Archives for posts with tag: Orange

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

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

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

 

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

 

Friday’s Game-

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday’s Games-

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Six weeks into the college football season means the first smattering of schools become bowl eligible, as if there was a doubt about Ohio State. Florida is also 6-0 but has a pair of FCS wins so they’re not technically in the mix just yet. There is one other 6-0 team, and it’s a blast from the past:  SMU is off to its best start since the 1982 team went unbeaten behind the likes of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.  Sadly, the “Pony Express” turned into “Pony Excess” (the title of a great ESPN 30-for-30 narrated by Patrick Duffy of “Dallas”) and the cheating got so rampant at the Southwest Conference school that the NCAA had to deliver the nuclear option of the “Death Penalty” later that decade.

The effect was long term: since restarting the program in 1989, the Mustangs have had eight double-digit defeat seasons while appearing in just five bowls.  Former Louisiana Tech and Cal Head Coach Sonny Dykes brought his high-octane offense to the AAC school two years ago, and the results have been almost immediate.  They averaged 30 points while going 5-7 last fall, and with Texas transfer Shane Buechele running the offense this fall they’ve taken things to the next level.  Far from the Pony Express of yore, the 21st century Mustangs currently rank 10th in FBS in passing yardage and are averaging 44 points per game.  An upset win of No. 25 TCU last month put them on the map, and Saturday’s 43-37 triple-overtime victory against Tulsa has them bowl-bound while thinking conference contention.  SMU has yet to post a winning conference record in the AAC, and still has huge road tests at Houston, Memphis, and Navy.  But for at least one week the Mustangs share the stage with the elite…thirty years after being all by themselves in NCAA Purgatory.

 

Alma Mater Update- a week off for the 3-2 Orange gives Tommy DeVito time to get healthy with NC State on deck.  It also gives one the chance to look at the schedule ahead:  six of SU’s final seven foes boast winning records with no soft spots.  Can they generate three more wins and make their triumphant return to the Pinstripe Bowl??

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) bounced back from getting blown out by Penn State, routing Rutgers 48-7 in a game that was close for much of the first half.  But just to show that no Saturday is complete without a little heartbreak for the College Park faithful, quarterback Josh Jackson went down with an ankle injury right before halftime. The fact that it took five games for the Terps’ starter to suffer a potential season-ending injury is encouraging, as in previous years the first-string QB would go down for the year in early to mid-September (or as in the case of CJ Brown in 2012, August).

Terrapin Triumphs:  the offense generated big plays of 80 yards (twice), 50 and 42 yards.  Give guys like Anthony McFarland, Javon Leake, Tavon Fleet-Davis and Dontay Demus space and they will make opponents pay.  The Terps also went turnover-free. Linebacker Ayinde Eley notched 12 tackles plus an interception returned to the Rutgers two that helped Maryland take a 20-point lead. Javon Leake returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a TD.  Leake also ran for two more scores.

Terrapin Troubles:  it took a while for the offense to get in gear; after scoring on an 80-yard pass on their first possession the team suffered four straight three and outs.  The offense would finish 4-13 on third down.  Penalties continue to pose problems, as the team was flagged six times this week.  The kicking game in concerning, as they had a 29-yard field goal blocked and missed an extra point. That might not cost you against Rutgers, but it did at Temple and very well could against the upcoming slate of the Big Ten’s middle class.

Next: Saturday at noon at Purdue.

 

Navy (3-1) needed a last-minute touchdown drive to pull ahead of Air Force after blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead, and the Mids would then recover a Falcons fumble on the final play to make the 34-25 final look deceptively comfortable.  But it was anything but comfortable as Troy Calhoun and company know they had a golden chance to steal one in Annapolis (Air Force is 1-8 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 2001).  What’s reassuring for head coach Ken Niumatalolo is that these were the types of games last year’s team lost.

