Thursday, August 31, 2006

Oh Why The Hell Not...."On Notice" ACC Style

In the midst of rampaging through the blogosphere like Ralph Friedgen at an ACC media days lunch buffet, the Stephen Colbert "On Notice" board pauses for a breath to deliver an ACC-style list:

The Blogosphere's Best Preseason Poll....

...courtesy of mobius at The Chop Shop. So sayeth Ron Burgundy, so sayeth we all. Enjoy.....


Damn straight

New Look

No, your eyes haven't deceived you. I've been fooling with this new BloggerBeta. It's a lot easier to change the format around and whatnot, so I'm fiddling with the color scheme.

BC up 3-0 over Central Michigan with 10:54 to go in the first quarter, by the way.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Week 1 Preview

Continuing the fine tradition I established for myself in college (prolonged procrastination that resulted in pressure-induced yet still reasonable quality work), I present - just in the nick of time - the week 1 ACC preview.

Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006
Boston College at Central Michigan, 6:00pm ET
For starters, why in blazes is BC heading to lovely-this-time-of-year-I'm-sure Mt. Pleasant, MI? That aside, this may be a bit tougher than expected for the Eagles, at least on the defensive side of the ball since the Chippewas sport a pretty damn good RB in Ontario Sneed and BC is throwing out a relatively unproven DL. Expect LB Brian Toal to notch about 15 tackles while Matt Ryan and the Eagle O pull away in the 4th quarter.
The Pick: Boston College 30, Central Michigan 14

Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006
Northeastern at Virginia Tech, 1:30pm ET
Hokie QB Sean Glennon couldn't have asked for a more relaxing debut than this one - a nice toasty late summer day at home with 65,000 of your closest pals, against a defense that is a welcome break from the one he's seen in practice all this month.
The Pick: Virginia Tech 48, Northeastern 3

Florida Atlantic at Clemson, 3:30pm ET
This is loss #1 of plenty in Howard Schnellenberger's sickeningly masochistic 2006 tour. At least for one week, the plethora of preseason love the Tigers are getting will look deserved. Over by the 2nd quarter.
The Pick: Clemson 45, Florida Atlantic 6

Rutgers at North Carolina, 3:30pm ET
A few years ago this would have been one dreary matchup of colossally underachieving programs, but in 2006 I'd say this easily qualifies for the "Not Too Shabby" category of week 1 matchups. Rutgers is positively all giddy about last year's 7-5 bowl season, but let's not forget that they began last year blowing an out of conference game against another inexplicably bad big time program (Illinois), and methinks it may happen again, only UNC is a few notches better than the Illini were.
The Pick: North Carolina 31, Rutgers 28

William & Mary at Maryland, 6:00pm ET
The second of way too many opening week games pitting 1-AA foes with ACC clubs. Nice use of the 12th game fellas. We shall see if Sam Hollenbach can remain interception free this game, and the return of RB Josh Allen for the Terps makes this somewhat interesting, at least for a little bit. But this one is also over by the 2nd quarter.
The Pick: Maryland 38, William & Mary 7

Appalachian State at N.C. State, 6:00pm ET
The defending national champions begin the defense of their crown in their home state of North Carolina. What? Ha, I had you going for a sec, didn't I? 2005 1-AA national champ Appy State tries to do the unthinkable and conquer a 1-A foe. And I for one wouldn't be flabbergasted if the game is at least very close. This is not a good NC State team. Still, while the Wolfpack offense may be comparable to a typical ASU foe, the defense most certainly is not. Expect an "interesting" first half, and then the Pack D shuts the door.
The Pick: N.C. State 31, Appalachian State 13

Richmond at Duke, 6:00pm ET
The only thing worse than a conference opening up the season against four 1-AA opponents is that there's a reasonable chance that said conference may fall in one of those games. Losing QB Zack Asack in the offseason will take a few games for the Blue Devils to get over, so don't be surprised to see this one come down to the 4th quarter; Richmond is one of the best 1-AA teams this year.
The Pick: Duke 17, Richmond 10

Syracuse at Wake Forest, 6:30pm ET
OK, let's get the "what time is tip-off?" jokes out of the way. There. Happy now? I don't think the Orange is going to know what hit them after seeing the Wake offense up close and personal, and the Demon Deacon defense should be good enough to stifle the pathetic Cuse offense anyway.
The Pick: Wake Forest 35, Syracuse 13

Virginia at Pitt, 7:00pm ET
Most publications are listing Pittsburgh as "Pitt" again, so I guess I'll follow suit. If any ACC club could have used a 1-AA tune up, it's UVA. Instead, they get a reasonably difficult road matchup against a fairly talented but overall boring Panther club. Pitt QB Tyler Palko against the Cavalier secondary looks to be the best battle all night, but I'll give the edge to Palko since he'll likely have a few years to find his receivers, given the green Wahoo front seven.
The Pick: Pitt 23, Virginia 14

