Archives for category: College Football

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So much for learning!  Like an elementary school’s morning recess, the September bye interrupts whatever momentum the early season had.  Blame the calendar;  usually there are 13 weekends between Labor Day and Thanksgiving which translates to just one week off for most schools.  This year there are 14 weekends which means a bonus bye. Be thankful:  back in the day when 11-game schedules were the norm and before Conference Championship Games, byes would be scattered across the landscape like breadcrumbs.  Now, instead of weeks off, the openings are simply filled filled in with games against FCS and non-Power 5 schools.

Navy has an extra weekend off to begin with, thanks to the Army game taking place in December while counting towards their 12-game regular season total, so this year head coach Ken Niumatalo’s team is already idle for the second time.  “Sometimes you like it later in the season when you’re kind of banged up, but that’s our schedule,” Niumatalolo said. “We knew the schedule a long time ago. We’ve practiced for it and planned for it.”  What’s helpful for the Midshipmen is they get a few extra days to prepare for a Thursday night showdown with a 3-0 Memphis team that’s already beaten Ole Miss.  I like the bye leading the Thursday night game;  it allows the players to properly recover and the team to properly prepare (my major beef with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package).

While Navy at 2-0 still has a lot to learn about itself, Maryland’s 2-1 start let the light shine on not only how great this team can be (outscoring Howard and Syracuse 141-20) but also how they’re far from perfect (coming up empty on eight plays inside the Temple 10-yard line in the fourth quarter).  After a spring and summer of installing new systems on both sides of the ball, a break might be just what the Terps need mentally and physically. “You add the four weeks of training camp and three weeks of the season, that’s seven straight weeks of wall to wall football: pounding and the contact and things we do,” head coach Mike Locksley said.”Usually every three to four weeks you like to give your players a day off to be able to recover and re-set themselves.  This couldn’t have come at a better time.”  The break also separates the school’s non-conference and Big Ten portions cleanly, and after going 13-31 over its first five seasons in the league the Terps could use a little extra time.  “When you self-scout you give yourself an opportunity to see what other people see,” Locksley said. “You want to refine those things and maybe adjust some things so you don’t have a bunch of tendencies.”  We’ll see how beneficial the Terps’ time-out was when they host No. 13 Penn State next Friday night.

Virginia Tech is also 2-1 entering its bye week, but as no two 2-1 starts are exactly alike the Hokies appear to have a lot more to fix during the hiatus.  So far they’ve followed up a discouraging ACC loss with a pair of unimpressive wins against inferior competition.  No offense to FCS contender Furman or Old Dominion, but neither school should be able to come into Lane Stadium and be a threat in the fourth quarter.  Two keys for head coach Justin Fuente: 1- find a way to temper the turnovers (their nine giveaways is fourth most in FBS) and 2- get better on the ground (Hokies rank 11th in the ACC on offense and 10th in stopping the run).  Help is on the way in the form of ex-Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who comes on board as a special assistant.  At least they face Duke (Hokies are 3-0 against the Blue Devils under Fuente) and Miami (the Hurricanes are 0-2 against FBS teams this fall) next Friday evening.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange find themselves 1-2 with their bye two weeks away;  thank goodness they face the likes of Western Michigan and Holy Cross to wrap up the month.  I’m by no means putting both games in the win column at this time, as the Broncos are averaging over 30 points per game and put 42 on the board last year against SU while the Crusaders were picked to finish second in the Patriot League.  Back to back noon games hopefully resets the season before ACC play resumes.

No. 21 Virginia (3-0) vs. Old Dominion (1-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2).  The Cavaliers season of possibilities has the team off to its best start since 2005.  That team featured the dual-threat quarterback Marques Hagans, who completed over 60% of his passes while using his wheels to haunt opposing defenses.  Hagans has nothing on Bryce Perkins, who in 16 games has already moved past Hagans in career touchdown passes and career yards rushing.   The Monarchs come off of their bye knowing they had plenty of opportunities to upset Virginia Tech for the second straight season, while realizing they have a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball.  Quarterback Stone Smartt is averaging less than ten yards per completion and the ODU defense has troubles getting off of the field on third down.

Kippy and Buffy have no issues setting up their third tailgate of the season, and how better to enjoy a showdown of Commonwealth schools than by opening a bottle of Chrysallis Vineyards Viognier (the state grape of Virginia).  “Full-bodied and fragrant with heady tropical and citrus fruits”.  During the season of possibilities that has UVa dreaming of a potential Citrus or-dare I say-Orange Bowl, they’re going all-in on a citrus fruit finish.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers maul the Monarchs, 44-14.

