Archives for posts with tag: sports
This year we lost a lot of “friends in the field”, from John McNamara at the Annapolis Capital Gazette to Rich Tandler at NBC Sports Washington.  From former WTOP anchor Sean Hall to Indiana basketball beat reporter Terry Hutchens.  I’ll miss each one.  Also passing this past year was Chris Chase, the writer of USA Today’s “For the Win”.  Chris and I connected on our affection for sports movies, good and bad.  Our last conversation concerned his list of top ten sports movies.  Here’s the list I contributed…and one raises the question, are these the best films ever made?  No.  But each is interesting in their own way.  Just like the friends I lost this past year.
Rocky III- from Thunder Lips to the amazingly quotable Clubber Lang, this has it all.  And Apollo shows he was the true soul of the series.  Sadly, I’ll never run on the beach the same way again.
 
Damn Yankees- this past year I swore Nats rookie Juan Soto was the second coming of Joe Hardy.  Gwen Virdon in petal-pushers easily boasts a WAR of 10+.  And the teacher from Fast Times at Ridgemont High is the devil. Makes perfect sense.
 
Victory- combining soccer, Stallone and a World War II prison camp escape.  Pele elevates the soccer sequences with the patented bicycle kick…and speaks the pivotal line of the film.  It’s in the net…
 
North Dallas Forty- from watching Nick Nolte drag himself out of bed to the “these aren’t the Cowboys” casting of coach and quarterback, a spot-on look at the NFL of the 70’s.  Favorite quote, from a team executive looking to show Nolte he’s obsolete: “Do you speak Canadian?”
 
Big Wednesday- coming of age surfing film in the 70’s trailing three friends through the Vietnam era. Great camera work, plus Gary Busey’s character was nicknamed “The Masochist”.  And he delivers.
 
The Naked Gun-  Enrico Polazzo ruined me for being serious during the National Anthem for 3-5 years.  And what team in their right mind bats Jay Johnstone leadoff?  Word is Reggie Jackson improvised his “robot” mannerisms for his big scene (“I must kill…the Queen”).
 
Teen Wolf-  We all knew Jimmy Chitwood would hit the shot, but could Scott when he wasn’t the wolf?  And how did NIKE not get in on sponsoring the Beavers or the Dragons?  “Win—in the End!” is a great song too.
 
Karate Kid- if Daniel is so bummed about leaving New York, why is he wearing a Wes Chandler jersey?  Front-runner.  And there are theorists on YouTube who say that Daniel was the real villain.  Worth a watch or 20.
 
Miracle- “THIS IS YOUR TIME!” works on me every time.  I invite you to check out the quickie TV movie made in the early 80’s with a 70-something Karl Malden playing a 40-something Herb Brooks, Steve Guttenberg as Jim Craig and Marsha Brady’s husband from the “Brady Brides” as an Olympic hopeful.
 
Eight Men Out- the good guys don’t always win.  And there they double-cross the game as well as themselves.  Fantastic performances by a who’s-who of “that’s the guy from…”
 
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PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

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?

The NFL is a week-to-week, snapshot league.  Teams will put forward 16 regular season efforts…and just like nobody is as good as their best, no one is as bad as their worst.  So while one was encouraged but tempered last week after the win in Arizona, one should feel that the Skins can’t possibly be as bad as they were in their 21-9 week two loss at home to Indianapolis.  So in theory they’re somewhere in between.

Burgundy and Gold, I mean White- okay, I’ll say it.  I blame the white pants the Skins wore…what happened to the George Allen-era gear at home?  Almost as unsettling as white jerseys with gold pants on the road.  Again, I’m blaming the pants.

Mr. Smith goes to Checkdown- Alex Smith threw for 292 yards while averaging 8.8 yards per completion.  Not per attempt but per completed pass.  Tough to move the chains and sustain drives that way.

Captain Kirk’s Continuing Voyage- the former franchise tagged one threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns while rallying Minnesota back to tie Green Bay.  So far this season Cousins has thrown for 669 yards with 6 touchdowns and 1 interception (passer rating 108.7) while Smith has 547 yards with 2 touchdowns and no INT’s (passer rating 100.1).

