What we have learned so far from the first five weeks of the 2012 college football season is that a sometimes-flawed Ohio State team represents the cream of the crop in the supremely-flawed Big Ten.
The Buckeyes and Northwestern are the only remaining undefeated teams in a conference that boasted five teams ranked among the nation’s top 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll. Those rankings are but a distant memory now in a Big Ten that has more problems than a screen door in a hurricane.
No conference team resides in the top 10 of either major poll with the Buckeyes at No. 12 in the AP rankings. OSU is not eligible for the USA Today coaches’ poll, meaning Nebraska is the highest-ranking Big Ten team there at No. 20.
After the first month of the season, eight teams rank 54th or lower nationally in terms of total offense, and six of those are 79th or below. That includes two-time defending conference champion Wisconsin, whose once-vaunted offensive attack now ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 109th nationally.
But the 3-2 Badgers, who were once as high as No. 12 in the preseason polls, aren’t the only conference team with issues. Michigan State is so offensively challenged that the Spartans have scored exactly one touchdown in their two losses this season. And both of those losses – 20-3 to Notre Dame and 17-16 to OSU – have come in home games.
Nebraska is 4-1, but it needed to erase a 17-point third-quarter deficit at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 29 to claim a 30-27 victory. The Cornhuskers’ famed Blackshirts defense is only a middle-of-the-pack unit this season, giving up averages of 20.6 points and 340.8 points per game.
NU is also a decidedly different team away from Lincoln. The team’s only loss this season was a 36-30 defeat at UCLA, and the Huskers were 2-2 on the road last year in their first season as Big Ten members.
Minnesota is also 4-1, but Goldy got exposed in a 31-13 loss at Iowa. The Gophers fell behind 24-0 at halftime to a Hawkeyes team that had been ranked No. 105 in the nation in scoring. Even with its outburst against Minnesota, Iowa moved up only to a tie for 97th.
Michigan has seemingly taken the step back many predicted this season. In fact, the argument could be made that quarterback Denard Robinson has taken a couple of steps backward. Robinson is still U-M’s primary playmaker, but he played extremely poorly against Alabama and Notre Dame, combining to complete only 24 of 50 pass attempts for 338 yards and one touchdown against six interceptions. He did contribute 117 rushing yards in those games but failed to score.
Simply put, if you find a way to stop Robinson, you can beat Michigan.
Northwestern and Purdue are the current dark horse darlings. The Wildcats are 5-0, but they have yet to reach the meat of their schedule. They take on Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State in successive games beginning Oct. 20. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers haven’t even begun conference play yet and already have a half-game lead over the other three eligible teams in the Leaders Division. But they jump into the frying pan Oct. 6 by hosting a rested Michigan team coming off an open week, a game that begins a three-week stretch that includes a home game vs. Wisconsin and a road match at Ohio State.
Illinois appears to be struggling mightily under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, while Indiana is … well, Indiana.
Finally, no one knows how much is left in Penn State’s emotional tank. The Nittany Lions are currently on a three-game winning streak, but their next three games are interesting ones – at home vs. Northwestern on Oct. 6, at Iowa on Oct. 20 and home against Ohio State on Oct. 27. Penn State usually handles the Wildcats pretty well, but it has lost three of its last four to the Hawkeyes and four of its last six to the Buckeyes.
What we have learned about the Big Ten so far? That it has a couple of good teams, a couple of bad ones and several that are very average, so don’t be surprised if the conference sends a team with three losses (or more) to the Rose Bowl.
** This marks only the fourth ever meeting between Ohio State and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers erased a 21-point deficit last year for a 34-27 victory in Memorial Stadium, while the Buckeyes won both of the previous games – 28-20 in the 1955 season opener and 34-7 a year later in that season’s opener. Both of those games were played at Ohio Stadium.
** The game marks the first time in four meetings that both teams will be ranked. The Buckeyes were No. 6 in 1955 and No. 8 in ’56 while the Cornhuskers were ranked 14th last season.
