Tuesday, October 30, 2007

About Last Saturday (and Thursday)...

Sorry for the delay in posting the weekend recap. The wife and I have been catching up on our movie watching, highlighted by the eminently quotable and exponentially-funnier-after-repeat-viewings Blades of Glory. As such, today's photo captions are brought to you by that fine slice of cinematic genius, since I am too lazy to actually think of anything creative on my own...

BOSTON COLLEGE 14 - VIRGINIA TECH 10
Alabama in 1992 and Ohio State in 2002 won several games like this (although perhaps not nearly as dramatic), were summarily dismissed throughout those seasons as unworthy of being mentioned with the big guns, yet in the end won their national championship bowl games in which they were huge underdogs (curiously, both against supposedly dominant Miami teams looking to repeat). To play like ass for 55 minutes and still come out of Blacksburg with a victory is nothing but positive. Every great team in every season turns in a clunker or two. Winning the clunkers is what separates a Music City Bowl team from a BCS Championship Game team. As for the Hokies, the offense is still a wreck, but the defense turned in the most dominant performance of any 1-A defense this season...for 55 minutes. Prevent-D and all of the quasi-prevents are the scourge of college football.

I just threw up in here people...that's the reality. Another layer to the legend.

WAKE FOREST 37 - NORTH CAROLINA 10
Distracted much? Coming off a bye week, Butch Davis' Tar Heels were flatter than a Huddle House pancake against the Demon Deacons, leading folks like me to speculate whether Davis may be a tad preoccupied with the goings-on at his alma mater, Arkansas. He's been mentioned in connection with that job for nearly two years, and appeared to be a shoo-in for it 14 months ago, when Houston Nutt was entering a make-or-break season, and then started 10-1 and won the SEC West. Can't fire a guy after that. Now that the Nutt-house is falling apart, ol' Butch is back in the running. Remember, the nanosecond Miami was "back" in the national picture, Butch bolted for the Cleveland Browns approximately 27 seconds after saying he was staying in Coral Gables. Now that Arkansas is back in the mix, here is Davis' response when asked if he'd leave for Fayetteville: "I just told you, I’m thrilled to be at North Carolina." Is this guy running for public office? But I digress. Distraction is one thing that Jim Grobe will never be accused of, and Wake is playing like a team focused on a repeat ACC title. And this year's Deacons are better than last year's version.

I am never satisfied! It's a curse...

CLEMSON 30 - MARYLAND 17
Not much to take away from this one, other than maybe - just maybe - the Tigers could avoid their annual slip into mediocrity. Winning on the road at Maryland (and up 30-3 in the 4th before the damned prevent made the game and stat-sheet appear much closer than it actually was), in order to stay alive in the Atlantic race, is something I didn't expect, especially in this goofy season. James Davis and CJ Spiller each surpassed the century mark on the ground and Cullen Harper was the Cullen Harper we all grew to love before the Georgia Tech fiasco. The injury-depleted Terps probably cost themselves a bowl bid with this loss, as three of their remaining four games are on the road (@UNC, @FSU, @suddenly resurgent NC State) and oh by the way, BC visits College Park in two weeks. The supposed genius that is Ralph Friedgen is dangerously close to posting his third losing season in the last four years.

It's over. All the endorsements, everything, gone. Oh my God, I can't get a real job; it'll kill me!

N.C. STATE 29 - VIRGINIA 24
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Donald Bowens - #80 in your playbook, #1 in your hearts. His 11 receptions for 202 yards and 2 TDs against the Cavaliers nearly equaled his entire season output coming into the game and gave the Pack a bonafide offensive attack, considering that QB Daniel Evans had his second 300+ yard outing in a row. Even better, State RB Jamelle Eugene ground out 112 yards on the ground, freeing up space for Bowens and vice versa. After starting off 1-5, the Wolfpack are now 2-0 after their rejuvenating bye-week, ready and able to spoil the Miami, Wake and Maryland seasons over the next month. As for Virginia, the charmed season finally came to an end...nonetheless, they were without QB Jameel Sewell for the last seven minutes and that was just after the Pack had taken the final lead. Who knows what could've happened if Sewell had those seven minutes to forge a comeback? The good news in Hoo-ville is that he'll be back for next week's showdown with Wake Forest. And oh yeah, they still have a half-game lead over Virginia Tech in the Coastal race.

Better step aside homeschool, there's a new Sheriff in town.

FLORIDA STATE 25 - DUKE 6
One of those games in which the scoreboard fails to tell the full story. The Seminoles had five trips into the redzone against the Blue Devils in the first half, yet only had nine points (on three field goals) to show for it at halftime (a missed FG and a fumble were the end results of the other two drives). They punched the ball into the end zone twice in the second half and as a whole looked the best and smoothest they had all season on that side of the ball. The fact that the steadier Drew Weatherford was back under center, that Antone Smith ran for 146 yards, and that it was Duke...all of that played a part in perhaps this game being the one in which the proverbial light turned on for the beleagured Seminole offense. Now that Weatherford clearly has the job to himself (thanks to this development), he should settle into the position over the next few weeks without having to worry about getting an early hook. And that's just in time, as a trip to Boston College looms this Saturday - the scene where Weatherford had his breakthrough as a freshman two years ago. As for Duke, it's doesn't get any easier, with Clemson and Georgia Tech up next. The buzz they generated after the Northwestern win and the close calls with Navy, Miami, and Wake Forest is gone.

