By the middle of October, there’s often a bit of a shuffle atop the college football rankings.  Usually there are arguments over which school should be number one…and every so often the writers’ rankings and coaches’ polls are split.  Not so in 2016…as Alabama is going through its schedule like a blowtorch through butter.  The Crimson Tide rank sixth in the nation in scoring (45 points per game) and allow the seventh fewest points in FBS (15 points per game).  With the exception of their 48-43 shootout against Ole Miss (and let the record show the Tide led by 18 with three minutes left), they’ve pasted all comers. Coach Nick Saban appears to have this team in position to grab the school their fifth National Title in eight years.  The last time they lost as the #1 team?  To Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel in 2012.  This week the Tide host the rested Aggies…who just happen to be unbeaten as well.  Some games are just built for Verne Lundquist & Gary Danielson at 3:30.

Alma Mater Update- how do you top a surprising victory over Virginia Tech?  By beating a Boston College team that began the eventual Big East blowup by bolting for the ACC a decade ago.  Water under the bridge?  Hey, I have friends in Texas who are still mad at Arkansas for bolting the SWC in the 90’s.  The Eagles boast wins over Wagner, UMass and Buffalo–not exactly Colgate, Connecticut and Virginia Tech.  Hold on, with the exception of the Hokies it’s almost exactly like that.  This battle to stay out of the Atlantic Division Cellar looms lightly on Saturday’s calendar.  Thank goodness they had Orange Madness last night at the Dome.

Virginia (2-4, 1-1 ACC) vs #22 North Carolina (5-2, 3-1), 3 p.m., ACC Network.  For many old-school UVa fans, the team they really consider their rival isn’t Virginia Tech or Maryland-but UNC.  To which Tar Heel fans shrug and focus on beating Duke while saying snarking things about NC State and ignoring Wake Forest.  The defending Coastal Division champs are still smarting from a home loss to Virginia Tech…while boasting a video-game like offense with Mitch Trubisky completing 70% percent of his passes and TJ Logan averaging 6.3 yards per carry.  UVa’s defense remains a work in progress, ranking 13th in the ACC against the pass, 12th against the run and 13th overall.  They’re also second to last in the league at getting off the field on third down (allowing 47% conversions), while Carolina ranks second in moving the chains (48%).  Kippy & Buffy continue their tour through Virginia reds with a Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc: “With a few minutes of aeration the secondary aromas of black raspberries, spices and black pepper come to the party.”  Also coming to the party?  Gorgonzola cheese on sesame Bremner Wafers.   Cavaliers come up short, 30-19.

#24 Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC) vs Memphis (5-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network.  One of the byproducts of Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath was the moving of Navy’s game with East Carolina from Thursday October 13th to November 19th.  After their upset of #6 Houston, the Mids probably needed a week to decompress.  So far this fall each of their three league wins have come by a touchdown or less.  The Tigers under first-year coach Mike Norvell have picked up where Justin Fuente left off…and many forget they were 8-0 and ranked #13 when Navy knocked them off last year.  I’m sure Memphis hasn’t forgotten…but they also haven’t forgotten how frustrating attempting to stop the triple-option is.  Midshipmen make it happen, 27-24.


Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) vs Michigan State (2-4, 0-3), 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network.  Hold on…the Terps are the 4-2 team while the Spartans are the 2-4 unit that’s dropped four straight?   Michigan State was ranked as high as #8 before crashing against Wisconsin…and comes to College Park fresh off coughing up 50 points to Northwestern.  Yes, Northwestern.  A lot rides on the shoulder of quarterback Perry Hills.  Even with the fifth-year senior in the lineup this isn’t the best passing game.  Without him, the Terps have scored 10 points in the last six quarters.  Defensively, William Likely is now out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL;  something a shorthanded secondary can ill-afford against Tyler O’Connor and the Big Ten’s third-best passing game.  O’Connor is not to be confused with the team’s previous quarterback Connor Cook…although part of me is hoping that Mark Dantonio is recruiting a kid named Cook O’Tyler to take his place.  Terrapins tumble, 21-17.

