Archives for posts with tag: Orangemen

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So much for learning!  Like an elementary school’s morning recess, the September bye interrupts whatever momentum the early season had.  Blame the calendar;  usually there are 13 weekends between Labor Day and Thanksgiving which translates to just one week off for most schools.  This year there are 14 weekends which means a bonus bye. Be thankful:  back in the day when 11-game schedules were the norm and before Conference Championship Games, byes would be scattered across the landscape like breadcrumbs.  Now, instead of weeks off, the openings are simply filled filled in with games against FCS and non-Power 5 schools.

Navy has an extra weekend off to begin with, thanks to the Army game taking place in December while counting towards their 12-game regular season total, so this year head coach Ken Niumatalo’s team is already idle for the second time.  “Sometimes you like it later in the season when you’re kind of banged up, but that’s our schedule,” Niumatalolo said. “We knew the schedule a long time ago. We’ve practiced for it and planned for it.”  What’s helpful for the Midshipmen is they get a few extra days to prepare for a Thursday night showdown with a 3-0 Memphis team that’s already beaten Ole Miss.  I like the bye leading the Thursday night game;  it allows the players to properly recover and the team to properly prepare (my major beef with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package).

While Navy at 2-0 still has a lot to learn about itself, Maryland’s 2-1 start let the light shine on not only how great this team can be (outscoring Howard and Syracuse 141-20) but also how they’re far from perfect (coming up empty on eight plays inside the Temple 10-yard line in the fourth quarter).  After a spring and summer of installing new systems on both sides of the ball, a break might be just what the Terps need mentally and physically. “You add the four weeks of training camp and three weeks of the season, that’s seven straight weeks of wall to wall football: pounding and the contact and things we do,” head coach Mike Locksley said.”Usually every three to four weeks you like to give your players a day off to be able to recover and re-set themselves.  This couldn’t have come at a better time.”  The break also separates the school’s non-conference and Big Ten portions cleanly, and after going 13-31 over its first five seasons in the league the Terps could use a little extra time.  “When you self-scout you give yourself an opportunity to see what other people see,” Locksley said. “You want to refine those things and maybe adjust some things so you don’t have a bunch of tendencies.”  We’ll see how beneficial the Terps’ time-out was when they host No. 13 Penn State next Friday night.

Virginia Tech is also 2-1 entering its bye week, but as no two 2-1 starts are exactly alike the Hokies appear to have a lot more to fix during the hiatus.  So far they’ve followed up a discouraging ACC loss with a pair of unimpressive wins against inferior competition.  No offense to FCS contender Furman or Old Dominion, but neither school should be able to come into Lane Stadium and be a threat in the fourth quarter.  Two keys for head coach Justin Fuente: 1- find a way to temper the turnovers (their nine giveaways is fourth most in FBS) and 2- get better on the ground (Hokies rank 11th in the ACC on offense and 10th in stopping the run).  Help is on the way in the form of ex-Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who comes on board as a special assistant.  At least they face Duke (Hokies are 3-0 against the Blue Devils under Fuente) and Miami (the Hurricanes are 0-2 against FBS teams this fall) next Friday evening.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange find themselves 1-2 with their bye two weeks away;  thank goodness they face the likes of Western Michigan and Holy Cross to wrap up the month.  I’m by no means putting both games in the win column at this time, as the Broncos are averaging over 30 points per game and put 42 on the board last year against SU while the Crusaders were picked to finish second in the Patriot League.  Back to back noon games hopefully resets the season before ACC play resumes.

No. 21 Virginia (3-0) vs. Old Dominion (1-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2).  The Cavaliers season of possibilities has the team off to its best start since 2005.  That team featured the dual-threat quarterback Marques Hagans, who completed over 60% of his passes while using his wheels to haunt opposing defenses.  Hagans has nothing on Bryce Perkins, who in 16 games has already moved past Hagans in career touchdown passes and career yards rushing.   The Monarchs come off of their bye knowing they had plenty of opportunities to upset Virginia Tech for the second straight season, while realizing they have a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball.  Quarterback Stone Smartt is averaging less than ten yards per completion and the ODU defense has troubles getting off of the field on third down.

Kippy and Buffy have no issues setting up their third tailgate of the season, and how better to enjoy a showdown of Commonwealth schools than by opening a bottle of Chrysallis Vineyards Viognier (the state grape of Virginia).  “Full-bodied and fragrant with heady tropical and citrus fruits”.  During the season of possibilities that has UVa dreaming of a potential Citrus or-dare I say-Orange Bowl, they’re going all-in on a citrus fruit finish.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers maul the Monarchs, 44-14.

 

Howard slips to Delaware State, James Madison beats Chattanooga, William & Mary falls to East Carolina, Towson tops Villanova, Morgan State loses to Army.

Last Week: 7-2. Overall: 21-6.

 

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Conference Tournament week has the area schools scurrying to locations like Charlotte, Chicago, New York City, Brooklyn and Norfolk.  Even though conference expansion has changed these tourneys from tight three-day affairs to bloated five-day album cuts, the little dances before the Big Dance will provide plenty of thrills, chills, and spills leading up to Selection Sunday.

