Fickell, OSU Defense Beginning To Feel Heat

It began with just a few whispers, but Luke Fickell is rapidly coming under full-throated criticism for the performance of his defense.

Fans became accustomed to rock-solid units churned out year after year under Jim Heacock, but the truth is that down through the years Ohio State has more often than not boasted stellar defenses. Since 1970, the Buckeyes have been honored with 88 first-team All-Americans, and 49 of those have played defense.

Ohio State remains a hard-hitting unit which seems to have a penchant for coming up with a big play at just the right time. But this year’s defense also leads the league in its maddening number of missed tackles, blown assignments and personal-foul penalties.

During my years covering OSU, I have seen some struggling defenses. The 1980 unit was so porous in pass coverage that Illinois quarterback Dave Wilson established an NCAA single-game record by throwing for 621 yards against the Buckeyes. In 1988, when the Buckeyes stumbled to a 4-6-1 record, the defense surrendered a program-record 283 points. The following year, it re-established that mark when it gave up 297.

This year’s team is on pace to challenge that record, currently giving up an average of 24.6 points per game. In terms of total defense, the Buckeyes are surrendering 400.0 yards per game on average. To put those numbers in some sort of free-falling context, just two years ago during the 2010 season, Ohio State ranked among the top five defenses in the nation, giving up averages of 14.3 points and 262.2 yards per game. This year’s unit doesn’t rank among the nation’s top 50 in either category.

Yes, the defense is being decimated by injuries. Yes, the team is being asked to learn a new scheme under Fickell and first-year co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers. But Ohio State has signed 19 four- or five-star rated defensive players in its two most recent recruiting classes. Are they not being developed properly or did the Buckeyes whiff on those prospects?

Then there is the matter of two defensive starters basically admitting they took their foot off the gas pedal late in the game against Indiana. When you have so many problems with fundamentals and execution, you can’t afford to think all you have to do is show up with a shiny silver helmet in hand and the opposing team will simply shrink away.

On top of all that, your offensive-minded head coach says he is “going to increase (his) involvement with the defense.” That’s when you know you’ve got trouble.

The good news for Fickell and his defensive staff is that there are still five games to be played – five games in which improvements can be made. But the bad news is the next two games are against Purdue and Penn State, teams committed to spreading out and exposing a defense like Ohio State.

Stay tuned. This could get very interesting.

OSU-PURDUE TIDBITS

** This marks the 55th meeting between Ohio State and Purdue with the Buckeyes holding a 38-14-2 record in the overall series. That includes a 26-6-2 mark in Ohio Stadium. OSU has won seven straight at home in the series, with the Boilermakers last tasting victory in Columbus with a 31-26 decision in 1988.

** In the previous 54 meetings, the Boilermakers have never experienced more than a two-game win streak over the Buckeyes. OSU has enjoyed series winning streaks of seven and six games as well as mini-streaks of three in a row on five separate occasions.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will be facing the Boilermakers for the first time as head coach, but he is 5-2 lifetime against Purdue as an assistant coach. Meyer was on Earle Bruce’s coaching staff at OSU when the Buckeyes recorded victories over Purdue in 1986 and ’87, and he was on Bob Davies’ staff at Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish went 3-2 vs. the Boilermakers from 1996 to 2000.

** Purdue head coach Danny Hope is in his fourth season with the Boilermakers, compiling a 19-24 overall record and 10-16 mark in the Big Ten. He is 2-1 vs. the Buckeyes with his victories coming in 2009 and 2011 in West Lafayette. In ’09, Purdue took advantage of five OSU turnovers and scored a 26-18 upset over the seventh-ranked Buckeyes, while last year the Boilermakers blocked what would have been a game-winning PAT for Ohio State with 55 seconds remaining. Purdue went on to win a 26-23 overtime decision.

** Hope is trying to become the first Purdue head coach in 45 years to win two in a row against Ohio State. Jack Mollenkopf led his team to a 24-21 upset of the third-ranked Buckeyes in 1960, but then had to wait seven years because of scheduling quirks to claim a 41-6 win in 1967.

** With his 2-1 record vs. Ohio State, Hope is one of only two Purdue head coaches to have winning records against the Buckeyes. Cecil Isbell, who coached three seasons in West Lafayette from 1944-46, had a 1-0-1 record vs. Ohio State. The Boilermakers scored a 35-13 win in 1945 and the teams played to a 14-14 tie in ’46. Isbell’s successor, Stu Holcomb, came close with a 2-2 record against the Buckeyes. Holcomb played his college football at Ohio State, lettering from 1929-31 and captaining the ’31 squad that finished 6-3 under head coach Sam Willaman.

** Ohio State is off to a 7-0 start for the first time since 2007 when that team won its first 10 games. In the past 20 seasons, the Buckeyes have gotten off to a 7-0 start eight times.

** Meyer is only the third head coach in Ohio State history to win his first seven games. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 in 1944-45 and Earle Bruce won 11 in a row in 1979. Meyer is also only the third Big Ten coach since 1946 to win as many as seven games to begin his debut season. The others were Bruce and Bennie Oosterbaan of Michigan, who posted a perfect 9-0 season in 1948.

** Purdue is 8-5-2 all-time on Oct. 20 while Ohio State is 10-6. The two teams have met twice previously on that date. In 1945, the No. 9 Boilermakers dealt a 35-13 upset loss to the fourth-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus. Then in 1990, when both teams were unranked, OSU traveled to West Lafayette and administered a 42-2 thumping to Purdue.

** The Boilermakers have not scored a touchdown in Ohio Stadium since 2003 when running back Jerod Void scored on an 11-yard run during No. 10 Purdue’s 16-13 loss to fourth-ranked OSU. To be fair, the Boilermakers have played only twice in Columbus since then – a 16-3 loss in 2008 and a 49-0 loss in 2010.

** Purdue hasn’t scored a touchdown through the air in Ohio Stadium since 1999 when quarterback Drew Brees threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Kevin Sutherland in the first quarter of a 25-22 OSU victory.

** The Buckeyes have combined to score 115 points the past two weeks, their second-highest total ever in back-to-back games against Big Ten opponents. OSU tallied 131 points against Minnesota (48) and Iowa (83) in 1950.

** In addition to all of that scoring vs. Nebraska and Indiana, Ohio State racked up a combined 724 rushing yards against the Cornhuskers and Hoosiers. That pushed the Buckeyes to No. 8 in the nation in rushing offense with an average of 263.6 yards per game.

** Purdue currently ranks 11th in the Big Ten and 97th nationally in rush defense, surrendering an average of 199.5 yards per game. In their last two games, the Boilermakers have given up 771 yards on the ground – 467 to Wisconsin and 304 to Michigan.

** Ohio State piled up 578 total yards last week against Indiana, the team’s highest total since piling up 645 during a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010. It was also the highest total yardage figure against a Big Ten opponent since OSU gained 603 yards on Indiana during a 35-6 win at Bloomington in 2003.

** The 52-49 win over the Hoosiers coupled with a 63-38 win against Nebraska on Oct. 6 marked the first time since November 1984 that the Buckeyes had topped the 50-point mark against back-to-back Big Ten opponents. That season, Ohio State took a 50-7 win over Indiana in Columbus one week before rolling to a 52-3 victory at Northwestern.

** OSU has already matched a single-season program record with three games in which it has scored 50 or more points. That has happened only three previous times – 1969, 1973 and 1983. No Ohio State team has ever topped the 50-point mark four times in a season.

** The final score vs. Indiana marked the second straight game in which the combined total in an Ohio State game topped 100. Before this season, the Buckeyes had been involved in only two games that had produced more than 100 points – an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950 and a school-record 128-0 win over Oberlin in 1916.

** When Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde each rushed for more than 100 yards, and Devin Smith cracked the century mark in receiving vs. Indiana, it marked the first time in Ohio State program history that the Buckeyes had two 100-yard rushers and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.

** Miller and Hyde each eclipsed the century mark in rushing against Nebraska and Indiana, marking only the fifth time in Ohio State history two players have rushed for 100 or more yards in back-to-back games. It was also the first time in 37 years the feat had been accomplished. During a 35-6 win at Purdue on Oct. 25, 1975, fullback Pete Johnson rushed for 131 yards while tailback Archie Griffin added 130. The following week at home vs. Indiana, Johnson and Griffin rumbled for 150 yards apiece during a 24-14 Buckeye victory.

** Miller has established a new school record for quarterbacks with his eighth career game of 100 or more yards rushing. His 149 yards vs. Indiana also pushed his career total to 1,627, good enough for fourth all-time among Ohio State quarterbacks behind Terrelle Pryor (2,164, 2008-10), Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70).

** Miller also moved into 34th place on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list. He needs 121 more to move into the top 30 past Butler By’not’e (1,644, 1990-93), John Brockington (1,663, 1968-70), Kern and John Wooldridge (1,747, 1983-86).

** Hyde had his fourth career 100-yard game and upped his career total to 1,161. He needs eight more yards to pass Troy Smith (1,168, 2003-06) and move into the top 50 on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.

** With his performance against Indiana, Miller became only the 14th player in program history to move past the 4,000-yard mark in career total offense. Currently with 4,057 total yards, Miller needs only 102 more yards to move past Kern (4,158) and into 13th place on OSU’s all-time list.

** Miller also needs only 231 more passing yards to move into the school’s top 12 in that category. The sophomore QB currently has 2,430 yards, which ranks just behind Stan Jackson (2,660, 1994-97), Don Unverferth (2,518, 1963-65), Kern (2,444) and Kirk Herbstreit (2,437, 1989-92).

** Purdue senior receiver Antavian Edison is working on a streak of 27 consecutive games with at least one reception.

** OSU has blocked four kicks – two punts and two PATs – this season, adding to Meyer’s total as a head coach. In 11 seasons with Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and OSU, Meyer-coached teams have blocked 55 kicks in 134 games. Since 2005, Meyer is a spotless 18-0 in games when his team has blocked an enemy punt. That includes a 2-0 record this season.

** Speaking of blocking kicks, Purdue senior defensive end Kawann Short has blocked eight kicks during his career – two PATs and six field-goal tries. Short, who has started all 42 games of his Purdue career, helped Central High School in East Chicago win an Indiana state basketball tournament during his junior year. The 6-3, 315-pounder reportedly can still dunk.

** Purdue has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season, the second-best total in the nation. One of those was turned in by junior cornerback Ricardo Allen, who chalked up his fourth career pick-six against Marshall on Sept. 29. Allen is tied with Tim Wilbur of Indiana (1978-82) for the second-most interception returns for touchdowns in Big Ten history. Wisconsin cornerback Jamar Fletcher (1998-2000) had five during his career.

** After finishing last year 11th in the Big Ten in penalties, Hope talked extensively during the offseason about addressing that issue. Message sent, message received. The Boilermakers have committed the second-fewest penalties of any conference team this season, averaging 4.8 penalties for a Big Ten-low 36.0 yards per game.

** Ohio State is currently the most penalized team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes average 8.0 penalties per game for 70.3 yards. OSU has been flagged 56 times in seven games, including 18 personal foul penalties.

** The Boilermakers have been snakebitten recently in terms of knee injuries. Running back Ralph Bolden and quarterback Robert Marve have suffered three ACL injuries each while running back Brandon Cottom and quarterback Rob Henry have sustained one apiece.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern. Disney will handle the telecast on ABC/ESPN2 using its reverse mirror. That means if the game isn’t carried by your local ABC affiliate, it will be on ESPN2 and vice versa. Beth Mowins will call the play-by-play with former Ohio State receiver Joey Galloway providing color analysis. Lewis Johnson will report from the sidelines.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 112 and XM channel 190.

** Next week, Ohio State travels to Penn State for a contest now scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. That game will also be telecast by ABC/ESPN2.

OLDEST SURVIVING BIG TEN COACHES

Not sure how we stumbled upon this topic, but while doing some research recently we uncovered a list of the oldest surviving former Big Ten coaches.

Topping the list is 98-year-old Bill Glassford, who was head coach at Nebraska from 1949 to 1955.

Of course, if you are a purist, you know that Glassford never coached a day in the Big Ten. That would mean the mantle of oldest surviving former Big Ten coach who actually coached in the Big Ten would be 89-year-old Ara Parseghian, who piloted the Northwestern program between 1956 and 1963.

Here is a school-by-school list of the oldest surviving coaches from each of the current Big Ten members along with their ages and years they coached.

Bill Glassford, 98, Nebraska (1949-55)

Ara Parseghian, 89, Northwestern (1956-63)

Chalmers “Bump” Elliott, 87, Michigan (1959-68)

Frank Lauterbur, 87, Iowa (1971-73)

Pete Elliott, 86, Illinois (1960-66)

Bob DeMoss, 85, Purdue (1970-72)

Bob Hicks, 85, Indiana (1957)

Earle Bruce, 81, Ohio State (1979-87)

George Perles, 78, Michigan State (1983-94)

Jim Hilles, 76, Wisconsin (1986)

Lou Holtz, 75, Minnesota (1984-85)

Tom Bradley, 56, Penn State (2011)

Yes, Bump and Pete Elliott are brothers, born 20 months apart. Pete is also the second-oldest surviving former Nebraska head coach. He succeeded Glassford and coached the Cornhuskers during the 1956 season.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Oct. 21, 1978, third-ranked Arkansas fell 28-21 victim to No. 9 Texas in Austin. The Longhorns were led by a trio of players with the same name. Tailback Johnny “Jam” Jones led Texas in rushing against the Razorbacks, fullback Johnny “Ham” Jones rushed for a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and wide receiver Johnny “Lam” Jones nabbed a pair of TD catches, including the eventual game-winner with 6:15 to play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Oct. 24, 1953, winless Purdue pulled a stunning 6-0 upset of second-ranked Michigan State behind fullback Dan Pobojewski’s fourth-quarter touchdown plunge. The game ended the Spartans’ 28-game winning streak and marked the first time MSU had been shut out in 59 games.

** Also on Oct. 24, 1953, Minnesota handed No. 5 Michigan a 22-0 loss in the 50th installment of the Little Brown Jug series. The Golden Gophers were led by tailback Paul Giel, who rushed for 113 yards and two TDs while also throwing for 169 yards and a touchdown.

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams has been pared to an even dozen with Ohio, Ohio State and Oregon leading the pack at 7-0. Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Louisville, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Rutgers are all 6-0, while Cincinnati and Oregon State are 5-0.

** The nation’s longest streak ended for the second week in a row. TCU had its 12-game streak snapped Oct. 6 with a 37-23 loss to Iowa State, and South Carolina’s 10-game streak ended last Saturday night with a 23-21 heartbreaker at LSU. That means Alabama now owns the nation’s longest streak with 10 straight wins.

** Congratulations to Tulane, which ended the nation’s longest losing streak at 15 games with last Saturday’s 27-26 win over SMU. Eastern Michigan takes over the dubious honor of the nation’s longest losing streak. The Eagles lost a 52-47 shootout to Toledo on Saturday, marking their eighth straight loss.

** SMU rebounded from its loss to Tulane with a 72-42 rout of Conference USA rival Houston last night. The Mustangs established a new single-game scoring record, eclipsing a 70-0 victory over Daniel Baker College in 1920. SMU also had the highest point tally ever for a Houston opponent. The Cougars had given up 66 points twice previously – a 66-10 loss to UCLA in 1997 and a 66-45 defeat to Louisville in 2003.

** In retrospect, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised about Texas Tech’s 49-14 upset of No. 5 West Virginia. Red Raiders head coach Tommy Tuberville moved his lifetime record to a stellar 6-2 against top-five opponents. Double-T gets another shot at a top-five team Oct. 27 when it travels to No. 4 Kansas State.

** Wisconsin running back Monteé Ball rushed for a career-best 247 yards and scored three touchdowns during last week’s 38-14 win over Purdue. Ball moved his career touchdown total to 72 and his career point total to 434, breaking the Big Ten records formerly held by fellow Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne. Ball is now six TDs away from the all-time FBS record of 72 held by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio).

** Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz reached a pair of milestones with his team’s 19-16 double overtime victory over Michigan State. Ferentz notched win No. 100 with the Hawkeyes, making him only the second Iowa head coach to crack the century mark. Hayden Fry (1979-98) is the school’s all-time leader with 143 wins. Additionally, the win over the Spartans marked Ferentz’s 60th Big Ten victory, making him only the 14th man to reach 60 conference wins. The all-time leader in that category is Woody Hayes of Ohio State, who compiled 152 Big Ten victories from 1951-78.

** If you thought the four-hour marathon involving Ohio State and Indiana was a doozy, Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M waged a back-and-forth war for 4½ hours before the Aggies finally came away with a 59-57 victory. Louisiana Tech fought its way out of a 27-0 hole, and then scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to pull within two points. But the Bulldogs missed on a two-point conversion try with 38 seconds remaining and couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick. Tech QB Colby Cameron threw for 450 yards and five TDs, but he was overshadowed by A&M counterpart Johnny Manziel, who racked up an SEC-record 576 total yards in the game. Manziel threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 181 yards and three more scores.

** Things are going from bad to worse for Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. The Volunteers posted back-to-back losing records under Dooley in 2010 and 2011, marking the first time the program had consecutive losing seasons since three in a row from 1909 to 1911. Last weekend, Tennessee lost a 41-31 decision to Mississippi State to drop Dooley’s record to 4-15 in SEC games. And just to add a little injury to insult, Dooley had to coach that game from the press box after undergoing midweek hip surgery.

** Speaking of Mississippi State, it has started the season with a 6-0 record for the first time since winning its first eight games in 1999. Dan Mullen is in his fourth season as head coach of the Bulldogs, and is angling for the team’s third consecutive winning campaign. That hasn’t happened in Starkville since Jackie Sherrill strung together four straight from 1997 to 2000.

** Florida QB Jeff Driskel rushed for 177 yards during his team’s 31-17 win at Vanderbilt last weekend, breaking the school’s single-game rushing record by a quarterback. The previous mark of 166 was set in 2007 by Tim Tebow during the Gators’ 30-24 win over Ole Miss.

** Oregon State is the surprise of the Pac-12 so far this season. The No. 10 Beavers are 5-0 for the first time since 1939 and play unranked conference foes Utah, Washington and Arizona State the next three weeks. Oregon State has been playing football since 1894 and has never started a season better than 6-0. That happened in 1907 when the Beavers won all six games they played that year.

** Ole Miss snapped its 16-game conference losing streak with last week’s 41-20 win over Auburn. Extra credit for those of you who know the Rebels are coached by a guy named Hugh Freeze, whose previous coaching stops include Arkansas State, NAIA Lambuth University (Tenn.) and Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. One of Freeze’s players at Briarcrest was current Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, the subject of the best-selling book and hit movie “The Blind Side.”

** You probably missed the fact that New Mexico scored a 35-23 victory at Hawaii in a game that ended early Sunday morning Eastern time. It marked the Lobos’ first win outside their home state since a 20-17 win at San Diego State on Oct. 20, 2007. In his first season in Albuquerque, Bob Davies has guided the Lobos to four victories already – pretty good for a team that went 3-33 during the previous three seasons combined.

** The longest running series in the country stages its 122nd renewal tomorrow when Wisconsin hosts Minnesota in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Goldy and Bucky have been battling for the axe trophy since 1948 with Wisconsin holding a 38-23-3 advantage, including wins in each of the last eight meetings. In the overall series, Minnesota leads by a 58-55-8 margin.

** Ohio garners most of the attention directed toward the Mid-American Conference these days, but East Division rival Kent State is off to a 5-1 start under second-year head coach and our old friend Darrell Hazell. That is the best start since 1973 for the Golden Flashes and part of the reason is junior speedster Dri Archer. The 5-8, 175-pounder with 4.21 speed currently leads the nation in all-purpose yardage (229.2 yards per game) and kickoff returns (47.7 yards per return), and ranks fifth in scoring (12.0 points per game). In case you’re interested, Kent hosts Ohio on the day after Thanksgiving – the regular-season finale for both teams.

FEARLESS FORECAST

This is more like it. We finally picked out some games we could win, and went a perfect 10-0 straight up and 6-2-2 against the spread. (Gotta stop taking Ohio State to cover, though.) The season totals are now 58-12 straight up and we’re back to .500 ATS at 34-34-2.

