4th and inches …

Fourth and inches …

Will the Gators repeat? Sorry Gainesville, you’ll have to settle for your repeat in hoops ‘cuz it ain’t gonna happen on the gridiron this season.  Okay, but if not Florida, who will ascend to the throne of college football in 2007?  The smart money says USC or LSU.  Given the experience and depth in both programs right now, I would have to agree.  Keep in mind these five top challengers as the season progresses:  Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Texas, and Louisville.

Let’s get real about the Heisman Trophy … Everybody’s preseason list this year includes Hawaii’s Colt Brennan, Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia), John David Booty (USC), and another Colt, the McCoy kid (Texas).  My dark horse candidate is Nebraska’s senior gunslinger Sam Keller.  Brennan will put up unreal numbers against a patsy schedule (3rd worst strength of schedule in Division 1-A) obliterating virtually every existing NCAA D-1A passing record that he doesn’t already hold along the way.

Can Brennan truly be considered Heisman-worthy if Hawaii goes undefeated and lands in a New Year’s Day Bowl?  I have serious reservations and it’s not because of Hawaii’s weak schedule.  Is it right to place college football’s highest individual award into the hands of a convicted felon who is still on probation (and will be when the award is presented) for crimes committed just three years ago at the University of Colorado?   By all means, flame away with your own take.

For those of you who might have forgotten, as a redshirt freshman at Colorado, Brennan was accused of entering a female student’s dorm room while intoxicated and fondling her.  He was eventually found not guilty of indecent exposure and criminal intent to commit sexual assault, but he was convicted on felony counts of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass.  He received a sentence of seven days in jail, 60 hours of community service, and four years’ probation, which is still in effect until sometime in 2008.

More on Brennan and Hawaii’s weak schedule … Don’t blame Brennan for having to face patsy opponents like Division 1-AA Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern.  It’s not his fault.  I suggest that the NCAA not include individual and team statistics against opponents from the lower division in the official record book.  That would keep stat-happy coach June Jones from playing Brennan more than the first half of each game.  Instead, watch for Jones to wait until midway thru the 4th quarter before he calls the dogs off.  Figure a minimum of 12 TD passes for Brennan in those two games alone.  Throw in another 12 against Idaho and Utah State and he’d have two dozen TD tosses with eight games to go.

More on the Heisman … The Heisman voting shouldn’t take place until after the bowl games.  Remember when the electrifying Reggie Bush choked in the 2006 Rose Bowl Game?  How could anyone not have voted for Vince Young after his brilliant, clutch performance against USC in that national championship battle?

Speaking of statistics, can the NCAA get their act together?  … They need to go back and include postseason stats for individuals as far back as the record books will allow.  Either that, or don’t include postseason stats for anyone.  It’s ridiculous that bowl game statistics prior to 1992 are not included.  What gives?  One example:  BYU’s Ty Detmer should have something like 7 more TD passes and 1,175 extra yards added to his career stats if his bowl game performances were included.  He still holds the NCAA bowl record for total offense with 594 yards (576 passing yards) against Penn State in the 1989 Holiday Bowl.

More Detmer … This Saturday in their home opener against the Arizona Wildcats, BYU will officially retire jersey #14 worn by All-American QBs Ty Detmer (1988-1991) and Gifford Nielsen (1975-1977).  Both of these former Cougars have previously been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

QUICK HITS

Worst name change… D-1A is now supposed to be called the “FBS.”  Never mind what they are calling D-1AA.  Until further notice, I’m sticking with the traditional terms we are all familiar with for both divisions.  Who came up with this idiotic change anyway?

Biggest impact rule change … Moving the point of the kick-offs back to the 30-yard line will result in two major increases this year:  kick-offs returned for touchdowns and injuries.  Longer gains and more pain.

Coaches on the hottest seats … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

Highest rated academic conference in D-1A? … The Big Ten.

Best 2007 Preview magazine … Phil Steele’s steals every category across the board.

The sports information staff that outshines the rest … Notre Dame.  A friendly, efficient team—always first with their media guides in the mail.

Savviest early season scheduling … USC will vandalize Idaho this week, then they’ll have a bye week to get ready for Nebraska on the road.

