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Hooley's NFL Picks: Cashing In

Nov 23, 2014 -- 10:55am

By Bruce Hooley |



There's at least some carry-over from the quality of a college football program to the quality of an NFL team in the same market. At least, there is based upon last week's Random Factor picks, which chose NFL games based solely upon the stronger college team in the vicinity.

That stipulation yielded an 8-5 record to raise the season's total to 93-55 entering a week in which we give the nod to the higher median income in the state where each team is located, according to U.S. Census figures.

Tampa Bay at Chicago -- llinois has Florida beaten by more than $10,000 per-household. Makes it tough to pay the greens fees at The Villages. Pick: Chicago

Detroit at New England -- Surprisingly, the edge Massachusetts enjoys over Michigan is just over $8,000 annually. Those auto-workers' pensions really are sweet. Pick: New England

Cleveland at Atlanta -- If this income comparison predicts today's final score, it will be a tight one at the Georgia Dome, with the Falcons claiming the win by a final score of, $54,676-$52,777. Pick: Atlanta

Green Bay at Minnesota -- You'd think Aaron Rodgers' salary would carry Wisconsin to the top in this comparison. Sadly, no. Minnesota has its neighbor by more than $7,000 per-household. Pick: Minnesota

Jacksonville at Indianapolis -- The robust farming industry on the flatlands of Indiana deliver a more robust median income in Indiana than the retirement-laden average income in Florida. However, here's betting a lot of Hoosiers would kick in their $4,000 household surplus over Florida to buy out Tom Crean's contract at Indiana. Pick: Indianapolis

Tennessee at Philadelphia -- Despite the bump Tennessee gets from Pilot-Flying J, it still lags behind Pennsylvania by about the price of an 80-inch flat screen. Pick: Philadelphia

Cincinnati at Houston -- Houston would have been the pick here, but then Mike Brown signed Andy Dalton to that ridiculous contract. Everything is big in Texas, apparently, but the median income, which trails Ohio's by $412 per-household. Pick: Cincinnati

Arizona at Seattle -- Not sure if it's Microsoft or Starbucks that's responsible, but life is about 10K better in Washington than Arizona. Of course, sunshine is worth something. Pick: Seattle

St. Louis at San Diego -- I'm thinking this would be a different pick if we compared after-tax incomes. Pick: San Diego

Miami at Denver -- The 11K disparity here is the biggest between competing states so far. Kinda like the outcome will be at Invesco. Pick: Denver

Washington at San Francisco -- Surprisingly, the difference here is almost 10K per-household, so the government must not pay like Silicon Valley, even if the health insurance is better. Pick: San Francisco

Dallas at N.Y. Giants -- The income numbers aren't just for New York City, but for the entire Empire State. Even so, oil money can't hang. Pick: New York

N.Y. Jets at Buffalo -- Since this game will be played in Detroit, because of snow, we'll attach Michigan's median income to the Bills, which causes them to come up just short of the Jets. Pick: New York

Baltimore at New Orleans -- By the time this kicks off on Monday night, the Saints will know whether they must win to keep pace with Atlanta. There's no keeping pace with the $29,000 difference in median income between Maryland and Louisiana. Pick: Baltimore


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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The Buckeyes' 42-27 win over Indiana was far from impressive

Nov 22, 2014 -- 5:42pm

By Bruce Hooley |



Ohio State might have picked the wrong time to sleep-walk to a 42-27 victory over lowly Indiana on Saturday in Ohio Stadium, given the current focus of the College Football Playoff Committee.

With the still-not-clearly-defined, Game Control, being the buzz phrase that now supposedly separates the elite from the peasants among playoff aspirants, OSU muddled around with the Hoosiers until a scoring flurry in the final four minutes made the outcome look deceivingly comfortable.

How much, if at all, that will cost the Buckeyes won't be known at the earliest until Tuesday's release of the latest playoff rankings.

OSU coach Urban Meyer made subliminal efforts afterward to soften the impact of his team taking 56 minutes to dispatch a 3-8 opponent that's 0-7 in the Big Ten, with all but one of its previous conference losses by 22 points or more.

"We have high expectations here," Meyer said. "We put up 500 yards of offense. We won our conference division, and yet we know we can play better."

