Rea's Say: That Pesky Nagging Feeling

Today's piece deals with the same nagging feeling the columnist tried to deny in Arizona. That, plus lots of information about the Ohio State-Washington game, tidbits from Around The Country, and another jam-packed Fearless Forecast. (Also, it checks in at an ad-free 5,977 words if things like that matter to you.)

By the time you read this, I will be in the air somewhere over America's Heartland, jetting my way to the Pacific Northwest. To be honest, I head to Seattle with same kind of nagging feeling I had when I was heading to Phoenix in January.

Then, I chose to ignore the doubts I had. This time, I'm going to voice them in hopes that getting them out of my head and out for public consumption may somehow alter the course of events. (I know that's not really possible, but let's dream anyway.)

First of all, Ohio State has played like crap in its first two games this season. Yes, I know that's a harsh word and the entire team hasn't played like that on every snap. But the cumulative effect of a 38-6 victory over Youngstown State and a 20-2 win over Akron isn't going to trick anyone who votes in the national polls into believing the Buckeyes are one of the best teams in college football.

The cold, hard truth is that Ohio State has not played a complete ballgame – a truly complete one – since last October during a 44-0 wipeout of Minnesota. Even though the Gophers would never be confused with a great team, it didn't matter. OSU fired on all cylinders that day. The Buckeyes rolled up 484 yards of offense and allowed only 182.

In every game since then, either the offense or the defense – or both in the BCS title game – has decided to take the day off. It doesn't help that Ohio State is going to pull those gray jerseys over their heads when they get to Seattle. The last time they wore them, they got drilled. The time before that, it was the great escape at Illinois.

Adding to my personal self-doubts about this game is the fact that I think I've seen this movie before. Back in 1994, I followed the team to Husky Stadium, one of the most scenic venues in all of college football. It was my first trip to Seattle, and I visited the Space Needle, took a ferry boat ride to Bremerton and marveled at the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of the seafood at restaurants around the Fish Market.

Then came game time and Ohio State was never in it. The eventual 25-16 loss was one of those games throughout the John Cooper era where the Buckeyes simply never showed up. It was an aberration, too, because in three career games against Washington, quarterback Bobby Hoying was 2-1. The year before, Hoying had led OSU to a 21-12 upset win over the 12th-ranked Huskies in Ohio Stadium. In 1995, during his senior year, he threw for 192 yards and helped beat No. 18 U-Dub by a 30-20 score.

This time around, Todd Boeckman gets his chance to see what he can do in the Emerald City. Based upon his first two games, we don't know how he'll perform. In the opener against Youngstown State, Boeckman was nearly flawless. Last week against Akron, his production was down and his performance was a tad south of flawless.

But it wasn't just Boeckman. After two games, I could pick apart any number of things that have seemed just a little off-kilter. For example, could we have a show of hands for those who believe the offensive line has played well? We now know that Ohio State's offensive linemen do not like unusual defensive sets. Dancing around and getting into gaps is obviously not their forte. They much prefer lining up helmet-to-helmet with the guy in front of them and then seeing who can control the line of scrimmage. Fortunately, Washington's defensive line seems to play that straight-ahead style, so if the Buckeyes have trouble creating holes this week, it will be a dark omen of bad things to come.

I think Chris and Mo Wells have been tentative in their running. This week, Jim Tressel called that patience. Since he has exactly 199 more victories as a coach than I do, I have no choice but to defer to him on this point. But I will say that the last OSU running back I saw with that kind of "patience" was Lydell Ross.

Everyone knew the Buckeyes would miss Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez – we just did know how much. Brian Robiskie has had an excellent start to his season, but he has got to have more help. It won't be long before other teams begin double-teaming Robiskie unless Brian Hartline begins to stretch the field. He has eight catches, but they've only gone for 65 yards and no touchdowns. But let's not just single out Hartline – he also needs some help from some of the other receivers we were led to believe were ready to break out. Perhaps the return of Ray Small this week will help.

