We have reached the midway point in Ohio State’s 2009 season, a campaign already filled with highs and lows.
There has been plenty of angst throughout the Buckeye Nation this fall even though OSU is in its customary spot atop the Big Ten standings and inside the top 10 in all the major polls. The team is working on a fifth consecutive conference championship, has won 33 of its last 36 league games overall and eyes its 18th straight conference road victory at Purdue tomorrow night.
The offense remains a work in progress but the defense is quickly becoming one of the country’s best units. The “No Name No Blame” defense ranks seventh nationally in scoring (12.0 points per game), 11th in total defense (271.8 yards), 12th in rushing (89.2) and is tied for fifth in total sacks (18.0) and tied for 12th in sacks per game (3.0).
Once the conference season began, the Buckeyes got even better. Against its three league opponents so far, OSU’s averages have shrunk to 9.0 points, 72.7 yards rushing and 255.3 total yards per game. The defensive unit ranks first in the Big Ten in all of those categories as well as total sacks, sacks per game and lowest opponent third-down conversion rate.
Given how the defense has played, the aforementioned figures are not that much of surprise. But want a kick in the head? In league games, Ohio State currently ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense as well as second in pass efficiency offense. Not bad for a unit whose quarterback some believe is better suited to play receiver.
Rather than concentrate on the criticisms, however, we thought we would look back at the best of the first half of the season. See how our picks compare to yours.
Best Drive – Strangely enough, Ohio State’s best drive of the season’s first half came during the poorest offensive showing so far. It came last week at the end of the second quarter after Wisconsin had scored to take a 10-7 lead. To that point in the game, the offense had 31 total yards to show for its five possessions and nearly everyone in the stadium expected the Buckeyes to sit on the ball for the final 1:52 of the half.
Suddenly, Pryor began the possession with a 27-yard slash and dash on a first-down quarterback draw, a run that featured two separate cutbacks that caught most Wisconsin defenders going the wrong way. After his initial run, Pryor tacked on a 6-yard scramble and then flipped a 6-yard pass to tight end Jake Ballard before connecting for 22 yards with receiver DeVier Posey.
Two plays later (plus a 5-yard illegal shift penalty against the Buckeyes), Pryor threw his best pass of the game, finding a well-guarded Posey in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. Six plays, 88 yards (93 if you count the penalty) and a touchdown in 72 seconds. The only question: Why can’t the offense play with that sense of purpose more often?
Best Offensive Play – The Buckeyes have sometimes struggled with their rushing attack during the first half of the season, but there was a running play in the USC game that was executed just like it is on a meeting room blackboard.
With USC leading 7-0 in the first quarter, the Buckeyes put together a drive that had them knocking on the door of the end zone with second-and-goal at the 2. Usually, that kind of play is cause for concern since OSU has a recent history of short-yardage failures. This play was different.
Pryor handed off to Boom Herron, who took a half-step toward the line of scrimmage. That was enough to get linebacker Luthur Brown to commit to the inside, and by the time he recognized the play was going outside, it was too late. Freshman Zach Boren sealed off any strong-side pursuit from linebacker Jarvis Jones while right guard Bryant Browning pulled the other way to team up with Ballard.
Herron disappeared in behind the 6-4, 312-pound Browning and the 6-6, 256-pound Ballard, kept his legs churning and pushed his way into the end zone. There aren’t many picturesque 2-yard touchdown runs but that was one of them.
Best Defensive Stop – The Buckeyes were leading Toledo by a 31-0 score early in the fourth quarter when the Rockets were driving. Ahead by such a comfortable margin, most defenses would ease up in that situation. OSU did not.
Toledo put together its best drive of the game with quarterback Aaron Opelt completing short passes in the middle of a soft zone. From the Ohio State 27-yard line, Opelt connected on another short flip that was grabbed over the middle by receiver Eric Page.
As Page split the zone and headed for the end zone, safety Kurt Coleman closed in and met the Toledo receiver near the goal line. Coleman wrapped Page, spun him around and with the same motion ripped the football from the receiver’s grasp. Linebacker Ross Homan was there to pounce on the fumble in the end zone, ending the scoring threat and preserving the team’s first shutout of a Division I-A opponent since 2006.
