During a Saturday night awash in myriad offensive milestones, much of the buzz in the Ohio Stadium press box last week focused upon Braxton Miller when the question was raised: “Who is the most exciting Ohio State player in the past 10 years?”
Surprisingly for a team that has done more than its share of winning over the past decade, there weren’t that many names on the list.
Troy Smith got a mention, mostly for the career body of work turned in by the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner.
Someone brought up Terrelle Pryor for his gazelle-like moves and raw athletic ability, while another offered Maurice Clarett, who played such a vital role in the 2002 national championship season. But just as quickly as their names were mentioned, Pryor and Clarett were summarily dismissed – Pryor because of the perception he should have been even better than he was, and Clarett because his star flashed so quickly across the horizon before disappearing. There was also the haze of off-the-field issues that hung over both players.
The player receiving the most nods of agreement was Ted Ginn Jr., the electrifying speedster who rewrote the Ohio State and Big Ten record books for kick returns. Ginn’s graceful running style was such a blur of speed and elegance that those in pursuit of him seemed to be moving in slow motion.
Ginn eventually recorded eight returns – six punts and two kickoffs – for touchdowns, all but erasing the fact that he was also an underrated receiver. His 135 career receptions for 1,943 yards and 15 TDs all rank among the top 10 in program history.
Of course, the conversation only got started following Miller’s 72-yard run in the second quarter, a play that set the tone for the rest of the game against a Nebraska defense that had surrendered a scant 17 yards to Ohio State on its preceding 13 plays.
Every play in every offensive coordinator’s playbook is designed to go the distance if everything goes according to plan. The trouble is, not every play goes according to plan – and even when it does, it often needs a little something extra. Miller is that something extra for the Buckeyes, and he so often displays it with an exquisite dash of flair.
Nebraska had just taken a 17-7 lead at the 11:59 mark of the second quarter, and the press box chatter sounded more like a postmortem on the Ohio State team than a discussion about exciting players of the recent past. Then Miller took all of about 15 seconds to change that.
The sophomore quarterback took a relatively routine shotgun snap and began moving to his right with tailback Carlos Hyde swinging out for a possible option pitch. As the OSU offensive line began to pick off Nebraska defenders one by one, Miller recognized a huge lane, tucked the football under his arm and quickly cut upfield, reaching the second level in what seemed like less than the blink of an eye.
Two effortless fakes – moves designed to make talented Big Ten defenders look like pony leaguers – left a pair of Cornhuskers clutching at air, and then two more downfield blocks allowed Miller to glide all the way to the Nebraska 3 before he was finally pushed out of bounds.
Humorist James Thurber once wrote that Chic Harley’s running style was “kind of a cross between music and cannon fire,” and I couldn’t help but remember those words while watching Miller on that 72-yard display that was as melodic for the Buckeyes as it was lethal to the Cornhuskers.
“We couldn’t get anything going at the time,” OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said of Miller’s big play. “We had a couple of punts leading up to that, and we needed somebody like Braxton to make a big play to excite the crowd because the crowd got out of it. To have someone like Braxton make a play like that and get them into the game and being able to score, it was good.”
Good? That might qualify Brown for understatement of the season so far.
“We have a quarterback that’s kind of ridiculous running the ball,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said. “I think Braxton obviously changed the game.”
That wasn’t the only time.
Later in the second quarter, Miller did it again, this time on a fourth-and-2 play from the Nebraska 31. The Cornhuskers called timeout before the play, and head coach Bo Pelini had to figure Meyer was going to put the ball in the hands of his best player.
Not that the knowledge did Pelini any good. Miller took the shotgun snap, and as Hyde picked off blitzing NU safety P.J. Smith, the quarterback broke over the right side of the line and sprinted his way past every other would-be tackler for a 31-yard touchdown run. It was Miller’s crowning achievement during a second-quarter performance that included six rushes for 146 yards, and it gave the Buckeyes a 35-24 halftime lead.
By now you know that second-quarter explosion was part of a career-high 186 rushing yards for Miller, a performance that allowed him midway through his sophomore year to tie Pryor for most career 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback.
