Archives for posts with tag: Florida State


Maryland’s road to March has been bumpy so far this winter, to say the least.  An 0-4 start in true road games included the annual hiccup at Penn State (although for scheduling purposes, this season it happened in December), a shocker at shorthanded Seton Hall (although the Pirates have played their way back into the Top 25), a flameout at Iowa, and a last-minute meltdown at Wisconsin.  So when the Terps started slowly once again at last-place Northwestern we weren’t shocked by any stretch of the imagination.  When they trailed the Wildcats by 14 at the half the narrative was in motion once again.

But then Jalen Smith happened: the sophomore forward scored 21 of his 25 points after intermission as the Terps won its first road game of the winter 77-66.  And he wasn’t done:  Smith scored 29 points-including the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left in Sunday’s 77-76 win at Indiana (the Terps’ first win in Bloomington since joining the Big Ten).  The Baltimore native also grabbed 11 rebounds in each of the Terrapins’ wins and was named Big Ten Player of the Week.  Almost halfway through league play, the 6-foot-10 forward ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and third in blocked shots.  If he had enough attempts to qualify, Smith’s 42.9% would be tied for the league lead…in three-point shooting.  In the coming weeks, he’ll have duels with centers Luka Garza of Iowa and Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu.  And just like he’s helped re-write his team’s road performance narrative, Jalen Smith can re-write his own story as the Big Man of the Big Ten.


Alma Mater Update- can you say “Back to back to back to back to back”?  The Orange are suddenly 6-3 in the ACC after beating Notre Dame and Pitt, two schools they should be beating (Fighting Irish & Panthers are a combined 6-11 in league play).  They’re in…fourth place.  Granted, this is a down ACC this winter–but seriously?  SU hasn’t received a “double-bye” in the ACC Tournament since they finished second in the conference during their inaugural season of 2013-14.  That year feels like decades ago.  This week the Orange visit Clemson (Tigers have already won at North Carolina for the first time ever and followed that up with a victory over Duke) and then host Duke.  Gulp…

Wow of the Week- Towson has won six in a row to suddenly become a factor in the CAA race.  The Tigers are doing it with defense, allowing the fewest points per game while holding foes to the lowest shooting percentage in the conference.  They’re also second best in the league at defending the three and in rebounding.  While senior guard Brian Fobbs is their best offensive threat (16 points per game), freshman Jason Gibson is heating up with double-digit efforts in three of his last five games (including 21 points in a win at William & Mary).  Coach Pat Skerry has won 20 games three times since taking the reins of the program in 2011;  all of a sudden this team is in the mix to begin the 2020’s with a 20-win campaign.

Player to Watch- Virginia Tech is faring well in their first season of the post-Buzz Williams era. One reason has been the play of freshman guard Landers Nolley II- the Atlanta, GA native is averaging 18 points with 6 rebounds and 3 assists while shooting 37% from three-point range.  He’s the true barometer for this team: in five ACC wins he’s netting 23 points per game while Nolley is averaging 13 points in their four league losses.

League Look- the Atlantic 10 has six schools with 14+ wins.  While No. 7 Dayton is the only school in this week’s Top 25,  more than just Dayton. Rhode Island is also receiving votes this week while VCU as well as Duquesne have also been on ballots this winter.  A good year for the A-10 means bad news for George Washington and George Mason:  both schools are under .500 in league play and are one bad week away from dipping into the bottom four (meaning they play in the dreaded First Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament).  I enjoyed covering the tournament when it was held at Capital One Arena two years ago; I wish I didn’t have to wait two more years for the A-10 to return to DC.

Ballot Battles- while my top ten stayed the same this week, the bottom of my Top 25 got overturned with Stanford, Florida, Duquesne and Memphis making their exits. Back in is plucky Akron from the MAC and making it’s debut from the Southern is East Tennessee State.  Unfortunately my number 26 school Houston did not make the cut this week, prompting ire from the Cougar fan base.  I can only imagine how mad they’d be if the Big 12 had let them in the conference.


