Archives for posts with tag: SEC

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\For all of the hype surrounding the clash of top five teams, didn’t Alabama-LSU feel a little underwhelming?  Yes, the Crimson Tide led by only 16 at the half and quarterback Tua Tagovialoa actually threw an interception for the first time all season-but the 29-0 shutout had the strange feel of a pre-determined outcome.  I’m not saying the Tide were toying with the Tigers at any time last night, but even the interception had the feel of a punt intended to pin LSU inside their own five.  In my mind’s eye I kept on seeing the cat I had as a child toying with a doomed mouse.  And this is the toughest competition in the SEC?  Thank goodness Georgia beat Kentucky yesterday to win the East, or we’d have to hide our eyes while the SEC Championship Game took place.  While Alabama still has Mississippi State and Auburn on their slate, coach Nick Saban’s team appears to be on its way to another appearance in the College Football Playoff.  The fall foliage is definitely filled with Crimson again this autumn.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange improve to 7-2, their best start since 2001.  The #13 ranking is their highest since 1998 when Donovan McNabb was quarterbacking SU to glory.  I want to call this a “soft 13”–as massive upsets last weekend created a serious vacuum.  But I’m going to enjoy this ridiculous ride as long as it lasts.  Bring on Louisville…

 

Maryland (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) wrapped up a whirlwind week where their coach was reinstated and then fired by falling at home to Michigan State 24-3.  The Terps had a chance in the second half with consecutive possessions on the Spartans’ side of the field, only to come up empty.  How bad was the bouncing ball?  Michigan State recovered two fumbles in the end zone:  one of theirs for a touchdown and one of the Terps on an interception return that became a Spartans touchback.  Incidentally, they’d score the backbreaking touchdown on the very next play.  Terrapin Triumphs:  The defense tallied a pair of takeaways while Tre Watson’s 13 tackles paced the team.  Wade Lees averaged 45 yards per punt…and he had plenty of practice with a season-high eight kicks.

Terrapin Troubles: the offense went three-and-out the first three times they had the ball, and converted 3-of-15 third downs on the afternoon.  Kasim Hill was held to 8-of-21 passing for 74 yards while getting sacked four times.  Next:  Saturday at 4-5 Indiana (noon kickoff) in what will likely be the Terps’ best chance to become bowl eligible (they face Ohio State and Penn State to close the year).

 

Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC) lost control of the Coastal Division race on a rainy Friday night in Charlottesville…as Pitt emerged atop the three team scrum thanks to their 23-13 victory at Scott Stadium.  I’m sure announcers will say that “the Panthers control their own destiny”;  and while Pitt does control its road to the ACC Championship Game (win out and they take the Division) they do not control their own destiny.  Nobody controls their own destiny–that’s why it’s called “destiny”.  Cavalier Congrats:  Bryce Perkins completed 17 of 24 passes for 205 yards and UVa’s lone touchdown.  Joey Blount led the defense with 11 tackles.  Lester Coleman averaged 44.8 yards per punt.  Cavalier Concerns:  Perkins had issues staying upright all evening, getting sacked five times.  The defense held Qadree Ollison in check (24 yards rushing) but had no answers for senior Darrin Hall, who rumbled for 229 yards on 19 carries.   Ten penalties for 80 yards didn’t do the Cavs any favors.  Next:  Saturday at 3 p.m. vs. 4-4 Liberty in the final home game of the year.

 

Navy (2-7, 1-4 AAC) saw its skid reach six games–and unlike the other five losses this was a cradle to grave blowout.  While the 42-0 defeat at Cincinnati was the fourth time the Mids allowed 40+ points this fall, it’s the first time they’ve been shut out since October of 2012.  Midshipman Medals:  Not a lot to highlight on one long afternoon by the Ohio River.  Hudson Sullivan notches 10 tackles to pace an overmatched defense.  Midshipman Miscues:  Zach Abey was held to 37 yards rushing on 28 carries and the offense converted just 3-of-13 third downs.  Cincinnati reached the endzone the first five times they had the football.  Next:  Saturday at #12 UCF (noon kickoff).  The Knights are unbeaten.

