Dec 27 2011

Belk Bowl Preview

Belk Bowl History:  First played in 2002, was previously known as the Continental Tire Bowl (2002–2004) and the Meineke Car Care Bowl (2005–2010) before Belk acquired the title sponsorship this year. Features a match-up between the #5 team in the ACC and #3 team in the Big East. The ACC leads the all time record 5-4 with the Big East team winning the last 3 in a row. NC State’s only previous appearance was a 14-0 win over South Florida in 2005. This is Louisville’s first appearance in this bowl.

Stadium:  Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (capacity: 73,778 … surface: grass). Home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the ACC Championship Game.

Pack’s Opponent:  Louisville Cardinals (7-5) … 2011 Big East c0-champs. The Cardinals have made 15 prior bowl appearances in their history amassing a record of 7-7-1. They had a 9 consecutive season bowl streak from 1998 to 2006. Biggest bowl victory was in the 2007 Orange Bowl over the ACC’s Wake Forest. Last year they won the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl over Southern Miss.

Louisville Retired Numbers: #16 Johnny Unitas

Notable Louisville football alums:  David Akers, Bruce ArmstrongDeion Branch, Ray BuchananMichael Bush, Mark Clayton, Elvis Dumervil, Tom Jackson, Joe Jacoby, Sam MadisonRoman Oben, Ted WashingtonLee Corso (coach 1969-1972), and Howard Schnellenberger (coach 1985-1994).

Other notable Louisville alums:  Bob Edwards, Sue Grafton, Static Major, Mitch McConnell, Pervis Ellison, and Wes Unseld.

Head-to-Head Results: Louisville leads the all-time series with a 3-0 record. The most recent matchup was a 29-10 Louisville win in Raleigh back in 2007.

Head Coach: Charlie Strong (2nd season, 14-11 at Louisville … 14-11 career). A long time, very successful defensive coordinator that finally got his first shot at being a head coach at Louisville, named 2010 Big East Coach of the Year.

Players to Watch:

QB Teddy Bridgewater (#5, Fr.) the #2 rated QB last year that has lived up to expectations so far in his first year at Louisville. Was named the Big East Rookie of the Year and has been named to several Freshman All-American teams. Took over as the starter on Oct. 1, compiling a 5-4 record as starter and was one of the keys to the vast improvement of the Cardinals offense in the second half of the season.

WR Eli Rodgers (#82, Fr.) a high school teammates of QB Teddy Bridgewater so has made a smooth transition into the Cardinals offense. Is the second leading receiver and will have to step up in the Belk Bowl because leading receiver Michaelee Harris will miss the game due to injury.

LB Dexter Heyman (#46, Sr.) is a stat-sheet stuffer for the Cardinals defense. He leads the team with 83 total tackles (52 solo), 15.5 TFL, and 3 INTs. He also has 4 sacks and a forced fumble.

DB Hakeem Smith (#29, So.) is a playmaker in the Cardinals secondary. Is 2nd on the team with 81 total tackles (57 solo) and leads the team with 3 forced fumbles. He also has 4 TFL, 1 INT, and 1 fumble recovery.

Offensive Summary: The Cardinals offense is full of young guys that have gotten better and better as the season has progressed. They were held to 17 or fewer points in 4 of their first 6 games, but conversely have scored 27 or more points in 4 of their last 6 games. Louisville is 50/50 run pass so I expect us to throw a variety of coverages and blitzes at them to put pressure on the young guys and force them to do what we want.

Defensive Summary: The key to the Cardinals success this season has been their suffocating defense. The unit ranks no lower than 25th nationally in run defense, scoring defense, sacks and total D. They are somewhat susceptible to the pass so combine that with TOB’s recent comments that, “bullets are cheap, keep firing,” and I fully expect us to throw the ball a lot in this game.

Keys to the Game:

1. Motivation … With most bowl games it simply comes down to which team wants to be there more. We spent a lot of energy and emotion just qualifying for this bowl game so hopefully there’s still some of both in the tank to help us win this bowl game.

2. Shake off the rust … When we take the field at Bank of America Stadium it will have been 31 days since our last game. There’s going to be some rust, but hopefully we can shake it off quickly.

3. Turnovers … The key to our season has been our ball hawking defense. The 36 turnovers we forced this year was 2nd best in the country and our +14 turnover margin was 5th best. We’re 7-0 when forcing 3 or more turnovers and 0-5 when forcing 2 or less.

Prediction: All indications are that this will be a very physical, low-scoring contest that will come down to which team can limit their mistakes and best take advantage of their opportunities. Louisville is a young up-and-comer with something to prove in this game so I’m more than a little worried about this one.