Starting Five-

Tuesday- Georgetown vs. No. 16 Butler.  The Bulldogs lead the Big East in rebounding margin while the Hoyas rank second;  but Butler is also tops in scoring defense while also leading the conference in shooting and defensive field goal percentage.  They also boast Kamar Baldwin; the senior scored 31 points in Saturday’s overtime win against Marquette.  The big question mark is junior guard Aaron Thompson;  the Paul VI product sat out the Marquette with with a left wrist injury.  If he’s able to play he’ll face DeMatha Catholic product Terrell Allen, who remembers Thompson well from their younger days.

Also Tuesday- VCU at Richmond.  College basketball rivalries have nothing on our capital city duo.  It’s state school versus private institution. It’s 21st Century Cinderella against the original article.  It’s also a winter where both programs are A-10 contenders for the first time in three years:  each is 15-5 and 5-2 in the conference.  The Rams have health on their side this time as Spiders’ leading scorer Blake Francis is out with a sternum injury.

Thursday- No. 15 Maryland vs. No. 18 Iowa.  The Terps had as many turnovers as made baskets (17) in their January 10th loss at the Hawkeyes.  Coach Fran McCafferty’s team shot 3-20 from three point range Monday against Wisconsin; no matter as they finished off the Badgers thanks to a 23-5 closing run.  Jalen Smith will have his hands full against Luka Garza as the junior center leads the Big Ten in scoring and ranks second in rebounding.

Also Thursday- Towson vs. UNC-Wilmington.  How much of a high-wire is the CAA?  Seven schools are within two games of league-leading William & Mary.  The Tigers trail the Tribe by one game after winning by 12 in Williamsburg, and are home this week.  With slumping Charleston coming to campus Saturday, enter “Trap Game 101”.  UNCW may be 2-7 in the league but has just beaten Charleston and Northeastern (two of the seven schools in the hunt).

Saturday- Virginia Tech vs. No. 5 Florida State.  The Seminoles were picked to finish fifth in the ACC, and soft seasons by North Carolina and Virginia have created a bit of a vacuum which coach Leonard Hamilton’s team has been more than happy to fill.  But three straight single-digit victories may lead one to believe FSU’s run is about to end, or at least be sidetracked for a game or two.  And who knows what shape they’ll be in from a tempo standpoint after facing Virginia Tuesday night.


Who’s ready for Opening Day!?!  In March???  It’s the price of doing business playing 162 reguarl season games with 3+ rounds of playoffs while not holding the World Series in November.  For better or worse.  I know-I get this feeling twice every year.  It happens in early November, when we’re halfway through the NFL season and just into college football’s closing month when suddenly we’re supposed to care about Maryland-Hofstra.  The men’s college basketball season concludes over the next few weeks, so it’s only fitting some of the NCAA Tournament thunder is robbed by baseball’s pomp and circumstance.  Usually opening week in baseball overlaps with the Final Four;  this year the Nationals will have played nine games (weather permitting) by the time the nets are cut down in Minneapolis.

That said, the calendar waits for no one. The Washington Nationals attempt to bounce back from an 82-80 season as well as the offseason loss of Bryce Harper.  But this team will be bolstered by offseason additions like Patrick Corbin as well as the catching duo of Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki.  The Nats were built to handle Harper’s departure as good as they could be, with prime prospect Victor Robles joining last year’s breakout rookie Juan Soto in the “future is now” category.  If only Adam Eaton can play 140 games in rightfield while leading off;  the veteran has been limited by injuries to just 118 games over the last two years.  Other questions involve the health of mainstays Ryan Zimmerman (85 games played last year) and Stephen Strasburg (22 starts).  Also, will manager Davey Martinez return for year two armed with lessons learned in 2018?  Unlike the NFL, baseball is not a snapshot season.  Over 162 games a team’s players and manager rise or fall to their actual level a lot more than pro football-or even the NHL and NBA.  Let’s get this season underway.


