We are about halfway through the season in college and nearing the midway point in the NFL. October is a wonderful month that includes all 4 major sports going on at different moments throughout the next few weeks. Unfortunately for the NFL, the season has not gone as predicted and Washington, specifically, has been shell-shocked by injuries and failed expectations.
Terps Going B1G-Time
Starting with Maryland, the Terps have started relatively well in the B1G. With two very solid quarterbacks with two styles of play, Maryland has been able to fight through a couple of games and earn a handful of wins. While sitting at 4-2 (1-1 B1G) is definitely good, the season has been a little bit of a roller coaster. Not necessarily a surprised for a team that barely made a bowl game last season in the ACC, Maryland is at least on-track to set themselves back up for another bowl game run.
On the positive side, the Terps fought through one of the sloppiest games I have seen at South Florida and managed to get the win. Heading up north to Syracuse, turnovers and strong defense help propel the team to victory. On the road at Indiana, Maryland looked great against the Hoosiers and both CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe racked up touchdowns. The great thing about each of these wins was that they were on the road, an area where the Terps have really struggled in the past.
On the other hand, CJ Brown’s play has been sniffed out and his accuracy has been called into question. Against Ohio State, he lost the starting job to Caleb at the half and did not see the field again. It is unclear if he will get the start against Iowa for homecoming, but both quarterbacks deserve some attention as the team continues to march through the first season of the B1G. That loss to Ohio State was one of two at home, with the other being against West Virginia on a rainy day in College Park. The game ended up being decided by a field goal at the final seconds, but the game was full of controversy. In the first half, CJ went down for a slide on a QB run and was close-lined by the defender. No pass interference penalty was called and he was taken out of the game. Luckily, Caleb threw a touchdown on the next play. In the second half, a no-call on a pass interference penalty led to giving up the ball after punting on 4th down. Finally, the WVU player who intercepted Rowe in the 4th quarter was suspended soon after the game for conduct issues prior to taking the field that Saturday. Spotty ref-calling and poor weather conditions led to a failed opportunity against Maryland’s biggest football rival.
There is still a lot of opportunity left with games against Iowa and Rutgers at home and Penn State and Michigan on the road.
Washington’s Struggles and Missed Opportunities
While my Terrapins are in the hunt for some post-season action, Washington is not looking anywhere as good in the NFL. The name controversy has stuck around with a harsh Daily Show critique and episode of South Park, but the attention in the pros is much more centered on the conduct of the players more than anything else.
For DC, the season has tossed in a mix of missed opportunities and costly injuries. As RGIII was looking to get back on-track, he was injured in the second game against Jacksonville (the only win of the season so far). Cousins showed up and looked to be a good solution until Robert was ready to come back, but he has struggled greatly in his time since then. He has managed to throw for 10 touchdowns to RGIII’s 1, but he has also fallen short 11 turnovers (8 INTs and 3 fumbles). With the interceptions, he has failed to look off defenders and even thrown directly at the defensive back without a wideout in play. The way to help a struggling quarterback is to have a great running game, but Jay Gruden has also failed to return to Washington’s bread and butter from last season. Alfred Morris has less than 400 yards in the first 6 games. He is splitting time almost evenly with Roy Helu, neither of which are consistently being given the opportunity to help keep the ball moving. Much of the challenge seems to be with the offensive line and their inability to provide consistent pass and run blocking.
The one victory was over a team that has failed to fine a win so far this season. The run game is big, but so is the defense. Players have regularly been going down with exhaustion or minor injuries, but DeAngelo Hall’s absence with injury is certainly hurting their success with changing the momentum of the game. Washington is regularly playing catchup and is forcing the defense to keep the offense within range. The special teams is also still failing to produce and has regularly missed on managing field position.
The one truly bright spot of the team has been DeSean Jackson. He is the deep threat the team needed and has produced in Washington’s last two games.
Top Performances Around College and the NFL
- The state of Mississippi is gleaming right now. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M (x2) have all fallen to these surprise teams. While the SEC quite a bit more love than other conferences, this is quite the accomplishment.
- FSU and Baylor are also continuing to hold strong as undefeated teams. While FSU may be able to complain about losing the #1 spot after maintaining an extended win streak, their conferences have thrown challenges at both of them and they have held strong.
- Notre Dame is playing with its half in-half out status in the ACC but also managing quite the slate of games and wins. The embarrassment of Michigan (31-0) and a win over Stanford make for a solid start to the season. Wonder if that will hold up against FSU, Arizona State, and USC.
- Marshall is on pace for a perfect season themselves. Although their strength of schedule is far from being able to compete for a national title, they will be able to potentially earn a shot at a high-level bowl game.
- In general, the SEC will benefit from the new playoff system when it comes to contenders for the national title. A 2-loss SEC team may be able to outrank a 1-loss team from any other conference based on the projected difficulty level of the SEC. For now, Ole Miss and MSU can take advantage of their position but MSU still has to face Alabama, Ole Miss still has to face Auburn and LSU, and they will finish the season in a potential showdown for a final shot at the SEC championship and playoff run.