Tournaments with DC area schools:

ACC- Spectrum Center, Charlotte.  Sure the SEC had a tournament in the 1930’s and 40’s, but the Atlantic Coast Conference created the mold for league tourneys.  And sure, it’s a major hike to Blacksburg and Charlottesville–but there are plenty of alums who reside inside the beltway and either pop their collars or talk about turkey legs and a 15-year football streak.  Beware of the bluebloods:  Duke or North Carolina have won 13 of the 19 tournaments this century–and either the Blue Devils or the Tar Heels have played in the Finals every year since 1997 (the trivia answer would be Wake Forest-Georgia Tech).

#2 Virginia (28-2, 16-2 ACC)- the Cavaliers (10-3 in the ACC Tournament over the last five years) await the winner of Clemson-NC State in the #8 vs #9 game.  The Tigers-Wolfpack noon showdown will have the feel of an NCAA Play-in game, as both  schools are squarely on the bubble.  UVa routed Clemson 63-43 January 12th (holding the Tigers to 26% shooting and 3-19 from three-point range); they needed overtime to edge NC State 66-65 January 29th in their sloppiest game of the season (16 turnovers).  The Wolfpack beat the Tigers during their lone regular season matchup 69-67 and won three of five to wrap up the regular season;  but those three wins came against Boston College (2) and Wake Forest (1), who both lost in Tuesday’s bottom-of-barrel-scraping First Round.  UVa  meets the winner at noon Thursday.

#16 Virginia Tech (23-7, 12-6 ACC)- the Hokies (2-5 in the ACC Tournament over the last five years) face Miami at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Second Round, five days after beating the Hurricanes 84-70.  They also beat Miami 82-70 in their January meeting and in the sweep hit over 50% of their three-point shots against the Canes.  Primary offensive weapon Kerry Blackshear Jr. did not play well in either game: scoring 1 point in January, 8 last Friday, while shooting 4-for-20 over both games.  Hurricane to watch:  senior Anthony Lawrence II notched 20 points with 10 rebounds against Wake Forest and averaged a double-double against the Hokies this winter.  Achilles’ Heel to watch:  Miami ranked last in the ACC in rebounding margin.  A win sets up a rematch against #12 Florida State in the quarterfinals, a little over a week after blowing a double-digit lead in a loss at the Seminoles.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are a less than beautiful 19-12 after Saturday’s loss at Clemson…and even though most models have them “in” the NCAA Tournament, I won’t sleep unless they dispose of last-place Pitt in Wednesday’s Second Round.  A win means a third game this winter against Duke–and I’m not expecting any miracles.  Plus, coach Jim Boeheim is more of a Temptations fan than Smokey Robinson anyways.

 

Big Ten Tournament- United Center, Chicago.  After playing 2017 at Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center and 2018 at Madison Square Garden (a week early) in New York City, the league returns to its roots with a week in the Windy City.  Although to mix things up, this year for the first time the conference instituted a 20-game schedule (don’t worry, the ACC will follow suit next winter).  Sixth ranked Michigan State may enter as regular season champ, but #10 Michigan has won the last two Big Ten Tournaments and nobody is paying attention to #13 Purdue and the league’s leading scorer Carsen Edwards.

#21 Maryland (22-9, 13-7 Big Ten)- at 3 p.m Thursday the Terps (2-4 in the tournament since joining the conference) face the winner of  Rutgers and Nebraska (6:30 p.m Wednesday).  They beat both schools during the first week of January:  Jalen Smith’s last-second bucket gave Maryland a 74-72 win over the Cornhuskers in the kind of tight game they were getting the reputation of losing lately, and the road win at the Scarlet Knights (where they held Rutgers to 19 first-half points) showed that there would be no road woes this winter like last season.  Rutgers took the regular season matchup 76-69;  one game later Nebraska’s second-leading scorer and rebounder (and Georgetown transfer) Isaac Copeland Jr. went down with a torn ACL and the Huskers haven’t recovered. Rutgers remains Rutgers, however:  ranking 12th in the conference in points allowed, shooting and turnover margin; 13th in scoring and three-point shooting; and last in defending the three.  A Terps win Thursday would set up a rubber match with Wisconsin, the home team prevailing each time during the regular season.

 

Big East Tournament, Madison Square Garden, New York City.  The league nobody wants to win holds its postseason affair with plenty of possibilities.  Top seed Villanova lost its last five road games while Marquette dropped its last four games overall.  St. John’s moved from third to seventh place over the last week with three straight defeats.  Even Georgetown found a way to lose to DePaul by 32 (since the Blue Demons swept the Red Storm and bubble team Seton Hall along with that rout of the Hoyas, we’ve dropped the traditional “Lowly” prefix from their name).  Good luck figuring this one out.