Nov 25 2011

Dream Job Fail

How bad/evil are Maryland Terrapin fans? Here’s a previously unreleased photo that definitively answers that question:

While that may or may not be photoshopped, it doesn’t dispel the notion that 99% of Maryland fans suck! In my humble, yet correct, opinion they are the worst fan base in the ACC. Not just in the way they act towards opposing fans, but also in how they support their team. Maryland fans love to brag about their Terps and how much they love them, but they don’t actually back any of that up by going to the games as they’re always in the bottom of the ACC in attendance figures. Yep, that’s 72.5% capacity last year for a team that went 9-4 and finished the season ranked #23.

All that led the Terp brass to run Ralph Friedgen out of town and bring in Randy Edsall. One season into the Edsall tenure and the reviews are less than glowing and a lot of his team has turned against him. To add insult to injury, the attendance figures have only slightly improved (thanks largely to early season games against Miami and West Virginia) with an average attendance of 42,355 or 78.4% capacity. Way to go Maryland! Dream job for the win!

Head-to-Head Results: Maryland leads the all-time series with a 32-31-4 record. The Terps have been a huge thorn in the Pack’s side over the past decade winning 8 out of the last 11 including games in 2007 and last year that kept us from going to a bowl game and the ACC Championship game respectively. Even though Maryland has dominated the series recently, the games have been very competitive with only 2 of the last 11 matchups being decided by double digits (specifically 7, 4, 3, 2, 10, 6, 6, 37, 3, 7, and 7).

Head Coach: Randy Edsall (1st season, 2-9 at Maryland … 76-79 career) … led UConn to a Big East championship last year before taking his “dream job” at Maryland.

Players to Watch:

QB C.J. Brown (#16, So.) after splitting time with Danny O’Brien at QB earlier in the season, Brown is now the QB after O’Brien’s injury ended his season. Brown isn’t much of a passer, but he is very dangerous with his legs as he is second on the team with 497 yards rushing (and first with a staggering 7.8 ypc). His three 100-yard rushing games are the most ever by a Terp QB.

RB Davin Meggett (#8, Sr.) is a powerful, durable running back that has never missed a game in his Maryland career. He leads the Terps with 805 yards rushing on 156 carries (5.2 ypc) and has added 3 TDs. He’s eighth in Maryland school history with 2,320 career rushing yards.

DT Joe Vellano (#72, Jr.) is a team captain and the leader of the Terp defense. He is third on the team in total tackles (86) and, most impressively, leads the FBS in tackles by a defensive lineman (7.8 per game). He’s also forced a fumble and recovered 2 fumbles, including one he returned for a TD in the season opener against Miami. He’s posted double-digit tackles in 4 of their last 7 games.

Offensive Summary: Wolfpack Nation can rejoice that WR Torrey Smith (and his 14 catches, 224 yards, and 4 TDs last year) left early for the NFL Draft so we won’t have to sit through that nightmare again. Also, last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year QB Danny O’Brien will miss this game due to an injury. That means expect the Terps to run the ball a lot with Brown and Meggett. They’ve averaged 166.6 yards rushing per game and a 4.8 yards per carry average.

Defensive Summary: If TOB thinks he had injury problems on the defense he should check out what the Terp defense has been through this season. At one point in the season they had 8 starters on the sidelines, including one of their best players in LB Kenny Tate. They’ve had trouble stopping anybody as they’ve only held one opponent to under 161 yards rushing and only three opponents to under 400 total yards of offense. They are at the bottom in most national defensive categories including rush defense (105th out of 120; 227.6 yards per game), total defense (109th; 458.8 ypg), and scoring defense (97th; 32.27 points per game). Even though the Pack has one of the worst rushing offenses in the country (109th; 105.9 ypg) expect us to pound the ball down Maryland’s throat all day.

Keys to the Game:

1. Win the turnover margin … This is the case in most games (hello Captain Obvious), but while Maryland has been awful this year, the one thing they’ve done well is force turnovers (23 total, tied for 23rd in the FBS). Add in the equation that in the 4 games prior to last week Glennon had thrown 6 total INTs and that makes this an extra important element of this game. Reminder: State is 6-0 when forcing 3 or more turnovers and 0-5 when forcing 2 or less.

2. Get off the field … The Terps have lost the time of possession battle in every game they’ve played this season by an average of 34:42 to 25:17 (119th in the nation). One of the main reasons for that is because they’ve only converted 34.8% of their 3rd downs (105th in the nation). Over the past 3 games, in 2 wins our defense has held UNC and Clemson to 28.6% and 14.3% on 3rd down, but in our 1 loss we allowed BC to convert 45.5% on 3rd down.

3. Play with a purpose … With a bowl game on the line there is absolutely no reason for us to not come out fired up and ready to play this game. If we come out flat and just go through the motions, then TOB & Co. have yet again failed this team and this fan base.

Prediction: If we come out and jump on the Terps early, they’ll fold faster than Superman on laundry day. However, if we let them hang around they’ll gain confidence and revel in the opportunity to spoil our season. If we should lose, TOB needs to be let go before the post game presser.

