-5 and grab a spot in the Holiday Bowl against UCLA. The Bears have now strung together three straight seasons of seven wins or more, and that’s the first time that has happened in Waco since 1949-51.

** USA Today college football writer Paul Myerberg had an interesting piece in the Dec. 4 issue regarding success tied to pass efficiency. The top 10 college teams in pass efficiency combined for a 91-31 record this season while the bottom 10 were 29-91. Of course, as with any statistical comparison, there are outliers. For example, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin finished atop the Big Ten in pass efficiency but ranked only a respective 44th, 52nd and 56th nationally. In terms of pass efficiency rating, the highest ranked team with a losing record was Marshall (5-7) at No. 27. The lowest ranked team with a winning record was Bowling Green (8-4) at No. 101.

** Pittsburgh began its season with a 31-17 loss to FCS member Youngstown State and sat at 2-4 in mid-October. But first-year head coach Paul Chryst righted the ship, the Panthers won four of their last six games, and got themselves bowl-eligible. That’s the good news. The bad news? Pitt will be playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., for the third year in a row. The Panthers took a 27-10 win over Kentucky two years ago and dropped a 28-6 decision to SMU last year.

** Speaking of the Panthers, they will be making their third straight visit to Birmingham under a third different head coach. Two years ago, head coach Dave Wannstedt was forced out and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett coached the team to its win over Kentucky. Last year, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was interim head coach during the bowl game after Todd Graham left to take over at Arizona State.

** Ten schools have filled coaching vacancies so far with 11 more still searching. The newly hired nine are Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Steve Addazio at Boston College, Sonny Dykes at Cal, Paul Petrino at Idaho, Mark Stoops at Kentucky, Doeren at N.C. State, Carey at Northern Illinois, Darrell Hazell at Purdue and Butch Jones at Tennessee. Still in the market for new head coaches: Arkansas State, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida International, Kent State, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Temple, UTEP, South Florida, Wisconsin and Western Michigan.

** Thoughts on the Bielema-to-Arkansas story have run the gamut from shock to derision. But for all of those who believe the SEC has stolen one of the Big Ten’s best coaches, chew on these numbers. Bielema leaves Wisconsin with a 39-19 record in the conference, a .672 winning percentage. Take a little closer scrutiny of that record and you will find a 25-2 mark vs. Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern, and a 14-17 ledger vs. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa and Nebraska. Bielema was 2-0 in conference title games, but only 2-4 in bowl games, including 0-2 in two Rose Bowl appearances.

** One final thought on the Wisconsin coaching situation. No one should have been surprised when athletic director Barry Alvarez decided to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. Likewise, no one should be surprised if Alvarez decides after the Rose Bowl that he himself is the best candidate to be Bielema’s successor.

FEARLESS FORECAST

We finished the regular season in a blaze of glory, going 8-2 straight up and 6-3-1 against the spread. That pushed the season totals to 105-25 SU picks and 68-58-4 ATS.

There is only one game tomorrow and it’s an annual classic.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Army vs. Navy: The pomp and circumstance of the Cadets and Midshipmen marching into the stadium far exceeds the entertainment value of the game itself. Nevertheless, it is a national showcase for a pretty good Navy team and a fairly awful Army squad. Both teams run the ball almost exclusively – Army has completed only 47 passes all season – which leads to the fact that the Cadets are the No. 1 running team in the nation and the Middies are No. 6. Unfortunately for Army, it also ranks 118th of 120 FBS teams in rush defense. That means RBs Gee Gee Greene and Noah Copeland as well as freshman QB Keenan Reynolds will get plenty of carries for Navy, and probably plenty of touchdowns … Navy 31, Army 24. (3 p.m. ET, CBS)

That will do it for the 2012 season. Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as well as a safe and prosperous new year.

Buckeyes Should Be Rewarded For Perfect Season

Ohio State put the finishing touches on a perfect season with a 26-21 victory over archrival Michigan, and Ohio Stadium hadn’t even emptied before the nattering nabobs of negativity began their dismissive chorus to belittle the Buckeyes’ accomplishment.

It seems that many pundits around the country don’t believe Ohio State “deserves” to be in this year’s national championship conversation. Unfortunately, the sorriest part of their argument has nothing to do with NCAA sanctions or postseason bans.

In their warped sense of sensibility, the Buckeyes have not performed to the level of a championship contender. Therefore, OSU and its perfect record are a sort of anomaly born of a weak conference affiliation and an even weaker schedule.

After all, didn’t the team struggle against the likes of California, Indiana and Purdue? Ohio State should probably thank the NCAA for issuing a postseason ban that prevents its team from being embarrassed by the unrelenting might of Notre Dame or Alabama in a national championship game.

Of course, that’s what those same so-called experts were saying a decade ago when the Buckeyes were on their way to play the supposedly invincible defending national champion Miami Hurricanes.

Those of us rooted in reality realized long ago that Ohio State was going to be the longest of long shots to win this year’s Associated Press version of the national title. Then when Notre Dame completed its perfect regular season a few hours after OSU completed its own, the Buckeyes’ tiny window of opportunity closed completely.

Still, the fact of the matter is that Ohio State completed a perfect season against all odds, and it should be rewarded regardless of how or against whom it was achieved.

The time-honored tradition among most human pollsters is that undefeated teams are ranked ahead of those which have been beaten. That’s why OSU should be no lower than No. 2 in the AP poll – and 17 of the 60 persons participating in the rankings released Nov. 25 agreed.

Likewise, it’s not too difficult to understand how 19 other voters placed the Buckeyes third or fourth on their AP ballots. On paper, Ohio State would likely struggle with either No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia, the teams that have qualified for the SEC elimination game that will determine Notre Dame’s opponent in the national championship contest.

And then there are those eight voters who placed Ohio State eighth or lower on their ballots. That included two – Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and Josh Kendall of The State in Columbia, S.C. – who didn’t even have the Buckeyes among their top 10.

DiPrimio had OSU at No. 11, behind a foursome of two-loss teams, while Kendall had the Buckeyes at No. 12, behind five teams with two losses. Of course, Kendall likely let his dog perform his balloting. He voted two-loss Texas A&M second overall behind Notre Dame despite the fact the Aggies tied only for the fourth-best record in the SEC.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter who finishes anywhere but first in these beauty contests. For example, can you name the team that finished No. 3 last year behind national championship combatants Alabama and LSU? (It was Oklahoma State.)

Whether Ohio State finished second this year, or third, or even 10th or 11th really doesn’t mean anything because I’ve got news for the Pete DiPrimios and Josh Kendalls of the world: The Buckeyes are going to be good again next year – very good – and it’s going to take much more than a computer keystroke to keep the team from contending for the national championship.

With the exception of most of its starting defensive line, Ohio State loses very little talent heading into 2013. And if you look at the way the Buckeyes recruited last year, the defensive line will be far from a liability.

Furthermore, the schedule sets up much the way the one this past season did. Nonconference opponents are Buffalo, San Diego State, California and FCS member Florida A&M, teams that combined for a 20-27 record this past season, and the Buckeyes’ only real Big Ten threats should be early in the season with back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Northwestern and the regular-season finale at Michigan.

Then there is the head coach. For all of the miracles Urban Meyer has performed during his 11-year career, he has been his most miraculous during the second season at each of his previous three stops.

At Bowling Green in 2002, the Falcons won nine games for the first time in eight seasons. Two years later at Utah, the Utes set a school record by going 12-0 and became the first-ever BCS buster, finishing off that season with a 35-7 mauling of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Then in 2006 at Florida, Meyer’s team went 13-1 and pummeled Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.

Add to those nuggets the fact that there is very little evidence that anyone in the Big Ten is rising to meet Meyer’s challenge. In the final two games this season, neither opposing head coach seemed very eager to engage Meyer or his team.

Bret Bielema, whose Wisconsin team had nothing to lose in a Senior Day battle with the Buckeyes, elected to punt three times inside OSU territory, including once at the Ohio State 30-yard line in the first quarter of a still scoreless game. A week later, Michigan’s Brady Hoke went away from the stretch plays that were working for his team in the early going and repeatedly tested the middle of the line of scrimmage with his running attack long after the Buckeyes had claimed the interior for their own.

Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel perhaps put it best when he wrote in his magazine’s Nov. 19 issue, “For a league in transition, Meyer is driving the pace car.”

That’s not exactly music to the ears of Big Ten opponents – or apparently sportswriters around the country. Then again, the truth always seems to hurt a little.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

** On Nov. 30, 1946, the annual Army-Navy game produced a classic in Philadelphia. The Cadets, led by future College Football Hall of Famers and Heisman Trophy winners Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard, raced out to a 21-6 halftime lead. But the Midshipmen stormed back in the second half with a pair of touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Middies, they missed all three of their extra-point attempts and lost the game by a 21-18 final when Army stopped them at the 4-yard line as time expired.

** On Nov. 30, 1968, second-ranked USC and No. 9 Notre Dame played to a 21-21 tie in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Fighting Irish took a 21-7 halftime lead behind quarterback Joe Theismann, who was making his first collegiate start. But the Trojans came back in the second half, thanks to a touchdown from senior tailback O.J. Simpson and a 40-yard scoring pass from QB Steve Sogge to Sam Dickerson. Notre Dame kicker Scott Hempel missed a 33-yard field goal attempt with 33 seconds to go to preserve the tie.

** 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. 1, 2001, top-ranked Miami (Fla.) held off No. 13 Virginia Tech, 26-24, in Blacksburg to clinch at spot in the Rose Bowl. The Hokies roared back from a 26-10 deficit starting the fourth quarter, but the Hurricanes preserved the win when safety Ed Reed picked off passes on Tech’s final two drives.

** On Dec. 1, 2007, the Bowl Championship Series turned upside-down in the matter of a few hours. Missouri and West Virginia entered the day atop the BCS standings, but the top-ranked Tigers lost a 38-17 decision to No. 8 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game while the second-ranked Mountaineers fell 13-9 to unranked Pittsburgh. Those two upsets elevated LSU and Ohio State into the BCS National Championship Game.

** On Dec. 2, 1978, No. 2 Alabama clinched the SEC title with a 34-16 victory over Auburn. Crimson Tide QB Jeff Rutledge threw for 174 yards and three touchdowns, and the win propelled Alabama into a 1 vs. 2 showdown with Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

** On Dec. 2, 1990, No. 11 Houston won a 62-45 shootout over Arizona State in a contest played in Tokyo, Japan. Houston QB David Klingler threw for an NCAA single-game record 716 yards and seven touchdowns, and the Cougars finished off a 10-1 season and wound up No. 10 in the final national rankings.

** On Dec. 3, 1885, in Downs, Kansas, one of the most colorful coaches in college football was born. Francis Albert Schmidt played his college ball at Nebraska, where he earned a law degree, and he later rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army during World War I. 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, at the first-ever SEC Championship game, 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 previously undefeated and third-ranked Alabama.

** On Dec. 3, 1999, ninth-ranked Marshall scored a wild 34-30 win over Western Michigan to claim a 12-0 regular season and the Mid-American Conference championship. The Broncos built a 23-0 third-quarter lead, but MU quarterback Chad Pennington rallied the Thundering Herd with three touchdown passes, the last one with four seconds to play.

** On Dec. 4, 1971, San Diego State and North Texas combined set a college football record for total plays in a regulation game during a 44-28 win for the Aztecs. San Diego State ran 99 plays while North Texas countered with 97 for a grand total of 196, a record that stood until 2003 when Arkansas and Kentucky combined to run 202 plays in a game that lasted seven overtimes.

** On Dec. 5, 1988, Miami (Fla.) ruined the national championship hopes of third-ranked UCLA with a 49-45 upset win in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes, led by 299 yards and three touchdowns from tailback Edgerrin James, rallied from a 38-21 deficit late in the third quarter. The Bruins fumbled twice and Miami QB Scott Covington threw for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to aid the comeback.

** 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.

** On Dec. 6, 1975, No. 18 Arkansas put an end to Texas A&M’s hopes of a national championship with a 31-6 upset win. The Razrobacks forced six turnovers and held the Aggies to only 149 total yards, securing their first trip to the Cotton Bowl in nine years.

** On Dec. 7, 1966, Army and Navy entered their traditional season finale with winning records for the first time in 33 years. With U.S. President Bill Clinton in attendance to personally award the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the winner, the Black Knights erased an early 21-3 deficit for a 28-24 victory. It was the largest comeback in the 96-game history of the series and the win gave Army its first-ever 10-victory season.

** On Dec. 7, 2002, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns as the Thundering Herd claimed the Mid-American Conference championship with a 49-45 win over Toledo. The Rockets had a 45-42 advantage late in the game, but Leftwich connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass with wide receiver Darius Watts with only 49 seconds left to give Marshall the victory and the MAC title.

** On Dec. 8, 2001, eighth-ranked BYU’s perfect season went down in flames as Hawaii scored a 72-45 victory over the Cougars in Honolulu. Rainbows QB Nick Rolovich threw for single-game school records of 543 yards and eight touchdowns while teammate Chad Owens returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and a punt 74 yards for another touchdown. The teams combined for 1,258 yards of offense and 69 first downs.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Notre Dame and Ohio State were the only Football Bowl Subdivision teams to make it through the 2012 regular season without a defeat. Neither team will play in a conference championship game – the Fighting Irish because they remain independent while the Buckeyes are serving a one-year postseason ban.

** The Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes each extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 games. While Ohio State will take its streak into 2013, Notre Dame will put its streak on the line in the BCS National Championship Game against the winner of the SEC title game.

** The nation’s longest losing streak will also move into 2013 as Southern Miss finished its first winless season since 1925 with a 42-24 loss at Memphis last weekend. The Golden Eagles, who were 12-2 just a year ago, finished 0-12 this season under first-year head coach Ellis Johnson. Southern Miss was outscored by a 450-236 margin, and Johnson became a one-and-done coach.

** If you take a look back at the Associated Press preseason poll, you would see rankings in which voters really didn’t know up from down. USC was the preseason No. 1, Oklahoma was No. 4, Michigan was No. 8, Arkansas was No. 10, West Virginia was No. 11, Wisconsin was No. 12, Michigan State was No. 13 and Virginia Tech was No. 16. With the exception of Oklahoma (12th) and Michigan (21st), none of those teams was ranked headed into the final weekend of the regular season. On the flip side, top-ranked Notre Dame was listed among “others receiving votes” in the AP’s preseason poll while No. 4 Ohio State was a lowly 18th.

** Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is trying to win a national championship in his third season in South Bend. If you’re into history, you might want to scrape up a few dollars and bet on the Irish to win the title. Frank Leahy (1943), Ara Parseghian (1966), Dan Devine (1977) and Lou Holtz (1988) each won national championships with the Fighting Irish in their third seasons.

** What team is the only one to defeat four opponents currently ranked among the top 15 of the BCS standings? We’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. It’s Florida, which defeated No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 10 South Carolina and No. 13 Florida State. And yet by virtue of their only loss, a 17-9 decision Oct. 27 to No. 3 Georgia, the 11-1 Gators will get neither a smell of the SEC Championship Game nor the national title contest.

** There are a lot of worthy candidate for National Coach of the Year, but how about the job turned in by second-year head coach David Shaw at Stanford. Shaw lost overall No. 1 NFL pick Andrew Luck along with several other starters and still managed to guide the Cardinal to a 10-2 regular season and a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game against UCLA. A victory over the Bruins would send Stanford to the Rose Bowl for the first time since a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin on New Year’s Day 2000. The Cardinal hasn’t won a Rose Bowl since beating Michigan, 13-12, in the 1972 game.

** Remember that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side? Running back Silas Redd, who rushed for 1,241 yards last year, was one of several Penn State players who elected to transfer in the wake of the NCAA punishment doled out following the Jerry Sandusky affair. Redd transferred to USC, where he ran for 817 yards and nine TDs for the Trojans, who finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. Penn State finished one game better at 8-4.

** Congratulations to longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter Bill Livingston. His alma mater Vanderbilt finished the season with six consecutive victories – the program’s longest win streak since 1955 – to finish 8-4, their best record since 1982. The Commodores scored 40 or more points in five games this season, the first time they have done that since 1915.

** Congratulations are also in order for Northwestern, which stomped its way to a 50-14 win over Illinois last week to complete a 9-3 season. The Wildcats will likely play in a New Year’s Day Bowl for the first time since the 2009 Outback Bowl. NU will also be looking to end a nine-game postseason losing streak. The Wildcats have a 1-9 lifetime bowl record with the only victory a 20-14 win over California in the 1948 Rose Bowl.

