(9/27) Cincinnati @ Ohio State. 6:00p, Big Ten Network.

It’s time for the 2014 Silver Bullets to solidify themselves as a top defense after shutting out Kent State. The Bearcats roll into town with QB Gunner Kiel, the 10th highest-rated passer in the country. The good news is that Cincy’s offensive eggs are all in the passing basket, so if the Buckeyes can disrupt Kiel, it could be a long night for the Bearcats. It also helps that the 12th highest-rated will be on the field Saturday night too.



Northwestern @ Penn State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Wyoming @ Michigan State. Noon, ESPN2.

Tulane @ Rutgers. Noon, ESPN News.

Maryland @ Indiana. 1:30p, Big Ten Network.

Minnesota @ Michigan. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

This week, Michigan AD Dave Brandon found a way to make tickets to the Minnesota game the 2014 equivalent of an AOL disk in the 90s.

Illinois @ Nebraska. 9:00p, Big Ten Network.



South Florida @ Wisconsin. Noon, ESPNU.

Iowa @ Purdue, Noon, Big Ten Network.


Central Michigan @ Toledo. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online) / BCSN (?)

Akron @ Pittsburgh. 1:30p, ESPN3 (online)

Bowling Green @ UMass. 3:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Eastern Illinois @ Ohio. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Miami (OH) @ Buffalo. 3:30p, ESPN3 (online)


Tennessee @ Georgia. Noon, ESPN.

Stanford @ Washington. 4:00p, Fox.

Notre Dame vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford. 8:00p, ABC.

The Spread, Week Five: The Fraud List

This year’s Fraud List is coming to you a week earlier than normal, because this is not going to be a normal year. Undefeated Power 5 conference teams are dropping like flies, and honestly I’m afraid if I wait another week, there won’t be anyone left to populate this list. And then I’ll have to think of something completely new and original to write, and nobody wants that.

A Fraud Team is a currently unbeaten team that I believe will end the season with a least five losses, of which their tend to around 2-4 each year. I’ll pick five and consider the list a success if at least one team is a true fraud and none of them finish better than 8-4.

1. Oregon State

The Beavers have three wins and so do their three opponents. Combined. Even though their only close win was on the road against Hawaii (is it still “on the road” when it’s Hawaii?) the softness of their opening schedule can not be overstated. Three of their next four games are on the road, and that includes USC and Stanford.

2. Washington

Similar to Oregon State, with close wins over Hawaii and Eastern Washington, the Huskies have played slightly better opponents and have a couple of blowouts as well. They take on Stanford next week and travel to Oregon on October 18th.

3. TCU

The Horned Frogs have only played two games, so maybe it’s not fair to put them on this list. But I’m still doing it. They play at dismal SMU next week, then face Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

4. N.C. State

The Wolfpack’s first four opponents are a combined 9-7, which isn’t terrible, but we’re talking about Old Dominion, Presbyterian, Georgia Southern and South Florida here. Hardly a fearsome bunch of teams. Their next four opponents are Florida State, Clemson, Boston College and Louisville, teams that are a combined 10-4 (which includes Clemson’s losses to FSU and Georgia.)

5. Mississippi State

I think 8-4 is more likely for the Bulldogs, but I wouldn’t rule out a freak loss to Kentucky or Arkansas while they try to navigate through upcoming opponents like Texas A&M, Auburn and Alabama.


My apologies for accidentally including Western Illinois @ Northwestern in last week’s guide. I hope I didn’t screw up anyone’s big party. The Buckeyes are off this week, so we’ll just be enjoying watching everyone else (hopefully) crash and burn.



Eastern Michigan @ Michigan State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Maryland @ Syracuse. 12:30p, ESPN3 (online)/ACC Network (is that a thing?)

Utah @ Michigan. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

The Big Ten is in a tailspin right now, so we might actually be forced to do the unthinkable this week: cheer for Utah, but be okay with it if they lose. (Sorry, SOS apologists, that’s as far as I’m willing to go.) Utah may not be a big name Pac-12 team like Oregon or Stanford, but they are 2-0 and the Big Ten really just needs any win over a decent major-conference opponent.

Rutgers @ Navy. 3:30p, CBS Sports Network.

UMass @ Penn State. 4:00p, Big Ten Network.

Texas State @ Illinois. 4:00p, ESPN News.

San Jose State @ Minnesota. 4:00p, Big Ten Network.

Indiana @ Missouri. 4:00p, SEC Network.

I mean, who knows, right?