 

Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2 ACC) saw it’s season take another unfortunate turn in a 31-21 loss to Boston College.  While the Hokies can still capture the Coastal Division with three straight victories, they haven’t won three in a row all season.  Meanwhile, they’re still two wins away from reaching bowl eligibility.  It could be a long winter in Blacksburg.  Hokie Highlights: Ryan Willis threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns while also leading the team with 49 yards rushing.  Rico Kearney paced the defense with 18 tackles.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 45 yards per punt.  Hokie Humblings: a tale of two halves saw the offense generate three straight 3-and-outs to start the second half (their fourth possession was an interception);  the defense that allowed seven first half points coughed up 24 after intermission.  Next:  Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 5-4 (but 4-1 in the ACC) Pitt.

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While most of the eyes in the Southeastern Conference were focused on Jacksonville and the game unofficially referred to as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, another SEC East school was busy making history.  At the same time #7 Georgia was shutting the door on 9th ranked Florida, Kentucky rallied to beat Missouri 15-14 a with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns–the gamewinner coming with time expired.  The #12 Wildcats–ranked this season for the first time since 2007–improved to 7-1 on the season and more importantly 5-1 in the SEC.  Yes…for the first time since 1977 Kentucky will finish with a winning conference record.  Since going an unbeaten 6-0 in league play under Fran Curci (and also under probation so they couldn’t play in a Bowl that year) the Wildcats have had almost as many winless (6) SEC campaigns as they’ve had .500 seasons (8).  When Mark Stoops took over for Joker Phillips in 2013, many thought he had a tough task ahead of him while others remained flummoxed that a school would hire as head coach somebody with the nickname “Joker” (for the record, it’s Joe Jr.).  The process has been slow yet steady as the Wildcats have gone from two to five to seven wins thus far…and now Kentucky will host Georgia Saturday with a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line.  What’s this about basketball?

 

Alma Mater Update- talking about droughts ending…the Orange find themselves ranked (#22) for the first time since 2001 after a 51-41 win over NC State.  SU is bowling for the first time since 2013–and unlike that fall the Orange are assured of postseason play before Thanksgiving.  Fans get to celebrate Eric Dungey’s final month as the quarterback of the Orange and get occasional peeks at the future QB in Tommy DeVito.  Winnable games with Wake Forest and Louisville arrive before they face Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium.

 

Virginia Tech (4-3, 3-1 ACC) turned the Coastal Division race upside-down with a 49-28 loss to Georgia Tech.  Every fear or nightmare one has entering a game against an option team like the Yellowjackets came true.  It’s a good thing Navy isn’t on Tech’s schedule this fall.  Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw two touchdown passes while Damon Hazelton caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a score.  Khalil Ladler made a team-high 12 tackles.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 41.5 yards per punt.  Hokie Humblings:  the Yellowjackets chewed up yardage and the clock all night- holding the ball for 42 minutes while gaining 465 yards on the ground.  The offense converted just 2 of 8 third downs and gained just 19 yards on its first 11 plays from scrimmage in the second half.   Eight penalties for 87 yards didn’t help either.  Next:  Saturday at 3:45 against 6-2 Boston College.

 

Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) clinched bowl eligibility for the second straight year by beating North Carolina 31-21.  The Cavaliers also move into first place of the Coastal Division, something that might not sit well in Blacksburg if they didn’t have their own problems to deal with.  Cavalier Congrats:  Bryce Perkins threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns while running for 112 yards and another score.  Olamide Zaccheaus notches 10 catches (setting the career mark at UVa) for 108 yards.  Juan Thornhill tallied seven tackles to pace the defense that held the Tar Heels to 4-of-14 on third down.  Just one penalty on the day.  Cavalier Concerns:  Lester Coleman averaged just 34.5 yards per punt, and the return game (17 yards per kickoff return, 1.4 yards per punt return) was somewhat lacking.  Next:  Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against 4-4 Pitt.

