October 26, 2012

Adaptations Required

As Virginia continues on its bye week there are a ton of questions surrounding the team. What changes are going to be made on special teams? Who will return kicks and punts? How will the defensive rotations change in light of the emergence of some young player on the line? Can someone catch the ball please? But the biggest of all of those questions is how will Virginia look to improve its offense for the stretch run?

I've made a few of these to make me feel better, and I think this is a pretty good representation of what the offense has looked like over the past few weeks.

The biggest change that needs to be made is the play calling. When Mike London was hired, Bill Lazor was brought in to install his pro-style offense. The pro-style offense is very strongly based on timing and precise route running, a process that can take years to fully take grip on a program. This is why when quarterbacks get to the pros, you usually see a learning curve because of the complexity of the offense. While excuses of youth can be made as to why the offense isn't clicking on all cylinders, you cannot overlook the fact that the coaching staff may not be putting the players in the best position to succeed. When Phillip Sims was given the starting job we knew we were getting two things. First was blue chip potential with a big arm, and second was an inexperienced QB not only in the system, but in D1 football. The play calling has heavily demonstrated the latter, without being able to exploit the former. If UVA wants to see this offense show signs of life, they need to take a look 120 miles north, to my beloved Washington Redskins, and what I legitimately think might be a renaissance of the quarterback position.

This was one of the best moments of my sports viewing life
Watching RG3 this season is probably  the only thing keeping me sane, given the incredible frustration the Hoos are putting out on a weekly basis. Griffin has an extremely unique skill set, and one that is not like any other QB the Skins or either Mike or Kyle Shanahan has ever had. He has a hell of an arm, and some electric and magical feet. But the thing that separates RG3 from the rest of the league and has led to his immense success is that he has an offense and an offensive coordinator that can perfectly exploit his skill set. 

I'm not going to surprise anyone when I tell you that Mike and Kyle Shanahan are extremely proud people. You have to be working for the worst and most arrogant owner in sports. They have the ultimate faith that their system can succeed with their guy. Need proof? The prosecution submits John Beck as evidence. So when the Skins took RG3 all the talk in town was how he would fit in Mike and Kyle Shanahan's scheme, and while mobility is a big part of it, we were all a little skeptical of forcing this kind of talent into a scheme. Sound familiar Hoo fans? But then something incredible happened, something that with a little thought could happen here.

The Skins offense transformed. It added new wrinkles to exploit RG3's speed. You saw Kyle Shanahan, who calls the plays, almost toying with opposing defenses. The Skins run the triple option with RG3, 6th round miracle Alfred Morris (who Kendall amazingly predicted would be awesome), and Brandon Banks, a player who is how big I was as a sophomore in high school. They have designed runs which are almost impossible to defend in the red zone, and make me incredibly nervous. And they use all these to set up Grffin's best ability, which is making big plays down the field. And it works. In fact it works so well people on ESPN are saying you can't run a cover two, the base of most NFL defenses, against RG3, because he will destroy you. This offense is so perfectly tailored for RG3's skills that it might land Kyle Shanahan a head coaching job pretty soon, and every week new wrinkles are added as RG3 learns more and more of the offense.

So enough about how much hope I have in the NFL, let's transfer some of that to UVA, where we may have our own special talent under center. Bill Lazor is simplifying the offense for Phillip Sims right now, but he's doing it in a way that doesn't put him in a position to succeed, given his talents. Sims excels at throwing intermediate to deep routes. These kinds of plays take a long time to develop, which means you will need to keep the defense on it's heels. The easiest way to accomplish this is by setting up play action, which is a staple of the Lazor offense, as seen last season. Going into this season everyone expected the running game to be the engine that drove this offense, opening up play action routes down field and exploiting the defense biting up to stop the run. So far the running game has been stagnant, with a seemingly stubborn approach to running outside stretch runs, which have been ineffective for weeks on end now. The first major adjustment Lazor needs to make is to start running the ball between the tackles with Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson leading the charge. Establishing a successful run game will help take pressure off the passing game and allow Sims to get a clean look at two or three big shots down field from safeties biting up to stop the run.

While reestablishing the run game is a key piece in the success of the offense, it is not the only one that needs to improve. A common theme on message boards is that Coach Lazor is calling a Sims game when Rocco has been in, and a Rocco game for Sims. This is true, but it also shows where Lazor feels Sims is in his understanding of the offense. Mike Rocco excelled in his first full season in the offense because the simpler aspects of the offense play into his strengths, the greatest of which is anticipating routes and finding the open receiver in the scheme. As Rocco became more comfortable in the offense, Lazor added deeper and more complex routes, which in turn also demonstrated Rocco's deficiencies in raw talent (arm strength). However, seeing this has jaded the fanbase and put a deep division between Rocco supporters and Sims supporters. This progression should not divide us, it should make us excited to see Sims as he gets to that level of confidence, since he has the arm strength to throw the playbook wide open.

But let's get back to the present. As I mentioned in the RG3 portion of this comparison the offense needs to be designed to succeed as Sims learns more of the playbook, and right now it isn't. The approach that Lazor took in developing Rocco is not going to work with Sims. It's like trying to force RG3 to run the same offense as Rex Grossman. Assuming the running game is on track, Lazor needs to call more intermediate level throws, where Sims' natural arm strength can be exploited. We know he is not completely comfortable throwing timing routes, so call more traditional routes where Sims can read the defenses and see the receivers. His throws get on receivers in a hurry, so it's not like jumping routes is going to be a tremendous issue. Letting Sims drop back and read that Tim Smith has a step on a linebacker on a crossing route is what is going to put him in a position to be successful. Couple those routes with some play action and bootlegs, and you have the kind of offense that can exploit both Sims' talent and help him prepare for the future.

It's unfair to put this all on one person. The line has been terrible, the drops are spreading through the receiving corps like the plague through Europe, and special teams is pretty much ensuring the Hoos are always starting in a terrible spot. But play calling is also an issue, and one that can be fixed. I surprisingly have confidence that we are going to see a drastic change in style coming out of the bye week, and one that I am excited to see. I still think Bill Lazor is a smart guy and that he can make these adaptations, but I think these last four games are going to be key in his case to stick around.

Please don't make me regret this, you two.

October 25, 2012

Wahooze Pix - Week Nine

Bye week for UVA, but no week off for your heroes at Wahooze. 

Last Week
Mike- 6 (out of 10)
Eric - 5
Kendall - 4
Pierce - 4


Pierce - 43
Mike - 42
Kendall - 40
Guests - 39

Well, instead of separation, things have tightened up. This week's games aren't really notable or interesting, but at least we can always depend on the Coastal division to screw things up somehow each week! Enjoy:

Kendall's introducing this week's guest:

Jeffrey is my 4-year old son, and he is an unmitigated badass.  His hobbies include tee-ball, fingerpainting, swordfighting, rock climbing, eating treats (especially candy), and pretending he is Spider-Man.  I never knew love until I met Jeff.  These picks are all his own, but I slightly edited his commentary for readability.

