Tag Archives: Michigan State

Predicted: 2016 Power 5 Conference Champions

This week’s piece is the second of three pieces i will be writing previewing the college football season. Last week was a focus on predicting the champions of the group of 5 conferences, and if you want to read that first, you can find it here. Next week will be the finale of the preview series, with a look at the NY6 Bowl Games and the College Football Playoff.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Clemson Tigers (12-0) vs. Miami Hurricanes (9-3)

Both sides of the ACC are going to be races between the top 2-3 teams. In the Atlantic decision, those teams are Clemson, FSU, and a sleeper Louisville, while in the Coastal those teams are Miami, UNC and VT. I expect the Clemson Tigers to ride Deshaun Watson to another undefeated regular season, with its biggest challenge obviously being down at FSU. None the less, I expect Clemson to be matured by its title game run last season, and I see the Tigers edging out FSU in a tightly contested match.

In the Coastal Division, while VT could pose a threat, I think this division title is really between Miami and UNC. And that being said, UNC’s out of conference schedule is much more difficult, with a game vs. Georgia at the Georgia Dome to kick off the season. Miami, on the other hand, starts off its season with three super tough opponents…Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State. Given that start to the season, I think Miami advances to the ACC Championship by a game over the Heels. It is important to note that FSU, with only a single loss to Clemson, would still be a huge contender for the CFP.

Conference Champion: Clemson Tigers

Big 12

Conference Contenders: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor

While 2017 may be the return of a championship game for the Big 12, the lack of one this year will make the conference title race an interesting one to say the least. While OSU and Baylor will factor in, this race should and will come down to Oklahoma and TCU. And looking at its respective schedules, it’s hard to not see a difference between the two. TCU starts off with South Dakota State, Arkansas, Iowa State (who, for the record, always has an upset up its sleeve) and SMU. I would be surprised if going into its week 5 matchup with Oklahoma, TCU was not undefeated. Now, Oklahoma’s road to that matchup is extremely different. Going into the TCU matchup, Oklahoma has to battle through Houston and Ohio State, and to a much, much lesser degree the ULM Warhawks. Personally, I think the Sooners drop both the UH and Buckeye games. But, even if Oklahoma makes it out of those games without a loss, it will be exhausted from the extreme competition it has faced already. Even with two weeks to prepare for the TCU matchup, I believe the Sooners will be at a disadvantage, and lose to the Horned Frogs. After that matchup, I think the Big 12 conference matchups will give both TCU and Oklahoma some trouble, and I see both dropping a total of 2 in conference matchups.

 

Conference Champion: TCU (10-2)

Big Ten

Prediction: Ohio State (12-0) vs. Iowa (9-3)

Oh boy, here we go again. We finally have a Big Ten that is properly returned to form. And with that return to form, I have a bold prediction. On November 26th, ten years and 8 days after the historic matchup, we will see “The Game of the Century” Part 2 in Columbus, Ohio. Going into, what I believe, is the biggest rivalry in college, and maybe all of, sports, other than Ohio State’s challenge in Oklahoma, and both of their needs to beat Michigan State, we could easily see both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines be undefeated going into the matchup. Now, for me personally, this idea sends shivers down my spine, as, having grown up in the great state of Ohio, I both hate Michigan and also attended the 1 vs 2 game back in 2006. Now because of J.T. Barrett, Heisman finalist (and for my sanity as an Ohioan), I see the Horseshoe being stormed with Buckeye fans after a thrilling victory over the team up north. …oh, sorry, Big Ten West, I (and everyone else in the country) almost forgot about you. Iowa should be able to take the Big Ten west crown, and I see them doing so at a pace of 9-3.

Conference Champion: The Ohio State Buckeyes

Southeastern Conference

Prediction: Alabama (11-1) vs. Tennessee (10-2)

The SEC division titles seem to be two sets of three team races. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida will fight for the East, whilst ‘Bama, LSU and Ole Miss will fight for the West. I would be shocked, given the strength of the conference as a whole, to see any team come out of the SEC undefeated. That being said, however, Alabama is an easy pick for a division champ, as the Crimson Tide are of course, the reigning national campions. And nothing has shown me anything to doubt ‘Bama coming into 2016. LSU, behind Fournette, a Heisman candidate, will give Alabama a run for its money, but I think ‘Bama will prove to be the superior team.

Now in the East Division, things are more of a crapshoot. While Tennessee may be the most likely division champ, the Volunteer’s inconsistent play over the last several years is what the Bulldogs and Gators are counting on. If Tennessee falters, even slightly, one of those two will look to poach the division. However, I think Florida’s current QB situation makes it a less likely champion than UGA or Tennessee. Expect Tennessee to, despite some struggles, grind out the East.

Conference Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide

Pac-12

Prediction: Stanford (10-2) vs. UCLA (9-3)

The Pac-12 is a mess. It currently lacks a single team to help bring the conference back into prominence. Oregon will be good this year but not great, as the Ducks will get between 7-9 wins in the North. Oregon needs to watch out for its out of conference games against Virginia and Nebraska, as both teams could send the Ducks into a tail spin (pun intended) early in the season. I think Washington State, though the current favorite for conference champion, will struggle with its early conference matchups, as they play a large number of difficult conference opponents to start the Cougars conference play. I think the consistently decent Stanford Cardinal will be able to once again claim the North.

The South is in no better shape, as UCLA, USC, Utah, ASU, and Arizona are all decent teams, but not one of them stands out from the field. I think UCLA, being the program at the highest level of the current South Contenders, will be able to take the South in fairly mild fashion. The Bruins biggest challenge is facing BYU and Stanford in back to back weeks, but UCLA needs to make sure that they can recover in the possibility that it loses both games. If UCLA does start to falter, the South could still be very much up for grabs.

Conference Champion: Stanford Cardinal

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Non-Schedule Games Important for Notre Dame’s Title Hopes

By now, Notre Dame fans know which games are most critical to the Irish’s hopes of running the regular season table this fall. Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, and Southern California are the marquee matchups featured on the 2016 docket for the Irish. If the Irish take care of business in these games, there will not be much debate about their place in the College Football Playoff picture.

However, should the Irish stumble along the way, style points will be at a premium. A few games not featuring a team in all-gold helmets will play a large part in the Irish’s ability to gain style points.

September 3rd – USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

The first week of the season features perhaps the most important game of the year in terms of Notre Dame’s strength of schedule. This matchup between the Trojans and Crimson Tide will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. USC is projected to finish at or near the top of the Pac-12, along with fellow Notre Dame opponent, Stanford. A win for the Trojans would validate the Pac-12 and deliver a blow to the SEC. This would be huge for the Irish, who have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves against Pac-12 opponents, but lack a matchup against the SEC. At season’s end, a debate between Notre Dame and Alabama for playoff positioning could be settled by how each performs against a common opponent.

October 29th – Michigan at Michigan State

On the day Notre Dame hosts the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium, there is another major midwest college football game that has plenty of bearing on Notre Dame’s path to the playoff. With Ohio State reloading after losing numerous starters, the Wolverines and Spartans figure to be the two teams contending for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Outside of Michigan State, Michigan and Notre Dame have no common opponents. In fact, Notre Dame’s game against Michigan State is the only time the Irish will face a Big Ten opponent this season. For this reason, Michigan State dominating the Big Ten would once again be beneficial for the Irish.

