Archives for posts with tag: Sign of the Whale

Kent Benson has to be nervous.  Bobby Wilkerson must be shaking. Quinn Buckner’s glances at the latest Kentucky scores have to be a little more intriguing lately.  The 1976 Indiana team that went 32-0 en route to the last unbeaten National Championship in the mens game will be mentioned early and often if #1 Kentucky enters March perfect–as this year’s Wildcat edition presents the best collection of talent since…well, last year’s Kentucky team.  Or the 2012 edition that won it all with Anthony Davis.  Or perhaps the 1996 team that lost to fellow Final Four teams UMass and Mississippi State en route to Rick Pitino’s first title that featured Antoine Walker and Ron Artest.  Wow, it is really easy not to like the bluebloods of Lexington.  So every time a middling SEC school takes UK into OT…the meter moves.  Even though injuries have scrapped coach John Calipari’s two-platoon system, most Wildcat games represent an NBA pre-draft workout.  Sit tight, Bob Knight…unlike other unbeatens from mid-major leagues recently, this team can get it done.


Alma Mater Update–  there aren’t any awards for “most precarious 4-0 start in ACC history”, but if there were this winter’s edition of the Orange would have that honor sealed up.  From barely beating Virginia Tech to losing DeJuan Coleman and Chris McCullough to season ending injuries, this team has NIT written all over it.  But they’re currently tied for first in the conference with non-factors Clemson and Boston College on deck.  The ACC gauntlet of Duke, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia is a month away.  Enjoy your “Warrick Wings” and “Boeheim Burgers” at Front Page Arlington while you can.  Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney, now is the time to pad your stats.


#14 Maryland (16-2, 4-1 Big 10) proved it could bounce back from slow starts– they trailed Rutgers 8-0 and allowed an 11-0 run to start the second half in Wednesday’s 73-65 win over the Scarlet Knights.  Those following this school over the last five to ten years wonder when the other shoe will drop…as it almost always does.  There’s no way this team can be this good, right?  Weren’t they exposed by Virginia?  Didn’t their offense prove offensive against Michigan State (14 first half points)?  Wouldn’t things turn bad when they started facing the rough and tumble physical Big 10 schools?  This is actually a great year to join the conference-only two other schools are in the top 40 of ESPN.COM’s RPI, and they’ve beaten Michigan State while Wisconsin’s proven they can be beaten (by Rutgers?!).  The great equalizer-team defense- is keeping the Terps near the top of the league:  Mark Turgeon’s team leads the Big Ten in defensive field goal percentage.  Causes for concern involve turnovers:  Maryland’s 11th in assist to turnover ratio and 13th in turnover margin.  Can they complete a regular season sweep of Michigan State?  


Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 Big East) snatched its first road conference win Tuesday at DePaul–as coach John Thompson III shortens his rotation (playing just 9–with only 6 players seeing more than 15 minutes) for what will be quite a grind.  Two games in three days will give further clarification of the Hoyas are pretenders or contenders in a Big East that boasts 7 teams in the top 40 of the RPI.  Saturday Butler visits Verizon-the Bulldogs have endured an odd journey already this year.  Coach Brandon Miller went on medical leave October 1st of last fall and interim coach Chris Holtmann turned what was a 14-17 squad from the year before into a top 20 team…leading to the school lifting the interim tag off Holtmann while Miller quietly goes away.  Fourteen turnovers factored into the Hoyas loss to Butler in the Bahamas Thanksgiving week–and bad turnovers remain Georgetown’s Achilles heel.  Monday night #5 Villanova drops by the district–the Wildcats have four double digit victories in conference play but fell on the road two weekends ago to Seton Hall in overtime.


Cruising the Commonwealth–

#2 Virginia (16-0, 4-0 ACC) has the Cavalier faithful thinking Final Four.  And why shouldn’t they? Coach Tony Bennett’s team sucks the life out of opponents defensively and is effective enough offensively (44th in the nation in field goal percentage and 40th in offensive rebounding).  Is it safe to say that Justin Anderson’s made the leap?  The junior’s hitting 53 percent of his shots (56% from 3 point range) while leading the Cavaliers in scoring.  Last year a lot was made about UVa’s “soft schedule” when they played Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina just once during the regular season.  This winter there are four other schools ranked in the top 25–and coach Tony Bennett’s team plays Duke, UNC and Louisville back-to-back-to-back over the span of eight days.  At least they get a break with two of those three being played in Charlottesville.  Saturday the Cavaliers visit winless in the ACC Boston College.


Virginia Tech (8-8, 0-3 ACC) wonders when its first league victory will arrive–as their January gauntlet of ACC elite continues with consecutive games against North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia.  The Hokies entered conference play as one of the better shooting teams in the nation (they currently rank 45th) but then were held to 39% by Syracuse, 41% by Florida State and 36% by Louisville.  A lot will be on the shoulders of  Adam Smith (15-31 against the Seminoles and Cardinals) as other options offensively haven’t panned out.  Sunday the Hokies visit #15 North Carolina.


A-10 Trio–

George Washington (13-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) bounced back from their least inspirational effort of the season to edge Richmond in double overtime 73-70.  The big difference was the Big Dane– five days after going scoreless and missing both shots at LaSalle, 6 foot 10 center Kevin Larsen tallied 22 points and 11 rebounds.  If the Colonials can get that production consistently, watch out.  The problem is, once every 5 or 6 games the Copenhagen, Denmark product offers up a 1-for-7 entrée with side dishes of foul trouble and multiple turnovers.  For the moment there’s a bit of a breather before they face #17 VCU January 27th:  the next three GW opponents are a combined 2-10 in league play.  Saturday they face a fading George Mason.


