Buckeyes Should Be Rewarded For Perfect Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Dec. 3, 1994, at the first-ever SEC Championship game, Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left, and the No. 6 Gators squeezed out a 24-23 victory over previously undefeated and third-ranked Alabama.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

TODAY’S GAMES

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back To The Graveyard … For The Last Time

Some years, I tell myself that I don’t need to go. Driving past a house where strangers live and then chasing ghosts in a graveyard … Well, that doesn’t seem to be the best use of one’s time. Yet I always seem to find myself performing the same ritual each year about this time.

This year, I looked forward to it more than any other. I didn’t know why until later, after I had driven past the small little white house on Cardiff Road and large concrete expanse of Ohio Stadium. It was uncharacteristically warm for late November in Columbus, and I rolled my car window down as I made my way up Olentangy River Road and turned left into Union Cemetery.

Dusk had fallen and a cool breeze had coupled with the warmth of the day to create a thin layer of fog near the ground. I slowed down just as I passed the entrance of the cemetery as a caretaker waved at me. “Don’t be too long,” he shouted. “We’re closing soon.”

I nodded and waved, then made my way up the small hill and turned left toward Section 12. And there, tucked into a corner between several others beneath a rustling pine tree was the familiar black granite marker at Lot 37, Space 4.

I got out of my car and approached the headstone, always decorated this time of year with mementoes that passersby have left. This time, there were buckeyes and small figurine of Brutus as well as a book of the collected works of Emerson. The pages fluttered in the breeze as I heard a voice behind me.

“You again?”

I wasn’t startled because it was a familiar voice. And I didn’t even have to turn around as an older man stepped forward on my left, a gray-haired man wearing a black baseball cap, red windbreaker and gray trousers.

“Yes, it’s me,” I replied. “I just thought I’d come over and see what you … I mean, I thought I would come over and see if I could figure out what he would think about this year’s game.”

“And what did you come up with?”

“Well, I think he would probably be a little fired up because of what happened last year. I think he would probably be a little fired up because a perfect season’s on the line this year.”

The old man scowled and shook his head.

“You sportswriters are a stubborn bunch of SOBs, you know that?” he said. “You haven’t seemed to learn much from our little visits over the years. With this game, it doesn’t matter what happened last year. It doesn’t matter what your record is. The only thing that matters is the game you’re going to play. That game, that opponent, that moment. Nothing else means a damn.”

He paused for a few seconds and then continued.

“No one ever went into this great game thinking about anything other than the game itself. What are the tendencies, where are the weaknesses? Who can you depend on when things get rough and who shies away from the spotlight? Xs and Os and game-planning, you can do those things until you’re blue in the face. And don’t get me wrong: They have their place. You’d had damned well better be prepared. But you have to know your team. You have to know who you can count on and who you can’t. To my good fortune, I had some outstanding young men who more often than not rose to the occasion in this great game. A coach is only as good as his players and I was blessed with some great ones.”

I nodded and then said, “What do you think of Ohio State’s new coach?”

“My kind of man,” he replied. “Tough, hard-working, not afraid to speak his mind.”

“Sounds like someone else I know,” I said.

The old man squinted through his silver-rimmed glasses. “Don’t patronize me, Son. I never did suffer fools well and I don’t aim to start now.”

I looked down and shuffled my feet sheepishly as he continued.

“The simple fact of the matter is that things are good hands – very good hands as far as I can tell. This great university and these great fans should be proud to have such an outstanding young man as their head coach. They should be proud of such an outstanding group of young men who have turned this thing around. To go from where they were last year to where they are now? That’s quite an accomplishment. You betcha it is. And no one gave them anything. They earned every damned thing they’ve gotten, including respect. And let me tell you something: When you earn respect, that’s everything. That’s something they can never take away. No sir. They can never take that away.

“The greatest thing in the world is Ohio State football. And the second greatest thing in the world is Ohio State beating That School Up North. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. Sixteen times we beat those bastards and there wasn’t anything that compared with the feeling. But when you lose that game, it’s the lowest low you can ever experience. Happened 11 times and it just makes you sick to your stomach. That’s why you work so damned hard throughout the year to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“And then, when all your hard work and all your sweat and all your preparation and all your game-planning come together, when all of that comes together and you beat those sons-a-bitches … well, I don’t care whatever you go on to accomplish. There’s no greater feeling you get than beating That School Up North. None.”

The old man clenched his jaw and looked skyward.

“When I first came here, I just wanted to make sure everyone still understood the importance of this game. With all of the tradition that are being trampled on for the sake of a goddamned dollar, I wanted to stress the importance of just how much The Game has meant to generations of fans – how much it still means. How much it will always mean. There are a bunch of us here, you know, and there isn’t anything any of us wouldn’t do to be able to experience it just one more time …”

A church bell chimed in the distance and we both knew what that meant.

“Well, I have to be getting back,” the man said.

I nodded and said, “I always look forward to our visit. See you next year?”

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

Stunned, I stammered, “Wh-what? What do you mean?

“Well,” he said with a sigh, “it gets a little harder every year. And there are rules.”

“Rules?” I asked.

“What? You think I don’t have to go by the rules?” he said as he leaned toward me.

Then I saw the faint flicker of a smile as the old man reflected on the joke he had just told on himself.

“But there was so much more I wanted to ask and our time always seems so short,” I said.

“Oh, I’ll be around,” the man said. “Like whenever the team runs out of the tunnel at the old Horseshoe, I’ll be there. Whenever that sousaphone player dots the ‘i,’ I’ll be there. Whenever that victory bell rings loud and clear, I’ll be there. Whenever someone in some far-flung corner of the globe yells “O-H!” and someone yells back, “I-O!,” you’d better believe I’ll be there.

“And whenever we beat that goddamned school up north, you betcha I’ll be there.”

With that, he turned and began to walk off into the foggy evening.

And then I did something I had never done before. I ran after him.

“I just wanted to thank you,” I said. “Not just for these visits these past few years, but for what you’ve done for all of us who consider ourselves Ohio State football fans.”

The man stood up straight, clenched his jaw and stuck out his hand.

“The pleasure was mine,” he said. “Always was and always will be.”

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

** Tomorrow will mark the 109th renewal of what is known simply as The Game. The teams first met in 1897 and have played one another every season since 1918. The Wolverines lead the overall series by a 58-44-6 margin, including a 27-24-2 advantage in Columbus.

** Ohio State actually has a home advantage in the series in games played at Ohio Stadium where the Buckeyes are 23-21-1 against Michigan. OSU was 1-6-1 vs. the Wolverines at old Ohio Field.

** In the last 50 meetings overall, Ohio State holds a 25-23-2 advantage.

** The Buckeyes have won each of the last five games in the series played at Ohio Stadium, their longest home winning streak ever against the Wolverines.

** Ohio State has beaten Michigan in eight of the last 10 meetings for the second time in the series. The Buckeyes also had an 8-2 record against the Wolverines between 1955 and 1963.

** OSU head coach Urban Meyer is in his first season with the Buckeyes. He has a career record of 115-23 in 11 seasons as a head coach, including 0-1 against Michigan. His Florida team was on the losing end of a 41-35 decision to the Wolverines in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Meyer also faced Michigan six times as an assistant coach, posting a 2-4 record against the Wolverines. He was 1-1 against U-M as an Ohio State assistant coach from 1986-87, posted a 0-1 record at Colorado State from 1990-95, and was 1-2 at Notre Dame from 1996-2000.

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

**Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is in his second season with the Wolverines. He has a career record of 66-55 in 10 seasons as a head coach, including 19-5 at Michigan. Hoke is 1-0 against Ohio State as a head coach, and 6-3 lifetime against the Buckeyes. He spent eight seasons from 1995-2002 on Lloyd Carr’s coaching staff at U-M.

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

** Last week, Michigan completed a perfect 6-0 home record with a 42-17 rout of Iowa. That made Hoke the first U-M head coach to go undefeated at home in his first two seasons since Yost in 1901-02.

** Ohio State is currently No. 4 in the Associated Press writers’ poll while Michigan is 19th in the BCS standings and 20th in the AP and USA Today coaches’ polls.

** Meyer enters tomorrow’s contest with a 23-10 career record against ranked teams, including 2-0 at Ohio State. Hoke has a 4-9 career mark against ranked opponents, including a 3-3 mark at Michigan. He is also 0-2 record vs. teams ranked in the top five, including 0-1 with the Wolverines. U-M lost a 41-14 decision in this year’s season opener to then-No. 2 Alabama.

** Ohio State has already clinched an outright Leaders Division championship. Michigan needs a victory and a Nebraska loss at Iowa today to claim the Legends Division title and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game.

** Should Michigan not advance to the conference title game, it would mark the second year in a row neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes had won or shared the Big Ten championship. The last two-year stretch when neither team was involved in the league title was in 1994-95.

** Ohio State is trying to complete only the sixth perfect record in program history. The only unbeaten and untied seasons in OSU history came in 1916, 1944, 1954, 1968 and 2002.

** The Buckeyes could conceivably have had four more perfect seasons, but Michigan ruined undefeated OSU campaigns in 1969, 1993, 1995 and 1996.

** The game will feature two of the winningest college football teams in history. Michigan ranks first all-time with 903 wins while Ohio State is fifth with 848. Texas is second with 866, Notre Dame is third with 864 and Nebraska is fourth with 855.

** This marks the 19th time in series history that Ohio State and Michigan have played after Thanksgiving. The Wolverines hold a slight 9-8-1 advantage when the game has been played after Turkey Day, including last year’s 40-34 decision in Ann Arbor.

** Ohio State enters tomorrow’s contest ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press writers’ poll while Michigan is unranked. The last time a ranked OSU team lost to an unranked U-M squad was 1993 when the fifth-ranked Buckeyes suffered a 28-0 loss to the unranked Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

** The higher ranked team has won each of the last six meetings in the series. The last time the higher ranked team lost was in 2004 when unranked Ohio State toppled the seventh-ranked Wolverines by a 37-21 final.

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

** Ohio State will pit its prolific scoring offense against Michigan’s stingy defense. The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 38.2 points per game, while the Wolverines are 17th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 18.1 points per contest.

** The game will feature a pair of slow-starting teams. Only 65 of Ohio State’s 420 total points (15.5 percent) have come in the first quarter. Only 52 of Michigan’s total of 339 points scored (15.3 percent) have come in the opening period.

** That said, both teams will be looking to score first. They are each 6-0 this season when putting the first points on the board.

** The second quarter is when things begin to liven up for both teams. The Wolverines have outscored their opposition by a 124-74 margin in the second period while the Buckeyes have outscored their opposition by a 139-44 margin in the second quarter.

** Since the two teams met in 1922 for the Ohio Stadium dedication game, a total of 7,857,674 fans have attended The Game. That’s more than any other college football game in America. Sixty-two of those 90 games have been sold out, including the last 43 in a row.

** The Wolverines have 24 native Ohioans on their roster including six starters – defensive end Frank Clark (Cleveland Glenville), center Elliott Mealer (Wauseon), strong safety Jordan Kovacs (Oregon Clay), offensive guard Patrick Omameh (Columbus DeSales), receiver Roy Roundtree (Trotwood-Madison) and linebacker Jake Ryan (Cleveland St. Ignatius). That number would be seven had running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (Youngstown Liberty) not suffered a season-ending leg injury last week.

** The Buckeyes have two players from Michigan – senior tight end Reid Fragel (Grosse Pointe South) and junior defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins (Detroit Southeastern).

** In the previous 108 contests between OSU and Michigan, only 40 have been decided by seven points or fewer. In those 40 games, each team has 17 wins and there have been six ties.

** The Game will be televised for the 46th consecutive year and 57th time overall. The first OSU-Michigan game ever televised was a 21-0 win by the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1947.

