Wednesday, November 30, 2011

season preview: Boston College

This is an earlier start than I usually get for basketball season previews, but then, when I finish we tend to be halfway through the conference season anyway, so let's get kicking while we wait for our bowl fate to be sorted out.  Besides, I've got a lot planned for when we finally learn our opponent.  These will come sporadically til I'm done.  As always, the goal is to make FOV readers the best-informed of any UVA fans on the ACC competition.

Boston College Eagles

Media prediction: 12th

Last season:

Record: 21-13 (9-7) - ACC 5th seed
Postseason: NIT second round
KenPom: 68th of 345

Returning scoring: 10.8%
Returning rebounding: 11.5%
Returning assists: 11.4%

2010-11 All-ACC:

1st team: G Reggie Jackson
2nd team: none
3rd team: F Joe Trapani
HM: none
Rookie: none
Defensive: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Patrick Heckmann (Fr.)
SG: Gabe Moton (So.)
G: Matt Humphrey (Jr.)
F: Ryan Anderson (Fr.)
C: K.C. Caudill (Fr.)


C Dennis Clifford (Fr.)
G John Cahill (Sr.)
G Jordan Daniels (Fr.)
F Eddie Odio (Fr.)
G Lonnie Jackson (Fr.)
G Danny Rubin (So.)

Coach: Steve Donahue (2nd season)

ACC schedule:

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

Attention anyone who thinks their previous coach left the cupboard bare: He did not.  Not when compared to what Al Skinner did to Boston College basketball.  This ought to be a Building A Program-type show on TV; I'd watch.  The storyline is bizarre and fascinating: when Steve Donahue took over, he found a roster completely loaded with mostly seniors, a few juniors - and not one single freshman or sophomore.  If he had done nothing in between being hired and starting the season, that's what his roster would have been.  In what has to be considered second-degree criminal negligence, Skinner did not sign anyone in the recruiting class of '09; this means that the only junior on the roster is a transfer.  The only sophomores are those hastily recruited by Donahue after finding his entire '10 recruiting class also nonexistent; those that were there bolted shortly after Skinner's firing.  Any seniors are either walk-ons or useless, or both.

Here is BC's regular lineup, in PPG order, by their class:

Junior transfer from Oregon
Walk-on who joined last year

That is disastrous.  Only two of those guys - the sophomores, Danny Rubin and Gabe Moton, played any meaningful minutes last year (they are the aforementioned hastily-recruited class of '10 members) and Rubin's minutes dwindled to near-nothing by the end.  It's a wonder their game tape doesn't look like the AND1 streetball highlight tape reject clips, and a credit to their coaching that they can actually defeat Division I competition besides.

This team is a mess of epic proportions.  They can barely score and cannot defend.  In the KenPom standings, they are one notch above Florida-Gulf Coast and just below Troy, Charleston Southern, and Fordham.  Forget the ACC; Boston College is an average America East Conference team (made up of such standouts as Maine and New Hampshire) and a perfect geographical fit, too, come to think of it.  Boston College 2011-2012 is a fascinating, absurd, bizarre train wreck of an outfit, and it's the fault of nobody currently involved.  (Maybe the AD.)  Al Skinner has set the new standard for leaving behind bare cupboards, a feat surpassed only by SMU football circa 1988.

So, what to make of this roster that we've never seen?  Small sample size caveats apply to every player evaluation from here on out, since they've played all of six games and I haven't seen any of them.  The highest-rated and most-sought recruit in their freshman class was Ryan Anderson, a skinny beanpole who plays forward and who is one of just two players to start all six games so far.  Anderson is the team's leading rebounder, and that seems likely to continue.  He's kind of a stretch-the-floor four who shoots threes, albeit not especially well.  Patrick Heckmann was also recruited by several teams, Michigan among them, out of the German semi-pro leagues.  He's the team's leading scorer despite being outshot almost 2-to-1 so far by the inefficient Matt Humphrey, who transferred in from Oregon.  BC is still working on a big man rotation between K.C. Caudill and Dennis Clifford; Clifford measures in at seven feet but Caudill is a whopping 280 pounds.  Caudill chose BC over offers from Northwestern, Harvard, and Penn, so there's brains to go with the brawn; however, he's a more recent addition to the rotation.

Obviously that rotation is still shaking out.  This time last year, Danny Rubin looked like a real find - he was in the starting lineup and hitting threes with efficiency and aplomb, but played his way completely out of the rotation by year's end and has struggled to crack it again.  Steve Donahue has a lot of work to do, obviously, and settling on a rotation is priority #1 right now.

If Boston College had an average ACC schedule, I'd call 'em a contender to pull a Detroit Lions and go 0-16 in the conference.  I don't even know when that last happened.  Wake Forest came close and went 1-15 last year and that's as close as anyone's come in ages.  If anyone can do it, it's this BC team.  But they happen to have the cushiest schedule in the conference (that doesn't include themselves.)  UNC, Duke, FSU, UVA, Clemson - all one-time opponents.  Virginia Tech, and maybe Miami, are the only NCAA tournament contenders that they play twice.  They get two shots at GT and Wake, the other two likely ACC bottom-dwellers.  It's really a waste of a good schedule.  BC has already been smoked by Holy Cross and needed OT to beat UC-Riverside - further ugly OOC losses are probably in their future, and then BC fans will probably concern themselves entirely with hockey once the ACC schedule begins in earnest.  There is zero chance of this team playing a single postseason game past the first round of the ACC tournament, and we can only hope things start improving in later years of the Donahue era.  Fortunately, nobody will ever judge him on this one.


I have to blab for a bit about last night's Michigan game, which - well, the truth of it is that Michigan was probably dealing with a little post-Maui fatigue, and it was probably no accident that the big Virginia run came in the second half.  The other truth of it is that the selection committee won't care a whit.  Consider the TCU game erased when it comes down to whether or not UVA should be a tournament team.  As long as Michigan takes care of business from here on out and has even a middling result in Big Ten play (likely the toughest conference top-to-bottom this year, and by the way I have no doubt they will) then this win will stand out like a nice shiny diamond.

UVA fans will be astonished to learn how much of a free-throw disparity there was; we had a 22-7 attempt advantage at the stripe.  I looked it up and that hasn't happened since 1871.  Chalk it up to the frontcourt advantage - UVA did an absolutely terrific job of nullifying Michigan's better guards with the pack-line defense as Michigan often resorted to playing into UVA's hands by waiting out the shot clock, and at the same time UVA also did a great job of controlling the interior on offense.  Mike Scott couldn't be guarded by one person.  At all.  The amazing thing is that Assane Sene didn't score at all and we didn't even need him to; Scott was a one-man matchup nightmare and completely controlled everything Michigan did down low.  I cannot wait to unleash this fucker on the ACC because every time I watch a UVA basketball game I have to shake my head to remind myself he's on our side.  I thought Travis Watson was pretty awesome but guys like Mike Scott don't come around but once a decade if that.

I have to also mention Malcolm Brogdon for quietly having a terrific game.  Very quietly.  I was completely surprised to look at the box score and see he had 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting.  I particularly enjoyed the sequence in the second half when Brogdon bricked a three, a teammate got the offensive board and passed to an open Brogdon and he didn't hesitate in shooting again and knocking it down on the second chance.  Confidence: dude haz it.

I thoroughly enjoyed that game but I'm also surprised to be saying this: I'm glad it's over.  It was so weird watching, say, Joe Harris knock down a three and going "yes!....kinda."  Michigan's Jordan Morgan found a wide-open lane once for an Air Jordan slam and I said "hey, now that was cool.  Wait, no it wasn't.  What the shit was that kind of defense?"  It's very weird.  I expect the two teams will meet in lacrosse at some point in the next couple years and that'll be even stranger.

