Miller Deserved A Heisman Invitation

Drivers who back into parking spaces. Double-stuffed Oreos. The fiscal cliff. Coaches in the Big Ten who didn’t think enough of Braxton Miller to make him their first-team all-conference selection.

There are so many things in this world that I just don’t get, and Miller finishing second to Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez on the coaches’ All-Big Ten was one more of them. Of course, the coaches look even more foolish now that Miller has won the Silver Football award, symbolic of the Big Ten’s most valuable player.

But there are some Ohio State fans that persist in the notion that Miller remains an average (at best) quarterback. Part of the downside of playing quarterback, of course, is that the hometown fans are never going to be satisfied. But I still cannot fathom how so many Buckeye Nation denizens believe Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is much more deserving of the Heisman Trophy than Miller.

First of all, Klein is not going to win the trophy. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be announced as the winner tomorrow night with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o a fairly distant second. Still, Klein earned an invitation to New York City and the official presentation ceremonies over Miller and USC receiver Marqise Lee.

Lee was no doubt eliminated for two reasons: He played for an underachieving team that lost five times this season, and he is only a sophomore. That means he can take his nation-best 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 TDs and get ready to pad those stats against Georgia Tech (No. 82 nationally in pass efficiency defense) in the Sun Bowl.

There were likely two reasons why Miller was eliminated as well. The first is that he is a sophomore, and the second was that he played for a team ineligible for postseason play. As a result, Miller got only cursory recognition during the season, and as the race for the national championship heated up, he was hardly mentioned at all.

It didn’t help Miller’s candidacy that his stats fell off during the final two games of the season. During the 21-14 overtime victory at Wisconsin, Miller was clearly frustrated as the Badgers keyed on him to the point that 23 carries netted only 48 rushing yards. His 10-for-18 performance for 97 yards and no touchdowns in the passing department was hardly Heisman-worthy, either.

The following week against Michigan, Miller was much better in the passing game, completing 14 of 18 attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown. But he struggled again on the ground, picking up only 57 yards on 20 carries.

Of course, those are the raw numbers. Dig a little deeper and you will find that Miller’s most effective month of the season was November when he failed to throw a single interception and rallied his team to a pair of overtime victories. Miller was also money with the game on the line. During the fourth quarter, he averaged 11.7 yards per attempt, threw for five touchdowns against only one interception, and had a passer rating above 205.

Then there is the totality of Miller’s body of work for 2012. Does anyone truly believe Ohio State would have completed a perfect 12-0 season without Miller at the controls? Even if all you look at are raw numbers, he should not be penalized because opposing defenses began to sell out just to stop him. The simple fact is that others on the team – i.e. Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown – began to step up their games because of him.

Does Miller remain largely an unfinished product as a college quarterback? There is virtually no disputing that. But 2012 marked the first season he has received any kind of high-level coaching. If he can make the same kind of progress over the next 12 months that he made over the past 12, there will be no way to prevent him from being a Heisman favorite in 2013.

That said, Miller’s 2012 numbers could be difficult to replicate. He broke Ohio State’s 17-year-old single-season record for total offense with 3,310 yards. He became the first OSU quarterback in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,271. Along the way, he totaled six games of 100 yards or more to give him a school-record-for-quarterbacks nine in his career. For some perspective on that last stat, All-American Bob Ferguson and Heisman Trophy winner Howard “Hopalong” Cassady had only nine 100-yard games during their Ohio State careers.

Miller also threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, completing 148 of 254 attempts (58.3 percent). Those are solid-if-unspectacular numbers – although very similar to those put up by Klein. The K-State senior completed 180 of 272 attempts (66.2) percent for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also pitched seven interceptions to six for Miller. That computes to one pick for every 38.9 attempts for Klein, and one every 42.3 attempts for Miller.

Add in the fact that Klein (3,380) and Miller (3,310) were virtually tied in total offense, and their teams combined for a 23-1 record, and I fail to see how Klein was so much better that he deserved an invitation to New York while Miller did not.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Dec. 8, 1914, representatives from Oklahoma and Rice attended a meeting in Houston and joined as charter members of what became the Southwest Athletic Conference.

** On Dec. 8, 1959, the first NAIA championship contest was staged between St. Joseph (Ind.) and Montana State. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and both schools were awarded NAIA championship trophies

** On Dec. 9, 1876, Yale finished an undefeated season with a 2-0 victory over Columbia in a game held in Hoboken, N.J. The Bulldogs finished their season with a perfect 3-0 record, their third undefeated season in the first five years of football at the university.

** On Dec. 9, 1914, College Football Hall of Fame icon Glenn “Pop” Warner coached his final game at Carlisle (Pa.) Indian School. The Indians traveled to Birmingham and came home with a 20-3 victory over Alabama. Warner, who also coached at Georgia, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Stanford and Temple, compiled a record of 312-104-32 during a 44-year coaching career.

** On Dec. 9, 1935, University of Chicago halfback John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger won the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy awarded to the outstanding player east of the Mississippi River. Berwanger was a runaway winner over Army halfback Charles “Monk” Meyer, Notre Dame halfback William Shakespeare and Princeton halfback W. Pepper Constable. One year after Berwanger won the award, it was renamed the Heisman Memorial Trophy in honor of legendary college coach John Heisman, who died in October 1936.

** On Dec. 9, 1961, Baylor scored a 24-9 upset victory over No. 10 Utah State in the long-forgotten Gotham Bowl. The game was played in New York City at the old Polo Grounds during a driving snowstorm and featured eight turnovers by the Aggies. Baylor was led by halfback Ronnie Bull, who rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Don Trull, who threw for one score and ran for another. Utah State was led by future College and Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Merlin Olsen. The Gotham Bowl was only played twice. Following the 1962 game in Yankee Stadium, a 36-34 win by Nebraska over Miami (Fla.) played in 14-degree weather, the contest faded into the history books.

** On Dec. 11, 1971, first and only East-West Black All-Star Game was held in Houston. The contest, which featured all-star teams comprised only of African-American players, featured a 19-10 victory for the East over the West before only 5,156 fans.

** On Dec. 11, 1977, College Football Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson led his Grambling State team to a 35-32 victory over Temple in the Tokyo Bowl. The Tigers’ victory marked one of the first wins by a historically black college over a Division I-A opponent.

** On Dec. 12, 1925, Hawaii topped Colorado State, 41-0, in Manoa, Hawaii, to push the Warriors’ winning streak to 18 games. It also snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Rams. Hawaii was coached at the time by Otto “Proc” Klum, the winningest coach in school history, who earned a reputation for running up the score on opponents. Twice during the 1926 season, the Warriors scored 101-0 victories.

** On Dec. 12, 1981, Eastern Michigan celebrated its first (and still only) postseason appearance with a 30-27 win over San Jose State in the California Bowl.

** On Dec. 14, 1995, overtime was used for the first time ever in a Division I-A game. Toledo took a 40-37 win in OT over Nevada in the Las Vegas Bowl.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Wisconsin is only the second unranked team to make a BCS bowl (Connecticut was the first in 2010) and the Badgers are the first five-loss team to enter a BCS game. It would seem prudent for the Bowl Championship Series to have some sort of mechanism in place to prevent teams with more than two losses from playing in the marquee bowls, but since the BCS is going away after next season anyway …

** And then there is the curious case of Louisiana Tech, a 9-3 team featuring the nation’s No. 1 ranked scoring offense. The Bulldogs aren’t going to any bowl because athletic director Bruce Van De Velde turned down an invitation from the Independence Bowl for a better offer that never came. Tech long snapper Josh Cuthbert promptly qualified himself for Tweet of the year with this gem: “Way to go athletic director #yousuck.”

** It’s a whirlwind kind of season for Rod Carey. The former offensive lineman at Indiana began the year as a junior member of Dave Doeren’s coaching staff at Northern Illinois. After the Huskies’ season-opening loss to Iowa, Carey was promoted to offensive coordinator when predecessor Mike Dunbar was diagnosed with cancer. Then the day after NIU defeated Kent State in the MAC Championship Game, Carey was promoted to head coach after Doeren left to take the job at North Carolina State. That means Carey’s first assignment as head coach will be in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.

** Baylor finished the regular season with six consecutive victories to finish at 7-5 and grab a spot in the Holiday Bowl against UCLA. The Bears have now strung together three straight seasons of seven wins or more, and that’s the first time that has happened in Waco since 1949-51.

** USA Today college football writer Paul Myerberg had an interesting piece in the Dec. 4 issue regarding success tied to pass efficiency. The top 10 college teams in pass efficiency combined for a 91-31 record this season while the bottom 10 were 29-91. Of course, as with any statistical comparison, there are outliers. For example, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin finished atop the Big Ten in pass efficiency but ranked only a respective 44th, 52nd and 56th nationally. In terms of pass efficiency rating, the highest ranked team with a losing record was Marshall (5-7) at No. 27. The lowest ranked team with a winning record was Bowling Green (8-4) at No. 101.

** Pittsburgh began its season with a 31-17 loss to FCS member Youngstown State and sat at 2-4 in mid-October. But first-year head coach Paul Chryst righted the ship, the Panthers won four of their last six games, and got themselves bowl-eligible. That’s the good news. The bad news? Pitt will be playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., for the third year in a row. The Panthers took a 27-10 win over Kentucky two years ago and dropped a 28-6 decision to SMU last year.

** Speaking of the Panthers, they will be making their third straight visit to Birmingham under a third different head coach. Two years ago, head coach Dave Wannstedt was forced out and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett coached the team to its win over Kentucky. Last year, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was interim head coach during the bowl game after Todd Graham left to take over at Arizona State.

** Ten schools have filled coaching vacancies so far with 11 more still searching. The newly hired nine are Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Steve Addazio at Boston College, Sonny Dykes at Cal, Paul Petrino at Idaho, Mark Stoops at Kentucky, Doeren at N.C. State, Carey at Northern Illinois, Darrell Hazell at Purdue and Butch Jones at Tennessee. Still in the market for new head coaches: Arkansas State, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida International, Kent State, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Temple, UTEP, South Florida, Wisconsin and Western Michigan.

** Thoughts on the Bielema-to-Arkansas story have run the gamut from shock to derision. But for all of those who believe the SEC has stolen one of the Big Ten’s best coaches, chew on these numbers. Bielema leaves Wisconsin with a 39-19 record in the conference, a .672 winning percentage. Take a little closer scrutiny of that record and you will find a 25-2 mark vs. Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern, and a 14-17 ledger vs. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa and Nebraska. Bielema was 2-0 in conference title games, but only 2-4 in bowl games, including 0-2 in two Rose Bowl appearances.

** One final thought on the Wisconsin coaching situation. No one should have been surprised when athletic director Barry Alvarez decided to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. Likewise, no one should be surprised if Alvarez decides after the Rose Bowl that he himself is the best candidate to be Bielema’s successor.

FEARLESS FORECAST

We finished the regular season in a blaze of glory, going 8-2 straight up and 6-3-1 against the spread. That pushed the season totals to 105-25 SU picks and 68-58-4 ATS.

