Archives for posts with tag: Nittany Lions

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The second Saturday of November represents a major upgrade in matchups.  No offense to Florida-Georgia, but a pair of one-loss teams in The Swamp pales in comparison to not only two games involving unbeatens but the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the regular season since 2011.  That game was LSU-Alabama played in Tuscaloosa, and that’s exactly the same matchup served up this weekend.  But on the undercard at noon is Penn State-Minnesota.  While both 8-0 teams hung over 50 points on Maryland, one serves as a model for Terps head coach Mike Locksley as he builds his program in the shadow of the Big Ten East’s blueblood programs.

Minnesota has a history just like Maryland; both schools have National Championships to their credit while not enjoying a ton of success in the 21st century.  Each has appeared in more Quick Lane Bowls than Big Ten Championship Games.  They’re also both located in a major metropolitan area and compete for attention with multiple professional franchises.  In addition to those obstacles, while Maryland is primarily thought of as a basketball school, the University of Minnesota is a hockey school through and through; the late Herb Brooks won three NCAA championships there before directing the US team to 1980’s “Miracle on Ice”.  Just as the Terps are the red-haired stepchild in a division dominated by Ohio State and Penn State, the Golden Gophers aren’t even the “other school” in the West, standing in line behind Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.

But somehow after going 5-7 and 7-6 in head coach P.under head coach P.J. Fleck the Golden Gophers have scraped through a light September schedule before turning into a steamroller:  their first four wins have come by a combined 20 points, and their four most recent victories have come by an average of 32 points.  Even if they stumble against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa, this has been an incredible season.  Can Maryland follow the Minnesota model?

The first key should be finding the right quarterback and keeping him healthy. Just twice in the last 15 years have the Terps started the same quarterback in every game of the season:  both years have been special (2006 and 2014) relative to the other seasons over that stretch.  But the key is keeping him healthy; and that starts with an offensive line.  Maryland’s front five averages 305 pounds.  That’s how much the lightest lineman for the Golden Gophers weighs;  the unit averages 340 points-and they have a 6-foot-9 400 pounder on the roster.  Until Maryland’s offensive and defensive lines mirror the likes of Minnesota’s, the Terps will be a team with splashy skill guys that have trouble overcoming limited lines.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange have this week off, but that didn’t stop another underwhelming night in the Dome from happening.  But instead of the defense allowing 40+ points it was the offense that scored fewer than 40 points.  The 48-34 loss to Virginia was an agonizing way to begin the men’s basketball season; usually November hoops is the necessary salve for the wounds one gets during the first two months of SU football.  It looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking bleu cheese dressing.

 

Saturday’s Games-

Maryland (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) at No. 3 Ohio State (8-0, 5-0), noon (FOX).

The Terps were an incomplete two-point conversion away from upsetting the Buckeyes last year in overtime.  This year’s team is once again on a downward spiral towards being home for the holidays, while the Buckeyes have a two-game semi-preseason (they face Rutgers next week) before battling unbeaten Penn State and arch-rival Michigan.  Like they need a tune-up: OSU  leads the Big Ten in scoring offense and defense, rushing offense and passing defense. Their pass rush has a conference-high 34 sacks while the attack converts third downs at a mind-numbing 57.3%.  If you’re the Maryland defense that allows the second most points and yards in the Big Ten (thank you Rutgers for being in the conference), who do you stop?  Quarterback Justin Fields, who’s posting a better passer rating than Dwayne Haskins did while throwing 50 TD passes last year?  Or runningback J.K. Dobbins, who’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry when not sounding like he belongs in a Charles Dickens story?  The best Buckeye is actually on the other side of the ball, as defensive end Chase Young has 13.5 sacks on the season.  Good luck to an overmatched and oft-injured offensive line group. FRIDAY UPDATE: OSU is holding the DeMatha Catholic product and Hyattsville MD native out of Saturday’s game due to a potential 2018 NCAA violation.  But the Buckeyes still boast a unit that includes the likes of Malik Taylor (41 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Baron Browning (2.5 sacks).

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 45-10.