Quickest fall from grace … University of Florida president Bernie Machen began campaigning for a college football playoff last year even before the Gators won the title.  His proposal was shot down without any fanfare by his conference colleagues in late May at the SEC Spring Meeting.

Upset Specials of the Week… Wyoming Cowboys over Virginia Cavaliers … Toledo Rockets over Purdue Boilermakers … Utah Utes over Oregon State Beavers … Central Michigan Chippewas over Kansas Jayhawks …

Fourth and inches …

Talk about shocking the college football world … No disrespect to Appalachian State. They are a fine football team, and by the way, the only team from North Carolina to win any sort of NCAA football title. But, c’mon. When you have the tradition, a national recruiting base, outstanding facilities, a Numero Cinco Ranking with a legit shot at the national title game this year, AND the ghost of Bo watching over you, how can you permit a D-IAA team to come into your crib (The Big Crib, er, House, no less) and make you look silly? The Wolverines tumbled 27 spots in this week’s AP poll–the biggest freefall in the history of the polls. Will anyone be surprised if Lloyd Carr is respectfully asked to step down at the end of the season regardless of whether Michigan goes 11-0 the rest of the way?

►Lucky Choice: The shifting sands of Heisman hype… Like a couple of tigers Siegfried & Roy used to pull out of thin air in Las Vegas, Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice (196 yards, two TDs versus Notre Dame) and Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky (233 yards rushing, three TDs rushing, one TD receiving) have magically appeared on everyone’s Heisman radar. If Marlon and his teammates gets really Lucky on Sept. 15 against the USC defense and he happens to shred them as easily as he did the Nevada Wolfpack, then he’ll clearly become a leading candidate. No such luck for Tashard, who doesn’t have a Choice regarding who, where, or when the Ramblin’ Wreck play this week. A huge game against Samford just won’t cut it, TC, but don’t worry. G-Tech has plenty of big games coming up on the schedule for you to strut your stuff.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … the usual suspects all turned in eye-popping stats … Hawaii’s Colt Brennan tossed six TDs against D-IAA Northern Colorado, and Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia) all posted the numbers necessary to maintain traction on the watch list. John David Booty (USC), and Colt McCoy (Texas) did not. Some folks are ready to throw Ben Olson (UCLA) on the list after connecting for five TD passes over Stanford last week. Hmmm … let’s wait and see how he fares this Saturday when his former buddies from BYU visit Pasadena.

►Speaking of BYU … Cougar fans gotta be happy with newbie QB Max Hall and his performance against Arizona last Saturday. He went 26 of 39 for 288 yards and two TDs, which bettered his predecessor’s showing last year ever so slightly. (John Beck was 28 of 37 for 289 yards and one TD last year against the Wildcats). Just as impressive was redshirt freshman Harvey Unga. Making his first start ever, Unga racked up 196 total yards (68 on the ground, 128 receiving, two TDs) and was honored with the MWC Offensive Player of the Week award. Also noteworthy was BYU’s stingy defense which held Arizona pointless for 59 minutes of the game, finally allowing a score in the final seconds of mop-up time.

QUICK HITS

► Worst name change… I’m holding this over from last week. D-IA is now supposed to be called the “FBS” and the D-IAA is now supposed to be the “FCS.” Everywhere you read about college football, everyone is using both categorizations. Is that the politically correct thing to do? If you don’t like it, say something. Start a fan revolt and petition the NCAA. I’m not using ’em, so there.

►Let’s get this straight … For you UCLA and BYU fans needling each other back and forth on your smack boards, “The Granddaddy of Them All” is a trademarked name referring to the Rose Bowl Game because it is the oldest and most prestigious bowl game in college football … It is not another name for Rose Bowl Stadium. The 94th Rose Bowl Game will be played on Jan. 1, 2008, just a few hours after the 119th Rose Parade.

►Coaches on the hottest seats … Yep, I checked and they’re still there … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

►Potential BCS Busters … Everyone here holding strong through Week 1 … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

►Look out, coach! … Tom O’Brien, former head coach at Boston College, leads the North Carolina State Wolfpack into dangerous territory this weekend …

►Potentially looking at the longest season of despair? … Notre Dame fans.