** The game pits a pair of head coaches with a lot of Ohio and Ohio State ties. OSU head coach Urban Meyer is a native of Ashtabula who spent the 1985 and ’86 seasons as an assistant on Earle Bruce’s coaching staff at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who grew up in Youngstown, was recruited by Bruce out of Cardinal Mooney High School to play for the Buckeyes. He was a four-year letterman at OSU from 1987-90 and a two-year starter at safety in 1989 and ’90. Pelini was also a team co-captain during the 1990 season.
** Pelini has coached three times before against his alma mater and he is 3-0. In addition to last year’s victory, Pelini was a graduate assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa in 1991 when the Hawkeyes took a 16-9 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Then, in January 2008 just before taking over at Nebraska, Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers scored a 38-24 win over the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game.
** Meyer has never faced Nebraska, but he has butted heads before with Pelini. From 2005-07 when Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU, Meyer went 1-2 vs. the Tigers while at Florida.
** Meyer has his team off to a 5-0 start for the fifth time in 11 seasons as a head coach. The others were Bowling Green (2002), Utah (2004) and Florida (2006 and ’09). With his 5-0 record, Meyer now has the third-best start to a career by an Ohio State head coach. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 games in 1944 and ’45, while Earle Bruce won his first 11 in a row in 1979.
** Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at Nebraska, putting him into some elite company. The only others to accomplish that feat with the Cornhuskers were Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich. Pelini has a ways to go to equal the record for most nine-win seasons with the Huskers, however. Osborne won nine or more games in each of his 25 years at Nebraska.
** The game features two of the top five winningest programs in college football history. Michigan tops the list with 897 victories followed by Texas with 862 and Notre Dame with 858. Nebraska is fourth with 850 and Ohio State is fifth with 842.
** The Cornhuskers and Buckeyes are the two winningest teams in college football since 1970. Nebraska has 416 victories during that timeframe while Ohio State has 389.
** The contest will mark the 12th night game in Ohio Stadium history. The Buckeyes are 8-3 under the Horseshoe lights including last year’s 33-27 win over Wisconsin.
** Overall, Ohio State is 36-20 in night games since 1959. Nebraska is 81-33-3 all-time under the lights.
** Ohio State is 4-0 at home this season and 70-7 at Ohio Stadium since 2002.
** Nebraska is 0-1 on the road this season and 13-7 in regular-season away contests under Pelini.
** Last year’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State snapped a six-game win streak for the Buckeyes in Big Ten home openers.
** The Cornhuskers are 2-3 in their last five conference road openers. That includes a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin last season in their first season as Big Ten members.
** It is the 91st annual homecoming game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 66-19-5 on homecoming.
** The Buckeyes have an all-time record of 367-131-28 in October. That is a .724 winning percentage. The Cornhuskers are 350-132-19 (.718) during the month.
** Last year’s game between Ohio State and Nebraska was historical not just in terms of the two teams squaring off for the first time as Big Ten opponents. The Cornhuskers erased a 27-6 deficit to take a 34-27, making it the largest comeback in program history. Conversely, the game marked the first time in OSU history the Buckeyes had ever lost a game in which they were ahead by as much as 21 points.
** Don’t expect a shutout by either team. Nebraska has scored in 209 consecutive games while Ohio State has scored in 234 straight contests. The Cornhuskers were last shut out during a 19-0 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 21, 1996. The Buckeyes haven’t been shut out since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993. OSU hasn’t been shut out at home since the 1978 season opener, a 19-0 loss to Penn State.
** The Cornhuskers have scored 30 or more points in each of their first five games for the first time since 1995.
** Something has to give. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and tied for 26th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 17 times – 14 touchdowns and three field goals – in 19 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. Meanwhile, Nebraska is second in the Big Ten and tied for 11th nationally in red zone defense. Opponents have scored only 10 times – five TDs and five field goals – in 16 trips inside the Cornhuskers’ red zone.
** OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown had a career-high 12 receptions last week against Michigan State, tying him for the fourth-best single-game total in program history. David Boston holds the school record with 14 catches at Penn State during a 31-27 OSU loss in 1997. Boston also had a 13-catch game at Indiana in 1996, matching the total Gary Williams had against Florida State in 1981. Others with 12-catch performances are Bob Grimes (1952), Billy Anders (1966) and Brian Stablein (1992).
** Brown’s 12-catch game was the first time an Ohio State receiver cracked double digits since Ted Ginn Jr. had 10 receptions during a 35-7 win over Bowling Green in 2006.
