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.

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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).

Back To The Graveyard … For The Last Time

Some years, I tell myself that I don’t need to go. Driving past a house where strangers live and then chasing ghosts in a graveyard … Well, that doesn’t seem to be the best use of one’s time. Yet I always seem to find myself performing the same ritual each year about this time.

This year, I looked forward to it more than any other. I didn’t know why until later, after I had driven past the small little white house on Cardiff Road and large concrete expanse of Ohio Stadium. It was uncharacteristically warm for late November in Columbus, and I rolled my car window down as I made my way up Olentangy River Road and turned left into Union Cemetery.

Dusk had fallen and a cool breeze had coupled with the warmth of the day to create a thin layer of fog near the ground. I slowed down just as I passed the entrance of the cemetery as a caretaker waved at me. “Don’t be too long,” he shouted. “We’re closing soon.”

I nodded and waved, then made my way up the small hill and turned left toward Section 12. And there, tucked into a corner between several others beneath a rustling pine tree was the familiar black granite marker at Lot 37, Space 4.

I got out of my car and approached the headstone, always decorated this time of year with mementoes that passersby have left. This time, there were buckeyes and small figurine of Brutus as well as a book of the collected works of Emerson. The pages fluttered in the breeze as I heard a voice behind me.

“You again?”

I wasn’t startled because it was a familiar voice. And I didn’t even have to turn around as an older man stepped forward on my left, a gray-haired man wearing a black baseball cap, red windbreaker and gray trousers.

“Yes, it’s me,” I replied. “I just thought I’d come over and see what you … I mean, I thought I would come over and see if I could figure out what he would think about this year’s game.”

“And what did you come up with?”

“Well, I think he would probably be a little fired up because of what happened last year. I think he would probably be a little fired up because a perfect season’s on the line this year.”

The old man scowled and shook his head.

“You sportswriters are a stubborn bunch of SOBs, you know that?” he said. “You haven’t seemed to learn much from our little visits over the years. With this game, it doesn’t matter what happened last year. It doesn’t matter what your record is. The only thing that matters is the game you’re going to play. That game, that opponent, that moment. Nothing else means a damn.”

He paused for a few seconds and then continued.

“No one ever went into this great game thinking about anything other than the game itself. What are the tendencies, where are the weaknesses? Who can you depend on when things get rough and who shies away from the spotlight? Xs and Os and game-planning, you can do those things until you’re blue in the face. And don’t get me wrong: They have their place. You’d had damned well better be prepared. But you have to know your team. You have to know who you can count on and who you can’t. To my good fortune, I had some outstanding young men who more often than not rose to the occasion in this great game. A coach is only as good as his players and I was blessed with some great ones.”

I nodded and then said, “What do you think of Ohio State’s new coach?”

“My kind of man,” he replied. “Tough, hard-working, not afraid to speak his mind.”

“Sounds like someone else I know,” I said.

The old man squinted through his silver-rimmed glasses. “Don’t patronize me, Son. I never did suffer fools well and I don’t aim to start now.”

I looked down and shuffled my feet sheepishly as he continued.

“The simple fact of the matter is that things are good hands – very good hands as far as I can tell. This great university and these great fans should be proud to have such an outstanding young man as their head coach. They should be proud of such an outstanding group of young men who have turned this thing around. To go from where they were last year to where they are now? That’s quite an accomplishment. You betcha it is. And no one gave them anything. They earned every damned thing they’ve gotten, including respect. And let me tell you something: When you earn respect, that’s everything. That’s something they can never take away. No sir. They can never take that away.

“The greatest thing in the world is Ohio State football. And the second greatest thing in the world is Ohio State beating That School Up North. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. Sixteen times we beat those bastards and there wasn’t anything that compared with the feeling. But when you lose that game, it’s the lowest low you can ever experience. Happened 11 times and it just makes you sick to your stomach. That’s why you work so damned hard throughout the year to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“And then, when all your hard work and all your sweat and all your preparation and all your game-planning come together, when all of that comes together and you beat those sons-a-bitches … well, I don’t care whatever you go on to accomplish. There’s no greater feeling you get than beating That School Up North. None.”

The old man clenched his jaw and looked skyward.

“When I first came here, I just wanted to make sure everyone still understood the importance of this game. With all of the tradition that are being trampled on for the sake of a goddamned dollar, I wanted to stress the importance of just how much The Game has meant to generations of fans – how much it still means. How much it will always mean. There are a bunch of us here, you know, and there isn’t anything any of us wouldn’t do to be able to experience it just one more time …”

A church bell chimed in the distance and we both knew what that meant.

“Well, I have to be getting back,” the man said.

I nodded and said, “I always look forward to our visit. See you next year?”

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

Stunned, I stammered, “Wh-what? What do you mean?

“Well,” he said with a sigh, “it gets a little harder every year. And there are rules.”

“Rules?” I asked.

“What? You think I don’t have to go by the rules?” he said as he leaned toward me.

Then I saw the faint flicker of a smile as the old man reflected on the joke he had just told on himself.

“But there was so much more I wanted to ask and our time always seems so short,” I said.

“Oh, I’ll be around,” the man said. “Like whenever the team runs out of the tunnel at the old Horseshoe, I’ll be there. Whenever that sousaphone player dots the ‘i,’ I’ll be there. Whenever that victory bell rings loud and clear, I’ll be there. Whenever someone in some far-flung corner of the globe yells “O-H!” and someone yells back, “I-O!,” you’d better believe I’ll be there.

“And whenever we beat that goddamned school up north, you betcha I’ll be there.”

With that, he turned and began to walk off into the foggy evening.

And then I did something I had never done before. I ran after him.

“I just wanted to thank you,” I said. “Not just for these visits these past few years, but for what you’ve done for all of us who consider ourselves Ohio State football fans.”

The man stood up straight, clenched his jaw and stuck out his hand.

“The pleasure was mine,” he said. “Always was and always will be.”

OSU-MICHIGAN TIDBITS

** Tomorrow will mark the 109th renewal of what is known simply as The Game. The teams first met in 1897 and have played one another every season since 1918. The Wolverines lead the overall series by a 58-44-6 margin, including a 27-24-2 advantage in Columbus.

** Ohio State actually has a home advantage in the series in games played at Ohio Stadium where the Buckeyes are 23-21-1 against Michigan. OSU was 1-6-1 vs. the Wolverines at old Ohio Field.

** In the last 50 meetings overall, Ohio State holds a 25-23-2 advantage.

** The Buckeyes have won each of the last five games in the series played at Ohio Stadium, their longest home winning streak ever against the Wolverines.

** Ohio State has beaten Michigan in eight of the last 10 meetings for the second time in the series. The Buckeyes also had an 8-2 record against the Wolverines between 1955 and 1963.

** OSU head coach Urban Meyer is in his first season with the Buckeyes. He has a career record of 115-23 in 11 seasons as a head coach, including 0-1 against Michigan. His Florida team was on the losing end of a 41-35 decision to the Wolverines in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Meyer also faced Michigan six times as an assistant coach, posting a 2-4 record against the Wolverines. He was 1-1 against U-M as an Ohio State assistant coach from 1986-87, posted a 0-1 record at Colorado State from 1990-95, and was 1-2 at Notre Dame from 1996-2000.

** Only four Ohio State head coaches have enjoyed winning records against Michigan – Woody Hayes (1951-78) at 16-11-1, Jim Tressel (2001-10) at 9-1, Earle Bruce (1979-87) at 5-4 and Francis A. Schmidt (1934-40) at 4-3. Hayes, Bruce and Schmidt are all members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

**Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is in his second season with the Wolverines. He has a career record of 66-55 in 10 seasons as a head coach, including 19-5 at Michigan. Hoke is 1-0 against Ohio State as a head coach, and 6-3 lifetime against the Buckeyes. He spent eight seasons from 1995-2002 on Lloyd Carr’s coaching staff at U-M.

** Seven Michigan head coaches have winning records against Ohio State. They are Fielding Yost (1901-23, ’25-26) at 16-3-1, Bo Schembechler (1969-89) at 11-9-1, Herbert “Fritz” Crisler (1938-47) at 7-2-1, Gary Moeller (1990-94) at 3-1-1, and Gustave Ferbert (1897-99), George Little (1924) and Hoke at 1-0 each.

** Last week, Michigan completed a perfect 6-0 home record with a 42-17 rout of Iowa. That made Hoke the first U-M head coach to go undefeated at home in his first two seasons since Yost in 1901-02.

** Ohio State is currently No. 4 in the Associated Press writers’ poll while Michigan is 19th in the BCS standings and 20th in the AP and USA Today coaches’ polls.

** Meyer enters tomorrow’s contest with a 23-10 career record against ranked teams, including 2-0 at Ohio State. Hoke has a 4-9 career mark against ranked opponents, including a 3-3 mark at Michigan. He is also 0-2 record vs. teams ranked in the top five, including 0-1 with the Wolverines. U-M lost a 41-14 decision in this year’s season opener to then-No. 2 Alabama.

** Ohio State has already clinched an outright Leaders Division championship. Michigan needs a victory and a Nebraska loss at Iowa today to claim the Legends Division title and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game.

** Should Michigan not advance to the conference title game, it would mark the second year in a row neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes had won or shared the Big Ten championship. The last two-year stretch when neither team was involved in the league title was in 1994-95.

** Ohio State is trying to complete only the sixth perfect record in program history. The only unbeaten and untied seasons in OSU history came in 1916, 1944, 1954, 1968 and 2002.

** The Buckeyes could conceivably have had four more perfect seasons, but Michigan ruined undefeated OSU campaigns in 1969, 1993, 1995 and 1996.

** The game will feature two of the winningest college football teams in history. Michigan ranks first all-time with 903 wins while Ohio State is fifth with 848. Texas is second with 866, Notre Dame is third with 864 and Nebraska is fourth with 855.

** This marks the 19th time in series history that Ohio State and Michigan have played after Thanksgiving. The Wolverines hold a slight 9-8-1 advantage when the game has been played after Turkey Day, including last year’s 40-34 decision in Ann Arbor.

** Ohio State enters tomorrow’s contest ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press writers’ poll while Michigan is unranked. The last time a ranked OSU team lost to an unranked U-M squad was 1993 when the fifth-ranked Buckeyes suffered a 28-0 loss to the unranked Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

** The higher ranked team has won each of the last six meetings in the series. The last time the higher ranked team lost was in 2004 when unranked Ohio State toppled the seventh-ranked Wolverines by a 37-21 final.

** You probably should not expect a shutout tomorrow. The Wolverines haven’t blanked the Buckeyes since that 28-0 victory in Ann Arbor in 1993. OSU hasn’t recorded a shutout over U-M since a 28-0 win in Ann Arbor in 1962.

** Ohio State will pit its prolific scoring offense against Michigan’s stingy defense. The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 38.2 points per game, while the Wolverines are 17th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 18.1 points per contest.

** The game will feature a pair of slow-starting teams. Only 65 of Ohio State’s 420 total points (15.5 percent) have come in the first quarter. Only 52 of Michigan’s total of 339 points scored (15.3 percent) have come in the opening period.

** That said, both teams will be looking to score first. They are each 6-0 this season when putting the first points on the board.

** The second quarter is when things begin to liven up for both teams. The Wolverines have outscored their opposition by a 124-74 margin in the second period while the Buckeyes have outscored their opposition by a 139-44 margin in the second quarter.

** Since the two teams met in 1922 for the Ohio Stadium dedication game, a total of 7,857,674 fans have attended The Game. That’s more than any other college football game in America. Sixty-two of those 90 games have been sold out, including the last 43 in a row.