Jeffrey, with little sister Anna.  Born into unfortunate lives as Wahoos.

Clemson (-13) @ Wake
Tigers: Everyone
Deacs: No one

Kendall: Clemson waterboards the Deacs by 40+.  Book it.

Mike: Wake barely beat us. And we suck. 

Pierce: Clemson handles better teams and Wake shows little ability to move the ball down field. They get their star wideout back this week, but I don't think it'll help much.

Jeffrey:  Because Tigers dig.

Duke @ FSU (-27.5) 
Blue Devils: Mike, Kendall, Pierce
Seminoles: Jeffrey

Kendall:  FSU rolls... but four touchdowns is a lot against a plucky little Duke team.

Mike: That is so many points.

Pierce: Spread's probably too high. Duke should be able to put up at least 14 and don't see FSU bothering to score 40.

Jeffrey:  Because Seminoles poop.

UMD @ BC (-1) 
Turtles: Mike, Kendall, Jeffrey
Jesuits: Pierce

Kendall:  I'm still holding out hope that we're not the worst team in the ACC this season, and the only chance for that is continued losing by BC.

Mike: I don't want to talk about it. Please keep us out of the acc basement

Pierce: Eagles should be looking to prove they are better than UVA.

Jeffrey:  They have hard shells and they know ninja turtle magic.

NCSU @ UNC (-7) 
Pack: Mike, Pierce, Jeffrey
Heels: Kendall

Kendall: I keep saying that Fedora was an inspired hire by Carolina.

Mike: UNC sucks. Kids steal papers from 11 year olds. What a terrible place

Pierce: I think State will win this outright and UNC will find itself at the bottom of the North Carolina standings.

Jeffrey: They woof out and they eat sheep.  (I told him a Tarheel was a sheep.)

BYU @ GT (-2) 
Mormons: Kendall
Al Groh Sucks: Mike, Pierce, Jeffrey

Kendall:  You suck, Paul Johnson (but thanks for unceremoniously shitcanning Al Groh.)

Mike: BYU didn't do the best job against the run last week. Not a good sign for this one.

Pierce: ACC! ACC!

Jeffrey: Because they sting.  And stink.

UF (-6.5) @ UGA 
Gators: Pierce
Dawgs: Mike, Kendall, Jeffrey

Kendall: Got a feeling about the 'Dawgs this week...

Mike: Throw the records out the window

Pierce: Gators destroyed USC. USC beat up on UGA. Transitive property suggests...

Jeffrey: Because bulldogs lick you.

Ohio St @ PSU (-1) 
Urban Meyer is a liar and a cheat: Everyone
Nittany Lions: No one.

Kendall:  Penn State is favored in this game?  Really?  Why?

Mike: Is Sam Ficken still on the team?

Pierce: OSU is getting Braxton Miller back...Vegas apparently knows something we don't.

Jeffrey: Because acorns hit your head when you walk outside.

ND @ OU (-10.5)
Irish: Kendall, Mike, Jeffrey
Sooners: Pierce

Kendall:  I believe in Notre Dame.

Mike: My house is going to be awkward if this gets ugly.

Pierce: That's a lot of points, but OU scores a lot of points. Notre Dame is legit, but this game gets away from them I think.

Jeffrey:  I like Lucky Charms.

October 22, 2012

Pop Quiz!

(I don't want to push Mike's most recent post down out of view, so if you haven't seen it yet, make sure you read Let's get "Daboed!")

Anyway, on to the pop quiz...

What do Akron, UAB, Boston College, Idaho, Colorado, FAU, EMU, South Alabama, Tulane, Buffalo, UNLV, New Mexico State, Memphis, Army, and UMass all have in common?

Answer: They are the 15 teams ranked lower than Virginia in today's edition of CBS Sports' College Football Rankings.

That's right, folks.  At 2-6 and boasting losses against #74 Georgia Tech, #64 TCU, #71 Duke, #81 Maryland, and #84 Wake Forest, YOUR University of Virginia Fightin' Cavaliers are ranked by this [mostly] objective website as the #109-ranked team in the nation.  That's out of 124 D-1A teams.

To further wallow in this misery, allow me to list off a few teams currently ranked ahead of us...  ULM, Toledo, Utah State, Western Kentucky, Northern Illinois, San Jose State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Bowling Green, Kent State, Arkansas State, Marshall, Navy, Ball State, Miami (Ohio), North Texas, Air Force, Temple, UT-San Antonio (in their first season of FBS football), Western Michigan, MTSU, Rice, Texas State (in their first season of FBS football), Wyoming, FIU, New Mexico, (1-5) Hawaii, UTEP, Kansas, and Indiana.

That'll clear your sinuses a little bit, huh?

Duke's going to a bowl game, and suddenly we are taking their place as the new Duke.

It's slowly dawning on me.  There was a worst-case type of season for us this year, and that worst-case scenario was 5-7 or maybe 4-8.  We're about to finish 2-10.  At 90% of BCS conference schools, heads would roll after a season like this.

I'm reasonably certain that UVA is in the 10%, where heads won't roll.  But how can you look fans and boosters in the eye as they are shelling out the cash to build a $14.5 million Indoor Practice Facility and pay the head coach $1.8 million per season and tell them that you are doing your level best to put a winning product on the field if you DON'T clean house after a 2-10 season like this one?

Let's get "Daboed!"

Every heard of this? "Daboed" is a word I have made up for what needs to happen to Mike London in order to save this program. First let's provide a little explanation of what exactly this means.

I think Dabo Swinney is (how do I put this gently?) in need of some improvement as a coach. What Dabo is very good at is recruiting and representing Clemson. Sound familiar? He's Mike London. In fact if the SAT were still in its old shitty format the correct answer to Dabo Swinney:Clemson::_____:Virginia would be Mike London. So why has Dabo succeeded to a level that would make our entire fanbase blush? Well the answer lies with the supporting cast. Swinney is surround by two coaches that have complete control and understanding of their craft -- Brent Venables on defense and Chad Morris on offense. Both men have such a mastery of what they are doing and complete control over their side of the house that all Swinney needs to focus on is managing the game and being the face of the program. Venables ran the Oklahoma defense for 12 years, most of which involved the Sooners being in the top tier of college football, while Chad Morris worked directly with Gus Malzhan to develop an innovative offense that perfectly utilizes the amount of talent Clemson can put on the field. Both men know what they need to do to succeed, and Swinney trusts them to do it.