We’ll try to build on last week with these games.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Minnesota at Wisconsin: The Gophers really don’t have much going for them as they head into the 122nd renewal of one of college football’s oldest rivalry games. Head coach Jerry Kill had another seizure following last week’s loss to Northwestern, injuries are preventing electrifying QB MarQueis Gray from staying in the lineup, and history has not been kind to Goldy. Wisconsin is 38-23-3 since the teams started playing for the Paul Bunyan Axe Trophy in 1946, and the Badgers haven’t lost to Minnesota at home since 1994. Add in the fact that Wisconsin seems to have righted the ship after a shaky start and you have the recipe for a blowout … Wisconsin 42, Minnesota 17. (12 noon ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 9 South Carolina at No. 3 Florida: The Gators are probably getting more credit than they deserve for beating a mediocre Vanderbilt team last week while the Gamecocks are getting more criticism than they deserve for a razor-close 23-21 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. South Carolina could be without star RB Marcus Lattimore (bruised hip) while normally reliable QB Connor Shaw was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter last week by LSU. Meanwhile, the Gators welcome back three offensive linemen who were sidelined last week. Steve Spurrier would like nothing more than to return to the Swamp and beat his former team, but the Gamecocks are a lowly 1-12 all-time in Gainesville. That lone victory came in 2010 and we just have this inkling that Spurrier can somehow work his magic again … South Carolina 23, Florida 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

BYU at No. 5 Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are getting a lot of pub for their defense, but the Cougars are no slouch on D. While Notre Dame ranks 11th nationally in total defense (287.0 yards per game), BYU is No. 5 at 260.9 yards per contest. The Cougars have held four of their seven opponents to seven points or fewer, while the Irish have limited their last four opponents to a combined total of four field goals and no offensive touchdowns. Neither team has much of an offense to write home about, so that means this game will likely hinge on turnovers. And that is where Notre Dame has the edge. The Irish are plus-8 in that department while the Cougars are minus-5 … Notre Dame 17, BYU 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

MichiganState at No. 23 Michigan: The Spartans are working on a four-game winning streak against the Wolverines, their longest win streak in the series in 50 years. If MSU is to increase that streak to a record five in a row, it is going to have to find a way to play much better than it has in recent weeks. Since losing a 17-16 home heartbreaker to Ohio State, Sparty scuffled around at Indiana before pulling out a 31-27 win and then looked extremely sloppy at times during last week’s 19-16 double overtime loss to Iowa. Meanwhile, Michigan seems to have fixed whatever ailments it was experiencing during the first part of the season, piling up 936 total yards combined the last two weeks vs. Purdue and Illinois. Expect the Spartans to put up more of a struggle than the Boilers or Illini, but also expect their series winning streak to come to an end … Michigan 27, Michigan State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Colorado at No. 11 USC: After hitting the road for four of their last five games, the Trojans get to relax a little bit at home tomorrow evening. Coming to town are the struggling Buffaloes, who are 1-5 and are probably not even that good. Colorado ranks 103rd in the nation in scoring offense and 117th in scoring defense, a deadly combination going against a team like USC desperate to get back on track after a handful of subpar performances. QB Matt Barkley has 93 career TD passes and needs only four more to establish a new Pac-12 career record. He might do in the first quarter against the Buffs … USC 42, Colorado 17. (6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 1 Alabama at Tennessee: How good is the Alabama defense? Good enough to rank No. 1 in the nation in every major statistical category. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, the only way they have a chance in this game is if their offense can score enough points to make up for a porous defense. Tennessee averages 38.0 points per game, and has scored 44 or more three times in seven games. But the Vols can’t stop anyone. They surrender 31.5 points per game and that just won’t get it done against the defending national champs … Alabama 41, Tennessee 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Kansas at No. 10 Oklahoma: Since a mistake-prone loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22, the Sooners seem to have figured things out. OU took a week off and came back to run roughshod through Texas, slicing up a pretty good Texas Tech defense to the tune of a 41-20 win and then exposing Texas last week in the annual Red River Shootout, cruising to a 63-21 victory. The Boomer Sooner will likely keep rolling this week against a Kansas defense that allows an average of 28.0 points and 433.7 yards per contest. But the Jayhawks did limit a potent Oklahoma State offense to only 20 points last week, so maybe things are looking up for Charlie Weis. Then again, the Jayhawks are managing only 19.0 points per game on offense … Oklahoma 49, Kansas 7. (7 p.m. ET, FSN, DirectTV 692)

Penn State at Iowa: First-year Nittany Lions head coach Bill O’Brien has maximized his talent pool, taking a team that had only four starters remaining from last season and leading it to four consecutive wins. So far, Penn State has played very well on defense and just well enough on offense to beat the likes of Illinois and Northwestern. Now, the Lions begin to reach the meat of their schedule beginning with a trip to Iowa City tomorrow night. The Hawkeyes have won eight of the last 10 games in the series, including each of the last four played at Kinnick Stadium. Since these teams appear to be mirror images of one another, we’ll go with the home team in a defensive battle … Iowa 13, Penn State 10. (8 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 611)

No. 12 Florida State at Miami (Fla.): The Hurricanes’ chances in this game would be greatly enhanced if starting QB Stephen Morris can shake off a sprained ankle that was keeping him off the practice field. Even with Morris, however, Miami faces a tall task in taking down the Seminoles. The U’s defense is still spotty, having allowed 32 or more points five times in seven games and at least 498 total yards four times. And knowing that the E.J. Manuel-led Florida State attack averages 46.0 points and 530.6 yards per game makes Morris even more important to the Miami cause. FSU has won two in a row in the series and five of the last seven … Florida State 41, Miami 20. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Purdue at No. 7 Ohio State: There has been a lot of talk about how the Boilermakers have had Ohio State’s number since Danny Hope has been head coach. And while it is true Hope owns a 2-1 record against the Buckeyes, both of his victories occurred in West Lafayette. The only time a Hope-coached team came to Columbus, it limped back across the Indiana border after a 49-0 waxing. No one expects this year’s game to be a 49-point blowout, mainly because Purdue likes to spread things out on offense and the Buckeyes have given up a truckload of points to teams that spread them out. Still, one has to believe that Urban Meyer got into the grill and under the skin of his defensive players and coaches after last week’s near-collapse at Indiana. Still, don’t expect a runaway … Ohio State 49, Purdue 38. (12 noon ET, ABC/ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Minnesota at Wisconsin (-17½); South Carolina (+3½) at Florida; BYU (+14) at Notre Dame; Michigan State (+11½) at Michigan; Colorado (+41) at USC; Alabama (-18½) at Tennessee; Kansas at Oklahoma (-34½); Penn State at Iowa (-1½); Florida State (-17½) at Miami-FL; Purdue (+19) at Ohio State.

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

Miller Might By Most Exciting Buckeye In Long Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That wasn’t the only time.

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

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

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

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

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

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

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 17-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.

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

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

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

** Despite its recent problems in the series, Indiana has historically made life difficult for Ohio State head coaches in their first season. Dating back to 1913, first-year OSU head coaches are only 5-4-1 against the Hoosiers. That includes losses by John W. Wilce (7-6 in 1913), Wes Fesler (7-0 in 1947), Woody Hayes (32-10 in 1951) and John Cooper (41-7 in 1988). Ohio State head coaches who beat Indiana in their inaugural seasons were Francis Schmidt (33-0 in 1934), Carroll Widdoes (21-7 in 1944), Earle Bruce (47-6 in 1979), Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001) and Luke Fickell (34-20 in 2011). Sam Willaman’s first team in 1929 played the Hoosiers to 0-0 tie, and in case you’re wondering about Paul Brown in 1941 and Paul Bixler in 1946, the Buckeyes and IU did not play in those seasons.

** Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his second season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 61 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88. Before that, you have to go back to Clyde Smith, whose Indiana team took a 32-10 win over Ohio State in 1951.

** Wilson was offensive coordinator on the late Randy Walker’s staff at Northwestern from 1999-2001 and was 0-1 vs. Ohio State during that time. The Buckeyes took a 38-20 win over the Wildcats in 2001.

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

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

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

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

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

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

** Wilson also has three native Ohioans on his coaching staff. Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns is from Piqua, running backs coach Deland McCullough is from Youngstown, and assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Doug Mallory hails from Bowling Green. Mallory is the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, who was a member of Woody Hayes’ coaching staff at Ohio State from 1966-68.

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

** While an Indiana upset of Ohio State would be stunning enough, the odds of the Hoosiers shutting out the Buckeyes would be astronomical. Indiana hasn’t pitched a shutout against any opponent since a 10-0 win over Michigan State in October 1993 and hasn’t blanked Ohio State since that 0-0 tie in 1959. IU hasn’t won a game in which it shut out the Buckeyes since a 10-0 decision in 1937.

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

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

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

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

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

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

** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 82 for 82 in career PATs. The IU school record of 107 extra points in a row is held by Pete Stoyanovich (1986-88), who never missed a PAT during his college career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flawed Buckeyes Cream Of Flawed Big Ten Crop So Far

What we have learned so far from the first five weeks of the 2012 college football season is that a sometimes-flawed Ohio State team represents the cream of the crop in the supremely-flawed Big Ten.

The Buckeyes and Northwestern are the only remaining undefeated teams in a conference that boasted five teams ranked among the nation’s top 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll. Those rankings are but a distant memory now in a Big Ten that has more problems than a screen door in a hurricane.

No conference team resides in the top 10 of either major poll with the Buckeyes at No. 12 in the AP rankings. OSU is not eligible for the USA Today coaches’ poll, meaning Nebraska is the highest-ranking Big Ten team there at No. 20.

After the first month of the season, eight teams rank 54th or lower nationally in terms of total offense, and six of those are 79th or below. That includes two-time defending conference champion Wisconsin, whose once-vaunted offensive attack now ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 109th nationally.

But the 3-2 Badgers, who were once as high as No. 12 in the preseason polls, aren’t the only conference team with issues. Michigan State is so offensively challenged that the Spartans have scored exactly one touchdown in their two losses this season. And both of those losses – 20-3 to Notre Dame and 17-16 to OSU – have come in home games.

Nebraska is 4-1, but it needed to erase a 17-point third-quarter deficit at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 29 to claim a 30-27 victory. The Cornhuskers’ famed Blackshirts defense is only a middle-of-the-pack unit this season, giving up averages of 20.6 points and 340.8 points per game.

NU is also a decidedly different team away from Lincoln. The team’s only loss this season was a 36-30 defeat at UCLA, and the Huskers were 2-2 on the road last year in their first season as Big Ten members.

Minnesota is also 4-1, but Goldy got exposed in a 31-13 loss at Iowa. The Gophers fell behind 24-0 at halftime to a Hawkeyes team that had been ranked No. 105 in the nation in scoring. Even with its outburst against Minnesota, Iowa moved up only to a tie for 97th.

Michigan has seemingly taken the step back many predicted this season. In fact, the argument could be made that quarterback Denard Robinson has taken a couple of steps backward. Robinson is still U-M’s primary playmaker, but he played extremely poorly against Alabama and Notre Dame, combining to complete only 24 of 50 pass attempts for 338 yards and one touchdown against six interceptions. He did contribute 117 rushing yards in those games but failed to score.

Simply put, if you find a way to stop Robinson, you can beat Michigan.

Northwestern and Purdue are the current dark horse darlings. The Wildcats are 5-0, but they have yet to reach the meat of their schedule. They take on Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State in successive games beginning Oct. 20. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers haven’t even begun conference play yet and already have a half-game lead over the other three eligible teams in the Leaders Division. But they jump into the frying pan Oct. 6 by hosting a rested Michigan team coming off an open week, a game that begins a three-week stretch that includes a home game vs. Wisconsin and a road match at Ohio State.

Illinois appears to be struggling mightily under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, while Indiana is … well, Indiana.

Finally, no one knows how much is left in Penn State’s emotional tank. The Nittany Lions are currently on a three-game winning streak, but their next three games are interesting ones – at home vs. Northwestern on Oct. 6, at Iowa on Oct. 20 and home against Ohio State on Oct. 27. Penn State usually handles the Wildcats pretty well, but it has lost three of its last four to the Hawkeyes and four of its last six to the Buckeyes.

What we have learned about the Big Ten so far? That it has a couple of good teams, a couple of bad ones and several that are very average, so don’t be surprised if the conference sends a team with three losses (or more) to the Rose Bowl.

OSU-NEBRASKA TIDBITS

** This marks only the fourth ever meeting between Ohio State and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers erased a 21-point deficit last year for a 34-27 victory in Memorial Stadium, while the Buckeyes won both of the previous games – 28-20 in the 1955 season opener and 34-7 a year later in that season’s opener. Both of those games were played at Ohio Stadium.

** The game marks the first time in four meetings that both teams will be ranked. The Buckeyes were No. 6 in 1955 and No. 8 in ’56 while the Cornhuskers were ranked 14th last season.

** The game pits a pair of head coaches with a lot of Ohio and Ohio State ties. OSU head coach Urban Meyer is a native of Ashtabula who spent the 1985 and ’86 seasons as an assistant on Earle Bruce’s coaching staff at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who grew up in Youngstown, was recruited by Bruce out of Cardinal Mooney High School to play for the Buckeyes. He was a four-year letterman at OSU from 1987-90 and a two-year starter at safety in 1989 and ’90. Pelini was also a team co-captain during the 1990 season.

** Pelini has coached three times before against his alma mater and he is 3-0. In addition to last year’s victory, Pelini was a graduate assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa in 1991 when the Hawkeyes took a 16-9 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Then, in January 2008 just before taking over at Nebraska, Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers scored a 38-24 win over the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game.

** Meyer has never faced Nebraska, but he has butted heads before with Pelini. From 2005-07 when Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU, Meyer went 1-2 vs. the Tigers while at Florida.

** Meyer has his team off to a 5-0 start for the fifth time in 11 seasons as a head coach. The others were Bowling Green (2002), Utah (2004) and Florida (2006 and ’09). With his 5-0 record, Meyer now has the third-best start to a career by an Ohio State head coach. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 games in 1944 and ’45, while Earle Bruce won his first 11 in a row in 1979.

** Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at Nebraska, putting him into some elite company. The only others to accomplish that feat with the Cornhuskers were Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich. Pelini has a ways to go to equal the record for most nine-win seasons with the Huskers, however. Osborne won nine or more games in each of his 25 years at Nebraska.

** The game features two of the top five winningest programs in college football history. Michigan tops the list with 897 victories followed by Texas with 862 and Notre Dame with 858. Nebraska is fourth with 850 and Ohio State is fifth with 842.

** The Cornhuskers and Buckeyes are the two winningest teams in college football since 1970. Nebraska has 416 victories during that timeframe while Ohio State has 389.

** The contest will mark the 12th night game in Ohio Stadium history. The Buckeyes are 8-3 under the Horseshoe lights including last year’s 33-27 win over Wisconsin.

** Overall, Ohio State is 36-20 in night games since 1959. Nebraska is 81-33-3 all-time under the lights.

** Ohio State is 4-0 at home this season and 70-7 at Ohio Stadium since 2002.

** Nebraska is 0-1 on the road this season and 13-7 in regular-season away contests under Pelini.

** Last year’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State snapped a six-game win streak for the Buckeyes in Big Ten home openers.

** The Cornhuskers are 2-3 in their last five conference road openers. That includes a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin last season in their first season as Big Ten members.

** It is the 91st annual homecoming game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 66-19-5 on homecoming.

** The Buckeyes have an all-time record of 367-131-28 in October. That is a .724 winning percentage. The Cornhuskers are 350-132-19 (.718) during the month.

** Last year’s game between Ohio State and Nebraska was historical not just in terms of the two teams squaring off for the first time as Big Ten opponents. The Cornhuskers erased a 27-6 deficit to take a 34-27, making it the largest comeback in program history. Conversely, the game marked the first time in OSU history the Buckeyes had ever lost a game in which they were ahead by as much as 21 points.

** Don’t expect a shutout by either team. Nebraska has scored in 209 consecutive games while Ohio State has scored in 234 straight contests. The Cornhuskers were last shut out during a 19-0 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 21, 1996. The Buckeyes haven’t been shut out since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993. OSU hasn’t been shut out at home since the 1978 season opener, a 19-0 loss to Penn State.

** The Cornhuskers have scored 30 or more points in each of their first five games for the first time since 1995.

** Something has to give. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and tied for 26th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 17 times – 14 touchdowns and three field goals – in 19 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. Meanwhile, Nebraska is second in the Big Ten and tied for 11th nationally in red zone defense. Opponents have scored only 10 times – five TDs and five field goals – in 16 trips inside the Cornhuskers’ red zone.

** OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown had a career-high 12 receptions last week against Michigan State, tying him for the fourth-best single-game total in program history.  David Boston holds the school record with 14 catches at Penn State during a 31-27 OSU loss in 1997. Boston also had a 13-catch game at Indiana in 1996, matching the total Gary Williams had against Florida State in 1981. Others with 12-catch performances are Bob Grimes (1952), Billy Anders (1966) and Brian Stablein (1992).

** Brown’s 12-catch game was the first time an Ohio State receiver cracked double digits since Ted Ginn Jr. had 10 receptions during a 35-7 win over Bowling Green in 2006.

** Brown now has 32 catches this year, a pace that would put him at 77 for the season. That would be the second-best total in school history. Boston has held the single-season mark since 1997 with 85 receptions.

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s 136 rushing yards vs. Michigan State pushed his career total to 1,292 and vaulted him from 49th to 45th place on Ohio State’s all-time list. He passed Troy Smith (1,168, 2003-06), Derek Combs (1,231, 1997-2000), Champ Henson (1,235, 1972-74), Maurice Clarett (1,237, 2002) and Ricardo Volley (1,252, 1977-79).

** Miller needs only 12 more yards to become the fourth-leading rusher of all time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) holds the record with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75), Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70) and Art Schlichter (1,303, 1978-81).

** Nebraska junior QB Taylor Martinez ranks third on his school’s all-time list of rushing quarterbacks with 2,137 yards, trailing only Eric Crouch (3,434, 1998-2001) and Jammal Lord (2,573, 2000-03). Martinez is also fourth on the NU career passing list with 4,779 yards. Zac Taylor (2005-06) is the all-time leader in that category with 5,850 yards followed by Joe Ganz (5,125, 2006-08) and Dave Humm (5,035, 1972-74).

** NU senior I-back Rex Burkhead has recorded at least one 100-yard rushing game in each of the past four seasons. He has cracked the century mark 12 times during his career, tying him for eighth place on the school’s all-time list in that category. Mike Rozier (1981-83), the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, is Nebraska’s career leader with 23 games with at least 100 yards on the ground.

** Burkhead needs 73 more yards to become only the seventh player in Nebraska history to rush for at 3,000 in a career. Rozier is the NU’s all-time leading rusher with 4,780 yards.

** Nebraska has nine native Ohioans on its roster. Ohio State has no players from Nebraska.

** Members of the 1972 Ohio State team will be recognized during the game to mark the 40th anniversary of a season that celebrated the first of a conference-record six consecutive Big Ten championships or co-titles. LB Randy Gradishar and OT John Hicks were named All-Americans that season, team captains were HB Rick Galbos and DT George Hasenohrl, and the Buckeyes were led by freshman tailback Archie Griffin, who rushed for 867 yards.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience featuring the announce crew of Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (color analysis) and Holly Rowe (sideline reports).

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 113 and XM channel 191. Dial Global Sports (formerly Westwood One) will also broadcast the game.

** Next week, Ohio State is back on the road at Indiana for another nighttime affair. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Eastern with the Big Ten Network handling the telecast.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

** On Oct. 5, 1957, VMI became the first team in college football history to hold an opponent to negative yardage in the passing department. During a 28-6 victory, the Keydets allowed Richmond to complete only two passes for a net loss of 16 yards. VMI went on to post a 9-0-1 record and capture the Southern Conference championship that season.

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

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

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

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

** On Oct. 7, 1967, Tulsa wide receivers Ricky Eber and Harry Wood became the only receiving duo in NCAA history to record 300-yard performances in the same game. During the Golden Hurricane’s 58-0 romp over Idaho State, Eber had 20 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns while Wood hauled in 13 balls for 318 yards and three scores. The totals remain the top two single-game outputs in school history, and the combined 640 yards remains an NCAA record for teammates in a game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams has dwindled to 23. Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and UTSA are all 5-0, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia sport 4-0 records, and Cincinnati and Oregon State are 3-0.

** Perhaps the most unusual school among the remaining unbeatens is UTSA, aka the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Roadrunners are only in their second season of existence, going 4-6 last season playing as an independent at the Football Championship Subdivision level. This year, UTSA moved up to FBS as a member of the WAC and the school is already one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not a bad comeback for head coach Larry Coker, who was dumped by Miami (Fla.) in 2006 and out of the game until UTSA hired him in March 2009.

** TCU pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 games with a 24-16 win over old Southwest Conference rival SMU. Meanwhile, Tulane got rolled by Louisiana-Monroe to the tune of a 63-10 final and the nation’s longest losing streak moved to 14. The Green Wave is now 0-4 this season and has been outscored by a 171-32 margin.

