Tuesday, August 30, 2011

West Virginia v Marshall Preview

Time to take a closer look at the Friends of Coal Bowl. West Virginia hosts Marshall, and looks to remain undefeated against their little brother. Dana Holgorsen will certainly be looking for a stunning debut from his boys.


West Virginia: WVU will bust out the new system for the first time in this game. Much more speed, much more passing, much more fun. However, don't let the offense fool you. When run correctly, the offense is very balanced. Last year, Kendall Hunter ran for over 1,000 yards in the Holgorsen system. So, look for Geno Smith to pass first to set up the youngsters at running back. Smith was solid in his first year starting, throwing for 24 touchdowns. His efficiency was good, but could stand to improve his accuracy. He will have many of the same targets, including Tavon Austin, who may play the role of Justin Blackmon. Stedman Bailey and Ryan Nehlen will start on the outside, and converted tight end, Tyler Urban should provide good size on the inside. The rushing attack will be interesting. Three freshmen and Trey Johnson will be fight one another for carries. The initial depth chart shows Roberts as the number one, but that may not matter. These guys will all get their opportunity to shine. The biggest question will be on the offensive line. One of the weakest groups in the conference last season, WVU's line will have to play bigger, faster, and stronger in this offense. Smith was hit far too often last season, and one hit could certainly derail the season. It will be interesting to see how this unit plays early, especially against a pretty good Marshall front seven.

Marshall: The Herd will start a true freshman at quarterback. Miami product, Rakeem Cato will get the start in his first ever game. It fits, considering the Herd offense will be inexperienced at all of the skilled positions. Martin Ward is the leading returning rusher. He finished with just 345 yards on the ground, and one touchdown. After him, Tron Martinez will get some looks. Aaron Dobson will lead the receivers. Dobson did have a nice 2010 campaign. He will lead a young receiving and tight end corp. The offensive line is a very solid bunch. Good experience, mixed with good technique is a recipe for success. The group will give Cato and the youngsters plenty of opportunities to move the football this season.


West Virginia: WVU has to replace quite a few players from one of the best defenses of 2010. Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller are both back to anchor the line. Najee Goode will run the linebacking unit, and Ketih Tandy is still around to harass receivers. However, the rest of the secondary has plenty of questions, which will put some pressure on the front six. Miller and Irvin may be the best sack-tandem in the country, but will that group be able to slow down the run? If not, the passing game will open up, and really put the pressure on the young safeties. However, this is Jeff Casteel's baby and is one of the best in-game adjusters in the country.

Marshall: The Herd will be led by Conference USA First-Teamer Vinny Curry. The defensvie end finished with 12 sacks last season, and is hoping to build on that. He is one of nine returning players for Marshall, including the everyone in the secondary. This unit will have to show better maturity in 2011. The linebacking unit will be young, and will probably be a bit susceptible early on. This unit should be pretty solid against inferior offenses, and should gain in confidence.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: The Mountaineers will look to improve in this category from 2010. Kicker Tyler Bitencurt regressed from his first year, and punter Corey Smith is in his first year at the helm. Kick coverage has been a disaster since Rich Rodriquez left, which is interesting considering Bill Stewart was the Special Teams' coach...well...maybe that makes total sense. WVU will have to improve right away in that department. Kick/Punt returning duty will be split between Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, and Devon Brown. That's a pretty solid crop of speedsters.

Marshall: Tyler Warner returns as the primary placekicker. Warner hit just five field goals in 2010. Kase Whitehead is a very accurate punter, and will probably be used quite often early on. Troy Evans is the primary return specialist. He had an over 20 yard average last season on kick returns.


West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen steps into his first game. It's hard to truly get a gauge of how he will do, considering it will be his first game. e's an offensive genius, who wisely gave Jeff Casteel complete control of the defense.

Marshall: Doc Holliday spent a lot of time wearing Mountaineer colors during his career. He took over the Herd job last season, after many thought he would be Bill Stewart's successor. He has faced the Mountaineers once, and nearly beat them.


