Archives for posts with tag: LSU

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

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.

 

Advertisements

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

\For all of the hype surrounding the clash of top five teams, didn’t Alabama-LSU feel a little underwhelming?  Yes, the Crimson Tide led by only 16 at the half and quarterback Tua Tagovialoa actually threw an interception for the first time all season-but the 29-0 shutout had the strange feel of a pre-determined outcome.  I’m not saying the Tide were toying with the Tigers at any time last night, but even the interception had the feel of a punt intended to pin LSU inside their own five.  In my mind’s eye I kept on seeing the cat I had as a child toying with a doomed mouse.  And this is the toughest competition in the SEC?  Thank goodness Georgia beat Kentucky yesterday to win the East, or we’d have to hide our eyes while the SEC Championship Game took place.  While Alabama still has Mississippi State and Auburn on their slate, coach Nick Saban’s team appears to be on its way to another appearance in the College Football Playoff.  The fall foliage is definitely filled with Crimson again this autumn.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange improve to 7-2, their best start since 2001.  The #13 ranking is their highest since 1998 when Donovan McNabb was quarterbacking SU to glory.  I want to call this a “soft 13”–as massive upsets last weekend created a serious vacuum.  But I’m going to enjoy this ridiculous ride as long as it lasts.  Bring on Louisville…

 

Maryland (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) wrapped up a whirlwind week where their coach was reinstated and then fired by falling at home to Michigan State 24-3.  The Terps had a chance in the second half with consecutive possessions on the Spartans’ side of the field, only to come up empty.  How bad was the bouncing ball?  Michigan State recovered two fumbles in the end zone:  one of theirs for a touchdown and one of the Terps on an interception return that became a Spartans touchback.  Incidentally, they’d score the backbreaking touchdown on the very next play.  Terrapin Triumphs:  The defense tallied a pair of takeaways while Tre Watson’s 13 tackles paced the team.  Wade Lees averaged 45 yards per punt…and he had plenty of practice with a season-high eight kicks.

Terrapin Troubles: the offense went three-and-out the first three times they had the ball, and converted 3-of-15 third downs on the afternoon.  Kasim Hill was held to 8-of-21 passing for 74 yards while getting sacked four times.  Next:  Saturday at 4-5 Indiana (noon kickoff) in what will likely be the Terps’ best chance to become bowl eligible (they face Ohio State and Penn State to close the year).

 

Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC) lost control of the Coastal Division race on a rainy Friday night in Charlottesville…as Pitt emerged atop the three team scrum thanks to their 23-13 victory at Scott Stadium.  I’m sure announcers will say that “the Panthers control their own destiny”;  and while Pitt does control its road to the ACC Championship Game (win out and they take the Division) they do not control their own destiny.  Nobody controls their own destiny–that’s why it’s called “destiny”.  Cavalier Congrats:  Bryce Perkins completed 17 of 24 passes for 205 yards and UVa’s lone touchdown.  Joey Blount led the defense with 11 tackles.  Lester Coleman averaged 44.8 yards per punt.  Cavalier Concerns:  Perkins had issues staying upright all evening, getting sacked five times.  The defense held Qadree Ollison in check (24 yards rushing) but had no answers for senior Darrin Hall, who rumbled for 229 yards on 19 carries.   Ten penalties for 80 yards didn’t do the Cavs any favors.  Next:  Saturday at 3 p.m. vs. 4-4 Liberty in the final home game of the year.

 

Navy (2-7, 1-4 AAC) saw its skid reach six games–and unlike the other five losses this was a cradle to grave blowout.  While the 42-0 defeat at Cincinnati was the fourth time the Mids allowed 40+ points this fall, it’s the first time they’ve been shut out since October of 2012.  Midshipman Medals:  Not a lot to highlight on one long afternoon by the Ohio River.  Hudson Sullivan notches 10 tackles to pace an overmatched defense.  Midshipman Miscues:  Zach Abey was held to 37 yards rushing on 28 carries and the offense converted just 3-of-13 third downs.  Cincinnati reached the endzone the first five times they had the football.  Next:  Saturday at #12 UCF (noon kickoff).  The Knights are unbeaten.

