Rea's Say: Celebrating Part Of The Tradition

While Ohio State makes another championship run, we pause to honor a title team of the past. We look back at the 1957 team, which will be honored at halftime Saturday, along with some random thoughts, tidbits from the OSU-Michigan State rivalry, news from Around The Country and the Fearless Forecast, which includes a couple of Upset Specials.

As Ohio State prepares for the stretch drive in what fans hope will be another run at the national championship, the university will pause Saturday to honor another team that achieved greatness during a season when little was expected.

During halftime of the OSU-Michigan State game, members of the 1957 national championship team will be honored on the 50th anniversary of improbable title run that actually began with a season-opening loss.

When the Buckeyes opened that '57 season, there was little indication anything approaching greatness was on the horizon. A year before, the university's athletic department had been slapped with a one-year probation by the NCAA because several football players had reportedly accepted improper benefits from a campus official. That official happened to be head coach Woody Hayes, who had casually mentioned in 1955 that he often loaned small amounts of money to players who were in need of financial assistance.

The story eventually made its way into several national magazines, which prompted an NCAA investigation and subsequent one-year penalty for all Ohio State athletic teams.

Hayes was incensed by the ruling, saying the aid was merely token assistance to youngsters in need. Nevertheless, he agreed to abide by the NCAA probation without public appeal. The Buckeyes went on to post a 6-3 record in 1956, getting shut out in its final two games – 6-0 at Iowa and 19-0 at home against Michigan – and finished in fourth place of the Big Ten standings.

By the time the '57 season rolled around, the probation had been lifted but it didn't seem to matter. The football team wasn't expected to do much, being picked fifth in a Big Ten preseason poll behind Michigan State, Minnesota, defending champion Iowa and Michigan.

More than half of the starting lineup from the previous year had graduated, including two-time All-America lineman Jim Parker, and Hayes welcomed back only 18 returning lettermen.

The preseason forecast for a middle-of-the-pack showing seemed to be correct when the team stumbled coming out of the gate, losing an 18-14 decision to Texas Christian in the 1957 season opener. Ohio State entered the game as a two-touchdown favorite against the Horned Frogs, a team that would go 5-4-1 that year and finish fifth in the old Southwest Conference. The loss also marked Hayes' first opening-game defeat in seven years as head coach of the Buckeyes, and coupled with the two season-ending losses the year before, gave him his first three-game losing streak in Columbus.

No one could have foreseen at that time that OSU would go on to rattle off nine consecutive victories, including a 10-7 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and capture the 1957 national championship.

"It was just one of those magical kinds of years," Ohio State football historian Jack Park told "Years later, when I heard Coach Hayes speak at banquets, it would seem that the 1957 team held a very special place for him. He would never say that one of his teams was his favorite, but I always got the feeling that he had a real sentimental spot in his heart for that team.

"I think it was probably because of the way they started the season and then came back. It's still the only team in Ohio State history to lose the first game and then win all the rest of them. If you watched their opening game, the last thing on your mind would be that they would go on to win the national championship. It takes a team with a great physical and mental makeup to do what they did, and I think that's why Coach Hayes enjoyed that season and that particular team so much."

Although the season began with only a handful of returning veterans, several members of the 1957 team became some of the most recognizable names in Ohio State football history.

Manning the tackle positions on the team were Dick Schafrath and Jim Marshall, who went on to become stars in the NFL. Schafrath was a six-time Pro Bowler for the Cleveland Browns from 1959-61, and opened holes for such Hall of Fame running backs as Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly. Marshall spent most of his 20-year Hall of Fame career with the Minnesota Vikings, and started an NFL-record 282 consecutive games at defensive end from 1960-79.

Alongside the young tackles were seniors Aurealius Thomas and Bill Jobko. Thomas was named a first-team All-American following the 1957 season and later earned enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame. Jobko, whom Park termed as "probably the most underrated player on that team," played such a vital role in the national championship run that his teammates voted him most valuable player.

Also on the line was a sophomore end named Jim Houston, who would go on to become an All-American at Ohio State, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Browns.

