It will be interesting to see where the Ohio State football team goes after its epic collapse at Nebraska because a game like the one the Buckeyes let slip away in Lincoln can put a team on one of two paths. It can become a rallying point or it can crush the very life out of you.
The 2002 national championship team used a 31-28 loss in the Outback Bowl at the end of the previous season as a rallying point. Same with the 1994 team that got taken to the woodshed at Penn State to the tune of a 63-14 shellacking. John Cooper’s team that year responded with three straight victories to finish the regular season, including Coop’s first win over Michigan as OSU head coach.
You can go as far back as the 1957 season when Woody Hayes’ team was shocked by TCU in the season opener and used that loss as a pivot point to win its next nine games, including a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon, and capture the national championship.
No one believes the 2011 Buckeyes can rally to win the national championship, of course. Three losses pretty much puts an end to that discussion before it begins. But the fact remains Ohio State can not only be competitive, it can win more than its share of games during the back half of the season.
The promise of what kind of team the Buckeyes can be was on full display for 2½ quarters at Nebraska as OSU rolled out to a 27-6 lead. Not only were the Buckeyes winning the game, they were physically dominating the Cornhuskers as several NU players had to be helped off the field during the first half.
Despite some serious holes on both sides of the football, Ohio State has a lot of talent in a lot of places, and when things are clicking, the Buckeyes can be an exciting and efficient team.
Obviously, a lot of that excitement and efficiency centers around freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, for whom the light seemed to burn brightly against the Cornhuskers. The offensive coaching staff finally figured out a game plan tailored to Miller’s strengths, and the result was a three-touchdown lead over Nebraska that looked ridiculously easy.
Unfortunately, when Miller went out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes had no backup plan when fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman struggled. Sophomore third-stringer Kenny Guiton was available and presumably ready to play – he donned a headset and relayed offensive signals from the bench to the OSU huddle all night – but head coach Luke Fickell indicated there was no thought of ever putting him in the game.
From a fan standpoint, that seems ludicrous. If Guiton or redshirt freshman Taylor Graham cannot get playing time, especially with the way Bauserman has performed his last couple of times out, one has to wonder why they were recruited in the first place.
If Miller ever goes out again, and goes out for any length of time, the Buckeyes are going to have to formulate a Plan B and C and perhaps even a D. Maybe direct snaps to tailback Jordan Hall, who does have a touchdown pass on his college résumé.
Miller under center gives the team its best chance to win, of course, but even with the talented freshman doing his thing, the Buckeyes will have to play better on defense.
Yes, they were gassed in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, and a tired defense is at the mercy of a spread team such as the Cornhuskers. But even the week before, when it held Michigan State to only 10 points, the defense made some glaring errors that wound up being amplified by the fact the offense couldn’t muster any kind of punch at all.
The Ohio State defense is a unit populated by youngsters and first-time starters, but that excuse begins to ring hollow six games into the season. The message for those players – indeed any starter on a 3-3 team – is to grow up quickly or get out of the way for someone else.
With the 2011 season now at the midway point, all anyone can say with any certainty is that the Buckeyes remain a work in progress. That is a bitter pill for fans who have experienced almost nothing but success since 2002, but reality is reality.
Following the debacle in Lincoln, Ohio State travels to Illinois, a team that has started 6-0 for the first time since 1951. Even during the recent past when the Fighting Illini were struggling, they always seemed to play the Buckeyes tough. That includes a 28-21 shocker in 2007 when OSU was ranked No. 1.
Two weeks from now, after an open week, the Buckeyes host fourth-ranked Wisconsin, a team playing as well as any in the nation right now.
November opens with a home game vs. Indiana, a team that has lost 16 in a row to Ohio State, but the following week the Buckeyes must travel to Purdue, another team that gives OSU fits for no particular reason. The Boilermakers have won two of the previous five games in the series, including a 26-18 upset in West Lafayette two years ago.
Finally there is the final home game of the season against Penn State and the regular-season finale at Michigan.