Miami (OH) @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, CBS Sports Network.



Bowling Green @ Wisconsin. Noon, ESPN2.

Southern Illinois @ Purdue. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Western Illinois @ Northwestern. Noon, ESPN News.

Iowa @ Pittsburgh. Noon, ESPNU.

Miami (FL) @ Nebraska. 8:00p, ESPN2.

The Hurricanes are 2-1, so a win here is okay, but a loss is pretty much disastrous for the Big Ten. Guess which one’s going to happen!



Marshall @ Akron. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Ball State @ Toledo. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Idaho @ Ohio. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online)



Auburn @ Kansas State. 7:30p, ESPN.


Florida @ Alabama. 3:30p, CBS.

Oklahoma @ West Virginia. 7:30p, Fox.

Clemson @ Florida State. 8:00p, ABC.

The Spread, Week Four: What Did You Expect?

The Big Ten took a beating this past weekend–again. As the favorites in six of the nine non-conference games on the slate, the conference was looking for a little bit of redemption. Instead, it was another massive letdown.

Only Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska managed wins, and each of those was against a significantly weaker opponent. Penn State also squeaked past Rutgers, but that’s a wash for the conference.

Personally, I don’t really like the conference unity mindset spawned by the BCS and only exacerbated by the assumption that strength of schedule will be the major factor in making the new playoff. (I’m trying to really hard to not launch into yet another anti-SOS rant here.)

But since we live in a perception-is-reality college football world, I thought we’d take a look at how the conference is faring so far in that department with my Performance Against Expectation ratings.

Quickly, PAE is a calculation I came up with last year which compares the final score of a game to the “public prediction” of the score, as indicated by the associated betting numbers (point spread and over/under.) Teams who win do not always do so as convincingly as we thought they would and teams who lose do not always do so as badly as we thought. PAE reflects that. (Keep in mind that games without published lines–usually the ones against FCS teams–can not be included in this rating.)

It may surprise you that the Big Ten as a whole has actually outperformed expectations in two of three weeks of the season so far, including this week. To be fair, those numbers are boosted by a few great performances like Nebraska’s big win over Florida Atlantic and Ohio State’s shutout against Kent State.

So let’s look at the teams individually. It’s important to remember here that most teams’ ratings right now are based on just one or two games. Still, it’s a good measure of just how disappointing most Big Ten teams have been so far this year.

Big Ten PAE Rating through Week 3 (as a percentage)

1. Nebraska, 193%
2. Penn State, 123%
3. Ohio State, 120%
4. Rutgers, 118%
5. Wisconsin, 97%
6. Michigan State, 96%
7. Illinois, 86%
8. Maryland, 86%
9. Purdue, 76%
10. Minnesota, 67%
11. Indiana, 65%
12. Michigan, 60%
13. Iowa, 60%
14. Northwestern, 56%

Note that a high number doesn’t necessarily mean a better team. For example, no one really expects Purdue to do much, and they don’t. But people expect more of, say, Michigan than they’ve been able to deliver so far.

We’ll get a better sense of who these teams are as they all play some more meaningful games, but for now, it’s tough to argue that the public perception of the Big Ten as a “weak” and disappointing league is inaccurate.



(9/13) Kent State @ Ohio State. Noon, ABC/ESPN2.

It’s time to start the healing process. You’ll remember from previous losses that the Buckeye Healing Process consists of a home game against an Ohio MAC team, against which we will play poorly for at least the first quarter before finally overpowering them, leaving fans happy but nervous and nearly convinced that we’ll lose all of our remaining games.

So enjoy!



Toledo @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, ESPNU.


West Virginia @ Maryland. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Another Big Chance for the Big Ten. Can a conference newbie help erase last weekend’s debacle? Or would that just make it look worse?

Indiana @ Bowling Green. Noon, ESPNU.

Miami (OH) @ Michigan. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

Illinois @ Washington. 4:00p, Fox.

Minnesota @ TCU. 4:00p, FS1.

Penn State @ Rutgers. 8:00p, Big Ten Network.

The first Big Ten game of the season is an East Division matchup of unbeaten teams. Penn State and Rutgers have played 24 times (including every year from 1982-1995) and Rutgers has won twice, in 1918 and 1988.

Michigan State: no game.



Iowa State @ Iowa. 3:30p, ESPN.

Purdue @ Notre Dame. 7:30p, NBC.

Western Illinois @ Northwestern. Noon, ESPN News.

Nebraska @ Fresno State. 9:30p, CBS Sports Network.

