Buckeyes Back In Title Hunt, But They Need Help

Since Ohio State’s season-saving victory two weeks ago at Illinois, there has been a lot of talk about how the Buckeyes’ destiny is back in their own hands.

That’s not exactly true. OSU could win out and still not make it to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes are going to need some help from Illinois, Nebraska or Wisconsin – at least one of those teams will have to beat Penn State.

Here’s what we mean.

Ohio State goes into the Oct. 29 weekend 2½ games behind Big Ten Leaders Division pace-setter Penn State. The Nittany Lions have a perfect conference record of 4-0 with Wisconsin and Purdue a game and half behind at 2-1. Two full games back is Illinois at 2-2 while the Buckeyes are 1-2. Indiana is the division cellar-dweller at 0-4.

Remembering that interdivisional records don’t matter – the title game participants are decided by best overall conference record – the Buckeyes need to win their final five games for a best possible 6-2 finish. Obviously, winning out begins with knocking off Wisconsin tomorrow night, a tall order considering the Badgers are 7½-point favorites.

If OSU can register the upset, that would even the Buckeyes’ conference record at 2-2 while dropping the Badgers to an identical mark.

Before Ohio State and Wisconsin get together tomorrow night, Penn State will host Illinois while Purdue is at Michigan. Since it appears the Fighting Illini are on the verge of collapse after their early season run, we’ll give that victory to the Nittany Lions. Likewise, the Wolverines should rebound in their game against the Boilermakers.

If those games hold true to form, the division standings heading into November should have Penn State at 5-0 with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue tied for second place at 2-2. Illinois would have fallen back to 2-3.

Not much would be decided during the first weekend of November. OSU and Wisconsin have fairly easy games – the Buckeyes host Indiana while Purdue travels to Madison – while both Penn State and Illinois have the week off. Still, victories by the Buckeyes and Badgers would inch them a half-game closer to the Nittany Lions.

Things begin to get interesting on Nov. 12.

Wisconsin has an easy contest that week, traveling to Minnesota, while Ohio State has a little tougher date at Purdue. Penn State, however, entertains Nebraska, which could be on a roll depending upon how the Cornhuskers do tomorrow against Michigan State. Should NU be able to go into Happy Valley and score the victory – and both Wisconsin and OSU take care of business – the Leaders Division would tighten considerably heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. Penn State would be 5-1 and its lead would be cut to a single game with the Buckeyes and Badgers are 4-2.

As far as Ohio State is concerned, that would set up a Nov. 19 showdown in the Horseshoe against Penn State. A victory would be extremely important since it would give the Buckeyes a 5-0 sweep of their division competition with head-to-head results still the No. 1 tiebreaker to determine championship game participants.

If all of the what we envision comes to pass, by the end of play on Nov. 19, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin will emerge with identical 5-2 conference records, but the Buckeyes would have the title game tiebreaker with wins in hand over the Nittany Lions and Badgers.

And still it would come down to the Ohio State-Michigan game Nov. 26. Since the league championship game is determined by which division leaders have the best conference records, the Buckeyes would still need to defeat their archrivals to get to the title contest because Penn State and Wisconsin will wage their own elimination game in Madison that same day.

Are there a lot of variables in what we have just set forth? Absolutely. An upset here or there could wreck the entire scenario. Likewise, Penn State has to lose at least two of their remaining four games – hence the Buckeyes’ reliance on Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Obviously none of the aforementioned is possible if Ohio State doesn’t run the table beginning with tomorrow night’s must-win against Wisconsin since a loss to the Badgers would severely diminish any hope at the league title game.

But if what we have laid out does come to pass, and the Buckeyes qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game with what would be six consecutive victories to end the regular season, would the university still seek a change in head coaches?

BRUTUS-BUCKY TIDBITS

** This marks the 77th meeting of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes hold a decidedly lopsided 53-18-5 record in the overall series, including 28-7-3 in Columbus. The Buckeyes have beaten the Badgers each of the last two times UW has visited Ohio Stadium (2007 and 2009), but Wisconsin won each of its previous three trips before that (1999, 2001, 2004). Since 1999, the overall series is tied at 5-5.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell is making his first appearance as a head coach against the Badgers, but he is 7-3-1 in the series as an OSU player and assistant. Fickell was 3-0-1 against Wisconsin as a player from 1993-96 and 4-3 during his nine years on Jim Tressel’s staff from 2002-10.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in his sixth season with the Badgers. He has a 55-17 overall record, including 2-3 against Ohio State. He is 47-5 against unranked teams including 5-0 this year. The Buckeyes are unranked for the sixth straight week, the longest streak out of the national polls for the program since a seven-week stretch in 1989.