There is only one game tomorrow and it’s an annual classic.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Army vs. Navy: The pomp and circumstance of the Cadets and Midshipmen marching into the stadium far exceeds the entertainment value of the game itself. Nevertheless, it is a national showcase for a pretty good Navy team and a fairly awful Army squad. Both teams run the ball almost exclusively – Army has completed only 47 passes all season – which leads to the fact that the Cadets are the No. 1 running team in the nation and the Middies are No. 6. Unfortunately for Army, it also ranks 118th of 120 FBS teams in rush defense. That means RBs Gee Gee Greene and Noah Copeland as well as freshman QB Keenan Reynolds will get plenty of carries for Navy, and probably plenty of touchdowns … Navy 31, Army 24. (3 p.m. ET, CBS)

That will do it for the 2012 season. Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as well as a safe and prosperous new year.

Buckeyes Should Be Rewarded For Perfect Season

Ohio State put the finishing touches on a perfect season with a 26-21 victory over archrival Michigan, and Ohio Stadium hadn’t even emptied before the nattering nabobs of negativity began their dismissive chorus to belittle the Buckeyes’ accomplishment.

It seems that many pundits around the country don’t believe Ohio State “deserves” to be in this year’s national championship conversation. Unfortunately, the sorriest part of their argument has nothing to do with NCAA sanctions or postseason bans.

In their warped sense of sensibility, the Buckeyes have not performed to the level of a championship contender. Therefore, OSU and its perfect record are a sort of anomaly born of a weak conference affiliation and an even weaker schedule.

After all, didn’t the team struggle against the likes of California, Indiana and Purdue? Ohio State should probably thank the NCAA for issuing a postseason ban that prevents its team from being embarrassed by the unrelenting might of Notre Dame or Alabama in a national championship game.

Of course, that’s what those same so-called experts were saying a decade ago when the Buckeyes were on their way to play the supposedly invincible defending national champion Miami Hurricanes.

Those of us rooted in reality realized long ago that Ohio State was going to be the longest of long shots to win this year’s Associated Press version of the national title. Then when Notre Dame completed its perfect regular season a few hours after OSU completed its own, the Buckeyes’ tiny window of opportunity closed completely.

Still, the fact of the matter is that Ohio State completed a perfect season against all odds, and it should be rewarded regardless of how or against whom it was achieved.

The time-honored tradition among most human pollsters is that undefeated teams are ranked ahead of those which have been beaten. That’s why OSU should be no lower than No. 2 in the AP poll – and 17 of the 60 persons participating in the rankings released Nov. 25 agreed.

Likewise, it’s not too difficult to understand how 19 other voters placed the Buckeyes third or fourth on their AP ballots. On paper, Ohio State would likely struggle with either No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia, the teams that have qualified for the SEC elimination game that will determine Notre Dame’s opponent in the national championship contest.

And then there are those eight voters who placed Ohio State eighth or lower on their ballots. That included two – Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and Josh Kendall of The State in Columbia, S.C. – who didn’t even have the Buckeyes among their top 10.

DiPrimio had OSU at No. 11, behind a foursome of two-loss teams, while Kendall had the Buckeyes at No. 12, behind five teams with two losses. Of course, Kendall likely let his dog perform his balloting. He voted two-loss Texas A&M second overall behind Notre Dame despite the fact the Aggies tied only for the fourth-best record in the SEC.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter who finishes anywhere but first in these beauty contests. For example, can you name the team that finished No. 3 last year behind national championship combatants Alabama and LSU? (It was Oklahoma State.)

Whether Ohio State finished second this year, or third, or even 10th or 11th really doesn’t mean anything because I’ve got news for the Pete DiPrimios and Josh Kendalls of the world: The Buckeyes are going to be good again next year – very good – and it’s going to take much more than a computer keystroke to keep the team from contending for the national championship.

With the exception of most of its starting defensive line, Ohio State loses very little talent heading into 2013. And if you look at the way the Buckeyes recruited last year, the defensive line will be far from a liability.

Furthermore, the schedule sets up much the way the one this past season did. Nonconference opponents are Buffalo, San Diego State, California and FCS member Florida A&M, teams that combined for a 20-27 record this past season, and the Buckeyes’ only real Big Ten threats should be early in the season with back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Northwestern and the regular-season finale at Michigan.

Then there is the head coach. For all of the miracles Urban Meyer has performed during his 11-year career, he has been his most miraculous during the second season at each of his previous three stops.

At Bowling Green in 2002, the Falcons won nine games for the first time in eight seasons. Two years later at Utah, the Utes set a school record by going 12-0 and became the first-ever BCS buster, finishing off that season with a 35-7 mauling of Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Then in 2006 at Florida, Meyer’s team went 13-1 and pummeled Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.

Add to those nuggets the fact that there is very little evidence that anyone in the Big Ten is rising to meet Meyer’s challenge. In the final two games this season, neither opposing head coach seemed very eager to engage Meyer or his team.

Bret Bielema, whose Wisconsin team had nothing to lose in a Senior Day battle with the Buckeyes, elected to punt three times inside OSU territory, including once at the Ohio State 30-yard line in the first quarter of a still scoreless game. A week later, Michigan’s Brady Hoke went away from the stretch plays that were working for his team in the early going and repeatedly tested the middle of the line of scrimmage with his running attack long after the Buckeyes had claimed the interior for their own.

Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel perhaps put it best when he wrote in his magazine’s Nov. 19 issue, “For a league in transition, Meyer is driving the pace car.”

That’s not exactly music to the ears of Big Ten opponents – or apparently sportswriters around the country. Then again, the truth always seems to hurt a little.

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, 1946, the annual Army-Navy game produced a classic in Philadelphia. The Cadets, led by future College Football Hall of Famers and Heisman Trophy winners Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard, raced out to a 21-6 halftime lead. But the Midshipmen stormed back in the second half with a pair of touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Middies, they missed all three of their extra-point attempts and lost the game by a 21-18 final when Army stopped them at the 4-yard line as time expired.

** 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, 1951, sixth-ranked Georgia Tech forced an NCAA-record 13 turnovers (five fumbles and eight interceptions) during a 48-6 victory over instate rival Georgia.

** 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. 1, 2007, the Bowl Championship Series turned upside-down in the matter of a few hours. Missouri and West Virginia entered the day atop the BCS standings, but the top-ranked Tigers lost a 38-17 decision to No. 8 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game while the second-ranked Mountaineers fell 13-9 to unranked Pittsburgh. Those two upsets elevated LSU and Ohio State into the BCS National Championship Game.

** 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. 2, 1990, No. 11 Houston won a 62-45 shootout over Arizona State in a contest played in Tokyo, Japan. Houston QB David Klingler threw for an NCAA single-game record 716 yards and seven touchdowns, and the Cougars finished off a 10-1 season and wound up No. 10 in the final national rankings.

** On Dec. 3, 1885, in Downs, Kansas, one of the most colorful coaches in college football was born. Francis Albert Schmidt played his college ball at Nebraska, where he earned a law degree, and he later rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army during World War I. Schmidt began his head coaching career in 1919 and served stints at Tulsa, Arkansas, TCU, Ohio State and Idaho. While with the Buckeyes, he became the first (and still only) head coach to beat Michigan in each of his first four tries and Schmidt also instituted the Gold Pants Club to mark each victory over the Wolverines. Schmidt retired from coaching following the 1942 season and died two years later of a heart attack at the age of 58. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

** On Dec. 3, 1994, at the first-ever SEC Championship game, Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left, and the No. 6 Gators squeezed out a 24-23 victory over previously undefeated and third-ranked Alabama.

** 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.

** On Dec. 5, 1988, Miami (Fla.) ruined the national championship hopes of third-ranked UCLA with a 49-45 upset win in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes, led by 299 yards and three touchdowns from tailback Edgerrin James, rallied from a 38-21 deficit late in the third quarter. The Bruins fumbled twice and Miami QB Scott Covington threw for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to aid the comeback.

** On Dec. 5, 1993, Wisconsin went all the way to Tokyo to score a 41-20 win over Michigan State, clinching the Badgers’ first Rose Bowl trip in 31 years.

** On Dec. 6, 1873, Yale defeated Eton Players of England by a 2-1 final. It was the first college football game in the U.S. played with 11 men on each side.

** On Dec. 6, 1975, No. 18 Arkansas put an end to Texas A&M’s hopes of a national championship with a 31-6 upset win. The Razrobacks forced six turnovers and held the Aggies to only 149 total yards, securing their first trip to the Cotton Bowl in nine years.

** On Dec. 7, 1966, Army and Navy entered their traditional season finale with winning records for the first time in 33 years. With U.S. President Bill Clinton in attendance to personally award the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the winner, the Black Knights erased an early 21-3 deficit for a 28-24 victory. It was the largest comeback in the 96-game history of the series and the win gave Army its first-ever 10-victory season.

** On Dec. 7, 2002, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns as the Thundering Herd claimed the Mid-American Conference championship with a 49-45 win over Toledo. The Rockets had a 45-42 advantage late in the game, but Leftwich connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass with wide receiver Darius Watts with only 49 seconds left to give Marshall the victory and the MAC title.

** On Dec. 8, 2001, eighth-ranked BYU’s perfect season went down in flames as Hawaii scored a 72-45 victory over the Cougars in Honolulu. Rainbows QB Nick Rolovich threw for single-game school records of 543 yards and eight touchdowns while teammate Chad Owens returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and a punt 74 yards for another touchdown. The teams combined for 1,258 yards of offense and 69 first downs.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Notre Dame and Ohio State were the only Football Bowl Subdivision teams to make it through the 2012 regular season without a defeat. Neither team will play in a conference championship game – the Fighting Irish because they remain independent while the Buckeyes are serving a one-year postseason ban.

** The Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes each extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 games. While Ohio State will take its streak into 2013, Notre Dame will put its streak on the line in the BCS National Championship Game against the winner of the SEC title game.

** The nation’s longest losing streak will also move into 2013 as Southern Miss finished its first winless season since 1925 with a 42-24 loss at Memphis last weekend. The Golden Eagles, who were 12-2 just a year ago, finished 0-12 this season under first-year head coach Ellis Johnson. Southern Miss was outscored by a 450-236 margin, and Johnson became a one-and-done coach.

** If you take a look back at the Associated Press preseason poll, you would see rankings in which voters really didn’t know up from down. USC was the preseason No. 1, Oklahoma was No. 4, Michigan was No. 8, Arkansas was No. 10, West Virginia was No. 11, Wisconsin was No. 12, Michigan State was No. 13 and Virginia Tech was No. 16. With the exception of Oklahoma (12th) and Michigan (21st), none of those teams was ranked headed into the final weekend of the regular season. On the flip side, top-ranked Notre Dame was listed among “others receiving votes” in the AP’s preseason poll while No. 4 Ohio State was a lowly 18th.

** Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is trying to win a national championship in his third season in South Bend. If you’re into history, you might want to scrape up a few dollars and bet on the Irish to win the title. Frank Leahy (1943), Ara Parseghian (1966), Dan Devine (1977) and Lou Holtz (1988) each won national championships with the Fighting Irish in their third seasons.

** What team is the only one to defeat four opponents currently ranked among the top 15 of the BCS standings? We’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. It’s Florida, which defeated No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 10 South Carolina and No. 13 Florida State. And yet by virtue of their only loss, a 17-9 decision Oct. 27 to No. 3 Georgia, the 11-1 Gators will get neither a smell of the SEC Championship Game nor the national title contest.