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 8:00pm ET
One of two things will happen: like the Notre Dame at Pitt opener last year, the Irish offense will blitzkrieg a highly regarded opponent early and often, or this will come down to the very end. I'm going with the second option, given all the returning talent on this Yellow Jacket squad; Reggie Ball to Calvin Johnson has to be good for at least eight-to-ten connections, with at least one TD in there as well. But, I just don't have the gonads to pull the trigger in favor of The Ball Club. Hmmm....The Ball Club....I need to trademark that, especially if Tech catches fire this year.
The Pick: Notre Dame 29, Georgia Tech 24

Monday, Sept. 4, 2006
Florida State at Miami, 8:00pm ET
Dear God,
Please please please make these teams stop playing the first week of the year. You don't ask rusty and creaky Texas and Oklahoma to play in week one, and You don't ask Michigan and Ohio State to butt heads after 8 months off. You saw the last two Cane-Nole matchups. Not pretty. Failing that, at least dispense with them playing on frickin' Labor Day which is always right around my anniversary (Sept. 3), which means there's an awfully good chance I'll be on some long weekend getaway and not allowed within a city block of a TV.
Yours,
Tortured Seminole

I know better than to do this, and I fully expect that on Tuesday I will be blogging about how blindly stupid I was, given the Seminoles' crushing history here, but man these Canes are doing their best to keep ol' Mojo on the FSU side this year.....suspensions, panicky coaching changes, a dearth of playmakers (at least on offense), and now a tropical storm disrupting practices a few days before this game. And come on, it was The U who blew a late game kick last year; hell, they couldn't even get it off the ground. But still.....I know better than this, I know better than this, I know better than this.....
The Pick: Florida State 23, Miami 16

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Chronicles' Top 25...Plus BCS Bowl Guesses

Allow me to join the legion of other college football bloggers in posting my own extra-special Top 25 list. Special kudos to myself for actually compiling this list a few days ahead of time instead of the usual Week 1 Saturday morning 10:59am mad-scramble to write out my own Top 25 list, for no other purpose other than to see how way off base I was at season's end.

Now that my list is out there for all the world to see, the rest of you can share in wonder and amazement. And, I'll even throw in a special treat at the end, my projected BCS bowl matchups. Really!

So, on with my poll. This is not a power poll. This is how I think the polls will look like at the end of the regular season and conference championship games, but before the bowls. I've considered each team's strengths and weaknesses, gone through each team's schedule, and have come up with this mighty fine list. Projected records in parentheses...

1. Ohio State (12-0)
2. Notre Dame (11-1)
3. Auburn (12-1)
4. Texas (11-2)
5. USC (10-2)
6. LSU (10-2)
7. Florida State (11-2)
8. Louisville (11-1)
9. California (10-2)
10. Clemson (10-2)
11. Nebraska (10-3)
12. Iowa (10-2)
13. West Virginia (10-2)
14. Florida (9-3)
15. TCU (11-1)
16. Utah (10-2)
17. Oklahoma (9-3)
18. Georgia Tech (9-4)
19. Michigan (9-3)
20. Georgia (9-4)
21. Virginia Tech (9-3)
22. Miami (8-4)
23. Texas Tech (9-3)
24. Oregon (8-4)
25. Penn State (8-4)

Also considered: Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Boston College, Navy, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCF, UTEP
First off, I know what y'all are thinking....well maybe I don't, but if I had stumbled across this poll, the first thing I would be thinking is that it would be near impossible to have 9-3 Oklahoma, Michigan and Virginia Tech squads sitting in the low teens/high twenties. And in a normal year, that wouldn't happen. But this isn't anywhere near a normal year. There isn't any single dominant team entering this season, which means that there's an unprecedented level of parity for 2006 and that is why you could see 9- and 10- win major conference teams sitting well outside the Top 10. This year, it will really matter when you lose.

BCS Bowl Picks
So now we get a super-duper national championship game this season, although I'm not quite sure what this was supposed to accomplish. As best as I can tell, all the BCS has really done is just added another BCS game, called it the "BCS National Championship Game" (oh to have been a fly on the wall at that "Possible Names For The BCS National Championship Game" executive meeting), placed it in one of the 4 BCS cities on a rotating basis (huh? why?), and therefore opened up two more at-large spots to soothe the howls from the small conference folk as well as the 2004 Cal and 2005 Oregon type teams.

Anyhoo, here is the schedule of BCS Bowls for the 2006 season:
Jan. 1, 2007 - Fiesta Bowl- Glendale, AZ
Jan. 1, 2007- Rose Bowl- Pasadena, CA
Jan. 2, 2007- Orange Bowl- Miami, FL
Jan. 3, 2007- Sugar Bowl- New Orleans, LA
Jan. 8, 2007- National Championship Game- Glendale, AZ

The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC will each have an automatic tie-in to one of the bowls for their conference champ, provided that said conference champ doesn't qualify for the National Championship Game. That said, the tie-ins are:

ACC-Orange
Big 10-Rose
Big 12-Fiesta
Pac 10-Rose
SEC-Sugar

The poor ol' stepchild Big East gets no such tie-in, although the Big East champ will take one of the open slots along with 3 other at-large squads.