Georgetown (19-12, 9-9 Big East)- the Hoyas play third seed Seton Hall Thursday in the last quarterfinal of the day, and while the schedule reads “9:30 p.m.”, both you and I know better (more like 9:45-9:50 start-if there’s no overtime).  Home court prevailed during the regular season, with the Pirates Myles Powell averaging 32.5 points against the Hoyas.  Jessie Govan scored 20 and 21 points against Seton Hall, but went scoreless in the first half at Capital One Arena before catching fire:  the senior scored all 11 Hoya points in double-overtime of the 77-71 win.  The freshman duo of Mac McClung and James Akinjo had rough nights in both games, shooting a combined 2-for-11 in the road loss and 9-for-28 in the home win.  The winner likely faces #23 Marquette in the semifinals, barring a continued collapse by the Golden Eagles (a distinct possibility).

 

Atlantic 10 Tournament, Barclays Center, Brooklyn.  I actually enjoyed having the A-10 in DC last March, and can’t wait for it to return in 2022.  It was a shame all four area schools had down years in 2018:  VCU, George Mason and Richmond each finished 9-9 in league play while George Washington played on the first day of the tournament.  This year, the Rams are on a roll with 12 straight wins and the Patriots are enjoying their best-ever conference season since leaving the CAA.  The Spiders and Colonials…not so much.

George Washington (8-23, 4-14 Atlantic 10)- the Colonials (5-5 since re-alignment in 2014)  play UMass in the first game of the tournament Wednesday at 1 p.m. GW took the regular season matchup 79-67 on February 20 as Maceo Jack scored 20 points;  that’s their only win since January.  The current five game losing streak involves four double-digit defeats.  UMass may have two wins in their last five games, but are winless away from Amherst against A-10 competition this winter.  They also have a hobbled leading scorer as Luwane Pipkins has played in just three of the team’s last nine games due to a hamstring injury.

George Mason (17-14, 11-7 Atlantic 10)- the Patriots (2-5 in the tournament over the last five years) play the winner of George Washington and UMass in Thursday’s Second Round (2:30 p.m.);  somehow this Patriots-Colonials-Minutemen sub-bracket is kind of amusing for history majors (though not as cool as the potential VCU-Rhode Island-Fordham Rams Regional would be).  Mason swept both teams during the regular season, with their  January 16 win at UMass (an 18-9 finish over the last 6:40 delivering a five-point margin) setting the tone for a 7-2 start in league play.  Freshman Jordan Miller could be an X-factor this week:  the Middleburg, VA native averaged 14 points (on 58% shooting) with 9.5 rebounds over his last four games.  The winner takes on St. Bonaventure in Friday’s Quarterfinals (2:30 p.m).

Richmond (12-19, 6-12 Atlantic 10)- the Spiders (4-5 with one tournament finals appearance since 2014) face Fordham in Wednesday’s other First Round game (3:30 p.m.).  It’s been a rough finish for both teams:  Richmond has lost four straight while the Rams have dropped five of six.  The Spiders took the lone regular season meeting 72-69 February 20;  Grant Golden scored 16 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 20 seconds left.  Freshman Nick Honor paced the Rams with 23 points that day—a sign that the future is bright.  The present is another matter for the league’s last-place team.

VCU (25-6, 16-2 Atlantic 10)- the Rams are 13-5 in the A-10 Tournament since leaving the CAA, and with the exception of last March have advanced to the Finals every year.  Their run this year begins in the Quarterfinals Friday at noon against the winner or Rhode Island and La Salle.  While the Rams beat the Explorers 69-63 in early January, they fell 71-65 to Rhode Island on a night where they coughed up 50 second-half points, turned the ball over 18 times and shot 17% from three-point range.  Coach Mike Rhoades’ team hasn’t lost since.  URI beat La Salle in the regular season 78-67 thanks to 20 points from Fatts Russell.  Let the record show the A-10 has some sweet names this year, from the Explorers’ Pookie Powell to my favorite:  Duquesne guard Sincere Carry-who naturally just happens to lead the conference in assists.

 

MEAC Tournament, Norfolk Scope, Norfolk.  This league runs its men’s and women’s tournaments concurrently, meaning Monday’s First Round winners often next play Wednesday or Thursday.  While the #1 seed has won five titles in the last ten years, there have been upsets like last March when #6 seed North Carolina Central beat regular season champ Hampton in the Finals.

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC) reached the Semifinals as a #11 seed two years ago;  the Bison have just two other wins in the tournament this decade.  The lead the league in scoring but play a defensive style that can sometimes be referred to as “matadorish”; but when you have the conference’s top two point producers in R.J. Cole and Charles Williams you take your chances.  Coach Kevin Nickelberry’s team is also riding a ridiculous 8-0 road record in conference play to Norfolk-where they wrapped up the regular season by beating top seed Norfolk State.  The #4 seed Bison battle Bethune-Cookman Thursday in the Quarterfinals at 8 p.m.;  the Wildcats boast the league’s best big man in Cletrell Pope (#1 in rebounding, #2 in shooting percentage and #3 in blocked shots).   The winner likely gets an angry Norfolk State in the Semifinals Friday.

