Friday, August 31, 2007

ACC on TV, Week 1 Edition

Where to find this weekend's games on the tube:

Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007
East Carolina at Virginia Tech, 12pm (ESPN)
Marshall at Miami, 12pm (ESPNU)
Connecticut at Duke, 2pm (ACC Select - web only)
Virginia at Wyoming, 2pm (Versus - what the hell is this?)
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 3:30pm (NBC)
Wake Forest at Boston College, 3:30pm (ABC)
Villanova at Maryland, 6pm (ESPN360 - web only)
James Madison at North Carolina, 6pm (ESPN360 - web only)
UCF at NC State, 6pm (ESPN360 -web only)

Monday, Sept. 3, 2007
Florida State at Clemson, 8pm (ESPN)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Week 1 Preview, Part III: Must See TV

EAST CAROLINA at VIRGINIA TECH
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 12:00pm...Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA

Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 8-4; the Hokies won the last meeting 45-28 in 2000.
Stat Watch: 4...the number of shutouts posted by the Hokie defense in 2006
Quick Overview: No, this isn't must-see because of the matchup. It's must-see because Virginia Tech hits the field for the first time since the horrors of last April, in a much anticipated and much needed cathartic release of emotion and display of school pride. Will it be overdone? Absolutely...our pals at ESPN will see to that. Nonetheless, this game will provide a clear example of what makes this sport so great...it's about having a shared, festive experience with 65,000 of your closest friends. Those kinds of vibes in the stadium will undoubtedly jack the Hokies up at kickoff, but don't count on that simply carrying them to victory. The brutal defense will see to that.
Prediction: The electric setting along with the punishing defense lead to an enjoyable Saturday afternoon. Virginia Tech 35, East Carolina 10

GEORGIA TECH at NOTRE DAME
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 3:30pm...Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN

Series Record: Notre Dame leads 27-5-1; the Irish won last year's meeting 14-10.
Stat Watch: 44.4%...Reggie Ball's 2006 completion percentage
Quick Overview: Now that Charlie Weis has declassified his depth chart and named Demetrius Jones as starting QB, the only mystery surrounding this matchup is whether the Irish can at least make the game respectable. The brutal offensive and defensive lines of the Ramblin Wreck versus their rebuilt Notre Dame counterparts should be the story of the afternoon. The Irish are still a talented bunch and should be much better by the end of the year, but this contest is all about Tech making a big statement to wash away the bitter aftertaste of 2006's final three games, and to justify my extremely generous preseason appraisal of them.
Prediction: The Yellow Jackets prevail, but it won't exactly be all that satisfying. The ghosts in Notre Dame Stadium will keep it uncomfortably close. Georgia Tech 24, Notre Dame 20

WAKE FOREST at BOSTON COLLEGE
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 3:30pm...Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA

Series Record: tied 6-6-2; Wake won last year's meeting 21-14.
Stat Watch: 6-0...the Demon Deacons' road record in 2006
Quick Overview: The Jags Era kicks off against one of the Eagles' peskiest opponents (1-3 vs. Wake since '03), in a duel of the league's two best quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Riley Skinner. BC's offensive line continues to be a concern heading into this game, but Wake's defense has been depleted by graduation and likely won't be able to take advantage of it. Both teams know that a loss in this one puts them squarely behind the 8-ball for the rest of the season if they hope to win the division, although a defeat here would be considerably more damaging to the Eagles since they have a much tougher overall conference slate. Nothing like turning on the pressure-cooker early.
Prediction: I've had this penciled as a Wake victory for awhile, but I'm switching horses now. This is an absolute must-win for the Eagles and they know it. Boston College 27, Wake Forest 23

FLORIDA STATE at CLEMSON
Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, 8pm...Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC

Series Record: Florida State leads 15-5; the Tigers won last year's meeting 27-20.
Stat Watch: 2...the total number of TDs scored by FSU's offense in their three previous Labor Day contests
Quick Overview: Bowden Bowl IX gets an even brighter spotlight this season as the Noles and Tigers kick off Monday Night football for ESPN. This is old hat for FSU, who faced off with nemesis Miami in the last three Labor Day fiascos that were universally panned by anyone not wearing garnet & gold or orange & green. The debut of Jimbo Fisher's offense is the biggest storyline of the game, overshadowing the debut of Tiger QB Cullen Harper. The Seminole defense has had all offseason to prepare for the onslaught of James Davis and CJ Spiller, while Tiger OC Rob Spence has promised all new trickery involving that dynamic duo.
Prediction: Despite all the hype surrounding Fisher, Davis, and Spiller, look for both offenses to flop around, leaving the defenses to pick up the slack. Advantage: Noles. Florida State 20, Clemson 14

And thus endeth the Week 1 preview

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...

Week 1 Preview, Part I: Pathetic 1AA-ness

Yes, I know that Division 1AA is now officially known as FCS, while 1A's technical moniker is now FBS. Whatever...I'm still calling them 1A and 1AA.

JAMES MADISON at NORTH CAROLINA
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 6pm - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC

Series Record: First meeting
Stat Watch: 3-7...UNC's record in it's last 10 season openers
Quick Overview: The Heels open the season with a Duke opponent for a change. Ha! Anyway, JMU is supposedly one of the top 1AA squads, and the Heels have a bit of a shaky recent history against lower division competition. However, Butch Davis is now patrolling the Kenan sideline...the incompetent vibes of John Bunting and Carl Torbush have (hopefully) been whisked away. Will TJ Yates cement his starting status or will he get an early hook if the Carolina offense fails to light up the scoreboard quickly?
Prediction: General sloppiness, but a victory nonetheless. North Carolina 34, James Madison 17

VILLANOVA at MARYLAND
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007, 6pm - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

Series Record: Maryland leads 8-2; the Terps won the last meeting 7-3 in 1980
Stat Watch: 88, 84, 90...the Terrapins' national ranking in total offense, total defense, and turnover margin in 2006
Quick Overview: The all around general blah-ness of the Maryland program over the last three seasons could get a major shot in the arm with a nice fat blowout over an outmatched Wildcat squad. Will it happen? Doubtful. The MASH unit that is the Terp roster will get some much needed rest this weekend while Jordan Steffy and Co. need to put up some solid numbers on offense to alleviate the uneasy concern surrounding the Turtles this year.
Prediction: Not as bad as the FIU abomination last year, but the recent uninspired play of the Terps bleeds into this season. Maryland 30, Villanova 10

Previews of the remaining 8 ACC-oriented games this weekend coming up shortly...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not Bad for a Supposedly Wretched Conference

Rivals has catalogued their top five games of opening weekend, and our little ol' ACC is in three of them, with five teams in total.

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2. Florida State at Clemson

The winner of 'Bowden Bowl IX' gets the inside track in the ACC Atlantic Division race. Clemson has a two-game winning streak in the series and has won three of the last four. The Tigers also have one of the nation's premier rushing tandems in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Florida State returns eight starters from a defense which ranked 12th nationally against the run in 2006. How Florida State's offense fares in its debut under coordinator Jimbo Fisher will be of keen interest. So will the performance of Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, who is making the first start of his collegiate career.

3. Wake Forest at Boston College

Can Wake Forest continue the magic of 2006? This game should provide some indication of whether the defending ACC-champion Deacons were one-year wonders or if they can again contend for the conference crown. The game also features a matchup of the league's top two quarterbacks -- BC's Matt Ryan and Wake Forest's Riley Skinner. However, the play of the defenses may reveal more. Boston College anticipates fielding one of its best defensive units ever. Wake Forest, meanwhile, has six new starters. Last season, the Deacons' 20-14 victory over BC was the difference in the Atlantic Division standings.

4. Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame

Irish coach Charlie Weis won't reveal whether Evan Sharpley, Demetrius Jones or heralded freshman Jimmy Clausen will start at quarterback against the Yellow Jackets. That's the first question about Notre Dame's offense. The second question is whether it will matter. The Irish edged Georgia Tech 14-10 in last year's season opener – and that was with Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and Jeff Samardzija in the lineup. How successful can they be against a Georgia Tech defense that returns eight starters?

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Many of you are aware that I'm a rabid Florida State junkie, but the Wake-BC matchup may just be the ACC Must See Game O' The Week.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Names I'm So Very Sick of Typing

Let it be known that I'm somewhat of a dyslexic typist. I tend to type at turbo speed, so practically every other word has a transposed letter or two that ultimately gets fixed in the editing process. Nonetheless, there are certain words and names that just come out wrong no matter how careful and deliberate I am, such as....

agraeg...now, I usually don't find cause to use the word "garage" in a blog that focuses on ACC football, but I do tend to use that word in my real job, and that's how it comes out on my first go around when I type it.

chractaer...I suppose the word "character" could make an appearance in this blog, but it hasn't yet that I recall. Again, it's a word I use frequently in my real job and invariably that's how it pops up on my monitor every damn time I type it out when I'm full speed word processing.

seomhwat...now this is a word I use a lot in both blog and real-job, and this one is just a mental defect. My brain must really think somewhat is spelled "seomhwat". To spell it correctly just now, I had to stop and punch out each key like it's the first time I've encountered a keyboard.

Anyway, that's just to give you an idea of what I go through when typing and spellchecking this here blog. Now, on to the names that torture my soul...

Michael Tauiliili
I freaking hate this guy. I invariably wind up typing something like Michael Tualulilli, Michael Tiulialiil, Michael Tutulilli, Michael Turaluralura, etc. It actually gives me a headache to see so many "i"s within such close proximity.

Jameel Sewell
Every single damn time it comes out Jamell Seewell. Even when I concentrate, the fingers still unleash that configuration. Thank God that "Jamell" and "Seewell" apparently aren't common-use names and invariably get highlighted in the ol' blogger spell-check.

Jeff Jagodzinski
Not as difficult, but one that always comes out wrong on the first draft. It usually appears as Jagdozkinksi or something like that.

Xavier Adibi
Always, always, the fingers punch out Abidi.

Gary Cismesia
Getting better with this one. But, he still goes by Csmiesai on occasion.

Darrius Heyward-Bey
Hyphenated names are always a problem, especially when each name has a somewhat unique spelling. Draaius Heywayrd-Bey is how this one usually appears before editing.

Vince Oghobaase
This one is a copy-and-paste job every time. I know when to say when.

The guy who played Adebisi on "Oz" and Mr. Eko on "Lost"
OK, so I don't actually ever have to type his name here...but his cruelty toward Hollywood reporters and bloggers in keeping that name is unforgivable. Bastard.

Monday News & Notes

....The folks over at the ACC's Official Site have completed their "12 Days of ACC Football" preview. Not too shabby.

....To the surprise of practically no one, Drew Weatherford was named the Seminoles' starting QB after outduelling Xavier Lee in summer practices. Unlike his predecessor at OC, Jimbo Fisher still plans to get the X-man involved in certain situations where his quickness and brute strength can be utilized...think Weatherford=Chris Leak, Lee=Tim Tebow. I can only hope.

....FSU's Labor Day opponent has also named their starting QB. Tommy Bowden tabbed Cullen Harper to lead the Clemson offense, although fan favorite frosh Willy Korn will likely get a few looks throughout the season.

....'Tis official...Miami will be moving to Dolphin Stadium starting in the '08 season. I know, just a few weeks ago I ragged on how dilapidated and wholly unpleasant that old bucket of bolts known as the Orange Bowl is, but the suddenness of the switch is a bit jarring. The Canes last ever home game in that old stadium will be against Virginia on Nov. 10.

....Maryland limped through their final practice of the summer with nearly a third of their roster on the sideline nursing various injuries and ailments. A nasty season is afoot in College Park this season, I fear.

....Wondered why Virginia QB Jameel Sewell's passes sometimes lacked zip and outright accuracy last season? Two broken bones in his left (throwing) wrist may have had a something to do with it.

....I hope Georgia Tech goes 10-2 as I predict if for no other reason other than to never have to read or hear about some form of the Chan Gailey Equilibrium ever again.

....Virginia Tech's opener with East Carolina next week is the start of a nine-year series with the Pirates. Ummm...why? Sure, a home and home once or twice a decade is fine, but nine straight years with ECU? Ok, whatever, but there had better not be any hint of 1-AA-ness on the Hokies' slate at anytime in the near future.

....Wake Forest football has finally hit the big-time; they've sold out their entire package of season tickets, and long time boosters and fans are complaining about increased booster fees for seating privileges and such. Welcome to the club Deacons!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

BCS Bowl Picks and other Miscellanea

Now that the season is rapidly approaching, I suppose I should throw out a few non-ACC predictions and thoughts.

Per my Blog Poll ballot, it's obvious that I'm playing it safe in picking USC #1. That said, I give the Trojans less than a 50-50 chance of actually winning the whole shebang. They don't seem as indestructible as some are making them out to be, however I sure as hell don't feel truly confident in anyone else either. The Trojans probably should win the national title given their sick level of talent, but more likely than not it'll be someone else.

Anyway, my best guesses as to the BCS bowl matchups...

BCS National Championship Game (New Orleans, LA)- USC vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)- LSU vs. Oklahoma
Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)- Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)- Michigan vs. California
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)- Wisconsin vs. Hawaii


--For the 10th season in a row, the ACC will not place a second team in the BCS; certainly not what the suits in the league office had in mind 4 years ago when they pratfalled their way through expansion
--Not surprisingly, the SEC should be the King of College Football, although I don't see any team getting out of league play with less than two losses
--The Big 12, despite probably getting two teams in the BCS this season, will bring up the rear in major conferences, considering only half the conference could be bowl-eligible
--The Big 10 will again look rosy in the regular season, only to get pummeled come bowl time
--The Big East will be a complete dichotomy...West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers and USF could all post 10 wins, but the bottom half of Cincinnati, UConn, Pitt, and Syracuse will finish under .500
--I don't have a frickin clue as to the Heisman...I can't imagine John David Booty at USC nabbing a 4th trophy in 6 years for the Trojans unless he posts some sick efficiency numbers. Colt Brennan at Hawaii will have to go undefeated and break a few NCAA passing records to win it, and Darren McFadden at Arkansas needs his Hogs to at least compete for the SEC West title. The '07 Heisman winner will likely start this season outside of the spotlight.

There seems to be a general blanket of uncertainty entering this season, and that's a good thing for everyone. Sure, most pundits and pollsters have USC #1, but that's the safe bet since the national picture appears so wide open. I'd love to see an off the wall Cal-Texas A&M or Georgia Tech-Wisconsin national title game, along with under-the-radar guys like Virginia Tech's Brandon Ore or Nebraska's Sam Keller taking home the Heisman. Will that happen? Doubt it, but it's certainly possible at this time, when so many things are within reach of so many teams and so many players.