The backfield featured powerhouses such as Galen Cisco and Bob White at fullback, junior Frank Kremblas at quarterback, and talented stars like Don Clark, Don Sutherin and Dick LeBeau at halfback.

Cisco served as team captain in '57 along with fellow senior Leo Brown, who was an end. Cisco, of course, went on to become a major-league pitcher with Boston, Kansas City and the New York Mets, then spent 31 years as a pitching coach in the majors for several different teams.

White became one of Hayes' favorite fullbacks in his three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense, and the rugged Covington, Ky., native earned All-America honors for the Buckeyes in 1958.

Kremblas inherited the quarterback position in 1957 because he had studied intently the year before and knew the team's split-T attack almost as well as the coaches. Hayes later termed Kremblas as "an excellent student with good speed and power running the ball." The coach also added that his quarterback was a "very adequate passer." Even so, Kremblas attempted only 47 passes that season, completing 20 of them for 337 yards.

Clark was an excellent athlete, earning two All-Big Ten selections and leading the Buckeyes in rushing in 1956 and '57 with more than 700 yards each season – quite an accomplishment in Hayes' power attack. A halfback would not lead the team in rushing again until Tom Barrington in 1965.

Sutherin was another excellent athlete who had power and speed. He also served as the team's place kicker and went on to a Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League. As a player, he played in eight Grey Cups and won four of them.

LeBeau was the team's leading receiver that season with seven receptions for 91 yards. He went on to enjoy a 14-season career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions, setting the league record for consecutive game appearances for a cornerback with 171, and has been an NFL assistant or head coach since 1973.

After losing the opener to TCU, the Buckeyes went on to win their eight remaining regular-season games, topping things off with a 31-14 win at Michigan and a 10-7 Rose Bowl victory over Oregon. Following the season, United Press International awarded their national trophy to the Buckeyes – declaring OSU the champion even before the bowl game – and gave Hayes his second title in four seasons. Michigan State, which finished at 7-1 that season but did not play Ohio State, was third in both national polls.

Postseason accolades were also heaped upon the team, including Hayes, who was named national coach of the year by several organizations including the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America. Thomas earned first-team All-America honors, and he joined Brown and Clark on the consensus All-Big Ten team.

In the half-century since the 1957 national championship, the team has slipped into the shadows of history as undefeated squads of 1968 and 2002 have taken center stage in the minds of Ohio State football fans. But the accomplishments of the title team remain fresh for those who have an appreciation for excellence.

"It's really too bad that the '57 team gets shuffled back in some people's memories," Park said. "That team had an excellent offense and a great defense – they gave up only six points in the fourth quarter all season. They accomplished so much, and I truly believe they deserve to be mentioned as one of the best Ohio State teams of all time."

I wonder if they'll be talking in similar terms about this year's team in 2057.


• We've talked about the wide-open Heisman Trophy race on the message boards. Now, here's where the Vegas money is going. Kentucky QB André Woodson is currently the favorite at 3-1 with Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden the co-second choices, each at 5-1. Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan (7-1) and Michigan running back Mike Hart (8-1) round out the top five.

• Be careful what you wish for. All of you who have been clamoring for a rematch with an SEC team may get it. Many projections right now are favoring an Ohio State-LSU showdown in the BCS National Championship Game. I guess that leaves it to me to play the Grinch and remind you that the Buckeyes are 0-8 all-time against the SEC in bowl games. Oh, well … that streak has to end some time, doesn't it?

• Anyone who believes LSU's defense is not that good is simply not paying attention. The Tigers have given up 67 points the last two weeks to Florida and Kentucky (51 of that in regulation), but last time I checked, those two offenses were ranked Nos. 7 and 11 nationally in scoring. LSU lost to Kentucky because of poor game management by its head coach, not because of its defense.

• Halfway through the season, offers its Halfway All-America team and exactly one player from the No. 1 team in the nation is on it. That would be linebacker James Laurinaitis. There are three players each from LSU and Boston College – DL Glenn Dorsey, LB Ali Highsmith and DB Craig Steltz from the Tigers, and QB Matt Ryan, OL Gosder Cherilus and DB DeJuan Tribble from the Eagles. Michigan and Illinois were teams that had two representatives – OL Jake Long and RB Mike Hart from the Wolverines, and RB Rashard Mendenhall and LB J. Leman from the Illini.