Bonus: Here’s how I really feel about the Terps. (NSFW)

Nov 19 2011

Due for a “Clemsoning”

Head-to-Head Results: Clemson leads the all-time series with a 51-27-1 record (first meeting was in 1899). The series has been called the Textile Bowl since 1981 and Clemson leads the trophy series as well with a 21-9 record. Clemson has dominated the series recently with 7 wins in a row, their longest winning streak in the history of the series.

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (4th season, 28-16) … took over for Tommy Bowden midway through the 2008 season. Has Clemson in the ACC Championship Game this year for the 2nd time in his 3 full seasons.

Players to Watch:

QB Tajh Boyd (#10, RS-So.) in his first year as starter for the Tigers has played well most of the season (3,017 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs) but has struggled somewhat of late with 4 INTs in the last 2 games. He is a big, athletic, strong armed QB that can make plays with his legs so he is very tough to defend.

RB Andre Ellington (#23, RS-Jr.) is a very fast, elusive runner that is a threat to break a long run at any time.  He missed the Georgia Tech game (Clemson’s only loss) with an injury, but he is back now and fully healthy. Leads the team with 171 carries for 843 yards (4.9 ypc) and 9 TDs.

WR Sammy Watkins (#2, Fr.) hurt his shoulder last week against Wake Forest so it’s not certain that he plays. If Watkins does play his explosiveness and big play ability make the Clemson offense very dangerous. He leads the Tigers with 68 rec, 1,034 yards, and 10 TDs and even has 3 rushes of longer than 20 yards. He’s also a huge weapon on kickoff returns with 25 returns for 661 yards and 1 TD. Watkins is the odds on favorite to be the ACC Player of the Year … as a true Freshman. (note his high school’s mascot)

DE Andre Branch (#40, RS-Sr.) is a NFL caliber pass rusher off the edge for the Tigers. He currently leads the ACC with 8.5 sacks. He’s second on the team with 60 tackles as well. It’ll be a long, painful day for Mike Glennon if the Pack offensive line can’t block him.

DT Brandon Thompson (#98, Sr.) is another NFL caliber player on the defensive line for the Tigers. Defensive tackles usually don’t rack up large tackle totals, but Thompson is third on the team with 59 tackles so he wreaks a lot of havoc in the middle of the line. He also has 2.5 sacks and 5.5 TFL.

Offensive Summary: The Clemson offense has been flying high this season under new Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris averaging 37.3 points and 478.1 total yards per game. They are stocked with fast, athletic skill players that make it tough to key on just one or two guys. The offensive line is experienced, but has struggled at times protecting QB Boyd. They are turnover prone, but expect them to put up lots of points.

Defensive Summary: The defense has given up 27 points or more in 6 of their 10 games. They have several NFL prospects on the defensive line and their secondary is suspect.  The stats, however, show that they’re much better against the pass (190.1 ypg … 20th in nation) than the run (188.3 ypg … 90th). Expect us to try and run the ball to control the clock and take several shots down field throughout the game. The playcalling will have to be much more creative and aggressive than the past few games if we hope to pull off the upset.

Keys to the Game:

1. TDs not FGs … In the past 3 games the Pack offense has scored 0, 13, and 10 points. That will not cut it this week. We will have to score in the 30s to win this game so that means we cannot come out flat in the 1st quarter and we have to score TDs (not FGs) when we have scoring opportunities.

2. Force Turnovers … The Tigers offense has at times been turnover prone this year and the Pack defense is one of the best in the country at forcing them. Also, the Pack is 5-0 when forcing 3 or more turnovers this year and 0-5 when forcing 2 or less.

3. Control the Clock … Clemson has a high scoring, big play offense that can score very quickly. The best way to stop an offense like that it to keep them off the field so Mike Glennon and Co. will need to do something they haven’t been able to do all season … sustain long drives and eat up a lot of clock.

Prediction: Clemson is a surprising 9-1 and ranked #7 (AP & BCS), but the most surprising thing about their season is how they have avoided their annual “Clemsoning” … a WTF loss to a far inferior team. With only us and South Carolina left on their schedule, we are the only team that fits that description. With Clemson clinching the Atlantic Division last week and possibly looking ahead to the big rivalry game with South Carolina next week and/or the ACC Championship Game the week after, the Pack has a few more situational angles in their favor. Vegas only has Clemson as a 7.5 point favorite too. All these things give us slight hope of pulling off the upset, but I just don’t see how our offense is going to score enough to keep up.

Nov 12 2011

Atlantic Division Road Woes

TOB’s record in Atlantic Division road games is 0-12. No, that is not a typo. In 5 years as NC State head coach TOB has yet to win on the road in our division in 12 games. I think any random person could take a team and accidentally win one game in 12 tries. A mind boggling stat for sure, but one that TOB needs to put an end to this Saturday against BC if 1) he wants to make a bowl game and 2) he wants to return as NC State football coach next year. Boston College is not a tough place to play so we have to find a way to get the job done.