Running Aground- the Skins managed just 65 yards rushing on 22 carries.  And that was with a 25-yard scamper from Jamison Crowder.  The wide receiver actually led the team in rushing…a far cry from last week when the thunder and lightning backfield made it rain.  This week Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson combined for 21 yards on attempts.

Better to Receive- Thompson tallied a team-high 13 catches for 92 yards.  He also took some monster hits in space.  Can his diminutive stature take the pounding over 16 weeks?

Third and one third- the Skins converted on 33% of their money downs, moving the chains on 4 of 13 passes and 1 of 2 runs.   Josh Doctson was the #1 option (4 targets, 2 catches and 2 conversions).  Yardage breakdown:  3-4 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 0-5 on third and medium (4-6 yards necessary) and 2-6 on third and long (7+).

D earns a C- a mixed bag saw the Skins allow the Colts a game-opening 75 yard march on 11 plays, but then hold the visitors three and out over three of their next five possessions.  A day where D.J. Swearinger tallied a pair of interceptions but the defense was only able to sack Andrew Luck once.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins converted three of four field goal attempts, missing a 49-yarder at the end of the half.  Tress Way put three of his five punts inside the Colts 20 with no touchbacks while averaging 36.4 yards per kick.  Rookie Greg Stroman returned a kickoff for 16 yards and had a six yard punt return.

Flying Flags- seven infractions for 90 yards gives the Skins 16 (tied for ninth in the league) for 153 yards (seventh most in the NFL) after two weeks.  Three on offense, two on defense and two on special teams.  Trent Williams (both false starts) was whistled twice while both kicking game penalties were holds.  The most costly flag?  A second quarter pass interference against Fabian Moreau for 37 yards that moved the Colts from their 36 to the Skins’ 27. They’d score shortly thereafter to take a 14-3 lead.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s loss to Tampa drops the Eagles, Redskins and Dallas into a three-way tie for first. The Cowboys’ win over the New York Giants gives them the temporary divisional tiebreaker…and the Eagles own the common-games edge with the Skins.  The New York Giants at 0-2 own last place for the moment.

The Wizards/Bullets and Capitals used to have a nice benefit of being a DC resident- their slow starts for years were often ignored because of the area’s obsession with all things Redskins.  We called it “Skinsanity” and it ruled the roost between August and December…meanding the Wiz and Caps didn’t have to really get their act together until Christmas.  Not so with the Nationals– who since the night the Capitals won the Stanley Cup are 26-38.  Not to diss the Valor, Spirit, Kastles or DC United, during the time the Nats have had the stage to themselves they’ve resembled a last-place team (.406 may be good for Ted Williams, but translates to 65-97).  A roster that includes multiple All Stars has been less than the sum of its parts…and the team continues to take on water.  When does the NFL season start?

Dissecting the Division- the Nats trail Atlanta by seven games for the NL East lead and are six and a half behind second-place Philadelphia.  While neither the Braves nor the Phillies are pulling away in a manner that should have a team playing tag with the .500 mark like the Nats overly concerned, it’s a slow boil and even though there are games to be played against both clubs the window of opportunity is sliding slowly.  The elimination number for both the division and the wildcard is 32.

O’s Woes- the Birds are just a week and a half removed from being eliminated from playoff contention…and now stare into the face of a 100-loss campaign.  The O’s need to finish 26-12 to do so…and that is so ridiculous one just wants to wonder what it will take to avoid the worst-ever season in Baltimore.  That’s a 55-107 record…meaning the Birds need an 18-20 finish.  Not impossible, but for a team that hasn’t been two games under .500 since April–not exactly attainable.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .379 with two homers and eight RBI.  Matt Wieters hit .368 with four RBI and Anthony Rendon batted .348 while scoring five runs. Max Scherzer struck out seven in his only start of the week while Tanner Roark won his fourth straight decision and helped the Nats avoid a sweep in St. Louis.

