We begin this week, the weakest card of the season, with lunch, and a simple gesture of kindness that is right out of; “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
In late August, starry Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph and some of his teammates made a lunch time visit to the Montford Middle School in Tallahassee.
Rudolph looked around the cafeteria and noticed this one kid eating lunch all by himself, and asked if he could join him.
“I asked if I could sit next to him, and he said ‘Sure, why not?’
He told Rudolph that his name was Bo and how much he loved Florida State and the conversation just flowed from there.
What Rudolph didn’t know is that Bo Paske has autism, and on most day’s eats his lunch alone said his mother Leah who videotaped the entire episode which went viral.
“I was a kid not too long ago, and I remember what the impact was of guys that played in college and in the NFL coming back to us,” said Randolph. “So maybe I can make someone a better person.”
“Sometimes I’m grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him,” Leah Paske wrote. “He doesn’t seem to notice people who stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone.”
“I’m not sure what made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten,” she wrote.
The next day at school everybody wanted to have lunch with Bo.
This weekend let’s take a reality check from the multi-million dollar monster that college football has become. A sport now dominated by corporate sponsors, and fat-cat alumni, and focus on what is really important in life, one’s health and family. Just ask George Bailey and Travis Rudolph.
Boston College at UMass (Noon, Gillette Stadium) This game is being billed as the “Battle of the Bay State,” but in reality, it is a match of survival for both teams.
BC has now lost nine in-a-row, all of them against ACC opponents, and this non-conference affair is a must win game, or the tenure clock ticking in the football office of Coach Steve Addazio will pound louder than the cannon fire from “Old Ironsides.”
For UMass, one of only four independents playing Division 1 football, (they are hoping to eventually secure membership in the AAC Conference), and ranked by the experts as the nation’s worst (128th) gridiron eleven, a victory would send a message of William Dawes importance to the school’s administration that Coach Whipple’s “Belles of Amherst” are finally beginning to turn the moribund program in a positive direction.
QB Patrick Towles, the strong-armed graduate transfer from Kentucky is the director of the Eagles offense which crosses the goal line about as often as John Kerry has a hair out of place, or misses a Botox injection.
The QB who is the grandson of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, (no wonder he has a strong arm) is assisted by his sophomore battering ram, tailback Jon Hilliman, who plows through a defense better than a Red Line train in a nor’easter, while wideouts Jeff Smith, and Charlie Callinan, provide comforting targets.
But if the offense is the “Topo Gigio” (for those young’uns check out the Ed Sullivan show on YouTube) of the team, the D is like “Connie Francis,” the one that everyone came to see.
This starry snarling group led by backer Connor Strachan, (who moves around like former BC All-America Luke Kuechly) his partner Ty Schwab, and safety John Johnson attack with the same intensity as “The Boss” belting out the words to “Badlands.”
Since it joined the fraternity of “Big Boy” football, the Minutemen’s on field performance is best summarized by the classic lyric from Fury Lewis’ 1928 blues song; “I Will Turn Your Money Green” which reads: “Been down so long it looks like up to me.”
But there is room for optimism at the home of Emily Dickinson. The “Sons of Dick MacPherson” feel they have found a QB in cocky r-shirt sophomore Ross Comis, who is protected by a massive (320 average) and physical offensive line. The dual-threat is assisted by a quality tailback in Marques Young, and a pair of chain-moving wideouts: Andy Isabella and Jalen Williams.
The D which has more holes than a hotel in Aleppo, takes some solace in its linebacking crew led by: Teddy Lowery, Shane Huber and Da’Sean Downey.
This is a home game for the Minutemen which is another problem for its struggling program.
It is the only school in the country whose other “home stadium” is 90-miles away from campus and with a scheduled noon kickoff, there are liable to be more seagulls than fans at Gillette.
We think Addazio’s boys simply muscle over its intra-state rival, and for the moment at least deaden the volume of the office “watch-clock.”
No.17 Tennessee vs Virginia Tech (Ch.5, 8 p.m. – Bristol Speedway) The last time these two teams met in a regular season match-up, FDR was in the early stages of his second White House term (1937).
[Note: the attendance record for a college football game was set in 2013, when 115,109 witnessed Notre Dame battle Michigan in the Big House. That record is expected to be shattered Saturday night, when a crowd of over 140,000 motors in to witness the speedway stadium spectacle.