Marshall always seems to play up to WVU ever since this series was renewed a few years back. However, the Herd just don't seem to be a very good matchup this season. West Virginia has superior talent, and should be much more efficient offensively. Having a true freshman gets his first collegiate start on the road in Morgantown is no easy task either. Plus, Marshall's skilled positions just won't be enough of a threat to the younger Mountaineer defense. Expect WVU to have success early. Holgorsen will surely want to show off the new offense, and also show he belongs as a head coach. Cato will have the pressure on big time. A few mistakes early from him will probably lock up the game for Mountaineers. The effort will be there from Marshall, but sheer effort isn't enough to take down WVU.

Prediction: 35-14 West Virginia

Big East Preview, Week 1

And we are back! The Big East opens the season with your usual jokes, and a few potential statement games. Must-wins for seven teams, and a potential conference attention-grabber for South Florida at Notre Dame. A perfect week for the Big East is not out of the question.

Last Week: 0-0

Overall: 0-0

Bye Week: None

Murray State at Louisville: After a solid season that ended in a bowl win, the Cardinals come in with a chip on their shoulder…still. The media won't believe that Louisville is back, but Charlie Strong and company are out to prove many wrong. They start the year against a very poor FCS team, which was blasted in its one game against an FBS opponent in 2010. Look for the Cards to try to get big time QB recruit, Teddy Bridgewater comfortable early on. There's a lot of pressure surrounding this kid, so building up the confidence early will be key. The Cardinals' defense has some new faces to break in as well, especially the secondary. Look for Victor Anderson to have a solid start to the campaign as Louisville rolls.

Prediction: 34-10 Louisville

Fordham at Connecticut: It hasn't been the best 2011 for the Huskies. It started with an embarrassing BCS appearance. Then Randy Edsell bounced. If that wasn't bad enough, UConn decided to hire Paul Pasqualoni. A few transfers here, and a couple ineligibles there and we have finally reached the season. The Huskies are ready to prove they will be competitive Fordham is most know for their Law School so don't expect much of a fight. UConn should easily roll, and try to get new starters at QB, RB, and WR comfortable before the schedule truly begins.

Prediction: 31-7 Connecticut

North Carolina Central at Rutgers: Greg Schiano just wants to put 2010 behind. He finally gets the chance this week, as the Knights host some team I've never heard of. The maturation of Chas Dodd is extremely important at the beginning of the season if Rutgers wants to compete. The receivers are solid, the rushing attack should be pretty good, but will Dodd keep up? The Knights will also have to get better on the lines, but shouldn't be tested by NCC. Rutgers rolls.

Prediction: 42-14 Rutgers

Austin Peay at Cincinnati: "Let's Go Peay! Let's Go Peay!" That is the best cheer in college sports. Sadly, they are not even the 150th best football team. Zach Collaros and the Bearcats will have a nice warmup to get ready for the rest of the season. The senior signal-caller will look to get off on the right track in the race for conference player of the year. This game will also show-off Isaiah Pead. Look for total ball control from Cincy as they housel the Peay-boys.

Prediction: 38-13 Cincinnati

Buffalo at Pittsburgh: The Panthers are out to show the world that they should be the conference favorite. Todd Graham's new offense should make the Panthers much more efficient if Tino Suneri is up to the task. The QB had a satisfactory first year as a starter, but that's not good enough. Sunseri won't have the experience at receiver like he had last season, so accuracy is a must. Look for Ray Graham to pick up where he left off on the ground last season. The Panther rusher had a breakout 2010, and is looking to do more this season…if he can hold onto the ball. Buffalo comes in with a former Big East QB at the helm with Grad-transfer, Chazz Anderson. The Bisons are coming off a dismal year, and won't enjoy the start of 2011. The Panther defense will hammer Anderson, and Graham should have a field day.

Prediction: 40-3 Pittsburgh

Wake Forest at Syracuse: Doug Marrone and the Orange probably can't wait any longer for Thursday night. With numerous injuries and arrests, training camp has been rather interesting in Central New York. The Orange open with a down ACC team in Wake Forest…a must-win game for Cuse and the conference. Ryan Nassib looks to build on a pretty solid 2010 campaign. The gunslinger will have plenty of targets to choose from even though Marcus Sales is too busy selling rock. Look for the Orange to use Antwon Bailey frequently to establish the ground attack. Wake is changing defensive philosophies so Syracuse will have an opportunity to take advantage of the growing pains. The Orange defense should also be up to the task, even if the offense is slow to get going. The Deacons starting QB, Tanner Price does return from last season, but did lose some of his most important receivers. The Orange have struggled against the ACC recently, but there is no reason they should lose to a floundering Wake Forest team. Plus, it's a home game for the Cuse. Could be a close game early, but too much from both sides from the Orange will lock it down in the second half.

