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

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The Hokies’ biggest game of the year is here as the ACC’s best team, the
Clemson Tigers, rolls into Lane Stadium for a Thursday night game. The
atmosphere should be wild as Virginia Tech tries to knock off the #11 Tigers.
Clemson leads the ACC in virtually every offensive and defensive category, and
the Hokies will unquestionably have their hands full. However, Tech is coming
off their best game of the season, having demolished a good Southern Miss squad,
so anything can happen, especially on a Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Like Southern Miss last week, Clemson is coming into the game with some key
injuries. Earlier in the season, Clemson lost two starting linebackers (Anthony
Waters and Tramaine Billie) and a starting wide receiver (Rendrick Taylor), but
big-play wide receiver Chansi Stuckey (#2, 6-0 185, r-Sr.) is reported to be
back from a foot injury for this game. Last week Clemson lost second-team
All-ACC guard Roman Fry for the year with a torn ACL, making the second straight
week that an opposing left guard has been injured prior to the Tech game. Star
running back James Davis (#1, 5-11 205, So.) has a shoulder stinger but he will
play. Losing Davis could be catastrophic for the run-oriented Clemson squad,
especially if back-up Reggie Merriweather (#37, 5-8 210, r-Sr.) has not
recovered fully from a previous ankle injury.

Clemson will have freshman phenom C.J. Spiller (#28, 5-11 190) at running
back. Spiller is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball.
Along with wide receiver Jacoby Ford (#6, 5-9 180, Fr.), Clemson has possibly
the two fastest return men in college football, so covering well on kicks and
punts is critical for the Hokies. Ironically, the Tigers have struggled on
kickoff coverage, which is good news for Eddie Royal, who is due to have a big
game. The battle for field position because of special teams play will be
critical in this game.

Offensively, Clemson likes to run the ball, particularly outside on zone
stretch plays. The Hokies have to contain the run and keep James Davis and C.J.
Spiller from turning the corner or cutting back into an open field and gaining
big yardage. Fifth-year senior quarterback Will Proctor (#14, 6-2 210) finally
gets his shot to lead the team and he has responded by leading the ACC in
passing efficiency. Proctor is mobile but he operates best in the pocket,
throwing to a solid receiving corps. However, the strength, both literally and
figuratively, of the Clemson offense is an experienced offensive line that has
over-powered every opponent this season. The Hokies defensive line is coming off
their best game of the year and will need an even better effort this week to
slow down the Tigers.

Defensively, the Tigers are very fast, led by defensive end Gaines Adams
(#93, 6-5 260, r-Sr.) and a young, talented linebacker group led by Antonio Clay
(#43, 6-0 220, So.). Despite the injuries to two projected starters, the
linebackers have not missed a beat. Michael Hamlin (#25, 6-3 200, r-So.) leads a
physical, aggressive secondary that is exceptional in supporting the run. If
Clemson has a concern on defense it is in pass coverage, where a converted
running back and quarterback man the corners. However, both Duane Coleman (#3,
5-11 195, r-Sr.) and C.J. Gaddis (#12, 6-0 210, r-Jr.) are talented athletes and
have adapted well in the secondary.

Virginia Tech will have to play BeamerBall at its best to stay with the
Clemson Tigers. The Hokies need to win the field position battle via special
teams play and turnovers. Defensively, Tech needs to keep Clemson’s big-play
threats from taking over the game. The Hokies need to keep the crowd in the game
and let the atmosphere in Lane Stadium become a factor. I could see this game
going either way with the key player being James Davis from Clemson. If he is
able to play the entire game effectively with the shoulder injury, then the
Tigers will likely win; but if Davis is ineffective, then the Hokies stand a
very good chance.

