Meyer Proves Coaching Matters … And It Matters A Lot

Coaching matters … and it matters a lot. That was driven home like a golden spike Oct. 20 when Ohio State faced an eight-point deficit to Purdue with only 47 seconds to do something about it.

Sure, give Kenny Guiton credit for coolly directing a 61-yard touchdown drive. Give Chris Fields credit for making crucial catches the junior receiver heretofore hadn’t made during his college career. Give Tom Herman credit for dialing up a perfect two-point conversion call. And give the much-maligned Ohio State defense its due for managing to hold off the Boilermakers in overtime.

But if you ever wondered why Urban Meyer is worth $4 million a year, you need look no further than the Buckeyes’ 29-22 victory over Purdue. The reason Guiton was so cool, Fields was so clutch, Herman was so confident and the defense was so able to rise to the occasion could be summed up in one word: leadership.

No offense to last year’s coaching staff, but there was no way Ohio State would have beaten Purdue last season given the same set of circumstances. In fact, the Buckeyes faced similar circumstances last year in West Lafayette, and while they rallied at the end of the game, they were the ones who made the crucial mistakes and they were the ones who went home losers.

Meyer had already laid the groundwork for OSU’s comeback this year with his unique style of break-’em-down and then build-’em-back-up philosophy.

The coach has admitted Guiton was practically on a bus back to Houston last winter before he decided to buy into Meyer’s system. Likewise, Fields was buried so far down the depth chart at receiver that the junior needed a flashlight and a compass to find his way out.

Yet with Braxton Miller and Corey “Philly” Brown sidelined down the stretch, it was Guiton and Fields upon whom Meyer relied to get the job done – Guiton, Fields and his own coaching acumen.

The fact is no one could have scripted the final moments of regulation any better than Meyer did.

Purdue milked the clock to 59 final ticks before punter Cody Webster launched a 48-yard effort that bounced to the Ohio State 30. But mindful of his head coach’s “Plan to Win” mantra, Fields saved a few precious seconds by scooping up the ball and then got the Buckeyes 9 yards closer to the end zone with a return to the OSU 39.

With 47 seconds remaining, Meyer and Herman quickly drew up two plays on the sideline. The first was designed to get sophomore receiver Devin Smith open between Purdue’s intermediate and deep zones, and Guiton found his intended target for 39 yards to the Boilermakers’ 22.

Then instead of immediately spiking the ball to save time, the Buckeyes sprinted to the line of scrimmage where Guiton connected with sophomore Evan Spencer on an 8-yard sideline pass. Spencer went out of bounds following the catch to give his team a second-and-2 from the 14-yard line with 0:28 to go.

On the next play, Guiton faded in the pocket but found all his receivers covered. Rather than trying to force something, he threw the ball away – as he had been taught – setting up third-and-2 with 23 seconds remaining.

That was when Meyer really started to put on a clinic.

Despite the fact he had no timeouts, the coach put his faith in his offensive line and junior tailback Carlos Hyde, who pounded up the middle for a 3-yard gain and a first down to temporarily stop the clock. Guiton followed with a spike and the Buckeyes were at the Purdue 11 with 15 seconds left.

The next play called for Guiton to hit Spencer as he raced toward the end zone, peeling off in front of his defender just before reaching the goal line. But Guiton threw too low and too wide, and a diving Spencer couldn’t come up with the reception.

Third down, 12 seconds left. Time for two more plays.

This time, Meyer called for a fade route in the end zone to Spencer, but while the pass seemed to sail on Guiton, Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson had his hands all over the OSU receiver and drew a pass interference call.

That gave the Buckeyes the ball at the Purdue 2-yard line, but with only 0:08 showing on the clock. That’s when Fields made a diving catch of a ball only he could have caught just over the goal line for the touchdown.

Now, with just 0:03 remaining, Meyer needed one more clutch call to achieve the tie. He got it from Herman, who overruled his linemen who were lobbying for a run.

The play called for tight end Jeff Heuerman to block initially and then break away from the line of scrimmage and drift into the end zone. Heuerman nearly carried out his decoy too long, allowing pressure to bear down on Guiton before the QB flipped a rainbow that the Ohio State tight end gathered in for the two-point conversion.

After the game, Herman confirmed the team had been practicing that play for just the right time.

“When the game is on the line is not the time to go against what you’ve practiced,” the offensive coordinator said. “We knew they’d been playing man coverage all game and knew it would be there eventually. It took (Heuerman) awhile to get out. I was holding my breath. But everybody who was on the field did a helluva job.”

In overtime, Guiton led the Buckeyes to a quick touchdown before a rejuvenated defense clamped down on a demoralized Purdue offense.

Game, set, match, and Ohio State moved to 8-0, stealing a game that most likely would have been lost with anyone else but Meyer at the controls.

OSU-PENN STATE TIDBITS

** This marks the 28th overall meeting between Ohio State and Penn State, and the Buckeyes enjoy a slight 14-13 advantage. The teams are deadlocked at 5-5 in games played at Beaver Stadium, although OSU has won three of the last four played in Happy Valley.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is 1-0 during his career against Penn State. In his final game as Florida head coach, the Gators scored a 37-24 triumph over the Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

** Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien has never faced Ohio State as a player, assistant coach or head coach.

** Ohio State will face a Joe Paterno-less Penn State squad for the first time ever in Happy Valley. Paterno, who died in January from complications due to lung cancer, had been on the Nittany Lions sideline as head coach for all 10 of the previous games in the series played at Beaver Stadium.