Best Defensive Play – There are lots of candidates from which to choose, but I like this one in particular. With Wisconsin trailing 14-10 at halftime, the Badgers took the second-half kickoff and seemed intent on taking the momentum back from the Buckeyes. Jermale Hines had other plans.
Hines and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa had bracketed UW receiver Isaac Anderson along the sideline, and when quarterback Scott Tolzien tried to force the ball into that double coverage, Hines made him pay. The OSU junior leaped in the air, stuck out his hand – the one attached to the same arm with a painfully hyperextended elbow – and managed to tip the ball straight up into the air.
Hines then snagged the ball for an interception and headed back the other way on a 32-yard touchdown return. Along the way, he got help from Coleman, who obliterated Anderson along the sideline, and linebacker Brian Rolle, who blocked off a pair of would-be tacklers. Hines finished the play by knifing his way into the end zone between two more Badgers.
Not only was it a play showcasing several players’ athleticism, it was also a backbreaker for Wisconsin. After Hines’ return, the Badgers were never again seriously in the game.
Best Special Teams Play – Once again, we revisit the Wisconsin game because it would be hard to beat Ray Small’s 97-yard kickoff return.
Small often moves laterally on returns, and anyone will tell you the return man that goes east and west usually goes nowhere. Every once in a while, though, the 5-11, 180-pound speedster decides to head straight up the middle of the field and the results are spectacular. That’s exactly what happened against the Badgers.
The return call was so good that Wisconsin barely laid a hand on Small as he turned on the afterburners. The best OSU block came early from freshman Storm Klein, and Small had only defensive back Devin Smith and kicker Philip Welch to beat. Smith made a diving attempt just before midfield and got nothing but air while Welch pretty much just got out of Small’s way.
A great call, excellent blocking and a speedy return man. One plus one plus one equals six points.
Best Offensive Lineman – Bryant Browning. It’s amazing how much better Browning is performing this season over last. Well, maybe not so amazing. He is much better suited to playing a guard position rather than having to worry about protecting the entire edge. He is the team’s best pulling guard and has consistently graded the highest of the offensive linemen. But you don’t have to believe me. Ask the coaching staff. They have given out offensive lineman of the week only four times so far and Browning has won it twice.
Best Receiver – Dane Sanzenbacher. Not the fastest, not the most athletic, not the most physical. The kid is simply money in the bank when the football’s in the air. It was a close call with Posey, who is really coming on. But Sanzenbacher is the one who finished the first half of the season as the team leader in receiving yards, yards per catch, yards per game and TDs. I’d gladly go to war with 11 Dane Sanzenbachers on my team.
Best Running Back – Brandon Saine. Remember the speedster who scored a lightning-quick 37-yard touchdown two years ago at Washington? It’s been a long, hard fight against injuries but it appears that Saine is finally back and ready to become the Buckeyes’ No. 1 tailback. He doesn’t have the résumé yet, and he still has to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season, but Saine’s combination of hard running and pass-catching skills is beginning to remind some people of Keith Byars. Can Saine approach that kind of production? Stay tuned for the second half of his junior season.
Best Offensive Player – Terrelle Pryor. As with most quarterbacks, Pryor gets more credit than he deserves when the team is winning and more criticism than he deserves when things aren’t going so well. The fact of the matter is the sophomore is so physically gifted that 80 percent efficiency from him is better than 100 percent from a lot of players. Yes, he’s still a work in progress but I shudder to imagine where the Buckeyes would be without him.
Best Defensive Lineman – Thaddeus Gibson. On a line full of guys who have stepped up their games, I will take Gibson just because his presence disrupts what the opposing offensive coordinator wants to do. The 6-2, 240-pound junior was credited with only 16 tackles in the first half, but he made them count. Despite ranking 12th on the unit in total stops, Gibson had a team-high 6½ tackles for loss – many on backside pursuit because teams were usually running in the opposite direction.
Best Linebacker – Ross Homan. The quiet leader of the defense is a tackling machine who simply knows where the football is going at all times. That Homan tends to save his biggest games for the toughest opponents – nine stops vs. USC and a career-best 15 plus two sacks against Wisconsin – is no coincidence.
