Tuesday, November 30, 2010

minny-haha, or, a hoopstravaganza

I keep saying I'll get around to basketball and now that football season is over, I can do that in spades. Seven games into the season, the team is 4-3, with horrific games, beautiful games, games that were both, and already a significant injury. In other words, Virginia Basketball is back.

With six freshmen, five of whom play, and a string of upperclassmen most of whom have glaring weaknesses, I warned you to expect "a lot of facepalm basketball, plenty of inconsistency, and a couple blowout losses." And because there's legitimate ACC talent, the year should also provide a couple wins for Tony Bennett to hang his hat on.

So in that sense, the first seven games have been a perfect microcosm of the season so far. The team looked awful against Stanford and Washington, providing us with a glimpse of what things look like when they turn the ball over. They looked great in a stretch against Wichita State and for a longer stretch against Minnesota, showing us what happens when they don't. And hey, it's gonna be awfully hard to repeat the 10-for-13 3-point showing against Minnesota, but then again it's about time our own shots started falling like that because somehow our opponents - Washington especially - never seemed to miss a shot either. Some folks seem to think that's because of Bennett's pack-line defense having a weakness against threes, and maybe it does if you don't play it right. But if a properly executed pack-line caused opponents to shoot above 50% from three-land, Tony Bennett would be an assistant coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, not a head coach in the ACC with Sweet 16 experience.


Lessons learned so far, bulletized:

- The offense can execute very well if you let them, but aggressive man defense, especially if you hound the ball, causes us to commit inordinate amounts of turnovers. Stanford fans will fall in love with that scrappy little punk Aaron Bright over the next four years, because he's lightning-quick, junkyard-dog-nasty on the ball, and when he creates a steal (which is often) it always results in fast-break points because he can shoot and pass. If your team has an Aaron Bright, or a Jontel Evans, or someone who can close off passing lanes outside the arc, you'll murder UVA. (Al Nolen is that type of player and probably would have swung the Minny game their way.) If not, we got a chance.

- This team is wildly overmatched against legitimate contenders, but should be able to handle mid-majors and the dregs of BCS conferences, and at least compete most nights against fringe tournament teams.

- The size disadvantage in the middle is about as bad as we thought it'd be. "The ACC is all about guard play" is the mantra, but that's because everyone has guard play - the middle (especially big-man defense) is what separates contenders from pretenders.

- The execution is better than last year. The combination of players with an extra year in the system and players that are starting fresh without prehammered notions has ensured that.

- Except when the aforementioned aggressiveness on defense comes into play. Then it falls apart like a Jenga tower.


Here are way-too-early impressions of each player so far:

Jontel Evans: Doing about what he's expected to. He's played consistently heavy minutes, and his shooting is better. The team's results are a lot better when he doesn't turn the ball over; he's got to cut that down a little, but his numbers there aren't too much of a liability. Without doubt, Evans has become one of the key building blocks. Needs to improve free-throw shooting; a guard can't be below .600.

Mustapha Farrakhan: The early part of the year has been classic Mu. Against UW he shot 1-for-8 and missed all four from behind the arc. After a solid 5-of-7 performance against Oklahoma, he tried his personal best to lose the Wichita State game with no points, no assists, three turnovers, and four fouls. It was sometime in the middle of that game I decided I knew who'd be giving up his minutes when Sammy gets back. Then he plays like the whole Minny game and explodes. How's this sound: 23 points on 8/14 and 4/5 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 foul.

I mean wut? Who does that? Whenever anyone asks me about Mustapha Farrakhan I will point to those two games. That's his career in a nutshell. Mu is like some unpredictable Warcraft goblin creature that you'd never deploy if you had better options because he's as likely to demolish your own forces as the enemy's. But he will demolish something. I still think it's his minutes that are most likely to be cut into when Sammy gets back.

Will Regan: Hasn't been used much. His minutes have been entirely the mid-first-half kind when you're trying to get a guy quality minutes but you don't want the situation to be all that critical. Hasn't been real effective in that time, either.

Assane Sene: Man, if we could get him scrapping for loose balls and rebounds all the time the way he was against Minny that would do wonders for our defense. Honestly, he hasn't played especially well all year - minutes are steady, rebounds are down, fouls are up - but he was absolutely crucial to winning that Minnesota game. It's not like we have nobody to play center, it's just that our biggest guy has hands of granite. But they had a way of finding the ball yesterday. More of that and we may just be able to stop other teams from scoring in the paint whenever they feel like it.

One thing he's improved drastically: free throws. That's another thing that could be huge. A big man like him should get to shoot plenty of free throws. He hit them with regularity before the Minny game and then got to shoot eight against the Gophers and made most of them. He's already hit more free throws than he made all of last year.

Joe Harris: Wherever this guy came from, I'd like a few more plz. So far the absolute ballin'est member of the freshman class. His drive to the hoop is a pleasant surprise, his shot is as good as advertised, and he rebounds. Only complaint: he's a big culprit in the turnover department. Too many for a guy who's not a distributor. Otherwise, he's been the team's second-best player, easy....

Billy Baron: ....which is what we all thought we'd be saying about this guy instead, the way he played against William & Mary. Since the first two games he's fallen right off the radar and is another candidate to lose his minutes to Zeglinski. He hasn't been a liability, except for the shots he's missed, but he hasn't brought much to the table either, and since the Upstart game, he can't find the bucket. Zero points in each of the last two. Way, way too early to write him off, even for just this season, but I think Bennett expects more out of him and will find a way to get it.