** How crazy was West Virginia’s 70-63 victory over Baylor? Well, for starters, Baylor QB Nick Florence threw for a school-record 581 yards and that was 85 yards fewer than his opponent. Mountaineers QB Geno Smith didn’t exactly win the Heisman Trophy last week because his team has a brutal schedule upcoming that features Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma one right after the other. But Smith certainly earned a free trip to New York and the Heisman ceremony in December by completing 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith leads the nation in pass efficiency and his four-game stats are off the charts: 141 of 169 (83.4 percent) for 1,728 yards, 20 TDs and no interceptions.

** More on the West Virginia-Baylor game: The teams tied the FBS record for most touchdowns in a game with 19 and set a record for most points scored in a game involving a ranked team. The previous mark was set in 1980 when No. 12 Oklahoma rolled to an 82-42 win over Colorado. West Virginia totaled a school-record 807 yards, the teams combined for 1,507 yards of offense and six receivers had at least 100 yards each. Baylor WR Terrance Williams set a Big 12 record with 314 yards, breaking the record of 303 that was set just a few minutes earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey.

** Smith isn’t the only Big 12 quarterback winging it around these days. The conference features four of the top five QBs in pass efficiency – Smith at No. 1, David Ash of Texas at No. 2, J.W. Walsh of Oklahoma State at No. 4 and Casey Pachall of TCU at No. 5.

** The only non-Big 12 quarterback among the nation’s top five in pass efficiency is Aaron Murray of Georgia. Murray, who has thrown for 1,370 yards and 12 TDs, plays in the same backfield as the freshman tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The duo combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns during last week’s 51-44 win over Tennessee. Gurley ran for a 51-yard touchdown while Marshall added scoring runs of 72 and 72 yards.

** While Smith was smashing the old Big 12 single-game passing record, Stephen Morris of Miami (Fla.) established a new ACC mark with 566 yards during the Hurricanes’ 44-37 win over North Carolina State. Morris’ performance included a 62-yard game-winner to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining.

** Another record-setting performance was turned in by the Northwestern offense, which set a new school mark with 704 total yards during last Saturday’s 44-29 win over Indiana. The Wildcats are currently employing a two-quarterback system – junior Kain Colter is the running part of the equation while sophomore Trevor Siemian handles most of the passing. Against the Hoosiers, Colter ran for 161 yards and four TDs while Siemian completed 22 of 32 passes for 308 yards. Nine of those completions went to Colter for 131 yards.

** By the way, Northwestern is 5-0 for the third time in the last five seasons, but the Wildcats haven’t started 6-0 since 1962 when Ara Parseghian was head coach.

** How good is defending national champion Alabama? The Crimson Tide trailed in a game for the first time since last October when Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter of last week’s game. That lead lasted exactly 15 seconds before Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The Tide went on to post a comfortable 33-14 victory.

** How bad is Arkansas? Texas A&M redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel torched the Razorbacks for 453 yards and three TDs during the Aggies’ 58-10 win. It was the most points ever scored by A&M in 70 all-time meetings with the Hogs.

** Texas Tech defensive coordinator Art Kaufman might be on a lot of short lists when head coaching vacancies come up this winter. Last year, the Red Raiders ranked 114th nationally in total defense. So far this year under Kaufman, the Double-T defense holds the No. 1 ranking, allowing only 167.5 yards per game.

** Congratulations to Utah State for its first 4-1 start since 1978. The Aggies are looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 1973, but to do that they would have to beat BYU tonight in Provo. Utah State has lost 11 of its last 12 against the Cougars and 16 in a row in Provo.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Someone mentioned to us not too long ago how much easier it was to pick college football winners than trying to bet against the spread. Our reply: No kidding.

After a couple of outstanding years beating the odds, the chickens have come home to roost. Straight up, we were a sparkling 9-1 last week, missing only one of our Upset Specials when Oklahoma State ran out of gas against Texas. Against the spread, we were the ones running on empty at 3-7.

For the season, we are 42-8 straight up, but a dismal 22-28 ATS. Once again, we’ll see what we can do about turning things around.

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Buffalo at Ohio: The Bobcats are off to their best start since 1968 when they won all 10 of their regular-season games before losing a 49-42 decision to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl. Their latest hurdle is Buffalo, which is only 1-3 but sets up to give OU a battle. The game will likely come to a war in the trenches between the Bulls’ running game (203.5 yards per game, 32nd nationally) against the Bobcats’ rush defense (94.0 yards per game, 16th nationally). If the Fighting Soliches can stop the run, it will force the Bulls’ vertically challenged passing game to try and win the game. Ohio owns a slight 11-8 advantage in the all-time series, but the Bobcats have won seven of the last eight played in Athens … Ohio 26, Buffalo 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Kansas at No. 7 Kansas State: On paper, this looks like a mismatch. After going into Norman and taking a 24-19 win over then No. 6 Oklahoma, the Wildcats have had an extra week to prepare for the Jayhawks, who are trying to avoid their worst start since 1990. Kansas is also coming off an open week, but its last game featured a 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois, a game in which Charlie Weis’ team surrendered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. K-State has won 12 straight home games against unranked opposition and the Jayhawks have lost 14 in a row on the road. Mismatch indeed … Kansas State 42, Kansas 10. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 4 LSU at No. 10 Florida: It’s only week six of the season, but this game will likely eliminate one of the SEC’s national championship contenders. LSU has remained undefeated despite all of its talent drain through suspensions, academic problems and injuries and the fact that it commits turnovers and penalties by the truckload. Meanwhile, the Gators have overachieved a bit with a resurgent offense that averages nearly 225 yards rushing per game. The Tigers haven’t exactly been spectacular lately, and head coach Les Miles is only 1-2 lifetime at The Swamp. But LSU still has a ferocious defense that is expected to bring constant pressure on Florida QB Jeff Demps. The Gators want revenge for last year’s 41-11 blowout loss. We just don’t expect them to get it … LSU 20, Florida 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Michigan at Purdue: The Boilermakers have yet to make their Big Ten season debut and already hold a half-game lead over every other team in the Leaders Division eligible for the conference title game. Petey can make a huge step toward a trip to Indianapolis this week if it can figure out a way to stop Michigan’s run game. A year ago, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 170 yards and two scores as the Wolverines rolled up 339 yards on the ground en route to a 36-14 win in Ann Arbor. Purdue has boilered up its rush defense so far this season, ranking fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally by allowing only 106.5 yards per game. But there is that small matter of the Boilermakers’ 14-43 record in the series, although they have split the last six meetings in West Lafayette. The Wolverines’ extra week of preparation gives them the edge … Michigan 31, Purdue 21. (4 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina: Here is another heavyweight bout between undefeated teams with control of the SEC East at stake. Two of the nation’s top running backs will be featured – UGA freshman Todd Gurley (536 yards, nine TDs) and Gamecocks junior Marcus Lattimore (440 yards, eight TDs) – and both teams average better than 36 points per game. South Carolina has the better defense, however, ranking sixth nationally in scoring and seventh against the run. Add that to the fact Georgia’s top receiver Michael Bennett tore his ACL on Tuesday and is out for the season, and the Gamecocks would appear to have the edge. But there is history to be considered. The Bulldogs have lost two in a row in the series and have never dropped three in a row since the rivalry began in 1894. Meanwhile, South Carolina is working on a school record-tying nine straight victories overall. Who are we to mess with history? … Georgia 24, South Carolina 23. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 8 West Virginia at 11 Texas: Defense takes a back seat in this matchup featuring the nation’s top two rated passers. Geno Smith of West Virginia and David Ash of Texas have put up arena league numbers so far, combining to throw for 2,735 yards and 30 TDs while pitching only one interception in 278 attempts. For the Mountaineers, Smith is pretty much the whole show while Ash gets plenty of help from a running game that averages 228.0 yards per game. Defensively, the Longhorns have the edge even though they have allowed 67 points and 975 yards in their last two games. Over the same stretch, West Virginia has given up 84 points and 1,005 yards. Mr. Scoreboard Operator, make sure you’re rested for this one … Texas 52, West Virginia 49. (7 p.m. ET, FOX)

Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame: Both of these teams can take a huge step toward reclaiming elite status as they square off at Soldier Field tomorrow night. The resumption of the series once known as “Convicts vs. Catholics” – they haven’t played a regular-season game since 1990 – will feature a potent Miami offense led by QB Stephen Morris (1,635 yards, nine TDs) vs. a smothering Fighting Irish defense that ranks No. 3 in the nation in scoring. Notre Dame has allowed an average of only 9.0 points per game and is the only remaining FBS school that has yet to trail in a game this season. The Hurricanes are the exact opposite – they can’t stop anyone, ranking 114th in total defense … Notre Dame 31, Miami 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

No. 3 Florida State at North Carolina State: Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon has waited a year to get his revenge on the Seminoles. Last year, Glennon threw for only 130 yards, got sacked four times and was intercepted twice as FSU ran away with a 34-0 shutout. This year, Glennon has upped his game, throwing for 1,422 yards and 10 TDs. But he has also pitched six interceptions in five games, and he will be going against a Florida State defense that ranks in the top seven nationally in every major category. Add two of the nation’s best rushers in DEs Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner, who already have 13½ sacks between them, and you get the picture of Glennon running for his life … Florida State 41, N.C. State 14. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon: The Huskies have had nine days to savor their 17-13 win over then-No. 8 Stanford, but they jump squarely from the frying pan into the fire. U-Dub has hung with the Ducks each of the past two seasons, but Oregon still pulled away for big victories – 53-16 in 2010 and 34-17 last year. The Quack Attack is nearly unstoppable in Eugene with 27 wins in its last 28 home games. Autzen Stadium has also been a house of horrors for Washington. The Huskies haven’t won there since 2002, dropping their last five games at Oregon by a combined margin of 207-67. U-Dub is getting better under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but its not quite on par with the Ducks just yet … Oregon 39, Washington 23. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State: These two teams seem to be mirror images of one another. Both have mobile quarterbacks, both have more-than-adequate running backs and both have defenses which have been known to give up large chunks of yardage. We just keep going back to last year’s game, however, when the Buckeyes were on cruise control with a 27-6 lead at the 10:53 mark of the third quarter and let it slip away. Of course, the outcome would likely have been different had Braxton Miller not gone out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter and Miller’s health should have a similar impact this year. Under the lights at home with a raucous Ohio Stadium crowd behind him – not to mention Urban Meyer pushing the right buttons – we expect the sophomore QB to do his thing and get it done … Ohio State 38, Nebraska 34. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Buffalo (+16½) at Ohio; Kansas at Kansas State (-23½) ; LSU (-2½) at Florida; Michigan (-3) at Purdue; Georgia (+1½) at South Carolina; West Virginia (+7) at Texas; Miami-FL vs. Notre Dame (-9½); Florida State (-13½) at N.C. State; Washington (+24½) at Oregon; Nebraska at Ohio State (-3½).

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

Reality Intruding Upon Buckeye Nation’s Perception

To say the honeymoon between Urban Meyer and Ohio State fans is over would not be totally accurate. But the newlyweds are slowly coming to the realization that life isn’t one big party.

If you listened closely enough to the 105,019 packed into Ohio Stadium last Saturday afternoon for the final game of a rather nondescript nonconference schedule, you could make a smattering of boos from the scarlet and gray faithful. And the patrons who weren’t voicing their displeasure mostly just shuffled in their seats, uneasy at the disjointed product the Buckeyes have displayed so far this season.

Fans began eagerly looking forward to the 2012 season late last November when Meyer was announced as head coach of the Buckeyes. They looked at a guy who produced winners at Bowling Green and Utah as well as a couple of national titles at Florida, added the tradition of Ohio State, and somewhat naturally extrapolated copious amounts of easy victories and a multitude of scarlet and gray championships.

Of course, fans are a fickle lot. Yesterday’s hero is today’s scapegoat, and if you listen to what passes for sports talk radio in Columbus, you will hear enough headache-inducing comments to make you want to crash your car into the nearest telephone pole.

One caller wanted to know what happened to the wide-open spread offense he had been promised. Another said the duties of being defensive coordinator were far beyond Luke Fickell’s capabilities. One misguided soul even offered the opinion that the team would be better served with Kenny Guiton as the starting quarterback.

Perhaps it would be worth noting (again) that Meyer inherited a team that went 6-7 last season, is fighting through a spate of injuries and is counting on regular contributions from more than a dozen first- and second-year players.

Perhaps it would also be worth noting that while Meyer is viewed as somewhat of a miracle worker, his super powers are not limitless. Only once before in his previous 10 seasons as a head coach has he produced an undefeated team. (That was Utah in 2004.) Moreover, while his first seasons at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida represented improvements over the previous year, the bar for excellence wasn’t set very high.

The year before Meyer’s arrival, BG was 2-9, Utah was 5-6 and Florida was 7-5. The coach obviously turned each of those programs around, but he lost at least two games during his first season at all three schools.

Still, after you get used to winning – and winning a lot – you have a tendency to take all of that winning for granted. It happened to Ohio State fans toward the end of the Jim Tressel era and perhaps it happened to Meyer as he assumed his self-described dream job.

Tradition, national championship banners, Big Ten trophies and a stadium listed on the National Register of Historic Places – those are effective recruiting tools for both prospective players and coaches. When you come to Ohio State, you are expected to continue that tradition and win football games. Unfortunately, that expectation sometimes morphs into victory as a foregone conclusion. And if last year’s 6-7 finish wasn’t enough of a shock to the system, perhaps the string of mediocre performances to start this season is serve as a needed dose of stark reality.

No one except for the most myopic of Buckeye fans is thrilled about this team’s 4-0 start. Yes, Ohio State is one of only 26 remaining undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, but that record has been achieved against nonconference opponents now showing a combined record of 5-9.

Meyer’s power spread offense has been a work in progress from day one with certain pieces of the attack functioning well at times and not so well at others. Ohio State has rushed for 917 yards in four games and thrown for 791, but much of that production has been generated by just one player – Braxton Miller, who has run for 441 yards and thrown for 754. You need only look at what has happened to a certain team up north to realize what happens when you rest your entire team’s fortunes on the shoulders of just one player.

And then there is the defense. What was supposed to be a team strength is quickly becoming a liability. There are no records kept for missed tackles, but Ohio State would probably be near the top of the nation in that category. In the first quarter against UAB, I counted at least six missed tackles by the Buckeyes that accounted for an extra 29 yards worth of gain for the Blazers. I counted four more early in the second quarter for 30 yards before giving up.

Through four games, the Ohio State defense is giving up an average of 394.8 yards per game. That number hasn’t been that bad since week five of the 1988 season when after Indiana finished administering a 41-7 spanking of the Buckeyes, the defense was giving up an average of 396.6 yards per game. By the time that season had ended, the average had dipped slightly to 300.0, but John Cooper’s first team still wound up with a 4-6-1 record.

And what makes anyone believe things will get better this year? The Buckeyes’ next four opponents – Michigan State, Nebraska, Indiana and Purdue – each average better than 400 yards of total offense per game. The Cornhuskers and Hoosiers are currently averaging north of 500.

Then, of course, there are the special teams. Ohio State got a punt blocked against UAB that the Blazers returned for a touchdown. To put that into some kind of context, UAB had not returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since 2003. And then to pour salt into the wound, the Blazers caught the Buckeyes napping and recovered an onside kick to start the second half.

After the UAB game, when Meyer was asked which areas of his team concerned him the most, the coach indicated an all-of-the-above answer.

“Defense, offense and kicking game,” he replied. “We have to be better in all three phases. … This is not a finely-tuned machine. It hasn’t been for awhile, especially on both sides of the ball.”

Exceedingly more candid than his predecessor, Meyer admitted, “It’s not as easy as …” before thinking better of finishing his thought aloud. Woody Hayes is the one who said, “Nothing worth a damn is easy,” and Meyer obviously realizes the old coach knew what he was talking about.

But when a coach deems his offense’s explosiveness as “obviously nonexistent for much of the game,” his defense as “painful to watch,” special teams breakdowns as “nonsense,” and his overall team mentality as “passive,” you know the kettle is about to boil.

OSU-MICHIGAN STATE TIDBITS

** This will be the 41st meeting between Ohio State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes hold a 27-13 advantage in the overall series. The Spartans broke a seven-game losing streak in the series with last year’s 10-7 win in Ohio Stadium, but the Buckeyes have still won 12 of the last 15 meetings. OSU is 15-5 against MSU in East Lansing, including a 45-7 romp the last time the Buckeyes visited Spartan Stadium. Ohio State hasn’t lost in East Lansing since a 23-7 decision in 1999.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer gets his first shot at the Spartans. The last five OSU head coaches have experienced mixed results in their first game against Michigan State. Earle Bruce and Jim Tressel each beat the Spartans in their initial meeting, while Woody Hayes, John Cooper and Luke Fickell all lost.

** Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is 1-4 lifetime against the Buckeyes. Last year’s victory broke a streak that included losses in 2004 and 2006 while at Cincinnati in addition to defeats as in 2007 and 2008 with the Spartans. Dantonio, of course, was defensive coordinator on Tressel’s OSU staff from 2001-03 and won the Frank Broyles Award in 2002 as college football’s top assistant coach.

** Dantonio is 47-23 in his five-plus seasons with the Spartans, including a 31-7 mark at home. Michigan State’s 20-3 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 15 snapped a 15-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest in school history.

** Meyer has his team off to a 4-0 start for the eighth time in 11 seasons as a head coach. Four of his teams – Bowling Green (2002), Utah (2004) and Florida (2006 and ’09) – started with five straight wins.

** With his 4-0 start, Meyer is tied for the third-best start to a career by an Ohio State head coach. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 games in 1944 and ’45, while Earle Bruce won his first 11 in a row in 1979. Others to start 4-0 were Perry Hale (1902), E.R. Sweetland (1904) and Howard Jones (1910).

** Ohio State is entering its 100th season as a Big Ten member and the Buckeyes sport a 71-24-4 record in conference openers. OSU has won 10 of its last 12 league openers.

** Michigan State is entering its 60th season of Big Ten competition with a 32-23-4 record in league openers. The Spartans are 7-3 in conference openers since 2002.

** The Buckeyes are 4-1 in Big Ten openers vs. Michigan State, including 1-0 at Spartan Stadium. That victory was a 21-0 decision in 1975. Tailback Archie Griffin rushed for 108 yards in that game, fullback Pete Johnson scored two touchdowns and defensive halfback Craig Cassady tied the school’s single-game record by nabbing three interceptions.

** Over the last four seasons, Ohio State and Michigan State have each won 24 conference games, more than any other team.

** Since 1913, OSU head coaches are 6-5-1 in their Big Ten debuts, including 2-2-1 on the road. John W. Wilce’s team lost a 7-6 decision to Indiana in 1913, the Buckeyes’ inaugural season as Western Conference members. Sam Willaman won his conference debut with a 7-6 win over Iowa in 1929, and Francis Schmidt’s team gave him a 33-0 victory over Indiana in the 1934 season opener. Paul Brown took over in 1941 and his team eked out a 16-14 win over Purdue in the league opener, and three years later, the 1944 team gave Carroll Widdoes a 34-0 win over Iowa in his Big Ten debut. Three straight coaches then failed to win their first conference game – Paul Bixler, 20-7 at Wisconsin in 1946; Wes Fesler, 24-20 at Purdue in 1947; and Woody Hayes, whose team fought Wisconsin to a 6-6 tie in Madison in 1951. Earle Bruce broke that string with a 21-17 win at Minnesota in 1979 before John Cooper lost his conference debut in 1988, a 31-12 defeat to Illinois. Jim Tressel won his Big Ten debut at Indiana, a 27-14 victory in 2001, and Fickell lost last season to Michigan State.

** This week marks the first time this season that Ohio State has faced a ranked opponent. Michigan is No. 18 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press writers’ poll.

** When Ohio State is the higher ranked team, it has a 22-6 record against Michigan State. When the Spartans enter the game as the higher ranked team, they are 5-0. When neither team is ranked, OSU had a 5-2 edge.

** The Buckeyes are currently on a red-zone roll, having scored on each of their last 12 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and only one field goal. Michigan State’s four opponents have combined for only one touchdown and three field goals in just six trips to the red zone against the Spartans.

** Michigan ranks sixth nationally in total  defense, giving up an average of only 233.5 yards per game, and the Spartans are also No. 11 in scoring defense, surrendering only 11.8 yards per game on average. MSU, however, is a lowly 102nd in scoring offense, averaging only 21.0 points per game. That is 11th in the Big Ten, better only than Iowa (20.5 points per game).