• Oregon State, which toppled Cal last weekend, has a history of engineering upsets. Forty years ago, the Beavers cemented their legacy by handling a pair of No. 2-ranked teams and a No. 1 all in the same season. In 1967, OSU earned the nickname "Giant Killers" after defeating second-ranked Purdue, 22-14, in West Lafayette, tying second-ranked UCLA 16-16, and then beating top-ranked and undefeated Southern California 3-0. The Beavers were led that year by head coach Dee Andros, who had a nickname of his own: the Great Pumpkin because of his girth and a penchant for bright orange windbreakers.

• Why do some Ohio State fans have an obsession with a team the Buckeyes play roughly twice each century? I'm asking this truthfully. Why does anyone in Columbus give a rat's mustache about Notre Dame and Charlie Weis?

• Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?


• Ohio State holds a 25-12 advantage over Michigan State in the overall series, and has won five in a row from the Spartans. That includes last year's 38-7 victory in East Lansing. Michigan State has lost five of its last six trips to Columbus, but its one win was memorable – a 28-24 upset win in 1998 over then No. 1-ranked Ohio State, an outcome that eventually cost the Buckeyes the national championship.

• OSU head coach Jim Tressel is a perfect 4-0 against Michigan State, and none of those games has been decided by less than 10 points. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is 0-2 against the Buckeyes. Those two losses came in 2004 and 2006 while Dantonio was head coach at Cincinnati, and neither of those games was decided by less than 21 points.

• Playing as the No. 1 team in the nation agrees with the Buckeyes. All-time, they are 64-9-1 as the top-ranked team in the land.

• Michigan State is only 3-13-1 in games played against the No. 1-ranked team, but two of those three victories have come at Ohio State's expense – and 16-13 in 1974 and 28-24 in 1998. The Spartans have also lost four times against a top-ranked Buckeye team – 54-21 in 1969, 29-0 in 1970, 35-0 in 1973 and 38-7 last year.

• Unless you've spent the last couple of days on Jupiter, you know that Ohio State debuted as the No. 1 team in the first Bowl Championship Series standings of the year. Perhaps you didn't realize, however, that the Buckeyes are atop the BCS standings for the ninth consecutive time after topping each of last year's eight rankings.

• OSU is protecting another couple of streaks. The Buckeyes have posted 17 consecutive Big Ten victories for the fourth time in school history and need two more to tie the conference record of 19 straight league wins set by Michigan in 1990-92. Ohio State is also working on a 25-game win streak in regular-season contests, and that's three off the Big Ten record of 28 set by Michigan in 1901-03.

• Last week's victory over Kent State featured offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns by OSU. The last time that happened was during a 37-13 win at Michigan State in 1997. The offensive touchdowns came on a Pepe Pearson run and a touchdown pass from Joe Germaine to David Boston, and Gary Berry took care of the defensive and special teams scores – a 45-yard interception return and a 1-yard return with a blocked punt.

• The Ohio State defense has forced 45 three-and-out possessions so far this season. It has also forced 65 punts and allowed only 46 points in seven games.

• This week, the Buckeyes are no lower than No. 2 nationally in the major statistical categories for defense. They rank No. 1 in total (211.9) and scoring defense (6.6), and No. 2 against the run (62.9) and the pass (149.0).

• Ohio State's offensive line receives more than its share of criticism, but the unit is having a productive season so far. The Buckeyes are tied for 10th in the country in fewest sacks allowed (7), allowing first-year starting quarterback Todd Boeckman to lead the Big Ten in pass efficiency. Boeckman is ranked 10th in the nation in that category.

• OSU definitely likes to establish dominance early. So far this season, the Buckeyes have outscored their opponents by a 70-2 margin in the first quarter, and hold a lopsided 144-19 margin in the first half.

