Friday, September 30, 2011

game preview: Idaho

Date/Time: Saturday, October 1; 3:30


History against the Vandals: 0-0

Last matchup: N/A

Last week: USM 30, UVA 24; Fresno St. 48, UI 24

Line: Virginia by 16.5

Opposing blogs: none

Injury report: N/A

This game is kind of my poster child for why I want to play nine games in the ACC.  Do we really need a random WAC-snack game?  Are the fans going to show up for this one?  (I'm guessing not.)  Of course, it's also the poster child for the opposition in that argument: yes we need a WAC-snack so we can get ourselves bowl-eligible, cause it's not gonna happen if we replace Idaho with Clemson.  (No, probably not, but maybe Wake Forest instead.)

Anyway, if you ask me this is pretty much the most completely random matchup I've ever seen in 11 years of following UVA.  At least it's an improvement over a home-and-home with UTSA.  I mean, who does that?

-- UVA run offense vs. Idaho run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 59 carries, 255 yards, 4.3 avg.
Kevin Parks: 50 carries, 282 yards, 5.6 avg.

UVA offense:
181.25 yards/game, 4.5 yards/attempt
43rd of 120 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

Idaho defense:
124.5 yards/games, 3.56 yards/attempt
46th of 120 (national), 4th of 8 (WAC)

The big question of the week is Kevin Parks and his ankle.  After four games we're starting to get enough of a look at the offense to be able to say that Parks is the most effective back in the ground game.  The workload split has been about 2-2-1 between Parks, Perry Jones, and Clifton Richardson; Jones is solid with good vision and excellent skills as a receiver, but the other two bring physical talents that Jones does not.

For their part, Idaho's run defense should be given more respect than the name "Idaho" commands.  The Vandals got killed by Texas A&M but it wasn't the fault of the run defenders, as they held A&M's workhorse back Cyrus Gray to 3.5 yards a carry.  Gray got to 101 yards but he needed almost 30 carries to do it.  The secret to Idaho's success is the back seven.  The defensive line doesn't get involved in playmaking much; the safeties are brought up in run support, and they and the linebackers are relied upon to get the stops.  Middle linebacker Tre'Shawn Robinson leads the team in TFL and is tied with safety Gary Harris for the lead in tackles.  The top four tacklers are the safeties and two linebackers.

It's hard keeping Parks off the field, but I'd like to see it this week.  With a lesser opponent and then a bye week, this'd be a decent chance to get Parks good and healthy for the ACC long haul.  Let's go ahead and predict that Parks and Richardson swap places in that 2-2-1 workload split, and Parks gets the fewest carries of the three.  But Texas A&M has a very solid rushing offense that Idaho was able to control.  We don't have a very wrinkly running game and this isn't really a question of line vs. line, so I don't expect to get much better results than the 4.5 ypa we've been getting.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Idaho pass defense

Mike Rocco: 74/119, 62.2%; 792 yards, 1 TD, 7 INT; 6.66 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 22 catches, 250 yards, 0 TD
Perry Jones: 17 catches, 158 yards, 0 TD

UVA offense:
243.3 yards/game, 6.4 yards/attempt
91st of 120 (national), 11th of 12 (ACC)

Idaho defense:
301.8 yards/game, 8.3 yards/attempt
106th of 120 (national), 8th of 8 (WAC)

(sigh) is it quarterback controversy time already?  It is, brought on in part by the soreness in Mike Rocco's midsection after taking one too many shots to the gut.  Rocco is still the most efficient mover of the offense, though.

Unfortunately, this is the part of the offense that has regressed somewhat as the season goes on.  The run game here is strength vs. strength; this is weakness vs. weakness.  A huge part of the reason Idaho has been bad is because the pass defense has been terrible.  There is no such thing as a pass rush; Idaho has only recorded two sacks all season.  Teams are averaging over 8 yards an attempt and 300 yards a game.  Nobody other than crappy I-AA opponent North Dakota has had any trouble moving the ball through the air.

So this is a perfect opportunity to get somebody on track, whether it's Rocco or David Watford or even Ross Metheny.  As long as Rocco is healthy, I expect it'll be him, and the quarterback workload will continue as before.  Precedent says that London has a much slower trigger finger on pulling quarterbacks than Groh did.  The question is: how effective can he be?  I will guess at pretty decent.  Accuracy has not been Rocco's problem.  He shouldn't be under any pressure on Saturday - expect no sacks especially with the short passing game that Bill Lazor has favored this year - and in general, his bad interceptions have come as the result of pressure.

If Rocco doesn't play, I think Ross Metheny will and will get plenty of reps.  I don't expect the entire game to be handed over to Watford.  But as I said, Rocco plays if healthy - or even healthy-ish - and he'll improve on his completion percentage (which is already solid) and his passer rating (which is dismally low) and go for 250+ yards.

-- Idaho run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Ryan Bass: 29 carries, 117 yards, 4.0 avg.
Princeton McCarty: 28 carries, 109 yards, 3.9 avg.

Idaho offense:
67.25 yards/game, 2.4 yards/attempt
117th of 120 (national), 8th of 8 (WAC)

UVA defense:
119.75 yards/game, 3.5 yards/attempt
44th of 120 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

Part of the reason for the horrible rushing numbers that Idaho displays is that they're also worst in their conference at allowing sacks, but let's not sugarcoat things - this is a garbage running game.  Idaho operates out of the pistol, which is designed to be a running formation, but it's not getting things done.  The Vandals run the ball only about 42% of the time; you'd think that'd be from playing from (way) behind all the time (I did), but they also passed much more than ran in their 30-point win over UND.  (Then again, if you're confused about Idaho's offensive philosophy, you're not alone; so are their fans.  One man's conclusion: "It keeps a low profile so as not to offend anyone.")

So it really just goes back to ineffectiveness.  Idaho stayed away from the run last year as well, racking up less than a quarter of their total yards on the ground.  They had four new starters on the line last year and just weren't good there.  As long as the defense can figure out the pistol formation (it's designed to keep you from figuring out which side the run is going to) they should give UVA fans a little bit of a warm and fuzzy about their abilities.  Idaho's longest running play from scrimmage is 22 yards; I think not only do we silence the big-play bug for this week (nothing over 15 yards will be my call) I think we'll also see the defense hold the Vandals to less than 100 yards total on the ground.  If Bowling Green can do that, we can do that.

-- Idaho pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Brian Reader: 85/149, 57%; 842 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT; 5.65 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Mike Scott: 26 catches, 328 yards, 1 TD
Armauni Johnson: 14 catches, 192 yards, 2 TD

Idaho offense:
226.3 yards/games, 5.8 yards/attempt
101st of 120 (national), 7th of 8 (WAC)

UVA defense:
196 yards/game, 6.0 yards/attempt
27th of 120 (national), 2nd of 12 (ACC)

If Idaho doesn't move the ball on the ground, they must do so through the air, right?  A little.  Brian Reader isn't a strong-armed quarterback - in fact, he's very like Rocco only with better taking care of the ball.  Idaho only gets about five and a half yards per attempt out of him because he only completes 57% of his passes, but this is where the focus of the Vandal offense will be.

Reader's favorite target is without a doubt Mike Scott, a waterbug type who can scoot.  Scott's longest play this year is 51 yards; that was not Reader who delivered that ball, however.  Armauni Johnson is a big guy at 6'3", and between them they have almost half of Reader's completions.  Johnson will be targeted in the end zone should Idaho find itself approaching hallowed ground.  Because of the size differential, I think the coaches will prefer that Chase Minnifield cover Johnson while Demetrious Nicholson takes Scott, even though Scott is clearly the go-to receiver.

Reader's been on his butt a lot, though, having been sacked 12 times; this puts Idaho in the bottom 20 in the country.  Southern Miss's refusal to stand up and play offense like gentlemen meant the UVA defensive line had trouble getting to Austin Davis; we may see something similar this week with Idaho working out of the pistol, although probably not to the extent that USM did.  If Idaho plays football like men do, and not all this hustling up to the line and then getting the playcall, UVA could finally have an opponent it can make a target out of, which is why I worry that they won't.

Regardless, though, UVA has been effective against the pass.  This is the game right here.  If our relatively strong pass defense can nullify Idaho's passing attack, then the only thing for our offense to determine is whether or not we cover the spread.  Reader brings efficiency but not much big-play potential, which is exactly the kind of offense we're happy to face.