FOX execs would throw-up in their mouths a little bit at this BCS title game, but I'd sure as hell watch

6 Days, 22 Hours, 8 Minutes....

...until ACC football 2007 kicks off. Hallelujah!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now & Then: Danny Ford

As we return to the fascinating world of past and present pics of our favorite ACC personalities, our focus today turns to former Clemson coach Danny Ford...

Now


Then


Ah, that "Then" photo. Danny Ford became the head coach at Clemson at the ripe young age of 30, guiding them to the national title in 1981 at 33 (extremely impressive considering I'm 34 and spend a great deal of time typing in a blog while in my boxers). Alas, that "Then" pic revealed the shadier side of coach Ford, as he candidly showed those new recruits how to carry the bundles of cash offered to them.

As for the "Now" photo, apparently Danny Ford's dad showed up at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Tigers '81 national championship.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ACC Championship Pick & Bowl Outlook

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION

So it appears that for the second year in a row, I have projected the ACC Championship Game as a Florida State-Georgia Tech clash. Unlike last year, however, I predict that the Yellow Jackets will be hoisting the ACC Championship trophy in Jacksonville this season.

It simply comes down to the lines. Georgia Tech should dominate both the offensive and defensive trenches, enough so that Tashard Choice can rip off a few runs, allowing Taylor Bennett to pick at the Seminole secondary. Mind you, the FSU defensive front is formidable, but the Nole OL - while being much improved over the 2006 atrocity - will have its ups and downs this season.

Sure, we can all make jokes about Chan Gailey and his maddening mediocrity. Nonetheless, DC Jon Tenuta is one of the best in the business, and new OC John Bond is a name you'll be hearing a lot (in a good way) in the coming months and years. If Phil Frickin Fulmer can go 13-0 and win a national title (however far away in the rearview mirror that seems), ol' Chan can certainly clock in with an ACC title sometime, if he lets his assistants do their jobs.

Look for the Jackets to control the game and win a tight 20-14 battle over Florida State on Dec. 1.


Just delegate, sit back, and watch. I beg of you.

BOWL PICKS

Before I delve into who-goes-where for the holidays, let's review the ACC bowl pecking order, shall we? Click here, because I sure don't feel like trying to summarize the selection process in this post.

Now that that tutorial is out of the way, here's how I see things shaping out this bowl season...

1. Orange (ACC Champ vs. BCS): Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia
2. Chick-Fil-A (ACC vs. SEC): Florida State vs. South Carolina
3. Gator (ACC vs. Big XII, Big East, or Notre Dame): Virginia Tech vs. Nebraska
4. Champs Sports (ACC vs. Big Ten): Clemson vs. Iowa
5. Music City (ACC vs. SEC): Miami vs. Auburn
6. Meineke Car Care (ACC vs. Big East): Wake Forest vs. USF
7. Emerald (ACC vs. Pac 10): Boston College vs. Oregon State
8. MPC Computers (ACC vs. WAC): Virginia vs. Boise State

*Maryland, with a projected 4-4 record in the ACC (6-6 overall) will not be selected for a bowl due to having only five wins over 1-A competition (the sixth win would be over 1-AA Villanova), and due to the eight ACC bowl slots being filled by teams with better overall records.

And that about wraps it up for my month-long 2007 ACC Preview. Each team's preview, along with each division outlook, can be found under the cryptically titled "2007 ACC Preview" heading on the sidebar.

I have a feeling I'm going to look either very insightful or irretrievably stupid about four months from now. Can't wait.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bear with me today....

I'm fiddling around with templates, color schemes, and I'm contemplating adding a third column to this here blog, so if you visit a few times today, you may see quite a few different layouts and whatnot. You're not losing your mind.

Also, I know I'm behind schedule with my ACC Championship Game Pick and Bowl Projections; fret not, for these items will be posted for your bemusement tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday ACC Blog Tour

...Ramblin' Racket has a new favorite blog. I truly appreciate the love, but this affair could end badly if the Jackets make me look like a doof this season.

...Tomahawk Nation has some tidy updates of the latest Seminole practices.

...Mobius at The Chop Shop - my favorite FSU blog from last year - has informed me that he won't be posting this year. Dammit.

...Tar Heel Fan called it correctly last week when he picked TJ Yates as starting QB. Good to see that Butch Davis agrees. Sort of.

...Section Six appears to be sweating out the opener with UCF. I think the Wolfpack will be fine.

...Mahini at The Sabre articulated what I wanted to say about Michael Tauiliili's return to the Blue Devils, but didn't have the heart to (you know, because of the chaotic overreaction to the lacrosse episode, and the general suckitude of the football program).

...Turtle Waxing joins an ever increasing legion that sees things playing out a bit differently than I do in the ACC this season. Must. Keep. Faith.

...And last but most certainly not least, the godfather of ACC bloggers is hanging it up. Dave of "Dave Sez" fame is riding off into the sunset. Best wishes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Official Preseason Blog Poll Ballot

If you read this post, then you've already seen my thoroughly analyzed, yet seemingly dart-board style preseason poll. No changes were made to my tentative ballot, even though I'm still a bit uncomfortable by some glaring omissions (Boston College, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Boise State, Texas A&M), and a little queasy about some unconventionally high placements (Georgia Tech, Florida State, Hawaii). Nonetheless, I present you with the official ACCFR preseason Blog Poll ballot...

1Southern Cal
2Texas
3LSU
4West Virginia
5Michigan
6Wisconsin
7Oklahoma
8Florida
9Louisville
10Georgia Tech
11Virginia Tech
12California
13Ohio State
14Florida State
15Hawaii
16Oregon
17Arkansas
18Rutgers
19Nebraska
20Missouri
21TCU
22Penn State
23South Carolina
24UCLA
25Wake Forest

AP Top 25

So yesterday the preseason AP poll was released, and like the coaches' poll, it featured just two ACC teams in the rankings...Virginia Tech at #9 (same ranking as the coaches' poll) and Florida State at #19 (two spots higher than the coaches' ranking).

Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami, and Wake Forest were among the highest vote-getters in the "also receiving votes" category. Curiously, Clemson was way down the the charts, receiving just 6 media votes, one less than....Virginia? N.C. State surprisingly got a vote.

Similar to the coaches' poll, I find it difficult to argue with the tepid reception the ACC is garnering this preseason. That makes early season matchups like Georgia Tech-Notre Dame, Miami-Oklahoma, Miami-Texas A&M, and Wake Forest-Nebraska critically important in getting the ACC's reputation off the canvas.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday News & Notes

--UNC head coach Butch Davis named freshman QB TJ Yates as the tentative starter for next month's opener with James Madison, thereby squashing my not-so-brilliant assumption last week regarding the QB battle.

--Clemson RB Ray Ray McElrathbey is out for the season with a torn ACL.

--The Seminoles' leader in rushing TDs in 2006, Joe Surratt, looks to be gone for the season with a fractured right fibula. Big Joe had sunk to third on the depth chart earlier in the spring before getting back in Jimbo Fisher's good graces in the last few weeks.

--One of the big concerns I have about Boston College this season continues to be a problem as opening weekend approaches.

--Duke LB Michael Tauiliili has been reinstated, just two weeks after his arrest for DWI, assault and other assorted misbehavior. The Devils' leading tackler the last two years has been suspended for the season opener with Connecticut.

--Tony Barnhart, a/k/a "Mr. College Football" (a foisted upon, or self-proclaimed moniker?), says the ACC is the 4th best conference this year. Sounds about right to me.

