One week remains in the regular season…with one area school competing for a conference championship, another fighting for a spot in the postseason, a third actively searching for their next head coach while a fourth is wondering if they should make a coaching change.  Just like everyone at the Thanksgiving table has different things to be thankful for, the four schools come to Grandmother’s house taking different roads:  Navy is thankful that Keenan Reynolds chose to attend the academy, Virginia Tech is thankful that Frank Beamer built a juggernaut of a program in Blacksburg, Maryland is thankful they are in the Big Ten with Under Armour backing and Virginia is thankful they have basketball.  Pass the yams…


Maryland (2-9, 0-7 Big Ten) fell on Senior Day to Indiana 47-28.  This was after taking a 21-3 first quarter lead.  The Terps lose their 8th straight and sadly send a senior class towards a potential 10-loss season (it would be the third in seven years for this program).  Terrapin Triumphs- Brandon Ross rushed for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in his final game at Byrd. Yannick Ngakoue tallied a sack for the 10th straight game, giving him a school-record 13.5 for the year.  No turnovers for a team that has a nation-high 35 giveaways on the season.  Terrapin Troubles- the defense coughed up 225 yards and 20 points in the second quarter…while notching just one sack all afternoon and allowing 385 yards passing.  The offense converted just 3 of 16 third downs.  Next- Saturday at noon against Rutgers:  the 4-7 Scarlet Knights are coming off a 31-21 victory over Army…their only Big Ten win is a 3-point triumph over Indiana.


Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4 ACC) came up short in overtime to #12 North Carolina, 30-27.  Despite the defeat, the Lane Stadium crowd saluted coach Frank Beamer in fine fashion–as befits a program-builder of his magnitude.  Now they need to beat Virginia (as they have every year since they’ve joined the ACC) to qualify for a bowl.  Hokie Highlights- Isaiah Ford ran wild throughout the Tar Heel secondary, notching 8 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.  The defense forces two 4th quarter fumbles that wound up leading to scoring drives that sent the game into overtime. Hokie Humblings- the offensive line allows 5 sacks while.  The defense while the Hokie D coughs up over 5 yards a carry.  Next- Saturday at noon against Virginia.


Virginia (4-7, 3-4 ACC) defeated Duke 42-34…showing firepower not often seen this fall.  While a bowl is out of the question this fall, snapping their 11-game losing streak to Virginia Tech is not.  Cavalier Congrats- Matt Johns throws for a career-high 344 yards and 2 touchdowns…while Taquan Mizzell adds 61 yards rushing and 2 scores while notching a TD catch.  Micah Kiser takes ACC Linebacker of the Week honors with 17 tackles and a sack. Cavalier Concerns-the defense allows 245 yards on four 4th quarter possessions…and the offense converts just one 3rd down in the final period of play. They were very fortunate to escape with a win.  Next- Saturday at noon against Virginia Tech.  Should be fun.


Navy (9-1, 7-0 AAC) stayed on track to win the AAC West by torching Tulsa 44-21.  This is their best start since 1963-the year Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy and was slated to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.  Until November 22nd.  Midshipmen Medals- 476 yards rushing for the team…and another solid outing from Reynolds (81 yards and a touchdown rushing plus a TD pass).  Will Anthony tallies 10 tackles and a sack while the defense limits the Golden Hurricanes to 5 of 13 on third down.  Midshipmen Miscues- Dane Evans was able to complete 32 passes against the Navy D.  The Mids can be passed on this year…and that might come back to haunt them.  Next- Friday at noon against Houston:  the 10-1 Cougars lost at Connecticut this past weekend after consecutive one-possession victories.



