October 28, 2010

Trifecta Box: Small Forwards

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's small forward position this basketball season, here's how I'd structure the bet...


Fair or not, I have extremely high expectations for K.T. Harrell this season.


WIN: K.T. Harrell, freshman
In the "100 Things" post from last month, I said this about Harrell:
I think K.T. Harrell will be an absolute revelation to us, and will quickly assume a primary scoring role for this team.  We have good complementary-type scorers in Mike Scott, Sam Zeglinski, and Mustapha Farrakhan, but I think it is Harrell who will emerge as the team's go-to scorer. 10, 12, maybe even 14 or 15 ppg as a freshman could be in his future. Bold, I know. ACC Freshman of the Year? Hmmmm...


I'm very high on this kid, sight unseen.  But why?  Mostly because I trust Tony Bennett's eye for talent, and I know he's extremely excited to have Harrell as the centerpiece of this seven-man freshman class.  Also, production is just as much about opportunity as it is ability, and (especially with Zeglinski out) Virginia needs someone who can score some points.  The opportunity is there, and then some.  Harrell was recruited for his basketball IQ, maturity, and ability to find or create his own shot.  He's great at cutting to the basket, and is also an above-average shooter.  Defensively, the effort is there, but I'm sure Bennett will be looking to add quite a bit of polish to Harrell's game.  He might eventually be needed more at the 2, but I think the current plan is for him to start at small forward.

PLACE: Joe Harris, freshman
He has ideal size for the small forward position, and he's potentially one of the best shooters on the team.  Bennett's mover/blocker offense works best when there is a zone-breaking shooter on the floor, and I'm certain Harris will get plenty of burn in that sniper role.  Anything he can bring to the table in terms of floor game and defense will be a big plus, and it's being said that the staff is pleasantly surprised by how well-rounded Harris' game is as a true freshman.  I'm expecting him to be a solid player.  Not a star, but a solid, steady player.

SHOW: Akil Mitchell, freshman
He was a diamond-in-the-rough recruit, and a guy who was described as a raw athlete who would probably redshirt this season.  But all Mitchell has done since he committed to the Hoos last fall is impress.  Now, not only is the idea to redshirt him off of the table, it's sounding like it will be difficult to keep Mitchell off of the floor this season.  In terms of being a bouncy athlete who can make plays with his physical talent, he provides traits that no other player on the team can approximate.  Is this athleticism something that will make him a great defender?  A great rebounder?  A great dunker and interior scorer?  Who knows?  The word on the street is that only an inconsistent jump shot is holding him back... and that the staff sees real star potential in this guy.  Trsitan Spurlock's struggles in Bennett's systems gives me some pause, but I do like what I've heard about Akil Mitchell to this point.  I can't wait to see what he can do on the court.

ALSO RAN:
  • Thomas Rogers, freshman -- He's tall and can shoot, but is more guard than forward.  Sounds like a wing to me.
  • Will Sherrill, senior -- I'm not sure how often we'll see him at the 3, but I think his game is versatile enough that he could handle some minutes there in a pinch.  His shooting, rebounding, and ability to set good screens will ensure that he earns consistent minutes at either the 4 or the 3 this season.

ANTE POST: I don't think you can be more confident in a position dominated by freshmen as I am in our small forward group.  I think K.T. Harrell is legit, I think Joe Harris will be a good player for us, and I think Akil Mitchell is a darkhorse star.  The experience is [obviously] light, the defense will be a work in progress, and other than Mitchell the rebounding will be suspect... but even still, I like this group quite a bit.  Maybe more than I should.

Position Grade: C+/B-

October 27, 2010

Trifecta Box: Shooting Guards

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's point guard position this basketball season, here's how I'd structure the bet...

Can these two combine to give the Hoos steady production from the shooting guard position?



WIN: Sammy Zeglinski, junior
His latest injury is a major setback, and at this point in his career you have to label him fragile.  But he showed some serious flashes of brilliance last season, especially when  he was playing off the ball and was free to spot up as a wing shooter.  Zeglinski was hand-picked by Dave Leitao to succeed Sean Singletary at the point guard position, but Sammy struggles to defend the speed and quickness he encounters at the 1, and his offensive skill set is more in line with the shooting guard position.  Assuming he makes a full recovery prior to the new year, I have to think he'll start a majority of our games at the 2.  His good-and-getting-better shooting form is a big plus to his game, and he's one of the few guards on the team who can boast a lot of on-court experience.  I don't think we've seen the best Zeglinski can offer, and my gut tells me there's a clutch shooter in there, itching for the chance to get out.  I hope this is his year.

PLACE: Mustapha Farrakhan, senior
We already covered Mu in the trifecta box for the point guards, but I'd like to mention what he brings to the table as an off-guard.  For one, he's a plus defender.  Secondly, it's always nice to have two ballhandlers in the backcourt --- I could see Billy Baron and Mu forming an effective duo, especially.  Third, more than any other guard on the team, he has an established and tested willingness and ability to get to the basket.  I'm not saying that Farrakhan is the type of player who can break his man down and create offense for himself on a reliable basis, but he is capable of doing that occasionally and against lesser competition.  I think I like his game more than most UVA basketball fans, but I can't shake it; there's just something I really like about Mu.  He has a bit of fearlessness to him, and I think that's vitally important for a wing scorer.  The team really needs him to provide a little swagger and confidence as a senior, and I think he can do that.

SHOW: K.T. Harrell, freshman
Harrell is going to start (and play well) for this team during the 2010-11 season, mark my words.  It's just that I think he'll end up starting at small forward, not shooting guard.  That said, if another freshman like Akil Mitchell or Joe Harris surges to the forefront at the 3, Coach Bennett could be forced to slide Harrell over to the 2 in order to put the best team on the floor.  I don't think there's really much difference between the two wing positions in this system, anyway... but my money is currently on one of the two upperclassmen taking ownership of the starter's minutes at shooting guard, which would keep Harrell at small forward.

ALSO RAN:
  • Joe Harris, freshman -- From what I've heard, he's a spot up shooter who also has a better-than-expected floor game.  It's not hard to imagine him finding a defined role at shooting guard, especially as an "instant offense" type of option off the bench.
  • Billy Baron, freshman -- I think he's a combo guard, and I could see him and Jontel Evans on the floor at the same time together from time to time.
  • Thomas Rogers, freshman -- This recruited walk-on from Fork Union is cut in the Joe Harris / Will Sherrill mold.  He's basically a tall guy who can shoot it.  He's limited athletically and he might only see action in mop up duty, but UVA has a fairly rich history of seeing walk-on guards take on bigger roles than anyone expected.

