Monday, November 30, 2009

Numbers Mean A Lot In The Commonwealth

2,555. It will be 2,555 days of consecutive Virginia Tech possession of the Commonwealth Cup until the University of Virginia can make an attempt to win it. Also, three. Three straight senior Cavalier classes have never beaten Virginia Tech... Awesome.

The Hokies soundly defeated the Cavaliers Saturday 42-13. However, if you were watching the game, you would not have been able to predict that result at half time. This game was, quite frankly, the ultimate summary of the 2009 Virginia Tech season.

The first half summarized the two Tech losses, outside of the Alabama game, as well as most of the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Save for two amazing plays from Tyrod Taylor, Nebraska should have won that game.

The first drive against the Wahoos was full of highs and lows on defense. The Hokies would contain to bring up third down multiple times on the first drive. But, the Hokies would fail to contain the run on these third downs and allowed Virginia to drive seventy-three yards mostly on the ground behind the effort of quarterback Jameel Sewell. Sewell capped the drive with a 15-yard third down run into the end zone. The Hokies were able to force the Cavs into three third downs on the drive but could not stop them on any of these.

The offense came back firing as Taylor hit Danny Coale twice on the drive for big gains of 41 and 36 yards. Coale's ability to catch these passes demonstrated some excellent hands from what most would ordinarily call a possession receiver. Coale would end up with 135 yards on six catches. Freshman Ryan Williams would punch it in to tie the game. Williams would end up with 185 yards rushing in the game including an amazing four touchdowns.

But I digress. The defense would continue to struggle against the run the rest of the first half. Virginia had runs of 16 and 26 yards on its way to going up with a 33 yard field goal. With this game, and the run of Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt, it's pretty obvious that one of this year's defensive squad's major weakness is covering the mobile quarterback.

The teams would settle in for a couple of unproductive drives until a bad punt gave the Hokies position inside Virginia territory. The Hokies would capitalize with another Williams touchdown run, this time from 20 yards out.

Another pair of unproductive possessions, but the Hokies' possession did get down into Virginia territory. Taylor began the drive with a 38-yard toss to Dyrell Roberts.

The Cavs would capitalize with a field goal and that would bring the score to within one at 14-13. It was at this point my Cav friends began taunting... It's also the time, per GobblerCountry's reminder, I began drinking heavily.

The Hokies were showing some of the characteristics of the team as it played in October. I will say this as I rewatched the game. I loved the play of the offensive line, including in the first half. It's going to be tough to replace the likes of guard Sergio Render, tight end Greg Boone, and fullback Kenny Jefferson. These guys have been the pride of the pass protection and run blocking. Even Ed Wang, who at times can be frustrating to watch, had a stellar game protecting and blocking for Williams.

Tech's struggle to contain Sewell continued briefly to start the third quarter. He picked up another 29 yards on his first play after the half. He would end up with 129 yards rushing, 101 of which were in the first half. Sewell would also go 12-22 for 120 yards.

However, after that huge run, Sewell could be labeled absolutely contained. Sewell would not have a positive yard rushing, including two sacks, the rest of the game. Sewell would be forced to throw the ball more as Tech continued to rack up points.

The Hokies would eventually explode offensively starting late in the third quarter. They score four more touchdowns, three of which came from Williams. The other came with a David Wilson run of 10 yards late in the fourth quarter as the Hokies began playing everyone who took the bus ride up 81.

Moreover, the Hokies would shutout the Cavaliers in the second half, fully containing Sewell to minimal gains mostly through the air.

The Hokies will go on to a mid-major bowl game -- the likes of the Peach Bowl or Gator Bowl. The Cavaliers are going home for the holidays for the second straight year. And Al Groh? Well the folks at will have to retire the domain name.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

3 Key Plays - VT vs. UVa

First of all, before I get into 3 Key Plays, let's all have a moment of silence for UVa (former) coach Al Groh. He was a key component in the Hokies' dominance of this bitter rivalry and for that, around here at TSF, he'll be missed.....................

OK, that said, those of you clamoring for ACC and national titles, let me tell you to pause for a second and appreciate how great a feeling it is to beat your rival. I absolutely cannot STAND UVa and beating them as badly as the Hokies did in the 2nd half on Saturday just brings such joy to my heart that it's tough to put into words. Now on to the plays:

1) The Hokies tried to shoot themselves in the foot REPEATEDLY on the offense's opening drive, already down 7-0 to a fired-up Cavalier team who had introduced a completely new wrinkle on their first series - a rushing QB Jameel Sewell. But WR Danny Coale and QB Tyrod Taylor just wouldn't accept it. Holding penalty negates a great kickoff return? No problem. Holding on Ed Wang sets up a 3rd and 17 at midfield? We got it. On this play, Taylor took a deep drop and fired a beautiful 36 yard bomb to Coale who beat All-ACC corner Ras-I-Dowling for the 2ND TIME on the drive and outplayed him to bring down the ball. Consider the game without this play - an already close game at halftime could have been a big lead for the hated Wahoos. Instead it put the Hokies inside the 20 and RB Ryan Williams pounded it in from there to tie the game and put it on its true course.

2) The Hokie offense was just showing signs of life in the 3rd quarter when Taylor was picked off in the end zone (first INT in 111 attempts, wow) to kill a drive. UVa was only down 14-13 at this point in the game and took over on their own 20 seemingly capturing the momentum at a critical point where the outcome was still in the balance. The key play here was on their first play from scrimmage after the pick - a run by Cavalier RB Mikell Simpson who got absolutely DESTROYED by FS Kam Chancellor. Chancellor has admittedly not had the season one would have hoped but he's a more natural rover/strong safety and he's at free safety. But he really popped Simpson and not only did his hit light a fire up and down the Hokie sideline, it also obviously got into Simpson's head a little as well. On the next play Simpson was the target of an option pitch and he glanced up to see where Chancellor was which caused him to mis-handle the pitch from Sewell. Sure enough, Chancellor scooped up the loose ball and nearly scored with it. The Hokies would go on to run off 28 straight points to end the game following this sequence and it all started with Chancellor bringing the lumber after a Hokie turnover. To date this season, the Hokies have not allowed a single TD off of a turnover. That is REDONKULOUS my friends.

3) At the 12:50 mark in the 4th quarter, the Al Groh era at UVa unofficially came to an end with the Cavaliers down 28-13 (two scores) and facing a 4th and 7 at the 45 yd-line. Instead of going for it and making a full effort at winning the game with almost a quarter of football left, Groh packed it in and punted the ball. I've actually seen Coach Beamer do this once before (against FSU in the 2005 ACC Championship Game) and it sickened me so much, I still got a little twinge of that feeling in my stomach when I saw Groh send on the punt unit. I hate losing, don't get me wrong, but there's something even worse about giving up on the outcome when there's still a chance to win. I knew at that moment that Groh had resigned himself to both the outcome of the game and his coaching career at UVa.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

EhhTee's Picks (Week 13)

Last Week:

Maryland @ Florida St. N. Carolina @ B. College
Line: Florida St. -17 Line: BC -3.5
Pick: Maryland to cover Pick: Boston College
Score: UMD 17 - FSU 24 Score: UNC 21 - BC 27
Actual: UMD 26 - FSU 29 Actual: UNC 31 - BC 13
Ohio State @ Michigan Kansas @ Texas
Line; Ohio St. -12 Line: Texas -27
Pick: Michigan is a stunner. Pick: Texas
Score: OSU 28 - Michigan 31 Score: KU 10 - Texas 52
Actual: OSU 21 - Michigan 10 Actual: KU 13 - Texas 41
Oregon @ Arizona Cal @ Stanford
Line: Oregon -5 Line: Stanford -7
Pick: Oregon Pick: Stanford
Score: Oregon 41 - Arizona 35 Score: Cal 24 - Stanford 41
Actual: Oregon 44 - Arizona 41 Actual: Cal 34 - Stanford 28
Kansas St. @ Nebraska This Week (Overall)
Line: Nebraska -15 Line: 3-4 (36-48)
Pick: Nebraska Picks: 4-3 (53-32)
Score: KSU 19 - Nebraska 36
Actual: KSU 3 - Nebraska 17

This Week's Picks:

Texas @ Texas A&M
Line: Texas -22.5

TAMU hasn't had the greatest of seasons and Texas has been rolling over it's mediocre teams.