Last Week’s Humbled- Gio Gonzalez went 0-2 with an ERA of 13.50…and has won just once since May.  Trevor Gott and Koda Glover post posted double-digit ERA’s last week, while Sammy Solis was charged with two runs and didn’t record an out.  Trea Turner hit .182 while Michael A. Taylor batted .125.

Game to Watch- I know that Stephen Strasburg is returning Wednesday night, but Thursday afternoon Max Scherzer (16-5, 2.11 ERA) starts against the Phillies’ Ivan Nola (14-3, 2.24) in a series finale that could feature a revitalized Nats team or one that is looking to avoid getting swept at home.  Either way, he’ll be working on six days rest.  

Game to Miss- Friday Jefry Rodriguez pitches against the New York Mets as the Nats’ band-aid to a battered rotation.  It’s also the final Friday before Labor Day weekend:  do yourself a favor and enjoy one last sunset over the Key Bridge while enjoying a fried clams basket at Tony & Joe’s.  You’ll thank me…

Four NL East titles in six years is a good thing…even with the unfortunate October endings that have plagued the Washington Nationals this decade. Ryan Zimmerman still has the phantom pains from 100+ loss campaigns where contending was a pipe dream and instead of a magic number a tragic number was posted some times as soon as August.  So even though DC is more than hungry for a champion–or even a team that plays for the championship–let’s enjoy the process as the team is once again favored to win its (albeit not awesome) division and has more than a few players who will potentially factor in the MVP and Cy Young races.

One Sweet Sweep- not only did the Nats take all three from Cincinnati, the Reds did not lead at all during the series.  Dominant pitching and timely hitting set the table for the weekend as the club did plenty of little things and more than a few big things right.  It’s only three games, I know.  But while a team can’t win the division in April, it can definitely lose its way.

O’s Woes- after a thrilling extra inning walkoff win (which is becoming the rule instead of the exception at Camden Yards) the Birds dropped two straight to Minnesota- an expected Wildcard contender.  Kevin Gausman looked bad in coughing up 6 runs over 4 innings while the Chris Davis leading off experiment has the top of the O’s order an 0-for-12.  And the bullpen almost gave away the opener.  But it’s still really early.

Last Week’s Heroes- Adam Eaton hit 8-for-13 with 2 homers and 5 RBI (do you think he was ready for 2018?)…while Bryce Harper not only homered twice but also got the job done with a pair of sac-flies.  Max Scherzer struck out 10 over 6 scoreless innings in the season opener while Sean Doolittle notched a pair of saves.

Last Week’s Humbled- relievers Enny Romero and Sammy Solis had less than ideal opening weekends, each allowing two earned runs while recording a pair of outs.  Ryan Zimmerman and Michael A Taylor both hit .125 against the Reds, but  Zim’s groundout Friday led to the first run of the season and Taylor used a bunt and a stolen base to generate an insurance run.  Once again, it’s only three games.

Game to Watch- there’s nothing quite like the home opener.  Even when it’s a week into the season.  Stephen Strasburg starts Thursday against the New York Mets in a matchup of the last two teams to win the division.

Game to Miss- sadly the Atlanta rebuild makes matchups against the Braves less than desirable.  With apologies to Tanner Roark, Monday night will be all about the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship Game as Villanova takes on Michigan.  One shining moment, indeed…

 

 

 

So much for “Gotta win five to stay alive”.  So much for going through tiebreakers after week fifteen while hoping Carolina would come back to earth.  The Redskins made December almost meaningless for the sixth time in nine years by losing 38-14 at Dallas.  It wasn’t just a bad loss; it was a defeat that exposed this team and roster.  The 2018 season in theory begins now.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged one completed 26 of 37 passes for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns while tossing a pair of interceptions (one in the red zone) and losing a fumble.  He was also sacked four times behind an offensive line held together by duct tape and paper clips.  Episode Equivalent:  “Spock’s Brain”- a disaster on the scoreboard despite Kirk’s best efforts.  He didn’t write the script where aliens came on board the Enterprise and hijacked Spock’s brain–only to have Dr. McCoy re-insert said organ later in the hour.