The Nittany Lions are quite possibly the worst 5-1 team in the nation, but they will be exposed during a late-season schedule that features Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin as well as the Buckeyes.
Meanwhile, U-M is a team feeling extremely rejuvenated under first-year head coach Brady Hoke. Yes, the Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines nine of the last 10 years, and the Michigan defense still isn’t where it needs to be. But does anyone seriously believe OSU can outscore a Denard Robinson-led attack especially if Miller’s ankle injury lingers for the remainder of the season?
And yet with all of that uncertainty there is hope – hope because of the way Ohio State toyed with overmatched Akron, hope because of the way the Buckeyes responded to late adversity vs. Toledo and hope because of the way the team clicked on all cylinders for the first 2½ quarters at Nebraska.
Make no mistake, though. During put-up-or-shut-up time, hope won’t get it done. The Buckeyes are going to have to figure out a way to put four quarters together or that hope won’t be worth a warm bucket of spit.
** OSU and Illinois will meet for the 98th time since the series was inaugurated in 1902. The Buckeyes hold a 63-30-4 advantage in the overall series, including a 34-12 edge in Champaign.
** Ohio State and Illinois have met only five times over the years when the Fighting Illini were ranked and the Buckeyes were not. Illinois holds a 3-1-1 edge in those games, including a 34-14 win at Memorial Stadium in 1989.
** Between 1988 and 1992, the teams met five times and Illinois won them all. In the 16 games since, the Buckeyes are 12-4 with a perfect 8-0 record in Champaign. The Illini’s last home win over Ohio State was a 10-7 decision in 1991.
** Ohio State’s Luke Fickell will be facing the Fighting Illini for the first time as a head coach although he was 3-1 against Illinois as an OSU player and 6-1 as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.
** Illinois head coach Ron Zook is 1-5 vs. the Buckeyes. He was 0-3 against the Illini when he was an OSU assistant on John Cooper’s staff from 1988-90.
** The Buckeyes have won 21 of their last 24 Big Ten road games but have lost two of their last four. OSU has not had a streak during which it has lost as many as three of five road conference games since losing five of six between 2003-05.
** Illinois is 6-0 for the first time since 1951, a season during which the Illini started 7-0 and finished 9-0-1. UI is one of only 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the nation and one of only seven that are already bowl-eligible.
** Ohio State is 3-3 for the first time since 2004. The Buckeyes have not started a season 3-4 since 1988. That team finished 4-6-1 and marks the last losing season at Ohio State.
** Including last year’s 38-14 victory over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Illinois has won seven games in a row. That is the third longest current streak in the nation and school-best streak since the 2001 team also won seven straight. No Illinois team has won more than seven in a row since 1983, a team that captured 10 consecutive victories.
** Zook’s career mark as a head coach is only 57-59, including 34-45 at Illinois. But he can boast one accomplishment most of his Big Ten counterparts cannot. Zook has coached his team to victories at Ohio Stadium and Michigan Stadium, and Joe Paterno of Penn State is the only other Big Ten head coach who can claim that feat.
** The Illinois defense has forced at least one turnover in 21 consecutive games, the longest current streak of its kind in the nation.
** Illinois has held Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last three games in the series, and it should be noted that the Buckeyes enter this year’s matchup ranked dead last in the Big Ten in pass offense.
** After missing the first four attempts of his career, OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil is now working on a streak of seven consecutive field goals. That ties him with several players for the 10th best streak in school history, but Basil has a way to go to catch the all-time leader in the category. Mike Nugent (2001-04) connected on 24 straight field-goal attempts between 2001 and ’02.
** Illinois senior kicker Derek Dimke has made 10 straight field goals and that ties him for the third longest streak in school history. Mike Bass (1980-82) holds the UI record with 13 field goals in a row.
** Dimke also has a streak going of 78 consecutive PATs and that is tied for the ninth longest in Big Ten history. J.D. Carlson of Michigan (1989-92) holds the conference record with 126 straight PATs.
** Dimke is currently tied for ninth on the all-time Illinois scoring list with 186 points. You might have heard the guy with whom he’s tied – the legendary Red Grange, who scored 31 touchdowns to account for his 186 points during back-to-back-to-back All-America seasons from 1923-25.
