Flawed Buckeyes Cream Of Flawed Big Ten Crop So Far

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.

OSU-NEBRASKA TIDBITS

** 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.

FEARLESS FORECAST

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.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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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Reality Intruding Upon Buckeye Nation’s Perception

To say the honeymoon between Urban Meyer and Ohio State fans is over would not be totally accurate. But the newlyweds are slowly coming to the realization that life isn’t one big party.

If you listened closely enough to the 105,019 packed into Ohio Stadium last Saturday afternoon for the final game of a rather nondescript nonconference schedule, you could make a smattering of boos from the scarlet and gray faithful. And the patrons who weren’t voicing their displeasure mostly just shuffled in their seats, uneasy at the disjointed product the Buckeyes have displayed so far this season.

Fans began eagerly looking forward to the 2012 season late last November when Meyer was announced as head coach of the Buckeyes. They looked at a guy who produced winners at Bowling Green and Utah as well as a couple of national titles at Florida, added the tradition of Ohio State, and somewhat naturally extrapolated copious amounts of easy victories and a multitude of scarlet and gray championships.

Of course, fans are a fickle lot. Yesterday’s hero is today’s scapegoat, and if you listen to what passes for sports talk radio in Columbus, you will hear enough headache-inducing comments to make you want to crash your car into the nearest telephone pole.

One caller wanted to know what happened to the wide-open spread offense he had been promised. Another said the duties of being defensive coordinator were far beyond Luke Fickell’s capabilities. One misguided soul even offered the opinion that the team would be better served with Kenny Guiton as the starting quarterback.

Perhaps it would be worth noting (again) that Meyer inherited a team that went 6-7 last season, is fighting through a spate of injuries and is counting on regular contributions from more than a dozen first- and second-year players.

Perhaps it would also be worth noting that while Meyer is viewed as somewhat of a miracle worker, his super powers are not limitless. Only once before in his previous 10 seasons as a head coach has he produced an undefeated team. (That was Utah in 2004.) Moreover, while his first seasons at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida represented improvements over the previous year, the bar for excellence wasn’t set very high.

The year before Meyer’s arrival, BG was 2-9, Utah was 5-6 and Florida was 7-5. The coach obviously turned each of those programs around, but he lost at least two games during his first season at all three schools.

Still, after you get used to winning – and winning a lot – you have a tendency to take all of that winning for granted. It happened to Ohio State fans toward the end of the Jim Tressel era and perhaps it happened to Meyer as he assumed his self-described dream job.

Tradition, national championship banners, Big Ten trophies and a stadium listed on the National Register of Historic Places – those are effective recruiting tools for both prospective players and coaches. When you come to Ohio State, you are expected to continue that tradition and win football games. Unfortunately, that expectation sometimes morphs into victory as a foregone conclusion. And if last year’s 6-7 finish wasn’t enough of a shock to the system, perhaps the string of mediocre performances to start this season is serve as a needed dose of stark reality.

No one except for the most myopic of Buckeye fans is thrilled about this team’s 4-0 start. Yes, Ohio State is one of only 26 remaining undefeated teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, but that record has been achieved against nonconference opponents now showing a combined record of 5-9.

Meyer’s power spread offense has been a work in progress from day one with certain pieces of the attack functioning well at times and not so well at others. Ohio State has rushed for 917 yards in four games and thrown for 791, but much of that production has been generated by just one player – Braxton Miller, who has run for 441 yards and thrown for 754. You need only look at what has happened to a certain team up north to realize what happens when you rest your entire team’s fortunes on the shoulders of just one player.

And then there is the defense. What was supposed to be a team strength is quickly becoming a liability. There are no records kept for missed tackles, but Ohio State would probably be near the top of the nation in that category. In the first quarter against UAB, I counted at least six missed tackles by the Buckeyes that accounted for an extra 29 yards worth of gain for the Blazers. I counted four more early in the second quarter for 30 yards before giving up.

Through four games, the Ohio State defense is giving up an average of 394.8 yards per game. That number hasn’t been that bad since week five of the 1988 season when after Indiana finished administering a 41-7 spanking of the Buckeyes, the defense was giving up an average of 396.6 yards per game. By the time that season had ended, the average had dipped slightly to 300.0, but John Cooper’s first team still wound up with a 4-6-1 record.

And what makes anyone believe things will get better this year? The Buckeyes’ next four opponents – Michigan State, Nebraska, Indiana and Purdue – each average better than 400 yards of total offense per game. The Cornhuskers and Hoosiers are currently averaging north of 500.

Then, of course, there are the special teams. Ohio State got a punt blocked against UAB that the Blazers returned for a touchdown. To put that into some kind of context, UAB had not returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since 2003. And then to pour salt into the wound, the Blazers caught the Buckeyes napping and recovered an onside kick to start the second half.

After the UAB game, when Meyer was asked which areas of his team concerned him the most, the coach indicated an all-of-the-above answer.

“Defense, offense and kicking game,” he replied. “We have to be better in all three phases. … This is not a finely-tuned machine. It hasn’t been for awhile, especially on both sides of the ball.”

Exceedingly more candid than his predecessor, Meyer admitted, “It’s not as easy as …” before thinking better of finishing his thought aloud. Woody Hayes is the one who said, “Nothing worth a damn is easy,” and Meyer obviously realizes the old coach knew what he was talking about.

But when a coach deems his offense’s explosiveness as “obviously nonexistent for much of the game,” his defense as “painful to watch,” special teams breakdowns as “nonsense,” and his overall team mentality as “passive,” you know the kettle is about to boil.

OSU-MICHIGAN STATE TIDBITS

** This will be the 41st meeting between Ohio State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes hold a 27-13 advantage in the overall series. The Spartans broke a seven-game losing streak in the series with last year’s 10-7 win in Ohio Stadium, but the Buckeyes have still won 12 of the last 15 meetings. OSU is 15-5 against MSU in East Lansing, including a 45-7 romp the last time the Buckeyes visited Spartan Stadium. Ohio State hasn’t lost in East Lansing since a 23-7 decision in 1999.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer gets his first shot at the Spartans. The last five OSU head coaches have experienced mixed results in their first game against Michigan State. Earle Bruce and Jim Tressel each beat the Spartans in their initial meeting, while Woody Hayes, John Cooper and Luke Fickell all lost.

** Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is 1-4 lifetime against the Buckeyes. Last year’s victory broke a streak that included losses in 2004 and 2006 while at Cincinnati in addition to defeats as in 2007 and 2008 with the Spartans. Dantonio, of course, was defensive coordinator on Tressel’s OSU staff from 2001-03 and won the Frank Broyles Award in 2002 as college football’s top assistant coach.

** Dantonio is 47-23 in his five-plus seasons with the Spartans, including a 31-7 mark at home. Michigan State’s 20-3 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 15 snapped a 15-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest in school history.

** Meyer has his team off to a 4-0 start for the eighth time in 11 seasons as a head coach. Four of his teams – Bowling Green (2002), Utah (2004) and Florida (2006 and ’09) – started with five straight wins.

** With his 4-0 start, Meyer is tied for 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. Others to start 4-0 were Perry Hale (1902), E.R. Sweetland (1904) and Howard Jones (1910).

** Ohio State is entering its 100th season as a Big Ten member and the Buckeyes sport a 71-24-4 record in conference openers. OSU has won 10 of its last 12 league openers.

** Michigan State is entering its 60th season of Big Ten competition with a 32-23-4 record in league openers. The Spartans are 7-3 in conference openers since 2002.

** The Buckeyes are 4-1 in Big Ten openers vs. Michigan State, including 1-0 at Spartan Stadium. That victory was a 21-0 decision in 1975. Tailback Archie Griffin rushed for 108 yards in that game, fullback Pete Johnson scored two touchdowns and defensive halfback Craig Cassady tied the school’s single-game record by nabbing three interceptions.

** Over the last four seasons, Ohio State and Michigan State have each won 24 conference games, more than any other team.

** Since 1913, OSU head coaches are 6-5-1 in their Big Ten debuts, including 2-2-1 on the road. John W. Wilce’s team lost a 7-6 decision to Indiana in 1913, the Buckeyes’ inaugural season as Western Conference members. Sam Willaman won his conference debut with a 7-6 win over Iowa in 1929, and Francis Schmidt’s team gave him a 33-0 victory over Indiana in the 1934 season opener. Paul Brown took over in 1941 and his team eked out a 16-14 win over Purdue in the league opener, and three years later, the 1944 team gave Carroll Widdoes a 34-0 win over Iowa in his Big Ten debut. Three straight coaches then failed to win their first conference game – Paul Bixler, 20-7 at Wisconsin in 1946; Wes Fesler, 24-20 at Purdue in 1947; and Woody Hayes, whose team fought Wisconsin to a 6-6 tie in Madison in 1951. Earle Bruce broke that string with a 21-17 win at Minnesota in 1979 before John Cooper lost his conference debut in 1988, a 31-12 defeat to Illinois. Jim Tressel won his Big Ten debut at Indiana, a 27-14 victory in 2001, and Fickell lost last season to Michigan State.

** This week marks the first time this season that Ohio State has faced a ranked opponent. Michigan is No. 18 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press writers’ poll.

** When Ohio State is the higher ranked team, it has a 22-6 record against Michigan State. When the Spartans enter the game as the higher ranked team, they are 5-0. When neither team is ranked, OSU had a 5-2 edge.

** The Buckeyes are currently on a red-zone roll, having scored on each of their last 12 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and only one field goal. Michigan State’s four opponents have combined for only one touchdown and three field goals in just six trips to the red zone against the Spartans.

** Michigan ranks sixth nationally in total  defense, giving up an average of only 233.5 yards per game, and the Spartans are also No. 11 in scoring defense, surrendering only 11.8 yards per game on average. MSU, however, is a lowly 102nd in scoring offense, averaging only 21.0 points per game. That is 11th in the Big Ten, better only than Iowa (20.5 points per game).

** Ohio State will be playing its first game this season on natural grass. The Buckeyes were 0-3 on grass fields last season – at Miami (Fla.), Purdue and the Gator Bowl – and they haven’t won on a natural surface since a 26-17 win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

** The Ohio State defense would do well to keep Michigan State under 24 points in the game. Since 1990, the Spartans are 125-33-1 when scoring 24 or more. When they are held to fewer than 24 points, their record is 21-89-1.

** When the Buckeyes failed to break the 30-point barrier last week against UAB, they fell short of becoming only the eighth team in program history to score 30 or more points in each of their first four games. The Buckeyes topped the 30-point mark in each of their first four games in 1904, 1917, 1919, 1926, 1969, 1998 and 2010. The 1969 team holds the school record by scoring 30 or more points in each of its first eight games that season.

** OSU senior tailback Jordan Hall enjoyed the first-ever 100-yard game of his career last weekend, rushing for 105 yards on 17 carries vs. UAB. It marked the first time an Ohio State tailback had cracked the century mark since Dan “Boom” Herron rushed for 141 yards during a 34-20 win over Indiana in week nine of last season.

** The Spartans have 28 Ohio players on their roster while Ohio State has only two players from Michigan – defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and offensive tackle Reid Fragel.

** Dantonio’s coaching staff features plenty of assistants who have ties to Ohio State. Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem’s older brother, Tim, was quarterbacks coach at OSU from 1997-2000. Linebackers and special teams coach Mike Tressel is the son of former Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel and nephew of former head coach Jim Tressel. Offensive line coach Mark Staten was a graduate assistant at OSU in 2002 and ’03. Michigan State strength coach Ken Mannie was a graduate assistant on Earle Bruce’s OSU staff in 1984, MSU director of personnel/player development and relations Dino Folino began his coaching career as a GA for Woody Hayes in 1974 and ’75, and the Spartans’ head trainer Jeff Monroe spent four years as a student trainer for the Buckeyes from 1969-72.

** Michigan State tailback Le’Veon Bell is currently the nation’s third-leading rusher, and he enters the game averaging 152.5 yards per outing. He will be trying to become the first MSU player to crack the century mark against Ohio State since 1988. That year, Hyland Hickson rushed for 187 yards and Blake Ezor added 147 as Michigan State piled 372 yards on the ground during a 20-10 victory over the Buckeyes in Spartan Stadium. Bell ran for 50 yards on 14 carries during last year’s 10-7 victory for the Spartans in Columbus.

** Bell currently occupies 15th place on Michigan State’s all-time rushing list with 2,163 yards. He needs 233 more to pass Jahuu Caulcrick (2,395, 2004-07) and break into the school’s top 10. Lorenzo White (1984-87) is the Spartans’ all-time leading rusher with 4,887 yards.

** Bell is already in the MSU career top 10 in rushing touchdowns, tied with Tico Duckett (1989-92) with 26. White holds the school record with 43.

** Kickoff this week is set for approximately 3:36 p.m. Eastern. ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience featuring our old friend Brent Musberger with the play-by-play, former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit with color analysis and Heather Cox filing sideline reports.

** ESPN College Gameday will also be at the game, marking the 30th time the Buckeyes have been one of the featured teams at a Gameday site. OSU in 19-10 when the Gameday crew is in attendance – 10-3 at home, 6-5 on the road and 3-2 at neutral sites – but only 9-9 in its last 18 appearances. Michigan State is 2-3 when Gameday visits East Lansing.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 and XM channel 85. Dial Global Sports (formerly Westwood One) will also broadcast the game.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to host Nebraska in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Eastern with ABC handling the telecast via its reverse mirror effect. That means if the game is not on your local ABC station, it will be on ESPN2 and vice versa.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Sept. 28, 1968, Oregon State running back Bill “Earthquake” Enyart established school records by rushing 50 times for 299 yards during his team’s 24-21 win over Utah in Salt Lake City.

** On Sept. 28, 2002, No. 19 Iowa State rolled to a 36-14 win over No. 20 Nebraska in Ames. It marked the largest victory for the Cyclones over the Cornhuskers since 1899. ISU quarterback Seneca Wallace threw for 220 yards and a touchdown and added 50 yards and two more scores rushing. The loss knocked Nebraska out of the Association Press top 25 for the first time in 21 years, ending a streak of 348 consecutive weeks in the rankings.

** On Sept. 29, 1984, Western Michigan kicker Mike Prindle was a busy man during his team’s 42-7 win over Marshall. Prindle became the first player in NCAA history to attempt nine field goals in a single game, and he connected for a record seven of those three-pointers. He added three PATs to give him 24 points, another NCAA single-game record for a kicker.

** On Sept. 29, 2001, No. 18 Northwestern took a wild 27-26 victory over No. 24 Michigan State in Evanston. MSU wide receiver Charles Rogers gave his team a 20-17 lead on a 64-yard punt return with 4:42 to play before Northwestern QB Zac Kustok rallied the Wildcats with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kunle Patrick to make it 24-20 with 29 seconds remaining. However, Herb Haygood returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown to retake the lead for the Spartans at 26-24. NU blocked the extra point and then with 18 seconds left, Kustok completed a 54-yard pass to get his team within field-goal range and kicker David Wasielewski did the rest. His 47-yarder as time expired gave the Wildcats the victory.

** Also on Sept. 29, 2001, New Mexico State posted a rare shutout, going on the road to tally a 31-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. How rare was the shutout? It was the first for the Aggies in 27 seasons, a span of 283 games which established an NCAA record for most consecutive games without a shutout.

** On Sept. 30, 1939, Fordham and Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania played in the first televised college football game, a contest seen by an estimated 500 viewers in the New York City area. Bill Stern called the play-by-play for W2XBS (now WNBC-TV) while a young Mel Allen did pregame interviews. Few television sets could receive the signal, so many of the viewers saw the telecast at the nearby New York World’s Fair.

** On Sept. 30, 1944, North Carolina State set an NCAA record for the fewest yards ever gained by a winning team. During their 13-0 win over Virginia, the Wolfpack totaled only 10 yards of offense and had no first downs.

** On Oct. 1, 1955, the sideline star power was plentiful as sixth-ranked Army rolled to a 35-6 win over No. 18 Penn State at West Point. The Black Knights were coached by Earl “Red” Blaik while the Nittany Lions were led by head coach Charles “Rip” Engle and assistant Joe Paterno. All three are in the College Football Hall of Fame, as is Army quarterback Don Holleder who led his team to the victory. Nearly 12 years to the day later, Holleder was an infantry major in the Army serving in Vietnam when he attempted to rescue a group of his fellow soldiers who had been ambushed. Holleder battled sniper fire to land his helicopter in a clearing, and while he was leading the evacuation he was struck by enemy fire and killed. He received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge posthumously and was later laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

** On Oct. 2, 1943, Purdue committed 11 turnovers in a game – and still won. Somehow, the Boilermakers lost nine fumbles and pitched two interceptions and still managed a 40-21 victory over Illinois. The performance set an NCAA record for most turnovers by a winning team.