So, that fun little explanation aside, here's how I see the BCS bowls shaking out:

Fiesta Bowl- Texas (Big 12 champ) vs. California (at-large)
Rose Bowl- USC (Pac-10 champ) vs. LSU (at-large)
Orange Bowl- Florida State (ACC champ) vs. Louisville (Big East champ)
Sugar Bowl- Auburn (SEC champ) vs. Clemson (at-large)
National Championship Game- Ohio State (BCS #1/Big Ten champ) vs. Notre Dame (BCS #2)

And there you have it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

ACC Preview, Part III - ACC Championship and Bowls

Part III of this preview shall entail the ACC title game, along with where in blazes I think everyone's headed for the holidays.

ACC Championship Game
Predicted division winners Florida State and Georgia Tech will meet up for the second ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2, 2006 in Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville, FL, for a berth in the Orange Bowl. This will be the first meeting of the schools since conference expansion, with the last matchup resulting in a thrilling come-from behind 14-13 Seminole victory in 2003.

Look for the Seminole defense to become the story in this game, much like the 2005 ACC title game against Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech will be a more battle-tested group than last year's Hokie squad, but this FSU defense - as well as the rest of the Nole team - will be miles ahead of their 2005 counterparts, so look for Bobby Bowden's boys to notch a 27-17 victory.


The Seminoles will have a Ball in Jacksonville

Bowl Destinations
Now that we have projected the ACC title game result, next on the ACC Preview to-do list is to educationally guess where the other bowl-eligible squads head for the holidays.

But first, now that the geniuses in the league offices figured out an actual bowl pecking order - just two years after the expansion, mind you - allow me to list and explain the bowl selection order:
_________________________
1. Orange (ACC Champ, if ACC Champ is not in the BCS Championship Game) - Miami, FL (Jan. 2, 2007)
1a. Possible BCS at-large selection
2. Chik-Fil-A - Atlanta, GA (Dec. 30, 2006)
3. Gator - Jacksonville, FL (Jan. 1, 2007)
4. Champs Sports - Orlando, FL (De. 29, 2006)
5. Music City - Nashville, TN (Dec. 29, 2006)
6. Meineke Car Care - Charlotte, NC (Dec. 30, 2006)
7. Emerald - San Francisco, CA (Dec. 27, 2006)
8. MPC Computers - Boise, ID (Dec. 31, 2006)

Now that said, 1 thru 4 and then 8 are set in stone as to pecking order. Technically, 5 thru 7 can pick whomever they want provided they all agree; however if, say, the Music City and the Emerald both want Maryland, then Music City gets the pick. I know, why not just have the rule set in stone? Beats me. Another rule in the selection process is that the higher bowls cannot pick Team B (i.e. NC State '05) over Team A (i.e. Boston College '05), if Team A has 2 more league victories than does Team B. Basically, this whole pecking order was designed to make sure that a co-division champ doesn't get exiled to Boise. It doesn't mean that a team like 2005 Boston College gets one of the top 4 bowls; it just means they won't get the crappiest of the ACC bowls.
_________________________

So, that nauseating rule explanation aside, allow me to post my 2006 ACC bowl picks:

1. Orange (ACC Champ vs. BCS): Florida State vs. Louisville
1a. Sugar (BCS vs. SEC Champ): Clemson vs. Auburn
2. Chik-Fil-A (ACC vs. SEC): Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee
3. Gator (ACC vs. Big XII, Big East, or Notre Dame): Miami vs. West Virginia
4. Champs Sports (ACC vs. Big Ten #4 or #5): Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
5. Music City (ACC vs. SEC): Boston College vs. South Carolina
6. Meineke Car Care (ACC vs. Big East or Navy): North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh
7. Emerald (ACC vs. Pac 10 #5): Maryland vs. Arizona
8. MPC Computers (ACC vs. WAC): Wake Forest vs. Fresno State

I was going to compile an All-ACC squad, but never mind. It's been done pretty well here and here. I've got three days before the season starts, so I'll give y'all my Top 25 tomorrow and then it's....drumroll....My Week 1 Preview. Be ready.

Friday, August 25, 2006

ACC Preview, Part II - Coastal Division

On with the show....