Special teams have been OK. You can't get much better than A.J. Trapasso's average of 46.2 yards per punt. (If he had the required number of punts, Trapasso would rank among the top 10 in the country.) And Ryan Pretorius hasn't missed a field goal (3 for 3) or PAT (7 for 7) yet this season – although he hasn't kicked one in a pressure situation this year.

The return game, however, is still a work in progress. I would like to see freshman Brandon Saine become the primary kickoff return man so that he could use his blend of power and speed. On punt returns, as well as he has played at receiver, Robiskie may not be the answer. Again, maybe the return of a healthy Small will help.

On defense, it's hard to be critical of a unit that is No. 1 in the nation in total defense. It's also hard to nitpick a unit that is coming off a performance in which it created 13 consecutive three-and-out possessions for the opponent. Yet, there are some problems.

Maybe it's the rotation that the Buckeyes have been utilizing up front, but I thought someone would have a lot more tackles than 14 by now. Illinois linebacker J. Leman has already had a game in which he totaled 20 tackles, and his 17 solos are three more than James Laurinaitis' OSU team-leading total of 14.

I also thought the Buckeyes would have more than five sacks in two games. After all, they haven't exactly played NFL-caliber teams the first two weeks. Youngstown State ranks 86th of 108 Division I-AA teams in total offense while Akron is 116th of 119 Division I-A teams in the same category. Yet, Ohio State is currently tied for fifth in the Big Ten in sacks – tied with that "great" Michigan defense.

The truth is that despite a couple of performance that would appear dominating on the surface, I've still been a little disappointed.

I can hear some of you out there – "Jeez, Rea, what do you want? Two shutouts and minus net yardage?" Maybe. I guess I still believe that championship-caliber teams are the ones who bury lesser opponents. I realize that Tressel is never going to run up the score but there are other ways to rout the opposition. I guess I just haven't seen that killer instinct from the 2007 Buckeyes yet.

I'm hoping that I do in Seattle because this season is one where the planets are beginning to align properly for any team that can simply take care of business. In the first two weeks of the season, the weaknesses of the perceived conference frontrunners have been exposed. Wisconsin needed a last-minute touchdown scramble to avoid an upset loss to UNLV, a team ranked 96ththe country this week by And Michigan – well, Lloyd Carr has his hands full just trying to keep his program from imploding right now.

The point is that the Rose Bowl is for the taking. USC and LSU seem to be on a collision course for the BCS National Championship Game, but a nice consolation prize would be a trip to Pasadena. And make no mistake – before a single conference game has been played this year, Ohio State has it within its power to make that happen.

It all begins Saturday. If the Buckeyes do what they're capable of doing, they will return home to kick off the Big Ten season next week against Northwestern having silenced their critics. But if they play the way they have played these past two weeks, and Washington plays the way it has played these past two weeks, that nagging feeling I have may turn into a full-blown headache.


• Ohio State holds a 7-3 record over Washington in the all-time series that began in 1957. The last meeting was a 28-9 OSU win in Columbus in 2003, while the Huskies won the most recent game in Seattle. That was a 25-16 contest in 1994 that wasn't as close as the final score might indicate. Washington tailback Napoleon Kaufman rushed for 211 yards as the Huskies ran out to a 19-0 lead after the first quarter.

• The Huskies enjoy a 40-38-1 record all-time against Big Ten teams. That includes winning marks against Wisconsin (4-0), Northwestern (3-0), Purdue (7-2-1), Illinois (5-4) and Michigan State (2-1). They have split six games with Iowa and have losing records against Indiana (1-2), Michigan (5-7), Minnesota (7-10), Penn State (0-2) and the Buckeyes.

• Tressel is going after his 200th career victory. With 199 wins, he is currently tied with Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech for No. 3 on the list of most wins for active Division I-A coaches. They trail Bobby Bowden of Florida State (367) and Joe Paterno of Penn State (365).

• If you're into using superstitions as part of your betting philosophy, here is why Ohio State should win the game. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have never lost in week three of the season. In fact, the team hasn't lost its third game of the season since 1990. That was the infamous 35-26 loss to USC in Ohio Stadium, a game that was cut short by a raging thunderstorm that hit the area.

