Archives for posts with tag: Oklahoma

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Welcome to Conference Championship Week, where the winners advance to the College Football Playoff–sometimes.  Sorry, Virginia-your reward if somehow you pull off an upset of defending national champ Clemson in the ACC Championship Game likely won’t even be a trip to New Year’s Day (due to an accounting move, the Orange Bowl will be played December 30 this year).  I know that’s not how it works in men’s basketball or lacrosse, or even in football at EVERY OTHER LEVEL (good luck James Madison against Monmouth).

The sport with the best regular season and most unwieldy postseason enters its cocoon stage.  Don’t worry-you loved the three month caterpillar and you’re going to enjoy the Championship Game butterfly next month. Bear with them.  First we get a slate of exhibitions that will determine which school gets into the New Orleans (Sun Belt Conference) or the Las Vegas (Mountain West Conference) Bowls.  Conference USA’s winner gets to pick from a group of games if they’re not the “Group of Five” team, while the MAC and AAC send schools to bowls based partially on geography (meaning the schools competing may already know their destination regardless of Saturday’s result).

Then the curtains close and the 13-member committee determines which four schools advance, and the dust settles on the rest of the 41 bowls (really-41??).  To take even more air out of the ball, Ohio State and LSU are expected to make the playoff even if they lose their respective title tilts.  There are those that want an eight-team playoff (I am one of them), and with five schools in the “Power Five” it almost makes too much sense.  But just like we had to sit through 20 years of the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and Bowl Championship Series, we’ve got the current system for a few years more.  You can always do fantasy fields of eight-team brackets like I do on cocktail napkins.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange just happen to reside in the “tough” ACC division, the Atlantic. While the Clemson juggernaut is dominating the league at this moment, don’t forget the dormant monster that is Florida State (2013 BCS winners).  It’s going to be tough to return to an era when SU won or shared five Big East titles from 1996 to 2012.

 

Friday’s Game-

Pac 12 : No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon, 8 p.m., Santa Clara, CA. (ABC).

What’s at stake:  a potential playoff berth for the Utes if things drop right, or further proof that this league eats its own if the Ducks prevail.

Rematch?: the two schools didn’t play this year, although the Utes won the 2018 matchup in Salt Lake City 32-25.

Players to watch:  Utah defensive end Bradley Anae brings 12.5 sacks to the Bay Area, and his goal is to disrupt Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (67% completion rate, 3,140 passing yards with at 31-5 touchdown to interception ratio).

Fun Fact:  the South Division is 1-7, with the lone victory coming when the South representative is the higher ranked team.  That’s the case this year.

Presto’s Pick: Utes make their case with a 35-30 win.  Will it fall on deaf ears?

 

Saturday’s Games-

Big 12: No 6. Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Baylor, noon, Arlington, TX (ABC).

What’s at stake: in theory this should be for an automatic berth in a six or eight team field, instead the winner won’t even have a headstart against Utah for “who’s number four?” if the Utes win the night before.  And heaven forbid if Georgia somehow wins…

Rematch: OU trailed 28-3 in Waco November 16 before dialing up a rally for the ages, storming back for a 34-31 win where Baylor threw a last-minute interception.

Players to watch: Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts picked up where Kyler Murray left off, one year after Murray picked up where Baker Mayfield left off.  In other news, I am seriously thinking about transferring to Oklahoma in the offseason.  The Bears rely on the pass as well, but when they run John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty average over six yards per carry.

Fun Fact:  Oklahoma is 9-1 in this game, with their only defeat coming in 2003 when as the top-ranked team in the nation they were blasted 35-7 by Kansas State.  Ell Robertston is not walking through that door.

Presto’s Pick:  Sooners stir up the pot with a 41-22 whipping.

 

Meanwhile, the Sun Belt (UAB-Florida Atlantic), Conference USA (Louisiana-Appalachian State), MAC (Miami (OH)-Central Michigan), AAC (Cincinnati-Memphis), and Mountain West (Boise State-Hawaii) will play all of their games in the early to mid-afternoon shadows. These conference championship games have no playoff implications whatsoever, although the AAC champ and Boise State have shots at being the “group of five” team that plays in a “New Year’s six” bowl.  If the Big 12 game is a blowout, run your holiday errands at this time.

 

SEC: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia, 4 p.m., Atlanta (CBS).