--Sports Illustrated and Rivals have unveiled their ACC previews, and they don't quite see things playing out the way I do.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Return of the Blog Poll

The Blog Poll rears it's ugly head again on Aug. 22. For the second straight year, 'tis a great honor for me to serve my fellow bloggers and college football junkies as a mere cog in this endeavor.

Below is my tentative preseason Blog Poll ballot. I won't cast the real ballot until Sunday evening (Aug. 19), so I am quite open to persuasion here...

1Southern Cal
2Texas
3LSU
4West Virginia
5Michigan
6Wisconsin
7Oklahoma
8Florida
9Louisville
10Georgia Tech
11Virginia Tech
12California
13Ohio State
14Florida State
15Hawaii
16Oregon
17Arkansas
18Rutgers
19Nebraska
20Missouri
21TCU
22Penn State
23South Carolina
24UCLA
25Wake Forest

Initial thoughts....
--Zero points for originality regarding my #1 pick.
--I really like those Longhorns, and it's just too perfect and storybook for their QB to have the name of Colt McCoy.
--Wisconsin is the ACCFR Official Darkhorse National Title Contender. OK, so they went 12-1 last year (not exactly "darkhorse" material), but nobody's talking about them this summer.
--Aside from Ramblin' Racket, I trust that no one else will have the Jackets anywhere near the Top 10. Shoot, I'm betting that half the pollsters won't have Georgia Tech in their Top 25. Fools.
--Florida State may be too high. Sure, being a Seminole alum, I'll likely always be a bit biased, but I put them at #14 by default. I couldn't think of another team that should be better.
--Hawaii is probably too high, but they'll have one-loss at most and that offense should be holy-frickin-poi incredible.
--I could see Arkansas going anywhere from 10-2 to 4-8. The hillbilly upheaval in Fayetteville this offseason has been almost Shakespearean, but Darren McFadden alone should be good enough for bowl eligibility.
--Rutgers, Nebraska, Missouri, Penn State...meh. 8-4, all of you.
--Wake Forest is every bit a Top 25 program this year. Just watch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Coastal Division Outlook

Today we turn our attention toward the Coastal Division and how things should play out this fall. The same rules apply as with my Atlantic outlook...I'll sack-up and pick those games I listed as "toss ups" in the team previews in order to come up with a reasonable prediction for the division. And away we go...

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Georgia Tech (10-2 overall, 7-1 ACC)
I agree, it's a bit perplexing to see the Jackets up here with that kind of a record, especially with the loss of Calvin Johnson. But, after close inspection of the returning talent and the schedule, the only thing actually holding me back from picking the Ramblin' Wreck to run the table can be summed up in one word: Chan. He bears as much responsibility as Reggie Ball and Patrick Nix for the eyesore that has been the Jacket offense lo' these many years. Nonetheless, the defense is a monster, the offensive line is loaded, Tashard Choice is back at RB, Ball and Nix are long gone, and QB Taylor Bennett is one talented and salty som'bitch. I really wanted to project the Jackets at 11-1 overall, but until The Chanster actually beats Georgia for the first time, that's a game I just can't call for Tech.

2. Virginia Tech (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC)
Overall, this team is just as good as last year's edition, the only difference being that the 2006 Hokie squad didn't have LSU on the schedule. On the plus side, Virginia Tech will finally get that elusive win over Florida State (to date, Frank Beamer is 0-7 vs. Bobby Bowden). As I stated in their team preview, they will ride as far as Sean Glennon can take them, and unfortunately he doesn't have the horsepower to go all the way to Jacksonville this fall.

3. Miami (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
I'm not sold just yet on uber-disciplinarian Randy Shannon and his coaching staff, but a fairly manageable conference slate (the first tough ACC road game isn't until late October, @FSU) will likely have the Canes bowl-eligible entering November. The defense will be typically fierce, but the QB situation may be in flux all year.

4. Virginia (7-5 overall, 3-5 ACC)
A killer defense and a patchwork offense will make the Cavaliers a hit-or-miss team all season. They could feasibly lose to Duke, while they could also knock off either of the Techs. The schedule plays out in their favor and they'll be back in the bowl picture when all is said and done. The Chessmaster lives to see another season.

5. North Carolina (4-8 overall, 2-6 ACC)
Two wins should be assured: the opener with James Madison and the home finale with Duke. The Heels will likely be underdogs in every game in between, but Butch Davis and Co. are good enough to steal a couple of games in WTF? fashion. Anything more than four wins this year should be cause for parades and general pandemonium in Chapel Hill.

6. Duke (2-10 overall, 0-8 ACC)
Memo to Ted Roof: Get. The. Hell. Out. Now. You're a decent coach in an impossible situation. You're decent enough to be successful at a place like East Carolina (just down the road from you), Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee, etc., but you ain't decent enough to take Duke out of the ACC cellar. The Blue Devil job is a hopeless case for a non-"name" coach given the fan and administration apathy. This year will just prove that even more.

I'm much more comfortable with these projections than with my picks in the Atlantic Division. Other than the two Techs switching spots at 1 and 2, I'll be quite bumfuzzled if things don't pan out the way I've outlined above.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Atlantic Division Outlook

Now that the team previews are out of the way, it's time to take a gander at how the division races should play out. You may have noticed that in my team previews I projected some wins, some losses, and some toss-up games. In order for me to make a reasonable prediction for the divisions as a whole, I went ahead and loosely picked the toss-ups so that I could come up with a predicted overall record and conference record for each team.

Today's focus is on the chaotic Atlantic Division. Read it and weep....

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Florida State (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC)
When you toss out one of the worst offensive coaching staffs in all of college football and replace them with some of the best offensive minds in the game, you get better. Much better. Sure, there'll be some kinks to iron out along the way, and I'm still not sold on either Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee, but an improved offensive line should equate to a more prominent rushing attack and relieve some of the pressure on the QBs. The defense should be yet another ferocious Mickey Andrews beast.

t2. Clemson (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
This club will not be as good as last year's edition, while the division as a whole will be tougher than it was in 2006. So naturally, I pick the Tigers to have the exact same record as last season. Easy enough.

t2. Wake Forest (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
Offensively, they'll be significantly better than last year's attack; defensively, not so much. The slip on defense will result in a smaller turnover margin, which will swing a few games into the loss column this season. Nonetheless, the schedule is favorable and that'll keep the Deacons above .500 in the league.

4. Maryland (6-6 overall, 4-4 ACC)
I've seen the Terps picked anywhere from first to last in the division while perusing the glut of preseason previews out there on the internets, and the more I study them and look at last season, I lean toward the latter. From a purely statistical standpoint, it's incomprehensible that Maryland won nine games last year. That kind of inexplicable good fortune does not tend to repeat itself, and on paper, these Terps are not quite as good as the 2006 squad.

5. Boston College (7-5 overall, 3-5 ACC)
Of all the teams, this projection has the least to do with the existing talent and has almost everything to do with the coaching change and the schedule. Unlike the changes at FSU and (paradoxically) NC State - which are universally accepted as being for the better for those programs - the same cannot be said for the new regime at BC, at least not yet. On top of that, they have a tricky start to the season and finish with a brutal five-game stretch. Thus, I am a tad queasy about the Eagles this fall.

