A couple of things off the top of my head …
For the past 20 years or so, BSB has compiled a preseason consensus poll where we take all of the preseason forecasts, add them all together and come up with a consensus ranking.
This year, we used 16 different preseason polls and came up with USC as the consensus No. 1 team. The Trojans, in fact, were named No. 1 in all 16 of those polls.
As we know now, Southern Cal is not as invincible as the prognosticators may have thought. But the Trojans are not the only team to have tripped over their preseason ranking. Nine of the top 10 teams in our consensus poll have already lost at least one game.
Only LSU, which was picked No. 2, has remained unbeaten. Teams 3 through 10 – Michigan, West Virginia, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Louisville – have experienced defeat. Michigan and Texas have two losses and Louisville already has three.
Of the top five teams in this week's rankings from The Associated Press, only LSU was a top-five pick in our consensus poll. Second-ranked California was 12th and third-ranked Ohio State was 11th, while No. 4 Boston College and No. 5 South Florida were nowhere to be found.
What does that say about the ranking system, especially polls published before any games have been played? They're beauty contests, really nothing more than a conversation piece based mostly on how a team finished the year before. Take it from someone who has participated in these polls over the years – after the top five or six teams, it's impossible to put them in any kind of reasonable order. For example, is an undefeated Hawaii (currently ranked 16th) really better than a middle-of-the-pack SEC team like Tennessee (3-2 and ranked No. 25)? Doubtful.
One thing about the current top five teams, though. Most of them are faceless squads with no clear-cut superstars. Oh sure, Cal receiver and kick returner DeSean Jackson is getting some Heisman talk as is Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. But for the most part, these five teams are just that – teams.
LSU and Ohio State are getting things done with nasty defenses. In fact, the best player on each team may be a defender – DE Glenn Dorsey for the Tigers and LB James Laurinaitis for the Buckeyes. But as good as the defenses have been, no team can afford to overlook the offenses. LSU scores as average of 37.8 points per game and OSU averages 33.7.
Boston College gets much of its notoriety because Ryan has had such a marvelous season so far, completing 160 of 255 passes (62.7 percent) for 1,857 yards and 15 TDs against only five interceptions. But the Eagles are almost as stingy on defense as LSU and Ohio State. In fact, they rank third in the nation in rushing defense – one spot behind the Buckeyes and one ahead of the Tigers.
Likewise, South Florida is a defense no one in the Big East wants to face. The Bulls rank among the top 20 nationally in these defensive categories: pass efficiency, total, scoring, turnover margin, sacks and tackles for loss. And like LSU and Ohio State, their best player resides on defense – DE George Selvie, who leads the nation with 18 tackles for loss and 10½ sacks.
Of all the teams in the top five, Cal is perhaps the weakest in terms of overall statistics. The Bears are third in the country in turnover margin and they lead the Pac-10 in punt returns. But their defense is suspect – 102nd in pass defense and 70th in scoring.
Of course, an old coach I used to cover (one who wore glasses and a black ball cap) was famous for saying, "Statistics are for losers."
But there was another of his mantras that makes my point a little better: "Defense wins championships."
Here are some other thoughts rambling from my brain to my keyboard:
• I have to admit that I never thought Ohio State would be back in the hunt for the BCS National Championship Game this year. Of course, like a lot of you, I thought wins in the first eight games was not out of the question. It's those last four games that will determine whether the Buckeyes are merely very good or potential champions.
• Speaking of those last four games, let's have a show of hands to see who thought Illinois would provide the toughest test? Yet, that's how it's shaping up.
• What do you think Ohio State fans would do if Jim Tressel lost eight consecutive Big Ten games? Just wondering because that's how many Kirk Ferentz of Iowa has lost in a row.
• You probably know that the Buckeyes are currently riding a school-record winning streak of 24 consecutive regular-season games. But did you know that OSU has won 28 of its last 30 regular-season contests, the best 30-game streak since the team went 28-1-1 during a stretch between 1973 and '75?
• Would you be disappointed if the Buckeyes went undefeated and were relegated to the Rose Bowl? According to some BCS models, that could happen if LSU and Cal keep winning.
