So the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train?  Somehow the Burgundy and Gold have re-entered the NFC’s middle class orbit with a 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Monday Night Football.  Colt McCoy is a hero.  And the Cowboys come up short in the national spotlight.  Will this turn out to be simply an isolated incident or part of a larger trend?

McCoy is the Doctor who cures all ills– well, maybe not all ills, but completing 25 of 30 passes (for a team record 83.3%) for 299 yards can go a long way towards masking issues.  Colt used his wheels as well–scoring on a quarterback draw in the third quarter and securing a first down on a bootleg.  All while looking like he’s an extra from Summer Catch (you tell me he doesn’t look 15 years old).  There was an interception in the first half–but for the most part #16 made the necessary plays and also didn’t make any costly ones.  Does this mean playoffs?  “Damnit Jim, I’m a doctor–not a miracle worker”.

Alfred the Upgraded– Mr. Morris ran 18 times for 73 yards in the win…including a 5 yard TD that gave the Skins a 10-7 lead in the third quarter.  The 73 yards are the most he’s gained since week three against Philadelphia–so that’s a start.  The Redskins ran the ball 31 times while passing 30 times (not including 3 sacks)…giving the team the offensive balance it so clearly needs with Colt McCoy at the controls. 

DeSean Dominates…and Disrupts– Jackson tallied 6 catches for 136 yards while continuing to provide the downfield threat that will in theory open things up for the running game.  Still, #11 can’t stay away from jawing with opposing defensive backs–this time drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty that bogged down a 2nd quarter drive.  We get it that he likes to “get into it”–but if he could just focus on blocking for the run game instead of trying to show up the opposition, we might have something.

Third and Getting Better– the team converted 6 of 14 third downs—6 of 10 after halftime.  McCoy completed 8 of 10 passes  (4 conversions) while getting sacked twice, while scoring on a QB draw and moving the chains on the previously mentioned bootleg.  The top target?  Jordan Reed (5 catches, 2 conversions). Yardage breakdown:  3 for 5 on third and short (1 to 3 yards needed), 1 for 2 on third and 4 to 6 yards and 2 for 7 on third and long (7+ yards).

D grades well–  they contained the Cowboys for a big part of the game–only allowing 7 points to Tony Romo (the other 10 came when backup Brandon Weeden was in the game).  Five sacks placed plenty of pressure on Romo and Weeden.  Fumble recoveries by Trent Murphy and Brandon Merriweather set the early tone.  Keenan Robinson led the team in tackles again (10 stops) while also notching a sack.  Bashaud Breeland stepped up with 6 tackles and 4 passes defensed…providing more than a few key plays.  Could the secondary be growing up in front of our eyes?

Flying Flags— the laundry list involves six penalties for 45 yards.  Five offensive (two delays of game on McCoy, a false start on Tom Compton, a hold on Niles Paul plus an unnecessary roughness against DeSean Jackson and an unsportsmanlike conduct against Logan Paulsen) and just one on defense (Brandon Merriweather’s illegal contact).  While Jackson’s unnecessary roughness helped stall a late first half drive, Paulsen’s unsportsmanlike conduct effectively put the team out of field goal range.

Cobra Kai– Mr. Forbath connected on both of his attempts (from 40 and 44 yards)…providing the winning margin for the second straight week.  The Johnny Lawrence of kickers is now 13 of 14–and remember, he didn’t miss after week eight last year.  Sweep the leg, indeed.

Dissecting the Division– Dallas despite the defeat owns a half game lead over Philadelphia for first place in the NFC East;  the Cowboys drop to 3rd place in the conference while the Eagles remain in the 5th spot.  The NY Giants after their bye week are 10th in the NFC…and the Redskins after the win improve to 13th–with games against Minnesota (12th) and Tampa Bay (16th) coming up next (so you’re saying there’s hope?).  The NFC East owns the second best record in the league at 17-13…trailing just the AFC North (18-11-1, all four teams have winning records).  Two divisions have flown south for the winter…the AFC South is 12-20 while the NFC South is 9-20-1.