What’s at stake: if the Bulldogs win, they’re in.  Alabama’s loss to Auburn makes LSU’s playoff inclusion a near-certainty, further cementing the college football theory that “every game matters”.

Rematch?: the two schools last met in 2018 when the Tigers tore through the Bulldogs 36-16.

Players to watch: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (78% completion rate with 4,366 yards passing and 44 touchdowns) is the Heisman Trophy favorite.  Georgia runningback D’Andre Swift rushed for 1,203 yards but is bothered by a shoulder injury.

Fun Fact: this will be the fourth meeting in this game between these two schools, making it the second-most common matchup (Alabama & Florida have played for the title nine times).

Presto’s Pick:  Tigers triumph, 24-16.

 

ACC- No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 23 Virginia, 7:30 p.m. Charlotte, NC (ABC).

What’s at stake:  the unbeaten team nobody’s talking about looks to cement its spot after playing an underwhelming schedule, while the Cavaliers look to continue an incredible year that saw men’s basketball and lacrosse teams win national championships.  An upset would likely also pull the Tigers out of the playoff.

Rematch?: the longtime conference foes haven’t met since November of 2013, a day in Charlottesville where Clemson won 59-10. For the record, Kippy & Buffy enjoyed a pregame tailgate Chateau O’Brien Malbec that day :”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”.

Players to watch:  Tigers runningback Travis Etienne averaged over eight yards per carry while posting seven 100-yard rushing games; he’d have better numbers but sat a lot of second-half blowouts.  While Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins wore the Superman’s Cape all year, their linebacking corps deserves notice: Zane Zandier (team-high 85 tackles), Jordan Mack (7.5 sacks), Noah Taylor (6.5 sacks with two interceptions) and Charles Snowden will have one tough task Saturday.

Fun Fact: Kippy & Buffy make their way to Charlotte, and it’s not just a first-ever Coastal Division crown they’re celebrating. Fellow alums Henry & Hildy live in the Ballantyne neighborhood, and Hildy was just made partner at her law firm. So a bottle of Chateau O’Brien’s 2012 Late Harvest Tannat will be opened at the tailgate;  it’s a non-fortified Port-style wine.  “During ripening, natural sugar accumulation reaches a level beyond the capacity of a natural yeast fermentation. No wine language can eloquently articulate the elegance of this wine.” We’ll go with “Big Boat”.

Presto’s Pick:  Cavaliers are gonna need a bigger boat, getting blasted 44-17.

 

Big Ten- #1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wisconsin, 8 p.m., Indianapolis (FOX).

What’s at stake- like LSU in the SEC, the Buckeyes are likely headed to the Playoff barring a 40-point loss.  The Badgers can tie OSU with a third victory in the nine-year old  title game.

Rematch?:  you bet. The Buckeyes bludgeoned the Badgers 38-7 in Columbus October 26. J.K. Dobbins-despite sounding like a character from a Charles Dickens story-rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the rout.

Players to watch:  Ohio State’s Chase Young posted four of his 16.5 sacks this season against Wisconsin during the October win; one assumes they’ll have a better plan this time. Jonathan Taylor may have led the Big Ten with 1,761 yards rushing, but he was held to 52 yards on 20 tries by the Buckeyes D in October.

Fun Fact: Michigan has appeared in as many Big Ten Football Championship Games as Maryland and Rutgers.

Presto’s Pick:  Buckeyes bring it, 31-10.

 

Last Week: 2-1.  I picked UVa the last two years and swore I wouldn’t again until they beat the Hokies. Congratulations.

Overall: 84-35.

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College football loves to build up weekends around themes- from “Rivalry Week” to “Showdown Saturday” to “Rutgers isn’t scheduled at noon”.  They could have billed this past weekend as one of those “Separation Saturdays”:  previously unbeaten Minnesota and Baylor both fell for the first time this fall. The Golden Gophers were handcuffed by Iowa on the road while the Bears blew a 28-3 first half lead at home to Oklahoma.  Both schools were making cases for being in the College Football Playoff picture while rolling up either less-than-impressive wins or victories against less-than-impressive foes.  November football has a way of sorting things out.  Alabama (9-1) may have steamrolled Mississippi State, but the Crimson Tide lose quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the rest of the season with a dislocated hip. They still have Auburn in two weeks and won’t play in the SEC Championship game unless No. 1 LSU loses to Arkansas (0-6 in the SEC) and Texas A&M.   This week’s Final Four:  LSU, Ohio State, Clemson & Georgia.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange somehow came out of the bye week on fire and roasted Duke 49-6.  This keeps the faint bowl hopes alive, with rebuilding Louisville and fading Wake Forest on the horizon.  Can you say “Pinstripe Bowl possibilities”?  I’m just happy that SU didn’t go winless in the ACC after being ranked in the preseason.  It’s like getting an order of wings and realizing you didn’t get all flats after all.