** This was unthinkable just a couple of years ago, but the hot seat under Texas head coach Mack Brown is beginning to smolder. Since going 13-1 in 2009 and losing to Alabama in the national championship game, the Longhorns are a decidedly average 21-15. Worse still, the Mack Attack has lost three straight to archrival Oklahoma by a combined margin of 146-58 and Brown’s once iron grip on recruiting in his home state is beginning to wane. In recent years, the Longhorns have missed out on such homegrown quarterback talent as Andrew Luck (Houston Stratford), Robert Griffin III (Copperas Cove) and Johnny Manziel (Kerrville Tivy).

** Tennessee got its head coach Derek Dooley fired and then finished the season with a 31-17 win over Kentucky to avoid its first-ever winless SEC season. The Volunteers still finished 5-7 overall, their third straight losing season. Tennessee hasn’t been below .500 for three consecutive years since 1909-11.

** Michigan State crashed and burned this year, going from preseason Rose Bowl favorite to a 6-6 overall mark that included a 2-5 record at home. The Spartans haven’t lost as many as five games at Spartan Stadium in a single season since 2006, the final year of the John L. Smith Experience.

** Virginia Tech got a 29-yard field goal from Cody Journell as time expired last week to squeeze out a 17-14 win over Virginia and make themselves eligible to go to a bowl for the 20th consecutive season.

** With its 45-9 rout of Idaho last Saturday, Utah State put the finishing touches on a 10-2 overall record. It marked the program’s first season with double-digit victories in its 114-year history. The win over Idaho also completed a 6-0 Western Athletic Conference record for the Aggies, who won a conference championship for the first time in 76 years. How close was Utah State to a perfect record? Their only losses came on the road – 16-14 to Wisconsin and 6-3 to BYU.

** Conference realignment being what it is these days, Utah State will be unable to defend its WAC title in 2013. That’s because the Aggies move to the Mountain West Conference next season. Also leaving the WAC next year – Louisiana Tech and UTSA join Conference USA, Texas-Arlington and Texas State move to the Sun Belt, San Jose State goes with Utah State to the MWC, and Denver joins the Summit League. Joining the WAC in 2013 will be Cal State-Bakersfield, Utah Valley and Grand Canyon University.

** Who says nothing can happen in the so-called victory formation? Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning was trying to take a knee with his team leading Florida International by a 17-10 score with 28 seconds remaining. However, Browning somehow fumbled the snap, FIU recovered and Golden Panthers freshman QB E.J. Hillard threw a 58-yard touchdown pass with 0:14 showing on the clock to send the game into overtime. Fortunately for Browning, he threw a 15-yard touchdown pass in OT and the Warhawks scored a 23-17 victory.

** Remember Cal running back Brendan Bigelow, who ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries against Ohio State? Bigelow had only 271 yards and one TD the rest of the year on 36 carries. Still, he averaged a pretty cool 9.8 yards per carry for the season. Makes you wonder why the Bears didn’t use him more.

** This season produced an all-time record 42 overtime games. Louisiana-Monroe was in four of them and won three times. Wisconsin was in three and lost all three.

** Illinois finished the season 0-8 in the Big Ten, extending its conference losing streak to 14 consecutive games. That is the longest losing streak of league games since the Fighting Illini lost 14 in a row between 2003 and ’04. No Big Ten team has lost more than 14 consecutive conference contests since Illinois lost 15 in a row from 1996-98.

** Houston QB David Piland completed 53 passes during a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech in early September. Meanwhile, 2-9 Army heads into its traditional season finale against Navy next weekend having completed 47 passes as a team all year.

** The old saying that “you can throw the records out when rivals play” has been debunked in recent years. Not only has Ohio State beaten Michigan 10 of the last 12 times in their series, Georgia has won 11 of its last 12 against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech has won nine in a row against Virginia, Oregon has beaten Oregon State five times in a row and South Carolina has won four in a row over Clemson.

** It’s crunch time for those of us with Heisman Trophy ballots. Johnny Manziel? Manti Te’o? Marqise Lee? Collin Klein? Braxton Miller? Ballots have to be turned in by early next week and I might have to put those five names in a hat and pull out three.

FEARLESS FORECAST

We enjoyed another winning week here at Forecast World Headquarters, going 8-2 straight up and a 5-4-1 against the spread. That pushed the season totals are 97-23 with the SU picks and 62-55-3 ATS.

Here are the games we’ll be watching (from home) this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

No. 19 Northern Illinois vs. No. 18 KentState: The MAC title game will feature two of the most prolific offensive players in college football – also two guys most of the nation has never heard of. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch should probably be getting more Heisman love, especially since he ranks third in the country in total offense (2,750 yards passing, 1,611 yards rushing). Meanwhile, Kent features running back Dri Archer, who is fifth in the nation among all-purpose runners (1,337 yards rushing, 458 yards receiving, 573 yards on kickoff returns). So, which team has the better defense and which team makes fewer mistakes? The teams are fairly even in terms of defense while both are among the nation’s top 20 in turnover margin. All things considered, this ought to be a pretty entertaining game … Northern Illinois 34, Kent State 28. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 17 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford: Anyone who had these two teams playing in the Pac-12 title game should play Powerball. While preseason favorites USC and Oregon stay home and watch on TV, the Bruins and Cardinal will stage a rematch of last Saturday’s game that wound up in a 35-17 Stanford win. The Cardinal pretty well controlled last week’s game by shutting down the UCLA running attack. Of course, Stanford boasts the nation’s No. 1 run defense, so that wasn’t much of a surprise. It is extremely difficult to beat a team twice in one season, much less twice in six days. But Stanford would seem to have just too much going for it to lose at home, where it has won 19 of its last 20 games … Stanford 31, UCLA 21. (8 p.m. ET, Fox)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 24 Oklahoma State at Baylor: If you like offense, you ought to like this one. The Cowboys and Bears have combined to score 990 points this season – that’s an even 45.0 points per game, boys and girls – while the defenses have surrendered 736, an average of about 33.5 per contest. That just means you’d better have plenty of popcorn and cold beverages handy. Baylor QB Nick Florence leads the nation in total offense and engineers an attack that has topped the 50-point mark five times this season. For OSU, junior RB Joseph Randle averages 110.2 yards rushing while sophomore WR Josh Stewart has 84 catches for 1,007 yards and six TDs. The Bears play much better at home – they are 5-1 in Waco, including that stunning 52-24 upset of Kansas State – while the Pokes have lost three of four away this year away from Stillwater. However, Oklahoma State has always had Baylor’s number, including last year when the Cowboys shut down eventual Heisman winner Robert Griffin III during a 59-24 romp. That’s why we’re going the way we’re going … Oklahoma State 51, Baylor 45. (12 noon ET, FX)

No. 12 Oklahoma at TCU: The Sooners are in the unenviable position of having to take care of business against the Horned Frogs and then root for archrival Texas to knock off Kansas State so they can claim the Big 12 championship and the big-money BCS berth that goes with it. TCU has a chance to finish its first season in the conference with back-to-back wins over Texas and Oklahoma, and the Frogs have never beaten both teams in the same season. TCU still has a pretty good defense, which it will need against OU quarterback Landry Jones (3,745 yards, 27 TDs). But the Frogs have taken a step backward offensively ever since starting QB Casey Pachall was suspended and then left the team after four games. Look for Jones to motor past the 4,000-yard mark for the third straight season and lead the Sooners to a 10th victory, giving OU double-digit wins for the 11th time in Bob Stoops’ 14-year tenure … Oklahoma 37, TCU 28. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Nicholls State at No. 16 Oregon State: After absorbing a 48-24 beating administered by in-state rival Oregon last weekend, we’re sure the last thing the Beavers want to do is take on the Colonels, an FCS opponent with a 1-9 record. This is a game that was supposed to have been played in early September, but Hurricane Isaac swept in and closed the Nicholls State campus, preventing the team from getting to Corvallis. The Colonels have lost seven in a row, surrendering an average of 36.7 points per contest, and the last time they took on an FBS opponent, it would up in a 66-16 loss at Tulsa in mid-September … Oregon State 49, Nicholls State 7. (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 20 Boise State at Nevada: The Broncos have ridden under the radar this season after a season-opening loss to Michigan State, but they head into this week with plenty at stake. Boise is attempting to win a share of its first Mountain West Conference championship and post a seventh consecutive season with at least 10 victories. Standing in its way is Nevada, which took a 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos the last time Boise visited Reno, a loss that knocked the Broncos out of the BCS that year. The game will likely come down to the Boise defense, ranked No. 8 in the country, trying to stop Wolfpack RB Stefphon Jefferson (1,564 yards, 20 TDs) … Boise State 31, Nevada 26. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia: The SEC Championship Game should be a good old-fashioned slugfest with the Crimson Tide pitting its No. 1-ranked defense against the Bulldogs and their multifaceted offense that features QB Aaron Murray, ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency. Of course, Alabama is no slouch on offense (it leads the nation in scoring) while UGA is pretty good on defense (No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency defense, No. 22 overall). The winner gets to play Notre Dame for the national championship with the Tide hopeful of capturing a third title in four years. Because of the way the SEC schedules its conference games, Mark Richt and Nick Saban have only met twice before and split those two games – Georgia took a 26-23 overtime win in Tuscaloosa in 2007 and Alabama returned the favor the following year with a 41-30 win in Athens. The teams have split the last five meetings overall and the Tide holds a slight 17-16-4 edge when the two play one another at neutral sites. Look for another rock-’em-sock-’em SEC final … Alabama 19, Georgia 17. (4 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 23 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State: The Wildcats are playing for a spot in the BCS while the Longhorns are playing for pride. Texas has lost six of its last eight meetings with K-State, including the last four in a row. To end that slide, the Longhorns are going to have to play better defense. Against the top three offensive attacks in the Big Ten, Texas has allowed 36 points to Oklahoma State, 50 to Baylor and 63 to Oklahoma. In two of those games, the Longhorns somehow managed enough offense to win – 41-36 over Oklahoma State and 56-50 against Baylor. But the Wildcats feature one of the best defenses in the Big 12, including the stingiest unit where scoring is concerned. Couple that with the fact Kansas State averages 40.6 points per game on offense and it seems difficult to believe the Longhorns can break through … Kansas State 41, Texas 24. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Bo Pelini has his Cornhuskers team in a conference championship game for the third time in the past four years while the Badgers are two-time defending Big Ten champions angling for a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. The game features the rematch of a 30-27 Nebraska win from Sept. 29, a contest in which the Badgers blew a 17-point, third-quarter lead. Wisconsin has been a star-crossed team all season, losing five games – including three in overtime – by a total of just 19 points. That means the Badgers are better than their 7-5 record indicates or they are simply underachievers. Look for both teams to try to pound the ball with their running attacks while NU makes just enough plays on defense to punch their first ticket to Pasadena since 2002 … Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 24. (8:17 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech: Much like the Big Ten, where Wisconsin advanced to the title game ahead of NCAA-sanctioned Ohio State and Penn State, Georgia Tech took advantage of a self-imposed postseason ban by Miami (Fla.) to get to the ACC championship contest. That’s the good news for the Yellow Jackets. The bad news is they have to contend with the Seminoles, who are still smarting after last week’s mistake-prone 37-26 loss to Florida. FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel threw a season-high three picks against the Gators, and the Seminoles also lost star defensive end Tank Carradine to a season-ending ACL injury. Meanwhile, Tech has been inconsistent defensively all season while Florida State has the No. 8 scoring offense in the nation … Florida State 37, Georgia Tech 24. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (+7); UCLA at Stanford (-8); Oklahoma State (-4) at Baylor; Oklahoma (-6½) at TCU; Nicholls State at Oregon State (NL); Boise State at Nevada (+9½); Alabama vs. Georgia (+7½); Texas at Kansas State (-10½); Nebraska (-2½) vs. Wisconsin; Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (+14).

Miller Might By Most Exciting Buckeye In Long Time

During a Saturday night awash in myriad offensive milestones, much of the buzz in the Ohio Stadium press box last week focused upon Braxton Miller when the question was raised: “Who is the most exciting Ohio State player in the past 10 years?”

Surprisingly for a team that has done more than its share of winning over the past decade, there weren’t that many names on the list.

Troy Smith got a mention, mostly for the career body of work turned in by the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner.

Someone brought up Terrelle Pryor for his gazelle-like moves and raw athletic ability, while another offered Maurice Clarett, who played such a vital role in the 2002 national championship season. But just as quickly as their names were mentioned, Pryor and Clarett were summarily dismissed – Pryor because of the perception he should have been even better than he was, and Clarett because his star flashed so quickly across the horizon before disappearing. There was also the haze of off-the-field issues that hung over both players.

The player receiving the most nods of agreement was Ted Ginn Jr., the electrifying speedster who rewrote the Ohio State and Big Ten record books for kick returns. Ginn’s graceful running style was such a blur of speed and elegance that those in pursuit of him seemed to be moving in slow motion.

Ginn eventually recorded eight returns – six punts and two kickoffs – for touchdowns, all but erasing the fact that he was also an underrated receiver. His 135 career receptions for 1,943 yards and 15 TDs all rank among the top 10 in program history.

Of course, the conversation only got started following Miller’s 72-yard run in the second quarter, a play that set the tone for the rest of the game against a Nebraska defense that had surrendered a scant 17 yards to Ohio State on its preceding 13 plays.

Every play in every offensive coordinator’s playbook is designed to go the distance if everything goes according to plan. The trouble is, not every play goes according to plan – and even when it does, it often needs a little something extra. Miller is that something extra for the Buckeyes, and he so often displays it with an exquisite dash of flair.

Nebraska had just taken a 17-7 lead at the 11:59 mark of the second quarter, and the press box chatter sounded more like a postmortem on the Ohio State team than a discussion about exciting players of the recent past. Then Miller took all of about 15 seconds to change that.

The sophomore quarterback took a relatively routine shotgun snap and began moving to his right with tailback Carlos Hyde swinging out for a possible option pitch. As the OSU offensive line began to pick off Nebraska defenders one by one, Miller recognized a huge lane, tucked the football under his arm and quickly cut upfield, reaching the second level in what seemed like less than the blink of an eye.

Two effortless fakes – moves designed to make talented Big Ten defenders look like pony leaguers – left a pair of Cornhuskers clutching at air, and then two more downfield blocks allowed Miller to glide all the way to the Nebraska 3 before he was finally pushed out of bounds.

Humorist James Thurber once wrote that Chic Harley’s running style was “kind of a cross between music and cannon fire,” and I couldn’t help but remember those words while watching Miller on that 72-yard display that was as melodic for the Buckeyes as it was lethal to the Cornhuskers.

“We couldn’t get anything going at the time,” OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said of Miller’s big play. “We had a couple of punts leading up to that, and we needed somebody like Braxton to make a big play to excite the crowd because the crowd got out of it. To have someone like Braxton make a play like that and get them into the game and being able to score, it was good.”

Good? That might qualify Brown for understatement of the season so far.

“We have a quarterback that’s kind of ridiculous running the ball,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said. “I think Braxton obviously changed the game.”

That wasn’t the only time.

Later in the second quarter, Miller did it again, this time on a fourth-and-2 play from the Nebraska 31. The Cornhuskers called timeout before the play, and head coach Bo Pelini had to figure Meyer was going to put the ball in the hands of his best player.

Not that the knowledge did Pelini any good. Miller took the shotgun snap, and as Hyde picked off blitzing NU safety P.J. Smith, the quarterback broke over the right side of the line and sprinted his way past every other would-be tackler for a 31-yard touchdown run. It was Miller’s crowning achievement during a second-quarter performance that included six rushes for 146 yards, and it gave the Buckeyes a 35-24 halftime lead.

By now you know that second-quarter explosion was part of a career-high 186 rushing yards for Miller, a performance that allowed him midway through his sophomore year to tie Pryor for most career 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback.

It is also worth noting Miller’s virtuoso performance occurred in full witness of a nationwide television audience. It was, in simple terms, the kind of performance on which future Heisman Trophies are won.

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 86th time with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 68-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 24-2-1 record at Memorial Stadium, including wins in each of the last eight games played in Bloomington.

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 17-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.

** The 17-game win streak in the second-longest in the series for OSU. The Buckeyes won 23 consecutive games against Indiana between 1960 and 1986. The Hoosiers’ longest win streak in the series is four in a row between 1903 and 1914.

** Ohio State in its history has more victories over Indiana than any other team. The Buckeyes have 68 wins vs. the Hoosiers, 65 over Illinois, 59 over Northwestern, 55 over Wisconsin and 45 over Iowa.

** OSU head coach Urban Meyer will be facing Indiana for the first time as a head coach, but he was on the sideline in 1986 and ’87 as a member of Earle Bruce’s staff when the Buckeyes played the Hoosiers. OSU took a 24-22 win in Bloomington in 1986, but IU scored a 31-10 upset win the following year at Ohio Stadium, an afternoon Bruce later described as “the darkest day in Ohio State history.”