ANTE POST: With the Zeglinski injury, Farrakhan needed at point guard, and the uncertainty surrounding what you'll be able to get from your freshmen and where they will fit best on the floor, I'd say the shooting guard position is the most up in the air as we head into the season.  There are some good players in the mix here... but you would prefer to have someone step up and put a stranglehold on this position.  Unless K.T. Harrell does that, I suspect we'll be seeing a bit of a revolving door at the 2 this year.  Is it a strength of the team?  If Zeglinski gets healthy and either Harris or Mitchell step up at the 3 and allow Harrell to play more at the 2, I'd say yes.  But those are two pretty big "IF"s.

Position Grade: C/C+

October 26, 2010

Trifecta Box: Point Guards

Remember my "trifecta box" series prior to football season?  Yeah, I enjoyed it.  Like, a lot.  So I've decided to use the same format to preview the basketball team.  In case you didn't read the football trifecta boxes, here's the lead-in:

I'm not a degenerate gambler, but I do enjoy horseracing. I especially love horseracing terminology. Therefore, for this year's position-by-position look at the football roster and depth chart, I thought it would be fun to use the the "trifecta box" format. Some terms and their definitions, courtesy of the Horse Racing Glossary:

Trifecta - A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order. Called a 'Triactor' in Canada and a 'Triple' in some parts of the U.S. ('Tricast' in the UK.)

Win - The term used to describe a 1st place finish.

Place - A 2nd place finish, aka 'runner-up.'

Show - Third position at the finish.

Also Ran - The other horses in the race not finishing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the event.

Ante Post - Bets placed in advance predicting the outcome of a future event. Usually, ante posts are placed on longshot odds or for extremely specific prop bets. (In other words, "a fearless prediction.")

Now you know the format. If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's point guard position this basketball season, here's how I'd structure the bet...


Jontel Evans: A flawed player with some skills to get excited about.


WIN: Jontel Evans, sophomore
"Bub" is a walking contradiction.  He's a phenomenal on-ball defender (his covers usually toss around the term "bulldog" in reference to Evans) and has excelled at heating up the ball at the top of the pack-line defense, but he has struggled at times to find his spot in that defensive scheme when he's not on the ball.  He's got a plus handle and is adept at slashing through the lane and getting to the hole, but he hasn't been a good finisher once he's there.  He's been a horrible jump shooter, who is always open (mostly because defenders sag off of him, daring him to shoot).  He's been a defensive specialist on a team starved for offensive production and playmaking from its point guard position.  All of this being said, I think Jontel Evans will emerge as the starter at the 1 for the Hoos this season.  If rumors about his rapid improvement as a shooter are true, he might be starting to put it all together.  One thing is certain -- his defense is an asset to the team, as is his physicality, athletic ability, and football mentality.  He gives his team a unique sense of toughness that I don't see any of the other point guard candidates being able to come close to approximating.

PLACE: Billy Baron, freshman
He comes to Virginia amid somewhat modest expectations, sort of blending into the Six Shooters group of freshmen after being a late addition to the class.  Baron is said to be a "power point," Which I assume to mean he's strong and willing to post up other guards.  I also know that he's a good, rehearsed shooter... not at the level of his brother (former Rhode Island 3-point sniper Jimmy Baron) but still solid.  What I'm unsure about are his pure point guard skills.  He was mostly a scorer during his prep career, and so I worry about Baron really being a 2 miscast as a point guard.  He's a coach's son, and everyone who has seen him play says that he exudes intelligence in his game, so I'm excited to see what we've got with this guy when the bullets start flying.  I suspect that he's a combo guard with some nice niche skills, and I envision the love child of J.R. Reynolds and Todd Billet based on everything I've read about him.

SHOW: Mustapha Farrakhan, senior
I list Mu over Sammy Zeglinski here for three main reasons: 1) Sammy's injury, which will keep him out for 8+ weeks and necessitate a slow return to action, 2) Coach Bennett's clear determination to turn Sammy into a pure shooting guard, and 3) The fact that Mu has been pretty darn good at running the point when given the chance.  Of course, having a battle-tested senior with the ball in his hand is never a bad thing, and I suspect Farrakhan will start the season getting more minutes at the point than Billy Baron.  Like Baron, Mu is pretty much a combo guard.  He's a good defender, a streaky shooter, and is willing to take the biscuit to the basket and create offense, which is always going to be an asset for a team that will likely struggle to generate points.  He's had a tendency to disappear for long stretches and battling that inconsistency will be his challenge as a senior, because the team needs him to provide a positive presence, night in and night out.

ALSO RAN:
  • Sammy Zeglinski, junior -- Once he's back from his knee injury, he'll resume his role as the part-time point guard... unless Evans and/or Baron really step up into the role, which is clearly the hope of the coaching staff.  Sammy really showed some sparks as a sweet-shooting 2 last season, and I think that's the position where Bennett would like him to lay roots.
  • K.T. Harrell, freshman -- He's mostly a 2/3, but has displayed some combo guard skills during his prep career.  He'll play the point only if we experience severe attrition or ineffectiveness from the four players listed above him here.
  • Joe Harris, freshman -- It's hard to imagine a 6-6 point guard, but Harris is said to have some of the requisite skills to play the position.  I have to believe that Harris being forced to play the point is an absolute worst-case scenario for the team this year.  He's a 3 all the way.

ANTE POST:  I like Jontel Evans a lot and am certainly pulling for him to succeed, but he is what he is right now -- a defensive specialist with an offensive game in adolescent stages of development.  The players behind him are all combo guards, and not true point guards.  Maybe Billy Baron will end up being a fantastic player as a freshman who was simply underevaluated by the recruiting services due to the fact that he committed so early to play for his dad at Rhode Island... or maybe he's just another nice piece in an ensemble cast.  Add it all up, and there are just too many question marks for me to consider the point guard position to be a strength of the Virginia basketball team this season.  I think we'll get below-average scoring and playmaking from the 1s, which is a problem for which these players' strong defense won't compensate completely.  We need a slick-passing playmaking point guard in the worst kind of way, and that's why it's one of the primary recruiting focuses for the 2012 class.

Position Grade: D+/C-

The Model



I've always thought there were a lot of parallels to draw between Virginia and Stanford.  The schools and communities are very similar.  The football history (or lack thereof) is similar.  I think Mike London is our version of Jim Harbaugh.  Now we just need to spring our version of the USC upset, and land our version of quarterback Andrew Luck.

Here's a good, short article from Rivals.com's Adam Gorney about Stanford's recent recruiting on the national stage.  I dare you to read it and tell me that UVA can't duplicate that same appeal.

Stanford also winning off the field

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Nine

Last Week: 3-2 (3-2 ATS)

Season: 49-15 (34-23 ATS)


It's a Thursday nighter for the Cowgirls this week.  Tomahawk chop!


