Thursday, September 17, 2009

game preview: Southern Miss

Date/Time: September 19, 3:30 PM

TV: CBS College Sports

Last matchup: never

Last week: TCU 30, UVA 14; USM 26, UCF 19

Line: Southern Miss by 15.5

Opposing blogs: none

Injury report:

OUT: WR Bobby Smith



PROBABLE: LB Denzel Burrell, OG B.J. Cabbell, DE Nate Collins, DE Matt Conrath, CB Chris Cook, NT John-Kevin Dolce, S Ausar Walcott

This is the season, right here. I can't say that any more clearly. Southern Miss is a decent team, but beatable, and by no means anything like the best team we'll see all season. If we're going to prove that we have a shot at a coveted spot in a Mobile bowl game, that week 1 was a fluke and week 2 was just because the opponent was among the cream of the crop, then we win here. Lose and we might as well start picking out replacements for Al Groh, not that everyone isn't doing so already. Lose and the season is a complete wash.


- Well, obviously, the offense needs to get fixed. We'll start with the playcalling. TCU played like they knew all our signals. This one's on the coaches - they need to figure out how to open up the playbook to make the offense less predictable. Throw downfield more, make better adjustments on the fly, and stop having such obvious patterns to the calls.

- Calling more downfield plays would not only prevent the eight-men-in-the-box strategy from being successful against both the run and pass, but if the receivers can't get open, at least there will be more scrambling room. When all the routes are inside ten yards they way they always seemed to be, the linebackers and cornerbacks are all right there to choke off all the options Sewell might have had, whether they be run or pass. Send people deep and clear out the edges so Sewell can get there in the event the pocket breaks down. Again.

- Sewell will have to trust his arm more. The receivers did a lousy job of getting open, true, but they also, when given the opportunity, flashed the ability to beat the defender to the ball. If Sewell puts it up there deep and it gets picked off, well, its the same as an early punt. If it's incomplete, it's certainly better than the sack we keep taking.


- Just keep stayin' the course, fellas.


I ain't skeered by Southern Miss. I am skeered that it's a road game. You'll notice the above two sections make absolutely no mention of the opponent, their capabilities, players to focus on, etc. That's on purpose because it doesn't matter. Southern Miss is a generic opponent in a tin can as far as I'm concerned. The game is about UVA. We know this team has talent and potential, and they've put almost none of it on display. They need to fix the boogeyman, figure out what's wrong, and oh by the way, do it on the road where the ghosts of "Wyoming, 23-3" and, "UNC, 7-5" live. Just one more boogeyman to dispel. The game will hinge entirely on how the coaches and players respond to the tremendous pile of negativity that's built up around this program in the last ten days.

Al Groh-coached teams have shown an incredible amount of resiliency to strife and tribulations in the past. Never count that out. And yet, I can't shake the feeling that all the signs point to the end of a regime - the same warning signs that have been posted around dozens and dozens of teams over the decades - and I'm almost to the point where I'm ready for a new one. So neither end of the spectrum would surprise me here. We could lose or win by three touchdowns and neither result would make me bat an eyelash. No prediction of any kind from me this time. The deciding forces here have nothing to do with whether our offensive line can handle their blitz or whether their offensive coordinator has the right game plan for our 3-4. The forces at work here are beyond our purview, and we will see on Saturday afternoon whether the football gods will smile once again on Al Groh, or if they are busy ushering him into a quiet retirement.


Georgia Tech at Miami, 7:30, Thursday

North Carolina vs. East Carolina, 12:00
Boston College at Clemson, 12:00
Duke at Kansas, 12:00
Maryland vs. Middle Tennessee, 3:30
Virginia Tech vs. Nebraska, 3:30
NC State vs. Gardner-Webb, 6:00
Wake Forest vs. Elon, 6:30
Florida State at Brigham Young, 7:00

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