• In addition to Ohio State, there are only 10 other remaining undefeated teams – Arizona State, Boston College, California, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, LSU, Missouri and South Florida. Where might those teams slip up? Arizona State and Cal play one another Oct. 27 in Tempe; BC must take on an ever-improving Virginia Tech on Oct. 25 in Blacksburg; in addition to ASU, Cal must host USC Nov. 10; Big East brethren Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida all have yet to face one another; Kansas and Missouri square off Nov. 24 in Lawrence, and Mizzou travels to Oklahoma this weekend. That leaves LSU, which has only two ranked teams left on its regular-season schedule, and Hawaii, which doesn't play a ranked team all year.
• In his latest rankings, NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rates no Ohio State seniors among his top five players at any position. He does, however, list six OSU juniors, including James Laurinaitis at No. 1 among inside linebackers. The others are Vern Gholston at No. 2 among defensive ends, Malcolm Jenkins at No. 2 among cornerbacks, A.J. Trapasso at No. 3 among punters, Marcus Freeman at No. 4 among outside linebackers and Alex Boone at No. 4 among offensive tackles.
• Did you read about Stan Forron, the tow truck owner who got Florida safety Tony Joiner arrested for trying to remove his girlfriend's car from the impound lot? Did you also read where Forron actually received death threats if he didn't drop the charges? Listen, I know that the word "fan" is derived from the word "fanatic," but the fact that someone would actually threaten to harm an individual over this kind of incident is almost unbelievable. It was the same a couple of years ago when Kirk Herbstreit received threats from Ohio State fans because he didn't speak against his employer ESPN during the Maurice Clarett witch hunt. If someone thinks it's OK to threaten bodily harm to individuals because of a sporting event, then I submit that that someone needs to re-assess the priorities in their life.
• A trip to the Internet auction site eBay yesterday found more than 850 items for sale when searching for "Ohio State Football." The most expensive item featured two club level seats and hotel accommodations for the BCS title game in New Orleans on Jan. 7. The price was a cool $4,575, but shipping was free. At the other end of the scale were seven items priced at 1 cent each, including a pair of tickets to this week's game against Kent State.
• While on eBay, I also typed in the words "Gold Pants" and it revealed 475 items. None were Ohio State gold pants charms, though.
• Why do some people in convertibles drive with the top down but the windows up?
OSU-KENT STATE TIDBITS
• Ohio State and Kent State have played one time previously, a 51-17 victory by the Buckeyes during the 2002 national championship run. OSU head coach Jim Tressel played the Golden Flashes seven times during his tenure at Youngstown State, posting a 4-3 record.
• The Buckeyes have a record of 173-48-15 over the years against opponents from the state of Ohio. That list includes Akron, Bowling Green, Case, Cincinnati, Denison, Heidelberg, Kent State, Kenyon, Marietta, Miami, Mount Union, Muskingum, Oberlin, Ohio Medical, Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan, Otterbein, Toledo, Western Reserve, Wilmington, Wittenberg, Wooster and Youngstown State.
• Kent State marks the third in-state team OSU has played in 2007. The last time the Buckeyes matched up against three Ohio rivals was in 1926 when they defeated Wittenberg (40-0), Ohio Wesleyan (47-0) and Wilmington (13-7).
• Ohio State hasn't lost to an Ohio opponent since 1921, a 7-6 loss to Oberlin. The Buckeyes haven't lost to a team currently in the Mid-American Conference since a 12-6 defeat to Akron in the opener of the 1894 season.
• Through six games, the OSU defense has forced the opponent to go three-and-out on 42 possessions. That represents 53.2 percent of the opposition's possessions.
• Ohio State has started 6-0 for the second straight season. It has won its first six games twice previously under Tressel, and both times the Buckeyes went on to finish undefeated in the regular season (2002 and '06).
• The Buckeyes rank No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (7.2 points per game), second in total defense (210.0) and rushing defense (46.5), and 10th in pass defense (163.5). They are also third in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 88.6.
• Here's another nice stat that points to OSU's dominance on defense so far this season: The Buckeyes have forced more punts (57) than they have allowed points (43).
• Despite three interceptions last week, Todd Boeckman is still the Big Ten leader in pass efficiency with a comfortable margin over Tyler Donovan of Wisconsin. Boeckman's passer rating of 155.8 ranks him No. 13 in the nation.
• OSU's rushing game sometimes gets overshadowed by the passing attack, but the Buckeyes have had almost as many big plays on the ground as through the air this season. There have been 13 running plays that have gained 20 yards or more compared to 14 passing plays of 20-plus yards. The longest for each – Beanie Wells broke a 40-yard run against Akron and Brian Robiskie gathered in a 68-yard touchdown pass from Boeckman at Washington.