Pick: Texas
Score: Texas 41 - A&M 17

Temple @ Ohio
Line: Temple -3

Temple can finish the regular season with ten wins. It would be the first time EVER!

Pick: Temple
Score: Temple 31 - Ohio 15

Nebraska @ Colorado
Line: Nebraska -8

Nebraska has come on strong and will be quite an opponent for the Longhorns next week.

Pick: Nebraska
Score: Nebraska 27 - Colorado 10

Alabama @ Auburn

Line: Alabama -12

Alabama will be looking to Florida and in-state rivalries are always closer than talent dictates.

Pick: Auburn to cover
Score: Alabama 35 - 28

Clemson @ South Carolina
Line: Clemson -2.5

See above. South Carolina will keep this close, but Clemson finally sheds its soft image.

Pick: Clemson.
Score: Clemson 31 - USC 21

Upset Special
Florida St. @ Florida
Line: Florida -22.5

Florida St. is still a hard team to read which makes them dangerous. Florida is drastically overrated.

Pick: Florida State.
Score: FSU 35 - Florida 10.

Shutout Special
Georgia @ Georgia Tech
Line: Georgia Tech -7

Georgia Tech wants and needs to show that they're a legit team and 11-1 will definitely go a long way to that. Georgia is just terrible this year.

Pick: Georgia Tech
Score: UGA 0 - GT 28

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 Key Plays - VT vs. NC State

1) On 2nd and 10 on his own 20 yd-line and down 3-0, NC State QB Russell Wilson scrambled away from pressure and found a wide open WR Darrell Davis on the far sideline. But as Davis struggled to get a first down, senior Cody Grimm came rushing up and knocked the ball out of Davis' hands while fellow senior Stephan Virgil fell on the loose ball before it went out of bounds. The turnover led to the Hokies' first touchdown. This was Grimm's 2nd forced fumble in 3 plays and he would go on to force a third fumble on the first play of the following NC State series on a run by Toney Baker (though the Wolfpack recovered that one). I doubt there's any way to find this out, but certainly, this has to be the first time in the history of college football that one player forced 3 fumbles in a span of 4 plays by an offense. By the way, the official box score incorrectly gives credit for the forced fumble by Baker to Hokie senior DE Nekos Brown. Brown was in on the tackle but Grimm hit Baker from the back side and knocked the ball loose.

2) At the very end of a wild 1st quarter, VT was up 10-7 and had the ball on a 2nd and 15 play at the NC State 19 yd line. Tyrod Taylor one-upped his play against Maryland last week by throwing a 17 yard pass to Jarrett Boykin while in the midst of being sacked by TWO NC STATE DEFENDERS. The play gave the Hokies a 1st and goal and sprung open what had been a close game. Without this play, it's very likely the Hokies would have had to settle for 3 points here, keeping the Wolfpack within one score. But this play by Taylor seemed to break the spirit of the NC State defense and they didn't look the same the rest of the way as the Hokies would hang another 4 TD's on them. That might seem like a lot to put on one play, but if you didn't see it, check the highlights at the 4:17 mark. The kid is a miracle worker.

3) On the opening drive of the 3rd quarter the Hokies blasted their way down the field, capped by a miraculous 19-yd TD run by RB Ryan Williams. The run made the score 31-10 and put the game out of reach. It also was the first time the Hokies have gotten the ball to open the 2nd half this season and it was an impressive drive that set the tone for the entire half. But this run is one I that will forever be etched into my memory because Williams dragged an NC State defensive back 12 yds. I've seen players get dragged before, but this was different. The Wolfpack player was basically laying on the ground with one hand holding Williams' jersey. He dragged this player behind him like one of those training tires they tie to players' waists in running drills during the offseason. It was an incredibly impressive display of power and will. Don't believe me? Check the 0:28 mark of this video. Whew.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Raycom Sports Featured Blogger Question

Great win by the Hokies today! The seniors on the line and full back did well blocking for our freshman phenom Williams on Senior Day.

Last weekend MadJay was featured on Raycom's ACC Pregame Show. We ask, "Maryland has named a head coach in waiting. Should Virginia Tech do the same?" referring specifically to Bud Foster.

Here is the clip from the show:

So, what do you think? Should Bud Foster be offered the coach in waiting?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Senior Day - Hokies take on NC State

NC State needs two wins to become bowl eligible and it's not looking good. The Wolfpack have to travel to Virginia Tech and then face North Carolina at home.

Meanwhile, the Hokies are looking to pick up the pieces and build on its two consecutive wins. The Hokies are one of two teams that come into this season with a five straight ten-win season streak -- So. Cal. is the other -- and both are in danger of ending those streaks this year.

As for the game, in both the previous ACC meetings between the two teams, the winner has won by a combined five points. In 2004, the Hokies lost 17-16 at home in a shocker. The Hokies would go on and win the ACC. In 2005, the Hokies won in Raleigh by a score of 20-16 in the season opener.

This Saturday is Senior Day, and as the seniors take Worsham Field for the last time, they'll want to go out with the bang. The matchups are all in the Hokies favor. Offensively NC State may be averaging better in total yards, but the Hokies are dominant on the ground. Thanks mostly to the work of Ryan Williams. Williams has 1235 yards rushing on the year.

NC State sophomore quarterback, Russell Wilson, returns to his home state for his first game in his native Virginia with NC State. Wilson has had a mixed year with 26 touchdowns but 10 interceptions. He's also been sacked 23 times. Expect the Hokie defense to send tremendous pressure to knock him off his game early.

On defense, the Wolfpack are giving up an average of almost 31 points. Last week, Clemson was able to manhandle them 43-23. Duke and Boston College both were able to pummel them as well, scoring 49 and 52 points respectively.

Offensive success, for the Hokies, will depend on which Bryan Stinespring and which Tyrod Taylor shows up. A consistent run game will be important to set up a successful pass game from Taylor and the receiver corp.

In honor of Senior Day, here are the seniors as they step on to Worsham Field for the last time:

Nekos Brown
Kam Chancellor
Kenny Lewis, Jr. *
Sergio Render
Stephan Virgil
Jeff Beyer
Greg Boone
Brent Bowden
Brandon Dillard
Richard Graham
Cody Grimm
Kenny Jefferson
Cam Martin
Mark Muncey
Dorian Porch
Matt Reidy
Demetrius Taylor
Cordarrow Thompson
Matt Tuttle
Matt Waldron
Ed Wang
Sam Wheeler

EhhTee's Picks (Week 12)

This past week was my best week yet. 6-1 against the spread and 5-2 in my picks.

