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).

Could Wisconsin Ever Replace Michigan As OSU’s Archrival?

News flash: Ohio State players don’t like Wisconsin, and the feeling is probably mutual.

Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown would seem to have a political career in his future with this kind of quote: “I don’t want to go on record saying that I hate Wisconsin more than Michigan, but I hate Wisconsin just as much as Michigan.”

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was even more to the point: “I really don’t like them, to tell you the truth. I’m sure they probably hate us too, but I really don’t care what they think.”

When did relations between the Buckeyes and Badgers become so strained that officiating crews have often had to set up pregame DMZs at midfield? You can thank the personable Barry Alvarez for that.

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. My first visit to Camp Randall Stadium was in 1990, one of the early years during the John Cooper era. That was back when it always seemed Ohio State got within a whisker of going to the Rose Bowl only to lose to Michigan and wind up playing at 11 o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day in some nondescript central Florida bowl game.

Anyway, I don’t remember too much about the trip other a 35-10 win by the Buckeyes and sitting beside a nice lady on the flight back from Madison. She was a relative of Wisconsin defensive tackle Don Davey, and I told her that Ohio State needed only to beat Michigan the following week to achieve its first Rose Bowl trip in six years. I remember her eyes widening as she said something like, “The Rose Bowl? Really? Heck, we’d settle for any bowl.”

The Buckeyes – as they often did in that era – went on to lose a particularly heart-wrenching 16-13 decision to Michigan, and then they lost to Air Force in the Liberty Bowl in one of the most heartless performances I have ever seen from a football team. But at least Ohio State made the postseason. In 1990, Davey was one of the very few stars Wisconsin had on its way to an 0-8 finish in the Big Ten and a 1-10 overall record.

That marked the sixth consecutive losing season for the Badgers and they eventually ran that string to eight in a row. Then they hired Alvarez and the rest is history.

Alvarez led Wisconsin to Rose Bowl trips after the 1993, ’97 and ’98 seasons and his team won all three games. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, the two winningest programs in the Big Ten are Ohio State (56-14) and Wisconsin (48-22).

And while the Buckeyes have evolved over the past couple of years because of coaching changes, the Badgers continue to plow their ground the old-fashioned way. Alvarez recruited huge road graders for his offensive line, found one dependable running back to carry the load and featured a straight-up defense that relied on playing mistake-free football. Fancy? Not so much. Successful? Absolutely.

Alvarez is but a sideline memory now, accepting a promotion to athletic director in 2006 and turning the program over to Bret Bielema, who had joined the Badgers in 2004 as defensive coordinator. But the beat goes on.

Alvarez was (and still is) a gruff sort who really didn’t give a rip about being liked. He always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder perhaps stemming from the fact that his program didn’t have much of a winning tradition before he got to Madison. Before winning the Big Ten championship in 1993, the Badgers hadn’t won one since 1962. And before winning three Rose Bowls in a row, the team had never won any of its previous three trips to Pasadena. No wonder Alvarez and his fans got so full of themselves.

Bielema seems like the perfect successor. Outwardly, his personality seems to fit a guy who spent his playing days as a defensive lineman, and he has adopted most of the tenets of his predecessor. This year’s starting offensive line averages 6-5½ and more than 325 pounds, making it one of the beefiest in the Big Ten. Their featured back is senior Monteé Ball, a 5-11, 215-pound wrecking ball with 813 career carries to his credit. And the Wisconsin defense, while nothing spectacular, is solid enough to give up only 17.2 points per game so far.

In the recent past, there have been numerous dust-ups between the teams. Wisconsin fans have been accused of hurled frozen marshmallows – loaded with all kinds of foreign substances – toward the field, both teams have been guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct by dancing on the opposing team’s midfield logo, and the Badgers upset top-ranked Ohio State in 2010, an otherwise perfect season that has since been vacated. Those memories are bad enough. Imagine what they would be had the Buckeyes gone on to win the national championship that year.

Then there was the welcome mat Bielema pulled out from under Urban Meyer last winter when the Wisconsin coach accused the new Ohio State boss of violating some unspoken gentlemen’s agreement regarding verbal commitments. Both men now downplay that kerfuffle, but you get the distinct impression the matter is far from forgotten. If tomorrow’s game somehow gets out of hand, don’t expect either coach to take his foot off the gas pedal.

Whether or not the animosity between the two programs is healthy, unhealthy or somewhere in between, you might as well get used to it. With conference realignment, the Buckeyes are likely going to have to beat the Badgers every year (and vice versa) to have a chance to play for the Big Ten championship.

With that in mind, a new generation of Ohio State football fans might grow up believing the rivalry with Wisconsin is more important than the one with Michigan. And although I can’t believe I’m thinking this much less putting it down in writing, that new generation could very well be right.

OSU-WISCONSIN TIDBITS

** This marks the 78th meeting of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes hold a decidedly lopsided 54-18-5 record in the overall series. That includes a 25-11-2 advantage in Madison. However, the teams have split 13 games at Camp Randall Stadium since 1981 – six victories for each and a 14-14 tie in 1993, the last season before the NCAA instituted overtime.

** Because of Ohio State’s postseason ban, tomorrow’s game features the unique aspect of an OSU win clinching the outright Leaders Division championship for the Buckeyes while the Badgers have already clinched the division’s spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is making his first appearance as a head coach against the Badgers, but he was is 1-1 in the series as an OSU assistant coach in 1986 and ’87. The Buckeyes scored a 30-17 win in Madison in 1986 while the Badgers took a 26-24 victory in Ohio Stadium the following year.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in his seventh season with the Badgers. He has a 67-22 overall record, including 1-4 against Ohio State. Before becoming a head coach, Bielema faced the Buckeyes several times as a player and assistant coach without much success. He was 1-3 vs. OSU as a player at Iowa from 1989-92 and then 0-6 as an assistant coach with the Hawkeyes from 1994-2001. Bielema was also 0-1 against Ohio State as an assistant coach at Kansas State (2002-03) and 1-0 as a Wisconsin assistant under Barry Alvarez in 2004 and ’05.

** The game pits two of the top five current Football Bowl Subdivision coaches in terms of career winning percentage. Meyer’s mark of .832 ranks second while Bielema is fifth at .753. Chris Peterson of Boise State is first at .910, while Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (.802) is third and Gary Patterson of TCU (.772) is fourth.

** Both coaches have excellent records coming off regular-season open weeks. Meyer is a sparkling 14-1 during his career, including unblemished marks of 3-0 at Utah and 8-0 at Florida. Bielema is 5-1 after an off week, including last week’s 62-14 takedown of Indiana.

** Wisconsin will celebrate Senior Day tomorrow afternoon. Bielema is a spotless 6-0 in his previous Senior Day games.

** Bielema is 44-4 all-time at Camp Randall Stadium. However, the Badgers lost their last home game, 16-13 overtime decision to Michigan State on Oct. 27. That broke a 21-game home winning streak for Wisconsin.

** OSU has an all-time record of 12-4-1 playing on Nov. 17 while Wisconsin is 11-3-1 on that date. The two teams have squared off only once previously on Nov. 17 – a 35-10 win for the Buckeyes in Madison on Nov. 17, 1990.

** Ohio State’s current 10-game win streak is tied for the 12th longest in program history. Wisconsin has snapped a pair of lengthy OSU winning streaks in the past. The Badgers ended the Buckeyes’ 19-game streak with a 17-10 win in Madison in 2003, and a 7-7 tie at Camp Randall in 1958 snapped an Ohio State winning streak at 13 games.

** Meyer is enjoying the fourth single-season winning streak of his career that has reached double digits. Prior to this season, he had 12-game streaks at Utah (2004) and Florida (2009) and a 10-game streak at Florida in 2008.

** Counting Florida’s win over Penn State in the 2011 Outback Bowl, Meyer is currently riding a personal 11-game winning streak. That is tied for the third-longest in his career behind a 22-game streak at Florida in 2008-09 and a 20-game streak that stretched from Utah in 2003-04 through his first four games with the Gators in 2005.

** Ohio State has started the season with a 10-0 record for only the 10th time in program history. The Buckeyes also began the 1954, 1968, 1975, 1979, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2007 seasons with 10 straight victories.

** As it has been so many times in this series, the game will feature a classic matchup between the irresistible force and the immovable object. Only this year, the teams’ typical roles are reversed. Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten and eighth nationally in rushing with an average of 256.1 yards per game while Wisconsin ranks first in the conference and 13th in the nation against the run, surrendering an average of only 103.4 yards per contest.

** Ohio State is poised to rush for more touchdowns than it has in 30 years. The Buckeyes currently have 34 rushing TDs this season, the third highest total since 1983. OSU totaled 35 rushing touchdowns in both 1983 and ’84. The school record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season was set in 1974 when the Buckeyes had 48.

** You should not expect a shutout in tomorrow afternoon’s game. Wisconsin hasn’t been shut out since a 34-0 loss to Syracuse in the 1997 season opener and the Buckeyes haven’t been blanked since a 28-0 loss at Michigan in the 1993 regular-season finale.

** Penalties could play a major role in tomorrow’s game. Wisconsin is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging only 3.8 infractions for 33.0 yards per game. Ohio State is the most penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging 7.3 flags per game for 67.5 yards.

** Ohio State will undoubtedly try to score as much as possible, but cracking the 20-point mark is imperative against Wisconsin. In 16 meetings since 1992, the Buckeyes have scored more than 20 points six times against the Badgers and are 6-0 in those games.

** On the flip side of that coin, Wisconsin has scored 20 or more points six times in the 16 meetings since 1992 and is 5-1 in those games. The outlier was last year’s 33-29 loss to the Buckeyes.

** Wisconsin has 13 Ohio natives on its roster, including three starters – linebacker Chris Borland (Kettering Alter), defensive end Pat Muldoon (Cincinnati St. Xavier) and tight end Brian Wozniak (Loveland). Ohio State has no Wisconsin-born players.

** Wisconsin has made a bowl game and an NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearance every season since the 2002-03 academic year. UW is the only Division I school that can make that claim.

** Wisconsin senior running back Monteé Ball needs to score only one more touchdown to match the NCAA career record of 78 set by Miami (Ohio) RB Travis Prentice (1996-99). Prentice also holds the NCAA record in rushing touchdowns with 73. Ricky Williams of Texas (1995-98) is second with 72 and Ball has 71.

** In addition to total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, Ball is the NCAA active leader in scoring (464 points), rushing yards (4,536) and rushing yards per game (100.8).

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller has 1,166 yards rushing this season, the fourth highest single-season rushing total for a quarterback in Big Ten history. Denard Robinson of Michigan set the conference record in 2010 with 1,702 yards, surpassing Antwaan Randle El of Indiana, who rushed for 1,270 yards in 2000. Robinson also has the third highest QB rushing total in league history with 1,176 yards last season.