Regional Roundup: fourteen of the top sixteen seeds advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, with three glaring losses by David over the first weekend.  Thursday, Belmont was a tipped pass away from beating Maryland and New Mexico State missed two of three free throws against Auburn when three makes would have upset the Tigers and two would have forced overtime.  But both of those losses paled in comparison to UCF leading Duke late but being unable to hold off the overall number one seed in the final minute.  So instead of Cinderellas, we get a #5 seed Auburn and a #12 seed Oregon as the only Regional outliers.


Sweet Sixteen Showdowns–


 #1 Virginia vs. #12 Oregon.  While the Cavaliers avenged last year’s First Round loss to UMBC by rallying past Gardner-Webb and moved past 2017’s Second Round loss to Florida, the “Ghosts of Regionals Past” are just as haunting.  UVa has won just one Regional Semifinal game this century…while the Ducks have reached the Final Four as recently as 2017.  They also boast the 12th ranked defense in Division I-UVa allowing the fewest points per game again this season.  Coach Dana Altman’s team is the only double-digit seed still in the tournament thanks to ten straight wins.

#2 Tennessee vs. #3 Purdue. Rick Barnes previously led Clemson and Texas to the Sweet Sixteen, and it’s no different with his third straight orange-clad school.  One would think that if things don’t work out longterm in Tallahassee, he’ll head to Illinois.  The Boilermakers were a Lucas Haas injury away from doing major damage last March;  guard Carsen Edwards led the Big Ten in scoring this past winter and is averaging 34 points a game in the NCAA Tournament.



#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Florida State. The Bulldogs have lost to ACC schools in four straight NCAA Tournaments, and the Seminoles are one of the more athletic teams in the bracket.  It’s also amazing how somehow FSU coach Leonard Hamilton looks younger than he did 20 years ago.

#2 Michigan vs. #3 Texas Tech.  Two of the top three defensive teams (UVa being #1) battle with the Wolverines looking to make a return trip to the Elite Eight.  The Red Raiders reached the Regional Final last year as well before falling to Villanova.



#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia Tech.  An ACC matchup takes place one round earlier than it should; I’m still flummoxed that the committee was cool with putting three Big Ten schools in the lower half of the East bracket.  The Hokies beat the Blue Devils when Zion Williamson was hurt, but so was VT guard Justin Robinson. Tech is 17-3 with the senior in the lineup; 7-5 without.

#2 Michigan State vs. #3 LSU.  One coach is being flogged for freaking out during a game, while the other is in the land of limbo. Will Wade hasn’t coached since the Tigers’ penultimatet regular season game…but LSU finds itself in DC along with Tom Izzo, who might be persuaded to drink more decaf this weekend.



#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Auburn. Another strong regional has the Tigers as an outlier–although coach Bruce Pearl’s team was in the top 25 for a big chunk of the season and they did win four games in four days at the SEC Tournament.  The Tar Heels are the best team nobody’s talking about, and senior Luke Maye feels like he’s in his 8th year at the school.  Both teams can score in bunches.

#2 Kentucky vs. Houston. They want Wildcats-Heels in the Regional Finals, right?  PJ Washington remains a question mark with his foot injury- and at best will play 15-20 minutes against a Cougars team that is in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1984- when Akeem Olajuwon led the team to the Final Four and a loss to Georgetown in the National Championship game.





September is finally in college football’s rear-view mirror, and while there are a few schools that have taken their lumps in the sports “Show Me Month” (Baylor is 0-5) one state in particular is thankful we’ve turned the calendar page:  Florida.  An entire state saw destruction from Hurricane Irma and the seven FBS schools saw their schedules altered in some way.  Now that some of the clouds have passed, sunny skies are ahead for the state’s big three:  #14 Miami improves to 4-0 with a rout of previously unbeaten Duke, Florida (3-1) is fresh off a shutout of Tennessee and Florida State (1-2) is no longer winless thanks to their comeback rally against Wake Forest (before you snicker, remember it took Virginia Tech double-overtime to beat the Deacons 6-3 not too long ago).  The AAC East will likely be decided between unbeatens South Florida and UCF and even Conference USA’s FAU and FIU aren’t completely unwatchable.  The state of Florida thanks you for your prayers and thoughts:  now their football teams are going back to their autumn tradition of kicking butt.