** On Oct 2, 1993, Alabama matched its own school and Southeastern Conference records for consecutive victories when the Crimson Tide scored a 17-6 victory at South Carolina to mark their 28th win in a row. The mark tied the previous school and conference marks set between 1978 and 1980 when the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant was patrolling the ’Bama sideline.

** On Oct. 3, 1992, third-ranked Florida State lost a 19-16 decision to No. 2 Miami (Fla.) when a last-minute field goal drifted wide right. Hurricanes QB Gino Torretta hit receiver Lamar Thomas to put Miami ahead, 17-16, with 6:50 to play. After a safety on special teams pushed it to a three-point game, the Seminoles drove deep into Miami territory before FSU kicker Dan Mowery pushed his 39-yard field goal attempt wide of the right upright on the final play.

** On Oct. 3, 1936, John Heisman, the legendary college coach and namesake of the Heisman Trophy, died at the age of 66. Born Oct. 23, 1869, in Cleveland, John William Heisman is credited with several innovations including invention of the center snap, dividing the game into quarters rather than halves, and leading the movement to legalize the forward pass. Heisman played at Brown (1887-89) and Penn (1890-91), and began his coaching career at Oberlin in 1892. He also coached at Akron, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Penn, Washington & Jefferson and Rice, and compiled a career record of 185-70-17. Heisman was preparing to write a history of college football when he died in New York City. Three days later he was taken by train to his wife’s hometown of Rhinelander, Wis., where he was buried at the city-owned Forest Home Cemetery. Two months later, the Downtown Athletic Club in New York renamed its college football best player trophy in Heisman’s honor.

** On Oct. 4, 1969, Boston University scored a 13-10 upset at Harvard, ending the Crimson’s 10-game win streak and marking BU’s first-ever victory over Harvard since the matchup began in 1921.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Four more undefeated teams bit the dust last week, and Stanford went down to Washington last night, leaving only 26 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with unblemished records: Alabama, Baylor, Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UTSA and West Virginia.

** TCU pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 11 games with last week’s 27-7 victory against Virginia. Meanwhile, Tulane dropped a 39-0 decision to Ole Miss last Saturday, increasing the nation’s longest losing streak to 13. The Green Wave is 0-3 so far this season and has already been outscored by a 108-22 margin.

** Congratulations to Frank Solich and his Ohio Bobcats. They feasted upon Norfolk State from the Football Championship Subdivision last week, beating the Spartans by a 44-10 final, and pushed their record for the season to 4-0. The Bobcats haven’t started a season with four consecutive wins since 1976. Ohio hasn’t won its first five games in a season since the 1968 team won all 10 of its regular-season contests before losing a 49-42 heartbreaker to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl.

** Congratulations to Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats. K-State went to Oklahoma last Saturday night and dashed the Sooners’ hopes for a national championship run by forcing three turnovers during a 24-19 win. Sixth-ranked Oklahoma was the highest-ranking opponent the Wildcats have ever beaten on the road, and the victory propelled Kansas State into the top 10 in the polls for the first time since 2003.

** Congratulations to Jon Embee and his Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs, 3-10 last year and 0-3 to start this season, suddenly find themselves tied atop the Pac-12 South following last weekend’s 35-34 stunner at Washington State. One week after absorbing a 69-14 pummeling from Fresno State, Colorado erased a 31-14 deficit with 14:47 remaining for the one-point victory. Junior QB Jordan Webb, who threw for 345 yards and two TDs, ran 4 yards for a touchdown with nine seconds left after which sophomore PK Will Oliver delivered the game-winning PAT.

** Finally, congratulations to Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are a top-10 team for the first time since 2006, they’re 4-0 for the first time since 2002, they have given up the fewest amount of points in their first four games since 1975, and they held consecutive ranked opponents (Michigan State and Michigan) to six points or fewer for the first time since 1943. Also, when Notre Dame held both the Spartans and Wolverines without a touchdown, it marked the first time the Irish had done that to their Michigan foes in the same season since 1909.

** Notre Dame’s new agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference has already claimed its first victim. The Fighting Irish has exercised the opt-out clause in its scheduling contract with Michigan, meaning the last scheduled game between college football winningest programs will take place in 2014. The Irish and Wolverines, who have played every season since 2002, were contracted to continue their series at least through 2017. The series dates back to an 8-0 Michigan victory in 1887, and the Wolverines have a 23-16-1 advantage all-time.

** Stanford failed to score an offensive touchdown last night in its 17-13 loss to Washington. The last time the Cardinal offense failed to cross the goal line was during a 23-6 loss at Oregon State on Oct. 27, 2007. How big was the Huskies’ upset? It was their first win over a top-10 team since 2009 and avenged last year’s 65-21 drubbing in Palo Alto.

** For the second week in a row, the Big Ten has no teams among the top 15 of the USA Today coaches’ poll. Last week marked the first time since September 2001 the conference had no team in the top 15 of the coaches’ poll. (Ohio State is 14th in the writers’ poll, but ineligible for the coaches poll because of NCAA sanctions.)

** How bad is the Big Ten? Nine of the 12 teams are ranked 52nd or lower in total offense while eight are 50th or lower in scoring offense.

** Arkansas got a 419-yard passing performance from QB Tyler Wilson and a record-setting receiving day from WR Cobi Hamilton, but the Razorbacks still lost at home, 35-26 to Rutgers. Hamilton had 10 catches in the game for an SEC-record 303 yards and three touchdowns. The Razorbacks are working on their first three-game losing streak since 2008, and they haven’t been 1-3 to start a season since 2005. Arkansas hasn’t lost four of its first five since 1992, its first year in the SEC.

** South Carolina QB Connor Shaw misfired on his first pass attempt last week against Missouri and then completed his last 20 in a row. Shaw finished the game 20 of 21 for 249 yards and two TDs in the Gamecocks’ 31-10 victory. The 20 consecutive completions tied for the second-longest streak in SEC history. Tennessee QB Tee Martin completed 23 in a row – ironically against South Carolina – during the Volunteers’ 1998 national championship season.

** If West Virginia continues to win, it will be difficult to take the Heisman Trophy away from quarterback Geno Smith. The senior is ranked No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency with 96 completions in 118 attempts (81.4 percent), good for 1,072 yards, 12 TDs and no picks. Of course, the Mountaineers are about to find out how good they really are. After kicking off its inaugural Big 12 season this week at home with Baylor, West Virginia plays Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in succession.

** The Mid-American Conference accomplished something last week it hadn’t done since 2003 – beat opponents from three BCS conferences on the same day. Northern Illinois took out Big 12 member Kansas, 30-20, while Central Michigan scored nine points in the final 45 seconds to beat Big Ten member Iowa, 32-31. The MAC also went 2 for 2 against the Big East – Western Michigan scored a 30-24 win over Connecticut, Ball State rallied from a late four-quarter deficit to hand South Florida a 31-27 defeat.

** Old Dominion is leading all FCS teams in scoring with a ridiculous average of 59.0 points per game after four weeks. During last week’s wild 64-61 win over New Hampshire, sophomore QB Taylor Heinicke established a new Division I single-game record when he threw for 730 yards. That performance came one week after he had thrown for seven touchdowns during a 70-14 win over Campbell. In 13 career games for the Monarchs, Heinicke has already thrown for 4,306 yards and 44 TDs.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Something has definitely gone haywire here at World Forecast Headquarters. After riding high for a couple of years, the crystal ball has suddenly formed a couple of cracks. Last week, the straight-up picks were an acceptable 8-2, but we whiffed on our Upset Special thanks to a boatload of Michigan turnovers, and we didn’t foresee Oklahoma’s home loss to Kansas State.

Against the spread, we were just breakeven with five games up and five games down.

That means while we’re at 33-7 SU, we’re still under water ATS at 19-21.

Undaunted, we offer another slate of picks with the hope of turning this thing around.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia: The Mountaineers make their Big 12 debut against a team they have never played. Baylor is without Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, of course, but the Bears still have some offensive firepower with senior QB Nick Florence, who has thrown for more than 300 yards and at least three touchdowns in every game so far this season. Baylor is currently on a nine-game winning streak – one more would equal the school record set in 1936-37 – but the Bears are extremely iffy on defense. And with early Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith (1,072 yards, 12 TDs) at the controls of a high-powered West Virginia attack, Baylor’s streak is in serious jeopardy … West Virginia 34, Baylor 24. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 4 Florida State at South Florida: The Seminoles are rolling along thanks to a potent offense that is averaging 56.3 points per game. But the FSU defense is no slouch despite giving up a lot of points in last Saturday night’s 49-37 shootout win over Clemson. Even with that performance, the Seminoles still rank No. 2 nationally in total defense (184.0 yards per game) and No. 6 in scoring (10.0 points). The Bulls don’t appear to match up very to that kind of production on either side of the ball, and it doesn’t seem possible for a team that lost last week at Ball State could hang with Florida State … Florida State 41, South Florida 17. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 6 South Carolina at Kentucky: Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw completed his final 20 pass attempts last week against Missouri, and this week he faces a team against which he threw for a career-best 311 yards and four TDs last year during a 54-3 rout. Shaw isn’t South Carolina’s only offensive threat, of course, as RB Marcus Lattimore (320 yards, six TDs) continues to rebound from last year’s knee injury. USC’s defense isn’t bad, either – giving up a scant 9.8 points per game ranks No. 5 in the nation in scoring defense. To cut to the chase, the Gamecocks simply have too much firepower for the Wildcats, who average 23.0 points per game on offense but give up 29.0 points and 400.3 yards on defense … South Carolina 34, Kentucky 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 15 TCU at SMU: You might forgive the Horned Frogs for looking past their Dallas neighbors to next week’s Big 12 game against currently unbeaten Iowa State. Then again, TCU probably believes it has something to prove to the Mustangs. SMU bused over to Fort Worth last year and stunned the Frogs, 40-33 in overtime to end TCU’s 22-game home winning streak. If that doesn’t get the attention of the Frogs, nothing will. SMU currently ranks dead last in the nation in both pass defense and total defense, something TCU plans to exploit with QB Casey Pachall (841 yards, eight TDs). Pachall leads the nation in pass efficiency … TCU 37, SMU 6. (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Houston)

No. 12 Texas at OklahomaState: After a couple of lean years, the Longhorns believe they are ready to contend for another Big 12 title this season. Whether they are or not will begin to be determined in Stillwater as they take on the defending conference champion, who have won eight in a row at Boone Pickens Stadium. The truth is we just don’t know about either of these two teams. UT is averaging 49.3 points per game, but has beat up on the likes of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Cowboys started the season with an 84-0 punishing of Savannah State, but then ran into a buzz saw at Arizona while being handed a 59-38 trouncing. Yes, that is the same Arizona team that got crushed 49-0 at Oregon last week. You would have to believe the Pokes will play better at home, but do they have enough defense to keep Texas QB David Ash, who is third in the nation in pass efficiency, and his talented stable of running backs in check? Conversely, can the Longhorns rope an Oklahoma State offense that leads the county with a 62.3-point scoring offense? At the very least, this ought to be fairly entertaining and we’ll go with Upset Special No. 1 … Oklahoma State 42, Texas 38 (7:50 p.m. ET, FOX)

No. 19 Louisville at Southern Miss: This should be a no-brainer. The undefeated Cardinals are off to their best start since 2006 while the winless Golden Eagles are experienced their worst start since 1976 when they lost their first nine. The defending Conference USA champions have crated this year, ranking 113th nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Meanwhile, UL has exciting sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has already thrown for 1,049 yards and seven TDs. The Cardinals have won five straight in the series, and they should make it six relatively easily … Louisville 35, Southern Miss 17. (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network, DirectTV 613)

Wisconsin at No. 22 Nebraska: When the season began, this showdown had a little more buzz. But since the Badgers have struggled mightily on offense and the Cornhuskers were exposed three weeks ago in a 36-30 upset at UCLA. Wisconsin ranks a totally uncharacteristic 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense and 12th in offensive yardage. The Badgers have offensive line problems and star tailback Monteé Ball has been a shadow of his normal self. Ball fumbled for the first time in his career and missed all of the second half in last week’s sloppy 37-26 win over UTEP. The senior tailback has been cleared for this week’s game, but you have to wonder how effective Ball will be after a second concussion in the last couple of months. If he’s not 100 percent, that means the Badgers will be even more offensively challenged against a team that is bent on revenge for last year’s 48-17 rout in Madison … Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 20 (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide have barely broken a sweat in four games so far, and they don’t figure to get much of a challenge from the Rebels. Ole Miss has put some points on the board this year, but against the likes of Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane. The Rebs also tallied 31 against Texas, but gave up 66 in the process. Alabama simply doesn’t let opponents breathe. The Tide has outscored its four opponents by a 168-21 margin, including 127-7 over the past three weeks. They rank in the top 10 in every defensive category as well as No. 2 in both pass defense and pass efficiency and No. 3 in turnover margin. At this point, the only team that seems capable of beating Alabama would be Alabama itself … Alabama 49, Ole Miss 10. (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 2 Oregon vs. Washington State: You would normally expect a lot of fireworks when a couple of offensive gurus – Chip Kelly of Oregon and Mike Leach of Washington State – faced off for the first time ever. Unfortunately for Leach, he doesn’t have the kind of defense that can match up against the Ducks. The Quack Attack is coming off a game in which they were facing another supposed high-octane offense, but they flattened Arizona and pitched a 49-0 shutout – their first whitewash of a Pac-12 opponent since 2003. What home-field advantage the Cougars might have enjoyed gets negated by the fact this game will be played at CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and site of the Monday Night Football debacle that hastened the return of the league’s regular officials. Leach might eventually turn Wazuu into the offensive juggernaut he had at Texas Tech, but he’s not there yet … Oregon 49, Washington State 14. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State: The Buckeyes get their sternest test – by far – this season against the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten. Sparty has yet to surrender more than 20 points in a game this season, and averages allowing only 233.5 yards per contest. Conversely, MSU has a fairly anemic offense outside of RB Le’Veon Bell. The junior tailback is the third-leading rusher in the country with an average of 152.5 yards per game, but that is more than one-third of the Michigan State offense. In simple terms, shut down Bell – as Notre Dame did for the most part during its 20-3 win over the Spartans – and you can beat Michigan State. The Buckeyes’ defensive shortcomings have been well-documented, but if there is one thing OSU can still do and do well, it is defend a no-frills, straight-ahead offensive attack. For that reason, and Braxton Miller’s playmaking ability, you get this week’s Upset Special No. 2 … Ohio State 24, Michigan State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Baylor (+12) at West Virginia; Florida State (-14) at South Florida; South Carolina (-20½) at Kentucky; TCU (-16) at SMU; Texas at Oklahoma State (+2½); Louisville (-9½) at Southern Miss; Wisconsin at Nebraska (-11½); Ole Miss at Alabama (-29); Oregon (-28) vs. Washington State; Ohio State (+2½) at Michigan State.

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

 

Meyer Era About To Get Under Way At OSU

To say Ohio State football fans are giddy with anticipation for a glimpse at the new-look Buckeyes under Urban Meyer would classify as the understatement of the year. From some of the comments I have heard these past few months, university officials might as well get the paperwork started on renaming Ohio Stadium in the new coach’s honor.

What most fans tend to forget, of course, is that Meyer is not only overhauling a team that finished 6-7 last season, he is attempting to change an offensive mind-set that dates back several generations.

Woody Hayes was credited with the program’s three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality, but the truth is that Ohio State has been a run-oriented team for much of its 122-season history. Even during the high-octane seasons of 1998 (when Joe Germaine set the single-season passing record) and 2006 (when Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy), the Buckeyes still ran the ball and ran it a lot – respectively 54.9 and 58.5 percent of the time to be exact.

I am guessing the 2012 edition of the team will also be run-oriented despite the fact most fans think (or hope) quarterback Braxton Miller will be chucking the football all over the lot in Meyer’s attacking style of the spread offense. Unfortunately, while the talented Miller has improved greatly from his freshman season, he remains a bit raw when it comes to the passing game. Meanwhile, the QB continues to learn a complex and entirely new offensive system, and no bona fide go-to receiver upon which he can rely has stepped into the spotlight – at least not yet.

What will set this year’s Ohio State offense apart – and indeed set it apart from last year’s squad and most of the ones in program history – is the mobility of the offensive line. Gone with longtime assistant Jim Bollman to his new assignment at Boston College is the old drop-step-and-retreat mentality. Rather than letting the opponent come to them, OSU linemen are actually being tasked with initiating contact.

Additionally, some of the excess baggage those on the offensive line used to carry around their midsection has disappeared. Meyer apparently favors quality over quantity.

