College Football Corner ABCs — angst in Ann Arbor, bewilderment in Blacksburg, confidence in College Park

November is supposed to be “closing month” in college football, but a scrambled schedule has left more than a few teams in their show-me month. But it’s never too early to panic, freak out or get excited. And with Navy and Virginia’s games postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, we got a little bit extra from Virginia Tech’s and Maryland’s games, while a Big Ten blueblood appears to be at a crossroads.

Michigan brought Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor so the Wolverines could compete for Big Ten and national titles. In five-plus years he’s won 48 games, but he’s 0-5 against Ohio State, 3-3 against Michigan State and 9-14 against ranked foes. This autumn’s anguish has included an early-season stumble to the state rival Spartans (led by a first-year coach), as well as their first loss to Indiana in 33 years. Saturday’s defeat at the 13th-ranked Hoosiers means the Wolverines haven’t beaten a top 15 team on the road since 2006 — that’s the Lloyd Carr era, from three coaching hires ago.

Harbaugh knew nothing but success at Stanford in the Pac-10 and with San Francisco in the NFL. Now, the fourth-highest paid head coach in college football has a 1-2 team that’s tied with Rutgers and Michigan State for fourth place in the Big Ten East. Thank goodness the Scarlet Knights are still on the schedule, right?

Virginia Tech (4-3) appeared to have completed one crazy comeback against Liberty, when, with the score tied, the Hokies returned a blocked 59-yard field goal attempt for a touchdown with eight seconds left in regulation. Only problem: They had called time out right before the kick. The Flames took advantage with an eight-yard pass on fourth down, setting up a 51-yard attempt that sailed through the uprights with one second left to beat Hokies 38-35.

Hokie Highlights: After Khalil Herbert exited early with a hamstring injury, Hendon Hooker put the offense on his back by throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns while running for 156 yards and another score. Tre Turner caught six passes for 90 yards and a score as Hooker’s number one option. Chamarri Conner tallied 10 tackles while the defense recovered two fumbles that led to a touchdown and a field goal. Oscar Bradburn averaged 51 yards per punt while Brian Johnson connected on two of three field goals.

Hokie Humblings: The much-maligned defense allowed a first-drive touchdown to the Flames and would put the team in a first half double-digit crater. And then they couldn’t get a stop when it mattered, allowing 17 fourth quarter points. A fumbled punt set up the Flames’ first TD in the final period. The time out that wiped out victory and wound up setting up defeat will haunt this team for some time.

Next: Saturday against No. 11 Miami.

 

Maryland (2-1) scored on its first possession at Penn State before holding the Nittany Lions on a 4th and goal from the seven-yard line on their first drive. The Terps went on to beat Penn State 35-19 and posted their third-ever victory in the series. They scored 28 points in the first half. Maryland had managed 20 points over the last four games combined against their nemesis to the north. What began as a season of “here we go again” has turned into a fall of rising.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes and had over 200 yards in the first half, while this week’s top target was Rakim Jarrett (5 catches for 144 yards and two TD). The offense converted nine of 16 third downs while posting scoring plays of 34, 38, 42 and 62 yards. The defense notched seven sacks, while Chance Campbell tallied six tackles and recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Nick Cross recorded eight stops and an interception.

Terrapin Troubles: Three out of six offensive possessions in the second half were three-and-outs. The Terps committed eight penalties on top of 10 the week before. The game was well in hand, but the defense did allow a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns after dominating the first three periods.

Next: Saturday vs. No. 3 Ohio State at 3:30 p.m.

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