Midshipman Medals:  Malcolm Perry complete 5 of 7 passes for 144 yards while running for 111 yards and two touchdowns.  Nolan Smith ran for 82 yards and the other two Navy scores. C.J. Williams caught a game-saving 32-yard pass on the go-ahead drive.  Paul Carothers and Diego Fagot (12 tackles apiece) led a defense that held Air Force to 2.4 yards a carry, 40% passing, and 5-of-17 on third down.

Midshipman Miscues:  last week the Mids allowed 21 second-half points, and this week the D surrendered 16 in the fourth quarter.  After being held to 2-12 on third down through three quarters, the Falcons converted three big ones in the final period (scoring both of their touchdowns on third and goal).  Offensively the three drives that preceded the game-winning possession resulted in a missed field goal, a lost fumble, and a three & out.

Next:  Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Tulsa.

 

Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-2 ACC) saw its season flash before its eyes in the fourth quarter at Miami.  Somehow they were tied at 35 after the Hokies took a 28-0 first half lead.  But somehow VT was able to take a late lead and hold the Hurricanes shy of the goal line. (they’d get to the Hokie 10-yard line before time ran out).  The 42-35 win doesn’t cure all, but it keeps the team out of the Coastal Division cellar and also keeps the temperature down a teensy bit on their coach’s hot seat.

Hokie Highlights:  five first half takeaways helped set up short fields, and the offense played turnover free football all day.  Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns while running for 76 and another score.  The offense moved the chains on 7 of 9 third downs in the first half, and scored touchdowns on all six red zone appearances.  Rayshard Ashby notched 11 tackles and a sack, and the pass rush generated seven sacks.  Jermaine Waller and Caleb Fraley each grabbed a pair of interceptions.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 50.4 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings: talk about your tale of two halves.  The offense converted 2 of 7 third downs after intermission, and the defense that tallied turnovers turned into one that gave up 364 yards and four touchdowns over the final two quarters.

Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. against Rhode Island.

 

 

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Sometimes the leaves turn earlier than one expects.  After the start to a season where all four area FBS schools received national notice (Maryland and Virginia were ranked at points this past month, while Navy and Virginia Tech each received votes along the way), the final weekend of the month saw the four all go down in flames.  Just like no two leaves when they change colors look exactly alike, the status of each of the four teams is markedly different.  Some fractures are hairline, and some are compound.  With the bulk of the conference season ahead, what can be salvaged? That’s for October to decide. Isn’t fall foliage great?

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange routed Holy Cross 41-3 to enter their bye week 3-2, but Tommy DeVito gets banged up. I did not watch, meaning that Cuse has crushed foes 106-20 when I’m not watching/listening…and they’ve been bludgeoned 120-37 when I do.  At 3-2 SU is halfway to a Pinstripe Bowl bid.  Prepare the space for another banner!

 

Navy (2-1, 1-1 AAC) got the weekend of woe underway by taking a 20-7 first half lead at Memphis, only to lose 35-23.  It was a tale of two halves as Tigers were just too much after intermission, outgaining the Mids 203 yards to 81.

Midshipman Medals: Keoni Makekau rushed for 101 yards while Malcom Perry added 91 on the ground.  The defense held the Tigers in check for most of the first half, allowing just 98 yards of offense and holding Memphis to 0-3 on third down.  Owen While averaged 45.2 yards per punt. Nizaire Cromartie recovered a fumble.

Midshipman Miscues: it all began on special teams when the Mids allowed a kickoff return late in the first half that turned a double-digit lead into a single-possession game.  The offense converted just 1 of 7 third downs after halftime, and the running game was held to 74 yards on 23 tries following the break.  The defense also had issues in the third and fourth quarters;  after holding Brady White to 12 yards passing in the first half the Tigers quarterback completed 10 of 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns the rest of the way.  Six penalties, an interception and a fumble lost didn’t help either.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 3-1 Air Force.

