Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Week in College Football: Week 5

Introducing the new "This Week in College Football". With the profileration of conferences desperate for ESPN's money and exposure, we now have college ball on practically everyday of the week. So each week, I'll write up a short post about this week's weekday games in the same vein as my weekend column.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.


8:00: Hawaii @ Louisiana Tech (ESPN2): Hawaii's crazy mainland adventure continues, as they make a stop at the WAC's easternmost outpost. To put it mildly, LaTech has been bad, sporting the expected beatdown from Auburn and a 32-14 beatdown from Navy. Hawaii, meanwhile, beat Wazzou and only lost to UNLV on a touchdown in the final minute. I'll take the Warriors here.


7:30: Colorado @ West Virginia (ESPN): WVU's not great or anything, but I do think they can beat an extremely hapless CU squad. Dan Hawkins is pretty much just hoping to keep his job at this point, I'd imagine, despite last week's easy win over Wyoming.

8:00: Southern Mississippi @ Alabama-Birmingham (CBSCS): Things looked promising for UAB, as they started off the season with a 20 point win over Rice. As it turns out, though, Rice and UAB are probably the two worst teams in C-USA this year. The key for USM will be shaking off the disappointment of being a touchdown away from their second BCS skin of the year and taking care of business.


8:00: Pittsburgh @ Louisville (ESPN2): The fact that I will probably watch at least a portion of this game on Friday is extremely sad, in my opinion. Pitt joined a spate of teams last week that couldn't run two minute drills to save their lives or otherwise screwed up in the red zone (looking at you, Wake Forest and Texas Tech, among others). Don't let the records fool you: UL's schedule has been much tougher than Pitt's to this point and there's not really any reason right now to think Pitt is better than UL. Will the Wannstache prevail in another Krag-tastic loss? Eh, probably not.

Tune in later this week, or early this weekend, for my full set of picks for Saturday!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You Can Take Your "Blueprint" And....

Sometime during the summer, people who looked back on last year's UNC game decided that UNC defended us "well" and had an idea how to stop the option. I contented that they obviously hadn't watched the game or looked at the stats other than the final score (28-7).

Unfortunately, before I could start the reverse trend, it got picked up in the media and combined with last week's debacle at Miami everything just snowballed. Now everyone believed it!

And, well, have a look at some stats:

Gee, GT's stats look awfully similar, don't you think? Especially in terms of rushing yards? Notice the biggest single difference? Yeah, that's right, turnovers. GT muffed a punt and fumbled the ball, both leading directly to UNC touchdowns.

Of course, there were other factors that caused the opposite outcome this time as well. We basically never let them have the ball, which meant the defense played well (especially against the run, still need a little work on the pass rush). Also, Nesbitt had an excellent day passing, completing 63% of his passes plus a couple of balls that should've been caught.

All-in-all, a good win, and with Miami getting routed in Blacksburg, the Coastal is open once again.

