4th and inches …

Fourth and inches …

►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…

Fourth and inches …

►The Michigan Wolverines’ dismantling of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish created the second biggest seismic shift in this young season after the Tennessee-Cal outcome rocked the first week polls…Michigan jumped six slots and Notre Dame tumbled 10. It seems like it’s been years since Michigan has played with the level of intensity and ferocity that they displayed last Saturday…Senior Wolverine linebackers Shawn Crable (6-foot-5, 245) and Prescott Burgess (6-3, 245) terrorized Brady Quinn from start to finish…Burgess intercepted Quinn on the second play of the game and returned it 31 yards for the score…later, midway through the third quarter, Burgess was there again with a pick to stop the Irish dead in their tracks…Crable had several big hits–one head-knocker on Quinn should make all the end-of-season highlight reels…hard to believe BQ could even get off the field on his own after that bell-ringer…if you saw the game, you know what I mean…

►The Michigan-Ohio State game on Nov. 18 is looking mighty important right now regarding national title implications…but first, both teams need to get by a pretty rocky Big Ten schedule…Iowa and Michigan State are poised to pull off big upsets…Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue are always dangerous…Northwestern has a lot of fight…sadly, IU and UI are the conference bottom feeders, except when it comes to basketball. Even if Michigan rolls into Columbus with one conference loss against an undefeated Buckeye squad, the Big Ten title will be up for grabs and the game will still have national title implications.

►Things don’t get any easier this Saturday for Charlie Weis and the Gold Domers as they have to travel north to East Lansing, home of the Michigan State Spartans. Despite last year’s big MSU win over the Irish, Spartan fans still demand payback with compounding interest on Notre Dame for Ara Parseghian’s decision to play for a tie in that legendary 1966 battle that was billed as the “Game of the Decade.” N.D. came in ranked No. 1 and Michigan State was No. 2. The Irish had the ball on their 30-yard line with 1:10 left, but they elected to run the clock out and settled for a 10-10 deadlock. Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated joked that the Irish “tied one for the Gipper.” The decision paid off, though, as Notre Dame stayed first in the polls and the Spartans remained No. 2…this was back when the national champion was voted by the pollsters before the bowl games…Four Michigan State players from that team were selected in the first eight picks of the 1967 NFL draft…No. 1 Bubba Smith (Baltimore Colts), No. 2 Clint Jones (Minnesota Vikings), No. 5 George Webster (Houston Oilers) and No. 8 Gene Washington (Minnesota Vikings).

►Remember these guys? The two college quarterbacks who were selected third and fourth in that same NFL draft? The Florida Gators’ Steve Spurrier was picked third by the San Francisco 49ers and Bob Griese of the Purdue Boilermakers was selected fourth by the Miami Dolphins.

►NASA satellites were able to monitor some nifty artwork taking place in the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night…USC Trojans super-duper receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith were seen carving crop circles in the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ secondary on ABC’s nationally televised game. Now they just need to find a game of epic proportions to show off their handiwork like Ted Ginn, Jr. and Tony Gonzalez did for the Buckeyes against the then No. 2 Texas Longhorns.

►Keeping the Cornhuskers happy on the road…Bill Callahan treated the Huskers to the ultimate training table meal on Friday for lunch at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills…prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and so on…mmm…the last time the Huskers dined there was for the annual Lawry’s Beef Bowl prior to the national championship showdown versus Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl Game.

►If you’re a Cornhusker fan searching for some sort of measuring stick regarding the USC game, try this…the BYU Cougars played in USC’s home opener three years ago when Matt Leinart was a sophomore. BYU trailed 21-18 with about 10 minutes left in the game and were driving for the go-ahead score when the Trojans forced a fumble…USC scored, then stopped the Cougars again and cashed in another big play score for the 35-18 final score…the men of Troy went on to claim a share of the national championship that year after defeating Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl Game. As for BYU…they ended up 5-6, missing out on a bowl game after former head coach Gary “Win by 9, not by 3″ Crowton blew a sure three-point lead versus Stanford. Instead of running out the last few minutes of the clock with a 14-11 lead, he called for a pass play that was intercepted and promptly converted into seven points for an 18-14 Cardinal victory. When asked about his play calling after the game, Crowton admitted to reporters that he wanted to “Win by 9, not by 3.”

►Is a one-game suspension enough for the Pac-10 officiating crew that muffed (we’re being nice here) two crucial calls in the Oregon Ducks-Oklahoma Sooners contest? More questions…How many other Pac-10 teams have benefited from the Zebras in past games against non-con opponents? The Sooners requested to have the game stricken from the record books…Not only would that be unfair (especially to Adrian Peterson) but…hey, here’s an idea…how about if Oklahoma forfeits all the games Rhett Bomar played in at Oklahoma? Saving the best question for last…is there some way we can make sure these two teams meet in a bowl game again this holiday season? What a love-fest that would be…

►Oh, how the mighty have fallen…I wonder if Miami’s A.D. is scrambling to change future schedules around after the Hurricanes’ 1-2 start this season…What is wrong with this UM team? They are loaded with talent. Is it chemistry? Leadership? We all knew Louisville would give the Hurricanes one heck of a game at home, but did you really think it would be a blowout? Perhaps Larry Coker should have insisted his boys have a little more respect for their opponent…why on earth did he allow his players to stomp on the Cardinals’ midfield logo before the game?

►Just for kicks…a Louisville fan’s sign at the game read: “Cards send Tropical Depression back to Miami.”

