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College Football Week 1 Breakdown: Boise St vs Virginia Tech

With the absence of the entire North Carolina defense, the LSU-North Carolina game is suddenly no longer intriguing, so College FootBlog decided to break down the other key match up in Week 1 of the 2010 college football season–Boise State vs. Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

College FootBlog will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and we will give our first game prediction for the new season.  First, let’s take a look at the Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Va Tech RB Ryan Williams leads one of the most explosive running attacks in the country (google images)

Key Strength

Running Game:  Although Alabama is getting all the hype for the best tailback tandem in the country, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans would like to throw a hat in the ring as well.  Williams broke Evans freshman rushing record last season by rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 TDs.  He replaced Evans, who tore his ACL and missed the 2009 season.  In 2008, Evans rushed for 1,265 yards two seasons ago.  He is back, he’s healthy, and he gives a huge shot in the arm for what was already one of the top rushing teams in the country.

Key Concern

Defense:  The Hokies must replace seven starters from last year’s defense, don’t bet against defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s ability to coach up a defense.  Foster had all spring to reload, and although the departure of DE E Jason Worilds and inexperience up front, Foster will have his unit ready to play Monday, and they will only improve as the season continues.  Despite the losses of several key players on the defense, look for Virginia Tech to have yet another top 25 defense by season’s end. 

Boise State

Key Strength

Kellen Moore:  The Heisman hopeful completed an unbelievable 39 TDs last year to just 3 Ints last season.  The Broncos have a very solid running game, but Moore leads one of the top aerial attacks in the nation.  Moore has plenty of weapons around him, highlighted by senior wideouts Titus Young and Austin Pettis.  Look for BSU to throw the ball early and often on Monday.

Key Concern

Tough to Find One:  BSU has pretty much kicked the notion that they can’t play with the big boys to the curb.  Head coach Chris Peterson is 4-1 against teams from the BCS conferences.  They had a balanced attack last season, and the only area of their game that wasn’t lights out was their defense against the run.  They still finished 28th in the nation and were able to neutralize TCU and Oregon on the ground.  When they went against Fresno State’s Ryan Matthews, however, it was a different story.  Matthews went for 234 yards and three TDs against the Broncos, proving that a dominant RB can have success against them.  But again, that was just one game, and this BSU defense is a year older and wiser.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Boise State Defense

Look for BSU to load the box and attempt to force VT quarterback Tyrod Taylor to beat them with his arm.  Taylor took a huge step forward in this department last season but still only completed 56% of his passes.  The difficult thing for BSU is that every other opponent of VT last season tried the same thing, but the end result was usually the same–Taylor was not only efficient (ranked #13 in passing efficiency nationally), but Williams still got his yards, too.  Add Evans to the backfield this season, and that will be a tall order for the Broncos, even with their experienced and disciplined defense.  EDGE:  Virginia Tech

A strong performance on Monday night could go a long way in Boise State's BCS Championship hopes, but it could also put him in the driver's seat for the Heisman Trophy (google images)

Boise State Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense

The combination of Kellen Moore’s efficiency (ranked #2 in passing efficiency nationally in 2009) and a solid and underrated running game with the tandem of Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin.  BSU had one of the most explosive offenses in the nation last season, and the only thing that has changed this season is that they have more experience, and they have played in more big games.  There is no doubt that Bud Foster will put a solid defense on the field, but at least some inexperience is likely to show in the first game of the 2010 season.  EDGE:  Boise State

Special Teams

Senior Kyle Brotzman handles the kicking and punting duties for Boise State and has been solid on each.  Last season, he was 18-25 on field goal attempts, while averaging 43.9 yards per punt.  When you talk about Virginia Tech, however, you immediately have to think of Beamer Ball.  The Hokies have always been among the nation’s best in special teams under head coach Frank Beamer, and this year should be no different.  Va Tech will feature a pair of seniors who will handle the kicking and punting duties, and junior Dyrell Roberts returns after finishing 2009 as the nation’s #4 ranked kick returner.  BSU counters with versatile athlete Titus Young as threat on kick returns.  Slight EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Final Analysis