The Buckeyes remain razor-thin in the offensive trenches – two sophomores and three true freshmen are listed as the primary backups – and that likely means just a handful of bumps or bruises could have a devastating effect on the team’s bottom line. But if its health holds up, and highly-rated players perform to anywhere near their potential, the offensive line could be one of the most pleasant surprises of the upcoming season.

I know one thing: Meyer wants to play a fast-paced, attacking style of offense, and that is precisely what he has been concentrating on since taking over the program after the Gator Bowl. I was told last spring by someone who has been in and around the OSU program for several years that the offensive line hasn’t been this mobile since the early 1980s when Art Schlichter was running, throwing and establishing a school record for total offense that’s still on the books.

Want even more reason for optimism? Meyer not only works miracles, he works them right away.

During his first season as a head coach in 2001, Meyer piloted Bowling Green to an 8-3 record. The Falcons had been 2-9 the year before. When the coach got to Utah in 2003, he led the team to a 10-2 finish. The Utes had been 5-6 the year before. And when Meyer rolled into Gainesville, one year after Florida had finished 7-5, he produced a 9-3 record.

One year later, the Gators met top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State in Arizona for the national championship and … well, you know the rest.

Starting tomorrow, we begin to find out if Meyer can work his magic one more time.

OSU-MIAMI TIDBITS

** Ohio State kicks off its 123rd season of intercollegiate football tomorrow against Miami (Ohio). The Buckeyes have won 33 consecutive home openers, not tasting defeat since a 19-0 loss to Penn State in the 1978 season opener.

** OSU head coach Urban Meyer makes his debut this weekend. Meyer is the 24th head football coach in program history. The last time a first-year Ohio State head coach failed to win his opening game with the Buckeyes was Paul Bixler in 1946 when the Buckeyes played Missouri to a 13-13 tie. The only last time someone lost their opening game as OSU head coach was Jack Ryder in 1892.

** The RedHawks are led by second-year coach Don Treadwell, whose team struggled to a 4-8 record last season. Treadwell is not unfamiliar with playing against Ohio State, however. He was on staff at Michigan State from 2000-02 and again from 2007-10 during which time the Spartans posted an 0-3 record against the Buckeyes. Treadwell was also on Mark Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati in 2004 when Ohio State rolled to a 27-6 victory in that season’s opener.

** Meyer returns to coaching after a one-year absence. His 10-year career has produced a record of 104-23, four conference championships and two national titles in previous stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida.

** Meyer is 0-1 lifetime against MU. His Bowling Green team dropped a 24-21 decision to the RedHawks in 2001. For his career, Meyer is 12-5 against Mid-American Conference teams. That includes a 1-1 record against MU. His first Bowling Green team dropped a 24-21 decision to the RedHawks in 2001, and his final Florida team rolled to a 34-12 victory over Miami in the 2010 season opener for both teams.

** Miami is embarking upon its 124th season of intercollegiate football. The RedHawks have enjoyed only one winning season since 2005, and they haven’t won a season opener since 2007 when they took a 14-13 victory in a night game at Ball State. Miami is 79-38-6 all-time in season openers.

** All-time, the Buckeyes are 106-12-4 in season openers. The team’s last opening-game loss came in the 1999 Kickoff Classic, a 23-12 loss to Miami (Fla.) in East Rutherford, N.J.

** In season home openers, OSU is 110-8-4 all-time.

** In case you’re interested, the last living coach to beat Ohio State in a home opener was Darrell Mudra, who led Arizona to a 14-7 victory over the Buckeyes in 1967. Mudra, who had seven stops as a college head coach including preceding Bobby Bowden at Florida State, had the unusual practice of coaching from the pressbox on game day. The 90-year-old Mudra, whose nickname was “Dr. Victory,” had a career record of 200-81-4 and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

** There are plenty of historical connections between Ohio State and Miami. Woody Hayes was head coach of the RedHawks (then known as the Redskins) in 1949 and ’50 before embarking upon a 28-year stay at OSU. Sid Gillman, an All-American end for the Buckeyes in 1932 and team co-captain in ’33, served as Miami’s head coach from 1944-47. Jim Tressel served as an MU assistant coach from 1978-80. And the father of Miami safety D.J. Brown, David, was a four-star defensive backfield starter from the Buckeyes from 1986-89.

** Also, Paul Brown – a 1930 Miami grad – became OSU head coach in 1941 and led the Buckeyes to their first national championship in 1942. Brown’s statue will be unveiled in Miami’s Cradle of Coaches Plaza on Sept. 22.

** Brown, Gillman and former OSU basketball coach Randy Ayers are members of Miami’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Ayers was a two-time all-conference performer and four-year starter for MU’s basketball team from 1975-78.

** Ohio State has a 61-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents. You have to go all the way back to a 34-17 loss to Florida State in 1982 to find the last unranked nonconference team to beat the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.

** The Buckeyes are 30-1 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference. The only blemish on that record against the MAC remains a 12-6 loss to Akron in a game played Sept. 15, 1894, at the Ohio State Fair.

** No Ohio team has beaten Ohio State since Oberlin scored a 7-6 victory over the Buckeyes in October 1921. Coincidentally, Treadwell’s hometown happens to be Oberlin.

** The RedHawks are 0-4 lifetime against Ohio State with all four of those games having been played in Columbus. MU last served as the Buckeyes’ season-opening opponent in 2005 and absorbed a 34-14 loss.

** Miami is 12-42-2 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. In addition to their 0-4 mark against OSU, the RedHawks are 5-3 against Northwestern, 3-10-1 vs. Indiana, 3-9-1 against Purdue, 1-3 vs. Michigan State, 0-2 against Illinois, 0-3 vs. Iowa, 0-3 against Minnesota and 0-5 against Michigan. Miami has never played Nebraska, Penn State or Wisconsin.

** The RedHawks have lost five of their last six games against ranked opponents, including a 17-6 loss at No. 21 Missouri in last year’s opener. The team’s lone victory over a ranked team during that time was a 26-21 decision over No. 25 Northern Illinois in the 2010 regular-season finale.

** Since 2007, Ohio State has allowed only 11 opponents to rush for 100 yards or more. That is tied with BYU for the third-best figure in Division I-A, trailing only Alabama (five) and Boston College (nine).

** Ohio State is 404-109-20 in Ohio Stadium since the facility opened in 1922. That is a .777 winning percentage. All-time in Columbus, the team is 547-156-35, good for a winning percentage of .765. (Yes, the numbers include the vacated 2010 season.)

** Fans in attendance tomorrow at the Horseshoe will notice the new $7 million scoreboard and audio system. The new Panasonic HD scoreboard is 42 feet high and 124 feet across and is flanked by two clusters of speakers along with new LED ribbon boards running the length of the south stands.

** Ohio State has elected five captains for the 2012 season. The quintet of seniors includes fullback Zach Boren, defensive linemen Garrett Goebel and John Simon, running back Jordan Hall and linebacker Etienne Sabino. Simon becomes only the eighth two-time captain in program history. The others are Richard Ellis (1891-92), Archie Griffin (1974-75), Glen Cobb (1981-82), Pepper Johnson (1984-85), Steve Bellisari (2000-01), Joe Cooper (2000-01) and James Laurinaitis (2007-08).

** Miami QB Zac Dysart ranks third among active Division I-A quarterbacks in career passing yardage with 8,530. Only Landry Jones of Oklahoma (12,379) and Matt Barkley of USC (9,054) have more. Dysart needs exactly 2,300 yards this season to become Miami’s all-time passing leader. That distinction currently belongs to Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 10,829 yards from 2001-03.

** RedHawks receiver Nick Harwell will test Ohio State’s veteran secondary. Harwell was second in the nation last season with an average of 129.6 yards per game. Overall, he caught 97 balls – setting a new school single-season record – good for 1,425 yards and nine TDs.

** Harwell currently ranks fifth on Miami’s all-time list for career receiving yards with 2,296. Sitting in the No. 1 spot is Ryne Robinson (3,697, 2003-06).

** Treadwell knows a thing or two about Miami receivers. He remains the school’s leader in single-season and career reception average. Treadwell averaged 22.0 yards per catch in 1980 and 21.1 yards for his career from 1978-81.

** Following last season’s 6-7 record, Ohio State is seeking to avoid its first back-to-back losing seasons since three in a row from 1922-24. No other Division I-A team has gone so long between consecutive sub-.500 seasons.

** As if you need to be reminded, the Buckeyes are ineligible for the Big Ten championship and the BCS national title this year. They are, however, eligible for the Associated Press version of the national championship should they finish atop the writers’ poll this season.

** The Big Ten Network will have the telecast of the season opener with Eric Collins on the play-by-play, former Minnesota football player Derek Rackley handling color analysis and former Northwestern basketball and soccer player Lisa Byington providing sideline reports. Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be telecast on Sirius satellite radio channel 94 and XM channel 198.

** Next week, Ohio State stays home to host Central Florida, which makes its first-ever trip to the Horseshoe. The game will be telecast by ESPN2 and will kickoff at 12 noon Eastern.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Aug. 27, 1995, Ohio State ran off with a 38-6 victory over Boston College in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. Senior tailback Eddie George kicked off what would be a Heisman Trophy-winning season with 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries.

** On Aug. 31, 1937, TCU quarterback Sammy Baugh led the College All-Stars to a 6-0 victory over defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers in front of a crowd of 84,560 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Baugh connected with LSU receiver Gaynell Tinsley for a 53-yard touchdown pass that provided the game’s only scoring. The result marked the first-ever win for the collegians in the fourth annual College All-Star Game.

** On Aug. 31, 1996, No. 18 Kansas State took a 21-14 victory over Texas Tech in the inaugural Big 12 conference game. The Red Raiders nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but K-State safety Mario Smith broke up a fourth-down pass deep in his own territory with 44 seconds remaining to secure the win.

** On Sept. 1, 2007, Appalachian State engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, going into Ann Arbor and pulling off a 34-32 shocker over No. 5 Michigan. The Wolverines trailed much of the game but managed to take a 32-31 lead with 4:36 to play before QB Armanti Edwards led the Mountaineers on a 69-yard drive for a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left. U-M responded and got all the way to Appalachian State’s 20-yard line, but the Wolverines’ field-goal attempt was blocked with six seconds remaining the Mountaineers secured Division I-AA’s first-ever victory over a top-five Division I-A opponent.

** On Sept. 1, 1984, BYU began its march to the national championship with a 20-14 upset at No. 3 Pittsburgh. Cougars QB Robbie Bosco threw for 325 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown to Adam Haysbert with 1:37 remaining in the game. The victory vaulted BYU from unranked to No. 13 in the national polls. The contest was also the first regular-season college football game ever televised live by ESPN.

** On Sept. 2, 1989, Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard score with 23 seconds remaining, to lead the Golden Eagles to a 30-26 win over No. 6 Florida State.

** On Sept. 3, 1983, seventh-ranked Florida State barely escaped a season-opening loss, scoring a late touchdown to squeeze past unranked East Carolina, 47-46, in Tallahassee.

** On Sept. 4, 1993, Penn State scored its first Big Ten victory with a 38-20 win over Minnesota.

** On Sept. 5, 1981, Lamar University engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, beating defending Southwest Conference champion Baylor, 18-17, in Waco. Lamar kicker Mike Marlow booted a 42-yard field goal with three seconds left to account for the winning points. It was the first time in history that a Division I-AA school had beaten a I-A school.

** On Sept. 6, 1986, third-ranked Miami (Fla.) overcame a 15-9 second-half deficit for a 23-15 over Florida, ending the Gators’ 21-game home winning streak.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The 2012 college football season actually began yesterday with 16 games and continues with five more contests tonight. Things begin in earnest Saturday morning when Notre Dame takes on the U.S. Naval Academy in the Shamrock Series from Dublin, Ireland. Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. Eastern on CBS.

** In case you’re interested, the season debut for ESPN’s College Gameday will emanate from Arlington, Texas, tomorrow morning. That is the site of Cowboys Stadium, which will host the primetime affair between Michigan and Alabama.

** Remember, there are a few new rules this season including several covering kickoffs and kickoff returns. Kickoffs are being moved from the 30-yard line to the 35, members of the kicking team are allowed no more than a 5-yard running start, and all touchbacks will now be brought out to the 25 rather than the 20. All other touchbacks, including those on punts, will still be brought out to the 20.

** Northern Illinois enters the 2012 season with the nation’s longest winning streak at nine. TCU is second with an eight-game win streak. The longest losing streak in Division I-A is shared by Kansas and Tulane, each of dropped its final 10 games in a row last season. Indiana is next on that list with nine.

** Wisconsin tailback Monteé Ball has a chance to become only the second player to win back-to-back Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. Indiana running back Anthony Thompson turned the trick in 1988 and ’89. (The award has been around only since 1982, so that automatically eliminates such luminaries as Red Grange, Tom Harmon and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.)

** Here are my top five preseason Heisman Trophy favorites (in alphabetical order): RB Monteé Ball of Wisconsin, QB Matt Barkley of USC, QB Landry Jones of Oklahoma, RB Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and QB Denard Robinson of Michigan. If you want a dark horse candidate, try QB E.J. Manuel of Florida State.

** Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz enters his 14th season in Iowa City and is now the dean of the Big Ten coaches. He needs four more victories to become only the second Iowa head coach with 100 career wins. Hayden Fry, who posted a 143-89-6 mark from 1979-98, is the winningest coach in Iowa history.

** For the first time since 1949 – a period covering 12 U.S. Presidential administrations – Joe Paterno will not be a part of Penn State football. Paterno began his coaching career as an assistant on Rip Engle’s staff in 1950 and took over from Engle as head coach in 1966. The legendary coach was fired late last season in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and then died at the age of 85 from lung cancer Jan. 22

** Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald begins his seventh season at Northwestern with a 40-36 mark. He is already second in school history in all-time victories, trailing only Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf, who had 49 wins in 12 seasons from 1935-46.

** Minnesota senior cornerback Troy Stoudermire returns from an injury-shortened 2011 season to continue his assault on the Big Ten record books. Stoudermire was granted a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA after breaking his forearm in the third game of last season. Stoudermire is currently second on the Big Ten career list with 122 kickoff returns, while he already holds the conference career mark with 3,102 kickoff return yards.

** Tulsa must enjoy the prospect of playing football in the state of Ohio. Not only did the Golden Hurricane schedule a game against Ohio State in 2016, they have agreed to travel to Toledo the following season.

** The Ohio twofer must be popular among Conference USA teams. Central Florida opened its season at Akron last night with a 56-14 spanking of the Zips and travels to Ohio State a week from tomorrow.

** How passionate are the fans at Old Dominion? Passionate enough to sell out every home game in Ballard Stadium since the Monarchs resumed their football program in 2009. This season is also sold out as the Division I-AA team comes off a 10-3 mark and second-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Monarchs are scheduled to make the leap to I-A in 2013 with membership in Conference USA.

** The Pac-12 seems to be a place of rebirth for one-time darlings of the coaching profession. Mike Leach has surfaced at Washington State after being dismissed from Texas Tech in 2009. The Rich Rodriguez experimented fairly miserably at Michigan, but he is getting another chance at Arizona. Two-time NFL loser Jim Mora Jr. takes over at UCLA, and Todd Graham is now at Arizona State after only one season at Pittsburgh.

** If you believe multimillion-dollar contracts in college sports are getting out of hand, consider the University of Tennessee. The UT athletic department took in $106.5 million in revenue for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but had $110.5 million in expenses, which included substantial buyouts to former athletic director Mike Hamilton, football coach Phillip Fulmer, men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and baseball coach Todd Raleigh.

** LSU has already kicked star DB/KR Tyrann Mathieu off the team, and now the Tigers could be without leading rusher Michael Ford. The team is currently awaiting the outcome of an appeal concerning the tailback’s academic record. Junior linebacker Tahj Jones is also facing a possible academic suspension.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The last two seasons here at World Forecast Headquarters are going to be pretty tough acts to follow. Two years ago, the straight-up picks finished with a 118-24 record (that’s a .831 winning percentage) while last year we bettered that slightly to 120-22 (.845).

Against the spread, we’re thinking about moving to Las Vegas full-time. Two years ago, we were 81-55-6 against the spread and followed that last year with a tidy 90-47-3.

In case you’re keeping score at home, that makes the career numbers 1,641-472 straight up (77.7 percent) and well above water ATS at 855-732-28 (good enough for 53.8 percent).

But mindful of Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”we’ll simply remind everyone that we pick these games strictly for the fun factor with most picks based on gut feelings rather than any inside information. Nevertheless, we enjoy making them and you apparently enjoy reading them, so here we go for another year.