Florida State (-4.0) @ NC State
The ESPN Thursday night game should provide a good showcase of the talent ACC football brings to the table.  (Sorry, I don't buy the popular sentiment that the ACC totally sucks... yes Tech lost to Boise, FSU lost to Oklahoma, and Miami lost to Ohio State, but the latter two games were on the road.  The ACC is better then people want to give it credit for.  Off the soapbox now.)  State has been sort of swirling the drain since Virginia Tech exposed them in Raleigh a few weeks ago.  FSU has been surging since the Oklahoma loss, though they nearly stumbled against BC two weeks ago.  I think this will be a close game dictated by the playmaking ability of the two star quarterbacks.  I think Christian Ponder is a bit more polished than Russell Wilson, so the Noles get my nod.  34-28, FSU

Clemson (-7.0) @ Boston College
Clem's Son has been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde outfit so far this season.  Losers of five straight, BC has just been all Hyde.  Clemson trumps them in talent, in momentum, and will trump them easily on the scoreboard.  It's a lost season for the Eagles; the rot and decay has really begun to set in.  38-21, Clemson

Miami (-14.5) @ Virginia
This is a huge game for Mike London, as he hand picked this weekend to host all of the marquee recruiting targets still on the board, along with many elite 2012 prospects.  Going belly-up on the field would potentially be disastrous for the Hoos.  Other than last year's blowout, we do have a recent history of playing the Canes tough... and I suspect they might be looking past us just a little bit.  Still, this is a team that outclasses the Hoos in almost every way right now, and that will end up being reflected on the scoreboard.  I think we'll give them a fight, but recent results against FSU, GT, and UNC indicate very clearly that we have too much of a talent deficit to expect too much.  35-16, Miami

Wake Forest @ Maryland (-5.5)
Maryland beats bad teams -- barely -- and loses to good teams.  At this point in time, Wake is not a good team.  I'll follow the pattern and say that the Terps win another squeaker in the Ralph Friedgen 2010 Mystery Tour.  21-18, Maryland

William & Mary @ North Carolina (-17.5)
Make no mistake --- 2010 North Carolina is not 2009 Virginia.  I hate the Holes, but they'll cruise to a win over the Tribe.  45-10, UNC

Duke @ Navy (-13.5)
The Midshipmen are coming off of a huge win against Notre Dame, while the Blue Devils are in the throes of an ugly six game losing streak.  I actually think Navy is legit, and will handle Duke easily.  35-21, Navy


***BONUS PICKS***

Michigan State @ Iowa (-6.5) Missouri @ Nebraska (-7.5)
*POP* goes the bubble for two more unbeatens.  28-17, Iowa Nebraska


And one more...

Auburn will beat Ole Miss this weekend, but they will not go undefeated.  Alabama will beat them in week 13.

Get yourselves ready for Oregon/Boise in the national championship game.  (A one-loss Alabama team might be able to leapfrog the Broncos, but that would be yet another tragedy for the non-AQs.)

October 23, 2010

Midterm Grades

Gotta squeeze this out quick before the game today...


Prior to the season I issued a report card to sort of wrap up the trifecta box preview of the football team.

Here are the position-by-position midterm grades for each unit.  (Preseason grades listed in parentheses.)

Remember, a C is average. A+ is reserved for position groups like Alabama's running backs position (featuring reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, future NFL workhorse back Trent Richardson, and explosive change of pace back Eddie Lacy). F is reserved for positions destined for no possible outcome other than total and complete disaster. I think you get the picture.


Quarterbacks (C-)... D+
Worse than I feared, but not necessarily because of Marc Verica.  I have been disappointed in the two freshmen to this point in the season.

Running Backs (C+)... B-
It's about what I expected, but with Payne filling the Dominique Wallace role.  I've been impressed with Perry Jones, even more than I thought I would, hence the slight uptick in grade.

Fullbacks (D+)... B
Max Milien has been a revelation.  We need to give him more carries, and more receiving opportunities in the flats.

Wide Receivers (B-)... B-
Kris Burd has been great, and Dontrelle Inman has played better than anyone could have expected.  Losing Tim Smith hurt, but Matt Snyder is really coming on in Smith's absence.

Tight Ends (B-)... C-
I don't think Joe Torchia played very well before he went down with another shoulder injury.  What a tragic bust that guy's UVA career has been.  I like what we're seeing out of Colter Phillips, however.

Offensive Line (C+)... B-
They're coming together.  The pass blocking has been mediocre, but the run blocking has been above average and has shown some flashes of greatness.  Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi ooze star potential, which makes me excited about the future.

Defensive Ends (C+)... C
Cam Johnson has been very good in spots and Zane Parr is extremely active, but the pass rush from the ends has been inconsistent at best, nonexistent at worst.

Defensive Tackles (B-)... C+
They lose a whole letter grade for the way Georgia Tech steamrolled us up the gut.  Otherwise, I've been fairly happy with the Jenkins/Conrath/Dolce rotation.

Outside Linebackers (D+)... C-
They struggle to keep contain, but LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott have shown us some glimpses of the players they can become, and I love that trajectory for these two guys.

Middle Linebackers (B+)... C-
Steve Greer has disappeared.  Aaron Taliaferro has played fairly well, but Greer is the one who really needs to step up.

Safeties (B)... C-
Rodney McLeod hasn't been healthy, and this unit has surrendered way too many big plays.

Cornerbacks (A-)... C
With Ras-I Dowling not on the field for most of the first half of the season, Chase Minnifield has ascended to star status.  But he (and the corners in general) tend to make two good plays, then give up a backbreaker.  It needs to be better.

Kickers/Punters (D)... C
Jimmy Howell might be the team's MVP so far.  The placekicking started out really bad, but seems to be stabilizing.

Returners (C)... B
Raynard Horne single-handed elevates this group's grade.  He has been spectacular.  Now we need to find a punt returner...

Overall Team Grade (C)... C-
I have slightly less faith in the team, mostly due to the struggles on defense and at the quarterback position.  So while the backs and the o-line are playing better than I thought they would, that progress has been mitigated by poor tackling on defense and poor decision making from the QBs.


If you love the report card theme as much as I do, then you'll also love these two articles from two of the rags that cover Virginia Football (there is actually some pretty good stuff in there):


U.Va. midseason report: Virginia is looking for something to build on in late season


Virginia midseason report card

October 20, 2010

The Four Year Fix?


 

 
On my Saturday night post-mortem after the UNC game, I wrote this:

 
Okay, let me start by reminding everyone that we have to give Mike London FOUR YEARS to get this thing rebuilt and heading in the right direction.