►Best Electronic College Football Database? … Collegio Football (www.sophosoft.com). You will be amazed by the amount of information and ease of navigating the program. It’s like having a mini-media guide for all 119 D-1A teams at your fingertips.

►Tressel says he was rooting for Michigan last week? … Some Buckeye Nuts might find that difficult to swallow, but I’ll buy it. It is only to Ohio State’s advantage to play the highest-ranked Michigan team it possibly can in late November.

►You’re either suspended or you’re not, right? … What’s with Wisconsin running back Lance Smith being suspended from road games but being cleared to play at home? Smith was arrested on battery charges in July and originally suspended from the team. AD Barry Alvarez reinstated Smith’s home game privileges. He’ll miss the UNLV game this week, as well as road games at Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota.

►Big ouch … Tulsa has lost prized Oklahoma transfer RB Courtney Tennial to a season-ending knee injury. Tennial was the Golden Hurricanes’ leading ground gainer last season with 862 yards and 14 TDs. Get well soon, Courtney.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston on ESPN:

When was the last time that Ohio State played an unranked Michigan team in The Rivalry Game?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Best Games of the Week … TCU Horned Frogs at Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars at UCLA Bruins … Miami Hurricanes at Oklahoma Sooners … North Carolina State Wolfpack at Boston College Eagles … Oregon Ducks at Michigan Wolverines … Fresno State Bulldogs at Texas A&M Aggies … Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies … South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Bulldogs … Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Penn State Nittany Lions … South Florida Bulls at Auburn Tigers … Virginia Tech Hokies at LSU Tigers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (1-3) … Washington Huskies over Boise State Broncos … TCU Horned Frogs over Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars over UCLA Bruins … South Florida Bulls over Auburn Tigers …

Fourth and inches …

Early season surprises … If anyone predicted in the preseason that both Michigan and Notre Dame would be winless heading into this weekend’s game in Ann Arbor, he or she would have to be clairvoyant. Oddly enough, there’s just as much intrigue in this game to see who will be 0-3 in the aftermath as there would be if both teams were 2-0 and ranked. Adding more fuel to the fire, Michigan running back Mike Hart has boldly guaranteed a Wolverine victory. I can’t remember when both teams have looked so vulnerable in the same season … Reliable sources are reporting that this truly will be Lloyd Carr’s last year. Duh, ya think so? Hey, maybe Jim Harbaugh will apply for the job.

►Heisman hype… Give credit to Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey for taking it easy on Samford last week. Sensational running back Tashard Choice got 110 yards and two TDs on 11 carries against Samford and then took a seat in the 69-14 massacre. Choice will have his chance to shine this week when the Ramblin’ Wreck host No. 21 Boston College. Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky faced much stiffer competition on the road against Wake Forest and came away with 90 yards and a score on 24 carries. If Marlon has a big game against USC this weekend, he’ll remain in the race. If not, you can count him out. Cal’s DeSean Jackson had five receptions for 39 yards and two carries for 78 yards against Colorado State last week. Seventy-three of those rushing yards came off a reverse play that Jackson took the distance. Arkansas had the week off, so nothing new to add about RB Darren McFadden. He’ll have a prime opportunity to shine on the road this week at Alabama.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … You can drop UCLA’s Ben Olson from the list of hopefuls … despite eeking out a win against his former teammates, BYU held Olson to a dismal statistical performance (13 of 28 for 126 yards and one INT). Two of the big-name QB candidates put up some eye-popping numbers against weak opponents … Louisville’s Brian Brohm was 25 of 39 for 401 yards and 5 TDs against Middle Tennessee State … Hawaii’s Colt Brennan went 43 of 61 for 548 yards and four TDs and a pick against Louisiana Tech … Facing stiffer competition, dual threat Pat White of West Virginia was 13 of 18 for 149 yards and two TDs through the air – as well as 125 yards and a TD on 18 carries against Marshall. Teammate Steve Slaton added 146 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries … Texas gunslinger Colt McCoy finished 25 of 38 for 239 yards, one TD, and two picks in the Longhorns’ comeback win over TCU.