Here are the games we’re watching this week:

TONIGHT’S GAMES

No. 24 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State: Each of these teams will break in a new starting quarterback, making it difficult to believe either can replicate the success it enjoyed last season. The Broncos not only lost QB Kellen Moore (3,800 yards, 43 TDs), they lost top running back Doug Martin as well as their entire starting defensive line. Don’t cry for Chris Petersen, though. The seven-year Boise head coach usually has something up his sleeve for marquee games. Meanwhile, Sparty has to find a suitable replacement for QB Kirk Cousins (3,316 yards, 25 TDs) not to mention top receiver B.J. Cunningham (79 catches, 1,306 yards, 12 TDs). But MSU has plenty of defensive firepower returning and that is what should make the difference … Michigan State 23, Boise State 20. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

San Jose State at No. 21 Stanford: The Cardinal performed just fine last year following head coach Jim Harbaugh’s bolt to the NFL. Now, they get to see how life treats them after QB Andrew Luck’s departure. Replacing last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up is Josh Nunes, who has thrown exactly two career passes and none since 2010. Stanford will likely fall back on its running attack while Nunes gets acclimated, and that’s not a bad thing – starting tailback Stepfan Taylor is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. That’s not exactly good news for the Spartans, who ranked 106th nationally last season against the run. Additionally, seven starters from the Pac-12’s top defense return to bedevil San Jose State, which is breaking in a new starting quarterback of its own in JUCO transfer David Fales … Stanford 35, San Jose State 7. (10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Buffalo at No. 6 Georgia: The Bulldogs are one of several SEC teams picked as preseason favorites to contend for a national championship, but the team doesn’t exactly enter 2012 on a roll. UGA got blown out of the SEC title game by LSU and then lost in overtime to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, and now the Dawgs face a 2012 season opener with as many as four players sidelined by suspension. The good news is that prolific QB Aaron Murray (3,149 yards, 35 TDs) returns along with several key members of a defensive unit that ranked fifth nationally in total defense. The overmatched Bulls are coming off a 3-9 record and will be without star junior linebacker Khalil Mack, who is suspended for the opener … Georgia 52, Buffalo 7. (12:20 ET, GamePlan/ESPN3)

Northern Iowa at No. 12 Wisconsin: The Badgers underwent an almost complete coaching staff overhaul during the offseason, and they had to go the transfer route again to find a new starting quarterback. Still, Bucky is a heavy favorite to win another Big Ten Leaders Division title, especially with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the trophy. Danny O’Brien takes over the QB job from Russell Wilson, who led the Badgers to their second straight Rose Bowl last year. O’Brien’s talents are not nearly as dynamic as Wilson, but he does have one thing his predecessor did – touchdown machine Monteé Ball, who scored an amazing 39 times last year. Ball was roughed up by five men near campus Aug. 1, sustaining several injuries including a concussion, but he swears he will be ready for the opener. Northern Iowa is coming off a 10-3 season, but the Badgers are working on a 17-game home winning streak and are 10-0 lifetime against Division I-AA opponents … Wisconsin 31, Northern Iowa 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

North Texas at No. 3 LSU: Hurricanes, suspensions, attrition – the Tigers have been through all of this before. As Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac dumped torrential rains on Baton Rouge, and LSU prepared for life without the Honey Badger (aka DB/KR Tyrann Mathieu), Les Miles continued to smile as if nothing out of the unusual was happening. That’s probably because of the opponent. The Mean Green are coming off a 5-7 season, their best record since 2004, and are 0-4 lifetime against the Tigers. That includes getting outscored by a 149-6 margin in the most recent three … LSU 49, North Texas 3. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Hawaii at No. 1 USC: The Trojans begin to emerge from NCAA purgatory this season with a talented roster led by senior QB Matt Barkley. Barkley piloted one of the nation’s top offenses last year – SC scored 38 or more points in seven games – and became this year’s preseason Heisman favorite by completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards and 39 TDs. Joining Barkley in the backfield this season will be Penn State transfer Silas Redd (1,241 yards, seven TDs) and holdover Curtis McNeal (1,005 yards, six TDs). Since the Trojans are reworking their defense, especially up front, that kind of offensive firepower could come in handy. Hawaii hired former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow to be its head coach this season, and Chow is trying to mold left-handed Duke transfer Sean Schroeder into his next quarterback prodigy. That’s going to probably take a little time, though, and time is a luxury Chow cannot afford especially with a defense that ranked 80th in the nation in scoring last year and the Trojans eager to solidify their preseason No. 1 ranking … USC 45, Hawaii 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama: Truth be told, this is an overhyped game between a pair of overrated teams. The Wolverines caught every break imaginable last year on their way to an 11-2 season, star quarterback Denard Robinson remains largely a one-dimensional threat, and an overachieving defense from 2011 has lost playmaker Mike Martin to graduation. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide also loses a load of talent from its national championship squad, not the least of which were RB Trent Richardson (1,679 yards, 21 TDs) and hard-charging LBs Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower. Robinson’s running ability scares Alabama, but the Wolverines’ chances of winning are greatly diminished without suspended RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Even if Toussaint had played, it was going to be a difficult assignment for Michigan. Without him, watch the Alabama offensive line maul U-M up front and win going away … Alabama 28, Michigan 14. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 4 Oklahoma at UTEP: If the Sooners are going to elbow their way into the national championship conversation, they’re going to have to avoid the speed bumps that have derailed them in recent years. For each of the past three seasons, OU has lost a regular-season game to an unranked opponent and you just can’t do that if you want to win a national title. Not that the Sooners should be too worried about the Miners continuing that streak. UTEP somehow finished 5-7 last year despite ranking 104th nationally in total defense. That included giving up an average of 251.7 yards per game through the air, something that should bring a smile to the face of Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones (4,463 yards, 29 TDs) … Oklahoma 49, UTEP 7. (10:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Arkansas State at No. 5 Oregon: The NCAA hammer is hanging over his program’s head, but Chip Kelly doesn’t seem to care. He is busy retooling his offensive machine after losing a bunch of starters, most notably RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas. Senior tailback Kenjon Barner (939 yards, 11 TDs) and sensational sophomore De’Anthony Thomas (595 yards, seven TDs) take over for James while Marcus Mariota becomes the first freshman in 21 years to start at quarterback for the Ducks. On the other sideline, Gus Malzahn takes over as head coach of the Red Wolves fresh off a run as offensive coordinator at Auburn. Malzahn’s hurry-up attack produced a Heisman Trophy for Cam Newton, and his new QB at Arkansas State is Ryan Aplin (3,588 yards, 10 TDs), who just happened to win player of the year honors in the Sun Belt last year. This one might be closer than people think … Oregon 34, Arkansas State 24. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Miami (Ohio) at No. 18 Ohio State: That rumbling emanating from just north of Ohio Stadium on Saturday will likely be a certain former coach rolling over in his grave as the Buckeyes unveil their new up-tempo offense. We don’t want to say 100,000 jaws will be dropping, but it will be unlike almost anything the Horseshoe has seen from the home team in its 90 years of existence. OSU remains a work in progress under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, so the team will likely suffer a stumble or two along the way. But as far as first impressions are concerned, this should be a good one … Ohio State 38, Miami 10. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Boise State (+7½) at Michigan State; San Jose State at Stanford (-24½); Buffalo at Georgia (-37); Northern Iowa at Wisconsin (NL); North Texas at LSU (-43); Hawaii (+42) at USC; Michigan vs. Alabama (-13½); Oklahoma (-30) at UTEP; Arkansas State (+37) at Oregon; Miami-OH at Ohio State (-20½).

Enjoy opening weekend, have a safe Labor Day holiday and we’ll see you next week.

Meyer: Right Man, Right Job, Right Time

To paraphrase the old saying, Ohio State fell into a sewer and came out with a pocketful of fish.

How else would you describe the unthinkable fall from grace by Jim Tressel and subsequent smoldering fallout followed six months later by the hiring of a younger, potentially more successful version of the sweater-vested one himself?

No wonder why everyone else hates the Ohio State football program.

Urban Frank Meyer III has amassed a 10-year résumé that is the envy of his profession – two national championships, five conference titles, the second-best winning percentage among active coaches and a 7-1 bowl record.

And now he has his dream job. How fortunate can one guy and one fan base get?

After several weeks of being the subject of the worst-kept secret in Columbus, Meyer was officially introduced Monday as the 24th head coach of the Buckeyes. He succeeds Luke Fickell, who will thankfully remain on Meyer’s staff with a to-be-determined title of prestige.

Does it really get any better for Buckeye Nation, which has had to choke down every snide and spiteful epithet imaginable since Tressel was forced into early retirement due to the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal?

Not only is Meyer the absolute level-best coaching option available, his career as a head coach has been nothing short of remarkable. He engineered a remarkably quick turnaround of a previously moribund Bowling Green program in the early 2000s before moving on to Utah and transforming the Utes from just another mid-major team to a national power.

Then he took over a flagging Florida program that had posted three consecutive five-loss seasons and produced two national championships in his first four seasons in Gainesville.

Championship rings and winning percentages are but the tip of the iceberg for Meyer. He has exhibited a passion for winning, a penchant for hiring the best assistant coaches on the planet, utilizing an attack-style on offense, defense and special teams, and is an absolute beast on the recruiting trail.

He swears the health problems that dogged him during his last couple of years at Florida are behind him because he has learned to delegate responsibility among his assistants – something he said he did better during the early portion of his coaching career.

The cherry on the top of this sundae for fans is that Meyer – like Tressel before him – fully understands and embraces what it means to be head football coach at Ohio State. He is a born-and-bred Buckeye who heaped equal parts boyhood hero worship upon Archie Griffin and Woody Hayes before embarking upon his college coaching career with two seasons on Earle Bruce’s staff at Ohio State.

That career has taken him to such far-flung places as Normal, Ill., Fort Collins, Colo., and South Bend, Ind., as well as Bowling Green, Ohio, Salt Lake City and Gainesville, Fla., but his admitted dream was always to sit the same chair once occupied by his idol Hayes and his mentor Bruce.

“Everybody says, ‘Is Ohio State your dream job?’ That’s a term that’s thrown around really loosely,” Meyer said during his introductory news conference. “To say I was this big and wanted to coach at Florida, (the answer is) no. I’m not from Florida. …

“(But) I wanted to coach there, I will always be a Gator, will always be a part of that situation. … However, this is my home state. And it’s great to be back home.”

And if that doesn’t convince you of Meyer’s affinity for Ohio State, remember back to his team’s 41-14 win over the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2006 season.

The Gators had a 34-14 halftime lead in that game and Meyer had a first national title ring in his sights. Had he chosen to do so, he could have made a major-league statement by stomping the Buckeyes into submission. Instead, he chose to take his foot completely off the gas in the second half and coast home with the victory.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to like the guy.

Meyer has the reputation (some say well-deserved) for being media unfriendly, several times taking public umbrage with reporters who wrote something he did not particularly like. In this day and age, that might be a badge of honor for the average Ohio State fan still smarting from how ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other media outlets seemingly went out of their way to trash the Buckeyes over the past year. But that kind of behavior can also come off as thin-skinned and petty.

Then there was the litany of off-the-field problems Meyer experienced with his players while at Florida, something the coach tried to downplay during his Monday news conference. Nevertheless, if there is anything Ohio State does not need in its immediate future, it is players being arrested on a regular basis no matter how trivial the violation.

Of course, there are plausible explanations for both problems.

First, Gainesville is a small, close-knit community smack dab in the middle of the pressure-packed SEC where fans and their head football coaches have always had a love-hate relationship. If you don’t believe me, check out what Gator Nation has to say about Meyer taking the Ohio State job. Most cannot be repeated in a family newspaper, but the comments are peppered with such words as “quitter” and “traitor.”

Secondly, Meyer was forced to recruit the best athletes in the Sunshine State, and despite his protestations to the contrary, sometimes the best athletes are not the best character guys. One needs only to think of a certain former Ohio State quarterback’s off-the-field indiscretions and the firestorm it created.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, of course, we need to be reminded that Meyer is not Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh or the second coming of Hayes. His tenure will undoubtedly feature its share of bumps along the road. That is the nature of the beast that is college football today. Meyer isn’t going to win every game and fans are going to question his every move – win or lose.

But I simply can’t escape the notion that the Ohio State football program is emerging from one of the darkest chapters in its long history having hit the coaching lottery, and a year for now, two at the most, the events of 2011 will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** LSU and Houston successfully negotiated the 2011 regular season as the only undefeated teams in Division I-A (aka the Football Bowl Subdivision). Both teams are 12-0 and play for their respective conference championships tomorrow.

** When LSU stampeded its way to a 41-17 win over Arkansas last Friday, it pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 13 games. Houston is next, of course, with its 12-game win streak while Georgia – which faces the Bayou Bengals in the SEC title game – has won 10 in a row.

** Meanwhile, congratulations are in order for Florida Atlantic, which escaped a winless season thanks to last week’s 38-35 win over UAB. The longest losing streak in I-A football now belongs to Kansas and Tulane, each of which has dropped 10 in a row. Indiana is next with nine while Maryland and Akron will each head into 2012 with eight-game losing streaks.

** The Terrapins extended their losing streak last week with an epic collapse, blowing a 41-14 third-quarter lead as North Carolina State scored 42 unanswered points for a 56-41 win.

** I’m going to wait until after this weekend’s games to cast my Heisman Trophy ballot. I have eliminated a couple of players and have whittled my choices to Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Alabama RB Trent Richardson and USC QB Matt Barkley. Yes, I know that RG-3 is the only one of that trio who is in action this weekend. His performance against Texas will help determine the 1-2-3 ranking on my ballot.

** Proof that no one plays defense in what is left of the Big 12: last Saturday’s game between Texas Tech and Baylor. The Bears took a 66-42 victory in Waco despite the fact Griffin spent the second half sidelined with a head injury. (He is scheduled to play this week.) The team combined for 1,061 yards of total offense

** Illinois is believed to be the first team in history to begin the season 6-0 and then finish 0-6. The collapse cost Ron Zook his job, a termination that might end the Zookster’s career as a head coach. He is 57-64 in three seasons at Florida and seven seasons with the Illini. On the bright side, someone in the NFL will likely hire Zook as an assistant. He spent 1996-2001 in the league at Pittsburgh, Kansas City and New Orleans.

** Look for Illinois to take a run at Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, who has plenty of Big Ten experience. Sumlin was a linebacker at Purdue from 1983-86 and later spent time as an assistant coach at Minnesota (1993-97) and his alma mater, coaching receivers on Joe Tiller’s staff in West Lafayette from 1998-2000.

** Speaking of the league, congratulations to former Ohio State assistant coach Mel Tucker, who was elevated to head coach at Jacksonville when the Jaguars fired Jack Del Rio on Tuesday. Tucker was on Jim Tressel’s staff at OSU from 2001-04 and spent four seasons in Cleveland before joining Del Rio in Jacksonville in 2009.

** Michigan’s 40-34 victory over Ohio State was the first win for the Wolverines since 2003 and featured their first 40-point effort against the Buckeyes since a 58-6 win in 1946. It also featured the first time the Buckeyes had lost a game in the series when they had scored at least 34 points. They had topped that mark eight previous times against U-M, all victories.

** Now is a great time to be a quarterback in the state of Wisconsin. The Badgers’ Russell Wilson has a 28-to-3 touchdown-interception ratio, and his efficiency rating of 192.90 is on course to break Colt Brennan’s record of 186.0 in 2006. Just up the road, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has an identical 28-to-3 ratio, and his rating of 130.7 is on course to break Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 121.1 in 2004. (Thanks to USA Today’s Mike Lopresti for that nugget.)

** Junior cornerback Jemarlous Moten of Louisiana-Lafayette returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown during his team’s 45-37 loss to Arizona last weekend and tied a 40-year-old record in the process. The Ragin’ Cajuns returned seven interceptions for touchdowns this season, tying the mark established in 1971 by Tennessee.

** If you think time of possession is overrated, you’re right – especially if you have a quick-strike offense. Oregon ranks dead last among 120 Division I-A schools in time of possession at 24:46 a game. However, the Ducks are third in the nation in scoring at 45.9 points per outing.

** Kentucky hadn’t beaten SEC rival Tennessee in football since 1985 – until last week. Using converted receiver Matt Roark to quarterback and giving him a limited number of plays, the Wildcats somehow pulled off a 10-7 victory to end a 26-game losing streak in the series. Roark, pressed into service when UK’s top two quarterbacks were sidelined with injuries, went 4 for 6 for 15 yards passing but rushed 24 times for 124 yards.

** The loss to Kentucky dropped Tennessee to 6-7 and gave the Volunteers back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1910 and ’11. The longest streak since consecutive losing seasons now belongs to Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven’t had sub-.500 seasons back to back since 1923 and ’24.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 30, 1935, No. 2 SMU scored a come-from-behind 20-14 win over No. 1 TCU, giving the Ponies an undefeated regular season, the Southwest Conference title and a Rose Bowl berth. It would be another 71 years until a major conference had two unbeaten teams with records of at least 10-0 playing one another. That came in 2006 when Ohio State pulled out a 42-39 victory over Big Ten foe Michigan.