It is also worth noting Miller’s virtuoso performance occurred in full witness of a nationwide television audience. It was, in simple terms, the kind of performance on which future Heisman Trophies are won.
** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 86th time with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 68-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 24-2-1 record at Memorial Stadium, including wins in each of the last eight games played in Bloomington.
** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 17-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.
** The 17-game win streak in the second-longest in the series for OSU. The Buckeyes won 23 consecutive games against Indiana between 1960 and 1986. The Hoosiers’ longest win streak in the series is four in a row between 1903 and 1914.
** Ohio State in its history has more victories over Indiana than any other team. The Buckeyes have 68 wins vs. the Hoosiers, 65 over Illinois, 59 over Northwestern, 55 over Wisconsin and 45 over Iowa.
** OSU head coach Urban Meyer will be facing Indiana for the first time as a head coach, but he was on the sideline in 1986 and ’87 as a member of Earle Bruce’s staff when the Buckeyes played the Hoosiers. OSU took a 24-22 win in Bloomington in 1986, but IU scored a 31-10 upset win the following year at Ohio Stadium, an afternoon Bruce later described as “the darkest day in Ohio State history.”
** Despite its recent problems in the series, Indiana has historically made life difficult for Ohio State head coaches in their first season. Dating back to 1913, first-year OSU head coaches are only 5-4-1 against the Hoosiers. That includes losses by John W. Wilce (7-6 in 1913), Wes Fesler (7-0 in 1947), Woody Hayes (32-10 in 1951) and John Cooper (41-7 in 1988). Ohio State head coaches who beat Indiana in their inaugural seasons were Francis Schmidt (33-0 in 1934), Carroll Widdoes (21-7 in 1944), Earle Bruce (47-6 in 1979), Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001) and Luke Fickell (34-20 in 2011). Sam Willaman’s first team in 1929 played the Hoosiers to 0-0 tie, and in case you’re wondering about Paul Brown in 1941 and Paul Bixler in 1946, the Buckeyes and IU did not play in those seasons.
** Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his second season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 61 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88. Before that, you have to go back to Clyde Smith, whose Indiana team took a 32-10 win over Ohio State in 1951.
** Wilson was offensive coordinator on the late Randy Walker’s staff at Northwestern from 1999-2001 and was 0-1 vs. Ohio State during that time. The Buckeyes took a 38-20 win over the Wildcats in 2001.
** Ohio State is playing its second night game in a row while Indiana will be playing its third night game of 2012. The Hoosiers took a 24-17 victory over I-AA Indiana State under the Memorial Stadium lights on Sept. 1 and then lost a 41-39 heartbreaker two weeks later at home to Ball State.
** Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 22 times – 19 touchdowns and three field goals – in 24 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. OSU currently has a streak of scoring on 20 consecutive trips inside the red zone.
** Indiana is 11th in the Big Ten and tied for 94th nationally in red zone defense. The Hoosiers have allowed opponents to score 15 times in 17 trips inside their 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and three field goals.
** The Hoosiers currently lead the Big Ten and are 19th nationally in passing offense, averaging 305.2 yards per game. IU has already thrown for 11 touchdowns this season, surpassing last year’s total of 10.
** Ohio State is 11th in the conference and 96th in the nation in pass defense, surrendering 265.3 yards per game.
** Indiana has 17 native Ohioans on its roster – nine of which are on the Hoosiers’ two-deep – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are sophomore tailback Rod Smith of Fort Wayne and sophomore defensive lineman Joel Hale of Greenwood.
** Wilson also has three native Ohioans on his coaching staff. Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns is from Piqua, running backs coach Deland McCullough is from Youngstown, and assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Doug Mallory hails from Bowling Green. Mallory is the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, who was a member of Woody Hayes’ coaching staff at Ohio State from 1966-68.
** A familiar name is in his second season on Wilson’s staff as a graduate assistant. Chris Shula, whose grandfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, is the GA in charge of defense.
** While an Indiana upset of Ohio State would be stunning enough, the odds of the Hoosiers shutting out the Buckeyes would be astronomical. Indiana hasn’t pitched a shutout against any opponent since a 10-0 win over Michigan State in October 1993 and hasn’t blanked Ohio State since that 0-0 tie in 1959. IU hasn’t won a game in which it shut out the Buckeyes since a 10-0 decision in 1937.
