Predictions for This Week’s Games

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Virginia Tech has a much-needed bye this week to regroup and regain focus on
next week’s all-important clash with rival Virginia. The Hokies still have a
good chance at a BCS at-large spot if they can take care of business with UVA
and UNC. Tech fans need to keep an eye on a number of games that will impact the
Hokies’ BCS fate, particularly in the SEC. I’ll run through my predictions
and talk about some probable scenarios with the teams remaining in the BCS hunt,
but first let’s take a last, painful look back at the Miami game.

In looking at last week’s projection for the game, the final stats almost
seem reversed, particularly the rushing yardage projection. Last week I stated,
“Both teams will try to control the ball on the ground with the Hokies having
a significant edge in rushing yardage. With both defenses being so dominant, the
two teams will likely have conservative game plans to prevent making the big
mistakes that could change momentum.” Obviously, Miami was successful in
performing their conservative game plan and controlling the ball on the ground,
whereas Tech was forced into looking for big plays and made key mistakes that
kept momentum with the Hurricanes. In other words, Virginia Tech was “out-Beamerballed”
by Miami.



Miami at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Miami
Projected Actual Projected Actual

First Downs
18 13 13 17

Rushing Attempts – Yards
46-163 34-77 31-96 43-152

Passing Completions – Attempts
11-21 8-22 12-25 15-25

Passing Yards
114 90 157 152

Turnovers
1 6 2 1

Sacks By
3 1 2 4

I still contend that Miami and Virginia Tech are evenly matched, but last
Saturday it was the Canes’ day and they deserve credit for coming into
Blacksburg and executing their game plan to near perfection. Enough about last
week, let’s get the crystal ball out and see what will happen this week in the
ACC and around college football.

Around the ACC

I was 3-3 last week missing the N.C. State upset of Florida State (Amato sure
has his mentor’s number) and UNC’s narrow defeat of Boston College, as well
as the Virginia Tech game. With the BC loss, FSU backs into the Atlantic
Division title and Miami controls its own destiny in the stronger Coastal
Division, but still needs wins over Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Virginia to
stay ahead of the Hokies.

Georgia Tech (6-2) at Virginia (5-3)

The Wahoos have their backs to the wall, needing a win to become bowl
eligible with Virginia Tech and Miami still to come. Georgia Tech, minus the
debacle in Blacksburg, has played very well, and if not for the bobble in the
end zone against N.C. State, would be right in the middle of the Coastal
Division race.

Virginia must find a way to slow down Georgia Tech’s ground game led by P.J.
Daniels, as well as keep Calvin Johnson from taking over the game. UVA has some
tough match-ups in this contest and losing four key players to suspension doesn’t
help. The Cavaliers need to control the ball behind their beat-up offensive
line, but Georgia Tech’s defensive line is equally beat up. Jason Snelling
getting some time at running back appears to help their inside running; however,
the key for the Hoos will likely be Marques Hagans ability to make plays. I see
a close game with the determining factor possibly being the kicking game,
particularly the field goal kickers. I predict an emotionally charged Wahoo
squad pulling out a game that will go down to the wire – Virginia by 2.

Florida State (7-2) at Clemson (5-4)

Bowden Bowl VII pits father against son in a hotly contested game that the
Tigers need to win to become bowl eligible. The biggest question in this game is
whether Clemson can slow down FSU’s passing game. The Seminoles will struggle
moving the ball on the ground with Leon Washington likely out for the game, so
look for Drew Weatherford to air it out. Clemson will try to establish the run
with the return of freshman RB James Davis. Charlie Whitehurst will play but the
Tigers don’t want to depend entirely on his injured shoulder. This should be a
tight game that will be decided late – Florida State by 1.

Miami (7-1) at Wake Forest (4-6)

Miami needs to win out to hold off Virginia Tech and has tough games with
Georgia Tech and Virginia remaining after Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are
treating this game as their “bowl game” and are looking for an upset, but
Miami is too strong on defense for Wake to given them much of a battle. The
Hurricanes may have a let down after last week’s big emotional victory, so don’t
be surprised to see the Deacons still in the game at the half. Eventually, Miami’s
ground game will wear down Wake – Miami by 16.

N.C. State (4-4) at Boston College (6-3)

Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions clash in Chestnut Hill. The
Wolfpack may have salvaged their season with last week’s upset of Florida
State, and Boston College wasn’t able to rebound from their resounding loss to
the Hokies in dropping a tight game to North Carolina. To regain momentum, BC is
switching quarterbacks, with Matt Ryan replacing Quinton Porter, and that may
help against the aggressive N.C. State defense. Ryan shows more poise and better
decision-making, but the key for BC is to establish a running game. Marcus Stone
seems to have re-energized the dormant Wolfpack offense, but the key for the
Pack’s improved play is the running game behind freshman Andre Brown. The team
that establishes the running game will likely win this game and I’m predicting
that BC’s linebackers slow down Brown and the Pack – Boston College by 7.

Maryland (4-4) at North Carolina (4-4)

A must game for both teams to play in a bowl this year. After this week,
Maryland still has BC and N.C. State on their schedule and UNC still has Duke
and VT to play. Both teams have been inconsistent throwing the ball this year,
so the key will likely be which team can establish a running game. The return of
Ronnie McGill to the Heels’ lineup has really helped their power running game,
and Lance Ball has enhanced the Terp ground attack. This game is almost too
close to call and the computer has it even. I’ll go with the home field
advantage and momentum – North Carolina by 3 in OT.