** 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 5-4-1 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), Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001) and Luke Fickell (34-20 in 2011). 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 second season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 61 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.

** Ohio State is playing its second night game in a row while Indiana will be playing its third night game of 2012. The Hoosiers took a 24-17 victory over I-AA Indiana State under the Memorial Stadium lights on Sept. 1 and then lost a 41-39 heartbreaker two weeks later at home to Ball State.

** Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 22 times – 19 touchdowns and three field goals – in 24 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. OSU currently has a streak of scoring on 20 consecutive trips inside the red zone.

** Indiana is 11th in the Big Ten and tied for 94th nationally in red zone defense. The Hoosiers have allowed opponents to score 15 times in 17 trips inside their 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and three field goals.

** The Hoosiers currently lead the Big Ten and are 19th nationally in passing offense, averaging 305.2 yards per game. IU has already thrown for 11 touchdowns this season, surpassing last year’s total of 10.

** Ohio State is 11th in the conference and 96th in the nation in pass defense, surrendering 265.3 yards per game.

** Indiana has 17 native Ohioans on its roster – nine of which are on the Hoosiers’ two-deep – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are sophomore tailback Rod Smith of Fort Wayne and sophomore defensive lineman Joel Hale of Greenwood.

** Wilson also has three native Ohioans on his coaching staff. Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/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.

** A familiar name is in his second season on Wilson’s staff as a graduate assistant. Chris Shula, whose grandfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, is the GA in charge of defense.

** 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.

** For his performance against Nebraska that included a school record-tying five tackles for loss, OSU senior defensive lineman John Simon earned national defensive player of the week honors from the folks who give out the Chuck Bednarik Award as well as those who give out the College Football Performance Awards. Simon had seven tackles against the Cornhuskers, including two sacks, and he also forced a fumble.

** Simon’s five tackles for loss vs. Nebraska tied a single-game OSU record first established by Judah Herman in a 16-9 loss to Iowa in 1991 and equaled by Jayson Gwinn during a 23-17 win against Indiana in 1993 and Andy Katzenmoyer in the 1997 Rose Bowl vs. Arizona State, a 20-17 victory for the Buckeyes.

** Simon jumped to 12th place on Ohio State’s career list for tackles for loss with 36. Current defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is the school’s all-time leader with 66 TFLs.

** Congratulations to Corey “Philly” Brown, whose 76-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. Nebraska earned him Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Brown’s return for a score was the first for the Buckeyes since Chris Fields ran one back 69 yards during last year’s 27-22 win over Toledo.

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s career-high 186 rushing yards vs. Nebraska pushed his career total to 1,478 and jumped him into fourth place all-time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) is first with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70).

** Miller also matched Pryor’s school record for quarterbacks with seven games of 100 or more yards rushing.

** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 82 for 82 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.

** Last week’s 63-point output by the Buckeyes marked the highest point total since a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010 and the best output against a Big Ten opponent since a 69-18 win over Minnesota in 1983. Additionally, it represented the most combined points in an OSU game since 1950. That year, Ohio State and Iowa combined for 104 points in an 83-21 win for the Buckeyes. Conversely, it was the most points surrendered by Nebraska since a 65-51 loss at Colorado in the 2007 season finale. Head coach Bill Callahan was dismissed following that game and the Cornhuskers hired current head coach Bo Pelini before the 2008 season.

** The offensive outburst against Nebraska marked only the 27th time in program history the team had topped the 60-point mark. Rarer still is accomplishing the feat against a Big Ten opponent. OSU had tallied 60 or more points against a conference rival only seven times before doing it against the Cornhuskers. Northwestern played the hapless victim in four of those games – 60-0 in 1973, 63-0 in 1980, 63-20 in 1978 and 70-6 in 1981. The other three were 69-18 vs. Minnesota in 1983, 62-7 over Wisconsin in 1969 and 83-21 against Iowa in 1950, the game in which Vic Janowicz threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, returned a punt for a sixth TD and kicked 10 extra points.

** Ohio State is now 272-0-1 all-time when scoring 35 or more points. The lone blemish on that record is a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978.

** Ohio State rushed for 371 against the Cornhuskers, the highest rushing total for the Buckeyes since a 409-yard effort during a 41-3 win over Illinois in 1995. OSU also averaged 7.72 yards per carry vs. Nebraska, the fourth-highest single-game average in school history. The record of 9.23 yards per carry was set during a 51-15 win at Illinois in 1962.

** OSU junior tailback Carlos Hyde set new career-highs with 28 carries for 140 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Ohio State running back to rush for four touchdowns since Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George during a 56-35 win over Iowa in 1995.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. (That’s 7 p.m. local time if you’re going to Bloomington.) The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast with Eric Collins on play-by-play, Derek Rackley providing color analysis and former Illinois linebacker J Leman filing sideline reports.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 135 and XM channel 190.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to host Purdue with kickoff time and broadcast affiliates still TBA. The Big Ten will not make an announcement regarding that game until after this weekend’s contests have been played.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 12, 1929, the University of Georgia dedicated Sanford Stadium with a 15-0 win over heavily favored Yale. College Football Hall of Famer Vernon “Catfish” Smith was the star of the game for the Bulldogs, falling on a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown, hauling in a TD pass and tackling a Yale runner in the end zone for a safety. Sanford Stadium, which originally housed 30,000 spectators and cost $360,000 to build, has grown to a capacity of 92,746, the sixth largest on-campus stadium in the nation.

** On Oct. 12, 1940, Tennessee rolled to a 53-0 win over Chattanooga, marking a NCAA-record 17th consecutive regular-season shutout for the Volunteers. During the period four-year period between 1937 and 1940, the Vols went 37-5-1 with 33 shutouts and captured two national championships under legendary head coach Robert Neyland.

** On Oct. 12, 1963, second-ranked Texas scored a 28-7 victory over No. 1 Oklahoma, marking the second-largest winning margin in a matchup featuring the top two teams in The Associated Press poll. QB Duke Carlisle led the Longhorns by rushing for a touchdown and passing for another, while the Texas defense held the Sooners to only eight first downs. The matchup featured a pair of legendary head coaches – Darrell Royal for the Longhorns and Bud Wilkinson for the Sooners. Texas went on to win the 1962 national championship while OU finished No. 10 in Wilkinson’s final season as Sooners head coach.

** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter, but the Huskies scored a MAC-record 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory. It was the second-most fourth-quarter points in a comeback win in NCAA history.

** On Oct. 13, 1956, Syracuse running back Jim Brown rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns and added a key third-quarter interception on defense to lead the Orange to a 27-20 win over West Virginia. The victory was a key one for Syracuse in its march to the Cotton Bowl later that season.

** On Oct. 13, 1979, unranked Stanford erased a 21-point deficit in the second half and achieved a 21-21 tie with defending national champion and No. 1-rated USC in historic Los Angeles Coliseum. After falling behind by three touchdowns at halftime, the Cardinal rallied behind quarterback Turk Schonert, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the second half. The Trojans had a chance to pull out the victory in the final seconds, but botched the snap from center on a field-goal try.

** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.

** On Oct. 14, 1950, Penn halfback Francis “Reds” Bagnell accounted for 490 yards of total offense to lead the Quakers in a 42-26 win over Dartmouth. Bagnell threw for 276 yards and rushed for 214, making him the first player in college football history to crack the 200-yard mark in passing and rushing in the same game. The feat wasn’t matched again for another 36 years and has been equaled fewer than a dozen times since.

** On Oct. 14, 1978, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw for 210 yards, including a game-clinching 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Harris late in the fourth quarter, and the Boilermakers scored a 27-16 win over Ohio State in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes outgained Purdue by nearly 200 yards but committed five turnovers. The win, described by Purdue head coach Jim Young as “the biggest of my coaching career,” was the Boilermakers’ first against the Buckeyes since 1967.

** Also on Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record 55 carries and led the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.

** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.

** On Oct. 15, 1977, Iowa State went to Lincoln and scored a 24-21 upset of No. 9 Nebraska, giving the Cyclones back-to-back victories over the Cornhuskers for the first time in 27 years. The final score wiped out a superlative performance by NU running back I.M. Hipp, who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”

** On Oct. 16, 1937, two of the most famous teams in college football history collided as Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” took on Pittsburgh’s “Dream Backfield” in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. Future College Football Hall of Famers were all over the field that day including Fordham offensive line coach Frank Leahy and Pitt head coach Jock Sutherland, while Fordham lineman Vince Lombardi went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching career with the Green Bay Packers. The scoreless tie was the only blemish on either team’s 1937 records. Pitt finished 9-0-1 and won the national championship while Fordham was 7-0-1 and wound up third in the polls.

** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.

** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss pulled off the shocker of the year, upsetting fourth-ranked Ole Miss by a 30-14 final in Oxford. Rebels QB Archie Manning threw for two touchdowns to give his team an early lead, but the Golden Eagles got a pair of rushing touchdowns from RB Willie Heidelberg – the first black player in Southern Miss history – while halfback Gerry Saggus added a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Eagles were also aided by punter Ray Guy, who kept Ole Miss at bay by averaging 49 yards per punt.

** On Oct. 18, 1958, Northwestern celebrated became the first team since 1891 to score 50 or more points against Michigan, jumping out to a 43-0 halftime lead before putting the finishing touches on a 55-24 victory over the Wolverines in Evanston. Halfbacks Ron Burton and Willmer Fowler combined for five touchdowns while QB/DB Dick Thornton threw for 109 yards and returned an interception 37 yards for a score.

** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost them a second consecutive national championship.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams shrank by seven last weekend, leaving only 16 unbeatens remaining. Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon and South Carolina are 6-0 while Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, UTSA and West Virginia are 5-0. Cincinnati and Oregon State are 4-0.

** The king is dead, long live the king. TCU felt the effects of having to suspend starting quarterback Casey Pachall for a drunken driving arrest, and the Horned Frogs dropped a 37-23 decision to Iowa State. That ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games, and now means South Carolina owns the longest streak at 10 wins in a row.

** The Horned Frogs will play the rest of the season without Pachall, who has withdrawn from TCU with plans to enter an inpatient facility for treatment of substance abuse. Pachall, who was arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, had failed a university-administered drug test in February. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said once Pachall has completed his treatment, he will be eligible to return to school and the team. The quarterback has one season of college eligibility remaining.

** That victory by Iowa State over TCU marked the third straight season the Cyclones have notched a road win against a ranked team. Not bad for a team that is only 3-30 on the road against top-25 opponents since 1996.

** While TCU’s win streak was snapped, Tulane extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 15 games following a 41-13 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Green Wave is 0-5 this season and has been outscored by a 212-45 margin.

** For the first time since USA Today took over the coaches’ poll in 1991, no Big Ten team is in the top 25. OhioState is undefeated, of course, but NCAA sanctions which include a postseason ban make the Buckeyes ineligible for both the coaches’ poll and the BCS rankings, which are due for the first time this season Oct. 14.

** People keep talking about West Virginia QB Geno Smith already having sewed up the Heisman Trophy, and we keep mentioning the Mountaineers’ upcoming schedule that includes a four-game run against No. 6 Kansas State on Oct. 20 and TCU on Nov. 3, a game at OklahomaState on Nov. 10 and back home vs. No. 13 Oklahoma on Nov. 17. If the Heisman were being awarded today, Smith would be the lead-pipe lock to win it. He leads the nation in pass efficiency based on superlative numbers that include 166 completions in 204 attempts (81.4 percent) for 1,996 yards, 24 TDs and no interceptions.

** Louisiana Tech is off to a 5-0 start, its best since joining Division I-A in 1975. The Bulldogs haven’t won five games to begin a season since winning 11 in a row during the 1974 season. Tech won all 10 regular-season games that year and the first game of the Division I-AA playoffs before suffering a 35-14 loss to Central Michigan. Additionally, the Bulldogs are No. 22 in this week’s AP poll, the first time they have been ranked since 1999.

** Duke has gotten off to a 5-1 start, its best since starting 7-0 in 1994. The Blue Devils finished 8-4 in ’94, a season that culminated in a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl. That also marks the last bowl game in which Duke played. The Blue Devils haven’t won a postseason game since a 7-6 win over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

** Michigan QB Denard Robinson rushed for 235 yards during last Saturday’s 41-13 rout of Purdue and became the all-time leading rusher among Big Ten quarterbacks. Robinson now has 3,905 yards, and that eclipsed the old record of 3,895 held by Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (1998-2001).

** How far has Auburn fallen since its 2010 national championship? The Tigers are 1-4 and managed only seven points last week against an Arkansas defense that had given up 110 points in its previous two SEC games. Auburn has seven offensive touchdowns in five games and has been outscored by a 45-3 margin in the fourth quarter.

** Florida has trailed at halftime to SEC rivals Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, and won all three of those games. In fact, the Gators outscored those three teams in the second half by a combined total of 51-6.

** Last week’s 41-3 loss to Notre Dame proved that Miami (Fla.) isn’t quite back just yet. The Hurricanes are 4-0 against unranked teams, but lost to KansasState and the Fighting Irish by a combined 93-16 margin.

** The Oklahoma offense got a jolt of energy Wednesday when the NCAA ruled Fresno State transfer receiver Jalen Saunders eligible for the remainder of the season. Saunders, who was first-team All-WAC after he caught 50 balls for 1,065 yards and 12 TDs last season for the Bulldogs, left Fresno State when Pat Hill was fired in December after 15 seasons as head coach.

** Ohio State is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes have already equaled last year’s victory total. But while Urban Meyer will get some votes, the frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year has to be Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. Facing unbelievable scrutiny and unprecedented sanctions, O’Brien has somehow rallied his team to four straight victories. The Nittany Lions have this week off and then travel to Iowa next week and host OhioState on Oct. 27.

** Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison stemming from more than 40 charges of child sexual abuse. The penalty amounts to a life sentence for the 68-year-old Sandusky. One day later, the State Employees’ Retirement System of Pennsylvania announced it would revoke Sandusky’s $59,000 annual pension.

** Farewell to one of the most colorful characters in college football. Beano Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 81, began his career as a sports publicist for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s. Later, he parlayed his outspokenness and gravelly voice into a broadcasting career that included stints at ABC and ESPN. Born Carroll Hoff Cook on Sept. 1, 1931, he was one of the initial influences for ESPN’s popular College Football Gameday show. Cook was known for hyperbole – claimed Notre Dame QB Ron Powlus would win three Heismans – as well as witticism. When Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1981 offered lifetime passes to games for returning hostages from Iran, Cook quipped, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”

FEARLESS FORECAST

For the first time in a couple of weeks, we finished above .500 against the spread. But then the straight-up picks sprung a leak when every coin-flip game we chose wound up a loss. We were 6-4 both straight up and against the spread, making the yearly totals 48-12 SU and 28-32 ATS.