 

Howard slips to Delaware State, James Madison beats Chattanooga, William & Mary falls to East Carolina, Towson tops Villanova, Morgan State loses to Army.

Last Week: 7-2. Overall: 21-6.

 

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Somebody from the NCAA needs to find out exactly what is in the water of Lake Thunderbird in Norman, Oklahoma.  Because once again the most feared passing attack in the nation wears the crimson and cream of the Oklahoma Sooners.  And once again it’s a transfer quarterback piloting the attack; yes, OU is getting it done this fall once more with somebody else’s discard.  Baker Mayfield (a former Texas Tech walk-on) won the Heisman two years ago while Kyler Murray (an ex-Texas A&M backup) took home the trophy last fall.  Enter Jalen Hurts, who was a part of Alabama’s College Football Playoff Champion in 2017 and threw for 48 touchdowns during his Crimson Tide career.  Hurts is even better at OU:  Saturday’s 48-14 win over UCLA saw Hurt throw for 289 yards while running for 150 more.  When Lincoln Riley took over two years ago for a retiring Bob Stoops, many were curious about the direction of a program that had won 10 Big 12 titles in 17 seasons under Bob Stoops.  Riley’s delivered with a winner (27-4 overall mark in his two-plus seasons) that’s been fun to watch. The Sooners show no signs of slowing down, and wouldn’t it be something for Hurts to face his former team in the College Football Playoff?

Alma Mater Update- what did you expect after the 43-point loss at Maryland?  The 41-6 defeat at home to top ranked and defending national champ Clemson was another teaching moment where one realizes that the Orange have a ways to go. Thank goodness Western Michigan and Holy Cross are on the horizon.

No. 21 Maryland (2-1) got to 17 hard way: two safeties, two field goals, a touchdown and an extra point.  Unfortunately they couldn’t score on eight plays from inside the Temple 10-yard line in the fourth quarter (they also failed to convert on a fourth and goal in the first half) and missed a field goal in a 20-17 loss to the Owls.  Coach Mike Locksley compared the 2-0 start to driving cross-country and “reaching Phoenix without a flat”. Let’s just say the car is going into the shop during the upcoming bye week after multiple issues on the way to Tucson.

Terrapin Triumphs: Anthony McFarland rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown.  Antoine Brooks notched 13 tackles to pace a defense that held the Owls to 3-14 on third down while tallying three takeaways.  After punting issues the first two weeks, the Terps averaged 42.8 yards on nine attempts in week three.

Terrapin Troubles: Josh Jackson completed 15 of 38 passes with an interception while posting his worst game rating as a collegian.  The Terps converted just 5-21 on third down.  The defense that had been stout over the first two weeks failed to register a sack while allowing over five yards per carry to Temple’s tailback tandem.  A missed field goal and extra point plus a failed fake field goal cost the team crucial points in a one-possession game.  Nine penalties for 88 yards didn’t help either.

Next: Friday, September 27 against No. 13 Penn State.

 

Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-1 ACC) slept in Saturday morning like most college kids, and took a while to wake up in the afternoon against Furman. After trailing 14-3 at the half, the Hokies bounced back to take a quick lead in the third quarter and hold on to beat the Paladins 24-17.  Disaster was averted for the second straight week, but glass in Blacksburg looks decidedly half-empty with the tougher part of the schedule yet to come.

Hokie Highlights: Keshawn King rushed for 119 yards while Tre Turner ran for 68 yards and a touchdown while also catching a TD pass.  Emmanuel Belmar made seven tackles and paced the pass rush with 1.5 sacks.  After a rough first half, the defense held Furman to 59 yards on 20 plays to begin the second-while turning two takeaways into 10 points.

Hokie Humblings:  Ryan Willis may have completed 17 of 21 passes, but averaged six yards per completion.  Against an FCS school.  Two more turnovers for the team that has coughed up nine this year, and both led to Furman touchdowns.

Next: Friday, September 27 vs. Duke.

 

Navy (2-0,  1-0 AAC) wasted little time pulling away from East Carolina, scoring the first four times they had the ball en route to a 42-10 rout of the Pirates.  Coach Ken Niumatalolo said that this was the one of the best games in all phases he’s seen his team play since taking over in Annapolis.  While ECU might not be the best barometer of how good this Mids team will be, so far it definitely appears to be a major upgrade over last year’s edition.

