The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 19, 2015

College Football Preview: October 20-24, 2015

Weekday Bonanza
Other than on Thanksgiving, we are not particularly fans of weekday games in football. However, this week, every weekday game presents an interesting proposition. Take a look at what will be available to you to watch.

Tuesday Night
Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas St.: Consider this week a sort of FInal Four in the Sun Belt Conference, as two teams with undefeated SBC records face off in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The winner is almost guaranteed a bowl bid, while the loser will have to fight to get the fourth bid from the league. Expect a lot of fireworks and a high scoring game.

Thursday Night
Temple at East Carolina: Not only is first place up for grabs in the American Athletic Conference East Division, this game serves as a New Year’s Six Bowl Eliminator for Temple. The Owls own a win at Penn State, and a win in this road game would give Temple a resume equal to Houston, Memphis, and Toledo, the three teams contending with the Owls for that big bowl bid. ECU is tough to beat at home, and the Owl defense will have to be ready to play.

Georgia Southern at Appalachian St.: This is the other “semifinal” game in the Sun Belt this week, and it is the battle of the top two teams in the league. Both teams are undefeated in SBC play and 5-1 overall, and both teams’ coaches are on the radar at big schools. This game will be a nice contrast in playing styles, and we are not sure either defense can stop the other teams’ offense.

California at UCLA: These two teams cannot afford another conference loss and remain in contention for their respective divisions in the Pac-12. UCLA lost in a trainwreck last week in the Bruins’ annual punishment at the hands of Stanford. Cal had a week off after blowing a chance to win at Utah.

Friday Night
Memphis at Tulsa: Can Memphis go on the road and win a tough game less than a week after pulling off their most important victory in over 50 years, if not ever? The Tigers sit on top of the Group of 5 poll today, and it they win out, they will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl at season’s end. There are a couple of big impediments in their way, and this game is one of them. Tulsa is looking at seven or eight wins, so you cannot discount them in this game.

Utah St. at San Diego St.: This might be a preview of the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. After destroying Boise St., the Aggies are in control of the Mountain Division race, and after blasting San Jose St., the Aztecs should cruise to the West Division title. Utah St. has the hot offense, and San Diego St. has the tough defense, so this one should be quite entertaining.

 

Don’t think that you can take Saturday off this week. There are a host of games worth watching, including these:
Clemson at Miami: The Hurricanes did everything but beat Florida State two weeks ago, and an upset in this game might save Al Golden’s job. CU has a clear path to the NCAA Playoffs if they win this game, as the remaining toughies are at home.

Auburn at Arkansas: This could be one of those Bowl Eliminator games, with the loser probably dropping to 5-7 at the end of the year.

Duke at Virginia Tech: If the Blue Devils go to Blacksburg and pull off a win, then the Duke-North Carolina game could be the deciding game for the ACC Coastal Division championship. A Tech loss might be the end of the Hokies’ bowl hopes this year and might seal Frank Beamer’s fate, bringing an announcement that he will retire at the end of this season.

Tennessee at Alabama: This rivlary game might still not be back to where it was for decades, but Tennessee had an extra week to prepare, while ‘Bama had to play at Texas A&M. There are just so many weeks that a team can get up for a big game, so this contest may be a lot closer than people expect. The Tide offense is still mostly one dimensional, but that one dimension, the running game, is close to incredible. Still, if Tennessee does not turn the ball over like A&M, the Vols could still be in contention in the fourth quarter.

Washington St. at Arizona: The Pirate has the Cougars in bowl contention. Coach Mike Leach’s Washington State team is sitting at 4-2 with enough winnable games ahead to go bowling this year. Arizona sits in the same position this week and should find its way to bowl eligibility. This one is for jockeying position with the winner having a leg up on going to a warmer locale in December.

Western Kentucky at LSU: Okay, we are not saying that the Hilltoppers will challenge for an upset in this game, but LSU has had defensive lulls in the middle of every game this year. If the Tigers have that issue in this game, WKU could score 21 to 28 points in a hurry, making Leonard Fournette play all four quarters. LSU needs a couple of breather games to rest Fournette for the upcoming game at Alabama.

Utah at USC: This game has “that look.” Utah is in position to earn a surprise playoff berth, but they have a minefield in front of their way to a possible 13-0 record. USC is struggling to even get to 6-6 after all the issues this team has dealt with this season. This is the Trojans’ first home game since the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian, and teams usually play the best they are going to play in their first home game under an interim coach. The Trojans looked good at Notre Dame, and it figures that they will be ready to give the Utes all they can handle.

 

This Week’s Ratings

PiRate Ratings
# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Baylor 130.4 127.2 131.5 129.7
2 Alabama 129.2 127.1 129.0 128.4
3 TCU 128.1 119.2 128.6 125.3
4 Ohio St. 126.7 120.9 127.4 125.0
5 Utah 125.8 120.2 125.3 123.8
6 Oklahoma 124.3 120.9 124.2 123.1
7 Stanford 123.5 122.1 123.5 123.0
8 LSU 123.0 119.7 122.9 121.9
9 Notre Dame 123.0 119.7 123.0 121.9
10 USC 120.2 116.7 120.2 119.0
11 Texas A&M 119.8 117.4 118.5 118.6
12 Clemson 117.7 118.5 118.0 118.1
13 Florida 118.8 115.8 119.0 117.9
14 Michigan 119.0 115.7 118.8 117.8
15 Tennessee 119.4 114.7 118.9 117.7
16 North Carolina 117.5 117.9 117.5 117.6
17 Ole Miss 120.3 114.3 117.9 117.5
18 UCLA 120.3 114.0 118.1 117.5
19 Georgia 119.7 112.4 118.5 116.9
20 California 117.8 112.8 117.9 116.2
21 Arkansas 118.2 112.6 117.4 116.1
22 Michigan St. 116.3 112.6 115.9 114.9
23 Florida St. 114.6 115.4 113.8 114.6
24 Arizona St. 116.1 111.1 115.2 114.1
25 Mississippi St. 114.4 110.9 114.5 113.3
26 Oregon 115.6 108.7 114.8 113.0
27 Georgia Tech 114.3 111.6 113.0 113.0
28 Oklahoma St. 113.3 111.4 113.5 112.7
29 Auburn 113.8 111.6 112.8 112.7
30 West Virginia 114.6 109.3 113.9 112.6
31 Iowa 110.6 113.2 111.5 111.8
32 Boise St. 113.0 108.8 112.8 111.5
33 Wisconsin 110.3 110.8 109.8 110.3
34 North Carolina St. 109.9 111.1 108.8 109.9
35 Nebraska 110.8 108.9 110.1 109.9
36 Arizona 111.8 106.1 110.8 109.6
37 Memphis 109.1 109.1 110.3 109.5
38 Duke 108.9 109.7 109.9 109.5
39 Virginia Tech 110.1 108.8 109.7 109.5
40 Louisville 108.6 110.9 108.6 109.4
41 Temple 108.1 110.2 108.8 109.0
42 Missouri 110.3 107.0 109.5 108.9
43 Western Kentucky 107.7 108.0 109.7 108.5
44 Miami 107.9 108.5 108.7 108.4
45 Pittsburgh 107.3 108.2 108.5 108.0
46 Houston 104.3 112.0 107.0 107.8
47 Washington 107.4 104.8 108.0 106.7
48 Texas 107.3 104.9 107.2 106.5
49 Texas Tech 109.0 100.2 108.8 106.0
50 BYU 105.7 104.9 106.6 105.7
51 Illinois 106.7 104.5 105.6 105.6
52 Toledo 104.2 105.0 105.9 105.0
53 South Carolina 106.8 103.1 104.9 104.9
54 Penn St. 104.2 105.5 104.4 104.7
55 Kentucky 105.9 102.5 105.0 104.5
56 Utah St. 104.1 104.1 104.6 104.3
57 Bowling Green 101.7 106.5 104.2 104.1
58 Cincinnati 103.7 103.7 104.7 104.0
59 Minnesota 104.1 102.6 103.2 103.3
60 Northwestern 103.0 103.2 102.4 102.9
61 Kansas St. 106.3 95.7 105.7 102.6
62 Appalachian St. 100.8 103.9 102.8 102.5
63 Colorado 104.4 99.1 102.8 102.1
64 Navy 100.3 103.4 101.1 101.6
65 Washington St. 102.7 98.4 102.0 101.0
66 Boston College 100.2 104.3 98.5 101.0
67 Western Michigan 99.7 99.8 101.1 100.2
68 San Diego St. 98.0 103.0 99.4 100.1
69 Louisiana Tech 99.8 97.8 100.0 99.2
70 Vanderbilt 101.0 95.9 100.5 99.1
71 Virginia 99.7 97.2 98.8 98.6
72 East Carolina 96.4 100.0 97.4 97.9
73 Georgia Southern 96.5 98.9 97.5 97.6
74 Rutgers 98.6 95.9 97.2 97.2
75 Purdue 97.9 97.2 96.4 97.2
76 Northern Illinois 95.1 98.5 95.9 96.5
77 Marshall 95.8 96.9 96.6 96.4
78 Indiana 96.3 96.8 95.7 96.3
79 Wake Forest 94.9 98.6 94.0 95.8
80 Middle Tennessee 95.7 94.8 95.4 95.3
81 Syracuse 93.7 96.8 92.9 94.5
82 South Florida 91.5 98.1 92.2 93.9
83 Air Force 92.4 96.0 91.5 93.3
84 Iowa St. 94.9 90.7 94.0 93.2
85 Colorado St. 93.9 92.1 92.6 92.9
86 Central Michigan 90.6 94.8 93.1 92.8
87 Maryland 94.1 91.3 93.0 92.8
88 Tulsa 90.4 95.2 91.3 92.3
89 Florida International 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3
90 San Jose St. 91.0 94.0 90.8 91.9
91 Ohio 89.6 93.7 91.2 91.5
92 Southern Mississippi 90.1 91.3 90.4 90.6
93 Arkansas St. 89.0 89.6 90.1 89.6
94 Nevada 88.5 92.2 87.8 89.5
95 Oregon St. 91.0 87.8 89.0 89.3
96 New Mexico 88.5 89.2 87.3 88.3
97 Connecticut 85.9 91.4 86.6 88.0
98 Hawaii 87.2 89.4 87.2 87.9
99 Massachusetts 85.8 88.9 86.9 87.2
100 SMU 85.1 89.0 85.1 86.4
101 Central Florida 84.6 88.0 85.3 86.0
102 Akron 83.3 89.6 84.7 85.9
103 Tulane 85.2 87.6 83.9 85.6
104 Rice 83.9 87.8 84.4 85.4
105 UL-Lafayette 83.9 87.7 84.5 85.4
106 Kent St. 83.3 85.8 84.1 84.4
107 UNLV 82.7 85.3 83.4 83.8
108 Buffalo 80.6 87.4 82.8 83.6
109 Fresno St. 82.1 86.2 80.7 83.0
110 Florida Atlantic 81.1 84.4 81.1 82.2
111 Ball St. 81.4 83.2 81.6 82.1
112 UT-San Antonio 80.6 83.0 81.6 81.7
113 Army 77.6 87.1 79.1 81.3
114 Texas St. 79.9 83.4 79.0 80.8
115 Wyoming 80.1 82.8 79.3 80.7
116 South Alabama 75.7 82.1 77.1 78.3
117 Old Dominion 76.2 81.4 74.9 77.5
118 UL-Monroe 78.2 76.2 78.0 77.5
119 Georgia St. 76.8 76.4 77.0 76.7
120 UTEP 75.7 78.1 75.3 76.4
121 Kansas 78.1 71.4 76.1 75.2
122 Eastern Michigan 72.6 80.1 72.0 74.9
123 Troy 73.9 75.3 75.4 74.9
124 Idaho 72.0 78.5 73.6 74.7
125 Miami (O) 72.7 77.1 72.5 74.1
126 New Mexico St. 73.6 74.6 73.6 73.9
127 North Texas 72.1 77.0 71.8 73.6
128 Charlotte 69.5 72.1 69.6 70.4

 

PiRate Retrodictive
# Team
1 Ohio St.
2 Alabama
3 TCU
4 Utah
5 Baylor
6 LSU
7 Oklahoma
8 Clemson
9 Florida St.
10 Michigan St.
11 Iowa
12 Michigan
13 Stanford
14 Florida
15 Notre Dame
16 California
17 Memphis
18 Oklahoma St.
19 Toledo
20 Houston
21 Mississippi St.
22 Texas A&M
23 BYU
24 Duke
25 Pittsburgh
26 North Carolina
27 Ole Miss
28 Temple
29 UCLA
30 Navy
31 Wisconsin
32 Utah St.
33 Georgia
34 Northwestern
35 Texas Tech
36 Boise St.
37 Tennessee
38 USC
39 Western Kentucky
40 Auburn
41 Oregon
42 Miami (FL)
43 Bowling Green
44 West Virginia
45 Appalachian St.
46 Illinois
47 Penn St.
48 Texas
49 Marshall
50 Georgia Southern
51 Arizona St.
52 Arizona
53 Washington
54 East Carolina
55 Nebraska
56 Washington St.
57 Kentucky
58 Arkansas
59 Kansas St.
60 Missouri
61 North Carolina St.
62 Western Michigan
63 South Carolina
64 Louisville
65 Northern Illinois
66 Rutgers
67 Central Michigan
68 South Florida
69 Cincinnati
70 Louisiana Tech
71 San Diego St.
72 Virginia Tech
73 Georgia Tech
74 Indiana
75 Minnesota
76 Boston College
77 Iowa St.
78 Virginia
79 Ohio U
80 Arkansas St.
81 Southern Miss.
82 Syracuse
83 Air Force
84 Maryland
85 Tulsa
86 Colorado St.
87 Vanderbilt
88 Wake Forest
89 Rice
90 Middle Tennessee
91 Kent St.
92 Oregon St.
93 Colorado
94 Connecticut
95 San Jose St.
96 Akron
97 New Mexico
98 South Alabama
99 Old Dominion
100 Purdue
101 UNLV
102 Louisiana-Lafayette
103 SMU
104 Florida Int’l.
105 Ball St.
106 Army
107 Buffalo
108 Nevada
109 Idaho
110 Tulane
111 Hawaii
112 Massachusetts
113 Fresno St.
114 Idaho
115 Louisiana-Monroe
116 Kansas
117 Georgia St.
118 Wyoming
119 UT-San Antonio
120 Texas St.
121 Central Florida
122 Troy
123 Miami (O)
124 Eastern Michigan
125 UTEP
126 Charlotte
127 North Texas
128 New Mexico St.