I think Brandon Ore and the Hokie offense can keep Clemson off the field
enough, and the defense will hold Davis and company in check. In the end,
Brandon Pace kicks a game-winning field goal for a huge Hokie victory. Virginia
Tech wins 22-21
(honestly, that is what the computer model predicted — the
injuries and the crowd were the difference)

Around the ACC

I rebounded from the previous week with a 4-1 record last week only missing
Boston College’s victory in Tallahassee. I came close to predicting the
Maryland/N.C. State game picking 27-21 for the score. I had Virginia winning
23-7 for what it’s worth. For the year I am now 43-14. Of course, this week’s
big game is Clemson at Virginia Tech. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Southern Miss at Va. Tech Virginia Tech by 21 Virginia Tech 36, USM 6
Georgia Tech at Clemson Clemson by 17 Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 7
Boston College at FSU Florida State by 2 BC 24, Florida State 19
N.C. State at Maryland Maryland by 6 Maryland 26, N.C. State 20
Miami at Duke Miami by 23 Miami 20, Duke 15

Miami (5-2; 2-1) at Georgia Tech (5-2; 3-1)

The Hurricanes are back at full strength after suspension week and looking
for revenge for last year’s 14-10 loss that knocked Miami out of the ACC
Championship Game. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, is reeling from a
devastating loss to Clemson last week in which Calvin Johnson was completely
shut down and Reggie Ball ineffective. Look for the Hurricanes to bracket
Johnson again this week and harass Ball, similar to the Clemson strategy. The
offense will generate just enough to pull off the upset on the road. Miami by
6 (16-10)

Florida State (4-3; 2-3) at Maryland (5-2; 2-1)

The enigmatic Seminoles are surprisingly out of the Atlantic Division race
after losing to Boston College, while the Terrapins are still alive after
winning a tough game against N.C. State. The Terps seem to always play the Noles
tough, and this game should be a close one as well. The key to beating Maryland
is stopping the running game and forcing the Terps to the air. I believe FSU
will be able to slow down Lance Ball, and the Seminole offense will generate
enough offense for the win on the road. Florida State by 2 (16-14)

N.C. State (3-4; 2-2) at Virginia (3-5; 2-2)

Jameel Sewell is beginning to settle in at quarterback, and the Cavalier
defense has been solid, especially against the run. The Wolfpack is coming off
two tough losses to Wake Forest and Maryland, so State needs to bounce back if
they want to stay in bowl contention. Ultimately I see the Wahoos slowing down
Andre Brown and Toney Baker, particularly at home where the defense has been
very good, and Sewell making a couple of key passes to pull out a close win. Virginia
by 3 (16-13)

Wake Forest (6-1; 2-1) at North Carolina (1-6; 0-4)

The Tar Heels with their lame duck coach have little motivation, while the
Demon Deacons are still very much alive in the Atlantic Division race, so Wake
Forest will be highly motivated. Not much analysis is needed for this one as the
Wake ground game rolls, though I expect UNC to show some pride and give an
effort at home. Wake Forest by 7 (20-13)

Buffalo (1-6) at Boston College (6-1)

The Eagles host the second worst team in D-1 football, as the Buffalo Bulls
come to Chestnut Hill. BC needs a break after big games against Virginia Tech
and Florida State, and Buffalo certainly provides that break. Boston College
by 41 (44-3)

Vanderbilt (3-5) at Duke (0-7)

Can the Blue Devils snap their 15 game losing streak against the Commodores
of Vanderbilt? Duke keeps scrapping and sooner or later they will pick up a win,
but Vandy still holds out some hope for a bowl game and should pick up the win. Vanderbilt
by 8 (28-20)

Other Big Games around the Nation

Not many upsets last week, as I finished 15-3 missing the Rutgers juggernaut,
Washington State surprise, and Texas A&M close call. My record for the
season is now 119-15. The biggest game for this week is the world’s largest
cocktail party (I know, I’m not supposed to call it that anymore), Florida vs.
Georgia in Jacksonville. Not a lot of big games this weekend, but some
potentially interesting action in the Big 12. Here are the results from last
week:

