Week 9: Streaks pending as we wait for OSU-UM
For all the craziness and great finishes of last weekend, we're still essentially right where we were seven days ago in terms of the race for the BCS title game. It's beginning to look more and more as if we'll have our second "Game of the Century" of this season on Nov. 18 when Michigan travels to Columbus for a showdown with Ohio State. Now that Michigan has gotten past Iowa, the schedules really couldn't be much easier for the two schools between now and then.
8-16: Michigan's next three opponents before the big game (Northwestern, Ball State and Indiana) are a combined 8-16 this year. Each one has lost more games to I-AA opponents this year than the Wolverines have lost to anyone.
7-17: As for the Buckeyes' three remaining opponents before The Big One (Minnesota, Illinois and that same Northwestern team), they are a combined 7-17.
21: In hindsight, it turns out that the Buckeyes caught a bit of a scheduling break this season by missing Wisconsin. In what figured to be an average year for the Badgers, first-year coach Bret Bielema has managed to do something that his predecessor, Barry Alvarez never did -- win four straight Big 10 games all by at least 21 points.
Turns out Barry wasn't the only one who fell short of that mark. Dave McClain didn't do it, and Milt Bruhn didn't do it; neither did Glenn Thistlewaite nor J.R. Richards (not to be confused with J.R. Richard -- though he didn't do it either). Fact is, until now, the Badgers had never won four straight conference games by three TDs. That's in a football-playing history that dates back to 1889.
With Wisconsin a nonfactor for Ohio State, though, it still looks like we have two options for the BCS title game: the Michigan-Ohio State winner vs. USC, or the Michigan-Ohio State winner vs. a team to be determined by mass chaos.
The numbers continue to tell us this USC team is nowhere near last year's -- not an indictment of them by any stretch, just an indication that the mass chaos is a strong possibility, when you consider that USC still has to play Oregon (not looking as daunting as it did a few weeks ago), Cal and Notre Dame in successive weeks.
Last week, we looked at some of the Trojans' offensive woes as compared to last year. This week, it's the defense's turn.
9: The Trojans have nine sacks through six games. Last year's team finished with 32.
10: USC has 10 takeaways this year. They finished with 38 last year. As I chronicled earlier in the year, turnover margin has been one of the staples of Carroll's success at USC -- as the Trojans are plus-97 in his tenure. Over the last five games, they're minus-two.
USC went from second to third in the BCS standings this week -- really a trivial move unless something absolutely bizarre happens in that Ohio State-Michigan game that doesn't cause the loser to fall beyond second.
The other undefeated team to keep an eye on -- Boise State, which went from 18th to 15th last week. Remember -- if they finish in the top 12, they're automatically in to a BCS game.
At least one Bronco did more than his fair share last week:
8: Thanks to a made-for-TV scheduling quirk, the Broncos played two games in one calendar week -- one on Sunday and one on Saturday. They won them both, and Ian Johnson scored four TDs in each game -- meaning Johnson technically scored eight TDs in one week. He's guaranteed to go scoreless this week, though, as the Broncos don't play again until Wednesday, Nov. 1 (versus Fresno State).
Back to the one-loss teams hoping for chaos: the Florida Gators. But for all the hype surrounding coach Urban Meyer's vastly improved offense, we bring you this thought -- Meyer's offense still has yet to reach Zookian heights. Consider:
33.8: The 2004 Gators, Ron Zook's final team, averaged 33.8 points per game in the regular season.
27.2: This year's Gators are averaging 27.2 ppg.
428.8: Zook's last Florida team averaged 428.8 yards of offense in the regular season.
394.1: Urban's guys are at 394.1
85: On a more positive front from the Gators' point of view, the Georgia defense that Meyer's team will face this week isn't nearly as formidable as its early-season opponents made it seem. The Dawgs have given up 85 points in the last 10 quarters -- a bit more than a TD per quarter. They allowed just 58 points in the season's first 22 quarters -- fewer than three points per quarter.
46-36-2, 45-36-2: Here's how you know this one is a true rivalry -- the two schools can't even agree on their all-time record against one another. Georgia claims to lead 46-36-2, while Florida says it's actually 45-36-2. At issue: a game in 1904 that Georgia won 52-0. Florida claims the game shouldn't count, as the school says it did not officially field a team that year. For what it's worth, the "ESPN College Football Encyclopedia" lists 1906 as the first year for Gators football. Despite my finest efforts, I was unable to contact any of the participants of the disputed game for a comment.