 

American Athletic Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Temple 3-0 6-0 108.1 110.2 108.8 109.0
Cincinnati 0-2 3-3 103.7 103.7 104.7 104.0
East Carolina 2-1 4-3 96.4 100.0 97.4 97.9
South Florida 1-1 3-3 91.5 98.1 92.2 93.9
Connecticut 1-2 3-4 85.9 91.4 86.6 88.0
Central Florida 0-3 0-7 84.6 88.0 85.3 86.0
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Memphis 2-0 6-0 109.1 109.1 110.3 109.5
Houston 3-0 6-0 104.3 112.0 107.0 107.8
Navy 2-0 4-1 100.3 103.4 101.1 101.6
Tulsa 0-2 3-3 90.4 95.2 91.3 92.3
SMU 0-2 1-5 85.1 89.0 85.1 86.4
Tulane 1-2 2-4 85.2 87.6 83.9 85.6
             
AAC Averages     95.4 99.0 96.1 96.8
             
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 3-0 6-0 117.7 118.5 118.0 118.1
Florida St. 4-0 6-0 114.6 115.4 113.8 114.6
North Carolina St. 0-2 4-2 109.9 111.1 108.8 109.9
Louisville 1-2 2-4 108.6 110.9 108.6 109.4
Boston College 0-4 3-4 100.2 104.3 98.5 101.0
Wake Forest 1-3 3-4 94.9 98.6 94.0 95.8
Syracuse 1-1 3-3 93.7 96.8 92.9 94.5
             
Coastal Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
North Carolina 2-0 5-1 117.5 117.9 117.5 117.6
Georgia Tech 0-4 2-5 114.3 111.6 113.0 113.0
Duke 2-0 5-1 108.9 109.7 109.9 109.5
Virginia Tech 1-2 3-4 110.1 108.8 109.7 109.5
Miami 1-1 4-2 107.9 108.5 108.7 108.4
Pittsburgh 3-0 5-1 107.3 108.2 108.5 108.0
Virginia 1-1 2-4 99.7 97.2 98.8 98.6
             
ACC Averages     107.5 108.4 107.2 107.7
             
Big 12 Conference
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Baylor 3-0 6-0 130.4 127.2 131.5 129.7
TCU 4-0 7-0 128.1 119.2 128.6 125.3
Oklahoma 2-1 5-1 124.3 120.9 124.2 123.1
Oklahoma St. 3-0 6-0 113.3 111.4 113.5 112.7
West Virginia 0-3 3-3 114.6 109.3 113.9 112.6
Texas 1-2 2-4 107.3 104.9 107.2 106.5
Texas Tech 2-2 5-2 109.0 100.2 108.8 106.0
Kansas St. 0-3 3-3 106.3 95.7 105.7 102.6
Iowa St. 1-2 2-4 94.9 90.7 94.0 93.2
Kansas 0-3 0-6 78.1 71.4 76.1 75.2
             
Big 12 Averages     110.6 105.1 110.4 108.7
             
Big Ten Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio St. 3-0 7-0 126.7 120.9 127.4 125.0
Michigan 2-1 5-2 119.0 115.7 118.8 117.8
Michigan St. 3-0 7-0 116.3 112.6 115.9 114.9
Penn St. 2-1 5-2 104.2 105.5 104.4 104.7
Rutgers 1-2 3-3 98.6 95.9 97.2 97.2
Indiana 0-3 4-3 96.3 96.8 95.7 96.3
Maryland 0-2 2-4 94.1 91.3 93.0 92.8
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Iowa 3-0 7-0 110.6 113.2 111.5 111.8
Wisconsin 2-1 5-2 110.3 110.8 109.8 110.3
Nebraska 1-2 3-4 110.8 108.9 110.1 109.9
Illinois 1-1 4-2 106.7 104.5 105.6 105.6
Minnesota 1-2 4-3 104.1 102.6 103.2 103.3
Northwestern 1-2 5-2 103.0 103.2 102.4 102.9
Purdue 0-3 1-6 97.9 97.2 96.4 97.2
             
Big Ten Averages     107.0 105.7 106.5 106.4
             
Conference USA
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 4-0 6-1 107.7 108.0 109.7 108.5
Marshall 3-0 6-1 95.8 96.9 96.6 96.4
Middle Tennessee 2-1 3-4 95.7 94.8 95.4 95.3
Florida International 1-2 3-4 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3
Florida Atlantic 1-2 1-5 81.1 84.4 81.1 82.2
Old Dominion 1-1 3-3 76.2 81.4 74.9 77.5
Charlotte 0-3 2-4 69.5 72.1 69.6 70.4
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 2-1 4-3 99.8 97.8 100.0 99.2
Southern Mississippi 2-1 4-3 90.1 91.3 90.4 90.6
Rice 2-1 3-3 83.9 87.8 84.4 85.4
UT-San Antonio 1-2 1-6 80.6 83.0 81.6 81.7
UTEP 0-2 2-4 75.7 78.1 75.3 76.4
North Texas 0-3 0-6 72.1 77.0 71.8 73.6
             
CUSA Averages     86.1 88.2 86.4 86.9
             
FBS Independents
Team   Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame   6-1 123.0 119.7 123.0 121.9
BYU   5-2 105.7 104.9 106.6 105.7
Army   2-5 77.6 87.1 79.1 81.3
             
Independents Averages     102.1 103.9 102.9 103.0
             
Mid-American Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 3-0 5-2 101.7 106.5 104.2 104.1
Ohio 2-1 5-2 89.6 93.7 91.2 91.5
Massachusetts 0-2 1-5 85.8 88.9 86.9 87.2
Akron 1-2 3-4 83.3 89.6 84.7 85.9
Kent St. 2-1 3-4 83.3 85.8 84.1 84.4
Buffalo 0-2 2-4 80.6 87.4 82.8 83.6
Miami (O) 0-3 1-6 72.7 77.1 72.5 74.1
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Toledo 3-0 6-0 104.2 105.0 105.9 105.0
Western Michigan 2-0 3-3 99.7 99.8 101.1 100.2
Northern Illinois 2-1 4-3 95.1 98.5 95.9 96.5
Central Michigan 2-1 3-4 90.6 94.8 93.1 92.8
Ball St. 1-2 2-5 81.4 83.2 81.6 82.1
Eastern Michigan 0-3 1-6 72.6 80.1 72.0 74.9
             
MAC Averages     87.7 91.6 88.9 89.4
             
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 2-1 5-2 113.0 108.8 112.8 111.5
Utah St. 3-0 4-2 104.1 104.1 104.6 104.3
Air Force 2-1 3-3 92.4 96.0 91.5 93.3
Colorado St. 1-2 3-4 93.9 92.1 92.6 92.9
New Mexico 2-1 4-3 88.5 89.2 87.3 88.3
Wyoming 1-2 1-6 80.1 82.8 79.3 80.7
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 3-0 4-3 98.0 103.0 99.4 100.1
San Jose St. 2-2 3-4 91.0 94.0 90.8 91.9
Nevada 1-2 3-4 88.5 92.2 87.8 89.5
Hawaii 0-3 2-5 87.2 89.4 87.2 87.9
UNLV 1-2 2-5 82.7 85.3 83.4 83.8
Fresno St. 1-3 2-5 82.1 86.2 80.7 83.0
             
MWC Averages     91.8 93.6 91.5 92.3
             
Pac-12 Conference
North Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Stanford 4-0 5-1 123.5 122.1 123.5 123.0
California 2-1 5-1 117.8 112.8 117.9 116.2
Oregon 2-2 4-3 115.6 108.7 114.8 113.0
Washington 1-2 3-3 107.4 104.8 108.0 106.7
Washington St. 2-1 4-2 102.7 98.4 102.0 101.0
Oregon St. 0-3 2-4 91.0 87.8 89.0 89.3
             
South Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Utah 3-0 6-0 125.8 120.2 125.3 123.8
USC 1-2 3-3 120.2 116.7 120.2 119.0
UCLA 1-2 4-2 120.3 114.0 118.1 117.5
Arizona St. 2-2 4-3 116.1 111.1 115.2 114.1
Arizona 2-2 5-2 111.8 106.1 110.8 109.6
Colorado 0-3 3-4 104.4 99.1 102.8 102.1
             
Pac-12 Averages     113.1 108.5 112.3 111.3
             
Southeastern Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Florida 4-1 6-1 118.8 115.8 119.0 117.9
Tennessee 1-2 3-3 119.4 114.7 118.9 117.7
Georgia 3-2 5-2 119.7 112.4 118.5 116.9
Missouri 1-3 4-3 110.3 107.0 109.5 108.9
South Carolina 1-4 3-4 106.8 103.1 104.9 104.9
Kentucky 2-2 4-2 105.9 102.5 105.0 104.5
Vanderbilt 0-3 2-4 101.0 95.9 100.5 99.1
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 3-1 6-1 129.2 127.1 129.0 128.4
LSU 4-0 6-0 123.0 119.7 122.9 121.9
Texas A&M 2-1 5-1 119.8 117.4 118.5 118.6
Ole Miss 2-1 5-2 120.3 114.3 117.9 117.5
Arkansas 1-2 2-4 118.2 112.6 117.4 116.1
Mississippi St. 1-2 5-2 114.4 110.9 114.5 113.3
Auburn 1-2 4-2 113.8 111.6 112.8 112.7
             
SEC Averages     115.8 111.8 115.0 114.2
             
Sunbelt Conference
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 2-0 5-1 100.8 103.9 102.8 102.5
Georgia Southern 3-0 5-1 96.5 98.9 97.5 97.6
Arkansas St. 2-0 3-3 89.0 89.6 90.1 89.6
UL-Lafayette 1-0 2-3 83.9 87.7 84.5 85.4
Texas St. 0-1 1-4 79.9 83.4 79.0 80.8
South Alabama 1-1 3-3 75.7 82.1 77.1 78.3
UL-Monroe 0-2 1-5 78.2 76.2 78.0 77.5
Georgia St. 1-1 2-4 76.8 76.4 77.0 76.7
Troy 0-2 1-5 73.9 75.3 75.4 74.9
Idaho 1-2 2-4 72.0 78.5 73.6 74.7
New Mexico St. 0-2 0-6 73.6 74.6 73.6 73.9
             
Sun Belt Averages     81.8 84.2 82.6 82.9

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 SEC 115.8 111.8 115.0 114.2
2 Pac-12 113.1 108.5 112.3 111.3
3 Big 12 110.6 105.1 110.4 108.7
4 ACC 107.5 108.4 107.2 107.7
5 Big Ten 107.0 105.7 106.5 106.4
6 Indep. 102.1 103.9 102.9 103.0
7 AAC 95.4 99.0 96.1 96.8
8 MWC 91.8 93.6 91.5 92.3
9 MAC 87.7 91.6 88.9 89.4
10 CUSA 86.1 88.2 86.4 86.9
11 SBC 81.8 84.2 82.6 82.9

 

NCAA Playoffs
1 Ohio St.
2 LSU
3 Utah
4 Clemson

 

Group of 5 Contenders For Automatic New Year’s Six Bowl Bid
# Team      
1 Memphis      
2 Houston      
3 Toledo      
4 Temple      
5 Navy

 

Power 5 Bottom 10

# Team
10 Virginia
9 Rutgers
8 Purdue
7 Indiana
6 Wake Forest
5 Syracuse
4 Iowa St.
3 Maryland
2 Oregon St.
1 Kansas

 

FCS Top 10
# Team PiRate
1 Jacksonville St. 96.8
2 Harvard 94.9
3 Coastal Carolina 91.7
4 Dartmouth 91.6
5 North Dakota St. 91.3
6 South Dakota St. 91.3
7 James Madison 90.2
8 Illinois St. 90.0
9 McNeese St. 89.4
10 Portland St. 88.9

 

This Week’s Games
         
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Tuesday, October 20        
Arkansas St. Louisiana-Lafayette 7.6 4.4 8.1
         
Thursday, October 22        
East Carolina Temple -8.7 -7.2 -8.4
Appalachian St. Georgia Southern 6.8 7.5 7.8
UCLA California 5.5 4.2 3.2
         
Friday, October 23        
Tulsa Memphis -15.7 -10.9 -16.0
San Diego St. Utah St. -3.1 1.9 -2.2
         
Saturday, October 24        
Miami (Fla) Clemson -6.8 -7.0 -6.3
Arkansas Auburn 7.4 4.0 7.6
Wake Forest North Carolina St. -13.0 -10.5 -12.8
Syracuse Pittsburgh -10.6 -8.4 -12.6
Texas Kansas St. 4.0 12.2 4.5
Rice Army 9.3 3.7 8.3
Baylor Iowa St. 38.5 39.5 40.5
Nebraska Northwestern 10.8 8.7 10.7
Charlotte Southern Miss. -18.1 -16.7 -18.3
Central Florida Houston -17.2 -21.5 -19.2
Louisville Boston College 11.4 9.6 13.1
Navy Tulane 18.1 18.8 20.2
Kent St. Bowling Green -16.4 -18.7 -18.1
Air Force Fresno St. 13.3 12.8 13.8
Western Michigan Miami (O) 29.5 25.2 31.1
Massachusetts Toledo -15.4 -13.1 -16.0
Ball St. Central Michigan -6.7 -9.1 -9.0
Buffalo Ohio U -6.0 -3.3 -5.4
Northern Illinois Eastern Michigan 25.5 21.4 26.9
Louisiana Tech Middle Tennessee 7.1 6.0 7.6
Marshall North Texas 26.7 22.9 27.8
Oklahoma Texas Tech 18.3 23.7 18.4
Oklahoma St. Kansas 38.2 43.0 40.4
Illinois Wisconsin -0.6 -3.3 -1.2
Maryland Penn St. -7.6 -11.7 -8.9
Michigan St. Indiana 23.0 18.8 23.2
Georgia Tech Florida St. 2.7 -0.8 2.2
Virginia Tech Duke 4.2 2.1 2.8
Alabama Tennessee 12.8 15.4 13.1
North Carolina Virginia 20.8 23.7 21.7
Arizona Washington St. 12.1 10.7 11.8
Vanderbilt Missouri -7.3 -9.1 -7.0
South Florida SMU 9.4 12.1 10.1
Nevada Hawaii 5.3 6.8 4.6
Cincinnati Connecticut 20.8 15.3 21.1
Idaho Louisiana-Monroe -3.2 5.3 -1.4
Florida Int’l. Old Dominion 17.9 15.0 20.6
UTEP Florida Atlantic -2.9 -3.8 -3.3
Ole Miss Texas A&M 3.5 -0.1 2.4
LSU Western Kentucky 18.3 14.7 16.2
Texas St. South Alabama 6.7 3.8 4.4
San Jose St. New Mexico 5.5 7.8 6.5
Mississippi St. Kentucky 11.5 11.4 12.5
USC Utah -2.6 -0.5 -2.1
Rutgers Ohio St. -25.1 -22.0 -27.2
New Mexico St. Troy 2.2 1.8 0.7
Boise St. Wyoming 35.9 29.0 36.5
Oregon St. Colorado -10.4 -8.3 -10.8
Stanford Washington 19.1 20.3 18.5
         
         
FBS vs. FCS Week 8 PiRate    
BYU Wagner 51    

 

Bowl Conferences Team vs. Team
Cure AAC SBC Temple vs. Arkansas St.
New Mexico MWC CUSA San Jose St. vs. Florida Int’l.
Las Vegas Pac-12 MWC/BYU Washington St. vs. Utah St.
Camellia MAC SBC Ohio vs. South Alabama
New Orleans CUSA SBC Louisiana Tech vs. Appalachian St.
Miami Beach AAC CUSA Memphis vs. Marshall
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Akron vs. Boise St.
Boca Raton AAC MAC South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Poinsettia MWC Army San Diego St. vs. USC *
GoDaddy MAC SBC Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern
Bahamas CUSA MAC Western Kentucky vs. Toledo
Hawaii AAC MWC/BYU Tulsa vs. BYU
St. Petersburg AAC CUSA East Carolina vs. Southern Miss.
Sun ACC Pac-12 Pittsburgh vs. UCLA
Heart of Dallas Big 12 CUSA Texas vs. Rice
Pinstripe ACC Big Ten Duke vs. Rutgers
Independence SEC ACC Kentucky vs. Miami (Fl)
Foster Farms Big Ten Pac-12 Northwestern vs. Oregon
Military ACC AAC Virginia Tech vs. Navy
Quick Lane ACC Big Ten Boston College vs. Indiana
Armed Forces Big Ten MWC Louisiana-Lafayette * vs. Air Force
Russell Athletic ACC Big 12 Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma
Arizona CUSA MWC Middle Tennessee vs. Colorado St.
Texas Big 12 SEC Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
Birmingham AAC SEC Cincinnati vs. Auburn
Belk ACC SEC North Carolina vs. Tennessee
Music City ACC/Big Ten SEC Louisville vs. Mississippi St.
Peach N. Y. 6 N. Y. 6 Clemson vs. Michigan St.
Cotton Playoff Playoff Baylor vs. Florida St.
Orange Playoff Playoff Ohio St. vs. Alabama
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Penn St. vs. Arizona St.
Ouback Big Ten SEC Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Citrus Big Ten SEC Wisconsin vs. Florida
Sugar Big 12 SEC LSU vs. TCU
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Stanford vs. Iowa
Fiesta N. Y. 6 N. Y. 6 Utah vs. Houston
TaxSlayer ACC/Big Ten SEC Illinois vs. Georgia
Liberty Big 12 SEC West Virginia vs. Arkansas
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma St. vs. California
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 Kansas St. vs. Arizona
Nat’l Champ. Semifinal Winners Ohio St. vs. Baylor
           
* = At-large selection due to contracted conference not having an eligible team for this slot

 

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August 20, 2013

2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

 

The Atlantic Coast Conference expands to 14 teams this year, with two long-time Big East schools joining the fold.  This gives the ACC five former Big East members with a sixth to come next year.