Other news bits:

-- In the least surprising attrition news ever, Michael Strauss will transfer and appears to be headed to a localish I-AA program.  This fulfulls my prophecy from like last year that the third quarterback in the race between Rocco, Metheny, and Strauss will leave the program; there's not much reason to sit in fourth place (including David Watford) with even more quarterbacks set to come in next year.

In a long-overdue move, I've updated the depth chart; since Strauss has already left the team and wasn't even on the sidelines for the Tech game, I've already deleted his entry.  From a roster-management standpoint, that means the 2012 recruiting class puts us either three or four spots over the limit of 85.  (I'm not completely sure of the status of Drequan Hoskey - I don't know if he's on track scholarship or not and if he is, he's a counter toward 85.  Someone clarify.)  Anyway, between guys who'll likely prep in the recruiting class, non-invites for a fifth year, and the usual attrition, this is a "problem" that'll take care of itself.  UVA is not Alabama.

-- In a decision that is entirely correct, Mike London is the ACC Coach of the Year.  Clemson Clemsoning the end of the season cemented that one, because Dabo Swinney was the only other logical competitor.  If UNC had done better, Everett Withers would've been in the running.  I figured London would eventually win a COY award as long as he produced a winning season at some point; this is because the media was never going to expect us to do well until we actually did.  Awarding him the COY is their way of saying "we weren't wrong at the beginning of the year, it's just that London is that good of a coach."  Congratulations, Coach, now never win another one because if you don't it means we were continually good without dipping into the below-.500 nether regions.

-- "ACC Officiating Reaches All Levels."  OH GOD NO.  There's a reason I like to use a #GoodOldACCRefs hashtag on Twitster.  If your local high school referee calls pass interference on someone who has two hands on the ball and none on the receiver, now you know why.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

game preview: Michigan

Date/Time: Tuesday, November 29; 7:00


History against the Wolverines: 1-2

Last matchup: U-M 102, UVA 65; 3/25/89; Lexington, KY (NCAA Elite 8)

Last game: UVA 68, UWGB 42 (11/25); U-M 79, UCLA 63 (11/23)

Line: UVA by 3

Opposing blogs: MGoBlog, UMHoops, Maize'n'Brew, myriad others - when it comes to blogs and such, Michigan is easily the best-covered school in the universe.

KenPom breakdown:

UVA: 61.3 (#340)
U-M: 63.0 (#328)

UVA: 102.1 (#126)
U-M: 110.7 (#24)

UVA: 87.6 (#8)
U-M: 94.0 (#54)

Pythagorean win %:
UVA: .8273 (#37)
U-M: .8434 (#33)

(Explanation of KenPom stats: "Tempo" number is number of offensive possessions per game. "Offense" and "Defense" numbers are points scored/allowed per 100 possessions. All numbers are adjusted, using the magic KenPom formula; therefore they are not actual, but projections of predicted results against an average team on a neutral court.)

Projected starting lineups:

PG: Jontel Evans (6.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SG: Joe Harris (11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: KT Harrell (7.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (14.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.3 apg)
C: Assane Sene (6.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.2 apg)

PG: Trey Burke (11.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.2 apg)
SG: Tim Hardaway, Jr. (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)
SF: Zack Novak (9.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg)
PF: Evan Smotrycz (8.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 apg)
C: Jordan Morgan (6.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.0 apg)

Sometimes you gotta hand it to the suits.  UVA fans have (rightfully, I think) complained about always being stuck with Northwestern in the ACC/B1G Challenge, and if not Northwestern (3 times) then Minnesota (4 times.)  12 games (including one cancellation) for UVA in this event and seven of them against the same two teams.

But this is a matchup I can get behind.  Even were I not a fan of one of these teams or the other, it would carry just a ton of intrigue.  For UVA, it means a chance to finally test our mettle against a ranked team with staying power.  (Minnesota was ranked #13 last year when we beat them at their place, but had injuries to deal with and turned out to be a paper tiger - they went 6-12 in the Big Ten and failed to make any kind of postseason.)  Michigan is coming off a strong performance in Maui and is playing not for a tournament berth, but for seeding.  Michigan will be looking for a similar result to last year, when they went on the road to Clemson and won, launching a tournament season.  These two teams haven't met since the 1989 NCAA tournament - Bryant Stith vs. Glen Rice, in which UVA got in the way of a steamroller that was on the way to an NCAA championship.  Prior to that?  1980 and 1951.  That seems wrong, but the suits fixed it for this year, and this should be a good one - one which UVA needs, by the way, to bolster any tournament hopes.

-- UVA on offense

Let's clear up one misconception here: Michigan, under John Beilein, is not primarily a 1-3-1 team.  Michigan mostly plays a pretty straight-up man-to-man defense, about two-thirds to three-quarters of the time.  However, they are in fact one of the few teams in the country that will break out the 1-3-1 zone defense, and occasionally drop into a 2-3 as well.

That said, it's vital that UVA attack the 1-3-1 effectively, because Beilein likes to break it out when he senses the opposition is going on a run that needs to be stopped.  The idea is simple: one man at the top of the key defending the ball, two on the wings at the free-throw line extended, and one down low guarding the post.  The man in the middle is there to shut off any drives into the lane from any direction.  The wing players will come above the free-throw line to harass the ball up high, or below it to defend the corner three, which is the biggest weakness of the 1-3-1.  UVA can take Michigan out of this defense with good quick ball movement and good shooting from the corner.  The other way: isolate Mike Scott on the post against the post defender, usually Jordan Morgan or 6'10" Jon Horford, and use Scott's quickness to get a bucket before help comes.  In any case, crisp ball movement and decisiveness is the key.  Michigan gets a ton of turnovers out of the 1-3-1 when opponents pause to think, which is the entire goal of the thing.

Otherwise, Michigan will play a pretty straightforward man-to-man defense.  Scott against Morgan is an important battle, because Morgan is the only Michigan player with the strength to guard him.  UVA will have the advantage down low, because Sene will be the tallest player on the court and Scott the strongest.  UVA needs to pound, pound, pound down low and minimize the effect of U-M's guards, where the Wolverines have the advantage.  And of course, Joe Harris and KT Harrell must have good days shooting the ball; Harrell, who is somewhat turnover-prone, must beware of the quick hands of Zack Novak, who goes after loose balls like a Rottweiler on crystal meth.

-- UVA on defense

The high point of the season without a doubt, UVA is starting to establish a national reputation for defense.  Tony Bennett has got to be awfully happy about this; UVA has yet to allow 60 points in a game and is 8th in the country in KenPom's metrics.

At times in this game, though, UVA and its fans will just be left to shake their heads about Tim Hardaway, who's every bit as talented as his old man.  The conventional wisdom, I think, is that Hardaway will get his, and I think the conventional wisdom is right.  Harrell, who is the superior defender to Harris, will likely be assigned Hardaway, and the battle there will be a good one, with both players at some point having the upper hand.  Jontel Evans will also have his hands full with Trey Burke, who is mature beyond his freshman years.

Like UVA, Michigan is a slow-paced, deliberate team.  They love the three-pointer; the main difference between UVA and Michigan on offense is that Michigan is encouraged to occasionally lift an early three, if the shot is there, and especially if Michigan is feeling a little momentum.  Nearly everyone except the true bigs on the roster has been brought in partly because they can shoot threes, even 6'9" power forward Evan Smotrycz.  In fact, Smotrycz is such a three-point shooter that Beilein has had to try and better develop his low-post game to make him more of a matchup problem.  Make no mistake, when he's in the game, he will be; Mike Scott will have a different kind of defensive assignment on him, and it may be that if Smotrycz happens to get hot, the more athletic Akil Mitchell may have to step in.  Michigan is the kind of team that takes you out of your preferred lineups this way.