Last Week's Results

W. Virginia @ CincinnatiGeorgia Tech @ Duke
Line: Cincy -9.5Line: GT -10.5
Pick: West VirginiaPick: GT
Score: WVU 21 - Cincy 27Score: GT 35 - Duke 10
Actual: WVU 21 - Cincy 24Actual: GT 49 - Duke 10
Clemson @ NC StateFSU @ Wake Forest
Line: Clemson -6Line: Wake -4
Pick: ClemsonPick: Florida State
Score: Clem. 45 - NCSU 28Score: FSU 21 - WF 17
Actual: Clem 43 - NCSU 23Actual: FSU 41 - WF 28
Miami @ North CarolinaIowa @ Ohio State
Line: Miami -3.5Line: Ohio State -13.5
Pick: MiamiPick: Iowa
Score: UM 35 - UNC 24Score: Iowa 21 - OSU 25
Actal: UM 24 - UNC 33Actual: Iowa 24 - OSU 27
Florida @ South CarolinaThis Week (Overall)
Line: Florida -15Line: 6-1 (33-44)
Pick: South CarolinaPicks: 5-2 (49-29)
Score: Florida 24 - USC 27
Actual: Florida 24 - USC 14

This Week's Picks:

Maryland @ Florida St.
Line: Florida St. -17

Florida St. should continue to roll. The Fridge gets to keep his job and won't be Tech's OC next season. TSF may start a get Ralph out of his contract fund.

Pick: Maryland to cover
Score: UMD 17 - FSU 24

N. Carolina @ Boston College
Line: BC -3.5

This ones basically a pick'em. BC needs to win its next two and have Clemson lose to UVA in order to get the Atlantic title. That's seems unlikely. The Tarheels would like to keep their streak of spoiler going.

Pick: Boston College
Score: UNC 21 - BC 27

Ohio State @ Michigan
Line; Ohio St. -12

This one means a bit less this year, but it's still a huge rivalry. Michigan is fighting to get into a bowl game.

Pick: Michigan is a stunner.
Score: OSU 28 - Michigan 31

Kansas @ Texas
Line: Texas -27

Coach Mangino of Kansas is facing some serious charges of abuse and is being investigated by the school. The distraction will be devastating.

Pick: Texas
Score: KU 10 - Texas 52

Oregon @ Arizona
Line: Oregon -5

A trip to the Rose Bowl's is potentially on the line. Each team can get a step closer in the race for the PAC 10 title. There are four teams that can still claim the trip, but Oregon is in the driver seat.

Pick: Oregon
Score: Oregon 41 - Arizona 35

Cal @ Stanford
Line: Stanford -7

The other two teams in the race to the Rose Bowl: A complex situation of wins and losses gets Cal into the Rose Bowl. Stanford needs an Oregon and an Arizona loss while winning the rest of their games.

Pick: Stanford
Actual: Cal 24 - Stanford 41

Kansas St. @ Nebraska
Line: Nebraska -15

Essentially the Big 12 North championship. Winner is most likely the team that will face Texas in the Big 12 title game.

Pick: Nebraska
Actual: KSU 19 - Nebraska 36

Monday, November 16, 2009

TSF Poll (Week 11)

Texas Christian makes the leap to #2, while Florida falls to #4, tied with Cincinnati. Poor performance on the field may be the key reason for the fall. The middle has been all jumbled after several losses. Ohio State leaps into the top 10 while USC falls off the poll. FYI, other than those that are currently undefeated, the two teams with the longest winning streak: Georgia Tech and Temple. THAT'S RIGHT: TEMPLE!

Temple received 4 points and fell just short of making the top 25. Other's receiving votes: Arizona (3), Miami (3), USC (3), West Virginia (1).

1 Alabama (3)75
2 Texas Christian68
3 Texas67
4 Cincinnati66
4 Florida66
6 Boise State60
7 Georgia Tech59
8 Pittsburgh55
9 LSU49
10Ohio State47
12Oklahoma State42
13Penn State36
18Virginia Tech22
19Brigham Young20
22North Carolina13
23Clemson 12
24Mississippi 9
25Oregon State 7

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Game Review - VT vs. Maryland

The Hokies throttled Maryland in Byrd Stadium yesterday 36-9. The offensive line picked up blitzes, RB Ryan Williams ran with authority and QB Tyrod Taylor delivered crisp passes mixed in with big plays downfield. The Hokie defense was dominant in every aspect with the exception of keeping contain on the Maryland QB Jamarr Robinson who had one of the craziest stat lines I can remember seeing - out of Maryland's 236 total yards, Robinson ran or passed for 233 of them. He accounted for all but 3 yards of Maryland's entire offense!

This is what Virginia Tech football should have looked like during the season. This level of execution is all I have asked for since the opening snap of the season and at rare points during this campaign (against Miami and BC) we have seen glimpses of what the team is capable of. Unfortunately, with the way the rest of the ACC has improved in talent and coaching, playing at a high level for some of a season isn't good enough anymore to win an ACC Coastal division title, much less the entire ACC championship or national title.

The game started off with a very positive sign for Virginia Tech. On their first series, they faced a 3rd and 4 and Taylor dropped back and delivered a strike to Danny Coale for 7 yards and a first down. I have been on coordinator Stinespring and Taylor all season for not developing any rhythm in the passing game but against Maryland, Taylor had a mental count in his head when he dropped back and he either delivered the ball or pulled it down and got positive yards with it. As a result VT only lost 8 total yards on two sacks. It's no coincidence then that Taylor also had his 2nd best passing day of the season.

While Maryland was determined to stack the box to stop Ryan Williams from rushing the ball in the first half, Taylor kept up the aerial barrage. He hit deep balls, he hit crossing routes, slants, WR screens, hell I thought it was a mirage at the time but yes, when I re-watched the footage each of the tight ends (Greg Boone, Andre Smith and Sam Wheeler) had a catch as well.

All of this led to a 20-3 lead (should have been 21 but for a botched snap on an extra point). And then Taylor delivered one of his signature plays of the season. I recall the play he made as a true freshman in 2007 rolling to his left and delivering a perfect ball to Justin Harper against Florida State late in the game. His sophomore season was marked by an impossible throw while being sacked on third down against UNC to turn that game around and a huge run against UVA to swing that game as well. Well 2009 has had plenty of highlights, but good heavens what a play Taylor made with 8:17 left in the 2nd quarter.

The Hokies had just forced a punt from Maryland and taken over at the 36 yard line. Taylor dropped back to pass to the left sideline but WR Danny Coale was covered. So he came back and found his 2nd read which was a deep post from left to right by WR Jarrett Boykin. Just before he got pummeled, Taylor stepped into the throw and delivered a 35-yard laser to Boykin in between two defenders. Boykin broke a tackle and jogged into the end zone for a 64 yard score which Taylor never saw because he was buried into the muddy field. The ball had almost no arc on it over that long distance. I've said it before but there are probably only 10 other QB's playing Division I-A football who could have made that play (meaning the read, and then being able to deliver that throw). QB's that come to mind are Kyle Parker from Clemson, Andrew Luck at Stanford, and Ryan Mallet at Arkansas. And none of those guys are ever going to have an 81 yard rushing day (although Luck has much better mobility than people think) which is what Taylor put on the board Saturday against the Terrapins.

In the 2nd half, I was very excited to see the Hokie offensive line grind the clock and get Williams on track. Everyone in the stadium knew the Hokies were going to run the ball and they just imposed their will and ran it anyway. Williams has that characteristic of his idol (Walter Payton) and other great runners in that he gets stronger as the game goes on. He started breaking tackles and big runs in the third quarter and ended the day with 126 yards and a TD putting Williams within 3 rushing yards of the freshman rushing record set just last season by Darren Evans.