Will Sherrill: He looks stronger this year. And he had a very good Maui tournament and was having a great game against Minnesota, up until the scary-looking injury. That injury could have some nasty long-term ripple effects because nobody knows Bennett's system like Sherrill. Unfortunately I don't think he'll be back for at least a month, maybe two, if he's not out for the entire season. Just a feeling I have. Best-case scenario is that Regan and Akil Mitchell can absorb his minutes, with Sene playing a little more as well. We'll see what happens against VT on Sunday, but I can't say I like the Sherrill-less near future very much.

Mike Scott: Simply outstanding. Little bit of an off-game against Stanford, but I can't give much higher praise than to say he's been every bit the senior captain and leader he needed to be. Three double-doubles in a row in three important games, and the and-1 he converted at the end of the Minnesota game was the biggest play of the game.

KT Harrell: Little bit of an X-factor, except that he's had his good games in losses and kind of faded out in the wins. Still, I haven't been able to shake the idea that when Harrell is playing well, the team is better. He's also been one of the team's better backcourt defenders. He and Sene are probably the two players for whom improvement in certain areas and consistency would bring the most benefit to the team.

Akil Mitchell: Argh. I think it's been evident why he was considered the most likely redshirt candidate. Not much in the way of consistent minutes and he looks lost when he gets them. Especially in the disastrous two-minute sequence against Wichita State that culminated in the world's ugliest and most obvious traveling call, since which point he hasn't come unglued from the bench. Sherrill's injury may force Bennett to make a painful choice between more minutes for Mitchell or taking the redshirt off James Johnson, but Johnson doesn't really play the same position as Sherrill and Mitchell, so the ball's in Mitchell's court somewhat.


Questions for the future:

- Who will replace Sherrill in the lineup? As I said, ideally some combination of Regan and Mitchell (actually, ideally they'll tell us Sherrill just had a nasty bruise and will be good to go Sunday, but no), but I think mainly we'll see Regan with a few extra minutes per game, and more of Assane Sene. It'll be hard to give Scott more minutes than he's getting, but he'll get a few too. I doubt Johnson's redshirt comes off unless as a last resort - i.e., someone else gets hurt too.

- Who does Sammy replace in the lineup? Baron's minutes have already come down probably as far as they're going to, unless he regresses even further. He probably won't, so the minutes are going to steady up. Mu's maddening habit of either exploding or taking a dump on the court means he'll probably be the primary victim of Sammy's return. He's already been bumped from the starting lineup.

- How about the rest of the schedule? I'm a lot more confident about the rest of the so-called 50/50 games (ISU, LSU, Oregon) than I was before - call 'em 65/35 games now - and of course the tomato cans are still the tomato cans. And a lot of the rest of the ACC has given us plenty of cause to be confident too. KenPom's projection is 15-15, 5-11, and that seems fair enough, but on the low end.

i'm an idiot

OK, this week's poll study results are up. A day late due to Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The usual etc. etc.

There is one major, important change to the numbers over the whole poll. It's like this. The first week I did this, one of the voters' ballots wasn't listed - either he forgot to send it in, or there was a glitch, or whatever. So I averaged by 59 instead of 60. The problem is, I've been doing that the whole time. When I wrote the formula to weight the regional averages, I remembered to add the extra ballot to the SEC total but not the overall total, so all the averages in the "total" column were too high. Overall gist: bias looked stronger than it really was.

It was a quick fix, but it changed the numbers around a bit and on top of that it's bloody embarrassing. Won't affect things much going forward, though, except that if you were hoping for evidence of regional bias, it's a lot less likely to occur.

Monday, November 29, 2010

weekend review

The end of the football season means the end of this post as a regular thing, but it'll still go up every now and again when needed. To do things differently just for the sake of it, we'll start with the recruits and their playoff exploits:

Hermitage 17, L.C. Bird 14: Anthony Harris got Bird in front, 14-10, with a touchdown run, but Curtis Grant recovered a fumble in the end zone for Hermitage to advance them past Bird and give them the Central Region championship.

Phoebus 12, Hampton 7: Daquan Romero starred in Phoebus's region-clinching win over David Watford and Hampton. Romero, playing TE, caught Phoebus's only touchdown, and sacked Watford to set up a safety for Phoebus on the next play.

H.D. Woodson 44, Dunbar 12: Darius Redman caught a late touchdown to help Woodson to the DCIAA Turkey Bowl title.

Stone Bridge 35, Hayfield 7 (Rob Burns)
Wilde Lake 21, Damascus 14 (Brandon Phelps)

Phelps's season ends just shy of the state finals. Three teams of interest remain: Stone Bridge plays Osbourn next week, Phoebus plays Dinwiddie, and the winners of those two games will meet at Scott Stadium for the Division 5 title. Hermitage goes against Bayside (where hopefully-future Hoo Demetrious Nicholson plays) in the Division 6 semis; the final is also in Charlottesville.


News you can't really use, but you can still read and maybe even enjoy it:

- David Watford hopes to enroll in the spring. The 25-yearly scholarship limit is almost as big a concern as the 85-total limit at this point. In fact, we're already to the point where every new commit means another attrite from the current team, so the 25 limit might even be a bigger concern. If Admissions lets Watford in for the spring semester, one extra player can be squeezed into the class. Not to mention the extra practice time would be a huge help blah blah blah. This is where the influence of new president Teresa Sullivan could be a big help, no?

- Speaking of Sullivan, the latest UVA alumni magazine has a nice profile spread on her, with this relevant quote:

Sullivan is a strong supporter of collegiate athletics and is an avid football fan, telling one alumni gathering that she hopes the University will one day host ESPN College Gameday.
When Sullivan was hired I theorized that her experience at Texas and Michigan could only be beneficial to the athletic department. Sullivan has spent the last two decades plus at two of the best schools in the country at using athletics - football especially - to maximize and enhance the school's overall brand. Football is one of the best ways of doing this: when you think University of Miami, do you think of their highly underestimated academics, or do you think of swagger and Da U? (Yeah, I know: major sampling bias here.) Sullivan, I think, understands this as well as any college president can. There's good reason to believe she'll be a stronger supporter of football and athletics than Casteen was. Casteen was a good president, but I think he saw athletics as something that schools don't get a lot of return on investment from. I think Sullivan, unlike Casteen, sees the important distinction between compromising for athletics and sacrificing for athletics.