 

Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (2-6, 1-4), 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network Extra).  November in the ACC usually brings three questions to the forefront: 1- can Clemson get back in the Playoff, 2- who emerges from the quagmire that is the Coastal Division, and 3-should we make Duke or UNC the men’s basketball favorite?  Actually, the Blue Devils/Tar Heels question is more 1A than 3 there–and let’s be honest, UVa is wondering why the defending National Champs aren’t getting more respect despite losing multiple starters to the NBA.  The Cavaliers can take comfort in the fact that they are two wins away from a first-ever Coastal division title, while the Yellowjackets are the lone division team no longer in contention.  They’re in the first year under head coach Geoff Collins and look like a rebuild from central casting:  last in the ACC in passing, total and scoring offense while also bringing up the rear in stopping the run.  Bryce Perkins prepares to don his Superman’s cape one more time after tallying 490 total yards and five touchdowns against North Carolina.

Kippy & Buffy know that not all heroes wear capes; sometimes they make fantastic wines.  In honor of the Yellowjackets’ 2014 Coastal championship, our favorite tailgating duo open a bottle of Twomey’s 2014 Soda Canyon Ranch Merlot as they pursue their “season of possibilities”.  With aromas that include “black cherry, roasted meat, wet soil, loose pipe tobacco and brioche”, the offshoot of Silver Oak Vineyards provides the palate a “velvet entry, mouthwatering, vanilla flavors and an enticing texture”.  And don’t forget the “integrated tannins, elegant, juicy with a long finish and return.”  

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers continue to follow their Coastal compass in a 34-16 win.

 

Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2 ACC) vs. No. 22 Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (ACC Net).

The Hokies and Demon Deacons get together a few weeks before the fifth year anniversary of the last time they met on the football field.  Remember that dark day in Winston-Salem?  The 6-3 double-overtime win by Wake that was even more as soul-sucking as it sounds and was the metaphorical beginning of the end of the Frank Beamer era as he was captured on video celebrating a missed field goal at the end of regulation but with the 0-0 score in graphics to frame the shot.  The Demon Deacons bring a much better offense into Blacksburg this time, leading the ACC in passing while ranking second in scoring. Even in their lone loss, quarterback Jamie Newman and company put 59 points on the board against Louisville.  The Hokies are coming off of a tough loss at Notre Dame where the offense completed 32% of their passes and gained 2.8 yards per rush.  Wake’s no Fighting Irish on defense, but they lead the conference in turnover margin and are third best at getting off of the field on third down.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies come up short, 27-20.

 

Howard loses to South Carolina State, James Madison beats New Hampshire, Richmond slips at Villanova, William & Mary tops Rhode Island, Towson tumbles at Stony Brook, Morgan State falls against North Carolina A&T.

Last Week: 6-4.

Overall: 63-28.

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More isn’t always better; sometimes it’s just more.  College football rules the roost on Saturdays between Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekend, and Thursday night football has been a fixture for over 20 years.  As previously mentioned in this space, college actually does Thursdays better because more often than not the teams playing are coming off of bye weeks and even those that aren’t have had four days off instead of the NFL’s three (and with a larger roster to eat up snaps).  Expansion to Friday only seemed the next logical move, and when it comes to Friday games I don’t count Labor Day’s opening weekend nor do I count the day after Thanksgiving due to the fact both are “holiday Fridays”.  But it’s not necessarily better, nor welcome.  Instead of the Thursday night island, distinct enough of an entity to have its own sense of place; Friday night feels like the sand bar at low tide.  And just like Sundays belong to the NFL, Fridays should belong to high school football.  I mean, has nobody read the book or watched the movie/TV show “Friday Night Lights”?   (Aside: if you stopped watching the show during season two’s murder storyline, I’d understand).