Novak also loves to fire away from three and he's exceptional at it; he'll be a major test for UVA's pack-line, which has had problems in the past at defending the three.  Now in the third year of the system, UVA's players are much more comfortable and able to step out to defend it, but Novak is a test because he's quick and runs hard through screens (or sets hard ones) and he'll be a big problem for Harris.

As on the other end of the court, UVA will have the advantage down low, and should be able to outrebound Michigan.  The main thing to watch out for is that Beilein's system is designed to lure defenders into forgetting about Jordan Morgan, and their point guards are exceedingly good at finding him all alone on the baseline.  I think the pack-line is a good hedge against this, being that it clogs the lane with bodies and active hands, but the one caveat is that post defenders front their man in the pack-line and so must not allow them to slip out behind.

-- Outlook

Despite the TCU problem, UVA is coming along nicely and finds itself in a good place to be competitive against a ranked team with thoughts of tournament success.  This is a highly interesting matchup: two unorthodox defenses, one team (UVA) with an advantage in the frontcourt but the other with a very big edge in the backcourt.  Michigan's guards are quite a bit more talented than UVA's, and more experienced overall as well.  (Despite the fact that they start a sophomore and a freshman, Novak and 6th man Stu Douglass are seniors, and that gives them an edge over our one upperclassman and smattering of sophs and freshmen.)

Home court should be an edge for the Hoos, as the shooting background can give visiting teams trouble in the second half when they're looking at the pergola.  Especially a 3-point dependent team like Michigan.  But I think the KenPom numbers are a little deceiving; the teams are considered very close to one another but Michigan has a resume behind it already, with an excellent showing in Maui - a win over Memphis and a competitive loss to Duke.

Expect a low-scoring game, of course - both teams are perfectly content to let the pace of the game take care of itself rather than push the tempo.  It'll be the kind of game that commentators call a "defensive struggle" regardless of shooting percentage.  Despite the lack of up-and-down shooting and bombing and running, I expect an entertaining one; the coaching chess match will be fascinating to watch. 

I've always said if Michigan and Virginia ever play in anything I care about, I'd pick sides based on who needs the win more.  That's UVA - Michigan just needs to take care of basic business to get to the tourney, while UVA needs to find a way to get some kind of a resume-enhancer.  Nevertheless, I expect to be "disappointed" in the end - if you can call it that when your other favorite team gets a quality ACC road win to burnish its case for a 4-seed or higher.  Mike Scott and Tim Hardaway will get theirs, and UVA can win if its guards improve their shooting over their performance so far.  But in the end I think U-M's guards will overwhelm UVA's and carry them to the win.

-- Final score: U-M 67, UVA 60

Monday, November 28, 2011

weekend review

This is going to be kind of a short review and also late because I've been spending all day focusing on the positive.  Thinking happy, positive thoughts.  It's days like Saturday where I'm thankful to have two teams in my rooting satchel.  It sucks we lost - really, it sucks that we lost 38-0, I would've been able to just let a 21-14 loss wash right over me - but fortunately it cannot dampen Michigan's win over Ohio State.  That's the bonus - you'd think going 1-1 on Saturday would even things out, but a win over a rival is untouchably delicious.  Nothing can ever ruin that.

Of course, the flipside is that nothing can make up for a 38-point loss to a rival, either, right?  Wrong - we are 8-4 and going bowling.  As I was hoping to be 6-6 at this point, I can't let myself be too disappointed.  I think the bowl possibilities are narrowed down to two: the Department Store Bowl in Charlotte and the Music City Bowl in Nashville, with either Cincinnati or Vanderbilt, respectively, as opponents.  In other words, we're not even stuck in some non-destination hole playing some glorified D-II Sun Belt squad, and there are beatable opponents waiting.  Win this upcoming bowl game to go to 9-4 and I can call it, at worst, the second-best season of UVA football since I arrived on Grounds as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first-year.  How can I complain?  Besides the obvious, I mean.

Speaking of the obvious, let's take one last necessary look back on Saturday and then file it forever.  Because we have to tally up the predictions, that's why.  Otherwise, the only analysis you need is HOOS PLAY BAD.  No need to anguish over things like the decision to forgo a field goal - wooo, it would've been 38-3 and besides that VT would've gotten the ball back in better field position than they did so maybe they'd've scored on that drive and then it would've been 45-3.  Hoos play bad.  Turn ball over.  Not run block.  Analyzing that game - so easy a caveman can do it.  Let's analyze predictions instead:

- Either Jones or Parks tops 100 yards rushing.

You heard me: Not run block.

- Mike Rocco completes between 50 and 60 percent of his passes.

16 of 27 does in fact qualify.  Unfortunately, he didn't do the other thing I said he needed to do, which is take care of the ball.  Rocco actually moved the ball very well as long as he was on his own side of the field.  When the Hokies had less ground to defend, they did it very well.

- So does Logan Thomas.

Thomas was 13/21, which is more than 60%, so I get nothing here.  It's the only right call, as UVA failed in general to shut down Thomas through the air.  The two things I most feared came to pass, and you see the result.

- David Wilson runs for 120+ yards.

Make that three things.  Wilson got his yards alright, 153 of them.

- Perry Jones catches at least five. He is Superman. 

Jones caught zero.  Hello kryptonite.

- Whichever QB throws fewer interceptions, wins.

You know how this one went.

Three for six gives me 36-of-88 in the regular season, which is a shade under 41%.  Considering how specific I make these predictions, I think that's not half bad.  6-6 in the score department, though, which literally is half bad, and 6-5-1 ATS.  I have a chance to get over .500 on picks, and I suspect I'll do so if the Hoos win their bowl.

Losing means I didn't get to cast a vote for UVA in the Blogpoll after all.  Maybe next year - or maybe in the final poll after the bowl.  Anyway, this is the ballot.  They're coming later these days because they take longer to do every week.

There's a lot of change because there were a lot of rivalry-game routs, and these rivalry games don't often match up a powerhouse against a patsy, so there was a lot of opportunity to make things happen.

I don't want to be ranking Southern Miss, by the way, but they are 10-2 (and UVA is kind of a marquee win) and the alternative is either Georgia Tech or dipping into the Big East turdbowl.  So there you have it.  And if it's any consolation, Saturday was clearly Virginia Tech's best win of the season - usually I just slot that one in the middle somewhere.  (That's not consolation?  Well, I tried.)


This marks this year's final installment of Senior Seasons - a few teams are still playing, so I'll toss the results out there if I remember, but only in news bullets.  But have no fear - I expect the 2013 recruiting class to be absolutely outstanding, so next year this ought to be a fun section.

Piscataway 34, Franklin 19: Kye Morgan ran for 158 yards and a touchdown, which pushed him over 1,000 yards in just ten games, but Franklin lost their annual rivalry game and finished 6-4.

Buford 42, Elbert County 13 (C.J. Moore)
St. Joseph 32, Hammonton 3 (Max Valles)
St. Joseph Prep 30, Malvern Prep 14 (Michael Mooney)
Hermitage 10, L.C. Bird 0 (Andre Miles-Redmond)

Only three schools will play next week: St. Joseph and Max Valles, Buford and C.J. Moore, and Hermitage with Andre Miles-Redmond.  St. Joseph won its rivalry game against crosstown public school Hammonton, and next week will play for New Jersey's Non-Public I championship.  Buford and Hermitage are in the state semifinals, Georgia's AA division and Virginia's Level 6.  Hermitage's opponent is Centreville, and the winner plays the winner of Oscar Smith and Battlefield at Scott Stadium.

