Friday, September 28, 2007

Week 5 Preview: Short and Sweet

As mentioned in my last post, 'tis been a hectic week at work and home, so this weekend's game previews will be mercifully brief....

Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007
Think TJ Yates had a rough go of it last week at USF? This Hokie defense will be unmerciful to the now-shaky freshman UNC QB. Butch Davis drops to 1-6 all-time vs. Frank Beamer. Virginia Tech 33, North Carolina 14

DUKE at MIAMI (12pm)
Last year's surprising nailbiter (a 20-15 Cane win with Duke getting intercepted in the endzone with under a minute to play) is not likely to be repeated. But don't be surprised if Thaddeus Lewis gives the Miami defense a few fits. Miami 35, Duke 16

Just a mere speed bump on BC's march to 7-0 heading into Blacksburg. And yes, I know the Minutemen made it to the 1-AA title game last year. Boston College 41, UMass 10

The good news for Maryland is that they are easily the toughest opponent Rutgers will have seen so far this year. The bad news is that the Terps have no offensive identity and they'll still be shell (pun intended) shocked by last week's collapse at Wake. Rutgers 38, Maryland 17

Shoot, if Syracuse and Middle Tennessee can pile up the points on the Cardinal defense, surely the Wolfpack can. Even so, State will cough up the ball too many times to pull off the suddenly-possible upset. Louisville 41, N.C. State 34

It's hard to fathom the Jackets dropping a third straight game, just as it's hard to fathom the finely-tuned offensive machine of the Tigers sputtering against the suddenly vulnerable Tech defense. This series has been decided by five points or less in nine of the last 11 meetings. Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 23

FLORIDA STATE vs. ALABAMA in Jacksonville, FL (5pm)
With Alabama coming off back-to-back meatgrinder games the last two weeks and with the Seminoles coming off a bye week, conventional wisdom says that FSU has the distinct advantage. But then when you consider the myriad of connections between the coaching staffs (Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Bowden/Mickey Andrews-Kevin Steele), conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window. One thing is clear: this game is more important for the Seminoles, who need a statement win much more than Bama. I just can't call it for FSU until they prove they can do it first. Alabama 20, Florida State 17

Pitt - in an attempt to reclassify this season as a "rebuilding" one after a 2-2 start brought on by the total collapse of their offense - is unleashing a true freshman QB making his first start at the suddenly stout UVA defense. Meanwhile, the Hoo offense appears to have gotten on track, particularly the running game. Virginia 24, Pitt 13

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Where to find this weekend's ACC football action on the tube...

Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007 (all times Eastern)/
North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 12pm (Lincoln Financial Sports)
UMass at Boston College, 1pm (ESPN360 - web only)
Maryland at Rutgers, 3:30pm (ABC)
Clemson at Georgia Tech, 3:30pm (ABC)
Louisville at N.C. State, 3:30pm (ESPNU)
Florida State vs. Alabama (in Jacksonville, FL), 5pm (CBS)
Pittsburgh at Virginia, 7pm (ESPNU)

From what I can tell, the Miami-Duke game is unavailable on the tube or online as of this evening.

Also, my game previews will be up tomorrow, but they will be in abbreviated form as work and life are taking precedence over blogging these next few days. Please try to contain your disappointment.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday ACC Blog Tour

...The Gnomes report on Clemson's new, low key attitude this season.

...DudeSpin has a few thoughts about the Blue Devils' gut-wrenching loss at Navy.

...Nice work by ChantRant in illustrating how Georgia's maligned, young OL grew up against Alabama. FSU enters the Bama game this Saturday in the same boat.

...Mash on the Gas posits six plays in last week's Yellow Jacket loss to Virginia that cost his beloved Wreck the game

...Turtle Waxing has an understandably humor-free but well-thought out recap of the Terps collapse at Wake

...Various items of Hurricane interest can be found at the brand new Miami blog Hall of Canes

...Tar Heel Fan waxes about the beatdown to USF, and about the general state of UNC football.

...Section Six has a dandy breakdown of Louisville's comical secondary woes, along with a statistical analysis of the not-so-stellar passing attacks that have laid waste to the Cardinal defense. Chin up, State fans.

...Mahini at the Good Ol' Blog sees blood in the water as Pitt and the Wannstache come calling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday News & Notes

--Nick Saban practically gushes when discussing the supposed intricacies of the FSU offense under Jimbo Fisher, his OC at LSU. Oh yeah, the Noles play the Tide this Saturday in Jacksonville.

--Miami's romp over Texas A&M - combined with Georgia Tech's inexplicable collapse and Virginia Tech's all-around blah-ness - may have made the Hurricanes the team to beat in the Coastal Division.

--Even the Cavaliers don't quite seem to know why or how they've turned their season around. Which is why I'm not buying UVA stock just yet.

--In reaction to their late season collapse in 2006, the Tigers are making a concerted effort to keep James Davis and CJ Spiller as fresh as possible for the conference wars to come in the next two months. Not a bad idea.

--The Pick has already become a part of Wake Forest lore, just three days after the play ignited the Deacons' spirited comeback against Maryland.

--Meanwhile, the Terrapins are living proof that one team's pleasure is another's excruciating pain.

--Apparently, the Yellow Jackets aren't much better on offense this year, even sans Reggie Ball and Patrick Nix.

--Boston College's 4-0 start already has some long-time Eagles fans wondering if this is The Year for BC football. Jeff Jagodzinski is doing his best to temper unbridled enthusiasm.

Monday, September 24, 2007

About Last Saturday (and Thursday)...

The Hurricanes notched perhaps the biggest perception-altering victory of the weekend with their beatdown of the Aggies. Miami completely flipped the tables in this win...their much maligned offense confused and then sped right past the A&M defense, while the highly touted Aggie offense appeared as if they were moving in quicksand against the Cane defense. A much needed, feel-good, recruit-impressing evening all-around for The U.

