Posts Tagged 'hurricanes'

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#16-#25)

As the end of Spring Football draws near, some major college football programs have answered some questions, while others have more questions than they had in February.  In this three-part series, College FootBlog will release our Preseason 2010 Top 25 with some insight on each team and the season that will be here in five months.  In this first edition, we will break down #16-#25.

Oregon State RB Quizz Rodgers is one of the most electric players in college football (google images)

16.  Oregon State:  The Beavers surprised many outside of their conference last season, but to the Pac 10, their rise in ’09 was a continuance of what they have been doing for the last four years, the Beavers are 36-17 and have finished second in the Pac 10 in each of the last two years.  The Rodgers brothers (Quizz and James) return to lead the offense.  There is a battle between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich to replace Sean Canfield at quarterback, but if the last four years are any indication, Oregon State is for real and they are here to stay.

17.  Miami:  Many doubted the Hurricane offense going into last season, but then sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris proceeded to light up defensive secondaries en route to a 3,000-yard passing season.  Harris and his receiving corps faltered against Wisconsin in their bowl game, but with only one wideout leaving for graduation (Leonard Hankerson), look for Miami to put up good numbers on offense again in 2010.  Couple that with a very athletic defense led by linebacker Sean Spence, and the ‘Canes will be tough this fall.

18.  LSU:  The Tigers were a decent offense away from ending Tim Tebow’s BCS Championship long before Alabama knocked the Gators off in the SEC Championship Game.  Les Miles had a solid defense last season, and senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard returns to anchor this season’s unit.   Do-everything offensive game-breaker, Russell Shepard should make a name for himself in his sophomore season.

19.  Nebraska:  Bo Pelini brought respect back to the storied program that had been in a major drought since the days of Eric Crouch.  Pelini has brought back the “black shirt” defense as opposed to what had looked more like the “mesh shirt” defense in the earlier part of the last decade.  The loss of Ndamukong Suh is significant, but luckily for Husker fans, the rest of the Big 12 is not good at tackle football.

20.  Georgia:  After a disappointing 8-5 season, look for the Bulldogs to bounce back this fall.  The offense should take a step forward, with one of the top receivers in the country in AJ Green and running back Washaun Ealey.  The defense was a major reason the ‘Dawgs underachieved in 2009, so head coach Mark Richt has revamped his coaching staff on that side of the ball, and the buzz coming out of Athens so far this spring sounds like those changes are already having a favorable impact.

21.  Penn State:  Look for JoPa to make one last run in 2010, although we believe the Nittany Lions don’t quite have enough to dethrone Ohio State for a run at the Big Ten title.  The thing that Penn State has going for them is their conference.  While there are four teams that should be very good in 2010, the rest of the conference takes a significant nosedive, and PSU should benefit from that.

Senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt is the key to GT's triple option attack (google images)

22.  Georgia Tech:  After scoffing at Paul Johnson bringing the triple option to a major college offense a couple years ago, we have all learned one thing–he is a great football coach.  And we have learned to not count him out.  The loss of stud running back Jonathan Dwyer will hurt the Yellow Jackets, but if quarterback Josh Nesbitt can stay healthy, GT will make another run at an ACC Championship Game.

23.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has the Tarheels playing great football…well, at least on defense.  UNC boasted the nation’s 6th ranked total defense, allowing opposing offenses just under 270 yards per game.  Unfortunately, for the ‘Heels, the offense was as bad as the defense was good.  UNC was ranked a pathetic 108th in total offense.   If the offense can improve at all (which isn’t exactly a tall order), look for Butch Davis’ squad to give teams fits in 2010.

24.  West Virginia:  The Mountaineers will have to overcome the loss of quarterback Jarrett Brown, but Geno Smith will look to show why he was such a highly-touted QB out of Florida.  Noel Devine has been one of the most explosive players in the country since his freshman season, and the fact that he returned for his senior means that the Mountaineers can always one play away from breaking one.

