Archives for posts with tag: Virginia Wines

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Welcome to Conference Championship Week, where the winners advance to the College Football Playoff–sometimes.  Sorry, Virginia-your reward if somehow you pull off an upset of defending national champ Clemson in the ACC Championship Game likely won’t even be a trip to New Year’s Day (due to an accounting move, the Orange Bowl will be played December 30 this year).  I know that’s not how it works in men’s basketball or lacrosse, or even in football at EVERY OTHER LEVEL (good luck James Madison against Monmouth).

The sport with the best regular season and most unwieldy postseason enters its cocoon stage.  Don’t worry-you loved the three month caterpillar and you’re going to enjoy the Championship Game butterfly next month. Bear with them.  First we get a slate of exhibitions that will determine which school gets into the New Orleans (Sun Belt Conference) or the Las Vegas (Mountain West Conference) Bowls.  Conference USA’s winner gets to pick from a group of games if they’re not the “Group of Five” team, while the MAC and AAC send schools to bowls based partially on geography (meaning the schools competing may already know their destination regardless of Saturday’s result).

Then the curtains close and the 13-member committee determines which four schools advance, and the dust settles on the rest of the 41 bowls (really-41??).  To take even more air out of the ball, Ohio State and LSU are expected to make the playoff even if they lose their respective title tilts.  There are those that want an eight-team playoff (I am one of them), and with five schools in the “Power Five” it almost makes too much sense.  But just like we had to sit through 20 years of the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and Bowl Championship Series, we’ve got the current system for a few years more.  You can always do fantasy fields of eight-team brackets like I do on cocktail napkins.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange just happen to reside in the “tough” ACC division, the Atlantic. While the Clemson juggernaut is dominating the league at this moment, don’t forget the dormant monster that is Florida State (2013 BCS winners).  It’s going to be tough to return to an era when SU won or shared five Big East titles from 1996 to 2012.

 

Friday’s Game-

Pac 12 : No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon, 8 p.m., Santa Clara, CA. (ABC).

What’s at stake:  a potential playoff berth for the Utes if things drop right, or further proof that this league eats its own if the Ducks prevail.

Rematch?: the two schools didn’t play this year, although the Utes won the 2018 matchup in Salt Lake City 32-25.

Players to watch:  Utah defensive end Bradley Anae brings 12.5 sacks to the Bay Area, and his goal is to disrupt Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (67% completion rate, 3,140 passing yards with at 31-5 touchdown to interception ratio).

Fun Fact:  the South Division is 1-7, with the lone victory coming when the South representative is the higher ranked team.  That’s the case this year.

Presto’s Pick: Utes make their case with a 35-30 win.  Will it fall on deaf ears?

 

Saturday’s Games-

Big 12: No 6. Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Baylor, noon, Arlington, TX (ABC).

What’s at stake: in theory this should be for an automatic berth in a six or eight team field, instead the winner won’t even have a headstart against Utah for “who’s number four?” if the Utes win the night before.  And heaven forbid if Georgia somehow wins…

Rematch: OU trailed 28-3 in Waco November 16 before dialing up a rally for the ages, storming back for a 34-31 win where Baylor threw a last-minute interception.

Players to watch: Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts picked up where Kyler Murray left off, one year after Murray picked up where Baker Mayfield left off.  In other news, I am seriously thinking about transferring to Oklahoma in the offseason.  The Bears rely on the pass as well, but when they run John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty average over six yards per carry.

Fun Fact:  Oklahoma is 9-1 in this game, with their only defeat coming in 2003 when as the top-ranked team in the nation they were blasted 35-7 by Kansas State.  Ell Robertston is not walking through that door.

Presto’s Pick:  Sooners stir up the pot with a 41-22 whipping.