** Miller currently occupies 27th place on Ohio State’s career rushing list with 1,881 yards. He needs only 33 more to pass Vince Workman (1,882, 1985-88) and Jimmy Gayle (1,914, 1979-82) and move into the program’s all-time top 25.

** Miller is also moving up Ohio State’s career passing and total offense lists. He currently sits 12th all-time with 2,912 passing yards, just behind Todd Boeckman (3,085, 2005-08). Miller’s 4,793 yards of total offense is also 12th all-time with Craig Krenzel (5,097, 2000-03) currently in 11th place.

** OSU junior tailback Carlos Hyde is rapidly ascending the school’s career rushing ladder. With 1,444 yards, Hyde is currently tied with George Cooper (1984-87) for 38th place.

** OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown needs seven more catches to crack the school’s all-time top 25 in career receptions. Brown currently has 70 catches for 836 yards and four touchdowns.

** OSU sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier leads the team with 98 tackles and is seeking to become the first Buckeye sophomore to crack the century mark in a single season since James Laurinaitis in 2006.

** OSU senior defensive lineman John Simon currently has 39 career tackles for loss and 16½ career sacks. Simon is tied with Eric Kumerow (1984-87) and Na’il Diggs (1997-99) for ninth place in school history in tackles for loss, and he is in 12th place in career sacks. Simon needs one more sack to tie Andy Katzenmoyer (1996-98) and Rodney Bailey (1997-2000) for 10th place all-time.

** Ohio State has been compiling stats on pass breakups only since 1983, but sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby is within one of the Buckeyes’ single-season mark in that category. Roby has 16 PBUs this year, trailing only Ahmed Plummer, who had 17 during the 1998 season.

** As a team, the Buckeyes are poised to establish a new season record for PBUs. They have 67 so far, just one behind the mark of 68 set during the 2002 national championship season.

** This week’s kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. That is 2:30 p.m. Madison time if you’re traveling to the game. ABC will handle the telecast using the reverse mirror method with ESPN2. Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color analysis) and Quint Kessinich (sideline reports) make up the announce crew.

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

** Next week, Ohio Stadium will host the 109th renewal of The Game. Ohio State will host Michigan beginning shortly after 12 noon Eastern, a contest to be televised nationally by ABC.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 16, 1872, Yale played its first-ever football game, beating Columbia by a 3-0 score.

** On Nov. 16, 1940, No. 2 Cornell scored on a last-second touchdown pass to score a 6-3 victory over Dartmouth and extend the Big Red’s winning streak to 19 games. However, after a review of the game tape, officials determined the game-winning score had come after a fourth-down incompletion by Cornell and that Dartmouth should have taken over on downs. Cornell president Edmund E. Day, athletics director Jim Lynah and future College Football Hall of Fame coach Carl Snavely offered to concede the game, an offer Dartmouth accepted, and the contest went into the record books as a 3-0 victory for the Big Green.

** On Nov. 16, 1957, Notre Dame stopped Oklahoma’s NCAA-record winning streak at 47 games with a 7-0 victory over the Sooners in Norman.

** On Nov. 16, 1991, BYU and San Diego State combined to score 104 points, but finished deadlocked at 52-52, the highest-scoring tie in NCAA history.

** On Nov. 16, 1996, Washington running back Corey Dillon set an NCAA record with 305 total yards in one quarter – 222 rushing and 83 receiving – during his team’s 53-10 win over San Jose State. Dillon’s 222 rushing yards also established a new NCAA record for rushing yards in one quarter.

** On Nov. 17, 1906, Kansas took an 8-6 victory over Nebraska, beginning what was the longest continuous Division I-A series, one that unfortunately ended in 2010. The Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten the following season.

** On Nov. 17, 1923, Kansas City University lost a 131-0 decision to St. Mary’s (Kan.), capping a winless 0-6 season during which KCU was outscored by a 623-0 margin.

** On Nov. 17, 1956, Syracuse halfback Jim Brown set an NCAA record for single-game scoring, accounting for 43 points (rushing for six touchdowns and kicking seven PATs) during a 61-7 win over Colgate. Brown’s record stood until 1990 and still stands third all-time.

** On Nov. 17, 1990, Stanford erased a 25-18 deficit in the final 12 seconds to score a 27-25 victory over California in Berkeley. The Cardinal scored a touchdown with 0:12 showing on the clock to make it 25-24, but then missed a two-point conversion try. Cal fans couldn’t control themselves and stormed the field, resulting in a delay-of-game penalty. Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick, a roughing-the-passer penalty on the next play moved the ball to the Cal 22, and Cardinal PK John Hopkins won the game on a 39-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

** On Nov. 18, 1939, Iowa halfback Nile Kinnick sewed up the Heisman Trophy with a superlative performance during a 13-9 win over No. 20 Minnesota. With the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes trailing 9-0 in the fourth quarter, Kinnick threw touchdown passes of 45 and 28 yards and then sealed the win with an interception in the game’s final minute. Kinnick went on to win the 1939 Heisman, beating runner-up Tom Harmon of Michigan by 246 votes in the final balloting. Harmon would go on to win the 1940 Heisman.

** On Nov. 18, 1961, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen led Utah State to a 17-6 win over intrastate rival Utah in Salt Lake City. The win moved Utah State to 9-0-1 for the season, the Aggies’ best record in program history and their only undefeated regular season since 1936.

** On Nov. 18, 1978, Oklahoma running back Billy Sims rushed for 209 yards during a 62-7 win over Oklahoma State and broke the Big Eight’s single-season rushing record in the process.

** On Nov. 18, 1995, Wake Forest quarterback Rusty LaRue established an NCAA record for most pass completions during a three-game span when he connected 50 times for a school-record 545 yards during his team’s 52-23 loss to North Carolina State. Coupled with performances the previous two weeks vs. Duke and Georgia Tech, LaRue completed 146 of 210 attempts (69.5 percent) for 1,524 yards during the record-setting three-game stretch.

** On Nov. 19, 1966, top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing, a contest that has often been called “The Game of the Century.” Fighting Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty was knocked out of the game in the first quarter after getting sacked by Spartans defensive lineman Bubba Smith, and starting Notre Dame running back Nick Eddy missed the entire game after hurting his shoulder getting off the train in East Lansing. The Irish had the ball on their own 30-yard line with 1:10 to go in the game, but head coach Ara Parseghian chose to run out the clock, preserving the tie and his team’s No. 1 ranking. Notre Dame went on to win the 1966 national championship while Michigan State finished second.

** On Nov. 19, 1983, Oregon and Oregon State battled to a 0-0 tie in Eugene, the last scoreless tie in NCAA history due to the institution of overtime beginning in 1994.

** On Nov. 20, 1976, Kentucky took a 7-0 victory over Tennessee and marked its first victory in Knoxville in a dozen years. Running back Greg Woods raced 68 yards with a pass from QB Derrick Ramsey for the only score in the game, and clinched the Wildcats’ first bowl bid since 1952.

** On Nov. 20, 1982, SMU quarterback Lance McIlhenny drove his team 80 yards for a touchdown in the late going to forge a 17-17 tie with ninth-ranked Arkansas. SMU running back Eric Dickerson – who teamed with fellow running back Craig James to form the “Pony Express” (a.k.a. “The Best Backfield Money Could Buy”) – rushed for 81 yards in the contest to break the all-time Southwest Conference career record held by Earl Campbell of Texas. The tie denied SMU a perfect season and the national championship, but the Mustangs still finished the season ranked No. 2 with an 11-0-1 record.

** Also on Nov. 20, 1982, Stanford band members spilled onto the field to celebrate what they believed was an upset victory over California. As time expired, however, the Golden Bears used five lateral passes while weaving through the Cardinal band to score a touchdown as Kevin Moen mowed down a Stanford trombone player in the end zone. After five minutes of deliberation, officials awarded Cal the 25-20 victory, resulting in one of the most unorthodox victories in college football history.

** On Nov. 20, 1999, TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson set the NCAA single-game rushing record when he carried 43 times for 406 yards during a 52-24 win over UTEP in Fort Worth. Tomlinson’s 287 second-half yards also tied an NCAA record for rushing yards in one half.

** On Nov. 21, 1981, BYU tight end Gordon Hudson set an NCAA record for tight ends with 259 receiving yards during a 56-28 win over Utah.

** On Nov. 21, 1992, Washington State QB Drew Bledsoe threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns during a snowstorm in Pullman, leading the Cougars to a 42-23 upset of fifth-ranked Washington.
** On Nov. 22, 1875, Harvard took a 4-0 victory over Yale in the first-ever meeting of the Ivy League schools. They will celebrate their 128th meeting on Saturday.

** On Nov. 22, 1958, Pacific succeeded on an NCAA-record seven two-point conversions in nine attempts during a 68-17 victory over San Diego State.

** On Nov. 22, 1969, Michigan defensive back Barry Pierson returned a punt for a touchdown and intercepted three passes as the No. 12 Wolverines shocked defending national champion Ohio State with a 24-12 upset in Ann Arbor. It was the opening game in what became known as the legendary “Ten-Year War” between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

** On Nov. 22, 2003, Utah scored a 3-0 victory over BYU, ending the Cougars’ NCAA record of 361 consecutive games without being shut out. Utes kicker Bryan Borreson kicked a 41-yard field goal to account for the only points in a game buffeted by blustery winds and frequent snow squalls.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Only four unbeaten teams remain at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. In alphabetical order, they are Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oregon.

** For what it’s worth, here are the combined records of the opponents already vanquished by the aforementioned undefeated teams: Kansas State (49-48), Notre Dame (54-45), Ohio State (47-54) and Oregon (48-54).

** When Alabama was toppled by Texas A&M, that ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games. Oregon now owns the nation’s longest win streak. The Ducks have won 13 in a row.

** The nation’s longest losing streak is now 10 after Southern Miss went to SMU last weekend and came home with a 34-6 loss. The Golden Eagles, who came into this year with a streak of 18 consecutive winning seasons, have been outscored this season by a 378-179 margin. Southern Miss has not gone winless for an entire season since finishing 0-6 in 1925.

** Notre Dame is now 10-0 for the first time since 1993, and with a win tomorrow against 5-5 Wake Forest, the Fighting Irish can move to 11-0 for the first time since the 1989 national championship season. Notre Dame has better not get caught looking ahead to its season finale Nov. 24 at USC, however. The Irish squeezed out only a 24-17 decision at Wake last year, and five of their six home victories this season have come by seven points or fewer.