** This marks only the fifth time in the series when Wisconsin is ranked and Ohio State is not. The Buckeyes are a perfect 4-0 in the previous games. That includes a 23-14 upset of the top-ranked Badgers in 1952 and a 14-7 win over a No. 5 UW team in 1962. Both of those games were played in Columbus. The last time Wisconsin entered the game as the only ranked team was in 1963. The second-ranked Badgers lost that one in Madison by a 13-10 score.

** The game will serve as the 90th homecoming contest in Ohio State history. The Buckeyes sport an all-time homecoming record of 65-19-5.

** The Badgers will be trying to get an early upper hand in the game. They are 42-6 under Bielema when they score first.

** As it has been so many times in this series, the game will feature a classic matchup between the irresistible force and the immovable object. Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 252.1 yards per game while Ohio State ranks fourth in the conference against the run, surrendering an average of only 116.6 yards per contest.

** Wisconsin ranks among the top 10 nationally in 16 different statistical categories – fewest fumbles lost (tied for first), third-down conversions (second), punt returns (second), passing efficiency (second), fewest turnovers lost (tied for second), pass defense (fourth), fewest tackles for loss allowed (fourth), scoring offense (fifth), scoring defense (sixth), red zone offense (sixth), fourth-down conversions (tied for seventh), rush offense (eighth), total offense (eighth), total defense (ninth), red zone defense (tied for ninth) and fewest first downs allowed (10th).

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

** Ohio State will undoubtedly try to score as much as possible, but cracking the 20-point mark is imperative against Wisconsin. The Badgers are 37-2 under Bielema – including 14 wins in a row – when holding their opponent under 20 points.

** The Badgers have been remarkably balanced on offense during their first seven games. They have 1,817 passing yards and have rushed for 1,765. That computes to per-game averages of 259.6 through the air and 252.1 on the ground.

** Wisconsin has 15 Ohio natives on its roster. Ohio State has no Wisconsin-born players.

** OSU senior tailback Boom Herron has rushed for at least one touchdown in 13 consecutive games. That is the longest streak by a Buckeye since Keith Byars had a scoring streak of 21 in a row in 1983-84.

** Herron made his 2011 debut two weeks ago with a 114-yard performance against Illinois, upping his career rushing total to 2,308 yards. That ranks him second among active Big Ten players, trailing only Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who has 2,769.

** Herron is also second among active Big Ten players in rushing touchdowns with 30. Wisconsin junior tailback Montee Ball is first with 39.

** Ball leads the nation with 19 TDs, at least eight more than any other player in the Big Ten. Ball is closing in on the Wisconsin single-season touchdown mark of 24 set in 2005 by Brian Calhoun.

** Ball also has a streak of seven consecutive conference games in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards. He is averaging 150.4 yards per game during the streak. Ohio State has allowed only nine opposing rushers to crack the century mark since 2007, but three of those performances have come this season.

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

** OSU junior defensive lineman John Simon is coming off a superlative performance against Illinois. Simon recorded eight tackles, including four for loss. That tied him with several other players for the fourth highest single-game total in school history. Judah Herman set the record with five TFL against Iowa in 1991, a mark that was matched by Jayson Gwinn vs. Indiana in 1993 and by Andy Katzenmoyer vs. Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.

** Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 31 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation. The NCAA record is 36 by Graham Harrell of Texas Tech (2005-08).

** Wilson has 16 touchdown passes through seven games and needs only six more to break the Wisconsin single-season mark of 21 set in 2005 by John Stocco.

** Wilson also possesses the NCAA record for most consecutive passes without an interception. From the end of his freshman season at North Carolina State through the middle of his sophomore campaign, Wilson threw 369 straight passes without a pick.

** OSU junior kicker Drew Basil is working on a streak of eight consecutive field goals. He needs only two more to become only the fourth kicker in program history with at least 10 straight three-pointers. Mike Nugent (2001-04) holds the school record with 24 in a row while Vlade Janakievski (1977-80) had streaks of 15 and 10 straight. Dan Stultz (1996-2000) also made 10 in a row.