 

Meanwhile, the Sun Belt (UAB-Florida Atlantic), Conference USA (Louisiana-Appalachian State), MAC (Miami (OH)-Central Michigan), AAC (Cincinnati-Memphis), and Mountain West (Boise State-Hawaii) will play all of their games in the early to mid-afternoon shadows. These conference championship games have no playoff implications whatsoever, although the AAC champ and Boise State have shots at being the “group of five” team that plays in a “New Year’s six” bowl.  If the Big 12 game is a blowout, run your holiday errands at this time.

 

SEC: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia, 4 p.m., Atlanta (CBS).

What’s at stake: if the Bulldogs win, they’re in.  Alabama’s loss to Auburn makes LSU’s playoff inclusion a near-certainty, further cementing the college football theory that “every game matters”.

Rematch?: the two schools last met in 2018 when the Tigers tore through the Bulldogs 36-16.

Players to watch: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (78% completion rate with 4,366 yards passing and 44 touchdowns) is the Heisman Trophy favorite.  Georgia runningback D’Andre Swift rushed for 1,203 yards but is bothered by a shoulder injury.

Fun Fact: this will be the fourth meeting in this game between these two schools, making it the second-most common matchup (Alabama & Florida have played for the title nine times).

Presto’s Pick:  Tigers triumph, 24-16.

 

ACC- No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 23 Virginia, 7:30 p.m. Charlotte, NC (ABC).

What’s at stake:  the unbeaten team nobody’s talking about looks to cement its spot after playing an underwhelming schedule, while the Cavaliers look to continue an incredible year that saw men’s basketball and lacrosse teams win national championships.  An upset would likely also pull the Tigers out of the playoff.

Rematch?: the longtime conference foes haven’t met since November of 2013, a day in Charlottesville where Clemson won 59-10. For the record, Kippy & Buffy enjoyed a pregame tailgate Chateau O’Brien Malbec that day :”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”.

Players to watch:  Tigers runningback Travis Etienne averaged over eight yards per carry while posting seven 100-yard rushing games; he’d have better numbers but sat a lot of second-half blowouts.  While Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins wore the Superman’s Cape all year, their linebacking corps deserves notice: Zane Zandier (team-high 85 tackles), Jordan Mack (7.5 sacks), Noah Taylor (6.5 sacks with two interceptions) and Charles Snowden will have one tough task Saturday.

Fun Fact: Kippy & Buffy make their way to Charlotte, and it’s not just a first-ever Coastal Division crown they’re celebrating. Fellow alums Henry & Hildy live in the Ballantyne neighborhood, and Hildy was just made partner at her law firm. So a bottle of Chateau O’Brien’s 2012 Late Harvest Tannat will be opened at the tailgate;  it’s a non-fortified Port-style wine.  “During ripening, natural sugar accumulation reaches a level beyond the capacity of a natural yeast fermentation. No wine language can eloquently articulate the elegance of this wine.” We’ll go with “Big Boat”.

Presto’s Pick:  Cavaliers are gonna need a bigger boat, getting blasted 44-17.

 

Big Ten- #1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wisconsin, 8 p.m., Indianapolis (FOX).

What’s at stake- like LSU in the SEC, the Buckeyes are likely headed to the Playoff barring a 40-point loss.  The Badgers can tie OSU with a third victory in the nine-year old  title game.

Rematch?:  you bet. The Buckeyes bludgeoned the Badgers 38-7 in Columbus October 26. J.K. Dobbins-despite sounding like a character from a Charles Dickens story-rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the rout.

Players to watch:  Ohio State’s Chase Young posted four of his 16.5 sacks this season against Wisconsin during the October win; one assumes they’ll have a better plan this time. Jonathan Taylor may have led the Big Ten with 1,761 yards rushing, but he was held to 52 yards on 20 tries by the Buckeyes D in October.

Fun Fact: Michigan has appeared in as many Big Ten Football Championship Games as Maryland and Rutgers.

Presto’s Pick:  Buckeyes bring it, 31-10.

 

Last Week: 2-1.  I picked UVa the last two years and swore I wouldn’t again until they beat the Hokies. Congratulations.

Overall: 84-35.