If Mike London is going to succeed, he needs to find and identify two men to lead each side of the house that he trusts 100% and will provide stability and continuity on the staff. Kendall raised this point on a previous post, but we already have these two men on our staff in my opinion. Jim Reid and Mike Faragalli are these two men. Staff shakeups are a part of life, but those should be reserved for coordinators. If I could design an ideal setup for our staff it would be a great leader and motivator at the top, two knowledgeable and stable coordinators, and a young energetic staff of position coaches and GAs. Moving Faragalli into the OC position gives us this set up. If London grants Reid and Faragalli autonomy to run their respective sides of the house, this will free him up in-game and during the week to do what he is truly best at. While this is sounding like London will have his role massively reduced, it will benefit this program. London needs to build trust and continuity within the staff that directly reports to him. That will absolutely lead to better game management and a better product on the field.

In terms of the staff shakeup this obviously means Bill Lazor will be gone, which means we will be in search of a new quarterbacks coach. If Faragalli wants to run an up-tempo style a perfect target would be Brian Scott at ODU who I have mentioned multiple times on this blog. I think the staff absolutely needs to get him if Lazor leaves.

"Fire London?" Postscript

Here's an exchange in the comments section of the "Fire London?" post that I didn't want anyone to miss...


My overall take on coaching changes is a pretty conservative one. I tend to value continuity over change. I was shell-shocked when Shanahan was cut loose by Pat Bowlen. I think the Steelers are a modern example of sticking with a coach that works.

There has to be a tipping point, though, right? This season may be it. The mere fact that the team's recent performance is SO much less than the sum of their talented parts is highly disturbing. London's strength should be motivating the team to play and clearly he's not doing it. And he doesn't have the X and O wizardry to scheme the team out of its funk. That was uninspiring, uninspired football we witnessed on Saturday.

I'm going to jump on the one more year bandwagon as of right now, with a caveat: if London can get this team to show signs of life (which is a pretty freaking low bar to set, to be honest) the rest of this year, I might extend that grace a bit. But if he has lost the team and can't get it back, we might see him hitting the bricks in the middle of next season.

Its kind of unbelievable really.


Very, very, very well said, Nathan. I am in exactly the same boat, though I think my trigger finger is just a bit more itchy than yours. (Still on the "conservative" side, but just barely.)

In modern college football, if you're not getting ahead you're falling behind. Nothing is worse than wasting seasons on lame duck coaches. London is either the guy, or he isn't. People are being paid handsomely to make those kinds of decisions, and I just hope the experiences with Gillen, Leitao, and Groh have made the powers that be a bit more decisive on these issues.

At the very least, we need to trade in some of our young rah-rah recruiters for some experienced Xs and Os coaches on the coaching staff. Recruiting will be fine as long as we have London and Chip West. Guys like Dex and Shawn Moore need to be giving us more than [poorly] coaching the safeties, special teams, and tight ends.

As for Lazor, I imagine we'll see him leave this offseason, one way or the other. We have a built-in replacement already on the staff in Mike Faragalli. He could install his pass-first, spread-style attack without changing much of the terminology or infrastructure established under Lazor. To me, losing Lazor and replacing him with Faragalli would represent a "circling of the wagons" for Mike London, and it's a move I would support.

Tough times as a Virginia fan. As my friend Doug said to me last night -- London did himself a disservice by winning eight games last year. If he could split the 10 wins across the 2011 and 2012 seasons, nobody would be unhappy right now. There'd still be pressure to produce in 2013, but nobody would be thinking or talking about the possibility of firing coaches.

October 21, 2012

Fire London?

I subscribe to a few premium recruiting sites.  These are places for only die-hard Virginia fans; folks who are willing to pay real-life U.S. currency in order to follow UVA's football and basketball recruiting.  I don't always agree or disagree with these herds of Virginia fans, but I do use them to take the pulse of the fanbase, as these are the people who are mostly immune to outright apathy as a coping mechanism.

In a poll posted today on one of those boards, one member posed the question: Should Mike London be fired?

After over 100 votes, here are the poll results:
-- 6% said yes, go ahead and fire him now.
-- 3% said watt 'til the end of the season, to see if he can right the ship a little bit in the last four games.
-- 35% said give him one more season, with 2013 serving as the "shit or get off the pot" campaign for the London regime.
-- 42% said give him two more seasons, and if we don't see marked improvement in the 28-34 games between now and the end of the 2014 season, fire him then.
-- 9% said give him three more years, through the 2015 season.
-- 5% said give him longer than three more years.

I imagine you read this blog because you want to know my opinion on topics like this.  Well, here is my opinion...

We're 2-6 now, likely headed to 2-10.  We won't be favored in any of our remaining games, and if we can't beat a bad Wake Forest team, I don't see us beating Miami or UNC.  So it looks like London is going to deliver the worst season of UVA football since before George Welsh was at the helm.

No way around it, this is unacceptable.

No way to sugarcoat it, the excellence has been compromised.

I try to think about it like this: If I'm the CEO of Virginia Athletics, and am seeing what we've been seeing these last four weeks, and am seeing the team literally bottoming out on the field, and am seeing more and more empty bleachers... well, there's a bottom line to worry about.  The bottom line is that Virginia Football's floor should be higher than 2-10, and that we cannot afford to wait around for the recruiting to fall into the same kind of crater it fell into in 2008 and 2009, as Al Groh entered lame duck status as our head coach.

I think Mike London is a great man, a great recruiter, a great ambassador for the football program and for the University, and a great salesman.  I think he's in over his head as a head coach and top-level leader of a modern-era FBS football program that plays in a BCS conference.  I also think he has failed to surround himself with a coaching staff that will allow him to succeed given his deficiencies.

In the poll, I was part of the 35% that voted for one more season.  That's a more aggressive schedule than I've been preaching all along -- I beat the drum of five seasons, and I beat it hard.  But this 2012 campaign is a "panic button" type of situation.  I want to see significant changes on the coaching staff after this season, and I need to see marked improvement in 2013.  If not, I will be firmly aboard the Fire London bandwagon.

We cannot afford to hit that same talent acquisition crater we fell into at the end of the Groh regime.

Maybe Mike London is the right coach for UVA, and he'll pull it out of the fire.  But at this point, it's time to at least start questioning his competence as the head of our football program.

And believe me, this post has been incredibly depressing to write.

October 19, 2012

Quick Thoughts from the Open Scrimmage

Enjoyed a nice evening in JPJ.  My quick thoughts from the Blue-White Scrimmage:

-- I thought AKIL "Big Fundamental" / "Big Fun" / "Fun" MITCHELL was the best player on the floor tonight.  Extremely active.  Great on the boards.  Showed some pop from mid-range.  Stickbacks galore.  Stepped up and drilled his free throws.  Great D.  Vocal leadership, and fully displayed confidence.  Called out assignments on defense.  I absolutely loved what I saw from Big Fun tonight, and I think he looks like he just took a major step forward in his development.