** Brown now has 32 catches this year, a pace that would put him at 77 for the season. That would be the second-best total in school history. Boston has held the single-season mark since 1997 with 85 receptions.
** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s 136 rushing yards vs. Michigan State pushed his career total to 1,292 and vaulted him from 49th to 45th place on Ohio State’s all-time list. He passed Troy Smith (1,168, 2003-06), Derek Combs (1,231, 1997-2000), Champ Henson (1,235, 1972-74), Maurice Clarett (1,237, 2002) and Ricardo Volley (1,252, 1977-79).
** Miller needs only 12 more yards to become the fourth-leading rusher of all time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) holds the record with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75), Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70) and Art Schlichter (1,303, 1978-81).
** Nebraska junior QB Taylor Martinez ranks third on his school’s all-time list of rushing quarterbacks with 2,137 yards, trailing only Eric Crouch (3,434, 1998-2001) and Jammal Lord (2,573, 2000-03). Martinez is also fourth on the NU career passing list with 4,779 yards. Zac Taylor (2005-06) is the all-time leader in that category with 5,850 yards followed by Joe Ganz (5,125, 2006-08) and Dave Humm (5,035, 1972-74).
** NU senior I-back Rex Burkhead has recorded at least one 100-yard rushing game in each of the past four seasons. He has cracked the century mark 12 times during his career, tying him for eighth place on the school’s all-time list in that category. Mike Rozier (1981-83), the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, is Nebraska’s career leader with 23 games with at least 100 yards on the ground.
** Burkhead needs 73 more yards to become only the seventh player in Nebraska history to rush for at 3,000 in a career. Rozier is the NU’s all-time leading rusher with 4,780 yards.
** Nebraska has nine native Ohioans on its roster. Ohio State has no players from Nebraska.
** Members of the 1972 Ohio State team will be recognized during the game to mark the 40th anniversary of a season that celebrated the first of a conference-record six consecutive Big Ten championships or co-titles. LB Randy Gradishar and OT John Hicks were named All-Americans that season, team captains were HB Rick Galbos and DT George Hasenohrl, and the Buckeyes were led by freshman tailback Archie Griffin, who rushed for 867 yards.
** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience featuring the announce crew of Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (color analysis) and Holly Rowe (sideline reports).
** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 113 and XM channel 191. Dial Global Sports (formerly Westwood One) will also broadcast the game.
** Next week, Ohio State is back on the road at Indiana for another nighttime affair. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Eastern with the Big Ten Network handling the telecast.
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
** On Oct. 5, 1940, Michigan star Tom Harmon led his team to a 21-14 victory over Michigan State in Ann Arbor. The win was the Wolverines’ third in a row over the Spartans and was part of a streak that stretched to 10 games before the Spartans won in 1950.
** On Oct. 5, 1957, VMI became the first team in college football history to hold an opponent to negative yardage in the passing department. During a 28-6 victory, the Keydets allowed Richmond to complete only two passes for a net loss of 16 yards. VMI went on to post a 9-0-1 record and capture the Southern Conference championship that season.
** On Oct. 5, 1968, Arkansas running back Bill Burnett scored a touchdown to help the Razorbacks to a 17-7 win over TCU. It was the first of 23 consecutive games in which Burnett scored, an NCAA record that stood for 32 years.
** On Oct. 5, 1991, Fresno State kicker Derek Mahoney tied the NCAA record for most PATs in a game when he went 13 for 13 as the Bulldogs rolled to a 94-17 win over New Mexico.
** On Oct. 6, 1956, Penn snapped a 19-game home losing streak with a 14-7 win over Dartmouth. It was the Quakers’ first official Ivy League game, while Dartmouth’s lone touchdown came from quarterback Mike Brown, the same Mike Brown who is now owner of the Cincinnati Bengals.
** On Oct. 6, 1980, Northern Illinois tailback Stacey Robinson rushed for a school-record 308 yards during his team’s 73-18 romp over No. 24 Fresno State. Included in Robinson’s performance was an NCAA-record 287 yards in the first half – 114 in the first quarter and 173 more in the second period.