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So much for learning!  Like an elementary school’s morning recess, the September bye interrupts whatever momentum the early season had.  Blame the calendar;  usually there are 13 weekends between Labor Day and Thanksgiving which translates to just one week off for most schools.  This year there are 14 weekends which means a bonus bye. Be thankful:  back in the day when 11-game schedules were the norm and before Conference Championship Games, byes would be scattered across the landscape like breadcrumbs.  Now, instead of weeks off, the openings are simply filled filled in with games against FCS and non-Power 5 schools.

Navy has an extra weekend off to begin with, thanks to the Army game taking place in December while counting towards their 12-game regular season total, so this year head coach Ken Niumatalo’s team is already idle for the second time.  “Sometimes you like it later in the season when you’re kind of banged up, but that’s our schedule,” Niumatalolo said. “We knew the schedule a long time ago. We’ve practiced for it and planned for it.”  What’s helpful for the Midshipmen is they get a few extra days to prepare for a Thursday night showdown with a 3-0 Memphis team that’s already beaten Ole Miss.  I like the bye leading the Thursday night game;  it allows the players to properly recover and the team to properly prepare (my major beef with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package).

While Navy at 2-0 still has a lot to learn about itself, Maryland’s 2-1 start let the light shine on not only how great this team can be (outscoring Howard and Syracuse 141-20) but also how they’re far from perfect (coming up empty on eight plays inside the Temple 10-yard line in the fourth quarter).  After a spring and summer of installing new systems on both sides of the ball, a break might be just what the Terps need mentally and physically. “You add the four weeks of training camp and three weeks of the season, that’s seven straight weeks of wall to wall football: pounding and the contact and things we do,” head coach Mike Locksley said.”Usually every three to four weeks you like to give your players a day off to be able to recover and re-set themselves.  This couldn’t have come at a better time.”  The break also separates the school’s non-conference and Big Ten portions cleanly, and after going 13-31 over its first five seasons in the league the Terps could use a little extra time.  “When you self-scout you give yourself an opportunity to see what other people see,” Locksley said. “You want to refine those things and maybe adjust some things so you don’t have a bunch of tendencies.”  We’ll see how beneficial the Terps’ time-out was when they host No. 13 Penn State next Friday night.

Virginia Tech is also 2-1 entering its bye week, but as no two 2-1 starts are exactly alike the Hokies appear to have a lot more to fix during the hiatus.  So far they’ve followed up a discouraging ACC loss with a pair of unimpressive wins against inferior competition.  No offense to FCS contender Furman or Old Dominion, but neither school should be able to come into Lane Stadium and be a threat in the fourth quarter.  Two keys for head coach Justin Fuente: 1- find a way to temper the turnovers (their nine giveaways is fourth most in FBS) and 2- get better on the ground (Hokies rank 11th in the ACC on offense and 10th in stopping the run).  Help is on the way in the form of ex-Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who comes on board as a special assistant.  At least they face Duke (Hokies are 3-0 against the Blue Devils under Fuente) and Miami (the Hurricanes are 0-2 against FBS teams this fall) next Friday evening.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange find themselves 1-2 with their bye two weeks away;  thank goodness they face the likes of Western Michigan and Holy Cross to wrap up the month.  I’m by no means putting both games in the win column at this time, as the Broncos are averaging over 30 points per game and put 42 on the board last year against SU while the Crusaders were picked to finish second in the Patriot League.  Back to back noon games hopefully resets the season before ACC play resumes.

No. 21 Virginia (3-0) vs. Old Dominion (1-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2).  The Cavaliers season of possibilities has the team off to its best start since 2005.  That team featured the dual-threat quarterback Marques Hagans, who completed over 60% of his passes while using his wheels to haunt opposing defenses.  Hagans has nothing on Bryce Perkins, who in 16 games has already moved past Hagans in career touchdown passes and career yards rushing.   The Monarchs come off of their bye knowing they had plenty of opportunities to upset Virginia Tech for the second straight season, while realizing they have a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball.  Quarterback Stone Smartt is averaging less than ten yards per completion and the ODU defense has troubles getting off of the field on third down.