6. N.C. State (5-7 overall, 2-6 ACC)
Get 'em while they're down, because starting in 2008, the Wolfpack should be headed straight toward the top of the division. The talent inherited by Tom O'Brien is a bit of a mismatch for his coaching style, but the refreshing stability and strict focus on the basics he brings is enough to improve upon last year's fiasco by a few games. Unfortunately, it won't be enough to climb out of the division cellar.

I must admit that I'm not entirely comfortable with the projections from second-to-fifth place, although I'm reasonably certain that the Seminoles will win the division while the Wolfpack will bring up the rear. Ask me again next week and I may have Clemson fifth and Boston College second. Such is life in the wild and woolly Atlantic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Opie's Rampage

Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett's reputation skyrocketed in the hearts and minds of many last week when he roughed up starting DE Darrell Robertson during a scrimmage. The altercation between the two then resulted in a skirmish among several players.

Robertson had to be helped off the field by trainers. God help the opposing DB who tries to return a pick on Opie - excuse me, Mr. Bennett - this season.


The last thing you see before his fist crashes through your skull

Virginia Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 5-7 overall, 4-4 ACC (3rd Coastal Division)

Offense: This will be a work in progress at best, and things could get messy considering some of the deadly defenses they'll face in the ACC this season. Soph. QB Jameel Sewell did the best he could with his surroundings last year, and the Virginia offense would look a lot steadier heading into the fall if he hadn't had offseason surgery on his left (throwing) wrist. Both the RB and WR positions are unsettled as the most experienced running back, Cedric Peerman, notched just 153 yards on 46 carries last year. 2006's top wideout, Kevin Olgetree, blew out his ACL in the spring and is gone for the season. It appears as if the two starters at receiver will be a redshirt frosh (Chris Dalton), and a junior (Maurice Covington) with just 11 career receptions. Look for the TEs (Tom Santi, Jonathan Stupar) to take the lead in receiving until the wideouts develop their game-legs.

Defense: This is the unit that could keep the Hoos afloat all year. Ten starters are back from one of last year's most underrated defenses (#17 nationally), headed up by son-of-Howie Chris Long at DE. The other two starters on the line return as well, and even better, all three starting LBs - led by Jon Cooper (81 tackes in '06) - are back, making this DE/LB corps the steadiest front seven in the nation. Three out of four starters are back in the secondary as well. There is a rare embarrassment of riches for the Cavaliers this year on this side of the ball, and it's a shame that the offensive unit could prevent it from getting the recognition it deserves.

Special teams: Steady kicker and sometimes punter Chris Gould returns, along with co-punter Ryan Weigand. Neither are spectacular, but both are serviceable. The return game features Mike Brown and Andrew Pearman fielding punts, with Cedric Peerman fielding kickoffs. Again, not spectacular, but steady and serviceable.

Coaching: Captain Sweatshirt enters his 7th season in Charlottesville, and hasn't come within the same hemisphere of fulfilling the national championship promises issued upon his hire. Yours truly has made it clear that I'm not a fan of the Chessmaster, but in an odd way I believe he turned in one of his best coaching jobs last year. The Cavs were absolutely gutted by coaching and personnel departures heading into the '06 campaign, and a 3-9 record wouldn't have surprised me. Getting to 4-4 in a weakened ACC was a decent accomplishment, and salved some of the wounds from the terrible start (which included three awful out-of-conference losses). That said, the offense is still a disaster and that falls directly on the shoulders of Groh and his OC offspring, Mike. Must we be reminded of how family dynamics can royally muck up a football program? That said, 2nd year DC Mike London has kicked things up a notch from the steady days of Al Golden and could be leading one of the best UVA defenses ever this season.

For What It's Worth: George Welsh in his final six seasons at UVA: 45-27 overall, 33-15 ACC; Al Groh's six seasons at UVA: 42-33 overall, 25-23 ACC....goose eggs aplenty- Virginia pitched two shutouts last season (@Duke and vs. UNC), but were shutout twice as well (@FSU and @Va Tech)....from 1955-1989, the Cavaliers went 0-29 against Clemson; from 1990-present, they've notched an 8-6-1 record against the Tigers....Virginia's highest ever poll finish was at #13 in the 1994 coaches' poll

Schedule Analysis: Extremely favorable. Five of the first seven opponents did not go to a bowl last year, and four of those first seven games are at home. A 6-1 start, however unlikely, is not out of the question. Even more fortunate for the Cavs, they skip Florida State, Clemson and Boston College from the Atlantic Division in this year's scheduling rotation. They also get a bye week before the season finale at home with the Hokies. This is by far the friendliest schedule for any ACC club this season.
Projected Wins- Duke, Pittsburgh, @Middle Tennessee, Connecticut
Projected Losses- Georgia Tech, @Maryland, @Miami, Virginia Tech
Toss-Ups- @Wyoming, @North Carolina, @NC State, Wake Forest

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Cavalier Insight: The Good Ol' Blog

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

"Touchdown.....No!" (actually, I think it was, but whatever)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Clemson Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 8-5 overall, 5-3 ACC (T2nd Atlantic Division); lost to Kentucky 28-20 in the Music City Bowl

Offense: Just five starters are back from last year's bipolar unit (43.5 ppg in the first 8 games, 17.4 ppg in the last 5). With the departure of we-hardly-knew-ye Will Proctor, the Tigers break in a new starting QB for the second straight year, this time either Jr. Cullen Harper or true-Fr. Willy Korn. The best backfield in the ACC - if not the nation - is back with a vengeance, in TBs James Davis (1219 rushing yards, 17 TDs in '06) and CJ Spiller (960 rushing yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 10 TDs last year). Last year's top wideout, Chansi Stuckey, has departed leaving Aaron Kelly (30 catches, 355 yards in '06) as the top returning receiver. The rest of the receiving corps has sparse game experience. The OL returns just one full time starter in All-ACC LT Barry Richardson. At a quick glance, this certainly appears to be a shell of last year's manic-depressive attack.

Defense: At first, the loss of #4 NFL draft pick Gaines Adams looms large, but upon closer inspection, it appears as if this defense could be better than last year's unit (#3 ACC, #13 nationally). Depending on which depth chart you look at, two or three starters are back on the line, with the entire two-deep having solid game experience. The LB corps returns two starters from '06 (Nick Watkins, Antonio Clay) and one from '05 (Tramaine Billie, injured last year). The secondary has both safeties back, while the corner spots are manned by sometime-starter Chris Chancellor and candidate for the all-name-team Crezdon Butler (3 picks as a backup last year).

Special teams: Kicking and punting duties are in the hands of Richard Jackson and Jimmy Maners, who collectively have zero game experience. Jacoby Ford and CJ Spiller are back to split time on both kickoff and punt returns.

Coaching: Tommy Bowden returns for a 9th season as Clemson head coach, still waiting for that one breakthrough year, and firmly back on that proverbial hot-seat. Aside from his best season in 2000 (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC), Bowden has four 4-4 finishes and three 5-3 marks in ACC play. The end result each season is maddeningly consistent (anywhere from 7-9 wins, and 4-6 losses), but the journey is not - sluggish starts and fast finishes in '03, '04 & '05, hot starts and late season fades in '01 & '06. Bowden's Clemson trek is similar to Tom O'Brien's at Boston College (7 to 9 wins per year, no conference titles), but a tad more dramatic what with the Tigers' penchant for impressive wins (Georgia Tech '06, Miami '04, Florida State and Tennessee '03) and monumental duds (Kentucky '06, Duke '04, Wake Forest '03). BC ran out of patience with O'Brien (and he with them) at 10 years....you'd think Clemson wouldn't be nearly as accommodating to Bowden, given their resources, tradition and rabid fanbase. Switching gears, OC Rob Spence and DC Vic Koenning are back, each in his third season here, which is the longest Bowden has kept both coordinator positions stable during his time at Clemson. The rest of the coaching staff returns as well, save for new RB coach Andre Powell.

