Archives for posts with tag: Penn State

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

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

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

Friday’s Game-

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

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

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

 

Saturday’s Games-

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

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

Midshipmen stumble, 35-30. 

 

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

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

Terrapins tumble, 34-22.

 

FCS Playoffs:

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

Towson triumphs, 33-25.

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

Dukes defeat Delaware, 31-16.

 

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 61-39.

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

 

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

 

Friday-

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

 

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

 

Saturday-

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

 

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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This past weekend was won by Penn State in their 24-21 upset of #2 Ohio State…there’s nothing quite like a fourth quarter Buckeye collapse that includes a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.  While the Nittany Lions team that almost lost to Minnesota a few weeks ago is back in the East Division race…the major beneficiary might just be the Pac-12 and their new bully, Washington.  The Huskies have had one game this fall decided by fewer than 24 points (a 35-28 win at Arizona)…and under coach Chris Peterson are reminding fans of the Don James era when they regularly went to the Rose Bowl (six times in 16 years from 1978 to 93, with more than a few near-misses).  They plucked Peterson from nearby Boise State to replace Steve Sarkisian (who imploded at USC)…and he proved that his success with the Broncos wasn’t a fluke.  After going .500 over his first 24 games in Seattle, the Huskies have now won ten straight dating back to last year.  This October they’re #4 in the newest rankings with a big game against #16 Utah on the horizon. Prolific offense?  Sophomore Jake Browning is completing 68% of his passes (with 14+ yards per completion) while throwing for 26 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  Devastating defense?  In an offensive era they’re allowing just under 15 points per game.  Blame the 10:30 p.m. starts and Friday game with #7 Stanford that should have been a 3:30 Saturday showcase…but be on notice that Washington is for real.

Alma Mater Update- a 28-20 win over Boston College keeps the Pinstripe Bowl dream alive at 4-4…even though their final four opponents are a combined 21-7.  The season-long redemption tour of Amba Etta-Tawo continues (the senior caught 10 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles)…as the senior has more catches this fall (66) than he did his three years combined at Maryland (61).  The Orange get this weekend off before going to face #3 Clemson, hoping the Tigers are spent from facing 12th ranked Florida State.  They might need longer than one week off…

 

Maryland (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) bounced back from two straight losses to beat Michigan State 28-17.  It seemed as though the turnover & penalty bug that infected the Terps last week was alive and well on the other sideline…as the Spartans were flagged 7 times (5 in the first quarter), had a player ejected, turned the ball over twice in the red zone and ran a misguided fake field goal that took more points off the board.

Terrapin Triumphs: Perry Hills comes back from a shoulder injury to throw for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The tailback tandem of Ty Johnson (115 yards) and Lorenzo Harrison (105 yards) gets it done on the ground.  Shane Cockerille tallies 15 tackles while the defense notches two takeaways inside their own ten yard line.

Terrapin Troubles: the defense did cough up 270 yards on the ground to the tune of 6.1 yards per carry.  With Will Likely definitely out for the season thanks to a torn ACL the return game managed minimal punch.  And the Darth Vader “black helmets, black jerseys and black pants” unis were the same ones worn against Minnesota.  I find your lack of variety disturbing.

Next:  Saturday at Indiana (3-4, 1-3), 3:30 p.m.

 

Virginia (2-5, 1-2 ACC) had a rough week on and off the field.  A federal lawsuit alleging hazing and bullying from this summer took the headlines away from its showdown with the Tar Heels…before UNC ran roughshod at Scott Stadium in a 35-14 rout.  Fans might put up with bullying or a loss to the Heels…but not both.

Cavalier Congrats:  Taquan Mizzell tallies 106 yards rushing and 7 catches.  Safety Quin Blanding led the defense with 13 tackles.  Nicholas Conte averaged 45.6 yards per punt…landing four inside the 20-yard line.

Cavalier Concerns:  the team converted just 3 of 19 third downs…and after stretching the field in the passing game previous weeks, averaged under seven yards per completion.  The defense was buried by the big play…allowing touchdown passes of 40 and 46 yards.  Although one was to a guy named “Bug Howard”.  Being allowed to say Bug Howard takes a little of the pain away…

Next: Saturday vs #7 Louisville (6-1, 4-1), noon.

 

Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1 ACC) routed Miami 37-16 to reassert its place in the Coastal Division race and show how awesome Blacksburg on Thursday night remains.  Fire up the smoked turkey legs to the sounds of Metallica.

Hokie Highlights: Travon McMillan gained 131 of the team’s 251 yards rushing.  Jerod Evans  threw for two touchdowns while running for another score.  Woody Baron tallied 2.5 of the team’s eight sacks…as VT held Miami to 3-15 on third down.

Hokie Humblings: one week after getting ripped for 405 yards passing by Syracuse, the defense allowed 323 yards through the air (at 14 yards per completed pass).  The offense had issues (1 for 7 on third down in the first half) early as well.

Next: Thursday at Pitt (5-2, 2-1), 7 p.m.