One of the reasons I was happy Syracuse was leaving the Big East was that at the time the ACC didn’t have Friday night games.  Now they do, as is the case with everybody but the SEC (even the ten-member Big 12 has Kansas playing on a Friday night this year).  And this is the third season of Friday night football in the tradition-rich Big Ten; it was only a matter of time before Maryland would have to close down its campus for classes on a Friday and host one of these games.  I get it. For schools and conferences that aren’t major brands it’s a great way to be in the spotlight as opposed to being buried as one of 50+ games on a Saturday.  But just because one can play games on a night previously reserved solely for the feeder system to your sport doesn’t mean you should for some TV bucks.  And just because I’m not a fan of the 21st Century version of Friday Night Lights doesn’t mean I won’t watch when teams I cover or root for are playing. Clear eyes, full hearts. Right?

Alma Mater Update- the Orange host Holy Cross Saturday at noon.  I do believe “Syracuse-Holy Cross” is Greek for “noon kickoff”, although I’ve been wrong before. I’ve also been wrong in supporting my school this fall. As I realized over the weekend, SU is outscoring foes 65-17 when I’m not watching/listening (thank you 1180 AM in Rochester for your long reach after dark) while I’ve witnessed them getting outscored 120-37.  Surely I can cut into that deficit while watching the Orange roast an FCS team, right?  I’m still on the fence–it’s been one of those years.

 

Thursday’s Game:

Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC) at Memphis (3-0), 8 p.m. (ESPN). 

Both teams are off to dominant starts, but while the Midshipmen are outscoring the opposition 87-17 those wins have come against Holy Cross (1-2 with a three-point win over New Hampshire) and East Carolina (winless against FBS schools).  The Tigers have beaten an SEC school (Ole Miss counts, believe it or not) and have also won on the road (South Alabama isn’t the Crimson Tide, but the Jaguars are in FBS).  They also finally decided the “Brady Brawl” at quarterback:  Brady White starts while Brady McBride transferred to Texas State.  Even with last year’s one-point loss in Annapolis, the Tigers won the AAC West and they look better this season.   And while Navy’s much better than last year’s 3-10 nightmare, a prime time game on the road might be too much to ask.

Presto’s Pick: Mids come up short, 35-24.

 

Friday’s Games:

Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-1 ACC) vs. Duke (2-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN). 

After a week off, the Hokies rollercoaster ride continues with a date against the Blue Devils.  Both schools lost Labor Day weekend, but while the Hokies coughed up a winnable game at Boston College the Blue Devils were blown out by No. 2 Alabama (somewhere there has to be that oddball who roots for Duke football and Alabama basketball).  Duke has also dominated in its two wins while Virginia Tech has struggled to scrape past Old Dominion and Furman.  Daniel Jones may be off to the NFL, but Quentin Harris is completing 73% of his passes and unlike ODU’s Sterling Smartt or Furman’s Darren Grainger actually saw action on the field last year.  The Blue Devils also keep Harris upright:  Duke has allowed an ACC-low eight sacks this fall while the Hokies pass rush has been somewhat lacking.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies are humbled, 21-16.

 

Maryland (2-1) vs. No. 12 Penn State (3-0), 8 p.m. (FS1).

The rivalry that isn’t has two Eastern schools in a Midwest-based league kicking off conference play.  The Terps’ tumble at Temple robs what could have been some serious buzz around this game.  Instead, prepare yourselves for a Penn State invasion:  College Park is the closest Big Ten campus from Beaver Stadium and there are plenty of alumni and Nittany Lion fans inside the beltway (including one or two that work at WTOP).  Maryland owns the conference’s top-ranked running game and the defense that ranks second-best in sacks is also third best in getting off of the field on third down.  Penn State’s led by first-year starting quarterback Sean Clifford, and while he’s put up decent numbers (facing Idaho and Buffalo will do that) the sophomore is directing an offense that ranks last in the Big Ten on third down conversions.

Presto’s Picks: Terrapins tumble, 24-17.

 

Saturday’s Games:

No. 18 Virginia (4-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-1), 3:30 p.m. (NBC).