Indeed, OSU did clinch the Big Ten East by moving to 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the league, assuring itself a trip to Indianapolis to face either Minnesota or Wisconsin on Dec. 6.

Ohio State currently stands sixth in the playoff poll, two spots shy of the Holy Grail, and even if there's a consequence for the stumbles against IU, time remains to mitigate that damage.

Meyer's high-powered offense, if firing on all cylinders and playing turnover-free, could put up 50-plus points on arch-rival Michigan next week if the boss is so inclined.

And seldom, if ever, is Meyer not so inclined.

Sometimes, it's borderline beating-a-baby-seal cruelty what Meyer allows his offense to do to overmatched opponents.

But now, given the stakes, anything and everything is fair game for Meyer to inflict upon the Wolverines and embattled coach Brady Hoke.

If there's ever a demand to film the sequel of Dead Man Walking, they could use footage of Hoke on the sidelines at the Horseshoe next week, should Meyer press the accelerator to the floorboard.

As is his wont, Meyer seemed hellbent on doing just that against Indiana, which entered having lost five in a row since losing both its starting quarterback and his backup in early-October.

That left freshman third-teamer Zander Diamont to lead the Hoosiers against OSU's defense, which shaped up as a Christians vs. Lions matchup when the Buckeyes rang up a 14-0 lead in the first 4:43.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout.

Diamont scrambled for 53 yards to the OSU 2, Tevin Coleman blasted in from there to cut the lead in half, and then the Buckeyes began turning it over.

Michael Thomas got stripped in the right flat and Indiana converted that into a field goal, which it did again when J.T. Barrett threw the first of two first-half interceptions on successive possessions.

Given the vagaries of college football, it's unlikely the win over Indiana will be what costs Ohio State a berth in the playoff, should it fall short of that goal.

Alabama, Mississippi State, Oregon and Baylor face roads more challenging than Ohio State to escape defeat the rest of the way.

But fiddling around with Indiana might cost Barrett any chance he had of making the trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Just as they did at Penn State, Ohio State's coaches clearly lost faith in their quarterback after his second turnover, not allowing him to throw on first down for the final 13 minutes of the second quarter or the first eight minutes of the third period until the Buckeyes fell behind, 20-14.

Meyer and his staff appeared comfortable rope-a-doping for a full 35 scoreless minutes rather than let Barrett risk another turnover in attempting to exact a toll for an Indiana defense that crowded the line of scrimmage.

Barrett finished 25-of-35 for 302 yards, with four touchdown passes, but the two interceptions will hurt him with voters. Two of his scoring "throws" to Jalin Marshall were essentially hand-offs redirected two yards forward as Marshall ran in motion.

One of those allowed Barrett to surpass 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith's single-season record of 30 TD passes.

Barrett now has 33 for the year and 3,507 yards of total offense, surpassing Braxton Miller's school record of 3,310 from last year.

Despite those new marks on Barrett's resume, this day wound up being about atonement for Marshall, who fumbled twice last week at Minnesota to set up two Gophers' touchdowns.

His 54-yard punt return late in the third quarter erased a 20-14 Indiana lead claimed on Coleman's 90-yard touchdown run.

Marshall took his first pseudo-handoff from Barrett into the end zone two minutes into the fourth quarter to pad OSU's lead to 28-20, but the margin held there until IU regained possession with 4:30 left.

That's when Diamont threw an interception OSU quickly turned into an acrobatic Marshall one-hand TD grab to finally gain the much-sought-after Game Control the Committee supposedly uses to order its rankings.

We'll find out Tuesday if the Buckeyes had enough of that elusive quality soon enough to move up, fall down or hold where they are with two games still left to make their closing argument.


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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PREVIEW: Ohio State vs Indiana

Nov 22, 2014 -- 7:10am

By Bruce Hooley |



No College Football Playoff contender has a friendlier path to finishing the season without an additional defeat than Ohio State, which will play host to 3-7 Indiana on Saturday, 5-5 Michigan next week and the Big Ten's Western Division winner in the conference championship game.

The Buckeyes don't plan another true road game, since Indianapolis is sure to be overrun with OSU fans two weeks from now.

Ohio State has won 18 in a row against Indiana and has already blasted two teams -- Maryland (52-24) and Rutgers (56-17) - that blasted IU (37-15/45-23). The Hoosiers bring a five-game losing streak into Ohio Stadium for the noon kickoff.