Despite the 1-2 start for Butch Davis' crew in '07, there were some real positives to look at and even some semblance of hope for the remainder of the season. Gone. The Bulls are every bit a Top 20 club, but for the Heels to look like John Bunting was back in charge was highly disconcerting. TJ Yates finally looked like the true freshman that he is (11 for 27, 4 picks) and he received no help from his teammates on either side of the ball. The Heels are lucky USF went on cruise control in the 4th quarter or the score could've been really Bunting-esque.

"Oh come on! This is getting to be ri-g@ddamn-diculous!" - Frank Vitchard in Anchorman (and yes, there appears to be a theme going on here this week).

The ACC does this every freaking year. One (or more) potential contenders for the league title and/or Top 25 status will drop an enormous pile of excrement on the field in a non-conference game (see: Virginia vs. Wyoming), only to "find themselves" in time to knock off a few conference teams in a row (see: Virginia vs. Duke/UNC/Georgia Tech). Yet, they're still defined by the stinkstack they left in the non-conference game. Meanwhile, another ACC team makes a big splash into Top 25 status and conference championship talk (see: Georgia Tech in weeks 1 and 2), then lays an egg on national television (see: GT vs. BC) and the rest of the season subsequently caves in. Result: poor perception of the league and a dearth of ranked teams. The Hoo-Jacket game this year is just another chapter in this unaltering, tragic epic.

Virginia slices off Georgia Tech's season to spite the ACC's reputation

Now this was the game I had pegged as part of the ACC-destroying-itself-from-within saga, and happily for the league, I was wrong on a grand scale. The final score doesn't really do justice to the Tigers' domination (608 yards to 202 yards; 3 Pack turnovers to Clemson's 0; the Tigers knocking two State QBs out of the game). The Harper/Davis/Spiller trifecta of terror appears to have been fully unleashed, just in time to face the armless Yellow Jacket squad in Atlanta next Saturday. Oh, and despite the Wolfpack's embarassingly woeful showing against the Tigers, they have the perfect remedy for hapless football programs next week...Louisville!

Odd post-game scene in the N.C. State locker room when notified of their next opponent (I'm told that's Tom O'Brien in the cowboy hat)

NAVY 46 - DUKE 43
I'm stunned that Duke scored 43 points. FSU hasn't done it yet (and they played UAB). Miami hasn't done it yet (and they played Marshall and FIU). The last-second loss to the Middies obviously has to sting a bit, but with the losing-streak albatross gone, it's clear that the Blue Devils are a team with some seriously renewed vigor. They're ripe to knock off a dispirited Georgia Tech, UNC, or Notre Dame squad if any of those teams come into their meeting with Ted Roof's troops on auto-pilot. Hmmmmm, Duke over Notre Dame, in South Bend...allow an ACC guy to dream for a minute.

In a weekend when the Florida Tebows nearly cacked away their entire season at Ole Miss, it's fairly easy to forgive Boston College for a less than stellar first half against Army. The yardage the Eagles piled up by the end of the game was quite impressive (573 to be exact, 356 courtesy of the golden right arm of Matt Ryan), but the real chink out of this one has to be Ryan's 2 interceptions....that's 5 for the season and that has him currently buried at #42 nationally in passing efficiency. The TDs and yardage are very nice, but the picks have got to stop if Matty Ice is to make a downtown NYC appearance in December.

In a week when my prognostication prowess was sorely tested, I must thank the Hokies for allowing yours truly to look like a college football oracle for a brief and fleeting moment. As for the Hokies, all is not sunshine and lollipops, as they still couldn't get the running game out of first gear (133 yards, 3.5ypc) and they were penalized a ridiculous 11 times...against a mediocre 1-AA squad. The defense was OK but surrendered waaaay too many passing yards (243) to Tribe QB Jake Phillips.

It's funny how one play can not only change a game, but a season, and potentially entire careers. Just such a play occurred late in the third quarter of this dandy little matchup, as Maryland - in the midst of a methodical 24-3 domination of Wake Forest - tried to get a little too cute on the Deacon 1-yard line by throwing into the endzone. Instead of a touchdown grab that would put the Terps up by 4 TDs, the pass was picked off and returned 100 yards the other way for a Wake touchdown, igniting a Demon Deacon rally and possibly the ample seat on which Ralph Friedgen plants his keister. Wake is a team reborn, while the Terps are now just kind-of all hollow inside.

The secret of Wake's success? Jim Grobe's post-game fondue parties

Blog Poll Ballot, Week 5

3Southern Cal--
4West Virginia 2
5Florida 1
6California 1
7Boston College 1
8Ohio State 1
9Texas 3
12Clemson 3
13South Florida 5
14Arizona State 12
15Wisconsin 2
16Hawaii 8
17Cincinnati 9
18Kentucky 4
19Virginia Tech 4
20South Carolina 4
21Georgia 5
22Missouri 1
23Miami (Florida) 3
24Penn State 17
25Alabama 6

Dropped Out: Georgia Tech (#17), Nebraska (#20), Louisville (#22), Texas A&M (#25)

--West Virginia leapfrogs the Gators...Ole Miss is likely the worst team in the SEC, and it's readily apparent now that UF is one Tim Tebow blown knee from going 8-4 this season.
--I'm late on the Arizona State and Cincinnati bandwagons, but I'm solidly aboard now.
--Kentucky drops due to my overexhuberant ranking last week, and now that their win over Louisville has been devalued.
--Wisconsin continues to unimpress and underperform, 4-0 nothwithstanding.
--I'm probably being a bit harsh on Penn State, but nine straight to the Wolverines?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I Immediately Regret These Decisions

"I could be wrong, but I believe 'diversity' is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era." - Ron Burgundy

It's that kind of pompous, bad-game-show intellect that apparently led to some of my previews and predictions for this weekend. I sensed that an upset or two was in the works, but I certainly chose poorly in picking which contests would result in said upsets. To wit...
Prediction: The first milestone of the Tom O'Brien Era. I'm either a genius or a fool with this pick. N.C. State 24, Clemson 21
Clemson 42, N.C. State 20. I'm a damned fool. Clemson owned the Pack all day long. Maybe these Tigers are different. After an inexplicable absence last week, Davis and Spiller were brutal today. And this Cullen Harper chap is unflappable.