 

Maryland (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) moved within one victory of bowl-eligibility with its 63-33 rout of Illinois.  The big play was the thing as five of the Terps’ nine touchdowns were by more than 40 yards.  Terrapin Triumphs: Javon Leake ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns while scoring a fourth on a 97-yard kickoff return.  Kasim Hill threw for a career high 265 yards and three touchdowns.  The offense converted 12 of 15 third downs while holding the Illini to four field goals on four trips to the red zone.  Terrapin Troubles: after two and a half quarters of lock-down defense, Maryland went into break-but-don’t-bend mode by allowing touchdowns of 61, 89 and 84 yards.  The team was penalized seven times–once in the pregame warmups while another was a targeting penalty that resulted in linebacker Tre Watson’s ejection.  Next:  Saturday at noon against 6-3 Michigan State.

 

Navy (2-6) dropped its fifth straight game in a 44-22 loss to #3 Notre Dame…and it could have been a textbook case for the 2018 season.  The offense struggled in the first half- gaining just 62 yards on 24 plays from scrimmage-while the defense allowed four touchdown drives of 67 yards or more.  Now the Mids are in danger of missing postseason play for just the second time in coach Ken Niumatalolo’s tenure.  Midshipman Medals: After a disastrous first half, they actually outscored the Fighting Irish 22-16 the rest of the way.  Malcolm Perry ran for 133 of the team’s 292 yards.  Taylor Heflin led the defense with 14 tackles.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense was held to 2-for-12 on third down.  Meanwhile, the defense was unable to slow down the Fighting Irish:  quarterback Ian Book completed 82% of his passes for 330 yards while Dexter Williams ran for 142 yards.  Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at 7-1 Cincinnati.

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If September is “Show Me Month” for individual programs and teams, it’s “Crow Me” month for conferences.  Leagues can dine out on their fat won-loss record in the season’s first month–even though many of those games are buyouts with FCS or lower-tier FBS schools.  Alabama has had two such games so far this fall-and coach Nick Saban has wondered aloud why the students haven’t been in their seats for an 11 a.m. local time kickoff with the likes of Louisiana-Lafayette.  Forgive me coach, but most 18-22 year olds are thinking about getting brunch in the dining hall at that time on Saturday-especially if there’s an omelet or waffle bar at their disposal.  Hyphenated schools aren’t going to pull them away from Monte Cristo sandwiches.  That said, the Southeastern Conference is the leader of the pack in our annual October conference call:  this week we look at the Power 5 conferences, from the contenders to the underbelly.

 

SEC: 33-5 with six of 14 schools in the AP Top 25.  Contenders:  #1 Alabama, #2 Georgia, #5 LSU & #8 Auburn.  Kentucky’s 5-0 start, after further review, is not an accounting error and Florida has half of its wins from lower-tier schools Charleston Southern & Colorado State.  Sadly, those are the only Division I schools with the initials “CS”–so Idaho will make the short flight from Moscow in November.  Underbelly:  Missouri is 3-1 and averaging over 40 points a game?  The third best Tiger team in the league is the early surprise.  Woe are the Magnolia State schools:  Ole Miss and Mississippi State are a combined 0-4 in league play.  Thank goodness for the Egg Bowl.

 

Big 12:  21-7 with four of 10 schools in the Top 25.  Contenders:  #7 Oklahoma and #9 West Virginia are unbeaten, while #19 Texas continues to kick itself for the Longhorns’ loss to Maryland and #25 Oklahoma State continues to be embarrassed by coach Mike Gundy’s mullet.  Underbelly:  TCU couldn’t hold on to leads against Texas or Ohio State…while Kansas is 2-3!?!  That’s like an 8-win season in Lawrence.

 

ACC: 32-11 with four of 14 schools in the Top 25.  Contenders: #3 Clemson needed a fourth quarter rally to beat Syracuse at home, while #17 Miami got exposed by LSU Labor Day weekend.  NC State (#23) is unbeaten, but lost a huge chance to develop street cred when their game against West Virginia was cancelled by Hurricane Florence.  Underbelly: while Duke and Syracuse are defying their “basketball school only” stigma with 4-1 starts, North Carolina is playing up to that stereotype at 1-3.

 

Pac-12: 23-11 with four of 12 schools in the Top 25.  Contenders: #10 Washington lost a tough “neutral site” game to Auburn in Atlanta, while #21 Colorado is the league’s last remaining unbeaten.  The Buffaloes will be tested with consecutive road games at USC and the Huskies.  Underbelly:  we knew the transformation wouldn’t be immediate under coach Chip Kelly, but I don’t think anyone thought UCLA would start 0-4 while allowing 38 points in consecutive losses to Fresno and Colorado.