COASTAL DIVISION

Predicted order of finish

1. Georgia Tech
Schedule
Offense: The pieces are all in place for this to be a dynamite unit. While still struggling at times with accuracy, QB Reggie Ball drastically cut his interception rate last season. The Yellow Jacket running back pipeline churns out Tashard Choice this season, who still scored 6 touchdowns in limited action in 2005. The offensive line returns four starters. Last but certainly not least, Tech has possibly the best WR in the country in junior Calvin Johnson. Finding ways to get him the ball a lot more often than he saw last year is the big issue for the Jacket offensive staff this season.
Defense: Five starters return for ace coordinator Jon Tenuta - mainly along the front seven - in addition to stud tackle Darryl Richard, who missed last season with a knee injury. As with most other clubs in the ACC this year, secondary is the main concern and it could be costly - only one of the DBs has solid gametime experience, and the first game on the slate is gunslinging Brady Quinn and Notre Dame.
Miscellaneous: Last year's ugly loss to Utah in the Emerald Bowl continued the wildly inconsistent play of Tech teams under Chan Gailey (2002- upset NC State, lost to Fresno State; 2003- upset Auburn and Maryland, blown out by Duke; 2005- upset Auburn and Miami, routed by the Utes)....Archrival Georgia's win-streak over the Jackets is now at 5, with last year's 14-7 home loss the most galling - Calvin Johnson caught just 2 passes for 14 yards....Tech's four-year streak of 7 wins per year most assuredly will end this season; 8-5 after the bowls looks to be a realistic worst-case scenario....Upset alert: at NC State (Nov. 4), a road contest near the end of a difficult stretch in the schedule (coming off back-to-back games with Clemson and Miami)....The Yellow Jackets bypass Florida State, Boston College and Wake Forest from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC

2. Virginia Tech
Schedule
Offense: There are question marks all over this unit, but fortunately for the Hokies, those question marks have more to do with experience than talent. At QB, sophomore Sean Glennon recently won the job and will get a nice tune-up in Game 1 against 1-AA Northeastern. At RB, Brandon Ore is a super talent, but his performance will be all too dependent on a green offensive line. The receiving corps is in the capable hands of senior David Clowney, and juniors Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan.
Defense: This could be a monster. The defensive line is exploding with talent, LBs Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall could both be all-ACC, and the secondary will be one of the league's best. There really is no weakness with this unit, other than the lack of full season experience on the DL; but the talent there alone should make up for it.
Miscellaneous: Unless things go horribly awry this year, this is a national title caliber team in 2007 and 2008....The Hokies' surprising loss to Florida State in last year's ACC Championship Game was their 12th straight defeat to the Seminoles, dating back to 1976....ESPN and the ACC didn't do the Hokies any favors by scheduling a Thursday night matchup with Clemson just 5 days after a potentially tougher-than-expected game with Southern Miss....Upset alert: at North Carolina (Sept. 9), the second game of the season and the first road contest for Glennon and the young offense....Tech bypasses Florida State, Maryland and NC State from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 9-3 overall, 5-3 ACC

3. Miami
Schedule
Offense: It begins and ends on the shoulders of talented junior quarterback Kyle Wright, who looked impessive most of last season despite getting battered about like a pinball. Starting RB Tyrone Moss, suspended for the Florida State game, is coming back from a torn ACL. The underperforming receiving corps is lacking that typical Miami breakaway threat. Last year's underachieving offensive line is another unknown quantity. Add all that with a new offensive coaching staff, and this is reason numero uno as to why the Canes are sitting at third in the Coastal.
Defense: The #4 overall defense in the country in 2005 returns much of that talent, so little-to-no dropoff is expected. The front seven looks solid, highlighted by DE Baraka Atkins who blew through many an OL at tackle in 2005. The secondary is far and away the best in the ACC, particularly at safety with Brandon Merriweather and Kenny Phillips. Pity the young QB facing this crew.
Miscellaneous: Look for the Canes to head into late October at 7-1 or 6-2, before the wheels fall off; road games with Georgia Tech and Maryland, and home dates with Virginia Tech and Boston College highlight the final month of the season....The erratic Jon Peattie returns to his placekicking duties for his senior season, although he's one of those players you swear has been there since the Reagan administration....Despite 5 national titles in 23 years and a 9-3 campaign in '05, Miami ranked just 9th in the ACC and 49th nationally in average attendance (45,310) last year....Larry Coker's job will likely come down to winning a pre-Jan. 1 bowl game....Upset alert: the season finale at home against Boston College (Nov. 23); one of those notorious Thursday night games, and as noted in my BC preview, 22 years to the day of the Flutie-to-Phelan Hail Mary on that same field.....Miami bypasses Clemson, NC State and Wake Forest from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC

4. North Carolina
Schedule
Offense: New coordinator Frank Cignetti has brought his high-octane offensive mindset over from Fresno State with reportedly glowing results, if reports out of practices are to be believed. The QB situation is far from settled, with Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey and redshirt frosh Cam Sexton in a dead heat heading into week one. Senior RB Ronnie McGill returns, along with the left side of the OL. The receiving corps is the big question mark with just one of the top 5 wideouts from last season (Jesse Holley) back. Still, there's enough talent and experienceto help Cignetti to improve on last year's 102nd ranked unit.
Defense: Seven starters return from last year's wildly inconsistent unit (week 5- coughed up 69 points at Louisville; week 6- held Virginia to 5 points). Key players return on each sector of the defense, highlighted by Shelton Bynum at tackle, Larry Edwards at strong side LB, and Kareen Taylor at safety.
Miscellaneous: UNC takes a slight break from their usual hari-kari out of conference schedule, with a road date at Notre Dame the only Top 25 foe of the bunch; Rutgers and South Florida visit Chapel Hill for potentially tough matchups, with 1-AA Furman designed to provide cannon fodder before road games with Clemson and Miami....Speaking of Furman, the last time the Paladins visited UNC (1999), they dominated the Tar Heels en route to a 28-3 victory, one of the all-time lowest moments not just in Carolina but ACC history....Must win: a home date with Wake Forest (Oct. 28); a 1-3 start in the conference is likely (Virginia Tech, at Clemson, at Miami, and at Virginia are the first 4 ACC games), so a loss to the Deacs will likely prove fatal to bowl hopes....The Heels bypass Florida State, Boston College and Maryland from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 ACC