The Fighting Irish are coming off of a six-point loss at No. 3 Georgia, just the kind of tough defeat that may have actually helped their chances at getting into the College Football Playoff.  As crazy as this sounds, the Cavaliers are currently the highest ranked foe remaining on their schedule (Michigan has dropped to No. 20 and USC is No. 21).  Ian Book threw for 275 yards in the loss to the Bulldogs.  Even though UVa’s defense has allowed just three second-half touchdowns this fall (and two were while holding a 30-plus point lead over William & Mary), Book is better than any of the four QB’s they’ve faced.  Bronco Mendenhall’s ground game took a step back against Old Dominion (27 carries for 85 yards when accounting for sacks), and that’s a shame because Notre Dame allows over 200 yards per game rushing.

Kippy & Buffy realize if you can’t beat them, tailgate with them.  Knowing that Irish are stereotypically redheads, their plan is to enjoy a bottle of Mount Veeder 2017 Chardonnay: “On the nose, beautiful and delicate floral aromas of jasmine marry with sweeter notes of honeysuckle and candied ginger. A very subtle hint of vanilla creme and toffee from the oak aging emerge on the lingering finish.”  Let the record show that Kippy & Buffy are cool with redheads, as Thomas Jefferson founded the University.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers linger into the second half but come up short, 30-18.

 

Howard slips to Bethune-Cookman, Georgetown loses at Columbia, James Madison beats Elon, Towson tumbles at Florida, Richmond beats Fordham, William & Mary edges Albany.

Last Week: 4-2. Overall: 25-8.

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Thanksgiving weekend gives college football the crescendo of arch-rivals clashing across the country.  In-state matchups like Alabama-Auburn and Clemson-South Carolina have playoff ramifications, while Michigan and Ohio State play for more than just a Big Ten East title and the usual bragging rights.  USC has spoiled Notre Dame’s National Championship hopes in the past;  this year the Trojans are fighting not just the Irish but for bowl eligibility (and relevance).  The second-tier affairs range from something tangible (Washington-Washington State is for the Pac-12 North) to something else (Ole Miss-Mississippi State I believe decides if eggs in the Magnolia State will be poached or scrambled over the next calendar year) to nothing at all (let’s not kid ourselves, Indiana and Purdue are fully focused on hoops).  But regardless of the stakes, college football’s rivalries deliver dislike and begrudging respect.

Which brings us to Maryland’s situation as a dancer without a true partner.  For years the Terps thought of themselves as Virginia’s ACC rival, and the Cavaliers thumbed their nose north by saying their true football foe was North Carolina (dubbed “the South’s Oldest Rivalry”) even though the Tar Heels laughed every time that was uttered.  Virginia Tech supplanted the Terrapins as the ACC’s northernmost rivalry before they left the league.  Which brings us to the Big Ten:  there are two schools in decent proximity of College Park. Penn State will have nothing to do with a rivalry with anyone–let alone Maryland.  And given how Rutgers has been either a dumpster or tire fire since joining the Big Ten, do you really want to use the Scarlet Knights as a measuring stick or focal point for your program?  One of the cases for lagging attendance at Maryland has been the fact that the must-win games like West Virginia, Virginia or even Clemson have disappeared off the slate.  Until they find a worthy partner, the Terps will be dancing with themselves when it matters most.

Alma Mater Update- a tradition continues on Chesnut Hill. No, I’m not trying to palm off the Syracuse-Boston College game as anything but a season-ending battle to see who gets to avoid the Pinstripe Bowl…even though banners from said bowl actually hang in the Carrier Dome to my dismay.  But for years I would travel to watch the Orange play on the road with my roommate from freshman year.  Since we left SU, we each have moved across the country and back.  We’ve carved out careers and have lived lives neither of us fully expected when we shared room #220 in Shaw.  So Saturday if you happen to stumble anywhere near Alumni Stadium, watch out for the two guys wearing orange hats and giving each other high fives when SU scores its lone touchdown against BC.  Go Orange…

Friday’s Game-

Virginia (7-4, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. (ABC).