This Weekend in College Football: Week 4

This is going up late and it'll be pretty short. Apologies, I've just been swamped at work lately.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • Michigan State @ Wisconsin (ESPN): While these teams have diametrically opposed offenses (Wisconsin is a traditional Big Ten "3 yards and a cloud of dust" kind of team, Mich. State likes to throw it around), neither style has really gotten then anywhere. The Badgers are 3-0, yet it doesn't really feel that way: their combined margin of victory against their DI-A opponents so far is 11 points, and those opponents were Northern Illinois and Fresno State (in OT, even). Michigan State is basically that, but the other way, with two losses by a combined 5 points, to Central Michigan and Notre Dame. More importantly for both, perhaps, is that they're 0-0 in the Big Ten. I honestly think either team could win this game, but so for the sake of picking someone I'll take Wisconsin.
  • Indiana @ Michigan (ESPN2): Through processes that I don't fully understand, Indiana is 3-0. Oh wait, they've beaten Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and Akron. Well, that certainly helps. Michigan is also 3-0, and features a win over ND and a drubbing of their directional patsies, unlike the Hoosiers. I think I'll take Michigan.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Kansas (FSN): USM got themselves a win over a BCS team last weekend by taking Virginia, though UVA is so bad this year I'm not even sure that's an upset. (In case you're wondering, the Don't Fire Al Groh guys are back.) All that said, Kansas should handle USM pretty easily.
  • South Florida @ Florida State (ESPNU): USF had a glimmer of hope in this game, I think, but then 5th year senior QB Matt Grothe went down for the count, and so did USF's chances of beating FSU.
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern (BTN): NU QB Mike Kafka surely felt the pains of existence after Northwestern's defense, or lack thereof, couldn't stop Syracuse from kicking the go ahead field goal last weekend. While Northwestern has the Big Ten's first or second best passing attack (depending on what stat you use), Minnesota hasn't excelled at much of anything and got pounded by weekend by Cal. Since the transitive property doesn't apply to college football, I feel safe predicting a Northwestern win here.
  • Louisiana State @ Mississippi State (SEC/Gameplan): This is already taking too long. LSU. Next!
  • North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (Raycom/Gameplan): I intended to write a separate article for this game, but unfortunately I never had a chance to get around to it. First, let me dispel the notion that last year's UNC team had some sort of magical option-stopping effect, as it's not true. While Tech only had 7 points, they still ran for 326 yards and 423 yards overall and had 20 first downs. What killed them? 3 turnovers, including two fumbles that led directly to touchdowns. Fast forward to this year, and turnovers have been the least of our worries so far. More worryingly, the Jackets are failing to block anyone consistently, whether it be in the trenches or on the edge. The only thing running worse than the offense right now is the defense. While you should be buying into the Miami hype, Tech hasn't shown the ability to pressure any quarterback this year.
    While UNC's defensive line is probably not as good as Clemson's or Miami's, their front 7 as a unit are probably just as good or better. This makes Tech rediscovering how to block all the more important this week. On the flip side, UNC's offense has been inconsistent. It looked fine against ECU but horrible in the 12-10 debacle at Connecticut. They won't pass a whole bunch, relying instead on the their very good running backs and a steady pocket presence from upperclassman Tyler Yates.
    Tech has made a variety of changes this past week to try to mitigate issues. On the offensive side of the ball, there is at least one new offensive line starter, and I would expect the A-back rotation to change a bit. On defense, Tech will abandon the 4-2-5 and switch to the 4-3, hoping the extra linebacker can help put some more pressure on the QB. Even though we got torched by Miami, I really don't think our secondary is that bad - not taking anything away from Jacory Harris, but when you have absolutely no pressure you can always find the open man. Hopefully we can at least touch the QB this week.
    In terms of the ACC race, Tech is already down and will, for all intents and purposes, be out if they lose this game, though it will be really darn tough anyway if Miami wins in Blacksburg. (Have I mentioned the fact that our division race will practically be decided before the end of September? What the hell, ACC?)
    So, with that, I will close. Go Jackets!
  • Arkansas @ Alabama (CBS): Arkansas had an early off week, meaning this is only their third game. That said, I'm not sure I can come up with a good reason they'll beat Alabama.
  • California @ Oregon (ABC/Gameplan): Speaking of huge, early conference games, how about this Pac-10 game? I know most will think they've heard this before, but USC has some real issues this year. Meanwhile, Cal has its first chance in a long time to not lay an egg in a big game and establish themselves as the challenger in this conference this year. I still don't really have a read on this year's Oregon team, but I do have a read that Jahvid best is really good at running with a football. If Cal can hold on, and I think they will, go ahead and mark October 31st on your calendar.
  • Illinois @ Ohio State (ESPN/ABC): Stupid early off weeks. Here's what I know about Illinois: they got slaughtered by Mizzou in week one and beat DI-AA Illinois State two weeks ago. Thanks guys. I'll take OSU anyway because I'm lazy and it's like 3AM here.
  • University of Miami @ Virginia Tech (Gameplan/ESPN/ABC): Is "DA U" back? Well, they won last year's ugly contest 16-14 before laying an egg against us the next week, but before that had lost 4 of 5. Suffice it to say, this is the best defense Miami will have faced to date, and it will be interesting to see how Jacory Harris handles the blitzes Bud Foster will throw at him. This is my game of the day, as we need a VPI win to have any realistic chance of still winning our division, but a Miami win produces a legit top-10 team from the ACC going into next week's contest with Oklahoma. And just based on what I've seen so far this year, I think Miami can break through and put enough points on the board to get past Virginia Tech's scrappy, keep-it-close style of football.
  • Texas-El Paso @ Texas (FSN): I'd ordinarily have something witty about concession stand spreads here, but I'll take Texas.
  • Pittsburgh @ North Carolina State (ESPNU): Let's do the "what do I know?" game again. NCSU is 2-1. Both the wins are over DI-AA teams. The loss was a 7-3 debacle against South Carolina. Pitt is 3-0 against Youngstown State, Buffalo, and Navy. I'd say that's about a push. I'll go ahead and take NCSU here, but if they win this game they'll lose to Duke in two weeks or something like that.
  • Western Kentucky @ Navy (CBSCS): Navy gets back on track against the Hilltoppers. Did you know I get this channel in HD, though? It's pretty awesome.
6:00: Florida @ Kentucky (ESPN2): Blah blah swine flu blah blah Kentucky not that bad blah blah Florida still has Tim Tebow, last I checked.