Best Defensive Back – Kurt Coleman. He is probably the Buckeyes’ best cover man, he is easily one of the team’s biggest hitters and he is a vocal leader as one of three team co-captains. Coleman has played well in the past but he has amped things up a notch or two this season with 43 tackles, two interceptions (including an 89-yard return for a touchdown against Wisconsin) and three forced fumbles.
Best Defensive Player – Brian Rolle. Admit it. You were skeptical of a 5-11, 221-pound guy trying to play middle linebacker at Ohio State. But all it takes is one look at what Rolle brings to the party and his approach to the game, and you quickly realize he is a leader on a defense that has plenty of them. He has a team-best 51 tackles, and everyone remembers his game-saving play in the opener against Navy. Rolle is an example of a hard-working player who maximizes every ounce of his talent.
Best Special Teams Player – Ray Small. You get the feeling that Small may have squandered a lot of his Ohio State career, but when he turns on the jets like he did on that 97-yard kickoff return against the Badgers, all is forgiven. Every team would like to have a home run hitter like Small. Just the threat of a lightning bolt like him makes the Buckeyes better.
Best Freshman – John Simon. Ten true freshmen got varying degrees of playing time during the first half of the season, including Zach Boren and Adam Homan who shared starting fullback duties. I happen to like Simon, though, for seamlessly fitting into a veteran defensive line rotation. The 6-3, 265-pounder is as strong as the proverbial ox and his value will only increase the longer Dexter Larimore has to be sidelined.
Best Scout Teamer(s) – Walk-ons Spencer Smith and James Georgiades. In six weeks, each has won scout team of the week honors three times. They must be doing something right.
Team MVP – Kurt Coleman. Yes, he cost himself – and his team – with his helmet-to-helmet hit late in the Illinois game against quarterback Eddie McGee. But Coleman took his one-game suspension like a man and swore to learn from his mistake. He returned against Wisconsin and played what could have been the best game of his life. There have been plenty of stars for the Buckeyes so far this season, but for sheer value to his team and his teammates, I’d pick Coleman as my first-half MVP.
** This marks the 52nd meeting between Ohio State and Purdue with the Buckeyes holding a 37-12-2 record in the overall series. That includes a 12-6 mark in West Lafayette although the teams have split the last four games played in Ross-Ade Stadium.
** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is 5-1 against the Boilermakers, including last year’s 16-3 victory in Columbus. That 13-point win was par for the course. Tressel’s five victories in the series have come by an average margin of 12.4 points.
** Purdue head coach Danny Hope is in his first year with the Boilermakers. At Ohio State, Tressel is a perfect 13-0 against opposing first-year head coaches. That includes a 38-0 win over Toledo and first-year head coach Tim Beckman earlier this season.
** With a victory at Purdue, the Buckeyes would tie the all-time Big Ten record with a 17th consecutive conference road victory. Michigan established the mark with 17 straight road wins from 1988 to 1992.
** Ohio State has an all-time record of 196-77-10 in conference road games. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 26-7 on the road in Big Ten.
** Purdue is looking to snap a 19-game winless streak against ranked teams. The Boilermakers last defeated a top-25 team in 2003 when it scored a 27-14 victory in West Lafayette over No. 10 Iowa.
** Ohio State is ranked No. 7 in most of this week’s major polls. The last time Purdue defeated a ranked OSU team was in 2000. That year, the 16th-ranked Boilermakers took a 31-27 decision at home over the No. 12 Buckeyes.
** The game will feature a pair of divergent passing attacks. Purdue ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 22 nationally in pass offense, averaging 265.0 yards per game. Ohio State ranks dead last in the conference and 108th in the country in pass offense with its average of 166.2 yards per game.
** Purdue’s current five-game losing streak matches a similar slide from last season. The Boilermakers haven’t lost six games in a row since 2005 when they won their opening two games, lost their next six and then finished with three consecutive victories. Purdue hasn’t had a losing streak of more than six games since 1993 when they lost their last nine in a row en route to a 1-10 finish. The head coach that year was former Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, now the offensive line coach and assistant head coach at UCLA.