** On Nov. 30, 1968, second-ranked USC and No. 9 Notre Dame played to a 21-21 tie in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Fighting Irish took a 21-7 halftime lead behind quarterback Joe Theismann, who was making his first collegiate start. But the Trojans came back in the second half, thanks to a touchdown from senior tailback O.J. Simpson and a 40-yard scoring pass from QB Steve Sogge to Sam Dickerson. Notre Dame kicker Scott Hempel missed a 33-yard field goal attempt with 33 seconds to go to preserve the tie.

** On Dec. 1, 2001, top-ranked Miami (Fla.) held off No. 13 Virginia Tech, 26-24, in Blacksburg to clinch at spot in the Rose Bowl. The Hokies roared back from a 26-10 deficit starting the fourth quarter, but the Hurricanes preserved the win when safety Ed Reed picked off passes on Tech’s final two drives.

** On Dec. 2, 1978, No. 2 Alabama clinched the SEC title with a 34-16 victory over Auburn. Crimson Tide QB Jeff Rutledge threw for 174 yards and three touchdowns, and the win propelled Alabama into a 1 vs. 2 showdown with Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

** On Dec. 3, 1999, ninth-ranked Marshall scored a wild 34-30 win over Western Michigan to claim a 12-0 regular season and the Mid-American Conference championship. The Broncos built a 23-0 third-quarter lead, but MU quarterback Chad Pennington rallied the Thundering Herd with three touchdown passes, the last one with four seconds to play.

** On Dec. 4, 1971, San Diego State and North Texas combined set a college football record for total plays in a regulation game during a 44-28 win for the Aztecs. San Diego State ran 99 plays while North Texas countered with 97 for a grand total of 196, a record that stood until 2003 when Arkansas and Kentucky combined to run 202 plays in a game that lasted seven overtimes.

FEARLESS FORECAST

We’re enjoying a season for the ages here at Forecast World Headquarters. Last week, for the third time this year, we had a perfect 10-0 record in the straight-up picks to go to 113-19 SU and moved back above 90 percent for the season.

Against the spread, it was another winner at 7-2-1 with the only losses coming when Notre Dame and Michigan failed to cover. Notre Dame and Michigan, huh? Figures, doesn’t it? Oh, well, we’re a solid 65 percent ATS this year with an 83-44-3 record.

Before taking a couple of weeks off in preparation for the bowl season, let’s see what’s on tap for this week.

TODAY’S GAME

UCLA at No. 9 Oregon: Conference commissioners should be careful what they wish for. The Pac-12’s inaugural championship game in football features a 6-6 team coming off a 50-0 blowout loss that just fired its coach. If you think the Quack Attack will have any sympathy for the Bruins, think again. Oregon has won 22 of its last 23 games in Autzen Stadium and will probably treat the Uclans as just another speed bump on the way to a second Rose Bowl in three years … Oregon 65, UCLA 10. (8 p.m. ET, Fox)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 14 Georgia vs. No. 1 LSU: We like to give credit where credit is due, and congratulations are in order for Mark Richt and his Bulldogs who have rallied from an 0-2 start to win 10 straight games. Unfortunately for them, their reward is a ticket to the Georgia Dome to play the powerhouse Tigers. UGA quarterback Aaron Murray (2,698 yards, 30 TDs) has had a superlative season, and he leads an offense that averages 34.0 points per game. But Murray hasn’t seen any defense the likes of what LSU is going to throw at him. The Boys from the Bayou rank no lower than sixth nationally in any major defensive stat, including No. 2 in scoring (10.6 points per game). We look for the Tigers to stomp their way through Georgia, setting up a rematch with Alabama for the national title … LSU 34, Georgia 7. (4 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 3 Oklahoma State: If you like offense, this is the game for you. They call this instate rivalry the Bedlam Game, but not matter what they call it, it’s going to be a good, old-fashioned shootout. Two of college football’s best quarterbacks will fill the air with footballs as OU’s Landry Jones and OSU’s Brandon Weeden have combined to throw for 8,163 yards and 62 TDs this season. The only separation might be at receiver – Jones lost his No. 1 target Ryan Broyles a couple of weeks ago while the Sooners have Justin Blackmon, who ranks among the nation’s best with 103 catches for 1,241 yards and 15 TDs. Oklahoma has won eight straight in the series, including its last four trips to Stillwater. The Cowboys always play OU close at home and can score with anyone, but we just don’t think they have quite enough defense … Oklahoma 47, Oklahoma State 42. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No. 20 Clemson: The landscape surrounding these two teams has changed quite a bit since the Tigers’ 23-3 win on Oct. 1. The Hokies have won seven in a row while Clemson has dropped three of its last four, including a particularly ugly 34-13 loss to South Carolina last week. Despite the slide, the Tigers can salvage things with a victory and the automatic BCS berth that goes with winning the ACC title game. Unfortunately, they’re bucking history. The Hokies have twice before had a rematch with a team that beat them during the regular season and won both times. Look for them to run that streak to three … Virginia Tech 27, Clemson 17. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Southern Miss at No. 6 Houston: No, Conference USA football is not the same as SEC football, but the league’s championship game should be entertaining just the same. The Cougars, of course, feature a high-flying offense with QB Case Keenum (4,726, 43 TDs) leading the way. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles have their own excellent quarterback in Austin Davis (3,052 yards, 24 TDs), and the No. 12 pass efficiency defense in the country. Yet somehow, two weeks ago, Southern Miss lost a 34-31 decision at 3-9 UAB. Keenum and his Cougars should be able to get it done, but not only won’t it be easy, they’d better be on upset watch all afternoon … Houston 35, Southern Miss 27. (12 noon ET, ABC)

New Mexico at No. 7 Boise State: This one isn’t too hard to figure. The Broncos own the top offense and defense in the Mountain West while the Lobos have arguably the worst offense and defense in the entire nation. They have been outscored by a lopsided 455-144 margin, so the Boise offense and QB Kellen Moore (3,194 yards, 38 TDs) might be interested in making a statement while celebrating Senior Night on the Smurf Turf. Also, Broncos head coach Chris Peterson can tie the school record for career victories, and it might be his final night in Boise as well since Peterson’s name has been linked to opening at UCLA … Boise State 49, New Mexico 0. (6 p.m. ET, The Mtn.)

Iowa State at No. 11 Kansas State: Despite an offense that ranks ninth in Big 12 and a defense that ranks only fifth, the Wildcats find themselves gunning for their first 10-win season since 2003. They can also clinch a share of their first conference title in eight years in they can get past the pesky Cyclones, who have upsets of then-No. 19 Texas Tech and then-No. 2 Oklahoma State on their 2011 résumé. Iowa State is a scrappy team that has flourished since freshman QB Jared Barnett took over the starting job, but like all young teams the Cyclones are prone to making mistakes. That and the fact they have lost three of their five road contests this season leads to this pick … Kansas State 27, Iowa State 20. (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 15 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Michigan State: Six weeks ago, the Badgers were the No. 6 team in the nation and on their way – at least so they thought – to playing for the national championship. Then Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins threw a 44-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game, and Wisconsin trudged their home following a 37-31 loss. Both teams lost the following week – UW to Ohio State and MSU to Nebraska – and then finished the season with four straight victories. Still, it seems Bucky is on the better roll, especially with the way RB Montee Ball has been punishing opposing defenses. Since being held to 85 yards vs. Ohio State, Ball has averaged 192.3 yards and nearly three touchdowns per game. Sparty has the Big Ten’s top rush defense, and they have Cousins (2,735, 21 TDs), who has by far had his finest season. But Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson (2,692 yards, 28 TDs) is the difference-maker. Russell has pitched only three interceptions all season, and two of them came in the loss to MSU. Don’t expect him to make the same mistakes again … Wisconsin 27, Michigan State 23. (8:17 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 22 Texas at No. 17 Baylor: To say the Bears have struggled in their century-long series with the Longhorns would be an understatement. They are 23-73-4 against their neighbors to the south, and last year’s win in Austin snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series. Worse yet, Baylor hasn’t enjoyed back-to-back wins over Texas since 1991-92. That drought could be over this year, especially if QB Robert Griffin III (3,678 yards, 34 TDs) is ready to go after bumping his head last week and being held out of the second half of a 66-42 win over Texas Tech. While the Bears have a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate in Griffin, the Longhorns have struggled to find their own offensive identity. Defense isn’t a problem, though. Texas has the best defense in the Big 12 and ranks eighth nationally in pass efficiency defense. It’s a pretty simple scenario – if Griffin does what he’s capable of doing, his team wins and he garners a bunch of Heisman support in the process … Baylor 38, Texas 31. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

UNLV at No. 18 TCU: Before they leave for the Big 12, the Horned Frogs have some unfinished business in the mighty Mountain West – namely a 23-game conference win streak. That shouldn’t be too difficult since the Runnin’ Rebels have been run over by most of their opponents this season. Vegas has lost 15 straight road games and is 0-4 lifetime in Fort Worth, getting outscored by a 168-47 margin. If that’s not bad enough, the Rebels rank 117th nationally in scoring defense while the Frogs own the country’s 10th-best scoring offense. We started this week’s forecast with a blowout and we’ll finish with another … TCU 49, UNLV 7. (2:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Here are the spreads for the above games: UCLA at Oregon (-31½); Georgia vs. LSU (-10); Oklahoma (+3½) at Oklahoma State; Virginia Tech (-4½) vs. Clemson; Southern Miss (+17) at Houston; New Mexico (+52) at Boise State; Iowa State (+12) at Kansas State; Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (+9½); Texas at Baylor (-2½); UNLV at TCU (-38).

Enjoy the games and we’ll visit again in a couple of weeks.

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.

A Handful Of Things I Think

With all due respect to veteran NFL writer Peter King, here are some things I think as the college football season heads into the homestretch and we try to put some distance between us and one of most unseamly scandals in sports history.

I think you could have gotten astronomical odds this time last year had you suggested both Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno would be fired – with cause – within the subsequent 12 months. The two Big Ten head coaches with the most solid of legacies have been summarily dismissed, leaving the conference with no real pillars of college football.

I think anyone who wants to draw a parallel between the scandals at Ohio State and Penn State should seriously think look at themselves in the mirror and reassess their priorities. Trading memorabilia for tattoos against harboring a sexual predator of young boys? Seriously? That’s the comparison you want to make?

I think anyone who believes there is a rush to judgment regarding the Penn State situation ought to read the grand jury testimony. There is eyewitness testimony and the perpetrator has been charged with more than 40 criminal counts ranging from involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption of minors to endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault. These heinous acts began more than 15 years ago, and you want to talk about a rush to judgment? Spare me.

I think if Jerry Sandusky had made a one-minute phone call to a prospect during a dead recruiting period, the NCAA would have severely sanctioned him as well as the Penn State football program. But because Sandusky’s actions are not under the purvey of college athletics’ governing body, NCAA president Mark Emmert said his organization would wait until all of the details regarding the situation are known before it makes a decision if any NCAA rules were violated. The NCAA has no oversight regarding legal proceedings at schools, but it could certainly add some teeth to such a tepid statement. How about something regarding condemnation of child abuse? That might be a decent place to start.

I think if the Ohio State and Penn State scandals have taught us anything, it could be that more oversight is needed into big-time college football programs. Multimillion-dollar coaches wield too much power as well as too much autonomy. Their football programs become de facto fiefdoms over which the coach has total control. What exactly are athletic directors being paid to do?

I think every drunken idiot who protested Wednesday night in State College in favor of Paterno should be required to spend time working at a center for abused children.

I think Penn State’s heretofore squeaky-clean image has been stripped away, but people tend to forget the Rene Portland incident. Portland, who was women’s basketball coach at Penn State for 27 years from 1980-2007, was forced to resign following a lawsuit brought against her, the university and athletic director Tim Curley (yep, same Tim Curley) by a former player. Jennifer Harris claimed Portland discriminated against her because the coach falsely perceived her to be gay. The university reached an out-of-court settlement with Harris while Portland was reprimanded, forced to resign, fined $10,000 and ordered to take diversity training.

I think Luke Fickell has done an excellent job in first year as head coach despite being dealt a weak hand. Fickell took over the program in June, lost his three-year starting quarterback off the bat, lost the serves of his left tackle for five games, his top running back for six, his top receiver for 10 and arguably his best defensive player after just one game. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if Fickell gets the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game and wins it – earning a Rose Bowl berth in the process – that would be rather noteworthy.

I think those who compare Fickell to his predecessor are making an unfair comparison. While Fickell is in his first season as a head coach at any level, Tressel had 15 years experience and four national titles when he got to OSU. Of course, his first year at Youngstown State, his team went 2-9 and his first team at Ohio State went 7-5. I have no idea if Fickell will be the next Tressel or the next Randy Ayers, but I do know he’s Buckeye through and through, and that should be worth something especially if he gets this year’s team to the conference title game and wins it — something no one was predicting after Nebraska.

I think anyone the whole Urban Meyer thing is beginning to make me queasy. It just rubs me the wrong way the way some fans are so willing to dismiss anything Fickell does this season in favor of Meyer. I don’t like it when someone dances on another guy’s grave especially before he’s gone. Sure, I’ve been told that the higher-ups want to make a clean sweep of the coaching staff after this season regardless of how things turn out. But I still say it’s going to be tough to make a change if the team wins 10 games, takes home another Big Ten title and goes to the Rose Bowl. If they fall short of that, then yeah, I can get my head around making a change. But all of this talk is premature and counterproductive. IMHO, if the change is made and the job is offered and Meyer thinks it’s the right fit, he’ll take it. If not, he won’t.

I think anyone is delusional who believes Meyer is entertaining any thought of going to Penn State. By the time the smoke clears at Penn State, it will be lucky – very lucky – to get a mid-level Pennsylvania high school coach to go there. Can anyone truly believe that after the housecleaning there it will simply be back to business as usual? Penn State is looking at multiple criminal and civil lawsuits that will likely cost them tens of millions of dollars, an investigation coming from the U.S. Department of Education and quite possibly one from the U.S. Justice Department. The least of their worries right now is the NCAA, which is sitting back and waiting to see if it wants to do anything. Anyone who steps into that cesspool runs the very real risk of ruining his reputation for the sake of financial gain. If you lay down with skunks, it’s going to be awfully hard to ever get that smell off you.

I think the Penn State football program may sink to the lower regions of the Big Ten for quite some time and I use Kansas State as a perfect example. During Bill Snyder’s first go-round in Manhattan (a small, isolated town much like State College), the Wildcats posted a 108-29-1 record during an 11-year stretch between 1993-2003 and went to a bowl game every year during that time. After Snyder left following the 2005 season, the program meandered along at 17-20 for the next three seasons before Snyder returned in 2009. The only problem with that scenario repeating itself at Penn State is that Paterno is never coming back.

I think I have no idea if the next Ohio State head coach will be Meyer, Fickell or someone else. But if it’s not Meyer, a whole lot of people are going to have to be talked in off the ledge.

Finally, Sandusky faces up to 460 years in prison for his despicable acts. I think that’s not long enough.

OSU-PURDUE TIDBITS

** This marks the 54th meeting between Ohio State and Purdue with the Buckeyes holding a 38-13-2 record in the overall series. That includes a 12-7 mark in West Lafayette, although the Buckeyes are only 2-3 at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2000.

** In the previous 53 meetings, the Boilermakers have never experienced more than a two-game win streak over the Buckeyes. OSU has enjoyed series winning streaks of seven and six games as well as mini-streaks of three in a row on five separate occasions.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell will be facing the Boilermakers for the first time as head coach, but he is 9-2 lifetime against Purdue as an OSU player and assistant coach. Fickell was 4-0 vs. the Boilers during his playing career from 1993-96 and 5-2 during nine seasons as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Purdue head coach Danny Hope is in his third season with the Boilermakers, compiling a 13-20 overall record and 8-13 mark in the Big Ten. He is 1-1 vs. the Buckeyes with his victory coming in 2009 in West Lafayette when Purdue took advantage of five OSU turnovers and scored a 26-18 upset over the seventh-ranked Buckeyes.

** The Boilermakers should have a good feeling about playing on Nov. 12. They are 11-4 all-time on that date, including a monumental upset of top-ranked Minnesota in 1960. Purdue was 2-4-1 heading into that game and knocked off the previously unbeaten Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Despite that loss, Minnesota went on to capture the 1960 national championship, the most recent of the school’s six national titles.

** The game will feature two of the Big Ten’s more challenged passing offenses. Purdue ranks ninth in the league with an average of 192.2 yards per game while Ohio State is dead last, averaging a miniscule 115.4 yards through the air. In conference games only, the Buckeyes are even worse with an 82.4-yard average.