5. Virginia
Schedule
Offense: We've got holes all over the place here- quarterback (goodbye Marques Hagans), running back (so long Wali Lundy), most of the line (farewell D'Brickashaw Ferguson). And let's not forget that coordinator Ron Prince departed for the Kansas State head coaching job, leaving Mike Groh to take the reins. Another father-son/head coach-offensive coordinator arrangement in the ACC; hmmm, I wonder how that other situation has panned out so far? On the plus side, the receiving corps returns two quality players in seniors Deyon Williams and Fontel Mines. And tight end looks to be in good hands with junior Tom Santi. Still, all is not lost. Senior Christian Olsen will take the reins at signal caller and the RB position can be filled capably by 4 talented, albeit green, players.
Defense: More holes here- a departed coordinator in Al Golden (now the Temple head honcho), an unproven line, a linebacking group minus Kai Parham and Ahmad Brooks, and two new inexperienced safeties. That said, the cornerbacks (Marucs Gorham and Chris Hamilton) are solid and battle-tested. Al Groh's recruiting coups the last few years will really have to pay off on this side of the ball in 2006.
Miscellaneous: Aside from the perpetually "rebuilding" Duke Blue Devils, this is by far the biggest restructuring job in the ACC this year; rarely does a school lose so much talent on the field and in the booth (minus a total coaching staff turnover) as the Cavaliers' did this offseason....Someone in the ACC offices has something against Al Groh and/or is a Hokie grad: The Wahoos close the season at Florida State, home with Miami, and then at Virginia Tech....Must win: at Duke (Sept. 30); lose this one and it's likely an 0-8 league record this year....UVA bypasses Clemson, Boston College and Wake Forest from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 4-8 overall, 1-7 ACC

6. Duke
Schedule
Offense: Yikes. The offensive line is in dire shape, with Matt Rumsey at center the only returning starter, and with no other proven talent lined up for game one. This could be a freshman dominated group by season's end. The skill positions are in a bit better shape, with the versatile Ronnie Drummer looking to be the offensive star. Losing projected starter Zack Asack at QB in the offseason (academic suspension-plagiarism) was a major blow; senior Kevin Cronin is likely to ge the nod but he's not a lock. That leaves Rumsey as the only projected returning starter from last year's 116th ranked offense. Not good.
Defense: There's some hope here, particularly along the front seven with 2004 stud recruit Vince Oghobaase at tackle and linebacker with Michael Tauiliili (who lead all freshman in tackles last year). Two experienced seniors (John Talley and Deonto McCormick) hold down the fort at corner.
Miscellaneous: The Devils get one breather (1-AA Richmond, in game one), and then run a difficult conference gauntlet along with out-of-league foes Alabama, Navy and Vanderbilt.....Reason for some hope in the Alabama game: the last time the Blue Devils visited an SEC power (Tennessee-2003), they scared the ever-loving-bejesus out of the Vols (trailing just 9-6 heading into the fourth quarter) before falling 23-6......Must win: a home matchup with Virginia (Sept. 30); this is their only realistic shot at an ACC win and they get two weeks to prepare for the Cavaliers.....The Blue Devils bypass Clemson, Maryland and NC State from the Atlantic Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 ACC

ACC postseason projections, all conference team, and other league stuff coming up shortly....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ACC Preview, Part I - Atlantic Division

As promised here, I give you the beginnings of my somewhat in-depth, yet concise and easy to ponder, ACC preview. Let's get right to it.....