** The Wolverines have 24 native Ohioans on their roster including six starters – defensive end Frank Clark (Cleveland Glenville), center Elliott Mealer (Wauseon), strong safety Jordan Kovacs (Oregon Clay), offensive guard Patrick Omameh (Columbus DeSales), receiver Roy Roundtree (Trotwood-Madison) and linebacker Jake Ryan (Cleveland St. Ignatius). That number would be seven had running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (Youngstown Liberty) not suffered a season-ending leg injury last week.

** The Buckeyes have two players from Michigan – senior tight end Reid Fragel (Grosse Pointe South) and junior defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins (Detroit Southeastern).

** In the previous 108 contests between OSU and Michigan, only 40 have been decided by seven points or fewer. In those 40 games, each team has 17 wins and there have been six ties.

** The Game will be televised for the 46th consecutive year and 57th time overall. The first OSU-Michigan game ever televised was a 21-0 win by the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 1947.

** Ohio State will wear specially-designed Nike uniforms for the game. The uniforms feature enlarged jersey numbers and stripes as well as more utilization of the color black. Jerseys will also feature seven Buckeye leaves along the back collar and a Block “O” on the front collar. The Buckeyes will also wear special gloves, the same sort of which got the team repeated unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following touchdowns during Ohio State’s 37-7 victory over Michigan in 2010.

** Twenty-one Ohio State seniors will make their final appearance on Senior Day. Due to get their traditional hug from the head coach and high-five from Brutus are Zach Boren, Dalton Britt, Ben Buchanan, Zach Domicone, Reid Fragel, Garrett Goebel, Adam Homan, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson, Storm Klein, William McCary, Ross Oltorik, Vincent Petrella, Taylor Rice, Etienne Sabino, Justin Siems, John Simon, Stewart Smith, Kharim Stephens, Jake Stoneburner and Nathan Williams.

** The university will also honor members of the 2002 national championship team between the first and second quarters. Head coach Jim Tressel is expected to be among the former players and coaches in attendance.

** Kickoff is set for shortly after 12 noon Eastern. ABC will televise the game to most of the nation with the announce crew of Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (color analysis) and Quint Kessinich (sideline reports).

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius and XM satellite radio channels 86 and 91.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Nov. 23, 1918, one of the great World War I-era games was played when the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team traveled to Annapolis to take on the U.S. Naval Academy in a battle of undefeated teams. Following a scoreless first half, Navy All-America end Wolcott Roberts caught a touchdown pass from Bill Ingram for a 6-0 lead. The Midshipmen missed the ensuing extra point, but it didn’t seem important as they moved to the Great Lakes 1-yard line on their next possession. But Ingram fumbled into the end zone and the loose ball was scooped up by Bluejackets defender Harry Eileson, who head the other way along the Navy sideline. Suddenly, Middies reserve William Saunders jumped off the bench and tackled Eileson before trying to sneak back to the sideline. Officials ruled that Eileson would have scored on the play, and awarded Great Lakes a touchdown. The Bluejackets then added the extra point and claimed a 7-6 victory.

** On Nov 23, 1957, Princeton knocked off unbeaten Dartmouth, taking a 34-14 victory and claimed the Ivy League title in the process. Princeton star Danny Sachs threw a touchdown pass, returned an interception 40 yards to set up another score and returned a punt 60 yards for fourth-quarter TD to lead the Tigers.

** On Nov. 23, 1984, Boston College quarterback hurled a 48-yard “Hail Mary” TD pass to wide receiver Gerard Phelan on the game’s final play, giving the Eagles a 47-45 win over Miami (Fla.) and sewing up the ’84 Heisman Trophy for Flutie.

** On Nov. 23, 1985, Iowa quarterback Chuck Long became the first player in Big Ten history to throw for more than 10,000 career yards when he led the Hawkeyes to a 31-9 victory over Minnesota.

** On Nov. 24, 1938, Texas scored a 7-6 upset win over Texas A&M, allowing the Longhorns to avoid a rare winless season.

** On Nov. 24, 1956, College Football Hall of Fame coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf made his final game a memorable one when his California team scored a 20-18 upset win over Stanford.

** On Nov. 24, 1973, undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State played unbeaten and fourth-ranked Michigan to a 10-10 tie, touching off a controversial vote among Big Ten athletic directors over which team should represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes won a 6-4 vote with many believing OSU got the nod because Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin had broken his collarbone late in the game against the Buckeyes and would not have been able to play on New Year’s Day. Ohio State went on to roll to a 42-21 win over USC in the Rose Bowl, but the tie against Michigan cost the Buckeyes the 1973 national championship. They finished second in the AP poll behind Notre Dame and third in the UPI rankings, trailing Alabama and Oklahoma. Michigan finished sixth in both polls.

** Also on Nov. 24, 1973, No. 20 Kansas took a 14-13 win over No. 19 Missouri in the Border War. The Tigers held a 13-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Jayhawks QB David Jaynes threw a pair of late touchdown passes to secure the win. The one-point victory allowed Kansas to set an NCAA record by playing their sixth game of the season decided by two points or less. The Jayhawks beat Colorado and Iowa State by two points, beat Missouri by one, lost to Nebraska and Tennessee by one and tied Oklahoma State.

** On Nov. 24, 1979, third-ranked Nebraska and No. 8 Oklahoma squared off for the Big Eight championship in a battle of the unbeatens. The Sooners, led by tailback Billy Sims and his 247 rushing yards, eventually prevailed with a 17-14 win for their fourth outright conference title in seven years.

** On Nov. 25, 1916, Ohio State took a 23-3 victory over Northwestern to cap a 7-0 season and earn the school’s first Big Ten championship. It was the first of a league-record 18 outright championships and 34 overall conference titles for the Buckeyes.

** On Nov. 25, 1920, Texas defeated instate rival Texas A&M by a 7-3 score in the first college football game ever broadcast live on radio.

** On Nov. 25, 1950, Michigan and Ohio State combined for a Big Ten-record 45 punts during a game played in a driving snowstorm. The Wolverines won the game 9-3 in what has become known as the “Snow Bowl.”

** On Nov. 25, 1961, Rutgers completed its first undefeated season since 1876 with a 32-19 win over Columbia. The Scarlet Knights overcame a 19-7 deficit after three quarters, roaring to the victory by scoring four times in the fourth quarter.

** On Nov. 25, 1971, top-ranked Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma waged an epic back-and-forth battle on Thanksgiving Day that resulted in a 35-31 victory for the Cornhuskers. NU took an early 14-3 lead, thanks in part to a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, but the Sooners stormed back to take a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter. Nebraska responded with a late touchdown lead to take the victory and eventually went on to capture the 1971 national championship under College Football Hall of Fame head coach Bob Devaney.

** On Nov. 26, 1955, Tennessee halfback Johnny Majors and backup halfback Al Carter each threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally the Volunteers to a 20-14 victory over No. 19 Vanderbilt. The outcome prevented the Commodores from winning the SEC championship and securing a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

** On Nov. 25, 1989, Bo Schembechler coached his final game in Ann Arbor, guiding his third-ranked Michigan team to a 28-18 win over Ohio State. The victory gave Schembechler’s Wolverines their second consecutive outright Big Ten championship, becoming the first team to win back-to-back undisputed league titles since Michigan State in 1955 and ’56.

** On Nov. 26, 1938, Georgia Tech became the first team in college football history to play back-to-back scoreless ties when the Yellow Jackets battled instate rival Georgia to a 0-0 draw in Athens. The previous week, Tech and Florida had played to a scoreless tie in Atlanta.

** On Nov. 26, 1988, for the first time in series history, Notre Dame and USC squared off undefeated and occupying the top two spots in the national polls. Irish quarterback Tony Rice rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown while cornerback Stan Smagala intercepted USC quarterback Rodney Peete and returned the pick for a score as No. 1 Notre Dame took a 27-10 victory.

** On Nov. 27, 1982, Auburn running back Bo Jackson rushed for 114 yards and led the Tigers to a 23-22 victory over Alabama. It was the final regular-season game for Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who finished a 38-year career with 323 victories. The game also marked a milestone for Auburn head coach Pat Dye. He became the first of 30 former Bryant assistants who had tried to beat the legendary coach since 1970.

** On Nov. 27, 1998, Texas tailback Ricky Williams sewed up the Heisman Trophy with a 259-yard performance during a 26-24 upset of sixth-ranked Texas A&M. Williams broke off a 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to break Tony Dorsett’s NCAA career rushing record.

** On Nov. 28, 1942, unranked Holy Cross scored a 55-12 rout of No. 1 Boston College, the most lopsided loss ever for a top-ranked team.

** On Nov. 28, 1975, Texas A&M protected its No. 2 national rating with a 20-10 win over fifth-ranked Texas, the Aggies’ first win at home over the Longhorns in eight years.

** On Nov. 28, 1981, No. 11 Penn State trounced No. 1 Pittsburgh by a 48-14 score, the largest winning margin in NCAA history for a ranked team over a No. 1 team.

** On Nov. 28, 2008, Eastern Michigan quarterback Andy Schmitt connected on an NCAA single-game record 58 of 80 pass attempts during a 56-52 victory over Central Michigan. The performance came six days after Schmitt went 50 for 76 in a 55-52 loss to Temple, and his 108 completions over a two-game span is also a college football record.

** On Nov. 29, 1935, Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger was named the winner of the inaugural Downtown Athletic Club Trophy as the outstanding college football player of the year. The following year, the award would be renamed the Heisman Trophy.

** On Nov. 29, 1958, Auburn protected its No. 2 ranking and extended its winning streak to 24 consecutive games with a heart-pounding 14-8 win over Alabama. The Tigers needed a defensive stop with 1:26 remaining in the game to preserve the victory.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** And there were two. Heading into the next-to-last weekend of the regular season, only Notre Dame and Ohio State remain undefeated at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

** For the second week in a row, the nation’s longest winning streak ended at 13 games. Two weeks ago, Texas A&M snapped Alabama’s streak and Stanford topped Oregon last Saturday night. That means Notre Dame and Ohio State are not only the only undefeated teams in the nation, they share the longest winning streak at 11.

** The nation’s longest losing streak moved to 11 games when Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson rolled the dice and came up craps against UTEP. The Golden Eagles marched 86 yards for a touchdown to pull within one point of the Miners at 34-33 with 2:48 remaining. But rather than tie the game, Johnson elected to go for the win and QB Arsenio Favor’s two-point conversion pass was intercepted. The Golden Eagles never got the ball back and UTEP closed out the 34-33 victory. Southern Miss has one more opportunity to avoid its first winless season since 1925. The Eagles travel to Memphis tomorrow to take on the 3-8 Tigers.

** Notre Dame is 11-0 for the first time since 1989 and seeks to finish with a perfect regular season for the first time since its 1988 national championship season. The Fighting Irish have had 12 previous unbeaten and untied seasons – 1889, 1912, 1913, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1947, 1949, 1973 and 1988.

** To finish off their perfect regular season, the Fighting Irish must get past USC, which is hurting in more ways than one. The Trojans are coming off a 38-28 loss to crosstown rival UCLA – only their second loss to the Bruins in the past 14 meetings – and quarterback Matt Barkley will miss Senior Day at the Coliseum with a shoulder injury. USC holds a 43-35-5 all-time advantage over Notre Dame, including nine wins in the last 10 meetings.