But I remember Boston, and that victory was as sweet as the cream pie for which the town was named.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blog Poll Ballot, Post-Week 9: I'm Getting Dizzy

Rank TeamChange
1Ohio State (9-0) --
2Boston College (8-0) 1
3LSU (7-1) 1
4Oregon (7-1)--
5Arizona State (8-0) 1
6Oklahoma (7-1) 1
7Kansas (8-0)--
8West Virginia (7-1) 1
9Missouri (7-1) 2
10Connecticut (7-1) 16
11Virginia Tech (6-2) 1
12Georgia (6-2) 14
13Southern Cal (6-2)--
14Texas (7-2) 2
15Hawaii (7-0) 2
16Clemson (6-2) 9
17USF (6-2) 9
18Wake Forest (6-2) 2
19Michigan (7-2) 5
20Alabama (6-2) 6
21Auburn (5-3)--
22Florida (5-3) 10
23Kansas State (5-3) 3
24Boise State (7-1) 2
25Virginia (7-2) 10

Dropped Out: Kentucky (#14), California (#18), Penn State (#19), South Carolina (#22), Rutgers (#23)

Ballot Meditations
None really. It is what it is. Feedback is certainly welcome.

15 Laterals

All-around wackiness that only Division III football can provide...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

ACC on TV

Where to find today's games on the tube...

North Carolina @ Wake Forest, 12pm ET - Lincoln Financial Sports & ESPN GamePlan
Clemson @ Maryland, 3:30pm ET - ABC & ESPN GamePlan
Virginia @ N.C. State, 4:30pm ET - ESPNU
Duke @ Florida State, 8pm ET - ESPNU

Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Week 9 Preview, Part II: Top That

There are four conference games on tap this Saturday, and we will be so fortunate if any of them come close to last night's drama in Blacksburg...

NORTH CAROLINA (2-5) at WAKE FOREST (5-2)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 12pm ET - BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
Series Record:
North Carolina leads 67-33-2; Wake Forest won last year's meeting 24-17
Stat Watch: 20-5...Jim Grobe's record against North Carolina-based schools
Brief Overview: For a team that almost always plays right to the level of their competition, Wake's destruction of Navy in Annapolis last week may be the signal of the Deacons shifting gears into a true conference and (gulp) national heavyweight. Wake's balance on offense last week (216 passing yards, 193 rushing yards) along with no turnovers is a healthy and impressive outcome, particularly against a team as well-coached as Paul Johnson's Midshipmen. As for the Tar Heels, their record may not show it, but Butch Davis' crew is starting to hit a groove (see: Miami and South Carolina), and they're coming off a much-needed bye week of rest and preparation for the Demon Deacons.
Prediction: All that stufff I said about Wake shifting gears? Fugheddaboutit...they'll revert back to their tried-and-true ways of playing neck and neck with their opponent. And as usual since last season, they'll get the W. Wake Forest 31, North Carolina 27

CLEMSON (5-2) at MARYLAND (4-3)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 3:30pm ET - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
Series Record:
Clemson leads 29-24-2; Maryland won last year's meeting 13-12
Stat Watch: 32-10...Ralph Friedgen's record in Byrd Stadium
Brief Overview: At the conclusion of this matchup, one team's season will have reached it's breaking point, while the other can continue with it's delusions of grandeur vis-a-vis Boston College and the Atlantic Division. The Terps have now let two games get away from them in the last minute (Wake and UVA), and there's a fine line between recovery and relapse after going through two traumatic defeats such as those. Meanwhile, the Tigers dropped a healthy ten touchdowns on Central Michigan last week, a game in which Cullen Harper was just about statistically perfect (20 of 22, 273yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT....meaning he only had one actual "incomplete" pass). The Tiger rushing attack steamrolled the Chippewas for 341 yards, and their leading rusher was neither James Davis nor CJ Spiller. And we've seen this all before. Clemson fans may get tired of hearing it, but Tommy Bowden's teams do this all the time.....they do everything right one week, then do everything wrong the next.
Prediction: In this nutty season, Clemson has still been admirably consistent from years' past. That means they'll either clobber the Turtles or lose in inexplicable fashion...and I'm going with the latter. Maryland 21, Clemson 13

