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|Think these fans are passionate? You should have seen Ohioans back in 1835.|
1945: The last time there were two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups in the same regular season was 1945, when No. 1 Army beat No. 2 Notre Dame 48-0 in mid-November, then beat No. 2 Navy 32-13 three weeks later.
Sixty-one years later, and we get the No. 1 vs. No. 2 double-dip again. And, just as in 1945, the second No. 1 vs. No. 2 of the year is a bit spicier, as it's also one of the great rivalries in sport.
How heated is Michigan-Ohio State? You could argue that the rivalry actually predates college football by 34 years.
1835: Folks in Ohio and Michigan started getting on one another's nerves back in 1835, when they fought what is referred to -- rather appropriately -- as "The Toledo War," since it was waged over a swath of land that included, of all things, the city of Toledo. Just in case you're curious, both states actually wanted it.
Turns out the "war" really was fought primarily in Congress and that only "warning shots" were fired when the states' respective militias squared off. Still, it stood as a precursor to the kind of vitriol we see today. For instance
For another measure of the game's importance, consider this number
18,000: There are still 18,000 absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted in a hotly-contested Congressional race in an Ohio district that includes Columbus. Saturday is the first day to count those ballots legally. The counting will begin on Sunday. Seems the elections officials had more important matters to focus on Saturday.
There are a ton of good numbers surrounding the actual on-field portion of this game -- I'll reveal some of those at the end of the column. I had a few other interesting notes to get to this week, though, and now seems as good a time as any.
In my years of watching college football, one thing I've never quite been able to resolve in my head is which rivalry is more heated: Ohio State-Michigan or Auburn-Alabama. Auburn-Alabama is more of a full-time obsession. I've driven around Birmingham listening to sports radio in March (March!), and the primary topic of conversation is Auburn-Alabama. And they're not talking about basketball. The Iron Bowl is a big, big deal, which makes this number quite significant:
|Tommy Tuberville could enter into Bear Bryant territory with a win on Saturday.|
The record for consecutive wins in the series, by the way, is nine set by Bear Bryant between 1973 and '81. It is no small coincidence that Auburn plays in Jordan-Hare Stadium and Alabama plays in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Neither team comes into the game in a particularly good mood. The Tide are 6-5 and have lost back-to-back games to Mississippi State and LSU. Auburn's hopes of sneaking into the BCS Championship Game ended Saturday when the Tigers got hammered by struggling Georgia.
3: The Tide defense got worked-over by LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Russell threw as many touchdowns as incompletions, completing all but three of his 21 passes for three scores.
4: Auburn's Brandon Cox, who endured a miserable day against Georgia, spent Saturday suffering on the other end of the quarterbacking spectrum. Cox threw as many interceptions as completions -- four of 12 with four picks.
30: Auburn had gone 41 straight games without giving up more than 30 points. The Tigers gave up 30 by halftime against the Dawgs.
Auburn's loss helped move Arkansas one step closer to an SEC Championship game showdown with Florida. I was in Fayetteville last Saturday for the Tennessee-Arkansas game, and came away incredibly impressed. While Darren McFadden grabbed all the headlines (and for good reason), the Arkansas defense really stood out to me, particularly with its speed and pass-rush ability.
4: Arkansas had four sacks against Tennessee. The Vols had given up just eight sacks all year coming in.
10, 6½, 6: Junior defensive end Jamaal Anderson had three of the sacks in the game and now has 10 on the year. Fellow defensive end Antwain Robinson has 6½ sacks on the season. Arkansas has given up six sacks as a team, meaning that both players have more sacks individually than their entire team has yielded.
15, 12; 10½, 8: The only other players in the country who can make this claim are Western Michigan's Ameer Ismail and Clemson's Gaines Adams. Ismail has 15 sacks, while the Broncos have only allowed 12. Adams has 10½ sacks for a Clemson team that's given up just eight.
Arkansas is one of the one-loss teams still in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game -- as is Notre Dame. The Irish's win against Air Force on Saturday gave them nine wins, which is the first time since 1992 and 1993 that the Irish have won nine or more games in consecutive seasons.
|Charlie Weis has guided the Irish to their first back-to-back nine-win seasons in more than a decade.|
1973: Wake Forest reached the nine-win plateau for the first time in school history with its 30-0 win at Floirda State, the first home shut-out loss of the Bobby Bowden era. The last time the 'Noles were blanked at home was Sept. 22, 1973, when coach Larry Jones' boys lost to Kansas 28-0, en route to an 0-11 finish.
1976: The 'Noles loss dropped them to 5-5, a mark shared by Miami. It's the first time both schools have been at .500 or worse simultaneously in November since 1976, when FSU finished 5-6 in Bowden's first year, and Miami went 3-8 a mere three years before Howard Schnellenberger rolled into Coral Gables.