- The all-ACC teams are out, and Chase Minnifield made 1st team and Keith Payne made 2nd. This is entirely fair. It's good especially to see Payne get recognition for the bounceback year.

- Bill Lazor back to the NFL? Lazor says no, the rumortubes say yes. The rumors are that Lazor is looking for a job in the NFL (and will try and get one when the NFL season ends) and Lazor's refutation says (in essence) that he hasn't been contacted for one. Unfortunately a coach's word in the media must always be parsed for loopholes, and it's not hard to find them here. But Lazor is awfully stringent in his denial. Despite what I've read, I don't think there's any concrete reason to believe Lazor won't be back next year. Yet. I do know what the offense looked like last year and what it looked like this year and who's largely to thank for it, and it's gonna be awfully hard to get this rebuilding project off the ground without some continuity at a critical position. That's why London asked for a two-year commitment from his staff. You can never keep a successful coordinator around forever (the Riker-esque refusal to seek a head job of his own on Bud Foster's part notwithstanding) so three, four years down the line, yeah, I think we'd need to look for another OC. But by then there'd be something to build on. There isn't yet.


Part of the reason this post comes a little late is because of basketball awesomeness, but partly it's because I was waiting for good news on the recruiting front. People keep hinting at it. Crossing my fingers for Jay Whitmire myself, the way the hints have been going, although nobody's mentioned any names. Alas, we'll have to wait. Not many changes to the recruiting board then:

- Removed WR Daniel Adams from green (New Mexico commit.)

- Removed QB Lafonte Thourogood from red (VT commit.) Almost a fait accompli after we picked up Watford.

- Moved CB Jeremiah Hendy from yellow to red, since Maryland's been winning and we haven't.


Much more extensive hoopstravaganza tomorrow, but ESPN's always good for some amusement and this seems like an appropriate finish:

Speaking of Virginia, just how bad are the Cavaliers in Tony Bennett's second year? The Cavaliers already have three losses .... Virginia hasn't looked competitive any time it's faced a major-conference team not named Oklahoma. (The Sooners don't count. That might be the worst BCS conference team in the country.) Now UVA travels to the barn to face a quality Minnesota team. In the words of Scooby Doo: Ruh roh.
UVA 87, Minny 79, as Craig Littlepage spends the rest of the evening amusing himself by digging up old message board threads and, uh, blog posts expressing our fondest hopes of hiring Tubby Smith. I mean, I thought we'd lose to Minnesota too, but I don't get a paycheck to say that.

Oh....for those hoping to see the weekly AP poll study results, I crave your indulgence. The work was a casualty of the holiday weekend. Publishing will be tomorrow.

blogpoll ballot, week 13

As I guessed, Saturday sucked. Not only was I wishing football out of existence by 2:00 (as predicted), I was pretty much wishing existence out of existence thanks to the lingering effects of Friday night's 10-year high school reunion. Who knew it'd take so much beer to make certain people tolerable again?**

Anyway, I literally have no reaction any more to the loss on Saturday. When Matt Millen was still president and chief fuckwit of the Lions, I reached a point where I figured one day he'd be fired and that day would be beautiful, but for now I'd run out of ways to get pissed off about his presence. It's kind of like that. Maybe tomorrow he'll be fired. Maybe we'll win next year. At this point there's nobody to vent at except maybe the evil fates. "It's Al's fault" got old a while ago and London's still in his grace period. So.

**That wasn't nice of me. I actually like my high school class, probably even more so than I used to.

So, ballot. Commentary below.

As predicted, Oregon retook its spot at #2 by playing a legitimate opponent. Some other things:

- The system actually continued to rank Iowa and Florida. What can I say, their wins don't exactly suck. But it seemed silly to rank a 7-5 team over an 8-4 team that beat them, so Mississippi State replaced Florida. Likewise it seemed silly to rank a 7-5 team over a 7-4 team that beat them, but Arizona was too far off the radar to replace Iowa, so I decided on Northern Illinois instead. NIU got the nod over 9-3 Central Florida on account of being 10-2 in a conference that really isn't much worse than UCF's.

- West Virginia, on the other hand, is legit, if a little bumped-up because of Iowa's and Florida's removals. The system likes them for a return to the top 25 even despite their extra bye week, which this system frowns upon. A 9-3 WVU team would be most deserving, assuming a win next week,

- Maryland will likely be a popular pick for a low-end vote or several, but not here. They ended up dead last out of the 30 teams I looked at, and by a longshot. You just can't call their resume a rankable one. Not by any stretch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thanksgiving break

Enjoy your turkey. Regular posting resumes Sundayish, or Monday, or something. Well, Monday at the latest.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

game preview: Virginia Tech

Forlorn and empty....in everything....forever.

Date/Time: November 27, 12:00

TV: Raycom/ESPN3

History against the Hokies: 37-49-5

Last matchup: VT 42, UVA 13; 11/28/09

Last week: BC 17, UVA 13; VT 31, Miami 17

Line: VT by 23.5

Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country, The Key Play

VT season preview

Injury report: None yet, it's a day early. But Keith Payne looks like a go. Barring surprises, we should have a full crew minus the IR guys.

Sigh. This is it. After this weekend it's full speed ahead on basketball, and football is behind us. And chances are, after this weekend we'll all think that's a great thing. I'm not going to wax poetic on what a win would mean because the best thing would be to just let all the losses blend into one another like the rain smearing the makeup of a lonely emo kid, until the day they actually end.