For What It's Worth: The Tigers led the ACC in average home attendance in 2006 (81,506)....Six different programs (Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest) have won or shared an ACC crown since Clemson won their last in 1991....the Tigers have a winning record against seven of their eleven ACC brethren; only Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami have the historical advantage over Clemson, while the Boston College series is deadlocked....something of peculiar interest that I was unaware of before researching and writing this preview: Dwight Clark, he of "The Catch" fame, played at Clemson

Schedule Analysis: Pretty run of the mill. The opener with Florida State in Bowden Bowl IX notwithstanding, the first four games as a whole are the easiest, while the middle four and final four each have their share of pitfalls and breathers. It's as good a slate as any to make a run for the division crown in the uncertain ACC-Atlantic.
Projected Wins- Louisiana-Monroe, Furman, @NC State, Central Michigan, @Duke, Wake Forest
Projected Losses- @Georgia Tech, @South Carolina
Toss-Ups- Florida State, Virginia Tech, @Maryland, Boston College

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Tiger Insight: Sporting Gnomes, Danny Ford Is God

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

Look away, Georgia Tech fans. I mean it.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday News & Notes

...ESPN's Mark Schlabach opines on the 2007 edition of coaches on the hot seat; Clemson's Tommy Bowden has managed to earn tenure on these lists, as he makes his 38th consecutive appearance and is the headliner this year. Ted Roof at Duke and Al Groh at Virginia make unwanted appearances as well.

...Backhanded motivation, or straight-up candor? Seminole OC Jimbo Fisher says that the QB job is now a three-way race, with redshirt freshman Christian Ponder in consideration. My guess is that this is but another tool in Fisher's bag o' tricks to motivate Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee to make solid, concrete cases for themselves. There's no way the Noles are going to throw a redshirt frosh out against Clemson on Labor Day evening with less than a month's work with the first team.

...UNC is still searching for their starting QB as well, which may be good news for last year's sometime-starter Cam Sexton; real and considerable playing time (albeit a bit unimpressive) would have to be a tiebreaker if everything else is even among the QB trio.

...Miami's feared voodoo magic in the old Orange Bowl stadium may come to an end as early as next season. As one who has attended games there as a fan of an opposing team (Florida State, '96 and '98 contests), this is certainly welcome news and I'm much more likely to attend a Cane game in Dolphin Stadium, which is an actual 20th century facility, located in the northern part of Miami-Dade county, and likely too far for the riff-raff to carjack their way up to the game.

...This story would be mildly comical if it didn't involve the athletic director of one of our military service academies. Navy AD Chet Gladchuk had his wittle feewings hurt - and is apparently still sobbing into his pillow each night - when the Academy's instate "rival", Maryland, opted to play in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando last year instead of the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, in which the Midshipmen lost to Boston College. Hmmm...December in Central Florida, or in 30-degree, roll up the streets at 9pm downtown Charlotte? You'd think that anyone in any kind of executive position at Annapolis would have a slightly better disposition than that of a spurned 14-year old girl, but apparently you'd be wrong.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

USA Today/Coaches' Top 25

So last week the preseason coaches' poll was unveiled, and it featured exactly two ACC teams in the Top 25...America's sentimental favorite Virginia Tech at #9, and Atlantic Division favorite/Wake Forest biotch Florida State at #21. Needless to say, this was not the type of reputation the suits in Greensboro had hoped to engender when clumsily expanding the conference in 2004.

That said, there is some silver lining; the top three in "other's receiving votes" are Georgia Tech, Boston College and Miami, while Wake Forest (#31) and Clemson (#36) also garner votes (and no, I'm not counting Steve Spurrier's increasingly lame and tiresome annual Duke vote).

It's quite clear that the ACC has to prove itself on the field this year based on the last few seasons, and that's fair. Sure, I could gripe about some of the more questionable rankings...UCLA at #17, four ahead of FSU who pummeled them in the bowl and had the same record? Texas A&M in the rankings ahead of any of the "others receiving votes" ACC clubs? The Aggies went 9-4 last year, got obliterated by Cal in the Holiday Bowl, return 14 starters, and are karmically haunted thanks to Dennis Franchione. I'll take the Jackets, Eagles, Canes, Deacons and Tigers over them any week this year (and Miami better prove me right on Sept. 20).

Nonetheless, all of us in the ACC family would do well to zip it and let the season play out. Not that I'm going to follow my own advice or anything...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Duke Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 0-12 overall, 0-8 ACC (last Coastal Division)

Offense: With a respected new offensive coordinator and all eleven starters returning, if the Blue Devils can't make a dent on the scoreboard this year, they likely never will. Duke was shutout three times last season and held below 20 points in five other games as they they shuffled through a stable of running backs (due to injury), while breaking in a freshman QB in Thaddeus Lewis (53% completions, 2134 yards, 11 TDs, 16 picks). The top two wideouts (Eron Riley, Jomar Wright) combined for 1200 yards and 6 TDs last year. All five starting O-linemen return, although whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen, considering they accounted for just 2.9 yards per rush and allowed 43 sacks last year. Ole!

Defense: Five starters return, although due to inuries and substitution patterns, the new starters all have game experience, however two of them (LBs Marcus Jones and Tim Ball) played on the offensive side last year. 2006's leading tackler and defensive leader Mike Tauiliili apparently believes he plays for Florida, considering he was just busted for DWI, hit and run, assault with a firearm, and other Gator-esque crimes. Let's just say that Tauiliili won't be taking the field for awhile. DT Vince Oghobaase is a beast and All-ACC candidate. The secondary returns three starters from a unit that ranked - shockingly - last in the ACC in 2006.

Special teams: Let's just hope that Duke doesn't need this unit to come through on the Devils' probable one chance to win a game this year. K Joe Surgan returns, along with his 30% field goal average and 75% extra-point completion rate. P Kevin Jones redshirted last year. Both kick (Jabari Marshall) and punt (Leon Wright) returners are back, although neither of them were all that special in '06.

Coaching: From everything I've read and gathered, Ted Roof is a very capable and bright coach who is wasting his career in Durham. The embarrassing lack of support from the administration, athletic department and fan base has made the Duke head coaching position the most difficult of all 1-A programs. New OC Peter Vaas from Notre Dame is the fourth OC in five years under Roof, while DC Scott Brown has the position all to himself this year after his co-coordinator of the past three seasons, Jerry Azzinaro, was fired. Still, without a massive influx of committment from the Blue Devil administration, Duke is likely to never have a winning season anytime soon in today's college football environment, no matter who patrols the sidelines.