** Ohio State will be playing its first game this season on natural grass. The Buckeyes were 0-3 on grass fields last season – at Miami (Fla.), Purdue and the Gator Bowl – and they haven’t won on a natural surface since a 26-17 win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

** The Ohio State defense would do well to keep Michigan State under 24 points in the game. Since 1990, the Spartans are 125-33-1 when scoring 24 or more. When they are held to fewer than 24 points, their record is 21-89-1.

** When the Buckeyes failed to break the 30-point barrier last week against UAB, they fell short of becoming only the eighth team in program history to score 30 or more points in each of their first four games. The Buckeyes topped the 30-point mark in each of their first four games in 1904, 1917, 1919, 1926, 1969, 1998 and 2010. The 1969 team holds the school record by scoring 30 or more points in each of its first eight games that season.

** OSU senior tailback Jordan Hall enjoyed the first-ever 100-yard game of his career last weekend, rushing for 105 yards on 17 carries vs. UAB. It marked the first time an Ohio State tailback had cracked the century mark since Dan “Boom” Herron rushed for 141 yards during a 34-20 win over Indiana in week nine of last season.

** The Spartans have 28 Ohio players on their roster while Ohio State has only two players from Michigan – defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and offensive tackle Reid Fragel.

** Dantonio’s coaching staff features plenty of assistants who have ties to Ohio State. Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem’s older brother, Tim, was quarterbacks coach at OSU from 1997-2000. Linebackers and special teams coach Mike Tressel is the son of former Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel and nephew of former head coach Jim Tressel. Offensive line coach Mark Staten was a graduate assistant at OSU in 2002 and ’03. Michigan State strength coach Ken Mannie was a graduate assistant on Earle Bruce’s OSU staff in 1984, MSU director of personnel/player development and relations Dino Folino began his coaching career as a GA for Woody Hayes in 1974 and ’75, and the Spartans’ head trainer Jeff Monroe spent four years as a student trainer for the Buckeyes from 1969-72.

** Michigan State tailback Le’Veon Bell is currently the nation’s third-leading rusher, and he enters the game averaging 152.5 yards per outing. He will be trying to become the first MSU player to crack the century mark against Ohio State since 1988. That year, Hyland Hickson rushed for 187 yards and Blake Ezor added 147 as Michigan State piled 372 yards on the ground during a 20-10 victory over the Buckeyes in Spartan Stadium. Bell ran for 50 yards on 14 carries during last year’s 10-7 victory for the Spartans in Columbus.

** Bell currently occupies 15th place on Michigan State’s all-time rushing list with 2,163 yards. He needs 233 more to pass Jahuu Caulcrick (2,395, 2004-07) and break into the school’s top 10. Lorenzo White (1984-87) is the Spartans’ all-time leading rusher with 4,887 yards.

** Bell is already in the MSU career top 10 in rushing touchdowns, tied with Tico Duckett (1989-92) with 26. White holds the school record with 43.

** Kickoff this week is set for approximately 3:36 p.m. Eastern. ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience featuring our old friend Brent Musberger with the play-by-play, former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit with color analysis and Heather Cox filing sideline reports.

** ESPN College Gameday will also be at the game, marking the 30th time the Buckeyes have been one of the featured teams at a Gameday site. OSU in 19-10 when the Gameday crew is in attendance – 10-3 at home, 6-5 on the road and 3-2 at neutral sites – but only 9-9 in its last 18 appearances. Michigan State is 2-3 when Gameday visits East Lansing.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 and XM channel 85. Dial Global Sports (formerly Westwood One) will also broadcast the game.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to host Nebraska in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Eastern with ABC handling the telecast via its reverse mirror effect. That means if the game is not on your local ABC station, it will be on ESPN2 and vice versa.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

** On Sept. 28, 2002, No. 19 Iowa State rolled to a 36-14 win over No. 20 Nebraska in Ames. It marked the largest victory for the Cyclones over the Cornhuskers since 1899. ISU quarterback Seneca Wallace threw for 220 yards and a touchdown and added 50 yards and two more scores rushing. The loss knocked Nebraska out of the Association Press top 25 for the first time in 21 years, ending a streak of 348 consecutive weeks in the rankings.

** On Sept. 29, 1984, Western Michigan kicker Mike Prindle was a busy man during his team’s 42-7 win over Marshall. Prindle became the first player in NCAA history to attempt nine field goals in a single game, and he connected for a record seven of those three-pointers. He added three PATs to give him 24 points, another NCAA single-game record for a kicker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Four more undefeated teams bit the dust last week, and Stanford went down to Washington last night, leaving only 26 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with unblemished records: Alabama, Baylor, Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UTSA and West Virginia.

** TCU pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 11 games with last week’s 27-7 victory against Virginia. Meanwhile, Tulane dropped a 39-0 decision to Ole Miss last Saturday, increasing the nation’s longest losing streak to 13. The Green Wave is 0-3 so far this season and has already been outscored by a 108-22 margin.

** Congratulations to Frank Solich and his Ohio Bobcats. They feasted upon Norfolk State from the Football Championship Subdivision last week, beating the Spartans by a 44-10 final, and pushed their record for the season to 4-0. The Bobcats haven’t started a season with four consecutive wins since 1976. Ohio hasn’t won its first five games in a season since the 1968 team won all 10 of its regular-season contests before losing a 49-42 heartbreaker to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl.

** Congratulations to Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats. K-State went to Oklahoma last Saturday night and dashed the Sooners’ hopes for a national championship run by forcing three turnovers during a 24-19 win. Sixth-ranked Oklahoma was the highest-ranking opponent the Wildcats have ever beaten on the road, and the victory propelled Kansas State into the top 10 in the polls for the first time since 2003.

** Congratulations to Jon Embee and his Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs, 3-10 last year and 0-3 to start this season, suddenly find themselves tied atop the Pac-12 South following last weekend’s 35-34 stunner at Washington State. One week after absorbing a 69-14 pummeling from Fresno State, Colorado erased a 31-14 deficit with 14:47 remaining for the one-point victory. Junior QB Jordan Webb, who threw for 345 yards and two TDs, ran 4 yards for a touchdown with nine seconds left after which sophomore PK Will Oliver delivered the game-winning PAT.

** Finally, congratulations to Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are a top-10 team for the first time since 2006, they’re 4-0 for the first time since 2002, they have given up the fewest amount of points in their first four games since 1975, and they held consecutive ranked opponents (Michigan State and Michigan) to six points or fewer for the first time since 1943. Also, when Notre Dame held both the Spartans and Wolverines without a touchdown, it marked the first time the Irish had done that to their Michigan foes in the same season since 1909.

** Notre Dame’s new agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference has already claimed its first victim. The Fighting Irish has exercised the opt-out clause in its scheduling contract with Michigan, meaning the last scheduled game between college football winningest programs will take place in 2014. The Irish and Wolverines, who have played every season since 2002, were contracted to continue their series at least through 2017. The series dates back to an 8-0 Michigan victory in 1887, and the Wolverines have a 23-16-1 advantage all-time.

** Stanford failed to score an offensive touchdown last night in its 17-13 loss to Washington. The last time the Cardinal offense failed to cross the goal line was during a 23-6 loss at Oregon State on Oct. 27, 2007. How big was the Huskies’ upset? It was their first win over a top-10 team since 2009 and avenged last year’s 65-21 drubbing in Palo Alto.

** For the second week in a row, the Big Ten has no teams among the top 15 of the USA Today coaches’ poll. Last week marked the first time since September 2001 the conference had no team in the top 15 of the coaches’ poll. (Ohio State is 14th in the writers’ poll, but ineligible for the coaches poll because of NCAA sanctions.)

** How bad is the Big Ten? Nine of the 12 teams are ranked 52nd or lower in total offense while eight are 50th or lower in scoring offense.

** Arkansas got a 419-yard passing performance from QB Tyler Wilson and a record-setting receiving day from WR Cobi Hamilton, but the Razorbacks still lost at home, 35-26 to Rutgers. Hamilton had 10 catches in the game for an SEC-record 303 yards and three touchdowns. The Razorbacks are working on their first three-game losing streak since 2008, and they haven’t been 1-3 to start a season since 2005. Arkansas hasn’t lost four of its first five since 1992, its first year in the SEC.

** South Carolina QB Connor Shaw misfired on his first pass attempt last week against Missouri and then completed his last 20 in a row. Shaw finished the game 20 of 21 for 249 yards and two TDs in the Gamecocks’ 31-10 victory. The 20 consecutive completions tied for the second-longest streak in SEC history. Tennessee QB Tee Martin completed 23 in a row – ironically against South Carolina – during the Volunteers’ 1998 national championship season.

** If West Virginia continues to win, it will be difficult to take the Heisman Trophy away from quarterback Geno Smith. The senior is ranked No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency with 96 completions in 118 attempts (81.4 percent), good for 1,072 yards, 12 TDs and no picks. Of course, the Mountaineers are about to find out how good they really are. After kicking off its inaugural Big 12 season this week at home with Baylor, West Virginia plays Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in succession.

** The Mid-American Conference accomplished something last week it hadn’t done since 2003 – beat opponents from three BCS conferences on the same day. Northern Illinois took out Big 12 member Kansas, 30-20, while Central Michigan scored nine points in the final 45 seconds to beat Big Ten member Iowa, 32-31. The MAC also went 2 for 2 against the Big East – Western Michigan scored a 30-24 win over Connecticut, Ball State rallied from a late four-quarter deficit to hand South Florida a 31-27 defeat.

** Old Dominion is leading all FCS teams in scoring with a ridiculous average of 59.0 points per game after four weeks. During last week’s wild 64-61 win over New Hampshire, sophomore QB Taylor Heinicke established a new Division I single-game record when he threw for 730 yards. That performance came one week after he had thrown for seven touchdowns during a 70-14 win over Campbell. In 13 career games for the Monarchs, Heinicke has already thrown for 4,306 yards and 44 TDs.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Something has definitely gone haywire here at World Forecast Headquarters. After riding high for a couple of years, the crystal ball has suddenly formed a couple of cracks. Last week, the straight-up picks were an acceptable 8-2, but we whiffed on our Upset Special thanks to a boatload of Michigan turnovers, and we didn’t foresee Oklahoma’s home loss to Kansas State.

Against the spread, we were just breakeven with five games up and five games down.

That means while we’re at 33-7 SU, we’re still under water ATS at 19-21.

Undaunted, we offer another slate of picks with the hope of turning this thing around.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia: The Mountaineers make their Big 12 debut against a team they have never played. Baylor is without Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, of course, but the Bears still have some offensive firepower with senior QB Nick Florence, who has thrown for more than 300 yards and at least three touchdowns in every game so far this season. Baylor is currently on a nine-game winning streak – one more would equal the school record set in 1936-37 – but the Bears are extremely iffy on defense. And with early Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith (1,072 yards, 12 TDs) at the controls of a high-powered West Virginia attack, Baylor’s streak is in serious jeopardy … West Virginia 34, Baylor 24. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 4 Florida State at South Florida: The Seminoles are rolling along thanks to a potent offense that is averaging 56.3 points per game. But the FSU defense is no slouch despite giving up a lot of points in last Saturday night’s 49-37 shootout win over Clemson. Even with that performance, the Seminoles still rank No. 2 nationally in total defense (184.0 yards per game) and No. 6 in scoring (10.0 points). The Bulls don’t appear to match up very to that kind of production on either side of the ball, and it doesn’t seem possible for a team that lost last week at Ball State could hang with Florida State … Florida State 41, South Florida 17. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 6 South Carolina at Kentucky: Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw completed his final 20 pass attempts last week against Missouri, and this week he faces a team against which he threw for a career-best 311 yards and four TDs last year during a 54-3 rout. Shaw isn’t South Carolina’s only offensive threat, of course, as RB Marcus Lattimore (320 yards, six TDs) continues to rebound from last year’s knee injury. USC’s defense isn’t bad, either – giving up a scant 9.8 points per game ranks No. 5 in the nation in scoring defense. To cut to the chase, the Gamecocks simply have too much firepower for the Wildcats, who average 23.0 points per game on offense but give up 29.0 points and 400.3 yards on defense … South Carolina 34, Kentucky 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 15 TCU at SMU: You might forgive the Horned Frogs for looking past their Dallas neighbors to next week’s Big 12 game against currently unbeaten Iowa State. Then again, TCU probably believes it has something to prove to the Mustangs. SMU bused over to Fort Worth last year and stunned the Frogs, 40-33 in overtime to end TCU’s 22-game home winning streak. If that doesn’t get the attention of the Frogs, nothing will. SMU currently ranks dead last in the nation in both pass defense and total defense, something TCU plans to exploit with QB Casey Pachall (841 yards, eight TDs). Pachall leads the nation in pass efficiency … TCU 37, SMU 6. (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Houston)

No. 12 Texas at OklahomaState: After a couple of lean years, the Longhorns believe they are ready to contend for another Big 12 title this season. Whether they are or not will begin to be determined in Stillwater as they take on the defending conference champion, who have won eight in a row at Boone Pickens Stadium. The truth is we just don’t know about either of these two teams. UT is averaging 49.3 points per game, but has beat up on the likes of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Cowboys started the season with an 84-0 punishing of Savannah State, but then ran into a buzz saw at Arizona while being handed a 59-38 trouncing. Yes, that is the same Arizona team that got crushed 49-0 at Oregon last week. You would have to believe the Pokes will play better at home, but do they have enough defense to keep Texas QB David Ash, who is third in the nation in pass efficiency, and his talented stable of running backs in check? Conversely, can the Longhorns rope an Oklahoma State offense that leads the county with a 62.3-point scoring offense? At the very least, this ought to be fairly entertaining and we’ll go with Upset Special No. 1 … Oklahoma State 42, Texas 38 (7:50 p.m. ET, FOX)

No. 19 Louisville at Southern Miss: This should be a no-brainer. The undefeated Cardinals are off to their best start since 2006 while the winless Golden Eagles are experienced their worst start since 1976 when they lost their first nine. The defending Conference USA champions have crated this year, ranking 113th nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Meanwhile, UL has exciting sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has already thrown for 1,049 yards and seven TDs. The Cardinals have won five straight in the series, and they should make it six relatively easily … Louisville 35, Southern Miss 17. (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network, DirectTV 613)

Wisconsin at No. 22 Nebraska: When the season began, this showdown had a little more buzz. But since the Badgers have struggled mightily on offense and the Cornhuskers were exposed three weeks ago in a 36-30 upset at UCLA. Wisconsin ranks a totally uncharacteristic 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense and 12th in offensive yardage. The Badgers have offensive line problems and star tailback Monteé Ball has been a shadow of his normal self. Ball fumbled for the first time in his career and missed all of the second half in last week’s sloppy 37-26 win over UTEP. The senior tailback has been cleared for this week’s game, but you have to wonder how effective Ball will be after a second concussion in the last couple of months. If he’s not 100 percent, that means the Badgers will be even more offensively challenged against a team that is bent on revenge for last year’s 48-17 rout in Madison … Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 20 (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide have barely broken a sweat in four games so far, and they don’t figure to get much of a challenge from the Rebels. Ole Miss has put some points on the board this year, but against the likes of Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane. The Rebs also tallied 31 against Texas, but gave up 66 in the process. Alabama simply doesn’t let opponents breathe. The Tide has outscored its four opponents by a 168-21 margin, including 127-7 over the past three weeks. They rank in the top 10 in every defensive category as well as No. 2 in both pass defense and pass efficiency and No. 3 in turnover margin. At this point, the only team that seems capable of beating Alabama would be Alabama itself … Alabama 49, Ole Miss 10. (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 2 Oregon vs. Washington State: You would normally expect a lot of fireworks when a couple of offensive gurus – Chip Kelly of Oregon and Mike Leach of Washington State – faced off for the first time ever. Unfortunately for Leach, he doesn’t have the kind of defense that can match up against the Ducks. The Quack Attack is coming off a game in which they were facing another supposed high-octane offense, but they flattened Arizona and pitched a 49-0 shutout – their first whitewash of a Pac-12 opponent since 2003. What home-field advantage the Cougars might have enjoyed gets negated by the fact this game will be played at CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and site of the Monday Night Football debacle that hastened the return of the league’s regular officials. Leach might eventually turn Wazuu into the offensive juggernaut he had at Texas Tech, but he’s not there yet … Oregon 49, Washington State 14. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State: The Buckeyes get their sternest test – by far – this season against the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten. Sparty has yet to surrender more than 20 points in a game this season, and averages allowing only 233.5 yards per contest. Conversely, MSU has a fairly anemic offense outside of RB Le’Veon Bell. The junior tailback is the third-leading rusher in the country with an average of 152.5 yards per game, but that is more than one-third of the Michigan State offense. In simple terms, shut down Bell – as Notre Dame did for the most part during its 20-3 win over the Spartans – and you can beat Michigan State. The Buckeyes’ defensive shortcomings have been well-documented, but if there is one thing OSU can still do and do well, it is defend a no-frills, straight-ahead offensive attack. For that reason, and Braxton Miller’s playmaking ability, you get this week’s Upset Special No. 2 … Ohio State 24, Michigan State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Baylor (+12) at West Virginia; Florida State (-14) at South Florida; South Carolina (-20½) at Kentucky; TCU (-16) at SMU; Texas at Oklahoma State (+2½); Louisville (-9½) at Southern Miss; Wisconsin at Nebraska (-11½); Ole Miss at Alabama (-29); Oregon (-28) vs. Washington State; Ohio State (+2½) at Michigan State.

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

 

OSU: Good Team, Bad Team, Or Somewhere In Between?

Winston Churchill famously once described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

The legendary British statesman might just as well have been talking about the 2012 Ohio State football team.

What are we to make of this enigmatic team after three games?

On one hand, it features one of the most electrifying players in college football. On the other, its defense displays an almost maddening penchant for giving up big plays. Offensively, the team has strung together three consecutive games in which it has gained 400 total yards or more for the first time since 2010. But defensively, the Buckeyes gave up more yards to California than the unit had surrendered to any single opponent since October 2005.

Is Ohio State a good team, a bad team or somewhere in between?

For the answer, let’s examine what we’ve learned these first three weeks.

No one needs to be reminded that Braxton Miller provides the fuel that makes the offense go. The talented sophomore showcased his running ability during the team’s first two victories, and then when it was deemed he was running too much, he beat the Golden Bears with his arm.

Unfortunately, Miller remains inconsistent with his throwing, an inconsistency that has nothing whatsoever to do with the young man’s talent. Name virtually any throw that defines a great quarterback and Miller can make them. On back-to-back plays vs. Cal, he hit a well-covered Jake Stoneburner in stride with a perfectly executed rainbow for 40 yards and then zipped a 25-yard laser to Devin Smith for a touchdown.

Too often, however, Miller gets sloppy with his technique. He throws some balls flatfooted, which causes the pass to sail high, and he sometimes throws off his front foot, which usually causes the football to nosedive. There are other times when Miller simply puts too much or too little on his throws as was the case against the Bears when he tried to get a deep ball to a wide-open Corey “Philly” Brown but blew an easy touchdown because the ball was severely underthrown.

There is little doubt Miller needs to become more consistent with his throwing. Likewise, there is little doubt he wasn’t getting much coaching in that area until this year. But now he is, which means he’s going to get better – something that should scare the living daylights out of opposing defensive coordinators.

Another facet of the Ohio State offensive attack that should keep opponents up at night is the emerging receiving corps. Like Miller, they remain an inconsistent bunch but they exude off-the-charts talent.

Smith is rapidly becoming a human highlight reel although he has to realize he must concentrate on every play. He has made the impossible catch look routine but has also made some routine catches look impossible.

Meanwhile, Brown is a vastly underrated receiver who is just now getting the number of touches a player of his talent should receive. And Stoneburner gives Miller a huge target who is adept at stretching the middle of the field as well as slipping away from the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations.

As the receiving corps continues to build upon its burgeoning reputation, future opponents will likely not be so generous with its coverage, however. That means the receivers cannot afford to become complacent. They’re good, but they’re not that good. Not yet.

While the OSU passing game continues to improve, the team’s rushing attack is sometimes confounding.

Against Miami (Ohio), Central Florida and Cal – teams not generally known as run-stuffers – the Buckeyes have gained 713 yards on the ground. That computes to an average of 237.7 yards per game, and just about any head coach in the nation would gladly take that.

A little closer scrutiny of the rushing attack, however, reveals that Miller has been responsible for more than half of that average. Ohio State tailbacks, once the toast of college football, have combined for 282 yards through three games. What’s worse is that OSU tailbacks are working on a streak of six consecutive games without cracking the 100-yard barrier.

Many fans believe Jordan Hall’s return will signal a quick end to that streak. Hall made his season debut with 87 yards on 17 carries against the Golden Bears, but the senior tailback still appeared a little tentative after missing all of fall camp and the first two games following foot surgery. Hall averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the game, but his longest gain was a modest 15 yards. He ran several times between the tackles, and there didn’t seem to be many large openings for Hall to navigate through. Seven of his carries went for 3 yards or less.