Before the season it was widely considered that this would likely be the worst opponent we'd face all year.  William & Mary has sucked more than expected - only beating VMI by 17 is not impressive - but when you're playing patsy to MAC teams and getting cuffed around by Bowling Green in your own building, the fact that you're not the worst opponent on someone's schedule is not your own fault.  It would be a Very Bad Upset to lose here, because this is the last Bowl Eligibility Special of the season.  Idaho's offense is largely one-dimensional and their defense is totally ill-equipped to take advantage of the UVA offense's biggest weakness.  This sets up well to go into the break on a high note.

Prediction summary:

- Kevin Parks gets fewer carries than both Perry Jones and Clifton Richardson.
- The UVA run game stays near its average of 4.5 ypc.
- Mike Rocco will still get the lion's share of snaps if healthy; if for some reason he can't go, Ross Metheny will at least get significant snaps.
- Assuming Rocco plays, he will deliver noticeable improvement on his passer rating and completion percentage, and pass for 250+ yards.
- Idaho will not record a sack.
- Idaho will have no running plays over 15 yards.
- The UVA defense will hold Idaho to less than 100 yards total rushing.

- Final score: UVA 35, Idaho 13.

Rest of the ACC:

Wake Forest @ Boston College, 12:30 - Time to find out if it's for real that BC sucks.
Maryland vs. Towson, 3:30 - Please don't embarrass the ACC this week, Maryland.  Or do, actually.  I don't care.
Georgia Tech @ NC State, 3:30 - GT's offense is crushing weaklings and NC State's defense is banged up all to hell.
Miami vs. Bethune-Cookman, 3:30 - Wuteva.
Clemson @ Virginia Tech, 6:00 - This is the marquee game of the week; isn't 6:00 usually the time of day that you play, like, VMI?
Duke @ Florida International, 7:00 - Duke at Florida International?
North Carolina @ East Carolina, 8:00 - UNC meant to schedule the South version but got mixed up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the recruit: Jamall Brown

Name: Jamall Brown
Position: WR
Hometown: Hampton
School: Hampton
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 178

24/7: 77; two stars
Rivals: NR
Scout: two stars

Other offers: none

I am gonna have a hard time with this one.  Rivals's article announcing Jamall Brown's verbal is headlined, "Wahoos pick up surprise commitment" and they weren't kidding.  Brown didn't blip on any radars in the recruiting coverage world, and he is essentially a camp commitment, only he committed a month after camp.  He came basically out of nowhere.  There's hardly any history to draw from.

Maurice Canady was a camp commitment too - the usual kind, that commits before he leaves the camp or the day after - and here's what the VirginiaPreps site wrote about Canady: "At every testing station and every drill, camp attendees were left talking about Varina's Maurice Canady who walked away from the camp with a scholarship offer..."  Canady, in other words, was one of the stars of the camp; this is why he was offered.  The article didn't once mention Jamall Brown.

This is not to suggest Brown had a poor camp; it couldn't have been that bad since that's how he picked up his offer.  He wasn't creating much buzz, though, and his nonbuzziness started as a junior when he was playing receiver with a broken wrist for a team that hardly ever passed the ball.  (It's not a stretch, in fact, to suggest that Hampton's offense meant he might have been stuck at six catches on the year, broken wrist or not.  Seriously, those guys don't pass.)

I was looking forward to seeing what Brown could do in his senior season, but that's been derailed too.  Hampton was supposed to have more of a pocket passer (Jeremy Eubank) replacing David Watford, but Eubank hurt his hand in a car accident and Brown had to take over at quarterback.  In his second game, a 14-13 win over I.C. Norcom, Brown split quarterback duties with teammate Deon Newsome.  Brown completed exactly one pass and Newsome completed another - to Brown.

Ugly game.  Ugly start to the season for Hampton, too - Eubank is back, but they've fallen to 2-2 and Brown is not getting on the scoresheet.  Which is disappointing; I guess by "looking forward to seeing what he could do" what I really meant was "hoping he'd produce like crazy."  That hasn't happened yet.

At the very least, Brown is a solid athlete; he plays defensive back as well and the reason he's lined up at QB is the "best athlete on the team" theory of high school quarterbacks.  I don't know why I've seen the word "undersized" in scouting reports, as in this one from Recruit757: "Brown seems a bit undersized for BCS football, but might earn a DI FBS scholarship with a productive senior season."  6'0" 180-ish is not undersized.  Tim Smith is 6'0", 185.  That's not Brown's problem.

The scouting services that have rated him, though, are in agreement that he's only a borderline I-A prospect.  That combined with his total lack of offers - not even ODU or JMU or any of the multitude of I-AA schools in Virginia had given him one - is some pretty solid evidence that Brown has a lot of work to do to get himself up to playing at the BCS level.  The chance certainly exists that he's a diamond in the rough that needs polishing; he's been jerked around by circumstances pretty thoroughly.  Broken wrist, moving from WR to QB and back, Hampton's offense, crummy QB play this year - it all adds up to a lot of difficulty getting noticed.  Still, there are more polished receivers that will enter in 2012 with Brown: Canaan Severin, Adrian Gamble with his year at FUMA, Anthony Cooper if he doesn't become a safety.  And the wondertwins will only be sophomores next year.  Brown probably redshirts in 2012, and then faces a long uphill climb.  Honestly, his most likely contribution is special teams work.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

i still want a nine-game conference schedule

Last fall I expounded on my desire to have a nine-game conference schedule, the problem being essentially that we used to play teams every year and now we haven't played NC State since 2007.  The additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the conference is exciting in some fashion, but also only exacerbates the problem.  A lot.

The scenarios I gave you last fall are obsolete now, of course, but the necessity of a nine-game schedule so that we can actually play teams in our conference is - I think - pressing.  Seriously.  Let's say the ACC gets lazy and does nothing but fit Cuse and Pitt into the current format.  Remember, the NCAA bylaws state the following about a conference championship game:
The maximum number of football contests shall exclude the following: .... A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division.
What this means is that you can't have a CCG and a 12-game season without two divisions in your conference, and all the teams in a division must play each other.  It's conceivable the NCAA could be convinced to change this bylaw to accommodate creative scheduling for a 16-team conference, but almost certainly not for 14 teams.  So the only option is two divisions of 7.  14 is a sucky number this way; it doesn't divide very well.

So again, if the ACC gets lazy, keeps the same divisions and the same protected rivalry format, and just splits up the newcomers, we will have only one game each year that changes:

6 division games
1 protected rivalry
1 rotating

So we could play, say, Clemson, in 2013 (which we're currently scheduled to do) and then not play them again until 2019.  Six years between games.  That's bullshit.  Entire recruiting classes will come and go and never play against certain ACC teams.  The NFL has 32 teams, and granted they play 16 games instead of 8, but my Lions will still play every AFC team once every four years.

This would be a garbage setup.  Simply going to nine games would at least give you two rotating games and then it would be five years between games.   Less of a garbage setup.  Still garbage.  If I don't like four years between games, you can bet I don't like five either.

One possible solution, of course, is to lose the protected rivalry.  Then even if you don't play nine games, you can rotate through games such that at worst you keep the status quo when it comes to playing the opposite division (four years between games) and some of the gaps are better (only three years.)  Since we're now at the part where I make actual proposals, I'll illustrate how our crossover schedule would look that way, with only eight games:

(Pitt is a stand-in.  I have no way of knowing whether it would be them or Cuse assigned to our division.)

I'm sure you can guess the problem with that: we wouldn't get to play Maryland every year.  Maryland would be left pretty much entirely without a rival at all.  The ACC probably wouldn't care about this, but they would care that FSU and Miami aren't playing any more.  So losing the protected rivalry and keeping the divisions the same isn't really an option.

If you played nine games instead - six with your division and three rotating - it would be slightly more palatable.  You'd go three years at most and two years at least (calendar years) between playing someone.  I'll tell you right now though that any setup that ever has FSU and Miami skipping two seasons is still never gonna fly with the ACC.  Rivalries must go on.

Fortunately, the ACC doesn't have too many rivalries to protect.  Many teams have either a primary rival outside the conference (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pitt) or no natural primary rival at all (Wake Forest, Boston College.)  These are the rivalries you really need to make sure are protected:

Virginia-Virginia Tech
Virginia-North Carolina
North Carolina-NC State
North Carolina-Duke
Clemson-Georgia Tech
Florida State-Miami

Supposedly Clemson has rivalries with NC State and Boston College, but I bet if you asked the average fan about that, they'd shrug.  Boston College especially.