-- Anthony Gill isn't eligible to play this season, but I thought he looked good, too.  Maybe struggling a little bit with whether he's a big 3 or a small 4, but this 'tweener type player is perfect for the "stretch 4" role Bennett used with Will Sherrill and Mike Scott.  Gill is clearly athletic and can shoot the rock, but he needs to get stronger.

-- Justin Anderson is a man among boys.  He looked like a 28-year old NFL tight end, not like a college freshman small forward.  He also had a better-than-I-thought-it'd-be shot from outside.  He's not going to be able to put the ball on the floor with much success, and he's a bit overaggressive with his defense (think freshman season Jontel Evans), but Justin Anderson is a freaking MAN.

-- Joey Buckets was working hard, had some really good moments, and definitely set the tone for the entire team.  He was drenched with sweat after the scrimmage, if that tells you anything.  He did give us an ugly bricked dunk on a breakaway, though.

-- Mike Tobey can get his shot off, no problem.  Lots of post moves.  Spins, drop steps, shoulder fakes, and he;s not bashful about going to the hook.  But his shot was flat tonight. Always short, always off the front iron.  Seemed like he shot about 25%, and he shot a LOT.  Still, I think he's the most smooth, fluid low post offensive player we've had in a long time.  If he can beef up and put a little loft under that shot, he'll be a real weapon.  That won't happen as a freshman, but I bet he has a few big games this season.

-- Evan Nolte has a sweet stroke, and mixed it up a little bit on the inside.  But he's rail thin.  Still, I liked what I saw.  Seemed to really play with some intelligence, which I liked a lot.

-- I also liked what I saw from Doug Browman, who split defenders to get into the lane seemingly at will.  Not the best decisions once he was there, but he was penetrating successfully.  His D, unfortunately, was not good.  He's tiny, so that's mostly to be expected.

-- Taylor Barnette looked like a walk-on with an above-average shot.  Sorry.  He's a one-dimensional sniper at this point, and that's fine... but his shot is not Keith Friel-like.

-- Darion Atkins kind of disappeared at times.  Not encouraging.  Tobey definitely had more "sizzle" to his game than Atkins did tonight.  That said, Atkins did a pretty good job of staying home on defense, which was one of his big problems last year.

-- Jontel Evans, Malcolm Brogdon, Teven Jones, Paul Jesperson, Thomas Rogers, and Justin Miller did not play tonight.  That's four scholarship guys and two recruited walk-ons.  That's a big chunk of the team, including probably our three best dribble-drive penetrators and likely our starting backcourt.  Get better soon, guys.

Bottom line: I left the arena feeling excited about Joey Buckets, Big Fun, and Justin Anderson, hopeful about Nolte and Tobey, and concerned about the rest of the roster. We really need Brog and Bub back - quick. And Jesperson should factor into the rotation this season, too.


October 18, 2012

Wahooze Pix - Week Eight

Last week was a great one for everyone not named Pierce. Things are getting more interesting with the addition of the out of conference games...

Last Week

Kendall - 5 (out of 8)
Mike P - 5
Mike - 4
Pierce - 3


Pierce - 39
Mike - 36
Kendall - 36
Guests - 34

I think this week's games are the most difficult we've had all year. Clemson/VT and FSU/Miami are both games that present tricky lines...plus the rivalry games like UNC/Duke and Michigan/MSU are usually a crapshoot betting against the spread. Regardless, there are six weeks left, so this could shake out in any way.

This week's guest picker is Mike's friend Eric Acheson. Mike sez...

Combined with fantasy sports nemesis Tripp Eason, Eric and I managed to make it through our engineering curriculum relatively unscathed. Eric is probably the most avid basketball fan that I know, in fact he only missed one basketball game the entire time we were in school. He actually got his seat retired in the student section at JPJ (complete lie, but would be well deserved). Anyway I would not have made it through college without him and would have also been extremely bored in class. But probably not bored enough to pay attention.

Hey, we're good at Lacrosse!

Wake @ UVA (-4)
Deacs: Mike, Eric
Hoos: Kendall, Pierce

Kendall: It has got to come together at some point.  I refuse to believe we'll finish 2-10 after starting 2-0.  This is the last easily winnable game on our schedule, so it has to happen here.

Mike: I've moved with Pierce to the dark side. We're 0-6-1 against the spread this year.

Pierce: Surprise! I like the Hoos to win comfortably. Look for my angry kittens post on the blog when this doesn't happen.

Eric: With Wake coming off a bye week I see this as a close game.  UVA may win, but Wake beats the spread.

UNC (-10.5) @ Duke
Heels: Kendall, Eric, Pierce
Devils: Mike

Kendall: I think Duke's a fraud, I think Tech exposed that fact in the second half last week, and I think the fact that we lost to them in blowout fashion continues to twist in my belly like a prison shiv.

Mike: Commence shootout.

Pierce: UNC has been all over the place this season. Had Duke done its job last week, I'd feel more confident in them. Instead, they imploded. VPI beats Duke two weeks in a row here.

Eric: A meaningful game between UNC and Duke during football season?  UNC will score a lot, I don't think Duke keeps up.

NCSU (-3.5) @ UMD
Pack: Everyone
Turtles: No one

Kendall: Maryland has a nice little defense... against garbage teams.  If State can control Stefon Diggs, they'll win by three touchdowns or more.

Mike: Back on this bandwagon.

Pierce: Giving UMD points at home? Probably shouldn't bet against that - but NCSU > FSU apparently...I'm so confused.

Eric: No way Maryland belongs on top of the ACC Atlantic.  NCSU stays hot.

BC @ GT (-14.5)
Eagles: No one
Al Groh Sucks: Everyone

Kendall: They've had a bye week to lick wounds and get some shit straightened out.  Ramblin' Wreck on the warpath in this one.

Mike: BC still sucks.

Pierce: I hope UVA isn't the worst team in the ACC.

Eric: Couldn't stop Army's triple option, no way BC can stop GT. 

VT @ Clemson (-8.5)
Redneck Little Brother to the West: Kendall
Gamecocks' Little Brother: Mike, Pierce, Eric

Kendall: I pick the Hokies here because Clemson is due their annual head-scratcher of a loss.

Mike: Could we get a win and a Tech loss in the same week? This half should at least hold up.

Pierce: Clemson is almost as scatterbrained as VT. I like the Tigers at home though to continue their dominance over their fellow little brother school.