** Ohio State will wear specially-designed Nike uniforms for the game. The uniforms feature enlarged jersey numbers and stripes as well as more utilization of the color black. Jerseys will also feature seven Buckeye leaves along the back collar and a Block “O” on the front collar. The Buckeyes will also wear special gloves, the same sort of which got the team repeated unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following touchdowns during Ohio State’s 37-7 victory over Michigan in 2010.

** Twenty-one Ohio State seniors will make their final appearance on Senior Day. Due to get their traditional hug from the head coach and high-five from Brutus are Zach Boren, Dalton Britt, Ben Buchanan, Zach Domicone, Reid Fragel, Garrett Goebel, Adam Homan, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson, Storm Klein, William McCary, Ross Oltorik, Vincent Petrella, Taylor Rice, Etienne Sabino, Justin Siems, John Simon, Stewart Smith, Kharim Stephens, Jake Stoneburner and Nathan Williams.

** The university will also honor members of the 2002 national championship team between the first and second quarters. Head coach Jim Tressel is expected to be among the former players and coaches in attendance.

** Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern. ABC will televise the game to most of the nation with the announce crew of Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (color analysis) and Quint Kessinich (sideline reports).

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio channels 86 and 91.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 23, 1918, one of the great World War I-era games was played when the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team traveled to Annapolis to take on the U.S. Naval Academy in a battle of undefeated teams. Following a scoreless first half, Navy All-America end Wolcott Roberts caught a touchdown pass from Bill Ingram for a 6-0 lead. The Midshipmen missed the ensuing extra point, but it didn’t seem important as they moved to the Great Lakes 1-yard line on their next possession. But Ingram fumbled into the end zone and the loose ball was scooped up by Bluejackets defender Harry Eileson, who head the other way along the Navy sideline. Suddenly, Middies reserve William Saunders jumped off the bench and tackled Eileson before trying to sneak back to the sideline. Officials ruled that Eileson would have scored on the play, and awarded Great Lakes a touchdown. The Bluejackets then added the extra point and claimed a 7-6 victory.

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

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

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

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

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

** On Nov. 24, 1973, undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State played unbeaten and fourth-ranked Michigan to a 10-10 tie, touching off a controversial vote among Big Ten athletic directors over which team should represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes won a 6-4 vote with many believing OSU got the nod because Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin had broken his collarbone late in the game against the Buckeyes and would not have been able to play on New Year’s Day. Ohio State went on to roll to a 42-21 win over USC in the Rose Bowl, but the tie against Michigan cost the Buckeyes the 1973 national championship. They finished second in the AP poll behind Notre Dame and third in the UPI rankings, trailing Alabama and Oklahoma. Michigan finished sixth in both polls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Nov. 25, 1971, top-ranked Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma waged an epic back-and-forth battle on Thanksgiving Day that resulted in a 35-31 victory for the Cornhuskers. NU took an early 14-3 lead, thanks in part to a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, but the Sooners stormed back to take a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter. Nebraska responded with a late touchdown lead to take the victory and eventually went on to capture the 1971 national championship under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Bob Devaney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** And there were two. Heading into the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, only Notre Dame and Ohio State remain undefeated at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

** For the second week in a row, the nation’s longest winning streak ended at 13 games. Two weeks ago, Texas A&M snapped Alabama’s streak and Stanford topped Oregon last Saturday night. That means Notre Dame and Ohio State are not only the only undefeated teams in the nation, they share the longest winning streak at 11.

** The nation’s longest losing streak moved to 11 games when Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson rolled the dice and came up craps against UTEP. The Golden Eagles marched 86 yards for a touchdown to pull within one point of the Miners at 34-33 with 2:48 remaining. But rather than tie the game, Johnson elected to go for the win and QB Arsenio Favor’s two-point conversion pass was intercepted. The Golden Eagles never got the ball back and UTEP closed out the 34-33 victory. Southern Miss has one more opportunity to avoid its first winless season since 1925. The Eagles travel to Memphis tomorrow to take on the 3-8 Tigers.

** Notre Dame is 11-0 for the first time since 1989 and seeks to finish with a perfect regular season for the first time since its 1988 national championship season. The Fighting Irish have had 12 previous unbeaten and untied seasons – 1889, 1912, 1913, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1947, 1949, 1973 and 1988.

** To finish off their perfect regular season, the Fighting Irish must get past USC, which is hurting in more ways than one. The Trojans are coming off a 38-28 loss to crosstown rival UCLA – only their second loss to the Bruins in the past 14 meetings – and quarterback Matt Barkley will miss Senior Day at the Coliseum with a shoulder injury. USC holds a 43-35-5 all-time advantage over Notre Dame, including nine wins in the last 10 meetings.

** West Virginia running back Tavon Austin registered 576 all-purpose yards, including a school-record 344 rushing on 21 carries, last week against Oklahoma. But it wasn’t enough as Sooners QB Landry Jones launched his sixth touchdown pass of the game with 24 seconds left to give Oklahoma a 50-49 win. Jones finished with 554 yards through the air, a new school record for a single game. The two teams combined for 1,440 total yards, including 778 for the Mountaineers, the most ever surrendered by an Oklahoma defense.

** Austin broke a bunch of longstanding records with his performance. His rushing total bested the old mark of 337 yards set by Kay-Jay Harris during a 56-23 win against East Carolina in 2004. He also shattered both the school record of 356 all-purpose yards in a game set by Garrett Ford during a 63-48 win over Pittsburgh in 1965.

** Syracuse senior Ryan Nassib is one of the best college quarterbacks you’ve never heard of. During last week’s 31-27 win by the Orange at Missouri, Nassib raised his career passing total to 8,845 yards and became his school’s all-time leader in that category. Nassib has led Syracuse to a 6-5 record, making the Orange bowl-eligible for the second time in three years.

** Missouri’s loss to Syracuse snapped an 18-game winning streak for the Tigers against nonconference opponents. Mizzou is 5-6 overall and 2-5 in its first season in the SEC. It needs a victory at No. 9 Texas A&M tomorrow night to avoid a first losing season since 2004.

** Another quarterback having a spectacular under-the-radar season is Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Not only as the junior QB directed the Tigers to a 10-1 record, Boyd has thrown for 3,367 yards and 33 TDs and added another 466 yards and eight scores rushing. Makes you kind of wonder why a guy who is No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency and No. 7 in total offense doesn’t get more Heisman mention.

** Boyd was a one-man wrecking ball last Saturday during his team’s 62-48 win over North Carolina State. The junior quarterback threw for five touchdowns and ran for three more, setting school and ACC single-game records by accounting for eight TDs. Boyd also directed an offense that ran a school-record 102 plays for 754 yards, only two shy of another school mark. The Tigers have now won 10 regular-season games for the first time since 1981.

** Speaking of guys who get no Heisman love, how about Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch. During his team’s 31-24 win over Toledo last week, Lynch became the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 150 yards and throw for more than 400 in the same game. For good measure, Lynch also added a 62-yard punt. The fourth-year junior is currently third in the nation in rushing, third in total offense and 10th in pass efficiency. Lynch has accounted for 4,086 yards and 38 TDs for the Huskies, who have won 10 games in a row since a season-opening 18-17 loss to Iowa. NIU last had a double-digit winning streak in 1964-65 when it strung 11 victories in a row over two seasons.

** Finally, a tip of the cap to John Gagliardi, the legendary head coach at Division III St. John’s (Minn.), who Monday announced his retirement after 64 years as a coach, the last 60 with the Johnnies. The 86-year-old Gagliardi finished his career as the all-time winningest coach in college football history, amassing a 489-138-11 record. Among his many accomplishments: NAIA national championships in 1963 and ’65 and NCAA Division III national titles in 1976 and 2003. His teams also won 30 conference championships, including 27 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. Gagliardi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Like a championship contender, we are peaking at the right time here at Forecast World Headquarters. On the heels of a 10-0 week, we were nearly perfect at 9-1 in the straight-up picks. Better still, we picked Baylor to upset Kansas State and that helped toward a 7-3 record against the spread.

The season totals are 89-21 straight up and 57-51-2 ATS and we’ll look to keep our late-season winning streaks going with these games.

TODAY’S GAMES

No. 17 Nebraska at Iowa: The Cornhuskers, who have been Big Ten members for two seasons, need one more victory to advance to their first conference championship game. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes – who have been in the league since 1900 – contemplate a multimillion-dollar buyout of longtime head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has fallen and fallen hard this season, losing five in a row for the first time since 1999 when it dropped its last eight that season. Nothing the Hawkeyes have done for the past month indicated they can even slow down the Huskers much less beat them … Nebraska 38, Iowa 14. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 8 LSU at Arkansas: Remember when the Razorbacks were ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls? That was long before the season spiraled into a 4-7 record so far, a campaign that with a loss this week would mean the first eight-loss season in Fayetteville since 1990. It seems difficult to see how the Hogs will avoid that, especially with LSU still hoping out a sliver of hope of playing the SEC title game. The sad truth for Arkansas was that deposed head coach Bobby Petrino took his offense with him when he was fired. The Razorbacks are 88th in the country in scoring, a statistic made even more glaring when you consider the Tigers have the 12th best scoring defense … LSU 37, Arkansas 10. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Illinois at Northwestern: While Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is currently enthralling moviegoers, these two teams will battle for The Land of Lincoln Trophy tomorrow. We mention the Oscar-worthy movie only because it features infinitely more interesting subject matter than this football game. The Wildcats are headed for a second nine-win regular season win in five years while the Fighting Illini are experiencing another losing campaign, their eighth in the past 11 seasons. Illinois leads the overall series by a 54-46-5 margin, and that includes a 38-35 win last season. But if the Wildcats play the way they have been playing the last month or so, there isn’t much hope the Illini has of avoiding their first winless Big Ten season since 2005 … Northwestern 34, Illinois 27. (12 noon ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Georgia Tech at No. 3 Georgia: Talk about flying under the radar. No one is giving a second thought to the Bulldogs, who will play for the national championship if they can pick off the Yellow Jackets and then beat Alabama in the SEC title game. Of course, UGA can thank a baby-soft schedule for its lofty ranking. The Dawgs didn’t have to play the Crimson Tide and their only cross-divisional SEC games were against a struggling Ole Miss and an even-more-struggling Auburn. Meanwhile, Tech is 6-5 and always represents a tough out with its triple-option attack. The Wreck, which has already qualified for the ACC championship game, averages 38.6 points per game, good for 16th-best in the nation. But the Bulldogs have won 10 of 11 in the series, mostly by simply outscoring the Yellow Jackets. Look for that to happen again … Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Auburn at No. 2 Alabama: About the only thing riding on this year’s version of the Iron Bowl is Auburn head coach Gene Chizik’s job. Just two years removed from a national championship season, the Tigers have cratered to a 3-8 record overall and 0-7 mark in the SEC. To avoid a first winless conference record since 1980 and save their head coach’s job, all the Tigers have to do is knock off the Crimson Tide, which appears headed for its third national championship game in four years. Despite its misstep two weeks ago in the loss to Texas A&M, Alabama still boasts the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, a pretty handy weapon against an Auburn team that ranks 107th in scoring offense … Alabama 45, Auburn 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 6 Florida at No. 10 Florida State: After beating the likes of Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina during the first two months of the season, the Gators haven’t been the same team since a 17-9 loss to Georgia on Oct. 27. They have strung together three lackluster wins since then to move to 10-1, but lackluster won’t get it done against the Seminoles. FSU’s defense is as stingy as they come, and the Seminoles rank among the nation’s top five units in every major statistic. That includes No. 1 in total defense, something that should get the attention of Florida and its 104th ranked offense. The Gators still hold an edge in the overall series, but the Seminoles have won the last two meetings and expect to make it three in a row … Florida State 30, Florida 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Wisconsin at Penn State: Congratulations are in order for the Nittany Lions putting together a winning season against a stacked deck of player defections and NCAA sanctions. Unfortunately, most of the team’s success has come against lesser opponents. Only two of Penn State’s seven victories have come against teams with winning records. Wisconsin is on its way to the Big Ten Championship Game, and still has some unfinished regular-season business including getting running back Monteé Ball another touchdown to set the NCAA career record. The Badgers didn’t exactly play lights-out last week against Ohio State, but their power game should be enough to take care of the Lions … Wisconsin 31, Penn State 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