• By the way, the OSU defense has allowed its opponents only 10 plays of 20 yards or more. How many of those have been on the ground? Zero.
• Kent State sophomore tailback Eugene Jarvis is the most productive runner the Buckeyes have faced so far this season. Jarvis, who is only 5-5 and 170 pounds, ranks fifth in the nation in rushing with an average of 141.8 yards per game. He had a career-high 230 yards two games ago during a 33-25 win over Ohio, and already has eight 100-yard games in his career.
• Here is where some of the other Buckeyes rank nationally among individual statistics: Wells is tied for 18th with 625 yards and tied for 27th in rushing average at 104.2 yards per game; Robiskie is ninth in receiving yardage (594) as well as 14th in receiving yards per game (99.0) and tied for 45th in receptions (31); Ryan Pretorius is tied for 11th in field goals per game (1.67) and tied for 17th with 12 field goals; and A.J. Trapasso is only 40th in punting average (40.2) but No. 6 in the all-important net punting average (39.6).
• Thanks to the production from Jarvis, Kent State ranks 11th nationally in rushing offense. The Flashes are also pretty good on defense. They rank 22nd in the country against the pass and 34th in total defense. They are also the No. 3 team in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 29.2 yards per return.
• This week's game will be telecast by the Big Ten Network. Mark Neely will handle the play-by-play while former OSU player and assistant coach (as well as former Minnesota head coach) Glen Mason provides color commentary. Another former Buckeye, Rob Harley, will be the sideline reporter. Kickoff is at 12 noon Eastern.
• Next week's homecoming game against Michigan State has been scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. EDT kickoff. ABC will handle the coverage.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
• With 5-1 starts this season, Illinois and Indiana are looking to become bowl-eligible this week. The Illini haven't been to a postseason contest since playing in the 2002 Sugar Bowl after winning the 2001 Big Ten championship. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are seeking to end the conference's longest bowl drought – they haven't been bowling since 1993.
• Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly booted a 53-yard field goal last week during a 27-7 win over Iowa. It was the longest field goal for the Nittany Lions since Massimo Manca booted one 53 yards in 1985. By the way, the school record is 55 by Chris Bahr in 1975.
• After Wisconsin lost last weekend, the nation's longest active winning streak at Division I-A now resides in with LSU, which has won 13 in a row. Meanwhile, Florida International holds the dubious honor as the school with the nation's longest losing streak. The Golden Panthers extended that to 18 straight games with last week's 34-16 loss to Troy. So far this year, FIU is 0-6 and has been outscored 244-44.
• South Florida had better beware. The new No. 5 team in the nation is sitting in death valley as far as The Associated Press poll is concerned. So far this season, five different teams have been ranked fifth by the writers at some point and none of them remain unbeaten. The list includes Michigan (preseason), Oklahoma (week 1), Florida (week 2), West Virginia (weeks 3 and 4) and Wisconsin (last week).
• We probably should have known Notre Dame had a chance to upset UCLA last weekend. The Irish were making their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1925 when Knute Rockne's team posted a 27-10 over Stanford, which was coached by Glenn "Pop" Warner. Talk about waking up the echoes.
• Nicholls State tied an NCAA record for pass interceptions returned for touchdowns with four last week during the Colonels' 58-0 win over Northwestern State. The picks went for 49, 65, 42 and 72 yards, and defensive backs Kareem Moore and Ladarius Webb had two apiece. Even more amazing was the fact that all four interception returns came in the first half.
• The Sept. 28 game between South Florida and West Virginia was the second-most watched college game ever on ESPN2 with 2.6 million households tuned in. The largest audience ever for a game on The Deuce was 2.7 million for LSU-Tennessee in 2005.
• According to noted oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, Stanford's win over Southern Cal represented the largest upset in major-college football point-spread history. The Trojans went to the kickoff as 39-point favorites.
• Congratulations to Danny Woodhead of Division II Chadron (Neb.) State, who broke the NCAA career rushing record last week. Woodhead now has 7,411 yards in 39 games for the Eagles, a career average of 190.8 yards per contest. He passed R.J. Bowers of Division III Grove City (Pa.), who set the previous mark of 7,353 yards in 2000.
