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When teams from the Big Ten and SEC need to pad their win total, someone has to take the fall. Not surprisingly, given the predilection for starting the season against Directional Creampuffs, many schools outside the Big Six conferences have had a tough start to the season. But even among some of the traditional powers, some surprising names enter Week Three still seeking a win.
Looking at the little guys, we feel some sympathy for the likes of Arkansas State (0-2), Western Kentucky (0-2) and North Texas (0-2) in the Sun Belt. Many in the MAC have not fared much better - the conference has only one team (Temple) at 2-0 - while Akron (0-2), Bowling Green (0-2) and Eastern Michigan (0-2) have suffered at the hands of bigger programs with at least one more week to go before the end of Creampuff season.
The first two weeks have not been kind to teams along the fringes of the major conferences either. Conference USA standings show three teams at 0-2 (Marshall, Memphis and UAB) and another three (Colorado State, New Mexico and UNLV) have stumbled out of the gate for the Mountain West. In the WAC, only San Jose State (0-2) sits at the bottom of the standings awaiting the first W of the young season.
Headed in the Wrong Direction
Not to be left out, a few big-name programs fell on their face in Week One and followed up with another loss last Saturday. While only two teams (#13 Virginia Tech and UCLA) have fallen to 0-2, both are notable due to the manner in which they pulled it off.
Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Amphibians
Locals in Blacksburg, VA must be checking the weather forecast for impending frog showers now that their beloved Hokies have started the season with two losses. For a team entering the season in Top Ten, Va Tech anticipated a tough road that might end in a BCS bowl, possibly even the title game. What Frank Beamer didn't know was that the road led straight off a cliff.
Virginia Tech has recorded ten or more wins each season since 2004. Yet the Hokies have also lost three or more games every year during that stretch with the exception of 2005, in which they ended the season at 11-2. Virginia Tech acquired a reputation as a BCS bridesmaid - always in the photo, but never on the altar. And while the program should be commended for scheduling tough nonconference opponents recently, results have been mixed - the school opened the past three seasons (in 2007 to LSU, 2008 to E. Carolina and 2009 to Alabama) with a loss in one of the first two games.
Given the substantial expectations the team faces each season, we should be surprised that the inevitable hangover upset didn't happen sooner. But each of the past three years, Beamer has regrouped and reeled off several wins in a row. Last Saturday, the other shoe finally dropped . . . against FCS opponent James Madison University. Final score, VT 16 - JMU 21.
In all fairness, we agree with JMU coach Mickey Matthews - the 11 players on the field decide the game, not their jerseys - but James Madison became only the second FCS (Div I-AA) team to beat a ranked FBS squad since Appalachian State stunned #5 Michigan in 2007. Upsets of this magnitude just don't happen often, for good reason.
(Maybe Virginia Tech should consider scheduling a bye week in Week Two from now on?)
Regardless, we have to commend the Dukes and senior leader Drew Dudzik. While an unknown outside of Virginia a week ago, Dudzik is a familiar name in-state: as a high school senior, he was awarded First-Team Offense honors on the '05 "All Met" team as the top quarterback in the D.C. area after leading Centreville High to 44.7 points per game. Our favorite part? Drew is a legacy - his father Mike Dudzik played QB for JMU from 1978-80. Drew, here's to you . . . and to settling every argument with your old man by tossing out, "Yeah, but you never beat Virginia Tech!"
Sliding into the Ocean
Those living in The Golden State know that earthquakes are no laughing matter. College football fans out West also realize that games between the likes of Cal, USC, Stanford and UCLA are no joke either. So when coach Jim Harbaugh led the Stanford Cardinal into the Rose Bowl to face UCLA last Saturday, football fans in California took note. After the Cardinal's stout defense blanked his Bruins 35-0, UCLA coach (who, by edict of the National Sportswriters Cliche Committee will from this point forward be referred to as "embattled") Rick Neuheisel addressed the crowd - which by that point, was all Stanford fans. If you can't watch, we understand. Coach, Dan Hawkins has a suggestion for you. Don't wait until your team goes 4-8 (which could be generous considering the remainder of UCLA's schedule), go ahead and ask for your next contract now.
On the Rails, But Not by Much
While Pitt managed a win over FCS powerhouse New Hampshire in Week Two, the Panthers still merit an honorable mention here. After starting the season at #15, Dave Wannestedt watched his team drop their opening game on the road to Utah. Despite the 38-16 win last week, star RB Dion Lewis has only amassed 102 yards rushing on 35 attempts, well short of his 5.5 average in 2009. But the challenges have not been limited to the gridiron - two Panthers were involved in an alcohol-fueled hit-and-run in the early hours on Sunday, resulting in one indefinite suspension and a demotion. Add to that the loss of DE Greg Romeus ('09 Big East co-player of the year) and Wannie will be taking some heat in Pittsburgh this season, two-year extension or no.