** Most of the Boilermakers’ problems this season have been self-inflicted. They have committed 20 turnovers, often deep in their own territory, and opponents have converted 13 of those miscues into points (eight touchdowns and five field goals). As a result, Purdue is minus-9 in turnover margin. The Buckeyes are currently plus-5.
** Despite its losing streak, Purdue has several players among the Big Ten leaders in individual statistical categories. Senior quarterback Joey Elliott leads the conference in passing yardage and total offense and is tied for the lead in touchdown passes while senior receiver Aaron Valentin is the league leader in all-purpose yardage as well as punt return average. Junior tailback Ralph Bolden is second in the Big Ten in rushing, junior receiver Keith Smith is second in receptions per game, junior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is tied for second in sacks and senior linebacker Jason Werner is third in tackles for loss.
**The Buckeyes are working on a span of 16 consecutive games without allowing an opposing running back to crack the century mark. That is the second-longest such streak in the nation, second only to Alabama. The Crimson Tide have gone 26 straight games without allowing an opponent to rush for 100 or more yards.
** The game will showcase a pair of kickers with big-time legs. Senior Aaron Pettrey of Ohio State has six career field goals of 50 yards or longer while sophomore Carson Wiggs of Purdue has two, including a 59-yarder this year against Toledo. That is tied for the seventh-longest field goal ever by a Big Ten kicker. The longest field goal by a conference kicker came in 1981 when Morten Anderson of Michigan State drilled a 63-yarder at Ohio Stadium during a 27-13 loss to the Buckeyes.
** Purdue has many distinguished alumni including astronauts Neil Armstrong (the first man to set foot on the moon) and Eugene Cernan (the last man to set to set foot on the moon).
** Kickoff for Saturday’s game will be shortly after 12 noon Eastern. The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast with Wayne Larrivee doing the play-by-play, Chris Martin providing color analysis and Rebecca Haarlow reporting from the sidelines.
** The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio channels 127 and 153 as well as XM channel 196.
** The Buckeyes return home next week to host Minnesota. It is the annual homecoming game with kickoff set for 12 noon Eastern. The game will televised by ESPN.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY
** Thirty-three years ago today, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. On Oct. 16, 1976, 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.
** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record with 55 carries and led the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard; on Oct. 15, 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; on Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss went into Oxford and engineered a 30-14 upset over fourth-ranked Mississippi and Heisman Trophy candidate Archie Manning; and 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 weekly count of undefeated teams at the Division I-A level was pared by another four teams last weekend and by one more last night. Only eight remain: Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Texas and TCU.
** Because of open weeks and other scheduling anomalies, Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati and Iowa are the only four of the aforementioned undefeated teams with 6-0 records, and therefore the first officially bowl-eligible teams of 2009.
** Dating back to last season, Iowa has now won 10 games in a row for the first time in more than 85 years. The last time the team had a double-digit winning streak was between 1920 and 1923 when the Hawkeyes posted 20 consecutive victories.
** Iowa will try to extend its winning streak this week against Wisconsin in what is the closest series in Big Ten history. The teams have met 84 times previously with the all-time record dead even at 41-41-2. The Hawkeyes and Badgers will also by vying for the Heartland Trophy, the conference’s newest rivalry trophy. It was instituted for the 2004 season. Iowa broke a 2-2 tie in Heartland Trophy games with last year’s 38-16 win over Wisconsin in Iowa City.
** Congratulations to Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes, both of whom had school-record performances last weekend during the Falcons’ 36-35 win over Kent State. Sheehan set new single-season records for completions, attempts and yardage by connecting on 44 of 63 passes for 505 yards and four touchdowns. Barnes had 22 receptions for 278 yards (both new school records) and scored three times.
** The vaunted rushing attack at the U.S. Naval Academy is in full gear again. During last weekend’s 63-14 win over Rice, the Midshipmen rolled up 537 yards of total offense – 80 rushes for 471 yards and two pass completions for 66. Navy had 14 different players log at least one carry against the Owls, and seven of them totaled at least 25 yards.
