Archives for posts with tag: college football season

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Finally.  After the non-conference and FCS schedule-stuffer season (also known as the apple picking & antiquing window), we’ve got a Saturday filled with showdowns.  A few are traditional matchups that have seen better days (Notre Dame-USC and Clemson-Florida State) while others carry conference and College Football Playoff implications (Penn State-Iowa, LSU-Florida).  Oklahoma-Texas checks off both boxes, while adding in the Texas State Fair for those who feared our nation’s deep-frying industry was in trouble. For example, this year’s fare includes a “Southern Fried Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Ball” and for those who are health-conscious, the “Texas Cream Corn Casserole Fritters”.

Lost in the shuffle of rivalries, conference clashes and questionable calorie counts is a top five FCS matchup just down the road (actually two, if you take I-66 and then turn right at I-81).  Second ranked James Madison (5-1, 2-0 CAA) hosts No. 5 Villanova (5-0, 3-0) with the inside track to the conference title and a first-round bye in the upcoming FCS Playoffs up for grabs. The two teams rank 1-2 in the CAA in scoring, stopping the run, sacks and third down efficiency.  Each has been pushed to overtime on the road: JMU escaped Stony Brook last weekend while ‘Nova’s 52-45 September shootout at Towson moved the Wildcats from pretender to contender.

The program’s resurgence is especially sweet for third-year head coach Mark Ferrante;  the longtime offensive coordinator took over when Andy Talley retired after 32 seasons in 2016 and the team posted consecutive losing campaigns for the first time since the 1990’s.  But his Wildcats have yet to face the triple-back attack like the Dukes’ Percy Agyei-Obese, Solomon Vanhorse and Jawon Hamilton: the power trio combine for 1051 yards per game on 5.4 a carry.  The Dukes’ big challenge will be getting to Villanova quarterback Daniel Smith (17 touchdown passes) as the Wildcats have allowed just three sacks all season.  Kickoff in Harrisonburg is slated for 1:30 p.m., or if you’re at the Texas State Fair around the time you’ve moved on to dessert and are trying the “Deep Fried Bayou Fruit Bites”.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange drop to 3-3 with Thursday’s 16-10 loss at NC State.  Tommy DeVito got sacked eight times and averaging just over ten yards per completion.  The stat book says he threw for 300 yards, but his numbers once again feel like empty calories.  Twelve penalties didn’t help.  And now the remaining schedule is a combined 21-11, with formerly a mess Florida State looking sharp and surprising Wake Forest no longer the pushover we expected.  Can they scrape together wins against Pitt, Boston College and Louisville?

 

Friday’s Game-

No. 20 Virginia (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Miami (2-3, 0-2), 8 p.m. (ESPN).

There was never a Hurricane warning this fall as the U got off to an 0-2 start, followed by wins over Bethune-Cookman and Central Michigan before last week’s disaster against Virginia Tech.  While the ‘Canes lead the ACC in passing yardage (315 per game), the Cavaliers boast the second best pass defense in the conference and are second best at getting to the quarterback (27 sacks in five games);  Miami has allowed a league-high 25 sacks this fall.  Head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team has had a week to digest their loss at Notre Dame and refocus, while Manny Diaz’s eyes likely fell out while watching the game film of last Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech.

Kippy and Buffy have their eyes on great tailgating as always, and South Florida means they’ll be serving Cuban pork sandwiches.  Nothing goes better with the pork than a bottle of 2016 Limerick Lane Russian River Zinfandel.  Aromas of “blackberry, raspberry, bramble, cocoa leaf and wet stones” (yes–an actual tasting note from the vineyard website) get the palate ready for the taste of “strawberry, black pepper and blueberry pie crust” (again, one cannot make this up), delivering a “long finish with laser-focused acidity”.

Presto’s Pick:  Cavaliers are laser-focused on a first-ever Coastal Division title, and come away with a 27-16 win.

 

Saturday’s Games-

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at Purdue (1-4, 0-2), noon (Big Ten Network).

There’s a switch at quarterback-sort of. Josh Jackson was listed as the starter in the press notes, but head coach Mike Locksley said that Jackson’s ankle injury suffered at Rutgers has the junior day-to-day and Tyrrell Pigrome would start against the Boilermakers.  Pigrome may not have the passing polish Jackson possesses, but he’s a much better runner and with an offensive line that’s banged up might be just the right fit for the present.  Purdue has long been called the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” thanks to All-Americans like Bob Griese, Mike Phipps and Mark Hermann; Drew Brees was shut out by the likes of Chris Weinke, Josh Heupel and George Godsey(?).  This year’s team was no different, until quarterback Elijah Sindelar and his top target Rondale Moore were injured on the same play against Minnesota.  Neither saw the field last Saturday against Penn State.  Defensively, Purdue ranks 13th or 14th in the Big Ten in every category (except in sacks where they’re currently ninth).