 

 
It's true, you know.  It's going to take four years (at a minimum) to dig this program out of the hole that Al Groh's roster mismanagement, poor recruiting, and asinine redshirting strategies put us into.  It's a deep, dark hole.  Carolina showed us exactly what we all feared the most --- we have a talent deficit that must be overcome before we can return to relevancy.

 
I'd like to take a comprehensive look at the roster projection for each of the next three seasons, to see if the "four year fix" is even within the realm of possibility for Coach London, or if the hole is too deep for even that lengthy timeframe.

 
Can we as a fanbase be patient with this rebuilding process until the 2014 season?  Will we need to wait even longer than that?

 
(What follows is some very serious, overly indulgent rosterbation.  If you're not into that kind of thing, you might want to just skip the remainder of this post.  If, however, you like to take a look at the nuts and bolts of the roster composition... then light up some candles, put on some Marvin Gaye, and let's do this thing.)

 

 
2011 Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in BOLD):
  • QB) Mike Rocco, So / Ross Metheny, So / Michael Strauss, RS Fr / David Watford, Fr (3*)
  • RB) Perry Jones, Jr / Kevin Parks, RS Fr / Torrey Mack, Jr / Khalek Shepherd, RS Fr / Clifton Richardson, Fr (4*)
  • FB) Max Milien, Sr / Terence Fells-Danzer, Sr / Ryan Cobb, RS Fr
  • WR) Kris Burd, Sr / Tim Smith, So / Matt Snyder, Sr / Jared Green, Sr / E.J. Scott, RS Fr / Bobby Smith, So / Ray Keys, Sr / Kevin Royal, So / Miles Gooch, RS Fr / Adrian Gamble, Fr (3*)
  • TE) Colter Phillips, Jr / Paul Freedman, Jr / Jeremiah Mathis, So / Zachary Swanson, RS Fr / Jake McGee, RS Fr / Darius Redman, Fr (2*)
  • LT) Landon Bradley, Sr / Sean Cascarano, So / Conner Davis, RS Fr / Kelby Johnson, Fr (2*)
  • LG) Austin Pasztor, Sr / Luke Bowanko, So
  • C) Anthony Mihota, Sr / Cody Wallace, RS Fr / Mike Price, Jr
  • RG) Morgan Moses, So / Ross Burbank, Fr (3*) / Tim Cwalina, Fr (UR)
  • RT) Oday Aboushi, Jr / Aaron Van Kuiken, Jr / Matt Mihalik, Jr
  • DE) Cam Johnson, Sr / Zane Parr, Sr / Bill Schautz, Jr / Jake Snyder, Jr / Will Hill, Jr / Stephen Lawe, RS Fr / Rob Burns, Fr (3*) / Thompson Brown, Fr (3*) / Marco Jones, Fr (3*) / Diamonte Bailey, Fr (2*)
  • DT) Nick Jenkins, Sr / Matt Conrath, Sr / Justin Renfrow, So / Brent Urban, So / Chris Brathwaite, RS Fr / Hunter Steward, Jr / David Dean, Fr (3*) / Vincent Croce, Fr (3*)
  • OLB) LaRoy Reynolds, Jr / Ausar Walcott, Jr / Jared Detrick, Sr / Tucker Windle, Jr / Darius Lee, Fr (2*)
  • MLB) Aaron Taliaferro, Sr / Steve Greer, Jr / Connor McCartin, Jr / Henry Coley, RS Fr / Caleb Taylor, Fr (3*)
  • S) Rodney McLeod, Sr / Corey Mosley, Sr / Dom Joseph, Sr / LoVante Battle, Jr / Anthony Harris, Fr (3*) / Kameron Mack, Fr (3*) / Kevin Green, Fr (UR)
  • CB) Chase Minnifield, Sr / Devin Wallace, Jr / Rijo Walker, So / Javanti Sparrow, Jr / Pablo Alvarez, RS Fr / Drequan Hoskey, RS Fr / Brandon Phelps, Fr (4*) / Jordan Lomax, Fr (3*)
  • K) Robert Randolph, Sr / Drew Jarrett, So
  • P) Jimmy Howell, Sr
  • LS) Matt Fortin, So
Projected Strengths of the 2011 Team:
  • 19 returning starters.  Nine on offense, ten on defense.  That's a lot.  A whole lot.  Granted, those starters will be returning from what is likely to be a 4-8 team... but still.  NINETEEN.
  • The o-line.  I remain bullish on the talents of Oday Aboushi, Morgan Moses, and Austin Pasztor.  Landon Bradley and Anthony Mihota are no slouches, either.  Bringing the entire unit back should pay dividends for the offense.
  • Kris Burd.  Having a legit go-to wideout is a great luxury for a team that will be breaking in a new (young) QB.
  • The d-line.  It might not be a great pass rushing unit, but featuring four returning starters, all of whom are entering their third or fourth seasons playing large roles... that's a big deal.
Projected Weaknesses of the 2011 Team:
  • Quarterback.  How's that for stating the obvious?  If we don't end up giving Verica the hook this season, we'll be rolling into 2011 with a bunch of very green QBs, none of which have seen meaningful game action.  If he can enroll in January, David Watford might have a legitimate shot to start as a true freshman.  That's a little bit scary to me.
  • Power back.  Look, I love Perry Jones, and I expect big things from KP (Kevin Parks).  But these are two smaller, shifty guys.  Six games worth of football in 2010 has shown me that there is absolutely a role for a big, strong power back like Keith Payne in this offense.  In fact, I would almost say it's a critical component to Lazor's system.  And I don't see that power back on the 2011 roster.  Dominique Wallace would have been that guy, but he's gone now.  (I'm actually a little bit confused about why we aren't chasing a big back for one of the spots left in the 2011 class.)
  • Cornerback.  I like Chase Minnifield and I think he'll be a fine starter in 2011, but I'm not yet sold on Devin Wallace.  Behind those two is a collection of young guys who haven't really seen the field.  There will be a trial by fire in the secondary in 2011, and it could be somewhat ugly.
Recruiting Focuses for the 2012 Class:
  • QB -- Until we find our "franchise" quarterback, we can't stop looking.  And even when we do find that guy, it's important to constantly be stocking the succession plan.
  • RB -- KP and Clifton Richardson are both talents, but we still need to locate a Payne-esque thumper in this class.
  • WR -- Is E.J. Scott or Adrian Gamble a future go-to guy?  I don't know.  If they aren't, one must be found in this class.
  • TE -- In a power-based ball control offense, you have to keep the tight end position well stocked and overflowing with talent.  Besides, this is Tight End U, baby!
  • OL -- Five returning starters is great... until you consider the fact that three of them are graduating and there's not a whole lot of quality depth being cultivated behind them.  The next wave of starters must be found.
  • DE -- Specifically, the 2012 class needs to include a complete, difference-making, dynamic, explosive pass rusher.  Quality is key, because there is already quantity available on the roster at this position.
  • LB -- The 2011 class is certain to contain another one or two middle-tier linebacker prospects, so the depth is there.  What might be missing is the star power.  We need to find a stud or two at LB in the 2012 class.
  • DB -- Another safety and another corner would be nice additions to this class.
  • P -- Gotta replace Big Jimmy!
  • Talent, in general.  Obvious, but it still needs to be said.  The 2012 class is the one where London really needs to deliver the goods --- he'll still be in his honeymoon stage as UVA's head coach, and he'll have a truckload of playing time to sell to recruits.  Upgrading the overall talent level is crucial.  If we end up with mostly 3-star guys with only a couple of 4-stars mixed in the 2012 class, it could spell trouble down the road.  This class needs one or two ELITE 5-star type prospects.  Program-changers.  And it needs to have four or five 4-star talents who can build up the bedrock at key positions.  (And one of these big-time recruits needs to be a quarterback!)  Six "big-time" recruits at a bare minimum, please.


