BEAVER? DAMN: Penn State officials have confirmed that the need to renovate or rebuild the school’s iconic football stadium, if not construct a brand new one, is very real in the eyes of, well, people who determine such things. The 106,572-seat structure is the third largest of its kind in the world and undergone six, um, facelifts since first being erected at its current location in 1960. Obviously, it is old and rickety and lacks some of the amenities deemed necessary by today’s elitist fan and media bases. But, gotta say, it’s one of the best venues I’ve ever visited, large or small, for work or play, and has a history that is tough to match, even beyond college football circles. Its gameday experience is as good as one gets, too. So, it would be tough to say goodbye to it. However, if it remains, some stabilizing to the swaying upper decks in each end zone wouldn’t be a bad idea.
COMICAL STUFF: In keeping with a little PSU theme here, Nittany Lions fans may be happy to know that their team still sits higher in the Sagarin power ratings than Temple. After all, some things should never change … even after getting physically handled on the field by the Owls last month to the tune of a 27-10 loss. PSU currently stands at No. 51, according to Sagarin, and my one alma mater 54. In between the two sits my other alma mater, Illinois, at 52 – which brings about another chuckle from me, since the Lions are 0-2 against my alma maters within the last 10 months. Not to be outdone on the ridiculous factor, Alabama is No. 1, ahead of Ole Miss, which already beat ’Bama … at ’Bama.
KEEP IN MIND: Being one of the bigger proponents of the American Athletic Conference, but a realistic one at that, have to point out that the true measure of a circuit’s strength is how strong it is from top to bottom, and, frankly, the AAC didn’t show out as well against power-5 competition before the conference slate as I’d imagined it would. Temple, Memphis, Houston and East Carolina, safe to say, are four of the better teams in the AAC and went a combined 4-1 in games against power-5 schools. The rest of the AAC went 0-10 through September, although visiting UConn did have Missouri on the ropes.
QUITE OFFENSIVE: When it comes to producing yards and points, what Art Briles has created at Baylor is hard to match. Not only do the Bears have the nation’s top-rated quarterback in Seth Russell, who averages a mind-blowing 12.4 yards per passing attempt (which, essentially, is 2.5 times more than what Sam Bradford does for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles), but they have the country’s top-rated running attack and its No. 1 scoring offense, averaging 64 points per game. This week’s game against Texas Tech merited the highest over/under ever. Can’t wait to see the O/U when Baylor takes on TCU.
Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., will offer some insight into the Big Ten Conference West Division when Illinois hosts Nebraska on Saturday.
Indeed, beauty, or value, is in the eye of the beholder.
Take, for instance, this weekend's slate of college football action. Oh, there will be higher-profile matchups that take place this weekend, with ranked, conference opponents squaring off against one another and more media attention given to them, such as with No. 6 Notre Dame visiting No. 12 Clemson or No. 8 Georgia entertaining No. 13 Alabama or No. 23 West Virginia heading to No. 15 Oklahoma or No. 25 Florida hosting No. 3 Ole Miss in what the vibe here has as the weekend’s biggest upset.
But, really, when push comes to shove, and things ultimately shake out this season, we’ll likely look back at Week 5 of the 2015 college football season as when the Big Ten Conference started to take on something more than just amoeba-like form.
There will be no head-to-head clashes between squads rated among the top 25 in the country. There will be no current, legit Heisman candidates performing at any of the venues.
However, there will be some much-need enlightenment gained, either in the form of unveiling or undressing.
A total of five ranked B1G teams will be in action, and, frankly, none of them are givens to being worthy of their rankings. The only given with the five is that No. 2 Michigan State should have an easy time with seemingly always-in-traction Purdue on Saturday. The rest? Well, they’ll be put to the test, with the opportunity to prove they’re somewhat for real or not – or that their opposition just may be. Plus, the game in Champaign, Ill., between unranked Nebraska and host Illinois just may unearth a possible challenger in the conference’s West division.
So, without further ado …
1) No. 1 Ohio State at Indiana The Buckeyes have looked listless and lost thus far, yet with talent aplenty left over from last season’s national champs, they’re still 4-0. So, too, are the Hoosiers. Thing is, while I’d tend to agree that they rank among the softest unbeaten squad a month into a season, they do have prime-time players in QB Nate Sudfield and RB Jordan Howard, a slightly beefier and slower version of 2,000-yard runner Tevin Coleman. They’re also at home, and, not for nothing, but Ohio State has looked really bad at times regardless of who plays QB. While my confidence isn’t flying high over an upset, it ain’t exactly sensing an easy “W” for the visitors, either. EDGE … Indiana, but it is razor thin.
2) Minnesota at No. 16 Northwestern If you like ugly football, this is the game for you. As much as one would like to credit the team’s defenses for their early success, they’ve both benefitted from opponents’ mistakes as much as anything, and mistakes that were caused due to eyes bleeding from the ugliness going on before those eyes. On paper, the 3-1 Gophers have the more proven players (such as QB Mitch Leidner) and the more recent success (they went bowling last season; the Wildcats did not). But Northwestern (4-0) has a special talent in sophomore LB Anthony Walker, it is home and it likely will whip out some inspiring attire from its ever-increasing array of uniforms. EDGE … Northwestern, barely.
3) Iowa at No. 19 Wisconsin Despite the rankings, many consider the 4-0 Hawkeyes the better squad, and did so before the season even started. However, the only measurable opposition either team faced thus far was 3-1 Wisconsin when it lost to then-No. 3 Alabama, 35-17, to open the season (sorry, Iowa, beating another in a long line of nondescript Pitt teams, 27-24, on a last-second FG at home ain’t a big deal) and lost its best weapon, RB Cory Clement, in the process. Of course, Iowa could have revenge on its mind, having lost four straight in the series. EDGE … Neither.
4) No. 22 Michigan at Maryland The Wolverines are riding high now, having won three straight while setting the tone of playing the “Jim Harbaugh” way in the process. Good for them. The Terps, meanwhile, continue to be a study in funky uniforms and even funkier play. Now, Hurricane Joaquin may add to the funkiness at Byrd Stadium, already forcing the game to be moved up to a noon start in hopes of avoiding the storm’s wrath – and the Big Ten Network to bail on having its studio show do a remote from the site. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s all just a little too funky for Michigan to roll in and right out with a victory. EDGE … Joaquin.
5) Nebraska at Illinois As an alum of the latter, it’s never fun to see that light at the end of the tunnel refuse to get any closer seemingly year after year. While Huskers fans bemoan the lack of anything beyond 9-win seasons anymore, me and my fellow Illini backers seethe with envy. Funny thing is, this game could signal a turning point for both programs – if the host team shows up, ready to put some serious pressure on Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong, and if it tries to maintain balance with its own offense, utilizing ever-dangerous RB Josh Ferguson as much as possible and not relying on the equally ever-dangerous, short-yardage but long-distance throws that coach Bill Cubit seems to favor. The two are a combined 0-3 against quality competition, although the Huskers, at least, hung tough with both BYU and Miami. Still, this seems a tossup. EDGE … Time, it’s on the Illini side. It’s gotta be by now. Sheesh.
Should those scenarios play out anything like I imagine, we’d be looking at Michigan State cruising into the conference title game, where it will face the winner of the Northwestern-Illinois, post-Thanksgiving matchup at Soldier Field, with a shot to make the four-team national playoff.