 

Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) kicked off conference play Friday night, and things did not end well.  Actually, things didn’t even start well as Josh Jackson was intercepted on the fifth play from scrimmage and Penn State cashed in with a quick touchdown.  A three and out then set up a 58-yard touchdown pass by the Nittany Lions.  It appeared as though the Terps regained themselves and were about to put points on the board but then Jackson threw another interception at the Penn State goal line.  The ensuing 11-play, 95 yard march put the visitors up 21-0 with 13:23 left in the 2nd quarter.  The student section looked like a guy with male pattern baldness as the quarter (along with more Penn State points) progressed, and resembled actor Bruce Willis after halftime.  The 59-0 loss was the school’s worst since 2017 when Penn State last came to College Park and rendered a 66-3 bludgeoning. They’re on the schedule again next year, right?

Terrapin Triumphs: Brandon Gaddy and Colton Spangler each averaged 42.8 yards per punt, although whenever one leads this category with the punter it’s not a good thing.  Nick Cross had a sweet sideline interception that kept the Nittany Lions from scoring on every one of their first half possessions, so there’s that.  The lone genuine highlight of Friday’s game was the welcoming back of former head coach Ralph Friedgen;  the honorary captain won 75 games and led the Terps to seven bowls during his 10-year tenure.  It’s just a shame the game was out of hand when they honored Fridge on the field.

Terrapin Troubles: Jackson’s two interceptions represented a 10-point swing at best and a 21 point swing at worst.  He was also sacked four times and completed just 10 of 21 passes for 65 yards.  They weren’t helped with eight penalties for 70 yards-in the first half.  Both sides of the ball were dominated on third down:  Penn State converted 9 of 13 while the Terps were held to 4 of 15.  The offense tallied just a pair of first downs in the second half.  And the defense just couldn’t contain Sean Clifford all evening.

Next:  Saturday at noon on the road against 1-3 Rutgers.

 

Virginia Tech (2-2, 0-2 ACC) took a 3-0 lead over Duke with a first quarter field goal, but it was all downhill from there as the Blue Devils scored touchdowns on their final three drives of the first half.  To prove that wasn’t an aberration the visitors reached the end zone on their final three possessions of the second half, and the Hokies were handed a 45-10 loss- their worst since falling 48-7 at No. 2 LSU in 2007.  The 35-point margin was their worst at home since 1974 when they got blown out 49-12 by Houston (gotta love the late Bill Yeoman and the veer offense).  Interesting note:  current Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians was the quarterback for that Hokies team.  Another note:  this year is turning into one major nightmare for the Blacksburg brethren.

Hokie Highlights: Deshawn McClease ran for 102 yards on 17 carries. Damon Hazelton had an impressive 72-yard catch for the team’s lone touchdown. Reggie Floyd and Rayshard Ashby each tallied eight tackles.  Hezekiah Grimsley notched a 25 yard punt return while Oscar Bradburn averaged 41.2 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings:  the defense failed to get a sack as Blue Devils quarterback Quentin Harris completed 20 of 27 passes.  The D also allowed 5.7 yards per carry and coughed up points on seven of Duke’s final eight possessions.  Ryan Willis completed just 7 of 18 passes, and if you take away his TD strike to Hazelton he averaged under six yards per completion.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at 2-2 Miami.

 

No. 18 Virginia (3-1) wrapped up the trend of taking a first half lead to put hope in the hearts of its fans, only to come up short in a 35-20 loss to No. 10 Notre Dame.  The defndefense that had been responsible for come-from behind wins against Pitt, Florida State and Old Dominion couldn’t survive a pair of crucial second half fumbles.  The first led gave the Fighting Irish the ball on the UVa seven and they scored two plays later; the second was returned for another touchdown.

Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns, with Hasise Dubois (9 catches for 143 yards and a score) doing the most of the damage.  Joey Blount led the defense with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, and the defense notched four sacks.  Brian Delaney connected on both of his field goal attempts.