As for the defense, they literally allowed 3 yards rushing by all the Terrapin wide receivers and running backs. More importantly the defense only gave up 3 points (the other 6 points were when the Maryland defense recovered a Tyrod Taylor fumble in his own end zone in the 4th quarter). Jake Johnson got in a game for the first time since being benched for Lyndell Gibson and played very very well, but there's a disclaimer. When Johnson went in at linebacker in the 2nd half, the Maryland offense was really pretty watered down. There was less motion and very little adjustment before the snap. You really got the sense Ralph Friedgen just wanted to run some plays and get out of the stadium. Johnson has always been aggressive and athletic and with nothing tricky to read, he made big plays including 2 sacks. It was good to see Johnson get on track though as competition for playing time is what brings out the best in a football team.

The defense had 5 sacks overall and Rock Carmichael played at an extremely high level, breaking up two passes including one in the end zone on 4th and goal. The defense while nice and aggressive, simply could not contain the QB scrambling and QB draws by Robinson who, despite the 5 sacks, rushed for 129 yards. I thought Foster should have been spying Robinson with LB Cody Grimm and kept the line splits tighter because every time a big pass rush came from the outside it would open up a running lane behind it and Robinson would take off.

Special teams were also very special for Virginia Tech in this game. Matt Waldron drilled 3 FG's in the 2nd half. Bowden only averaged 38.8 yards/punt but pinned two inside the 20 and one one 1-yd line and his hang time limited Maryland to -7 yards in returns. Meanwhile, Jayron Hosley averaged 14.3 yds/punt return which doesn't include a 42 yarder that was brought back by a very poorly called block in the back penalty on the Hokies.

All-in-all this was a complete victory for Virginia Tech. They beat a team that has been crippled by injuries on both sides of the ball, but it was a road win and most importantly the offense executed very crisply in the first half and controlled the clock in the 2nd half. The result was the 2nd best offensive performance of the season while the defense allowed 3 points for the 2nd week in a row. If Tech can keep this going, they have a legitimate chance at beating NC State soundly next week at home and really capturing some late season momentum headed into the rivalry game against the hated Wahoos.


3 Key Plays - VT vs. Maryland

1) On the opening drive, on the first set of downs, the Hokies faced a 3rd and 4. In the past three weeks, the Hokies first half offense has been nothing short of miserable and it's been marked by an appalling lack of rhythm in the passing game. But on this play, Taylor dropped back and fired a quick hitter to Danny Coale for 7 yards and a first down. It set the tone for the first half against the Terps by avoiding a punt and it eventually led to a TD on the opening drive. This play also highlighted another theme of the day which was Taylor dropping back making his first read, his second read (when the first one wasn't open) and then delivering the ball very well.

2) After Maryland kicked a FG to make the score 14-3, the Hokies answered, marching down the field 56 yards for a TD on a very well-blocked WR screen to Dyrell Roberts. This was a key play because it essentially put the game out of reach and again, it highlighted a Hokie offense responding to an opponent's score, this time in the first half.

3) In the 4th quarter with about 12 minutes left, the Terps recovered a fumble in the Tech end zone to make the score 33-9. But that wasn't the key play. The very first play for VT on their next drive was a fumble by Josh Oglesby. Had Maryland recovered that ball on the VT 36 yd line, it's not to say they would have come back and won, with 11 minutes left in the game, but they could have swung the momentum hard the other way making the game a lot less attractive than it's eventual final score. Fortunately, Tyrod Taylor was in the right place at the right time and he scooped up the ball and dashed 25 yards to give the Hokies a first down in Maryland territory and avoiding any late-game ugliness for Tech.

Friday, November 13, 2009

EhhTee's Picks (Week 11)

I think this season is proving one thing: I should stick to pick'ems.

Against the line an abysmal 2-7 but 6-3 in pick 'ems.

Last Week's Results:

Miami(Ohio) @ TempleVirginia @ Miami
Line: Temple -13.5Line: Miami -13
Pick: TemplePick: Virginia
Score: Miami 10 - Temple 53Score: UVA 17 - Miami 24
Actual: Miami 32 - Temple34Actual: UVA 17 - Miami 52
Duke @ North CarolinaMaryland @ NC State
Line: UNC -7.5Line: NC State -7.5
Pick: DookPick: NC State
Score: Dook 24 - UNC 15Score: UMD 10 - NC State 18
Actual: Duke 6 - UNC 19Actual: UMD 31 - NCSU 38
Navy @ Notre DameOregon @ Stanford
Line: Notre Dame -11Line: Oregon -4.5
Pick: NDPick: Oregon
Score: Navy 15 - ND 45Score: Quack 6,215 - Stan. 24
Actual: Navy 23 - ND 21Actual: Oregon 42 - Stanford 51
Wake @ GA TechOhio State @ Penn State
Line: Georgia Tech -15.5Line: Penn State -4
Pick: WakePick: Buckeyes
Score: Wake 22 - GT 34Score: OSU 31 - PSU 17
Actual: Wake 27 - GT 30Actual: OSU 24 - PSU 7
LSU @ AlabamaThis Week (Overall)
Line: Alabama -9Line: 2-7 (27-43)
Pick: BamaPicks: 6-3 (44-27)
Score: LSU 16 - Bama 35
Actual: LSU 15 - Bama 24

This Week's Picks:

West Virginia @ Cincinnati
Line: Cincy -9.5

Cincinnati can win the Big East with a win tonight and at Pittsburgh in three weeks. The three way tournament for the title begins tonight. Both West Virginia and Pittsburgh can also claim that right as well. For Cincinnati however, an outside national championship is also on the line here. Cincy won't cover the full 9.5 points, but continue on their way to that chance.

Pick: West Virginia
Score: WVU 21 - Cincy 27

Georgia Tech @ Duke
Line: GT -10.5

Georgia Tech will lock up the Coastal Division with a win against the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils have an outside shot of taking the Coastal if they can beat Georgia Tech, Miami, and Wake. Unlikely, but that would be the funniest tragedy of all.

Pick: GT
Score: GT 35 - Duke 10

Clemson @ NC State
Line: Clemson -6

Clemson has the tie breaker for the Atlantic Division as they've already beat Boston College. BC has three games left in conference and Clemson has NC State and Virginia left.

Pick: Clemson
Score: Clemson 45 - NC State 28

Florida State @ Wake Forest
Line: Wake -4

Florida State is fighting to get to bowl eligibility. They need two of their next three and it's unlikely they get one of those against Florida.

Pick: Florida State
Score: FSU 21 - WF 17

Miami @ North Carolina
Line: Miami -3.5

Miami is not out of the fight for the ACC title. However, it's not in their hands. They need Georgia Tech to slip and to win their next two against the RTP tandem.

Pick: Miami
Score: UM 35 - UNC 24

Iowa @ Ohio State
Line: Ohio State -13.5

Everyone's picking OSU here. Iowa stumbled big time last week after losing to lowly Northwestern! Iowa needs to travel to hostile Columbus. Iowa lost it's hopes to break into the national title picture. However, this game is for all the roses as the winner will go on to Pascedena for the Rose Bowl.

Pick: Iowa
Score: Iowa 21 - Ohio State 25

Florida @ South Carolina
Line: Florida -15

The Old Ball Coach will shock the football world on Saturday.

Pick: South Carolina
Score: Florida 24 - S. Carolina 27

Monday, November 09, 2009

TSF Poll (Week 10)

This week we're all in agreement. Alabama makes a unanimous #1.