You may have heard that the Cavaliers haven’t beaten the Hokies since Tech joined the ACC in 2004.  In the fourteen game losing streak, four of the games have been one-possession affairs.  Two of those losses prevented the UVa from reaching a bowl, so as they face the weakest Virginia Tech team in over 25 years there’s a chance for sweet revenge.  These Hokies rank 11th in the ACC in scoring and in points allowed.  If a bowl-bound Virginia led by dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins doesn’t beat Virginia Tech this year, when will they?  Ending a sorry streak is always a tough task, but Kippy & Buffy plan to do their part by breaking out a bottle of Chateau O’Brien 2013 Mourvèdre.  “The smell of Mourvèdre is an explosion of dark fruit, flowers like violet and herbaceous aromas of black pepper, thyme, and red meat.  The variety can be a difficult grape to grow, preferring “its face in the hot sun and its feet in the water.”

Cavaliers finally get to have their faces in the hot sun, 27-16.

 

Saturday’s Games-

Navy (3-8, 2-5 AAC) at Tulane (5-6, 4-3), noon (ESPNU).

The Midshipmen’s tour of colored singular foes continues, but they’ll find the Green Wave a little tougher than the Tulsa Golden Hurricane:  Tulane has won three of four behind backup quarterback Justin McMillan.  Zach Abey is coming off of his best day (128 yards and two touchdowns rushing) since suffering a shoulder injury last season, but the Green Wave are one of the better teams at stopping the run in the conference.  Their 33 sacks are also tied for the AAC lead, but that won’t help much against the Navy option.  At the other end of the pass rush spectrum are the Mids, who are tied for last with just eight sacks on the season.  That will hurt.

Midshipmen stumble, 35-30. 

 

Maryland (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) at #15 Penn State (8-3, 5-3), 3:30 p.m. (ABC).

One week after losing to Ohio State by one and two weeks after losing by two at Indiana, the Terps have a final shot at bowl eligibility.  The Nittany Lions are coming off an underwhelming win over Rutgers, and three of their other seven wins are one-possession affairs.  Senior quarterback Trace McSorley is having his best year as a runner and his worst season as a passer.  The Nittany Lions don’t have Saquon Barkley in their backfield this year, but junior Miles Sanders is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.  Expect freshman Anthony McFarland to continue his November to remember (525 yards rushing over three games this month) against the 10th rated defense against the run in the Big Ten, but the lack of a consistent passing game will once again torment the Terps on chilly afternoon.

Terrapins tumble, 34-22.

 

FCS Playoffs:

Towson (7-4) vs. Duquesne (8-3), 2 p.m. (ESPN3).  The Tigers make the tournament for the first time since they reached the 2013 championship game.  The team’s turnaround this fall can be traced to transfer Tom Flacco (younger brother of Ravens QB Joe) who has helped the school lead the CAA in passing yards, total offense and scoring.  Problem is, Rob Ambrose’s defense is at near the bottom of every defensive category in the conference–except against the run where they lead the league.  Good thing these Dukes bear little resemblance to their James Madison namesakes:  five of their eight wins were one-possession affairs.  It’s an early exit for the automatic-qualifying Northeast Conference champs.

Towson triumphs, 33-25.

James Madison (8-3) vs. Delaware (7-4), 3 p.m. (ESPN3).  A rare first round game between fellow conference members was made possible because the Dukes and Blue Hens did not play during the regular season;  if we go by the old NFL tiebreaker of “common opponents” JMU has the 5-2 to 4-3 edge.  They also have the edge on third down:  coach Mike Houston’s team ranks first in the CAA at moving the chains while his defense is fourth best at getting off the field on the money down.  Delaware-not so much.  Although we’ve seen Danny Rocco-coached teams come out of Harrisonburg with upsets in the past,  the Blue Hens enter this postseason with two straight losses.  The Dukes will likely make it three.

Dukes defeat Delaware, 31-16.

 

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 61-39.