Cavalier Concerns: the offensive line allowed eight sacks, leading to three Bryce Perkins fumbles. Perkins also threw a pair of interceptions, and the Fighting Irish were able to turn those five turnovers into 28 points.  The running game went nowhere again, generating just 59 yards on 21 carries after accounting for sack yardage.

Next: Friday October 11 at 2-2 Miami.

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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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This was supposed to be the season for Michigan.  Jim Harbaugh came to Ann Arbor in 2015 after the Wolverines had swung and missed with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. Unlike Bo Schembechler leading Michigan to a Rose Bowl in his first season on campus, this rebuild was going to take time.  And year five meant that every player in the program was one brought on campus by Harbaugh.  Not to mention that Urban Meyer’s no longer coaching at Ohio State.  The path to the playoff was there, and “was” may be the operative word.

Saturday’s 35-14 loss by the No. 11 Wolverines to No. 13 Wisconsin saw the Badgers take a 28-0 halftime lead and make Michigan look like Rutgers.  Saturday’s loss puts the 21 points allowed to Middle Tennessee and Army in a different context, and the turnover-prone offense (seven lost fumbles in three games) that can’t get out of its own way looks all the more suspect.  Michigan’s only dipped its toe into one tough schedule:  three of their four October games are against ranked foes (including a non-conference tilt with Notre Dame) and November includes Michigan State and Ohio State, two schools that have had plenty of success against the Wolverines this decade-even after Harbaugh’s heralded arrival.  Once again, it looks as though Michigan end the season having gone to as many Big Ten Championship Games as Rutgers and Maryland.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange and I have an interesting relationship this autumn.  Because the game was on the ACC Network, I missed their season-opening shutout of Liberty.  I was in the press box for their painful pounding by Maryland so I got to see that defeat up close.  The following week’s loss to Clemson (homecoming?!) was on ABC and I saw the tail-end of that mess after covering the Navy-East Carolina game.  So when I caught last Saturday’s contest with Western Michigan, I was pleased to see they were up 21-0 in the second quarter.  Enter the defense that will help opposing skill position players get drafted a round or two earlier.  The lead was trimmed to 38-33 when I had to run errands and I later learned the Orange wound up winning 52-33.  So after four weeks, when I am watching or listening SU has been outscored 120-37 while they’ve handled foes 65-17 when I haven’t been able to monitor the team.  I apologize for being a hex this fall.

 

No. 21 Virginia (4-0) is off to its best start since 2004, but they certainly kept the Scott Stadium crowd on the edge of their seats as they trailed Old Dominion 17-7 at the half.  But just like they won the second halves against Pitt and Florida State, the Cavaliers were not to be denied in their 28-17 triumph. Seasons are not made in September, but as we’ve seen across the country they can definitely be ruined and while there are more than a few tough tests ahead UVa’s season of possibilities continues.

Cavalier Congrats: the legend of Bryce Perkins grows with another night where he led the team in rushing and scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground.  The offense also enjoyed a turnover-free night.  Charles Snowden notched 15 tackles with two sacks to pace a defense that handcuffed the Monarchs after halftime (66 total yards on 36 second half plays).

Cavalier Concerns: the offense had issues sustaining drives all evening, converting just 1 of 11 third downs.  Blame a running game that gained just 87 yards on 27 carries after accounting for sacks.  Special teams were not that special, as the Cavs had a field goal attempt blocked while averaging 36 yards per punt.  UVa was also whistled seven times for 70 yards.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Notre Dame.

 

James Madison (3-1, No. 2 in FCS) was tested on the road at Chattanooga as the Moccasins put 14 points on the board in the first quarter.  But the Dukes defense dominated the rest of the way in a 37-14 rout.

Duke Do’s: Percy Agyei-Obese rushed for a season-high 114 yards while Ben DiNucci completed 19 of 25 passes for 264 yards.  Ethan Ratke connected on all three of his field goal attempts.

Duke Don’ts: a costly special teams fumble in the first quarter let Chattanooga pull even after trailing 14-0.  The pass rush generated just one sack.