Don’t you dare think that the College Football Playoff won’t be thorough.  The 12 member committee (Archie Manning resigning to recover from surgery) breaks out its first top 25 rankings that will determine football’s final four.  It kind of has a maple syrup feel to it…only with a dozen people working in a tiny cramped kitchen to boil the sap.  While I’m happier with a 4-team field as opposed to a 2-team setup I hope it’ll be less than 15 years before they expand the field to eight (5 major conference winners plus 3 wildcards).  Of course, then the committee would feel pressed to put out a top 50.

 

Alma Mater Update– a fine effort at Clemson comes up short…as the Orange drop to 3-5.  Sadly, the November slate (NC State, Duke, Pitt and Boston College) could convince even the most jaded and cynical that a bowl berth is a possibility…if not a formality.  

 

Maryland ran into a red and white brick wall–falling at Wisconsin 52-7.  November’s forecast could be rather chilly:  road trips to Penn State and Michigan sandwich a visit from #8 Michigan State…thank goodness they finish at home with Rutgers.  Terrapin Triumphs– Deon Long’s 59 yards receiving were his second highest total of the season… and Sean Davis led he defense with 17 tackles (although it’s less than ideal when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs).  Terrapin Troubles– after moving the ball 40 yards on their first possession, the offense gained 47 yards on its next 12 possessions…the running game stalled to the tune of 46 yards on 28 carries…the defense held Badgers RB Melvin Gordon 50 yards under his average but still coughed up 311 yards on the ground…seven penalties and a lost fumble helped close an already small window of opportunity.  Next:  Saturday at Penn State.

 

Virginia Tech looked lost in Thursday night’s 30-6 defeat at home to Miami…falling into last place of the ACC Coastal Division.  You read correctly– last place in a division with Virginia, North Carolina and Duke.  At 4-4 is the light at the end of the tunnel a train?  Hokie Highlights– Marshawn Williams ran from 100 yards as the team gained 149 yards on the ground (123 more than the previous week against Pitt)…VT was penalized only four times (half their average amount of flags this season)…and the excitement surrounding Buzz Williams taking over the mens basketball program is downright infectious.  Hokie Humblings– the offense gained just 48 yards on 20 first half plays… a third quarter fumble at the Miami goal line sent fans to the exits… the defense allowed 364 yards on the ground, including 249 to Duke Johnson (Gus Edwards ran for 115–giving hope for a Gus/Johnson backfield tandem.  BANG!)Next:  Saturday vs Boston College.

 

Virginia celebrated homecoming–until a 28-27 loss to North Carolina ruined the day.  Up six with five minutes remaining, UVa was getting in position to set up a long field goal when Greyson Lambert was intercepted;  UNC wound up driving the length of the field before capitalizing on an onside kick.  Tough way for the Cavs to come up short.  Cavalier Congrats– Greyson Lambert in his return to the lineup threw for two touchdowns… Kevin Parks ran for 111 yards and a score while catching 4 passes and a touchdown…Eli Harold led the pass rush with 1.5 sacks and led a run defense that limited UNC to 2.9 yards a carry.  Cavalier Concerns– Lambert threw a pair of interceptions in the red that took points off the scoreboard at the UNC 2 and 8-yard lines… the defense was burned by the big play, allowing a 52 yd TD run and TD passes for 57 and 63 yards… UVa didn’t help its cause with 8 penalties for 83 yards.  Next:  Saturday at Georgia Tech.

 

Navy came off its bye week by outscoring San Jose State  41-31.  This is their first win coming off the early/mid-season bye since 2007…and puts the team back on track for the postseason.  Midshipmen Medals– Keenan Reynolds ran for 251 yards and three touchdowns on a career high 39 carries (that his how you return from injury)….ZERO PENALTIES (earns all caps).  Midshipmen Miscues– the Navy D allowed the Spartans to convert on 57% of their third downs and post over 400 total yards.  Next:  Saturday vs #6 Notre Dame.