►One sure Heisman candidate for next year? … BYU’s QB Max Hall. The redshirt sophomore transfer from ASU has put up some strong numbers and outperformed both of his Pac-10 counterparts — Willie Tuitama (Arizona) and UCLA’s Ben Olson — in the first two weeks of this young season. Last week, Hall went 30 of 52 for 391 yards, two TDs and one INT against the Bruins. In the first two games of his collegiate career, Hall’s line is 56 of 91 (61.5 percent) for 679 yards, four TDs and one pick.

QUICK HITS

► Worst fans?… Hands down, it has to be Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ fans hurled volley after volley of derisive and profanity-laced taunts at the Naval Academy team and fans in last week’s 41-24 home victory. None of the taunts could be repeated in this column, but let’s just say if the Defense Department wanted to set up a draft for only Rutgers students, I’d be all for it. Rutgers school officials, including AD Robert Mulcahy, issued a letter of apology to the Naval Academy this week. They’ve also sent an open letter to students requesting better behavior at future games.

►Is ACC the weakest BCS conference? … Food for thought … Three of the ACC’s top teams lost their non-conference games last week … Miami was crushed 51-13 by Oklahoma, Virginia Tech rolled by LSU, 48-7, and Wake Forest lost at home to Nebraska, 20-17. Two weeks ago, Virginia lost to Wyoming, 23-3, and North Carolina State lost to Central Florida. Last year, the ACC was 6-16 in non-conference games against BCS schools. So far, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Boston College are the only bright spots for the conference.

►Potential BCS Busters … Central Florida, if it pulls off the upset over Texas this week … of the four hopefuls from last week, Hawaii is hanging by a thread … TCU and BYU lost to top-12 teams but could still have a chance if they don’t lose again … Boise State got walloped by unranked Washington and doesn’t look to have a chance.

►You never wish this on a player … USC junior defensive back Josh Pinkard tore an ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of this season. Last year, Pinkard tore up his right knee and had to sit out nearly the entire season. Louisville safety Latarrius Thomas and Tennessee defensive back Antonio Gaines are also out for the year with knee injuries. Here’s wishing you guys all a speedy recovery and return to the gridiron next season.

►Whatever happened to … Miami senior QB Kyle Wright? After losing the starting role to Kirby Freeman in the Hurricanes’ first two games this season, Wright is back on the first team for the Florida International game this week. The Class of 2003’s most highly prized national QB recruit, the Danville, Calif., native has gone 14-7 as a starter in his college career at Miami with 4,058 yards passing.

►Speaking of Miami and Florida International … Do you remember the huge mid-game brawl that occurred between these two teams last year with helmets and cleats being used as weapons? Thirty-one players were sanctioned — 18 from FIU, 13 from Miami. They promise it won’t happen again this year. Honest.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston on ESPN:

When was the last time that a winless Notre Dame team played a winless Michigan team?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

Last week’s winner, Sam Grayson of Miami, Florida, correctly answered that the last time Ohio State played an unranked Michigan team in The Rivalry Game was 1993. No. 5 Ohio State (9-0-1) took it on the chin 28-0 from the unranked Wolverines (6-4) in Ann Arbor that year. Congratulations, Sam!

►Best Games of the Week … Texas Longhorns at Central Florida Golden Knights … Ohio State Buckeyes at Washington Huskies … Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Wolverines … Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators … Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide … BYU Cougars at Tulsa Golden Hurricane … Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats … Fresno State Bulldogs at Oregon Ducks … Boston College Eagles at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets … Wyoming Cowboys at Boise State Broncos … USC Trojans at Nebraska Cornhuskers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-2, season 3-5) … Wyoming Cowboys over Boise State Broncos … Fresno State Bulldogs over Oregon Ducks … Central Florida Golden Knights over Texas Longhorns … Kentucky Wildcats over Louisville Cardinals

Fourth and inches …

Early season surprises … Does beating a winless Notre Dame team really mean anything to Lloyd Carr? You bet it does. And now he still has the Big Ten race for a chance at some redemption. Michigan’s 1-2 record sure looks better than the big, fat 0-3 that Charlie Weis is staring at right now.

►Reality… Penn State could make the Wolverines’ shot at redemption take a nose dive pretty quickly this weekend.