  • Arizona State @ Georgia (ESPNU): This is Arizona State's first game ever at a SEC stadium, though not the first time UGA's ever hosted a Pac-10 team. That said, ASU may feel right at home with the lack of defense. Take the over, and, begrudgingly, UGA.
  • Ball State @ Auburn (SEC/Gameplan): Hey, Ball State, remember when you undefeated last year going in to the MAC title game and getting some national attention? And then you laid an egg against Buffalo and have lost 5 straight now. Yeah... now that Auburn has seemingly found an offense (don't ask me how) they should take this pretty easily.
  • Arizona @ Oregon State (Versus): Arizona keeps trying to be respectable, and then they do things like "losing to Iowa". Meanwhile, Oregon State lost to a quietly good Cincy team last weekend, but should recover sufficiently to beat Arizona.
  • Louisville @ Utah (CBSCS): So, Utah had their longest unbeaten streak snapped quite rudely last weekend by Oregon. I think this game will be interesting, but I think Utah can still regain some respect and win this one.
  • Iowa @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): I just refuse to believe Iowa is anything other than mediocre, despite the 3-0 record. Of course, Penn State's schedule is arguably just as weak but they at least took care of their patsies how they should. Not sure why this is the primetime game. Penn State, easy.
  • Notre Dame @ Purdue (ESPN): So Notre Dame isn't as good as I though, oh well. I do know Purdue is as bad as I think, though, and probably won't win this game.
9:15: Texas Tech @ Houston (ESPN2): Sound the sirens, because these are two of the best Air Raid offenses in the country going at it right here. (To read more about their offenses, see here. You'll feel smarter just by doing so.) Of course, Texas Tech didn't exactly put up the show we all expected last weekend, while Houston has just been kind of doing it's thing so far. I expect both teams to score at least 40 points here and this game probably won't end until 1 AM Eastern. That said, I think TTU recovers from last week and eeks out a win here.

10:15: Washington State @ Southern California (FSN): It's Wazzou. It's a vulnerable USC team! But they're not that vulnerable. USC here.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Weekend in College Football: Week 3