Stadium: Alumni Stadium (capacity 44,500)

Head-to-Head Results: BC leads the all-time series with a 3-5 record.

Head Coach: Frank Spaziani (3rd season, 18-18) … This is his 15th season on the BC coaching staff, including all 10 years of TOB’s tenure.

Players to Watch:

RB Rolandan Finch (#28, So.) missed last year with a torn ACL, but has been the workhorse of the BC offense this year as he’s filled in for injured running backs Montel Harris and Andre Williams. He leads the Eagles with 568 rushing yards on 126 carries (4.5 ypc) and 3 TDs. He’s also caught 10 passes for 81 yards. Against Maryland he had 39 carries for 243 yards and 2 TDs.

LB Luke Kuechly (#40, Jr.) is an absolute beast for the BC defense. He leads the Eagles and the nation with 150 tackles in only 9 games (16.7 tackles per game). He has 10 or more tackles in 31 straight games. He also leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. He’s a surefire All-American and likely Butkus Award winner this year so he is the engine that makes their defense run.

Offensive Summary: The Eagles have struggled on offense all season as they’ve only been able to score 18.4 points per game (113th in the country).  QB Chase Rettig has not been good at all and they have been without the services of Preseason ACC Player of the Year RB Montel Harris. The last time we traveled up to Chestnut Hill Montel Harris rushed for a BC-record 264 yards so expect the Eagles to run the ball early and often.

Defensive Summary: The BC defense is young at a lot of positions, but they have All World LB Luke Kuechly that can cover up a lot of holes. They have struggled all season with creating turnovers (only 7 INTs and 3 fumble recoveries) and getting to the opposing quarterback (only 8 sacks) so that’s two things to watch for in this game. I think we will use a very similar offensive gameplan as last week and force BC to stop the run.

Keys to the Game:

1. No UNC hangover … last week’s game was a huge emotional win for not only the team, but the entire fanbase as well. As good as TOB has been at getting the team ready to play against the Heels he’s been equally bad at getting the team to overcome the UNC hangover effect. We have to come out and match the intensity we played with last week.

2. Turnovers … we lead the nation in interceptions and our 10th in turnover margin. The big equalizer in college football is turnovers. That’s when upsets happen. If we protect the football and/or create more turnovers on defense we should be in good shape.

3. Hidden yardage … the special teams were great last week (Baumann pinned UNC inside the ten 4 times), but have been shaky at times this season. The coverage units have struggled most of the year as we’ve given up good starting field position time after time. Our defense should be able to contain the Eagles offense so we have to limit the big kickoff/punt returns and make them beat us the hard way.

Prediction: BC is not a very good team at all, but TOB has yet to win an Atlantic Division road game (0-12) in his 5 years at State. There is no reason at all to lose this game. If we do then TOB should be shown the door. I don’t care if it’s a blowout or we win by one point, you have to win this game.

Nov 5 2011

Shots Fired

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock here’s what you’ve missed this week:

All I can say is it sure has been nice to have a little spice put back into this rivalry. I could have done without the two Chancellors lamely apologizing to each other, though. If I was Randy Woodson I would have laughed in Holden Thorp’s face and told him how big a douche he is. Too harsh? C’mon, that’s why they call it a rivalry. Go to hell Carolina!!!

Head-to-Head Results: UNC leads the all-time series with a 63-31-6 record (first game was 1894), but the rivalry has been pretty even recently. The series is split 7-7 over the past 14 meetings with eight of those being decided by 8 points or less. State has won the last 4 in a row, but three of those wins were by a combined 9 points so it hasn’t been in dominating fashion. With a win this weekend, State would match its longest winning streak in the series (5 in a row from ’88 – ’92). The Vegas underdog has won 10 of the past 14 games outright and, good news, Carolina is a 3.5 point favorite in this one.

Interim Head Coach: Everett Withers (1st season, 6-3) … took over a month before the 2011 season started after Butch Davis was fired amid an NCAA investigation.

Players to Watch:

QB Bryn Renner (#2, So.) was a highly rated prep QB that has played very well for the Heels in his first year as starter. He’s completed 72.7% of his passes for 2,195 yards, 19 TDs, and 9 INTs. Had a 4 turnover game against Clemson two weeks ago, but played his best game of the season last week against Wake (21 of 28 for a career-high 338 yards and 3 TDs).

RB Giovani Bernard (#26, RS-Fr.) has been an absolute beast for the Tar Heels in the running game this year. Has 965 yards on 168 carries (5.7 ypc) including six 100-yard rushing performances to go with 11 rushing TDs. Also has 243 yards receiving and 1 TD. Will be the first Tar Heel to run for 1,000 yards in a season since Jonathan Linton did it back in 1997.

WR Dwight Jones (#26, Sr.) is a big, explosive receiver and the go-to guy for Renner and the Heels. Leads the team with 54 catches, 841 yards, and 8 TDs. Should see a lot of coverage by State’s Amerson so that will be one of the more intriguing matchups to watch.