►Double dose of reality… Charlie Weis has been kicking some Irish tail around this week with a “back to basics” training camp mentality which included the unspeakable — a full practice on Sunday. Guess who’s coming to town this weekend? Yep, a Spartan squad that has a slight bit of payback on their minds for choking in the second half last year at East Lansing.

►Heisman hype won’t help them now… Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice was stifled by ACC rival Boston College … Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky is out of the race for good this year with a dismal performance against USC. UCLA’s Ben Olson, who had a sliver of a chance to begin the season, has totally been flushed with back-to-back embarrassments against BYU and Utah. Goodbye, gentlemen.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … Rocketing to the top three is Kentucky’s Andre Woodson after his gutsy performance against instate rival and former ninth-ranked Louisville and its own poster boy, Brian Brohm. Woodson tossed the winning TD pass with 28 seconds left in the game. His line was a modest 30 of 44 for 275 yards and four TDs. Arkansas’ Darren McFadden ripped off 195 yards and two TDs on 33 carries against Alabama in a heartbreaking loss … his SID has a pretty nifty Heisman campaign in full swing now with Web site, weekly press conferences, and DMAC swag. As long as No. 5 keeps producing on the gridiron like last week, he is going to be hard to beat this year.

►Are fake injuries a viable defensive strategy? … Cougar fan boards have been lighting up with discussion about the inordinate number of injury timeouts taken by Tulsa in an effort to thwart BYU’s no-huddle offense last Saturday night. If so, the strategy seems to have worked well for Todd Graham, as it flew under the radar of the officials calling the game and his Golden Hurricane eeked out the upset in a shootout, 55-47. According to one fan who recorded the game, Tulsa had nine injury timeouts for defensive players. I lost track after counting seven injury timeouts during the live telecast. A call to Tulsa’s sports information office on Wednesday said the team does not release an injury list of its players to the media, but attributed the high number of injuries to “hard hitting by a very physical BYU team.”

►Speaking of cheating… Georgia coach Mark Richt closed down practices for his Dawgs this week as they prepare for Nick Saban’s Alabama team. Saban used to work for Bill Belichick. You get the picture.

►MWC fans still getting screwed by the CSTV deal… It was bad enough that only a few cattle grazing in the Wyoming pastures could see Mountain West Conference football games on the TV network known as “the mtn.” last season. But, here we are heading into Week 4 of the second college football season on the mtn. and only incremental progress has been made to expand the network’s footprint. Tens of thousands of fans in Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Arizona, and all points east of the Rockies still can’t get the network, and hence, they have no access to any football games shown on it.

MWC spokesman Javan Hedlund says that online pay-per-view offerings of this week’s highly anticipated matchups featuring Air Force at BYU and resurgent Utah at UNLV are out of the question because it would damage ongoing negotiations with DISH and DirecTV.

Nobody’s offering a timetable regarding when CSTV/Comcast might finally cut a deal with one or both of the satellite companies to carry the mtn. network, but the safe bet would be to assume “not this season.”

So far, the big winner in this fiasco is Slingbox.

QUICK HITS

► Quack Quack… Duck thwacks Cougar and gets one-game suspension? Oh, you’ve gotta love college football. Yessirree, the Oregon mascot beat up the Houston Cougar mascot when the two teams squared off the week before last. The Duck managed to make it into the TV booth at Autzen Stadium during the Fresno State game last Saturday, much to the delight of O fans.

►Redux: Is the ACC the weakest BCS conference? … Well, check out our new feature at the bottom of this week’s “AP Top 25 weekly review.” The ACC, Pac-10 and Big Ten are tied with three teams each in this week’s AP poll. The SEC, Big 12 and the Big East all placed more teams in the Top 25. Of course, it’s a weekly poll, so it’s going to fluctuate with the outcomes every Saturday. Probably best to leave this question alone until the final polls come out in January.

►Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii is the only one left, with the super longshot Tulsa, providing it can upset Oklahoma this Friday. Like I said, “super longshot.” It remains to be seen how playing another D-IAA program will affect Hawaii’s ranking. So far, it hasn’t been too detrimental. What that means is that you just might see a lot more programs scheduling patsies in the future.