 

#24 Navy (5-1, 4-0 AAC) shooed away West Division contender Memphis with a 42-28 victory.  Halfway through their conference slate the Mids are the only team in either division unblemished.

Midshipmen Medals:  Will Worth runs for 201 yards and three touchdowns…while passing for two more scores.  The quarterback takes over for the injured Maryland Terrapin Will Likely as “most headline-friendly name in college football”.  The offense converts 8 of 13 third down attempts.  DJ Palmer leads the Mids defense with two sacks.

Midshipmen Miscues:  the kicking game was less than ideal, with a missed 32-yard field goal, a kickoff returned for a touchdown and 34 yards per punt the red flags.  One also wonders how often the “bend but don’t break” defense can continue to bend…allowing 32 points per game the last three weeks.

Next: Friday at South Florida (6-2, 3-1).

 

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Hurricane Matthew upended this past weekend’s college football schedule, maneuvering more than a few games on the slate to different start times or completely different days played.  One game that was not moved was the duel between #10 Miami and #23 Florida State.  The 20-19 thriller was decided by a missed extra point the Seminoles took their first step towards salvaging their season.  The Hurricanes?  A seventh straight loss to their sunshine state rival…plus another downgrade from a storm to a weather system in the ACC.  And another stumble as a ranked team.  This decade the school that has always been about the sizzle as much as the steak  has been less than USDA Prime, going 6-5 when ranked in the Top 20 and 2-2 as a top ten team.  Mark Richt has a better track record at a higher level of play than his predecessors Al Golden and Randy Shannon combined, so this setback feels more of a part of the rebuilding process as opposed to a ceiling smacking the program’s head.  What doesn’t help is the fact that Miami fans threw beer bottles and trash at Florida State players after the Hurricanes Jamal Carter was ejected.  Stay classy… because college football karma can make you miss a crucial extra point.

Alma Mater Update- the team’s loss at Wake Forest drops the Orange to 2-4…with dreams of a Pinstripe Bowl beginning to vanish.  Their remaining schedule is daunting:  a combined 25-9 mark of remaining foes includes just one team that doesn’t have a winning record (Boston College is 3-3) while featuring November dates with Clemson and Florida State.  Saturday they host former Big East rival Virginia Tech- my memories of this series begins and ends with a 62-0 loss in 1999 that sucked the air out of the Paul Pasqualoni era.  I was covering an 0-11 Ball State football team that fall…and the coaching staff was giving me grief.

Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) ran into a buzz-saw named Penn State…and a Nittany Lions team that was inconsistent over the first month of the season handed the Terps their first loss of the season.  And unlike the last time Perry Hills injured his shoulder, there’s no bye week.  Terrapin Triumphs:  Perry Hills completed 5 of 7 passes before leaving with a shoulder injury while Tyrell Pigrome ran for a touchdown on his first play from scrimmage in relief of Hills.  Linebacker Shane Cockerille tallied 13 tackles to lead the defense.  Terrapin Troubles: the defense allowed 372 yards rushing, over triple the Nittany Lions average this fall.  The one play that hurt came with less than a minute in the half right after Maryland scored to make the game a 3-point affair;  Saquon Barkley’s 45 yard touchdown took whatever momentum the Terps had away for good.  The offense had seven second half possessions:  three were three and outs while a fourth lasted four plays.  Next:  12 p.m. Saturday vs Minnesota (3-2, 0-2).

#25 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) slogged around in the rain en route to a 34-3 rout of #17 North Carolina.  Armed with a conference schedule that does not include Clemson, Louisville or Florida State…is it too early to be fantasizing about winning the Coastal Division?  Hokie Highlights:  linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka was a beast…notching 12 tackles, an interception and half of a sack.  The defense held the Tar Heels to 2-14 on third down and let UNC enter the red zone just twice all afternoon.  Four takeaways led to 20 points…and a fumbled snap on a punt led to another TD.  The offense controlled the ball for over 39 minutes…including 13+ minutes in the fourth quarter.  Hokie Humblings:  Jerod Evans was held to 7-17 passing in the rain and fumbled twice…while the team put the ball on the ground seven times (they did recover five of their fumbles).  Next:  3:45 p.m. Saturday at Syracuse (2-4, 0-2).

Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC) exacted revenge on the only team they lost to in conference play last year, outscoring #6 Houston 46-40.  All of a sudden keeping an eye on Tulsa and Memphis is mandatory for fans in and around Annapolis.  Midshipmen Medals:  Will Worth’s wheels.  I’ve been hyping the senior quarterback’s passing (he did throw two touchdown passes) since he took over for Tago Smith…but Saturday he ran for 115 yards and a score.  The running game cranked out 306 yards against a Cougars defense that had allowed less than two yards per carry this fall. Josiah Powell notched two interceptions…and the offense scored after each of their three takeaways.  Midshipmen Miscues:  The offense had issues on third down (converting 6 of 15)  The pass defense allowed 359 yards…and Houston did not punt.  At all.  Thank goodness for the takeaways.  Next: 7:30 p.m. Thursday at East Carolina (2-4, 0-2).

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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.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Week: 5-2.

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