 

Navy (7-2) saw things get late early in South Bend; the 52-20 loss at Notre Dame saw the Fighting Irish take a 38-0 lead before the Mids got on the board.  Thankfully this won’t affect their status in the AAC West, but head coach Ken Niumatalolo needs to get this loss out of his team’s head pronto.  They can’t let the Fighting Irish beat them on successive Saturdays.  Easy to say when you’re not an 18-to-22 year old.

Midshipmen Medals: Malcolm Perry ran for 117 yards while Mychal Cooper caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.  Jacob Springer and Diego Fagot each notched ten tackles.  Owen White averaged 41.7 yards per punt while Bijan Nichols made both of his field goal attempts.

Midshipmen Miscues: four fumbles led to 28 points for Notre Dame;  the first two helped put Navy down 21-0 with 12:32 left in the second quarter.  The passing game that was supposed to take flight this fall completed 4-13 attempts on a day when they needed to rally.  The defense allowed six touchdowns plus a field goal on their first seven possessions.  While they contained the Fighting Irish running game (3.4 yards per carry), the secondary was roasted for 305 yards on 22 attempts.

Saturday: at 3:30 p.m. against 9-1 SMU.

 

Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) may have been wondering in early October if this turnover-prone team with a rather accommodating defense could scrape together enough wins to keep its bowl streak intact.  As we enter the second half of November the Hokies are two wins away from returning to the ACC Championship Game (VT has won the Coastal six times in fourteen years), and their 45-0 rout of Georgia Tech puts division-leading Virginia and defending Coastal champ Pitt on notice.

Hokie Highlights: Hendon Hooker completed 9-13 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown while running for two more scores. And no fumbles or interceptions.  The running game pounded out 258 yards, with this week’s trick play involving a 49-yard scamper from freshman Tayvion Robinson.  Alan Tisdale notched a pair of sacks as the defense held the Yellow Jackets to 2-15 on third down and posted its first shutout since their 10-0 blanking of Virginia in 2017.  That Hokies D posted three shutouts en route to a 9-4 season.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 45.5 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings:  tough to find one in as thorough a rout as this one.  The offense moved the chains on just 3-10 third downs.  I’m sure the postgame meal could have been better as well.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. vs. 7-3 Pitt.

 

 

 

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College football gives us plenty of thrills on a weekly basis, and there’s nothing like the surprise of an upset percolating and then happening.  Especially when it involves an unbeaten or a conference leader falling to an unranked foe.  October saw top ten teams Georgia, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma get surprised by league foes;  very few had any falling-that’s why they’re called surprises.  But while the SEC and Big Ten brass simply moved on to the next week the Big 12 higher-ups were likely punching holes in their hats.  Because until we live in a world where there’s an eight-team playoff that gives all Power Five Conference champs automatic berths into the College Football Playoff, the last thing a league wants is to see its last unbeaten lose before November.  Just ask the Pac-12, a conference that’s eaten its own with a nine-game league schedule.  Saturday night No. 11 Oregon needed a last-second field goal to avoid upset against Washington State, and I’m sure the league office was holding its breath as one of its two one-loss teams drove the length of the field with under a minute to play.  As long as the 13-member committee is looking for “intangibles” when it puts together a four-team field, one of the best things the game has to offer is actually the worst that can happen for the conferences that have their eyes on the playoff participation payout (six million dollars for each team selected to the playoff).

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange continue their collision course with under .500 by losing at Florida State 35-17.  SU’s moving month turned into several steps backwards as the 0-3 October likely sentences the team to an early offseason.  The Ghosts of Seasons Past thinks of 1986, when the Orange finished 5-6 after reaching a bowl the previous fall.