• The game almost has the feel of a family reunion. Dantonio, of course, was defensive coordinator for Tressel at Youngstown State from 1986-90 and again at Ohio State from 2001-03. Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell spent six years with Tressel in Youngstown from 1986-91, and Spartans tackles and tight ends coach Mark Staten was a grad assistant on Tressel's OSU staffs in 2002 and '03. Also, MSU linebackers and special teams coach Mike Tressel is the son of Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel, and was a GA on Uncle Jim's staff from 2002-03.

• And the synergy doesn't end there. Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and safeties coach Paul Hayes previously worked in East Lansing – Bollman was offensive line coach for Nick Saban from 1995-97 while Hayes was in charge of cornerbacks for John L. Smith from 2003-04.

• As mentioned earlier, members of the 1957 national championship team will be on hand at the OSU-Michigan State game to mark the 50th anniversary of their accomplishments. So will former OSU quarterback Rex Kern, who will be honored for his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame.

• This week's game will be telecast by the American Broadcasting Company to most of the nation. Our favorite announcing crew of Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese and Paul Maguire (color) and Bonnie Bernstein (sideline) will bring you the game. Kickoff is at set for about 3:37 p.m. Eastern.

• Next week's game at Penn State has been scheduled for an 8 p.m. EDT kickoff. ABC will handle the coverage of that one, too.


• And then there were six. After another round of upsets last weekend, only a half-dozen teams remain unbeaten at this point in the season – Arizona State, Boston College, Hawaii, Kansas, Ohio State and South Florida.

• After LSU's loss to Kentucky last week, the nation's longest current winning streak at Division I-A is now eight and shared by Hawaii, Boston College and South Florida. The NCAA's longest current streak for victories regardless of division is held by Grand Valley State (Mich.) at 34. The Lakers are two-time defending Division II national champions.

• I guess you're never too old to go back home. In the wake of the firing this week of Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson, the Cornhuskers have hired legendary coach Tom Osborne as interim AD. My question: Has an athletic director ever fired a head coach and then hired himself as the replacement?

• Maybe the Big Ten is getting a bad rap after all. So far this season, the conference has posted a record of 30-7 against nonleague opponents, a winning percentage of .811. If that percentage can stay where it is, it will mark only the fourth season the Big Ten has won 80 percent of its nonconference games since 1960.

• Defense gets it done in the Big Ten. Six teams in the conference rank among the nation's top 20 teams in total sacks, led by Indiana with 32 in seven games. Penn State and Michigan State are tied for second with 29 each. The others are Michigan (ninth with 25), Illinois (tied for 14th with 22) and Ohio State (tied for 17th with 21).

• Well, maybe defense doesn't always get it done. Case in point: Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bachér, who has led his team to consecutive come-from-behind overtime victories by throwing for a combined 990 yards the past two weeks. That's more yards in two games than teams such as Arkansas, Navy, Florida International and Air Force have thrown for all season.

• By the way, you do not want to play Northwestern in overtime. The Wildcats are now 8-1 when the game goes to OT, and that includes a perfect 7-0 against Big Ten opponents.

• Someone voting in The Associated Press and Harris Interactive polls obviously likes Arizona State. Despite the fact that the undefeated Sun Devils are ranked 12th in both rankings, they have one first-place vote in each.

• After losing in back-to-back weeks to Ohio State and Michigan, Purdue head coach Joe Tiller is now 3-11 against the Buckeyes and Wolverines during his tenure in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers haven't won in Columbus since 1988 and haven't brought home a victory from Ann Arbor since 1966.

• This week, I wish that BSB stood for Bearcats Sports Bulletin. Why? Because Cincinnati just signed a contract to play Hawaii in Honolulu in 2008.

• Twenty-one years ago today, Ohio State freshman safety David Brown set a new school record with a 100-yard pass interception return to help the Buckeyes to a 39-11 win at Purdue. The feat has since been matched twice – Marlon Kerner at Purdue in 1993 and Will Allen in Ohio Stadium against San Diego State in 2003.