 

Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2 ACC) saw it’s season take another unfortunate turn in a 31-21 loss to Boston College.  While the Hokies can still capture the Coastal Division with three straight victories, they haven’t won three in a row all season.  Meanwhile, they’re still two wins away from reaching bowl eligibility.  It could be a long winter in Blacksburg.  Hokie Highlights: Ryan Willis threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns while also leading the team with 49 yards rushing.  Rico Kearney paced the defense with 18 tackles.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 45 yards per punt.  Hokie Humblings: a tale of two halves saw the offense generate three straight 3-and-outs to start the second half (their fourth possession was an interception);  the defense that allowed seven first half points coughed up 24 after intermission.  Next:  Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 5-4 (but 4-1 in the ACC) Pitt.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Some Marches become memorable because your school steals a game it had no business winning…while others are made by incredible tournament runs that keep the season alive for another weekend.  The select few seasons end with your team playing for it all during the first weekend of April…with the chance to bring home hardware.  This was not one of those years for the area schools…as even George Washington fell Monday night in the College Basketball Invitational (also known as CBI) to UIC (previously known as Illinois-Chicago) in the Quarterfinals (I feel like I should continue the trend and call it the QF).

As the dust clears from a wild weekend–what happened?  If you went into the tournament recognizing Mount St. Mary’s would be overmatched with Villanova, each of the other locals (Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and VCU) had potential red flags.  And each red flag was flown high.  And while the answer opening weekend was less than ideal for each school, as the offseasons begin there will only be more questions until next October 15th.

Maryland (24-9) had issues beginning with its January 1st loss to Nebraska where they did not score for the final six minutes of regulation.  Minus a proven post presence the Terps were reduced to a jump-shooting/drive-and-kick team this winter…and when they were hitting it was great.  But they had too many stretches of wandering in the offensive wilderness-against Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern-and losing Michal Cekovsky to injury limited their options inside further.  The Terps’ 76-65 loss to Xavier saw another one of those extended scoreless stretches (six minutes in the second half)…along with getting hammered on the boards by ten.  As Damonte Dodd graduates and L.G. Gill wraps up his one year with the program as a graduate transfer, all eyes are on Melo Trimble.  Will the 22-year old now projected to land in the middle of the second round by nbadraft.net return for his senior season?  Even if the junior departs, there’s a solid base in College Park with the freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson.  Not to mention redshirt Micah Thomas. Will six-foot-ten center Bruno Fernando be the inside answer?  Come back next winter.  

I didn’t know the Musketeers were that loaded- Xavier is the only double-digit team to survive the first weekend, and Chris Mack’s team did so after entering the tournament on a 4-7 lurch where three of those wins came against lowly DePaul (I have yet to check with the NCAA office, but I believe until further review one has to refer to the Blue Demons as “lowly DePaul”).  They hadn’t been the same since losing point guard Edmond Sumner and the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game, right?  While the victory over Maryland wasn’t a complete shock their dismembering (91-66) of #3 Florida State was.  Along with fellow Big East newbie, Xavier is flying the conference banner in the regional round.

Virginia (23-11) gained the reputation as “London Perrantes plus four guys from the Y” during a stretch where they lost six of eight…and had trouble shaking that status no matter how many good games Kyle Guy and Marial Shayok produced.  Perrantes was the only Cavalier on the roster in March averaging in double figures (transfer Austin Nichols was dismissed in November after scoring 11 points in his only game for UVa)…and Saturday in the 65-39 loss to Florida the rest of the team shot 14 of 42 (33%).  Perrantes leaves Charlottesville having been the pulse of the team that averaged 28 wins and brought home the school’s second-ever ACC Tournament title.  He leaves a roster of players who need to develop over the next offseason…from Shayok and Guy to Jack Salt (the New Zealander had a season-high 10 rebounds against the Gators) and Isaiah Wilkins (limited by illness in the NCAA’s).  The only commit so far is shooting guard Marco Anthony, so the next floor general will have to come from within the ranks.  Darius Thompson, we presume?

ACC stands for Annoying Conference Collapse- nine schools made the field of 68…and one by one each went down over the weekend.  While nobody had Wake Forest or Miami making the Final Four, Louisville and Notre Dame had each been in the top ten during the regular season.  And both were gone by the end of the weekend.  Same with Florida State and…Duke?  Granted-they lost to South Carolina in Greenville, SC-but the way the Blue Devils had been playing down the stretch their faithful were confident in (and their detractors were fearful of) a Final Four run.  Only North Carolina somehow pulling victory not only out of the jaws but out of the esophagus of defeat against Arkansas kept the league from going 100% sour before the Sweet Sixteen.