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

  • California @ Minnesota (ESPN): In Cal's last early kickoff adventure, they lost to a mediocre/bad Maryland team. This game kicks off at 10 AM Pacific, though, so maybe the extra hour will benefits them? They should win anyway.
  • East Carolina @ North Carolina (ESPN2): If UNC's offense fails to show again, this will be a long day for the Tarheels. ECU is generally considered decent, but I'm not seeing it (beat App. State by 5, lost to a rebuilding WVU by 15), so I have to take UNC here.
  • Duke @ Kansas (Versus): Let's see, Duke has lost to Richmond and should've lost to Army (don't let the score fool you). Kansas, meanwhile, has outscored their equally bad opponents so far 83-10. I think the Duke basketball team might stand a better chance here.
  • Louisville @ Kentucky (ESPNU): Both of these teams had early bye weeks (the season started "late" this year, so teams only have 1 bye week) and are coming off blowouts of their respective opening day patsies. While L'ville probably won't lose 27-2 this time around, I still like UK to win.
  • Ball State @ Army (CBSCS): Army isn't exactly good or anything, but Ball State is super bad. I think the Knights of the Hudson once again, though hopefully that doesn't doom them again this week.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Michigan (BTN): Your guide to directional Michigans: Western: bad, Central: good, Eastern: super bad. Michigan rolls.
  • North Texas @ Alabama (SEC): SEC TV just seems sad if it's relegated to games like this. See, when it was the "JP Sports SEC 'Game of the Week' brought to you by Golden Flake and Yella Wood" no one cared, but when you have your own network it just seems, I dunno, wrong? Anyway...
  • Boston College @ Clemson (Raycom): This is BC's first real test, and considering how terrible I think everyone expected them to be this year (myself included) they may make it close, but Clemson should ultimately prevail.
  • Tennessee @ Florida (CBS): I think the only good thing I got out of Thursday's game was one of the commentators joking that Florida may be, perhaps, "building a woodshed" up in Gainesville. You know, to take Tennessee behind. What's the line on this, like 28 or something absurd like that? Is that the worst line in SEC history not involving teams named Vanderbilt, Kentucky, or Mississippi State? I can't speak for most folks, but I'm tuning into this one out of a sort of morbid curiosity to see if Florida can cover.
  • Michigan State @ Notre Dame (NBC): Notre Dame isn't as good as everyone thought (duh) but they're not the kind of outfit that would lose to Central Michigan at home, either. Not that the transitive property applies to college football, but seriously ND should prevail.
  • Southern California @ Washington (ABC/Gameplan): U-Dub definitely gave LSU the what-for two weeks ago, but I think I could start for USC and still beat them, especially if all I had to do was hand it to Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson 40 times. Heck, I bet even Mitch Mustain could handle that! Anyway....
  • Nebraska @ Virginia Tech (Gameplan/ESPN2/ABC): This is the kind of game that makes predicting the early season so tough. Well, okay, that's most games, but still. What we know about VPI: they lost kind of badly to Alabama. What we know about Nebraska: they've blown out a couple of bad teams. What we know from last year: VPI won pretty convincingly in Omaha. Automatic conclusion: since the game is in Blacksburg, VPI should win convincingly. And honestly, I can't think of anything to trump this conclusion.
  • Arizona @ Iowa (ESPN2/ABC): I don't care about this game and I can't think of anything to say. Iowa, I guess? I dunno.
  • Utah @ Oregon (ESPN): Now this game is hells of intriguing, except for the fact Oregon has pretty much decided they no longer want to be discussion for who the second best team in the Pac-10 is. They lost to Boise - no shame in that. But nearly losing to a very not good Purdue team at home? That raises some eyebrows. Eyebrows that say they're probably not going to beat Utah.
  • Tulsa @ Oklahoma (FSN): I really want Tulsa to make this interesting. You know, toss it around, go crazy with 5 WR sets and try to put up a bunch of points. Oh, wait, they already do those things? Hrm. Well, OU should win, but I like Tulsa to keep up the pressure, at least.
  • Indiana @ Akron (ESPNU): Indiana spices things up by playing a school that doesn't have a cardinal direction in its name. Worryingly for IU, though, they've won those two games by a grand total of 11 points. I mean, they should still beat Akron, but if you enjoying watching Big Ten teams potentially losing to MAC teams, this is probably the game for you!
  • Virginia @ Southern Mississippi (CBSCS): Things Southern Miss has done twice this season that Virginia hasn't: win football games. I fully expect this trend to continue.
6:45: Cincinnati @ Oregon State (FSN): Cincy has very quietly gotten off a rocking start, first by destroying Rutgers in their opener and then laying the expected beatdown on a directional DI-AA opponent. Oregon State probably won't lose by 67 points, but they should lose all the same.

  • Florida State @ Brigham Young (Versus): Hey, FSU, remember that time you played Jacksonville State and then only won 19-9 and had a very real chance of losing? Oh, wait, that was last week. I mean, yeah, BYU will take all the BCS conference scalps it can get, but if they win I don't think it'll even technically be an upset. I'm going with BYU as well.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): UL-Lafayette, don't get too hyped up off your victory over K-State! You'll need a level head and approximately 50 turnovers in your favor to beat LSU, most likely.
  • Mississippi State @ Vanderbilt (SEC): See, at least this is between two mediocre/bad SEC teams! This is what made JP great! Well, except that this is way too late in the day, but whatever! Also, I like Vandy.
7:30: Air Force @ New Mexico (CBSCS): New Mexico: still bad! Air Force should take this pretty easily, provided they're not too depressed about losing to Minnesota.

  • Georgia @ Arkansas (ESPN): So, uh, Georgia's defense isn't all that good, I guess? Conventional wisdom says they're going to lose to Arkansas, but the problem is I'm not entirely sure why they should. But then there's the part of me that, you know, hates Georgia and pretty much wants them to lose 78-0. So I'll go with that.
  • West Virginia @ Auburn (ESPN2): If I told you, when this game was scheduled, that one of these teams would have a dynamic, high scoring offense, who would've said it was Auburn? Yet here we are, provided the first two games are any indication. (Which I hope they are, since that's the basis for pretty much all of my predictions.) Is Auburn for real? I hope so, because otherwise I'll looking bad for picking them.
8:00: Texas Tech @ Texas (ABC): While Texas Tech may not ever rebuild now that Leach has The System going, it's hard to say exactly why they should win in Austin either. All the pressure is on Texas, of course - I don't think they can afford to lose any games this year. I still like them to win, though.

10:15: Kansas State @ California-Los Angeles (FSN): UCLA isn't exactly good or anything, but Kansas State is exactly bad. I think that sentence makes sense. What also makes sense: taking the Bruins.