VIRGINIA (7-1) at N.C. STATE (2-5)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 4:30pm ET - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record:
N.C. State leads 31-20; Virginia won last year's meeting 14-7
Stat Watch:
-17...N.C. State's turnover margin this season, dead last in 1-A
Brief Overview: It's tough to find any conceivable way for the Pack to pull this one off...they're a noxious mix of unlucky (injuries out the wazoo) and self-destructive (see Stat Watch above), while the Cavaliers have been machine-like in numerous tense, down-to-the-wire meatgrinders this year. State's Daniel Evans is coming off perhaps his best game as a QB in last week's win at East Carolina, while Jameel Sewell was superb in leading the Cavs on a bruising 90-yard drive to beat Maryland late in the 4th-quarter last week. The Hoo defense has kicked things up in the last few games, led by the soon-to-be-sickeningly-wealthy-in-his-own-right Chris Long at DE.
Prediction: There's no reason to think this will be anything other than a typical Virginia 2007 barnburner. They're on the road, facing a team desperate for some momentum....but the Cavs' charmed life continues for another week. Virginia 26, N.C. State 20

DUKE (1-6) at FLORIDA STATE (4-3)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 8pm ET - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record:
Florida State leads 15-0; the Seminoles won last year's meeting 51-24
Stat Watch: 52-17...average score in the 15 meetings between the two schools
Brief Overview: Ala' Clemson-Maryland, this matchup is likely a breaking point game for both schools. The Seminoles are coming off two straight defeats, capped by a ridiculous loss to Miami in which the Hurricanes - led by Kirby Freeman at QB - marched 83 yards in a minute late in the 4th quarter to win. The FSU defense has been positively atrocious in the 4th quarter as of late - turning comfortable shutout wins over Colorado and Alabama into late nailbiters, and then blowing the Wake Forest and Miami games. Florida State fans should fear for their emotional and mental health if Duke is within 10 with less than 5 minutes to go on Saturday. As for those Devils, all those near-upsets in the last month with nary a win to show for it have started to take their toll. Their 43-14 loss to Virginia Tech on Oct. 13 was the epitome of mentally mailing it in. Still, QB Thaddeus Lewis is just the kind of player that gives the Nole defense fits, and - wow - he may be the best QB on the field Saturday, with Drew Weatherford back under center for FSU.
Prediction: Weatherford is as vanilla they come at QB, but at the very least he isn't the turnover machine that Xavier Lee morphed into. And it's turnovers - lots of them - that the Blue Devils need to pull off the stunner. Won't happen, but the Noles will look very pedestrian in the win. Florida State 30, Duke 13

Epic

National championship teams - and Heisman Trophy winners - do this sort of thing when the chips are down:


(Hat tip to Eagle in Atlanta for finding the YouTube clip)

In the rain, on the road, on Thursday night, shut-out for 55 minutes...and Matt Ryan and the Eagles pull it off. Move over Doug Flutie. Move over Ohio State...?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Week 9 Preview, Part I: The Game of the Year

BOSTON COLLEGE (7-0) at VIRGINIA TECH (6-1)
Thursday, 10/25/07, 7:30pm ET - Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 9-4; Boston College won last year's meeting 22-3
Stat Watch: 13-2....the Hokies' all-time record on ESPN Thursday Nights; both losses were to BC (1995 & 2006)
Brief Overview: If you cast aside those Thursday night bugaboos that have plagued nearly every favored team this season, on paper this looks to be a comfortable Eagle win. The Hokies will be without stud LB Vince Hall, the QB situation is shaky as ever with either a banged-up Tyrod Taylor or incompletion/turnover machine Sean Glennon taking snaps, and the Tech OL and running game are still in shambles. On the flipside, the Eagles have the top rated rushing defense in the nation, one of the leading Heisman candidates in QB Matt Ryan, and they come into this one healthy and looking for respect after playing four straight patsies (and sleepwalking in a few of those). It's been six weeks since BC has faced off against anyone near the caliber of the Hokies (9/15 at Georgia Tech)...have the Eagles been lulled into a competitive stupor?
Prediction: It'll take rampant Eagle self-destruction, along with some special teams heroics by the Hokies, and a flawless game by Taylor or Glennon for Tech to notch a victory. Not gonna happen, but the Thursday Night Lane Stadium atmosphere will make it interesting for most of the game. Boston College 27, Virginia Tech 17

The remaining ACC game previews for this week will be posted for your bemusement tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Out of Conference Report - Week 8

Sorry for the lack of posts this week - as usual I've been preoccupied with work and
life. Anyway, this weekly (or sometimes bi-weekly) compilation is starting to get
some attention on message boards and other blogs, so I feel that a regular update is
in order from here on out. So here goes...

Updated non-conference records among the BCS/power leagues, eight weeks into this
helter-skelter season:

Conf.RecordPct.
SEC30-5.857
Big 1030-8.789
Big 1236-11.766
Pac 1021-8.724
ACC31-12.721
Big East28-11.718
And the ACC finally climbs out of the cellar in these standings, although the margin among the Pac 10, ACC and Big East is razor thin, to the point where you have to consider them all tied for 4th.

ON THE ROAD
The ACC continues to have the second highest percentage of non-conference games played in unfriendly environments...

