Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Orange Bowl Preview

The 75th FedEx Orange Bowl
8:30 PM, January 1st, 2009

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats have come a long way. This year’s 11-2 record with a six game win streak to finish marks the second of back to back ten-plus win seasons. Last year was their first ten win season since 1951. Those three years are the only times since they've started playing football in 1885.

The Bearcats throughout their football history have been in and out of conferences. They've spent a significant amount of time as an independent and in local conferences until joining the MAC in 1947 and immediately making their mark winning the championship in five out of their six years with the conference (coming in at second in the other year.)

Through most of the 1980s and 1990s, the Bearcats were mostly the doormat of whomever they were playing. This included Virginia Tech who, from 1987-1991, racked up 118-43 points on the Bearcats through three wins. Then came the 1995 Cincinnati shutout victory in Lane Stadium. I remember this game vividly. The Hokies had just come off one of those, what would become signature, Thursday night losses to Boston College at Lane to open the season. Tech fell off the rankings from their preseason rank of #20. The Cincy loss gave the Hokies an 0-2 record and it looked as though Tech's rise to bowl worthiness was over. Nine wins and a stunning Sugar Bowl victory over Texas later it certainly didn't look that way anymore.

Cincinnati was one of the charter members of Conference USA that year and would go on to slowly build toward an eventual place in and this year's title of the Big East. Bearcats, along with South Florida and Louisville, joined the Big East in 2005 after the Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College moved to the ACC.

The last time the Bearcats and Hokies met was in 2006 when the Hokies won 29-13 in Lane Stadium.

Brian Kelly came on as head coach of the Bearcats for the 2006 season and has led the team to two straight ten plus win seasons. He did inherit an already established team that went to six bowl games in the eight years prior.

Why did I take the time to note the history of the Bearcats program? Because, it looks a bit familiar. Virginia Tech spent most of its existence in the bowels of the netherworld. In 1993, Coach Frank Beamer finally found a way to make things click and an Independence Bowl victory later, Virginia Tech was no longer the team that people referred to “Oh is that the same as VPI?” Two years after that, Tech was in and won their first major bowl game – the Sugar Bowl. [Note: The BCS didn’t exist yet in 1995.] Cincinnati is on the cusp of becoming an elite team and a bowl victory in a BCS bowl against the Hokies would be a large boost towards achieving that status.

The Bearcats only losses were to Oklahoma and Connecticut. Both losses involved major injuries at quarterback. This season the Bearcats have gone through quarterbacks faster than Peter Griffin at a Chinese buffet. They lost three quarterbacks to injury this year. They started the season with their only experience quarterback Dustin Grutza. He broke his leg in the Oklahoma game (a loss). Tony Pike came in and he broke his non-throwing arm two games later. Redshirt freshman Zach Collaros came in to finish the game. Coach Kelly then went with another redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson for two games. They won both games but Anderson tore his MCL toward the end of that last game. Pike returned despite extensive pain for the Connecticut game (the other loss) and had to be replaced midway by Anderson who also was hurt. Pike returned to lead the team past South Florida and they never looked back. Pike has thrown for 2,168 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

His two main targets are Marshwan (Mardy) Gilyard and Dominick Goodman. Gilyard had a 1,118 yard season with ten of those touchdowns. The match up between Gilyard and Victor “Macho” Harris will undoubtedly be the most exciting if not the most influential to the outcome of the game. But on the other side, Goodman will give Stephan Virgil a run for his money as well. Goodman is just 23 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season himself.

On the ground the Bearcats use a two headed running back approach. Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel combined this year for 1,211 yards.

These guys are going to be a challenge to contain. The loss of Brett Warren and Jason Worilds on defense will hurt. Warren is out with a torn ACL and Worilds has been listed as inactive due to the separated shoulder he’s been playing with all season.

On the other side of the ball senior defensive end Connor Barwin leads the Big East in sacks with 13. He did all this as a first year defender. He made the switch from tight end this season. Cincinnati led the Big East as a team with 36 sacks.

Look, this defense has a ton of speed. Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith will easily match up against Tech’s receivers. That means these guys will gladly play man coverage and take the collar off of their safeties. With Nick Marshman out – perhaps the biggest loss of the lost starters – the Cincinnati defense will be licking their chops. Tyrod Taylor will be under pressure all game from these guys and he’s going to have to make some quick throws. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Bearcats will be ready with a spy on Taylor which will make his ground attack obsolete. Speaking of ground attack, it is imperative that Darren Evans and what’s left of the line to get establish. Lest they do, this will be a long game for the Hokies.

The Hokies have their work cut out for them. Brian Kelly and his staff have this team well coached. To go through a season with five different quarterbacks and still manage to win eleven games is quite impressive. Make no mistake, these guys are for real and it will take a performance like that against Nebraska or Maryland to come away with a Hokie victory. Anything short of that, will give the Bearcats their first BCS win.

Here are some meaningless stats:
Total UC 25th VT 7th
Passing UC 28th VT 33rd
Rushing UC 13th VT 18th
Scoring UC 29th VT 13th

Total UC 50th VT 107th
Passing UC 25th VT 112th
Rushing UC 95th VT 41st
Scoring UC 49th VT 89th

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!!!

A Very Merry Christmas to Superfans and all your families and friends as well! 


Friday, December 19, 2008

Chick fil A College Kickoff

What do an Elephant, a cow and a Hokie have in common?

Answer, they'll all be on the field next year in the Chick Fil A College Kickoff.

Big Al, the Hokie Bird, and the Chick Fil A "Eet Mor Chiken" cows will be on the sidelines as Virginia Tech meets Alabama in Atlanta in the Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009.

