Thursday, October 30, 2008

game preview: Miami

TV: Raycom

History against the Hurricanes: 2-3

Last matchup: UVA 48, Miami 0 in Miami

Team records: UVA 5-3 (3-1), Miami 5-3 (2-2)

Last week: UVA beat Georgia Tech 24-17; Miami beat Wake Forest 16-10

Line: UVA by 2

Miami season preview here.

Injury reports:

Virginia:

OUT: LB Aaron Clark, LB Cam Johnson, DE Zane Parr, FB Keith Payne

DOUBTFUL: TE Mark Ambrose, RB Max Milien

QUESTIONABLE: LB Antonio Appleby

PROBABLE: DE Matt Conrath, NT Nick Jenkins, WR Kevin Ogletree, K Yannick Reyering

Miami:

OUT: LB Jordan Futch, DE Eric Moncur, S Randy Phillips, S Vaughn Telemaque

DOUBTFUL: WR Leonard Hankerson

QUESTIONABLE: LB Darryl Sharpton

PROBABLE: QB Robert Marve, RB Lee Chambers, DB Joseph Nicholas

So last year's game, of course, was pretty epic. You might remember it. Check that - you almost certainly do. 48-0 is a good old-fashioned woodshedding no matter how you slice it, but then there's these to consider:

- We had never ever won a game in the state of Florida.
- It was the last Miami Hurricanes game in the Orange Bowl, and all the 'Canes luminaries were standing around the sidelines with looks of disgust on their faces, like they had swallowed a lemon dipped in turpentine.
- It was also the worst shutout loss Miami had ever been dealt at home.

It was historical in all the ways the 'Canes would have preferred not to make history. Miami coach Randy Shannon claims his team isn't using that game as motivation.

Uh-huh.

HOW WE CAN WIN

- Keep the foot on the gas pedal. That means two things. One, don't let the emotions from last year carry into this one. I don't care what Shannon says. They've probably wallpapered the locker room with 48-0 and had 48-0 scrawled on every page of the playbook. They remember. That motivation will make the first quarter or so dangerous. Two, it also means don't let the ACC Coastal out of the chokehold we have it in. This is the sort of game I hate - we can't really gain anything by winning, but we sure can lose out by losing. We control our destiny, but a loss will hand that destiny over to the Canes. Whatever mindset the team carried into the last four games must come out onto the field behind the Cavalier tomorrow as well.

- Running game. I know, I know, dead horse. It's been on and off. It showed up on the road against one of the best defensive teams in the land; a week earlier, it failed to pass muster. ESPN's Ms. Heather has the curious observation that Miami's run defense has been shaky and they will need to figure out how to stop Cedric Peerman, but they have the 26th best run defense in the country. That's not exactly bad. My feeling is that it doesn't matter what Miami's run defense does, it matters whether or not we bring our blocking shoes on Saturday. If we do, Miami's defense will be seeing this in their nightmares.

- Adaptability on defense. Robert Marve is the starter, but he's ailing just a little bit, and Shannon likes to platoon a little bit anyway, meaning Jacory Harris will get his snaps. They're not actually all that different in their running ability, but Harris actually has somewhat better passing numbers. In any case the defense can't get thrown off their game when they see a different guy trot out under center.

- Defensive line has got to pick up the slack for the linebackers. Not that the 'backers are playing badly, but just look how many of them are on the injury report. No Cam Johnson this week, and it's anyone's guess if we see Appleby.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Get tired. There's no real standout player on Miami's offense. Graig Cooper's pretty decent, but a notch below the best ACC backs. Miami's strength is their depth. They do a good job of spreading the ball around to a lot of different receivers (9 of their players have a touchdown catch), and their running attack can come from a lot of different directions (8 players have rushing TDs). Cooper is the workhorse, but not the only horse. Their ability to rotate in a lot of different players means they should be fresh even in the late stages of the game.

- Let the game become a kicking matchup. If there's one place on the roster Miami's got a clearcut advantage it's the kicker. Reyering's been aching recently, and Miami's Matt Bosher is one of the best kickers in the land. He's 12/13 with two 50+ yarders. If you tell me the score will be 12-9, I will say "uh-oh." Gotta get touchdowns.

HOW THE GAME WILL GO

Honestly, I think we should win. Should. We are not good enough yet to make me wholly confident that we will. But I think we match up very well against this team. Their offense just doesn't strike fear in me. Nobody that you can really say, watch out for this guy. In Hall and Dowling we have one of the top corner tandems in the conference, and they should be able to shut down the Cane receivers. Their defense is solid but unspectacular - they've come up with just three INTs all year. They have some players that can get to the quarterback, but we've clearly got them beat in that category, and our O-line does a yeoman's job of protecting Verica. And they've been missing Eric Moncur for a while now, which creates a weak link in their D-line.

So I think we'll win. The home crowd has our back, and we've got the talent. Like us, Miami is looking to get bowl-eligible with a win today, but they've largely feasted on weak competition (yes, I know one of their wins was Duke, shut up) and wins like 20-14 over UCF don't inspire.

My guess is Verica will be his usual surgical self and roll up another 270 or so passing yards in a win.

REST OF THE ACC

This events of this week can't really sort things out any better than they are now. But if certain teams win (Miami, Georgia Tech) they can throw a flaming turdbag into the pecking order.

Florida State @ Georgia Tech, 3:30
Duke @ Wake Forest, 3:30
Clemson @ Boston College, 3:30

season preview: Boston College


Basketball season is nigh upon us, and this being the ACC, we certainly won't neglect the hardwood on these pages. As with football, I plan on a season preview of each ACC team; this is the first. Unlike football, there won't also be a season preview for all of our nonconference opponents, because there are like fifteen of them and that would be ridiculous, and frankly most of them are the same anyway: mid-major schedule fluff that exists to get crushed like bug. So first up we have Boston College, taking the honors for being first in the alphabet.

Media selection: 11th

ACC schedule:

Twice: Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Once: Clemson (H), Duke (H), Florida State, (H), Maryland (A), North Carolina (A), Virginia (A)

2007 All-ACC:
First team: G Tyrese Rice
Second team: None
Third team: None
Freshman: None
Defensive: C Tyrelle Blair
HM: None

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:
PG: Tyrese Rice (Sr.)
SG: Rakim Sanders (So.)
SF: Corey Raji (So.)
PF: Joe Trapani (So.)
C: Josh Southern (So.)

Bench:
G Biko Paris (So.)
G Dallas Elmore (Fr.)
G Reggie Jackson (Fr.)
F Tyler Roche (Jr.)
F Courtney Dunn (So.)
C Evan Ravenel (Fr.)

Coach: Al Skinner (12th year)

(italics: returning starter)

Boston College is pretty much an afterthought in the always-loaded ACC. It's not hard to see why: a roster consisting entirely of underclassmen save one senior and one junior is never a formula for ACC success.

The senior, however, is probably worth a few conference wins all by himself. BC's extremely young team is going to look to Tyrese Rice whenever the going gets rough. Rice was the conference's second leading scorer last year and would be considered far and away the standout player in the conference if not for UNC's Tyler Hansbrough. Playing alongside Rice is Rakim Sanders, not too shabby a player himself as he was the team's second-leading scorer as a freshman last year.

Sanders, at 6'5", 225, is a big boy for a guard, and that's where Reggie Jackson comes in. The Eagles are thin in the frontcourt, and Jackson is the team's star recruit. Reviews on Jackson were slightly mixed, and although BC was his only BCS offer, even the most critical of scouting-service grades were not too shabby. Rice, Sanders, and Jackson would have made a pretty fearsome early-'90s NFL lineup; BC fans are hoping this version can be a three-headed monster in the backcourt. Jackson, however, will have to battle sophomore Biko Paris to be the first guy off the bench. Paris has a year on Jackson and was one of five players to appear in all 31 games for BC last year.

The frontcourt is hurting from the loss of Shamari Spears, who had a mutually unhappy relationship with Coach Skinner and transferred to Charlotte. Tyrelle Blair graduated, leaving the frontcourt even thinner. But BC gets a transfer of their own in Joe Trapani from Vermont, and he is probably good enough to bump Tyler Roche out of the starting lineup; Roche was a starter last year but marginal and saw fewer minutes per game than some of the reserves. The roster's biggest player is 6'10", 242 pound Josh Southern, so by default, he's your center. Cortney Dunn was one of those guys that gets in a few early games, then glues his ass to the bench when things start heating up, but Skinner calls Dunn his best defensive player, which is the sort of thing that's always good for playing time.