Colleges and conferences have to decide what’s more important:  dollars or eyeballs.  One is tangible–you can actually count money, believe it or not–but the other is tough to get a handle on until it’s too late.  Right now the Pac-12 is penny rich but pound foolish.  Their TV deal with FOX gives them exposure that the Utahs and Colorados crave–but forces their prime properties into the back alley of the viewing landscape.  Oregon put 59 points on the board against Cal– but in  a Friday night game that kicked off at 10pm.  On Fox Sports 1…wherever that is on your cable system this week.  The issue the Pac-12 has had over the years is that the East Coast media doesn’t see their games and thus undervalues their teams.  How does playing 10 and 10:30pm games on Thursday and Friday night change that?  Arizona’s upset of Oregon earlier this year should have been heralded as one of the games of the year–instead it’s a postcript to a bleary-eyed Friday morning.

 

Alma Mater Update– the Orange embark on a trip to #21 Clemson in a battle of oranges…although the Tigers often wear purple and the Orange sport who knows what befits them this week.  The race to six wins and that Pinstripe Bowl (two banners already hanging proudly in the Carrier Dome, thank you) would get a huge boost with a victory at Clemson– although I think even the most diehard SU fans have had an L in pen next to this game since the schedules came out.  Which means a 3-1 finish will be needed to go bowling this fall.

 

Forgive me, I had to pick myself up off the floor after laughing at the possibility this team could finish 3-1.

 

Maryland (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) visits Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1)– somehow the Terrapins have gone from roadkill to road warriors: after losing 9 of their first 11 games away from Byrd in the Randy Edsall era, the school’s won 5 straight road games.  But Camp Randall Stadium in Madison packs a little more punch than Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.  The Terps can also clinch bowl eligibility with a victory…and it’s not a big story like the pursuit of six wins was last year.  That represents progress.  Stopping the run has been a major concern for the Terps D this year (they rank 13th in the Big Ten in rushing defense)…and the Badgers average 343 yards a game on the ground while boasting Division I’s second leading rusher in Melvin Gordon (174 yards a game at 7.9 yards per carry).  Can CJ Brown avoid mistakes in a raucous Camp Randall Stadium?  Bowl eligibility likely waits one more week as the Terps tumble, 24-19.

 

Virginia (4-3, 2-1 ACC) entertains North Carolina (3-4, 1-2)– tailgating tandems Kippy and Buffy welcome their UNC version Meredith and Peyton (I still don’t know which one’s the guy or the girl, but they let me enjoy all the crab dip I can eat). The holier than thou Tar Heels come to Charlottesville under the cloud of academic hijinks that involve classes taken by student-athletes that entailed never actually going to class.  Their defense drops by Scott Stadium allowing over 43 points per game…even against Liberty they were gashed for 29.  Coach Mike London once again invites the possibility that he might use both Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert at quarterback against the Tar Heels after last weekend’s experiment with having two of his wide receivers throw passes.  Break out the Magic Eight Ball.  Cavaliers come up big, 34-18.

 

Navy (3-4) hosts San Jose State (3-3)– the Midshipmen after a week off look to get one step closer to bowl eligibility– and the Spartans are one of two teams remaining on their slate without a winning record (Army is the other).  A week off may add more rust than rest– Navy hasn’t won following its early/midseason bye since 2007.  Keenan Reynolds likely returns after missing the game against VMI–and although Tago Smith filled in well, this team rises or falls on Reynolds play. San Jose State is 1-2 on the road…getting outscored 93-47.  Shame one can’t pick a tie because neither team inspires a world of confidence.  Midshipmen need overtime to stop the Spartans, 23-20.

 

Georgetown loses to Bucknell, James Madison falls at Charlotte, William & Mary slips to Delaware, Richmond routs Elon, Morgan State loses to Villanova, Old Dominion defeats Western Kentucky.

 

Last Week: 4-3.

Overall: 55-19.

