The October 2017 season: Our Journey to Atlanta
Before reviewing our October 2017 season on the way to Atlanta, we’re taking a step back regarding our plans for September 30. We’ve already decided on a change. When planning this season, we definitely desired to see the Fighting Blue Hens of Delaware play under new HC Danny Rocco. Successful as a Head Coach at Richmond and at Liberty in the recent past, we think the Delaware football program will be headed back to the top of the FCS heap where it belongs (what was UD thinking when they took on a former Rutgers assistant, Stan Brock?) though I twill take a few years. We think UD found the right man for their high standards. This game works out well for us. We also wanted to see FCS defending champion James Madison (14-1, 8-0) play this season though we originally would have liked to catch them down on their home turf in Harrisonburg, Virginia. However, with several friends and family members affiliated with the Blue Hens in recent years, it will be a chance for a pretty good tailgate party. We look forward to seeing progress made by Rocco in Newark over the next few years. We look forward to seeing what he can do with the returning players he inherits from a 4-7 squad especially with a RB by the name of Thomas Jefferson (Passaic Tech, NJ) lurking in his backfield who raced for 700 yards last season. The Dukes of JMU return a strong rushing game as well along with QB Bryan Shor, the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the year in 2016. He produced 3,002 yards through the air for 29 TDs and only six INTs a year ago on the way to the championship win over Youngstown State. It will be a presidential race of sorts for the Blue Hens with Thomas Jefferson leading the charge against a host of James Madison’s, but the result will hopefully indicate there are signs of how quickly Rocco can return this team Delaware back to the FCS prominence it has been known for over its storied history.
Air Force at Navy : Take back the Chief?
On October 7, we will have a second Boys Weekend in Annapolis with a second crew as Navy will host the Air Force Falcons in the first round of play for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. The Falcons absconded with the hardware last year, and Navy is itching to get it back after having dominated the Falcons and Army for 10 of the last 13 years before it lost to both rivals last season for the first time since 2001. Air Force returns junior QB Arion Worthman who threw for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns as he gained 674 on the ground to lead USAFA to a 10-3 record including an Arizona Bowl win over South Alabama. Air Force and Navy copy each other with the triple option so both teams will be prepared better than none other do defend each other in this one. It will take a few plays through the air to make a difference for the winner in this one. The Falcons won last year, 28-14. The Midshipman will be salivating for this one. So will we!
Upstate doubleheader weekend
We will see our second defending national champ in three weeks during our October 2017 season when we venture up to the Carrier Dome on Friday, October 13 where the Clemson Tigers come prowling in to try to humble the Syracuse Orange as they did last season at home, 54-0. With the graduation of All-American QB Deshaun Watson and 1,000-yard RB Wayne Gallman, well see what new talent HC Dabo Swinney added to the Tigers under the Dome. Swinney has a leg up to say the least when it comes to recruiting. His needs to replace offensive firepower with some new weapons will be his focus, but defensively, Clemson will be strong, especially up front. Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence will lead the charge, and LB Kendall Joseph returns his junior season with 124 stops to his credit a season ago. The Tigers will most likely battle with Florida State for the ACC’s Atlantic Division. SU is projected to sit at the bottom. Will Dino Babers second edition show improvement in upstate New York to improve upon last years 4-8 mark? They showed improvement and excitement in their implementation of Babers spread offense that we witnessed last season in their 50-33 loss to Notre Dame at The Meadowlands. Junior QB Eric Dungey returns after averaging close to 300 yards passing while battling injuries. The offensive line was young last season but returns with decent experience. The defense was incredibly weak however to say the least. They finished very low in all team categories regarding every defensive category imaginable last season. They allowed 38.6 points per game. Six times they allowed at least 45 points in losses. The only impressive win registered was over 10-4 Virginia Tech, 31-17. Ten starters return on defense. Will it be the same old-same old, or will there be marked improvement based on the lumps they took to gain experience last season? Were willing to check things out under the Dome again and see what new improvements both squads bring in 2017. It could be blow-out again, or a surprise if the Orange can score and challenge the thriving Clemson program. We are prepared for either, hoping for at least the latter to see some form of an entertaining game. Call us crazy, but we look forward even more to our FCS stop nearby the next day.