Next:  Saturday at 2 p.m. against Elon.

 

Towson (3-1, 1-1 CAA) fell in overtime to Villanova (No. 18 in FCS) 52-45.  Although the Tigers will take a tumble down the rankings (they were 5th entering the game against the Wildcats), the conference race has just begun.

Tiger Triumphs: Tom Flacco passed for 304 yards while rushing for 110 more, but Yeedee Thaenrat proved to be the money man in the red zone with three rushing touchdowns.  Coby Tippett tallied 13 tackles to pace the defense.

Tiger Troubles:  the defense allowed 295 yards rushing while allowing the Wildcats to convert on 12 of 19 third downs. Third down was an issue for the Towson offense as well, as they moved the chains on 4 of 13 tries.

Next: Saturday at (gulp) Florida.

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The problem with the mid-September schedule is that while the networks are looking for compelling matchups on a weekly basis, most schools nowadays try to build bowl eligibility insurance by bringing at least one FCS school or lower-tier FBS program to campus (and in a few cases sometimes one of each).  This means early-season matchups between ranked foes are few and far between.  Or in the case of this week, try none.  As in zero.  Blame more than the schedule-stuffers, with teams from Iowa State (Cyclones were taken to triple-overtime by Northern Iowa in week one) to Syracuse (coughed up 650 yards and 63 points at Maryland in week two) failing to live up to the preseason hype.

The Orange will face a top-ranked Clemson team that’s more than angry after almost being upset by SU last year in prime time on ABC.  I’m not saying things could get ugly, but Syracuse has allowed 60+ points to the likes of Wake Forest and Pitt in recent years.  This is Clemson.  FOX presents what used to be a great inter-sectional showdown in Oklahoma-UCLA.  While the Sooners have lived up to their No. 5 ranking, the Bruins have lost to the likes of Cincinnati and San Diego State.  Both with Chip Kelly coaching on the sidelines.  Meanwhile Lincoln Riley appears to be the quarterback whisperer as Jalen Hurts is on fire.  Gus Johnson is probably happy he drew Ohio State-Indiana instead.  At least ESPN will be showing an evening battle of unbeatens in No. 9 Florida facing Kentucky– hold on, the Wildcats are playing in the week’s ready for prime time matchup?  I’m not saying this is the week to go apple-picking or antiquing, but you guys can build major relationship cred without missing much.

 

Alma Mater Update- guess what?  The Orange may not be a Top 25 team this year.  Last Saturday’s loss at Maryland exposed multiple issues-and if there’s one team you don’t want to know about your glaring weaknesses, it’s Clemson.  As in top-ranked and defending National Champion Clemson.  As in the Tigers SU beat two years ago in the Dome and almost upset last year in Death Valley.  The bigger bummer is my Cuse buddy “Dome Doug” will be making the trip to the game so I won’t be able to watch at the “Orange Room”, the ultimate fan-cave.  Last year I drank all of his son’s root beer as I was loading up for an evening shift.  By the way, Barq’s goes great with blown double-digit second half lead.

 

No. 21 Maryland (2-0) vs. Temple (1-0), noon (CBS Sports Network). 

The Terps are ranked for the first time since joining the Big Ten and have smashed their first two foes to smithereens.  But a Terrapin’s memory is a long one, and the image of a Top 25 team going to Tallahassee in 2013 and getting torched by Florida State 63-0 remains in the back of one’s mind.  So does the school’s recent rough history with the Owls, like last year’s 35-14 loss at home.  Anthony Russo burned the Terrapin secondary for touchdown passes of 36 and 47 yards last fall and threw for 409 yards in the Owls’ Labor Day weekend win over Bucknell.  The key to Maryland’s early start has been third down dominance:  the offense ranks eighth (61%) in FBS at moving the chains while the defense (25%) is 14th best in the nation.  Coach Mike Locksley compares the season to driving cross-country, and that starting 2-0 feels like “arriving in Phoenix without a flat”.  I’m tempted to dive all-in on Glen Campbell references for the season, but his biggest hits were 40-50 years ago.  Also, the second verse in “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” refers to Albuquerque- where Locksley went 2-26 as New Mexico’s head coach.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins reach Galveston (Oh Galveston!) without further car trouble, 34-19.