• Also happening during this week in college football history: On Oct. 19, 1957, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain took in her first game of American football in person, watching Maryland take a 21-7 win over North Carolina in College Park; and on Oct. 20, 2001, Joe Paterno tied Paul "Bear" Bryant for most career wins at 323 when Penn State scored a touchdown in the final minute to beat Northwestern, 38-35.


So many upsets throughout college football this year have put a dent in the forecast. Last week, we were 16-8 straight up to move the season total to 142-42. That's only 77.1 percent and a far cry from the annual goal of 80 percent. Meanwhile, we finally stopped the bleeding against the spread, playing the house to a 12-12 draw last week. We're still below .500 with a 74-84-2 record ATS, but at least we're headed back in the right director.

Here's what the crystal ball foretells for this week, starting with a huge game this evening.


No. 2 South Florida at Rutgers: The Bulls have enjoyed a pretty good run this season, but they are now heading into the heart of their schedule. Four of the next five weeks, they have Rutgers, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville, Big East foes with a combined record of 19-7. If USF successfully navigates that gantlet, it will have earned the right to play for the national championship. First things first, though, as they travel to Piscataway to face the Scarlet Knights, who proved to Cincinnati last week there is still some gas left in the tank. It's tough to go into New Jersey and steal a win, and for this kind of game, you know Rutgers Stadium is going to be rocking. Somehow, though, I think the Bulls can pull it off … South Florida 27, Rutgers 23. (7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)


Northwestern vs. Eastern Michigan: OK, OK, OK. I'll admit that I didn't have the Wildcats doing much this season, especially after a loss to Duke. I mean, the Blue Devils hadn't beaten a Division I-A team for nearly three years. I just wasn't convinced that head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who is essentially a defensive guy, could come up with the kind of offensive scheme that has now allowed Northwestern to win four games – the last two in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion in overtime. The fact that this game will be played at Ford Field in Detroit probably should enhance that attack, which has averaged 48.5 points per game over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the Eagles gave up 48 last week in a loss to Ohio. See a trend? … Northwestern 45, Eastern Michigan 31. (7 p.m. EDT, ESPNU)


No. 4 Oklahoma at Iowa State: Let's see now. Oklahoma beats Texas by 7, and then Texas beats Iowa State by 53. The Sooners are averaging 48.4 points per game on offense and the Cyclones are giving up an average of 32.7. What more? Iowa State is averaging 16.3 points per game, tied for fourth-worst in college football; OU has outscored the Twisters 84-17 in their last two games at Jack Trice Stadium; and the Sooners are 66-5-2 in the overall series. What does that all add up to? A long, long day in Ames for Gene Chizik's team … Oklahoma 47, Iowa State 7. (12:30 p.m. EDT, FSN)

No. 18 Auburn at No. 5 LSU: The Tigers roll into Baton Rouge with a four-game winning streak and owners of nine straight SEC road wins, including that thrilling 20-17 win at Florida two weeks ago. That means something has to give since the Bayou Boys have won 17 in a row at home. Last week, of course, the vaunted LSU defense buckled under the high-octane Kentucky offense. There's not much danger of that happening this week. Auburn may have won four straight, but its offense is ranked 97th in the nation in yardage and 105th in passing. Once the home team shuts down the Tigers' running attack, it should be a long night for Auburn QB Brandon Cox … LSU 27, Auburn 10. (9 p.m. EDT, ESPN)

Vanderbilt at No. 6 South Carolina: One thing I have learned recently is that you don't go against the Ol' Ball Coach when he's on a roll. And Steve Spurrier is definitely on a roll with the Gamecocks, who are enjoying their best season since 1984 when they won their first nine games and rose as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. This week, they host a pesky Vanderbilt team that had Georgia on the ropes last week before allowing the Dawgs to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired. But looking at the overall series, I see that the Commodores have beaten USC only twice in 16 meetings, and they've never been able to solve Spurrier, losing to him 14 times in a row. Like I said, you don't go against the Ol' Ball Coach when he's on a roll … South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 10. (12:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 7 Oregon at Washington: The Ducks are quacking right along behind QB Dennis Dixon, who has quietly gotten himself some Heisman mention for a season that has included 1,525 yards passing, a 70.2 completion percentage and a 15-to-2 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. But Oregon has a nasty little secret – injuries are beginning to decimate Dixon's supporting cast. During last week's big win over Washington State, Oregon lost not only running back Jeremiah Johnson for the rest of the season but also second-leading receiver Cameron Colvin. Once again, the Huskies will be led by redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker, but as I have mentioned many times before, he can't do it alone. One glaring stat for U-Dub – in its last four games, it has been outscored 56-0 in the third quarter. Maybe that chocolate milk at halftime isn't working … Oregon 31, Washington 14. (7:30 p.m. EDT, FSN Regional)