Game Prediction Result
Texas at Nebraska Texas by 13 Texas 22, Nebraska 20
Iowa at Michigan Michigan by 13 Michigan 20, Iowa 6
Rutgers at Pittsburgh Pittsburgh by 13 Rutgers 20, Pittsburgh 10
Alabama at Tennessee Tennessee by 14 Tennessee 16, Alabama 13
Indiana at Ohio State Ohio State by 39 Ohio State 44, Indiana 3
West Virginia at Connecticut WVU by 17 West Virginia 37, UConn 11
Louisville at Syracuse Louisville by 16 Louisville 28, Syracuse 13
Tulane at Auburn Auburn by 38 Auburn 38, Tulane 13
UCLA at Notre Dame Notre Dame by 14 Notre Dame 20, UCLA 17
Washington at California California by 22 California 31, Washington 24
Fresno State at LSU LSU by 34 LSU 38, Fresno State 6
Oregon at Washington State Oregon by 5 Washington State 34, Oregon 23
Boise State at Idaho Boise State by 20 Boise State 42, Idaho 26
Mississippi at Arkansas Arkansas by 16 Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 3
Colorado at Oklahoma Oklahoma by 21 Oklahoma 24, Colorado 3
Wisconsin at Purdue Wisconsin by 7 Wisconsin 24, Purdue 3
Mississippi State at Georgia Georgia by 19 Georgia 27, Mississippi State 24
Texas A&M at Oklahoma St. Oklahoma St. by 3 Texas A&M 34, Okla. State 33

Florida (6-1; 4-1) vs. Georgia (6-2; 3-2)

The Gators are coming off a big loss to Auburn, and Georgia is struggling,
barely holding off Mississippi State last week. Georgia needs to find some
offensive consistency and decide on a quarterback. Look for Tim Tebow to play
more this week for Florida, since the Gators were off last week and had more
time to prepare. Emotions run high in this game and defenses are always key, but
the big play potential of the spread option offense will probably be the
difference. Florida by 7 (17-10)

Oklahoma (5-2; 2-1) at Missouri (7-1; 3-1)

The best Big 12 game for the weekend has the Oklahoma Sooners traveling to
Columbia, Missouri to face one of the nation’s biggest surprise teams, the
Missouri Tigers. Oklahoma is regrouping after losing Adrian Peterson for the
season, while Missouri suffered a big loss when star defensive end Brian Smith
went down with a hip injury. Both teams like to run and set up play-action
passes, but the difference in this game will likely be the defenses. The Sooners’
defense, led by linebacker Rufus Alexander, is more solid and Oklahoma should
get a big win on the road. Oklahoma by 7 (23-16)

Other games involving ranked teams:

  • Ohio State over Minnesota by 26 (40-14)
  • USC over Oregon State by 21 (38-17)
  • Michigan over Northwestern by 31 (45-14)
  • Texas over Texas Tech by 14 (24-10)
  • Auburn over Mississippi by 18 (24-6)
  • Tennessee over South Carolina by 8 (21-13)
  • Notre Dame over Navy by 12 (28-16)
  • Arkansas over Louisiana-Monroe by 28 (35-7)
  • Rutgers over Connecticut by 14 (23-9)
  • Wisconsin over Illinois by 31 (41-10)
  • Nebraska over Oklahoma State by 11 (31-20)
  • Texas A&M over Baylor by 4 (17-13)
  • Oregon over Portland State by 31 (48-17)

1-AA Games Around the State

For the 1-AA schools in the state of Virginia, I was a mediocre 3-3 in my
predictions for last week, missing Hampton’s loss to South Carolina State,
Delaware’s upset of Richmond, and Liberty falling to Gardner-Webb. I guess I
was due for one of those weeks. I now stand at 35-8 for the season. Here are the
results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
William & Mary at James Madison JMU by 16 JMU 31, William & Mary 17
Hampton at South Carolina State Hampton by 1 S.C. State 13, Hampton 6
Delaware at Richmond Richmond by 10 Delaware 28, Richmond 24
VMI at Charleston Southern Charleston So. by 9 Charleston So. 27, VMI 22
Gardner-Webb at Liberty Liberty by 8 Gardner-Webb 27, Liberty 24
Florida A&M at Norfolk State FAMU by 3 FAMU 36, Norfolk State 33

The big intra-state 1-AA game this week is Richmond hosting James Madison.

  • James Madison over Richmond by 6 (23-17)
  • William & Mary over Villanova by 8 (24-16)
  • Hampton over Winston-Salem by 30 (40-10)
  • Coastal Carolina over Liberty by 13 (30-17)
  • Gardner-Webb over VMI by 3 (31-28)
  • Howard over Norfolk State by 1 (21-20)

Be safe traveling to and from the game!

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