So to our Atlanta TechSuperFans, make room on your floor. We're coming to visit!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bowl Season for the ACC

If you're a College Football sports news reader (and I'm just going to assume that you probably are if you're web browser has landed on this page), you've almost certainly read about the criticism that the ACC ranks towards the bottom of six conferences who have an automatic bid for a BCS bowl. The yardstick for making this determination comes from the results of inter-conference play. The 2008 season is about to embark on the stretch between December 20 and January 6 when inter-conference play happens nearly every day of the week. This is the time that avid College Football fans watch multiple games and pick who they want to win largely based on which teams play in their favorite team's conference...unless it's UVA...who's bowl ineligible this season. And this season more so than others should bring about some anxiety for the quintessential ACC fan. In this post, I'm going to touch on bowls in which the ACC competes this year, and hopefully, lay out a path towards the ACC gaining some respect that it lost since all the hype generated from the expansion that brought Virginia Tech into the conference. I may, just maybe...okay DEFINITELY, take some jabs at the BCS for the selections it made this year.

BCS (Fraudulent) Title Game: Jan 8, 8pm, FOX

Okay, this doesn't pit any ACC teams, but I can't resist. Texas not playing in this game is just a plain crime. Texas suffered its single loss at an away game in the final seconds. Oklahoma dropped its single loss at a neutral site. By any fair measure, Texas should have played in the Big 12 title game, which would have almost certainly landed them in the BCS Title Game. Because of this, we'll have no true national champion once again. Thanks a lot, BCS!

Orange Bowl: Jan 1, 8:30 p.m., FOX
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

First, I can't say I'm jumping for joy that Virginia Tech is playing against Cincinnati. Don't get me wrong, the Bearcats have definitely earned and deserve their bid; I just don't think the ACC has much to gain in a victory over the Big East. The Big East has been in fierce competition with the ACC for the title of worst of the automatic BCS bid conferences. I think the Orange Bowl committee (and I know this would require bending those stingy BCS rules) should have chosen Texas Tech. First, I think Texas Tech as a one loss team in the Big 12 South has earned a BCS bowl bid. Second, I actually think the Hokies would have a reasonable shot at a victory. All things considered, the Red Raiders have a better team than the Hokies, but in a contest between the two, I think the Hokies actually match up pretty well. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator (at least for now) Bud Foster's squad would give the Red Raider offensive line the biggest challenge they've had since facing the Sooners. Macho Harris just may be able to do his part to contain wide receiver Michael Crabtree. At any rate, it's not to be. Nonetheless, a victory against Cincinnati in a BCS bowl would well serve the ACC.

Gator Bowl: Jan 1, 1 p.m., CBS
Clemson vs. Nebraska

A Clemson victory over Nebraska would make for a second ACC victory over this reputable Big 12 team. Go Tigers!

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Dec 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Georgia Tech vs. LSU

LSU hails from the mighty Southeastern Conference. A Ramblin' Wreck win over the Tigers would definitely prop up some respect for the ACC. This is an uphill battle, but Georgia Tech has pulled some upsets before. Go Yellow Jackets!

Music City: Dec 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Boston College vs. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt, like LSU, also hails from the SEC, but they aren't quite so mighty. Boston College should give them a good licking if they are at the top of their game. Go Eagles!

Humanitarian Bowl: Dec 30, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Maryland vs. Nevada

What a sissy name for a bowl! Do the players run to the fifty yard line, hold hands, and sing kumbaya? Okay, as much as Maryland may be tempted to throw this one to avoid having their names etched in history as victors of the Kumbaya Bowl, they've played strongly this year against some tough competition, and I expect Freidgen's gang to play to the top of their game. Go Terrapins!

Papajohns.com Bowl: Dec 29, 3 p.m., ESPN
Rutgers vs. NC State

As much as I roll my eyes at the thought of relying on a school from the state of North Carolina to prop up the ACC (If you're a native Virginian, you know exactly what I mean.), wins over the Big East will at least guarantee the ACC a second-to-last ranking of the automatic bid BCS conferences. Go Wolfpack!

Emerald Bowl: Dec 27, 8 p.m., ESPN
Miami vs. California

This one's an uphill battle for Miami, but I still like their odds. Miami has a lot of young and growing talent. I expect them to climb back to the top of the ACC in the next two to three years. A win here would definitely boost the morale of the Miami locker room next season. Go 'Cains!

Champs Sports Bowl: Dec 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Florida State vs. Wisconsin

I hope FSU gives the Badgers the spanking they deserve for backing out of the inter-conference play they had scheduled against the Hokies. FSU has improved over the last couple of season, and hopefully, they continue that trend in the bowl season. (This is going to really hurt, but here goes.) Go 'Noles. (But I'm NOT doing that stupid tomahawk chop.)

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Dec 27, 1 p.m., ESPN
North Carolina vs. West Virginia

Sorry folks. I have dear relatives in this state (no family tree jokes!), and with the hardships upon which the steel and coal industry have come make this an exception. The state could use something to uplift their spirits. So I'm saying Go Mountaineers. All other ACC fans, however, should say Go 'Heels.

Hawaii Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Hawaii

The ACC doesn't have a part in this, but after years of watching Notre Game get bowls they don't deserve, Go Warriors!

Eaglebank Bowl: Ded 20, 11 a.m., ESPN
Navy vs. Wake Forest

Go Demon Deacons!

After the 2008 bowl season concludes as a follow-up to this post, yours truly will compile a list of wins and losses for each conference in inter-conference play for the 208 season. From that and a couple other considerations, I'll present you with a ranking of the automatic bid conferences. One of the great things about College Football is how fast the landscape can change in just a few short seasons. This isn't the NFL where the Detroit Lions have thrown away all their draft picks since the Transformers cartoon show went off the air. (So maybe that's an exaggeration, but not too great of one.) The ACC has stunk in the last few seasons, but it has a lot of youth and a lot of potential. Let's see what it can deliver.

And now that I've been saying, "Go [insert ACC team here]," I have to close by reaffirming where my heart is when it comes to College Footall...


Monday, December 15, 2008

EhhTee's Picks - Bowl Bonanza!

I finished the regular season strong at 6-1. I don't know what I was thinking when I picked that OKST upset. All I know is I was in a panic to get the Picks out before the first game that Saturday. So with that, EhhTee went 45-31 for the [partial] season. Next season I have high hopes of remembering to start them at the beginning of the season.

