Archives for posts with tag: Rutgers

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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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Welcome to “Moving Month” in college football.  Where strong starts are often exposed as the byproduct of soft scheduling.  Where potential weakness become even more apparent as teams for the most part fully enter conference play.  Where Heisman Trophy hopefuls make miss-steps and the eventual winner starts to shine just a little bit brighter.  The four area FBS schools enter October the same way, a loss last weekend, but with different trajectories.  Virginia and Navy can write off road losses as speedbumps en route to bowl eligibility, while Maryland hopes a three game tour of the Big Ten’s underbelly (Rutgers, Indiana and Purdue are a combined 5-8 with an 0-5 league record) can get them back on the right track.  Virginia Tech?  The S.S Blacksburg is taking serious water and last Friday’s 45-10 loss to Duke saw a robot doing push-ups on the sideline after scores.  Next thing you know they’ll be microwaving those turkey legs.

National notables:

The SEC is stacked: five of the top ten teams in this week’s Associated Press Poll are in the Southeastern Conference, and only No. 7 Auburn plays multiple ranked foes this month (both on the road).  No points if you guess which school is ranked highest.

Don’t Sleep on Wake:  No. 2 Clemson is one of two unbeatens remaining in the ACC, with surprising Wake Forest being the other.  The Demon Deacons are one win away from tying last year’s total and are led by dual-threat quarterback Jamie Newman. They’re idle this weekend and could very well be unbeaten when they face the Tigers next month.

Pac-12 After Dark-Delicious but Deadly: or, the conference that feeds on its own. Everybody’s suffered at least one loss, and despite the zaniness of Washington State-UCLA, the league is once again positioned outside the College Football Playoff party.

Everybody Wins-Almost:  every Power Five school has at least one victory this year, and only three schools in FBS are winless after one month. Rice, New Mexico State and Akron, we’re looking at you. Actually, with NM State facing Incarnate Word in November our eyes are on the Owls and the Zips.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss:  the Heisman Trophy race offers up some early front-runners, with Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts the early leader.  Just like Baker Mayfield in 2017 and Kyler Murray last year.  A school hasn’t deserved to have the Heisman winner in three consecutive years since Herschel Walker was tearing things up at Georgia from 1980-82.  Candidates to break the Sooner streak:  Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, LSU QB Joe Burrow, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Wisconsin running back (yes, a RB is still eligible to win this award) Jonathan Taylor.  And yes- even though I wasn’t a huge “Home Improvement” fan, I want to call him Jonathan Taylor Thomas.  Just like Maryland QB Josh Jackson makes one think of “Dawson’s Creek”.

 

Alma Mater Update- a bye week has the Orange recharging after a 3-2 start, with Pinstripe Bowl dreams still in their heads at night.  That’s the good news, as the bad news is SU doesn’t face a team with a losing record the rest of the way.  Bring on basketball…

 

Saturday’s Games :

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

Technically these two schools are competing in the Big Ten, despite being outscored 141-0 in three combined conference games played this fall.  The Scarlet Knights fired Chris Ash after three-plus years and an 8-32 record, trotting out “not a New Jersey Stereotype” Nunzio Campanille as their interim head coach.  Four years ago it was Mike Locksley who was the fill-in for the fired Randy Edsall at Maryland and the Terps came within a point of beating Penn State in his debut.  It appears as though Rutgers is the medicine Locksley’s team is looking for on multiple fronts.  The banged up offensive line has had issues protecting quarterback Josh Jackson lately, allowing eight sacks in the losses to Temple and Penn State.  The Rutgers D? Just four sacks all September.  Maryland’s defense is also looking to bounce back from a week where, by estimation of head coach Mike Locksley, they missed 17 tackles.  Rutgers ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in most offensive categories, and are dead last in moving the chains on third down.

Presto’s Pick:  Terrapins Triumph, 38-19.

 

Navy (2-1) vs. Air Force (3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).

Service Academy Irony Time:  despite educating their respective cadets to defend the seas and skies, the Midshipmen and Falcons rank first and second in FBS on the ground as both teams are averaging over 330 yards per game rushing.  While Navy relies primarily on quarterback Malcolm Perry (20 carries per game) to generate yardage within the context of its triple option, Air Force boasts a “thunder and lightning” backfield consisting of fullback Tavin Birdow (338 yards and 5.3 per carry) and running back Kadin Remsberg (342 yards and 5.9 per carry).  Home field has held in this series recently, with Air Force winning just once in Annapolis since 2001.  But the visitors have traveled well this fall, beating Colorado in Boulder while also taking a second half lead before falling to No. 20 Boise State on that blue field.