There’s nothing like a lame duck presidency.  The great often don’t know when it’s over.  “Friends” and “The Office” last a season or two longer than they should have.  Lethal Weapon 4 existed.  In Blacksburg past and future are struggling with the present:  Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has built the Hokies from an independent nobody wanted in their league but everybody wanted to schedule into a formidable second-tier name school that was scooped up in the first salvo of the ACC’s dismemberment of the Big East.  They joined the Atlantic Coast Conference with two schools of higher pedigree (Miami and Boston College), then outperformed both by posting eight straight 10-win seasons (granted, double digit campaigns are easier to come by nowadays than in the era of 10 and 11-game regular seasons, but still…).  When the Hurricanes were in hot water with the NCAA and the Eagles were firing coaches for speaking with the NFL, the Hokies were playing for conference titles and appearing in BCS Bowls.  That’s what makes the last three years tough to stomach…as Virginia Tech is 19-14 since the start of the 2012 campaign.  From dominating the Coastal Division to being on the outside looking in– in October.  From boasting BEAMER BALL!…to showcasing less than special teams.  From not beating themselves to being among the nation’s leaders in penalties.  From being a program challenging the nation’s top tier–to being second-rate in the ACC’s second best division.  Five years ago Frank Beamer was one of three area coaches leading his alma mater in the ACC–each in their 60’s.  Al Groh was fired after a 3-9 finish in ’09 and read a poem on his way out the door while Ralph Friedgen was fired a year later after an 8-4 mark, an ACC Coach of the Year award and one burned up diploma.  Beamer was the most successful of the three– and is now 68 years old in the middle of a 4-3 season where things have been consistently uneven.  For turning the VPI Gobblers into the Virginia Tech Hokies alone, he deserves to leave Blacksburg on his own terms.  But he also has to recognize the temperature of the room and leave gracefully.  This year’s bunch is inexperienced and should only get better as the year progresses–does Beamer have one more magical run inside himself?

 

Virginia Tech entertains Miami– the Hokies of 5 years ago would have won this one going away.  They would have bottled up Hurricanes runningback Duke Johnson and his 110+ yards per game (on 7+ yards per carry).  They would have been able to establish the run and not make mistakes offensively.  Sadly, it looks like the Hurricanes’ night.  Hokies fall, 26-13.

All hail the SEC West.  Eight weeks into the season, the seven-team grouping is 28-1 against the rest of the world (a loss by Arkansas to Georgia the only blemish).  Four of the top five teams (including #1 Mississippi State) hail from the SEC West while LSU is in the outer reaches of the top 25…and Texas A&M is also receiving votes because the Aggies have had three straight games (all losses) to teams in the division all currently ranked in the top 10.  November appears to be a round-robin shootout for the valued berth in the SEC Championship game– with Ole Miss and Bama coming out ahead on the scheduling front:  the Rebels host Auburn and Mississippi State while the Crimson Tide entertain the Bulldogs and Tigers next month.  Another benefit of being in the SEC West?  Crossover games with East Division teams like Vanderbilt (winless in the league with a 1-point victory over Charleston Southern).  How soft is the East?  Longtime doormat Kentucky is in third place with a chance to finish over .500 in league play for the first time since 1977.  National titles and unbeaten seasons are one thing…but the Wildcats having a shot at the SEC Title game?  Now that’s an achievement.

 

Alma Mater Update– a collective sigh of relief in Orange Nation as it’s learned that Wake Forest is the worst team in the ACC this year…as SU dominated the Demon Deacons 30-7 by tallying two defensive touchdowns.  Freshman quarterback AJ Long in his second start for the injured Terrel Hunt didn’t throw any interceptions and the defense tightened up:  after allowing a 91 yard drive for a Wake TD, they held the Deacons to 79 total yards the rest of the game.  Bring on Clemson!  In Death Valley!  The pursuit of 6 wins never looked so much fun…

 

Maryland made a major move by rallying past Iowa 38-31.  A fifth win puts the team one victory shy of bowl eligibility–and a second conference triumph keeps them in the East Division conversation while standing on the cusp of the top 25.  Terrapin Triumphs– the ground game pounded out 212 yards rushing while the defense held the Hawkeyes in check after the first quarter–notching 4 three and outs plus an interception over their first 6 second half drives… Stefon Diggs caught 9 passes for 130 yards-including a screen pass from Perry Hills he took 53 yards for a TD… Will Likely added to his highlight reel with a 45 yard interception return for a score…and coach Randy Edsall showed some athleticism catching a stray sideline pass.  Terrapin Troubles– once again the defense allowed a pair of first quarter scores-just like in the West Virginia and Ohio State games…the team was held to 4-16 on third down… and whiffing on a late onside kick could’ve come back to haunt the Terps but didn’t.  Next:  Saturday at Wisconsin.