** O’Brien is only the third head coach in Penn State history to experience a five-game win streak during his debut season with the Nittany Lions. Only George Hoskins (1892) and Dick Harlow (1915) won five straight games in their first season as head coach at Penn State.

** NCAA sanctions prevent either team from competing in the Big Ten Championship Game, but both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions remain eligible to win the Leaders Division championship trophy. Ohio State enters the game with a 4-0 conference record while Penn State is 3-0.

** The game pits two of the winningest college football teams in history against one another. Counting vacated seasons, Ohio State ranks fifth all-time with 845 wins while Penn State ranks sixth with 832. Michigan is first all-time with 900 followed by Texas (863), Notre Dame (860) and Nebraska (851).

** Six of the last 11 games in the series have been determined by seven points or less, but there have been some notable blowouts over the years. Penn State rolled to a 63-14 win at Beaver Stadium in 1994, and Ohio State returned the favor six years later in Ohio Stadium with a 45-6 wipeout. In 2010, the Buckeyes erased a 14-3 halftime deficit to secure a 38-14 win. Throughout the overall series, the average margin of victory for OSU is 16.0 points. When the Nittany Lions win, their average margin is 14.4 points.

** Ohio State will be looking to keep things close tomorrow. The Buckeyes are 4-0 this season while the Nittany Lions are 0-1 in games decided by seven points or less.

** One series trend would seem to favor Ohio State while another works better for Penn State’s hopes. The higher ranked team has won 19 of the last 21 meetings, and OSU enters tomorrow’s game ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press writers’ polls while the Nittany Lions are unranked. Meanwhile, Penn State can take solace in the fact the home team has won 13 of the 19 games played in the series since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

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

** Something has to give tomorrow. Ohio State is tied for 23rd nationally in red zone offense, having scored 30 times in 34 trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Meanwhile, Penn State ranks No. 6 in the nation in red zone defense. The Nittany Lions have allowed opponents to score on only 12 of 20 trips inside their 20-yard line.

** The Ohio State defense is always looking for interceptions, of course, but especially so against Penn State tomorrow. Since 2002, the Buckeyes have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns against the Nittany Lions – Chris Gamble in 2002, Tyler Everett in 2004, Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith in 2006, Jenkins in 2007 and Devon Torrence and Travis Howard in 2010. Best of all, Ohio State won each of those five games.

** Penn State is traditionally one of the least penalized teams in the nation and that is true again in 2012. The Nittany Lions are tied for the fewest penalties in the Big Ten with 32 through seven games and they average only 44.9 penalty yards per game. In its last six games played against the Buckeyes, Penn State has incurred only 17 penalties for 121 yards. During the same six games, Ohio State has been flagged 37 times for 315 yards.

** Penn State is tied for second in the Big Ten lead in fewest sacks allowed with eight. Ohio State ranks ninth in the conference in that category, having surrendered 15 sacks this season.

** Penn State has three native Ohioans on its roster – running back Michael Zordich (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), offensive lineman Nate Cadogan (Portsmouth) and offensive lineman Anthony Stanko (Warren Howland). The Buckeyes have four players from Pennsylvania – defensive back Corey Brown (Monroeville), receiver Corey “Philly” Brown (Upper Darby), running back Jordan Hall (Jeannette) and defensive end Noah Spence (Harrisburg).

** The game is expected to be a defensive battle, but will feature several of the top offensive players in the Big Ten. Penn State QB Matt McGloin leads the conference with an average of 255.4 yards passing per game while WR Allen Robinson has a league-best 47 receptions. Meanwhile, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller is second in the Big Ten in total offense (292.9 yards per game) and is tied with teammate RB Carlos Hyde for third in the league with 10 touchdowns.

** McGloin is already No. 7 on Penn State’s career list for touchdown passes with 36. He needs only eight more to break the school record of 43 held by Daryll Clark (2006-09). McGloin also ranks seventh all-time in passing yardage with 4,907, but he is still a ways away from Zack Mills, who threw for 7,212 yards during his career from 2001-04.

** Robinson needs only one more reception to crack the Penn State top 10 for most catches in a single season. O.J. McDuffie set the school record with 63 receptions in 1992, a mark that was equaled three years later by Bobby Engram.

** With his 91 yards last week against Purdue, Hyde upped his career rushing total to 1,252 yards. That ties him with Ricardo Volley (1977-79) for 45th on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.

** Purdue sophomore Akeem Hunt’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first one surrendered by Ohio State during the regular season since David Gilreath of Wisconsin took one back 97 yards on the game’s opening kick during a 31-18 win by the Badgers in Madison in 2010.

**The 100-yard return by Hunt was the longest against the Buckeyes since Bobby Weber of Minnesota had a 100-yarder vs. OSU in 1977. Weber’s return represented the Golden Gophers’ only touchdown during a 38-7 loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus.

** Garrett Goebel’s blocked extra point in the first quarter vs. Purdue and Johnathan Hankins’ blocked field goal in the second period gave the Buckeyes six blocked kicks for the season – two punts, one field goal and three PATs – and they added to Meyer’s total as a head coach. In 11 seasons with Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and OSU, Meyer-coached teams have blocked 57 kicks in 135 games.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 5:30 p.m. Eastern with ESPN handling the telecast. Veteran play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough will have the call alongside color analysis from former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman. Sideline reports will be filed by Quint Kessenich.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 92 and 136 as well as XM channel 192.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to face Illinois. Time and broadcast partners remain TBA.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 26, 1907, one of the all-time greats made his college football debut. The legendary Jim Thorpe took the field for the first time with the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School, and led the Indians to a 26-6 upset of fourth-ranked Penn. The game was held before a crowd of 22,800 at Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Field.