Howard loses to North Carolina A & T, Georgetown falls at Fordham, Richmond beats Elon, Towson tumbles at New Hampshire, Morgan State loses to North Carolina Central.

Last Week: 3-7.  Autumn technically began in September, but my fall is taking place in October.

Overall: 44-18.

How can we miss something if it never truly leaves?  That is the predicament of Thursday Night Football.  Born in the 1978 season as a “Special Thursday Night Edition of Monday Night Football” on ABC, the NFL would play a handful of games (usually one in September and one in December) on Thursday (in addition to one Friday and a couple of Sunday night games) in addition to the traditional prime time package.  Now everybody plays on Thursdays-and after devouring a full plate of college football on Saturdays and even more on Sundays before Sunday and Monday night come our way…we have to line up with enthusiasm for college and pro games tonight.  I don’t mind the Thursday night game in college-as long as you’re giving both teams the previous Saturday off.  This week Virginia Tech returns to an evening where it used to dominate: the Hokies are 12-4 in Blacksburg and 21-9 overall while competing with “Friends” and “Big Bang Theory” for eyeballs.  Along with special teams excellence, smoked turkey legs and Metallica, Thursday night helped create the Beamer brand of Hokie football.  New head coach Justin Fuente gets his first taste this evening… 

Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-1) vs Miami (4-2, 1-2), 7 p.m., ESPN- this matchup looked a lot better two weeks ago…before the Hurricanes came a missed extra point and fell to North Carolina, and before the Hokies lost by 14 to a 2-4 Syracuse squad.  Instead of a showdown for the ACC Coastal Division lead…it’s a fight to see which team can snap out of a funk.  Despite allowing the Orange to convert on 5 of 6 third downs in the fourth quarter last Saturday, Tech still leads the ACC in third down denials (74%).  The Canes are the 2nd worst team in the conference at moving the chains.  Jerod Evans has been better than expected with his arm and legs at quarterback this fall for the Hokies, but Miami’s defense (14 points allowed per game, tops in the ACC and 4th in the nation) is better than any of the ones he’s faced this fall.  Hokies hold on against the Hurricanes, 28-21.


Sunday’s 27-20 win over Philadelphia may appear to be a one-touchdown affair, but when looking under the scoreboard it feels like the most complete victory during the Jay Gruden era.  The afternoon had more than a few odd twists and turns…from Philly running one play over a 75-minute stretch of real-time to the Skins allowing 2 long returns (one on an interception, the other on a kickoff).  Drink the 4-2 Kool-Aid…OH YEAH! 

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise completed 10 of his first 13 throws… but his biggest play early was his nine-yard scramble on a 3rd & 7 that moved the chains deep in Skins territory and jump started a touchdown drive.  There was the ill-advised throw that resulted in the pick-six…and he did complete just 8 of his final 21 throws.  But for the fourth straight week Cousins led his team to victory…and for the second time in that stretch notched a division win.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “The Conscience of the King”- a traveling Shakespeare troupe may be harboring a former dictator who ordered a planetary genocide.  And Kirk is one of two people who can identify him.

Triple Back Attack- the firm of Jones, Thompson & Kelley were open for business again as the team gained a season-high 230 yards on the ground.  Matt Jones led the way with 135 yards…and had two key runs:  his 1-yard TD run left on 3rd & goal from to give the team a lead they’d never relinquish at the end of the first half and his 57-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to effectively end the afternoon.  Chris Thompson (37 yards rushing and 3 catches) helped fill in some of the blanks while Robert Kelley (59 yards rushing including a 45-yard gain) is beginning to find himself as an NFL back.  One doesn’t expect 200+ yards regularly, but if the power trio can generate a consistent threat then Kirk Cousins will have even better looks downfield.

Hold the Line- 230 yards rushing and no sacks allowed.  Sounds like we need to give game balls out to the starting five up front.  Nice job negating a defense that entered the day ranked 2nd in the NFL.