What more could you ask for on opening weekend of the college football season.  This match up has all the makings of a great football game.  Each team will be well-coached and will perform on both sides of the ball.  In games that are as evenly matched as this one, you have to go back to two areas–home field advantage and special teams play.  Even though this game is technically not a home game for Virginia Tech, it may as well be.  Tech fans have a four and a half hour drive to FedEx Field, while BSU fans have to cross the country.  While BSU should have some fans, the crowd will be overwhelmingly in favor of Va Tech.  As for special teams, one area we didn’t focus on in the above paragraph was the Hokies’ ability to block kicks and punts.  Look for them to go after at least two punts during this one, and if they get a blocked kick, that could be all it takes to pull out a narrow victory.  Final Score Prediction:  Virginia Tech wins 28-24

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2010 College Football ACC Preview (Coastal Division)

In case you missed it, earlier this week, we unveiled our initial power rankings for the ACC’s Atlantic Division (see link).  College FootBlog continues our breakdown, this time with the teams from the Coastal Division.  From all indications, the Coastal Division is much deeper than their friends from the Atlantic.  Let’s take a look at what we should expect this fall.

Va Tech's Ryan Williams finshed fifth in the country in rushing yards per game last season (google images)

1.  Virginia Tech:  Although the Hokies lost a lost a lot on defense from last season’s squad, they were able to retain defensive coordinator Bud Foster despite him being on several programs’ wish list during the off-season.  Even with the youth and inexperience, it would not be wise to count the Va Tech defense out as long as Foster is running the show.  Offensively, the Hokies may have a running back tandem that can rival any other tandem in the country, including Alabama.  We already know what to expect from Sophomore Ryan Williams, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season, but the Hokies also return Darren Evans, who missed last season with an ACL tear. 

2.  Miami:  After a 9-4 season in ’09, the Hurricanes are looking for an ACC Championship this season.  Randy Shannon’s team benefited greatly from a coaching overhaul last spring, and the results spoke for themselves last fall, especially on offense.  Jacory Harris returns at quarterback and will try to pick up where he left off last season, when he completed nearly 60% of his passes for over 3,300 yards.  Linebacker Sean Spence leads the ‘Canes defense, which was young but talented last season and still ranked 29th nationally in total defense.  The November 20th match up at home against Va Tech will have major implications on who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game.

3.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has done wonders in Chapel Hill, especially on defense.  The Tar Heels ranked sixth overall in total defense last season.  Linebacker Quan Sturdivant is a legitimate potential first round draft pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.  As great as the UNC defense was last year, the offense was anemic.  The ‘Heels ranked a dismal 108th in total offense last year, and that must change if they want to challenge Miami and Va Tech for the Coastal Division crown.  That means quarterback TJ Yates must improve on his 14 TD/15 Int’s from a season ago.

GT coach Paul Johnson will rely heavily on QB Josh Nesbitt to keep the 'Jackets rushing offense among the nation's best (google images)

4.  Georgia Tech:  We will see how much the loss of running back work horse Jonathan Dwyer will affect the offense, but quarterback Josh Nesbitt returns for his third season as the engineer of Paul Johnson’s tricky, triple option offense.  Running back Anthony Allen appears to be up the challenge of filling Dwyer’s role, but defensively, the Jackets must replace first round draft pick DE Derrick Morgan and long-time starter at safety, Morgan Burnett, which could be a daunting task.

5.  Virginia:  First year head coach Mike London has his work cut out for him, but Cavaliers fans are hoping he can bring the same results that he has produced throughout his career, specifically when he was their defensive coordinator from ’06-’07.  In that short amount of time, London’s defenses were among the nation’s finest, and handed the Miami Hurricanes their worst ever loss at the Orange Bowl when they shut them out 48-0.  With his ties to the Hampton Roads area and his tenacity as a coach, Virginia should be better, but it will likely take a couple of years before we see the Cavs making serious waves in the ACC.

6:  Duke:  The Blue Devils round out our power rankings for the Coastal Division.  After a couple of season’s head coach David Cutliffe has made strides and last season coached them to a 5-7 record, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that is the best record in Durham since 1994.  The departure of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will hurt Duke quite a bit, and there appears to be no one who can fill that void.  Look for Cutliffe to be under .500, but he will likely be rewarded with another head coaching opportunity after this season.