George Mason (6-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10)-  the season isn’t ugly–yet.  But the Patriots after winning their conference opener have fallen on tough times, despite inspired play from freshman center Shevon Thompson (the Jamaican averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds in league play).  The loss that has to haunt coach Paul Hewitt is the team’s 66-62 defeat against UMass where they made just one shot in the final 6:27.  Saturday they deal with the Colonial Army at George Washington.


#17 VCU (14-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) is viewed as a potential #4 seed in most NCAA Tournament brackets…and while there’s a lot of hoops to be played between now and Selection Sunday the Rams are definitely on a roll.  Their three losses have come to teams that have been ranked this winter:  Virginia and Villanova have been top ten fixtures while Old Dominion reached the top 25 for the first time ever earlier this month (props to Jeff Jones for getting the Monarchs on track).  Shaka Smart’s pesky defense (3rd in the nation in steals) is providing the usual havoc while senior Treveon Graham provides a matchup nightmare on offense:  the 6-foot-6 swingman can rebound better than most forwards (6.9 boards per game) while destroying opponents from the perimeter (46% from 3 point range).  With road games at Duquesne and St Louis (combined 15-17 and 2-6 in conference play), the Rams could very well still be unbeaten in conference play January 27th when they host George Washington.


American (10-7, 3-2 Patriot League) is deep into the rugby scrum that is the Patriot League.  Pee Wee Gardner’s three helped the Eagles edge Lehigh 62-59…and although he’s averaging an assist less per game and shooting five percentage points lower than last year, the diminutive one remains the sparkplug for AU’s offense.  While it’s nice to know the Eagles have handed conference-leading Colgate their only league loss, the team has yet to win on the road in Patriot League play and goes on the road for four of their next five games.  Saturday they visit one of the four other 3-2 teams in the Patriot League, Lafayette.


Howard (8-10, 2-2 MEAC)- gets a rare midseason siesta:  the Bison enjoy 12 days off between their loss to Delaware State and their trip to Florida A&M.  The Rattlers are the ideal team to come off a layoff against–as they’re currently 0-16 (0-3 in the league).  In fact, the Bison’s monthly transition couldn’t be sharper:  their three opponents to end January are a combined 1-9 in league play while their first three foes of February are a combined 10-1.  Gulp.


Maryland Womens Update– new league, similar results.  The 8th ranked Terps are off to a 5-0 start in the Big Ten with signature wins at then #12 Nebraska, #23 Minnesota and #24 Rutgers.  Laurin Mincy enjoyed her recent return to the Garden State, scoring 24 points in the win over the Scarlet Knights.  The team’s lone senior leads the team in scoring and assists.  Two emerging factors off the bench are junior forward Tierney Pfirman and freshman guard Kristen Confroy.  Can this team enter the conversation for a potential #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament?  Five of the Terrapins’ next eight games are in College Park.



Selection Sunday turns into Bracket Monday with all eyes on who got hosed, which draws are easy and of course the “First Four Frenzy”.  For 68 schools the dream stays alive…while another 80 move on to the NIT, CBI and CIT.   The other 303 try to figure out what went wrong and how they can get back on track.  Or if they have the right engineer.

American (20-12, 13-5 Patriot League) heads to Milwaukee as the #15 seed in the West Bracket…facing #2 Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6 Big Ten).  Yes, Milwaukee just happens to be located in the state of Wisconsin…much like facing Villanova in Philadelphia during the 2009 Tournament.  A simple technicality if you ask me.  The Badgers were bounced last year by 12th seed Ole Miss…but that was the first round of 64 loss in seven years.  Coach Bo Ryan’s team has the no-frills feel of efficiency that grinds out victories…and against an AU team that’s developed its defensive stride lately (six straight games allowing 56 points or fewer) the air may be taken out of the ball.

First Four=First Round?–  I’m begrudgingly okay with the “First Four” as much as I prefer a 64-team bracket.  I’ve raised objections of sending Automatic Qualifiers to Dayton but understand.  But do we have to call Thursday and Friday games the “Second Round”?  Complete idiocy.  When 60 teams get first round byes, it’s not the first round they’re skipping but an opening round or play-in game.   I’m just thankful there’s no “double-bye” bracket like the ACC or Atlantic 10–yet.

George Washington (24-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10) gets a #9 seed and meets #8 Memphis (23-9, 12-6 American Athletic Conference of American) in Raleigh.  I thought the Colonials deserved a 7 or 8…despite the 19 point loss in the A-10 semifinals to VCU.  Quality wins in and out of the league should have moved them off the dreaded “on deck for the top seed” line.  Kethan Savage remains an untested entity…as the sophomore guard played one minute against the Rams in his first action since fracturing his foot January 18th.  The Tigers will be stepping out with leading scorer Joe Jackson…and everybody’s favorite Memphis alum Wink Martindale.

Fun matchups–from pairing Ohio State and Dayton in the round of 64 to coupling former ACC coaches in Texas-Arizona State (ex-Clemson coach Rick Barnes against former NC State mentor Herb Sendek)…from a Big 12 reunion (Baylor-Nebraska) to potential ex-Big East (UConn-Villanova a potential round of 32 game) as well as intra-state possibilities (Kansas State-Wichita State, Nebraska-Creighton, North Carolina-NC Central) one can see the bracket as always was set up completely by the S-Curve.  As in sometimes the committee’s full of it. 

Virginia (28-6, 16-2 ACC) gets the final #1 seed (in the East) and thanks to their 72-63 win over Duke for the ACC Championship…the team’s second ever (the 1976 team won in Landover as a #6 seed in what was a 7 team league).  In a weekend where other #1 candidates Villanova, Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin came up short in their conference tournaments, UVa’s stingy defense (holding the Blue Devils to 38% shooting after limiting Pitt to 37% in the semifinals) helped deliver the school’s first #1 seed since 1983.  The reward?  A date with 16th seeded Coastal Carolina (led by ex-Auburn and former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis).  The Chanticleers are making their first NCAA appearance since 1993 (when as a #16 seed they lost to Michigan’s Fab Five by 34).  They also made the field in 1991 (as a #15 that lost to Indiana).  On nickname coolness alone, Cavaliers-Chanticleers should be something special.