1 Alabama (3) 75
2 Florida 72
3 Texas 68
4 Cincinnati 65
4 Texas Christian 65
6 Georgia Tech 58
6 Boise State 58
8 Pittsburgh 54
9 Houston 47
10 Miami 45
11 LSU 44
12 Iowa 42
13 Oregon 40
14 USC 34
15 Ohio State 30
16 Utah 28
17 South Florida 24
18 Oklahoma State 21
19 Arizona 19
19 Penn State 19
21 West Virginia 18
22 Wisconsin 14
23 Virginia Tech 9
24 California 7
24 Oregon State 7

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Game Review - VT vs. ECU

The Hokies went down and handled their business in Greenville, NC on Thursday night, coming away with a 16-3 win over the ECU Pirates. I have heard of lot of hemming and hawing about this game and by any account it was an ugly win. But there are two points that need to be made, one that isn't controversial and the other which apparently is. The point we can all agree on is that the Hokies needed this win. To keep the season on track for 10 wins and to keep the season from spiraling into a 7-5 or worse campaign, they needed to turn the 2 game losing streak around and they got it done on the road. The other point is apparently more controversial - all the blame for this one seems to be placed at the feet of Bryan Stinespring and I disagree as I will outline below.

Before I do, please don't think I am going to defend Bryan Stinespring. I think he needs to be removed as the offensive coordinator, and I have thought that for a long time. The reasons are legion and don't need to be re-hashed here. Suffice it to say, it is an affront to the fan base to have both an empty national title trophy case in Merriman Center and Coach Stinespring as the offensive coordinator. But face the facts my fellow Superfans - 70th best in offense (where VT is this year) is a major improvement from where the team has been. Granted it's about as good as one can expect from Coach Stinespring but if the defense were playing at the level we have become accustomed, a 70th place offense would have the Hokies sitting better than 6-3 right now. If you think that Thursday night's game was a terrible display of offense you may have forgotten last year's debacle to open the season against ECU when the Hokie offense only put up 13 points and had 243 yards of offense.

Consider that the score on Thursday night should have been 27-3 (sounds better doesn't it?) instead of 16-3 and the reason it wasn't has nothing to do with Stinespring. First of all, in the first quarter, Greg Boone stumbled as he made his cut running a slant on a 3rd and goal pass play (pass in the red zone??? GASP!?!) and when QB Tyrod Taylor came off of Boone and tried to throw to a wide open Danny Coale at the back of the end zone, Boone reached his hand out and knocked down the ball. The Hokies had to settle for a FG instead of a TD making the score 6-0 instead of 10-0. Then, early in the 2nd quarter, Taylor fumbled crossing the goal line and the ball went out the back of the end zone resulting in ECU's ball at their own 20-yd line and no points for VT instead of a 17-0 score favoring Tech. Those extra 11 points left on the field had nothing to do with Coach Stinespring, they were simply plays that were not made by VT and sometimes that is going to happen in a football game.

Recognize also that the offense had 379 yards in this game which, as I mentioned earlier, is a far cry from the offensive ineptitude from previous seasons. Ryan Williams completely obliterated any bad memories from his last game against UNC by rushing for 179 yards on only 26 carries with no fumbles. That's nearly 7 yards a carry and the truth of the matter is that one has to credit Stinespring for sticking with Williams. Early in the game, ECU was stuffing the run and packing the middle. Stinespring began throwing the vaunted WR screens and out routes but in this case it was the right time to do it. And then when ECU spread a little wider to cover those, Stiney came back to the running back they call 'Lil Sweetness (in honor of his hero Walter Payton) who began gashing the Pirate defense for huge chunks of yardage.

One area where this offense does break down is on third down. And that is definitely an area I hold Stinespring accountable. His third down playcalling and the execution by the players on that down is a joke. Third and long, third and short, third and anything means that 63% of the time there is going to be a punt. This is absolutely unacceptable. And it was the same on Thursday where VT went 4-14 on third down.

My diagnosis as to why the team struggles on third down is that on most of the passing plays that involve a player having to run more than 4 yards downfield, Taylor has a very hard time getting in a rhythm. In these situations he is very hesitant to let that ball go to his first read. There are two possibilities - a) the defense has a very good idea what route/play is coming and they cover the first read very well or b) Taylor wants that first read to be WIDE OPEN before he'll let go of the ball. I think it's a combination of these two things. Taylor wants to be safe with the ball so if his first read is at all covered, he'll try and make the progression to his 2nd read. He also wants to demonstrate to the NFL that he can do this. But too often, Taylor holds the ball too long and has to scramble around to make either a miracle play or lose yardage on a sack. This is not the formula for an effective, consistent offense and I'd love for the triumvirate of Stiney/O'Cain/Taylor to come up with a remedy for this unease on third down plays but I am unconvinced they can.

By the way, before I move to the defense, I have read all of the Ed Wang bashing and let's just cover that head-on here. First of all, Ed Wang is not an All-ACC left tackle. He never made the complete transition from tight end and I think his fundamentals are lacking. But he is a good left tackle, good enough to protect Tyrod Taylor's blind side more times than not. The two penalties on Ed Wang in this game were a complete and total joke. The first penalty was a "leg whip/tripping" call on a Ryan Williams 8 yd run that moved VT out of FG territory early in the 4th quarter. Wang moved to outside on the play and then came back to cut block one of the linebackers rushing in. Wang dove at him and missed and the defender tripped over his leg. Now it is a fact that Wang left his leg out there on purpose. Linemen do that on nearly every play where they block low because there is a chance that the defender will trip on their outstretched leg. It is also a fact that it was a weak block attempt by Wang. But what this was NOT was a "leg whip penalty" because Wang did not swing or kick his leg out into a defender or that defender's path. What Wang did happens on 75% of the run plays in football and it was ludicrous to pick it out here. Offensive linemen's legs are called the "trash" that linebackers are supposed to have to pick through. Terrible call.

That said I will nominate the leg whip for Best Officiated Call of the game compared to the PREPOSTEROUS call later in the 4th quarter on Wang for an illegal chop block. If you want to learn what an illegal chop block looks like just watch any Georgia Tech game. They were called for a few against Wake Forest on Saturday. This is when a defensive player is engaged or being blocked by an offensive player and another offensive player comes in below the waist to block the defender. The play often results in knee and ankle injuries and I wish the penalties for it for stiffer than 15 yards (1 game suspension is my suggestion) because it can end football careers. The play Wang was flagged for came at the 6:13 mark of the 4th quarter (I tell you this in case you want to watch the footage yourself on The play was a run to the right and Ed Wang's job was to cut the safety coming from the other side of the field to prevent him from getting in on the tackle. Ed did exactly that - he ran in on the safety and went low and got the safety down. Blake DeChristopher blocked the wrong man and actually was there to fall down on the safety to keep him from getting up (you missed the linebacker BDC). There was nothing resembling a chop block on this play. I say this to those of you wanting to hate on Ed Wang - he is a good left tackle, not elite by any stretch, but solid.