Add in the fact that many of Miller’s runs during the first three games have been the quarterback either escaping a collapsing pocket or simply running for his life, and you wonder about the offensive line. Jim Bollman is long gone to Boston College, and this year’s unit still doesn’t seem to have control of the line of scrimmage.

Perhaps the untrained eye is unable to properly gauge the offensive line’s performance. After all, the O-line allowed no sacks against Cal, and that’s the first time that has happened since Miller became a starter early last season. And the team leads the Big Ten with a gaudy 40.7-point scoring average.

Still, you get the feeling the offensive line really hasn’t been tested yet and wonder how it will respond when that happens.

The Ohio State defense isn’t playing very well right now, and that is putting it generously. When is the last time the Buckeyes ranked as low as ninth in the Big Ten in total defense?

Yes, the team totaled six sacks against Cal, the highest total since 2009. But half of those sacks came on blitzes, and most of them were recorded when Bears QB Zach Maynard dropped straight back. Whenever Cal provided a floating pocket for its quarterback, or whenever Maynard rolled out, the pressure simply wasn’t there.

In three games, Ohio State opponents have now attempted 132 passes, completing 83 of them (that’s 62.9 percent) for 842 yards and four touchdowns. As a result, the Buckeyes rank 11th in the conference and 101st nationally in pass defense.

As bad as that sounds, it pales in comparison to the fact that the defense is getting gashed repeatedly by big plays. That was never more evident than against the Golden Bears, who ripped off six plays that gained 25 yards or more. Chief among those were touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards by backup tailback Brendan Bigelow. Ohio State had a three-year run between 2008 and 2010 when its defense didn’t allow a run longer than 42 yards.

Playing fundamental defense isn’t exactly rocket science. It doesn’t take a genius to realize taking bad angles to the ball carrier and poor technique once you do get there are often the conspirators that result in huge gains for the opponent.

Injuries have forced Ohio State to play a lot of young players on defense, and young players often forget technique in the heat of battle. But that is not a reason the Buckeyes have given up so many big plays. It is an excuse. The team simply has too much talent on the defensive side of the ball to put up the kind of performances we have seen so far.

Some may deem criticism of the Buckeyes a bit harsh especially in light of the fact they are one of only 31 remaining undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams after three weeks. A hypercritical view of where the team is and where most fans thought it would be is likely because Urban Meyer was supposed to walk into Columbus and instantly turn what was a 6-7 team last year into a national championship-caliber squad.

No one wants to hear that it takes a little time to decipher riddles, solve mysteries and explain enigmas. The cold, hard truth is that this is a team still struggling to determine its identity under the tutelage of a new coach not completely familiar or comfortable with his personnel.

Until that identity is determined and a certain comfort zone is reached, fasten your seat belts. The ride’s going to be a little bumpy.

OSU-UAB TIDBITS

** Ohio State and the University of Alabama at Birmingham will be meeting for the first time ever on the football field. The UAB program is currently in its 22nd season of intercollegiate football. The Blazers began as a Division III independent in 1991 before moving up to Division I-AA in 1993. Three years later, they moved to Division I-A as an independent, and then joined Conference USA in 1999.

** UAB is led by first-year head coach Garrick McGee, a veteran coach who is familiar with the Buckeyes. McGee spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Northwestern from 2004-07, a period during which the Wildcats were 1-3 vs. Ohio State. He was also offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas in 2010 when the Razorbacks lost a 31-26 decision to the Buckeyes in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

** The Blazers are the 22nd team in the past 25 seasons who are making their first-ever trip to Ohio Stadium. Ohio State has won 20 of its previous 21 games against first-time visitors with the only blemish a 25-22 loss in 2005 to eventual national champion Texas.

** Meyer is currently 4-1 for his career against current members of Conference USA. That includes two victories over Central Florida, including the Buckeyes’ 31-16 win two weeks ago. His 2006 national championship team at Florida also defeated the Knights by a 42-0 final in the second game of that season. Meyer’s only loss to a current C-USA school came during his first season at Bowling Green when Marshall dealt the Falcons a 37-31 defeat. Marshall was a member of the MAC that season, but the Thundering Herd joined Conference USA in 2010. Meyer’s other two victories against current C-USA teams came at the expense of Southern Miss – a 17-0 victory in the 2003 Liberty Bowl while at Utah and a 34-7 decision in the 2006 season opener at Florida.

** The Buckeyes are 13-1-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA. OSU is 2-0 vs. Marshall and Rice, 1-0 against Houston and 7-1-1 vs. SMU. The only blemishes on that record are a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978 and a 32-27 loss to the Mustangs in 1950.

** UAB is 0-2 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. The Blazers lost a 55-18 decision at Michigan State in the 2007 season opener, and dropped a 38-7 final at Nebraska in the first game of the 1998 season. The Cornhuskers were members of the Big 12 at that time.

** The Buckeyes currently have a 64-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.

** UAB is 3-14 lifetime against ranked opponents, including a 49-6 loss at No. 8 South Carolina last week. The team’s only victories over ranked teams were a 34-31 win over No. 20 Southern Miss last season, a 35-23 win at No. 24 UTEP in November 2005, and a 36-17 decision over No. 17 East Carolina in October 1999.

** The Blazers have no native-born Ohioans on their roster, but they do have an Ohio State connection on their coaching staff. John Peterson, a four-year offensive lineman for the Buckeyes from 1987-90 who then spent eight seasons as an OSU assistant coach from 2004-11, is in his first season as offensive line coach at UAB.

** Ohio State has scored 30 or more points in each of its first three games for just the fifth time in the past 86 years and only the ninth time in program history. The Buckeyes also topped the 30-point mark in each of their first three games in 1904, 1917, 1919, 1926, 1969, 1980, 1998 and 2010. The 1969 team holds the school record by scoring 30 or more points in each of its first eight games that season.

** During last Saturday afternoon’s win over Cal, the Ohio State defense surrendered 512 total yards, the most by an OSU opponent since Minnesota had 578 during a 45-31 loss to the Buckeyes in Minneapolis in October 2005. It was the highest total for an opponent at Ohio Stadium since September 1999 when Cincinnati piled up 525 yards during a 34-20 loss to the Buckeyes.

** OSU quarterback Braxton Miller rushed for 75 yards against the Golden Bears last week, moving his career total to 1,092. That allowed him to crack the top 50 on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list. He needs 77 more to move past Troy Smith (1,168, 2003-06) and into 49th place.

** Miller also threw four touchdown passes vs. Cal. That represented a career high and were just one shy of the OSU single-game record of five. John Borton established that mark during a 35-7 win over Washington State in 1952, and Bobby Hoying equaled it twice. Hoying tossed five TD passes during a 48-14 victory over Purdue in 1994 and matched that total at Pittsburgh in 1995 during the Buckeyes’ 54-14 win.

** OSU wide receiver Devin Smith totaled a career-best 145 receiving yards against Cal, the first 100-yard game for a Buckeye receiver since Dane Sanzenbacher had 104 during the team’s 72-30 blowout of Eastern Michigan in 2010. Smith’s yardage total was good only for 37th on the school’s all-time single-game list. The OSU mark for most receiving yardage in a single game was set in 1995 by Terry Glenn, when he had nine catches for 253 yards during a 54-14 win at Pittsburgh.

** Cal tailback Brendan Bigelow’s 81-yard touchdown wiped out the record for longest run by an OSU opponent in Ohio Stadium. That was an 80-yard TD run by Daniel Dufrene of Illinois during the Fighting Illini’s 28-21 upset win over the Buckeyes in 2007. OSU has given up only two runs longer than Bigelow’s during program history. Larry Ferguson of Iowa ran 91 yards during a 35-12 win by the Hawkeyes in Iowa City in 1960, and Levi Jackson of Michigan State broke off an 88-yarder during a 16-13 Spartans win in East Lansing in 1974.

** UAB junior wideout Jackie Williams is currently working on a streak of 25 games in which he has caught at least one pass. That is tied for the 10th best current streak of its kind in Division I-A football. Conner Vernon of Duke has the longest current streak with at least one reception in 38 consecutive games. Williams needs one more catch to reach 100 for his career.

** For the fourth consecutive week, kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern. The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast featuring the announcing crew of Eric Collins (play by play), Derek Rackley (color analysis) and Lisa Byington (sideline reports).

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius channel 113 and XM channel 197.

** Next week, Ohio State kicks off the Big Ten season at Michigan State, a game that will serve as the Buckeyes’ first road game of the season. ABC will handle the telecast with a 3:30 p.m. Eastern kickoff.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 21, 1946, Texas A&M set an NCAA single-game record for punt return yardage during its 47-0 win over North Texas State. The Aggies returned 10 punts in the game for 319 yards.

** On Sept. 21, 1996, fourth-ranked Florida outgunned No. 2 Tennessee by a 35-29 final in Knoxville. The Gators raced out to a 35-6 halftime lead behind four TD passes by Danny Weurffel, but the Volunteers came back to make it close on three second-half scoring throws by Peyton Manning, who set a school record with 492 passing yards. The game was played in front of 107,608 fans at Neyland Stadium, then the largest on-campus crowd in college football history.

** Also on Sept. 21, 1996, linebacker Pat Tillman led the Arizona State defense to a 19-0 victory over top-ranked Nebraska, the first shutout of a No. 1 team since 1978.

** On Sept. 22, 1956, Notre Dame lost for the first time ever in September when unranked SMU scored a 19-13 upset in Dallas over the third-ranked Fighting Irish.

** On Sept. 22, 1962, Oregon State QB Terry Baker threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns, rallying his team to a come-from-behind 39-35 victory over Iowa State. The Cyclones had taken a 35-33 lead with 1:07 remaining when Baker drove the Beavers 64 yards in only 38 seconds, capped by a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Neil with 0:29 remaining. Baker used the performance as a springboard to win the Heisman Trophy that season.

** On Sept. 22, 1990, Illinois tailback Howard Griffith set an NCAA record when he rushed for eight touchdowns during his team’s 56-21 romp over Southern Illinois in Champaign. Griffith tallied three of his TDs on consecutive carries and tied an NCAA record with four touchdowns in the third quarter. It was the most points ever scored in a college football game by a non-kicker.

** On Sept. 23, 1961, Rice stunned No. 5 LSU by a 16-3 score in front of a record home crowd of 73,000 in Houston. The Owls got a pair of touchdowns from quarterback Billy Cox and held the vaunted LSU offense, which featured future College Football Hall of Fame running back Jerry Stovall, to only a field goal.

** On Sept. 23, 1972, Purdue quarterback Gary Danielson ran for a career-high 213 yards but it wasn’t enough as 15th-ranked Washington erased a 21-0 halftime deficit and beat the Boilermakers, 22-21, in West Lafayette.

** Also on Sept. 23, 1972, Tulane pulled off a 24-13 upset of No. 16 Georgia and jumped into the Associated Press regular-season rankings for the first time since 1956. Green Wave safety George Ewing returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown and the Tulane defense grabbed three interceptions during the victory.

** On Sept. 24, 1983, seventh-ranked Iowa smothered No. 3 Ohio State during a 20-14 triumph in Iowa City. OSU quarterback Mike Tomczak entered the game as the nation’s leader in passing efficiency, but completed only 13 of 34 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. The victory snapped a 16-game losing streak for Iowa in the series. The Hawkeyes hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1962.

** On Sept. 24, 1988, Wyoming erased a seven-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to score a 48-45 victory over Air Force. The Cowboys trailed by a 45-38 score when fullback Steve Bena scored on a 9-yard run with 1:30 showing on the clock. Wyoming kicked the PAT to tie the score, and then with just 45 seconds left, Air Force QB Dee Dowis lost a fumble at his own 42-yard line. That set the stage for freshman kicker Sean Fleming’s 27-yard field goal as time expired to give Wyoming the win.

** On Sept. 24, 2000, Penn State defensive back Adam Taliaferro was seriously injured near the end of his team’s 45-6 loss at Ohio State. Taliaferro was paralyzed from the neck down but thanks to quick action by doctors and trainers at Ohio Stadium, as well as the staff at the Ohio State Medical Center and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Taliaferro – after about eight months of intense rehabilitation – was able to regain full function of his arms and legs. He later graduated from Penn State before earning a law degree from Rutgers, and he is currently a practicing attorney in New Jersey specializing in corporate litigation.

** On Sept. 25, 1948, Michigan took a 13-7 win over Michigan State in East Lansing, giving U-M head coach Bennie Oosterbaan his first victory in his first game as head coach. Michigan went on to finish the 1948 season with a perfect 9-0 record, marking the first time in college football history a head coach had achieved an undefeated season in his first year on the job. The feat has since been duplicated four times, most recently by Larry Coker of Miami (Fla.) in 2001.

** On Sept. 25, 1959, Georgia Tech linebacker Gerald Burch intercepted SMU quarterback Don Meredith with 1:32 remaining in the game to clinch a 16-12 victory for the Yellow Jackets over the No. 6 Mustangs.

** On Sept. 25, 1971, Michigan State head coach Duffy Daugherty notched career win No. 100 when the Spartans took a 31-14 victory over Oregon State in East Lansing. Future College Football Hall of Fame safety Brad Van Pelt returned two interceptions for touchdowns to fuel MSU’s win.

** On Sept. 26, 1953, a pair of legendary coaches – Frank Leahy of Notre Dame and Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma – patrolled the sidelines as the top-ranked Fighting Irish went to Norman and scored a 28-21 victory over the No. 6 Sooners. The loss was Oklahoma’s first in 15 home games and would represent the Sooners’ last defeat until 1957. In between, they would achieve an NCAA-record 47 consecutive victories.

** On Sept. 26, 1992, Hawaii kicker Jason Elam hit three field goals, including a 56-yarder, to help the Warriors to a 36-32 win in Honolulu over BYU.

** Also on Sept. 26, 1992, Ken Irvin of Memphis became the first player in college football history to block four punts in one game as the Tigers took a 22-6 victory over Arkansas.

** On Sept. 27, 1969, Davidson and Furman combined to score 49 points in the second quarter. Davidson accounted for most of those tallies, going on to post a 77-14 victory.

** On Sept. 27, 1986, second-ranked Miami (Fla.) rolled to a 28-16 win over defending national champion and top-ranked Oklahoma. Three future College Hall of Famers were on the Orange Bowl sidelines that day – Miami safety Bennie Blades, Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer – but the afternoon belonged to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. The Miami QB threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns against the Sooners.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Last week, there were 46 undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Now, there are only 31. The list includes Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, UTSA and West Virginia.

** TCU celebrated its first game as a member of the Big 12 by going to Kansas and knocking off the Jayhawks, 20-6. That moved the Horned Frogs’ nation-best winning streak to 10 games. Counting their last three years in the Mountain West, the Frogs also have a streak of 25 consecutive conference wins.

** Meanwhile, Tulane took the week off, so the nation’s longest losing streak remains at 12. The Green Wave are one of only 13 FBS teams that remain winless this season.

** Stanford not only ruined USC’s hopes for a national championship and doused Matt Barkley’s Heisman Trophy chances, the Cardinal accomplished something they had never done with their 21-14 win over the Trojans last Saturday night. The victory marked Stanford’s fourth in a row in the series, something it had never before accomplished since the teams began playing one another in 1905.

** Congratulations to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish scored a convincing 20-3 victory at No. 10 Michigan State last Saturday night, marking their first win over a top-10 team in seven years. The last time UND celebrated a victory over a top-10 team was a 17-10 win at then-No. 3 Michigan in September 2005.

** The loss to the Irish represented the first time Michigan State had failed to score a touchdown in a home game since 1991. That was a 20-3 loss to Central Michigan in the season opener that year, a campaign that saw Sparty post a 3-8 record.

** Care to guess the only team in the country with three victories over BCS-conference opponents? The answer is Northwestern, which has vanquished Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. With the next four opponents featuring the likes of I-AA South Dakota, Indiana, Penn State and Minnesota, the Wildcats are looking for their first 7-0 start since 1936.

** You think you have problems? Try being Arkansas. After the university was forced to fire philandering head coach Bobby Petrino in April, the Razorbacks dropped a 34-31 overtime decision to Louisiana-Monroe in week two and made an historic descent in the Associated Press poll – from No. 8 to unranked. Last week, the Hogs cratered after being taken to the woodshed by Alabama, 52-0. It was Arkansas’s worst defeat since a 70-17 loss to USC in 2005, and the first time the team had been shut out in Razorback Stadium since a 7-0 loss to Baylor in 1966.

** Speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide has now posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1980.

** As bad as things are in Arkansas, they pale in comparison to what’s going on at Colorado. The Buffaloes were stampeded by Fresno State last Saturday to the tune of a 69-14 rout. How bad was that thrashing. Fresno already had 55 points and 513 total yards by halftime. Colorado ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in just about every statistical category, and is equally abysmal on both sides of the ball. The Buffs are 105th nationally in scoring offense and 112th in scoring defense.

** This business of playing cupcakes is getting out of hand. During its 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic last weekend, Georgia averaged 11.3 yards on 63 offensive plays. The Bulldogs established a new single-game yardage record for themselves by piling up 713 against the Owls.

** After its 41-39 win over Indiana last weekend, Ball State is now 3-49 all-time against BCS conference opponents. All three victories have come against instate rival IU since 2008.

** Note to any team playing Western Kentucky: Don’t let the Hilltoppers take you to overtime. Last weekend, WKU used a throwback pass to QB Kawaun Jakes for a two-point conversion to beat Kentucky, 32-31, in overtime. It not only gave the Hilltoppers their first-ever victory over the Wildcats, it pushed Western’s record in OT to 9-1 since 1996.

** You don’t get many finishes more wild than what happened during the “Holy War” in Salt Lake City last Saturday. Utah DT Star Lotulelei blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt by BYU’s Justin Sorensen with 0:01 remaining to give the Utes a 24-21 victory over the 25th-ranked Cougars. Officials, however, deemed that the Utah crowd prematurely rushed the field, assessing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and giving BYU another shot at tying the game. Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall switched kickers but the result was essentially the same. Riley Stephenson’s try from 36 yards clanged off the left upright, preserving the Utes’ three-point win. “We should be 4-1,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said afterward, “because we won this game three times.”

** Three-time defending Division III national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater lost a 7-6 decision to Buffalo State on Saturday, and that snapped the Warhawks’ 46-game winning streak. It was the fourth longest win streak in NCAA history. Division III Mount Union posted streaks of 55 (2000-03) and 54 wins (1996-99) while Division I-A Oklahoma won 47 consecutive games between 1953-57.

** A shout-out to Wayland Baptist (Texas), which won its first intercollegiate football game in 72 years last Saturday. After dropping football in 1940, the school revived the program this season and the NAIA Pioneers celebrated with a 27-23 win over Howard Payne (Texas).

** Thomas Tyner, a running back for Aloha (Ore.) High School, set a new state record last Friday night when he rushed for 644 yards during his team’s 84-63 victory over Lakeridge. Tyner, a verbal commitment to Oregon, carried 38 times and scored 10 touchdowns – doing it all on his 18th birthday. The yardage total is the third-highest single-game rushing total, according to the National High School Sports Record Book. The national record was set in 1950 when John Giannantonio of Netcong, N.J., ran for 754 yards in a single game. Second is Paul McCoy of Matewan, W.Va., who piled up 661 yards in 2006.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It hasn’t taken long to figure out this is going to be a topsy-turvy college football season. With the possible exception of defending national champion Alabama, no team appears invincible, and the Crimson Tide are bucking history. No team has won back-to-back consensus national titles since Nebraska in 1993 and ’94.

As a result, the Forecast suffered one of its toughest weeks in recent memory. We were 7-3 with the straight-up picks, but crashed and burned with a 3-7 record against the spread. We checked and that was the worst week since October 2009.