Eric: Clemson scored points.  Tech is not the same team from years past.  I think this is a blowout.

FSU (-17) @ Miami
Noles: Kendall, Pierce, Eric
Canes: Mike

Kendall: This is a big spread, but it's a wide gulf between the quality of the Canes and the quality of the Noles.

Mike: Too big for a rivalry game like this.

Pierce: Big spread on the road. I've been betting against FSU to cover and it hasn't been working out for me. FSU rolls.

Eric: FSU is angry about their last loss and come out and make a statement.

South Carolina @ Florida (-3)
Cocks: Mike, Pierce
Gators: Kendall, Eric

Kendall: Florida is going to lose a game at some point... I think... but I just don't see it this week.

Mike: I am still drinking the South Carolina Kool-Aid.

Pierce: Go Cocks.

Eric: Both are great, Florida gets the nod for being at home.

Michigan St @ Michigan (-10)
Sparty: Kendall, Eric
Blue: Mike, Pierce

Kendall: Not buying Michigan quite yet.  I do think they'll win this game, but I also think they'll fail to cover.

Mike: I guess I'll take Michigan in the battle of the B1G disappointments.

Pierce: MSU has been a big disappointment this year so far. Michigan at home will be amped - rolls.

Eric: Michigan is averaging almost 34 per game, but MSU has kept games close.  Michigan will win, but I don't think they cover.

Oregon (-9) @ Arizona St
Ducks: Kendall, Mike, Pierce
Sun Devils: Eric

Kendall: Go Ducks.

Mike: Ducks need a statement to jump back into the BCS. This should work.

Pierce: Oregon rolls. ASU could keep up for 3 quarters, but unfortunately, against Oregon, that means you still lose by 17.

Eric: Gonna be a shootout.  ASU keeps pace at home.

Kansas St @ WVU (-3)
EMAW: Pierce
Hillbillies: Kendall, Mike, Eric

Kendall: I love how West Virginia got exposed by Texas Tech, but this has home bounce-back written all over it.  I do love Optimus Klein, though.

Mike: I can't see K-State keeping up.

Pierce: EMAW. For real. Geno Smith hypapolooza takes another hit.

Eric: Last week WVU got caught looking ahead.  Unfortunately for K-State they were looking forward to this game.

Better in 2013?

So this season, we're looking to try to rally from this cataclysmic five-loss skid.  I'm optimistic.  Not sure if that rally is one win, two, three, four, or maybe just improved play to the point where we won't have to spend the entire offseason wondering if we have the right coaching staff.

It starts with Wake. This Saturday, Virginia Football's 25,000 closest friends and family will be on hand to witness the beginning of The Great Turnaround of 2012.  Hopefully.

But at this point, at 2-5 and with hope dwindling, my attention is wandering toward the future.  Specifically, it is wandering toward 2013.  So here's a quick position-by-position look at how things project to next season, personnel-wise.

Looks like Phillip Sims will play out the stretch as our starting QB, with perhaps Mike Rocco coming in late as the "closer" in close games in which Sims struggles.  I can live with that.  But heading into 2013, I'm expecting a few things: 1) Mike Rocco ditches out on UVA for a chance to be the undisputed started for a D-1AA school.  2) Phillip Sims fails to do enough in 2012 to completely stitch up the starting job for 2013.  3) Thusly, there is a battle royale with Greyson Lambert (and David Watford?) for the right to start.  Ultimately, I think Sims wins that job and makes some pretty big improvements after being bloodied by experience this season.

Running Back
KP, Clifton Richardson, Khalek Shepherd.  All three are back.  But Kye Morgan also joins the fray as a redshirt freshman.  And of course, Smoke Mizzell will be in the hunt for playing time as a true freshman.  I think KP emerges as the clear workhorse, with Richardson taking the reins as the designated power back, Shep continuing his specialization as the 3rd down back and special teams maven, Morgan finding his time in mop-up duty, and Smoke redshirting.  That's right, I think our best recruit in the 2013 class will find his way into a redshirt.  He could help immediately on teams, but with such a crowded stable at RB, there's no need for him to play.  The headliner here is Kevin Parks.  I think he steps up as a real bellcow-style back, churning out yardage for an offense that figures to be better in just about every category other than pass pro.

KP: bellcow.
Zach Swanson is back as junior, and will hopefully have developed a bit more of a fullback's build.  He could be a weapon in the passing game, but we really need him to be an effective lead blocker.  The guy has some talent, so I am assuming improvement, albeit at a relatively low-impact position.

Tight End
Godbye Paul Freedman and Colter Phillips.  Hello Jake McGee after another offseason of physical development.  Assuming McGee gets bigger and stronger, and improves his in-line blocking, he could emerge as our best tight end since Big Money, and that's not even much of a stretch of the imagination.  Jeremiah Mathis is also back, ho-hum.  I think we can also expect to see a few others transition to the position, like probably redshirt freshman Kyle Dockins and incoming freshmen Max Valles and Jack English.  But no doubt about it, depth will be thin at this spot, and it will likely be an area of focus in the 2014 recruiting class.  I love McGee, but realistically we will miss the blocking provided by Phillips and especially Freedman.
Verdict: PUSH.

Hallelujah and amen.

Wide Receiver
This is an area I'm excited about.  Hopefully Tim Smith is healthy.  Can't really count on him, though -- he's proven himself to be super-fragile.  Darius Jennings will have another season of extensive playing time under his belt, and will hopefully be ready to ascend to true #1 status.  E.J. Scott is an awesome #2.  Dominique Terrell should be better, and more pure receiver-ish.  He probably has a stranglehold on the slot, though I still daydream of Canaan Severin's possession-style presence in that spot.   Speaking of Severin, he and Adrian Gamble should be ready to take big steps forward in 2013, after dabbling with some playing time as true freshmen in 2012.  That's already a lot of guys to incorporate into the mix, but athletic leaper Mario Nixon will be coming off of his redshirt season and incoming frosh Zack Jones, Andre Levrone, and Keeon Johnson could be ready to push for PT, though all three will likely redshirt.  It's a lot of bodies to juggle, but it's also an abundance of talent.  Honestly, I expect great improvement from the wideouts in 2013.

Offensive Tackle
I'm splitting the tackles out from the interior line positions because I fully expect our edge blockers to struggle a bit in 2013.  Oday Aboushi will be gone, and who knows what decision Morgan Moses will reach in regards to leaving early for the NFL?  I personally think the kid is nowhere near ready, but I felt the same way about Kevin Ogletree and he jumped.  So that's a wait-and-see kind of thing.  If Big Mo is back, the right side could be a strength (no way he kicks over to left tackle.)  Talented youngsters Jay Whitmire and Kelby Johnson wait in the wings, and I think both guys will end up being pretty good in the orange and blue.  One or both will start in 2013, and anytime you pass the torch at left tackle, it is unnerving.  Sean Karl, Mike Mooney, and incoming freshman Sadiq Olanrewaju could all factor into the battle for the two-deep at tackle.  Bottom line: Oday Aboushi represents the biggest single personnel loss from 2012 to 2013.