These Jordanaires can Sing, too- minus Jordan Reed the receiving corps responded with solid efforts from Pierre Garcon (6 catches for 77 yards), Jermaine Crowder (17 yards per catch and a TD) and Vernon Davis (one TD catch, one sweet sideline grab and one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty).  DeSean Jackson added 5 catches and with multiple early touches had no complaints about the gameplan.

Third and Encouraging- the Skins moved the chains on 7 of 13 attempts… including 5 of 7 in the first half.  Cousins completed 5 of 10 passes on the money down…with two additional attempts wiped out because of defensive penalties that resulted in first downs for the Skins.  The top target?  Pierre Garcon (5 passes thrown to, two catches and three conversions (a defensive pass interference call moving the chains as well).  Accounting for the Cousins scramble and penalties 13 of the 15 third down calls were passes…with both of Matt Jones’ previously mentioned runs on third down getting the job done.  Yardage breakdown:  1-for-3 on third and short (both misses coming by passing the ball), 2-for-2 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), 4-for-8 on third and long.  The one issue would be that it’s not ideal to have 8 of your 13 third downs (9 of 15 including the two penalties) needing 7+ yards to move the chains.

The Joy of Sacks- two sacks on the first Eagles possession set the tone…as Carson Wentz (11-22-179 yards and no touchdowns) looked less like the rookie that lit up the league in September and more like the kid who locked himself in a gas station bathroom during the offseason.  In addition to a pair of sacks, Ryan Kerrigan tallied four quarterback hurries.  The pass rush put the exclamation point on the afternoon with back-to-back sacks on the 2nd and 3rd downs of Philly’s final possession…forcing a punt on 4th and 24.

D earns an A- the defense also held the Eagles to 4-12 on third down.  After allowing nearly 60% conversions over the first four weeks the Skins have gotten off the field on 20 of 27 money downs the last two games.  During the four game winning streak, they’ve allowed 15 total points (all field goals).

Special Situations- Tress Way flipped the field, averaging 53 yards per punt (40 net) while Dustin Hopkins nailed 2 field goals…including a 50-yarder that made the game a two-possession affair in the fourth quarter.  The kickoff return for a touchdown wasn’t ideal but can be rationalized.  There were no game-changing returns…but there were no return gaffes either. 

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 75 yards wasn’t as bad as the Eagles 13 for 114, but still far from ideal.  Six on offense (two holds, a false start, illegal block to the back, unsportsmanlike conduct and delay of game), two on defense (neutral zone infraction, illegal use of the hands) and one on special teams (illegal block to the back).  Most costly?  Vernon Davis’ unsportsmanlike penalty call for shooting a fadeaway jumper at the crossbar moved the kickoff from the 35-yard line to the 20.  Philly would return the kick 86 yards for a TD.  The ball reaches the endzone for a potential touchback otherwise.  There was also a sequence where the Skins followed up an illegal block penalty on a punt return with a hold on 1st down.  Instead of a 1st and 10 from their 33…they had to dig themselves out of a 1st and 20 from the 13-yard line crater (they’d wind up punting).  Least costly flag?  Cousins’ delay of game that burned time off the clock before his kneeldown in the fourth quarter.  We’ll accept that one…

Dissecting the Division- to have said in August that Dallas would start 5-1 wouldn’t have been much of a stretch.  But to have said the Cowboys would be in that spot atop the NFC East minus Tony Romo would be something completely different.  Five straight wins for Jason Garrett’s team also has Big D in the #2 seed of the NFC…behind unbeaten Minnesota. The Redskins at 4-2 own second place by half a game…and are 5th in the NFC (meaning we can start thinking about printing those Wildcard banners).  Philadelphia’s third in the division and 7th in the conference standings…losing the NFC record tiebreaker to Green Bay.  The New York Giants remain in last place…but their win Sunday means that all four NFC East teams are .500 or better.

SEC of the NFL?- last year the division resembled the Sun Belt Conference a little more…but this year the quartet is off to a 15-8 composite record (easily the best in the league).  Division of depression?  Would you believe the highly-touted AFC North is off to a 9-15 start?  Actually it makes sense because they’re the division lined up with the NFC East for interconference play.  And they have the steaming pile that is the Cleveland Browns among their number.