Bracket Belly Aching– the beauty of Selection Sunday is even if they get it completely right, somebody will have something to complain about.  Take your pick:  did Louisville get hosed by only receiving a #4 seed?  Why are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the same Regional Semifinal bracket?  NC State instead of SMU as the last at-large team in the field?  And did Wichita State get saddled with the toughest bracket despite going unbeaten?  None of this will matter Thursday by noon.

Georgetown (17-14, 8-10 Big East) finds itself in the NIT with a First Round matchup against West Virginia (17-15, 9-9 Big 12).  The Hoyas’ bubble burst Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden when they lost to last-place DePaul in the Big East Tournament.  Most thought they needed at least two victories…and the team’s loss at Villanova to wrap up the regular season robbed them of a chance to post another quality win.    The Mountaineers slumped on their way to the finish line with 6 losses in their last 9 games…and scored 49 in a Big 12 quarterfinal loss sealed their fate.  Leading scorer Juwan Staten was held to 4 points on 1 of 11 shooting in that game…and will get plenty of attention from the Hoya D.  The game will be played on campus at McDonough Arena–which also hosted NIT games in 1993 (they reached the final that year) and 2005.

Maryland (17-15, 9-9 ACC) winds up missing the NCAA’s and the NIT…as a 67-65 loss to Florida State in the quarterfinals wraps up the schools ACC history.  The winter of “not quite” concludes with another close loss (three of their last four defeats came by two points…and the fourth came in double overtime).  As they only lose John Auslander to graduation, will the unit that just couldn’t gel be able to enter the Big Ten with the necessary experience to thrive?  Will a true point guard emerge?  Can the big men develop and make the necessary leap as the program enters a more physical league?  And will Rutgers fans chant “Not Our Rival” next winter?

Alma Mater Update– after an underwhelming finish (2-5 including baaad losses at home to Georgia Tech and Boston College) the Orange (27-5, 14-4 ACC) play the first weekend in Buffalo as the #3 seed in the South Region against #14 Western Michigan (23-9, 14-4 MAC).  The Broncos have won 12 of 13 and more importantly are from Kalamazoo.  SU?  This team has all the feeling of the 1991 unit that lost to Richmond in College Park:  after losing some key pieces from a celebrated squad they overachieved…only to skid down the stretch before getting bounced in the conference quarterfinals (punching the other team’s NCAA ticket in the process).  Was this team once 25-0?  Although if you’re at Sign of the Whale, don’t be shy about trying the tater tots.  They’re not the wings, but you can’t always have a Final Four team.

Well, thank you Warren Buffett for giving away money.  Just like that–he’s so crazy.  ONE BILLION DOLLARS to whoever can pick a perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket–are they counting the First Four?  Because even though the pools I’ve belonged to ignore those games…for ONE BILLION DOLLARS I think it’s only right that you have to mess with the unwanted appetizer to the basketball buffet.

Only it’s not ONE BILLION DOLLARS.  It’s 25 million over 40 years.  Really?  Not even worth the boldface or even italics.  Plus, with inflation calculated…you’re not getting the true value of the billion when the payments end in 2039.   Massive ripoff.  I guess…you can take the lump-sum payment of $500 million.  Geez, thanks.  A perfect bracket is basically an impossibility– the odds are somewhat like one in 35 billion to get all 63 games plus the 4 first four matchups correctly.  Begging the question– if you were to get every game correct but one, would you rather miss one in the First Four or Final Four?

There will be  20 “runner-up prizes” of $100,000…so I guess this isn’t a complete waste of time.  Only hope. 

Georgetown (11-7, 3-4 Big East)-– three straight come-from-ahead losses have the Hoyas under .500 in conference play.  Three straight games where coach John Thompson III’s team hits the wall with six minutes remaining, getting outscored 16-0 at Xavier, 14-6 against Seton Hall and 22-10 against Marquette (7-3 in the final minute of the 2nd half and 15-7 in the 5 minute overtime).  And the road gets rougher:  games against Creighton (fresh off a rout of #4 Villanova), Villanova and #3 Michigan State.  They’ll need more than consistent scoring from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks to make a dent during this run…

Alma Mater Update– the Orange (18-0, 5-0) remain atop the ACC by beating #22 Pitt 59-54…as the Panthers manage just 38% shooting against the zone.  But bad news rears its ugly head as DaJuan Coleman’s done for the year with the leg injury that has limited him to nine minutes over two games over the last month.  Road games with Miami and Georgia Tech loom before a home date with Duke…and hopefully a 44-wing salute.

Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC)– the Terps waste a nine point lead at NC State and fall 65-56 in a game where they shot just 5-13 from the free throw line.  Defenses have been keying on Dez Wells as of late and the team’s #1 option has been held to 5-21FG in the last two games.  In an ACC where one game separates 7th from 12th place, there’s minimal room for error.

Cruising the Commonwealth– Best of times in Charlottesville, less than ideal times in Blacksburg.  Virginia (14-5, 5-1) bounces back from a heartbreaking loss at Duke to post consecutive double-digit wins over Florida State and North Carolina…despite getting outrebounded by both the Seminoles and Tar Heels.  Joe Harris’ scoring may be down during his senior year, but the guard is posting career highs in shooting from the field and 3-point range.  Can he get the necessary consistency from big men Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey?  Virginia Tech (8-9, 1-4) shot 52% at Notre Dame but still lost on Digger Phelps Day thanks to 17 turnovers–although freshman Devin Wilson’s growth can’t come soon enough (a career high 20 points in South Bend).  Another winter continues down I-84.