►Props to Tommy Bowden’s Clemson Tigers for bouncing back from their emotional double-OT loss to the Boston College Eagles and pulling out a crucial conference win on the road against Senior Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. It looks like the ACC’s Atlantic Division will be a three-horse race between the abovementioned teams. The Virginia Tech Hokies looks like the odds-on favorite to take the Coastal Division, but they do play on the road at Miami and B.C., while Miami’s schedule looks pretty favorable from hereon…dark horse Georgia Tech gets Miami at home, but has to play the Hokies and Clemson on the road…

►QuickSnap, presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: When was the last time Miami and Florida State both lost during the same game week, who did they lose to, and what were the scores? Send your answer to quicksnap@realfootball365.com. Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a set of two limited edition 2005 Rose Bowl Game trading cards featuring Texas and Michigan. Texas won the game on a last second field goal, 38-37, in the first meeting ever between the two programs. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Catch a Tiger by the Tail…In the battle of the big striped cats, the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers got really defensive with each other in the most anticipated West Division clash of the season…Auburn took it 7-3, but the game could have gone either way and almost did right down to the wire…this game and Florida’s 21-20 squeaker over Tennessee offer strong proof how the SEC cannibalizes itself each season. A 16-team playoff would allow at least two, and possibly three SEC teams to have a shot at the national title each year…I’m a staunch bowl game traditionalist, but there’s got to be a way to preserve the importance of the bowl games while providing a more level playing field for the Top 16 teams in the country to have a shot at the national title each season. There are some good ideas out there…more on this in the future…

►Pride comes before the fall…It’s pretty sad to see how a talented athlete like Maurice Clarett has spiraled out of control off the field…a convicted felon, he’s headed to prison for at least three and half years. Imagine how different his life might be right now had he stayed in school at Ohio State and completed his football career–and more importantly–graduated…instead, he scorned the education Ohio State offered and challenged the NFL’s draft entry rules as a freshman…if there’s one indisputable fact about life, it would have to be that there’s a consequence for every choice we make.

►Anti-Smurf Turf…How in the world can the NCAA allow the Boise State Broncos to taint, er, I mean paint their field the same hue as their primary color jerseys? What would they say if Oklahoma wanted to paint their gridiron crimson, or if Tennessee decorated their field grass in that creamy orange flavor? It’s the biggest joke in college football as far as home fields go and it needs to be banned….and don’t cry about how much money it will cost to change back to a normal GREEN grass color…BSU should have never made the decision to poison their field with that repugnant color in the first place…it’s an insult to college football.

►Uh-oh…Stanford Cardinal has a spankin’ new stadium to show off and fans are filling the seats, but their season record stands at 0-3 with perhaps the most winnable games on their schedule now in the rear view mirror. It’s conceivable that the injury depleted Cardinal could go winless this season…the only possible W looks like Oregon State at home the next to last game of the season…Ty Willingham, where are you? “Oh, there you are…up north with the Huskies…I guess we’ll see you on Nov. 11, Ty.”

►Check-up on Northwestern…following the tragic passing of head coach Randy Walker, Pat Fitzgerald has done a remarkable job getting the Wildcats to focus on their season…NU should be 3-0, except for an uncharacteristic letdown versus New Hampshire, so they’re 2-1…the ‘Cats head out to Reno, Nev. to roll the dice on one more non-con game…waiting for them are the Nevada Wolfpack…not an easy win playing the ‘Pack at home. Name a team that has a tougher four-game stretch than Northwestern from Oct. 21 through Nov. 11: Michigan State, at Michigan, at Iowa, Ohio State. Yikes! One thing’s for sure, Pat Fitzgerald will have his ‘Cats ready to play every week. They won’t back down from any challenge…that said, the Big Ten is really tough at the top four slots this year, especially when you draw a schedule that has you playing them week after week after week after week…NU needs a win against Nevada to give them a realistic shot at 6-6 this year.

►More Crowton…Northwestern’s visit to Reno reminds me of a foolish decision the former Cougar coach (and currently OC for the Oregon Ducks) made a few years back with another talented BYU team. The Cougars were 2-0 after defeating Syracuse and Hawaii…(yes, Syracuse was considered a decent opponent just a few years ago…) Anyway, Coach C. decided to gamble and fly over to Reno from Salt Lake City on the morning of the game…the ‘Pack felt disrespected, naturally, and the Cougars started out sluggishly…Nevada WR Nate Burleson lit up BYU’s secondary and the Cougars scrambled to catch up late in the game, only to fall short, 31-28. The shock of that upset lingered for weeks throughout Cougardom…the season pretty much went down the toilet after that… it was BYU’s first losing season since 1974. End note: The year before, the Cougars devastated Nevada in Provo, 52-7.

►MACfabulous upsets…Props to the Toledo Rockets for their two-OT 37-31 upset over the Kansas Jayhawks last week on ESPN2’s Friday Night Football…and to the Western Michigan Broncos for their 17-10 upset over the Virginia Cavaliers.

►Heisman’s dark horse: Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois: 74 carries, 630 yards, 8.5 ypc, 210 ypg, four TDs. No. 1 ranked running back in Division 1.

►Can it get any worse? Barring the biggest upset of the young season, Colorado Buffaloes head coach Dan Hawkins will be 0-4 after this week’s game on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs. By contrast, Hawkins lost a total of three Western Athletic Conference games during six seasons at the helm of BSU.

►Stats Padder Games of the Week: The Auburn Tigers (43 pt. favorites) feast on the Buffalo Bulls…Florida State Seminoles (plus 30.5) dine on Rice Owls…and, the very ticked off Oklahoma Sooners (plus 29) ambush the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

►Best Games of the Week: Arizona State Sun Devils at California Golden Bears; Air Force Falcons at Wyoming Cowboys; Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Navy Midshipmen; Notre Dame at Michigan State; UCLA Bruins at Washington Huskies; Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan; Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks; Boston College Eagles at North Carolina State Wolfpack.

