PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

The final week of September means many conferences begin league play in earnest…even though many schools like Navy and Virginia Tech have already played their conference openers and 12 of 14 SEC teams have had league games.  How do the Power Five stack up?

Big Ten: 30-8 with eight unbeatens, five ranked schools and three in the top ten.  Best win?  Michigan State at Notre Dame and Ohio State at Oklahoma were made for prime time, but Wisconsin’s 16-14 victory over LSU gives the Big Ten a leg up on their nemesis to the south.  Worst loss?  Northwestern’s defeats to Illinois State and Western Michigan are embarrassing for the conference but almost expected with the Wildcats history.  But then-#13 Iowa’s 23-21 defeat to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State robs the league of an unbeaten…and means the Hawkeyes don’t have the chance to sneak up on the nation like they did last year.

SEC: 27-7 with six unbeatens and eight ranked teams that includes #1 Alabama.  Best win?  Arkansas’ 41-38 shootout victory at then-#15 TCU.  Always nice to beat a former SWC doormat that thinks it’s royalty all of a sudden.  Worst loss?  Mississippi State’s 21-20 defeat to South Alabama.  We know the Bulldogs take aren’t the #1 school in the state and are a second-tier Bulldog in the conference, but South Alabama too?

ACC: 23-9 with five unbeatens and four ranked teams (most notably #3 Louisville and Heisman Trophy Candidate Lamar Jackson- yes that is his full name).  Best win?  Florida State’s 45-34 Labor Day rally past then-#11 Ole Miss.  Quieted the SEC jawing about how they’re so superior…for at least a few days.  Worst Loss? Syracuse’s 45-20 Homecoming humbling against South Florida after leading the Bulls 17-0.  I’ve also been told that they served ranch dressing with the wings at the Alumni Reception.

Pac-12: 23-9 with four unbeatens, three ranked schools and one hot mess in USC.  Best Win?  Cal’s comeback in a 50-43 triumph over then-#11 Texas.  Another classic 10:30 Saturday night special.  Worst Loss?  USC’s 52-6 dismemberment by #1 Alabama was tough to stomach, but how does Washington State lose 45-42 to Eastern Washington?  And then a 31-28 defeat at Boise State?  At least they pounded Idaho 56-6 (it was probably closer than the score would lead you to believe).

Big 12: 15-11 with two unbeatens (Baylor and West Virginia) and three ranked schools, none in the top 15.  Best win?  While Texas’ double-overtime win over then-#10 Notre Dame was pure theater, Baylor’s defeats of SMU and Rice brought you back to the Southwest Conference before rampant cheating blew that league apart.  Worst Loss?  So many options- from Oklahoma State falling to Central Michigan 30-27 on the game’s last play to Iowa State slipping to Northern Iowa 25-20.  When do they invite Houston into the league?

 

Maryland (3-0) and Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC) both have the weekend off…and these early-season byes actually come at decent times for both teams.  Terps quarterback Perry Hills injured his shoulder in their double-overtime win over UCF…and an extra week to heal could spell the difference for a quarterback still looking to find his stride.  The Midshipmen get an extra week to practice for Air Force’s option…and another set of practices to get quarterback Will Worth reps with the first team offense.

Alma mater Update- Big East Flashback time has the Orange battling UConn  with memories of six overtimes and last-second Gerry McNamara shots.  SU hits the road for the first time under coach Dino Babers…possessing the #1 passing offense in the ACC but also being unable to stop anyone.  The Huskies have been the Cardiac Kids of college football this month– needing a late field goal to top Maine, coming up short on the last play of the game inside the Navy 5, and prevailing over Virginia when the Cavaliers kicker missed a rushed 20-yarder on the final play of the afternoon.  The Orange?  Their closest halftime score was an 11-point margin.  Might have to go breaded wings and wedges with Sal’s Birdland sassy sauce to mix things up this week…

 

Virginia Tech (2-1) entertains East Carolina- the Pirates have been a major pain to the Hokies as of late, with wins each of the last two seasons while both of the Hokies wins in the series this decade have come by a touchdown or less.  After three games coach Justin Fuente’s team leads the ACC in pass defense and total defense…they’ll need it against Pirates QB Philip Nelson (79% passing) and his top target Zay Jones (22 catches last weekend).  ECU almost beat South Carolina in Columbia last weekend…and is more than capable of leaving Blacksburg with a W.  Hokies hang on, 27-21.

Virginia (0-3) hosts Central Michigan- what sort of schedule is this?  They finally have a home game against a Non-Power Five FBS school and it’s the unbeaten Chippewas?  Let the record show that CMU’s win at Oklahoma State came on an untimed extra down  they shouldn’t have had…but Cooper Rush is directing an offense that averages 38 points per game.  If there’s one thing UVa doesn’t do well this fall it’s stop the pass (96th out of 127 FBS schools).  Kippy & Buffy wrap up their non-conference slate of white wines with Linden Vineyards 2015 Riesling Vidal: “floral, lavender and lemon zest aromas.  Palate is dry and dense with good length.”  Break out the Colby cheese on Club Crackers.  Cavaliers come up short, 38-34.

 

Howard falls to Morgan State, Georgetown beats Columbia, Richmond edges Colgate, William & Mary tops Elon, James Madison gets by Maine.

Last Week: 7-2.

Overall: 25-3.

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