College Football’s championship process has come a long way from the jigsaw puzzle of New Year’s Day bowls where you needed a chart to get through the day.  We had that for about 30 years (Associated Press champions were determined pre-bowls up to 1967).  The BCS #1 vs #2 model (often flawed and frustrating) lasted less than 20 years.  So it gives me hope that although this 4-team playoff is a decided step forward, it won’t be too long before they expand to eight. That’s right, eight is enough.  The Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, SEC and Pac-12 Championship Games should be for automatic berths.  Fill the other spots with dominant mid-major schools, worthy runners-up or schools that are too good to submit themselves to being in a conference (we’re looking at you, Notre Dame).

You wouldn’t want a Saturday quadruple-header midway through December?  Does Alabama-Oklahoma whet the appetite as a potential quarterfinal?  I’d give the higher seed home field, but keep the New Year’s games and Championship game at neutral sites with their current dates in place.  If it means you have to move the Conference Championship games to Thanksgiving weekend, so be it.  Schools already have two bye weeks most years as it is (this season being the exception).  Would this solve everything?  Hardly.  But 5th ranked teams pre-bowl have won it all before (Notre Dame in 1977, Miami in 1983).  You should be rewarded for winning your league–and barring that, coming close to doing so while playing a challenging schedule.  This won’t happen until 2030, right?


Maryland (2-8, 0-6 Big Ten) entertains Indiana– while some say the Terps have caught a couple of bad breaks along the way this fall, you could easily make the case for the Hoosiers being the most snake-bitten team this season.  Four of their six conference losses have come by eight points or less- including last weekend’s overtime loss to Michigan.  IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld has torched his share of secondaries this season…and if there’s one thing Maryland can’t get into it’s a shootout (the offense ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring, 13th in passing and 14th in total offense).  Terps tumble, 34-22.


Virginia Tech (5-5, 3-3 ACC) hosts North Carolina– emotions will be high during the final home game of coach Frank Beamer’s career.  Tech has dominated the Tar Heels since joining the ACC…winning 9 of 11 matchups.  But this year’s UNC team has won nine straight since an opening weekend loss to South Carolina…and is on track to contend for it’s first ACC title since 1980.  They lead the conference in scoring, passer efficiency and yards per carry.  With Michael Brewer and company as offensively challenged as they’ve been this year, I’ve figured the kicking game (BEAMER BALL!) needs to return a kickoff, punt and a blocked kick back for scores to keep pace.  Hokies sadly come up short, 38-24.


Virginia (3-7, 2-4 ACC) hosts Duke– the Blue Devils have not won since they fell on a last-second kickoff return to Miami, only to learn two days later that the touchdown should not have counted on that play.  I know this isn’t hoops Gary Williams, but so much for Duke getting all the calls.  Coach Mike London’s team has lost more than their share of close calls, but while they may be four plays away from 7-3 they’re also three scores away from being 0-10.  While UVa is not known for finishing strong on the football field, Kippy & Buffy bring it for the first of two final Saturdays:  they welcome Tommy & Cricket with a bottle of Tarara 2010 CasaNoVa Merlot (“the nose is packed with dark notes of desiccated strawberry, red currant and caramel lozenge, plus dried herb and maduro subtleties”)…as they share Red Leicester cheese on water biscuits.  Cavaliers bounce back against the Blue Devils, 29-21.


Navy (8-1, 6-0 AAC) tangles with Tulsa– the Midshipmen look to avoid looking ahead to next weekend’s showdown with unbeaten Houston for a spot in the American Athletic Conference (of America) Championship Game (for the Championship).  The Golden Hurricanes have been downgraded to “brass weather systems” this fall:  their two AAC wins are against UCF and SMU–schools that are a combined 1-20 on the season.  They allow 39 points per game.  Why is Keenan Reynolds salivating again?Midshipmen make it happen, 45-21.


Howard falls at Delaware State, Georgetown slips to Holy Cross, James Madison falls to Villanova,  William & Mary edges Richmond to win the CAA.


Last Week: 8-1.  Closing Month continues with a 14-2 run…

Overall: 71-18.



