2006 Game Projection: Virginia Tech vs. Southern Miss (and Others)

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Virginia Tech is badly in need of a victory after the disappointing
performance in Chestnut Hill last week. Much has been made of the personal
fouls, turnovers, bickering between players, and ESPN commentary, but now is the
time for the team to come together. Normally a non-conference game for
homecoming has little effect on the season other than the rankings, but Southern
Miss has now become a critical game, and the team will either pull apart or come
together after this game. I expect to see a fired up Hokie squad on Saturday
night and I believe we will see a rejuvenated Virginia Tech team give their best
effort.

Southern Miss is a dangerous team to face at any time, but this is not a team
that you want to face following two straight losses. However, the Golden Eagles
have been hit by a rash of injuries, including their sensational freshman
running back Damion Fletcher. USM is down to their fifth tailback, with two
others taking personal leave and one quitting the team before the season.
Normally, Southern Miss likes to establish the run behind an option attack, but
the loss of the running backs may force the Golden Eagles to the air.

Quarterback Jeremy Young (#10, 6-3 215, r-Jr.) shows a good touch and
excellent mobility, though he has been slowed by a turf toe injury. If USM does
go to a passing attack, we may see Michigan State transfer Stephen Reaves (#12,
6-1 210, r-Jr.) who started a couple of games for the Spartans before being
replaced by Drew Stanton. The main receiving target is tight end Shawn Nelson
(#1, 6-5 238, r-So.) who had a tremendous freshman season, but has been slowed
by a high ankle sprain this year. Protecting the quarterbacks will be the most
experienced offensive line in college football this year, with the most
returning starts of any team. The line is lead by all-everything right guard
George Batiste (#70, 6-5 300, r-Sr.), but will miss his counterpart Travis
Cooley (#55, 6-2 295, r-Sr.) at the other guard because of a knee injury.

Even though they are banged up, the Southern Miss offense is still dangerous.
The defense is athletic and aggressive, providing many different looks with a
number of different personnel packages. The best player on the Golden Eagle
defense is strong safety Brandon Sumrall (#6, 5-11 195, Jr.) who makes plays all
over the field. Cornerback Jasper Faulk (#21, 5-10 190, r-Sr.) is another player
to watch in the secondary. USM rotates a number of players in their front seven
and will often give different looks at the line-of-scrimmage, including an
occasional “chaos” look in which the players do not appear to be lining up
at any specific position.

Virginia Tech should be ready to play, and having a night game in Lane
Stadium is a huge advantage for the Hokies. Tech needs to start fast and
establish momentum right away to keep the crowd alive. Look for the Hokies to
use a varied attack with Brandon Ore being the focal point for the offense.
Defensively, Tech needs to take away the run and force Southern Miss to be a
passing team. I see the Hokies controlling the ball and winning a physical ball
game. Virginia Tech wins 27-6.

Around the ACC

Not one of my better weeks in the ACC as I went 4-3 last week, though I did
hit the Miami/Florida International game on the nose. My misses were the Hokie
loss at BC, Maryland’s rally over UVA, and Wake Forest’s exciting win over
N.C. State. My record in the ACC falls to 39-13 for the year. Here are the
results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Virginia Tech at BC Virginia Tech by 3 BC 22, Virginia Tech 3
Clemson vs. Temple Clemson by 42 Clemson 63, Temple 9
Maryland at Virginia Virginia by 9 Maryland 28, Virginia 26
Wake Forest at N.C. State N.C. State by 9 Wake Forest 25, N.C. State 23
Florida State at Duke Florida State by 21 Florida State 51, Duke 24
South Florida at UNC USF by 1 South Florida 37, UNC 20
Florida International at Miami Miami by 35 Miami 35, FIU 0

Georgia Tech (5-1; 3-0) at Clemson (6-1; 3-1)

The two top teams in the ACC square off in a hard-hitting battle that could
be a preview of the ACC Championship Game. The real test will be the Tigers’
offensive line against the defensive front of Georgia Tech. Clemson will try to
establish their running game behind James Davis and C.J. Spiller, but KaMichael
Hall, Philip Wheeler, and crew will have something to say about that. Reggie
Ball needs to have a big day and Calvin Johnson will present a huge problem for
Clemson’s secondary, but I see Georgia Tech having some trouble moving the
ball consistently on the Tigers. Ultimately this game will come down to big
plays and I believe Clemson’s offensive line and running backs will be the
difference. Clemson by 17 (34-17)