25.  Auburn:  The heavily criticized hiring of Gene Chizik worked out well, as he led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and a bowl victory over Northwestern in his inaugural season.  Look for even more improvement from the offense and a stout defense.  Look for freshman running back Michael Dyer and freshman DE Corey Lemonier to make immediate impact this fall.

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Evaluating the Recruiting Class of 2006

Evaluating the Recruiting Class of 2006–by Jeff Dunbar

Matthew Stafford was the first of many first-rounders from the 2006 recruiting class (google images)

In the world of college football recruiting, writers and analysts attempt to project a 17-year old kid’s talent to the next 4-5 years.  Many skeptics are quick to point out the over-hyped and underperforming players like 5-star phenom Willie Williams, who made headlines of his many altercations with the law, while in high school, but due to his sub-4.5 forty time and his amazing abilities, he still signed a letter of intent to play for the Miami Hurricanes

Williams never panned out at Miami or Louisville, where he transferred due to limited playing time with the ‘Canes.  Williams’ story is all too familiar, but you have to admit that the business of projecting how a high school football player will do in the spotlight of bigtime Division I football is somewhat of a crapshoot.

College FootBlog understands that, and in the case of Rivals.com’s breakdown of the class of 2006, we give credit where credit is due.

Rivals dubbed 28 players that year with the coveted 5-star status, and of those former blue chip recruits, four of them have already been selected as first round draft picks in the NFL, after leaving school early–Matthew Stafford, Andre Smith, Percy Harvin and Beanie Wells.

Five more, Gerald McCoy, Taylor Mays, CJ Spiller, Brandon Graham and Sergio Kindle are expected to go in the first round of this year’s draft, with Florida Linebacker Brandon Spikes  and Clemson DE Ricky Sapp likely to go early in round 2. 

When the dust settles, Rivals will have likely correctly tagged 15 out of their 28 selections as young men who will be playing on Sundays next fall.  That 54% hit rate is very impressive when you consider all the variables that must be considered. 

Some players cannot make the grades to get into a university, let alone stay eligible at one.  Injuries can and do happen.  Stafon Johnson was one of the 5-star players listed, and although he will likely get an opportunity to play in the NFL, his freak accident in the weight room will have an effect on his draft status.  Finally, some of these players either never reach their full potential, or they may have already reached that full potential in high school, and the rest of their college peers pass them by. 

No one knows how Tim Tebow, Stafon Johnson and the rest of these players will fare in the NFL, but rest assured–they will have a shot to make an impression.  The analysts and writers have no way of predicting the future, but with Rivals’ class of 2006, they did as good a job as possible, given the circumstances.

For the complete list of the top 100 players from 2006, check out rivals.com.

Orange Bowl Breakdown: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech

On Tuesday night, all eyes will be on the Orange Bowl, as the Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech.  Iowa, who saw their dreams of a Big Ten Championship and trip to the Rose Bowl end at the hands of Rose Bowl Champs, Ohio State, will try to cap off a great season in Miami. 

Standing in their way will be Paul Johnson’s triple option attack that has given college football all it can handle since he took over in 2008.  The Jackets will look to continue their new version of college football’s most traditional offensive attack en route to a twelve win season. 

College FootBlog will provide a breakdown of each team’s strengths and areas for concern, we will analyze some of the match ups in the upcoming game, and we will give our prediction of the outcome of this BCS contest. 

Jonathan Dwyer leads the Georgia Tech's relentless ground attack (google images)

Georgia Tech 

Strengths:  When head coach Paul Johnson announced that he planned on bringing his triple option offense from Navy to Georgia Tech, many (including College FootBlog) thought he would not last long before being run out of Atlanta. 

Instead, his Yellow Jackets have dominated the ground game, and this year, GT ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game with just over 307 ypg.  Jonathan Dwyer leads the Jackets with just under 1350 yards, and he is averaging just over six yards per carry.  

Quarterback Josh Nesbitt is equally dangerous running the football, rushing for 18 touchdowns this season, and he is only nine yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season. 

Key Concerns:  As great as GT runs the ball, their defense has been very inept at stopping, or even slowing down, opposing running backs.  The Yellow Jackets have given up over 150 yards rushing per game. 

