College Football Corner: Joe Pa Has Oomph

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So what was that about the game passing Joe Pa by?

We don't seem to be hearing many calls for Penn State's legendary octogenarian Coach Joe Paterno to retire now that the Nittany Lions are 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation. (Come to think of it, isn't it about time Penn State called its football field Paterno Stadium?) Penn State's wins this season haven't exactly been flukes. They're knocking the stuffings out of everyone on both sides of the ball. The latest dismantling came Saturday night against a big, veteran Wisconsin team -- at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison no less.

Penn State's homecoming opponent this week is a 2-4 Michigan team, but Paterno is still wary. "They're not that experienced yet, he said at his weekly press conference. "They're still struggling with a lot of young people. That probably has a bigger impact on that kind of a team than it would an experienced football team. But I don't see a lot of difference in the type of people they have, than the ones we've played against through the years."

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno

He also feistily responded to concerns about his ailing leg. "No, I don't get get-well cards. Can't we talk about the football team and not me, for crying out loud?" Corner's choice: Penn State 31, Michigan 12.

If Penn State runs the table, there's a pretty good chance the Blue and White will book a spot in the BCS championship game, provided either No. 1 Texas or No. 2 Alabama loses.

The Longhorns and Crimson Tide still have to get through their brutal conference schedules and championship games, but the Big Ten doesn't hold a conference championship.

Why just this weekend, newly minted No. 1 Texas has a smarting Missouri team to contend with in a Big 12 tussle. Bama faces a 3-3 Ole Miss club in Southeastern Conference play, but keep in mind Mississippi knocked off Florida in Gainesville earlier this season.

Now here's a look at other games of note this week.

BYU quarterback Max Hall

No. 8 Brigham Young (6-0) (+1 1/2) at No. 24 TCU (6-1), Thursday, 8 p.m. EDT: First place in the Mountain West Conference is at stake, and for BYU, a win gives the Cougars a better case for a BCS bowl bid down the line. But the Cougars' schedule lightens up until a possible showdown of undefeated teams when they meet Utah in Salt Lake City in the last game of the season. BYU, which has an 18-game Mountain West conference winning streak (two of those victories over TCU), will ride the arm of junior quarterback Max Hall, who is tied for fifth in the nation with 20 touchdown passes -- including three against New Mexico in a 21-3 victory last Saturday. Scary stat for the week: Hall has been sacked only once this season. But TCU also has the No. 1-rated defense in the nation. The Horned Frogs, whose only loss this season was to previously top-ranked Oklahoma, will try to counter with a ground game that has produced 25 TDs; junior running back Joseph Turner has nine of those. Corner's choice: BYU 38, TCU 23 -- by Edison Sanon

No. 12 Missouri (5-1) (+5 ½) at No. 1 Texas (6-0), 8 p.m. EDT (ESPN): Maybe the schedule-makers gave the Longhorns a gift here -- it's probably harder to rest on your laurels after knocking off top-ranked Oklahoma when your next opponent scores nearly 50 points a game. And while Texas becomes the new team to beat, its own grasp on the top spot -- as it faces the second of four straight top-10 teams -- is certainly tenuous. Quarterback Colt McCoy did his Heisman Trophy chances a world of good last Saturday with his performance vs. the Sooners, and although the defense gave up more than 400 yards to its first quality opponent, it stepped up when needed to stall the final three Oklahoma drives.

The question is, can Texas do the same against the vaunted Missouri attack, which came into its game last weekend vs. Oklahoma State having not had a single three-and-out offensive series in five games. Unfortunately, it was Murphy's Law for the Tigers last Saturday, as they squandered 454 total yards in a 28-23 loss at home, with Heisman now-not-as-hopeful quarterback Chase Daniel throwing three interceptions, and the defense allowing three touchdowns from more than 30 yards out. The pollsters had no sympathy for the Tigers, busting them 10 spots lower, which strikes us as a little harsh. This road game is no easy challenge, with the Longhorns returning as conquering heroes, but don't be surprised if this one turns out to be just as entertaining as the Red River Rivalry. Corner's choice: Texas 35, Missouri 29.

No. 11 Ohio State (-3) at No. 17 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. EDT (ABC): Is it just us or are the pollsters keeping Ohio State further down than they belong in order to keep them out of the BCS title game (where they lost the past two seasons)? Sure, the Buckeyes haven't been that impressive, and USC did overwhelm them earlier this season. But that was before quarterback Terrelle Pryor was running the show, and Chris "Beanie" Wells was out with a foot injury. Would USC still have won? Probably, but Ohio State is not a team that's easy to push around.

Can Michigan State's Javon Ringer
break the Buckeyes?

Anyway, this could be a nice showdown between two great backs, Wells and the Spartans' Javon Ringer, who's already run for 1,112 yards and has 14 touchdowns. Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said at his weekly press conference that the Buckeyes "better have a whole bunch of helmets up there to get Ringer stopped. I think he's really grown as a runner. ... He was always a great competitor, great trainer, great, good receiver and special teams guy, but now he's turned into a very, very patient runner." Corner's choice: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 16

Mississippi (3-3) (+13) at No. 2 Alabama (6-0), 3:30 p.m. EDT (CBS): The Crimson Tide picked a bad weekend to be idle, as it watched Texas leapfrog into the top spot after knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma, 45-35. But Alabama controls its own destiny -- it's hard to imagine that an SEC team that wins out, including a conference championship game, would not earn a spot in the BCS Championship game. This young edition of the Tide is already beginning to resemble the blueprint of Coach Nick Saban's 2003 Louisiana State squad that finished 13-1 and No. 2 in the final poll: a strong running game, conservative quarterback play and a stifling defense.

Alabama running back Glen Coffee
Junior running back Glen Coffee has run for 708 yards so far, while quarterback John Parker Wilson, though unspectacular, has thrown only two interceptions. And, really, with a defense that gives up only 13.5 points a game, how much firepower do you need? Alabama's main concern may be simply not looking past the double-digit-underdog Rebels, who have shown their own talent for moving the ball -- when they're not turning it over, usually via an interception by sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead, who has thrown 10. Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt has already knocked off one top-5 team on the road this year (Florida). Another upset win would go a long way toward returning the Rebels to their first bowl in five years. Corner's choice: Alabama 33, Mississippi 17.

Corner Kicks: Ball State is 7-0 but probably won't move up much higher because the Cardinals play in the MAC. Maybe the pollsters should reconsider. Two weeks ago, Ball beat Toledo, 31-0. Last week, Toledo beat Michigan, 13-10. The Cardinals also have an explosive offense led by QB Nate Davis, a big, tough athlete with a cannon arm who likely will end up in the NFL. ... How 'bout those Minnesota Golden Gophers? Coach Tim Brewster's team is 6-1 (1-11 last year) after a statement performance at Illinois and can bask during an idle week. Gophers defensive end Willie Van De Steeg was named the Walter Camp defensive player of the week. He had five tackles, three sacks and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in Minnesota's 27-20 victory. ... Lesson learned for ousted Clemson coach Tommy Bowden: Don't expect a lot of loyalty from the senior quarterback you benched in your last game. Upon hearing of his coach's dismissal, Cullen Harper told ESPN on Monday, "It's what he deserved." ... Ironically off the radar, South Carolina might be on the way to its best season in Coach Steve Spurrier's fourth year. After two close road-win squeakers at Ole Miss and Kentucky, the Gamecocks are 5-2, with what are looking to be at least three more wins vs. Arkansas, Tennessee and Clemson. Not ironically, perhaps, the team has garnered only 10 votes in this week's coaches poll.