All three have excellent chances; St. Joseph has outscored opponents 423 to 19 this year.  Hermitage should be favored against Centreville and then would likely have a battle of the titans against Oscar Smith.  Buford has been crushing everyone and is going for its fifth straight title; it would take an upset for them to lose.


-- I forgot to mention the demise of the soccer teams in their NCAA tournaments.  The men, deprived of their best scorer, didn't get past the first round, losing at Klockner to Delaware, 1-0.  The ladies carried a shutout streak into the quarterfinals (including a 4-0 win over VT) but lost to FSU in the quarters.  Women's sports being what they are (which is to say, way fewer upsets) all four teams in the semis are 1 seeds; UVA was a 2 seed.

-- Someone tell me again why it's the ACC that always gets the bad football rap.  We have nine bowl-eligible teams; the Pac-12 would have seven if one of them wasn't a dirty cheater.  Seven Pac-12 teams have a losing record in-conference, and five overall, or they will once UCLA gets rocked in the Pac-12 championship.  Only five ACC teams have losing conference records, and only three have losing records overall.  And if you tell me that's because the ACC plays one fewer conference game and builds its record up on the nonconference schedule, I'll ask you why the SEC gets a pass on theirs.

At worst, the ACC has been the fourth-best conference this year behind the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12 - and the Big 12 is being held together by duct tape and toothpicks.  The Pac-12 has already fired three of its coaches (all in the putrid Pac-12 South) with more potentially on the way.

-- Speaking of fired coaches, it appears that the ACC will get through this offseason without a single coaching change.  That hasn't happened since the 2005-2006 offseason.  Although it's not for lack of trying on the part of the fanbases.  Marylanders are already chomping at the bit, of course, to get rid of Randy Edsall.  Can't imagine why.  And Bostonites want Frank Spaziani gone, but he's not going anywhere.  (Via BC Interruption.)

-- After the talk of being "Oregon of the East" during last year's uniform unveilings (and getting out-Oregonned so hard by Maryland - and come to think of it, VT as well, but much more quietly) that died down fast this year.  UVA skipped two combinations entirely (white over blue and orange over orange, the latter of which THANK GOD) and only used two combinations more than once (orange over blue three times and white over white four times.)  All that hype over fancy new unis and we roll with white on white as much as possible.

Everything else was used just once.  I could go the rest of my life and be happy never seeing blue/blue in any uniform style ever, but the white jersey with orange pants is too sharp to ignore.  And it's a little disappointing to see so little of the classic blue and whites.  There's still the bowl game, though.

-- UVA got very solid representation on the all-ACC teams released today.  I don't think I can complain about any snubs; I guess I would have liked to see Perry Jones (honorable mention) get more consideration than Andre Ellington (2nd team) simply because Jones is a much greater receiving threat than Ellington, but I think overall it's pretty decent.  And ohbytheway, nobody had more players on the first team than UVA did.  Only Florida State tied us, with three.  Here's the breakdown as far as UVA is concerned:

1st team: Austin Pasztor, Matt Conrath, Chase Minnifield
2nd team: Oday Aboushi, Steve Greer
HM: Perry Jones, Rodney McLeod, Anthony Mihota

-- Big basketball game tomorrow.  Big one.  It's kind of a bittersweet moment in history for me; it'll be the first time I've ever cheered against Michigan in anything.  (I've always said that if this ever happened, I'd choose sides based on who needs the win more; that is clearly Virginia.  It'll make up for my answer to Gobbler Country about picking a U-M win over a UVA one on Saturday.)  On the plus side, you can expect a pretty well-informed game preview.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

postseason update

OK, so, that happened.  Do we need to rehash it much?  I don't think we do.  Let's just go with this: if they'd offered us 8-4 before the season, I'd've taken it and so would you.  Time for bowls and basketball.

Today, bowls.  The wide expansion of possibilities was going to get much narrower this weekend regardless of the outcome, so here's where we stand.  The top four bowls are basically out:

-- Orange Bowl, obviously. 

-- Ex-Peach Bowl will almost certainly take the loser of the ACCCG.  If that's VT it's even more certain.  Supposedly they won't want to take Clemson and Auburn because that's their season kickoff matchup next year, but I'm not sure that's a thing, really - remember what short attention spans football fans have.

-- Even if they don't take Clemson, they'll take FSU and then Clemson will just go the CS Bowl.  Or they'll take Georgia Tech and FSU will go to the CS Bowl and Clemson will go to the Sun.

-- And as for the Sun, word on the twitters and elsewhere is that the Sun won't pass on Georgia Tech, if available.  Media and Twitter rumors can be unreliable but, truth be told, when it comes to bowl selections they are usually more reliable than most rumors.

-- And as mentioned last week, the Military Bowl is officially out as a possibility.  Only six teams (VT, Clemson, FSU, GT, NC State, and WF) can legally be chosen ahead of us, which drops as far as 7th at worst, and the Military Bowl is 8th.  The conference's only other bowl-eligible teams are UNC and Miami; the latter of which has pulled themselves from consideration and both of which are two games worse in the conference standings.

So regardless of how it all shakes out or how much the Peach likes the idea of all these Clemson-Auburn games, some combination of VT, Clemson, FSU, and GT is going to the top four.  So the next pick is.....

-- The former Tire Bowl (Charlotte)

Matchup: Big East #3
Potential opponents: Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers

Finally, a little bit of clarity in the Big East.  Louisville has clinched at least a share of the Big East title.  Cincy and WVU can each do the same by winning next weekend.  Unfortunately, there's a triangle of doom there: Louisville beat WVU which beat Cincy which beat Louisville.  So that tells you how the tiebreakers will go if it's a two-way tie between Louisville and someone; if it's a three-way tie, the Big East champ is probably WVU.  The tiebreaker rules state that in that case, the highest-ranked team in the BCS wins the BCS auto-bid, but the catch is that that shitty conference doesn't have anyone ranked in the BCS.  However, WVU does get a couple votes in the Harris Poll.

In order of desirability, those teams are probably ranked like so: WVU, Cincy, Rutgers, Louisville.  So WVU and/or Cincy are the most likely Big East reps here.  The CS Bowl has the #2 pick from the Big East, but they're wisely going to exercise their option to take Notre Dame here, which really means the Department Store Bowl has the second pick, and my bet is they'll take whichever of WVU and Cincy doesn't go to the Orange Bowl.

As far as UVA's chances?  They are OK, but NC State may have leaped in front of us with that awesome comeback against Maryland.  (I'm not even mad.  That's amazing.)  The ex-Tire folks have a choice now.  Team A has a history of success in that bowl and of bringing a lot of fans, is in a state right next door, and has a one-game better record.  (Bowls like to flaunt the records of their teams, and 7-5 says "whew, just made it.")  Team B beat Team A and has all its fans within 3 hours, tops, of Charlotte and half of them within 30 minutes of the stadium.  My guess is they'll go with NC State, but UVA will get strong consideration.

(Late edit: Forgot to include in my thinking the fact that Cincinnati and NC State already played this season.  I don't think the bowl people would mind a rematch if that game hadn't been a blowout, but the Pack got murdered.  Since I think their Big East choice is basically either WVU or Cincy, if WVU gets to the Orange Bowl then I expect that Charlotte would take UVA over NC State so as to avoid a rematch.  NC State's draw in the state isn't so awesome that having Louisville would make up for it.)

-- Music City Bowl (Nashville)

Matchup: SEC #7/#8
Potential opponents: Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Florida

You know these people have to be giddy as hell over Vanderbilt's bowl eligibility.  The SEC has a clear top five, with #6 being Auburn and #7 being Florida, if only because of fanbase and following.  Auburn's probably going to Atlanta, and I'll be awfully surprised if Florida doesn't go to the Gator Bowl.  I think it's slightly possible the Gator passes on them, but I emphasize "slightly."