George Washington (15-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10)– unfortunate news for the Colonials after their eight point victory at St Bonaventure:  guard Kethan Savage is out the next six to eight weeks with a foot injury.  The sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia was second on the team in scoring and assists before his injury…although GW has a bit of a learning curve with a new lineup as it plays just one of its next five games against a school with a winning conference record.  Although they visit a desperate George Mason Saturday.

George Mason (7-11, 0-4 Atlantic 10)– but before the Patriots face their new conference foes they have a battle to avoid last place in the A-10 at Fordham.  January hasn’t been kind to coach Paul Hewitt’s team:  the last three losses coming by a combined seven points.  Saturday’s loss at Rhode Island saw Mason outshoot (47 to 38 percent) and outrebound (35-31) the Rams…only to be foiled by Xavier Mumford (10 of his 28 coming in overtime).  Not to be confused with Mumford and Sons…or even Sesame Street’s Amazing Mumford.

Maryland Womens Update– the Terps (16-1, 4-0 ACC) battled past a swatting in the air Georgia Tech team 92-81 behind 22 points and 14 rebounds for Alyssa Thomas and the usual depth we’ve seen this winter.  The defense was dominant in holding the Yellowjackets to 30% shooting after halftime…and although many eyes are on a Monday night matchup with #2 Notre Dame, there’s no sleeping on a Virginia team that upset #17 Florida State just a few days ago.  Especially with Thursday’s game in Charlottesville.

American (10-7, 6-0 Patriot)– the Eagles entertain new to the conference Boston University Wednesday in a battle for first place…a surprise in and of itself the way this team began the season.  Darius Gardner’s emergence as a third option (13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against Lafayette) may be just what AU needs.  But can they contain the Terriers Maurice Watson Jr.?

Howard (4-15, 2-2 MEAC)– the Bison let out a few weeks’ frustration with an 88-55 thumping of Maryland-Eastern Shore.  James Daniel (33 points, 6-12 from 3pt range) is back all right– and with a vengeance.  Can the team translate improved play to victories on the road (the team is 0-12 away from home to start the season)?  Consecutive tests at Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman are both winnable…but the road is never kind in conference play.

The first month of college basketball’s conference season is a nice cleanse for the non-conference campaign where most of the bigtime teams roll up gaudy records that might not be the best indicator of exactly how good they might be…and for schools that play more guarantee games in November/December, January’s a chance to show the lessons learned on the big boys’ home courts.  Who is strong–and who is soft?  The first couple weeks brings more than a few rude awakenings and pleasant surprises…

Georgetown (11-4, 3-1 Big East)– the Hoyas bounced back from a double digit loss at Providence to beat Butler in overtime 70-67 Saturday evening.  The Hoyas defense held the Bulldogs to under 10% from three point range… although that might be as much of a reflection of a Butler team now 0-4 in conference play.  D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is averaging 20 points per game in conference play… and they’ll need his productivity as the Hoyas wrap up their longest road trip in conference play Wednesday at Xavier (a battle for third place in the  league).

Alma Mater Update– the Orange continue to put together uneven efforts (falling behind 10-4 at home to UNC, trailing at Boston College 50-44) while putting together wins (17-0, 4-0 in the ACC).  CJ Fair’s steady presence (17ppg) is helped by Trevor Cooney (14ppg, 42% from 3pt range) making the leap. Sign of the Whale is steadying itself for a busy few months…as I await the annual unveiling of the 44 Wing Salute.   A fight for first place Saturday against Pitt looms…

Maryland (10-7, 2-2 ACC)– so much for that 2-0 start in conference play… consecutive road losses of 20+ points bringing the Terps crashing down to earth.  Seth Allen’s comeback tour finally hit a snag in Tallahassee (0-8FG)…and the difference in making and allowing threes (11-43 vs 22-34) during the slide is enough to derail any momentum.  Welcome to the expanding underbelly of the ACC… with six of the fifteen schools currently 1-2.  Including Notre Dame and NC State, the Terps’ next two opponents.

Cruising the Commonwealth– Virginia (12-5, 3-1 ACC) was a ridiculous three -pointer away from starting 4-0 in conference play for the first time since 1994-95.  That year is key because it’s the last time the Cavaliers reached Saturday in the ACC Tournament…and the second weekend of the NCAA’s.  Jeff Jones never got back there…while Pete Gillen and Dave Leitao could never get there.  Tony Bennett has this program “in position to be in position”.  The next three for UVa are at home– but against Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.  We could just as easily be talking 3-4 as 6-1 a week from Saturday.  Virginia Tech (8-7, 1-2) showed us where the floor is on this team in a 3 point loss at home to a BAAAAD Boston College team (5-12  with one win over a major conference team). NINE missed free throws hurt the Hokies and BC made Jarell Eddie’s day uncomfortable (3-14 and 1-6 from 3 pt range).  Now VT plays 5 of their next 8 on the road…will they be over .500 at the end of this gauntlet?

George Washington (14-3, 2-1 Atlantic 10)– talk about a signature victory… the Colonials topped VCU 76-66.  It was feast or famine for GW:  56% shooting while committing 21 turnovers.  Kevin Larsen (a career high 22 points) and Isaiah Armwood (11pts and 14reb) provided a dominant duo inside– and sophomore Argentine Patricio Garino (a career high 25 points) gave the needed spark off the bench (he’s averaging 18ppg on 67% shooting in conference play) that gives coach Mike Lonergan the needed third option.  They get their chance to avenge their only league loss January 29th when LaSalle drops by the Smith Center.