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Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday growing up…where to this day even the bad ones are better than most.  As college football’s regular season winds down, the local table is bountiful:  James Madison’s unbeaten season is the turkey at the center of the table.  The Dukes have gone 11-0 as defending FCS champs and begin their tournament run next weekend as the number one seed.  The dressing/stuffing (I believe one is elected, the other is appointed) is Navy and Virginia Tech being pleasantly surprised with the success of first year quarterbacks Zach Abey and Josh Jackson.  Maryland’s injury issues are the mashed potatoes that no matter how much you eat, there’s still more on your plate.  Virginia’s best season since 2011 is the pumpkin pie with whipped cream after the Cavaliers have been stuck with mincemeat for the last few Novembers (which in the right hands is awesome, and in the wrong ones tastes like cigarrette ash and shoelaces).

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange wrap up the 2017 campaign with a game against Boston College.  The completely rational fans who wanted to lock up Dino Babers with a 50-year contract now want to fire the coach pronto.  Year two of the rebuild went as much as one would expect…as SU now moves on completely to hoops.  Wasn’t it cool to see Jimmy Boeheim hit a three for Cornell earlier this month?  I hear his dad had a special nose-pick prepared just for the moment.  The fact that Tommy DeVito was able to redshirt makes this fall a winning one.  No pressure, kid.  Just the hopes and dreams of Central New York plus Jersey Boys and Goodfellas fans looking for a college football outlet.

 

Friday-

Navy (6-4, 4-3 AAC) at Houston (6-4, 4-3), noon (ESPN).  The two previous West Division winners battle for second place in the division after recent stumbles (Mids began the year 5-0 while the Cougars started 4-1).  Zach Abey leads the conference’s best ground game (360.5 yards per game) into the teeth of the second best run defense in the AAC.  Houston’s played multiple quarterbacks this fall- sophomore D’Eriq King looked great against East Carolina and so-so against Tulane.  The second worst-kept secret in the conference is that the Cougars allow a ton of yards through the air.  The worst-kept secret is that Navy passes the ball just over nine times per game.  Midshipmen fall, 34-23.

 

Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia (6-5, 3-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN).  It may have been mentioned once or twice this fall that the Cavaliers haven’t beaten the Hokies since 2003.  That means that not only has no “fourth-year” student (because they don’t have “seniors” at Virginia because one is always learning) at UVa seen the Cavs beat Virginia Tech, nobody they went to school with went to school with anyone who went to school with anyone who was a student when Al Groh’s team topped Frank Beamer’s bunch 35-21.  That Hokie team ended the season with five losses in seven games…and this year’s edition has struggled in the final month of the season with two defeats and a near-disaster against Pitt.  Cavaliers QB Kurt Benkert is coming off of his highest rated game of the season, but the Hokies are the best in the ACC at getting off of the field on third down. Kippy & Buffy wrap up their regular season of tailgating with a Chateau O’Brien 2012 Limited Harvest Tannat:  “full bodied, dense & concentrated – with black fruit flavors & a silky smooth finish”Cavaliers finish their first winning season in seven years with a silky-smooth 27-23 victory.

 

Saturday-

Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) vs #10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2), 3:30 (Big Ten Network).  The Terps wrap up a season that began with the bang of an upset win at Texas by looking to send their seniors out in style.  Unlike the last three Novembers, they won’t be finishing the season against Rutgers–instead it’s longtime nemesis Penn State.  Forget the 2014 win in Happy Valley–the Nittany Lions are 37-2-1 in the series and last lost in College Park when JFK was President.  Can a Terrapins defense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten against the run and 13th against the pass contain the one-two punch of dual threat quarterback Trace McSorley and dual threat runningback Saquon Barkley?  Offensively the focus will be DJ Moore early and often (he has 72 of the team’s 154 receptions)…and that might not be enough to keep pace.  Terrapins tumble, 45-17.

 

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.

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So…Penn State is back.  One year removed from coach James Franklin being on the rumored hot seat with a 2-2 start that involved a close loss to Pitt (for shame!) and a 39-point drubbing at Michigan (oh the humanity!), the Nittany Lions are as good as anyone not named Alabama.  The defending Big Ten champs made a major statement Saturday night by routing the once-top ten but suddenly sinking Wolverines 42-13.  Trace McSorley has developed into the senior leader that Christian Hackenberg with all of is untapped potential never could.  Saquon Barkley provides just the right counter-punch on the ground.  And the defense ranks 7th in FBS against the pass, 17th against the run and 10th overall while allowing the fewest points in the nation.  How far has this program come?  Franklin was 16-14 at Happy Valley after the loss to the Wolverines last year.  Penn State is 16-1 since that defeat.  Last year many thought their Big Ten Championship merited their inclusion in the College Football Playoff.  If they can win road games at #6 Ohio State and 16th ranked Michigan State over the next two weeks, it’ll take a major catastrophe to keep coach Franklin and company out of the Final Four this year.