This is where college public relations flaks really earn their money, making IU sound like a competent opponent.

So, take a look at actual statements from Indiana's press release and what lies behind the facts.

Fact: Tevin Coleman is second nationally in rushing yards (1,678), rushing yards per game (167.8), all-purpose yards (1,810), all-purpose yards per game (181.0), yards from scrimmage (1,810) and yards from scrimmage per game (181.0).

What it means: Coleman is outstanding, but it won't matter. He rushed for 307 yards last week at Rutgers and IU lost by more than three touchdowns to a team Ohio State beat by more than five touchdowns.

Fact: The IU defense is tied for 26th in the country in third down conversion defense (35.3 percent).

What it means: Opponents don't often need three downs to keep the sticks moving. IU is next-to-last in the league in scoring defense and 12th among 14 teams in total defense.

Fact: Fifteen Hoosiers hail from the state of Ohio, including Patrick Dougherty (Aurora/Aurora), Nate Hoff (Solon/Solon), David Kaminski (Strongsville/Strongsville), Mark Murphy (Akron/St. Vincent-St. Mary), Devine Redding (Youngstown/Glenville), Dameon Willis, Jr., (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius) and Shane Wynn (Cleveland/Glenville).

What it means: Three of IU's best players are Ohioans.

Murphy is Indiana's active career leader in tackles and is starting for the fourth straight season. He has two career interception returns for touchdowns and is one of 17 nominees for an $18,000-NCAA post-graduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation.

Wynn is the first player in IU history to score touchdowns receiving, rushing and via kickoff and punt returns. He is the Hoosiers' career leader in receptions and is second on the career list with 20 touchdown catches.

Hoff is starting at nose tackle after redshirting last season at the U.S. Naval Academy prep school.

Fact: IU last defeated OSU on Oct. 8, 1988, (41-7 in Bloomington), a year after a 31-10 victory in Columbus.

What it means: OSU coach Earle Bruce referred to the 1987 loss as, "the darkest day in Ohio State football history," and the other defeat came in the first of only two losing seasons during John Cooper's 13-year run as OSU's head coach.

Fact: Quarteraback Nate Sudfeld suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second quarter at Iowa in week six. He was one of 32 quarterbacks on the 2014 Manning Award Watch List.

What it means: Sudfeld's injury took the threat of the pass away from Indiana. When it had that and Coleman together, the Hoosiers could score enough to mask the limitations of their defense. Witness their 31-27 win at Missouri on Sept. 20, which remains the most shocking result of this college football season.

IU's backup quarterback, Chris Covington, is a freshman who switched from linebacker in fall camp. He's out for the season, too, so that leaves third-team Zander Diamont as the guy.

He threw for 179 yards last week in the blowout loss at Rutgers and finally broke IU's streak of 18 quarters without a touchdown pass. That's 4 1/2 games, folks!

Diamont had 103 passing yards combined in his first three games.

At 6-1 and 170 pounds, Diamont will be fortunate to make it out of Ohio Stadium without an unpleasant encounter with OSU defensive end Joey Bosa.

Of course, drama is nothing new to Diamont. His dad is Don Diamont, who in 2006 was voted the sexiest soap opera hunk of all time for his 25-year role on The Young and the Restless, now The Bold and the Beautiful.

Zander Diamont's step-mother is Cindy Ambuehl, who played Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend in a Season 9 episode of Seinfeld, in which she claimed to have contracted VD from a tractor seat.


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz




Kam Williams leads the way for Ohio State in 74-63 win over Marquette

Nov 18, 2014 -- 10:49pm

By Bruce Hooley |



Thad Matta has the raw materials for a seventh straight NCAA Tournament team and his ninth in 10 seasons, if Ohio State's 74-63 victory over Marquette on Tuesday at Value City Arena is representative of what's to come.

This team -- although strange in composition with six seniors, five freshmen and one sophomore -- is far deeper and much more adept at scoring than the shot-challenged crew Matta nursed to a 25-10 finish last season.

It appears OSU will also have greater depth than the six- or seven-man rotations Matta has favored in recent years, which should allow him to press full court without fear of foul problems.

Senior point guard Shannon Scott appears the only indispensible player, given his ability to exert defensive pressure and get the Buckeyes ordered properly on offense.