** On Oct. 26, 1968, All-America defensive back Jake Scott returned two interceptions for touchdowns and led eighth-ranked Georgia to a 35-14 win over Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Scott, who went on to become MVP of Super Bowl VII with the Miami Dolphins, set a UGA record with 10 interceptions that season and he still holds the school career mark with 16 picks.

** On Oct. 26, 1985, seventh-ranked BYU saw its 25-game conference winning streak end when UTEP handed the Cougars a 23-16 loss in El Paso. Miners DB Danny Taylor returned a Robbie Bosco interception 100 yards for a touchdown to provide for the winning points.

** On Oct. 26, 1991, Northwestern tried to change its luck by wearing purple pants against No. 17 Illinois. Wildcats head coach Francis Peay remarked that his team “looked like a bunch of grapes,” but NU registered a 17-11 upset victory, their first defeat of a ranked team in 20 years.

** On Oct. 27, 1923, the first night game in Big Ten history was held as part of a day-night doubleheader in Chicago. During the afternoon, Chicago took a 20-6 win over Purdue at Stagg Field, and then portable lights were installed at Soldier Field as Illinois shut out Northwestern, 29-0.

** On Oct. 27, 1956, seventh-ranked Texas A&M traveled to Waco and came home with a 19-13 victory over No. 8 Baylor. A&M halfback John David Crow threw a 5-yard touchdown to John Tracey, and then scored the winning TD himself on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Aggies, coached by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, went on to win the Southwest Conference championship and finish No. 5 in the Associated Press rankings with a 9-0-1 record.

** On Oct. 27, 1979, Pittsburgh freshman quarterback Dan Marino came off the bench to throw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, leading the No. 12 Panthers to a 24-7 victory over No. 17 Navy.

** On Oct. 28, 1950, Nevada’s Pat Brady booted an NCAA-record 99-yard punt during a 34-7 loss to Loyola Marymount.

** On Oct. 28, 1967, UTEP quarterback Brooks Dawson set an NCAA record for most consecutive passes completed for a touchdown when he threw six in a row during a 75-12 victory over New Mexico. Making the feat even more remarkable was the fact that the six touchdowns came on Dawson’s first six attempts of the game.

** On Oct. 28, 1989, Ohio State overcame a 31-0 second-quarter deficit at Minnesota and rallied for a 41-37 victory in the Metrodome. QB Greg Frey threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns while tailback/kick returner Carlos Snow accounted for 278 all-purpose yards and tallied three scores in what was at the time the largest comeback in NCAA history.

** On Oct. 28, 2000, Louisiana Tech quarterback Luke McCown set an NCAA freshman record with 72 passing attempts during the Bulldogs’ 42-31 loss at No. 2 Miami (Fla.). McCown completed 42 of 72 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns in the game. His 72 attempts remain a single-season school record.

** On Oct. 29, 1960, future College Football Hall of Fame member Pervis Atkins sparked New Mexico State to a 27-24 victory over Arizona State. Atkins returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and then raced 70 yards to set up the game-winning score. Atkins went on to break the NCAA single-season record for most yards per play, averaging an amazing 14.7 yards on 110 combined runs, receptions and kick returns. The previous record was held by Army’s Glenn Davis, the 1946 Heisman Trophy winner.

** On Oct. 29, 1988, Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders rushed for 320 yards to lead his No. 12 Cowboys to a 45-27 win over Kansas State. The performance began a five-game stretch during which Sanders rushed for 1,472 yards, the most rushing yards accumulated over a five-game span in NCAA history. Sanders also became only the second player in college football history to gain more than 200 rushing yards in five consecutive games, and the streak propelled Sanders to an NCAA single-season record 2,628 rushing yards and the 1988 Heisman Trophy.

** Also on Oct. 29, 1988, Washington State scored 28 second-half points during a 34-30 upset win over top-ranked UCLA and its All-America quarterback Troy Aikman.

** On Oct. 30, 1971, future College Football Hall of Fame tailback Ed Marinaro of Cornell became the first running back in college football history to break the 4,000-yard barrier, doing so during his team’s 24-21 win over Columbia. Marinaro ran for 1,881 yards that season for the Big Red – still a single-season Ivy League record – and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Auburn QB Pat Sullivan. Marinaro went on to play six seasons in the NFL after which he became a successful actor, best known for his portrayal of Officer Joe Coffey on “Hill Street Blues.”

** On Oct. 30, 1982, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw for a school-record 520 yards, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Penn State scored a 52-17 blowout over the Eagles in Chestnut Hill. The Nittany Lions were led by quarterback Todd Blackledge, who threw for 243 yards and three TDs, and running back Curt Warner, who rushed for 183 yards and two scores.

** On Oct. 30, 1999, Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo was a one-man wrecking crew against Stanford. Tuiasosopo became the first player in NCAA history to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for 200 or more in the same game. He threw for 302 yards and added 207 on the ground in a 35-30 victory over the Cardinal.

** On Oct. 31, 1992, seventh-ranked Nebraska rolled to a 52-7 victory over No. 9 Colorado in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers piled up 373 yards on the ground and scored touchdowns in a variety of ways, including a 16-yard fumblerooski rumble by offensive guard Will Shields.

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

** On Nov. 1, 1969, Toledo clinched the first of its three consecutive Mid-American Conference championships with a 14-10 win over Miami (Ohio) in Oxford. The winning score was a 52-yard touchdown pass from QB Chuck Ealey to wideout Don Fair in the second quarter. The win was the seventh in a row for the Rockets in a streak that would eventually reach 35 games, the fifth-longest winning streak in college football history.