First, let me make this clear- I am not saying the word malaise.  More like “crisis of confidence”.  Three area schools went into the weekend feeling pretty good about their first seasons under new head coaches.  Even with a loss at Penn State, Maryland was feeling good about its bowl hopes.  Virginia Tech had every reason to believe there was a clear path to the Coastal Division title in the ACC.  Virginia looked like it had found itself after early-season struggles and even had coach Bronco Mendenhall giving horseback rides at his ranch during the bye week.  Each team had reasonable expectations for victory Saturday.  Unfortunately the Ides of October were not kind to the Terrapins, Cavaliers and Hokies as each school has to reset themselves with plenty more on the line this upcoming week.

Alma Mater Update- somehow the Orange found an even worse uniform combination to wear while posting its most impressive win of the season.  Makes you wonder what went wrong the previous week at Wake Forest…perhaps they were anticipating wearing the gray sweatpants-lookalikes against the Hokies.  Five games remain in the drive to dream about the Pinstripe Bowl:  and with the exception of this Saturday’s game with hapless Boston College it’s a murderers row.  Clemson, Florida State, NC State and Pitt are a combined 21-6.  So I’m going to dream of reaching .500…and hopefully watching my school come up with the right answers against the Eagles before bracing myself.

Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) never got in gear while losing 31-10 to Minnesota.  Both teams were without their starting quarterbacks and stretches of the game looked like the old Magnetic Football game popular decades ago:  a lot of running with occasional awkward passing interspersed.

Terrapin Triumphs: Levern Jacobs provided a great safety blanket for true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome, catching 10 passes for 82 yards. Pigrome didn’t play poorly, throwing a touchdown pass while rushing for 93 yards (before accounting for 3 sacks taken).  Azubuike Ukandu’s nine tackles paced a defense that held Minnesota to 4-14 on third down.

Terrapin Troubles:  in a game where there was little margin for error, there were plenty of errors in the margin.  Nine penalties (two costly holds erasing runs of 20+ yards) and four turnovers (setting up Minnesota’s first TD and resulting in their final score).  The defense allowed 229 yards rushing to a one-dimensional team.  And coach DJ Durkin said that the team lacked energy.  Never ideal in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East.

Next: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. vs Michigan State (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten).


Virginia (2-4, 1-1 ACC) came out of the locker room on Homecoming with plenty of gusto-putting 21 points on the board in the first quarter.  Unfortunately they couldn’t contain Pitt and fell to the Panthers 45-31.  Two weeks after snapping the school’s 18-game road losing streak, the Cavaliers take a step back defensively.

Cavalier Congrats:  Taquan Mizzell ran for 95 yards and a touchdown while notching 3 catches.  Safety Quin Blanding led the UVa defense with 16 tackles.  Nicholas Conte averaged over 45 yards per punt.  Bye week carryover- nobody got hurt when coach Mendenhall gave them horseback rides the week before.  That would not have looked well.

Cavalier Concerns:  beware the big play-three of Pitt’s touchdowns came on a 38-yard pass, a 93-yard kickoff return and a 59-yard interception return.  UVa hurt itself with 10 penalties for 81 yards…and didn’t help itself with no takeaways on the afternoon.  Tackling comment- your free safety should never have 16 stops in a game.  It either means the opponent is completing way too many passes or your run defense is a sieve.

Next:  Saturday at 3 p.m. vs North Carolina (5-2, 3-1 ACC).


Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1 ACC) seemed like a near-sure thing, visiting a Syracuse team that had coughed up 50 and 62 points earlier this fall.  Instead, they return to Blacksburg with the sting of a 31-17 defeat and the realization that the Coastal Division is now a three-horse race with North Carolina and Pitt.

Hokie Highlights:  Jerod Evans threw for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns…while also running for 61 yards.  Top target Isaiah Ford caught 8 passes for 83 yards.  Tremaine Edwards tallied 16 tackles to pace the defense.