Interior Offensive Line
Things should be a bit more rosy on the inside.  Luke Bowanko is back at center, and though he has struggled at times in 2012, his experience should be an asset for the entire line next year.  Meanwhile, Conner Davis, Sean Cascarano, Cody Wallace, and Ross Burbank -- all are back, a year stronger and more experienced.  Ryan Doull comes off of his redshirt season.  Brad Henson and Jack McDonald arrive on Grounds as well-regarded recruits.  The numbers and depth on the inside are finally looking pretty good.  Not sure about backup center, but no doubt one or two of the younger guys will begin their apprenticeships under Bowanko, with Burbank already having had some work there in 2012.

Defensive End
This is where things start to get fun.  We lose Billy Schautz, but a strong argument can be made that we never really had him to begin with, given how little he's been able to play due to injury.  We also lose Ausar Walcott, who has filled in admirably while making a modest impact.  Jake Snyder is back for his senior season in 2013, but I'm not so sure he has a lock on a starting job.  The reason?  The kids will be coming on strong.  You already know about Eli Harold, who will be making his 1st-to-2nd year leap, and emerging as a playmaker as a sophomore.  Mike Moore should also push really hard for extensive snaps.  Courtnye Wynn will be in the mix, as well.  Diamonte Bailey and Stephen Lawe could get lost in the wash, and either seems to me like potential victims of attrition as they are clearly leapfrogged in the pecking order by younger, better players.  The wildcard here is Trent Corney, who is a real physical marvel.  If he develops as a pass rusher, look out.  He, along with the Eli Harold / Mike Moore combo has me excited about the future of the pass rush, and that future starts in 2013.

Eli Harold brings some star power to the table.

Defensive Tackle
Everyone but Will Hill and Buddy Ruff are back, which includes Brent Urban (who could also slip back outside to end), Justin Renfrow, Chris Brathwaite, Vincent Croce, David Dean, and Marco Jones.  This has been a major focus of Mike London's recruiting since he arrived at UVA, and I think we'll start reaping the rewards of that labor in 2013.  The exciting thing is that possibly the two most talented DTs - Tyrell Chavis and Donta Wilkins - arrive as true freshmen.  I don't expect either to play in 2013, but it still represents a rising tide that will raise all boats.  In this group, I'm especially excited about Brathwaite, whose angry, aggressive playing style could set a tone for the entire defense.  (I think we'll actually see that come to bear here in 2012, as Brath earns more and more PT down the stretch.)  Losing Hill is a bit of a blow, but he hasn't distinguished himself at all this season.  In other words, it won't be too difficult to find an upgrade over what he's been giving us.

Outside Linebacker
LaRoy Reynolds is gone, to be replaced by either D.J. Hill or Demeitre Brim, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance in 2012.  At Sam, Henry Coley returns (though he might need to move back inside to the Mike), as does Daquan Romero.  Mark Hall will be a redshirt freshman in 2013, and a lot of people close to the program think that he'll make a rapid ascension into the two-deep rotation at outside linebacker.  Meanwhile, we have been recruiting the linebacker position HARD in the 2013 class, and any of the true freshman trio of Micah Kiser, Zach Bradshaw, or LaChaston Smith could push for playing time.  Roy is a big loss, but you have to like the talent we have bubbling up at outside linebacker, with four of these guys already seeing nice amounts of burn in 2012.
Verdict: PUSH.

Middle Linebacker
Steve Greer is gone, and with him goes piles upon piles of tackles.  However, Greer has never been a sideline-to-sideline playmaker, but his probable replacement - Kwontie Moore - has that potential.  It's always rough to transition from one player to the next at Mike, as it's one of those "quarterback of the defense" type of positions, so I expect some growing pains early.  If Coley moves over to start, we end up with the same issue we had with Greer -- limited athleticism.  Either way, this will be a bit of a drop-off from Greer, though Moore's upside mitigates the loss a bit.

Starters Anthony Harris and Brandon Phelps return, with the experience they gained in 2012 serving as a huge potential boon to their play in 2013.  Rijo Walker and Anthony Cooper both return as primary backups.  And ├╝ber-recruit Malcolm Cook arrives to wreck shop.  The 2013 safety unit is basically the same as it is in 2012, with the addition of a season's worth of experience, another offseason of development, and the presence of Cook.  Massive upgrades are expected.

Get used to this face.  Malcolm Cook could be an immediate star at safety.

Just like with the safeties, everyone returns.  Tra Nicholson, in his third year of extensive action. Drequan Hoskey and Maurice Canady, after a season of hard-earned experience.  C.J. Moore,  Kelvin Rainey, and Divante Walker, after a redshirt season to prepare.  And Tim Harris, Kirk Garner, and Hipolito Corporan, ready to push for action as true freshmen.  The best part about this position group is that we'll go from basically three players in the rotation to at least six, but probably seven or eight.  That's a massive and rapid influx of depth to a position that is dangerously thin in 2012.

Everyone is back.  Figures that we should see some improvement.

Special Teams
Increased depth at wide receiver, linebacker, and defensive back means increased numbers on the coverage and return units.  This is where a few of the true freshmen will play, and this is where we'll see the biggest by-product of improved talent and depth across the entire roster.  Khalek Shepherd might face a major challenge from Smoke Mizzell to be the featured return specialist.

So there you have it.  Fifteen position groups, eleven of which figure to be improved.  Issues could arise in pass protection and perimeter run blocking, and up the middle of the front seven on defense, but these are relatively small concerns compared to the uncertainty we've faced heading into each of the last three seasons.  Considering the fact that we could have as many as 10 returning starters on offense (if you consider KP a starter) and 7 returning starters on defense, 2013 could set up to be a year of vast improvement over the season that preceded it.

October 14, 2012

"Pink Slips" Rebuttal

First and foremost, if you didn't read it already, you should read Mike's "Pink Slips" post, below.

Here's my rebuttal / mixed thoughts:

1) I love Derek Dooley.  A big part of me wanted us to hire him over Mike London back in December 2009.  Don't believe me on that one?  I have proof.

2) Dooley is going to get canned at Tennessee -- they are 3-3, with upcoming games against Alabama, South Carolina, and Missouri.  UT could be a bowl team this season, but the Volunteer faithful demands more than 6-6 records.

3) I have a hard time believing Dooley would agree to come to UVA to coach special teams.  Sorry Mike.  But the concept of "associate head coach" is very interesting...