** For his performance against Nebraska that included a school record-tying five tackles for loss, OSU senior defensive lineman John Simon earned national defensive player of the week honors from the folks who give out the Chuck Bednarik Award as well as those who give out the College Football Performance Awards. Simon had seven tackles against the Cornhuskers, including two sacks, and he also forced a fumble.
** Simon’s five tackles for loss vs. Nebraska tied a single-game OSU record first established by Judah Herman in a 16-9 loss to Iowa in 1991 and equaled by Jayson Gwinn during a 23-17 win against Indiana in 1993 and Andy Katzenmoyer in the 1997 Rose Bowl vs. Arizona State, a 20-17 victory for the Buckeyes.
** Simon jumped to 12th place on Ohio State’s career list for tackles for loss with 36. Current defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is the school’s all-time leader with 66 TFLs.
** Congratulations to Corey “Philly” Brown, whose 76-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. Nebraska earned him Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Brown’s return for a score was the first for the Buckeyes since Chris Fields ran one back 69 yards during last year’s 27-22 win over Toledo.
** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s career-high 186 rushing yards vs. Nebraska pushed his career total to 1,478 and jumped him into fourth place all-time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) is first with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70).
** Miller also matched Pryor’s school record for quarterbacks with seven games of 100 or more yards rushing.
** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 82 for 82 in career PATs. The IU school record of 107 extra points in a row is held by Pete Stoyanovich (1986-88), who never missed a PAT during his college career.
** Last week’s 63-point output by the Buckeyes marked the highest point total since a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010 and the best output against a Big Ten opponent since a 69-18 win over Minnesota in 1983. Additionally, it represented the most combined points in an OSU game since 1950. That year, Ohio State and Iowa combined for 104 points in an 83-21 win for the Buckeyes. Conversely, it was the most points surrendered by Nebraska since a 65-51 loss at Colorado in the 2007 season finale. Head coach Bill Callahan was dismissed following that game and the Cornhuskers hired current head coach Bo Pelini before the 2008 season.
** The offensive outburst against Nebraska marked only the 27th time in program history the team had topped the 60-point mark. Rarer still is accomplishing the feat against a Big Ten opponent. OSU had tallied 60 or more points against a conference rival only seven times before doing it against the Cornhuskers. Northwestern played the hapless victim in four of those games – 60-0 in 1973, 63-0 in 1980, 63-20 in 1978 and 70-6 in 1981. The other three were 69-18 vs. Minnesota in 1983, 62-7 over Wisconsin in 1969 and 83-21 against Iowa in 1950, the game in which Vic Janowicz threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, returned a punt for a sixth TD and kicked 10 extra points.
** Ohio State is now 272-0-1 all-time when scoring 35 or more points. The lone blemish on that record is a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978.
** Ohio State rushed for 371 against the Cornhuskers, the highest rushing total for the Buckeyes since a 409-yard effort during a 41-3 win over Illinois in 1995. OSU also averaged 7.72 yards per carry vs. Nebraska, the fourth-highest single-game average in school history. The record of 9.23 yards per carry was set during a 51-15 win at Illinois in 1962.
** OSU junior tailback Carlos Hyde set new career-highs with 28 carries for 140 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Ohio State running back to rush for four touchdowns since Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George during a 56-35 win over Iowa in 1995.
** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. (That’s 7 p.m. local time if you’re going to Bloomington.) The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast with Eric Collins on play-by-play, Derek Rackley providing color analysis and former Illinois linebacker J Leman filing sideline reports.
** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 135 and XM channel 190.
** Next week, Ohio State returns home to host Purdue with kickoff time and broadcast affiliates still TBA. The Big Ten will not make an announcement regarding that game until after this weekend’s contests have been played.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
** On Oct. 12, 1929, the University of Georgia dedicated Sanford Stadium with a 15-0 win over heavily favored Yale. College Football Hall of Famer Vernon “Catfish” Smith was the star of the game for the Bulldogs, falling on a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown, hauling in a TD pass and tackling a Yale runner in the end zone for a safety. Sanford Stadium, which originally housed 30,000 spectators and cost $360,000 to build, has grown to a capacity of 92,746, the sixth largest on-campus stadium in the nation.