OSU (2-0) next plays Sunday at 7 p.m. against Sacred Heart.

Here's a quick rundown of the roster and what to expect as the season unfolds:

Starting Lineup:

Shannon Scott, 6-1, senior point guard: His 14 assists vs. Marquette gives him 23 in two games. That's what OSU needs from Scott, who still cannot shoot three-pointers consistently, but is such a disruptive force defensively and such a talented play-maker he must be on the floor for good things to happen at both ends.

D'Angelo Russell, 6-5 freshman shooting guard: He's trying to do too much right now, as evidenced by his seven turnovers against Marquette. Many expect this smooth lefty to lead OSU in scoring and be their next one-and-done. Matta has said he's the best guard he's recruited since Mike Conley.

Amir Williams, 6-10 senior center: Finally, we've gotten a glimpse of what prompted the McDonald's All-American voters to bestow that honor on Williams coming out of high school. He played with energy and enthusiasm and didn't foul, while making each of his six shots. Approach that level all season and OSU could be special.

Marc Loving, 6-7 sophomore forward: He looks a bit more confident than last season, and a bit stronger. Had 10 points against Marquette and made his only 3-point attempt. Will need the triple to be part of his arsenal if he's going to live up to his former Ohio Mr. Basketball label.

Sam Thompson, 6-7 senior forward: You still can't throw an alley-oop pass too high for this kid to catch and slam. He's supposedly worked very hard on his shot in the off-season. It looks better, but it's doubtful he can approach 40% success from there.


Trey McDonald, 6-9 senior center/forward: Weight work has trimmed him down and improved his quickness. He's perfect as an energy guy if his contribution is limited to 10 minutes or less. Not hopeless in the low post, like he once was.

Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7 freshman forward: He'll play a lot and help OSU's backcourt pressure and zone defense with his quickness and long arms. Bates-Diop has outstanding form on his three-pointer and can knock it down. All-Big Ten potential down the road.

Kam Williams, 6-2 freshman guard: If his shooting success continues, he'll be the biggest surprise of the season. He hit three-of-four from long range against Marquette and scored 15 points. Don't know how you play him with Scott and avoid the pitfalls of a tiny backcourt, but it's going to be hard to keep him off the floor because of his offensive skills.

Jae'Sean Tate, 6-4 freshman forward: Destined to take over for Aaron Craft as a fan favorite. Tate is higher than high energy and will be the sort of guy opposing fans hate. There's a hint of former Michigan Stater Draymond Green in this kid.

Anthony Lee, 6-9 senior forward: This transfer from Temple hasn't quite found his niche yet, but looks like he will. Has a decent mid-range jumper and has above-average quickness for his size. Could be a 10-to-12 point per-game scorer.

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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Hooley's NFL Picks: The ol' college try

Nov 16, 2014 -- 12:00pm

By Bruce Hooley |



Next time someone tries to tell you the emphasis on quarterbacks in the NFL is overrated, remind them the Random Factor picks last week went 9-2 selecting solely on which team had the better player under center.

That raises the season's total to 85-50 entering games of this weekend, where we'll choose a winner weighted only on which team has the better Division I (OK, purists, Football Bowl Subdivision) college football program close by.

Minnesota at Chicago -- The Golden Gophers of Minnesota are 7-3 after their loss to Ohio State, while Northwestern is sky high after defeating Notre Dame in overtime. Still, Goldie the Gopher won its head-to-head matchup with the Wildcats by a TD. Pick: Minnesota

Houston at Cleveland -- Yes, we know Mid-American Conference programs abound around Cleveland, but Northeast Ohio is first and foremost an Ohio State haven. Houston might have a chance against OSU if Andre Ware or David Klingler were still winging it around, but they aren't. Pick: Cleveland

Seattle at Kansas City -- Chris Peterson will eventually get it going at UDub, but he's a few more years away than Bill Snyder at Kansas State, which consistently plays at a Top 25 level. Pick: Kansas City

Atlanta at Carolina -- Georgia looked pretty good Saturday in thumping Auburn...just as bad as it looked in losing to Florida a few weeks ago. Regardless, the Bulldogs have enough to beat Duke any week, particularly since the Blue Devils showed the depth of their floor by losing to Virginia Tech this weekend. Pick: Atlanta