So. One brilliant, superstar guard, a young cast of players more or less evenly talented, and a thin frontcourt. Remind you of anyone you knew last year? Boston College will probably see similar results. Tyrese Rice by himself is probably good enough to run roughshod over the likes of Loyola (MD) and South Carolina-Upstate, and the Eagles will almost assuredly have a good winning record entering ACC play, but they open the New Year and the conference schedule with a trip to Chapel Hill, which is going to bring them down to earth, fast. For every game they win because of the brilliance of Rice, they'll lose one thanks to inexperience. They could slide into the lower reaches of the NIT, but more than likely if there's any postseason play to be had in Chestnut Hill, it'll be the CBI.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Virginia's Victorious Videos

If you, like myself, are a Michigan fan, you're likely aware of the brilliant work done by WolverineHistorian on YouTube. His videos encapsulate highlights of Michigan football games (wins, to be precise) of the past - some are the type you'd actually search for, like Michigan-Michigan State of 2004, and others are ones you've long forgotten about but you just sort of run across and say, hey, cool. As best I can tell, however, the UVA faithful have no similar resource. Oh, sure, you can find Chris Long's safety against Maryland pretty easy, and a couple random game clips here and there. UVA22001 has a few highlight clips of games gone by, and I highly recommend them, but there are only four in his collection. So we 'Hoos have been rather deprived.

Until now.

Presenting Virginia's Victorious Videos. In a fashion similar to WolverineHistorian and the aforementioned UVA22001, I've distilled some of UVA's football triumphs into short story-telling highlight clips. You'll be able to relive our wins, YouTube style. I intend to take every UVA victory that I record, clip it, and YouTube it for your nostalgic viewing pleasure.

Here's what you can expect:

- Pretty much every football game from here on out, and that includes this season and some of last.

- Pretty much every basketball game that comes over the tubes here in MI.

- Worthwhile lacrosse, baseball, and soccer games. Whatever's up on ESPNU, essentially.

- Improving videos, as I learn how this stuff works, and possibly purchase actual decent software instead of using Windows Video Stamping Plant. Constructive suggestions, of course, are always welcome.

Here's what not to expect:

- Anything prior to 2007. Sorry, I don't have the recordings. TiVo service began in the FOV household just then. If by lucky serendipity, someone does have them and wants to send them to me, I'd be more than happy to clip it and post it and credit the sender. Otherwise, sorry.

- Losses. You don't want to relive them and neither do I.

This page will have links to the videos on YouTube - I'd just embed them here but eventually this page would get too big and clunky.

The library:

Football

1995 UVA vs. Georgia (Peach Bowl)
1999 UVA at Brigham Young
1999 UVA vs. Georgia Tech

2003 UVA vs. Pittsburgh (Continental Tire Bowl)

2007 UVA vs. Duke (courtesy of TheSabre poster CCav59)
2007 UVA vs. Georgia Tech (courtesy of TheSabre poster CCav59)
2007 UVA at Maryland
2007 UVA vs. Wake Forest (courtesy of TheSabre poster CCav59)
2007 UVA at Miami

2008 UVA vs. Richmond
2008 UVA vs. Maryland
2008 UVA vs. East Carolina
2008 UVA vs. North Carolina
2008 UVA at Georgia Tech

2009 UVA at North Carolina
2009 UVA at Maryland

2010 UVA vs. Miami (coming soon!)

2012 UVA vs. Penn State

Lacrosse

2009 UVA at Johns Hopkins (regular season)
2009 UVA vs. Maryland
2009 UVA vs. Villanova (NCAA tournament)
2009 UVA vs. Johns Hopkins (NCAA tournament)

2010 UVA at Towson
2010 UVA vs. Johns Hopkins
2010 UVA at Maryland
2010 UVA vs. North Carolina
2010 UVA vs. Stony Brook (NCAA tournament)

2011 UVA vs. Cornell
2011 UVA vs. North Carolina (coming soon!)
2011 UVA vs. Bucknell (NCAA tournament)
2011 UVA vs. Cornell (NCAA tournament)
2011 UVA vs. Denver (NCAA tournament)
2011 UVA vs. Maryland (NCAA championship)

Baseball

2009 UVA vs. Florida State (ACC tournament)
2009 UVA vs. UC-Irvine (Game 3 NCAA regional)
2009 UVA vs. UC-Irvine (Game 6 NCAA regional)
2009 UVA vs. Mississippi (Game 3 NCAA super-regional)
2009 UVA vs. Cal-State Fullerton (College World Series Game 5)

2011 UVA vs. UC-Irvine (Game 1 NCAA super-regional)
2011 UVA vs. UC-Irvine (Game 3 NCAA super-regional) - RALLY TO OMAHA
2011 UVA vs. California (College World Series) (coming soon!)
2011 UVA vs. California (College World Series) (coming soon!)

Soccer

2009 UVA vs. Wake Forest (College Cup Semifinal)
2009 UVA vs. Akron (College Cup Final)

Basketball

2009 UVA vs. Cleveland State (Cancun Challenge 3rd place game)
2010 UVA vs. NC State
2010 UVA vs. Miami
2010 UVA at UNC
2010 UVA vs. NC State

2010 UVA vs. Oklahoma (coming soon!)
2010 UVA at Minnesota (coming soon!)
2011 UVA vs. Clemson (coming soon!)
2011 UVA at Georgia Tech (coming soon!)

2012 UVA at Wisconsin
2013 UVA vs. North Carolina
2013 UVA vs. Clemson
2013 UVA vs. Duke

2013 UVA vs. SMU

it's never over

"Next Man Up" is a handy slogan to have these days. It appears the next Next Man Up is going to be Raynard Horne or Curt Orshoski, as Rashawn Jackson has managed to get himself arrested for grand larceny. Sheesh. No truth to the rumors that we chose the colors blue and orange to match the police uniform and prison jumpsuit. You gotta hand it to the 2005 recruiting class. Between Will Barker's beer, Rashawn Jackson's XBox, and Mike Brown's car stereo, they've managed to steal enough shit for a pretty good party.

The 2009 schedule is falling into place; TCU will be one of the visitors to Charlottesville next year. We also have W&M coming by for a visit, and a trip to Hattiesburg for Southern Miss. That leaves one slot, which may well be filled by one of the four MAC games we're owed from that trip to MTSU last year.

The soccer team beat American 4-2, but the bigger news to take from this article is that Tony Tchani's knee is going to need surgery. Ugh. This brings to three the total of torn knee ligaments between Tchani and Chris Agorsor.

Here is a little bit of fluff worth reading; it's about Oscar Smith, which you'll recognize as the Chesapeake powerhouse that's sending us two of their standout players in the 2009 recruiting class.

The Blogpoll breakdown is up over at CBS Sports, and your humble blogger is an award winner this week! These awards, actually, are rather dubious in nature and meant to nudge voters toward the general mean. Mr. Stubborn is "awarded" to this blog for having the least change in the ballot from last week to this; a huge factor in this is that a lot of teams I thought sucked and were unworthy of ranking did in fact suck. Most blogs sent Pitt crashing out of their ballot for losing to Rutgers, and I never had Pitt to begin with.

Finally, check back later tonight. I have something in the works that I'm pretty excited about.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the Desirability of College Football Playoffs

Today, officially, we entered what is both the most exciting and most nauseating portion of the college football schedule. BCS standings are out, the races to the conference championships are in full swing, and the schedule is analyzed incessantly for scenarios that would put this or that team into the title game. Why nauseating? Because this also is the season for a never-ending stream of whining from pundits, columnists, and anybody with an opinion and a major media credential about the P-word. Playoffs. This year, Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! kicks us off with the usual wah wah wah about the BCS and Big Ten.

Since it's that time of the year, I'll get this post out of the way early. Strap in. We may be here a while. This may even be a two-parter. Or a many-parter depending on what kind of mood I'm in after I read the latest anti-BCS invective.

So here is the official stance of this blog: I have never been, am not now, and will never be in favor of a playoff to determine the national champion of the highest level of NCAA college football.

Whether you call it Division I-A or the FBS, I don't want a playoff for it. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm all in favor of the status quo; there are holes in the current system, and they ought to be fixed. But a playoff? No. Never. Let's discuss.

First, we will pick off the sick and weak, in order to make the herd stronger. The arguments often brought up against a playoff that don't, in my mind, hold water:

- A playoff would interfere with academics by overlapping two semesters. Pshaw. Basketball takes a break for final exams in December, and overlaps two semesters or trimesters or whatever a school has. Besides, spring practice and conditioning often has the same bothersome effect.

- The season would have to be extended unacceptably long. Nonsense, there are plenty of bye weeks.

These are stupid arguments. We'll stipulate to this and move on. Here are the real arguments.

- Fans will only make one pilgrimage a year. This is here to squash any mealy-mouthed notions of "we can integrate the bowl system into a playoff." People who say this generally propose that bowls like the Sun Bowl or C****s S****s Bowl host the early rounds, followed by the Gator Bowl and Peach Bowl in later rounds, and then the current BCS bowls get the semis and championship game. Listen. Fans of schools like Michigan and Ohio State are not going to travel from El Paso to Jacksonville to New Orleans to Pasadena to see their team. They will make one trip. Just look at the ACCCG last year. Boston College sent like four fans to the game. Why? They were waiting for the bowl game. And sure enough, BC went to the C****s S****s Bowl against another Northern team and that bowl had its best attendance since 1995, when it was known as the C******t Bowl and was in January for the '94 season. A playoff can only be done one of two ways: at home stadiums, or at neutral sites. Neutral sites are unworkable.