** Congratulations to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who notched his 146th career victory at OU with his team’s 42-34 win over Baylor last week. Stoops moved into second play on the school’s all-time victories list, passing legendary Bud Wilkinson, who was 145-29-4 with three national championships from 1947-63. Barry Switzer is Oklahoma’s all-time winningest coach with 157 victories from 1973-88.

** By the time you read this, Tennessee may have already fired head coach Derek Dooley. The Volunteers dropped to 0-6 in the SEC after last weekend’s 51-48 loss in four overtimes to Missouri, and need victories over Vanderbilt and Kentucky to avoid a third consecutive losing season. Tennessee hasn’t had three straight losing seasons since 1909-11.

** No one should have been surprised the Volunteers and Tigers played four overtimes last weekend. Tennessee and Missouri went into the game tied for the most all-time overtime victories with 10 each.

** Nebraska is quickly gaining attention as the Cardiac Cornhuskers. In the past seven weeks, NU has wiped out double-digit second-half deficits four times to stay in line for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. It all started Sept. 29 when the Huskers crawled out of a 27-10 hole with 10:29 to go in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin, 30-27. Three weeks later at Northwestern, NU pulled out a 29-28 win after trailing 28-16 with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter. Two weeks ago, Nebraska erased a 24-14 deficit with 14:20 remaining for a 28-24 win over Michigan State. And last week, the Huskers came back from a 20-6 halftime deficit to beat Penn State, 32-23.

** The ACC got in on the scoring show last Saturday when Georgia Tech scored a 68-50 victory over North Carolina. It was the highest scoring game in league history, surpassing the old mark set in 1968 when Virginia posted a 63-47 win over Tulane. The Yellow Jackets established a new single-game school record for most points scored in an ACC game, but the 68-point effort was a far cry from the all-time school mark. That was established in 1916 when Georgia Tech rolled to a 222-0 win over Cumberland.

** Before you anoint Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as the new Heisman Trophy frontrunner, you might want to know there is another redshirt freshman quarterback with better passing stats. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is currently the nation’s leader in pass efficiency, having completed 180 of 251 attempts (71.7 percent) for 2,164 yards, 28 TDs and five INTs. Manziel is 227 of 336 (67.6 percent) for 2,780 yards, 18 TDs and six INTs. Where Manziel has an edge over Mariota is the rushing department. A&M’s redshirt freshman QB has run for 1,014 yards and 15 TDs while Oregon’s has 516 yards and three touchdowns.

** Speaking of freshmen, Duke Johnson of Miami (Fla.) had a memorable game last weekend. The true freshman from Norland High School in Miami rushed for 150 yards, returned kicks for another 214 yards and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass for the Hurricanes. Unfortunately, Johnson’s big game was overshadowed by another defensive meltdown for Miami. The Hurricanes blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and eventually dropped a 41-40 decision at Virginia.

** Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey set a new single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 yards during the Wildcats’ 56-31 win over Colorado. The old conference mark of 357 yards had been held by Rueben Mayes of Washington State since 1984. Carey, who also tied a Pac-12 record with five rushing TDs in the game, shattered the old Arizona State single-game mark of 288 set by Trung Canidate against Arizona State in 1998.

** Massachusetts celebrated its first victory as FBS members last weekend with a 22-14 win over Akron. The Zips are experienced a rough ride in their first season under head coach Terry Bowden, who entered 2012 with a career mark of 140-62-2. With the loss to UMass, Akron dipped to 1-10 this season and is a lowly 3-32 since the beginning of the 2010 season.

** The first two official bowl invitations have been extended and accepted. Navy will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, set to be played Dec. 29 in San Francisco. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is in its 11th year of existence and fourth incarnation. It began in 2002 as the San Francisco Bowl and has also been known as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl (2002-03) and the Emerald Bowl (2004-09). Meanwhile, BYU will play in the eighth annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 20 in San Diego.

** If you have been reading this blog in recent weeks, you know that we have talked about Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron. Now, it seems Cameron is getting the tiniest bit of Heisman hype. It’s about time. Cameron has thrown 419 consecutive passes without an interception and has thrown for 3,283 yards and 27 TDs in leading the Bulldogs to a 9-1 record so far.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Everyone had last week off at Forecast Headquarters, resting on the laurels of a 10-0 week in the straight-up picks to kick off November. Against the spread wasn’t quite as good at 5-5, but we return from the layoff tanned, rested and ready to build on season totals of 80-20 straight up and 50-48-2 ATS.

Here are the games we’ll be watching this weekend.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 25 Kent State at Bowling Green: Our old pal Darrell Hazell is having a special season in Kent. The Golden Flashes have secured their first winning season since 2001, are ranked for the first time since 1973, and are working on a school-record eight-game winning streak. This week, they put all of that on the line – not to mention a potential MAC East title – against the Falcons, who are on a six-game winning streak of their own. The game should be a good one with Kent featuring the nation’s No. 15 rushing offense against BG’s run defense that ranks first in the MAC and 14th nationally. We would love to pick the Flashes, but close games usually go to the defense – especially if its the home team with the better D. Also, Kent is going for a third straight win over the Falcons, something it has never accomplished in series history that dates back to 1920 … Bowling Green 23, Kent State 20. (12 noon ET, ESPN3)

Iowa at No. 23 Michigan: QB Devin Gardner is getting more and more comfortable as Denard Robinson’s replacement, and that is good news for the Wolverines since Robinson has a nerve problem in his throwing elbow and could be sidelined for the rest of the season. Not that it should matter much this week against the underachieving Hawkeyes. The Fighting Ferentzes have shown little fight during a four-game losing streak that included their first losses to Indiana and Purdue since 2007. Iowa hasn’t experienced a five-game losing streak since 2000, but there is no indication from the way the Hawkeyes have played over the last month that they can put an end to their losing. Besides, Iowa ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive categories, while the Wolverines are second in the conference in total defense and third in fewest points allowed. The Hawkeyes typically play U-M tough, but it just doesn’t seem like an upset is in the cards  … Michigan 31, Iowa 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Western Carolina at No. 4 Alabama: Traveling to Tuscaloosa wasn’t going to be any picnic for the Catamounts under normal circumstances. Now, they have to face a bunch of angry Alabama players still stinging from last week’s upset loss to Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide still has a path to the national championship game – albeit much more difficult than this time last week – and Football Championship Subdivision member Western Carolina shouldn’t be much more than a speed bump. The Catamounts rank 120th out of 122 FCS schools in total defense and are on a nine-game losing streak during which they have surrendered an average of 42.9 points per game. In other words, it is a classic get-well game for the Tide … Alabama 56, Western Carolina 7. (12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network, DirectTV 788)

Jacksonville State at No. 7 Florida: The bad news for the Gators is that they will be without starting QB Jeff Driskel, who turned an ankle during last week’s too-close-for-comfort 27-20 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The good news is that Florida’s opponent this week ranks 108th in total defense among FCS schools, so it might not matter who is under center for the Gators. The Gamecocks have a pretty good offensive attack with QB Marques Ivory (1,908 yards, 16 TDs) and RBs DaMarcus James and Washaun Ealey (1,555 yards, 16 TDs). But the Gators are working on a streak of 50 consecutive wins against non-BCS opponents, and they have never lost to an FCS school. Don’t expect either of those streaks to end this week … Florida 38, Jacksonville State 14. (1 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 790)

Georgia Southern at No. 5 Georgia: The Bulldogs can afford to do a little celebrating this week, stepping out of conference play to host the FCS Eagles. Georgia clinched its spot in the SEC title game with last week’s 38-0 shutout of Auburn, and could sneak its way into the national championship picture with a little help. Still, UGA would do well to keep its focus on Southern, a team that sits at No. 6 in the country in the old Division I-AA rankings. The Eagles feature a triple-option attack that averages better than 400 yards per game on the ground, a spot where the Bulldogs have been susceptible at times this year. No one believes Southern can engineer the upset, but the home team had better not get caught napping, either … Georgia 41, Georgia Southern 24. (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 792)

Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame: It seems likely the Demon Deacons can go into South Bend – on Senior Day, no less – and ruin the hopes of the Fighting Irish for an undefeated season. At 5-5, Wake needs a win this week and/or next against Vanderbilt to get to a bowl and end a string of three straight losing seasons. Notre Dame, of course, has bigger fish to fry and could be looking ahead to next week’s regular-season finale at USC. Still, it’s difficult to imagine the offensively-challenged Deacons pulling off the upset. Wake ranks 106th in the country in scoring offense while the Irish have the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense. Look for the Domers to make a statement … Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Sam Houston State at No. 9 Texas A&M: So much for flying under the radar. The Aggies and redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel stepped firmly into the spotlight last week, going into Tuscaloosa and coming home with a 29-24 upset over defending national champion Alabama. A&M bolstered its chances for a BCS at-large berth, Manziel is suddenly everyone’s darling for the Heisman Trophy, and first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin jumped to the top of the list for national coach of the year. This week, the Aggies return home to face the FCS Bearkats, who are no slouch. They have already clinched a share of a second straight conference title and have won seven games in a row, outscoring their opponents by a 264-34 margin during that stretch. Of course, they haven’t seen anything like Manziel … Texas A&M 45, Sam Houston State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 789)

Minnesota at No. 16 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have turned late comebacks into an air form lately, erasing double-digit deficits four times over the past seven weeks to stay on track for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game opposite Wisconsin. This week, NU doesn’t figure to need a comeback against a team its has beaten 15 straight times. The Golden Gophers are experiencing a bit of a renaissance under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. They are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009, and have won two of their last three. Minnesota still isn’t quite on par offensively with the Cornhuskers, however, and Goldy really has no answer for Nebraska’s one-two punch of QB Taylor Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah. A couple of other things that tilt this one NU’s way – the Gophers have lost 23 of their last 24 against ranked opponents and haven’t beaten one on the road since 2005 … Nebraska 38, Minnesota 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

No. 2 Kansas State at Baylor: The Wildcats would do well not to look past this game to the Dec. 1 season finale against Texas. The Bears are laying in wait to do to K-State exactly what Texas A&M did to Alabama last week. Baylor might not have RG-3 at the controls any more, but the Bears still boast the nation’s No. 2 passing attack behind QB Nick Florence (3,191 yards, 25 TDs) and WR Terrance Williams (77 catches, 1,431 yards, 10 TDs). Additionally, Waco has not been very friendly to the Wildcats in recent years. They have lost on their last two trips to the Floyd, and even last year’s home win over the Bears was a 36-35 accomplished only with a fourth-quarter rally. We haven’t been too good with the Upset Specials this season, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop picking them … Baylor 34, Kansas State 31. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 6 Ohio State at Wisconsin: There are compelling reasons why oddsmakers favor the Badgers. Wisconsin has won 44 of 48 home games under head coach Bret Bielema, OSU has come home losers on three of its last four trips to Madison, and its Senior Day at Camp Randall with running back Monteé Ball poised to become college football’s all-time leader in touchdowns. Additionally, the Buckeyes are trying to close out an unblemished season, an accomplishment so difficult it has been done only five times in program history. Yet, we can’t get last year’s game out of our minds. Most people only remember Braxton Miller’s game-winning 40-yard heave to Devin Smith in the final minute, but the Buckeyes outplayed the Badgers in nearly every phase of the game. Most fans forget Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson threw for a pair of touchdowns to erase what had been a 26-14 OSU lead with 4:39 remaining and give the Badgers a 28-26 lead with 1:18 to play. Russell’s absence coupled with the Buckeyes’ ability to stop the run makes the difference … Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 27. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Kent State at Bowling Green (-2½); Iowa (+20) at Michigan; Western Carolina at Alabama (NL); Jacksonville State at Florida (NL); Georgia Southern at Georgia (NL); Wake Forest at Notre Dame (-22); Sam Houston State at Texas A&M (NL); Minnesota (+20) at Nebraska; Kansas State at Baylor (+13); Ohio State (+2½) at Wisconsin.