No. 14 Florida at No. 8 Kentucky: Still riding the wave of their upset victory over LSU, the Wildcats have no time to celebrate with the Gators ready to invade Lexington. In some respects, this task may be even more daunting since Kentucky has lost 20 straight games to Florida. When you consider that with the fact that the Gators had last week off – and Urban Meyer is 22-2 lifetime with more than a week to prepare – Florida hasn't lost three games in a row since 1999, and the Wildcats are still without leading rusher Rafael Little, all signs would appear to favor the defending national champs. But this season has been just wacky enough to pick the upset here … Kentucky 27, Florida 24. (3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS)

Mississippi State at No. 9 West Virginia: After a week and a half off to rest various injuries, QB Pat White returns to the lineup for the Mountaineers, who believe they can still make some noise in the national championship race. But they will have to use the Bulldogs as a tune-up game with Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati coming up the next three weeks. They really can't afford to look past Mississippi State, though, even though they put a 42-14 hurting on the Dogs last season. This is a much-improved MSU team whose only losses this season have been to SEC powers South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee. However, the Bulldogs are still susceptible to the run, and with White back in the lineup, WVU tailback tailback Steve Slaton may be ready for a big afternoon … West Virginia 34, Mississippi State 17. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 10 California at UCLA: With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it wasn't difficult to see how the Bears could have been upset by Oregon State. The Beavers had won each of their previous two trips to Berkeley, the Bears were playing without starting QB Nathan Longshore and Jeff Tedford – as good as he has been for the Cal program – always seems to lose at least one game per year that he shouldn't. This week, the Bears get right back in the Pac-10 saddle against the Bruins, who haven't played since an inexplicable 20-6 loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago. In that game, the Uclans lost their own starting QB Ben Olson to a knee injury, while backup Patrick Cowan may also be sidelined. I'd hate to go to war against a bunch of angry bears with a third-string quarterback … Cal 34, UCLA 21. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)


No. 13 USC at Notre Dame: The Irish defense may be just what the doctor ordered for an ailing Troy offense. QB John David Booty is expected to return after a one-game respite after breaking a finger on his throwing hand, while leading rusher Stafon Johnson is also set to return after missing two games with a sprained foot. That can't be very good news for Notre Dame, which ranks 72nd in the nation in scoring defense. But it's not the Irish defense that can be blamed for this season's 1-6 start. The offense continues to sputter as dead last in Division I-A in yardage and 118th of 119 in scoring. Southern Cal has been exposed in recent weeks, but its got more than enough leftover firepower to win this one … USC 37, Notre Dame 10. (3:30 p.m. EDT, NBC)

No. 15 Kansas at Colorado: Despite a 6-0 start, there is no love for the Jayhawks. They are the lowest ranked team that remains undefeated, and nearly no one is giving them any chance to get into the BCS championship game race. I guess maybe I'm running with the pack because I know Kansas hasn't won at Folsom Field since 1995, losing five in a row there, and has lost five out of the last six in the overall series. The Buffs haven't been home since their big upset of Oklahoma on Sept. 29, but I think another one is brewing. Look for CU quarterback Cody Hawkins to air things out, and if he can keep from throwing it to the Jayhawks, I look for the upset … Colorado 27, Kansas 24. (5:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)