- If the system can't reliably select two teams, neither can it reliably select four, six, or eight. Or any number of playoff teams you like. Look, a bad system is a bad system. If the BCS is so good at getting it wrong, the same system will not work for choosing playoff teams - and that means any system involving the polls and/or computers is equally worthless as playoff proponents claim the BCS currently is. I can only laugh when playoff proponents, in order to show us what a brilliant system they've devised, use the BCS standings to pick the teams. Any playoff would need to completely reinvent the wheel and fix the selection process before it gained any credibility.

- Expanding the number of teams playing for the title also expands the number of teams who would feel robbed. "We need a playoff because Auburn!" The 2004 season is the rallying cry of the playoff crowd, when Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma all finished undefeated, and the latter two teams played for the title. Somebody was going to feel jobbed here, and that's probably understandable. So let's have a four team playoff! Oklahoma, USC, Auburn and......??? Gosh, Utah and Boise State were both also undefeated. We can't pick one and screw the other, that would defeat the purpose. Let's make it six teams. All the undefeateds get a shot. But - uh-oh - Texas, Louisville, and Cal all had one loss each. So, eight teams! Great! Until you realize that this would be the only national title tournament in which winning your conference means nothing, as the ACC, Big Ten, and Big East are shut out.

This argument waters down as the playoffs get larger and larger. By the time you get to the three-loss teams and the weaker two-loss teams, it's easy to say, "Shut up, you're pretty clearly not national-title caliber." But, the larger the playoff, the easier it is to get in and the more watered-down the regular season becomes.

- "Playing it out on the field" is a false fantasy. Sure, if Nebraska and Michigan could have met in 1997, it would have been a nice tidy end to the season. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a nice tidy solution that works every year. If the playoff is too small, it falls victim to the same problem as the BCS: teams will be left out. If the playoff is too big, it renders the regular season practically useless because you can stumble - twice even - and still win. This - and this is the kicker - too big and too small change every season. The BCS worked wonderfully in 2005 and gave us USC-Texas. It left one team out in the cold in 2004. It was a different kind of mess last year. It sorta worked in 2006. Playoff proponents seem to think all would be solved with a playoff. It would not. We'd just have different arguments.

- "Some conferences are tougher than others and beat each other up on the way to the title game, thus taking themselves out of contention." This is the Tommy Blubberville fallacy. Shut up, Tommy. Some conferences (ACC, Big 12, SEC) have title games, others (Pac-10, Big Ten, Big East) do not. These title games are said to be landmines for contending teams. For example, Alabama will likely have to get past the East Division champ, otherwise an undefeated Penn State will slide into the title game. This cuts both ways, of course. If Alabama beats, say, Florida, they then have a clear and fresh-in-the-minds argument for inclusion over PSU.

But I haven't even gotten yet to the silliness of this argument. Playoff proponents argue that a playoff would produce a "true" national champion because the winner would have defeated several very good teams on the way. Then they claim the SEC and other championship-game-holding conferences are handicapped because they have to play a very good team on the way. Look, if you want your national champion to have to "earn it" in a playoff, don't complain about them having to do the same in a conference championship game. It is not the Big Ten's fault that three other conferences are shameless money-grubbers, for that is the root of the presence of the conference championship game in the first place.

- A few games will turn into many games, and quickly. Some playoff proponents like the idea of a four-team or a six-team playoff, but agree that the regular season is too good to mess with much, and grow queasy at the thought of a larger 12 or 16 team ordeal. These people should not kid themselves: Four and six will grow into eight and twelve and sixteen. Basketball wasn't satisfied with 8, nor 16, nor 32, nor 48, nor even 64 for heaven's sake. It stands at 65 and some say it should be expanded again. Money will make this happen. Four teams will not stay four teams for very long. That is a rock solid guarantee.

- The college football regular season is the single best regular season in all of sports anywhere in the world. Why mess with it? Do you care what happens if North Carolina, on a Saturday afternoon in February, is 23-2 and down by 6 points in the middle of the second half to 9-16 Miami and their #1 seed in jeopardy? The hell you do. Will you tune in on November 15 if it's the third quarter and Alabama is losing to Mississippi State? You bet your ass you will. And you'll root for somebody. You'll root for Miss State if you're a Big Ten fan. You'll root for Alabama to pull it out if you can't stand the thought of a third straight Big Ten team representing in the title game. Were you watching Pitt and West Virginia last year? What about Mizzou and Oklahoma? Would you have tuned in if the Tigers and Sooners had already locked up playoff spots?

In short, I'll consider it a dark day indeed when a playoff is instituted. I want to see the BCS tweaked. More on this sooner or later - probably sooner. But I want to see it, ultimately, kept.

Monday, October 27, 2008

weekend review

First things first: Tim Smith is a Wahoo pledge! More below. (Way below.)

I've been a bit negligent in checking out the soccer team recently, but it's been mostly bad bad bad news. The team is 0-2-1 in the last three, with the lone tie coming against Longwood. It's not so much the tie that's bad, it's that now we are playing games without either one of our wunderkind freshmen. Tony Tchani got hurt against Longwood and missed the Duke game, a 1-0 loss. It's encouraging that we more or less beat Duke on the stat sheet, but failing to beat them on the scoreboard can be basically chalked up to no Tchani. Jimmy Simpson tries valiantly, but the present and future of this program are Agorsor and Tchani, who are down to one healthy knee each. Next on the schedule are three home games, and we wrap up the season with the two teams currently leading the ACC: Maryland and Wake Forest. It'd be nice to come away with some points from those two matchups, but unless we miraculously earn the first seed in the ACC tournament, there's very little difference between any of the teams we'd draw in the quarterfinals. I don't want to lose to Murlin in any capacity at all, whether it's football soccer or mock trials, but if Tchani is marginal, clearly the wise thing to do is hold him out til he's absolutely healthy or the quarterfinals, whichever comes first.

OK! Time now to shift from Yannick Reyering's first team to his second. And I'm not the only one who thinks it's time for a look at the Virginia football team. Ms. Heather at ESPN has Virginia this and Virginia that in various posts. Her conversion, to paraphrase, is complete:

Virginia's ascension from bottom to top is complete. The Cavaliers answered the one question still hanging out there: Can they win on the road? Not only did they manage that, but they did it against one of the better teams in the ACC, and they did it on Georgia Tech's homecoming. It's time for Al Groh to start to get some serious ACC Coach of the Year consideration. And it's time for everyone to stop grouping Maryland's loss to Virginia in the same sentence as the Terps' loss to Middle Tennessee.
Mark Schlabach is a believer too.

Meanwhile, we've entered that shadowland where you don't get a mythical little number from 1 to 25 next to your name in boxscores, but some people think you deserve one and so you get to look at the rankings and count past 25 to get your pretend mythical number. These range from 27th to 36th (that'd be the coaches' poll); the draft Blogpoll has us 30th, and the nice thing is about the Blogpoll, you can see exactly who ranked you where. The numbers happen to be: two 25th-place votes, five 24ths, one each of 21st, 20th, and 19th, and one vote, amazingly enough, for 15th place. The intrepid blog sticking their neck out for us (and probably sticking it straight into the Wack Ballot Watchdog section of the breakdown) is The Auburner. The Auburner features a picture of an anthropomorphic, sword-wielding, sunglasses-clad tiger, astride a similarly bespectacled eagle, which is carrying off a bewildered but rather placid elephant. If you understand this, you are either a college football fan, or lying.

None of this should be construed as complaining that we don't have the little mythical ranking number; my own ballot doesn't even include us, and I am honestly not sure when it will. Ranking by resume (as the bloggers do) as opposed to the Shiny Object Method (as the media tends to do) means I'm not allowed to excise Duke and UConn from my memory. We shall see.

Quick newsy notes:

- Groh is hoping to get Antonio Appleby and Nick Jenkins back for Miami. Hoping is not the same as expecting, though. But I'm not that worried. Nate Collins did a bang-up job against Georgia Tech. They were never able to run up the gut. All their big run plays were to the outside.

- Congrats to Will Barker, the ACC OL of the week. This sentence from the release struck me as odd, though:

"He finished with the second-highest grade among the linemen while being matched up against Georgia Tech’s standout ends Michael Johnson and Derrick Morgan."

What about the guy who graded highest? (It was probably Monroe.) And admittedly, if I were a GT fan, I'd probably be spluttering with rage at hearing the guy who should have been called for a hold on a critical touchdown was just named lineman of the week.

- What about our jocular little rivals down in Blacksburg? They're not feeling that way with the possibility that both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor may be out for next week's Meteor Game with Maryland and Cory Holt may have to step in.

Recruiting! Whee! Yes, the 21st member of the class is WR Tim Smith, from the same Chesapeake powerhouse that is sending us Perry Jones. Smith is one that I've felt for a while would end up a 'Hoo (keeping in mind the usual disclaimer that when it comes to recruiting, I know shit for a fact.) He had a couple other finalists but one dropped him and he barely mentioned the other. The recruiting board is duly updated, as is the depth chart by class. Besides Smith, the only other change is to bump lineman Brennan Williams up to Good from Fair. Williams cut his list ($) by removing Duke and Michigan from the process. He's now considering only UVA, UNC, BC, and Wake. There are four schools in the running here, but I feel pretty good about this one too - let's just say I feel like we have better than a 25% chance.

