It was June of 1974 when Mom and Dad invited some people from New York to come visit us in our hometown of Ashland, Ohio. They weren’t just any guests, but one of Dad’s closest buddies from the 27th Infantry Division, a unit that fought its way across the Pacific during World War II. He had not seen him in the almost three decades since the war had ended.
So here I was standing under one of our huge Weeping Willow trees in the backyard, munching on some shrimp cocktail watching the parents and 30 or so of their closest friends indulging with some adult beverages. I surmised Dad’s guests must have been a special couple because we rarely had shrimp. I was taking in the scene, wiping cocktail sauce off my shirt when this guy approached me.
His name was John Lewis.
After some small talk, he got right to the point.
“Let me show you something, son,” he said, pulling his wallet from his pants pocket.
He pulled out one of those wallet-sized photo binders, which unraveled about five feet to the grass I had just mowed hours earlier. “Look at these faces,” he said. “…My wife and all my favorite pictures of my kids. We have a great family. I love these pictures.”
He had tears in his eyes.
He then pointed to Dad, who had a beer in one hand and his arm around Mom’s shoulder.
“Look over there … that’s a great man right there,” he told me. “Did he ever tell you about me?”
I mumbled something, but I truly had never heard of this guy before.
“Well, let me tell you that every face in those photos exists because of your father,” he said. “They wouldn’t be here without him. I wouldn’t be here talking to you today without him.”
Now the tears were running down his cheeks and he had my attention. So he began to tell me his war story. It was June of 1944 when the 27th was taking mortar fire on the island of Saipan, one of the fiercest battles in the Pacific where the Japanese eventually suffered a 100 percent casualty rate. He got hit by one and jumped into a foxhole, surely to bleed out and die right then and there with no medic in sight.
That’s when my dad, William “Ed” Snook, jumped into the foxhole with him.
Later, I asked Dad to tell me the story.
“Well, we pulled into Saipan and we had expected to be floating reserve there for the Marines,” he began. “But on the second day, it was obvious we were needed on Saipan … everybody on our side was fighting for their lives. We were right off shore and I looked through my binoculars and I could see everything going on. It was a helluva fight.
“We came in on Red Beach. I could hear the firing, hear the pinging of bullets. I knew it was close. The Marines didn’t get in but 100 yards or 200 yards and they had to pull back. It was an eye- opener for me. There were dead bodies everywhere, including many of our own. I could tell ours from theirs only by the boot. We wore GI combat boots and the Japanese wore a tennis-shoe type of boot.
“Eventually, we made our way to the highlands of the island. I remember in Saipan we fought and fought and I went 30 days without a bath. I would see a puddle of rain on a rock or tree leaves and I would take a towel to it and get a quick bath. After weeks of fighting, we had pushed them to Death Valley, aptly named as it turned out.
“During one battle, I was confident that they had us pinned down and we lost four or five men right away. I heard “pop pop pop pop” and I hit the ground. They had a weapon called a “knee mortar” … firing shells about the size of a baseball. I could see them … probably coming at us at a range of 500 to 700 yards. They were just reigning mortars on us. The Japanese mortar shells were not like our grenades. There would be a huge bang concussion and it would split apart in two pieces.
“A friend of mine who took care of the weapons … he could fix any weapon there was. He was just a little guy who wore these big thick glasses. He was right next to me when I heard it and I knew right away he had bought it. I looked over and half of that shell hit him right in the side of the head. It had just missed me and hit him. He was gone.
"Our radio man also took a hit and he ran into a depression. There was no medic with us.”
So Dad jumped in with John Lewis, the radioman.
“It didn’t look too bad in the front, but he was moaning and groaning,” Dad told me. “I said, ‘Hey John, you didn’t get hit too bad. You'll be OK.' Then I rolled him over and I could have put my fist in that hole in his back. He wasn’t bleeding at the mouth, so I gave him some pain pills. He slugged down water, which later I was told was a mistake. I took the biggest sulfa pack I had and stuffed it in that hole in his back and wrapped it as tight as I could."
“Can you move?” I asked him. “We have got to get out of here.”
The wounded man couldn’t move.