** West Virginia running back Tavon Austin registered 576 all-purpose yards, including a school-record 344 rushing on 21 carries, last week against Oklahoma. But it wasn’t enough as Sooners QB Landry Jones launched his sixth touchdown pass of the game with 24 seconds left to give Oklahoma a 50-49 win. Jones finished with 554 yards through the air, a new school record for a single game. The two teams combined for 1,440 total yards, including 778 for the Mountaineers, the most ever surrendered by an Oklahoma defense.

** Austin broke a bunch of longstanding records with his performance. His rushing total bested the old mark of 337 yards set by Kay-Jay Harris during a 56-23 win against East Carolina in 2004. He also shattered both the school record of 356 all-purpose yards in a game set by Garrett Ford during a 63-48 win over Pittsburgh in 1965.

** Syracuse senior Ryan Nassib is one of the best college quarterbacks you’ve never heard of. During last week’s 31-27 win by the Orange at Missouri, Nassib raised his career passing total to 8,845 yards and became his school’s all-time leader in that category. Nassib has led Syracuse to a 6-5 record, making the Orange bowl-eligible for the second time in three years.

** Missouri’s loss to Syracuse snapped an 18-game winning streak for the Tigers against nonconference opponents. Mizzou is 5-6 overall and 2-5 in its first season in the SEC. It needs a victory at No. 9 Texas A&M tomorrow night to avoid a first losing season since 2004.

** Another quarterback having a spectacular under-the-radar season is Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Not only as the junior QB directed the Tigers to a 10-1 record, Boyd has thrown for 3,367 yards and 33 TDs and added another 466 yards and eight scores rushing. Makes you kind of wonder why a guy who is No. 2 in the nation in pass efficiency and No. 7 in total offense doesn’t get more Heisman mention.

** Boyd was a one-man wrecking ball last Saturday during his team’s 62-48 win over North Carolina State. The junior quarterback threw for five touchdowns and ran for three more, setting school and ACC single-game records by accounting for eight TDs. Boyd also directed an offense that ran a school-record 102 plays for 754 yards, only two shy of another school mark. The Tigers have now won 10 regular-season games for the first time since 1981.

** Speaking of guys who get no Heisman love, how about Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch. During his team’s 31-24 win over Toledo last week, Lynch became the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 150 yards and throw for more than 400 in the same game. For good measure, Lynch also added a 62-yard punt. The fourth-year junior is currently third in the nation in rushing, third in total offense and 10th in pass efficiency. Lynch has accounted for 4,086 yards and 38 TDs for the Huskies, who have won 10 games in a row since a season-opening 18-17 loss to Iowa. NIU last had a double-digit winning streak in 1964-65 when it strung 11 victories in a row over two seasons.

** Finally, a tip of the cap to John Gagliardi, the legendary head coach at Division III St. John’s (Minn.), who Monday announced his retirement after 64 years as a coach, the last 60 with the Johnnies. The 86-year-old Gagliardi finished his career as the all-time winningest coach in college football history, amassing a 489-138-11 record. Among his many accomplishments: NAIA national championships in 1963 and ’65 and NCAA Division III national titles in 1976 and 2003. His teams also won 30 conference championships, including 27 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. Gagliardi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Like a championship contender, we are peaking at the right time here at Forecast World Headquarters. On the heels of a 10-0 week, we were nearly perfect at 9-1 in the straight-up picks. Better still, we picked Baylor to upset Kansas State and that helped toward a 7-3 record against the spread.

The season totals are 89-21 straight up and 57-51-2 ATS and we’ll look to keep our late-season winning streaks going with these games.

TODAY’S GAMES

No. 17 Nebraska at Iowa: The Cornhuskers, who have been Big Ten members for two seasons, need one more victory to advance to their first conference championship game. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes – who have been in the league since 1900 – contemplate a multimillion-dollar buyout of longtime head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has fallen and fallen hard this season, losing five in a row for the first time since 1999 when it dropped its last eight that season. Nothing the Hawkeyes have done for the past month indicated they can even slow down the Huskers much less beat them … Nebraska 38, Iowa 14. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 8 LSU at Arkansas: Remember when the Razorbacks were ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls? That was long before the season spiraled into a 4-7 record so far, a campaign that with a loss this week would mean the first eight-loss season in Fayetteville since 1990. It seems difficult to see how the Hogs will avoid that, especially with LSU still hoping out a sliver of hope of playing the SEC title game. The sad truth for Arkansas was that deposed head coach Bobby Petrino took his offense with him when he was fired. The Razorbacks are 88th in the country in scoring, a statistic made even more glaring when you consider the Tigers have the 12th best scoring defense … LSU 37, Arkansas 10. (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Illinois at Northwestern: While Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is currently enthralling moviegoers, these two teams will battle for The Land of Lincoln Trophy tomorrow. We mention the Oscar-worthy movie only because it features infinitely more interesting subject matter than this football game. The Wildcats are headed for a second nine-win regular season win in five years while the Fighting Illini are experiencing another losing campaign, their eighth in the past 11 seasons. Illinois leads the overall series by a 54-46-5 margin, and that includes a 38-35 win last season. But if the Wildcats play the way they have been playing the last month or so, there isn’t much hope the Illini has of avoiding their first winless Big Ten season since 2005 … Northwestern 34, Illinois 27. (12 noon ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Georgia Tech at No. 3 Georgia: Talk about flying under the radar. No one is giving a second thought to the Bulldogs, who will play for the national championship if they can pick off the Yellow Jackets and then beat Alabama in the SEC title game. Of course, UGA can thank a baby-soft schedule for its lofty ranking. The Dawgs didn’t have to play the Crimson Tide and their only cross-divisional SEC games were against a struggling Ole Miss and an even-more-struggling Auburn. Meanwhile, Tech is 6-5 and always represents a tough out with its triple-option attack. The Wreck, which has already qualified for the ACC championship game, averages 38.6 points per game, good for 16th-best in the nation. But the Bulldogs have won 10 of 11 in the series, mostly by simply outscoring the Yellow Jackets. Look for that to happen again … Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 24. (12 noon ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Auburn at No. 2 Alabama: About the only thing riding on this year’s version of the Iron Bowl is Auburn head coach Gene Chizik’s job. Just two years removed from a national championship season, the Tigers have cratered to a 3-8 record overall and 0-7 mark in the SEC. To avoid a first winless conference record since 1980 and save their head coach’s job, all the Tigers have to do is knock off the Crimson Tide, which appears headed for its third national championship game in four years. Despite its misstep two weeks ago in the loss to Texas A&M, Alabama still boasts the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, a pretty handy weapon against an Auburn team that ranks 107th in scoring offense … Alabama 45, Auburn 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 6 Florida at No. 10 Florida State: After beating the likes of Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina during the first two months of the season, the Gators haven’t been the same team since a 17-9 loss to Georgia on Oct. 27. They have strung together three lackluster wins since then to move to 10-1, but lackluster won’t get it done against the Seminoles. FSU’s defense is as stingy as they come, and the Seminoles rank among the nation’s top five units in every major statistic. That includes No. 1 in total defense, something that should get the attention of Florida and its 104th ranked offense. The Gators still hold an edge in the overall series, but the Seminoles have won the last two meetings and expect to make it three in a row … Florida State 30, Florida 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Wisconsin at Penn State: Congratulations are in order for the Nittany Lions putting together a winning season against a stacked deck of player defections and NCAA sanctions. Unfortunately, most of the team’s success has come against lesser opponents. Only two of Penn State’s seven victories have come against teams with winning records. Wisconsin is on its way to the Big Ten Championship Game, and still has some unfinished regular-season business including getting running back Monteé Ball another touchdown to set the NCAA career record. The Badgers didn’t exactly play lights-out last week against Ohio State, but their power game should be enough to take care of the Lions … Wisconsin 31, Penn State 21. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

Missouri at No. 9 Texas A&M: The Tigers are trying to avoid their first losing season since 2004 and draw the explosive Aggies in College Station. Redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel has become a Heisman candidate by accounting for 3,047 yards of total offense and 38 TDs. To be brutally honest, Mizzou has nothing that can counterbalance that. The Tigers have scored 20 points or fewer in five games this season, and all of those have been losses. Meanwhile, the Aggies have topped 50 points four times already and rank sixth nationally in scoring. Watch Johnny Football punch his ticket to New York City at the Tigers’ expense … Texas A&M 42, Missouri 24. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 1 Notre Dame at USC: We were ready to pull the trigger on another Upset Special when we learned USC quarterback Matt Barkley would miss the game with a shoulder injury. That, of course, changes everything. The Trojans will now trot out backup Max Wittek, a talented freshman who is no doubt the future of the USC franchise. But asking a freshman to make his first start against the nation’s top-ranked team – a team that features the nation’s top scoring defense – is asking a little much. Look for the Fighting Irish to finish off its perfect regular season and then sit back to find out which SEC team it will face for the BCS championship in January … Notre Dame 24, USC 17. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 20 Michigan at No. 4 Ohio State: You can analyze this game a thousand different ways from matchups to Denard Robinson’s throwing elbow to how well the OSU defense can stand up to the U-M spread. None of it really means much as the Buckeyes seek to close out a perfect season. Simply put, the one thing we keep coming back to is that it is Urban Meyer’s first shot at the Wolverines as Ohio State head coach and we just don’t see how he lets victory escape his grasp … Ohio State 34, Michigan 30. (12 noon ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Nebraska (-14½) at Iowa; LSU (-11½) at Arkansas; Illinois (+19½) at Northwestern; Georgia Tech at Georgia (-13½); Auburn at Alabama (-32½); Florida at Florida State (-7); Wisconsin (+3) at Penn State; Missouri at Texas A&M (-16½); Notre Dame (-5½) at USC; Michigan at Ohio State (-3½).

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.

Miller Might By Most Exciting Buckeye In Long Time

During a Saturday night awash in myriad offensive milestones, much of the buzz in the Ohio Stadium press box last week focused upon Braxton Miller when the question was raised: “Who is the most exciting Ohio State player in the past 10 years?”

Surprisingly for a team that has done more than its share of winning over the past decade, there weren’t that many names on the list.

Troy Smith got a mention, mostly for the career body of work turned in by the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner.

Someone brought up Terrelle Pryor for his gazelle-like moves and raw athletic ability, while another offered Maurice Clarett, who played such a vital role in the 2002 national championship season. But just as quickly as their names were mentioned, Pryor and Clarett were summarily dismissed – Pryor because of the perception he should have been even better than he was, and Clarett because his star flashed so quickly across the horizon before disappearing. There was also the haze of off-the-field issues that hung over both players.

The player receiving the most nods of agreement was Ted Ginn Jr., the electrifying speedster who rewrote the Ohio State and Big Ten record books for kick returns. Ginn’s graceful running style was such a blur of speed and elegance that those in pursuit of him seemed to be moving in slow motion.

Ginn eventually recorded eight returns – six punts and two kickoffs – for touchdowns, all but erasing the fact that he was also an underrated receiver. His 135 career receptions for 1,943 yards and 15 TDs all rank among the top 10 in program history.

Of course, the conversation only got started following Miller’s 72-yard run in the second quarter, a play that set the tone for the rest of the game against a Nebraska defense that had surrendered a scant 17 yards to Ohio State on its preceding 13 plays.

Every play in every offensive coordinator’s playbook is designed to go the distance if everything goes according to plan. The trouble is, not every play goes according to plan – and even when it does, it often needs a little something extra. Miller is that something extra for the Buckeyes, and he so often displays it with an exquisite dash of flair.

Nebraska had just taken a 17-7 lead at the 11:59 mark of the second quarter, and the press box chatter sounded more like a postmortem on the Ohio State team than a discussion about exciting players of the recent past. Then Miller took all of about 15 seconds to change that.