There is a Carly Simon sense of anticipation amongst the Rocky Top faithful, that this is the year when football in Knoxville becomes once again relevant, and that the Vols will make a strong challenge for the SEC East title.
These “Sons of Johnny Majors” are directed by its leather tough dual-threat senior QB, Josh Dobbs, who must improve his accuracy if he is to be perceived an elite performer.
The big man is assisted by his rumbling 18-wheeler (240-pound) tailback, Jalen Hurd, who finishes a run like a rail road laborer pounding and punishing a spike.
If Dobbs can lock on, he has a trio of field-stretching targets; Alvin Kamara (who comes out of the backfield), his Road-Runner wideout Preston Williams, and tight end Ethan Wolf.
The D, led by All-America end Derek Barnett, and the backer duo; Darrin Kirkland and his starry partner Jalen Reeves-Maybin, plays with the same aggression that Vladimir Putin flashes at Barak Obama, but as some would say about the POTUS, has a tendency to peter-out in the fourth quarter.
In Blacksburg there is a new sheriff in town, and a new style of play.
Justin Fuente rides in to replace VaTech’s iconic coach Frank Beamer, who roamed the Hokies sideline for 29-years molding them into a national power. (Truth be told, the program was in need of a tire change, and it was the right time for Beamer to step aside.)
The new headman is bringing his specialty: the no-huddle spread, to Lane Stadium. The Hokies designated driver is junior QB Jerod Evans, who will be protected by a seasoned offensive line.
The Blacksburg sharp-shooter can also target a trio of talented glue-fingered receivers; Isiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and a Prudential-sized (6-7,245) tight end, Bucky Hodges.
The continuity of the D remains in the capable hands of its longtime coordinator Bud Foster, (retained by Fuente), and is anchored by tackles Nigel Williams, Woody Barron, backer Andrew Motuapuaka, and safety Chuck Clark.
We are not sold on the Tennessee hype, but even less so on mediocre VaTech, so in honor of the venue, we’ll wave the checkered flag for the victorious Volunteers.
Penn State vs. Pittsburgh (Noon, ESPN) This former Thanksgiving rivalry was once as heated as Cruz vs Trump, but for a multitude of reasons$$$, it hasn’t been played since the start of the Millennium – 2000.
A brief history: the first meeting took place in College Station in 1893, a 32-0 whitewashing by Penn State, and along the way, over the generations, there have been some classic memorable battles.
We’ll start with the 1963 game.
The traditional Thanksgiving date was moved to December 7 out of respect for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Pitt’s record was a stellar 8-1, and the Panthers were penciled in for an invite to the Cotton Bowl. The only caveat was; it had to finish its season with only that one blemish.
But because the game was rescheduled to the seventh of December, the Cotton Bowl representatives couldn’t wait, and gave Pitt’s spot to another team.
The Panthers defeated the Nittany Lions: 22-21 to finish 9-1, but with nary a bowl invitation stayed home for the holidays. Something that would be simply unthinkable in today’s “everybody gets a trophy” society, which now finds teams saddled with 5-7 records invited to a bowl. Amazing!!
Another classic took place in 1981 in which a 10-0 Pitt was being led by some QB named Dan Marino who lost the game to the 9-1 “fighting Paterno’s” led by another college QB legend: Todd Blackledge.
And although neither team carries the same cachet, it’s still neat to see the rivalry renewed, even if it is for a scant four years.
We’ll begin in College Station, Pa.
In Happy Valley there’s a new offensive dawning for the “Sons of John Cappelletti” who hired former Fordham headman Joe Moorhead to install the no-huddle offense.
The captain sailing that vessel is r-shirt sophomore QB Trace McSorley, who is assisted by tailback Saquon Barkley, and a trio of receivers; DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin, and tight end Mike Gesicki, but the offensive line remains suspect and potentially a big liability.
The Nits attacking D is anchored by safety Marcus Allen, backer Jason Cabinda and end Garrett Sickels.
Pitts second year Coach Pat Narduzzi is the perfect guy to resurrect the football brand of the “Steel City.”