 

The league has three teams that could compete for national honors this year, and at least one player, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd must be considered a key Heisman Trophy candidate.

 

There are new coaches in the league as well.  Dave Doeren takes over at North Carolina St. after guiding Northern Illinois to a spot in the Orange Bowl.  The former defensive coordinator at Wisconsin produced multiple top defenses in Badgerland, and he can only hope to find the next J. J. Watt and get him to Raleigh.

 

Steve Addazio moves from Temple to Boston College to try to reverse the Eagles’ slide.  BC has fallen from 11 to 9 to 8 to 7 to 4 to 2 wins.  Addazio has 18 starters returning, and BC should see an end to the decline.

 

Scott Shafer is the new man at Syracuse.  He has a tough job replacing Doug Marrone who matriculated to the NFL.  He had been the defensive coordinator for Marrone.

 

In the Atlantic Division, Clemson and Florida St. should decide the division title when they meet in Clemson on October 19.  The other five should split games and finish two or more games in back of second place.  Maryland, North Carolina St. ,and Wake Forest appear to have the talent to become bowl eligible.

 

In the Coastal Division, we believe Coach Al Golden has amassed enough talent to send the Miami Hurricanes to the conference championship game in year three in Coral Gables.  Golden won big at Temple, so Miami’s recruiting woes created by the prior coaching administration won’t prevent Golden from taking the “U” to a big bowl this year.

 

Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina will all challenge for conference honors, and it would not be a big surprise if any of these teams emerged as the division winner.

 

Georgia Tech has an experienced option quarterback, two quality fullbacks, and talented slotbacks for Coach Paul Johnson’s spread option attack.  The Yellow Jackets topped 300 rushing yards per game last year and should do even better in 2013.  If the defense can improve enough to shave a touchdown per game off what it did last year, then Tech could win seven conference games and nine or ten overall.

 

Virginia Tech has the top defense in the league, but the offense has been too inconsistent to be a division winner.  Logan Thomas needs to show considerable improvement in the passing game before the Hokies can return to the top of the league.  The opening game in Atlanta against Alabama could be as one-sided as the Alabama opener against Michigan last year.

 

North Carolina is waiting in ambush.  Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels benefit from having a week off prior to the Georgia Tech game in Atlanta and prior to the Miami game at home (so does Miami).

 

Virginia, Duke, and Pittsburgh all figure to lose more than they win this year.  Virginia has bitten off more than they can chew.  The Cavaliers open the season with games against BYU and Oregon.  An early October game at home against Ball St. is a trap game for sure.

 

After beginning 2012 6-2, Duke finished with five consecutive losses, giving up more than 49 points per game.  The Blue Devils lose their top two tacklers on defense and their QB and two star receivers on offense, so it looks like another year where Duke fans will have to wait for the basketball season to begin.

 

Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin for seven years.  He built the Badgers’ offense on power running and excellent double tight end play, and he is trying to do the same at Pitt.  So far, he has yet to isolate a Lance Kendricks or Travis Beckum, and the Panther offense has not played with the consistency of his UW offenses.  Six times in 2012, Pitt failed to reach 21 points.

 

 

New Teams: Pittsburgh and Syracuse join from the Big East

 

Departures: None in 2013

 

2014 Additions: Lousville joins to make the ACC even stronger on the hardwoods.  Notre Dame begins its affiliation with the league and will host Louisville, North Carolina and Wake Forest and play at Florida State and Syracuse.

 

2014 Departures: Maryland leaves for the Big Ten

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Clemson

0-0

0-0

116.5

112.2

117.5

Florida St.

0-0

0-0

112.9

112.8

113.3

Syracuse

0-0

0-0

101.5

96.6

100.8

Boston College

0-0

0-0

100.4

96.6

101.1

Wake Forest

0-0

0-0

98.3

101.6

98.4

North Carolina St.

0-0

0-0

97.0

102.0

97.5

Maryland

0-0

0-0

94.7

105.1

96.5

     

 

 

 

Coastal Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Miami

0-0

0-0

114.7

114.1

115.2

Virginia Tech

0-0

0-0

110.9

110.8

110.9

Georgia Tech

0-0

0-0

110.5

108.7

110.8

North Carolina

0-0

0-0

107.3

109.3

108.6

Pittsburgh

0-0

0-0

101.1

97.6

101.1

Duke

0-0

0-0

97.5

97.1

96.5

Virginia

0-0

0-0

95.9

97.6

96.1

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

104.2

104.4

104.6

 

 

Official Pre-season Media Poll

 
         
Pos. Team

Points

1st Place

 

Atlantic Division

 

1

Clemson

815

102

 

2

Florida St.

731

18

 

3

North Carolina St.

490

0

 

4

Wake Forest

392

0

 

5

Maryland

373

0

 

6

Syracuse

320

0

 

7

Boston College

211

0

 
         

Coastal Division

 

1

Miami

736

65

 

2

Virginia Tech

654

27

 

3

North Carolina

649

22

 

4

Georgia Tech

522

6

 

5

Pittsburgh

313

0

 

6

Virginia

230

0

 

7

Duke

228

0

 
         

ACC Championship Game Winner

 

1

Clemson

95

   

2

Florida St.

15

   

3

Georgia Tech

3

   

3

Miami

3

   

3

North Carolina

3

   

6

Virginia Tech

1

   
         

ACC Championship Game Predictions

 

1

Clemson over Miami    

55

2

Clemson over Virginia Tech  

19

3

Clemson over North Carolina  

18

4

Florida State over Miami  

7

5

Florida State over Virginia Tech  

7

6

Clemson over Georgia Tech  

3

7

Georgia Tech over Clemson  

3

8

Miami over Clemson    

2

9

North Carolina over Florida State

2

10

Virginia Tech over Clemson  

1

11

North Carolina over Clemson  

1

12

Miami over Florida State  

1

13

Miami over Florida State  

1

14

Florida State over North Carolina

1

 

The Official ACC Media Preseason All-Conference Teams

 

2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Team
       
1st Team Offense    
       
Pos. Player   School
WR Sammy Watkins   Clemson
WR Michael Campanaro   Wake Forest
TE Eric Ebron   North Carolina
T James Hurst   North Carolina
T Morgan Moses   Virginia
G Tre’ Jackson   Florida St.
G Brandon Linder   Miami
C Bryan Stork   Florida St.
QB Tajh Boyd   Clemson
RB Duke Johnson   Miami
RB James Wilder Jr.   Florida St.
       
1st Team Defense    
       
Pos. Player   School
DE Jeremiah Attaochu   Georgia Tech
DE Kareem Martin   North Carolina
DT Nikita Whitlock   Wake Forest
DT Timmy Jernigan   Florida St.
LB Jack Tyler   Virginia Tech
LB Christian Jones   Florida St.
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis   Boston College
CB Ross Cockrell   Duke
CB Lamarcus Joyner *   Florida St.
S Tre Boston   North Carolina
S Jason Hendricks   Pittsburgh
       
1st Team Specialists    
       
Pos. Player   School
PK Chandler Catanzaro   Clemson
P Will Monday   Duke
SP Stefon Diggs   Maryland
       
Lamarcus Joyner received 11 votes at safety
       
2nd Team Offense    
       
Pos. Player   School
WR Stefon Diggs   Maryland
WR Rashad Greene   Florida St.
TE Nick O’Leary   Florida St.
T Brandon Thomas   Clemson
T Seantrel Henderson   Miami
G Will Jackson   Georgia Tech
G Tyler Shatley   Clemson
C Macky MacPherson   Syracuse
QB 3-players tied *   See Below
RB Jerome Smith   Syracuse
RB Devonta Freeman   Florida St.
       
* QB 3-players tied    
  Logan Thomas   Virginia Tech
  Bryn Renner   North Carolina
  Stephen Morris   Miami
       
2nd Team Defense    
       
Pos. Player   School
DE James Gayle   Virginia Tech
DE Mario Edwards   Florida St.
DT Aaron Donald   Pittsburgh
DT Derrick Hopkins   Virginia Tech
LB Steele Divitto   Boston College
LB Dyshawn Davis   Syracuse
LB Stephone Anthony   Clemson
CB Antone Exum   Virginia Tech
CB Kyle Fuller   Virginia Tech
S Kyshoen Jarrett   Virginia Tech
S Travis Blanks   Clemson
       
2nd Team Specialists    
       
Pos. Player   School
PK Ross Martin   Duke
P Tommy Hibbard   North Carolina
SP Duke Johnson   Miami

 

 

 

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100         A+

86-92           A

79-85           A-

72-78           B+

65-71           B

58-64           B-

51-57           C+

44-50           C

37-43           C-

30-36           D

0-29             F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

Atlantic Division

 

Team

Boston College Eagles

               
Head Coach

Steve Addazio

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Chestnut Hill, MA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

               
Grades              
Run Offense

65

Pass Offense

74

Run Defense

59

Pass Defense

62

               
Ratings              
PiRate

100.4

Mean

96.6

Bias

101.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

54

Mean

76

Bias

48

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

4-8

 

 

Team

Clemson Tigers

               
Head Coach

Dabo Swinney

               
Colors

Orange and Purple

               
City

Clemson, SC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-2

               
Grades              
Run Offense

77

Pass Offense

96

Run Defense

70

Pass Defense

79

               
Ratings              
PiRate

116.5

Mean

112.2

Bias

117.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

18

Mean

23

Bias

16

               
Prediction              
Conference

8-0 (lose ACC title game)

Overall

10-3

 

 

Team

Florida St. Seminoles

               
Head Coach

Jimbo Fisher

               
Colors

Garnet and Gold

               
City

Tallahassee, FL

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1 (won ACC Championship Game)

Overall

12-2

               
Grades              
Run Offense

80

Pass Offense

87

Run Defense

73

Pass Defense

71

               
Ratings              
PiRate

112.9

Mean

112.8

Bias

113.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

31

Mean

20

Bias

30

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

10-2

 

 

Team

Maryland Terrapins

               
Head Coach

Randy Edsall

               
Colors

Red, White, Black, and Gold

               
City

College Park, MD

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

59

Pass Offense

64

Run Defense

53

Pass Defense

61

               
Ratings              
PiRate

94.7

Mean

105.1

Bias

96.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

78

Mean

41

Bias

76

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

North Carolina St. Wolfpack

               
Head Coach

Dave Doeren

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Raleigh, NC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

58

Pass Offense

81

Run Defense

62

Pass Defense

46

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.0

Mean

102.0

Bias

97.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

75

Mean

50

Bias

73

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

Syracuse Orangemen

               
Head Coach

Scott Shafer

               
Colors

Orange, Blue, and White

               
City

Syracuse, NY

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-2 (in Big East)

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

75

Pass Offense

72

Run Defense

62

Pass Defense

58

               
Ratings              
PiRate

101.5

Mean

96.6

Bias

100.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

51

Mean

77

Bias

54

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

               
Head Coach

Jim Grobe

               
Colors

Black and Old Gold

               
City

Winston-Salem, NC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

79

Pass Offense

54

Run Defense

63

Pass Defense

61

               
Ratings              
PiRate

98.3

Mean

101.6

Bias

98.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

67

Mean

53

Bias

68

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-5

 

 

Coastal Division

 

Team

Duke Blue Devils

               
Head Coach

David Cutcliffe

               
Colors

Royal Blue and White

               
City

Durham, NC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

6-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

75

Pass Offense

69

Run Defense

50

Pass Defense

56

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.5

Mean

97.1

Bias

96.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

72

Mean

73

Bias

75

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

               
Head Coach

Paul Johnson

               
Colors

Old Gold, Navy, and White

               
City

Atlanta

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-3 (lost ACC Championship Game)

Overall

7-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

98

Pass Offense

57

Run Defense

77

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

110.5

Mean

108.7

Bias

110.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

36

Mean

34

Bias

36

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Miami Hurricanes

               
Head Coach

Al Golden

               
Colors

Orange and Green

               
City

Coral Gables, FL

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

81

Pass Offense

92

Run Defense

67

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

114.7

Mean

114.1

Bias

115.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

28

Mean

15

Bias

25

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1 (win ACC Championship Game)

Overall

12-1

 

 

Team

North Carolina Tar Heels

               
Head Coach

Larry Fedora

               
Colors

Carolina Blue and White

               
City

Chapel Hill, NC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

8-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

69

Pass Offense

88

Run Defense

63

Pass Defense

66

               
Ratings              
PiRate

107.3

Mean

109.3

Bias

108.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

41

Mean

32

Bias

40

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Pittsburgh Panthers

               
Head Coach

Paul Chryst

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Pittsburgh

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-4 (in Big East)

Overall

6-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

57

Pass Offense

75

Run Defense

62

Pass Defense

67

               
Ratings              
PiRate

101.1

Mean

97.6

Bias

101.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

52

Mean

69

Bias

49

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

Virginia Cavaliers

               
Head Coach

Mike London

               
Colors

Blue and Orange

               
City

Charlottesville, VA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

60

Pass Offense

69

Run Defense

51

Pass Defense

61

               
Ratings              
PiRate

95.9

Mean

97.6

Bias

96.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

77

Mean

70

Bias

77

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Virginia Tech Hokies

               
Head Coach

Frank Beamer

               
Colors

Maroon, Orange, and White

               
City

Blacksburg, VA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

77

Pass Offense

74

Run Defense

84

Pass Defense

71

               
Ratings              
PiRate

110.9

Mean

110.8

Bias

110.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

35

Mean

29

Bias

33

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

9-3

 

 

 

August 24, 2011

2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

 

Last year, Virginia Tech and Florida State met in the ACC Championship Game for the second time in the history of the game.  The Hokies won to advance to the Orange Bowl, where they ran into the new “greatest quarterback ever” in Andrew Luck and Stanford.

 

This year, it looks like a strong possibility that the two powers will once again meet in the ACC Championship Game.  Both teams are national title contenders as well.  Florida State appears to be the stronger team as the season starts, but Virginia Tech doesn’t have a Boise State or Alabama at the start of the schedule this year.  Two teams, North Carolina and Miami, were hit with summer news that could greatly affect their showing this season.  Butch Davis was fired at North Carolina, while Miami may be looking at a possible death penalty.  This could be the season where some of the former bottom feeders move up at the expense of programs in trouble.

 

ATLANTIC DIVISION

 

Florida State

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

E. J. Manuel takes over as starter for Christian Ponder.  He started twice last year and completed 70% of his passes and passed for an excellent 9.3 yards per attempt.  Manuel is also a much better runner than Ponder, so this position will actually be as strong or even stronger this year—as long as Manuel stays healthy.

 

Receivers

Had Taiwan Easterling not decided to become a future Chicago Cub, this might have been one of the 10 best in the nation.  It will still be one of the two best in the ACC.  Bert Reed is an excellent possession receiver; he led the Seminoles with 58 receptions.  Willie Haulstead is more of a deep threat; he led the ‘Noles with 15.4 yards per reception and six touchdowns.  Tight end Beau Reliford caught just 19 passes, but he should contribute more this season.

 

Running Backs

The situation is in limbo here.  Starter Chris Thompson has a bad back, and he is not getting many reps in practice and has missed multiple practices.  Last year, he led FSU with 845 yards while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.  Backups Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas are both capable.  Jones has been a number one back in the past. 

 

Offensive Line

This is Coach Jimbo Fisher’s only concern on this side of the ball, and it really isn’t much of a concern.  Tackle Zebrie Sanders is recovering from a groin injury, and center David Spurlock has missed time and only recently began practicing in full pads.  Tackle Andrew Datko is the star of this unit.