Presto’s Pick:  Falcons Fly High, 27-24.

 

Virginia Tech (2-2, 0-2 ACC) at Miami (2-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN).

The Hurricanes have once again been downgraded to a “tropical depression” after starting 0-2, although consecutive wins over Bethune-Cookman and Central Michigan have prevented a bad dream from becoming a nightmare.  Not so in Blacksburg, where the Hokies have a pair of unimpressive wins and two bad conference losses.  They’ve never started 0-3 in ACC play.  The root cause of their issues appear to be the inability to stop the run (13th in the ACC) and hanging onto the football (at minus-8 Virginia Tech is tied for 128th in FBS in turnover margin).  If there’s one school that turns you over before shoving said takeaways in your face, it’s the U.  As in the home of the “Turnover Chain”. As in a plus-six turnover margin that leads the ACC and is tied for sixth best in the nation.  The Hurricanes have also had a week off to prepare.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies get humbled, 36-16.

 

No. 23 Virginia (4-1, 2-0 ACC) may be idle, but Kippy and Buffy never take a weekend off.  This weekend they’re shuttering up the cottage in the Outer Banks, and they’ll be toasting a season of possibilities with a bottle of Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs.  The non-vintage Champagne offers “A superb, golden yellow color with a beautiful luminosity and a fine and persistent mousse. The nose is clean and intense with warm, rich notes of brioche, French toast and roasted almonds. On the palate the wine is very supple and harmonious, with notes of honey and minerals on the long, sustained finish.”  With three road games over the next four weeks, Kippy and Buffy hope the Cavaliers can sustain what has been one solid start.

 

Howard falls at Harvard, Georgetown gets by Cornell, Catholic loses to the Coast Guard, James Madison beats Stony Brook, Richmond slips at Albany, William & Mary loses to Villanova, Morgan State falls to Bethune-Cookman.

Last Week: 7-3.

Overall: 32-11. 

 

Welcome to October- where strong starts go to die and September unbeatens get a double dose of reality.  After extended sunny skies in September, this past Saturday’s weather shook up the rankings.  Four of the top ten survived scares and four others went down in defeat.  Number two Georgia saw its unbeaten season go up in flames at LSU- the 36-16 blowout officially relegates the SEC East to second-tier status.  Sixth ranked West Virginia suffered the “Dave Preston writes a column about you jinx” and lost at nondescript Iowa State.  Number seven Washington came up short in overtime at Oregon (who had previously fallen this fall in OT) and ninth rated Penn State’s chant is now “We are”—“a two-loss team” after a second fourth quarter fade to a conference foe.  Even paper-Buffalo Colorado (a very soft 5-0 and deservedly ranked 19th) lost.  Meanwhile, third ranked Ohio State, number five Notre Dame, ninth rated Texas and number ten UCF count their lucky stars after needing rallies to stay in the potential playoff mix.  Before bundling up again this week.  Don’t you feel a little chill outside?

Alma Mater Update– the Orange come off their bye week with a magnificent opportunity ahead.  Three of their next four foes are sub-500 in conference play and they play two of those games at home.  The road to another Pinstripe Bowl is there.

Maryland (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) routed Rutgers 34-7 in a game where they held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for over 59 minutes.  There are those who say Maryland-Rutgers is not a true Big Ten matchup, as both schools are less than a decade in the league.  I found the matchup remarkably like the Big Ten I grew up watching–in 1972 when “passing game” meant you received a C+ in Hunting & Fishing 101 and quarterbacks looked like they wore mittens on their throwing hands.  Terrapin Triumphs:  the D earns an A+ by intercepting the Scarlet Knights five times (most since a seven-INT effort at Duke in 1998) and holding the visitors to 1-10 on third down until the final drive of the day.  How bad was it?  Rutgers had 41 yards on 24 first half plays and in 13 possessions either turned it over or failed to register a first down nine times.  Ty Johnson tallied 132 yards as well as a 65-yard scamper for a score that put the Terps ahead to stay.  Kasim Hill threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers.  Wade Lees had some killer punts in the first half, forcing Rutgers to start from their own two and six yard lines their first two possessions.  Terrapin Troubles:  the passing game stalled at times…and while the inability to get more than a field goal out of a late first-quarter takeaway inside your foe’s 30 won’t hurt you against Rutgers, it will come back to haunt you against Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State.  Next:  Saturday at 5-1 Iowa (noon).