DE Quinton Coples (#90, Sr.) is the biggest NFL prospect on the Heels defense. Right now ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has him listed #7 on his Big Board. Has great size, strength, and athleticism so will pose a big problem for the struggling NC State offensive line. Has 35 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

LB Zach Brown (#47, Sr.) is the team leader in a lot of statistical categories (62 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs, and 2 forced fumbles) on defense. He’s also another highly rated NFL prospect per Mel Kiper Jr. (#21 on the Big Board). Here’s what Kiper has to say about Brown, “An absolute flyer, isn’t big, but he can get after the quarterback, and also back up and cover like a safety.”

Offensive Summary: The Heels have a very balanced offense with some very athletic skill players so they can be very tough to defend. The winner in this series is usually the team that runs the ball best so I expect the Heels to run the ball early and often. If I was the Pack, though, I’d stack the box and make Renner beat me.

Defensive Summary: This isn’t last year’s Heels defense, but they are still very formidable.They are very active along the front seven with several NFL caliber players that can take over and dominate a game. They really struggle in the secondary, however, so expect the Pack to put pressure on them by taking some shots down the field.

Keys to the Game:

1. Good start … We have only scored 24 first quarter points all season and 0 against BCS conference opponents. We have to come out with some intensity and get on the scoreboard early.

2. Big plays … Our team (offense, defense, and special teams) has lived off the big plays. It would be nice to just grind out a win, but we don’t have the horses for that so we have to get some big plays Saturday and keep the Heels from having any big plays of their own.

3. The trenches … We have struggled the most this year on the offensive and defensive lines. On offense we haven’t protected Glennon very well and haven’t been able to run the ball consistently. On defense we have struggled stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. We have to find a way to reverse these trends.

Prediction: As much as I want the Pack to win, I just don’t see it, but it’s a heated rivalry and you never know what’s going to happen. I do know this … DFCF is gonna be loud, so apologies in advance to those that sit around me. Go Pack!

Oct 28 2011


This series has become somewhat of a rivalry over the years.  It all started back in 1998 with the Torry Holt had 5 TD game and has been back and forth ever since.  When Chuck Amato was here this game was a little more important on the schedule as shown by State’s 4-3 record in those 7 seasons.  We’ve seen a double overtime game, a game with over 80 points and 1,000 total yards, and several ESPN Thursday night showdowns.  We even had that game back in ’07 with the lightning delay.  Vegas doesn’t think this year’s game will be as entertaining as they’ve put a 19 point spread on it, but hopefully we will come out inspired and add another quality chapter to this budding rivalry.

Stadium:  Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium (capacity 82,300)

Head-to-Head Results:  FSU leads the all-time series with a 21-10 record.  State won the Primetime Thursday Night ESPN meeting last year 28-24 in thrilling come-from-behind fashion, outscoring the Seminoles 21-3 in the second half.  The Seminoles had won the 3 prior meetings, but over the past 13 meetings the series has been pretty even with FSU holding a slight 7-6 advantage and 7 of 10 being decided by a touchdown or less.

Cool Tradition:  Chief Osceola and Renegade

Head Coach:  Jimbo Fisher (2nd season, 14-7) … 2010 ACC Atlantic Division Champs

Players to Watch:

QB E.J. Manuel (#3, RS-Jr.) is a dangerous dual-threat QB that is the focal point of the offense.  He’s an accurate passer with a 64.4% completion percentage and 1455 yards with 11 TDs.  His running ability (44 carries, 132 yards, 3 TDs) adds that extra dimension to the Seminole offense making them even tougher to stop.

RB Devonta Freeman (#8, Fr.) has come on strong with two consecutive 100-yard rushing games to give a much needed boost to the FSU rushing attack.   He leads the team with 288 yards on 51 carries (5.6 ypc) and 3 TDs.  Was named ACC Rookie of the Week after his 11 carry, 100 yards, 1 TD performance last week against Maryland.

DE Brandon Jenkins (#49, Jr.) & DE Bjoern Werner (#95, So.) form what is probably the most formidable pass rushing duo in the ACC as Jenkins led the Noles in sacks last year with a whopping 21.5 and Werner leads the Noles so far this year with 6.  They will wreak havoc in the trenches and give the NC State offensive line all they can handle.

LB Nigel Bradham (#13, Sr.) is the leader of the FSU defense and will be one of the key players in this game.  He has led the Seminoles in tackles the past two seasons and leads the team again this year with 41 after big games against Duke and Maryland.

Offensive Summary:  The Seminoles have struggled running the ball all year with injuries along the offensive line and to their leading running backs, but the running game has come on strong of late.  QB E.J. Manuel seems to have returned to his early season form after the injury that forced him to miss some time.  The receivers are explosive and getting healthy so the passing game should pick up too.  Expect the Seminoles to try and take control of the line of scrimmage early, establish the run and then take their shots in the passing game.