The sophomore quarterback took a relatively routine shotgun snap and began moving to his right with tailback Carlos Hyde swinging out for a possible option pitch. As the OSU offensive line began to pick off Nebraska defenders one by one, Miller recognized a huge lane, tucked the football under his arm and quickly cut upfield, reaching the second level in what seemed like less than the blink of an eye.

Two effortless fakes – moves designed to make talented Big Ten defenders look like pony leaguers – left a pair of Cornhuskers clutching at air, and then two more downfield blocks allowed Miller to glide all the way to the Nebraska 3 before he was finally pushed out of bounds.

Humorist James Thurber once wrote that Chic Harley’s running style was “kind of a cross between music and cannon fire,” and I couldn’t help but remember those words while watching Miller on that 72-yard display that was as melodic for the Buckeyes as it was lethal to the Cornhuskers.

“We couldn’t get anything going at the time,” OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said of Miller’s big play. “We had a couple of punts leading up to that, and we needed somebody like Braxton to make a big play to excite the crowd because the crowd got out of it. To have someone like Braxton make a play like that and get them into the game and being able to score, it was good.”

Good? That might qualify Brown for understatement of the season so far.

“We have a quarterback that’s kind of ridiculous running the ball,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said. “I think Braxton obviously changed the game.”

That wasn’t the only time.

Later in the second quarter, Miller did it again, this time on a fourth-and-2 play from the Nebraska 31. The Cornhuskers called timeout before the play, and head coach Bo Pelini had to figure Meyer was going to put the ball in the hands of his best player.

Not that the knowledge did Pelini any good. Miller took the shotgun snap, and as Hyde picked off blitzing NU safety P.J. Smith, the quarterback broke over the right side of the line and sprinted his way past every other would-be tackler for a 31-yard touchdown run. It was Miller’s crowning achievement during a second-quarter performance that included six rushes for 146 yards, and it gave the Buckeyes a 35-24 halftime lead.

By now you know that second-quarter explosion was part of a career-high 186 rushing yards for Miller, a performance that allowed him midway through his sophomore year to tie Pryor for most career 100-yard games by an Ohio State quarterback.

It is also worth noting Miller’s virtuoso performance occurred in full witness of a nationwide television audience. It was, in simple terms, the kind of performance on which future Heisman Trophies are won.

OSU-INDIANA TIDBITS

** Ohio State and Indiana will be meeting for the 86th time with the Buckeyes holding a lopsided 68-12-5 advantage in the series. That includes a 24-2-1 record at Memorial Stadium, including wins in each of the last eight games played in Bloomington.

** The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a 17-game winning streak in the overall series. You have to go back to a 27-27 tie in 1990 to find the last time Ohio State failed to come away with a victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ most recent win in the series was a 41-7 decision in Bloomington in 1988.

** The 17-game win streak in the second-longest in the series for OSU. The Buckeyes won 23 consecutive games against Indiana between 1960 and 1986. The Hoosiers’ longest win streak in the series is four in a row between 1903 and 1914.

** Ohio State in its history has more victories over Indiana than any other team. The Buckeyes have 68 wins vs. the Hoosiers, 65 over Illinois, 59 over Northwestern, 55 over Wisconsin and 45 over Iowa.

** OSU head coach Urban Meyer will be facing Indiana for the first time as a head coach, but he was on the sideline in 1986 and ’87 as a member of Earle Bruce’s staff when the Buckeyes played the Hoosiers. OSU took a 24-22 win in Bloomington in 1986, but IU scored a 31-10 upset win the following year at Ohio Stadium, an afternoon Bruce later described as “the darkest day in Ohio State history.”

** Despite its recent problems in the series, Indiana has historically made life difficult for Ohio State head coaches in their first season. Dating back to 1913, first-year OSU head coaches are only 5-4-1 against the Hoosiers. That includes losses by John W. Wilce (7-6 in 1913), Wes Fesler (7-0 in 1947), Woody Hayes (32-10 in 1951) and John Cooper (41-7 in 1988). Ohio State head coaches who beat Indiana in their inaugural seasons were Francis Schmidt (33-0 in 1934), Carroll Widdoes (21-7 in 1944), Earle Bruce (47-6 in 1979), Jim Tressel (27-14 in 2001) and Luke Fickell (34-20 in 2011). Sam Willaman’s first team in 1929 played the Hoosiers to 0-0 tie, and in case you’re wondering about Paul Brown in 1941 and Paul Bixler in 1946, the Buckeyes and IU did not play in those seasons.

** Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is in his second season with the Hoosiers and will be attempting to become only the second IU coach in the past 61 years to claim a victory over Ohio State. Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers from 1984-96, claimed back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987 and ’88. Before that, you have to go back to Clyde Smith, whose Indiana team took a 32-10 win over Ohio State in 1951.

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

** Ohio State is playing its second night game in a row while Indiana will be playing its third night game of 2012. The Hoosiers took a 24-17 victory over I-AA Indiana State under the Memorial Stadium lights on Sept. 1 and then lost a 41-39 heartbreaker two weeks later at home to Ball State.

** Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 22 times – 19 touchdowns and three field goals – in 24 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. OSU currently has a streak of scoring on 20 consecutive trips inside the red zone.

** Indiana is 11th in the Big Ten and tied for 94th nationally in red zone defense. The Hoosiers have allowed opponents to score 15 times in 17 trips inside their 20-yard line. That includes 12 touchdowns and three field goals.

** The Hoosiers currently lead the Big Ten and are 19th nationally in passing offense, averaging 305.2 yards per game. IU has already thrown for 11 touchdowns this season, surpassing last year’s total of 10.

** Ohio State is 11th in the conference and 96th in the nation in pass defense, surrendering 265.3 yards per game.

** Indiana has 17 native Ohioans on its roster – nine of which are on the Hoosiers’ two-deep – while Ohio State has only two players from Indiana. They are sophomore tailback Rod Smith of Fort Wayne and sophomore defensive lineman Joel Hale of Greenwood.

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

** A familiar name is in his second season on Wilson’s staff as a graduate assistant. Chris Shula, whose grandfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, is the GA in charge of defense.

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

** For his performance against Nebraska that included a school record-tying five tackles for loss, OSU senior defensive lineman John Simon earned national defensive player of the week honors from the folks who give out the Chuck Bednarik Award as well as those who give out the College Football Performance Awards. Simon had seven tackles against the Cornhuskers, including two sacks, and he also forced a fumble.

** Simon’s five tackles for loss vs. Nebraska tied a single-game OSU record first established by Judah Herman in a 16-9 loss to Iowa in 1991 and equaled by Jayson Gwinn during a 23-17 win against Indiana in 1993 and Andy Katzenmoyer in the 1997 Rose Bowl vs. Arizona State, a 20-17 victory for the Buckeyes.

** Simon jumped to 12th place on Ohio State’s career list for tackles for loss with 36. Current defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is the school’s all-time leader with 66 TFLs.

** Congratulations to Corey “Philly” Brown, whose 76-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. Nebraska earned him Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Brown’s return for a score was the first for the Buckeyes since Chris Fields ran one back 69 yards during last year’s 27-22 win over Toledo.

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s career-high 186 rushing yards vs. Nebraska pushed his career total to 1,478 and jumped him into fourth place all-time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) is first with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70).

** Miller also matched Pryor’s school record for quarterbacks with seven games of 100 or more yards rushing.

** Indiana sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald is a perfect 82 for 82 in career PATs. The IU school record of 107 extra points in a row is held by Pete Stoyanovich (1986-88), who never missed a PAT during his college career.

** Last week’s 63-point output by the Buckeyes marked the highest point total since a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010 and the best output against a Big Ten opponent since a 69-18 win over Minnesota in 1983. Additionally, it represented the most combined points in an OSU game since 1950. That year, Ohio State and Iowa combined for 104 points in an 83-21 win for the Buckeyes. Conversely, it was the most points surrendered by Nebraska since a 65-51 loss at Colorado in the 2007 season finale. Head coach Bill Callahan was dismissed following that game and the Cornhuskers hired current head coach Bo Pelini before the 2008 season.

** The offensive outburst against Nebraska marked only the 27th time in program history the team had topped the 60-point mark. Rarer still is accomplishing the feat against a Big Ten opponent. OSU had tallied 60 or more points against a conference rival only seven times before doing it against the Cornhuskers. Northwestern played the hapless victim in four of those games – 60-0 in 1973, 63-0 in 1980, 63-20 in 1978 and 70-6 in 1981. The other three were 69-18 vs. Minnesota in 1983, 62-7 over Wisconsin in 1969 and 83-21 against Iowa in 1950, the game in which Vic Janowicz threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, returned a punt for a sixth TD and kicked 10 extra points.

** Ohio State is now 272-0-1 all-time when scoring 35 or more points. The lone blemish on that record is a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978.

** Ohio State rushed for 371 against the Cornhuskers, the highest rushing total for the Buckeyes since a 409-yard effort during a 41-3 win over Illinois in 1995. OSU also averaged 7.72 yards per carry vs. Nebraska, the fourth-highest single-game average in school history. The record of 9.23 yards per carry was set during a 51-15 win at Illinois in 1962.

** OSU junior tailback Carlos Hyde set new career-highs with 28 carries for 140 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Ohio State running back to rush for four touchdowns since Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George during a 56-35 win over Iowa in 1995.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. (That’s 7 p.m. local time if you’re going to Bloomington.) The Big Ten Network will handle the telecast with Eric Collins on play-by-play, Derek Rackley providing color analysis and former Illinois linebacker J Leman filing sideline reports.

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 135 and XM channel 190.

** Next week, Ohio State returns home to host Purdue with kickoff time and broadcast affiliates still TBA. The Big Ten will not make an announcement regarding that game until after this weekend’s contests have been played.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 12, 1929, the University of Georgia dedicated Sanford Stadium with a 15-0 win over heavily favored Yale. College Football Hall of Famer Vernon “Catfish” Smith was the star of the game for the Bulldogs, falling on a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown, hauling in a TD pass and tackling a Yale runner in the end zone for a safety. Sanford Stadium, which originally housed 30,000 spectators and cost $360,000 to build, has grown to a capacity of 92,746, the sixth largest on-campus stadium in the nation.

** On Oct. 12, 1940, Tennessee rolled to a 53-0 win over Chattanooga, marking a NCAA-record 17th consecutive regular-season shutout for the Volunteers. During the period four-year period between 1937 and 1940, the Vols went 37-5-1 with 33 shutouts and captured two national championships under legendary head coach Robert Neyland.

** On Oct. 12, 1963, second-ranked Texas scored a 28-7 victory over No. 1 Oklahoma, marking the second-largest winning margin in a matchup featuring the top two teams in The Associated Press poll. QB Duke Carlisle led the Longhorns by rushing for a touchdown and passing for another, while the Texas defense held the Sooners to only eight first downs. The matchup featured a pair of legendary head coaches – Darrell Royal for the Longhorns and Bud Wilkinson for the Sooners. Texas went on to win the 1962 national championship while OU finished No. 10 in Wilkinson’s final season as Sooners head coach.

** On Oct. 12, 2002, Northern Illinois trailed Miami (Ohio) by a 27-14 score entering the fourth quarter, but the Huskies scored a MAC-record 34 points in the final period to rally for a 48-41 victory. It was the second-most fourth-quarter points in a comeback win in NCAA history.

** On Oct. 13, 1956, Syracuse running back Jim Brown rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns and added a key third-quarter interception on defense to lead the Orange to a 27-20 win over West Virginia. The victory was a key one for Syracuse in its march to the Cotton Bowl later that season.

