Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sooners, Irish to Face Off

Fifty–six years ago this Saturday, Oklahoma recorded its one and only football victory over Notre Dame.

So far.

That game was played in South Bend, Ind. The teams have met four times in Norman, Okla., where this Saturday's game will be played, and the Irish have won them all.

There are few — if any — other schools that can claim to have winning records against the Sooners. But Notre Dame can.

And the Irish would be undefeated against Oklahoma — if not for that game that was played 56 years ago.

(The Associated Press reports that "[n]o team has had as much success against the Sooners having played at least that many games.")

Oklahoma was in the midst of its record–setting 47–game winning streak, which ran from 1953 to 1957. The Irish were the last to beat the Sooners on Sept. 26, 1953, before the streak began, and they were the ones who ended the streak on Nov. 16, 1957 (coincidentally, the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma's admission to the Union).

In between, the Sooners hammered Notre Dame, 40–0, on Oct. 27, 1956.

That 1957 loss still irritates long–time Sooner faithful.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has been approaching the Oklahoma game as one of many, reports The Oklahoman.

"That's it?" asks Stephanie Kuzydym. "That's what history of breaking OU's record 47–game win streak and an 8–1 series advantage means to Notre Dame?"

Idle: #6 LSU, #25 West Virginia

  • #14 Clemson at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: These schools have faced each other on the football field every year but two since 1933.

    Clemson has dominated the series, 59–17–1, and the Tigers have been especially successful at home, where they are 35–7. The Tigers also have a winning record at Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons have been tougher there. Every victory Wake Forest has against Clemson in the last 13 years has come at Wake Forest.

    I just don't think Wake Forest can win this one. I'll take Clemson.
  • Cincinnati at #16 Louisville, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: This is a tighter series than you might think.

    And, if Cincinnati had not lost last week, it most likely would be a matchup of Top 25 teams.

    With its win last year, Cincinnati matched its longest winning streak against Louisville — four straight games. A win tomorrow night would be Cincinnati's fifth in a row.

    But I just don't think it will happen. I think Louisville will win.
  • #13 Mississippi State at #1 Alabama, 7:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Mississippi State has a lot of anger at Alabama that has been accumulating over the years.

    These teams have been playing each other since 1902, and the Crimson Tide has won more than 80% of the time.

    Mississippi State has some talent this year. In fact, there really isn't a lot that separates the two teams on offense. Alabama is ranked 39th in the nation; MSU is 50th.

    The glaring difference is on defense, where Alabama continues to be rated the best in the country. Make no mistake about it; MSU is pretty good on defense, too (#25 in the nation), but the challenge facing the Crimson Tide is not as great as the one facing the Bulldogs.

    Especially since the Tide is at home. I think Alabama will win this one.
  • Colorado at #2 Oregon, 2 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: You probably wouldn't think it, given these two teams' recent histories, but the all–time series between these schools is dead even, 8–8.

    Oddsmakers don't have any faith in Colorado, and why should they? Colorado is 1–6; Oregon is 7–0. Oregon's offense may not be as potent as it has been in recent seasons, but the Ducks are #8 in the nation in that category. Colorado isn't in the Top 100.

    And Oregon has the edge on defense. The Ducks haven't been as impressive on that side of the ball, but they're ranked 46th, which should be good enough. That looks really good next to Colorado's #112 ranking.

    What's more, Oregon is the home team — and the Ducks haven't lost at home to Colorado since 1967.

    Oddsmakers made Oregon a 45½–1point favorite. That's good enough for me. I'll go with Oregon.
  • #3 Florida vs. #12 Georgia at Jacksonville, Fla., 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Only a few rivalry games are still played at neutral sites. Georgia–Florida is one of them.

    OK, Jacksonville isn't really a neutral site. It's only about an hour's drive from the Florida campus whereas it is about a four–hour drive from the Georgia campus.

    This will be their 78th game at a neutral site (most of them have been played in Jacksonville), and Georgia has the lead at neutral sites, 40–36–1.

    The teams provide an interesting contrast.

    Georgia, on the one hand, has been winning with its offense (#18 in the land) while Florida, ranked #100, clearly has struggled.

    The Gators, however, have been winning in true SEC style — on defense. Florida is tied for seventh in that category with Texas Tech. In this category, it is Georgia that has struggled — although not nearly as much as Florida has struggled on offense. The Bulldogs are #47 in defense.

    But this is the game known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." It should be a very entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon especially if you are a fan of Georgia — my upset special.
  • #15 Texas Tech at #4 Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: These schools first met in 1933, and Tech enjoys a 2–to–1 advantage in the all–time series.

    Statistically, Tech has an edge today, with offensive and defensive units that are both in the national Top 15.

    And Tech has won three–quarters of its game in Manhattan, Kansas. All that seems to spell a big win for Tech.