11:00: Hawaii @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSCS): Unlike UNLV, Hawaii actually succeeded in beating their Pac-10 team last weekend. That said, this is Hawaii's middle game in a three-game road trip on the mainland, which is literally a trip - the team doesn't even fly back to Hawaii between these games. Which is probably better for them, actually, but I would still think this takes its toll. But still, Hawaii ran out to a 35-6 lead by the half against Wazzou and never looked back on the way to 489 yards passing. Yeesh. I have to take the Warriors here.

That's all for this week!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Weekend in College Football: Week 2

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:30: Clemson @ Georgia Tech (ESPN): Whooo boy. Big one for Tech here, and frankly I'm not a fan of conference games in September. Just too early - something that didn't help in the past. Nonetheless, these games are always fun - Clemson is Tech's biggest in-conference rival, and it's more of a friendly rivalry. Also, these games tend to generally be really close. Despite the fact Tech has won 4 of the last five, the scores break like this: 28-24, 10-9, 7-31 (ugh), 13-3, 21-17. Last week, both teams had their with patsies, though worryingly we fumbled 5 times.

9:00: Colorado @ Toledo (ESPN): While nothing is guaranteed for Colorado these days, Toledo lost big last week to a very depleted Purdue squad. I think CU can pull this out.

  • Fresno State @ Wisconsin (ESPN): While we all would love to see FSU knock off one of the big boys, I just don't see it happening in Madison.
  • Central Michigan @ Michigan State (ESPN2): MSU pads the win column with an easy win over one of the directional Michigans, though this is probably the best of the three.
  • Iowa @ Iowa State (FSN): This seems like an easy Iowa win, right? Well, to their credit, at least Iowa State was able to easily beat their DI-AA and not have to block two straight field goals to pull out the last second win. And it's not like these superior Iowa teams have been taking care of Iowa State the past few years, anyway - the series is at 2-2 over the past four meetings. I'll take the Cyclones.
  • North Carolina @ Connecticut (ESPNU): Continuing the "I'd Rather Watch This as a Basketball Game" series, UNC won 38-12 last year in Chapel Hill. I'd expect a similar result here.
  • Duke @ Army (CBSCS): Duke: 0-1 against DI-AA opponents. Army: 1-0 against DI-A opponents. If Army is going to get back to the 6-win promised land, they'll need to beat teams like Duke, and based on last week's, er, "performance" I think they can.
  • Syracuse @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Penn State should take this one pretty easily.
  • Troy @ Florida (SEC/Gameplan): Sorry, Rob, but Florida by a few touchdowns.
  • Stanford @ Wake Forest (Raycom/Gameplan): I know Baylor has a good QB and all, but Wake should've still beat them. Which makes me worried about Wake's ability to beat Stanford. I mean, I'm still picking Wake, but I have my doubts.
  • Notre Dame @ Michigan (ABC): I just don't, you know, care about this game. I think Michigan should win and all, but this will be either be an exciting, high-scoring contest or super boring, I think.
  • Brigham Young @ Tulane (ESPN2): BYU got a huge win last week in Dallas, Bradford or no. Now they have to keep it up through lulls in the schedule like this, against a Tulane squad that got pounded last week by Tulsa. In other words, this is a bit of a trap game for BYU with FSU coming up next weekend.
  • Houston @ Oklahoma State (FSN): I'm glad as anyone else Oklahoma State beat UGA last weekend, now they face a reasonable challenge in high-flying Houston. OSU should still win, but I bet this will be good to watch.
  • Texas @ Wyoming (Versus): [Checks to see if Wyoming still has those brown home jerseys.] [Yup.] This is the "1" end of a 2-for-1 between these schools. I highly suspect Texas expects, and will get, 3 wins out of it.
  • Texas Christian @ Virginia (ESPNU): TCU is pretty decent. Virginia, uh, isn't. I'll take the frogs.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Navy (CBSCS): Navy's got to pick themselves up after being a two-point conversion away from Ohio State last weekend. They can definitely do that against LaTech.
4:00: California-Los Angeles @ Tennessee (ESPN): Both of these teams took care of their requisite patsies last weekend, so it's hard for me to get a read here. I may change this later, but right now I just like Tennessee and I'm not really sure why.

  • South Carolina @ Georgia (ESPN2): I hope you don't like offense! Well, if you're watching this, anyway. I'd just go get dinner or something and get ready for USC-Ohio State. I'll take UGA here, unfortunately.
  • Vanderbilt @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): Alas, poor Vandy. Good luck against LSU, you'll need it.
  • Air Force @ Minnesota (BTN): Air Force is generally pretty pesky, but do they have a chance against UMN? Eh, probably not.
  • Mississippi State @ Auburn (SEC/Gameplan): I wonder how much people made last year on this game taking the under? Nonetheless, I can say with a fair degree of confidence there will be more than five points scored in this game, and that Auburn should probably win.
7:30: Kansas @ Texas-El Paso (CBSCS): It's Kansas! It's UTEP! It's, uh... hrm. I got nothin', except for Kansas.