** On Oct. 13, 1979, unranked Stanford erased a 21-point deficit in the second half and achieved a 21-21 tie with defending national champion and No. 1-rated USC in historic Los Angeles Coliseum. After falling behind by three touchdowns at halftime, the Cardinal rallied behind quarterback Turk Schonert, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the second half. The Trojans had a chance to pull out the victory in the final seconds, but botched the snap from center on a field-goal try.

** On Oct. 13, 2007, Houston became the only team in NCAA history to have a 300-yard receiver and a 200-yard rusher in the same game as the Cougars scored a wild 56-48 victory over Rice. Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards – a school and Conference USA record – while tailback Anthony Aldridge added 205 yards rushing.

** On Oct. 14, 1950, Penn halfback Francis “Reds” Bagnell accounted for 490 yards of total offense to lead the Quakers in a 42-26 win over Dartmouth. Bagnell threw for 276 yards and rushed for 214, making him the first player in college football history to crack the 200-yard mark in passing and rushing in the same game. The feat wasn’t matched again for another 36 years and has been equaled fewer than a dozen times since.

** On Oct. 14, 1978, Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw for 210 yards, including a game-clinching 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Harris late in the fourth quarter, and the Boilermakers scored a 27-16 win over Ohio State in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes outgained Purdue by nearly 200 yards but committed five turnovers. The win, described by Purdue head coach Jim Young as “the biggest of my coaching career,” was the Boilermakers’ first against the Buckeyes since 1967.

** Also on Oct. 14, 1978, Cornell running back Joe Holland rushed for 244 yards on an Ivy League-record 55 carries and led the Big Red to a 25-20 victory at Harvard.

** On Oct. 15, 1910, officials at the University of Illinois decided it would be a good idea to invite alumni back to the campus for a football game. More than 1,500 returned to Champaign and watched as the Fighting Illini beat Chicago, 3-0, in what is recognized as the first official homecoming game in college football history.

** On Oct. 15, 1977, Iowa State went to Lincoln and scored a 24-21 upset of No. 9 Nebraska, giving the Cyclones back-to-back victories over the Cornhuskers for the first time in 27 years. The final score wiped out a superlative performance by NU running back I.M. Hipp, who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

** On Oct. 15, 2005, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was pushed across the goal line in the final seconds by teammate Reggie Bush and the top-ranked Trojans escaped South Bend with a 34-31 win over No. 9 Notre Dame. The play has come to be known as the “Bush Push.”

** On Oct. 16, 1937, two of the most famous teams in college football history collided as Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” took on Pittsburgh’s “Dream Backfield” in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. Future College Football Hall of Famers were all over the field that day including Fordham offensive line coach Frank Leahy and Pitt head coach Jock Sutherland, while Fordham lineman Vince Lombardi went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching career with the Green Bay Packers. The scoreless tie was the only blemish on either team’s 1937 records. Pitt finished 9-0-1 and won the national championship while Fordham was 7-0-1 and wound up third in the polls.

** On Oct. 16, 1976, Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin showcased his strong right leg and set an NCAA record in the process. Franklin became the first kicker in college football history to boot a pair of field goals from 60 yards or longer in the same game. He had three-pointers of 64 and 65 yards during a 24-0 victory over Baylor in College Station. Franklin’s 65-yarder established a new NCAA record for the longest field goal in college football history, but the mark didn’t last long. Later that same day, Abilene Christian kicker Ove Johansson booted a 69-yarder against East Texas State. Johansson’s record still stands.

** On Oct. 17, 1970, Southern Miss pulled off the shocker of the year, upsetting fourth-ranked Ole Miss by a 30-14 final in Oxford. Rebels QB Archie Manning threw for two touchdowns to give his team an early lead, but the Golden Eagles got a pair of rushing touchdowns from RB Willie Heidelberg – the first black player in Southern Miss history – while halfback Gerry Saggus added a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Eagles were also aided by punter Ray Guy, who kept Ole Miss at bay by averaging 49 yards per punt.

** On Oct. 18, 1958, Northwestern celebrated became the first team since 1891 to score 50 or more points against Michigan, jumping out to a 43-0 halftime lead before putting the finishing touches on a 55-24 victory over the Wolverines in Evanston. Halfbacks Ron Burton and Willmer Fowler combined for five touchdowns while QB/DB Dick Thornton threw for 109 yards and returned an interception 37 yards for a score.

** On Oct. 18, 1958, No. 2 Auburn’s 17-game winning streak came to an end with a 7-7 tie against unranked Georgia Tech. The Tigers went on to close the 1958 season with six straight victories, but the tie with the Yellow Jackets cost them a second consecutive national championship.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams shrank by seven last weekend, leaving only 16 unbeatens remaining. Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon and South Carolina are 6-0 while Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, UTSA and West Virginia are 5-0. Cincinnati and Oregon State are 4-0.

** The king is dead, long live the king. TCU felt the effects of having to suspend starting quarterback Casey Pachall for a drunken driving arrest, and the Horned Frogs dropped a 37-23 decision to Iowa State. That ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games, and now means South Carolina owns the longest streak at 10 wins in a row.

** The Horned Frogs will play the rest of the season without Pachall, who has withdrawn from TCU with plans to enter an inpatient facility for treatment of substance abuse. Pachall, who was arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, had failed a university-administered drug test in February. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said once Pachall has completed his treatment, he will be eligible to return to school and the team. The quarterback has one season of college eligibility remaining.

** That victory by Iowa State over TCU marked the third straight season the Cyclones have notched a road win against a ranked team. Not bad for a team that is only 3-30 on the road against top-25 opponents since 1996.

** While TCU’s win streak was snapped, Tulane extended the nation’s longest losing streak to 15 games following a 41-13 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Green Wave is 0-5 this season and has been outscored by a 212-45 margin.

** For the first time since USA Today took over the coaches’ poll in 1991, no Big Ten team is in the top 25. OhioState is undefeated, of course, but NCAA sanctions which include a postseason ban make the Buckeyes ineligible for both the coaches’ poll and the BCS rankings, which are due for the first time this season Oct. 14.

** People keep talking about West Virginia QB Geno Smith already having sewed up the Heisman Trophy, and we keep mentioning the Mountaineers’ upcoming schedule that includes a four-game run against No. 6 Kansas State on Oct. 20 and TCU on Nov. 3, a game at OklahomaState on Nov. 10 and back home vs. No. 13 Oklahoma on Nov. 17. If the Heisman were being awarded today, Smith would be the lead-pipe lock to win it. He leads the nation in pass efficiency based on superlative numbers that include 166 completions in 204 attempts (81.4 percent) for 1,996 yards, 24 TDs and no interceptions.

** Louisiana Tech is off to a 5-0 start, its best since joining Division I-A in 1975. The Bulldogs haven’t won five games to begin a season since winning 11 in a row during the 1974 season. Tech won all 10 regular-season games that year and the first game of the Division I-AA playoffs before suffering a 35-14 loss to Central Michigan. Additionally, the Bulldogs are No. 22 in this week’s AP poll, the first time they have been ranked since 1999.

** Duke has gotten off to a 5-1 start, its best since starting 7-0 in 1994. The Blue Devils finished 8-4 in ’94, a season that culminated in a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl. That also marks the last bowl game in which Duke played. The Blue Devils haven’t won a postseason game since a 7-6 win over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

** Michigan QB Denard Robinson rushed for 235 yards during last Saturday’s 41-13 rout of Purdue and became the all-time leading rusher among Big Ten quarterbacks. Robinson now has 3,905 yards, and that eclipsed the old record of 3,895 held by Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (1998-2001).

** How far has Auburn fallen since its 2010 national championship? The Tigers are 1-4 and managed only seven points last week against an Arkansas defense that had given up 110 points in its previous two SEC games. Auburn has seven offensive touchdowns in five games and has been outscored by a 45-3 margin in the fourth quarter.

** Florida has trailed at halftime to SEC rivals Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, and won all three of those games. In fact, the Gators outscored those three teams in the second half by a combined total of 51-6.

** Last week’s 41-3 loss to Notre Dame proved that Miami (Fla.) isn’t quite back just yet. The Hurricanes are 4-0 against unranked teams, but lost to KansasState and the Fighting Irish by a combined 93-16 margin.

** The Oklahoma offense got a jolt of energy Wednesday when the NCAA ruled Fresno State transfer receiver Jalen Saunders eligible for the remainder of the season. Saunders, who was first-team All-WAC after he caught 50 balls for 1,065 yards and 12 TDs last season for the Bulldogs, left Fresno State when Pat Hill was fired in December after 15 seasons as head coach.

** Ohio State is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes have already equaled last year’s victory total. But while Urban Meyer will get some votes, the frontrunner for Big Ten Coach of the Year has to be Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. Facing unbelievable scrutiny and unprecedented sanctions, O’Brien has somehow rallied his team to four straight victories. The Nittany Lions have this week off and then travel to Iowa next week and host OhioState on Oct. 27.

** Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison stemming from more than 40 charges of child sexual abuse. The penalty amounts to a life sentence for the 68-year-old Sandusky. One day later, the State Employees’ Retirement System of Pennsylvania announced it would revoke Sandusky’s $59,000 annual pension.

** Farewell to one of the most colorful characters in college football. Beano Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 81, began his career as a sports publicist for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s. Later, he parlayed his outspokenness and gravelly voice into a broadcasting career that included stints at ABC and ESPN. Born Carroll Hoff Cook on Sept. 1, 1931, he was one of the initial influences for ESPN’s popular College Football Gameday show. Cook was known for hyperbole – claimed Notre Dame QB Ron Powlus would win three Heismans – as well as witticism. When Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1981 offered lifetime passes to games for returning hostages from Iran, Cook quipped, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”

FEARLESS FORECAST

For the first time in a couple of weeks, we finished above .500 against the spread. But then the straight-up picks sprung a leak when every coin-flip game we chose wound up a loss. We were 6-4 both straight up and against the spread, making the yearly totals 48-12 SU and 28-32 ATS.