The pro-style attack of the “Sons of Mike Ditka” is directed by QB Nate Peterman with assists from this season’s best story: the return of All-America tailback James Conner from his recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He is cancer free, and continued to practice while undergoing treatment.
When the Panthers QB goes aerial, Jester Weah, Dontez Ford, and tight end Scott Orndoff are defense stressing targets.
Unlike Donald Trump, Narduzzi’s specialty is defense.
His goal is to build his squad in the same image of his former team; the Spartans of Michigan State. And with eight returning defensive starters featuring backers Matt Galambos, Mike Capraza, and corner Avonte Maddox, Pitt should be harder to crack than the inner circle of Donald Trump.
At home, we like the Panthers to gain a spot of revenge for that painful 1981 loss to the Nittany Lions.
Arkansas at No. 15 TCU (ESPN, 7 p.m.) This is a renewal of an old SWC (sure we’ll cheat) Southwest Conference rivalry.
The only difference is the role reversal: in those wild-west shootout days, TCU was a bottom-feeder and Arkansas was riding “high off the hog.”
The Hogs signature ground and pound attack meshes perfectly with intensity of its burly and edgy coach Bret Bielema, who has done a solid job of patiently resurrecting the Arkansas brand.
These Sons of “Frank Broyles” are directed by QB Austin Allen (the brother of recent graduate QB Brandon) with assists from tailbacks Rawleigh Williams, and Kody Walker. Those earth-movers may have some tough early plowing while the Razorbacks indoctrinate three new offensive linemen.
When Allen takes to the Fayetteville skies, he has a trio of field stretchers: wideouts Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle at his disposal.
The D, led by end Deatrich Wise, backer Brook Ellis, and tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter is the Alpha-dog of the 2016-edition of the Razorbacks.
In Fort Worth, TCU coach Gary Patterson (143-47-18 yrs.) has created one of the great architectural rebuilding projects in college football history (notably a perfect 13-0, 2010 season which culminated in a Rose Bowl victory over Bret Bielema who was then the headman at Wisconsin) in molding the Horned Frogs into a national power.
Texas A&M transfer, QB Kenny Hill, is the director of the Horned Frogs attack with assists from tailback Kyle Hicks, and a passel of quality wideouts: Taj Williams, KaVontae Turpin, and Jaelen Austin.
Patterson whose expertise is on the defensive side, utilizes an unconventional 4-2-5 system that is anchored by a tackling machine backer Travin Howard, ends Josh Carraway, James McFarland, and tackle Aaron Curry.
The last time these teams met George H.W. Bush was throwing out the first ball: 1991. This time we think TCU adds one more W to its win column in a series in which the Hogs have dominated 43-23-2.
California at San Diego State (CBSS, 10:30 p.m.) Sonny Dykes Cal Bears are like the presidential election, no one is quite exactly sure which direction the season is going to turn.
The “Air Raid” offense of these “Sons of Jackie Jensen” puts more balls into the air than Charlie Chaplin’s globe scene in the movie “Great Dictator.” (Again do yourself a favor and check it out on YouTube.)
The keys to the caddy have been given to QB Davis Webb, and the Cal gunslinger is assisted by a trio of chain movers; wideouts Malquise Stovall, Chad Hansen, and Bug Rivera, while tailbacks Khalfani Muhammad, and Vic Enwere provide a quality change of pace.
But it’s the Golden Bears colander-like D, featuring backer Devante Downs, and ends DeVante Wilson, and Cameron Saffle, that will ultimately decide the fate of the Golden Bears season.
The Aztecs of San Diego State are riding the second longest winning streak (11 – Alabama has 13) in the nation.
These “Sons of Don Coryell” are led by last season’s Mountain West Player of the Year, QB Christia Chapman.
The starry marksman is assisted by tailback Donne Pumphrey (who also catches out of the backfield), and his touchdown making receiver Mikah Holder, and partner Eric Judge.
The D which returns seven starters also has the conference POY in corner Damontae Kazee, and along with end Alex Barrett, and backer Calvin Munson, surrender points as often as the press gets to ask Hillary Clinton a question.
In a game of some intrigue, we think the Aztecs make it a perfect dozen, as San Diego State quietly marches into the top-25.
Last week: 3-2
That’s it from cyber space. We’ll be up and running with our recap by Noon on Sunday. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. pk