Sunday, August 26, 2007

FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech Previews

Florida State
7-6, 3-5

14 Returning Starters – 8 Offense, 6 Defense
61 Returning Letterman – 25 Off, 33, Def, 3 ST
16 Letterman Lost – 10 Off, 4 Def, 2 ST

2006 ATS:
5-7 ATS; 2-5 Home Dog; 1-0 Home Dog; Away Fav 1-2; 1-0 Away Dog; 1-5 Off SU Win; 3-2 Off SU Loss

Last 7 Years ATS:
40-42 ATS; 18-22 Home Fav; 1-1 Home Dog; 16-15 Away Fav; 3-3 Away Dog; 23-30 Off SU Win; 12-10 Off SU Loss

The buzz around Tallahassee this year is the improved offense because of the arrival of Jimbo Fisher from LSU. Also, the Seminoles have 61 returning letterman and lost just 16 from last years disappointing 7-6 squad. Many feel FSU will have a bounce back year and that this may be Bobby Bowden’s last chance for another national title. I see a few chinks in the FSU armor though beginning at QB. Neither Drew Weatherford nor Xavier Lee has distinguished themselves in their first two years. The running game has been downright awful, but Rick Trickett comes over from West Virginia. The defense will be very fast and very good again this year. Despite losing their top two tacklers, the next 10 are returning. FSU will only go as far as their offense (and especially the QB position) will take them.
Keys to Success:
Find a dependable ground game early in the season-
If I am an FSU fan, the last thing I want to see is Weatherford chucking the ball 40 times a game to move the ball.

Limit the turnovers and mistakes-
Weatherford doesn’t have to be great; he just needs to be not so bad and let the defense win games for them on a full field – not with short fields after turnovers

Clemson game-
I usually don’t say one game will dictate a season, but I really think the opener at Clemson could be for the Atlantic Division title and really set the tone for the season.

FSU opens at Clemson whom they have lost the last two against. A bye before the Alabama game in Jacksonville, which should be very interesting. The Noles must go to Wake Forest on 5 days after a home game versus NC State. Wake shutout Bowden at home last year for the first time ever. Miami in Tallahassee on October 20; we can only hope there is more offense than the last two years. FSU finishes with three of the last four on the road with a tough home game against Maryland. BC, Virginia Tech, and Florida are all winnable, but also very “loseable”.
Best Case: 10-2
Worst Case: 6-6

7-6, 3-5

Returning Starters: 16, 9 Off, 7 Def
Letterman Returning: 61 (29 Off, 28 Def, 4 ST)
Letterman Lost: 15 (8 Off, 4 Def, 3 ST)

2006 ATS:
4-7 ATS; 2-2 Home Fav; 1-1 Home Dog; 0-2 Away Fav; 1-2 Away Dog; 2-3 Off SU Win; 2-3 Off SU Loss

Last 7 Years ATS:
37-41 ATS; 2-1 Home Dog; 14-15 Away Fav; 5-2 Away Dog; 30-30 Off SU Win; 4-8 Off SU Loss

I am sure the Miami Hurricanes breathed a big sigh of relief after last season came to an end. The Hurricanes gutted out a bowl game berth and win despite all of the on and off the field incidents last year. Randy Shannon is exactly what this team needed; a guy from the program, from Miami, who is a disciplinarian. The Canes defense should be very stout again led by DE Calais Campbell and a tough secondary featuring potential All American S Kenny Phillips. Offensively, Miami brought in Pat Nix to help a struggling unit that has had issues at the QB position. Shannon will choose between Kirby Freeman or Kyle Wright to be the starter, but expect to see both early on. Javarris James is back for his sophomore campaign behind what should be an improved offensive line. Miami’s toughness will be measured very early at Oklahoma and I think we will find out how close the Hurricanes are to returning to elite status in Norman.

Keys to Success:
Get something going on offense-
This defense has a chance to be one of the best in the nation, but they have lost games because the offensive is horrible and turns the ball over.

Find some leadership-
The Miami teams of the 80s and earlier this decade were built on having strong leaders in the clubhouse. That has faded in recent years, but hopefully Shannon can bring back the aura of Miami football where they knew they were better and were going to show it.

Miami finds out right away how good they are in Norman on September 8 as an old Orange Bowl rivalry is revived. The Canes play Fla Intl the following week hoping not to revisit last years ugly brawl. After that, Texas A&M comes to Coral Gables on just five days rest for the Canes. The home game against Georgia Tech will either vault Miami into the Coastal Division race or leave the paddling upstream for the rest of the year. FSU is always a tough game and the Canes find themselves in unfamiliar territory – in a two game losing streak. The season finishes with two straight road games at Virginia Tech and Boston College.
Best Case: 10-2
Worst Case: 6-6

Virginia Tech
10-3, 6-2

Returning Starters: 16, 8 Offense, 8 Defense
Letterman Returning: 42 (19 Off, 21 Def, 2 ST)
Letterman Lost: 19 (7 Off, 9 Def, 3 ST)

It will be tough to predict how this Virginia Tech will react after the tragedy back in April. Spring practice was cut short and the team did not all reconvene until Fall practice started. Still, a lot of excitement is surrounding this Hokie club with the return of 16 starters, including two of the best LB in the nation (Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi). You know the Hokies will be pretty good on defense and in special teams, but the real question lies at QB. This seems to be a trend in the ACC? Sean Glennon looked like he was really turning the corner last year at times, but at others you wondered if this guy was ever going to be successful at the D-I level. Branden Ore is back at tailback behind a line returning five players who have started. However, the Hokies will go as far as Glennon can take them.
2006 ATS:
7-4 ATS; 3-3 Home Fav; 1-0 Home Dog; 3-1 Away Fav; 0-0 Away Dog; 6-3 Off SU Win; 1-1 Off SU Loss

Last 7 Years ATS:
47-33 ATS; 24-18 Home Fav; 3-0 Home Dog; 17-12 Away Fav; 2-2 Away Dog; 35-25 Off SU Win; 8-6 Off SU Loss

Keys to Success:
Consistent QB play-
An often quoted phrase you will hear in the ACC, but Va Tech really has everything else except for this

Top Notch Special Teams-
While the Hokies special teams have been good the last few years, it hasn’t been that game breaking unit that has won so many game for them over the years. Make the special teams special again.

Outside of the trip to LSU, the Hokies first five games set up very nicely. That trip to LSU is going to a tough one though. Clemson presents the only real challenge in conference before their bye week on Oct 20. After the bye, the schedule gets serious with BC, @ Georgia Tech (back to back Thurs), FSU, Miami at home, and closing at Virginia. The Hokies season will be made or broken in that four-week stretch (BC, GT, FSU, Miami). Those four games could vault themselves into the ACC Championship Game a possibly the national title or picture or be staring at a Meineke Car Care Bowl berth.
Best Case: 11-1
Worst Case: 8-4

Don’t miss the upcoming previews for Florida, Tennessee, Clemson, and South Carolina!

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