►Austin PD having a field day with Longhorn arrests … Texas freshman running back James Henry became the sixth Longhorn arrested since June when he was charged this week with two felony counts of obstruction and tampering with evidence. Henry is accused of beating up one of the victims of a July home invasion that supposedly involved two other players, Andre Jones and Robert Joseph. Linebacker Sergio Kindle, defensive end Henry Melton, senior safety Tyrell Gatewood, and freshman defensive back Ben Wells have all been cuffed by the Austin PD in the past six months. “Twenty-three years as a head coach, and I’ve dealt with more in six months than I have in 23 years,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.

►The hottest coach in college football right now? … If you said former Central Michigan head honcho and current Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, you’d be correct. Watch what he does with the Bearcats this year … they’re already 3-0 with a huge 34-3 win over Oregon State. Let’s see what Kelly can do with a four game stretch coming up that has Cincy at Rutgers on Oct 6, Louisville at home on the Oct. 13, at Pitt on Oct/ 20, and at South Florida on Nov. 3.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008, in Houston, on ESPN:

What is the jersey number that has been worn most by Heisman Trophy winners?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

Last week’s winner, Randy Johnson of Dayton, Ohio correctly answered that Michigan and Notre Dame had never met with winless records before, except the few times in history when they played each other in a season opener. Congratulations, Randy!

►Best Games of the Week … Texas A&M Aggies at Miami Hurricanes … Oklahoma Sooners at Tulsa Golden Hurricane … Air Force Falcons at BYU Cougars … Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Wolverines … South Carolina Gamecocks at LSU Tigers … Kentucky Wildcats at Arkansas Razorbacks … Georgia Bulldogs at Alabama Crimson Tide … Washington Huskies at UCLA Bruins … Iowa Hawkeyes at Wisconsin Badgers … Michigan State at Notre Dame (just to see if the streak stays alive) …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (1-4, season 4-9) … Toledo Rockets over Iowa State Cyclones … Michigan Wolverines over Penn State Nittany Lions … Miami Hurricanes over Texas A&M Aggies …

Fourth and inches …

Will Notre Dame win a game this season? Let’s just say it’s the perfect winter for Golden Domer fans to treat their wives to a tropical island vacation. No bowl game this year. But take heart, Fighting Irish fans. Of course your boys will win this year. The way I see it, you have four more consecutive losses to endure (at Purdue, at UCLA, Boston College, and USC), then a four-game winning streak to close the season at 4-8.

►The number 6… The Irish loss was their sixth in a row, stretching back to last season, making it the second-longest losing streak in the history of Notre Dame football. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s victory last Saturday made it the first program to defeat Notre Dame six times in a row at Notre Dame Stadium.

►Biggest disappointments this season?… Michigan and Louisville share the ignominy of heading up this short list. The Cardinals began the season ranked 10th and moved up to No. 8 before their defense exposed them as an impostor. The Wolverines started out the season ranked fifth and promptly suffered one of the worst upsets in the history of college football, losing to I-AA Appalachian State in “The Big House.” While both teams will go bowling this year, it’s a far cry from the possibility both held for making it to national title game by starting the season with top 10 rankings.

►Heisman hopefuls … Kentucky QB Andre Woodson has shot to the top of my Big 5 list after the Wildcats beat Arkansas in Fayetteville with a fourth-quarter comeback. That’s Woodson’s second comeback win in a row over recently ranked opponents … Darren McFadden rushed for 173 yards and a score in the losing effort. It doesn’t help that his Razorbacks have lost two in a row, but he’s still the class of the running back set this year. Cal’s DeSean Jackson, West Virginia’s Pat White and USC’s John David Booty round out my current Big 5 list.

►23 teams still undefeated … Among the undefeated going head-to-head this week are: West Virginia at South Florida, Michigan State at Wisconsin, California at Oregon, and although Massachusetts doesn’t count among the 23 unbeaten because it’s a D-IAA school, the team still brings its 4-0 record to Boston on Saturday to take on unbeaten Boston College.