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

My Annual Trip To The Graveyard

It very nearly didn’t happen this year.

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do you think you’re going?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That fine coach?” I said.

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

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

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

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

I was quickly cut off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

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

TODAY’S GAMES

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the games and have a safe holiday weekend.

My Take On RichRod And The OSU-Michigan Rivalry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tressel Had It Right (Again) At Illinois

When Jim Tressel retreated into his ultraconservative shell in the second half of last weekend’s 24-13 victory at Illinois, old complaints that always seem just on the fringes of the Buckeye Nation began anew.

It’s pretty much a given that fans always want more offense. (In the spirit of full disclosure, most sportswriters do, too.) But exactly what did you expect from Tressel when his franchise quarterback went down in a heap early in the third quarter?

The gripe always seems to be that Tressel is way too conservative on offense, and compared to the go-for-the-jugular mentalities of most college coaches today, the OSU boss is too nice for his own good. It wasn’t very surprising, then, that the old grumblings about Tressel surfaced when Terrelle Pryor suffered what initially appeared to be a serious leg injury against Illinois.

Most critics figured it was the same old, close-to-the-sweater-vest Tressel using Pryor’s injury as an excuse to button up his offense in a tight game. Even when Pryor returned after only a handful of plays, the quarterback seemed to be OK despite a visible heavy wrap on his left thigh. Still, the coach wouldn’t let him do much of anything other than hand the ball to tailback Boom Herron.

My rebuttal? Tressel did exactly what he should have done in that situation. In fact, he turned in one of his better coaching jobs.

Anyone can look like a genius when his team is scoring 73 points and throttling weaker opponents without working up a sweat. Coaches earn their salaries – and I mean really earn them – by figuring ways to get their teams across the finish line in the toughest of situations.

Ohio State was on the road in its Big Ten opener playing against an Illinois team that had two weeks to prepare what looked like a pretty innovative game plan. Pryor, who had set up both of the Buckeyes’ first-half touchdowns with long runs and had already accounted for 150 of his team’s 167 yards of total offense, lay grimacing on the Memorial Stadium turf.

That’s when you expected Tressel to get fancy?

The OSU head coach did exactly what he should have done in that situation. He quickly scrapped the prepared game strategy for one that provided maximum protection for his team’s slight scoreboard advantage. Losing your Heisman Trophy candidate was like a bolt of lightning, so Tressel simply reverted to his worst-case-scenario philosophy – play ball-control on offense and rely on your defense to stop the opposition.

The bottom line for any head coach is winning, and any head coach will tell you they couldn’t care less how that winning is achieved as long as it is achieved. The Buckeyes were in a battle away from home, already without their starting tight end and now without their star player.

In that situation, you win the surest way by reducing your potential for making mistakes. You stay out of the air as much as you can – especially when the wind was howling like it always seems to do in Champaign – and you certainly don’t rely on untested players to handle the football.

You also err on the side of caution with your franchise quarterback no matter how close to 100 percent he tells you he feels.

Over the years, I have been as critical as anyone when it comes to Tressel and his conservative nature. All things being equal, I have often wondered why he sometimes likes to keep his fireworks wrapped in a plain brown wrapper.

But all things were not equal at Illinois. Not even close. In that situation, any coach worth his salt would do exactly what Tressel did – milk the clock as long as possible and then go play defense.

Throwing the football all over the lot and racking up style points certainly have their place, but winning trumps both every time. And no matter how they are achieved, no matter what else happens around the country, a win every Saturday remains the goal for every college football team.

Reach that goal at Ohio State and it doesn’t matter what happens with Boise State, Oregon, TCU, Oklahoma or Nebraska. You’re playing for the national championship.

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 84th time on Saturday with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 66-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 42-10-4 record in Ohio Stadium, including wins in each of the last eight games played in Columbus.

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 15-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.

** Since the Hoosiers took a 32-10 victory at Ohio Stadium in 1951, they have a 1-29-1 record in the Horseshoe. The lone victory was a 31-10 decision in 1987 and the tie was a 0-0 deadlock in 1959.

** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is a perfect 6-0 against the Hoosiers. The average margin of victory for the Buckeyes in those games has been 28.5 points.

** Indiana head coach Bill Lynch is in his fourth season with the Hoosiers and is playing the Buckeyes for the second time. He will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 58 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88.

** Tressel has an 8-1 record in Big Ten home openers, including wins in each of the past five seasons. The only blemish on that mark is a 24-13 loss to Wisconsin in 2004.

** All-time, Ohio State is 68-23-4 in conference home openers. That includes a 14-1-1 mark against the Hoosiers.

** Tressel will be seeking his 100th career victory tomorrow at Ohio State. If he reaches that milestone, he do so in his 121st game with the Buckeyes. Only Michigan head coaches Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler have reached 100 career wins quicker at a Big Ten school. Yost and Schembechler accomplished 100 wins in 119 games with the Wolverines.

** Tressel is making a rapid rise up the ladder in terms of all-time Big Ten victories. Last week’s win over Illinois was the coach’s 60th conference victory, making him only the 13th man in history with 60 or more Big Ten wins. Seven more league victories would move Tressel into the all-time top 10 and past George Perles of Michigan State (66, 1983-94), Murray Warmath of Minnesota (66, 1954-71) and Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin (65, 1990-2005). Legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes (1951-78) is the career leader in conference victories with 152.

** Lynch is in his fourth season with the Hoosiers and his 18th year as a head coach. He has a 98-91-3 career record with stops at Butler (his alma mater), Ball State and DePauw as well as Indiana.

** Ohio State ranks first or second in the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense, fourth-down conversions, total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, pass defense, turnover margin, PAT kicking and time of possession. Meanwhile, Indiana ranks first or second in the league in pass offense, kickoff returns, third-down conversions and PAT kicking.

** The Buckeyes have been remarkably consistent on offense this season regardless of the down. They are averaging 6.l yards on first down, 6.9 on second down and 6.8 on third down. OSU is averaging only 2.8 yards on fourth down, but the Buckeyes are a perfect 5 for 5 in fourth-down conversions.

** Indiana has 17 native Ohioans on its roster – three of which are projected to start against the Buckeyes – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, who hails from Merrillville, and freshman tailback Rod Smith of Fort Wayne.

** IU quarterback Ben Chappell set single-game school records last week for completions (45), attempts (65) and yardage (480). Chappell is among the top six at Indiana all-time in completions, passing yardage, attempts, touchdown passes and total offense as well as being the most accurate passer in program history with a career completion percentage of 62.4. That is far ahead of second place occupied by Babe Laufenberg (1981-82) at 58.6.

** One Indiana passing record Chappell did not eclipse last week was the school’s longstanding mark for touchdown passes in a single game. Freshman quarterback Bob Hoernschemeyer threw six TDs during a 54-13 victory over Nebraska in 1943.

** While an Indiana upset of Ohio State would be surprising enough, the odds of the Hoosiers shutting out the Buckeyes would be astronomical. Indiana hasn’t pitched a shutout since a 10-0 win over Michigan State in October 1993 while Ohio State hasn’t been shut out since a 28-0 loss at Michigan in November 1993. The Buckeyes haven’t experienced a shutout loss at home since a 6-0 defeat to Wisconsin in October 1982.

** With 180 yards of total offense last week against Illinois, OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor increased his career total to 6,203 and moved up two more notches into fifth place on the school’s career list in that category. He passed Greg Frey (6,098, 1987-90) and Joe Germaine (6,094, 1996-98). Next up is Steve Bellisari (6,496, 1998-2001).

** Pryor also now has 4,420 career passing yards and needs only 74 more to move past Craig Krenzel (4,493, 2000-03) into ninth place on the school’s all-time list.

** This week’s game will be telecast by ESPN with Dave Pasch handling the play by play, Bob Griese and Chris Spielman providing color analysis, and Quint Kessenich reporting from the sidelines. The game will also be telecast by ESPN3-D with Dave Lamont, Tim Brown and Ray Bentley on the call. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 90 and 127 as well as XM channels 102 and 197.

** Next week, Ohio State visits Camp Randall Stadium to play Wisconsin. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Eastern and the game will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** 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, 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. 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.

** 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, 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 on 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, 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.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Seven more unbeaten teams have fallen by the wayside since last week’s blog, leaving 17 with perfect records at the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) level. Alphabetically, they are Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Boise State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU and Utah.

** If you’re keeping score by conference as far as the undefeated teams are concerned, the Big 12 and Big Ten lead the way with four each. The SEC has three and the Pac-10, WAC and Mountain West each have two undefeated teams remaining.

** On the other side of the ledger, six Division I-A teams remain winless: Akron, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Western Kentucky. That list will be pared by at least two tomorrow when New Mexico and New Mexico State square off in Las Cruces while Western Kentucky travels to Florida International for a Sun Belt conference battle. Akron and Eastern Michigan are Mid-American Conference rivals but they do not meet this season.

** Alabama owns the longest current winning streak in I-A with 19 wins in a row. Western Kentucky has the longest current losing streak at 24.

** Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has run (and thrown) himself into the Heisman Trophy race. When he ran for 217 yards and threw for a career-best 277 last Saturday against Indiana, Robinson became the first player in I-A history to pass and rush for 200 yards in a game twice during the regular season. Robinson leads the nation in rushing (905 yards, eight TDs), is fourth in pass efficiency (1,008 yards, seven TDs, one INT) and ranks No. 2 nationally in total offense with an average of 382.6 yards per game.