Back to the list of those hoping for chaos: Notre Dame. In fact, the Irish have an opportunity to create the chaos themselves when they face USC on Thanksgiving weekend. First things first, though -- the annual meeting with Navy, which is only moderately less suspenseful than an hour of C-SPAN3.
42: As has been well-documented, the Irish have won 42 in a row against the Middies -- last losing on Nov. 2, 1963 -- just 20 days before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
While the Irish and Midshipmen provide the most glaring historical mismatch of the weekend, there are some others that haven't exactly been nail-biters over the years. For instance:
8-57-4: Oregon State is 8-57-4 all-time against USC, with the Beavers having won once in the series since 1968.
3-36-1: Oklahoma State is 3-36-1 all-time against Nebraska.
1-15: Missouri has gone just 1-15 in its last 16 games against Oklahoma
Of those four historical mismatches, Missouri obviously seems the most likely to buck the trend, with the Tigers actually favored in the game, thanks in large part to the ongoing heroics of their young QB.
19: Chase Daniel has already thrown 19 TD passes this season -- that breaks Missouri's previous single-season record set by Terry McMillan in 1969.
0: Daniel faces an Oklahoma defense that has improved over the last few games after being much-maligned early in the season. Still, Daniel doesn't figure to be losing much sleep over the Sooners' D-line. Defensive ends C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux have zero sacks. They combined for 17 last season.
The Nebraska-Oklahoma State matchup features two of the nation's most improved offenses. Consider these numbers:
10th, 12th: The Huskers and Cowboys rank 10th and 12th in the nation, respectively, in total offense. They were 96th and 92nd last year.
11th, 7th: Nebraska and OSU are 11th and 7th, respectively, in scoring. Last season, they ranked 67th and 96th.
While it took an offseason for the Huskers and Cowboys to hit their stride, Boston College has done so during the course of the season.
9.8: After beating the 'Noles 24-19 last week, BC has now given up just 9.8 points per game over its last four games. The Eagles gave up 26.7 in their first three outings. Even if you factor out the win over I-AA Maine, BC has still gone from that 26.7 number against Central Michigan, Clemson and BYU to 12.3 against NC State, Virginia Tech and Florida State.
As for the 'Noles, regardless of which side you take in the Great Bobby Bowden Debate, their decline is staggering:
0-3: Florida State has gone 0-3 in its last three ACC home games.
55-1: Before that slide, FSU was an amazing 55-1 at home in conference games.
3-8: The 'Noles are 3-8 in their last 11 games against teams from the six power conferences not named "Duke."
54.4: Florida State is averaging 54.4 rushing yards in its five games this season against teams other than Duke and Rice. It's gotten to the point where the 'Noles have realized that even attempting to run is pointless. RBs Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith and fullback Joe Surratt combined for seven carries and 20 net yards against the Eagles.
7: Though FSU's rival, Miami, is playing for the Coastal Division lead this weekend against Georgia Tech, things truly aren't that much better for the Canes. QB Kyle Wright has thrown seven TD passes this year -- all of them coming against Florida A&M, Houston, Florida International and Duke.
That means Wright has been shut out by Florida State, Louisville and even North Carolina. This continues a trend for the Miami QB, who threw 12 TD passes against Duke, Temple and Wake last year, and six against the rest of the Canes' schedule.
83: Miami gets a Georgia Tech team that was thoroughly dominated by Clemson this past weekend. In fact, the Yellow Jackets gained just 83 total yards in the first half, or six fewer than Clemson's James Davis ran for all by himself before halftime.
The ESPN Radio "College GameDay" crew witnessed that one last week -- and we'll be back in the Palmetto State this weekend to check out Tennessee and South Carolina -- as coaches Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer renew their acquaintances.
Spurrier got the better of his old sparring partner in their "reunion" game last season -- the first win for the Gamecocks over Tennessee in 13 games. This week, Spurrier will try to buck a couple of trends.
1903: In a series dating back to 1903, the Gamecocks have never won two in a row over the Vols.
8: South Carolina has lost eight straight games against top-10 teams. The Vols come in ranked No. 8.
Can't wait to get down to Columbia, S.C., for all the excitement this weekend. Hope you'll listen in.
Dave Revsine is the host of "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio. Listen every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET as Gerry DiNardo, Todd McShay and Revsine break down the action.