Have you ever eaten a half-baked cookie?  That’s what I feel like in early November while watching ESPN’s College Football Playoff Rankings Show.  I know it gets people talking about the game and that’s nice.  And people will tell you “half of the fun of college football is arguing about it”.  But instead of focusing on this week’s matchups, we’re debating whether or not Notre Dame (with 25% of their season to play) or Iowa (31%) should be the fourth and final seed?  The oatmeal and raisins haven’t even begun to set.  There will be twists and turns over the next month…that’s half of the fun of college football.  For years during the BCS the doomsday-devotees would freak out in early November when 3 or 4 teams would still be unbeaten…only to have the herd neatly thinned most seasons by mid-December (sorry Auburn, 2004).  So instead of worrying about how the Big 12 will get hosed this year or how Alabama won’t be properly punished for scheduling Charleston Southern, Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee, read a book Tuesday evenings.  Let the cookies bake…and come back after Thanksgiving.


Maryland meets Michigan State– the Spartans are smartin’ after their 1-point loss to Nebraska…as their season of living dangerously finally comes back to haunt them (their first three conference wins were one-possession affairs).  MSU ranks 10th in the Big Ten in stopping the run– but the Terps have yet to find a consistent air attack this fall (last week completing 13 of 34 attempts).  The Maryland D has also had plenty of issues…allowing 31 points three straight weeks. Terps come up short, 31-20.

Virginia visits Louisville– how are the Cardinals 5-4?  When all is said and done, the case could be made for this team being the second best in the ACC.  An ankle injury keeps dual threat quarterback Lamar Jackson on the shelf, but his understudy Kyle Bolin threw for 362 yards last Saturday.  UVa’s defense has been a sore spot all season–the team ranks 13th in the ACC in stopping the pass and in yards allowed while surrendering the most points in the league. Cavaliers collapse, 37-21.

Navy entertains SMU– fans of a certain age will tell you about how the Mustangs handed Roger Staubach and company their only regular season loss in 1963.  Others will tell you how incredible the Pony Express was with Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the early 80’s…while some will mention the shenanigans that delivered the death penalty to the program later that decade.  Years from now Navy fans will tell you about the days that Keenan Reynolds ran around, over and through defenses on a weekly basis.  They’ll probably recall highlights from this Saturday’s game.  Midshipmen cruise, 45-16.


Georgetown falls to Fordham, Howard is handled by North Carolina Central, William & Mary tops Towson, Richmond edges Villanova, James Madison defeats Delaware.

Last Week: 6-1.

Overall: 63-17.

How do you top a 34-3 season where you ran the table your first winter competing in a new league?  How do you look at consecutive trips to the Final Four and know you are still 20+ points away from reaching the National Championship game?  And how do you survive your point guard leaving two years ahead of schedule?

Maryland returns the bulk of its nucleus from the team that lost 81-58 in the Final Four in Tampa to eventual National Champ UConn.  They will have a different coaching staff–as Tina Langley took over the program at Rice and Marlin Chinn got the nod at FIU.  They won’t have Lexie Brown running the offense…as the Big Ten Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player transferred to Duke in the offseason.  But coach Brenda Frese has dealt with transfers and revamped staffs in the past…only to find a way and succeed.  Does that make this season “title or bust”?  “I’ve never really put a mindset like that,” Frese says, “for us it’s just continuing to play at that highest level.  And I think when you those things, day in and day out, you’ll continue to be successful.”

While they won’t have Brown’s 13 points and 4.5 assists per game, the Terps will have a senior starting point guard for the first time since Anjale Barrett in 2011-12.  Actually, two of them.  Brene Moseley was named to the ACC’s All-Freshman team before tearing her ACL during preseason workouts the following fall;  since her redshirt season the Burtonsville, Maryland product has been a valuable performer off the bench.  Chloe Pavlech started 31 games as a freshman after Moseley’s injury;  injury issues wound up derailing her second season with the Terps as well.  Both are healthy and ready to direct the offense…and junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough says, “I’m excited and very confident.  I wouldn’t pick anyone else to play with or play for.  They know Coach B and they know the system.”  Sophomore Kristen Confroy saw the majority of her minutes last season at the off-guard position, but can play the point as well.