“John was bigger than me, but I got him over my shoulder and started blowing my whistle as I ran. We all carried whistles to call for the medics. I knew if I get him back about 200 to 300 yards I could get a medic to him.”
So he did just that, after surviving a long run under fire, he laid John Lewis down at the feet of a medic before returning to the front line.
“I really figured he was a goner and I would never see him again,” Dad explained.
The U.S. won the battle in July of 1944, taking Saipan in order to build airstrips which gave our airplanes shorter trips on bombing missions. Once the Japanese army was defeated, many Japanese women and children jumped off the cliffs of Saipan rather than be captured by the Americans. Dad saw many of their suicides through his binoculars.
Months later, he was on a medical ship offshore, recovering from Dengue fever and lock jaw and one of his buddies mentioned John Lewis.
“Yeah, what about him?” Dad asked.
“Well, he was telling me what you did,” the buddy explained.
“You mean he’s alive?” Dad asked.
He was shocked to learn that Lewis not only was alive, but was starting to recover from the mortar wound.
“He put me in for the silver star,” Dad said, “but they awarded me the Bronze Star instead. I always joked with him that he if had been a corporal I would have gotten that Silver Star. We always had a special bond after that.”
Dad had requisitioned some souvenirs off the Japanese near the end of the war, things I saw in our basement over the years. One of them was a knee mortar that sat on a mantle behind our downstairs bar.
That day in the summer of 1974, Dad took John Lewis to the basement and pointed to it.
“That’s the weapon that hit you,” he explained.
I remember John standing there staring at the piece of killing equipment and I wondered what must have been going through his mind.
John Lewis and his wife died within the past 10 years, leaving behind children and grandchildren and great memories and a complete life together. As for Dad, he will turn 97 years old in January. He has trouble walking and he spends most days in the den watching westerns like “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” and any war documentary or movie that he can find on TV. Behind his chair on one wall of that den is a glass case housing his bronze star and purple heart.
He still has an ice-cold beer around 5 p.m. every day and his memory is sharp as a tack. He has often told me there is not a day that goes by that he does not think of something that happened during those four years from 1941-45.
I am proud to think he was a member of the Greatest Generation of Americans that changed the world during those four years. It’s also painful to remember that more than 400,000 Americans did not return home from that war, but since that summer day in 1974, I have often thought of John Lewis’ photo album and I have been thankful that he and Dad were two GIs who made it home.
So cheers Dad. And Happy Veterans’ Day!
Last Updated (Saturday, 21 November 2015 18:06)
After the past three Saturdays, you just have to wonder: Where will the next wackiest final-play ending to a college football game happen?
First, we had the Michigan State miracle in Ann Arbor on what was an ordinary punt. Then we had Georgia Tech’s blocked field goal return to upset undefeated Florida State. Last week, we saw Miami throw eight backward passes, one of which was from a player’s knee, which also included one obvious block in the back and two more possible blocks in the back and a 12th man running onto the field sans helmet, to return a kickoff to upset Duke.
All that was missing was Duke’s band on the field.
The first two were legitimate plays, not enabled by poor officiating.
The latter, however, was an abomination in which the officials somehow missed the play live and then the instant replay official missed doing the right thing during the nine-minute review.
The ACC crew was suspended for two games and probably should have been fired.
While Miami fans have mocked Duke and already printed T shirts celebrating the play, many in the media have called for the Hurricanes to forfeit the game or for the ACC to overturn the outcome. Neither would be right. Once a game is called final, no matter how poor the officiating, it should remain final.
Amazingly, when the Hurricanes were returning the kick, Minnesota was scoring to upset Michigan. However, the Gophers’ apparent game-winning touchdown pass was overturned as the tight end’s knee landed on the 1-yard line with 19 seconds remaining.
The Gophers (with one timeout in their pocket) then exhibited the worst clock management of the year, under interim coach Tracy Claeys, and let 11 seconds ran off before they snapped the ball for their next play – and this was after an instant replay review. The incomplete pass left only two seconds on the clock and rather than kick a game-tying field goal and go to overtime, Claeys rolled the dice and a quarterback sneak was stuffed for no gain. Game over. Michigan wins 29-26.
Claeys has openly campaigned for the job but if I was Minnesota’s athletic director, that mind-boggling blunder would eliminate his candidacy.