Missouri at No. 9 Texas A&M: The Tigers are trying to avoid their first losing season since 2004 and draw the explosive Aggies in College Station. Redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel has become a Heisman candidate by accounting for 3,047 yards of total offense and 38 TDs. To be brutally honest, Mizzou has nothing that can counterbalance that. The Tigers have scored 20 points or fewer in five games this season, and all of those have been losses. Meanwhile, the Aggies have topped 50 points four times already and rank sixth nationally in scoring. Watch Johnny Football punch his ticket to New York City at the Tigers’ expense … Texas A&M 42, Missouri 24. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 1 Notre Dame at USC: We were ready to pull the trigger on another Upset Special when we learned USC quarterback Matt Barkley would miss the game with a shoulder injury. That, of course, changes everything. The Trojans will now trot out backup Max Wittek, a talented freshman who is no doubt the future of the USC franchise. But asking a freshman to make his first start against the nation’s top-ranked team – a team that features the nation’s top scoring defense – is asking a little much. Look for the Fighting Irish to finish off its perfect regular season and then sit back to find out which SEC team it will face for the BCS championship in January … Notre Dame 24, USC 17. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 20 Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State: You can analyze this game a thousand different ways from matchups to Denard Robinson’s throwing elbow to how well the OSU defense can stand up to the U-M spread. None of it really means much as the Buckeyes seek to close out a perfect season. Simply put, the one thing we keep coming back to is that it is Urban Meyer’s first shot at the Wolverines as Ohio State head coach and we just don’t see how he lets victory escape his grasp … Ohio State 34, Michigan 30. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Nebraska (-14½) at Iowa; LSU (-11½) at Arkansas; Illinois (+19½) at Northwestern; Georgia Tech at Georgia (-13½); Auburn at Alabama (-32½); Florida at Florida State (-7); Wisconsin (+3) at Penn State; Missouri at Texas A&M (-16½); Notre Dame (-5½) at USC; Michigan at Ohio State (-3½).

My Annual Trip To The Graveyard

It very nearly didn’t happen this year.

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do you think you’re going?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That fine coach?” I said.

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

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

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

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

I was quickly cut off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

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

TODAY’S GAMES

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the games and have a safe holiday weekend.

Things Suddenly Interesting Again For Buckeyes

While all of the Chicken Littles out there were cowering under their beds and waiting for Urban Meyer to ride in on a white horse, Ohio State saved its potentially lost season Oct. 15 with a good, old-fashioned, smash-mouth victory at Illinois.

The win produced a number of affirmatives for a team desperately in need of positive reinforcement. It mended a collective psyche quite possibly fractured by the second-half collapse at Nebraska. It proved the Buckeyes are still pretty good at basic Big Ten football – running the ball down an opponent’s throat and stonewalling said opponent on defense.

Perhaps best of all, however – and no one even dared think this after that dark night in Lincoln – the Buckeyes are back in the hunt for a berth in the first-ever Big Ten championship game.

Most of their hope hinges on a game the team can watch from the comfort of their own living rooms. While Ohio State takes the Oct. 22 weekend off, Wisconsin and Michigan State will get together in East Lansing for an ultra-important game that will go a long way toward determining who plays in spacious Lucas Oil Stadium in December with the Big Ten’s automatic BCS berth on the line.

After three weeks of conference play, the smart money has already been placed on Wisconsin representing the Leaders Division in the conference title game. After all, the No. 4 Badgers are undefeated and have largely been unchallenged in their first six games. Coming off a 59-7 pounding of Indiana, Wisconsin has outscored its opposition by a tidy 301-58 margin. Their closest game so far was a 31-point blowout of Nebraska.

The knock, of course, is that the Badgers haven’t played anyone yet. That changes in a big, fat hurry when the Spartans roll out the welcome mat anchored by a defense ranked among the nation’s top four in all five major statistical categories.

It might also interest you to know that Michigan State has beaten Wisconsin each of the last three times Bucky has visited East Lansing, including last year’s 34-24 triumph and a 49-14 trip to the woodshed in 2004 when the unranked Spartans upset the fourth-ranked Badgers.

Every member of Buckeye Nation should root for a Michigan State victory because that would pretty much put Ohio State’s destiny back into its own hands.

While it is true the Buckeyes came out of Champaign with a 1-2 conference record which was only good enough for fifth place in the six-team Leaders Division, three of the four teams ahead of them in the standings remain to be played – Wisconsin on Oct. 29, at Purdue on Nov. 12 and back home with Penn State on Nov. 19. OSU already has vanquished Illinois, the fourth team ahead of the Buckeyes in the Leaders standings.

A victory over Wisconsin won’t be easy, of course, since the Badgers have added quarterback Russell Wilson to their offensive arsenal. Wilson only leads the nation in pass efficiency and complements an offense that averages a nation’s-best 50.2 points per game.

How can Ohio State and its anemic offense possibly match that kind of firepower? Hopefully it won’t have to. If the Badgers have an Achilles’ heel, it would be their run defense. It ranks a middling fifth in the Big Ten, surrendering an average of 123.2 yards per game. Running the ball is an obvious strength for the Buckeyes, and it only stands to reason that strength is enhanced with the return of Boom Herron to the lineup.

Against Illinois, which entered the game against Ohio State featuring the nation’s ninth-best defense against the run, Herron chewed up 114 yards on 23 carries. Best of all, he picked up a lot of those yards after contact with a variety of spin moves and cutbacks.

Remember also that it was Herron who keyed last year’s comeback against Wisconsin. His third-quarter touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation and a fourth-quarter scoring plunge from the 1 allowed the Buckeyes to climb within 21-18 before the Badgers shifted gears and cruised to a 31-18 win.

Wisconsin will undoubtedly be a double-digit favorite when it comes to Columbus, and quite frankly no one will give Ohio State much of a chance to win. But even if the Badgers get past Michigan State, the Spartans are so physical this year that playing them on the road right before a game against an opponent bent on revenge – well, anything can happen.

Should the Buckeyes somehow pull off the shocker, they would have victories in hand over Illinois and Wisconsin with only divisional rivals Indiana, Purdue and Penn State left on the schedule.

Objectively speaking, the Boilermakers would represent the toughest test of that trio. The Hoosiers are a mess while the Nittany Lions are every bit as offensively challenged as Ohio State – perhaps even more so. An extremely weak schedule has led to a 6-1 record, but Penn State qualifies as one of the worst 6-1 teams in college football.

Meanwhile, Purdue would seem to be a pushover – especially in light of a 3-3 record with wins over Middle Tennessee, Southeast Missouri State and Minnesota, teams that have a combined record of 3-14 so far this season. But the Boilers historically play Ohio State tough, especially in West Lafayette, so anything is possible.

The point is that the Buckeyes have new life in a season that was supposedly circling the drain. And outside of the team that plays in Ann Arbor, whose dreams of glory would you rather crush more than Wisconsin?

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The list of undefeated teams at the Division I-A level continues to shrink. Heading into this weekend’s game, there are 10 unbeatens remaining – Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Houston, Kansas State, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Wisconsin.

** Stanford has another easy time of it last Saturday night, rolling to a 44-14 win at Washington State. That extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games, also a school-record streak for the Cardinal.

** At the other end of the spectrum is New Mexico, which extended the nation’s longest losing streak to nine games with a 49-7 loss at Nevada. The Lobos are one of only two remaining winless teams at the I-AA level. Florida Atlantic is the other. UAB notched its first win of the season last night, a 26-24 win over Central Florida.

** Stanford gets most of its publicity from Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck – and rightfully so – but the Cardinal defense is extremely underrated. They have a streak going during which they have allowed 20 points or fewer to 12 straight opponents. That is the longest streak of its kind at the school since 1941.

** Wisconsin doesn’t only beat its opponents, it bludgeons them into submission. The Badgers have won all six of their games by 31 points or more, becoming the first Division I-A team since 1950 to begin a season with six winning margins of 30 points or more.

** Sometimes the Big Ten gets wrongly accused for being old-fashioned because many of its upper-echelon teams win by running the football and playing stellar defense. That is a winning combination elsewhere, too, as evidenced by LSU’s 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive during its 38-7 win at Tennessee. Every play during the march was a rush. Of course, LSU head coach Les Miles does have a Big Ten pedigree – born in Ohio, played and coached at Michigan under Bo Schembechler – so the way the Tigers go about their business shouldn’t be that much of a shock.

** Top to bottom, the Big Ten can still hold its own with any other conference. That was evidenced in the first BCS standings of the season. The Big Ten boasted six of its teams among the BCS top 25, more than any other conference.

** Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles totaled 13 receptions for 217 yards during his team’s 47-17 win at Kansas, and established a new NCAA career reception record in the process. Broyles now has 326 receptions, one more than previous record-holder Taylor Stubblefield of Purdue (2001-05).

** Boise State’s first game as a member of the Mountain West Conference resulted in a 63-13 smackdown of Colorado State. The Broncos piled up 742 total yards behind senior QB Kellen Moore, who completed 26 of 30 attempts for 338 yards and four TDs.

** Baylor QB Robert Griffin III threw for a school-record 430 yards during his team’s 55-28 loss to Texas A&M. Griffin became the third quarterback this year to break his team’s single-game yardage record against the Aggies, who are 4-2 despite ranking dead last in the nation in pass defense.

** Congratulations to Louisiana (which used to be known as Louisiana-Lafayette). The perennial Sun Belt doormats are 6-1 and off to their best start since winning their first eight in 1976. The Ragin’ Cajuns are also the only team in the nation with five interception returns for touchdowns.

** I guess it’s about time to roll out my Heisman Trophy favorites for the first time this year. Until something cataclysmic happens, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will occupy first place on my ballot. After that, I will like choose between RB Trent Richardson of Alabama, Boise State QB Kellen Moore and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones. I am also intrigued by what Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson is doing, and I’ll be watching him more closely Saturday night when the Badgers travel to Michigan State.

** It is a pretty good time in college football to be a kick returner. Eleven kickoffs were taken back for touchdowns last Saturday including back-to-back returns in the Texas-Oklahoma State game. Then there was the Idaho-New Mexico State game, a 31-24 win by the Lobos during which the teams combined for three kick returns for touchdowns. The Lobos returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and the Vandals took a 95-yard kickoff to the house as well as a 64-yard punt return.

** Another one bites the dust. Bob Toledo resigned Tuesday as head coach at Tulane, and offensive line coach Mark Hutson has been named interim coach. The 65-year-old Toledo was 15-40 in four-plus seasons with the Green Wave, and 93-108 for his 18-year college coaching career at UC-Riverside, Pacific, UCLA and Tulane. Toledo’s best years were back-to-back 10-2 seasons at UCLA in 1997 and ’98.

** The high school in Chapman, Kan., was destroyed by a tornado in June 2008 and a new facility opened in January. The school celebrated by featuring the new school on its website complete with its Fighting Irish logo. Trouble is, the school “borrowed” the logo from the University of Notre Dame, which evidently was not flattered. Chapman can keep the Fighting Irish nickname – wasn’t that extremely benevolent of the Domers? – but it must change the fighting leprechaun logo.