Speaking of delusions of grandeur, here I will attempt to pick all* thirty-four ridiculous bowl games. At this point, more than half of the 120 Division I-A teams make a bowl game. I still think they should pit Western Kentucky against North Texas in the Chrysler Toilet Bowl. On that note, unless your sponsors name is one to two words, you should not be able to call it the Felcher N' Sons Incorporated Dinky Bowl. I mean come on, what the heck is the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl? I honestly think the Rose Bowl did it right. It's not the Citi Rose Bowl, it's the Rose Bowl Presented by Citi...Wells Fargo...[insert financial institution here].

So without further ado, I present you all* thirty-four bowl game picks:

EagleBank Bowl Washington, D.C.
Wake Forest vs. Navy
RFK Stadium Dec. 20, 11 a.m.
This is a rematch from earlier in the season. Wake Forest pretty much handed the game to Navy with four interceptions. It's essentially a Navy home game though.
Tobbacco Kings 21 - Popeye 24 Uh-kug-kug-kug-kug
_______________________________ ______________
New Mexico Bowl Albuquerque
Colorado State vs. Fresno State
University Stadium Dec. 20, 2:30 p.m.
Both teams have had shaky wins and questionable losses. Fresno does have a decent bowl record. But Ft. Collins is the home of the New Belgium Brewery
Mmmmmm... Fat Tire 33 - California State Fresno 21 Beer
_______________________________ ______________
magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl St. Petersburg. Fla.
Memphis vs. South Florida
Tropicana Field Dec. 20, 4:30 p.m.
Men-nefer Pyramid 10 - Mickey and the Gang 24 Disney, don't sue me.
_______________________________ ______________
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas
BYU vs. Arizona
Sam Boyd Stadium Dec. 20, 8 p.m.
BYU has been pretty solid. This is definitely a mismatch and Arizona will be struggling.
Salty Water 42 - McCain Country 10 Lost shaker of salt!
_______________________________ ______________
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl New Orleans
Southern Miss vs. Troy
Superdome Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m.
The Trojans had an amazing game against LSU. LSU was down 28 points in the third quarter and rallied to beat them. This to me says Troy doesn't have the stamina to hang with a SEC team. Southern Miss isn't in the SEC.
Southern South 24 - Homer [not Simpson]'s City 33 Fox, don't sue me.
_______________________________ ______________
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl San Diego
Boise State vs. TCU
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 23, 8 p.m.
Boise State's good. But TCU's better. Boise gets away with playing nobodies and Oregon was pretty much a nobody. Outside of Oklahoma (2) and Utah (8) TCU has demolished just about every team they've played.
No, I will not marry you. You lost 17 - Horny Amphibians 42 Rib-bit
_______________________________ ______________
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Honolulu
Hawai'i vs. Notre Lame
Aloha Stadium Dec. 24, 8 p.m.
Notre Lame bowling is a joke. This is a team that lost to Syracuse. Then again Hawai'i lost to SDSU.
Aloha Mr. Weiss 55 - We Canz Have New Coach Plz 17 Rib-bit
_______________________________ ______________
Motor(less) City Bowl Detroit
Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan
FordHonda Field Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Central Michigan's only advantage is proximity to the bowl game. Though FAU isn't the greatest of teams, it's still not a directional school. But, I must ask is central really a direction?
Who? Who? 10 - Chip it in 13 CMU
_______________________________ ______________
Meineke Car Care Bowl Charlotte, N.C.
West Virginia vs. North Carolina
Bank of America Stadium Dec. 27, 1 p.m.
Now we're talking. The first of the Big East/ACC matchups and it'll be a good one. WVU had a few stumbles but still have a decent team. Butch Davis has led the Tarheels into contention for the ACC title and looks to improve on that next year.
Battery Throwers 28 - Butch Davis 31 That's what he looks like!
_______________________________ ______________
Champs Sports Bowl Orlando, Fla.
Wisconsin vs. Florida State
Florida Citrus Bowl Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m.
Florida State really has surge late in the season. Is FSU the real deal and are they "back?"
You Betcha! 21 - Bobby Hill 35 Fox, don't sue me (again.)
_______________________________ ______________
Emerald Bowl San Francisco
Miami (Fla.) vs. California
AT&T Park Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
Looks like the real games were picked well. A good post Xmas game between Miami which started out looking really good crumbled at the end. So did Cal though. Will Cal fall to another ACC team? It is a home game afterall!
The |_| 17 - Soldiers of Berkeley 41 Jimi
_______________________________ ______________
Independence Bowl Shreveport, La.
Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
Independence Stadium Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m.
Uh-oh directional school...
Should have chose Buy It Now option 12 - BFE Louisiana 28 Oh when the saints!
_______________________________ ______________
Papajohns.com Bowl Birmingham, Ala.
NC State vs. Rutgers
Legion Field Dec. 29, 3 p.m.
The second Big East/ACC match up has the (near) bottom of the ACC against a decent Big East team.
Hillsborough St 3 - George St 24 Jersey Devil
_______________________________ ______________
Valero Alamo Bowl San Antonio
Missouri vs. Northwestern
Alamodome Dec. 29, 8 p.m.
Mizorah 45 - [Bad Illinois Governor Joke Here] 21 Map
_______________________________ ______________
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl Boise, Idaho
Maryland vs. Nevada
Bronco Stadium Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m.
The Turtles aren't playing at home but that shouldn't matter. Nevada squeaked in with no real big victories.
Fridge goes to the Blue Freezer 27 - Gaming Commision 17 Beer shelf!
_______________________________ ______________
Texas Bowl Houston
Western Michigan vs. Rice
Reliant Stadium Dec. 30, 8 p.m.
Directional school takes it? Ask Uncle Ben.
KalamaWho? 35 - Red Beans and ... Didn't Miss Her 23 Not kazoo...
_______________________________ ______________
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl San Diego