** On Nov. 1, 1986, Long Beach State’s Mark Templeton set an NCAA single-game record for receptions by a running back with 18 catches for 173 yards during his team’s 14-3 win over Utah State.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Cincinnati dropped its first game of the season last Saturday, a 29-23 decision at Toledo, and that pared the number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams to 11. Ohio State is the only team at 8-0 while Alabama, Florida, Louisville, Mississippi State, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio, Oregon and Rutgers are 7-0. Oregon State is 6-0.

** Alabama extended the nation’s longest streak to 11 last weekend with a 44-13 rout of Tennessee. Oregon is nipping at the Crimson Tide’s heels with a 10-game winning streak while Mississippi State has won nine in a row. One of those streaks has to end tomorrow since Mississippi State visits Alabama.

** The nation’s longest losing streak ended for the second week in a row. Tulane snapped a 15-game slide Oct. 13 with a 27-26 win over SMU, and then Eastern Michigan broke its eight-game losing streak Saturday with a 48-38 win over Army. Southern Miss, a 12-2 team just a year ago, now owns the longest losing streak in the nation. The Golden Eagles dropped a 59-24 decision to Marshall on Saturday, marking their seventh loss in a row.

** Who said you need to throw for 600 yards and score 70 points to make a statement? Third-ranked Florida stomped its way to a 44-11 win last Saturday over No. 7 South Carolina despite gaining only 183 total yards. The Gators forced four turnovers – three fumbles and one interception – and limited the Gamecocks to only 191 total yards. Meanwhile, Florida QB Jeff Driskel threw for only 93 yards, but he was extremely efficient. Driskel had four touchdown passes, equaling his total from the previous six games.

** Oregon gets more than its share of love for a pinball offense that ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring at a 51.0 points-per-game clip. But the Ducks can play a little defense, too. During their 43-21 rout at Arizona State last weekend, the Quack Attack held Wildcats QB Taylor Kelly to only 93 yards while intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Kelly had entered the game as the nation’s No. 3 quarterback in pass efficiency.

** Notre Dame has ridden on the back of its defense to its first 7-0 start since beginning the 2002 season with eight straight victories. Going back to the last half of the 2011 season, the Fighting Irish are 11-2 and have surrendered more than 17 points in only three of those games.

** With the Heisman Trophy race about as wide open as it has ever been at this stage of a season, keep your eye on a certain dark horse candidate. Alabama gets a lot of buzz for its No. 1-rated defense – and deservedly so – but quarterback A.J. McCarron has quietly ascended his way to the top of the national charts in pass efficiency rating. McCarron has completed 106 of 154 attempts (68.8 percent) for 1,476 yards, 16 TDs and no interceptions. And he is the quarterback for the undefeated defending national champions.

** Congratulations to Duke, which became bowl-eligible at 6-2 with a last-second 33-30 win last Saturday over North Carolina. The Blue Devils haven’t made a postseason trip since the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl, but that’s only part of the story. Duke is trying to break a streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons, a stretch during which the team posted a horrid combined record of 37-158. The Blue Devils have gone bowling only eight times in program history (they started playing in 1888), and haven’t won a postseason game since a 7-6 decision over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

** To say Kansas is struggling in its first season under head coach Charlie Weis would be understating the obvious. The 1-6 Jayhawks rank 114th out of 120 FBS schools in scoring offense and 118th in pass efficiency. Weis’ defense isn’t anything to write home about, either, ranking 85th in yardage allowed and 89th in points surrendered. And then there’s special teams. Kansas gave up a 90-yard punt return and a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdowns during last Saturday’s 52-7 loss at Oklahoma.

** Speaking of teams that need help and lots of it, Colorado jumps from the frying pan into the fire this week. Fresh off last week’s 50-6 spanking at the hands of USC, the Buffaloes roll into Oregon this Saturday night. The Ducks are the No. 2 scoring offense in the country 51.0 points per game while Colorado ranks 119th in scoring defense, allowing an average of 42.6 points per game. Oregon raced out to a 29-0 lead after the first quarter in last year’s meeting before the Ducks took their webbed feet off the gas pedal and coasted home with a 45-2 victory.

** Auburn’s collapse is reaching historic proportions. Following their 17-13 loss at Vanderbilt last week, the Tigers dropped to 1-6, giving them the worst record for a team just two years removed from a national championship since the Associated Press poll was incorporated in 1936. The record also represents Auburn’s worst start to a season in 60 years. In 1952, the Tigers started 1-7 on their way to a 2-8 finish.

** How close is Northwestern to being 7-0 instead of 5-2? That depends upon your definition of the word “close.” In their two losses, the Wildcats have coughed up double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. On Oct. 6, they held a 28-17 lead over Penn State before the Nittany Lions scored three touchdowns in the final 9:49 for a 39-28 victory. Then last weekend, NU scored with 8:31 remaining to take a 28-16 lead over Nebraska. But the Cornhuskers tallied twice inside the final six minutes to pull out a 29-28 win.

** West Virginia QB Geno Smith broke the NCAA in-season record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception when he reached 273 shortly before throwing his first pick of the season last Saturday against Kansas State. Unfortunately for Smith, he didn’t hold the record for very long. Later in the day, Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron increased his total to 275 during his team’s 70-28 win over Idaho.