They will have to do a much better job on Tuesday if they have any aspirations of beating an Iowa team that depends on their ground game as well.  

Iowa 

Strengths:  Make no mistake about it, Iowa has won their games because of a dominant defense.  The Hawkeyes have the nation’s 11th best total defense.  In fact, ‘Hawks’ dominant “D” held their opponents to 17 points or fewer in eight of their twelve games this season. 

Adrian Clayborn leads Iowa's dominant front four (google images)

 Like all great defenses, it has to start with the front four.  Led by junior DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa’s defensive front as equally good at defending the run and pass.  Just as disruptive is the linebacker corps, which is anchored by junior Jeremiha Hunter

Key Concerns:  The play of quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been great at times, but downright dismal at others.  This inconsistency could really hurt, and can, and has, at times this season, made Iowa offense very one-dimensional. 

After suffering a severe high ankle sprain against Northwestern, Stanzi had a minor surgery, and it appears that he will be 100%.  He will have to limit the turnovers if he wants to keep his team in the game–Stanzi has 15 TD’s, but 14 picks this season. 

Georgia Tech Offense vs. Iowa Defense 

As talented as Iowa’s defense is against the run, they have not seen an offense like Georgia Tech’s–not for several years.  The only team to slow down GT’s running game in the last two seasons was the Miami Hurricanes early in the season, when they held the Jackets to 95 yards on the ground. 

Paul Johnson added a few new wrinkles to his option attack and got his team right back on track.  Iowa’s hard-nosed defense should contain the Jackets better than most, but it is usually only a matter of time before Dwyer, Nesbitt or one of the many other dangerous weapons in the GT backfield breaks loose for a couple huge gains.  EDGE:  Georgia Tech 

Iowa Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense 

Although Ricky Stanzi has been rather erratic this season, the Iowa running game has been very solid.  After losing Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Shonn Green to the NFL Draft last season, many wondered who would fill the void.  The tandem of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher has amassed over 1,300 yards this season. 

As we mentioned, the Yellow Jackets have had their issues with the running game this season.  Look for the Hawkeyes to get in a lot of third down and manageable situations, which should take some pressure off Stanzi and the passing game.  EDGE:  Iowa 

Special Teams 

Iowa kicker Daniel Murray and punter Ryan Donahue were both honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media.  Georgia Tech’s kicker, Scott Blair has put up solid numbers as well, but his five missed field goals this year show a little less consistency than Iowa’s Murray. 

Each team has utilized multiple players in the return game, but for both teams, the offenses are built for grinding it out and establishing field position by grinding it out and punting when necessary. 

Prediction 

As solid as Iowa’s defense is and has been all season, look for Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech to be the fifth game this season that the Hawkeyes surrender more than 17 points.  The Yellow Jackets have scored 30 or more points in nine of their thirteen games this season.  Iowa will contain Dwyer and Nesbitt for a while, but look for one of those two great runners to open up a few big runs, at least by the end of the first half. 

Iowa’s ground game will keep them in this football game, as it should have some significant success against Tech’s struggling rush defense.  However, even though the Hawkeyes are more than capable of playing from behind, if Georgia Tech can get to 28 points, Iowa will have to turn to its erratic passing game, and that could prove to be the difference.  Score Prediction:  Georgia Tech wins 31-27 

College Football Bowl Breakdown #1: Miami vs. Wisconsin

After more than a month-long hiatus, College FootBlog is back and ready for this year’s bowl season.  On December 29th, the ACC’s Miami Hurricanes (9-3) will take on the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl.  In this match up, the ‘Canes will look to show the college football world that they were overlooked for a New Year’s Day bowl, while the Badgers will try to redeem themselves after getting blown out by Florida State in their bowl game last season.

College FootBlog will break down this match up, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and will conclude with a score prediction.

Quarterback Jacory Harris will try to use his weapons at WR against the Badgers (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  With sophomore Jacory Harris as the trigger man, the Hurricane’s passing attack has put up some big numbers in 2009.  After splitting time with Robert Marve last season, Harris has really developed since taking over as the full-time QB.