• We go into the Wayback Machine for this week's top event in College Football History. On Oct. 14, 1889, Christopher Mathewson of Bucknell booted a 40-yard drop kick for the only points in a 5-0 win over Lehigh. Mathewson, who later went by the nickname Christy, went on to become one of the best pitchers of all-time with the New York Giants. He is one of only four men enshrined in both the college and professional baseball halls of fame.
• Unfortunately, this week also marks the 82nd anniversary of Mathewson's death. He was exposed to mustard gas while serving in World War I and the poisonous material slowly destroyed his lungs. Mathewson developed tuberculosis and died Oct. 7, 1925, at the age of 45.
• Also this week in college football history: On Oct. 11, 1986, Ball State kicker John Diettrich booted a 62-yard field during a 30-9 victory over Ohio University, an MAC record long three-pointer that still stands; and on Oct. 13, 1923, Kansas City University begins what could be considered the worst season ever. KCU loses its season opener by a 98-0 score and goes on to be outscored 623-0 by six opponents, including a 131-0 loss to St. Mary's.
• And finally, the first Bowl Championship Series standings of the 2007 season will be released Sunday by the National Football Foundation. The standings will be announced on Fox at approximately 4:15 p.m. Eastern. On subsequent weeks when Fox televises an NFL doubleheader, the standings will be announced after the second game at approximately 7:30 p.m..
The crystal ball has definitely developed some cracks over the last few weeks. Rather than dwelling on it, let's just say we were 14-6 last week straight up, pushing the season total to 126-34, while against the spread we were a dismal 7-13, dropping us further under water at 62-72-2 ATS for the season.
Makes us kind of feel like Charlie Weis, but what are you going to do? We focus on the future and here's how we see that unfolding.
No. 21 Florida State at Wake Forest: Seriously, now, am I supposed to get excited about an ACC game featuring these two teams? The Seminoles have won four in a row against teams that have a combined record of 10-13 (including Colorado and Alabama) while the Demon Deacons are proving that last season's conference championship was a bit of a fluke. They barely beat Duke last week, taking a 41-36 victory after trailing 9-0 early. Wake beat FSU last season 30-0 in Tallahassee, but that snapped a 14-game win streak in the series by Bowden's Bunch. I would think a new streak begins tonight … Florida State 26, Wake Forest 20. (7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
No. 16 Hawaii at San Jose State: This would be a good chance to catch a glimpse of QB Colt Brennan, the Warriors' Heisman Trophy candidate. Unfortunately, he has been plagued the last couple of weeks by a bad ankle and may not play against the Spartans. In his place, senior Tyler Graunke will likely get the start. Graunke is not as productive as Brennan, but he can get the job done. Last week during a 52-17 win over woeful Utah State, he was 9 for 11 for 246 yards and three TDs. San Jose State's defense will likely be the Warriors' toughest assignment to date, but the Spartans are 115th of 119 I-A teams in scoring offense. If you can't score, you can't beat the Rainbows … Hawaii 37, San Jose State 17. (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
No. 1 LSU at No. 17 Kentucky: Last week, the Tigers proved they could handle Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. This week, they draw a tougher assignment when they travel to Lexington to face Wildcats QB André Woodson. It should be a test for LSU's stifling defense and vice versa for Woodson, who managed to throw for 227 yards last week against South Carolina in a 38-23 loss. But he also committed three turnovers – two fumbles and one interception – and Woodson simply cannot do that in this game if he expects to win. Even if the Kentucky quarterback plays a flawless game, it's going to be tough for the Wildcats to hold off a Bayou Bengals offense that averages 37.8 points per game … LSU 38, Kentucky 17. (3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS)
Oregon State at No. 2 California: Bears head coach Jeff Tedford has breathed new life into his program over the past several years, but they are embarking on uncharted territory. Cal hasn't been this highly rated since 1951, and they haven't been 6-0 since 1950. Before it can entertain thoughts of BCS title games, however, it still must get through the second half of its schedule that features Arizona State in two weeks and USC in mid-November. And the Bears had better not get caught looking ahead. The Beavers have won three straight meetings in Berkeley and should give Cal its best shot. Whether or not that's good enough, no one can predict. But they only need to point to Stanford's performance last week to see that anything is possible … Cal 35, Oregon State 20. (7 p.m. EDT, Versus)