Defensive Summary:  The Seminole defense has been very strong as they currently rank 12th in the country in total defense (291.29 ypg).  They are 6th nationally against the run giving up only 82.86 yards per game.  They are tied for 4th nationally in total sacks (25) so expect the Seminoles to pin their ears back and come after Glennon all day long.  The one area where they struggle is creating turnovers as they’ve only forced 6 turnovers (114th nationally).

Prediction:  As much as I want to believe the Wolfpack will pull out back-to-back ACC road wins, that looks like a very tall task.  We usually give the Seminoles a tough game so hopefully we can do that again this Saturday and just be in position in the 4th quarter to make some plays and win the game.

(former) Girls of the ACC:  FSU’s Jenn Sterger

Oct 21 2011

UVA CliffsNotes & Week 8 Picks

It’s been mostly quiet around here for the past two weeks.  I took off for the bye week and this week has been very hectic with being out of town for work a few days and then having dinner club and a Darius Rucker concert the past two nights. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do this week like a midseason report card, a UVA preview, an ACC standings update, the updated Spreadsheet, and of course my picks of the week.  I have to leave for UVA soon so I’m gonna give you a CliffsNotes version of everything.

Report Card

Offense:  B-  …  Glennon has been okay, but not the level TOB hyped him up to be. The RBs, O-line, and WRs have been exciting some games and disappointing others.

Defense:  D  … The defense has been bad on all levels giving up an average of 30.2 points per game.  The only reason this isn’t an F is because we’ve forced 11 turnovers largely thanks to David Amerson’s 6 INTs, which leads the country.

Special Teams:  B  …  The Freshmen have been better than expected and T.J. Graham has been our best player.  The coverage units have been very mediocre.

Coaching:  F  …  There have been injuries, but the team has seemed under prepared all season.  Coming out flat and getting behind in every game is a direct result of poor coaching.

UVA Preview

Series Record:  NC State leads 33-21-1 all time, but 0-5 last 5 games in Charlottesville (last win 1994).

Coach:  Mike London (2nd season, 8-10)

Players to Watch:  RB Perry Jones (#33, Jr.), RB Kevin Parks (#25, RS-Fr.), LB Steve Greer (#53, Jr.), CB Chase Minnifield (#13, Sr.)

Prediction:  Virginia had a huge upset win last week at home over previously undefeated Georgia Tech while we were on bye.  I think both of those play in our favor as Virginia will have to fight the letdown factor and we’ve had extra time to prepare.  Call me crazy, but I think we break the Charlottesville losing streak.

ACC Standings

The Spreadsheet

Note: It’s easier to read if you click on the full screen view link.

DFCF the Greek

#6 Wisconsin (-7) at #16 Michigan State LOSS

#11 Kansas State at Kansas (+11) LOSS

#25 Washington (+20.5) at #8 Stanford LOSS

Season Record: 11-8-2 (2-1-0 last week)

Here’s a few leans for this week: Northwestern (+4.5) L, LSU (-20.5) W, Alabama (-29.5) W, Oklahoma State (-6.5) W, and NC State (+5.5) W.  Season leans record: 15-18-0 (4-4-0 last week).

Oct 8 2011

Central Michigan Preview

Affiliation:  Mid-American Conference

Nickname:  Chippewas

Location:  Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Stadium:  Kelly/Shorts Stadium (capacity 30,255) … FieldTurf

Recent Results:  MAC Champs in 2006 under Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and again in 2007 and 2009 under Butch Jones (Cincinnati).

Head-to-Head Results:  Saturday will be the first meeting between NC State and Central Michigan, however, TOB was 2-0 against the Chippewas during his tenure at Boston College.

Head Coach:  Dan Enos (2nd season, 5-12) … Prior to CMU, Enos was coaching quarterbacks and running backs at his alma mater, Michigan State.

Returning Starters:  8 Offense, 6 Defense

Players to Watch:

QB Ryan Radcliff (#8, Jr.) is a pocket passer that is not scared to sling the ball around.  He can put up yards, but he also throws a lot of interceptions.  Last year he threw 17 TDs and 17 INTs.  So far this year those numbers are 8 TDs and 6 INTs.  He is coming off his best game of the season as last week against Northern Illinois he was 17-28 for 387 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs.

WR Cody Wilson (#11, Jr.) is the Chippewas best playmaker at the receiver position.  He led the team last year with 83 receptions for 1,137 yards and 5 TDs being named the team’s MVP.  This year Radcliff is spreading the ball around a little more so Wilson’s production is down a little, but he is still the top target as he leads the team with 22 receptions for 244 yards and 1 TD.

SS Jahleel Addae (#5, Jr.) is a Florida athlete that has been the leader of the Chippewas defense so far this season.  He leads the team in tackles (49), interceptions (3), forced fumbles (1), and fumble recoveries (1).  He’s also second on the team in tackles for loss (2.5).

