As most of you probably know, I am frequently found at high school football games on Friday night as part of my journalistic endeavors, and as I strode into a stadium last week to a 70-degree evening, I had someone lament to me the lack of “football weather”.
With what seems to be a permanent cloud hanging over the southeast over the last couple of days, and the persistent spitting rain and annoying cold I moved here to avoid, I ask you all: is this “football weather”? If so, maybe I need to reevaluate my career choices.
Lest I say anything further about the weather, let’s look back at the games we covered in this space last week, shall we?
Michigan State 27, Penn State 24
Clemson 38, NC State 31
Oklahoma 62, Oklahoma State 52
UCF 31, SMU 24
Miami (FL) 28, Virginia Tech 10
Alabama 24, LSU 10
We’ll get on to this week’s games — with a theme, this week! — and our trivia question. As always, there are three games on the podcast — just click the play button below you — and three more written previews. Enjoy, enjoyers!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#20 NC State (6-3, 4-1 ACC) at Boston College (5-4, 3-3 ACC)
Noon | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
Boston College bowl appearances: 25
Most recent bowl appearance: 2016 Quick Lane Bowl (defeated Maryland, 36-30)
- On the right track: Boston College is trying for its fourth straight ACC win for the first time in seven years (eight seasons) against the Wolfpack on Saturday. Further, BC’s sports information department shares that Steve Addazio would be the first coach in the program’s history to lead the team to four bowls in his first five seasons. BC first participated in a bowl game in 1940. Clemson clipped the Eagles, 6-3, in the 1940 Cotton Bowl.
- Save the date: Speaking of seven years and eight seasons ago, this was also the last time the Wolfpack won five games in the ACC. Tom O’Brien’s 2010 club went 9-4 (5-3 ACC) that year, knocking off West Virginia, 23-7, in the Champs Sports Bowl. O’Brien, coincidentally enough, won five ACC games in his only two seasons in Chestnut Hill in which the Eagles were part of the league. Dave Doeren’s 2017 Wolfpack have accounted for four of the 13 league wins he has accumulated in four-plus seasons in Raleigh.
- By land and by air: These teams have their own methods of offensive success of late. Boston College finds itself fourth in the ACC in rushing yards at nearly 200 per game, but they are really stepping up the ground game. The Eagles are averaging just shy of 281 rushing yards per game over the last three, with nine rushing touchdowns having been accumulated during that period. NC State, meanwhile, is fourth in the league in passing at nearly 287 yards per game, with 338 yards coming through the air in last week’s loss against Clemson. NC State has passed 30 or more times in all but one game this year, a 14-for-25 performance in a win over Pittsburgh. Conversely, BC has rushed 33 times or greater in every game, including four games in which they recorded over 50 attempts. The Eagles ran 55 times for 241 yards and three scores in last week’s drubbing of Florida State.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: BC has played the nation’s second-toughest schedule. An upset here would be a huge bonus before UConn and Syracuse close their season.
Wake Forest (5-4, 2-3 ACC) at Syracuse (4-5. 2-3 ACC)
3:00pm | ACC Network/RSN
Wake Forest bowl appearances: 11
Most recent bowl appearance: 2016 Military Bowl (defeated Temple, 34-26)
- There’s no place like dome: These teams have only played six times, with three of them coming in Syracuse’s Carrier Dome. The Orange emerged victorious in all of those contests, with the most recent two coming by 13 points apiece. The Deacs drew a bit closer in the first visit, a 36-29 Syracuse win in 2011. Dino Babers’ club is 4-1 at the home this year, with its only loss a 30-23 decision to Middle Tennessee just over two months ago. Syracuse was 2-4 in the Dome in Babers’ first year, defeating only Colgate and Virginia Tech.