** Illinois sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase needs only 92 more to crack the Illinois career top 10 in passing yardage. Currently occupying the No. 10 spot is Dave Wilson (1980), whom Ohio State fans remember as the guy who put up 621 passing yards against the Buckeyes during a wild 49-42 Illinois loss in 1980. Wilson’s total remains the Big Ten record for most passing yards in a single game.
** OSU sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde notched the first 100-yard game of his career last week, totaling 104 yards against Nebraska. It was the first time an Ohio State player had cracked the century mark since Terrelle Pryor had 115 in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. The last OSU running back with a 100-yard game was Boom Herron, who had a career-best 175 yards last season in the 37-7 win over Michigan.
** Illinois has held four of its first six opponents to less than 100 rushing yards. The Fighting Illini haven’t allowed an opposing player to gain 100 yards since Mike Trumpy of Northwestern ran for 129 during UI’s 48-27 win over the Wildcats at Wrigley Field last year.
** Herron is scheduled to return to action this week after missing the first six games of the season due to NCAA suspensions. The Buckeyes are 18-1 during Herron’s career when he rushes for at least 55 yards.
** Coming into the 2011 season, Herron led all active Big Ten players with 2,104 yards. That distinction now belongs to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who has upped his career rushing total to 2,773 going into this week’s game at Michigan State.
** Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins ranks fifth nationally with an average of 135.8 yards per game. Jenkins had a school-record 268 yards Oct. 1 during his team’s 38-35 win over Northwestern, a yardage figure that was the fourth best single-game total in Big Ten history. The conference record-holder in that category is Chris Daniels of Purdue, who had 301 receiving yards during his team’s 52-28 win over Michigan State in 1999.
** OSU junior tight end Jake Stoneburner’s touchdown reception vs. Nebraska was the seventh of his career, moving him into seventh place all-time among Ohio State tight ends. John Lumpkin (10, 1996-98) is the career leader among OSU tight ends with 10 touchdown catches while Darnell Sanders (1999-2001), Rickey Dudley (1994-95) and Chuck Bryant (1959-61) are tied for second with nine. Jan White (1968-70) and Bob Grimes (1950-52) each had eight.
** When Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and I-back Rex Burkhead each eclipsed the 100-yard mark last Saturday, it marked the first time in 23 years the Buckeyes had allowed two opponents to crack the century mark in the same game. The last duo to accomplish the feat against OSU was Leroy Hoard (158) and Tony Boles (103) during Michigan’s 34-31 win over the Buckeyes in November 1988.
** The Buckeyes and Illini square off for one of the most uncommon trophies in college football. Illibuck is a wooden turtle that goes to the winner of the game each year. The tradition began in 1925 with a live turtle being exchanged between the two schools. The turtle was selected because of its supposed long life expectancy, but the original Illibuck died only two years after the trophy game was inaugurated. Since 1927, nine wooden replica Illibucks have been carved, each with the scores from games on its back. The Illibuck is the second oldest trophy game in the Big Ten, surpassed only by the Little Brown Jug that Minnesota and Michigan have been playing for since 1903.
** This week’s game will be televised by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror. (That means if the game is not on your local ABC-affiliated station, it should be available on ESPN and vice versa.) On the call will be Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie (color analysis) and Heather Cox (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. (That is 2:30 p.m. local time if you’re traveling to Champaign.)
** The game will also be streamed live online at ESPN3.com.
** The game is available to SiriusXM satellite radio subscribers on channel 85.
** Ohio State is off next week. The Buckeyes resume their 2011 season Oct. 29 with a home game against Wisconsin. That game is set to kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern and will be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
** On Oct. 12, 1929, the University of Georgia dedicated Sanford Stadium with a 15-0 win over heavily favored Yale. College Football Hall of Famer Vernon “Catfish” Smith was the star of the game for the Bulldogs, falling on a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown, hauling in a TD pass and tackling a Yale runner in the end zone for a safety. Sanford Stadium, which originally housed 30,000 spectators and cost $360,000 to build, has grown to a capacity of 92,746, the sixth largest on-campus stadium in the nation.
** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter. The Huskies proceeded to score a MAC-record 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory. It was also the second-most fourth quarter points in a comeback win in NCAA history.
** On Oct. 13, 1979, unranked Stanford erased a 21-point deficit in the second half and achieved a 21-21 tie with defending national champion and No. 1-rated USC in the L.S. Coliseum. After falling behind by three touchdowns at halftime, the Cardinal rallied behind quarterback Turk Schonert, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the second half. The Trojans had a chance to pull out the victory in the final seconds, but botched the snap from center on a field-goal try.
** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.
** On Oct. 14, 1950, Penn halfback Francis “Reds” Bagnell accounted for 490 yards of total offense to lead the Quakers in a 42-26 win over Dartmouth. Bagnell threw for 276 yards and rushed for 214, making him the first player in college football history to crack the 200-yard mark in passing and rushing in the same game. The feat wasn’t matched again for another 36 years and has been equaled fewer than a dozen times since.
** On Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record with 55 carries and led the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.
** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.
** On Oct. 15, 1977, Iowa State went to Lincoln and scored a 24-21 upset of No. 9 Nebraska, giving the Cyclones back-to-back victories over the Cornhuskers for the first time in 27 years. The final score wiped out a superlative performance by NU running back I.M. Hipp, who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”
** On Oct. 16, 1937, two of the most famous teams in college football history collided as Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” took on Pittsburgh’s “Dream Backfield” in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. Future College Football Hall of Famers were all over the field that day including Fordham offensive line coach Frank Leahy and Pitt head coach Jock Sutherland, while Fordham lineman Vince Lombardi went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching career with the Green Bay Packers. The scoreless tie was the only blemish on either team’s 1937 records. Pitt finished 9-0-1 and won the national championship while Fordham was 7-0-1 and was voted third in the polls.
** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.
** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss went into Oxford and engineered a 30-14 upset over fourth-ranked Mississippi and Heisman Trophy candidate Archie Manning.
** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost them a second consecutive national championship.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** Two more teams dropped off the list of Division I-A unbeatens, leaving the remaining number at 13 – Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Wisconsin.
** Stanford’s 48-7 stampede over Colorado on Saturday night pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 14. That is a school record, eclipsing 13-game win streaks in 1904-05 and 1939-41. Meanwhile, New Mexico had an off week, so the nation’s longest losing streak remained at eight games.
** Congratulations to Miami (Ohio), Oregon State and Western Kentucky, each of which notched their first victories of 2011 last week. WKU got things started Thursday with a 36-33 win in double overtime over Middle Tennessee State. Then on Saturday, the RedHawks scored a 35-28 win over Army while the Beavers took a 37-27 win over Arizona, hastening the firing of Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops. That leaves only three winless teams at the I-A level – Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and UAB.
** After a rocky start, Notre Dame has now won four straight games. The latest win for the Fighting Irish was a 59-33 rout of Air Force on Saturday, the most points Notre Dame has scored in a game since a 60-6 romp over Pittsburgh in 1996. The Cadets hadn’t surrendered that many points since losing a 63-33 shootout to BYU in 2001.
** Utah should serve as a cautionary reminder to all the schools out there hot to realign themselves for a shot at college football glory. In their first season after leaving the Mountain West to join the Pac-12, the Utes are off to a 2-3 start, the school’s worst since 2007. Worse yet, after last week’s 35-14 home loss to Arizona State, Utah is 0-3 in the conference. The Utes haven’t begun a season with three straight league losses since 2002 – coincidentally the program’s only losing season since 2000.
** How the mighty have fallen. Florida State has started a season 2-3 for the second time in three seasons. Before 2009, the year they ran Bobby Bowden out of Tallahassee after 34 seasons as head coach, the Seminoles hadn’t started 2-3 since 1983.
