Friday Night Lights

When I was a student at Virginia Tech there was a guy who sat next to me in a couple of classes who was one of the best people I’d ever been around.  He was just a good old “country boy” (and I use that term in the most complimentary fashion) from Giles County, Virginia.  Giles County was the next county over from Montgomery County (where Blacksburg is located) and the first county before the West Virginia state line.  It was a county where you still proved your manhood on the Football field and Giles High School was one of the state’s small school  powerhouses.  They were coached by Steve Ragsdale, who actually never played football and was a basketball player on Roanoke College’s 1972 small school national championship team.  His father was a legend in Giles County and he utilized a old school offense called the single wing.  Steve Ragsdale taught that to his teams at Giles and the offense became intertwined with the school and it’s identity winning state championships in 1980 and 1993.  The Giles logo has a wing on it so what other kind of offense could they play?  Anyway, the guy next to me in class and I used to talk high school football all the time and I enjoyed my conversations with him tremendously.  In the years after graduation I pursued a television career and he went the coaching route.  That guy’s name is Jeff Williams and he’s now the head coach at Giles High School and he remains one of the finest people you’d ever hope to meet.  He still runs the single wing and the school continues to have its identity.  In fact, in 2013 Jeff stepped out of Steve Ragsdale’s shadow and won his own state championship.  His teams haven’t lost a game in the regular season since 2012.  Giles last lost in the playoffs last year to Glenvar, which went on to win the State Championship.  This weekend is Giles vs. Glenvar again and it was scheduled for Friday night.  The game had to be moved to Saturday night however because of four little letters “ESPN.”

ESPN scheduled Va. Tech to play N.C. State on a Friday night in Blacksburg.  It’s part of the fabric of America that High School Football is played on Friday night.  ESPN obviously doesn’t care about that among other things or they wouldn’t schedule a game on a Friday night in Southwest Virginia and disrupt a Friday night tradition.  This doesn’t have to happen.  The ACC – as well as other conferences – can put a stop to it and tell ESPN that if they insist on their schools playing on a Friday night, they’ll shop their games to other networks.  You don’t think FOX, NBC, or CBS would jump at the chance to televise college football from power 5 conferences?  In a heartbeat they would.  ESPN tends to make everything about ESPN instead of the games that they cover.  Here’s a hint ESPN.  Leave high school football alone and fill your Friday nights (which are traditionally one of the worst viewed nights of the week) with stuff no one cares about like the Crossfit games.

Well since they are going to play it on Friday night.  I’m going to have to make a pick.  I’m sick of picking Virginia Tech every week only to watch them crap all over themselves. Last week may well have been rock bottom getting steamrolled and manhandled by Pitt.  I can’t believe I’m going to do it again considering Va. Tech has lost 8 of its last 10 home games, but since N.C. State is really nothing more than a nice little American Conference team playing in the ACC, I’ll take Tech and just hope that the rest of the season doesn’t play out like last week or worse yet, last year’s overtime loss to Wake Forest.  Also on Friday night, Marshall to beat Southern Miss at home.

Saturday gets going with one of my featured games of the week and it’s only featured because I happen to have grown up watching Texas and Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on television.  This game is being played for the 110th time and for the 87th straight year in Dallas at the historic stadium adjacent to the Texas State Fair Grounds.  Oklahoma is 4-0, Texas is a disaster at 1-4.  Texas is the only school in the Big XII with a winning record against Oklahoma.  That matters little.  Oklahoma wins and claims the Golden Hat Trophy and then the fans can head to the final weekend of the State Fair where believe it or not they’ll serve anything fried, including butter.

Most would say the best game of the weekend is Utah-California in Salt Lake City.  I’m going to the Big Ten for Northwestern at Michigan.  Northwestern is 5-0 and has the top scoring defense in the country giving up an average of only 7 points a game.  Michigan has reeled off 4 straight wins since an opening night loss to Utah and has the second best scoring defense in the country giving up only an average of 7.5 points per game.  You don’t think Jim Harbaugh can coach?  Just look at what he’s doing at Michigan.  This team was awful last year and this year they line up and compete and are tough and physical.  Last year’s game ended 10-9 Michigan.  It may be low scoring again, but the tie breaker for me is that Michigan is at home so I think they hand the Wildcats their first loss.