** There are a lot of worthy candidate for National Coach of the Year, but how about the job turned in by second-year head coach David Shaw at Stanford. Shaw lost overall No. 1 NFL pick Andrew Luck along with several other starters and still managed to guide the Cardinal to a 10-2 regular season and a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game against UCLA. A victory over the Bruins would send Stanford to the Rose Bowl for the first time since a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin on New Year’s Day 2000. The Cardinal hasn’t won a Rose Bowl since beating Michigan, 13-12, in the 1972 game.

** Remember that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side? Running back Silas Redd, who rushed for 1,241 yards last year, was one of several Penn State players who elected to transfer in the wake of the NCAA punishment doled out following the Jerry Sandusky affair. Redd transferred to USC, where he ran for 817 yards and nine TDs for the Trojans, who finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. Penn State finished one game better at 8-4.

** Congratulations to longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter Bill Livingston. His alma mater Vanderbilt finished the season with six consecutive victories – the program’s longest win streak since 1955 – to finish 8-4, their best record since 1982. The Commodores scored 40 or more points in five games this season, the first time they have done that since 1915.

** Congratulations are also in order for Northwestern, which stomped its way to a 50-14 win over Illinois last week to complete a 9-3 season. The Wildcats will likely play in a New Year’s Day Bowl for the first time since the 2009 Outback Bowl. NU will also be looking to end a nine-game postseason losing streak. The Wildcats have a 1-9 lifetime bowl record with the only victory a 20-14 win over California in the 1948 Rose Bowl.

** This was unthinkable just a couple of years ago, but the hot seat under Texas head coach Mack Brown is beginning to smolder. Since going 13-1 in 2009 and losing to Alabama in the national championship game, the Longhorns are a decidedly average 21-15. Worse still, the Mack Attack has lost three straight to archrival Oklahoma by a combined margin of 146-58 and Brown’s once iron grip on recruiting in his home state is beginning to wane. In recent years, the Longhorns have missed out on such homegrown quarterback talent as Andrew Luck (Houston Stratford), Robert Griffin III (Copperas Cove) and Johnny Manziel (Kerrville Tivy).

** Tennessee got its head coach Derek Dooley fired and then finished the season with a 31-17 win over Kentucky to avoid its first-ever winless SEC season. The Volunteers still finished 5-7 overall, their third straight losing season. Tennessee hasn’t been below .500 for three consecutive years since 1909-11.

** Michigan State crashed and burned this year, going from preseason Rose Bowl favorite to a 6-6 overall mark that included a 2-5 record at home. The Spartans haven’t lost as many as five games at Spartan Stadium in a single season since 2006, the final year of the John L. Smith Experience.

** Virginia Tech got a 29-yard field goal from Cody Journell as time expired last week to squeeze out a 17-14 win over Virginia and make themselves eligible to go to a bowl for the 20th consecutive season.

** With its 45-9 rout of Idaho last Saturday, Utah State put the finishing touches on a 10-2 overall record. It marked the program’s first season with double-digit victories in its 114-year history. The win over Idaho also completed a 6-0 Western Athletic Conference record for the Aggies, who won a conference championship for the first time in 76 years. How close was Utah State to a perfect record? Their only losses came on the road – 16-14 to Wisconsin and 6-3 to BYU.

** Conference realignment being what it is these days, Utah State will be unable to defend its WAC title in 2013. That’s because the Aggies move to the Mountain West Conference next season. Also leaving the WAC next year – Louisiana Tech and UTSA join Conference USA, Texas-Arlington and Texas State move to the Sun Belt, San Jose State goes with Utah State to the MWC, and Denver joins the Summit League. Joining the WAC in 2013 will be Cal State-Bakersfield, Utah Valley and Grand Canyon University.

** Who says nothing can happen in the so-called victory formation? Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning was trying to take a knee with his team leading Florida International by a 17-10 score with 28 seconds remaining. However, Browning somehow fumbled the snap, FIU recovered and Golden Panthers freshman QB E.J. Hillard threw a 58-yard touchdown pass with 0:14 showing on the clock to send the game into overtime. Fortunately for Browning, he threw a 15-yard touchdown pass in OT and the Warhawks scored a 23-17 victory.

** Remember Cal running back Brendan Bigelow, who ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries against Ohio State? Bigelow had only 271 yards and one TD the rest of the year on 36 carries. Still, he averaged a pretty cool 9.8 yards per carry for the season. Makes you wonder why the Bears didn’t use him more.

** This season produced an all-time record 42 overtime games. Louisiana-Monroe was in four of them and won three times. Wisconsin was in three and lost all three.

** Illinois finished the season 0-8 in the Big Ten, extending its conference losing streak to 14 consecutive games. That is the longest losing streak of league games since the Fighting Illini lost 14 in a row between 2003 and ’04. No Big Ten team has lost more than 14 consecutive conference contests since Illinois lost 15 in a row from 1996-98.

** Houston QB David Piland completed 53 passes during a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech in early September. Meanwhile, 2-9 Army heads into its traditional season finale against Navy next weekend having completed 47 passes as a team all year.

** The old saying that “you can throw the records out when rivals play” has been debunked in recent years. Not only has Ohio State beaten Michigan 10 of the last 12 times in their series, Georgia has won 11 of its last 12 against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech has won nine in a row against Virginia, Oregon has beaten Oregon State five times in a row and South Carolina has won four in a row over Clemson.

** It’s crunch time for those of us with Heisman Trophy ballots. Johnny Manziel? Manti Te’o? Marqise Lee? Collin Klein? Braxton Miller? Ballots have to be turned in by early next week and I might have to put those five names in a hat and pull out three.

FEARLESS FORECAST

We enjoyed another winning week here at Forecast World Headquarters, going 8-2 straight up and a 5-4-1 against the spread. That pushed the season totals are 97-23 with the SU picks and 62-55-3 ATS.

Here are the games we’ll be watching (from home) this week.

TODAY’S GAMES

No. 19 Northern Illinois vs. No. 18 KentState: The MAC title game will feature two of the most prolific offensive players in college football – also two guys most of the nation has never heard of. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch should probably be getting more Heisman love, especially since he ranks third in the country in total offense (2,750 yards passing, 1,611 yards rushing). Meanwhile, Kent features running back Dri Archer, who is fifth in the nation among all-purpose runners (1,337 yards rushing, 458 yards receiving, 573 yards on kickoff returns). So, which team has the better defense and which team makes fewer mistakes? The teams are fairly even in terms of defense while both are among the nation’s top 20 in turnover margin. All things considered, this ought to be a pretty entertaining game … Northern Illinois 34, Kent State 28. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 17 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford: Anyone who had these two teams playing in the Pac-12 title game should play Powerball. While preseason favorites USC and Oregon stay home and watch on TV, the Bruins and Cardinal will stage a rematch of last Saturday’s game that wound up in a 35-17 Stanford win. The Cardinal pretty well controlled last week’s game by shutting down the UCLA running attack. Of course, Stanford boasts the nation’s No. 1 run defense, so that wasn’t much of a surprise. It is extremely difficult to beat a team twice in one season, much less twice in six days. But Stanford would seem to have just too much going for it to lose at home, where it has won 19 of its last 20 games … Stanford 31, UCLA 21. (8 p.m. ET, Fox)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 24 Oklahoma State at Baylor: If you like offense, you ought to like this one. The Cowboys and Bears have combined to score 990 points this season – that’s an even 45.0 points per game, boys and girls – while the defenses have surrendered 736, an average of about 33.5 per contest. That just means you’d better have plenty of popcorn and cold beverages handy. Baylor QB Nick Florence leads the nation in total offense and engineers an attack that has topped the 50-point mark five times this season. For OSU, junior RB Joseph Randle averages 110.2 yards rushing while sophomore WR Josh Stewart has 84 catches for 1,007 yards and six TDs. The Bears play much better at home – they are 5-1 in Waco, including that stunning 52-24 upset of Kansas State – while the Pokes have lost three of four away this year away from Stillwater. However, Oklahoma State has always had Baylor’s number, including last year when the Cowboys shut down eventual Heisman winner Robert Griffin III during a 59-24 romp. That’s why we’re going the way we’re going … Oklahoma State 51, Baylor 45. (12 noon ET, FX)

No. 12 Oklahoma at TCU: The Sooners are in the unenviable position of having to take care of business against the Horned Frogs and then root for archrival Texas to knock off Kansas State so they can claim the Big 12 championship and the big-money BCS berth that goes with it. TCU has a chance to finish its first season in the conference with back-to-back wins over Texas and Oklahoma, and the Frogs have never beaten both teams in the same season. TCU still has a pretty good defense, which it will need against OU quarterback Landry Jones (3,745 yards, 27 TDs). But the Frogs have taken a step backward offensively ever since starting QB Casey Pachall was suspended and then left the team after four games. Look for Jones to motor past the 4,000-yard mark for the third straight season and lead the Sooners to a 10th victory, giving OU double-digit wins for the 11th time in Bob Stoops’ 14-year tenure … Oklahoma 37, TCU 28. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Nicholls State at No. 16 Oregon State: After absorbing a 48-24 beating administered by in-state rival Oregon last weekend, we’re sure the last thing the Beavers want to do is take on the Colonels, an FCS opponent with a 1-9 record. This is a game that was supposed to have been played in early September, but Hurricane Isaac swept in and closed the Nicholls State campus, preventing the team from getting to Corvallis. The Colonels have lost seven in a row, surrendering an average of 36.7 points per contest, and the last time they took on an FBS opponent, it would up in a 66-16 loss at Tulsa in mid-September … Oregon State 49, Nicholls State 7. (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 20 Boise State at Nevada: The Broncos have ridden under the radar this season after a season-opening loss to Michigan State, but they head into this week with plenty at stake. Boise is attempting to win a share of its first Mountain West Conference championship and post a seventh consecutive season with at least 10 victories. Standing in its way is Nevada, which took a 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos the last time Boise visited Reno, a loss that knocked the Broncos out of the BCS that year. The game will likely come down to the Boise defense, ranked No. 8 in the country, trying to stop Wolfpack RB Stefphon Jefferson (1,564 yards, 20 TDs) … Boise State 31, Nevada 26. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia: The SEC Championship Game should be a good old-fashioned slugfest with the Crimson Tide pitting its No. 1-ranked defense against the Bulldogs and their multifaceted offense that features QB Aaron Murray, ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency. Of course, Alabama is no slouch on offense (it leads the nation in scoring) while UGA is pretty good on defense (No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency defense, No. 22 overall). The winner gets to play Notre Dame for the national championship with the Tide hopeful of capturing a third title in four years. Because of the way the SEC schedules its conference games, Mark Richt and Nick Saban have only met twice before and split those two games – Georgia took a 26-23 overtime win in Tuscaloosa in 2007 and Alabama returned the favor the following year with a 41-30 win in Athens. The teams have split the last five meetings overall and the Tide holds a slight 17-16-4 edge when the two play one another at neutral sites. Look for another rock-’em-sock-’em SEC final … Alabama 19, Georgia 17. (4 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 23 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State: The Wildcats are playing for a spot in the BCS while the Longhorns are playing for pride. Texas has lost six of its last eight meetings with K-State, including the last four in a row. To end that slide, the Longhorns are going to have to play better defense. Against the top three offensive attacks in the Big Ten, Texas has allowed 36 points to Oklahoma State, 50 to Baylor and 63 to Oklahoma. In two of those games, the Longhorns somehow managed enough offense to win – 41-36 over Oklahoma State and 56-50 against Baylor. But the Wildcats feature one of the best defenses in the Big 12, including the stingiest unit where scoring is concerned. Couple that with the fact Kansas State averages 40.6 points per game on offense and it seems difficult to believe the Longhorns can break through … Kansas State 41, Texas 24. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Bo Pelini has his Cornhuskers team in a conference championship game for the third time in the past four years while the Badgers are two-time defending Big Ten champions angling for a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. The game features the rematch of a 30-27 Nebraska win from Sept. 29, a contest in which the Badgers blew a 17-point, third-quarter lead. Wisconsin has been a star-crossed team all season, losing five games – including three in overtime – by a total of just 19 points. That means the Badgers are better than their 7-5 record indicates or they are simply underachievers. Look for both teams to try to pound the ball with their running attacks while NU makes just enough plays on defense to punch their first ticket to Pasadena since 2002 … Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 24. (8:17 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech: Much like the Big Ten, where Wisconsin advanced to the title game ahead of NCAA-sanctioned Ohio State and Penn State, Georgia Tech took advantage of a self-imposed postseason ban by Miami (Fla.) to get to the ACC championship contest. That’s the good news for the Yellow Jackets. The bad news is they have to contend with the Seminoles, who are still smarting after last week’s mistake-prone 37-26 loss to Florida. FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel threw a season-high three picks against the Gators, and the Seminoles also lost star defensive end Tank Carradine to a season-ending ACL injury. Meanwhile, Tech has been inconsistent defensively all season while Florida State has the No. 8 scoring offense in the nation … Florida State 37, Georgia Tech 24. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Northern Illinois vs. Kent State (+7); UCLA at Stanford (-8); Oklahoma State (-4) at Baylor; Oklahoma (-6½) at TCU; Nicholls State at Oregon State (NL); Boise State at Nevada (+9½); Alabama vs. Georgia (+7½); Texas at Kansas State (-10½); Nebraska (-2½) vs. Wisconsin; Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (+14).