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 30, 8 p.m.
Sorry Ducks
Okay! 55 - Quack 17 Check!
_______________________________ ______________
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Fort Worth, Texas
Houston vs. Air Force
Amon G. Carter Stadium Dec. 31, Noon
This one actually might be a good game. Another rematch though. The fly boys won in a close one.
Hot 40 somethings 28 - I fly planes 21 PG-13
_______________________________ ______________
Brut Sun Bowl El Paso, Texas
Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh
Sun Bowl Dec. 31, 2 p.m.
Brut??? Really??? REALLY???? Pittsburgh should win this one handily.
I just had it stuffed 15 - Black Cats 37 Barfed up holly!
_______________________________ ______________
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Nashville, Tenn.
Boston College vs. Vanderbilt
LP Field Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m.
Hehe... he said gaylord. BC's QB situatuin may be better come the end of the month. Even still I think BC should be able to pull this one off.
Jan Ullrich of the ACC 27 - Fancypants 21 Jan (perpetual second place)
_______________________________ ______________
Insight Bowl Tempe, Ariz.
Kansas vs. Minnesota
Sun Devil Stadium Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m.
Kansas hasn't done well after last year's big Orange Bowl victory over Tech. Minnesota did pretty poorly in a not so great Big 10.
Auntie Em! Auntie Em! 35 - How much wood could a wood chuck chuck... 17 Dorothy
_______________________________ ______________
Chick-fil-A PEACH Bowl Atlanta
LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Georgia Dome Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m.
The key to this game is who's healthy. Georgia Tech picked apart Georgia. LSU's had a downward spiral without their starting QB.
No Lee. No Hatch. No win. 17 - Bzzzz 24 Yellow Jacket
_______________________________ ______________
Outback Bowl Tampa, Fla.
South Carolina vs. Iowa
Raymond James Stadium Jan. 1, 2009, 11 a.m.
Lowly Iowa took Penn State out of contention. South Carolina had a late slide. But I think they recover.
M*A*S*H'd 13 - Here comes the rooster 35 Gamecock
_______________________________ ______________
Capital One Bowl Orlando, Fla.
Georgia vs. Michigan State
Florida Citrus Bowl Jan. 1, 2009, 1 p.m.
Oooh this is a decent matchup. Georgia stumbed against Georgia Tech but they're a decent team. Michigan State was solid all year round as well.
Ugh-Ah 35 - 300 41 300
_______________________________ ______________
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl Jacksonville, Fla.
Nebraska vs. Clemson
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium Jan. 1, 2009, 1 p.m.
Clemson was a disappointment to all the media. A darling that never came to be. However, they had a late surge and finished strong. Nebraska's name will bring fans, but not a victory.
Corn fed 14 - Le Tigre 21 Le Tigre
_______________________________ ______________
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi Pasadena, Calif.
Penn State vs. USC
Rose Bowl Jan. 1, 2009, 4:30 p.m.
Penn State really hadn't been challenged this season. Ohio State and Michigan State were their two biggest games. USC has been on fire of late. It's going to be ugly.
Cowardly? 3 - Condoms 45 Brad Pitt
_______________________________ ______________
FedEx Orange Bowl Miami
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Dolphin Stadium Jan. 1, 2009, 8:30 p.m.
*Fooled you. No I won't be picking this one...
A good game I pity the foo.
_______________________________ ______________
AT&T Cotton Bowl Dallas
Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech
Cotton Bowl Jan. 2, 2009, 2 p.m.
Two solid teams from two solid conferences. I think Tech has lost some steam over the course of the season after suffering the loss to Oklahoma.
I-P-P-(hehe) 42 - Lost Arch 31 Calvin Peeing
_______________________________ ______________
AutoZone Liberty Bowl Memphis, Tenn.
Kentucky vs. East Carolina
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Jan. 2, 2009, 5 p.m.
ECU showed spark early when they beat the Hokies and West Virginia. Kentucky showed that same spark giving Alabama a run for thier money.
Fried Chicken 27 - Arrrgh 10 Col. Sanders
_______________________________ ______________
Allstate Sugar Bowl New Orleans
Utah vs. Alabama
Superdome Jan. 2, 2009, 8 p.m.
Sorry Utah. This is going to be another ugly game.
Joe Pesci 14 - Olephants 51 Olephants
_______________________________ ______________
International Bowl Toronto
Buffalo vs. Connecticut
Rogers Centre Jan. 3, 2009, Noon
Buffalo's come a long way. Actually both of these past Div 1AA teams have. Does Buffalo finish out it's Cinderella season?
Spicy wings 10 - WWE country 34 WWE
_______________________________ ______________
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Glendale, Ariz.
Ohio State vs. Texas
University of Phoenix Stadium Jan. 5, 2009, 8 p.m.
Another year. Another OSU demolishing in the bowls. OSU has no place in the BCS, but the dumb rule that left Texas Tech out let them in.
Poisonous nuts 0 - Pamplona Meat 63 Bulls on Parade
_______________________________ ______________
GMAC Bowl Mobile, Ala.
Ball State vs. Tulsa
Ladd-Peebles Stadium Jan. 6, 2009, 8 p.m.
I actually think this'll be a good game. Ball State was nearly [insert U-word here] before getting knocked off by Buffalo in the MAC Championship. Tulsa suffered a similar fate in their championship game, but also lost more.
Ozzie Smith 25 - Sounds like salsa 17 Ozzie
_______________________________ ______________
FedEx BCS National Championship Game Miami
Florida vs. Oklahoma
Dolphin Stadium Jan. 8, 2009, 8 p.m.
Okay. The big one. This will be a big game. Play this one 10 times and you'll probably get 5 wins a piece. But given just the one...
Scaly Reptiles 35 - Covered Wagon Drivers 28 Scaly reptile
_______________________________ ______________

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deep Thoughts with Mad Jay

I'd like to invite you into my head for a bit while there's a break in Hokie football action between now and the Orange Bowl. Scary thought isn't it? Well, excuse the mess, but I will keep most of the doors closed and stay on the topic of football. These are the things that I'm spending most of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping hours) thinking about on this off-weekend for college football.