So, you could realign the divisons as follows to keep all the rivalries intact and playing every year:


Boston College
Florida State
Georgia Tech


North Carolina
NC State
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

This is basically the only way you could realign, keep all relevant rivalries intact, and lose the protected rivalry crossover.  (You could swap Wake with one of the northern Big East interlopers, but, why?)  If divisions realigned like this, lost the protected crossover, and went to nine games, I'd be a happy camper.

But I don't think divisions will align like this.  Why?  Check out the geography.  What this has basically done is to put all the extreme north and extreme south teams into one division, and all the middle teams into another.  That would be cool for us, but the north and south teams might not like the travel.  A way disproportionate number of flights.  I'd like to say "hey, that's your problem, you joined up knowing very well there were teams 1,000 miles away" but I bet it doesn't work that way in the conference room.

You could spread around the disparity a little bit by maybe swapping all the North Carolina teams with all the southern teams, if you felt like creating one ungodly superdivision and one redheaded stepchild.  Seriously, does this look like fun?

Georgia Tech
Florida State
Virginia Tech

Not my definition of it.

This has been the long way of saying that I can't find a way of realigning the conference and at the same time, getting rid of the protected crossover.

Something unpleasant is therefore coming down the pike when 12 becomes 14.  Chances are we'll have to deal with one of the following unpleasantries:

- A huge, obnoxious length of time in between the playing of some very old, traditional matchups.
- Losing a rivalry game.

If the new schedule is promulgated in such a way that we do lose an every-year game with Maryland or UNC then we should certainly look into doing what Cal and Colorado did this year, and play the game anyway but count it as a nonconference game.

Fortunately, I have one bullet left in my chamber.  Of course it means going to nine games.  Try this one on for size:

In the even years we'd play two home and one away; in the odd years, two away and one home.  Or vice versa.  I don't care.  I also don't care that teams would get five conference home games in one year while other teams get four.  The Pac-Whatever has been doing this for a while and nobody was bothered by it.  The Big 12 is doing it this year.  Hell, ever since the advent of divisions in the ACC we've played three home games against our division in some years and two in others.

So does this make too much sense?  Obviously it does.  You would only skip two years between opponents.  Three calendar years, which is an improvement over the current four.  Yes, you wouldn't play them two years in a row like you do now, but that's going to be lost anyway.

I will admit that there may be teams who've already filled out their four-game nonconference schedule, and there might need to be an interim period before going to nine games.  The Big Ten is waiting til 2017 to go to nine games for this reason.  UVA has its nonconference schedule full until 2014; others may go even farther.  (But look, if it's like, VMI or Delaware State or something - just buy them out, man.)

So this is the schedule I'm rooting for, and since it makes way too much sense it means I'll probably just have to sit and fume over the crap the conference foists upon us instead.  Either that or we can go to 16.  I'm not gonna hash out all those possibilities until that actually happens, but 16 is a way easier number to work with; if they expand to 16 and convince the NCAA to allow them to use the pod system, even eight games is a solvable problem.  (I'll probably still want nine, though.)


This, by the way, is a special occasion of a very special kind.  Hold your applause til the end.  I'm pleased to say that this has been FOV's 1,000th post.  One thousand times I have sat at this computer, banged away at the keyboard until I had something that looked coherent enough to show the world, and hit Publish.  Some of them I've really liked, some of them I've hated even before I hit Publish, and then hit Publish anyway.  A little over three years, two hard drives, three national championships, countless recruiting board updates, one appearance on Yahoo Sports....and zero bowl games.  It's been a fun deal so far.  Here's hoping for 1,000 more.

Monday, September 26, 2011

weekend review

Well, that was disappointing.

You'll recall in the game preview that I dredged up some thoughts from the aftermath of the previous game in this home-and-home with Southern Miss: the game was the last straw, for me, of the Al Groh era.  I came to a similar conclusion this week.  I see the game this Saturday as having been lost for two reasons:

- Inferior quarterback play as compared to the opponent.
- Coaching.

There's nothing we can do about the quarterback thing right now.  Austin Davis is a very experienced senior who's in his fourth year of starting and is wiping Brett Favre out of the Southern Miss record books.  Mike Rocco has less than 12% of Austin Davis's career passing attempts.  We have nobody more experienced than Rocco.  There's nothing we can do about this quarterback gap except develop what we've got and wait a couple years.

Coaching is different.  I've become convinced that the game of football has passed by Jim Reid.  I'll stipulate to this: he's a 3-4 guy being asked to run a 4-3.  Part of the reason the scheme is so simple is probably because he's never worked the nuances of the 4-3 before.  This is not his fault; on the other hand, it doesn't make him any better for the job.  I simply think he's got no answer for the kind of offensive schemes that have developed in the past 15-20 years.  Reid is still coaching in the 1980s.

Southern Miss ran a quick-tempo spread-ish look at us, with quick-hitter passing routes that our very traditional defense was powerless to stop.  But the play that ended the Jim Reid era in my mind was the 3rd and 23 that Southern Miss converted.  Reid preaches that the defense must aggressively flow to the ball, and flow to the ball they did.  The players fixated on the ball, not their opponent, and lost track entirely of Tracy Lampley on the opposite side.  The defense flowed one way, the ball suddenly flew the other, and the only prayer at making a play was a hopeless attempt at an arm tackle.  That play is not especially complicated - it's the perfect nothing-to-lose call for that occasion - and I don't think it ever occurred to Jim Reid that such a play can exist.

For most of the rest of the day, the defensive playcalling was completely out of sorts.  It felt like Reid was playing Madden for the first time; having no idea what to call for a particular situation, often he said "screw it" and pushed the buttons for a blitz.  Larry Fedora coached circles around our defense all day long.

I don't know if we can get much better on defense under Reid.  I suppose it is premature to mentally close and lock the door on the Reid era the way I was forced to come to grips with the Groh era, but if Reid's UVA career were an injury report I've just downgraded my opinion from probable to doubtful.  I see the appeal of a pure football guy like him at practice and on the recruiting trail, but if you want to run the 4-3 defense, perhaps it's time to hire a 4-3 coach.

Other game observations:

- Despite the wired-in tendency of UVA fans to fire up quarterback controversies at the drop of a hat, I don't see one happening yet.  Mike Rocco had his worst day of the four that he's started, but I loathe the microwaveable attention span that it takes to demand he be replaced after four starts.  I mean, if you don't get that a first-time sophomore starter is going to have his ups and downs, then please, have some Ritalin or something.  David Watford, at times, looks pretty good - even to the point where sometimes you don't see much dropoff from Rocco.  And it's tempting to suggest (or demand) that London make the switch now.  I'll predict right now that Rocco starts against Idaho, though.  Rocco throws a more consistently accurate ball than does Watford, I suspect that more of the playbook is open to Rocco, and it's Rocco - as long as his midsection is feeling fine - that still gives us the best shot at winning.

Remember, too, that Marc Verica was booed off the field against North Carolina last year - in the third quarter after throwing much interceptions - and Rocco finished the game after a series or two from Ross Metheny.  Verica kept the starting job regardless and finished the season that way.  Given that precedent I don't expect Rocco to lose his job if he's healthy.

- Argh fake punt.  Argh another drop by a senior receiver.  (Not long after a terrific diving catch by said senior receiver.)  Argh extra tape on Kevin Parks's ankle.  Welcome to the frustrating wide world of fixing a busted program.  Consistency is not the hallmark of rebuilding.  Even the punting stank, which is something I don't expect out of Jimmy Howell.

- It is interesting that when Rocco left, Watford finished and Metheny stayed on the sidelines.  The depth chart this week no longer has an OR between the backups; this appears to essentially be confirmation of what we saw in the game.  That Watford is the backup, Metheny the third string.


All that said, let's get to the prediction review this week.  I think I probably did not very good.  I won't know til I'm done typing this out.

- UVA runs for more than 170 yards and more than five yards per carry, which were the numbers against UNC.
Hmmm (checking).....nope.  Hell, we barely scraped five yards a pass play.  17 yards short of my yardage prediction and way short on the average.  This is undoubtedly a big reason why we lost: the run game took as much of a step backwards as the quarterback.  Consistency dammit.

- Mike Rocco averages better than 13 yards per completion.