For the young season, we are still 25-5 straight up but now under water at 14-16. Here’s to better days, beginning this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Maryland at No. 8 West Virginia: If you haven’t been paying attention, the Mountaineers have a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate in QB Geno Smith. In fact, Smith just might be the frontrunner at this point in the season with stats that include 66 completions in 75 attempts (88.0 percent) for 734 yards, nine TDs and no INTs. Smith pilots a high-octane offense that averages 612.0 yards per contest, but the Mountaineers haven’t been tested in their first two games. This week could be a different story since the Terrapins feature the nation’s No. 6 pass defense and No. 8 defense overall. However, Maryland has had trouble offensively – dead last in the ACC in yardage – and is being forced to use true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback. The Mountaineers have won six straight in the series … West Virginia 37, Maryland 14. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

Virginia at No. 17 TCU: Speaking of accurate quarterbacks, the Horned Frogs have one of their own in junior Casey Pachall, who has completed 33 of 39 passes (84.2 percent) for 536 yards, five TDs and no picks. Pachall leads the nation in pass efficiency, and that isn’t exactly music to Virginia’s ears. The Cavaliers are ninth in the ACC in both total and scoring defense, and last week’s 56-20 loss to Georgia Tech represented the most points allowed in a game by a UVA defense since 1999. A couple of other things going against the Cavs – they have lost 17 of their last 20 road games against ranked opponents, and the Frogs have won 27 of their last 28 at home … TCU 38, Virginia 7. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

UTEP at Wisconsin: The Badgers were supposed to be among the elite teams in the Big Ten if not the nation this season, but they sure haven’t shown it so far. Bucky has 10-7 loss at Oregon State sandwiched around a couple of uninspiring home wins over Northern Iowa (26-21) and Utah State (16-14). Offense has never been much of a problem during the Bret Bielema era, but it definitely has become a sore spot this year. Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten in total and scoring offense, and eventually its usually feared running game in next-to-last in the conference and 94th nationally. Thankfully for Bielema, his defense is pretty stout and that should be enough against the Miners, whose offense has been even more anemic than Bucky. This has all the makings of a yawner … Wisconsin 28, UTEP 6. (12 noon ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

South Dakota State at Northwestern: The Wildcats seek to go 4-0 for the third time in the past four seasons with a visit from the I-AA Coyotes, a team that isn’t afraid to play upper-division opponents. South Dakota got splattered to the tune of a 59-10 loss at Wisconsin last season, but the team scored a 41-38 win at Minnesota two years ago. Northwestern would probably like a little less drama than it has experienced in its first three weeks, but three victories against BCS-conference foes speaks for itself. Pass defense is becoming bothersome, however. The Wildcats are giving up an average of 330.0 yards per game through the air, and that has to get better if NU is to continue its winning streak … Northwestern 34, South Dakota State 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 612)

No. 2 LSU at Auburn: Remember just two short years ago when Auburn rode on Cam Newton’s shoulders to the national championship? Well, the Tigers’ bank account must have been drained by Newton since they are just 9-7 since then. In fact, they would be 0-3 this year if not for last week’s overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn simply isn’t a very good football team right now, and that is underscored by their national ranking in several statistical categories – 104th in scoring offense, 107th in rushing defense and 117th in turnover margin. Meanwhile, LSU continues to hum along despite losing several starters to injuries, suspensions and academics. Auburn has beaten LSU five of the last six times the teams have met in Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the Tigers have lost five straight to ranked opponents, including last year’s 45-10 loss to the Bayou Boys … LSU 37, Auburn 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 18 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame: If last year’s barnburner was any indication, this one ought to be entertaining. The Fighting Irish are seeking their first 4-0 start since 2002, and they have won their first three games with a surprisingly good defense that ranked eighth in the country in scoring. That unit will be tested by the Wolverines and QB Denard Robinson, who is averaging 350.0 yards of total offense so far this season. There is no doubt Notre Dame remembers Robinson from last year – he threw a touchdown pass with 0:02 remaining to cap a 28-point fourth quarter and give Michigan a 35-31 victory. Most pundits are picking the Irish to win this game, but Notre Dame will be without safety Jamoris Slaughter, who tore his Achilles tendon during last week’s win over Michigan State. Add that key injury to the fact that U-M has won three in a row and five of the last six in this series, and you get an Upset Special … Michigan 31, Notre Dame 27. (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Vanderbilt at No. 5 Georgia: When the conversation turns to high-scoring offenses, chances are that the Bulldogs are not going the first team that comes to mind. But UGA has scored points in bunches so far this season, topping the 40-point mark in all three games culminating in last week’s 56-20 blowout of Florida Atlantic. This week, the Dawgs begin SEC play – albeit against the Commodores, who haven’t beaten a ranked SEC opponent since 2008 and have lost to the Bulldogs 16 of the last 17 years. Georgia would do well not to sleep on Vandy, however, since the Commodores took South Carolina to the mat Aug. 30 before allowing the Gamecocks to escape with a 17-13 win … Georgia 30, Vanderbilt 17. (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma: The Sooners begin the meat of their schedule with the overachieving Wildcats. K-State still has some of the scars from last year’s 58-17 thumping, a game during which OU quarterback Landry Jones threw for five touchdowns and a school-record 505 yards. Jones obviously likes playing the Wildcats – he threw for 294 yards and four TDs during a 42-30 win in 2009 – and he is going against a K-State team that ranks only 80th nationally in pass defense. However, before you start thinking another blowout is brewing, understand that Oklahoma has had some offensive line issues in its first two games, and the Wildcats can move the ball on the ground. We’ll still take the home team, but it should be closer than some people think … Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 23. (7:50 p.m. ET, FOX)

No. 22 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon: Offense should rule the night in Eugene with two of college football most prolific scoring machines on full display in Autzen Stadium. The Wildcats are the No. 4 team in the nation in total offense (604.7 yards per game) and No. 12 in scoring (46.3 points) while the Ducks are only seventh in yardage (596.3) but fifth in scoring (54.0). Under first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats have already scored a major upset this year, taking down Oklahoma State in week two by a 59-38 final. But that game was in Tucson. Going into Eugene, where the Quack Attack has won 26 of its last 27 games, is another matter. Look for shootout, but also look for an Oregon win … Oregon 52, Arizona 38. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

UAB at No. 16 Ohio State: The Buckeyes are a pretty good team that has looked pretty average at times. OSU has enjoyed three straight games in which it has scored 30 or more points, but it features one of college football’s rising stars in sophomore QB Braxton Miller. But the defense is simply not playing Ohio State defense. Yes, it has nine sacks and six interceptions so far, but the unit has also been gashed for several huge plays and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in total defense, surrendering an average of 392.0 yards per game. No one expects UAB to pull off the unthinkable tomorrow, but with Michigan State and the start of Big Ten play just one week away, the Buckeyes would do well to use this game as an actual tune-up rather than simply going through the motions. Playing a full four quarters would be a nice start … Ohio State 41, UAB 14. (12 noon ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Maryland (+27) at West Virginia; Virginia at TCU (-18); UTEP at Wisconsin (-17½); South Dakota at Northwestern (N/L); LSU (-18½) at Auburn; Michigan (+6) at Notre Dame; Vanderbilt (+16) at Georgia; Kansas State (+14) at Oklahoma; Arizona (+22½) at Oregon; UAB (+37½) at Ohio State.

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

 

OSU Risking A Lot By Having Miller Run So Much

Two games into the 2012 season and a fine line seems to have emerged between what could be a dream season for the Ohio State football team and a nightmare.

After only 120 minutes of football, we have discovered pretty much what we already knew – that Braxton Miller is a tremendously gifted athlete asked to play quarterback for the Buckeyes. His transformation into a quarterback who is asked to make athletic plays remains a work in progress, but no one could argue with the results so far.

Miller has accounted for roughly 70 percent of his team’s total offense by running for 302 yards and throwing for 362 more. That puts him No. 14 nationally in total offense, and No. 4 in the nation in rushing. At his present pace, Miller would finish the season with 1,812 yards on the ground. To put that into perspective, Eddie George set the school’s single-season record of 1,927 yards in 1995.

Add to Miller’s rushing pace another 2,172 yards through the air, and he would have numbers that don’t just whisper Heisman Trophy, they would scream it.

Before we make our reservations for New York City, however, understand how ridiculously difficult it will be for Miller to maintain his current pace.

Two years ago, Denard Robinson got off to a spectacular start during his sophomore season at Michigan. After only two games, the Wolverines were 2-0 and Robinson was the nation’s leading rusher, averaging an eye-popping 227.5 yards per game.

By week nine of the season, U-M was in the middle of a three-game losing streak, Robinson’s rushing average had plummeted by more than 60 yards per game, and the vultures were hovering over Rich Rodriguez.

When that 2010 season came to a close, Robinson still managed to finish fourth in the nation with an average of 130.9 yards rushing per game, but 245 regular-season carries rendered him a shadow of his former self down the stretch. During his team’s 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl – the program’s worst bowl loss ever – Robinson threw for 254 yards but ran for a season-low 59 on only 11 carries.

Despite piling up 1,702 yards and scoring 14 TDs on the ground, and adding 2,570 yards and 18 scores through the air, Robinson finished a distant sixth in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting. Worse yet, his team wound up with a 7-6 record and his head coach got fired.

During the first two games of his sophomore season, Robinson carried the ball 57 times and threw it 62. Through the first two games of this season, Miller has carried a team-high 44 times and has attempted 49 passes. But comparing the two quarterbacks is almost a study in contrasts because their running styles are polar opposites.

Defenders rarely get clean shots on the 6-0, 197-pound Robinson, who darts and dances his way through traffic, often bouncing off defenders like a pinball. Meanwhile, Miller showcases more of a classic, upright running style, a style that is often more prone to punishment.

Robinson has proved remarkably durable since taking over the full-time starting duties at Michigan. Through Sept. 8, he had 576 career rushes with 631 pass attempts in 40 games with the Wolverines. That’s a lot of punishment over the past three-plus seasons, but Robinson appears no worse for the wear. He ran for 218 yards and two TDs and threw for 208 yards and two other scores during Michigan’s 31-25 win over Air Force in Ann Arbor on Sept. 8.

But Miller does not have Robinson’s track record for durability. The OSU sophomore missed several games during his high school career, and he was knocked out of last year’s game at Nebraska with a sprained ankle. As if any Buckeye fan has to be reminded, Ohio State held a 27-6 advantage early in the third quarter of that game, Miller went out a short time later and the Buckeyes wound up on the losing end of a 34-27 decision.

Miller returned the following week against Illinois but was severely limited. The Buckeyes somehow won that game by a 17-7 final, but Miller rushed for 34 yards, completed just 1 of 4 pass attempts for 17 yards and was sacked four times. Had the defense not forced three Fighting Illini turnovers, that game would likely have turned out differently.

The 6-2 Miller has bulked up this season to 220 pounds after being generously listed at 210 last year, but every time he runs the ball invites one more possibility that some defender will deliver a shot from which he will not instantly recover. Remember all of the various bumps and bruises that Terrelle Pryor sustained during the course of a season, and he was 6-6 and 233 pounds.

The point is this: Virtually every football team is only as good as its starting quarterback, and you only have to look at Miller’s performance during the first two games of this season to know that statement is true.

To be quite frank, with the exception of its quarterback, Ohio State cannot claim it is a very good football team right now. It has not played up to the level of nearly anyone’s expectations on the offensive or defensive lines, at linebacker or in the secondary. Miller is head and shoulders the most efficient playmaker on the team, and that is why the ball has been in his hands so often these first two games.

But the kid needs some help, and if he doesn’t start getting it and quickly, this season could devolve into what happened last year – a promising start followed by a dishearteningly dismal finish.

OSU-CALIFORNIA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and California have met six times previously but not since a 35-18 victory by the Buckeyes in Berkeley in 1972. OSU holds a 5-1 advantage in the series with the Golden Bears’ lone victory coming in the 1921 Rose Bowl. That marked the Buckeyes’ first-ever trip to Pasadena, and they came home 28-0 losers.

** Following last week’s 31-16 win over Central Florida, Ohio State looks to go 3-0 for only the second time since 2007. The only time during the past four seasons when the Buckeyes started a season with three straight victories was 2010. They won their first six in a row that year before a 31-18 loss at Wisconsin in week seven.

** Twenty-two of the 24 head coaches in Ohio State football history have won their debut game with the Buckeyes, and Urban Meyer last week joined 13 others who have won their first two games. The number of coaches who have won their first three games at OSU dwindles, however, to only five – Perry Hale (1902), E.R. Sweetland (1904), Howard Jones (1910), Carroll Widdoes (1944) and Earle Bruce (1979).

** Cal is led by head coach Jeff Tedford, now in his 11th season in Berkeley. Tedford is the most successful coach in program history with an 80-49 record, including a conference co-championship in 2006. The Bears have gone to eight bowl games during Tedford’s tenure.

** Meyer is 1-0 lifetime against Cal and 3-0 for his career against current members of the Pac-12. His Utah team defeated Tedford’s Bears by a 31-24 final in the third game of the 2003 season. Meyer claimed his other two wins over Pac-12 schools during his tenure with the Utes – a 17-13 decision over Oregon in 2003 and a 23-6 victory at Arizona in 2004.

** Tedford is a perfect 6-0 lifetime against current members of the Big Ten. That unblemished record includes two victories each over Michigan State (2002 and 2008), Illinois (2003 and 2005) and Minnesota (2006 and 2009).

** The Buckeyes are 56-26-2 all-time against current members of the Pac-12. In addition to being 5-1 against the Bears, Ohio State is 9-13-1 vs. USC; 8-0 against Oregon and Washington State; 8-3 vs. Washington; 4-1 against Colorado; 4-4-1 against UCLA; 3-1 against Arizona; 2-0 vs. Arizona State and Oregon State; 1-0 against Utah; and 2-3 vs. Stanford.

** Ohio State has won seven of its last 10 games against Pac-12 competition. That includes a 26-17 win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

** Cal is 22-34 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to their 1-5 mark against OSU, the Bears are 5-1 against Wisconsin; 4-2 vs. Minnesota; 3-7 vs. Illinois; 2-0 against Indiana; 2-2 vs. Michigan State; 2-6 against Michigan; 1-1 vs. Purdue; 1-3 against Iowa and Penn State; 0-1 vs. Northwestern; and 0-3 against Nebraska.

** Ohio State is currently ranked 12th in the Associated Press writers’ poll. The Buckeyes have been ranked by the AP more times – 791 weeks now – than any other team in the nation. OSU has also appeared in the AP poll for 45 consecutive seasons, tying Alabama for the longest active streak.

** The Buckeyes currently have a 63-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.

** Cal is 13-20 against ranked opponents during the Tedford era, but that record includes six straight losses. The team’s most recent victory over a ranked team was a 34-28 decision over No. 14 Stanford in November 2009. The Bears haven’t beaten a ranked nonconference opponent since a 45-31 win over No. 15 Tennessee in the 2007 season opener.

** OSU quarterback Braxton Miller’s 141 rushing yards against Central Florida gave him five career 100-yard games. That broke a tie with Cornelius Greene (1973-76) for the most recognized 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) had seven 100-yard rushing games during his career, but the four he had during the vacated 2010 season have been dropped from the school’s official record book.

** Miller’s rushing total also pushed his career total to 1,017, making him the 54th player in Ohio State history to crack the 1,000-yard mark.

** In addition to his career marks, Miller became only the third Ohio State quarterback ever to register back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts. John Mummey totaled 100 yards against Indiana and 116 vs. Oregon in successive weeks in 1961, a feat equaled in 2010 by Pryor who had identical 104-yard games against Eastern Michigan and Illinois.

** Miller’s career-high 27 carries vs. UCF is also believed to have established a new single-game mark for most carries by an Ohio State quarterback. According to a university spokesman, the old record was 25 set by Greene during a 49-7 win over Illinois in 1974.

** Keeping with the Miller theme we have going, the QB’s three rushing touchdowns were the most by any Buckeye since Chris “Beanie’ Wells had three in a 38-17 win over Wisconsin in 2007. The three TDs on the ground also represented the first time an Ohio State quarterback had carried the pigskin into the end zone three times in a single game since Art Schlichter did it as a freshman during a 45-7 win over Illinois in 1978.

** OSU senior cornerback Travis Howard has three interceptions in the first two games this season, putting him on pace to break the school’s longstanding record for most picks in one year. Mike Sensibaugh set the record with nine in 1969, a mark equaled in 1974 by Craig Cassady.

** Ohio State punter Ben Buchanan has been called upon nine times so far this season, and only one of his kicks has been returned. That went for 7 yards. This week, Cal features junior speedster Keenan Allen, who currently ranks fourth in the nation in punt return average at 22.2 yards on six attempts. Allen ran a punt back 69 yards for a touchdown last week in the Bears’ 50-31 win over Southern Utah.

** Allen’s punt return wasn’t the only long scoring play for the Bears last week. Senior cornerback Marc Anthony returned an interception 61 yards for a score, and redshirt freshman running back Daniel Lasco had a 77-yard touchdown run. That was the longest run by a Cal player since Jahvid Best broke off a 93-yarder at UCLA in 2009.

** With the 12 noon Eastern kickoff, the Bears will be playing at 9 a.m. Pacific time. During Tedford’s tenure, Cal has played six road games in other time zones that have started before noon PT and has a 5-1 record in those contests. The Bears won four straight early-morning starts under Tedford with victories at Michigan State (2002), Illinois (2003), Air Force (2004) and Colorado State (2007) before losing at Maryland in 2008. The most recent early-morning game was in 2009 when Cal claimed a 35-21 win at Minnesota.

** The Golden Bears have no native-born Ohioans on their roster, but do have a couple of connections to Cleveland professional teams. Freshman QB Joey Mahalic spent five seasons as a pitcher in the Cleveland Indians organization before returning to football, and wide receivers coach Wes Chandler as an assistant on Romeo Crennel’s Cleveland Browns staff in 2007 and ’08.

** Further proof there is a new sheriff in town: The Buckeyes have averaged 80.5 offensive plays during their first two games this season. Over the previous five seasons, OSU averaged 65.1 plays per game.

** Ohio State will recognize the 70th anniversary of the school’s first-ever national championship season during tomorrow’s game. Four members of the 1942 Buckeyes are scheduled to be in attendance – ends Don Steinberg and Paul Matus, guard Carmen Naples and QB Paul “Robin” Priday.

** The 12 newest members of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame will also be recognized at the game. Members of the class, due to be enshrined tonight at the Ohio Union, are football players Pete Cusick, Joe Gailus, Ray Griffin, Dick Schafrath and Mike Vrabel, women’s basketball player Jessica Davenport, wrestlers Rex Holman and George Downes, track star Keturah Lofton, fencer Louise Bond-Williams and women’s volleyball coach Jim Stone. Former OSU basketball player and ex-Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight will also receive a lifetime achievement award.

** ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience with Sean McDonough handling the play-by-play, former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman providing color analysis and Quint Kessenich reporting from the sidelines. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be telecast on Sirius and XM channels 91.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host Conference USA rival UAB, which will be making its first-ever trip to the Horseshoe. The game will be telecast on the Big Ten Network with a kickoff time of 12 noon Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 14, 1991, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk set an NCAA single-game record for freshmen by rushing for seven touchdowns during his team’s 55-34 win over Pacific.

** Also on Sept. 14, 1991, Texas A&M freshman tailback Greg Hill ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns as the Aggies rolled to a 45-7 victory over LSU in College Station. Hill’s yardage total marked the best debut performance by a freshman in college football history.

** Also on Sept. 14, 1991, Central Michigan pulled off a 20-3 upset of 19th-ranked Michigan State in the first-ever meeting between the intrastate rivals. Tailback Billy Smith rushed 40 times for 162 yards for the Chippewas while quarterback Jeff Bender put the game away with a 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ken Ealy in the third quarter.

** On Sept. 15, 1973, Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin began his NCAA record streak of 31 consecutive games of rushing for 100 yards or more. Griffin had 129 yards as the Buckeyes rolled to a 56-7 victory over Minnesota in Ohio Stadium.

** Also on Sept. 15, 1973, Oklahoma gave head coach Barry Switzer a win in his first game with the Sooners, a 42-14 victory over Baylor in Waco. Switzer would go to post a 157-29-4 record with three national championships and 12 Big Eight titles in 16 seasons with OU.

** On Sept. 16, 1989, top-ranked Notre Dame squeezed out a 24-19 win over No. 2 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Fighting Irish speedster Rocket Ismail returned kickoffs 88 and 92 yards for touchdowns to lead his team to victory. Ismail remains the only player in college football history to twice in his career return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

** On Sept. 17, 1966, Joe Paterno made his debut as head coach at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to a 15-7 victory over Maryland in Happy Valley. The Terrapins, coached by Lou Saban, made a last-ditch effort to ruin Paterno’s debut but backup quarterback Phil Petry threw incomplete on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That victory was the first of Paterno’s Football Bowl Subdivision record 409 (111 of which were vacated by NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal).

** On Sept. 17, 1988, No. 10 Florida State got a pair of outstanding special teams plays to score a 24-21 upset at third-ranked Clemson. FSU’s Deion Sanders returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and then cornerback LeRoy Butler took a fake punt 76 yards to set up Richie Andrews’ game-winning 19-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining.