►Upset specials of the week…look for the Kansas State Wildcats to put up a very tough fight at home against No. 8 Louisville, which is coming off a huge emotional revenge win over Miami…I like the way the Hawaii Warriors played Alabama on the road to start the season…they’ve never won on the road at No. 25 Boise State, but there’s always a first time for everything…both ranked teams are favored by at least two touchdowns.

Fourth and inches …

►Are the #11 Virginia Tech Hokies for real this year? It’s hard to tell after playing Northeastern, Cincinnati, and ACC bottom feeders Duke and North Carolina…#24 Georgia Tech will represent their first true test of the season…the Yellow Jackets come into this Saturday’s game with revenge on their minds…Va. Tech humiliated them 51-7 last year when Marcus Vick passed for 223 yards and the Hokies’ defense and special teams scored 21 points…you have to take your hats off to Frank Beamer for his integrity with enforcing team rules…he suspended defensive end Chris Ellis and wide receiver Josh Morgan for the Georgia Tech game…this is one of the best games of the week, one of only two contests that pit two Top 25 teams against each other.

►Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish need to send a thank-you note to Michigan State Spartans quarterback Drew Stanton for single handedly granting them new life for the 2006 season…MSU had a 10-point lead with just under six minutes remaining…Stanton had the ball stripped from his grip on a keeper…that set up an Irish touchdown and the score was 37-33 after a missed extra point. Then, with less than three minutes remaining, on third and 6, Stanton decides to pass instead of staying on the ground and eating more of the clock…ND’s Terrail Lambert intercepted and danced in from 23 yards out for the winning score. Talk about luck of the Irish…this is a team that’s supposed to challenge for the national championship? I don’t think so…they’ve been blasted for 84 points in back-to-back games by Michigan and Michigan State.

►Think Pink?…For one week this season, #13 Iowa Hawkeyes fans can say that the road to the national championship runs through Iowa City…the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and their marvelous marching band will swarm into the newly revamped 76-year old Kinnick Stadium this Saturday…the winner gains the upper hand in the Big Ten Conference title chase, although both teams still have Michigan looming on their schedule…and yes, even after the new upgrades, the visitor’s locker room is still decorated in Pepto Bismol Pink…the idea is that the color will distract or mellow the visitors…it was Hayden Fry’s idea during his tenure…Last summer, Jane Meyer, Iowa’s senior associate athletic director said, “We think it’s appropriate. We hope our visiting teams enjoy it as much as we have in planning it.” Right. I have to imagine the color scheme makes some teams so irritated they just want to get out and kick the crap out of their gracious hosts.

►Sticking with the Big Ten and Ohio State for a moment…JoePa’s Penn State Nittany Lions played an outstanding defensive game last week against the Buckeyes…take away the two picks Anthony Morelli threw for TDs in the last minutes of the game and the final score was only 14-6. Penn State’s defensive backs held Troy Smith to 115 yards passing and intercepted him twice…even more impressive was how they shut down the dynamic duo, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez…these two incredible receivers only managed a total of 4 receptions for 31 yards…now, if only Penn State can muster some offense…reports are that Paterno is focusing on that very issue this week for their home game versus the Northwestern Wildcats.

►Fans of the BYU Cougars and TCU Horned Frogs are elated that their Thursday night game this week will be carried on the VERSUS Network which is accessible thru the DISH and DirecTV satellite service, as well as many cable operators around the country…VERSUS was formerly OLN (Outdoor Life Network) and now carries college football among other sports. The mtn., a Mountain West Conference exclusive sports channel that was launched by CSTV and Comcast last month, still does not have agreements with DISH or DirecTV, leaving tens of thousands of fans who follow MWC sports in the lurch…by far, the largest fan base in the MWC is from BYU…those fans are still biting their nails and wondering if a deal will be struck with the satellite companies before the Cougars’ next two games against San Diego State on Oct 7 and UNLV on Oct 21…both games are scheduled to be aired on the mtn.

►It seems that Mountain West Conference teams are getting punked by the MWC in more ways than just the mtn. fiasco…TCU took last weekend off while the BYU Cougars were playing at home…this means that the Cougars will have one rest day, two days of practice, and then a travel day before the all-important conference game…meanwhile, TCU has had eleven days to rest and prep for the game. A similar situation happened to TCU last year when they played the SMU Mustangs on a Saturday and then took on the defending MWC champion Utah Utes the following Thursday. Aren’t conference officials supposed to ensure that scheduling snafus like these don’t happen so that both teams have adequate time to prepare for each other?

►Furthermore, when the MWC left ESPN for CSTV, they promised fans that one of the benefits of the new contract would be no more weekday games…talk about hollow promises…this week’s instate rivalry game between UNLV and Nevada will be aired on the mtn., but not available within the state of Nevada…go figure…the CSTV contract was signed well over a year ago…you’d think that the MWC and CSTV would have made sure that all the kinks had been worked out well in advance so they didn’t torch the fans…it will be interesting to see what happens if the Sat TV companies continue to refuse picking up the mtn. throughout this current football season…stay tuned…

►Which Pac-10 team has the most favorable schedule this year? You’re correct if you said the Washington State Cougars…they get the top three teams in the conference, #3 USC, #20 Cal, and #14 Oregon, plus instate rival Washington at home…the only two tough conference road contests are at ASU and UCLA. USC has traditionally had some difficulty against WSU in Pullman…it’s highly unlikely that the Cougars can pull off an upset, but if I was Pete Carroll, I’d be really concerned about this game for some reason…just a hunch.

►On the mend…We’re glad to hear that Indiana Hoosiers head coach Terry Hoeppner’s recent cancer tests were negative and that he’s heading back on the field as soon as this week…best wishes to Terry and his wife Jane…stay strong.

