Thursday, September 8, 2011

WVU-Norfolk State Preview

West Virginia hosts FCS opponent, Norfolk State this weekend. It should be a nice tuneup for the Mountaineers heading into next weekend's game at Maryland. Look for WVU to end this one early, and allow as many players as possible to get some reps. Let's take a look at the matchup.


West Virginia: The Mountaineers didn't fire on all cylinders in the first game, but did score 34 points in just over three quarters. So, imagine what this offense may look like when its at 100%. Geno Smith had a nice opening game, throwing for nearly 250 yards, with two touchdowns. He also showed his elusiveness in the pocket. Smith will be hard to slow down this season, especially against severely, inferior defenses. The blocking needs major work. The line, running backs, and receivers all failed in that aspect. There may be some changes to the line if it doesn't change. As for the rushing attack, look for carries for Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts. This should be a game where all the healthy backs get a chance. Rushing for 40 yards a game will not be tolerated. The receiving corps looked good in route running, but Dana Holgorsen criticized the lack of speed between plays. The offense is certainly still a work in progress, but the potential is definitely there.

Norfolk State: The Spartans play a similar offense, with plenty of spread and speed. Quarterback, Chris Walley is one of the most efficient throwers in the country. His completion percentage in the first game was over 86 percent. They will try to balance the attack as much as possible with Takeem Hedgemen. The tailback averaged over five yards per rush to start the season. Norfolk State has a pretty deep crop of wideouts, so expect the Spartans to sub as much as possible. They will look to keep WVU on their heels as much as possible in this game. It's probably the only chance they have to keep it close.


West Virginia: The younger group did pretty well in week one. In three quarters of play, WVU's defense only allowed six points. However, the Mounties were only able to sack the quarterback once, and lacked a solid pass rush. Look for Jeff Casteel to mix up the blitzes moving forward. WVU will have to tighten up on the tackling as well. It's wasn't bad against Marshall, but by no means was it tight. The defense still looks a bit susceptible to the run, but probably will be until some of the young linebackers get reps. The secondary seemed a bit timid at times, but the bend don't break philosophy did work. Pat Miller established himself as the number two cornerback. Look for Miller to have a break out season. Norfolk State could be in a long day. Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin will probably spend a significant amount of time in the backfield.

Norfolk State: The Spartan defense will be led by a pair of linebackers, Corwin Hammond and DeVonte Reynolds. It's a variation of the 3-4 that actually is influenced by WVU's own Jeff Casteel. Look for outside blitzing on pass downs, and an attempt to clog the middle if possible on early downs. If Norfolk State can make WVU one dimensional than the secondary, led by Jamal Giddens, can play a bit more aggressively. It will still be a tough matchup for the Spartans, but you will certainly see an honest effort.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: It was a mixed bag for WVU in game one. Once again, the kick coverage was a disaster. However, the kick/punt return was solid, which included a 100-yard TD return for Tavon Austin. Tyler Bitencurt and Corey Smith were perfectly fine in the kick game, and the Mountaineers defended an onside kick well. However, kick coverage is still a major issue. WVU gave up a punt return for a TD, and too many yards. Look for some adjustments this week agains Norfolk State. If it continues to be a problem against the lessor opponent, then we have some real problems.

Norfolk State: Ryan Estep is a quality kicker at the FCS level. He had a nice debut, going perfect from the field. Punting duty is handled by Troy Muenzer, who has a 37 yard career average. They have good speed in the return game, which could be an issue for WVU. They will not have the size on special teams, but speed can kill.


WVU shouldn't lose this game. In fact, it shouldn't be much of a game. Dana Holgorsen would certainly love to make a statement after a strange, storm-shrotened game last week. The Mountaineers are far superior in talent, and will also have a solid crowd to help out as well. Will WVU be looking ahead to Maryland and LSU? Possibly. But that still may not be enough for Norfolk State to have a chance. Look for the offense to get closer to the well-oiled machine that all WVU fans are waiting to see.

Prediction: 51-13 West Virginia

Comparing the Conferences: Where will WVU End Up?

The conference realignment talk continues to rule college football between the weekends. WVU has been linked to a possible move to the SEC this week, and have had links to the ACC and staying in the Big East in the past. Let's take a closer look of what these conferences look like, and the positives and negatives for all.