Hokie Humblings:  The Orange converted 5 of 6 third downs in the fourth quarter…sealing the victory.  The #1 defense against the pass in the conference coughed up 405 yards…while also allowing Eric Dungey to run for 106 yards.  The kicking game missed an extra point and a 45 yard field goal.  So much for stellar special teams.

Next: Thursday at 7 p.m. vs Miami (4-2, 1-2 ACC).


College football embraces its tradition…and that tradition’s underbelly is its pecking order.  Bullies rule the conference roost for decades while the downtrodden remain so for an eternity.  But then there is the middle class:  schools that have been just good enough to give fans hope and expectations…but not entrenched enough to stay in rarefied air amidst a bad coaching hire.  This weekend a pair of “little brothers” take on two of the game’s blue bloods (even though one wears crimson and the other sports scarlet):  #9 Tennessee takes on top ranked Alabama as the Volunteers look to prove this year has been more than fortunate bounces and self-destructing opponents, while #8 Wisconsin hosts 2nd rated Ohio State as the Badgers try to prove their one-possession loss at Michigan was an aberration.  Each school has been successful enough in the series over the year for the kid brother to be confident, while having to deal with the established powers chant of “banners”.  Sometimes a little shakeup in midseason is fun.  Could it happen this weekend?

Alma Mater Update- the Orange have long been the classic case of the kid brother who is “just successful enough to think it’s a possibility”…a National title and Heisman Trophy winner will do that.  Right now they’re fighting for respectability in an uphill ACC Atlantic Division that includes two major players plus a Louisville that will be dominant until Bobby Petrino decides to take the Texas job.  At least there’s hoops…and word is SU is recruiting a power forward named Billy Preston.  Nothing from nothing leaves nothing…will it go ’round in circles?

Maryland (4-1), 1-1 Big Ten) vs Minnesota (3-2, 0-2)-noon, Big Ten Network.  Terps quarterback Perry Hills and his injured shoulder is a question mark for the game…while the Golden Gophers QB Mitch Leidner suffered an injury in practice this week and won’t be able to play.  Reports are they’ll start a walk-on…against a defense looking to bounce back from multiple breakdowns against Penn State.  Regardless if Hills or true freshman Tyrell Pigrome is running the offense, they’ll be facing a D that ranks 13th in the Big Ten against the pass and is last in red zone defense. Terrapins triumph, 34-17.

Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC) vs Pitt (4-2, 1-1)-12:30 p.m., ACC Network.  The Cavaliers spent their bye week riding horses at coach Bronco Mendenhall’s farm:  don’t worry, I already checked and that’s not an NCAA violation.  In corralling two straight victories they’ve stretched the field better offensively…and while the defense still has issues (last in the ACC at stopping opponents on third down) the Panthers aren’t much better.  Pitt can run and stop the run…and that’s about it.  Kippy & Buffy return to tailgating with renewed vigor after the bye week, enjoying a Rappahannock Cellars Petit Verdot: “aromas of dark plum, butterscotch, and cedar with flavors of coffee, clove and chocolate”.  Best enjoyed with Stilton cheese on Captain’s Wafers.  Cavaliers come through, 30-20.

#17 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Syracuse (2-4, 02)-3:45 p.m., ESPNU. All of a sudden, coach Justin Fuente’s team is in the driver’s seat of the ACC’s Coastal Division:  they’ve already beaten defending champ North Carolina and don’t have to play Clemson, Louisville or Florida State.  They also boast the number one defense in the conference, are tops at stopping the pass and number one in getting off the field (80%) on third down.  Syracuse under first year coach Dino Babers has passed for a ton of yards (ex-Maryland WR Amba Etta-Tawo has been a beast for the Orange)…but a lot of the offense has been quantity as opposed to quality.  Fans making the trip up are encouraged to make a detour to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at some point.  Hokies handle the Orange, 41-16.


Howard beats South Carolina State, Georgetown falls to Lehigh, Richmond slips at Villanova, William & Mary defeats Delaware, James Madison upends New Hampshire, Morgan State beats Hampton,  Towson tumbles to Dartmouth.

Last Week: 4-4.  

Overall: 41-11.

