Saturday, July 29, 2006

On tap in the coming weeks

1- A reasonably in-depth, but not so agonizingly Phil Steele-esque detailed so as to make you click away in exhaustion, ACC season preview

2- My Top 25 picks

3- My BCS Bowl, and the new "plus 1" national title game, predictions

4- More off-the-top-of-my-head ramblings

Friday, July 28, 2006

Long time no see

It's probably not a hot idea to go on vacation for 2 weeks just after starting a blog, but what the hey. I'm back and I see that the ACC has been in the news quite a bit lately, so here's my two cents...

I. At the 2006 ACC Kickoff meeting, Florida State and Miami were each favored to win their respective divisions; Miami was picked to win the 2nd ACC title game; and Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson was tabbed to win the Player of the Year Award. Maybe, Wrong, Wrong and Wrong. Florida State and Clemson look to be the class of the Atlantic Division, but I'm slightly tilting in favor of the Tigers this year based on how they've handled the Noles in 2 of the past 3 seasons, and due to the possibility that FSU could easily start league play at 0-2 (Sept. 4 @Miami, Sept. 16 vs. Clemson). I think the Coastal race will be decided between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, with Miami finishing third with a 5-3ish league record. Hurricane QB Kyle Wright is getting some mysterious media-love this offseason (helloooooo, remember the Peach Bowl folks?) and far too many pundits are erroneously treating the coaching staff changes in Coral Gables as unmitigated positives. As for my favorite to win the ACC championship, I'm leaning toward the Hokies (losing The Stomper is addition by subtraction, in my opinion) but I'm far from certain. In regards to the uber-talented Johnson, Chan Gailey's and offensive coordinator Patrick Nix's "offense" will not feature him enough to warrant Player of the Year honors. Look for someone like FSU's Drew Weatherford, Clemson's Gaines Adams, Clemson's Will Proctor (surprise pick) or Maryland's Josh Allen (sentimental pick) to take top prize.

II. Maybe I'm just a know-nothing rube, but far too many out there aren't quite aware of how badly NC State and Virginia could crash this year. State and UVA are ranked 5th and 4th respectively in their divisions by the media at the ACC meetings and at CFN's mostly excellent preview. At this point, I'd peg the Pack at last in the Atlantic and UVA 5th in the Coastal.

III. From the files of "What In Hellfire Took So Long To Figure This Out?", the ACC announced an actual pecking order of bowl tie-ins, including making the Orange Bowl the annual home base for the ACC champion (assuming that the ACC champ is not going to play in the BCS title game). Boston College fans will be so pleased to know that their new conference waited until this year to devise this plan, eight months after an 8-3 record and 1st place tie in the Atlantic Division earned them a road game against Boise State for Christmas. Meanwhile 6-5 records, 4th place finishes in their respective divisions, and losses to those Boston College Eagles earned NC State a defacto home game in Charlotte, and sent Virginia to Nashville for an enjoyable holiday season. The Annual Late-December Siberian Exile Extravaganza (the curiously little-known slogan for the MPC Computers Bowl) will now fall to the eighth place finisher in the league, should they even qualify for a bowl bid.

IV. CBS Sportsline's Gregg Doyel has an interesting take on ACC expansion and while I'm neither a fan of him nor the Sportsline website, his piece is at least worthy of some analysis. In a nutshell, he surmises that ACC expansion has tarnished the golden glows of Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, NC State's Chuck Amato and Virginia's Al Groh. He reveals that those three guys are 1-11 against Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech since the '04 expansion. Very true. But keep in mind that the Terps, Pack and Cavs are just 37-33 overall the past two years under the new ACC while they were 57-23 overall in the two years prior to expansion. And don't forget that Virginia and Virginia Tech played annually even before the move to a 12-team league. So, something (or some things) inherent in each program besides the outside force of expansion has played a role in the stagnation of the three former up-and-comers, namely...