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Predicted order of finish

1. Florida State
Schedule
Offense: A rebuilt - although not very deep - offensive line is the most glaring area of improvement. Injuries and sub-par talent on the line last year destroyed all hopes of the Seminoles establishing any sort of run threat, thereby putting the entire offense into then-freshman QB Drew Weatherford's hands. While far from perfect, Weatherford developed into a fine signal caller and has earned the respect of his teammates, something sorely missing under center since the departure of Chris Weinke after the 2000 season. Weatherford, shifty tailbacks Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith, along with stud wideouts Chris Davis, DeCody Fagg and Greg Carr provide FSU's best overall offensive talent since 2000 when they last played for a national title, so if there's any struggle whatsoever on this side of the ball in 2006, the blame will lie squarely on the shoulders of the much-maligned Jeff Bowden.
Defense: Cliche alert...these guys don't rebuild here, they reload. Losing 2 linemen and a linebacker in the first round of the NFL draft normally would signify a decline the following year, but not necessarily in Tallahassee. Mickey Andrews rotates so many players in and out during each series that there is nary a starter on opening day without some solid previous game experience. If there is a weak spot, it's the secondary. We'll find out how weak very quickly--on Labor Day in the Orange Bowl.
Miscellaneous: Those who think that Bobby Bowden is merely a figurehead should think again; Jeff Bowden runs the offense he is directed to run, with the players that Papa Bowden tells him to play.....Reports out of practices indicate Weatherford is firmly entrenched and respected at starting QB, and that he's been razor sharp in the passing game......This year's schedule has the Seminoles playing 8 home games, with all of November in Tallahassee; the only road games outside of the state are at NC State (Oct. 5), at Duke (Oct. 14), and at Maryland (Oct. 28)....Upset alert: that College Park trip on Oct. 28, one week after the Boston College game, and the last road game before the 4 game homestand to end the season....FSU bypasses Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina from the Coastal Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 10-2 overall, 7-1 ACC

2. Clemson
Schedule
Offense: With eight starters returning - including all five offensive linemen - and with another year of seasoning under 2nd-year coordinator Rod Spence, this could be a juggernaut. The only real question mark is fifth-year senior QB Will Proctor, who takes the reins as starter for the first time. He played admirably when called upon last year (he beat Duke, and led the Tigers on a game winning drive against Texas A&M), but is obviously still unproven over the course of a season. RB James Davis and wideout Chansi Stuckey are outstanding and could both be 1st-team All-ACC when all is said and done. The league's best kicker in Jad Dean returns as well.
Defense: Last year's unit improved significantly as the season wore on (giving up just 11 points per game over the last 7 games), and seven of those starters return for 2006, led by all-everything DE Gaines Adams. The secondary is the weak spot, if there is one, with the projected starters at CB - Duane Coleman and CJ Gaddis - coming over from the offensive side of the ball, while the two safeties (Michael Hamlin and Chris Coleman) are sophomores with limited gametime experience.
Miscellaneous: If there's a year for Tommy Bowden's program to finally break through, this is it; the talent and experience are there on both sides of the ball.....after a comfy opener with Florida Atlantic, the Tigers hit the road in week 2 (Boston College) and travel again in week 3 (Florida State); that's a tall order for the notoriously slow starting Tigers under Bowden....Clemson's 4 losses last year were by a combined 14 points, with two of the defeats in OT.....Upset alert: after returning from the BC-FSU gauntlet in weeks 2 and 3, a dangerous North Carolina squad pays a call.....The Tigers bypass Miami, Virginia and Duke from the Coastal Division on this year's slate.
Predicted record: 10-2 overall, 6-2 ACC

3. Boston College
Schedule
Offense: The strong suit here is QB Matt Ryan, who won the starting job last season and played quite well. The always stout Eagle O-line returns 3 starters. The skill positions at running back and receiver are points of concern....TBs LV Whitworth and Andre Callender are capable, but not all-conference caliber. 2005's top 2 wideouts are gone, leaving career second-teamer Tony Gonzalez as the #1 target. Up-and-down kicker Ryan Ohliger is back.
Defense: There are some questions on this side of the ball....just 5 starters return, with no proven pass rushers on the line. The linebacking corps, led by junior Brian Toal, is one of the best in the league. The secondary is solid as well, with experienced upperclass-men holding down the fort. 10th year coordinator Frank Spaziani will have one week to get the pass rushing squared away before Clemson pays a visit.
Miscellaneous: This year certainly looks to be a slight step down for the steady Eagles program, with too many unknowns on both sides of the ball; luckily, the cake out-of-conference schedule (at Central Michigan, BYU, Maine, Buffalo) should easily allow BC to cruise to an eighth-straight bowl game.....Media/Blog contrast, exhibit 1: a perusal of college football sportwriters normally finds universal praise and gushing admiration for the job head coach Tom O'Brien has done, while a scan of BC blogs finds a palpable frustration at the O'Brien regime.....the Nov. 23 season finale at Miami is 22 years to the day of the Flutie Hail Mary over the Hurricanes....Upset alert: at Wake Forest (Nov. 4), an always tough game for the Eagles, and this year a game sandwiched between uninspiring contests against Buffalo and Duke.....BC bypasses Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia from the Coastal Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 8-4 overall, 4-4 ACC