Which brings me to…
FOSTER NEEDS A PROMOTION AT VIRGINIA TECH
If there’s ever been a more obvious or deserving assistant coach to be promoted to head coach at the same program, it has to be Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s situation in the wake of Frank Beamer’s retirement.
Over the past 20 years, Foster has turned down defensive coordinator jobs at Florida (under Steve Spurrier) and Texas A&M (under Kevin Sumlin), along with several others, to remain loyal to the Hokies. In fact, he also turned down several head coaching jobs, including the Pittsburgh job three years ago.
But signs are pointing that new athletic director Whit Babcock may want to make an outside hire. Not helping Foster’s chances are his age (56) and the fact the Hokies’ defense has been inconsistent the past two seasons, largely due to injuries. However, from 1995-2013, no defense in the country was more sound or well-coached than Virginia Tech’s. Just ask Urban Meyer and Tom Herman, who were completely befuddled during the Hokies’ 35-21 upset of Ohio State in September, 2014 – the last game Ohio State has lost.
If I was Babcock, I still would give Foster the job, believing he would add his own style, ideas and upgrades while nobody knows the recruiting area and the entire program as well as him. There would be little transition and it would be a popular hire amid the fan base. If Babcock goes outside the program, however, as it appears he will, Babcock would be on the hook for a missed hire.
The latest reports have Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, 39, interested in the job. Smart may become a good head coach someday, but if Babcock is to promote an assistant coach, it needs to be the one in his own building.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Alabama 27, LSU 20 – It should be close, but I can’t pick against the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Clemson 31, Florida State 27 – This appears to be the Tigers’ year. No more Clemsoning? We’ll see.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Indiana 29, No. 10 Iowa 26 – I’ll take the bait; just don’t think the Hawkeyes are that good.
BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Texas 44, Kansas 6 – The Jayhawks own the right side of this category.
BEST BETS: Tulsa (-14 ) over Central Florida; Florida State (+12.5) at Clemson; Michigan State (-4.5) at Nebraska; North Carolina State (-3.5) at Boston College.
Ohio State 38, Minnesota 14 – It’s Cardale’s show for one week.
Baylor 34, Kansas State 24 – Much closer than expected.
Temple 31, SMU 6 – The Owls are very good, as they proved in loss to Notre Dame.
Purdue 44, Illinois 40 – Can the Boilermakers build on upset of Nebraska?
North Carolina 27, Duke 24 – How will the Blue Devils react to that heartbreak of a week ago?
Georgia 38, Kentucky 24 – Mark Richt needs a win perhaps more than any other coach in the country.
Florida 35, Vanderbilt 17 – The surprising Gators keep rolling.
Northwestern 24, Penn State 10 – I think the Nittany Lions are the Big Ten’s most overrated team.
Notre Dame 30, Pitt 28 – This could be an upset if the Panthers get a key turnover or two.
Miami 40, Virginia 20 – The Cavs’ Mike London may be the next coach to go.
Michigan 38, Rutgers 7 – The Wolverines got lucky at Minneapolis and return home first time since wild Michigan State finish.
Wisconsin 41, Maryland 15 – The Badgers are playing better while the Terps are rudderless.
Tennessee 34, South Carolina 14 – Should be an easy one for the Volunteers at home.
Last Updated (Thursday, 05 November 2015 17:19)
If you are a fan of college football, or of great people in general, your heart had to break for Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill when he announced his retirement Wednesday.
Kill, who has battled epilepsy and has had several seizures during his coaching career, announced he had to walk away from the game for good for the good of his health.
And he said it with tears in his eyes during an emotional press conference.
“You all know the struggles I have been through and some of them have returned,” he said. “I don’t want to cheat the game. Count on your health, not your wealth and count on God, instead of yourself.”
Kill admitted cheating on his medicine and not taking what the doctor prescribed, because it was not allowing him to think clearly, which he deemed unfair to his players. And his doctor obviously noticed and gave him a stern warning – that it was football or his life.
“I don’t want to be a liability,” Kill said. “I don’t want anybody to have to worry about if I am going to drop on the field. And I don’t want to coach from the pressbox.”