That leaves the Music City, the Liberty, and the SEC to sit down and discuss the fates of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.  And come on - the Music City is not gonna let Vandy go without a fight.  The Liberty Bowl is in Memphis, so that's not much of a stretch either, but putting Vandy in the Music City and the Bulldogs in Memphis makes the most sense from a fanbase proximity standpoint.

And where UVA is concerned, if we're still available here, the Music City people could theoretically pick Wake Forest over us, but.....don't be silly.  If they get Vandy, well, those two just played, and Wake got rolled.  And nobody picks Wake Forest anyway if they don't have to.  Tiny alumni base.  If they get Mississippi State, there is a very slim chance they could take Wake, but they won't.  If at some point, Vanderbilt is announced as a Music City Bowl participant with opponent TBA, expect that opponent to be UVA.

-- Independence Bowl (Shreveport)

Matchup: MWC #3
Potential opponents: San Diego State, Wyoming, Air Force

All the stuff I've said in the past about who the Independence people will take from the MWC, SDSU with a big fanbase etc. etc., still applies.  UVA is not likely to drop this far, but just in case we do, figure on SDSU.


So, in order from most likely to least, here are what I think are the realistic matchup possibilities:

UVA vs. Vandy (Nashville)
UVA vs. Cincy (Charlotte)
UVA vs. Miss. St. (Nashville)
UVA vs. WVU (Charlotte)

The rest?  Not really in the realm of the likely.  And it's not that WVU is likely to be picked over Cincy, it's just that I think they're more likely than Cincy to end up as Big East "champion."  If you can consider yourself the champion of that turd pile. And if you want a prediction out of me?  It'll be  Vanderbilt.  Call it the Smart People Bowl.  It'd be a road game, essentially, but very winnable, and even if we lose it'll be fun watching Marylanders squirm over James Franklin beating UVA.

(Late edit part 2: It makes sense though, if you buy the other stuff I'm saying, that if I think West Virginia will make the Orange Bowl, that I ought to be predicting UVA/Cincy in Charlotte instead.  Therefore the predictions are shuffled a bit from before.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy Thanksgiving to you

As always, for your Thanksgiving amusement it is neckless Thomas Jefferson carving up that ugly-ass Hokie bird.  No mercy.  (It's probably all gamey and tough anyway.)  Have fun roasting, frying, stuffing, carving, and devouring your own turkey this Thanksgiving.

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: Saturday, November 26, 3:30


History against the Hokies: 37-50-5

Last matchup: VT 37, UVA 7; 11/27/10; Blacksburg

Last game: UVA 14, FSU 13; VT 24, UNC 21

Line: VT by 4

Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country, The Key Play

Injury report: too early for it right now.  Maybe I put it in later, maybe not.

Do I need to say anything to hype up this game, or to tell you anything about the importance of it?  I don't.  You know what's at stake.  That's a good thing, because I'm hardly sure if I can.  It's hard to do justice to this game in a single paragraph, especially to what it would mean if we won.  The list of possibilities is long: a spot in the ACC championship game; major recruiting chops; a year's worth of ammunition against a fanbase that is both galactically arrogant and hates us because they think we're arrogant.  You have your own reasons for wanting this one, and the exciting part is, it's our best chance in years.

-- UVA run offense vs. VT run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 170 carries, 870 yards, 5.1 avg, 5 TDs
Kevin Parks: 134 carries, 644 yards, 4.8 avg, 8 TDs

UVA offense:
177.64 yards/game, 4.44 yards/attempt
43rd of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

VT defense:
104.91 yards/game, 3.29 yards/attempt
19th of 120 (national), 3rd of 12 (ACC)

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, so to speak.  From one tough run defense to another.  VT's rush defense isn't that far behind FSU's; the difference is that FSU did not honestly have any bad games.  They had games where they allowed teams to sort of approach their average.  VT has had bad games, and therein lies your hope.  Miami, for example, the same Miami that UVA shut down, went apeshit, with Lamar Miller running for 166 yards on 18 carries.

Up front, Tech basically does not ever rotate its defensive linemen.  Injuries have forced them to run thin at this spot.  Against UNC, which was having success running the ball until Giovanni Bernard left the game with a concussion, the starting four each played over 90% of available snaps.  Nose tackle Derrick Hopkins can make plays, but fellow tackle, freshman Luther Maddy, is an exploitable spot in the defense.

Injuries have similarly befell the Tech linebacking corps; Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor both suffered Lisfranc injuries to their feet, and are out for the season.  Gouveia-Winslow's backup, Alonzo Tweedy, has also been hurt, forcing Tech to play a full-time nickel package.  That leaves middle linebacker Tariq Edwards, who knows what he's doing out there.  Edwards is a playmaker and he's been instrumental in covering up for a little bendability on the defensive line.  At the other linebacker position, Taylor's old spot, Tech now rotates Barquell Rivers and walk-on Jack Tyler.  Neither are standouts, but they get the job done.

Other than Georgia Tech, UVA will be VT's best test in the run game.  Tech is traditionally good at this stuff, but could be vulnerable if they are forced to play a 4-2-5 nickel as their base defense.  Replacing a linebacker with 189-pound nickel cornerback, freshman Detrick Bonner, is a decent proposition for UVA.  Tech's defensive ends are good pass-rush ends, but smallish, and the whole setup is far less experienced than UVA's offensive line.

Do not, by the way, put it past Mike London to have come up with a way to use David Watford in a creative fashion.  London is good at pulling out the stops.  I'm not saying we're suddenly gonna go back to that damnable quarterback platoon, but you'll remember how Vic Hall almost singlehandedly took the Hokies down in 2008 because they never saw that coming.  It's possible London has Watford in mind for something similar.

In 2004, Alvin Pearman rattled off 147 yards in a 24-10 loss; since then, no UVA tailback has turned in a 100-yard performance in the Tech game.  Does that change this week?  I think so.  I think you will see Bill Lazor pound the run enough to get either Superman Jones or Parks over that mark.  The challenge will be to see if our wide receivers can get some quality blocking in, because Kyle Fuller is an excellent run-stopping cornerback.  If not for him, Tech might be in semi-dire straits.

-- UVA pass offense vs. VT pass defense

Mike Rocco: 180/298, 60.4%; 2,148 yards, 11 TD, 9 INT; 7.21 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 53 rec., 710 yards, 1 TD
Perry Jones: 41 rec., 416 yards, 3 TD

UVA offense:
233.4 yards/game, 6.9 yards/attempt
67th of 120 (national), 8th of 12 (ACC)

VT defense:
202.6 yards/game, 6.7 yards/attempt
40th of 120 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

(Before I get started, this is the point where I have to say I have not yet gotten tired of watching Mike Rocco loft that touchdown pass to Perry Jones last week.  That throw had to be perfect to find its target, and there are other QBs in the nation that can make that throw too, but it can't be thrown any better.)

5th of 12 looks pretty average, but there are four teams tied at #1, and VT is just two-tenths of a yard behind them.  So we're not talking about an easy time here, really.  The really cogent stat here is that VT is only one of three pass defenses in the country that allows a completion percentage less than 50%; the only team ahead of them here is Alabama.  Even the explosive Clemson, the only team to beat VT, hit on just 13-of-32 passing.

Jayron Hosley is a very solid cornerback and in most years would probably earn first-team all-ACC honors, and strong safety Antone Exum (the Hokie defense calls it "rover") joins him in the pass-defense excellence category; both have 11 passes defensed, with 10 breakups for Exum and eight plus three picks for Hosley.  Middle 'backer Tariq Edwards has two picks of his own; this defense is no picnic to throw against.