** Was it worth it? The New Mexico football team needed two snowplows and a state highway patrol escort just to get to Laramie to play Wyoming last weekend. Then the Lobos proceeded to squander an early lead in a 37-13 loss that dropped them to 0-6. That record doesn’t figure to get any better in the second half of the season since New Mexico currently ranks 117th in the nation in scoring defense and 118th in scoring offense. There are only 120 teams playing at the Division I-A level.
** The loss continued what has been a rocky first season in Albuquerque for New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley. He has been suspended by the university for his role in a Sept. 20 staff meeting during which Locksley allegedly punched receivers coach J.B. Gerald. On Tuesday, Locksley received a 10-day suspension and the coach will not be allowed to have any contact with his team until Oct. 25, one day after UNLV visits New Mexico. The Lobos are off this week.
** Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State (Mich.) saw its conference winning streak snapped at 45 games last Saturday. The Lakers lost a 27-24 decision to Hillsdale (Mich.) in a contest that saw a thrilling finish. Hillsdale running back Billy Kanitz scored on a 1-yard run with 36 seconds left, and then Grand Valley State managed to get into field goal range but kicker Justin Trumble’s 49-yard attempt was wide to the right. The loss was the Lakers’ first in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play since 2004.
** The first official Bowl Championship Series rankings of the year are scheduled to be announced Sunday.
It was the old “best of times/worst of times” scenario with the picks last week. Straight up, it doesn’t get much better than 10-1. (Of course, 11-0 would have been nicer. Thanks to Mark Richt and his formerly relevant Georgia program.)
We were even pretty close on several of our scores including getting the Oregon-UCLA final right on the nose. The straight-up picks are now purring along at 42-12 for the season.
Against the spread … well, let’s just say it’s easier picking straight winners than it is picking spreads. They don’t build billion-dollar casinos because people are taking their winnings home. The awful truth is that we had one of the worst weeks in recent memory with a 2-8 finish. That makes us 18-24-1 ATS for the season with a lot of catching up to do.
Here are the games we like this week.
Pittsburgh at Rutgers: If the Panthers are truly going to take on Cincinnati for the Big East championship, they’re going to have to figure out a way to beat Rutgers. Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt is winless in four tries against the Scarlet Knights, and that includes a 37-29 loss in Rutgers Stadium in 2005 that was played on a Friday night. The Panthers are solid if unspectacular in several facets of the game, including an offense that averages nearly 35 points a game. But Rutgers knows how to throw a prime-time party in Piscataway, and after getting rolled by UC in the season opener, the Knights are on a five-game win streak. They are still suspect, however, especially on pass defense. The difference will likely be Pitt quarterback Bill Stull, who has thrown for 1,256 yards and 13 TDs against only three interceptions … Pittsburgh 24, Rutgers 17. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas: First of all, this game is, has been and always will be the Red River Shootout. No self-respecting Sooner or Longhorn would ever call it the Red River Rivalry. Now that that’s off my chest, you have to remember this is no ordinary game on the schedule for these two teams. It’s played at the Cotton Bowl on the Texas State Fairgrounds with one side of the old stadium bathed in red and the other in burnt orange. The Sooners know they can salvage their season by ruining the Longhorns’ path to the national title game, but it won’t be easy. Texas QB Colt McCoy leads the nation with a 73.4 completion percentage, and his team is the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is back and presumably healthy, but this game could come down to defense. That’s where the Longhorns have a slight edge, especially if the Sooners try to run the ball. To go along with its potent offense, UT also boasts the country’s best run defense. That makes the difference … Texas 27, Oklahoma 24. (12 noon ET, ABC)