Could Wisconsin Ever Replace Michigan As OSU’s Archrival?

News flash: Ohio State players don’t like Wisconsin, and the feeling is probably mutual.

Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown would seem to have a political career in his future with this kind of quote: “I don’t want to go on record saying that I hate Wisconsin more than Michigan, but I hate Wisconsin just as much as Michigan.”

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was even more to the point: “I really don’t like them, to tell you the truth. I’m sure they probably hate us too, but I really don’t care what they think.”

When did relations between the Buckeyes and Badgers become so strained that officiating crews have often had to set up pregame DMZs at midfield? You can thank the personable Barry Alvarez for that.

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. My first visit to Camp Randall Stadium was in 1990, one of the early years during the John Cooper era. That was back when it always seemed Ohio State got within a whisker of going to the Rose Bowl only to lose to Michigan and wind up playing at 11 o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day in some nondescript central Florida bowl game.

Anyway, I don’t remember too much about the trip other a 35-10 win by the Buckeyes and sitting beside a nice lady on the flight back from Madison. She was a relative of Wisconsin defensive tackle Don Davey, and I told her that Ohio State needed only to beat Michigan the following week to achieve its first Rose Bowl trip in six years. I remember her eyes widening as she said something like, “The Rose Bowl? Really? Heck, we’d settle for any bowl.”

The Buckeyes – as they often did in that era – went on to lose a particularly heart-wrenching 16-13 decision to Michigan, and then they lost to Air Force in the Liberty Bowl in one of the most heartless performances I have ever seen from a football team. But at least Ohio State made the postseason. In 1990, Davey was one of the very few stars Wisconsin had on its way to an 0-8 finish in the Big Ten and a 1-10 overall record.

That marked the sixth consecutive losing season for the Badgers and they eventually ran that string to eight in a row. Then they hired Alvarez and the rest is history.

Alvarez led Wisconsin to Rose Bowl trips after the 1993, ’97 and ’98 seasons and his team won all three games. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, the two winningest programs in the Big Ten are Ohio State (56-14) and Wisconsin (48-22).

And while the Buckeyes have evolved over the past couple of years because of coaching changes, the Badgers continue to plow their ground the old-fashioned way. Alvarez recruited huge road graders for his offensive line, found one dependable running back to carry the load and featured a straight-up defense that relied on playing mistake-free football. Fancy? Not so much. Successful? Absolutely.

Alvarez is but a sideline memory now, accepting a promotion to athletic director in 2006 and turning the program over to Bret Bielema, who had joined the Badgers in 2004 as defensive coordinator. But the beat goes on.

Alvarez was (and still is) a gruff sort who really didn’t give a rip about being liked. He always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder perhaps stemming from the fact that his program didn’t have much of a winning tradition before he got to Madison. Before winning the Big Ten championship in 1993, the Badgers hadn’t won one since 1962. And before winning three Rose Bowls in a row, the team had never won any of its previous three trips to Pasadena. No wonder Alvarez and his fans got so full of themselves.

Bielema seems like the perfect successor. Outwardly, his personality seems to fit a guy who spent his playing days as a defensive lineman, and he has adopted most of the tenets of his predecessor. This year’s starting offensive line averages 6-5½ and more than 325 pounds, making it one of the beefiest in the Big Ten. Their featured back is senior Monteé Ball, a 5-11, 215-pound wrecking ball with 813 career carries to his credit. And the Wisconsin defense, while nothing spectacular, is solid enough to give up only 17.2 points per game so far.

In the recent past, there have been numerous dust-ups between the teams. Wisconsin fans have been accused of hurled frozen marshmallows – loaded with all kinds of foreign substances – toward the field, both teams have been guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct by dancing on the opposing team’s midfield logo, and the Badgers upset top-ranked Ohio State in 2010, an otherwise perfect season that has since been vacated. Those memories are bad enough. Imagine what they would be had the Buckeyes gone on to win the national championship that year.

Then there was the welcome mat Bielema pulled out from under Urban Meyer last winter when the Wisconsin coach accused the new Ohio State boss of violating some unspoken gentlemen’s agreement regarding verbal commitments. Both men now downplay that kerfuffle, but you get the distinct impression the matter is far from forgotten. If tomorrow’s game somehow gets out of hand, don’t expect either coach to take his foot off the gas pedal.

Whether or not the animosity between the two programs is healthy, unhealthy or somewhere in between, you might as well get used to it. With conference realignment, the Buckeyes are likely going to have to beat the Badgers every year (and vice versa) to have a chance to play for the Big Ten championship.

With that in mind, a new generation of Ohio State football fans might grow up believing the rivalry with Wisconsin is more important than the one with Michigan. And although I can’t believe I’m thinking this much less putting it down in writing, that new generation could very well be right.

OSU-WISCONSIN TIDBITS

** This marks the 78th meeting of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes hold a decidedly lopsided 54-18-5 record in the overall series. That includes a 25-11-2 advantage in Madison. However, the teams have split 13 games at Camp Randall Stadium since 1981 – six victories for each and a 14-14 tie in 1993, the last season before the NCAA instituted overtime.

** Because of Ohio State’s postseason ban, tomorrow’s game features the unique aspect of an OSU win clinching the outright Leaders Division championship for the Buckeyes while the Badgers have already clinched the division’s spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is making his first appearance as a head coach against the Badgers, but he was is 1-1 in the series as an OSU assistant coach in 1986 and ’87. The Buckeyes scored a 30-17 win in Madison in 1986 while the Badgers took a 26-24 victory in Ohio Stadium the following year.

** Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in his seventh season with the Badgers. He has a 67-22 overall record, including 1-4 against Ohio State. Before becoming a head coach, Bielema faced the Buckeyes several times as a player and assistant coach without much success. He was 1-3 vs. OSU as a player at Iowa from 1989-92 and then 0-6 as an assistant coach with the Hawkeyes from 1994-2001. Bielema was also 0-1 against Ohio State as an assistant coach at Kansas State (2002-03) and 1-0 as a Wisconsin assistant under Barry Alvarez in 2004 and ’05.

** The game pits two of the top five current Football Bowl Subdivision coaches in terms of career winning percentage. Meyer’s mark of .832 ranks second while Bielema is fifth at .753. Chris Peterson of Boise State is first at .910, while Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (.802) is third and Gary Patterson of TCU (.772) is fourth.

** Both coaches have excellent records coming off regular-season open weeks. Meyer is a sparkling 14-1 during his career, including unblemished marks of 3-0 at Utah and 8-0 at Florida. Bielema is 5-1 after an off week, including last week’s 62-14 takedown of Indiana.

** Wisconsin will celebrate Senior Day tomorrow afternoon. Bielema is a spotless 6-0 in his previous Senior Day games.

** Bielema is 44-4 all-time at Camp Randall Stadium. However, the Badgers lost their last home game, 16-13 overtime decision to Michigan State on Oct. 27. That broke a 21-game home winning streak for Wisconsin.

** OSU has an all-time record of 12-4-1 playing on Nov. 17 while Wisconsin is 11-3-1 on that date. The two teams have squared off only once previously on Nov. 17 – a 35-10 win for the Buckeyes in Madison on Nov. 17, 1990.

** Ohio State’s current 10-game win streak is tied for the 12th longest in program history. Wisconsin has snapped a pair of lengthy OSU winning streaks in the past. The Badgers ended the Buckeyes’ 19-game streak with a 17-10 win in Madison in 2003, and a 7-7 tie at Camp Randall in 1958 snapped an Ohio State winning streak at 13 games.

** Meyer is enjoying the fourth single-season winning streak of his career that has reached double digits. Prior to this season, he had 12-game streaks at Utah (2004) and Florida (2009) and a 10-game streak at Florida in 2008.

** Counting Florida’s win over Penn State in the 2011 Outback Bowl, Meyer is currently riding a personal 11-game winning streak. That is tied for the third-longest in his career behind a 22-game streak at Florida in 2008-09 and a 20-game streak that stretched from Utah in 2003-04 through his first four games with the Gators in 2005.

** Ohio State has started the season with a 10-0 record for only the 10th time in program history. The Buckeyes also began the 1954, 1968, 1975, 1979, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2007 seasons with 10 straight victories.

** As it has been so many times in this series, the game will feature a classic matchup between the irresistible force and the immovable object. Only this year, the teams’ typical roles are reversed. Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten and eighth nationally in rushing with an average of 256.1 yards per game while Wisconsin ranks first in the conference and 13th in the nation against the run, surrendering an average of only 103.4 yards per contest.

** Ohio State is poised to rush for more touchdowns than it has in 30 years. The Buckeyes currently have 34 rushing TDs this season, the third highest total since 1983. OSU totaled 35 rushing touchdowns in both 1983 and ’84. The school record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season was set in 1974 when the Buckeyes had 48.

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

** Penalties could play a major role in tomorrow’s game. Wisconsin is the least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging only 3.8 infractions for 33.0 yards per game. Ohio State is the most penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging 7.3 flags per game for 67.5 yards.