** On Oct. 12, 1940, Tennessee rolled to a 53-0 win over Chattanooga, marking a NCAA-record 17th consecutive regular-season shutout for the Volunteers. During the period four-year period between 1937 and 1940, the Vols went 37-5-1 with 33 shutouts and captured two national championships under legendary head coach Robert Neyland.
** On Oct. 12, 1963, second-ranked Texas scored a 28-7 victory over No. 1 Oklahoma, marking the second-largest winning margin in a matchup featuring the top two teams in The Associated Press poll. QB Duke Carlisle led the Longhorns by rushing for a touchdown and passing for another, while the Texas defense held the Sooners to only eight first downs. The matchup featured a pair of legendary head coaches – Darrell Royal for the Longhorns and Bud Wilkinson for the Sooners. Texas went on to win the 1962 national championship while OU finished No. 10 in Wilkinson’s final season as Sooners head coach.
** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter, but the Huskies scored a MAC-record 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory. It was the second-most fourth-quarter points in a comeback win in NCAA history.
** On Oct. 13, 1956, Syracuse running back Jim Brown rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns and added a key third-quarter interception on defense to lead the Orange to a 27-20 win over West Virginia. The victory was a key one for Syracuse in its march to the Cotton Bowl later that season.
** On Oct. 13, 1979, unranked Stanford erased a 21-point deficit in the second half and achieved a 21-21 tie with defending national champion and No. 1-rated USC in historic Los Angeles Coliseum. After falling behind by three touchdowns at halftime, the Cardinal rallied behind quarterback Turk Schonert, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the second half. The Trojans had a chance to pull out the victory in the final seconds, but botched the snap from center on a field-goal try.
** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.
** On Oct. 14, 1950, Penn halfback Francis “Reds” Bagnell accounted for 490 yards of total offense to lead the Quakers in a 42-26 win over Dartmouth. Bagnell threw for 276 yards and rushed for 214, making him the first player in college football history to crack the 200-yard mark in passing and rushing in the same game. The feat wasn’t matched again for another 36 years and has been equaled fewer than a dozen times since.
** On Oct. 14, 1978, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw for 210 yards, including a game-clinching 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Harris late in the fourth quarter, and the Boilermakers scored a 27-16 win over Ohio State in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes outgained Purdue by nearly 200 yards but committed five turnovers. The win, described by Purdue head coach Jim Young as “the biggest of my coaching career,” was the Boilermakers’ first against the Buckeyes since 1967.
** Also on Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record 55 carries and led the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.
** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.
** On Oct. 15, 1977, Iowa State went to Lincoln and scored a 24-21 upset of No. 9 Nebraska, giving the Cyclones back-to-back victories over the Cornhuskers for the first time in 27 years. The final score wiped out a superlative performance by NU running back I.M. Hipp, who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”
** On Oct. 16, 1937, two of the most famous teams in college football history collided as Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” took on Pittsburgh’s “Dream Backfield” in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. Future College Football Hall of Famers were all over the field that day including Fordham offensive line coach Frank Leahy and Pitt head coach Jock Sutherland, while Fordham lineman Vince Lombardi went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching career with the Green Bay Packers. The scoreless tie was the only blemish on either team’s 1937 records. Pitt finished 9-0-1 and won the national championship while Fordham was 7-0-1 and wound up third in the polls.
** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.
** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss pulled off the shocker of the year, upsetting fourth-ranked Ole Miss by a 30-14 final in Oxford. Rebels QB Archie Manning threw for two touchdowns to give his team an early lead, but the Golden Eagles got a pair of rushing touchdowns from RB Willie Heidelberg – the first black player in Southern Miss history – while halfback Gerry Saggus added a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Eagles were also aided by punter Ray Guy, who kept Ole Miss at bay by averaging 49 yards per punt.