 

Maryland (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) went to No. 17 Minnesota with hopes that having running back Anthony McFarland and quarterback Josh Jackson healthy again could turn the tide of a season that was slipping away.  Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers lived up to their 7-0 record and torched the Terps 52-10.  Adding injury to insult, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome left the game with a leg injury.  The quarterback carousel continues in College Park.

Terrapin Triumphs:  this team may be sub-.500, but they make big plays.  Javon Leake had a 59-yard catch and a 41-yard kick return, Tayon Fleet-Davis added a 33-yard run, and Marcus Lewis had a 40-yard interception return.

Terrapin Troubles: the passing game earned a failing grade, as the combination of Pigrome, Josh Jackson, and freshman Tyler DeSue combined to complete 10 of 23 passes for 131 yards and two interceptions.  The first INT set up the Golden Gopher’s first touchdown the other was returned for a score.  The defense allowed 321 yards rushing at 5.9 yards per carry.

Next: Saturday at noon against 6-2 Michigan.

 

Virginia (5-3, 3-2 ACC) continues to confound as the Cavaliers followed up an unexpected blowout of Coastal contender Duke with a 28-21 loss at rebuilding Louisville.  After taking a 14-7 lead, UVa went into an offensive funk that included 43 yards on its first 16 plays in the second half.  Thank goodness the Coastal is a quagmire-it’s the only division in FBS where the leader has two losses.

Cavalier Congrats: Hasise Dubois caught 7 passes for 93 yards, while Wayne Taulapapa ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns.  Eli Hanback had two sacks in his six tackles to power the pass rush that finished with four sacks.

Cavalier Concerns:  just 22 called runs, including only three carries for Taulapapa after halftime.  Bryce Perkins threw for 233 yards, but averaged under 10 yards per completion (and 5.5 per attempt).  The defense allowed 5.0 yards per carry and 227 on the afternoon.  Eight penalties for 70 yards made life that much tougher on the road.

Next:  Saturday at 7:30 against 4-4 North Carolina.

 

Navy (6-1,4-1 AAC) looked like it was in control against Tulane, only to let a 24-point first half lead evaporate after intermission.  They were able to prevail on a last-second field goal by freshman Bijan Nichols, but the 41-38 win will give head coach Ken Niumatalolo more questions than answers as his team focuses on the AAC West race in November and the Commander in Chief’s trophy in December.

Midshipmen Medals:  Jamole Carothers ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns while Malcolm Perry ran for 142 yards.  Diego Fagot notched eight tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. Owen White averaged 47.3 yards per punt.

Midshipmen Miscues: the offense converted just 5 of 14 third downs as Perry completed 2 of 7 passes and was intercepted.  The defense had no solutions for Green Wave quarterback Justin McMillan in the second half and allowed the Green Wave to score the last four times they had the ball.

Next: Friday at 8 p.m. at 2-6 UConn.

 

Saturday’s marquee matchup saw #19 Texas upset the Big 12 applecart by outscoring #7 Oklahoma 48-45 after a game filled with plenty of thrill and spills–and chills.  The notoriously slow-starting Longhorns jumped out to a 24-10 second quarter lead and led 45-24 after three periods…before the Sooners stormed back to tie things up with under three minutes left.  But Kyler Murray and company left too much time on the clock and Texas was able to kick a field goal with nine seconds left.  Calling this rollercoaster ride next to the Texas State Fair was FOX’s Gus Johnson…an announcer known for high-energy calls of big plays in clutch situations.  He might not be everybody’s cup of tea-or more appropriately given his energy, double espresso-but nobody makes the mundane plays more interesting and nobody makes the big plays more sublime.

 

Alma Mater Update- those of a certain age also recall the last time the Orange started 4-0 they dropped two straight games.  Saturday’s overtime loss at Pitt was unfortunate; while we know SU isn’t in the same class as Clemson, a win at a sub-500 ACC foe like the Panthers shouldn’t be too much to ask for.  They host North Carolina in two weeks.