8:00: Southern California @ Ohio State (ESPN): Ahhh, it's the Trobuckalypse! Both these teams are pretty vulnerable, though that term is purely relative compared to the rest of college football. For a difference on perspective, consider the hoopla around USC starting a freshman QB and realize that he would start for probably 90% of the schools in the country. Also consider Pryor is experienced in relative terms as well, being a sophomore and beginning his first year as a starter. This all also makes it extremely difficult to pick a side here, especially with the game in The Shoe. The advantages that USC had over OSU last year are no longer present as long as Pryor is competent, so I'll take the Buckeyes.

10:15: Purdue @ Oregon (FSN): This post will not mention anyone by the name of "Blount" or anything about the practice of sucker punching anyone. Nope. But don't be surprised if Purdue perhaps feels like they just did get sucker punched, though.

10:30: Utah @ San Jose State (ESPNU): I should trek down to San Jose and see this on in person! Yeah! Er, maybe not. Utah should win easily.

11:00: Oregon State @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSCS): Oregon State will at least win on the field this weekend, though I can't say the same about their odds on the slots.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

This Weekend in College Football: Week 1

Since this is the first post of the year, I'll explain how this works. Basically, I list each game that will be on TV for a particular weekend. In general, I list games that will be on a network that is reasonably national or feature a BCS team, though this judgment can be arbitrary. (For instance, I will list only national Big Ten Network games, but will always list the ACC and SEC regional games. Yeah, I'm biased.) Normally, I don't list anything other than Saturday games except on special occasions, as the post usually goes up on Friday. I also include the following disclaimer:

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: South Carolina @ North Carolina State (ESPN): This is it. The first game of the year. Are you excited? Because I'm excited. Except, well, I won't see any of these. But that's all right! I'll be on a plane destined for a much-needed vacation. That said, there's been a fair amount of hype about NCSU this year and quite frankly I'm not sure why. They were the second worst team in the ACC last year and I'm not sure what they did to get better. Stever Spurrier is still trying to get his mojo back at South Carolina. I will begrudgingly take the Gamecocks here.

7:30: North Texas @ Ball State (ESPNU): So I get ESPNU now! Thanks Comcast! It makes me feel moderately better about the utterly ludicrous amount of money I have to pay for cable, I guess. Oh, also, UNT is terrible, taking Ball State here.

8:00: Eastern Kentucky @ Indiana (BTN): Hey, a game Indiana should win! Hope they don't get too used to that.

10:15: Oregon @ Boise State (ESPN): You should stay up for this one, East Coast folks. Provided you survive the initial color clash of Oregon's uniforms with the blue turf, you should be in for a treat as a big time program pays a visit Boise for the first time since Oregon State in 2006. Oregon State lost to that Boise team, that you probably remember from the legendary Fiesta Bowl that year versus Oklahoma. More notable, Boise won last year's contest at Eugene, 37-32. Both these teams have lost some guys, but with less losses and the home field, I'll take the Broncos.

8:00: Tulsa @ Tulane (ESPN): Conference USA! Feel the excitement! Tulsa will be trying to see if they can score more than 56 this time around, I suspect.

  • Navy @ Ohio State (ESPN): Ohio State is going to honor the Middies before the game, a nice gesture. Perhaps they'll only win by 3 TDs instead of 4?
  • Minnesota @ Syracuse (ESPN2): This is a fairly amusing insight into rooting for a bad team. I especially like the "Quest for Toronto" feature. Gotta have reasonable goals. That said, I have to pick the Gophers.
  • Kentucky vs. Miami University (@Cincinnati, OH; ESPNU): Guide to Miamis: MU is the one in Ohio, and UM is the one in Florida. I will be referring to them as such throughout the season. Oh, and uh, Kentucky.
  • Akron @ Pennsylvania State (BTN): Penn State starts it's, uh, "schedule" with a doozy against Akron. I'll take Penn State.
  • Western Kentucky @ Tennessee (SEC): Congratulations Western Kentucky, you're now fully a member of Division I-A and the Sun Belt Conference! Now go be good boys and sacrifice yourself for the sake of getting Lane Kiffin his first college win.
1:00: Jacksonville State @ Georgia Tech (espn360.com): With wayward Ryan Perrilloux out, JSU is missing its best player. I will shy away from making an actual prediction as usual, but I do hope that we don't overlook this won for their upcoming Thursday night dates. OH AND I AM SO EXCITED. WOOOO FOOTBAW.