- NO PAYNE, NO GAIN! This was a favorite Wahoo mantra upon Keith Payne's over-heralded arrival as a freshman. It's finally time to put it to good use. You had to know Payne wasn't going to miss this game even if whatever lower extremity kept him out of the BC game was a bloody stump. VT's run defense is suspect; as Gobbler Country informed us, VT likes the nickel package out of necessity, on account of poor linebacker play. Their pass defense is all-conference stuff, but they have the league's second-worst run defense after you-know-who. Give the man 40 carries and he'll get his yards. And it'll keep our hapless defense off the field.

- Keep it close. A win would send a huge message to instate recruits; a close loss would be almost as good. VT fans recognize the need to stomp us into the dirt in order to snuff Mike London's message that our time is coming and their time is over. Frank Beamer recognizes it too, and he won't hesitate to be a ruthless asshole. As with Miami - in fact, even more so - this game is more important for its big-picture recruiting implications than for the this-season effects of the actual result.

- Get the Hokies looking ahead. "Dear Virginia Tech. You may have beaten us once this season, but you ain't shit. Looking forward to seeing you in Charlotte and racking up 50. Sincerely, Russell Wilson." VT has already clinched the division, and as with Miami, a win will mean the opponent didn't bring its A game.


- Allow them to get Ryan Williams one-on-one with anyone. UVA can stop the run - if the line can swarm the ballcarrier behind the line of scrimmage. VT has the two things which kill our defense more than anything, ever: a mobile quarterback and a tackle-breaking running back. Williams on the edge with a linebacker or cornerback attempting to tackle, especially the way we've tackled all season, means a first down no matter what the yardage. The D-line has to beat its blocks and swarm, or VT will rack up 300+ yards on the ground.

- Get behind early. Again with the Miami game, where UVA racked up a 24-point lead before Miami got on the board. The only recipe for a win here is to get ahead and hang on tight. If we're forced to the air in the hope of getting a quick strike, its over.


Oh, you know. Michigan plays Ohio State at the same time as our game on Saturday, so by about 2:00, 2:30 at the latest, I fully expect to be wishing football entirely out of existence. The whole sport.

The spread, I think, is going to be blown apart by one team or another. Either VT wins by 45 - and you know they'll run up the score because Beamer doesn't want London to gain an inch of recruiting ground - or things come together beautifully, Payne gets 175 yards, the defense plays inspired ball, and we lose by 4. A win, I'm not even going to consider the possibility before 00:00 of the fourth quarter. Maybe 00:03, if we're up by two scores. Ha. A low-scoring game favors UVA, a high-scoring game favors VT, and the run defenses are so unearthly poor that the odds of a low-scoring game are microscopically slim.


Boston College @ Syracuse, 12:00
Miami vs. South Florida, 12:00
NC State @ Maryland, 3:30
Florida State vs. Florida, 3:30
North Carolina @ Duke, 3:30
Clemson vs. South Carolina, 7:00
Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt, 7:30
Georgia Tech @ Georgia, 8:00

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

q&a with Gobbler Country

Let's say you're strolling through a trailer park. It's a lot more run-down and seedy than your average trailer park, and the tooth-to-inhabitant ratio is alarmingly low, and most of the front lawns have FUK UVA signs in them and there're turkeys running all over the place, taking shits on the front steps. Every so often somebody in a truckers' hat hucks a cinderblock in your direction or waves an unloaded shotgun at you, and you suspect it's because you're wearing your V-sabres. Then you see a well-kept actual house in the middle of the madness, occupied by a guy who invites you in for bourbon and cornhole. Sure, the place is decorated in maroon and orange and the picture of Thomas Jefferson on the wall has darts in it, but the bourbon's good and the chatter is - to borrow a phrase - jocular.

You've entered Gobbler Country, an oasis in the desert. It's where to go for Hokie info when you aren't specifically trying to find something to piss you off. (Also, f4h and I would be the only Virginians who liked hockey if we actually lived in Virginia. But, I think specifically because a Hokie and a Wahoo can only find so much common ground, he really hates the Red Wings. Go figure.)

As always, the other half of the Q&A is where to go to get a sneak preview of what I think about issues that are important to the enemy. Go now or go later, but go.

1. No matter what colors they wear I don't think you'll find anyone interested in this game who thinks UVA has a chance, but that wasn't the case after JMU. How would you have felt about this game if it was one week after the JMU game?

-- If this game had been in Week 3, I probably still would have thought we were going to win. There were a lot of things not involving football that went into that game against JMU, but the bottom line was they had a great game plan, which they executed perfectly, and we had a poor game plan, which we executed poorly. At the end of the day, that's why we lost.

If the next game's against UVa, I'm probably just as worried going into the game as I was going into the ECU game. I picked us to win that game by two whole points and we wound up covering a 19.5-point spread. I would have had the same hope as I had going into that game: That the offensive line wouldn't play as bad as it looked in the first two games and that Bud Foster would have gotten the tackling (or lack thereof) fixed in the six days between JMU and UVa.

2. How has the rebuilt VT defense panned out this year? Up to snuff with the standard Bud Foster deals?

-- Actually this isn't your typical Bud Foster defense. We've all but abandoned the 4-3 that we usually play and have played a lot of nickel this year with Kyle Fuller or Antone Exum in as the nickel back. This is because our replacement for Cody Grimm at whip linebacker, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow has been ... uh ... well, let's just say inconsistent. So we've had to change the way we've done things.