Looking Back at Week Two
Thursday and Friday, September 9-10
#21 Auburn 17 (-1) @ Mississippi State 14
#23 West Virginia 24 (-12.5) @ Marshall 21 (OT)
Comment: We think both victors will play better this weekend. Starville is not an easy place to win and we can't blame the Mountaineers for looking befuddled against Marshall. With Matthew McConaughey on the opposing sideline, who could possibly focus on the game?
Saturday, September 11
#18 Penn St. 3 @ #1 Alabama 24 (-14)
#12 Miami (FL) 24 @ #2 Ohio State 36 (-8.5)
Comment: The Bama score did not surprise us. Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes also failed to threaten Ohio State. Every time Miami seemed ready to seize the momentum, QB Jacory Harris threw an INT - four in all. Together, the two biggest games of the day fell flat.
Tennessee Tech 7 @ #4 TCU (n/a)
Wyoming 7 @ #5 Texas 34 (-27.5)
Idaho 17 @ #6 Nebraska 38 (-27.5)
Comment: We hope you didn't watch any of these games. Yes, even the hopelessly football-addled staff here at the CFR couldn't give a fig despite our (hypothetical) monetary interest in the Cornhuskers.
#7 Oregon 48 (-10.5) @ Tennessee 13
South Florida 14 @ #8 Florida 38 (-14.5)
Iowa State 7 @ #9 Iowa 35 (-13.5)
Comment: Despite appearances, we believe you should only entrust your shekels to one of the above teams. We will keep you in suspense as to which is which - for now.
#17 Florida State 17 @ #10 Oklahoma 47 (-7)
San Jose State 14 @ #11 Wisconsin 27 (-39)
James Madison 21 @ #13 Virginia Tech 16 (n/a)
Comment: None of these matchups turned out liked we thought . . . with the possible exception of FSU-OU, where we called the "over." The JMU-Va Tech upset shocked all of us, but the other two were also surprising - SJSU lost to Alabama in Week One by 45 points, and the third place team in the Big Ten couldn't pull away from the Spartans . . . at home? If I'm a Badger fan, I would be a little worried.
#14 Arkansas 31 (-33.5) @ Louisiana-Monroe 7 at Little Rock, AR
Comment: At last! A game that made sense. Don't mistake us for front-runners at the CFR. We like the little guys. But when a team claims to have a Heisman candidate (looking at you, Dion Lewis) on the roster, we like to hold them to high expectations. So far, QB Ryan Mallet (701 yards, 6 TDs) and the Razorbacks are delivering.
#15 Georgia Tech 25 (-14) @ Kansas 28
Comment: The ACC can't wait for conference play to start. Last weekend, ranked teams in the conference went 0-4 including this notable upset. No surprise that only West Virginia (#21) remains in the Top 25 this week.
Virginia 14 @ #16 USC 17 (-21)
#19 LSU 27 (-10.5) @ Vanderbilt 3
UNLV 10 @ #20 Utah 38 (-20.5)
Comment: Many (note: not us) picked Vandy as the "upset lock of the week," at least against the number. We suspect the Commodores may get more play as scrappy underdogs at home due to carry-over from men's hoops. Nashville is a very tough place to get a road win in SEC basketball. But on the football field, Vanderbilt's record ATS as home 'dogs since 2005 is a mediocre 6-11. Elsewhere, Utah paid off (again) while USC's pedestrian 2010 campaign continues.
#22 Georgia 6 @ #24 South Carolina 17 (-3)
Comment: We don't remember the last time a South Carolina game in Week Two factored into the SEC East race, but it just happened.
#25 Stanford 35 (-6.5) @ UCLA 0
Comment: See above, if you can stomach it.
Avast, Me Hearties! It Be Week Three on the Horizon!
In celebration of the International Talk Like a Pirate Day this weekend, we will make our picks in Pirate. Here at the Report, we like anything that gives us an excuse to speak in a funny accent.
As always, the following is for entertainment purposes only. (Including gambling.) And remember: dead men tell no tales.
For bookkeeping purposes, you can mark us down as having $100 Beachwood Doubloons on each of the following.
Thar Be Upsets!