Holy fuck.  No.

- Jamal Woodyard carries for more than 100 yards.

I was 101 yards off, as Woodyard went backwards.  He had -1 yards on five carries.  Here is your Surprising Bright Spot of the game: our run defense crushed Southern Miss.  Take away the fake punt, which went for 31 yards, and Southern Miss averaged less than a yard a carry.  Consistency dammit.  By which I mean do that again to someone else.

- Cam Johnson picks up at least two sacks.

I can't do it.  I wanted to give myself this one but I can't.  I'll be rockin' a big oh-fer on this week's predictions but oh well.  Johnson picked up a sack in the third quarter, so I was halfway there.  Later, Southern Miss ran a zone-read; quarterback Davis kept it and was tackled - by Cam Johnson - behind the line of scrimmage....but not far enough that a loss of a full yard was credited.  Even if it had been, it's not really a sack since it was a running play.  Southern Miss's quick-hit offense prevented UVA from getting much pressure in Davis's face.

- Austin Davis's completion percentage is held to less than 55%.

64% is greater than 55%.

In going zero-for-the-week I drop to 12 for 31, and in score predictions I'm now 3-1 and 2-2 ATS.  Well, I told you I knew less about Southern Miss than most of our other opponents.


Maybe our recruits did better than we did this weekend.  It's time for Senior Seasons, where we find out.  First I must boast at you that the Blue Devils of my alma mater Grosse Pointe South defeated hated crosstown rival North for the second year in a row.  South is 4-1 and qualifies for the playoffs with two more wins in the next four games.

Now for what you care about:

Victory Christian 41, Mount Dora Bible 0: Playing quarterback, Demeitre Brim ran for two touchdowns and 159 yards.  VCA is now 2-2.  For those of you who take stock in such things, Brim commented on the article.  It's one of those fancy forward-thinking social-media-connected websites that, when you comment, you comment as your Facebook persona (which ensures that I will never comment on such websites) and Brim's picture is him in front of the large fancy V-sabre that I think is in the stadium offices and halls.  (Or the McCue Center, but I've never been to the latter.)  Take it how you will.

Franklin 21, Philipsburg 13: Two touchdowns for Kye Morgan; long runs of 80 and 67 yards.  Franklin is 2-1.

Worcester Academy 40, Phillips Exeter 27: Newest commit Canaan Severin had four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.  WA is 1-0.

Bayside 50, Kempsville 0: Anthony Cooper had a pick-six on defense.  Bayside is 3-1.

Ocean Lakes 21, First Colonial 6: Eli Harold ran for all three touchdowns.  Ocean Lakes is 3-1.

Hermitage 14, Varina 2: Maurice Canady was forced into quarterback duty with Varina's quarterback suspended for quite some time.  Canady ran for 67 yards on 21 carries and was 5-for-19 passing.  Because of Canady's lack of QB experience, Varina ran only 9 different plays of the 65 in their playbook.  Hermitage is now 3-0; Varina, 2-1.

Buford 35, Lovett 7 (C.J. Moore - Buford is 6-0.)
DeMatha 27, Dunbar 19 (Michael Moore - DeMatha is 2-1.)
Malvern Prep 55, Penn Wood 7 (Michael Mooney - Malvern is 3-1.)
North Penn 28, Central Bucks South 14 (Matt Johns - CB South is 2-2.)
Montgomery 38, Stratford 7 (Kelvin Rainey - Stratford is 1-3.)
Salem 27, Green Run 13 (Mark Hall - Green Run is 1-3.)
Cox 17, Landstown 6 (Kyle Dockins - Landstown is 3-1.)

Thanks to rain delays, Hampton (Jamall Brown) and Woodside are playing as I type; it's halftime and Hampton is up 17-10.

Last weekend:

(Two of our recruits live in areas without daily newspaper coverage.  Greyson Lambert is from a pretty rural part of Georgia and Sean Karl is from Long Island.  I suppose Long Island's deal is that the New York Times and the tabloids don't condescend to bother with high school sports.  Anyway, Lambert's and Karl's results are on a one-week delay because the papers that cover them are published too late for this update.)

Anyway, after all that: Lambert had a bye last week, and Sean Karl and ESM lost to Comsewogue (making them 1-1) but I don't know the score because the only paper that has it is dickishly making you pay to read articles online.  Screw that business model, man.


Oh, and since this "weekend review" stuff is also meant to cover things that happened last week that didn't get mentioned: yes, I'm almighty surprised that the Big 12, despite also officially losing Texas A&M, continues to cling to its existence.  As a nine-member conference it is probably in fair shape, although that seems like a skinny number when everyone but the collapsing Big East has at least 12.

I wonder if the SEC will stay with 13?  The MAC has shown that it's not completely impossible to have a divisional setup with seven on one side and six on the other, but I just have a hard time imagining the SEC liking that as a long-term solution.  Even though nobody lives in the state of West Virginia, its flagship school still seems like the most likely choice to join the SEC eventually if they decide to go to 14.  They might not, though; it's not hard to imagine the SEC presidents deciding that a tortured schedule is preferable to diluting the money pool.

This conference merry-go-round was a lot more predictable it seemed like more teams would be jumping ship, but frankly now that things have "settled down" a bit it really only seems like now we're waiting for more shoes to drop.  The way things are now is untenable.  The Big East is either going to fall apart or add more schools; its football side can't survive with seven teams, and that's even assuming TCU makes it to the Big East in 2012.  The minutes from the meeting that followed the first ACC raid in 2003 are eight years old, but revealing; the big takeaway seems to be that the dynamic between the football and basketball schools is even riftier than I've been saying.  Or at least was; although I doubt much has changed.  How the Big East proceeds from here will have yet another domino effect, because it can't stay the way it is.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

blogpoll ballot, week 4

So here's what I got this week:

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

From Old Virginia Ballot - Week 5

Rank Team Delta
1 LSU Tigers --
2 Alabama Crimson Tide Arrow_up 4
3 Michigan Wolverines Arrow_up 5
4 Florida Gators Arrow_up 1
5 Oklahoma St. Cowboys Arrow_up 15
6 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_down -3
7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Arrow_up 14
8 Nebraska Cornhuskers --
9 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -7
10 Clemson Tigers Arrow_up 5
11 South Florida Bulls Arrow_down -1
12 Illinois Fighting Illini Arrow_up 1
13 Stanford Cardinal Arrow_down -6
14 Arizona St. Sun Devils --
15 Texas Longhorns Arrow_down -11
16 Boise St. Broncos Arrow_down -7
17 Virginia Tech Hokies Arrow_up 7
18 Wisconsin Badgers Arrow_down -7
19 USC Trojans --
20 Iowa St. Cyclones Arrow_down -2
21 Vanderbilt Commodores Arrow_down -7
22 Oregon Ducks Arrow_up 1
23 Penn St. Nittany Lions --
24 Houston Cougars --
25 Ohio St. Buckeyes --
Dropouts: West Virginia Mountaineers, Maryland Terrapins, Miami Hurricanes, California Golden Bears, Arkansas Razorbacks
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
So I guess the thing that needs the most explanation is Michigan at #3.  This stuff is, as you remember from last week, resume-only.  It's about what you've done, not about how good I think you'll be in the future.  I have my formula and this is what it spit out, and I do fudge for common sense afterward but I couldn't talk myself into moving any of those teams ahead of Michigan.  Maybe this is because I'm overestimating Michigan's opponents, but:

- Notre Dame looks pretty good.
- Maybe I overestimate San Diego State?  But they're 3-1, after all.
- U-M handled Western Michigan, which was thisclose to knocking off #12 Illinois.

I dunno.  It's possible I should be more impressed with slates like South Carolina's and Okie State's.  When it comes to the teams rated 3 through 6, there's definitely room for argument.

There is no room for argument at #1.  My formula gave me Alabama, but screw that.  Any voter that votes for anyone other than LSU #1 - what with wins over Oregon, West Virginia, and Mississippi State - should be ignored and then kicked in the shins.  I will brook no disagreement.

It's early and we still don't know much about the teams around the country, so there's still a ton of mushiness in this ballot.  You don't like something?  Say so.