November 25th – TCU at Texas

Despite losing Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin to the NFL, the TCU Horned Frogs still figure to be a contender for the always wide-open Big 12. This game, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving, is a potential trap game for the Horned Frogs. If Notre Dame takes care of Texas in the first game of the season and the Longhorns can steal a late-season game against the Horned Frogs, the Irish will certainly have a decided tiebreaker against teams from the Big 12. Much like the situation with Michigan State, Notre Dame’s only game against a Big 12 opponent comes against Texas. If Charlie Strong’s team can surprise college football experts, Notre Dame benefits.


Other games that should gain considerable notice from Irish fans include Florida State at Miami (October 8th) and Ohio State at Michigan State (November 19th). With a pseudo-Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, Notre Dame should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its worth against ACC opponents. If Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team can pick up where it left off last season, however, the matchup with the Spartans in East Lansing is arguably more important than the aforementioned Michigan – Michigan State matchup.

Whatever the case, Notre Dame has plenty of opportunities to add wins against opponents from many of the Power 5 conferences to their resume. If the Irish take care of business at home (with the exception of the game against USC, all of their marquee matchups take place in South Bend), Notre Dame just may find its way into the College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception.

Featured image is courtesy of wikipedia.com. 

Way-Too-Early Schedule Game: Notre Dame Edition

Well, it’s that time of the year. Summer is upon us and it’s almost okay to start dreaming of the college football season. Yes, it is only June, and still way too early for a legitimate top 25 and too early to count anyone out – or in, for that matter – of the national championship race.

Where does that leave us, you ask? I think it puts us in the perfect place to play everyone’s favorite game, the schedule game.

Over the course of this column I’m going to take a look at each of the 12 opponents Notre Dame will be facing during the 2016 regular season, give a quick breakdown and background information, and make a “way-too-early” pick on the game. Sound simple enough? Good!

Week 1 at Texas – Sunday, September 4 – Austin, TX

In a rematch of last season’s opener, Notre Dame will travel to the University of Texas to take on the Longhorns to begin the season. Last year, the Irish smoked Charlie Strong’s squad 38-3 in South Bend. Just as there was last year for Texas, there is a quarterback competition heading into camp. The difference between Notre Dame’s QB battle and Texas’ is the talent level. The pressure is building on Strong at Texas, and I don’t expect the Notre Dame game to help ease any of it.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Texas 17

Week 2 vs Nevada – Saturday, September 10 – South Bend, IN

Unlike last year, the Irish won’t open up the home portion of their schedule with a marquee opponent. While that isn’t meant to be a knock on the Wolf Pack, it’s the truth. Nevada projects to be a borderline bowl team this season and Notre Dame has higher aspirations than that level. The strength of the Wolf Pack will be their offense, specifically the backfield made up of Penn State transfer Akeel Lynch and James Butler. Nevada very may well have a nice season, but I doubt that this game is one of their highlights.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 42 – Nevada 20

Week 3 vs Michigan State – Saturday, September 17 – South Bend, IN

The third week of the season may be Notre Dame’s first real test. Michigan State is coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance and the Spartans have won two out of the last three Big Ten titles. Yes, last year took a lucky bounce at the Big House and a sick Zeke Elliott at The Shoe to get their two biggest wins, they were wins nonetheless. Sparty should be heading into 2016 ranked in the top 25. It will certainly be interesting to see who replaces Connor Cook under center for the Spartans. MSU will open the season with Furman at home followed by a bye week before their trip to South Bend. A night game at Notre Dame Stadium will be the first real test for this young team.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 27 – Michigan State 20

Week 4 vs Duke – Saturday, September 24 – South Bend, IN

While the Blue Devils are traditionally known for their success on the hardwood, they have been much improved on the gridiron lately as well. The Blue Devils are coming off a win in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl, however their team is not without its share of question marks. The biggest one of these may be the quarterback position. Last year the offense was driven by Thomas Sirk. Sirk was due to return to the helm this season, however he ruptured his Achilles for the second time during offseason conditioning drills in February. It is unknown if Sirk will be back and how effective he will be. If he is unable to play look for Parker Boehme to fill in. Just like their brothers on the hardwood, I think the Blue Devils will struggle with Notre Dame on the gridiron.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 38 – Duke 17

Week 5 at Syracuse – Saturday, October 1 – East Rutherford, NJ (MetLife Stadium)

Syracuse is entering a new era with Dino Babers taking over as head coach of the Orangemen. This season looks as if it is going to be a rebuilding year for Cuse, and a win against Notre Dame is highly unlikely. It would be surprising to see Syracuse in a bowl game, with many schedule predictions having them at or around four total wins. Notre Dame certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Syracuse 3

Week 6 at North Carolina State – Saturday, October 8 – Raleigh, NC

For the second time in the first six weeks the Irish will be taking on the Wolfpack, although this breed is based in Raleigh, NC. NC State has the task of replacing Jacoby Brissett who graduated last year. Last season, the Wolfpack scored 33.2 points per game with Brissett in control. I would look for that number to drop a little bit, although I do think new offensive coordinatior Eliah Drinkwitz will do a good job keeping that number around 30. This is a tough spot for Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t recently played that well on the road (cough Virginia 2015 cough) and the Irish could be caught looking ahead to Stanford. I think this game is much closer and tougher than people think.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 31 – NC State 28

Week 7 vs Stanford – Saturday, October 15 – South Bend, IN

Stanford-Notre Dame has quickly become one of my favorite rivalry games in college football. Since the rain-soaked overtime classic in 2012 this series has produced some extremely memorable games, including last year’s Stanford victory at the end of the regular season on a last second field goal. I think this game could certainly be another classic in this rivalry. If Stanford figures out how to replace departed QB Kevin Hogan in the first six weeks, then I see no reason why this shouldn’t be a great game.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Stanford 17

Week 8 – BYE

They won’t win, they won’t lose. Not much to see here.