1) I was wondering how on earth the Hokies were going to fit more than 15 scholarship players in the 2009 recruiting class onto the roster when that's all the room they had heading into this season. As of Friday they already had 19 verbal commits and are still actively recruiting 5 other players for this class. It has started to clear up however. Derrick McCoy from the '08 class doesn't look like he's going to ever suit up in a Tech uniform. WR Ervin Garner transferred. One of the Edwards brothers in the '09 class who committed, has since changed his mind and the other will grayshirt along with probably two or three more Hokies to count against the 2010 class. Then of course there will be one or two who don't actually sign on Signing Day. And then there's the head scratcher - Hunter Ovens. 

2) Someone was advising Hunter Ovens poorly. Unlike Ervin Garner (who would never have started at Tech since the entire lineup at WR is made up of freshmen), Ovens would have been a redshirt sophomore at whip next season, behind two redshirt seniors. He would have had two years to be the starter beginning in 2010 on a nationally recognized defense. And he just announced this week that he is transferring to go to LIBERTY with Ervin Garner?!?! He had two years to get bigger (he was only 6', 205 lbs but would have been 215-220 lbs by the time he was going to start) and he was already plenty fast running a 4.6 40 yard dash this spring. I keep hearing this baseball stuff getting thrown around as an excuse for him to leave, since the Hokies weren't letting him commit to baseball and football and told him he had to choose. Listen, I don't know Hunter Ovens and never spoke to him, but if he's a lock to play baseball and be drafted, he could have just joined the baseball team at Tech. What I do know is that he certainly has no chance to play in the NFL at this point and that's a door that would have remained open if he would have stayed. That said, it does free up another spot for the 2009 recruiting class, so we're moving on.

3) There are 3 players from the 2007 Virginia Tech offense - Eddie Royal, Duane Brown and Josh Morgan - who have started in the NFL for at least one game this season as ROOKIES. One other is on a practice squad (Justin Harper) and Branden Ore was NFL talent, but he had some serious off-the-field issues. With that level of offensive talent the Hokies were still the 100th best offense in the country. This year they only fell 7 spots (to 107). I have more to say about the offensive coordinator later on, but stop and think about that for a minute. What level of talent must this offense have to only drop 7 spots from the NFL-laden offense in 2007? I look at the 2008 offense and I see 4 players with NFL starting potential on it - Tyrod Taylor, Sergio Render (if he pulls his head out of his ass), Greg Boone and Jarrett Boykin. Neat stuff.

4) Unfortunately the offensive coordinator issue must be addresed. There's been a lot of buzz in Blacksburg over Billy Hite's comments defending Coach Bryan Stinespring in an article from the Roanoke Times. To quote Hite - 

"I personally think it's bull[bleep] what he's gone through this year. Bryan Stinespring is a hell of a football coach, and we've won 10 games the last four years with him as our coordinator, and we have a chance to win 10 again this year. Tell me another coordinator in the country that can say that besides Texas and USC?"

I respect Coach Hite defending his friend and colleague, and so it is with that due respect that I say to him -"Good luck repeating those words WHILE I CRAM THIS HUGE EMPTY NATIONAL TITLE TROPHY CASE DOWN YOUR THROAT!!!!!!!"

You see I've had another one of those moments of clarity when the whole murky picture becomes suddenly clear. What has happened to us, my Calm and Beloved Reader is called a "bait and switch". The national title trophy case was a brilliant stunt executed by Athletic Director Jim Weaver. How do you raise money for a huge stadium expansion and cover the rising costs of coaching salaries? You tell the fans that this is what we need to take it to "the next level" and the funds come flooding in. Tied in with joining the ACC, it has made for a very merry Christmas for our friends in the Hokie athletic department.

Meanwhile, within the football program and despite all the public hullabaloo over the empty national title case, Coach Beamer knows that as long as the Hokies keep winning ACC championships he can keep his job and keep the heat off his offensive coordinator. Remember that Stinespring is married to Beamer's long time secretary. This is his friend, probably almost like a son to Coach Beamer and the guy can recruit, so Beamer wants to do whatever it takes to not have to fire or publicly demote him. So while the stated goal might be a national title (the bait), the real goal is made clear by the actions of Coach Beamer (the switch).

Think about this - Al Groh had to fire his son Mike as offensive coordinator at UVa this year. There but for the grace of Bud Foster goes Bryan Stinespring. UVa's offensive ranking the past three seasons has been 113, 101, 104. The Hokies' offense has been ranked 99, 100 and 107. The Hokies, however have two ACC titles in that span, while UVa has gone 5-7, 9-4 and 5-7 with three losses to the Hokies. If the real goal of Virginia Tech football was to fill an empty national title case, winning the ACC title twice in three years with one arm tied behind their backs would not be acceptable. 

Let me strangle an analogy here. It's long but I think it gets the point across (and remember we're in MY mind here so I get to try stuff like this). 

It's like a CEO looking at his or her business and saying "Well we've made money every year as a company for the past 5 years. One division is doing great and has made $1 million/year and the other division loses about $500,000/year so I'll just tell the market that management is doing fine and we're happy being profitable every year." That notion is ridiculous and it would just never happen. The head of the terribly performing division would be replaced with someone who could do better. 

Someone might say "Well it's risky making that change, the new manager might do worse". In business that is true, you could always lose more money. But in this case, we are talking about an offense that already finished 107th in the country, meaning that only 13 teams IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY were worse on offense. In fact, the combined record of those 13 teams is 44-98 and none of them have a record over .500. Would a program that has aspirations for a national title truly be content to perform like that on offense? How about over a period of 3 years? Now consider what you think the true goals of the Virginia Tech football program are. 

I will no longer contribute to the hypocrisy. I will remain a Superfan and will always cheer for the Hokies and go to games, but my donations to the athletic program are on hold until they either take down the empty national title case or make a change that convinces me it is truly a goal to fill it. 