Boston College (5-1; 2-1) at Florida State (4-2; 2-2)

Both teams need this win badly to stay in the race for the Atlantic Division,
particularly if Clemson defeats Georgia Tech. Matt Ryan is questionable with a
foot injury, and his play is imperative if BC is going to have a chance against
the swarming FSU defense. While the Seminoles appear to be having a down year,
Florida State still has a lot of talent, and their speed will present problems
for BC. Without Ryan I don’t see the Eagles having a chance, but BC’s
defense is underrated and could keep them in the game. However, the speed of
Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith will be trouble for the Eagle defense. I see BC
keeping it close provided Ryan plays, but FSU wins this one at home. Florida
State by 2 (23-21)

N.C. State (3-3; 2-1) at Maryland (4-2; 1-1)

A critical game for two teams trying to stay in the Atlantic Division race
has the Wolfpack traveling to College Park to face the Terps. Both teams were
involved in nail-biters last week and I would expect the same this week. N.C.
State has been resurgent behind quarterback Daniel Evans, but the key for the
Pack is to run the ball with Andre Brown and Toney Baker. Likewise the Terps
need to run the ball behind Lance Ball, so the winner will likely be the team
that can establish the running game. I like Maryland’s defense at home, so I
will go with the Terps in a close game. Maryland by 6 (27-21)

Miami (4-2; 1-1) at Duke (0-6; 0-4)

Miami needs to regroup and focus on the remainder of the season, so what
better remedy than facing the Blue Devils of Duke. By my count, the Hurricanes
only lost three starters as a result of the fight with Florida International,
but two of those are in the secondary (Brandon Meriweather and Randy Phillips)
and four of the suspended players were back-ups in the secondary. If Duke can
throw the ball effectively they might be able to put some points on the board
against Miami. Offensively, Miami is near full strength, so I expect the
Hurricanes to come out fired up and score early. While many predictions have
Duke possibly pulling off the upset, I do not see that happening. Miami by 23
(37-14)

Other Big Games around the Nation

I had another up-and-down week, hitting a couple of upsets and missing some
others. Overall, I finished 14-4, missing the Michigan/Penn State game with the
Wolverines knocking out two Nittany Lion QBs, Rutgers sinking of Navy, Indiana’s
upset of Iowa, and Vandy’s surprising last second win at Georgia. My record
for the season is now 104-12. The biggest game on the slate for this week is
likely the Big 12 Championship Game preview with Nebraska hosting Texas. Here
are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Florida at Auburn Auburn by 1 Auburn 27, Florida 17
Michigan at Penn State Penn State by 1 Michigan 17, Penn State 10
UCLA at Oregon Oregon by 14 Oregon 30, UCLA 20
Missouri at Texas A&M Texas A&M by 2 Texas A&M 25, Missouri 19
Rutgers at Navy Navy by 7 Rutgers 34, Navy 0
Ohio State at Michigan State Ohio State by 16 Ohio State 38, Michigan State 7
Arizona State at USC USC by 29 USC 28, Arizona State 21
Syracuse at West Virginia WVU by 22 WVU 41, Syracuse 17
Baylor at Texas Texas by 38 Texas 63, Baylor 31
Cincinnati at Louisville Louisville by 29 Louisville 23, Cincinnati 17
California at Washington St. California by 8 California 21, Washington St. 3
Iowa at Indiana Iowa by 19 Indiana 31, Iowa 28
Vanderbilt at Georgia Georgia by 17 Vanderbilt 24, Georgia 22
Kentucky at LSU LSU by 32 LSU 49, Kentucky 0
Boise St. at New Mexico St. Boise State by 28 Boise St. 40, New Mexico St. 28
Nebraska at Kansas State Nebraska by 11 Nebraska 21, Kansas State 3
Iowa State at Oklahoma Oklahoma by 21 Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 9
SE Missouri St. at Arkansas Arkansas by 53 Arkansas 63, SE Missouri St. 7