Uniform note:  the Boilermakers will be wearing special uniforms commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  Not only is the late Neil Armstrong an alumnus, but the late Gene Cernan (the Apollo 17 astronaut who was the last person to leave the lunar surface) was as well.

Presto’s Pick:  the Terrapins make another small step towards bowl eligibility with a 38-14 landing.

 

Virginia Tech (3-2) vs. Rhode Island (1-4), 4 p.m. (ACC Network).

There are complaints from many in the area who don’t have the ACC Network on their local cable system, but for the Hokies this fall that might be a good thing.  Even in their wins, this team has been one tough watch.  Only this year’s team could turn a 28-0 second half lead at Miami into a fourth quarter nailbiter.  Enter a Rams team that may be 0-3 in the CAA, but one that has lost three one-possession games.  One week after coughing up 28 second half points to Miami, the Hokies will have their hands full as URI quarterback Vito Priore completes 65% of his passes.  Priore’s top two targets, Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Coulter, each average over 100 yards per game receiving and are just the kind of tandem that turns suspect secondaries into sludge.  After a September saw a torrential downpour of turnovers, the Hokies dried things up last week with redshirt sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker.  The dual-threat (184 yards and three touchdowns passing plus 76 yards and a touchdowns rushing against Miami) didn’t throw an interception or lose a fumble, and no giveaways means Hooker stays first-string.  He’ll face a rather accomodating Ram defense, one that allowed 41 points in their other game against an FBS school.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies make it two straight, 34-24.

 

Navy (3-1, 1-1 AAC) at Tulsa (2-3, 0-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

Last Saturday’s win over Air Force was exactly the kind of game last year’s Midshipmen would lose.  The other nightmare from 2018 involved an 0-6 road record (0-8 in games not played in Annapolis).  For those curious, Navy’s last road win was September 30, 2017 against…Tulsa.  The Golden Hurricane went 2-10 that year and have already equaled that win total in the first month of this season.  But they still can’t stop the run (11th in the AAC) and if there’s one thing that the Mids do well it’s move the ball on the ground (an FBS-best 312 yards per game).  But they also lead the conference in offensive passing efficiency as well as rushing and total defense.  Head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team is also the least-penalized unit in the league; as fate would have it the most-flagged Golden Hurricanes commit twice as many infractions per game.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen make it happen on the road, 28-20. 

Howard loses to Norfolk State, Georgetown gets by Fordham, James Madison beats Villanova, Richmond edges Maine, Towson tops Albany, Morgan State loses to Delaware State.

 

Last Week: 7-3. Overall: 39-14.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

The final pre-Thanksgiving weekend had a September feel.  Not in the temperatures but in a schedule that smacked of a cupcake buffet.  Alabama-Mercer?  Clemson-The Citadel?  At a time when every game’s importance is magnified, we had just one matchup of top 20 teams (Michigan-Wisconsin).  To make things worse, the two most interesting rivalry games were on at the same time-despite both involving Pac-12 showdowns.  Hey, left-coasters, I love the whole Pac-12 After Dark deal and the like–but couldn’t you have moved USC-UCLA to the 3:30 window so I could watch Stanford-Cal without having to flip over?  The major bummer is one looks up at the calendar and realizes there’s just one weekend left in the regular season to complain about shifting start-times, FOX announcers having Wade Less punting and Lorenzo Hudson carrying the ball, and the long walk from Regent’s Garage to Maryland Stadium.  Where did the autumn go?

Fantasy Field– with no upsets in the top eight the three-round bracket stays fixed (Bama-USC winner vs Miami-Georgia victor, Oklahoma-Auburn and Clemson-Wisconsin reside in the other bracket)…so this week we’ll blow out the true FBS field of 16.  FCS does it with 24 schools on far smaller budgets.  That means the ten conference winners get automatic berths and we add six wildcards.  Hey, the MAC serves as cannon fodder for the Big Ten every autumn.  Let them send their best when it matters.  Automatic berths are in CAPS:

#1 ALABAMA (SEC) vs #16 TROY (SUN BELT)—#8 Ohio State vs #9 Notre Dame

#4 Clemson vs #13 BOISE STATE (MWC)–#5 WISCONSIN (BIG 10) vs UCF (AAC)

#3 OKLAHOMA (BIG 12) vs #14 TOLEDO (MAC)–#6 Auburn vs #11 USC (PAC 12)

#2 MIAMI (ACC) vs #15 FAU (C-USA)–#7 Georgia vs #10 TCU

Four rounds is a little excessive, so I’d settle for an eight-team field.  Although it is a novel concept to give schools that win their respective conferences a chance at winning a National Title.