- There’s no “D” in “offense”: Wake Forest has been surprisingly prolific on offense this year, including, as Wake’s sports information department points out, three 500-plus yard offensive outputs for the first time in 31 years. The Deacs’ 445 yards per game on offense are good for fifth in the league, and Wake has amassed over 1200 yards of offense in its last two games. The flip side to that is that Wake’s defense ranks 12th in the league, surrendering just over 418 yards per game, and just over 489 yards per contest to conference foes. The Deacs gave up 453 yards in a loss to Clemson four weeks ago, and have gotten progressively worse since. Notre Dame hung a blinding 710 yards on Wake in a 48-37 victory last week.
- There is a “D” in…”Syracuse”?: Speaking of defense, the Orange’s sports information department informs us that Syracuse has the sixth-best turnaround in scoring defense among FBS teams. Syracuse opponents are scoring just shy of 25 points per game this year, versus just over 38-and-a-half last season. Four Syracuse opponents scored 50 points or greater last year, including Pittsburgh’s 76 in its still-ridiculous, 76-61, victory to close last season. ACC foes are scoring just 27 points per game against the ‘Cuse, with no Syracuse opponent all year outscoring LSU’s 35 points in a 35-26 victory in Baton Rouge in September.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Orange could not only (temporarily) squash Wake’s bowl hopes, but draw a game closer to a bowl bid of their own. They’ll need that defense to do so.
Western Kentucky (5-4, 3-2 CUSA) at Marshall (6-3, 3-2 CUSA)
6:30pm | beIN
Western Kentucky bowl appearances: 4 (since 2009 transition to FBS)
Most recent bowl appearance: 2016 Boca Raton Bowl (defeated Memphis, 51-31)
- Three ‘Toppers topping: Western Kentucky and Marshall have faced off just three times since becoming part of FBS. All three games have resulted in Western Kentucky victories, with a still-hilarious 67-66, overtime victory starting the series in 2014. The Hilltoppers won by 21 in 2015, then boat raced the Herd in a 60-6 victory last season. Marshall defeated Western, 37-3, in its 1996 I-AA national championship season. The prior meetings between the two all took place between 1941 and 1951, with Marshall winning three of those four contests.
- Pass it on: Western Kentucky may have lost coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue this past offseason, but the aerial attack for which the ‘Toppers became famous stayed in Bowling Green with new coach Mike Sanford. Western is 15th in the nation in passing offense, tossing the pigskin for 314.4 yards per game. Sanford’s club throws for nearly 331 yards per game in C-USA play, including over 1,500 yards (393.75 per contest) over its last four. Marshall’s pass defense ranks 34th in the land (fifth in C-USA) at 197.3 yards per tilt. No opponent has thrown for greater than 220 yards against the Herd since NC State threw for 341 on September 9.
- Points aplenty: Marshall has won 31 of the last 34 games in which it has scored 30 points or greater (one of those losses, naturally, coming in that aforementioned 67-66 contest with WKU). Western Kentucky’s fourth-best scoring defense’s average of 23.7 points per game masks the fact that the Toppers have surrendered 30 points or greater in three straight contests (31 to Old Dominion, 42 to Florida Atlantic and 31 more to Vanderbilt). Marshall, meanwhile, had a three-game string of 30 or greater snapped last week, falling 30-25 to FAU.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Both teams have had inconsistent years, on many fronts. If they can put it all together Saturday, this one should be outstanding.
Music break!: As we head back in time to 1992 again this week, Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” finally reached its…no, not even I can stoop that low to make that pun…anyway. The song that replaced it was a) done by a fictional band that b) came from a TV show and c) had said TV show canceled later that same month after the song spent two weeks atop the chart. You’ve probably never heard of this band before, and its lead singer, Jamie Walters, had exactly one hit as a solo artist, but hey…enjoy The Heights!
Until next week, follow me on Twitter by clicking that handy little blue button below you, will ya?
WKU and Marshall are in Conference USA, not the SunBelt…..so when can we see the breakdown on the SunBelt “close but no cigar” bowl teams? Thanks!
Another outstanding piece,my boy.You are blessed with talent,both written,and spoken.