• After two games, the Buckeyes are in a familiar place in the national defensive statistics. OSU currently ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of only 122.5 yards per game. Last season, the unit finished 12th in total defense and has been ranked among the top dozen teams in terms of total defense for three of the last four years.

• Washington's 42-12 win in its season opener against Syracuse marked the first time since the Huskies had beaten an opponent by at least 30 points since a 42-10 win over Oregon in 2003. It was also their most lopsided win over a nonconference opponent since a 34-0 victory over Northwestern in 1983.

• Be sure to keep your eye on UW kicking specialist Ryan Perkins. He kicks PATs and field goals with his right leg, but punts with his left.

• UW defensive coordinator Randy Hart is a Cleveland native and was a member of Ohio State's 1968 national championship team. He later coached at OSU, serving as a graduate assistant in 1970 and '71, then returning as defensive line coach from 1982-87. Hart left the Buckeyes to join Don James' defensive staff at Washington and replaced current OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock, who had been hired as head coach at Illinois State.

• Want some more OSU-Washington synergy? UW head coach Tyrone Willingham and OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman served together on Tom Reed's North Carolina State staff from 1983-85. And, Jim and Dick Tressel are cousins of Carol James, wife of the former Washington head coach. Don James was born and raised in Massillon, Ohio.

• Ohio State is currently working on a regular-season winning streak of 20 games. A victory over the Huskies will equal the school record of 21 set from 1967 to '69.

• Washington is one of only five remaining Division I-A programs that has never played a I-AA team. The others are Michigan State, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA.

• After two weeks on the fledgling Big Ten Network, the Buckeyes make their ESPN debut this week. Veteran announcer Ron Franklin will have the play-by-play with former Washington player Ed Cunningham providing color analysis. Our old buddy Jack Arute will be patrolling the sidelines. The game will also be broadcast on satellite radio by Sirius on channel 123. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. Eastern (12:30 p.m. local time).

• Next week's game against Northwestern will also be an ESPN affair – if you live outside Ohio. Everyone inside the borders of the Buckeye State will get the game on ABC while the Penn State-Michigan game will be on ESPN. Outside of Ohio, the OSU-Northwestern contest will be on ESPN and ABC will carry the Nittany Lions and Wolverines.


• You may have read that The Associated Press is now allowing its voters to cast ballots for Division I-AA teams, and Appalachian State got a couple of votes in the latest poll. But did you know that the last non-Division I-A team to be nationally ranked in the AP poll was Colgate. With a 9-0 mark at the time, the Raiders were No. 20 in the rankings of Nov. 7, 1977.

• With Washington's win over Boise State last week, the nation's current longest winning streak now resides in Wisconsin. The Badgers extended their win streak to 11 games last week and figure to make it 12 this week, hosting The Military College of South Carolina – otherwise known as The Citadel.

• Oklahoma unveiled a statue of former Heisman Trophy winner Jason White at Memorial Stadium last week prior to the Sooners' 51-13 win over Miami (Fla.). White's statue joins those of Oklahoma's other Heisman winners – Steve Owens, Billy Vessels and Billy Sims.

• Speaking of statues, Notre Dame is going to finally get around to erecting one in honor of former head coach and College Football Hall of Fame member Ara Parseghian. The statue will be located inside Gate D at Notre Dame Stadium, and will be dedicated Sept. 22 when the Irish host Michigan State in South Bend.

• It was 34 years ago Saturday that Ohio State running back Archie Griffin began his streak of 31 consecutive 100-yards performances. On Sept. 15, 1973, Griffin rushed for 129 yards during the Buckeyes' 56-7 victory over Minnesota. The streak would continue until November 1975.

• Also of note that occurred during this week in college football history: On Sept. 14, 1991, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk ran for 388 yards during a 55-34 victory over Pacific; on Sept. 12, 1964, UCLA became the first West Coast team to win a game at Pitt Stadium, edging the Panthers by a 17-12 score; and on Sept. 11, 1913, a baby was born in Moro Bottom, Ark., to William and Ida Bryant. He would grow up to become coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant.