Let the record show that many in Redskins Nation were running for cover after the 0-2 start…especially with both of those losses coming at home.  Even more so with one of those defeats in prime time and another to a team inside the division that was starting a rookie quarterback.  But now after five weeks, the Burgundy and Gold are right in the playoff mix at 3-2 with three straight victories.  Their 16-10 triumph over the Ravens is the franchise’s first win in Baltimore since the 1950’s.  Three games remain before the bye…and all are winnable:  a suddenly exposed Philadelphia, a Detroit that remains Detroit and a Cincinnati team that’s under .500.  If somehow they win all three- there will be plenty of Burgundy and Gold lenses looked through in early November.

Captain Kirk- for the second straight week Cousins completed over 70% of his passes.  Yes, his completed passes averaged under 10 yards for the second straight week.  And yes, he tossed an interception that should have resulted in points if it weren’t for a fumble through the endzone.  But he’s the Skins’ guy…and played well enough to deliver a road victory.  Star Trek Equivalent?  “The Omega Glory”- a long and convoluted tale about a planet that resembles the Cold War solves its problems with Kirk’s help.  One of the middling quality episodes that you don’t turn off but don’t hope for.

Running Aground- 20 carries for 60 yards.  No rushes on the team’s six third and one opportunities.  Matt Jones carried 14 times for 31 yards and although his number was called twice on fourth and one, the Skins appear to be open for contributions from Robert Kelley.  Is Evan Royster still in the league?

Reed Leads…for now- Jordan Reed led the team with 8 catches. He was also the top target on third down (4 of the 11 passes thrown were his way) and  he’s on a pace for 16 catches.  But Reed is also now being checked for a potential concussion…and if that’s what it is the tight end would have five dating back to his days at Florida.  He’s missed 14 games thus far due to injury over his 3+ year career.

Third and Failing by Passing- the Skins converted just 3 of 12 money downs, despite having 6 third and one situations.  They passed on all six of those opportunities… completing/converting just one of those.  Reed had four targets (two catches and one conversion) while DeSean Jackson was thrown to three times (all incompletions).  Cousins went 4-11 with one sack on third down.  Yardage breakdown:  2-7 on third and short, 1-4 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), 0-1 on third and long.  The good news?  Only one third down longer than 6 yards.

D earns another good grade- what is it with the defense during the second half of their games?  In the three wins they’ve allowed just three field goals.  Sunday the Skins reversed their issues getting off the field on third down (57% opponents’ success was the worst in the NFL), holding the Ravens on 12 of 15 chances.  Duke Ihenacho and Will Compton led the way with 8 tackles apiece.  Granted, Baltimore fired Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman the next day (Marty Mornhinweg is the 5th OC in less than four years, each a previously failed head coach in the NFL), but it’s nice to stop somebody.

Special Situations- Jamison Crowder is the second Redskin to take NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors this season…after returning a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. Far from the embarrassment this unit once was, the kicking game is actually providing the differ Credit the direction of Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica and Assistant Special Teams Coach Bradford Banta…and credit an improved depth  where players number 35-45 on the roster are able to contribute to this unit.

Flying Flags- a season low 4!  At first I thought the rest of the infractions would be on the second page…but not so.  Just one False Start (giving them 11, tied for 2nd in the NFL) and an Illegal Shift on offense…plus a Defensive Pass Interference and an Illegal Block above the waist on a punt return.  The only flag that really hurt was Will Compton’s PI that turned an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10 on the Ravens’ 43 into a 1st and 10 on the Skins’ 31…helping along a possession that would lead to a Baltimore field goal.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas now rules the NFC East by one half game over Philadelphia after the Cowboys’ win over Cincinnati…coupled with the Eagles’ loss to Detroit.  The Skins’ 3-game winning streak has them in third place of the NFC East and in the #8 spot in the NFC.  Three straight losses drops the Giants a full game into last place.  The division’s 12-7 mark is the best in the league…if that’s any consolation.