Week 9 vs Miami – Saturday, October 29 – South Bend, IN

This game hasn’t gotten much run yet, but I definitely think that this will be one of the best games on Notre Dame’s schedule. I think Miami is set to return to a product similar to their glory years, with Mark Richt at the helm. This is a tremendous opportunity to not only kick-start that resurgence for the Canes, but also to reignite the rivalry between Notre Dame and The U. Junior QB Brad Kaaya is one of the more underrated signal callers in the country. This is a game Notre Dame very well could lose. The biggest thing I think they have in their favor is that they are coming off the bye week. Truthfully, I think this one could go either way, and is a start to bringing back one of college football’s most missed rivalries.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Miami 20

Week 10 at Navy – Saturday, November 5 – Jacksonville, FL (EverBank Field)

Going from one rivalry that college football misses to one of my absolute favorites. Obviously the reasoning for this rivalry are more for off-the-field traditions rather than the competitive play on the field, but the respect shown between Notre Dame and Navy is one of my favorite things to witness. This year the game shouldn’t be as close as it has been in recent years. Navy lost Keenan Reynolds to graduation and he will arguably be the program’s biggest loss since Roger Staubach. Notre Dame shouldn’t have any problem with the Midshipmen.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 34 – Navy 14

Week 11 vs Army – Saturday, November 12 – San Antonio, TX (Alamodome) SHAMROCK SERIES

I don’t think that this game will be very competitive. Truthfully, I think that the most interesting part of this will be seeing how Notre Dame looks in their yet-to-be-released alternate uniforms. The Irish have yet to lose a Shamrock Series game, and I would be stunned if this is the first.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 41 – Army 9

Week 12 vs Virginia Tech – Saturday, November 19 – South Bend, IN

What does life after Frank Beamer look like for the Hokies? By this point in the season we will know the answer to that. Justin Fuente is in to replace Beamer as head coach. Fresh off coaching first round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Fuente will have his work cut out for him in deciding between Brenden Motley, Jerod Evans, and Dwayne Lawson to run the offense. Evans is a junior college transfer and many expect him to win the job. I think this is a game that Notre Dame should win, but it is one I could see them looking past with the date with USC the following week.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 28 – VT 27

Week 13 at Southern Cal – Saturday, November 26 – Los Angeles, CA

If all goes according to my predictions (it likely won’t), Notre Dame will be entering this showdown in LA unbeaten, just like in 2012. That being said, I don’t think that this matchup turns out the same as it did in Brian Kelly’s third year on campus. In my opinion, USC is one of the most underrated teams in the country and this game will ultimately decide which of these teams heads to the final four and which doesn’t. I give a slight edge to Southern Cal at home, but I feel as if this one truly is a toss up.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Southern Cal 24 – Notre Dame 21

I think Notre Dame will be very good this year and on the cusp of playoff contention once again. There are obviously a few games I think could be trap games as well as a few games I think are going to be toss ups. I could be right, I could be wrong, I guess we will find out in November how I did.

Ohio State Doesn’t Belong in College Football Playoff

The playoff picture is less than a week away from being formed.

Heading into the final weekend there are seven teams that are still alive.

Clemson and their opponent in the ACC Title Game, North Carolina, Alabama, Iowa and their opponent in the B1G Championship Game, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma has all but assured themselves a spot in the final four to cap things off.

Of the seven teams listed, only six deserve to have the chance to play for the college football playoff.

The Ohio State Buckeyes do not belong in this conversation.

Yes, they are highly ranked, and yes they are very talented, there is no denying both of those two facts. What can be denied is that the Buckeyes have played well enough to deserve a spot playing in the semi-finals on New Year’s Eve.

Entering this season, Ohio State was voted unanimously number one by the AP. Voting them first overall seemed like the right move considering how many key players were returning to the Buckeyes from the previous season that saw them win the national championship.

While many of the key players returned, the team was nowhere near the caliber that the 2014 edition of the Buckeyes was.

Throughout this entire year, Ohio State has underachieved. The Buckeyes have had close calls against NIU at home, Indiana on the road and Minnesota at home as well before finally falling to Michigan State in the Horseshoe.

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The Spartans dominated the Buckeyes physically in their own house, out rushing them 203 to 86, and holding Heisman hopeful Ezekiel Elliot to only 33 yards on 12 carries.

Sure, the Buckeyes bounced back nicely and dominated Michigan at the Big House the following week, but does one good win really deserve to be rewarded with an opportunity to play for college football’s biggest prize?

Comparing Ohio State to the other one-loss teams shows the Buckeyes do not have anywhere near as impressive as Alabama, Oklahoma, and Michigan State.

The Crimson Tide’s seventh best win (Wisconsin) would be the second best win that Ohio State would be able to tout. Sure, both teams have a home loss, but is there any doubt as to which team has a better body of work? Absolutely not.

Heading out west, to Norman, OK, the Sooners also have a resume that trumps what the Buckeyes are able to present. Aside from the drubbing of rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater by a score of 58-23, the Sooners also have wins over Baylor, TCU, West Virginia, and in SEC Country at Tennessee. Comparing resumes, the Sooners have two wins that would be better than any win Ohio State has. Of course, Oklahoma did lose a neutral site rivalry contest with Texas, but overall the body of work simply outweighs what the B1G East Runner-Up Buckeyes have been able to put forth.

It is also worth noting that Oklahoma has won the Big 12, and Alabama has an opportunity to win their conference, the SEC, something Ohio State does not have a chance to do. They lost that opportunity when Michigan State smoked Penn State on the last Saturday of the B1G regular season.

Surely, no one is arguing that Alabama and Oklahoma don’t belong in over Ohio State. The argument that very few are talking about would come out of the ACC.

Simply put, if Clemson wins the ACC Championship, they’re in the playoff, no two ways around it. The argument would be if they lose to North Carolina in that game.

The Tar Heels have flown under the radar since their week one loss to the Old Ball Coach and South Carolina. Since that game, all Marquise Williams and the Tar Heels have done is win, and looked very impressive doing so.

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The Tar Heels have not played an overly grueling schedule considering they are still looking for a marquee win, one they have a chance to get against Clemson. The lack of a big win does hurt them, but the fashion in which they have taken care of the opponents on their schedule has been very impressive. Williams and company have topped the 50 point mark three times against FBS competition, and came within five points of doing so two additional times.

The Tar Heels, like the Buckeyes have only defeated one ranked team (@ Pitt), but they have looked much better than the Buckeyes have against very similar schedules.

Much is made of the “eye test” these days in the college football world. The test essentially is based upon how well a team plays week to week. Alabama and Oklahoma have each passed every week since their losses; Iowa has looked bad on an eye test level as well. The Buckeyes failed their eye test while the Tar Heels have passed theirs.

A win over Clemson would give North Carolina an A on their eye test, how could that be kept out in favor of an underachieving team?

It would be an absolute travesty to leave North Carolina out in favor of Ohio State if Clemson goes down this coming weekend.

Ohio State does not belong anywhere near the semi-finals, here’s to hoping the committee does the right thing.

Shattered Dreams and Iowa

The phrase “we need Iowa to go undefeated” is one that probably was not uttered by anyone other than Iowa alumni.  Coming into the season, there was a legitimate possibility that Kirk Ferentz was going to get the axe, but his contract, more specifically his buyout clause, was stopping that from happening.  Now, Iowa is undefeated, has a guaranteed spot in the Big Ten championship game, and looks to be the Big Ten’s best chance at being in the College Football Playoff as an undefeated team and eliminating the counter argument of “they just got in because they play in the Big Ten.”

The beauty of the college football playoff is how much scheduling plays a part.  Luckily for Iowa, very few thought that they would be legitimate contenders and did not schedule them into any true primetime, late season matchups. The Hawkeyes finish the season at Nebraska, the team that has managed to lose a surprising number of close games throughout the season and had a season-defining win in which they managed to ruin Michigan States’ title chances by handing them a late season loss.  While Nebraska will view the game against Iowa as their “championship” game, Iowa should be able to win and go into the Big Ten championship undefeated.