Midshipman Medals: Malcolm Perry rushes for 156 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing for 151 yards and two more scores.  CJ Williams catches 3 passes for 117 yards and 2 scores.  Elan Nash notched 9 tackles while the defense generated eight 3 & outs, holding the Pirates to 2-13 on third down.

Midshipman Miscues: outside of the offensive backups gaining 33 yards on 13 plays from scrimmage during mop-up time, there was a fumbled punt in the fourth quarter.  The skies don’t get much sunnier in Annapolis.

Next: Thursday September 26 at Memphis.

 

No. 25 Virginia (3-0, 2-0 ACC) continues its autumn of possibilities by rallying in the second half to beat Florida State 31-24.  The Cavaliers scored the last three times they had the football and needed a last-second stand in the red zone to hold off the Seminoles.  Kippy and Buffy will be calling in sick Monday.

Cavalier Congrats: Wayne Taulapapa rushes for 3 touchdowns while Bryce Perkins throws for 295 yards and a TD toss to Joe Reed, who had 8 catches for 83 yards on the night.  Jordan Mack made 13 tackles and a sack while leading a defense that held the Seminoles to a season-low point total.

Cavalier Concerns: nine penalties, including multiple infractions that kept Florida State’s final drive alive.  The running game still needs to find itself after Perkins and Taulapapa combined to average less than three yards per carry.  Perkins also threw a pair of interceptions.

Next:  Saturday at noon against Old Dominion.

 

 

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The problem with the mid-September schedule is that while the networks are looking for compelling matchups on a weekly basis, most schools nowadays try to build bowl eligibility insurance by bringing at least one FCS school or lower-tier FBS program to campus (and in a few cases sometimes one of each).  This means early-season matchups between ranked foes are few and far between.  Or in the case of this week, try none.  As in zero.  Blame more than the schedule-stuffers, with teams from Iowa State (Cyclones were taken to triple-overtime by Northern Iowa in week one) to Syracuse (coughed up 650 yards and 63 points at Maryland in week two) failing to live up to the preseason hype.

The Orange will face a top-ranked Clemson team that’s more than angry after almost being upset by SU last year in prime time on ABC.  I’m not saying things could get ugly, but Syracuse has allowed 60+ points to the likes of Wake Forest and Pitt in recent years.  This is Clemson.  FOX presents what used to be a great inter-sectional showdown in Oklahoma-UCLA.  While the Sooners have lived up to their No. 5 ranking, the Bruins have lost to the likes of Cincinnati and San Diego State.  Both with Chip Kelly coaching on the sidelines.  Meanwhile Lincoln Riley appears to be the quarterback whisperer as Jalen Hurts is on fire.  Gus Johnson is probably happy he drew Ohio State-Indiana instead.  At least ESPN will be showing an evening battle of unbeatens in No. 9 Florida facing Kentucky– hold on, the Wildcats are playing in the week’s ready for prime time matchup?  I’m not saying this is the week to go apple-picking or antiquing, but you guys can build major relationship cred without missing much.

 

Alma Mater Update- guess what?  The Orange may not be a Top 25 team this year.  Last Saturday’s loss at Maryland exposed multiple issues-and if there’s one team you don’t want to know about your glaring weaknesses, it’s Clemson.  As in top-ranked and defending National Champion Clemson.  As in the Tigers SU beat two years ago in the Dome and almost upset last year in Death Valley.  The bigger bummer is my Cuse buddy “Dome Doug” will be making the trip to the game so I won’t be able to watch at the “Orange Room”, the ultimate fan-cave.  Last year I drank all of his son’s root beer as I was loading up for an evening shift.  By the way, Barq’s goes great with blown double-digit second half lead.

 

No. 21 Maryland (2-0) vs. Temple (1-0), noon (CBS Sports Network). 

The Terps are ranked for the first time since joining the Big Ten and have smashed their first two foes to smithereens.  But a Terrapin’s memory is a long one, and the image of a Top 25 team going to Tallahassee in 2013 and getting torched by Florida State 63-0 remains in the back of one’s mind.  So does the school’s recent rough history with the Owls, like last year’s 35-14 loss at home.  Anthony Russo burned the Terrapin secondary for touchdown passes of 36 and 47 yards last fall and threw for 409 yards in the Owls’ Labor Day weekend win over Bucknell.  The key to Maryland’s early start has been third down dominance:  the offense ranks eighth (61%) in FBS at moving the chains while the defense (25%) is 14th best in the nation.  Coach Mike Locksley compares the season to driving cross-country, and that starting 2-0 feels like “arriving in Phoenix without a flat”.  I’m tempted to dive all-in on Glen Campbell references for the season, but his biggest hits were 40-50 years ago.  Also, the second verse in “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” refers to Albuquerque- where Locksley went 2-26 as New Mexico’s head coach.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins reach Galveston (Oh Galveston!) without further car trouble, 34-19.

