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Ness Notes: CFB Week 2
by Larry Ness - 09/12/2008
The third weekend of the '08 CFB kicked off last night as North Carolina beat Rutgers 44-12. It was hardly a marquee game but it was the Tar Heels' first road win outside the state of North Carolina since 2002 (had lost 20 straight!). Rutgers happens to be one of the two participants of college football's first-ever game, played back on November 6, 1869. Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 on that day, in a game vastly different from the one we know today. However, I think someone forgot to inform the Rutgers players, "the game has changed."
The week 'heats up' on Friday night, as No. 13 Kansas visits No. 19 South Florida (Bulls are favored by 3 1/2-points). Kansas was founded in 1866 and has played football since 1890, while USF wasn't founded until 1956 and didn't play its first football game until 1997. The Bulls lost that first game (as a Division I-AA school), 80-3 to Kentucky Wesleyan. However, the school was a Division I-A program by 2001, when it recorded its first-ever winning season, going 8-3. The Bulls set CFB on its 'ear' last year, opening at No. 2 in the first BCS standings of '07, with a 6-0 record.
The Bulls did lose their next three games but managed to finish the year at 9-4. While the Jayhawks have a long tradition, winning football games has rarely been a part of that tradition. However, that all changed in '07, as head coach Mark Mangino (in his sixth year at Lawrence), led the Jayhawks to 11 straight wins, before they lost 36-28 to Missouri in Kansas City. That loss kept Kansas out of the Big-12 championship game but not out of a BCS bowl, as the Jayhawks went to the Orange Bowl where they beat Va Tech, 24-21. Kansas finished '07 at 12-1 and no previous Kansas team had ever won more than 10 games in a season.
Friday's game is the first of three games which feature top-25 (AP poll) opponents. One of 08's most anticipated showdowns is set for Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum, as No. 1 USC hosts No. 5 Ohio State. Some of the luster has been taken from this game, as one of the year's preseason favorites for the Heisman (Ohio State RB Chris Wells) was hurt in the Buckeyes' season-opening win over Youngstown State. He sat out last week's unimpressive win over Ohio U and then after being listed as "probable" for Saturday's clash earlier this week, it is now being reported that he won't play.
The Buckeyes take the nation's longest active road winning streak into their game with USC, as Ohio State has won 13 straight road games (going an equally impressive 11-2 ATS). As almost everyone knows, Ohio State has lost the last two BCS title games in embarrassing fashion. In '06, the Gators routed the Buckeyes 41-14 as 7 1/2-point dogs and then last year, the Buckeyes (this time 3 1/2-point dogs) jumped to a 10-0 lead over LSU, only to lose to the Tigers, 38-24.
College football fans all across the country (outside of Ohio), have to be praying that Ohio State doesn't win here, because if it does, a third straight BCS title-game would likely be "in the cards" for Ohio State. USC enters as the nation's No. 1 team and has won 38 of its last 39 home games. However, let's note that the "preseason line" on this game was USC minus-five but with USC's 52-7 win at Virginia on August 30, Wells' injury and Ohio State's lackluster effort vs Ohio U last week, as of Friday morning the Trojans were favored by 11 points.
The third meeting of top-25 opponents this weekend may be the most interesting. Saturday night in Fresno, California, No. 10 Wisconsin will take on No. 21 Fresno State. FSU's head coach Pat Hill has taken the attitude that he'll play "any team anywhere" and his Bulldogs own 13 wins over BCS schools since 2000, the second-most of any school from a non-BCS conference (Utah owns 14 wins, for the most wins in that same time span.).
A loss to Fresno State would end any long-shot national title hopes held by the Badgers and a loss to Wisconsin would end any dreams the Bulldogs have of finishing in the BCS top-12, which could earn them an automatic BCS bowl bid. It should be noted that all three of the previous 'BCS bowl crashers,' Utah in '04, Boise State in '06 and Hawaii in '07, finished their regular seasons undefeated. As of Friday morning, Wisconsin was a two-piont favorite in this game.
Speaking of possible 'BCS bowl crashers,' let's not forget East Carolina. Skip Holtz took over this program after the 2004 season (ECU was 2-9 in '04). He led the Pirates to a 5-6 season in '05 but went an impressive 8-3 ATS that season. The last two seasons, he's taken ECU to a bowl game, upsetting then-No. 24 Boise State 41-38 in last year's Hawaii Bowl. Entering this year, Holtz was just 20-17 SU at Greenville but an extremely impressive 26-11 ATS.
The Pirates have been '08's most exciting team so far. They beat then-No. 17 Va Tech at Charlotte on August 30, 27-22. Then last week at home, the Pirates dominated the then-No. 8 Mountaineers, 24-3. The back-to-back wins over ranked opponents vaulted East Carolina to No. 14 in the current AP poll. It's the first time the program has been ranked since 1999 and it's the school's highest ranking since it finished No.9 in 1991's final poll. East Carolina plays at Tulane on Saturday and is favored by 13 points as of Friday morning.
Helped by a ridiculous "excessive celebration" penalty on Washington, BYU won its 12th straight game last Saturday, 28-27 over the Huskies. It ranks as the longest active winning streak in CFB. The No. 18 Cougars will host UCLA on Saturday, a team which moved into the top-25 (at No. 23) after its 27-24 (OT) home win over then-No. 18 Tennessee on Labor Day. The Bruins didn't play last week but they were dropped from this week's top-25.
The Cougars are a mediocre 5-5 ATS during their 12-game winning and will playing UCLA for third time in their last 15 games. The Cougars lost at UCLA last September (27-17) but then beat the Bruins 17-16 in last year's Las Vegas Bowl. BYU also takes a 13-game home winning streak into this game ((8-3 ATS), a contest in which the Cougars are favored in by eight points.
Speaking of home winning streaks, the Oklahoma Sooners own CFB's longest active one, having won 20 straight in Norman (12-6-1 ATS), while scoring 30-plus points their last 15 home contests. However, the Sooners are in Seattle this week to play the Washington Huskies. Wisconsin owns 16 straight home wins (2nd-longest active streak) but as previously mentioned, the Badgers will be in Fresno. Boise State, with 14 straight home wins (8-3 ATS) is at home on Saturday, hosting Bowling Green. The Broncos are favored by 16 1/2-points and it should be noted that since 1999, Boise is 59-2 SU at home and 38-14 ATS.
The nation's longest active losing streak belongs to Kent State, as the not-so Golden Flashes have lost nine straight games, while going an equally pathetic 0-9 ATS. That streak should end this Saturday though, as Kent will host Delaware State. However, this is a non-lined game, so KSU will take its 0-9 ATS mark into its September 20th game at Louisiana-Lafayette. Utah State owns CFB's lonngest active home losing streak at seven straight (1-6 ATS). The Aggies will host in-state rival Utah on Saturday and are 24-point home 'dogs as of Friday morning.
Florida International owns the longest active road losing streak at 16 in a row (5-11 ATS). However, the Golden Panthers (I guess they are no-so Golden as well!) have a bye this week. UAB has lost 15 straight road games (6-9 ATS) and with a visit to Knoxville on tap this Saturday to take on Tennessee (the Blazers are 31-point 'dogs), the school seems likely to join FIU with 16 straight road losses.
Good luck this weekend,