Buckeyes, Fickell Did Themselves No Favors At Purdue

Just by looking at the place, you would never mistake Ross-Ade Stadium for a house of horrors.

Located at the very northeastern tip of the Purdue campus in West Lafayette and named for a couple of long-dead guys who had very little to do with the university football program, the quaint, little bowl-type structure is the place where a late-season Ohio State winning streak died in 2004 and the site of an inexplicable 2009 loss by a Buckeye squad on its way to the Rose Bowl.

Ross-Ade Stadium added to its list of OSU victims Nov. 12 with a 26-23 overtime victory, for all intents and purposes ending the Buckeyes’ record-tying streak of consecutive Big Ten championships at six.

As hurtful as that outcome was, it may yet claim one more victim – Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell.

Through no fault of his own, the first-year head coach was already the subject of conjecture and rumor regarding his job security. The university had seen to that after Jim Tressel’s forced retirement May 30, signing Fickell to a one-year contract and making it clear a nationwide search for a new coach would commence following the 2011 season.

Even before the Buckeyes’ loss at Purdue, some believed that search had already been completed and that only contract formalities were left to iron out between Ohio State and former Florida head coach Urban Meyer.

There were a handful, though – me included – who believed the university would not and could not show Fickell the door if he somehow got the Buckeyes to the inaugural Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl.

Of course, appearances in Indianapolis and Pasadena seem extremely unlikely now. So many dominoes would have to fall precisely Ohio State’s way that even the most optimistic of fans would have to admit the Buckeyes’ streak of conference titles and BCS game appearances has reached its end.

Additionally, the loss to Purdue was perhaps the final piece of evidence Fickell’s detractors needed in their argument that the former OSU player and longtime assistant is not yet ready to run his own big-time program.

For the second week in a row, the Buckeyes fell into an early 10-0 hole. While there is nothing especially wrong with that, it’s difficult to fathom how it could have occurred against teams that entered the game with losing records – Indiana at 1-8, Purdue at 4-5.

Moreover, it continued a disturbing season-long trend of falling behind early. Ohio State has faced first-quarter deficits in six of its 10 games, and the parallel that can be drawn from so many slow starts is that the team is simply not ready to play once the football starts to fly. You can point to any number of things as to the reason why, arguing that real competitors typically motivate themselves. Still, the ultimate responsibility for getting a team ready to play rests with only one man – the head coach.

I have been one of Fickell’s most vocal supporters, especially because of the type of team he took over on short notice in June. On top of the holes created by graduation losses of seven defensive starters – plus an eighth who suffered a season-ending knee injury in this year’s opener – Fickell inherited an offense that lost its three-year starting quarterback, its All-Big Ten left tackle for five games, its All-Big Ten tailback for six and its leading receiver for 10.

Taking all of that into account, it seemed borderline incredible that the Buckeyes were still serious Big Ten championship contenders into mid-November.

Still, playing and coaching football at Ohio State is much more about winning than making excuses, and despite all of the incessant bellyaching about the play-calling and how freshman quarterback Braxton Miller has or has not been utilized, the future of Fickell as head coach of the Buckeyes might have boiled down to one late-game decision against Purdue.

In overtime, after Miller had scrambled away from pressure for the umpteenth time in the game and somehow found freshman receiver T.Y. Williams for a 15-yard completion, the Buckeyes faced fourth-and-1 at the Purdue 16 with the game on the line.

That is a situation in which no coach likes to find himself, yet one that often separates the good coaches from the great ones. Roll the dice and go for it, or play it safe and kick the field goal. Fickell played it safe and that decision ultimately cost his team the game when Purdue followed with a touchdown during its portion of overtime.

While it is easy to second-guess that decision, especially with the benefit of hindsight, the flow of the game seemed to dictate the Buckeyes going for that fourth-and-1 would have been the prudent play. On six short-yardage situations against the Boilermakers – when distances of 3 yards or fewer were needed for a first down – the Buckeyes had converted three times.

Maybe 50 percent isn’t an overwhelming margin, but Ohio State had converted both of its third-and-1 situations during the game, and Miller’s game-tying touchdown pass to Jordan Hall came on a fourth-and-3 play.

Fickell could have asked game officials for a measurement to buy himself some extra decision-making time or he could have called his only overtime timeout. He did neither, though, opting instead for a 33-yard field-goal attempt, which was certainly no sure thing given the probable shaky confidence of kicker Drew Basil, who had missed a 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half and whose PAT attempt was blocked to force the overtime.

Did choosing the field goal over going for it on fourth-and-1 cost the Buckeyes the ballgame? Maybe, but in a game featuring so many missed tackles, missed assignments and missed opportunities, it is difficult to pinpoint the blame on any singular call or play.