Navy (2-4, 1-2 AAC) took a 17-7 lead over Temple on their first possession of the second half.  Unfortunately, the offense would gain just 67 yards on their final 26 plays–and the Owls would tally two touchdowns and a field goal as the Mids fall 24-17 in Annapolis.  With the Commander in Chief’s Trophy and AAC West hopes taking major hits the last two weeks, one now wonders if the Mids can scrape their way to a bowl berth-especially with the next four schools on their schedule currently 24-1.  Midshipman Medals:  new quarterback Garret Lewis ran for 56 yards and a touchdown while fullback Nelson Smith notched 108 yards rushing and a TD.  Hudson Sullivan paces the defense that tallied a pair of takeaways with 12 tackles.  Midshipman Miscues:  Lewis completed just 3 of 11 passes…while the offense converted just 5 of 13 third downs.  After a solid first half, the defense coughed up over seven yards per play after intermission (not including the Owl’s kneeldown at the end).  Next: Saturday at home against 4-1 Houston (3:30 p.m. kickoff).

Virginia (4-2, 2-1 ACC) came off of its bye week by nipping #16 Miami 16-13.  So much for a Hurricane warning this fall in the ACC–instead Mark Richt’s team gets downgraded to a tropical storm.  And Bronco Mendenhall’s team just got one step closer to bowl eligibility…something that hasn’t happened in consecutive seasons since 2005.  Cavalier Congrats:  Juan Thornhill notched two of UVa’s three interceptions…while Zane Zandler tallied nine tackles and half of a sack.  Jordan Ellis ran for 86 yards and scored the Cavs’ only touchdown.  Brian Delaney nailed all three of his field goal attempts.  Cavalier Concerns: Bryce Perkins threw three interceptions…while the offense went 3-10 on third down.  Tough to find blemishes when you upset a ranked team in conference play.  Next:  Saturday against 5-1 Duke (12:30 p.m. gametime).

Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-0 ACC) had beaten North Carolina 34-3 and 59-7 the previous two years, and this fall’s Tar Heel team looked even worse than the 2016 and 2017 editions.  So naturally Tech needed to rally to stay unbeaten in the conference and atop the Coastal Division.  The 22-19 victory wasn’t pretty, but coach Justin Fuente and staff will take the W and use the gamefilm as “coaching moments” over the next week and a half.  Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw two touchdown passes while running for a score.  Rayshard Ashby tallied 12 tackles as the defense recovered a pair of fumbles.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 43 yards per punt.  Hokie Humbles:  Willis isn’t exactly the quarterback you want to lead the team in rushing–while the rest of the ground game was limited to 66 yards on 26 carries.  He also threw a pair of picks.  Next:  Thursday October 25th in Blacksburg against 3-4 Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m. kickoff).

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If you picked up a schedule at the beginning of the season, no doubt you read a handful of kickoff times and a slew of “TBA” or “TBD”.  For instance, we didn’t know Maryland’s kickoff time with Rutgers until 12 days before the game (we also learned it wouldn’t be where they originally scheduled the game, but that’s another matter).  Virginia Tech-Miami?  Not until this past Sunday.  While I understand the networks want to have the top matchups on in front of the largest possible audiences, don’t we kind of realize that Maryland-Indiana might not be a ready-for-primetime game?  Even the NFL during its flex scheduling already has game-times in place.  College hoops is a lot more random and their tipoff times for the most part are set in stone (with the exception of the final weekend).  I’m sure the uncertainty of the kickoff time can’t help with attendance at some stadiums.  One isn’t saying that the schedule should be locked in from day one…but it would be nice if the networks and conferences would exercise a little common sense and at least set the kickoff times.  And then infuriate us by changing them 12 days out.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange face Florida State two weeks after losing at Miami.  As November begins SU needs two wins to keep it’s Pinstripe Bowl banner hopes alive–and they face the 2-5 Seminoles who could very well wake up before playing Wake Forest (5-3 after a 4-0 start), Louisville (allowing 39 points per conference game) and Boston College (okay, the Eagles are red hot with three straight wins).  I remember one year the Orange went to Tallahassee and scored first against the #1 Seminoles…only to see FSU put 40 straight points on the board.  For the record the Orange scored last in that 40-14 loss as well.*Sadly, memories fade:  it was 46-14 and SU led 14-7.