** Last Saturday saw Texas faced with a fourth-and-49 situation against Oklahoma. That was longest fourth down we’ve seen in quite a while … at least until Georgia had a fourth-and-58 during its 20-12 win over Tennessee. How do you get fourth-and-58? Pretty easy evidently with three straight holding calls and a facemask penalty.
** Throwing the ball all over the field continues to get the most headlines while defense still wins championships. LSU and Kansas State remain undefeated despite national pass offense rankings of 100th and 115th respectively. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are in the top 10 of most defensive categories while the Wildcats rank in the top 20.
** Speaking of throwing the ball, Houston QB Case Keenum is closing in on Division I-A career records with 15,895 passing yards and 124 TD passes. Timmy Chang of Hawaii (2001-04) holds the yardage record at 17,072 while Graham Harrell of Texas Tech (2005-08) has the TD mark with 134.
** We should probably start paying attention to Rutgers again. Following their 11-2 season in 2006, the Scarlet Knights fell off the college football radar. But they’re back this season at 4-1 following a good, old-fashioned 31-10 butt-whipping of Big East rival Pittsburgh last week. Rutgers is 2-0 in the Big East for only the second time since it joined the conference in 1991.
** When longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Oct. 8 at the age of 82, most obituaries commented only on his professional football career. Davis also had a legacy at the college level beginning as a member of the junior varsity team at Syracuse. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Adelphia College and The Citadel as well as three seasons at USC from 1957-59 before beginning his pro career as offensive ends coach for the AFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.
There was nothing but sunshine and high-fives last weekend here at Forecast World Headquarters and we’re feeling a little guilty about it since there is so much gloom and doom in Buckeye Nation. We’ll get over our guilt, though, as we bask in the first totally perfect week in memory.
We were 10-0 in the straight-up picks and (more importantly) 10-0 against the spread, and that runs the yearly totals to 57-5 SU and 39-20-1 ATS. There is nothing better than playing with house money – unless, of course, you get more of it.
Here are the games we like this week.
Hawaii at San Jose State: Although it goes against the purists in us all, we don’t mind admitting we kind of like to watch teams that put 100 percent of their emphasis on offense. The Rainbows are just such an example with senior QB Bryant Moniz averaging better than 315 yards per game this year. Moniz also averages nearly 42 attempts per game, meaning Hawaii isn’t exactly a juggernaut in the running game. Fact is, the Rainbows rank 110th nationally in rushing. Not that it should matter much tonight since the Spartans rank in the 90s in nearly every national defensive category … Hawaii 34, San Jose State 14. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 1 LSU at Tennessee: Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley has reached into his bag of tricks this week and decided to start senior backup Matt Simms at quarterback against the top-ranked Tigers. Simms was the guy who nearly engineered an epic upset last year before LSU squeezed out a 16-14 win. But Simms was also the guy who was replaced as the starter last year after eight starts, and he will be in charge of an offense that simply cannot run the football. Tennessee ranks No. 114 nationally in rushing after finishing with minus-20 yards on 23 attempts is last week’s 20-12 loss to Georgia, and you have to wonder how the Vols can do any better this week … LSU 34, Tennessee 7. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 2 Alabama at Mississippi: The Crimson Tide should stomp their merry way along to any victory this week mostly because the Rebels are helpless against running teams. Ole Miss ranks 10th in the SEC and 95th nationally against the run while Alabama has the services of junior tailback Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate who already has 729 yards and 11 TDs in six games this season. Richardson has his sights set on a school-record tying sixth consecutive 100-yard game and he should probably achieve that goal in the first half … Alabama 38, Mississippi 0. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 3 Oklahoma at Kansas: If you think the Sooners were merciless last weekend against Texas, how do think they will treat the punchless Jayhawks? Last week, Oklahoma State put up 56 in the first half en route to a 70-28 win over Kansas. No way will Bob Stoops not want to better that … Oklahoma 77, Kansas 7.