In comparison, the other teams around Iowa in the rankings have far tougher matchups.  Notre Dame finishes its year at Stanford without two of its best players, C.J. Prosise and KeiVarae Russel, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play one another in what should be a high scoring rivalry game that will determine who will be the Big 12’s playoff candidate.  Florida, the 8th ranked team in the Week 12 rankings, ends its year at Florida State.

My bound-to-be-wrong prediction for Iowa

Iowa wins at Nebraska convincingly, but not overwhelmingly with a 31-14 win.  In the Big Ten championship game, they play Michigan State.  The Spartans, coming off a huge win at Ohio State and a win over Penn State win a close, low scoring and what most of the country considers to be an “ugly” game.  In the process, the Big Ten manages to have three 1-loss teams.  Considering the huge media hype that constantly surrounds Notre Dame and the possibility of an undefeated Oklahoma State team, Iowa misses the playoffs and no Big Ten team gets to compete for the championship.

While having no team in the championship would be somewhat embarrassing for the Big Ten, it will not be as horrible as people make it out to be.  Clemson and Alabama are clearly the top teams this year and Iowa does not have the weapons or the personnel to keep pace with teams of that caliber.  Iowa getting into the playoff would probably look at lot like a bowl game featuring an automatic qualifier; it will be obvious from the start which team had a “miracle” year that is coming to an end and which team is entrenched as a top contender year after year.  As fun as it would be to have a team from the Big Ten in the playoff, it will probably be better to not have to endure a 60-minute beatdown at the hands of Clemson or Alabama that loses its suspense after the first quarter when Iowa is down by 21.

Who Should Irish Fans Root For?

UPDATED 11/11

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s that time of year again.

Tuesday night the College Football Playoff Committee released their second Top 25 poll of the season. Now before you read any further, let me remind you that all of this is extremely fluid and is subject to change from week to week. For instance, Ohio State, last year’s eventual national champion was slotted at 16th in the opening poll of the season. Much can change between now and December 31st when the semi-final games are slated to be played.

With all of that said, Irish fans have to be extremely happy with the results that were revealed on November 10.

Notre Dame came in at fourth, the final spot of the playoff.

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The high ranking does hold some weight however. Common thought would be that if Notre Dame is able to win their remaining four games they will not be held out of the Final Four. This is due to the fact that Notre Dame has a resume building win remaining on the schedule at Stanford, and some of the other teams may take care of themselves.

Left in the season are a few elimination games, or at least games that have the potential to strongly affect the Final Four.

Among these are  many of the remaining Big 12 games, a possible matchup between an undefeated #3 Ohio State and an undefeated #5 Iowa in the B1G Championship Game, and Notre Dame’s late season trip to Palo Alto.

Last weekend, LSU was stomped in Tuscaloosa by the Crimson Tide. This caused LSU to fall out of the playoff picture for the time being, and Alabama sliding into the #2 spot that the Tigers briefly held. This, along with another Ole Miss loss, allows Alabama to control their own destiny on the way to an SEC Title Game.

 

Irish fans should root for:

Nov 8, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeAndrew White (2) catches a touchdown over LSU Tigers safety Jalen Mills (28) during the overtime of a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 20-13 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

 

With Alabama controlling their own destiny, and appearing to have a firm grip on a spot in the playoff, the best chance for a Crimson Tide loss would be this weekend in Starkville against Mississippi State, or in an eventual SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators. Irish fans should be pulling for the Bulldogs and possibly the Gators as well. Although if Florida runs the table and wins the SEC, I would expect to see them garner a spot in the Final Four. As I said earlier I would be surprised if a two loss team would make the Final Four, but if it does happen, my money would be on it being Alabama.

The Big 12 is currently on the outside looking in as well. Baylor and Oklahoma State are both currently unbeaten, but find themselves sitting at six and eight, respectively. These two programs have played relatively weak schedules thus far, and also don’t play defense really well, if at all. The Cowboys do play much better defense than Baylor, but it is still nothing to write home about. That is just the way of life in the Big 12, and I think that the committee takes offense to that in their rankings. These two teams will square off on November 21st. It is very possible that Baylor could fall this week against the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that already has a loss. The Sooners lone hiccup is to Texas in the Red River Rivalry.

 

Irish fans should root for:

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Oklahoma to win out. This would leave Oklahoma as the one loss Big 12 champion. It just so happens that the Sooners loss would come to a team that Notre Dame beat by 35 points. If there would be an undefeated team left out, my money would be on it coming out of the Big 12.

The Big Ten, or B1G as the cool kids call it these days, has two teams in the top ten in Ohio State (3) and  Iowa (5). Yes, neither of them have been beaten thus far, but both have failed to notch an impressive win thus far.  The Buckeyes have looked extremely average in a few of their games, but they have looked like a top team in a few others. Iowa has played well, however their best win is due to a last second, 57-yard field goal over currently unranked Pitt. A good win, but not a marquee one per se.

 

Irish fans should root for:

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This scenario became a little clearer this past weekend with the loss of Michigan State to Nebraska. The hope is still for Michigan to win the conference, but now that is a little more likely to happen. If Ohio State can manage to defeat Illinois and Michigan State, and Michigan beats Indiana and Penn State, then that would set up a de facto B1G East Title Game on November 28 at the Big House between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. Irish fans would be pulling for Michigan to upset the Buckeyes and later defeat Iowa to win the B1G. I would be very surprised to see a two loss B1G team sneak into the Final Four.

Out west, teams in the Pac 12 have not done themselves many favors this season. Stanford is the highest ranked team in the conference at seven, up four spots from last week. They are followed by Utah at ten. Every team in the conference has at least one loss at this point in the season. The best chance for a Pac 12 representative in the Final Four would be Stanford winning out.

Irish fans should root for:

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Stanford to win the Pac 12 title, with a loss to Notre Dame along the way. Sounds simple enough, right? It also would not hurt if USC won out, coupled with a Utah loss to set up a Pac-12 title game between two teams that Notre Dame would have defeated, assuring a win over a Power 5 Champion.

In the ACC things are far less complicated for Notre Dame fans. Obviously, the lone Irish loss of the season came in Death Valley to the Clemson Tigers. The hope would be that Clemson is able to finish an undefeated regular season and win the ACC crown. This would ensure that the Tigers reach the Final Four, and likely give Notre Dame the best loss that anyone in the country has. I hate the term best loss, but it would be true in this case. Clemson has a key game against Florida State this weekend. It also wouldn’t hurt Notre Dame if Pitt wins the remainder of their games after their clash with Notre Dame.

 

Irish fans should root for:

deshaun-watson-ncaa-football-north-carolina-clemson2-850x560

Clemson to win every game, and look good doing it, until a rematch in the semi-finals against the Irish.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame fans should also be rooting strongly for Navy and Temple to continue their winning ways and meet up in the AAC Title Game. Navy has SMU, Tulsa, and Houston left in AAC play, and then the traditional Army-Navy game would be played after a potential AAC Title Game. The Temple Owls have USF, Memphis, and UCONN left on their schedule. Each team should be ranked in each of their remaining games.