 

Virginia (5-3, 2-2 ACC) vs Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-2), 3 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers make their third attempt at reaching six wins and the bowl eligibility that comes with it.  Losses to Boston College and Pitt have tempered the Scott Stadium faithful, and this week they’ll have to deal with the fourth best running game (347.9 yards per game) in the country.  If there’s one thing UVa doesn’t do well it’s contain the run (10th in the ACC).  Tech is also somewhat soft against the pass.  Can Kurt Benkert regain his September form (66% completion rate with a 10-to-1 TD to INT ratio) after an underwhelming October (55% and 7-to-4)?  Kippy & Buffy return home to tailgate with another wine from the Commonwealth, a 2014 King Family Vineyards Petit Verdot.  “On the nose, dark notes of tar, licorice, and blueberry are accented with aromas of mushroom, leather, and eucalyptus”.  Mushroom and leather are a rare tandem, but with Stilton Blue on Wheat Thins it works somehow.  Cavaliers come up short, 36-20.

 

Maryland (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) at Rutgers (3-5, 2-3), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).  How long will the Terps and Scarlet Knights be the “new kids in town” of the Big Ten?   Rutgers is fresh from coughing up 334 yards rushing to Michigan.  Now I know why Maryland runningbacks Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison have been salivating all week.  This game was originally supposed to take place at Yankee Stadium, but the Yanks playoff run moved the venue back to Piscataway.  Whatever happened to the sanctity that was the Pinstripe Bowl?  You just cheapen it by having random regular season games in the Bronx.  Terrapins Triumph, 31-17.

 

#13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at #9 Miami (7-0, 4-0), 8 p.m. (ABC).  Every year I prepare my “Hurricane Downgrade” column…because for the last decade the U has followed up solid Septembers with awful Octobers (although in 2012 and 2013 they waited until November to implode).  This year’s edition played four straight one-possession games and prevailed each time, while the Hokies have been in just one game decided by eight points or fewer (and that was opening weekend against West Virginia).   If Miami has an achilles heel it’s moving the chains on third down (second worst in the ACC at 30.7%)–and the Hokies are second best in the league at getting off of the field.  Hokies hold on, 20-16. 

Howard falls at Florida A&M, Georgetown loses to Lafayette,  Richmond is victorious at Villanova, William & Mary slips to New Hampshire, Towson tumbles to Elon, James Madison mauls Rhode Island.

 

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 53-17.

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While the closing of the local swimming pools is usually the figurative end for summer, it doesn’t really feel like autumn until we start to hear about the hot seats in college football.  And while there is one at Nebraska after the Cornhuskers began the season 1-2, any heat Mike Riley feels is now obscured by the hot mess that is the firing of Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.  Nebraska dominated the Big Eight and its successor the Big 12 (also known as the Big XII on some logos) before joining the Big Ten (which had previously been dealing with an 11-team membership for two decades).  They went from being a senior partner in a firm they helped create to becoming a junior associate that can’t even win the easier West division (let the record show the Huskers did win one Legends Division before the Big Ten regained its mind).  And now they’re not even the new kid in town who wears red (expanding with Maryland and Rutgers mean 50% of the league wears some shade of that color) anymore.  While men’s basketball has gone from playing in the 8-vs-9 game the first day of the Big 12 Tournament to playing in the 12-vs-13 game the first day of the Big Ten Tournament, the football program no longer has a schedule that allows easy access to recruits in Texas–or games against Iowa State and Kansas.  The same people who couldn’t wait to get rid of Frank Solich a decade ago couldn’t wait to be done with Bo Pellini two winters ago…and now those same people are wondering if they can buy out Mike Riley who is 16-13 with mostly Pellini’s players.  Thankfully the Huskers begin league play with games against Rutgers and Illinois.