The pass rush is also an issue; ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins have five and six sacks, respectively.  Tech also likes to corner-blitz with Fuller, who's picked up three.  (This all is partly why I say Lazor will prefer to pound the run.)

Rocco has been hovering at 60% completion just about all season.  I don't think he'll get there on Saturday, but for UVA to win, he won't absolutely need to if the run game is working.  What he does absolutely need to do is avoid throwing interceptions.  UVA loses this game if Rocco throws two of them, is how I see it.  He's been exceptional lately in the take-care-of-the-ball department, and was remarkably cool under pressure against Florida State.  But that was "just" Florida State; there wasn't as much pressure, in the sense of pressure to succeed.  I think Rocco will complete between 50 and 60% of his passes, with Perry Jones once again being a recipient of at least five of them, and that'll be enough to keep things from getting out of hand as long as some of those incompletions aren't actually interceptions.

-- VT run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
David Wilson: 231 carries, 1,442 yards, 6.2 avg., 7 TD
Logan Thomas: 118 carries, 387 yards, 3.3 avg., 9 TD

VT offense:
201.27 yards/game, 4.73 yards/attempt
36th of 120 (national), 3rd of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
123.36 yards/game, 3.66 yards/attempt
37th of 120 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

This is going to be a short section.  David Wilson will get his yards and that's all there is to it.  He will break tackles and it will be frustrating.  You basically just mark him down for 130 yards on 20-25 carries and call it a day.  Only UNC and Arkansas State(!) managed to hold him under 100, and even then he got 80-some, which, it's not like that sucks.

Also, Logan Thomas will run the ball and that's all there is to that, too.  Here's where you like things a little better.  Thomas typically carries about 12 times a game.  Often, a running quarterback has similar numbers to Thomas's, and the low average means he gets sacked a lot.  Thomas has only been sacked 12 times; some of his runs are designed keepers, and some of them are because he's so goddam huge that he's tough to actually sack, and turns a loss of 2 into a gain of 2.  Both of these guys are just loads to bring down.  UVA has got to play perfect positioning, because arm tackles will never cut it.  Especially not with Thomas, who is a galoot and a half.  Oh, and VT's offensive line: huge as well, with three 300-pounders, and topping out at 311 with Blake DeChristopher.

Now, the silver lining here: starting center Andrew Miller may not play.  He was hurt in the UNC game.  Could that have been responsible for Wilson's un-Wilsonlike day?  Perhaps.  Tech has faith in utility backup Michael Via, so I wouldn't hang your hat on suddenly being able to stuff the Turkeys all day long in the run game, but every little bit helps.

Regardless of that injury, though, it's the easiest prediction in the world for me to chalk up Wilson for another 120-yard game.  Hopefully it takes him like 30 carries, but he'll get there.

-- VT pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Logan Thomas: 180/298, 60.4%; 2,338 yards, 16 TD, 7 INT; 7.85 avg.

Top receivers:
Jarrett Boykin: 50 rec., 629 yards, 4 TDs
Danny Coale: 48 rec., 761 yards, 3 TDs

VT offense:
222.8 yards/game, 8.0 yards/attempt
29th of 120 (national), 6th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
213.7 yards/game, 6.5 yards/attempt
30th of 120 (national), 1st of 12 (ACC)

I had to double-take to make sure I didn't get my wires crossed and accidentally put one QB's numbers in for another, but it's an actual truth: Rocco and Thomas have attempted and completed exactly the same number of passes each.  There's your Yak Fact of the day.

Anyway, if you want to win the game, it has to happen when Logan Thomas drops back to pass.  I am stealing a bit of the thunder from the other half of the Gobbler Country Q&A, so, bad blogger dude, but here is what I see about Thomas.  Three of his games matched both the following two criteria: more INTs than TDs, and a below-average (or so near it that it counts) completion percentage.  They were his three worst games, passer-rating-wise, of the season - ECU, Clemson, and Duke.  They're also Tech's three worst of the season.  They averaged 11 points a game in those three, and 32 points a game in the rest of their FBS matchups.

UVA can top 11 points on Tech.  That is very doable.  They will not top 32; they haven't done that since Indiana.  Make Logan Thomas have a bad day throwing and UVA can, and likely will, win this football game.  David Wilson is a complete hoss but one-dimensional offenses have trouble regardless of opponent or how good that one dimension is.

Now, Thomas is developing into a dangerous passer.  Coale and Boykin are his main weapons; Tech doesn't deploy the tight end or running backs as pass-catchers most of the time.  And the deep ball is not a specialty; Thomas can hit it sometimes, but not too consistently.  This plays into Virginia's hands rather well, I think, considering that we have the lockdownest corner in the league.  Danny Coale is an obnoxious son of a bitch because he's that gritty, techniquey white receiver that always makes a 10-yard catch on 3rd-and-9, and he's like a seventh-year junior or something.  If Chase can shut down Coale, that'll be huge.  That would almost be the ballgame.

Remember that I pointed out that the VT pass defense is second in the country in completion percentage; you know that the UVA defense ain't too shabby itself in this regard, coming in at 11th.  Like Rocco, I only expect Thomas to complete 50 to 60% of his passes.  That means whoever turns the ball over less, wins.

-- Outlook

In 2003, I went into this game feeling, along with the rest of the student body that "it's our year, and if not now, when?"  It's been awfully hard to think that since then.  "If not now, when?" may have been partly a function of the fact that it was my last game in Scott Stadium as a student, but Tech also has a better team now; it's hard to feel like this is our best shot for a while.  It's not like they can get much better than 10-1.

But it's hardly an invincible 10-1.  My brain says Tech has the advantage in at least two of four of the above game sections, possibly three if Logan Thomas decides to have a really good day.  And special teams is not a happy place either (although we have gotten our hands on several field goal attempts this year, and nothing would be funner than getting another one this weekend.  Tech acts like blocking kicks is still their big thing but they haven't been really stand-out good in that area for a while.  Plus, their punting really sucks.)

On paper, Tech should win.  But on paper, so should Florida State have.  This UVA team is flying high with confidence right now.  It's too early in the process to call it cockiness; UVA just didn't seem to realize that FSU was more talented.  UVA is much more experienced in the trenches besides, and hopefully will be willing to run the ball til Perry Jones's legs fall off.  If I were an objective media dude doing a drive-by pick, VT would be a logical choice.  I'm not.  I'm a homer blogger and I'm allowed to sit on my homer ass and do homer things once in a while.  UVA will be confident, more motivated, and finally has some talent and experience to match, and is playing at home besides.  This is our year, and you're off your fucking rocker if you think I'm gonna pick otherwise.

-- Prediction summary:

- Either Jones or Parks tops 100 yards rushing.
- Mike Rocco completes between 50 and 60 percent of his passes.
- So does Logan Thomas.
- Perry Jones catches at least five.  He is Superman.
- David Wilson runs for 120+ yards.
- Whichever QB throws fewer interceptions, wins.