Contrast Kill’s retirement with Steve Spurrier walking away from South Carolina two weeks ago. Spurrier, 70, quit on his team mid-season, because he hated losing. Kill, 54, obviously would give anything to trade positions with Spurrier, having a healthy body so he could continue what he was called to do – coaching.
By now, the eighth week of the season, it is obvious that this will be the year of tremendous coaching turnover in college football. To illustrate the turmoil, just consider that three of the last four opponents for Ohio State likely will have new head coaches next season (Maryland, Rutgers and Minnesota).
It is not yet November and there are eight head-coaching openings and more are sure to come. Here are the openings so far, ranked in order of the best jobs:
USC – Pete Carroll made it one of the top-five coaching jobs in the country, which it once was in the 1970s before the Trojans became mediocre through much of the ‘80s and ‘90s. If a coach can’t sign four- and five-star athletes here, he can’t get them anywhere. It is premier recruiting ground, coupled with a rich tradition of championships and Heisman Trophy winners – and it is Los Angeles, after all. BEST CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB: Jeff Fisher, Clay Helton, Kyle Wittingham. The Men of Troy may have to go outside the family, like they did with Carroll, to find their next savior.
MIAMI – I've heard some on ESPN say this job is better than USC's. Not even close. It’s not the great job it once was simply because the Orange Bowl is long gone. Given Al Golden made about half the money that most coaches in the SEC make, it is not even a very good job anymore. Miami needs an on-campus stadium more than any program in the country, but space is limited in tiny Coral Gables so the Hurricanes continue to play 30 miles away in Broward County in mostly empty Sun Life Stadium. I love it when TV announcers say it is “a half-empty” stadium. UM officials would love a half-empty stadium. Mostly, it’s a “two-thirds empty” stadium, unless Florida State comes to town every other year. Miami cannot afford the money it takes to attract a head coach who is making more money at another school, so it probably will hire someone with UM ties. BEST CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB: Greg Schiano, Mario Cristobal, Rob Chudzinski.
SOUTH CAROLINA -- The Gamecocks have never won much of anything, until Steve Spurrier put together three 11-win seasons. But Clemson now owns the Palmetto State with a richer football tradition and better fan base. It’s tough to recruit in Columbia, surrounded by Georgia, Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee. Plus, every season, the Gamecocks must compete with Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Missouri in the SEC East. This is really not a plum job, not even in the top 20 in my opinion. BEST CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB: Justin Fuente, Kirby Smart.
CENTRAL FLORIDA – I really think this can be a pretty good job, as George O’Leary discovered two years ago when the Knights played in front of big crowds at a new stadium and won the Fiesta Bowl. It is in the heart of fertile recruiting territory, too, located in Orlando.
MARYLAND – It’s now a decent job since the Terps joined the Big Ten, which paid the school approximately $28 million last year and even more will flow through the coffers this year. Maryland is in the middle of facility upgrades which will be finished in 2018. The East Coast is a great recruiting ground, but football tradition isn’t close to the basketball tradition in College Park.
MINNESOTA – The Gophers have a new on-campus stadium and solid tradition as a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten program. It’s tough to get top three- and four-star Southern kids to visit Minneapolis and that leaves the head coach here with recruiting three-star Midwest players, competing with the MAC as well as Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.
ILLINOIS --- See above. Not a great job by any means. Only John Mackovic has succeeded here before moving on to a better job (Texas). Otherwise, it’s a dead end for most head coaches, who end up fired after three or four years.
OTHER PROBABLE OPENINGS … It would be very surprising if Virginia Tech is not added to this list by late November. It is no secret that the natives are restless and Frank Beamer’s 29-year tenure probably will come to an end through retirement. The Hokies’ job would rank right behind the Miami job for third on this list – their facilities have been upgraded tremendously in recent years with a recently-completed indoor practice facility and Lane Stadium is one of the best atmospheres in college football. However, it is tough to recruit in the state of Virginia…
Hawaii surely will open as well, as Norm Chow will either be fired or retire from coaching, but few experienced head coaches would be clamoring for this job, even though it means living in paradise, The athletic department struggles to pay its bills and plays in front of sparse crowds at an off-campus stadium.
The Hokies’ rival, Virginia, also likely will have an opening. Mike London has had more than enough chances to turn the Cavaliers into winners and it’s obvious he cannot pull off the job, even though the administration has thrown tons of money at facilities and London’s staff.