Because we are now playing basically a 4-3-5 (ed. - I think he means 4-2-5) and our linebackers aren't playing well against the run, we're giving up uncharacteristic chunks of yards on the ground. It might be worse than it was in 2003 when guys like Derrick Knight and Quincy Wilson were gashing us. What we do, have however, is an excellent secondary that includes Jayron Hosley, who leads the country in interceptions right now. Those turnovers have played a big part in the current winning streak.

3. How much of a legitimate scare is Mike London putting into the Hokie staff and Hokie fans about recruiting in the state of Virginia?

-- I think it's a legitimate scare because there's that luster that comes with having a new regime. That and London is apparently a good recruiter who has a lot of ties to the Hampton Roads area. That's why it's so important to beat you guys by 50 this year and nip that right in the bud.

There are some Hokie fans who are fairly scared of London and the fact he could take some recruits who would usually go to Tech. I probably think so more than most Hokie fans, but I think the right level of concern is somewhere between thinking he doesn't matter and thinking the sky is falling.

4. If there were one thing that could go terribly wrong for VT (injury, exploitable weakness, etc.) to give UVA a real chance at winning, what would that be?

-- If you guys run the ball down our throat and we turn the ball over, things could get dicey. That and if we come out flat (hahahaha, just kidding, we always come out flat) because the Coastal is already secure, that could amplify it. You guys aren't without talented players.

I like Keith Payne a lot because he runs hard and is tough to bring down and there a lot worse receiver combinations out there than Burd and Inman. The secondary isn't bad, but losing Dowling hurts, but there are guys out there who can make plays. I mean you beat Miami for crying out loud.

The exploitable weakness is our run defense. If you guys can run the ball, keep Tyrod on the sideline and not force Verica to win the game for you, you're going to have a chance in the end.

5. You know I think maroon and orange is the worst imaginable color combination, but even so I thought the look that VT unveiled a year ago with the numbers that sort of matched the VT logo wasn't a bad look. Has that uniform been totally ditched in favor of the throwbacky ones you wear these days?

-- I was one of the few Hokie fans who liked those, especially the home versions. Those have been shelved permanently, which I'm fine with because I love the throwbacks. I was calling for those for years and I'm so glad those are what we wear now. Maybe you guys can break out those throwbacks you wore a couple years ago with white helmets and asymmetrical, cattywampus striping for the Commonwealth Cup. Those looked pretty slick.

6. Who is the heir apparent at quarterback?

-- Logan Thomas. He's a redshirt freshman this year who was originally recruited as a tight end. When he first arrived on campus, he didn't really have a natural position. He's too big for receiver, but not really big enough for tight end. The guy's just a football player. But he has some speed and played QB in high school, so that's where he is. He played like a freshman in the spring, but came in for one play against Miami when Tyrod Taylor got his clock cleaned a threw a bullet to Danny Coale to convert a third-and-long.

Right after that play I got a text from Joe over at The Key Play that said, "I now expect three MNCs from Logan." Good luck, kid.

7. Do you think Beamer will eventually fill the empty national title trophy case? Do you think playing in the ACC hinders that effort any?

-- As a fan, I have to emphatically say yes, but if I were a neutral observer, I'd probably say no simply because it's damned hard to win a national title. It's even harder if you've only been relevant for the last 15 years. In the grand scheme of things, the Hokies are still building the program. I like the direction things are heading, but every program needs an outside catalyst to get over that hump. We need some fresh blood in the program with new ideas and to help us adjust to the changes going on in college football.

I actually think playing the ACC helps. Look, Virginia Tech isn't a program that can make the BCSCG with a loss. But being in a BCS conference, if we go 13-0, have one decent non-conference win and are one of two BCS unbeatens left, we're probably going to that game. Then it just comes down to winning one game.

Monday, November 22, 2010

weekend review, sort of

A little abbreviated this week. Not much happened outside of football, except that all our non-rev presence in NCAA tournaments evaporated, so that wasn't too exciting. I'm saving basketball stuff for a larger post-Thanksgiving mini-extravaganza. Thanksgiving = short week. I'm not posting on damn Thanksgiving Day, I'll be too busy eating and yelling at the Lions.

Recruiting-wise, how does a new commitment sound? Mike London, with an assist from the NCAA Cloud Of Doom, flipped Daquan Romero from UNC. Just this morning, in fact. Another 757 victory for London on the recruiting trail. Romero was on the board a long time ago but committed to UNC way back in the spring and had offers from the usual regional suspects: UVA, WVU, Md., and UNC.

So the recruiting board is updated with that, plus the movement of WRs Daniel Adams and Demetri Knowles from blue to green as space in the class gets ever so limited. The sooner Demetrious Nicholson commits, the better.


High school playoffs update:

Hanover 56, Petersburg 26 - Kevin Green lit up the box score with over 500 yards passing, as well as two touchdowns and two picks, but he still he couldn't keep pace with Hanover.

L.C. Bird 36, Highland Springs 0 - As usual, Anthony Harris didn't need to light the skies with his passing, going 5-for-8 for 112 yards and a touchdown, but Bird's offense is mostly on the ground and they'll be advancing.

Hampton 24, I.C. Norcom 0 - David Watford led Hampton to a win over Kameron Mack's crew with 179 yards passing and a touchdown.

Damascus 33, Quince Orchard 14 - Brandon Phelps caught a pair of touchdown passes to lead Damascus to a regional title.

Good Counsel 42, DeMatha 3 - Stunningly easy game for OLGC in the WCAC championship. Vincent Croce rocks the eyeblack - or eyeblue- of his favorite team:

Hermitage 28, Varina 14 (Diamonte Bailey)
Phoebus 35, Great Bridge 6 (Caleb Taylor/Daquan Romero)
Stone Bridge 36, South Lakes 15 (Rob Burns)
Good Counsel 42, DeMatha 3 (Vincent Croce, Kelby Johnson/Jordan Lomax)

Outlook for the rest of the year is as follows:

- Only 8 of the 23 commitments are still playing.