5) The Heisman Trophy - Supposed to go to the Most Outstanding Player. The joke is that the trophy doesn't mean that anymore. Hell, the most outstanding player in college football in 2008 (WR Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech) isn't EVEN INVITED TO THE CEREMONY IN NEW YORK. What the trophy really means is the hottest QB or RB at the end of the season on a team in national title contention. It's been that way for a long time and it makes a mockery of the award. Good luck to whichever QB wins the award this year, but this thing has become an entire media monster of its own and I don't even bother watching anymore.

6) The Heisman Trophy is not supposed to be an MVP award, it's for Most Outstanding Player and those are often two different things. For example on the Hokies this year, I felt that the Most Outstanding Player award could have gone to Tyrod Taylor, Macho Harris, Ryan Shuman or Darren Evans. I think I'd give the award to Macho for his contributions to the defense and special teams as well as serving as a decent decoy on offense. But the Most Valuable Player is another thing entirely and I use a very simple criteria to determine this award - if you substituted an "average" player at their position, whose replacement would result in the biggest impact on the team? By that standard, the MVP of the 2008 Hokies was clearly Dustin Keys. 

If you put an average QB (the #60 QB this year in passer rating was Rusty Smith from FAU with 243 yds/game and 22 TD's with 14 INT's) in place of Tyrod, the Hokies would still possibly have won the ACC title. If you put in an average RB, the Hokies would have been a little worse but would still have played for the title. An average CB in place of Macho would hurt but not like the kicker position. Considering the Hokies finished with the closest point differential in the NCAA this season, if Tech would have had an average kicker, they probably would finish 6-6 or 7-5 at best. There's no way an average kicker makes 21 FG's including 3 game deciding FG's, so Dustin Keys was the Most Valuable Player for the Hokies in 2008.

Ok well that was what I've been kicking around. Thanks for stopping by. You don't want to see what else is going on inside here, so I'll escort you to the door. Wait that wasn't the exit, uhhhh..... those are for medicinal use.......nevermind. See you later.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Game Review - VT vs. BC in ACC Championship

At the beginning of this season, I predicted the Hokies regular season record correctly and in Nostradamus-like fashion, was even correct on who would hand Tech three of their four losses. But I was so wrong in how it would play out and even when I predicted the 9-4 record, I most assuredly did not even think Tech would play in the ACC Championship. 

Had someone told me Tech would follow up last year's offensive embarrassment with an even worse performance (110th in the country), would yank the redshirt from Tyrod Taylor after one game and play musical QB's mid-season, have Jason Worilds play half the season with one arm and Cam Martin half the season with one good knee, and lose Kenny Lewis, Jr to an Achilles injury in the 4th game, I would most DEFINITELY have predicted a 6-6 or worse campaign. 

And yet last Saturday afternoon, this team proved once more that there is a factor in football that does not show up on any stat sheet or roster card. Call it heart, call it togetherness, call it toughness, call it whatever you want - the Hokies not only made it to the ACC title game, but they soundly defeated Boston College 30-12 in a double rematch (last year's ACC title game and this year's loss in Chestnut Hill to the Eagles). 

Look no further than with 10:00 left in the game and Boston College taking possession at their own 29 yard line having just cut the score to 24-10 and forced a Hokie punt. Jason Worilds, whose shoulder has popped out in EACH of the last 3 games and been popped back in on the sidelines, willed his way past the BC offensive tackle to swat the ball out of BC QB Dominique Davis' hands. Former walk-on Orion Martin, who showed up at Tech 4 years ago weighing 230 lbs and trying to make the team as a tight end, bull rushed his man into the QB and snatched the ball off of the bounce to dash into the end zone and put the game out of reach. What scored that touchdown and clinched the game was a burning desire to leave everything on the field for one's teammates. 

Virginia Tech unofficially has the 5th most freshmen/sophomores in their two-deep in the entire country and despite the youth and injuries found a way to win the ACC. It's definitely tempting to call this a feel-good story and make a network Sunday night movie all about the power of the human spirit. Better yet, let's make it a PG-13 movie where everyone can well up at the end as the little underdog Hokies make the impossible possible.............

Except that I can't. I hate PG-13 movies. This needs to be considered with the wide-eyed stare of an R-movie. We have to portray reality here even if it means blowing some myths up into smoke. So with that in mind, let's look back over several aspects of this ACC title to truly assess this Hokie squad. After all, that's what you came here for, not some fairy-tale phony pants brown-nosing kiss-up to the Hokie program. If you wanted all that stuff you would have went to UVa. Without further ado - 

The ACC was the toughest conference in college football with the toughest schedule, the best non-conference record and it sent 10 teams to bowls. 

There are no top level teams in the ACC this year. Georgia Tech over Georgia was the only victory over a top 15 team, many non-conference win were non-BCS conferences, and there are 34 bowls which means 68 teams play in a bowl this year. Come on. This is a solid conference, no doubt, and better than the Big 10 and Big East, but you have to have at least ONE contender worthy of being top 5 to be considered close to the best.

The Hokies avenged a regular season loss to BC for the 2nd year in a row to successfully defend their ACC title.

Last year the Hokies should have won that regular season contest in Blacksburg and used that loss to fuel a drive to the ACC title game where they beat down a QB who is going to be the NFL rookie of the year this year. This year the BC team in the title game was led by a redshirt freshman in his 2nd start instead of the 5th year senior (Chris Crane) the Hokies faced in Boston. Granted, Coach Foster crafted a brilliant defensive scheme as he always does, but this was far from an elite BC offense that was defeated in Tampa Bay.

The Hokie offense might have only put up 234 yards in the title game but they had the lead and played conservatively. Not to mention they scored early in the game and took a 14-7 lead into the half.

The Hokies would have won this game 56-12 instead of  30-12 if the offense was able to play like they did on their two scoring drives for an entire game. All the Hokie Nation wants is an offense that can play like the Hokies did on their first two scoring drives. But guess what? Defensive coordinators make in-game adjustments and VT's offensive coordinator does not. The Hokies run game was stuffed after half-time. After the half, 6 passes were attempted and 2 were completed for 14 yards. Where was Wild Turkey? Where was any sort of adjustment? Why must the team always rely on the defense to be unstoppable? Yes, the defense nearly always is, but to take the team to the next level, the offense must become competent over the course of a game. Setting records for fewest yards in a BCS conference championship game (win or lose), or worst offense (in terms of yards/game) to win an ACC title in 17 years, is NOT something to be proud of.