George Mason (7-9, 0-2 A10)– the Patriots are still searching for their first win in a new league.  Saturday’s 84-80 loss to St. Joes saw the Hawks hit 59% of their shots…while the Patriots hit the wall in the 2nd half by going from 7:25 (leading 66-63) to 0:36 (trailing 80-72) without a field goal.  GMU’s also dropped 9 of 12…losing altitude since Thanksgiving.  Can they bounce back against #16 UMass?  Is it too late to go back to the CAA?

Maryland Womens Minute– the Terps (14-1, 2-0 ACC) are #6 for the second straight week…and after dusting Wake Forest play a pair of schools on the fringe of the top 25:  new to the ACC Syracuse and Georgia Tech (always a tough matchup for the Terps).  With Duke’s Chelsea Gray now done for the year with a knee injury…the path to the top of the ACC may be a little easier-although #2 Notre Dame looms large on the schedule.

American (8-7, 4-0 Patriot League)– while some teams easy non-conference schedule makes it difficult to see their weaknesses…some school’s tough non-league slate makes it a challenge to identify their strengths.  AU’s looked like a different team once the calendar turned to January and league play– as the Eagles are in a three-way tie for first.  Transfer Darius Gardner (Stephen F. Austin) has been on fire since Patriot League action began (21 points and 7 rebounds in the rally against Colgate)…and the team has shot well all season (7th in the nation at 49.9% from the field).

Howard (3-15, 1-2 MEAC)– speaking of rankings…sometimes it’s too early in a season to give them validity:  if a player makes one of two three-pointers in game one, that doesn’t necessarily make them a 50% shooter from outside the arc.  But for the Bison… the stats have had 18 games to simmer on the stove.  Out of 351 Division I schools, they rank 345th in points per game…346th in field goal percentage and 347th in assists per game.  Obviously they’re spending too much time on their rebounding (262nd nationally).  A missed shot with six seconds left cost them in a two point loss to Savannah State…but help is on the way:  only three of Howard’s remaining games are against teams with winning records.  So there are possibilities.

Let the record show while I don’t mind Thursday Night Football’s college matchups…I’m not exactly embracing Thursday Night Football in the pro game.  I don’t really like having the NFL shoved down my throat while I’m still kind of full from the previous weekend.  I recognize the pro football player needs more than three days to recover physically before throwing his body back into the meatgrinder of a collision game.  I see that teams need more than three days to effectively gameplan for their next opponent in today’s age of X and O chess.  And Thursday night still has a tacked on feel to the schedule– but I’d like it if they gave the games to teams coming off their bye week.  Think about it– 11 days to heal.  A full week to prepare a gameplan.  And a team’s fans would be hungry for football as opposed to just recently full.

The Redskins have a strange sense of deja vu…last year they were 3-6 and faced Philadelphia after having a Sunday off.  This year the team is 3-6…and plays the Eagles after being idle the previous Sunday.  The ingredients to a fantastic final lap are here!  Unfortunately, the Redskins are in position for a miracle run thanks to a 34-27 loss at Minnesota.  This come-from-ahead defeat was a nice microcosm of the good, bad and ugly that is 2013…

RG3VER– the face of the franchise completed 24 of 37 passes for 281 yards… three touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 7 carries for 44 yards.  But after staking the Skins to a 13-point lead early in the third quarter…#10 seemed to shrink.  In the three drives following the FG, the team ran 11 plays for a combined minus 5 yards while the Vikings jumped ahead.  Although no team should give up scoring drives on four straight second half possessions and expect their QB to bail them out.

Morris monopolizes the moves– Alfred the Magnificent notched 26 carries for 139 yards… reaching the century mark in consecutive games for the first time all season.  It would have been nice to have seen him get the ball more than just 9 times for 51 yards after intermission though.  Meanwhile, Slater (Roy Helu Jr) and Lisa Turtle (Darrel Young) assist in third down and short yardage scenes.   But much like the duck, goose or whatever bird that died because of the oil found under the football field…this episode met a sad end.

Pierre’s Peerless– Monsieur Garcon dazzled with 7 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown–with two of those grabs coming on third down (one incompletion to him in the first half resulted in a defensive pass interference).  It’s a shame there aren’t two other receivers with French sounding names so we can do a legitimate Three Musketeers riff.

Reed My Lips…No New Tight Ends– Jordan Reed added 6 receptions for 62 yards and a score…3 of those catches coming on third down (one for a TD)…and with Logan Paulsen producing another TD catch (on 3rd & 1) while Niles Paul becomes the kickoff returner du jour, there’s minimal room in the future–or even present–for Fred Davis.

Third and Conditional– the Skins moved the chains on 9 of 16 attempts (which is great!) but went 0-5 after taking a 27-14 lead.  Instead of keeping the suddenly awaking Vikings offense on the sidelines, the Skins went: incomplete to Garcon, sack and sack while the Vikes took the lead.  Yardage breakdown:  3-7 on short yardage (under 4 needed)…3-4 on midrange (4 to 6 yards) with a fifth converted on a defensive pass interference…3-5 on long yardage (7 yards+).  Play breakdown:  15 passes and 2 runs called.

Defensive Dissolve– instead of resolve.  Leading 27-14 the D allowed the Vikings offense that had averaged under 18 points over its last four games to drive 74 and 41 yards for touchdowns…and then move the ball 30 and 40 yards to get into field goal range.  So the unit with most everybody healthy (unlike last year) is now 18th against the run (actually up four spots this week), 26th against the pass, 27th in total yardage surrendered and 31st in points allowed.  At least they’re tied for 12th in takeaways.