    So I'll make that my second upset special this week — Texas Tech to beat Kansas State.
  • #5 Notre Dame at #8 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Okies are justifiably proud of that 47–game winning streak I mentioned earlier.

    It was quite an accomplishment then, and it should be regarded as more of one today, more than half a century after it was achieved.

    But attention should be on this game, not the ones that were played in 1956 or 1957.

    OU has the edge on offense. The Sooners are ranked 17th in the nation whereas Notre Dame is 74th. Astonishingly (at least in comparison to previous national champions and national championship contenders from Oklahoma), the Sooners have accomplished this largely on the strength of their passing game (although the running game ain't too shabby, either).

    Notre Dame's defense might be prepared for OU's offense; the Irish are sixth in the nation. But Oklahoma's defense is in the national Top 20, too, and should be ready for what Notre Dame has on offense.

    I'll take Oklahoma in a narrow decision.
  • #7 Oregon State at Washington, 9:15 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: If you conducted a poll of sportswriters who cover the Pac–12, they might conclude that Oregon State's ascendance is the surprise of the year.

    And there is a good case to be made for that. The Beavers were 3–9 last year, 5–7 the year before that.

    But somehow I doubt that the Huskies would be surprised that Oregon State is undefeated so far. Washington leads the all&ndsh;time series, but Oregon State has won seven of its last eight confrontations with Washington.

    The good news for Washington is that the Huskies' only win over the Beavers since 2003 came in Seattle two years ago. Will lightning strike twice?

    Well, if it turns out to be an offensive game, you'd have to favor Oregon State, although neither team has been especially strong on offense. But the Beavers, ranked 48th, have a decided advantage over the Huskies (#103).

    If it's a defensive game, I still have to give the edge to Oregon State — but it will be considerably smaller. OSU is 37th on defense; Washington is 55th.

    Oregon State can't afford to get sloppy. The Beavers have crucial games with Stanford and Oregon coming up in the next few weeks. The 3–4 Huskies would just like to get back to .500.

    I pick Oregon State.
  • #9 Ohio State at Penn State, 4:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Ohio State's offense — powered by Braxton Miller and the nation's 10th–best running attack — is 40th in the nation. Penn State's offense is ranked 59th.

    But Penn State has a deceptively dangerous defense, which is ranked 22nd in the nation.

    The Nittany Lions have accomplished that largely while the national spotlight was shining brightly elsewhere.

    When Penn State started the season at 9–2, I think most fans dismissed this as a rebuilding year for a program that was hit pretty hard by NCAA sanctions. Well, don't look now, but the Nittany Lions have won five straight.

    Asking them to keep that streak alive against the Buckeyes may be too much to ask, though. Ohio State narrowly leads the all–time series — a lead the Buckeyes claimed by going 7–3 in their last 10 games with the Nittany Lions.

    It should be entertaining, for awhile, but I really don't think the Nittany Lions have the depth to shut down the Buckeyes for an entire afternoon. I pick Ohio State to win.
  • #10 Southern Cal at Arizona, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: I really haven't followed the Pac–12 too closely over the years.

    But my assumption would be that Southern Cal has pretty much dominated every team in the conference. The Trojans always seemed to be in the Rose Bowl (which has been the postseason reward for the conference champion practically since time began) when I was growing up.

    I don't know if Southern Cal has dominated every team in the conference, but the Trojans have certainly dominated Arizona. Southern Cal has won more than three–quarters of their games (26–7), and the Trojans have won all but one of their contests with the Wildcats since 2001.

    But it might surprise you to realize that Arizona's offense currently ranks higher than Southern Cal's. Arizona is #4 in the land; Southern Cal is #47. When you remember that the Pac–12 has always been more offensively oriented than defensively oriented, that's an important factor to keep in mind.

    If, on the other hand, defense dominates the game, that would favor Southern Cal. The Trojans' defense is 30th in the nation; Arizona's defense, currently ranked 104th, has struggled.

    I think 6–1 Southern Cal, whose defense has been playing especially well in recent games, will handle Arizona.
  • Duke at #11 Florida State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: For the first time in nearly two decades, Duke is bowl eligible.

    But the Blue Devils figure to have their hands full with the Seminoles.

    Florida State is ranked #2 in defense (behind only Alabama). Duke, meanwhile, ranks #68.

    The Duke defense will have a tough assignment trying to control Florida State's 10th–ranked offense. Duke's offense is ranked 52nd, which isn't bad but seems ill–equipped to overcome Florida State's defense.

    I pick Florida State.
  • Tennessee at #17 South Carolina, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Tennessee is an improved team. I think just about any observer of college football would agree with that.

    But the Volunteers also have to be a little worn out after three straight losses to ranked teams (Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama). That makes their record this year against ranked teams 0–4 (including the Vols' loss to Florida in September).