2012 Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in BOLD):
  • QB) Mike Rocco, Jr / David Watford, RS Fr / Ross Metheny, Jr / Michael Strauss, So
  • RB) Perry Jones, Sr / Kevin Parks, So / Clifton Richardson, RS Fr / Torrey Mack, Sr / Khalek Shepherd, So
  • FB) Ryan Cobb, So
  • WR) Tim Smith, Jr / E.J. Scott, So / Bobby Smith, Jr / Adrian Gamble, RS Fr / Kevin Royal, Jr / Miles Gooch, So
  • TE) Colter Phillips, Sr / Paul Freedman, Sr / Jeremiah Mathis, Jr / Zachary Swanson, So / Darius Redman, RS Fr / Jake McGee, So
  • LT) Sean Cascarano, Jr / Conner Davis, So / Kelby Johnson, RS Fr
  • LG) Luke Bowanko, Jr / Tim Cwalina, RS Fr
  • C) Cody Wallace, So / Mike Price, Sr
  • RG) Morgan Moses, Jr / Ross Burbank, RS Fr
  • RT) Oday Aboushi, Sr / Aaron Van Kuiken, Sr / Matt Mihalik, Sr
  • DE) Bill Schautz, Sr / Jake Snyder, Sr / Will Hill, Sr / Stephen Lawe, So / Rob Burns, RS Fr / Thompson Brown, RS Fr / Marco Jones, RS Fr / Diamonte Bailey, RS Fr
  • DT) David Dean, RS Fr / Vincent Croce, RS Fr / Justin Renfrow, Jr / Brent Urban, Jr / Chris Brathwaite, So / Hunter Steward, Sr
  • OLB) LaRoy Reynolds, Sr / Ausar Walcott, Sr / Tucker Windle, Sr / Darius Lee, RS Fr
  • MLB) Steve Greer, Sr / Connor McCartin, Sr / Henry Coley, So / Caleb Taylor, RS Fr
  • S) LoVante Battle, Sr / Kameron Mack, RS Fr / Anthony Harris, RS Fr / Kevin Green, RS Fr
  • CB) Devin Wallace, Sr / Rijo Walker, Jr / Brandon Phelps, RS Fr / Jordan Lomax, RS Fr / Javanti Sparrow, Sr / Pablo Alvarez, So / Drequan Hoskey, So
  • K) Drew Jarrett, Jr
  • P) ???
  • LS) Matt Fortin, Jr

 Projected Strengths of the 2012 Team:
  • Perry Jones.  KP and Richardson are probably both more talented, but there is something to be said for toughness, hard-earned experience, and leadership.  I think Jones will be the lead dog in the rushing attack as a senior.
  • Colter Phillips.  I love the idea of him being a three-year starter at this point in his career.
  • The right side of the o-line.  Assuming Aboushi stays at right tackle and Morgan Moses stays at right guard, will there be a better run blocking duo in the ACC?  It's just a guess, but I think Sean Cascarano plays well enough at left tackle to allow this right side to stay together.  If not, Aboushi could slide to LT, with Moses kicking out to RT.
  • D-line depth and competition.  London has done a fantastic job of stockpiling defensive line talent in the 2011 class.  The rewards of that effort will be seen as soon as 2012, when this army of linemen takes the field as redshirt freshmen ready to battle for the starting spots left by the senior quartet that graduates in '11.
  • Starting linebackers.  By this point, the Reynolds/Greer/Walcott trio will have been starting together for the better part of three years.
Projected Weaknesses of the 2012 Team:
  • Just ten returning starters.  That's not a lot.
  • Three new starters on the o-line.  'Nuff said.
  • Four new starters on the d-line.
  • The secondary.  I really worry about the trajectory of the back four.  We really need to land some stud defensive backs in the 2011 and 2012 classes, or this could end up being a damning problem going into year three of the London Administration.


2013 Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in BOLD):
  • QB) Mike Rocco, Sr / David Watford, So / Ross Metheny, Sr / Michael Strauss, Jr
  • RB) Clifton Richardson, So / Kevin Parks, Jr / Khalek Shepherd, So
  • FB) Ryan Cobb, Jr
  • WR) Tim Smith, Sr / E.J. Scott, Jr / Bobby Smith, Sr / Adrian Gamble, So / Kevin Royal, Sr / Miles Gooch, Jr
  • TE) Jeremiah Mathis, Sr / Zachary Swanson, Jr / Darius Redman, So / Jake McGee, Jr
  • LT) Sean Cascarano, Sr / Conner Davis, Jr / Kelby Johnson, So
  • LG) Luke Bowanko, Sr / Tim Cwalina, So
  • C) Cody Wallace, Jr
  • RG) Ross Burbank, So
  • RT) Morgan Moses, Sr
  • DE) Thompson Brown, So / Marco Jones, So / Stephen Lawe, Jr / Rob Burns, So / Diamonte Bailey, So
  • DT) David Dean, So / Vincent Croce, So / Justin Renfrow, Sr / Brent Urban, Sr / Chris Brathwaite, Jr
  • OLB) Darius Lee, So
  • MLB) Henry Coley, Jr / Caleb Taylor, So
  • S) Kameron Mack, So / Anthony Harris, So / Kevin Green, So
  • CB) Rijo Walker, Sr / Brandon Phelps, So / Jordan Lomax, So / Pablo Alvarez, Jr / Drequan Hoskey, Jr
  • K) Drew Jarrett, Sr
  • P) ???
  • LS) Matt Fortin, Sr