4. Maryland
Schedule
Offense: My oh my, where to begin? The bane of Ralph Friedgen's offenses in 2004 and 2005 - QB play - doesn't appear to have settled much in 2006. Senior starter Sam Hollenbach returns, but so does his penchant for throwing costly interceptions. Backup Jordan Steffy has earned positive notes in practice, but he looked unimpressive in gametime last year. The offensive line is solid and capable. Stud RB Josh Allen returns from a knee injury that cost him the 2005 season. The group of receivers is talented, but when the top returning receiver is RB Lance Ball, that has to qualify as a big question mark. And oh by the way, the Fridge has taken over offensive coordinator and playcalling duties this season.
Defense: A veteran cast of players form the bulk of his year's Terp defense, and while there's no EJ Henderson or D'Qwell Jackson to grab the headlines, this unit may be more cohesive than the last few editions of the Maryland defense. The strong suits appear to be the linebacking corps and Josh Wilson at cornerback. Chris Cosh takes over as defensive coordinator for the departed Gary Blackney.
Miscellaneous: Aside from possibly Josh Allen, this may be the only team in the ACC outside of Wake Forest and Duke totally devoid of any true big-name stars; and that may not be a bad thing, considering Friedgen's 2001 ACC champion Terp team was a blue-collar workhorse club.....Don't count Maryland out against West Virginia in game 3 this season; after destroying Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers to the tune of an average score of 39-13 over 4 games from 2001-2003, the Terps dropped two relatively close contests their last two 5-6 seasons (31-19 in '05, 19-16 OT in '04); if Friedgen can get back in Coach Rod's head, there go WVU's national title hopes early....Must win: at Virginia (Oct. 14); this is the easiest of a brutal 7-game stretch that includes @Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Florida State, @Clemson, Miami and @Boston College....The Terrapins bypass Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke from the Coastal Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 7-5 overall, 4-4 ACC

5. Wake Forest
Schedule
Offense: The infamous flexbone returns yet again, albeit without the services of RB Chris Barclay, one of Wake's all-time greats. Ben Mauk returns to the starting QB position after being benched last season (1 touchdown and 6 picks), however freshman Riley Skinner has made some waves in practice. The skill positions at running back and receiver are up in the air--there are plenty of capable players (i.e. De'Angelo Bryant, Willie Idlette), but no true standouts yet.
Defense: Eight starters return on a solid but injury-plagued unit. The good news is that there's quite a bit of depth, especially among the linebackers, and the secondary - especially CB Alphonso Smith - is not to be overlooked. After being ranked 69th in total defense nationally last year, look for this unit to possibly halve that in 2006.
Miscellaneous: There's a possibility - albeit a smallish one - that the Demon Deacons could head into October at 5-0; Syracuse, Duke, @Connecticut, @Ole Miss, and Liberty are those first five matchups.....The 2005 season never got it's footing after the heartbreaking opening loss to Vanderbilt and the weird, quirky follow-up loss at Nebraska (3 Husker defensive TDs); upsets of Clemson and NC State were impressive considering a bowl-bid was basically out of the question by mid-September.....Must-win: at NC State (Oct. 14), since the loser of this one is on track for last in the division; Wake has been a thorn in the Pack's side lately and 5th place in the Atlantic this year still means a possible bowl-bid.....The Deacs bypass Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia from the Coastal Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 6-6 overall, 3-5 ACC

6. NC State
Schedule
Offense: This will take some time. The offensive line and the ruuning backs are good - but not great - while the QB play of Marcus Stone last season involved simple short passes and hand-offs. The receiving corps is entirely inexperienced and unproven. This unit struggled all-season in 2005 trying to fit into 2nd-year coordinator Marc Trestman's west-coast philosophy, with generally below-average results (outside of last year's game against 1-AA Eastern Kentucky, the most the Pack scored in any game was 24 points).
Defense: The core of the unit largely responsibile for 2005 being a 7-5 bowl winning year rather than a 3-8 disaster is gone. Three...count 'em three...studs off of last year's defense went in round one of the NFL draft. NCSU isn't at the level where they can just survive that. The ends are now completely unproven and the linebackers are a work in progress. The secondary at least looks capable.
Miscellaneous: A 2-0 start looks assured, with 1-AA Appalachian State and Akron paying visits to Raleigh; after that, every game is losable.....Chuck Amato deserves a lot of credit for raising the profile of Wolfpack football, but at it's peak - the 11-3 season in 2002 - State finished just 5-3 in the old-ACC, good for 4th place that year; and that was with Philip Rivers at his best.....As shaky as the Pack look this season, expect them to give Florida State all they can handle on Thursday night, Oct. 5; Amato is 3-3 against his mentor Bobby Bowden.....Must win: at home vs. Wake Forest (Oct. 14); coming off probable consecutive home losses to Boston College and Florida State, a third-straight home defeat, to the Deacons no less, would spell disaster heading into road games with Maryland and Virginia.....NC State bypasses Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke from the Coastal Division on this year's slate
Predicted record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 ACC

Coastal Division preview coming up in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

For What It's Worth

CFN annually does a 3-year program analysis in order to determine, by their criteria, where each program stacks against every other one out there. This year's analysis yielded an interesting result as to which conference has been tops over the last three years.