Friday, September 23, 2011

game preview: Southern Mississippi

Date/Time: Saturday, September 24; 3:30


History against the Golden Eagles: 0-1

Last matchup: USM 37, UVA 34; 9/19/09; Hattiesburg, MS

Last week: UNC 28, UVA 17; USM 52, SE.La. 6

Line: UVA by 3

Opposing blogs: none

Injury report: N/A

Last time we played this game - hard to believe that was two years ago - I had a party to go to and stopped watching at halftime.  There was nothing to worry about, really, since UVA had a 17-point lead and Southern Miss looked like a bumbling set of fools.  However, I had written this in the game preview:

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.

The football gods did not smile.  I dutifully but reluctantly gave up on the Al Groh era after the game.  This year, nearly everything has changed; the biggest difference is that instead of telling us whether or not it's time to fire the coach (or telling me, anyway), the Southern Miss game will tell us whether or not a bowl game is in the future.

-- UVA run offense vs. USM run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 42 carries, 173 yards, 4.1 avg.
Kevin Parks: 41 carries, 249 yards, 6.1 avg.

UVA offense:
190.7 yards/game, 4.73 yards/attempt
39th of 120 (nat'l), 6th of 12 (ACC)

USM defense:
74 yards/game, 2.16 yards/attempt
11th of 120 (nat'l), 1st of 12 (C-USA)

For the second week in a row, UVA faces a run defense with some impressive rankings and stats.  I'm going to get cocky in here, though, and say that USM hasn't faced a run offense like ours.  It's deep enough into the season now that it's useful to look at the opponent's opponents, and none of them do much in the run game.

Southern Miss has a new defensive coordinator who is working on installing a 4-2-5 permanent nickel lineup.  Because of the extra defensive back, it's less useful to point out what a large percentage of the tackles have come from DBs; still, it's a large number relative to the line, which really has only one playmaker to be concerned with.  Defensive end Cordarro Law is effective against the run (and a good pass-rusher besides.)  Linebacker Jamie Collins operates on the other side; Collins also has a nose for the backfield, and plays something of a bandit position that makes the 4-2-5 resemble a 3-3-5.

With its playmakers on the edges, USM will want to flow the UVA run plays that way.  That will be fine by UVA; the run game has earned our trust in its ability to dictate terms to the defense.  North Carolina had a legitimately nasty defense, not only on paper but in the makeup of its personnel, and UVA ran more than effectively against it.  UVA ran for 170 yards and five yards a carry against the Heels; at home against a less talented defense I certainly expect that to improve, which would give UVA a huge edge in this department.

-- UVA pass offense vs. USM pass defense

Mike Rocco: 58/95, 61.1%; 652 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT; 6.86 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 13 rec., 162 yards, 0 TD
Perry Jones: 11 rec., 111 yards, 0 TD

UVA offense:
250.7 yards/game, 7.0 yards/attempt
67th of 120 (nat'l); 8th of 12 (ACC)

USM defense:
228.3 yards/game, 5.8 yards/attempt
24th of 120 (nat'l); 3rd of 12 (C-USA)

Again, the level of competition clouds our ability to make a decent judgment about USM's ability to defend things.  They've so far beaten Louisiana Tech and SE Louisiana (a lousy I-AA team) and lost to Marshall.  (The helmet picture above is inaccurate on this point.  I'm not fixing it.)  It's worth keeping an eye on the linebackers, though.  The aforementioned Jamie Collins leads the team in pass breakups, and linebacker Korey Williams has two picks.

USM has five picks on the season, which ties them for ninth in the country, so: not bad.  But they have those five starting defensive backs, and none of them have intercepted anything.  This presents a little bit of a dilemma for Bill Lazor; he's preferred to call routes mostly under 10 yards, which runs them right into the teeth of where Southern Miss is strongest in pass defense.  I've already called for a big edge in the run game; this is where I'd like to see a solid dose of play-action to get some of those linebackers out of the equation and isolate our outside receivers on USM's secondary.  Starting DB Deron Wilson is second on the team in tackles and led Southern Miss in INTs last year with just three; that's an equation that suggests the defensive backs can be taken advantage of.

You do have to watch out for Cordarro Law on the pass rush.  USM has been relatively successful here and this defense (more of a 3-3-5 in practice) can, if it wants to, present some odd looks on the pass rush.  (I say "if it wants to" because I watched Greg Robinson operate Michigan in a 3-3-5 the last two years and never rush more than three.  This was frustrating.)  Law will present a tough matchup for the offensive tackles; the rest of the line will have to watch for goofy blitz packages.

Prediction for this segment of the game is that Mike Rocco gets at least 13 yards per completion this week.  His average is a little over 11; 13 would represent an opening up of the passing game, which I think will be the recipe for success.

-- USM run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Kendrick Hardy: 37 carries, 221 yards, 6.0 avg.
Jamal Woodyard: 26 carries, 153 yards, 5.9 avg.

USM offense:
187.67 yards/game, 4.73 yards/attempt
39th of 120 (nat'l), 3rd of 12 (C-USA)

UVA defense:
139.33 yards/game, 4.10 yards/attempt
71st of 120 (nat'l), 8th of 12 (ACC)

This is where Southern Miss will draw most of their optimism.  Desmond Johnson went down with an injury in the first game of the season, and it was something of a blessing in disguise because his replacements have been improvements on his production.

Southern Miss has a big, veteran offensive line - and a Morgan Moses equivalent in 333-pound left tackle Lamar Holmes - that will test UVA's run defense.  Early-season returns on the run defense have shown a decent improvement in the middle, but a constant inability to defend the edges.  It's true that most of those gaudy-looking stats are the result of the SE Louisiana game; still, Kendrick Hardy and Jamal Woodyard are exactly the type of back UVA has trouble containing.

Woodyard, especially, will be a handful.  He's small but built, similar to Kevin Parks, but shiftier.  He looks like the kind of guy that will kill overaggressive defenders.  I think Woodyard has a big game.  Probably runs for at least 100 yards, and it would be more but the Southern Miss offense tends to feature Hardy.  Still: tailor-made to frustrate UVA fans.  Until the UVA defense shows us something outside the hashmarks, you have to give the edge to the offense here, as they've shown themselves beyond capable of carving up bad run defenses.

-- USM pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Austin Davis: 62/109, 56.9%; 678 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT; 6.22 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Ryan Balentine: 12 rec., 141 yards, 0 TD
Tracy Lampley: 12 rec., 125 yards, 0 TD

USM offense:
226 yards/game, 6.2 yards/attempt
89th of 120 (nat'l), 7th of 12 (C-USA)

UVA defense:
157 yards/game, 5.4 yards/attempt
13th of 120 (nat'l), 2nd of 12 (ACC)

There's something of a mystery here; Austin Davis is a senior quarterback that had an excellent year last year: over 3,000 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and just six INTs.  So why is his completion percentage down six points, and why has he already thrown four picks?

I dunno, man.  But Southern Miss's pass offense hasn't been completely functional.  Davis is throwing for just over 10 yards a completion, which is a small number, and not only that but the line has been a little bit porous.  Southern Miss has given up seven sacks this year.  Last year they leaned heavily on the tight end, all Al Groh-style; this year, tight ends have accounted for exactly one catch.

A really bad game against Marshall accounts for three of those four picks.  Davis broke Brett Favre's school yardage record in that game, so it was only fitting he threw a bunch of interceptions, too.  Still, there's some danger here.  Francisco Llanos got free on a deep post route for a 90-yard touchdown in the same game; this is pretty much the only truly big play the pass game has generated all year.

I wouldn't discount the abilities of Davis, but the UVA pass defense has been stout even without much of a pass rush.  This week, I expect it to be stout with a pass rush.  Cam Johnson will likely work on that big tackle of theirs, and Johnson's speed and athleticism will give him the breakout game we've been waiting for.  Look for multiple sacks out of Cam and a frustrating day for Davis, who won't complete more than 55% of his passes.


I expect both teams to want to run the ball and both teams to do it well.  UVA's defense hasn't shown it can stop a decent run game, but the offense hasn't shown it can be stopped.  The difference will be in the air.  So far, neither team has shown a tremendous willingness to look deep in the passing game, mostly preferring to operate short and methodical.  This is the game for Bill Lazor to change that.  I think UVA can and should find some success in a more open field, especially if they're able to run some decent play-action.  UVA's defense will struggle against the run as usual, but as the game moves on and (hopefully) UVA establishes a lead, things won't look as good for Southern Miss when they are forced to move through the air.  This is still probably the most difficult OOC matchup, near-collapse against Indiana notwithstanding, but UVA is still the more talented team.