** Former Ohio State defensive back Kurt Coleman intercepted Washington quarterback Rex Grossman last Sunday during the Eagles’ 20-13 win over the Redskins and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process. Coleman became the first Philadelphia player to grab three interceptions in a game since Joe Scarpati did it in 1966 during a 31-3 win over the Giants. Not bad for a seventh-round pick making only his sixth NFL start.

** Ohio State is off this week. The Buckeyes returned to action Oct. 29 with a home game against Wisconsin. That game is set to kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 using the reverse mirror.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 19, 2002, Oklahoma State scored a 24-21 victory over Nebraska, marking the Cowboys’ first win over the Cornhuskers in 41 years. QB Josh Fields fueled the victory by throwing for 192 yards, most of it going to receiver Rashaun Woods, who finished with 11 catches for 134 yards. Later that season, Oklahoma State upset No. 4 Oklahoma, marking the first time in school history the Cowboys had beaten both NU and OU in the same season.

** On Oct. 20, 1917, Washington beat Whitman College by a 14-6 score, extending its unbeaten streak to 63 games, an NCAA record that still stands.

** On Oct. 20, 1944, Maryland and Michigan State combined for the fewest pass attempts in the modern era of college football during an 8-0 win by the Spartans. The Terrapins threw only one pass during the game while Michigan State attempted none.

** On Oct. 20, 1956, Texas A&M scored a 7-6 upset over No. 4 TCU is what has been called “The Hurricane Game.” Played in 90-mph wins, the Horned Frogs got inside the A&M 5-yard-line three times in the first half but failed to score.

** On Oct. 20, 1990, No. 6 Notre Dame scored a 29-20 upset of second-ranked Miami (Fla.) thanks to 268 all-purpose yards from wideout Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. Trailing 22-20 in the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes lost a chance to take the lead when tailback Leonard Conley fumbled at the 2-yard line. Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland shook off a sprained foot to register 20 tackles, including three for loss, but Ismail rushed for 100 yards and returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to lead the Fighting Irish.

** On Oct. 21, 1950, Tom Powers of Duke set an ACC single-game scoring record when he accounted for 36 points in a 41-0 win over Richmond. Powers ran for three touchdowns and also caught three TD passes against the Spiders.

** On Oct. 21, 1989, Alabama QB Gary Hollingsworth set a school record for completions, going 32 for 46 for 379 yards and three touchdowns as the Tide rolled to a 47-30 win over Tennessee.

** On Oct. 21, 2000, Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El had a history-making performance during his team’s 51-43 win over Minnesota. Randle El threw for 263 yards and ran for 210 to become the first player in Big Ten history to crack the 200-yard mark in both passing and rushing in the same game.

** On Oct. 21, 2006, Michigan State engineered the biggest comeback in NCAA history, erasing a 38-3 deficit on the way to a 41-38 victory over Northwestern in Evanston.

** On Oct. 22, 1904, Minnesota’s Bobby Marshall set an NCAA record by scoring 72 points during the Golden Gophers’ 146-0 victory over Grinnell (Iowa).

** On Oct. 22, 1966, UTEP rolled to a 35-0 win over San Jose State in a game where the Spartans accounted for minus-102 rushing yards. UTEP wasn’t much better, totaling only 78 yards on the ground. The team’s combined total of negative 24 rushing yards set an NCAA single-game record for futility.

** On Oct. 22, 1983, Nebraska scored 41 points in less than three minutes of possession time on its way to a 69-19 rout of Colorado.

** On Oct. 23, 1965, Virginia Tech was riding high with a new facility and a victory over its instate rivals. The Hokies, known then as the Gobblers, opened their new Lane Stadium with a 22-14 win over Virginia. Tech rushed for 323 yards in the contest, but the decisive touchdown came on a 71-yard pass from quarterback Bobby Owens to receiver Tommy Groom late in the fourth quarter.

** On Oct. 23, 1976, Pittsburgh running back Tony Dorsett pushed his season rushing total past the 1,000-yard mark during a 45-0 victory over Navy. Dorsett became the first running back in NCAA history to post four 1,000-yard seasons, and he also broke the NCAA career rushing record previously held by two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

** On Oct. 24, 1981, Stanford became the first team in college football history to have two players throw for 250 yards or more in the same game. Steve Cottrell threw for 311 yards while John Elway added 270, but it didn’t do the Cardinal much good. They lost a 62-36 decision to Arizona State.

** On Oct. 25, 1947, Columbia scored a 21-20 upset over Army, ending the Black Knights’ unbeaten streak at 32 games.

** On Oct. 25, 1980, SMU freshman quarterback Lance McIlhenny celebrated his first start by engineering a 20-6 upset of No. 2 Texas in Austin. Halfback Craig James, now a college football analyst for ESPN, ran 53 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Mustangs ahead for good.

** On Oct. 25, 1980, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw for 340 yards during his team’s 36-25 victory over Michigan State. Herrmann finished the game with 8,076 career passing yards which broke the NCAA all-time record. By the time he graduated, Hermann has totaled 9,188 passing yards and 707 career completions, both of which were NCAA career records.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Things keep humming along here at Forecast World Headquarters with another stellar week. We correctly picked a couple of undefeated teams to go down – Michigan State over Michigan (although that is becoming a regular annual occurrence) as well as Ohio State’s Upset Special win at Illinois.

All in all, it was a tidy 8-2 week straight up and a 7-3 mark against the spread. That means we’re still over 90 percent SU at 65-7 and an unbelievably robust 46-23-1 ATS.

Here are the games we’re going to enjoy watching from home this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama: The SEC schedule-makers did the Volunteers no favors. After last week’s 38-7 loss to top-ranked LSU, Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 2 Crimson Tide this weekend. It marks the first time in school history the Vols have played the nation’s top two teams back-to-back and that doesn’t bode well for a team that has lost eight straight and 14 of its last 15 to ranked teams. Job No. 1 for Tennessee will be trying to stop Alabama RB Trent Richardson, who needs only 88 more yards to crack 1,000 for the season. Richardson had 119 including a 65-yard touchdown run against the Vols last season during a 41-10 romp by the Tide and you have to wonder how things will be any better for UT this time around … Alabama 42, Tennessee 7. (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Air Force at No. 5 Boise State: The Broncos hope to keep their national championship game aspirations alive this week along with a home winning streak that is at 34 games and counting. Boise is coming off a 63-13 win over Colorado State last week that included a school-record 742 total yards, but the Falcons present a different kind of challenge with their quirky triple-option attack. Unfortunately, Air Force is 0-2 to start conference play for the first time since 1994 because it doesn’t have much of a defense. And when you don’t have much of a defense, the last team you want to play is Boise … Boise State 45, Air Force 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 16 Michigan State: The general criticism that the Badgers have yet to be tested is valid. After all, UW’s six victims – each dispatched by 31 points or more – have a combined record of only 16-23. The soft part of the schedule is over, however, and Bucky sails into East Lansing to play a Spartans team which not only beat Michigan last week, they beat up their so-called Big Brothers. For MSU to engineer the upset, it will have to figure out a way to neutralize Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, tops in the nation in pass efficiency, and exploit what seems to be the Badgers’ lone weakness – rush defense. That was the blueprint Mark Dantonio used last year when his team took a 10-point win and we expect that will be the blueprint again this year. Here is your Upset Special … Michigan State 26, Wisconsin 22. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 25 Washington at No. 8 Stanford: This should be an entertaining matchup featuring the Pac-12’s most established quarterback against one of the conference’s up-and-comers. Heisman favorite Andrew Luck (1,719 yards, 18 TDs) leads the Cardinal and ranks No. 3 nationally in pass efficiency while the Huskies have sophomore Keith Price (1,466 yards, 21 TDs), who ranks fifth. Any team with a quarterback like Price has a puncher’s chance for the upset, but before you crawl out on that limb and saw it off behind you, it’s worth knowing that Luck is a career 15-1 at home, where Stanford has won 10 straight. And if that’s not enough, Washington has dropped 14 of its last 15 road games against ranked opponents … Stanford 34, Washington 20. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 10 Oregon at Colorado: The Ducks are a little beat up right now, especially on offense. QB Darron Thomas (knee) will probably play this week while Heisman candidate LaMichael James is likely to miss a second straight game with a dislocated elbow. Oregon really shouldn’t need either player as they travel to Boulder. The Buffaloes are in the middle of a four-game losing streak during which they have been outscored by a 168-75 margin. Against a defense like that, even if Thomas and James can’t go, the Quack Attack should have more than enough in reserve … Oregon 42, Colorado 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

No. 11 Kansas State at Kansas: The Wildcats and 72-year-old head coach Bill Snyder keep doing it with mirrors. They stayed undefeated last week with a 41-34 shootout at Texas Tech that included a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, a 100-yard kickoff return for another score and two blocked field-goal attempts by DL Raphael Guidry. Things shouldn’t be quite so difficult for K-State this week in the Sunflower Shootout, especially since the Jayhawks rank dead last in Division I-A in total and scoring defense … Kansas State 42, Kansas 20. (12 noon ET, FSN Regional)

Boston College at No. 12 Virginia Tech: The Hokies feature a pretty good defense, but one wonders how long that will last as the team begins to pile up injuries at an alarming rate. Tech had already lost a starting tackle and linebacker for the season with a defensive end shelved indefinitely when CB Jayron Horsley went down last week with a hamstring injury. Fortunately for the Fighting Beamers, the offense has been carrying its share of the load, especially first-year starting QB Logan Thomas (60.8 percent, 1,476 yards, 9 TDs). That should be more than enough against the struggling Eagles, who rank 96th nationally in total defense and 101st against the pass … Virginia Tech 34, Boston College 17. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 13 Nebraska at Minnesota: If you look at the history of this series, you might be surprised to learn that the Golden Gophers hold a 29-20-2 advantage over the Cornhuskers. That is even more impressive when you discover NU has won each of the last 14 times these teams have met although they haven’t met since 1990. More than two decades later, you can pretty much look for that streak to continue even though Nebraska has lost defensive tackle Jared Crick for the rest of the season to a torn pectoral muscle. Minnesota is about as disjointed as any team could be at the midway point of the season with problems on offense, defense and special teams … Nebraska 42, Minnesota 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Marshall at No. 19 Houston: In the spirit of full disclosure, we stick a Houston game into the forecast at least once a year and that is usually the one where the Cougars suffer an inexplicable upset loss. We feel fairly certain that won’t happen this time although the Herd has a defensive star in Vinny Curry. The senior defensive end is second in the nation with 9½ sacks through seven games, and he could provide some problems for the Cougars. Still, if Houston QB Case Keenum truly is a Heisman candidate – and his numbers (70.9 percent, 2,309 yards and 17 TDs vs. 2 INTs) would seem to indicate that he is – the Cougars should take care of business … Houston 37, Marshall 27. (4:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Indiana at Iowa: On the surface, this looks like a mismatch. The NCAA keeps track of 17 major statistical categories and the Hoosiers have a conference rank of ninth or lower in 15 of them. Not that the Hawkeyes are any great shakes despite a 4-2 record. Iowa uncharacteristically ranks dead last in the Big Ten in rushing and only ninth in total defense. The Hawkeyes own a 41-27-4 edge in the overall series, including six of the last eight overall and three of the last four in Iowa City. Just don’t expect a scintillating game … Iowa 20, Indiana 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Tennessee at Alabama (-29½); Air Force (+30) at Boise State; Wisconsin at Michigan State (+7½); Washington (+21) at Stanford; Oregon (-30½) at Colorado; Kansas State (-11) at Kansas; Boston College (+21) at Virginia Tech; Nebraska (-24½) at Minnesota; Marshall (+23) at Houston; Iowa at Indiana (+23½).