• Finally, congratulations to the Heidelberg Student Princes. The Division III team, located in Tiffin, Ohio, ended its 36-game losing streak with a 37-26 win over Oberlin last week. That's the same Oberlin that holds the distinction of being the last Ohio team to defeat Ohio State, a 7-6 decision in 1921.


With several pretty big upsets already in the books, the 2007 college football season is shaping up to be a good one already. Last week was another good one for the forecast. We hit two of three Upset Specials and went 25-4 for the week, bringing the season total to 53-7 so far.

Against the spread, we needed those upsets to have a winning week at 13-11-2. But a winning week certainly beats the alternative and makes the ATS season total 26-19-2. Here is what we're looking at this weekend.


No. 4 West Virginia at Maryland: Here are a couple of things you will want to know in case you're thinking upset. WVU running back Steve Slaton had 195 yards and two TDs in last year's 45-24 win over the Terps. Maryland hasn't beaten a top-5 team since 2003, and has won only two of its last 12 against ranked teams. As long as the Mountaineers mount any sort of defense, they should be fine … West Virginia 34, Maryland 21.(7 p.m. EDT, ESPN)


No. 1 USC at No. 14 Nebraska: The nation's top-ranked team hasn't visited Lincoln in nearly 30 years, and by the time the Trojans get through with the Cornhuskers, Nebraska fans may wish it had been another 30. It may sound strange for a program with such a tradition of winning, but the Huskers are only 1-9 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. NU is pretty good stopping the pass, but I just think SC has too much overall firepower … USC 35, Nebraska 14. (8 p.m. EDT, ABC)

Middle Tennessee State at No. 2 LSU: Give the Blue Raiders credit for taking on the best and giving them a game. Last week, they hung 42 on Louisville. Trouble is, the Cardinals scored 58. It's doubtful that 100 points are going to be scored in this one, but some of that will have do with the Tigers' defense. Each week, it smothers opponents while the offense and first-year QB Matt Flynn get better and better. I expect the Bayou Boys to score early and often … LSU 45, Middle Tennessee State 3. (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

Utah State at No. 3 Oklahoma: This could be the mismatch of all mismatches for the week. The Sooners are averaging 64 points a game while the Aggies average 17. Oklahoma is 2-0 after a 79-10 rout of North Texas and a 51-13 beatdown of Miami. USU is 0-2 after losing 23-16 at home to UNLV and 32-18 at Wyoming. I could go on, but it would simply belabor the point … Oklahoma 56, Utah State 7. (12 noon EDT, ABC)

No. 22 Tennessee at No. 5 Florida: The Volunteers must solve their defensive problems or the hot seat under Phil Fulmer is going to get unbearable. Heading into this game, Tennessee has already given up 69 points in two games. Meanwhile, the Gators have rolled up 108 points and 1,010 yards of total offense in home wins over Western Kentucky and Troy. Florida will be without star receiver Andre Caldwell (sprained knee ligament) in this one, should that could give the Vols some hope. But they'll need more than hope to snap the Gators' 17-game home win streak … Florida 37, Tennessee 21. (3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS)

No. 6 Texas at Central Florida: After stumbling around for the first six quarters of the new season, the Longhorns finally got busy in the second half of last week's game against TCU. They wiped out an early 10-0 deficit to run away with a 34-13 victory, settling down on both offense and defense. They face a pretty good CFU team that is usually ready to play in Orlando. But history is against the Golden Knights – they have never beaten a Big 12 team and are 0-16 all-time against ranked opponents … Texas 35, Central Florida 13. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN2)

Louisiana Tech at No. 8 Cal: The Bulldogs gave nationally ranked Hawaii and their Heisman hopeful quarterback Colt Brennan everything they could before finally losing 45-44 in overtime. That game, however, was in Ruston, La., against a one-dimensional team. Tech takes a little bigger bite this week, going to Berkeley to face the eighth-ranked team in the nation. The Golden Bears got a little more of a scare last week from Colorado State than they expected, so it's likely they'll want to return home and make a little better statement ... Cal 41, Louisiana Tech 14.