 

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Simply, this is the best front four in the ACC and one of the top five nationally.  End Brandon Jenkins finished second in the league with 13 ½ sacks and 21 ½ tackles for loss.  If he goes pro, he could be the first defensive lineman taken in the 2012 NFL Draft.  Tackles Jaccobi McDaniel and Everett Dawkins make it difficult for enemy backs to run between the tackles.  As a unit, FSU led the nation with 48 sacks.

 

Linebackers

Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter to this unit.  Bradham led the Seminoles with 98 tackles and recorded five sacks and five passes defended.  Christian Jones has the potential to be an all-conference player in his sophomore season.

 

Secondary

All four starters return, but not all are guaranteed a starting spot this year.  The two-deep is hands down the best in the league.  Cornerbacks Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes teamed for 33 passes defended.  Lamarcus Joiner will start at one of the safety spots, meaning either Terrance Parks or Nick Moody will drop to second team.

 

OTHER

Punter Shawn Powell and place kicker Dustin Hopkins are the best in the ACC at their positions.  Hopkins has enough leg to connect from 60 yards.  Reid is one of the best punt returners in the nation.

 

SUMMARY

We believe FSU will score 35-40 points and gain 400-425 yards per game, while yielding about 17 points and 325-350 yards per game.  Their schedule has one big obstacle in it—a rematch with number one Oklahoma at Doak Campbell Stadium.  In league play, the Seminoles must visit Clemson and Boston College.  The finale with Florida may not be the tough game it has been in the past.

 

It is a big if to expect FSU to beat Oklahoma, but it is possible.  If they win that one, then their destination could easily be New Orleans, and we are not talking the Sugar Bowl.  11-1 headed into the ACC Championship is very possible.

 

Clemson

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Coach Dabo Swinney’s best recruiting effort may have taken place after the season.  Chad Morris comes in from Tulsa to take over at Offensive Coordinator.  So, expect a move to a no-huddle, hurry-up offense.  Can new starter Tajh Boyd impersonate G. J. Kinne?  Behind him are two true freshmen.  Boyd played in seven games and completed just 52% of his passes as a freshman.

 

Receivers

Wideout DeAndre Hopkins and Tight end Dwayne Allen give Boyd a couple of quality targets, but after that, the book is out on the rest of this group.  Hopkins led CU with 52 receptions, 637 yards, and four touchdowns.  Allen could compete for a final spot on the Mackie Award list.  True freshman Sammy Watkins could be the difference in making this a great unit or a better than average unit.

 

Running Backs

The Tigers lose Jamie Harper, who is now a Tennessee Titan.  Andre Ellington returns after starting six games and rushing for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns.  If he stays healthy, he could double that amount this year.

 

Offensive Line

The biggest concern here is the learning curve.  Four starters return from last year, but all the blocking schemes will be radically different.  Center Dalton Freeman has the talent to receive votes for the Rimington Award.  Guard Antoine McClain and tackle Landon Walker could appear on one of the postseason all-conference teams.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

This is going to be a liability and the reason why CU will not compete with Florida State for the ACC Atlantic Division title.  Da’Quan Bowers and his 26 tackles for loss is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.  Jarvis Jenkins is now a Washington Redskin.  The new replacements are not in their league.  The two returning starters are good ones, but neither will record 26 tackles for loss, and they probably will not combine for that many.  Andre Branch is good enough to become a star end in the ACC.  Brandon Thompson is a quality tackle, but this unit will take a big step backward.

 

Linebackers

Middle linebacker Corico Hawkins is the only returning starter to this unit.  He came up with 10 stops for loss last year, but he did not help much versus the pass.  A couple of true freshmen could see considerable playing time this year.  For now, sophomore Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard will flank Hawkins.

 

Secondary

Xavier Brewer is the star of this unit.  The cornerback defended 10 passes last year.  Coty Sensabaugh was a late signee four years ago, and now the senior will finish his career as a starter.  Rashard Hall returns at one safety, while Jonathan Meeks will be the new starter at the other safety position.  Overall, this is an above average secondary but not a great one.

 

OTHER

Clemson’s schedule gives the Tigers an excellent chance to start 3-0 prior to hosting Florida State on September 24.  Home games with Troy, Wofford, and Auburn give CU a great chance to go 3-0.  Then, the Tigers host FSU and play at Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks.

 

SUMMARY

Clemson averaged just 24 points per game and 335 yards per game last year.  With the new offense, CU should score 30-35 points per game and gain around 400 yards.  However, the new offense will make things harder for the green defense.  CU gave up just 19 points per game last year, but we see the Tigers giving up about a touchdown more in 2011.  Clemson should win eight or nine games and go bowling once again.

 

Boston College

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Chase Rettig is the clear number one this season, as the three quarterbacks that saw action last year all return.  Rettig passed for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns, but he threw nine interceptions and completed just 51% of his passes last year as a freshman.

 

Receivers

Boston College has been known for its tight ends, and Chris Pantale is the current star.  He caught 31 passes last year and could top that number this season.  Alex Amidon and Bobby Swigert return after combining for 55 receptions and six touchdowns.  There is a lot of experienced depth here, but it is not the most talented.

 

Running Backs

Montel Harris rushed for 1,243 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but he is going to miss some time at the start of the season due to a knee injury.  Backup Andre Williams is also a little banged up, so the Eagles are thin at this position as they start the season.  Rolandan Finch will get first crack at filling this spot until Williams and Harris are ready to go.  BC has averaged less than four yards per rush every year since Derrick Knight graduated as the all-time rushing leader in 2003.

 

Offensive Line

The Eagles have been known for developing excellent lines, but this year’s OL will be a liability for 3rd year coach Frank Spaziani.  Only two starters return, and one of those two will miss the start of the season.  Guard Nathan Richman has a back injury and will not be ready for the start of the season.  Tackle Emmett Cleary is a titan at 6-07 and 300 pounds.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The Eagles must start over almost from scratch in the trenches.  Three of the four starters from 2010 have left the building; BC gave up just a little over 80 rushing yards per game last year, and that number was not inflated by a lot of sacks.  Only tackle Kaleb Ramsey returns.  Ramsey made 7 ½ stops behind the line and finished with 39 tackles.  Max Holloway was a part-time starter last year.  He will start full-time at one end spot after leading the team with 14 tackles for loss and four sacks.

 

Linebackers

This is where the defense shines, and the reason the Eagles have a chance to repeat as the number two defense in the league.  It starts with return of consensus All-American Luke Kuechly, who led the nation with 183 tackles.  He also intercepted three passes and batted away three others.  Nick Clancy has been impressive in August drills, and he could become the new starter at the Sam position, while Kevin Pierre-Louis returns to the Will position.  Pierre-Louis was a Freshman All-American last year after recording 93 tackles.  If Clancy can repeat in games what he has done in scrimmages, this could become a top three unit.

 

Secondary

As optimistic as things are at linebacker, the secondary is almost as much pessimistic.  The dismissal of expected starting safety Okechukwu Okoroha and the back injury to cornerback Donnie Fletcher has left BC thin in the backfield.  Fletcher will miss the opening of the season.  The new safety figures to be Spenser Rositano, a true freshman.  Jim Noel started eight games last year and picked off four passes.  He will start at the other safety spot.  Cornerback Al Louis-Jean, a true freshman, will replace Fletcher until he is ready to return, while redshirt freshman Dominique Williams figures to start at the other corner spot.

 

OTHER

Boston College has yielded less than 20 points per game six of the last seven years and his not given up more than 333 yards in any of those seasons.  They have surrendered just 92 rushing yards per game in the last six seasons.

 

SUMMARY

This is a tricky season to predict Boston College’s outcome.  The Eagles could be as much as a touchdown weaker than normal to start the season due to key injuries, and their opener comes against Northwestern, a team that can beat them.  In week two, they have a trap game at Central Florida, before opening conference play in Chestnut Hill against an improved Duke team.  BC could be 3-0, 2-1, or 1-2 by this time, and that will give an excellent barometer for what will happen at the back end of the schedule.  Games four and five are as close to sure wins as they will have (hosting UMass and Wake Forest). The Eagles end the season on the road against Notre Dame and Miami.  Road games against Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Maryland will make for a tough October stretch.  If BC is to go bowling for the 13th consecutive season, they need to start 4-1 at the least.

 

North Carolina State

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

There will be a drop-off from what they had to what they will get this year out of this position.  Russell Wilson left Raleigh with the thoughts of playing professional baseball.  He ended up playing college football in Madison, Wisconsin.  Mike Glennon takes over after completing nine passes for 78 yards last year.  Glennon saw action in three games last year, but he did play in seven as a freshman.  He won’t replicate Wilson’s numbers, but he will have some good games—and some bad games.  His mobility is a question at this point; he is not a dual threat like Wilson.

 

Receivers

The Wolfpack must replace their top two receivers from 2010.  Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams teamed for 112 receptions and 1600+ yards.  T. J. Graham should become the go-to guy this year.  He caught 25 passes and scored four touchdowns.  Coach Tom O’Brien is concerned with this position, because the talent level drops off quite a bit after Graham.  Tight end George Bryan will be called on to be a primary receiver after catching 35 passes last year.  Look for more dropped passes and fewer yards per reception.

 

Running Backs

Mustafa Greene led NCSU with 597 rushing yards last year, but a foot injury will keep him from playing until October.  O’Brien will choose from among four contenders to replace Greene for the first month.  James Washington, Brandon Barnes, Curtis Underwood, and Anthony Creecy could all see action.  Washington and Underwood have the most experience, but Creecy has the best moves.

 

Offensive Line

What was already a concern became something a bit more concerning after the ‘Pack saw one guard leave the program and two others suffer knee injuries that will keep them out for at least the first month of the season.  Nobody on the roster will earn an all-conference award this year.  Center Camden Wentz, guard Zach Allen, and tackle R. J. Mattes at least have experience on their side.  NCSU only averaged 3.5 yards per rush last year, and the OL gave up 39 sacks with a mobile quarterback under center.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

There’s more bad news on this side of the ball.  The one star in the trenches, J. R. Sweezy, is out six weeks with a foot injury.  That leaves end Jeff Rieskamp as the only player with real experience.  Rieskamp only picked up two QB sacks, but he did force 17 QB hurries. 

Linebackers

This trio is second in the conference in talent only to the group at Boston College.  Audie Cole recorded five sacks and picked up 10 ½ tackles for loss last year.  Terrell Manning added five sacks and 11 tackles for loss.  Rickey Dowdy figures to be the new starter after moving from defensive end.  The Wolfpack will miss Nate Irving, who led the team with 97 tackles and 20 ½ tackles for loss.

 

Secondary

All four starters return from 2010, but this unit is not a major plus.  Cornerback C. J. Wilson led the team with 10 passes defended, but his counterpart, David Amerson, only had one.  Safety Earl Wolff finished third on the team with 91 tackles and proved to be an effective safety blitzer.  Brandon Bishop led the team with four interceptions.

 

OTHER

O’Brien’s four years in Raleigh have seen his teams post 5-7 seasons in the odd years and advance to bowls in the even years.  The ease of the schedule could give him a chance to break that string.  After scoring almost 32 points per game and gaining more than 400, we do not see the Wolfpack matching those numbers this year.  Call it 22-26 points and 350-375 yards.  The defense could come close to matching last year’s record of 21 points and 340 yards. 

 

SUMMARY

Home games with Liberty, South Alabama, Central Michigan, and North Carolina plus a road games with Wake Forest and Virginia give NCSU a great shot for six wins.  A game at Cincinnati on Thursday, September 22, could be the best shot at a seventh win.  Do not expect another nine-win season.

 

Maryland

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

New head coach Randy Edsall brought in former BYU head coach and LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton to run the Terp offense.  Crowton has an excellent quarterback to work with and an up and coming backup.  Danny O’Brien completed 57% of his passes last year for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns.  C. J. Brown shows promise, and if O’Brien falters or is injured, he is more than capable of playing for extended time.

 

Receivers

The Terps lost their top two receivers from a year ago, including Torrey Smith.  Smith caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns.  The new group of receivers should improve as the season progresses, but the road could be bumpy early.

 

Quintin McCree, Ronnie Tyler, and Kevin Dorsey combined for just 44 receptions and 524 yards.  There is some depth here with true freshman Marcus Leak a highly-prized recruit.  Tony Logan could challenge for a starting nod, and Kenny Boykins should contribute.

 

Tight end Matt Furstenburg added a dozen receptions but led the team with 17.2 yards per catch.

 

Running Backs

Davin Meggett takes over full-time here after splitting time with Da’Rel Scott last year.  Meggett rushed for 720 yards, seldom losing yardage.  He should go over 1,000 this year.

 

Offensive Line

Three starters return, but there are no stars on this unit.  The dismissal of guard Justin Lewis and the double broken legs of tackle Pete DeSouza from a motorcycle accident makes this a thin unit. Center Bennett Fulper, guard Andrew Gonnella and tackle R. J. Dill are the experienced veterans.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

All four starters from 2010 return this year, but end Justin Anderson has an injured foot.  He had lost his starting spot to Isaiah Ross.  The strength of this unit is at tackle.  A. J. Francis and Joe Vellano teamed for 107 tackles and 17 ½ stops for loss.  True freshman Keith Bowers could see the field early.

 

Linebackers

There is no depth at linebacker, so the three starters better stay healthy and be able to play for long stretches.  Kenny Tate moves to linebacker from safety after he made 100 tackles with 8 ½ for loss.  He intercepted three passes and broke up four others.  Demetrius Hartsfield finished third on the team with 88 tackles.

 

With no real depth here, Edsall moved Avery Graham from cornerback to a backup linebacker spot.  Graham is 5-10 and weighs just 195 pounds.

 

Secondary

Cornerbacks Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes return after recording 18 passes defended, but only one interception.  Matt Robinson and Eric Franklin will not be able to match the efforts by last year’s safeties.

 

OTHER

Logan is an excellent punt returner.  In 2010, he took two punts to the house while averaging 18.1 yards per return.

 

SUMMARY

Edsall has a chance to send the Terps to a bowl this year, but the team will not match last year’s results.  The schedule offers them no favors.  Out of the league, the Terps host West Virginia, Temple, and Towson.  They face Notre Dame at Fedex Field (Washington Redskins home), which is basically a home game.  It looks like Maryland will go 2-2 in those games.  Maryland will have to break even in the league just to get to 6-6.

 

Wake Forest

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Tanner Price edged out Ted Stachitas in the spring.  As a freshman, Price led the Demon Deacons with 1,349 passing yards and seven touchdowns.  He completed 56.8%, but he only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.  True freshman Kevin Sousa is the top incoming recruit, but he may not see the field this year.

 

Receivers

This unit is not all that strong, but it has to be an improvement over last year, when WF averaged just 144 passing yards per game.  Chris Givens returns after leading the Deacs with 35 receptions and four touchdowns.  However, Givens has a hamstring injury, and his status for the start of the season is unclear.  Danny Dembry (8 receptions) may start in his place.  Michael Campanero should more than double his number of catches in 2011, but he only caught 10 last year.  Tight end Andrew Parker is more of a run-blocker, while Cameron Ford is the better route runner.

 

Running Backs

The Demon Deacons averaged more than four yards per carry last year for the first time in five years.  Josh Harris returns after gaining 720 yards and scoring seven times.  He averaged 5.7 yards per rush.  Two quality backs will back him up.  Brandon Pendergrass and Nick Knott should both see action this season.

 

Offensive Line

Four starters return to the line, so this unit should fare better this year.  However, they are prone to giving up sacks.  Four of the five are seniors, so this unit will keep mistakes to a minimum.  Guard Joe Looney is the one candidate likely to appear on an all-conference ballot. 

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe switched the team from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in the middle of last year’s season.  It made Nikita Whitlock a nose guard instead of a defensive tackle.  Semantics aside, Whitlock recorded 10 ½ tackles for loss.  He got better as the season progressed.  Zach Thompson and Tristan Dorty will be the two new starters at end.  Dorty was a linebacker last year and made 7 ½ tackles for losses.