** Cameron would likely be a Heisman candidate if he didn’t play in the fading-away Western Athletic Conference. The senior has completed 196 of 275 attempts this season (71.3 percent) for 2,306 yards, 20 TDs and no picks. During the Bulldogs’ win over Idaho, Cameron was 29 for 37 for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns while running back Kenneth Dixon rushed for 232 yards and six TDs. Tech rolled up a school-record 839 yards of total offense in the game and moved to 6-1 for the first time since 1975.

** Idaho’s loss to Louisiana Tech led to the firing of Vandals head coach Robb Akey, who was dismissed with a record of 20-50 in seven seasons. Akey, who became the first coaching casualty of the 2012 season, was replaced by offensive coordinator Jason Gesser. The 33-year-old Gesser is probably best known as the quarterback who led Washington State to a Pac-10 co-championship and Rose Bowl berth in 2002.

** South Alabama killed two birds with one stone last weekend. The 37-34 win in double overtime over Florida Atlantic represented the Jaguars’ first conference victory as Sun Belt members and the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent. South Alabama has been playing intercollegiate football only since 2009, and this is the school’s first season at the FBS level. The Jaguars become full-fledged members of the Sun Belt Conference next season.

** A couple of milestone victories from last weekend. Michigan’s 12-10 win over instate rival Michigan State allowed the Wolverines to become the first college football program to reach 900 wins all-time. Also, Division III powerhouse Mount Union clobbered Otterbein by a 51-0 final to give head coach Larry Kehres his 324th career victory. That moved him past Paul “Bear” Bryant and into fifth place all-time in terms of wins among NCAA football coaches. Kehres’ career record of 324-24-3 gives him a winning percentage of .927, and that’s the highest in college football history.

** Speaking of Mount Union, the Purple Raiders’ win over Otterbein last weekend marked their 70th consecutive regular-season win and their sixth shutout in a row. The shutout streak ties an all-time NCAA Division III record. Mount Union is 7-0 this season and has outscored its opponents by a 387-7 margin.

** Kudos to Division III Wilmington College, which snapped a 32-game losing streak with last week’s 13-12 victory over Marietta. Senior kicker Max Gabbard kicked a 35-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining, and then sophomore Joe Knecht sealed the Quakers’ victory with an interception in the end zone with 0:02 showing on the clock. By the way, Mount Union and Wilmington have already played one another this season. The Purple Raiders eked out a 66-0 win over the Quakers on Oct. 6.

** Mark your calendars. The 2014 BCS Championship Game is scheduled for Jan. 6. That game, the final title contest for the Bowl Championship Series before the new playoff format is incorporated, will be played at the Rose Bowl.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Little by little, we’re making progress. We went 8-2 last week straight up, admittedly because we have underestimated both Florida and Penn State all season. But we had an acceptable 6-4 record against the spread, including nearly picking the Notre Dame-BYU final on the nose. We had it 17-14 for the Irish; the actual final was 17-13.

The season totals are now 66-14 SU and just above water at 40-38-2 ATS.