Neither percentage is worth talking about, so we’ll just get to the games we’ll be watching this weekend.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 18 Louisville at Pittsburgh: The Panthers have been on a rollercoaster ride during their first season under head coach Paul Chryst. Pitt began the season with a 31-17 loss to Division I-AA Youngstown State, and then two weeks later upset then No. 13 Virginia Tech. But the Panthers lost last week to Syracuse, which had lost eight straight games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won their first five games in rather unimpressive fashion, including last week’s 21-17 struggle with winless Southern Miss. Louisville has lost four straight games in the series, but those kinds of trends haven’t meant much so far this season … Louisville 23, Pittsburgh 20. (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 6 Kansas State at Iowa State: With West Virginia on their horizon next week, this is an obvious trap game for the Wildcats. Iowa State has only one loss and the Cyclones went into Fort Worth last weekend and ended the nation’s longest winning streak by knocking off TCU. Iowa State also played K-State tough. The Cyclones have lost four straight in the series, but all four of those games were played in Manhattan and none of the Wildcats’ wins were by more than eight points. The last time K-State visited Ames, it went home with a 31-20 loss in 2007. Of course, there is the small matter of ISU’s 1-11 record in its last 12 home games against ranked opponents … Kansas State 31, Iowa State 20. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 15 Texas vs. No. 13 Oklahoma: The Cotton Bowl hosts the annual renewal of the Red River Shootout with each of the rivals trying to bury the other with a second Big 12 loss. The Longhorns are coming off a disappointing 48-45 home loss to West Virginia, a game in which the defense allowed 460 yards and couldn’t hold a 38-34 lead after three quarters. Meanwhile, the Sooners got exposed three weeks ago with a home loss to Kansas State. The difference in the two teams is defense. OU ranks 20th in the nation in scoring defense while Texas ranks 66th. Then when you consider the Mack Pack has lost seven in a row to ranked opponents, you get this outcome … Oklahoma 37, Texas 31. (12 noon ET, ABC)

No. 1 Alabama at Missouri: What exactly was Mizzou thinking when it thought joining the SEC was a good idea? The Tigers are 0-3 in their new conference and have been outscored by a 91-45 margin. And now they get ready for a taste of Crimson Tide, which rolls into Columbia fresh off an open week. When last we saw Alabama, it was rolling to a 33-14 win over Ole Miss. The Tide ranks No. 1 in the country in total and scoring defense while the Tigers are 95th in total offense. As we have said many times before, if you can’t score, you can’t win … Alabama 38, Missouri 10. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Stanford at No. 7 Notre Dame: The Cardinal has a three-game series winning streak going, but they also had a guy named Andrew Luck at the offensive controls. Luck, of course, has taken his talents to Indianapolis in the NFL, leaving Stanford a somewhat more challenged attack with junior QB Josh Nunes. Taking an offense that remains a work in progress to South Bend is no bargain this season. No defense has allowed fewer touchdowns this season than the Fighting Irish, and their offense is beginning to get better. ND put up its biggest rushing total in 12 years during last week’s 41-3 rout of Miami (Fla.), and sophomore QB Everett Golson added 186 yards through the air and 51 yards on the ground. That seems to make for a pretty tall hurdle for Stanford to climb, especially knowing it has lost seven of its last eight in South Bend … Notre Dame 31, Stanford 17.  (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Fresno State at No. 24 Boise State: First-year head coach Tim DeRuyter has the Bulldogs played extremely well on defense. Fresno leads the nation in interceptions (12), which helps it rank 11th in turnover margin. But ranking would be even better if the Bulldogs hadn’t committed eight turnovers themselves in their first six games. That trend had better change this week since Boise State’s defense is even more opportunistic than Fresno. The Broncos are tied for No. 5 in the nation in turnover margin, including forcing 13 in their last three games. That should make the difference as Boise tries for a seventh straight victory in the series … Boise State 27, Fresno State 23. (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, DirectTV 603)

Illinois at No. 25 Michigan: There was hope in Champaign that Tim Beckman could bring his high-octane offense with him from Toledo. So far, that hasn’t happened. The Fighting Illini rank dead last in the Big Ten in scoring, and that is never a good thing when you have to try and outscore the Wolverines. QB Denard Robinson is the nation’s fourth leading rusher (135.2 yards per game) and generates an average of 323.6 total yards per contest, and that is simply going to be too much for the Illini … Michigan 42, Illinois 14. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

Boston College at No. 12 Florida State: The Seminoles are coming off a game in which they blew a 16-0 halftime lead against North Carolina State and wound up on the business end of a 17-16 final score. What better way to recuperate than against a 1-4 team that hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2008? Despite last week’s loss, the Seminoles still rank seventh in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. That can’t be good news for BC head coach Frank Spaziani, whose team ranks 109th in rush offense and 104th in total defense … Florida State 44, Boston College 14. (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 4 Florida at Vanderbilt: Is Vandy laying a trap for the Gators? Florida is coming off an emotional 14-6 win over LSU last week and has No. 3 South Carolina coming to the Swamp next weekend, so the case could be made that the Gators’ focus will not totally be on the Commodores. That could be problematic, especially in the passing game since Florida ranks last in the SEC in passing offense while Vandy is third in pass defense. It is just difficult to image the Commodores generating enough offense, however, especially against an opponent they have lost to 21 straight times … Florida 30, Vanderbilt 13. (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU, DirectTV 208)

No. 8 Ohio State at Indiana: This game will go a long way toward determining if the Buckeyes are truly the No. 8 team in the nation, and none of that determination has anything to do with the Hoosiers. Ohio State has played up (or down) to the level of its competition so far this season, and since it rolls into Bloomington tomorrow night as a prohibitive favorite, it will be interesting to see how the team responds. Will the Buckeyes build upon the foundation of emotional wins over Michigan State and Nebraska the last two weeks, or will they revert to the team that snoozed its way through large chunks of the nonconference season? The Hoosiers have some weapons that can exploit what has been a suspect Ohio State pass defense. But they showed last week vs. Michigan State, the Hoosiers remain a young team that has not yet learned how to win … Ohio State 38, Indiana 17. (8 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Louisville (-1½) at Pittsburgh; Kansas State (-6) at Iowa State; Texas vs. Oklahoma (-2½); Alabama (-17½) at Missouri; Stanford at Notre Dame (-7); Fresno State (+9) at Boise State; Illinois at Michigan (-21); Boston College at Florida State (-27); Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt; Ohio State (-16) at Indiana.

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

Flawed Buckeyes Cream Of Flawed Big Ten Crop So Far

What we have learned so far from the first five weeks of the 2012 college football season is that a sometimes-flawed Ohio State team represents the cream of the crop in the supremely-flawed Big Ten.

The Buckeyes and Northwestern are the only remaining undefeated teams in a conference that boasted five teams ranked among the nation’s top 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll. Those rankings are but a distant memory now in a Big Ten that has more problems than a screen door in a hurricane.

No conference team resides in the top 10 of either major poll with the Buckeyes at No. 12 in the AP rankings. OSU is not eligible for the USA Today coaches’ poll, meaning Nebraska is the highest-ranking Big Ten team there at No. 20.

After the first month of the season, eight teams rank 54th or lower nationally in terms of total offense, and six of those are 79th or below. That includes two-time defending conference champion Wisconsin, whose once-vaunted offensive attack now ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 109th nationally.

But the 3-2 Badgers, who were once as high as No. 12 in the preseason polls, aren’t the only conference team with issues. Michigan State is so offensively challenged that the Spartans have scored exactly one touchdown in their two losses this season. And both of those losses – 20-3 to Notre Dame and 17-16 to OSU – have come in home games.

Nebraska is 4-1, but it needed to erase a 17-point third-quarter deficit at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 29 to claim a 30-27 victory. The Cornhuskers’ famed Blackshirts defense is only a middle-of-the-pack unit this season, giving up averages of 20.6 points and 340.8 points per game.

NU is also a decidedly different team away from Lincoln. The team’s only loss this season was a 36-30 defeat at UCLA, and the Huskers were 2-2 on the road last year in their first season as Big Ten members.

Minnesota is also 4-1, but Goldy got exposed in a 31-13 loss at Iowa. The Gophers fell behind 24-0 at halftime to a Hawkeyes team that had been ranked No. 105 in the nation in scoring. Even with its outburst against Minnesota, Iowa moved up only to a tie for 97th.

Michigan has seemingly taken the step back many predicted this season. In fact, the argument could be made that quarterback Denard Robinson has taken a couple of steps backward. Robinson is still U-M’s primary playmaker, but he played extremely poorly against Alabama and Notre Dame, combining to complete only 24 of 50 pass attempts for 338 yards and one touchdown against six interceptions. He did contribute 117 rushing yards in those games but failed to score.

Simply put, if you find a way to stop Robinson, you can beat Michigan.

Northwestern and Purdue are the current dark horse darlings. The Wildcats are 5-0, but they have yet to reach the meat of their schedule. They take on Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State in successive games beginning Oct. 20. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers haven’t even begun conference play yet and already have a half-game lead over the other three eligible teams in the Leaders Division. But they jump into the frying pan Oct. 6 by hosting a rested Michigan team coming off an open week, a game that begins a three-week stretch that includes a home game vs. Wisconsin and a road match at Ohio State.

Illinois appears to be struggling mightily under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, while Indiana is … well, Indiana.

Finally, no one knows how much is left in Penn State’s emotional tank. The Nittany Lions are currently on a three-game winning streak, but their next three games are interesting ones – at home vs. Northwestern on Oct. 6, at Iowa on Oct. 20 and home against Ohio State on Oct. 27. Penn State usually handles the Wildcats pretty well, but it has lost three of its last four to the Hawkeyes and four of its last six to the Buckeyes.

What we have learned about the Big Ten so far? That it has a couple of good teams, a couple of bad ones and several that are very average, so don’t be surprised if the conference sends a team with three losses (or more) to the Rose Bowl.

OSU-NEBRASKA TIDBITS

** This marks only the fourth ever meeting between Ohio State and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers erased a 21-point deficit last year for a 34-27 victory in Memorial Stadium, while the Buckeyes won both of the previous games – 28-20 in the 1955 season opener and 34-7 a year later in that season’s opener. Both of those games were played at Ohio Stadium.

** The game marks the first time in four meetings that both teams will be ranked. The Buckeyes were No. 6 in 1955 and No. 8 in ’56 while the Cornhuskers were ranked 14th last season.

** The game pits a pair of head coaches with a lot of Ohio and Ohio State ties. OSU head coach Urban Meyer is a native of Ashtabula who spent the 1985 and ’86 seasons as an assistant on Earle Bruce’s coaching staff at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who grew up in Youngstown, was recruited by Bruce out of Cardinal Mooney High School to play for the Buckeyes. He was a four-year letterman at OSU from 1987-90 and a two-year starter at safety in 1989 and ’90. Pelini was also a team co-captain during the 1990 season.

** Pelini has coached three times before against his alma mater and he is 3-0. In addition to last year’s victory, Pelini was a graduate assistant on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa in 1991 when the Hawkeyes took a 16-9 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Then, in January 2008 just before taking over at Nebraska, Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers scored a 38-24 win over the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game.

** Meyer has never faced Nebraska, but he has butted heads before with Pelini. From 2005-07 when Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU, Meyer went 1-2 vs. the Tigers while at Florida.

** Meyer has his team off to a 5-0 start for the fifth time in 11 seasons as a head coach. The others were Bowling Green (2002), Utah (2004) and Florida (2006 and ’09). With his 5-0 record, Meyer now has the third-best start to a career by an Ohio State head coach. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 games in 1944 and ’45, while Earle Bruce won his first 11 in a row in 1979.

** Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at Nebraska, putting him into some elite company. The only others to accomplish that feat with the Cornhuskers were Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich. Pelini has a ways to go to equal the record for most nine-win seasons with the Huskers, however. Osborne won nine or more games in each of his 25 years at Nebraska.

** The game features two of the top five winningest programs in college football history. Michigan tops the list with 897 victories followed by Texas with 862 and Notre Dame with 858. Nebraska is fourth with 850 and Ohio State is fifth with 842.

** The Cornhuskers and Buckeyes are the two winningest teams in college football since 1970. Nebraska has 416 victories during that timeframe while Ohio State has 389.

** The contest will mark the 12th night game in Ohio Stadium history. The Buckeyes are 8-3 under the Horseshoe lights including last year’s 33-27 win over Wisconsin.

** Overall, Ohio State is 36-20 in night games since 1959. Nebraska is 81-33-3 all-time under the lights.

** Ohio State is 4-0 at home this season and 70-7 at Ohio Stadium since 2002.

** Nebraska is 0-1 on the road this season and 13-7 in regular-season away contests under Pelini.

** Last year’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State snapped a six-game win streak for the Buckeyes in Big Ten home openers.

** The Cornhuskers are 2-3 in their last five conference road openers. That includes a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin last season in their first season as Big Ten members.

** It is the 91st annual homecoming game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 66-19-5 on homecoming.

** The Buckeyes have an all-time record of 367-131-28 in October. That is a .724 winning percentage. The Cornhuskers are 350-132-19 (.718) during the month.