Flying Flags– 8 penalties for 63 yards…with some more costly than others.  Three came on offense (false start, hold and delay of game), three came on defense (one unnecessary roughness plus two from NT Chris Baker [roughing the passer and a neutral zone infraction]) and two more came on the same punting sequence (false start and unnecessary roughness).  The punt penalties turned a Redskins 4th & 3 from their own 35 into a Vikings 1st and 10 from the Washington 41.  They’d score the go-ahead TD five plays later.  Both Viking touchdowns in the first half were assisted by Redskin defensive penalties.  The offensive penalties had minimal impact (Skins scored TD’s on both first half flags…and they were able to get a first down after a Paulsen hold created a 1st & 20).  The Vikings were penalized once.

Cobra Kai– Mr Forbath connected on field goals of 20 and 40 yards…a nice bounceback from last week’s block party.  The season log reads 7 of 11 and 19 of 19 on extra points.  As the Redskins fortunes fade…one wonders exactly when Johnny Lawrence moved on and gave up on Ali.  Or did he just switch sports and join a diving team when he reached college?

Dissecting the Division– Dallas remains atop the NFC East despite its 32 point loss to New Orleans…as they have the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philadelphia.  While the Cowboys get the 4th seed…the Eagles settle for 10th.  The NY Giants third straight win propels them to 3rd (thanks to a 1-2 division mark) and 12th in the NFC… while last place Skins rank 13th in the conference.

Which West is best?  for this week it’s the AFC…24-12 as opposed to the NFC West’s 24-14… with the NFC East now 6th at 16-22 (percentage points behind the NFC North).  A 4-0 week by the NFC locks up the intra-conference competition at 23 wins apiece…

For two decades this was the “new-money” rivalry in college football.  While Miami-Florida State didn’t hold the “tradition” of Michigan-Ohio State or Auburn-Alabama… this Sunshine State Showdown routinely produced more top ten matchups and eventual national champions (7 over a 20 year span).  From 1983 to 2003, one of these two schools entered New Year’s Day in the national title conversation 15 times–so it was only assumed that when Miami joined the ACC it would take the rivalry to the next level.  Unfortunately for Hurricane and Seminole fans, that level was several steps down from the rarefied air of the 80’s and 90’s.  The league separated the two schools division-wise so they could meet in the ACC Title game– and it hasn’t happened once.  The Canes fell on hard times under Larry Coker and Randy Shannon…and then almost did hard time with the NCAA.  The Noles declined like any great empire does during the final years of a great regime–to the point where Bobby Bowden felt like the 10th season of Friends.  And it didn’t help that the game’s been moved all over the calendar:  if the ACC wanted to pump up this rivalry they should move it to Columbus Day weekend and keep it there.  But until the league gets it right–for at least one November night college football gets to turn back the clock to “wide right”.

Alma Mater Update– after one week off the Orange prepare for their “Closing Month”– needing three wins to lock up bowl eligibility.  In the “stats were built to support any theory” category– SU won’t play a team with a worse record in November, but meet just one school with a winning ACC record in that stretch.  They start with a Wake Forest team that seems to be hitting its stride after a September loss to Louisiana-Monroe (almost upsetting Miami last weekend)…and after a 56-0 thumping two weeks ago by Georgia Tech one wonders what sort of mindset this team will have.  One feels we’ll need extra blue cheese with the wings at Sign of the Whale.

Virginia Tech at Boston College– can the Hokies erase the sting of a home loss to Duke?  They begin Closing Month with a duel against a former Big East brother…last year a 2-10 Eagles team took Tech into overtime before coming up short.  BC boasts the ACC’s leading rusher in Andre Williams, but the Hokies have the stingiest defense against the run in the conference (under 100 yards per game…and under 3 yards a carry).  The big question is– how will Logan Thomas bounce back from tossing four interceptions against the Blue Devils?  Hokies hang on, 19-17.

Virginia vs #9 Clemson– the Cavaliers had a three game homestand to turn their season around…instead they posted a come from ahead loss to Duke and an afternoon of missed opportunities against Georgia Tech.  Instead of bringing a .500 mark into November with postseason possibilities at least in the conversation, coach Mike London’s team is facing bowl elimination three days after Halloween.  And the ninth ranked Tigers bring quite a bit to the table with Tajh Boyd coming off a 300+ yard passing effort against Maryland…and Sammy Watkins posting 14 catches last Saturday.  While this season has been tough to swallow for the UVa faithful, Kippy and Buffy break out the easy to enjoy Chateau O’Brien Malbec:a medium-bodied wine with complex aromas of plum and fig, a velvety soft texture, and remarkable fruit flavor“–or as other expert tasting notes read: “Big Boat”.  Kippy and Buffy break out salmon puffs this week– and for those joining them, that’s not guacamole–it’s wasabi (I learned the hard way).  Cavaliers come up short, 42-17.

Navy loses to Notre Dame on NBC, Georgetown slips to Lafayette, Towson defeats Delaware, Richmond rips Albany, James Madison tops Villanova, William & Mary loses to New Hampshire.

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 50-13.

October in College Football is Moving Month. Conference contenders separate themselves from pretenders…we learn which unbeatens are actually paper tigers…and teams in trouble become apparent. After Show Me Month, Maryland’s given their faithful one high ceiling, Virginia’s shown cause for concern and Virginia Tech’s been maddeningly unpredictable. Nationally, it’s all about chasing Alabama…with the Pac-12 teams beating each other up…and the Big Ten grinding its gears. Move along…

Alma Mater Update– believe it or not, this was actually said during the ACC coaches teleconference: “Clemson will face Atlantic Division rival Syracuse…”. Umm…the paint isn’t even dry on the Conference Logo in the athletics offices. Now Clemson does have the reputation of gakking against inferior teams, but the Tigers have been solid since the departure of Tommy Bowden. And this is a “rivalry game” as both teams wear orange…but I feel it might be a long afternoon at the Carrier Dome… thank goodness for Sign of the Whaleburgers.