Now on to the defense. This was a unit that played with some pride. Minus one drive to end the first half, the defense was relentless. Coach Foster dialed up blitzes and Cody Grimm (my MVP of the season for this team) had just another completely lights out ball game. Grimm caused a fumble when ECU was deep in Hokie territory at a time when the Hokies were only protecting a 6 point lead. Grimm makes plays and effects the outcome of ballgames and if he isn't on All-ACC and All-American teams this year, something is way out of whack (to turn a phrase).
I was also a huge fan of another adjustment Foster made on defense - he started Lyndell Gibson over Jake Johnson at backer. Look, linebacker is just one of those positions where you can have all the physical attributes and look the part, but just not be productive enough. You have to have an innate feel for the game and a will to make tackles. I'm not saying Jake Johnson doesn't have those things, because he is just a sophomore, but I know that Lyndell Gibson does have them. Gibson has that nose for the football and was in on six tackles against ECU along with a fumble recovery. That fumble recovery is exactly the sort of thing Coach Foster was alluding to this week when he outlined why Gibson was going to start. Foster said "my linebackers have been solid but I need playmaking out of that position". Recovering fumbles is making a play that can affect the outcome of a game, and the Hokies have been getting that out of the linebackers for many years. I think Jake Johnson is going to continue to hit the weight room, continue to study film and he may still yet regain his starting position either this year or next. If he does it's a good thing for VT because he will have to have his game at a very high level to beat out a playmaker in Lyndell Gibson.
Overall, the Hokies just wore down the Pirates and by the 4th quarter, Virginia Tech was protecting their 13-3 lead. Rock Carmichael stepped up and made his 5th interception of the season on a tipped ball drill (good for 2nd in the conference) and the Hokies tacked on a FG for the final score of the game. This game was more of an exertion of will on both sides of the ball and it was good to see that for 60 minutes. Sure, I'd like more production out of the offense in the first half, but at this point in the season, the offense is what it is and they are led by a guy in Stinespring who I think is coaching at his absolute best right now. Of course, that's not really good enough for me, but as the defense plays back up to its high standards, it will probably be enough the rest of the way to notch some more wins.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Potentially the Biggest BC "Mess" Ever

We have a lot of season left to play, and I raise this topic too early to justify any serious concern. However, because we can have fun discussing it and it does exist as a possibility, I shall write about this topic anyways.

In current BCS week 9 standings, 7 teams have yet to lose a game. 6 of those teams have the possibility of finishing the season without a loss. If this happens, the college football landscape will call for the BCS heads to roll and roll hard because somebody who deserves it won't get an invitation to the BCS dance. In this post, I run down the list of teams without a loss describing what dangers they have ahead of them, my thoughts about whether they will actually finish the season without a loss, and the value of a zero loss season in a claim to play in the national title. Finally I'll speculate about how the bowl invitations may come down from the BCS should six of these teams actually finish their seasons without a loss.

Florida Gators (1)

Florida has a team worthy of their #1 ranking. They have maintained a perfect record in the mighty SEC. Their remaining regular season schedule includes Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida International, and Florida State. South Carolina has a team good enough to play the role of a spoiler for a major contender like Florida, but they have the definitive status of underdog in this game. Florida will without question make the SEC championship game, but that game presents them with a significant hurdle. They will face either Alabama (3) or LSU (9) in all likelihood, and this Saturday's contest between those two teams will also in all likelihood determine which reaches the title game as Florida's opponent. The winner of such a matchup makes for a tough prediction for even the most knowledgeable of college football pundits. For the sake of making some kind of prediction, because whomever they face will come to the game more battle hardened, I'll predict Florida drops the championship game in a narrow loss. I think the SEC West has stronger teams than the SEC East, Florida's division.

Texas Longhorns (2)

I think Texas really deserved the bid over Oklahoma to playing in the National Championship Game last year. This season, they have come out to play with a vengeance to put an exclamation point on that idea. They have suffered no losses playing out of the tougher of the Big12 divisions. Like Florida, their regular season schedule doesn't present any seriously formidable opponents. Their remaining schedule includes UCF, Baylor, Kansas, and Texas A&M. Texas A&M could create an upset as their arch rivals, and Kansas certainly has the ability to spoil a team's ride to a season without a loss. All unexpected events aside, Texas should cruise to the Big12 title and most likely win it against either Kansas State or Nebraska.

Alabama Rolling Tide (3)

You could argue that Alabama has the toughest schedule in totality for the regular season in all of Division I football. It includes 4 ranked teams and of course their regular opponents of the SEC West. Should they win all their games leading up to the SEC championship game, they will in my opinion have earned a #1 ranking. However, they have some higher hurdles to clear in comparison to their zero-loss cohorts of the BCS. Their regular season still has LSU (#9), Mississippi State, Chattanooga, and Auburn. LSU has a #9 ranking, and Auburn has the rivalry factor to motivate them to play like overachievers in the final regular season game. And of course they have to play Florida in the SEC championship to maintain an unbeaten record. I really would like to see Alabama run the table through the regular season and win the SEC championship game. I met a few of their fans at the Hokies' season opener, and despite the loss handed to Virginia Tech, I took a liking to them. However, I think they will probably drop a game prior to the bowl season.

Iowa Hawkeyes (4)

I can't remember the last time that Iowa had gotten nine games into their regular season without a loss. I do think that the Big10 lacks strength of schedule when you stack it up against the likes of the SEC and Big12, but a team who can manage not to stumble at all during the regular season deserves kudos. The Big 10 has no conference championship, so they only have their regular season games remaining. They play Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota. A program like Iowa, who doesn't regularly handled the scrutiny of national championship chatter this late in the season, has some susceptibility to an upset to a team like Minnesota or Northwestern, but I don't suspect they will drop those games. Their major hurdle lies in Ohio State, who has had somewhat of a off season thus far. If I had to guess, I'd think Ohio State will plunder their plans for a no loss season, but I mainly base that on the reputation of the two programs.

Cincinnati Bearcats (5)

Since coming the Big East, this program has steadily built their prestige amongst the BCS contenders. If you can think back to when the Tampa Bay Lightning made their march to the Stanley Cup in 2004, hockey fans scratched their heads and repeated, "Really? Really? Tamba Bay!?" Cincinati has quickly begun to rise in the college football world in much the same fashion. They have had a tough schedule thus far, probably underrated due to playing out of the Big East, and they have a tough last three games ahead of them. They have yet to play Connecticut, West Virginia, Illinois, and Pittsburgh. West Virginia and Pittsburgh should give them tough games. They should route Illinois. To state which school's have better teams, I'd give that to Cincinnati over all their remaining opponents; however, like Iowa they arrive in the national title hunt as a program without experience in that atmosphere. I think they'll stumble and lose one game before the bowl season.

TCU Horned Frogs (6)

TCU plays out of the Mountain Western Conference, one that does not have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl. They can only win an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, and they only have a hope for that if they can win every regular season game, especially with the BCS standings as tight as they are this late in the season. Out of fairness, I think you really have to give a hard look at any team who doesn't lose all season, regardless of from which conference they come. Without doing so you don't have a way for those teams of conferences without an automatic BCS bid to work their way into a BCS bowl. TCU's remaining schedule includes San Diego State, Utah, Wyomic, and New Mexico. I don't know much about any of these teams except for Utah, but I'll just say that TCU will easily handle all of those except for Utah. This game really presents their only obstacle to a season without a loss. Utah, themselves, have only played one loss shy of a perfect season thus far as well. TCU has better numbers than Utah in total offense and total defense. By the stats, they have the upper hand. Also, Utah has a high number of players on injured reserve listed as questionable. Given all this, I think TCU will run the table.

Boise State Broncos (7)

Finally, we come to Boise State, also from a non-automatic bid conference. We remember from several seasons ago in what happened as one of the most exciting bowl games in the history of college football: Boise State vs. Oklahoma. The Broncos won that game with an exciting finish. Pundits consistently entertain their program as a potential BCS buster, and rightfully so as they frequently command their conference and earn big non-conference wins. This season, their strength of schedule only has one major opponent: Oregon. But that single opponent has had a marvelous season since that opening loss, and that helps Boise State in the polls. The Broncos have Louisiana Tech, Idaho, Utah State, Nevada, and New Mexico state on their remaining regular season schedule. None of those should give them any major problems. So long as they keep their composure, they'll finish the regular season without a loss.