As always, next up is the high schools....

DOMINIQUE WALLACE: Took a little bit of a break as Chancellor played a weak King George team. Carried 11 times for 87 yards and a touchdown in a 49-0 win.

ROSS METHENY: Sat out Sherando's 46-7 win over Brentsville recuperating his tweaked knee; this probably had much to do with Brentsville being 1-6 going into the game.

THE OSCAR SMITH GUYS: Perry Jones and Tim Smith each had a pair of touchdowns as OS blew out yet another hapless opponent.

ALEX OWAH: Back in action with 125 yards and 2 TDs as Harrisonburg beats Turner Ashby 32-7. I have been remiss here, as Owah's first game back was last week, with 190 yards and another couple of touchdowns.

As always, the last item of the day is a spin around the ACC to recap the action from the most familiar point of view: the blogs.

Miami slogged through a 16-10 win over Wake Forest; Old Gold & Blog is too busy counting giant new phat stax of cash to notice much. No, seriously, congrats to Zach, another blogger jumping from the unwashed ranks to the big-time, but damn: we are once again sans a regular Wake Forest blog.

UNC thumped the bejeezus out of Boston College 45-24, a faith-restoring game for Tareye or Buckheel? who is already playing out UNC-in-Tampa scenarios. Meanwhile BC Interruption points out that the Eagles still control their destiny in the Atlantic, which is bizarre and perfectly normal in today's ACC.

Duke beat Vanderbilt 10-7 in what is normally a cripplefight but actually involved two teams fighting for bowl eligibility.

Bad Maryland locked Good Maryland in the port-a-potty this week and then survived an upset bid by NC State, winning 27-24. Turtle Waxing has this bit of irony: "Besides the holding penalties, which were too many and at the worst times, the line did a great job."

Virginia Tech played their first of two Meteor Games (in which I watch hoping for 2008 TC-3 to target the 50-yard line) and lost to FSU, 30-20. Gobbler Country is mad about that punt on 4th and 10 with two minutes to go. Frankly, he has every right to be. Frank Beamer was aiming to get a fumble on the return. This is either a stunning, inexcusable lack of faith in the offense, or even more inexcusable hubris about his special teams reputation. Either way, it's piss-poor coaching.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

metamorphosis

met⋅a⋅mor⋅pho⋅sis 
 /ˌmɛtəˈmɔrfəsɪs/ [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis]
–noun, plural -ses/-ˌsiz/ [-seez]
...
3. any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.
...

Yesterday evening, sometime around 7:30 or 8, ESPN posted the updated standings; they are usually the first to do so as the games of the day progress. Since then, I can't stop looking. I'm blown away by this team's ability to come back from the dead. Al Groh's Cavaliers are the turnaround story of the year; there is no team in the land that has had such a complete and total reversal of fortune. One month ago, we were left for dead on the BCS landscape, on the trash heap next to Washington and Syracuse and occupying a spot in ESPN's Bottom 10.

Today, go take a look at those standings again. We are halfway through the ACC schedule at 3-1. The road to Tampa, as the ACC likes to promote it, goes through the state of Virginia. Before, I was asking "did that really just happen?" Now I have to know: "is this really happening?" I was hoping for a miracle to get us into an undercard bowl game in Boise or DC. Yesterday for the first time I allowed myself to think "Orange Bowl."

Of course, the race does not go to the driver who leads at the halfway pole. Everything has changed, but nothing has. Before the weekend, three teams controlled their destiny in the Coastal; three teams continue to do so. Virginia Tech may have lost, but they still lurk. Miami is also hanging about, and can get to Tampa by winning out themselves, which is why you can't rest on your laurels in the college football season; they roll into town next week with revenge on their minds.

So what happened yesterday?

- The game looked pretty bad to start. The first GT drive was brutal to watch. Then Mosley bit and bit hard on a play-fake on GT's second drive and forgot that he was a defensive back until Demaryius Thomas was running past him. That led to a wide open throw and a touchdown the next play. I don't know what Pruett did to fix the problem and hold Tech to three points the rest of the way, but that is why he's the highly respected coach and defensive coordinator and I am the blogger.

- Marc Verica is an absolute machine. Seriously. Normally, part of the review of the game involves adjusting the quarterback's stats for things like penalties nullifying a play or dropped passes. There is none of that today, because none of that happened. The extent of the adjustments involve a zero-yard screen pass that a holding penalty brought back, and it's not enough to make me bother with it. His stats are his stats.

But that's not the end of it. Skimming back through the game on the TiVo made me realize something: Verica doesn't miss. Yesterday he failed to complete 10 of his 39 passes. 2 of these were poor decisions that resulted in INTs. Most of the rest were throwaways. He was otherwise automatic. Deep balls, slants, outs, tosses to the flat, shovel passes, it didn't matter. Verica hit them all. That touchdown throw to Ogletree was possibly his most perfect throw of the season. He is deadly accurate, poised in the pocket, cool under pressure, able to make a play or two on the run.....and a sophomore.

- In fact the passing game is humming along as beautifully as you could expect. The protection is excellent, the receivers are getting open, and the quarterback is hitting all his targets. I have only one complaint, and by now you oughta know where I'm looking, and that's the coaches' box, where the playcalling happens. Even this is not that bad, but if I see another one of those fake-a-handoff-then-roll-out-and-throw-to-the-tight-end plays, I will be forced to write a very strongly worded reprimand for Mikey Groh. I counted five of these plays yesterday, 100% of which were thoroughly ineffective. In one case I thought Phillips was throwing some kind of backwards block until I realized he was actually running a route, and covered. That scramble for a first down that Verica had on the first drive? He was supposed to throw to Phillips and wisely didn't; this decision had much to do with the three defenders surrounding the receiver. I think the five times this play was called resulted in negative total yardage. STOP CALLING IT.

- I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Cedric Peerman. The man is on a mission. He won't be tackled. Get us inside the 10-yard line and call the number 37. Mikey has this figured out, and it's paying off.

- A couple things. Yes, Will Barker was holding on the Covington touchdown. Pretty blatantly, actually. Only for just half a second, but he was holding. No, Minnifield did not interfere with Demaryius Thomas on the final drive. Thomas got both his arms up to go for the catch. Yes, Peerman probably stepped out of bounds near the end zone. No, it doesn't matter, because we would have called his number again, he would have got it the next time out, and besides, can you look at those replays and tell conclusively just where the ball was when that happened?

- Last point on the game: We caught a couple breaks. Tech played a sloppy game. Lost a critical fumble on our five yard line, dropped a couple passes. Couple calls went our way. But. But. GT was the 18th ranked team and 6-1. We scored more points on them than anyone has this year. We racked up more yards on them than all but one team. We kept them out of the end zone for three quarters. And then, like the fortune cookie trick in which you add "in bed" to every fortune to make them hilarious, tack on the phrase, "on the road," to put the final touches on the impressiveness of it all.

So: can we win the division? Can we win a championship and go to the Orange Bowl? We have the best running back in the conference and maybe we have the best quarterback too. Perhaps the question shouldn't be "can we?" Maybe we should be asking "why shouldn't we?"

Blogpoll ballot, Week 9

Wrapup of Georgia Tech coming later today, at some point when I feel like it. For now I can't stop going to ESPN and looking at the Coastal standings. It's magical. As an excuse to keep doing so, I've come up with this week's Blogpoll ballot for your perusal and consideration. My own comments first; then, ballot.

- I'm pretty sold on the order at the top, as you might have guessed by the fact that the top 7 are totally unmoved. I'm even more sold on keeping Oklahoma State above Oklahoma now, as they have both lost to the same team (which happens to be #1), and Okie State gave them a harder time of it, and it was in Austin instead of a neutral site. Not only that, but Penn State is also now a very solid #2 and it will likely take either a PSU loss or Alabama winning the SEC title game to make them lose their spot.

- After that, Texas Tech bumps Ohio State down one notch. TT's sked is improving, but it would take a win over Texas next week to really vault them into major title contention. In fact it would probably boost them into the top 3. OSU is punished only lightly for losing to the #2 team in the land.

- 10 through 16 are largely unchanged as well. A little shuffling, but the teams are the same.

- It's #20 or #21 on down where I am going to practically beg for suggestions. UConn and Cal reappear after being the teams bumped from the last ballot. I am not sold on them, and neither am I sold on Oregon, FSU, or even GT. The problem is, who replaces them?

- Northwestern? Not after losing to Indiana, and they have a really weak slate of narrow wins over mediocre teams.
- Pitt? I am dead set against ranking Pitt. I didn't do it before they lost to Rutgers, I'm not doing it now.
- USF? A commenter pointed out last week that USF was middling-ranked while the team that beat them was not at all, and it was a fair point. Now I am not ranking two teams that beat them.
- LSU? Again, not after losing. In their own house. Badly. Didn't rank 'em before, not gonna do it now.
- Notre Dame? Cincinnati? Louisville? Boston College? I can't see it.