 

Virginia Tech (1-1) vs. Furman (1-1), noon (ACC Network). 

Could the Hokies be in trouble?  Their two-touchdown win over Old Dominion didn’t necessarily make one think that this fall’s edition was that much better than the team that needed to schedule a provisional game to make postseason play.  They currently rank last in FBS in turnover margin and have had issues running the ball (3.4 yards per carry after accounting for sacks).  Enter a Furman team that’s ranked 16th in FCS and is averaging 44 points per game.  Darren Grainger threw for 311 yards last week against Georgia State, but the freshman will learn rather quickly that the former Turner Field has nothing on Lane Stadium.  Or so Hokie Nation hopes as they try not to choke on their smoked turkey legs.

Presto’s Picks: Hokies have their hands full but hold on, 36-27.

 

Navy (1-0) vs. East Carolina (1-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network). 

After a week off, the Mids begin American Athletic Conference play looking to end a disturbing trend:  the Midshipmen went 14-3 during their first two AAC campaigns but went 6-10 in conference play the last two autumns.  Their foe can sympathize:  ECU went 4-20 in league play from 2016-18.  Enter former James Madison Coach Mike Houston, and a Pirates team that looked just as awesome in their rout of Gardner-Webb as they looked awful in their blowout loss at NC State.  If that’s comparing apples to oranges, the Mids’ week one win over Holy Cross is a pomegranate.  The game’s in Annapolis, where the current senior class is 13-3 in regular season games.  Did I mention East Carolina is 1-16 on the road since the 2016 season started?

Presto’s Pick:  Midshipmen get it done, 31-20.

 

No. 25 Virginia (2-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Florida State (1-1), 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network). 

What’s this?  The Cavaliers are ranked and are favored against the Seminoles?  It’s been a long year the last two weeks in Tallahassee, as FSU needed a missed extra point in overtime to prevail over (gulp) Louisiana-Monroe.  The defense coughs up 40 points and 520 yards per game doesn’t even look that good.  UVa’s pass defense (under 50% completion rate and 157.5 yards per game) will be tested by James Blackman (73% and 304.5) while Cam Akers presents the perfect counter-punch (193 yards rushing last week) on the ground.  These schools actually compete for the “Jefferson-Eppes Trophy”; it’s not the Civil ConFLiCT but just about as relevant over the years as UVa is 3-15 against FSU.

Kippy and Buffy know their history, and that “Eppes” refers to Thomas Jefferson’s grandson Francis Eppes IV, a two-time Mayor of Tallahassee and Trustee at the seminary that would eventually become Florida State.  Nothing says history like tailgating with a bottle of 2013 Jefferson Vineyards Meritage“an oak driven wine with wonderful aromatics. The bright palate shows berry and black pepper flavors, finishing with lingering notes of coffee.”  Coffee is for closers- and in the season of possibilities could that be the Cavaliers?

Presto’s Picks:  Cavs come through, 27-22.

 

Georgetown tops Catholic, Howard falls to Hampton, Towson tumbles to Maine, Richmond loses to Elon, James Madison mauls Morgan State.

Last Week: 8-1. Overall: 14-4.

 

 

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Orange kind of has a tough life.  It’s not a primary color and doesn’t really rhyme with anything.  It doesn’t even have a cool name it can check into, like turquoise, magenta, or mauve.  Saturday was not kind to multiple shades of orange on the college football landscape.  We start with No. 21 Syracuse (even though they’re called the Orange, SU wears blue jerseys at home) who got scored upon early, often, and late in their 63-20 drubbing by Maryland.  Shades of two years ago, when the Orange allowed 64 points to Wake Forest…or the year before when they coughed up 76 to Pitt.  Texas wears more of a burnt orange, and the No. 9 Longhorns also had defensive issues in their 45-38 loss to No. 6 LSU.  This was supposed to be the year Tom Herman was going to return UT to glory.  Well, they still have the Big 12 Championship Game to dream about.  The only dreams in Knoxville are nightmares for Tennessee; the orange-clad Volunteers are 0-2 after losses at home to Georgia State and BYU as the Jeremy Pruitt era hits a few speed bumps.   And keep in mind the Vols have yet to play an SEC game.

