Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 3 Preview: Certainly Not as Bad as Yesterday's Forecast

Let's recap my Thursday night preview posted yesterday....

Prediction: Rutgers 27, UNC 23.

Outcome: UNC 44, Rutgers 12.

I am delighted to be wrong on that account, and in my defense I wasn't the only one who was way off on last night's Tar Heel rout - so were the oddsmakers and, uh, CFN. So please don't completely disregard the following "insight" into tomorrow's festivities. I can't be any worse than last night's prognostication. Probably.

CALIFORNIA (2-0) at MARYLAND (1-1)
Saturday, 9/13/08, noon ET - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
Series Record: first meeting
Storyline: The Terrapins picked the wrong time to be in a "must win" situation.
Brief Overview: Let's see here - the Terp offense could only muster 14 points against both Delaware and Middle Tennessee in the last two weeks, and are now faced with the task of having to outscore the offensive juggernaut from Berkeley. You can see where this is going; unless the Maryland defense (cough...402yds to MTSU...cough...hack) can come up with a superhuman effort to hold the Bear attack in check, this will likely be a long afternoon for the Turtle faithful. Ralph Friedgen blamed a lack of focus for the Delaware and Middle Tennessee efforts and that's probably part of the reason for what we saw in those games...but now I'm supposed to trust the Fridge to get his players in the proper mindset for this one? Sorry. Expect the Terps to either be too jacked up or dead men walking at kickoff.
Prediction:
Maryland doesn't have the talent, scheme, mindset, or coaching to pull this one off. But that's not to say Cal won't be a tad off-kilter from the cross-country trip. California 35, Maryland 17

NAVY (1-1) at DUKE (1-1)
Saturday, 9/13/08, noon ET - Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Series Record: Navy leads 20-12-5; the Midshipmen won last year's meeting 46-43
Storyline: David Cutcliffe's first big test - can the Devils learn from and build on last week's close loss to Northwestern? Or will they fold like so many other Duke teams in the past?
Brief Overview: This one really comes down to the preparation and focus of the Blue Devils - and that is on Cutcliffe. Duke has faced off against Navy in 5 of the last 6 seasons, so they know what kind of attack the Middies will unleash (even with the departure of Paul Johnson). Based on each teams' first two games, the matchup between the Duke offense and Navy defense looks to be a major advantage in the Devils' favor. They're averaging 418 yards per game and facing off against a defense that was torched by Ball State last week and dinged by Towson in week one. Personnel, matchups, coaching and home field all favor Duke this Saturday. Only their mindset is a mystery.
Prediction: The Blue Devils double their win total from last year in impressive fashion. Duke 34, Navy 20

N.C. STATE (1-1) at CLEMSON (1-1)
Saturday, 9/13/08, noon ET - Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Series Record: Clemson leads 48-27-1; the Tigers won last year's meeting 42-20
Storyline: Week one SEC beatdown victims meet in an early season Atlantic Division elimination game.
Brief Overview: The most unsettling aspect of this matchup is that a Wolfpack upset would not completely knock my flip-flops off. Clemson's defense has been downright awful so far, getting shelled against Alabama and Citadel, so much so that the Tiger defense is last in the ACC and 94th nationally. That provides an interesting matchup with the typically appalling Wolfpack offense, already dead last in the ACC and third from worst nationally. The only difference now is that Russell Wilson has returned to helm the Pack attack, after missing the 2nd half vs. South Carolina and last week's contest with William & Mary. Wilson looked good early against the Gamecocks, but will post-concussion Wilson be the same? As for Clemson, it's week three now and the Davis/Spiller duo rank 95th nationally in rushing. Another clunky outing on Saturday will give future opposing defenses 12 quarters of evidence on how to keep them clunky all year.
Prediction: The crater that is the Wolfpack season deepens a bit more, but the Tigers still can't get out of their Alabama-induced fog. Clemson 37, N.C. State 21

