Friday, September 5, 2008

Week 2 Preview, Part II: Sifting Through The Rubble

WESTERN CAROLINA (1-0) at FLORIDA STATE (0-0)
Saturday, 9/6/08, 6pm ET - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record: Florida State leads 2-0; the Seminoles won the last meeting 50-10 in 1985
Storyline: Christian Ponder makes his first start at quarterback for the Noles.
Brief Overview: Despite the suspension of several starters and backups for last season's academic scandal - along with the suspension of star wideout Preston Parker for pesky law enforcement matter in the spring - the Seminoles open their 2008 campaign in the best shape they've been in since ACC expansion. And based on last weekend's crapfest, the Noles all of a sudden have the look of a legit conference favorite without having yet played a down. Normally I'd blast FSU for scheduling someone like the Catamounts, but given the circumstances, it's a smart move. And if they can't roll up and down the field in this game, then we know things really haven't changed all that much from the last few years.
Prediction: If only for a day, you'll think it's the 1990s again in Tallahassee. Florida State 49, Western Carolina 7

WILLIAM & MARY (0-0) at N.C. STATE (0-1)
Saturday, 9/6/08, 6pm ET - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record: N.C. State leads 11-8; the Wolfpack won the last meeting 38-9 in 1999
Storyline: Nine quarters and counting...the Wolfpack's scoreless streak will certainly come to an end this Saturday. Right?
Brief Overview: The best news all week in Raleigh was the return of Russell Wilson to active duty after last Thursday's frightening concussion. But that's about the only good news in Pack circles these days, as Daniel Evans is still the starting QB, the injuries keep piling up, and their horrific impersonation of a football team last week against South Carolina was further degraded by the Cocks' loss yesterday to Vanderbilt. State has been outscored 81-0 over the last nine quarters (to USC-east, and then Maryland in last season's finale and the fourth quarter against Wake the week prior), and a clunky outing on Saturday against the Tribe will only get the natives unbearably restless just 14 games into Tom O'Brien's tenure. I have no expectation that the State offense will do anything impressive, so a stellar outing by the defense on Saturday would go a long way in stopping the bleeding from the program's gouged reputation. Oh by the way, Tropical Storm Hanna is forecast to be off the Carolina coast just before kickoff.
Prediction: The shutout streak ends, but the Pack will sweat this one out until the final minute, thanks to the wet and windy conditions and their general ineptitude. N.C. State 17, William & Mary 10

NORTHWESTERN (1-0) at DUKE (1-0)
Saturday, 9/6/08, 7pm ET - Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Series Record: Duke leads 8-7; the Blue Devils won last year's meeting 20-14
Storyline: The Wildcats look to avenge last year's upset in Evanston.
Brief Overview: Don't laugh when I say how impressed I was with Duke's blowout victory over James Madison last week. On a day when Maryland, North Carolina, and Arkansas were taken to the wire by 1-AA opposition, the Blue Devils ran away from JMU in the second half of David Cutcliffe's Durham debut. Northwestern is coming off a 30-10 win over Syracuse last week, although the Orange may be a lesser opponent than JMU at this point. The Wildcats finished 6-6 last year and out of the bowls, largely because of that loss to the Dukies. They haven't forgotten that, but these Blue Devils are significantly better than the ones who beat them a year ago.
Prediction: Cutcliffe takes the early lead in the ACC Coach of the Year sweepstakes (how depressing is that?). Duke 27, Northwestern 24

MARYLAND (1-0) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (0-1)
Saturday, 9/6/08, 7pm ET - Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN
Series Record: Maryland leads 2-0; the Terrapins won the last meeting 24-10 in 2006
Storyline: Can the Terps manage to not look like crap for once in a non conference game?
Brief Overview: So Chris Turner is back as the starting quarterback after the poor and totally unsurprising performance by Jordan Steffy last week in the 14-7 victory over Delaware. And apparently he's only back because of Steffy's thumb injury, as Turner didn't exactly light it up when he took snaps in the 4th quarter against the Blue Hens. Turner will probably get a quick hook if he stinks it up early in favor of el chico de mama Josh Portis. Middle Tennessee is coming off an unimpressive showing against Troy in which they gave up over 5yds a carry. The safest thing the Turtles can do is give the ball to Da'Rel Scott, let the OL open up Friedgen-sized holes and grind the Blue Raider defense into exhaustion.
Prediction: The Terps take my advice; Scott rolls up 200+ yards on the ground and Turner has a solid if unspectacular day under center. Maryland 31, Middle Tennessee 13

MIAMI (1-0) at FLORIDA (1-0)
Saturday, 9/6/08, 8pm ET - Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Series Record: Miami leads 28-25; the Canes won the last meeting 27-10 in the 2004 Peach Bowl
Storyline: Just how far apart are these two Sunshine State powers in the whole scheme of things?
Brief Overview: In the six meetings between these two programs since 1985, the Hurricanes emerged victorious in each contest, winning by an average margin of 17 points. It's only been 4 short years since that last meeting in the '04 Peach Bowl but the trajectory of each program since couldn't be more different. The unfortunate aspect of this matchup is that the Gators' weakness on defense - pass coverage - is negated by the, well, zero experience of starting QB Robert Marve, who sat out last week's victory over Charleston Southern. What the Hurricanes can do well - rushing the ball - is countered by the Gators' solid front seven. And the matchups between the UF offense and Miami defense are irrelevant - the Canes haven't seen anything like the attack Tim Tebow and Co. will unleash. This has the potential to be a repeat of the Oklahoma-Miami disaster from last season, but the pride factor in this rarely-played rivalry will probably keep things from getting ridiculously out of hand.
Prediction: Florida's waited 23 years for a victory over the Canes and they'll finally get it. The SEC notches it's third blowout of an ACC team in the last two weeks. Dammit. Florida 45, Miami 17

That's all for this week, folks.

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