No. 22 Texas Tech at No. 15 Missouri: All those who believe the gaudy numbers generated by the Double-T offense will get to find out how the Red Raiders fare against a team that knows how to play defense. There is no doubt that Tech is an entertaining team with QB Graham Harrell leading the nation in passing (3,151 yards, 31 TDs) and freshman WR Michael Crabtree the top receiver in the country (78 catches, 1,244 yards, 17 TDs). But the Raiders have always been one-dimensional, and Mizzou is a team that can actually match them big play for big play. While Tech averages 50.0 points per game, the Tigers average 40.0. And they also have leading rusher Tony Temple returning and four wins in six all-time meetings … Missouri 38, Texas Tech 31. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN GamePlan)

No. 20 Tennessee at Alabama: Picking a game between Phil Fulmer and Nick Saban is like choosing between colonoscopy and a root canal. There is no preferable choice. The Volunteers have been playing well of late, riding QB Erik Ainge's arm to three straight wins. Meanwhile, the Tide has won two in a row, but only by the skin of its teeth. The common denominator here would seem to be Georgia – Alabama lost a three-point decision to the Dawgs in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 22, two weeks before the Vols bludgeoned UGA on Rocky Top by 21. I can see the venue making perhaps a touchdown difference, but not three … Tennessee 26, Alabama 23. (12:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 19 Texas at Baylor: The Longhorns got well in a big, big way last week against Iowa State, rolling to a 56-3 victory in which sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy finally got untracked, completing 23 of 29 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns. The run should continue on the road in Waco, where the Bears are trying to figure out to beat Texas for the first time since 1997. During a nine-game winning streak, the Longhorns have outscored the Bears 455-89 and shut them out four times, including a 118-0 margin in their last two visits to Baylor. Of course, those were more talented UT teams but the theme remains the same with the Bears ranked 97th nationally in scoring offense and 90th in scoring defense … Texas 41, Baylor 13. (12:30 p.m. EDT, Versus)

No. 23 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: Now that the Bearcats have had their noses bloodied for the first time this season, we get to see how they can rebound under first-year head coach Brian Kelly. They have to do it against a program they have never beaten. That's right – UC has lost all six meetings with the Panthers in a series that began 86 years ago and includes two games since Cincinnati joined the Big East in 2005. But this is not your regular Cincinnati team, nor is it your garden variety Pitt. The cold, hard truth is that the Panthers just aren't very good, and four straight losses attest to that. They have even lost head coach Dave Wannstedt to a double whammy of injuries – a torn Achilles that required surgery on top of minor knee surgery. He'll coach this week from the press box, but it's doubtful he'll feel any better after the game … Cincinnati 34, Pittsburgh 17.(12 noon EDT, ESPN GamePlan)

No. 25 Kansas State at Oklahoma State: First of all, I find it hard to believe that any ranked team would play a non-televised game. Could it be that no network wants to take the chance that Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy will go off like a 4-year-old again? Unfortunately, unless you make the trek to Stillwater, you will be unable to see a game between two evenly matched teams. When that occurs, you have to give the nod to the homestanders … Oklahoma State 27, Kansas State 23. (7:05 p.m. EDT, No TV)


Northern Illinois at Wisconsin: The reeling Badgers are probably happy to crawl back home and get a breather after a disastrous two-week road trip that netted losses to Illinois and Penn State. Last week's 38-7 loss to the Nittany Lions was Wisconsin's worst loss since a 49-14 beatdown at the hands of Michigan State late in the 2004 season. Luckily for Bret Bielema's squad, it draws an NIU team that is struggling even more. The Huskies have won only once this season although four of their six losses have been by four points or less. The honeymoon is likely over for Bielema after he won 17 of his first 18 games after taking over for Barry Alvarez, but divorce papers are liable to be filed if he loses this one … Wisconsin 34, Northern Illinois 14. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Charles Davis, Charissa Thompson)

North Dakota State at Minnesota: It is difficult to believe things could get much harder for Tim Brewster in his first season with the Gophers. His team has won only once all season and has dropped all four of its Big Ten games, including last week's 49-48 loss in double overtime to Northwestern, a game in which Minnesota held a 21-point lead in the second half. And now, as a break from conference play, they have to take on the Bison? This is the same North Dakota State team that has steamrolled six straight opponents by an average margin of three touchdowns, and the same one that nearly beat the Gophers last season. Normally, I would hesitate to pick any I-AA team to beat a I-A opponent. But this year, it's already happened a half-dozen times and I look for it to happen again … North Dakota State 24, Minnesota 20. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network – Announcers: Jim Kelly, Chris Martin, Marshall Harris)

