No respect for Big East football

Purdue's Brandon Cottom, a Council Rock North grad, scamped for an 87-yard TD against Eastern Michigan.
Purdue's Brandon Cottom, a Council Rock North grad, scamped for an 87-yard TD against Eastern Michigan. (AP)
Posted: October 14, 2012

There isn't a lot of respect to be had for the Big East even though three of their teams - No. 18 Louisville, No. 20 Rutgers, and No. 21 Cincinnati - enter Saturday's play in the national rankings.

"I think the perception is that the Big East is a step or two beneath the other conferences that are out there, yet here they have three teams that are ranked," said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

The Cardinals (5-0) have been in the top 25 all season but their first five opponents own a combined 6-23 record. They open Big East play at Pittsburgh and hope to gain the conference's automatic berth in the Orange Bowl after losing out last year on a tiebreaker.

What bull's-eye?

Is it just us or does no one talk on a weekly basis about Alabama, ranked No. 1 for what seems like the 999th straight week?

The Crimson Tide have overwhelmed with their defense - the unit is ranked first in points allowed (7.0) and yards allowed (191.6) - while their offense is No. 1 in pass efficiency.

But coach Nick Saban needs something to worry about, so he's concerned about how the Tide will react following a week off playing at Missouri, a place his team has never visited.

"To say you are going to 'take a mental break' - I don't care where you go or where you stay - that is not going to happen," Saban told reporters.

The sideline show

It's a safe bet that South Carolina and Louisiana State will put on quite a performance Saturday night in Death Valley, but more than a few fans will be watching the show by a pair of colorful coaches on the sidelines.

The Gamecocks' Steve Spurrier and the Tigers' Les Miles are two of the nation's coaching characters, unafraid to stand out or speak their minds if the spirit moves them. And though they have thrown a few verbal shots at each other over the years, they claim they are OK with each other.

"I like Les," Spurrier told reporters this week. "I really do."

Golden Dome excitement

The spotlight is squarely on Notre Dame, which welcomes the ESPN College Gameday folks for the first time since 2005 before its meeting with No. 17 Stanford.

The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh and playing defense well enough to entertain the idea of a national championship run. But first, they must get past a Cardinal team that has beaten them three straight while scoring 110 points in the process.

"I would say if there is one team that has beaten us physically it's been Stanford," coach Brian Kelly said. "And [the players] know that. They don't need much push from me to know what to expect."

The time is now - or not

Florida State supposedly had the ingredients to win it all this season, which is why last week's shock at North Carolina State - the Seminoles' fifth loss to a double-digit underdog in Jimbo Fisher's 21/2 seasons as head coach - hurt so badly. The Seminoles have 10 or more NFL prospects on this season's roster, many of them skill players and defensive stars, and their fans don't seem thrilled when they look ahead.

But according to senior defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, "It's not like that. There are younger players just waiting for their time to play."

Florida State tries to bounce back against Boston College.

On the rebound

David Ash's first Texas-Oklahoma game could be classified as a debacle: two turnovers and eight sacks in a 55-17 loss to the Sooners last season. But the sophomore quarterback enters Saturday's contest as the nation's third-rated passer with 1,276 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just one interception for the No. 15 Longhorns.

"I don't think there's anything that can prepare you" for what happened last year, Ash told the Associated Press. "Most people rebound from their lowest point. Everybody wants to get up."

Expat of the Week

Sophomore running back Brandon Cottom, a graduate of Council Rock North, scored on the fourth-longest touchdown run in Purdue football history last month. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Cottom raced 87 yards to the house against Eastern Michigan, and has 128 rushing yards on the season on just eight carries.

The Boilermakers, reeling from last week's 44-13 drubbing by Michigan, host Wisconsin in an important Big Ten Leaders Division game.

RIP, Beano

It's difficult for those of us who have spent many a fall Saturday covering college football to grasp that Beano Cook is no longer with us. Cook, 81, a jocular walking encyclopedia of the sport, died in his sleep Thursday in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

Cook worked as Pitt's sports information director and as a reporter before joining ESPN, where his bold pronouncements were memorable but not always accurate - such as the time he predicted Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus would win two Heisman Trophies (he didn't win any). And veteran followers of Penn State will swear he hated the Nittany Lions.

However, as ESPN's Chris Fowler said: "Beano Cook was an American original."

The Real Top 10

1. Alabama 6-0

2. Oregon 6-0

3. South Carolina 6-0

4. West Virginia 5-0

5. Kansas State 6-0

6. Notre Dame 5-0

7. Florida 5-0

8. Ohio State 5-0

9. Oregon State 4-0

10. Louisiana State 5-1

- Joe Juliano

Games of the Week

Top choice

South Carolina at Louisana State, 8 p.m., ESPN: The third-ranked Gamecocks are riding high following last week's thumping of Georgia, but are in the midst of three games in three weeks against Top 10 opponents. For the Tigers, a loss means the end of their 21-game home winning streak, longest in the nation, plus virtual elimination from the SEC West race and a return trip to the SEC championship game.

Pick six

Oklahoma vs. Texas, in Dallas, noon, 6ABC: This is the first year since 1999 that neither combatant in the Red River Rivalry is ranked in the top 10; the Sooners' Landry Jones looks to post a team record 33d win as a starting QB.

Kansas State at Iowa State, noon, FX: The Wildcats and quarterback Collin Klein have thrust themselves into national recognition, but they must be careful against a Cyclones bunch that shocked Texas Christian.

Wisconsin at Purdue, noon, Big Ten Network: Penn State and Ohio State are ineligible for the Big Ten title game and Illinois and Indiana stink, so this Leaders Division contest is for the upper hand in the race for the Rose Bowl.

Alabama at Missouri, 3:30 p.m., CBS3: Nick Saban should have no worries, but that doesn't stop him from fretting about the Crimson Tide's return after a bye and a Tigers team embarrassed last week by Vanderbilt.

Stanford at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC10: The Fighting Irish are the only team in FBS never to trail in any game this season; the Cardinal hope to end that run while handing Notre Dame its first loss.

Florida at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m., ESPNU: The Gators have to be careful about feeling too good after their win last week over LSU because the Commodores can play. Just ask Missouri.

- Joe Juliano

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or Follow @joejulesinq on Twitter.

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