Neither percentage is worth talking about, so we’ll just get to the games we’ll be watching this weekend.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 18 Louisville at Pittsburgh: The Panthers have been on a rollercoaster ride during their first season under head coach Paul Chryst. Pitt began the season with a 31-17 loss to Division I-AA Youngstown State, and then two weeks later upset then No. 13 Virginia Tech. But the Panthers lost last week to Syracuse, which had lost eight straight games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won their first five games in rather unimpressive fashion, including last week’s 21-17 struggle with winless Southern Miss. Louisville has lost four straight games in the series, but those kinds of trends haven’t meant much so far this season … Louisville 23, Pittsburgh 20. (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 6 Kansas State at Iowa State: With West Virginia on their horizon next week, this is an obvious trap game for the Wildcats. Iowa State has only one loss and the Cyclones went into Fort Worth last weekend and ended the nation’s longest winning streak by knocking off TCU. Iowa State also played K-State tough. The Cyclones have lost four straight in the series, but all four of those games were played in Manhattan and none of the Wildcats’ wins were by more than eight points. The last time K-State visited Ames, it went home with a 31-20 loss in 2007. Of course, there is the small matter of ISU’s 1-11 record in its last 12 home games against ranked opponents … Kansas State 31, Iowa State 20. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 15 Texas vs. No. 13 Oklahoma: The Cotton Bowl hosts the annual renewal of the Red River Shootout with each of the rivals trying to bury the other with a second Big 12 loss. The Longhorns are coming off a disappointing 48-45 home loss to West Virginia, a game in which the defense allowed 460 yards and couldn’t hold a 38-34 lead after three quarters. Meanwhile, the Sooners got exposed three weeks ago with a home loss to Kansas State. The difference in the two teams is defense. OU ranks 20th in the nation in scoring defense while Texas ranks 66th. Then when you consider the Mack Pack has lost seven in a row to ranked opponents, you get this outcome … Oklahoma 37, Texas 31. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 1 Alabama at Missouri: What exactly was Mizzou thinking when it thought joining the SEC was a good idea? The Tigers are 0-3 in their new conference and have been outscored by a 91-45 margin. And now they get ready for a taste of Crimson Tide, which rolls into Columbia fresh off an open week. When last we saw Alabama, it was rolling to a 33-14 win over Ole Miss. The Tide ranks No. 1 in the country in total and scoring defense while the Tigers are 95th in total offense. As we have said many times before, if you can’t score, you can’t win … Alabama 38, Missouri 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Stanford at No. 7 Notre Dame: The Cardinal has a three-game series winning streak going, but they also had a guy named Andrew Luck at the offensive controls. Luck, of course, has taken his talents to Indianapolis in the NFL, leaving Stanford a somewhat more challenged attack with junior QB Josh Nunes. Taking an offense that remains a work in progress to South Bend is no bargain this season. No defense has allowed fewer touchdowns this season than the Fighting Irish, and their offense is beginning to get better. ND put up its biggest rushing total in 12 years during last week’s 41-3 rout of Miami (Fla.), and sophomore QB Everett Golson added 186 yards through the air and 51 yards on the ground. That seems to make for a pretty tall hurdle for Stanford to climb, especially knowing it has lost seven of its last eight in South Bend … Notre Dame 31, Stanford 17.  (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Fresno State at No. 24 Boise State: First-year head coach Tim DeRuyter has the Bulldogs played extremely well on defense. Fresno leads the nation in interceptions (12), which helps it rank 11th in turnover margin. But ranking would be even better if the Bulldogs hadn’t committed eight turnovers themselves in their first six games. That trend had better change this week since Boise State’s defense is even more opportunistic than Fresno. The Broncos are tied for No. 5 in the nation in turnover margin, including forcing 13 in their last three games. That should make the difference as Boise tries for a seventh straight victory in the series … Boise State 27, Fresno State 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, DirectTV 603)

Illinois at No. 25 Michigan: There was hope in Champaign that Tim Beckman could bring his high-octane offense with him from Toledo. So far, that hasn’t happened. The Fighting Illini rank dead last in the Big Ten in scoring, and that is never a good thing when you have to try and outscore the Wolverines. QB Denard Robinson is the nation’s fourth leading rusher (135.2 yards per game) and generates an average of 323.6 total yards per contest, and that is simply going to be too much for the Illini … Michigan 42, Illinois 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Boston College at No. 12 Florida State: The Seminoles are coming off a game in which they blew a 16-0 halftime lead against North Carolina State and wound up on the business end of a 17-16 final score. What better way to recuperate than against a 1-4 team that hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2008? Despite last week’s loss, the Seminoles still rank seventh in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. That can’t be good news for BC head coach Frank Spaziani, whose team ranks 109th in rush offense and 104th in total defense … Florida State 44, Boston College 14. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 4 Florida at Vanderbilt: Is Vandy laying a trap for the Gators? Florida is coming off an emotional 14-6 win over LSU last week and has No. 3 South Carolina coming to the Swamp next weekend, so the case could be made that the Gators’ focus will not totally be on the Commodores. That could be problematic, especially in the passing game since Florida ranks last in the SEC in passing offense while Vandy is third in pass defense. It is just difficult to image the Commodores generating enough offense, however, especially against an opponent they have lost to 21 straight times … Florida 30, Vanderbilt 13. (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 8 Ohio State at Indiana: This game will go a long way toward determining if the Buckeyes are truly the No. 8 team in the nation, and none of that determination has anything to do with the Hoosiers. Ohio State has played up (or down) to the level of its competition so far this season, and since it rolls into Bloomington tomorrow night as a prohibitive favorite, it will be interesting to see how the team responds. Will the Buckeyes build upon the foundation of emotional wins over Michigan State and Nebraska the last two weeks, or will they revert to the team that snoozed its way through large chunks of the nonconference season? The Hoosiers have some weapons that can exploit what has been a suspect Ohio State pass defense. But they showed last week vs. Michigan State, the Hoosiers remain a young team that has not yet learned how to win … Ohio State 38, Indiana 17. (8 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Louisville (-1½) at Pittsburgh; Kansas State (-6) at Iowa State; Texas vs. Oklahoma (-2½); Alabama (-17½) at Missouri; Stanford at Notre Dame (-7); Fresno State (+9) at Boise State; Illinois at Michigan (-21); Boston College at Florida State (-27); Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt; Ohio State (-16) at Indiana.

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

My Annual Trip To The Graveyard

It very nearly didn’t happen this year.

With a new Urban Meyer rumor to chase down virtually every day, family Thanksgiving obligations outside the city and tomorrow’s Ann Arbor travel plans to finalize, I very nearly skipped my annual Michigan Week ritual.

Then I thought about how I would feel if I didn’t go on my annual pilgrimage, so while everyone else in my family settled in to watch another football game on Thursday evening, I sneaked away to drive past the little white house on Cardiff Road. Then it was on to Ohio Stadium for some reflection before traveling a well-worn path north on Olentangy River Road to Union Cemetery.

I arrived just as darkness was beginning to fall and I knew the cemetery would be closing soon. The freshening breeze caused a swirl of falling yellow and brown leaves as I made my way through the main entrance and down an ever-narrowing blacktopped road to Section 12.

It was a milder-than-usual Thanksgiving Day in central Ohio this year, so I left my coat in the car as I made my way to a familiar place – Lot 37, Space 4 – beneath the large pine trees off to the side of a black granite marker. I soon wished I had taken that coat as a cold wind began to blow, gently at first but growing into a chilly bluster.

I started back to the car when I heard a familiar sound.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Half-startled, I turned around and squinted against the dying daylight. It was the silhouette of a man that has become familiar to me over the years. He was stockily built and slightly hunched over, and as my eyes slowly adjusted to the increasing darkness, I could make out the red windbreaker, the gray trousers, the silver-rimmed glasses and the black baseball cap jammed low over his gray hair. I could also make out an angry scowl, lips tightly pressed together, and a jaw locked firmly into position.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he repeated. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Waiting for me?” I replied. “I’m sorry. I’ve always got the impression that you thought I was kind of a pest, showing up every year about this time and bending your ear like I do. I just kind of thought …”

“The only thing that bothers me,” the man interrupted, “is that you talk when you should be listening. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given your profession. My experience always was that people in your line of work thought they knew more than they really did.”

With a sheepish grin, I nodded. But before I could say anything else, the old man began again.

“I’ve had a lot on my mind these past several months and I’m not very happy about what I’ve seen. Not very goddamned happy at all. Just what in the hell is going on over there? Has everyone lost their minds?”

“Well,” I said, “it is kind of mind-boggling to think all of this started when a couple of guys wanted some free tattoos.”

“Free tattoos?” he thundered. “Do you think that’s what this is all about? A couple of kids wanted free tattoos?”

He began to clench and unclench his fists as he inched toward me. His mouth drew even tighter, and his hollow eyes seemed to pierce right through me.

“It has nothing to do with any goddamned tattoos. I’m talking about doing the right thing. I’m talking about honor. I’m talking about leadership. I’ve seen none of that during this whole thing – at least none of it from the people who should have been showing it. Of course, I really shouldn’t be surprised. When the going gets tough, the cover-your-ass, ivory-tower crowd gets hard to find. Let me tell you something: I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for any of them.”

“Well,” I interjected, “the university hasn’t exactly distinguished itself in terms of damage control.”

“Damage control?” he said with a laugh. “Their idea of damage control is fighting a forest fire with a goddamned squirt gun.”

He shook his head and looked at the ground. After a few moments, he looked at me again and I thought I could detect a glistening moistness in his eyes.

“A goddamned shame,” he said softly. “It’s just a goddamned shame what this great and wonderful institution has been through. I feel sorry for those players who had nothing to do with this mess. They are the ones who are suffering. Those players and that fine coach are the ones I think have lost the most.”

“That fine coach?” I said.

“Yes. Jim Tressel,” he said. “A fine, fine man. He didn’t deserve what happened.”

“Well,” I offered. “There are those who believe Tressel got what was coming to him.”

“Those people are goddamned fools and you can tell them I said so,” he said sternly.

I tried again. “He did knowingly use players that would have been ineligible and lied to the NCAA when … ”

I was quickly cut off.

“He didn’t lie to anyone. He did what he had to do.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What do you mean he did what he had to do?”

“He did what he had to do,” the man repeated. “If you knew what I know, you’d say the same thing. He did what he had to do, what we all would do given the same set of circumstances – if we had the guts.”

“Are you saying we don’t know the whole story? I asked.

Just then, I heard another sound. A lone car had appeared and a man rolled down the window.

“The cemetery’s closed,” he said. “You’ll have to leave.”

I nodded my head in his direction and then turned back to the man in the black ball cap. But he was gone.

“Hey!” I shouted. “Wait a minute. There’s so much more I wanted to ask you. So much more I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Who are you talking to?” the man in the car asked.

I turned around again as the wind began to rustle the trees.

“No one, I guess,” I said softly as I began to shuffle slowly toward my car.

The man drove off, and as I opened my car door, I looked back one last time, trying to make out the black gravestone in the darkness. Out of the shadows and gathering ground fog, the old man walked toward me.

“I have so many questions,” I said. “What did you mean about Tressel doing what he had to do? What do you think about the job Luke Fickell has done? What do you think about Urban Meyer?”

“I know you have a lot of questions,” he said softly. “I’ve been getting a lot of visitors these past few months and they all have the same questions. The best advice I can give them is among the words that are written right over there.”

He pointed back at the granite marker on which these words are inscribed: “And in the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love hears the rustle of a wing.”

I heard a familiar church bell chime in the distance and I knew what that meant.

“Well, I have to getting back,” he said. He turned and began walking toward the shadow of the trees before turning around to face me one last time.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he said. “There is one thing you could do for me. You tell those boys who are going to put on those scarlet and gray uniforms tomorrow that I’ll be watching. You tell ’em if there’s something they’d like to do to warm the soul of an old coach, they can go up there and knock the living daylights out of those sons-a-bitches.”

“I’ll tell them, Coach,” I said. “I’ll tell them.”

With that, he nodded and walked off into the mist, faintly talking to himself – words that sounded an awful lot like “Fight that team across the field, show them Ohio’s here.”

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Michigan will buckle it up tomorrow for the 108th renewal of what is known simply as The Game. The teams first met in 1897 and have played every season since 1918. The Wolverines lead the overall series by a 57-44-6 margin, including a 30-20-4 advantage in Ann Arbor – 4-0-1 at Regents Field, 5-2-0 at Ferry Field and 21-18-3 at Michigan Stadium.

** In the last 60 meetings overall, Ohio State holds a 32-26-2 advantage.

** Since 1919, when Ohio State scored its first-ever victory over Michigan, the overall series is dead even at 44-44-3.

** The Buckeyes have won each of the last three games in the series played at Michigan Stadium. They haven’t enjoyed that kind of streak in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines since winning four in a row between 1961 and 1967.

** Ohio State has won nine of the last 10 games in the series for the first time ever. The Buckeyes are also gunning for an unprecedented eighth straight victory over Michigan.

** OSU head coach Luke Fickell is making his first appearance vs. Michigan as a head coach, but he is 9-4 lifetime against the Wolverines. Fickell was 1-3 against U-M as an Ohio State player from 1993-96 and 8-1 as an assistant coach on Jim Tressel’s staff from 2002-10.

** Only four Ohio State head coaches enjoyed winning records against Michigan – Woody Hayes (1951-78) at 16-11-1, Jim Tressel (2001-10) at 9-1, Earle Bruce (1979-87) at 5-4 and Francis A. Schmidt (1934-40) at 4-3. Hayes, Bruce and Schmidt are all members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

** Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is making his first appearance vs. Ohio State as a head coach, but he is 5-3 lifetime against the Buckeyes. Hoke spent eight seasons from 1995-2002 on Lloyd Carr’s coaching staff at U-M.

** Six Michigan head coaches had winning records against Ohio State – Fielding Yost (1901-23, ’25-26) at 16-3-1, Bo Schembechler (1969-89) at 11-9-1, Herbert “Fritz” Crisler (1938-47) at 7-2-1, Gary Moeller (1990-94) at 3-1-1 and Gustave Ferbert (1897-99) and George Little (1924) at 1-0 each.

** The game will feature two of the winningest college football teams in history. Michigan ranks first all-time with 893 wins while Ohio State is fifth with 836. Texas is second with 856, Notre Dame is third with 851 and Nebraska is fourth with 845.

** This marks the 18th time in series history that Ohio State and Michigan have played after Thanksgiving. The series is deadlocked at 8-8-1 when the game has been played after Turkey Day, but the Buckeyes have prevailed the last two times the two teams have met post-Thanksgiving. That included last year’s 37-7 win in Ohio Stadium as well as a 26-20 victory in Ann Arbor in 2001, 310 days after Jim Tressel made his now-famous speech shortly after being hired as OSU head coach.

** Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines have been eliminated from the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, ending a decade-long streak during which either OSU or Michigan won or shared the conference crown. The last time neither team had at least a share of the Big Ten trophy was in 2001 when Illinois took home the outright championship.

** In addition to having its record-tying streak of six consecutive Big Ten championships snapped, Ohio State will fall short of at least 10 victories for the first time since an 8-4 season in 2004. The Buckeyes’ streak of six straight seasons with 10 or more wins is a conference record.

** The last time a ranked Michigan team lost to an unranked Ohio State squad was in 2004 when the Buckeyes erased an early 14-7 deficit for a 37-21 victory over the seventh-ranked Wolverines.

** Michigan is trying to win its eighth home game in a single season for the first time since 1917 when the Wolverines were playing at old Ferry Field.

** You probably should not expect a shutout tomorrow. The Wolverines haven’t blanked the Buckeyes since a 28-0 victory in Ann Arbor in 1993. OSU hasn’t recorded a shutout over U-M since a 28-0 win in Ann Arbor in 1962.

** During an 18-year span from 1975 to 1992, the record for the team entering The Game with the higher ranking was 12-4-1. (Neither team was ranked in 1987.) In the 18 games since, the higher-ranked team has managed only an 11-7 mark.

** Michigan is vastly improved on defense from a year ago. After allowing 35.2 points per game in 2010, the Wolverines give up an average of only 15.6 points this season and that ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth nationally. They have also gone from 108th in total defense (447.9 yards per game) a year ago to 14th this season (312.6).

** The game will feature a pair of slow-starting teams. Only 44 of Ohio State’s 267 total points (16.5 percent) have come in the first q          quarter. Only 72 of Michigan’s total of 370 points scored (19.5 percent) have come in the opening period.

** That said, both teams will be looking to score first. Ohio State is 4-1 this season when it scores first; Michigan is 5-1 when it puts up the first score of the game.

** The Wolverines have outscored their opposition by a 190-77 margin in the second half. The Buckeyes have outscored their opposition by a 139-100 margin in the second half.

** Since the two teams met in 1923 for the Ohio Stadium dedication game, a total of 7,743,542 fans have attended The Game. That’s more than any other college football game in America. Sixty-one of those 89 games have been sold out, including the last 42 in a row.

** Michigan Stadium is the site for the largest crowd ever to watch a college football game. A crowd of 114,804 jammed into the Big House on Sept. 10 to watch the Wolverines take a 35-31 win from Notre Dame.

** The Wolverines have 21 native Ohioans on their roster including six starters – tight end Kevin Koger (Toledo Whitmer), strong safety Jordan Kovacs (Oregon Clay), offensive guard Patrick Omameh (Columbus DeSales), receiver Roy Roundtree (Trotwood-Madison), linebacker Jake Ryan (Cleveland St. Ignatius) and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (Youngstown Liberty).

** The Buckeyes have three players from Michigan – defensive back Dionte Allen (Orchard Park St. Mary’s), tight end Reid Fragel (Grosse Pointe South) and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins (Detroit Southeastern).

** Don’t expect a close game. In the previous 107 contests between OSU and Michigan, only 17 have been decided by three points or less. The Buckeyes hold a 6-5-6 edge in those games.

** Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson has 3,046 career rushing yards. That is second all-time among quarterbacks in the Big Ten to Antwaan Randle El, who totaled 3,895 yards for Indiana from 1998-2001. Robinson is currently ninth on U-M’s career rushing list.

** Robinson gets more recognition for his running ability, but he has moved into the top 10 in many of his school’s passing categories. That includes a tie for seventh with Tom Brady (1996-99) with 35 career touchdown passes.