Conf.Road Games*/OOC GamesPct.
Big East15/39.385
ACC16/43.372
Big 1215/47.319
Pac 109/29.310
Big 1010/38.263
SEC7/35.200
*neutral site contests were counted as road games for both teams involved

Notice how these standings just about flip the overall record standings on it's head. Correlation: the fewer amount of non-conference road trips, the better your overall record is going to be.

BCS COMPETITION
The ACC played four non-conference opponents last week, none of them from a BCS conference, and yet the league has still played the largest percentage of it's non-conference competition against power league teams, by a fair margin. See below:

Conf.BCS Foes/OOC Games Pct.
ACC17/43.395
Big East14/39.359
Pac 1010/29.345
Big 1013/38.342
SEC10/35.286
Big 1211/47.234
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:

Conf.RecordPct.
Big 109-4.692
Pac 106-4.600
ACC9-8.529
SEC5-5.500
Big East7-8.467
Big 125-6.455
Not a whole lot of change here from last week's report...in fact the only BCS conference matchups this past weekend were USC-Notre Dame and West Virginia-Mississippi State. Anyway, below is a compilation of each league's non-conference wins and losses against other BCS conferences.

Big 10: Wins- Washington State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, @Washington, @Syracuse, @Notre Dame, Notre Dame; Losses- Missouri, Oregon, @Iowa State, Duke

Pac 10: Wins- @Syracuse, Tennessee, @Michigan, Colorado, @Nebraska, Notre Dame; Losses- @Wisconsin, @Cincinnati, Ohio State, Notre Dame

ACC: Wins- @Notre Dame, @Northwestern, @Colorado, Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, @Rutgers, Pittsburgh, @Notre Dame, UConn; Losses- UConn, Nebraska, @Oklahoma, @LSU, West Virginia, @USF, Louisville, South Carolina

SEC: Wins- Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, @North Carolina; Losses- @California, Missouri, USF, vs. Florida State, @West Virginia

Big East: Wins- @Duke, Oregon State, @Auburn, @Maryland, North Carolina, @N.C. State, Mississippi State ; Losses- Washington, @Iowa, @Michigan State, Illinois, @Kentucky, Maryland, @Virginia, @Virginia

Big 12: Wins- @Illinois, Miami, @Wake Forest, @Mississippi, Iowa; Losses- @Georgia, @Auburn, @Arizona State, USC, Florida State, @Miami

Looking at the overall win/loss record and the quality of the competition, I still say the ACC comes out the best in this category. But I'm also not the most objective voice regarding this.

THE 1-AA (OR "FCS" IF YOU WANT TO BE ALL TECHNICAL) FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
Conf.1-AA Foes/OOC GamesPct.
Big 108/38.210
SEC7/35.200
Big 128/47.170
ACC7/43.163
Big East6/39.154
Pac 102/29.007
The Big 10 clearly fares the worst in this category...not only has just over one-fifth of all their non-conference competition involved 1-AA opposition, they've lost two of those games (Appalachian State-Michigan and North Dakota State-Minnesota). Honestly, only the Pac 10 really comes off well in this category.

AND ALL THE REST
Each league's record against non-BCS/non-1AA foes...that is, the non-conference results against the poor schleps from the Sun Belt, Conference USA, MAC, etc.:
Conf.RecordPct.
SEC18-01.000
Big 1015-2.882
Big 1224-4.857
Big East15-3.833
ACC15-4.789
Pac 1013-4.765
Once again, the SEC's record in this category appears to be a major (and subliminal) reason why that conference has been fawned over left and right this season. Like or not, they've taken care of business every time against the Tulanes, UL-Lafayettes, FAUs and such. None of the other conferences can say that. Florida handled Troy, but Virginia got clocked by Wyoming. Tennessee cruised past Southern Miss, but UCLA got smashed by Utah. Nonetheless, this seems like an underwhelming empirical reason for the frothing media adulation heaped upon the SEC.

FACTUALLY SUPPORTED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
I'll just repeat what I said last week: the secret to having a dominating out-of-conference performance? Never, ever, ever play non-conference road games; do make sure to play a higher percentage of 1-AA foes; and do not stumble even once in the supposed "patsy" non-league games. Seriously. In this crazy year, that earns you the top spot in my ranking of the BCS conferences to date:
1. SEC
2. Pac 10
3. ACC
4. Big 12
5. Big East
6. Big 10
The only change from last week is dropping the Big 10 from 5th to 6th. Minnesota's loss to North Dakota State gave the league two 1-AA losses this season, and too much of their BCS-conference competition to date has consisted of Notre Dame and the dregs of the other power-leagues (Syracuse, Pitt, Iowa State, Duke, Washington State).