Prediction: This is not another run-of-the-mill 7-5er from Chan Gailey. Georgia Tech 30, Virginia 16
Virginia 28, Georgia Tech 23. This is sooooo another 7-5er from Chan, and if it does end up that way, it's time to show him the door. Everything was laid out perfectly for the Jackets this year, yet he can't even make it to October without cacking away the entire season. And damn you Cavs for that crapfest at Wyoming three weeks ago.

Prediction: I'm not all that impressed with the Aggies yet, but Miami is too much of a work-in-progress, and they simply don't have the firepower to win even a quasi-shootout if that's what it comes down to. If A&M scores more than 21, it's over. Texas A&M 24, Miami 17
Miami 34, Texas A&M 17. At least my reasoning wasn't all that bad, except for the whole Miami doesn't have enough firepower part. And that it's over if A&M scores more than 21. But I was right to be unimpressed by the Aggies.

Mmmm...this crow is delicious, but it is filling.

Friday, September 21, 2007

ACC on TV, Week 4

Now that Miami has saved a bit of face for the league, we shall see if the rest of the conference follows suit on the following broadcast mediums....

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007 (all times Eastern)
North Carolina at USF, 12pm (ESPN)
Georgia Tech at Virginia, 12pm (ESPNU)
Clemson at N.C. State, 12pm (Lincoln Financial Sports)
Army at Boston College, 1pm (ESPN Classic)
Duke at Navy, 1pm (CSTV)
William & Mary at Virginia Tech, 1:30pm (ACC Select - web only)
Maryland at Wake Forest, 3:30pm (ESPNU)

Week 4 Preview, Part III: A Tantalizing Trifecta

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 12pm - Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
Series Record:
tied 14-14-1; the Yellow Jackets won last year's meeting 24-7
Stat Watch: 25-4...Tech's record under Chan Gailey when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent
Quick Overview: Seventeen years ago, the eyes of the college football world were glued to this game. This Saturday? Not so much. What looked like a complete mismatch just last week now all of a sudden is the most important conference game of the season thus far. In short: a UVA win puts them at an inexplicable 3-0 in the league and drops Tech to a stunning 0-2. How the Ramblin Wreck recovers from their domination at the hands of Boston College will tell us if this is really a superior ACC club, or just another run-of-the-mill 7-5er from Chan Gailey. The Jackets appear to have the upper hand in personnel at almost every position on both sides of the ball (with the very notable exception of this supremely bred chap), so the Hoos will have to employ some confusing and heretofore unseen schemes on both sides of the ball to knock Tech for a loop.
Prediction: This is not another run-of-the-mill 7-5er from Chan Gailey. Georgia Tech 30, Virginia 16

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 12pm - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record:
Clemson leads 47-27-1; the Tigers won last year's meeting 20-14
Stat Watch: 101...the Wolfpack's national ranking in rushing defense
Quick Overview: Do not underestimate the effect of State's first football win in 340 days last Saturday. Even though it was against Wofford. And even though they cacked up 353 yards to the Terriers. Winning changes things. Especially when you're facing a Clemson program that is known for blowing games like this one. Think that stat about the Pack's rushing defense is alarming? It is. But so is this: Clemson, with the talents of James Davis and CJ Spiller, ranks just 86th nationally in rushing. The Tigers have ridden the arm of Cullen Harper much the same way they did with Charlie Whitehurst and Will Proctor, before teams learned to stack against the run and force those QBs to win it. Tom O'Brien knows this. The X factor is his own QB, Harrison Beck. If Beck reverts to the turnover machine he was against Boston College, no amount of defensive scheming against Clemson will matter.
Prediction: The first milestone of the Tom O'Brien Era. I'm either a genius or a fool with this pick. N.C. State 24, Clemson 21

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 3:30pm - BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
Series Record:
Maryland leads 40-14-1; the Demon Deacons won last year's meeting 38-24
Stat Watch: 9-1...the Fridge's record in games played in the state of North Carolina
Quick Overview: The Return of Riley. Allegedly. More than just the smart and crafty play of their injured QB, the Deacs have missed the intangible qualities he brought to the offense and exhibited in the huddle. The ACC Player Of The Year If Matt Ryan Had Never Been Born - Kenny Moore - has quietly been one of the most versatile players in the country this season (and last season as well)....he leads the Deacs in rushing, receiving, and punt returns, has scored a TD in each category, and hasn't fumbled. As for the Terps, I just get the sense that they're still trying to figure out who they are on offense. Defensively, I'm not sold on them despite their #16 ranking in total-D nationally....WVU again ran all over them and their other two matchups were with Villanova and FIU. Wake earned valuable experience against heavyweights BC and Nebraska in the first two weeks, and under a coach like Jim Grobe, you expect them to learn and advance from that.
Prediction: The Deacs' battle-readiness...and Riley Skinner...and Kenny Moore...are the difference. Wake Forest 27, Maryland 20

That's all for the Week 4 Preview. I'm Marcus, and for all of us here at stay classy blogosphere.