Alma Mater Update- the ACC season began with a whimper in Raleigh as the Orange came up short to NC State 33-25.  The Wolfpack aren’t even the third most feared of SU’s Atlantic Division foes…and while the road to a Pinstripe Bowl banner became a lot more difficult one is pleased with the progress from year one to two by Coach Dino Babers’ program.  This is going to take a while…


Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) defied expectations once again by beating Minnesota 31-24.  They shocked us by beating Texas on the road and then stunned us by getting crushed at home by UCF in week four.  So why should Saturday’s game be any different?  Terrapin Triumphs: Max Bortenschlager threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score…while not committing a turnover for an offense that had just a pair of three-and-outs on the afternoon.  Ty Johnson (130 yards and the game-winning TD) led a ground game that churned out 262 yards against the best run defense in the Big Ten.  Jermaine Carter Jr. led the defense with 8 tackles and forced a fumble.  The D also picked off Conor Rhoda twice, including the game-sealing INT by J.C. Jackson.  Terrapin Troubles:  the suspect secondary allowed 17.6 yards per completion.  Wade Lees averaged under 35 yards per punt.  Next:  3 p.m. Saturday at 4-1 Ohio State.

Navy (4-0, 3-0 AAC) stayed unbeaten while providing plenty cause for concern in their 31-21 win at Tulsa.  Rallying from a 14-point deficit is nice, but the rest of the league will be a little more dangerous when spotted a two-score lead.  Midshipmen Medals:  another great day on the ground: 421 yards this time.  Zach Abey ran for 185 yards and three touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover.   Tyler Sayles tallied nine tackles to pace the defense that began the second half by allowing 16 yards on 11 plays from scrimmage.  Midshipmen Miscues:  two touchdowns coughed up in the first quarter will definitely have the defense’s attention in the film-review room.  Nine penalties and a fumble lost can’t be ideal for a team and program that has made its mark as one that doesn’t beat itself.  Oh, and they missed another short field goal (this time the 26-yarder was blocked).  Next:  Saturday at 3:30 p.m against 1-3 Air Force.

#12 Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1 ACC) stumbled in prime time to #2 Clemson 31-17.  There’s no shame in coming up short against the defending national champs, and if nothing else the loss may provide a roadmap of the Hokies as they begin to navigate the Coastal Division waters (decidedly less choppy than the Atlantic).  Hokie Highlights:  the defense held the Tigers to under 350 total yards and 6-of-16 on third down.  Cam Phillips caught 7 passes for 74 yards.  Greg Stroman continued to live up to his “special teams dynamo” status by ripping off a 43-yard punt return.  Hokie Humblings:  three turnovers, including one returned for a game-sealing TD by the Tigers.  The offense went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions.  Next:  Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at 2-3 Boston College.