Yet with everything that was riding on that decision – a fourth straight victory, a history-making trip to the first-ever Big Ten title game and a shot at going to the Rose Bowl not to mention some possible job security – it seems strange Fickell elected to play it safe.

Perhaps, though, that is valuable insight into a coaching philosophy that will help those in charge make the ultimate decision whether it is Fickell, Meyer or someone else at the helm in 2012.

With the way things played out at Purdue, though, I can’t help thinking the current coach did himself no favors.

TO BOWL OR NOT TO BOWL?

With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, Ohio State fans are beginning to formulate holiday travel plans for a bowl game.

For each of the past six seasons, the Buckeyes have played in a big-money BCS game, traveling to Phoenix three times, New Orleans twice and Pasadena once. Barring a loss by Wisconsin at Illinois tomorrow, that streak has likely come to an end, meaning OSU will play outside the BCS for the first time since an Alamo Bowl appearance at the end of the 2004 season.

Where are the Buckeyes headed for the holidays? The answer depends on a lot of variables.

For argument’s sake, let’s say Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska win out. Michigan State and Wisconsin would represent their respective divisions in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game with the winner earned the conference’s automatic berth in the Rose Bowl.

That leaves Nebraska with two losses, the title game loser with three losses and Ohio State with four losses (along with Penn State and Michigan). Now things get tricky.

Since it is a marquee program with a fan base that will travel, a 10-2 Nebraska team would make a possibility for an at-large BCS berth. Variables impacting that scenario are many, including the BCS selecting the Cornhuskers out of a pool that will likely include such one-loss teams as Stanford and Boise State, each of which are ranked far ahead of Nebraska in the latest BCS standings.

If the Cornhuskers go to the BCS, the Big Ten title game loser would likely wind up in the Capital One Bowl with Ohio State headed to Tampa and the Outback Bowl, set for Jan. 2. The Buckeyes would have the inside track on Penn State and Michigan because they would have beaten both teams, but more importantly Ohio State hasn’t played a bowl game in Florida since the Outback Bowl following the 2001 season.

Should Nebraska get snubbed by the BCS at 10-2, or the Cornhuskers lose to either Michigan tomorrow or Iowa on Nov. 25, the bowl picture muddies even more.

If the Cornhuskers finish 10-2 and that’s still not good enough for the BCS, they would likely be headed to the Capital One Bowl with the loser of the Big Ten Championship Game sliding to the Outback Bowl.

The Insight Bowl, played Dec. 30 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., has the next selection and there is serious doubt the Phoenix area would want Ohio State for the sixth time in the last 10 years.

Holding the next pick is the Gator Bowl, set for Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. Longtime OSU fans have a bitter memory of the last time the Buckeyes played in the Gator Bowl – head coach Woody Hayes’ last game, a 17-15 loss to Clemson in 1978.

Of course, should the Buckeyes stumble against Penn State and/or Michigan, the remainder of the Big Ten-affiliated bowls are (in order of selection) the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 31 in Houston, the Ticketcity Bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas and the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl on Dec. 27 in Detroit.

There is one other scenario, of course.

If the rumors are true, and Ohio State is going to supplant Luke Fickell as head coach in favor of Urban Meyer soon after the completion of the regular season, it might make sense for the Buckeyes to stay home this postseason – especially if the NCAA decides to impose a one-year bowl ban.

I have always been of the opinion that since the NCAA has waited so long to render its decision in the tattoos-for-memorabilia case, Ohio State would appeal any postseason ban and this year’s team would play in a bowl. However, if a bowl ban is coming, and the Buckeyes are going to play in a so-called lesser bowl, wouldn’t it make sense to accept the ban this year and wipe the slate clean for next season with a new coach, new staff and renewed set of goals?

To be sure, accepting a postseason ban this year would be the final slap in the face to Ohio State seniors, most of whom had nothing to do with the circumstances the program has faced all year. Still, if the university is truly interested in distancing itself from the NCAA investigation as quickly as possible, the prudent move might be to stay home, regroup and come back stronger than ever in 2012.

OSU-PENN STATE TIDBITS

** This marks the 27th overall meeting between Ohio State and Penn State, and the Buckeyes enjoy a slight 14-12 advantage. OSU has a 9-6 overall edge in games played at Ohio Stadium, but a lopsided 8-1 advantage in games played at the Horseshoe since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell is making his first appearance against Penn State as a head coach, but he is 10-3 lifetime against the Nittany Lions as an OSU player and assistant coach. He was 3-1 vs. Penn State during his playing career from 1993-96 and 7-2 during nine years as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley will be making his first appearance against Ohio State as a head coach. Bradley played for the Nittany Lions in 1977 and ’78 and then spent 33 years on Joe Paterno’s staff. Penn State was 1-0 vs. Ohio State during Bradley’s playing career and 7-12 during his time as an assistant coach.