Final score: UVA 23, VT 17

-- Rest of the ACC:

- Boston College @ Miami, 3:30 Friday (Don't be surprised to see BC pull this out, now that Miami has pulled out of bowl contention and will probably be playing in front of 400 people.)
- Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, 12:00 (Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.  If GT loses, it might improve our chances of going to El Paso, but do we want that?)
- Maryland @ NC State, 12:30 (NC State trying to finally get bowl-eligible.  You should be hoping they do for the ACC's sake.  Also screw Maryland.)
- Duke @ North Carolina, 3:30 (Only thing at stake is the right to chant Just Like Football in February.)
- Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt, 3:30 (Vandy trying to be bowl-eligible, which would be cool and piss off Maryland fans even more.)
- Florida State @ Florida, 7:00 (The last time these teams had so few wins between them?  Not even the Zook era, I don't think.)
- Clemson @ South Carolina, 7:45 (Truthfully, this ought to be a very entertaining game.)

a civil conversation with Gobbler Country

These football games are too big a deal for one person to break down all by my lonesome, so once again I've turned for assistance to the blog nebula to help make this happen.  For the fourth year in a row, we are pleased to welcome furrer4heisman, owner and proprietor of Gobbler Country, to share in a Q&A session.  I think the other half will go up over there tomorrow; I'll do my best to get it linked if possible but the day is pretty much spoken for between going to the Lions game and then the usual family stuff.  (Here you go.)  At any rate check it out.  I mean, if you're bothering with reading this stuff on Thanksgiving Day, you might as well.  It's always a pleasure to exchange questions with F4H and his is the best VT blog out there, so please don't kick the Hokie.

1. I've asked everybody this in case the compiled answers come in handy some time, so now it's your turn: Thoughts on ACC expansion? What do you think about the new arrivals, and who, if anyone, should be next? And what if the opportunity came for VT to leave the ACC?

I like the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. I know a lot of people don't. Obviously it spreads the ACC's sphere of influence farther north and it makes the conference more stable. When the conference added Syracuse and Pitt, there wasn't a football powerhouse available that was going to be willing to come to the conference.

Cuse and Pitt are two programs that have had their share of glory days. Those seem like a distant memory right now, but I do like the two coaches that are there. Of course, these decisions should be made solely on how the football program is doing right this second. These are permanent decisions and I think the ACC did a good job being proactive.

As far as the future? For Virginia Tech I was happy with the ACC as its home before the addition of Cuse and Pitt and I'm even happier now. Selfishly I'd like the Hokies to be in the SEC because those are a lot shorter drives/flights for me. For the ACC, I think the dream would be to add Notre Dame and UConn. If anything, it would really piss BC off and that would humor me.

2. Please explain the Duke game.

How about you explain your Duke games from 2008-2010, big guy? (ed.: Easy - assy defense.) Well, we threw a pick at the goalline, threw a pick in the end zone and missed a field goal in the first half. Then we punted on every possession in the second. It was one of those things where watching it I knew THEY weren't going to score, but I was also pretty sure we weren't going to score either. The way I described it in the post game recap was something I won't repeat on your space.

3. How have injuries affected the VT defense this year?

Our two-deep currently has 15 freshmen or sophomores, including seven on the defensive line. Despite all the injuries, they've been surprisingly steady. Even the last two games when they've been without an outside linebacker and have had to play five defensive backs they've been solid. The problem is when they're on the field too long against a team that's willing to just run the ball at them. A big part of this game will be our offense's ability to sustain drives and keep the defense rested.

4. How has the offseason coaching staff shakeup worked out, both in the recruiting realm and on the field?

So far it's been fine. I really don't follow recruiting, but it seems Cornell Brown and Shane Beamer have given it a shot in the arm. I've been pleased with Mike O'Cain's play-calling for the most part, but there are times where he seems to out-think himself. There were a couple of questionable calls against UNC, but he had a really good game plan for attacking its defense.

5. Please tell me that "George George III" is a real person who exists for real.

Not only does he exist, but this week we're putting in a special GEORGECAT package where he lines up behind center and Logan Thomas lines up at tight end. I expect it to result in a 55-point victory.

(Ed.: You really have to appreciate that not one, but three generations of parents have had the balls to name their kid George George.)

6. In the event you win this game and then the ACCCG as well, which would Hokies fans consider a better season: going to the Orange Bowl and stomping whatever the Big East has to offer, or having the dominoes fall into place just right, getting to the BCS title game, and getting stomped by LSU?

No question going to the BCSCG and getting stomped by LSU. If you don't want to be in that setting regardless of outcome you have no place in this game.

7. Evaluate Logan Thomas's passing for us.

He's been a lot better than I thought he'd be. Right now he has a better completion percentage than Tyrod Taylor had last year. His yards per attempt are lower, but that's because his deep-ball accuracy isn't as good. Most importantly he's been solid in his decision making and hasn't made a lot of ill-advised throws. He just has to get more consistent.

8. And....prediction time. Are you and/or the rest of Hokieland nervous?

I'm always nervous about this game whether UVa is 8-3 or 3-8 coming in. It's a rivalry game and it always gives me butterflies. As for the rest of the fans, I think they're confident. I actually think they'd be less confident about this game if UVa had lost to FSU and handed us the division title. Now with a trip to Charlotte on the line I think most of our fan base is confident that the Hokies will come in prepared and focused and take care of business. I'm taking the Hokies, but I don't think we'll cover. I think it'll be low-scoring. Something like 20-16.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the recruit: Kye Morgan

Name: Kye Morgan
Position: RB
Hometown: Somerset, NJ
School: Franklin
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175

24/7: 81; three stars; #66 RB; NJ #35
ESPN: 74; two stars; #158 RB; NJ #37; Atlantic #200
Rivals: 5.6; three stars; #46 RB; NJ #22
Scout: three stars; #41 RB

Other offers: Rutgers, Illinois, Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple

It took a little while (relative to the rest of the recruiting class) but UVA got its running back just as fall camp kicked off, a man forever destined to be called Kyle on every message board by the uninitiatied and/or uninformed.

Morgan had Rutgers on the top of his wish list for most of the year, which is no surprise because his high school and hometown are literally across the river from Rutgers.  You could hardly find a better definition of a school's backyard.  We can't exactly say we stole Morgan from under their noses; Rutgers cut Morgan off after taking a commitment from another very similar player (except, one that had no other offers besides the Rutgers one.)  Worried that his #2 choice might also fill up, Morgan jumped on board.  (At the time, we were also still recruiting Chris Mangus hard, and had our eye on a couple other backs as well.)

Depending on the future of 2012 recruiting, it's possible that Morgan could move to safety, but the coaches seem to be regarding any further commitments as pure icing on the cake, so they're only playing longshots now.  So Morgan is probably a running back all the way.  As such, he fills a need; even though we have three of them rotating through very nicely, not having one in this class would've hurt, because three of four scholarship backs on the roster are set up to run out of eligibility in 2014.

Morgan isn't a specialty back, so he fills our need very well.  There's a lot of things he does well - nothing spectacularly, but well, and productively.  Doesn't have blazing fast speed, but he's fast enough, and quick to hit his top gear.  Morgan also appears to have decent balance; despite his smallish size, defenders seem to consistently have trouble wrapping him up high on his highlight tapes, with the obvious and usual caveat that college players are a lot stronger.  He'll also be a threat in the passing game, similar to Perry Jones.

Morgan's ratings are good enough and consistent enough that you can ignore the outlier; in this case, ESPN.  I don't think a two-star guy has offers from that many decent schools.  He had a very productive high school career, finishing it as the career and single-game yardage and touchdown record holder.  Actually it's not quite finished; Franklin bowed out of the playoffs in the first round, but they have their rivalry game this coming weekend.

I think you can expect him to redshirt, because next season, Superman Jones is a senior and Parks and Richardson are sophomores.  Nobody from this current crop of very productive backs is leaving.  And in case someone gets hurt, Khalek Shepherd is ready to step in as well.  There shouldn't be any need to play Morgan, and in fact it's ideal for his career if he can put a year of separation between himself and three other backs.  Richardson and Parks will cast quite a shadow for a while.  I don't expect Morgan to ever be a one-man show in the backfield, but if he redshirts (and assuming we don't pick up any more running backs this year) he'll have two seasons as the graybeard running back on the roster, and regardless of how his time is split, I expect he'll be very productive by then.

weekend review

Phew.  It's been a busy weekend, which is why you haven't seen a poll ballot.  Here is that ballot, provided with little explanation because we have got to get a move on here.

