Clear Your Schedule 2016 | Week 6

By Brian Wilmer -

I know this is a space for college football conversation, and I’m fine with that, but I hope you’ll indulge me in one final goodbye to one of the most important figures sport — or this world — will ever know.

Vin Scully was for me, as likely most of you, the soundtrack of my youth. From calling weekly games on NBC to being the eternal voice of Dodger broadcasts, I was one of three or four generations who so loved this humble man, and I’ll always remember watching baseball with my grandfather, my dad, or both, and hearing Vin’s voice. There are so many voices that made me so love sport — Pete Van Wieren, Skip Caray, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, and now Vin, to name a few — that have gone silent, either through passing or through richly-earned retirement.

Thank you, Vin. For everything. (Also, try watching this — and what he said after it — without tearing up. I dare you. Even if you’re a man of (mumble) years old, like I.)

We can’t really top that, so let’s just move on to trivia. Oh, and if you’d like to make your picks and haven’t done so already, join us at this link.

Trivia, Week 6 (answer at the end of the column): Vin Scully’s first-ever play-by-play call actually came behind the microphone of a college football game. Which game did he call, and when did he call it?

Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)

#6 Houston (5-0, 2-0 AAC) at Navy (3-1, 2-0 AAC)
3:00pm | CBSSN

  • No room to run: The Cougars have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game among FBS teams, surrendering just 42 yards per contest. It might be easy to explain this away by criticizing Houston’s schedule or mentioning that they are usually far ahead in games, but a closer look reveals a slightly different story. The Cougars’ opponents are remarkably consistent in both their rushing attempts (26, 28, 25, 23, 27) and success — or lack thereof. The highest rush total allowed by Houston this year was 70 yards — on 26 tries — in a 33-23 victory over Oklahoma in Week 1. Houston has held seven straight teams to fewer than 100 yards rushing.
  • On the other hand: Navy is known for being a skilled rushing team under Ken Niumatololo, and that has certainly not changed. The Middies are 14th-best in the FBS in rushing, tallying 251-and-a-half yards per game. Navy’s lowest rushing output — by far — of the season came in a 28-14 loss at Air Force last weekend, in which they carried 38 times for just 57 yards, despite two scores. That snapped a string of 39 consecutive games in which they had rushed for 100 yards or greater, last falling short of the mark on September 28, 2013, when they fell, 19-7, at Western Kentucky.
  • Flags fly forever: Navy’s maiden voyage into the AAC in 2015 was quite the successful journey. The Midshipmen fell just once last year — 52-31, to Houston — in sharing a West Division title with the Cougars. Navy then secured a 44-28 victory over Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl, with Houston closing out the year by claiming a two-score victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. A win by Navy here would not only flip last year’s script, it would also give the Middies a leg up in league play. The only three remaining road trips left for Navy are at East Carolina, South Florida and SMU.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: If Navy can run and control the clock, this could be a classic. They can’t afford to need to throw, though –they’re 121st in the FBS in passing.

Toledo (3-1) at Eastern Michigan (4-1, 1-0 MAC)
3:00pm | ESPN3

  • Do I know you?: Eastern Michigan has won three in a row — the first time that’s happened since they consecutively beat UNLV, Ohio, and Central Michigan between September 16 and October 7, 1995. Former NFL quarterback Charlie Batch led that Eagle squad, completing 244-of-421 passes for 3177 yards and 21 touchdowns, against 17 picks. Eastern Michigan’s sports information department also notes that the Eagles received a vote in this week’s Amway Coaches Poll, which is the first vote they have received in a national poll in 29 years. Jim Harlema’s 1987 squad — then nicknamed the Hurons — went 10-2 that year, won the MAC with a 7-1 record, and took down San Jose State, 30-27, in the California Bowl.
  • Rewriting history: Eastern Michigan’s decline as a program relatively closely mirrors their decline against the Rockets. EMU has beaten Toledo just once since the century turned, a 17-13 decision in 2006. The Hurons/Eagles have won just 11 times in 43 lifetime outings against the Rockets, with their most successful decade coming in the 1970s. Eastern took three of five contests from Toledo during that decade.
  • We have liftoff: Toledo possesses the sixth-best passing attack among FBS teams, throwing for 376.5 yards per games and 17 scores, against just three picks. Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside has been at the controls for the early-season success. The junior and Kentucky native has completed 81-of-120 passes for 1444 yards on the year, with 16 of those 17 scores. Woodside was 30-for-38 in a 55-53 loss to BYU last week, throwing for 505 yards and five scores. That contest marked his second this year in which he completed over 70 percent of his passing attempts.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Even if Toledo gets the win here — which they should — the real takeaway here is that EMU is again quite relevant in the MAC.