Week 4 Preview, Part II: Regularly Scheduled Tune-Ups

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 1pm - Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD
Series Record:
Navy leads 19-12-5; the Midshipmen won last year's meeting 38-13
Stat Watch: 93.3%...Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis' completion percentage in the 1st half against Northwestern (14 of 15)
Quick Overview: OK, so when this series was scheduled, Duke assumed that the Midshipmen would provide a breather in between ACC shellackings...alas, Navy has not been cooperative in that regard under Paul Johnson. For the first time in nearly 3 years, the Devils enter a game coming off a victory over a 1-A team. Despite being outgained by a bajillion yards against the Wildcats last week, Duke allowed Northwestern to self-destruct just enough, and stopped the Cats on four straight plays inside the 7-yard line at the end to put to rest the infernal losing skid. Nonetheless, in all 3 of their games this season the Devils haven't scored more than 14 points or surpassed 230 total yards; meanwhile, the defense has had a difficult time stopping anyone. Still, Navy all of a sudden seems very beatable as they enter this one a surprising 1-2 with a crumbling defense. However, the Middies have the top rushing offense in the nation and the Devils just don't appear to have the speed and depth to keep pace.
Prediction: Another losing streak begins, but Duke breaks the 14-point barrier. Navy 34, Duke 21

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 1pm - Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
Series Record:
Boston College leads 23-11; the Eagles won the last meeting 44-7 in 2005
Stat Watch: many years it's been since Army has defeated a Top 20 team
Quick Overview: Now that they're the toast of the ACC after the impressive opening trifecta of wins, the Eagles now begin a 4-game break against three 1-A clubs with combined 2-6 records, along with a visit from 1-AA UMass. Matt Ryan has vaulted into Heisman contention and, if he manages not to take too many second-half breathers in the upcoming blowouts, should find himself squarely among the Top 3 candidates entering the Oct. 25 Virginia Tech showdown. One thing to keep in mind in this matchup is that the Cadets have the nations' 14th ranked total defense...don't be all that shocked if Ryan and Co. sputter a bit in the first quarter or so. A bit of a letdown - albeit brief - from these first few weeks seems inevitable.
Prediction: Hopefully the ACC won't suffer from some bad juju after knocking off the US Military Academy for the second consecutive week. Boston College 38, Army 7

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 1:30pm - Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Series Record:
Virginia Tech leads 39-18-4; the Hokies won the last meeting 40-10 in 1985
Stat Watch: 61...the number of previous meetings between the Hokies & The Tribe; that's third most all-time among Tech opponents
Quick Overview: Bill & Mary were a bad 1-AA team last year (3-8), but are a tad better this season...and that's inconsequential. This matchup is all about Tyrod Taylor, Brandon Ore and the OL getting on the same page and getting a rhythm going as the Hokies start ACC play next week. After turning in the worst defensive performance of the Beamer era in the LSU fiasco, the Hokie defense delivered the best effort in Beamer's tenure (at least statistically) last week against Ohio (114 total yards, 5 first downs). It'll be a moral victory if the Tribe can put any points on the board against Virginia Tech's first team defense.
Prediction: The Hokies we all thought we'd see this season make their first appearance. Virginia Tech 44, William & Mary 3

The last three ACC game previews are on deck...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Good!

Just another typical day in ACC Referee Wonderland.

Friggin idiots.

Week 4 Preview, Part I: Where's Syracuse When You Need Them?

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, 7:30pm - Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
Series Record: Texas A&M leads 1-0; the Aggies won the only previous meeting 70-14 in 1944
Stat Watch: 10-0...the Hurricanes' record in their last ten Thursday night throwdowns
Quick Overview: Ladies and gents, I told you Patrick Nix was an inexplicably lame hire as offensive coordinator in Coral Gables. After three games - two of which were against possibly the two worst 1-A programs this year - Miami ranks just 99th in total offense. Sure, corrections and improvement take time, but when the man brought into make those corrections has no past history of ever doing so and actually sports a track record of worsening his given charge, one loses faith that said improvement will be made. On the bright side, while A&M has scored in bunches so far this year, it's been against fairly horrid competition and the Aggies haven't seen anything like the Miami defense. A spirited Hurricane defensive effort, a wild Orange Bowl crowd (sparse or not), some potent Thursday Night Voodoo, and mistake free football on offense is the recipe for a Miami upset. But all ingredients, in equal measure, must be applied...nothing less.
Prediction: I'm not all that impressed with the Aggies yet, but Miami is too much of a work-in-progress, and they simply don't have the firepower to win even a quasi-shootout if that's what it comes down to. If A&M scores more than 21, it's over. Texas A&M 24, Miami 17

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007, 12pm - Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Series Record: South Florida leads 1-0; the Bulls won last year's meeting 37-20
Stat Watch: 4, 99...USF and UNC's respective national ranking in turnover margin
Quick Overview: For the first time in school history, the Bulls enter a game with one of those neat little numbers next to their name, indicating that they are considered worthy enough to be listed as one of the 25 best teams this week. That they managed a poll appearance after not even playing last Saturday is a bit curious, especially since the noteworthy team they beat two weeks ago was effectively totalled for the season after a subsequent loss at home to Mississippi State. Anyhoo, living here in the Tampa area, I understand full well that USF is (gulp) the second best team in Florida and that Jim Leavitt is perhaps one of the five best college football hires of the last 10 years. Oh yeah, about UNC...TJ Yates continues to impress, but that Virginia loss left a mark, at least psychologically.
Prediction: The Bulls are bad medicine for the disappointed Tar Heels. USF 34, North Carolina 20

The remaining six ACC game previews are in the green room...

Monday, September 17, 2007

About Last Saturday (and Thursday)...

An entirely predictable and unsurprising result, although I suppose I bought a bit too much into the weird Thursday Night voodoo with last week's prognostication.

This is year seven in College Park for the Fridge (a supposed offensive wizard of Gandalf-like prominence), yet from years four through six (seasons played out entirely with his own recruits), the Terps finished 108, 56, and 88 in total offense, and currently sit at 92 in 2007. Jeff Bowden had a better track record than that. I guess what I'm saying is that perhaps there was a reason ol' Ralphie couldn't land those head coaching gigs for all those years...see also: Weis, Charlie. And I'm not talking about their unhealthy girths, either; that's just a curiously disturbing coincidence. Or is it?