Running Aground- it was bound to happen sooner or later.  The recently resurgent running game managed just 56 yards on 19 carries against the Cowboys-with Samaje Perine being held to 38 yards on 12 tries.  Perine will be the third runningback in four years to lead coach Jay Gruden’s team in rushing.  Meanwhile, the guy who was replaced by the guy who was replaced by the guy Perine replaced as the #1 back fared nicely for the Cowboys.  Alfred Morris ran for 127 yards against his former team.  Ouch.

Ryan the Receiver- it’s something when Ryan Grant is your leading receiver. You cannot make the postseason when Mr. August is your top target in December.

Third Down the Drain- the stat sheet says they converted 6 of 14 third downs…but the offense didn’t move the chains until they were down 17.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 passes for 4 conversions while getting sacked once and scrambling for the marker once.  Ryan Grant was the top target (3 conversions on 3 catches and 4 passes thrown to) while recent pickup Byron Marshall also caught 3 of 4 passes on third down but was short each time.  Marshall also ran for a late first down on 3rd & 1.  Yardage: 3-for-4 on short-yardage, 2-for-4 on 3rd and 4 through 3rd and 6, 1-for-6 on 3rd and long.

Zach Meets Mr. Morris- you don’t mess with Preston’s Perspective’s pop-culture references.  Earlier this year we saw the Vikings come to FedEx Field with former kicker Kai Forbath…and showed no mercy (I’ll let you know when he’s had enough).  This past week we saw Mr. Morris blast through the Redskins defense like it was an ATV race at the Malibu Sands.  Alfred gained 80 of his 127 yards after halftime…and the Cowboys converted 7 of their last 10 third downs (and 4 of 5 in the second half).  Not an ideal day for the defense that now ranks 22nd against the run and allows the third most points in the league.

Kicking and Screaming- NO longer shall we use the term “Special Teams” regarding the kicking game that fumbled a punt and allowed a punt return for a touchdown.  Nick Rose connected on both of his extra points and Tress Way averaged 42.6 yards per punt, so they’ve got that going for them.

Flying Flags- SEVEN penalties for 43 yards.  And if you’re counting that’s 24 over the last three games.  Two infractions were rather costly:  a pass interference on Kendall Fuller turned a 3rd & 1 into a 1st & 10 and the Cowboys would score two plays later…while a pass intereference against Bashaud Breeland (he had another PI declined) set up a 1st and goal at the 1.  Then there was that “12 men on the field” flag where there may have been 14 on the field for the Skins.  Not what you need in the fourth quarter on the road.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s loss to Seattle means the Eagles won’t clinch the NFC East just yet–but at 10-2 they need only one more victory or a Cowboys loss to wrap up the division.  Philly does slip behind Minnesota into the #2 seed (Vikings have a better common opponents record).  Dallas moves a game ahead of the Skins for second (and owns the head to head tiebreaker) and is in 10th place of the NFC, two games out of the wildcard.  The Burgundy and Gold remain in 11th place thanks to a better conference record than Arizona;  a loss to the Chargers plus victories by Seattle and Carolina make the elimination official.  The NY Giants drop behind San Francisco into dead last of the conference…and are one more loss plus a Redskins win away from securing the NFC East cellar one year after making the playoffs.

Interconference Connection, Dominant Divisions & More- the NFC owns a 28-20 lead, meaning they’d have to go 3-12-1 in order to lose the Conference contest.  Cleveland and Cincinnati are playing five of those remaining 16 games so I’m going to say that might not happen.  The NFC South is a combined 28-20…while the AFC West has withered away to 21-27 over the last month.  The NFC East?  Tied for fifth with 23 wins.

Home for the Holidays- joining previously eliminated Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants this week is Chicago.  The Bears lost 15-14 to the Niners as their former kicker Robbie Gould kicked five field goals before  replacing Dr. Houseman as Chief of Staff and purchasing Kellerman’s where his first act was firing Johnny Castle.  Sweet revenge, indeed.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

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

 

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

 

Friday-

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

 

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

 

Saturday-

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

 

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.