College Football Corner: U.Va. pulls an upset, JMU stays unbeaten, while a Big Ten battle looms large

Virginia running back Mike Hollins (7) fumbles with North Carolina defensive back Will Hardy (31) nearby during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C. The ball went out of the end zone and North Carolina took possession. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)(AP/Chris Seward)

Dave Preston is an AP Top 25 voter. Read his latest rankings here.

The more things change (and they’ve changed a lot in college football recently), the more they stay the same. Yes, you’ll see James Madison enter the Top 25 this week and Virginia pulled off an incredible upset of No. 10 North Carolina.

But witness the Big Ten where the usual suspects Michigan and Ohio State appear to be on a collision course for the final Saturday of November. While the No. 2 Wolverines are pasting foes at a ridiculous rate of 40.6-5.9 average score, the No. 3 Buckeyes have shined against stellar competition by handing Maryland, Notre Dame and Penn State their first losses of the season.

Now, pot-holes do loom ahead for both schools (No. 10 Penn State for Michigan, Big Ten West-leading Wisconsin for Ohio State), but the college football world is always a little more interesting when the Buckeyes and Wolverines battle for the Big Ten-even if it is only for the East Division.

James Madison (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt) took a while to get going at Marshall, leading by a baseball score of 3-2 in the third quarter before hitting their offensive stride in a 20-9 victory. The road to the Sun Belt Championship game goes through the team that is ineligible to play in it.

Duke Do’s: Jordan McCloud threw for 264 yards and a touchdown while running for 69 yards and JMU’s other score. His top target Reggie Brown caught six passes for 126 yards and a TD. Jalin Walker led the defense that tallied eight sacks with 10 tackles and a sack of his own, helping hold the Thundering Herd to 5-16 on third down.

Duke Dont’s: the running back rotation gained just 68 yards on 27 carries while the offense moved the chains on 5-14 attempts. Special teams allowed a punt return for Marshall’s only score of the night.

Next: Saturday vs. 4-3 Old Dominion at 8 p.m.

Navy (3-4) met Air Force in the first leg of the Commander in Chief’s Trophy competition and held the best rushing offense in the country in check, but it wasn’t enough as the Falcons took the lead for good on a 94-yard touchdown pass. The 17-6 loss puts the Mids under .500 entering their bye week.

Midshipman Medals: the defense held the Falcons to 137 yards rushing (almost 200 yards less than their average) on 2.9 per carry, while also limiting Air Force to 1-13 on third down. Tai Lavatai threw for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Midshipman Miscues: Lavatai also threw a pair of interceptions and the running game never got in gear, managing just 22 yards on 35 tries while moving the chains on only 3-17 attempts. The defense only allowed four completions, but three were longer than 20 yards. And Riley Riethman’s leg might just fall off after punting ten times.

Next: November 4 at 2-6 Temple.

Virginia (2-5, 1-2 ACC) scored on their first possession of the evening against No. 10 North Carolina and then rallied from ten points down in the second half to upset the Tar Heels 31-27. That’s two straight victories for the Cavaliers and when you knock off an unbeaten in October, the possibilities

Cavalier Congrats: Malik Washington made 12 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Mike Hollins rushed for 66 yards and three touchdowns, while the running back rotation tallied 163 yards. Coen King led the defense that held UNC to 4-13 on third down by making eight solo tackles. Daniel Sparks averaged 50.2 yards on his two punts.

Cavalier Concerns: tough to find a blemish on such a big win, although two turnovers and six penalties will help bring optimism back to earth.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on the road at 5-2 Miami.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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