Kippy and Buffy have no issues setting up their third tailgate of the season, and how better to enjoy a showdown of Commonwealth schools than by opening a bottle of Chrysallis Vineyards Viognier (the state grape of Virginia).  “Full-bodied and fragrant with heady tropical and citrus fruits”.  During the season of possibilities that has UVa dreaming of a potential Citrus or-dare I say-Orange Bowl, they’re going all-in on a citrus fruit finish.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers maul the Monarchs, 44-14.

 

Howard slips to Delaware State, James Madison beats Chattanooga, William & Mary falls to East Carolina, Towson tops Villanova, Morgan State loses to Army.

Last Week: 7-2. Overall: 21-6.

 

Merry Christmas to one and all– and even though some of our favorite college football teams didn’t give us what we wanted under the tree, the area schools certainly supplied a few stocking stuffers of magnificent memories from 2018.  And even though they failed to beat Virginia Tech for the 15th straight year, my UVa tailgating pals Kippy & Buffy had one fun fall supporting their team as well as making new friends while enjoying pretty good wine.  They’d like to extend best wishes during the holiday season for all out there who enjoy a pregame beverage by sharing their game-by-game selections (excerpted from the award-snubbed “Presto’s Picks” on WTOP.COM.)

Richmond- One program that never changes at Scott Stadium is Kippy & Buffy’s tailgate, and the popped-collar pair are already in midseason form.  They kick off 2018 with a bottle of Moscato:  Beni di Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti Bosc dla Rei 2013.  On name value alone it impresses, but “with the palate profile packing D’Anjou pear and red apple nuances, the fizzy, fruit-forward themes run well-balanced from the semi-sweet start to fairly, full finish.”  What a way to start, indeed.

Indiana- Kippy & Buffy aren’t messing around with any short stuff at their tailgate:  Conundrum White 2015 “lures you with scents of apricot, pear and honeysuckle.”  There’s also a “hint of oak” that I think is more of a strong suggestion. I suggest a pairing with brie and crostini.

Ohio- A semi-neutral site game means a semi-neutral white wine for Kippy & Buffy;  nothing says “home away from home” better at the tailgate than Chateau O’Brien’s Northpoint White.  The 2017 Chardonnay offers “a beautiful array of creamy hazelnut and subtle butterscotch” and “shows a profound maturity, along with a balancing elegance and grace”.   Perfect with take-out from Bojangles.

Louisville- The first ACC game means Kippy & Buffy switch over from white to red wine…and there’s no better way to kick off conference play than with a bottle of A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon.  The 2015 vintage offers “striking aromas of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are overlaid with a cornucopia of spices. As the wine moves across the palate, ripe, dusty tannins bracketed by juicy acidity give shape and definition to the powerful fruit flavors in harmony with a mineral quality, reminiscent of slate and graphite.”  As we’re already in the Beaver State, Kippy & Buffy break out the Rogue Smokey Blue cheese on multi-grain crisps.

NC State- this is the first meeting between these two founding ACC members since that game, so Kippy & Buffy go with the Founding Father inspired “Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel“.  The 2015 vintage possesses “aromas and flavors of black fruit, smoke, caramel and vanilla”.  Despite the portrait of university founder Thomas Jefferson’s rival Alexander Hamilton on the bottle, “the finish is long and smooth making this a thoroughly enjoyable wine.”  Enjoy with aged cheddar on club crackers.

Bye Week- 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).

Miami- Just like college football’s bluebloods (Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State) look down their noses at Miami as “nouveau riche” (even though they’ve been a force for over 30 years), Petit Verdot is a varietal that’s been around forever (the Romans enjoyed it) but only recently getting its due as a stand-alone varietal.  Trinchero Napa Valley’s Central Park West Vineyard Petit Verdot “presents a deep, inky purple color, supported by beautiful black fruit and floral aromas reminiscent of lavender and lilac. With layered blueberry and blackberry flavors, this wine’s ripe tannins lead to a sensual, round mouthfeel.” Kippy & Buffy concur.