Iowa State probably will fire Paul Rhoads, who has a 7-24 record in the past three seasons and is in his seventh year. And Rutgers’ Kyle Flood isn’t likely to survive his mental boo-boo in contacting a professor over a player’s academic status, an act for which he served a three-game suspension earlier this season. More importantly, after a 55-52 win at Indiana, the Scarlet Knights were not competitive against Ohio State. Now flush with Big Ten money, Rutgers can afford to fire him. Ditto for Purdue’s Darrell Hazell, a former Jim Tressel assistant who has a 5-26 record for the Boilermakers. Purdue is not improving and attendance is dropping like a rock. Not a good sign.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Georgia 21, Florida 17 – A hard-hitting, low-scoring game, but as Games of the Week go, not much national attention.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Temple (+11) over Notre Dame – I really think the Owls can pull off the upset. This is the real Game of the Week, but had to pick it as an upset.
BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma 59, Kansas 0 – Aren’t the hapless Jayhawks on this list every week?
BEST BETS: Houston (-13) over Vanderbilt – Cougars are unbeaten and explosive; UCLA (-20) over Colorado – Buffs are reeling again; Louisville (-11) at Wake Forest – The Deacons are just bad.
Michigan 23, Minnesota 20 – The Gophers will be fired up to upset Michigan on behalf of Jerry Kill.
Nebraska 35, Purdue 17 – The Boilermakers just can’t get it together while the Cornhuskers have lost four heart-breakers.
Tennessee 38, Kentucky 35 – A shootout and a close one.
Virginia Tech 12, Boston College 7 – Seriously, it may be this low-scoring.
USC 38, Cal 30 – Will the Trojans put together two consecutive good performances?
Iowa 34, Maryland 10 – The unbeaten Hawkeyes rolling toward Big Ten West title.
Ole Miss 30, Auburn 27 – The Tigers lose on The Plains again.
Clemson 44, N.C. State 27 – These Tigers have some big bite.
Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 24 – Spurrier would not have loved playing in College Station.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 28 October 2015 21:44)
If you are a Michigan State fan, or even an Ohio State fan, call it the play that just keeps on giving.
By now, I have watched the ending to the Michigan-Michigan State game approximately 25 times and I notice something new each time.
It was a play that will go down in history, one that you will see being replayed 20 years from now. Jalen Watts-Jackson’s 38-yard return of a botched punt attempt on the final play, giving the Spartans a 27-23 win was the most-shocking play I ever witnessed.
The previous No. 1 also happened in Ann Arbor: Kordell Stewart’s 73-yards in-the-air Hail Mary pass that allowed Colorado to stun the Wolverines in 1994. (if you want to watch it… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nt6HjqtJt8).
Let’s face it, we see about three or four Hail Marys per season. And once, with Arkansas leading Tennessee in 1998, I remember seeing a team botch the kneel-down “victory formation” play, fumbling and losing. That enabled the Volunteers to win the national championship less than two months later.
But still, it was nothing like this.
What really stood out upon watching replays is seeing the Wolverines’ lone gunner – lined up about 15 yards to the left of the left end – completely alone and uncovered. Of course, if punter Blake O’Neill had tossed it in his direction and the ball fell incomplete, Jim Harbaugh would have been even more second-guessed than he is being today.
In retrospect, throwing a lollipop to the uncovered gunner would have been safer than trying to get a punt off. He could have caught the pass, gained enough for the first down and simply fall down to end the game – or trot the final 45 yards or so for another touchdown. Just imagine, had the Wolverines scored a rub-it-in-touchdown that way on the final play as the Spartans sold out to block the punt … it would have been typical Harbaugh and energized Michigan’s fan base even further. And I am sure it is one of the first things that jumped out at Michigan’s head coach when he watched, and re-watched, the play on tape.
Of course, it all comes down to O’Neil catching the long snap, no matter what decision the head coach makes.
I think Harbaugh was completely correct not to run a conventional play on fourth-and-2 in this situation. Leaving the Spartans a Hail Mary opportunity, as he mentioned, is not the thing to do because too many of them have been completed over the years.