The somewhat-surprising UVA victory has been overshadowed by talk and analysis of one of the biggest officiating blunders since The Coin Toss and The Fifth Down. The ACC has long been bashed (largely by fans of member schools) for it's consistently incompetent officiating, but this error is simply unforgivable in it's simplicity, and given the fact that it would have cost the Hoos the game if not for instant replay.

As for the Cavaliers...stop saving your break-out performances for league games while stinking it up in non-conference matchups, K? You dare not botch the Middle Tennessee, Pitt, or UConn games in the next few weeks or you will earn my eternal enmity.

Guys...384 total yards given up on defense to a 1-AA school? One week after UL-Monroe churned out 419 yards and 26 points? These are reasons why you folks at Clemson rarely get the benefit of the doubt anymore. And why few will actually be surprised if the Tigers lose to NC State next week.

On the plus side, Cullen Harper looked fantastic for the second week in a row (after being merely efficient against FSU in week 1) and Davis and Spiller were top-notch in their all-too brief appearances last Saturday.

The defense recovered nicely from the abomination in Baton Rouge, and the offense finally showed some signs of life late in the game to make the score more respectable ('twas just 14-7 entering the fourth quarter).

That said, there are severe problems in Blacksburg if new QB Tyrod Taylor gets injured or is otherwise not taking every single snap from now on. The offensive line is atrocious and the running game still hasn't gotten out of first gear. The mere threat of Taylor running the ball opened things up on offense a bit, a threat that is laughably non-existent with Sean Glennon under center.

MIAMI 23 - FIU 9
In a true snoozer of a game - particulary sans riot-like fisticuffs - the Canes got a nice cheap non-conference win over the lowly Panthers. Kyle Wright was unimpressive but not cringe-inducing on a Kirby Freeman-level, while the defense coughed up 264 total yards to FIU, at least 164 more than they should have. With Texas A&M coming to town in just three days, I foresee The U embarrassing themselves and the conference yet again.

Rarely does a team so consistently play to the level of their opposition as the Demon Deacons. Wake scored just one offensive TD against the lowly Cadets (the other two scores came via a punt return and interception return) and were outgained and out-first-downed as well. And Brett Hodges is clearly no Riley Skinner. Young Riley needs to return to the Deacon lineup, stat.

In a year when Appy State beats Michigan and The Citadel hangs 31 on Wisconsin, this may actually have to go down as a damn fine win for the Wolfpack, except for the fact that - and this must be the theme of the week - they gave up waaaaay too many yards to the Terriers. 353 to be exact. And I won't mention the 11 penalties for 109 yards...except I just did, and that Wofford managed a tidy 15 flags of their own.

In what may be the first and last instance of it's kind in my lifetime, the Blue Devils managed to provide the highlight of the week. Sure, the Duke defense was like a sieve, but QB Thaddeus Lewis was calmly efficient and the Wildcats were so generously self-destructive (13 penalties and allowing the Devils to go a combined 8 of 15 on 3rd and 4th downs) that the outcome seemed joyously inevitable by the middle of the third quarter or so. Nonetheless, I truly hope Duke Nation enjoyed that delicious morsel of victory, because I don't think they get another one this year.

Nonsensical. Completely, totally nonsensical. How a suspect Eagle defense walked into Atlanta and just stymied the Panzer-like Tech offensive line and rushing attack just completely baffles the mind. But that was not the story of the game, not by a long shot. Matty Ice clearly needs a seat reservation in New York in early December, for his calculated evisceration of the supposedly vaunted Jacket defense was something to behold.

All is not lost for the Ramblin' Wreck...the Coastal Division is so lame this season that they could afford another clunker like this one and perhaps even a third and still make it back to Jacksonville, where they'll likey face...a similar beatdown to these same Eagles. As for are the Chosen One in the league this year. Do not fricking blow it. And yes, I was way, waaaaay wrong about you in all my preseason previews and stuff.

Drew Weatherford is not salvageable. A promising but at times bumpy freshman season in '05 has regressed into an 8-of-18 passing, 1-for-13 on third downs mess (against a shockingly slow defense to boot) after 25 starts. The criminally-negligent coaching he received his first two seasons has done irreparable damage to his psyche and decision-making process and ironically it's also what keeps him as the starter considering Xavier Lee received the same grotesque guidance but with a much shorter leash.

But hey, the Noles won on the road in a rowdy Big XII venue. In and of itself, that's a sweet accomplishment. Despite all that, unless the defense starts pitching near-shutouts on a weekly basis, another 6-6 campaign in Tallahassee is on the horizon.

Out of Conference Report, Week 3

Last week's anaylsis

Updated out-of-conference records for the season, post Duke-streak-busting-celebration:

Big 1026-7.788
Big East18-5.783
Pac 1020-6.769
Big XII27-9.750
Now that's a shade more respectable. The ACC raised it's winning percentage 100 points from last week while the Big East dropped 100 points. Kudos to the SEC for just gettin' it done.

The ACC has the second highest percentage of non-conference games in unfriendly environments...

ConferenceOOC Games/Road GamesPct.
Big East23/9.391
Pac 1026/8.308
Big XII36/11.306
Big 1033/8.242
I retract my "kudos to the SEC" statement above. They damn well better have that good of an OOC record if 18 of their 21 non-conference games have been at home.

The ACC is also tied for the second-highest percentage of it's non-conference competition coming against power conference (BCS) schools. See below:

ConferenceOOC Games/BCS FoesPct.
Big East23/9.391
Big 1033/11.333
Pac 1026/8.308
Big XII36/10.278
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:

Big 107-4.636
Pac 105-3.625
Big XII5-5.500
Big East4-5.444
Considering that 4 of the ACC's 5 losses in this category are to teams currently ranked 2, 4, 5, and 24 in the latest AP poll, that 3-5 record looks a tad more respectable. I was just as mystified as you are by the Big 10's 7-4 record against power conference competition, but then I realized that four of the seven wins are over Notre Dame (twice) and Syracuse (twice).

The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...