- Hermitage and L.C. Bird square off on Friday, so either Diamonte Bailey's or Anthony Harris's season will end. Those two haven't played this year.

- Likewise, Hampton and Phoebus also play on Friday in a matchup between David Watford's offense and the defense of Caleb Taylor and Daquan Romero. Phoebus rolled in the regular season, 37-12.

- Rob Burns and Stone Bridge take on Hayfield in the Northern Region.

- Brandon Phelps and Damascus play Wilde Lake in the MPSSAA 3A semifinals.

- The DCIAA Turkey Bowl is on Thanksgiving, but it remains to be seen who H.D. Woodson's opponent will be. Ballou won the game on the field but Dunbar is trying to get in on, essentially, a technicality.

Finally, this being my blog and this also being the high school playoff section of my blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't give you something every now and then which you don't care about in the slightest. Congratulations are in order for my alma mater, the GP South Blue Devils on reaching the Michigan state semifinals before bowing out to powerhouse Harrison. For a team that made the playoffs basically as a wild card at 5-4, pulling off a series of upsets (including one over a previously undefeated team in the regional final) to get further in the playoffs than any team in school history is a monumental achievement. If South can make the state semifinals and beat North all in the same season (believe me, it is not a football school) then there's hope for my other alma mater too.


Wish I had something interesting to point out in the week's AP poll study results, but I don't. Such is life. However, I do have a request. At the end of the regular season I'll commence a longer look at the results with the data organized in some different ways. Here's what I have planned as of now:

- A raw count of overvotes to see which regions were most and least prone to it, as well as a count of overvotes by team to see if my theory is true: big-name teams (such as Miami or USC) tend to get more overvotes than the middle-class (such as Missouri or Stanford) or mid-majors (such as TCU.)

- A re-look at overvotes using standard deviations instead of a simple +5 standards. This might take a while.

- An overall roundup of voters' average rankings of individual teams.

- An answer to the original question: Does regional bias exist in the AP poll? Warning: Answer is not guaranteed not to be wishy-washy.

The request is this: If you can think of other ways you'd like to see the data laid out, let me know in the comments. If you've got a pet theory about the voters and a good way to test it, by all means make noise and I'll see what I can do. The more ideas, the longer it takes, of course, so I might need to make a few cuts if it gets too big, but I'll make every effort.

blogpoll ballot, week 12

Not a lot of craziness this week, so not a lot of movement. A few things worth a look:

- Oregon sees itself fall to #3. Unfortunately (for Oregon) every team under consideration now has at least one bye week - which means that the system doesn't like it when you have two. This week, Oregon plays Arizona and TCU plays stomping-mat New Mexico, which means it's highly probable that Oregon resumes its place at #2 in next week's ballot.

- Michigan State is low at #18, which is what happens when you keep dancing on the edge of a knife against bad teams.

- The line between 25th and 26th is very slim, but there's a cliff between 27th and 28th. In essence, the system figures there are 27 teams worth considering at this point. I ran 30 through the numbers this week; Mississippi State, Hawaii, and Central Florida came up woefully short. (Miami and USC are 26th and 27th, respectively.)

USC, Miss. State, Hawaii, and UCF were themselves the top four teams in the mini-comparison I ran before I ran the main one. Teams like Michigan, West Virginia, and Penn State were near the top but not enough that I figured they'd be worth bothering with. Who came in around the bottom of the bottom? Tulsa, Temple, and Ohio for example. Even 9-2 Northern Illinois didn't come close to making the cut. My point here is that any vote for teams like that is borderline idiotic. At least, so the system says. And I have every reason to believe the system.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the end of the season came a lot later this year

If there's a redeeming quality to 2010, that's probably it. It had a lot to do with the schedule, too, but last year the season ended on Halloween. I guess the extra three weeks plus the one extra win represent progress. Technically there's still a game left, but you are advised to spend your time convincing any Hokies you know who might be talking trash (while they collect your trash) that the recruiting battleground is tilting back our way, rather than focusing on this particular week.

UVA won't play BC in football again until 2014, which is a shame because it'd be nice to have another game next year to help us remember that we actually play BC; Saturday's game was eminently forgettable. Not in the sense that we saw a whole bunch of things we'd like to forget, but that it's very, very easy to. It's already happened to me. Whatever happened in that game has already blended into the fog, leaving me with little more than an impression of, once again, missed opportunities.

I guess you could blame the referees or ACC review officials if you wanted, for taking away what probably should have been a Dontrelle Inman touchdown to make the score 20-17. Then again, "probably should have" is the strongest case I can muster for it, and they don't overturn calls for that. Anyway, a good team would have found any number of other ways to win that game, so what's the use?

See, I was taken aback in looking at the box score, and not only by the 53(!) pass attempts. Give me that box score without the scoreboard and I'd say we likely won. 400+ yards on offense, one pick by Verica, no other turnovers, single-digit penalties (this is what we call improvement around here) and general statistical wins in most categories. Hell, three sacks even. (I forgot about those just as much as I didn't realize Verica had thrown almost 50 passes.) But there was nobody on offense or defense to step up and do something to turn the game in our favor. Just two not-especially-talented teams, one with slightly less than the other. I'd take a lot of satisfaction in calling the outcome so nearly exactly (the BCI Q&A involved a score prediction, and I gave 20-14, BC, as my best guess) if it didn't mean that what we appear to be is exactly what we are.