 

Alma Mater Update- where to start?  Syracuse couldn’t make tackles on defense, which I’m told is important.  And it just got worse from allowing an opening drive TD.  Tommy DeVito looked more “funny like a clown” Saturday, losing a fumble and throwing one of the worst interceptions in recent memory to set up first half Terp scores.  He may have thrown for 330 yards, but some throws were beyond wobbly.  It’s early- but Clemson comes to the Dome this weekend.  This team can still be good-but they have to play much better if they want to raise another Camping World Bowl banner.

 

Maryland (2-0) followed up its 79-point showing against Howard by scoring on its first three drives against No. 21 Syracuse en route to a 63-20 blowout of the Orange.  Stock is high on the Terps, but remember that the last two Septembers saw upsets of No. 23 Texas and each November ended with the team finishing on the wrong side of bowl eligibility.

Terrapin Triumphs: Josh Jackson threw for 296 yards and three scores while the offense converted 11 of 15 third downs. The running game churned out 354 yards on the ground.  Keandre Jones notched eight tackles, two sacks and a key forced fumble that helped the Terps grab a 14-0 first quarter lead.  The defense also held the Orange at bay for most of the second half despite advantageous field position.

Terrapin Troubles: Colton Spangler averaged 31.7 yards over his three punts.  Granted he’s had very few opportunities to get into rhythm (just one punt against Howard last week).  I’m sure the team is okay with that.

Next: Saturday at noon against Temple.

 

Virginia (2-0) began the weekend early by hosting William & Mary Friday night, and the Cavaliers crushed the Tribe 52-17.  On the menu was equal parts sizzle (Nick Grant’s 85-yard interception return for a TD and Joe Reed’s 100-yard kickoff return) and steak (the offense scored the first three times they had the ball).  Even after a fumble set up a William & Mary field goal, UVa got those points and more back when Reed ran the ensuing kickoff back.

Cavalier Congrats: Reed also led the team in receiving with four catches for 58 yards and a score.  Mike Hollins (11 carries for 78 yards) paced a ground game that averaged 6.2 yards per carry.  The offense did not punt all evening.  Jordan Mack notched 2.5 sacks to pace a pass rush that tallied seven sacks and held the Tribe to 1 of 11 on third down.

Cavalier Concerns:  three interceptions and a fumble might not hurt you against a foe from the CAA, but against ACC competition those mistakes will be much more costly.  UVa also missed a 30-yard field goal.

Next: Saturday against Florida State at 7:30 p.m.

 

Virginia Tech (1-1) bounced back from its loss at Boston College by vanquishing one of its ghosts from 2018; the Hokies beat the Monarchs 31-17 to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2010. Even so, ODU scored on their first two second half possessions to give the Lane Stadium crowd flashbacks of last year’s meltdown.

Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns while running for another score.  Rayshard Ashby tallied 10 tackles and the defense responded after allowing a first quarter field goal, holding ODU to 11 yards on their next 13 plays from scrimmage. Oscar Bradburn averaged 56.7 yards per punt while Terius Wheatley had a kickoff return of 71 yards to set up the final touchdown of the afternoon.

Hokie Humblings:  the running game generated just 3.4 yards per carry, and the team lost a pair of fourth quarter fumbles that in the hands of a better foe would have been disastrous.

Next: Saturday at noon against Furman.

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Many out there, Maryland Coach Mike Locksley among them, say a college football team improves the most between weeks one and two.  This isn’t just a throw-away statement; with no preseason exhibition games to gage one’s talent against other foes, week one is often a time of surprise discovery and rude awakening.  How the team bounces back from those awakenings and maximizes its discoveries goes a long way towards how successful the team will eventually be.  Think of the season as a paragraph, and week one as the first sentence.  That said, there are statements to be made in September-especially this Saturday.

Two schools with early-season opportunities to make major statements reside in the Lone Star State.  Texas always has Texas-size expectations and the last two Septembers the Longhorn balloon was popped in week one by Maryland; but 2018 saw UT finish in the Top 25 for the first time since (gulp) 2012.  Saturday night under the lights Coach Tom Herman can make a major statement as they host No. 6 LSU.  The ‘Horn’s former longtime rival, Texas A&M, also ended a drought last fall when former Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to a Top 25 finish.  While guiding the Seminoles Fisher went 4-4 against Clemson, but won just once in Death Valley.  This week A&M visits the top-ranked and defending National Champion Tigers.  The money the school paid Fisher to leave the Sunshine State was for Saturday statement games like this one.