Next up, is a trip to Tallahassee, Florida for Florida State and Miami. Ah, this used to be college football’s game of the year.  NFL talent everywhere.  Wide right, wide left, winner competes for the National Championship.  That’s no longer the case.  Miami is basically just floundering right now.  This is not Florida State’s best team, but do you realize since 2010, the two teams with the most wins in college football are Alabama and Florida State with 62?  Florida State has won the last 5 games in this series and they will make it six.

Other Saturday games.  I like Duke over Army, Temple over Tulane, Iowa over Illinois, Ohio State over Maryland (there are reports that Maryland is ready to sack head coach Randy Edsall and this may do it), Western Michigan over Central Michigan, Ole Miss over New Mexico State, Baylor keeps Kansas winless, Western Kentucky over Middle Tennessee State, Florida International over UTEP, South Carolina had to move its game to LSU due to the flooding in Columbia, South Carolina.  The Gamecocks weren’t going to beat LSU at home and they certainly won’t do it on the road.  Pitt to beat Virginia, Ohio beats Miami because as they say in Athens, Ohio “Miami sucks”, Bowling Green over U-Mass, Rice over Florida Atlantic, Akron over Eastern Michigan, Boston College over Wake Forest, Toledo over Kent State, Minnesota over Purdue, Northern Illinois over Ball State, Appalachian State over Ga. State, Georgia over Tennessee, Notre Dame over Navy, Clemson over Ga. Tech, Texas Tech over Iowa State, Wisconsin over Nebraska, U-Conn keeps Central Florida winless, Mississippi State over Troy, Arizona over Oregon State, Oregon over Washington State, Tulsa over Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia over Oklahoma State, Alabama over Arkansas, Louisiana-Lafayette over Texas State, La. Tech over UT-San Antonio, Boise State over Colorado State, Nevada over New Mexico, BYU over East Carolina, but picking against ECU is risky business, Florida over Missouri, TCU over Kansas State, Michigan State over Rutgers, Arizona State over Colorado, Utah over California, Air Force over Wyoming, and Utah State over Fresno State

Our FCS game of the week takes us to the suburbs of Baltimore…Towson, Maryland where 2-2 Towson hosts 5-0 James Madison at Johnny Unitas Stadium.  Towson was founded in 1866 as Maryland’s first training school for teachers and continues to turn out more teachers than any other college in Maryland.  James Madison is 5-0 including a win over SMU and has won 9 of the last 10 against Towson.  JMU won last year’s game 62-7.

For Division II we go to Silver City, New Mexico where Western New Mexico hosts the OreDiggers of the Colorado School of Mines in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game.  The Colorado School of Mines is 5-0 and is engineering school located in Golden, Colorado.  Until this year, the school was coached by an offensive innovator named Bob Stitt whose responsible for many of the spread offensive plays you see being used in college football.  His innovations spawned a t-shirt entitled “Stitt Happens.” They are now coached by former Bowling Green coach Greg Brandon after Stitt left for FCS Montana. This is the last time these two play a conference game.  Next year, Western New Mexico shifts to the Lone Star Conference.

Division III goes to Washington, Pennsylvania and checks in on the 3-1 Presidents of Washington and Jefferson who host 0-4 Grove City.  Washington and Jefferson started as two separate colleges(Washington College and Jefferson College) in log cabins before merging in 1865.  There’s nothing Presidential about the way they play football.  Since 1999, they’ve won at least 9 games in 13 of 16 years.

NAIA game of the week features the 5-0 Coyotes of Kansas Wesleyan against Friends University from Wichita, Kansas.  As Wichita State doesn’t play football, this is about the only college football in the City best known for its basketball.

Junior College goes to the home of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota where Rochester Community and Technical College faces Mesabi Range Junior College from Virginia, Minnesota.

Finally, our October fun fact for the week.  Did you know 90% of the pumpkins grown in this country come from one state…Illinois.  If only I could make money off this kind of useless information.

Enjoy the weekend….

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