** Ohio State will face a Paterno-less Penn State squad for the first time in nearly a century. Paterno had been on the Nittany Lions sideline as an assistant or head coach for 25 of the previous 26 games in the series. The only time Paterno wasn’t a part of the rivalry was a 37-0 win by Penn State over the Buckeyes at old Ohio Field in 1912. “Big” Bill Hollenback was at the helm of the Nittany Lions that year while John R. Richards was in his only season as head coach at Ohio State.

** The game pits two of the winningest college football teams in history against one another. Ohio State ranks fifth all-time with 837 wins while Penn State ranks sixth with 826. Michigan is first all-time with 892 followed by Notre Dame (852), Texas (850) and Nebraska (844).

** Five of the last 10 games in the series have been determined by seven points or less, but there have been some notable blowouts over the years. Penn State rolled to a 63-14 win at Beaver Stadium in 1994, and Ohio State returned the favor six years later in Ohio Stadium with a 45-6 wipeout. Last year, the Buckeyes erased a 14-3 halftime deficit to secure a 38-14 win. Throughout the overall series, the average margin of victory for OSU is 16.0 points. When the Nittany Lions win, their average margin is 15.1 points.

** Penn State will be looking to keep things close tomorrow. The Nittany Lions are 6-1 while the Buckeyes are 3-3 this season in games decided by 10 points or less.

** One series trend would seem to favor Penn State while another works better for Ohio State’s hopes. The higher ranked team has won 18 of the last 20 meetings and the home team has won 13 of the 18 games played since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. Penn State enters tomorrow’s game ranked No. 21 in the USA Today coaches’ and Associated Press writers’ polls as well as the BCS rankings. The Buckeyes are unranked for the eighth straight week, the program’s longest unranked streak since 1988.

** Penn State has won on just two of its previous 10 trips to Ohio Stadium, and the Buckeyes started a freshman quarterback in both of the Nittany Lions’ victories. In 1979, Art Schlichter threw a school-record five interceptions in his first collegiate start during a 19-0 PSU win. Then in 2008, Terrelle Pryor’s crucial fourth-quarter fumble led to a 13-6 victory for the Lions. It was Pryor’s fifth career start after taking over for Todd Boeckman earlier that season.

** With the exception of Ohio State, Penn State has had its way with Ohio teams over the years. The Nittany Lions are 20-2-1 against other Ohio schools with the lone blemishes a 24-6 loss to Toledo in 2000, a 14-3 loss to Cincinnati in 1983 and an 8-8 tie at Western Reserve in 1895.

** The Ohio State defense is always looking for interceptions, of course, but especially so against Penn State tomorrow. Since 2002, the Buckeyes have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns against the Nittany Lions and are 5-0 during that time span when they have at least one pick-six. Devon Torrence and Travis Howard each had fourth-quarter INT returns for scores last year to blow open OSU’s 38-14 victory.

** Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Penn State is 15-3 in its next game following a loss.

** Penn State is traditionally one of the least penalized teams in the nation and that is true again in 2011. The Nittany Lions are tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 47 penalties in 10 games and average only 41.2 penalty yards per game. In its last five games played against the Buckeyes, Penn State has incurred only 12 penalties for 81 yards. During the same five games, Ohio State has been flagged 31 times for 283 yards.

** Penn State is tied with Nebraska for the Big Ten lead in fewest sacks allowed with 12. Ohio State ranks last in the conference in that category, having surrendered 33 sacks this season.

** Penn State has four native Ohioans on its roster – running backs Brandon Beachum and Michael Zordich (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), tight end Nate Cadogan (Portsmouth) and receiver Ryan Scherer (Avon Lake). The Buckeyes have seven players from Pennsylvania – defensive lineman Evan Blankenship (Monaca), defensive back Corey Brown (Monroeville), receiver Corey “Philly” Brown (Upper Darby), linebacker Chad Hagan (Canonsburg), running back Jordan Hall (Jeannette), tight end Kyle Schuck (Selinsgrove) and linebacker Andrew Sweat (Washington).

** When Purdue blocked Ohio State’s point-after attempt last Saturday, it marked the first time since the 2009 season opener the Buckeyes had missed a PAT. In between, OSU had converted 130 consecutive tries.