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: When did the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Miami Hurricanes meet for the first time, where was the game played, and what was the final score? Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a 2002 Rose Bowl Game media program autographed by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is…Will Smithrock of Los Angeles, CA. Congrats to Will for correctly answering this somewhat tricky question: “When was the last time Miami and Florida State both lost during the same game week, who did they lose to, and what were the scores?” The correct answer was Miami lost to LSU 40-3 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and Florida State lost to Penn State in the FedEx Orange Bowl 26-23 in 3 OT during the final week of last season’s bowl games.

►More Anti-Smurf Turf…Bronco fans were up in arms last week when I pointed out that their blue painted marketing gimmick turf (aka The Clown Carpet, The Blue and Lake Bleymaier) was an insult to college football…we enjoy your opinions, no matter what…believe it or not, BSU just celebrated the Smurf Turf’s 20th anniversary…said Gene Bleymaier, the athletic director who came up with the idea, “I guess that I’m the type of person that when I paint my house I paint it a different color so the neighbors notice you did something.”

►Upset Central…No major upsets last weekend, only the mild variety…Arkansas Razorbacks outlasted the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime, 24-23…Washington Huskies scored 15 unanswered fourth quarter points to thump the UCLA Bruins 29-19…the Huskies are now 3-1 with another impressive victory over Fresno State…they are making a case for comeback team of the year following two down years (3-19 combined record in ’04 and ’05)…Army Black Knights over Baylor Bears 27-20 in overtime.

►Heisman’s dark horse…You’re hearing enough about the other big boys in the Heisman race, so you need to know about a shifty-nifty little (5’7″, 177) running back who already tore up Ohio State’s defense for mucho (272 all-purpose) yardage–172 of those yards coming on the ground…Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois: 96 carries, 828 yards, 8.6 ypc, 207 ypg, 8 TDs. #1 ranked running back in Division 1…Last week: 198 yards, 4 TDs vs. Indiana St…This week at Ball State.

►Backwards streaks…Last week we mentioned the biggest upset of the season to date would have been the Colorado Buffaloes over the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. Well, the Buffs almost pulled it off…they had a 13-0 lead with approximately 8 minutes left in the game…they collapsed and surrendered two touchdown passes, the last one with 46 seconds remaining to keep their losing streak intact…Don’t expect #25 Mizzou to be taken by surprise this week at home…head coach Dan Hawkins is now 0-4 and Colorado’s losing streak is currently at eight games, extending back to last season…The Buffs will win a few this year as some soft spots in their schedule are popping up on the horizon…look for them to go 3-9 or 4-8 this year.

►Right behind ya…Stanford Cardinal’s 36-10 loss at home to the Washington State Cougars ran their season record to 0-4 and overall losing streak to six games including two defeats at the end of last season…Walt Harris will need to take some patience pills this season…

►Pad the Stats Games of the Week: Clemson Tigers (plus 34) tear up the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs…Michigan State Spartans (plus 26.5) raid and pillage the Illinois Fighting Illini…and, the Texas Longhorns (no line) trample the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

►Best Games of the Week: BYU Cougars @ TCU Horned Frogs…Auburn Tigers @ South Carolina Gamecocks…Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ South Florida Bulls…Alabama Crimson Tide @ Florida Gators…Purdue Boilermakers @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish…Boise State Broncos @ Utah Utes…Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Virginia Tech Hokies…Ohio State Buckeyes @ Iowa Hawkeyes…Oregon Ducks @ Arizona State Sun Devils…Colorado State Rams @ Fresno State Bulldogs…Toledo Rockets @ Pittsburgh Panthers…Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Texas A&M Aggies.

►Upset specials of the week…Wyoming Cowboys have lost three straight close games to Virginia, Boise State and Air Force…they are a gritty bunch and I still like them on the road against 5-point favorite Syracuse Orange…The undefeated Houston Cougars had an impressive win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys last week…I can see them beating the 16-point spread on the road at Miami Hurricanes this week.

Fourth and inches …

►Last week we questioned if the Virginia Tech Hokies were legitimate contenders for the national championship this year…the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets supplied the answer…a resounding 38-27 answer, in the Hokies’ crib, no less. Other undefeated teams that were eliminated from the national championship picture include the Texas A&M Aggies, TCU Horned Frogs, and Iowa Hawkeyes…

►Who stands to be eliminated from the national championship picture this week? Oregon Ducks, California Golden Bears, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns, LSU Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Florida Gators, Clemson Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers…Why are some teams with one loss included? Quite simply, if you have one loss and you are still in the top-16 at the midway point of the season, you have a realistic shot at the title game…you can’t be eliminated–yet…the loser of the Red River Shootout will definitely be out, as will the loser of the Oregon-Cal game, even though it would be a first for Oregon (because some voters still hold the OU game against them)…LSU will definitely be out with another loss, although Florida won’t if it’s a close game…if LSU blows the Gators out, it’s a different story…Tennessee’s definitely out, but Georgia could survive if it’s a really close game…Clemson cannot afford another loss…that’s why there should be some sort of playoff system to help sort things out at the season’s end…say you have a few undefeated teams and another five teams who suffered one close loss during the course of a 12-game regular season to another ranked team (13 games for the teams that play in a conference championship game)…it’s ludicrous to rely on polls and computers, at that point, to determine a true national champion.