- That leaves the ones we have now. I've been resisting putting FSU up there all year, but after beating Virginia Tech and by process of elimination of the teams above, I pretty much have no choice. Any reasonably convincing case for shuffling any portion of the ballot is always welcome; any reasonably convincing case for un-messing the spots from about 19 on down is especially so.

RankTeamDelta
1Texas --
2Penn State --
3Alabama --
4Oklahoma State --
5Oklahoma --
6Utah --
7Southern Cal --
8Texas Tech 1
9Ohio State 1
10Florida --
11Ball State --
12Georgia 1
13Tulsa 1
14TCU 2
15Missouri --
16Boise State 2
17Michigan State 1
18Minnesota 5
19North Carolina 5
20Brigham Young 1
21Florida State 5
22Connecticut 4
23Georgia Tech 1
24California 2
25Oregon 1

Dropped Out: South Florida (#17), Boston College (#20), Virginia Tech (#21), Vanderbilt (#25).

Friday, October 24, 2008

game preview: Georgia Tech

TV: ESPNU

History against the Yellow Jackets: 15-14-1

Last matchup: UVA 28, GT 28 in 2007

Team records: UVA 4-3 (2-1), GT 6-1 (3-1)

Last week: UVA beat North Carolina 16-13; GT beat Clemson 21-17

Line: GT by 11.5

GT blogs: The LegacyX4, Georgia Tech Sports

Georgia Tech season preview here.

Q&A with The LegacyX4 here.

UVA injury report:

OUT: LB Aaron Clark, RB Max Milien, DE Zane Parr, FB Keith Payne, TE Joe Torchia

DOUBTFUL: LB Antonio Appleby

QUESTIONABLE: NT Nick Jenkins, K Yannick Reyering

PROBABLE: WR Maurice Covington, TE Andrew Devlin, DE Alex Field, LB Steve Greer, RB Raynard Horne, FB Curt Orshoski, LG Austin Pasztor, LG Zak Stair

GT injury report:

OUT: WR Tyler Melton, B-back Quincy Kelly, CB Jahi Word-Daniels

QUESTIONABLE: DB Martin Frierson

PROBABLE: A-back Embry Peoples, OL A.J. Smith

Before I start, a quick bonus link to sneak in: the ACC Roundtable roundup is up at Tar Heel Mania.

OK. For a second straight week, we square off against an opponent that I can't muster a single ounce of hatred for. In fact - true story - had I not been accepted at Mr. Jefferson's University, my college choices would have come down to Michigan and Georgia Tech. They have some quality tradition down there in Atlanta. Fortunately, however, the big envelope came in the mail from Charlottesville and I spent four years admiring the sundresses in the stands instead of worrying about The Ratio.

HOW WE CAN WIN

- The glaringly obvious question in this game is how the defense will react to the Paul Johnson offense. Gap discipline is absolutely critical, as is winning the individual battles along the line. Maybe half the plays will be the triple-read-option that is the foundation of this offense; the quarterback typically has three choices, which involve some version of choosing between handing to the fullback, handing to the halfback (which Johnson calls the B-back) or keeping it himself. More traditional option pitches are also run. The 3-4 defense requires a solid nose tackle to occupy the middle of the line - this is utterly critical against Georgia Tech, otherwise the middle of the line will be a soft spot, and linebackers that otherwise can freely flow to the sides to stop the pitch must now watch the middle.

- The DBs must also stay disciplined. Johnson picks up huge chunks of yardage by ordering a play-action pass if he notices the safeties and/or corners cheating against the run. The upshot of running all the damn time is that sometimes a receiver finds himself wide the hell open and the quarterback finds him a split second later. Usually that receiver is Demaryius Thomas, who despite playing in an offense that runs all the damn time, has stats that put him in same company as many of the conference's best receivers. Ras-I is playing, so our hopes of shutting him down are boosted.

- The offense must be efficient and effective. OK, duh. However, you shouldn't need to be told that an offense like GT's that has about an 80/20 run/pass split has little trouble sitting on a lead. Not that Tech can't pull off a comeback, but they're perfectly capable of making seven minutes in the fourth quarter disappear and never come back. Some big plays, therefore, are called for here, because the running game is still not consistent enough to be relied upon to score and score often.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Overaggressive linebacker play. The DL must be super-aggressive, because the offense is highly disruptible with a lineman in the backfield, or even if the D-line can't be pushed off the line of scrimmage. But linebackers are free to roam about, and if they start chasing down guys who don't have the ball, they're going to leave that second level free for 11 and 12 yard gains. Sintim is as good a linebacker as anyone in the ACC and plays emotional - he can't let those emotions get the better of him. On a similar token, it looks as though Appleby will be out and Childs will get his first start. I think Childs is a fine backer, but I'd probably feel a lot more comfortable with veteran eyes reading the offense from that MLB spot instead of a guy making his first start in a hostile environment.

- Recurring theme: the offensive line can easily lose this for us. We're probably OK as long as Michael Johnson lines up across from Monroe on pass plays, but if he's Barker's assignment instead, I worry. Barker will need help. Conversely, I'd prefer that on running plays, Johnson does line up on Barker's side so that we can get that off-left-tackle run working like it has in recent times.

- The road gremlins. Seems like more of them live at Bobby Dodd than anywhere. I dunno how many times I've tuned into a UVA game played here that we've looked like we forgot how to play football.

HOW THE GAME WILL GO

Jeeeeeeeeesh......I really don't like our chances here. The oddsmakers would seem to be crazy - a team on a 3-game win streak is an 11.5 point dog? Well, yeah. They must know of our history here. Frankly this is exactly the kind of game we lose all the time. I'm not optimistic about this. Not against this offense that Bob Pruett's never schemed for, not in this stadium, and not against this defense that is top-ten in the land in most worth-a-damn categories. If the defensive line plays like it did against Richmond and not like it did against UNC, we have a fighting chance. If the linebackers also play like they did against UNC and not like they did against USC, we look even better. I just don't see it. The Paul Johnson offense attacks weaknesses. It's perfectly suited to take advantage of any weakness they see in the defense. Maybe a defensive end is playing on a bad shoulder. Maybe one of the linebackers is a freshman pressed into emergency action. Like a boxer aiming for the cut on his opponent's face, Johnson is an expert at showing his players just where, when, and how to exploit the soft spot in any defense. A defense without any weak points can shut it down, but Johnson and Josh Nesbitt have ways of busting loose 25-yard gains just when you think you've got them bottled up. The running game has been slowly regressing, the defense is not the inhuman machine it needs to be in order to be sure of shutting down GT.....I think we lose this one. I hope and pray I'm proven wrong, because this is unquestionably the toughest test left until Blacksburg, and I'd hate to get in the Coastal driver's seat like we have only to find out we can't drive stick.

REST OF THE ACC

Boston College at North Carolina, 12:00
Wake Forest at Miami, 12:00
Duke at Vanderbilt, 3:00
Virginia Tech at Florida State, 3:30
NC State at Maryland, 3:30
Off: Clemson

ACC Roundtable #2

Our second Roundtable this week is of the ACC variety and is hosted by Tar Heel Mania.

1. Okay, first things first: could someone please explain what the hell just happened this past Saturday?

Now that we're nearly a week removed from the events, looking back really only half the games fell outside the natural order of things. Yeah, it was probably the one outcome out of 64 possible that did the best job of throwing the ACC into a state of massive entropy. But: NC State lost, that is to be expected. Duke lost, that is to be expected. Georgia Tech won - to me, that is to be expected as well. OK, UNC dropped a heartbreaker, but who thought UVA wasn't at least capable of it? Wake Forest forgot to pack their offense for the trip to College Park, but if you saw their game against FSU you'd remember that that has happened before. Truthfully, the three games with surprising outcome all featured teams (Wake, UNC, VT) losing on the road, which, this being college football, happens. So the ACC got thrown into a giant morass of wackitude, but in hindsight maybe we should have seen it coming.

2. Good Maryland, Bad Maryland, we?ve seen a fair share of both in 2008. Good Maryland may be the best team in the ACC, while Bad Maryland could probably lose by 20 to anyone left on their schedule. Which Maryland do we see for the rest of the season and where do you expect the Terps to finish?

I think we'll see an equal dose of both. But the teams ahead on their schedule are better than the teams behind. Bad Terps were good enough to beat Delaware, but that won't fly in the ACC. 7-5 finish, which won't be good enough for a berth in the ACCCG.

3. Injuries are a part of college football, but they seem to have ravaged ACC offenses this year. Wake Forest has been without Sam Swank, Clemson is without C.J. Spiller, UNC is without T.J. Yates and Brandon Tate, Virginia Tech is without Kenny Lewis Jr., and NC State is without?just about everybody. Which team misses their fallen star(s) most and why?