Next week, College FootBlog will take a look at the Big Ten in another two-part breakdown.  Let us know your thoughts on our ACC breakdown and our power rankings that will be published in the next couple of weeks.

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#1-#7)

The countdown is over.  For the past week, College FootBlog has broken down college football’s 2010 Preseason Top 25.  In case you missed them, take a look at teams #8-#15 and teams #16-#25.  We now unveil our Preseason Super 7, along with some things to look for this fall.  

1.  Alabama:  The Crimson Tide will likely be everyone’s #1 going into this fall, and why shouldn’t they be?  They lost All-Americans at all three levels of their defense; DT Terrence Cody, linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Javier Arenas, but ‘Bama will reload at each position, none more that Dre Kirkpatrick at corner.  The strength of the Tide, however, will be the offense.  The running game will once again feature the tandem of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and ultra-talented Trent Richardson.  Wide Receiver Julio Jones could be next year’s top receiver taken in the NFL Draft, and under center will be Greg McElroy, who, as opposed to last fall, has not only played on the biggest stages (see SEC Championship and BCS National Championship), but he has come through with flying colors.  Put it all together, and Nick Saban appears to be in position to win it all again in 2010.

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will look to pick up where he left off last season in the Rose Bowl (google images)

2.  Ohio State:   If Terrelle Pryor picks up where he left off in the Rose Bowl, look for Ohio State to challenge for a BCS National Championship this season.  Pryor was inconsistent at the beginning of the season, but as the 2009 season progressed, he seemed to be more relaxed and confident, and he helped lead the Buckeyes to six straight wins to close out the season.   Tailbacks Brandon Saine and Boom Herron will compliment Pryor in the backfield behind a very physical and very experienced offensive line.   As is typically the case in Columbus,  Jim Tressel will have a stacked defense.  Although changes in the depth chart could happen after two-a-days in August, the spring depth chart for the Bucks has ten seniors starting on defense, highlighted by linebacker Brian Rolle.

3.  Boise State:  This fall the Broncos will not have to fight the preseason rankings like they have in year’s past.  The BCS formula and bowl selection failed miserably by putting BSU against TCU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.  The Broncos return 23 of 24 starters from last year’s undefeated squad, including quarterback Kellen Moore.  Chris Petersen’s team will also have a national audience for their opener at Virginia Tech.  If they can win that game and take care of business for the rest of the season, pollsters will find it difficult to continue to keep them out of the BCS National Championship, especially if Ohio State or Alabama suffers a loss.

4.  Virginia Tech:  The Hokies will try to break the recent trend of ACC teams that are hyped up all preseason, only to fail miserably early in the season (see Clemson).  The defense will break in several new starters, including the DE position vacated by E Jason Worilds, who left early for the NFL.  While the youth and inexperience on defense may be an issue, this is certainly not defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s first rodeo.  Look for the Va Tech defense to be solid, and they will be aided by the running game on offense.  Ryan Williams blew up last season for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he will be joined by Darren Evans, who sat out last season with an ACL tear.  Tyrod Taylor is still more dangerous with his feet than his arm, but last season, he proved he could win games by throwing the ball, too.

Sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert will take the keys to the offense in Austin this fall (google images)

5.  Texas:  With the losses of Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy and soon-to-be first round pick Sergio Kindle, one might think the Longhorns would be in a bit of a rebuilding year, but Mack Brown is one of the best recruiters in the business, consistently replacing All-Americans with newer All-Americans.  The early departure of McCoy due to injury in the BCS National Championship was a major blow to the ‘Horns chances of beating Alabama, but it provided great experience for then-freshman Garrett Gilbert.  It did not take long for Gilbert to settle in, and when he did, he gave the Crimson Tide defense (which was arguably the best in the country) a run for their money.  Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp once again has a talent-rich defense led by linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho.