Finally.  College Football’s national championship game means the bloated bowl season is in our rear-view mirror at last.  But it’s two football schools that are stealing the spotlight in college basketball’s most storied conference.  The ACC, despite having teams in ten states ranging from the Florida Keys to the shores of Lake Michigan, is all about the two T’s: tradition and tobacco road.  Certain bluebloods in Durham and Chapel Hill may taunt their second-tier partners in Winston-Salem and Raleigh…but they lord over the rest of their prescribed domain and are rightfully miffed when usurpers from outlying regions enjoy basketball success.  During the 2012-15 peasant overthrow, programs like Miami, Virginia, Florida State and Notre Dame had the nerve to actually win the ACC Tournament.  This year, the Seminoles and Fighting Irish are the early class of the league with a jumbled middle class that has seven teams currently 2-2.  It hasn’t been an easy road to 4-0 for either school:  three of FSU’s four league foes have been ranked while all four Irish wins have been by two-possession affairs at most.  Enjoy your success while you can…pretenders to the crown.  North Carolina plays three of its next four at home while Duke plays their next two in Cameron.  The blue bloods have your scent…and are on your tail.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange giveth, the Orange taketh away.  A ten point loss at Virginia Tech drops SU to 2-2 in the ACC…and unlike last winter when they could write off the 4-5 lurch during Boeheim’s suspension they don’t have a ton of wiggle room for at-large consideration.  I’m thinking a 12-6 conference mark is necessary.  And I’m having trouble getting to 12 wins looking at the upcoming slate.  Saturday is a must-win game against Boston College…as SU has already lost this winter in Chestnut Hill.  After that four of their next six games are against ranked teams.

Saturday’s games:


Georgetown (9-8, 1-4 Big East) vs Connecticut (8-9, 2-3 AAC), FOX.  Allen Iverson and Ray Allen it aint.  Both schools began their respective league play with rough stretches and are only now just beginning to dig their way out.  The Hoyas avoided their worst start in Big East play thanks in part to a St. John’s team that shot 5 of 25 in the second half Monday night.  Was that the beginning of a turnaround or an isolated incident?  Big men Bradley Hayes and Jesse Govan will be tested inside by 6-foot-10 Jamaican center Kentan Facey, who’s coming off a season-high 23 points against Temple.

#19 Virginia (12-3, 2-2 ACC) at Clemson (11-5, 1-3), ACC Network.  After a non-conference season of “scoring by committee”, the Cavaliers have been deferring to London Perrantes in league play.  While they’ve also been getting contributions form Marial Shayock and Devon Hall, the senior point guard is the constant on both ends of the floor that coach Tony Bennett leans on.  Ball security will be a priority at Littlejohn Coliseum as the Tigers lead the ACC in turnover margin.  Coach Brad Brownwell’s team has dropped three straight-including the always-agonizing overtime loss at home to North Carolina (don’t even ask when they last won in Chapel Hill).  They also have the added distraction of Monday night’s football game still percolating through campus.


Richmond (10-6, 4-0 Atlantic 10) at Saint Joseph’s (8-7, 2-2).  The Spiders have bounced back from a lackluster non-conference slate to tie for the league lead with their neighbor VCU.  While they’re not as splashy as the Rams’ “HAVOC”, Chris Mooney’s team is just deadly efficient: tops in the A-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio with a defense that can ice foes for extended stretches (witness GW’s first half drought this past Sunday).   T.J. Cline may lead the team in scoring, rebounding and assists and according to George Washington coach Maurice Joseph is “one of the best point-forwards running the Princeton offense” he’s ever seen.  Bad news for the Hawks.


VCU (14-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) at Davidson (8-7, 1-3).  Despite the Spiders early season start, the A-10 remains the Rams’ roost until further notice.  Four wins with a 16-point average margin of victory.  The best shooting team in the league.  Multiple weapons to support lightning rod JeQuan Lewis, who’s 4th in the conference in assists and 3rd in steals.  While the Wildcats are off to a slow start, they still boast Jack Gibbs (21 points per game while shooting 39% from 3-point range) on the perimeter and Peyton Aldridge (20 points and 7 rebounds per game) inside.


Virginia Tech (13-3, 2-2 ACC) vs #20 Notre Dame (15-2, 4-0).  One week after falling to conference co-leader Florida State, the Hokies host the only other team still unblemished in league play.  They’ll need to build off what was a solid offensive night against Syracuse (20 assists on 28 made baskets with only 6 turnovers in the win over the Orange), and come up with a gameplan to neutralize Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (16 points  and a league-leading 10.8 rebounds per game).  Expect both teams to air things out early and often…as the two schools rank 1st and 2nd in the conference from 3-point range.