** Despite his team’s troubles in the passing game, Purdue wide receiver Antavian Edison enters tomorrow’s game against the Buckeyes with a streak of 17 consecutive games in which he has caught at least one pass. Even so, Edison is only the third-leading receiver on his team this season with 26 catches for 367 yards and two TDs.

** Ohio State’s offensive strength in running the football and the Buckeyes have moved up to fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 204.3 yards per game on the ground. Counting conference games only, the Buckeyes average 220.6 yards rushing, and counting only the three games since senior tailback Boom Herron has played, the team averages 275.0 yards on the ground. That’s not exactly what the Boilermakers want to hear – they are tied for 10th in the league in rush defense, giving up an average of 191.1 yards per game.

** The Buckeyes rushed for a season-high 346 yards last week against Indiana, their best single-game output since a 348-yard effort at Illinois in 1996.

** OSU’s ground attack was led by tailbacks Herron and Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller, all of whom eclipsed the 100-yard mark. It was the first trio of players to crack the century mark on the ground for Ohio State since Dante Lee, Scottie Graham and Carlos Snow accomplished the feat during a 52-27 win at Northwestern in 1989. The feat has been accomplished two other times in Ohio State history – Leo Hayden, John Brockington and Rex Kern did it during a 34-10 win over Duke in 1970, and the triumvirate of Galen Cisco, Jim Roseboro and Don Clark each cracked the century mark in 1956 during a 35-14 win over Indiana.

** Miller rushed for a career-high 105 yards against the Hoosiers, marking the 18th time in program history an Ohio State quarterback had rushed for 100 yards or more in a game. The school single-game mark for QBs is 146, set by Cornelius Greene during a 52-7 win over Wisconsin in 1974.

** Much of Miller’s yardage came on an 81-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That marked the sixth longest run from scrimmage in Ohio State history and the longest ever by a quarterback, wiping out a 76-yard run by Kern during a 48-29 victory at Illinois in 1970.

** When Miller and Indiana’s Tre Roberson squared off against one another last Saturday, it marked the first time since 1988 that a pair of freshman quarterbacks started for both teams in a Big Ten game. Brian Fox of Purdue and Lionell Crawford of Wisconsin started that ’88 game but didn’t generate nearly the offense Miller and Roberson did. The Boilermakers won a 9-6 decision in Madison.

** Herron’s 141-yard rushing effort last weekend pushed his career total to 2,609, good for 11th on the school’s all-time rushing list. Herron passed Jim Otis (2,542, 1967-69) and Calvin Murray (2,576, 1977-80) and needs only 41 more to move ahead of Raymont Harris (2,649, 1990-93) and break into the Ohio State all-time top 10.

** On Ohio State’s first play of the second half tomorrow, you might want to keep your eye on Herron. In his three games this season, Herron’s first touch of the second half has resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run vs. Illinois, a 57-yard run against Wisconsin and a 40-yard rumble vs. Indiana. That is a nice, tidy average of 36.3 yards per carry.

** OSU junior defensive lineman John Simon had a career-high 10 tackles against Indiana and also increased his team-leading totals to 12½ tackles for loss and six sacks. Simon now has 10½ career sacks which puts him into OSU’s all-time top 25 in that category. He needs only three more to pass Courtland Bullard (11, 1997-2001), Srecko Zizakovic (11, 1988-89), Kenny Peterson (12, 1999-2002) and James Laurinaitis (13, 2005-08) to break into the school’s top 20.

** OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil’s field goals of 36 and 45 yards against the Hoosiers pushed his streak to 12 consecutive three-pointers, the third longest streak in OSU history. Mike Nugent (2001-04) holds the school record with 24 in a row while Vlade Janakievski (1977-80) had a streak of 15.

** Purdue sophomore punter Cody Webster leads the Big Ten with an average of 45.5 yards on 34 attempts. Better still for the Boilermakers, they rank first in the conference and 11th nationally in net punting at 40.0 yards per kick.

** Boilermakers sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen knows what to do with the football when he gets his hands on it. His 37-yard interception return for a touchdown Oct. 8 against Minnesota was the third pick-six of Allen’s career. That ties him with All-America cornerback Rod Woodson (1983-86) and linebacker Mike Rose (1996-99) for the school record.

** PU freshman Raheem Mostert returned five kickoffs for 206 yards last week against Wisconsin, establishing a new single-game record for the Boilermakers. Stan Brown had 184 yards on six returns during a 42-14 loss to Ohio State in 1969. Mosert now ranks No. 6 nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 31.6 yards on 16 attempts.

** Purdue has many distinguished alumni including astronauts Neil Armstrong (the first man to set foot on the moon) and Eugene Cernan (the last man to set to set foot on the moon). Of course, Ohio can also claim Armstrong as a native son. He was born in Wapakoneta. Cernan also grew up in Big Ten country in suburban Chicago.

** This week’s game will be telecast on a regional basis by the Big Ten Network with the same announce crew as last week’s game with Indiana – Tom Hart (play-by-play), former Minnesota tight end/long snapper Derek Rackley (color analysis) and Lisa Byington (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 137 as well as XM channel 192.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to face Penn State in what should be a crucial Leaders Division matchup. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern and the game will be telecast by ABC/ESPN using the reverse mirror.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Only five undefeated teams now remain at the Division I-A level – Boise State, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford.

** Stanford rolled again last weekend, taking a 38-13 victory at Oregon State to move the nation’s longest winning streak to 18 games. The Cardinal still have a ways to go to match Oklahoma’s all-time winning streak of 47 set between 1953-57. Most recently, the longest winning streak at the Division I-A level belongs to Miami (Fla.), which won 34 in a row between 2000-02.

** Time is running out for New Mexico to escape a winless season. The Lobos extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 12 games last weekend with a 35-7 loss at San Diego State. New Mexico has three games remaining – tomorrow vs. UNLV (2-6), Nov. 19 at Wyoming (5-3) and Nov. 26 at fifth-ranked Boise State (8-0).

** Congratulations to Houston QB Case Keenum, who became the NCAA’s all-time leading passer while throwing for 407 yards during his team’s 56-13 rout of UAB last Saturday night. Keenum pushed his career total to 17,212 and past Timmy Chang of Hawaii (2001-04), the previous career leader with 17,072.

** While congratulations are in order for Keenum, darts to his head coach Kevin Sumlin for ridiculously trying to run up the score on the 1-8 Blazers, who rank 119th of 120 Division I-A teams in pass defense. Keenum was on the sideline early in the fourth quarter, but Sumlin instructed backup QB Cotton Turner to continue throwing the ball on the Cougars’ final series of the game.

** Northwestern’s 28-25 upset win at Nebraska was the 38th for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and pushed him to No. 2 on the school’s all-time victories list. The career wins leader at Northwestern is Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf, who went 49-45-7 from 1935-46. In his sixth season in Evanston, Fitzgerald has a 38-34 record and is one of only five head coaches at NU since 1920 to sport a winning record. The others are Waldorf, Glenn Thistlethwaite (21-17-1, 1922-26), Dick Hanley (36-26-4, 1927-34) and Ara Parseghian (36-35-1, 1956-63).

** Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball scored three more rushing touchdowns Saturday during his team’s 62-17 rout of Purdue and upped his nation-leading total to 21. He needs six more to break the Big Ten single-season record of 25 set by Anthony Thompson of Indiana in 1988 and equaled by Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter in 1994.

** Wisconsin travels to Minnesota this weekend to renew the nation’s oldest rivalry. It marks the 121st meeting in the series and the 64th time the schools will battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the trophy awarded to the winning of the contest since 1948. Goldy holds a 59-53-8 advantage in the overall series, but Bucky holds a 37-23-3 edge in the battle for the Axe.

** It was a good news-bad news week for Kansas. Good news: After giving up at least 42 points to seven straight opponents, the Jayhawks held Iowa State to only 13. Bad news: KU scored only 10 and dropped to 2-7 for the season. The Jayhawks’ seven-game losing streak matches the seven-game slide at the end of the 2009 campaign and means the team has now lost 23 of its last 28 games. KU hasn’t lost eight in a row in a single season since 1988, Glen Mason’s first year as head coach.

** Boston College’s 38-7 loss to Florida State last Thursday night officially put an end to the Eagles’ streak of 12 consecutive bowl seasons. BC slipped to 2-7 this season and needs to win two of its last three games to avoid its worst finish since going 2-9 in 1989.

** If you wonder how the Big East holds onto its BCS automatic status, you are not alone. Cincinnati leads the conference standings – the same Cincinnati team that lost a 45-23 decision to Tennessee back on Sept. 10. That’s the same Tennessee team that is presently 0-5 in the SEC.

** Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley suddenly ran out of kickers last Saturday after starter Michael Palardy was already sidelined and backup Chip Rhome pulled a muscle in pregame warm-ups. Dooley placed a telephone call to Derrick Brodus, a walk-on who practices with the Volunteers but never suits up for games – until last week. Brodus, who was at his fraternity house getting ready to watch the game on TV, got to Neyland Stadium less than an hour before kickoff and responded by booting three PATs and a 21-yard field goal during Tennessee’s 24-0 win over Middle Tennessee State.

** Speaking of kickers, Western Kentucky’s Casey Tinius is a model of perseverance. Tinius kicked a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the game Saturday to give his Hilltoppers a 10-9 win over Florida International. The winning kick came after Tinius had missed each of his previous seven field-goal attempts.

** The victory over FIU was the fifth in a row for Western Kentucky, which began the season with four straight losses. The Hilltoppers last won five in a row in 2004 when they were a Division I-AA program, and haven’t won more than five straight games since a 10-game win streak at the end of the 2002 season. The Hilltoppers captured the I-AA national championship that year under head coach Jack Harbaugh, father of NFL head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh.

** Unfair comparison of the week: Keenum has thrown for 17,212 yards during his career or about 9.8 miles. Notre Dame is dead last nationally in punt returns this season, totaling 3 yards on 10 attempts. That computes to an average of a little less than 11 inches per return.

** Over its last two games, Toledo has scored 126 points while its defense has allowed – strangely enough – 126 points. On the heels of last week’s wild 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois, the Rockets got into another shootout Tuesday night before pulling out a 66-63 victory over Western Michigan. The game featured 1,439 yards of total offense, 804 of it by Toledo. If you can believe it, that was not a school record for total yardage. The Rockets gained 812 yards during a 70-21 win over Northern Illinois in 2007.

** Did you know longtime CBS news correspondent and “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney, who died Nov. 4 at the age of 92, was a college football player at Colgate? Before his career in journalism, Rooney was an undersized offensive lineman for the Raiders in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 9, 1912, Carlisle (Ind.) used the double wing formation for the first time and rolled past a confused Army team, 27-6. Leading the Indians was legendary fullback Jim Thorpe while the Cadets featured a team that included nine future generals, including five-star general and future U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

** On Nov. 9, 1974, Baylor stunned No. 12 Texas with a 34-24 upset in Waco. The Longhorns built a 24-7 halftime lead after touchdown runs from future College Football Hall of Fame tailbacks Earl Campbell and Roosevelt Leaks. But the Bears stormed back in the second half led by QB Neal Jeffrey, who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns. The upset marked Baylor’s first win over Texas since 1956 and led to the school’s first Southwest Conference championship since 1924.

** On Nov. 10, 1956, UTEP pitched a 28-0 shutout over previously undefeated Arizona State and clinched their first-ever conference championship. The Miners, who were members of the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association in ’56, were led by an outstanding defensive effort. The Sun Devils marched inside the UTEP 30-yard line on eight different occasions only to come away empty-handed each time.

** On Nov. 10, 1984, backup quarterback Frank Reich of unranked Maryland engineered the biggest comeback in NCAA history at the time, leading the Terrapins from a 31-0 halftime deficit to a 42-40 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl.

** On Nov. 10, 2007, Navy and North Texas combined to score the most points in a regulation college football game when the Midshipmen outlasted the Mean Green, 74-62, in Denton, Texas. North Texas QB Giovanni Vizza threw for 478 yards and eight touchdowns while Navy rushed for 572 yards and scored eight TDs on the ground.

** On Nov. 11, 1939, Texas Tech and Centenary combined for an NCAA-record 77 punts in a rain-soaked, 0-0 tie in Shreveport, La.

** On Nov. 11, 1955, at a campus pep rally, Texas cheerleader Harley Clark became the first to raise his forefinger and pinky pointed upward and his middle two fingers curled under this thumb – the “Hook ’Em Horns” sign.

** On Nov. 11, 1967, Oregon State toppled No. 1 USC by a 3-0 score in Corvallis, finishing off an impressive three-game stretch. Before knocking off the top-ranked Trojans, the Beavers had beaten No. 2 Purdue and tied No. 2 UCLA. Kicker Mike Haggard’s 30-yard field goal in the second quarter accounted for all the scoring in the game as Oregon State won despite giving up 188 yards on 33 carries to USC tailback O.J. Simpson.

** On Nov. 11, 1989, Duke scored a 35-26 upset of North Carolina State despite Wolfpack QB Shane Montgomery throwing an NCAA-record 73 passes for a school-record 535 yards.

** On Nov. 12, 1966, quarterback Bob Griese led Purdue to a 16-0 victory at Minnesota and secured the Boilermakers’ first-ever berth in the Rose Bowl.

** On Nov. 12, 1983, UCLA needed only a tie against Arizona to secure a Rose Bowl bid, but kicker John Lee’s field-goal attempt sailed wide as time expired and the Bruins dropped a 27-24 decision.

** On Nov. 12, 2005, fifth-ranked LSU squeezed out a 16-13 overtime win over No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide enjoyed a 10-0 halftime lead, but the Tigers tied the game and then won it in overtime when QB JaMarcus Russell hit wide receiver Dwayne Bowe with an 11-yard touchdown pass.

** On Nov. 13, 1943, North Carolina and Penn combined to set an NCAA record that will likely never be approached again. The two squads combined for minus-13 passing yards on the day, the fewest passing yards in a single game in college football history. The Tar Heels completed 1 of 7 passes for a loss of 7 yards, while the Quakers connected on 2 of 12 attempts for minus-6 yards. North Carolina won the game by a 9-6 score in Philadelphia.

** On Nov. 13, 1982, Southern Mississippi engineered a 38-29 upset of Alabama, ending the Crimson Tide’s 57-game home win streak. The Golden Eagles were led by quarterback Reggie Collins, who rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns, while tailback Sam Dejarnette added 153 yards and two scores. Before the loss to Southern Miss, Alabama hadn’t tasted defeat in Tuscaloosa since 1963.

** On Nov. 13, 1993, ESPN’s College Gameday made its first-ever on-campus broadcast. The popular college football pregame show debuted in 1987, but it wasn’t until six years later that Gameday got out of the studio and hit the road. The first telecast was from South Bend to cover the 1-vs-2 matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame, and featured host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso and Craig James. The result was an upset victory by the second-ranked Irish, who took a 31-24 win over the No. 1 Seminoles. (Corso picked Florida State to win, by the way.) The Seminoles managed to rebound from the loss, going on to beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and capture the national championship.

** On Nov. 14, 1959, No. 12 Georgia came from behind for a 14-13 victory over eighth-ranked Auburn and the Bulldogs clinched their first SEC championship in a decade. College and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton led the Bulldogs to the win, connecting with split end Bill Herron for a touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds of the contest.

** On Nov. 14, 1970, a charter jet carrying Marshall University’s football team crashed near Huntington, W.Va., on a return trip from a game with East Carolina. Everyone on board, including head coach Rick Tolley, team members, coaching staff and several Thundering Herd boosters, died in the single worst air tragedy in college sports history.

** On Nov. 14, 1992, Iowa State stunned seventh-ranked Nebraska with a 19-10 upset in Ames. Third-string quarterback Marv Seiler, starting only because it was Senior Day, bolted 78 yards to set up the game-clinching touchdown for the Cyclones.

** On Nov. 14, 1998, second-ranked Kansas State took a 40-30 win over No. 11 Nebraska to clinch the Big 12 North title, the first football championship of any kind for the Wildcats since 1934.

** On Nov. 15, 1890, Minnesota and Wisconsin squared off for the first time in what has become the most-played series in college football history. The Gophers took a 63-0 victory in Minneapolis that day, and the two teams have played one another every year since.

** On Nov. 15, 1879, Princeton unveiled the novel approach of using blockers to help the ball-carrier advance the ball down the field. The new angle evidently was successful as the Tigers scored a 1-0 victory over Harvard. (In those days, you had to score four touchdowns to tally a single point.)

** On Nov. 15, 1941, College Football Hall of Fame head coach Eddie Robinson earned his first career victory as he led Grambling to a 37-6 win over Tillotson. Robinson eventually directed the Tigers to 408 victories in 55 years at Grambling.