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

Buckeyes Could Go Either Way Following Nebraska Collapse

It will be interesting to see where the Ohio State football team goes after its epic collapse at Nebraska because a game like the one the Buckeyes let slip away in Lincoln can put a team on one of two paths. It can become a rallying point or it can crush the very life out of you.

The 2002 national championship team used a 31-28 loss in the Outback Bowl at the end of the previous season as a rallying point. Same with the 1994 team that got taken to the woodshed at Penn State to the tune of a 63-14 shellacking. John Cooper’s team that year responded with three straight victories to finish the regular season, including Coop’s first win over Michigan as OSU head coach.

You can go as far back as the 1957 season when Woody Hayes’ team was shocked by TCU in the season opener and used that loss as a pivot point to win its next nine games, including a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon, and capture the national championship.

No one believes the 2011 Buckeyes can rally to win the national championship, of course. Three losses pretty much puts an end to that discussion before it begins. But the fact remains Ohio State can not only be competitive, it can win more than its share of games during the back half of the season.

The promise of what kind of team the Buckeyes can be was on full display for 2½ quarters at Nebraska as OSU rolled out to a 27-6 lead. Not only were the Buckeyes winning the game, they were physically dominating the Cornhuskers as several NU players had to be helped off the field during the first half.

Despite some serious holes on both sides of the football, Ohio State has a lot of talent in a lot of places, and when things are clicking, the Buckeyes can be an exciting and efficient team.

Obviously, a lot of that excitement and efficiency centers around freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, for whom the light seemed to burn brightly against the Cornhuskers. The offensive coaching staff finally figured out a game plan tailored to Miller’s strengths, and the result was a three-touchdown lead over Nebraska that looked ridiculously easy.

Unfortunately, when Miller went out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes had no backup plan when fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman struggled. Sophomore third-stringer Kenny Guiton was available and presumably ready to play – he donned a headset and relayed offensive signals from the bench to the OSU huddle all night – but head coach Luke Fickell indicated there was no thought of ever putting him in the game.

From a fan standpoint, that seems ludicrous. If Guiton or redshirt freshman Taylor Graham cannot get playing time, especially with the way Bauserman has performed his last couple of times out, one has to wonder why they were recruited in the first place.

If Miller ever goes out again, and goes out for any length of time, the Buckeyes are going to have to formulate a Plan B and C and perhaps even a D. Maybe direct snaps to tailback Jordan Hall, who does have a touchdown pass on his college résumé.

Miller under center gives the team its best chance to win, of course, but even with the talented freshman doing his thing, the Buckeyes will have to play better on defense.

Yes, they were gassed in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, and a tired defense is at the mercy of a spread team such as the Cornhuskers. But even the week before, when it held Michigan State to only 10 points, the defense made some glaring errors that wound up being amplified by the fact the offense couldn’t muster any kind of punch at all.

The Ohio State defense is a unit populated by youngsters and first-time starters, but that excuse begins to ring hollow six games into the season. The message for those players – indeed any starter on a 3-3 team – is to grow up quickly or get out of the way for someone else.

With the 2011 season now at the midway point, all anyone can say with any certainty is that the Buckeyes remain a work in progress. That is a bitter pill for fans who have experienced almost nothing but success since 2002, but reality is reality.

Following the debacle in Lincoln, Ohio State travels to Illinois, a team that has started 6-0 for the first time since 1951. Even during the recent past when the Fighting Illini were struggling, they always seemed to play the Buckeyes tough. That includes a 28-21 shocker in 2007 when OSU was ranked No. 1.

Two weeks from now, after an open week, the Buckeyes host fourth-ranked Wisconsin, a team playing as well as any in the nation right now.

November opens with a home game vs. Indiana, a team that has lost 16 in a row to Ohio State, but the following week the Buckeyes must travel to Purdue, another team that gives OSU fits for no particular reason. The Boilermakers have won two of the previous five games in the series, including a 26-18 upset in West Lafayette two years ago.

Finally there is the final home game of the season against Penn State and the regular-season finale at Michigan.

The Nittany Lions are quite possibly the worst 5-1 team in the nation, but they will be exposed during a late-season schedule that features Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin as well as the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, U-M is a team feeling extremely rejuvenated under first-year head coach Brady Hoke. Yes, the Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines nine of the last 10 years, and the Michigan defense still isn’t where it needs to be. But does anyone seriously believe OSU can outscore a Denard Robinson-led attack especially if Miller’s ankle injury lingers for the remainder of the season?

And yet with all of that uncertainty there is hope – hope because of the way Ohio State toyed with overmatched Akron, hope because of the way the Buckeyes responded to late adversity vs. Toledo and hope because of the way the team clicked on all cylinders for the first 2½ quarters at Nebraska.

Make no mistake, though. During put-up-or-shut-up time, hope won’t get it done. The Buckeyes are going to have to figure out a way to put four quarters together or that hope won’t be worth a warm bucket of spit.

OSU-ILLINOIS TIDBITS

** OSU and Illinois will meet for the 98th time since the series was inaugurated in 1902. The Buckeyes hold a 63-30-4 advantage in the overall series, including a 34-12 edge in Champaign.

** Ohio State and Illinois have met only five times over the years when the Fighting Illini were ranked and the Buckeyes were not. Illinois holds a 3-1-1 edge in those games, including a 34-14 win at Memorial Stadium in 1989.

** Between 1988 and 1992, the teams met five times and Illinois won them all. In the 16 games since, the Buckeyes are 12-4 with a perfect 8-0 record in Champaign. The Illini’s last home win over Ohio State was a 10-7 decision in 1991.

** Ohio State’s Luke Fickell will be facing the Fighting Illini for the first time as a head coach although he was 3-1 against Illinois as an OSU player and 6-1 as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Illinois head coach Ron Zook is 1-5 vs. the Buckeyes. He was 0-3 against the Illini when he was an OSU assistant on John Cooper’s staff from 1988-90.

** The Buckeyes have won 21 of their last 24 Big Ten road games but have lost two of their last four. OSU has not had a streak during which it has lost as many as three of five road conference games since losing five of six between 2003-05.

** Illinois is 6-0 for the first time since 1951, a season during which the Illini started 7-0 and finished 9-0-1. UI is one of only 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the nation and one of only seven that are already bowl-eligible.

** Ohio State is 3-3 for the first time since 2004. The Buckeyes have not started a season 3-4 since 1988. That team finished 4-6-1 and marks the last losing season at Ohio State.

** Including last year’s 38-14 victory over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Illinois has won seven games in a row. That is the third longest current streak in the nation and school-best streak since the 2001 team also won seven straight. No Illinois team has won more than seven in a row since 1983, a team that captured 10 consecutive victories.

** Zook’s career mark as a head coach is only 57-59, including 34-45 at Illinois. But he can boast one accomplishment most of his Big Ten counterparts cannot. Zook has coached his team to victories at Ohio Stadium and Michigan Stadium, and Joe Paterno of Penn State is the only other Big Ten head coach who can claim that feat.

** The Illinois defense has forced at least one turnover in 21 consecutive games, the longest current streak of its kind in the nation.

** Illinois has held Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last three games in the series, and it should be noted that the Buckeyes enter this year’s matchup ranked dead last in the Big Ten in pass offense.

** After missing the first four attempts of his career, OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil is now working on a streak of seven consecutive field goals. That ties him with several players for the 10th best streak in school history, but Basil has a way to go to catch the all-time leader in the category. Mike Nugent (2001-04) connected on 24 straight field-goal attempts between 2001 and ’02.

** Illinois senior kicker Derek Dimke has made 10 straight field goals and that ties him for the third longest streak in school history. Mike Bass (1980-82) holds the UI record with 13 field goals in a row.

** Dimke also has a streak going of 78 consecutive PATs and that is tied for the ninth longest in Big Ten history. J.D. Carlson of Michigan (1989-92) holds the conference record with 126 straight PATs.

** Dimke is currently tied for ninth on the all-time Illinois scoring list with 186 points. You might have heard the guy with whom he’s tied – the legendary Red Grange, who scored 31 touchdowns to account for his 186 points during back-to-back-to-back All-America seasons from 1923-25.

** Illinois sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase needs only 92 more to crack the Illinois career top 10 in passing yardage. Currently occupying the No. 10 spot is Dave Wilson (1980), whom Ohio State fans remember as the guy who put up 621 passing yards against the Buckeyes during a wild 49-42 Illinois loss in 1980. Wilson’s total remains the Big Ten record for most passing yards in a single game.

** OSU sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde notched the first 100-yard game of his career last week, totaling 104 yards against Nebraska. It was the first time an Ohio State player had cracked the century mark since Terrelle Pryor had 115 in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. The last OSU running back with a 100-yard game was Boom Herron, who had a career-best 175 yards last season in the 37-7 win over Michigan.

** Illinois has held four of its first six opponents to less than 100 rushing yards. The Fighting Illini haven’t allowed an opposing player to gain 100 yards since Mike Trumpy of Northwestern ran for 129 during UI’s 48-27 win over the Wildcats at Wrigley Field last year.

** Herron is scheduled to return to action this week after missing the first six games of the season due to NCAA suspensions. The Buckeyes are 18-1 during Herron’s career when he rushes for at least 55 yards.

** Coming into the 2011 season, Herron led all active Big Ten players with 2,104 yards. That distinction now belongs to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who has upped his career rushing total to 2,773 going into this week’s game at Michigan State.

** Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins ranks fifth nationally with an average of 135.8 yards per game. Jenkins had a school-record 268 yards Oct. 1 during his team’s 38-35 win over Northwestern, a yardage figure that was the fourth best single-game total in Big Ten history. The conference record-holder in that category is Chris Daniels of Purdue, who had 301 receiving yards during his team’s 52-28 win over Michigan State in 1999.

** OSU junior tight end Jake Stoneburner’s touchdown reception vs. Nebraska was the seventh of his career, moving him into seventh place all-time among Ohio State tight ends. John Lumpkin (10, 1996-98) is the career leader among OSU tight ends with 10 touchdown catches while Darnell Sanders (1999-2001), Rickey Dudley (1994-95) and Chuck Bryant (1959-61) are tied for second with nine. Jan White (1968-70) and Bob Grimes (1950-52) each had eight.

** When Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and I-back Rex Burkhead each eclipsed the 100-yard mark last Saturday, it marked the first time in 23 years the Buckeyes had allowed two opponents to crack the century mark in the same game. The last duo to accomplish the feat against OSU was Leroy Hoard (158) and Tony Boles (103) during Michigan’s 34-31 win over the Buckeyes in November 1988.

** The Buckeyes and Illini square off for one of the most uncommon trophies in college football. Illibuck is a wooden turtle that goes to the winner of the game each year. The tradition began in 1925 with a live turtle being exchanged between the two schools. The turtle was selected because of its supposed long life expectancy, but the original Illibuck died only two years after the trophy game was inaugurated. Since 1927, nine wooden replica Illibucks have been carved, each with the scores from games on its back. The Illibuck is the second oldest trophy game in the Big Ten, surpassed only by the Little Brown Jug that Minnesota and Michigan have been playing for since 1903.

** This week’s game will be televised by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror. (That means if the game is not on your local ABC-affiliated station, it should be available on ESPN and vice versa.) On the call will be Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie (color analysis) and Heather Cox (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. (That is 2:30 p.m. local time if you’re traveling to Champaign.)

** The game will also be streamed live online at ESPN3.com.

** The game is available to SiriusXM satellite radio subscribers on channel 85.

** Ohio State is off next week. The Buckeyes resume their 2011 season Oct. 29 with a home game against Wisconsin. That game is set to kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss went into Oxford and engineered a 30-14 upset over fourth-ranked Mississippi and Heisman Trophy candidate Archie Manning.