** Had the PAT been successful and Ohio State escaped West Lafayette with a 21-20 victory, it would have been the Buckeyes’ first one-point win since a 20-19 decision over Louisville in the 1992 season opener. OSU hasn’t been involved in a one-point game against a Big Ten opponent since losing a 10-9 game at Illinois in 1966. The Buckeyes’ last one-point conference victory? An 11-10 home win over Minnesota in 1965.

** Ohio State senior receiver DeVier Posey is expected to make his 2011 season debut after missing the first 10 games while serving two different NCAA suspensions. Posey is tied for eighth on the school’s all-time list with 16 touchdown receptions and tied for ninth with 124 career catches.

** Penn State senior receiver Derek Moye ranks among his school’s top five in most receiving categories. Moye, who has 34 catches for 592 yards and three touchdowns this season, is third all-time at PSU in career receiving yards (2,333), fourth in TDs (18) and fifth in receptions (138).

** Ohio State senior tailback Boom Herron was held to only 65 yards last week against Purdue, his lowest output since a 55-yard effort during last year’s 73-20 rout of Eastern Michigan. Still, the total against the Boilermakers was enough to push Herron into the top 10 on Ohio State’s career rushing list. He now has 2,674 yards and moved past Raymont Harris (2,649, 1990-93) into 10th place on the all-time list. Next up are Antonio Pittman (2,945, 2004-06), Michael Wiley (2,951, 1996-99) and Carlos Snow (2,999, 1987-89, ’91).

** Against Purdue, Ohio State freshman quarterback Braxton Miller established new single-game career highs with 18 attempts and 132 yards passing, and he matched previous highs with eight completions and two touchdown passes. Both TD passes went to junior tailback Jordan Hall, setting a new single-game career mark for him.

** Miller is one of six OSU freshmen who have started at least one game this season. The others are redshirt freshmen CB Bradley Roby, WR Verlon Reed and DE J.T. Moore and true frosh WR T.Y. Williams and OT Antonio Underwood. The number will likely climb to seven tomorrow when true freshman LB Ryan Shazier is expected to start on the weak side in place of senior Andrew Sweat, who suffered a concussion last week at Purdue.

** OSU senior center Mike Brewster made his 46th consecutive start last weekend, and if the Buckeyes do not play in the Big Ten Championship Game, he will fall short of the school record. Fickell holds that mark with 50 straight starts. Brewster needs to start each of the last two regular-season games and a bowl game to get to 49.

** Twenty-four Ohio State seniors will be honored prior to tomorrow’s game as part of annual Senior Day festivities. Making their final Ohio Stadium appearance as Buckeyes will be Mike Adams, Dionte Allen, Dan Bain, Joe Bauserman, Evan Blankenship, Mike Brewster, Bo DeLande, Garrett Dornbrook, Nate Ebner, Derek Erwin, Donnie Evege, Boom Herron, Tony Jackson, Don Matheney, Chris Maxwell, Tyler Moeller, Nate Oliver, DeVier Posey, Chris Roark, Donald Senegal, J.B. Shugarts, Spencer Smith, Andrew Sweat and Solomon Thomas.

** Ohio State has won eight of its last nine games on Senior Day. The only blemish on that record is a 28-21 loss to Illinois in 2007.

** This week’s game will be telecast by ABC and ESPN using the reverse mirror technique meaning if the game is not on your local ABC affiliate, it should be on ESPN and vice versa. Veteran play-by-play man Brad Nessler will have the call, color analysis will be provided by former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge, and Holly Rowe will file reports from the sidelines. Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio channels 85.

** Next week, Ohio State finishes its 2011 regular season at Michigan for the 108th renewal of The Game. Kickoff is set for 12 noon Eastern from Ann Arbor, and that game will also be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** With the Boise State and Stanford losses last Saturday night, only LSU, Oklahoma State and Houston remain undefeated at the Division I-A level. All three teams are 10-0 – LSU for the first time since 1958, Oklahoma State and Houston for the first time in program history.

** Both LSU and Oklahoma State have potential roadblocks on the way to the BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers hosts Arkansas on Nov. 25, and before you pooh-pooh the Razorbacks’ chances for the upset, you might want to know the Hogs have won three of the last four in the series. Meanwhile, the Cowboys entertain Oklahoma on Dec. 3, looking to snap an eight-game losing streak in that series.

** Houston gets no love at No. 11 in the BCS standings despite being undefeated at 10-0. The Cougars finish their regular season at home against SMU (6-4) on Nov. 19 and at Tulsa (7-3) on Nov. 25, and will likely play Southern Miss (9-1) in the Conference USA title game.

** Stanford’s 53-30 loss to Oregon on Saturday night snapped the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games. LSU and Oklahoma State now share the longest streak in the nation at 11 straight.