** Last year’s game between Ohio State and Nebraska was historical not just in terms of the two teams squaring off for the first time as Big Ten opponents. The Cornhuskers erased a 27-6 deficit to take a 34-27, making it the largest comeback in program history. Conversely, the game marked the first time in OSU history the Buckeyes had ever lost a game in which they were ahead by as much as 21 points.

** Don’t expect a shutout by either team. Nebraska has scored in 209 consecutive games while Ohio State has scored in 234 straight contests. The Cornhuskers were last shut out during a 19-0 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 21, 1996. The Buckeyes haven’t been shut out since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993. OSU hasn’t been shut out at home since the 1978 season opener, a 19-0 loss to Penn State.

** The Cornhuskers have scored 30 or more points in each of their first five games for the first time since 1995.

** Something has to give. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten and tied for 26th nationally in red zone offense. The Buckeyes have scored 17 times – 14 touchdowns and three field goals – in 19 trips inside their opponents’ red zone. Meanwhile, Nebraska is second in the Big Ten and tied for 11th nationally in red zone defense. Opponents have scored only 10 times – five TDs and five field goals – in 16 trips inside the Cornhuskers’ red zone.

** OSU junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown had a career-high 12 receptions last week against Michigan State, tying him for the fourth-best single-game total in program history.  David Boston holds the school record with 14 catches at Penn State during a 31-27 OSU loss in 1997. Boston also had a 13-catch game at Indiana in 1996, matching the total Gary Williams had against Florida State in 1981. Others with 12-catch performances are Bob Grimes (1952), Billy Anders (1966) and Brian Stablein (1992).

** Brown’s 12-catch game was the first time an Ohio State receiver cracked double digits since Ted Ginn Jr. had 10 receptions during a 35-7 win over Bowling Green in 2006.

** Brown now has 32 catches this year, a pace that would put him at 77 for the season. That would be the second-best total in school history. Boston has held the single-season mark since 1997 with 85 receptions.

** OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller’s 136 rushing yards vs. Michigan State pushed his career total to 1,292 and vaulted him from 49th to 45th place on Ohio State’s all-time list. He passed Troy Smith (1,168, 2003-06), Derek Combs (1,231, 1997-2000), Champ Henson (1,235, 1972-74), Maurice Clarett (1,237, 2002) and Ricardo Volley (1,252, 1977-79).

** Miller needs only 12 more yards to become the fourth-leading rusher of all time among Ohio State quarterbacks. Terrelle Pryor (2008-10) holds the record with 2,164 yards, followed by Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75), Rex Kern (1,714, 1968-70) and Art Schlichter (1,303, 1978-81).

** Nebraska junior QB Taylor Martinez ranks third on his school’s all-time list of rushing quarterbacks with 2,137 yards, trailing only Eric Crouch (3,434, 1998-2001) and Jammal Lord (2,573, 2000-03). Martinez is also fourth on the NU career passing list with 4,779 yards. Zac Taylor (2005-06) is the all-time leader in that category with 5,850 yards followed by Joe Ganz (5,125, 2006-08) and Dave Humm (5,035, 1972-74).

** NU senior I-back Rex Burkhead has recorded at least one 100-yard rushing game in each of the past four seasons. He has cracked the century mark 12 times during his career, tying him for eighth place on the school’s all-time list in that category. Mike Rozier (1981-83), the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, is Nebraska’s career leader with 23 games with at least 100 yards on the ground.

** Burkhead needs 73 more yards to become only the seventh player in Nebraska history to rush for at 3,000 in a career. Rozier is the NU’s all-time leading rusher with 4,780 yards.

** Nebraska has nine native Ohioans on its roster. Ohio State has no players from Nebraska.

** Members of the 1972 Ohio State team will be recognized during the game to mark the 40th anniversary of a season that celebrated the first of a conference-record six consecutive Big Ten championships or co-titles. LB Randy Gradishar and OT John Hicks were named All-Americans that season, team captains were HB Rick Galbos and DT George Hasenohrl, and the Buckeyes were led by freshman tailback Archie Griffin, who rushed for 867 yards.

** Kickoff this week is set for shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. ABC will telecast the game to a nationwide audience featuring the announce crew of Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (color analysis) and Holly Rowe (sideline reports).

** The game will also be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio channel 113 and XM channel 191. Dial Global Sports (formerly Westwood One) will also broadcast the game.

** Next week, Ohio State is back on the road at Indiana for another nighttime affair. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Eastern with the Big Ten Network handling the telecast.

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

** On Oct. 5, 1940, Michigan star Tom Harmon led his team to a 21-14 victory over Michigan State in Ann Arbor. The win was the Wolverines’ third in a row over the Spartans and was part of a streak that stretched to 10 games before the Spartans won in 1950.

** On Oct. 5, 1957, VMI became the first team in college football history to hold an opponent to negative yardage in the passing department. During a 28-6 victory, the Keydets allowed Richmond to complete only two passes for a net loss of 16 yards. VMI went on to post a 9-0-1 record and capture the Southern Conference championship that season.

** On Oct. 5, 1968, Arkansas running back Bill Burnett scored a touchdown to help the Razorbacks to a 17-7 win over TCU. It was the first of 23 consecutive games in which Burnett scored, an NCAA record that stood for 32 years.

** On Oct. 5, 1991, Fresno State kicker Derek Mahoney tied the NCAA record for most PATs in a game when he went 13 for 13 as the Bulldogs rolled to a 94-17 win over New Mexico.

** On Oct. 6, 1956, Penn snapped a 19-game home losing streak with a 14-7 win over Dartmouth. It was the Quakers’ first official Ivy League game, while Dartmouth’s lone touchdown came from quarterback Mike Brown, the same Mike Brown who is now owner of the Cincinnati Bengals.

** On Oct. 6, 1980, Northern Illinois tailback Stacey Robinson rushed for a school-record 308 yards during his team’s 73-18 romp over No. 24 Fresno State. Included in Robinson’s performance was an NCAA-record 287 yards in the first half – 114 in the first quarter and 173 more in the second period.

** On Oct. 7, 1967, Tulsa wide receivers Ricky Eber and Harry Wood became the only receiving duo in NCAA history to record 300-yard performances in the same game. During the Golden Hurricane’s 58-0 romp over Idaho State, Eber had 20 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns while Wood hauled in 13 balls for 318 yards and three scores. The totals remain the top two single-game outputs in school history, and the combined 640 yards remains an NCAA record for teammates in a game.

** On Oct. 7, 1995, Texas Tech scored a 14-7 upset over eighth-ranked Texas A&M in Lubbock. The Aggies entered the contest with a 29-game Southwest Conference unbeaten streak, but Tech linebacker Zach Thomas returned an interception 23 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

** Also on Oct. 7, 1995, fifth-ranked Ohio State squeezed out a 28-25 decision over No. 12 Penn State in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions grabbed an early 10-0 lead behind the first of three touchdown runs by fullback Jon Witman, but OSU rallied behind quarterback Bobby Hoying, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, who scored the winning touchdown with 1:42 to play. Hoying’s performance represents the fourth highest single-game passing total in Ohio State history.

** On Oct. 7, 1996, College Football Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade died in Durham, N.C., at the age of 94. Wade was head coach at Alabama in 1925 when the Crimson Tide became the first Southern school invited to the Rose Bowl. A guard for Brown during his playing days, Wade became the first man ever to play and coach in a Rose Bowl. His Brown team lost to Washington State, 14-0, in the 1916 game, but his Alabama squad took a 20-19 thriller over Washington a decade later. Wade later coached at Duke – the football stadium there bears his name – and led the Blue Devils to their only Rose Bowl appearance, a 20-16 loss to Oregon State in the 1942 game.

** On Oct. 7, 2000, No. 7 Miami (Fla.) upset top-ranked Florida State, 27-24, when Seminoles kicker Matt Munyon’s last-second field goal attempt from 49 yards sailed wide right.

** On Oct. 8, 1949, Brown set a college football record with 11 interceptions during a 46-0 win over Rhode Island. Bears defensive back Walt Pastuszak grabbed five of the picks, another NCAA single-game record.

** On Oct. 8, 1966, Wyoming kicker Jerry DePoyster made NCAA history during his team’s 40-7 victory over Utah. DePoyster connected on field goals of 54, 54 and 52 yards and became the first kicker in NCAA history with three field goal of 50 yards or more in a single game. The Cowboys went to a 10-1 season in ’66 that included a WAC championship and Sun Bowl victory over Florida State.

** On Oct. 8, 1977, seventh-ranked Alabama squeezed out a 21-20 victory over No. 1 USC when the Trojans scored a touchdown with 38 seconds remaining but their subsequent two-point conversion try failed.

** On Oct. 9, 1943, Indiana quarterback Bob Hoernschemeyer set an NCAA record for touchdown passes in a game by a freshman when he threw six as the Hoosiers took a 54-13 win over Nebraska in Bloomington.

** On Oct. 9, 1976, USC tailback Ricky Bell set new Pac-8 single-game records by rushing 51 times for 346 yards as the Trojans took a 23-14 win over Washington State. It was the first college football game staged at Seattle’s then-new Kingdome.

** On Oct. 9, 1999, Michigan and Michigan State entered their instate rivalry with undefeated records for the first time in nearly 20 years and those in attendance at East Lansing got their money’s worth. The Spartans stormed out to an early lead before U-M head coach Lloyd Carr replaced starting quarterback Drew Henson with backup Tom Brady. Brady went on to complete 30 of 41 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but his rally fell just short as the Spartans held on for a 34-31 victory.

** On Oct. 9, 2004, California QB Aaron Rodgers established a new NCAA record for consecutive completions. Rodgers completed his first three attempts against USC to run his streak to a record 26 completions in a row. Unfortunately, that was all Cal had to celebrate that day. The seventh-ranked Bears dropped a 23-17 decision to the No. 1 Trojans.

** On Oct. 10, 1936, trumpet player John Brungart became the first member of the Ohio State Marching Band to dot the “i” in Script Ohio.

** On Oct. 10, 1987,Oklahoma State took a 42-17 victory over Colorado to open its season with five straight wins for the first time since 1945. Leading the way for the Cowboys was a pair of fairly decent running backs – Thurman Thomas rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown while Barry Sanders added a score on a 73-yard punt return.

** On Oct. 11, 1975, Division II schools Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Davidson (N.C.) College combined to set an NCAA single-game rushing record as the Bears topped the Wildcats, 69-14. Lenoir-Rhyne rushed for an amazing 837 yards while Davidson added 202, establishing a new NCAA record with 1,039 combined rushing yards on 111 attempts.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** The number of undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams has dwindled to 23. Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina and UTSA are all 5-0, Florida, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Rutgers, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia sport 4-0 records, and Cincinnati and Oregon State are 3-0.

** Perhaps the most unusual school among the remaining unbeatens is UTSA, aka the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Roadrunners are only in their second season of existence, going 4-6 last season playing as an independent at the Football Championship Subdivision level. This year, UTSA moved up to FBS as a member of the WAC and the school is already one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not a bad comeback for head coach Larry Coker, who was dumped by Miami (Fla.) in 2006 and out of the game until UTSA hired him in March 2009.

** TCU pushed the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 games with a 24-16 win over old Southwest Conference rival SMU. Meanwhile, Tulane got rolled by Louisiana-Monroe to the tune of a 63-10 final and the nation’s longest losing streak moved to 14. The Green Wave is now 0-4 this season and has been outscored by a 171-32 margin.