  • Virginia's and Al Groh's issues have been detailed here, so I won't bother to rehash them. Suffice it to say, they've gone 8-4 and 7-5 overall in the new ACC and went 5-7, 9-5 and 8-5 overall under the old ACC under Groh. I'm not seeing how expansion scuttled their ship.
  • As for Maryland, Friedgen has proven himself to be a decent recruiter overall, but has failed to uncover a true star for his offensive scheme. Former Terp coach Ron Vanderlinden, while not chalking up enough victories in the W/L column, was at least a very capable recruiter, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Fridge benefited from those recruits in his first three seasons when he went a stellar 31-8 overall. But, his lack of a real home-run recruiting class, the inability to find a capable QB, and a bit of bad luck (read: injuries), have saddled Maryland the past two years. They haven't played Miami yet and are 0-3 against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Even if they had won those 3 games, the Terps would have been 6-5 in '04 and 7-4 in '05, still well below the 10-win seasons they were enjoying earlier this decade.
  • Regarding NC State, league expansion has had pretty much zero to do with their struggles. The revolving door on Chuck Amato's staff, inconsistent and incongruent recruiting (too much focus on Florida studs, not enough focus on North Carolina stars) and the loss of all-time great Philip Rivers are the main reasons for the Pack's recent cooling off. Even so, outside of the exceptional 11-3 season in 2002, State was hovering in the mid-level ACC range before expansion (17-15 league record from '00-'03). Their best season outside of 2002 under Amato was his first, the 8-4 campaign in 2000. They went 7-5 in '01, 8-5 in '03 (Rivers' senior year), 5-6 in '04, and 7-5 last year. So outside of '04, State is really just at status quo. And interestingly enough, they beat Virginia Tech (but lost to Miami) in that 5-6 year.

    "What're ya gonna do, huh?"

All in all, an interesting few weeks in the ACC. More to come, undoubtedly.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Checkmate for Al Groh?

Virginia head coach Al Groh took some mighty heated criticism shortly after his hire in 2001 as Cavalier skipper when he compared coaching in the NFL to chess and coaching in college to checkers. Some of those critiques cooled when he promptly brought in Top 10/Top 15 recruiting classes in his first few years, and after closing out the 2002 season (his second) with a 48-22 demolition of West Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl to finish 9-5 for the year, things were looking golden for the Wahoos.

But after three consecutive seasons of failing to get back to 9 wins (2003: 8-5; 2004: 8-4; 2005: 7-5), the bloom is off the Groh rose. When you consider that in 2002 Virginia was poised to become "the next big thing" in the ACC, today's reality is a bit thorny. Of note:

...Al Groh's record in his first 5 years at UVA: 37-26 (.590); George Welsh's last 5 years at UVA: 36-23 (.610)
...Archrival Virginia Tech, after sputtering early this decade, joined the ACC in 2004 and promptly won the league that year and played for the conference title last season
...Groh's Cavs are just 1-4 against those rival Hokies, including a 52-14 spanking last season
...The Wahoos under Groh are just 1-6 against top-guns Florida State and Miami
...Groh’s biggest game on the national stage thus far - and the game that was supposed to launch UVA into the stratosphere - turned into a 36-3 ESPN primetime beat-down at Florida State, when Virginia entered that October '04 contest 5-0 and ranked #6 in the country
...Their record since that Tallahassee disaster is a pedestrian 10-8
...Groh's 2006 recruiting class (#53) was the lowest rated of his tenure, and he enters the '06 season with just 12 returning starters
...And oh yes, he must replace 3 assistant coaches who bolted in the offseason for their own head coaching gigs

The 2006 season is shaping up to be an unpleasant one in Charlottesville. No, Big Al’s job status won't be in too much danger this year, but 2007 will likely have to be the year he really delivers on his chessmaster promises, or it will be the year he gets "kinged" right out of a job.