** Congratulations to New Mexico, which snapped the nation’s longest losing streak at 12 with a 21-14 win over UNLV on Saturday. The Lobos got the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore Demarcus Rogers with 1:15 remaining. That means the nation’s longest losing streak now belongs to Florida Atlantic, which lost its 12th game in a row with a 41-7 loss Saturday to Florida International.

** This year’s Heisman Trophy race went from a forgone conclusion to decidedly less so immediately after Stanford’s loss to Oregon. Cardinal QB Andrew Luck remains the odds-on favorite, but he certainly didn’t impress any voters with a performance against the Ducks that included two costly interceptions and a fumble to go along with 271 yards and three TDs. Other viable candidates include Houston QB Case Keenum, Oregon RB LaMichael James, Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden and Alabama RB Trent Richardson.

** TCU’s 36-35 victory at Boise State ended the Broncos’ 35-game home winning streak, a 47-game home conference win streak and a 65-game regular-season home streak. Boise is 46-3 since 2008, and two of those losses are one-point defeats courtesy of the Horned Frogs.

** How explosive is Oregon’s offense? Explosive enough to hang 53 on Stanford despite going just 1 for 9 on third-down conversions. The Ducks were better than that (2 for 3) on fourth down, and they converted a two-point try following their first touchdown of the game, something that become customary under head coach Chip Kelly.

** The Big Ten has taken another beating from national pundits who claim the overall strength of the league continues to pale in comparison to other conferences. Be that as it may, the Big Ten can still boast eight members who have secured bowl eligibility this season and that is more than any other conference. Two more Big Ten schools – Northwestern and Purdue – can get bowl-eligible with victories this week.

** Wisconsin running back Montee Ball scored three touchdowns last weekend during his team’s 42-13 win over Minnesota and broke the Big Ten’s single-season record for touchdowns with 27. The old mark of 26 was established in 1975 by Ohio State fullback Pete Johnson and was equaled in 1988 by Indiana tailback Anthony Thompson and in 1994 by Penn State tailback Ki-Jana Carter.

** Ball has rushed for 23 of his TDs this season and that is still three behind the conference record of 26 set by Thompson in ’88 and matched by Carter six years later.

** The rumor mill has former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez thinking seriously about taking over at Tulane. The Green Wave, whose 73-17 loss to Houston last Thursday night dropped them to 2-9, have already gotten rid of head coach Bob Toledo and Rodriguez already knows his way around New Orleans. He was offensive coordinator on Tommy Bowden’s staff in 1998 when Tulane went 12-0.

** Here’s another rumor that will get Big Ten tongues wagging. Penn State might look to former assistant coach Jim Caldwell as Joe Paterno’s successor. Caldwell is likely nearing the end of his tenure as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and would bring what is considered an impeccable reputation with him to Happy Valley. Then, if Caldwell gets the boot in Indy, a possible replacement could be Jim Tressel, currently serving the Colts as a video replay consultant.

** What kind of odds could you have gotten back on Jan. 1 if you had suggested Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State would all have fired their head football coaches before the end of November?

** After last week’s 17-12 loss at South Carolina, Florida fell to 3-5 in the SEC and is assured of its first losing conference record in 25 years. At 5-5 overall, the Gators are also trying to avoid their first losing season in 32 years. They went 0-10-1 in 1979.

** Missouri’s 12-5 upset of Texas was tough on both teams. The Tigers lost star running back Henry Josey to a season-ending knee injury while the Longhorns lost tailback Fozzy Whitaker to a knee injury that will end his senior season.

** Navy failed to complete a single pass against SMU last weekend and still won, 24-17. The Midshipmen tried to throw only twice – one was intercepted – but ran it 64 times for 335 yards. Navy is the No. 2 rushing team in the nation with an average of 319.7 yards per game. Fellow triple-option team Army is No. 1, averaging 352.0 yards on the ground each week. Unfortunately, all that running doesn’t translate into many victories. Army and Navy are a combined 7-13.

** Quote of the week belongs to TCU linebacker Tank Carder, who tweeted following his team’s 36-35 upset of Boise State, “We didn’t shock the world. We just reminded them.”

** If you like offense, you should have been at last Saturday’s game featuring NAIA rivals Faulkner (Ala.) and Union (Ky.). In the fourth-highest scoring college football game in history, Faulkner outlasted Union by a 95-89 final in triple overtime. The contest was tied at 75 after regulation. Faulkner QB Josh Hollingsworth threw for an NAIA-record 637 yards and seven touchdowns, while senior receiver Courtney Pete totaled 19 receptions for 201 yards and three TDs. Pete also threw a touchdown pass to Hollingsworth. The teams combined for nearly 1,500 yards of total offense – 793 for Faulkner, 696 for Union.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 16, 1872, Yale played its first-ever football game, beating Columbia by a 3-0 score.