GEORGIA TECH (2-0) at VIRGINIA TECH (1-1)
Saturday, 9/13/08, 3:30pm ET - Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 3-2; the Hokies won last year's meeting 27-3
Storyline: The winner takes early control of the Coastal Division race.
Brief Overview: Embattled Hokie offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring might very well be playing for his job this Saturday as the Yellow Jackets come calling. The largely reviled Stinespring has presided over the erosion of the Virginia Tech offense the last five seasons and he took the brunt of criticism for the loss to East Carolina (and basically for every Hokie loss the last four years). Frank Beamer has vociferously defended him in the media this week, but that's what a head coach should be doing in public. Ultimately, Beamer decides whether Sean Glennon or Tyrod Taylor get most of the snaps at QB and that plays a large part in the Hokies' production. But the Virginia Tech offense is not the key cog in this matchup - how the young Hokie D fares against the young-and-still-learning Jacket O is what will ultimately decide this one. The Georgia Tech attack looked pretty good at Boston College last week, but they put the ball on the ground a few too many times. They won't be able to get away with that again.
Prediction: Taylor gets most of the snaps and the Hokie offense looks crisper and more efficient. Paul Johnson's kids get their first big learning experience in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech 21, Georgia Tech 17

CHATTANOOGA (1-1) at FLORIDA STATE (1-0)
Saturday, 9/13/08, 3:45pm ET - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record: Florida State leads 1-0; the Seminoles won the previous meeting 37-0 in 1984
Storyline: Can the Seminole offense build on it's superb outing against Western Carolina?
Brief Overview: Last week's 69-0 romp over Western Carolina was a mini-catharsis for all Seminoles - players, coaches, fans. Even against a totally overmatched opponent, seeing strong quarterback play (4 TDs, 0 INTs from Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson), a superb rushing attack (91yds and 2 scores for freshman Jermaine Thomas, 100yds from both QBs) and a stout defensive effort had to remind FSU fans of those glorious days of yore. It's been a long, long time that FSU was that dominant and error free (no turnovers, never sacked). For a program that has lost it's swagger and confidence, last Saturday against the Catamounts was just what was needed, especially with the youth movement now in full force in Tallahassee. The Seminoles don't necessarily need to break 60 points again or even shutout the Mocs tomorrow, but another strong outing by the QBs, o-line, and defense is a must heading into the showdown with Wake Forest next Saturday. And no major injuries, for the love of God.
Prediction: Another enjoyable day for the Seminole faithful. Florida State 48, Chattanooga 3

VIRGINIA (1-1) at CONNECTICUT (2-0)
Saturday, 9/13/08, 7:30pm ET - Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Series Record: Virginia leads 1-0; the Cavaliers won last year's meeting 17-16
Storyline: Round two of the 2008 ACC-Big East challenge; ACC leads 1-0.
Brief Overview: I will make it a point not to watch this one. I have this funny quirk in that I actually seek enjoyment in my football viewing, and this matchup offers little in that department. The personal affront that the Mike Groh-led offense released against humanity last week (3 total points, 2 picks and 246 yards through 3 quarters against Richmond) has soured me against Cavalier football until the Groh family are legally prohibited from coming within two counties of any UVA athletic function. I'm not exactly high on UConn either, but they were at least scoring in single digits in the fourth quarter against an actual 1-A opponent last week. With the news that Wahoo QB Peter Lalich will be riding the pine for his offseason indiscretions, the stupefyingly horrific Cav offense actually has a shot at improving - nothing against Lalich, but he was one of many, many things that just weren't clicking and new QB Marc Verica at least provides an X-factor for the Husky defense to deal with. He may unexpectedly shine, or he may poop the bed, but neither we nor UConn will have any clue until well after kickoff. When the known aspects are terrible, the unknown offers a hint of hope.
Prediction:
Higher scoring than you might expect, but still unpleasant. Connecticut 26, Virginia 20

That's all for this week, folks.

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