►Talk about courage… and you’d have to include the latest nomination for this year’s FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, Danny Langsdorf, the offensive coordinator at Oregon State. Langsdorf donated one of his kidneys over the summer to Laurie Cavanaugh, the wife of his offensive line coach, Mike Cavanaugh. Laurie had been looking for a donor for over a year. Langsdorf tested out to be a match and he didn’t hesitate to help out. Two other nominees announced so far this year are Brian Kajiyama (Hawaii), and Terry Clayton (Kentucky). Last year’s award winner was Ray Ray McElrathbey, the Clemson running back who is raising his little brother on his own.

QUICK HITS

► The one team that has JoePa’s number… Michigan has a nine-game winning streak against the Grand Old Master of Happy Valley. Before the streak began in 1997, Penn State had a three-game winning streak of its own against the Wolverines (1994-96).

►Whom would you start this week? … Chad Henne, senior QB with an 0-2 record this season, and recovering from an injured knee, or Ryan Mallett, freshman QB with a 2-0 record (wins over Notre Dame and Penn State)? Do you hand the job back to Henne just because he’s a senior, or do you stick with your winning ways? I would stick with my winner, Mallett. If he falters down the road, then you’ve got a solid veteran to relieve him.

►When a Buckeye really is a nut … Ohio State’s third-team QB, Antonio Henton, was arrested this week for soliciting a prostitute. Obviously, this young man doesn’t believe that being a member of the Buckeye football team offered any advantage to help him find a date for the homecoming dance next month.

►Nebraska fans are up in arms after close shave win over Ball State … They ought to be thankful they don’t have Oklahoma on their schedule this year. Forty points by Ball State is the equivalent of 80 by the Sooners. The way I see it, Cornhusker fans should be bracing themselves for losses to Missouri on Oct. 6 and Texas on Oct. 27, and maybe — just maybe — to Kansas on Nov. 3.

►Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii is the only one left, unless, and it’s a big one … unless Boise State wins out the rest of its games this year. With only one loss early in the season to Washington, BSU could do it. Right now, the Broncos are No. 32 in the coaches’ poll and not ranked in the AP poll or the Harris poll. Hawaii cannot afford to lose at all with its weak strength of schedule.

►Best reunion game of the week? … I didn’t mind losing PlayStation NCAA Football to my oldest son, Andrew, last weekend. We hadn’t been able to play against each other in over three years, since he moved to the opposite coast.

Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan.19, 2008, in Houston, on ESPN2:

What is the jersey number that has been worn most by Heisman Trophy winners?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Best Games of the Week … West Virginia Mountaineers at South Florida Bulls … Air Force Falcons at Navy Midshipmen … Michigan State Spartans at Wisconsin Badgers … Maryland Terrapins at Rutgers Scarlet Knights … Clemson Tigers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets … California Golden Bears at Oregon Ducks … Alabama Crimson Tide at Florida State Seminoles … Colorado State Rams at TCU Horned Frogs … UCLA Bruins at Oregon State Beavers … Pittsburgh Panthers at Virginia Cavaliers … USC Trojans at Washington Huskies … Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators … BYU Cougars at New Mexico Lobos …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (3-0, season 7-9) … Florida State Seminoles over Alabama Crimson Tide … South Florida Bulls over West Virginia Mountaineers … Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets over Clemson Tigers

Fourth and inches …

Was it really upset weekend, or does South Florida really have a shot at the national championship game? Let’s face it, there’s greater parity in college football than ever before. Skills are being learned and talent is being developed at an earlier age across the U.S. than in the past. And there’s only a total of 10,115 Division I-A scholarships available each year. That means there are some pretty good football players walking on and playing without scholarships around the country at the school of their choice, as well as others who opt to compete at the D-IAA level or below.

If you scan the NFL rosters, it’s an eye-opener regarding how many pros come from outside the D-IA level. Take the Dallas Cowboys, for instance. They have 10 players from outside the D-IA ranks, including QB Tony Romo, who is a product of D-IAA Eastern Illinois.

Out of 32 NFL team rosters (including their injured reserve lists), there are 199 players who did not come from a Division I-A program. That’s an average of 6.2 players per team. The Chiefs had the most with 12, and the Rams had the fewest with three.