 

Virginia Tech (1-1) vs. Furman (1-1), noon (ACC Network). 

Could the Hokies be in trouble?  Their two-touchdown win over Old Dominion didn’t necessarily make one think that this fall’s edition was that much better than the team that needed to schedule a provisional game to make postseason play.  They currently rank last in FBS in turnover margin and have had issues running the ball (3.4 yards per carry after accounting for sacks).  Enter a Furman team that’s ranked 16th in FCS and is averaging 44 points per game.  Darren Grainger threw for 311 yards last week against Georgia State, but the freshman will learn rather quickly that the former Turner Field has nothing on Lane Stadium.  Or so Hokie Nation hopes as they try not to choke on their smoked turkey legs.

Presto’s Picks: Hokies have their hands full but hold on, 36-27.

 

Navy (1-0) vs. East Carolina (1-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network). 

After a week off, the Mids begin American Athletic Conference play looking to end a disturbing trend:  the Midshipmen went 14-3 during their first two AAC campaigns but went 6-10 in conference play the last two autumns.  Their foe can sympathize:  ECU went 4-20 in league play from 2016-18.  Enter former James Madison Coach Mike Houston, and a Pirates team that looked just as awesome in their rout of Gardner-Webb as they looked awful in their blowout loss at NC State.  If that’s comparing apples to oranges, the Mids’ week one win over Holy Cross is a pomegranate.  The game’s in Annapolis, where the current senior class is 13-3 in regular season games.  Did I mention East Carolina is 1-16 on the road since the 2016 season started?

Presto’s Pick:  Midshipmen get it done, 31-20.

 

No. 25 Virginia (2-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Florida State (1-1), 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network). 

What’s this?  The Cavaliers are ranked and are favored against the Seminoles?  It’s been a long year the last two weeks in Tallahassee, as FSU needed a missed extra point in overtime to prevail over (gulp) Louisiana-Monroe.  The defense coughs up 40 points and 520 yards per game doesn’t even look that good.  UVa’s pass defense (under 50% completion rate and 157.5 yards per game) will be tested by James Blackman (73% and 304.5) while Cam Akers presents the perfect counter-punch (193 yards rushing last week) on the ground.  These schools actually compete for the “Jefferson-Eppes Trophy”; it’s not the Civil ConFLiCT but just about as relevant over the years as UVa is 3-15 against FSU.

Kippy and Buffy know their history, and that “Eppes” refers to Thomas Jefferson’s grandson Francis Eppes IV, a two-time Mayor of Tallahassee and Trustee at the seminary that would eventually become Florida State.  Nothing says history like tailgating with a bottle of 2013 Jefferson Vineyards Meritage“an oak driven wine with wonderful aromatics. The bright palate shows berry and black pepper flavors, finishing with lingering notes of coffee.”  Coffee is for closers- and in the season of possibilities could that be the Cavaliers?

Presto’s Picks:  Cavs come through, 27-22.

 

Georgetown tops Catholic, Howard falls to Hampton, Towson tumbles to Maine, Richmond loses to Elon, James Madison mauls Morgan State.

Last Week: 8-1. Overall: 14-4.