His corps of receivers has helped as well.  Junior wideout Leonard Hankerson leads the group with 773 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and if Laron Byrd can come up with 69 yards and Travis Benjamin can come up with ten yards, the ‘Canes would finish the season with three WR’s with at least 500 yards on the year.

Key Concern:  Despite having a ton of speed and athleticism, Miami has been very inconsistent on defense.  The ‘Canes rank 25th in yards per game on defense, they have given up some points.  In fact, the ‘Canes have given up over thirty points four times this season.

The bright side for Miami in this match up is their ability to stop the run, led by linebacker Colin McCarthy.

Wisconsin

Strengths:  As sophomore running back John Clay goes, so does the Badgers’ offense.  The bruising 248-pound back enters this bowl game just four yards shy of 1,400 and has rushed for 16 TD’s on the year.  Clay has enjoyed another great year, following the traditional stellar offensive line that consistently produces NFL talent.  

At 248 pounds, John Clay is a load coming out of the Wisconsin backfield (google images)

Key Concerns:  At nearly 220 yards passing allowed per game, the Badgers have not exactly been stingy this year, especially considering the Big Ten is not known for throwing the football around.

Wisconsin ranks 66th nationally against the pass, and despite shutting down pass-happy Hawaii and limiting them to ten points and 214 total yards, the Badger defensive backs will face much more speed than they have seen so far this season.

The Badgers will need a big day from their secondary if they want to stay in this game.

Wisconsin Offense vs. Miami Defense

Although Miami has seen a couple of dominant running teams this season in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, they have not faced an offensive line like this.  Look for the ‘Canes to stack the box and force quarterback Scott Tolzien to beat them. 

Still, Clay will easily eclipse the 1,400 yard mark on the season, and he should make a real run at 1,500.  Slight EDGE:  Wisconsin

Miami Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense

As previously mentioned, the Wisconsin secondary should have their hands full with the speed and the talent that the ‘Canes possess at wide receiver.  The silver lining for the Badgers could be that Miami’s senior offensive tackle Jason Fox is out for this game. 

The Badgers will have to get pressure on Jacory Harris, or it will be a very long day.  Mix in Graig Cooper’s receiving ability out of the backfield, and Miami could score and score quickly.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams

The big difference here could be the return men.  Wisconsin’s David Gilreath is a dangerous returner on kick offs and punts.  Miami counters will very dangerous tandem of Travis Benjamin and Graig Cooper.   Both kickers, Miami’s Matt Bosher and Wiconsin’s Phillip Welch have been solid this season as well.  Slight EDGE:  Miami

Prediction

The Big Ten had another let down of a season in ’09, but the ACC didn’t exactly light things up this year, either.  Wisconsin was supposed to have the big advantage last year against Florida State with their ability to run the football.  Things did not go so well for the Badgers, as the Seminoles rolled to a 42-13 win.

Like last year’s match up, the Badgers will likely have a difficult time keeping up with Miami’s speed on offense.  Wisconsin has shown that they can be vulnerable to the pass, and they could be facing the best passing offense they have gone against in a couple years.  Look for Miami to roll.  Score Prediction:  Miami 34, Wisconsin 17

Is Tebow Deserving of All of the Heisman Hype?

If you check the latest rankings for the favorites for this year’s Heisman Trophy, the name at the top of the list is Florida’s Tim Tebow.  While that does not pose as much of a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to college football the last four years, the statistics for Tebow and many others who are not on the watch list may be a bit of a surprise.

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Tebow's charisma, not his overall performance, may be influencing Heisman voters (google images)

Going into the 2009 season, the three favorites to bring home the coveted award were the top three finishers in last year’s voting, Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford from Oklahoma, Texas Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy and Tebow.

Bradford’s chances at a repeat fell dramatically when he was knocked out of the first game of the year and subsequently missed the next three games with a sprained shoulder.  McCoy has again put up solid numbers, but he has seen a bit of a dip slightly from his stats from a year ago.  McCoy could make a strong impression this weekend in front of a national television audience in the Red River Shootout against the hated Oklahoma Sooners, but as of now, he is second on the Heisman list to Tebow, according to most experts.