Projected Strengths of the 2013 Team:
  • Senior quarterback.  If I'm right, and Mike Rocco takes the reins as the starter in 2011, then he'll be entering his senior season in 2013... just in time for the "show me" year for Coach London.
  • The Richardson/KP combo at running back will be battle hardened by 2013.  It should be an explosive combo for us to lean on.
  • Tim Smith.  There's nothing better than a deep threat speed merchant who also happens to be a senior playmaker.  God bless this medical redshirt in 2011.
  • Morgan Moses.  I'm not comfortable going on record that the big man will be at UVA this long... but if he stays in school and doesn't jump to the NFL, he will be on everyone's All-American team as a senior.
Projected Weakness of the 2013 Team:
  • Defense.  Aside from the Dean/Croce combo at tackle and the mountain of depth at defensive end, I don't see a lot to like defensively.  That of course means that the D (especially the back seven) will be a recruiting focus for the 2013 recruiting class... but even if London is able to land the talent, it will still be young entering the 2013 season.  He'll be working with a relatively green defensive unit in his make-or-break season as UVA's head coach.


That's it.  That's the best stab at an in-depth look at the four year trajectory of the program that I can muster.  Obviously, how the staff is able to close out the 2011 recruiting class will make a big impact in this overview, as will the CRUCIAL 2012 class.  Three or four instant impact defensive players at the linebacker and defensive back positions are absolute necessities in these two classes if we want to see our defense really take root and become a strength of the team.

I have faith in Coach London.

FOUR YEARS.  We have to give Mike London FOUR YEARS to get this thing rebuilt and heading in the right direction.  Judge his performace as Virginia's head coach after the 2013 season, and not a second sooner.

GO HOOS!

October 19, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Eight

I told you about Wisconsin beating Ohio State.  Give me credit for that, at least.

Last Week: 6-2 (4-4 ATS)

Season: 46-13 (31-21 ATS)


Actually... I'm going to need a little bit more proof.



Duke @ Virginia Tech (-27.0)
Why even bother to go into detail here.  This game will be like medieval torture for the Blue Devils.  The brazen bull?  Thumbscrews?  The rack?  The wheel?  The stake?  The pillory?  Scavenger's daughter?  Breast ripper?  Or (my personal favorite) the Pear of Anguish?  Yeah, I think Tech is going to give Dook an anal pear this weekend.  63-6, VT

Maryland @ Boston College (-4.5)
Did you see the BC/FSU game last weekend?  The Eagles are showing serious signs of life, especially Montel Harris, who gashed Florida State for 191 rushing yards.  Also, you should know this: Maryland is not nearly as good as its 4-2 record might suggest.  I like BC here.  28-21, BC

Georgia Tech @ Clemson (-6.0)
Wow, BIG game here.  The Wreck was sluggish against MTSU last week while Clemson handled its business easily against Maryland.  I think this could be a really good game.  Actually, I'm looking for a high scoring affair, where turnovers ultimately determine the end result.  Georgia Tech fumbles: 4, Kyle Parker INTs: 2.  Clemson wins.  38-31, Clemson

Eastern Michigan @ Virginia (-24.0)
The UNC game was rock bottom for the team under Mike London.  Now it's time for the baby steps forward to begin.  It all starts against EMU, which is hemorrhaging 442 yards and an NCAA-worst 43.4 points per game against the likes of Miami (OH), Ohio U, and Vanderbilt.  Dual-threat QB Alex Gillett does pose a challenge for an Orange Crush defense that has really struggled to contain quarterbacks and limit their running lanes.  But after Gillett, EMU doesn't have much in the way of weapons.  I'm looking for UVA to come into this game fired up and looking to make a statement by running the ball down the Eagles' throats, and gang-tackling on defense.  It's just a hunch, but I think we'll be an Indiana Jones rolling boulder of butcher knives for this game.  45-10, UVA

North Carolina @ Miami (-6.5)
After last week's game, Tarhole fans are now my third-most hated fanbase, behind only Virginia Tech and Maryland.  I wish only darkness and despair for them and their team for the remainder of this season, and until the NCAA drops the SMU death penalty bomb on their scumbag coaches and rotten program.  As for this game, I think the Canes aren't playing as well as they can while UNC is playing way over their heads.  The Butch Davis Bowl could go down to which QB plays better... and (as we well know) T.J. Yates has been incinerator-hot.  28-17, UNC

October 16, 2010

POST-MORTEM



Okay, let me start by reminding everyone that we have to give Mike London FOUR YEARS to get this thing rebuilt and heading in the right direction.

With that being said...  Tonight was bad.  Really bad.  And on the heels (no pun) of a downright disaster in Atlanta, and a home field beat-down at the hands of Florida State... just really, really bad.  Mike London isn't a guy who can X and O a bad team into fluke wins, he's a guy who can rah-rah a team into playing with more passion and he's a guy who can recruit a higher quality level of athlete.  It takes time for that change to take root.  But gawd, tonight was bad.  Really, really bad.

We obviously have a quarterback problem.  It's time to thank Marc Verica for his hard work during the last five years, and send him to the bench as honorably as possible.  It's time to recognize that Ross Metheny probably isn't the answer either --- I've only seen him in action a few times, but he looks an awful lot like a left-handed version of Verica.  No, for my money, it's time to hand true freshman Mike Rocco the keys to the kingdom, and let him take his lumps for the rest of the season.  If you're going to switch quarterbacks, NOW is the time to do it.  Eastern Michigan is an ideal "ramp up" game, with winnable contests against Duke, Maryland, and Boston College looming on the horizon.

We also obviously have a defense problem.  And I'll admit, this one surprises me... though it really shouldn't.  With the switch to the 4-3, and the switch of so many players to new positions... the defense was bound to struggle.  I guess I thought Mike London and Jim Reid were the kind of coaches who could spin hay into gold.  I'm sure they're trying their damnedest, but this defense is just not playing very well.  We can't tackle, we suddenly can't cover, and we can't generate turnovers.  The run-stopping has improved, but at the expense of rolling a safety up into the box and giving up big plays in the passing game.  Ras-I can't seem to beat the injury bug, which is a real shame.  A Dowling/Minnifield CB combo is worlds better than a Minnifield/Wallace combo.  The pass rush is non-existent.  The list goes on and on.  I have a feeling that we are facing a much bigger talent deficit on defense than I ever thought.  Turns out, most of these guys on defense just aren't as good as I desperately want them to be.

We have a spice problem.  What I mean by that is, everything is vanilla.  Too vanilla.  Where are the exotic blitzes?  Where are the gadget plays on offense?  I understand wanting to play everything by the book right now, as you install the basic fundamentals of your schemes... but we need some razzle dazzle and some trickeration if we want to win games.  And we need wins if we want to keep the fans (and recruits!) interested in what's happening with Virginia Football.  Fake it til you make it.  It seemed to work for Boise State.