Offensive Summary:  The Chippewas offense relies on passing the ball.  Expect them to run a lot of spread and get the ball out of Radcliff’s hands quickly.  For the Pack defense to stop the Chippewas they will have to get pressure on Radcliff with the front four.  Also their offense relies a lot on the big play so we must cover and tackle better than we have in recent weeks.

Defensive Summary:  The Chippewas defense is not very good.  So far this year they have allowed 398.2 yards and 32.6 points per game, both in the bottom third in the country.  They struggle against both the rush and the pass so expect the Pack to come out with a balanced offense and pile up the yards.

Prediction:  After two ugly blowout losses, the Pack needs to come out and take care of business.  TOB is in danger of losing this team and the NC State fan base so this is a must-win game.  I think we finally come out ready to play, jump on the Chippewas early, and head into the bye week with a nice comfortable win.

Sep 29 2011

Georgia Tech Preview

Georgia Tech comes into this game riding high at 4-0 and ranked #21 in the country.  They’ve beat Western Carolina (63-21), Middle Tennessee (49-21), Kansas (66-24), and North Carolina (35-28).  They have rebounded from last year’s subpar 6-7 record and look like a legitimate ACC title contender.  They will come into Carter-Finley with revenge on their minds after the 45-28 shellacking we put on them last year.

Since we played last Thursday night we have had a couple extra days to prepare for their tricky offense which can only help, and Lord knows we need all the help we can get right now.  Yes, we have a lot of injuries right now, but it’s football and injuries happen.  It’s the nature of the sport.  This is TOB’s 5th year and he’s had plenty of time to recruit “his” guys and build up depth to prevent this exact thing from happening.  Excuse me if I don’t feel sympathetic for TOB.  In 2009 he blamed the previous coaching staff for not leaving him any depth to work with, but I’m sure he’ll find a new excuse this year to direct the blame away from himself.

In this week’s ACC teleconference (available in iTunes), Paul Johnson nailed it, “They’re gonna do their stuff … they don’t vary very much … they have a system they’re gonna run.”  I think this hints at the underlying problem about TOB as a coach – he’s stubborn to a fault can’t make adjustments.  Yeah, he can make adjustments at halftime or during the bye week of the season, but sometimes if you wait that long to make adjustments you’ve already lost the game and/or the season.  But what the hell do I know, I’m just a blogger.

Georgia Tech is still a very young team with only 11 scholarship Seniors on the team and 12 returning starters (7 offense, 5 defense) from last year including players to watch QB Tevin Washington, RB Orwin Smith, and WR Stephen Hill.  [Note: I normally try to highlight at least one person from each side of the ball in players to watch, but this game will be all about the Pack Defense stopping the Jacket Offense.  If you want a couple defenders to watch … LB Julian Burnett (#40, Jr.) & LB Jeremiah Attaochu (#45, So.)]

Head-to-Head Results:  Georgia Tech owns the series with a 17-10-0 overall record.  State won last year 45-28 in Atlanta, a coming out party for the Pack that showed just how good we were, and has won 2 of the last 3 meetings.  State has only beat Georgia Tech once in Raleigh since 1994, however, and that was the ESPN Thursday night game in 2000.

Head Coach:  Paul Johnson (4th season, 30-14 at GT … 137 -53 career) … 2009 ACC Champs, now vacated

Players to Watch:

QB Tevin Washington (#13, RS-Jr.) did a solid job starting the final 4 games last year for injured QB Josh Nesbitt.  He held off 2 Freshmen in Spring and Fall to retain the starting job for this year.  He’s not the running threat that Nesbitt was, but he’s way better at throwing the ball which brings another dimension to this offense and makes it all the more tough to defend.  Through the first 4 games, he’s averaging 36.5 yards rushing per game and 205.2 yards passing per game with 12 total TDs (4 rushing, 8 passing).  His passing efficiency rating is an astounding 286.6.

RB Orwin Smith (#17, Jr.) is the Jackets leading rusher and kick returner. He’s a very strong, straight-line runner that is also dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield.  He has 349 yards on 19 carries for a whopping 18.4 yards per carry average.  He also has 5 catches for 172 yards, a 34.4 yards per catch average.  On top of that he has an 18.2 yard average kick return.  He also leads the Jackets with 180.2 all purpose yards per game.

WR Stephen Hill (#5, Jr.) is very big and athletic, fitting the mold of past great Georgia Tech wide receivers (eg. Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, etc.). He doesn’t get many opportunities in this triple option attack, but he’s made the best of the ones he’s got so far this year.  As the Jackets’ leading receiver he may only have 14 receptions, but those receptions have gone for 462 total yards (33.3 yards per catch average) and 4 TDs.