We’ll try to keep on keepin’ on with these games. (And remember, we use AP rankings.)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Colorado at No. 2 Oregon: If you are the Ducks, you have two ways to approach this game. You can either roll up the score on the Buffaloes or you can race out to a comfortable lead and then put things on cruise control knowing you have to travel to USC next Saturday. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty for Colorado, which ranks 119th of 120 FBS schools in scoring defense and has been outscored by a 143-37 margin in just its last three games. … Oregon 63, Colorado 10. (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia: The 90th renewal of the World’s Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville features a pair of teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. Despite there is another month of the season to be played, the Gators can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a win. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs haven’t looked the same since taking a 35-7 sucker punch from South Carolina three weeks ago. UGA leads the overall series by a 47-40-2 margin, and the Dawgs took home a 24-20 victory last year. But the Gators have won 18 of the last 22 in the series and they are the team that has been playing much better of late … Florida 30, Georgia 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State: The Wildcats rolled into Morgantown last week and rolled back out again following a 55-14 rout of West Virginia. This week, the Fighting Snyders return home to face a surprisingly efficient Double-T defense that ranks No. 7 nationally in total defense. K-State quarterback Collin Klein (1,397 yards, 10 TDs) isn’t the flashiest QB around, but he is deadly accurate and is second in the country with a 10.1-yard average per attempt. But the Red Raiders have a couple of things going for them. First is the fact that the Wildcats have lost nine of their last 11 games at home to ranked teams. And then there is this nugget: Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville is 6-2 lifetime against top-five teams. That would seem to point toward an Upset Special … Texas Tech 23, Kansas State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 23 Ohio at Miami (Ohio): The Bobcats are enjoying life right now. They are 7-0 for the first time since 1968 and have earned their first-ever appearance in the BCS standings, coming in at No. 24 this week. If Ohio truly wants to become a BCS buster, however, it is going to have to stop playing things so close to the vest. Four of the Bobcats’ victories have come by seven points or less, and close games against the likes of Marshall (3-4), Massachusetts (0-7), Buffalo (1-6) and Akron (1-7) are not winning any style points. This week’s opponent is another sub-.500 team that gave Ohio State some problems back on Sept. 1 before succumbing to a 56-10 final. It’s doubtful the Bobcats can put up that many points on the RedHawks, but a double-digit win would look a lot better to the pollsters … Ohio 34, Miami 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Michigan State at Wisconsin: This has been a remarkably competitive rivalry over the years with the series split at 15-15 since 1979. More recently, the teams have split the last six games with no one winning by more than 10 points. But Sparty hasn’t enjoyed going on the road to play Bucky in recent years. Including a pair of neutral-site games – a game in Tokyo in 1993 and last year’s Big Ten Championship Game – MSU has lost eight of its last nine to Wisconsin away from East Lansing. In a series as close as this one has been, those are the kinds of trends you use to come up with this kind of pick … Wisconsin 20, Michigan State 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 22 Texas A&M at Auburn: About the last thing Gene Chizik’s beleaguered Tigers needed this week was to face a dual-threat quarterback, but that’s exactly what they’re going to get when A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel comes to town. Manziel is No. 3 in the nation in total offense, averaging 379.9 yards per game, and Auburn is currently ninth in the SEC in scoring defense and 11th in total defense. But as bad as the Tigers are on defense, they’re even worse on offense, ranking 119th in the country in yardage and 118th in scoring. One has to wonder how the Tigers have fallen so hard so quickly after winning the national championship two years ago, a title that earned Chizik a contract extension worth $3.5 million a year through 2015 … Texas A&M 38, Auburn 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma: These teams meet for the first time as ranked opponents since 1968 when the third-ranked Irish rolled to a 45-21 win over the fifth-rated Sooners. Notre Dame has an 8-1 edge in the overall series and many observes believe if they can move that record to 9-1, the Fighting Irish will position themselves for a drive toward the BCS National Championship Game. The Irish have yet to allow more than 17 points to any opponent this season, but they have yet to face an offense as potent as the one piloted by Sooners QB Landry Jones (1,644 yards, 12 TDs). Oklahoma is not invincible by any means – Kansas State proved that with a 24-19 win in Norman last month. But the Sooners still represent an extremely tough out for any team, and that’s why we believe they will end Notre Dame’s dreams of an undefeated season … Oklahoma 27, Notre Dame 20. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 20 Michigan at Nebraska: The Wolverines are making their first trip to Lincoln since a 6-6 tie in 1911, and they are headed to a venue where the Cornhuskers have made a recent living on fourth-quarter comebacks. Last year, NU crawled out of a 27-6 hole for a 34-27 win over Ohio State, and this year the Huskers took a 30-27 decision over Wisconsin after trailing 27-10 early in the third quarter. In other words, no visiting team’s lead is safe at Memorial Stadium. But the Huskers are having trouble stopping anyone this season, and that is evidenced by the fact they have allowed 118 points over their last three games. That includes allowing 63 points and 498 total yards to Ohio State, which has an offensive attack similar to that of U-M. The oddsmakers have installed NU as slight favorites, so that makes this Upset Special No. 2 … Michigan 42, Nebraska 28. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide will not have the luxury of looking ahead to next week’s showdown at LSU with the surprising Bulldogs coming to town tomorrow night. Dan Mullen’s team is off to its best start since 1999 and has done it with a stingy defense that allows only 14.4 points per game and a team that is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Alabama surrenders only 8.3 points per game and is No. 3 nationally in turnover margin. Neither team has really been tested this season, but the Bulldogs rarely do well on the road in this series. They have come home losers on 23 of their last 25 trips to Tuscaloosa, and are expected to do so again … Alabama 31, Mississippi State 14. (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 9 Ohio State at Penn State: These two teams couldn’t care less that some are referring to their matchup as the “Banned Bowl.” Neither the Buckeyes nor the Nittany Lions can go bowling this year, but they can win a Leaders Division championship and the winner puts himself in the driver’s seat for that trophy. Penn State has made a remarkable turnaround after dropping its first two games of the season, and that revival has come mostly because of a stout defense and the play of QB Matt McGloin (1,788 yards, 14 TDs). But while the Lions are second in the Big Ten in scoring defense, they have not faced an attack the likes of which Ohio State features with Braxton Miller. The sophomore quarterback has rebounded well from last week’s neck injury and is eager to make up for last year’s performance against Penn State, which included a 9-yard scramble on fourth down with 1:41 remaining that came up a yard short in the Buckeyes’ eventual 20-14 loss. Somewhere along the line, Miller makes that yard this year … Ohio State 27, Penn State 24. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Colorado at Oregon (-45½); Florida (-3½) vs. Georgia; Texas Tech (+8) at Kansas State; Ohio (-7) at Miami-OH; Michigan State (+6½) at Wisconsin; Texas A&M (-7) at Auburn; Notre Dame (+11) at Oklahoma; Michigan (+2½) at Nebraska; Mississippi State (+24) at Alabama; Ohio State (-1) at Penn State.

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

Death Penalty Warranted In Penn State Case

I wanted to wait awhile before commenting on the Freeh Report which exposed an apparent cover-up at Penn State with regard to former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and his sexual abuse of young boys that may have begun as early as the 1970s.

Still mindful of the scorched-earth policy most pundits chose last year when Ohio State found itself squarely in the crosshairs of a particularly nasty chain of events that cost the university arguably the best football coach it has ever had and subsequently wrecked the 2011 season, I found myself strangely reluctant to pull the trigger on criticism of Penn State officials, particularly former head coach Joe Paterno.

I have tried to balance the information emanating from the Freeh Report with testimonials from the Paterno family as well as a feeling of genuine compassion for Sandusky’s victims from Penn State alumni and State College residents.

Unfortunately, no measure of loyalty or compassion can erase the fact that crimes were committed – egregious, heinous crimes against defenseless young children – and that those crimes were systematically (and some would say ruthlessly) covered up by a Penn State administration that included president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and Paterno.

For that reason, I believe the NCAA has no choice but to suspend the Penn State football program for a period of at least one year.