Wisconsin: no game.



Ohio @ Marshall. Noon, CBS Sports Network.


Texas vs. UCLA in Arlington. 8:00p, Fox.

Tennessee @ Oklahoma. 8:00p, ABC.

The Spread, Week Three: Perspective

We lost a football game.

Here are some other things that happened in the past week:

The NCAA lifted Penn State’s scholarship sanctions and bowl ban. You might remember that these things were part of a massive package of punishments for covering up (or failing to properly investigate) serial child sexual abuser and former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Most of the complaints about the harsh sanctions were centered around unfairly punishing people who weren’t Jerry Sandusky (or the people who failed to bring him to justice earlier.) Keep in mind that it is entirely impossible to punish a school without punishing people who had nothing to do with the thing being punished.

Now, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden thinks Paterno’s vacated wins should be reinstated as well, because after all, it wasn’t JoePa doing unspeakable things to innocent children. This, of course, misses the point of the sanctions altogether, which was to jolt PSU and its community into rethinking the value they place on football over other things (not destroying children, for example.) Oh, and by the way, Bowden wouldn’t mind his wins back too, since you’re already over there.

As if that wasn’t enough, a large amount of Penn State students also would apparently like the Paterno statue back–although its removal was completely an institutional decision. It’s also worth noting that since the sanctions were imposed, PSU has managed to attract two pretty darn good coaches to what was supposed to be a smoldering crater of a football program.

So much for re-evaluating priorities.

Elsewhere, Rutgers decided to remove Ray Rice’s image from its stadium. You might think that this is related to the disgusting video of Rice knocking out his then-girlfriend in an elevator, but Rutgers says it’s just part of a routine weekly update of exhibits that are intended for current NFL players, which Ray Rice currently is not. (One has to wonder if they would add Rice back in should some team be dumb enough to pick him up in the future.)

The most amazing thing about this story is that Rice still had a job to lose after the initial video of the incident surfaced earlier this year–that version only showing the former Ravens RB dragging the unconscious woman out of the elevator. Somehow, that only warranted a two-game suspension. And spare me the defense of Goodell just following the rules, because my problem is with the fact that could ever become “the rules” in the first place.

On a lighter note, Eric Dickerson went ballistic on his alma mater, ranting about the current state of SMU football and longing for the dominant teams of his day, completely ignoring the fact that it was his and his teammates’ actions back then that crippled the program in the first place. Not to mention the fact that if it hadn’t been for the illicit wads of cash, none of those dominant players would have even gone to SMU. Oh, and Dickerson also mentioned that he and other former players decided that if “they” (read: SMU) didn’t want to “do anything” (read: win football games) then they should “kill the program.” Because winning is the only thing that matters, right?

So there’s three examples of the power of football in our society (what, you thought I wasn’t going anywhere with this?) The desire to win can lead people to openly break rules designed to achieve fairness, to set rules that devalue an entire group of human beings that isn’t even represented in the process, and to turn a blind eye to the most subhuman behavior imaginable.

You may think that Mark Emmert is a bumbling fool or that the NCAA is an antiquated, broken institution. You may think that vacating wins is a pointless punishment or that the so-called “Death Penalty” is too harsh of one. But these things are exactly what they were trying to fight with that monumental penalty against PSU. They saw a sports culture that had spiraled out of control and tried to take a stand against it.

But they failed. Lifting Penn State’s sanctions is essentially an admission of defeat. Has anything changed?

We lost a football game.

Leap Of Faith

This might seem like an odd place to talk about this, as it has nothing to do with Ohio State or the Big Ten or Brady Hoke’s waistline. This is way more important than those things. This is about kids–young athletes who just want a chance to make it in college football, an entity that has become an enormous star-making, money-printing machine powered by the passion of students, alumni, and fans.

This is about terrible people who exploit that passion, who take advantage of those kids, who make a mockery of the sport we love.

First and foremost, read this: Are There Two Fake Schools Operating On The Periphery of CFB? This was posted by reddit user /u/Honestly_ to /r/cfb on Friday. Many of you have probably seen it, but for those of you who haven’t, please go read it. You don’t have to read all the comments, but read through Honestly’s write-up and check out the links he provides. This is crazy, shocking stuff.

It’s important right now, because ESPN posted a story the same day about a new NCAA defensive record set by D-II Tusculum College. The school they set that record against is the College of Faith, one of the two schools Honestly investigated. Do we want the record books rewritten against programs that aren’t connected to legitimate institutes of higher learning?