Cincinnati at New Orleans -- Gunner Kiel is fun to watch at UC, but LSU on a bad day -- like Saturday, when it got shut out at Arkansas -- is better than the Bearcats at their best. Pick: New Orleans

Tampa Bay at Washington -- Florida can run it, but can't throw it. Maryland can do a little of both, but not enough of either to match up with the Gators' defense. Pick: Tampa Bay

Denver at St. Louis -- Colorado is a train wreck in the Pacific 12, just like it deteriorated into as its Big 12 membership wound down. Gary Pinkel and Missouri can still win the SEC East, despite losing at home to Indiana. Expect the SEC to make a rule against that next year. Which, it should. Pick: St. Louis

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants -- Stanford is showing steady deterioration under David Shaw, but it's still a better program than Syracuse. Pick: San Francisco

Oakland at San Diego -- The Cal Bears won by two touchdowns at Oregon State, which won by three touchdowns over San Diego State. Does that mean the Raiders will win their first today? Probably not. Even so... Pick: Oakland

Detroit at Arizona -- This game should be highly entertaining, but not as intriguing as the college matchup would be between Rich Rodriguez and Arizona against Michigan. Can we, please, get this in a bowl game. Oh, right, Michigan might not be eligible. Pick: Arizona

Philadelphia at Green Bay -- Penn State and Wisconsin don't play. Thank you, Jim Delany, whose Big Ten Network-driven expansion acquistion of Maryland and Rutgers has turned long-time Big Ten rivals into virtual strangers. Good thing for Penn State, in this case, because Melvin Gordon would roll. Pick: Green Bay

New England at Indianapolis -- Boston College won at Virginia Tech. You know what Virginia Tech did to Ohio State, and you know what Ohio State is going to do to Indiana. Pick: New England

Pittsburgh at Tennessee -- Pitt also won at Virginia Tech, but the Panthers have lost six of seven. So, while Tennessee isn't yet what it will become under Butch Jones, a good rule of thumb is to take average SEC over below-average ACC every single time. Pick: Tennessee


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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Buckeyes' 31-24 win over Minnesota may not have been enough for Playoff jump

Nov 16, 2014 -- 12:49am

By Bruce Hooley |



Ohio State did exactly what it needed to Saturday at Minnesota, or fell woefully short.

If you watched the Buckeyes' 31-24 victory start to finish, you saw another comfortable victory.

If you just scanned the final score, you probably agree OSU didn't do enough.

That's the weird world we live in thanks to the first College Football Playoff and the 12 members who will decide which teams get to seek the national championship.

Slotted at No. 8 in the latest playoff rankings, OSU knew going into Minnesota that the panel would likely compare its result against TCU's 30-7 win over the Gophers earlier this season.

So, while they won by seven on the scoreboard, did the Buckeyes' compile enough style points to shoot past TCU or Baylor should both Big 12 teams currently ahead of them continue to win?

We won't know until Dec. 7, when all the regular-season and coference champioship games are played and the Committee releases its final rankings.

But rest assured, the one-touchdown win over Minnesota will be portrayed unfavorably by the fan bases of the schools in front of Ohio State in a campaign to stay there.

Turnovers and penalties kept the Buckeyes from getting everything they wanted out of the trip.

Jalin Marshall fumbled away one touchdown just before he crossed the goal line and set up Minnesota's final TD with a fumbled punt at the OSU 14-yard line.

In between, Doran Grant returned an interception for a score, but a penalty for pass interference nullified the play.

Did the Minnesota receiver fall because of Grant's excessive contact, or did the slippery turf cause the spill?

Who knows, but the touchdown came off the board and OSU may end up suffering because of it.

That's the crazy thing about the beauty contest that typifies these first Playoff deliberations.

A turnover here, a penalty there can make a gigantic difference.

A game tape watched to truly recognize one team's dominance over another, or simply a final score compared to another because a committee member has a busy week...who knows what the final result may hinge upon.

Already, Mississippi has been all but eliminated because Laquon Treadwell fumbled on the one-yard line as he was going in for the winning score against Auburn.

If Treadwell's leg doesn't snap under the duress of an Auburn tackler, or if his bone snapped a second later, Ole Miss would have just one loss and undoubtledly be positioned to play for the title.