** In terms of career total offense, Robinson is third all-time at Michigan with 7,693 yards. Occupying the top two spots are Chad Henne (9,300, 2004-07) and John Navarre (8,995, 2000-03).

** OSU senior wideout DeVier Posey had four catches last week to move him into eighth place on the Ohio State all-time receptions list with 128. He broke a ninth-place tie with Dane Sanzenbacher (124, 2007-10) and also motored past Brian Robiskie (127, 2005-08). Posey needs 13 more catches to leapfrog Dee Miller (132, 1995-98), Ted Ginn Jr. (135, 2004-06) and Santonio Holmes (140, 2003-05) and into OSU’s career top five.

** Posey also made a leap in career reception yardage. His 66 yards against the Nittany Lions gave him 1,859 and pushed him ahead of Cedric Anderson (1,807, 1980-83), Jeff Graham (1,809, 1988-90) and Ken-Yon Rambo (1,849, 1997-2000) and into 12th place all-time. Posey needs only 21 more yards to move past Robiskie (1,866) and Sanzenbacher (1,879) and into the top 10.

** OSU junior tight end Jake Stoneburner notched his seventh TD reception of the season last week and the ninth of his career. That ties him with Chuck Bryant (1959-61), John Frank (1980-83), Rickey Dudley (1994-95) and Darnell Sanders (1999-2001) for second all-time in career touchdown catches among Ohio State tight ends. John Lumpkin (1996-98) is the career leader with 10.

** The Game will be televised for the 45th consecutive year and 56th time overall. The first OSU-Michigan game ever televised was a 21-0 win by the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1947.

** This week’s game will be telecast by ABC with the broadcast crew of Dave Pasch (play-by-play) former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman (color analysis) and Quint Kessenich (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 138 and XM channel 91.

** Westwood One will also have the radio broadcast with Brian Davis on play-by-play and former Ohio State running back and 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George handling color analysis.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** And then there were two. Oklahoma State went by the wayside last Friday night with its double overtime loss to Iowa State, leaving only LSU and Houston as the remaining undefeated teams at the Division I-A level. Both teams are 11-0 – the Tigers for the first time since their 1958 national championship team finished 11-0, and the Cougars for the first time in program history.

** LSU’s 52-3 romp over Ole Miss last Saturday pushed the Tigers’ winning streak to 12 games. That is the longest streak in the nation.

** Meanwhile, time is running out for Florida Atlantic to avoid a winless season. The Owls lost a 34-7 decision to Troy last weekend, dropping them to 0-10 this season and extending the nation’s longest losing streak to 13 games. FAU, which has been outscored by a 355-117 margin this season, finishes its season with home games against a couple of 3-8 teams – UAB (3-8) tomorrow and Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 3.

** This year’s Heisman Trophy race went from a foregone conclusion to up in the air back to a three-horse race in the space of just two weeks. I have whittled my choices down to Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Alabama RB Trent Richardson, Houston QB Case Keenum, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III and Boise State QB Kellen Moore.

** Griffin likely worked his way up plenty of Heisman ballots with his performance last week in Baylor’s 45-38 upset win over Oklahoma. RG3 completed 21 of 34 passes for 479 yards and four touchdowns, the final one coming on a pinpoint 34-yard strike with eight seconds left in the game. Griffin’s stat line for the season: 245 for 346 (72.9 percent) for 3,572 yards, 33 TDs and only five INTs. He’s also rushed for 550 yards and five touchdowns.

** A couple more things about that Baylor win: The Bears entered the game 0-20 all-time against Oklahoma and hadn’t beaten a top-five team since a 20-13 win at third-ranked USC in 1985.

** One guy who probably should be getting more Heisman love is Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball. He is the nation’s No. 3 rusher with an average of 133.3 yards per game and he is the top scorer in the country with 30 touchdowns. That is a new Big Ten record and only nine behind the NCAA record set in 1988 by Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State.

** The nation’s leading rusher is someone you’ve probably never heard of. Bobby Rainey of Western Kentucky has 1,468 yards this season, almost singlehandedly getting the Hilltoppers bowl-eligible for the first time. Rainey is also on the verge of a pretty significant milestone. He needs 32 more yards to become only the eighth player since 2000 to post back-to-back seasons of at least 1,500 rushing yards. The others: LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU, Steven Jackson of Oregon State, Ray Rice of Rutgers, DeAngelo Williams of Memphis, Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois, Darren McFadden of Arkansas and LaMichael James of Oregon.

** Two reasons why conference championship games are not such a great idea. Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the current BCS standings, likely needs only to beat Auburn tomorrow to virtually clinch a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Meanwhile, top-ranked LSU – which beat the Tide three weeks ago – finishes its regular season today against No. 3 Arkansas and then has to play No. 13 Georgia in the SEC title game. If the Tigers lose either one of those games, they’re out of the national championship picture. There is a similar scenario in the Big Ten. If Michigan beats Ohio State and Michigan State loses in the league championship game, the Wolverines will be in line for an at-large BCS bid while the Spartans – who beat U-M by two touchdowns in mid-October – will not.

** Virginia had to beat Florida State three times last Saturday to finally chalk up a 14-13 victory. The Cavaliers appeared to have stopped the Seminoles’ last-minute drive, but a facemask penalty gave FSU one more play. On that one, a call was overturned by replay to give Florida State a 42-yard field goal try to win it. The three-point attempt missed, and the Cavaliers finally moved to 8-3 with a shot at the ACC title game if they can upset Virginia Tech tomorrow.

** ’Tis the season. The first bowl invitations of the year have already gone out, including one to BYU, which has agreed to play in the Armed Forces Bowl, set for a noon kickoff on Dec. 30. The game will be played at 32,000-set Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the SMU campus in suburban Dallas. (That’s Gerald J. Ford, by the way, not U.S. President Gerald R. Ford. The guy with the J for his middle initial is a Texas billionaire banker who put up most of the money for the stadium’s construction in 1999-2000.)

** Louisiana (which used to be known as Louisiana-Lafayette) has accepted an invitation to play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 17 and Arkansas State will be one of the participants in the GoDaddy.com Bowl set for Jan. 8.

** Congratulations to College Football Hall of Fame coach John Gagilardi. The 85-year-old Gagilardi has announced he will return next season for his 60th year at Division III Saint John’s (Minn.). He is college football’s winningest coach with a current career record of 484-133-11. Gagilardi began his coaching career in 1949 at Carroll College in Montana.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov 23, 1957, Princeton knocked off unbeaten Dartmouth, taking a 34-14 victory and claimed the Ivy League title in the process. Princeton star Danny Sachs threw a touchdown pass, returned an interception 40 yards to set up another score and returned a punt 60 yards for fourth-quarter TD to lead the Tigers.

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

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

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

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

** On Nov. 24, 1973, No. 20 Kansas took a 14-13 win over No. 19 Missouri in the Border War. The Tigers held a 13-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Jayhawks QB David Jaynes threw a pair of late touchdown passes to secure the win. The one-point victory allowed Kansas to set an NCAA record by playing their sixth game of the season decided by two points or less. The Jayhawks beat Colorado and Iowa State by two points, beat Missouri by one, lost to Nebraska and Tennessee by one and tied Oklahoma State.

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Nov. 25, 1989, Bo Schembechler coached his final game in Ann Arbor, guiding his third-ranked Michigan team to a 28-18 win over Ohio State. The victory gave Schembechler’s Wolverines their second consecutive outright Big Ten championship, becoming the first team to win back-to-back undisputed league titles since Michigan State in 1955 and ’56.

** On Nov. 26, 1938, Georgia Tech became the first team in college football history to play back-to-back scoreless ties when the Yellow Jackets battled instate rival Georgia to a 0-0 draw in Athens. The previous week, Tech and Florida had played to a scoreless tie in Atlanta.

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

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

** On Nov. 27, 1998, Texas tailback Ricky Williams sewed up the Heisman Trophy with a 259-yard performance during a 26-24 upset of sixth-ranked Texas A&M. Williams broke off a 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to break Tony Dorsett’s NCAA career rushing record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

The dominoes are starting to fall at the top of the college football polls and that is having an adverse effect on the straight-up picks. We went 6-4 for the second week in a row and are now 103-19 SU for the season. That’s still a pretty good win percentage at 84.4, but not so great when you realize we were above 90 percent for a good chunk of the season.

Still, we can live with that ledger considering the way we’ve picked against the spread. We had another winning week at 7-3 and are now 76-42-2 ATS for the year.

Let’s see what we have on tap this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

No. 3 Arkansas at No. 1 LSU: Leftover turkey sandwiches, a frosty cold beverage and this game should make for a dandy little post-Thanksgiving treat. The Razorbacks take the SEC’s top-ranked offense into Death Valley to see what they can do with the nation’s No. 2 defense. The Hogs have pretty had their way in this series the past few years, taking three of the last four meetings including last year’s 31-23 victory. But Arkansas had veteran Ryan Mallett at quarterback last season and LSU was offensively-challenged and fumbled the ball away three times. This year, the Tigers are much more accomplished on offense – eight of their 11 victories this year are by 26 points or more – and with a defense like theirs, it means this game may very well turn out like LSU’s season-opener against Oregon … LSU 38, Arkansas 20. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 8 Houston at Tulsa: Perhaps you are one of those snobs who turns up their nose at the Cougars because they play in Conference USA. Granted, UH doesn’t play a schedule worthy of being in the national championship equation. But the Coogs are pretty darned entertaining if you like offense. QB Case Keenum is the NCAA’s all-time leader in just about every passing category there is, and he leads an offense that is No. 1 in the nation in yardage (618.3 per game) and scoring (53.1 points). Houston is no slouch on defense, either, and it will be in for a serious challenge from the Golden Hurricane, who are on a seven-game winning streak during which they have outscored the opposition by an average of 23.0 points per game. Tulsa beat the Cougars last year, 28-25 in Houston, but Keenum was sidelined with a knee injury. His presence this year makes the difference … Houston 41, Tulsa 31. (12 noon ET, FSN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn: It’s pretty straightforward for the Tide. Win the Iron Bowl and you’re playing for the national championship. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, ’Bama has been waiting a year for redemption after blowing a 24-0 lead during a 28-27 loss to the Tigers last season. Auburn doesn’t have Heisman winner Cam Newton at the controls this year, but the Tigers have still managed to win seven games thanks mostly to a potent running attack led by sophomore Michael Dyer (1,194 yards, 10 TDs). But Dyer and his offensive line will have their hands more than full with Alabama’s nasty defense, a unit that is the nation’s best in virtually every category … Alabama 34, Auburn 12. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 5 Virginia Tech at Virginia: The Hokies have things right where they want them. A couple of major upsets and they could squeeze their way into the national championship picture. First things first, though, as they travel to Scott Stadium to take on the surging Cavaliers. UVA has won four straight and are just a win away from getting a berth in the ACC title game. Tech stands in the way, however, and the Cavaliers haven’t exactly distinguished themselves in the rivalry. They have lost seven straight in the series and 11 of the last 12. Those numbers don’t bode well, especially with the Hokies riding a six-game win streak and rested after being off last weekend … Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford: The Cardinal still believe they have a shot at the national championship game although a lot of dominoes would have to fall exactly right for Stanford to get to New Orleans. More realistic goals would be to sew up a BCS at-large berth as well as the Heisman Trophy for QB Andrew Luck. The stiffarm trophy’s odds-on favorite didn’t have the best of performances the last time his team was on national television, committing three costly turnovers during a 53-30 loss to Oregon two weeks ago. Luck can, however, redeem himself against the Fighting Irish, who have won eight of their last nine. Notre Dame has not played particularly well on the road this year although they are 3-1 away from South Bend. This should be a pretty evenly-matched contest … Stanford 34, Notre Dame 30. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Wyoming at No. 7 Boise State: The Broncos realize they’re not going to get to play for the national championship, so the next best thing is to win out and secure an at-large BCS bid. It certainly could happen if the recent spate of late-season upsets continues. This week, Boise welcomes a surprisingly good Cowboys team to the Smurf Turf. Wyoming has won of its last five, losing only a 31-20 decision to TCU during that stretch. That’s the same TCU team that went to Boise and knocked off the Broncos two weeks ago. But the Cowboys are 0-5 lifetime against Boise State and probably still have bruises from last year’s 51-6 mugging in Laramie … Boise State 42, Wyoming 17. (2 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Oregon State at No. 10 Oregon: It seems odd that the Beavers and not the Ducks would enter this year’s edition of the Civil War with the momentum. Oregon State is coming off a 38-21 win over Washington last week while the Quack Attack suffered a 38-35 home loss to USC. Of course, those outcomes will likely have very little bearing on what transpires tomorrow. The OSU defense is really no match for the Ducks, who still have the third-best scoring offense in the country. Oregon has won the last three in the series, but the games have been relatively tight – as any good rivalry game should be … Oregon 41, Oregon State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 14 Michigan State at Northwestern: Good defense coupled with eliminating mistakes is usually a pretty good recipe for championship football. The Spartans have used that combination – the nation’s No. 3 defense and plus-9 in turnover margin – to punch their ticket to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are feeling pretty good about themselves with a four-game win streak although the four victims have a combined record of 15-29. Sparty has won four of the last five in the series, including three straight in Evanston … Michigan State 31, Northwestern 23. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 19 Penn State at No. 16 Wisconsin: Despite the ongoing turmoil in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions can still get to the Big Ten title game with a win in Madison. They will have to try to get that done by pitting one of the conference’s best defenses against the Badgers, who own the Big Ten’s best offense. Bucky, whose only two losses this season were last-second defeats on the road, is practically unbeatable at Camp Randall. Wisconsin is a perfect 6-0 at home this season and has outscored the competition by a 314-68 margin. That’s no misprint. That is an average winning margin of 41 points a game. It’s doubtful things could get that far out of hand tomorrow. Then again, the Badgers absorbed a 48-7 loss in 2008 the last time Penn State was in Madison and UW head coach Bret Bielema has a long memory … Wisconsin 49, Penn State 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Ohio State at No. 15 Michigan: As much pain as it brings us to admit it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a path to victory for the Buckeyes. Since expending a tremendous amount of energy getting an upset win over Wisconsin four weeks ago, the team has played as if its emotional tank is on empty. That really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given all of the peripheral minefields through which the players have had to navigate. You would like to believe the Buckeyes can rally one last time around head coach Luke Fickell and keep the streak going against Michigan. But it just doesn’t seem likely, especially going against an opponent that appears to be more dialed in … Michigan 31, Ohio State 17. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Arkansas at LSU (-12); Houston (-3) at Tulsa; Alabama (-20½) at Auburn; Virginia Tech (-4½) at Virginia; Notre Dame (+7½) at Stanford; Wyoming (+33½) at Boise State; Oregon State (+28) at Oregon; Michigan State (-6½) at Northwestern; Penn State at Wisconsin (-14½); Ohio State at Michigan (-7).

Enjoy the games and have a safe holiday weekend.

A Handful Of Things I Think

With all due respect to veteran NFL writer Peter King, here are some things I think as the college football season heads into the homestretch and we try to put some distance between us and one of most unseamly scandals in sports history.

I think you could have gotten astronomical odds this time last year had you suggested both Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno would be fired – with cause – within the subsequent 12 months. The two Big Ten head coaches with the most solid of legacies have been summarily dismissed, leaving the conference with no real pillars of college football.

I think anyone who wants to draw a parallel between the scandals at Ohio State and Penn State should seriously think look at themselves in the mirror and reassess their priorities. Trading memorabilia for tattoos against harboring a sexual predator of young boys? Seriously? That’s the comparison you want to make?

I think anyone who believes there is a rush to judgment regarding the Penn State situation ought to read the grand jury testimony. There is eyewitness testimony and the perpetrator has been charged with more than 40 criminal counts ranging from involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption of minors to endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault. These heinous acts began more than 15 years ago, and you want to talk about a rush to judgment? Spare me.

I think if Jerry Sandusky had made a one-minute phone call to a prospect during a dead recruiting period, the NCAA would have severely sanctioned him as well as the Penn State football program. But because Sandusky’s actions are not under the purvey of college athletics’ governing body, NCAA president Mark Emmert said his organization would wait until all of the details regarding the situation are known before it makes a decision if any NCAA rules were violated. The NCAA has no oversight regarding legal proceedings at schools, but it could certainly add some teeth to such a tepid statement. How about something regarding condemnation of child abuse? That might be a decent place to start.

I think if the Ohio State and Penn State scandals have taught us anything, it could be that more oversight is needed into big-time college football programs. Multimillion-dollar coaches wield too much power as well as too much autonomy. Their football programs become de facto fiefdoms over which the coach has total control. What exactly are athletic directors being paid to do?