** On Nov. 16, 1940, No. 2 Cornell scored on a last-second touchdown pass to score a 6-3 victory over Dartmouth and extend the Big Red’s winning streak to 19 games. However, after a review of the game tape, officials determined the game-winning score had come after a fourth-down incompletion by Cornell and that Dartmouth should have taken over on downs. Cornell president Edmund E. Day, athletics director Jim Lynah and future College Football Hall of Fame coach Carl Snavely offered to concede the game, an offer Dartmouth accepted, and the contest went into the record books as a 3-0 victory for the Big Green.

** On Nov. 16, 1957, Notre Dame stopped Oklahoma’s NCAA-record winning streak at 47 games with a 7-0 victory over the Sooners in Norman.

** On Nov. 16, 1991, BYU and San Diego State combined to score 104 points, but finished deadlocked at 52-52, the highest-scoring tie in NCAA history.

** On Nov. 16, 1996, Washington running back Corey Dillon set an NCAA record with 305 total yards in one quarter – 222 rushing and 83 receiving – during his team’s 53-10 win over San Jose State. Dillon’s 222 rushing yards also established a new NCAA record for rushing yards in one quarter.

** On Nov. 17, 1906, Kansas took an 8-6 victory over Nebraska, beginning what was the longest continuous Division I-A series, one that ended this season when the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten.

** On Nov. 17, 1923, Kansas City University lost a 131-0 decision to St. Mary’s (Kan.), capping a winless 0-6 season in which KCU was outscored, 623-0.

** On Nov. 17, 1956, Syracuse halfback Jim Brown set an NCAA record for single-game scoring, accounting for 43 points (rushing for six touchdowns and kicking seven PATs) during a 61-7 win over Colgate. Brown’s record stood until 1990 and still stands third all-time.

** On Nov. 18, 1961, College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen led Utah State to a 17-6 win over intrastate rival Utah in Salt Lake City. The win moved Utah State to 9-0-1 for the season, the Aggies’ best record in program history and their only undefeated regular season since 1936.

** On Nov. 18, 1978, Oklahoma running back Billy Sims rushed for 209 yards in a 62-7 win over Oklahoma State and broke the Big Eight’s single-season rushing record in the process.

** On Nov. 18, 1995, Wake Forest quarterback Rusty LaRue established an NCAA record for most pass completions during a three-game span when he connected 50 times for a school-record 545 yards during his team’s 52-23 loss to North Carolina State. Coupled with performances the previous two weeks vs. Duke and Georgia Tech, LaRue completed 146 of 210 attempts (69.5 percent) for 1,524 yards during the record-setting three-game stretch.

** On Nov. 19, 1966, top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing, a contest that has often been called “The Game of the Century.” Fighting Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty was knocked out of the game in the first quarter after getting sacked by Spartans defensive lineman Bubba Smith, and starting Notre Dame running back Nick Eddy missed the entire game after hurting his shoulder getting off the train in East Lansing. The Irish had the ball on their own 30-yard line with 1:10 to go in the game, but head coach Ara Parseghian chose to run out the clock, preserving the tie and his team’s No. 1 ranking. Notre Dame went on to win the 1966 national championship while Michigan State finished second.

** On Nov. 19, 1983, Oregon and Oregon State battled to a 0-0 tie in Eugene, the last scoreless tie in NCAA history due to the institution of overtime beginning in 1994.

** On Nov. 20, 1976, Kentucky took a 7-0 victory over Tennessee and marked its first victory in Knoxville in a dozen years. Running back Greg Woods raced 68 yards with a pass from QB Derrick Ramsey for the only score in the game, and clinched the Wildcats’ first bowl bid since 1952.

** On Nov. 20, 1982, SMU quarterback Lance McIlhenny drove his team 80 yards for a touchdown in the late going to forge a 17-17 tie with ninth-ranked Arkansas. SMU running back Eric Dickerson – who teamed with fellow running back Craig James to form the “Pony Express” a.k.a. “The Best Backfield Money Could Buy” – rushed for 81 yards in the contest to break the all-time Southwest Conference career record held by Earl Campbell of Texas. The tie denied SMU a perfect season and the national championship, but the Mustangs still finished the season ranked No. 2 with an 11-0-1 record.

** Also on Nov. 20, 1982, Stanford band members entered the field to celebrate what they believed was an upset victory over California. As time expired, however, the Golden Bears used five lateral passes while weaving through the Cardinal band to score a touchdown as Kevin Moen mowed down a Stanford trombone player in the end zone. After five minutes of deliberation, officials awarded Cal the 25-20 victory, resulting in one of the most unorthodox victories in college football history.