►Yes, there are other undefeated or 1-loss teams in the top 16 slots of the AP poll that I didn’t mention…but, seriously, why bother? Stanford has absolutely no chance at Notre Dame, Bowling Green is toast at Ohio State, and so on…you get the picture. I suppose Arkansas and Washington could give #2 Auburn and #3 USC some scares this weekend, but the Tigers and Trojans are at home and that should be good enough against the Razorbacks and the Huskies this time around…

►As much as I’d like to see an 8 or 16-team playoff instilled in Division-1 with a format that preserves the tradition of the major bowl games, it still is fascinating to watch how the pecking order of the AP poll plays itself out as the season progresses…I use the AP (sportswriters) poll as my guideline because too many voting aberrations have come to light in recent years with the coaches poll. Not that the AP poll is perfect, by any means, but it’s the best we have…in the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at a few of the best playoff format ideas that have been developed.

►Penn State’s Joe Paterno was recently prompted to speak on the issue of the BCS bowls after learning that Michigan coach Lloyd Carr touched upon it during his press conference, according to Josh Moyer, of Penn State’s Daily Collegian. “I would like to have playoffs. I just think it’s a better way to do it,” Paterno said. Apparently, Paterno explained his decision by referring to the BCS situation two years ago when USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all went undefeated. At the time, Paterno was voting in the coaches poll and decided to vote all three teams as No. 1. Needless to say, those in charge of the poll weren’t too happy. “I got a telephone call from USA Today saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s gonna foul up the computer.’ And I said, ‘I can’t tell you who’s No. 1,'” Paterno explained. “I got another call from someone else who’s connected to the football poll that said, ‘You’ll have to’ — and I said I’m not gonna do it, so forget about it. So, I no longer vote.” Way to go, Joe! It will be a sad day when that man retires from the college football scene.

►This year’s five BCS bowl game lineup is supposed to make it easier for a non-BCS team to fill one of the 10 slots…TCU had the best shot heading into last week before they were manhandled at home by the BYU Cougars, 31-17. Now it looks like the best bet is the Boise State Broncos, but they have a pitifully weak schedule that could hinder their chances…BSU’s opponents have a combined 5-week record of 21-32…that’s a woeful .396 winning percentage…and it is not going to improve much, if at all, as the season progresses…the Bronco’s “signature” wins, if you can call them such, came over an Oregon State Beavers team that will likely end up 5-7 or 6-6 on the year and the Utah Utes who are projecting to be another .500 team this year…the Broncos face the 1-3 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs this week.

►What significance do the numbers 7, 26, and 51 have to the Mountain West Conference? They are the national rankings of three of the most important TV markets the conference is associated with…#7 Dallas/Fort Worth (TCU Horned Frogs)…#26 San Diego (San Diego State Aztecs)…#51 Las Vegas (UNLV Rebels)…remarkably, none of these markets offer the conference’s new channel “the mtn.” Making matters even worse, the conference’s largest fan bases come from the BYU Cougars and Air Force Falcons, and yet tens of thousands of those teams’ fans live outside of the tiny five state footprint where the mtn. is currently being carried…Question: If the mtn. network airs a game, but nobody can see it, does the mtn. really exist?

►TV markets in the western U.S. that serve huge BYU and Air Force fan bases, as well as the rest of the MWC? #2 Los Angeles market…#6 San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose…#12 Seattle/Tacoma…#15 Phoenix…#19 Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto…#24 Portland…#37 San Antonio…#58 Fresno…rankings provided by digitalsyndicate.tv

►There is huge concern that the failure of CSTV and Comcast to properly launch the mtn. by ensuring that it was carried on DISH, DirecTV, and cable distributors throughout the country for this inaugural football season will have a huge effect on the conference teams’ recruiting efforts. More than 522 student-athletes from California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and Texas are currently found on the rosters of the nine MWC schools…and yet, the mtn. is not available in any of these states…Coaches from several competing conferences, including the WAC, Pac-10, and Big 12, are using this critical problem to recruit against their MWC counterparts…”Son, nobody’s gonna see you play on TV if you’re in that conference…”

►We mentioned last week that Washington State would likely give USC a scare in Pullman…sure enough, although USC prevailed 28-22, the Cougars were in position to launch a “Hail Mary” pass at the close of the game in a bid for the upset…Wazzou still hosts Cal, Oregon and Washington this season…look for them to upset either Cal or Oregon…the Washington game is a bitter rivalry, so anything goes in that one…

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: What particular stat line drove Penn State Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno absolutely nuts in the 1989 Holiday Bowl versus Brigham Young? Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a complimentary prime rib dinner at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches

►And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is…Mick Wilcox…Mick was the first to correctly answer the question buried deep in college football archives: When did the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Miami Hurricanes meet for the first time, where was the game played, and what was the final score? The correct answer was Miami beat Nebraska 19-7 on November 30, 1951 in Miami. (Note to Mick: We tried to reach you via email to get your snail mail address, but it was returned as undeliverable…please contact us to collect your prize.)

►Heisman’s Dark Horse…Yes, he’s going to remain in this column as long as he keeps performing at his record-breaking pace: Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois, the #1 ranked running back in Division 1…Signature game versus Ohio State…272 all-purpose yards–172 of those yards coming on the ground, 1 TD…Season Stats: 127 carries, 1,181 yards, 9.3 ypc, 236.2 ypg, 11 TDs…Last week: 353 yards, 3 TDs vs. Ball St…This week at Miami (Ohio).

►By the way, GW…I defended you on ESPN 1000 AM radio in Chicago last Friday afternoon…can’t recall the talk show yahoo’s name who claimed he was a Ball State graduate…but he said no MAC player deserved to win the Heisman…and then you went out and tattooed his alma mater Cardinals for 353 yards…thank you very much.

►Worth the read…Gene Wojciechowski’s “The Sooner the Better” article in ESPN magazine about Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and his repentant father, who will be released from prison this week after eight years…the elder Peterson takes responsibility for his wrong choices that led to drug-dealing and vows to be the best parent he can be from now on…

►Backwards streaks…Colorado Buffaloes are now 0-5…Stanford Cardinal are 0-5. Which team will register a win first? Colorado…it’s really difficult to envision Stanford winning a single game this year.