Anyway, their ranking of each ACC program from 2003-2005:
#5 Miami
#10 Florida State
#12 Virginia Tech
#21 Boston College
#22 Virginia (??)
#24 Clemson
#31 Georgia Tech
#33 Maryland
#40 NC State
#66 North Carolina
#71 Wake Forest
#94 Duke (how'd they get this high??)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

BCS "Blunders"

The good folks over at CollegeFootballNews.com have a weekly section imaginatively titled "Ask CFN", and this week one of the reader-submitted questions was an inquiry into the worst BCS blunders since the inception of the BCS. The Nebraska travesty of 2001 and the Oklahoma fiasco of 2003 were correctly noted, but then talk veered into more questionable "blunders" such as Florida State over Ohio State in 1998 for the Fiesta Bowl bid, and Florida State over Miami in 2000 for the right to get blasted by Oklahoma.

DISCLAIMER: This blogger graduated from Florida State University in 1995, bleeds Garnet and Gold, thinks the War Chant belongs in public schools just after the Pledge of Allegiance, and so on and so forth. So feel free to question my reasoning, but not the facts outlined below.

Any debate between Florida State and Ohio State for the '98 Fiesta Bowl bid is almost a non-starter. The Seminoles deserved the bid. FSU lost to 7-5 NC State in early September, and then rolled through the remainder of their schedule, with the closest game a 23-12 win over #4 Florida (with Marcus Outzen at QB in place of the injured Chris Weinke). Furthermore, FSU had beaten 4 other teams listed in the final Top 15 BCS poll (Texas A&M, Florida, Virginia, Georgia Tech). Additionally, the Noles had beaten the two teams who made the whole "debate" possible: Miami, who knocked off 10-0 UCLA, and Texas A&M, who upset 11-0 Kansas State on that incredible December Saturday.

Ohio State certainly played well throughout the '98 season, in fact rising to #1 in late October. However, a Michigan State team that would finish 6-6 and bowl-less came into Columbus in early November and walked out with a win. The Buckeyes didn't even play anyone ranked in the final BCS poll. Debate over, thanks for playing Bucks, your parting gift was suffering through just 2 more years of the John Cooper era.

The 2000 debate gets a little stickier. The most disengenous portion of most '00 arguments is that it boils down to just Florida State and Miami, and leaves out Washington and (to a lesser extent) Virginia Tech and Oregon State. Let's take a little trip back to the final BCS poll of the 2000 regular season and see what a mess we had:

Final BCS poll - Dec. 4, 2000
1- Oklahoma (12-0)
2- Florida State (11-1)
3- Miami (10-1)
4- Washington (10-1)
5- Virginia Tech (10-1)
6- Oregon State (10-1)
7- Florida (10-2)
8- Nebraska (9-2)
9- Kansas State (10-3)
10- Oregon (9-2)
11- Notre Dame (9-2)
12- Texas (8-3)
13- Georgia Tech (9-2)
14- TCU (10-1)
15- Clemson (9-2)

So, we had one clear-cut undefeated team and 5 one-loss teams. Having 5 one-loss teams in and of itself is messy enough, but considering the fact that each of those 5 squads played at least one of the other 5 one-loss teams, and you get another brand of insanity altogether. Breaking down the games between each one-loss squad, this is what we get:

-Florida State (0-1): lost at Miami 27-24
-Miami (2-1): lost at Washington 34-29, beat Florida State 27-24, beat Virginia Tech 41-21
-Washington (2-0): beat Miami 34-29, beat Oregon State 33-30
-Virginia Tech (0-1): lost at Miami 41-21
-Oregon State (0-1): lost at Washington 33-30

For the remaining schedules, the breakdown goes as follows (remaining overall record, then other losses and/or notable wins):

-Florida State (11-0): beat #7 Florida 30-7, beat #13 Georgia Tech 26-21, beat #15 Clemson 54-7
-Miami (8-0): no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Washington (8-1): lost at #10 Oregon 23-16; no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Virginia Tech (10-0): no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Oregon State (10-0): beat #10 Oregon 23-13

After reviewing the two categories above, it seems an obvious call to drop Virginia Tech from consideration. I would also drop Oregon State from consideration, due to the fact that they went 0-1 vs. the other 4 teams and played just one other ranked BCS team, albeit a victory.

So that leaves us with Florida State, Miami, and Washington. Miami played 3 of the other 4 one-loss teams and went 2-1; very impressive. But they didn't play anyone else of consequence after that. Florida State played just one of the other 4, and lost; not so great. But they beat 3 other BCS ranked teams, two of which were blowout wins; very impressive. Washington played two of the other 4 one-loss clubs and won both; most impressive. But they played just one other BCS-ranked team and lost; not so good.

So who should've gone? Well....not Miami. Of the "Big Three" one-loss teams, the team that gets the most sympathy in all the arguments - the Hurricanes - seem the least deserving of the three. Florida State played a better overall schedule and demolished much of that competition; Washington beat Miami head-to-head. Either way, Miami comes up short. They lose the overall schedule and margin-of-victory argument to FSU, and they lose the head-to-head argument to Washington. So explain to me why the Canes get all the love in these debates?

As for Oklahoma's opponent in that Orange Bowl? It probably should've been Washington. But maybe not.