Walker-Kimbrough and junior center Brionna Jones are expected to provide the bulk of the scoring…and the two complement each other well.  Shatori is a slasher who is at her most dangerous in transition while Jones owns the half-court game…coming to Maryland with an embarrassing array of low-post moves.  Sophomore Kiara Leslie and senior Malina Howard will add frontcourt depth, while Walker-Kimbrough will look beyond her own scoring: “I want to make better plays for my teammates. Getting open shots for Kiara, giving Bree an opportunity to score.  Making them great as well.”

The rich get richer in College Park as Coach Brenda Frese brings in two freshman who will make a strong frontcourt even more formidable:  Kiah Gillespie averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds while starting the Terps’ two exhibitions and Brianna Frasier made an impact off the bench in the paint as well.  “Absolutely phenomenal”, senior guard Chloe Pavlech says, “Kiah’s unreal.  And Brianna’s coming right along with her.  As soon as we can throw the freshmen into the mix, we’re going to be a completely different team.”

That’s not even factoring the incoming 2016 recruiting class-ranked #1 by ESPN, Blue Star Basketball and Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.  The six-player class includes top-ten prospect Destiny Slocum.  It’s Frese’s 11th recruiting class in 14 years ranked in the top ten.  “I think first and foremost you have to find the right type of players– and we’ve been able to find players that kind of have the blue-collar mentality,” Frese explains, “that just want to come in and work extremely hard.  Whether that’s in the weight room…or on the court and getting shots up…finding the right type of player has been key.”

After going 18-0 in their first Big Ten season, conference play should be a little more competitive this winter;  Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa join the Terps in the Preseason Top 25.  The Buckeyes are likely the Terps biggest conference test this seaons– Kelsey Mitchell’s back after scoring a nation-best 24.9 points per game as a freshman.  OSU comes to College Park January 2nd…and Maryland visits Columbus February 8th.  A December 28th showdown at Madison Square Garden against three-time defending champ and preseason #1 UConn is the non-conference highlight.

This is the tenth anniversary of Maryland’s National Championship season…and while every program dreams of cutting the nets down in April most coaches recognize they’re a long way from that final game, no matter how good their returnees and recruiting class might be.  The 2005-06 team faced plenty of questions, ranging from how would freshman Kristi Tolliver handle the point-guard position to could they ever get over the hump and beat Duke?  While the destination (this year it’s Indianapolis) is nice, the journey is a gift in and of itself.

After a 102-53 season-opening win over UMass-Lowell, the Terps host High Point Wednesday night.

For years I’ve rued the fact that college basketball begins a week or two earlier than it should…in a perfect world the season shouldn’t tip off until the weekend before Thanksgiving.  This year though the fact that Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech have been so underwhelming on the field I almost wish they could have tipped off Halloween weekend.  The Terps and Cavaliers begin the year ranked in the top ten while the Hokies under coach Buzz Williams are in theory beginning to build something.  The start of something OK sometimes trumps the end of something OK.   Two schools are out of bowl contention while two are about to be ramping up coaching searches…and another school entirely is plotting its postseason.  Who’s ready for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge?


Maryland (2-8, 0-6 Big Ten) lost another hard-fought game, this time at #14 Michigan State 24-7.  The gauntlet ends and Indiana/Rutgers with their combined 1-12 conference record is on deck, not in time to salvage bowl eligibility but in time for the team to hopefully avoid a third 10-loss season in seven years.  Terrapin Triumphs– they actually outgained the Spartans, holding MSU to 262 total yards while limiting their quarterbacks (Connor Cook & Tyler O’Connor– how are they NOT playing at UVA?) to 12 of 32 passing.  Anthony Nixon tallied two interceptions.  They were only penalized once– for eight yards.  Terrapin Troubles– two fumbles and three interceptions marred whatever positives the offense could have generated…while the Spartans were able to generate 17 points of Terp turnovers.  Punting was poor (under 30 yards per kick).  Next: Saturday at noon against Indiana– the 4-6 Hoosiers are coming off a 48-41 double-overtime loss to Michigan, the team’s fourth one-possession defeat in conference play.