Prediction: 27-17 Syracuse

Marshall at West Virginia: The debut of Dana Holgorsen is an interesting one as West Virginia hosts fake rival, Marshall. The Herd had the Mountaineers dead to rights last season before Geno Smith's heroics saved WVU. Now, Doc Holliday will have to keep his players in check. If the Herd show too much emotion early, they will be boat raced right back to Huntington. Smith and the offense will have the spotlight squarely on them, as the offense takes its first run under Holgs. Defensively, there are some questions as well. Can sack specialist, Bruce Irvin play every down? Will the linebacking unit be deep enough? However, the biggest question in this game will be is Marshall good enough to be a true test for the Mountaineers? Sure, it's the Herd's biggest game, but the talent difference is not even close. The full preview will be coming tomorrow.

Prediction: 35-14 West Virginia

Game of the Week: South Florirda at Notre Dame: A Holtz is finally back in South Bend. However, this time it's on the visiting side. Skip Holtz brings his Bulls up, and is looking to give the Big East some serious respect early on. B.J. Daniels will have to bring it early. The Notre Dame defense, while improving, will still be susceptible to a versatile QB. But, which Daniels will show up? If it's not the consistent one, then it's going to be a long day for USF. The Bulls have to be able to establish balance if they want to beat the Irish. Meanwhile, the linebacking unit will have to pace the USF defense. Brian Kelly will have Dayne Crist throwing all over the field, so look for the Bulls to mix blitzes. The Irish rushing attack may be the key factor in this game. If the passing game opens up just a little bit for Notre Dame, they'll control the majority of the game. The Bulls can't afford to get down by more than one score. Daniels and company are just not built for the major comeback. Look for Notre Dame to take an early lead, and control the majority of play.

Prediction: 28-20 Notre Dame

Former Mountaineers in the NFL, Preseason Week 3

Here's a look at the participation for the former Mountaineers in Week 3 of the NFL Preseason.

Jarrett Brown, QB, Browns: Had a productive night, going 4-4 for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Robert Sands, S, Bengals: Registered one tackle against the Panthers.

PacMan Jones, CB, Bengals: Will start season on PUP list.

Brandon Hogan, CB, Panthers: Still not back from ACL injury.

Selvish Capers, OL, Redskins: Continues to underperform in camp. Most likely will be cut today.

Chris Neild, DL, Redskins: FInished with one tackle against the Ravens

Pat McAfee, P, Colts: Had a busy night with eight punts for a 51 yard average.

Corey McIntyre, FB, Bills: One catch for six yards for Buffalo's starting fullback.

Sidney Glover, S, Bills: Didn't record ay stats in game three. Did survive the first major round of cuts.

Wes Lyons, WR, Steelers: Finished with one catch for 13 yards in game three. Survived cut day.

Ryan Mundy, FS, Steelers: Two tackles for the safety. Listed as the number two free safety.

Mortty Ivy, LB, Steelers: One tackle in game three, and continues to be on the bubble.

Jock Sanders, KR, Buccaneers: Two punt returns for 30 yards. However, Sanders was cut after the game.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans: Still out with a hamstring. May not survive the final round of cuts.

Ellis Lankster, CB, Jets: Didn't register any stats in game three.

Darius Reynaud, KR, Giants: Still dealing with a hamstring.

Scooter Berry, DL, Texans: Didn't register any stats vs San Francisco.

Owen Schmitt, FB, Eagles: Didn't register any stats in game three. Is expected to be the starting fullback for the Eagles.

Anthony Becht, TE, Chiefs: Was just signed on Aug 25th.

J.T. Thomas, LB, Bears: Didn't register any stats in game three. Listed as the primary backup at OLB.