 

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It was brought to my attention after I praised Northwestern’s run to the Big Ten West that their division is subpar, and that’s absolutely right.  The West is far from being the best this fall, as has been the custom since the conference put “Leaders & Legends” into the trash can where it belonged.  But the Big Ten’s Division discussion is far from unique, as each of the Power Five Conferences have long boasted a Darryl Hall as well as a John Oates. (Or, depending on your age and interest: Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel, George Michael/Andrew Ridgeley, Kix Brooks/Ronnie Dunn, Big Kenny/John Rich).  Even the ten-member Big 12 had that issue, as the South won 12 of 15 championship games.

At least the Big Ten West has a ranked team in the Wildcats.  That’s not the case in the ACC’s Coastal where a 4-loss Pitt  is all but headed to Charlotte for a showdown with unbeaten Clemson (that will certainly end well).  The Atlantic Division has won seven straight and is 9-4 in a league set up for Miami and Florida State to face off for the title (and they’ve yet do do so).  Despite the imagined edge, the Atlantic and Coastal have won an equal amount of inter-divisional games this fall.

The Pac 12 division of fortune is similar, with two ranked schools in the North and just one in the South (a #19 Utah that has three league losses).  The North has won six of seven Championship Games and this year looks like more of the same, with a 5-4 South champion an extreme possibility.  The North owns a two-game edge inter-divisonally, with everyone wondering when USC and UCLA will get their respective acts in gear.

You’d expect the SEC to have a marked difference, especially with the West winning seven of eight titles this decade (although it was 5-5 the previous decade and the East dominated the 90’s).  But the East has actually taken seven of 12 inter-division games.  Even Vanderbilt is getting into the act.  Of course, everybody-in the East and West-is and will be chasing Alabama now and for some time.  My only issue is that Missouri is west of the Mississippi River yet plays in the East Division.

Which brings us to the Big Ten.  This year there are three East Division teams in the top 14 with Northwestern repping the West at #22.  The East owns an 11-8 edge and enjoyed a 13-8 advantage last year, but the West won 11 of 21 games in 2016 and the two divisions were even the previous two years.  The East is 4-0 in the Championship Game, a small sample size to say the least.  And that span saw changes at formerly dominant programs Nebraska and Wisconsin.  How long the current divide will last between the divisions might just hinge on how long it takes for Scott Frost to get things going in Lincoln and how long it takes Paul Chryst to consolidate what he’s built in Madison.  Perhaps Urban Meyer (who’s resigned with health concerns before), Mike Dantonio (62 years old) and Jim Harbaugh (mentioned every year with NFL vacancies) won’t be on their current campuses forever.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was conference parity.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange haven’t started 9-2 since 1992, when Marvin Graves was at the peak of his powers.  SU heads to New York City to face #3 Notre Dame, and after the Fighting Irish won their first three games by single digits they’ve been on a roll.  The last time these two teams played, the Orange allowed 50 points.  While I’m hoping its not that bad, it can’t get worse than men’s basketball’s  loss to UConn at Madison Square Garden where somebody spelled a player’s name wrong on the back of their jersey.  Granted, it was only a freshman who played just six minutes.  But the kid’s name was-and is-Buddy Boeheim.  As in the son of the man who has been our head coach for the last 42 years–and has been on campus in one way or another since 1962.  I’m looking forward to buying a game replica Buddy Boheim jersey at Manny’s online.

Saturday’s Games-

Maryland (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) vs. #9 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1), noon (ABC).  The Buckeyes happen to be the only team in the East Division the Terps haven’t beaten since joining the league, and it hasn’t been close:  the average score has been 56-17.  This year OSU owns the number one offense in the Big Ten thanks to the arm of Dwayne Haskins, who has 33 touchdown passes in ten games.  With Kasim Hill done for the year due to a torn ACL, the Terps will start redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome (who has thrown all of 31 passes this fall).  Expect Anthony McFarland (210 yards rushing against Indiana) to receive the lion’s share of attention, and while the Buckeyes aren’t as sharp on that side of the ball their defense is second-best at getting off of the field in the Big Ten.  Terrapins tumble, 44-14.

Virginia Tech (4-5, 3-3 ACC) vs. Miami (5-5, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN).  The last two Coastal Division champs expected to be playing for another spot in the ACC Championship Game this weekend as recently as one month ago.  Instead, it’s a question of which team can salvage its sinking season. While the Hokies have dropped three in a row, the Hurricanes have lost four straight.  But not all slides into oblivion are created equally, as Miami has three one-possession losses in its tumble and Virginia Tech has dropped its three by an average of 20 points.  Tech’s slump can be traced to a defense that’s surrendered 30 or more points five times this fall;  the Cane’s decline can be traced to an offense that ranks 12th in the ACC in passing and a starting quarterback in N’Kosi Perry who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in over a month.  Cover your eyes.  Hokies hurt a little more, 27-21.

Virginia (7-3, 4-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-3), 3:30 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers can still win the Coastal Division, but only with two wins and two losses by Pitt.  The Yellowjackets may be out of the running for the division, but Coach Paul Johnson’s option offense will be running all afternoon- they lead the nation with 362 yards per game on the ground.  UVa just coughed up 205 yards rushing– to Liberty.  The home team has also prevailed in seven of eight meetings this decade.   Kippy & Buffy hit the road with a bottle of Cain Five.  The 2014 vintage is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot (remaining grapes used are split between Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).  “The aromas are discrete: fruity—floral—herbal—spicy—and pure. On the palate, the wine has a certain density, but now the tannins have melted and this wine just flows.”  Cavaliers come up short, 33-26.

