Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Aspirin sold separately in Chapel Hill to freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt, for the growing pains from an inexplicable, two-handed pass that became a game-clinching pick-six for Duke):
FOURTH QUARTER: JIM HARBAUGH LIKES HIS VISITING LOCKER ROOMS A CERTAIN WAY
Two days after struggling for three quarters to subdue Purdue (31), Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh (32) gave an unsparing critique of the visitors’ quarters at Ross-Ade Stadium. The locker room was hot, he noted. And cramped. Same as it was when he visited as a player in 1986, he declared.
According to various reports, some Michigan players spent part of pregame on their team buses, since the locker room had no air conditioning. (It was an unusually hot day for late September in West Lafayette.) Harbaugh also complained about insufficient room and equipment for medical treatment of injured players.
Purdue, which is just now exiting decades of unapologetic stinginess when it comes to athletic spending, issued a rather snippy statement in response. The statement seemed to throw one of two people under the bus: Either the Michigan director of operations for failing to explain the facility situation to Harbaugh; or Harbaugh himself for failing to listen to any pre-trip debriefing on the challenges of Ross-Ade.
This wasn’t the first time the Wolverines have taken exception to the visiting digs in the Big Ten. When confronted with the famous pink locker room at Iowa (33) last year, Michigan’s response was to bring in its own signage and wallpaper the place in maize and blue.
That didn’t solve much of anything. The Wolverines lost to the Hawkeyes in a season-altering upset.
(Maybe Harbs just has a thing about feeling at home in football facilities. You might remember that when he was the coach at Stanford, he had a $50,000 bathroom installed in his office via the deep pockets of booster John Arrillaga.)
For decades, lousy visiting locker rooms have been as much a part of college football as trick plays and stealing signals. It has long been regarded as simply part of the game and another challenge of playing on the road. But Harbaugh probably has a point in calling for a Big Ten-wide upgrade in visitor accommodations, with his school as the league leader.
“We are going to look at everything we can do for the visiting team here at the University of Michigan as it relates to a standard of care for the visitors on multiple levels,” he said.
Remember, the league dispersed $51 million per member this past summer. Spending a little of that on the visiting locker room of the football stadium doesn’t seem like an unreasonable ask, even if it means not hiring that 216th assistant athletic director your school has been desperately needing.
HOW MUCH WILL HOME FIELD MATTER IN FOUR BIG GAMES THIS WEEK?
Speaking of making life hard for visiting teams: There are four games matching unbeaten teams this weekend, all of them with potential impact on the playoff/New Year’s Six bowl picture. The Dash examines what sort of advantage the home team can expect in each:
Clemson at Virginia Tech. The site: Lane Stadium (34) in Blacksburg, Virginia. This has been the most overrated home venue in college football for nearly a decade. Last time the Hokies ran the table in Lane was 2008, and since then the home record is a less-than-overwhelming 35-16. Add another L to the list in this one. Dash pick: Clemson 27, Virginia Tech 20.
Miami at Duke. The site: Wallace Wade Stadium (35) in Durham, North Carolina. This concludes the Blue Devils’ homebody September schedule – it’s their fourth home game, and the only road contest was eight miles away in Chapel Hill. The stadium is picturesque, but hardly intimidating. Duke is 32-36 at home over the last decade, and 25-32 on the road – not much difference. Duke students struggle to take the Cameron Crazy atmosphere outdoors. Dash pick: Miami 34, Duke 31.
USC at Washington State on Friday night. The site: Martin Stadium (36) in Pullman, Washington. The last of five straight at home to open the season for the Cougars. Pullman is a pain in the posterior to get to, and the Trojans are on a short turnaround from a road game at California. But in recent years, Martin hasn’t exactly been a snake pit. Wazzu’s record at home since 2010: 23-24. Record on the road in that time: 15-25. This USC team seems hard to trust. Dash pick: Washington State 30, USC 28.
Memphis at Central Florida. The site: Brighthouse Networks Stadium (37) in Orlando, Florida. All of 10 years old, it’s not exactly one of the storied venues in the sport. UCF’s record in the stadium: 44-20. UCF’s road record in the same time: 30-30. However, in the last four years the Knights are virtually the same home or away – 15-10 at home and 13-11 on the road. Dash pick: Memphis 44, UCF 41.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Dave Doeren (38), North Carolina State. Until Saturday, the fifth-year coach of the Wolfpack had been 0-11 against the ACC Atlantic power trio of Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. Now he’s 1-11 after beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee. And N.C. State gets its other two tormentors at home: Louisville on Thursday, Oct. 5, and Clemson on Nov. 4.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Mark Stoops (39), Kentucky. Unlike Doeren, Stoops could not turn the tables on a program nemesis despite having every chance to do so. The Wildcats coughed up a 13-point lead and lost to Florida for the 31st straight time. That’s bad, but what’s worse was the way Kentucky surrendered the winning touchdown in the final minute: The Cats only had 10 defenders on the field, allowing quarterback Luke Del Rio to simply stand up and lob the easiest TD pass of his life to uncovered Freddie Swain. Making it even worse: That personnel snafu was coming out of a timeout.
When thirsty in the excellent Colorado foothills town of Golden, The Dash has a recommendation beyond the obvious Coors macrobrewery. Head a few blocks away from Coors to the Mountain Toad Brewing Co. (40) taproom and sample a Mount Zion IPA. Check out the fare from the daily rotation of food trucks that stop by and thank The Dash later for hooking you up with a great lunch.