4) I love the idea of Brian Scott as OC.  But will Lazor leave?  I have a hard time believing the NFL wants him after this year's shit show at UVA.  Maybe to coach QBs?  But the longer he's away from the NFL, the more the league forgets about him.  No, I think to change OCs, we'd need to see Mike London actually hand Lazor a pink slip... which I honestly just cannot visualize.  Not after the vast offensive improvement from 2009 to 2010 and into 2011.  This year sucks, but Lazor runs a pretty good offense.  His playcalling has been suspect this season, but he's playing poker with a shitty hand.

5) The problem I currently have with Lazor is the fact that his offense is a strict timing-based offense, which is specifically unforgiving to inexperienced players, and especially inexperienced quarterbacks.  Furthermore, it doesn't lend itself well to London's style of recruiting athletes and putting them on the field.  For example, Lazor's perfect receivers are guys like Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd -- polished, veteran wide receivers in their 3rd/4th/5th seasons, who will run precise routes and make routine plays look routine.  He's not the guy who can plop a howitzer-armed QB like Phillip Sims into the offense and have him throw to former high school QBs in their second year of playing wideout and find success.  Those things just cut against the grain of all the tenets of the precision-based timing pro-style offense Lazor employs.

6) Back to Brian Scott.  My ultimate dream is to see UVA run the modern college spread.  Not the half-assed bullshit Gregg Brandon gave us as part of the lame duck 2009 coaching staff, with Jameel Sewell under center.  I want to see a spread guru handed the reins and given a fair 3-4 year window to install the scheme.

7) Leave Jim Reid alone.  The defense is coming along fine, especially given the lack of experienced playmakers along the d-line and in the secondary.  Other than against Georgia Tech, the D is not the reason we're losing these games.  Plus, Reid and London have a long history together.  You don't want to bust up that synergy, since it might be the best thing we have going for us in the coaching staff, other than Chip West's recruiting chops in the 757.

8) Yes, Dex definitely needs to be replaced as special teams coordinator.  Other moves I'd like to see:

  • Hire a real quarterbacks coach, and give Lazor the ability to go back up into the box instead of being on the field to coach the QBs.  Let him focus on seeing the game unfold and calling plays.
  • Take a long look at Shawn Moore and Vincent Brown.  Former players, not sure about the coaching chops.  We might need to trade some youthful energy for solid Xs and Os guys.
  • Marques Hagans coaching the wide receivers might be a problem.  You might need more than a graduate assistant with that position group, especially given the demands placed on the wideouts by Lazor's system.
  • You have the head coach, the strength and conditioning guy, and nine spots for full-time assistants.  The OC and the DC leaves you with seven.  QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, OL, DL, LBs, safeties, CBs, and special teams gives you ten position groups.  That means you have to have some "doubling up" of responsibilities if you don't want a GA in charge of a position group.  As I said above, the OC needs to be free and clear to call the game from the box without the burden of in-game coaching of a position group.  I think the DC can handle a position group -- in Reid's case, that would likely be his specialty, the linebackers.  Could London handle coaching the d-line, his greatest area of expertise?  Can the safeties and corners be combined into one group, the DBs?  The RBs are the easiest group to coach, and therefore that coach is usually the one who ends up with special teams.
  • With the above being said, this is how I think our coaching staff should look:
    • Mike London -- head coach / defensive line
    • Jim Reid -- defensive coordinator / linebackers
    • Bill Lazor -- offensive coordinator
    • Chip West -- defensive backs
    • Jeff Hanson -- defensive quality control
    • Scott Wachenheim -- offensive line
    • ??? -- quarterbacks
    • ??? -- wide receivers / tight ends
    • ??? -- running backs / special teams
    • Mike Faragalli -- offensive quality control
    • Evan Marcus -- director of football training and player development

The question is, will London make any of these moves?  He doesn't strike me as being especially cut-throat when it comes to his staff.  But I guess we'll see.

Meanwhile, stay tuned.  I'll have more thoughts spawned from yesterday's game assembled into a post soon...

October 13, 2012

Pink Slips

UVA hit rock bottom today. As Kendall and I sat and watched the last plays of another pitiful effort from the Hoos we came to the realization that we really don't have one thing that we can say is always going to be good. Special Teams was a joke yet again today, coverage was completely useless, and was not helped by a definite lack of pass rush. Sims looked uncomfortable running the offense today, and that staff seemed to handcuff him with the play calling. A major shake up is needed, and here are some suggestions.

Special Teams Coordinator-Derek Dooley
I have long had a fascination with Coach Dooley. He played at Virginia from 1987-1990 and was most importantly the special teams coordinator under Nick Saban from 2003-2005. It's looking like Dooley's seat is on fire it's so hot at Tennessee. If he gets fired I would swallow my pride as a coaching staff and throw all sorts of money at Dooley to come in and become associate head coach and special teams coordinator. Big problem with this? That would mean Anthony Poindexter will need to be moved, and quite honestly he might need to be moved off the staff. I love Dex, the man was a menace on the field and is a great recruiter, but he just hasn't been getting results from the positions he coaches. He needs to go. I'm sorry Dex. The two worst spots on our team are special teams and safety.

Offensive Coordinator-Brian Scott
Brian Scott is the current offensive coordinator at Old Dominion. Here's a quote for his offensive style:

"I am happy to be a part of the rebirth of Old Dominion football. Offensively we will be wide open. We'll look to recruit the top players in the state and let them showcase their ability in front of 20,000 people at Foreman Field. We will run the "spread" offense similar to Florida, and try to create mismatches for our playmakers. We will constantly put pressure on the defense with our up-tempo style of play. Our fans will be excited to watch the style of offense we will play. "

Yes please. Old Dominion set a record for all purpose yards this year. They have scored 57, 45, 70, 64, 45, and 14 points in their games this year. Yes freaking please. But in reality all I want is  someone that doesn't give up on 3rd and 8. I don't know what Bill Lazor is thinking, but his play calling this season has been baffling at times. It's almost comical. The stretch runs do not work. They just don't. Run something else. Also if you don't trust Phillip Sims to throw the ball down field, then keep him on the bench, but if you are going to play him, roll the dice and play to his strengths. If I had to guess I would think Coach Lazor will be heading back to the NFL after this season, and if I were the Hoos, I would throw an ungodly amount of money at Scott to come in and save this program.

I also think Jim Reid might need to be looked at, but I don't know who we would get. The defense is confusing as they seem to play better as the game progresses. I think Reid needs to be given a chance to play with some of these younger and faster kids, but his seat is a little warm as well.

