Our November 2017 season schedule starts off on a Thursday night. Brian Donnelly and I along with probably a company of Midshipman, the Temple Owl Marching band, some Philly football die-hards, and a horde of Temple students with no Friday classes will see Navy play at the Linc in an American Athletic clash for television money. Navy will ply the triple option for which QB Zach Abey should be very adept at running now, but he better be ready to throw the football, too. TU HC Geoff Collins defense will have plenty of time to prep for Navys triple option. Not only will they have the benefit of a week and a half to prep for Navys offense, but its previous game will be at Army West Point. They will be practicing for the same offense against the Cadets prior to that game. So, it gives the Owl defense more than two weeks to work on defending the triple option. This will be a rematch of last season’s AAC championship won by TU in Annapolis, and this will be a key game for one or both teams to return for that title. Navys offense will have to use the extra practice time to polish up on a few offensive wrinkles of their own, especially in their passing game.
Brian and I are already scrambling around to find any kind of game being played on Friday night after the game in Philly to lead into our travel plans for Saturday heading down to Charlottesville, VA. Maybe well go to Annapolis to see the sprint football matchup between powerful Navy and first-year program Caldwell (NJ) College. It sounds like a massacre to us, but until we can find something else that night, thats all there seems to be for our in-person football fixes. New Sprint (Lightweight) football rule 178 lb. limit increased from 172.
All set for Saturday. I will be making my first tour to Scott Stadium at the University of Virginia. I have not seen the Cavaliers play since the 1989 Kick-off Classic. Well be seeing them face another triple-option team, Georgia Tech, still under the guidance of former Navy head football coach Paul Johnson. The Cavs are led by two potential pre-season All-American defenders, not unusual for any team, but Virginia? S Quin Blanding and LB Micah Kiser are the main cogs in 2nd year Cav HC Bronco Mendenhalls defense. UVA is still the expected cellar dweller in the ACC. At Tech, Johnson is still sorting through QB candidates to replace starter Justin Thomas who graduated. Matthew Jordan is one candidate who has played in 14 games the last two seasons. Johnson will be also be looking to shore up his defense that allowed third down conversions 49% of the time last year, third to last in the FBS last season while allowing 24.5 ppg despite a 9-4 season. Four of five starters return to their secondary led by S Corey Griffin.
On November 11, our journey to Atlanta continues as we return to State College for our third and final game in Happy Valley during the 2017 season. It should be happy as the Nittany Lions host Rutgers. Will PSU still be undefeated in Big Ten play coming in after three of the four previous games against Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State will be on the road? Will RU come in healthy, or will they be decimated by injuries as they usually are whittled down in depth by now at this time of the season? Despite the foreseeable odds in this one, were going. Cousin Frank, RU fan who enjoyed his first Happy Valley experience despite the Scarlet Knight loss there two years ago, already backed out on attending this one. Oh, well. He also took my advice about not buying season tix at RU this year. Hell be able to get as many as he wants for any Rutgers home game. However, I figured hed want to see a team vying for the national title play during the season in front of a packed house to enjoy the experience he is looking for at the birthplace of college football someday.
November 18, finally! I am adding a rivalry Ive been excited to see for many years to add to the likes of Army-Navy, Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn. Were heading west to see USC host UCLA in the Las Angeles Memorial Coliseum, our first visit there ever. For us in the colder climes of the East and Midwest, its always a pleasant shock to the senses to see that game played in glorious sunshine with the colorful uniforms in warm weather on green grass on TV that late ,November Saturday afternoon. By then, the cold weather and darkness have already started to set the tone of dreariness from Old Man Winter about to settle into our areas for the next few months. I look forward to being in LA in person for once to bask in that atmosphere and to seeing the Bruins and Trojans and Song Girls perform in virtual living color! USC took it to the Bruins the last two years. QB Sam Darnold gives the Trojans a shot for this years title after leading SC to nine straight wins after a 1-3 start last season. At this point of the season, he could even be a lock for the Heisman. Defensively, there are key positions to fill. The Trojans look to bring more pressure on the QB and tighter coverage in the secondary after allowing 24.2 ppg last season. Their PK from a year ago was indefinitely suspended and might not return this season. At UCLA, HC Jim Mora is over a Bunsen burner after a 4-8 finish a year ago. It didnt help that Soph QB Josh Rosen went down due to a shoulder injury in game six vs. Arizona State after a 3-2 start to the season. The Bruins never recovered going 1-6 the rest of the way. Rosens been recovering from off-season surgery. Going into this season, the Bruins running game needs to be improved and the defensive front needs to be re-developed following some key losses coming into 2017. Well be heading out there hoping to see the Bruins throw a scare at the mighty Trojans, but that could be asking for a lot since USC could be rolling along on its way to the PAC-12 championship and beyond after their season finale against the cross-town rival on the arm of Darnold.
Our final game of our November 2017 season takes us to College Park, Maryland where the Maryland Terrapins will host Penn State in the Big Ten finales for both teams. The Lions are hoping to play the following weekend as Eastern division champs in Indianapolis. Maryland may not have the same hopes, but D.J. Durkins team may be looking to play a spoiler role at least if it hasnt improved over last years 6-6 regular season. That may be asking a lot replacing Howard, FIU, and Purdue with the likes of Texas and Wisconsin, both on the road, and Northwestern on this years slate in addition to the rugged Big Ten Eastern division. Maryland will be relying on Durkins ability as a recruiter to fill some gaps this season and on the ability to develop a new starting QB among several choices. Will he have enough depth and quality to show any improvement this late in the season. Were expecting PSU to be in the hunt for the CFP in this season finale. On two consecutive weekends, we think we will be seeing two of the teams headed for the CFP, Penn State and USC. It may be a pro-Penn State crowd coming into Byrd Stadium to give the Lions even more incentive to defeat Maryland to catapult them on to Indianapolis if that’s what it will take!