The NCAA has implemented its so-called death penalty only five times before and just once to a major college football program. Southern Methodist University, which had boasted the nation’s highest winning percentage during the five-year period from 1980-84, saw its program shut down in 1987 amid a pay-for-play scandal. SMU resumed playing football in 1989 but didn’t enjoy another winning season until 1997. Additionally, the Mustangs, who made four bowl trips in five seasons in the early 1980s, didn’t make another postseason appearance until 2009.

Because it effectively left the SMU program in ruins for the better part of two decades, the NCAA has been exceedingly reluctant to use the death penalty option again, and there is no doubt that shutting down a multimillion-dollar program such as Penn State would have far-reaching effects.

Arguments have been made that such a punitive measure would do more harm than good. For example, benching the Nittany Lions would punish the program’s current coaches and players, none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the Sandusky case or its cover-up. Likewise, the team’s opposition – eight Big Ten rivals and four nonconference opponents – would be left with a gaping hole on their schedules, creating a financial burden that could threaten their own respective programs and athletic department budgets.

In 2012, Penn State has seven home games on its schedule and expects more than 100,000 people to jam their way into Beaver Stadium on those Saturday afternoons. Canceling those games also cancels the millions of dollars of revenue that pours into Happy Valley during each home game weekend.

The argument has also been made that lives have already been ruined by the Sandusky scandal, so ruining more lives by shutting down the Penn State football program is not the answer.

I have additionally heard the debate from Penn State alumni who contend that because they had nothing to do with the scandal, they should not be ridiculed and their alma mater should not be sanctioned. “We love our school because it’s a community of good people,” one alum wrote to USA Today. “We’re not defined by Jerry Sandusky … and we never will be.”

That is the precisely the kind of rationalization that brought Penn State to where it is today. When a university harbors a serial sexual predator of young children and unapologetically covers it up for decades, the cold, hard truth is that the university is and should be defined by its actions.

Likewise, the disturbing acts of stubbornness and defiance from the Paterno family continues to display an astounding lack of understanding with regard to the gravity of the situation. The hiring of lawyers to comb through the 267-page Freeh report and perform a “comprehensive review” of the findings smacks only of a bald-faced attempt to protect Paterno’s legacy as well as the family fortune.

I know what the NCAA death penalty would mean to Penn State football. It would cease to exist as most of us have known it for all our lives. It would deal a serious blow not only to the university and the Big Ten, but to the college football brand itself.

Then again, it would also hopefully serve as a deterrent to any university official, any coach, or anyone connected with college football that crimes the severity of those committed by Sandusky – and the subsequent cover-up engineered by his superiors – cannot and will not be tolerated.

Paterno: Hero Or Fallen Idol? It Rests In Eye Of Beholder

“Every day I’m more confused as the saints turn into sinners; all the heroes and legends I knew as a child have turned into idols of clay.” – Dennis DeYoung, 1990.

People have a funny way of deciding who and who isn’t worthy of their adoration. That seems especially true in the provincial world of college football where following your favorite school is akin to a religious exercise and every opponent is an archrival to be loathed and scorned.

Penn State fans and alumni, blindsided by the scandal that has threatened to rip apart everything they came to know and love about their university and football program, are now mourning the passing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, who succumbed to lung cancer the morning of Jan. 22.

But as the Nittany Lions, the Happy Valley community and the entire Blue and White Nation begin the grieving process, they are essentially left to grieve alone – shunned by much of the current college football universe Paterno helped to create and nurture. While the coach’s legion of supporters attempt to highlight a life filled with laudatory accomplishment, many others are quick to point out the feel-good story had a decidedly sorrowful ending.

Ohio State fans know how Penn State fans feel. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death of the most iconic coach in OSU history. Yet when the obituaries were written for Woody Hayes, all of the victories, all of the championships and all of the young men whose lives he positively impacted were mere footnotes to the blink-of-an-eye incident that occurred on a rainy December night in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1978.

There is no disputing Hayes and Paterno are two of the most successful coaches in college football history. Yet outside the confines of their own particular constituencies, legacies rich not only in winning but in philanthropy are forever tarnished by the way their careers ended.

A half-hearted slug at an opposing player abruptly ended Hayes’ 28-year tenure in Columbus, and an even more half-hearted response to what would become a burgeoning child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State brought Paterno’s career to an end after 61 years on campus, including 46 as head coach.

It seems odd the careers of the two coaches could have ended in such ignominy since there couldn’t have been two more divergent personalities than Hayes and Paterno.

One went to a small Baptist college with the thought of becoming a teacher; the other attended an Ivy League school with aspirations of a law career. One stressed the importance of blood and sweat; the other took a more cerebral approach to his profession. One had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer; the other preferred a genteel approach.

Both were consummate winners, however, and had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of young men for the better part of the last three-quarters of a century. Hayes began his coaching career as an assistant at Mingo Junction (Ohio) High School in 1935, while Paterno first arrived at Penn State in 1950. But there was much more to each man’s life than win-loss records or dusty awards locked away in the corner of some trophy case. Hayes and Paterno were real men – men’s men, if you will – who lent their considerable celebrity to worthy causes without ever asking what was in it for them.

Hayes gave his time and efforts to the March of Dimes, an organization that helps promote the health of mothers and their babies, as well as the Muscular Dystrophy Association long before comedian Jerry Lewis began hosting star-studded Labor Day telethons in 1966. Almost from the time Hayes arrived in Columbus in 1951, the charitable cause in Ohio was a rare one that didn’t have the coach serving as honorary chairman or celebrity spokesman.

He was also legendary for helping his players financially. Of course, that is and always has been a violation of NCAA rules, and Hayes served a one-year probationary period in 1956 and the Big Ten ruled Ohio State ineligible for the 1957 Rose Bowl because the coach had given some of his more impoverished players money from his own pocket.