Hurricane Matthew upended this past weekend’s college football schedule, maneuvering more than a few games on the slate to different start times or completely different days played.  One game that was not moved was the duel between #10 Miami and #23 Florida State.  The 20-19 thriller was decided by a missed extra point the Seminoles took their first step towards salvaging their season.  The Hurricanes?  A seventh straight loss to their sunshine state rival…plus another downgrade from a storm to a weather system in the ACC.  And another stumble as a ranked team.  This decade the school that has always been about the sizzle as much as the steak  has been less than USDA Prime, going 6-5 when ranked in the Top 20 and 2-2 as a top ten team.  Mark Richt has a better track record at a higher level of play than his predecessors Al Golden and Randy Shannon combined, so this setback feels more of a part of the rebuilding process as opposed to a ceiling smacking the program’s head.  What doesn’t help is the fact that Miami fans threw beer bottles and trash at Florida State players after the Hurricanes Jamal Carter was ejected.  Stay classy… because college football karma can make you miss a crucial extra point.

Alma Mater Update- the team’s loss at Wake Forest drops the Orange to 2-4…with dreams of a Pinstripe Bowl beginning to vanish.  Their remaining schedule is daunting:  a combined 25-9 mark of remaining foes includes just one team that doesn’t have a winning record (Boston College is 3-3) while featuring November dates with Clemson and Florida State.  Saturday they host former Big East rival Virginia Tech- my memories of this series begins and ends with a 62-0 loss in 1999 that sucked the air out of the Paul Pasqualoni era.  I was covering an 0-11 Ball State football team that fall…and the coaching staff was giving me grief.

Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) ran into a buzz-saw named Penn State…and a Nittany Lions team that was inconsistent over the first month of the season handed the Terps their first loss of the season.  And unlike the last time Perry Hills injured his shoulder, there’s no bye week.  Terrapin Triumphs:  Perry Hills completed 5 of 7 passes before leaving with a shoulder injury while Tyrell Pigrome ran for a touchdown on his first play from scrimmage in relief of Hills.  Linebacker Shane Cockerille tallied 13 tackles to lead the defense.  Terrapin Troubles: the defense allowed 372 yards rushing, over triple the Nittany Lions average this fall.  The one play that hurt came with less than a minute in the half right after Maryland scored to make the game a 3-point affair;  Saquon Barkley’s 45 yard touchdown took whatever momentum the Terps had away for good.  The offense had seven second half possessions:  three were three and outs while a fourth lasted four plays.  Next:  12 p.m. Saturday vs Minnesota (3-2, 0-2).

#25 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) slogged around in the rain en route to a 34-3 rout of #17 North Carolina.  Armed with a conference schedule that does not include Clemson, Louisville or Florida State…is it too early to be fantasizing about winning the Coastal Division?  Hokie Highlights:  linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka was a beast…notching 12 tackles, an interception and half of a sack.  The defense held the Tar Heels to 2-14 on third down and let UNC enter the red zone just twice all afternoon.  Four takeaways led to 20 points…and a fumbled snap on a punt led to another TD.  The offense controlled the ball for over 39 minutes…including 13+ minutes in the fourth quarter.  Hokie Humblings:  Jerod Evans was held to 7-17 passing in the rain and fumbled twice…while the team put the ball on the ground seven times (they did recover five of their fumbles).  Next:  3:45 p.m. Saturday at Syracuse (2-4, 0-2).

Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC) exacted revenge on the only team they lost to in conference play last year, outscoring #6 Houston 46-40.  All of a sudden keeping an eye on Tulsa and Memphis is mandatory for fans in and around Annapolis.  Midshipmen Medals:  Will Worth’s wheels.  I’ve been hyping the senior quarterback’s passing (he did throw two touchdown passes) since he took over for Tago Smith…but Saturday he ran for 115 yards and a score.  The running game cranked out 306 yards against a Cougars defense that had allowed less than two yards per carry this fall. Josiah Powell notched two interceptions…and the offense scored after each of their three takeaways.  Midshipmen Miscues:  The offense had issues on third down (converting 6 of 15)  The pass defense allowed 359 yards…and Houston did not punt.  At all.  Thank goodness for the takeaways.  Next: 7:30 p.m. Thursday at East Carolina (2-4, 0-2).