College Football Corner: The Best Conference? Look Nearby …

WASHINGTON — College football gives fans a chance not just to talk up their own school, but their entire conference.

Nothing beats Vanderbilt or Arkansas fans talking smack about the SEC, or Rutgers backers telling you how great the Big Ten Conference is. I’ve even looked at the Power Five conferences multiple times this fall. But everyone takes a back seat to the best in the business — a conference that might be closer than you think.

The Colonial Athletic Association placed SIX teams in this year’s 24-school FCS Playoffs tournament: James Madison, Towson, Delaware, Maine, Elon and Stony Brook. In other words, half of the CAA’s membership was deemed to be worthy of 25 percent of the tournament bracket.

The cost of a top-heavy league was that that conference champion, Maine, only gets a No. 7 seed, and they were the only CAA team to get a first-round bye.

James Madison (8-3) advanced to the Championship game last year: The Dukes host Delaware in the Blue Hens’ first playoff appearance under former Richmond coach Danny Rocco.

Towson (7-4) also has a home game: The Tigers entertain Duquesne in their first playoff game since the 2013 FCS Championship Game.

Maryland (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) went for the win in overtime against Ohio State, and Keshaun Jones was open in the end zone. Unfortunately, the pass never got there and fell to the turf incomplete. The play wrapped up one wild afternoon as the Buckeyes remain alive for the Big Ten East with a 52-51 victory. The Terps missed out on reaching bowl eligibility, despite outplaying OSU for big stretches of the day.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Anthony McFarland ran for 298 yards and two touchdowns — the two scores coming from 75 and 81 yards in the first quarter. The defense recovered a fumble inside the Maryland five and Avon Davis returned an interception for a touchdown.
  • Terrapin Troubles: By overtime, the defense was hanging on for dear life, allowing touchdowns the last four times the Buckeyes touched the ball. And while the passing game saw a few sparks (completions of 27, 30, 56 and 60 yards), Tyrrell Pigrome completed under 50 percent of his throws.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 against 8-3 Penn State.

Virginia (7-4, 4-3 ACC) saw its Coastal Division hopes evaporate when Pitt routed Wake Forest, before being taken to overtime by Georgia Tech. While Brian Delaney’s 32-yard field goal sent the game into OT, his 35-yarder in the extra session went wide.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins threw for 217 yards and a touchdown, while running for 73 and a score. Olamide Zaccheaus notched 11 catches for 111 yards. Jordan Mack paced the defense with 12 tackles.
  • Cavalier Concerns: Special team mistakes cost U.Va. big time. The Yellow Jackets scored their first TD of the day on a kick return, and their second came on a short field after the Cavs fumbled a punt.

Next: Friday at 3:30 at 4-6 Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech (4-6) continued its late-season slide in a 38-14 loss to Miami. But they aren’t out of bowl contention just yet: The Hokies have scheduled a provisional game with Marshall for December 1st. If they beat Virginia (like they have every year since 2003) the team will play the Thundering Herd the following weekend. If they lose, the game will be wiped out.

  • Hokie Highlights: Ryan Willis completed 3 passes for 70 yards on the first possession of the day to give the team a 7-0 lead. Rayshard Ashby tallied 14 tackles to pace a much-maligned defense.
  • Hokie Humblings: The offense moved the chains on just 2 of 12 third downs, and the defense once again allowed 30+ points (sixth time this fall — all losses). Special teams allowed a 51-yard punt return for a score that put Tech down 17 points.

Next: Friday against 7-4 Virginia.

Navy (3-8, 2-5 AAC) ended a seven-game losing streak, by outscoring Tulsa 37-29. After starting the day with a three and out, the offense reached the end zone the next four times they had the ball. On senior day, it seemed like old times for quarterback Zach Abey.

  • Midshipman Medals: Abey ran for 128 of the team’s 389 yards, and scored a pair of touchdowns. The offense converted 11 of 15 third downs. Nizaire Cromartie paced the defense with nine tackles.
  • Midshipman Miscues: The defense was either feast or famine in the second half, allowing two touchdowns while tallying two take-aways. The lack of a passing game (only 15 yards) didn’t hurt them this time, but the Mids won’t be facing the 2-9 Golden Hurricanes every week.

Next: Saturday at noon on the road against 5-6 Tulane.

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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