 

Linebackers

Kyle Wilber figures to be the star of this unit.  He comes off a season in which he led the team with 14 ½ stops behind the line and six sacks.  He also got his paws in on four balls to send them harmlessly to the ground.  Scott Betros, Justin Jackson, and Joey Ehrmann figure to make up the rest of the quartet.  Wilber has been nursing a sore hamstring, and in his absence, Zachary Allen has been subbing for him.  While not overpowering, this unit should improve this year if Wilber can get healthy.

 

Secondary

Three starters return, led by safety Cyhl Quarles, who recorded 71 stops last year.  Kenny Okoro and Merrill Noel will start at the corners, while Joe Bush starts at the other safety spot.  This unit has room for improvement after giving up 238 passing yards per game in 2010.

 

OTHER

Kicker Jimmy Newman was almost perfect last year.  He connected on all of his PAT attempts and was 12 of 13 in field goal attempted.

 

SUMMARY

The non-conference part of the schedule is Jekyll and Hyde.  Wake Forest plays at Syracuse and hosts Notre Dame, two games the Deacons figure to lose.  They host Gardner-Webb, the only sure thing on the schedule this year.  They host Vanderbilt in the season finale, and that game should be a close one.  Wake Forest will go 2-2 or 1-3 in those four games.  In the ACC, the Deacs host North Carolina State and Maryland, the two teams that figure to be just above them in the preseason polls.  Road games with North Carolina and Duke could be winnable based on how WF has performed leading up to those games.

 

There are not enough winnable games on the schedule to see any way Wake Forest could get to six wins.  Four wins seem about right.

 

COASTAL DIVISION

 

Virginia Tech

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Replacing all-time leading passer Tyrod Taylor will be tough.  Taylor passed for 2,743 yards with a 24/5 TD/int ratio, while rushing for more than 900 yards (sacks removed).

 

Logan Thomas is big and mobile.  At 6-6 and almost 250 pounds, he is built like a tight end and was recruited to Tech as an H-Back.  Thomas saw limited action as a freshman, completing 12 of 26 passes for just 107 yards, while rushing for 29 yards on five carries. 

 

Receivers

Coach Frank Beamer has three receivers capable of challenging for all-conference honors.  Jarrett Boykin leads the way after grabbing a team-high 53 receptions in 2010.  He averaged 16 yards per catch.  Danny Coale averaged nearly 19 yards on his 39 receptions, while former QB Marcus Davis added 19 receptions.  Chris Drager has moved from tight end to defensive end and back to tight end. Eric Martin shows promise and could be used in a double tight end formation.

 

Running Backs

David Wilson has 1,000-yard potential, and the Hokies will not miss much of a beat after losing two key backs, one of whom signed with the Arizona Cardinals.  Three players are competing for the backup position.  Josh Oglesby is the leader, followed by Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes.

 

Offensive Line

This shaped up to be one of the best in the country until injuries hit two starters.  Guard Greg Kosal suffered a shoulder injury, and tackle Blake DeChristopher went down with a pectoral injury.  Both players are well-ahead of schedule in their return, but neither may be ready for the season-opener.  David Wang is working as Kosal’s replacement, and Nick Becton, Michael Via, or Vinston Painter will fill in at tackle.

 

Center Andrew Miller takes over the starting role after seeing extensive playing time as a freshman.  He is a former high school state wrestling champion and the strongest player on the line.  Guard James Brooks made the 2nd team all-conference squad last year.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been at VT for a quarter century.  Last year, a young defensive line led to the Hokies giving up more than 20 points per game and 300 yards per game for the first time since 2003.  This year’s defensive line is a concern once again with three new starters.

 

The one holdover is tackle Antoine Hopkins.  His brother Derrick will start opposite him.  The new ends are James Gayle and J. R. Collins, with redshirt freshman Zack McCray and true freshman Luther Maddy backing them up.  The potential is there for this unit to be tougher to run on than last year and with an equal pass rush.

 

Linebackers

The Hokies have both quality and quantity here, as they can go two-deep with little drop-off in talent.  Bruce Taylor is a probably 1st team All-ACC middle linebacker.  He led VT with 91 tackles and 15 ½ for loss last year with six sacks and 12 QB hurries.  He also showed his worth as a pass defender, separating the receiver from the ball four times.  Telvion Clark and Tariq Edwards are competing for one outside spot, while Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is competing with Nick Dew for the other spot.

 

Secondary

The Hokies have excellent talent, but they are not as deep here as Beamer would like to be.  Cornerback Jayron Hosley is the best in the league at his position.  He led the ACC with nine interceptions and finished tied for first with 17 passes defended.  Kyle Fuller replaces all-star Rashad Campbell; Fuller had six passes defended as a reserve last year.

 

Safeties Antoine Exum and Eddie Watley switched positions this summer, with Exum moving to free safety and Whitley moving to rover.  

 

OTHER

This is a much easier schedule for VT than the last two.  Appalachian State replaces Boise State and Alabama as the season opener.  Road trips to East Carolina and Marshall book-end a home game with Arkansas State.  The Hokies get Clemson, Miami, and Boston College at home and avoid Florida State.  They could easily run the table in the regular season.  One loss will eliminate them from any national championship talk.  They have to go 13-0 and hope two other big name teams do not do so as well.

 

SUMMARY

We believe Thomas will emerge as an excellent quarterback, but he will not be as consistent as his predecessor.  His percentage will be lower, but his yards per reception could be higher.  Look for VT to average 28-30 points per game and 375-400 yards per game.  On defense, the Hokies will recover from last year’s aberration and give up less than 20 points and 300 yards again.  A 12-0 regular season is a strong possibility, but remember this team has lost some early games to teams they should have beaten handily.  Remember James Madison last year and East Carolina in 2008?

 

Miami

Note: The PiRate Ratings have not been able to adjust for the recent news that emerged from Miami.  School President Donna Shalala revealed that 15 current players are being investigated for receiving illegal benefits from Miami booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro.  Those names were not release, but Shapiro implicated 12 players.  Since we do not know at this point just how involved things are, we cannot begin to deduct points from their rating.  We can try to put a number on the intangible destruction of the program as a whole, but for now, their PiRate Rating shows them as the second best team in the Coastal Division.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Miami quarterbacks were a bit too generous with the ball last year, throwing 26 interceptions (2/game, almost 6% of all passes).  New head coach Al Golden faces an additional headache because the projected starter is one of the 12 current Hurricanes implicated by Shapiro.  Jacory Harris may or may not get to suit up this year for his senior season.  Harris has quite an arm, but he has not been accurate.

 

Sophomore Stephen Morris will inherit the position if Harris is declared ineligible.  Morris started the four times last year and posted stats similar to Harris—54% completions 6% interceptions.  He did average better than 15 yards per completion. 

 

Receivers

Again, it is unsure if this position will be decimated with ineligibility.  Travis Benjamin and Aldarius Johnson combined for 58 receptions and 900 yards last year; both were accused by Shapiro.  That would leave LaRon Byrd as the only experienced receiver.  He caught 41 passes, but Byrd does not have the elusiveness of the other two.  True freshman Phillip Dorsett could be thrust into action immediately.

 

The top two tight ends, USC transfer Blake Ayles and Chase Ford, have both missed practices with injuries.  Ayles was a 5-star recruit when he entered Trojanland four years ago.

 

Running Backs

Lamar Miller is a speedster, who can break open a long gain with the slightest of daylight.  He averaged six yards per carry and scored six times.  Mike James will back him up.

 

Offensive Line

This unit has a lot of depth, even with the loss of tackle Seantrel Henderson, who underwent back surgery and should miss the season.

 

Guard Brandon Washington made the 1st Team All-ACC squad, while center Tyler Horn earned 3rd Team honors.  Harland Gunn will start at guard.  Joel Figueora is a sixth year senior who can play either guard or tackle.  Redshirt Malcolm Bunche could start at tackle, while Jermaine Johnson and Jon Feliciano will provide depth.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

This area is going to take a major hit if its five implicated players are declared ineligible.  Projected starting tackle Marcus Forston, starting ends Marcus Robinson and Olivier Vernon, and key backups Adewale Ojomo and Dyron Dye are the heart and soul of the line.  Forston, Vernon, and Ojomo represent 114 tackles, 14 sacks, 30 tackles for loss.

 

Tackle Micanor Regis was not implicated by Shapiro.  He made 42 tackles with eight for loss.  True freshman Anthony Chickillo could join seldom used Andrew Smith at end.

 

Linebackers

One player was accused from this unit, but he is the best defender on the team.  Sean Spence finished second on the team last year with 111 tackles, 17 for loss.  Spence also knocked away six passes.  If he becomes ineligible, outside linebacker Ramon Buchanan will become the leader of this unit.  The vacant middle linebacker spot will go to Jordan Futch, with true freshman Gionni Paul providing backup.

 

Secondary

75% of the expected starting defensive backfield is on Shapiro’s List.  Cornerback JoJo Nicolas and Safeties Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque combined for 173 tackles and 15 passes defended.  This unit will become a major liability if these players are declared ineligible, and Miami will give up at least 100 extra yards through the air than they would have with the three starters in the lineup.

 

OTHER

Shapiro accused 12 players, but the university is investigating 15.  Aside from the possible loss of eligibility, the total repercussions are greater than just the loss of 12 or 15 players.  Others will “quit” on the team, and the situation will steamroller into a catastrophe.  The Hurricanes were in line to achieve 10 to 12 wins this year if the quarterbacks could cut down on interceptions.  It could get ugly in Coral Gables, and “The U” could be looking at a losing season.

 

SUMMARY

The schedule offers few breathers.  Miami begins the season playing at Maryland on Labor Day.  Then, the ‘Canes host Ohio State in what will receive some sarcastic billing as convicts vs. convicts.  A home game with Kansas State now becomes a losable game.  Bethune-Cookman is the only sure win if all the players are lost.

 

With all the players available, Miami could go 10-2.  Without them, the Hurricanes could finish with four or five wins.  They are somewhere between 17 and 25 points weaker per game if the players are declared ineligible.  Golden inherits a mess, and we would not be surprised if he leaves after just one season.

 

North Carolina

Here is another situation, but it pales in comparison to the one in Miami.  Butch Davis was fired as head coach late in the off-season, and defensive coordinator Everett Withers was appointed as interim head coach.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Bryn Renner gets first crack at replacing T. J. Yates.  Yates completed 67% of his passes for 3,418 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, topping the eight-yard per attempt mark.  Renner threw two passes, completing one for 14 yards.  The Tar Heels passed for 264 yards per game in 2010, and it would be a stretch to think Renner can match that number.  Look for a considerable decline here.

 

Receivers

Renner has the top two receivers returning from 2010.  Dwight Jones led the club with 62 receptions and 946 yards.  Erik Highsmith finished second with 348 yards.  Jheranie Boyd is the wildcard here.  He took a pass from Yates and ran 97 yards for a score against LSU in last year’s opener, en route to a 221-yard night.  He was only 8 for 89 after that.  He also was used to run the wide reverse and gained 62 yards on 10 attempts.  This unit is loaded.

 

Running Backs

This unit loses its top three players from last year.  It welcomes back Ryan Houston, who missed last year with an injury.  Houston is not fast, but he requires two or more defenders to bring him down.  Houston will remind some fans of Jerome Bettis.  However, he has not participated in contact drills due to his shoulder surgery earlier this year.  The roster is thin after Houston with redshirt and true freshmen backing him up.

 

Offensive Line

This is where the Carolina offense needs to improve the most.  The Tar Heels’ line gave up 37 sacks last year.  Three starters return this year—center Cam Holland, guard Jonathan Cooper, and tackle James Hurst.  Cooper was a 2nd Team All-ACC player, while Hurst earned Freshman All-American accolades.  Travis Bond started against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, and he will man the vacant guard position, while Brennan Williams will take over at tackle.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

What could have been the top DL in the nation last year turned into an average line due to the ineligibility of two top players.  End Quinton Coples took advantage of his chance to start and bankrolled it into a spot on the All-ACC first team.  He finished third in the league with 10 sacks and was credited with 12 QB Hurries.  Donte Paige-Moss starts at the other end spot.  Moss recorded 13 ½ stops behind the line.  Withers can count on three players to rotate at the tackle positions.  Tydreke Powell, Sylvester Williams, and Jordan Nix are all listed as 1st string players.  While not as talented as what 2010 could have been, this is one of the best lines in the league.

 

Linebackers

Two starters return from last year; Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown finished one-two in tackles with 74 and 72 respectively.  Reddick has all-conference potential.  Darius Lipford will be the new starter.  This unit is about average for the ACC.

 

Secondary

A hand injury to expected starting cornerback Jabari Price will keep him out for at least all of September.  Charles Brown will miss the opener after having to sit out a game, so two new cornerbacks will start at the beginning of the season.  Safety Tre Boston might start at cornerback until Brown and Price are back.  Matt Merletti will start at one safety position.  Wide receiver Todd Harrelson moves to cornerback to fill in, and true freshman Tim Scott might start the opening game.

 

Brown is the star of this unit, but UNC will sorely miss Da’Norris Searcy and Deunta Williams.  Opponents will find holes in the Carolina secondary.

 

OTHER

There is only one cupcake on the schedule, and James Madison must be taken seriously; just ask Virginia Tech!  The remainder of non-league games include home games with Rutgers and Louisville and a trip to East Carolina.  UNC will be fortunate to go 3-1 in those four games.  UNC draws Virginia, Clemson, and North Carolina State from the Atlantic and avoids Florida State.  It looks like a 4-4 conference mark will be their limit this year; interim coaches are hit or miss.

 

SUMMARY

The Tar Heels will try to rely on more lengthy drives rather than trying to make quick touchdowns.  They averaged just 25 points per game but gained close to 400 yards per game.  The yardage definitely will drop, but the scoring could be about the same and not much less if any.

 

Defensively, the ‘Heels will go as far as their front four will take them.  The back seven is a little suspect, especially in the secondary.  Opponents will complete 60% of their passes and gain more than 200 yards through the air.  We believe UNC will surrender about as many points as they score.  It looks like another so-so season in Chapel Hill, but cheer up Carolina Fans—basketball season is not that far away.

 

Duke

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

If Harris is ineligible at Miami, Duke’s Sean Renfree will be the only returning quarterback in the Coastal Division.  Renfree is on the cusp of breaking out into Coach David Cutcliffe’s next star passer.  He tutored a couple of guys with the last name of Manning, so he knows how to develop passers.

 

Renfree threw for more than 3,100 yards and completed better than 61% of his passes last year.  14 of those passes went for touchdowns, but 17 went into the wrong pair of hands.  If he can reduce his mistakes this year, we could be looking at an All-ACC performer.

 

Receivers

Renfree has some quality players to pass to.  Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner could both finish in the top five in the league in receptions and yardage after combining for 133 catches for 1,709 yards last year.  Brandon Braxton will at least double his amount of receptions this year after grabbing 14 passes in 2010.  Tight end Cooper Helfet added 34 receptions, so this group has talent. Keep an eye on true freshman Jamison Crowder.

 

Running Backs

At Duke, 110 yards per game is an exemplary amount of rushing yards.  It was the most in five seasons in Durham.  Desmond Scott, Josh Snead, and Juwan Thompson all return after sharing the load last year, and the Duke running game should top 100 yards again this season.  The quartet will also top four yards per carry, making this unit abnormally strong in 2011—at least for Duke.

 

Offensive Line

This is the major question mark on this side of the ball.  The Blue Devils’ offensive line has been rather offensive in recent years.  The loss of starting center Brian Moore for an indefinite amount of time (fractured forearm) clouds the issue even more.

 

Cutcliffe has recruited well the last couple of years, and we have a sneaky suspicion that the offensive line will improve to mediocrity this season.  At Duke, mediocre is a milestone.

 

Dave Harding was an outstanding freshman last year in a part-time starter role.  He will move in from guard and take over at center.  Perry Simmons and Kyle Hill will protect the flanks and open up holes at their tackle positions.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The biggest addition to the defensive line will not suit up once this season.  He is new defensive line coach Rick Petri.  Petri has over 30 years of successful experience.