#6 Texas @ Texas Tech (+3), 6:00PM
#9 Iowa @ #24 Arizona (+3), 9:30PM
Yo-ho-ho: The Longhorns and Hawkeyes weigh anchors this week and sail into hostile waters. Mack Brown, ol' sea dog that he is, saw the writing on the wall after losing Colt McCoy to injury in the BCS championship game last year: Texas needed a running game. (Any hope of the national title foundered when McCoy was sidelined with 10:54 remaining in the first quarter.) After the Longhorns won most games in '09 with a one-dimensional passing attack, we have seen far more running plays this season. As a result, the high-flying Texas "O" has been grounded in favor of a more conservative (read: lower scoring) approach. We expect the Red Raiders (arrr!) to put up a good fight.
Later in the evening on Saturday, Arizona will host Iowa under the lights in Tuscon. Wildcats QB Nick Foles righted the ship midway through last season's 27-17 loss in Iowa City and it has been clear sailing ever since for Arizona. Now the Hawkeyes have to navigate Arizona Stadium, a notoriously hostile environment. We like the Wildcats to eke out a win, or perhaps a hard-fought close loss, in a battle pitting one of the Pac-10's top QBs against one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The game might serve as a preview of sorts for the Rose Bowl: with Ohio State penciled into the national title game, Iowa may find themselves back on the West Coast in January facing off against another high-powered Pac-10 offense. Take notes, mateys!
Take No Quarter, Laddies! (But Ye Best Buy th' Hook)
Baylor @ #4 TCU (-21.5), 3:30PM
#14 Utah (-22.5) @ New Mexico, 7:00PM
Yo-ho-ho: Take a look at the schedules for the above teams, and one issue should be obvious: the quality of competition faced by Baylor doesn't measure up to TCU's opponents thus far, and New Mexico has yet to show up. TCU scored a W over a ranked (#24) opponent in the first week by beating Oregon State 30-21. And the Horned Frogs should still be fresh after thrashing Tennessee Tech by 55 points in Week Two. Baylor enters the game with a 2-0 record, but those victories were against pushovers Sam Houston State and Buffalo. Utah snaked #15 (at the time) Pitt in Week One and trounced a bad UNLV team last week, 38-10. New Mexico should get some credit, having played Oregon and Texas Tech, but the Aggies were keelhauled by a combined 134-17 score.
Make 'Em Walk th' Plank!
Kent State @ #22 Penn State (-21), 11:00AM
Louisville @ #25 Oregon State (-20), 4:30PM
Yo-ho-ho: We suspect both home teams will be itching for a fight. And the visitors, like it or not, look to be shark bait. The Nittany Lions must be smarting after getting dragged around by tail in Tuscaloosa by the Crimson Tide. Proving that even prime-time matchups can bore viewers, the Penn State offense barely forced the Bama defenders to break a sweat. We imagine that heart rates among the TV audience only spiked while reaching for the remote to change the channel in the second half. Returning home to Happy Valley offers Joe Paterno an excellent chance to build off the loss and focus on the rest of the season. Meanwhile in Corvallis, the season has barely started. The Beavers enjoyed an early bye week in Week Two after falling to TCU to kick off the season. To keep a Top 25 ranking, Oregon State must know that voters expect to see some fireworks right away.
Th' (First Ever) Beachwood Parrrrley!
Maybe it's the rum talking, but we will put 50 Beachwood Doubloons (can somebody convert that to pieces of eight?) on a propositional wager this week: Penn State -21, TCU -21.5 and Oregon State -20. (For the curious: a three-game parley pays off, hypothetically, at 6:1 odds.)
Shiver Me Timbers, 'tis th' Sports Seal!
Getting into the spirit of things, the Sports Seal has been digging for buried treasure in this weekend's schedule. Assuming you can find a number on some of these games (we had some difficulty), he recommends:
The Stony Brook Seawolves over Brown, 11:30AM
The Charleston Southern Buccaneers over Mars Hill, 12:30PM
The Hampton University Pirates over North Carolina A&T, 5:00PM
And he could barely suppress his excitement about:
Navy @ Louisiana Tech (+3), 6:00PM*
East Carolina (+20) at Virginia Tech, 12:30PM**
* Always bet against The Midshipmen under these circumstances.
** That would be the East Carolina Pirates, of course.
Finally, should you be looking for a break from swabbing the poopdeck, join the staff of the College Football Report and The Beachwood Reporter at our local watering hole on Saturday. Should you be looking for the game, or just thirsty for some grog, the festivities should start around 3PM.
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.
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