6.  Oregon:  Had it not been for Jeremiah Masoli’s suspension for the entire 2010 season, the Ducks would be ranked as high as #3, but when you lose a Heisman candidate, it is going to drop you at least a few spots.  Head coach Chip Kelly proved last year that he can not only keep his team focused despite a suspension to a key player (i.e. LeGarrette Blount), but he can also replace talent with more talent.  LaMichael James replaced Blount with seemingly no issue, as the freshman tallied just under 1,500 yards on his way to earning the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year.  An off the field incident in February, however, will result in a suspension of at least one game this fall.  If the Ducks can finish with one loss or less, they will have made a very strong case for a shot at the BCS title.  That is because their schedule is one of the toughest in the country, and includes road games at Tennessee, Cal, USC and they cap off the season in Corvallis for the Civil War against Oregon State.

7.  TCU:  In ten years at the helm, head coach Gary Patterson has quietly led the Horned Frogs to an 85-28 record.  Like Boise State, they return the majority of their starters from last season.  Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the offense returns nine of their eleven starters.  Last season,
Dalton accounted for over 2,700 yards passing and over 500 yards rushing.  On defense, TCU loses linebacker Daryl Washington and dominant defensive end Jerry Hughs.  Linebacker Tank Carder should fill the void at LB, but the Horned Frogs will need to find someone off the edge to provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks for Patterson’s defensive scheme to be effective.  Patterson’s troops open up at home against Oregon State.  A win against the Beavers on national television combined with their high preseason ranking could likely send them to their second-straight BCS bowl at season’s end.

2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 1

With the 2009 football season now officially in the books, College FootBlog will tackle the ongoing debate of which conference is the best in the FBS.  In this three-part breakdown, we will rank the six major conferences from the BCS in 2009, and we will also provide an outlook for each conference for the 2010 season. 

In our first of three articles, we will take a look at teams five and six in the power rankings of the major BCS conferences, although it should be noted that Boise State and TCU could make us rank eight conferences at the conclusion of next season. 

Oregon State's Quizz Rodgers has his sights set on a Pac 10 Title (google images)

6.  Pac 10 

2009 Recap:  For the last several years, USC has brought respect to the conference, but last year’s fall from grace left put the pressure on the other teams in the conference to step up.  No one else did–at least not consistently.  The Pac 10 was a dismal 2-5 in bowls last season and one of those wins was USC’s victory over a very mediocre Boston College team in the Emerald Bowl.  Losing three linebackers and quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first day of the NFL Draft last season proved to be too much for Pete Carroll to overcome. 

After a promising start, Cal fell far below expectations, and Oregon started and finished with huge losses on national television.  Toby Gerhart led the Stanford Cardinal on the college football map, but overall, the Pac 10’s 2-5 bowl record was very underwhelming. 

2010 Outlook:  All signs point to the Pac 10 having a big turnaround next season.   Conference Champ Oregon returns quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James.   Oregon State will have the Rodgers brothers returning key running backs coming back next year, Arizona is emerging after an 8-5 record, and Jim Harbaugh and Steve Sarkisian have Stanford and Washington out of the cellar of college football. 

5.  ACC

 2009 Recap:  The ACC barely made the cut for the fifth worst conference in college football last season.  For the

VT's Ryan Williams exploded on the scene in '09, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 19 TD's (google images)

second year in a row, the Atlantic Coast Conference was consistently inconsistent.  Paul Johnson once again proved to critics that the triple option can (and does) work in major college football, but they could not get things going against Iowa’s defense in the Orange Bowl. 

Virginia Tech racked up ten wins, but once again, Frank Beamer was unable to get his team over the hump as one of college football’s elite teams.  For what seems like the fifth straight year, Clemson failed to live up to all of the hype as well, losing five games, including one against a very average South Carolina team.  Overall, ACC teams finished with a 3-4 bowl record in ’09. 

2010 Outlook:  Like the Pac 10, the ACC should make significant strides in 2010.  Georgia Tech may take a step back with Jonathan Dwyer departing to the NFL, but several teams should be much improved.  Virginia Tech returns running back Ryan Williams and QB Tyrod Taylor, and we may actually see Miami and Florida State get back on the map.  Each of the traditional power houses from Florida showed signs that they may be on the cusp of regaining greatness, but they were up and down for much of the season.  Look for Miami and FSU to make a serious run at Va Tech next season. 