 

Petri will mold a defensive line that improves on the 200+ yards allowed rushing and only 12 sacks.  Duke switches to a 4-2-5 defense this year.  Sydney Sarmiento and Charlie Hatcher return to the inside.  Sarmiento shows promise and could emerge as a star in the next couple of years, while Hatcher is a two-gap plugger.  He finished second on the team last year with 7 ½ tackles for loss.  End Kenny Anunike is nursing a bad ankle and could miss the opener, but redshirt freshman Dezmond Johnson could step in and produce for the Blue Devils.

 

Linebackers

This is the biggest liability on the team.  Mike linebacker Kelby Brown is smaller than some safeties, and he is coming back from a knee injury.  Austin Gamble will team up to form a rather weak two-man tandem. Brown hustles and makes a lot of plays, but frequently backs get an extra yard or two.

 

Secondary

Three starters return to a unit that is not that far from respectability.  Safety Matt Daniels is the star of this unit.  He played admirably against both the run and pass last year, coming up with six stops behind the line and batting away seven passes with an interception.  Lee Butler returns at a safety position after posting nine passes defended.  August Campbell will take on the new hybrid safety/linebacker position.

 

Ross Cockrell led the Blue Devils with three interceptions.  He returns at one cornerback spot, while Zach Greene figures to start at the other spot.

 

OTHER

Duke missed a seven-win season by a thin margin last year.  Close losses to Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College, and North Carolina left Duke at 3-9 instead.  If the offense improves by four to five points, and the defense does the same, Duke could be looking at its first six-win season since 1994.

 

SUMMARY

We admit here at the PiRate Ratings that we have the highest esteem for Coach Cutcliffe and believe he will guide Duke back to a bowl game—if not this year, then next.  Duke can win six games this year.

 

The schedule has become somewhat easier since the start of summer.  Duke’s opening game against Richmond got a lot easier when the Spiders had to replace their coach following his DUI arrest less than two weeks before the game.  The Blue Devils also face Miami and North Carolina, two more teams facing dilemmas.

 

Add Tulane and Florida International as well as home games with Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and a road game with Virginia, and you can make a case for six wins.

 

Virginia

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Uh-oh!  Virginia is in a bit of a mess here.  It’s nice to have four options at quarterback, but Coach Mike London is having to choose from a weakness and not a strength.  The loss of Marc Verica will cause UVA to drop drastically in the passing game. 

 

Sophomore Michael Rocco appears to hold a slight edge at this point after throwing 25 passes last year.  True freshman David Watford could eventually be the man under center, while Michael Strauss and Ross Metheny are in the mix.  Whoever ends up playing, expect a possibility of 100 less passing yards this season.

 

Receivers

The Cavs must replace their top play-maker from 2010.  Dontrelle Inman averaged 18 yards on his 51 receptions, and there is nobody on the roster capable of matching those numbers.

 

Kris Burd actually led in receptions with 58, but he is the only receiver capable of becoming a breakaway threat.  True freshman Darius Jennings could emerge as a key player in his first season.

 

Running Backs

Perry Jones was a co-primary option last year and rushed for 646 yards and a touchdown.  The absence of Keith Payne and his ability to convert on third and short and at the goal line will cost more than his 750 rushing yards.

 

Offensive Line

The only reason for optimism on offense this year is a rather decent and experienced offensive line.  Four starters return, including tackle Morgan Moses, who stood out as a freshman last year.  Center Anthony Mihota, guard Austin Pasztor, and tackle Oday Aboushi are the other three returning starters.  This unit is the only real plus on the 2011 offense.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Virginia could not stop enemy backs last year and was torched for more than 200 rushing yards per game and better than five yards per rush allowed.  The pass rush only produced 19 sacks, so there is a lot of room for improvement.

 

London will play three tackles in a rotation.  Matt Conrath, Nick Jenkins, and Will Hill will split time inside.  At end, Jake Snyder and Cam Johnson will start.  Johnson is the stud of this unit; he led the Cavs with 6 ½ sacks and 14 ½ tackles for loss.  Expect some improvement in the trenches.

 

Linebackers

This is the major liability on this side of the ball, even though all three starters return from 2010.  Middle linebacker Steve Greer, Will linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, and Sam Linebacker Aaron Taliaferro are competent but not spectacular.  The trio made 161 stops last year but only 1 ½ sacks on blitzes.

 

Secondary

The back line is quite talented, and with the addition of some quality recruits, it will have depth this year as well.  Cornerback Chase Minnifield led the Cavs with 10 passes defended including six interceptions. Safety Rodney McLeod provided excellent run support, but he needs to improve in the passing game.  True freshman Tra Nicholson takes over at the other cornerback spot.  Three other true freshmen, cornerback Brandon Phelps and safeties Anthony Harris and Darius Lee will see playing time.

 

OTHER

Virginia’s schedule will give them a chance to top last year’s four wins.  The Cavaliers should be favored in three of their four non-ACC games.  They host William & Mary in the opener, but UVA lost to W&M two years ago.  The Tribe will be tough to beat.  Virginia travels to Indiana and hosts Southern Miss and Idaho.  It is a tricky non-league slate; the Cavs could win all or lose all, but we believe they should go 3-1 or 2-2.  In ACC play, Virginia must play at Miami and North Carolina, the two schools with predicaments. If those games had been at Scott Stadium, then UVA might be figured to win both. 

 

SUMMARY

The Cavaliers return 17 starters, but three of the four missing were the top three players on offense.  We believe the new offense will have a tough time exceeding last year’s offense.  The defense will definitely be better, but the question remains: how many more plays will the stop side have to defend if the offense does not gel?

 

We believe Virginia is looking a repeat of last year.

 

Georgia Tech

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Joshua Nesbitt was known only for his running skills, but he ran the option like a magician.  He was on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season before he went out for the season against Virginia Tech in game nine.  Tevin Washington started the last three regular season games plus the bowl game, and he put up similar numbers to Nesbitt.  Look for Washington to lead the team in rushing, but his passing may be no better than Nesbitt.  Tech completed just 38.1% of their passes in 2010, numbers that sound like the 1940’s and 1950’s.

 

Receivers

The top four receivers return to the fold.  Okay, the top four receivers caught a grand total of 40 passes, so this position is more about downfield blocking and getting open deep when the defense thinks you will decoy or block yet again.  Stephen Hill got open and led the team with 15 receptions; he averaged close to 20 yards per catch.

 

Running Backs

The Yellow Jackets will miss Anthony Allen, who led the ACC with 1,316 yards.  The new B-Back (fullback) is former quarterback David Sims.  He has won the job after being fourth on the depth chart in spring.  Don’t expect 1,300 yards from this position, but Sims will get the job done and force an extra defender into the box to prevent him from gaining three, four, and five yards with consistency.

 

Both starting A-backs (slot backs) return this year.  Orwin Smith and Roddy Jones combined for 869 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry, mostly on pitches from Nesbitt. 

 

Tech must cut down on the high number of fumbles this year.  They were -6 in turnover margin because of the numerous fumbles in the option plays.

 

Offensive Line

Even though option offenses can cover up liabilities in the blocking corps, this is still a big concern.  Two players expected to start will not be available at the beginning of the season.  Will Jackson and Phil Smith are out with injuries.  Jackson was selected as a Freshman All-American last year.  Backup guard Ryan Bailey is also out with an injury, so GT has some issues here. 

 

True freshman Trey Braun will start at one of the guard spots.  Omoregie Uzzi, the top blocker, will start at the other guard spot.

 

In the option offense, the line must make a lot of calls prior to the snap, and it requires a lot of thinking prior to reacting.  With the line in despair, this could be a problem early in the season.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

This is the only area on this side of the ball that does not have a lot of holes to fill.  As it is, the defensive line is average at best.

 

All three starters return.  Nose tackle Logan Walls can adequately plug the middle.  He only made 23 tackles, but he kept blockers away from the inside linebackers.  Ends Izaan Cross and Jason Peters combined for 11 ½ tackles for loss, and Cross knocked away four passes.  This group is not the best pass rushing trio, and they allowed enemy runners to average 4.5 yards per carry.

 

Linebackers

Two starters return, but it is new starter Jeremiah Attaochu that should become the star of this mediocre quartet.  As a freshman in a reserve role, the outside linebacker registered 23 tackles with three sacks.  Steven Sylvester will man the other outside linebacker spot, while Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond will start on the inside.  Sylvester led the Techsters with 10 ½ tackles for loss.

 

Secondary

This unit is in shambles, and it is the reason the PiRate Ratings list them as the last place team in the Coastal Division to start the season.

 

Not having much depth to start with, GT lost two players that were expected to contribute.  Fred Holton tore his Achilles tendon and is done for the season, while Ryan Ayers transferred to Liberty.

 

Louis Young will start at one cornerback.  In limited action in 2010, he made 10 tackles.  Rod Sweeting takes over at the opposite corner after recording eight passes defended.  Safeties Rashaad Reid and Isaiah Johnson have some experience, but neither will be able to replace Dominique Reese, who was tough against both the run and pass.  Look for GT to give up more than 225 yards per game through the air.

 

OTHER

Tech’s special teams were not that special last year.  They had trouble covering punts, and there was virtually no help with punt returns.  Expected kick returner B. J. Bostic begins the season in street clothes and may be a medical redshirt.

 

SUMMARY

Georgia Tech led the nation in rushing with an averaged of 323 yards per game, and they could lead the nation again this season.  However, teams will put eight and nine in the box and force Tech to pass.  An option team needs to be able to average over eight yards per pass attempt to scare defenses into staying honest; Tech averaged just 6.5 yards and will more than likely do no better this year.  It adds up to some stagnation on offense, so we do not see the Yellow Jackets equaling their offensive production of 2010 (26 points and 407 yards).

 

Defense is going to be a sore spot, and second year coordinator Al Groh has a short fuse that could cause some dissension if early problems develop.  We do not like the prospects for this program in 2011.

 

Only an easy September schedule could save the season.  GT hosts Western Carolina to start the season and then visits Middle Tennessee.  They return to host Kansas and North Carolina to close out the month.  The Jackets need to be 4-0 if they plan on going to a bowl game, because the schedule is tough once October arrives.  If GT starts 2-2, then they will finish with four or five wins.

 

2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Media Poll

Team

1st Place Votes

Points

Atlantic Division

 

 

Florida State

65

420

Clemson

4

286

N. C. State

 

270

Boston College

2

224

Maryland

 

211

Wake Forest

 

80

 

 

 

Coastal Division

 

 

Virginia Tech

66

421

Miami

4

328

North Carolina

 

287

Georgia Tech

1

226

Virginia

 

132

Duke

 

96

 

 

 

ACC Championship

 

Florida State

 

50

Virginia Tech

 

18

Clemson

 

2

Boston College

 

1

 

 

2011 Big East Conference PiRate Ratings

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

Atlantic Division

 

 

Florida St.

123.3

8-0/13-0 *

Clemson

110.3

5-3/8-4

Boston Coll.

109.7

3-5/6-6

N.C. State

109.1

4-4/7-5

Maryland

106.5

4-4/6-6

Wake Forest

98.5

1-7/3-9

   

 

Coastal Division  

 

Va. Tech

116.1

8-0/12-1

Miami

115.2

3-5/5-7 ^

N. Carolina

106.8

4-4/7-5

Duke

99.8

3-5/6-6

Virginia

97.9

2-6/4-8

Georgia Tech

97.5

3-5/6-6

   

 

* Florida State picked to beat Va. Tech
in the ACC Championship Game

 

 

 

 

^ This prediction based on possibility of 12
to 15 players being declared ineligible.
If they play, Miami is picked to win 9 games.

 

August 11, 2010

2010 Mid-American Conference Preview

2010 Mid-American Conference Preview

 

After placing five teams in bowl games a year ago, the MAC is now guaranteed three teams in bowl games this season with a chance for a fourth and fifth team garnering an at-large bid.  It is our opinion that this league will produce five bowl-worthy teams this year, so don’t count out the chance of a repeat. 

The champion this year will face the number eight team from the Big Ten in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit.  The GMAC Bowl in Mobile gets second choice, and the Humanitarian Bowl at the blue field in Boise gets the third selection.  The PapaJohn’s.com Bowl will give precedence to a fourth bowl-eligible MAC team if they have an opening, and the inaugural Dallas Football Classic will look to the MAC after first looking to CUSA to find an at-large team.

This should be an interesting year in the league, as many teams go through a transition.  There are new coaches at Buffalo, Central Michigan, and Akron, and there are six new starting quarterbacks.  In the East, Temple looks to be the clear-cut favorite, but Ohio U has enough talent returning to repeat as division champs.  Kent State has just one bowl bid in its history, and that was in 1972 when Coach Don James led the Golden Flashes prior to earning legendary status at Washington.  That 38 year absence from post-season play could finally come to an end this year.

In the West, a tight race between Northern Illinois and Western Michigan could get even tighter if Central Michigan, Ball State, and Toledo can find answers at certain iffy positions.

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.

Mid-American Conference Predictions

 
East  
Pos Team Conf Overall  
1 Temple 7-1 10-3  
2 Ohio U 6-2 8-4  
3 Kent State 6-2 8-4  
4 Miami (Ohio) 3-5 4-8  
5 Buffalo 2-6 3-9  
6 Akron 2-6 3-9  
7 Bowling Green 2-6 2-10  
         
West  
         
1 Northern Illinois 8-0 9-4  
2 Western Michigan 6-2 8-4  
3 Central Michigan 4-4 5-7  
4 Toledo 3-5 3-9  
5 Ball State 2-6 4-8  
6 Eastern Michigan 1-7 1-11  

 

     
               

MAC Conference Championship Game: Temple over Northern Illinois

 

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Temple

G M A C Bowl: Northern Illinois

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio U

 

Western Michigan and Kent State could be at-large bowl teams

 

 

Team By Team Breakdown

MAC East

 

Team Akron Zips
               
Head Coach Rob Ianello
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Akron, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 77.9
               
National Rating 113
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: New head coach Rob Ianello comes over from Notre Dame where he was an offensive assistant to Charlie Weis.  He will make numerous changes in the offensive philosophy as the Zips were zipless last year on this side of the ball.

Quarterback Patrick Nicely started seven games as a true freshman last year.  However, even though he has more experience this year, his receiving corps has been decimated to graduation.  Only one contributor from last year returns, and Ianello has moved former defensive back Jalil Carter over to this side of the ball.

None of the running backs on the roster strike fear in the eyes of the opponents.  Only one back topped 200 yards rushing last year, and he graduated. 

The one bright spot on this side of the ball is a rather experienced offensive line with credible talent at the terminal positions.

We look for Akron’s new offense to go through some growing pains at first, but by October, the Zips should be moving the ball with more zip.  Call it about 18-22 points and 325-350 yards per game.

Defense: The stop side would have held opponents under 25 points per game last year if it hadn’t been for an offense that turned the ball over too often.  The Zips could field a better defense this year, especially in the points allowed department.

Ianello will install a 4-3 defense, and he has three quality defenders returning up front.  Hasan Hazime, James Harvey, and Almondo Sewell combined for 17 tackles for loss, and that number should head north of 20 this year.

The three-man linebacker crew returns starters in Sean Fobbs, Brian Wagner, and Mike Thomas.  Wagner was the leading tackler in the league with 132 stops and 7 behind the line.  Thomas is a better zone pass defender than run-stopper, while Fobbs’ strength is against the run.

The secondary is the vulnerable part of the defense.  The loss of Miguel Graham is too much for the backfield to make up for, and Akron will give up more than 200 yards per game through the air.

Look for the Zips to yield about 25-30 points per game while giving up about 350-375 yards per game.

Schedule: Akron has one easy mark on their non-conference schedule in Gardner-Webb.  The Zips open against a Syracuse team eager to show the nation they can compete for a bowl bid.  Back-to-back road games against Kentucky and Indiana close out what should be a rough September.  Look for Akron to go 1-3 outside of league play and then struggle to pick up two more victories.

