Michigan gets some luck against Va Tech in ugly Sugar Bowl

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It’d been a few years since we saw Michigan in familiar territory — playing in a BCS game, that is. Not only did the No. 13 Wolverines finally get back to one of college football’s elite postseason games for the first time in five years, but first-year coach Brady Hoke managed to pull out a Sugar Bowl win against No. 17 Virginia Tech t0o, 23-20 in overtime.

It’s just how Michigan got the W that remains a mind-boggling mystery.

The X factor in any Michigan game, quarterback Denard Robinson, struggled again throwing the  ball — no surprise there with a 9-for-21 performance — but the junior couldn’t get going on the ground, racking up just 13 yards on as many carries. Michigan’s offense gained only 56 yards on the ground and 184 total yards.

It’s not like they crushed Virginia Tech in the turnover battle (just +1, although they managed points off turnovers) or played amazing defense (they gave up nearly double the amount of total yards and allowed some crucial third down conversions).

But Michigan did have one distinct advantage VT, which falls to 11-3, did not: luck. Things just went U-M’s way tonight.

Sometimes that happens without much of a reason at all.

Consider the fact that the Wolverines didn’t do anything offensively for about 50 minutes in regulation. But a pair of outstanding catches by receiver Junior Hemingway despite some bad throws by Robinson gave Michigan 14 quick points. Honestly, Robinson could have ended tonight’s game with 4 interceptions.

Add in a Va Tech fumble on a kickoff… which led to a fake field goal pass batted around in the air before it was caught by a U-M lineman… which led to another field goal, as well as a fake punt by the Hokies that went horribly wrong.

Or, how about touchdown pass from Logan Thomas to receiver Danny Coale  in the first overtime that was overturned. The ball may have moved when it hit the ground, but indisputable evidence? It was close*. Then, VT’s third-string kicker, Justin Myer, who had been 4-for-4 tonight, missed a fifth field goal that was nothing more than a long chip shot.

(*note: I thought the ball moved, but that’s just me)

Michigan would run three plays on its ensuing overtime possession and kicked a game-winning 37-yard field goal.

BAM. Michigan: Sugar Bowl champs. Just like that.

Frank Beamer looked stunned. I think his expression echoed what all of us were feeling.

But however lucky or… whatever it was that Michigan was tonight… you have to give credit to Hoke for what he’s done in his first year. Wins over Notre Dame, Ohio State and now a BCS victory and 11-2 record? Not much to complain about there. The Wolverines will likely finish the season with a Top 10 ranking and could be a preseason favorite to compete for a Big Ten title in 2012.

If nothing else, it’s just good to have the Maize and Blue competing at a high level again. Whether you’re a fan of ’em or not, college football is better when Michigan is relevant.

Quite on the contrary, the ACC slips further into irrelevancy with tonight’s loss, as the conference is just 2-12 in BCS bowls since the system was created in the late 1990’s.

We can’t wait until the BCS decides to do away with the automatic qualifier status.

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Tennessee hanging around with Alabama — and trailing by three TDs

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It feels like Tennessee is hanging decently well with Alabama, and yet the score is 21-0 Tide at the break in Tuscaloosa. Such is life in the Third Saturday in October rivalry.

Bo Scarborough lodged Alabama’s first two scores on identical plays, diving over a pile of humanity for 1-yard scores. The first came to end Alabama’s first drive of the day and the second came at the 4:48 mark of the second quarter. Damien Harris added the third on an 11-yard carry at the 1:18 mark.

Jalen Hurts has completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards, but the numbers look better than his performance has. The sophomore has been late and/or off-target with a handful of throws thus far.

It hasn’t mattered, though, as Alabama has racked up 108 yards on the ground and benefitted from a pair of drive-extending penalties by Tennessee.

Tennessee’s offense has avoided a critical mistake but hasn’t seriously threatened the Alabama defense. John Kelly has carried four times for 21 yards, and Jarrett Guarantano completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards while rushing eight times for 13 yards. As a team, Tennessee amassed 75 yards of offense and five first downs in the half.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

Jimbo Fisher allows he ‘shouldn’t have said something’ to heckling fan

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Florida State’s off to a rough start on the field, which means have gotten a little bit tougher — and louder — off of it.