Note:  Look for Parts 2 & 3 of College FootBlog’s 2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings later this week. 

 

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.

College Football Preview Week 4: Miami at Virginia Tech

Same bitter rivalry, different conference.  For years, the annual match up between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies often determined the Big East Champion.  Now that Miami is back in the national spotlight, this Saturday’s game could very well determine who will represent the Coastal Division in this year’s ACC Championship Game.

In this week’s edition, College Footblog will analyze these two former Big East rivals and their match up this coming weekend.  We will look at the strengths of each team, we will break down the game and we will give our prediction for this very important match up.

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009.  (google images)

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009. (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  The strength of Miami, particularly on offense has to be the emergence of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris.  After splitting time with now departed Robert Marve, who transferred to Purdue last spring, Harris has silenced all of the critics who questioned his ability to win games with his arm.

In two games this year against quality opponents, Harris has amassed 656 yards, while completing just under 70% of his passes.  He has taken to new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple’s scheme, and he has really come into his own so far in 2009.

Miami’s other major strength is the two-headed monster they have at running back.  Graig Cooper and Javarris James were held someone in check in the ‘Canes’ opener at Florida State, but in two games, they have combined for 232 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while averaging just over 4.7 yards per carry.

Virginia Tech

Strengths:  In a season that has not been full of offensive highlights, the play of freshman running back, Ryan Williams has been a constant for the Hokies.  While sharing the backfield with fellow freshman David Wilson, Williams has still managed to rush for 235 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging an astounding 8.1 yards per carry.

The other strength for Virginia Tech is their massive and experienced offensive line.  Anchored by seniors Sergio Renderand Ed Wang, the Hokies’ O-line is physical and athletic, and they are a big reason for the success Frank Beamer’s squad can control the clock with a solid running attack.

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend.  (google images)

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend. (google images)

VT Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box in an effort to limit Williams and the VT running game to fewer big plays on the ground.  The Hurricanes’ defense managed to shut down a Georgia Tech’s more dominant ground game to less than 100 yards last Thursday.  That is the same Georgia Tech offense that broke 300 rushing yards in each of their first two games this season.

Much like the ‘Canes did to Georgia Tech, they will dare the quarterback to beat them through the air.  Va Tech quarterback, Tyrod Taylor has only managed to throw for 252 yards in the Hokies’ three games this season.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. VT Defense

As previously mentioned, the rise of Jacory Harris has surprised many in the college football world, but he has been the real deal.  He and the weapons around him are much more explosive and dynamic than the Alabama Crimson Tide offense that lit up Virginia Tech in week one for nearly 500 yards.

Miami’s balance on offense and the depth they have at running back and wide receiver will be a lot for Virginia Tech to handle.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams:  With a healthy Javarris James back in the rotation at running back, head coach Randy Shannon has been able to utilize Graig Cooper in the return game this season–and the results have been there.  Add the explosive Travis Benjamin to the mix, and the ‘Canes have some homerun threats in the return game.  As solid as the return game has been for Miami, junior kicker Matt Bosher has been a little shaky.

Virginia Tech has always been known for their special teams, and this year has been no different.  Davon Morgan and Ryan Williams have added some explosiveness to the return game, and the Hokies feature a senior kicker and punter.  Couple that with Frank Beamer’s uncanny ability to block kicks, and the VT special teams are always a threat.  SLIGHT EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Over the opening weeks of this college football season, Virginia Tech has shown the same consistency that they have shown in the last several years–solid running game and special teams, and Bud Foster is still one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football.

Miami, on the other hand, has taken a major step forward in their quest to get back to the dominant days of the 80’s and 90’s.  With the emergence of Jacory Harris to compliment the talented running back tandem of Cooper and James, the Hurricanes once again have an explosive offense.  They have also shown with their dominance over Georgia Tech that they not only have the speed and athleticism on defense, but that they are also capable of playing with discipline.

Bud Foster will be able to slow down the Miami offense, but they will still get their yards and the biggest factor will likely be the Miami defense, stacking the line to slow down VT’s running game, and I just do not see Tyrod Taylor being able to win this one with his arm.  Prediction:  Miami wins 24-14