** Ohio State will undoubtedly try to score as much as possible, but cracking the 20-point mark is imperative against Wisconsin. In 16 meetings since 1992, the Buckeyes have scored more than 20 points six times against the Badgers and are 6-0 in those games.

** On the flip side of that coin, Wisconsin has scored 20 or more points six times in the 16 meetings since 1992 and is 5-1 in those games. The outlier was last year’s 33-29 loss to the Buckeyes.

** Wisconsin has 13 Ohio natives on its roster, including three starters – linebacker Chris Borland (Kettering Alter), defensive end Pat Muldoon (Cincinnati St. Xavier) and tight end Brian Wozniak (Loveland). Ohio State has no Wisconsin-born players.

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

** Wisconsin senior running back Monteé Ball needs to score only one more touchdown to match the NCAA career record of 78 set by Miami (Ohio) RB Travis Prentice (1996-99). Prentice also holds the NCAA record in rushing touchdowns with 73. Ricky Williams of Texas (1995-98) is second with 72 and Ball has 71.

** In addition to total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, Ball is the NCAA active leader in scoring (464 points), rushing yards (4,536) and rushing yards per game (100.8).

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller has 1,166 yards rushing this season, the fourth highest single-season rushing total for a quarterback in Big Ten history. Denard Robinson of Michigan set the conference record in 2010 with 1,702 yards, surpassing Antwaan Randle El of Indiana, who rushed for 1,270 yards in 2000. Robinson also has the third highest QB rushing total in league history with 1,176 yards last season.

** Miller currently occupies 27th place on Ohio State’s career rushing list with 1,881 yards. He needs only 33 more to pass Vince Workman (1,882, 1985-88) and Jimmy Gayle (1,914, 1979-82) and move into the program’s all-time top 25.

** Miller is also moving up Ohio State’s career passing and total offense lists. He currently sits 12th all-time with 2,912 passing yards, just behind Todd Boeckman (3,085, 2005-08). Miller’s 4,793 yards of total offense is also 12th all-time with Craig Krenzel (5,097, 2000-03) currently in 11th place.

** OSU junior tailback Carlos Hyde is rapidly ascending the school’s career rushing ladder. With 1,444 yards, Hyde is currently tied with George Cooper (1984-87) for 38th place.

** OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown needs seven more catches to crack the school’s all-time top 25 in career receptions. Brown currently has 70 catches for 836 yards and four touchdowns.

** OSU sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier leads the team with 98 tackles and is seeking to become the first Buckeye sophomore to crack the century mark in a single season since James Laurinaitis in 2006.

** OSU senior defensive lineman John Simon currently has 39 career tackles for loss and 16½ career sacks. Simon is tied with Eric Kumerow (1984-87) and Na’il Diggs (1997-99) for ninth place in school history in tackles for loss, and he is in 12th place in career sacks. Simon needs one more sack to tie Andy Katzenmoyer (1996-98) and Rodney Bailey (1997-2000) for 10th place all-time.

** Ohio State has been compiling stats on pass breakups only since 1983, but sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby is within one of the Buckeyes’ single-season mark in that category. Roby has 16 PBUs this year, trailing only Ahmed Plummer, who had 17 during the 1998 season.

** As a team, the Buckeyes are poised to establish a new season record for PBUs. They have 67 so far, just one behind the mark of 68 set during the 2002 national championship season.

** This week’s kickoff is set for shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. That is 2:30 p.m. Madison time if you’re traveling to the game. ABC will handle the telecast using the reverse mirror method with ESPN2. Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color analysis) and Quint Kessinich (sideline reports) make up the announce crew.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio channel 91.

** Next week, Ohio Stadium will host the 109th renewal of The Game. Ohio State will host Michigan beginning shortly after 12 noon Eastern, a contest to be televised nationally by ABC.

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 unfortunately ended in 2010. The Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten the following season.

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

** 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. 17, 1990, Stanford erased a 25-18 deficit in the final 12 seconds to score a 27-25 victory over California in Berkeley. The Cardinal scored a touchdown with 0:12 showing on the clock to make it 25-24, but then missed a two-point conversion try. Cal fans couldn’t control themselves and stormed the field, resulting in a delay-of-game penalty. Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick, a roughing-the-passer penalty on the next play moved the ball to the Cal 22, and Cardinal PK John Hopkins won the game on a 39-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

** On Nov. 18, 1939, Iowa halfback Nile Kinnick sewed up the Heisman Trophy with a superlative performance during a 13-9 win over No. 20 Minnesota. With the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes trailing 9-0 in the fourth quarter, Kinnick threw touchdown passes of 45 and 28 yards and then sealed the win with an interception in the game’s final minute. Kinnick went on to win the 1939 Heisman, beating runner-up Tom Harmon of Michigan by 246 votes in the final balloting. Harmon would go on to win the 1940 Heisman.

** 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 during 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 spilled onto 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 LaDainian 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 on Saturday.

** 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.

** On Nov. 22, 2003, Utah scored a 3-0 victory over BYU, ending the Cougars’ NCAA record of 361 consecutive games without being shut out. Utes kicker Bryan Borreson kicked a 41-yard field goal to account for the only points in a game buffeted by blustery winds and frequent snow squalls.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Only four unbeaten teams remain at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. In alphabetical order, they are Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oregon.

** For what it’s worth, here are the combined records of the opponents already vanquished by the aforementioned undefeated teams: Kansas State (49-48), Notre Dame (54-45), Ohio State (47-54) and Oregon (48-54).

** When Alabama was toppled by Texas A&M, that ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games. Oregon now owns the nation’s longest win streak. The Ducks have won 13 in a row.

** The nation’s longest losing streak is now 10 after Southern Miss went to SMU last weekend and came home with a 34-6 loss. The Golden Eagles, who came into this year with a streak of 18 consecutive winning seasons, have been outscored this season by a 378-179 margin. Southern Miss has not gone winless for an entire season since finishing 0-6 in 1925.

** Notre Dame is now 10-0 for the first time since 1993, and with a win tomorrow against 5-5 Wake Forest, the Fighting Irish can move to 11-0 for the first time since the 1989 national championship season. Notre Dame has better not get caught looking ahead to its season finale Nov. 24 at USC, however. The Irish squeezed out only a 24-17 decision at Wake last year, and five of their six home victories this season have come by seven points or fewer.

** Congratulations to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who notched his 146th career victory at OU with his team’s 42-34 win over Baylor last week. Stoops moved into second play on the school’s all-time victories list, passing legendary Bud Wilkinson, who was 145-29-4 with three national championships from 1947-63. Barry Switzer is Oklahoma’s all-time winningest coach with 157 victories from 1973-88.

** By the time you read this, Tennessee may have already fired head coach Derek Dooley. The Volunteers dropped to 0-6 in the SEC after last weekend’s 51-48 loss in four overtimes to Missouri, and need victories over Vanderbilt and Kentucky to avoid a third consecutive losing season. Tennessee hasn’t had three straight losing seasons since 1909-11.

** No one should have been surprised the Volunteers and Tigers played four overtimes last weekend. Tennessee and Missouri went into the game tied for the most all-time overtime victories with 10 each.

** Nebraska is quickly gaining attention as the Cardiac Cornhuskers. In the past seven weeks, NU has wiped out double-digit second-half deficits four times to stay in line for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. It all started Sept. 29 when the Huskers crawled out of a 27-10 hole with 10:29 to go in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin, 30-27. Three weeks later at Northwestern, NU pulled out a 29-28 win after trailing 28-16 with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter. Two weeks ago, Nebraska erased a 24-14 deficit with 14:20 remaining for a 28-24 win over Michigan State. And last week, the Huskers came back from a 20-6 halftime deficit to beat Penn State, 32-23.

** The ACC got in on the scoring show last Saturday when Georgia Tech scored a 68-50 victory over North Carolina. It was the highest scoring game in league history, surpassing the old mark set in 1968 when Virginia posted a 63-47 win over Tulane. The Yellow Jackets established a new single-game school record for most points scored in an ACC game, but the 68-point effort was a far cry from the all-time school mark. That was established in 1916 when Georgia Tech rolled to a 222-0 win over Cumberland.

** Before you anoint Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as the new Heisman Trophy frontrunner, you might want to know there is another redshirt freshman quarterback with better passing stats. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is currently the nation’s leader in pass efficiency, having completed 180 of 251 attempts (71.7 percent) for 2,164 yards, 28 TDs and five INTs. Manziel is 227 of 336 (67.6 percent) for 2,780 yards, 18 TDs and six INTs. Where Manziel has an edge over Mariota is the rushing department. A&M’s redshirt freshman QB has run for 1,014 yards and 15 TDs while Oregon’s has 516 yards and three touchdowns.

** Speaking of freshmen, Duke Johnson of Miami (Fla.) had a memorable game last weekend. The true freshman from Norland High School in Miami rushed for 150 yards, returned kicks for another 214 yards and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass for the Hurricanes. Unfortunately, Johnson’s big game was overshadowed by another defensive meltdown for Miami. The Hurricanes blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and eventually dropped a 41-40 decision at Virginia.

** Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey set a new single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 yards during the Wildcats’ 56-31 win over Colorado. The old conference mark of 357 yards had been held by Rueben Mayes of Washington State since 1984. Carey, who also tied a Pac-12 record with five rushing TDs in the game, shattered the old Arizona State single-game mark of 288 set by Trung Canidate against Arizona State in 1998.

** Massachusetts celebrated its first victory as FBS members last weekend with a 22-14 win over Akron. The Zips are experienced a rough ride in their first season under head coach Terry Bowden, who entered 2012 with a career mark of 140-62-2. With the loss to UMass, Akron dipped to 1-10 this season and is a lowly 3-32 since the beginning of the 2010 season.

** The first two official bowl invitations have been extended and accepted. Navy will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, set to be played Dec. 29 in San Francisco. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is in its 11th year of existence and fourth incarnation. It began in 2002 as the San Francisco Bowl and has also been known as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl (2002-03) and the Emerald Bowl (2004-09). Meanwhile, BYU will play in the eighth annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 20 in San Diego.

** If you have been reading this blog in recent weeks, you know that we have talked about Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron. Now, it seems Cameron is getting the tiniest bit of Heisman hype. It’s about time. Cameron has thrown 419 consecutive passes without an interception and has thrown for 3,283 yards and 27 TDs in leading the Bulldogs to a 9-1 record so far.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Everyone had last week off at Forecast Headquarters, resting on the laurels of a 10-0 week in the straight-up picks to kick off November. Against the spread wasn’t quite as good at 5-5, but we return from the layoff tanned, rested and ready to build on season totals of 80-20 straight up and 50-48-2 ATS.

