I should explain. For those who know me and this piece, hi again! It’s been a while. For those who don’t know me and this piece, I’m Brian. I’ve been here since 2012, and this piece was a mainstay for years in various iterations.
Then COVID happened. Life happened. Other work happened. Everything happened. I’ve still been here, just more on the news reporting side than the weekly hundreds-of-words-of-foolishness side. I’ve honestly been trying to come up with a way to make this all fresh again — reboot it, if you will — and still don’t know that I’ve landed on anything. If you have ideas, please share them in the comments. In the meantime, on to the latest iteration. Thanks for reading this far.
Let’s take a spin around the college landscape, looking at some of the highs and lows of late. We’ll call it — for now — Props and Drops.
- Them Dukes: Sunday marked yet another milestone in a season loaded with them for first-year FBS program James Madison. The Dukes earned their first-ever Top 25 appearance this week, riding the strength of an undefeated start. Curt Cignetti’s charges continue to impress, and should be either favored or within striking distance in just about every outing remaining on their slate. Vegas will likely install JMU as a road dog at Louisville when they travel there on Nov. 5, but this is just because of the conference in which the Cardinals play. The Dukes are for real. There is a season finale with Coastal Carolina looming in Harrisonburg, though…
- Elon-gated success: Don’t look now, but Curt Cignetti’s former school is also making moves. Elon is now No. 14/18 in the FCS polls off a 17-point home victory against Towson, and the Phoenix look to be in good shape for just their fourth playoff appearance since joining the FCS and first since 2018. Tony Trisciani’s club has just one more matchup against a currently-ranked foe — Saturday at No. 25/22 Rhode Island, against whom the Phoenix have lost just once in five meetings — and would be in the driver’s seat for a CAA crown with a win in Kingston and another the following week at current top dog New Hampshire.
- Uphill: Weber State is sixth in the land in both FCS polls, off to a 5-0 (2-0 Big Sky) start. The Wildcats haven’t started 5-0 in 24 years, and haven’t ever started 6-0. A win at Portland State Saturday would turn that trick for the boys from Ogden. Weber State has to run the Montana gauntlet over the two ensuing weeks (at Montana State, home for Montana), but if they can get to 8-0, they’ll have No. 6 Sacramento State and Idaho State at home before closing the slate at Northern Arizona. This is a tall — but not insurmountable — task in the always-loaded Big Sky. The usual names are being thrown about for FBS openings at Colorado, Nebraska, and the like, but Jay Hill should be getting calls. He’s young — for the coaching business — a great leader, and a proven winner.
- I-L-L: Though the method by which they achieved it — a 9-6 rock fight of a win over Iowa — was not the stuff of legend, Illinois has finally joined Syracuse in emerging from college football purgatory. Ironically, Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito is at the controls for the Fighting Illini, registering the fifth-highest completion percentage (68.9) among Big Ten passers. The Illini are back in the Top 25 for the first time in nearly 11 years, and are atop the Big Ten’s West Division. Illinois has been to just two bowl games — both losses — since the end of that 2011 campaign, but should be a near-lock to receive a postseason destination on the Sunday following the season.
- Gone blue: Just a couple of weeks ago, someone whose work you are now reading was heavily chided by a beat writer for “spewing negativity” on the occasion of “the biggest win in program history” for Middle Tennessee. Negative though I may have been, I know this program’s history, just as I do that of Virginia. I’m an alum of one and a fan of another, and I know that pain is lurking around every corner.
Welp, fast-forward two weeks, and the Blue Raiders have gotten clobbered in back-to-back C-USA tilts, surrendering 86 combined points. Middle now shuffles into 100 Miles of Hate week against its biggest rival, Western Kentucky, and Rick Stockstill’s Raiders have dropped the last three against the Hilltoppers. Another loss here would put the Raiders under .500 just three weeks after a supposed “program-altering” win at Miami. Little respite from the freefall looms on the horizon, with long road treks to UTEP and Louisiana Tech up next before equally-lost Charlotte heads to the ‘Boro. Oh, and about that win…
- Coastal clutter: This is an evergreen topic, but man, is the ACC Coastal a dumpster fire. Carolina leads the circuit at 2-0 (5-1), but a mess lurks behind the Heels. Georgia Tech fired its coach — finally — then proceeded to win its next two games and probably find the guy who should have been leading the Jackets to begin with. Everyone else rests in this miasma, with nearly all having been ranked at some point before a dumb loss kneecapped them. The Commonwealth Clash looks to be as irrelevant as it may have ever been when it rolls around in late November. It may be more about who survives than who wins.
- Oof: There’s not much more to be said about Oklahoma that wasn’t said in Texas’ thorough trouncing of the Sooners in the Red River Shutout on Saturday, following the whooping TCU dished out the week prior. The Sooners may be okay before we know it, but a defense-first coach sporting a unit that allowed 104 combined points in two games should set off every alarm bell imaginable. Oklahoma’s not much better on offense, ranking eighth of ten Big 12 schools in total offense. Brent Venables had a fiery message for anyone looking to jump ship, but that ship may already be aground.
What I’m Watching
(Note: All lines provided are for entertainment purposes only. Under no circumstance should their inclusion be considered as gambling advice or recommended plays. All times Eastern.)
#19 Kansas (5-1) at Oklahoma (3-3, -9), noon, ESPN2
#10 Penn State (5-0) at #5 Michigan (6-0, -7), noon, FOX
#14/18 Elon (5-1) at Rhode Island (3-2), 1:00, FloSports
#3 Alabama (6-0, -7) at #6 Tennessee (5-0), 3:30, CBS
Western Kentucky (3-3, -8) at Middle Tennessee (3-3), 3:30, ESPN+
#4 Clemson (6-0, -3.5) at Florida State (4-2), 7:30, ABC
North Carolina (5-1, -7) at Duke (4-2), 8:00, ACCN
See? It’s as if The Sixer never left. (Man, does that bring back memories…)
I’m not sure how often this feature will return, but it’s good to knock off the dust a little. As I mentioned up top, please share any suggestions, takes, or whatever you’d like in the comments.
Until we meet again…
What about my 4-2 Eastern Michigan Hurons? Whoops, Eagles.
Big win versus Arizona State
Arizona State beats Washington
Washington beats Michigan State. Who woulda thunk it? After the ASU game EMU does its regular swoon after a big win and loses to 0-3 Buffalo. Give Buffalo credit, they’re 3-3 now, 3-0 in the MAC.
And EMU over Western Michigan four years in a row — first time that’s ever happened.
State of Michigan D 1 rankings
2. Eastern Michigan
3. Michigan State
4. Central Michigan
5. Western Michigan
Brian, I enjoyed your column. Nice read!!