Likewise, if Utah's Kaelin Clay doesn't drop the ball on the one-yard line in premature celebration of a touchdown last week against Oregon, his team takes a 14-0 lead at home and the Ducks may not have survived to hop Florida State in the rankings.

That's how thin the margin is between in-or-out, and Ohio State's seven-point win over Minnesota hovers in that gray area between asset and detriment.

The Buckeyes dominated the statistics, gaining 489 yards to Minnesota's 303. The game was never really close, but it will forever look that way because of the final margin.

Ohio State functions like a playoff-worthy team at times, but commits enough self-loathing mistakes to undermine its candidacy.

If OSU gets left out, its fan base will at least have a distraction from that disappointment should they choose to consume the off-season arguing the merits of Barrett over Braxton Miller.

Miller, the two-time Big Ten MVP, went down 12 days before the season with a shoulder injury.

Barrett stepped in and Saturday shoved his predecessor from the record book twice, in combined touchdowns rushing and passing in a single season and in rushing yards in a single game.

Barrett's 189 yards on the ground bettered Miller's 186 against Nebraska in 2012, and Barrett's four TDs rushing and passing give him 38 this season, two more than Miller's school-record set last season.

Barrett completed 15-of-25 attempts for 200 yards and three touchdowns, rushing 17 times to compile his school-record single-game total.

David Cobb had 145 yards and three touchdowns for Minnesota, which rushed for 218 against the Buckeyes.

Cobb managed just 41 rushing yards and Minnesota 99 in its early-season loss to TCU.


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz




PREVIEW: Ohio State at Minnesota

Nov 15, 2014 -- 7:36am

By Bruce Hooley |



The mystery of exactly what matters most to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee may be revealed as its rankings continue to trickle out every Tuesday.

One thing's for sure, Ohio State would be well-served to defeat Minnesota by a margin greater than 30-7 Saturday at noon in TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

That score decided Minnesota's Sept. 13 loss at TCU, which holds the No. 4 spot in the Playoff Rankings at present, four places above OSU.

If the Buckeyes (8-1) want to overtake TCU, they better make an impressive case against only their second ranked opponent of the regular season.

Minnesota (7-2) barely meets that standard at No. 25 coming off a 51-14 home victory last week against Iowa.

Here are some particulars on the Golden Gophers from their weekly press release, with the truth behind the facts listed to provide additional texture and enlightenment.

Fact: "Ohio State leads the series, 43-7-0, and has won eight straight against the Gophers. Minnesota's last win was a 29-17 victory on Oct. 14, 2000, in Columbus. The last time Minnesota beat Ohio State in Minneapolis was 1981, when the Gophers triumphed 35-31 at Memorial Stadium."

What it means: OSU has dominated Minnesota as much as any opponent on its Big Ten schedule, losing to the Gophers only twice since 1966. Only Northwestern, which has also beaten OSU twice since then, has been as feeble.

Fact: "The Gophers are 8-3 in their last 11 Big Ten games, with home wins over Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State and road wins at Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana. The 8-3 mark is the best record for Minnesota in an 11-game conference stretch since it also went 8-3 from Nov. 4, 1967 to Nov. 23, 1968."

What it means: Minnesota has beaten only one ranked opponent in that stretch, No. 24 Nebraska, last season.

Minnesota's last win over a Top Ten opponent in football stumps the Google search engine, which returns lots of stories about the Gophers' golf and women's volleyball and ice hockey teams, but nothing about football.

Fact: "Minnesota is 6-0 at home this year. The last time Minnesota won seven home games in a season was 1931 when it topped North Dakota State, Ripon, Oklahoma A&M, Iowa, Wisconsin, Cornell and Ohio State, beating the Buckeyes, 19-7."

What it means: Cue the Twilight Zone theme if this one ends, 19-7, in favor of Minnesota.

Fact: "Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has been responsible for 34 touchdowns this season, second most in the country. Barrett needs two TDs to tie and three to break Braxton Miller's school record of 36 set in 2013. Barrett has been responsible for at least four touchdowns in five of nine games this season."

What it means: J.T. Barrett will have better numbers than Braxton Miller, but he lost to Virginia Tech in Week 2 at home on a Saturday night and Braxton Miller most assuredly would not have done that.