FEARLESS FORECAST

The Forecast was back in the black last week despite some strange upsets. We were 8-2 straight up to move that yearly ledger to 91-11 while we ended an against-the-spread losing streak at one week with a 7-3 finish. That puts us at 65-34-1 ATS for the season and seriously thinking about starting one of those 1-900 numbers.

Before we quit the day job, though, here are the games we’ll be watching this week.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Western Kentucky at No. 1 LSU: After such an emotionally-packed, hard-hitting game as the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime triumph over Alabama, the Tigers might be forgiven for experiencing a letdown. That’s why the Hilltoppers are the perfect opponent this week. LSU has won 36 straight regular-season games against nonconference competition, sports a perfect 34-0 all-time record against current Sun Belt conference members and Tigers head coach Les Miles is looking for career win No. 100. Meanwhile, WKU has won five in a row but it has not faced anything like the snarling defense of the Tigers. Look for LSU to put this one away early and then glide home on cruise control … LSU 45, Western Kentucky 0. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 3 Alabama at Mississippi State: The Crimson Tide can go one of two ways. Either they can sulk after last week’s loss to LSU or they can take their frustrations out on the Bulldogs. MSU gave a decent accounting of itself last year before dropping a 30-10 decision to the Tide, but Alabama played that game without star tailback Trent Richardson. The one-time Heisman Trophy candidate was held to 89 yards last week by LSU, but the Tigers have the No. 2 rush defense in the country. The Bulldogs are ranked at No. 66. If Nick Saban sticks to his core offense – something he inexplicably did not do last week – and keeps his bag of tricks closed, the Tide should roll away with this one … Alabama 38, Mississippi State 10. (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 7 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford: After last week’s marquee matchup in the SEC, the Pac-12 gets the national spotlight with a game that should be in sharp contrast to the one played by LSU and Alabama. The Ducks and the Cardinal boast two of the country’s top offensive units, and two of college football’s major stars will be on display. Oregon RB LaMichael James (1,061 yards, nine TDs) is back after missing a couple of games with a dislocated elbow, while Stanford QB Andrew Luck (2,424 yards, 26 TDs) is the odds-on Heisman favorite. If you like offensive battles, you should have no problem being entertained. Last year, the Quack Attack wiped out an early 21-3 deficit en route to a 52-31 win, while the Cardinal outlasted Oregon, 51-42, in a wild one the last time the teams played in Palo Alto. Overtime anyone? … Stanford 59, Oregon 52. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

TCU at No. 5 Boise State: Despite the fact these schools are located about 1,250 miles apart, they have struck up a nice little rivalry the past couple of years. The Horned Frogs spoiled Boise’s perfect season in 2008, and the Broncos did the same to TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The Frogs hop into this one riding a four-game winning streak this season and they have won 21 in a row against Mountain West rivals. Of course, this is the first (and maybe last) season for the Broncos in the mighty MWC after three straight WAC championships, and they are nearly unbeaten at home. In fact, they haven’t lost a regular-season conference game on the Smurf Turf since 1998 … Boise State 31, TCU 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, Versus)

Tennessee at No. 8 Arkansas: The Razorbacks are feeling pretty good about themselves after a big 44-28 win last weekend over South Carolina. They can pretty much coast the next two weeks with home games against Tennessee and Mississippi State before a Nov. 25 showdown at top-ranked LSU in the regular-season finale. While LSU and Alabama are obviously the class of the SEC defensively, Arkansas leads the conference offensively, averaging 450.9 total yards and 37.7 points per game. With that kind of firepower, you have to wonder how the Volunteers can keep up with a scoring offense that ranks 96th nationally and a rushing attack that ranks 118th out of 120 Division I-A teams … Arkansas 38, Tennessee 22. (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson: The Tigers spent most of their off week concentrating on fundamentals and contemplating their first loss of the season, a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech on Oct. 29. They had better have saved some of their focus for the Demon Deacons, who are a better team than their 5-4 record might indicate. Wake is 4-2 in the ACC Atlantic, just a game behind front-running Clemson, and the Deacons have played the Tigers tough in the past. But they usually fall flat in Death Valley. Wake hasn’t won there since 2001 and has been wiped out by a combined score of 82-13 on its last two trips. Look for the Tigers to bounce back and stay on track for an ACC title game berth … Clemson 32, Wake Forest 17. (12 noon ET, ESPNU)

No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State: In what should be one of the most surreal Senior Days anywhere, the black cloud of the Penn State scandal will hang over this game like a shroud. Can the Nittany Lions players respond after such as emotional week? The scandal aside, this is the beginning of a three-game gantlet Penn State must navigate if it wants to get to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Even before what has transpired, it looked like a monumental task. Now, it looks borderline impossible. Many a college football game has been won on sheer emotion, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Penn State get a victory and dedicate it to their longtime coach. Still, you wager your hard-earned money with your head, not your heart … Nebraska 24, Penn State 20. (12 noon ET, ESPN)

No. 17 Michigan State at Iowa: The Spartans haven’t exactly distinguished themselves the past two weeks with a loss at Nebraska and a narrow home victory over Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes dropped Michigan last Saturday only a week after losing to the Golden Gophers. To say these teams are hard to figure out would be an understatement. Be that as it may, Iowa is playing well right now, especially on offense with sophomore running back Marcus Coker (1,101 yards, 12 TDs) and WR Marvin McNutt (959 yards, 9 TDs). Then when you figure into the equation that Sparty has lost the last seven times he has visited Kinnick, you get this kind of prediction and an Upset Special … Iowa 27, Michigan State 23. (12 noon ET, ESPN2)

No. 18 Wisconsin at Minnesota: Trap game for the Badgers? That’s highly unlikely even though the Gophers seem to be playing better of late. They beat Iowa two weeks ago and went to the wire with Michigan State last Saturday before falling by a 31-24 score. They also always seem to play Wisconsin tough at home. The last 12 meetings in Minnesota have been decided by an average of 4.5 points, with the Badgers winning the last three by margins of seven or fewer points. No one expects Goldy to engineer the upset, but many believe Minnesota can keep it closer than the spread. We’re not among them, though … Wisconsin 56, Minnesota 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

Ohio State at Purdue: Pound, ground and pound some more. That is what the Buckeyes are expected to do against the Boilermakers, who are tied for 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense. There is no doubt OSU will try to ratchet up its passing game, which ranks dead last in the conference, but there really isn’t much of a need with a ground game that features Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller. The Boilers can score some points, and the Buckeyes have had some kind of bugaboo over the past decade about playing in Ross-Ade Stadium, but another 300-plus yard performance from the OSU running game should be more than enough … Ohio State 38, Purdue 23. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Western Kentucky at LSU (-41); Alabama (-17½) at Mississippi State; Oregon at Stanford (-3½); TCU (+16) at Boise State; Tennessee at Arkansas (-14); Wake Forest (+19½) at Clemson; Nebraska (-3) at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa (+3); Wisconsin (-27) at Minnesota; Ohio State (-7) at Purdue.

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

Fickell’s Job Interview Begins In Earnest This Week

Despite the fact no one gives Indiana a chance to stay within three or four touchdowns of Ohio State tomorrow afternoon, the game will serve a valuable purpose other than just another victory for the Buckeyes. It will provide some insight into just what kind of head coach Luke Fickell has become.

It will also likely determine how much longer Fickell will be head coach of the Buckeyes.

The outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion for many, but with more difficult opponents on the horizon – and his team back in the thick of the Big Ten title game chase – Fickell is charged this week with keeping his team’s focus on the Hoosiers. That might not be the easiest of tasks since the Buckeyes are coming off such an emotional high following last week’s last-second victory over Wisconsin.

A natural byproduct of the win over the Badgers would be a letdown this weekend, and that would be especially unsurprising with the opponent ranked near or at the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive and defensive statistical categories.

However, the argument can and should be made that Ohio State is a team unable to afford the luxury of letting down against any opponent. The Buckeyes are just now beginning to show some life offensively and that uptick needs to continue. Likewise, it would be nice to see the defense – still the team’s strength – put together a complete four-quarter game even if it is against a lesser opponent.

That is Fickell’s main assignment this week. After eight games that have already featured a season’s worth of ups and downs, it will be interesting to see how focused on thumping an inferior opponent the Buckeyes will be.

Extrapolating that theory even further, let’s say the team is focused and takes care of business to the point that the game is out of hand by halftime. How much of a statement does Fickell want to make? Is he predisposed to taking his foot off the gas like his predecessor did so many times or does he more favor the more merciless style of Bret Bielema, who seems to delight in running up the score on lesser opponents.

One other thing to look for if the game gets out of hand early: Will Fickell rest his starters in favor of getting some meaningful playing time for his youngsters, i.e. new backup quarterback Kenny Guiton? One of the criticisms of Jim Tressel was that he sometimes stayed with his starters too long in games that were well in hand, sacrificing a chance to get some much-needed experience for part-timers.

Taking stock of the way the Buckeyes perform against Indiana will provide a window into Fickell’s coaching acumen as well as his philosophy, something we haven’t always been able to gauge because of the mostly frenetic nature of the past five months. It will be beneficial, of course, to dig a little deeper into the way Fickell goes about his business especially since every week from now through the end of the 2011 season will be a series of de facto job interviews for the coach.

Rumors persist that Urban Meyer will be head coach at Ohio State in 2012 regardless of how the Buckeyes finish this season. Yet, how could the university make a change if Fickell’s team wins its final six regular-season games and earns a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game? Then, let’s say OSU wins that game and goes to the Rose Bowl. That would mean a season with 10 victories and a record seventh straight conference title with Fickell the odds-on favorite to win Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. How does Ohio State proceed with a coaching change then?

Someone told me the other day that you make the change based solely on the fact that anytime you can get a coach with Meyer’s impressive body of work, the number of victories, titles and awards don’t matter. If you can get Meyer, you get him. End of story. Furthermore, you can head off any criticism of that decision by offering somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million annually to Fickell to stay on as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

The more I thought about that scenario – and the more I hear from people who should be in the know about these matters – the more I am inclined to think this is the path on which Ohio State is headed. Perhaps it will all work out for the best. Meyer can be the great savior everyone believes him to be and allow Fickell to remain in his hometown and work at his alma mater with the opportunity to continue to pad his résumé and perhaps become head coach again someday.

In the end, everyone wins.

If it’s such a great plan, though, why do I have such a sour taste about it?

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 85th time on Saturday with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 67-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 43-10-4 record in Ohio Stadium, including wins in each of the last nine games played in Columbus.

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 16-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.

** Since the Hoosiers took a 32-10 victory at Ohio Stadium in 1951, they have a 1-30-1 record in the Horseshoe. The lone victory was a 31-10 decision in 1987 and the tie was a 0-0 deadlock in 1959.

** Ohio State in its history has more victories over Indiana than any other team. The Buckeyes have 67 wins vs. the Hoosiers, 64 over Illinois, 59 over Northwestern, 54 over Wisconsin and 45 over Iowa.

** Since 2005, the Buckeyes are 17-1 during the month of November. During the same time frame, Indiana is 3-17 during November.

** Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell will be going against Indiana for the first time as a head coach but he is a perfect 11-0 lifetime vs. the Hoosiers as a player and assistant coach. Fickell was 4-0 as a player from 1993-96 and 7-0 during his nine seasons as an assistant on Jim Tressel’s staff.

** Despite its recent problems in the series, Indiana has historically made life difficult for Ohio State head coaches in their first season. Dating back to 1913, first-year OSU head coaches are only 4-4-1 against the Hoosiers. That includes losses by John W. Wilce (7-6 in 1913), Wes Fesler (7-0 in 1947), Woody Hayes (32-10 in 1951) and John Cooper (41-7 in 1988). Ohio State head coaches who beat Indiana in their inaugural seasons were Francis Schmidt (33-0 in 1934), Carroll Widdoes (21-7 in 1944), Earle Bruce (47-6 in 1979) and Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001). Sam Willaman’s first team in 1929 played the Hoosiers to 0-0 tie, and in case you’re wondering about Paul Brown in 1941 and Paul Bixler in 1946, the Buckeyes and IU did not play in those seasons.

** Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his first season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 60 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88. Before that, you have to go back to Clyde Smith, whose Indiana team took a 32-10 win over Ohio State in 1951.

** Wilson was offensive coordinator on the late Randy Walker’s staff at Northwestern from 1999-2001 and was 0-1 vs. Ohio State during that time. The Buckeyes took a 38-20 win over the Wildcats in 2001.

** Indiana has 16 native Ohioans on its roster – 11 of which are on the Hoosiers’ two-deep (including special teams) – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are redshirt freshman tailback/linebacker Rod Smith of Fort Wayne and freshman defensive lineman Joel Hale of Greenwood.

** Wilson also has three native Ohioans on his coaching staff. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns is from Piqua, running backs coach Deland McCullough is from Youngstown, and assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Doug Mallory hails from Bowling Green. Mallory is the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, who was a member of Woody Hayes’ coaching staff at Ohio State from 1966-68.

** Two more familiar names are serving on Wilson’s staff as graduate assistants. Chris Shula, whose grandfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, is the GA in charge of defense while former Northwestern running back Noah Herron has the offense. Ohio State fans most likely remember Herron for his performance against the Buckeyes in 2004. He rushed for 113 yards and scored three times – including the game-winning touchdown in overtime – as the Wildcats scored a stunning 33-27 win in Evanston. That remains Northwestern’s only victory in its last 29 games against OSU.

** While an Indiana upset of Ohio State would be stunning enough, the odds of the Hoosiers shutting out the Buckeyes would be astronomical. Indiana hasn’t pitched a shutout against any opponent since a 10-0 win over Michigan State in October 1993 and hasn’t blanked Ohio State since that 0-0 tie in 1959. IU hasn’t won a game in which it shut out the Buckeyes since a 10-0 decision in 1937.

** OSU senior tailback Boom Herron’s 160-yard rushing effort last weekend pushed his career total to 2,468, good for 13th on the school’s all-time rushing list. Herron needs 182 more yards to pass Jim Otis (2,542, 1967-69), Calvin Murray (2,576, 1977-80) and Raymont Harris (2,649, 1990-93) and break into the all-time top 10.

** Herron failed to record a rushing touchdown last week for the first time in 13 games, so he remained 20th on the OSU career scoring list with 186 points. Immediately ahead of him on the list are Ryan Pretorius (190, 2005-08), Michael Wiley (200, 1996-99) and Chic Harley (201, 1916-17, ’19).

** Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson is only the second true freshman in program history to start at QB. The other was Tim Clifford in 1977, who started only one game for the Hoosiers that season.

** Roberson threw for 169 yards and rushed for 121 during last Saturday’s 59-38 loss to Northwestern. That marked the first time an Indiana quarterback had cracked the century mark through the air and on the ground since Kellen Lewis threw for 159 and ran for 148 during his team’s 42-20 win over Ball State in 2008.

** Roberson and sophomore running back Stephen Houston (151) both topped 100 yards on the ground against Northwestern, and that was the first time two Hoosiers had cracked the century mark in the same game since BenJarvus Green-Ellis (136) and Brian Lewis (128) turned the trick during a 37-31 overtime loss to Northwestern in 2003.

** Houston, a JUCO transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, has strung together five straight games with 60 or more yards rushing. That is the longest streak of its kind by an Indiana running back since Levron Williams did it during the final eight games of the 2001 season.

** OSU sophomore kicker Drew Basil’s field goals of 39 and 22 yards against Wisconsin gave him a streak of 10 consecutive field goals, making him 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.

** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 59 for 59 in career PATs. The IU school record of 107 extra points in a row is held by Pete Stoyanovich (1986-88), who never missed a PAT during his college career.

** This week’s game will be telecast on a regional basis by the Big Ten Network with the announce crew of Tom Hart (play-by-play), former Minnesota tight end/long snapper Derek Rackley (color analysis) and Lisa Byington (sideline reports). Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 128 as well as XM channel 196.

** Next week, Ohio State travels to Purdue with kickoff time and broadcast affiliates still TBA. The Big Ten will not make an announcement regarding any its Nov. 12 games until after this weekend’s contests have been played.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** And then there were six. Only a half-dozen teams remain undefeated at the Division I-A level as we head into November. They are Alabama, Boise State, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford.

** Stanford had to go to three overtimes against USC before extending the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games. The Cardinal’s 56-48 win over the Trojans also snapped a streak of 10 straight games Stanford had won by 26 points or more, the longest streak of its kind since 1936.

** New Mexico extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 11 games when the Lobos dropped a 42-0 decision at home to Air Force. How bad has it gotten in Albuquerque? New Mexico has been outscored by a 160-7 margin the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic didn’t lose Oct. 29 because the Owls didn’t play. The Lobos and FAU remain the only winless teams this season at the I-A level.