No. 6 USC at No. 25 Notre Dame: If we asked you the national leader in pass efficiency, would you have guessed Jimmy Clausen? The Fighting Irish are 4-1 mostly because Clausen has thrown for 1,544 yards and 12 TDs against only two picks. Those numbers may be a bit skewed, though, since four of the five defenses Clausen has faced are ranked 75th or lower in the nation. The Irish won’t be so fortunate Saturday – the Trojans are sixth in the country in total defense and fourth in scoring, allowing only 8.6 points per game. If they struggle to score, the Domers will be in trouble. Their defense remains very much a work in progress, ranked 100th nationally in total defense and 110th against the pass. That is something the Trojans should be able to exploit with the dink-and-dunk attack they have employed with freshman QB Matt Barkley … USC 27, Notre Dame 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Marshall at West Virginia: The Thundering Herd are off to a 4-2 start this season and they would like nothing more than to knock off their big brothers from Morgantown. History in not on their side, however. Marshall has lost all eight meetings in the all-time series, including a 27-3 decision last season. Something else not on the side of our old friend Mark Snyder’s team is a struggling defense that ranks 91st nationally against the run. That should be music to the ears of the Mountaineers. They rank first in the Big East in rushing behind tailback Noel Devine, the nation’s No. 3 rusher with an average of 126.2 yards per game … West Virginia 30, Marshall 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)
No. 18 BYU at San Diego State: The Cougars are tracking a milestone this weekend, looking for the 500th victory in program history. Their rivalry with the Aztecs dates back to 1922, and the Cougars are 25-7-1 in the series with seven wins in the last eight meetings. That includes last year’s 42-12 victory in Provo. BYU has one of the most potent one-two punches in college football this year with quarterback Max Hall (1,723 yards, 10 TDs) and running back Harvey Unga, who averages 6.5 yards per carry and a touchdown every 9.5 carries. If the Cougars have a weakness, it is a propensity to turn the ball over – minus-3 in turnover margin with 15 giveaways in six games. Even so, the Aztecs may struggle to keep up in this game. They are 114th in the country in rushing and 101st in total offense … BYU 37, San Diego State 17. (6 p.m. ET, The Mtn)
No. 4 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Georgia Tech: These two boast the best offensive attacks in the ACC – the Hokies are scoring a conference-best 34.2 points per game while the Yellow Jackets are averaging a league-high 426.7 yards per contest. What separates the two Techsters is defense. Virginia Tech has allowed 15 points or less in four of its six games this season while Georgia Tech has surrendered 27 or more to four of its six opponents. That includes 44 last week to Florida State even through the Jackets outlasted the Bowden Bunch with a 49-44 win. Don’t expect the Ramblin’ Wreck to come close to that total this week as the Hokies seek to eliminate another ACC title contender … Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 17. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
UAB at Mississippi: The Blazers have never been scared to play topflight competition, but perhaps they would do better to steer away from the Southeastern Conference. In 14 previous contests against SEC teams, they are 2-12. They have never faced Ole Miss, but it’s homecoming in Oxford and the Rebels have won 11 of their last 12 homecoming contests. QB Jevan Snead and his offense got most of the preseason publicity, but the Mississippi defense has outplayed the offense so far. That may change this week since UAB’s leaky defense ranks dead last in Division I-A against the pass. Look for Snead to finally get comfortable and begin padding his stats … Mississippi 35, UAB 17. (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South/ESPN GamePlan)
No. 17 Kansas at Colorado: The Jayhawks must be the most under-the-radar undefeated team in the nation. Of course, you don’t get (or deserve) a whole lot of respect when your five victories have come against teams with a combined record of 12-18 so far. Kansas finally gets to the meat of its schedule next week against Oklahoma, but the team had better avoid looking ahead. The Buffaloes may be 1-4 this season, but they showed signs of coming around last week against Texas, leading the Longhorns at halftime before a second-half collapse. Colorado has won five of its last six home games against the Jayhawks, but the Buffs have been so spotty on both offense and defense this year that it just doesn’t feel right to pull the trigger on an upset … Kansas 34, Colorado 21. (7 p.m. ET, FSN)
No. 7 Ohio State at Purdue: The OSU defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week, and now faces the Boilermakers who have committed a conference-high 20 turnovers. It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to believe the Buckeyes could score another couple of defensive touchdowns this week, and if the offense ever gets itself untracked, things could get ugly in West Lafayette … Ohio State 41, Purdue 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Regional/ESPN)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Pittsburgh (-3½) at Rutgers; Oklahoma vs. Texas (-2½); UAB (+22½) at Mississippi; USC (-9½) at Notre Dame; Marshall at West Virginia (-20½); BYU (-17) at San Diego State; Virginia Tech (-3) at Georgia Tech; Kansas (-9) at Colorado; Ohio State (-13) at Purdue.
You might want to know that we’re flying in the face of the fact that Purdue is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against Ohio State. Enjoy the games.