No. 9 Louisville at Kentucky: Did you like last week's game between the Cardinals and Middle Tennessee State that produced triple digits? Get ready for more the same as these two rivals strap it on in a game that could produce points in bucnhes. UL ranks first in the nation in scoring at 65.5 points per game, but the Wildcats aren't that far behind. They're No. 6 with an average of 53.0. Combined, the two teams have scored 237 points and it's only the middle of September. Fasten your seat belts, it's going be a bumpy ride … Louisville 45, Kentucky 38. (7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN Classic)


No. 11 UCLA at Utah: The Bruins avoided an upset last week by finishing strong against BYU, and now take on another team from the Beehive State. This game should prove a little easier even if it is their first visit to Salt Lake City since 1974. The Utes have never beaten UCLA in eight previous meetings, and have scored only 19 points so far this season while giving up 44. Look for Bruins QB Ben Olson to pad his stats, which already include 412 yards and five TDs through just two games … UCLA 34, Utah 17. (5 p.m. EDT, Versus)

Norfolk State at No. 13 Rutgers: Scarlet Knights RB Ray Rice is quickly becoming a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy with a national-best 359 yards and six TDs already. Rice figures to add to those totals this week against the I-AA Spartans, whose only game so far this season was a 33-7 win over Virginia State, a program from Division II. It is doubtful they have anything resembling Rice at that level … Rutgers 44, Norfolk State 7. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 21 Boston College at No. 15 Georgia Tech: This contest finds both teams on a roll. The Eagles, already 2-0 in the ACC, have one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing only 59 yards on the ground so far while piling up 11 takeaways. Meanwhile, the Wreck has outscored their two opponents by a 102-17 margin behind senior tailback Tashard Choice and a rock-solid running game. This one should be a toss-up, and when that happens, I always go with the better defense. Here is your first Upset Special of the week … Boston College 17, Georgia Tech 14. (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN2)

No. 16 Arkansas at Alabama: Here comes the first big test for first-year Bama head coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide has won its first two games, but hasn't faced anyone like the Razorbacks, who figure to feature RB Darren McFadden, who finished second in the Heisman voting last year. Arkansas won a 24-23 overtime thriller over Alabama last year, kicking the Hogs into high gear and sending the Tide spiraling to a losing season. You know that Saban will have the famous game face on Saturday night, but I just don't think he quite has enough to pull off the win. It should be close, though, and I'll make this a mini-Upset Special … Arkansas 27, Alabama 24. (6:45 p.m. EDT, ESPN)

South Carolina State at No. 17 South Carolina: Following last week's upset of Georgia, the Ol' Ball Coach has his team in the polls for the first time in two years. It stands to reason that the Roosters will be able to enjoy the rarefied air for a little while since they host the I-AA Bulldogs. South Carolina State has already played a Division I-A opponent this season, losing 34-3 at Air Force on Sept. 1. I don't expect this one to be any closer … South Carolina 38, South Carolina State 7. (7 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

Ohio at No. 18 Virginia Tech: Nothing like a trip to the woodshed to reassess your season's goals. After last week's 48-7 rout at the hands of LSU, Tech head coach Frank Beamer has responded to his worst-ever loss in Blacksburg by shaking up the depth chart. That starts with a new QB as Tyrod Taylor becomes the first true freshman ever to take control of a Beamer-coached team. Taylor will try to jump-start a sluggish Tech offense against the Bobcats, who have never beaten the Hokies in three previous tries … Virginia Tech 24, Ohio 10. (1:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN 360)

Fresno State at No. 19 Oregon: Everyone has been quick to pile on Michigan this year, but a victory over the Wolverines certainly improves your national standing. Appalachian State got 19 votes in this week's AP poll despite being a Division I-AA team, and the Ducks have come up from nowhere to No. 19. While they were having their way in Ann Arbor, Fresno was losing a 47-45 heartbreaker in triple overtime at Texas A&M. It is doubtful that Oregon is quite a good as it seemed to be last week, but it still ought to be good enough to beat the Bulldogs in Autzen Stadium … Oregon 31, Fresno State 14. (6:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