  • Georgia @ Oklahoma State (ABC/GP): This is the first or second most interesting of the day, most likely. That said, I think UGA has just lost too much on offense to really keep up with OSU at home, so I'll take the orange Cowboys.
  • Baylor @ Wake Forest (GP/ESPN2/ABC): Baylor actually has a shot at this one, which is more than I would say. But one QB does not a team make, and Jim Grobe is perhaps the craftiest coach in the country.
  • Western Michigan @ Michigan (ESPN2/ABC): I think Michigan will avoid losing, but I didn't say they would avoid embarrassment.
  • Nevada @ Notre Dame (NBC): Nevada is not chopped liver here. But it is at ND and ND should succeed on sheer talent alone. Should.
  • San Jose State @ Southern California (FSN): Yeah, uh... hrm. This line is 32-33.5 right now, and well, I like USC to cover.
  • Jackson State @ Mississippi State (ESPNU): Hey, it's a team Miss State will be able to beat. Not sure how much they'll be able to say that this year.
3:40: Missouri vs. Illinois (@St. Louis, MO; ESPN): I've made it know I like this series of games elsewhere, so I'll stop now. But suffice it to say, these are both good teams, but I think year's edition of Illinois is probably better.

  • Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma (@Arlington, TX; ESPN): This is a pretty interesting game. Even if BYU is just competitive they can make a statement. If they win? That would, just, wow. That said, I still have to take OU.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Auburn (ESPNU): Auburn. I'm running out of time, so these will be short unless it's interesting from here on out.
  • Northern Illinois @ Wisconsin (BTN): Wisconsin.
8:00: Alabama vs. Virginia Polytechnic (ABC): I'll try to see this, but I doubt I'll be able to. For the sake of my conference I want VPI to win. I think this will be a defensive struggle, but 'Bama just has to have more offensive talent, don't they? It'll be close but I have to admit the Tide will probably end up on top.

10:00: Maryland @ California (ESPN2): California. Okay, this is actually kind of interesting, and while this is probably the best Terp outfit in awhile, I still like Cal better.

10:30: Louisiana State @ Washington (ESPN): LSU. Washington will probably win a game this year... just not this one.

3:30: Mississippi @ Memphis (ESPN): Sunday games! The best way to know the NFL hasn't started yet, outside of the games tomorrow. That said, Ole Miss doesn't need a lot of pre-season hype to know they should beat Memphis.

7:00: Colorado State @ Colorado (FSN): There's a certain segment of the Georgia Tech fanbase that wants to move the Georgia game to the beginning of the season. Hogwash, I say. It's a lot more fun at the end of the year. That said, when your rival is a major conference team, I guess you take what you can get when you're CSU. CU probably wins.

4:00: Cincinnati @ Rutgers (ESPN): Almost there! Woo. Rutgers had a terrible start last year, including a 13-10 loss to eventual conference champ Cincy. No one has any Earthly idea who is supposed to win the Big East this year. It could even be Rutgers! Could. That said, I like Cincy here.

8:00: University of Miami @ Florida State (ESPN): A lot of folks are predicting the return of Miami this year. Not a lot are predicting the return of FSU. I'm not really that optimistic about either team, but I do like Miami better in this game.

And that's it! I fly off to Seattle this afternoon and will miss a lot of these, but rest-assured I will be back in full force next week!

Hindsight is 20/20: Recapping Georgia Tech's 2008 Season (Part 1)

I had originally planned to do the whole season at once, but I, uh, ran out of time. So here's half of it, with the other half coming next week.

I did this after the 2006 season, which at the time was the best that had occurred since I enrolled and subsequently became a Tech fan in 2003. (The last time Tech ended a season ranked? After the 2000 season.) I didn't do it after 2007 because, well, I was depressed and who wants to rehash a season that led to your coach getting fired? At any rate, here's a breakdown of Anno Johannes 1, known to everyone else as "2008".

Game 1: Georgia Tech 41, Jacksonville State 14
Tech's shiny new offense got off a great start, though I missed most of it (due to being on an airplane). Tech turned the ball over twice, but it didn't really matter, as Jax State did the same 4 tiems and Dwyer averaged 10.2 yards a carry.

