A win for Penn State this weekend will get Joe Paterno to win No. 400. It’s just another win for Paterno, whose focus is and always has been on his players and their progress, but it’s an amazing total nonetheless. Ridiculous, almost. Consider this:
• If you add up Woody Hayes’ and Jim Tressel’s Ohio State wins (307) you’d still be almost 100 victories shy of Paterno’s total. Michigan coaching legends Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler together fall about 40 wins shy.
• At the age of 65, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier does not have half as many wins as Paterno at his three Division I stops combined (183).
• Only seven men in history have more than 250 Division 1 victories.
During his 45 years on the sideline, Paterno has guided Penn State to five undefeated seasons and 24 bowl wins. More impressive than all of that — in those 45 years he has suffered through just five losing seasons.
This week’s contest will be no picnic — none of Penn State’s games have been this year — but you have to think that at home, in front of a packed Beaver Stadium crowd, the Nittany Lions have plenty of motivation to beat Northwestern — picking up a third straight victory, earning bowl eligibility, and getting Joe Pa to uncharted territory.
But while you appreciate that milestone — 400 career wins — appreciate this: In Penn State’s last five seasons (2005 to 2009) the team’s winning percentage has been .797 — better than Paterno’s career average of .751.
Paterno built the program into a powerhouse not long after taking the reins from Rip Engle, and he’s kept it there ever since.
The Week That Was
Northwestern 20, Indiana 17
Illinois 44, Purdue 10
Iowa 37, Michigan State 6
Penn State 41, Michigan 31
Ohio State 52, Minnesota 10
Wildcats are bowl bound
Thanks to an outstanding performance by sophomore running back Mike Trumpy (164 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches), Northwestern beat Indiana to claim its sixth win of the season. It’s the fourth consecutive season that coach Pat Fitzgerald has guided his club to the mark.
The Buckeyes roll at Minnesota
Things began slowly for Jim Tressel’s club on Saturday evening, but eventually Ohio State took command of its game against Minnesota. Four offensive players scored touchdowns in the opening half, and Ohio State got 14 points in the second half thanks to touchdowns scored off a blocked punt and fumble return. It was the fifth time Ohio State won a game by 35 or more points this season.
Illinois blasts Purdue
Illinois’ stout defense limited Purdue to just 52 yards of passing in Saturday’s lopsided victory. Ron Zook’s club took an early lead and then exploded for 20 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Illinois defense limited the Boilermakers to two successful third down tries in 14 attempts, while the offense collected 24 first downs to Purdue’s nine.
Team of the Week: Iowa
The Hawkeyes were favored to win on Saturday because the game was played in Iowa City, but no one expected them to dominate the previously unbeaten Spartans. The Tyler Sash-to-Micah Hyde first-quarter interception return for a touchdown blew the game wide open, and was one of three picks by the Hawkeyes defense.
Disappointment of the Week: Michigan
Beaver Stadium is an unfriendly environment, but Michigan fans still didn’t expect their team to lose to an under-performing Penn State squad on Saturday. As it was, the Nittany Lions held a 28–10 halftime advantage and finished the game with almost a 15-minute advantage in time of possession. The Wolverines had no answer for Penn State’s running game, and despite another big night from Denard Robinson just couldn’t keep pace.
Offensive Player of the Week: Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
Finally! Royster came up huge for his team last week, carrying 29 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns — his first multiple-touchdown effort of the year and just his second 100-yard game. Because of Royster, Penn State wore down the Wolverines defense and inched a step closer to bowl eligibility.
Defensive Player of the Week: Shaun Prater, DB, Iowa
Immediately after the Hawkeyes took a 17–0 lead, Prater picked off another Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 42 yards into Hawkeye territory. Three plays later it was 23–0. The junior cornerback also assisted Iowa’s run defense with a double-digit tackle performance.
Freshman of the Week: Nathan Scheelhasse, QB, Illinois
Once again the Illini freshman was nearly perfect. Scheelhasse completed 80 percent of his passing attempts (16-of-20) for 195 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground he gained 5.6 yards per attempt and led the Illini in both carries (21) and yards (118).