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) in its 42-21 loss to Michigan scored more points against the Wolverines than they had in the last three years combined, but the Terps were unable to contain the Wolverines after holding them in check for the first quarter.  Terrapin Triumphs: Tyrrell Pigrome came off the bench to lead the team with 63 rushing yards, including a 42 yard scamper and the game’s final touchown.  Tre Watson tallied 10 tackles to pace the defense.  Ty Johnson returned a kickoff 98 yards for the touchdown that gave the Terps their only lead of the day.  Terrapin Troubles: the offense stalled early and often, gaining just 47 yards in the first half.  The defense allowed the Wolverines to move the chains on 9-of-13 third downs…as Michigan scored five of the last six times they had the ball (the final possession of the day being the exception).  Penalties continue to be a problem, with 12 flags for 107 yards.  Next:  Saturday at home against 1-5 Rutgers (noon kickoff).

 

Navy (2-3) went west to face Air Force, and things went south after the Midshipmen took an early 7-0 lead.  The 35-7 loss was the their biggest defeat in the series since 2002 (Paul Johnson’s first year).  Midshipman Medals:  not a lot of good to thumb through.  Pete Tanuvsa made 11 tackles to pace the defense.  Owen White averaged 48.7 yards per punt…and he had plenty of practice with a career-high seven punts.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense went three and out five times in seven first half possessions…and converted just 2 of 13 third downs.  Navy quarterbacks completed 3 of 12 passes.  Next:  Saturday at home against 3-3 Temple (3:30 p.m. kickoff).

 

#24 Virginia Tech (3-2) held Notre Dame to minus-three rushing yards in the first half, but on the Fighting Irish’s second offensive play of the second half Dexter Williams broke for a 97-yard touchdown that turned a one-point game at intermission into a 45-23 rout.  Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw for 309 yards while Damon Hazelton tallied 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.  Reggie Floyd recorded seven tackles and an interception.  Hokie Humblings:  two turnovers-one of which was returned for a Notre Dame touchdown.  The defense gave up big plays–in addition to the 97-yard TD, the secondary coughed up passes of 40 and 56 yards.  Next:  Saturday at 1-3 North Carolina (7 p.m. gametime).

 

 

 

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There’s another weekend before the bowls?  Really?  Conference championships are decided Friday and Saturday with the area schools mostly idle-unlike last December when Virginia Tech was bettered by eventual national champ Clemson and Navy lost to Temple (ugh) at home (double ugh).  At least we have James Madison (unbeaten and top ranked defending champ James Madison, that is) in FCS Playoff Action.  So even though one’s school might not be in action this weekend, you can still insert yourself into the conversation.

 

Friday’s Game:

Pac-12 Championship- #10 USC (10-2) plays #12 Stanford (9-3), 8 p.m. (ESPN).

At stake: neither has a great shot at making the College Football Playoff, and with the Rose Bowl serving as one of the semifinal games the winner won’t even get a trip to Pasadena.  Plus, this game is at 5 p.m. local time…on a Friday?  Even the MAC gets a Saturday kickoff.

Rematch?:  USC won 42-24 September 10th.

Who to Watch: Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold began the year as the Heisman favorite, and Cardinal runningback Bryce Love is a strong contender for the honor.  Both have nightmares of being drafted by Cleveland.

Notable Fact: unlike the other leagues, the Pac-12 name actually reflects its membership number.

Presto’s Pick:  Trojans triumph, 31-17.

 

Saturday’s Games-

AAC Championship- #14 UCF (12-0) vs #20 Memphis (10-1), noon (ABC).  

At stake: the right to be the really angry “group of five/Mid-Major” school left out of the playoff despite a conference title and a great record.  Plus the winning coach takes a leap in the “hot coaching commodity contest”.

Rematch?: UCF won 40-13 September 30th.

Who to Watch: UCF’s McKenzie Milton sounds like a shirt from Vineyard Vines…but the dual threat quarterback is averaging 326 yards passing per game this month and has run for a TD in five straight games.  Tigers QB Riley Ferguson is just as impressive.

Notable Fact:  both teams beat Navy and the Knights routed Maryland in College Park.

Presto’s Pick: Knights tame the Tigers, 37-28.

 

Big 12 Championship- #3 Oklahoma (11-1) vs #11 TCU (10-2), 12:30 p.m. (FOX)

At Stake:  Sooners need a win or they’d likely slip behind Alabama and out of the playoffs. Horned Frogs need a win plus a measles epidemic to make the Final Four.

Rematch?:  Oklahoma won 38-20 November 11th.

Who to Watch: OU quarterback Baker Mayfield is on his way to the Heisman Trophy, while TCU defensive linemen Ben Banogu and Ross Blacklock will try to keep him off-balance.