Here are the games we’ll be watching this weekend.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 25 Kent State at Bowling Green: Our old pal Darrell Hazell is having a special season in Kent. The Golden Flashes have secured their first winning season since 2001, are ranked for the first time since 1973, and are working on a school-record eight-game winning streak. This week, they put all of that on the line – not to mention a potential MAC East title – against the Falcons, who are on a six-game winning streak of their own. The game should be a good one with Kent featuring the nation’s No. 15 rushing offense against BG’s run defense that ranks first in the MAC and 14th nationally. We would love to pick the Flashes, but close games usually go to the defense – especially if its the home team with the better D. Also, Kent is going for a third straight win over the Falcons, something it has never accomplished in series history that dates back to 1920 … Bowling Green 23, Kent State 20. (12 noon ET, ESPN3)

Iowa at No. 23 Michigan: QB Devin Gardner is getting more and more comfortable as Denard Robinson’s replacement, and that is good news for the Wolverines since Robinson has a nerve problem in his throwing elbow and could be sidelined for the rest of the season. Not that it should matter much this week against the underachieving Hawkeyes. The Fighting Ferentzes have shown little fight during a four-game losing streak that included their first losses to Indiana and Purdue since 2007. Iowa hasn’t experienced a five-game losing streak since 2000, but there is no indication from the way the Hawkeyes have played over the last month that they can put an end to their losing. Besides, Iowa ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive categories, while the Wolverines are second in the conference in total defense and third in fewest points allowed. The Hawkeyes typically play U-M tough, but it just doesn’t seem like an upset is in the cards  … Michigan 31, Iowa 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Western Carolina at No. 4 Alabama: Traveling to Tuscaloosa wasn’t going to be any picnic for the Catamounts under normal circumstances. Now, they have to face a bunch of angry Alabama players still stinging from last week’s upset loss to Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide still has a path to the national championship game – albeit much more difficult than this time last week – and Football Championship Subdivision member Western Carolina shouldn’t be much more than a speed bump. The Catamounts rank 120th out of 122 FCS schools in total defense and are on a nine-game losing streak during which they have surrendered an average of 42.9 points per game. In other words, it is a classic get-well game for the Tide … Alabama 56, Western Carolina 7. (12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network, DirectTV 788)

Jacksonville State at No. 7 Florida: The bad news for the Gators is that they will be without starting QB Jeff Driskel, who turned an ankle during last week’s too-close-for-comfort 27-20 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The good news is that Florida’s opponent this week ranks 108th in total defense among FCS schools, so it might not matter who is under center for the Gators. The Gamecocks have a pretty good offensive attack with QB Marques Ivory (1,908 yards, 16 TDs) and RBs DaMarcus James and Washaun Ealey (1,555 yards, 16 TDs). But the Gators are working on a streak of 50 consecutive wins against non-BCS opponents, and they have never lost to an FCS school. Don’t expect either of those streaks to end this week … Florida 38, Jacksonville State 14. (1 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 790)

Georgia Southern at No. 5 Georgia: The Bulldogs can afford to do a little celebrating this week, stepping out of conference play to host the FCS Eagles. Georgia clinched its spot in the SEC title game with last week’s 38-0 shutout of Auburn, and could sneak its way into the national championship picture with a little help. Still, UGA would do well to keep its focus on Southern, a team that sits at No. 6 in the country in the old Division I-AA rankings. The Eagles feature a triple-option attack that averages better than 400 yards per game on the ground, a spot where the Bulldogs have been susceptible at times this year. No one believes Southern can engineer the upset, but the home team had better not get caught napping, either … Georgia 41, Georgia Southern 24. (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 792)

Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame: It seems likely the Demon Deacons can go into South Bend – on Senior Day, no less – and ruin the hopes of the Fighting Irish for an undefeated season. At 5-5, Wake needs a win this week and/or next against Vanderbilt to get to a bowl and end a string of three straight losing seasons. Notre Dame, of course, has bigger fish to fry and could be looking ahead to next week’s regular-season finale at USC. Still, it’s difficult to imagine the offensively-challenged Deacons pulling off the upset. Wake ranks 106th in the country in scoring offense while the Irish have the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense. Look for the Domers to make a statement … Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Sam Houston State at No. 9 Texas A&M: So much for flying under the radar. The Aggies and redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel stepped firmly into the spotlight last week, going into Tuscaloosa and coming home with a 29-24 upset over defending national champion Alabama. A&M bolstered its chances for a BCS at-large berth, Manziel is suddenly everyone’s darling for the Heisman Trophy, and first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin jumped to the top of the list for national coach of the year. This week, the Aggies return home to face the FCS Bearkats, who are no slouch. They have already clinched a share of a second straight conference title and have won seven games in a row, outscoring their opponents by a 264-34 margin during that stretch. Of course, they haven’t seen anything like Manziel … Texas A&M 45, Sam Houston State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan, DirectTV 789)

Minnesota at No. 16 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have turned late comebacks into an air form lately, erasing double-digit deficits four times over the past seven weeks to stay on track for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game opposite Wisconsin. This week, NU doesn’t figure to need a comeback against a team its has beaten 15 straight times. The Golden Gophers are experiencing a bit of a renaissance under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. They are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009, and have won two of their last three. Minnesota still isn’t quite on par offensively with the Cornhuskers, however, and Goldy really has no answer for Nebraska’s one-two punch of QB Taylor Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah. A couple of other things that tilt this one NU’s way – the Gophers have lost 23 of their last 24 against ranked opponents and haven’t beaten one on the road since 2005 … Nebraska 38, Minnesota 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

No. 2 Kansas State at Baylor: The Wildcats would do well not to look past this game to the Dec. 1 season finale against Texas. The Bears are laying in wait to do to K-State exactly what Texas A&M did to Alabama last week. Baylor might not have RG-3 at the controls any more, but the Bears still boast the nation’s No. 2 passing attack behind QB Nick Florence (3,191 yards, 25 TDs) and WR Terrance Williams (77 catches, 1,431 yards, 10 TDs). Additionally, Waco has not been very friendly to the Wildcats in recent years. They have lost on their last two trips to the Floyd, and even last year’s home win over the Bears was a 36-35 accomplished only with a fourth-quarter rally. We haven’t been too good with the Upset Specials this season, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop picking them … Baylor 34, Kansas State 31. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 6 Ohio State at Wisconsin: There are compelling reasons why oddsmakers favor the Badgers. Wisconsin has won 44 of 48 home games under head coach Bret Bielema, OSU has come home losers on three of its last four trips to Madison, and its Senior Day at Camp Randall with running back Monteé Ball poised to become college football’s all-time leader in touchdowns. Additionally, the Buckeyes are trying to close out an unblemished season, an accomplishment so difficult it has been done only five times in program history. Yet, we can’t get last year’s game out of our minds. Most people only remember Braxton Miller’s game-winning 40-yard heave to Devin Smith in the final minute, but the Buckeyes outplayed the Badgers in nearly every phase of the game. Most fans forget Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson threw for a pair of touchdowns to erase what had been a 26-14 OSU lead with 4:39 remaining and give the Badgers a 28-26 lead with 1:18 to play. Russell’s absence coupled with the Buckeyes’ ability to stop the run makes the difference … Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 27. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Kent State at Bowling Green (-2½); Iowa (+20) at Michigan; Western Carolina at Alabama (NL); Jacksonville State at Florida (NL); Georgia Southern at Georgia (NL); Wake Forest at Notre Dame (-22); Sam Houston State at Texas A&M (NL); Minnesota (+20) at Nebraska; Kansas State at Baylor (+13); Ohio State (+2½) at Wisconsin.

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

Meyer Proves Coaching Matters … And It Matters A Lot

Coaching matters … and it matters a lot. That was driven home like a golden spike Oct. 20 when Ohio State faced an eight-point deficit to Purdue with only 47 seconds to do something about it.

Sure, give Kenny Guiton credit for coolly directing a 61-yard touchdown drive. Give Chris Fields credit for making crucial catches the junior receiver heretofore hadn’t made during his college career. Give Tom Herman credit for dialing up a perfect two-point conversion call. And give the much-maligned Ohio State defense its due for managing to hold off the Boilermakers in overtime.

But if you ever wondered why Urban Meyer is worth $4 million a year, you need look no further than the Buckeyes’ 29-22 victory over Purdue. The reason Guiton was so cool, Fields was so clutch, Herman was so confident and the defense was so able to rise to the occasion could be summed up in one word: leadership.

No offense to last year’s coaching staff, but there was no way Ohio State would have beaten Purdue last season given the same set of circumstances. In fact, the Buckeyes faced similar circumstances last year in West Lafayette, and while they rallied at the end of the game, they were the ones who made the crucial mistakes and they were the ones who went home losers.

Meyer had already laid the groundwork for OSU’s comeback this year with his unique style of break-’em-down and then build-’em-back-up philosophy.

The coach has admitted Guiton was practically on a bus back to Houston last winter before he decided to buy into Meyer’s system. Likewise, Fields was buried so far down the depth chart at receiver that the junior needed a flashlight and a compass to find his way out.

Yet with Braxton Miller and Corey “Philly” Brown sidelined down the stretch, it was Guiton and Fields upon whom Meyer relied to get the job done – Guiton, Fields and his own coaching acumen.

The fact is no one could have scripted the final moments of regulation any better than Meyer did.

Purdue milked the clock to 59 final ticks before punter Cody Webster launched a 48-yard effort that bounced to the Ohio State 30. But mindful of his head coach’s “Plan to Win” mantra, Fields saved a few precious seconds by scooping up the ball and then got the Buckeyes 9 yards closer to the end zone with a return to the OSU 39.

With 47 seconds remaining, Meyer and Herman quickly drew up two plays on the sideline. The first was designed to get sophomore receiver Devin Smith open between Purdue’s intermediate and deep zones, and Guiton found his intended target for 39 yards to the Boilermakers’ 22.

Then instead of immediately spiking the ball to save time, the Buckeyes sprinted to the line of scrimmage where Guiton connected with sophomore Evan Spencer on an 8-yard sideline pass. Spencer went out of bounds following the catch to give his team a second-and-2 from the 14-yard line with 0:28 to go.

On the next play, Guiton faded in the pocket but found all his receivers covered. Rather than trying to force something, he threw the ball away – as he had been taught – setting up third-and-2 with 23 seconds remaining.

That was when Meyer really started to put on a clinic.

Despite the fact he had no timeouts, the coach put his faith in his offensive line and junior tailback Carlos Hyde, who pounded up the middle for a 3-yard gain and a first down to temporarily stop the clock. Guiton followed with a spike and the Buckeyes were at the Purdue 11 with 15 seconds left.

The next play called for Guiton to hit Spencer as he raced toward the end zone, peeling off in front of his defender just before reaching the goal line. But Guiton threw too low and too wide, and a diving Spencer couldn’t come up with the reception.

Third down, 12 seconds left. Time for two more plays.

This time, Meyer called for a fade route in the end zone to Spencer, but while the pass seemed to sail on Guiton, Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson had his hands all over the OSU receiver and drew a pass interference call.

That gave the Buckeyes the ball at the Purdue 2-yard line, but with only 0:08 showing on the clock. That’s when Fields made a diving catch of a ball only he could have caught just over the goal line for the touchdown.

Now, with just 0:03 remaining, Meyer needed one more clutch call to achieve the tie. He got it from Herman, who overruled his linemen who were lobbying for a run.

The play called for tight end Jeff Heuerman to block initially and then break away from the line of scrimmage and drift into the end zone. Heuerman nearly carried out his decoy too long, allowing pressure to bear down on Guiton before the QB flipped a rainbow that the Ohio State tight end gathered in for the two-point conversion.

After the game, Herman confirmed the team had been practicing that play for just the right time.

“When the game is on the line is not the time to go against what you’ve practiced,” the offensive coordinator said. “We knew they’d been playing man coverage all game and knew it would be there eventually. It took (Heuerman) awhile to get out. I was holding my breath. But everybody who was on the field did a helluva job.”