Game 2: Georgia Tech 19, Boston College 16
I was worried about this one beforehand, and it turns out my fears were well founded. Tech fumbled the ball three times, was out-gained on offense, and was 3 for 12 on third downs. Going into the fourth quarter, the outcome was certainly in doubt with Tech down 16-10. Then these things happened:

Afterwards, BC would get the ball back once and run out of downs, after which Tech held on to win.
While Tech did a good job taking the lead and securing the win, credit goes to the defense which picked off two passes and recovered a BC fumble. Tech missed two FGs at or near the 30, which looked originally like it would cause us to lose the game. I would also note the next week that "GT has been getting yards on big plays more than the methodical drive of the option."

Game 3: Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17
The actual impact of this game is the same as the predict impacts for this year's edition on October 17. Tech (and I say "Tech", I always mean Georgia Tech) would have benefitted greatly from this game being played in late October or early November, in my opinion. Tech turned the ball over 3 times, twice on fumbles, and so despite beating VPI in most other statisical categories lost the game. (The hivemind of the GT message boards also requires me to mention the the helmet-to-helmet call in the 4th quarter that led to eventual winning field goal. My own mind will mention the fact that there was another non-controversial personal foul on Tech on the same drive, and with 4:37 left on the clock, plenty of time left.) On of the fumbles Tech lost was in the first quarter, when the offense had actually driven into VPI territory.
When we weren't turning the ball over, Tech's drives were much more methodical, which wasa good sign heading into the next two games. Nonetheless, another recurring issue was noticed and noted:
Outside of just the fumbles, though, there is plenty of room of improvement for the Jackets. In what I suspect may be an issue all year, the middle of the offensive line has to get better blocks coming off the snap - with as often as VPI was in the backfield, it's surprising there weren't more fumbles lost. I say this because GT never established the first option in the triple option - the dive up the middle. B-back Dwyer had 10 carries for only 28 yards as VPI stacked the the middle-of-the-line. The other Tech then sold out on the 2nd option, the pitch-man on the outside. The result? A very banged up Josh Nesbitt, who ran 28 times for 151 yards. 5.4 yards per carry is nice, of course, but you don't really want your QB getting banged up like that, and he is also prone to fumbling the ball.

Game 4: Georgia Tech 38, Mississippi State 7
This game was a rout, in every sense of the word. Tech rushed for 438 yards and Dwyer had a field day: 141 yards on 9 carries for a 15.7 average. Yowza. The Crimson-and-white bulldogs also obliged by turning the ball over 4 times while Tech had its first turnover-free game of the season. Hopes were back up after this. Those 38 points? Unanswered. The backups even got to play, though they did manage to allow Miss State to score a touchdown, their first once since the 3rd quarter of their game before the infamous 3-2 game.
The downside? Josh Nesbitt strained his hamstring in this game.

Game 5: Georgia Tech 27, Duke 0
Nesbitt was out again, but didn't matter. This was another rout. 454 total yards, including a shocking 230 yards passing against an undermanned and under-everything Duke defense. Yet, somehow before the game I had managed to worry about this once somehow:
As mentioned above, Duke played Navy and may be somewhat more well-prepared than other opponents that will face Tech this year. Also, starting QB Josh Nesbitt will also miss the game due to a hamstring he strained against Miss State. While backup QB Jaybo Shaw is more than capable of running a proficient option offense (as demonstrated two weeks ago), he lacks the raw athleticism of Nesbitt, especially as a passer.

After the game, I was saying things like this:
As for Mr. Demaryius "BeBe" Thomas, he doesn't quite have Calvin's height (6'3" versus 6'5") but he still towers over many corners. Calvin also never had a 200 yard game at Tech, or an 88-yard reception. Is BeBe as good as Calvin? Of course not, but he's darn close which provides a huge asset in this offense. Most teams can't afford to leave him one-on-one, but because of the run game they will often have little choice.

So it was a pretty good game. Except that, rumor has it, Jaybo Shaw suffered a mild concussion. At any rate, he didn't start the next game.
Oh, and I made this. I'm still pretty proud of it.

Game 6: Georgia Tech 10, Gardner-Webb 7
My first mistake when I wrote the preview for this game: "Those actually attending the game will be in for a treat..."
Yeah, not so much. Senior Ex-Auburn QB Calvin Booker started the game, bless his heart. In fairness to him, he was never supposed to be an option QB, and transferred in the year before under the impression he'd get a chance in Chan Gailey's pro-style offense. Tech did all its socring in the 2nd quarter and held on for dear life as it proceeded to turn the ball over 2 twice (three times in total) and allow G-W a touchdown. Tech never got past the G-W 35 in the second half and had to block a very makeable field goal with 26 seconds left in the game. There was no TV coverage for this game, thankfully, so no one saw it, though I still remember being huddled over by my computer speakers hanging on the outcome of that last kick. Not fun.