#25 Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC) at #17 North Carolina (4-1, 2-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)

  • Tru Blue: North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been an essential element to the Tar Heels’ hot start, earning numerous national accolades. The junior from Ohio has even been mentioned by a television station in Charlotte as a possible Heisman candidate. Whether or not one believes that last lofty status, the numbers are certainly impressive. Trubisky has thrown for 13 scores without being picked, continuing a string of 240 passes without an interception, and leads the nation in completion percentage (76 percent). His quarterback efficiency rating (182.65) is also sixth-best in the land, with Toledo’s Logan Woodside, whom we previously referenced, leading at 207.58.
  • Not so fast, my friend: Tech’s revitalized pass defense will have something to say about Trubisky’s success — or lack thereof — on Saturday. The Hokies have allowed the second-fewest completed passes (45) in FBS football, and their 150.8 passing yards surrendered per game is tenth-best. Three consecutive teams had thrown for fewer than 100 yards against Virginia Tech prior to East Carolina’s 362 last week. That large number, however, came in a 54-17 loss by the Pirates.
  • Not again: You may recall that North Carolina’s 30-27 victory over Tech last season earned Larry Fedora’s club the Coastal Division crown. The Heels have never beaten Tech in consecutive years as ACC foes, and have not claimed victories over the Hokies in back-to-back years since 7-0 and 13-6 decisions in 1938 and 1939. Tech has won 20 of the 38 contests between the two. A string-breaking win by Carolina here would nicely set them up for a run at a repeat — assuming, of course, they can get past Miami on the road next week.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Tech is ahead of schedule, according to most pundits, and they’ll hope to catch Carolina on its “heels” after last week’s thriller at FSU.

#9 Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at #8 Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
3:30pm | CBS

  • Strange bedfellows: Tennessee has drawn some criticism — fairly or unfairly — from fans about having utilized smoke and mirrors for their hot start. Despite last week’s Hail Mary toss to defeat Georgia, the Vols still find themselves just 87th among FBS clubs in passing offense (207 yards per game). Coincidentally, the Vols find themselves matched against an A&M pass defense that is — wait for it — 87th among FBS clubs (253.4 yards per game). The Vols have thrown for greater than 230 yards in a game just once in the last nine (their win over Florida two weeks ago).
  • You’re grounded: Tennessee’s somewhat pedestrian run defense will get quite the test from the Aggies in this contest. A&M ranks 13th among FBS clubs in rushing, averaging nearly 259 yards per game. The Aggies’ Trayveon Williams finished just two yards shy against Auburn of three consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts, and his 97.4 yards per game is good for fifth-best among SEC rushers. A&M quarterback Trevor Knight is 11th, tallying 78.4 per contest. Three of Tennessee’s five opponents this season have rushed for 180 yards or greater as a team.
  • Significant streaks: We’ve talked about Tennessee’s 11 consecutive victories a few times in this space, but the Vols could pull off another rather impressive streak with a victory at Kyle Field Saturday. The last time the Vols defeated three straight ranked opponents came 25 years ago, when they beat 21st-ranked UCLA, 23rd-ranked Mississippi State and 13th-ranked Auburn — all in Neyland Stadium — en route to a 9-3 (5-2 SEC) season.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Tennessee possesses the somewhat inexplicable stat of being 3-0 in games where they’ve trailed by 14 or more. Don’t look for that to repeat.