I think every drunken idiot who protested Wednesday night in State College in favor of Paterno should be required to spend time working at a center for abused children.

I think Penn State’s heretofore squeaky-clean image has been stripped away, but people tend to forget the Rene Portland incident. Portland, who was women’s basketball coach at Penn State for 27 years from 1980-2007, was forced to resign following a lawsuit brought against her, the university and athletic director Tim Curley (yep, same Tim Curley) by a former player. Jennifer Harris claimed Portland discriminated against her because the coach falsely perceived her to be gay. The university reached an out-of-court settlement with Harris while Portland was reprimanded, forced to resign, fined $10,000 and ordered to take diversity training.

I think Luke Fickell has done an excellent job in first year as head coach despite being dealt a weak hand. Fickell took over the program in June, lost his three-year starting quarterback off the bat, lost the serves of his left tackle for five games, his top running back for six, his top receiver for 10 and arguably his best defensive player after just one game. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if Fickell gets the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game and wins it – earning a Rose Bowl berth in the process – that would be rather noteworthy.

I think those who compare Fickell to his predecessor are making an unfair comparison. While Fickell is in his first season as a head coach at any level, Tressel had 15 years experience and four national titles when he got to OSU. Of course, his first year at Youngstown State, his team went 2-9 and his first team at Ohio State went 7-5. I have no idea if Fickell will be the next Tressel or the next Randy Ayers, but I do know he’s Buckeye through and through, and that should be worth something especially if he gets this year’s team to the conference title game and wins it — something no one was predicting after Nebraska.

I think anyone the whole Urban Meyer thing is beginning to make me queasy. It just rubs me the wrong way the way some fans are so willing to dismiss anything Fickell does this season in favor of Meyer. I don’t like it when someone dances on another guy’s grave especially before he’s gone. Sure, I’ve been told that the higher-ups want to make a clean sweep of the coaching staff after this season regardless of how things turn out. But I still say it’s going to be tough to make a change if the team wins 10 games, takes home another Big Ten title and goes to the Rose Bowl. If they fall short of that, then yeah, I can get my head around making a change. But all of this talk is premature and counterproductive. IMHO, if the change is made and the job is offered and Meyer thinks it’s the right fit, he’ll take it. If not, he won’t.

I think anyone is delusional who believes Meyer is entertaining any thought of going to Penn State. By the time the smoke clears at Penn State, it will be lucky – very lucky – to get a mid-level Pennsylvania high school coach to go there. Can anyone truly believe that after the housecleaning there it will simply be back to business as usual? Penn State is looking at multiple criminal and civil lawsuits that will likely cost them tens of millions of dollars, an investigation coming from the U.S. Department of Education and quite possibly one from the U.S. Justice Department. The least of their worries right now is the NCAA, which is sitting back and waiting to see if it wants to do anything. Anyone who steps into that cesspool runs the very real risk of ruining his reputation for the sake of financial gain. If you lay down with skunks, it’s going to be awfully hard to ever get that smell off you.

I think the Penn State football program may sink to the lower regions of the Big Ten for quite some time and I use Kansas State as a perfect example. During Bill Snyder’s first go-round in Manhattan (a small, isolated town much like State College), the Wildcats posted a 108-29-1 record during an 11-year stretch between 1993-2003 and went to a bowl game every year during that time. After Snyder left following the 2005 season, the program meandered along at 17-20 for the next three seasons before Snyder returned in 2009. The only problem with that scenario repeating itself at Penn State is that Paterno is never coming back.

I think I have no idea if the next Ohio State head coach will be Meyer, Fickell or someone else. But if it’s not Meyer, a whole lot of people are going to have to be talked in off the ledge.

Finally, Sandusky faces up to 460 years in prison for his despicable acts. I think that’s not long enough.

OSU-PURDUE TIDBITS

** This marks the 54th meeting between Ohio State and Purdue with the Buckeyes holding a 38-13-2 record in the overall series. That includes a 12-7 mark in West Lafayette, although the Buckeyes are only 2-3 at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2000.

** In the previous 53 meetings, the Boilermakers have never experienced more than a two-game win streak over the Buckeyes. OSU has enjoyed series winning streaks of seven and six games as well as mini-streaks of three in a row on five separate occasions.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell will be facing the Boilermakers for the first time as head coach, but he is 9-2 lifetime against Purdue as an OSU player and assistant coach. Fickell was 4-0 vs. the Boilers during his playing career from 1993-96 and 5-2 during nine seasons as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Purdue head coach Danny Hope is in his third season with the Boilermakers, compiling a 13-20 overall record and 8-13 mark in the Big Ten. He is 1-1 vs. the Buckeyes with his victory coming in 2009 in West Lafayette when Purdue took advantage of five OSU turnovers and scored a 26-18 upset over the seventh-ranked Buckeyes.

** The Boilermakers should have a good feeling about playing on Nov. 12. They are 11-4 all-time on that date, including a monumental upset of top-ranked Minnesota in 1960. Purdue was 2-4-1 heading into that game and knocked off the previously unbeaten Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Despite that loss, Minnesota went on to capture the 1960 national championship, the most recent of the school’s six national titles.

** The game will feature two of the Big Ten’s more challenged passing offenses. Purdue ranks ninth in the league with an average of 192.2 yards per game while Ohio State is dead last, averaging a miniscule 115.4 yards through the air. In conference games only, the Buckeyes are even worse with an 82.4-yard average.

** Despite his team’s troubles in the passing game, Purdue wide receiver Antavian Edison enters tomorrow’s game against the Buckeyes with a streak of 17 consecutive games in which he has caught at least one pass. Even so, Edison is only the third-leading receiver on his team this season with 26 catches for 367 yards and two TDs.

** Ohio State’s offensive strength in running the football and the Buckeyes have moved up to fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 204.3 yards per game on the ground. Counting conference games only, the Buckeyes average 220.6 yards rushing, and counting only the three games since senior tailback Boom Herron has played, the team averages 275.0 yards on the ground. That’s not exactly what the Boilermakers want to hear – they are tied for 10th in the league in rush defense, giving up an average of 191.1 yards per game.

** The Buckeyes rushed for a season-high 346 yards last week against Indiana, their best single-game output since a 348-yard effort at Illinois in 1996.

** OSU’s ground attack was led by tailbacks Herron and Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller, all of whom eclipsed the 100-yard mark. It was the first trio of players to crack the century mark on the ground for Ohio State since Dante Lee, Scottie Graham and Carlos Snow accomplished the feat during a 52-27 win at Northwestern in 1989. The feat has been accomplished two other times in Ohio State history – Leo Hayden, John Brockington and Rex Kern did it during a 34-10 win over Duke in 1970, and the triumvirate of Galen Cisco, Jim Roseboro and Don Clark each cracked the century mark in 1956 during a 35-14 win over Indiana.

** Miller rushed for a career-high 105 yards against the Hoosiers, marking the 18th time in program history an Ohio State quarterback had rushed for 100 yards or more in a game. The school single-game mark for QBs is 146, set by Cornelius Greene during a 52-7 win over Wisconsin in 1974.

** Much of Miller’s yardage came on an 81-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That marked the sixth longest run from scrimmage in Ohio State history and the longest ever by a quarterback, wiping out a 76-yard run by Kern during a 48-29 victory at Illinois in 1970.

** When Miller and Indiana’s Tre Roberson squared off against one another last Saturday, it marked the first time since 1988 that a pair of freshman quarterbacks started for both teams in a Big Ten game. Brian Fox of Purdue and Lionell Crawford of Wisconsin started that ’88 game but didn’t generate nearly the offense Miller and Roberson did. The Boilermakers won a 9-6 decision in Madison.

** Herron’s 141-yard rushing effort last weekend pushed his career total to 2,609, good for 11th on the school’s all-time rushing list. Herron passed Jim Otis (2,542, 1967-69) and Calvin Murray (2,576, 1977-80) and needs only 41 more to move ahead of Raymont Harris (2,649, 1990-93) and break into the Ohio State all-time top 10.

** On Ohio State’s first play of the second half tomorrow, you might want to keep your eye on Herron. In his three games this season, Herron’s first touch of the second half has resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run vs. Illinois, a 57-yard run against Wisconsin and a 40-yard rumble vs. Indiana. That is a nice, tidy average of 36.3 yards per carry.

** OSU junior defensive lineman John Simon had a career-high 10 tackles against Indiana and also increased his team-leading totals to 12½ tackles for loss and six sacks. Simon now has 10½ career sacks which puts him into OSU’s all-time top 25 in that category. He needs only three more to pass Courtland Bullard (11, 1997-2001), Srecko Zizakovic (11, 1988-89), Kenny Peterson (12, 1999-2002) and James Laurinaitis (13, 2005-08) to break into the school’s top 20.

** OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil’s field goals of 36 and 45 yards against the Hoosiers pushed his streak to 12 consecutive three-pointers, the third longest streak in OSU history. Mike Nugent (2001-04) holds the school record with 24 in a row while Vlade Janakievski (1977-80) had a streak of 15.

** Purdue sophomore punter Cody Webster leads the Big Ten with an average of 45.5 yards on 34 attempts. Better still for the Boilermakers, they rank first in the conference and 11th nationally in net punting at 40.0 yards per kick.

** Boilermakers sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen knows what to do with the football when he gets his hands on it. His 37-yard interception return for a touchdown Oct. 8 against Minnesota was the third pick-six of Allen’s career. That ties him with All-America cornerback Rod Woodson (1983-86) and linebacker Mike Rose (1996-99) for the school record.

** PU freshman Raheem Mostert returned five kickoffs for 206 yards last week against Wisconsin, establishing a new single-game record for the Boilermakers. Stan Brown had 184 yards on six returns during a 42-14 loss to Ohio State in 1969. Mosert now ranks No. 6 nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 31.6 yards on 16 attempts.

** Purdue has many distinguished alumni including astronauts Neil Armstrong (the first man to set foot on the moon) and Eugene Cernan (the last man to set to set foot on the moon). Of course, Ohio can also claim Armstrong as a native son. He was born in Wapakoneta. Cernan also grew up in Big Ten country in suburban Chicago.

** This week’s game will be telecast on a regional basis by the Big Ten Network with the same announce crew as last week’s game with Indiana – 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 137 as well as XM channel 192.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to face Penn State in what should be a crucial Leaders Division matchup. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern and the game will be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Only five undefeated teams now remain at the Division I-A level – Boise State, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford.

** Stanford rolled again last weekend, taking a 38-13 victory at Oregon State to move the nation’s longest winning streak to 18 games. The Cardinal still have a ways to go to match Oklahoma’s all-time winning streak of 47 set between 1953-57. Most recently, the longest winning streak at the Division I-A level belongs to Miami (Fla.), which won 34 in a row between 2000-02.

** Time is running out for New Mexico to escape a winless season. The Lobos extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 12 games last weekend with a 35-7 loss at San Diego State. New Mexico has three games remaining – tomorrow vs. UNLV (2-6), Nov. 19 at Wyoming (5-3) and Nov. 26 at fifth-ranked Boise State (8-0).

** Congratulations to Houston QB Case Keenum, who became the NCAA’s all-time leading passer while throwing for 407 yards during his team’s 56-13 rout of UAB last Saturday night. Keenum pushed his career total to 17,212 and past Timmy Chang of Hawaii (2001-04), the previous career leader with 17,072.

** While congratulations are in order for Keenum, darts to his head coach Kevin Sumlin for ridiculously trying to run up the score on the 1-8 Blazers, who rank 119th of 120 Division I-A teams in pass defense. Keenum was on the sideline early in the fourth quarter, but Sumlin instructed backup QB Cotton Turner to continue throwing the ball on the Cougars’ final series of the game.

** Northwestern’s 28-25 upset win at Nebraska was the 38th for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and pushed him to No. 2 on the school’s all-time victories list. The career wins leader at Northwestern is Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf, who went 49-45-7 from 1935-46. In his sixth season in Evanston, Fitzgerald has a 38-34 record and is one of only five head coaches at NU since 1920 to sport a winning record. The others are Waldorf, Glenn Thistlethwaite (21-17-1, 1922-26), Dick Hanley (36-26-4, 1927-34) and Ara Parseghian (36-35-1, 1956-63).

** Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball scored three more rushing touchdowns Saturday during his team’s 62-17 rout of Purdue and upped his nation-leading total to 21. He needs six more to break the Big Ten single-season record of 25 set by Anthony Thompson of Indiana in 1988 and equaled by Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter in 1994.

** Wisconsin travels to Minnesota this weekend to renew the nation’s oldest rivalry. It marks the 121st meeting in the series and the 64th time the schools will battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the trophy awarded to the winning of the contest since 1948. Goldy holds a 59-53-8 advantage in the overall series, but Bucky holds a 37-23-3 edge in the battle for the Axe.

** It was a good news-bad news week for Kansas. Good news: After giving up at least 42 points to seven straight opponents, the Jayhawks held Iowa State to only 13. Bad news: KU scored only 10 and dropped to 2-7 for the season. The Jayhawks’ seven-game losing streak matches the seven-game slide at the end of the 2009 campaign and means the team has now lost 23 of its last 28 games. KU hasn’t lost eight in a row in a single season since 1988, Glen Mason’s first year as head coach.

** Boston College’s 38-7 loss to Florida State last Thursday night officially put an end to the Eagles’ streak of 12 consecutive bowl seasons. BC slipped to 2-7 this season and needs to win two of its last three games to avoid its worst finish since going 2-9 in 1989.

** If you wonder how the Big East holds onto its BCS automatic status, you are not alone. Cincinnati leads the conference standings – the same Cincinnati team that lost a 45-23 decision to Tennessee back on Sept. 10. That’s the same Tennessee team that is presently 0-5 in the SEC.

** Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley suddenly ran out of kickers last Saturday after starter Michael Palardy was already sidelined and backup Chip Rhome pulled a muscle in pregame warm-ups. Dooley placed a telephone call to Derrick Brodus, a walk-on who practices with the Volunteers but never suits up for games – until last week. Brodus, who was at his fraternity house getting ready to watch the game on TV, got to Neyland Stadium less than an hour before kickoff and responded by booting three PATs and a 21-yard field goal during Tennessee’s 24-0 win over Middle Tennessee State.

** Speaking of kickers, Western Kentucky’s Casey Tinius is a model of perseverance. Tinius kicked a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the game Saturday to give his Hilltoppers a 10-9 win over Florida International. The winning kick came after Tinius had missed each of his previous seven field-goal attempts.

** The victory over FIU was the fifth in a row for Western Kentucky, which began the season with four straight losses. The Hilltoppers last won five in a row in 2004 when they were a Division I-AA program, and haven’t won more than five straight games since a 10-game win streak at the end of the 2002 season. The Hilltoppers captured the I-AA national championship that year under head coach Jack Harbaugh, father of NFL head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh.

** Unfair comparison of the week: Keenum has thrown for 17,212 yards during his career or about 9.8 miles. Notre Dame is dead last nationally in punt returns this season, totaling 3 yards on 10 attempts. That computes to an average of a little less than 11 inches per return.

** Over its last two games, Toledo has scored 126 points while its defense has allowed – strangely enough – 126 points. On the heels of last week’s wild 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois, the Rockets got into another shootout Tuesday night before pulling out a 66-63 victory over Western Michigan. The game featured 1,439 yards of total offense, 804 of it by Toledo. If you can believe it, that was not a school record for total yardage. The Rockets gained 812 yards during a 70-21 win over Northern Illinois in 2007.

** Did you know longtime CBS news correspondent and “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney, who died Nov. 4 at the age of 92, was a college football player at Colgate? Before his career in journalism, Rooney was an undersized offensive lineman for the Raiders in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

** On Nov. 9, 1974, Baylor stunned No. 12 Texas with a 34-24 upset in Waco. The Longhorns built a 24-7 halftime lead after touchdown runs from future College Football Hall of Fame tailbacks Earl Campbell and Roosevelt Leaks. But the Bears stormed back in the second half led by QB Neal Jeffrey, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns. The upset marked Baylor’s first win over Texas since 1956 and led to the school’s first Southwest Conference championship since 1924.

** On Nov. 10, 1956, UTEP pitched a 28-0 shutout over previously undefeated Arizona State and clinched their first-ever conference championship. The Miners, who were members of the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association in ’56, were led by an outstanding defensive effort. The Sun Devils marched inside the UTEP 30-yard line on eight different occasions only to come away empty-handed each time.

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

** On Nov. 10, 2007, Navy and North Texas combined to score the most points in a regulation college football game when the Midshipmen outlasted the Mean Green, 74-62, in Denton, Texas. North Texas QB Giovanni Vizza threw for 478 yards and eight touchdowns while Navy rushed for 572 yards and scored eight TDs on the ground.