Now, just for the sake of carrying speculation further, how would things likely shake down if 6 of these 7 teams, the most possible, finished without losing? Should Florida or Alabama claim the SEC title, they will have an uncontestible claim to play in the National Championship Game. Given the strength of the SEC, the BCS committee would probably even go so far as to pick a one-loss SEC team over other zero-loss teams should they win the conference, but I digress. Texas, coming from the formidable Big12 would likely get the invite to play the SEC champion in the National Championship Bowl. Because of the Rose Bowl's old, and quite frankly antiquated, tradition, they would invite Iowa to play Oregon, who will likely win the Pac10. This leaves the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Orange Bowl, in that order for selection of the 2009 season, across which to spread the rest of the no-loss teams. The Fiesta bowl losing their Big12 champion to the National Championship Bowl would likely pick Cincinnati to play against the one loss team probably from the Big12 they think would bring the most fans or maybe even Notre Dame, even if they finish 6-4...well, because they're Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl will want the team with the second best record in the SEC: Florida, Alabama, or LSU depending on how things shake down in the SEC. Against that team, they'd probably choose Boise State because of their reputation for traveling decently to bowls. The Orange Bowl will keep with its tradition of inviting the ACC champion to play against TCU, the last remaining team solidifying an at large bid to some BCS bowl. Alternatively, the BCS bowls may only live up to the bare minimum of their rule obligations and only invite one of Boise State and TCU. The rules only obligate the BCS to invite one non-automatic bid conference team. That means the Sugar Bowl would invite some one loss team they deem to bring an attractive number of fans. It also means that only one of Boise State and TCU would get an invite to the Orange Bowl. That's where the fan outrage will come into the picture. A Penn State or one loss LSU would make a much more attract option from a revenue standpoint than a Boise State or TCU, and that means one of those two teams without a single loss get omitted from the BCS.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

EhhTee's Picks (Week 10)

Last week I only picked six games last week. I still failed horribly against the line. I went 2-4. Picking winners seems to be my forte. Last week at 5-1 pushes me to 38-24.

Last week's result:
GeorgiaTech @ VanderbiltDuke @ Virginia
Line: Georgia Tech -13.5Line: Virginia -6.5
Pick: VanderbiltPick: Duke
Score: GA Tech 28 - Vandy 17Score: Duke 34 - UVA 15
Actual: GA Tech 56 - Vandy 31Actual: Duke 28 - 17
USC @ OregonTexas @ Oklahoma St
Line: USC -3.5Line: Texas -9
Pick: OregonPick: Oklahoma St
Score: USC 24 - Oregon 43Score: Texas 27 - Ok St. 37
Actual: USC 20 - Oregon 47Actual: Texas 41 - Ok St. 14
Miami @ Wake ForestNC State @ Florida St
Line: Miami -7Line: Florida St. -7.5
Pick: MiamiPick: Florida St.
Score: Miami 31 - Wake 18Score: NC St. 17 - Florida St. 34
Actual: Miami 28 -Wake 27Actual: NC St. 42 - FSU 45
This Week (Overall)
Line: 2-4 (25-36)
Picks: 5-1 (38-24)

This week's picks:

Miami (Ohio) @ Temple
Line: Temple -13.5

Temple is bowl eligible for the first time since 1979. Let me repeat that. TEMPLE... is... BOWL ELIGIBLE. Temple will make a bowl appearance for the first time this year and the Miami Redhawks will be the next team to face the wrath of the Owls.

Pick: Temple
Score: Miami 10 - Temple 53

Virginia @ Miami
Line: Miami -13

Miami rolls but closer than the spread.

Pick: Virginia
Score: UVA 17 - Miami 24

Duke @ North Carolina
Line: UNC -7.5

Dook becomes bowl eligible with a beat down in Chapel Hill. What's with the world of football when Dook and Temple are bowl eligible!?

Pick: Dook
Score: Dook 24 - UNC 15

Maryland @ NC State
Line: NC State -7.5

These two teams are Tech's next opponents and this game will give us a good look at how they will fair.

Pick: NC State
Score: UMD 10 - NC State 18

Navy @ Notre Dame
Line: Notre Dame -11

Notre Dame continues to cruise to STEAL a BCS spot from either Boise of TCU.

Pick: ND
Score: Navy 15 - ND 45

Oregon @ Stanford
Line: Oregon -4.5

Will Oregon be distracted by the return of Blount? Nope. Oregon is playing perhaps the best football in the country right now.

Pick: Oregon
Score: Quack 6,215 - Stanford 24

Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech
Line: Georgia Tech -15.5

Georgia Tech can seal the deal with a victory against Wake. But 15.5 points won't happen.

Pick: Wake
Score: Wake 22 - GT 34

Ohio State @ Penn State
Line: Penn State -4

UPSET SPECIAL. Sorry Iowa. The Nuts roll over the Nits despite losing earlier to Purdue.

Pick: Buckeyes
Score: OSU 31 - PSU 17

LSU @ Alabama
Line: Alabama -9

Some would say THIS should be the upset special. Not so fast my friend. Though Bama's been less than spectacular on offense. The defense can win games on its own.

Pick: Bama
Score: LSU 16 - Bama 35

Game Preview - vs. East Carolina

(22/24) VS

Virginia Tech Hokies 5-3, 3-1 ACC @ East Carolina Pirates 5-3, 4-1 C-USA

Kickoff: 7:45 pm
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, N.C.
Radio: XM 190; Sirius: 213
Series vs. ECU: VT leads, 9-5
Series Streak: ECU, 1

With losses to Georgia Tech and then UNC, the past two games have certainly served up some hard pills for Hokie fans to swallow, but as we come into the home stretch of the regular season, let's hope that our Hokies play with all the same heart as a team marching towards a conference championship. Our boys still have yet to reach bowl eligibility, and finishing strong in the remainder of the regular season increases the chances for a better bowl bid against a formidable opponent.

The rest of the Hokies' season begins today against the East Carolina Pirates. The Pirates upset the Hokies in last year's season opener at Lane Stadium. They gave the Hokies the wakeup call they needed to understand that they'd have to earn the ACC title rather than have it just fall into their laps. This season, the Pirates enter the game with a record of 5-3, same as Virginia Tech. Two of their losses come at the hands of BCS conference opponents West Virginia and the very same North Carolina team who defeated the Hokies last week. ECU plays out of the same conference as Marshall, another Conference USA team on the Hokies' 2009 schedule. Virginia Tech travels to Greeville today to play in an ECU stadium that many expect to fill up with very exited fans who would love to witness an upset against a prestigious team from a BCS conference. The Pirates smell blood in the water because Virginia Tech, who has just taken a mid-season skid, fits that bill very well. Skip Holtz, son of college football commentator Lou Holtz, says, "There is an awful lot of buildup and excitement for this game, venue and atmosphere. I think Greenville will come alive a little bit Thursday. We're really excited to not only play Virginia Tech, but to play the team at home." Expect an ECU team ready to bring their A-game to demonstrate that last year's victory over the Hokies didn't come as a fluke.