 

 

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Orange kind of has a tough life.  It’s not a primary color and doesn’t really rhyme with anything.  It doesn’t even have a cool name it can check into, like turquoise, magenta, or mauve.  Saturday was not kind to multiple shades of orange on the college football landscape.  We start with No. 21 Syracuse (even though they’re called the Orange, SU wears blue jerseys at home) who got scored upon early, often, and late in their 63-20 drubbing by Maryland.  Shades of two years ago, when the Orange allowed 64 points to Wake Forest…or the year before when they coughed up 76 to Pitt.  Texas wears more of a burnt orange, and the No. 9 Longhorns also had defensive issues in their 45-38 loss to No. 6 LSU.  This was supposed to be the year Tom Herman was going to return UT to glory.  Well, they still have the Big 12 Championship Game to dream about.  The only dreams in Knoxville are nightmares for Tennessee; the orange-clad Volunteers are 0-2 after losses at home to Georgia State and BYU as the Jeremy Pruitt era hits a few speed bumps.   And keep in mind the Vols have yet to play an SEC game.

 

Alma Mater Update- where to start?  Syracuse couldn’t make tackles on defense, which I’m told is important.  And it just got worse from allowing an opening drive TD.  Tommy DeVito looked more “funny like a clown” Saturday, losing a fumble and throwing one of the worst interceptions in recent memory to set up first half Terp scores.  He may have thrown for 330 yards, but some throws were beyond wobbly.  It’s early- but Clemson comes to the Dome this weekend.  This team can still be good-but they have to play much better if they want to raise another Camping World Bowl banner.

 

Maryland (2-0) followed up its 79-point showing against Howard by scoring on its first three drives against No. 21 Syracuse en route to a 63-20 blowout of the Orange.  Stock is high on the Terps, but remember that the last two Septembers saw upsets of No. 23 Texas and each November ended with the team finishing on the wrong side of bowl eligibility.

Terrapin Triumphs: Josh Jackson threw for 296 yards and three scores while the offense converted 11 of 15 third downs. The running game churned out 354 yards on the ground.  Keandre Jones notched eight tackles, two sacks and a key forced fumble that helped the Terps grab a 14-0 first quarter lead.  The defense also held the Orange at bay for most of the second half despite advantageous field position.

Terrapin Troubles: Colton Spangler averaged 31.7 yards over his three punts.  Granted he’s had very few opportunities to get into rhythm (just one punt against Howard last week).  I’m sure the team is okay with that.

Next: Saturday at noon against Temple.

 

Virginia (2-0) began the weekend early by hosting William & Mary Friday night, and the Cavaliers crushed the Tribe 52-17.  On the menu was equal parts sizzle (Nick Grant’s 85-yard interception return for a TD and Joe Reed’s 100-yard kickoff return) and steak (the offense scored the first three times they had the ball).  Even after a fumble set up a William & Mary field goal, UVa got those points and more back when Reed ran the ensuing kickoff back.

Cavalier Congrats: Reed also led the team in receiving with four catches for 58 yards and a score.  Mike Hollins (11 carries for 78 yards) paced a ground game that averaged 6.2 yards per carry.  The offense did not punt all evening.  Jordan Mack notched 2.5 sacks to pace a pass rush that tallied seven sacks and held the Tribe to 1 of 11 on third down.

Cavalier Concerns:  three interceptions and a fumble might not hurt you against a foe from the CAA, but against ACC competition those mistakes will be much more costly.  UVa also missed a 30-yard field goal.

Next: Saturday against Florida State at 7:30 p.m.

 

Virginia Tech (1-1) bounced back from its loss at Boston College by vanquishing one of its ghosts from 2018; the Hokies beat the Monarchs 31-17 to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2010. Even so, ODU scored on their first two second half possessions to give the Lane Stadium crowd flashbacks of last year’s meltdown.

Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns while running for another score.  Rayshard Ashby tallied 10 tackles and the defense responded after allowing a first quarter field goal, holding ODU to 11 yards on their next 13 plays from scrimmage. Oscar Bradburn averaged 56.7 yards per punt while Terius Wheatley had a kickoff return of 71 yards to set up the final touchdown of the afternoon.

Hokie Humblings:  the running game generated just 3.4 yards per carry, and the team lost a pair of fourth quarter fumbles that in the hands of a better foe would have been disastrous.

Next: Saturday at noon against Furman.