Of course, next week's game will hold my interest, as it always does when the University of Virginia fields a football team against the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Pen University, but instead of hoping to win by doing this or that I'll basically be looking for a lightning strike. And then I'll check out the recruiting rankings - did you know ESPN has us 18th?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

game preview: Boston College

Date/Time: November 20, 12:00


History against the Eagles: 0-4

Last matchup: BC 14, UVA 10; 11/14/09

Last week: Maryland 42, UVA 23; BC 21, Duke 16

Line: BC by 7

Opposing blogs: BC Interruption, Eagle in Atlanta

Boston College season preview

Injury report:

OT Landon Bradley
CB Ras-I Dowling
RB Keith Payne
WR Tim Smith
TE Joe Torchia


CB Devin Wallace

OT Morgan Moses
LB Ausar Walcott

Injury editorializing: GAAAAAHH Keith Payne.

Two golden chances for wins are behind the Hoos without any results; one remains. Boston College is on a three-game winning streak, it's Senior Day in Chestnut Hill, and the Eagles will put themselves in a bowl game if they win it, which no doubt they'd love to do in front of an eager home crowd. So any hope of a mitigated home-field advantage for BC is gone. And so is touchdown machine Keith Payne. What looked like a very winnable game is quickly looking less so. Losing to Duke and Maryland gives you that kind of outlook.


- Make sure that when Marc Verica throws a pick, it's in a low-impact kind of situation. So, like, not first and ten from our own 15, not inside the BC red zone, that kind of thing. Verica will throw interceptions, and BC is tied for the national lead in grabbing them. They might have it to themselves by Sunday. But the playcalling needs to not put Verica in a position to throw his interceptions when it can hurt the team the most. UVA can recover from one that gives BC the ball on their 30; not one that gives it to them on our 20.

- Non-offensive touchdowns. Punt return, INT return, something. BC's run defense is one of the nation's elite, their pass defense is good, and our QB is turnover-prone. In order to score many points, UVA's defense and special teams will have to give the offense the ball in good field position, or just score themselves.


- Give up big plays. This is going to be a low-scoring game, and BC's defense is good enough to suffocate our offense. The last thing you can afford in a game like that is lightning strikes by the other team. Sometimes you can get away with that - not here.

- Give up five-yard plays. BC's quarterbacks are subpar and the passing game overall is unproductive. So they'll be happy to hand off to Montel Harris 50 times if they have to, as long as it's picking up yardage and keeping our defense on the field. The BC offensive line isn't nearly what it should have been - it's been performing below average all season, and our D-line needs to give BC a reason to stop handing it off, lest BC march down the field at will, Paul Johnson-style.

- No creativity on offense. UVA is not gonna win this game running off-tackle. With Keith Payne I'd take my chances with smashmouth ball. Payne is the game-changing back we have. Without his best RB and a turnover-prone QB, Bill Lazor will need to call a superb game in order to get this win.


As I said in the BCI Q&A, this game is strength on strength (our offense, their defense) and weakness on weakness (vice versa.) So it should be low-scoring. And close, as low-scoring games tend to be. BC's offense managed a measly three scores against Duke and not much more against Wake - two of the conference's worst defenses. Guess which is the third? On the other hand, their defense is nasty good. An average defense and they'd be 3-7 right now.

Unfortunately, our strength just took a major ding. And it wasn't quite up to snuff with theirs anyway. And of course, what better way to break a stalemate than by committing an extra penalty or twelve? There's too much adding up here to like our chances very much in this game.


NC State @ North Carolina, 12:00
Duke @ Georgia Tech, 1:30
Clemson @ Wake Forest, 2:00
Virginia Tech @ Miami, 3:30
Florida State @ Maryland, 8:00

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

q&a with BC Interruption

This week, with the last game against Boston College until 2014 looming large, we get a head start on previewing the game with BC Interruption, a BC blog of much distinction and member in fine standing of the ACC Roundtable. The format is familiar: their answers to my questions are below, and the other half of the exchange can be found at BCI. Brian was good enough to go greatly in depth so it's a good read this week.

1. Preseason, I figured BC's offensive line and Montel Harris would team up to give BC one of the best rushing attacks in the ACC. Harris has topped 1,000 yards, but BC averages 3.4 yards per attempt, worst in the ACC. What happened?

The usually outstanding BC offensive line came back down to earth a bit. That’s what happened. Well, that, and opponents stacking the box and daring Dave Shinskie then Mike Marscovetra now Chase Rettig to beat them through the air.

The O-line struggles were definitely a head-scratcher at the beginning of the year. That’s partly why BC struggled at QB since the line was very inconsistent in pass protection and establishing the run. As for Montel, he’s a workhorse. He takes the vast majority of BC’s rush attempts and is the bulk of the Eagles offensive output.

Without those 1,000 yards, I don’t think BC would have been able to right the ship and rattle off 3 straight wins as they have done over the last three weeks.

2. Chase Rettig seems to have settled in as BC's quarterback and BC is on a winning streak. Is that Rettig's doing, or are other factors involved?

BC’s winning streak is a result of a few things. For one thing, and probably most importantly, the schedule lightened up considerably for the Eagles the past few weeks. During BC’s five game losing streak, BC lost to teams with a combined record of 34-13 (.723) and only one team – Notre Dame – isn’t above .500 at this point in the season. BC’s three wins have come against teams with a combined record 10-20 (.333), and only one of those teams is at the .500 mark (Clemson).

That said, this team is slowly starting to improve now that Rettig has firmly established himself as the starter and the Eagles quarterback of the future. The aforementioned offensive line play has slowly started to improve as well, though in recent weeks it’s been a bit of a patchwork offensive line with several injuries.

More than anything though, our defense has been able to keep BC in every game this year except for the N.C. State game, when they couldn’t get off the field and got worn down by Russell Wilson and the Wolfpack passing attack.