Since the NFL rosters have an average of 10 to 11 percent of their players who didn’t even play at the D-IA level of competition, you have to ask yourself if that is evidence of more parity at the highest level of college football. If there are that many good football players outside of D-IA ball, doesn’t it stand to reason that there must be a pretty good base of talent spread throughout all 119 D-IA programs?

►Do you think the Big Ten and Pac-10 would like to call it a season right now? Their teams occupy four of the five top spots in the polls this week. I’m sure the Rose Bowl Game officials would be elated if they knew they could pit Cal against Ohio State or Wisconsin in the “Granddaddy” on Jan. 1.

►Heisman hopefuls … Kentucky QB Andre Woodson maintains his number one spot and he could ice it away with three straight Heisman-caliber performances against South Carolina, LSU and Florida … Darren McFadden remains steady but needs big-game attention to shine brighter … Cal’s DeSean Jackson moves up to a solid No. 3 with his great effort against Oregon last week. Rounding out my top five are Michigan’s Mike Hart and BC’s Matt Ryan.

►Worth reading … If you’re a college football junkie, then you’ve got to make Stewart Mandel’s College Football Mailbag on SI.com a part of your regular weekly reading. He’s got a keen football mind and is always interesting. This week, he comes up with three classifications for what would normally be termed “upsets:” Level 1–Stunners, Level 2–Surprises, and Level 3–Weird Ones. He also has a great idea for dealing with highly paid coaches who haven’t delivered on their promises. I think I have a better idea than the Celebrity Crush, though …

QUICK HITS

►How many Colts does it take to toss nine interceptions in one day? The answer is two. Hawaii’s Colt Brennan surrendered the ball five times to the Idaho Vandals last Saturday and Colt McCoy of Texas coughed up four picks to Kansas State later the same day.

►Top Graduation rates?… Is it any wonder the top graduation rates in Division I-A belong to Navy, Air Force, Northwestern, Duke, Stanford, and Notre Dame? All six programs were above 92 percent.

►Worst Graduation rates?… The two worst graduation rates belong to Arizona and Georgia (41%), closely followed by Texas (42%), Michigan State (43%) and Oklahoma (44%). Ouch.

►Fifteen teams still undefeated … down from 23 last week … The only undefeated teams going head-to-head this week are Ohio State and Purdue …

►Is it really possible that either Oklahoma or Texas will be knocked out of the Big 12 title race by this Saturday? The loser will be two games back in the loss column with only six conference games remaining after this weekend.

►Florida leading Texas … for most players arrested in a 12-month period. Gator safety Tony Joiner was arrested a couple nights ago and charged with a felony. Although it will most likely be reduced to a misdemeanor trespassing charge, Joiner is the eighth Florida player arrested in the past seven months, giving the Gators a two-arrest lead over the Texas Longhorns, who have achieved six arrests since June.

►Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii lucked out with last week’s upsets and moved up three slots in the AP poll to No. 16, despite playing WAC bottom feeder Idaho. Their star QB blew his slim chance at nabbing the Heisman Trophy when he threw five INTs against the Vandals. The Warriors cannot afford to lose one game this year with the Twinkie schedule they are playing.

►As if Irish fans needed to be reminded … Notre Dame lost its seventh game in a row dating back to last season. The Irish are now 0-5 this year and still have UCLA, Boston College and USC coming up, beginning this weekend.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston, on ESPN2:

What college football programs have received the NCAA’s “death penalty” since 1965?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Best Games of the Week … Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks … Kansas Jayhawks at Kansas State Wildcats … Wisconsin Badgers at Illinois Fighting Illini … TCU Horned Frogs at Wyoming Cowboys … Oklahoma Sooners versus Texas Longhorns … Georgia Bulldogs at Tennessee Volunteers … Virginia Tech Hokies at Clemson Tigers … Ohio State Buckeyes at Purdue Boilermakers … Florida Gators at LSU Tigers … Cincinnati Bearcats at Rutgers Scarlet Knights … Nebraska Cornhuskers at Missouri Tigers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (3-0, season 10-9) … Illinois Fighting Illini over Wisconsin Badgers … Purdue Boilermakers over Ohio State Buckeyes … Wyoming Cowboys over TCU Horned Frogs …