 

Virginia came up short on the road…losing at Duke 20-13.  UVa’s first ACC loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the Coastal Division with the Blue Devils and Pitt.  Here’s Blue Devil respect for you:  despite a 6-1 start, the defending division champs remain out of the top 25.  Cavalier Congrats– Miles Gooch caught 6 passes for 129 yards and didn’t bully the diminutive Arnold Jackson or his friend Dudley…the defense held Duke to under 8 yards per completion…three players threw passes Saturday, but two were wide receivers-meaning Mike London didn’t shuttle quarterbacks.  Sanity!  Cavalier Concerns– 2 penalties handcuffed a 4th quarter drive, including a delay of game on 4th and 7 that preceded an incompletion…Matt Johns completed less than 50% of his passes…and with Duke kicker Ross Martin kicking a pair of field goals and two extra points, nobody made a Wild, Wild West connection.  Next:  Saturday vs. North Carolina.

 

Virginia Tech over the years has prided itself on smoked turkey legs, a stout running game and dominating Thursday nights (20-7 entering this year).  After a 21-16 loss to Pitt, the Hokies finds themselves on the outside looking in regarding the Coastal Division race–with a ground game that is rather light and a Must See TV night record that’s 1-3 since 2012.  I don’t want to ask about the current quality of smoked turkey legs.  Hokie Highlights– Cam Phillips caught 7 passes for 59 yards and the team’s only TD… the defense tallied three takeaways… Joey Slye connected on all three FG attempts.  Hokie Humblings– instead of a stout running game the ground attack was rather starving:  26 yards on 22 rushes…the offense converted just 2 of 14 third downs…and gained 19 yards on its first 24 plays from scrimmage…the defense was burned twice by Panthers QB Chad Voytik:  a 53 yard TD pass that began the scoring and a 49 yard run that set up the Panthers’ final score.  Next:  Thursday night vs. Miami (you know, the Hokies are 20-8 on Thursday night ESPN games…)

Now that is how you awaken your fan base!  Or maybe not.  The Redskins 19-17 split decision win over Tennessee was hardly one that instilled confidence–but it’s better than losing to a bad Titans team at home the day Mark Rypien goes into the ring of honor.  A few thoughts about homecoming:  first, do we have to call it that?  I understand the concept–and it’s very cool to have the ex-Skins lined up on the sideline before the game–but homecoming sounds more like a Saturday when Tennessee-Martin is coming to town.  Homecoming brings to mind backbiting fraternities and sororities complaining about inappropriate floats for the parade…or teenage kids wearing ill-fitting crowns and smiling awkwardly.  Call it “Burgundy and Gold Day” or “Honor Day”…”Homecoming” just sounds ill-fitting for the NFL.  Second– can the Fed Ex Fans give all the ex-Skins a little love?  You’re standing up anyways–can’t you shout when they say Otis Wonsley or Brad Edwards just like you do for Darrell Green?  Lastly– Florida State wants their jerseys and pants back.

 

Public Service Announcement:  Belated Birthday wishes to Billy Zabka/William Zabka, aka “Johnny Lawrence” in the “Karate Kid” (as well as the arrogant bullies in “Just One of the Guys” and “Back to School”)…the inspiration for a big chunk of the weekly analysis of Kai Forbath’s goings-on.  Anybody not in the Griswold household who gets a vote for Family President gets our vote.

 

Realignment, anyone?  The victory makes the Skins 2-1 against the AFC this year–and 4-3 since the 2013 season which translates to a .571 winning percentage that would prorate to 9 wins over a 16 game season.  The team is 1-15 against the NFC in that time.  Is anybody thinking what I’m thinking? 