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

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

** On Nov. 11, 1967, Oregon State toppled No. 1 USC by a 3-0 score in Corvallis, finishing off an impressive three-game stretch. Before knocking off the top-ranked Trojans, the Beavers had beaten No. 2 Purdue and tied No. 2 UCLA. Kicker Mike Haggard’s 30-yard field goal in the second quarter accounted for all the scoring in the game as Oregon State won despite giving up 188 yards on 33 carries to USC tailback O.J. Simpson.

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

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

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

** On Nov. 12, 2005, fifth-ranked LSU squeezed out a 16-13 overtime win over No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide enjoyed a 10-0 halftime lead, but the Tigers tied the game and then won it in overtime when QB JaMarcus Russell hit wide receiver Dwayne Bowe with an 11-yard touchdown pass.

** On Nov. 13, 1943, North Carolina and Penn combined to set an NCAA record that will likely never be approached again. The two squads combined for minus-13 passing yards on the day, the fewest passing yards in a single game in college football history. The Tar Heels completed 1 of 7 passes for a loss of 7 yards, while the Quakers connected on 2 of 12 attempts for minus-6 yards. North Carolina won the game by a 9-6 score in Philadelphia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** 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. Robinson eventually directed the Tigers to 408 victories in 55 years at Grambling.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The Forecast was back in the black last week despite some strange upsets. We were 8-2 straight up to move that yearly ledger to 91-11 while we ended an against-the-spread losing streak at one week with a 7-3 finish. That puts us at 65-34-1 ATS for the season and seriously thinking about starting one of those 1-900 numbers.

Before we quit the day job, though, here are the games we’ll be watching this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU: After such an emotionally-packed, hard-hitting game as the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime triumph over Alabama, the Tigers might be forgiven for experiencing a letdown. That’s why the Hilltoppers are the perfect opponent this week. LSU has won 36 straight regular-season games against nonconference competition, sports a perfect 34-0 all-time record against current Sun Belt conference members and Tigers head coach Les Miles is looking for career win No. 100. Meanwhile, WKU has won five in a row but it has not faced anything like the snarling defense of the Tigers. Look for LSU to put this one away early and then glide home on cruise control … LSU 45, Western Kentucky 0. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 3 Alabama at Mississippi State: The Crimson Tide can go one of two ways. Either they can sulk after last week’s loss to LSU or they can take their frustrations out on the Bulldogs. MSU gave a decent accounting of itself last year before dropping a 30-10 decision to the Tide, but Alabama played that game without star tailback Trent Richardson. The one-time Heisman Trophy candidate was held to 89 yards last week by LSU, but the Tigers have the No. 2 rush defense in the country. The Bulldogs are ranked at No. 66. If Nick Saban sticks to his core offense – something he inexplicably did not do last week – and keeps his bag of tricks closed, the Tide should roll away with this one … Alabama 38, Mississippi State 10. (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 7 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford: After last week’s marquee matchup in the SEC, the Pac-12 gets the national spotlight with a game that should be in sharp contrast to the one played by LSU and Alabama. The Ducks and the Cardinal boast two of the country’s top offensive units, and two of college football’s major stars will be on display. Oregon RB LaMichael James (1,061 yards, nine TDs) is back after missing a couple of games with a dislocated elbow, while Stanford QB Andrew Luck (2,424 yards, 26 TDs) is the odds-on Heisman favorite. If you like offensive battles, you should have no problem being entertained. Last year, the Quack Attack wiped out an early 21-3 deficit en route to a 52-31 win, while the Cardinal outlasted Oregon, 51-42, in a wild one the last time the teams played in Palo Alto. Overtime anyone? … Stanford 59, Oregon 52. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

TCU at No. 5 Boise State: Despite the fact these schools are located about 1,250 miles apart, they have struck up a nice little rivalry the past couple of years. The Horned Frogs spoiled Boise’s perfect season in 2008, and the Broncos did the same to TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The Frogs hop into this one riding a four-game winning streak this season and they have won 21 in a row against Mountain West rivals. Of course, this is the first (and maybe last) season for the Broncos in the mighty MWC after three straight WAC championships, and they are nearly unbeaten at home. In fact, they haven’t lost a regular-season conference game on the Smurf Turf since 1998 … Boise State 31, TCU 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas: The Razorbacks are feeling pretty good about themselves after a big 44-28 win last weekend over South Carolina. They can pretty much coast the next two weeks with home games against Tennessee and Mississippi State before a Nov. 25 showdown at top-ranked LSU in the regular-season finale. While LSU and Alabama are obviously the class of the SEC defensively, Arkansas leads the conference offensively, averaging 450.9 total yards and 37.7 points per game. With that kind of firepower, you have to wonder how the Volunteers can keep up with a scoring offense that ranks 96th nationally and a rushing attack that ranks 118th out of 120 Division I-A teams … Arkansas 38, Tennessee 22. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson: The Tigers spent most of their off week concentrating on fundamentals and contemplating their first loss of the season, a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech on Oct. 29. They had better have saved some of their focus for the Demon Deacons, who are a better team than their 5-4 record might indicate. Wake is 4-2 in the ACC Atlantic, just a game behind front-running Clemson, and the Deacons have played the Tigers tough in the past. But they usually fall flat in Death Valley. Wake hasn’t won there since 2001 and has been wiped out by a combined score of 82-13 on its last two trips. Look for the Tigers to bounce back and stay on track for an ACC title game berth … Clemson 32, Wake Forest 17. (12 noon ET, ESPNU)

No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State: In what should be one of the most surreal Senior Days anywhere, the black cloud of the Penn State scandal will hang over this game like a shroud. Can the Nittany Lions players respond after such as emotional week? The scandal aside, this is the beginning of a three-game gantlet Penn State must navigate if it wants to get to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Even before what has transpired, it looked like a monumental task. Now, it looks borderline impossible. Many a college football game has been won on sheer emotion, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Penn State get a victory and dedicate it to their longtime coach. Still, you wager your hard-earned money with your head, not your heart … Nebraska 24, Penn State 20. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 17 Michigan State at Iowa: The Spartans haven’t exactly distinguished themselves the past two weeks with a loss at Nebraska and a narrow home victory over Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes dropped Michigan last Saturday only a week after losing to the Golden Gophers. To say these teams are hard to figure out would be an understatement. Be that as it may, Iowa is playing well right now, especially on offense with sophomore running back Marcus Coker (1,101 yards, 12 TDs) and WR Marvin McNutt (959 yards, 9 TDs). Then when you figure into the equation that Sparty has lost the last seven times he has visited Kinnick, you get this kind of prediction and an Upset Special … Iowa 27, Michigan State 23. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 Wisconsin at Minnesota: Trap game for the Badgers? That’s highly unlikely even though the Gophers seem to be playing better of late. They beat Iowa two weeks ago and went to the wire with Michigan State last Saturday before falling by a 31-24 score. They also always seem to play Wisconsin tough at home. The last 12 meetings in Minnesota have been decided by an average of 4.5 points, with the Badgers winning the last three by margins of seven or fewer points. No one expects Goldy to engineer the upset, but many believe Minnesota can keep it closer than the spread. We’re not among them, though … Wisconsin 56, Minnesota 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Ohio State at Purdue: Pound, ground and pound some more. That is what the Buckeyes are expected to do against the Boilermakers, who are tied for 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense. There is no doubt OSU will try to ratchet up its passing game, which ranks dead last in the conference, but there really isn’t much of a need with a ground game that features Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller. The Boilers can score some points, and the Buckeyes have had some kind of bugaboo over the past decade about playing in Ross-Ade Stadium, but another 300-plus yard performance from the OSU running game should be more than enough … Ohio State 38, Purdue 23. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Western Kentucky at LSU (-41); Alabama (-17½) at Mississippi State; Oregon at Stanford (-3½); TCU (+16) at Boise State; Tennessee at Arkansas (-14); Wake Forest (+19½) at Clemson; Nebraska (-3) at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa (+3); Wisconsin (-27) at Minnesota; Ohio State (-7) at Purdue.

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

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.

Rollercoaster Ride Likely To Continue For Buckeyes

Braxton Miller is the starting quarterback, the team is back on track and all is right again in Buckeye Nation.

Or is it?

It has been my experience that Ohio State diehards are no more or less fickle than any other fans around the country, but after only four games of the 2011 season, you might be forgiven for experiencing weekly bouts of whiplash as emotions surrounding the Buckeyes swing wildly from one extreme to the other.

They’re underrated. No, wait, they’re overrated.

They’re great. No, wait, they’re terrible.

No, they’re worse than that. They’re god-awful.

No, wait, they’re going to be OK.

Who can possibly keep up?

Unfortunately, no one really knows if the Buckeyes are great, god-awful or somewhere in between because they pretty much squandered the first three weeks of the season trying to pound square pegs into round holes. That was never more evident than at the quarterback position since everyone knew Joe Bauserman was no long-term solution. No first-time starter who is also a fifth-year senior ever could be.

Unfortunately, Luke Fickell had to play the hand he was dealt.

Practically no one wants to admit this, but the Buckeyes have missed Terrelle Pryor more so far this season than they have missed Jim Tressel.

The OSU coaching staff has more than 180 years’ worth of experience, meaning they can do things by committee and get by fairly well during Fickell’s first year as Tressel’s successor. That is certainly not the case at quarterback, especially in the experience department.

I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by trying to defend Pryor and the dimwitted actions off the field that led to his suspension and departure from Ohio State. Just don’t insult mine by insinuating Pryor was anything but a terrifically gifted athlete who could make up for whatever shortcomings he had throwing the ball with an elusiveness only a handful of players have ever possessed.

As badly as Ohio State played at Miami (Fla.), I believe the Buckeyes could have and would have won that game had Pryor been the quarterback. There is no way the Hurricanes could have loaded the box as they did in the second half with the threat of Pryor in the backfield. That, in turn, would have required Miami to play a more straight-up defense, opening things for OSU in the passing game.

With Pryor gone, the Buckeyes are obviously much less experienced on offense but they are also less multifaceted. That is even more so when you take Boom Herron out of the backfield, subtract DeVier Posey from the receiving corps and erase Mike Adams from the left tackle spot.

In a perfect world, Pryor would have completed his senior season under center and given Miller an entire year as his understudy. As with most things, though, this is far from a perfect world. As talented as Miller is, as tremendous as his upside is, he simply wasn’t ready to take the reins of the offense when the regular season began.

That’s no one’s fault, really. Most people have to learn at their own pace, and credit is due to Miller for coming so far as quickly as he has. The freshman has been on an accelerated learning curve ever since he set foot on the OSU campus last winter – he’s just not quite there yet and might not be for a while.

It doesn’t take Vince Lombardi to look at Ohio State’s offensive chart and understand that the playbook has been stripped down to accommodate the freshman quarterback. The last series of the Miami game and most of the first half against Colorado looked similar to the kind of plays Miller ran in high school. Again, that’s no knock against Miller or the Ohio State staff. Coaching commandment No. 1 is and has always been to win the surest way, and simplifying things for your young quarterback not only aids in the elimination of potential disasters, it helps pave the way to victory.

As a result of the heavy vanilla coating on the Buckeyes’ play-calling, Miller has the most modest of numbers after three games. He has thrown the ball only 29 times, completing 15 of those attempts (51.7 percent) for 234 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He has also run the ball 30 times for 145 yards.

Those numbers will undoubtedly begin to improve as the season wears on and Miller continues to grow into the starting role, but they are worth comparing to the only other two men who have been freshman starting quarterbacks at Ohio State.

After his first three games (all starts) in 1978, Art Schlichter was 18 for 42 (42.9 percent) for 336 yards, one touchdown and eight interceptions while he had run 31 times for 133 yards and three TDs. Pryor, who was Todd Boeckman’s backup through the first three games of the 2008 season, was 11 for 17 (64.7 percent) for 87 yards and no touchdowns while he had run 25 times for 129 yards and one TD.

Numbers aside, Miller’s situation more closely parallels that of Schlichter than Pryor. In ’08, Pryor was put in charge of a veteran team that had just come off a trip to the national championship game. Schlichter had a much rougher go of it in 1978, taking over a team that was largely in transition during what would be Woody Hayes’ final season as head coach. By the end of his second year, though, Schlichter had his team playing for the national championship.

Miller’s team is also evolving as he takes the reins, and it will evolve even more when Herron, Posey and Adams return in week six for the Buckeyes’ prime-time trip to Nebraska. In other words, the team we saw against Miami, which bore little resemblance to the one we saw against Colorado, might be completely different from the one we see against Michigan State. And that one is likely to be vastly dissimilar from the one that goes to Lincoln.

The point of the story is this: If you think you haven’t been able to get a handle on what kind of team the Buckeyes have so far, buckle your seat belts and have the antacids ready. You probably haven’t seen anything yet.

BRUTUS-SPARTY TIDBITS

** This will be the 40th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes hold a 27-12 advantage in the overall series including seven wins in a row and 12 in the last 14 meetings. OSU is 13-7 in Columbus against MSU, and the Spartans haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium since the infamous 28-24 upset in 1998 that cost then No. 1-ranked Ohio State a shot at the national championship.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell gets his first shot at the Spartans after predecessor Jim Tressel was a perfect 6-0. Tressel enjoyed an average margin of victory of 18.3 points in those six games.

** Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is 0-4 lifetime against the Buckeyes – losses in 2004 and 2006 while at Cincinnati in addition to defeats as head Spartan in 2007 and 2008. Dantonio, of course, was defensive coordinator on Tressel’s OSU staff from 2001-03 and won the Frank Broyles Award in 2002 as college football’s top assistant coach.

** Dantonio is 36-20 in his four-plus seasons with the Spartans, but only 11-14 away from Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is 14-3 overall since the beginning of last season but only 3-3 away from home.

** Ohio State is entering its 99th season as a Big Ten member and the Buckeyes sport a 71-23-4 record in conference openers.

** Michigan State is entering its 59th season of Big Ten competition with a 31-23-4 record in league openers.

** Fickell will be the first Ohio State head coach ever to face a defending Big Ten champion in his conference opener since the Buckeyes joined the league in 1913.

** Since 1913, OSU coaches are 6-4-1 in their Big Ten debuts. The last one to lose his conference debut was John Cooper, whose team dropped a 31-12 decision to Illinois in 1988. Tressel won his Big Ten debut at Indiana, a 27-14 victory in 2001.

** The Buckeyes are unranked for the second week in a row, the longest streak out of the polls since five straight weeks at the end of the 2004 regular season.

** This week marks the first time this season that Ohio State has faced a ranked opponent – Michigan State is No. 25 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll. The last time the Buckeyes went this deep into a season before playing a top-25 team was 2007 when they faced No. 23 Purdue in week six.

** When Ohio State is the higher ranked team, it has a 22-5 record against Michigan State. When the Spartans enter the game as the higher ranked team, they are 5-0. When neither team is ranked, OSU had a 5-2 edge.

** Michigan ranks first nationally in pass defense, giving up an average of only 101.0 yards per game. The Spartans are also No. 1 in total defense, surrendering only 172.2 yards per game on average. That isn’t exactly music to Ohio State’s ears. The Buckeyes are 11th in the Big Ten in passing and dead last in the conference in total offense.

** The Ohio State defense would do well to keep Michigan State under 24 points in the game. Since 1990, the Spartans are 117-32-1 when scoring 24 or more. When they are held to fewer than 24 points, their record is 18-86-1.

** The Spartans have 24 Ohio players on their roster while Ohio State has only three players from Michigan – defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins, tight end Reid Fragel and defensive back Dionte Allen.

** There aren’t too many degrees of separation for the respective coaching staffs. In addition to Dantonio’s relationship with Tressel which began at Youngstown State, Michigan State quarterbacks coach Dave Warner had Tressel as his position coach at Syracuse in 1981. MSU offensive line coach Mark Staten was a graduate assistant on Tressel’s staff at Ohio State in 2002 and ’03, and running backs coach Brad Salem’s older brother, Tim, was Cooper’s quarterbacks coach at OSU from 1997-2000. Finally, Spartans linebackers and special teams coach Mike Tressel is the son of OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel, which obviously makes him Jim Tressel’s nephew.

** But wait … there’s more. Michigan State strength coach Ken Mannie was a graduate assistant on Earle Bruce’s OSU staff in 1984, MSU director of personnal/player development and relations Dino Folino began his coaching career as a GA for Woody Hayes in 1974 and ’75, and the Spartans’ head trainer Jeff Monroe spent four years as a student trainer for the Buckeyes from 1969-72.