 

Team Bowling Green Falcons
               
Head Coach Dave Clawson
               
Colors Orange and Brown
               
City Bowling Green, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 78.0
               
National Rating 112
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: Dave Clawson implemented one of the top passing games in the country in his first year with the Falcons, but year two finds him having to rebuild from scratch.  Gone is superb passer Tyler Sheehan who completed 65% of his passes for more than 4,000 yards and a TD/Int ratio of 27/7.

Redshirt freshman Matt Schilz and true sophomore Aaron Pankratz will compete to fill Sheehan’s shoes.  Look for a major drop in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage this year, and a rise in interceptions.

BGU lost its top two receivers, including Freddie Barnes (155-1,770 & 19 TD).  Nobody on this roster is capable of catching a dozen balls per game, and nobody has the blazing speed to turn a five-yard pass into a 40-yard gain.

The Falcons averaged just 87 rushing yards per game last year, but that number is a bit misleading.  In college football, sacks are ridiculously counted as rushing yards.  Factoring out sacks, BGU went from averaging 3.1 yards per carry to a more respectable 3.9.  Willie Geter could actually threaten the 1,000 yard rushing mark if he can get any help from his blockers.

BGU could drop by a touchdown or more offensively this year, so we will predict an output of 20-23 points and 325-350 yards per game.

Defense: This side of the ball is in worse shape than the offense.  Gone are the top six tacklers and leading pass defender from last year.  The defensive line appears to be in great shape, but the back seven are in shambles.  End Angelo Magnone and tackle Kevin Alvarado combined for 5 sacks last year.  

The pass defense returns players who combined for just two interceptions.  Cornerback Adrien Spencer and safety Keith Morgan will anchor the back line.  The two teamed up for nine passes deflected.

Bowling Green will give up more than 30 points and 400 yards per game this year, and the Falcons could yield more than 200 rushing and 200 passing yards.

Schedule: This looks like an 0-4 start out of conference.  The Falcons open with road games against Troy and Tulsa.  They then face Marshall at home before going to Ann Arbor to face Michigan.  Without a week off until November, the young squad could be nursing a lot of injuries.  The odd number of teams in the league leads to quirks in the schedule, and the Falcons will not play Akron this year.  They also miss the two easiest teams in the other division, so 2010 will be a long one in Bowling Green.

 

Team Buffalo Bulls
               
Head Coach Jeff Quinn
               
Colors Royal Blue and White
               
City Buffalo, NY
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 81.6
               
National Rating 106
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: Turner Gill has left Upstate New York for Kansas, and new coach Jeff Quinn inherits enough talent to make the Bulls move on offense.  Quinn was the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, and he will implement Brian Kelly’s spread offense here.

Unfortunately, Buffalo unexpectedly lost the services of an inexperienced quarterback when Zach Maynard transferred to California.  Lightly used sophomore Jerry Davis and untested redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will compete for the starting job.  Look for some growing pains and the possibility of one or two more players being tried at QB during the season.  Freshman Rudy Johnson is highly heralded.

Inexperience carries over to the receiving corps.  The top three pass catchers from last year are gone, and the leading returnee had just 25 receptions. 

Gill improved the running game every year he was at Buffalo, and he left the stables stocked with two fine runners.  Ike Nduka and Brandon Thermilius shared the load last year and combined for more than 1,150 yards.  They will benefit from the blocking of an experienced offensive line featuring all-MAC guard Peter Bittner.

There will be some transition in the offense this year, and it could lead to a couple of bad performances.  However, by the second half of the season, the Bulls could be a dangerous opponent for the other MAC defenses.  Look for about the same output as last year—24 points and 400 yards, but look for the Bulls to average more than 28 points per game after their bye week in October.

Defense: Quinn will switch the Bulls from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this year, and it should work fine thanks to a great quartet of linebackers.  On the outside, no MAC team can do better than Buffalo with Steven Means and Justin Winters.  Means will be an excellent zone blitzer in the new defense, while Winters forces offenses to run the other way.

Up front, nose tackle Richie Smith has the girth to keep runners from plunging past the line for big gains.  He won’t register many tackles, but he will occupy a lot of space and require double team blocks, which will free up the linebackers to pursue and tackle.

The secondary actually performed better last year than in 2008 when the Bulls won the MAC.  Look for even more improvement with the return of both cornerbacks, including all-conference Domonic Cook, and the league’s best free safety in Davonte Shannon. 

Buffalo has the potential to post better defensive stats this year, and that makes the Bulls a dangerous team in an offensive-dominated league.  We believe the Bulls will surrender about 24 points and 325 yard this season. 

Schedule: An opener at home against Rhode Island should be a breather game.  The rest of the non-league schedule will be the opposite, as Buffalo plays at Baylor, hosts Central Florida, and goes to Connecticut.  At 1-3, the Bulls visit Bowling Green in what will be a tossup game.  If they can win this one, the season could turn around.  If they lose, it could drain the squad.  Buffalo closes with Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Akron.  If they beat Bowling Green and then upset one other team in October, they could be looking at a .500 record.  We’ll say that the offense will take a little longer to gel, and the Bulls will have to wait until next year.

 

Team Kent State Golden Flashes
               
Head Coach Doug Martin
               
Colors Navy and Gold
               
City Kent, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 84.5
               
National Rating 98
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: It has been nine years since Kent State last enjoyed a winning season (6-5 in 2001).  The Golden Flashes are excited this year, because they have an offense capable of putting up enough points to end that drought.

Coach Doug Martin has all the pieces in place to make a run at the division title, and if the top two falter, it would not be a big surprise to see KSU in the MAC Championship game.

The return of star running back Eugene Jarvis is worth five to seven extra points per game.  Jarvis missed almost all of last season with a lacerated kidney.  When he last played an entire season, he rushed for 1,669 yards.  He is just 5-5 and 170 pounds, so he is very susceptible to injury.  The Flashes have more than adequate depth at his position.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith gave Kent State its best passing game in four years last season, and he should continue to show progress in year two.  He will team up with top receiver Tyshon Goode to form one of the top combinations in the league.  Goode caught 53 passes for 755 yards in 2009.

The offensive line returns some good, young talent and should provide excellent protection for Keith while opening holes for the backs.

Look for Kent State to put up much better offensive numbers this year.  We see something in the order of 24-28 points and 350-375 yards per game.

Defense: Enough talent returns on this side of the ball to believe that the Flashes will perform at a similar or better rate than last year.  In 2009, Kent State gave up just 137 rushing yards per game and held enemy quarterbacks to just 56.7% completions.

The top six tacklers return including the league’s best linebacker.  Former Michigan Wolverine Cobrani Mixon led the Flashes with 108 tackles with 10 ½ behind the line.  He added seven deflected passes from his Mike linebacker spot. 

Hybrid End/Will linebacker Monte Simmons recorded eight sacks and eight other tackles for loss last year, giving Kent State the best linebacker unit in the league.

The defensive backfield is not as strong as the unit in front of them, but it is better than average.  Three starters return, including an outstanding pair of safeties.  Free safety Brian Lainhart led the MAC with seven interceptions.  Strong safety Dan Hartman picked off four passes and broke up nine others, but he is even better in support of the run.

The defensive line is the one weak spot on the entire roster.  If Simmons can have another outstanding year, the inexperience here could be partially hidden.

Kent State could easily lead the MAC in total defense and scoring defense this season.  We believe they will yield less than 20 points and 330 yards per game.

Schedule: The Flashes have one sure win, two sure losses, and one tossup game in their out-of-conference schedule.  An opening tilt with Murray State should be a breather.  Consecutive road games against Boston College and Penn State will not be much fun.  The November 13 home game with Army could be a bowl elimination game for the two teams.  Kent State gets both Temple and Ohio at home, and they have the talent to upset both teams.  Road games against Toledo and Western Michigan could decide in the end if 2010 will be “the year.”

 

Team Miami (Ohio) Redhawks
               
Head Coach Mike Haywood
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Oxford, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 1-11
               
PiRate Rating 87.8
               
National Rating 93
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: The good news:  Miami returns 10 starters to its offense.  The bad news: Miami returns 10 starters to an offense that scored just 15.6 points per game, rushed for just 70 yards per game, and turned the ball over via interceptions and fumbles almost as often as it did by punting (an exaggeration, but the Redhawks had a horrible -24 turnover margin last year!)

The rushing statistic looks much worse than it really was.  Miami quarterbacks endured 58 sacks due to a porous offensive line.  That line returns intact, and it has to be somewhat better.  Using an entirely new system hurt, and a year of experience should lead to better blocking this year.  Still, don’t expect Miami to lead the league in offense.

Quarterback Zac Dysert took his lumps as a freshman last year.  If he can cut down on his interceptions, he has the potential to be the best passer in the league.  Give him three more years, and he could surpass Ben Roethlisberger as the school’s top passer.

Dysert has some quality receivers to throw to, but there is no deep threat to spread defenses.  Miami will have to rely on converting first downs and sustaining drives to reach paydirt this year.

It won’t be hard to top last year’s poor offensive showing.  We believe Miami can top 20 points and 350 yards per game this season.

Defense: A better offense that can keep drives alive means a defense can stay on the bench for longer stretches.  Throw in the fact that 10 of the top 11 tacklers return, and Miami should make great strides on this side of the ball as well.

The monster on this side of the ball is middle linebacker Jerrell Wedge.  He was a one-man wrecking crew last year, recording 114 tackles with 18 ½ behind the line of scrimmage.

In front of Wedge is a very experienced defensive line that returns almost all of its two-deep from last year.  Still, it is a line that will not cause many problems for offensive linemen. 

The secondary wasn’t all that bad last year, holding half of their opponents to less than 200 passing yards.  Safety Anthony Kokal finished with 105 tackles, but second year coach Mike Haywood would be much happier if Kokal’s tackles fell into double digits this year.

Look for Miami to improve on this side of the ball as well.  The Redhawks surrendered better than 34 points per game last year, but they only gave up about 375 yards.  Just by cutting down on turnovers, the points allowed will improve.  Throw in an actual better defense, and that number should drop by more than a touchdown.  Call it 24-27 points and 350-370 yards allowed this year.

Schedule: This is a major drawback.  Miami has just one winnable non-conference game.  Road tilts with Florida, Missouri, and Cincinnati could see the Redhawks give up more than 120 points.  A home game with Colorado State should give Miami a better than 50% chance of winning.  The Redhawks get Eastern Michigan at home.  Road games against Bowling Green, Akron, Buffalo, and Central Michigan give them a chance for maybe two more wins.  Four wins would be four times more than last year.

 

Team Ohio Bobcats
               
Head Coach Frank Solich
               
Colors Green and White
               
City Athens, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-5
               
PiRate Rating 84.4
               
National Rating 99
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: Coach Frank Solich’s Bobcats benefited from a +12 turnover margin last season and won the MAC East.  The offense did not strike fear in their opponents, posting averages of 112 rush yards and 198 pass yards per game.

The Bobcats lose their top rusher, top passer, and top pass catcher this year, but the offense could actually improve some.  Solich uses a smorgasbord approach to his offense, using aspects of the spread, the pistol, and the zone read. 

Former Iowa State starter Phil Bates will battle 2008 starter Boo Jackson at quarterback; Bates is an all-out competitor, and we believe he will win the job.  Bates, or Jackson, will have two fine receivers running routes this year in Athens.  LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae both have the ability to turn a short pass into a long gain.  Brazill is the speedier of the two, while McCrae is the better target in a crowd.  Former Vanderbilt wide out Steven Goulet gives the Bobcats an excellent third option.

The running game will take a step backward this year.  Junior college transfer Kenny Ashley should be the lead back this year, as there isn’t much quality on the roster. 

The offensive line should be marginally better this year with three starters returning, as well as four from the second team.

We think Ohio will improve its yardage from 310 to about 350 per game, but the Bobcats may not score any more points than they did last year, when they averaged 24.8 per game.

Defense: The Bobcats could have the best defense in the MAC this year after having the second best stop troops last year.  It all starts up front where Ohio has a stellar line returning all four starters from a year ago.  All four can get in the backfield and stop a runner for a loss.  They need to improve their pass rushing ability, as the Bobcats had just 22 sacks all season.

The star of the defense is Mike linebacker Noah Keller, who recorded 155 tackles (23 more than any other MAC player).  Equally adept against the run or the pass, Keller could be the MAC Defensive Player of the Year this season.

The secondary may not dominate, but they won’t be embarrassed all that often.  Strong safety Gerald Moore picked off six passes last year.

Ohio gave up just 21 points per game in 2009, and the Bobcats should equal or even better that mark this year.  They should contend for the best total defense as well and surrender around 300-325 yards per game.

Schedule: Ohio faces Ohio State on September 18.  They won’t pull off the monumental upset, but the Bobcats put a scare in a really good Buckeye team two years ago.  Home games with Wofford and Louisiana-Lafayette should provide the Bobcats with two wins, while a trip to Marshall should be interesting.  Since that comes the week after Ohio State, we will give the edge to the Thundering Herd.  Ohio must play at Temple and Kent State this year, so we believe the road is too tough for the Bobcats to win the division again.  Six conference wins and eight overall should get Ohio back into a bowl game.

 

Team Temple Owls
               
Head Coach Al Golden
               
Colors Cherry and White
               
City Philadelphia, PA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-4
               
PiRate Rating 91.0
               
National Rating 85
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 10-3

 

Offense: When Al Golden took over this Temple team in 2006, the Owls were coming off an 0-11 season in which they scored less than 10 points per game.  His first squad “improved” to 1-11 and scored 11 points per game while actually falling to just 216 yards per game.  The next three years, Temples scoring output increased by six points per season.  Now, coming off a 9-4 campaign that included a bowl loss to UCLA, the Owls are poised to top 30 points per game for the first time since 1979.

Vaughn Charlton began 2009 as the starting quarterback, but Chester Stewart took over in the second half of the season.  Stewart will be number one from the opening snap this year, while Charlton has moved to tight end.  At 6-4, he will provide Stewart with an excellent target in the middle.

Temple didn’t pass the ball all that well last year, so even though the top three receivers return, the trio only combined for 67 receptions and 1,133 yards.  One of those three receivers, James Nixon, moved to defense and will be the best kick returner in the league.

The running game clicked for the Owls last year, and it should continue to work wonders.  Back Bernard Pierce rushed for a league-leading 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, and he should top 1,500 this year if he stays healthy.

The Owls boast the best offensive line in the MAC.  Four starters return to the fold including three who earned all-conference mention.

We look for Temple to score 30-35 points per game while averaging 350-380 total yards.  The rushing total could top 200, while the passing tops 150.  Temple should lead the league in yards per reception as defenses have to cheat up to the line to slow down the running game.

Defense: Like he has with the offense, Golden’s defenses have improved every year from 45 to 41 to 26 to 23 to 22 points allowed.  There is no reason to believe that trend won’t continue this year, as the Owls are loaded on this side of the ball.

The defensive line shares with its offensive counterpart—it is the best in the league hands down.  Tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and end Adrian Robinson teamed up for 20 QB sacks and seven passes batted down.  Robinson is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year.  Though both juniors, they could easily be playing in the NFL next year.

The second line of defense is only average, and if the Owls do not win the MAC this year, it could be because opponents gain an extra yard or two at opportune moments.  One player who takes a backseat to nobody in the MAC is middle linebacker Elijah Joseph, but the outside spots are question marks.

The secondary is tough.  Two of the three returning starters are All-MAC performers.  Safeties Kevin Kroboth and Jaiquawn Jarrett both knocked down seven passes last year.

Temple could yield as few as 17 points and 300 yards per game in a league noted for high-flying offenses.  If so, look for a very memorable season in Philadelphia.

Schedule: What appears to be a “gimme” win for the Owls may be anything but this year.  Temple opens with cross-town rival Villanova on Friday, September 3.  The Wildcats defeated the Owls last year on their way to a 14-1 season and FCS National Championship.  VU returns 15 starters, so this game will be a hard-fought struggle.  Temple faces Connecticut, Penn State, and Army out of conference, so it could be anything from 2-2 to 0-4 outside of league play.  The Owls host Ohio U, but they must play at Kent State and Northern Illinois.  We don’t see them running the table in the conference, and if Kent State beats them, the Owls may need help from another team to win their first division title.