A closer look at Tebow’s stats this season, however,  begs the question:  Is the Heisman Trophy supposed to go to the best player or the most popular one?  While the Florida Gators have been the number one team in America since the preseason, Tebow’s stats are a far cry from elite, not only in the country, but in his conference and even in his own state.

Tebow’s 155 passing yards per game rank him 96th in the FBS, and eighth in his own conference.  In fact, the only great statistical game Tebow has managed was against Troy, where he completed four of his seven touchdowns on the year.  If you take out both cupcakes, Troy and lowly Charleston Southern, and focus on the three SEC opponents the Gators have faced (Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU), Tebow is averaging 124 yards passing a game with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

On the ground, he is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 79 yards per game.  There are 59 quarterbacks in the FBS that are averaging more than that just in passing yards.  That is an average of 203 yards of total offense. 

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has led an Irish team with a very average defense to a 4-1 record this season.  He is averaging 308 yards per game with 12 TDs and two interceptions, and he has kept the Irish in every one of their games, including the last second, heart-breaking loss to Michigan in week two.  

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Finally, Tony Pike is getting some serious Heisman consideration (google images)

Until this week when ESPN’s Robert Smith discussed it, very few experts had mentioned Cincinnati’s Tony Pike as a threat.  Pike has led the Bearcats to a 5-0 start and is averaging  just under 300 yards per game through the air with 13 TD’s and only three interceptions.

What may be the most surprising is that Tebow is statistically a far cry from the being the best QB in the state of Florida.  Miami’s Jacory Harris has quietly led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 start.  Harris has been great in every game except the monsoon in Blacksburg when the Hokies held him to 150 yards.  In that game, not only did Harris face one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Bud Foster, he also had to deal with Mother Nature.  The entire game was played in monsoon-like conditions with steady rain and gusting winds.  Still, Harris has 25th in the nation in yards per game.

The other QB that may surprise a lot of people due to his team’s record is Florida State’s Christian Ponder.  Through the Bobby Bowden retirement soap opera and the ‘Noles’ travesty of a defense this season, many outside of Tallahassee have not recognized what the junior signal caller has done thus far. 

Ponder currently ranks 11th in passing yards per game with 9 TD’s and only one pick.  He has added another 123 yards on the ground and more importantly, Ponder has kept his team in every game this season, despite an inconsistent running game and one of the nation’s worst defenses.

Finally, ESPN has Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike and Jacory Harris on their watch list, but they may want to check the stats before the put Tebow on top again.  Unfortunately, the very mediocre stats will be downplayed by ESPN and the rest of the media and Tebow’s leadership and charisma will be brought up. 

What should be considered instead is who is the best college football player in the nation.  Who does more for his team and does more in big games?  The stats don’t lie, but if the season plays out like it has and the Heisman race plays out like it looks like it may, ESPN’s Erin Andrews may want to see if she still has eligibility left.  Her popularity may make her next year’s Heisman front-runner.

College Football Preview Week 5: Oklahoma at Miami

For the first time since 2007, Miami and Oklahoma will square off this Saturday.  The 2007 match up is one that the Hurricanes would like to forget, as the Sooners pounded them 51-13 to officially begin the Sam Bradford era in Norman.

This year, the two teams could not be any more different than they were just two seasons ago.  In this week’s edition, College FootBlog will analyze the ‘Canes and Sooners and give our prediction for the game.

Jacory Harris will look to bounce back after a rough outing against Virginia Tech (google images)

Jacory Harris will look to bounce back after a rough outing against Virginia Tech (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris exploded onto the college football scene in his big performances against Florida State and Georgia Tech, but he was held in check by Virginia Tech last week, going 9-25 and an interception.

Despite the dismal performance, two things must be considered in last weekend’s defeat.  For one, credit must be given to Virginia Tech’s outstanding defensive coordinator, Bud Foster and his defense, which always seems to overachieve.  And secondly, the monsoon-like conditions last weekend made passing very difficult.

The Hurricanes will need Harris to play like he did in his first two games if they expect to have a shot at winning this weekend.