 

Alma Mater Update– there was once a time when the Orange went toe to toe with LSU… beating the Tigers in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl.  This week SU takes its 2-1 record into Baton Rouge against a 2-1 Tiger team that got roasted by Mississippi State last weekend.  That’ll go over real well.  The 7 p.m. kickoff means I’ll miss the first half (as I’ll be covering Maryland-UCF)…which might be a good thing.

 

Friday Night-

Virginia (2-1) at Boise State (2-1), 8 p.m., ESPN2.  A battle of 2-1 teams takes place on the blue turf in the Gem State…but not all 2-1’s are alike.  The Broncos lost in triple-overtime at a ranked Washington State after losing their starting quarterback to injury while the Cavaliers were soundly beaten at home by a second-tier Big Ten school.  Brett Rypien could potentially return for BSU–although Montell Cozart is a dual threat that gives teams like UVa nuts (they’ve coughed up 32, 89 and 90 yards rushing to the three starting quarterbacks they’ve faced this fall).  The Cavaliers don’t have a ton of happy Friday memories:  two years ago they were roasted 56-14 at Scott Stadium on a Friday night by…Boise State.  Despite name recognition, Bronco Mendenhall went just 2-2 (and 0-2 on the road) against the Broncos when he coached BYU.  Something about that blue field.  Kippy & Buffy tailgate for their first road and night game…looking for sweets.  Thank goodness my Uncle Chris and Aunt Kristi own a chocolate shop in Boise.  The Chocolat Bar (www.thechocolatbar.com) specializes in truffles…and my UVa friends will enjoy those with a bottle of Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2016: “sweet and seductive as the hills where it is born and grows; as vibrant and sharp as the mountains that surround and protect the land on the horizon; refreshing and effervescent, like the wind rushing down from the Alps towards their hills.”  Add a signing nun and we’ve got something here.  Cavaliers come up short, 38-24.

 

Saturday-

#13 Virginia Tech (3-0) vs Old Dominion (2-1), 2 p.m., ACC Network Extra.  While the ACC schedule kicks off against defending national champ Clemson next weekend, college football’s version of “Linner” (not lunch, but definitely not dinner) has the Hokies playing a local foe for the fourth straight week.  Pass protection will be a priority-as the Monarchs lead the nation with 16 sacks this season.  The Hokies by comparison have allowed three sacks over three games.  Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson’s education is a little easier when he has three seniors and two juniors up front protecting him…and having Cam Phillips (nine catches and 139 yards receiving per game) can’t hurt either.  ODU’s offense will be led by 17-year old freshman Steven Williams…and plan B is turnover-prone quarterback Blake LaRussa.  The Monarch’s defense?  Performing like paupers in allowing 53 points to North Carolina team that’s an underdog at home to Duke this week.  Not that anybody is looking ahead to the Clemson game.  That’s in Blacksburg, right?  Hokies handle the Monarchs, 45-13.

 

Maryland (2-0) vs UCF (1-0), 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1.  The Terps are coming off on an odd early-season bye (they did have week two off in 2011, but that was after playing the previous Monday night).  Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are coming off of two weeks off due to the hurricane devastation of the Sunshine State- as UCF’s game with Georgia Tech was canceled and their conference tilt with Memphis was moved (major credit to the AAC for being able to reshuffle the league schedule jenga-style).  Quarterback McKenzie Milton made his first career start last year against Maryland–and threw for 260 yards while accounting for all three of their touchdowns in a double-overtime defeat.  Whether you read “Paradise Lost” or watch “Office Space” in your spare time, containing Milton in the pocket will go a long way towards remaining in the Garden of Unbeatens as well as stapling another victory to the 2017 resume.  Last year’s game was won by true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome’s feet in double-overtime;  this year true freshman Kasim Hill will be contributing from the opening possession.  Terrapins Triumph, 44-20.

 

Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC) vs Cincinnati (2-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network.  Before you ask me, “why is Cincinnati in the AAC East and Navy is in the AAC West?” just remember that the Bearcats should be in the Big 12 as a travel partner with West Virginia if only for the Bob Huggins effect during hoop season (Houston is the school that won’t make things an even dozen because the Big 12 schools are petty).  While the Mids had a week off to digest their near-defeat at home to Tulane (and watch the Green Wave get bludgeoned by Oklahoma), Cincy is coming off of a 21-17 win over Miami (Ohio Version) and boasts an offense that remains a work in progress.  The Bearcats rank last in the AAC in total offense and third down conversions, while gaining 3.2 yards per carry and completing just over 50% of their passes.  If Navy is going to contend for a West Division title, the defense that returned six starters needs to make a statement Saturday in Annapolis.  Midshipmen make a statement, 28-14.

