►Okay, so I picked the Texas Longhorns by three last week…it seemed like a fairly logical call…Texas was defending its home turf and the youthful Ohio State Buckeyes’ defense looked like Swiss cheese against Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe the previous week in the Horseshoe. Like all championship-caliber teams, Ohio State managed to raise its level of play to the challenge at hand. Nothing could have been better for the young Bucks’ defense than to have emerged victorious against a solid team like Texas on the road…consider them battle-hardened and ready to march toward the national championship…only three tough conference games remain on their schedule…at Iowa, at Michigan State and the Rivalry game, at home versus Michigan…I would have added Penn State, but after seeing how Notre Dame demolished JoePa’s rebuilding effort-in-progress, do you really think the revenge-minded Buckeyes will take any less pity on the Nittany Lions in two weeks?

►More Buckeye-Longhorn observations…Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez are the best receiving duo in college football right now. You can’t afford to run single coverage on either player and they are both masterful at finding the seams in zone packages. They both have sticky hands and hang onto the ball in traffic. Pick your poison. Texas did…and Hernandez responded with a monster first half (seven receptions, 122 yards, one TD). Would suspended cornerback Tarell Brown have made a difference? We’ll never know, and that’s pretty sad…one of the responsibilities of a scholarship athlete is to think “team first” and steer clear of any trouble. Every NCAA athlete is supposed to acknowledge in writing that they have reviewed a lengthy list of banned substances, and I’m pretty sure cannabis sativa is one of them. 9mm handguns fall under another list of restrictions your average athletic director will frown upon, not to mention your friendly local law enforcement officers…You have to figure that Brown and Tyrell Gatewood’s actions (and especially the timing of those actions–the week of THE big game) must have affected the Longhorn team psyche to some extent…it’s easy to imagine the seeds of doubt beginning to take root at the news of their arrest…resulting in a paranoia that rapidly spread across the Texas sideline as soon as Teddy Ginn’s supersonic flight patterns were observed at ground level during pregame warm-ups.

►Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans will certainly bring up Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija as the best receiving twosome in college football, but perhaps that argument should remain dormant until there’s a rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl in the 2007 Tostitos National Championship in Tempe…yes, AP’s current No. 1 and No. 2 could very well be on a collision course for another duel in the desert come Jan. 8.

►BYU Cougar fans throughout the country are livid, and rightly so, after being stiffed by CSTV and Comcast Sports last week…the Cougars put on a powerful offensive show in calming C-USA’s reigning champs, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 49-24, but outside of the LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd, only a small fraction of BYU fans in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming were able to actually see the game on “the mtn.” network, a channel devoted to Mountain West Conference sports coverage that CSTV and Comcast quickly created for the conference after Comcast was brought on board in July as a partner. CSTV/Comcast were not able to deliver on their promise to the MWC to have the DISH and DirecTV satellite companies on board in time for the game, let alone scores of other cable companies in the MWC member institutions’ footprint. For reasons unknown at that time, BYU fans were not allowed to view the Tulsa game on CSTV’s paid subscription package “All Access XXL.” So, thousands of fans then tuned into KSL Radio’s Internet streamcast on ksl.com, with the assurance of seasons past that they would be able to watch the game as a replay that evening on BYU-TV, a university channel that is available on DISH, DirecTV and many cable companies. To their dismay, Cougar fans then learned that evening that the replay of the Tulsa game was being pulled off BYU-TV’s schedule, due to a vaguely stated “broadcast rights” issue.

The three obvious questions BYU fans have been asking since Saturday…Why didn’t CSTV provide the Tulsa game on their All Access XXL Internet subscription package? Why was the replay of the Tulsa game cancelled from the BYU-TV channel schedule Saturday night?…and, finally: When will the mtn. network be available on the satellite company programming packages?

I spoke with official PR reps from CSTV and Comcast, and the simple answer to the first two questions is that if BYU fans had been provided access to the Tulsa game last Saturday, it would have affected ongoing negotiations with DISH and DirecTV. As for the third question, an official statement to BYU fans (and any MWC fan, for that matter) comes from Comcast’s Tim Fitzpatrick:

“We have already reached agreements with 10 cable companies serving viewers in five states but our goal is to make the mtn. as widely available as possible, and we are continuing to negotiate with additional providers, including the satellite companies. We share the disappointment of fans who can’t yet see their favorite teams, and we encourage fans to also make their voices heard by contacting their provider.”

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe sent out a puzzling email to Cougar fans on Tuesday that raised more questions than it answered, asking for patience with the negotiation process, and referencing that it took five years for BYU-TV to grow as a satellite and cable channel. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:

“Five years ago BYU-TV launched with very little distribution. Now it is in more than 40 million homes and growing every month. It did not happen overnight. The same can be said for CSTV and even ESPN.”

The obvious translation of the two above statements: Be patient and wait…your patience will be rewarded over the life of the seven-year contract, even if you have to suffer this year…we need you to sacrifice during the negotiations; therefore, don’t get upset when you will not be permitted to see the games on the CSTV All Access XXL package or BYU-TV replays…

I also contacted official PR reps for DISH and DirecTV and they both declined to comment, saying that they cannot comment on programming that they don’t carry. In response to my question as to whether or not the 2006 football season schedule might end up a wash for MWC fans who are depending on the satellite deals to be secured, the MWC official I spoke with offered that there will be plenty of basketball games and other sports offered on the mtn. in the coming months…not very comforting words to Cougar fans for the time being…

There are four more BYU football games scheduled to air on the mtn. network, the next date being Sept. 23. The other remaining games on BYU’s schedule are slated to be available on CSTV and Versus (formerly OLN). Temporary relief for Cougar fans this week: BYU’s road game at Boston College will be carried on ESPN2 and ESPN GamePlan.