 

Alma Mater Update- much like George Louis Costanza, my worlds collide this week as the school I attended for four years plays the team I’ve covered for the last 14.  The University that was my home 20+ years ago visits the place that is my virtual home from August to March (with trips in May during the Lacrosse tournaments).  It’ll be great seeing old Orange friends before anchoring updates at 15 and 45 Saturday on WTOP.  It’ll be nice telling people what time it is before and after work tomorrow.  I’m just hoping for a good game and a better drumstick-to-wing ratio.

 

Friday-

William & Mary (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 8 p.m. (ACC Network).

The Cavaliers opened the season of possibilities by beating defending division champ Pitt on the road thanks to a strong second half where they outscored the Panthers 17-0 and just as importantly matched Pitt’s physical play.  Enter William & Mary, coached by former UVa coach Mike London.  The Tribe run an option-based offense, exactly the kind that’s tough to prepare for on a short week.  They’re also coming off of a win over Lafayette where quarterback Hollis Mathis ran for 127 yards and a touchdown but split snaps with Kilton Anderson. Shades of London’s carousel of quarterbacks in Charlottesville; we know how that worked out.

Kippy and Buffy are working their way through their tailgating schedule for 2019, and they usually open against a non-conference foe with Conundrum White.  But in the autumn of possibilities they’re going outside the box, metaphorically of course-they’d NEVER have wine from a box.  For a matchup of two Commonwealth schools, Montifalco Vineyards 2018 Blanc rings true. A blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Seyval Blanc grapes provides “bright citrus, tropical notes and crisp finish”.

Presto’s Pick: the bright season continues as the Cavaliers come through, 34-16.

 

Saturday-

Maryland (1-0) vs. #21 Syracuse (1-0), noon (ESPN).

How do you top a week where you post more points than your opponent’s total yards?  By taking on a ranked opponent.  The Terps haven’t beaten a ranked foe in College Park since NC State in 2010.  The Orange opened their season with a 24-0 shutout of Liberty, a game known more for Flames coach Hugh Freeze calling plays from a hospital bed set up in a stadium suite (you cannot make this up).  SU brings a pass rush that notched eight sacks last week, but the Terps were able to counter Howard’s pressure with downfield strikes in the opener.  Syracuse also boasts a starting quarterback in Tommy DeVito, who depending on your interests will have you humming Four Seasons tunes from “Jersey Boys” or re-enacting Joe Pesci scenes from “Goodfellas”.  You think that’s funny?  Funny how?

Presto’s Pick: Terps are unable to pull off a Lufthansa Heist, slipping 27-21.

 

Virginia Tech (0-1) vs. Old Dominion (1-0), noon (ESPNU).

How do you wash away the stain of a season-opening loss where you turned the ball over five times and coughed up 35 points?  By facing the team that began your current 4-8 tailspin.  Remember the Monarchs?  The team that put 49 points on the board last fall and turned what was supposed to be an easy cross-state trip into a nightmare that would last for the rest of the season.  The good news is ODU quarterback Blake LaRussa (495 yards and 4 TD passes against the Hokies) left the program last winter to enter the Seminary and full-time Ministry.  The Monarchs also lost leading rusher Jeremy Cox (130 yards and 2 TD rushing) to the NFL.  It’s market correction week in Blacksburg.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle the Monarchs, 37-14.

 

Howard falls at Youngstown State, Georgetown beats Marist, Richmond loses at Boston College, James Madison beats St. Francis (PA), Towson tops North Carolina Central, Catholic slips to Kenyon.

Last Week: 6-2.

 

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Week one of the College Football season (don’t even bring up Week Zero, which I feel should be spelled “Weak Zero” for reasons previously stated here) is still in full swing with games on the slate Sunday and Monday.  And with no preseason like the NFL, the college game can take you by surprise opening weekend.  Like in Tallahassee, where Florida State’s road back from a rare losing season took a serious speed-bump when the Seminoles blew an 18-point lead in a loss to Boise State.  Or perhaps Knoxville, where singing “Rocky Top” couldn’t rally Tennessee past Georgia State.  Or even Charlotte, where on a neutral field Mack Brown woke up the glory of decades gone by to begin his second term as head coach with a come from behind win over South Carolina (for the record, the Gamecocks refer to themselves as “USC” or “Carolina”-when everyone knows that Southern Cal is the real USC and North Carolina is the real Carolina). Or perhaps Arlington, Texas, where No. 16 Auburn scored with 19 seconds left to send No. 11 Oregon and the Pac 12 to second-tier status in the Power Five world (I almost want to refer to it as the Power Four Plus One).  Who’s ready to do this whole thing again next week?