Ultimately, none of this matters if Notre Dame is not able to win their next three games. The remaining slate for Notre Dame is Wake Forest at home, Boston College at Fenway Park, and finally a trip to Palo Alto for a showdown with Stanford. If the Irish take care of business, they’ll be playing on New Year’s Eve.

Time to Flip the NCAA’s March Madness Switch!

The best month on the sports calendar is here.  The NCAA basketball tournament.  Opening Day. The Masters. Finally.  For those on the East Coast who are snow blind after this record-setting winter, Selection Sunday heralds both the promise of spring and the unmatched excitement that accompanies college basketball’s marquee event.

For a few days after Selection Sunday, each of the 68  teams has a chance.  For some teams that chance is infinitesimal, but that doesn’t keep everyone from dreaming about what, theoretically, is possible.   College basketball’s increasing parity has given rise to a higher number of upsets in recent years.  A 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed just seven times, but the pace of high seed upsets has increased dramatically in recent years. Last year 14 seed Mercer destroyed at least 99% of the nation’s brackets on the second day of the tournament when it stunned Duke 78-71.  Last year 11 seed Dayton made the Elite Eight. Virginia Commonwealth accomplished the same feat in 2011, losing to 8 seed Butler for a spot in the championship game!  There’s a reason that Warren Buffett can offer $1,000,000 for a perfect bracket. There has never been one and there never will be.  He should offer a grabazillion dollars.  It’s a safer bet than the sunrise.

That doesn’t mean that there is nothing certain about March Madness, however. Excitement is  certain. Heartbreak is certain. Heck, even uncertainty is certain. There certainly will be some mid-major or small conference school that beats the odds to win a game or three.  Or four. However, for the first time that I know of the odds makers have made one team the even-money favorite to win the title. That team of course is Kentucky. Even money.  Bet a buck to win a buck.  The sharps in Vegas have a better feel for Kentucky’s chances than just about anyone else, so this betting line tells you all you really need to know about the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats and their national title hopes. This team of teenaged marauders and future lottery picks has cold-cocked the rest of college basketball this year and now stands just six games away from immortality.  The Wildcats had a few close calls early but now are playing at a level that likely makes pretenders of every other tournament team.Even money might seem preposterous given the incalculable number of scenarios yet to play out, but the odds makers are signaling that only long shot lovers should bother to put any team but Kentucky on the champion’s line.

It’s unfortunate that newly-ascendant teams like Northern Iowa and Virginia are having great seasons in a year in which Kentucky is having a historically great one because when a team makes history by going undefeated, that’s all anyone remembers.  What else do we remember about Indiana’s undefeated 1976 season besides the Bicentennial and Elton John singing “Philadelphia Freedom” to honor his friend Billie Jean King? Okay, I might be the only person to remember that but does anyone remember that Rutgers also was undefeated going into the Final Four?  Maybe if you went to Rutgers. History, as they say, is written by the winners.

The selection committee’s job never is easy and always is subject to ridicule.  Geography mandates the placement of the higher seeds, with but one exception. Teams from the same conference that have already played twice in the regular season cannot be among the top four seeds in the same region. Larger schools from power conferences undoubtedly get the benefit of the doubt over smaller schools from lesser conferences, as is the case with UCLA this year. The Bruins posted a 2-8 record against teams in this year’s field, but passed the “eyeball test” according to selection committee chair Scott Barnes. Was UCLA more deserving than a Colorado State team that reeled off 15 straight wins to start the season and had a better record against the RPI top 100 than did the Bruins? The selection committee determined that it did.  With so much emphasis placed on quantifiable metrics, the eyeball test seems like a very unscientific methodology.

Despite that, the committee always manages to create some compelling matchups with interesting storylines.  Virginia opens the tournament against Belmont, which features Virginia transfer Taylor Barnette.  Belmont shoots the hell out of the three, which is a shot that Virginia grudgingly concedes in order to better defend the basket.  It is not unthinkable that Belmont could shoot Virginia right out of the tournament. Should Virginia prevail,  an even more stern test likely awaits the Cavaliers. Michigan State. The Spartans ended Virginia’s season last year in an epic tournament game at Madison Square Garden and this year are Dick Vitale’s sleeper pick to make the Final Four. Additionally, Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach and has the record to prove it. According to Jared Andrews, since becoming the Spartans’ coach in 1995, Izzo is 19-4 in the round of 32 game.   Michigan State looks horribly under seeded at the seven spot, but I am sure that the committee felt like a Virginia-Michigan State rematch would make for good television. Virginia fans are feeling hosed.

Why?  Because Duke. In filling our my own brackets and doing my research, Duke’s path to Elite Eight seems absurdly easy.  Of course, that’s what we thought last year before Mercer messed everything up. However, Duke’s path most likely looks like this: San Diego State, S.F. Austin.  Yes, I am picking  S.F. Austin  to win two games.  They are the trendy 12 pick in the first round against  Utah and should they triumph, they most likely will get a game against an overseeded Georgetown squad that has gone 7-5 in its last 12 games and got knocked out of the Big East semifinals by Xavier, the 6 seed over in the West bracket. Prior to the ACC Tournament, both Virginia and Duke looked good for 1 seeds. Then both teams lost in the tournament semifinals, Virginia to a UNC team that played its best game of the year and Duke to a Notre Dame team that had already beaten the Blue Devils earlier in conference play. Duke’s loss had no apparent effect on its seeding while Virginia, getting a marginal contribution from vital cog and twice-injured Justin Anderson, was bumped to the 2 line for its loss. And people wonder why it seems like Duke gets preferential treatment? Selection Committee chairman Scott Barnes said Duke got the higher seed by virtue of its win at Virginia in January, ignoring that Duke had some inexplicable losses and Virginia didn’t.  Splitting hairs, I know.

Having now lost two of its last three, Virginia does appear wobbly.  A healthy Justin Anderson may be just what Virginia needs to go along with the motivation provided by the perceived seeding slight.  Virginia coach Tony Bennett, diplomatic as ever, waved it off, stating that every team will need to win six games to be national champion and that his team will play whoever is on the schedule. Tony Bennett, unflappable as always.

Some paths to the Final Four undoubtedly look easier than others, but then a funny thing happens. The refs throw the ball up and the players play, often with unexpected–but never boring–results. March Madness baby!

Oh, and I still hate Christian Laettner, even if he is resting in a hammock made of his own laurels.

Just Ride it Out, Randy

As expected, Michigan State defeated Maryland this weekend in front of a “Blackout” crowd in Byrd Stadium. The score was surprisingly close for the majority of the game, as the Terps trailed 16-7 late in the third quarter against the 12th ranked team in the nation. Even so, the deficit seemed more insurmountable with every offensive snap for the Terps. Maryland looked completely lost on almost every possession as the offense, much like the temperature in College Park, was exceptionally cold. A C.J. Brown interception returned for a Michigan State touchdown increased the Spartans’ lead to 16, all but sealing the win for MSU.