 

Big Ten: 27-13 with five of 14 schools in the Top 25.  Contenders:  #3 Ohio State is the league’s last unbeaten after rallying to beat #11 Penn State in Happy Valley, but the Nittany Lions, #15 Michigan and #16 Wisconsin are each 4-1 with the path to the College Football Playoff in their hands.  Does anyone think that one-loss teams like Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Minnesota are capable of making a move?  As always, the jury is out on #20 Michigan State.  Underbelly:  Rutgers (1-4) has a better record than Nebraska (0-4).  Let that sink in for a while…as there are those who will remind you how great the Cornhuskers were last century.  Just like the Scarlet Knights dominated the first ever college football game played in 1869 (a 6-4 win against Princeton).

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange take their 4-1 record to Pitt Saturday in the ACC Network’s 12:20 p.m. Bojangles Battle.  This month will be a big barometer for how far this program has come under coach Dino Babers:  so far this year they’ve played better than the 2-3 Panthers.  SU also has home games with 1-3 North Carolina and unbeaten NC State this month…there’s a great chance that October could be a treat instead of a trick for Syracuse.

 

Saturday’s Games:

Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at #15 Michigan (4-1, 1-0), noon (ABC).  The Terps come off the bye week by going to the Big House…and take the Big Ten’s least productive passing game into Ann Arbor to face a Wolverines defense that ranks first in the conference against the pass and overall (they may rank #3 against the run in the league but are 7th overall nationally).  Keep your eyes on Chase Winovich;  the senior defensive linemen leads the team in sacks and is second in tackles.  Maryland will go as far as its running game that has shown a propensity to make the big play (touchdown runs this season include scampers of 36, 64 and 81 yards)–but they’ll be minus the injured Lorenzo Harrison and his 8.4 yards per carry.  When Michigan has the ball, watch out for Karan Higdon (6.3 yards per carry and 119.8 per game)…a tough test for a Terps D that leads the league in getting off of the field on third down.  Terrapins tumble, 26-10.

 

Navy (2-2) at Air Force (1-3), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).  The Mids have won just once in Colorado Springs this decade, and they needed overtime to do so in 2012.  Offense is not a problem for the Falcons, who have scored 25 or more points in each of their four games.  The Midshipmen have had issues stopping everybody this year, allowing 21 or more points whether their foe was a FCS Lehigh, a Hawai’i team that’s off to a 5-1 start or an SMU squad that was 0-3 when they met.  Both teams can run the ball, as the Midshipmen lead the nation by averaging 355 yards on the ground and the Falcons rank 11th (254.8).  But Air Force also ranks 11th nationally in stopping the run, allowing 98.5 yards per game.  They won’t handcuff Navy’s option, but they’ll slow the fleet of backs just enough.  Presto’s Pick:  Midshipmen come up short, 28-24.

 

#24 Virginia Tech (3-1) vs #6 Notre Dame (5-0), 8 p.m. (ABC).  Which Hokies team will we get in Blacksburg Saturday- the one that went into Durham and defeated then-unbeaten Duke or the one that allowed 35 points in the second half at then-winless Old Dominion?  After three one-possession games to start the season, the Fighting Irish appear to have turned the corner behind quarterback Ian Book.  Pick your poison, VT defense:  the junior threw for four touchdowns against Stanford one week after running for three scores at Wake Forest.  It’s the second start for Ryan Willis, who will find the Catholic school’s defense a little less forgiving than the Blue Devils.  Life is amusing that way.  Hokies go down fighting, 27-20.

 

Virginia (3-2, 1-1 ACC) is idle, but don’t you dare think Kippy & Buffy will be taking it easy this weekend.  Bye weeks are for shuttering up the cottage in the Outer Banks-and there’s no better way to wave goodbye to summer than by enjoying a 2010 bottle of JM Gobillard et Fils Millesime Champagne.  “Straw color, lovely aromatics (violets and strawberries), persistent perlage (meaning the bubbles are evocative of pearls), and pleasant mix of fruity and pastry-like notes.”   Break out the Black Diamond Hackleback Caviar on toast points (the lighter toasted, the better).