Furman at No. 20 Clemson: The Tigers haven't had a 3-0 start in seven years but figure to accomplish that feat after hosting the I-AA Paladins. Of course, Furman is from the same conference as Appalachian State and does boast the last victory over Clemson by a I-AA team. But that happened back in 1936, and the Tigers have won all 28 games in the series since … Clemson 31, Furman 7. (1 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

Western Carolina at No. 23 Georgia: Seething from last week's upset loss to South Carolina, Mark Richt's team looks for someone on which to take out their frustration. The I-AA Catamounts would seem the perfect fall guys since they are 0-2 – and losers of their last 11 straight games – and have already surrendered 97 points to Alabama and Eastern Kentucky. Sounds like the perfect medicine for a sick bunch of Dawgs … Georgia 41, Western Carolina 7. (1 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 24 Hawaii at UNLV: Like so many other pass-oriented teams, the Warriors' defense leaves a lot to be desired. But as long as Colt Brennan is present, Hawaii should always be in the game. In two games so far this season, the QB has already racked up 964 yards and 10 TDs, and completed 77 of 101 attempts (76.2 percent). The Rebels nearly handled Wisconsin last week, and the Badgers are much more complete team than Hawaii. Add into the mix that the Rebs have won three of the last four in this series, including each of the last two at Boyd Stadium, and you have Upset Special No. 3 … UNLV 38, Hawaii 35. (9:30 p.m. EDT, Mountain West Sports Network)

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 25 Texas A&M: Many teams in the nation these days rely heavily on the pass. These two are throwbacks in that they like to line up and pound on opponents. The Aggies are averaging 400 total yards per game this season, but rank 116th of 119 Division I-A teams in passing. That's still better than the Warhawks, who rank No. 117. Couple that with the game being played in College Station, and you get an A&M victory … Texas A&M 24, Louisiana-Monroe 14.


Pittsburgh at Michigan State: The Spartans are looking for their third consecutive 3-0 start against a team they have handled well in the past. In fact, MSU has never lost to Pitt in six previous meetings, including a 38-23 victory last September in the Steel City. The key in this one will be how well the Panthers can run against Sparty's defense, which is allowing just 29.5 yards per game so far this season. It looks like a mismatch to me … Michigan State 31, Pittsburgh 14. (12 noon EDT, ESPN)

Minnesota vs. Florida Atlantic: Tim Brewster knew it was going to be a struggle in his first season in Minneapolis, but I doubt he thought he'd have to go to overtime in both of his first two games. Nevertheless, after playing against the mighty MAC, the Gophers get a bit of a breather with the Owls, who were thumped at Oklahoma State last week to the tune of 42-6. It will be Brewster's first road game – the contest will be held in Dolphin Stadium in Miami – and will also serve as his team's first test out-of-doors. Hopefully, they won't lose too many balls in the bright Florida sun … Minnesota 31, Florida Atlantic 24. (12 noon EDT, ESPN 360)

Illinois at Syracuse: Once again, the Illini try to take a step forward with a revenge game in upstate New York. Last year, the Orange pulled out a 31-21 victory in Champaign, and as much as that smarted overall, it hurt Illinois even more considering the fact that it was one of only five wins Syracuse has been able to manufacture in its last 26 games. It is another telling test for the Fighting Zooksters because they lost 19 of their last 20 on the road and haven't beaten a nonconference opponent away from home since the 2001 season opener. Here's to the end of those streaks … Illinois 27, Syracuse 20. (12 noon EDT, ESPNU)

Central Michigan at Purdue: Once again, the Boilermakers have scheduled a team that likes to throw the ball almost as much as they do. QBs Curtis Painter of Purdue and Dan LeFevour of the Chippewas have already combined to throw for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs, so the ol' scoreboard operator at Ross-Ade Stadium had better be on his toes ... Purdue 41, Central Michigan 20. (12 noon EDT, ESPN2)

Akron at Indiana: The Zips had a horrible afternoon offensively last week against Ohio State and should fare better against IU. Trouble is, the Hoosiers probably won't turn the ball over five times like OSU did. Indiana WR James Hardy has been a standout in the first two weeks of the season, catching six passes for 180 yards (30.0 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Look for the 6-7 Hardy to have another big day against the smallish Akron secondary and the Hoosiers to go 3-0 for only the second time in the last 13 seasons … Indiana 31, Akron 17. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network)