No. 4 Boston College at Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish return to South Bend having finally gotten into the win column last week with an upset of UCLA. The competition gets a little tougher, though, when the Eagles fly in, having one of their best seasons in many years. The spotty ND secondary will have to contend with quarterback Matt Ryan, who has earned some Heisman consideration with four 300-yard games already and 15 TDs. If that's not enough for you, consider that BC plays a little defense, too. The Eagles are ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing defense, and that's not good news for an Irish team that still ranks dead last out of 119 I-A teams in rushing offense … Boston College 41, Notre Dame 0. (3:30 p.m. EDT, NBC)
Central Florida at No. 5 South Florida: The Bulls evidently like playing the role of the hound much more than the fox. They didn't play particularly well last week against Florida Atlantic, but still managed to squeak out a 35-23 victory. This week, they'll be on upset alert again with a game looming just five days later at Rutgers and CFU posing as an intriguing opponent. The Knights are coached by the erstwhile George O'Leary, and have the nation's leading runner in junior tailback Kevin Smith (860 yards, 11 TDs). But they are trying to accomplish something they have never done as a program – the Knights are 0-17 all-time against ranked opponents … South Florida 34, Central Florida 21. (12 noon EDT, ESPNU)
No. 11 Missouri at No. 6 Oklahoma: There are those who look at undefeated Mizzou and wonder if they are simply paper Tigers. Well, all they have to do to put those criticisms to rest is go into Norman and beat the Sooners. Of course, that is a feat they have not been able to accomplish since 1966, a streak of 16 consecutive defeats. What's more, Missouri has lost 13 straight road games to ranked opponents. QB Chase Daniel is an excellent performer (1,712 yards, 15 TDs) and if the Tigers are ever going to break through against OU, this could be the year. But the difference could be in the running game – the Tigers may be without leading rusher Tony Temple (ankle) while the Sooners have Allen Patrick, who had 157 yards against Mizzou last season … Oklahoma 23, Missouri 17. (6:30 p.m. EDT, FSN)
No. 7 South Carolina at North Carolina: This game matches wits between a pair of high-profile coaches who washed out in brief NFL stints, but who know a thing or two about the college game. Steve Spurrier has the Gamecocks enjoying their highest ranking since going as high as No. 2 in 1984, while Butch Davis got his first notable win with the Tar Heels last week, a 33-27 win over his old team at Miami (Fla.). Still, Spurrier has a couple of years' head start over Davis in the rebuilding game, and sports a 3-0 lifetime record over UNC – all when he was overachieving at Duke … South Carolina 26, North Carolina 23. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)
Washington State at No. 9 Oregon: The Ducks are looking for a little payback after losing to the Cougars last year in Pullman, not to mention a 55-16 pummeling they absorbed the last time Wazzoo visited Autzen Stadium. Add in the fact that they're still smarting from a loss two weeks ago to Cal in a game they clearly could have (maybe even should have) won, and you have a bunch of angry ducks. Meanwhile, the Cougars are facing their third top-10 opponent on the road already this season after losing to Wisconsin and USC by respective scores of 42-21 and 47-14. Both teams have some injuries to frontline players, but it would seem the Quack Attack is ready to get back to winning … Oregon 37, Washington State 17. (3:30 p.m. EDT)
Arizona at No. 10 USC: That thud you heard last week around midnight was Southern Cal's fiery crash back to earth. After being anointed the team to beat this year in college football, the Trojans looked beatable the week before at Washington before being taken out by Stanford. The game, arguably the biggest upset in college football this season, exposed USC as a mistaken-prone team that is rapidly becoming decimated by injuries. One of those injuries is QB John David Booty, who has a broken finger on his throwing hand, and sophomore Mark Sanchez may finally get his shot this week. A bounce-back by the Trojans is very likely for two reasons – the Wildcats are 6-21 on the road since 2002 and SC hasn't lost back-to-back games in the Coliseum since 2000 … USC 38, Arizona 14. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)
REST OF THE BEST
No. 12 Virginia Tech at Duke: Since being flattened by LSU in early September, the Hokies have rebounded with four straight wins, beating their opponents by an average of three touchdowns. Freshman QB Tyrod Taylor remains a work in progress – he has three rushing touchdowns and two TDs passing – but he should get more experience against the Blue Devils, who may have beaten Northwestern earlier this year but are still working on a 20-game losing streak against ACC competition … Virginia Tech 38, Duke 7. (12 noon EDT, Lincoln Financial/ESPN GamePlan)