** Ohio State will recognize 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George at halftime, honoring him for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. George rushed for a school-record 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior in ’95, and finished his OSU career with 3,768 yards, second only to two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. George’s No. 27 jersey was retired by the school in 2001 and he was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.

** The Buckeyes will also recognize Saturday night the 50th anniversary of the 1961 FWAA national championship team. Several members of that squad will be in attendance, and the Buckeyes will wear special Nike Pro Combat uniforms that were designed as a throwback of sorts to the ones worn by the ’61 team.

** This week’s game will be telecast by ESPN with the announce crew of Brad Nessler (play-by-play), former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge (color analysis) and Holly Rowe (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 91 and 92 as well as XM channel 91. Westwood One will also broadcast the game with Brian Davis and George on the call.

** Next week, Ohio State entertains Indiana at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12 noon Eastern and the game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The list of undefeated teams at the Division I-A level was pared to eight last weekend when Oklahoma and Wisconsin went down. That leaves Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Houston, Kansas State, LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford as this year’s Elite Eight.

** Stanford extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games with a 65-21 romp over Washington on Saturday night. The Cardinal has also won 10 straight games by 26 points or more, the longest such streak since 1936. During that 10-game stretch, Stanford has outscored its opponents, 466-114, an average margin of victory of 35.2 points per game.

** Meanwhile, the nation’s longest losing streak was extended to 10 games when New Mexico fell victim Saturday by a 69-0 score to TCU. The Lobos and Florida Atlantic – 38-14 losers to Middle Tennessee State – remain the only winless teams this season at the I-A level.

** Congratulations to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno for reaching another career milestone. When the Nittany Lions took a 34-24 win over Northwestern last weekend, it marked the 408th career victory for Paterno, tying him with Eddie Robinson on the all-time Division I coaching list. Robinson was 408-165-15 while coaching for 57 seasons at Grambling from 1941-97. Paterno is currently in his 46th season as head coach at Penn State and currently sports a 408-136-3 career mark.

** By the way, Paterno is now 12-3 in his career against Northwestern. In addition to his latest milestone, JoePa also got career win No. 400 against the Wildcats as well as victory No. 323, the one that allowed him to catch Bear Bryant as the winningest coach at the Division I-A level.

** You could argue from now until Christmas about the best big-game coach in college football and chances are the discussion would never get around to Tommy Tuberville. Nevertheless, a Tuberville-coached team pulled off another huge upset Saturday when Texas Tech scored a 41-38 shocker over Oklahoma. Tuberville, who is now 123-67 overall, has made a career out of engineering big upsets. He was 4-2 against top-five teams during his 10-year tenure at Auburn from 1999-2008.

** The victory over Oklahoma was especially sweet for Tuberville. His undefeated 2004 Auburn team was passed over for the BCS National Championship Game in favor of the Sooners, who got rolled to tune of 55-19 by USC in that contest. After his Tech team’s upset win, Tuberville said, “Payback sometimes works in mysterious ways. I don’t think anything will ever bring back that (missed) opportunity, but things have a way of usually evening out in sports.”

** Oklahoma State is 7-0 for the second time in four seasons, but the Cowboys are looking to win their first eight games since the 1945 team (then known as Oklahoma A&M) finished with a perfect 9-0 mark.

** On the other side of that spectrum is Ole Miss, which has lost 10 straight SEC games for the first time since the school joined the conference in 1933.

** Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t exactly put up Heisman-worthy numbers in his team’s 65-21 win over Washington – 16 for 21, 169 yards, two touchdowns – but he didn’t have to with the Cardinal piling up a school-record 446 yards on the ground. Stanford nearly had three running backs crack the century mark. Junior Stepfan Taylor led the way with 138 yards, junior Taylor Gaffney added 117 and sophomore Anthony Wilkerson had 93. Each also rushed for at least one touchdown.

** You might also be hard-pressed to name the first running back to 1,000 yards this season. It is David Wilson of Virginia Tech, who has 1,037 yards in eight games. The junior running back has been remarkably consistent all season with game totals of 162, 137, 85, 132, 123, 128, 136 and 134 yards.

** Next up in the 1,000-yard parade: Trent Richardson of Alabama (989), Robbie Rouse of Fresno State (979), Bernard Pierce of Temple (951), Ray Graham of Pitt (939) and Bobby Rainey of Western Kentucky (910).