Our first college football game ever was in 1966 when some locals organized bus trips among many local schools in our area of Morris County, NJ to see the Princeton Tigers host the Colgate Red Raiders at Princeton’s old Palmer Stadium. Both teams had good programs going then, and the Red Raiders won a tough, competitive game, 7-0. The Raiders fullback, the late Marv Hubbard, went on to play for the Oakland Raiders of the AFL/NFL where he was named All-Pro three times and played in Super Bowl II. Over the years, we watched this program play again at Princeton, at Lehigh, at Rutgers, and even at Penn State, but 51 (!) years later, I will attend a Colgate game on their home field at Andy Kerr Stadium in Hamilton, NY for the first time to see them host a formidable Patriot League foe, Fordham. Under fourth year HC Dan Hunt, the Raiders (5-5, 4-2) return with a stout defense led by DE Pat Afriyie. However, Hunt will need to replace key offensive personnel behind an experienced offensive line. The defense needs to be up for the task ahead of them when Fordham shows up with senior RB Chase Edmonds. We’ve seen him play in each of his first three years, and look forward to what could be a record-breaking season looking to surpass Georgia Southerns Adrian Peterson, the all-time leading rusher of the FCS. To date, Edmonds has rushed for 5,285 yards and 62 TDs. He needs 1,274 to take the lead. The Rams will also return QB Kevin Anderson to give the Ram offense plenty of firepower. Their secondary returns three starters from a year ago including Caleb Ham, an all-league pick. The Rams defeated Gate last year, 24-20, and look to take on Lehigh to regain the Patriot League playoff bid after an 8-3,5-1 record last season. We look forward to this 1 pm kick-off at the peak of the fall season in upstate New York. Sounds like football the way it should be on a crisp, cool fall afternoon among the colorful autumn backdrop in the great outdoors. Hopefully, there will only be one TV time-out, if any, in each half.
On the 21st, we will attend our biggest regular season game of our October 2017 season! In what has yet to be announced as a prime-time game, we head back to State College for a classic Penn State White-Out in Happy Valley when the Nittany Lions host the Wolverines of Michigan under Jim Harbaugh. Its not only a key step for both toward the Big Ten eastern division championship, but PSU looks to revenge its second of two regular season losses from a year ago. This one was lopsided in favor of U of M, 49-10. Beaver Stadium will be primed for this one. Who knows how all Harbaugh’s new blue chippers will perform from the get-go? QB Wilton Speight returns to call signals after throwing for 2,538 yards and 18 TDs. Who knows who he will be throwing to, but you can be sure, Harbaugh has talent itching to show what they can do. He will have a group of talented young RBs returning to share the load on the ground. The defensive line returns top sophomore Rashan Gary and Senior LB Mike McCray who tallied 76 tackles last season. All of the secondary will be replaced. Michigan opens with Florida, but will McSorely be the best QB they will face up until this game? This is going to be a battle under the lights in Happy Valley after a long day of tailgating! A week later, PSU will have to be up to the task again when it travels to Columbus to play Ohio State, a team looming for revenge as well as the Lions knocked them off their Big Ten pedestal last season, 24-21. Two important weekends back to back in Big Ten Eastern division play.
Repeat for the Heisman?
We will finish off our October 2017 season with a new venue, a Heisman Trophy winner, and some great friends. This weekend, George Lazarides, who I introduced to tailgating and Navy football last season, and I will head down to Winston-Salem for our first Wake Forest home game ever. There we will meet up with our good friend and Wake Forest alum Jim Harton who we both know well from our old fitness center downstairs in the bowels of our office building where we worked. Jim retired to his native NC and goes to all the Deacon football games down there. We will meet up with him to tailgate and have a great time as we see his Demon Deacons take on the Louisville Cardinals in an ACC clash featuring Cardinal QB Lamar Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner of 2016. Last season, LU shellacked the Old Gold and Black, 44-12. Jackson loses his primary offensive skill position mates from last season. HC Bobby Petrino will be introducing him to a new tailback, a couple of new wide-outs, and a new tight end. Three new starters will plug in losses to graduation up front. On the other side of the football, LU returns nine starters. CB Jaire Alexander tops a returning secondary with his five INTs last season. LB Stacy Thomas will be called on for leadership among the BUs who lose two stalwarts from last year. The Cards went into a tailspin last season losing their last three games. They clubbed Florida State last season 63-20 down in Tallahassee, but they visit FSU the week before this. It may take a toll on them when they come calling on the Demon Deacons. Coming off a 7-6 season with a bowl win, HC Dave Clawson is focused on improving his WFU offense that returns with some significant experience. The question here is similar to the one we have about Syracuse’s defense. How good was the experience for an offense that finished in the bottom 10% in the FBS in scoring, total offense and passing efficiency? We saw their 34-26 win over Temple in the Military bowl last year, but the Cards continue to play outstanding defense. According to Street and Smith, Clawson is leaning to start QB Kendall Hinton who missed most of last season with a knee injury. John Wohlford who filled in adequately for him will probably at the ready again. They’re going to have to move the ball effectively against a tough defense while keeping Lamar Jackson off the field. The Deacs will have tough task coming into this one. Jim will have us pulling for his underdogs.