Navy (2-8, 1-5 AAC) vs. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).  For just the second time all season, the Mids will face a team with a losing record -their October 6th trip to 1-3 Air Force being the other time.  The Golden Hurricane have lost eight of nine (the one win coming against one-win UConn) and rank tenth in the AAC at stopping the run while allowing 5.0 yards per carry.  Now that Zach Abey is back at the controls of the option offense, one can expect more of the 21-point second half they had against UCF and less of the 3-point first half they scraped together against the Knights last week.  The defense has to put together a solid sixty minutes together against Tulsa offense that ranks 11th in passing, total offense and points per game while allowing the most sacks this fall.  Midshipmen celebrate Senior Day in Annapolis with a 31-19 victory.

Howard beats Bryant, Georgetown gets by Holy Cross, James Madison tops Towson, William & Mary beats Richmond to send Jimmye Laycock out a winner.

Last Week: 6-4.

Overall: 56-36.

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There are many reasons to be infatuated with the Pac-12 Conference.  First, it’s a league whose name actually reflects its membership number.  Second, there’s never a shortage of exciting offensive players–even second-tier teams like Arizona and Oregon State boast the likes of J.J. Taylor and Jermar Jefferson (Taylor leads Jefferson by four yards in the race for leading rusher).  And for some reason these schools simply put on more competitive shows than any other conference.  The weekend began with USC salvaging its season by rallying past Washington State 39-36…and Saturday night ended with Washington holding off a late Arizona State rally in a 27-20 victory.  But the signature game of the week saw Stanford come back from 17 points down in the second half to outlast Oregon 38-31.  The Cardinal have already beaten a pair of ranked foes and visit Notre Dame next Saturday.  Here’s hoping they represent well in South Bend.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are 4-0 for the first time since 1991!  And just the fourth time since World War II.  Sadly, I knew of two of the other three (1959 National Championship and 1987 unbeaten season)–1960 was the other year.  But much like ’91, SU goes on the road against a top five team.  Safe to say after last year Clemson will not be looking past the Orange.

 

Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) not only bounced back from their loss to Temple but also won their Big Ten opener and enter the bye week in a good mood.  The 42-13 smackdown of previously unbeaten Minnesota saw the Terps put together a highlight reel, tallying touchdowns of 21, 26, 36, 54, 64 and 81 yards.  Terrapin Triumphs:  Anthony McFarland and Ty Johnson both ran for over 100 yards, as the team gained 315 yards on ground.  The defense held the Golden Gophers to 5-16 on third down and turned them over three times in the second half. Tre Watson notched nine tackles while returning an interception for a touchdown to start the second half.  Terrapin Troubles: Ten penalties for 118 yards.  Minnesota’s lone touchdown drive was aided by consecutive flags at midfield. The offense took a while to get going, converting 1-6 third downs in the first half while going three and out four times.  Next: October 6th at 3-1 Michigan.

 

Virginia (3-1, 1-0 ACC) won its conference opener for the third straight year under coach Bronco Mendenhall.  The 27-3 thumping of Louisville not only gets this team halfway to bowl eligibility, and in a year when the rest of the Coastal Division is somewhat suspect UVa may be rethinking its ceiling this fall.  Cavalier Congrats:  Bryce Perkins threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third while the offense converted 9-16 third downs.  Charles Snowden led the defense with eight tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception.  Cavalier Concerns: A.J. Meija missed a 32-yard field goal attempt, his third miss from closer than 35 yards this spring.  He was replaced by freshman Hunter Pearson.  Next: Saturday at 3-0 NC State.

 

Navy (2-2, 1-1 AAC) lost to previously winless SMU 31-30 in overtime.  A less than ideal way to wrap up September, with the meat of their conference schedule plus games with the service academies and Notre Dame coming up.  Midshipman Medals: 349 yards rushing plus 36:43 time of possession.  Taylor Heflin tallied 12 tackles plus a sack and a forced fumble.  Jarid Ryan notched at defensive Defensive PAT Conversion to jumpstart a second half rally.  Midshipman Miscues:  three fumbles–two of which led to both of SMU’s offensive touchdowns in regulation (the third led to a missed field goal attempt).  Special teams allowed a 98-yard kickoff return for a score.  Next: October 6th at 1-2 Air Force.

 

Virginia Tech (2-1, 1-0 ACC) scheduled its game at Old Dominion to reward its fans in the “757”…unfortunately the Monarchs had other plans.  The 49-35 loss to a previously winless team takes quite a bit of air out of what was looking like another great season in Blacksburg.  Hokie Highlights:  Steven Peoples rushes for 156 yards and two touchdowns while VT gains 318 yards on the ground.  Damon Hazelton stretches the secondary with five catches for 154 yards and a score.  Hokie Humblings:  the same defense that kept Florida State out of the endzone allowed 632 yards to ODU-who scored touchdowns the last four times they had the ball.  The offense converted just 4-of-14 third downs.  Penalties were a problem, with seven flags for 95 yards.  Next: Saturday at 4-0 Duke.