For What It's Worth: That new OC, Peter Vaas, was quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame the last two seasons and was a big reason for the resurrection of Brady Quinn's career; the Blue Devils meet the Irish on Nov. 17....Duke's average home attendance in 2006 (19,850) was by far the lowest of any BCS-conference program; second-lowest was the Big 10's Northwestern, who averaged 28,000....the Devils have just one win over a 1-A program in the last three years (16-13 over Clemson in '05, in one of those Tommy Bowden WTF? Specials)....the Devils have scared the bejesus out of two SEC powers in recent years; Tennessee led just 10-6 late in the 3rd quarter in an '03 matchup, while the Dukies led Alabama 14-10 in the 3rd quarter in Tuscaloosa last year before blowing it

Schedule Analysis: This is not a great schedule in which to change the perpetual downward trajectory of the program. After opening at home with Connecticut (likely their best shot at a win) the next four are on the road (Virginia, Northwestern, Navy, Miami). Further, the Devils get arguably the three-toughest teams from the Atlantic Divison (FSU, Clemson, Wake) in this year's rotation. At least no mediocre 1-AA teams will be able to embarrass the Dukies this year.
Projected Wins- none
Projected Losses- @Virginia, @Navy, @Miami, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, @Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, @Notre Dame, @North Carolina
Toss-Ups- Connecticut, @Northwestern

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Blue Devil Insight: If anyone's aware of a Duke blog that at least somewhat discusses football, clue me in

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

Woo-Hoo! We won! Let's celebrate by sleeping in a tent for hoops tickets!

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Now & Then: Jeff Jagodzinski

The latest edition of this feature profiles the new Boston College skipper...

Now


Then (unknown date, but I'm guessing late-1980s)


Ok, so maybe Jags wasn't the best subject I could come up with for this edition, but I'm realizing that it's a bit of treasure hunt just to locate old pics of our favorite ACC personalities.

Anyway, Then-Jeff has that look we all have (or had) in our early-20s...that look of hope, optimism, stupidity. Now-Jeff has the presence of someone who's been through the ringer a time or two...confident, poised, guarded. And is it just me or is his hairline a tad fuller now than in the younger photo? Sweet 'plugs!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Florida State Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 7-6 overall, 3-5 ACC (5th Atlantic Division); beat UCLA 44-27 in the Emerald Bowl

Offense: What a difference 9 months and $537,000 makes. The departures of Jeff Bowden, QB coach Darryl Dickey, OL coach Mark McHale and RB coach Billy Sexton ushered in the most sweeping change of the Bobby Bowden era (more on that later). While the new coaches are instilling new schemes and shuffling around personnel, it's the previously wasted talent in Tallahassee that will still make the biggest difference. The QB duo of Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee did little to distinguish themselves in the spring game, although Weatherford is listed as the starter on the depth chart. The OL loses two starters from last year's horrendous unit, although everyone on the two-deep has game experience. The RB position is in the very capable hands of the small but bruising Antone Smith, with the sturdy Marcus Sims listed as his backup. The extremely talented WR corps is back with renewed vigor, headed up by Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg.

Defense: Scary good. The front seven - decimated by injuries last year - returns thirteen players with starting experience. And despite the injuries, the Noles still finished 18th nationally in total defense in 2006. The losses of Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons to the private sector will surely be felt, but for years under Chuck Amato and Kevin Steele, FSU replaced linebacking talent with relative ease. The secondary was more fortunate in the health department in '06, and returns all 4 starters, led by the too-good-to-be-true Myron Rolle and superb corner Tony Carter. And as an added bonus, the second-stringers at corner and safety all played significantly last year, thanks to the continuous substitution patterns of that chronic sunflower-seed spitter, Mickey Andrews.

Special teams: The mercurial Gary Cismesia returns yet again, along with punter Graham Gano who did not impress in 2006. With the departure of Chris Davis (just 8.6 yards per return last year), punt returns should improve a notch with Patrick Robinson, while kickoffs will be fielded by cornerback and track star Michael Ray Garvin for the second straight year.

Coaching: The non-stop gushing among Seminole Nation since January over new OC Jimbo Fisher (from LSU), OL coach Rick Trickett (from West Virginia), and position coaches Lawrence Dawsey (WR) and Dexter Carter (RB) has yet to subside, and it's tough to blame the FSU faithful for such unabashed enthusiasm. After half a dozen years of embarrassing, kicking-holes-in-the-drywall (don't ask) ineptitude on the offensive staff, not only does competent and sound coaching return to Doak Campbell, but actual, proven excellence. Moreso than at offensive coordinator, Fisher's role as QB coach will likely make the quickest difference, while the drill sergeant mentality of Trickett in shaping up the offensive line may be the most important job of the offseason. The defensive coaches had a less active spring and summer, losing LB coach Kevin Steele to Alabama, but replacing him with old stalwart Chuck Amato, fresh off his up-and-down seven year stint in Raleigh. And last but not least, the reinvigorated Bobby Bowden is back to oversee his empire from his watchtower...in between naps, of course.

For What It's Worth: Eight of the Seminoles' thirteen games last year were decided by a TD or less, with FSU going 3-5 in those matchups....cause and effect - FSU won the turnover battle just three times in their 13 games last year, and all three games resulted in blowout victories (Rice, Virginia, UCLA)....Know thy enemy - new Seminole OC Jimbo Fisher held the same title under Nick Saban at LSU, and the Tide's new DC Kevin Steele was Executive Head Coach and LB coach at FSU for the last five years; the teams meet on Sept. 29....last year's Emerald Bowl victory was Florida State's first pre-January bowl game since 1990, breaking a string of 15 straight post-New Year's Day bowl appearances

Schedule Analysis: A double-edged sword, to put it mildly. These new look Seminoles will have all the opportunity in the world to prove they really are "back", if they can somehow manage to get 9 or more wins out of this gauntlet. All in all, the Noles get just five games at Doak Campbell, an increasingly hot-ticket game vs. Alabama in Jacksonville, and then six road games, including the Labor Day opener with Clemson and a particularly cruel November with trips to Boston College, Virginia Tech and Florida. Needless to say, a hot start (say 7-1) heading into that last month is critical.
Projected Wins- UAB, @Colorado, N.C. State, @Wake Forest, Miami, Duke, Maryland
Projected Losses- @Virginia Tech, @Florida
Toss-Ups- @Clemson, vs. Alabama, @Boston College

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Seminole Insight: Tomahawk Nation, Chant Rant

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

"Oh my word..."

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

North Carolina Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 3-9 overall, 2-6 ACC (5th Coastal Division)

Offense: Not pretty. The QB position is completely up for grabs, with sophomore Cam Sexton (highly ineffective in 2006), redshirt frosh TJ Yates, and true freshman Mike Paulus all vying for the starting position. Last year's on-again/off-again starter Joe Dailey has been mercifully moved to WR, where he is currently backup to Brooks Foster (486 yards in '06). 2006's top wideout, Hakeem Nicks (660 yards), returns as well. The running game is, quite frankly, a black hole. Guess who was the sixth-leading rusher for the Tar Heels last year? This guy. That's right, the frickin' kicker, and that was one play for 21 yards on what I'm guessing was either a fake or a muffed snap. Last year's leading rusher (Ronnie McGill - 849 yards, 7 TDs) has departed, and the second leading rusher in '06 (Barrington Edwards) currently resides in the netherworld of indefinite suspension. The third and fourth leading rushers last year were Dailey and Sexton, so it's safe to say that this position is in major disarray, and more than likely we'll see a running game by committee until one or two guys break out. Oh, and the offensive line loses two starters from a mediocre unit in '06, but at least there is some reasonably experienced depth.