Maryland at #8 Florida State– the Terps take a #25 ranking into Tallahassee, a place where they’ve never won. They also take a quarterback in CJ Brown that’s given defenses fits all season with his arm (67% passing with 7TDs to 1 INT) as well as his feet (2 100-yard efforts plus 6 TDs). But the Terrapin D will have its hands full with Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (the redshirt freshman leads the ACC in passing efficiency)…and while this team is much improved over previous years in terms of depth and speed, this is a program that’s never won at Doak Campbell. Terps come up short, 31-27.

Virginia vs Ball State– after managing minimal offense in their ACC opener, UVa looks to get fat off a MAC team. But the Cardinals are just the type of team that can come into Charlottesville light up the scoreboard with a fourth year starter at QB in fits with Keith Wenning (64%, 300+ ypg, 9-3 TD-INT). Talgaiting Tidbit: Kippy and Buffy break out the Paradise Springs Chardonnay (bright & crisp with flavors of Granny Smith apples) to accompany the brie on wheat thins. Cavaliers come close to coughing this one up, 30-24.

Virginia Tech vs North Carolina– last year the Hokies came undone in Chapel Hill…allowing 48 points (their most since a September 2007 drubbing by eventual champ LSU). Despite being the better team on paper and at home, coach Frank Beamer’s bunch feels like that maddening team that finds the exact level of its opponent and then plays one possession better. Hokies hang on, 18-12.

Navy outscores Air Force, Howard loses to NC-Central, James Madison edges Albany, William & Mary falls at Villanova, Towson tops New Hampshire.

Last Week: 6-1.
Overall: 27-5. Only one way to move from 84% I fear…

Perhaps the weekend boasting no top 20 matchups (#5 Stanford vs. #23 Arizona St. fails to qualify) made fans focus instead of the BCS or Heisman race a sport all its own- High Profile Hot Seats. In order to qualify, you have to be the coach of a traditional power (Michigan-Ohio St-Oklahoma-Nebraska-Texas-USC-Alabama-Penn St-Notre Dame are top-shelf) and recent performance of the program has to be less than ideal with a fan base still living in a glory era long passed. It’s one thing to say Dana Holgorsen’s in trouble after a 2-2 start, but does that move the needle like this fall’s Bermuda triangle? Nebraska’s Bo Pellini was in hot water after a come from ahead loss to UCLA…and then comments he made regarding front-running factions of the Cornhusker fan base didn’t make things easier. Dominating the last three quarters against an overmatched South Dakota State cooled things down a bit in Lincoln. Texas responded to consecutive blowout losses by ending a five game losing streak to Kansas State–averting the first 1-3 start since 1956 (that predates the late Darrell Royal, the coach Mack Brown is competing against to this day). And Lane Kiffin’s USC squeaks by Utah State after a less than spectacular September. Three men paid big money to continue the good old days that with each passing year get more glorious. Three fan bases accustomed to old money status that don’t take kindly to getting ragged on by the underclass. Three situations worth watching over the next three months.

Alma Mater Update– watch out, ACC! A 35 point thumping of Tulane! A quarterback we can watch grow from good to great! A coach who’s more than just a great press conference giver! Blue helmets, blue jerseys and blue pants! Buffalo Wings at Sign of the Whale! Who’s coming up after the bye week? Did you say #3 Clemson? I thought we signed up for the ACC of Boston College, Wake Forest and Duke…

Maryland wraps up non-conference play with a major statement…the 37-0 shutout of West Virginia wasn’t only their first win over the Mountaineers in seven tries and nine seasons (2004 Gator Bowl) but the team’s first shutout in five years and first 4-0 start since 2001 (the last time they won the ACC). Coach Randy Edsall’s team isn’t only two wins away from clinching bowl eligibility, they’re two wins away from equalling their total victories in his first two seasons. Terrapin Triumphs– the defense held WV to 65 first half yards while recording a pick-six and an INT inside the Mountaineer 10…CJ Brown directed the offense effectively (217 yds and a TD passing…one TD rushing)… Nathan Renfro averaged over 50 yards a punt. Terrapin Troubles– classless fans in front of the West Virginia coaching booth. As the afternoon continued the Terrapin faithful instead of celebrating the end of nearly a decade of futility in the series, turned and taunted the Mountaineer assistants. We know it’s been a long time since 4-0… handle it with some dignity, because college football karma is a beast. Next: October 5th at Florida State.

Virginia bounced back from their loss to Oregon by roasting VMI 49-0. A team still getting used to new coordinators on both sides of the football clearly needed another week to get itself in gear before ACC play begins. Cavalier Congrats– Kevin Parks rumbled for 135 yards on 17 carries… the defense controlled the Keydets all day…and Kippy and Buffy put away the tailgate before the clouds rushed into the area. Cavalier Concerns– two interceptions by David Watkins doesn’t inspire confidence… and it took a while for the Cavaliers to get on a roll against a decidedly inferior VMI team. Next : Saturday at Pitt.

Virginia Tech wrapped up non-conference play in the rain…staggering to a 29-21 triple overtime win over Marshall that appeared as though neither team deserved to win. . Hokie Highlights– a BLOCKED PUNT returned for a touchdown! Trey Edmunds bounces back with 110 yards rushing while the defense holds the Thundering Herd to under 3 yards a carry. Hokie Humblings– one long afternoon… Logan Thomas throws interceptions on consecutive drives…Ethan Keyserling misses all three field goal attempts. Next: Thursday night at Georgia Tech.