 

Alma Mater Update- after three straight close games (yes, the 64-43 loss to Wake was much closer than the score indicated) the Orange get blown out in Louisville 56-10.  The thud to 4-7 is a bummer for sure, but one has to have faith that year two of the rebuild will be more like the larvae-cocoon stage.  At least that’s what you have to hope for if you’re a private school in the northeast with a stadium that seats under 50,000 fans.

 

Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) saw its slim bowl hopes fade amidst the snow in a 17-7 loss to Michigan State that didn’t feel like a ten-point game.  Now the program has one eye on 2018 and another on sending its seniors out against (gulp) Penn State.  Terrapin Triumphs: they held Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke to 2-of-14 passing and limited MSU to 72 total yards in the second half.  Jermaine Carter led the way with 12 tackles and forced a fumble.  DJ Moore caught 8 passes, putting him within striking distance (64 grabs after 11 games) of the single-season record (Geroy Simon caught 77 passes in 1994).  Terrapin Troubles:  four of their first seven drives were three and outs, and on the other three possessions they punted after moving the chains once.  The defense also coughed up over 100 yards to Spartans tailback LJ Scott in the first half.  Next:  Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 9-2 Penn State.

 

Virginia (6-5, 3-4 ACC) saw its upset bid of Miami come up short in a 44-28 loss to the Hurricanes.  Somehow 14-point leads are made to be coughed up–more than once.  Cavalier Congrats:  Kurt Benkert threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns with minimal help from his ground game.  Micah Kiser led the team with nine tackles wihle Quin Blanding notched eight stops and an interception.  Cavalier Concerns:  three turnovers on the road against a top ten team is not how you get things done–and Miami turned those miscues into 14 points.  The offense also gained just 52 yards on its final 22 plays from scrimmage.  Next:  Friday at 8 p.m. against 8-3 Virginia Tech.  If you haven’t heard, they haven’t beaten the Hokies since VT joined the ACC.

 

Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 ACC) fought through a sluggish start and held off a late Pitt drive to prevail over the Panthers 20-14.  Heading into the season finale against Virginia, one doesn’t especially feel confident-could this be the year they finally slip to the Cavaliers? Hokie Highlights:  they held Darrin Hall (486 yards rushing the last 3 weeks) to 4 yards on 15 carries and handcuffed the Panthers on the ground all day.  Cam Phillips continues to be the Blacksburg version of DJ Moore, catching 8 passes for 117 yards and the game-winning touchdown.  Brian Johnson kicked a pair of field goals, on the same weekend ACDC rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young passed away.  HIGH VOLTAGE, indeed. Hokie Humblings:  against the most porous pass defense in the ACC, Josh Jackson completed under 50% of his passes and tossed an interception.  the VT pass defense coughed up 311 yards and almost lost the game in the final minute when the Panthers completed a 74-yard pass to the Hokie 1-yard line.  Next:  Friday at 8 p.m. against 6-5 Virginia.  They can’t lose this one, can they?

 

Navy (6-4) had #8 Notre Dame on the ropes and a seven-point second half lead, before their last three drives ended with a missed field goal, an interception, and on downs in a 24-17 loss to the Fighting Irish.  Midshipmen Medals:  Zach Abey ran for 87 yards and a touchdown while passing for the Mids’ other score.  They also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 42+ minutes.   Micah Farrar forced a fumble that set up their first touchdown of the day.  Midshipmen Miscues:  the defense allowed 5.3 yards per carry…and wound up surrendering three straight touchdown drives to the Irish.  The absence of a passing game (3 for 8 with an interception) once again limited the possibilities of the option offense.  Next: Friday at noon at 6-4 Houston.

So they almost got swept by the Orioles amidst fans chanting “OH!” at Nats Park.  So they dropped two of three to a Colorado team going nowhere.  So the second-place Marlins got needed outfield help in the form of veteran Jeff Francouer.  The Nationals’ biggest concern is the amount of attention they’ll receive as the Redskins and college football monoliths take their proper places in the Beltway sports landscape.