** Meanwhile, there are 15 quarterbacks already over the 2,000-yard mark led by Case Keenum of Houston with 2,685. Keenum is also the new NCAA career record-holder in total offense (17,173 yards) and touchdown passes (150) following last Saturday’s 392-yard, six-touchdown performance against Marshall.

** Speaking of quarterbacks, Dominique Davis of East Carolina was a perfect 26 for 26 for 251 yards in the first half of his team’s 38-35 win over Navy. After completing his final 10 passes the week before against Memphis, Davis established a new NCAA record with 36 consecutive completions. That shattered the old mark of 26, set in 2004 by Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, now tearing things up in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. Davis, whose 26 completions in a row also represented a new single-game NCAA record, finished the game 40 of 45 for 372 yards and two TDs.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 26, 1907, one of the all-time greats made his college football debut. The legendary Jim Thorpe took the field for the first time with the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School, and led the Indians to a 26-6 upset of fourth-ranked Penn. The game was held before a crowd of 22,800 at Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Field.

** On Oct. 26, 1968, All-American defensive back Jake Scott returned two interceptions for touchdowns and led eighth-ranked Georgia to a 35-14 win over Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Scott, who went on to become MVP of Super Bowl VII with the Miami Dolphins, set a UGA record with 10 interceptions that season and he still holds the school career mark with 16 picks.

** On Oct. 26, 1985, seventh-ranked BYU saw its 25-game conference winning streak end when UTEP handed the Cougars a 23-16 loss in El Paso. Miners DB Danny Taylor returned a Robbie Bosco interception 100 yards for a touchdown to provide for the winning points.

** On Oct. 27, 1923, the first night game in Big Ten history was held as part of a day-night doubleheader in Chicago. During the afternoon, Chicago took a 20-6 win over Purdue at Stagg Field, and then portable lights were installed at Soldier Field as Illinois shut out Northwestern, 29-0.

** On Oct. 27, 1979, Pittsburgh freshman quarterback Dan Marino came off the bench to throw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, leading the No. 12 Panthers to a 24-7 victory over No. 17 Navy.

** On Oct. 28, 1950, Nevada’s Pat Brady booted an NCAA-record 99-yard punt during a 34-7 loss to Loyola Marymount.

** On Oct. 28, 1967, UTEP quarterback Brooks Dawson set an NCAA record for most consecutive passes completed for a touchdown when he threw six in a row during a 75-12 victory over New Mexico. Making the feat even more remarkable was the fact that the six touchdowns came on Dawson’s first six attempts of the game.

** On Oct. 28, 2000, Louisiana Tech quarterback Luke McCown set an NCAA freshman record with 72 passing attempts during the Bulldogs’ 42-31 loss at No. 2 Miami (Fla.). McCown completed 42 of 72 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns in the game. His 72 attempts remain a single-season school record.

** On Oct. 29, 1960, future College Football Hall of Fame performer Pervis Atkins sparked New Mexico State to a 27-24 victory over Arizona State. Atkins returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and raced 70 yards to set up the game-winning score. Atkins went on to break the NCAA single-season record for most yards per play, averaging an amazing 14.7 yards on 110 combined runs, receptions and kick returns. The previous record was held by Army’s Glenn Davis, the 1946 Heisman Trophy winner.

** On Oct. 29, 1988, Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders rushed for 320 yards to lead his No. 12 Cowboys to a 45-27 win over Kansas State. The performance began a five-game stretch during which Sanders rushed for 1,472 yards, the most rushing yards accumulated over a five-game span in NCAA history. He also became only the second player in college football history to gain more than 200 rushing yards in five consecutive games, and the streak propelled Sanders to an NCAA single-season record 2,628 rushing yards and the 1988 Heisman Trophy.

** Also on Oct. 29, 1988, Washington State scored 28 second-half points during a 34-30 upset win over top-ranked UCLA and its All-America quarterback Troy Aikman.

** On Oct. 30, 1971, future College Football Hall of Fame tailback Ed Marinaro of Cornell became the first running back in college football history to break the 4,000-yard barrier, doing so during his team’s 24-21 win over Columbia, Marinaro ran for 1,881 yards that season for the Big Red – still a single-season Ivy League record – and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Auburn QB Pat Sullivan. Marinaro went on to play six seasons in the NFL after which he became a successful actor, best known for his portrayal of Officer Joe Coffey on “Hill Street Blues.”