 

Kirk replaced on the Bridge by McCoy– when your offense is falling out of orbit, of course you call the ship’s doctor.  Kirk Cousins played his way to the bench in the first half with a pair of delay of game penalties, a lost fumble and an interception.  Worst thing was–one felt it could have been worse.  Enter Colt McCoy– after throwing one pass in 2013– and on his first pass of 2014 he connects with Pierre Garcon on a simple hitch pattern that #88 takes to the endzone (aided by the Titans inability to tackle).  McCoy completes 11 of 12 passes for 128 yards and that TD–while driving the team the length of the field for the game-winning TD as the 4th quarter was winding down.  More importantly, no turnovers.  Even though he looks 18 years old, McCoy is actually older than both RG3 and Cousins.  Replacing a midwesterner at the controls by a southerner who by all intents an purposes is a third-stringer doesn’t happen often:  DeForrest Kelley rarely got a chance to outshine Shatner…now Colt McCoy gets a chance on the Monday Night stage next week in Dallas.  What does this make RG3?  Spock, of course.  Live long and prosper..

 

Alfred the Emphasized– So he didn’t get 100 yards.  So Mr. Morris only gained 3 yards a carry.  At least they’re using him now as an option…18 carries for 54 yards on a day where they actually went to him on first down.  Just like another Mr. Morris who’s all about making sure Jessie doesn’t ruin her father’s wedding–#46 provided solid support throughout the day.  One concern- his losing the ball on the first drive (even though it wasn’t ruled a fumble) only enhances his reputation as the guy who can’t hang on to the football (much like Zack earned the rep of using the brick phone in the early days). Roy Helu Jr was held to -9 yards on three catches (including one extremely ill-advised screen that looked like it was intended to hit the O-Lineman’s back) but his 15 yard run on the final drive set up the game-winning march perfectly.  Break out the Buddy Bands.

 

Wideout Weapons– one benefit of bringing in Colt McCoy in the second half– Pierre Garcon coming to life with 4 catches for 82 yards after intermission.  While DeSean Jackson caught all 3 of his passes for 49 yards before the break–the Skins did take a deep shot with under a minute left to draw a pass interference call that set up the game-winning field goal.  Add in the TE duo of Jordan Reed and Niles Paul, this team isn’t devoid of targets.  They just need the right triggerman…

 

Third and At Least We’re Not Tennessee– the Skins went 3-of-11 at moving the chains against the only team in the league that’s worse on third down (Titans also went 3-of-11).  Kirk Cousins went 2-of-6 at moving the chains, Colt McCoy 1-for-5 .  While Cousins completed all 4 of his third down attempts for 49 yards, take away the shot to DeSean Jackson and it’s 3-3=16 with a lost fumble.  McCoy’s (1-2=5 with no conversions and a sack for -7) best third down was the pass interference call against the Titans.  Yardage breakdown:  1-for-2 on third and short (3 or less), 1-for-2 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 1-for-7 on third and long (7+).  After 7 weeks, 44% of the team’s third downs are by 7+ yards…and the Skins are converting just 2 of those 36 attempts.  That isn’t a dropoff– it’s a major cliff.

 

From the Stoppable to the Moveable– yes, the Skins defense allowed just 17 points and held the Titans to 236 total yards.  Keep in mind that Tennessee was minus their first string quarterback and runningback…and the Skins still couldn’t sack the highly immobile Charlie Whitehurst more than once.  But at least they got an interception from Bashaud Breeland–and four of the top six tacklers were linebackers (Breeland and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins the exceptions.  Nice job by ILB’s Keenan Robinson and Will Compton getting to the ball (the duo combined for 20 of the team’s 49 tackles).  Now if only the secondary can avoid breakdowns– like the help that EJ Biggers never received on Whitehurst’s 38 yard TD pass to Derek Hagan.  Stop smiling, Tony Romo.