►You’ve heard of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, right? Could there possibly be a “Fourth and inches…” jinx? Hopefully not, but…just after we raved about the Toledo Rockets program and their recent triple overtime thriller with the Iowa State Cyclones, Tom Amstutz’s troops marched north, turned the ball over four times, and surrendered control of the MAC’s Western Division to the Western Michigan Broncos. Standout Rockets senior tight end Chris Hopkins was “held” to four receptions, good for 100 bucks and a cool 25-yard per catch average. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Chicago native now has 17 receptions, 239 yards and three TDs after two games. Western Michigan’s star of the game was senior linebacker Ameer Ismail (12 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery). This could be WMU’s year to take the MAC’s West Division title…they are sitting pretty with home field advantage against Northern Illinois, the preseason favorite to win the conference.

►A few years back, when the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Colorado Buffaloes agreed on scheduling each other, it looked like an intriguing Big 12/Pac-10 matchup. Instead, ASU’s high flying aerial circus comes to Boulder undefeated this week, while the Buffs are licking their wounds from two straight losses. Sorry, Colorado fans, but it looks like it will be three in a row after this weekend…at least new head coach Dan Hawkins is keeping a level-headed perspective on the situation: “Too many times I think you have the euphoria that lingers or you have the disappointment that lingers and that’s not how you get up and get on in life; and that’s not how you get up and get on in football. Win, lose or draw you put it away and you move on…you don’t change because you lose and you don’t change because you win; you have a certain way of operating and a certain standard and that’s what you stick to.”

►Too bad the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ squad that will invade the Los Angeles Coliseum this Saturday is not cut from the same pattern as the Husker teams of the mid-1990s. Now that would be one humdinger of a gridiron battle to see: Tom Osborne’s finest clashing with the present-day USC Trojans. Alas, this pass-happy version of Nebraska football is a far cry from those glory days. USC will be without three starters due to injuries, but don’t be surprised if the Trojans spank Bill Callahan’s squad right out of the Top 25 rankings with a tsunami force attack on both sides of the ball. You really don’t want to face a Pete Carroll team that’s had two weeks prep time to discover your weaknesses and figure out how to exploit them. But, that’s why they play the game, folks…anything can happen on any given day. Is USC worthy of a top five ranking? Is Nebraska a fifth-tier Top 25 team? This game will reveal the true nature of both teams…

►Outside of the SEC, where the top programs happen to knock each other out of national title consideration every week as the season progresses (for instance, LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers and Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers this week), perhaps no two teams have a more difficult path to the National Title Game than USC and Notre Dame. The Trojans have a three-game stretch where they face the Oregon Ducks, Cal Bears and Notre Dame, topped off by their big season-ending rivalry game with the UCLA Bruins. The Irish have already survived a tough Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets assault, the always dangerous Nittany Lions and now the Michigan Wolverines this week. Beyond this week: an away date on the Michigan State Spartans’ turf, as well as the pesky Air Force Falcons on the road, not to mention their regular-season finale at USC…that game could be for a shot at all the marbles if both teams can remain undefeated until Nov. 25.

►Hats off to the Akron Zips for their gutsy 20-17 road win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. With just over a minute remaining, the Zips were down 17-14 and had the ball at their own 33-yard line. QB Luke Getsy completed 2-of-3 passes for 42 yards, and then scrambled twice, picking up another 24 yards. Three and a half ticks were on the clock and the ball rested on the one-yard line. Instead of kicking a game-tying field goal, head coach J.D. Brookhart decided to go for it and RB Dennis Kennedy powered the pigskin across the goal line for the upset victory.

►Will the Miami Hurricanes possibly survive this week’s road trip to square off with the Louisville Cardinals? It’s a question that wouldn’t have made much sense a few years ago, but after Louisville’s close call at Miami last year, you have to wonder…the game has enormous implications for both teams. The Cards cannot afford to lose, if they hope to keep their national title hopes alive. They are not the type of program that can carry one loss around on their backs like Texas or Auburn and still be considered championship contenders at the end of the season by the pollsters…The ‘Canes cannot afford to lose, either. Not if they want to keep their head coach around beyond this season. Can you picture Miami sitting at 1-2 after this week? It doesn’t seem possible, and yet if Louisville does win, it won’t be considered much of an upset…

►Stats Padder Games of the Week: The South Carolina Gamecocks host and roast Wofford…Virginia Tech Hokies humiliate the bumbling Duke Blue Devils, and Texas stampedes the Rice Owls.

►Best Games of the Week : LSU at Auburn, Florida at Tennessee; Michigan at Notre Dame; Nebraska at USC; Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles; Miami Hurricanes at Louisville Cardinals; Oklahoma Sooners at Oregon; BYU at Boston College Golden Eagles; Texas Tech Red Raiders at TCU Horned Frogs.

►Upset specials of the week: The Wyoming Cowboys just missed pulling off a big upset at Virginia last week, falling 13-12 on a missed extra point. If the Cowpoke fans can rustle up some of their infamous welcome wagons and really whoop it up inside War Memorial Stadium, they just might corral the high flying Boise State Broncos this week…Frank Solich’s Ohio Bobcats are rapidly gaining a winning edge type of confidence…that will be a shock to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights who presumed they would be hosting one of the MAC’s weaker teams…