American (4-12, 1-4 Patriot League) vs Army (7-10, 1-4), CSN+.  The Eagles have lost three straight to slide into a last-place tie with…the Black Knights.  If AU falls behind, watch out.  The Eagles are last in the conference at shooting the 3-pointer…while Army is the Patriot League’s best at defending the three.  How important is Sy’eed Nelson this winter?  The freshman has played 204 out of a possible 205 minutes since AU began league play.  They’ll need another big effort from Nelson and fellow freshman Mark Gasperini (19 points in Wednesday’s loss to Boston University) at Bender Arena.

Navy (7-10, 2-3 Patriot League) at Lafayette (6-10, 2-3).  Not all 2-3 conference marks are created equally:  the Midshipmen have won two straight while the Leopards have dropped two in a row by double digits.  Defense and rebounding always travel well- and the Mids lead the Patriot league in rebounding margin while allowing the second fewest points per game.  Lafayette forward Matt Klinewski’s 18 points per game may rank second in the conference in scoring… but the player to watch remains senior guard Nick Lindner (13 points and 5 assists per game while shooting 39% from 3-point range).



George Mason (12-5, 2-2 Atlantic 10) vs St. Louis (4-12, 0-4), NBC Sports Network.  The Patriots picked up a huge road win at St. Joe’s earlier in the week…and face a Billikens team that resides in the conference basement.  Three of St. Louis’ losses in league play have been by double-digits and they rank last in the conference in shooting and scoring.  Even with the Billikens deficiencies, one better believe that with an eight-day break on the horizon coach Dave Paulsen has his team’s attention for this matchup.  Contenders win these games while pretenders let them slip away…


Howard (3-13, 0-1 MEAC) at Maryland-Eastern Shore (4-13, 1-1).  After playing two games over the first 13 days of 2017, the Bison will have six games between now and the rest of the month.  While the return of James Daniel III and James Miller has to be encouraging, the lack of success recently (five straight losses with an average margin defeat of 21 points) has to gnaw at the psyche of coach Kevin Nickelberry’s team.  The Hawks provide balance in the form of ranking 306th in Division I in scoring while ranking 308th in points allowed.


Maryland (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) at Illinois (12-5, 2-2), ESPN2.  How have the Terps’ freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter not hit the midseason wall yet?  Coach Mark Turgeon cautions us and says that it is still early in league play and the spring semester has yet to begin.  He’s also taken precautions by not overworking this team in practice…and keeping this team (especially his freshmen) sharp mentally.  These two teams tangled December 27th in College Park with the Terrapins producing perhaps their best 40-minute effort of the season.  The Illini are 2-0 at home in conference play…perhaps coming off their most impressive win of the year in an 85-69 triumph over Michigan.  While guard Malcolm Hill remains their biggest offensive threat, recent contributions from Maverick Morgan and Kipper Nichols (they score, rebound AND have cool names) will have the coach Turgeon wary.



George Washington (9-8, 1-3 Atlantic 10) at LaSalle (9-5, 3-1) suffered consecutive losses to the Commonwealth Capital Duo, going scoreless for a seven minute stretch in a loss to Richmond while turning the ball over 17 times in a 30-point loss at VCU.  The Explorers (last in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense and second-to-last in opponents field goal percentage) might be just what the doctor ordered for the GW offense.  Can they contain sharpshooting junior B.J. Johnson (19 points per game and 42% from 3-point range)?

College Football has its issues…but for all of the cupcake buffets we bear through with September’s buyout games, leagues named inappropriately (ten schools in the Big 12 and twelve schools in the Big 10), Johnny Manziel signing sprees and way too many bowl games involving undeserving teams there’s a Saturday after Thanksgiving like this year.  From Michigan staying with unbeaten Ohio State and going for two (despite not making it)…to Duke (?) wrapping up the ACC Coastal Division…to Georgia rallying back in a game that doesn’t mean anything but everything inside the Peach State…to Auburn’s gamewinning return of a missed Alabama field goal…to USC and UCLA both wearing their home colors at the Coliseum (as they should)…we almost forgot to take a breath.  Exhale, fans…because College Football saved its best song for the last track on the 2013 regular season album.  I can almost embrace the American Athletic Conference of America.  Almost.