 

Georgetown falls at Fordham, Howard beats North Carolina Central,  James Madison beats Elon, William & Mary loses to Albany, Richmond falls to Delaware, Towson shocks Stony Brook.

Last Week: 6-1.  “Show Me Month” ends with an exclamation point…

Season: 26-14.  What will “Moving Month” bring us?

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

 

Friday’s Game:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday’s Games-

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Presto’s Pick: Tigers triumph, 30-22.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Playoff Party—

#1 Clemson vs #4 Oklahoma

#2 Auburn vs #3 Alabama

 

Last Week: 2-1.

Overall: 74-25.

 

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As the regular season winds down, another is just beginning to fire up–literally.  The coaching carousel has already been in motion for a few weeks and hit full stride this past weekend with name schools pink-slipping their program architects.  While the Pac- 12 caught the biggest fish in Chip Kelly, nowhere was the coaching carousel spinning faster than in the SEC.  Arkansas fired Bret Beilema before he could leave the field after the Razorbacks lost to Missouri.  Texas A&M joined in the mix by firing Kevin Sumlin, although the school showed restraint and waited at least until after he had left the field.  Florida and Tennessee jumped on the carousel early by giving their coaches walking papers during the season.  It’s worked out for the Gators, who landed former assistant and current Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.  You can’t say the same for the Volunteers, who had to back off from hiring Greg Schiano amidst massive protests.  And Mullen’s departure from Starkville-not the easiest place to win-means there will be six SEC schools with first-year head coaches in 2018.  And that doesn’t count Ole Miss, who took the interim tag off of Matt Luke.

Fantasy Field– losses by Alabama and Miami turned the bracket of 8 upside-down:

#1 Clemson (ACC)-#8 USC (Pac-12)

#4 Auburn (SEC)-#7 Miami (wildcard-3)

#3 Wisconsin (Big Ten)-#5 Alabama (wildcard-1)

#2 Oklahoma (Big 12)-#6 Georgia (wildcard-2) 

Naturally the automatic berths would not be set until Championship Weekend…with windows of opportunity for Ohio State, TCU and Stanford to play their  way in.  While Clemson or Oklahoma could conceivably still make the field after losing in the ACC or Big 12 title game, the Georgia-Auburn loser and likely Wisconsin if they fail to win the Big Ten title would be on the outside looking in.  Meaningful games in December instead of conference title games as window dressing.  Novel concept.

Alma Mater Update- the season ends with a 42-14 loss at home to Boston College.  A second straight 4-8 campaign that this year came against one of the toughest schedules in the nation.  I’m ready for hoops.  And wings. Hopefully with an 8-to-4 drummie to flat ratio.

Navy (6-5, 4-4 AAC) began the area action over the weekend by losing to Houston 24-14.  Instead of like the last two years where this determined the West Division champ, this tilt was merely an appetizer for some interesting games (UCF-South Florida-WOW).  Midshipman Medals:  D.J. Palmore tallied 8 tackles to lead the defense that held the Cougars to 3 for 13 on third down.  Malcolm Perry ran for 82 yards and a touchdown.  Owen White averaged over 40 yards per punt and landed a pair of kicks inside the 20 with no touchbacks.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense sputtered after halftime, converting 1 of 7 third downs while gaining just 69 yards on 30 carries.  Pass protection allowed three sacks on 11 drop-backs.  Steven Dunbar ripped the Mids’ secondary for 8 catches and 142 yards.  Next: December 9th against 8-3 Army.  Only the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is up for grabs.

 

Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC) kept the Commonwealth Cup for a 14th straight year by blanking Virginia (6-6, 3-5) 10-0.  For those scoring at home, that’s back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back wins over the Cavaliers.  “Friends” was still on TV showing first-run episodes when UVa last prevailed in what has become an annual hour of agony.

Hokie Highlights: the offensive line helped churn out over 202 yards on the ground while not allowing a sack.  Tremaine Edmunds tallies 9 tackles and two sacks to help the defense hold the Cavaliers to 4-15 on third down.  Hokie Humblings: a shutout on the road against an in-state rival?  They get a pass for putting just 10 points on the board.