** On Oct. 7, 1967, Tulsa wide receivers Ricky Eber and Harry Wood became the only receiving duo in NCAA history to record 300-yard performances in the same game. During the Golden Hurricane’s 58-0 romp over Idaho State, Eber had 20 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns while Wood hauled in 13 balls for 318 yards and three scores. The totals remain the top two single-game outputs in school history, and the combined 640 yards remains an NCAA record for teammates in a game.
** On Oct. 7, 1995, Texas Tech scored a 14-7 upset over eighth-ranked Texas A&M in Lubbock. The Aggies entered the contest with a 29-game Southwest Conference unbeaten streak, but Tech linebacker Zach Thomas returned an interception 23 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
** Also on Oct. 7, 1995, fifth-ranked Ohio State squeezed out a 28-25 decision over No. 12 Penn State in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions grabbed an early 10-0 lead behind the first of three touchdown runs by fullback Jon Witman, but OSU rallied behind quarterback Bobby Hoying, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, who scored the winning touchdown with 1:42 to play. Hoying’s performance represents the fourth highest single-game passing total in Ohio State history.
** On Oct. 7, 1996, College Football Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade died in Durham, N.C., at the age of 94. Wade was head coach at Alabama in 1925 when the Crimson Tide became the first Southern school invited to the Rose Bowl. A guard for Brown during his playing days, Wade became the first man ever to play and coach in a Rose Bowl. His Brown team lost to Washington State, 14-0, in the 1916 game, but his Alabama squad took a 20-19 thriller over Washington a decade later. Wade later coached at Duke – the football stadium there bears his name – and led the Blue Devils to their only Rose Bowl appearance, a 20-16 loss to Oregon State in the 1942 game.
** On Oct. 7, 2000, No. 7 Miami (Fla.) upset top-ranked Florida State, 27-24, when Seminoles kicker Matt Munyon’s last-second field goal attempt from 49 yards sailed wide right.
** On Oct. 8, 1949, Brown set a college football record with 11 interceptions during a 46-0 win over Rhode Island. Bears defensive back Walt Pastuszak grabbed five of the picks, another NCAA single-game record.
** On Oct. 8, 1966, Wyoming kicker Jerry DePoyster made NCAA history during his team’s 40-7 victory over Utah. DePoyster connected on field goals of 54, 54 and 52 yards and became the first kicker in NCAA history with three field goal of 50 yards or more in a single game. The Cowboys went to a 10-1 season in ’66 that included a WAC championship and Sun Bowl victory over Florida State.
** On Oct. 8, 1977, seventh-ranked Alabama squeezed out a 21-20 victory over No. 1 USC when the Trojans scored a touchdown with 38 seconds remaining but their subsequent two-point conversion try failed.
** On Oct. 9, 1943, Indiana quarterback Bob Hoernschemeyer set an NCAA record for touchdown passes in a game by a freshman when he threw six as the Hoosiers took a 54-13 win over Nebraska in Bloomington.
** On Oct. 9, 1976, USC tailback Ricky Bell set new Pac-8 single-game records by rushing 51 times for 346 yards as the Trojans took a 23-14 win over Washington State. It was the first college football game staged at Seattle’s then-new Kingdome.
** On Oct. 9, 1999, Michigan and Michigan State entered their instate rivalry with undefeated records for the first time in nearly 20 years and those in attendance at East Lansing got their money’s worth. The Spartans stormed out to an early lead before U-M head coach Lloyd Carr replaced starting quarterback Drew Henson with backup Tom Brady. Brady went on to complete 30 of 41 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but his rally fell just short as the Spartans held on for a 34-31 victory.
** On Oct. 9, 2004, California QB Aaron Rodgers established a new NCAA record for consecutive completions. Rodgers completed his first three attempts against USC to run his streak to a record 26 completions in a row. Unfortunately, that was all Cal had to celebrate that day. The seventh-ranked Bears dropped a 23-17 decision to the No. 1 Trojans.
** On Oct. 10, 1936, trumpet player John Brungart became the first member of the Ohio State Marching Band to dot the “i” in Script Ohio.
** On Oct. 10, 1987,Oklahoma State took a 42-17 victory over Colorado to open its season with five straight wins for the first time since 1945. Leading the way for the Cowboys was a pair of fairly decent running backs – Thurman Thomas rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown while Barry Sanders added a score on a 73-yard punt return.