Here it is.  Time to stop lying to ourselves.  Time to face facts.  We are a BAD football team.  The new car smell of the Mike London regime is already fading.  I love the guy, and I still think he will succeed, but we're getting close to "show me" time.


Next week is Eastern Michigan.  Today they won their first game in two years, beating Ball State in overtime (their last win was over Central Michigan on November 28th, 2008).  Virginia is a bad football team, but EMU is terrible.  We should be able to pull enough together to beat the Eagles handily, and hopefully it will be with a new QB, a new swagger on defense, and a few new wrinkles in the gameplan... enough to give us all a somewhat renewed sense of hope for the second half of the season.

We'll see, I guess.  Having lived through last year's nightmare loss to William & Mary, I won't rest easy until that W is in the books.

GO HOOS!

October 13, 2010

Confessions of an Agent


Chilling stuff in SI this week.  Definitely a required read for any fan of college sports.

Confessions of an Agent

October 11, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Seven

Week six saw a return to my winning ways when it comes to these ACC picks.

Last Week: 5-1 (4-2 ATS)

Season: 40-11 (27-17 ATS)


The Cowgirls powered their Noles to a HUGE win at Miami on Saturday.


Boston College @ Florida State (-23.0)
Yeah, it's true --- I think the Seminoles are the best team in the conference this season.  Meanwhile, I don't think BC is very good at all.  So it makes sense that the Noles would be such big favorites, playing at home... but I don't see a 23-point blowout taking shape.  Not for a noon game, with FSU coming off of such a big win.  It's a lopsided game from start to finish, but the Eagles keep the deficit inside three touchdowns.  35-17, Florida State

NC State (-7.5) @ ECU
So far this season, the Pirates (who obviously long for a spot in the ACC) lost 49-27 at Virginia Tech and 42-17 at North Carolina.  I'd say that State is roughly on par with both VT and UNC, but this game being played at East Carolina should be worth a few points for the home team.  How about an old-school style shootout in which the better team stays mostly ahead and pulls away late?  Sounds about right to me.  45-30, NC State

Maryland @ Clemson (-14.0)
Considering how these two teams have been playing, this line surprises me a little bit.  I expected to see Clemson -3 or something like that, and I was poised to jump all over the Tigers in this contest.  But 14 points?  Wow, that's a lot.  However, I'm going to stick with my gut: close game, Clemson wins.  Their superior talent will buoy them in this game.  26-23, Clemson

Miami (-17.0) @ Duke
Give me a pile of money, because I want to bet the Canes and bet them hard in this game, even giving all of these points.  Duke could potentially lure Miami into a shootout, but the Hurricanes are coming off of that embarrassing loss to their archrival in primetime... and they'll be looking to make a statement by completely smearing the Blue Devils in this game.  I'd feel bad for the Dookies if I didn't loathe them.  52-7, Miami

Middle Tennessee State @ Georgia Tech (-19.5)
Don't look now, but that triple option is whirring and clicking, and firing on all cylinders.  MTSU isn't a complete pushover, as they almost upset Minnesota and Memphis already this year, and were actually able to beat Maryland a couple of years ago.  But GT is a better team than any of those three I just mentioned, and the Blue Raiders are simply outclassed here.  I don't think the Ramblin' Wreck will put forth their most inspired effort however, so MTSU should be able to score some points and put up at least a little bit of a fight.  41-20, GT

Wake Forest @ Virginia Tech (-22.5)
Tech is now in the process of tearing through the tissue paper portion of their schedule.  Wake is the next maché balloon to be gouged and crushed by the ultra-aggressive Hokie defense and steamrolling rushing attack.  Some teams might have a few answers to what Tech likes to do, but just like the Central Michigan game, Wake is too riddled with imperfection to be able to hang for very long.  38-14, VT

North Carolina (-6.5) @ Virginia
Two things I love about this game: 1) Carolina hasn't beaten us in Charlottesville since 1981, and 2) the 6:00 kickoff guarantees us a spirited and lively home crowd.  I have a very strong feeling that we're about to see what Mike London football is truly all about, and the Hoos will come out fired up and flying around the field.  After a three game stretch that has seen UNC stabilize itself after all of the off-field drama, I like the Hoos to put many of the pieces together and stun the favored Tarheels.  Home underdogs to a hated rival... I love it!  23-19, Virginia


BONUS PICK: Ohio State (-4.5) @ Wisconsin
I couldn't resist this one, since it's an upset brewing clear as day.  The Badgers will win this game, and put us all on the absolutely bizarre trajectory of an Oregon/Boise national championship game.  20-17, Wisconsin

October 10, 2010

No Quick Fixes, No Immediate Results

Mike London is a football coach, not a freaking miracle worker.


A funny thing happened to me last week at halftime, reflecting on a first half against Florida State that saw the Hoos plunged into a deep, dark 27-0 hole:  I realized that I do in fact have a realistic and reasonable set of expectations for how this football team needs to be rebuilt, and how long it's going to take Coach London to get Virginia Football back to a sustainable level of relative success.

Almost simultaneously, I had another, related, yet much scarier realization:  Many of my fellow Virginia fans aren't going to be as realistic, reasonable, or patient as I am determined to be with this rebuilding process.

OF COURSE we were flattened by the Seminoles.  They outclassed us at every single position on the football field, most obviously and overwhelmingly at the most important position in football -- quarterback.

OF COURSE we also lost at Georgia Tech.  Most of our young defensive players are still struggling to understand their [in many cases brand new] positions in the base defense, never mind the twisting and contorting and supreme discipline required to challenge that deadly triple option attack.

The bottom line is that we don't have the talent, the experience, or the comfort level with the newly-installed schemes to be able to beat a 9- or 10-win team like FSU or to roll into Atlanta and upset a Georgia Tech team that runs possibly the most difficult offense to defend in college football.  Coach London is installing his stuff, Coach Lazor is building an offense from scratch, and Coach Reid is transitioning many players to new positions as we move from the 3-4 to the 4-3.  Five games and less than 100 practices deep into that process, it's completely understandable that we aren't completely prepared to compete in those types of games.

I want to get this out there, stated as clearly as I possibly can:  Virginia fans must give Mike London no less than FOUR YEARS to clean up the Chernobyl disaster Al Groh left behind with this program.  That's 48 games, at a bare minimum.  43 games beyond the five we've already played.  If after the 2013 season the program' trajectory isn't satisfactory, then yeah, go ahead and start your hand wringing.  But not before.