** On Nov. 20, 1999, TCU running back LaDanian Tomlinson set the NCAA single-game rushing record when he carried 43 times for 406 yards during a 52-24 win over UTEP in Fort Worth. Tomlinson’s 287 second-half yards also tied an NCAA record for rushing yards in one half.

** On Nov. 21, 1981, BYU tight end Gordon Hudson set an NCAA record for tight ends with 259 receiving yards during a 56-28 win over Utah.

** On Nov. 21, 1992, Washington State QB Drew Bledsoe threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns during a snowstorm in Pullman, leading the Cougars to a 42-23 upset of fifth-ranked Washington.

** On Nov. 22, 1875, Harvard took a 4-0 victory over Yale in the first-ever meeting of the Ivy League schools. They will celebrate their 128th meeting this year.

** On Nov. 22, 1958, Pacific succeeded on an NCAA-record seven two-point conversions in nine attempts during a 68-17 victory over San Diego State.

** On Nov. 22, 1969, Michigan defensive back Barry Pierson returned a punt for a touchdown and intercepted three passes as the No. 12 Wolverines shocked defending national champion Ohio State with a 24-12 upset in Ann Arbor. It was the opening game in what became known as the legendary “Ten-Year War” between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

FEARLESS FORECAST

You know how some weeks you’re just not feeling it? Last week was one of those weeks at Forecast World Headquarters. Nothing seemed to click and that was reflected in a poor 6-4 finish in the straight-up picks and a 4-5-1 record against spread.

We’re still pretty well off for the season at 97-15 SU and 69-39-2 ATS, but eager to put last week behind us. Here is what we’re looking at this week.

TONIGHT’S GAME

No. 2 Oklahoma State at Iowa State: It’s getting to be crunch time for the Cowboys as they prepare for one final hurdle before meeting instate rival Oklahoma on Dec. 3. First things first, though, as the Okies travel to Ames to take on the Cyclones, who have a pretty good pass defense. Pretty good might not be good enough, though, against Pokes QB Brandon Weeden (3,635 yards, 31 TDs) and the nation’s No. 1 receiver Justin Blackmon (93 catches, 1,142 yards, 14 TDs). Iowa State’s signature win this year was a 41-7 rout of then-ranked Texas Tech, but the Raiders have crated since then including a 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State last week. One more note: The Cowboys have won their last 10 road games … Oklahoma State 45, Iowa State 23. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 LSU at Mississippi: How much worse could it get in Oxford? Well, the Rebels have already announced head coach Houston Nutt will not return next year and now they draw the No. 1 team in the land without their starting quarterback and top rusher. QB Randall Mackey and RB Jeff Scott have been suspended for violating team rules, and that isn’t exactly what the No. 113 team in the nation in total offense needs going up against the nation’s No. 2 defense. Ole Miss has lost a program-record 12 straight SEC games and we see no reason why that number doesn’t go to 13 tomorrow night … LSU 42, Mississippi 0. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 22 Baylor: The Bears believe that if they are ever going to beat the Sooners, this is the year. OU is a perfect 20-0 in the series, including 10-0 in Waco, but Baylor does have a couple of things tilted in its favor. First, QB Robert Griffin III (3,093 yards, 29 TDs) is one of the top passers in the country and the Sooners have been susceptible at times through the air this season. Secondly, the Sooners lost a huge piece of their offense two weekends ago when WR Ryan Broyles suffered a season-ending knee injury. Unfortunately for Griffin and the Bears, their defense just doesn’t measure up and that’s putting it mildly. Baylor ranks 110th nationally in total defense and 108th in scoring, meaning the Sooners should still be able to score at will even without Broyles … Oklahoma 48, Baylor 35. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

California at No. 9 Stanford: This is the week we find out how good Cardinal QB Andrew Luck really is. After committing three turnovers – two INTs and a fumble – in last week’s 53-30 drubbing at the hands of Oregon, Luck must regroup himself and rally his team for a possible at-large BCS berth. An emotional letdown after such a huge loss might be the norm, but letdowns are uncommon in rivalry games. These two teams have going at one another for more than a century as tomorrow night is the 114th renewal of what is known as The Big Game. The Bears are meandering along at 6-4, but they have won two in a row and beat the Cardinal in 2009 on their last trip to the Farm. This could be closer than a lot of people think … Stanford 31, California 24. (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SMU at No. 11 Houston: Running up huge scores on defenseless opponents has gotten the Cougars where they need to be to earn an automatic BCS berth. Now, they hit the meat of their schedule in an effort to stay there. First up is SMU, losers of a 24-17 decision to Navy last week. But don’t discount the Mustangs. Like any heavyweight with a good right hand, they have a puncher’s chance to take out anyone just like they did Oct. 1 with an upset win over TCU. Of course, Houston has won 23 in a row at home since Case Keenum has been the starting quarterback, and he is only seven completions and one 300-yard game away from owning all of the major NCAA career records for a QB … Houston 49, SMU 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN Regional)