Prediction summary:

(Fewer predictions this week because Southern Miss is a bigger mystery than the other teams we've faced.  Tough to feel them out because of the competition they've gone against, and they're not ACC so I haven't exactly studied them.)

- UVA runs for more than 170 yards and more than five yards per carry, which were the numbers against UNC.
- Mike Rocco averages better than 13 yards per completion.
- Jamal Woodyard carries for more than 100 yards.
- Cam Johnson picks up at least two sacks.
- Austin Davis's completion percentage is held to less than 55%.

Final score: UVA 31, USM 20.

Rest of the ACC:

Cincinnati 44, NC State 14 (Thu.) (WTF, Wolfies?)
North Carolina @ Georgia Tech - 12:00
Maryland vs. Temple - 12:30
Boston College vs. Massachusetts - 1:00
Virginia Tech @ Marshall - 3:30
Florida State @ Clemson - 3:30
Duke vs. Tulane - 3:30
Miami vs. Kansas State - 3:30

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the recruit: Teven Jones

Name: Teven Jones
Position: PG
Hometown: Waynesboro (originally Kannapolis, NC)
School: Fishburne Military Academy
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180

24/7: N/A
Rivals: N/A
Scout: N/A

Other offers: none(?)

To start off with, let's not mince words: Tony Bennett had an A-list of desired point guards for the 2012 class and missed out on all of them.  A 2012 point guard was not optional, though.  Sammy Zeglinski is a senior and without a point guard in the 2012 class, Jontel Evans would've been the only one on the roster.  And he'll be a senior when Teven Jones is a freshman.  "I wonder if Malcolm Brogdon can play a little point" is not a succession plan.

So Bennett had to start digging.  Not being retarded, he'd been keeping his eye on backup plans over the summer and spotted Jones in an AAU tournament.  Bennett wasn't the only one; at least one other ACC school, that being Clemson, was telling Jones they'd be watching.

Watching, specifically, Jones play at Fishburne during the winter.  Jones was a two-sport star in high school, and could've played football at a pretty high level.  He amassed over 1,000 receiving yards his senior year.  Jones prefers basketball, though, and without the kind of offers he was hoping for, he decided to prep a year to see if he couldn't raise his exposure level a little.

The plan worked, as he landed in the ACC without even playing a minute for Fishburne.  Bennett offered Jones based on his workouts, and Jones accepted quickly.  Was Bennett the only one?  Jones's recruiting profiles on the various websites don't list a single other offer; then again, those profiles didn't even exist until Jones's commitment, so far under the radar did he fly.  Jones's coach at Fishburne claims he was also offered by other ACC programs as well as Missouri Valley ones (that would potentially be schools like Creighton, Wichita State, Southern Illinois, what have you.)  Nobody's being specific though, so there isn't much to go on.

Said coach claims he will "put [Jones] against any of the top-ten point guards nationally"; an anonymous (why?) source in the same article calls him "a combination of Sammy [Zeglinski] and Jontel [Evans] almost."  By this he means "a tough defender who can shoot," by the way, not "a lousy off-ball defender with a history of injury problems."

To be honest, though, I've never put much, if any, stock in praise from high school coaches, because they're often in selling mode and never, ever going to publicize their players' weaknesses.  We're talking about the 1% of players who are going to play in college, so they're always high school superstars.  Another scouting report comes from a former Fishburne assistant that characterizes Jones as a solid defender who has several tools in his scoring toolbox, but needs to work on his decison-making.  Ominous-sounding for UVA fans that still twitch uncontrollably when remembering last year's ACC tournament game against Miami and the crying need for halfway decent decision-making it exposed; in Jones's defense, he was more of a shooting guard in high school at A.L. Brown in Kannapolis.  This is part of the reason he didn't have any offers; 6'1" shooting guards don't project well.

A year of prep work should be just the thing, though.  Playing at Fishburne isn't exactly ACC-level play but it's better than your average high school league.  When Jones enters UVA in 2012, it's natural to expect that he'll be asked to back up Jontel Evans right away.  Ideally he can handle that job because there's not actually a plethora of 2's on the roster; if Brogdon is forced into point guard work, that'd be a less than ideal rotation.  It'll be a challenge and there will definitely be rough spots, though; first-year point guards in the ACC are always overwhelmed at times.  Whether Jones ever holds down the starting spot at UVA is kind of a question, since a 2013 point guard is a colossal priority and Bennett is devoting most of his free time to landing one.  Assuming he gets a good one, that future recruit may work his way past Jones.  Even so, that might be totally irrelevant.  Point guard situation being what it is, this is as likely as not to turn out to be one of those starter-is-just-a-label things.  It seems to me that in the end, Teven Jones will rarely lack for playing time at UVA.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

what do you bring to the table?

Alright, n00bs.  Now that you're here, or officially will be soon, it's time to find out what a 14-team ACC will look like.  What do Syracuse and Pittsburgh bring to the conference, and how will their presence change our ever-so-traditional (and by traditional I mean six years old) ways?

Let's start with academics, albeit only briefly.  The USNWR rankings, as usual, seem to be the best (or at least, the quickest) way to gauge a school's academic prowess, so here are the ACC schools from top to bottom, with the newcomers italicized:

#10 Duke
#25 Virginia
#25 Wake Forest
#29 North Carolina
#31 Boston College
#36 Georgia Tech
#38 Miami
#55 Maryland
#58 Pittsburgh
#62 Syracuse
#68 Clemson
#71 Virginia Tech
#101 Florida State
#101 NC State

As you can see, they fit in reasonably well.  Truthfully, they're about as highly ranked as we could reasonably expect a new addition to be ranked; we're not adding Michigan and we're not adding Princeton, so there you go.  FWIW, if the ACC took the next step of adding UConn and Rutgers, the former is tied with Pitt and the latter with Clemson.  The new schools aren't so hot that they can make Maryland look like a coloring-book school, but they're not academic anchors, either.

This is not a blog that follows the exploits of chemistry professors and med schools, however.  We are all about footbaw and lax brahs and jock stuff.  Specifically, around here, we care mostly about football, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse, and the other stuff when there's time.  So let's see how the newcomers change the conference, and what their effect is on UVA, and maybe a little primer on the history of each while we're at it.


OK, let's start with the question on which everyone has a special idea to share: divisional realignment.  Well, everyone but the major players.  Frankly, I'm quite sure they've basically punted this issue and will leave it to some future discussion between ADs and such.

The simplest thing is to stick with the current alignment and split the newcomers.  Pittsburgh has the better recent history of football than Syracuse, and the Coastal is generally (but not universally) considered the stronger division, so the easy thing is to stick Pitt in the Atlantic and Cuse in the Coastal and be done with it.  Still, it might be two years before the newbies show up, and the balance of power is a swinging pendulum rather than a stuck balance scale, so who knows?

The ACC may take the opportunity to realign, and if they do I'm not even going to bother guessing how that might go, if it stays at 14.  At 16, the basic ideas might be these:

-- Realign again based on current strengths, the way they did originally.

-- Just drop newcomers into existing divisions as they join.

-- North-South.

-- Old ACC and New ACC.  (The Big Easters plus FSU, and the rest of us traditional members.)

-- A pod system of four groups of four, which, there are so many myriad ways this could be split up that I have no interest in trying to guess without knowing the motivations of the various schools.

The appeal of the Old/New division is that old rivalries could be easily maintained.  FSU could play Miami, BC and Cuse and UConn could all play each other, the old ACC schools would get to feel like we're back in the ACC of the '80s again.  This is a tempting thought.

But the leadership might not want to risk the perception that this conference is really two conferences mashed into one.  North-South would be an easy geographical split, with one caveat: UVA fans would hate this.  (Probably Maryland fans too.)  We'd be robbed of the vast majority of our traditional games except for on a semi-regular basis.  Set it up that way and we'd feel like we might as well have split from the ACC and joined the Big East in 2005 instead of the Big East joining us.  Plus we'd lose access to a lot of happy hunting grounds when we try and recruit the South.

Competition-wise, though, there might be a silver lining to this idea: the northern wing of the hypothetical 16-team ACC kind of sucks ass at football.  Rutgers is backsliding back to their horrendous ways, BC is taking big steps back under Spaziani, Cuse is still recovering from the Greg Robinson era, UConn's never been real hot shit, etc.  I submit to you the path to the ACCCG would be much easier in the Northern Division of a hypothetical 16-team conference.