Other Big Games around the Nation

I went 7-1 last week in predicting the other big games around the nation,
only missing the Arizona thrashing of previously unbeaten UCLA. Lots of
scenarios could still place Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl. The easiest route, of
course, would be for Miami to be upset in one of their final three games (at
Wake Forest and then home against Georgia Tech and Virginia) and the Hokies to
win out, but the Canes will likely be double-digit favorites in each of these
games. Also, a Notre Dame loss would help Tech’s chances greatly, but the
Irish will be heavy favorites in their remaining three games (home against Navy
and Syracuse and on the road at Stanford).

The key conference for Hokie fans to watch is the SEC, with a number of
matchups remaining that could determine Tech’s bowl fate. The other major
conferences could be a factor, but I don’t see an at-large team coming from
the Big Ten (a 2-loss Ohio State squad would not be selected over a 1-loss
Virginia Tech team), Pac 10 (a 1-loss Oregon would still be lower than Tech), or
Big 12 (Virginia Tech would be selected over a 1-loss Texas Tech team). Lots of
big games this week that should start to shape the BCS bowl picture.

LSU (7-1) at Alabama (9-0)

The Crimson Tide has a very tough road to an undefeated season, needing wins
over LSU, Auburn, and then either Georgia or Florida in the SEC championship
game. An LSU win over Alabama puts the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the SEC
West title with remaining games against Mississippi and Arkansas. This game
looks to be a defensive struggle, so the team to generate big plays on offense
and the special teams will likely win. Bama losing their big-play threat, Tyrone
Prothro, for the season really hurts going against LSU. I just can’t see the
Tide staying undefeated and I believe the Tigers will win the SEC West – LSU
by 1.

Auburn (7-2) at Georgia (7-1)

Another tough battle in the SEC pits the tough Bulldog defense against an
improving Tigers squad. D.J. Shockley returns at QB for Georgia and that alone
may be enough for the Bulldogs to pull out the win. Auburn’s running attack
has been impressive in recent weeks and the key in this game will likely be
Georgia’s ability to slow down Kenny Irons and the Auburn ground game. Georgia
basically wins the SEC East with a victory over Auburn (the remaining game with
Kentucky should be no contest), but a loss puts them in a tie with Florida, and
the Gators win the tiebreaker. Auburn could prove to be Virginia Tech’s best
friend if they could defeat Georgia and Alabama. With the SEC championship game,
the scenario of two teams remaining with one loss or less is highly unlikely,
thus keeping the Hokies’ hopes for an at-large bid alive. In this game, I like
Georgia’s defense, and emotion should be on the Bulldogs’ side – Georgia
by 3.

Florida (7-2) at South Carolina (6-3)

The return of Steve Spurrier against his former team is the storyline behind
this game. The Gamecocks have a stout defense, but the “Cock ‘N Fire”
offense has yet to unfold. Florida still has too much ammunition for South
Carolina behind Chris Leak and the multitude of skill position players, though I
suspect that the Gamecocks will give them a tough fight – Florida by 3.

USC (9-0) at California (6-3)

The Golden Bears seem to give the Trojans their toughest game every year, but
this USC squad is tough to contain. Cal has a solid secondary, but their run
defense has been questionable, thus look for Reggie Bush and LenDale White to
have a big days. California’s only chance is if it can get into a shoot-out
with USC and I don’t see that happening – USC by 16.

UCLA (8-1) at Arizona State (5-4)

The high-powered Bruin offense was derailed last week by Arizona, so will it
recover against the Sun Devils? Arizona State’s defense has been erratic, so I
see Maurice Drew having a big day in getting UCLA back on track – UCLA by
3.

Kansas (5-4) at Texas (9-0)

Kansas has shown great improvement, particularly on defense, and some
analysts are actually giving the Jayhawks a chance. Maybe in basketball, but the
Longhorns will roll in this game, though Vince Young and the high-powered
offense might get slowed down a little bit – Texas by 33.

Colorado (7-2) at Iowa State (6-3)

The Buffalos can wrap up the Big 12 North title with a victory in Ames.
Outside of the Texas blow-out, Colorado has quietly played very well this season
behind a much-improved defense. Iowa State has been playing very well lately
behind the running of Stevie Hicks, but the Buffs defense should slow him down.
Look for Joel Klatt and company to clinch the division title in a hard-fought
battle – Colorado by 2.

Iowa (5-4) at Wisconsin (8-2)

Iowa needs a win to become bowl-eligible (their remaining game is with
Minnesota), but the Badgers are playing their hearts out for Barry Alvarez’s
last year. Iowa has been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year and will
likely struggle containing Brian Calhoun and the Wisconsin running attack – Wisconsin
by 4.

Northwestern (6-3) at Ohio State (7-2)

Can Brett Basanez and the magic act at Northwestern pull off another upset?
Freshman sensation Tyrell Sutton returns to his home state, but I doubt much
running room will be available against the stout Buckeye defense. Ohio State
simply has too much talent for the Wildcats and won’t be able to slow down the
Buckeye offense – Ohio State by 24.

Navy (5-3) at Notre Dame (6-2)

The Naval Academy’s option attack may baffle the Fighting Irish for a
while, but Notre Dame is simply too big and athletic for the Midshipmen. Look
for Notre Dame to pull away in the second half after having a struggle initially
Notre Dame by 22.

Lots of good games to keep Hokie fans interested over the weekend,
particularly in the ACC and SEC.

1-AA Games Around the State

I was 2-2 last week continuing to miss every James Madison game and also
missing Norfolk State, a traditionally weak team that is playing much better as
of late. Let’s see if I can get it right this week:

James Madison over Villanova by 10
William & Mary over Delaware by 8
Richmond over Towson by 5
Charleston Southern over Liberty by 2
Hampton over Florida A&M by 26
Delaware State over Norfolk State by 8

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