Indiana at No. 4 Wisconsin: How ugly could this one get? As ugly as Bret Bielema wants it to be. If you recall, the Badgers stomped their way to 83-20 win over the Hoosiers in mid-November last season on their way to a Rose Bowl berth. Now, U-Dub is coming off an open week and eager to prove to the nation it belongs with LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma in the national championship discussion. Indiana has lost 14 of its last 15 conference games, 13 in a row to ranked opponents and each of its last six to Wisconsin by an average of 30.5 points. Bielema very rarely takes his foot off the gas and no one should expect him to this week … Wisconsin 70, Indiana 6. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)
No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas: The Longhorns jump this week from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. After being manhandled by Oklahoma last Saturday, the Mack Pack limps home to host the pass-happy Cowboys who have a high-wire act that will test anyone’s secondary. Texas does have history on its side – it lost a 33-16 decision to Okie State last year and has never dropped back-to-back games to the Cowboys. Still, it’s tough to envision any scenario in which the Longhorns can slow down OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden (1,880 yards, 15 TDs) and his talented receiving corps led by All-American Justin Blackmon (46 catches, 534 yards, 6 TDs) … Oklahoma State 45, Texas 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
No. 7 Stanford at Washington State: The Cougars feature the No. 3 defense in the Pac-12, but that’s a bit misleading in a conference where defense is an afterthought. Wazzu gives up an average of 363.6 yards per game and that isn’t exactly where you want to be when Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and the Cardinal come to town. Many opposing players seem to struggle playing in Pullman (affectionately known as “The Palouse”), but Luck isn’t one of them. He made his collegiate debut there in 2009 and led the Cardinal to a 39-13 win. It’s doubtful the outcome will be much different this time … Stanford 38, Washington State 14. (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus)
No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State: The Wolverines have their swagger back with a first 6-0 start since 2006, but U-M takes on its toughest customer of the season in the Spartans. MSU is coming off an open week and angling for its fourth straight win in the series, something that hasn’t happened since 1959-62. Sparty has the nation’s top-ranked defense while Michigan has quarterback Denard Robinson, one of college football’s most electrifying players. The difference in this game will be how much improved the Wolverines are on defense. Last year, the Spartans pounded the ball on the ground and intercepted Robinson three times during a 34-17 win. If they follow the same blueprint, and QB Kirk Cousins keeps his mental mistakes to minimum, the Spartans should come out on top again … Michigan State 28, Michigan 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN)
No. 12 Georgia Tech at Virginia: The Yellow Jackets have a reputation of being a one-dimensional team but that isn’t exactly accurate. Yes, Tech ranks fourth in the nation in total offense thanks to a running game that averages 360.5 yards per game. But the Wreck can throw the ball, too, with junior QB Tevin Washington throwing for 1,052 yards and 10 TDs so far this season. Some observers believe Tech should be on upset watch this week, but although the Cavaliers are 3-2 and playing at home, they have yet to play anyone ever near the caliber of the Yellow Jackets … Georgia Tech 42, Virginia 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Ohio State at No. 16 Illinois: Like most young, relatively inexperienced teams, Ohio State has enough talent to win – it simply hasn’t yet learned how to win. That was never more obvious than last weekend in Lincoln when the Buckeyes rolled out to a 27-6 lead over Nebraska, and then watched the roof cave in over their heads after quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an ankle injury. Of course, nothing is so wrong with the Buckeyes that a victory wouldn’t help and they have a lot of things going for them this week. They have won eight straight in Champaign, Miller appears to be ready to go and senior tailback Boom Herron is finally back to give the offense some spark. In a season that has already featured more than its share of wild momentum shifts, we look for the pendulum to swing back the Buckeyes’ way this week with an Upset Special … Ohio State 27, Illinois 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Hawaii (-6) at San Jose State; LSU (-15½) at Tennessee; Alabama (-25) at Ole Miss; Oklahoma (-35½) at Kansas; Indiana at Wisconsin (-39); Oklahoma State (-7) at Texas; Stanford (-21) at Washington State; Michigan at Michigan State (-2); Georgia Tech (-7) at Virginia; Ohio State (+4) at Illinois.
Enjoy the games and we’ll visit again next week.
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