As an aside, let me say that I believe non-conference competition is by far the best way to compare the leagues side-by-side-by-side, but this compilation is certainly not a complete analysis. Margin of victory, the placement of games on the schedule, the equality of matchups, and countless other factors aren't really taken into account here. These reports try to make the comparisons as objective and concise as possible, but in reality there will likely never be a thorough enough and definitive enough analysis to determine how the leagues truly stack up to one another.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blog Poll Ballot, Post-Week 8: This Is Exhausting

RankTeamChange
1Ohio State (8-0) --
2LSU (7-1) 2
3Boston College (7-0) --
4Oregon (6-1) 1
5Oklahoma (7-1) 1
6Arizona State (7-0) 1
7Kansas (7-0) 6
8South Florida (6-1) 6
9West Virginia (6-1) 2
10Virginia Tech (6-1) 2
11Missouri (6-1) 3
12Florida (5-2) 3
13Southern Cal (6-1) 3
14Kentucky (6-2) 4
15Virginia (7-1) 3
16Texas (6-2) 8
17Hawaii (7-0) 2
18California (5-2) 10
19Penn State (6-2) 1
20Wake Forest (5-2) 2
21Auburn (5-3) 4
22South Carolina (6-2) 13
23Rutgers (5-2) 3
24Michigan (6-2) 2
25Clemson (5-2) 1

Dropped Out: Kansas State (#21), Cincinnati (#23), Texas Tech (#25)

Ballot Meditations
>>> Soft schedules or not, it's time to really pay tribute to Ohio State, Boston College, Arizona State, and Kansas (and Hawaii too, I suppose) for surviving the insanity of this season unscathed thus far. It takes some stones and some ice water in the veins to do that. That said, none of them will finish with a goose-egg in the loss column.

>>> LSU vaulting BC? Yep. It took 3 OTs for LSU to finally lose last week, on the road, when Kentucky had a few extra days to prepare for them. Let's just say the Tigers have the most respectable and understandable loss of anyone this season. Combine that with their demolition of Virginia Tech and gut-check wins over Florida and Auburn, and they deserve at least the #2 spot. Ohio State's killer defense is what keeps the Buckeyes at #1 for this week (don't let the Michigan State score fool you...the Spartans had two defensive touchdowns).

>>> Hmmm, lookie there...I've got 5 ACC teams in the poll. Clemson may be a stretch, but who else should be in there ahead of them? Alabama? The Tide lost to Florida State for God's sake. UCLA? Their two losses to Utah and Notre Dame by a combined score of 64-12 equal banishment from the poll for a long while. Georgia? A 35-7 thrashing at ridiculously overrated Tennessee keeps them out. Purdue? Outscored 71-28 by Michigan and Ohio State. Wisconsin? Umm, just no.

>>> Cal and South Carolina could be riding the express train from the Top 10 last week to out of the poll by next week. The Bears travel to Arizona State next Saturday while the Gamecocks visit Tennessee; even an ugly win over the Vols could result in Carolina dropping out, while a loss in Knoxville certainly will.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Week 8 Preview: The Calm Before The Storm

It's not often that you can call an FSU-Miami weekend "calm", but with only one other conference matchup this Saturday (Virginia-Maryland), this will be the last weekend of the year that we'll see this many bye-weeks and patsy non-conference games. Starting next Thursday, it's all intra-conference bloodsport until the final weekend of the season.

This will have to be an abbreviated edition of my weekly preview due to stupid work priorities. Off we go...

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (4-3) at CLEMSON (4-2), 12pm ET
The Chippewas are not quite the pushover the Tigers thought they'd be when they scheduled this meeting for homecoming. Central Michigan looks to be the class of the MAC so far, while the Tigers are coming off a bye week, having had two full weeks now to digest their consecutive ugly losses to the Techs. The good news for Tommy Bowden and Co. is that the Chippewas' rush defense is kinda lame, and should allow James Davis and CJ Spiller to return from the deserted island they've been stranded on the last few weeks. Clemson 41, Central Michigan 24

ARMY (3-4) at GEORGIA TECH (4-3), 12pm
The Most Crushingly Disappointing Team of The Year continues their midseason redemption tour, this time by lining up against our nation's finest. Tashard Choice should have a bountiful day on the ground against the flimsy Cadet rush defense, while Jon Tenuta's troops will get their best chance all year at a shutout - the Black Knights rank 115th nationally in total offense. Georgia Tech 30, Army 6

WAKE FOREST (4-2) at NAVY (4-2), 1pm ET
For me, this will be the most purely enjoyable game to watch this whole weekend - two supreme head coaches butting heads in what should be an offensive showcase. Even better, both coaches have had ample time to prepare for each other (10 days for Paul Johnson, 9 days for Jim Grobe). I truly hope the Demon Deacon defense stifles the Navy QB, because I really don't want to type his alphabet-soup of a name in my weekend recap. Wake Forest 35, Navy 31

MIAMI (4-3) at FLORIDA STATE (4-2), 3:30pm ET
Two rivals with a much heftier hikes back to the top than expected face off in Tallahassee. As messed up as FSU is on the offensive side of the ball, the Canes' situation is even worse. Plus, the crumbled mess formerly known as the Miami defense is coming off back-to-back gashings by North Carolina and Georgia Tech. A trip to the unfriendly environs of Doak Campbell is not what the Hurricanes need as medicine for their ills. Florida State 19, Miami 13