The Week Ahead
Upset Alert: Wisconsin
No Big Ten team is at much risk this week, but Wisconsin should be the most conscious of not letting this one slip. The Badgers dropped a road game to an underdog late in the year last season (Northwestern). Purdue does not have a strong football team, but with Wisconsin coming off a bye, the Boilers may have enough to keep this contest interesting.
Player to Watch: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Coming off of a miserable performance the junior hopes to bounce back against a Michigan defense allowing almost 150 rushing yards per game. Last week Penn State’s Evan Royster ripped up the Wolverines, and if Illinois is to keep pace in this contest it will require big performances on the ground from Leshoure and backfield mate Nathan Scheelhasse.
Three teams have an opportunity to become bowl-eligible this weekend: Penn State and either Michigan or Illinois. Five Big Ten teams have already reached the six-win mark.
Wisconsin’s John Clay is just 113 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season. It would make Clay the conference’s second player to reach the mark this season (Michigan’s Denard Robinson). This week Clay faces a Purdue defense that ranks seventh in rushing yards allowed per contest (139.0) but only allows an average of 3.6 yards per carry.
Michigan 23, Illinois 21
Iowa 44, Indiana 10
Michigan State 31, Minnesota 13
Wisconsin 34, Purdue 7
Penn State 17, Northwestern 14
Lattimore set a personal high with 184 yards rushing.
If you were circling games on South Carolina’s schedule in August, determining importance, this Saturday’s game against Arkansas would’ve ranked highly. But it’s an odd position the Gamecocks find themselves in entering the season’s final month: Arkansas (likely) means nothing in the SEC race. Go figure.
Win or lose this week, the Florida-South Carolina winner on Nov. 13 will play in Atlanta. That’s right: If the Ball Coach wants to finally take his team to the title game, he’ll have to win in Gainesville for the first time with a team on the visitors’ sideline.
Of course, one scenario would alter all this. But Spurrier isn’t exactly expecting it to play out. He laughed at a reporter who asked him what it would be like to wrap up the East on Saturday. “So,” Spurrier hooted, “you’re telling me Vanderbilt is going to beat Florida?”
Not happening. Swamp, it is.
The Gamecocks didn’t play particularly well against Tennessee. But the Gamecocks might’ve lost — or come very close to losing — that game in the past. This season is at least different because of the ability to turn to, gasp, playmakers. Alshon Jeffery had a 12-yard catch that he turned into a 70-yard touchdown, flashing what he calls “game speed.” That was the game-winner, with 12 minutes and change to go.
Then the Gamecocks turned to a horse of a running back — Derek Dooley actually called freshman Marcus Lattimore “Secretariat”; his high school teammates called him “the Horse” — for the final minutes. Lattimore had runs of 40 and 19 yards on the final touchdown drive, on the way to a season-high 184 yards.
Will those playmakers be the difference-makers in the Swamp? Oh, that’s right. Arkansas is first.
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 24
Florida 34, Georgia 31 (ot)
Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31
Arkansas 49, Vanderbilt 14
Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 17
• Florida’s coaches have been maligned in this web space, as well as countless other places. So, give the Gators credit for throwing pretty much everything they had at Georgia to get a big lead. Play two quarterbacks? That’s for amateurs. How about three?
John Brantley’s line — 16-for-25 for 193 yards and a pick — was pedestrian, but Trey Burton (2-for-2 throwing; 110 rush yards) and Jordan Reed (three carries, 19 yards) will give future D-coordinators pause.
Maybe the Bulldogs’ secondary is still leaky, but it appeared the Gators were finally capable of a few downfield plays. Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammond Jr., Deonte Thompson … where have you been?
• Yeah, Auburn played well to win by 20 at Ole Miss. But why were national pundits so impressed with the victory? Because many of them foolishly picked the Rebels to win the game? C’mon, that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe if Ole Miss and Mississippi State merged, to form Magnolia State University.
Auburn plays very little defense. Ole Miss plays less. Advantage, Cam Newton. Newton ran for only 45 yards, but still leads the league in rushing by about 20 yards per game. He's been that good. He threw more in this one and even caught a score. Soon, he'll be kicking extra points.
