2006 Game Projection: Virginia Tech at Boston College (and Others)

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Senior center Danny McGrath did a nice job summing up the importance of the
Boston College game in an interview on Tuesday, “I think the common thought
around here is that this one decides whether we’re going to Boise or Georgia.
And, of course, we’re still in the race for the title. So the better thought
is that we still have everything to play for. We’ve made a lot of great
memories here for us and the fans over the last two years, and we haven’t been
undefeated for any of those. So hopefully we can get us a win at Boston College
and set ourselves up for great October to put us right back in the thick of
things.”

The ESPN Thursday night game this week could not be any more important for
both Virginia Tech and Boston College. Either team’s season could change
dramatically with a win or loss after this game, so expect a hard-hitting,
aggressive game. The Hokies need to rebound from a stunning 38-27 loss to
Georgia Tech, and another loss would all but put Virginia Tech out of the
Coastal Division race. Boston College looked to be in good shape in the Atlantic
Division after defeating Clemson 34-33 in double overtime, but a last second
loss to N.C. State means the Eagles cannot afford a loss either. Two highly
motivated squads will face off tonight in Chestnut Hill.

Virginia Tech has a couple of interesting streaks on the line tonight, with
an amazing nine straight conference road victories since joining the ACC in
2004. Also, the Hokies have won 12 straight Thursday night games on ESPN. Tech’s
only loss on Thursday night came in 1995 against Boston College in Jim
Druckenmiller’s debut. The “intangibles” seem to be pointing to a Virginia
Tech victory, but Boston College has plenty of motivation as well, seeking
revenge for a 30-10 loss on Thursday night last year in Blacksburg. The Hokies
dominated the line-of-scrimmage in that game, and the Eagle linemen are looking
for redemption.

Boston College is led by quarterback Matt Ryan (#12, 6-5 218, r-Jr.) who
leads the ACC in passing yardage, followed closely by Sean Glennon. Both Boston
College and Virginia Tech have had difficulty this season in establishing a
consistent running game, so both teams are going to the air more this season.
The Eagles have a solid receiving corps led by wideout Tony Gonzalez (#26, 5-10
202, r-Sr.), but they lack a big-play receiver that opposing defenses must
prepare for specifically. When BC does run, the Eagles have a pair of quality
running backs in L.V. Whitworth (#30, 5-11 216, r-Jr.) and Andre Callender (#32,
5-11 204, r-Jr.). The offensive line is solid, as always, led by second-team
All-ACC guard Josh Beekman (#75, 6-1 321, r-Sr.) who is a tremendous drive
blocker, and massive tackles James Marten (#70, 6-8 307, r-Sr.) and Gosder
Cherilus (#77, 6-7 318, r-Jr.).

Defensively, Boston College has a huge defensive line, averaging over 300
pounds a man, so running the ball on the Eagles will be difficult. B.J. Raji
(#90, 6-1 340, Jr.) is a force in the middle and Nick Larkin (#57, 6-4 250,
r-Jr.) is a solid defensive end. The linebackers are athletic and aggressive,
led by Brian Toal (#16, 6-0 232, Jr.) who is nursing two sore shoulders, but
should play tonight, and former running back Jolonn Dunbar (#40, 6-0 233,
r-Jr.). The secondary is physical and is led by honorable mention All-ACC safety
Jamie Silva (#44, 5-11 208, r-Jr.). DeJuan Tribble (#27, 5-9 190, r-Jr.) is the
best cover man in the secondary.

Tribble is also a very good punt returner and Boston College has one of the
most dangerous kickoff return specialists in the nation in true freshman Jeff
Smith (#6, 5-9 190). Smith runs a 4.3 40 and is a former high school sprint
champion, so Jared Develli needs to keep the ball out of his hands tonight.
Boston College is also replacing their field goal kicker, as starter Ryan
Ohlinger is suspended. He will be replaced by walk-on sophomore Steve
Aponavicius (#83, 5-10 175) who has virtually no experience. Special teams are
almost always a factor when Virginia Tech meets Boston College, and this game
will be no exception.