I think GT's drop out is because they didn't do so hot against Duke.  No, I once again have not cast a ballot for UVA.  Moving up, but they wouldn't have made it this week because Rutgers came in 2nd in the preliminary ranking, with UVA 5th.  Consider UVA 29th in my ballot, if you like.  Those darn games against Idaho and Indiana are dragging us down.  Not in the eyes of some voters, however; UVA is ranked 24th in the AP poll (woo!) and is likely to also be ranked when the Blogpoll itself comes out, as 41 blogs have given us a ranking that lands anywhere from 18th to 25th.  (The 18th-place vote comes from Track 'Em Tigers, the SB Nation blog that covers our former uniform pants sister school, Auburn.)

So I'm getting increasingly lonely in my holding out on that particular issue.  Last week - before the FSU game - UVA garnered votes from seven or eight blogs, including VT people Gobbler Country (with whom we will have a Civil Conversation later this week) and - this may come as a surprise to those of you who paid particular attention to the part of last week's Civil Conversation in which was listed a bevy of three-loss-or-worse teams that they felt were better than UVA - Tomahawk Nation.  The bloke who answered that question and the bloke who cast the ballot were two different blokes, however.

Anyway, I promise you this: if we beat Tech, I'm casting a UVA vote, regardless of what my system says to do.


 So let's check out predictions real quick.  I didn't have that many this week.

- Perry Jones and Kevin Parks combine for about 3.8-4.0 yards per carry.
Nope, they got stuffed, pretty much.  The FSU run defense was as advertised.  By them, not me.  Even if I include Clifton Richardson here, which I was considering doing, we only get to 3.4.

- The UVA rushing game totals about 140 yards.
If you take out the sacks, which you're supposed to do, it's about 95-100.  Not close enough to give me this one.

- Mike Rocco throws more TDs than INTs.....if even any INTs at all.
FSU fans may have been right about the run defense but they were oh so wrong about their secondary, which they hella bragged on and called me a homer when I praised ours in the Q&A.  I'm a blogger.  Of course I'm a homer.  But I also know what I'm talking about, and the FSU pass defense was little better than any other we've seen this year.  Rocco threw a beautiful toss to Superman Jones for his TD; when you let a 5'7" elf catch a quasi-fade route throw, you're doing it wrong.  And he had zero picks.

- Devonta Freeman also gets about four yards a carry.
Freeman had lotsa yards per carry, actually, and besides that the FSU coaches decided to use Jermaine Thomas as the primary back and he had almost five himself.  The run defense was more of a good-when-it-had-to-be kinda deal than actually good.  So I get another nope.

- Florida State has at least one scoring play of 50+ yards.
With apologies to Chase Minnifield, executor of the play of the season so far, I am gonna take credit for this one because I think I was right in spirit.  Bert Reed's 68-yard reception was precisely what I had in mind, and FSU knocked out a couple other 50+ yard plays, one of which got called back on a holding call that was kinda semi-holding.  (That's OK, their TD drive was full of actual holding that went unflagged.)  I'm taking credit for this one, thanking our lucky stars and the aptly named (on that play) Chase Minnifield that it was a 68-yarder and not a 69-yarder, and chalking it up to a backhanded way of giving props to the play because who could foresee that kind of superhuman effort?

- FSU converts a long third down (10 yards or more) by picking up at least twice the necessary yardage.
The Noles only had two such opportunities; one was a 3rd-and-14 that was picked up with a 17-yard pass and one was a 3rd-and-11 that just so happened to be Steve Greer's NO-FG-FOR-YOU sack on E.J. Manuel.  No dice on this, which is good because I hate when this happens.

Two-for-six moves me to 33-of-82 for the season.  And I'm now doing better against the spread (6-4-1) than I am on real score (6-5.)


OK, Senior Seasons continues to wind down, but playoffs continue for a few.  Here are this week's high school results:

St. John Lutheran 28, Victory Christian 26: Demeitre Brim ran for a 70-yard and an 81-yard touchdown, but his season comes to a close in overtime.  He ran or threw for all four touchdowns, but Victory couldn't get a necessary 2PC in OT.  It also comes out that Brim's shoulder was hurt three weeks ago, but he's been playing through it and not throwing the ball much.

Salem 35, Bayside 21: Anthony Cooper had four catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn't enough as Bayside bows out.

L.C. Bird 21, Varina 16: Maurice Canady fumbled on Varina's last-gasp drive, and Varina is denied a rematch in the regional championship with Hermitage.

Buford 31, Jefferson County 0 (C.J. Moore)
Garnet Valley 52, Central Bucks South 48 (Matt Johns)
Nederland 21, Houston Stratford 14 (Kelvin Rainey)
North Cross 26, Norfolk Christian 14 (Moore/Nixon/Wahee/Wynn)
I.C. Norcom 20, Hampton 14 (Jamall Brown)
Hermitage 14, Thomas Dale 0 (Andre Miles-Redmond)

All in all not the kind of weekend you'd hope for.  Especially for Norfolk Christian, upset in the state championship game.  Most other recruits' seasons have ended as well; only Hermitage, Buford, and St. Joseph are still alive.  (St. Joseph, Max Valles's team, didn't play this week, and in fact doesn't play their state championship game until the first weekend in December.  They have a game against in-town public school rival Hammonton next weekend.)

Hermitage will play Bird in the Division 6 Central Region final; if they win, Miles-Redmond will get an early taste of Scott Stadium in the state semifinals.  As for Buford and C.J. Moore, they are now in the state quarterfinals.


Are you disappointed that the hoops team lost its first game in the Virgin Islands to TCU?  Don't be.  At least, not too badly.  For one thing, they still finished 2-1, and for another, they still got Drexel on the schedule, a reasonably good CAA team, and Drake isn't half bad either.  Losing to TCU won't look good in the committee's eyes, but RPI-wise it wasn't a disaster.  (Although, the way Norfolk State played down there, they might just end up tearing up the MEAC and turning into an RPI boost themselves.)

The offense still needs plenty of work, as the TCU loss and Drexel win (49 points) are perfect evidence of.  But the defense has been nothing short of outstanding in the first five games, and if that continues it'll carry the Hoos a long way.  KenPom's numbers now have UVA as the 12th-best defensive team in the country, and don't be surprised if that kind of success lasts all season.  Of course, the ACC being what it is, right now there are six conference teams in the top 25 in that category.

The weekly RPI tracker has been updated and added to the sidebar for your edification.

Lastly, there's no lacrosse schedule yet, which drives me a little bit crazy even though it's not really time yet, if history's any guide.  (There is a baseball schedule, but I never bothered pointing it out because it's lame.)  However, one more game has been announced: in addition to Cornell in Baltimore (not entirely newsworthy since UVA typically always plays an NFL-stadium game in either Baltimore or New Jersey) the Hoos will also head out to Denver to play Penn at Mile High Stadium or whatever the hell the Broncos play in these days.  So that's cool.  I'm always in favor of this kind of game because it usually, if not always, means TV.  Like last year's game against Penn, this one will also take place after the ACC tournament, or at least, so I'm assuming, as the date is April 27.


Some programming notes for this week.  Obviously it's a shorter one.  Game preview will go up on Wednesday instead of Thursday because if you think I'm spending all that time putting that thing together on Thanksgiving Day you're nuts.  Thursday posting will be limited to the standard Thanksgiving Day greeting.  I do expect we will have a Q&A session with Gobbler Country on at some point.  This game will not be one in which you can find me on the Twitters, but you should follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo anyway because I'm greedy for followers.  As it's a holiday weekend, take yourself a holiday after the game preview and don't expect much out of me til Sunday or Monday.