Bracket Re-Rack– #1 Alabama’s improbable loss shakes up the field a tiny bit… while Clemson’s loss puts the Tigers out of the at-large field.  Fresno State despite no longer being unbeaten still leads the Mountain West, so the Bulldogs postseason isn’t blown in fantasy despite their BCS hopes going down the drain in reality.  And Oregon’s one point win over Oregon State costs the Ducks the last at-large berth…snappped up by Arizona State.

#1 Florida State–#16 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. #8 South Carolina–#9 Baylor

#4 Alabama–#13 Northern Illinois vs. #6 Oklahoma St. –#11 Arizona St.

#3 Auburn–#14 Fresno St. vs. #7 Stanford–#10 Michigan St.

#2 Ohio St.–#15 Marshall vs. #5 Missouri–#12 Central Florida

Alma Mater Update– Bowl Eligibility Baby!  The Orange hold off Boston College 34-31 to wrap up a 6-6 season… potentially sending SU to a third bowl in four years.  And that’s where things get tricky– at 6-6 (with a win over Wagner) will the Orange learn the subtle difference between “bowl eligible” and “bowl worthy”?  With 11 teams available and eight slots to fill (assuming Florida State beats Duke and advances to the National Championship Game)…there’s one interesting possibility.  Could the Carrier Dome be able to handle three Pinstripe Bowl Banners and contain itself?

Maryland clinches a winning season with a 41-21 thumping of NC State… ending its 51-year tenure in the ACC on a winning note.  I’m waiting to see which bowl (Military) the Terps go to (Annapolis) this December (it’s almost a given).  Terrapin Triumphs– CJ Brown regained his September form with 259 yards and 2 TD’s passing…while adding 138 yards and 3 scores rushing…the offense scored the first six times they touched the football…the defense generated in the first half 4 three and outs with a fifth driving losing 10 yards on 8 plays…Matt Robinson earns ACC LB of the Week by notching 17 tackles.  Terrapin Troubles–perhaps CJ can help Brandon Ross (18 carries for 31 yards) reclaim his September Swagger: after gaining 332 yards over the four non-conference games, Ross was held to 328 in 7 ACC affairs.  Takeaway– with a schedule that will regularly feature Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State it’s a good thing the Terps punched their postseason ticket this fall.

Virginia Tech made it a decade of dominance by defeating Virginia 16-6…the highlight being a scoreless second half in Charlottesville as the only time either team moved the ball more than 35 yards on a possession, they each got intercepted.  How poetic.  Actually, the highlight was Kippy and Buffy wrapping up another fun fall of tailgaiting with a delicious Horton Vineyards Vintage Port 2007.  “Big, full bodied, sweet, with refined texture and aromas of blackberry and cherry perfumes”…the perfect elixur for a 10-loss season.  Or at least the perfect compliment to Bergkäse on Captain’s Wafers.

Hokie Highlights– Trey Edmunds rumbled for 93 yards while JC Coleman added 57 on the ground… Demitri Knowles notched 4 catches for 101 yards… Kendall Fuller posted 8 tackles, half of a sack and a whole interception.  Eric Kristensen converted all 3 FG attempts and AJ Hughes averaged 44 yards per punt…BEAMER BALL!, indeed.  Hokie Humblings– 5 sacks allowed…and Logan Thomas was less than stellar in his final regular season game (13-29 with an INT).  Going 4-14 on third down isn’t awesome, either.  Takeaway– a 13-10 loss at home to Duke prevents this consistently uneven team from playing Florida State in the ACC Title game…a good motivation for next year.