Fact: "Neither Urban Meyer nor Minnesota coach Jerry Kill were in their present positions when the Buckeyes and the Golden Gophers last met, four years ago on Oct. 30, 2010 in Minneapolis."

What it means: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's silly conference expansion plan makes some schools in the league virtual strangers to the Buckeyes. In place of Wisconsin and Nebraska this year, OSU gained the privilege of playing Rutgers and Maryland. Both will be fixtures on the Ohio State schedule as Eastern Division partners. Do you think OSU would be getting hammered for its soft schedule if it replaced Rutgers and Maryland with Nebraska and Wisconsin? If not, send your complaints to the Big Ten office in Park Ridge, Illinois, attention: Jim Delany. But, hey, that Big Ten Network is raking in cable fees in Baltimore and New York City, so there's that.

Fact: "Minnesota is enjoying a fine season at 7-2 overall and in a three-way tie for first place with Nebraska and Wisconsin in the Big Ten West at 4-1. Minnesota's only two losses this season have come on the road at TCU (30-7) and three weeks ago at Illinois."

What it means: Ohio State hammered Illinois, 55-14.

Fact: The Gophers are led offensively by senior running back David Cobb, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 133.9 rushing yards per game. Sophomore QB Mitch Leidner is fourth in the Big Ten in passer efficiency.

What it means: Cobb had 15 carries for 41 yards and Leidner had four of Minnesota's five turnovers in the loss at TCU, whose defense most-closely approximates Ohio State's. Minnesota managed just 99 yards rushing, 134 less than its average at the time, against TCU.

Fact: "Defensively, the Gophers are second in the Big Ten with 12 interceptions and are second in turnover margin (+8)."

Ohio State isn't likely to help the Gophers much. Barrett has thrown two interceptions in his past six games, both in the double-overtime win at Penn State.


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz




Hooley's NFL Picks: Best QBs

Nov 09, 2014 -- 11:20am

By Bruce Hooley |



With the Browns off, celebrating their 24-3 win over Cincinnati, the Random Factor picks take on a decidedly-Cleveland bent.

Since too many cannot let go of the Brian-or-Johnny argument, even when it's pointless and unproductive, let's pick games based solely on which team has the better quarterback.

Maybe it will yield a better record than last week's 7-5 mark, tracing to picks based only on which team had the more stylish uniforms, that lowered the season record to 76-48.

Tennessee at Baltimore -- Not even close here, between rookie Zach Mettenberger and Super Bowl winner, Joe Flacco. Pick: Baltimore

Kansas City at Buffalo -- Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Although the 49ers gave up on him, far more teams have given up on Kyle Orton. Pick: Kansas City

Miami at Detroit -- Ryan Tannehill is playing well, but he's no Mathew Stafford. Pick: Detroit

San Francisco at New Orleans -- Colin Kaepernick has a franchise-quarterback contract. Drew Brees is the safer bet as franchise quarterback. Pick: New Orleans

Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets -- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdown passes the past two weeks. The Jets have eight TD passes all season. Pick: Pittsburgh

Dallas at Jacksonville -- Assuming Tony Romo plays, Dallas has the better quarterback. If Romo doesn't play, it's Brandon Weeden against Blake Bortels. And, then it's too close to call. Pick: Dallas

Atlanta at Tampa Bay -- Matt Ryan still has enough of a glow on him, even with the Falcons struggling, to outshine Josh McCown. Pick: Atlanta

Denver at Oakland -- Derek Carr is the best rookie quarterback this season. But he's not Peyton Manning. Pick: Denver

St. Louis at Arizona -- St. Louis is extremely happy with Austin Davis' performance in place of the injured Sam Bradford. Arizona is so happy with Carson Palmer, it gave him a three-year extension this week. Pick: Arizona

N.Y. Giants at Seattle -- Pretty tough call here. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl wins,  but Russell Wilson has one and is hotter now, perhaps only because of the team around him. Pick: Seattle

Chicago at Green Bay -- Jay Cutler might have the strongest arm in the NFL. Too bad he doesn't know what to do with it, like Aaron Rodgers demonstrates every week. Pick: Green Bay

Carolina at Philadelphia -- Nick Foles and Cam Newton have exactly the same quarterback rating (81.4) and are within a whisper of each other in completion percentage and TD-to-interception ratio. Foles has slightly better numbers, so ignore the disparity in draft position. Pick: Philadelphia


Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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