 

Will no BO make the Defense Stink?– Brian Orakpo’s done for the year with pending surgery on an injured right pectoral muscle (an injured left pec wiped out a previous season, so at least now he’s balanced)…likely ending his days in Burgundy and Gold.  The franchise tagged outside linebacker managed 24 tackles (7th on the team) with half of one sack (tied for 6th)…no interceptions and no fumbles forced or recovered this fall.  While he may have underperformed his 11+ million dollar contract, Orakpo’s light years ahead of Trent Murphy–whose 9 tackles this year are overshadowed by his 3 penalties (including a punt return offsides on 4th and 5 Sunday that moved the chains for the Titans).

 

Flying flags– only 7 penalties for 50 yards…as the team is finally under the 8 penalties per game average (55 for the season).  Sunday’s infractions featured four offensive:  2 delay of games and an intentional grounding on Kirk Cousins plus a holding against Tyler Polumbus, 2 defensive:  illegal contact calls against Bashaud Breeland and Keenan Robinson, and the punt return offsides against Trent Murphy.  Two loom large:  Cousins first delay of game turned a 3rd & 5 into a 3rd &10–and with more pressure he fumbled which led to the Titans first score.  Robinson’s illegal contact turned a 2nd & 15 at the TEN 26 into a 1st & 10 at the 36…and the Titans would wind up scoring on that very possession.  After 7 weeks, the Skins have the 8th most flags and 2nd most penalty yardage in the league.

 

Cobra Kai– SWEEP THE LEG!  Four field goals for Mr. Forbath.  NO MERCY!  The prized pupil of the Dojo kicks the gamewinner after “being iced”.  I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN HE’S HAD ENOUGH!  When you’re kicking for an offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in third down conversions, competence is crucial. GET A BODYBAG!  Defensive End Jason Hatcher joked on Comcast Sports Net that they’d now let Forbath in the locker room after he made the kick.  Really?  That’s like Dutch telling Johnny he can’t hang out at Golf N’ Stuff.  With all the lack of pressure Hatcher and the D-Line generated…he’s lucky Forbath is letting him back in the locker room.

 

Division Discussion– Pittsburgh’s Monday Night Football win over Houston places the AFC North (15-10) percentage points ahead of the NFC East (16-11)…although Cleveland’s loss to Jacksonville has to crush their RPI.  The NFC South lost all three of its games to fall to 8-17-1 on the season…creating some distance with second sloppiest AFC South (11-17).  Both of the Redskins wins are against AFC South teams…hmm.

 

Dissecting the Division– Dallas with its win over the NY Giants improves to 6-1 and moves past idle Philadelphia to not only take first place in the division but the top seed in the NFC…as the Eagles remain half a game behind the Cowboys.  The Giants at 3-4 slip to 10th in the conference (losing the conference games tiebreaker to Chicago)…and the Redskins win means the Burgundy and Gold move ahead of Tampa Bay into 15th place in the NFC.  They battle the 1-5 Bucs in their next home game November 16th.  Can they hold another homecoming?

Okay…so I’ll wave the white flag.  Thursday Night Football is here to stay in the NFL…no matter how many players might get hurt on short weeks or how sloppy the play might be, TNF is an entity that won’t go away (much to the dismay of “Big Bang Theory” fans).  Which is kind of a shame, because now the NFL Ratings Freight Train (5 of the first 6 TNF games were in the top 5 watched programs of the week) steamrolls the college prime time games into an afterthought.  I’ve long thought the college game is better suited for and handles Thursday night football better.  First, there are over 60 games to choose from each week…so even taking a marquee matchup away from Saturday doesn’t destroy the schedule.  The NFL, with bye weeks and Sunday/Monday night commitments, takes away one more potentially worthwhile matchup from a shrinking slate by having the Thursday game.  College football also solves the overworked/underprepared complaints many are lobbing at the NFL’s venture into Must See TV night:  most schools have the previous weekend off (like Virginia Tech)…and even if they played the previous Saturday are coming back after 4 days off instead of just 3 (like Pitt).  Some even schedule consecutive Thursday night games (Virginia Tech this week and next).  That extra day–or seven–makes the game that much safer and better.  Once the NFL institutes a system of having the Thursday night teams take their byes the weekend before, I can focus my futile energies on eliminating the Pac-12’s 10:30pm Thursday game.  You guys robbed me of watching Arizona-Oregon, for heaven’s sake.