Obviously, VT's depth has been ravaged by injury, particularly those tricky Achilles tendons, and while each one individually (Dillard, Lewis, etc.) haven't been really damaging, they've all added up and it shows in their offensive production. It's not all Stinespring's fault. That's answer #1A. #1B is this: BC lost Brian Toal for the season. In a dogfight like they're in now in the Atlantic you just can't lose a huge cog of your defense like that and expect the ride to go smoothly the rest of the way. Toal's broken leg could cost the Eagles a second straight ACCCG berth.

4. Last one: the pretty much unanimous division champs were Virginia Tech and Wake Forest last week. Given all the craziness that just happened, give us your updated ACC Championship scenario.

I'll stick with that, pending the outcomes of this weekend. The Coastal's best defenses belong to the Techs, and V has the tiebreaker over G. Meanwhile Wake Forest controls their destiny except for Maryland, but there's no way Maryland makes it through the schedule without another loss or three, and Wake gets BC at home, UVA at home, and gets to avoid playing either of the Techs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Q&A with The LegacyX4

The LegacyX4 is your place for fine Georgia Tech opinionating, and Winfield and I have exchanged Q's and A's in preparation for this week's showdown in Atlanta. Here are his answers, and do head over to The LegacyX4 for my answers to the questions of a helluvan engineer.

1) At the risk of being accused of horribly shameless self-promotion, in my GT season preview I suggested that the Jackets would find success this season because ACC defensive coordinators would have a tough time getting a handle on the Paul Johnson offense. How have you seen this play out so far? Has the offense lived up to its billing? and if not, where does the fault lie: execution, coaching, or simply that GT's opponents have generally been of better quality than what Navy faces?

We have seen your words become truth. Jacksonville State (take w/ a grain of salt) and Miss. State both said they prepared for our offense over the summer and they still couldn't do anything with it. Clearly, stressing that your defensive players play to the triple option (disciplined man defense) is either not the key to blowing up Johnson's system, or is a lot harder to do than it sounds. Even though the offense has appeared to struggle every game (save Miss State), they have managed to pull off that one big play that either gets us back in the game or puts us ahead for good. In doing so, the offense has been a rather pleasant surprise this first half of the season. Let it be known, however, that the 2nd half of the season is the harder half of our schedule. Josh Nesbitt and Jon Dwyer have shown significant improvement in their quick learning of the system (something that hasn't been seen at Tech in the past six years, coaching++), and with a team of more talent than Navy, Paul Johnson has shown that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win games, including throwing the ball (see Duke 3 weeks ago).

2) Very few people had the Jackets pegged for a bowl game, and if they did, it was probably Boise. Now that GT is on the cusp of bowl eligibility and controls their destiny in the Coastal, what are the new expectations? What bowl would the Jackets have to sink to, to make fans grumble and complain that it's not enough?

Actually it's actually the Wahoos who control their, and our, destiny at this moment. But that's beside the point. With every win (and every comment by Coach Johnson or a player) we expect more and are surprised by less. Our upper lips are stained with the Paul Johnson Kool-Aid. Any bowl West of the Mississippi River is a disappointment. If we are east of the river, that means two things: 1. Improvement in the pecking order of bowl invitations and 2: that Yellow Jacket Nation can travel to the game and actually support Tech!

3) Tech is currently fifth in the land in total defense and one of only three teams nationwide to give up less than four yards per play; this despite losing Jon Tenuta, who everyone said was pretty much the bomb and the main reason you had a defense in the first place. What are you doing differently, and what are you doing right?

People who continuously fawned over Tenuta's defense wore GT gold-colored glasses. It is common knowledge that CJT lived an died by the blitz. If you were a DC (note: I think he means OC here - ed.) who was relatively unfamiliar with his schemes, you fell in his traps. But once the coach began to see patterns, the tables were turned (see Clemson 2006, UNC, VT, and BC 2007). A small little dump pass to the tight end became a reliable pass play that more often than not resulted in long yardage because Tenuta, once exposed, did not adjust, and we paid for it. We thought we had it good, because that defensive scheme was all we knew and statistically, our defense was one of the best. Unfortunately, the only statistic that matters is wins and losses. Today, David Womack takes a few schemes from Tenuta and fuses them with his defensive mindset and mixes the two together. He simplifies the defensive attack, and gives the team a more balanced defense to rely on.

4) You are an inspirational speaker to a class of high school seniors. One of these kids stands up and says he wants to go to a Tech school in the ACC but can't decide: VT or GT. Set this impressionable young man on the right path and keep him out of Blacksburg.

First of all, we would tell this young man that other than football, he had better get used to losing in athletics to the rest of the ACC. But beyond athletics, we would tell this poor soul that when it comes to academics, Georgia Tech cannot be beat. Georgia Tech is known worldwide for good reason. Furthermore, while Georgia Tech has built its reputation on cutthroat academics and expansive research, VPI built the 'Virginia Tech' name on an advertising blitz in the 80's. Compare the names: Georgia Institute of Technology vs. Viginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Caltech and Cal Polytech are known by their respective names for a reason). If the young man is interested in any history of college football, Georgia Tech is the place to be. [The True] Tech is the home of John Heisman (namesake of the Heisman Trophy), who is also the father of the forward pass, and Bobby Dodd ( for whom the national Coach of the Year Award is named after). The Jackets were the first team to win all 4 of the traditional bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Cotton). Grant Field is also the oldest on-campus football field in college football. To top it off - the Ramblin' Wreck: the one and only 1930 Ford Model A Sports Coup that has led the football team onto the field for 302 consecutive home games since September 30, 1961. Competing traditions from VPI? A Metallica song. Finally, and honestly, if the young man actually confuses the tier that Georgia Tech resides in with the tier that Virginia Tech finds itself... well, he might belong at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University after all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

blogpoll roundtable and other assortations

We'll start off with the assortations.

First, a sure sign that a player had a good day on Saturday: not one, but two fluff articles on Darren Childs. Childs did in fact have an excellent day; the highest praise, I think, is this:

Neither Sintim nor Copper had noticed Antonio Appleby limp off with an ankle injury early in the first quarter, and here was Childs, a seldom-used redshirt junior from San Diego, manning Appleby's spot at inside linebacker in the Cavaliers'3-4 defense.
When you can jump on the field and make plays and the starters can't tell the difference? Excellent. Appleby's a fine, fine linebacker, but if he can't play, we'll be alright. It's Dowling you have to worry about.

Yeah, that was our tight end Phillips carrying the ball. No, don't expect that to ever happen again. Seriously. It's for the best.

The RTD's UVA Notes have some interesting bla bla bla about wide receivers and how they're way awesomer than last year, and some other stuff too, but the important - and scariest - tidbit is buried at the bottom: Calvin Baker, fresh off earning his scholarship, may miss the season with that foot injury of his. Ayyyyyy....I don't want to have to see us use Sylven Landesburg at the point, but now Leitao may have no choice. Landesburg is probably the most talented, and certainly the highest rated, recruit that Leitao has brought in, but A) freshman and B) I feel like - without actually having seen him play yet though - his skills are better suited to being left free to score and score without worrying about quarterbacking the offense. Baker is/was the best point guard we have - letting the offense fall to two guys (Landesburg and Sammy Zeglinski) who have next to nil experience running it bodes ill.

Lastly, the Miami game will be at noon on Raycom.

Now, as promised! The fifth Blogpoll Roundtable is up, and following in the tradition established so far this year of a couple of the same teams running the show, it is over at Corn Nation, who blog Nebraska for you.

1. We’re about half way through the season. Has your team met your expectations, wildly exceeded them, or are you about to light the torches and storm your athletic department demanding blood?

Yes. No? Huh. Which season? The one where we looked like a peewee team against Duke, or the one that just happened over the span of three weeks at Scott Stadium? Let's say this: If on August 29 you'd said we'd be 4-3 at this point in the season, I would have said that sounds about right. What's really happened, though, is that the corner pitchfork and torch store sold out early, and now everyone has an unused pitchfork rusting in the corner. Since we are so far 2-for-2 in the rivals department (that would be Maryland and UNC for the uninitiated), I am satisfied for now, and will call my expectations exceeded somewhat, since even before USC, UConn, and Duke happened to us, I did not expect 2-for-2 in the rivals department.

2. In an election year, all sorts of promises will be made, few will be kept. What is one promise or item you thought you could count on that hasn’t come to pass yet this season? Is there still a chance?

This has nothing to do with the chosen affiliation of this blog, but I thought Michigan would be any good at all. Yeesh.

3. Georgia #1... No, USC #1.… No, Oklahoma #1.… No, Texas #1! Who’s the real #1 team, and who do you think will make it to the big BCS National Title game?

Texas and Penn State, which would be a really cool old-school matchup. Texas is #1 and will stay that way: in grand fashion, they've already taken care of the biggest obstacles in their path. Penn State and Alabama both have fairly easy paths to the title (with only Ohio State and LSU, respectively, as bumps in the road) but 'Bama has that SEC CG to play, which will probably be against Florida. Texas has a championship game too but only has to get past whatever bums (sorry, roundtable hosts) the Big 12 North has to sacrifice to them.