Iowa at Iowa State: The annual instate battle returns to Jack Trice Stadium where the Cyclones took the last meeting, 23-3 in 2005. Unfortunately for them, first-year head coach Gene Chizik – the architect of so many good defenses for Mack Brown at Texas – is in a rebuilding mode. The Iowa State offense has played reasonably well early in the season, but the defense has allowed 47 points to the likes of Kent State and Northern Iowa. Look for the Hawkeyes to run their record to 3-0 for the fourth time in the last six year … Iowa 35, Iowa State 14. (1:30 p.m. EDT, Versus)

Notre Dame at Michigan: I'm sure you have heard all the jokes by now, so anything I could add would simply be piling on. These teams are both 0-2 to start the season for the first time in history, and each will be showcasing a rookie quarterback. Will Jimmy Claussen be any better than Ryan Mallett? That's anyone's guess, but it appears to me that even the Wolverines' sorry defense can hold back an even sorrier Irish offense. If they can't, Lloyd Carr should resign effective immediately … Michigan 27, Notre Dame 17. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC)

Duke at Northwestern: The Wildcats are poised for their first 3-0 start since 2001 by hosting the moribund Blue Devils. Never in the history of the NCAA has one school had so much success in basketball (both men's and women's) and such a protracted streak of losing on the football field at the same time. Duke owns the nation's longest losing streak at 22, and hasn't produced a winning season since 1994 … Northwestern 36, Duke 13. (8 p.m. EDT, Big Ten Network)

Buffalo at No. 12 Penn State: Last week's 42-7 whipping of Temple notwithstanding, the Bulls are still considered one of the worst teams in the nation. They have lost 52 of their last 60 games, and that's a statistic that pretty much speaks for itself. But I did find one positive that Turner Gill's team can take into Happy Valley – it is 1-0 all-time against the Nittany Lions. That 10-0 win in 1900, however, is one of the few things in college football that predates Paterno … Penn State 31, Buffalo 0. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network)

The Citadel at No. 7 Wisconsin: After barely escaping Las Vegas last week, the Badgers return home to face a team that has won its first two games by a 111-14 margin. The Citadel is on a marked uptick after winning only five of 24 games in its previous two seasons. But the Bulldogs are, after all, a Division I-AA opponent, and it is extremely doubtful that Wisconsin will be doing its Michigan impression on Saturday … Wisconsin 34, The Citadel 7. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network)

No. 10 Ohio State at Washington: There is no doubt that the Buckeyes are taking a step up in competition this week. Even if they weren't, though, this would be a good test for a young team – first game on the road, playing in a deafening stadium and getting out of their normal routines. I've analyzed this thing six ways 'til Sunday, and what I first thought might be too much to ask of the young Buckeyes I now believe will be a hard-fought victory … Ohio State 20, Washington 14. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)


Here are the games where I'll lay the points: USC (-9½) at Nebraska; Utah State at Oklahoma (-46); Tennessee at Florida (-7½ ); Texas (-17½) at Central Florida; Louisville (-6½) at Kentucky; UCLA (-13½ ) at Utah; Fresno State at Oregon (-16); Pittsburgh at Michigan State (-9½); Central Michigan at Purdue (-19½); Akron at Indiana (-10); Iowa (-16½) at Iowa State; Notre Dame at Michigan (-7); Duke at Northwestern (-14½); and Ohio State (-4) at Washington.

These are the games where I'll take the points: West Virginia at Maryland (+16½); Louisiana Tech (+34½) at Cal; Boston College (+7½) at Georgia Tech; Arkansas (+3½) at Alabama; Ohio (+20½) at Virginia Tech; Hawaii at UNLV (+17½); Louisiana-Monroe (+24) at Texas A&M; Minnesota at Florida Atlantic (+8½); Illinois at Syracuse (+13½); and Buffalo (+35½) at Penn State.

Enjoy the games and we'll talk again next week.

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