ConferenceOOC Games/1-AA FoesPct.
Big East23/6.261
Big 10 33/7.212
Big XII36/5.139
Pac 1026/2.008
Bravo to the Pac 10, a half-hearted thumbs up to the Big XII, and a pox on all the other conferences.

I'd still classify the ACC as the worst of the BCS/power-leagues right now, although the Big East now appears most ripe to be overtaken...being just an 8-team league, losses like Louisville's to Kentucky resonate that much more. The ACC and Big East meet up 5 times in the next few weeks (UNC-USF, NC State-Louisville, Maryland-Rutgers, UVA-Pitt, UVA-UConn)...unfortunately, all 5 ACC participants in those games are in the bottom half of the league whereas 3 of the 5 Big East clubs are in the top half of their league. If the ACC managed just two wins in those contests, I'd classify the ACC as better than the Big East.

Considering all the above factors, I'd rank the conferences in this order after three weeks of play:
1. Pac 10
2. SEC
3. (tie) Big 10 & Big XII
5. Big East
6. ACC

All is not lost, ACC fans. When Duke can march into a Big 10 stadium and come out with a win, perhaps the worm has finally turned.

Blog Poll Ballot, Week 4

What is this "Blog Poll" of which I speak? Answer.

3Southern Cal--
4Florida 3
5California 5
6West Virginia 2
7Penn State 5
8Boston College 7
9Ohio State 4
10Rutgers 1
11Oregon 3
12Texas 3
13Wisconsin 7
14Kentucky 12
15Clemson 5
16South Carolina 7
17Georgia Tech 9
18South Florida 3
19Alabama 7
20Nebraska 3
21Missouri 1
22Louisville 17
23Virginia Tech 1
24Hawaii 1
25Texas A&M 1

Dropped Out: Arkansas (#16), UCLA (#18), Tennessee (#19)

Games Watched: West Virginia-Maryland (75%), Boston-College-Georgia Tech (75%), Florida State-Colorado (100%)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Duke 20, Northwestern 14

Break out the bubbly, Blue Devil football fans. Both of you. 'Tis a night to remember.

ACC roadkill defeats Big Ten doormat! Slap hands!

Friday, September 14, 2007

ACC on TV, Week 3

You've likely already seen the further degradation of ACC football yesterday on ESPN featuring West Virginia's lethargic but complete win over Maryland. Hope remains with the following contests...

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007 (all times Eastern)
Virginia at North Carolina, 12pm (Lincoln Financial Sports)
Furman at Clemson, 1pm (ESPN Gameplan)
Ohio at Virginia Tech, 1:30pm (ESPN360 - web only)
Florida International at Miami, 3:30pm (ESPNU)
Army at Wake Forest, 3:30pm (ACC Select - web only)
Wofford at N.C. State, 6pm (ESPN360 - web only)
Boston College at Georgia Tech, 8pm (ESPN2)
Duke at Northwestern, 8pm (Big Ten Network)
Florida State at Colorado, 10pm (ESPN)

Week 3 Preview, Part III: Sweet, Merciful Relief

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 1pm ET - Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Series Record:
Clemson leads 40-10-4; the Tigers won the last meeting 28-17 in 2003
Stat Watch: 419...the total yards the Clemson defense surrendered to UL-Monroe last week
Quick Overview: Yeah, 419 yards coughed up to the Warhawks should raise an eyebrow or two, but at least the offense looked solid. Sure, the Tigers had just two days of real preparation for ULM following their Labor Day win over FSU, but Clemson is a team that does not tend to get the benefit of the doubt anymore regarding polls and general national recognition. A crisp, efficient, clean game is a must if the Tigers are to build confidence and a sturdy reputation entering ACC road play next week.
Prediction: After a full week's rest and preparation, the Tigers finally look Top 20-worthy. Clemson 48, Furman 10

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 1:30pm ET - Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Series Record:
Virginia Tech leads 3-0; the Hokies won the last meeting 45-0 in 2005
Stat Watch: 94, 110...the Hokies' national ranking in total defense and total offense, respectively
Quick Overview: So does a nuclear winter now descend upon Blacksburg after the Hokies' vaporization at LSU last week? Or did that annihilation actually release all the pent-up pressure of being "America's Team" and allow Tech to start anew? Beats the hell outta me. What I do find encouraging is that Beamer and Co. decided to put the best talent at QB on the field and let him handle the offense, for better or worse. The Sean Glennon Project clearly was a failure and to continue with it would've been a disservice to all involved. Ohio will be a decent first test for Taylor, as they come into the game 2-0 but aren't all that stout on defense.
Prediction: Taylor and the Hokie offense will move in fits and starts, but that's still an improvement over the Glennon Era. Oh, and the defense will be a little pissed off. Virginia Tech 33, Ohio 7

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 3:30pm ET - Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
Series Record:
Miami leads 1-0; the Hurricanes won last year's meeting 35-0
Stat Watch: 8-8...Miami's record in it's last 16 games
Quick Overview: By now you've heard all you need to about "The Brawl". With a Hurricane alum as head coach at FIU now (first year skipper Mario Cristobal), rest assured that there's a better chance of seeing Lamar Thomas strum "kum-ba-ya" on a ukelele at midfield during pregame than there is of anything resembling fisticuffs tomorrow. As for the actual game, with Kyle Wright back under center for Miami, look for better production but more "WTF?" instances as well. Not to worry, though, FIU is even worse than their 0-12 squad from last year.
Prediction: The Canes will still be a bit wobbly from last week's Oz-style domination in Norman, but it won't matter too much. Miami 35, FIU 3