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College football’s “Show Me Month” shows worlds turned upside-down in Lincoln and Tallahassee:  traditional powers Nebraska and Florida State are off to less than ideal starts with new head coaches.

While the Cornhuskers are not the program in the 21st century they were during the glory run of Tom Osborne, this is a program that hasn’t been 0-2 since 1957.  The coach that year was William Jennings, although it may just as well be William Jennings Bryan.  The idea when they hired Scott Frost away from UCF was their former quarterback would be the magic potion for a program that hadn’t competed for a conference crown since the Big Ten boasted its ill-advised “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions.  Instead, consecutive losses at home has the red jacket-clad fan base wondering if two years at an AAC school was enough of a proving ground.  Thank goodness they’ve rescheduled an opponent to fill the void when the Akron game was cancelled:  0-3 Bethune-Cookman (from the MEAC) comes to Lincoln October 27th.

Any panic you may see in the midwest pales in comparison to the horror on the gulf coast:  the Seminoles’ come from behind win over Samford can hardly cover up an 0-2 ACC start where the offense has scored just one touchdown.  And this is an 0-2 start in the conference with Miami and Clemson still on the schedule.  What happened to the program that posted double digit wins every year from 2012-2016?  And have visiting aliens kidnapped Deondre Francois?  Seriously, folks.  As a freshman the kid netted 8.4 yards per pass attempt (two full yards better than what he’s doing this year) with a 20-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio (he’s thrown three TD’s with four INT’s so far this fall).  Perhaps Jimbo Fisher departed for Texas A&M just in time?  The good news for FSU fans is that Willie Taggart has started slow in his previous stops as head coach before eventually delivering winners at Western Kentucky and South Florida.  But will a fan base that views a 10-win season as a “bad year” have the necessary patience?

Alma Mater Update– Syracuse is 3-0 for the second time this century and entertains UConn Saturday.  The Huskies are beyond bad this fall;  they’ve allowed an average of 56 points per game–including 49 in a win over FCS Rhode Island (I’m hoping they didn’t make up a “trophy” for that game).  But there’s a reason the Orange haven’t started 4-0 since 1991–and it’s that they used to lose games like this all the time.  Somehow the likes of East Carolina, Middle Tennessee, NC State and Cincinnati often have the last laugh.  Perhaps SU alum Randy Edsall will go easy on his alma mater.

Maryland (2-1) vs. Minnesota (3-0), noon (Big Ten Network)-  can the Terrapins bounce back from last week’s ugly loss to Temple and begin conference play on the right note, providing positive momentum entering the bye week?  Quarterback Kasim Hill needs to turn his season around;  the redshirt freshman has seen his passing yardage decline from 222 to 121 to 56 this month.  Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck brings a defense that allows under ten points per game and ranks first in the Big Ten in passing efficiency into College Park– he also brings wide receiver Tyler Johnson (20 catches for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns) to apply pressure on a much-improved Maryland defense (tops in the Big Ten in getting off of the field on third down).  Terrapins tumble, 27-17.

 

Navy (2-1) at SMU (0-3), noon (ESPN News)- the two AAC West schools provide quite a contrast in coaching stability:  Ken Niumatalolo is in his 11th season at the helm while first-year coach Sonny Dykes is the Mustangs’ fifth in that span.  It’s been a rough start for Dykes, with two of their losses coming against ranked foes and the other loss was against unbeaten North Texas.  It’s just as rough for third-year starting quarterback Ben Hicks, minus both of his top targets from last year as Trey Quinn is currently with the Washington Redskins and Courtland Sutton is playing for the Denver Broncos.  Last fall the Mids needed a last-second field goal to prevail in Annapolis;  so far this September Navy boasts the best turnover margin (+7) in the conference and has a ground game that holds the ball over 36 minutes per game.  Midshipmen handle the Mustangs, 31-14.

 

Virginia (2-1) vs. Louisville (2-1), 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network)- the Cardinals own a three game winning streak over UVa, but that was with quarterback Lamar Jackson. This year’s already brought a change at the position with Malik Cunningham getting the nod instead of Jawon Ross this week.  Virginia counters with dual threat quarterback Bryce Perkins (4th in the ACC in passing efficiency while averaging 80 yards rushing per game).  The first ACC game means Kippy & Buffy switch over from white to red wine…and there’s no better way to kick off conference play than with a bottle of A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon.  The 2015 vintage offers “striking aromas of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are overlaid with a cornucopia of spices. As the wine moves across the palate, ripe, dusty tannins bracketed by juicy acidity give shape and definition to the powerful fruit flavors in harmony with a mineral quality, reminiscent of slate and graphite.”  As we’re already in the Beaver State, Kippy & Buffy break out the Rogue Smokey Blue cheese on multi-grain crisps.  Cavaliers come through, 28-20.