In overtime, Guiton led the Buckeyes to a quick touchdown before a rejuvenated defense clamped down on a demoralized Purdue offense.

Game, set, match, and Ohio State moved to 8-0, stealing a game that most likely would have been lost with anyone else but Meyer at the controls.

OSU-PENN STATE TIDBITS

** This marks the 28th overall meeting between Ohio State and Penn State, and the Buckeyes enjoy a slight 14-13 advantage. The teams are deadlocked at 5-5 in games played at Beaver Stadium, although OSU has won three of the last four played in Happy Valley.

** Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is 1-0 during his career against Penn State. In his final game as Florida head coach, the Gators scored a 37-24 triumph over the Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

** Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien has never faced Ohio State as a player, assistant coach or head coach.

** Ohio State will face a Joe Paterno-less Penn State squad for the first time ever in Happy Valley. Paterno, who died in January from complications due to lung cancer, had been on the Nittany Lions sideline as head coach for all 10 of the previous games in the series played at Beaver Stadium.

** O’Brien is only the third head coach in Penn State history to experience a five-game win streak during his debut season with the Nittany Lions. Only George Hoskins (1892) and Dick Harlow (1915) won five straight games in their first season as head coach at Penn State.

** NCAA sanctions prevent either team from competing in the Big Ten Championship Game, but both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions remain eligible to win the Leaders Division championship trophy. Ohio State enters the game with a 4-0 conference record while Penn State is 3-0.

** The game pits two of the winningest college football teams in history against one another. Counting vacated seasons, Ohio State ranks fifth all-time with 845 wins while Penn State ranks sixth with 832. Michigan is first all-time with 900 followed by Texas (863), Notre Dame (860) and Nebraska (851).

** Six of the last 11 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. In 2010, 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 14.4 points.

** Ohio State will be looking to keep things close tomorrow. The Buckeyes are 4-0 this season while the Nittany Lions are 0-1 in games decided by seven points or less.

** One series trend would seem to favor Ohio State while another works better for Penn State’s hopes. The higher ranked team has won 19 of the last 21 meetings, and OSU enters tomorrow’s game ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press writers’ polls while the Nittany Lions are unranked. Meanwhile, Penn State can take solace in the fact the home team has won 13 of the 19 games played in the series since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

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

** Something has to give tomorrow. Ohio State is tied for 23rd nationally in red zone offense, having scored 30 times in 34 trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Meanwhile, Penn State ranks No. 6 in the nation in red zone defense. The Nittany Lions have allowed opponents to score on only 12 of 20 trips inside their 20-yard line.

** 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 – Chris Gamble in 2002, Tyler Everett in 2004, Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith in 2006, Jenkins in 2007 and Devon Torrence and Travis Howard in 2010. Best of all, Ohio State won each of those five games.

** Penn State is traditionally one of the least penalized teams in the nation and that is true again in 2012. The Nittany Lions are tied for the fewest penalties in the Big Ten with 32 through seven games and they average only 44.9 penalty yards per game. In its last six games played against the Buckeyes, Penn State has incurred only 17 penalties for 121 yards. During the same six games, Ohio State has been flagged 37 times for 315 yards.

** Penn State is tied for second in the Big Ten lead in fewest sacks allowed with eight. Ohio State ranks ninth in the conference in that category, having surrendered 15 sacks this season.

** Penn State has three native Ohioans on its roster – running back Michael Zordich (Youngstown Cardinal Mooney), offensive lineman Nate Cadogan (Portsmouth) and offensive lineman Anthony Stanko (Warren Howland). The Buckeyes have four players from Pennsylvania – defensive back Corey Brown (Monroeville), receiver Corey “Philly” Brown (Upper Darby), running back Jordan Hall (Jeannette) and defensive end Noah Spence (Harrisburg).

** The game is expected to be a defensive battle, but will feature several of the top offensive players in the Big Ten. Penn State QB Matt McGloin leads the conference with an average of 255.4 yards passing per game while WR Allen Robinson has a league-best 47 receptions. Meanwhile, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller is second in the Big Ten in total offense (292.9 yards per game) and is tied with teammate RB Carlos Hyde for third in the league with 10 touchdowns.

** McGloin is already No. 7 on Penn State’s career list for touchdown passes with 36. He needs only eight more to break the school record of 43 held by Daryll Clark (2006-09). McGloin also ranks seventh all-time in passing yardage with 4,907, but he is still a ways away from Zack Mills, who threw for 7,212 yards during his career from 2001-04.

** Robinson needs only one more reception to crack the Penn State top 10 for most catches in a single season. O.J. McDuffie set the school record with 63 receptions in 1992, a mark that was equaled three years later by Bobby Engram.

** With his 91 yards last week against Purdue, Hyde upped his career rushing total to 1,252 yards. That ties him with Ricardo Volley (1977-79) for 45th on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.

** Purdue sophomore Akeem Hunt’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first one surrendered by Ohio State during the regular season since David Gilreath of Wisconsin took one back 97 yards on the game’s opening kick during a 31-18 win by the Badgers in Madison in 2010.

**The 100-yard return by Hunt was the longest against the Buckeyes since Bobby Weber of Minnesota had a 100-yarder vs. OSU in 1977. Weber’s return represented the Golden Gophers’ only touchdown during a 38-7 loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus.

** Garrett Goebel’s blocked extra point in the first quarter vs. Purdue and Johnathan Hankins’ blocked field goal in the second period gave the Buckeyes six blocked kicks for the season – two punts, one field goal and three PATs – and they added to Meyer’s total as a head coach. In 11 seasons with Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and OSU, Meyer-coached teams have blocked 57 kicks in 135 games.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 5:30 p.m. Eastern with ESPN handling the telecast. Veteran play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough will have the call alongside color analysis from former Ohio State All-America linebacker Chris Spielman. Sideline reports will be filed by Quint Kessenich.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channels 92 and 136 as well as XM channel 192.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to face Illinois. Time and broadcast partners remain TBA.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

** On Oct. 26, 1991, Northwestern tried to change its luck by wearing purple pants against No. 17 Illinois. Wildcats head coach Francis Peay remarked that his team “looked like a bunch of grapes,” but NU registered a 17-11 upset victory, their first defeat of a ranked team in 20 years.

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

** On Oct. 27, 1956, seventh-ranked Texas A&M traveled to Waco and came home with a 19-13 victory over No. 8 Baylor. A&M halfback John David Crow threw a 5-yard touchdown to John Tracey, and then scored the winning TD himself on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Aggies, coached by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, went on to win the Southwest Conference championship and finish No. 5 in the Associated Press rankings with a 9-0-1 record.

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

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

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

** On Oct. 28, 1989, Ohio State overcame a 31-0 second-quarter deficit at Minnesota and rallied for a 41-37 victory in the Metrodome. QB Greg Frey threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns while tailback/kick returner Carlos Snow accounted for 278 all-purpose yards and tallied three scores in what was at the time the largest comeback in NCAA history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** On Oct. 31, 1992, seventh-ranked Nebraska rolled to a 52-7 victory over No. 9 Colorado in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers piled up 373 yards on the ground and scored touchdowns in a variety of ways, including a 16-yard fumblerooski rumble by offensive guard Will Shields.

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

** On Nov. 1, 1969, Toledo clinched the first of its three consecutive Mid-American Conference championships with a 14-10 win over Miami (Ohio) in Oxford. The winning score was a 52-yard touchdown pass from QB Chuck Ealey to wideout Don Fair in the second quarter. The win was the seventh in a row for the Rockets in a streak that would eventually reach 35 games, the fifth-longest winning streak in college football history.

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** Cincinnati dropped its first game of the season last Saturday, a 29-23 decision at Toledo, and that pared the number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams to 11. Ohio State is the only team at 8-0 while Alabama, Florida, Louisville, Mississippi State, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio, Oregon and Rutgers are 7-0. Oregon State is 6-0.

** Alabama extended the nation’s longest streak to 11 last weekend with a 44-13 rout of Tennessee. Oregon is nipping at the Crimson Tide’s heels with a 10-game winning streak while Mississippi State has won nine in a row. One of those streaks has to end tomorrow since Mississippi State visits Alabama.

** The nation’s longest losing streak ended for the second week in a row. Tulane snapped a 15-game slide Oct. 13 with a 27-26 win over SMU, and then Eastern Michigan broke its eight-game losing streak Saturday with a 48-38 win over Army. Southern Miss, a 12-2 team just a year ago, now owns the longest losing streak in the nation. The Golden Eagles dropped a 59-24 decision to Marshall on Saturday, marking their seventh loss in a row.

** Who said you need to throw for 600 yards and score 70 points to make a statement? Third-ranked Florida stomped its way to a 44-11 win last Saturday over No. 7 South Carolina despite gaining only 183 total yards. The Gators forced four turnovers – three fumbles and one interception – and limited the Gamecocks to only 191 total yards. Meanwhile, Florida QB Jeff Driskel threw for only 93 yards, but he was extremely efficient. Driskel had four touchdown passes, equaling his total from the previous six games.

** Oregon gets more than its share of love for a pinball offense that ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring at a 51.0 points-per-game clip. But the Ducks can play a little defense, too. During their 43-21 rout at Arizona State last weekend, the Quack Attack held Wildcats QB Taylor Kelly to only 93 yards while intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Kelly had entered the game as the nation’s No. 3 quarterback in pass efficiency.

** Notre Dame has ridden on the back of its defense to its first 7-0 start since beginning the 2002 season with eight straight victories. Going back to the last half of the 2011 season, the Fighting Irish are 11-2 and have surrendered more than 17 points in only three of those games.

** With the Heisman Trophy race about as wide open as it has ever been at this stage of a season, keep your eye on a certain dark horse candidate. Alabama gets a lot of buzz for its No. 1-rated defense – and deservedly so – but quarterback A.J. McCarron has quietly ascended his way to the top of the national charts in pass efficiency rating. McCarron has completed 106 of 154 attempts (68.8 percent) for 1,476 yards, 16 TDs and no interceptions. And he is the quarterback for the undefeated defending national champions.

** Congratulations to Duke, which became bowl-eligible at 6-2 with a last-second 33-30 win last Saturday over North Carolina. The Blue Devils haven’t made a postseason trip since the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl, but that’s only part of the story. Duke is trying to break a streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons, a stretch during which the team posted a horrid combined record of 37-158. The Blue Devils have gone bowling only eight times in program history (they started playing in 1888), and haven’t won a postseason game since a 7-6 decision over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

** To say Kansas is struggling in its first season under head coach Charlie Weis would be understating the obvious. The 1-6 Jayhawks rank 114th out of 120 FBS schools in scoring offense and 118th in pass efficiency. Weis’ defense isn’t anything to write home about, either, ranking 85th in yardage allowed and 89th in points surrendered. And then there’s special teams. Kansas gave up a 90-yard punt return and a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdowns during last Saturday’s 52-7 loss at Oklahoma.

** Speaking of teams that need help and lots of it, Colorado jumps from the frying pan into the fire this week. Fresh off last week’s 50-6 spanking at the hands of USC, the Buffaloes roll into Oregon this Saturday night. The Ducks are the No. 2 scoring offense in the country 51.0 points per game while Colorado ranks 119th in scoring defense, allowing an average of 42.6 points per game. Oregon raced out to a 29-0 lead after the first quarter in last year’s meeting before the Ducks took their webbed feet off the gas pedal and coasted home with a 45-2 victory.