Cavalier Congrats: Micah Kiser (19 tackles) and Quin Blanding (17 stops) continue to be the bright spots on a UVa defense that was much-improved this fall.  Lester Coleman averaged 43.9 yards per punt.  Cavalier Concerns: the running game allowed four sacks and on 16 other registered runs gained just 20 yards.  On a night that the Hokies had just a pair of scoring drives, UVa didn’t cross midfield until late in the 2nd quarter and didn’t convert a 3rd down in the second half.

 

Maryland (4-8, 2-7 Big Ten) saw its season come to a close with a 66-3 loss to #10 Penn State.  The Nittany Lions scored on four of their first five possessions to take control before scoring on their first three drives of the second half.  According to coach DJ Durkin, “the Texas game feels like eight years ago”.  Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore catches 8 passes for 100 yards, breaking the single-season record set by Geroy Simon in 1994 while also passing the 1,000-yard mark for the year.  Senior Jermaine Carter wrapped up his career with 11 tackles.  Terrapin Troubles: third down was a black mark all year as the team ranked last in getting off the field on defense and moving the chains on offense–and against Penn State they converted 1 of 15 attempts while allowing the Nittany Lions to 11 of 17 money downs.  Trace McSorley carved up the Terps defense to the tune of 205 yards in the first half.  They also fumbled four times-losing two of them that the Nittany Lions turned into touchdowns.

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While October is “moving month” in college football, it’s also a time for conferences to crow about how great they are.  You’ll hear how the SEC is back (did it ever really leave?), the Big Ten is top-heavy and the fact that the name schools have struggled in the Pac 12 tells you how great of a league it is.  Each of Power Five conferences has at least one unbeaten–while each league has a school they’d rather us not focus on.

SEC:  three schools in the top 20…with Alabama and Georgia still unbeaten and a 5-6 record against the other Power Five schools.  Best Win: the Bulldogs went on the road and held on to nip then-number 24 Notre Dame.  Worst Loss:  LSU dropped their Homecoming Game with Troy.  Something smells in Baton Rouge.

Big Ten: four teams in the top ten…with Maryland also receiving votes.  The 7-5 mark against other Power Five schools include a tough loss at home by Ohio State.  Best Win:  the Terps went into Texas and hung 51 on the Longhorns.  Worst Loss:  Nebraska losing to Northern Illinois?  Bad enough to get the AD 86’d in the fallout.

ACC: four teams in the top 20…with Clemson looking every bit as good as they did en route to last year’s national title.  But the league is 5-8 versus Power Five schools.  Best Win:  Virginia went to Boise State and somehow won on that blue field.  Worst Loss:  Syracuse dropping a game at home to Middle Tennessee potentially dashed the Orange’s hopes for hanging a Pinstripe Bowl banner at the Carrier Dome.

Big 12:  two top ten schools with one major mullet in Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s mane.  That can’t mask a 4-6 mark against the Power Five.  Best Win:  Oklahoma went into the Horseshoe and beat the Buckeyes.  Worst Loss:  usually one would say Baylor slipping to Duke would be embarrassing, but the Bears’ defeats to Liberty and UTSA earn their own pages.

Pac 12:  even a 6-2 record against the Power Five can’t mask the fact that the two unbeatens are the wrong ones- Washington and Washington State do not have the star power that USC and UCLA possess.  Best Win: Cal went on the road to beat North Carolina and topped Ole Miss at home.  That gives the Golden Bears something to be proud about while they run the conference gauntlet.  Worst Loss:  the Bruins loss at Memphis is the classic “noon kickoff dooms west coast team” defeat that we saw a week away.

Alma Mater Update- HOMECOMING!  Who’s ready for Pitt?  Last year 134 points went up on the scoreboard.  The proud Panthers have taken their lumps this season but the Orange are more than accommodating at home this fall (witness the Middle Tennessee).  One hopes the alumni in town are able to enjoy themselves early and often…especially with a 12:30 kickoff.