Notable Fact:  the Big 12 is the only conference to have a championship game despite not having divisions, which is why the conference championship game was created in the first place.

Presto’s Pick:  Sooners stumble, 44-38.

 

FCS Second Round-#1 James Madison (11-0) vs #10 Stony Brook (10-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

At Stake: a berth in the quarterfinals and bragging rights between conference foes that haven’t met since 2015.

Players to Watch: Bryan Schor led the Dukes to the National Championship last year and picked up where he left off this fall.  Seawolves running back Donald Liotine led the CAA in scoring.

Notable Fact: home teams went 5-3 last weekend in the first round of the tournament after going 17-5 in 2016.

Presto’s Pick:  Dukes dominate, 34-16.

 

SEC Championship- #2 Auburn (10-2) vs #6 Georgia (11-1), 4 p.m. (CBS).

What’s at Stake:  automatic berth for the winner…with the knowledge that Alabama will be sweating until Tuesday evening.  Loser knows they had a chance and blew it.

Rematch?:  Auburn won 40-17 November 11th.

Who to Watch:  Kerryon Johnson ran for 167 yards against Georgia three weeks ago, while Bulldogs tailback Nick Chubb was held to 27 yards on 11 tries.

Notable Fact:  CBS announcer Brad Nessler used to call Atlanta Falcons games at their old stadium–not the Georgia Dome but Fulton County Stadium in the 1980’s.

Presto’s Pick:  Tigers by a nose, 23-20.

 

ACC Championship- #1 Clemson (11-1) vs #7 Miami (10-1), 8 p.m. (ABC).

At Stake:  the winner makes the Playoff while the loser should be cursing their loss to a sub-500 Syracuse or Pitt.

Rematch?:  No.  Although in 2015 the Tigers torched the Hurricanes 58-0 in Al Golden’s final game as coach. Enter Mark Richt.

Who to Watch: can Miami QB Malik Rosier bounce back from his subpar effort against Pitt?  Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell had 8 sacks to finish second in the ACC…and will have a say in Rosier’s play.

Notable Fact: this is Miami’s first-ever trip the ACC Championship Game–while Virginia Tech has been to the most (3-3 in six appearances).

Presto’s Pick: Tigers triumph, 30-22.

 

Big Ten Championship- #4 Wisconsin (12-0) vs #8 Ohio State (10-2), 8 p.m. (FOX).

At Stake:  a Badgers win would lock up a playoff berth as welll as quiet naysayers about their soft schedule.  A Buckeyes victory would likely send Alabama to the Playoff-making OSU fans whine about not being included despite winning their league (a criteria ignored last year when they made the playoff and Penn State was excluded).

Rematch?: they didn’t meet this year-but the Buckeyes butchered the Badgers 59-0 in 2014.

Who to Watch:  OSU QB JT Barrett led the Buckeyes to the national title as a freshman–he’ll play Saturday despite having “minor” knee surgery this week.  Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is the league’s leading rusher, averaging 7 yards per carry and 150 yards per game.

Notable Fact:  Maryland has as many conference championship game appearances as Michigan.

Presto’s Pick:  Buckeyes blow up the bracket, 24-20.

 

Playoff Party—

#1 Clemson vs #4 Oklahoma

#2 Auburn vs #3 Alabama

 

Last Week: 2-1.

Overall: 74-25.

 

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Unlike college basketball where most of the bluebloods actually wear blue (look it up: UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky & Duke), the majority of college football teams wear red.  Saturday night we saw two premiere programs battle in a top five showdown, with Oklahoma under first-year-interim-former-vice-president coach Lincoln Riley (you could never have gotten away with having  a Sooners coach named “Lincoln” during the Big Eight days).  Somehow the fresh-faced 34-year old went from substitute teacher to “Coach in his own right” as OU shocked the 2nd ranked Buckeyes in the Columbus night, winning going away 31-16.  Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield won the Ohio primary over JT Barrett by throwing for 386 yards and three scores…and the rest of the Big 12 is on notice that the Sooners are back.  As opposed to 2016 when they were a disappointing 11-2.  Being a blueblood, no matter which color you wear, is never fair.

