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

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The Commonwealth Cup is on the line as the Virginia Cavaliers visit
Blacksburg this Saturday at noon. The Hokies have held the Cup for over two
years, and Tech is a heavy favorite to win this weekend, but strange things have
happened in this series. Anytime two big rivals get together you can throw the
records out the door and I am sure that the Wahoos will come ready to play. The
UVA game is always a highlight of the season and Lane Stadium should be electric
as friends and neighbors cheer for their respective teams.

Virginia is playing for more than just the rivalry, however, as the Hoos need
this win to become bowl eligible. Even if the bowl game were in Boise or some
other remote site, Al Groh would want the extra practice time to help develop
his young squad for next year. Also, the stakes for recruiting in the next year
become greater if you can sell to high school players that the UVA program is on
par with Virginia Tech. Another loss to the Hokies makes the sales pitch to
in-state prospects that much tougher.

The Hokies have a lot to play for in addition to state pride. A victory over
the Cavaliers would make the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (formerly Peach) in Atlanta the
likely destination. Tech would get to play an SEC school, which would be highly
marketable to Hokie fans. Most bowl projections have the Hokies playing Georgia
in the CFA Bowl, but Tech needs to take care of business this Saturday before
reservations can be made in Atlanta.

Virginia struggled earlier this year before Groh settled on a redshirt-freshman
quarterback, Jameel Sewell (#10, 6-3 219), who has steadily improved during the
season. Sewell struggled against the pressure from blitzing defenses such as
Florida State and Georgia Tech, but last week he look poised against Miami and
played well against the blitz. However, the Hurricanes play mostly man-to-man
coverage and Bud Foster will surely be mixing up the defenses to confuse the
young quarterback. The key for UVA will likely be the play of Sewell since the
Wahoos will need to be effective throwing the ball to have a chance against the
Hokies.

UVA has some talent on offense with three quality tight ends, led by Tom
Santi (#86, 6-5 250, Jr.), and three solid receivers in Kevin Ogletree (#20, 6-2
189, So.), Fontel Mines (#84, 6-4 220, Sr.), and Deyon Williams (#81, 6-3 196,
Sr.). Jason Snelling (#38, 5-11 232, r-Sr.) is a fine power running back and the
offensive line has some talent, led by left guard Branden Albert (#71, 6-7 315,
So.), but this group is still very young and developing. If Sewell plays well,
the UVA offense is capable of moving the ball on the Hokies.

Virginia’s defense has been their strength this year, particularly the run
defense. Defensive end Chris Long (#91, 6-4 284, Jr.) is the emotional leader of
the defense. He combines with rookie Jeffrey Fitzgerald (#95, 6-3 279, r-Fr.) to
provide a solid defensive front wall. The linebackers, led by Antonio Appleby
(#58, 6-4 248, So.), are a solid group and the secondary has some talent, led by
all-conference candidate Marcus Hamilton (#3, 5-11 198, r-Sr.).

Overall, Virginia is a team without the big-name stars that we have seen in
the past few years, but the Cavaliers have a lot of solid football players.
However, I do not see UVA having enough talent to beat the Hokies on Senior Day
in Lane Stadium. Sewell will need to have a huge day to give the Hoos a chance,
but Bud Foster’s defense will make that accomplishment difficult. I see the game
being very similar to last week’s Wake Forest game, with the Hokies giving up
some yardage, but not allowing UVA to put many points on the board. Tech’s
offense will generate some big plays in the passing game and do enough to
control the ball to come away with a solid victory. Virginia Tech 24,
Virginia 6

Around the ACC

Another 4-2 week leaves me at 61-22 for the year in the ACC. I missed UVA’s
fine defensive performance against Miami and UNC getting their first ACC win
this year over rival N.C. State. This week is headlined by the deciding games
for the Atlantic Division title and some big intrastate out-of-conference
rivalries. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest Virginia Tech by 6 Virginia Tech 27, WF 6
Maryland at Boston College BC by 6 BC 38, Maryland 16
Miami at Virginia Miami by 1 Virginia 17, Miami 7
Duke at Georgia Tech Georgia Tech by 24 Georgia Tech 49, Duke 21
N.C. State at North Carolina N.C. State by 10 UNC 23, N.C. State 9
Western Michigan at FSU FSU by 22 Florida State 28, WMU 20

Wake Forest (9-2; 5-2) at Maryland (8-3; 5-2)