Penn State at Indiana: I don't know what to make of the Hoosiers. They win five of their first six, look absolutely fabulous doing it, then lay a huge stinker last week against Michigan State. Getting bowl-eligible isn't going to get any easier this week, going against a team they have never beaten. That's right. The Nittany Lions are a perfect 10-0 all-time against Indiana, including four games in Bloomington by a combined score of 163-98. If the Hoosiers can hang onto the football, they can keep things close. But the way JoePa has his team playing right now, I think they glide into next week's showdown with Ohio State … Penn State 34, Indiana 17. (12 noon EDT, ESPN – Announcers: Dave Pasch, Andrew Ware)

Iowa at Purdue: The Boilermakers have folded up the last two weeks like an old card table. Failing to get their vaunted offense untracked against Ohio State is one thing, but failing to do so against a suspect Michigan defense is quite another. Obviously, all of the bluff and bluster about their high-scoring attack in the beginning of the season was just that – bluff and bluster. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes haven't exactly been setting the world on fire. They finally snapped an eight-game conference losing streak last week with a 10-6 win over Illinois, but it wasn't what you could call a virtuoso performance since the Illini turned the ball over twice, including throwing a late interception in the end zone. By all rights, the Boilermakers should win this one. But because of this topsy-turvy season, I'll take the Hawkeyes … Iowa 16, Purdue 13. (12 noon EDT, ESPN2 – Announcers: Pam Ward, Ray Bentley)

No. 24 Michigan at Illinois: It is put up or shut up time for both of these teams. Are the Wolverines truly ready to step back in the spotlight? Are the Illini really ready to take on the elite teams and beat them? Good questions that this game will go a long way toward answering. Two other question marks involve the star offensive players on each team. U-M running back Mike Hart has a balky ankle while Illinois QB Juice Williams has been relieved by backup Eddie McGee for three straight weeks. As much as it pains me to say, the Wolverines do appear to be getting better with each passing week and the Illini may have plateaued … Michigan 31, Illinois 24. (8 p.m. EDT, ABC – Announcers: Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters)

Michigan State at No. 1 Ohio State: It seems the Spartans are planning to knock heads with the Buckeyes, ready to go mano y mano with its potent running game against Ohio State's stingy run defense. This is a ploy that many teams have tried in recent years, mostly to their detriment. Granted, the one-two punch of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick is a good one. Combined, they have 1,431 yards and 19 TDs so far this season, totals that are better than the entire Ohio State team. But they have not faced a defense like the one the Buckeyes are going to throw at them, and when you couple that with OSU's offense against a so-so Sparty defense, I don't see how this turns out any other way … Ohio State 28, Michigan State 7. (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC Regional/ESPN2 – Announcers: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire, Bonnie Bernstein)


I know there are a lot of favorites here, but I'll still lay the points in these games: South Florida (-2) at Rutgers; Northwestern (-10) vs. Eastern Michigan @ Detroit; Oklahoma (-29½) at Iowa State; Auburn at LSU (-10½); Vanderbilt at South Carolina (-13); Oregon (-11) at Washington; Cal (-7) at UCLA; USC (-17) at Notre Dame; Texas Tech at Missouri (-3½); Texas (-24½) at Baylor; Cincinnati (-9½) at Pittsburgh; Kansas State at Oklahoma State (-2½); Penn State (-7) at Indiana; Michigan (-2½) at Illinois; and Michigan State at Ohio State (-17).

I could find only a half-dozen dogs I like this week. Here they are: Florida at Kentucky (+7); Mississippi State (+25) at West Virginia; Kansas at Colorado (+4); Tennessee (+1) at Alabama; Northern Illinois (+24) at Wisconsin; and Iowa (+7) at Purdue.

Enjoy the games and we'll see you again next week.

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