Okay, now that's off my chest, let's identify the problems that I think are specifically holding us back right now:
  • Marc Verica.  Look, I like the dude.  I'm pulling for him.  I want to see him succeed.  But right now, he's holding on to the ball way too long, he's playing tentatively, and it often looks like he took accuracy lessons from Jameel Sewell and/or a scud missile specialist.  At his best, he's an average quarterback.  At his worst... he's being outpassed by the triple option QB of the Yellow Jackets.  I'll give Verica one more game -- home against UNC -- to get back on track.  If he continues to stink up the joint, it's time for the hook and a longer look at Ross Metheny and/or Mike Rocco.
  • Poor tackling.  It was really bad against the Noles, and only slightly better against GT.  I know it's a fundamental that you can't really practice, especially not in the middle of the season... but something has to be done to correct this issue, less we'll continue to watch running backs and wide receivers parade into the end zone.  A program being built on a defensive foundation needs to be sound with tackling.
  • The rushing attack.  Keith Payne and Perry Jones have both been effective and productive in spurts, and the offensive line has decent, but the whole puzzle hasn't quite come together yet.  The way the offense has been built (with a heavy reliance on play action passing), we need to be able to line up and pound the rock at the opposition; we need to be able to consistently grind out three or four yards whenever we run it.  It hasn't happened yet.  I'm hearing that Morgan Moses will probably be seeing much more time at guard, which is a good thing -- he'll open up the running game with his massive frame and run blocking skills, I'm sure.  Joe Torchia likely missing the rest of the season with another shoulder injury really hurts, unfortunately.  One step forward, one step back.
  • Missed opportunities.  How many INTs did we drop against Florida State?  At least three, maybe as many as five.  How many times did Verica miss a wide open receiver flying down the field in these last two games?  Too many, that's how many.  The bottom line is, as a generally less-talented team than the ones we'll be facing, we've simply got to connect on a few haymakers every game if we want to compete on the scoreboard.
  • Offensive creativity.  When it comes to basic philosophy, I like what I've seen out of the Lazor offense so far... and I understand that you have to crawl before you can walk, but... where in the hell are the trick plays?!?  I think it's time to bust out some razzle dazzle, like the fake punt and the double reverse we saw against USC!
  • Defensive flaws.  I know Mike London and Jim Reid are both defensive gurus, wonderful coaches, and will get the Orange Crush going strong in short order, but I have two quick points: 1) Why wasn't there a spy on Christian Ponder?  He flat out killed us with his scrambling ability.  2) Why wasn't there a player stationed in the middle of the field to defend Georgia Tech's "A" back?  Anthony Allen rushed for 195 yards and three TDs, all directly up the gut.  I think if we were able to mitigate those two weapons, these last two games would have been much closer.

There are still seven games left in this season.  Five of those games are winnable, in my approximation.  I'm looking for the Mike London mantra of high energy / high effort / passion to continue to take root, and for the Hoos to continue to improve in many facets of the game.  This week against UNC is a must-win if we still have hopes of making it to a bowl game this year.  I remain optimistic.

GO HOOS!

October 8, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Six

My first bad week of making picks was punctuated by a pick I nailed --- the FSU 34, Virginia 14 score was one I sadly predicted perfectly.  But yeah, it was still a bad week.

Last Week: 4-3 (2-5 ATS)

Season: 35-10 (23-15 ATS)


The Cowgirls still love me, even after a week of bad picks.



Boston College @ NC State (-9.5)
No doubt about it, and no way to sugarcoat it --- State blew that game against Virginia Tech last week.  And that's kind of where the Wolfpack is at right now, good enough to win games against tough competition, but not quite rehearsed enough in winning to be able to do it on a consistent basis.  In other words, some of the execution is still spotty.  Meanwhile, Boston College is swirling the drain after being blown out at home by Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks.  This is sort of a "man up" game for both teams... but I like State's team more, especially at home.  I think both squads will really be battling for an edge, and this should be an entertaining game to watch.  28-14, NC State

Central Michigan @ Virginia Tech (-22.0)
The turkeys are officially back on track, and with the same basic recipe that they've been winning with for the last decade-plus.  They turn you over and take advantage.  That big play defense and opportunistic offense - featuring a mobile QB - is usually pretty effective at finding your flaws and exploiting them.  It's the relatively unflawed teams that the Hokies tend to struggle with.  CMU isn't bad, but they are a flawed team.  Tech in an animal husbandry-style romp.  51-10, VT

Virginia @ Georgia Tech (-10.0)
Last week's game against FSU should have been a reality check for all Virginia fans.  We're on the fifth game of a massive four-year rebuilding process.  There will be bright moments, but there will also be glimpses back at the stone ages.  Interestingly for this game, the man who single-handedly bombed our program back to paleolithic stages is patrolling the opposing sideline.  I want to see our offense lay 50+ on the Jackets, and I want that with every fiber of my being.  But I'm also a realist.  I know that we'll struggle with lane discipline against Georgia Tech, just as we did against Florida State.  And the triple option offense can shred an undisciplined defense.  That said, I do think we'll hang around a while in a weird sort of slow evolving, sloppy shootout.  (Al Groh's 3-4 defense sucks.)  29-20, GT

Clemson @ North Carolina (-2.5)
This is a crossroads game for both teams -- a win gives them some traction in the conference race, while a loss would send them spiraling out of control.  Carolina has a bit of momentum right now, while Clemson has hit a rough stretch with back-to-back losses to Auburn and Miami.  I think those trends continue, and the Heels win a taut one at home.  (Also, I'm officially not buying Dabo Swinney as the coach to usher Clemson back to glory.  I think he's an okay coach, but programs stuck on the plateau between decent and great need someone special to kick them over the hump.  Swinney ain't it, I have a hunch.)  30-21, UNC

Navy (-3.5) @ Wake Forest
That's right, an ACC team is a home underdog to the Naval Academy.  And with losses to Maryland and Air Force already under their belts, it's not like this year's edition of Navy Football is one of their best in recent memory.  The problem here is Wake Forest, who can't generate enough offense or defense to get much of anything going.  That said, I kinda like the Deacs in this game.  Not sure why... just call it a gut feeling and go with it.  21-20, Wake

Florida State @ Miami (-6.0)
Here is your marquee game of the week in the ACC, obviously.  I think these two teams are probably the two best in the conference... with maybe Virginia Tech muscling into that discussion.  Jacory Harris has been accident prone so far this season, but he has also been deadly effective.  Christian Ponder is a MUCH better scrambler than I ever though he was.  I think this could really be an entertaining duel between two very good teams.  At the end of the day, I like FSU's fierce pass rush to spell the difference --- pressuring Harris could be the key to winning the turnover battle, which will be the key to winning this game.  I like the Noles in a close one.  31-27, FSU