Offensive Summary:  Last year Georgia Tech led all FBS schools in rushing, but was next to last in passing.  Being one dimensional made it easier for opponents to defend their triple option attack and they struggled. This year they are much better, in large part because they are 2nd in the nation in rushing (398.8 ypg) and 62nd in passing (231.8 ypg) for a combined 630.6 ypg (tops in the nation by almost 40 ypg).  They scored on the very first offensive play (5 yd run, 73 yd pass, and 95 yd run) in their first 3 games and have 8 total scoring plays of over 60 yards.  Against the Pack’s struggling defense, expect the Jackets to continue pilling up video game-like stats.

Defensive Summary:  The Jackets had a learning curve season last year on defense as they switched to a base 3-4 under new Defensive Coordinator Al Groh. The defense is playing much better so far this year.  They are giving up 334.3 ypg, which is just slightly over half the yardage their prolific offense is putting up. They have also generated 8 turnovers.  Expect the Jackets to bring a lot of different blitzes to further confuse the Pack’s O-line that has already given up 14 sacks and has struggled mightily in opening running lanes this year.

Prediction:  It’s hard to see anything other than an easy Georgia Tech win.  The Pack defense can’t stop anybody and the Pack offense can only score on big plays. This is college football, though, so anything is possible.  For the Pack to pull off the big upset win they will have to get a score on defense/special teams, sustain offensive drives to keep the defense off the field as much as possible, and limit Georgia Tech’s big plays.  It will be a tall task so let’s see what they can do.

Aug 27 2011

Cincinnati Preview

Affiliation:  Big East

Nickname:  Bearcats

Stadium:  Nippert Stadium (capacity 35,097) … 4th oldest playing site in college football (since 1901)

Recent Results:  Went to back-to-back BCS bowl games in ’08 and ’09 under previous coach Brian Kelly.  Only prior meeting between State-Cincy was last year’s 30-19 win by the Pack.

Head Coach:  Butch Jones (2nd season at Cincinnati, 4-8)

After the 3 best seasons in school history (10-3 in ’07, 11-3 in ’08, and 12-1 in ’09) the Bearcats took a huge step back last year to a 4-8 record.  Their offense was one of the best in the Big East and their defense was middle of the pack so they shouldn’t have been that bad.  Enter the ugly T word that all college football coaches hate like the devil … turnovers.  They coughed up 29 giveaways, while only managing 14 takeaways for a -15 turnover margin good for 2nd worst in the FBS (and a 24 turnover swing from ’09).  A regression to the mean in the turnover department combined with repeat performances every where else would put the Bearcats back in a bowl game and the mix for the Big East title.

This year’s team returns 15 starters (5 offense, 10 defense) including players to watch QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, and LB J.K. Schaffer.

QB Zach Collaros (Senior) is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback.  He started 4 games in 2009 (1,434 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs … 344 yards rushing, 4 TDs) in replace of injured starter Tony Pike keeping the Bearcats’ undefeated season intact.  Big things were expected of him last year and, while he largely disappointed, he was still good enough (2902 yards, 26 TDs, 14 INTs … 202 yards rushing, 4 TDs) to be selected 1st team All-Big East.

RB Isaiah Pead (Senior) is a tough, small back that will be the workhorse of the running game.  Last year he rushed for 1,029 yards, 6 TDs and added 190 yards, 1 TD through the air earning him 2nd team All-Big East honors.  Several pundits, way smarter than myself, expect him to have a huge year and possibly break the Cincinnati single season rushing record of 1,361 yards.  Pead could be in for a big day against our already shaky defensive line playing without DT J.R. Sweezy for this game.

LB J.K. Schaffer (Senior) is the unquestioned leader of the defense as the Bearcats top tackler two years running (100 tackles in ’09, 111 tackles in ’10).  To go along with those tackles he had 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, and 2 forced fumbles earning him 2nd team All-Big East honors last year.

Offensive Summary:  Cincy gained more yards and scored more points last year than any other offense in the Big East.  Against the Pack, however, they struggled mightily all game.  We will try to do a lot of the same that we did last year (see pic below), but Cincy will be looking for a little revenge.  Expect them to run a lot of read-action out of their shotgun spread offense and keep pressure on our back seven to stay disciplined and make plays.

Defensive Summary:  The Bearcats defense struggled last year due to youth and inexperience.  This year they return almost everybody so they should be much improved.  They run a 4-3 base defense with a lot of zone coverages, very similar to our base defense.  Expect the defensive line to take up blockers, clog running lanes, and leave the linebackers free to make plays.  Our offensive line must play well to give us a chance.

Prediction:  We absolutely dominated the game last year in Raleigh, but it will be very tough to repeat that.  Both teams have a short week to prepare for the game which always benefits the home team.  This will be Glennon’s first game under the prime time ESPN lights and first true hostile road environment (let’s face it, Wake is anything but hostile) so chances are he will struggle.  This game will be a tough test for the Pack … the first one that not having Russell Wilson could ultimately cost us in the W column.

Note:  This is the final game preview that I’ll do before the season starts.  I’ll post all others the week of the respective game.