As far as I'm concerned this season is now officially over. It's time to see what we have on the bench, and if it sucks, learn that. I think we need to see what David Watford has. We know Mike Rocco is still a noodle-armed game manager (he threw the ball on the last drive behind Shepherd, both QBs suck everyone. Fact.) Give Watford some reps, because right now, Greyson Lambert should battle Matt Johns to start next year. Let's see what Watford has. Same goes for David Dean at DT. Let's get him some snaps and see what all the hype is about. More rotation on both lines from now on. Something will stick. Move Moses off of tackle. The kid can't play there. Whether it's Whitmire or Kelby Johnson, I don't care. As long as they aren't a matador.

Today was a joke. However I don't think this season should cost Mike London his job. In fact, I'm not certain we are capable of attracting a better coach than Mike London. He is a fabulous recruiter that churns out solid young men. Which is what we need. With some tweaking on the staff I think London can turn this program into something that is both exciting and good to watch. He just needs help. Recruiting to a high flying offense will be easy and most likely successful. And a more consistent special teams product will help us immensely. But for now, let's just have try-outs for next year so we don't have to sit through this again.

October 11, 2012

Wahooze Pix - Week Seven

Last week was not really a good one for anybody, but congrats to Becky for beating all three of us!

Last Week
Becky - 4 (out of 7)
Pierce - 3
Mike - 3
Kendall - 2

Pierce - 36
Mike - 32
Kendall - 31
Guests - 29

Week 6 was a bit of a snoozer, while most of us wiffed on the majority of games, there weren't that many to begin with. Therefore, I'm mixing it up from here on out with some bonus games! Bonus games will be picked by me based on what I think are interesting matchups and are worth the same amount of points as every other game. Now that we're well into conference play, this should make up for there being fewer games to pick between.

This week's guest picker is, I believe, my only friend from the great state of New Jersey: Mr. Michael Plagienakosoeszohkos. Mikey P helped me get through grad school by joining me in routinely acting like an undergraduate. Usually we get along great, but Mike's a Yankees fan...so we're on bad terms currently. That being said, he's the nicest guy you'd ever meet and seems to have taken a general interest in ACC football when I post my blog ramblings (he stays for the pictures of kittens and puppies). Cheers to Mike, a great guy whose baseball team I hate with the white hot fury of a thousand suns.

Mike gets two pictures, because he's that complex of a figure
They both really sum him up nicely, though

UNC (-6.5) @ Miami
Heels: Pierce
Canes: Kendall, Mike, Mike P

Kendall: I think UNC is the better team, but Miami is sneaky good, themselves.  Holes 33, Canes 31.

Mike: Should be a shootout. I think the Canes can keep this close, assuming Dorsett has some stick-um.

Pierce: I'm a believer in UNC...I guess...

Mike P: Miami looked God awful last week, but I’m banking on a solid rebound win here.

Maryland @ UVA (-2.5)
Terps: Pierce
Hoos: Kendall, Mike, Mike P

Kendall: The reason Pierce leads the field in Wahooze Pix?  His willingness to pick against the Hoos, like we're doing this for money or something.  In any case, I think we win this game and win it [kinda] big.  Calling it 35-17, HOOS!

Mike: We have to be able to beat Maryland by more than this. Right?

Pierce: Nope. I learned my lesson last week. Maybe the Hoos will win by 1. But they'll probably lose by 14.

Mike P: Despite being from New Jersey, I’m going with UVA, lest I be sacrificed to Thomas Jefferson. There’s some serious false idol worship going on down there.

Duke @ VT (-10)
Blue Devils: Mike, Pierce
Hokies: Kendall, Mike P

Kendall: This is one of those rare times where I'm honestly not going to mind seeing Tech roll to a big W.

Mike: What has this world come to?

Pierce: Good lord I don't want to root for Duke, but I have to. Also Tech sucks, they wont cover.

Mike P: This ain’t March Madness. Gimme Tech by 3 scores.

BC @ FSU (-28)
Eagles: Pierce
Noles: Kendall, Mike, Mike P

Kendall: This is where we see what FSU is made of.  If they lose their edge after that disastrous loss to NC State, then we'll know they are never going to be legit under Jimbo.  I have faith in the Noles, for some weird reason.

Mike: Back on track beat down.

Pierce: Shapes up for a blowout for sure, but this spread is huge. Too big.

Mike P: BC isn’t very good, and FSU is gonna be PISSED going into this game. I’d take FSU giving double those points.

Stanford @ ND (-9)
Cardinal: Mike, Mike P
Irish: Kendall, Pierce

Kendall: Not buying this year's Stanford team, but I am buying Notre Dame.

Mike: Tempted to call a Cardinal upset, but they will at least cover.

Pierce: ND covers. Stanford is pretty good, but ND seems to be dominant.

Mike P: Upset special of the week. The Golden Domes finally drop one against a dangerous Stanford team. Can anyone tell me why Stanford’s mascot is the Cardinal? Not the Cardinals (plural), but a SINGULAR cardinal?

South Carolina @ LSU (-2)
Cocks: Everyone
Tigers: No one is taking the number 2 team in the country.

Kendall: SC is the darkhorse championship contender for this season.  Go Cocks.

Mike: Is -2 the amount of points we think LSU is going to score? JaDeveon Clowney is the perfect example of what a big time in-state kid can do for a program. (Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown, Jamil Kamara, etc...)

Pierce: Go Cocks. Little bald QB is awesome. Clowney should (but won't) win the Heisman. LSU hasn't been special.

Mike P: The Cocks have the #1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. These names are hilarious, and this video makes it even better, and a vicious defense. Tough to pick against LSU at home, but I’ll go with the team that has more talent.

Texas @ Oklahoma (-3)
Longhorns: Mike, Mike P
Sooners: Pierce, Kendall

Kendall: I just think Oklahoma is the better-coached team.

Mike: Texas D >>> Oklahoma O

Pierce: Home team. Only reason I think they win, so I'll gamble they win by 7.

Mike P: Texas looked pretty good last week against the coal mining bumpkins and possible Heisman candidate Geno Smith. I’ll take ‘em here.

Louisville (-3) @ Pitt
Cardinals: Everyone
Panthers: No one

Kendall: Only three?  This is free money.

Mike: Charlie Strong is like a good coaching Mike London. BOOM! [Ed Note: That's racist.]

Pierce: Pitt isn't as good as they looked against VT, but I don't think Louisville will be overlooking the road game challenge.

Mike P: Pitt is just bad. I’m going with the CardinalS (plural).

Bonus Game because Eff You Pierce: Syracuse @ Rutgers (-7) 

[Ed Note: No points points will be awarded to Mike for interjecting a bonus pick. Mainly because he's a Yankees fan and he can go straight to Hell with Raul Ibanez.]

Well, now we're bound to have some freaking separation.