** On Oct. 18, 1958, Northwestern celebrated became the first team since 1891 to score 50 or more points against Michigan, jumping out to a 43-0 halftime lead before putting the finishing touches on a 55-24 victory over the Wolverines in Evanston. Halfbacks Ron Burton and Willmer Fowler combined for five touchdowns while QB/DB Dick Thornton threw for 109 yards and returned an interception 37 yards for a score.
** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost them a second consecutive national championship.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams shrank by seven last weekend, leaving only 16 unbeatens remaining. Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon and South Carolina are 6-0 while Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, UTSA and West Virginia are 5-0. Cincinnati and Oregon State are 4-0.
** The king is dead, long live the king. TCU felt the effects of having to suspend starting quarterback Casey Pachall for a drunken driving arrest, and the Horned Frogs dropped a 37-23 decision to Iowa State. That ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games, and now means South Carolina owns the longest streak at 10 wins in a row.
** The Horned Frogs will play the rest of the season without Pachall, who has withdrawn from TCU with plans to enter an inpatient facility for treatment of substance abuse. Pachall, who was arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, had failed a university-administered drug test in February. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said once Pachall has completed his treatment, he will be eligible to return to school and the team. The quarterback has one season of college eligibility remaining.
** That victory by Iowa State over TCU marked the third straight season the Cyclones have notched a road win against a ranked team. Not bad for a team that is only 3-30 on the road against top-25 opponents since 1996.
** While TCU’s win streak was snapped, Tulane extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 15 games following a 41-13 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Green Wave is 0-5 this season and has been outscored by a 212-45 margin.
** For the first time since USA Today took over the coaches’ poll in 1991, no Big Ten team is in the top 25. OhioState is undefeated, of course, but NCAA sanctions which include a postseason ban make the Buckeyes ineligible for both the coaches’ poll and the BCS rankings, which are due for the first time this season Oct. 14.
** People keep talking about West Virginia QB Geno Smith already having sewed up the Heisman Trophy, and we keep mentioning the Mountaineers’ upcoming schedule that includes a four-game run against No. 6 Kansas State on Oct. 20 and TCU on Nov. 3, a game at OklahomaState on Nov. 10 and back home vs. No. 13 Oklahoma on Nov. 17. If the Heisman were being awarded today, Smith would be the lead-pipe lock to win it. He leads the nation in pass efficiency based on superlative numbers that include 166 completions in 204 attempts (81.4 percent) for 1,996 yards, 24 TDs and no interceptions.
** Louisiana Tech is off to a 5-0 start, its best since joining Division I-A in 1975. The Bulldogs haven’t won five games to begin a season since winning 11 in a row during the 1974 season. Tech won all 10 regular-season games that year and the first game of the Division I-AA playoffs before suffering a 35-14 loss to Central Michigan. Additionally, the Bulldogs are No. 22 in this week’s AP poll, the first time they have been ranked since 1999.
** Duke has gotten off to a 5-1 start, its best since starting 7-0 in 1994. The Blue Devils finished 8-4 in ’94, a season that culminated in a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl. That also marks the last bowl game in which Duke played. The Blue Devils haven’t won a postseason game since a 7-6 win over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.
** Michigan QB Denard Robinson rushed for 235 yards during last Saturday’s 41-13 rout of Purdue and became the all-time leading rusher among Big Ten quarterbacks. Robinson now has 3,905 yards, and that eclipsed the old record of 3,895 held by Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (1998-2001).
** How far has Auburn fallen since its 2010 national championship? The Tigers are 1-4 and managed only seven points last week against an Arkansas defense that had given up 110 points in its previous two SEC games. Auburn has seven offensive touchdowns in five games and has been outscored by a 45-3 margin in the fourth quarter.
** Florida has trailed at halftime to SEC rivals Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, and won all three of those games. In fact, the Gators outscored those three teams in the second half by a combined total of 51-6.
** Last week’s 41-3 loss to Notre Dame proved that Miami (Fla.) isn’t quite back just yet. The Hurricanes are 4-0 against unranked teams, but lost to KansasState and the Fighting Irish by a combined 93-16 margin.