Alma Mater Update- so maybe Penn State is back…and even though the Orange lost at Miami 27-19 maybe SU is finding its proper place again.  Syracuse’s 27-19 loss to Miami saw plenty of promise…and somehaow they were still in the game late despite four first half interceptions.  Just like the LSU game they were a couple plays shy of winning on the road at a more talented team.  I’m not saying the days of 9-3 and 8-4 are back, but the baby steps taken last year by Dino Babers’ program are now being followed by adolescent steps instead of toddler ones.  Who do they have next?  Ugh…at Florida State.

 

Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) went into #5 Wisconsin and lost 38-13.  The biggest surprise was that the Terps had the ball for over ten minutes in the first quarter…and still went scoreless.  Terrapin Triumphs:  the tailback tandem of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison averaged more than five yards a carry after behind held to 2.68 the week before.  Darnell Savage (fumble recovery) and Josh Woods (interception) tallied first half takeaways to give the offense prime field position when the game was still close.  Terrapin Troubles:  the offense converted just one of seven third down attempts in the first half, settling for a field goal after getting the ball at the Badgers 5 and failing to reach the Wisconsin 30 on any of their other possessions before intermission.  The defense bent and then broke, allowing points on three of Wisconsin’s second half possessions.  Next:  Saturday against 3-4 Indiana. 

Virginia (5-2, 2-1 ACC) was stunned at home by a Boston College team much better than their record suggested…falling to the Eagles 41-10.  The good news is they still control their Coastal Division destiny.  The bad news is UVa’s November schedule involves four schools that are a combined 21-6.  Cavalier Congrats:  Quin Blanding notched 13 tackles to once again lead the defense–it’s my firm opinion the senior safety can make 10 stops in his sleep.  Lester Coleman averaged over 50 yards per punt for the third time this season.  Cavalier Concerns:  the defense was burned by the big play, allowing a pair of 76-yard touchdowns in the first quarter.  BC converted 5 of 6 third downs in the opening period while UVa was held to 34 yards on 12 plays the first three times they had the ball.  The defense then allowed a pair of scoring drives to open the second half.  Next:  Saturday at 3-5 Pitt.

#13 Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1 ACC) qualified for bowl eligibility while eliminating North Carolina from postseason contention in a game that wasn’t as close as the 59-7 score would indicate.  Hokie Highlights:  the defense held UNC to 3 of 17 on third down, sacking Tar Heel quarterbacks six times while intercepting them twice.   Greg Stroman returned a punt for a first quarter TD.  Josh Jackson threw three touchdown passes while not committing a turnover.  Hokie Humblings:  I can’t even get upset at Joey Slye’s missed 47 yard field goal after this game.  Seven penalties isn’t great either, but 52-point conference victories don’t come by too often.  Next:  Saturday against 4-4 Duke.

Navy (5-2, 3-2 AAC) lost for the second straight Saturday to a team with just a little more firepower…this time slipping at home 31-21 to UCF.  The best division race in college football nobody’s talking about?  Unbeatens UCF and South Florida in the AAC East.  Midshipmen Medals:  Zach Abey rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown and threw for a 75-yard score…and the offense converted 9 of 17 third downs.  Sean Williams led the team with 11 tackles.  Midshipmen Miscues:  the defense allowed 9.8 yards per pass and 5.9 yards per run while allowing the Knights to convert 8 of 13 third downs.  Three more turnovers tormented the Mids again, as a fourth quarter fumble and interception helped seal their second straight defeat.  Next: Thursday, November 2nd at 3-5 Temple.