►Stats Padding Games of the Week: Louisville Cardinals (plus 33) peck the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to death…Ohio State Buckeyes (plus 35) mow down the Bowling Green Falcons…Boise State Broncos (plus 35) stampede the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, and the West Virginia Mountaineers (plus 25) bury the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an avalanche of offensive fireworks.

►Best Games of the Week: Oregon Ducks @ California Golden Bears…Navy Midshipmen @ Air Force Falcons…LSU Tigers @ Florida Gators…Texas Longhorns versus Oklahoma Sooners…Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Iowa State Cyclones…Missouri Tigers @ Texas Tech Red Raiders…Central Michigan Chippewas @ Toledo Rockets…Tennessee Volunteers @ Georgia Bulldogs…Nevada Wolfpack @ Hawaii Warriors…

►Upset specials of the week…North Carolina State Wolfpack over Florida State Seminoles in a Thursday home game on national TV…Iowa State Cyclones over Nebraska Cornhuskers by a whisker…the Cyclones are at home this year and seeking revenge for decades of losses to UN, but especially last year’s 27-20 disappointment in Lincoln.

Fourth and inches …

Title game pink slips were handed out left and right last weekend to former contenders including the Oregon Ducks, Oklahoma Sooners, LSU Tigers, and Georgia Bulldogs … the Auburn Tigers are almost toast, unless they can throttle the Florida Gators this weekend and win out the rest of the way to claim the SEC title … on the flip side, the Gators could afford to lose to Auburn in a close game, and they’d still have a shot at the national title, depending on how other match-ups play out over the last half of the season.

Who stands to be eliminated from the national championship picture this week? Auburn is the only team facing a stout enough opponent to worry about elimination … any other teams eliminated this week would be considered huge upsets … can you imagine Baylor knocking off Texas, or Cincinnati upending Louisville?  Conversely, a close loss to Michigan State would not knock the Buckeyes out of the title chase, nor would a close loss to Penn State push the Michigan Wolverines out of contention … it sure would make the picture a lot fuzzier, though.

It will be very interesting to see how Michigan reacts to the loss of the Big Blue M&M (Mario Manningham) in their road game against the Nittany Lions.  The Wolverines have enough receiving talent to take care of business at State College … but this should be a close game with the edge going to the team displaying greater mental toughness and the ability to capitalize on turnovers.

One of the better Thursday night games of the season takes place this week when Boston College hosts the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Both teams have a conference loss and cannot afford to lose this contest if they hope to make the ACC championship game … it should be a barn burner … Josh Hyman, the second-leading receiver for the Hokies (13 receptions) has been suspended indefinitely by Frank Beamer for violating team rules and will not play …

Pssst…wanna know who the two yahoos are that are casting first place votes for West Virginia in the AP poll? You can find out the weekly ballots of all the AP voters at: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/external/onlinenews.ap.org/collegefootball_rankings/voters.php

Or, I can save you the time … Kevin Pearson from the Riverside Press-Enterprise and Scott Wolf from the Los Angeles Daily News are the two football writers who actually think a Mountaineer team with zip wins over ranked teams this year should be #1 over an Ohio State team with three quality wins over ranked teams.  Wolf also has a Southern Cal football blog where he posts his weekly AP poll votes and gets ragged on by his readers (www.insidesocal.com)

Did you know that Frito Lay, the largest snack company in the universe, bought the naming rights to the national championship game for the next four years from FOX Sports for their Tostitos brand?  Don’t get confused … this year there will be a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl game followed a week later by the Tostitos National Championship game staged in the same venue.

Halloween came a bit early for the Trojans … as if the thriller in Pullman wasn’t enough to send USC fans into cardiac arrest, Troy’s boys did it again to their fans last week—in the Coliseum, of all places—when Washington ran out of time on the Trojans’ 15-yard line as they were driving for the winning score. Now, USC has to face a well-rested Arizona State Sun Devils team coming off a bye week, and anxious to make a statement after their blowout losses to Cal and Oregon. One catch  … ASU’s Dirk Koetter has lost all eleven Pac-10 games he has coached that were played in California.

A tip of the cap to Ty Willingham for the solid turnaround he is engineering at Washington … Coach Willingham is a class act and he didn’t deserve the type of treatment he received from Notre Dame boosters and administrators.

Cal might very well benefit from the USC scare in Pullman two weeks ago. There’s an advantage to knowing that you are shark bait. I guess Wazzu would prefer the term “cougar bait,” but regardless, Cal knows what’s lurking in Pullman and they can take all necessary precautions … it should be a close game, but Cal is beginning to smell the Roses right now and that’s a mighty powerful antidote against a letdown.

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: What two teams own an undefeated record over the Texas Longhorns (minimum two games played)? The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches

And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is … Chris Kelly, of Indianapolis…Chris was the first to correctly answer the question:  What particular stat line drove Penn State Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno absolutely nuts in the 1989 Holiday Bowl?   The correct answer was Ty Detmer passing for 576 yards, 594 yards total offense (both Holiday Bowl records) in BYU’s 50-39 loss to Penn State.

Heisman’s Dark Horse: Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois Huskies … The Wolfe Man actually had a down week with only 162 yards rushing, but he remains tops on my list … Signature game versus Ohio State: 272 all-purpose yards, 172 of those yards coming on the ground, 1 TD. Season Stats: #1 ranked running back in Division 1: 156 carries, 1,343 yards, 8.6 ypc, 223.8 ypg, 13 TDs. Last week: 162 yards, 2 TDs at Miami (Ohio).  This week: at Western Michigan.