  

Virginia Tech (2-0) at Old Dominion (0-3), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)- the Hokies may be on the road but Norfolk is well within the program’s footprint.  Last year they turned FedEx Field into a sort of “Blacksburg North” for their game with West Virginia.  Hopefully they’ve brought plenty of Lane Stadium turkey legs for their faithful to consume.  The Monarchs may be winless, but one benefit of having last Saturday off was coach Justin Fuente’s team had a chance to see multiple upsets.  They won’t be taking ODU lightly, even with the Monarchs’ offense converting just 28% of third down conversions.   Hokies handle business on the road, 38-14. 

 

Howard tops Bethune-Cookman, Georgetown loses to Columbia, James Madison beats William & Mary, Richmond gets by Stony Brook, Morgan State comes up short at North Carolina A&T.

 

Last Week: 4-2.

For the Season: 16-8.

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Let’s get this out of the way to start:  the Heisman Trophy process is far from an exact science.  Technically it’s for the “best player in college football”, when in reality it’s intended for the “best quarterback/runningback on a nationally contending team”.  Which is much better than it used to be–until they started handing this award to sophomores and freshman (thank you Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel), it was the “best upperclassman quarterback/runningback on a nationally contending team” honor.  This year’s field has had many favorites who have either played their way out of contention (USC’s Sam Darnold) or watched their team suck the life out of their campaign (reigning winner Lamar Jackson at Louisville).  Enter Baker Mayfield.  The Oklahoma quarterback is completing 71% of his passes for 31 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions.  In his three biggest games of the year he’s thrown for 333, 386 and 598 yards.  And he’s got the Sooners on the cusp of a trip the College Football Playoff.  Sorry, Bryce Love at Stanford.  Prepare the pose, Mr. Mayfield.

 

Alma Mater Update- whenever we get to Heisman time I think not of the trophy Ernie Davis won in 1961, but the two others that should have come to SU.  Jim Brown in 1956 and Donnie McPherson in 1987.  Look up the years they had.  Another reason to love Notre Dame.  Heismans that weren’t is a nice distraction from allowing 64 points (and 43 in the second half) to Wake Forest.  The window is almost closed on a Pinstripe Bowl banner, and hopefully we’ll get another strong recruiting class of players who can rush, cover and tackle to bolster a struggling D next year.  Time for hoops.

 

Maryland (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) lost to Michigan 35-10.  The Wolverines put the game away with three touchdowns over a four-minute span in the second quarter. Despite outplaying their foes in the second half and outgaining them on the afternoon, the Terps find themselves on the precipice of postseason elimination.  Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore achieved a rare feat:  completing a pass, making a catch, punting the ball and making a tackle.  Quarterback Ryan Brand played well for a former fifth string walk-on in his first collegiate start against the #2 defense in the nation.  Josh Woods tallied 10 tackles.  Terrapin Troubles:  a blocked punt and a failed fake punt gave the Wolverines short fields that they turned into TD’S.  The defense allowed 30+ points for the sixth straight game and eighth time in ten games this fall.  Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. against 7-3 Michigan State.

 

Virginia Tech (7-3, 3-3 ACC) lost for the second straight week, this time slipping at Georgia Tech 28-22.  Two weeks ago we were wondering just how good this team actually was–and now we know they’re a middle of the pack team in the ACC’s weaker division.  Hokie Highlights:  Eric Kumah caught a career-high 6 passes for 82 yards.  Josh Jackson turned in a turnover-free game.  Greg Stroman continues to make impact plays, returning an interception for a touchdown.  Hokie Humblings:  the running game averaged less than 3 yards per carry…and the offense converted just 4 of 15 third downs.  The defense coughed up a 60-yard touchdown pass and an 80-yard scoring strike.  Next: Saturday at 12:20 p.m. vs 4-6 Pitt.

 

Virginia (6-4, 3-3 ACC) lost at Louisville 38-21 as defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson ripped through them for 195 yards passing and three touchdowns while adding 147 yards rushing and another score.  Just to further underscore that the statue is not perfect, Jackson’s technically having a better year than 2016 but because his Cardinals can’t defend a ham sandwich he’s a Heisman afterthought.  Cavalier Congrats:  they began and ended the first half with touchdown drives.  Andre Levrone caught 6 passes for 92 yards.  Quin Blanding to the surprise of nobody led the team in tackles again with nine stops.  Cavalier Concerns: after the opening possession, UVa gained 40 total yards on their next 22 plays from scrimmage.  The running game was held to 63 yards on 28 tries–no way to keep Lamar Jackson off the field.  Eight penalties for 73 yards on the road is not helpful either.  Next:  Saturday at noon against 9-0 Miami.

 

Navy (6-3, 4-3 AAC) snapped a three-game losing streak by outslugging SMU 43-40.  A JR Osborn field goal at the final gun qualified the Mids for bowl eligibility–and sent the Mustangs home with visions a ground game that put the Pony Express to shame.  Midshipmen Medals:  backup quarterback Malcolm Perry rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns while the team tallied 559 yards on the ground.  Micah Thomas led the defense with eight tackles, an interception and half of a sack.  Owen White averaged 43 yards per punt.  Midshipmen Miscues:  two turnovers didn’t help things, and the defense that returned six starters has now allowed 30+ points in its last four games.  Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m at 8-2 Notre Dame.