Duke- Kippy & Buffy prepare for facing the ultimate “bro” school by once again tailgating with Breaux Vineyards-this time they break out the Cabernet Franc.  “Redolent of dark fruits and sweet spice (cardamom) and somewhat woodsy.  Full and juicy with loads of fruit and spice on the palate.  The drying tannins accompany a long juicy finish”.  Sadly, the finish this Saturday will be somewhat sour.

North Carolina- Kippy & Buffy would be more than happy to tell you that the 2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot also exceeds expectations, “underscored by polished tannins, the juiciness of the entry evolves into a lush, silky texture that carries the flavors to a long, generous finish marked by notes of freshly ground coffee beans with a splash of ripe, red cherry.”

Pitt- Kippy & Buffy move the chains and much more during their tailgate by going with a 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon:  “the aromas are bright, with notes of cherry, plum, vanilla and baking spice. The fruit flavors are plump, with plenty of barrel accents. The tannins come off as quite dry, leading to a sweet vanilla-filled finish. The oak is at the fore.” 

Liberty- The final home game at Scott Stadium has Kippy & Buffy breaking out white wine for a non-conference foe one final time, and this week it’s a bottle of 2017 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc“Tightly structured, with strong, vigorous passionfruit and lime flavors, woven with steely acidity, and obvious potential.”

Georgia Tech-  Kippy & Buffy hit the road with a bottle of Cain Five.  The 2014 vintage is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot (remaining grapes used are split between Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).  “The aromas are discrete: fruity—floral—herbal—spicy—and pure. On the palate, the wine has a certain density, but now the tannins have melted and this wine just flows.” 

Virginia Tech- Ending a sorry streak is always a tough task, but Kippy & Buffy plan to do their part by breaking out a bottle of Chateau O’Brien 2013 Mourvèdre.  “The smell of Mourvèdre is an explosion of dark fruit, flowers like violet and herbaceous aromas of black pepper, thyme, and red meat.  The variety can be a difficult grape to grow, preferring “its face in the hot sun and its feet in the water.”

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

 

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

 

Friday-

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

 

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

 

Saturday-

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

 

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 53-17.

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While 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-

Sport’s most important regular season kicks off this weekend as the tradition of college football is like none other–hold on, the season actually began last weekend?  With a game in Sydney, Australia?  In a sport where shifting criteria used by a 12-member committee determines a 4-team playoff field and a conference doesn’t even need to have divisions to have a Championship Game (thank you, Big 12), it almost makes sense.  In a world where tradition is trumpeted yet leagues change membership like shirts and schools have 75 different uniform combinations, college football is the fickle mistress that dazzles us one moment while confounding us the next.  She knows we’ll be back–and we are once again.  Special thanks to #2 Ohio State for rallying past Indiana Thursday–you saved me from having to completely rewrite my opening thoughts to the season.  And good luck next week against 7th ranked Oklahoma.

Alma Mater Update- Excuse me?  The Orange are playing a Friday night game?  Didn’t we leave the Big East to avoid garbage like this?  SU entertains Central Connecticut State as Dino Babers begins his second season resurrecting the once-proud program.  Hopefully the defense will be better than the one that surrendered 76 points to Pitt (the Panthers men’s basketball team averaged 73 points in two games against the 2-3 zone).  The offense has a heralded quarterback in true freshman Tommy DeVito, who depending on your age and influences either reminds you of “Goodfellas”, or “Jersey Boys”.  Hopefully he’s redshirted–let’s hang on to the eligibilty he’s got.  If he isn’t redshirted, brace yourself for Joe Pesci and Four Seasons references early and often this fall.