Streaking in the wrong direction … Colorado Buffaloes are now 0-6 … Stanford Cardinal are 0-6. Colorado’s overall losing streak of 10 games, which extends to last season, has equaled the longest losing streak in the history of the Buffaloes program (set in 1963-64). I still expect the Buffs to win 2-3 games this season. Stanford has two shots at winning a game this year: this week at home against Arizona and Nov 18 at home versus Oregon State.

BYU’s John Beck was named the Mountain West Conference’s offensive player of the week for the third time in four weeks after going 16-21, 267 yards, and 4 TDs in the Cougars 47-17 rout of San Diego State … the 6’2” 212 senior is looking more and more like a first round draft pick with many of the NFL draft watch lists rating him a top 3 QB prospect.

Pad the Stats Games of the Week: Texas Longhorns (plus 28) stampede the Baylor Bears … Louisville Cardinals (plus 27) drop some bird doo-doo on the Cincinnati Bearcats … Boise State Broncos (plus 26) stomp the New Mexico State Aggies, and the Clemson Tigers (plus 44) chew up and spit out feathers versus the Temple Owls.

Best Games of the Week: Virginia Tech Hokies @ Boston College Eagles … Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Navy Midshipmen … Ohio State Buckeyes @ Michigan State Spartans … California Golden Bears @ Washington State Cougars … Florida Gators @ Auburn Tigers … Michigan Wolverines @ Penn State Nittany Lions … Wake Forest Demon Deacons @ North Carolina State Wolfpack … Colorado State Rams @ Air Force Falcons … Missouri Tigers @ Texas A&M Aggies.

This Week’s Upset Specials … Wyoming Cowboys have a trap set for the Utah Utes. The Cowpokes have a tough defense, they’re battle hardened, and, they are tough to beat in Laramie … It doesn’t seem like much of an upset, since Auburn was #2 just last week, but they are currently nine spots down from Florida and the underdogs at home. I like them to bounce back with a furious effort against the Gators.

Fourth and inches …

►The shakeout among contenders and pretenders continued in full force with surprise upsets ruling the weekend…the Indiana Hoosiers stunned the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Vanderbilt Commodores upstaged the Georgia Bulldogs for the first time in twelve years…both Iowa and Georgia were jettisoned from the AP Top 25 poll, as was Virginia Tech after the Hokies dropped their second consecutive game, this time to ACC rival Boston College…they’ll all be fighting and clawing their way back into consideration for upper tier bowl game invites the rest of the season…Auburn’s defeat of the Florida Gators settled virtually nothing…both teams remained in the top 10 and are still in the hunt for a berth in the national title game.

►With the first BCS poll released on Sunday it should be apparent to fans that SOS (strength of schedule) matters and margin of victory does not…USC’s three close shave victories meant nothing to the BCS computers except that they were wins…conversely, Boise State’s avalanche-like scores over cupcake opponents registers faintly on the BCS Richter scale…

►If you happened to see the highlights of the Saturday Fight Night game pitting Miami and Florida International…do you really think the Hurricanes are being punished by suspending a handful of players for their BIG game against the Duke Blue Devils? What a joke…now, if this was basketball we were talking about, the loss of any one player versus Duke would be a stiff punishment. It’s hard to imagine that the University of Miami administration will allow Larry Coker to remain head coach beyond this year…this isn’t the first incident…remember when the Hurricanes stomped on the Louisville Cardinals logo at midfield and a fight almost broke out between the teams before that game? Two Miami players have issued public apologies…Soph Anthony Reddick for swinging his helmet as a weapon, and senior captain (captain?) Brandon Meriweather for stomping on FIU players’ legs with his cleats during the fracas…I wonder if Coker will allow Meriweather to remain a captain of the team after he has served his one-game suspension?

►The Sports Illustrated curse… Does it exist? Three weeks ago, Houston Cougars QB Kevin Kolb was highlighted as one of the top overlooked signal callers in the college ranks…since the article appeared, previously undefeated Houston has dropped 3 straight games to fall one game behind Tulsa in the C-USA West Divisional race and far-far away from consideration in the AP Top 25…statistically, the 6’3″, 225 Kolb has not been the problem…he’s gone 64-97, 722 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INT during the three losses…on the season he has 16 TD tosses against only 1 INT…Still, great stats mean virtually nothing without the wins…

►BYU QB coach, Brandon Doman, a former standout Cougars quarterback and a valuable recruiter for the Brigham Young program, said recently on Salt Lake’s 1280 AM The Zone that the Mountain West Conference’s lack of television exposure will eventually affect recruiting…as we’ve pointed out before, the nine MWC football programs have a total of 522 players on their rosters this season who hail from key recruiting states California, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Nevada…MWC fan boards are beginning to joke about the conference’s poorly launched “The mtn.” channel, with its tiny, intermountain footprint now being known as “The Pmpl.” (short for The Pimple)…How is it that the Big Ten Channel had a deal with DirecTV wrapped up a year before their launch next summer, while CSTV/Comcast cannot manage a satellite deal for “the mtn.” with a ready-to-go product? Quite simply, CSTV/Comcast has over-valued the sub fees for “the mtn.”…the Sat companies and many cable providers won’t budge at the current asking price.