This week is extremely crunching for yours truly…as WTOP.COM is rolling out a five day forecast of the upcoming college football season. 

http://wtop.com/ncaa-football/2016/08/3-9-season-maryland-football-selling-whats-new/

We also marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last concert on their final tour…

http://wtop.com/entertainment/2016/08/dc-sportscaster-recalls-50th-anniversary-beatles-last-us-show/

So forgive me if this week’s notebook appears a little rushed…

Dissecting the Division…and Projecting the Playoff Picture- the Nats lead the Marlins by 8 games in the NL East and are 9 games in front of the Mets;  those two teams play a three game series this week.  At this moment the Nationals own the second best record in the NL- so they would have home field in the NLDS with the West Division leading Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Chicago Cubs would own the #1 seed while facing the winner between wildcards San Francisco and St Louis.

All about the AL East- the Orioles after taking 3 of 4 against the Nats turned around and lost their first two games with the New York Yankees.  They now trail Toronto by 3 games in the division…and battle the Blue Jays in a three game series this week.  While the division is within their reach…so is falling out of the wildcard as the O’s lead Detroit by two games for the final playoff spot in the American League.  Meanwhile, Boston continues to churn out high-scoring wins and losses in its usual frustrating fashion.

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner hit .500 with 4 steals and 6 runs…scoring Friday night after an infield single, error, stolen base and grounder to first.  Bryce Harper tallied 10 hits while Daniel Murphy drove in 9 runs…to move within 100 for the season.  Max Scherzer struck out 10 over 8 scoreless innings…while Gio Gonzalez notched career win #100.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman hit .103 with 8 strikeouts…and gets a seat in Monday’s game at Philadelphia to clear his head.  Reynaldo Lopez had a rude awakening in Baltimore–coughing up 4 runs over 2.2 innings.  Blake Treinen posted an ERA of 33.75…

Game to Watch- Tuesday Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92 ERA) pitches against Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87). Max is 5-1 since Independence Day while Eickoff has won three straight decisions.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats do not have a starter listed for their game against the New York Mets.  There’s a full plate of college football to enjoy, my friends…from Maryland-Howard to Virginia-Richmond to Navy-Fordham to Virginia Tech-Liberty.

November is what defines a college football season.  Yes, Show Me Month is scintillating and Moving Month is can save or scorch a campaign…but Closing Month is when teams make that final push towards a bowl, a conference championship or a national title.  For Virginia Tech, Virginia and Navy, it’s a question of if they’ll be able to scramble up enough wins to reach the postseason.  For Maryland, it’s which destination coach Randy Edsall’s team earns.

 

Alma Mater Update– NO more football talk as the team is 3-7 entering their second bye week.  Didn’t the Orange look just dandy against Kennesaw State?

 

Maryland vs #12 Michigan State– father against son…sort of.  Quarterback CJ Brown’s father Clark played QB for the Spartans in the early 80’s.  CJ denies any “friendly wagers” between the two (mowing lawns, doing laundry and the like)…and Brown will have his hands full with a Spartan pass rush that leads the Big 10 in sacks.  The Terp defense that’s coughed up 50 points twice in conference play tries to derail an MSU offense led by quarterback Connor Cook– who leads the league in passing yards and is second in passing efficiency.  Prepare to do dishes for a while, CJ. Terps tumble, 31-24.

 

Virginia Tech at #21 Duke–  The Blue Devils being ranked shouldn’t be as much of a surprise (they are the defending Coastal Division champs after all) but the fact that even though they’re 8-1, this team is only 21st.  Evidently wins over Elon, Troy and Syracuse don’t carry the juice they used to.  Coach Tommy Tuberville has concocted a high-octane offense with Anthony Boone at the controls–but it’s the Blue Devils defense that has made the difference this fall (ranking 11th in Division I in fewest points allowed).  The Hokies after a September upset of Ohio State have seen their season revert to what the last three have been– frustrating defeats with many questions and few answers.  Hokies come up short, 24-14.

 

Navy vs Georgia Southern– this isn’t your everyday Sun Belt Conference team the Midshipmen are facing.  GSU is 7-2 with a pair of one-possession losses at Georgia Southern and NC State.  They beat Florida at the Swamp last year. The Eagles boast a running back who averages over 9 yards a carry.  Navy needs two wins over its last three games to qualify for postseason play;  it likely won’t happen this week.  Midshipmen fall, 33-21.

 

Howard loses to Central Connecticut State, Georgetown falls at Fordham, Morgan State over South Carolina State, William & Mary tames TowsonRichmond beats James Madison,

 

Last Week:  6-1.  Closing Month commences…as I earn my coffee.

Overall: 74-28.