Texas (6-1; 3-0) at Nebraska (6-1; 3-0)

This match-up may be a preview of the Big 12 Championship Game as the
Cornhuskers host the Longhorns. Hard to believe that the difference in this game
may be the passing of the two quarterbacks, Zac Taylor for Nebraska and the
improving Colt McCoy for Texas. The Horns have more playmakers at receiver and
running back, which should offset the experience advantage for Taylor. I believe
Texas is too strong for the Huskers in the trenches and ultimately that
advantage will be the difference in the game. Texas by 13 (27-14)

Iowa (5-2; 2-2) at Michigan (7-0; 4-0)

The Hawkeyes are looking for revenge for last year’s overtime victory by
the Wolverines, but Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and crew will be tough to beat in the
big house. Michigan’s secondary, led by Leon Hall, is greatly improved and
should slow down Drew Tate. The defensive front headed by Lamar Woodley is much
more focused this year, making it difficult for Iowa to move the ball. Look for
Hart to have a big day, though the Hawkeye defense will be tough as always. Michigan
by 13 (23-10)

Rutgers (6-0; 1-0) at Pittsburgh (6-1; 2-0)

The first big game in the surprising Big East sees Dave Wannstedt’s
resurgent Pitt Panthers host the undefeated Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is
for real, but Tyler Palko is playing phenomenally well, and I am still
suspicious of the Scarlet Knight defense, even though they totally shut down the
potent Navy running game last week. The speed of the Pitt defense should slow
down Ray Rice and Brian Leonard and the Panthers will pick up the win at home. Pittsburgh
by 13 (30-17)

Alabama (5-2; 2-2) at Tennessee (5-1; 1-1)

The best SEC game will pit two heated rivals against one another in an always
emotional contest. These two programs truly hate each other, but the Vols appear
to have the talent edge this year. Tennessee’s defense has been very stingy
this year and the Bama offense has been erratic behind first-year quarterback
John Parker Wilson. The Vols should shut down Ken Darby and the Crimson Tide
running game while the Tennessee receivers will make enough plays to win the
game. Tennessee by 14 (27-13)

Other games involving ranked teams:

Ohio State over Indiana by 39 (49-10)

West Virginia over Connecticut by 17 (27-10)

Louisville over Syracuse by 16 (30-14)

Auburn over Tulane by 38 (41-3)

Notre Dame over UCLA by 14 (31-17)

California over Washington by 22 (35-13)

LSU over Fresno State by 34 (41-7)

Oregon over Washington State by 5 (28-23)

Boise State over Idaho by 20 (37-17)

Arkansas over Mississippi by 16 (37-21)

Oklahoma over Colorado by 21 (31-10)

Wisconsin over Purdue by 7 (27-20)

Georgia over Mississippi State by 19 (26-7)

Oklahoma State over Texas A&M by 3 (23-20)

1-AA Games Around the State

For the 1-AA schools in the state of Virginia, I was 4-1 in my predictions
for last week with the only miss being James Madison’s huge upset over
previously #1 New Hampshire. I now stand at 32-5 for the season. Here are the
results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
James Madison at New Hampshire UNH by 9 JMU 42, New Hampshire 23
Richmond at Rhode Island Richmond by 16 Richmond 31, URI 6
William & Mary at Liberty W&M by 18 W&M 14, Liberty 13
Norfolk State at Hampton Hampton by 26 Hampton 42, Norfolk State 13
Coastal Carolina at VMI CC by 17 Coastal Carolina 31, VMI 27

The big intra-state 1-AA game this week is James Madison hosting William
& Mary. Also, two of the favorites for the MEAC title will clash, as Hampton
travels to South Carolina State.

James Madison over William & Mary by 16 (37-21)
Hampton over South Carolina State by 1 (24-23)
Richmond over Delaware by 10 (24-14)
Charleston Southern over VMI by 9 (30-21)
Liberty over Gardner-Webb by 8 (21-13)
Florida A&M over Norfolk State by 3 (20-17)

Be safe traveling to and from the game!

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