** On Oct. 11, 1975, Division II schools Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Davidson (N.C.) College combined to set an NCAA single-game rushing record as the Bears topped the Wildcats, 69-14. Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for an amazing 837 yards while Davidson added 202, establishing a new NCAA record with 1,039 combined rushing yards on 111 attempts.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams has dwindled to 23. Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and UTSA are all 5-0, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia sport 4-0 records, and Cincinnati and Oregon State are 3-0.
** Perhaps the most unusual school among the remaining unbeatens is UTSA, aka the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Roadrunners are only in their second season of existence, going 4-6 last season playing as an independent at the Football Championship Subdivision level. This year, UTSA moved up to FBS as a member of the WAC and the school is already one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not a bad comeback for head coach Larry Coker, who was dumped by Miami (Fla.) in 2006 and out of the game until UTSA hired him in March 2009.
** TCU pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 games with a 24-16 win over old Southwest Conference rival SMU. Meanwhile, Tulane got rolled by Louisiana-Monroe to the tune of a 63-10 final and the nation’s longest losing streak moved to 14. The Green Wave is now 0-4 this season and has been outscored by a 171-32 margin.
** How crazy was West Virginia’s 70-63 victory over Baylor? Well, for starters, Baylor QB Nick Florence threw for a school-record 581 yards and that was 85 yards fewer than his opponent. Mountaineers QB Geno Smith didn’t exactly win the Heisman Trophy last week because his team has a brutal schedule upcoming that features Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma one right after the other. But Smith certainly earned a free trip to New York and the Heisman ceremony in December by completing 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith leads the nation in pass efficiency and his four-game stats are off the charts: 141 of 169 (83.4 percent) for 1,728 yards, 20 TDs and no interceptions.
** More on the West Virginia-Baylor game: The teams tied the FBS record for most touchdowns in a game with 19 and set a record for most points scored in a game involving a ranked team. The previous mark was set in 1980 when No. 12 Oklahoma rolled to an 82-42 win over Colorado. West Virginia totaled a school-record 807 yards, the teams combined for 1,507 yards of offense and six receivers had at least 100 yards each. Baylor WR Terrance Williams set a Big 12 record with 314 yards, breaking the record of 303 that was set just a few minutes earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey.
** Smith isn’t the only Big 12 quarterback winging it around these days. The conference features four of the top five QBs in pass efficiency – Smith at No. 1, David Ash of Texas at No. 2, J.W. Walsh of Oklahoma State at No. 4 and Casey Pachall of TCU at No. 5.
** The only non-Big 12 quarterback among the nation’s top five in pass efficiency is Aaron Murray of Georgia. Murray, who has thrown for 1,370 yards and 12 TDs, plays in the same backfield as the freshman tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The duo combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns during last week’s 51-44 win over Tennessee. Gurley ran for a 51-yard touchdown while Marshall added scoring runs of 72 and 72 yards.
** While Smith was smashing the old Big 12 single-game passing record, Stephen Morris of Miami (Fla.) established a new ACC mark with 566 yards during the Hurricanes’ 44-37 win over North Carolina State. Morris’ performance included a 62-yard game-winner to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining.
** Another record-setting performance was turned in by the Northwestern offense, which set a new school mark with 704 total yards during last Saturday’s 44-29 win over Indiana. The Wildcats are currently employing a two-quarterback system – junior Kain Colter is the running part of the equation while sophomore Trevor Siemian handles most of the passing. Against the Hoosiers, Colter ran for 161 yards and four TDs while Siemian completed 22 of 32 passes for 308 yards. Nine of those completions went to Colter for 131 yards.
** By the way, Northwestern is 5-0 for the third time in the last five seasons, but the Wildcats haven’t started 6-0 since 1962 when Ara Parseghian was head coach.
** How good is defending national champion Alabama? The Crimson Tide trailed in a game for the first time since last October when Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter of last week’s game. That lead lasted exactly 15 seconds before Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The Tide went on to post a comfortable 33-14 victory.
