Notre Dame has worked hard to silence its critics this season, upsetting two ranked teams and taking the No. 1 team in the nation to overtime before losing.
But it doesn't get any easier for the 16th-ranked Fighting Irish today (3:30, Ch. 7). After three consecutive home games -- the last two of which were decided on the final play -- Notre Dame travels to East Lansing, Mich., to face the No. 23 Michigan State Spartans.
It marks the fourth straight week the Irish are facing a team ranked in the national polls, and the first time they'll be playing on the road this season. Notre Dame had an 0-5 record away from home last season.
"We'd like to think we're an improved football team, but until we go win a game on the road, I don't think we can say that," Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. "That's the challenge. We're approaching this game like it's the last game of the year."
Notre Dame has lost its past three meetings with Michigan State, including a 23-13 setback last season. The Spartans, with another win this season, would become the first team to beat the Irish four straight times since Miami from 1983-87.
Notre Dame lost to top-ranked Nebraska, 27-24, on an overtime touchdown run two weeks ago, and upset then-No. 13 Purdue, 23-21, last week on Nick Setta's 38-yard field goal as time expired.
"I anticipate the Michigan State game will probably come down to the final play, as well as a few more," Davie said. "I think this team has confidence in close games."
The Irish knocked off the Boilermakers without starting quarterback Arnaz Battle, who is out for the season with a broken wrist. Backup Gary Godsey, a 6-foot-7 converted tight end, became the 11th straight Notre Dame quarterback to pick up a victory in his first start.
The Spartans (2-0) are also inexperienced at quarterback. Freshman Jeff Smoker started last week's 13-10 win over Missouri and helped Michigan State rally from a 10-0 deficit.
Spartans coach Bobby Williams said he will decide whether junior Ryan Van Dyke or Smoker will start at quarterback at game time. Van Dyke has been out since he bruised his right thumb in the first quarter against Marshall two weeks ago.
But it's 252-pound tailback T.J. Duckett who leads the Spartans' offense, averaging 175 yards a game. He rushed for a career-high 219 yards in a season-opening win over Marshall.
In the only other matchup between two ranked teams this week, No. 10 Michigan plays at No. 19 Illinois (7:30, ESPN). The Wolverines are coming off last week's 23-20 loss at UCLA that dropped them seven spots in the latest polls, while the Illini remained undefeated with a 17-15 home victory against California.
"We have a big challenge in front of us," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "Illinois has everybody back from last year's offense."
In other televised games today, Penn State at No. 14 Ohio State (noon, Ch. 7); Navy at Boston College (noon, Ch. 67); Northwestern at No. 7 Wisconsin (noon, Empire); Minnesota at No. 21 Purdue(noon, ESPN); Syracuse at East Carolina (noon, ESPN2); No. 12 Miami at West Virginia (3:30 p.m., Ch. 4); No. 6 UCLA at Oregon (3:30 p.m., MSG); Louisville at No. 2 Florida State (6 p.m., ESPN2); Rhode Island at Hofstra (7 p.m., MSG); Houston at No. 15 Texas (7 p.m., Empire); and Alabama at Arkansas (9 p.m., ESPN2).
The last time Eric Crouch faced Iowa, he rushed for three touchdowns to lead Nebraska to a 42-7 victory. And that was as a backup.
Today, the winless Hawkeyes get to see what Crouch can do as the starting quarterback for the No. 1 Cornhuskers (2-0). This season, Crouch has rushed for six touchdowns and thrown for another.
The Huskers haven't played since a 27-24 overtime win at Notre Dame on Sept. 9. In the extra week they've worked on special teams, which gave up two touchdowns on returns against the Fighting Irish, and passing. Crouch has thrown 25 passes in the Huskers' two games, but only 11 of them have been completions. Three have been intercepted, just one fewer than Crouch's total for last season.
In other games today involving teams ranked in the Associated Press' Top 25 poll, Kentucky is at No. 3 Florida; North Texas at No. 4 Kansas State; San Jose St. at No. 9 USC; No. 11 Clemson at Virginia; Louisiana-Monroe at No. 13 Tennessee; Rice at No. 17 Oklahoma; Arkansas State at No. 18 TCU; Northern Illinois at No. 20 Auburn; No. 22 Southern Miss. at Oklahoma State; New Mexico State at No. 24 Georgia; and No. 25 Mississippi at South Carolina.
No room to run
LaMont Jordan would love to make a legitimate run at the Heisman Trophy, but he needs a little help from his friends up front.
So far this season, Maryland's senior tailback has found little running room behind a revamped offensive line that simply has not come together. Jordan has just 100 yards and two touchdowns through two games, not exactly Heisman-like numbers.
"Right now, I'm not worried about the Heisman. I'm just anxious to get the run game going, get the offense moving and help this team start scoring more points," said Jordan, who has averaged a mere 2.5 yards per carry while dodging defenders in his own backfield.
Maryland fielded the Atlantic Coast Conference's second-ranked rushing attack (231.4 yards per game) in 1999. This season the Terrapins are averaging 85.5 yards rushing per game, a 17-10 win over Temple in their opener a 30-17 loss to West Virginia last week.
Maryland and Jordan are hoping to get back on track tonight at home against Middle Tennessee, a second-year Division I-A program that has already absorbed beatings by Illinois (35-6) and Florida (55-0).
Hart of a Lion
Leon Hart has put his 1949 Heisman Trophy up for auction to help pay for his grandchildren's college education. Hart, a former Detroit Lions star, won the trophy at Notre Dame.
The auction is being held through Oct. 1 on the Internet at www.sothebys.amazon.com.
"I realized that with my large family, I couldn't split the Heisman," said Hart, who lives in Birmingham, Mich. "Who would I give it to? My children can use the proceeds to help finance my grandchildren's education."
Leila Dunbar, director of collectibles at Sotheby's in New York, said the 40-pound statue is expected to fetch $150,000 to $200,000. The minimum bid is $100,000.
Hart's trophy will be the fourth Heisman sold at auction in recent years. The others:
Larry Kelly: He was the only other winning lineman beside Hart and the second Heisman recipient. His 1936 statue was sold last December for $328,000.
Charles White: In April, his 1979 statue sold for $184,000.
O.J. Simpson: In 1995, his 1968 statue sold for $250,000 to help pay legal fees and a civil judgment.
Knight earns defensive honor
Former St. Joe's standout Bryan Knight, a defensive end at Pittsburgh, has been named the Big East defensive player of the week after leading the Panthers to a 12-0 victory over Penn State last Saturday. The junior had eight tackles, including three sacks and four stops behind the line of scrimmage.
This is the second straight player of the week honor for Knight, who tied a Big East record with four sacks against Bowling Green. He is the first Pittsburgh defensive player to earn back-to-back league honors and the second Panther ever.