    And now they must travel to South Carolina to take on the 17th–ranked Gamecocks. Life is not easy when you are a member of the Southeastern Conference.

    If Tennessee loses this game, the Volunteers will be 3–5, with all five losses coming against Top 25 teams, but then they will embark on a four–game stretch that could not only make them bowl eligible but could land them in a reasonably decent bowl to boot.

    The Vols' postseason prospects would be considerably brighter if they could win this road game. But is it possible?

    Well, the history of the series favors Tennessee, which is 22–6–2 against South Carolina all time. But the Gamecocks have won three of the last four meetings.

    Tennessee's offense has been more productive than South Carolina's. But South Carolina has been much more successful on defense than Tennessee.

    Sounds like a split to me. In such a case, I tend to side with the better defense, which belongs to South Carolina, so that's my pick.
  • Kent State at #18 Rutgers, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Big East Network: These teams have only played each other twice, and Rutgers won both contests.

    Rutgers has the 14th–best defense in the country, which should be adequate for stopping Kent's 68th–ranked offense. Kent's defense, meanwhile, is 71st in the land, and its face–offs with Rutgers' #97 offense might prove to be fairly even.

    I favor Rutgers.
  • Washington State at #19 Stanford, 5:15 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: This will be the 63rd time these teams have met since 1936, and Stanford has a comfortable lead in the series.

    Stanford has also won six of the last eight meetings.

    Thus far, neither team has been terribly impressive on offense so, logically, the best defense will probably prevail. That would be Stanford, which is 34th in the nation in defense (Washington State isn't even in the Top 100).

    Accordingly, I will pick Stanford.
  • #20 Michigan at Nebraska, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: This will be the eighth time these teams have played since 1905.

    Series history isn't of much help in this case. Michigan does lead the series, which could be instructive given the fact that the Wolverines are ranked and the Cornhuskers are not.

    But Michigan's last visit to Nebraska (in 1911) ended in a 6–6 tie.

    Thus far, Nebraska has been much better on offense and Michigan has been better on defense. Which will prevail?

    Well, I'm inclined to think that Michigan, boasting a better defense and home field advantage, will win this game.
  • #21 Boise State at Wyoming, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: Wyoming has never beaten Boise State.

    The teams have played six times, three times on each campus, and Boise State has won each game by an average of 20 points.

    Wyoming is actually ranked ahead of Boise State — slightly — on offense, but neither team has been very impressive on offense.

    That in itself is kind of remarkable for Boise State, which has been noted in the past for its offense.

    But, this year, Boise is known for its defense, which ranks 20th in the nation. The 1–6 Cowboys are ranked 99th.

    It seems clear to me that Boise State will win.
  • #22 Texas A&M at Auburn, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: These teams have only played twice — and neither game was played at Auburn.

    The first meeting was in 1911 in Dallas, which is not where A&M is located, but it was regarded as an Aggie home game on that occasion. I suppose the Aggies were considered the home team the second time the teams met, nearly 75 years later in the Jan. 1, 1986 Cotton Bowl.

    The Aggies won both games — and I'm inclined to think they will win this one, too. A&M has the ninth–best offense in the land (Auburn is 119th and has scored more than 20 points only once in seven games). Neither team is ranked very highly on defense, but A&M is ahead of Auburn. Not by much, but how far ahead do they have to be against the next–to–least productive offense in the country?

    I pick Texas A&M with confidence.
  • #23 Ohio at Miami (Ohio), 2:30 p.m. (Central) on These teams have been playing each other annually for 50 years, and it's been a pretty competitive series.

    Miami (Ohio) holds the edge overall, but Ohio has won the last six. Ohio has been better — considerably better — on both sides of the ball.

    I don't think anything more needs to be said. I'll go with Ohio.
  • #24 Louisiana Tech at New Mexico State: I'm tempted to say there is no hope for New Mexico State in this game.

    Louisiana Tech is 6&ndsh;2 all time against New Mexico State and has won the last five in a row. With the nation's second–ranked offense (led by QB Colby Cameron and running back Kenneth Dixon), Tech clearly outclasses NMSU, which is ranked 94th.

    At 1–6, New Mexico State is on track for its 10th straight losing season; meanwhile, 6–1 Tech is trying to land a prestigious bowl bid.

    However ...

    There is some hopeful news to report for NMSU fans.

    For one thing, New Mexico State is 2–2 when the game is played in Las Cruces, as this year's is.

    And, although NMSU's defense is ranked 100th in the nation, that's better than Louisiana Tech, which is 119th. I suppose you have to chalk that one up to the fact that they have played Texas A&M this season — and the twice–beaten Aggies are in the Top 10 nationally in offense.

    Oh, well, who am I kidding? Louisiana Tech will win this game.
Last week: 16–5

Season: 129–30

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