• Note to Dan Mullen: Quit now and run for governor. Run on the “I Win” ticket. Mullen’s Mississippi State team has now reeled off six in a row Saturday against Kentucky — after the Bulldogs won five games all of last season. And a 17–14 loss to Auburn back in September? That’s looking more and more like a win all the time. The Bulldogs have a bunch of good players, but nothing incredible.
Mullen’s got to get some nods for SEC coach of the year — especially if the Bulldogs can do the unthinkable and topple Bama in two weeks. He's doing the most with the least. Even Gene Chizik would agree with that.
• Tennessee isn’t a very good football team. Don’t believe it? Dooley and the Vols will tell you. One Vol — a defensive player, no less — said he was pleased to score more than 10 points at South Carolina. He thought that was progress. Heck, maybe it was. Hey, Denarius Moore looked good — 228 yards for the senior receiver (most by any FBS player this season). Wait, he’s a senior? Where’s Moore been for three years? Tennessee might have found a quarterback. Stick-figure freshman Tyler Bray (6-6, 175 pounds?) had some decent moments on the road in the SEC. Well, after throwing a pick six.
• Please explain why Arkansas receiver Greg Childs — the same Greg Childs who almost didn’t play because of an ankle injury — was playing in the fourth quarter of a blowout against Vanderbilt? (It was the widest margin of victory in a Bobby Petrino win at Arkansas). The greed, stubbornness or indifference resulted in the Hogs’ top receiver injuring his knee. Now he might not be available this week against South Carolina. Clearly not helpful. In addition, Joe Adams (ankle) isn’t 100 percent. He had to sit last week against the Commodores.
• What was Georgia thinking in overtime? All right, Aaron Murray made some nice plays and throws to get the Bulldogs back in the game. But his final touchdown to A.J. Green appeared to be rather fortunate. So, then you turn the keys over to him in overtime? Murray nearly throws an interception on first down, missing on the corner-route throw in one-on-one coverage. Then, on third down, he throws off his back foot into the middle of the field, praying that Green will save him. Maybe that’s just the curse of having a franchise-type receiver. You lean too hard. But don’t be afraid to call for some safer routes, play-callers — especially when Orson Charles is the one that primarily helped you back into the game. Where was he in OT?
• It’s getting old writing this, but South Carolina’s pass defense stinks. For a team that’s flirting with a division title, it’s a major, major problem. And a huge issue considering Ryan Mallett — regardless of what receivers are healthy — is coming to town. Chris Culliver is hurt and likely done for the season. Let’s see what the Gamecocks do from here. Switching to more man coverage didn't really fix anything. Tennessee became the third team in four weeks to throw for 300 yards against the Gamecocks. Your turn, Mr. Mallett.
Stud of the Week
Cam Newton, Auburn QB. He caught a TD pass this week. That’s new.
Dud of the Week
Matt Simms, Tennessee QB. Yes, it sucks you were removed as quarterback. But the crybaby routine to the media will not do you any favors, pal.
If USC supposedly was the toughest test remaining on Oregon’s schedule, the road to the Ducks’ second straight Pac-10 title could become downright silly. Oregon broke open a close game early in the third quarter and cruised to a 53–32 victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday. Although the game was competitive for over two quarters, there was a sense by the time the game ended that the Trojans were outclassed.
Granted, USC doesn’t have the same brand of depth it’s had in years past because of player defections following last summer’s NCAA sanctions, but even a full complement of players may not have prevented the Ducks from wearing down the Trojans in the second half. Oregon proved it could score quickly or with sustained drives, and the Ducks had a couple of methodical drives in the second half to pull away. USC’s defense had no answer for Oregon’s machine-like offense, which ended up with 599 total yards.
The Trojans have the best offense the Ducks will face this season, other than maybe Stanford. And although USC was able to put up some yards and points against Oregon, the Ducks’ underrated defense came up with enough stops to allow their offense to pull away.
While Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was padding his Heisman Trophy stat sheet by throwing in a receiving touchdown against Ole Miss, Oregon running back LaMichael James kept pace with a dominant 239-yard, three-touchdown performance. Oregon moved up to No. 1 in this week’s Bowl Championship Series standings. The Ducks have four more games — two at home and two on the road. That includes a showdown in their second-to-last game of the season against Arizona, which is tied for second in the Pac-10 standings, one game behind Oregon.
The Ducks close out the season with their annual Civil War battle with Oregon State.
Oregon’s next two games are at home against Washington and then at Cal, teams that look to be headed for the lower half of the conference standings. The Huskies allowed 42 points to Stanford on Saturday. The Autzen Stadium scoreboard operator could have his hands full when the Huskies visit this weekend.
Arizona 29, UCLA 21
Oregon State 35, California 7
Arizona State 42, Washington State 0
Stanford 41, Washington 0
Oregon 53, USC 32
Cal coach Jeff Tedford was already searching for an answer to his team’s troubling split personality. Now, he’s got a bigger problem on his hands.
The Bears continue to play two seasons in one. When they are home, they dispatch opponents easily. When they are on the road, the same thing happens to them. The trend kept up Saturday when Cal was thoroughly taken apart by Oregon State in a 35–7 loss. But the defeat was overshadowed by what appears to be a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Kevin Riley, who went down during Cal’s second possession of the game.
The Bears have been to bowl games seven years in a row, but that streak could be in trouble. Cal has to win two of its final four games to become bowl-eligible, and the Bears still have to play Oregon and Stanford. Cal should be decided underdogs in both of those games, meaning it would be a good idea to beat Washington State and Washington.
Most teams don’t have a problem with Washington State, but the Bears must visit the Cougars this weekend with a quarterback making his first career start. Junior Brock Mansion replaced Riley against Oregon St. in the first meaningful action of his career. He had only seen limited time during blowouts previously.
The Cougars are improving and Cal’s playbook may be shrunk with the inexperienced Mansion running the show. That means the Bears may need their defense to carry the day in Pullman. Cal’s defense, like the rest of the team, has been much more effective at home than on the road this season.
Luck Wins Draft Showdown
The showdown of potential top-10 draft picks never really materialized Saturday in Seattle. A huge contingent of NFL scouts was on hand at Husky Stadium as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck went head-to-head against Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Both are considered high NFL draft picks, with Luck possibly going No. 1 overall.
But this one was all about Luck. He threw for only 192 yards and a touchdown, but he was extremely efficient and added a 51-yard touchdown run. Locker, meanwhile, had one of the worst games of his career, although part of his woes were due to poor pass protection. Locker, who hasn’t turned in the huge season many expected, completed just 7-of-14 passes for 64 yards.
Some believed Locker could have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, but he decided to return to Washington for his senior season. Now, Locker’s stock appears to be falling.
Baylor’s rise in the Big 12 South and the national rankings and in the thoughts and minds of college football fans has found real traction with win over Texas.
Bowl eligible? Nice. Back in the rankings? Cool.
But big time? Not by virtue of wins over the likes of Buffalo and Kansas State and Colorado. The Bears lacked substance, with an ugly loss to TCU and another setback to Texas Tech on their resume.
Not anymore. Baylor beat the Longhorns, 30–22, for the first time since 1997 and won in Austin for the first time since 1991, securing the sort of statement win that had been missing. OK, so this isn’t your typical Texas team, a title contender carved from superb stock. The Longhorns, who have now lost three times at home, are clearly scrambling.
Still, it’s Texas, with all its four- and five-star recruits. And Mack Brown. In Austin.
And while the thought had been that outstanding quarterback Robert Griffin III was willing his team to wins, the win over the Longhorns revealed that the Baylor’s talent is improving across the board.
“It’s been a while since we’ve given our fans proof to believe,” Bears coach Art Briles said afterward.
“Our players are as resilient as any I’ve been around.
“What’s really helped is that we’ve gone down to the wire the last few weeks. We’re used to being in those situations and our guys believe good things are going to happen.”
After prevailing at Texas, Baylor isn’t just bowl-eligible; it is bowl bound. And at 4–1 in the Big 12 South, they lead the pack with several key games against the rest of the division coming up, including a visit to Oklahoma State this Saturday.