** The Oklahoma offense got a jolt of energy Wednesday when the NCAA ruled Fresno State transfer receiver Jalen Saunders eligible for the remainder of the season. Saunders, who was first-team All-WAC after he caught 50 balls for 1,065 yards and 12 TDs last season for the Bulldogs, left Fresno State when Pat Hill was fired in December after 15 seasons as head coach.
** Ohio State is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes have already equaled last year’s victory total. But while Urban Meyer will get some votes, the frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year has to be Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. Facing unbelievable scrutiny and unprecedented sanctions, O’Brien has somehow rallied his team to four straight victories. The Nittany Lions have this week off and then travel to Iowa next week and host OhioState on Oct. 27.
** Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison stemming from more than 40 charges of child sexual abuse. The penalty amounts to a life sentence for the 68-year-old Sandusky. One day later, the State Employees’ Retirement System of Pennsylvania announced it would revoke Sandusky’s $59,000 annual pension.
** Farewell to one of the most colorful characters in college football. Beano Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 81, began his career as a sports publicist for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s. Later, he parlayed his outspokenness and gravelly voice into a broadcasting career that included stints at ABC and ESPN. Born Carroll Hoff Cook on Sept. 1, 1931, he was one of the initial influences for ESPN’s popular College Football Gameday show. Cook was known for hyperbole – claimed Notre Dame QB Ron Powlus would win three Heismans – as well as witticism. When Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1981 offered lifetime passes to games for returning hostages from Iran, Cook quipped, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”
For the first time in a couple of weeks, we finished above .500 against the spread. But then the straight-up picks sprung a leak when every coin-flip game we chose wound up a loss. We were 6-4 both straight up and against the spread, making the yearly totals 48-12 SU and 28-32 ATS.
Neither percentage is worth talking about, so we’ll just get to the games we’ll be watching this weekend.
No. 18 Louisville at Pittsburgh: The Panthers have been on a rollercoaster ride during their first season under head coach Paul Chryst. Pitt began the season with a 31-17 loss to Division I-AA Youngstown State, and then two weeks later upset then No. 13 Virginia Tech. But the Panthers lost last week to Syracuse, which had lost eight straight games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won their first five games in rather unimpressive fashion, including last week’s 21-17 struggle with winless Southern Miss. Louisville has lost four straight games in the series, but those kinds of trends haven’t meant much so far this season … Louisville 23, Pittsburgh 20. (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)
No. 6 Kansas State at Iowa State: With West Virginia on their horizon next week, this is an obvious trap game for the Wildcats. Iowa State has only one loss and the Cyclones went into Fort Worth last weekend and ended the nation’s longest winning streak by knocking off TCU. Iowa State also played K-State tough. The Cyclones have lost four straight in the series, but all four of those games were played in Manhattan and none of the Wildcats’ wins were by more than eight points. The last time K-State visited Ames, it went home with a 31-20 loss in 2007. Of course, there is the small matter of ISU’s 1-11 record in its last 12 home games against ranked opponents … Kansas State 31, Iowa State 20. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)
No. 15 Texas vs. No. 13 Oklahoma: The Cotton Bowl hosts the annual renewal of the Red River Shootout with each of the rivals trying to bury the other with a second Big 12 loss. The Longhorns are coming off a disappointing 48-45 home loss to West Virginia, a game in which the defense allowed 460 yards and couldn’t hold a 38-34 lead after three quarters. Meanwhile, the Sooners got exposed three weeks ago with a home loss to Kansas State. The difference in the two teams is defense. OU ranks 20th in the nation in scoring defense while Texas ranks 66th. Then when you consider the Mack Pack has lost seven in a row to ranked opponents, you get this outcome … Oklahoma 37, Texas 31. (12 noon ET, ABC)