Key Concern:  Miami’s defense has given up a ton of points in their three games, allowing 30+ points in two of their three games this season.  The pass-happy Sooners have not skipped a beat after losing Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford in their opener against BYU.

Oklahoma

Strengths:  OU’s defense has been lights out this season only surrendering 13 points in their three games.  After giving up two touchdown passes to BYU’s Max Hall in the opener, the Sooners have shut out their last two opponents, most recently against offensive juggernaut Tulsa.  The Sooners will face the most speed and balance that they have faced so far this season when they travel to Miami, but there is not much more that Bob Stoops could ask from his defense so far this year.

 

 

Heisman winner Sam Bradford would like to come back this weekend in Miami (google images)

Heisman winner Sam Bradford would like to come back this weekend in Miami (google images)

Key Concerns:

  Although it is still unclear if or how much Sam Bradford will play in this game, it looks as though he will attempt to play on Saturday.  He started light throwing last week and experienced some discomfort, which was expected.  Backup QB Landry Jones has lit up the scoreboard in relief of Bradford the last two weeks, leading the Sooners to their unbelievable 109-0 point differential in those two games.

 

 

If Bradford is not 100% but still attempts to play, the ‘Canes could slow down OU’s powerful offense.  The success of Jones the last two weeks give the Sooners a viable option off the bench, but if Bradford cannot make all of his throws, the OU offense may have trouble clicking.

Miami Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense

As explosive as Miami’s offense was in their first two games, the moment they went against a solid, well-coached defense when they played Va Tech, they faltered badly.  As mentioned, the weather probably played a major factor in that game as well, but Jacory Harris will likely have his toughest test to date this weekend. 

Anchored by DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma’s front four may be the most talented in all of college football.  Couple that with two senior corners, Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson, and Harris may have his hands full.  EDGE:  OU

Oklahoma Offense vs. Miami Defense

Miami has a much faster, more athletic defense than OU has faced so far this season.  But as athletic as they are, the ‘Canes defense has given up a lot of points this season.  The ‘Canes had been great against the run until they encountered Ryan Williams last weekend.  Whoever plays quarterback for OU this weekend should have some success against this Miami secondary.  EDGE:  OU

Special Teams

Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray are very dangerous returners, but kicker Jimmy Stevens has not been tested much this season because OU’s offense has been so dominant.  With the return of Javarris James, Miami has been able to let Graig Cooper return kicks this season, and the results have been there.  Cooper is a game breaker.  Kicker Matt Bosher has not been flawless by any means, but he will be playing at home.  Slight EDGE:  Miami

Prediction

Miami showed some real vulnerabilities last weekend in Blacksburg, especially on offense.  Look for Jacory Harris and his stable of receivers to have a much better performance than last weekend, but they will still have a very tough time against this veteran and very talented OU defense.  If Harris can find a rhythm, the ‘Canes will have a shot, but if OU can force a turnover early on, it could be a long day for Miami.

The bye week for OU last week also plays a huge factor in this match up.  Miami had a lot of success in their first two games, but some of that can be contributed to an entire off season to install a new offense that Florida State had not seen until their opening day match up.  And the ‘Canes had bye week immediately following that victory to prepare for Georgia Tech.  They do not have that luxury in this game.  Final Score Prediction:  OU wins 31-21

ACC College Football Breakdown Part I: Coastal Division

After week four in this college football season, if there is one thing the ACC has shown, it is that they are consistently inconsistent (if that makes sense).  In this two-part segment, College FootBlog will take a look at each team in the ACC and provide what we know and what we should expect for the rest of the season.  Part I of the segment will focus on the ACC Coastal Division.  We put the teams in the order of College FootBlog’s power ranking from top to bottom:

1.  Virginia Tech

Ryan Williams leads a dominant Va Tech running attack (google images)

Ryan Williams leads a dominant Va Tech running attack (google images)

Key Strengths:  Ryan Williams has been the key to the offensive success for the Hokies.  The freshman running back has amassed 492 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns in Va Tech’s first four games this season.