Maryland went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the game, and allowed the Spartans to kick three field goals in four possessions for a 9-0 lead. The Terps got on the board when C.J. Brown hit Daniel Adams with a 20-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter, and the defense forced Michigan State into a three-and-out on their next possession. The momentum had shifted ever so slightly in Maryland’s favor, and they would be getting the ball back with decent field position. William Likely’s fumble on the ensuing punt changed all of that. Maryland’s next eight possessions ended with either a punt or an interception, and the offense managed to accumulate a mere 102 yards during this span. The Spartans scored two late touchdowns to make the 37-15 final score more reflective of the seemingly unconquerable objective, based upon the Terrapins’ inept offense.

Quarterback C.J. Brown’s ineffectiveness has been a topic of discussion all season. Each time head coach Randy Edsall has been asked about replacing the sixth-year senior, however, he has backed Brown and downplayed any “quarterback controversy” as being created solely by the media (even after he pulled Brown at halftime in the loss to Ohio State). After the loss to Michigan State, Edsall altered his stance on the subject. When asked if he has thought about replacing Brown with redshirt sophomore Perry Hills or redshirt freshman Shane Cockerille, he responded, “That’s something we’ve talked about… if we can’t be more productive, then I think we have to take a look at those guys… I’ll do what’s in the best interest to help us get a win.”

Again, Brown’s struggles have been well-documented through the season. At halftime of the 52-24 loss to Ohio State on October 4, Brown had completed just 11 of 18 passes for 71 yards with an interception. Edsall replaced Brown with backup quarterback Caleb Rowe, who didn’t fare much better in the second half, but Brown’s status as the team’s starter was confirmed by Edsall after the game. Including his embarrassing first half against the Buckeyes (which I still attribute largely to the coaching staff), Brown has thrown just four touchdowns over the last five contests (two of these in garbage time of blowout losses) and six interceptions. He has completed just over half of his attempted passes on the season (49 percent over last five games), and has thrown for less than 200 yards in every conference game in 2014 before Saturday. Not to beat a dead horse, but the rushing stats that once helped justify his continued status as the team’s starter have declined in recent weeks as well (just 13 total rushing yards over the last three games, no rushing TDs since fifth game of season).

Despite pulling C.J. Brown at halftime in the Oct. 4 loss to Ohio State, Edsall stood by the sixth-year senior and downplayed any quarterback controversy. Photo courtesy pressboxonline.com.
Despite pulling C.J. Brown at halftime in the Oct. 4 loss to Ohio State, Edsall stood by the sixth-year senior and downplayed any quarterback controversy. Photo courtesy pressboxonline.com.

With that said, just two regular season games remain on the Terps’ schedule. Maryland currently sits third in the Big Ten East standings, behind only Ohio State and Michigan State, with a 3-3 conference record and a 6-4 overall record. While the Terps have been pounded by their opponent for three of their four losses, these have come at the hands of the Big Ten’s elite (OSU, MSU, Wisconsin). Maryland’s other loss came to West Virginia, a team that has been ranked this season and boasts one of the most prolific offenses in the country. With the win over Penn State, Maryland became bowl eligible in their first year as members of the Big Ten. The Terps have a great chance of defeating either or both of their remaining two opponents, as Rutgers is a comparable team to the Terps and Michigan is not the same Michigan of years past. A 7-5 record would unquestionably be considered an overall successful 2014 campaign.

Furthermore, Maryland is currently projected to play in a New Years’ Day bowl game: the Citrus Bowl against Auburn. While this will likely change over the weeks to come, it seems the Terps are at least slated for a reputable bowl game against a formidable opponent. Would it really be in the team’s best interests to replace Brown with Perry Hills, who hasn’t started a game since 2012? Or worse yet a redshirt freshman in Shane Cockerille, whose only on-field action as a Terrapin has come as a member of the special teams unit (a topic of discussion for another day)? As dissatisfying as it may be to admit, sticking with C.J. Brown still presents the Terps with their best chance to win.

Before falling to a season-ending injury, Caleb Rowe was the clear backup to Brown and the obvious frontrunner for the starting job in 2015. If Edsall was going to make a change, it should have come after the loss to Ohio State six weeks ago, not after a loss to a top-15 team with just two games left in the regular season. Even so, had Rowe not been lost for the year, the argument could have been made that the coaching staff wanted to give him some meaningful playing time heading into next season. After re-tearing his ACL, that same argument obviously cannot be made, and giving Hills or Cockerille playing time now presents no benefit whatsoever to the Terps for this season or next.

There were other factors to reflect upon stemming from Saturday’s loss to Michigan State that are more noteworthy than the quarterback play. The first is that Maryland was without their top offensive threat in receiver Stefon Diggs. Another is a lingering, season-long issue which I feel should’ve garnered more attention in 2014. In a game in which the score remained close until late in the third quarter, three Maryland rushers combined for just 11 yards on 11 total carries. Maryland’s leading running back of 2014, Brandon Ross, had a single carry. The game plan installed by the coaching staff apparently called for a quarterback who has struggled with accuracy and decision-making all season long to throw 43 times against the defense of the 12th ranked team in the country. I can think of only one word to explain this phenomenon: inexplicable.

Photo courtesy foxnews.com.
C.J. Brown threw 43 times against the Spartans while Terps’ running backs combined for just 11 carries. Photo courtesy foxnews.com.

With just two winnable games left on the schedule, next year’s likely starter out for the season, and two inexperienced quarterbacks remaining on the depth chart, replacing C.J. Brown would be senseless. Making such a drastic change with four-fifths of the season in the books would be nothing more than a futile reaction by Randy Edsall after stubbornly refusing to address the issue when more reasonable, and would represent another poor coaching decision on a growing list. You can’t put a Band-Aid over a bullet wound and pretend the problem has been appropriately resolved.

Who’s In and Who’s Out?

Boykin has led TCU into the Playoff conversation.
Boykin has led TCU into the Playoff conversation.

After another week of college football, one huge question remains.

Who is going to be the fourth team in the Playoff?

The top 4 for this week, as decided by the committee, are as follows. Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU, respectively. The first two put are Alabama and Arizona State. Yes, the same Arizona State Sun Devils who lost by almost 40 at home to UCLA earlier this season.

With Auburn’s loss, at home, to Texas A&M, they have moved down to the lower half of the top 10 and have all but ruined their destiny. They are the best 2-loss team, but 2 losses probably won’t get the Tigers into the playoff, unless they receive a ton of help.

TCU jumping over Alabama is a bit questioning for me, however. TCU has had an incredible run this season, but Alabama is in the SEC and has dominated recently. The Big 12 is not as credible, but is getting there with Baylor and TCU representing well in the top 10. Baylor beat TCU head-to-head, yet TCU is 3 spots ahead of the Bears. Alabama has one loss, to Ole Miss, and is just behind TCU.

Yes, Alabama shouldn’t be too worried because they control their own destiny and  play Mississippi State and Auburn to finish out the season, and if they win out they will clearly take over control of this Playoff bracket. Oregon jumping Florida State in another question mark, but of course the PAC 12 is far tougher than the lowly ACC, although that is not the Seminoles fault.

OK, time to take a deep breath. Bear with me here ladies and gentlemen.