These teams seem very evenly matched and both have a great deal of motivation
for this game. Boston College has a knack for playing close games and I see this
one being similar. However, I believe the kicking game may be the difference,
with Virginia Tech pulling out the win on a late Brandon Pace field goal. Virginia
Tech wins 20-17.

Around the ACC

I maintained my consistency in missing one ACC game each week, going 4-1 last
week. My only loss was the East Carolina destruction of UVA in Greenville; maybe
I should throw the proverbial towel in on Virginia’s season like many of the
Wahoo fans. My record for the season is now 35-10 in the ACC, for what it’s
worth. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Clemson at Wake Forest Clemson by 18 Clemson 27, Wake Forest 17
Maryland at Georgia Tech Georgia Tech by 12 Georgia Tech 27, Maryland 23
North Carolina at Miami Miami by 22 Miami 27, North Carolina 7
Virginia at East Carolina Virginia by 9 East Carolina 31, Virginia 21
Duke at Alabama Alabama by 30 Alabama 30, Duke 14

Temple (0-6) vs. Clemson (5-1)

The hapless Owls travel to Charlotte, NC to face Clemson in the other
Thursday night game involving an ACC team. This one should get ugly early, as
the Tigers are just too strong up front for Temple. Al Golden has to be
wondering which is worse — coaching Temple or coaching with Al Groh? Just
kidding… Clemson by 42 (42-0)

Maryland (3-2; 0-1) at Virginia (2-4; 1-1)

Speaking of Al Groh… The Virginia program is on a downward spiral after a
devastating loss to the East Carolina Pirates, while Ralph Friedgen’s
Terrapins will try to rebound after losing a tough game to the Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets. Both teams desperately need a win to turn their season around.
Maryland controlled the line-of-scrimmage last year and literally ran the ball
down the Cavaliers’ throat, so I would expect a similar game plan this year.
The Terps are hurt badly by a sub-par receiving corps, so expect the Hoos to
stack the line with eight or nine in-the-box to stop the run. Virginia, on the
other hand, is struggling on offense, but the return of receiver Deyon Williams
should help. I could easily see Maryland winning this game in a rout or Virginia
rebounding behind a big defensive effort. I am going with the defense and
picking the Wahoos to pick up a surprising win. Virginia by 9 (23-14)

Wake Forest (5-1; 1-1) at N.C. State (3-2; 2-0)

A huge Atlantic Division contest has the surprising Demon Deacons traveling
to Raleigh to face the resurgent Wolfpack. Wake Forest gave Clemson all they
could handle before a late fourth quarter rally did the Deacons in, while N.C.
State is coming off comeback wins over Boston College and Florida State, in
effect saving Chuck Amato’s job. The Pack’s offense has suddenly found life
behind legacy QB Daniel Evans and a rejuvenated receiving corps. Wake’s
defense is vastly improved, but the diversity of N.C. State’s offense, behind
the running of Andre Brown and Toney Baker, and receiving of Darrell Blackman,
John Dunlap, and Geron James, may prove too much. The Deacons will need to
control the ball behind the running of De’Angelo Bryant and short passing game
of Riley Skinner, but in the end I believe State has too much talent for the
scrappy Wake Forest squad. N.C. State by 9 (30-21)

Florida State (3-2; 1-2) at Duke (0-5; 0-3)

Duke put a scare in Alabama last week behind a great defensive effort in the
first half, so the Blue Devils are still trying. Florida State continues to
struggle behind an inconsistent offense and a defense that is not playing up to
the Seminoles’ standards. However, FSU still has way too much team speed for
Duke to provide much of a fight. Look for the Blue Devils to stay in the game
for a half, but the Noles will pull away in the second half. Florida State by
21 (31-10)

South Florida (4-2) at North Carolina (1-4)