** Robinson’s 905 rushing yards is already the third-highest single-season total for a Big Ten quarterback. Antwaan Randle El of Indiana holds down both of the top spots with 1,270 yards in 2000 and 964 in 2001.

** Texas has the week off after last week’s 28-20 loss to Oklahoma. The Longhorns will head to seventh-ranked Nebraska on Oct. 16 trying to avoid their first three-game regular-season losing streak in the Mack Brown era. No Texas team has lost three games in a row during the regular season since 1997 when the Longhorns dropped four in a row under head coach John Mackovic and finished 4-7. Mackovic was let go after that season and Brown was hired away from North Carolina.

** Here’s a totally off-the-wall stat: Oklahoma and Alabama have each played two ranked opponents and have won both games. The 17 other schools that have played two ranked opponents so far this season are a combined 0-39.

** ESPN may be second-guessing its exclusive contract to telecast BYU games when the Cougars leave the Mountain West and go independent next season. The Cougars are now 1-4, their worst start to a season since 1973, and defensive coordinator Jaime Hill got pink-slipped after last Saturday’s 31-16 loss to Utah State. The Aggies had lost 10 in a row in the series with BYU, and beat the Cougars for the first time since a 58-56 thriller in 1993.

** Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray is chasing a pair of longstanding school records. Murray has 55 career touchdowns and needs three more to pass the career mark held for more than 40 years by Steve Owens (1967-69). Murray is also bearing down on the school mark for all-purpose yards currently owned by Joe Washington (1972-75). Murray heads into this weekend with 5,478 all-purpose yards; Washington holds the OU career mark with 5,881.

** Congratulations to William & Mary, who ended defending Football Championship Subdivision national champion Villanova’s 12-game win streak against I-AA opponents last weekend. W&M scored a 31-24 victory that was especially sweet since the Tribe lost a 14-13 decision to Villanova in last year’s national semifinals.

** By the way, there are only four unbeaten teams left at the I-AA level. They are Appalachian State, Bethune-Cookman, Delaware and Jacksonville State, and one of the those teams already owns a victory over a Division I-A team this year. Jacksonville State defeated Mississippi, 49-48 in double overtime, earlier this season and Appalachian State gets its crack at the big boys Nov. 20 when the Mountaineers travel to No. 12 Florida.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The picks slipped ever so slightly last week, misfiring on Wisconsin-Michigan State as well as the Upset Special when Stanford couldn’t hold an early 21-3 lead over Oregon before getting blown out by a 52-31 score. Still, we were 9-2 straight up for the week and that makes us 48-5 for the season.

Against the spread, we suffered the first real hiccup of the season as a 4-7 week dropped the ATS mark to 30-20-3 for the season. We’re still well above water but need to do much better this week to stay that way.

Here are the lucky 13 games we’ll be watching this week.

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 22 Oklahoma State at Louisiana-Lafayette: Among the four undefeated teams in the Big 12, no one seems to be talking about Oklahoma State. The Cowboys overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit last week to take a 38-35 thriller over Texas A&M, and now they hit the road for some primetime nonconference action. OSU features a potent passing attack with quarterback Brandon Weeden (1,259 yards, 13 TDs) and receiver Justin Blackmon (34 receptions, 558 yards, nine TDs) although the Cowboys are prone to mistakes. That shouldn’t really matter tonight although the Ragin’ Cajuns have won their last two against Big 12 opponents … Oklahoma State 45, Louisiana-Lafayette 14. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Minnesota at No. 20 Wisconsin: How to beat the Badgers isn’t any big secret. Hold down their running game and they struggle. That’s exactly what happened last week when Michigan State held Wisconsin running back John Clay under 100 yards and out of the end zone during a 34-24 win for the Spartans. It’s difficult to see how the Gophers can duplicate that game plan, though. They enter tomorrow’s contest ranked 10th in the Big Ten and 96th nationally against the run. Look for Clay and the Badgers to bounce back and make Tim Brewster’s seat that much hotter in Minneapolis … Wisconsin 37, Minnesota 21. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Wyoming at No. 5 TCU: Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman did no favors for his football team when making out the 2010 schedule. The Cowboys have already absorbed a 51-6 whipping courtesy of Boise State and now they embark upon a two-week stretch that includes TCU and Utah. The Horned Frogs haven’t had any trouble racing out to a 5-0 start, outscoring their opposition by a 205-62 margin, and it could be more of the same against Wyoming. The Cowboys rank 119th out of 120 Division I-A schools in total offense and they’re 110th in total defense. Add to those ugly numbers the fact that Wyoming has lost 12 in a row to ranked teams and you get the recipe for a blowout … TCU 55, Wyoming 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports)

No. 11 Arkansas vs. Texas A&M: The Razorbacks and Aggies renewed their rivalry last year when Arkansas rolled to a 47-19 victory in then-new Cowboys Stadium. That probably warmed the heart of former Razorbacks player Jerry Jones, and the Dallas Cowboys owner will be on hand again tomorrow afternoon when the teams return to his $1 billion playhouse. Not much has changed from last year other than the fact the Razorbacks are actually a little better than they were in ’09. They couldn’t quite hang on against Alabama a couple of weeks ago, partly because star quarterback Ryan Mallett pitched three interceptions. But since then Mallett has been on the money and he threw for 271 yards and four TDs last year against A&M. The Aggies can chuck the ball around pretty well, too, but not well enough … Arkansas 31, Texas A&M 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional)

No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 South Carolina: Can anyone derail the Tide’s march to another national championship game? The Gamecocks are next in line to try, coming off an open week following their 35-27 loss to Auburn on Sept. 25. You have to know that Steve Spurrier will have a few tricks up his sleeve and he’d better, especially on defense. SC gave up 334 yards to Auburn and that’s a big sign heading into a game that will feature Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson on the other side. The duo has already combined for 774 yards and 10 touchdowns not to mention a collective average of 7.6 yards per carry. That is potentially lethal against the Gamecocks, who make too many mistakes to entertain any thought of an upset … Alabama 34, South Carolina 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan: The Spartans and Wolverines enter their rivalry match undefeated for the first time since 1999. MSU is also trying to extend its win streak in the series to three in a row, something that hasn’t happened since 1965-67. If Sparty wants that victory, he’s going to have to figure out some way to stop Michigan QB Denard Robinson. No one else has as the sophomore has dazzled his way into the Heisman race. Load up to stop Robinson from running like Indiana did last week and he’ll beat you through the air. Hang back and he’ll carve up your defense like a Thanksgiving turkey. Robinson’s critics claim he hasn’t faced a defense as strong as the one he’ll see tomorrow but from what little I’ve seen from the Spartans’ D, it’s a read-and-react unit and that plays right into Robinson’s strengths … Michigan 35, Michigan State 31. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

No. 3 Oregon at Washington State: Fireworks from the Quack Attack ought to continue this week with the high-flying Ducks visiting the Palouse. Oregon features the No. 1 offense in the nation (56.6 points, 569.2 yards per game) while the Cougars have one of the worst defensive units in college football. Among the 120 teams at the I-A level, Wazzu ranks 101st in pass defense, 109th in pass efficiency defense, 116th in scoring defense, 117th in rushing defense and 118th in total defense. As bad as defensive those numbers are, the Cougars aren’t very good on offense, either – they’re 109th in rushing and 92nd in scoring. It all adds up to a beatdown that will likely leave some nasty bruises … Oregon 63, Washington State 0. (5 p.m. ET, CSN)

Oregon State at No. 9 Arizona: Oregon is getting all the hype in the Pac-10 but the Wildcats are quietly putting together something special. While the Ducks dazzle with their offense, Arizona does it the old-fashioned way with defense and solid special teams. Mike Stoops’ team ranks second in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense, and it’s ranked No. 1 in kickoff returns. The Wildcats come off an open week to entertain the Beavers, who cranked up some offense last week during a 31-28 win over Arizona State. But Oregon State still ranks 10th in the Pac-10 in total offense, and when you combine that with an eighth-place standing in total defense, you can see why Arizona is favored to break the Beavers’ current four-game win streak in Tucson … Arizona 20, Oregon State 10. (6 p.m. ET, Versus)

No. 10 Utah at Iowa State: Here are a few pertinent numbers. The Utes are coming off an open week and they are 5-0 coming off open weeks under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Utah has an 11-game win streak going against unranked opponents. Iowa State is 3-0 at home this season and 4-0 all-time against Utah. Of course, the Cyclones’ victories in the series came in 1970s when the Utes bore no resemblance to the team that has been one of the top offensive units for the better part of the last decade. This year, Utah not only scores points (44.3 per game), it also has a smothering defense that allows only 12.8 points per game. For an Iowa State team that has struggled at times on both sides of the ball, that is a scary proposition … Utah 43, Iowa State 14. (7 p.m. ET, Fox College)

Purdue at Northwestern: How much harder could the injury bug bite the Boilermakers? All-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith, running back Ralph Bolden and quarterback Robert Marve are all out with season-ending knee injuries leaving Purdue scrambling. Marve’s backup, Rob Henry, is raw – he just started playing the quarterback position four years ago. Meanwhile, the Wildcats will likely be without star tight end Drake Dunsmore but that shouldn’t make for much of a slowdown in the NU offense. QB Dan Persa has already accounted for more than 1,600 yards of total offense and ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 3 nationally in pass efficiency. The Wildcats needed a late field goal to beat Minnesota last week but shouldn’t need any comeback magic this week … Northwestern 27, Purdue 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 8 Auburn at Kentucky: If you haven’t been paying attention to the Tigers, perhaps it’s time you did. They have their own version of Denard Robinson in quarterback Cam Newton, a JUCO transfer who is second nationally in pass efficiency while averaging 94.8 yards rushing per game. As a result of Newton’s play, Auburn is looking to start 6-0 for the first time in six years. Standing in the way – as they usually do – are the Wildcats, who scored a 21-14 upset win at Auburn last year. Kentucky has a couple of electrifying players in its own right in running back Derrick Locke and receiver Randall Cobb, but the Wildcats are 11th in the SEC both in rushing defense and total defense. Watch them struggle trying to corral Newton … Auburn 31, Kentucky 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Toledo at No. 4 Boise State: By now you know the story. Despite a 59-0 win over New Mexico State, the Broncos got jumped in the polls by Oregon, a penalty Boise paid for its weak schedule. Things don’t figure to get much tougher this week when the Rockets invade the Smurf Turf, where the Broncos enjoy a 57-game winning streak. Boise State QB Kellen Moore is a legitimate Heisman candidate (1,069 yards, 11 TDs) and he ought to be able to pad those numbers and Toledo which ranks 11th in the 13-team MAC in pass defense. Even more to the point is the fact the Rockets are coming off a 20-15 loss to Wyoming, the same Wyoming team that two weeks earlier absorbed a 51-6 beating administered by the Broncos … Boise State 52, Toledo 3. (8 p.m. ET, WAC Network/Sports Time Ohio)

Indiana at No. 2 Ohio State: Brandon Saine, Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde should be licking their chops this week as the Buckeyes take on an Indiana defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten defending the run. To be blunt, if you can’t run on the Hoosiers you need to take a serious look at how your running game does business. That said, Indiana comes to Columbus loaded for bear on offense. IU quarterback Ben Chappell ranks fifth nationally in total offense and 12th in pass efficiency, and he has some big, physical receivers who could give fits to some of the smaller OSU defenders. Still, if the Buckeyes can control the tempo of the game by running the ball, and if Terrelle Pryor is anything close to 100 percent, Ohio State should be able to continue its mastery in this series. The Buckeyes are looking for their 16th consecutive win over the Hoosiers and their 42nd victory in the past 43 home games against unranked opponents … Ohio State 41, Indiana 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Oklahoma State (-21) at Louisiana-Lafayette; Minnesota (+22) at Wisconsin; Wyoming at TCU (-34); Arkansas (-5) vs. Texas A&M; Alabama (-6½) at South Carolina; Michigan State (+4½) at Michigan; Oregon (-35½) at Washington State; Oregon State at Arizona (-7½); Utah (-6½) at Iowa State; Purdue (+9½) at Northwestern; Auburn (-6) at Kentucky; Toledo at Boise State (-38½); Indiana (+22½) at Ohio State.