** How crazy was West Virginia’s 70-63 victory over Baylor? Well, for starters, Baylor QB Nick Florence threw for a school-record 581 yards and that was 85 yards fewer than his opponent. Mountaineers QB Geno Smith didn’t exactly win the Heisman Trophy last week because his team has a brutal schedule upcoming that features Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma one right after the other. But Smith certainly earned a free trip to New York and the Heisman ceremony in December by completing 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith leads the nation in pass efficiency and his four-game stats are off the charts: 141 of 169 (83.4 percent) for 1,728 yards, 20 TDs and no interceptions.

** More on the West Virginia-Baylor game: The teams tied the FBS record for most touchdowns in a game with 19 and set a record for most points scored in a game involving a ranked team. The previous mark was set in 1980 when No. 12 Oklahoma rolled to an 82-42 win over Colorado. West Virginia totaled a school-record 807 yards, the teams combined for 1,507 yards of offense and six receivers had at least 100 yards each. Baylor WR Terrance Williams set a Big 12 record with 314 yards, breaking the record of 303 that was set just a few minutes earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey.

** Smith isn’t the only Big 12 quarterback winging it around these days. The conference features four of the top five QBs in pass efficiency – Smith at No. 1, David Ash of Texas at No. 2, J.W. Walsh of Oklahoma State at No. 4 and Casey Pachall of TCU at No. 5.

** The only non-Big 12 quarterback among the nation’s top five in pass efficiency is Aaron Murray of Georgia. Murray, who has thrown for 1,370 yards and 12 TDs, plays in the same backfield as the freshman tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The duo combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns during last week’s 51-44 win over Tennessee. Gurley ran for a 51-yard touchdown while Marshall added scoring runs of 72 and 72 yards.

** While Smith was smashing the old Big 12 single-game passing record, Stephen Morris of Miami (Fla.) established a new ACC mark with 566 yards during the Hurricanes’ 44-37 win over North Carolina State. Morris’ performance included a 62-yard game-winner to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining.

** Another record-setting performance was turned in by the Northwestern offense, which set a new school mark with 704 total yards during last Saturday’s 44-29 win over Indiana. The Wildcats are currently employing a two-quarterback system – junior Kain Colter is the running part of the equation while sophomore Trevor Siemian handles most of the passing. Against the Hoosiers, Colter ran for 161 yards and four TDs while Siemian completed 22 of 32 passes for 308 yards. Nine of those completions went to Colter for 131 yards.

** By the way, Northwestern is 5-0 for the third time in the last five seasons, but the Wildcats haven’t started 6-0 since 1962 when Ara Parseghian was head coach.

** How good is defending national champion Alabama? The Crimson Tide trailed in a game for the first time since last October when Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter of last week’s game. That lead lasted exactly 15 seconds before Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The Tide went on to post a comfortable 33-14 victory.

** How bad is Arkansas? Texas A&M redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel torched the Razorbacks for 453 yards and three TDs during the Aggies’ 58-10 win. It was the most points ever scored by A&M in 70 all-time meetings with the Hogs.

** Texas Tech defensive coordinator Art Kaufman might be on a lot of short lists when head coaching vacancies come up this winter. Last year, the Red Raiders ranked 114th nationally in total defense. So far this year under Kaufman, the Double-T defense holds the No. 1 ranking, allowing only 167.5 yards per game.

** Congratulations to Utah State for its first 4-1 start since 1978. The Aggies are looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 1973, but to do that they would have to beat BYU tonight in Provo. Utah State has lost 11 of its last 12 against the Cougars and 16 in a row in Provo.

FEARLESS FORECAST

Someone mentioned to us not too long ago how much easier it was to pick college football winners than trying to bet against the spread. Our reply: No kidding.

After a couple of outstanding years beating the odds, the chickens have come home to roost. Straight up, we were a sparkling 9-1 last week, missing only one of our Upset Specials when Oklahoma State ran out of gas against Texas. Against the spread, we were the ones running on empty at 3-7.

For the season, we are 42-8 straight up, but a dismal 22-28 ATS. Once again, we’ll see what we can do about turning things around.

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Buffalo at Ohio: The Bobcats are off to their best start since 1968 when they won all 10 of their regular-season games before losing a 49-42 decision to Richmond in the Tangerine Bowl. Their latest hurdle is Buffalo, which is only 1-3 but sets up to give OU a battle. The game will likely come to a war in the trenches between the Bulls’ running game (203.5 yards per game, 32nd nationally) against the Bobcats’ rush defense (94.0 yards per game, 16th nationally). If the Fighting Soliches can stop the run, it will force the Bulls’ vertically challenged passing game to try and win the game. Ohio owns a slight 11-8 advantage in the all-time series, but the Bobcats have won seven of the last eight played in Athens … Ohio 26, Buffalo 17. (12 noon ET, ESPN GamePlan)

Kansas at No. 7 Kansas State: On paper, this looks like a mismatch. After going into Norman and taking a 24-19 win over then No. 6 Oklahoma, the Wildcats have had an extra week to prepare for the Jayhawks, who are trying to avoid their worst start since 1990. Kansas is also coming off an open week, but its last game featured a 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois, a game in which Charlie Weis’ team surrendered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. K-State has won 12 straight home games against unranked opposition and the Jayhawks have lost 14 in a row on the road. Mismatch indeed … Kansas State 42, Kansas 10. (12 noon ET, FX, DirectTV 248)

No. 4 LSU at No. 10 Florida: It’s only week six of the season, but this game will likely eliminate one of the SEC’s national championship contenders. LSU has remained undefeated despite all of its talent drain through suspensions, academic problems and injuries and the fact that it commits turnovers and penalties by the truckload. Meanwhile, the Gators have overachieved a bit with a resurgent offense that averages nearly 225 yards rushing per game. The Tigers haven’t exactly been spectacular lately, and head coach Les Miles is only 1-2 lifetime at The Swamp. But LSU still has a ferocious defense that is expected to bring constant pressure on Florida QB Jeff Demps. The Gators want revenge for last year’s 41-11 blowout loss. We just don’t expect them to get it … LSU 20, Florida 16. (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Michigan at Purdue: The Boilermakers have yet to make their Big Ten season debut and already hold a half-game lead over every other team in the Leaders Division eligible for the conference title game. Petey can make a huge step toward a trip to Indianapolis this week if it can figure out a way to stop Michigan’s run game. A year ago, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 170 yards and two scores as the Wolverines rolled up 339 yards on the ground en route to a 36-14 win in Ann Arbor. Purdue has boilered up its rush defense so far this season, ranking fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally by allowing only 106.5 yards per game. But there is that small matter of the Boilermakers’ 14-43 record in the series, although they have split the last six meetings in West Lafayette. The Wolverines’ extra week of preparation gives them the edge … Michigan 31, Purdue 21. (4 p.m. ET, BTN, DirectTV 610)

No. 5 Georgia at No. 6 South Carolina: Here is another heavyweight bout between undefeated teams with control of the SEC East at stake. Two of the nation’s top running backs will be featured – UGA freshman Todd Gurley (536 yards, nine TDs) and Gamecocks junior Marcus Lattimore (440 yards, eight TDs) – and both teams average better than 36 points per game. South Carolina has the better defense, however, ranking sixth nationally in scoring and seventh against the run. Add that to the fact Georgia’s top receiver Michael Bennett tore his ACL on Tuesday and is out for the season, and the Gamecocks would appear to have the edge. But there is history to be considered. The Bulldogs have lost two in a row in the series and have never dropped three in a row since the rivalry began in 1894. Meanwhile, South Carolina is working on a school record-tying nine straight victories overall. Who are we to mess with history? … Georgia 24, South Carolina 23. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 8 West Virginia at 11 Texas: Defense takes a back seat in this matchup featuring the nation’s top two rated passers. Geno Smith of West Virginia and David Ash of Texas have put up arena league numbers so far, combining to throw for 2,735 yards and 30 TDs while pitching only one interception in 278 attempts. For the Mountaineers, Smith is pretty much the whole show while Ash gets plenty of help from a running game that averages 228.0 yards per game. Defensively, the Longhorns have the edge even though they have allowed 67 points and 975 yards in their last two games. Over the same stretch, West Virginia has given up 84 points and 1,005 yards. Mr. Scoreboard Operator, make sure you’re rested for this one … Texas 52, West Virginia 49. (7 p.m. ET, FOX)

Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame: Both of these teams can take a huge step toward reclaiming elite status as they square off at Soldier Field tomorrow night. The resumption of the series once known as “Convicts vs. Catholics” – they haven’t played a regular-season game since 1990 – will feature a potent Miami offense led by QB Stephen Morris (1,635 yards, nine TDs) vs. a smothering Fighting Irish defense that ranks No. 3 in the nation in scoring. Notre Dame has allowed an average of only 9.0 points per game and is the only remaining FBS school that has yet to trail in a game this season. The Hurricanes are the exact opposite – they can’t stop anyone, ranking 114th in total defense … Notre Dame 31, Miami 17. (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

No. 3 Florida State at North Carolina State: Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon has waited a year to get his revenge on the Seminoles. Last year, Glennon threw for only 130 yards, got sacked four times and was intercepted twice as FSU ran away with a 34-0 shutout. This year, Glennon has upped his game, throwing for 1,422 yards and 10 TDs. But he has also pitched six interceptions in five games, and he will be going against a Florida State defense that ranks in the top seven nationally in every major category. Add two of the nation’s best rushers in DEs Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner, who already have 13½ sacks between them, and you get the picture of Glennon running for his life … Florida State 41, N.C. State 14. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, DirectTV 209)

No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon: The Huskies have had nine days to savor their 17-13 win over then-No. 8 Stanford, but they jump squarely from the frying pan into the fire. U-Dub has hung with the Ducks each of the past two seasons, but Oregon still pulled away for big victories – 53-16 in 2010 and 34-17 last year. The Quack Attack is nearly unstoppable in Eugene with 27 wins in its last 28 home games. Autzen Stadium has also been a house of horrors for Washington. The Huskies haven’t won there since 2002, dropping their last five games at Oregon by a combined margin of 207-67. U-Dub is getting better under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but its not quite on par with the Ducks just yet … Oregon 39, Washington 23. (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, DirectTV 206)

No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State: These two teams seem to be mirror images of one another. Both have mobile quarterbacks, both have more-than-adequate running backs and both have defenses which have been known to give up large chunks of yardage. We just keep going back to last year’s game, however, when the Buckeyes were on cruise control with a 27-6 lead at the 10:53 mark of the third quarter and let it slip away. Of course, the outcome would likely have been different had Braxton Miller not gone out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter and Miller’s health should have a similar impact this year. Under the lights at home with a raucous Ohio Stadium crowd behind him – not to mention Urban Meyer pushing the right buttons – we expect the sophomore QB to do his thing and get it done … Ohio State 38, Nebraska 34. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Here are the spreads for the above games: Buffalo (+16½) at Ohio; Kansas at Kansas State (-23½) ; LSU (-2½) at Florida; Michigan (-3) at Purdue; Georgia (+1½) at South Carolina; West Virginia (+7) at Texas; Miami-FL vs. Notre Dame (-9½); Florida State (-13½) at N.C. State; Washington (+24½) at Oregon; Nebraska at Ohio State (-3½).

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

Reality Intruding Upon Buckeye Nation’s Perception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSU-MICHIGAN STATE TIDBITS

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

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

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

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

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

** With his 4-0 start, Meyer is tied for the third-best start to a career by an Ohio State head coach. Carroll Widdoes won his first 12 games in 1944 and ’45, while Earle Bruce won his first 11 in a row in 1979. Others to start 4-0 were Perry Hale (1902), E.R. Sweetland (1904) and Howard Jones (1910).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEARLESS FORECAST

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY’S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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