But that is for another day, because now we're dealing with a 14-teamer and no UConn and no Rutgers.  So: Pittsburgh.  They are better at football than Syracuse.  Pitt is 38-25 in the last five years; Syracuse is 21-40, though that includes most of the laughable Greg Robinson era.  Going forward, Doug Marrone will have them playing more competitively; still, this season's early results do not lend much confidence to the prospects of either team.

What we basically have, then, are two teams that neither embarrass the conference nor threaten it.  Both have fine traditions: Pitt is the school of Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett, Syracuse gave us Jim Brown.  Both have stadium situations that piss me off.  College football should never be played in a dome (Syracuse) and never be played in an NFL stadium (Pittsburgh) unless it is a bowl game.  Neither will have natural rivals in the conference; Pitt plays the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, and Syracuse, if they have a natural rival at all, it is probably Connecticut.  (There's a reason that one UConn alum was so all-fired pissed off about hiring Paul Pasqualoni.)  Their biggest ACC rivalry will basically be each other.  This is partly why it makes so much sense just to drop them into the existing divisions without shaking things up; they can just be each other's protected rival.

Speaking of which, the ACC will have to shake up the schedule rotation, of course.  Having 14 teams in the conference is just one more good reason to play nine conference games.  I've never liked waiting four years (three season) between games against old traditional opponents, but that'll now only get worse if the ACC decides to keep the eight game schedule.  Much worse, as we'll play six against the division, one protected rivalry, and only one game against anyone else.  Yeah, six years between games.  Ironically, 16 teams in the conference would actually really alleviate this problem, if the pod system was used.

As for the effect on UVA, well, we already have a sizable overlap with Pittsburgh's recruiting territory.  Anyone who remembers Cam Saddler is shaking their head sadly right about now.  Anyone who remembers James Robinson (c'mon, it wasn't that long ago) is shaking their fist.  Most recruits we offer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also have a Pittsburgh offer.  Pitt doesn't hardly venture into Virginia much, preferring Ohio, but you can probably assume that any new entry into the conference will want to slip a foot in the door in the Commonwealth.  The flip side of course is that we will be playing the occasional game in Pennsylvania, which is a place we like to recruit.  There's less overlap with Syracuse, which is situated in the exact opposite of fertile football recruiting grounds and thus basically spreads their efforts around in just about every state east of the Mississippi.

Bottom line for football is that the casual fan won't notice much difference except for fewer games against the teams the casual fan is used to seeing.  You remember where on the academic pecking order the newcomers fell; the same is basically true for football, just rearrange the schools.  If UVA is going to become a conference power under Mike London, Cuse and Pitt won't stop us.  If not, well, it's not more teams to beat us, just different ones.


The Big East has a lot of basketball powerhouses; the ACC just pirated two of them.  Fans complained that the mid-2000s expansion watered down basketball in the ACC.  If they mean that we don't get to play our traditional opponents as much, well, they're not gonna be happy about this, either.  If they mean that the ACC only had football in mind and added crap hoops schools, then this oughta fix things a little.

Granted, it is something of a shame that we can't go back to the double-round-robin we enjoyed before the ACC started gobbling up the Big East.  It's all water under the bridge now, though, and having two more schools takes us closer to a single round robin instead, which is what the 16-team Big East was almost doing.  (If you ask me, the way to go, if we end up at 16, is to play a single round robin with one protected rivalry.  That way the ACC can still have their double dose of Duke/UNC, we can play Maryland twice, and the schedule stays simple and equitable.  But I digress.)

Anyway.  These two schools play some quality basketball, and their addition tilts the balance back toward the ACC after the Big East had been usurping it somewhat with their 16-team hugeness.  Pittsburgh missed out on the '70s and '90s, but hasn't missed the tourney since 2002.  And in this 10-year run, seven of those years have seen them at a 3 seed or better, and two 1 seeds in the last three years.  They haven't played up to expectations in the tournament, though: only once in those ten years have they advanced past the Sweet 16, and haven't played in the Final Four since 1941 when the tourney was only eight teams.  Jamie Dixon's squad is gaining a reputation as regular season warriors and tournament folders.  Still, they're formidable for three and a half months, and recruiting against them is gonna be a pain; witness James Robinson.

Cuse, of course, has that national title in 2003 and much steadier success through their history, though they've dropped to the NIT a few times in the past decade too.  Doesn't matter.  Both bring huge names to the conference and a ton of competition.

This sounds bad for UVA (or any individual team not named Duke or UNC) but consider it this way: The ACC has always been the kind of conference where if you can simply manage 8-8 and take care of business in the OOC (against decent competition, Seth) then you will go to the tournament.  Will it be harder to get to 8-8?  Sure, maybe, but maybe not if a game with Duke is replaced by a game with Syracuse.  Not much difference.  Yes, it will be harder to finish at the top of the conference, but the threshold for a tournament berth probably doesn't change much.

As for the conference tournament, expect it to also expand.  The 3 and 4 seeds can say goodbye to their first-round byes, but they'll get the 13th and 14th teams so whatever.  But everyone plays, and that won't change now.  If we go to 16 I'd like to copy the Big East model, which is not a straight bracket but offers the top four teams two byes.  And John Swofford has been talking about putting it in Madison Square Garden, which may or may not be a great thing.  I don't think the Tobacco Roadies will like that very much, but then again most of the rest of the conference wants less Tobacco Road influence, so that'd be a step in that direction.


If you need me to explain to you about Syracuse lacrosse, first I must tell you this: Lacrosse is a game played between two teams of nine players each, plus a goalie.  The players carry the ball around in nets on the end of their sticks and try to score goals such as in hockey.

Adding Syracuse to the ACC, obviously, makes the ACC ridiculous.  It was already a conference that contained half of the NCAA's lacrosse royalty; this would be like if there was a basketball conference with Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and UCLA, and that conference added Duke.  I'd almost like to break with ACC tradition (the one about no sport-specific membership) and see if Johns Hopkins wants to give up its independence to turn a super-conference into a super-super-conference.

Never mind that, though.  I'll tell you why adding Syracuse to the ACC is absolutely delightful for Virginia.  It's because we already play Syracuse every year, so our schedule won't change one bit, and better yet, we're the only ACC team that does.  Maryland, Duke, and UNC are going to have to start playing the Cuse themselves, which can do nothing but hinder them.  (Partly why I'd also like to add Hopkins; we also play them on the regular, and Duke doesn't.)  Plus, obviously, Syracuse will have to play the ACC schedule, and will have to make some tough decisions about who to keep playing (Cornell) and who to stop playing.

The ACC tourney will be a new experience.  One option might be to play a play-in a week before the tournament between the #4 and #5 teams, but the realities of scheduling will make that tough.  Most likely, someone gets left out and the tourney stays at four, which makes the regular season incredibly important instead of a mere prelude.  The 5th-place team likely won't make the NCAAs, because they won't get the boost of playing in the RPI-fest that is the ACC tournament, and they'll have a lot of losses besides.  The plus side is that it eliminates those silly situations where three teams are 2-1 and one is 0-3, or one is 3-0 and three are 1-2.

Pittsburgh has no lax team.


Very little to talk about here.  Syracuse disbanded their team in 1972, and Pitt finished third in the Big East this past year behind UConn and St. John's.  This makes them no threat to upset the balance of power in the ACC.  The top of the conference - UVA, FSU, UNC, GT, etc. - will continue on as before.  Pitt's presence will be another obstacle for the really low-level teams like Maryland and Duke, but all in all they're probably going to be a losing team in the ACC.  Their RPI ranking was one notch above 17-33 Boston College in 2011, FWIW.

The big question is really going to be the scheduling implications of having 13 teams in the conference.  Folks are gonna have to get awfully creative.

Other Stuff Because There's Time

-- Both teams suck at soccer pretty heftily. Men's and women's.

-- Syracuse is actually pretty good at field hockey, if not all the way up to the level of the best ACC teams.  Pitt doesn't play.

-- Women's lax is obviously a thing at Syracuse, but unlike the men's sport, they are good, not great.  Pitt doesn't play.

-- Pitt's women's hoops team is kinda crappy; they got their first NCAA bid in 2007 and went to the Sweet Sixteen twice since then, but didn't get to the postseason last year.  Cuse's is WNIT-level, mainly.

-- Pitt's swim teams aren't going to give UVA a tough time at the ACC championships; Syracuse doesn't have any.