 

Memo to the Pac-12:  I love you guys.  The wide-open football and athleticism.  The fan bases that for the most part don’t have ridiculous expectations.  The fact that winning and losing are great in places like Eugene, Tempe and Boulder but it’s not the end of the world because there are other things you spend your lives on.  I like how your name actually aligns with the amount of teams in the conference (Sorry Big-10 and -12).  I appreciate how your division setup doesn’t have a North division school south of five schools in the South (sorry SEC).  I enjoy how you’re kinda letting USC and UCLA wear their home colors for their annual game (so does Kodak).  But can you please get rid of that Thursday night 10:30 game?  The 10:30 Saturday night game is a nice dessert to a great meal– but for the life of me I can’t handle a 10:30 Thursday game.  Bump it back to 9pm and I’m yours…but you’re throwing away what’s been a pretty good game (UCLA-Arizona State and Arizona-Oregon were both top 25 matchups, Stanford and Utah were ranked as well) into the phantom zone of football otherwise.

 

Alma Mater Update– this is the floor game for the Orange…a loss to 2-4 Wake Forest would sentence SU to the Atlantic Division cellar.  Both teams have as equally unimpressive wins (SU over Villanova in double overtime, Wake by 3 over Army) and discouraging defeats (Orange on a Friday night to Louisville, Demon Deacons at Utah State).  This is the only remaining team with a losing record on Syracuse’s slate–the remaining slate is 21-11 on the year and a 3-win season is a dark possibility in the Salt City.  Like an order of wings with no drumsticks, this isn’t looking good.

 

I already start 0-1 as for some reason I didn’t recognize that Virginia Tech would be traveling to Pitt minus its ground game: 26 yards on 22 carries?  Not awesome, Hokies…a 21-16 loss that will give me plenty to chew on for the next few days.

 

Maryland entertains Iowa– homecoming at Byrd Stadium brings another huge offensive line to town.  Trouble.  The Hawkeyes’ left tackle Brandon Scherff weighs 320 pounds…and the Terp D coughs up more than 200 yards a game.  Trouble. Even thought the Terps are rested after their bye week, can a 3 man front keep these corn-fed kids contained?  With Cole Farrand manning a fly to the ball linebacking corps, yes.  Keep an eye on #47 Saturday–the senior happens to be a magnet for the football.  Offensively, the Terrapins have to get their ground game in gear–against FBS teams they’re rushing for 111 yards a game at under 4 yards per carry.  CJ Brown can’t make the mistakes that have plagued his early season..but he also can’t carry a team by himself.  Iowa is a very shaky–they’ve posted one-possession wins over Northern Iowa, Ball State and Pitt while posting a less than convincing sweep of Purdue and Indiana.  Terrapins triumph, 21-16.

 

Virginia visits Duke– another clash for first place in the ACC Coastal…this time against the defending division champs.  Which should give Coach Mike London’s team the idea “hey, if DUKE can win the Coastal–why can’t we?” (probably because your remaining opponents are 26-11).  The Blue Devils bounced back from a tough defeat at Miami (Anthony Boone threw 2 INT’s and the team went 2-16 on third down) to hand Georgia Tech their first loss of the season (thanks to a turnover free game).  While the Cavaliers cause a lot of turnovers (17 takeaways over 6 games)…they’ve coughed up the ball a lot this fall.  Quarterback Carousel Update– Greyson Lambert looks healthy enough to play…meaning he could see a play, series or indiscriminate quarter running the team.  Wait on the Magic Eight Ball.  Cavaliers come up short, 31-26.

 

Howard handles Florida A&M, Towson tumbles to Delaware, William & Mary slips to Villanova, Richmond rips Rhode Island, Morgan State tops North Carolina Central.

Last Week: 6-1.

Overall: 51-16.

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