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

Counting Down Ohio State’s 2010 Opponents

I’ll admit it. After the last couple of seasons, I was so ready for Ohio State football to be over I couldn’t see straight.

What a difference a postseason victory makes. Now, I find myself anticipating what could be a special season in 2010. Of course, we have to get through the rest of winter, spring football, summer conditioning and fall camp, but the fact remains that exactly 31 weeks from today, OSU will kick off the 2010 football season at home against Marshall.

The Buckeyes will be shooting for a sixth consecutive Big Ten championship, seeking to tie their own conference record set between 1972 and ’77. The team will also be shooting for an unprecedented seventh straight victory over archrival Michigan while attempting to extend their string of Bowl Championship Series berths to six in a row.

Those goals seem well within the Buckeyes’ grasp, but there are others. Terrelle Pryor will embark upon his third season as a starter and seek to build upon his Rose Bowl performance. Could he challenge Alabama running back Mark Ingram for the Heisman Trophy? Why not?

Then there is the holy grail for all Division I-A teams: the BCS National Championship Game. The title game will be played in a familiar venue, at least for the Buckeyes – University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. – and if Ohio State can get to the championship contest, it would become only the second team in BCS history to play in four title games. (Oklahoma is the other one.)

Before any of that can occur, of course, the Buckeyes must get through a 2010 season that features some tough road contests. For those of you experiencing football withdrawal, here is a breakdown of the team’s schedule next fall in reverse order of difficulty.

12. Eastern Michigan (Sept. 25) – Anything resembling success would be an improvement for the Eagles. Their 0-12 record this past season was only the tip of the iceberg. There are 120 schools playing Division I-A football, and EMU ranked near the bottom in several major statistical categories including 116th in total offense and 117th in scoring defense.

Things quite simply couldn’t have gotten much worse for first-year head coach Ron English, who spent five seasons on Lloyd Carr’s staff including three as defensive coordinator. The good news is that a lot of youngsters got extensive experience last season, including Alex Gillett at quarterback, one of nine freshmen who started multiple games for the Eagles.

The date with EMU will mark the second straight game for the Buckeyes against a team from the Mid-American Conference. The two teams have never met, but OSU is 26-1 against current members of the MAC with the only blemish a 12-6 loss to Akron in an 1894 game played at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

11. Marshall (Sept. 2) – The Thundering Herd are coming off a 7-6 finish, their first winning record since 2004. That still wasn’t enough to save Mark Snyder, the former OSU defensive coordinator who resigned as head coach prior to the team’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl win over Ohio.

In Snyder’s place, Marshall hired John “Doc” Holliday, who knows a little bit about Ohio State. He was in charge of safeties on Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida when the Gators rolled to a 41-14 win over the Buckeyes in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.

Holliday was also recruiting coordinator for Meyer, and he has already attracted what many experts say is Marshall’s best recruiting class in years. That will help plug some holes created by the departure of such All-Conference USA performers as tight end Cody Slate, linebacker Mario Harvey and kicker Craig Ratanamorn.

10. Ohio (Sept. 18) – Frank Solich begins his sixth season in Athens looking for some consistency. The Bobcats won nine games last year, but have yet to put together back-to-back winning seasons under Solich. The fact of the matter is OU hasn’t experienced consecutive winners since 1979-80.

If Solich is going to break that streak, he is going to have to find some more offense. Despite winning nine games last year, the Bobcats had one of the most anemic attacks in college football including a running game that accounted for only 112.0 yards per game.

Ohio-based teams haven’t had much success against Ohio State over the last 90 years or so. The Buckeyes are working on a 38-game unbeaten streak against in-state rivals that stretches back to a 7-6 loss to Oberlin in 1921. The Bobcats are 0 for 6 lifetime against Ohio State, including a 26-14 loss in 2008.

9. Indiana (Oct. 9) – The Hoosiers have lost 14 of their last 16 conference games and things may not get much better in 2010 if IU can’t figure out a way to stop their opponents. Two-time team MVP Jammie Kerlew is gone along with defensive end running mate Greg Middleton, not exactly the best news for a unit that ranked 10th in the Big Ten in both yardage and points allowed last season.

On the plus side, head coach Bill Lynch is beginning to embrace a power attack on offense and has a potential stud in running back Darius Willis, who had 607 yards as a freshman. If the offensive line can jell, and quarterback Ben Chappell can continue to build a rapport with talented young receivers such as Tandon Ross, the Hoosiers could at least be entertaining on that side of the ball.

The early portion of IU’s schedule is a soft one, including a Big Ten opener at home with Michigan. But then the Hoosiers must travel to Columbus, where they have lost 29 of their last 31 games, including eight in a row.

8. At Illinois (Oct. 2) – On the heels of another disappointing season in Champaign, Fighting Illini fans will likely have little patience with Ron Zook. The head coach enters his sixth season with a 21-39 record at Illinois, a mark that is skewed to the upside by the 2007 Rose Bowl season.

The pressure to win and win quickly won’t be eased by an early nonconference schedule that features Missouri and Cincinnati before mid-September. The Illini get a mini-break with an open week before hosting the Buckeyes, and they’ll likely need it. UI has lost seven in a row at home to Ohio State. Another break in scheduling is the fact that neither Iowa nor Wisconsin are on Illinois’ Big Ten slate in 2010.

Still, Zook is going to have to plug several big holes in his starting lineup, specifically on offense with the losses of playmaking receiver Arrelious Benn, who left early for the NFL, and veteran quarterback Juice Williams. New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who left his brother Bobby’s staff at Arkansas, heads a coaching staff overhaul.

7. Purdue (Oct. 23) – The Boilermakers certainly got plenty of mileage from their 26-18 victory over Ohio State in mid-October. That signature win ended a five-game losing streak and propelled Purdue to victories in four of their last seven contests.

For all of that late-season success, however, the Boilermakers still finished with a 5-7 record, their second straight losing season. Purdue hasn’t experienced three consecutive losing campaigns since posting 12 in a row between 1985 and 1996, a stretch that cost three head coaches their jobs.

If Danny Hope expects to escape the same fate that befell Leon Burtnett, Fred Akers and Jim Colletto, he will have to find a suitable replacement for senior quarterback Joey Elliott, who threw for 3,026 yards and 22 TDs last season. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Boilers boilered up a little more on defense. They surrendered 29.1 points per game last year to rank ninth in the conference in scoring defense.

6. At Minnesota (Oct. 30) – The Golden Gophers opened their new on-campus TCF Bank Stadium last season but took what was perceived to be a step backward. The team finished 6-7, and that dropped head coach Tim Brewster’s three-year mark to 14-24.

Part of the problem has been a lack of consistency with the coaching staff, particularly on offense. Former Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton will become Brewster’s third offensive coordinator in as many years, and it remains to be seen what kind of attack Horton will run.

Anything would be an improvement over last season. Despite the presence of several veterans including third-year starting quarterback Adam Weber, Minnesota finished dead last in the conference in rushing, scoring and total offense.

5. Michigan (Nov. 27) – Several Big Ten coaches would seem to be on the hot seat, but none more than Rich Rodriguez. Although his team improved its overall record to 5-7, the cold, hard truth remains that the Wolverines have lost 13 of 16 conference games under Rodriguez. That is the program’s worst stretch since the mid-1930s.

Despite last year’s uptick in terms of overall wins, there is reason to believe the Wolverines aren’t really making many strides toward overall improvement. The offense got better last year, finishing 59th in the country, but U-M was still a lowly 82nd in total defense and 115th in turnover margin.

Meanwhile, Ohio State has continued its unprecedented streak of success in the series. The Buckeyes have won six in a row and eight of the last nine, and that includes a 4-0 mark in Columbus under Tressel.

4. Penn State (Nov. 13) – Joe Paterno needs six more wins to reach 400 for his career, and that may be easier said that done. After compiling 40 victories over the past four seasons, 2010 could be a rebuilding year in Happy Valley.

JoePa will have to find replacements for six starters on defense, including star linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee as well as tackle Jared Odrick. Penn State also will have a quarterback competition entering spring practice featuring untested redshirt freshmen Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin along with true freshman Paul Jones, who enrolled in classes early.

The schedule isn’t very friendly, either. After several years of fattening themselves on nonconference cupcakes, the Nittany Lions visit defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 11. Three weeks later, Penn State opens Big Ten play at Iowa.

3. Miami, Fla. (Sept. 11) – The Hurricanes hope to continue the rebuilding process that began last season with a 5-1 start that elevated them as high as No. 8 in the Associated Press poll. A pedestrian 4-3 finish followed that hot start, but plenty of reasons to be optimistic remain around Coral Gables.

Jacory Harris threw for 3,352 yards and 24 TDs in 2009 and is one of the top young quarterbacks in college football. He will have to make better decisions, however. Harris pitched 17 interceptions and was sacked 34 times. That latter number may not get much better next season if Miami can’t find suitable replacements for starting tackles Jason Fox and Matt Pipho, who are off to the NFL.

There is no doubt the Hurricanes as well as their fans have this game circled. Many in the Hurricane Nation cling to the belief that the 2002 national championship was unjustly taken from them, making this not only a rematch but a revenge game.

