PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Even though it’s for a potential playoff berth instead of a place in the Rose Bowl, Michigan-Ohio State is the game that will define this upcoming weekend.  Even though it’s played at noon instead of in prime time, this is the showdown that will have everyone watching and then rehashing.  It’s a defacto elimination game as while the winner is not assured of a playoff berth (or in Ohio State’s case even a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game), the loser gets to practice their “no, playing in the (insert bowl’s name here) Bowl is not a letdown at all” speech.  But Ohio State-Michigan is a lot more than that.  College football is at its best when its premiere programs are producing and even better when it’s major rivalries meet in high-stakes showdowns.  While the era of 1968-80 (when either the Buckeyes or the Wolverines went to Pasadena) is long gone, these two teams are still the class of the conference (at witnessed by Maryland getting outscored 121-6 over a two-week span by the duo).  Even if Penn State winds up playing Wisconsin for the actual Big Ten title.  Because you can win a tie-breaker in the standings, but you can’t upstage the horseshoe.  And when you look at the Buckeyes’ home field in Columbus, you see Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines along with Hall of Fame coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.  You see JT Barrett and Jabrill Peppers…but you also recall the exploits of Heisman Trophy winners Archie Griffin and Desmond Howard.  You hear “Hang On Sloopy” and “Hail to the Victors”…while seeing the dotting of the I.  You look at the field in Columbus and are reminded that even when this game isn’t technically a big game, it’s a huge matchup.  You wish your school had a rival you loved beating and hated losing to even 10% as much as this one.

 

Alma Mater Update- Year I of the Dino Babers Era ends mercifully Saturday against a Pitt team that upset Clemson on the road earlier this month…and boasts a running back named James Conner who not only destroys opposing defenses (1700+ yrads rushing as a sophomore) but also beat Hodgkin’s Lymphona.  Meanwhile, men’s and women’s basketball are both off to strong starts.  So a potential Pinstripe Bowl countdown will continue next fall…while one sweats out Orange hoops and lacrosse in the interim.  Go Orange…

 

Maryland (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs Rutgers (2-9, 0-8), 12 p.m., ESPNews.  As bad as things have been for the Terps during their four game slide, the Scarlet Knights have been shut out four times in conference play-losing games 39-0, 49-0, 58-0 and 78-0.  Quarterback Perry Hills and his shoulder remain in the land of limbo…but Rutgers is exactly the team you’d be okay with a backup QB facing:  13th in the Big Ten in yards and points allowed…13th in sacks and 13th in defensive passing efficiency.  And their offense is worse.

Terrapins Triumph, 30-18.

 

Virginia (2-9, 1-6 ACC) at Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2), 12 p.m., ESPN2.  Have we mentioned that the Hokies have won this matchup 12 straight years?  Last fall they clinched bowl eligibility with a victory in Charlottesville…and this year they can wrap up the ACC Coastal Division with a win or a North Carolina loss to NC State.  It’s easy to call this matchup a tale of two quarterbacks;  but while Jerod Evans has had the season for Tech that UVa hoped Kurt Benkert would have its more of a difference of defenses.  Under longtime coordinator Bud Foster the Hokies haven’t missed a beat-and some could say the defense has been better this fall.  Bronco Mendenhall’s D in Charlottesville is earning one…near the bottom in the ACC at just about every category.  At the end of another season where the wins were rare but the great Virginia wine was plentiful, Kippy & Buffy go out in style: enjoying a Chateau O’Brien 2011 Limited Reserve Tannat:  “full bodied, dense & concentrated – with black fruit flavors & a silky smooth finish.”  Break out the garlic dill jack on club crackers.

Hokies make it a lucky 13 straight, beating the Cavaliers 28-10.

 

Richmond (8-3) vs North Carolina A&T (9-2), 2 p.m., ESPN3.  While many schools are focused on finishing their regular seasons, the Spiders begin their postseason run with a home game against the Bulldogs.  It’s a contrast of strengths:  Richmond has made its money through the air this fall while the NC A&T has dominated on the ground (ranking in the top 20 of FCS in both rushing offense and defense).  In November that takes a higher priority…and Richmond is also coming off a bad loss to William & Mary.  But Kyle Lauletta has at least one more great game in him this year.

Spiders advance, 36-24.

 

Navy (8-2, 6-1  AAC) at SMU (5-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU.  The Midshipmen have already locked up a berth in the AAC Championship Game…but a win against the Mustangs will further their ambitions of potentially playing in a New Year’s Day bowl. Actually, the New Year’s Day Bowls will be played on January 2nd this year because the NFL’s regular season wraps up on Sunday the 1st.  Could anything derail the Mids?  Actually, SMU can pass the ball (4th in the AAC) and Navy ranks last in the conference in defensive passing efficiency.  But since October, only Air Force has held the runaway option to under 28 points.  SMU won’t be the second.

Mids make it happen, 35-20.

 

Last Week: 8-2.

Overall: 77-33.

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