** On Sept. 18, 1965, UTEP quarterback Billy Stevens established a new NCAA record for most total yards gained in a debut game with 483 yards in a 61-15 rout of North Texas. In that game, Chuck Hughes of UTEP also set an NCAA record when he caught 10 passes for 349 yards. His 34.9 yards-per-catch average is the best single-game average in NCAA history for players with at least 10 catches.

** On Sept. 19, 1952, Duke took a 20-7 win over South Carolina in the inaugural game of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

** On Sept. 20, 1986, unranked Miami (Ohio) stunned eighth-ranked LSU, 21-12, in Baton Rouge. The Tigers committed seven turnovers in the game and had a punt blocked as Miami pushed its all-time record against SEC teams to an impressive 8-0-1.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** It’s never too early to begin charting the remaining unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. There are only 46 of them left after just two weeks. The alphabetical list: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Utah State, UTSA, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

** TCU kicked off its 2012 season with a 56-0 victory over GramblingState and pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to nine games. On the flip side of the coin, Tulane extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 12 games with a 45-10 loss to Tulsa.

** It was a rough week for longtime denizens of the Associated Press writers’ poll. No. 8 Arkansas, No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 16 Nebraska and No. 18 Oklahoma State each plummeted out of the top 25 following losses. Nebraska had a streak of 37 straight appearances in the AP rankings, Wisconsin had been ranked for 36 consecutive weeks and Arkansas had been on a 34-poll streak. Oklahoma State had been in the rankings for 29 straight weeks.

** Congratulations to Jim Mora Jr. for breathing a healthy dose of new life into the UCLA program. After racking up 645 total yards during a season-opening 49-24 win over Rice, the Bruins piled up 653 against Nebraska and knocked off the 16th-ranked Cornhuskers, 36-30. Those 653 yards were the most allowed by Nebraska to a single opponent since 1956.

** When Louisiana-Monroe overcame a 28-7 third-quarter deficit to score a 34-31 upset of No. 8 Arkansas, it broke the Warhawks’ lifetime oh-fer against ranked teams. Since moving up to Division I-A in 1994, Louisiana-Monroe had lost every one of its previous 25 games against ranked competition before going to Little Rock and knocking off the Razorbacks. Leading the upset: QB Kolton Browning, who completed 42 of 67 passes for 412 yards and three TDs.

** Talk about living a nightmare. Penn State kicker Sam Ficken had a PAT blocked and missed four field goals – included the potential game-winner as time expired – during a 17-16 loss at Virginia. The Nittany Lions are now 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 2001 and only the fifth time in the last 45 years.

** Two steps forward and a giant step back. Indiana moved to 2-0 for the season with a 45-6 rout of Massachusetts, but the win was a costly one. Starting QB Tre Roberson, who scored on first-quarter runs of 50 and 39 yards during the game, was lost for the season with a broken leg.

** Purdue quarterback Robert Marve tore the ACL in his left knee during the Boilermakers’ 20-17 loss to Notre Dame last weekend. Marve, who is playing a sixth year of college football this season because of an NCAA injury waiver, has now torn the same ACL three times. Marve’s career is likely over, but Purdue head coach Danny Hope said the quarterback intends to rest for a couple of weeks and then test the knee to see if he can play later this season.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema might think about installing a revolving door at the Badgers’ practice facility. After a half-dozen assistants left the program during the offseason, Bielema dismissed new offensive line coach Mike Markuson on Monday. Markuson was the fall guy for the Badgers’ sluggish start, which has produced only two rushing touchdowns in the team’s first two games. Markuson’s replacement will be Bart Miller, a graduate assistant in his second year with the Badgers.

** When SMU senior defensive end Margus Hunt blocked a field goal in his team’s 52-0 win Saturday over Stephen F. Austin, it marked the ninth time in Hunt’s career that he had blocked a field goal. That is a new Division I-A record. The 6-8, 280-pound Hunt has also batted away six PATs during his career.

** How far Miami (Fla.) fallen? Last weekend’s 52-13 loss at Kansas State marked only the fifth time in the program’s 87-year history that the Hurricanes had allowed 50 points or more. It was also Miami’s worst loss since a 48-0 loss to Virginia in 2007. Since the beginning of the 2006 season, the once-mighty Hurricanes are a decidedly average 41-39.

** Remember the old coaching adage that says, “Offense gets the headlines but defense wins championships.” Houston proved that to be true last Saturday. The Cougars racked up 40 first downs and amassed 693 total yards – 580 of it through the air from quarterback David Piland – but still managed to lose a 56-49 decision to Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs had 38 first downs and 598 total yards of their own. Piland and his Tech counterpart Colby Cameron combined to throw 129 passes in the game.

** The Houston-Louisiana Tech game set new Division I-A records for most plays from scrimmage (209), most passes thrown with an interception (129), completions (87) and first downs (78).

** Officials at the Saturday evening mismatch between Florida State and Division I-AA Savannah State had the good sense to invoke a mercy rule of sorts. The carnage was limited to 55-0 after the Seminoles pulled their starters in the first half, and officials employed a running clock after halftime. The game was called after two weather delays with 8:59 remaining in the third quarter.

** My way-too-early-in-the-season Heisman Trophy ballot features West Virginia QB Geno Smith, USC quarterback Matt Barkley and UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin. Buzzing around the top three: Louisiana Monroe QB Kolton Browning, Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas and Ohio State QB Braxton Miller.

** It’s not only Division I-A teams that beat up on lower-division opponents. I-AA Wofford swamped Division II Lincoln (Pa.) last weekend by an 82-0 final although the Terriers did about all they could do to hold down the score. Wofford emptied its bench to the point where 17 different players carried the football.

FEARLESS FORECAST

After a fairly stellar opening week, the forecast suffered a choppy second week of the 2012 season. An inexplicable loss by former No. 8 Arkansas to unranked Louisiana-Monroe, and a mini-upset engineered by Arizona over No. 18 Oklahoma State gave us the first two straight-up losses of the season. But we’re still 18-2 in that category.

Against the spread, we slipped to 5-5 and the season record ATS is only barely above water at 11-9. We’ll try to do better this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 13 Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh: What looks like a game that should be a walkover for the Hokies could be a trap game. Tech rolled over I-AA Austin Peay last week, but struggled with an average Georgia Tech team in the season opener before taking a 20-17 win in overtime. Not that the Panthers are any great shakes. First-year head coach Paul Chryst’s tenure began with a home loss to I-AA Youngstown State and didn’t get any better with last week’s 34-10 loss at Cincinnati. These teams have some history when both played in the Big East, and Pitt usually had the upper hand. That included a 31-28 upset of the fifth-ranked Hokies in 2003, the last time these teams met. That should at least provide some incentive for Tech, which has won a nation-best 13 straight road games … Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 10. (12 noon ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 16 TCU at Kansas: The nomadic Horned Frogs take to the road for their first conference game as Big 12 members and find a Kansas team that has struggled in recent years to beat ranked opposition. TCU is on its fourth conference affiliation since 2000 – five if you count their brief courtship with the Big East – and have an impressive 77-13 record over the past seven seasons. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are coming off a 25-24 home loss to Rice, a game in which they blew an eight-point lead with less than five minutes remaining. Charlie Weis has resurfaced as head coach at Kansas, which means the Jayhawks will have a potent passing attack sometime in the future. It’s just that the future isn’t going to help against the Frogs tomorrow. The Jayhawks have lost six in a row to ranked foes, getting outscored by an average of 31.5 points in those games … TCU 42, Kansas 14. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

Tennessee Tech at No. 4 Oregon: The Ducks have already scored 99 points in two games, so what can we expect from the Quack Attack against the I-AA Golden Eagles? Well, we could mention that the Ducks have a streak of 15 consecutive games in which they have scored at least 30 points. We could check the history books to see that the last time Tennessee Tech played a I-A opponent it resulted in a 62-7 loss to TCU. And we could mention that the Eagles are a lifetime 0-27 against Division I-A opponents. Suffice to say that lots of points will be scored. It just depends upon how many … Oregon 56, Tennessee Tech 14. (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas: This was supposed to be an early-season marquee matchup of possible national championship contenders. That was until last week when the Razorbacks blew a 21-point lead to Louisiana-Monroe in an eventual 34-31 overtime loss. The defeat was even more costly for the Hogs, who lost senior QB Tyler Wilson to a head injury. Wilson, who was still suffering from concussion-like symptoms early this week, will be a game-time decision. But if he can’t go, the Razorbacks will try to get by with either freshman Brandon Allen or junior Brandon Mitchell, who also plays wide receiver. Arkansas will also be without starting cornerback Tevin Mitchel while fellow corner Kaelon Kelleybrew is less than 100 percent with an arm injury. You simply can’t play against a team the caliber of the Crimson Tide with that many injuries and expect a positive outcome … Alabama 42, Arkansas 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Massachusetts at No. 17 Michigan: After getting their ears boxed by Alabama in the season opener, and barely surviving last week’s game against Air Force, the Wolverines should get a bit of a breather against the Minutemen. UMass has jumped to the I-A level this season and has an 0-2 record to show for it. But it’s actually worst than that. The Minutemen can’t score. They were shut out 37-0 in their opener by Connecticut and then got run over last week by Indiana, 41-6. The Michigan defense will give up some yardage – 431 to Bama’s power offense and 417 last week to Air Force’s triple option. But if you can’t score, you can’t beat U-M and Denard Robinson … Michigan 42, Massachusetts 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

UAB at No. 8 South Carolina: The storyline here is not whether the Blazers can beat the Gamecocks. (They can, but they won’t.) Steve Spurrier needs one more victory for 200 in his college career, making him only the fourth current coach in Division I-A to reach that milestone. UAB has had an extra week of preparation for this game, but the Blazers probably ought to know that not only is Spurrier going for win No. 200, he is a perfect 45-0 against non-BCS conference foes during his career. The Blazers haven’t had a winning season since 2004 and they are a lowly 21-52 since the beginning of the ’06 season … South Carolina 37, UAB 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan/Fox Sports South, DirectTV 790)

No. 2 USC vs. No. 21 Stanford: These two played one of the most entertaining games in 2011, with Andrew Luck getting the better of Matt Barkley in a three-overtime affair that wound up a 56-48 win for the Cardinal in the LA Coliseum. Unfortunately for football fans – and Stanford – a repeat is highly unlikely since Luck has taken his high-level game to the NFL. Barkley is back for the Trojans, but he has never beaten Stanford in three previous tries. But the USC quarterback has perhaps the most potent receiving corps of his career, and the Cardinal ranks a lowly 99th nationally in pass defense. Plus, history is on the side of Barkley and the Trojans. Stanford has never won four in a row in the 107-year series. … USC 38, Stanford 20. (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Idaho at No. 3 LSU: Sooner or later, attrition is going to catch up with the Tigers. Before the season, they lost DB/KR Tyrann Mathieu and now starting left tackle Chris Faulk (knee) and star linebacker Tahj Boyd (academics) are out for the year. Fortunately for the Tigers, they likely could lose a half-dozen more players and still beat Idaho. The winless Vandals lost their opener to I-AA Eastern Washington before last week’s 21-13 loss at Bowling Green. About the only suspense will be whether the Tigers can cover the 42-point spread. We believe they can and they will … LSU 49, Idaho 0. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 788)

No. 20 Notre Dame at No. 10 Michigan State: This should be an entertaining game although you shouldn’t expect a whole lot of points. The Spartans have yet to allow an offensive touchdown this season while the Fighting Irish put up pretty good defensive numbers against Navy’s triple option and Purdue’s pass-happy attack. Notre Dame features an above-average offense that is getting better with each passing week. Former starting QB Tommy Rees backs up sophomore Everett Golson and top running back Cierre Wood returns this week from suspension. MSU, of course, has running back Le’Veon Bell, who was a one-man army against Boise State in the opener and who scored two more touchdowns last week in a 41-7 rout of Central Michigan. But Sparty is going to need new starting QB Andrew Maxwell to play more like he did last week against CMU than he did during a three-interception performance vs. Boise. Notre Dame leads the overall series by a 46-28-1 margin, but the Spartans have won 10 of the last 15 including the last two in East Lansing … Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

California at No. 12 Ohio State: The Golden Bears would never be confused for one of the best teams in the Pac-12, but they are probably on par with UCF, a team the Buckeyes beat by 15 points last week despite making a ton of mistakes. Cal will enter the Horseshoe for the first time since 1971 to find an ever-evolving offense from the Buckeyes. Senior running back Jordan Hall makes his season debut while receiver Philly Brown is rumored to become more involved in the run game, trying to take some pressure off QB Braxton Miller. But let’s face facts: Miller is still going to be the focal point of the Buckeyes’ attack, and if that means running the ball 27 times and winning vs. running the ball five times and losing, look for the OSU staff to let their sophomore quarterback run. Defensively, the Buckeyes have to crank things up a notch, and the return of Nathan Williams will likely allow that to happen … Ohio State 38, Cal 13. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Virginia Tech (-9) at Pittsburgh; TCU (-20) at Kansas; Tennessee Tech at Oregon (NL); Alabama (-20½) at Arkansas; UMass (+46½) at Michigan; UAB (+33½) at South Carolina; USC (-8) at Stanford; Idaho at LSU(-42); Notre Dame at Michigan State (-6); Cal at Ohio State (-16).

Enjoy the games and we hope to see you again next week.

Despite Blowout Win, Buckeyes Have Plenty Of Room For Improvement

Ohio State fans in attendance at Ohio Stadium as well as those tuned in around the world on the Big Ten Network hoped they would be among the first to witness Urban Meyer’s sleek new Ferrari-type offense in the 2012 season opener against Miami (Ohio).

What they saw instead was the same kind of steamroller the Buckeyes have been accustomed to using against lesser opponents for the better part of the last century.

Despite anticipation to the contrary, Meyer has never intimated that his version of the spread offense resembles a pass-happy, basketball-on-grass type of attack. In fact, the head coach blanches at such comparisons. Therefore, the approach that piled up 56 points and 538 total yards – most of that coming in the final three quarters – was about what Meyer wants it to be. In other words, a game plan that features running the ball about 60 percent of the time.

In addition to resembling many OSU teams of the past, the Buckeyes really didn’t put on the kind of show one typically associates with a 56-10 win. To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t give Ohio State a much better overall grade than B-minus for its performance against the RedHawks.

The first quarter was especially troubling, so much so that Meyer called it embarrassing. After the opening period, Miami enjoyed a lopsided 172-48 advantage in total yardage, and had his receivers been able to help in even the slightest way, QB Zac Dysert would likely have staked his team to a 14-0 lead.

The Buckeyes might well have shifted gears from that point as they did from a much-smaller 3-0 deficit. But being down by two touchdowns at home to a 24-point underdog – especially for a team coming off a 6-7 season – would have at the very least caused some dry throats on the west sideline.

For all of the offseason pronouncements that he is improving as a passer, there were times when Braxton Miller didn’t show it. You could argue that as overly harsh in light of a 14-for-24 performance that was worth 207 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But there were times when the QB flat out missed open receivers and other times when his targets bailed him out with circus catches.

I can couch my criticism of Miller with the fact he remains only a sophomore still with fewer than a dozen college starts under his belt. But his athleticism is so off-the-charts that he is expected to throw the ball better than he does at times. Unfortunately, he remains very much a work in progress in that area.

Miller needs no such improvement with his running game, however, and the effortless move he made on Miami cornerback D.J. Jones was a gear-shift torn from the Walter Payton playbook. I seriously doubt Meyer wants his quarterback to run the ball 17 times every game, however, and the coach said as much after the game.

The play of the offensive line was steady but uninspiring. Again, with the promise that Meyer brought to the program, the thought was that the OL would be a streamlined, attacking type of unit. What the line showed against a smaller Miami defense was a mixed bag that included some good, some bad and some downright ugly.

Defensively, the Buckeyes seemed to play well up front despite getting to Dysert only twice. There was the fact that OSU held Miami to minus-1 yards in the rushing game, but the RedHawks can’t run the ball on anyone. They were dead last in the nation in that department last year for a reason.

Play from the Ohio State linebackers appeared to be a little uneven, and the Miami receivers created much more separation than should ever happen to a Big Ten secondary against MAC players. Had several catchable balls not been dropped, Dysert would have far exceeded an afternoon that still managed to produce 303 yards through the air.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if I was watching the same game as you. After all, Ohio State did score eight touchdowns and beat its opponent into submission by 46 points.

All true, of course. But the blowout was accomplished against a team from a mid-major conference, a team coming off a 4-8 season that is picked to finish no higher than third in its division this year. It was accomplished against a one-dimensional team that is not nearly the competitive equal of Ohio State.

Yet for all of my criticism, there was plenty to praise. Miller is only going to get better at throwing the ball. The offensive line will likely begin to become a more cohesive unit. The offense should become more diverse when Jordan Hall returns. The defensive line is already among the best in the nation, and the linebackers are improving. So, too, is a veteran secondary that is intent on creating more turnovers this year. Travis Howard’s two picks of Dysert is proof of that.

And perhaps best of all, solid play on special teams seems to have returned after a long hiatus. Bradley Roby recovered a mishandled punt snap to score a touchdown, Drew Basil was perfect on eight PATs, Ben Buchanan handled his new directional punting chores and still averaged 42.1 yards on seven attempts, and the Buckeyes held Miami to an average of only 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns.

All in all, it was a decent start – the kind of game a new coaching staff can use as a motivational teaching aid for any team beginning to believe the hard work is over when it has only just begun.

OSU-CENTRAL FLORIDA TIDBITS

** This marks the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Central Florida. The Buckeyes began playing intercollegiate football in 1890 while the Knights first fielded a varsity team in 1979 as a Division III program. They advanced to Division II in 1982, moved up to the Football Championship Division (Division I-AA) in 1990 and have been playing at the Football Bowl Division (Division I-A) level since 1996.

** The game pits schools which boast among the largest student body populations in the country. According to 2011 attendance figures, UCF had 58,698 students while OSU had 56,867.

** Following last week’s 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio), Ohio State looks to go 2-0 for the seventh consecutive season. The last time the Buckeyes failed to open the season with two victories was 2005 when they lost a 25-22 decision at home in week two to eventual national champion Texas.

** Ohio State hasn’t started a season by scoring 50 points or more in back-to-back games since 1996. That year, the Buckeyes opened with a 70-7 win over Rice and before administering a 72-0 pasting of Pittsburgh.

** With last week’s win over Miami, Urban Meyer joined 21 other men who enjoyed a victory in their first game as head coach of the Buckeyes. OSU has had only 24 head coaches in program history and Meyer’s win over the RedHawks ran to 22-1-1 the opening-game record for first-year coaches. The only two coaches who failed to win their Ohio State debuts were Jack Ryder (a 40-0 loss at Oberlin in 1892) and Paul Bixler (a 13-13 tie with Missouri in 1946).

** While 22 OSU head coaches have won their inaugural game, only 13 have gone on to win their second game as well. The school record is held by Carroll Widdoes, who won his first 12 games as head coach of the Buckeyes in 1944-45.

** The 56 points scored by the Buckeyes was the second-most in an OSU head coach’s debut game. The school record has been held since 1913 when the Buckeyes set sail under John W. Wilce with a 58-0 whitewash of Ohio Wesleyan.

** The Knights are led by head coach George O’Leary, now in his ninth season in Orlando. O’Leary has a career record of 103-85, including an even 51-51 with UCF.

** Meyer is 1-0 lifetime against UCF and 3-1 for his career against current members of Conference USA. His 2006 national championship team at Florida defeated the Knights by a 42-0 final in the second game of that season. His only loss to C-USA came during his first season at Bowling Green when Marshall dealt the Falcons a 37-31 defeat. Marshall was a member of the MAC that season, but the Thundering Herd joined Conference USA in 2010. Meyer’s other two victories against current C-USA teams came at the expense of Southern Miss – a 17-0 victory in the 2003 Liberty Bowl while at Utah and a 34-7 decision in the 2006 season opener at Florida.

** Meyer and O’Leary have been on opposite sidelines twice before. In addition to the 2006 game between Florida and UCF, the 1999 Gator Bowl featured O’Leary’s Georgia Tech team vs. Notre Dame. Meyer was an assistant coach on Bob Davie’s Fighting Irish staff that season. Tech won the game, 35-28.

** O’Leary is 0-2 lifetime against current members of the Big Ten. Both losses came in 2004, his first season with UCF when the Knights finished 0-11. The team lost a 34-7 decision to Wisconsin that year as well as a 37-13 verdict to Penn State.

** Due to NCAA sanctions, neither team is eligible for postseason play in 2012 although UCF is currently appealing its bowl ban. The Knights were sanctioned because of recruiting violations in both football and basketball under previous athletic director Keith Tribble.