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Two more teams dropped off the list of Division I-A unbeatens, leaving the remaining number at 13 – Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Wisconsin.

** Stanford’s 48-7 stampede over Colorado on Saturday night pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 14. That is a school record, eclipsing 13-game win streaks in 1904-05 and 1939-41. Meanwhile, New Mexico had an off week, so the nation’s longest losing streak remained at eight games.

** Congratulations to Miami (Ohio), Oregon State and Western Kentucky, each of which notched their first victories of 2011 last week. WKU got things started Thursday with a 36-33 win in double overtime over Middle Tennessee State. Then on Saturday, the RedHawks scored a 35-28 win over Army while the Beavers took a 37-27 win over Arizona, hastening the firing of Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops. That leaves only three winless teams at the I-A level – Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and UAB.

** After a rocky start, Notre Dame has now won four straight games. The latest win for the Fighting Irish was a 59-33 rout of Air Force on Saturday, the most points Notre Dame has scored in a game since a 60-6 romp over Pittsburgh in 1996. The Cadets hadn’t surrendered that many points since losing a 63-33 shootout to BYU in 2001.

** Utah should serve as a cautionary reminder to all the schools out there hot to realign themselves for a shot at college football glory. In their first season after leaving the Mountain West to join the Pac-12, the Utes are off to a 2-3 start, the school’s worst since 2007. Worse yet, after last week’s 35-14 home loss to Arizona State, Utah is 0-3 in the conference. The Utes haven’t begun a season with three straight league losses since 2002 – coincidentally the program’s only losing season since 2000.

** How the mighty have fallen. Florida State has started a season 2-3 for the second time in three seasons. Before 2009, the year they ran Bobby Bowden out of Tallahassee after 34 seasons as head coach, the Seminoles hadn’t started 2-3 since 1983.

** Last Saturday saw Texas faced with a fourth-and-49 situation against Oklahoma. That was longest fourth down we’ve seen in quite a while … at least until Georgia had a fourth-and-58 during its 20-12 win over Tennessee. How do you get fourth-and-58? Pretty easy evidently with three straight holding calls and a facemask penalty.

** Throwing the ball all over the field continues to get the most headlines while defense still wins championships. LSU and Kansas State remain undefeated despite national pass offense rankings of 100th and 115th respectively. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are in the top 10 of most defensive categories while the Wildcats rank in the top 20.

** Speaking of throwing the ball, Houston QB Case Keenum is closing in on Division I-A career records with 15,895 passing yards and 124 TD passes. Timmy Chang of Hawaii (2001-04) holds the yardage record at 17,072 while Graham Harrell of Texas Tech (2005-08) has the TD mark with 134.

** We should probably start paying attention to Rutgers again. Following their 11-2 season in 2006, the Scarlet Knights fell off the college football radar. But they’re back this season at 4-1 following a good, old-fashioned 31-10 butt-whipping of Big East rival Pittsburgh last week. Rutgers is 2-0 in the Big East for only the second time since it joined the conference in 1991.

** When longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Oct. 8 at the age of 82, most obituaries commented only on his professional football career. Davis also had a legacy at the college level beginning as a member of the junior varsity team at Syracuse. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Adelphia College and The Citadel as well as three seasons at USC from 1957-59 before beginning his pro career as offensive ends coach for the AFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.

FEARLESS FORECAST

There was nothing but sunshine and high-fives last weekend here at Forecast World Headquarters and we’re feeling a little guilty about it since there is so much gloom and doom in Buckeye Nation. We’ll get over our guilt, though, as we bask in the first totally perfect week in memory.

We were 10-0 in the straight-up picks and (more importantly) 10-0 against the spread, and that runs the yearly totals to 57-5 SU and 39-20-1 ATS. There is nothing better than playing with house money – unless, of course, you get more of it.

Here are the games we like this week.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Hawaii at San Jose State: Although it goes against the purists in us all, we don’t mind admitting we kind of like to watch teams that put 100 percent of their emphasis on offense. The Rainbows are just such an example with senior QB Bryant Moniz averaging better than 315 yards per game this year. Moniz also averages nearly 42 attempts per game, meaning Hawaii isn’t exactly a juggernaut in the running game. Fact is, the Rainbows rank 110th nationally in rushing. Not that it should matter much tonight since the Spartans rank in the 90s in nearly every national defensive category … Hawaii 34, San Jose State 14. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 LSU at Tennessee: Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley has reached into his bag of tricks this week and decided to start senior backup Matt Simms at quarterback against the top-ranked Tigers. Simms was the guy who nearly engineered an epic upset last year before LSU squeezed out a 16-14 win. But Simms was also the guy who was replaced as the starter last year after eight starts, and he will be in charge of an offense that simply cannot run the football. Tennessee ranks No. 114 nationally in rushing after finishing with minus-20 yards on 23 attempts is last week’s 20-12 loss to Georgia, and you have to wonder how the Vols can do any better this week … LSU 34, Tennessee 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 2 Alabama at Mississippi: The Crimson Tide should stomp their merry way along to any victory this week mostly because the Rebels are helpless against running teams. Ole Miss ranks 10th in the SEC and 95th nationally against the run while Alabama has the services of junior tailback Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate who already has 729 yards and 11 TDs in six games this season. Richardson has his sights set on a school-record tying sixth consecutive 100-yard game and he should probably achieve that goal in the first half … Alabama 38, Mississippi 0. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 3 Oklahoma at Kansas: If you think the Sooners were merciless last weekend against Texas, how do think they will treat the punchless Jayhawks? Last week, Oklahoma State put up 56 in the first half en route to a 70-28 win over Kansas. No way will Bob Stoops not want to better that … Oklahoma 77, Kansas 7.

Indiana at No. 4 Wisconsin: How ugly could this one get? As ugly as Bret Bielema wants it to be. If you recall, the Badgers stomped their way to 83-20 win over the Hoosiers in mid-November last season on their way to a Rose Bowl berth. Now, U-Dub is coming off an open week and eager to prove to the nation it belongs with LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma in the national championship discussion. Indiana has lost 14 of its last 15 conference games, 13 in a row to ranked opponents and each of its last six to Wisconsin by an average of 30.5 points. Bielema very rarely takes his foot off the gas and no one should expect him to this week … Wisconsin 70, Indiana 6. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas: The Longhorns jump this week from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. After being manhandled by Oklahoma last Saturday, the Mack Pack limps home to host the pass-happy Cowboys who have a high-wire act that will test anyone’s secondary. Texas does have history on its side – it lost a 33-16 decision to Okie State last year and has never dropped back-to-back games to the Cowboys. Still, it’s tough to envision any scenario in which the Longhorns can slow down OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden (1,880 yards, 15 TDs) and his talented receiving corps led by All-American Justin Blackmon (46 catches, 534 yards, 6 TDs) … Oklahoma State 45, Texas 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 7 Stanford at Washington State: The Cougars feature the No. 3 defense in the Pac-12, but that’s a bit misleading in a conference where defense is an afterthought. Wazzu gives up an average of 363.6 yards per game and that isn’t exactly where you want to be when Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and the Cardinal come to town. Many opposing players seem to struggle playing in Pullman (affectionately known as “The Palouse”), but Luck isn’t one of them. He made his collegiate debut there in 2009 and led the Cardinal to a 39-13 win. It’s doubtful the outcome will be much different this time … Stanford 38, Washington State 14. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State: The Wolverines have their swagger back with a first 6-0 start since 2006, but U-M takes on its toughest customer of the season in the Spartans. MSU is coming off an open week and angling for its fourth straight win in the series, something that hasn’t happened since 1959-62. Sparty has the nation’s top-ranked defense while Michigan has quarterback Denard Robinson, one of college football’s most electrifying players. The difference in this game will be how much improved the Wolverines are on defense. Last year, the Spartans pounded the ball on the ground and intercepted Robinson three times during a 34-17 win. If they follow the same blueprint, and QB Kirk Cousins keeps his mental mistakes to minimum, the Spartans should come out on top again … Michigan State 28, Michigan 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Georgia Tech at Virginia: The Yellow Jackets have a reputation of being a one-dimensional team but that isn’t exactly accurate. Yes, Tech ranks fourth in the nation in total offense thanks to a running game that averages 360.5 yards per game. But the Wreck can throw the ball, too, with junior QB Tevin Washington throwing for 1,052 yards and 10 TDs so far this season. Some observers believe Tech should be on upset watch this week, but although the Cavaliers are 3-2 and playing at home, they have yet to play anyone ever near the caliber of the Yellow Jackets … Georgia Tech 42, Virginia 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Ohio State at No. 16 Illinois: Like most young, relatively inexperienced teams, Ohio State has enough talent to win – it simply hasn’t yet learned how to win. That was never more obvious than last weekend in Lincoln when the Buckeyes rolled out to a 27-6 lead over Nebraska, and then watched the roof cave in over their heads after quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an ankle injury. Of course, nothing is so wrong with the Buckeyes that a victory wouldn’t help and they have a lot of things going for them this week. They have won eight straight in Champaign, Miller appears to be ready to go and senior tailback Boom Herron is finally back to give the offense some spark. In a season that has already featured more than its share of wild momentum shifts, we look for the pendulum to swing back the Buckeyes’ way this week with an Upset Special … Ohio State 27, Illinois 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Hawaii (-6) at San Jose State; LSU (-15½) at Tennessee; Alabama (-25) at Ole Miss; Oklahoma (-35½) at Kansas; Indiana at Wisconsin (-39); Oklahoma State (-7) at Texas; Stanford (-21) at Washington State; Michigan at Michigan State (-2); Georgia Tech (-7) at Virginia; Ohio State (+4) at Illinois.

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

Seriously Now; What Is It Going To Take?

I have been covering Ohio State football for longer than I care to remember. There have been times when the Buckeyes have had off-the-field problems and times when they have struggled with their product on the field, but I cannot remember a time when they have had both.

Since December when it came to light five players had traded memorabilia for tattoos and/or cash, the OSU football program and its fans have been sitting under the sword of Damocles. In case you have forgotten your Greek mythology, a sword hangs precariously above a king’s throne, held in place by a single hair from a horse’s tail. It is meant to convey how precarious fame and fortune can be.

In the myth, just the threat of the sword hanging overhead was enough of a deterrent. Where Buckeye Nation is concerned, however, the sword has fallen repeatedly. It seems that every three weeks or so, another log gets thrown onto a smoldering fire that has already claimed several victims including Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor with Gene Smith, Luke Fickell and the program itself apparently in the line of the fire.

My first reaction when the latest revelations came to light regarding Boom Herron, DeVier Posey and Marcus Hall and questionable summer employment? Stand back and let the fire burn.

What is it going to take to get it through some thick skulls that the immediate future of Ohio State football is in the NCAA crosshairs? One would think the players know better, especially after Tattoogate and all that entailed. One would think the OSU compliance office would know better, taking whatever steps necessary to repeatedly drum into these guys’ heads that taking money under any circumstances is the wrong thing to do. And one would think Smith would know better than to publicly state, “We do not have a systemic problem.”

Really? Exactly what would you call it? It’s certainly not gangland 1930s Chicago, the foolish and mean-spirited comparison offered by CBSSports.com writer Dennis Dodd on Tuesday. But it certainly smacks of a problem systemic enough that athletic department officials come off looking reactive rather than proactive. Turning a deaf ear is one thing; incompetence is quite another.

As much as it pains me to write this, perhaps only something cataclysmic will get the attention of the players, the compliance department and the athletic department hierarchy. Perhaps the NCAA will discover it has no choice but to level a charge of lack of institutional control against Ohio State, and if that is the case, the Buckeyes as we have come to know them over the past decade will cease to exist.