Hayes never made more than $35,000 during his 28 seasons as Ohio State head coach – not that he ever seemed interested in money. After his death in 1987, his wife Anne cleaned out his desk and found a number of checks given to him for various speaking engagements. The coach had never cashed them. Whenever he did endorse one of those checks, the money usually went to a former player who has having financial difficulties.

Paterno, of course, made much more money than Hayes during the course of his career, but he was no less benevolent with it. He and his wife donated more than $4 million of their own money to Penn State, and helped raise more than $13.5 million toward renovation of the school’s library that bears their names.

Yet for all the acts of compassion and generosity each man did behind the scenes, for all the joy they provided their fans as they reached the pinnacle of their profession, all their triumphs and successes, all their achievements and all the goodwill they generated will always provide only a historical postscript to how their careers ended.

The same holds true for former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, who enjoyed a 25-year career of unparalleled success marked by five national championships – the same number of consensus titles Hayes and Paterno combined to win. Tressel also became known as a generous benefactor, donating money for renovation of George Finnie Stadium at his alma mater Baldwin-Wallace and helping to fund a new indoor practice facility at Youngstown State.

At Ohio State, Tressel and his wife Ellen donated more than $1.1 million to Ohio State for various projects including renovation of the OSU Library and James Cancer Hospital. They also created a fund that has grown to more than $1.4 million for cancer prevention research.

And yet, a temporary lapse in judgment regarding improper benefits accepted by some of his players will forever taint everything else Tressel has achieved and likely everything else he ever will achieve.

Is that fair? Probably not, but there is simply no getting around the transgressions each man made. You can lead an exemplary life, but if in the flash of a nanosecond you take another person’s life, it is pretty much guaranteed your heretofore exemplary life won’t matter much to a jury of your peers.

Of course, none of the aforementioned coaches committed any crime. But the mistakes they made were amplified by the fact of who they had become. They had become our champions, our heroes, our idols – and that made their respective falls from grace that much more difficult to accept.

Rather than lionizing these men and making them the subject of our hero worship, perhaps we should simply take stock of the hard lessons taught by idolizing such admirable yet flawed men. Maybe the problem wasn’t that Woody Hayes slugged an opposing player or that Joe Paterno didn’t personally seek a resolution to what he was told was going on in his own team’s locker room. Maybe the problem wasn’t that Jim Tressel thought he could micromanage his way around blatant NCAA violations.

Perhaps the real problem rests at our own doorsteps. After all, we are the ones who made demigods of these flesh-and-blood individuals. If they turned out to be anything less than perfect, can we really blame anyone but ourselves?

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.

Penn State, Paterno Share Blame, Shame

Shock and disgust don’t come close to describing the feeling one gets from reading the details of a grand jury investigation of alleged child molestation charges against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Horrifying might be a better word, and even that doesn’t even seem able to describe the vile atrocities Sandusky supposedly perpetrated upon a number of helpless young victims over a period of several years.

For longer than I care to remember, we have been subjected to one stain after another in the world of college athletics. SMU got the so-called death penalty in 1987, USC is currently wading through sanctions levied in the wake of the Reggie Bush play-for-pay affair, and Ohio State is presently taking its turn in the NCAA meat grinder following a memorabilia-for-tattoos/cash scandal that threatened to turn the program upside down and cost head coach Jim Tressel his job and his legacy.

But none of those black marks, no matter how you perceive them, rises to level of what went on at Penn State. After reading the indictments against Sandusky, one is left with the impression that while his superiors likely did not condone his actions, they certainly did nothing to stop them.

For that reason and that reason alone, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and university senior vice president of finances and business Gary Schultz should not have been allowed to step down in order to fight the charges of perjury leveled against them. They should have been summarily fired along with Penn State president Graham Spanier.

The contract of longtime head coach Joe Paterno should be immediately nullified as well.

Some have come to Paterno’s defense, claiming the coach did all he could by notifying his AD when he was told of one of Sandusky’s transgressions. One particular pundit – so idiotic I refuse to reveal his name – claimed Sunday on national television that at least Paterno notified his superior of wrongdoing, something Tressel did not do. Later, the pundit admitted he had made a poor reference but that he was simply trying to get in one last shot at “the phony Tressel.”

Let’s set aside for the moment the ludicrous comparison of trading a Gold Pants trinket for a tattoo to seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault and

10 other miscellaneous counts, many of which occurred on the Penn State campus.

Doesn’t it go without saying that Paterno had to notify his superiors? I’m left wondering why he didn’t call the police. After more than 50 years in State College, I’m betting the coach and the city police chief are on a first-name basis.

Paterno has been one of the pillars of college football for the past half-century, and I will admit I have admired all he has done for the sport as well as his university. The selfless time he has given to charitable organizations, along with the more than $4 million he has personally donated to Penn State, is equal parts laudatory and legendary.

But Paterno has also spent much of his time perpetuating a certain image of college football in general and Penn State in particular. If that image has even a scintilla of authenticity to it, however, one would have to believe the coach would have done more than simply pass a report of misconduct up the chain of command.

One would have to believe a molder of young men’s lives would have protected those who could not protect themselves – regardless of collateral harm to himself, his program or his employer.

One would have to believe a man of Paterno’s supposed integrity would have done all in his considerable power to put an immediate stop to Sandusky’s brutalities.

But because he did not, there can be no other course of action for Penn State. Paterno must go.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSU-PENN STATE TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

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

TONIGHT’S GAME

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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