Insert random checkers/chess joke here

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

Today, in between a sip of one of our finest American brews, before you munch on one of your specially seasoned grilled burgers, or before you sit back tonight and listen as the annoying neighbor kids haphazardly launch $400 worth of fireworks up and down your street, just take a second to be thankful that you live and breathe in the greatest country ever founded. I know I will.

Don't mess with the US

Monday, July 3, 2006

The Greatest #16

To delve further into my last comment under "The Greatest By Number", Ivan Maisel in his piece Prime Numbers listed Peyton Manning as the greatest #16 of all time. Upon further review, when compared to the "Honorable Mentions" for #16 (UCLA QB Gary Beban; Kentucky QB George Blanda; Toledo QB Chuck Ealey; Iowa QB Chuck Long; Stanford QB Jim Plunkett; Louisville QB Johnny Unitas; Florida State QB Chris Weinke), Manning may be the least qualified of the bunch. For the sake of this blog, let's just compare him to the only other player of his era of the group, former ACC and Florida State standout Chris Weinke.

The Evidence
Heisman Trophies: Weinke 1 - Manning 0
National Titles: Weinke 1 - Manning 0
Overall record as starting QB: Weinke 32-3 (.910) - Manning 39-6 (.870)
Record vs. Florida: Weinke 2-0 - Manning 0-4
Career TDs: Weinke 79 (2.75 seasons) - Manning 89 (4 seasons)
Career INTs: Weinke 35 (2.75 seasons) - Manning 33 (4 seasons)
Career passing yards: Weinke 9,839 (2.75 seasons) - Manning 11,201 (4 seasons)
Intangibles: Weinke was 25 during his sophomore season and won the Heisman in '00 at 28 years of age; Manning was, shall we say, more age appropriate and finished his UT career at 21.......Weinke seriously injured his neck after a jarring hit vs. Virginia in Nov '98 and missed the remainder of that season.

The Verdict
The age factor can go both ways...Weinke had the advantage of advanced "maturity" when he took over as signal caller in Tallahassee in 1998, but also was saddled with a good deal of football rust (thanks to 6 years of minor league baseball) that Manning never had. I would argue that Weinke's comeback from a severe, career threatening neck injury in late '98 outweighs the age factor. Regardless, every major stat - except for career INTs - points in Weinke's favor, when factored by how many games each player started. Therefore, this blog finds that between Messrs. Manning and Weinke, the more deserving of the title of "Greatest College Football #16 of All-Time" is Chris Weinke.

Rip Van Weinke does it again

Sunday, July 2, 2006

The Greatest By Number

Now this is a great dog-days-of-summer college football piece: Prime Numbers. ESPN's Ivan Maisel - one of the primo college football writers today - developed a great offseason debate topic. In short, he goes through each uniform number, 1-100 (yes, 100), and selects the best player to ever wear that number, along with a few honorable mentions. This being an ACC blog, I'll espouse on the ACC players named in Maisel's collection:

#2- Deion Sanders, CB/KR, Florida State
#17- Charlie Ward, QB, Florida State
#22- Doug Flutie, QB, Boston College
#28- Warrick Dunn, TB, Florida State
#36- Bennie Blades, S, Miami-FL
#43- Terry Kinard, DB, Clemson
#47- Michael Irvin, WR, Miami-FL
#56- Micheal Barrow, LB, Miami-FL
#58- Peter Boulware, DE, Florida State
#66- Banks McFadden, HB, Clemson
#66- William Perry, DT, Clemson
#67- Russell Maryland, DT, Miami-FL
#76- Warren Sapp, DT, Miami-FL
#78- Bruce Smith, DT, Virginia Tech
#94- Randy White, DT, Maryland
#96- Cortez Kennedy, DT, Miami-FL