Washington at No. 14 Arizona State: Are you like everyone else who wonders how the Sun Devils got to this level so quickly under first-year head coach Dennis Erickson? Look at their schedule. In racking up six victories, ASU has played teams with a 16-18 combined record. This week, they take on the Huskies, who would seem to be much better than in recent years although their 2-3 mark wouldn't indicate much of an improvement. U-Dub played USC tough two weeks ago, and QB Jake Locker is one of the most exciting young players in the college game. But the Huskies can't measure up on defense and haven't won in Tempe since 2001 … Arizona State 27, Washington 13. (10:15 p.m. EDT, FSN)
Louisville at No. 15 Cincinnati: This was supposed to be one of the week's marquee matchups, but then the Cardinals fell flat and suddenly the shine is off. Nevertheless, the Bearcats still think it's a big game, especially since Louisville has taken eight of the last nine games in the series by an average winning margin of nearly 20 points. This year's version of the Bearcats has a little more bite, however. They would appear to have the kind of defense that can better handle QB Brian Brohm and his weapons, and UC has a better offense than it has had in recent years. Add those factors to the woeful UL defense and you come up with … Cincinnati 31, Louisville 27. (7 p.m. EDT, ESPNU)
Baylor at No. 20 Kansas: The Jayhawks exorcised a lot of old demons with last week's 30-24 win over rival Kansas State. It was their first road win over a ranked opponent since 1995 and their first win in Manhattan since 1989. As a result, they return home to play their first game as a ranked team since 1996. And they may get to stay in the top 25 since they host the struggling Bears, who have dropped their first two Big 12 games by a combined score of 77-33. But before you start thinking Kansas may get caught looking ahead to road games at Colorado and Texas A&M, think again. The Hawks have a little score to settle after last year's 36-35 loss to Baylor in Waco … Kansas 35, Baylor 14. (12:30 p.m. EDT, FSN Regional)
No. 22 Auburn at Arkansas: Of all the underachieving teams this season – and there are quite a few – the Razorbacks could be candidates for the most underachieving squad in the land. They have the second-best running game in the nation, yet they are only 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. The fact that stud running back Darren McFadden has bruised ribs doesn't make things any easier. However, the Tigers go into this game banged up. DE Quentin Groves (dislocated toes) leads a long list of walking wounded on the defensive side of the ball for Auburn, forcing head coach Tommy Tuberville to rely on playing a lot of freshmen. I think the Hogs find a way to grind it out … Arkansas 24, Auburn 21. (7:45 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
No. 23 Texas at Iowa State: Less than two years removed from winning a national championship, the Big Mack Attack has come unraveled. The Longhorns are 0-2 to start a conference season for the first time since 1956, QB Colt McCoy is playing hurt and wide receiver Limas Sweed will miss the rest of the season with ligament damage in his wrist. Luckily, Texas is facing the 1-5 Cyclones who have lost three straight this year and all six previous meetings with the Longhorns. If UT can't win this one, it will fall out of the rankings after 115 straight weeks, the longest streak in the country … Texas 28, Iowa State 17. (12:30 p.m. EDT, FSN Regional)
No. 24 Georgia at Vanderbilt: If you can figure out the Bulldogs this year, send me an email. Their Jekyll-and-Hyde performances have led to four straight losses against SEC East opponents, including a 24-22 loss to the Commodores last year in Athens. Vandy would like to pull off a similar upset this year, but head coach Bobby Johnson is making it more difficult on himself by creating a quarterback controversy between starter Chris Nickson and sophomore backup Mackenzie Adams at this point in the season. The Dawgs will be without leading rusher Thomas Brown (broken collarbone), but still ought to have enough to beat a team still searching for its offensive identity … Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 20. (6 p.m. EDT, ESPN2)
No. 25 Tennessee at Mississippi State: They're in, they're out, they're in again. The yo-yoing Volunteers are back in the rankings after demolishing Georgia last week, and now they set their sights on another team of Bulldogs. Sylvester Croom finally has his team headed in the right direction, winning four of six games so far this season including a 19-14 victory at Auburn in mid-September. Unfortunately, that was only the third SEC win for Croom in his last 22 conference games, and his program has dropped its last six league contests at home … Tennessee 31, Mississippi State 17. (2:30 p.m. EDT)