** Auburn’s collapse is reaching historic proportions. Following their 17-13 loss at Vanderbilt last week, the Tigers dropped to 1-6, giving them the worst record for a team just two years removed from a national championship since the Associated Press poll was incorporated in 1936. The record also represents Auburn’s worst start to a season in 60 years. In 1952, the Tigers started 1-7 on their way to a 2-8 finish.

** How close is Northwestern to being 7-0 instead of 5-2? That depends upon your definition of the word “close.” In their two losses, the Wildcats have coughed up double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. On Oct. 6, they held a 28-17 lead over Penn State before the Nittany Lions scored three touchdowns in the final 9:49 for a 39-28 victory. Then last weekend, NU scored with 8:31 remaining to take a 28-16 lead over Nebraska. But the Cornhuskers tallied twice inside the final six minutes to pull out a 29-28 win.

** West Virginia QB Geno Smith broke the NCAA in-season record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception when he reached 273 shortly before throwing his first pick of the season last Saturday against Kansas State. Unfortunately for Smith, he didn’t hold the record for very long. Later in the day, Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron increased his total to 275 during his team’s 70-28 win over Idaho.

** Cameron would likely be a Heisman candidate if he didn’t play in the fading-away Western Athletic Conference. The senior has completed 196 of 275 attempts this season (71.3 percent) for 2,306 yards, 20 TDs and no picks. During the Bulldogs’ win over Idaho, Cameron was 29 for 37 for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns while running back Kenneth Dixon rushed for 232 yards and six TDs. Tech rolled up a school-record 839 yards of total offense in the game and moved to 6-1 for the first time since 1975.

** Idaho’s loss to Louisiana Tech led to the firing of Vandals head coach Robb Akey, who was dismissed with a record of 20-50 in seven seasons. Akey, who became the first coaching casualty of the 2012 season, was replaced by offensive coordinator Jason Gesser. The 33-year-old Gesser is probably best known as the quarterback who led Washington State to a Pac-10 co-championship and Rose Bowl berth in 2002.

** South Alabama killed two birds with one stone last weekend. The 37-34 win in double overtime over Florida Atlantic represented the Jaguars’ first conference victory as Sun Belt members and the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent. South Alabama has been playing intercollegiate football only since 2009, and this is the school’s first season at the FBS level. The Jaguars become full-fledged members of the Sun Belt Conference next season.

** A couple of milestone victories from last weekend. Michigan’s 12-10 win over instate rival Michigan State allowed the Wolverines to become the first college football program to reach 900 wins all-time. Also, Division III powerhouse Mount Union clobbered Otterbein by a 51-0 final to give head coach Larry Kehres his 324th career victory. That moved him past Paul “Bear” Bryant and into fifth place all-time in terms of wins among NCAA football coaches. Kehres’ career record of 324-24-3 gives him a winning percentage of .927, and that’s the highest in college football history.

** Speaking of Mount Union, the Purple Raiders’ win over Otterbein last weekend marked their 70th consecutive regular-season win and their sixth shutout in a row. The shutout streak ties an all-time NCAA Division III record. Mount Union is 7-0 this season and has outscored its opponents by a 387-7 margin.

** Kudos to Division III Wilmington College, which snapped a 32-game losing streak with last week’s 13-12 victory over Marietta. Senior kicker Max Gabbard kicked a 35-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining, and then sophomore Joe Knecht sealed the Quakers’ victory with an interception in the end zone with 0:02 showing on the clock. By the way, Mount Union and Wilmington have already played one another this season. The Purple Raiders eked out a 66-0 win over the Quakers on Oct. 6.

** Mark your calendars. The 2014 BCS Championship Game is scheduled for Jan. 6. That game, the final title contest for the Bowl Championship Series before the new playoff format is incorporated, will be played at the Rose Bowl.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Little by little, we’re making progress. We went 8-2 last week straight up, admittedly because we have underestimated both Florida and Penn State all season. But we had an acceptable 6-4 record against the spread, including nearly picking the Notre Dame-BYU final on the nose. We had it 17-14 for the Irish; the actual final was 17-13.

The season totals are now 66-14 SU and just above water at 40-38-2 ATS.

We’ll try to keep on keepin’ on with these games. (And remember, we use AP rankings.)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Colorado at No. 2 Oregon: If you are the Ducks, you have two ways to approach this game. You can either roll up the score on the Buffaloes or you can race out to a comfortable lead and then put things on cruise control knowing you have to travel to USC next Saturday. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty for Colorado, which ranks 119th of 120 FBS schools in scoring defense and has been outscored by a 143-37 margin in just its last three games. … Oregon 63, Colorado 10. (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia: The 90th renewal of the World’s Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville features a pair of teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. Despite there is another month of the season to be played, the Gators can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a win. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs haven’t looked the same since taking a 35-7 sucker punch from South Carolina three weeks ago. UGA leads the overall series by a 47-40-2 margin, and the Dawgs took home a 24-20 victory last year. But the Gators have won 18 of the last 22 in the series and they are the team that has been playing much better of late … Florida 30, Georgia 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State: The Wildcats rolled into Morgantown last week and rolled back out again following a 55-14 rout of West Virginia. This week, the Fighting Snyders return home to face a surprisingly efficient Double-T defense that ranks No. 7 nationally in total defense. K-State quarterback Collin Klein (1,397 yards, 10 TDs) isn’t the flashiest QB around, but he is deadly accurate and is second in the country with a 10.1-yard average per attempt. But the Red Raiders have a couple of things going for them. First is the fact that the Wildcats have lost nine of their last 11 games at home to ranked teams. And then there is this nugget: Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville is 6-2 lifetime against top-five teams. That would seem to point toward an Upset Special … Texas Tech 23, Kansas State 20. (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 23 Ohio at Miami (Ohio): The Bobcats are enjoying life right now. They are 7-0 for the first time since 1968 and have earned their first-ever appearance in the BCS standings, coming in at No. 24 this week. If Ohio truly wants to become a BCS buster, however, it is going to have to stop playing things so close to the vest. Four of the Bobcats’ victories have come by seven points or less, and close games against the likes of Marshall (3-4), Massachusetts (0-7), Buffalo (1-6) and Akron (1-7) are not winning any style points. This week’s opponent is another sub-.500 team that gave Ohio State some problems back on Sept. 1 before succumbing to a 56-10 final. It’s doubtful the Bobcats can put up that many points on the RedHawks, but a double-digit win would look a lot better to the pollsters … Ohio 34, Miami 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Michigan State at Wisconsin: This has been a remarkably competitive rivalry over the years with the series split at 15-15 since 1979. More recently, the teams have split the last six games with no one winning by more than 10 points. But Sparty hasn’t enjoyed going on the road to play Bucky in recent years. Including a pair of neutral-site games – a game in Tokyo in 1993 and last year’s Big Ten Championship Game – MSU has lost eight of its last nine to Wisconsin away from East Lansing. In a series as close as this one has been, those are the kinds of trends you use to come up with this kind of pick … Wisconsin 20, Michigan State 17. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 22 Texas A&M at Auburn: About the last thing Gene Chizik’s beleaguered Tigers needed this week was to face a dual-threat quarterback, but that’s exactly what they’re going to get when A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel comes to town. Manziel is No. 3 in the nation in total offense, averaging 379.9 yards per game, and Auburn is currently ninth in the SEC in scoring defense and 11th in total defense. But as bad as the Tigers are on defense, they’re even worse on offense, ranking 119th in the country in yardage and 118th in scoring. One has to wonder how the Tigers have fallen so hard so quickly after winning the national championship two years ago, a title that earned Chizik a contract extension worth $3.5 million a year through 2015 … Texas A&M 38, Auburn 10. (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma: These teams meet for the first time as ranked opponents since 1968 when the third-ranked Irish rolled to a 45-21 win over the fifth-rated Sooners. Notre Dame has an 8-1 edge in the overall series and many observes believe if they can move that record to 9-1, the Fighting Irish will position themselves for a drive toward the BCS National Championship Game. The Irish have yet to allow more than 17 points to any opponent this season, but they have yet to face an offense as potent as the one piloted by Sooners QB Landry Jones (1,644 yards, 12 TDs). Oklahoma is not invincible by any means – Kansas State proved that with a 24-19 win in Norman last month. But the Sooners still represent an extremely tough out for any team, and that’s why we believe they will end Notre Dame’s dreams of an undefeated season … Oklahoma 27, Notre Dame 20. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 20 Michigan at Nebraska: The Wolverines are making their first trip to Lincoln since a 6-6 tie in 1911, and they are headed to a venue where the Cornhuskers have made a recent living on fourth-quarter comebacks. Last year, NU crawled out of a 27-6 hole for a 34-27 win over Ohio State, and this year the Huskers took a 30-27 decision over Wisconsin after trailing 27-10 early in the third quarter. In other words, no visiting team’s lead is safe at Memorial Stadium. But the Huskers are having trouble stopping anyone this season, and that is evidenced by the fact they have allowed 118 points over their last three games. That includes allowing 63 points and 498 total yards to Ohio State, which has an offensive attack similar to that of U-M. The oddsmakers have installed NU as slight favorites, so that makes this Upset Special No. 2 … Michigan 42, Nebraska 28. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide will not have the luxury of looking ahead to next week’s showdown at LSU with the surprising Bulldogs coming to town tomorrow night. Dan Mullen’s team is off to its best start since 1999 and has done it with a stingy defense that allows only 14.4 points per game and a team that is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Alabama surrenders only 8.3 points per game and is No. 3 nationally in turnover margin. Neither team has really been tested this season, but the Bulldogs rarely do well on the road in this series. They have come home losers on 23 of their last 25 trips to Tuscaloosa, and are expected to do so again … Alabama 31, Mississippi State 14. (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 9 Ohio State at Penn State: These two teams couldn’t care less that some are referring to their matchup as the “Banned Bowl.” Neither the Buckeyes nor the Nittany Lions can go bowling this year, but they can win a Leaders Division championship and the winner puts himself in the driver’s seat for that trophy. Penn State has made a remarkable turnaround after dropping its first two games of the season, and that revival has come mostly because of a stout defense and the play of QB Matt McGloin (1,788 yards, 14 TDs). But while the Lions are second in the Big Ten in scoring defense, they have not faced an attack the likes of which Ohio State features with Braxton Miller. The sophomore quarterback has rebounded well from last week’s neck injury and is eager to make up for last year’s performance against Penn State, which included a 9-yard scramble on fourth down with 1:41 remaining that came up a yard short in the Buckeyes’ eventual 20-14 loss. Somewhere along the line, Miller makes that yard this year … Ohio State 27, Penn State 24. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Colorado at Oregon (-45½); Florida (-3½) vs. Georgia; Texas Tech (+8) at Kansas State; Ohio (-7) at Miami-OH; Michigan State (+6½) at Wisconsin; Texas A&M (-7) at Auburn; Notre Dame (+11) at Oklahoma; Michigan (+2½) at Nebraska; Mississippi State (+24) at Alabama; Ohio State (-1) at Penn State.

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

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