“They were rushing 11, so felt pretty good with no one back there (that the clock would expire),” Harbaugh explained.
Michigan State actually rushed 10, with the gunner on the boundary side covered downfield.
The one thing most teams have practiced in these situations is having the quarterback take the snap, roll one way or another, and then throw the highest, longest pass possible that lands out of bounds. During practices, most of these plays last seven to eight seconds. Harbaugh considered it and didn’t think the play could eat up the entire 10 seconds on the clock and he is probably right, considering Michigan State would have sold out in rushing the quarterback.
What also was a surprise in the aftermath is hearing Michigan’s former coach, Brady Hoke, a guy who had a 31-20 record in Ann Arbor, a guy who made more questionable decisions than any head coach in the country from 2011-14, publicly second-guessed his replacement. This, from a guy who didn’t even know his quarterback on the field was playing with a concussion in one game last season:
“There’s too many mechanical parts to [the punt],” he told the Detroit News. “The one gunner to the field should have been in a little bit more. If you are going to be in there’s ways to protect it a little bit better. Hold the guys, have the other guys come in a little bit. I, as a coach, you’ve got to play to your strength. And your strength is your defense. And if it’s a Hail Mary and that’s all it would have been…”
Hoke was asked about going for the first down.
“Your playbook’s open now,” he said. “If you throw the ball, the clock’s going to stop anyway, if you don’t make it, because of the fourth down. You have an ability to give De’Veon Smith the ball, challenge your offensive line or play-action pass because Michigan State’s going to be aggressive. You take some time off the clock, four or five seconds. A 60-yard field goal … (Michigan State kicker Michael) Geiger before the game was 5-of-9 and it’s a 60 yard field goal.”
Shows how out of touch Hoke is. The line of scrimmage was Michigan State’s 47-yard line, meaning if the Wolverines didn’t gain a yard, it would have been a 70-yard field goal attempt, eliminating it as a possibility. A Hail Mary would have been Michigan State’s only option.
I do feel bad for O’Neill, a 22-year-old Australian who grew up playing Australian Rules Football. That game breeds the mentality to always try to pick up the ball and kick it, no matter what. And he admirably faced the media for 10 minutes Monday and admitted that was his mind-set.
As O’Neill tried to turn and kick the football, his right arm was hit from behind, forcing the football up into the air toward the Michigan sideline, where Watts-Jackson just happened to be standing. Once the caught the ball, there was no guarantee that Watts-Jackson would score. As he rambled toward the end zone, Michigan’s Wayne Lyons had a chance to make the tackle inside the 10-yard line and if he had, it would have been very close to whether one second – or none – would have been remaining for the Spartans to kick the game-winning field goal. Remember, the clock would have stopped because of the change of possession.
But Lyons got blocked out of the play – perhaps even held – as Michigan’s Jake Butt tackled Watts-Jackson fell just beyond the goal line, breaking his hip on the play. He is done for the season.
It really was the Perfect Storm of all botched plays.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Utah 26, USC 25 – It goes down to the wire, but the underdog Utes survive.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Miami (+6) over No. 6 Clemson – This is Al Golden’s golden chance to save his job.
BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK: Boise State 58, Wyoming 6 – The Broncos romp on the Smurf Turf.
BEST BETS: Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Syracuse; North Carolina (-14) over Virginia; Toledo (-14) over UMass; Western Kentucky (+17) at LSU.
Ohio State 49, Rutgers 17 – Buckeyes roll with the right quarterback on the field.
Michigan State 31, Indiana 20 – The Spartans may take a while to wake up a week after beating Michigan.
Texas 44, Kansas State 30 – Bill Snyder’s team reeling.
Oklahoma 50, Texas Tech 28 – Baker Mayfield faces his old team.
Alabama 41, Tennessee 17 – The Tide is getting hot at the right time.
Florida State 30, Georgia Tech 24 – Closer than expected since Yellow Jackets have lost five in a row.
Penn State 24, Maryland 21 – A week off after Randy Edsall’s firing may help the Terps.
Duke 29, Virginia Tech 21 – Blue Devils upset Hokies again.
Is this the week?
Week after week since a Week 2 struggle against lowly Hawaii, one expert after another has predicted the Ohio State Buckeyes finally will act like a top-ranked team.