4. In only a few weeks, college football fans get to be treated with the obligatory and annual “We Need a Playoff” screaming. Well, you don’t get a playoff, but I’ll let you make one change to the BCS (and no, you can’t cop out and have the BCS commit suicide) to make the world a better place. What is your change?

I refuse to play by the rules here. You get many changes, then the BCS is perfect, and even better, playoff-proof:

- Add the Cotton Bowl and Gator Bowl to make six.
- Affiliate each conference champion with one bowl: ACC with the Orange, SEC with the Sugar, etc. etc. (The Michigan fan in me weeps for the loss of the Big Ten-Pac 10 Rose Bowl, but this is for the good of the game.)
- Have a competition committee seed them, and select and seed six deserving at-large teams to play the conference champs.
- Play three games on New Year's Eve and three on New Year's Day.
- Then have the competition committee select the two most deserving teams from the bowl winners to play for the title one week later.

We can call this one big-ass change if it makes the rules people feel better.

5. Using this year ONLY - no historical references - respond to the statement “The Big 12 is a better conference than the SEC”. There’s nothing sillier than conference wars, but then again, there’s nothing sillier than how SEC fans respond to any challenge to their supremacy. Aim, Fire!

It does not cease to amaze me that the SEC can cannibalize itself and it is called "supremacy"; the ACC can cannibalize itself (and is doing so in spectacular fashion) and it is called "mediocrity". Seriously: Auburn 3, Mississippi State 2? The SEC has yet to do this year what the Big 12 has done: deliver a well-played, hard-fought game between two heavyweight contenders. For a conference that constantly whines about beating each other up and having so many extra hurdles to a national title, you'd think teams like LSU and Georgia would put up a better fight when it's time to throw down with Florida and Alabama instead of getting choke-slammed on national TV.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

do we know anything about the ACC these days?

No, seriously.

This was supposed to be a weekend in which we learned stuff about the ACC. All the teams were playing each other, things were going to shake out some, fall into place some, real nice. It was not to be. With six games there were 64 possible outcomes to the weekend; of all possible outcomes we received the one that caused the second most confusion, perplexion, and downright befuddlement, and we'd have had a perfecta if NC State had beaten the Seminoles, which they damn near did.

So what on earth now? A scientific-ish approach to a damn unscientific problem, that's what.

What we know:

- NC State does in fact stink. This is inescapable. They are last in the conference in total offense, which is really hard to do when UVA checks in at 104th in the land and VT bottoms out at 110th. (Fun fact: Wake Forest is 99th, just four yards per game away from ensuring that the ACC has no less than five teams outside the top 100 in total offense.) NC State is also dead last in total defense, by a huge margin. They are a bad football team. And they're the only team that can be definitively pegged as either good or bad.

- Pretty much every other team has a Good Team and a Bad Team. There is Good Maryland (beat Cal) and Bad Maryland (lost to MTSU.) There is Good Virginia (beat Maryland) and Bad Virginia (lost to Duke.) Good Wake beat FSU. Bad Wake lost to Maryland. Messrs. Jekyll and Hyde have made appearances as living metaphors in ACC blogs the nation over.

- The Atlantic race is almost certainly down to four teams; the Coastal race is almost entirely anyone's game. Even Duke has a shot - a slim one, but a shot.

What we don't know:

- Anything else. Most especially who will win in any given matchup. Even NC State has an upset left in them somewhere.

What we think (OK, what I think):

- The Atlantic really is as wide-open as it looks with four 2-1 teams all hanging around. In point of fact only two of them - Boston College and Maryland - actually control their destiny; that is, they could win out, damn everyone else, and place themselves in the title game. However, there is no way Maryland is consistent enough to finish the season undefeated. Somewhere in that schedule is a loss, maybe two or three, and an ugly one at that; it's just that nobody knows where. The pundits know this and this is why BC is generally said to have the inside track for Tampa.

- For the sake of the ACC, that can't happen. I like Boston College. Nice stadium, good looking campus, generally amiable fans. But you saw the stadium in Jacksonville last year. Boston is so far from Florida that BC fans are going to wait for the bowl game to make their travel plans. If Boston College makes the ACCCG, there will be another attendance debacle at the game.

- Fear not, however. BC is the only team of the four that has three road games remaining, and worse yet, they're as follows: UNC, FSU, Wake. That's right: two of their fellow contenders get them at home, and only Maryland has to visit Alumni Stadium.

- Over in the Coastal, things are equally nuts. Two teams (UVA and VT) control their destiny; GT needs just one more VT loss, and Miami needs another UNC loss. UNC needs more help - two more losses each for UVA and VT - but do you doubt that could happen?

- The problem for the division is that Georgia Tech has it made. Only one road game left on the conference schedule, and that's to UNC. UVA, FSU, and Miami all have to go to Atlanta. They do need a Virginia Tech loss, but that's coming again, sooner or later.

- Here's the kicker, really. Granted, the middle of the season is always going to see a lot of teams in contention. Right now the Big 12 has three undefeated teams in the South division.....and then Oklahoma. But we know Texas is f'n good. And sure, the Big Ten already has five bowl-eligible teams. But these conferences have a hierarchy. If all continues to go as it has gone, the Big Ten, as well as the two divisions of the SEC, have one game left to decide everything. The Pac-10 would seem to be wide open, with four teams at 3-1, but USC will not lose again, Oregon State will, and that's that. But the ACC. If all continues to go as it has already gone, the ACC's divisions will probably be decided on tiebreakers between at least two teams with at least two losses each. One team will go to the Orange Bowl; another with maybe the same record will end up in Orlando playing the Big Ten in the undercard to the Citrus Bowl.

- All of this adds up to one more thing we know: Between now and the end of the season, this is going to be the best conference in the land to watch. The Big Ten is going to be decided this Saturday in Columbus. The WLOCP in two weeks will decide the SEC East; the West will follow the week after when Alabama treks to LSU. The ACC won't be decided until the final week, and that seems to be the only prediction that can stand on solid ground. So strap in.

Monday, October 20, 2008

weekend review

Not a lot of newsy stuff this weekend. Which is nice. Saves you and me time. Let's see what there is.....

No official word on the injuries to Antonio Appleby and Ras-I Dowling. Groh doesn't sound mightily encouraged, but then he has never been accused of overbubbly optimism. Poster Battman at TheSabre offers some hopeful news on Appleby, for what it's worth. I'm not gonna lie: Appleby would be a painful loss but we can do without him; Darren Childs played a respectable game in his absence. Dowling, on the other hand, is the second-best player on the defense after Sintim. Without him our pass coverage takes a serious hit and we're left open to the big play.

From Bottom 10 to Boise. ESPN had us pegged as a target of mockery earlier in the year, and readers of Heather Dinich's blog-like column probably tired of her weekly jabs. Win a few games and suddenly you make the weekly bowl projections. At great risk of sounding ingrateful considering where we stood three weeks ago: I don't want to go to Boise and play Boise State. Mark Schlabach tosses a bone our way as well, though it's not hard to figure that he thinks we'll no longer be a factor after this week.

Oh, and the unwritten, unspoken, and nonexistent blogger code says I have to link this, although the probability approaches 1 that you've already seen it. The next time a ref blows a call somewhere, just remind yourself it could be ever so much worse.

Movement on the recruiting front. The recruiting board sees an update this week, as follows:

- Added LB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has us in a final four that also includes BC, Stanford, and Duke. That's the good news. The bad news is that "the coaches seem really nice" is not the most ringing of endorsements. He's listed as "good" chance for now, but we'll see.
- Added a list of schools under Joshua Evans. Previously it just said "many" there. He's still not exactly the best chance for a commit that we have this year. Florida is usually mentioned next to his name, and they are supposedly going after him hard.
- Added UNC to Brennan Williams' finalists. Odd timing, considering Williams' official to Charlottesville was this weekend. ($)
- Changed Tajh Boyd's finalists ($) to BC, Tennessee, Oregon, and PSU. Seriously, let's not get our hopes up here.

Now for the already-committed players and their weekend games.....

DOMINIQUE WALLACE: I never get tired of reading about this guy. 155 yards, four touchdowns, and for good measure an interception as Chancellor stays undefeated with a win over Courtland.

ROSS METHENY: Uh-oh. Metheny was 27/45 passing for 403 yards (yowza) with 2 TDs and 2 picks. But Sherando lost the game 17-14, and worse yet Metheny tweaked his knee. He was walking around after the game, but still. Metheny is probably guaranteed to redshirt next year anyway, but you never want a guy to get hurt even slightly if he's in the succession line at quarterback.

TUCKER WINDLE: Had 4 carries for 43 yards and a catch for 19 as CC defeated Garringer 42-19. (Again, you'll just have to kind of click through....and again, Windle will be a linebacker in college.)

A spin on the ACC merry-go-round....

FSU knocked off NC State 26-17, which is pretty easy these days, and Scalp 'Em knows he is on an island by calling it not an ugly win. State Fans Nation sees his team bringing a spork to a gun fight.

Maryland shut out Wake Forest 26-0. Turtle Waxing is still pretty depressed about the Terps' chances, but they've got nothing on the raincloud hovering over Old Gold & Blog.

