Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Week 1 Preview, Part II: Reasonably Intriguing Non-Conference Action

MARSHALL at MIAMI
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 12pm - Orange Bowl, Miami, FL

Series Record: First meeting
Stat Watch: 7...the number of games left in the Orange Bowl's lifespan
Quick Overview: This could potentially be the smoothest of all non-1AA openers for ACC clubs. Marshall is just good enough (well, not really) and has enough of a name where a big win will look impressive, while a moderately close contest can be shrugged off as "new coach/new system" kinks, without much cause for alarm. Newly minted starter Kirby Freeman gets a chance to improve upon his mediocre stat line from last year (54.6% completions, 7 TD, 8 INT) against the nation's 116th-rated pass defense from 2006. And let's not forget the ferocious Hurricane defense going up against a depleted Herd rushing attack.
Prediction: I smell carnage. Or maybe that's just all the spilled $7 concession stand beer evaporating in the midday south Florida heat. Miami 34, Marshall 7

CONNECTICUT at DUKE
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 2pm - Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC

Series Record: Connecticut leads 1-0; the Huskies won the only previous meeting 22-20 in 2004
Stat Watch: 711...the number of days that have passed since Duke's last football victory
Quick Overview: This could very quietly be the most entertaining ACC-oriented game of the weekend, if you're partial to lots of offense and a sparsely populated track & field arena masquerading as a football stadium. The Blue Devils return all 11 starters on offense while UConn has their QB, leading rusher and 4 of their top 5 receivers back. Michael Unspellable is suspended for this contest, putting a major crimp into one of Duke's best chances to notch a victory this year.
Prediction: I'm not picking the Dukies to win a game until they actually do so. Alas, the ACC falls behind early in the ACC-Big East 2007 sweepstakes. Connecticut 34, Duke 31

VIRGINIA at WYOMING
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 2pm - War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY

Series Record: Virginia leads 1-0; the Cavaliers won last year's meeting 13-12 in OT
Stat Watch: 1-9...UVA's record in their last 10 road games
Quick Overview: Alarming facts about Wyoming...they're 3-1 all-time vs. ACC foes and 12-1 in their last 13 home openers. However, upon further review those 3 ACC wins occurred 40+ years ago, and a quick perusal of those 12 home-opening wins unveiled names like Montana State, Appalachian State, Furman and Weber State. So I guess I just wasted quite a bit of space over factoids that ultimately mean nothing. Oh well, as far as the actual game goes, the Hoo offense vs. the Wyoming defense is one big pile of mediocrity-meets-unexceptional. The real story of the game should be the devastating UVA front seven versus the very-green Cowboy OL (three new starters, two of them freshmen).
Prediction: Regardless of the matchups, this one screams upset given the locale and opening-day nature. Nonetheless, UVA is simply a much better ballclub and should escape from the least-populated US state with a win. Virginia 23, Wyoming 17

UCF at N.C. STATE
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 6pm - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC

Series Record: First meeting
Stat Watch: 0-8...UCF's all-time record against ACC schools
Quick Overview: Quite the curious matchup, this Wolfpack-Knight meeting is. The Knights have been all over the map recordwise over the last five seasons (7-5, 3-9, 0-11, 8-5, 4-8 to wit) and quite frankly I have no clue as to where in that parameter they'll fall this season. Both State and UCF return a plethora of starters and both are coming off WTF? seasons. The Pack break in a brand-spanking-new coaching staff while the Knights break in a brand-spanking-new stadium. And since this game is in Raleigh, the brand-spanking-new advantage should fall to the Wolfpack.
Prediction: The Tom O'Brien Era gets off to a sputtering, but ultimately pleasant start. N.C. State 24, UCF 14

Previews of this weekend's four remaining ACC-oriented matchups are coming up shortly...

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