Virginia (3-7, 2-4 ACC) lost its fourth one-possession game of the season, slipping at Louisville 38-31.  This one stings because once again UVa will be out of bowl contention…marking the fifth time in six years under coach Mike London that the team will be home for the holidays.  Cavalier Congrats– Matt Johns throws 4 touchdown passes (who would have thought UVa would have the most stable QB situation?) while Caleb Severin takes ACC Receiver of the Week honors by catching 8 passes for 116 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Quinton Blanding leads the defense with 14 tackles.  Cavalier Concerns– the defense coughs up 284 yards rushing while the offense converts just 2 of 8 third downs after halftime.  Eight penalties for 69 yards doesn’t help you on the road, either.  Next:  Saturday at 3:30 against Duke– the 6-4 Blue Devils have dropped three straight ACC games to fall out of Coastal Division conention.


Virginia Tech (5-5, 3-3 ACC) rallied to beat Georgia Tech 23-21 in coach Frank Beamer’s final Thursday night regular season game.  The Coastal Division is out of play but a bowl is not.  Hokie Highlights– Travon McMillan rushes for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The defense holds the Yellowjacket option to 3.4 yards per carry…and holds the GT offense to 95 total yards in the second half.  Hokie Humblings– a missed extra point?  I so want to type BEAMER BALL! one final time this fall and you’re killing me, guys.  Next:  Saturday at noon against #23 North Carolina– the 9-1 Tar Heels have ripped through the ACC this fall, most recently routing Miami 59-21.


Navy (8-1, 6-0 AAC) moved one step closer to playing in the American Athletic Conference (of America) Championship Game (for the Championship), blistering SMU 55-14.  Even if they come up short in the AAC West or in the title game, this team should get major consideration for a prime bowl slot…and their quarterback should be invited to Downtown Athletic Club.  Midshipmen Medals– Keenan Reynolds rushes for 137 yards and 4 touchdowns, setting an NCAA record for career TD’s in the process.  The defense holds the Mustangs to 9 of 24 passing (with 2 interceptions).  NO PENALTIES.  Midshipmen Miscues– when you punt just once all day, make sure it’s more than a 24-yarder.  Can I still be peeved that the Mids are in the AAC West Division even though they’re clearly on the east coast?  Next:  Saturday at 7pm at Tulsa– the Golden Hurricane are 5-5 after a 49-38 loss to Cincinnati.  Don’t look ahead to unbeaten Houston…



Virginia Tech visits Georgia Tech– usually this matchup determines who wins the ACC Coastal Division as the Hokies and Yellowjackets have combined to play in 9 of the first 10 ACC Championship Games.  In 2015, it’s two teams trying to stay alive for a lower-tier bowl game.  Both teams have had issues stopping the run (Hokies are 11th, Yellowjackets are 12th)– and that might not be good for coach Frank Beamer’s defense when facing the GT option: “they almost know what you do before you do it. And he knows what he’s gonna do after you do what you’re getting ready to do”.  I’m lost already.  But the Yellowjackets haven’t been able to stop anybody this year…and quarterback Michael Brewer should finally be returning to form.  Hokies hang on, 28-23.

