PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

The University of Maryland owned the week in a way many schools would rather not. After a summer-long investigation into the death of student athlete Jordan McNair, the Board of Regents announced Tuesday that despite the fact that yes, there was dysfunction within the athletic department and football program.  Only nobody would be held responsible for the death of a 19-year old student athlete in the College Park sun.

They recommended reinstatement for coach DJ Durkin as well as Athletic Director Damon Evans.  “Nothing to see here, anyone.”   Status Quo Post-Investigation.  “Thanks for coming…we’re fine, thanks.  How are you?”  The response went over as well as one would expect…even with University President Wallace Loh announcing his retirement at to take effect at the end of the academic year.  Handling situations has never been the school’s strong suit…but even with the lowered level of expectations that the University is given, this seemed bewildering, tone-deaf and disastrous.  The resignation of James T. Brady two days after the recommendation only served to underscore that.

There was no way DJ Durkin could return to coach this team.  Not after the death of a player.  Not after the investigation into the program especially not after he had been separated from this team (due to administrative leave) for almost three months and two thirds of the regular season. He couldn’t transition back to normalcy, and it will be years and at least one new head coaching regime before this program gets back on the track they may have been on or thought they were on when Jordan McNair died.

There will no doubt be more fallout…as Athletic Director Damon Evans is on far from secure ground.  The hiring process for the next head coach will be filled with ridiculous expectations (Frank Reich is likely NOT leaving the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts to come to College Park), second-guessing and the customary misdirection that any coaching search at Maryland has been known for delivering.  If it’s anything like previous regime changes, expect a few current players to transfer once the dust settles.

Somewhere in the midst of assigning responsibility and finding the right course of action, McNair’s 115 teammates have scraped their way to a 5-3 start–meaning they’re one victory shy of reaching bowl eligibility.  I’ve long thought that there are way too many bowls–with the mediocrity of a .500 season propped up with cupcake wins getting rewarded to the point where postseason play is an entitlement instead of an achievement.  If the Terps get to six wins this month, they’ll be one of the exceptions.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange enter November bowl-eligible.  That’s happened just once since the end of the Paul Pasqualoni era…and that 6-2 start saw three November losses in four games.   SU starts the month with a trip to Wake Forest and the team will be wearing “all-white” to mimic snow falling in the south.  Of course, snow melts in warm-weather climates.  But that’s merely an accounting note.

 

Friday-

#23 Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) vs. Pitt (4-4, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)-

Don’t look now, but the Cavaliers enter November atop the ACC Coastal Division.  While getting to the top of the standings to begin college football’s “Closing Month” is one thing,  Virginia is the only original Coastal school that has yet to play in the ACC Championship Game.  The Panthers are somewhat offensively-challenged this fall, with senior runningback Qadree Ollison (795 yards and seven touchdowns rushing) the lone bright spot this fall.  He’s coming off of a 149-yard performance against Duke.  UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins is coming off a 217-yard passing, 112-yard rushing effort against North Carolina.  He’s also been dynamite at moving the chains–the Cavaliers rank second in the ACC (47.7%) on third down.  Pitt’s defense?  Second to last at getting off of the field this season.  Kippy & Buffy move the chains and much more during their tailgate by going with a 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon:  “the aromas are bright, with notes of cherry, plum, vanilla and baking spice. The fruit flavors are plump, with plenty of barrel accents. The tannins come off as quite dry, leading to a sweet vanilla-filled finish. The oak is at the fore.” 

Cavaliers come the fore of the Coastal Division with a 30-14 victory. 

 

Maryland (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (5-3, 3-2), noon (ESPN2)-

As if anyone is focused on the nuts and bolts of this matchup, we’ll do our darnedest to keep this game-related.  Both schools are in contention but are longshots in the East Division race….and while the Terps boast the second-best running game in the conference (with a league-leading 6.3 yards per carry) the Spartans bring the stingiest run defense (2.7 yards per carry and 77.4 yards per game) to College Park.  They also bring a freshman quarterback named Rocky Lombardi who threw for 318 yards in his first career start (second-year starter Brian Lewerke was out with a shoulder injury).  They’ll need to pass effectively as the Spartans manage just 3.1 yards per carry this fall…and if there’s one thing the Terps don’t do well defensively its rush the passer (12 sacks rank 13th in the Big Ten).  Win or lose, this is going to be one intriguing afternoon.

Terrapins triumph 24-20.

 

Navy (2-6, 1-3 AAC) at Cincinnati (7-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)-

The midseason gauntlet continues for coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team as they face the number one defense in the American Athletic Conference (I still want to add “of America”–it’s the “Dodgeball” guy in me).  The Bearcats are tops in the league against the run and are the stingiest on third down while being one of four teams in a top-heavy East Division that could advance to the conference championship.  The bright spot for the Mids this fall has been ball security:  they rank second in the AAC and are 13th nationally at +7 through eight games.  They’re also the least-penalized team in the league while Cincinnati has drawn the most flags (an average of eight for 81.2 yards per game).  They may do the little things better than the Bearcats, but Cincy does the big things much better–and that will come up huge.

Midshipmen continue to meander in a 35-21 loss.

 

Virginia Tech (4-3, 3-1 ACC) vs #24 Boston College (6-2, 3-1), 3:45 p.m. (ACC Network)-

Could the Hokies actually miss a bowl this fall?  The “easy” Coastal Division games against Duke and North Carolina are in their rearview mirror and a suddenly slippery schedule awaits with their remaining foes a combined 12-5 in conference play.  Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has made the most out of an inexperienced unit, but in each defeat they’ve been exposed:  495 yards passing allowed against Old Dominion, three touchdowns of 30+ yards in the Notre Dame game, and 465 yards on the ground given up to Georgia Tech.  This week they face a healthy AJ Dillon (134 yards per game at 5.8 per carry) who’s looking to atone for last year’s 10-carries-for-35-yards performance in Chesnut Hill.  Keeping quarterback Ryan Willis upright will be a key:  BC leads the ACC with 28 sacks over eight games.  Getting him possessions will be just as important:  they had the ball 10 times in the loss to the Yellowjackets after averaging 13.7 drives over their first six games this fall.

Hokies hold on, 20-19. 

 

Howard falls to Florida A&M, Richmond beats Villanova, James Madison beats New Hampshire, Towson tops Maine.

Last Week: 6-3.

Overall: 49-25.