No. 1 Alabama at Missouri: What exactly was Mizzou thinking when it thought joining the SEC was a good idea? The Tigers are 0-3 in their new conference and have been outscored by a 91-45 margin. And now they get ready for a taste of Crimson Tide, which rolls into Columbia fresh off an open week. When last we saw Alabama, it was rolling to a 33-14 win over Ole Miss. The Tide ranks No. 1 in the country in total and scoring defense while the Tigers are 95th in total offense. As we have said many times before, if you can’t score, you can’t win … Alabama 38, Missouri 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 17 Stanford at No. 7 Notre Dame: The Cardinal has a three-game series winning streak going, but they also had a guy named Andrew Luck at the offensive controls. Luck, of course, has taken his talents to Indianapolis in the NFL, leaving Stanford a somewhat more challenged attack with junior QB Josh Nunes. Taking an offense that remains a work in progress to South Bend is no bargain this season. No defense has allowed fewer touchdowns this season than the Fighting Irish, and their offense is beginning to get better. ND put up its biggest rushing total in 12 years during last week’s 41-3 rout of Miami (Fla.), and sophomore QB Everett Golson added 186 yards through the air and 51 yards on the ground. That seems to make for a pretty tall hurdle for Stanford to climb, especially knowing it has lost seven of its last eight in South Bend … Notre Dame 31, Stanford 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Fresno State at No. 24 Boise State: First-year head coach Tim DeRuyter has the Bulldogs played extremely well on defense. Fresno leads the nation in interceptions (12), which helps it rank 11th in turnover margin. But ranking would be even better if the Bulldogs hadn’t committed eight turnovers themselves in their first six games. That trend had better change this week since Boise State’s defense is even more opportunistic than Fresno. The Broncos are tied for No. 5 in the nation in turnover margin, including forcing 13 in their last three games. That should make the difference as Boise tries for a seventh straight victory in the series … Boise State 27, Fresno State 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, DirectTV 603)
Illinois at No. 25 Michigan: There was hope in Champaign that Tim Beckman could bring his high-octane offense with him from Toledo. So far, that hasn’t happened. The Fighting Illini rank dead last in the Big Ten in scoring, and that is never a good thing when you have to try and outscore the Wolverines. QB Denard Robinson is the nation’s fourth leading rusher (135.2 yards per game) and generates an average of 323.6 total yards per contest, and that is simply going to be too much for the Illini … Michigan 42, Illinois 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)
Boston College at No. 12 Florida State: The Seminoles are coming off a game in which they blew a 16-0 halftime lead against North Carolina State and wound up on the business end of a 17-16 final score. What better way to recuperate than against a 1-4 team that hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2008? Despite last week’s loss, the Seminoles still rank seventh in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. That can’t be good news for BC head coach Frank Spaziani, whose team ranks 109th in rush offense and 104th in total defense … Florida State 44, Boston College 14. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)
No. 4 Florida at Vanderbilt: Is Vandy laying a trap for the Gators? Florida is coming off an emotional 14-6 win over LSU last week and has No. 3 South Carolina coming to the Swamp next weekend, so the case could be made that the Gators’ focus will not totally be on the Commodores. That could be problematic, especially in the passing game since Florida ranks last in the SEC in passing offense while Vandy is third in pass defense. It is just difficult to image the Commodores generating enough offense, however, especially against an opponent they have lost to 21 straight times … Florida 30, Vanderbilt 13. (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)
No. 8 Ohio State at Indiana: This game will go a long way toward determining if the Buckeyes are truly the No. 8 team in the nation, and none of that determination has anything to do with the Hoosiers. Ohio State has played up (or down) to the level of its competition so far this season, and since it rolls into Bloomington tomorrow night as a prohibitive favorite, it will be interesting to see how the team responds. Will the Buckeyes build upon the foundation of emotional wins over Michigan State and Nebraska the last two weeks, or will they revert to the team that snoozed its way through large chunks of the nonconference season? The Hoosiers have some weapons that can exploit what has been a suspect Ohio State pass defense. But they showed last week vs. Michigan State, the Hoosiers remain a young team that has not yet learned how to win … Ohio State 38, Indiana 17. (8 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Louisville (-1½) at Pittsburgh; Kansas State (-6) at Iowa State; Texas vs. Oklahoma (-2½); Alabama (-17½) at Missouri; Stanford at Notre Dame (-7); Fresno State (+9) at Boise State; Illinois at Michigan (-21); Boston College at Florida State (-27); Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt; Ohio State (-16) at Indiana.
Enjoy the games and we’ll visit again next week.