While Honestly raises the possibility that the “student” athletes may be complicit in this (possibly getting paid since they wouldn’t be subject to any regulation,) I’m more inclined to think that’s not the case. The schools seem set up specifically to target the unsuspecting and naive, using religion as a hook in the way politicians and televangelists often do. The admissions requirements are non-existent. There are nonrefundable fees and “tuition deposits.” There are charges for adding and dropping courses. One the schedules implies that three of the games will be televised by ESPN, but this is pretty obviously a lie.

Davidson College played College of Faith on August 30th. The shutout victory was Davidson’s first win since November of 2012 and their first by more than eight points since September of 2011. Davidson plays in the Division I-FCS Pioneer League, the same conference that houses the University of Dayton’s football program. While it’s unlikely that an FBS school would schedule a game with one of these “colleges,” it’s concerning that they have managed to get on the field with a Div-I program, even one that’s not very good.

While I personally think these organizations should be thoroughly investigated and immediately shut down, I understand that’s probably unlikely. At the very least, I hope this serves as a cautionary tale for young athletes looking for an opportunity to show their stuff at the next level.



(9/6) Virginia Tech @ Ohio State. 8:00p, ESPN.

We didn’t learn a lot from either team’s opening game, but it’s worth noting that the offenses had nearly identical performances. Both teams were breaking in new QBs, and each one threw 2 TDs and 1 pick with yardage in the mid-200s. Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer threw the ball twice as much as J.T. Barrett with a similar completion rate, but that only amounted to 25 more yards of offense. Both teams also rushed about 40 times for around 200 yards.

Defensively, who knows? You don’t learn much about your defense from playing Navy, and I can’t imagine you get a good feel for it by playing William & Mary either. This is going to be an enormous game for both teams. I know we’re the comfortable favorite, but I’m not taking anything for granted.


Middle Tennessee @ Minnesota. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

Howard @ Rutgers. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Michigan State @ Oregon. 6:30p, Fox.

Well, Wisconsin couldn’t hold against LSU after losing the rock-toting services of Melvin Gordon, so the Big Ten turns to returning conference champ Michigan State and this massive matchup, easily the best game in the country this week. Sparty plays the type of defense that gives Oregon fits, but the Ducks are as unrelenting on offense as ever.

Akron @ Penn State. Noon, ABC/ESPN2.

Michigan @ Notre Dame. 7:30p, NBC.

It’s the last time this game will be played for a long time, maybe forever. Despite large amounts of hatred for both teams, this is still usually a fun game to watch. Not that I’ll be watching most of it, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.

Western Kentucky @ Illinois. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Maryland @ South Florida. 3:30p, CBS Sports Network.

South Alabama @ Kent State. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online).

Indiana: no game.
Cincinnati: no game.



Ball State @ Iowa. 3:30, ESPN2.

Central Michigan @ Purdue. Noon, ESPN News.

Northern Illinois @ Northwestern. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

McNeese State @ Nebraska. Noon, ESPNU.

Western Illinois @ Wisconsin. Noon, Big Ten Network.



Missouri @ Toledo. Noon, ESPN.

Ohio @ Kentucky. 3:30p, ESPNU.

Eastern Kentucky @ Miami (Ohio). 3:30p, ESPN3 (online).

VMI @ Bowling Green. 3:30p, ESPN3 (online).



USC @ Stanford. 3:30p, ESPN.

Literally the only non-Big Ten game worth watching this week.

The Spread, Week Two: Jumping to Conclusions

Look, I’m as excited as anybody for the new playoff in college football. Yes, there will still be controversy and we’re not where we need to be yet, but it will be nice to see things settled on the field more than ever before.

But would it be possible to not talk about who’s going to make the playoff until at least October?

I made the mistake of turning on ESPNU yesterday, and almost immediately there was a lengthy segment about which four teams would make the playoff if the season ended right now. Yes, really. Actual human beings collecting paychecks for talking about sports were having a serious discussion about a hypothetical college football season that only lasts one week, long enough for most teams to play a single game and for some to play even fewer than that.

Of course these brilliant college football philosophers (I don’t remember who they all were, but Tom Luginbill was one of them) put their heads together and came up with an answer that no one saw coming: Lots of SEC teams! Despite what was by most accounts a fairly lackluster showing for the conference last weekend, ESPN still can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet SEC. I can’t imagine why.