3. How long a leash is Frank Spaziani on with the fans and/or the administration?

Short answer is it depends who you ask. There are pretty much two camps at this point. Those that think BC will never win the ACC under Spaziani and who think we’ll endure another 3-4 years of .500 football until our AD finds the next great football coach. Spaz is a great offensive mind and a good, loyal person, but this school of thought thinks he really doesn’t know how to run the team (and in particular, coach up an offense that has taken a serious hit to its talent level in the post-Matt Ryan years).

The other school of thought is that Spaz deserves more time to develop this program in his own mold, and the fact that BC has had 3 different coaches in 5 seasons has finally caught up to the program. While this camp is willing to give more time to Spaz, I think even this camp would agree that we have to ditch 70+ year old offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill and make shake up the coaching staff a bit, particularly on offense.

If I had to choose sides, I think I would slightly lean towards the fire Spaz now camp. I think Spaz made a bad hire in Tranquill, and I think the coaching staff’s inability to realize that Rettig was the most talented QB on the roster at the beginning of the season put the program at a serious disadvantage to start this season. With a very favorable 2010 schedule, the opportunity to win the Atlantic Division was now. I think BC will find a schedule this manageable won’t be coming around again over the next several years with the unbalanced ACC schedule.

4. BC was mentioned, occasionally and peripherally, as a Big Ten expansion target. If or when the Big Ten starts another round of expansion insanity and it looked like dominoes were going to fall very unpredictably, how would BC react? Would BC welcome overtures from the Big Ten, especially if the next northernmost team (Maryland) also did? Or would BC ride it out with the ACC and maybe try to encourage the conference to expand northward?

BC would be in a delicate position, having already burned plenty of bridges and being accused of all sorts of deceit and wrong-doing in our last move from the Big East to the ACC. But the school would be crazy not to at least entertain the Big Ten’s overtures, right?

For whatever reason, other programs like TCU have been able to successfully bounce around conferences (from the SWC to C-USA to WAC to MWC to the Big East?) with a little more impunity than BC has. Old rivalries die hard, I guess.

I think BC is an attractive Big Ten expansion candidate. The school and the greater Boston area represent a huge northern TV market with decent-to-above average football, basketball and -- maybe equally important – hockey (see below). People may be quick to point out that Boston is a pro sports town that doesn’t care about BC or watching the Eagles on TV, but those people are missing the point of Big Ten expansion. It’s not about TV viewership (though BC’s TV ratings are relatively strong nationally given the size of the school), it’s about the size of the television market.

If the Big Ten is able to successfully lure Notre Dame from their cushy independent lives, I think a move from the ACC to the Big Ten would be a very interesting proposition.

From everything I’ve read and heard, I don’t think the ACC would be proactive in moving from 12 to 16, choosing instead to react to other BCS conferences should the era of the 16-team super conference come about. With all the bridges that were burned in our last conference move, I don’t think BC would encourage to expand the conference northward, with the possible exception of Syracuse.

5. My readership won't give a damn about this one, but I'm curious. Penn State's addition of varsity hockey has a lot of people excited about a Big Ten hockey conference. If five ACC teams decided to add hockey (admittedly about as likely as Duke dropping basketball but just go along with me here), would BC be into the idea of ACC hockey?

I don’t think so. Here’s why. A varsity hockey program is an extremely expensive program to run. Quite possibly more expensive than any other collegiate varsity sport with the exception of football. And unlike football, there isn’t the same big money revenue stream pouring in to defray the costs of running the program in the first place.

BC is in a nice spot in Hockey East. Six of the league’s 10 programs are in the state of Massachusetts, while others like New Hampshire and Providence are a short bus ride away. Only Maine and Vermont are more than a 3 hour drive away from campus. Add in the Beanpot, non-conference games against teams from the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey and the Hockey East Tournament at the Garden, and BC conceivably wouldn’t have to get on a plane until the NCAA Tournament.

With ACC hockey, travel costs become a serious issue. Sure, you could combine a Saturday road football game with a weekend hockey series to cut down on costs a bit, but you are talking about adding a significant amount of costs to a program that doesn’t have the same revenue stream coming in as football or even basketball.

If five ACC programs actually went ahead and fielded D-I hockey programs, I think I would like to see BC become an independent in hockey and get a Notre-Dame like arrangement for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. It sounds crazy, but I would want to play those ACC programs but also maintain our existing rivalries with Boston U., Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern and UMass. As a member of Hockey East, BC couldn’t really do that. With a 27-game conference schedule and 2 games for the Beanpot, BC is only afforded 4-5 non-conference games a year.

The other thing is the quality of ACC hockey would be pretty poor for a while as those programs started to establish themselves. That would be really bad for BC when it comes to NCAA Tournament time. The difference with Big Ten hockey is those programs are already established, national powers with schools like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State.

6. Seriously, start a lacrosse program already.

Ahh, the joke of a conference that is ACC men’s lacrosse. I’m really not sure what BC joining ACC men’s lacrosse would do for the league though. Instead of having a three-way tie in the regular season standings at 2-1, you’d simply have a three-way tie atop the standings at 3-1 ... with BC at 0-4.

In all seriousness though, this is probably THE hot button issue surrounding Boston College athletics in the last, oh, 8-9 years since the school cut men’s varsity lacrosse. If you smart boys down in Charlottesville can figure out a way around Title IX, please contact BC’s athletic director at your convenience.

7. Prediction time.

This is a game of mismatches. The ACC’s leading rusher against the nation’s 107th best rushing defense. The second best passing offense in conference against a defense that ranks in the middle of the ACC in terms of passing defense. I think though that BC has all the momentum, is playing for bowl-eligibility and is playing at home on Senior Day. I think Montel Harris has another big day and the BC defense puts points on the board. Final score: BC 27, Virginia 13.

That said, through 10 games, nothing would surprise me at this point. If Virginia pulls off the upset, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.