Scale: Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Pretty Solid, Solid, Excellent

Big East:

Football Competition: Fair
Football Recruiting Area: Fair
Basketball Competition: Excellent
Basketball Recruiting Area: Solid
Other Sports Competition: Solid
Conference Markets: Excellent
Best Market: New York

The Big East is certainly known for its basketball. Both Men's and Women's are very good. However, the Big East's best asset is the markets. The Northeast is the Mecca of news and publicity, and many of the teams are in or around New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. Teams are based from the Midwest, soon-to-be Texas, and the Eastern Seaboard. Sure, money isn't huge in football, but could be in the future with expansion.
Chance of Staying in Big East: 45%


Football Competition: Excellent
Football Recruiting: Excellent
Basketball Competition: Fair
Basketball Recruiting: Fair
Other Sports Competition: Very Solid
Conference Markets: Fair
Best Market: Atlanta

Easily the best football conference in the nation. It would be very hard to say "No" to the big money sport. The football recruiting grounds are fertile. However, the markets aren't great, and basketball is top-heavy. Yes, the SEC gets serious football publicity, but it starts to dry-up quickly after that. For example...Who exactly calls SEC basketball games on ESPN?
Chance of Going to SEC: 25%

Big 12:

Football Competition: Very Solid
Football Recruiting: Excellent
Basketball Competition: Fair
Basketball Recruiting: Fair
Other Sports Competition: Solid
Conference Markets: Solid
Best Market: Dallas/Fort Worth

Big schools, mostly based in a big state. The market is good. Several schools are in or close to some of the largest cities in the country. Football and basketball are competitive every year. However, the future of this conference is up in the air. There's a good chance this conference may completely dissolve, especially with Texas and Texas A+M leaving, and the possibility of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bolting too.
Chance of Going to Big 12: 5%


Football Competition: Solid
Football Recruiting: Excellent
Basketball Competition: Excellent
Basketball Recruiting: Very Solid
Other Sports Competition: Solid
Conference Markets: Very Solid
Best Market: Charlotte

It would be a nice fit for WVU. It makes sense geographically, and it would reignite a few old rivalries. The markets are good, even reaching New England. It's also competitive in both football and basketball. It's not as deep as other conferences, and there is the possibility of some teams leaving, but overall, it's a pretty good situation.
Chance of Going to ACC: 20%

Big Ten

Football Competition: Very Solid
Football Recruiting: Solid
Basketball Competition: Solid
Basketball Recruiting: Very Solid
Other Sports Competition: Solid
Conference Markets: Solid
Best Market: Chicago

This midwestern stronghold boasts tradition and consistent competition. The markets are solid, though stuck in the middle of the country. However, that still beats the west coast. Travel is not as wild as some other conferences, and many of the stadiums and arenas are cathedrals. The conference's biggest issue may be its stereotyped style of play. The word "boring" tends to come up a lot with football and basketball. Whether its fair or not is irrelevant. The bottom-line is the word comes up too often.
Chance of Going to Big Ten: 5%

Big East Preview, Week 2

It was a perfect start to the season for the Big East, with the conference going 8-0. The highlight was USF's big win at Notre Dame, and now the Bulls look to build on what could be a special year. Another solid slate of games this week, as the league looks to remain perfect.

Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 7-1

Bye Week: None

Maine at Pittsburgh: The Panthers were pretty solid in game one against Buffalo. Ray Graham was the story, rushing for over 200 yards in that first game, and shouldn't be slowing down any time soon. Pitt would love to show off the new passing attack a little bit more but if the rushing game can't be stopped, why bother? Defensively, the Panthers had little trouble slowing down Buffalo, and should be right back at it this week against Maine. The Black Bears will battle hard, because that's what Mainers do! But, it won't be enough. Panthers roll.

Prediction: 34-7 Pittsburgh

Rhode Island at Syracuse: The Orange got more than they bargained for last Thursday, narrowly escaping Wake Forest. Hopefully for Syracuse this is the wake up call they needed. Defensively, Syracuse is better than they played the other day. However, they are dealing with a few day-to-day injuries to some of the starters. It shouldn't be too much of a problem this week as they take on Rhode Island. Look for Ryan Nassib to find some rhythm, and Antwon Bailey to light up the turf in this comfortable win for the Orange.

Prediction: 42-10 Syracuse

Norfolk State at (19) West Virginia: This will be a win for WVU if the team can actually play four quarters. Geno Smith was solid, but the rest of the offense could use some work. The offensive line was terrible, the running game was non-existent, and the receivers dropped a few passes. However, WVU scored 34 points in a little over three quarts, so just imagine what it will look like when it gets righted. Defensively, the Mountaineers picked up where they left off last season. The only issue in the first game was the pass rush. Expect that to change this weekend. Dana Holgorsen would love to send another statement early on that WVU is the team to beat in the Big East.