College football is all about inequality:  the best schools get the best players…and get more bowl revenue that they then are able to put back into the school.  The better leagues get the better TV contracts…and thus build the better brands.  But with divisional play now over 20 years old (thank you SEC), it’s common to recognize “have and have nots” in conferences.  The SEC East and ACC Coastal have carved out “red-haired stepchild” status over the years, and it appeared as though the Big Ten West would be the Robin to the Big Ten East’s Batman.  It’s tough to compete with the star power of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State–even Maryland has a national title to their credit.  But last Saturday the West took a major step to creating a little balance:  Nebraska’s last second touchdown handed Michigan State its first loss…while Northwestern handed Penn State a last-minute defeat as well.  The only two schools that are still winless in the league reside in the East (Indiana & Maryland)…and Iowa and Wisconsin while not appearing to have the most talent seem to possess the most grit in the league.  It’s been widely assumed that whichever team wins the East will walk over the West representative.  I wouldn’t be so sure…

Alma Mater Update– the lost season is almost official as the Orange are now 3-6 entering a home game with #1 Clemson. Added to the mix, my alumni group has scheduled the Holiday Party for the same night that the Maryland Womens’ basketball team–for whom I announce games–hosts Syracuse in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.  Way to maximize your reach.

Maryland (2-7, 0-5 Big Ten) came up short on Homecoming Saturday…falling to Wisconsin, 31-24.  Close losses to Penn State and the Badgers over the last month drop the team from postseason pretenders to out of bowl contention.  But at least the tailgating was fun.  Terrapin Triumphs– they held the Badgers to 94 yards rushing and 0-5 on third down in the first half.  DJ Moore made a spectacular 40-yard touchdown grab on a 3rd and 17.  Adam Greene kicked well in relief of an injured Brad Craddock.  Terrapin Troubles– The defense coughed up 211 yards after halftime, allowing Wisconsin to score on 2 of their first 3 possessions.  Quarterbacks Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe combined to complete 13 of 34 passes with 2 interceptions.  Special teams allowed a kickoff return for a TD and a 57-yard run on a fake punt. Penalties (11 for 79 yards) posed problems again, including an offsides that wiped out an onside-kick recovery. Next–Saturday at noon against #14 Michigan State:  the 8-1 Spartans fell to 4-1 in conference play after losing in the final minute to Nebraska.

Virginia (3-6, 2-3 ACC) wave goodbye to their Coastal Division dreams by losing at Miami 27-21.  Now they need to win out just to qualify for bowl eligibility…and they haven’t beaten Virginia Tech since 2003.  Kippy and Buffy have so moved on to hoops.  Cavalier Congrats–Taquan Mizzell continues to contend for the Sean Singletary Excellence in Lost Causes Award, rushing for 91 yards while tallying 8 catches.  David Dean led the defense with nine tackles.  Ian Frye connects on all four field goal attempts.  Cavalier Concerns– going 4 for 13 on third down led to trading touchdowns for field goals…and in a six point game it made the difference.  The defense allowed 20 completions in 26 attempts and notched just one sack…while allowing the Hurricanes to move the chains on 8 of 13 third downs.  Next–Saturday at 12:30pm against Louisville:  the 5-4 Cardinals improved to 4-2 in the ACC with a 41-24 win over Syracuse.

Navy (7-1, 5-0 AAC) technically may have upset #15 Memphis 45-20, but the Midshipmen have been playing solid football all fall and are only a loss to top-10 Notre Dame away from being unbeaten themselves.  The Military Bowl may have to wait a year or two for this team.  Midshipmen Medals– Chris Swain rushes for 108 yards and 3 touchdowns…and the team gains 374 yards on the ground.  Keenan Reynolds’ 75 yard touchdown pass to DeBrandon Sanders may be just enough to keep future opponents honest.  Lorentez Barbour leads the team with 9 tackles and a forced fumble.  The team is penalized just twice?  For five yards?  Wow.  Midshipmen Miscues– the defense did allow over 300 yards passing…but its tough to find fault in another fantastic 60-minute effort.  Next–Saturday at 3:30pm against SMU:  the 1-8 Mustangs are 0-5 in the conference after Friday’s 60-40 loss to #22 Temple and have coughed up at least 38 points in their last seven games.


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