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are 1-0 after a 24-0 win at Liberty where the Flames’ new coach Hugh Freeze coached from a hospital bed while dealing with a Staph Infection.  New quarterback Tommy DeVito completed under 50% of his passes and tossed a pair of interceptions, putting him closer to Billy Scharr than Todd Philcox on the “New QB” spectrum.  But the defense notched eight sacks and held the Flames to 3 for 16 on third down.  SU comes to College Park in week two.  Break out the wings.

 

Maryland (1-0) jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead en route to a 79-0 rout of Howard. One knows that the MEAC is hardly the Big Ten East, but as opposed to previous opening day squeakers (7-6 over William & Mary, anyone?) it’s nice to make a statement as opposed to a question mark Labor Day weekend.

Terrapin Triumphs: Josh Jackson threw for 245 yards and four touchdowns while Dontay Demus caught 3 passes for 100 yards and two scores.  The defense dominated the day, holding the Bison to 2 for 17 on third down and 68 total yards.  Special Teams blocked one punt for a safety and returned another for a touchdown.

Terrapin Troubles: even though they scored 56 points in the first half the offense still went 3 for 7 on third down.  The Maryland fans also either had issues with traffic or their alarm clocks as there were wide swaths of empty seats.  I know it was Labor Day Weekend, but you could have easily left for the Eastern Shore at 3:15 p.m.

Next: Saturday at noon against Syracuse.

 

Navy (1-0) punted just once in their 45-7 rout of Holy Cross; the tone was set when the Midshipmen took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on nine plays to take the lead for good.scored the routed Holy Cross 45-7 as the Midshipmen.  Caveat:  they put 51 points on the board last fall against Patriot League foe Lehigh and won just once thereafter.

Midshipman Medals: Malcolm Perry completed 6 of 9 passes for 103 yards while directing an option offense that ran for 428 yards.  Diego Fagot notched seven tackles to lead the defense that held the Crusaders to 2.4 yards per carry and 3 for 12 on third down.

Midshipman Miscues: a pair of fumbles (one lost) will definitely get some attention in the film room, while the team’s only punt return went for minus-seven yards.  Hey–you find blemishes in a 38 point win.

Next: September 14 against East Carolina.

 

Virginia Tech (0-1) took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter at Boston College before turning the ball over five times over an eight possession span that saw the Eagles take a two-touchdown lead.  The 35-28 loss was the Hokies first season-opening defeat to an unranked team in 11 years and sets them back in the Coastal Division race before September even begins.

Hokie Highlights: Ryan Willis throws for 344 yards and four touchdowns, while Hezekiah Grimsley notches four receptions for 98 yards and a score. Rayshard Ashby tallied 13 tackles and a sack.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 45.5 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings: Five turnovers!  BC had short fields for two of their three touchdowns in the second quarter while a red zone interception took at least three points off of the board right before halftime.

Next: Saturday at noon Old Dominion comes to Blacksburg.

 

Virginia (1-0) hadn’t beaten Pitt since 2014, but Saturday night at Heinz Field the Cavaliers came through against the defending division champs with a 30-14 victory. Did the mojo from Men’s Basketball and Lacrosse find its way onto the gridiron?

Cavalier Congrats: UVa won the physical battle, outgaining the Panthers by 51 yards on the ground. Bryce Perkins threw a pair of touchdown passes.  The defense held Pitt to 91 second half yards on 37 plays, twice intercepting the Panthers after intermission.  Joey Blount provided the pass rush heat with a pair of sacks.

Cavalier Concerns:  the passing game averaged less than ten yards per completion and the team was fortunate to lose neither of its two fumbles.  In Kippy & Buffy news, my winesnob pal tells me the 2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia they tailgated with should have been kept on the shelf for another year or two.