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Don’t look now, but there’s a dynasty brewing down the road on I-81.  James Madison is defending its FCS Championship by posting complete effort after complete effort:  the Dukes lead the CAA in rushing and are second in passing efficiency, while JMU’s overall defense is tops in the conference and 30+ yards per game better than anyone at stopping the pass.  They even lead the league in punting.  Coach Mike Houston’s name will certainly come up anytime there’s an opening on the coaching carousel, especially in ACC country where there’s always a hot seat or two.  The 2018 table is already set with not one but two underclassmen in position to rush for 1,000 yards this fall…and that punter who leads the CAA (Harry O’Kelly) is just a freshman.  But the past (and the 2016 FCS title) as well as the future take a back seat.  The majority of the 2017 campaign is ahead, and while a 5-0 start that includes a win at East Carolina is nice the Dukes know that CAA play is what determines an FCS berth and seed.  Over the next five weeks as they’ll face three conference foes currently ranked in the top 15…starting Saturday with #11 Villanova.  ESPN is even holding Gameday in Harrisonburg…and it’s not just to keep Lee Corso away from the fried twinkies offered at the Texas State Fair during Oklahoma-Texas.  The Dukes face their first major roadblock to repeating…as the Wildcats are coming off a shutout of Maine and are 2nd best nationally (FCS) in stopping the run.  We’re talking allowing just 50 yards per game on 1.76 yards per carry.  Roadblock, indeed.

 

Alma Mater Update- not since 1984 when #1 Nebraska was defeated at the Carrier Dome has the college football world been turned on its ear as much as Friday night when the Orange shocked another orange-clad team in #2 and defending champ Clemson.  I’m still processing it…but I think this means the school has a shot at securing one of those vaunted Pinstripe Bowl banners.  A 4-3 mark with games against Wake Forest and Boston College on the horizon?  Break out multiple “Five Wing Specials”.

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) vs Northwestern (2-3, 0-2),  3:30 p.m, (ESPN2).   While it’s always good to have a Plan B…and sometimes a decent Plan C can salvage things, heaven forbid if you have to go to Plan D.  That’s what we could see Saturday as Max Bortenschlager was “shaken up” last Saturday at Ohio State, and while coach D.J. Durkin would not say if Max was in the concussion protocol he was confident in Caleb Henderson- as in the transfer from North Carolina who’s been injured for much of the last six months.  The case could be made that Henderson before getting hurt was the original “Plan A”.  The Wildcats haven’t had to vary from their Plan A at quarterback, with junior Clayton Thorson making 31 starts over the last two-plus years.  Unfortunately he doesn’t have a great supporting cast as Northwestern ranks last in rushing and allows the most sacks in the Big Ten.  Terrapins triumph, 29-21.

 

Virginia (4-1, 1-0 ACC) at North Carolina (1-5, 0-3), 3:30 p.m., (ACC Network).  Hold on…it’s mid-October and the Cavaliers have a better record than the Tar Heels?  UVa hasn’t finished higher in the Coastal Division standings than UNC since 2011…and they haven’t beaten the kids from Chapel Hill since 2011.  But 2017 has Bronco Mendenhall’s team executing on third down (2nd best in the ACC at 49.4 % conversion rate) while Larry Fedora’s bunch ranks last in the league at moving the chains (28.8%).  Remember how UVa couldn’t stop anybody last year?  This fall that’s UNC’s honor as they allow a league-worst 33 points and 466 yards per game.  If you listen to old school alumni in Charlottesville, they’ll tell you that North Carolina-not those upstarts at Virginia Tech-is their real rival.  If you listen to Kippy & Buffy, they’ll tell you that they’ll share a bottle of Ponzi Pinot Noir (“carries aromas of tobacco, dark red fruits and fresh berries. The rich cherry flavor is complemented by notes of cedar, raspberry and strawberry”) with their UNC pals Meredith & Peyton (both wear navy blue turtlenecks and Carolina blue sweaters). Break out the Gruyère.  Cavaliers come through, 34-20.

 

#24 Navy (5-0, 3-0 AAC) at Memphis (4-1, 1-1), 3:45 p.m., ESPNU.  Somehow the Midshipmen are unbeaten despite a defense that has been rather accommodating and an offense that has either misfired (13th in red zone offense) or shot itself in the foot (4 lost fumbles is second most in the league).  They’ll need to score touchdowns instead of field goals if they want to keep pace with the high-octane Tiger offense:  quarterback Riley Ferguson has posted three 300-yard passing games this fall and burned the Mids for 333 yards last fall.  That game saw Will Worth roast Memphis with his arm and legs…and Zach Abey just isn’t the passer who can keep the Tigers’ D honest.  Midshipmen come up short, 38-33.

Howard defeats Delaware State, Georgetown loses at Lehigh, Richmond tops Towson, William & Mary loses to Delaware, and James Madison stays unbeaten with a victory over Villanova.

Last Week: 7-1.

Overall: 35-11.