 

Howard beats Bethune-Cookman, Georgetown loses at Columbia, James Madison mauls Maine, Richmond rips Elon, Towson tumbles at Stony Brook.

 

Last Week: 5-2.  Overall: 18-5.

Losing Sucks.  And with the late Luther Vandross belting “One Shining Moment” at the close of another NCAA Tournament, 67 schools wonder how things could’ve ended in that slo-motion net-cutting moment.  Meanwhile, 280 schools wonder what it will take to get into the Big Dance.  For just about everybody it’s a slippery slope on the way to the top;  a prized recruit attends another school, an athletic director makes a bad hire… and the winter of one’s discontent can turn into several years.  Losing Sucks.  Whether you were Michigan unable to turn back the Louisville tidal wave, Syracuse unable to get the block call instead of the charge, Georgetown unable to nip March’s most memorable story in the bud, Maryland unable to win on the road in the ACC, George Mason unable to keep Luke Hancock around campus, American unable to put 40 smart minutes together, Howard unable to break the cycle of 20-loss seasons or the Maryland women unable to keep its backcourt off crutches–Losing Sucks.  But it’s worth the missed shots, the blown calls, the misjudged recruits…because Luther had pretty damn good pipes.  Just hearing that song makes a lot of the heartbreak manageable…and if it just happens to be your school’s “One Shining Moment”– don’t let it go.  Ever.

Cardinals Rule– It’s hard to think that this Louisville team was once a teetering ship that malfunctioned multiple times at Notre Dame during a 5-overtime marathon, wrapping up a 3-4 stretch that took coach Rick Pitino’s team from top ranked to partially tanked.  Credit the Hall of Famer for getting this team back in gear– and 16 wins later, they’re National Champs.  Credit Luke Hancock for averaging 21 points during the Final Four in Kevin Ware’s absence.  Credit the Cardinal pressure generating turnovers on the perimeter while locking down inside and dominating the glass against Michigan.  Credit Jim Nantz for not coming up with a blatantly ridiculous pun at the final buzzer.

Alma Mater Update– what did I say?  Losing Sucks.  But what a run by the Orange.  The VAUNTED 2-3 ZONE must now be capitalized and in boldface with italics for one calendar year.  I still think I’m watching the halfcourt offense every time I drive through DC– come on people, it’s a crosswalk!  Make your way with some kind of purpose!  I still have to shake my head when I realize this team had lost 4 of 5 entering the Big East Tournament, the killer a 39 point effort against Georgetown.  I still get goosebumps when I remember the upset of Indiana and recall the net-cutting after beating Marquette.  I still wonder if Mike Hopkins will be Tom Izzo or Craig Esherick (THAT IS CRAP!).  I still try to imagine how the move the ACC will help or hurt this program from an immediate as well as a longterm standpoint.  I still marvel at the fist-pumping high-fiving comradery I have with fellow alums in Orange Nation win or lose.  And I still know it’s 9:39 PM. 

Bye Bye Big East– National Champs in 1984, 85, 99, 03, 04, 11, 13.  Not a bad tally for a latecomer to the big time… who then redefined what Big Time was.  Great memories of incredible games and Hall of Fame coaches and unbelievable players.  The 34 year history of excellence will live on…in the “New Big East” (hopefully more “Frasier” than “AfterMASH”), the ACC (7 of the 14 schools in the league next summer will have Big East ties) and the American Athletic Conference– yeah, whatever.  Losing Sucks.