“They’ll break out this week and hammer Northern Illinois.”
Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13.
“They’ll beat Western Michigan by 60 points!”
Ohio State 38, Western Michigan 12.
“Indiana hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 1988. Why would it be close?”
Ohio State 34, Indiana 27.
“Maryland is the worst team in the Big Ten and is about to fire its head coach.”
Ohio State 21, Maryland 21, third quarter … leading to a 49-28 final score.
Week by week, No. 1 votes have slipped away and the Buckeyes’ grip on the top ranking has loosened. More importantly, they simply look beatable.
And they look nothing like the team that ended the 2014 season holding the College Football Playoff trophy.
So when, if ever, will it happen?
OK, I’ll bite.
This is the week it happens. Penn State (5-1) is coming to Ohio Stadium for a night game – a “black out” if you will. As my readers know, I already hate the black uniforms the Buckeyes will wear. I hate the idea of abandoning scarlet and gray if even for a day, or a night.
Nevertheless, I got a feeling the Buckeyes will play their best game yet and clobber the team wearing all-white uniforms.
For starters, the Nittany Lions are not a potential threat despite their record. Temple simply dominated them on the line of scrimmage in the opener before they have beaten Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana (all five games at Beaver Stadium). Granted, the 29-7 win last week over the Hoosiers was Penn State’s best performance yet. But I would point to that measly 20-14 win over a slow, undermanned Army team as evidence that Penn State is mediocre at best.
Secondly, the insertion of JT Barrett into the Buckeyes’ offense once it reaches the red zone has given this team the spark it needed. Even though Urban Meyer has spent the week applauding Penn State’s “nasty” defense, I would be shocked if Ohio State is held to less than 40 points again.
I see this playing out similar to those previous night games under Meyer in which Ohio State dominated respectable opponents – a 63-38 whipping of No. 21 Nebraska in 2012 and 63-14 over Penn State the following year.
Something like, 44-10.
MICHIGAN MAKING VEGAS NOTICE
Hard to believe after all the close calls and sputtering offense, but No. 1 Ohio State is still the betting favorite to win the College Football Playoff, currently at 13-5 odds. Baylor is second at 11-2. The Bears have set NCAA scoring records through the first six games, averaging 63 points per game. Coming in at third is LSU and Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette at 7-1.
And look who’s fourth this week. It’s not undefeated Florida, or one-loss Alabama, or unbeaten Texas A&M or even Pac-12 front-runner Utah.
It’s the Michigan Wolverines of all teams, even though they lost the season-opener at Utah.
Michigan is currently at 10-1 to win it all. Before the season, the Wolverines were 100-1 and plummeted to 500-1 after losing to the Utes. But five impressive wins, including three consecutive shutouts have grabbed everyone’s attention, including the bettors.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Michigan 20, Michigan State 13 – I don’t think the Wolverines get a fourth consecutive shutout, but they continue their remarkable roll in Jim Harbaugh’s first season.
LSU 23, Florida 7 – Without QB Will Grier (suspended for one year for PED use), the Gators won’t get much going on offense.
Alabama 31, Texas A&M 23 – It will be much closer than the 59-0 whipping the Aggies absorbed a year ago.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Memphis (+11) over Ole Miss – I just have a feeling the Rebels are taking this good team up the road very lightly.
ROUT OF THE WEEK: Texas Tech 63, Kansas 10 – The Jayhawks could be FBS’ worst team.
BEST BETS: See above – The Red Raiders (-32) at Kansas. See above – Ohio State (-16) vs. Penn State (even though the No. 1 Buckeyes are 1-5 against the spread).
Notre Dame 31, USC 27 – Who knows how Trojans will react to losing Coach Steve Sarkisian?
Iowa 20, Northwestern 17 – A low-scoring game goes down to the final minute.
Miami 27, Virginia Tech 17 – Two teams in desperate need of a win.
Houston 48, Tulane 28 – Tom Herman’s Cougs roll on.
Wisconsin 38, Purdue 13 – The Boilers can’t stop the run.
Baylor 58, West Virginia 28 – The Bears looking like the nation’s best team.
Florida State 30, Louisville 27 – The Cards could shock the Seminoles.