Virginia (3-1) vs Duke (4-1, 0-1 ACC), 12:20 p.m., (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers come off their bye week to face a Blue Devils club that makes big plays happen on defense (their 20 sacks and nine interceptions pace the conference)…but one that for the first time in years is having trouble moving the ball through the air (Daniel Jones is averaging under ten years per completion).  Quarterback consistency has been the key for the Cavaliers, as Kurt Benkert is on his way to surpassing his numbers form 2016.  The defense is also not scraping the bottom of the ACC barrel, and that little difference might just nudge UVa to a bowl.  Conference play means Kippy & Buffy shift over to reds, and nothing says dealing with the ultimate “bro school” Duke like opening a bottle of Breaux Vineyards 2013 Merlot:  “jammy notes of black cherry and fresh fruit compote with hints of cocoa powder”.   Strong suggestions of Gouda on Urban Oven crackers.  Cavaliers come through, 28-20.

 

Navy (4-0, 3-0 AAC) vs Air Force (1-3), 3:30 p.m., (CBS Sports Network).  Despite all of the hype Army-Navy (rightfully) gets each December, this is a sweet undercard rivalry in the race for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.  The winner of this game has taken the Trophy the last 20 years.  And the home team has been a major factor:  the Mids have won six of the last seven games played in Annapolis.  Navy leads the nation in rushing offense (400 yards per game) and Air Force after shutting out VMI in their opener has allowed 38 points per game…and last week coughed up 363 yards on the ground to New Mexico.  Midshipmen make their first move towards another trophy, 37-21.

 

Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at #10 Ohio State (4-1, 1-0), 4 p.m., (FOX).  The Terps get Gus Johnson?!?  This naturally means we’re sure to have a hail-mary TD pass at the end of the first half…I can already hear the “BANG!  CAN!  YOU!  BELIEVE IT!”  The Buckeyes boast the best one-two punch in the league with senior J.T. Barrett completing 63% of his passes while freshman J.K. Dobbins averages 7.6 yards per carry.  Max Bortenschlager won last week on the road in the conference, but Minneapolis is a long way from Columbus.  Third down performance will be key:  Maryland ranks 13th in the conference at moving the chains on offense and 13th in getting off the field on defense.  Terrapins tumble, 38-17.

 

#16 Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1 ACC) at Boston College (2-3, 0-2), 7:15 p.m., (ESPN2).  Last weekend the Hokies learned that they’re not as good as the defending national champs-and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Can they bounce back against a BC team that is offensively challenged (last in the ACC in scoring, 13th in passing) to say the least?  The Eagles have recently had the reputation of bad offense, good defense–but this year’s team is at the bottom of the conference at stopping the run.  Is this the week VT’s consistently uneven ground game finds its groove?  Hokies handle the Eagles, 27-6.

 

Howard beats NC Central, Georgetown falls at Princeton, William & Mary loses at Elon, Richmond edges Albany.

Last Week: 5-2.

Overall: 28-10.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

I’ve often said in this space that September is “Show Me Month”…and more than a few schools have shown us they have promise.  But there’s also the grim reality that happens when late summer turns to early autumn and teams that think they are legit are exposed.  Schools like #6 Oklahoma State put 59 points on the board one week against Pitt, only to cough up 44 the following Saturday at home against TCU.  Colorado has everyone thinking repeat Pac-12 South title until they lose to defending Pac-12 champ Washington by 27 at home.  The SEC second-tier triumvirate of Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky (all 3-0 for the first time since 1913, or 19 years before the SEC even existed) saw their contending status turn to pretending with losses to Georgia, Alabama and Florida (you know, the REAL SEC programs).  Even Maryland after getting some splashy notice came back to earth.  As the leaves turn their colors so do many college teams…to their usual shade.

Alma Mater Update- speaking of “show me” and “pretenders”, the Orange came up short in a 35-26 loss at LSU.  The seeds of an upset were there as this Tigers team is more Gerry DiNardo than Les Miles…and SU actually outgained the LSU.  While I’m not a fan of the soft-touch offense that averages less than ten yards per completion, Dungey impressed yet again with his grit.  The defense even made a huge pick.  Unfortunately they didn’t have the athletes to make the difference-making plays down the stretch and now the Orange enter ACC play 2-2.  Five of their next eight foes have winning records, and that isn’t including 0-2 Florida State.  Can they find a way to squeeze out four more wins and that dream of a Pinstripe Bowl berth so we can hang another banner at the Carrier Dome?  