2. At Wisconsin (Oct. 16) – After a couple of so-so seasons, Bret Bielema appears to have the Badgers back on track. In fact, many observers believe the fifth-year coach will field his best team in 2010.

Wisconsin always seems to find a bruiser to play tailback and John Clay certainly fits that bill. He carried the mail 287 times – 82 more than anyone else in the Big Ten – and led the conference with 1,517 yards and 18 TDs. The Badgers also benefited from the play of quarterback Scott Tolzien, who didn’t wow anyone with over-the-top talent but still managed to lead the conference in pass efficiency while throwing for 2,705 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Clay and Tolzien are only two of 10 starters returning to the Big Ten’s No. 1 offense, and Bielema also welcomes back several defensive starters including linebacker Chris Borland, who earned conference freshman of the year honors.

1. At Iowa (Nov. 20) – Following an 11-2 season that included an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, the Hawkeyes believe they will be serious national championship contenders in 2010. Part of the reason is because nine starters return to the No. 8 scoring defense in the nation, including star defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

The Hawkeyes will also welcome back six starters on offense, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who had led the team to an undefeated season before injuring an ankle at Northwestern. However, one possible chink in the armor could be the offensive line. Iowa loses four of five starters up front.

Even so, the schedule sets up perfectly for the Hawkeyes. Penn State, Wisconsin and OSU all have to visit Kinnick Stadium. Of course, looks can be deceiving. While the Hawkeyes have owned Penn State and Wisconsin recently – a combined 11-3 overall since 2002, including 5-1 in Iowa City – the same cannot be said for Iowa’s fortunes against the Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes have lost 11 of their last 12 overall in the series with OSU, and 14 of their last 17 to the Buckeyes at Kinnick.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former All-American offensive lineman and current OSU staffer Jeff Uhlenhake.

Jeffrey Alan Uhlenhake was born Jan. 28, 1966, in Indianapolis, but moved at a young age to Newark, Ohio, where he helped lead Newark Catholic to one high school state championship and two runner-up finishes. He was a two-time All-Ohio selection and Class A Lineman of the Year as a senior before signing with Ohio State in 1985. Uhlenhake went on to earn All-Big Ten honors at both guard and center, and received All-America honors at center in 1988. He was a fifth-round selection by Miami in the 1989 NFL draft, and played nine pro seasons with the Dolphins, Saints and Redskins. After his playing career ended, Uhlenhake got into coaching and spent one season on Mark Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati and two as offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns under Romeo Crennel. In 2007, Uhlenhake returned to Ohio State and is currently a strength and conditioning assistant on Jim Tressel’s coaching staff.

Among the luminaries observing birthdays this 28th day of January: six-time Emmy winner Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo is 76 (you probably know him better as actor Alan Alda); San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is 61; evangelical Christian minister and author Rick Warren is 56; French president Nicolas Sarkozy is 55; American televangelist Creflo Dollar is 48; former Anthrax lead guitarist Dan Spitz is 47; two-time Grammy winner Sarah McLachlan is 42; comedian Mo Rocca is 41; Detroit Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordóñez is 36; Detroit Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper is 33; former *NSYNC member Joey Fatone is 33; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay is 33; and Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter is 30.

Also on this day in history: the Yale Daily News became the first daily college newspaper in the U.S. in 1878; abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollack was born in 1912; the U.S. Coast Guard was created in 1915; the Lego Co. patented their design of toy bricks in 1958; actor John Banner (Sgt. Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes”) died on his 63rd birthday in 1973; and the Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after takeoff in 1986. All seven astronauts on board were killed, including New Hampshire social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe.

AND FINALLY

** Former Ohio State great Bill Willis was among those honored as “Great Ohioans” on Jan. 20 at the Ohio Statehouse. The Great Ohioan Award goes to individuals who played a significant role in Ohio, U.S. and world history. To qualify, they must be an Ohio native or have lived in the state for at least five years, and at least 25 years must have passed since the event for which they were nominated. Willis, who died in 2007, joins former Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller, former Ohio Gov. James M. Cox and Florence Ellinwood Allen, the first woman to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court, as the 2010 honorees.

** Earle Bruce has gotten a start on his second generation of coaching prodigies. After helping begin the careers of such coaches as Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, both of whom served as Ohio State assistants, Bruce is no doubt proud that Zach Smith landed his first full-time coaching job earlier this month as wide receivers coach at Marshall. Smith didn’t coach on any of Bruce’s staffs – he is the grandson of the former Ohio State head coach and College Football Hall of Famer.

** Former Virginia head coach Al Groh didn’t spend much time in the unemployment line. Groh, who was fired after nine seasons with the Cavaliers, has been hired by Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson to be his new defensive coordinator.

** In case you missed it, former Ohio State assistant weight coach Mike Cochran has been hired by new Akron head coach Ron Ianello as director of strength and conditioning.

** ESPN has launched a new informational website the network hopes will serve as a sports archive. ESPNDB.com currently in its infancy with its lone profile currently covering the NBA, but the network has said it will expand its compendium to all sports in the near future.

** You can still purchase copies of my book “The Die-Hard Fan’s Guide to Buckeye Football” online at Amazon. Or if you like a signed copy, they are available for $19.95 plus $5 for shipping and handling. Make out your check or money order to Columbus Sports Publications and send it to: Mark Rea Book, c/o Buckeye Sports Bulletin, P.O. Box 12453, Columbus, OH 43212.

Ohio State Wins Over Michigan Never Get Old

Sometimes I wonder if Ohio State football fans haven’t been brainwashed by the very propaganda they so often criticize.

The Buckeyes were in the process Nov. 21 of putting the finishing touches on a 21-10 victory at Michigan, another 10-win season and their third outright Big Ten championship in the last four years and you might have thought it was the Wolverines who were winning for the eighth time in the last nine years.

All I heard was how boring it had become to watch the Buckeyes grind out another victory in the series, how dull it was to watch the latest chapter of Tresselball wring any modicum of excitement from another OSU game.

There was actually a post on our own BuckeyeSports.com message board during the second half that read, “This is why I hate Jim Tressel. Run, run, run, run, run. This game is so boring. (Michigan) is terrible. We should be ahead by at least 35 points right now.”

Hate Jim Tressel? Really? If that is really the opinion of some Ohio State fans, then I have heard enough to know that I have heard too much.

First of all, Tressel certainly doesn’t need me to defend his coaching expertise. The bottom line speaks for itself, and that bottom line now shows six Big Ten championships in nine years, five straight seasons of 10 wins or more and more BCS bowl appearances than any other coach you care to mention.

Secondly, if you watched the Buckeyes dispatch the Wolverines on Nov. 21 and believe what you were watching was old-fashioned Tresselball, I suggest either a trip to the optometrist or less attention paid to what the blabbering bobbleheads from Bristol have to say.

National talking heads will look at 67 yards for Ohio State through the air and immediately pronounce another lackluster game in the outdated, run-oriented Big Ten and start puffing their chests about how there is no way the Buckeyes can beat any of the pass-happy teams they are likely to meet in the Rose Bowl.

None of them will have actually watched the OSU-Michigan game, of course. (Same problem with those who continue to insist the national title game against LSU was a blowout. It was not, but I digress.) There were two plays in this year’s edition of The Game that could have bloated the Buckeyes’ passing stats and turned an 11-point win into something much more substantial.

The first came with 5:12 to go in the second quarter with Ohio State holding a 14-3 lead. Michigan had just turned the ball over on the first of quarterback Tate Forcier’s four interceptions, and Tressel went for Rich Rodriguez’s jugular. On first down, DeVier Posey easily beat his defender on a fly pattern but Terrelle Pryor overthrew his receiver.

The second occurred on a similar play early in the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes protecting a 21-10 lead. Once again Posey easily outdistanced his coverage, but once again Pryor’s pass was too far for his intended receiver.

Only two plays, both of which were misfires, but the fact remains they were called by Tressel and had they been successful, the Buckeyes would have had at least two more touchdowns and at least 125 more yards through the air.

I attached the words “at least” to the preceding sentence because converting those two plays – especially the first one – could have completely altered the remainder of the game.

Had Pryor been able to connect with Posey on that second-quarter bomb, it would have given Ohio State a 21-3 advantage and would likely have caused a cave-in on the Michigan sideline. Then, the final score would probably have been something in the four- or five-touchdown range.

The long pass attempts to Posey weren’t the only non-Tresselball calls in the game. What about the misdirection counter plays? The screen pass in the red zone? Both went for touchdowns, yet all anyone seemed to want to talk about was the fact the Buckeyes ran the ball 51 times for 251 yards. Funny – when they ran it 43 times for 242 yards in last year’s 42-7 blowout, I don’t remember anyone bringing up Tresselball.

There is little doubt Tressel took his foot off the accelerator in the fourth quarter this year, but give the guy a little credit. He knew Michigan would have to begin to take some chances late and that freshman Forcier would have to try to force the issue. Not coincidentally, the Buckeyes chalked up three of their four interceptions in the final period.

Every head coach’s first commandment is to win the surest way, and Tressel’s record in Big Ten games is now 59-13 because he knows the surest way to victory. There is no doubt there are other coaches who are much flashier, but are their teams built for year-in, year-out success?

For example, how did Bob Stoops do at Oklahoma this season? How about Mike Leach at Texas Tech? June Jones at SMU or Bobby Petrino at Arkansas? Each of those supposed offensive gurus had winning seasons – barely – and combined for exactly zero championships.

High-octane attacks and footballs flying through the air grab the headlines. Always have and always will. But they don’t always translate into trophies.

Winning is, has been and always will be the bottom line and that goes double for Ohio State against Michigan. Beating the Wolverines never becomes boring and it never gets old.

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

I met Stefanie Spielman only once and that was several years ago. She was in a northern Columbus supermarket, and her mind was occupied with something important – trying to keep one of her small children from knocking off a huge display of canned green beans.

She knew me as nothing more than another in the long line of fans of her husband, but she couldn’t have been more pleasant or down-to-earth – a typical suburban mom who looked like the biggest thing weighing on her mind was the price of eggs.

I had no idea then just how much grit and determination Stefanie had going for her. Not long after our brief encounter, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease she fought as hard as she could for 12 long years until she had no fight left.

When she died Nov. 19 at the age of 42, I remembered her from that day we met in that supermarket. I also remembered when her husband announced he was giving up professional football for a year to stay home and help her fight the disease.

If you know anything about Chris Spielman, you know that he would sooner give up his right arm than voluntarily miss a football game. He was a three-time All-American at Ohio State and a four-time Pro Bowler with the Detroit Lions. He once made a tackle for the Buckeyes without a helmet, and often said that he would have played professional football for free.