Georgia Tech joined the Make Clemson's Season Miserable parade by beating them 21-17. As GT is this week's opponent, look later this week for a Q&A session with The LegacyX4.

Miami rallied to beat Duke, 49-31. So, transitively speaking, the Canes should beat us by 49, which would be cruel one-upmanship over last year's 48-0 spanking.

Boston College took down the Hokies this week, ha. Gobbler Country is jumping aboard the Fire Stinespring bandwagon, as if the overcrowding is not already breaking all applicable fire codes and threatening to crack an axle. CGB illustrates the point.

Lastly, one note. One slight change has already happened to this week's Blogpoll ballot, as USF gets bumped from 14th to 17th. Go check it out and continue to help me fix it so that it can be the bestest ballot ever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

we're going streaking

Once again, proven wrong in the sort of way that I like. I said we'd need a running game in order to take down UNC and that UNC had proven they can beat a team without one. Now they've proven that they don't always. I'll further call myself out and retract the claim that a win here would make me feel confident about winning the rest of the games on the schedule. After the semi-explosion against Maryland, the running game has regressed back to where we started: 58 yards is not going to get it done consistently.

However: streak. (!!!) Or curse, whichever. I kind of wish we could call it the Curse of Curry or something like that but it was already almost 20 years old when he took over at UNC.

So, some thoughts from the game, and promise, not all of them will be of the complaining sort.

- First off props to the production crew at ESPN/ABC for giving us so many excellent shots of the Grounds in between plays. They even got a shot in of my old stomping grounds, Maury Hall. Ah, memories.

- UNC fans are stocking up on pitchforks and torches for some trick-or-treating at Everett Withers' house. Withers is the Carolina defensive coordinator and the one calling the coverages - specifically, that abominable prevent defense with a 3-man rush that Verica took apart with ruthless prejudice. 47 seconds. That's all it took to go 82 yards. It was so fast, the Heels had to kneel the ball twice in order to run out the rest of the clock to get to overtime. (Carolina fans aren't too chuffed about that call, either.) Deunta Williams admirably tries to shift the blame from the coaches to himself and his cohorts (a lesson Cullen Harper could use), but I'm not buying it. The prevent defense should only ever be used when a score by the other team would be harmless, because it's an invitation to gain yardage and lots of it, fast. If the roles were reversed and Bob Pruett had pulled that stunt, this post would have more swear words in it than Pulp Fiction.

- Hey, kid in the Papa John's commercial: Take your damn hat off at the dinner table.

- I'm well aware that sideways passes are a pretty inextricable part of the offense, but I wonder, at what point was Mike Groh going to recognize that Carolina was shutting them down? In doing my review of Verica's play, I counted 11 sideways pass plays. Not safety-valve dump-offs, I mean designed passes to the flat or near it. Three worked, and by worked I mean "picked up four yards or more." The rest were smothered by the Carolina 'backers. Three of them, none of which were even remotely successful, were a fake handoff followed by a rollout to the other side to drop it off to the tight end. You could see these coming from the comfort of your couch, and UNC had no problems with them. Mike: Stop calling them. At least, stop calling them so frequently when they are being shut down every time.

- Hosses: Cedric Peerman and Marc Verica. Not that you needed me to tell you that, but I needed to say it. After Verica lofted a beauty to Phillips for first-and-goal in OT, I was praying for handoffs to Peerman. Just punch it up the gut. Lo and behold, they just punched it up the gut and scored. I'm fond of being critical of Mike Groh, but, give him credit for not getting too fancy near the goal line. He tried the fanciness once and it almost caused a game-ending interception. Good for him, filing that idea where it belonged and keeping it simple on the next three calls. Good for him also, finally ditching the sideways crap on the final drive after the umpteenth completion for zero yards and sending his receivers to the soft spots in the zone. And Verica? Still looks like a fifth-year senior out there. It helps that his linemen are giving him a near-perfect pocket all day long, but even when it breaks down he's always got his wits about him.

- Defense, I'm calling a mixed bag. The defensive line consistently got blown the hell off the ball and UNC controlled the ground all day. The only pressure on Sexton came when Sintim rushed and was inexplicably single-teamed, which caused one sack and one blown-up third down play. Not a good day for the D-line, outside of Jenkins' INT. On the other hand, they made big plays at big times (Glaspy's INT) and huge stops in OT, both of which are hallmarks of a successful defense. And you can't overlook the fact that they held a ranked team to a touchdown and two field goals even while missing two starters.

Let's check out Verica's day:

Actual stats: 24/38, 217 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Adjusted stats: 27/39, 264 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

1st throw: The very first play of the day and it should have resulted in a pass interference call. Ogletree was basically wrapped up before the ball got to him; the defender was in the process of tackling him as the ball arrived and while Tree's arms were free to make the catch, he shouldn't have had to do so while being knocked over. Add a completion and 6 yards.

4th throw: A completion to Covington that was called back for illegal formation. Add an attempt, completion, and 9 yards.

7th throw: Sheeeeeesh. Verica threw into triple coverage so heavy you couldn't even see the number of the intended receiver on replay. It got deflected and damn well should have been picked off, and nearly was because the defender let a fluttering ball right through his hands. So add one interception. We got lucky.

13th throw: I'm being a little bit generous here. Looked to me like the ball got to Ogletree's hands before any defender did. It appeared that the Carolina defender made a nice play to get there and knock the ball free, but I think the ball was already dropped by the time he got there. Still a nice play by the defense, but we'll call this a drop here and add a completion and 32 yards.

We can let the warm and fuzzy glow sit for a while - it's nice to be in contention in the division. But not too long. A trip to Atlanta is next up, and Georgia Tech is the division leader and another ranked team - and this time we have to do this on the road. Worse yet, Bobby Dodd is a place where we typically lay a big fat egg. In 2002 we were fresh off a really excellent streak-extending win over UNC (the one where we were down 21-0 at the half and reeled off 37 straight points) and rode a six-game win streak into Bobby Dodd only to forget everything we knew about winning football games. So this one's a big hurdle, and if GT's offensive line pushes us around like Carolina's did we will be in for a very long day against that throwback offense they run. Maybe the toughest game we have until our trip to Blacksburg. Of course, the more you win the bigger the games get, but this is a big one.

Blogpoll ballot, Week 8

The who, where, and why of this week's ballot....

- The top six remains unchanged, except for that I tried to move Texas up beyond #1 and am not allowed to do that.

- Florida drops three spots through no fault of their own except not scheduling a game this weekend. USC, Ohio State, and Texas Tech leapfrog them by virtue of winning.

- Ohio State and USC. I've had my internal struggles about these two and they keep following each other around the ballot. USC was going to drop below OSU this weekend because OSU has two extra wins, which is a plus, and just firebombed Michigan State. But honestly, that is OSU's best win this year, while USC has, you know, OSU as a notch in their bedpost. Also, the UVA game. Another internal struggle - do I look at this from the perspective of the UVA blogger, who knows good and well that the UVA team that showed up in the first four games was Mr. Hyde and this one is Dr. Jekyll? Or do I look at it dispassionately and see that USC trounced a team which is now 4-3 and has some decent wins under their belt? I went the computer route and gave USC higher marks for that game than before now that we have a winning record. That's probably the difference - if we were like 2-5 now instead of 4-3, USC would be below OSU.

- Tulsa skyrockets up the rankings because of the principle that even if you have played nothing but bad teams, if you have curb-stomped them all into oblivion and not lost then you deserve to be rewarded. Plus I got starry-eyed over the Hurricane Of Many Colors when I realized they put up almost 800 yards and only bothered trying for three quarters. Jeez. That is an offense.

- The last six spots came down to eight pretty evenly-matched teams. Northwestern and LSU are the ones that didn't make the cut. LSU needed to really put a beatdown on South Carolina and it didn't happen. LSU's only decent wins are against teams you could charitably call halfway decent.

- The BC-VT-GT merry-go-round gave me fits. BC beat VT, which beat GT, which beat BC, it's a muddle. I think the order they're in makes sense. BC has only the one loss to Georgia Tech; VT lost to BC and also to ECU but did beat UNC; GT is last because Gardner-Webb. But they're ranked now, which they couldn't say last week.

Any suggestions for change made between now and around Monday morning can be taken into consideration for the preliminary ballot; any made between then and about Tuesday evening/early Wednesday morning can be taken into consideration for the final ballot and the breakdown.

- Change 1: USF gets bumped from 14th to 17th.


RankTeamDelta
1Texas --
2Penn State --
3Alabama --
4Oklahoma State --
5Oklahoma --
6Utah --
7Southern Cal 3
8Ohio State 3
9Texas Tech 3
10Florida 3
11Ball State 2
12Tulsa 6
13Georgia 6
14Boise State 3
15Missouri 2
16TCU 8
17South Florida 4
18Michigan State 4
19Brigham Young 11
20Boston College 6
21Virginia Tech 6
22Georgia Tech 4
23Minnesota 2
24North Carolina 8
25Vanderbilt 2



Dropped Out: California (#20), Connecticut (#22).