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…