** Ohio State currently has a 62-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.

** The Buckeyes are 12-1-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA. OSU is 2-0 vs. Marshall and Rice, 1-0 against Houston and 7-1-1 vs. SMU. The only blemishes on that record are a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978 and a 32-27 loss to the Mustangs in 1950. A 45-7 win over Marshall during the vacated 2010 season represents the Buckeyes’ most recent game against a C-USA opponent.

** UCF is 0-6 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. The Knights are 0-2 vs. Penn State and Purdue as well as 0-1 against Nebraska and Wisconsin.

**Central Florida is 13-14 all-time against Ohio schools. That includes a 3-5 record against Akron, 2-1 marks vs. Bowling Green, Toledo and Youngstown State, a 2-2 record against Kent and 1-2 ledgers vs. Miami (Ohio) and Ohio.

** The Knights have bounced around conferences during the last several years. They were members of the Mid-American Conference from 2002-04 before joining Conference USA, and they will join the Big East beginning next year.

** Ohio State is currently ranked 14th in the Associated Press writers’ poll. The Buckeyes have been ranked by the AP more times – 790 weeks to be exact – than any other team in the nation. OSU has now in appeared in the AP in 45 consecutive seasons, tying Alabama for the longest active streak.

** The Knights have never beaten a nonconference top 25 opponent and have lost five of their last six games against ranked opponents, including a 30-29 loss at No. 22 Southern Miss last November. The team’s most recent victory over a ranked team was a 37-32 decision over No. 15 Houston in November 2009.

** UCF opened its season last Friday night with a 56-14 win at Akron. It represented the most points scored by the Knights against a nonconference foe on the road since a 64-30 win at Louisiana Tech in the 1998 season opener.

** This week’s game will like mark the largest crowd ever to watch the Knights play. The previous mark was set in 2002 when a crowd of 103,029 filled Beaver Stadium at Penn State to watch the Nittany Lions nip UCF by a 27-24 final.

** Braxton Miller rushed for 161 yards last Saturday, setting a new single-game rushing record for OSU quarterbacks. He broke the record of 146 set by Cornelius Greene during a 52-7 win over Wisconsin in 1974. Miller added another 207 yards through the air, giving him 368 total yards for the game. That marked the sixth-highest single-game total in program history. Art Schlichter holds the OSU mark in that category with 412 during a 36-27 loss to Florida State in 1981.

** In addition to his record rushing day, Miller tied Greene for the most recognized career 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback with four. Terrelle Pryor had seven 100-yard rushing games during his career, but the four he totaled during the 2010 season have been expunged from the school’s official record book.

** Miller pushed his career rushing total to 876 yards, leaving him 124 shy of becoming the 54th player in Ohio State history to crack the 1,000-yard mark.

** When senior co-captain Zach Boren scored his first career rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter against Miami, it broke an unusual scoring drought for Ohio State fullbacks. The last time an OSU fullback ran for a touchdown was Brandon Schnittker, who scored on a 1-yard run during the 2005 season opener, a 34-14 win over the RedHawks. But even that TD is disputed by some who believe Schnittker was technically running out of the tailback spot when he scored. If that is true, you have to go back one more year to 2004 when Branden Joe scored on a 4-yard run during a 21-10 win over Penn State.

** Miami finished last Saturday’s game with minus-1 yard in the rushing department. That marked the first time in four years the Buckeyes had held an opponent to negative yards rushing. Youngstown State had minus-11 yards on the ground during a 43-0 loss in the 2008 opener.

** Ohio State piled up 538 total yards against the RedHawks, the highest total yardage since Ohio State had 645 in a 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan during the vacated season of 2010. Considering only non-vacated seasons, it was the largest yardage total since the Buckeyes had 559 vs. New Mexico State in 2009. OSU won that game by a 45-0 final. The point total was the team’s best in a non-vacated season since a 58-7 victory over Northwestern in 2007. Meanwhile, the 56 points was the most any Miami team had surrendered since a 58-7 loss to Dartmouth on Oct. 3, 1942.

** Lost amid the hubbub of the first victory of the Meyer era was the fact the Buckeyes snapped their four-game losing streak. That meant the program avoided their first five-game skid since the final five games of the 1897 season. Ohio State, currently playing its 123rd season of intercollegiate football, has never lost six games in a row.

** ESPN2 will have the telecast of the season opener with Beth Mowins handling the play-by-play and former Ohio State and NFL receiver Joey Galloway providing color analysis. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be telecast on Sirius satellite radio channel 113 and XM channel 196.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host Pac-12 rival California, which makes its first trip to the Horseshoe since 1971. The game will be telecast by ABC and will kickoff at 12 noon Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 8, 1984, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie kicked off his Heisman Trophy-winning season by throwing three touchdowns passes and rallying the Golden Eagles from a 31-14 deficit to a 38-31 upset over ninth-ranked Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham.

** Also on Sept. 8, 1984, George Dwarn and Otis Cheathem became the first opponents ever to crack the 200-yard mark in rushing in the same game. Swarn totaled 239 for Miami (Ohio) while Cheathem ran for 219 as his Western Michigan team scored a 17-13 win over the RedHawks (who were the Redskins at that time).

** On Sept. 8, 1990, No. 16 BYU engineered a 28-21 upset victory over top-ranked and defending national champion Miami (Fla.). BYU quarterback Ty Detmer completed 38 of 54 passes for 406 yards and three TDs to kick off his Heisman Trophy campaign. The Cougars withstood a late comeback by the Hurricanes when DB Ervin Lee broke up a fourth-down pass at the goal line with 1:49 to play.

** On Sept. 9, 1972, UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon led the Bruins – who had won only two games the previous season – to a 20-17 upset win over preseason No. 1 Nebraska. Yes, that’s the same Mark Harmon who stars as Special Agent L.J. Gibbs on the CBS drama “NCIS,” not to mention the same Mark Harmon who is the son of 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon of Michigan.

** On Sept. 9, 1978, unranked Missouri gave new head coach Warren Powers a 3-0 upset victory over defending national champion Notre Dame in South Bend. The Tigers forced Fighting Irish QB Joe Montana into committing three turnovers, and Notre Dame failed three times on fourth-and-1 situations. The outcome marked the first time the Irish had been shut out since 1965.

** On Sept. 9, 2006, it was Overtime Saturday all across college football. A record seven games went into overtime, including a double-OT thriller when Boston College blocked an extra point to upset No. 18 Clemson, 34-33.

** On Sept. 10, 1966,Baylor shocked No. 7 Syracuse, taking a 35-12 victory in Waco in the season opener. Bears QB Terry Southall threw for four touchdowns in the game while tailback Floyd Little rushed for 102 yards and a score for the Orange. But a fumbled pitch to Little early in the game set the tone as Baylor scored to take a lead it would never relinquish.

** On Sept. 11, 1993, a then-NCAA regular-season record 106,851 fans were on hand as No. 10 Notre Dame scored a 27-23 upset over second-ranked Michigan. The Fighting Irish took a 24-10 lead at halftime and coasted the rest of the way, finishing the season with an 11-1 record and a No. 2 ranking in the season’s final poll.

** On Sept. 11, 1982, Michigan State kicker Ralf Moisiejenko cranked a 61-yard field goal on his first career three-point attempt, but it wasn’t enough as Illinois dealt the Spartans a 23-16 loss in Champaign.

** On Sept. 12, 1987, Michigan committed seven turnovers in a 26-7 loss to Notre Dame, the first season-opening home loss ever for head coach Bo Schembechler.

** On Sept. 13, 1986, Hayden Fry became the winningest coach in Iowa history when the Hawkeyes took a 43-7 win over Iowa State. The victory was No. 53 for Fry, who passed Forest Evashevski for most wins in school history. Fry was to coach 20 seasons in Iowa City and retired with 143 victories with the Hawkeyes.

**On Sept. 13, 1980, Louisiana-Lafayette managed to overcome an NCAA record-tying five lost fumbles in a single quarter to beat East Carolina, 27-21.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** It didn’t take long for the nation’s longest winning streak to go down. Northern Illinois entered the 2012 season with the longest win streak in FBS at nine, and the Huskies promptly dropped an 18-17 squeaker vs. Iowa at Soldier Field in Chicago. The nation’s longest win streak now belongs to TCU, which kicks off its 2012 season this weekend at home vs. Grambling State. The Horned Frogs have won their last eight in a row.

** Kansas and Tulane entered the season with the nation’s longest losing streaks at 10. The Jayhawks snapped their streak with a 31-17 win over South Dakota State last weekend, but the Green Wave pushed their slide to 11 straight games with a 24-12 loss to Rutgers.

** With its loss to Ohio last Saturday, PennState dropped a season opener for the first time since a 33-7 loss to Miami (Fla.) in 2001. The Nittany Lions hadn’t lost a season opener to a non-BCS conference team since 1967. That was a 23-22 loss at Navy.

** How bad was Michigan’s 41-14 season-opening loss to Alabama? How about the most lopsided season-opening loss for the Wolverines in their 133-year existence? And you thought all that worst-ever stuff left Ann Arbor when Rich Rodriguez did.

** Speaking of Rodriguez, his debut at Arizona was a successful one. The Wildcats piled up 624 total yards on their way to a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo.

** If you want proof that the Big Ten has evolved from a running conference to one that throws the ball with much more frequency, look no further than the opening week stats. Only four Big Ten players cracked the 100-yard mark in rushing – and one of those was OhioState quarterback Braxton Miller – while nine players threw for 200 yards or more. Among the QBs topping the 200-yard mark was Tyler Martinez of Nebraska, who threw for a career-best 354 yards and five TDs during his team’s 49-20 win over Southern Miss.

** MichiganState has enjoyed back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and that success is paying off – literally. The Spartans have sold 68,831 season tickets this year, a new school record.

** As long as we’re talking about Sparty, here is a nice little stat: Since 2010, MSU is a sparkling 9-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer.

** File this name away for future Heisman reference: USC sophomore receiver Marqise Lee. He scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage last week in the Trojans’ convincing 49-10 win over Hawaii, and later added a 100-yard kickoff return. For the game, Lee had 10 receptions for 197 yards.

** Kudos to Eric Wolford, third-year head coach at DivisionI-AA YoungstownState. Wolford guided the Penguins to a 31-17 upset at Pittsburgh last weekend, spoiling the debut game for Panthers head coach Paul Chryst. YoungstownState typically schedules a I-A school every year, but that was its first victory over an upper-division opponent since a 26-20 win over KentState in 2000. Jim Tressel was the Penguins’ head coach in that one.

** Kudos also to veteran coach Dennis Franchione, who resurfaced at Texas State last year. Franchione’s Bobcats moved up to Division I-A status this year and celebrated Saturday with a 30-13 stunner at Houston. How stunning was that victory? Houston offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned on Monday.

** California welcomed a sellout crowd to renovated Memorial Stadium on Saturday, and then promptly dropped a 31-24 decision to Nevada. It was the Bears’ first on-campus game in 21 months, and their first home loss to the Wolf Pack since 1903.

** Notre Dame radio analyst Allen Pinkett, who was sent home from Ireland for saying the Fighting Irish needed more “criminals” on the roster, will be suspended for two more games. In case you missed what Pinkett told a Chicago radio station last week:I’ve always felt like to have a successful team you’ve got to have a few bad citizens on the team. That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension which creates edge on the football team.” Sanctimonious outrage ensued, and Pinkett later apologized, saying he chose his “words poorly and that an apology is in order for these inappropriate comments.” The trouble is that Pinkett is being penalized for offering his opinion – something the Fighting Irish ostensibly pays him to do.

** It’s fairly safe to say that Western Kentucky is the worst field-goal kicking team in college football. The Hilltoppers, who made only 5 of 20 field-goal attempts last year, were 0 for 3 in their 2012 season opener Saturday. It didn’t seem to matter, though. WKU swamped I-AA opponent Austin Peay by a 49-10 final at beautiful Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.

** Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain snapped one of the longest streaks in college football last week. McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama, became the first Rams head coach in 42 years to win his debut with a 22-17 victory over instate rival Colorado. The last CSU head coach to win his first game with the team was Jerry Wampfler, whose Rams took a 28-9 win at New Mexico State in the 1970 season opener.

** Perhaps you heard about Kent State linebacker Andre Parker running 58 yards the wrong way with a muffed punt last Thursday night. The strangest thing about the play wasn’t that Parker got mixed up and started running toward his own goal line. It was the fact that Parker’s teammates were blocking for him and Towson players were chasing him, finally forcing him out of bounds before he reached the end zone. Not that it mattered much. The Golden Flashes rolled to a 41-21 victory.

** FCS member Savannah State, which finished 1-10 last season, pocketed about $385,000 for its athletic department budget by playing its 2012 season opener at Oklahoma State. That came out to about $4,600 per point since the Cowboys put an 84-0 spanking on the Tigers. Savannah State gets a little more this week (475K), but is likely in for a similar beatdown when it travels to Florida State. The Seminoles rolled to a 69-3 win over I-AA Murray State in their opener.

** Congratulations to quarterback Sam Durley of Division III Eureka (Ill.) College, who set an NCAA single-game record by throwing for 736 yards during his team’s 62-55 win last Saturday over Knox. Durley completed 34 of 52 attempts with five touchdowns. The previous NCAA mark was 731 yards, set by Zamir Amin of Division III Menlo College (Calif.) in 2000. David Klinger of Houston holds the Football Bowl Subdivision single-game mark with 716 yards against Arizona State in 1990.

** Durley’s record-breaking game also allowed Eureka to amass 821 total yards, breaking the previous school record of 744. If you think Eureka College sounds familiar, it is probably because it is the alma mater of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It was a pretty good kickoff to the 2012 season here at World Forecast Headquarters with a perfect 10-0 start straight up and a 6-4 record against the spread. We’ll try to keep it going with these games:

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama: For any other team, this could be a trap game. After gearing up to begin the season against Michigan, and opening the SEC schedule next week at No. 8 Arkansas, one might forgive the Crimson Tide if they overlook the Hilltoppers. That probably won’t happen, though, since Alabama has its sights set on becoming the first team to win back-to-back national championships since Nebraska in 1994 and ’95. WKU won its season opener for the first time since 2005, piling up 596 total yards on its way to a 49-10 win over I-AA Austin Peay. Last time we checked, though, Austin Peay represents slightly lesser competition than the Tide … Alabama 45, Western Kentucky 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 788)

No. 2 USC vs. Syracuse: The Trojans are headed cross-country to throw a 22nd birthday party for quarterback Matt Barkley in MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets. Hopeful of spoiling the proceedings is Syracuse, although no one gives the Orange much of a chance. Senior QB Ryan Nassib completed 44 of 65 pass attempts last week for 470 yards and five TDs, but it wasn’t enough as the Orange dropped a wild 42-41 decision to Northwestern. Syracuse surrendered a six-point lead with 2:40 left in the game when backup QB Trevor Siemian marched the Wildcats 75 yards for the winning score. If a sophomore backup can do that to the Orange defense, imagine what Barkley will do on his birthday … USC 49, Syracuse 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 11 Michigan State at Central Michigan: After playing the first eight games of this series at home, Sparty is making his first-ever trip to cozy Kelly/Shorts Stadium with its modest capacity of 30,255. The Chippewas have never been a particularly easy out for Michigan State – CMU has won three of the previous eight meetings including a 29-27 victory in 2009. But the Spartans exacted their revenge last year with a 45-7 pounding of the Chips, a beating that included three rushing touchdowns from Le’Veon Bell. Considering the fact that Bell is now the focal point of Sparty’s offense, this year’s game should yield a similar outcome … Michigan State 38, Central Michigan 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

Air Force at No. 19 Michigan: After getting squashed by Alabama last Saturday night, the Wolverines will try to regroup against a Falcons team that rolled to a 49-21 victory over I-AA Idaho State in its opener. The U-M defense got run over by the Crimson Tide, while the Flyboys employ a triple-option attack that has led the nation in rushing since the beginning of the 2010 season with an average of 317.1 yards per game. Defensively, the Falcons are no great shakes, though, and Michigan welcomes back RB Fitzgerald Toussaint from a one-game suspension. These two teams haven’t met since 1964, and Air Force has lost 19 in a row to ranked opponents. But you just get a feeling this might be a little closer than some people think … Michigan 38, Air Force 29. (3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

Purdue at No. 22 Notre Dame: Not sure what we learned about either of these teams last week. The Boilermakers routed I-AA Eastern Kentucky by a 48-6 final while the Fighting Irish went all the way to Ireland to sink Navy, 50-10. Purdue gets starting QB Caleb TerBush back from a one-game suspension, and it will be interesting to see how the Boilers operate with TerBush and backup Robert Marve, who threw for 295 yards and three scores last week. Meanwhile, the Irish showed some defensive pluck against the Middies while the running attack led by Theo Riddick (107 yards, two TDs) and George Atkinson III (99 yards, two TDs) ground Navy into dust. Notre Dame sports a 55-26-2 advantage in the overall series, including wins in the last four meetings and six of the last seven … Notre Dame 38, Purdue 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Washington at No. 3 LSU: The Huskies will try their luck at Tiger Stadium, where LSU has won 18 in a row, and they’ll try to engineer the upset without running back Jesse Callier (torn ACL) and starting right tackle Ben Riva (broken forearm). The Tigers allowed only 219 yards in last week’s 41-14 home victory over North Texas, and that total would have been much, much lower had LSU not surrendered pass plays that covered 50 and 80 yards. Obviously, U-Dub will try to test LSU’s secondary with QB Keith Price, who threw for 222 yards and a score in the Huskies’ season-opening win over San Diego State, a 21-12 decision over the Aztecs. Just don’t expect Price to have much success … LSU 41, Washington 7. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Louisiana-Monroe vs. No. 8 Arkansas: The Razorbacks started slowly last week before rolling to a 49-24 win over I-AA Jacksonville State as John L. Smith’s first game as a head coach since 2004 was a successful one. This week, the Hogs travel down the road from Fayetteville to Little Rock to welcome the Warhawks, who are making their 2012 debut. Louisiana-Monroe returns 15 starters, including eight on offense, and enters this season with a load of optimism. But the program has not finished above .500 since returning to Division I-A in 1994, and the team is 0-25 lifetime against ranked opponents. Add in an 0-for-9 career performance against the Razorbacks, and it is liable to be a long evening for Todd Berry’s team … Arkansas 41, Louisiana-Monroe 13. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

New Mexico at No. 17 Texas: We haven’t heard much from the Longhorns the last couple of years, but the Mack Attack believes it is ready to make another title run this year. Of course, that belief gets tested beginning in late September when UT runs a three-week gantlet that includes No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 9 West Virginia and No. 5 Oklahoma, but first things first. The Lobos are next on the docket, and first-year head coach Bob Davie (yep, that Bob Davie) has his players believing in his triple-option attack after last week’s 66-21 rout of I-AA Southern University. History doesn’t exactly favor Davie’s team, however. The Lobos have lost their last 12 in a row to ranked opponents, and they have lost 21 straight road contests … Texas 37, New Mexico 17. (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)

No. 18 Oklahoma State at Arizona: The Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson got started on the right foot last week with a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo. The final shouldn’t have been that close since the Wildcats piled up 624 yards of offense. But some of the things that plagued RichRod during his tumultuous stay at Michigan – turnovers, defensive lapses, a poor kicking game – raised their head in the opener. This week, the margin of error is much less against the Cowboys, who took no prisoners during last week’s 84-0 blowout of I-AA Savannah State. If you like offense, you’ll probably enjoy this one … Oklahoma State 56, Arizona 35. (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

UCF at No. 14 Ohio State: If you think the Knights are just another pushover on a soft nonconference schedule, think again. UCF, which welcomed Terry Bowden back to Division I-A coaching with a 56-14 smackdown at Akron, features some pretty nice weapons. QB Blake Bortles was extremely efficient while throwing for 168 yards and three TDs, RB Latavius Murray ran for 108 yards and a score, and the UCF defense created four turnovers. Of course, Zippy is not to be confused with Brutus. Ohio State’s offense, with QB Braxton Miller at the controls, represents a much more formidable opponent for UCF, who gave up 325 yards and 19 first downs last week. Plus, a bad shoulder is likely to keep Murray on the sideline. But the Knights are approaching this game as they would a bowl (they’re ineligible for the postseason, too), so that could provide some added incentive. Just not enough … Ohio State 38, Central Florida 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Western Kentucky (+40) at Alabama; USC (-26) vs. Syracuse; Michigan State (-20) at Central Michigan; Air Force (+22) at Michigan; Purdue at Notre Dame (-13½); Washington at LSU (-23½); LA-Monroe (+30½) at Arkansas; New Mexico (+38½) at Texas; Oklahoma State (-10) at Arizona; UCF at Ohio State (-18).

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

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