If Alabama beats Mississippi State, TCU wins out, and Oregon wins out, than we have 3 teams locked into the bracket: Alabama, Oregon, and TCU. Then the big question would be who is that fourth team? Would it be Mississippi State, would it be Baylor who beat the Horned Frogs head-to-head, or could it an outside team such as Arizona State or Ohio State?

This weekend will have huge implications on the Playoff battle. Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide, who have looked unstoppable since squeaking by Arkansas by one single point. Florida State also has in-state rival Miami, on the road too.

Knowing that, here’s what could also happen. If Mississippi State losses, they probably won’t drop out of the top 4. If Florida State loses, they will most certainly drop out of the top 4. Yes, that is entirely up to the committee.

With all this being said, the Committee answered a couple questions for us this week.

Although Baylor beat TCU, the Horned Frogs victories were more impressive than Baylor, and TCU’s one loss is better than Baylor’s one loss. Therefore, the head-to-head matchup doesn’t help Baylor, and TCU is currently in the Playoff picture. Also, Arizona State jumped all the way to number 6 and is ranked ahead of Baylor and Ohio State. This clearly tells us how the committee feels about the PAC 12 as opposed to the Big 12 and the Big 10.

And lastly, win out and you’re in. This message is clear and simple for teams vying for Playoff position.  Oregon and Arizona State will more than likely face off in the PAC 12 championship game, and Mississippi State and Florida state basically have to win out to secure their spot. One loss by either the Bulldogs or the Seminoles will most likely knock them out of the top 4, unless Mississippi State handles Alabama well on Saturday.

The Top three control their own destiny, and are locked in until and if they lose. The fourth team is a big question mark. If TCU loses, Alabama takes over. If Alabama and TCU lose, Arizona State probably takes over. If Arizona State loses as well, it should be Baylor or Ohio State, although both don’t have strong non-conference schedules.

There is still a lot of football left to play, and still have the conference championship games which we know are very important to the Committee. For instance, if Alabama beats Mississippi State and Auburn, but loses the SEC championship, they will be out of the Playoff. Tha can be said for any team trying to crack their way into the Playoff bracket.

Of course in the next four weeks anything can happen. We are less than a month from the Inaugural Playoff Selection show, and it couldn’t be more exciting. So many teams are still alive, and so many teams have huge games in the next weeks that will either make or break their seasons. TCU and Oregon have favorable match-ups to end the year leading up to the conference championship games. Alabama and Mississippi State have a little tougher road down the stretch, and Florida State has had a pretty easy path all year long, thanks to being a member of the ACC.

With each week that goes by, more and more teams will reveal their true identity, and either solidify their Playoff hopes, or watch their Playoff dreams fade off into the distance. The Committee so far has done an excellent job with the rankings and don’t seem to be going through any growing pains whatsoever.

Yes, this is all so crazy. This is all way more exciting than the BCS was and each set of rankings reveals answers and also brings up more questions. The BCS system is a laughing matter now, and we can’t help but think what would’ve happened had the Playoff been instituted earlier. The excitement is unreal, and the importance of these big games is so huge.

This might just be the best thing to ever happen to College Football.

Who misses the BCS system?
Who misses the BCS system?

 

 

A Decade of Terps’ Blackout Games

Maryland will host the 12th ranked Spartans of Michigan State this Saturday at Byrd Stadium, in what will be the newest installment of the traditional “blackout” game. Maryland was one of the first schools to introduce the idea, and the concept has become well-known throughout college football over the last decade. The athletic department promotes one game a year, usually a game of particular importance or one against a nationally ranked opponent, as a “blackout” game. The football team dons all-black uniforms, the crowd is encouraged to wear black and the game is typically played at night.

I decided to take a look back at the tradition and how the Terps fared in each contest. Unfortunately, history is not in Maryland’s favor for this Saturday’s matchup with one of the Big Ten’s elite. In nine blackout games since 2005, the Terps have come away victorious just once, the lone win coming against an injury-plagued Florida State team in 2006.

While it’s probably best to ignore the 1-8 record, it was still quite interesting remembering a decade of Terps football and recalling special performances and players for both the Terps and their opponents. Without further ado, here is a look back at the history of blackout games at Byrd Stadium:

2005

The 2005 season presented the first blackout game in College Park. Student groups actively pushed the idea to have everyone in attendance for the matchup against No. 3 Virginia Tech to wear all black for the Thursday night primetime game. The concept was not entirely accepted with open arms by students and alum alike, but the idea generated enough support to eventually come to fruition. The Terps, led by quarterback Sam Hollenbach, kept the game close for the first two quarters as they trailed just 7-3 heading into the half. But Virginia Tech and quarterback Marcus Vick, younger brother of Michael, found their stride in the second half. Final score: Hokies 28, Terps 9.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Sam Hollenbach (158 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
  • VA Tech: Marcus Vick (211 yards, 3 INT)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Lance Ball (15 carries, 75 yards)
  • VA Tech: Marcus Vick (16 carries, 133 yards, 1 TD); Mike Imoh (18 carries, 86 yards, 2 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Derrick Fenner (3 rec, 63 yards, 1 TD); Vernon Davis (4 rec, 48 yards)
  • VA Tech: David Clowney (3 rec, 76 yards); Josh Morgan (3 rec, 63 yards); Eddie Royal (3 rec, 33 yards)

2006

Maryland’s second annual “Blackout Byrd” game was nothing short of one for the ages. The Terps faced the Seminoles of Florida State and pulled out a win despite accumulating a mere 37 total yards in the entire second half. Terrapin quarterback Sam Hollenbach tossed three touchdowns and Maryland blocked a Florida State field goal attempt with under a minute to go that could have tied the game. FSU starting QB Drew Weatherford missed the game due to an ankle injury but his replacement, Xavier Lee, performed well. FSU leading receiver De’Cody Fagg also missed the game with an ankle injury. Maryland students rushed the field as the final seconds ticked off the clock of a 27-24 Terps victory.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Sam Hollenbach (131 yards, 3 TD)
  • FSU: Xavier Lee (286 yards, 2 TD)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Keon Lattimore (10 carries, 43 yards)
  • FSU: Antone Smith (14 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Darrius Heyward-Bey (3 rec, 57 yards, 2 TD)
  • FSU: Chris Davis (8 rec, 132 yards, 1 TD)

2007

After purchasing the naming rights to Maryland’s Byrd Stadium in 2006, Chevy Chase Bank worked with the university’s athletic department to provide free black t-shirts to the first 5,000 students attending the Terps’ home matchup with No. 4 West Virginia. Unfortunately, the Terps’ run defense couldn’t contain the talented Mountaineer rushing attack led by Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. Slaton finished the game with three touchdowns and 137 rushing yards, and Devine added 136 yards on just five carries. Maryland’s offense couldn’t get much going either, and the Mountaineers defeated the Terps by a final score of 31-14.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Jordan Steffy (180 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
  • WVU: Pat White (95 yards)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Keon Lattimore (21 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD)
  • WVU: Steve Slaton (26 carries, 137 yards, 3 TD); Noel Devine (5 carries, 136 yards)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Darrius Heyward-Bey (3 rec, 56 yards); Danny Oquendo (3 rec, 55 yards, 1 TD)
  • WVU: Darius Reynaud (4 rec, 55 yards)