Next: Friday night at 8 p.m. against William & Mary.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Welcome back everyone, and prepare to enter what has been claimed to be the best regular season in sports (amazing how many one-loss Alabama and Clemson teams make the playoff in a world where “every week matters”).  This year there’s a twist though:  Clemson is ranked first and Alabama is second!  I know, I’ll wait for you to pick yourself off of the floor.  In the current College Football Playoff era, the Tigers and Crimson Tide have combined for nine of the 20 semifinal berths.  And there’s a very good chance they’ll be joined by the two other schools with multiple CFP berths (blue bloods Ohio State and Oklahoma) while the Pac-12 champ pounds sand once again.  But it all starts this weekend.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Even though No. 8 Florida faced Miami in Orlando last Saturday, this is technically week one.  Fans of the Gators and Hurricanes got to see to underprepared teams combine for five turnovers, 23 penalties and convert a combined 4-for-24 on third down.  Heading into the showdown it was referred to as “Week Zero”, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Bring on the real season.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange begin the year ranked for the first time since 1997.  Yes, SU hasn’t been in the Preseason Top 25 since Donovan McNabb was wearing #5.  Naturally they’re opening the season at…Liberty.  I do have friends headed to Lynchburg for the game as the drive is manageable, and I’m wondering if they’re going to follow the trend and bring Spiked Seltzer to the tailgate.  I’m holding my breath.

 

Maryland vs. Howard, noon (Big Ten Network).

The Terps will start a different quarterback in their opener for the fourth straight season, as Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson gets the nod. While with the Hokies Jackson started Labor Day weekend wins over ranked foes West Virginia and Florida State.  And he never had a running threat like Anthony McFarland: the sophomore looks to continue the momentum of last November where he posted a pair of 200-yard rushing games.  The Bison counter with third-year starting quarterback Caylin Newton (yes, he’s Cam’s younger brother) and the offensive weapons that led the MEAC in scoring last fall, but they also bring a defense that allowed 34 points per game in 2018.  

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins Triumph, 45-20.

 

Navy vs. Holy Cross, 3:30 p.m (CBS Sports Network). 

The long road back from 3-10 begins with a game against a Patriot League foe. One that was picked to finish second in its conference and ended 2018 with four straight wins.  But the Crusaders lost quarterback Geoff Wade to graduation, and Emmett Clifford (under 10 yards per completion and a 1-3 touchdown to interception ratio) is just the kind of QB the new-look Navy defense wants to confuse pre-snap.  All eyes will be on the arm of Midshipman quarterback Malcolm Perry as the team has been talking all month about throwing the ball more.  It’s one thing to say you’re going to open up the offense, it’s another thing entirely to try to do so in game situations and yet another thing to execute.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen crush the Crusaders, 38-14.

 

Virginia Tech at Boston College, 4 p.m (ACC Network).  

Of the three schools that marked the first exodus of the Big East to the ACC in 2004-05, the Hokies have been the most successful (Miami didn’t even win a Coastal Division title until last year) but for a while BC held its own against the Clemsons and Florida States in the Atlantic Division.  But since finishing first or second in the Atlantic each of their first five years in the league, the Eagles haven’t posted a winning ACC record.  Junior running back AJ Dillon rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Hokies last year.  We’ll see how revamped Virginia Tech’s defense is this year after finishing near the bottom of the conference in 2018.  The road team has won four of the last five games in this series.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies make it happen, 27-17.

 

Virginia at Pitt, 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network).

Could this be the Cavaliers’ year?  The other six Coastal Division schools have each taken turns advancing to the Conference Championship Game since 2013.  Last year’s representative was a Pitt team that reached Charlotte behind 1,000-yard rushers Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall; both are trying to stick with NFL rosters this summer.  The Panthers also have four new starters on their offensive line and a quarterback in junior Kenny Pickett who has plenty of experience but also a very low ceiling.   Cavaliers QB Bryce Perkins is coming off of a spectacular season where he was one of two FBS players to pass for at least 2,600 yards while rushing for 900+.  The other? Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

My UVa tailgating pals Kippy & Buffy are back for another exciting season, and just like their team that’s dreaming big in 2019 my favorite couple begins big: a bottle of 2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia. “Focused and fresh, this exceptionally concentrated wine showcases elegant tannin structure and a silky mouthfeel layered with dark fruit, sweet vanilla bean, cracked black pepper and bittersweet chocolate.”  Nothing bittersweet about the season ahead.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers are focused, fresh, and find a way to win, 27-20.

 

Georgetown falls at Davidson, Towson tops The Citadel, James Madison makes FCS proud with an upset win at West Virginia, William & Mary wins at Lafayette.

Last Year: 69-44, including a 1-8 week where I should have pulled a George Costanza and went the opposite.