“Our goal has always been to win the South title,” Griffin said. “The tide has changed this year and we’re the team to beat.
“People say that Baylor can never beat this team and that team. Well, that Bear is gone.”
Oklahoma State 24, Kansas State 14
Iowa State 28, Kansas 16
Nebraska 31, Missouri 17
Texas A&M 45, Texas Tech 27
Baylor 30, Texas 22
Oklahoma 43, Colorado 10
Huskers Run Away
All the anticipation of Saturday’s North heavyweight title bout — Nebraska vs. Missouri — exited Lincoln after the Huskers delivered a staggering early blow, getting a 66-yard touchdown run from Roy Helu Jr. in the opening moments and bolting to a 24–0 first-quarter lead.
That’s the kind of day it was for Helu and the Huskers. And Mizzou, which was off to its best season start since 1960, lost for the 17th straight time on the road against a Top 25 team.
Helu enjoyed a memorable day, rushing for a school-record 307 yards and three long scoring runs. He had 228 yards on his first 10 carries, and tacked on touchdowns covering 73 and 53 yards.
“I can’t explain how much I feel for my linemen and fullback,” Helu said. “They deserve as much credit as I do.”
Adversity was stacking up on Oklahoma State, with its first loss to Nebraska followed by the one-game suspension of star wide receiver Justin Blackmon as the repercussion of an ill-advised trip to Dallas to watch former teammate Dez Bryant on Monday Night Football.
On top of that, the Cowboys were heading to Kansas State, where they hadn’t won since current coach Mike Gundy was handing off to Barry Sanders in 1988.
But the Pokes prevailed behind their defense and kicking game. They slowed K-State standout running back Daniel Thomas and picked off three second-half passes. And punter Quinn Sharp dropped four punts inside the Wildcat 10.
Overall, OSU out-rushed K-State 213 to 111, with Kendall Hunter running for 143 yards.
Player of the Week: Roy Helu Jr., Sr., Nebraska. Helu’s big day in a big win over Missouri broke Calvin Jones’ NU rushing record of 294 yards, set against Kansas in 1991. And it was much needed, with quarterback Taylor Martinez missing the second half with a bruised right leg. Late in the game, when the Tigers entertained faint hopes of a comeback, Helu kept moving the chains and the clock.
Game of the Week: Baylor at Oklahoma State. Two teams picked for way down in the South Division are way up, both in the Big 12 title hunt, as well as the Top 25. While strange things can happen, the Bears and Cowboys are squaring off in what amounts to an elimination bout within the conference.
On the Spot: Mack Brown, Texas. Don’t look now, but the Longhorns are a .500 team at 4–4 overall. They’ve lost three times at home (UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor) and seem to be in disarray, just one season after making the BCS title game. Brown remains the king of Texas, but there’s some work ahead in directing a rebound.
In the Spotlight: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Better late than never, right? A former prep quarterback who spent three seasons at wideout, Tannehill has replaced Jerrod Johnson behind center and thrived. He passed for a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns and led the Aggies to their most points in a league home game since 2005 in the win over Texas Tech.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State. The second-year coach has crafted some benchmark wins in his short stay in Ames. His teams have shown character, too. Just two weeks ago, the Cyclones were reeling and seemingly bound for the bottom of the North Division, after surrendering 120 points in losses to Utah and Oklahoma. Now ISU is streaking, beating Texas and Kansas back-to-back and creeping within one win of bowl eligibility at 5–4. The closing schedule is rugged, with home games against Nebraska and Missouri and a trip to Colorado. Circle the visit to Boulder as the make-or-break game.
Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M. Johnson’s spiral has apparently flattened out, with Tannehill’s ascension in College Station. The two QBs had split time the week before, but it was Tannehill all the way in the win over Tech, while Johnson watched from the sideline. It’s been a freefall senior season for Johnson, the school’s career passing yards leader.
By the Numbers
4 Conference wins by Baylor, its most as a member of the Big 12.
34.5 Average distance of Nebraska’s 34 touchdowns from the line of scrimmage.
208 Yards receiving for Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles, a school record.