The coaching staff did the best job of their careers in overcoming all the youth and injuries. Send all their names in for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the year awards, put Beamer up for national coach of the year and give everybody a set of steak knives.

Let's be very careful here. Some of the coaches were at a level to be incredibly proud of. Billy Hite was a shocker to me, as I thought after his mismanagement of the Brandon Ore situation last year, that he was over. And then he went and coached the running backs over the course of this season as good or better than I could possibly imagine. The entire defensive staff was out-of-their-mind solid, but Coach Wiles on defensive line deserves special praise for playing 6 guys in a unit that normally needs 8 to stay fresh, and turning them into a brick wall. And needless to say Coach Foster orchestrated a rise back to the top 10 in defense, despite a terrible start. He is the master and we do need to bow to his greatness. Coach Sherman had me very worried mid-season but he did develop the receivers some by the end of the year. He gets one more year of reprieve in my view, but I will have greater expectations next season. However, coaches O'Cain/Stinespring/Newsome formed a Triumvirate of Disaster, or perhaps The Holy Trinity of Awful, if you prefer. Newsome and Stinespring can recruit, but I saw little development or improvement from beginning to end at the QB position, the offensive line, or the offense in general. I'll reserve my views on Coach Beamer's coaching until I see how he handles these guys in the offseason. His special teams were weak this year for the most part, although they too were vastly improved at the very end of the year.

The Hokies killed BC, winning by 18 points and the score wasn't as close as indicated. The Hokies won the turnover and time-of-possession battles and had fewer penalties.

As mentioned, BC QB Dominique Davis was a redshirt freshman and the Hokies knew he had to throw to beat them so they let him make mistakes, and make them he did. His two interceptions were terribly thrown and he had a fumble that Brett Warren should have recovered for the Hokies, but Warren wanted to pick it up instead of falling on the ball. That being said, I will admit that was certainly the best performance in three weeks for this team and it's good to save your best for the championship game. Two guys you don't have to make any excuses for are whip LB Cody Grimm and K Dustin Keys. Keys hit his career long (and ACC title game record) with a 50 yarder and Grimm was a man possessed with tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and a near interception to go along with some big hits on special teams.

So while there are some things to be pleased about from the ACC championship game, there are certainly plenty of areas of concern. But please realize that even I set aside the "Mad" for a bit to enjoy this victory. In fact, I am still reveling in the victory this very evening with a nice single malt scotch and some Electric Ladyland from my main man, Jimi Hendrix and here it is, three days removed from the game. I just wanted to make sure all Hokie fans recognize that the room make look nice at first glance, but you do still have to look under the bed and in the closet sometimes. I can assure you that the players and coaches recognized some of the shortcomings I've discussed here and that (along with losing to a Kansas team the Hokies had NO BUSINESS losing to last year) has helped drive them to change the practice schedule and curfew schedule for this trip to the Orange Bowl. Going down to Miami and getting embarrassed against Cincinnati on national TV would turn this thing from PG-13 to NC-17 in a hurry. Let's support the Hokies and make sure that doesn't happen.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!

Monday, December 08, 2008

TSF End of Regular Season Is Up

And one thing is certain: we believe that Texas got shafted. Whether at number one or number two, Texas should be playing for the national title.

1 Florida (2) 74
2 Texas (1) 73
3 Oklahoma 69
4 Alabama 66
5 USC 61
6 Texas Tech 59
7 Penn State 56
7 Utah 56
9 Boise State 53
10 Ohio State 45
11 Cincinnati 44
12 TCU 40
13 Oklahoma State 38
14 Georgia 31
15 Michigan State 28
16 Georgia Tech 26
16 Oregon 26
18 Pittsburgh 25
19 Brigham Young 24
20 Ball State 22
21 Mississippi 14
22 Northwestern 12
22 Virginia Tech 12
24 Florida State 6
25 Missouri 5

Sunday, December 07, 2008

3 Key Plays - VT vs. BC ACC Championship

1) BC had just recaptured the momentum after trailing 14-0 in the 2nd quarter, by picking off a tipped Tyrod Taylor pass and the Eagles began to march down the field. On 1st and 10 from the Hokie 39 yard line, BC quarterback Dominque Davis hit WR Rich Gunnell for a deep pass down the middle which was wide open due to a busted coverage. Gunnell was headed in for 6 points, when Macho Harris leapt and knocked the ball out into the end zone where Cam Martin (who blew the coverage in the first place) fell on it. VT had lost the momentum by now and wasn't able to do anything with it on offense, but preventing that touchdown resulted in the Hokies being up 14-7 instead of tied at 14 at the half which was a big deal. The Hokies attempted The BC playcalling had to focus on more passing in the 2nd half which proved to be their undoing.

2) Ahead 17-7 in the 3rd quarter, and standing at his own 19 yard line, Brent Bowden blasted a 56 yard punt and then BC blocked Hokie gunner Dustin Pickle in the back to force the Eagles to start at their own 7 yard line. This was an ENORMOUS play. If Bowden just hits a normal punt there, the Eagles would have taken over in good position to turn the game back their way. Instead they were pinned deep in their end and took a shot downfield that resulted in a Stephan Virgil interception which he took back all the way back to the BC 10 yard line and put the game solidly in the Hokies' hands.

3) The Eagles had closed the game to within 24-10 and forced a punt where they took over on their own 29 yard line with 10 minutes left in the game. A quick scoring drive and the ACC title game was going to be another close finish. But defensive ends Jason Worilds and Orion Martin had other ideas. Worilds crashed in off the end and knocked the ball out of Davis' hands. The ball bounced right up into Martin's hands and he lumbered into the end zone to make the score 30-10 and essentially end the BC threat. This was the game clinching play.