** On Oct. 30, 1982, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw for a school-record 520 yards, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Penn State scored a 52-17 blowout over the Eagles in Chestnut Hill. The Nittany Lions were led by quarterback Todd Blackledge, who threw for 243 yards and three TDs, and running back Curt Warner, who rushed for 183 yards and two scores.

** On Oct. 30, 1999, Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo was a one-man wrecking crew against Stanford. Tuiasosopo became the first player in NCAA history to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for 200 or more in the same game. He threw for 302 yards and added 207 on the ground in a 35-30 victory over the Cardinal.

** On Nov. 1, 1880, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice was born in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Considered one of the greatest American writers of the first half of the 20th century, Rice penned arguably the most famous line in college football history when he wrote, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again,” dubbing the famed Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in 1924. Rice later joined with U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Army head coach Earl “Red” Blaik to create the National Football Foundation in 1947.

** On Nov. 1, 1986, Long Beach State’s Mark Templeton set an NCAA single-game record for receptions by a running back with 18 catches for 173 yards during his team’s 14-3 win over Utah State.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – the planets simply align properly and everything goes right. That is the kind of year we’ve been having with the picks so far.

Last week featured another perfect 10-0 straight up that included the Upset Special of Michigan State over Wisconsin. Against the spread, we weren’t real confident going into Saturday and picked a bunch of underdogs. That strategy resulted in an 8-2 week, making us an almost unbelievable 25-5 ATS over the past three weeks.

For the year, we’re 75-7 SU and 54-25-1 ATS and tempted to quit while we’re ahead. But as we’ve said in the past, the only thing better than playing with house money and getting more house money. So, here are the games we like this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State: This one should provide a nice showcase for quarterbacks OSU’s Brandon Weeden (2,436, 19 TDs) and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (1,950 yards, 22 TDs). Griffin is the nation’s No. 1 signal-caller in terms of pass efficiency, but he doesn’t have the supporting cast Weeden enjoys. The Cowboys not only have the country’s No. 2 scoring offense, they are 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Bears? They’re 97th in pass efficiency defense and 101st in scoring defense. Baylor and RG3 will score some points, but not nearly enough of them … Oklahoma State 45, Baylor 28. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 6 Stanford at USC: The unranked Trojans have quietly put together a nice 6-1 season so far, most recently notching back-to-back road victories at Cal and Notre Dame. USC returns to the Coliseum this week, but it won’t be any party with the Cardinal there waiting for them. A primetime game with Brent Musberger on the play-by-play has cemented more than one Heisman candidacy, and that is undoubtedly what Stanford QB Andrew Luck (1,888 yards, 20 TDs) will be looking for tomorrow night. Not that Luck needs the help. The Cardinal also boast the second-best rushing offense in the Pac-12 and the No. 1 defense in the conference. And they’ve beaten SC three of the last four times they have played, including last year’s 37-35 squeaker that started Stanford’s nation-best win streak … Stanford 37, USC 23. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Washington State at No. 7 Oregon: The Ducks have recovered nicely from their season-opening loss to LSU, outscoring the opposition by a 310-102 margin during a six-game win streak. Making that even more impressive is that Oregon played last week without starting QB Darron Thomas while Heisman hopeful RB LaMichael James has missed the last two games with a dislocated elbow. Both players could return this week, which would not exactly be the best news for the Cougars. They surrendered 551 yards during a 44-21 loss to Oregon State last week, and the Beavers rank ninth in the Pac-12 in total offense and in scoring. If Wazzu couldn’t stop them, one wonders how they’ll slow down the Quack Attack, which is first in the conference in yardage and second only to Stanford in scoring … Oregon 47, Washington State 14. (3 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Kansas State: This boils down to a Big 12 elimination game with two surprising teams – each for different reasons – facing a must-win situation. The Sooners stubbed their collective toe last week with a loss to Texas Tech that most likely knocked them out of the national championship race. Meanwhile, the Wildcats kept purring with a win over instate rival Kansas and preserving their best start to a season since winning their first nine games in 1999. K-State knows what it takes to beat Oklahoma although Bill Snyder’s team hasn’t accomplished that feat since its huge upset victory in the 2003 conference title game. Closer scrutiny of the Wildcats would seem to indicate they cannot throw the ball and their pass defense is surprisingly weak. That is combination that would seem to indicate an OU win … Oklahoma 52, Kansas State 35. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12 Virginia Tech at Duke: Although the Hokies average 31.0 points per game offensively, their calling card has been a defense that ranks 10th nationally in scoring and No. 7 against the run. Attrition is beginning to wear on that defense, however, as Tech lost a third starter – LB Bruce Taylor, the team’s leading tackler this year and last – to a season-ending injury during last week’s otherwise unremarkable 34-10 win over Boston College. Those injuries will eventually catch up with the Hokies, but probably not this week. The Blue Devils feature a lowly concoction of ranking dead last in the ACC in rushing as well as pass defense, and they have lost 10 straight in the series to Tech by an average of more than 23 points … Virginia Tech 35, Duke 10. (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Purdue at No. 18 Michigan: If the Wolverines are truly on their back to prominence, this would be as good as game as any to prove it. The Boilermakers aren’t exactly a juggernaut, but they can do some things on offense that could make things difficult for what remains a spotty U-M defense. Meanwhile, Michigan is at the same crossroads it has faced the past two seasons – undefeated records spoiled by instate rival Michigan State. In both 2009 and 2010, the loss to Sparty began a downward spiral – so much so that the Wolverines are a combined 3-11 the past two seasons after playing MSU. The Boilers haven’t had much success in the Big House over the years, but they did snap a long losing streak there in ’09 with a 38-36 victory. We can’t quite pull the trigger on an Upset Special here, but U-M definitely needs to be on the alert … Michigan 38, Purdue 31. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