Alma Mater Update- is the second week of the season too early to say the Orange’s bowl hopes are doomed?  Saturday’s underwhelming loss at home to Middle Tennessee was decidedly less than ideal…and for a team whose ceiling was six to seven wins this fall a home loss to a school from Conference USA is crushing.  The offense averaged under five yards per pass attempt and under three yards per rush.  The defense allowed big plays (Ty Lee’s 48-yard TD catch) and long drives (a fourth quarter march of 75 yards on ten plays) in defeat.  At least they face Central Michigan before going to LSU.  They’ll beat the Chippewas, right?

Maryland (2-0) took to Towson like a blowtorch through butter in its 63-17 rout of the Tigers, scoring on their first three possessions of the game while reaching the end zone the first five times they had the ball after intermission.  They’ve started 2-0 before…but not with this type of ferocity.  Games like Northwestern and at Minnesota all of a sudden appear more winnable…and the road to six victories (and postseason play) becomes a lot more manageable.  Terrapin Triumphs:  Ty Johnson tallied TD runs of 46 and 74 yards en route to another 100+ yard afternoon, while the team gained over ten yards per carry.  Kasim Hill excelled in his first career start, making plays with his arm and feet.  DJ Moore caught both of Hill’s TD passes while running for a third score on a broken play where he was almost brought down in the backfield.  The defense held the Tigers to six yards on 13 plays from scrimmage in the third quarter to effectively end the game.  Terrapin Troubles:  a soft first half by the D (an 81 yard scoring march plus a drive that died inside the Maryland 10) was less than ideal as the Tigers converted 6 of 10 third downs before intermission.  Calling out the schedule-makers too for the week three bye– when you score 114 points over the first two weeks the only thing that can contain you is inactivity.  Next:  September 16 against UCF.

Virginia (1-1) received a dose of reality in its 34-17 loss to Indiana.  Yes, this team is better than the 2-10 squad that suffered early and often in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first season…but they still have strides to make.  And those strides haven’t been made yet.  Cavalier Congrats:  Kurt Benkert threw for 259 yards and a touchdown while going another week without tossing an interception.  Jordan Mack led the defense that held IU to 4 of 15 on third down by tallying 16 tackles and half of a sack.  Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding provided their customary 10+ tackles as well.  Cavalier Concerns:  the running game netted just 55 yards.  The defense allowed a redshirt freshman to complete 80% of his throws…and coughed up scoring plays of 26, 29 and 32 yards.  The punt coverage team surrendered a game-clinching 44-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. Next:  Saturday vs 1-0 Connecticut. 

Virginia Tech (2-0) had less than six days to prepare for Delaware, but wound up blanking the Blue Hens just the same 27-0.  Can we see a battle of unbeatens to wrap up the month against Clemson?  (Apologies to coach Justin Fuente for looking ahead). Hokie Highlights:  Greg Stroman returned a punt 61 yards for the first TD of the day.  Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson threw two touchdown passes while turning in another turnover-free game.  The defense was led by the Edmunds brothers:  Tremaine tallied 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble while Terrell added eight stops, a sack and a 55-yard interception return.  Hokie Humblings:  the offense converted just 3 of 11 third downs, while the running game that gained 234 yards against West Virginia was held to under three yards per carry.   Next: Saturday at 0-2 East Carolina.   

Navy survived a scare in Annapolis, outdueling Tulane in a battle of option offenses 23-21.  The AAC waters will be rough sailing this fall for the defending West Division champs. Midshipman Medals:  Zach Abey ran for over 100 yards while throwing a 79-yard touchdown pass.  DJ Palmore led the defense with ten tackles…and the D held the Green Wave to 3 of 14 on third down.  Owen White averaged over 40 yards per punt. The Mids did not commit a penalty.  Midshipmen Miscues:  the offense turned the ball over twice and Abey completed less than 50% of his passes for the second straight week.  If they’re going to contend for a second straight trip to the championship game, the attack has to be a little more versatile.  Next: Saturday vs 1-1 Cincinnati.OO