East Carolina has demonstrated some strong offense this season, and to no real surprise with 8 returning starters. Quarterback Patrick Pinkey takes the helm as a Senior with plenty of experience dating back to the 2007 season. His numbers have improved since he started playing the position. Haling from Fayetteville, NC, he stands at 6'1" and 205 lbs. He has thrown for 1515 yards, 8 touchdowns, and for a completion percentage of 57%. Dominique Lindsay and Brandon Jackson fill the role of the primary ball carriers for the Pirates. Lindsay has rushed for 570 yards and 3 touchdowns over 99 attempts. The Senior doesn't stand as the largest in the lot of college football running backs at 5'10" weighing 202 lbs, and neither does Jackson also standing at 5'10" and weighing 202 lbs. His numbers fall shy of Lindsay's at 264 yards and 3 touchdowns over 73 attempts. In the area of receiving, Pinkey primarily looks to Junior wide receiver Dwayne Harris. He has made 47 receptions and caught for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jamar Bryant has caught for 200 yards, 21 receptions, and 2 touchdowns. Standing at 6'1" and 6'2" respectively, neither creates too much of a height problem for the Hokie secondary. Also, the ECU injury report has Bryant listed as doubtful for today's game with a shoulder injury. In total offense, the team places fourth in their home conference, but the vast majority of their yardage gains comes from rushing. Expect Holtz and ECU to rely heavily on the running game, especially with Bryant sidelined.

On the other side of the ball, ECU's defense also has eight returning starters and also ranks fourth in their home conference. Mirroring their offense, they have a much poorer passing defense than running defense. If you'd chose to have one over the other against the Hokies, a better rushing defense makes for a better bet. However, there does lie a very big BUT here. Hokie Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has begun to turn the page this season as a quarterback who can consistently pass for yardage gains. He has demonstrated that in the midst of some tough mid-season losses, not that that the Hokie offense has looked great as a whole for all this time. This contest may make for the perfect opportunity for him to establish some rhythm with his young receiver core and boost one another's confidence. Something does work in ECU's favor in this aspect on the other hand. Their defense has a high number of quarterback hurries at 35 on the season. Now, they have done that primarily against weaker teams than the Hokies, but they have nonetheless demonstrated their ability to do it. 32 of those hurries happened during games they won, so if that starts happening a lot to Taylor, get worried.

Should Virginia Tech drop this game, it would mark their first three game loosing streak since 2003. At the same time, however, this game offers Virginia Tech a chance to get back on the saddle of winning and handing a defeat to a pumped up opponent on their own field. That could set the tone for a strong Hokie finish to their regular season.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

TSF Poll (Week 9)

Due to a family matter, the TSF Poll is short one member this week. The two remaining pollsters agree that the number one team is in the SEC. They differ on which division. Virginia Tech falls out of the top 25 to number 27.

1 Alabama (1) 74
1 Florida (1) 74
3 Texas 71
4 Cincinnati 67
4 Iowa 67
6 Texas Christian 64
7 Boise State 63
8 LSU 61
8 Oregon 61
10 Georgia Tech 58
11 Houston 53
12 Pittsburgh 52
13 Penn State 51
14 Utah 50
15 Miami (FL) 48
16 USC 46
17 Ohio State 41
17 South Florida 41
19 Oklahoma State 38
19 West Virginia 38
21 Wisconsin 33
22 California 32
22 Notre Dame 32
24 Arizona 29
25 Rutgers 28
26 Brigham Young 27
27 Virginia Tech 26

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Game Review - vs. North Carolina


Just two short games ago, the Hokies held a number 4 ranking in the polls, and they had put together a great streak of wins against some quality opponents. Virginia Tech fans saw only one major contest ahead of them in Georgia Tech. After that, they could hope for smooth sailing until reaching the ACC championship game and with a victory there maybe even an arguable claim to the National Championship Bowl Game. A loss to Georgia Tech put a major setback on this great season, and now a loss to North Carolina has brought the season down to the point of simply striving for bowl eligibility. Hokie fans don't find this late season skid as terribly unfamiliar. I can think back to a number of seasons where the Hokies held a single digit ranking in the late weeks of the season but lost to an opponent over which the pundits had deemed them as favorites to win thus shattering fans' hopes of a major bowl appearance. That has happened this season, and it stings especially much because I think most Hokie fans agree that this season's team in particular does have the potential to play against any of the top 5 ranked teams. But as much pain as it brings, I go on with the review...

Let's recap the offense's performance. Virginia Tech opens the game with two plays gaining 45 yards between a Ryan Williams rush and a reception by Jarrett Boykin. Boykin then fumbles after his reception for a turnover to the Tarheels. Believe it or not, the Hokies made this as their best offensive drive of the quarter. The subsequent two drives would lead to a punt and then a turnover on downs. The second quarter offered more of the same. Virginia Tech went for two three-and-out's and another turnover on downs. All the while, the UNC offense had managed to put a touchdown onto the board. The Hokies went into the locker room scoreless. Over the past few games, we've watched Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring make some big strides with this offense, but his squad failed to make the adjustments needed to get into the endzone. That is absolutely unacceptable for a program aiming for success in the bowl season. I don't want to take away anything from the 'Heel's defense; let's congratulate them on the success. Their defense ranks as second best in the ACC, in points per game, trailing only Clemson. In yards per game, they rank first. The real possibility exists that the Hokie offense hasn't faced a defense this strong since the season opener against Alabama or against Nebraska.

The Hokie defense on the other hand, played a marvelous first half. They forced three consecutive three-and-outs, one of which happened right after the early momentum shifting fumble by Boykin. They only broke down on one drive allowing UNC to march 84 yards down the field for a touchdown.

The Hokie offense in the second half finally started to pick up. After the defense forced another UNC three-and-out, they marched down the field 82 yards to put up a touchdown and even the score. But the very next drive, the 'Heels put on another long sustained drive of their own for 84 yards to take the lead. At that point, we had begun to witness the Virginia Tech defense start to falter. The third worst offense in the ACC had just conducted two 84 yard drives resulting in touchdowns against Virginia Tech. All the while, the Hokies had kept themselves very much in the game. The defense came up big with Rashad Charmichael intercepting UNC quarterback TJ Yates' pass at the UNC 10 yard line, which he ran down to the UNC 5. This set up a quick Hokie touchdown to draw the score to 17-14 in favor of the Hokies. But on a crucial possession the Hokie defense allowed UNC to pile on one more long drive of 78 yards, finishing that off with a field goal. With the score tied, Virginia Tech had a short gap of time to get a late score to win the ball game. The offense turned to the explosive Darren Evans replacement, Ryan Williams, who fumbled the ball in Hokie territory. With only 2:02 left to play, the 'Heels effectively burned the clock down to the final seconds and kicked the winning field goal.

When I look back on this game summary, I think about the major failures of the Hokies. First, and foremost, the offense cannot play an entire half without putting points on the board. Just for sake of morale for the fans and the defense, they have to demonstrate they ability to get within scoring distance and execute. I restrain some of this criticism considering that UNC has one of the best defense's in the ACC, arguably the best depending on which stats you want to emphasize, but I can't restrain it too much due to their strength of schedule. They have not faced opponents such as Miami, Nebraska, and Alabama. The Hokie offense failed to adjust to UNC's pressure, and the successive three-and-out possessions underscore that. The lopsided time of possession, 36:14 to 23:46 in favor of UNC, also underscores that even further, and it translates to how well the defense plays. A defense on the field for that amount of time has to overcome fatigue and exhaustion. Allowing three drives ranging between 78 ad 84 yards to put points on the board means playing well against an offense of Florida, USC, Alabama, or LSU for example, but when the defense allows those kinds of drives by an offense that ranks third worst in the ACC, that means Bud Foster's squad didn't make the necessary adjustments. I have full confidence that Bud Foster can correct the problems, but I do find it unsettling that this defense has not played like the one Hokie fans have come to know and love for two games in a row now.

At this point in the season, we Hokie fans don't have a high profile bowl game to which we can look forward, but our squad can still make this into a good finish and earn a bid to play against another out-of-conference powerhouse team who has likewise had a few bumps in the road for their season as well. Let's get behind our Orange and Maroon and cheer for a good finish.