No. 13 Kansas State at No. 23 Texas: Offensive players are dropping like flies in Austin and that isn’t exactly the recipe for success with the Wildcats coming to town. The Mack Attack lost all-purpose senior Fozzy Whitaker to a knee injury last week, compounding a problem at the running back position where leading rusher Malcolm Brown and backup Joe Bergeron are iffy with injuries of their own. Top receiver Jaxon Shipley is also questionable because of a bad knee, meaning the Longhorns will have to rely on a defense that leads the Big 12 in nearly every major category. Still, Texas proved last week that you can’t win if you can’t score … Kansas State 17, Texas 10. (8 p.m. ET, FX)

Kentucky at No. 14 Georgia: There was no hotter seat in the SEC than the one under Georgia head coach Mark Richt just a few short weeks ago. Now, after reeling off eight straight victories, Richt’s Bulldogs have a chance to clinch a berth in the conference title game. Those who wrote off the Dawgs after their 0-2 start might be surprised to know the team features the nation’s No. 4-ranked defense, led by LB Jarvis Jones (10 sacks) and S Bacarri Rambo (7 INTs). The offense is no slouch, either, with QB Aaron Murray already breaking the school’s single-season record with 27 touchdown passes. None of that is very good news for Kentucky, which has been outscored by a 127-18 margin in its three conference road games this year … Georgia 41, Kentucky 10. (12 noon ET, SEC Network)

Indiana at No. 15 Michigan State: It’s Senior Day at East Lansing and Sparty can clinch at least a share of the Legends Division title with a victory over the lowly Hoosiers. MSU needs to be ready, though. IU is playing much better these days, especially on offense, and have had a week off to prepare for the Spartans. Still, you have to believe that a team on the doorstep of playing in their conference’s historic first-ever title game would avoid taking any opponent lightly – even one that hasn’t beaten a Division I-A opponent all season and has lost 18 of its last 19 Big Ten games … Michigan State 38, Indiana 14. (12 noon ET, BTN)

No. 16 Nebraska at No. 18 Michigan: This Legends Division elimination game features a pair of teams that still have question marks despite the lateness of the season. The Cornhuskers are coming off an emotionally-draining 17-14 victory at Penn State while the Wolverines are still trying to assess how much affect a sprained wrist on his throwing hand will have on QB Denard Robinson. Expect U-M to keep Robinson grounded for the most part, especially since Nebraska ranks only eighth in the Big Ten against the run. But the wild card here – as usual – is Huskers QB Taylor Martinez. If Martinez plays well, Nebraska usually wins. If he doesn’t, Nebraska usually loses. Michigan’s defense has improved this season, but not enough to contain Martinez if he’s on … Nebraska 26, Michigan 23. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State: How much either of these teams has remaining in their emotional gas tanks is anyone’s guess. The Nittany Lions are coming off one of the most draining weeks in program history, the product of a child sex abuse scandal that is not going away any time soon. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have to deal with their crushing loss to Purdue last week, a defeat that effectively ended any chance they had of repeating as Big Ten champions for a record seventh straight year. How does either team pick up the pieces? It will be interesting to see them try, especially since OSU can’t throw the ball and Penn State struggles to put points on the board. We’ll go with the Buckeyes, but only because it’s Senior Day … Ohio State 22, Penn State 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Oklahoma State at Iowa State (+27); LSU (-29½) at Ole Miss; Oklahoma at Baylor (+16); Cal (+18½) at Stanford; SMU at Houston (-19½); Kansas State (+9½) at Texas; Kentucky at Georgia (-29½); Indiana (+28½) at Michigan State; Nebraska (+4) at Michigan; Penn State (+7) at Ohio State.

Enjoy the games and we’ll talk to you next week … from the graveyard.

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2 Comments

  1. Sir, correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the 2003 team won at Penn State 21-20 when McMullen hit Jenkins in the endzone with about a minute left and Penn State missed a 63 yard field goal on the last play of the game. Thanks for reading my email.

    Barry

    • You are correct. McMullen to Jenkins for 5 yards with 1:35 left and PSU kicker David Kimball missed a 60-yarder.


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