Minnesota at Northwestern: Last week, this would have been a hat game – throw the names of the teams in a hat and take your chances. Then, Northwestern QB C.J. Bachér throws for 520 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Wildcats to an overtime win over Michigan State. I know that the Spartans' defense has imploded, but it is still ranked 48th in the country in total defense. The Gophers are 118th and there are only 119 teams at the Division I-A level. Tim Brewster's tough first season in Minneapolis gets just a little bit tougher … Northwestern 36, Minnesota 32. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Jim Kelly, Mike Tomczak, Marshall Harris)
Indiana at Michigan State: What has happened to the Spartans' defense? After giving up an average of only 15.5 points per game to its first four opponents, MSU has given up 42.5 in two Big Ten games. That doesn't figure to get any better against the Hoosiers, who have finally figured out how to win games. Kellen Lewis and James Hardy spearhead an offense that has averaged 39.0 points in its first two conference games, and Sparty is going to be hard-pressed to slow them down. The Hoosiers have lost eight of their nine trips to East Lansing, but in this topsy-turvy season, a lot of things are happening that don't happen too often … Indiana 34, Michigan State 30. (7 p.m. EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin, Lisa Byington)
Purdue at Michigan: I have a tough time picking either one of these teams. Neither of them seems very interested in playing defense, although at least the Boilermakers have never pretended to be very good on that side of the ball. Despite the fact they have won four games in a row, the Wolverines are still now ranked and for good reason – they're still not playing very well. The longer they ride Mike Hart on offense, the sooner he is liable to break down. But as long as he's able, Hart will carry his team and that should be enough against Purdue … Michigan 34, Purdue 27. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Charissa Thompson)
No. 19 Wisconsin at Penn State: The way things are going at the top of the standings, neither of these teams can afford another conference loss. After skating close to the edge for most of the season, the Badgers finally fell off the hill last week when their defense was exposed once and for all by Illinois. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were playing well against Iowa, but as bad as the Hawkeyes have played, who knows what we can glean from that performance? U-Dub has always done fairly well in Happy Valley, and has one of the few winning records against JoePa. Just an upset (at least according to the spread) hunch here … Wisconsin 23, Penn State 20. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan – Announcers: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire, Bonnie Bernstein)
No. 18 Illinois at Iowa: Last week was fish-or-cut-bait time for both of these team. The Illini stayed in the boat by toppling fifth-ranked Wisconsin while the Hawkeyes fell overboard against Penn State. It doesn't take much to figure out that these teams are headed in opposite directions. The Fighting Ferentzes can't seem to generate much offense, and it doesn't look like their defense can stop the likes of Juice Williams, Rashard Mendenall or Rejus Benn. Iowa has won the last four in this series, but that streak ends this week … Illinois 28, Iowa 14. (12:05 p.m. EDT, ESPN2 – Announcers: Pam Ward, Ray Bentley, Quint Kessenich)
Kent State at No. 3 Ohio State: Another Ohio team, another can't-win proposition for the Buckeyes. If they roll over the Flashes, everyone will let out a collective yawn. If OSU struggles, it is definitely overrated at No. 3. And if somehow Ohio State should lose … well, that's not going to happen so there's no use in even discussing it. Kent does have some pretty good players, not the least of which is running back Eugene Jarvis, the fifth-leading rusher in America. But the last time the Buckeyes faced a small, highly regarded runner was against 5-6, 181-pound Darrell Sproles of Kansas State in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. Sproles got exactly 38 yards that day. To paraphrase Yogi, it could be déjà vu all over along … Ohio State 34, Kent State 7. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Mark Neely, Glen Mason, Rob Harley)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
I'll take the chalk in these games: Florida State (-5½) at Wake Forest; Hawaii (-17½) at San Jose State; LSU (-8½) at Kentucky; Oregon State at Cal (-13½); Boston College (-13½) at Notre Dame; Central Florida at South Florida (-11½); Washington State at Oregon (-17); Arizona at USC (-20½); Virginia Tech (-13) at Duke; Washington at Arizona State (-11½); Auburn at Arkansas (-2½); Tennessee (-7) at Mississippi State; Purdue at Michigan (-5½); and Illinois (-3½) at Iowa.
I'll take the dogs here: Missouri (+10½) at Oklahoma; South Carolina at North Carolina (+7½); Louisville (+11½) at Cincinnati; Baylor (+25½) at Kansas; Texas at Iowa State (+16½); Georgia at Vanderbilt (+7½); Minnesota (+7½) at Northwestern; Indiana (+5) at Michigan State; Wisconsin (+7) at Penn State; and Kent State (+30) at Ohio State.
Enjoy the games and we'll see you again next week.
Rea's Say: Some Random Thoughts
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