The Bulls could put the nail in the coffin of John Bunting’s coaching
tenure at UNC with a victory in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have struggled
stopping the run and, in particular, stopping the option. USF is a very good
option team, so this match-up looks bad for North Carolina. South Florida is not
that strong defensively, so UNC should be able to put some points on the board,
but I do not believe they will be able to keep up with ground game of the Bulls
in the end. The last of the UNC faithful will jump off the ship after this one. South
Florida by 1 (31-30)

Florida International (0-6) at Miami (3-2)

The struggling Hurricanes play a much-needed pansy as Don Strock’s Golden
Panthers invade Coral Gables. Miami’s defense has looked better in the last
couple of weeks in stopping Houston and North Carolina, while FIU has struggled
offensively after upgrading their schedule. The Panthers will be hard-pressed to
score in this game and the improving Hurricane running game will control the
ball. Miami by 35 (35-0)

Other Big Games around the Nation

I was up-and-down last week hitting a couple of upsets and missing some
others. Overall, I finished 12-3, missing the surprising Tennessee/Georgia game,
the Texas Tech self-destruction against Missouri, and Arkansas running over
Auburn. Amazingly, I recorded all three of those games because I thought
something unusual might happen. My record for the season is now 90-8. Not a lot
of big game this weekend, with the Florida/Auburn game looking like the best of
the bunch, but I have a few upsets picked. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
LSU at Florida Florida by 3 Florida 23, LSU 10
Texas vs. Oklahoma Texas by 8 Texas 28, Oklahoma 10
Tennessee at Georgia Georgia by 5 Tennessee 51, Georgia 33
Oregon at California California by 7 California 45, Oregon 24
Missouri at Texas Tech Texas Tech by 14 Missouri 38, Texas Tech 21
Bowling Green at Ohio State Ohio State by 42 Ohio State 35, Bowling Green 7
Washington at USC USC by 37 USC 26, Washington 20
Arkansas at Auburn Auburn by 15 Arkansas 27, Auburn 10
West Virginia at Miss. State WVU by 24 WVU 42, Mississippi State 14
Michigan State at Michigan Michigan by 19 Michigan 31, Michigan State 13
Louisville at Middle Tenn. Louisville by 27 Louisville 44, MTSU 17
Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame by 30 Notre Dame 31, Stanford 10
Purdue at Iowa Iowa by 11 Iowa 47, Purdue 17
Louisiana Tech at Boise St. Boise State by 29 Boise State 55, La. Tech 14
Nebraska at Iowa State Nebraska by 3 Nebraska 28, Iowa State 14

Florida (4-0; 6-0) at Auburn (3-1; 5-1)

The Gators appear to be in the driver’s seat in the SEC race with their big
victory over LSU and Arkansas’ upset of Auburn last week. Florida’s defense
shut down the LSU running game and the Gators will need a similar effort against
Auburn. Tim Tebow is emerging as a star of the future and Florida fans are
thinking about the national title game. Auburn’s normally strong defense could
not slow down the running game of Arkansas, but Florida does not provide the
same type of threat, with the Gators’ best running threat possibly being Tebow.
I see a much better effort from the Tiger defense this week, and the key for
Auburn is the running game behind Kenny Irons. I believe this game will be a
typical SEC slugfest with Auburn rebounding from last week and pulling off the
upset. Auburn by 1 (17-16)

Michigan (6-0; 3-0) at Penn State (4-2; 2-1)

The Nittany Lions are looking for revenge for last year’s last second loss
to the Wolverines that knocked Penn State out of the national title picture.
This game reminds me of last year’s “white out” game with Ohio State that
created an incredible environment in State College. Michigan has looked strong
in all aspects this year, while Penn State is breaking in a new secondary and
the offense is inconsistent behind first-year starter Anthony Morelli at
quarterback. However, the Nittany Lions have shown steady improvement after the
Notre Dame debacle and I believe this game is set up to have huge upset
potential. I see Penn State making enough big plays in the passing game and
Michigan, playing without their big-play receiver Mario Manningham, struggling
to move the ball consistently on Penn State. I am going with Penn State in one
of the bigger upsets of this season. Penn State by 1 (24-23)