►More problems with CSTV/Comcast and “the mtn.” In an effort to appease irate fans throughout the conference, CSTV began selling access to single games via an Internet Pay-Per-View offering…$14.95 advance price, $19.95 day of the game…I purchased an advance “ticket” to the BYU-San Diego State game to test out the technology…the result was a message that kept popping up on my screen that indicated the server was overloaded. When I called the CSTV customer service hotline, a message said all their operators were busy…this went on for well over an hour…by halftime, the score was 40-3 in favor of BYU…Fortunately, CSTV did refund for their lack of service…there were actually some people on the SDSU and BYU message boards who claimed to have watched the game online thru the service. The bottom line is that CSTV/Comcast needs to nail down a deal with at least one of the satellite TV services during this football season or the conference will begin to crumble…

►In just one weekend, three season ending injuries have dramatically impacted the outlook for three teams…Washington lost super playmaker QB Isaiah Stanback (#2 total yards in the Pac-10) and the Huskies could very well fall short in their quest to attain upper tier status in the conference and a significant bowl invite…Adrian Peterson’s ill-advised showboat dive into the end zone following a spectacular touchdown run left him with a broken collarbone, and out for the rest of the regular season…Oklahoma will struggle to replace AP’s offensive contributions the rest of the year, perhaps as early as this week when the Sooners host the Colorado Buffaloes…Stanford lost starting QB Trent Edwards for the season…all of the sudden, the prospect of the Cardinal going 0-12 this season appears even more realistic…

►More threes…three coaches on the hot seat? Obviously, Miami’s Larry Coker…add ASU’s Dirk Koetter to the list…and another Pac-10 coach…Stanford’s Walt Harris…sure, Harris is only in his second year, but the San Francisco Chronicle points out that Ted Leland, the A.D. who hired Harris, is gone, and the new A.D. is anxious to make his mark…not a good sign when you’re on the road to an 0-12 record and the Chron starts spreading such an idea…

►A playoff scenario I like… because it maintains conference affiliations with traditional bowl game partners…allows for 10 teams to participate…and it utilizes the major bowls that not only have the expertise of hosting national championship games, but the power to make this idea happen…here’s how it works:

Cotton Bowl and Holiday Bowl host play-in games to reach the final eight…the four teams playing in these two qualifier bowls would have to be ranked in the Top 15 final BCS poll and be a conference champion from the MAC, WAC, MWC, C-USA, or Sun Belt. Historically, you will note that there usually wouldn’t be more than one team from this pool…the other three slots are filled by the highest ranking teams that are not conference champions…this includes Notre Dame, and any team, regardless of conference affiliation. In a season like this year, you would conceivably end up with this type of play-in scenario:

December 25
Holiday Bowl: Michigan or Ohio State versus Boise State: Winner goes to Sugar Bowl
Dec 26
Cotton Bowl: Auburn or Florida versus Notre Dame: Winner goes to Fiesta Bowl

Your final 8 slots would look like this:

Jan 1
Rose Bowl: Big Ten champion versus Pac-10 champion
Orange Bowl: ACC champion versus Big East champion

Jan 2
Sugar Bowl: SEC champion versus Holiday Bowl winner
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 champion versus Cotton Bowl winner

Final 4 slots:

Jan 7
Rose Bowl winner versus Fiesta Bowl winner, with Rose and Fiesta alternating each year as host for the semi-final
Jan 8
Orange Bowl winner versus Sugar Bowl winner, with Orange and Sugar alternating each year as host for the semi-final

The host site for the national championship game would alternate between the four sites each year…this means that each major bowl site would host a final 4 game two of every 4 years, a national title game once every four years, and sit out once every four years…

National title game:

Jan 14 or 15
Winner of the Jan 7 and Jan 8 games

This only adds a week to the season, and it allows for all the other bowl games to be played…one key addition to this scenario that adds vitality to the other bowl games…Each conference’s previous season bowl game record could add bonus points to their conference champion’s BCS final tally the following year…this gives all the teams playing in minor bowls extra incentive as they could be helping their own cause the following year.

Next week: A look at the most popular 16-team playoff scenario.

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: What is the motivational reminder on the yellow sign that Notre Dame Fighting Irish football players always touch before running onto the field? Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition, collectible pin from the 2006 National Championship Rose Bowl Game between Texas and USC. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is…Rich Grabmeier, of Shawnee, Kansas…Rich was the first to correctly answer the question: Who are the only two teams to own an undefeated record over the Texas Longhorns (minimum two games played)? The correct answer was Syracuse and BYU. Syracuse is 2-0-1 against Texas and BYU is 2-0. Several participants answered “USC with a 4-0 record,” forgetting that the Trojans lost in the Rose Bowl Game national title contest earlier this year to Vince Young & Co.

►Heisman’s Dark Horse Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois Huskies…The Wolfe Man has officially been placed on probation in this column after being shut down by Western Michigan last week (25 yards on 18 carries) It’s hard to argue against Ohio State’s Troy Smith at this point, but I’ll give GW one more chance … Signature game versus Ohio State…272 all-purpose yards–172 of those yards coming on the ground, 1 TD…Season Stats: #1 ranked running back in Division 1…174 carries, 1,368 yards, 7.9 ypc, 195.4 ypg, 13 TDs…This week: Temple.

►Stats Padding Games of the Week: Arizona State Sun Devils (plus 23) over Stanford’s hapless Cardinal…Auburn Tigers (plus 32) devour the Tulane Green Wave…LSU Tigers (plus 32.5) maul the Fresno State Bulldogs…

►Best Games of the Week: Texas Longhorns @ Nebraska Cornhuskers…Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Pittsburgh Panthers …Alabama Crimson Tide @ Tennessee Volunteers…Boston College Eagles @ Florida State Seminoles…Iowa Hawkeyes @ Michigan Wolverines … Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Clemson Tigers…

►Upset specials of the week…I like the Washington State Cougars to pull off the improbable win over the Oregon Ducks…just because they are due to win a big one at home…Colorado went down to Georgia and almost pulled off an upset a few weeks ago…I don’t think they’ll be overwhelmed playing on the road at Oklahoma, and now that they have a win in hand, I look for them to knock off an Oklahoma team that is still a bit stunned from losing Adrian Peterson for the season.