Virginia Tech (22-11) ranked last in the ACC in rebounding…and that was before losing top rebounder Chris Clarke to a season-ending ACL injury.  So it was no surprise that the Hokies got crushed on the glass in their 84-74 defeat against Wisconsin…especially when the Badgers blew up everyone’s bracket by bouncing defending national champ Villanova two days later.  But let’s sit back for a second…Virginia Tech made the tournament for the first time in ten years.  And despite a rapidly thinning bench, coach Buzz Williams’ team entered selection Sunday having won six of nine.  While Zach LeDay and Seth Allen have played their final games in maroon and orange, there’s a solid nucleus that has plenty of starting experience (truth be told, LeDay and Allen were coming off the bench by the end of the season).  Another recruiting class for the energetic Williams comes to Blacksburg…and next winter they try to post the school’s third straight winning conference record for the firs time since 1986 (three moves ago, or when they called the Metro home).  Even with a loss to the Badgers, the Hokies’ glass is more than half-full.

From Much-Maligned to Sweet Revenge- the Big Ten was undervalued early and often this winter, culminating with a Selection Sunday slap in the face to multiple teams.  How’d they respond?  Purdue fought back the ghosts of brackets past with two solid wins (including a great punch-counterpunch victory over Iowa State) and their first Regional trip since 2010.  Michigan continued its great play that started well before its 4-0 sweep through the Big Ten Tournament (6-2 in final eight regular season games)…and bounced Oklahoma State before upsetting Louisville.  Wisconsin?  The conference runnerup after being given a #8 seed found a way to eliminate defending champ and overall number one seed Villanova.  Instead of misery this March is filled with magic for the Big Ten-as the league’s three teams alive are tied with the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  Maybe it was because their tournament was held in DC…

VCU (26-9) had issues shooting the three all season…tying for 248th in Division I.  Against an underseeded St. Mary’s (the Gaels were a #7 despite finishing the regular season 22nd in the writer’s rankings) in Salt Lake City the Rams were held to 2-of-13 from outside the arc in an 85-77 loss.  One wonders what sort of seed they would have received if VCU had managed to hold off Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals.  One doesn’t wonder about the force of nature that was JeQuan Lewis:  the senior went down shooting in his final game, leading the Rams with 30 points.  While the Rams return juniors Justin Tillman (2nd in the A-10 in rebounding) and Jonathan Williams (2nd on the team in assists), coach Will Wade won’t as the 34-year old wunderkind gets swept away to rebuild LSU.  Caveat Emptor:  the power conferences are littered with former VCU coaches, from Anthony Grant at Alabama to Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.  And Shaka Smart just went through an 11-22 campaign at Texas.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange finished the season 19-15 much like their inconsistent play mandated:  tipping off an 11am Saturday NIT game.  While Tyler Lydon is off to the NBA, longtime #1 assistant and “coach in waiting” Mike Hopkins is headed to Washington as the Huskies’ head coach.  This allows Jim Boeheim to stay after the 2017-18 season that was originally agreed upon as his retirement date (you know, after the probation that stripped the school of over 100 wins and 2 Big East Tournament titles).  Betty White applauds…

Bracket Busted- my CBSSports.com bracket did not lose a game the first weekend–because the computer site froze between 11:30am and 12:30pm. Epic fail, kids…but let that be a lesson to procrastinators worldwide. Get it done early…and watch suckers like me freak out at the last moment.

Conference Carousel- the ACC’s flameout (especially after last year’s incredible success) in the Big Dance this year reminds me of the Big East in the 1980’s.  1985 saw the league send three schools to the Final Four and post an 18-5 record, before going 4-4 the following March while getting shut out in the Sweet Sixteen.  The Big East bounced back in 1987 with a 14-5 record, two Final Four teams and a third that reached Regional Final.  So  2018 is on notice…

Sunday Night Special- I understand that TNT, TBS and TRU own the first Sunday of the tournament and thus are putting their games on at night for the biggest audience.  But could we move the 9:40 game to 4:40?  The 8:40 game (Duke-South Carolina) was the perfect cherry on Sunday’s games–making UCLA-Cincinnati seem like the cherry’s stem. It’s there but you don’t want to look at it…especially for those of us who have consumed 47 games over 48 hours of watching over four days.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Despite the weather getting cooler as October approaches, it’s most certainly getting hot at more than a few locales in college football. The Coaching Hot Seat fires up again with there already being a pair of casualties.  Thanks LSU, for jettisoning Les Miles last weekend (there goes my title, lead sentence and big chunk of the first paragraph from my rough draft).   But let the record show that in the SEC West, all coaching seats begin rather lukewarm upon the new administration’s arrival.  FIU has also made a coaching change, replacing Ron Turner with Ron Cooper.  This was a shock to many following the program who thought that the coaches name was Ron Cooper to begin with.  They could name Ronald McDonald the interim coach and it still wouldn’t register on the national scale.