A full review will follow, but needless to say there is a lot of joy in Hokie Nation today. I still have enormous concerns about the offensive direction, but for now I just want to soak in the greatness of the feeling that the Hokies are back-to-back ACC Champions!!!! 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Game Preview - ACC Championship

On Saturday, the Virginia Tech Hokies square off against the Boston College Eagles in an ACC championship rematch of last year’s championship contests. In the 2007 season, the Eagles managed to defeat the Hokies in the regular season in the closing minutes of the game to maintain their number 2 ranking. But when the two teams met in the ACC championship game that very same year, the Hokies exacted revenge with an increased level of play.

I don’t know that this year’s Hokie squad has poised themselves to accomplish this as well as last year. Last year, the team used the regular season loss to build motivation for payback over a number of weeks with a feeling of assurance that they’d reach the ACC championship with another shot at playing Boston College. This year, both the Hokies and the Eagles have hobbled into first place of their respective ACC divisions with the help from other key ACC contests. Given how the Eagles defense emasculated the Hokie offense in this season’s regular season game, I’d say that the Eagles have the wind at their backs.

Let’s take a closer look at some stats. After the closing of the regular season, Boston College ranks 2nd in the ACC in total defense. Over the course of the season, Virginia Tech has climbed from a mediocre placing to third in this category, not too far behind the Eagles in terms of the numbers. Boston College has allowed 2272 passing yards and 1048 rushing yards compared to the Hokies’ 1948 and 1346, respectively. As a Hokie fan, this raises some concern on my part given that the Eagle’s have such a low number of rushing yards allowed. Based on that number alone, they place first in the ACC by roughly 100 yards. The Hokie offense has a much stronger punch in its running game than its passing game. Although I must say that during the last two games of the regular season, I saw an improvement in Virginia Tech’s passing, even with quarterback Tyrod Taylor making the passes. But even considering that, the running game holds the greatest hope for the Hokie offense, and it has to succeed against the best running defense in the ACC. In the regular season match-up, Hokie running back Darren Evans could only muster a total of 27 yards in 17 carries. Considering that Evans has served as the cornerstone of the Hokie offense this year, this statistics scares me.

Moving to the passing stats, Boston College quarterback Chris Crane, has thrown for 1721 yards on the season over all. That places him in the top 25% of passing in the conference and is impressive for a freshman quarterback. In the regular season duel against the Hokies, he threw for 218 yards. Now, with a whole regular season of experience under his belt, I can only speculate that he has the capability to throw for more. Crane and his Eagle offense will not make the five turnovers they did in the regular season game against Virginia Tech. But I can’t disregard the other side of the coin. As the regular season has progressed, so has the development of Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s squad. At the beginning of the season, I remember watching a lot of young Hokie defensive players show explosive bursts of speed and the ability to put pressure on an offense, but all the while making mental mistakes and missing key tackles too frequently. Now, at the conclusion of the regular season, that has changed. They’ve improved upon the number of yards allowed, missed tackles, and the display of cohesion of a single defensive unit. So even though Crane has matured and progressed, so has the young Hokie defense. Saturday will answer which has progressed further and matured more.

Boston College’s rushing game doesn’t quite stand toe to toe with their passing game, but it has still performed well for them overall. Starting running back Montel Harris has run for 798 yards while his backup, Josh Haden, has run for 439. The Eagles have a viable running game to which I expect they will turn less frequently than their passing game, but it nonetheless contributes a dangerous element for the Hokie defense to control. On the Virginia Tech side, of course Darren Evans has made plenty of headlines placing second in the ACC with 998 rushing yards. Strangely enough, quarterback Tyrod Taylor has rushed for roughly 2/3 of the yardage of Evans and places 11th in the ACC. On the surface, reading that stat may shed positive light on the Hokie offense, but if you look a little more closely, it actually casts a shadow. The vast majority of those rushing yards came at the hands of a Hokie pass play gone awry. Taylor’s ability to transform a botched play into positive yards makes for a great asset to have for an offense, but when that ability becomes the second highest most common producer of offense, that says something very significant about the offense as a whole.

The bottom line is that the passing game for Virginia Tech is atrocious, and it has only made marginal improvements throughout the year. I see potential in some of the Hokies’ rising stars like Danny Coale, Jarred Boykin, and Dyrell Roberts, but the Hokie passing game hasn’t evolved enough to strengthen the offense in a well rounded manner. And let’s face it; the Hokie passing game isn’t going to explode in ways we haven seen all season come Saturday. Taylor hasn’t had a consistent throwing game set aside the modest victories over Duke and UVA. Backup quarterback Sean Glennon has sat on the sidelines for too many games this year to have developed the tempo of a consistent throwing game to deliver his 2008 ACC championship MVP performance. The major factor in this game lies in whether the Hokie offense can do just well enough for the defense to keep the team’s head above water. If the offense can put together a handful of strong drives, get at least one touchdown, and set up a couple of field goals, the Hokies can take the championship two years in a row. If the offense doesn’t drastically outperform themselves from the regular season game of this year against Boston College, the Eagles will pull off the victory.

Let’s Go Hokies!

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008
Kickoff: 1:00 pm
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Fla.
Series vs. BC: VT leads, 10-6
Series Streak: BC, one

Monday, December 01, 2008

Week 14 TSF Poll is up...

Well we unanimously put Texas at number two. This despite the BCS choosing the opposite. I finally came around after really examining each game all three of the 11-1 Big Twelve teams.

1 Alabama (3) 75
2 Texas 72
3 Florida 68
4 Oklahoma 67
5 Texas Tech 62
6 USC 61
7 Utah 56
8 Boise State 52
8 Penn State 52
10 Ball State 48
11 Ohio State 44
12 Cincinnati 43
13 Oklahoma State 37
14 Georgia Tech 33
15 TCU 31
16 Boston College 29
17 Georgia 21
17 Michigan State 21
19 Missouri 18
20 Oregon 17
20 Pittsburgh 17
22 Brigham Young 13
22 Northwestern 13
24 Mississippi 9
25 Florida State 7