** How bad is Arkansas? Texas A&M redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel torched the Razorbacks for 453 yards and three TDs during the Aggies’ 58-10 win. It was the most points ever scored by A&M in 70 all-time meetings with the Hogs.
** Texas Tech defensive coordinator Art Kaufman might be on a lot of short lists when head coaching vacancies come up this winter. Last year, the Red Raiders ranked 114th nationally in total defense. So far this year under Kaufman, the Double-T defense holds the No. 1 ranking, allowing only 167.5 yards per game.
** Congratulations to Utah State for its first 4-1 start since 1978. The Aggies are looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 1973, but to do that they would have to beat BYU tonight in Provo. Utah State has lost 11 of its last 12 against the Cougars and 16 in a row in Provo.
Someone mentioned to us not too long ago how much easier it was to pick college football winners than trying to bet against the spread. Our reply: No kidding.
After a couple of outstanding years beating the odds, the chickens have come home to roost. Straight up, we were a sparkling 9-1 last week, missing only one of our Upset Specials when Oklahoma State ran out of gas against Texas. Against the spread, we were the ones running on empty at 3-7.
For the season, we are 42-8 straight up, but a dismal 22-28 ATS. Once again, we’ll see what we can do about turning things around.
Here are the games we’ll be watching this weekend.
Buffalo at Ohio: The Bobcats are off to their best start since 1968 when they won all 10 of their regular-season games before losing a 49-42 decision to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl. Their latest hurdle is Buffalo, which is only 1-3 but sets up to give OU a battle. The game will likely come to a war in the trenches between the Bulls’ running game (203.5 yards per game, 32nd nationally) against the Bobcats’ rush defense (94.0 yards per game, 16th nationally). If the Fighting Soliches can stop the run, it will force the Bulls’ vertically challenged passing game to try and win the game. Ohio owns a slight 11-8 advantage in the all-time series, but the Bobcats have won seven of the last eight played in Athens … Ohio 26, Buffalo 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN GamePlan)
Kansas at No. 7 Kansas State: On paper, this looks like a mismatch. After going into Norman and taking a 24-19 win over then No. 6 Oklahoma, the Wildcats have had an extra week to prepare for the Jayhawks, who are trying to avoid their worst start since 1990. Kansas is also coming off an open week, but its last game featured a 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois, a game in which Charlie Weis’ team surrendered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. K-State has won 12 straight home games against unranked opposition and the Jayhawks have lost 14 in a row on the road. Mismatch indeed … Kansas State 42, Kansas 10. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)
No. 4 LSU at No. 10 Florida: It’s only week six of the season, but this game will likely eliminate one of the SEC’s national championship contenders. LSU has remained undefeated despite all of its talent drain through suspensions, academic problems and injuries and the fact that it commits turnovers and penalties by the truckload. Meanwhile, the Gators have overachieved a bit with a resurgent offense that averages nearly 225 yards rushing per game. The Tigers haven’t exactly been spectacular lately, and head coach Les Miles is only 1-2 lifetime at The Swamp. But LSU still has a ferocious defense that is expected to bring constant pressure on Florida QB Jeff Demps. The Gators want revenge for last year’s 41-11 blowout loss. We just don’t expect them to get it … LSU 20, Florida 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Michigan at Purdue: The Boilermakers have yet to make their Big Ten season debut and already hold a half-game lead over every other team in the Leaders Division eligible for the conference title game. Petey can make a huge step toward a trip to Indianapolis this week if it can figure out a way to stop Michigan’s run game. A year ago, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 170 yards and two scores as the Wolverines rolled up 339 yards on the ground en route to a 36-14 win in Ann Arbor. Purdue has boilered up its rush defense so far this season, ranking fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally by allowing only 106.5 yards per game. But there is that small matter of the Boilermakers’ 14-43 record in the series, although they have split the last six meetings in West Lafayette. The Wolverines’ extra week of preparation gives them the edge … Michigan 31, Purdue 21. (4 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)