The Demon Deacons can win the Atlantic Division title with a victory, while
Maryland can only win the title if Miami defeats Boston College on Thanksgiving
night and the Terps beat Wake. I believe Wake Forest will play a much better
game this weekend, and the Deacons’ deception on offense will cause Maryland
some difficulty. The Terps’ defense is much improved, but their linebackers have
a tendency to over-pursue, so look for the Deacons to make some big plays. Wake
Forest’s defense is underrated and Maryland’s wide receivers are not as likely
to exploit some of the secondary’s weaknesses, so I see the Terps having to
ground it out with their running game. Regardless of the results from Thursday
night, this game should be highly competitive and I see the Demon Deacons
pulling out the win and division title. Wake Forest by 2 (16-14)

Boston College (9-2; 5-2) at Miami (5-6; 2-5)

The Eagles must win to keep their division title hopes alive, needing a
Maryland victory over Wake Forest. The Hurricanes must win to be bowl eligible,
but Miami looks like an emotionally deflated team right now, so I am not sure if
going to a lower-tier bowl would really provide any incentive. BC is playing as
well as any team in the ACC right now, having demolished Maryland last week, but
the Orange Bowl is still a tough place to play. Miami’s defense will give a
valiant effort, but the lack of a consistent passing game will end the Canes’
season. The computer calls this game even, but I see BC winning by a touchdown. Boston
College by 7 (17-10)

Florida (10-1) at Florida State (6-5)

The Gators have easily been the best team in the state of Florida this year,
but the Seminoles still have enough defensive talent to give Urban Meyer a
scare. Florida is relying more on Tim Tebow, but FSU’s speed on defense may give
him some problems. The question with Florida State is the quarterback play
behind a very suspect offensive line. FSU still has playmakers and I see the
Noles giving the Gators a battle, but falling just short. Florida by 1
(17-16)

Georgia Tech (9-2) at Georgia (7-4)

The Bulldog offense woke up against Auburn two weeks ago, and Georgia finally
played a game up to their potential. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has not
been tested down the stretch and the Yellow Jackets may be looking ahead to the
ACC championship game. While this game is obviously big for both teams, Georgia
would appear to have more pride on the line after a disappointing season, so I
am going with the Bulldogs to pull out a tight contest. Georgia by 2 (19-17)

South Carolina (6-5) at Clemson (8-3)

Another bitter intrastate rivalry has the Gamecocks visiting the Tigers, with
both teams disappointed in their overall records. A win in this game would
certainly help morale. An underlying story that is getting considerable press is
that Steve Spurrier is not happy at South Carolina and may be available for one
of the big coaching openings that will soon be occurring. The Gamecock players
may be distracted by the story, and that would be bad news when facing a team as
talented as Clemson. I see the Tigers’ ground game rolling against USC, but
turnovers and special teams will keep the Gamecocks close. In the end, Clemson
wins by a touchdown. Clemson by 7 (20-13)

East Carolina (6-5) at N.C. State (3-8)

Not much riding on this game other than pride, particularly for the Wolfpack
with a very disappointing season. Chuck Amato certainly cannot afford to lose
this game, and unrest within the Pack fan base may yet cost him his job, despite
the AD’s insistence that his job is secure. East Carolina will be scoreboard
watching since the Pirates would win the CUSA-East title if Marshall knocks off
Southern Miss. ECU would seem to have the most incentive in this game, but I
believe State’s defense will be too much for an inconsistent Pirate offense. N.C.
State by 8 (24-16)

North Carolina (2-9; 1-6) at Duke (0-11; 0-7)

A lame duck coach, John Bunting, takes on a soon-to-be lame duck coach, Ted
Roof, in a game that is totally meaningless outside of the research triangle.
Sentimentally, a win for either coach in his last game (or likely last game)
would be a nice send-off. Both teams have performed well on defense at times,
but both squads have woeful offenses. I see UNC winning a battle of field goals.
North Carolina by 6 (12-6)