 

MAC West

 

Team Ball State Cardinals
               
Head Coach Stan Parrish
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Muncie, IN
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 81.7
               
National Rating 104
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: Head coach Stan Parrish has got to be the most unlucky coach in FBS history.  He has been a head coach at the top level for four seasons spread out over a quarter century, and he has a 4-41-1 record to show for it.  Three of those seasons were at Kansas State from 1986 to 1988, when the Wildcats did not emphasize football.  The fourth season came last year here in Muncie, as Ball State faced a serious rebuilding effort.

Parrish could see his career wins double this season thanks to an offense that returns 10 starters.  Quarterback Kelly Page only had to take over for the school’s top career passer last year and he didn’t have the school’s number two and three career pass catchers; he was not ready for the league rigors as a freshman.  Look for much better production from him this year.

The top nine receivers return this season, led by Briggs Orsborn and Torieal Gibson.  They aren’t an exceptional group overall, but the Cardinals can only improve in this area after averaging a paltry 134 yards through the air in 2009.

The BSU running game is in much better shape with the return of star back Miquale Lewis.  Lewis rushed for more than 1,700 yards in 2008 with a veteran offensive line blocking for him.  Last year, with a very young and inexperienced line, that number dropped to 871.  Look for something in between in his final year here, but that should be enough to make him the school’s all-time leading runner (he needs just 669 yards to do so).

The offensive line returns intact from a year ago after three freshmen and a sophomore started for most of the season.  Look for the line to open up more holes and give Page more time to pass.

Ball State scored 15 fewer points per game last year than in 2008.  Look for the Cardinals to top 20 points per game this year, but they will not approach the great numbers from two years ago.  BSU should average about 320-340 total yards per game.

Defense: The Cardinals fielded a credible defense in 2009 that was just on the field too much.  With a little better offense that can keep possession of the ball a minute or two more per game this year, Ball State should see their stop troops improve substantially.  Whether or not that improvement will be enough to guide the team back to a winning record may be asking too much.

The defense switched to a 4-3 alignment last year, and having an extra year of experience should help improve the numbers.  The strength of this unit is at linebacker, where all three starters return.  Davyd Jones and Travis Freeman led the team in tackles with 100 and 93 respectively, but too many of those stops occurred after sizeable gains by the offense.

The secondary was much too generous last year, giving up 65% completions and 234 yards per game.  Three starters return, plus the Cardinals add former Michigan safety Artis Chambers.  Look for BSU to be a little stingier this year.

Ball State will give up about 24-27 points and 350-375 yards per game.

Schedule: The Cardinals should start 2-0 with home games against Southeast Missouri and Liberty.  When conference play begins three weeks later, BSU will be 2-2 after losing at Purdue and Iowa.  They get Eastern Michigan and Akron at home, so there is a good chance Ball State will at least double its win total from a year ago.

 

Team Central Michigan Chippewas
               
Head Coach Dan Enos
               
Colors Maroon and Gold
               
City Mt. Pleasant, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-2
               
PiRate Rating 88.5
               
National Rating 92
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7

 

Offense: New head coach Dan Enos was the running backs coach at Michigan State the last three years.  He helped develop Javon Ringer into an NFL talent.  He better hope that somebody on the CMU roster can resemble Ringer, because the Chippewas have lost the services of the league’s top career passer.  Dan LeFevour is now in training camp with the Chicago Bears.

Ryan Radcliff saw very limited action for CMU last year, and the lightly used sophomore will get first crack at filling the giant shoes of LeFevour.  Radcliff will move under center unlike LeFevour, who operated from a shotgun where he could run and pass.  Look for a severe drop-off in both rushing and passing yards.

CMU lost its top two receivers, who combined for 174 receptions, 1,982 yards, and 16 touchdowns.  Kito Poblah and Cody Wilson give the Chippewas a foundation to rebuild on.  The tandem combined for 78 catches and 907 yards last year.

The running game relied on LeFevour the way Florida relied on Tim Tebow.  There isn’t much to get excited about in this department as Carl Volny and Paris Cotton are decent relief runners but poor feature backs.  Cotton figures to see a few more carries than Volny.  The two could combine for 1,000 plus rushing yards, but they will not match the 4.6 yards per rush recorded by last year’s runners.

An experienced offensive line should give CMU a fighting chance to run the ball and produce some decent results through the air.  Four starters return from last year led by the league’s best center Colin Miller.

CMU averaged 34 points and 423 yards per game last year.  Those numbers will fall to 22-26 points and 350-375 yards per game this season.

Defense: While the offense made the headlines, it was the Chippewa defense that got the job done when the title was on the line.  CMU held Ohio to 10 points and 275 yards in the MAC Championship game.

A lot of talent was lost to graduation, but there are still some very good players returning on this side of the ball.  At linebacker, Nick Bellore earned 1st Team All-MAC honors after posting 132 tackles, 13 of those behind the line.  He played well in pass coverage as well.  Will linebacker Mat Berning had 108 tackles and 8 ½ behind the line.  He knocked down seven passes as well.

Up front, half of the stellar defensive line starters return this year.  How well the two new starting ends perform could go a long way in determining the Chippewa’s fate.

The secondary is a concern this year, and we expect opposing quarterbacks to throw early and often against this untested quartet.  As a result, the linebackers may have to cheat back a little, thus weakening their ability to stop the run.

CMU will give up more than 20 points and 350 yards per game this year.  If that number approaches 25 points per game, it could be a long transitional season.

Schedule: A season opener at home with Hampton should give the new players a little confidence.  That should be the Chippewas only non-conference win, as they must face Northwestern, Virginia Tech, and Navy on the road.  Inside the MAC, CMU should split their eight games, which means they will fall under .500 overall.

 

Team Eastern Michigan Eagles
               
Head Coach Ron English
               
Colors Dark Green and White
               
City Ypsilanti, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 0-8
Overall 0-12
               
PiRate Rating 69.6
               
National Rating 120
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 1-11

 

Offense: The Eagles don’t have much going for them on this side of the ball, and yet it is the stronger unit of the two.  There is but one way for an 0-12 team to go, but improvement in 2010 could be negligible.

Second year head coach Ron English will more than likely rely on a two-man platoon at quarterback.  Alex Gillett is a dual-threat player who can score with his feet or his arm.  Redshirt freshman Devontae Payne is a pure pocket passer with a rifle for an arm.  Opposing defenses will have to prepare for both players.

At running back, returning starter Dwayne Priest has exceptional speed, but he lacks the power to escape a single tackler.  He could rush for 800 yards with a little better blocking up front.

The offensive line is stronger the closer you get to the ball, or to put it another way, it gets weaker as it moves away from the ball.  None of the players on this roster will contend for 1st or 2nd team all-conference honors.

EMU should surpass last year’s statistical figures, but the improvement may not be enough to stop the losing streak.  Look for 18-21 points and 300 yards per game this year.

Defense: English inherited a defense that had surrendered 36 points and 400+ yards a game in 2008, and his first team in Ypsilanti actually performed worse, giving up 38 points and 427 yards per game.  Against the run, the numbers were scary bad—277 yards allowed at 6.3 yards per rush!  Three defensive line starters return, but the one lost starter was the best of the four by far. 

The second unit, much like the linemen, returns all but one starter, and that lost starter was the best player on the entire defense. 

The secondary gave up just 151 passing yards per game last year, but opposing teams only passed the ball 19 times per game.  There is some talent in this unit, and if the Eagles actually take a second half lead in a game, this group could come up with a big play to end the long losing streak.

We see EMU improving some on this side of the ball, but that means they might give up 33-35 points and 400-425 yards per game.

Schedule: Once again, it appears that EMU has little or no chance to win a game outside of league play.  The Eagles face a much improved Army team that should rush for 300 yards against this defense.  They must go on the road to Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Virginia, and while the latter two face major rebuilding projects, the Eagles are not talented enough to beat either team on enemy turf.  EMU will be an underdog in all 12 games, and there is a chance they could go winless again.  We think they will come up with an upset in conference play to finish 1-11.  It’s been 29 years since a FBS school lost every game for two consecutive years (Northwestern) (Kansas State went 0-10-1 and 0-11 in 1987 and 1988).

 

Team Northern Illinois Huskies
               
Head Coach Jerry Kill
               
Colors Red and Black
               
City Dekalb, IL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 90.5
               
National Rating 86
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 8-0
Overall 9-4

 

Offense: The MAC version of Fresno State, Northern Illinois picked up another Big Ten win last year with a 28-21 upset of Purdue.  They gave Wisconsin all they could handle in a 28-20 loss.  Third year coach Jerry Kill has his best team yet in Dekalb, as the Huskies are primed for a run to the league title thanks to a rushing attack that should top 200 yards per game. 

Chad Spann returns to the fold after earning 1st Team All-MAC honors last year.  Spann topped 1,000 yards on the ground even though he had to split carries with another player.  He should get about 50 more attempts this year.  Top newcomer Jasmin Hopkins led the Juco ranks last year with more than 1,900 yard rushing, so he could provide an ample change of pace to Spann. 

A talented and experienced offensive line is set to open holes for the stable of running backs.  Tackle Trevor Olson could contend for 1st Team All-MAC honors.

There is a heated battle for the starting quarterback position between last year’s starter Chandler Harnish, backup DeMarcus Grady, and Juco newcomer Casey Weston.  Grady is currently number one at the start of preseason drills, but it would not surprise me if Harnish regains his starting spot after a quick recovery from a 2009 knee injury.  No matter who lines up under center in week one, the passing game will be merely a secondary option to the running game. 

Receiver Landon Cox returns after leading NIU with 45 catches a year ago.  The makings of a good unit is here, but the rest of the receiving corps lacks experience.

Northern Illinois will not put up gaudy statistics due to the reliance on the running game, but the Huskies should consistently use ball-possession as a major weapon.  Look for NIU to score about 28-31 points and gain 350-375 yards per game while holding total plays per game for both teams under 125.

Defense: NIU’s defense could be on the field about 10 fewer plays per game than the average MAC defense.  That should equal about one long drive per game not allocated to the opposition.  Last year, with only three starters returning, NIU still finished third in the league in defense.  This year, eight starters return, and the Huskies look like the cream of the MAC crop.

The secondary is the best part of the defense.  All four starters return, including an excellent duo at cornerback in Patrick George and Chris Smith.

The front seven should be as good as last year with the return of two defensive line starters and two linebackers.  Sam linebacker Alex Kube and Will linebacker Pat Schiller should combine for more than 150 tackles and 15 stops for loss.

NIU gave up 21.6 points and 330 yards per game last year, and those numbers should be a little better this season.  If they approach 17 points and 300 yards, the fans in Dekalb could be celebrating a MAC Championship.

Schedule: We think the Huskies have a 50-50 chance of running the table in conference play, at least until the MAC Championship Game.  The non-league schedule presents a wide variation of possibilities.  The Huskies open at Iowa State on Thursday night, September 2.  The Cyclones will be weaker this season and beatable in Ames.  After a home game with North Dakota, NIU travels to Illinois and Minnesota in consecutive weeks.  Again, both of these games are winnable but not sure things.  NIU could enter conference play at 1-3, 2-2, 3-1, or even 4-0.  The potential is there for a repeat of 2003, or even better.

 

Team Toledo Rockets
               
Head Coach Tim Beckman
               
Colors Midnight Blue and Gold
               
City Toledo, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 80.5
               
National Rating 108
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: The Rockets were an exciting team last year with a wide open offense that produced 30 points and almost 440 yards per game.  Expect more of the same in year two of the Coach Tim Beckman era in Toledo.

Quarterback Austin Dantin received three starts as a true freshman last year filling in for the injured Aaron Opelt.  Dantin averaged better than eight yards per attempt, and he could possibly top 3,000 yards through the air this season.

Receiver Eric Page is the league’s leading returning pass catcher after grabbing 82 passes for 1,159 yards.  He was just a freshman!  Could a triple digit reception season be in his future?  It’s possible.

Running back Morgan Williams lost his starting job last year after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2008.  If he returns to form, the Rockets will be impossible to stop this season.

The offensive line is one of the most experienced group of blockers in the nation.  They gave up just 18 sacks to a group of passers that combined for 37 passing attempts per game.

The Rockets should average 33-36 points and 450-475 yards per game this season; they will continue to be one of the most exciting teams in the nation to watch.

Defense: As good as the offense is, the defense is the polar opposite.  Toledo gave up 38 points and 400+ yards per game last season, and it doesn’t appear that 2010 will see enough improvement to win more games.

Two starters return up front, but neither of them will be confused for all-conference players.  Toledo had just 20 sacks last year, and they lose their top sack man.

The Rockets use a 4-2-5 defense, and they return just one of their linebacker tandem.  That lost player was the best player on the entire defense, Barry Church, who made all-conference all four years.

The quintet in the secondary is the strength of this unit.  Toledo started three freshmen last year, and as sophomores, they should be much better.  The Rockets welcome back Desmond Morrow, a 2008 starter who missed most of last year with an ACL injury.

Toledo should surrender fewer points this year.  However, a weaker run defense could keep the stop troops on the field for longer stretches.  Look for the Rockets to give up as much as 200 rushing yards and 375-400 total yards per game while allowing about 28-33 points per game.

Schedule: This is a major problem.  Toledo will not win a non-conference game, and they could be quite banged up by the time they are finished with the last of those games.  Arizona visits the Glass Bowl to kick off the season.  Road games at Purdue and Boise State will be trouble.  A homecoming game with Wyoming comes sandwiched between Purdue and Boise State.  The Rockets will compete in most of their conference games, but they could repeat their 3-5 mark.

 

Team Western Michigan Broncos
               
Head Coach Bill Cubit
               
Colors Brown and Gold
               
City Kalamazoo, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 77.0
               
National Rating 115
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: The Broncos were inconsistent on offense last year.  They topped 30 points four times and scored 17 or less points five times.  With the loss of the school’s career best passer, 2010 could be a trying one for a team that has enough talent to contend for the division flag.

Quarterback Alex Carder saw limited action as a freshman last year, but he begins 2010 as the clear-cut starter.  He won’t be asked to pass the ball over 40 times per game like Tim Hiller, but he has a great set of receivers on hand. 

The top five receivers from last year are back in the fold, giving the Broncos the hands down best receiving unit in the league.  Drew Burdi, an option-style QB was moved to wide receiver to add to those riches.

WMU must replace star running back Brandon West, who rushed for 1,164 yards and 10 TDs.  He leaves a major void, as the new starter, Aaron Winchester, ran for just 148 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

The lack of a proven runner might force Carder to take the ball to the air a bit too much, and his inexperience could lead to an increase in interceptions.  Still, WMU should average better than 25 points and 375 yards per game.

Defense: There are definite strengths and glaring weaknesses on this side of the ball, but the Broncos are sure to improve on their lousy showing of last year when they gave up 28 points and 419 yards per game.

First the bad news:  the secondary gave up 241 passing yards per game and seldom supplied much pressure on receivers.  Two freshmen could start this year.

The Broncos are a little more settled at linebacker.  Rover Jamail Berry is more of a linebacker than secondary player.  He led WMU with five interceptions (half of the team’s picks).  Newcomer Dex Jones possesses great speed, and the former Wisconsin player should be a vast improvement on the weak side.

The defensive line is not impressive, but there is more experience returning this year than returned in 2009.

If the Broncos can develop an average pass rush, they could make an unexpected run at Northern Illinois.  We believe they will improve some, but not enough.  Call it 24-27 points and 375-400 yards allowed.

Schedule: The Broncos are looking at a 2-2 mark outside of conference play.  They host Nicholls State and Idaho and travel to Michigan State and Notre Dame.  League games with Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Toledo, Central Michigan, and Akron give WMU a good shot at enjoying a winning league mark.  The Broncos get Kent State and Northern Illinois at home, and if they win one of those games, they will be bowling this year. 

 

Coming Tomorrow: A look at the three independents—Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.  Could the entire trio be bowl eligible in 2010?

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