N.C. STATE (1-5) at EAST CAROLINA (4-3), 4:30pm ET
How in the world were the Pirates able to swing home games with the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in the same year? Nice coup by the athletic department in Greenville, especially when they're going to go 2-0 in those meetings. Things are just really bad in Raleigh and it can't all be blamed on Chuck Amato. The State brass knew what personnel was in place when they hired the polar opposite of The Chest in Tom O'Brien, so the disaster that is 2007 should not be all that shocking in hindsight. I think O'Brien will eventually get it done in Raleigh, but if State and their fans thought it would be a relatively quick fix, they made the wrong hire. More pain is in store for the Pack. East Carolina 26, N.C. State 16

VIRGINIA (6-1) at MARYLAND (4-2), 8pm ET
Statement game to the extreme. Not much of anyone in the national media horde believes in the Hoos just yet, while the Terps are virtually invisible to the folks at ESPN, SI, CBS, etc. The loser here will tumble into a media black hole, likely never to be heard from again, while we'll hear and read feature after feature on the spunkiness of Vanderbilt, the kookiness of Coach O at Ole Miss, and the stoic approach of Sly Croom in Starkville (and that concludes my little jab-fest this week at the media and blogosphere on the overall ACC/SEC coverage disparity). The winner here makes a major move in the ACC race (especially if it's the kids in Charlottesville), and will have to be ranked in the next poll. The Terps appear to have the upper hand here...home game, coming off a bye week, and apparently having found a quality QB for the first time since Scott McBrien departed four long years ago. Maryland 28, Virginia 22

ACC on TV

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

Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007 (all times Eastern)
Central Michigan at Clemson, 12pm - ESPNU
Army at Georgia Tech, 12pm - Lincoln Financial Sports & ESPN GamePlan
Wake Forest at Navy, 1pm - CSTV
Miami at Florida State, 3:30pm - ABC & ESPN GamePlan
N.C. State at East Carolina, 4:30pm - CSTV
Virginia at Maryland, 8pm - ESPN2

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Out of Conference Report - Week 7

For previous editions of this feature this season, click right here and scroll down a bit.

Updated non-conference records among the BCS/power leagues, seven weeks into this nonsensical season:
Conf.RecordPct.
SEC30-4.882
Big 1028-7.800
Big 1236-11.766
Pac 1020-8.714
Big East26-11.703
ACC27-12.692
Again, the ACC brings up the rear in these standings. On the plus side, the continuous improvement by the league each time I track these records is a positive sign. You gotta hand it to the SEC, a 30-4 record in this nutty year is good no matter how you slice it. But, as always, there's much more to the story...

ON THE ROAD
The ACC still has the second highest percentage of non-conference games in unfriendly environments...
Conf.Road Games*/OOC GamesPct.
Big East15/37.405
ACC14/39.359
Big 1215/47.319
Pac 108/28.286
Big 109/35.257
SEC6/34.176
*neutral site contests were counted as road games for both teams involved

Well then, I think we can all see how the SEC gets that nice and tidy 30-4 record. The ACC and Big East were the bottom two in the overall standings, yet are the top two in percentage of non-conference road games, while the SEC and Big 10 were the top two in the overall standings, yet play the least amount of their non-conference games on the road. Discuss.

THE COMPETITION
44% of the ACC's out-of-conference matchups so far have been against power-league competition, easily tops among the BCS conferences. See below:
Conf.BCS Foes/OOC Games Pct.
ACC17/39.436
Big 1013/35.371
Big East13/37.351
Pac 109/28.321
SEC9/34.265
Big 1211/47.234
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:
Conf.RecordPct.
Big 109-4.692
Pac 105-4.556
SEC5-4.556
ACC9-8.529
Big 125-6.455
Big East6-8.429
And yet, there is still even more to the story. The Big 10's 9-4 record looks impressive, but let's take a look at each conference's actual wins and losses vs. BCS foes to see how those records were compiled. Just for fun, count how many times you see "Notre Dame" and "Syracuse" among the Big 10's wins...

Big 10: Wins- Washington State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, @Washington, @Syracuse, @Notre Dame, Notre Dame; Losses- Missouri, Oregon, @Iowa State, Duke

Pac 10: Wins- @Syracuse, Tennessee, @Michigan, Colorado, @Nebraska; Losses- @Wisconsin, @Cincinnati, Ohio State, Notre Dame

SEC: Wins- Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, @North Carolina; Losses- @California, Missouri, USF, vs. Florida State

ACC: Wins- @Notre Dame, @Northwestern, @Colorado, Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, @Rutgers, Pittsburgh, @Notre Dame, UConn; Losses- UConn, Nebraska, @Oklahoma, @LSU, West Virginia, @USF, Louisville, South Carolina

Big 12: Wins- @Illinois, Miami, @Wake Forest, @Mississippi, Iowa; Losses- @Georgia, @Auburn, @Arizona State, USC, Florida State, @Miami

Big East: Wins- @Duke, Oregon State, @Auburn, @Maryland, North Carolina, @N.C. State ; Losses- Washington, @Iowa, @Michigan State, Illinois, @Kentucky, Maryland, @Virginia, @Virginia

After looking at the win/loss records and then the individual wins and losses listed above, I think it's beyond debate that the ACC has the most impressive resume in this category. 9-8 against BCS foes, 9 of the 17 games on the road, 6 of the 9 wins over teams with winning records, and 5 of the 8 losses to teams currently in the BCS Top 10. The SEC has the second best performance overall by my estimation. Strangely, after looking at the actual wins and losses, I'm least impressed by the Big 10, despite the 9-4 record.