Defense: Just four starters return from last year's dreadful unit (11th ACC, 92nd nationally), and that may be a blessing in disguise considering that the new and improved coaching staff can practically start fresh with schemes and personnel. Nonetheless, five of the top six tacklers in 2006 have left for the private sector, and while there's a lot of game experience on the defensive line and in the LB corps, the secondary is extremely green, with both projected starting safeties and one of the corners having redshirted in 2006. The backups on the depth chart are relatively light on experience as well, so this unit will be a major construction job for much of the 2007 campaign. Luckily, most of the offenses in the ACC are still rebuilding from the ashes of the '06 cataclysm.

Special teams: Kicker and rushing demon Connor Barth returns for his senior season and - all kidding aside - is one of the best in the country (10 for 10 on field goals in '06, including two 50+ yarders). The Heels lose the oft-used David Wooldridge as punter, but signed top JUCO punter Terrence Brown. Kick and punt returns will again be handled by Brandon Tate (1 punt return TD and 2 KO return TDs last year).

Coaching: The Heels may have finally hit a home run with this coaching hire after the strikeouts with Carl Torbush and John Bunting. Butch Davis (51-20 at Miami from 1995-2000, not as good with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-2004) has the coaching gravitas needed to lure top-notch recruits to Chapel Hill and has hired an excellent staff to complement him as well, a staff that includes a nice mix of NFL experience (OC John Shoop, DC Chuck Pagano) and college exposure (DL coach/recruiting coordinator and ex-Oklahoma skipper John Blake). It's certainly a much more highly regarded coaching outfit than the previous one, but how they work with the existing talent at UNC is anyone's guess. It may be an ugly first year or so, but by year three, Davis and Co. should have the Tar Heels competing for the Coastal Division title.

For What It's Worth: UNC and their Wolfpack brethren tied for last in the ACC (and ranked 113th nationally) in turnover margin last year at -11....under John Bunting, the Tar Heels went 9-3 against archrivals Duke and NC State, and 18-42 against everyone else....while at Miami, Butch Davis compiled an 11-10 record against current ACC programs (1-5 vs. Florida State, 1-5 vs. Virginia Tech, 6-0 against Boston College, 3-0 combined vs. Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia)....divergent paths - in last year's season opener, UNC outgained Rutgers in total yards and first downs, but lost a nailbiter 21-16; Rutgers went on to finish 11-2, while UNC stumbled to 3-9

Schedule Analysis: Compared with most of their kamikaze schedules in the Bunting Era (out of conference games with Oklahoma once, Texas twice, Arizona State twice, Utah twice, Louisville twice, Wisconsin twice), this one seems relatively light; nonetheless it's still a difficult one. A 3-0 start is not out of the question (James Madison, @East Carolina, Virginia), but then it's seven straight against '06 bowl teams (including a wicked Butch-trifecta of old nemesis Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, then home games with ex-employer Miami, and former Sunshine State rival Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks), then a finish of NC State and Georgia Tech on the road, and a home finale with Duke. On the plus side, Florida State, Boston College and Clemson are absent from the slate.
Projected Wins- James Madison, @East Carolina, Duke
Projected Losses- @USF, @Virginia Tech, Miami, @Wake Forest, Maryland, @Georgia Tech
Toss-Ups- Virginia, South Carolina, @N.C. State

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Tar Heel Insight: Carolina March, Heels Blog

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

When John Bunting wasn't a punchline...

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Now & Then: Al Groh

In the third episode of this smash-hit series, we present current and past photos of Charlottesville's very own Chess Grand Master, Al Groh...

Now


Then (1994)


I was just as surprised as you are by that "then" photo, but this Google interweb search stuff has to be 100% accurate, right? I must admit that I have a new fondness for Coach Groh, for without him, we would have been denied the uproarious 1980s treasure Beverly Hills Buntz.

*kudos to EDSBS, for they're the reason Det. Sipowicz makes an appearance in the Al Groh image search

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wake Forest Preview



2007 Schedule

2006 Results: 11-3 overall, 7-2 ACC (1st Atlantic Division, ACC Champions); lost to Louisville 24-13 in the Orange Bowl

Offense: Nine starters return from Wake's average but highly efficient offense in 2006. QB Riley Skinner returns for his sophomore season firmly entrenched as the starter and carrying ACC Rookie of the Year laurels as well (even though the Deacs had the second-to-last rated passing offense in the league last year). Due to the MASH unit that became the RB position in 2006, Wake had 4 different players start at tailback at various points in the season. All of them (Micah Andrews, DeAngelo Bryant, Travo Woods, and Kenneth Moore) return for 2007. Moore, who had been Wake's leading receiver until he was switched to RB late in the season, switches back to WR this fall. The offensive line returns 4 starters from '06 plus another '05 starter who was 2nd-team last year. These guys won the ACC when their offense was in shambles, personnel-wise. They're loaded now, at least by Demon Deacon standards.

Defense: Here's where the Deacons may slip a notch, and that's not a good sign considering they ranked just 9th in total defense in the ACC in 2006, and 90th nationally. Just one starter from last year returns on the defensive line, and leading tackler and All-ACC LB Jon Abbate inexplicably left school early so that he could go undrafted. The secondary suffers a massive hit (both safeties and the top cornerback have departed). The bright spots are that the three new starters on the DL have some decent game experience, and both OLBs started every game last year. The secondary is the chief concern, especially given the passing proficiency of Wake's first two opponents of the season (Boston College and Nebraska).

Special teams: The Deacs' team MVP last year, kicker and punter Sam Swank, returns with a vengeance. The return game is solid, with Kevin Marion fielding punts and Kenneth Moore handling kickoffs.

Coaching: The Best Little Coaching Staff in America returns for an encore to their masterpiece of 2006. What Jim Grobe, OC Steed Lobotzke and DC Dean Hood turned in last year was a small miracle. The devastating injuries on both sides of the ball forced constant shuffling of personnel and gameplans, and while the Deacs bent quite a lot last year, but never broke. The coaches' focus on limiting mistakes and forcing errors on opponents worked out extremely - almost divinely - well. The entire staff returns this season, but it's a whole new world for these guys now.

For What It's Worth: Wake's much ballyhooed +13 turnover margin last year largely came from three games: +3 @UNC, +4 @FSU, +2 vs. Ga Tech, none of which were home games I might add....and speaking of turnovers, the Deacs are the only program in the nation to commit 20 or less turnovers each season for the last five years....Wake's overall record in Jim Grobe's six seasons: 37-35; Wake's record the six seasons pre-Grobe: 21-46....From the "What Was The Purpose Of This?" Department: on Nov. 27, 1982, the Demon Deacons lost to Clemson 21-17 in front of 80,000 spectators in Tokyo

Schedule Analysis: Things couldn't be laid out more perfectly for the Deacons in their run to repeat as ACC champs (and you have no idea how surreal it feels to have typed that last sentence). The mysterious Wake booster in possession of ruinous photos of the Director in Charge of Football Scheduling is an extortionist extraordinaire; Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech are nowhere to be found on this year's slate. Aside from the first two weeks (@Boston College and a home date with Nebraska), the schedule is nicely spaced out...only once after weeks one and two do the Demon Deacons face '06 bowl teams in back-to-back weeks (Oct. 11 against FSU in Winston-Salem, and then Oct. 20 @Navy).
Projected Wins- Army, Maryland, @Duke, North Carolina, NC State, @Vanderbilt
Projected Losses- Florida State, @Clemson
Toss-Ups- @Boston College, Nebraska, @Navy, @Virginia

For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Demon Deacon Insight: Statistically Speaking (and this is a stretch)

Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:

This is not your father's Wake Forest

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