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

The Texas State Fair is…like everything else in the Lone Star State, completely and ridiculously overblown.  And that’s what gives the fair its unquestionable charm. Its proper name is “The State Fair of Texas” for those sticklers and usually begins the last Friday in September while lasting for 24 days.  The food…well, lets just say you don’t often run into “Deep-fried Bacon Burger Dog Slider on a Stick” on many menus.  Since 1929 the centerpiece of the event has been the Texas-Oklahoma football game…which has evolved from an inter-conference showdown (a moment of silence for the Southwest and Big Eight Conferences, please?) to a Big 12 battle for what recently has been 3rd or 4th place in the conference.  Twelve times this century the two schools have been ranked…with four of those years featuring the Sooners and Longhorns each in the top five.  That will not be the case this October…as both teams are 2-2 after giving up a mountain of points (35ppg by OU and 41ppg by UT).  Both have coaches on respective hot seats…and fan bases with selective memories about glory days gone by.  You might be best served by skipping the game entirely and enjoying the “Deep Fried Pulled Pork Funyuns Dings”.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange try to recover from coughing up 50 points to Notre Dame.  With seven games remaining, the hopes are still out there for a Pinstripe Bowl Berth but SU’s remaining opponents are a combined 25-10.  This week they visit surprising Wake Forest (4-1…already with more wins than the Demon Deacons had all last year).  They were held to 7 points in the season opener by Tulane…and could be a sight for the sore eyes of a defense that has been gashed early and often this fall.  Just stay relevant until basketball season gets underway…

 

Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (3-2, 1-1), noon, Big Ten Network.  Let me start by saying this is NOT A RIVALRY.  The Nittany Lions do not have rivals.  It even said so on last year’s media guide cover: “UNRIVALED”.  The school repeated said mantra when facing non-conference but in-state foes Pitt and Temple earlier this year…and printed “UNRIVALED” atop this week’s preview materials.  Never mind that these two schools reside in states bordering one another…and compete over many of the same recruits  Never mind that these two teams have traded a pair of one-point victories in the other schools backyards the last two years.  Never mind that the former coach-in-waiting in College Park is the guy running the show in State College.  What is certain is that Penn State has issues stopping the run (12th in the Big Ten) while the Terps lead the conference in yards per carry (a robust 6.5 per attempt).  Offensively the Nittany Lions are the worst team in the league at converting third downs…and will have issues containing a pass rush that averages 3.5 sacks per game.  Terrapins triumph, 28-17.

Navy (3-1, 2-0 AAC) vs #6 Houston (5-0, 2-0), 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network.  The Midshipmen have to bounce back not only from a tough loss at Air Force, but also a tough loss to their defense as linebacker Daniel Gonzales (co-captain and second-leading tackler) is done for the season with a foot injury.  Very bad news when preparing to face a Cougars offense led by Greg Ward Jr. (71% completion rate, 331 passing yards per game and 8 TD tosses this fall).  Even with senior quarterback Will Worth playing well, Navy lives and dies by its running game and the Cougar D is the stingiest in the AAC on third down (allowing conversions 26% of the time) and leads the AAC in fewest yards per carry allowed (1.6).  Midshipmen come up short, 36-14.

#25 Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC) at #17 North Carolina (4-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.  HOW is this not on even one of the ESPN’s?  Instead ESPNU gives us Iowa State-Oklahoma State, two teams that have combined for six losses this fall.  The former bully of the Coastal Division block (five division titles from 2005-11) meets the reigning division champ.  UNC is coming off one heck of a win over Florida State while the Hokies had last weekend off.  The Tar Heels are led by QB Mitch Trubisky (76% completion rate, 13 TD’s and no interceptions) but boast a defense that’s been extremely accommodating this fall (allowing 32 points per game).  Can coach Justin Fuente’s consistently uneven ground game click against the worst run defense in the ACC?  Hokies hang on, 33-30.

Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC) has the week off…meaning Kippy & Buffy turn their attention from rooting madly (with dignity) for their Cavaliers to boarding up the cottage in the Outer Banks.  This weekend’s weather system forced their hand, as they had to burn a personal day during the week.  What won’t change is the sparkling wine and caviar that accompanies the annual boarding-up…that would be sacrilege.  This year Kippy & Buffy toast another great summer by enjoying a bottle of Veritas Vineyard & Winery Scintilla:  “Characteristically the wine is made in a Brut style (less than 12g/L). Fresh bubbles of Meyer lemon fill the palate with a delicate mousse that fades into a lasting finish.”  Cheers…

Howard falls to Monmouth, Georgetown beats Princeton, James Madison beats William & Mary, Richmond falls at Albany, Towson slips to Stony Brook, Morgan State beats Savannah State.

Last Week: 7-2.

Overall 37-7.