Each of the four or five panelists included at least two SEC teams in their groups, usually mixed in with Florida State and Oregon. Luginbill (there’s a reason I remembered him) actually slotted his top three with SEC teams. I know ESPN has long since given themselves over to the almighty dollar, but would it kill them to sometimes pretend to have the slightest shred of professional integrity?

From time to time, ESPN also likes to pretend their not just a collection of desperate newspaper writers, bitter ex-athletes and -coaches, and Syracuse grads. So they come up with nonsensical new “stats” like QBR or FPI. The FPI, simply, is just a number ESPN plans to hype the crap out of in an effort to influence the playoff committee. Unsurprisingly, FPI is also remarkably kind to the SEC.

Two SEC teams (Alabama and Auburn) are currently in the FPI top four, and seven more make appearances by the time you get to #21. But don’t worry, they also went ahead and put together a conference-based version of the number and sure enough, the SEC came out on top.

Interestingly, the article touting the conference’s dominance in these rankings even points out that SEC teams didn’t play as well as people expected and that the Big Ten dropped in the rankings even though they had a “strong week.”

Now I’m not one for conspiracy theories (although we’ve seen examples of ESPN’s misleading rhetoric before) and I would never deny anyone their right to try to hype up the assets that are going to make them money. But when the hype becomes a blatant attempt to influence a selection committee, that’s something I have a problem with.


Change is the theme for the 2014 college football season, so with that in mind, I’m changing up the TV Guide structure, packaging games in groups to help you enjoy the best of the national landscape, follow all our fellow Ohio schools and conference foes, and/or scout our remaining schedule.


Ohio State @ Navy. Noon, CBS Sports Network.

This is the moment of truth. It might have been less stressful to open the season in the Shoe against an Ohio MAC or FCS opponent with Braxton’s injury casting a shadow of doubt over the season, but a road test against a tricky opponent will tell us more about our young QBs heading into a pivotal battle against Virginia Tech next week.

Note that the game is on CBS Sports Network, not regular CBS. This should be DirecTV 221, Dish 158, Time Warner 1322, U-Verse 1643 & Verizon FiOS 594. Check to make sure you get this channel now! (If anyone knows of corrections or additions to this list, leave them in the comments!)



Eastern Illinois @ Minnesota. 7:00p, Big Ten Network.

Rutgers @ Washington State. 10:00p, Fox Sports 1.


Jacksonville State @ Michigan State. 7:30p, Big Ten Network.


Penn State vs. UCF in Ireland. 8:30a, ESPN2.

Appalachian State @ Michigan. Noon, ESPN2.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a repeat of the 2007 game, but we can dream, can’t we? Despite being a far worse team now than back then, App State does have one thing going for them: motivation. You think these kids don’t want to do the same thing their predecessors did? You think they haven’t been hearing all about how they won’t be able to? And let’s not forget: Michigan isn’t the team they were back then either.

Indiana State @ Indiana. Noon, ESPN News.

Youngstown State @ Illinois. Noon, Big Ten Network.

James Madison @ Maryland. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

William & Mary @ Virginia Tech. 4:00p, ESPN News.

Ohio @ Kent State. 6:00p, ESPN3 (online).

Cincinnati: no game.


Northern Iowa @ Iowa. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Western Michigan @ Purdue. Noon, ESPNU.

California @ Northwestern. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

Florida Atlantic @ Nebraska. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

LSU vs. Wisconsin in Houston. 9:00p, ESPN.

This is the first chance for the Big Ten to make a big statement in 2014. Both teams had solid seasons last year, with only one blowout loss (LSU’s 21-point loss to Alabama) between them. Rumor is that the Badgers will give the athletic Tanner McEvoy the nod at QB over the more experienced (and more predictable) Joel Stave. You may remember McEvoy as a safety, the position he played most of last year after switching from wide receiver due to a wrist injury. Did I mention he’s athletic?



Howard @ Akron. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online).


Bowling Green @ Western Kentucky. 7:30p, CBS Sports Network.


Marshall @ Miami (Ohio). 3:30p, ESPN3 (online).

New Hampshire @ Toledo. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online).



Texas A&M @ South Carolina. 6:00p, SEC Network.


Alabama vs. West Virginia in Atlanta. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

Clemson @ Georgia. 5:30p, ESPN.

Despite the departures of Tahj Boyd and Aaron Murray, this should still be an entertaining and competitive game. Georgia is probably the better team this year, but that’s what most people thought last year too.

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State in Arlington. 8:00p, ABC.


Miami (Florida) @ Louisville. 8:00p, ESPN.