Other Big Games around the Nation

Only one upset last week, as Cincinnati knocked off media-darling Rutgers. I
also missed my pick of Alabama upsetting Auburn, leaving me at 12-2 for the
week. For the season I am now 168-23. Rivalry week is coming up, so I expect to
see lots of upsets. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
Michigan at Ohio State Ohio State by 12 Ohio State 42, Michigan 39
California at USC USC by 13 USC 23, California 9
Auburn at Alabama Alabama by 3 Auburn 22, Alabama 15
Western Carolina at Florida Florida by 53 Florida 62, Western Carolina 0
Army at Notre Dame Notre Dame by 40 Notre Dame 41, Army 9
Arkansas at Mississippi State Arkansas by 12 Arkansas 28, Mississippi St. 14
Rutgers at Cincinnati Rutgers by 3 Cincinnati 30, Rutgers 11
Mississippi at LSU LSU by 31 LSU 23, Ole Miss 20
Buffalo at Wisconsin Wisconsin by 41 Wisconsin 35, Buffalo 3
South Florida at Louisville Louisville by 25 Louisville 31, South Florida 8
Utah State at Boise State Boise State by 39 Boise State 49, Utah State 10
Oklahoma at Baylor Oklahoma by 20 Oklahoma 36, Baylor 10
Tennessee at Vanderbilt Tennessee by 17 Tennessee 39, Vanderbilt 10
New Mexico at BYU BYU by 22 BYU 42, New Mexico 17

Notre Dame (10-1) at Southern California (9-1)

The rematch of last year’s classic game will have the Trojans hosting the
Fighting Irish in a game that, on the surface, means more to USC. Sure, Notre
Dame wants revenge for last year’s last-minute loss, but the Irish will likely
make an at-large BCS bowl even with a loss as long as this game is competitive.
Obviously, USC needs the win to keep their national title hopes alive. Southern
California is playing much better on defense down the stretch and the Trojans
have the athletes to slow down Brady Quinn and company. The Notre Dame secondary
is still questionable and an improving John David Booty should be able to find
some openings. I do not believe this game will be nearly as suspenseful as last
year and USC will win going away. Southern California by 14 (31-17)

LSU (9-2; 5-2) at Arkansas (10-1; 7-0)

A BCS bowl slot could be on the line as LSU travels to Little Rock to take on
the Razorbacks. While Arkansas has wrapped up the SEC West title, the Razorbacks
still need to win to ensure a BCS at-large berth should they lose the SEC title
game. LSU needs to win to keep its hopes of receiving a BCS at-large bid, so
this game still means a lot to both teams. The key to this game will likely be
the Tigers’ ability to slow down Arkansas’ running game, but another interesting
story is LSU’s inability to execute well offensively on the road. I expect a
defensive struggle with turnovers being the difference. I will go with the home
team in a nail-biter. Arkansas by 1 (14-13)

Boise State (11-0; 7-0) at Nevada (8-3; 5-2)

The Broncos have won the WAC title and can clinch a BCS at-large berth with a
win, but the Wolfpack are not a patsy and play very well at home. Nevada’s
defense should give Boise State some difficulty, and the Pistol offense is
unique and might generate enough offense to pull off the upset. The pressure
will be on Boise State and I see the Broncos committing some uncharacteristic
mistakes giving the Wolfpack the upset. Nevada by 3 (23-20)

Other games involving ranked teams:

  • West Virginia over South Florida by 19 (42-23)
  • Texas over Texas A&M by 22 (35-13)
  • Louisville over Pittsburgh by 6 (34-28)
  • Oklahoma over Oklahoma State by 4 (24-20)
  • Rutgers over Syracuse by 13 (20-7)
  • Nebraska over Colorado by 15 (35-20)
  • Tennessee over Kentucky by 19 (35-16)
  • Brigham Young over Utah by 12 (28-16)

1-AA Games Around the State

In the final regular season week in 1-AA, I went 3-1, only missing the
Norfolk State victory over 1-AA newcomer Winston-Salem. I end the regular season
at 53-14. Here are the results from last week:

Game Prediction Result
James Madison at Towson JMU by 14 James Madison 38, Towson 3
Richmond at William & Mary Richmond by 1 Richmond 31, William & Mary 14
Liberty at VMI Liberty by 10 Liberty 38, VMI 32
Winston-Salem over Norfolk St. W-S by 4 Norfolk State 31, Winston-Salem 14

The 1-AA playoffs start this week, with two Virginia teams making the field.
Hampton will host Atlantic 10 power New Hampshire, while James Madison visits
red-hot Youngstown State. I like the Dukes’ chances on going a long way in the
playoffs. Here are my picks:

  • James Madison (9-2) over Youngstown State (9-2) by 11 (28-17)
  • New Hampshire (8-3) over Hampton (10-1) by 7 (31-24)

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and drive safely over the holidays!

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