For starters, Smith will be history as will compliance director Doug Archie. (That might happen anyway.) Fickell will almost certainly be gone (again, something that could already have been decided), but you can kiss Urban Meyer goodbye along with any other so-called big-name coach. None of those guys is coming to a wrecked program where collateral damage includes deep scholarship reductions and multiyear bowl bans.

Moreover, you can pretty much write off recruiting for the next couple of years. As with the big-name coaches, very few big-name prospects would to come to a school that has no chance to play in a bowl game. And before you believe a big-name program chock full of rich tradition can weather that kind of storm, I invite you to check out the recent history of Indiana basketball and tell me what you find.

Maybe I paint a picture much bleaker than reality will eventually show. I would like to think so. After all, I’m the same guy who has opined for much of the last 10 months that severe penalties from the NCAA would not fit Ohio State’s crimes. But when you continue to discover leaks after spending much of the last year patching other holes, pretty soon you come to realization that your boat is sinking.

I wrote several columns during the summer criticizing Ohio State for failing to get out in front of this situation and I cannot shake the feeling the university is still playing catch-up. According to reports, OSU has paid more than $1 million on public relations since the scandal broke last year. If that is the case, please release the name of the person who signed off on that expenditure. He or she needs to be summarily fired because the university PR on this matter has not amounted to 2 cents much less $1 million.

Making matters worse, the Buckeyes’ on-the-field problems have a direct correlation to what has transpired on the field. The Tressel situation was bungled so poorly that his sudden May 30 departure left the program scrambling for a replacement. It left the team with a head coach that had no previous head coaching experience and a bunch of longtime assistants tasked with much more responsibility that any of them had under Tressel.

Likewise, members of the team have been adversely affected by the tortuous ordeal that seemingly is without end. Pryor will be back after five games; no, he won’t be back at all. Herron and Posey will return after five games; no, they have to sit at least one more game, maybe more. Joe Bauserman is the starting quarterback; no, it’s Braxton Miller until he falters against Michigan State, in which case Bauserman returns.

Of course, nothing is so bad with the on-field product right now that a big win at Nebraska wouldn’t help come tomorrow night. But based upon what we have seen for the past couple of weeks, you wonder how that can possibly come to pass. Then you look at the remaining schedule and wonder how the Buckeyes can total enough victories to even get bowl-eligible.

The old proverb states, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” and perhaps that is true. Unfortunately, as dark as the storm clouds have been over the Ohio State football program, they appear to be growing ever darker.

BRUTUS-HERBIE TIDBITS

** This marks only the third ever meeting between Ohio State and Nebraska. The Buckeyes won both of the previous game – 28-20 in the 1955 season opener and 34-7 a year later in that season’s opener. Both games were played at Ohio Stadium.

** The contest will be played in historic Memorial Stadium where the Cornhuskers are working on a prodigious streak of sellouts. The game against Ohio State will mark the 315th consecutive sellout, a streak that goes back to November 1962.

** The game pits two Ohio State alums against one another. OSU head coach Luke Fickell was a four-year defensive starter for the Buckeyes from 1993-96, while Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini started at safety for Ohio State in 1989 and ’90. Pelini was also a team co-captain during the 1990 season.

** Pelini has coached twice before against his alma mater and he is 2-0. In 1991, while Pelini was a graduate assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa, the Hawkeyes took a 16-9 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Then, in January 2008 just before taking over at Nebraska, Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers scored a 38-24 win over the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game.

** Since Pelini took over in Lincoln prior to the 2008 season, his team is 29-5 against unranked teams. However, the Cornhuskers are only 7-6 in October with Pelini as head coach.

** The Cornhuskers are 34-5 at home under the lights since the first night game at Memorial Stadium in 1986. That record includes wins in each of the last eight night games in Lincoln, a streak extended with a 42-29 victory over Fresno State earlier this year.

** Ohio State is 32-17 all-time in night games, including a 26-14 mark away from home. That includes the 24-6 loss at Miami (Fla.) earlier this season.

** The game will serve as homecoming for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is 3-3 in its last six homecoming games after winning 35 in a row.

** Ohio State and Nebraska are two of the winningest teams in college football history. The Cornhuskers are fourth all-time with 841 victories while the Buckeyes are right behind with 834. Michigan (889), Texas (854) and Notre Dame (848) are the top three winningest programs in NCAA history.

** The Cornhuskers and Buckeyes are the top two winningest teams in college football since 1970. NU has 407 victories and OSU has 382 since then. Oklahoma is third (380) followed by Michigan (372) and Penn State (370).

** Since joining the Big Ten in 1913, Ohio State is 61-32-5 in conference road openers. The Buckeyes haven’t lost a league road opener since a 17-10 loss at Penn State in 2005.

** Nebraska has lost its last three conference home openers. As a member of the Big 12, the Huskers lost to Missouri in 2008, Texas Tech in 2009 and Texas last season. Before that, NU had won 30 straight league home openers. All-time, Nebraska is 84-13-4 in the first conference home game of the season, an .851 winning percentage.

** The Cornhuskers are 16-1 at home since 1962 vs. current Big Ten members. The only blemish on that record is a 30-24 loss to Penn State in 1981 before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

** Nebraska’s 48-17 drubbing at Wisconsin continued an alarming trend for the Cornhuskers. Since 1997, NU is 0-8 on the road against top-10 opponents and the defense has allowed an average of 44 points in those games.

** OSU is in the middle of a four-week stretch when it will play ranked teams. The Buckeyes have not played four ranked teams in a row since 2003.

** Ohio State has featured a top-20 scoring defense in each of the last nine seasons, including top six every year since 2005. Heading to Lincoln, the Buckeyes rank No. 11 nationally in scoring defense.

** OSU has been installed by oddsmakers as an 11½-point underdog to the Cornhuskers. It marks only the third time in the past decade that the Buckeyes have been double-digit underdogs. They were 10½-point dogs in 2008 against top-ranked USC and wound up with a 35-3 loss, and they were 13½-point underdogs in the 2002 BCS National Championship Game to No. 1 Miami (Fla.) before taking a 31-24 double overtime win over the defending national champion Hurricanes.

** Nebraska sophomore QB Taylor Martinez needs only 99 more total yards to reach 4,000 for his career. He also needs to rush for 87 more to move past Scott Frost (1,533, 1996-97) into fifth place on the school’s all-time list for career rushing yards by a quarterback. First place belongs to 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, who rushed for 3,434 yards during his career from 1998-2001.

** Junior I-back Rex Burkhead needs 187 more yards to become the 26th player in NU history with at least 2,000 career rushing yards. Mike Rozier, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1983, is Nebraska’s all-time leading rusher with 4,780 yards.

** Nebraska senior defensive tackle Jared Crick enters the game with 20 career sacks, good enough for eighth on the school’s all-time list. NU’s all-time leader in sacks is Trev Alberts (29½, 1990-93).

** Nebraska is one of a handful of college teams with two different mascots – Herbie Husker and Lil’ Red. Herbie is the older of the two, making his first appearance in 1974. Following a 2003 makeover, Herbie wears a perpetual smile as well as a red cowboy hat adorned with a white “N,” red workshirt, blue jeans and workboots. Lil’ Red appeared on the scene in 1993 and can be best described as a smaller, ground-based version of the balloons featured in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

** The OSU-Nebraska game will be televised nationally by ABC. For the second week in a row, the announce crew will feature Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Matt Miller (color analysis) and Heather Cox (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. (That is 7 p.m. local time if you’re traveling to Lincoln.)

** The game is also available on satellite radio station channel 91 for both Sirius and XM subscribers as well as Sirius channel 92. Nationally syndicated Westwood One will also broadcast the game featuring Brian Davis with the play-by-play and 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George providing color analysis.

** Next week, Ohio State is on the road again, traveling to Illinois for the second year in a row. The game is set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 5, 1940, Michigan star Tom Harmon led his team to a 21-14 victory over Michigan State in Ann Arbor. The win was the Wolverines’ third in a row over the Spartans and was part of a streak that stretched to 10 games before the Spartans won in 1950.

** On Oct. 5, 1968, Arkansas running back Bill Burnett scored a touchdown to help the Razorbacks to a 17-7 win over TCU. It was the first of 23 consecutive games in which Burnett scored, an NCAA record that stood for 32 years.

** On Oct. 5, 1991, Fresno State kicker Derek Mahoney tied the NCAA record for most PATs in a game when he went 13 for 13 as the Bulldogs rolled to a 94-17 win over New Mexico.

** On Oct. 6, 1956, Penn snapped a 19-game home losing streak with a 14-7 win over Dartmouth. It was the Quakers’ first official Ivy League game, while Dartmouth’s lone touchdown came from quarterback Mike Brown, the same Mike Brown who is now owner of the Cincinnati Bengals.

** On Oct. 6, 1980, Northern Illinois tailback Stacey Robinson rushed for a school-record 308 yards during his team’s 73-18 romp over No. 24 Fresno State. Including in Robinson’s performance was an NCAA-record 287 yards in the first half – 114 in the first quarter and 173 more in the second period.

** On Oct. 7, 1995, Texas Tech scored a 14-7 upset over eighth-ranked Texas A&M in Lubbock. The Aggies entered the contest with a 29-game Southwest Conference unbeaten streak, but Tech linebacker Zach Thomas returned an interception 23 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

** Also on Oct. 7, 1995, fifth-ranked Ohio State squeezed out a 28-25 decision over No. 12 Penn State in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions grabbed an early 10-0 lead behind the first of three touchdown runs by fullback Jon Witman, but OSU rallied behind quarterback Bobby Hoying, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, who scored the winning touchdown with 1:42 to play. Hoying’s performance represented the fourth highest single-game passing total in Ohio State history.

** On Oct. 7, 1996, College Football Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade died in Durham, N.C., at the age of 94. Wade was head coach at Alabama in 1925 when the Crimson Tide became the first Southern school invited to the Rose Bowl. A guard for Brown during his playing days, Wade became the first man ever to play and coach in a Rose Bowl. His Brown team lost to Washington State, 14-0, in the 1916 game, but his Alabama squad took a 20-19 thriller over Washington a decade later. Wade later coached at Duke – the football stadium there bears his name – and led the Blue Devils to their only Rose Bowl appearance, a 20-16 loss to Oregon State in the 1942 game.

** On Oct. 7, 2000, No. 7 Miami (Fla.) upset top-ranked Florida State, 27-24, when Seminoles kicker Matt Munyon’s last-second field goal attempt from 49 yards sailed wide right.

** On Oct. 8, 1949, Brown set a college football record with 11 interceptions during a 46-0 win over Rhode Island. Bears defensive back Walt Pastuszak grabbed five of the picks, another NCAA single-game record.

** On Oct. 8, 1966, Wyoming kicker Jerry DePoyster made NCAA history during his team’s 40-7 victory over Utah. DePoyster connected on field goals of 54, 54 and 52 yards and became the first kicker in NCAA history with three field goal of 50 yards or more in a single game. The Cowboys went to a 10-1 season in ’66 that included a WAC championship and Sun Bowl victory over Florida State.

** On Oct. 8, 1977, seventh-ranked Alabama squeezed out a 21-20 victory over No. 1 USC when the Trojans scored a touchdown with 38 seconds remaining but their subsequent two-point conversion try failed.

** On Oct. 9, 1943, Indiana quarterback Bob Hoernschemeyer set an NCAA record for touchdown passes in a game by a freshman when he threw six as the Hoosiers took a 54-13 win over Nebraska in Bloomington.

** On Oct. 9, 1976, USC tailback Ricky Bell set new Pac-8 single-game records by rushing 51 times for 346 yards as the Trojans took a 23-14 win over Washington State. It was the first college football game staged at Seattle’s then-new Kingdome.