Earlier this week I received an email from a West Virginia alum who had played in the Pride of West Virginia Band. She was rather upset that their band would not be allowed on the M&T Bank Stadium Field during Saturday’s game with Maryland. Now…there’s many shades of gray in our world. There’s home, away and neutral…and then there’s home with an asterisk. Alabama fans for years played “home” games an hour away at Legion Field in Birmingham. Maryland uses Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium in that occasional capacity…so in effect Saturday’s game even though it’s not on campus remains a home game with the University of Maryland providing a similar seating section available to traveling members of the visiting band that they do at Byrd. It’s not classless…as many angry Mountaineer fans have pointed out…it’s just policy.

Alma Mater Update– the Orange wrap up non-conference play by hosting Tulane. The Green Wave are typical of the opponent SU would look beyond in years past only to be stung with an L…but this is the Scott Shafer Era. We’re talking a sophomore sensation at quarterback. We’re dreaming higher than the Pinstripe Bowl. We’re talking Sign of the Whale offering buffalo and Dinosaur bbq sauce on the wings. We’re talking October 15th is less than a month away.

Maryland plays West Virginia– the Terps haven’t beaten the Mountaineers since the 2004 Gator Bowl. Many years they’ve met their non-conference neighbors and have been undone by speed and scheme…as well as a coach who resembles Matthew McConaughey. This year WVa boasts a flashy freshman QB in Ford Childress…and an early schedule filled with uneven play (almost losing to William & Mary will do that to you). Adding into the equation that the Terp secondary is somewhat nicked up (Dexter McDougle done for the year after notching 2 INTs against UConn)… this could be another track meet. But nobody’s found the right answers for the questions CJ Brown poses…and the inability to get their band on the field at halftime will seal the deal. Terps triumph, 34-30.

Virginia entertains VMI– it figures the Cavaliers would need a bye week to recover from being run over by the Oregon… the Ducks hung 59 on Tennessee last weekend and look to steamroll through their schedule until being held to 14 points in an unexplainable loss to Stanford. UVa plays a Keydet team that has struggled in the early season…so this appears to be another chance for David Watford to grow into his role as the starter. Tailgate footnote: Kippy and Buffy are breaking out the Chrysalis Vineyards Albariño…the ultra-premium white varietal of Spain. A rich, exotic dry wine bursting with bright aromas and bracing flavors of citrus, almonds, apricots, and peaches. Perfect compliment to swiss on a Ritz cracker. Or a 41-13 Cavalier rout.

Virginia Tech hosts Marshall– the Hokies after escaping East Carolina have their hands full with a Thundering Herd offense averaging 46 points a game. But Rakeem Cato will learn that Miami (Ohio), Gardner-Webb and Ohio are a far cry from the ACC’s leading defense. Logan Thomas needs to extend the field better (they’re averaging exactly 11 yards per completion) to give his running game a little more breathing room (Trey Edmunds yards per carry has gone from 6.6 to 4.5 to 2.0). The kicking game needs to make extra points and field goals. And the turkey legs need 5 more minutes in the marinade. Hokies give their fans heartburn en route to a 27-19 win.

Georgetown loses to Brown, Towson tops NC Central, James Madison beats Rhode Island, Richmond rips Liberty, Old Dominion edges the Citadel.

Last Week: 9-1…thanks Hoyas for ruining what would have been a second straight perfect week.

Overall: 14-3…Shining in Show Me Month!

Who’s ready for Alabama-Texas A&M? On one side there’s the player everybody’s tired of… Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The Aggies quarterback made more headlines in the offseason than most players do during four regular seasons, from being a less than stellar camp counselor to signing sprees that may or may not have contributed to the 20-year old’s beer money. He has the nickname “Johnny Football” for crying out loud. But on the other side is old money Alabama… and a fan base that is beyond entitled due to their recent success (3 National Championships in 4 years). Whoever wins today, the true victor remains the SEC and CBS… as Verne and Gary keep us on the season-long journey that ends with the all-but-automatic BCS title game bid claimed.

Alma Mater Update– it’s gotten to this? Hoping for a victory over Wagner? How did a program that became a Pinstripe Bowl Dynasty turn into an 0-2 crew looking like they may never enjoy Sign of the Whale wings again? Calm down, Orange Faithful on the ledge…save your anxieties for basketball season when the team goes into its February funk. Or at least when the team tangles with #3 Clemson next month. Welcome to the ACC…

Maryland visits Connecticut– or part two of the “my, this is awkward” series. Much has been made of the fact that coach Randy Edsall built the Huskies program from I-AA/FCS to a team that went to the Fiesta Bowl…and how he didn’t tell his team face to face about his departure to College Park. If Coach Karma exists… it’s been more than paid out: Edsall went 2-10 his first season away from Storrs and then saw an injury riddled campaign that included a loss to UConn at Byrd Stadium. This Terps team has put 90 points on the board in starting 2-0… 2012’s unit didn’t reach the 90-point mark until the sixth week. Terps triumph, 27-17.

Virginia enjoys an idle weekend…or as Kippy and Buffy say, one last chance to wear red pants! VMI comes to Charlottesville next weekend. And of course I’m kidding about the pants–the correct term is “Rhubarb”…

Virginia Tech visits East Carolina– the Hokies were upset in a neutral-site game between the two schools in Charlotte five years ago. Pirates quarterback Shane Carden already has 7 touchdown passes on the season… and ECU came within a touchdown of topping VT two Septembers ago in Greenville. And there have been quite a few September stumbles for coach Beamer’s bunch as of late. But not this week. Hokies in a heartbreaker for the home team, 29-27.

Navy beats Delaware, Georgetown tops Marist, Howard falls at Old Dominion, Towson defeats Delaware State, James Madison over St. Francis, Richmond gets by Gardner-Webb, William & Mary tops Lafayette, Morgan State loses at Liberty.

Last Week: 10-0!
Overall: 15-2