** Another losing streak of note: Duke’s 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech marked the Blue Devils’ 44th consecutive loss to ranked teams. Duke hasn’t beaten a top-25 team since a 21-20 win over No. 22 North Carolina State in November 1993 and hasn’t claimed a victory over a top-10 team since 1989 when Steve Spurrier was head coach. That was a 21-17 home win over No. 7 Clemson on Sept. 30, 1989.

** Top-rated LSU and second-ranked Alabama marks the 46th time in history No. 1 has taken on No. 2 and the top-ranked team has a 26-17-2 record in the previous meetings. Most recently, top-ranked Auburn took a 22-19 win over second-ranked Oregon in January in the BCS National Championship Game. The last time a 1 vs. 2 matchup was staged in the regular season (not counting conference title games): No. 1 Ohio State scored a 42-39 triumph over No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18, 2006, in Ohio Stadium.

** How close are No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama? How about this: The Crimson Tide has scored 315 points and 40 touchdowns while the Tigers have 314 points and 41 touchdowns.

** You can argue all day and night about the level of competition against which he plays, but you cannot take the NCAA record for most career touchdown passes away from Houston QB Case Keenum. He shattered the mark last week by throwing for nine scores during his team’s 73-34 win over Rice, and Keenum now has 139 career touchdown passes. This year alone, he has completed 218 of 303 attempts (72.0 percent) for 3,219 yards, 32 TDs and three INTs. Those numbers, plus the fact he is No. 2 in the country in pass efficiency and his Cougars remain undefeated are enough to make me seriously consider putting Keenum on my Heisman Trophy ballot.

** Of course, topping my Heisman ballot is still Stanford QB Andrew Luck, who rallied the Cardinal last weekend to a three-overtime win over USC. Luck has completed 174 of 242 attempts (71.9 percent) for 2,218 yards, 23 TDs and four interceptions, and has added 113 yards and a couple of touchdowns rushing. But perhaps the best measuring stick of Luck’s leadership is how Stanford has performed this year in the red zone. The Cardinal are 45 for 46 in red-zone scoring chances, 36 for touchdowns.

** For everyone salivating over the prospect of Urban Meyer becoming the next head coach at Ohio State, we offer this nugget: Florida is in the throes of its first four-game losing streak since 1988 and the once-feared Gators offense scored a grand total of three touchdowns in four October games. That includes last week’s 24-20 loss to Georgia during which Florida totaled minus-19 yards rushing. Yes, Meyer is gone, but he recruited most of the underachieving players on this year’s UF roster.

** One of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper’s favorite sayings was “One week you’re sipping the wine, the next week you’re stomping the grapes.” Players and coaches from Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Purdue, Syracuse and Texas Tech know what Coop was talking about. Each of those teams upset ranked opponents on Oct. 22 and then each of those teams lost last Saturday by a combined score of 156-55.

** In its 41-7 loss to Iowa State, Texas Tech failed to record a touchdown pass for the first time in 70 games. The last time the Red Raiders hadn’t scored a touchdown through the air was a 12-3 loss to TCU in 2006.

** By the way, that win over Texas Tech was the largest margin of victory over a ranked team for Iowa State in school history. The Cyclones’ previous best was a 36-14 win over No. 20 Nebraska in 2002. The win over Texas Tech was also monumental in another way since Iowa State went into that game unranked. In their history as an unranked team playing a ranked opponent, the Cyclones are now 13-135.

** Congratulations to Missouri for its 38-31 overtime win over Texas A&M. It was an NCAA record 14th overtime game for the Tigers and they are 10-4 when working OT.

** Would you believe lowly Minnesota has a 2-3 record over its last five Big Ten games? Not only is that factoid true, both victories have come at the expense of Iowa. The Golden Gophers’ latest success in the Floyd of Rosedale series, a 22-21 upset of the Hawkeyes last Saturday, gave Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz (he of the $3.7 million annual salary) a career Big Ten record of an extremely pedestrian 55-45.

** Congratulations to Ferentz anyway for coaching in his 100th career conference game, a milestone only 13 men before him have achieved – Amos Alonzo Stagg of Chicago (201, 1896-1932); Woody Hayes of Ohio State (196, 1951-78); Bo Schembechler (170, 1969-89); Hayden Fry of Iowa (164, 1979-98); Robert Zuppke of Illinois (150, 1913-41); Joe Paterno of Penn State (149, 1993-present); Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin (128, 1990-2005); Murray Warmath of Minnesota (126, 1954-71); Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State (125, 1954-72); Ray Eliot of Illinois (116, 1942-59); Bill Mallory of Indiana (105, 1984-96); Lloyd Carr of Michigan (104, 1995-2007); and John Cooper of Ohio State (104, 1988-2000).

** How bad has it gotten for Kansas? The Jayhawks totaled only 46 yards of total offense last weekend while the defense surrendered 590 during a 43-0 loss at Texas. Among the 120 schools playing Division I-A football, Kansas ranks 118th in pass defense, 119th in rush defense and 120th in both total and scoring defense.

** Finally, a shout-out to senior receiver Michael Zweifel of Division III Dubuque (Iowa), who has established a new NCAA all-division record with 440 career receptions. The old mark of 436 was held by Scott Pingel (1996-99) of D-III Westminster (Mo.). Zweifel has 117 receptions for 1,665 yards and 22 TDs for the Spartans, who were 8-1 through Oct. 29. Zweifel also carries a 3.90 GPA while majoring in health, wellness and recreation, and has been named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and finalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top scholar-athlete in the nation.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 2, 1985, eighth-ranked Ohio State toppled No. 1 Iowa by a 22-13 score in Ohio Stadium. Future College Hall of Fame linebacker Chris Spielman totaled 19 tackles, capped by a late fourth-down stop of Hawkeyes tailback Ronnie Johnson inside the OSU 10-yard line. Spielman also had two interceptions as the Buckeyes pressured Iowa QB Chuck Long into throwing four picks.

** On Nov. 3, 1962, third-ranked USC Trojans handed No. 9 Washington its first loss of the season with a 14-0 shutout in Los Angeles. Quarterback Pete Beathard threw and ran for a score to carry the Trojans to victory. The win helped propel USC to the first of four national titles won under College Football Hall of Fame coach John McKay.

** On Nov. 3, 1984, Ohio State rolled to a 50-7 victory over Indiana, giving future College Football Hall of Fame coach Earle Bruce his 100th career win.

** On Nov. 4, 1967, Miami (Fla.) ended Virginia Tech’s regular-season winning streak at 14 with a 14-7 upset in Blacksburg.

** On Nov. 4, 2000, No. 23 Northwestern upset No. 12 Michigan in a 54-51 shootout in Evanston. Northwestern tailback Damien Anderson, who carried for 268 yards and two scores, dropped a fourth down pass in the end zone late in the game that seemingly sealed the Wildcats’ fate. But on the ensuing Michigan possession, cornerback Sean Wieber forced Wolverines tailback Anthony Thomas to fumble, which was recovered by cornerback Raheem Covington. The turnover set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from NU quarterback Zak Kustok to wide receiver Sam Simmons with 20 seconds to play to clinch the victory.

** Also on Nov. 4, 2000, Utah State running back Emmett White established a new NCAA single-game record with 578 all-purpose yards as the Aggies took a 44-37 win over New Mexico State. White rushed for 322 yards, totaled 134 receiving and added another 122 on kickoff and punt returns.

** On Nov. 5, 1938, sixth-ranked Tennessee began a streak of 17 consecutive regular-season shutouts with a 45-0 win over Chattanooga. During the streak, the Volunteers won three SEC championships and two national titles while outscoring their opposition, 479-0.

** On Nov. 5, 1955, three future College Hall of Famers – coaches Bowden Wyatt of Tennessee and Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech as well as UT tailback Johnny Majors – were all at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville as the Volunteers and Yellow Jackets played to a 7-7 tie.

** On Nov. 5, 1960, third-ranked Minnesota forced three turnovers and scored a 27-10 upset of top-ranked Iowa.

** On Nov. 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton squared off in Brunswick, N.J., for what has often been described as the first-ever game of American football. The 1869 game – won 6 “runs” to 4 by Rutgers – bore little resemblance to what football is known as today. For example, each side used 25 men on a 120-yard field and the rules were said to be a mixture of rugby and soccer. Players attempted to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal, and throwing or carrying the ball was not allowed.

** On Nov. 6, 1971, Colgate and Bucknell combined to run the ball 141 times, setting an NCAA record for the most single-game rushes in college football history. The Raiders rushed 82 times while Bucknell racked up 59 carries, and the teams combined for 440 total rushing yards. Colgate won the game by a 47-24 score.

** On Nov. 6, 1976, Houston highlighted its first season as a member of the Southwest Conference with a stunning 30-0 victory over Texas. The Cougars were led by defensive tackle Wilson Whitley as the Longhorns were limited to only eight first downs in their worst conference loss ever under legendary head coach Darrell Royal.

** On Nov. 7, 1925, Andy “Swede” Oberlander threw a then-NCAA-record six touchdown passes as Dartmouth rolled to a 62-13 win over Cornell. One week later, the Big Green took a 33-7 victory over Chicago to finish the season with a perfect 8-0 record and the national championship.

** On Nov. 7, 1959, unranked Tennessee stopped Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon on a fourth-quarter two-point conversion run and preserved a 14-13 upset over No. 1 LSU, ending the Tigers’ 19-game unbeaten streak.

** On Nov. 7, 1970, Northwestern fullback Mike Adamle set a new Big Ten record for carries by rushing 48 times for 192 yards and four touchdowns as his Wildcats took a 28-14 win over Minnesota.

** On Nov. 8, 1947, Wisconsin and Iowa became the first teams to combine for three punt returns for touchdowns in a single game during a 46-14 win by the Badgers in Madison.

** On Nov. 8, 1975, unranked Kansas ended No. 2 Oklahoma’s 28-game winning streak by going into Norman and carving out a 23-3 upset victory. The defending national champion Sooners committed seven second-half turnovers and were held to their lowest scoring output in nine seasons. They rebounded, however, and went on to defeat Penn State in the Orange Bowl for a second consecutive national title.

** Also on Nov. 8, 1975, freshman cornerback Savann Thompson’s interception with 59 seconds left set up the game-winning field goal as Stanford shocked No. 9 USC, 13-10, in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

FEARLESS FORECAST

It had to happen sometime. The highly-flying Forecast was grounded last weekend thanks to some unbelievable upsets – Iowa lost (again) to Minnesota and Texas Tech celebrated its win over Oklahoma a little too much and forgot to show up against four-loss Iowa State, dropping a 41-7 decision in the process.

Straight up, those were the only losses in an 8-2 week that puts us at 83-9 SU for the year. Unfortunately, we finally stumbled against the spread after three glorious weeks. Even with Ohio State’s Upset Special win over Wisconsin, we were 4-6 ATS, leaving us still way ahead at 58-31-1 for the season but determined not to let one bad week turn into two.

Here are the games we like this week.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

USC at Colorado: Time of give the devil his due. Lane Kiffin has taken a USC program reeling from NCAA sanctions and turned it into a pretty decent team. The Trojans came within an eyelash of knocking off national title contender Stanford last week, and get to use any leftover pent-up frustration tonight on the lowly Buffaloes. Colorado ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, something that ought to play into the Trojans’ strength, especially since QB Matt Barkley has thrown for 12 TDs in his last four games … USC 41, Colorado 14. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama: You can still argue about the overall depth of the SEC, but the discussion about the nation’s two best teams begins and ends with the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. The game should be a black-and-blue defensive struggle. Bama boasts the nation’s No. 1 defense in all four major categories – rush, pass efficiency, total yards and scoring – while LSU is among the top five in the same four categories. Scoring will be at a premium, meaning turnovers may play the huge role in determining the outcome. Neither team played last week, so they should both be more than ready to provide quite a show … Alabama 23, LSU 17. (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have won their first four home games by a combined score of 227-100, so you have to wonder how the Wildcats are going to slow them down especially after last week’s 58-17 loss to Oklahoma. The simple truth is that K-State will not be able to slow the Pokes down, but the Wildcats should be able to put a few more points on the board this week. While Okie State has one of the nation’s top offenses, its defense ranks 111th nationally in yards allowed. Even so, this one should be another clinic by Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden (2,710 yards, 22 TDs) and top WR Justin Blackmon (74 catches, 834 yards, 10 TDs) … Oklahoma State 56, Kansas State 27. (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 4 Stanford at Oregon State: After last week’s triple-overtime scare at USC, you might tend to think the Cardinal will want to coast this week against the 2-6 Beavers. That shouldn’t be the case, especially since one of the few things Stanford QB Andrew Luck has never accomplished in his career is a victory in the state of Oregon. The Cardinal’s only blemish on last year’s record was a 52-31 loss to the Ducks in Eugene, and two years ago Luck was on the losing end of a 38-28 decision to Oregon State. He returns to Corvallis trying to further cement his front-runner status in the Heisman race and hoping to keep his team tuned up for next week’s home date against Oregon which will likely determine the champion of the Pac-12 North. It’s tough to envision any scenario in which the offensively-challenged Beavers could engineer the upset … Stanford 41, Oregon State 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

No. 5 Boise State at UNLV: The Broncos will be busy in Sin City, but you can bet they will have at least one eye on the Alabama-LSU scoreboard. The loser of that game will likely slip in next week’s BCS standings, meaning Boise can inch closer to crashing the national championship part by taking care of business against the Rebels. That shouldn’t be too difficult a task since UNLV doesn’t do anything particularly well – the team ranks 116th nationally in total offense, 118th in scoring defense. Also, a win by the Broncos would push QB Kellen Moore’s record as a starter to 46-2 and make him the winningest quarterback in NCAA history … Boise State 45, UNLV 13. (10:30 p.m. ET. CBS Sports Network)

Northwestern at No. 10 Nebraska: One thing we have learned about the Cornhuskers in their first season as Big Ten members – they are tough to beat at home. Ohio State had them by three touchdowns late in the third quarter and NU escaped with a 34-27 win. Then last week, Michigan State sailed into Lincoln as one of the hottest teams in the nation and sailed back out again on the wrong end of a 24-3 beatdown. Next up for Nebraska is Northwestern and its high-octane offense behind QB Dan Persa, who now seems fully healed from his Achilles heel injury. Persa leads a proficient offense; trouble is, the Wildcats can’t seem to stop anyone on defense. They average 31.6 points per game offensively and give up an average of 31.5 defensively. That kind of ratio isn’t going to get it done in Lincoln … Nebraska 37, Northwestern 24. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)

No. 13 Houston at UAB: Cougars QB Case Keenum already has the NCAA record for most touchdown passes in a career and he needs only 267 more passing yards to become college football’s all-time leader in that department. Keenum might get that in the first half against the Blazers, who rank an abysmal 116th nationally in pass efficiency defense. As if Keenum wasn’t enough, Houston also has KR Tyron Carrier, who has an NCAA-record tying seven career kickoff returns for a touchdown. This one should get ugly in a real big hurry … Houston 77, UAB 7. (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Minnesota at No. 17 Michigan State: The Gophers are feeling pretty good about themselves for a change after last week’s 22-21 upset of Iowa. Contrast that with how Sparty feels after being run over by Nebraska. Actually, we should have foreseen both outcomes. Goldy beat Iowa for the second year in a row while the Huskers beat the Spartans for the sixth time in as many meetings. Last week was last week, however, and the smart money says look for an MSU bounce-back at home … Michigan State 35, Minnesota 13. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Purdue at No. 20 Wisconsin: College football is a game of emotion, but how difficult is it going to be for the Badgers to pick up the pieces after having their hearts cut out two weeks in a row? Well, playing the Boilermakers in Camp Randall should be just the tonic they need. The Badgers have won the last five meetings in the series by an average of nearly three touchdowns, and Purdue has dropped 13 straight road games to ranked opposition. Expect to be close very early and then watch Wisconsin keep its foot firmly planted on the accelerator … Wisconsin 52, Purdue 13. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Indiana at Ohio State: After last week’s emotion-filled victory over Wisconsin, the Buckeyes might be forgiven a little if they have trouble focusing this week. After all, the Hoosiers are likely the worst team in the Big Ten with a defense that would challenged to stop most high school teams. IU does have some offensive talent, most notably freshman QB Tre Roberson and JUCO transfer Stephen Houston at running back. Still, it’s difficult to imagine how IU could pull off the unimaginable, especially considering OSU’s current 16-0 run in the series … Ohio State 48, Indiana 14. (12 noon ET, BTN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: USC (-21) at Colorado; LSU at Alabama (-4½); Kansas State at Oklahoma State (-21); Stanford (-20½) at Oregon State; Boise State at UNLV (+42); Northwestern (+18) at Nebraska; Houston (-27) at UAB; Minnesota (+28) at Michigan State; Purdue at Wisconsin (-25½); Indiana at Ohio State (-27).

Enjoy the games and we’ll visit again next week.