Iowa State at No. 20 Texas Tech: Double-T is feeling its oats for one of the first times in the post-Mike Leach era following last week’s huge upset at Oklahoma. Now, the Red Raiders have to guard against a letdown against what should be a rollover opponent. If the Raiders do have a letdown, it will be their own fault. Last year, the Cyclones raced out to a 24-0 lead and wound up with a 52-38 victory in Ames. It seems doubtful ISU could repeat that outcome this time around. The Cyclones are on a four-game losing streak, they have been outscored by a 171-74 margin in conference play, and they are winless on their five previous trips to Lubbock. They also have one of the worst defenses in college football while Double-T has one of the top offenses … Texas Tech 48, Iowa State 17. (7 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

Kansas at No. 24 Texas: Does anyone in Lawrence miss Mark Mangino? The former Kansas head coach was forced out following the 2009 season amid somewhat fuzzy allegations of verbal and physical player abuse and the Jayhawks haven’t been the same since. They were 25-13 during the final three seasons of Mangino’s eight-year tenure and are just 5-14 since. That includes 11 losses in their last 12 conference games. Of course, the Longhorns aren’t any great shakes, either, coming off back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, games in which they were outscored by a 93-43 margin. Mack Brown has had an extra week to prepare, however, and Kansas is certainly not on par with either Oklahoma team … Texas 44, Kansas 20. (7 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network)

Iowa at Minnesota: Don’t look now, but Kirk Ferentz is having another one of those seasons when his team piles up a bunch of under-the-radar victories. The Hawkeyes are 5-2 overall and only a game off the Legends Division lead despite ranking in the middle of the pack (or lower) in most of the Big Ten’s statistical categories. Meanwhile, Goldy is just trying to get to the barn in one piece. The Gophers don’t really do anything well as evidenced by the fact their offense has scored the least amount of points of any conference team and their defense has given up the most. Not much entertainment value in this one, we’re afraid … Iowa 35, Minnesota 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 15 Wisconsin at Ohio State: This is about as simple as simple can be. If the Buckeyes harbor even the slightest notion of a trip to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, they must beat the Badgers. And that task is not as difficult as some might think. The one chink in Bucky’s armor is rush defense. Coincidentally, that is Ohio State’s major offensive strength. If the Buckeyes can control tempo through their running game, they can win. In fact, that is probably their only chance. Yes, they are going to have to throw the ball at least a little to keep the Badgers honest, but I see a game plan much like the one OSU utilized at Nebraska until QB Braxton Miller went down. If that plan is executed similarly, it is the Buckeyes’ game to win. And banking on the hard lessons learned in Lincoln, this is your Upset Special … Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 28. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Baylor at Oklahoma State (-14); Stanford (-7½) at USC; Washington State at Oregon (-32½); Oklahoma (-13½) at Kansas State; Virginia Tech (-14) at Duke; Purdue (+15) at Michigan; Iowa State at Texas Tech (-14½); Kansas (+28½) at Texas; Iowa (-15½) at Minnesota; Wisconsin at Ohio State (+7½).

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

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