And lastly, Director's Cup-wise, both Syracuse and Pitt would've been bottom of the barrel in the ACC this past season; of the current ACC teams, only BC and Wake finished below Syracuse (and just barely), and Pitt was way down the list, tied with Albany and Illinois State for 123rd.  The revenue boost in going from Big East to ACC should help with that, though.

Monday, September 19, 2011

weekend review

Well, all the excitement over ACC expansion pretty much pre-empted any thoughts I had on the UNC game.  Here's the summary: I don't think it was as bad as it felt at times.  I think I just watched UNC run another end-around for sixteen yards about ten minutes ago, so that wasn't too exciting.  But other than having a few holes exposed in the defense, that game was a few badly executed plays away from being a near-even battle.  In the end the better team executed and UVA did not, but there are a lot of signs of progress.  The easiest one to spot: Last year we lost at home by 34; this year we lost on the road by 11.  I'll try to sneak in a few more observations as I run down the prediction summary.

-- UVA's three top running backs will split the carries about evenly.
We're getting to that point, I think, but a little more slowly than I was thinking.  Not a true prediction since Kevin Parks got almost half the running back carries, but Clifton Richardson is slowly catching up anyway.

-- None will go over 60 yards rushing.

The running game was impressively productive, with the RBs getting almost six yards a carry.  Parks busted the prediction by going for 98.  This bodes very well for the future.

-- The running game will include a lot of plays that are technically passes, like screens and shovel passes.
No shovel passes.  But.  The running backs accounted for 29 actual carries and six receptions, and Lazor also tried out Dominique Terrell and Jeremiah Mathis on screens.  I'm giving myself this one.  Halfheartedly, but I'm doing it.

-- At least three players have four receptions each.

Yes (Kris Burd, Matt Snyder, and Perry Jones), and what's more the spirit of this prediction was basically that Lazor was going to have Rocco spread the ball around a ton, more so than in previous games.  10 players had at least one catch.  This one worked out.

This is where I mention, by the way, that Matt Snyder was immensely disappointing and has been all season now.  The dropsies are getting too much to ignore.  The one that sticks in my gut is the one from David Watford's first-half drive; Watford was putting together a nice one and, on 3rd and 3, hit Snyder with a perfect strike for a first down.  Which Snyder dropped.  Watford then missed a wide-open Terrell badly on fourth down.  I have a hard time faulting Watford for the failed drive because it should never have been fourth down.  When your true freshman quarterback makes a great play and your senior captain lets him down by dropping the ball, that is really disappointing to watch.  Snyder must improve or be passed over by Tim Smith and the wondertwins.

-- The tight ends finally get involved, with at least one having multiple catches.

But....they didn't spread things around enough to make this one work, as Paul Freedman and Mathis only had one reception each.

-- Rocco finally throws a damn touchdown pass.

Yes, although it was sort of a run-game throw, with Max Milien being the target and then doing most of the work to the tune of 41 yards.  This is partly why I gave myself the one about runs that are technically passes.

-- UNC's running backs have rushing statistics similar to last year's game: a roughly even split of carries and about four yards average per carry.

Giovani Bernard went completely apeshit and Ryan Houston was bottled up.  So, not only no but hell no.  I envisioned better but Bernard just killed the Hoos on the edges.

-- Erik Highsmith has a big day working against Demetrious Nicholson.

He didn't.  Nicholson's day was even more up-and-down than the first two games but Highsmith didn't own his face all day like I was afraid of.

-- Bryn Renner has at least as many TD throws as picks.

No picks at all, actually, which was disappointing to say the least.  Renner was as efficient as I thought he'd be.  Yes on this one.

-- At most two catches go to someone other than UNC's big four of Jones, Highsmith, Houston, and Bernard.

Yes on this one too; Houston had no receptions but the other three accounted for 14 of Renner's 16 completions; the other two were catches by Jheranie Boyd.

Five for ten on the predictions, plus I damn near got the score exactly right (28-17 instead of 30-17.)  Season total is 12 for 26, plus 2-1 against the spread and 3-0 straight up.


A small recruiting board update precipitated by a big commitment today: Canaan Severin chose UVA over (ultimately) Penn State and Boston College.  Huge pickup; Severin's a highly-rated talent with the offers to match, of course, but here's the main significance: This is the second time this year Mike London and staff have gone outside the recruiting home base of Virginia and Maryland, gone head-to-head with power programs for a highly touted prospect, and won.  (Greyson Lambert was the first.)  Outside the mid-Atlantic, even; we're used to winning battles in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the like, but Severin is from New England and Lambert is from nowhere if not the Deep South.  For London to give UVA cachet enough to win battles on the visitor's territory is excellent progress.

Anyway, the recruiting board sees Severin moved from blue to orange, and FB Nathan Staub added to blue.  Nothing major.  Lambert will enroll early, so the class can fit 26 guys; and what do you know, 26 is the number of names currently in orange.  But we're not quite done.  Almost, but not quite; Kevin Green is only still there as a formality and you have to expect a prep year for one or two of these guys.  The door isn't closed yet, but I'd guess there are only maybe five guys, at the very most, that the staff is still recruiting for 2012.


Next part of any good weekend review is the Senior Seasons section, in which we catch up with the verbal commitments of 2012 as they make their way through their last high school seasons.

Victory Christian 26, Florida Air 17: Demeitre Brim returned to action from a broken jaw.  He's Victory's quarterback; Victory is now 1-2.

Franklin 49, Hillsborough 20: Kye Morgan ran for 148 yards and a touchdown in the win to even Franklin's record at 1-1.

Central Bucks South 49, Norristown 9: Matt Johns didn't have to do very much, throwing for just 53 yards in a mismatch.  CB South is 2-1.

Landstown 48, Princess Anne 0: Kyle Dockins had four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.  Landstown is 3-0.)

Norfolk Christian 28, Nansemond-Suffolk 21: NCS was down 21-0 and scored four unanswered touchdowns to win, the game-winner being caught by Wil Wahee.  Wahee had 122 receiving yards, Mario Nixon had 125, and each caught six passes.  NCS is 2-2.

Bayside 26, Ocean Lakes 21: Anthony Cooper had five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown - a "magnificent over-the-shoulder catch" according to the Virginian-Pilot.  Eli Harold had eight catches for 82 yards and would've had a 94-yard touchdown of his own if the play hadn't been negated by a holding call.  Both teams are now 2-1.

Varina 17, Thomas Dale 10: Maurice Canady ran four times for 17 yards and caught one pass for minus-3.  Varina is 2-0.

Buford 49, Therrell 0 (C.J. Moore; Buford is 5-0.)
St. Joseph 52, Middle Township 0 (Max Valles; St. Joseph is 2-0.)
Malvern Prep 27, Archbishop Carroll (DC) 17 (Michael Mooney; Malvern is 2-1.)
Bethel 20, Hampton 0 (Jamall Brown; Hampton is 2-1.)
First Colonial 27, Green Run 20 (Mark Hall; Green Run is 1-2.)
Hermitage 37, Glen Allen 7 (Andre Miles-Redmond; Hermitage is 2-0.)

Canaan Severin committed just in time to get in on this action, except that his season doesn't actually start til next week.

Another note: Some of these papers that I get this news from only go to press like once or twice a week, and not on Monday, which means I see a few results a week late.  Sean Karl's ESM squad won their opener in a blowout last weekend, and Greyson Lambert also won.  The latter had a bye this weekend; the former, I have no idea what happened.  Might have to create a separate week-old category.  Lambert's stats last weekend were impressive: 12 of 16 for 249 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-12 win.

Well, now I bet you're just dying to hear about what the ACC's newcomers will bring to the league in its various sports.  And you will.  Tomorrow.  Teven Jones was slated for tomorrow but he is now bumped to Wednesday.  I leave you with this: the inevitable discussion between the two dying football conferences about a merger to potentially save their BCS slot.  Hmmm: a football conference with the following teams:

Kansas State
Iowa State
South Florida
West Virginia

Except not all of them; either Missouri or WVU is probably headed to the SEC and I think eventually UConn and Rutgers are ACC-bound.  So lop off the bottom three in your mind.

It would suck for Louisville, Cincy, and USF, but I still think the Big 12's best course of action is to seek a merger with the MWC instead.  A Big East/Big 12 merger is geographically bizarre and looks more like a holding pen for future Big Ten raids than an actual conference.