Despite the weather getting cooler as October approaches, it’s most certainly getting hot at more than a few locales in college football.
The Coaching Hot Seat fires up again with a pair of casualties already this season. Thanks LSU, for jettisoning Les Miles last weekend (there goes my title, lead sentence and big chunk of the first paragraph from my rough draft). But let the record show that in the SEC West, all coaching seats begin rather lukewarm upon the new administration’s arrival. FIU has also made a coaching change, replacing Ron Turner with Ron Cooper. This was a shock to many following the program who thought that the coach’s name was Ron Cooper to begin with. They could name Ronald McDonald the interim coach at Florida International and it still wouldn’t register on the national scale.
This year the seats in the D.C. area are rather cool; that’s what usually happens when you make changes at Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Looking around the expanded area … one sees a little heat up in Happy Valley surrounding Penn State’s James Franklin. The Nittany Lions are 2-2 to start the season and 16-14 in his tenure … with alumni-embarrassing losses to Pitt and Temple (for shame!). He’s also 6-11 in the Big Ten. And while Ohio State is playing on another level, the State College faithful have to be rankled by defeats to Northwestern and Illinois. Not to mention a loss to Maryland at home for the first time ever. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour gave Franklin the “vote of confidence” this week after the team was crushed by No. 4 Michigan 49-10. Each of their next three opponents are 3-0 (but let the record show Ohio State’s 3-0 is a lot different from Maryland’s 3-0) and the Nittany Lions’ remaining foes boast a composite 21-6 record. Rutgers can’t come soon enough.
In the ACC, Boston College’s Steve Addazio has presided over an offense that can’t get out of its own way as the Eagles have dropped 10 straight conference games. Thankfully Buffalo and UConn are sprinkled in between the Clemsons and Florida States. Nationally, the hot spots are at the usual locales: USC appears to be self-destructing under Clay Helton (did they really send eight players out for a punt?) while the natives are restless at Auburn (Gus Malzahn began his tenure 19-3, but is 11-12 since). Both of those schools are more than happy to jettison regimes when things go south … much to the delight of UCLA and Alabama.
Virginia (1-3) at Duke (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network)
U.Va. has lost 18 straight road games dating back to November 2012. But that is in the Cavaliers past. Cavaliers present is all about third down: They rank 13th in the ACC at moving the chains, but the defense is last in the conference at getting off the field. The Blue Devils aren’t much better, ranking 12th in third down efficiency and last in the conference in red zone offense. Duke is fresh off an upset win at Notre Dame, but the Blue Devils leading rusher Jela Duncan (5.6 yards per carry and 78 yards per game) is on the shelf thanks to a leg injury. ACC play means Kippy & Buffy move on to reds, and Virginia has some very interesting choices. This week they open a bottle of Ankida Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir: “a luscious, round mouthfeel lingers with a long-lasting finish of floral notes and white peppercorn.” Break out the Cantal cheese with Ritz crackers.
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up short, 39-30.
Maryland (3-0) vs Purdue (2-1), 3:30 p.m. Saturday (Big Ten Network)
After four weeks away from College Park, the Terps hold homecoming and their conference opener on the same afternoon. Quarterback Perry Hills and his injured shoulder is listed as probable by coach D.J. Durkin. But the running game is the major reason this team is unbeaten. Maryland ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing and leads the conference in yards per carry. The Boilermakers have had issues stopping the run and the pass this fall. Defensively, the challenge will be containing David Blough and the second-ranked passing game in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers also convert a league-best 59 percent of third downs. That will pose one huge test for a secondary, which is now minus safety Denzel Conyers (ACL, out for season). All eyes will be on junior Josh Woods, who makes his first career start. Could turnovers tell the tale? Maryland is +5 on the season while Purdue is a Big Ten worst -6.
Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 36-24.
Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0), 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
The Midshipmen have owned this rivalry as of late, taking 10 of the last 13 meetings. But it’s a different world in Colorado Springs. The Falcons have beaten the Mids in two of their last three meetings out west. And none of Navy’s wins there since 1978 have come by more than a touchdown. Expect another close contest between schools that, despite defending our skies and seas, get things done on the ground. Both teams average more than 300 yards per game rushing. Air Force’s attack ranks second in FBS while Navy’s is fifth. Will Worth might be the wild card this year; the senior QB is a better passer than his Air Force counterpart Nate Romine.
Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen come up short, 34-31.
Howard loses at Norfolk State, Georgetown falls to Harvard, James Madison defeats Delaware, Richmond tops Towson, William & Mary falls at New Hampshire, Morgan State defeats Delaware State.
Last Week: 5-2.