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The entire Midwest is awash in commentary on OSU-Northwestern, so we can't hope to add much to the conversation. But we will point out this quote, from Buckeye special teams coach Kerry Combs, on the unique demands of punting for Ohio State: "[T]here's a lot more that goes into being the punter, particularly here, than just talent, just being able to catch a ball and kick it."
If you watch on Saturday, and we hope you watch from home because ticket prices are ridiculous are ridiculous, keep an eye on the OSU punter, Aussie Cameron Johnston, and try to divine if he has whatever more goes into being a punter than catching and kicking. Our guess: the ability to not only catch the ball and kick the ball, but to run half-heartedly afterward. That is the mark of a true punter, one worthy of the scarlet and gray.
Our pick: Ohio State 37, Northwestern 24
College Football vs. Congress
Congress found a way for the Army Black Knights and Air Force Falcons to play football this weekend despite the government shutdown. So take heart, football fans, the U.S. Government hasn't forgotten you. Also active on Saturday: the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Yes, the Coast Guard has a football team. The Division III Bears - because bears are known to like big boats - will face off against the Western New England Golden Bears on Cadet Memorial Field on Saturday. We hope the Bears protect the end zone as well as they guard our borders.
Mississippi vs. Human Decency
Ole Miss players reportedly called out hateful comments from the audience during a recent school performance of The Laramie Project, a play about the 1998 murder of a gay teenager in Wyoming. For a program that waited until 2010 to retire former mascot "Colonel Reb", this latest incident reminds us that the Rebels (still the name; only the mascot has changed) still hate America.
Commodores Coach vs. Media Speculation
Vanderbilt finished the 2012 season at 9-4 and ranked in the Top 25. Prior to last year, no living fan had seen such a W-L record (Vandy last won nine games in 1915) and the team hadn't ended a season in the AP rankings since the Truman administration. Head coach James Franklin, now in his third year, deserves most of the credit. Always a subject of speculation, questions about Franklin's future have intensified following USC's dismissal of Lane Kiffin. Besieged by reporters asking about his interest in USC, Franklin unsuccessfully tried to steer his weekly press conference toward this weekend, at one point responding: "I'm really excited about playing Missouri. They have great colors."
Should the Commodores win, the hysteria will reach a new level leading up to Georgia on October 19. In a pinch, we suggest he start complimenting mascots: "I'm pumped to play Georgia. I've always liked bulldogs."
Lane Kiffin vs. The Field
Our four-coach trifecta box on Lane's replacement would look like this: Jack Del Rio (the favorite at 3/1), with Greg Roman (6/1), Steve Sarkisian (8/1), and the longshot, interim head coach Ed Orgeron (20/1).
Uniforms vs. Good Taste
* The new Arizona State helmets are en fuego - or did someone just leave them in the microwave with the nachos for too long?
* Adidas announced a new alternate home uniform for Tennessee, who will don the new TECHFIT "Smokey Gray" against Georgia this weekend. Adidas attempted to appease traditionalists by leaving the helmet untouched, but we still think the result looks more like a sad cross between a Lego fail and a Transformer.
Shell Game: New Mexico vs. New Mexico State
The New Mexico State-New Mexico rivalry predates New Mexico itself: the two teams first met in 1894, a full 18 years prior to New Mexico achieving statehood. Thus the game earned the "Rio Grande Rivalry" moniker, and not, say, the "Battle of the New Mexico Territory" or more poetic options, such as playing for "The Land of Enchantment Dreamcatcher." The first fails on two counts: people may have shown up expecting Apaches and Comanches, not Aggies and Lobos, and second, it doesn't have the same zip. Nor would The Land of Enchantment Dreamcatcher trophy make much sense, as The Land of Enchantment didn't yet exist. (Well, not as a state slogan. Undoubtedly the land was just as enchanted in the 1890s as today, despite the lack of Indian casinos.)
Oddly, the winner doesn't take home a trophy like in most such college match-ups. The two teams vied for control of The Maloof Trophy from 1993-2001, at which point the Maloof was retired. When NMSU hosted UNM in 2002, hoping to regain the Maloof after being crushed 53-0 in 2001, the Aggies were informed New Mexico had "retired" the trophy. The current whereabouts of the Maloof are unknown, though some suspect a high-stakes poker game was involved in its disappearance.
Lightning Special: Michigan State vs. Iowa
This game will boil down to fundamentals: advancing the runner, sacrifice flies, turning the double play, and lag bunts. Wait, that's baseball. You can excuse our confusion: the final score will look like the run tally from the MLB playoffs. Featuring some of the worst passing offenses in the country - MSU ranks 109th and Iowa 88th - and a forecast that calls for thunderstorms and high winds, and this one may end in single digits.
Our pick: Under 38
Bonus pick: "Lightning" the Under.
Lightning bets stake an extra 10% on the outcome, with bettors garnering or losing 10% of the principal for every point that covers (or fails to cover) the spread. Thus, a $100 "lightning" wager on the MSU-Iowa under nets an extra 50% if the final score amounts to 32, covering the under by 5 points. But no legal sportsbook in the U.S. offers the option, so if you find yourself on the wrong end of a disastrous lightning bet, don't e-mail us.
Jug Thugs: Minnesota vs. Michigan
The most contested trophy in sports is a drab piece of earthenware pottery. Minnesota and Michigan have battled over the Little Brown Jug since it was first claimed by the Gophers as a memento in 1903 after Minnesota ended Michigan's 28-game winning streak in a 6-6 tie. (A characteristic score for thrilling football games prior to the forward pass.)
In 1909, Minnesota athletic director Louis "Doc" Cooke supposedly wrote Michigan coach Fielding Yost, proposing the teams play for the rights to hold the Jug. Thus the Jug, which had been hanging undisturbed in Cooke's office for six years, went from knickknack to college football legend.
Today, the Little Brown Jugs sports a fancy new paint job displaying the team logos and colors along with the final scores. Michigan has dominated the series, with an overall record of 72-24-3 including a 16-game winning streak from 1987-2004, followed by another stretch from 2006 to present. Despite the lopsided record, the history of the game matters, and not just to traditionalists. Michigan coach Brady Hoke, on the historical trophies in the Big Ten: "You don't want them to come over to your sideline and take it back. I think that's very important."
Beginning next year, the Big Ten will split into East and West divisions (so much better than the current Legends and Leaders) as the conference incorporates Rutgers and Maryland. It's unclear at this point how often the two teams will face each other, as the conference only protected the Indiana-Purdue (!) rivalry game, which, as a cross-divisional game, would otherwise not take place each season. If the Gophers are to begin tilting the W-L total in the other direction, they had better get started soon . . . but we don't see it happening this weekend.
Our pick: Michigan 28, Minnesota 13
The Sacred Chicken Squawks
The College Football Report Free Range Sacred Chicken opened the season at 1-1 after the Stanford "No One Knows We Are A Top 5 Team" Cardinal romped Washington State and Clint Trickett led West Virginia to a home upset of Oklahoma State. Just goes to show, never bet against a Clint. The Mounties celebrated the win in true West Virginia style, setting 10 fires and flipping over a car in the school parking lot. No couches were harmed.
- #7 Louisville (-32) vs. Temple
Temple couldn't handle Idaho last week. The Cardinals may cover the spread and the Over (+/- 52) without any help from the Owls.
- #15 Washington vs. #5 Stanford (-7.5)
We ask again, does anyone know Stanford is ranked? Like, pretty high? If the Cardinal wins this weekend, we may not know how good the team truly is until November, when the Oregon Ducks visit Stanford Stadium. (File under, jinx, "Exhibit A".)
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.