** The synergy isn’t limited to Michigan State coaches. OSU offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman spent three seasons in East Lansing from 1995-97 coaching the line for Nick Saban. And Ohio State safeties coach Paul Haynes spent the 2003 and ’04 seasons coaching MSU cornerbacks.

** Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham has a streak of 38 consecutive games during which he has logged at least one reception. That is tied for the fourth longest active streak in Division I-A, trailing only Tyron Carrier of Houston (43), Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma (42) and Kendall Wright of Baylor (40).

** Cunningham is one of those 24 Ohioans on the Michigan State roster. He prepped in suburban Columbus at Westerville South.

** MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks second in his school’s history for most passing yardage at 6,762, He is far behind the all-time leader, however. Jeff Smoker (2000-03) threw for 8,932 yards during his career.

** With his next touchdown pass, Cousins will move into second place by himself on MSU’s all-time list. He is currently tied with Bill Burke (1996-99) with 46 scoring tosses. Smoker is the career leader with 61.

** Ohio State punter Ben Buchanan ranks only seventh in the Big Ten in average, but the junior has dropped 11 of his 19 kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That is nearly twice as many as any other Big Ten punter. Even more impressively, seven of Buchanan’s punts inside the 20 have actually landed inside the opponents’ 10.

** Michigan State hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher against Ohio State since 1988 – and that year the Spartans had two. Hyland Hickson (179) and Blake Ezor (135) each cracked the century mark as MSU piled 372 yards on the ground during a 20-10 victory over the Buckeyes in Spartan Stadium. No Michigan State running back has run for 100 yards against OSU in Columbus since 1983 when Keith Gates went for 101 during a 21-11 loss to the Buckeyes.

** OSU senior center Mike Brewster will make his 41st consecutive start this week for the Buckeyes. He needs to stay healthy and his team to play in the inaugural Big Ten championship game as well as a bowl contest to have a shot at tying the all-time school record of 50 straight starts – a record held since 1996 by Fickell.

** Longtime NFL kicker Morten Andersen was one of the five former MSU athletes inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame last week. In addition to kicking for five different teams over an amazing 25-year pro career, Andersen booted a 63-yard field goal for the Spartans during their 27-13 loss at Ohio State in 1981. It is the longest field goal by any OSU opponent – by seven yards – and still stands as the longest three-pointer in Big Ten history.

** This week marks the final game in the five-game suspensions of OSU tailback Boom Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas.

** The OSU-Michigan State game will be televised by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror. (The game should be televised by your local ABC affiliate and if the game is not on that channel, look for it on ESPN.) Veteran play-by-play man Sean McDonough will have the call with former Penn State All-America linebacker and four-time Super Bowl champion Matt Millen providing color analysis. Former University of Pacific volleyball star Heather Cox will report from the sidelines. Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

** The game is also available on satellite radio station channel 91 for both Sirius and XM subscribers.

** Next week, Ohio State travels to Nebraska for the first time ever. The teams have only met twice previously – in 1955 and ’56 – and both games were OSU victories in Columbus. The game from historic Memorial Stadium, set for a kickoff shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern, will be telecast nationally by ABC featuring the broadcast crew of Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 28, 1968, Oregon State running back Bill Enyart established school records by rushing 50 times for 299 yards during his team’s 24-21 win over Utah in Salt Lake City.

** On Sept. 29, 2001, No. 18 Northwestern took a wild 27-26 victory over No. 24 Michigan State in Evanston. MSU wide receiver Charles Rogers gave his team a 20-17 lead on a 64-yard punt return with 4:42 to play before Northwestern QB Zac Kustok rallied the Wildcats with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kunle Patrick to make it 24-20 with 29 seconds remaining. However, Herb Haygood returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown to retake the lead for the Spartans at 26-24. NU blocked the extra point and then with 18 seconds left, Kustok completed a 54-yard pass to get his team within field-goal range and kicker David Wasielewski did the rest. His 47-yarder as time expired gave the Wildcats the victory.

** Also on Sept. 29, 2001, New Mexico State posted a rare shutout, going on the road to tally a 31-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. How rare was the shutout? It was the first for the Aggies in 27 seasons, a span of 283 games which established an NCAA record for most consecutive games without a shutout.

** On Sept. 30, 1939, Fordham and Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania played in the first televised college football game, a contest seen by an estimated 500 viewers in the New York City area. Bill Stern called the play-by-play for W2XBS (now WNBC-TV) while a young Mel Allen did pregame interviews. Few television sets could receive the signal, so many of the viewers saw the telecast at the nearby New York World’s Fair.

** On Sept. 30, 1944, North Carolina State set an NCAA record for the fewest yards ever gained by a winning team. During their 13-0 win over Virginia, the Wolfpack totaled only 10 yards of offense and had no first downs.

** On Oct. 1, 1955, the sideline star power was plentiful as sixth-ranked Army rolled to a 35-6 win over No. 18 Penn State at West Point. The Black Knights were coached by Earl “Red” Blaik while the Nittany Lions were led by head coach Charles “Rip” Engle and assistant Joe Paterno. All three are in the College Football Hall of Fame, as is Army quarterback Don Holleder who led his team to the victory. Nearly 12 years to the day later, Holleder was an infantry major in the Army serving in Vietnam when he attempted to rescue a group of his fellow soldiers who had been ambushed. Holleder battled sniper fire to land his helicopter in a clearing, and while he was leading the evacuation he was struck by enemy fire and killed. He received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge posthumously and was later laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

** On Oct. 2, 1943, Purdue committed 11 turnovers in a game – and still won. Somehow, the Boilermakers lost nine fumbles and pitched two interceptions and still managed a 40-21 victory over Illinois. The performance set an NCAA record for most turnovers by a winning team.

** On Oct 2, 1993, Alabama matched its own school and Southeastern Conference records for consecutive victories when the Crimson Tide scored a 17-6 victory at South Carolina to mark their 28th win in a row. The mark tied the previous school and conference marks set between 1978 and 1980 when the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant was patrolling the ’Bama sideline.

** On Oct. 3, 1992, third-ranked Florida State lost a 19-16 decision to No. 2 Miami (Fla.) when a last-minute field goal drifted wide right. Hurricanes QB Gino Torretta hit receiver Lamar Thomas to put Miami ahead, 17-16, with 6:50 to play. After a safety on special teams pushed it to a three-point game, the Seminoles drove deep into Miami territory before FSU kicker Dan Mowery pushed his 39-yard field goal attempt wide of the right upright on the final play.

** On Oct. 3, 1936, John Heisman, the legendary college coach and namesake of the Heisman Trophy, died at the age of 66. Born Oct. 23, 1869, in Cleveland, John William Heisman is credited with several innovations including invention of the center snap, dividing the game into quarters rather than halves, and leading the movement to legalize the forward pass. Heisman played at Brown (1887-89) and Penn (1890-91), and began his coaching career at Oberlin in 1892. He also coached at Akron, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Penn, Washington & Jefferson and Rice, and compiled a career record of 185-70-17. Heisman was preparing to write a history of college football when he died in New York City. Three days later he was taken by train to his wife’s hometown of Rhinelander, Wis., where he was buried at the city-owned Forest Home Cemetery. Two months later, the Downtown Athletic Club in New York renamed its college football best player trophy in Heisman’s honor.

** On Oct. 4, 1969, Boston University scored a 13-10 upset at Harvard, ending the Crimson’s 10-game win streak and marking BU’s first-ever victory over Harvard since the matchup began in 1921.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Twenty-two unbeaten teams remain at the Division I-A level (Football Bowl Subdivision, if you prefer). The alphabetical list is Alabama, Baylor, Boise State, Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.

** Stanford enjoys the nation’s longest winning streak at 12. Meanwhile, San Jose State snapped its losing streak at 13 last week with a 34-24 win over New Mexico State. That means New Mexico now has the longest losing streak in the nation at seven.

** The Lobos are one of only seven winless I-A teams so far. The other six: Florida Atlantic, Miami (Ohio), Middle Tennessee, Oregon State, UAB and Western Kentucky.

** The aforementioned futility by New Mexico has claimed the first coaching casualty of the 2011 season. Lobos head coach Mike Locksley was dismissed following last week’s 48-45 overtime loss to I-AA Sam Houston State. Locksley, who compiled a 2-26 record in his two-plus seasons in Albuquerque, was replaced by defensive coordinator George Barlow.

** There is little doubt LSU is a legitimate national championship contender. The Tigers are 4-0 with a record that includes double-digit road victories against Oregon, Mississippi State and West Virginia – three ranked teams at the time from three different conferences.

** If you like offense, you might want to skip the SEC matchup between Alabama and Florida tomorrow night. The Crimson Tide rank No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense giving up an average of 8.0 points in their four games. Meanwhile, the Gators surrender only 9.0 and are tied for No. 4 in the nation.

** If it’s offense you seek, check out Hawaii tomorrow night when the Rainbows travel to Louisiana Tech. Last week during a 56-14 win over UC-Davis, Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for seven touchdowns in the first half. The total tied an NCAA record for most TD passes in a half. Moniz, who sat out the entire second half, completed 30 of 40 passes for 424 yards and the seven scores and added five carries for 50 yards. There might be a similar show this week. La Tech currently ranks 107th nationally in pass defense.

** The nation’s leader in pass efficiency continues to be Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, who three games into his junior season has 13 touchdowns against only 12 incompletions. Griffin is 70 for 82 (85.4 percent) for 962 yards, 13 TDs and no INTs, good for a passer rating of 236.23. Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson is the only other I-A quarterback with a rating north of 200. Wilson is 69 of 91 (75.8 percent) for 1,136 yards, 11 TDs and one pick for a rating of 218.38.

** Think the Boise State football program just got good in the past couple of years? Think again. The Broncos were a powerhouse in the 1970s as well under head coach Tony Knap, who died Sept. 24 at the age of 96. Knap guided what was then known as Boise College to a 71-19-8 record during eight seasons between 1968-75, a tenure that included three consecutive Big Sky conference championships from 1973-75. Knap left Boise after the ’75 season to take over the program at UNLV and spent six seasons with the Runnin’ Rebels. He was inducted into the UNLV athletics hall of fame in 1989.

FEARLESS FORECAST

When you roll the dice, sometimes everything comes up 7 or 11. That’s what happened last week with a perfect 10-0 week in the straight-up picks. That makes us an almost unbelievably prescient 38-4 on the season so far.

Before you think the heads are swelling out of control here at Forecast World Headquarters, understand that the money picks were a less-than spectacular 5-5. That makes us 24-15-1 against the spread for the year – still pretty good but we’re determined to do better this week.

Here are the games we’ll be watching:

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Kentucky at No. 1 LSU: Would you believe LSU ranks only three spots ahead of Ohio State in the national rankings for total offense? It’s true. The Tigers are 88th in the nation while the Buckeye are 91st. What the Bayou Boys have over just about everyone else in college football, though, is a growling defense that’s No. 4 against the run and No. 14 in scoring defense. And that’s after playing three of their four games away from home against ranked opponents … LSU 31, Kentucky 0. (12:20 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 3 Alabama at No. 12 Florida: These teams are near mirror images of one another. Both teams like to run the ball and both teams are pretty good at stopping the run. Gators head coach Will Muschamp was one of Nick Saban’s top assistants at LSU and with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. And the starting quarterbacks feature almost identical numbers through four games. So who wins this battle? Alabama has a slight edge in special teams and has won five of the last seven in the series. Whoever wins, this should be a good one … Alabama 20, Florida 17. (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

Nevada at No. 4 Boise State: The Wolf Pack knocked Boise out of the national championship picture last season and there are a lot of folks around college football who wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat this year. This isn’t the same Nevada team, however. QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua are both in the NFL now, and the Pack has lost two of its first three games. Compounding their problems is the fact they cannot stop opposing teams from running the ball – Nevada ranks 108th nationally in run defense, allowing nearly 210 yards per game on the ground. All of that is music to the ears of the Broncos, who in addition to having beaten the Pack six straight times at home, have revenge on their minds … Boise State 42, Nevada 14. (2:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

UCLA at No. 6 Stanford: Here are a pair of programs headed in opposite directions. Despite losing head coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL, the Cardinal seemingly hasn’t missed a beat under new boss David Shaw. They still have QB Andrew Luck, the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite who directs an offense that averages 46.0 points and 481.3 yards per game. And Stanford also has the No. 1 run defense in the country. Meanwhile, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel is on the hot seat because his team always seems to take one step forward and two steps back. He is 2-2 this season and 17-24 in three-plus years with the Bruins, and fans still remember last year’s 35-0 home loss to the Cardinal. There is very little to believe things will change much this year … Stanford 34, UCLA 7. (10:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

No. 8 Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin: The Badgers have the welcome mat out for the Cornhuskers, who begin life in the Big Ten after 83 years as members of what finally become known as the Big 12. NU has no doubt played in some hostile environments, but here is a lead-pipe guarantee – they ain’t seen nothing like the Camp Randall crazies after dark. This game seems strangely similar to last year’s OSU-Wisconsin game when the top-ranked Buckeyes went to Madison for a night game and mugged almost from the time they stepped off the bus. The Badgers don’t have the same kind of defense they boasted last year, and the Huskers might give them some problems with their spread option attack. But look for Bucky to be more physical and wind up with a hard-fought win … Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Minnesota at No. 19 Michigan: One of the great mysteries in all of college football is why opposing defenses continue to try to play it straight against the Wolverines. QB Denard Robinson is one of the most electrifying players in the game, and still opponents act like he’s a pocket passer who runs only on occasion. As a result of that wrongheaded strategy, Robinson torched Notre Dame for 108 yards, Eastern Michigan for 198 and San Diego State for 200. That might change this week since defending the run is about the only thing the Golden Gophers do well at this point. Keeping Robinson in the pocket, however, would be a double-edged sword for Minnesota since it ranks dead last in the Big Ten in pass defense … Michigan 35, Minnesota 14. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 21 Georgia Tech at North Carolina State: You probably wouldn’t guess that the Wreck ranks No. 1 in the country in total offense and scoring as well as No. 2 in rushing. Not that Tech has been playing the greatest of competition, but it has still bludgeoned opponents to the tune of 630.5 yards per game and an average winning margin of 27.3 points. As scary as that might sound, those numbers could actually improve this week. The Wolfpack is scuffling on offense and has been downright awful at times on defense. Last week during a 44-14 loss to Cincinnati, they gave up 503 yards to the Bearcats. We smell a rout … Georgia Tech 52, N.C. State 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

Penn State at Indiana: The Nittany Lions are likely one of the weakest 3-1 teams in college football, and they have lost arguably the best player on their team – linebacker Michael Mauti – to a season-ending knee injury. Nevertheless, this time next week, the Lions will be one of the weakest 4-1 teams in college football because they are playing IU. Under first-year head coach Kevin Wilson, the Hoosiers could be described somewhere between a hot mess and a dumpster fire. Their only win so far this season is over a Division I-AA team, and they lost last week to a North Texas team that had won only eight of its previous 53 games. Add that to the fact the Hoosiers are 0-14 lifetime against the Lions and you see where we’re headed … Penn State 32, Indiana 7. (12 noon ET, ESPNU)

Notre Dame at Purdue: These two teams have played one another every season for the past nine years with the Fighting Irish going 6-3 during the stretch including three wins in a row. The Boilermakers have a pretty good offense – at least as far as anyone can tell after playing the likes of Middle Tennessee, Rice and Southeast Missouri State. They have had a week off to prepare for the Irish, who seem to play well one series and awful the next. Notre Dame really has put together only one complete performance this year and that resulted in a solid 31-13 win over Michigan State two weeks ago. If the Irish ever shore up their secondary and hold onto the football, they can be a decent football team. Until then, however, every game they play will be closer than it needs to be … Notre Dame 26, Purdue 23. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Michigan State at Ohio State: These two have charted extremely similar paths so far this season. Each has beaten up on lesser competition, each has stubbed its toe against the best team it has played so far. OSU has the edge in rushing, MSU has the better passing game. Defensively, the Spartans have the edge in most categories; on special teams, the Buckeyes have performed better. So who do you pick when the teams appear so evenly matched? Go to the history books where you’ll find Ohio State with a 27-12 advantage in the overall series, including seven victories in a row – four of those in Columbus. Of course, there’s this little historical nugget, too – when Michigan State is the higher ranked team, it is 5-0 in the series. Coin flip time … Ohio State 23, Michigan State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Kentucky at LSU (-27½); Alabama (-3½) at Florida; Nevada at Boise State (-26½); UCLA at Stanford (-20½); Nebraska (+10) at Wisconsin; Minnesota at Michigan (-19½); Georgia Tech (-9½) at N.C. State; Penn State (-14½) at Indiana; Notre Dame at Purdue (+12½); Michigan State (+3½) at Ohio State.

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

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