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 3:30pm ET - Groves Stadium, Winston-Salem, NC
Series Record:
Wake Forest leads 6-4; the Deacons won the last meeting 34-15 in 1999
Stat Watch: 1...the number of teams in 1-A that played a ranked team in each of the first two weeks (and that one squad would be the Deacs)
Quick Overview: Curiously, Army has proven to be a much more pass-oriented team in their first two games, which does not bode well for them since they face a Wake Forest club that has seen two of the better passing attacks in all of 1-A in the first two weeks. This game is all about getting the Demon Deacon defense set for the remainder of the season, and to get QB Brett Hodges in situations where he can succeed and build up confidence in case Riley Skinner isn't ready to go soon.
Prediction: The Deacons provide ample evidence of why they're considered the best 0-2 team in America. Wake Forest 38, Army 13

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 6:30pm ET - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record:
N.C. State leads 1-0; the Wolfpack won the first and only meeting 90-7 in 1920
Stat Watch:
118...the Wolfpack's national ranking in turnover margin; some things never change
Quick Overview: One week after QB Harrison Beck went all-Joe Dailey against Boston College (trust me, Nebraska fans are howling with laughter at that line), the Husker cast-off gets a relative breather in the 1-AA Wofford Terriers...although there is the potential for trouble since Wofford, like BC, sports plain gold helmets. In all seriousness, this game should be about Andre Brown seeing a large number of carries and getting Beck settled down with high-percentage passes. On the flipside, the Pack have been beaten up on defense by UCF and BC's running games, and that's just what the Terriers do best. However, Wofford's gaudy rush stats were compiled against a poor 1-AA team and a Div. II club.
Prediction: We start to see the Tom O'Brien Effect on the Wolfpack. Boring, but the job gets done. N.C. State 31, Wofford 14

Week 3 Preview, Out. By the way, I truly look forward to the end of non-conference play so that I won't have to preview 10 or more freaking games every week.

Week 3 Preview, Part II: A Divergent Pair of Conference Showdowns

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 12pm ET - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Series Record:
North Carolina leads 55-42-4; UVA won last year's meeting 23-0
Stat Watch: 6...UNC freshman QB TJ Yates' national rank in passing efficiency
Quick Overview: Despite sitting at just 1-1, the Heels are a rejuvenated program, thanks to an injection of actual coaching competence and the play of TJ Yates. Sure, the defense got torched by ECU last week, but the Heel offense went toe-to-toe with them and had a chance to win if not for a blocked FG. Meanwhile, UVA looks downright depressing, coming off a sloppy home win with Duke. The defense appears to be dazed from the Wyoming beatdown, and the QB situation remains up for grabs.
Prediction: UNC appears to be a more disciplined team, and they're at home. Al Groh's likely final trip to Chapel Hill results in increased surliness. North Carolina 28, Virginia 20

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 8pm ET - Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 4-1; BC won the last meeting 41-31 in 1998
Stat Watch: 0...the number of times the Yellow Jackets have turned the ball over this season
Bonus Stat Watch: 11...the number of times the Eagles' defense has forced a turnover this season
Quick Overview: Sure, everyone is saying that this is likely a preview of December's ACC title game, and everyone could very well be right, but let's not let that take away from the matchup we have at hand. Jeff Jagodzinski couldn't have picked a more difficult ACC road opener, as the Jackets appear to be a machine hitting on all cylinders right now. Tech has the ACC's leading offense and defense as well as having the 2nd best turnover margin. The Eagles have the 2nd best offense, best turnover margin but have been pushed around on defense, despite that sick Bonus Stat above. The key matchups on Saturday appear to be Tech's Taylor Bennett vs. the pick-happy BC secondary, and Matt Ryan vs. the overwhelming pressure he'll see from all angles of the Jacket defense.
Prediction: Georgia Tech is the more complete team right now, and it's in Atlanta. Georgia Tech 31, Boston College 21

The remaining five game previews will be here in just a moment...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Week 3 Preview, Part I: Further Non-Conference Damage

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, 7:30pm ET - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

Series Record: West Virginia leads 22-21-2; the Mountaineers won last year's meeting 45-24
Stat Watch: 7...Maryland's national ranking in total defense
Quick Overview: The Terps' formula of playing efficient - if unspectacular - football early in games and then wearing down opponents late need not apply this week. They learned the hard way last year in falling behind 28-0 in the 1st quarter to WVU. The Mountaineer defense has been sorely tested against Western Michigan and Marshall and remains a major cause for concern. That said, one has to wonder if the Terps' tissue-soft opening games (Villanova, FIU) have adequately prepared them for the West Virginia onslaught. Nonetheless, Maryland will put some points on the board in their typical boring and plodding manner, but it will be up to the defense to hold Slaton and White in check just enough to eke out an upset.
Prediction: Strange things happen on Thursday nights, especially to road favorites. Regardless, Maryland needs too much to go right to pull off the upset, and lady luck has not so much as flirted with an ACC team in a very long while...West Virginia 34, Maryland 28

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 8pm ET - Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
Series Record: tied 7-7; the Wildcats won the last meeting 28-10 in 2003
Stat Watch: 2...the number of Duke road wins this decade
Quick Overview: Despite Virginia's best efforts to give last week's game away to the Devils (three special teams miscues resulting in all of their points), Duke abjectly refused the gift and limped away with loss #22 in a row. Meanwhile, Northwestern mounted a gallant comeback against Nevada last week and now stands at 2-0. The Wildcats have done most things right this year...they move the ball well, snag their share of turnovers and don't cough it up themselves. Their defense is a bit iffy and that's the only possible chance the Devils have in pulling this one off...shock the Cats early with some big plays and then hang on for dear life.
Prediction: Duke methodically marches toward another zero-win campaign. Northwestern 30, Duke 14

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, 10pm ET - Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
Series Record: Florida State leads 1-0; the Seminoles won the only previous meeting 47-7 in 2003
Stat Watch: 20-6...Bobby Bowden's record against current Big 12 programs
Quick Overview: Relatively unmentioned in the Noles' 34-24 escape last week against UAB was that defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews was laid up in the hospital with pneumonia; unsurprisingly, the defense turned in one of it's worst performances of the last few years. Andrews remains out of commission for FSU's trip to Boulder, leaving Chuck Amato as acting DC. Fortunately for the Seminoles, Colorado's offense is a ramshackle unit, and their defense has been roughed up in their first two games. Unlike last week, Florida State has had a full week to rest and prepare for the next game and it should show against the Buffaloes. Emphasis on should.
The late start and high altitude make for a dangerous intangible in the Buffs' favor...but it's not enough to give them the game. Florida State 24, Colorado 17

Previews of the other seven league games to follow shortly...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday News & Notes

--Some say it's a hasty move...but not I. Though he didn't set the world on fire against LSU, it's abundantly clear that freshman QB Tyrod Taylor gives the Hokies the best chance to do something, anything on offense, and he'll get the start this Saturday against Ohio.