Cavalier Congrats– needing 74 yards to reach 1000, Kevin Parks ran for 105 against the #1 defense in the ACC.  Eli Harold notched 3 sacks as the defense held VT to just one touchdown…and 97 total yards in the second half.  Cavalier Concerns– NINE penalties for 83 yards is not ideal.  In a day when passing stats resemble video games, UVa finishes under 50% again with neither David Watford or Greyson Lambert able to provide much spark.  Takeaway– Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco’s departures left the Cavaliers QB situation in a lurch, and after a 10-loss campaign with another solid recruiting class coming in there’s no way to go but up…right?

For two decades this was the “new-money” rivalry in college football.  While Miami-Florida State didn’t hold the “tradition” of Michigan-Ohio State or Auburn-Alabama… this Sunshine State Showdown routinely produced more top ten matchups and eventual national champions (7 over a 20 year span).  From 1983 to 2003, one of these two schools entered New Year’s Day in the national title conversation 15 times–so it was only assumed that when Miami joined the ACC it would take the rivalry to the next level.  Unfortunately for Hurricane and Seminole fans, that level was several steps down from the rarefied air of the 80’s and 90’s.  The league separated the two schools division-wise so they could meet in the ACC Title game– and it hasn’t happened once.  The Canes fell on hard times under Larry Coker and Randy Shannon…and then almost did hard time with the NCAA.  The Noles declined like any great empire does during the final years of a great regime–to the point where Bobby Bowden felt like the 10th season of Friends.  And it didn’t help that the game’s been moved all over the calendar:  if the ACC wanted to pump up this rivalry they should move it to Columbus Day weekend and keep it there.  But until the league gets it right–for at least one November night college football gets to turn back the clock to “wide right”.

Alma Mater Update– after one week off the Orange prepare for their “Closing Month”– needing three wins to lock up bowl eligibility.  In the “stats were built to support any theory” category– SU won’t play a team with a worse record in November, but meet just one school with a winning ACC record in that stretch.  They start with a Wake Forest team that seems to be hitting its stride after a September loss to Louisiana-Monroe (almost upsetting Miami last weekend)…and after a 56-0 thumping two weeks ago by Georgia Tech one wonders what sort of mindset this team will have.  One feels we’ll need extra blue cheese with the wings at Sign of the Whale.

Virginia Tech at Boston College– can the Hokies erase the sting of a home loss to Duke?  They begin Closing Month with a duel against a former Big East brother…last year a 2-10 Eagles team took Tech into overtime before coming up short.  BC boasts the ACC’s leading rusher in Andre Williams, but the Hokies have the stingiest defense against the run in the conference (under 100 yards per game…and under 3 yards a carry).  The big question is– how will Logan Thomas bounce back from tossing four interceptions against the Blue Devils?  Hokies hang on, 19-17.

Virginia vs #9 Clemson– the Cavaliers had a three game homestand to turn their season around…instead they posted a come from ahead loss to Duke and an afternoon of missed opportunities against Georgia Tech.  Instead of bringing a .500 mark into November with postseason possibilities at least in the conversation, coach Mike London’s team is facing bowl elimination three days after Halloween.  And the ninth ranked Tigers bring quite a bit to the table with Tajh Boyd coming off a 300+ yard passing effort against Maryland…and Sammy Watkins posting 14 catches last Saturday.  While this season has been tough to swallow for the UVa faithful, Kippy and Buffy break out the easy to enjoy Chateau O’Brien Malbec:a medium-bodied wine with complex aromas of plum and fig, a velvety soft texture, and remarkable fruit flavor“–or as other expert tasting notes read: “Big Boat”.  Kippy and Buffy break out salmon puffs this week– and for those joining them, that’s not guacamole–it’s wasabi (I learned the hard way).  Cavaliers come up short, 42-17.

Navy loses to Notre Dame on NBC, Georgetown slips to Lafayette, Towson defeats Delaware, Richmond rips Albany, James Madison tops Villanova, William & Mary loses to New Hampshire.

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 50-13.