Honorable Mentions
#3- Scott Bentley, K, Florida State
#3- Homer Jordan, QB, Clemson
#4- Steve Walsh, QB, Miami-FL
#5- Edgerrin James, TB, Miami-FL
#7- Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech
#9- Peter Warrick, WR/KR, Florida State
#11- Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami-FL
#13- Gino Torretta, QB, Miami-FL
#14- Vinny Testaverde, QB, Miami-FL
#16- Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State
#18- Roman Gabriel, QB, NC State
#20- Bernie Kosar, QB, Miami-FL
#22- Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, HB, North Carolina
#25- Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Florida State
#26- Sean Taylor, S, Miami-FL
#27- Terrell Buckley, CB, Florida State
#31- Dre Bly, CB, North Carolina
#38- Sebastian Janikowski, K, Florida State
#45- Jeff Davis, LB, Clemson
#49- Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina
#50- Ron Simmons, NG, Florida State
#50- Jim Ritcher, OL, NC State
#52- Ray Lewis, LB, Miami-FL
#53- Clay Shiver, C, Florida State
#53- Corey Simon, DL, Florida State
#55- Marvin Jones, LB, Florida State
#59- Andy Bershak, E, North Carolina
#62- Jack Scarbath, QB, Maryland
#68- Mike McGee, G, Duke
#73- Jim Dombrowski, OT, Virginia
#76- Warren Sapp, DT, Miami-FL
#78- Bruce Smith, DT, Virginia Tech
#84- Carroll Dale, E, Virginia Tech
#85- Andre Wadsworth, DE, Florida State
#89- Ted Hendricks, DE, Miami-FL
#94- Randy White, DT, Maryland
#96- Cortez Kennedy, DT, Miami-FL
#98- Lawrence Taylor, LB, North Carolina

...15 of the 100 "winner" spots were taken up by players from ACC schools
...Miami-FL leads the league with 6 "winners" and 11 "honorable mentions"; Florida State is second with 4 "winners" and 11 "honorable mentions"
...Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are MIA on the survey, with no players mentioned
...Speaking of GT, how in the world was Joe Hamilton (#14) left off?
...Omission that nearly destroys the credibility of the whole survey: Derrick Brooks (#10), LB, Florida State (only a two-time All-American and defensive star of the '93 national champs)
...Inclusion that nearly destroys the credibility of the whole survey: Scott Bentley (#3), K, FSU (outside of the title winning kick against Nebraska in '93, was benched and/or ineffective much of his career in Tallahassee)
...Just because he was a jackass leading up to the '00 Sugar Bowl (and did next to nothing in that title game) doesn't mean Virginia Tech's Corey Moore (#99) wasn't dominating enough to be on the list
...Missing: Wolfpack stars Torry Holt (#81) and Philip Rivers(#17), should've been no-brainer honorable mentions
...Lawrence Taylor (#98) and Chris Weinke (#16) should have been runaway winners in their respective numbers


So I've decided to join the blog universe and allow the entire free world the experience of viewing my impressions, opinions, ramblings and such about one of my favorite subjects, college football, and more specifically, Atlantic Coast Conference - ACC - football, so allow me in advance to apologize for any assininely (not sure that's an actual word) annoying takes you may find here. College football is the greatest sport in the world, and I spent many a fond afternoon of my college days watching ACC football (1995 Florida State grad), so this is where my focus will lie.

I'm sure many, most, or all of you will find an FSU slant and/or bias here, but I'm gonna call it as I see it. Why not just start an FSU blog? Well, I feel like I've done that already on many a message board over the last several years and also, I figure the broader the topic, the easier for me to find something to write about. Why not just start a general college football blog? Well, it's already being done quite capably by many others and I have no desire to try and "compete" with the blogs I already enjoy reading myself. I had a limited - but enjoyable - experience in writing about ACC football in the past (I wrote for a few years ago), so this will be my niche.

To be clear, this will not be a blog about ACC basketball, baseball, track & field, soccer, academics, and so on and so forth. You might see a musing here or there about those topics, but this blog is first and foremost about ACC football, secondly about college football, and lastly about anything else that strikes me as blog-worthy. And this being the dead middle of summer, there may be many miscellaneous non-ACC football topics posted here.

So here goes. Thanks for reading.