--Likewise for Miami and Kyle Wright, although why he was unable to beat out Kirby Freeman in the spring and summer is still a mystery.

--Tom O'Brien says that he treated his return to Chestnut Hill like any other game. Uh-huh. Sure.

--138 rushing yards, 3 TDs, and still 3rd on the depth chart? What's Jonathan Dwyer gotta do to move up? The Yellow Jackets are enjoying an embarrassment of riches at running back this year.

--Good news for the Terps this Saturday: West Virginia's pass defense is a bit shoddy. The bad news: Maryland's passing offense is equally dilapidated.

--Slow but steady progress in Chapel Hill...instead of the typical Bunting-esque road annihilation, the Heels lost at the gun in Greenville last Saturday.

--'Tis a marathon, not a sprint Seminoles...apparently part of the reason FSU has looked downright dreadful in the first halves against Clemson and UAB is self-imposed pressure to return the program to the glory days of 45-7 butt-kickings. Halftime counseling from the coaching staff reminded the lads that just winning these games right now is kinda important.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Out of Conference Report

Updated out-of-conference records for the season, post-atomic devastation (a/k/a last weekend):
Big East14-2.880
Big 1018-4.820
Pac 1013-3.810
Big XII18-6.750
Before I get into a little bit of an explanation, let me start off by saying that the ACC's non-conference performance these past two weeks - aside from Georgia Tech - has been an utter disgrace. Miami losing to Oklahoma is understandable. 51-13 is not. Virginia Tech losing to LSU is nothing to be ashamed of. But 48-7 sure as hell is. UCF beating NC State is unacceptable. Virginia getting drummed by Wyoming is inexcusable. On top of that, the conference was unable to pull off possible upsets with Wake (Nebraska) and UNC (East Carolina). The first two weeks have been a perfect storm of awful play and bad luck.

To be fair to the ACC, it must be noted that six of the league's 16 non-conference games have been on the road. See the table below for full details:

ConferenceOOC Games/Road GamesPct.
Pac 1016/6.380
Big XII24/8.333
Big East16/4.250
Big 1022/4.180
That doesn't necessarily explain why the ACC has performed so poorly, but it does - in my opinion - clear up the reason for the huge gap between the other 5 power conferences and the ACC. The ACC has played more than double it's share of out of conference games on the road than either the Big 10 or SEC. Is the ACC still the worst of the power leagues? Yep. But not as much as the overall OOC record indicates.

The ACC is also tied for the second-highest percentage of it's non-conference competition coming against power conference (BCS) schools. See below:

ConferenceOOC Games/BCS FoesPct.
Big East16/5.313
Pac 1016/5.313
Big XII24/7.292
Big 1022/5.227
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:

Big East3-2.600
Big 103-2.600
Pac 103-2.600
Big XII4-3.571
This explains fairly well why the ACC has done so poorly in non-conference play so far...they're playing a decent percentage of tougher competition and just not doing well against it. Brilliant insight, I know. Also, of the 5 games against power-conference foes, the ACC was the road team in three of them (and one of the "home" games was Duke).

The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...

ConferenceOOC Games/1-AA FoesPct.
Big 1022/6.272
Big East16/4.250
ACC 16/3.188
Big XII22/3.125
Pac 1016/1.006
Bravo to the Pac 10, and utter shame and contempt should be heaped on the Big 10. The Big 10 thus far has played more 1-AA teams than BCS conference teams.

Some things to keep in mind that can't really be quantified in the above tables...

--the ACC has faced-off against the #2 and #3 teams in the country, on the road (and were mercilessly beaten), along with losing a close one to the #14 team in the other conference has come close to facing that scale of opposition yet
--the ACC has 4.5 new coaching staffs this fall...initial clunky outings have to be expected
--the ACC has Duke...that's an automatic four losses out of conference every year

The ACC still kinda sucks this year compared to other power leagues, but the gap is not as wide as many (including me) initially believed after this weekend's horror show. The Big 10 is probably the conference that the ACC could hang with the most, based on how horrid some that league's non-conference competition is. The ACC still has some major non-conference matchups this year, and unfortunately most of them seem like mismatches that do not tilt in our favor (Maryland vs. West Virginia/Rutgers, NC State vs. Louisville, Miami vs. Texas A&M, Florida State vs. Florida, Virginia vs. Anybody). An upset or two in these games could go a long, long way in restoring some much needed respect.

Blog Poll Ballot, Week 3

If you're unaware of this "Blog Poll" of which I speak...kindly click here for an explanation.

1LSU 1
2Oklahoma 1
3Southern Cal 2
4West Virginia--
8Georgia Tech 1
9Texas 1
11Rutgers 2
12Penn State 2
13Ohio State 1
14Oregon 3
15Boston College 5
16Arkansas 1
17Nebraska 1
18UCLA 3
19Tennessee 4
20Clemson 5
21South Florida 5
22Missouri 2
23South Carolina 3
24Virginia Tech 13
25Hawaii 9

Dropped Out: Georgia (#19), TCU (#22)

Games Watched: Louisville-Middle Tennessee (66%), Oklahoma-Miami (75%), Nerbaska-Wake Forest (25%), Boston College-NC State (100%), South Carolina-Georgia (50%), LSU-Virginia Tech (75%)