No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina: Here is another heavyweight bout between undefeated teams with control of the SEC East at stake. Two of the nation’s top running backs will be featured – UGA freshman Todd Gurley (536 yards, nine TDs) and Gamecocks junior Marcus Lattimore (440 yards, eight TDs) – and both teams average better than 36 points per game. South Carolina has the better defense, however, ranking sixth nationally in scoring and seventh against the run. Add that to the fact Georgia’s top receiver Michael Bennett tore his ACL on Tuesday and is out for the season, and the Gamecocks would appear to have the edge. But there is history to be considered. The Bulldogs have lost two in a row in the series and have never dropped three in a row since the rivalry began in 1894. Meanwhile, South Carolina is working on a school record-tying nine straight victories overall. Who are we to mess with history? … Georgia 24, South Carolina 23. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)
No. 8 West Virginia at 11 Texas: Defense takes a back seat in this matchup featuring the nation’s top two rated passers. Geno Smith of West Virginia and David Ash of Texas have put up arena league numbers so far, combining to throw for 2,735 yards and 30 TDs while pitching only one interception in 278 attempts. For the Mountaineers, Smith is pretty much the whole show while Ash gets plenty of help from a running game that averages 228.0 yards per game. Defensively, the Longhorns have the edge even though they have allowed 67 points and 975 yards in their last two games. Over the same stretch, West Virginia has given up 84 points and 1,005 yards. Mr. Scoreboard Operator, make sure you’re rested for this one … Texas 52, West Virginia 49. (7 p.m. ET, FOX)
Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame: Both of these teams can take a huge step toward reclaiming elite status as they square off at Soldier Field tomorrow night. The resumption of the series once known as “Convicts vs. Catholics” – they haven’t played a regular-season game since 1990 – will feature a potent Miami offense led by QB Stephen Morris (1,635 yards, nine TDs) vs. a smothering Fighting Irish defense that ranks No. 3 in the nation in scoring. Notre Dame has allowed an average of only 9.0 points per game and is the only remaining FBS school that has yet to trail in a game this season. The Hurricanes are the exact opposite – they can’t stop anyone, ranking 114th in total defense … Notre Dame 31, Miami 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
No. 3 Florida State at North Carolina State: Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon has waited a year to get his revenge on the Seminoles. Last year, Glennon threw for only 130 yards, got sacked four times and was intercepted twice as FSU ran away with a 34-0 shutout. This year, Glennon has upped his game, throwing for 1,422 yards and 10 TDs. But he has also pitched six interceptions in five games, and he will be going against a Florida State defense that ranks in the top seven nationally in every major category. Add two of the nation’s best rushers in DEs Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner, who already have 13½ sacks between them, and you get the picture of Glennon running for his life … Florida State 41, N.C. State 14. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)
No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon: The Huskies have had nine days to savor their 17-13 win over then-No. 8 Stanford, but they jump squarely from the frying pan into the fire. U-Dub has hung with the Ducks each of the past two seasons, but Oregon still pulled away for big victories – 53-16 in 2010 and 34-17 last year. The Quack Attack is nearly unstoppable in Eugene with 27 wins in its last 28 home games. Autzen Stadium has also been a house of horrors for Washington. The Huskies haven’t won there since 2002, dropping their last five games at Oregon by a combined margin of 207-67. U-Dub is getting better under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but its not quite on par with the Ducks just yet … Oregon 39, Washington 23. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)
No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State: These two teams seem to be mirror images of one another. Both have mobile quarterbacks, both have more-than-adequate running backs and both have defenses which have been known to give up large chunks of yardage. We just keep going back to last year’s game, however, when the Buckeyes were on cruise control with a 27-6 lead at the 10:53 mark of the third quarter and let it slip away. Of course, the outcome would likely have been different had Braxton Miller not gone out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter and Miller’s health should have a similar impact this year. Under the lights at home with a raucous Ohio Stadium crowd behind him – not to mention Urban Meyer pushing the right buttons – we expect the sophomore QB to do his thing and get it done … Ohio State 38, Nebraska 34. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Here are the spreads for the above games: Buffalo (+16½) at Ohio; Kansas at Kansas State (-23½) ; LSU (-2½) at Florida; Michigan (-3) at Purdue; Georgia (+1½) at South Carolina; West Virginia (+7) at Texas; Miami-FL vs. Notre Dame (-9½); Florida State (-13½) at N.C. State; Washington (+24½) at Oregon; Nebraska at Ohio State (-3½).
Enjoy the games and we’ll visit again next week.
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