Terps end near where they started– it’s just a matter of it you take the subway or a cab from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to Madison Square Garden.  A thrilling 58-57 win at Alabama sent coach Mark Turgeon’s team to the NIT Semifinals–and despite a 71-60 loss to Iowa there’s plenty of positives to take into the offseason.  Now the question is if sophomore center Alex Len returns to College Park.  Enough scouts like his upside– but he’s had more than a few consistently uneven stretches.  You’d think he’d stay to get more polish– but the money’s probably there to be a semi-project in the NBA.  The program will definitely lose the last player on the roster to have played for Gary Williams– Pe’Shon Howard transferring to be closer to his ill grandmother in California.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for the junior under coach Turgeon– he missed 18 games last winter and this past season shot under 30% from the field.  All the best to a good kid.  And all the best to a Terrapin progam that chooses between Nick Faust, Seth Allen or freshman Roddy Peters to run the offense next season.

Maryland Womens Minute– the Terps came up short against eventual National Champion Connecticut 76-50… before the Huskies bludgeoned its final three opponents in the tournament by an average of 27 points.  The world of women’s hoops this winter involved such a gap between the elite and the upper tier… and coach Brenda Frese’s team after losing its starting backcourt to torn ACL’s found itself overmatched and overworked.  Can another solid recruiting class combined withinjured players Laurin Mincy and Brene Mosley returning to form negate the loss of four year starter Tianna Hawkins?  Alyssa Thomas returns for one more run through the ACC…Duke and UNC beware.

Coaching Carousel– when will it stop?  Actually, never.  A few notable moves over the last few weeks…

Steve Alford went from New Mexico to UCLA…if ever there was a blue-blood player turned blue-blood coach around to guide the blue-blood Bruins, it’s the former IU All-American and Olympian.  His success at various stops now feels like a precursor to this career-making (Wooden) or career-breaking (Cunningham, Hazzard, etc) move.  The pressure at Pauley Pavillion is just enough to turn out a coach who led them to three straight Final Fours (Howland).  But after operating on the fringes it’ll be interesting to see how Alford deals with a prime time program that’s expected to win big consistently.

Andy Enfield went from Anonymity to USC…while Alford’s career has been a slow broil, the ex-Florida Gulf Coast coach’s run has been a high heat microwave trip.  He’s charismatic, energetic…respected in NBA circles.  Enfield teaches a pro-style offense that recruits will flock to.  He’s going to be recruiting in Southern California.  And he took his Maxim model wife out to Taco Bell on their first date…while proposing with a ring stuck between Krispy Kreme donuts.  Let’s just say the guy has moxie.  And the bar in Troy is much lower than Westwood.

Richard Pitino went from being Rick Pitino’s son to being Rick Pitino’s son at a Big Ten job…one never knows how a coach’s kid will fare when on his own (Pat Knight, Sean Sutton) and it’s not easy to win at Minnesota (unless you want the eventual NCAA Probation).  He’s had one year as a head coach and led Florida Atlantic to an 18-14 record.  Now he might turn into something special, but the Big Ten is not the ECAC North where his father cut his teeth at Boston University.  And the Golden Gophers got rid of a perfectly decent coach in Tubby Smith who had been somewhat successful.

Chris Collins went from CBS’ halftime interview to the Big Ten’s Abyss… I can’t wait to see Wojo handle that role next year, although I don’t think it’s fair for Coach K not to rotate his assistants in the halftime interview segment.  Although he did speak at the half this year.  I think after losing to Louisville, Coach K will view his halftime chats as bad luck and give one of his managers the role next winter.  The last few sentences has intentionally kept me from writing about Northwestern Mens’ Basketball.

Mike Rice Jr. went from Rutgers to Infamy… Wow.  Beyond career-napalming.  How does that happen for so long without anything coming out?  Oh yeah, Rutgers.  I’ll call this the Curse of Gary Waters– the Scarlet Knights hired him away from Kent State and despite 3 winning seasons in 5 years, dumped him for Fred Hill (57-77 over 4 years) and now Mike Rice (11-25 after 2 seasons).  Since Waters left, Rutgers hasn’t only lost every season– they’ve placed in the teens of the Big East (13th or lower) every single year.  Athletic Department misfires aside, Rice cooked himself with belligerent behavior that not only crossed over the line but ran far beyond it.  Shoving and kicking players from behind is akin to attacking a defenseless receiver in the NFL– you just don’t do it.  Homophobic slurs in 2013– you just don’t do it.  Not with video.  Not with sound.  You wonder if Rice let the pressures of handling a sinking program in the Big East get the better of him.  You hope that he gets the necessary help to move on.  But you know that he’s justifiably out of there…and probably shouldn’t be anywhere for a while.