THE 1-AA (OR "FCS" IF YOU WANT TO BE ALL TECHNICAL) FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
Conf.1-AA Foes/OOC GamesPct.
SEC7/34.206
Big 107/35.200
ACC7/39.179
Big 128/47.170
Big East6/37.162
Pac 102/28.007
The Big 10 (Michigan) and Big 12 (Iowa State) have suffered the indignity of a loss to the lowly 1-AAers. As for the rest...bravo to the Pac 10. That is all.

AND ALL THE REST
Each league's record against non-BCS/non-1AA foes...that is, the non-conference results against the bourgeois class of 1-A:
Conf.RecordPct.
SEC18-01.000
Big 1013-2.867
Big 1224-4.857
Big East14-3.824
Pac 1013-4.765
ACC11-4.733
And folks, now we have your reason why college football pundits all around the fruited plain are messing their pants over how powerful the SEC is this year...they're beating the daylights out of the Sun Belt and Conference-USA. Yes...part of that comment is supremely sarcastic, but part of that is the God's-honest truth as well. The ACC has seen UCF win at NC State, East Carolina knock off UNC, and - most egregiously - Wyoming piledrive Virginia. Among the twelve SEC teams, not once have they dropped a game to an Arkansas State, Troy or Middle Tennessee. Even Vandy, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are holding serve. Every other conference has had a member or two stumble badly in one of these lower-end matchups, but not the SEC. That apparently means the world in terms of conference perception.

FACTUALLY SUPPORTED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
The secret to having a dominating out-of-conference performance? Never, ever, ever play non-conference road games; do make sure to play the highest percentage of 1-AA foes; and do not stumble even once in the supposed "patsy" non-league games. Seriously. In this crazy year, that earns you the top spot in my ranking of the BCS conferences to date:

1. SEC
2. Pac 10
3. ACC
4. Big 12
5. Big 10
6. Big East


The difference between all six leagues is relatively small, with 3 through 6 separated by just one or two non-conference games swinging the other way. The ACC is doing much better than the media horde and message board yahoos would have you believe, and as illustrated above, the SEC's dominance is largely - but certainly not completely - the result of kicking the crap out of the Middle Tennessees and Tulanes of the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

About Last Saturday (and Thursday)...

WAKE FOREST 24 - FLORIDA STATE 21
The Seminoles may be the one team in the nation that could legitimately have gone 12-0 or 4-8 this year. This is a team that is - with the new offensive coaching staff - so close to greatness while at the same time straddling the border of sub-.500ville. One only needs to watch Xavier Lee to know that he is an exponential upgrade over Drew Weatherford, but that upgrade is severely diminished by working behind perhaps the single-worst offensive line in college football. No exaggeration...the single worst. The Noles were thisclose to taking a 21-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter at Wake, but a stumble by Greg Carr in the endzone turned a jumpball TD into an endzone INT and everything changed after that. That's not to diminsh the Wake Forest effort on Thursday night...they played like garbage for the first half but managed to stay within 7 and then went in for the kill after one too many mistakes by FSU. If Wake played BC today instead of in week one, I'd be plunking cash down on the Deacs.

GEORGIA TECH 17 - MIAMI 14
Jon Tenuta owns Patrick Nix. That's about all that can be gleaned from the Yellow Jackets' second-straight win over Miami in the Orange Bowl (and their third straight victory overall in the series). Tech still has serious problems at QB, and it's a credit to their offensive line that they could open up enough holes to allow 264 yards on the ground when the Canes knew full well that QB Taylor Bennett was a threat to do nothing but throw panicky incompletions. Things get a little darker for Miami as they now head to Tallahassee for their annual showdown with archrival Florida State...and the Noles have had two extra days to prepare for the Hurricanes.

VIRGINIA TECH 43 - DUKE 14
You can't just say, "Yeah, but that was against Duke". Ask Northwestern, Navy, Virginia, and Wake Forest about what it's like to suit up against the Blue Devils this year. Sean Glennon relieved injured QB Tyrod Taylor and managed to have the best game of his Hokie career (16-for-21, 258 yards, 2 TDs) to lead Virginia Tech to a rout of Duke, despite a seemingly incurable anemic rushing attack and porous OL. The Blue Devils appear to have peaked, and even if they drop their remaining five contests (@FSU, Clemson, Ga Tech, @Notre Dame, @UNC), they'll be the best 1-11 team ever...which may be the lamest praise ever offered in recorded sports history.