That Wake team that beat FSU -- like Arkansas and Notre Dame -- also still is hanging around with just one loss. The Demon Deacons have a tough one at home against Virginia Tech before finishing in an unlikely showdown with Maryland that could determine the ACC Atlantic Title.
9: The Terrapins have been outgained in their last nine games, yet have somehow managed to go 7-2 in that stretch. William and Mary, which Maryland beat 27-14 in its season opener, remains the only team the Terps have won the yardage battle against this season. Maryland was even outgained by winless Florida International, a team it beat by just four points.
Wake hopes to go into that Maryland game still in the one-loss discussion -- a discussion two other one-loss teams were knocked out of this weekend.
18: As devastating and surprising as Cal's loss to Arizona was in terms of the national championship picture, the Bears' most obvious goal still is alive and well. A win against USC this weekend would send them to the Rose Bowl -- a game they haven't played in since Jan. 1, 1959. For a little perspective, consider that USC has played in 18 Rose Bowls since Cal's last appearance.
45, 3, 66: What was so surprising about Texas' loss to Kansas State was not that the Longhorns lost, but how they lost. Yes, Texas lost quarterback Colt McCoy early on to an injury, but the issue wasn't backup Jevan Snead -- the Horns still scored 42 points. The issue was Texas' defense -- most notably the secondary -- which gave up 45 points to a Wildcats team that scored three against Baylor six weeks ago. That's the same Baylor team that gave up 66 to Oklahoma State on Saturday.
How do you explain K-State's transformation? It really comes down to the evolution of freshman quarterback Josh Freeman.
43, 0, 7: Freeman came off the bench during the Baylor game, completing just 11 of 33 with three picks. Yet, after that game, he was given the role of first-string quarterback. Over a span of 3½ games, including that miserable second half against Baylor, he completed just 43 percent of his passes, with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats went 1-3 in that stretch.
71, 6, 2: In the three games since then, Freeman has completed 71 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. The Wildcats have won all three games.
2: As for the Longhorns, their loss effectively ended a 13-year-old streak at two. The last two teams that had lost regular-season No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups had come back to win the national title: Florida State in 1993, which lost to Notre Dame in November on that year, but won the national championship after beating undefeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl; and Florida, which lost to Florida State in November of 1995, but came back to beat the 'Noles in a Sugar Bowl rematch.
Speaking of rematches, that's one of the themes as we head to Columbus, Ohio. Is this game simply a precursor to a rematch in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 8? So much of that will depend on how things unfold Saturday in Ohio and over the next couple of Saturdays around the country.
|Michigan will rely on Mike Hart to find holes in Ohio State's defense.|
11: Michigan comes in having won 11 in a row, the nation's second-longest streak.
29:34: Out of 660 minutes of football in their first 11 games, the Buckeyes have trailed for a grand total of 29:34 this season. They were behind for 18:36 in the first and second quarters against Cincinnati, 5:54 early in the second quarter against Penn State, and 5:04 against Indiana in the first quarter.
4: OSU's largest deficit of the year was four points against the Bearcats.
17:15: Michigan has also played 660 minutes and has been behind for just 17:15 this season. The Wolverines trailed Wisconsin on two different occasions in the first half for a grand total of 13:41, and they were behind Ball State for 3:34 late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter.
7: Michigan's biggest deficit this year was seven points against the Badgers.
0:00: Out of a combined 660 minutes of second-half football, Michigan and Ohio State have trailed for 0:00.
329: Michigan leads the nation in rushing defense and has given up a grand total of 329 rushing yards all season.
29: There have been 29 individual occasions when a team has run for more than 329 yards in a single game this season. Navy has done it four times. West Virginia has done it three. In fact, even Michigan has done it -- going for 352 yards against Ball State, which means the Wolverines gained more rushing yards in that game than their opponents have gained all year.
86: Ohio State leads the nation in scoring defense, having given up 86 points in 11 games. In their symmetrical consistency, the Buckeyes have given up 43 points in the first half and 43 points in the second half.
2: Temple gave up more than 43 points in a half two times this year -- Minnesota put up 45 on the Owls in the first half on Sept. 16 and Clemson put up 49 on them in the first half on Oct. 12. In those 60 minutes, the Owls yielded eight more points than the OSU has all season.
1987: The last time that we had a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in a regular season conference game was 1987, when No. 2 Oklahoma beat No. 1 Nebraska 17-7 in an old Big 8 battle.
It has been 19 years since we've seen anything like this. I genuinely feel privileged to be there, as part of "College Gameday's" coverage on ESPN Radio.
Gerry DiNardo, Todd McShay and I will be broadcasting live from Columbus starting at noon ET on Saturday. We'll give you everything you need to know to get you ready for the game -- plus, if you find yourself away from a TV, we'll have constant updates once it kicks off, and we'll keep you posted on the other games going on across the country.
Hope you'll join us then.
Dave Revsine is the host of "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio. Listen every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET as Gerry DiNardo, Todd McShay and Revsine break down the action.