** On Oct. 9, 1999, Michigan and Michigan State entered their instate rivalry with undefeated records for the first time in nearly 20 years and those in attendance at East Lansing got their money’s worth. The Spartans stormed out to an early lead before U-M head coach Lloyd Carr replaced starting quarterback Drew Henson with backup Tom Brady. Brady went on to complete 30 of 41 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but his rally fell just short as the Spartans held on for a 34-31 victory.

** On Oct. 9, 2004, California QB Aaron Rodgers established a new NCAA record for consecutive completions. Rodgers completed his first three attempts against USC to run his streak to a record 26 completions in a row. Unfortunately, that was all Cal had to celebrate that day. The seventh-ranked Bears dropped a 23-17 decision to the No. 1 Trojans.

** On Oct. 10, 1936, trumpet player John Brungart became the first member of the Ohio State Marching Band to dot the “i” in Script Ohio.

** On Oct. 10, 1987, Oklahoma State took a 42-17 victory over Colorado to open its season with five straight wins for the first time since 1945. Leading the way for the Cowboys was a pair of fairly decent running backs – Thurman Thomas rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown while Barry Sanders added a score on a 73-yard punt return.

** On Oct. 11, 1975, Division II schools Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Davidson (N.C.) College combined to set an NCAA single-game rushing record as the Bears topped the Wildcats, 69-14. Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for an amazing 837 yards while Davidson added 202, establishing a new NCAA record with 1,039 combined rushing yards on 111 attempts.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The list of unbeaten teams at the Division I-A level shrunk from 22 last week to 15. Those remaining are Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech and Wisconsin.

** Stanford’s 45-19 victory over UCLA on Saturday extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 13. Meanwhile, New Mexico dropped a 42-28 decision to rival New Mexico State to extend the nation’s longest losing streak to eight games.

** Congratulations to Middle Tennessee, which got its first win of the season last weekend with a 38-31 win over instate rival Memphis. Then the Blue Raiders returned the favor last night, dropping a 36-33 double overtime decision to Western Kentucky to give the Hilltoppers their first victory of 2011. That leaves only five winless I-A teams – Florida Atlantic, Miami (Ohio), New Mexico, Oregon State and UAB.

** Congratulations are also in order for Illinois and SMU. The Fighting Illini are 5-0 for the first time since starting the 1951 season with seven straight victories. And the Mustangs knocked off TCU on Saturday, ending the Horned Frogs’ streak of 22 straight victories at home. SMU is 4-1 for the first time since 1986 – pre-death penalty.

** Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins had a career day during his team’s 38-35 win over Northwestern. Jenkins had 12 receptions for a school-record 268 yards and three touchdowns. It was the most receiving yardage totaled by a Big Ten player since 2003 and ranked fourth all-time behind Chris Daniels of Purdue (301 in 1999), Thomas Lewis of Indiana (285 in 1993) and Charles Rogers of Michigan State (270 in 2001).

** How good is Alabama’s defense? Florida entered the game averaging 259 yards and managed only 15 against the Tide. The 38-10 defeat represented the worst home loss for the Gators since a 36-7 decision against LSU in 2002. That LSU team was coached by Nick Saban – same guy that’s currently Alabama’s head coach.

** Texas A&M has every intention of leaving what’s left of the Big 12 to join the SEC next year. The question is why? The Aggies blew a 35-17 halftime lead against Arkansas on Saturday, eventually losing by a 42-38 final. That marked A&M seventh straight loss to an SEC team since 1995.

** Oklahoma’s offense got most of the attention following a 62-6 blowout of Ball State, but Sooners safety Tony Jefferson had a monster game as well. Jefferson intercepted passes on three straight Ball State possessions in the second quarter.

** South Carolina had a bad day get worse Saturday with a 16-13 upset loss at home to Auburn. SEC officials working the game made the Gamecocks change out of their UnderArmour Wounded Warriors uniforms before kickoff because the numbers were too hard to read.

** There are nice debuts and then there is the performance turned in by West Virginia freshman tailback Dustin Garrison. After getting only 13 carries in the Mountaineers’ first four games, Garrison rushed for a school-record 291 yards and 32 totes as WVU rolled to a 55-10 win Oct. 1 over Bowling Green.

** Utah State has begun to slowly turn things around under third-year head coach Gary Andersen. The Aggies haven’t had a winning season since 1996 and are currently 1-3, but they have been competitive. They simply haven’t learned how to win yet. How close is USU to being 4-0 for the first time since 1978? The Aggies led BYU by 11 points in the fourth quarter, Auburn by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining and Colorado State by eight in the final minute and lost all three games. “We’re learning a lot of life lessons,” Andersen said.

** The Big Ten Network has resurrected its “Icons” series with profiles on legendary coaches from each of the conference schools. The list is a pretty impressive one that includes Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno, Bob Knight, Jud Heathcote, Herb Brooks, Dan Gable and Tom Osborne. The only member of the list worth questioning comes from Northwestern, which chose women’s lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller over College Football Hall of Fame coach Ara Parseghian. But when you realize Parseghian had much greater success at Notre Dame, and Amonte-Hiller has led the Wildcats to six national championships in seven seasons, you understand the selection was a no-brainer for NU.

FEARLESS FORECAST

If only we had stayed with our head instead of our heart, we’d be crowing about a second perfect week in a row with the straight-up picks. As it was, we changed our Ohio State-Michigan State pick at the last minute and wound up with the Buckeyes causing the only blemish in a 9-1 week. We can’t cry too much, though. We’re 47-5 SU for the season so far and that’s better than 90 percent.

Against the spread, we’re stuck in a rut with another 5-5 week. We’re still well above breakeven at 29-20-1 for the season, but we’d like to do better.

Let’s see if that can happen with these games.

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 5 Boise State at Fresno State: The Bulldogs would seem to be a better team than their 2-3 record might indicate, but they won’t improve until they stop giving up big plays. Earlier this season, they had Nebraska on the ropes until giving up a 100-yard kickoff return and a 46-yard touchdown run. Last week against Ole Miss, Fresno surrendered a 69-yard TD run and gave up an average of 26.8 yards per completion. That simply will not get it done against the Broncos despite the fact QB Kellen Moore had an uncharacteristically poor performance last week … Boise State 41, Fresno State 20. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 17 Florida at No. 1 LSU: Both of these teams have quarterback quandaries although the Gators have the bigger problems. Starting QB John Brantley sustained a leg injury during last week’s 38-10 loss to Alabama, and Florida head coach Will Muschamp will start freshman Jeff Driskel in his place. On the other sideline, Les Miles is trying to figure out how he can get Jordan Jefferson involved in the LSU offense after the starting QB’s suspension was lifted last week. Jefferson will continue to back up Jarrett Lee, but it really doesn’t matter that much. The Tigers’ defense gives up next to nothing on the ground, putting the onus on Driskel to win the game for his team through the air. It is probably also worth noting that LSU ranks fourth nationally in turnover margin … LSU 23, Florida 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Vanderbilt at No. 2 Alabama: Pity the Commodores. They enter this game ranked 117th out of 120 Division I-A schools in total offense while the Crimson Tide are among the top five in every major defensive statistic. That includes No. 1 against the run and in scoring defense. Then, there is the small matter of Vandy’s recent struggles against ranked teams – 0 for its last 11. Add that to the fact the Commodores have lost 43 of the last 45 in the series and you get the impression the Tide can name whatever final score they want … Alabama 35, Vanderbilt 6. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas: The two archrivals descend upon the Cotton Bowl once again, this time with each team undefeated. If you put any stock in national rankings, you might be led to believe the Longhorns are the team to beat. They started the season unranked and have ascended all the way to No. 11. Meanwhile, the Sooners are down two notches from being preseason No. 1 despite winning four games by a combined score of 170-61. Up and down the rosters, though, it still looks like Oklahoma has the better team both offensively and defensively. No upset here – not even close … Oklahoma 34, Texas 14. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Kansas at No. 6 Oklahoma State: The Cowboys had a week off to enjoy their heart-pounding 30-29 win over Texas A&M, and now they rev up the motor on their high-powered offense against a team that has struggled mightily on the road. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden engineers the nation’s No. 3 offense, which averages 571.8 yards per game, against the Jayhawks who surrender 545.0 yards per game. That ranks 119th nationally among 120 Division I-A schools. Making matters worse for Jayhawks, they have lost nine straight conference games on the road. We can’t think of a single reason to think this will be anything short of a blowout … Oklahoma State 45, Kansas 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

Colorado at No. 7 Stanford: There’s not much to say about this one. The Cardinal are trying to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 13 while the Buffaloes seek to avoid losing their 19th consecutive road loss. Suffice it to say Stanford QB Andrew Luck (1,013 yards, 11 TDs) will continue to pad his Heisman résumé while Colorado continues its slide to a sixth straight losing season … Stanford 42, Colorado 10. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Boston College at No. 8 Clemson: The Tigers are one of the surprising teams of 2011 so far, starting the season 5-0 for the first time since winning their first eight games in 2000. That’s pretty good for a team that finished 6-7 last year. This week, Clemson should be able to keep things going against a BC squad that ranks 98th nationally in total offense and 99th in scoring. The Tigers might be induced to overlook the 1-4 Eagles, but they shouldn’t. Boston College has won three of the last five in the series and Clemson failed to score an offensive touchdown in either of the last two games. That should be incentive enough to take care of business … Clemson 28, Boston College 7. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 12 Michigan at Northwestern: The Wolverines are starting to get their old swagger back, especially after last week’s 58-0 drubbing of lowly Minnesota. That marked U-M’s first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since 2001 and its first shutout against any opponent since 2007. Before they get too full of themselves in Ann Arbor, however, they should realize the Gophers are about as punchless as any team in the country. Michigan gets a much stiffer test this week under the lights in Evanston. Electrifying QB Dan Persa is back for the Wildcats, and he threw for four touchdowns last week against a decent Illinois defense. Unfortunately for Persa, his defense doesn’t help him much and the Achilles injury that ended his 2010 season prematurely still seems to bother him. That prevents this one from becoming as high-scoring as it could have …Michigan 45, Northwestern 35. (7 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 19 Illinois at Indiana: Did anyone see this coming? Did anyone look at the Fighting Illini before this season and say, ‘Yeah, there’s a team with a chance to make a BCS bowl’? Yet here we are, nearing the midway point of the regular season with Illinois one of a handful of undefeated teams left standing. Look at the Illini schedule after this week and you see winnable games all the way to a Nov. 19 matchup with Wisconsin. By that time, the Fighting Zooksters could be a top-10 team. On the flip side of that is IU, a team that is pretty much right where everyone thought it would be … Illinois 37, Indiana 13. (2:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Ohio State at No. 14 Nebraska: Given the way the offense has performed lately, it is imperative the Buckeyes play lights-out on defense if they entertain the slightest notion of winning this game. That means playing assignment football against Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez and forcing him to throw the football. On the other side of the ball, Ohio State has to devise some way of keeping the Blackshirts off young quarterback Braxton Miller. If Miller can find some operating room and gain a little confidence, he can be dangerous. But if he is smothered this week like he was last week vs. Michigan State, the Buckeyes have no chance to win this game no matter how well their defense plays. Seeing is believing, but we remain unconvinced … Nebraska 16, Ohio State 9. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (-20½) at Fresno State; Florida at LSU (-12); Vanderbilt at Alabama (-28½); Oklahoma (-9½) vs. Texas; Kansas at Oklahoma State (-29); Colorado at Stanford (-29); Boston College at Clemson (-20); Michigan (-7) at Northwestern; Illinois (-14) at Indiana; Ohio State (+11½) at Nebraska.

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

Rollercoaster Ride Likely To Continue For Buckeyes

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

Or is it?

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

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

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

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

No, wait, they’re going to be OK.

Who can possibly keep up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRUTUS-SPARTY TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

Here are the games we’ll be watching:

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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