Virginia (3-1) surpassed last year’s win total with a 42-23 win at Boise State.  Granted, this isn’t the Boise State that Chris Petersen or even Dan Hawkins led to national prominence, but it was the Cavs’ first non-conference road win since 2011 (Indiana).  Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team no longer has to worry about a potential third 10-loss season in five years.  Who’s ready for ridiculous bowl-talk?  Cavalier Congrats: Kurt Benkert threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, while Jordan Ellis provided the necessary ground threat with 93 yards rushing and a pair of scores.  Quin Blanding led a defense that held the Broncos to 4-of-16 on third down by tallying 10 tackles.  Only 3 penalties on the night.  Cavalier Concerns:  when you have to point out that Lester Coleman averaged under 40 yards per punt…you’ve had a heck of a week and month.  Bring on the ACC.   Next:  October 7th vs Duke.

Maryland (2-1) has to remember this is 2017, not 2012 when in Randy Edsall’s second year at the helm the Terps lost a succession of quarterbacks to injury and wound up starting a scout-team linebacker at QB in November.  The 38-10 loss to UCF (DO NOT CALL THEM CENTRAL FLORIDA) saw the Terrapins lose their starting quarterback to injury for the second time in three games…and while Max Bortenschlager in a James Bond film probably has an evil henchman & an impenetrable fortress at his disposal, the sophomore began September third string for a reason.  Kasim Hill’s lower-leg injury will be looked at, re-examined and given the necessary MRI with everyone’s fingers and toes crossed.  Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore made a circus catch for a 20-yard touchdown, one of his eight grabs on the afternoon (so far this year Moore has over 50% of the teams receptions).  The defense held UCF to 5-of-14 on third down.  Wade Lees averaged 47.1 yards over seven punts with no touchbacks.  Terrapin Troubles: the offense converted just 2 of 13 third downs, none in the first half.  Bortenschlager was sacked five times and threw two interceptions.  The defense allowed over six yards per carry and surrendered three scoring drives of 65+ yards in the second half.  Kicker Henry Darmstadter (fresh from a Louisa May Alcott short story) missed a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have put the Terps within one point;  instead UCF drove 80 yards to take a double-digit lead they’d hold for the rest of the day.  Next:  Saturday at 3-0 Minnesota, 12 noon.

#13 Virginia Tech (4-0) set up a showdown with defending national champion Clemson by blasting Old Dominion 38-0.  Two shutouts in four non-conference games and an offense that averages 40 points per contest.  Who’s ready to take on the #2 Tigers in Blacksburg?  Hokie Highlights:  the offensive line allowed just one sack to a pass rush that had 16 over the previous three games.  Steven Peoples ran for 62 yards and a touchdown while adding 73 receiving yards and two more scores.  The defense held ODU to 64 yards rushing and 2-of-14 on third down…and was so dominant in the shutout Andrew Motuapuaka was only needed to make three tackles (and one sack).  Hokie Humblings:  Joey Slye missed a 27-yard field goal while Oscar Bradburn averaged just 36 yards per punt.  Yes, we’re splitting hairs here.  Next:  Saturday at 8 p.m. against 4-0 Clemson.

Navy (3-0) came off their bye week with a second straight AAC victory, this time outscoring Cincinnati 42-32.  Plenty of good to keep the fans happy with just enough bad to keep the coaches working.  Midshipman Medals:  a near-school record 569 yards rushing (they actually broke the record but lost four yards on kneel-downs) with Zach Abey playing to his strengths (20 carries as opposed to just three pass attempts)…and getting quality instead of quantity through the air from Tyler Carmona (2 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown).  The offense converted 6-of-8 third downs while holding the ball for over 36 minutes.  The defense held the Bearcats to 2.5 yards per carry, with Sean Williams tallying seven tackles and two passed broken up.  Midshipman Miscues:  Turnovers continue to creep up, with another lost fumble spoiling the day.  The defense sacked UC quarterback Hayden Moore just twice on 48 pass plays.  Bennett Moerhing missed a 24-yard field goal.  Yes, I’m being rather rough on kickers this week.  Next: Saturday at 1-3 Tulsa, 3:30 p.m.