- After starting out slow, Dallas and San Diego have rattled off 5 straight wins and look ready to take on the talent of their divisions. After adjustments on both the offense and defense, DeMarco Murray is running circles around the rest of the league, while the San Diego defense has become a top-10 stopper of the pass and the run. Both teams have taken down the Superbowl-defending Seahawks.
- Denver’s matchup in Seattle came down to a end of fourth quarter comeback and subsequent Seahawks touchdown in overtime. Other than that, teams have not really been in contention with the Broncos. Denver has been taking over as “America’s Team” and may be on route for another Superbowl run.
- With the talent of San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West, Arizona is currently sitting atop the division. Their single loss was to Denver, but they have succeeded at beating San Diego and San Francisco. Their true test will not come until November and December, when they will be forced to prove their competitiveness against the rest of their division.
- While they started at 1-2 and continue to own the worst rushing defense in the league, Green Bay has recovered from a slow start and are finding the end zone with more consistency. Blowout wins against two divisional opponents bodes well for their chances against Detriot (also at 4-2).
Not So Top Plays in Football
Before getting into the discussion of the actual play on the field, the off-the-field issues are getting in the way of enjoying the game. College football is fine overall, but there have been infractions that have affected several keys players. Jameis Winston (FSU) was forced to sit out an entire game for poor judgment making jest of his dodged sexual assault charge. He also was caught for autograph violations. Todd Gurley (UGA) might be missing the rest of his season for breaking policy on earning money for autographs as well. DeVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendall Moore, and Eilar Hardy have all been removed from the team this season for academic violations. None of these violations are super surprising, but the behavior of the former Heisman winner is highly concerning from the standpoint of role-modeling and his future in a professional league that is having its own issues with managing problems much worse than the college level.
In the pros, the conversations about the offensiveness of the Redskins name has fallen significantly to the background in lieu of other serious, pressing issues. Sexual assault, drug abuse, relationship violence, and abuse have become an all too common issue in the NFL. While Ray Rice was not the first problem, his has brought forth a parade of horrible acts and responses that has tarnished (but not destroyed) the NFL brand. Roger Goodell has performed horribly in response to these issues and is still in danger of eventually being asked or forced out of his position. The league should be ashamed of the player conduct and needs to be more upfront about accepting some of the responsibility for its management of its players. A 2-game suspension for such a blatantly violent act in a hotel elevator was laughable. The hesitation when dealing with child abuse was deplorable. The teams’ decisions to delay suspending players after the allegations arise seems to show a willingness to accept the poor conduct as part of the challenge of “dealing” with these players. Changes are definitely needed.
- UMass may have finally gotten a win, but they are also holding on to one of the worst recent records in college football, especially after blundering a potential win during a matchup with also winless Miami (Ohio).
- Michigan may have beaten Penn State, but they were embarrassed by Notre Dame and sit with a solid losing record halfway through the season. It does not help when the QB gets a clear concussion and the coach decides to leave him in the game.
- B1G may have great, recognizable schools, but the respect has failed to hold true. Non-conference play has almost eliminated the conference from feeling confident about having a representative in the playoff this season. Michigan State and Ohio State have the best chance, but two losses on either team’s record could spell doom, even if the other taps out.
- Idaho and Kent State are still searching for a win…maybe…maybe not.
- While I hate to hate on my team, Washington is struggling to figure the game out. Choosing to focus more on the pass over the run, Cousins has not appeared ready to take the led with the talent that surrounds him and Gruden has failed to allow Morris to get a rhythm with the run game. The defense is typically getting overtaxed and eventually is left to give in to each opponent, except for…
- The Jacksonville Jaguars…As one of two teams struggling to find a win (Oakland being the other), they have given up more than twice the number of points they have scored. Tennessee gave them a chance but they failed to capitalize. Bortles may be the future, but that future may be another season with a better defense and stronger running attack. At least they have pools to distract people from the poor attendance at their games.
- St. Louis is making the best of a bad situation. Bradford is out again, and they suffered other injuries at the QB position. They have a chance to turn it around, but their one win came against bottom-tier Tampa Bay, who lucked out on a win against the Steelers.
- The Saints are a mystery. Sitting at 2-3, they have the benefit that the Falcons and Panthers have not run away with a lead yet. Newton has been hampered by injury and Ryan has shown serious inconsistency with his receivers (with Roddy White only catching 50% of the passes thrown his way).
- Vontaze Burfict will need to watch his behavior on the field a bit closer, as he was caught twisting ankles twice in the game versus Carolina. Penalties are forthcoming.
Maryland is prepping for a homecoming game against 5-1 Iowa, while Washington looks to recover and get a second win of the season against lowly Tennessee. Definitely hoping for a better weekend.