#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at #16 Arkansas (4-1, 0-1 SEC)
7:00pm | ESPN

  • Hurts so good: Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has made quite the splash in Tuscaloosa — so much so, in fact, that fellow freshman Blake Barnett recently announced his decision to transfer. The writing clearly had to be on the wall, however, as Hurts ranks fifth among SEC players in total offense (253 yards per game), and is one of just two freshmen (Georgia’s Jacob Eason the other) in the top ten. Hurts’ only pick came in the season-opener against USC, and he has thrown for seven scores.
  • What gives?: Alabama’s usual stout pass defense has been the order of the day again this year, as the Tide have surrendered just four touchdowns — three in one game — through the air. Aside from that one game, their 48-43 victory over Ole Miss, no team has thrown for greater than 216 yards or a single score against them this season. Arkansas’ Austin Allen, conversely, has thrown for at least two scores in all five games this year, eclipsing the 206-yard mark in each game but the first, a win over Louisiana Tech.
  • Topping the charts: Alabama’s sports information department notes that the Tide have played a mind-boggling 41 games as the nation’s top-ranked team under Nick Saban, and have lost just five. Arkansas has played the nation’s number one team 21 times in school history, with eight of those coming in Fayetteville. The last Razorback defeat of a team atop the polls to take place at home was a 42-11 thrashing of Texas on October 17, 1981. The most recent Arkansas defeat of a number-one squad came in one of the craziest installments of the Battle for the Boot in 2007, a 50-48, three-overtime victory. LSU quarterback Matt Flynn was picked off on the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game and made necessary a fourth overtime. Razorback coach Houston Nutt would resign just three days after that game.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Bret Bielema has restored the Razorbacks’ winning ways. It will take total dominance from Arkansas’ high-octane offense to win here, though.

#22 Florida State (3-2, 0-2 ACC) at #10 Miami, FL (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
8:00pm | ABC

  • Nearing a milestone: A win Saturday night would give former FSU assistant Mark Richt his 150th win as a head coach, at the expense of his former employer. However, he has a couple of factors working against him. Miami has lost its last six against Florida State, and has not beaten the Seminoles in Miami (or its vicinity) in 12 years. Also, the ‘Canes have never beaten Florida State in the home they now share with the Miami Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium. The last two games played there were decided by a total of 11 points.
  • Cook’s in the kitchen: Florida State may be struggling a bit out of the gate to begin the 2016 ACC slate, but none of that can be laid at the feet of Dalvin Cook. The junior star has found pay dirt seven times, and averages 127 rushing yards per outing. Cook has gone for 407 yards and five scores in his last two games, including a 140-yard, three-touchdown effort against North Carolina this past Saturday. Cook, as you’ll recall, went for 222 and three scores against the ‘Canes in his squad’s defeat of Miami in Doak Campbell. Miami has shown some improvement in defending the run, ranking 27th among FBS squads. Cook will give them a second-straight workout, though, after they surrendered 267 rushing yards to Georgia Tech last week.
  • Home sweet home: Miami will take the field in their home stadium for the first time in nearly a month Saturday night. The two-game, three-week stint away from Miami Gardens proved fruitful for the ‘Canes, as they clobbered Appalachian State and defeated Georgia Tech on the road. Miami is 2-0 in Hard Rock Stadium this year, and last suffered a home loss last October 24th, a 58-0 drubbing by Clemson that led to Al Golden’s dismissal.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: This is Miami’s chance to make a national statement and leapfrog their in-state rival in doing so. Don’t look for FSU to roll over, though.

Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Vin Scully’s first-ever play-by-play call actually came behind the microphone of a college football game. Which game did he call, and when did he call it?

Scully broadcast the Maryland-Boston University game in Fenway Park on November 12, 1949. Maryland won that game, 14-13.

Finally, to those of you in the path of Hurricane Matthew, please stay safe and heed the recommendations of local officials. This storm may impact a number of our readers — including me — and it is my sincere hope and prayer that we can all escape this with minimal damage and all meet back here next week to talk more college football. All my best.

Comment (1)

EMU photo, included in the text, and Ernie Howell mention – I think we’ve spotted the alum.