2008

The Terps didn’t fare quite as well against Florida State for this home blackout game as they did in 2006. No. 25 Maryland was crushed by the unranked Seminoles for the Terps’ first home loss of the year (previously 6-0 at home). Maryland didn’t get on the board until the third quarter, when Obi Egekeze kicked a 34-yard field goal for the Terps’ lone score of the night. Maryland committed four turnovers, and the Seminoles came away with an easy 37-3 win.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Chris Turner (149 yards, 2 INT)
  • FSU: Christian Ponder (143 yards, 1 TD)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Da’Rel Scott (12 carries, 82 yards)
  • FSU: Christian Ponder (14 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD); Antone Smith (13 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Dan Gronkowski (4 rec, 46 yards)
  • FSU: Preston Parker (8 rec, 67 yards, 1 TD)

2009

The 2009 blackout game at Byrd Stadium marked the first time that the game was not played at night under the lights. The 21st ranked Hokies picked apart the Maryland defense en route to a 36-9 victory. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, now in his fourth year as Joe Flacco’s backup for the Baltimore Ravens, had a career day. VT racked up 289 yards in the first half and 484 by the final whistle. The Terps donned black, camouflage-patterned uniforms as a tribute to Army veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project. The loss was the Terps’ eighth in a woeful 2-10 season.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Jamarr Robinson (104 yards)
  • VA Tech: Tyrod Taylor (268 yards, 3 TD)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Jamarr Robinson (24 carries, 129 yards)
  • VA Tech: Ryan Williams (23 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Torrey Smith (4 rec, 55 yards)
  • VA Tech: Jarrett Boykin (3 rec, 118 yards, 1 TD)

2010

Maryland hosted Florida State for their 2010 blackout game, marking the third time in six years the athletic department chose the Terps’ matchup with the Seminoles for the annual blackout game. Maryland, 7-3 at the time, found themselves down 23-16 with less than a minute to go in the game. But a pass from freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien in the red zone was intercepted by the Seminoles and returned 90 yards to seal the victory for FSU. Maryland had committed just eight turnovers through ten games, but three fourth-quarter turnovers doomed the Terps in this one. Final score: FSU 30, Terps 16.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Danny O’Brien (269 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
  • FSU: Christian Ponder (170 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Da’Rel Scott (10 carries, 87 yards); Davin Meggett (11 carries, 72 yards)
  • FSU: Chris Thompson (8 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Torrey Smith (7 rec, 69 yards); Will Yeatman (5 rec, 47 yards, 1 TD)
  • FSU: Bert Reed (6 rec, 93 yards, 1 TD)

2011

In 2011, current head coach Randy Edsall’s first year with the team, the athletic department unveiled new football uniforms. While the team seemed to wear a different, unique combination of red, black, and gold each week, the 2011 season did not include a traditional “blackout game.” In the second game of the season, Maryland faced #18 West Virginia and wore all-black uniforms. The game was not promoted as a blackout game, the crowd was not encouraged to wear black Terps gear, and the game was played during the day. The Mountaineers, led by quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin, held on for a 37-31 win despite a furious Maryland comeback. Although not a traditional blackout game, for the sake of uniformity (no pun intended), here’s some game footage and offensive statistics:

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Danny O’Brien (289 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT)
  • WVU: Geno Smith (388 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Davin Meggett (19 carries, 113 yards, 1 TD); D.J. Adams (12 carries, 64 yards, 2 TD)
  • WVU: Andrew Buie (7 carries, 51 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Kevin Dorsey (9 rec, 79 yards, 1 TD); Matt Furstenburg (7 rec, 70 yards)
  • WVU: Tavon Austin (11 rec, 122 yards); Stedman Bailey (8 rec, 113, 1 TD)

2012

Maryland unveiled a new “Black Ops” uniform for its annual blackout home game against, you guessed it, Florida State. The 2012 season was a particularly memorable one for Terps fans, but certainly not for the right reasons. Quarterback Danny O’Brien transferred before the start of the season, and four Terrapin quarterbacks fell to season-ending injuries over the next several weeks. This paved the way for a freshman linebacker, Shawn Petty, to finish out the season under center. The 10th ranked Seminoles had their way with the quarterbackless Terps en route to a 41-14 win. Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel contributed 144 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns, and FSU as a team accumulated 237 rushing yards.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: Shawn Petty (136 yards, 2 TD)
  • FSU: E.J. Manuel (144 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Brandon Ross (11 carries, 30 yards)
  • FSU: Devonta Freeman (16 carries, 148 yards, 2 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Kevin Dorsey (2 rec, 75 yards, 2 TD); Stefon Diggs (3 rec, 45 yards)
  • FSU: Rashad Greene (4 rec, 50 yards, 1 TD); Nick O’Leary (3 rec, 46 yards, 1 TD)

2013

In last season’s blackout game, the Terps squared off against Syracuse in College Park and unveiled black “Maryland Pride” uniforms. The Terps needed a sixth win to become bowl eligible, but would have to wait at least one more week. Maryland committed five turnovers in the game, including three on their last three possessions of the first half. The Terrapin offense picked up where it left off on its first possession of the second half, as a fumbled snap from center led to another turnover and a Syracuse field goal. The Orange scored a late touchdown to seal the 20-3 victory in a sloppy, low-scoring affair.

Game Leaders:

Passing:

  • Terps: C.J. Brown (211 yards, 2 INT)
  • SYR: Terrel Hunt (140 yards, 1 INT)

Rushing:

  • Terps: Brandon Ross (15 carries, 54 yards)
  • SYR: Jerome Smith (28 carries, 118 yards, 2 TD)

Receiving:

  • Terps: Amba Etta-Tawo (6 rec, 109 yards)
  • SYR: Brisly Estime (4 rec, 40 yards); Jarrod West (3 rec, 42 yards)

2014

Twelfth-ranked Michigan State is coming off a loss to Ohio State, a game in which the Spartans allowed OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett to have a career night. Barrett threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 86 yards and another two scores. The Spartans still boast a 7-2 overall record and are arguably the second-best team in the Big Ten after the loss to the Buckeyes.

Maryland is coming off a bye week, but clinched bowl eligibility the week before by defeating Penn State in a sloppy, but thrilling road victory. The Terps will be without their top offensive performer of 2014, as receiver Stefon Diggs was suspended for his antics stemming from a pregame scuffle and the infamous handshake snub before kickoff of the game in Happy Valley. It has been reported that Diggs will in fact miss the remainder of the regular season with a lacerated kidney, an injury he sustained trying to stretch the ball across the goal line during the Terps’ 20-19 victory over the Nittany Lions.

The Spartans are the highest-ranked opponent Maryland has faced this season. Unfortunately for the Terps, history has a strong chance of repeating itself this Saturday unless the defense can contain Michigan State’s talented duo of quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford. Maryland receivers Deon Long, Marcus Leak and Amba Etta-Tawo will need to somehow fill the void left by Diggs’ absence, and quarterback C.J. Brown must find some semblance of an offensive rhythm for Maryland to stand a chance against one of the better college football teams in the nation.