SOUTH CAROLINA 21 - NORTH CAROLINA 15
**Paranoia alert**....if this had been Virginia Tech travelling to Ole Miss, only to see the Hokies scrape past the Rebels by six points, national pundits aplenty would be messing their pants over how powerful the SEC is, in that one of their bottom-feeders could nearly knock off an ACC power. On the flipside - and in reality - #6 South Carolina nearly kakked away a game to a 2-5 UNC squad and we hear....crickets. The Tar Heels outgained the Gamecocks by 116 yards and we hear....is there an echo in here? What we can gather from this game is that Butch Davis appears to have been a fantastic hire for UNC, and that there are way too many college football pundits and experts that are either too lazy or too biased to even consider or mention that the ACC is stacking up fairly well against other conferences this season, despite the horrific start.

VIRGINIA 17 - CONNECTICUT 16
You may now consider me sold on the Cavaliers. In this absurd football season, that Wyoming loss may as well have been six years ago instead of just six weeks ago. Without the services of leading rusher Cedric Peerman last Saturday, Virginia nonetheless found enough offense to claw past previously unbeaten UConn and finally get ranked in at least one national poll. **Paranoia alert**...if the Cavs were in the SEC, they would have been ranked - by special poll - at halftime of the Pitt game. Anyway, the Hoos' six game winning streak is now something like the third longest in the nation, and with four of their six wins being decided by 5 points or less, something is gelling in Charlottesville. We'll see how firm this gelatinous UVA season really is over their last five games (@Maryland, NC State, Wake, @Miami, Va Tech).

BOSTON COLLEGE 27 - NOTRE DAME 14
In a show of just how gonzo this season is, the Eagles now need to justify how they only beat the Fighting Irish by 2 TDs in South Bend. Allow me, BC fans. The Eagles played far from their best game yet still managed to double-up Notre Dame in total yards and gave the Irish a touchdown on one of the ten or so bad passes Matt Ryan has tossed all year. And Boston College managed to stifle the Irish running game to 27 total yards, while giving up 222 yards passing only because Notre Dame chucked the ball almost exclusively in the second half, as they were losing by 3 TDs for most of the game. **Paranoia alert**...has an undefeated rookie head coach ever gotten less publicity than Jeff Jagodzinski at BC this year? Wanna bet that ESPN and CBS would be devoting large segments of GameDay and Scoreboard Updates to him if he was 7-0 at, say, Arkansas? Yeah, me too.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This Week's Blog Poll Ballot - Can I Just Stop at #15?

What is this "Blog Poll" of which I speak? I got your answer right here.

RankTeamChange
1Ohio State 1
2South Florida 3
3Boston College 1
4LSU 3
5Oregon 1
6Oklahoma 1
7Arizona State 1
8California 5
9South Carolina--
10Kentucky 5
11West Virginia 1
12Virginia Tech 2
13Kansas 6
14Missouri 3
15Florida 1
16Southern Cal 3
17Auburn 7
18Virginia 5
19Hawaii 6
20Penn State 6
21Kansas State 5
22Wake Forest 4
23Cincinnati 11
24Texas 2
25Texas Tech 1

Dropped Out: Florida State (#17), Illinois (#18), Colorado (#20), Wisconsin (#21), Connecticut (#22)


Ballot Meditations
>>>I'm queasy about every team ranked #16 and below. There are about 30 different ballclubs that could make a case for being ranked between 16 and 25 right now; scratch that...this year provides ample reason to trim the poll to "Top 15".

>>>I don't think anyone goes unbeaten this season. Not a one (including Hawaii). But, if one team does, it'll be USF. The Bulls travel to Rutgers, UConn and Pitt in their remaining road games...if they get past the Scarlet Knights, they're likely home-free. Ohio State goes to Penn State and Michigan, and BC travels to Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Clemson and has the ACC title game after that. Kansas and Arizona State will be picked off soon.

>>>Florida's close, respectable loss at LSU - the reason some Tebowfied pollsters and voters kept UF in their Top 10 (and even Top 5 in some ridiculous cases), despite the home loss to Auburn and a nailbiter with Ole Miss before that - just got devalued quite a bit. A two-loss team is a two-loss team no matter how you slice it...the Gators should have to work their way back up the polls like everyone else. And they very well could, starting at Kentucky next week.

>>>The Pac 10 has to be kicking themselves for playing nine conference games this year. There are three - maybe four - legitimate national title contenders in the league this year and it's probable that they're all going to knock each other off. Imagine if Oregon skipped Cal this year or if Cal had skipped Oregon State....or, ahem, if Stanford had rotated off USC's schedule.

>>>Teams lined up for departure from next week's ballot: Auburn (at LSU), Virginia (at Maryland), Wake Forest (at Navy), Texas Tech (at Missouri).


Feel free to fire away...I can easily be persuaded in this crazy year.