This year the seats in the area are rather cool;  that’s what usually happens when you make changes at Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech.  Looking around the expanded area…one sees a little heat up in Happy Valley surrounding Penn State’s James Franklin.  The Nittany Lions are 2-2 to start the season and 16-14 in his tenure…with alumni-embarrassing losses to Pitt and Temple (for shame!).  He’s also 6-11 in the Big Ten…and while Ohio State is playing on another level the State College faithful have to be rankled by defeats to Northwestern and Illinois.  Not to mention a loss to Maryland at home for the first time ever.  Athletic Director Sandy Barbour gave Franklin the “vote of confidence” this week after the team was crushed by #4 Michigan 49-10.  Each of their next three opponents are 3-0 (but let the record show Ohio State’s 3-0 is a lot different than Maryland’s 3-0) and the Nittany Lions’ remaining foes boast a composite 21-6 record.  Rutgers can’t come soon enough.  In the ACC, Boston College’s Steve Addazio has presided over an offense that can’t get out of its own way as the Eagles have dropped 10 straight conference games.  Thankfully Buffalo and UConn are sprinkled in between the Clemsons and Florida States.  Nationally the hot spots are at the usual locales- USC appears to be self-destructing under Clay Helton (did they really send 8 players out for a punt?) while the natives are restless at Auburn (Gus Malzahn began his tenure 19-3 but is 11-12 since).  Both of those schools are more than happy to jettison regimes when things go south…much to the delight of UCLA and Alabama.

Alma Mater Update- no hot seat in Central New York this year as Dino Babers is putting together a program that will contend with the Clemsons and Florida States of the world.  Did I just write that?  That is what a win at UConn will do for my orange-colored glasses.  This week SU faces a 1-3 Notre Dame team that allowed 38 points to Duke at home.  Granted, it’s a neutral site game in the Meadowlands…but one just hopes for a little semi-home cooking.  For those in the DC Metro area, you can get Sal’s Birdland Sassy Sauce at most Wegman’s.

Virginia (1-3) at Duke (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network)- UVa has lost 18 straight road games…dating back to November 2012.  But that is Cavaliers past. Cavaliers present is all about third down:  they rank 13th in the ACC at moving the chains while the defense is last in the conference at getting off the field.  The Blue Devils aren’t much better, ranking 12th in third down efficiency and last in the conference in red zone offense.  Duke is fresh off an upset win at Notre Dame, but the Blue Devils leading rusher Jela Duncan (5.6 yards per carry and 78 yards per game) is on the shelf thanks to a leg injury.  ACC play means Kippy & Buffy move on to reds, and Virginia has some very interesting choices.  This week they open a bottle of Ankida Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir: “a luscious, round mouthfeel lingers with a long-lasting finish of floral notes and white peppercorn”.  Break out the Cantal cheese with Ritz crackers.  Cavaliers come up short, 39-30.

Maryland (3-0) vs Purdue (2-1), 3:30 p.m Saturday (Big Ten Network)- after four weeks away from College Park, the Terps hold homecoming and their conference opener on the same afternoon.  Quarterback Perry Hills and his injured shoulder is listed as probable by coach D.J. Durkin- but the running game is the major reason this team is unbeaten:  Maryland ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing and leads the conference in yards per carry.  The Boilermakers have had issues stopping the run and the pass this fall.  Defensively the challenge is containing David Blough and the second ranked passing game in the Big Ten; the Boilermakers also convert a league-best 59% of third downs.  One huge test for a secondary now minus safety Denzel Conyers (ACL, out for season).  All eyes on junior Josh Woods who makes his first career start.  Could turnovers tell the tale?  Maryland is +5 on the season while Purdue is a Big Ten worst -6.  Terrapins triumph, 36-24.

Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0), 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)- the Midshipmen have owned this rivalry as of late, taking 10 of the last 13 meetings.  But it’s a different world in Colorado Springs:  the Falcons have beaten the Mids in two of their last three meetings out west…and none of Navy’s wins there since 1978 have come by more than a touchdown. Expect another close contest between schools that, despite defending our skies and seas, get things done on the ground.  Both average over 300 yards per game rushing:  Air Force’s attack ranks 2nd in FBS while Navy’s is 5th.  Will Worth may be the wildcard this year- the senior QB is a better passer than his Air Force counterpart Nate Romine.  Midshipmen come up short, 34-31.

Howard loses at Norfolk State, Georgetown falls to Harvard, James Madison defeats Delaware, Richmond tops Towson, William & Mary falls at New Hampshire, Morgan State defeats Delaware State.

Last Week: 5-2.

Overall: 30-5.  Can we survive college football’s “moving month”?