Prediction: 51-13 West Virginia

Ball State at (22) South Florida: The Bulls are the toast of the league following the big upset win at Notre Dame. Sure, USF had plenty of help from Notre Dame's mistakes, but a solid win is a solid win. B.J. Daniels is possibly the most underrated player in the league. He had a pretty good game against the Irish, and showed good maturity. His confidence wavered last season, so it was important to get off to the good start. The defense played well, and should have another solid game against Ball State. The Cardinals are coming off a nice win over Indiana. Ball State quarterback, Kyle Wenning was very strong in the win. He threw for over 79%, with two touchdowns. The Bulls need to slow down the rushing attack as well, something they struggled with last week. This is a classic letdown game situation, so USF has to be careful. A close game early on will give the Bulls a scare, but look for Daniels to take control of the second half.

Prediction: 27-17 South Florida

Florida International at Louisville: The Cardinals didn't exactly have the best debut. It was a struggle offensively. Louisville was able to move down the field, but need to do better in finishing. They face a Florida International team coming off a huge win over North Texas...though it was only North Texas. Wesley Carroll is a decent quarterback for FIU, but is susceptible to throwing the pick. Look for the Cards to bring the pressure as much as possible. The crowd should be a factor too. It's a Friday night ESPN game, and Papa Johns Stadium is a tough place to play. This is the type of game Louisville needs to win if they want to continue to grow. Look for a solid dose of Victor Anderson early on, with a steady helping of Will Stein after the passing lanes are open. A few FIU turnovers will lock things up for the Cards int he second half.

Prediction: 29-13 Louisville

Connecticut at Vanderbilt: A nice start for the Huskies last week, absolutely hammering their FCS opponent. UConn now faces a team that was actually out-gained by Elon. Sure, the Commodores won big, but didn't exactly show anything on offense. This will be a good matchup for the Husky defense, which is one of the more experienced groups in the conference. If Vandy struggled to move the ball on Elon, it certainly won't be easy against stingy, UConn. Johnny "Trickshot" McEntee started at quarterback for the Huskies, and performed well. Though all three gunslingers saw action. The show was stolen by freshman running back, Lyle McCombs, who finished with 141 yards and four touchdowns. Look for McCombs and DJ Shoemate to try to break down the Vandy defense. The Husky defense will probably shutdown Vandy's ground attack, so expect an ugly, grind it out game. This is a solid UConn win with an experienced quarterback. However, there is no experienced quarterback. Huskies still win, but it's a close one.

Prediction: 24-21 Connecticut

Rutgers at North Carolina: You really never know which UNC team will show up. The Thralls been one of the more unpredictable teams to follow over the past few seasons. Always seemingly on the cusp of the next level, a bad loss or scandal knocks them right back down. This is truly a respect game for both of these teams. Rutgers is looking to prove to the media that they are a bowl contender, and UNC looks to move on from Butch Davis. It should be a good matchup. Both teams are defensive-minded, but also have offensive playmakers. The big question for Rutgers will again be at the quarterback position. Chas Dodd will have to play mistake-free for Rutgers to have a chance. The run game will be tough to establish, so Dodd will have to find his experienced receivers to stay in this game. The Knights' defense will have some serious pressure on them as well, to try to keep this game close. Look for Rutgers to be in this game throughout, but too many mistakes will be the difference.

Prediction: 23-19 North Carolina

Game of the Week: Cincinnati at Tennessee: Take the over, folks. It's going to be one hell of a fun game to watch, as two potent offenses clash in Knoxville. Coming off a four touchdown game, Zach Collaros will look to keep the momentum going with a solid outing. Isaiah Pead will also look to have a big day, following a good debut last week. The Bearcats will score points, no doubt about it. However, how many will Cincy give up? The defense is truly the weakness for this team, and the Volunteers will keep the offensive pressure consistent. Tyler Bray was great against Montana, and the rushing attack is already on point. Both of these teams have the ability to come back so expect a back-and-forth battle. The experience on offense for the Bearcats may be the true difference, especially in a tight, late game. Look for Cincinnati to pull this one out, in a hostile environment by limiting mistakes.

Prediction: 38-35 Cincinnati