UCLA (4-1; 2-1) at Oregon (4-1; 2-1)

The best Pac-10 contest has the Bruins traveling to Eugene to play the Ducks.
Oregon needs to rebound from the thumping they took from California, while UCLA
has yet to be really tested. I believe the Oregon ground game behind Jonathan
Stewart will be too tough for UCLA and the Bruins will struggle on offense with
the loss of quarterback Ben Olsen to a knee injury. Oregon by 14 (27-13)

Missouri (6-0; 2-0) at Texas A&M (5-1; 1-1)

The best Big 12 game sees the surprising Tigers traveling to College Station
to face the Aggies. In the past couple of weeks Texas Tech defeated A&M in
College Station and Missouri beat the Red Raiders in Lubbock, so naturally
Missouri should be able to defeat Texas A&M, right? Logic seldom applies to
college football, and Missouri is ready to have their bubble burst. The Tigers
win over Texas Tech was more of a result of mistakes by the Red Raiders (two
interceptions returned for TDs) than dominance by Missouri, so I am predicting
the Aggies to break the Tigers’ winning streak. Texas A&M by 2 (26-24)

Rutgers (5-0) at Navy (5-1)

The Scarlet Knights resurgence has been a great story, but Rutgers has some
weaknesses that can be exploited, particularly their defense against the run.
Navy, of course, has a tremendous option running game and should be able to
control the ball against the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers will need a huge game from
Ray Rice and Brian Leonard to overtake the Midshipmen, but I see the Naval
Academy pulling off the big upset and giving the team from New Jersey their
first loss. Navy by 7 (31-24)

Other games involving ranked teams:

  • Ohio State over Michigan State by 16 (33-17)
  • USC over Arizona State by 29 (49-20)
  • West Virginia over Syracuse by 22 (35-13)
  • Texas over Baylor by 38 (45-7)
  • Louisville over Cincinnati by 29 (35-6)
  • California over Washington State by 8 (31-23)
  • Iowa over Indiana by 19 (28-9)
  • Georgia over Vanderbilt by 17 (27-10)
  • LSU over Kentucky by 32 (42-10)
  • Boise State over New Mexico State by 28 (42-14)
  • Nebraska over Kansas State by 11 (28-17)
  • Oklahoma over Iowa State by 21 (31-10)
  • Arkansas over Southeast Missouri State by 53 (56-3)

1-AA Games Around the State

For the 1-AA schools in the state of Virginia, I was 6-0 in my predictions
for last week which makes me 28-4 for the season. In all honesty, last week’s
games didn’t have many close contests, but this week should be much tougher.
Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
William & Mary at Massachusetts Massachusetts by 9 Massachusetts 48, W&M 7
Richmond at New Hampshire UNH by 11 UNH 27, Richmond 17
Rhode Island at James Madison JMU by 25 James Madison 35, URI 23
VMI at Army Army by 31 Army 62, VMI 7
Norfolk State at South Carolina State SC State by 16 SC State 47, Norfolk St. 10
Hampton at Central State (OH) Hampton by 42 Hampton 42, Central St. 12

James Madison and Richmond get to trade opponents from last week as the Dukes
will test the #1 ranked 1-AA team, New Hampshire. By the way, I have New
Hampshire rated higher than UVA right now. Hopefully, JMU can give the Wildcats
a game.

  • New Hampshire over James Madison by 9 (30-21)
  • Richmond over Rhode Island by 16 (23-7)
  • William & Mary over Liberty by 18 (38-20)
  • Hampton over Norfolk State by 26 (42-16)
  • Coastal Carolina over VMI by 17 (31-14)

Come to Champs to watch the BC game if you are in the ‘burg!

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