Friday-

Navy at Florida Atlantic, 8 p.m., WFED 1500 am and ESPNU.  In our preseason preview I marveled at how coach Ken Niumatalolo had been the head man for nine seasons while the rest of the AAC coaches had a combined eight years in their current jobs.  They’ve got nothing on Lane Kiffin, who’s had five different gigs in the last ten years.  Kiffin was actually coach in the NFL at Oakland when Niumatalolo began his tenure in Annapolis.  After being fired by the Raiders, Kiffin has held top jobs at Tennessee and USC while also serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.  Exactly how long do the Owls expect him to stick around?  Zach Abey takes over the reins…but the junior is by no means a first-year starter after seeing action against Army and the Mids’ bowl game last December.  Midshipmen begin with a bang, 38-21.

 

Saturday-

Maryland at #23 Texas, 12 p.m., FS1.   After taking most of summer workouts to determine who would start at quarterback (sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome gets the nod), the Terps tangle with a Longhorns team that’s coming off three straight losing seasons for the first time since 1938.  Texas also returns ten starters on defense…and if there’s one thing Maryland did not do well in 2016 it was protect the passer:  their 49 sacks allowed were the most in the Big Ten.  Conventional wisdom is if somebody’s going to steal a win in Austin it’s while coach Tom Herman and staff are still installing their program as well as weeding out non-contributors.  Can Herman translate what he did with Houston to sophomore QB Shane Buechelle (60% passer with 21 touchdowns in 2016) against a defense that was near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnovers and total defense?  These two teams last met in the 1978 Sun Bowl in a game where the Longhorns won 42-0 behind three guys named Johnny Jones:  they were known by the monikers Lam, Ham and Jam.  Oh, the good ole days.  Terrapins tumble, 34-17.

Virginia vs William & Mary, 3:30 p.m., ACC Network.  Something about facing in-state schools always makes the Cavalier faithful uncomfortable:  they opened last year with a loss to Richmond and almost fell to William & Mary in 2015.  UVa may have caught a break this year though, as the Tribe will be starting a new quarterback and runningback.  The good news for the Cavaliers?  They return eight starters on defense. The bad news?  That defense had issues stopping the run (11th in the ACC) and pass (12th in yards, 14th in efficiency) in 2016.  The best news is that there is stability at the quarterback position for the first time in eons.  Kurt Benkert played well in stretches last fall, and with runningbacks Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid both graduating he’ll be leaned on a little more in his second season as a starter.  Back for another fun fall are my tailgating pals, Kippy & Buffy.  After their tour of Virginia wineries exclusively in 2016 resulted in a 2-10 campaign, they’re branching out this fall…and beginning with Conundrum White.  This “blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli and Viognier lures you in with scents of apricot, pear and honeysuckle–and if you’re paying attention, orange and lemon meringue pie.”  Oh, we’re most definitely paying attention as we enjoy a glass with pepper jack cheese on Ritz crackers.  Cavaliers come through, 31-20.

 

Sunday-

#21 Virginia Tech vs #22 West Virginia (at FedEx Field), 7:30 p.m, ABC.  Former regional and conference rivals reunite:  the two schools met 51 times between 1912 and 2005…and between them won 10 Big East conference titles from 1993-2011.  Both teams will feature new quarterbacks—but while the Hokies are starting redshirt freshman Josh Jackson the Mountaineers have ex-Florida starter Will Grier.  The junior had the Gators cruising to a 6-0 start in 2015 when he was suspended for PED use.  The running of Justin Crawford (7.3 yards per carry last year) will make Grier’s transition easier.  Last year Justin Fuente rolled the dice correctly with transfer Jerod Evans last year-but that was with a veteran receiving corps at Evans’ disposal.  Jackson faces an unorthodox defense (WVU runs a 3-3-5), but one that is loaded with inexperience (eight new starters, including the entire defensive line).  Even though the Hokies own the Northern Virginia fan base (sorry, Kippy & Buffy), they don’t fare well in Landover:  winless in three games against USC (understood), Boise State (makes sense) and Cincinnati (what?).  Hokies come up short, 31-24. 

 

Richmond falls at Sam Houston State, James Madison beats East Carolina, Towson tops Morgan State, Howard loses at UNLV.

Last Year:  85-35.