Bud Foster’s Defense has been the other strength of this Virginia Tech squad as well.  Since the opening day loss to the Crimson Tide of Alabama, Foster’s crew have dominated, giving up just two touchdowns in the last three games, which included the previously red hot Miami Hurricanes last weekend.

Key Concerns:  The Passing Offense has not been solid for the Hokies.  Although Tyrod Taylor has made clutch plays this year, overall he has averaged just over 130 yards passing per game and is completing less than 50% of his passes.  If Taylor does not step up, the Hokies’ one-dimensional offense could lose them an important game sooner rather than later.

2.  Miami

Key Strengths:  Even though Jacory Harris had an afternoon he would like to forget last weekend, he has simply made plays this season.  It should be noted that Harris’ struggles against Virginia Tech last weekend may have had something to do with the monsoon they played in as well.

The other strength for the ‘Canes is their deep and incredibly diverse corps of receivers.  Miami has one of the nicest blends of speed, size and possession receivers in the country, giving Harris plenty of options downfield.

Key Concern:  The Hurricane Defense shut down Georgia Tech’s ground game, but they still gave up 17 points in that contest.  In their other two games this season, the ‘Canes have given up 34 and 31 points.  As good as the offense has looked, that kind of defensive effort will cost Miami some games down the road.

3.  Georgia Tech

GT relies heavily on Jonathan Dwyer's punishing running style (google images)

GT relies heavily on Jonathan Dwyer's punishing running style (google images)

Strengths:  Jonathan Dwyer is one of the most dangerous running backs in the country.  After getting knocked out of the Miami game after only five carries, Dwyer bounced back last week against North Carolina and racked up 158 of the 313 rushing yards for the Jackets.  If he can stay healthy, he will make another run at the ACC Offensive Player of the Year this season.

Key Concerns: Depth at quarterback and fullback are a major concern for the Jackets.  When Dwyer was knocked out of the Miami game, the Georgia Tech ground game came to a screeching halt, as they failed to break 100 yards in that game.  Even though quarterback Josh Nesbitt is inconsistent throwing the football, his ability to make the correct reads and run the ball make the offense go.  Look no further than last year’s game against Florida State, and you realize how important Nesbitt is to the offense.  The Jackets were dominating the Seminoles, but when Nesbitt left the game with an ankle injury, the ‘Noles were able to force a key turnover and neutralize the option attack. 

If Dwyer and Nesbitt can stay healthy, the Yellow Jackets will have a great shot at making a second straight trip to the ACC Championship, especially since Miami lost last weekend.

4.  North Carolina

Strengths:  Despite his rough outing against Georgia Tech last weekend, junior quarterback TJ Yates has taken a step forward, despite losing a couple of key receivers, including first round draft pick Hakeem Nicks.  We will see if Yates can bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing game, but he adds athleticism that the ‘Heels lacked when he was injured last season.

Key Concerns: UNC has absolutely no running game.  Even though Yates has stepped up his game this season, his productivity will continue to be hindered if the ‘Heels continue their dismal display on the ground.  If you take out the cupcake game against The Citadel, UNC has managed just 200 yards rushing in three games, with the worst effort coming last weekend against Georgia Tech, when the Tar Heels managed just 17 yards on the ground.

5.  Duke

Strengths:  Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is a real talent.  Despite not having the weapons that his ACC peers have, Lewis can make plays.  Duke will still have a tough time this season, but Lewis will make the rest of the ACC work on defense.

Key Concerns:  The Blue Devils simply do not have the speed and athleticism on defense, especially against the pass.  The Kansas Jayhawks are the only legitimate team they have played so far this season, and Todd Reesing and company shredded the Duke secondary for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

6.  Virginia

Strengths:  N/A  Unfortunately, the 0-3 Cavaliers do not have any strengths to cover.  They have been horrible in nearly every facet of every game they have played.  They give up a ton of points and they have trouble scoring.  Enough said.

Key Concerns:  You name it, you’ve got it.  As mentioned above, the Cavs are stagnant on offense, and they have been absolutely gashed on defense, most recently giving up 100 yards rushing to two different Southern Miss players.  It is going to be a long season for UVa.