As it turned out, as great as Spielman was as a football player, he is an even better man.

Last month, Spielman talked with Canton Repository writer Todd Porter, and while he wouldn’t discuss his wife’s prognosis, he offered a glimpse into how their lives had changed over the years.

“I’m so grateful for the 25 years we’ve known each other and the 20 years we’ve been married,” Spielman said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. The tough parts? That’s life. Life is going through good things and bad things.

“I think we’ve been given certain assignments in life. I like to think we’ve done the best we could for (cancer survivors) in service as opposed to shutting down. Hopefully, we’ve been able to make a difference with the monies raised and the people we met and talked to … This is an honorable and humbling journey we’ve been on. It’s something that is way bigger than being a football guy.”

Those outside the Buckeye Nation will likely continue to look at Spielman as just “a football guy.” Those of us in and around Columbus know better.

During this Thanksgiving holiday season, we give thanks for people like Chris and Stefanie Spielman, people who enrich our lives just by living their own.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

** Twenty-seven years ago today, the pupil finally beat the teacher and a legend coached his final regular-season game. 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 former Bryant assistant to beat the legendary coach in 30 attempts since 1970.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Nov. 24, 1938, Texas scored a 7-6 upset win over Texas A&M, allowing the Longhorns to avoid a winless season; 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, 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; and 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.

** The Ohio State football program also marks an anniversary this week. On Nov. 25, 1916, the Buckeyes 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 (and counting) outright championships and 34 overall conference titles for the Buckeyes.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** A nightmare scenario for the BCS is rapidly getting closer as six undefeated teams remain in Division I-A. Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, Florida, Texas and TCU are hanging around with unblemished records, each retaining their own claim for the national title. If only there was a way of determining the champion on the field. A playoff perhaps?

** We know at least one of the aforementioned teams will have a defeat on its ledger since Florida and Alabama will face one another in the SEC championship game, but the loser is still virtually assured of a BCS at-large berth. With automatic conference tie-ins further limiting the field, there is probably no way Boise State and TCU both get BCS bids – and that would be a travesty.

** Nike’s so-called Pro Combat uniforms were 1-1 last weekend. Ohio State wore them in its 21-10 victory over Michigan while Oklahoma donned the new duds and received a 41-13 drubbing from Texas Tech.

** In his first two seasons at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez has lost 13 Big Ten games. It took Bo Schembechler 13 seasons to lost 13 league games.

** Indiana may not be going to a bowl game this season, but it doesn’t look like head coach Bill Lynch is going anywhere. The bottom line for any coach in trouble is wins and losses, but attendance is certainly 1A on that list and the Hoosiers averaged better than 40,000 fans in Memorial Stadium this season. That is the first time the team has done that well at the gate in 17 years.

** It should be a very merry Christmas this year in the household of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney household. Because the Tigers have advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, an incentive clause in Swinney’s contract kicks his salary from $800,000 to around $1.8 million next season.

** For those of you who believe Florida head coach Urban Meyer when he says he is not interested in the Notre Dame job should it become available, remember this: Once upon a time, Thad Matta said he was not interested in leaving Xavier for Ohio State.

** During last week’s 63-20 win over New Mexico State, Nevada running back Luke Lippincott ran for 162 yards and the Wolf Pack became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Lippincott (1,028 yards) joins Vai Taua (1,185) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,129) on the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. Nevada has averaged 445.6 yards on the ground over its last eight games – topping 500 yards three times – and the Wolf Pack averages 373.2 for the season.

** I received my Heisman Trophy voting instructions last week. (We used to have the option of voting by paper ballot or online; now we can only vote online.) My top three has been pretty unwavering over the past several weeks: 1. Texas QB Colt McCoy; 2. Alabama RB Mark Ingram; 3. Boise State QB Kellen Moore. I know there is a lot of sentiment for Florida QB Tim Tebow, but I don’t think he has had a season that outshines my top three. I guarantee you I will not vote until after the conference championship games, giving me one last chance to watch McCoy, Ingram and Tebow.

** You probably know Florida still has the nation’s longest current win streak at 21 games. You may not know Western Kentucky has the longest losing streak at the I-A level. The Hilltoppers have lost 18 straight, and that has cost head coach David Elson his job. WKU has already hired Stanford assistant Willie Taggart as Elson’s replacement. Taggart is completing his third season on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford, but he played and coached at Western Kentucky for more than a decade before that.

** Congratulations to Tom Thompson, the 61-year-old walk-on kicker at Division III Austin College in Texas. Thompson converted a PAT for the Kangaroos last weekend in a 41-10 loss to instate rival Trinity, and became the oldest person ever to play in a college football game.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Another great week, including one of two Upset Specials, led to a 16-3 record with the straight-up forecast. The yearly SU total is now 101-25, good enough for Jim Tressel-like winning percentage of .802.

Against the spread, we finally had a winning week at 11-7 but we’re still Rich Rodriguez-like for the season at 53-59-2. Here are the games we like this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

Illinois at No. 5 Cincinnati: Ron Zook scheduled two games for his Fighting Illini after Thanksgiving to make sure they wouldn’t go stale between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. Of course, for that strategy to mean anything you first have to get to a bowl game … Cincinnati 45, Illinois 24. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 2 Alabama at Auburn: The Tigers have six of the last seven Iron Bowls, and Auburn has unheralded RB Ben Tate (1,209 yards, 8 TDs). But the Tide counters with Heisman hopeful Mark Ingram (1,399 yards, 12 TDs) and a much better defense … Alabama 27, Auburn 10. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Pittsburgh at West Virginia: With the one-two punch of QB Bill Stull (2,115 yards, 18 TDs) and RB Dion Lewis (1,291 yards, 13 TDs), the Panthers just have too much offense for the Mountaineers … Pittsburgh 27, West Virginia 17. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Nevada at No. 6 Boise State: If anyone is going to derail the Broncos, it could be the Wolf Pack. They have won eight straight and averaged 55.6 points over their last five games, thanks mostly to the nation’s No. 1 running attack. Boise counters with a quick-strike attack that features the best scoring offense in the country. If you like offense, stay up late and enjoy the fireworks … Boise State 49, Nevada 45. (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 24 North Carolina at North Carolina State: The Wolfpack scored a 41-10 blowout win last season, but UNC has shored up its defense. Also, the Tar Heels are plus-5 in turnover margin while the Pack is minus-13 … North Carolina 28, N.C. State 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 Clemson at South Carolina: The Tigers hold a 65-37-4 advantage in the all-time series, including victories in the last two games, six of the last seven and 10 of the last 12. Sounds like a trend … Clemson 31, South Carolina 17.  (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 25 Mississippi at Mississippi State: Why is this rivalry known as the Egg Bowl? Because the large object atop the trophy that goes to the winner more resembles a golden egg than a football. The Rebels will have the inside track on the SEC’s berth in the Capital One Bowl with a win … Mississippi 23, Mississippi State 14. (12:20 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN GamePlan)

No. 12 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: The Cowboys are hopeful of snapping a six-year losing streak to the injury-riddled Sooners. But OU won’t give up easily, especially protecting a 29-game home win streak on Senior Day. Regardless of what the oddsmakers say, this is an Upset Special … Oklahoma 27, Oklahoma State 23. (12:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

New Mexico at No. 4 TCU: Congratulations to the Lobos for avoiding a winless season with last week’s 29-27 win over Colorado State. Their reward? A trip to Fort Worth to play what many regard as the best team in the country this year … TCU 56, New Mexico 7. (1 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Florida State at No. 1 Florida: This could be the final regular-season game for the respective head coaches at these schools. Bobby Bowden may ride off into forced retirement while Notre Dame could make Urban Meyer an offer he can’t refuse … Florida 37, Florida State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 14 Virginia Tech at Virginia: One of the best freshmen in the country resides in the Hokies’ backfield, and Ryan Williams (1,355 yards, 15 TDs) should get plenty of chances to pad his numbers against a porous Cavaliers’ defense … Virginia Tech 31, Virginia 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 17 Miami (Fla.) at South Florida: You can check out two of the nation’s best young quarterbacks in Miami sophomore Jacory Harris (3,003 yards, 21 TDs) and USF freshman B.J. Daniels (2,200 all-purpose yards, 17 TDs). Mistakes will likely determine the winner, and the Bulls have a slight edge in defense. Upset Special No. 2 … South Florida 20, Miami 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)

No. 21 Utah at No. 19 BYU: Senior QB Max Hall has had a solid career for the Cougars, but he has never played well against the Utes. That includes a career-high five interceptions during last year’s 48-24 loss, and doesn’t bode well in a series that Utah has dominated of late. Upset Special No. 3 … Utah 37, BYU 24. (5 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Arkansas at No. 15 LSU: An interesting matchup between two former Michigan Men. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and LSU head coach Les Miles. Of course, Miles could be headed back to Ann Arbor whenever the Wolverines want to pull the plug on the Rich Rodriguez experiment, and right about now the Tigers would probably make that deal. But we digress … LSU 30, Arkansas 24. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Georgia at No. 7 Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets beat the Bulldogs last year for the first time since 2000 and now try for their first home win in the series since 1999. Since no one else has been able to shut down Tech’s triple-option attack, it’s doubtful UGA can, either … Georgia Tech 33, Georgia 24. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Rice at No. 23 Houston: The over/under number for yardage by Cougars quarterback Case Keenum (4,599 yards, 36 TDs) ought to be around 500 since the Owls rank 107th nationally in pass defense … Houston 55, Rice 20. (8 p.m. ET, CSS)

Notre Dame at Stanford: Do you think Jim Harbaugh would like anything better than to beat Notre Dame and send Charlie Weis packing? … Stanford 45, Notre Dame 31. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

UCLA at No. 20 USC: We’ll admit it. It’s been kind of fun to watch Pete Carroll have that deer-in-the-headlights look while his team was being eviscerated by Oregon and Stanford. Back to reality this week … USC 24, UCLA 17. (10 p.m. ET, FSN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Illinois at Cincinnati (-20½); Alabama (-10) at Auburn; Pitt (PK) at West Virginia (PK); Nevada (+14) at Boise State; North Carolina (-5½) at N.C. State; Clemson (-3) at South Carolina; Mississippi (-7½) at Mississippi State; Oklahoma State (+10) at Oklahoma; New Mexico at TCU (-44); Florida State (+24½) at Florida; Virginia Tech (-15) at Virginia; Miami-FL at South Florida (+5½); Utah (+8) at BYU; Arkansas at LSU (-3½); Georgia at Georgia Tech (-7½); Rice at Houston (-24); Notre Dame at Stanford (-10); UCLA (+13½)  at USC.

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