FSU lost to Louisville 31-28 Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee to tumble to 2-4, its worst start to a season since Bobby Bowden‘s final year in 2009.  After the game, as Jimbo Fisher was headed into the postgame locker room, he was greeted by a fan who shouted down from the stands “get new coaches.”

The head coach’s response? “Walk your ass down here and say it.”

After the game, Fisher was, of course, asked about the exchange. While he allowed that he “shouldn’t have said something” to the heckling fan, he passionately defended his struggling football program, from the football players on the roster to his coaching staff.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

It’s not frustration, just, ‘Hey, listen, be supportive,’” Fisher said of the interaction after the game. “There’s no reason to be nasty. I shouldn’t have said something.

“But at the same time, [I’m] defending players and people you’re with. I’m in charge of them, and I love them like a father. If they say something about your family, you take up for it. …

“Are you going to be a real fan or not?” Fisher said of general fan reaction following the poor start to this season. “Just keep fighting with us. We ain’t quitting on you. Please don’t quit on us. We’re going to keep fighting, scratching, coaching and playing, and you see the heart and desire of those kids.

“I understand you’re going to get on us [coaches]. That’s part of the business. That’s part of life. I understand that. … There ain’t no quit in us either. We’re right there. We just have to find a way to get it.

With this latest loss, FSU now needs to win four of its last five contests to qualify for one. One win is practically guaranteed as they face FCS Delaware State Nov. 18. Beyond that, their work is cut out for them as they have road trips to surging Boston College, Clemson and Florida, as well as a home game against a much-improved Syracuse squad that upset Clemson earlier this month.

Army officially accepts Armed Forces Bowl invitation

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The calendar may say October, but we’re already talking bowl bids.

Specifically, it was announced Saturday afternoon that Army has officially accepted a bid to play in the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  The service academy’s sixth win of the season came courtesy of a 31-28 overtime win over Temple.

“We are absolutely delighted that Army West Point has accepted an invitation to play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl,” bowl executive director Brant Ringler said in a statement. “Coach Jeff Monken has been outstanding since his arrival at West Point, and again reaching the post-season is a tremendous accomplishment. We are thrilled to be able to host the Army West Point football team and the cadets in Fort Worth.”

“To return to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is very special for our football program and the U.S. Military Academy,” Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said in his. “The bowl did an exceptional job in 2010 in our win over SMU and we are looking forward to another great experience for our players, coaches and staff in Fort Worth in December.

The bid acceptance is contingent, though, on Army not being selected for the Group of Five’s slot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.  The Black Knights are currently 6-2 on the season; as of this posting, there are two G5 unbeatens (USF, UCF) and four with one loss (Memphis, Navy, Marshall, Toledo).

As we noted this week, Army will be making its first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1984-84 seasons.

Rutgers wins back-to-back B1G games for first time since joining the conference in 2014

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I don’t know which one specifically, but this has to be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Entering Week 8, Rutgers was 5-23 in conference play — 2-18 the last two-plus years — since joining the Big Ten for the 2014 season.  Exiting Week 8, that mark has been bumped up to 6-23 as RU held off Purdue 14-12 in Piscataway.  The Boilermakers had a chance to tie the score with 25 seconds remaining after a David Blough touchdown pass, but the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

Making this win even more impressive is the fact that the Knights were outgained 474-217 in total yards by the Boilermakers — and 279 of those yards for the visitors came on the ground.  The bend-but-don’t-break defense, though, forced six punts, two turnovers and three turnovers on downs in holding a Purdue offense that came in averaging 26.9 points per game to a pair of field goals and one touchdown.

Combine this victory with the Week 7 road win over Illinois, and this marks the first time RU has won back-to-back Big Ten games becoming a B1G member three years and three-plus seasons ago.  Not only that, but it’s also the first time they’ve won back-to-back conference games in any league since 2012, when they were a member of the defunct Big East.

This mini-streak will seemingly face a stiff test to extend as they travel to Ann Arbor next weekend to face No. 19 Michigan in the Big House.