Around the Big East
by Matthew McKinley, 8/28/02
Hello, and welcome to another season of Virginia Tech Football! (About time, ainít it, yíall?) Another long, interminable offseason has come and gone, thankfully enough, and itís time to get down to the nitty-gritty of Tech fansí favorite time of year. Well, at least itís my favorite time of year.
Many of you will recognize my name from the now-retired "Weekend Rooting Guide" series. This year, I'm doing something different. Each week, Iíll take a look back at the previous weekendís Big East games, and a look ahead to the next weekendís upcoming games, with maybe a few national games to watch thrown in. Hopefully, youíll think itís informative, insightful, and down-right funny. I know I sure as [heck] do.
And with that being said, letís charge on aheadÖÖ
Virginia Tech 63, Arkansas State 7
Frank Beamer dove far down into the depth chart in the hopes of finding a squad that would match up evenly with the Arkansas State Indians. He wasnít able to. In a scene that resembled Wounded Knee more than it did Blacksburg, the Hokies jumped out to a 35-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, as fans were forced to think up creative ways to keep the game interesting. "How aboutÖ.Virginia Tech points vs. Arkansas State total yards?" (We still led in that game, 56-55, with only a few minutes left in the half.) The second half ended up resembling a Pop Warner league game; you know, the kind where everybody has to play. Even the scout team quarterback, (That Dog) Will Hunt.
Coach Beamer kept the playbook simple this time around. REALLY simple, letting his defense and special teams score a good percentage of the points. DeAngelo Hall mustíve been one of the most unhappy players in the second half, having to fair-catch 6 more touchdowns on punt returns. But the running backs were happy, gaining 288 yards on 41 carries. When asked about the vanilla play-calling, Frank had this to say: "I really didn't want to show a lot in the quarterback play in this game. I figure if the quarterback situation was resolved, then those boys over on the Football Board at TSL would have nothing to argue about. That sure would be a shame, I'll tell you that."* He had no concerns about the Lounge Board posters, however, probably because they were drinking heavily, and couldnít tell the difference between jersey numbers 3 and 11 from the stands.
The 63-7 blowout vaulted the Hokies into first place in the conference because, well, nobody else has played. But that wonít be the case after this weekend, as all 8 teams plus Connecticut are on the gridiron.
This Weekís Games
Richmond (0-0) @ Temple (0-0), Thursday @ 7:00pm
In a game featuring a true Division 1-AA team, and a should-be 1-AA team, the oddsmakers have cancelled all bets except the over-under, which is set at 3,000 fans. The Owls have installed a no-huddle spread offense in the offseason, which is good because they need to be able to pass, for two reasons: (1) RB Tanardo Sharpsí output sputtered last year, falling from 1,038 yds/10 TDs to 771 yds/1 TD, and (2) as we all know, nobody runs on Richmond. (Donít groan, yíall knew it was coming.)
Syracuse (0-0) @ Brigham Young (0-0), Thursday @ 7:30pm
Bring ĎEm Young, one of my favorite targets last year in the Rooting Guide, hosts the Orangemen to start the season, which is good for them, because Syracuse always manages to start off 0-2 in games that they probably should have won. Their being favored may not be the case here, as Syracuse lost 9 starters on offense, in addition to all-world DE Dwight Freeney on defense, although they do still have all-Big East LB Clifton Smith in the middle. It seems thatwww.coachpmustgo.com has been idle for a while. Look for traffic on that site to pick up Thursday night at, say, 10:30pm. Should be a good game to watch, though.
Connecticut (0-0) @ Boston College (0-0), Saturday @ 12:00pm
Boston College will try to do their Virginia Tech imitation on Connecticut, in a game that should be just a warm up for them. Returning more starters than anyone else in the Big East, the Eagles should be much improved this year. But can they challenge for the conference title? Weíll likely know by October 10, as the first two Big East games for the Eagles are Miami and Virginia Tech. Oh, wait, you thought I was going to talk about the UConn game? Why bother. It should be as much of a snoozer as Tech-ASU last weekend.
UT-Chattanooga (0-0) @ West Virginia (0-0), Saturday @ 6:00pm
West Virginia had the worst run defense in the conference last year, one of the few schools not to benefit from the presence of Phil Elmassian as Defensive Coordinator. So what do they do this year? Switch from an 8-man front to a 3-3. Yep. If anyone figures that out, email me email@example.com? This is one of the must win games for the ĎEers, for whom .500 would be a good season. Head coach Rich Rodriguez, coming off a 3-8 season, just hopes that none of the Mountaineer faithful ever remember the Don Nehlen never lost 8 games.
Villanova (0-0) @ Rutgers (0-0), Saturday @ 7:00pm
I canít say it any better than ESPNís preview did: "The good news is that 18 starters return from last year's team. The bad news is that 18 starters return from last year's team." Rutgers shows a new life in the TV commercial game, but itís unclear how the product on the field will turn out. One improvement could be at RB, where sophomore Clarence Pittman (who gained 368 yards in a high school game) could be an improvement over Dennis Thomas (who gained slightly more than that over all of 2001). They should really be better if they can get LB Tony Soprano in the middle, but at the cost of bullets and body bags to the athletic department.
Ohio (0-0) @ Pittsburgh (0-0), Saturday @ 7:00pm
This is a simple one. If Pittsburgh plays like theyíre playing Virginia Tech, itís a blowout. If they play like itís anyone else, theyíll struggle, and win. Interesting little trivia: Pittsburgh has the second longest active win streak in the nation, having won their last 6 games. That should go to 7 this weekend, as they have 8 returning starters on each side of the ball, but they must address questions at QB and WR. Sound familiar?
Florida A&M (0-0) @ (#1) Miami (0-0), Saturday @ 7:00pm
Far be it from me to critique someone elseís schedule (OK, I can do that this year), but Miami deserves a nice little pastry to start, considering they have OOC games against Florida, Florida State and Tennessee this year. If they go undefeated, thereís no doubt they should be the national champions again. Is that unrealistic considering they lost 11 players to the NFL? You be the judge: they return nine players who were 1st or 2nd all Big East last year, including QB Ken Dorsey and WR Andre Johnson. Go figure.
(#14) Louisiana State (0-0) @ (#16) Virginia Tech (1-0), Sunday @ 2:30pm
The Tigers are considered by many to be the best team in the SEC-West this year. But considering that some analysts (*cough* Herbstreit *cough*) say the best 4 teams in the conference are in the East Division, there may be some question as to whether this team is the caliber of last yearís SEC Champions. The biggest stars (QB Rohan Davey, WR Josh Reed) are gone, but they have plenty of talented underclassmen to step up. The question is what happens when the lights go on. We wonít know that until Sunday. So what do I see in LSUís future?Pain.
Games to Watch from the Parking Lot
This may be a bit outside the scope of the title of the article, but I thought it would be helpful for those tailgaters out there with satellite dishes and TVs. (The only way to go, IMnsHO.) So each week Iíll pick a few games that are going on outside the Hokiesí time slot that some might be interested in seeing while guzzling down their beverage of choice. (*cough* Captain Morganís *cough*)
Since pickings are slim on Sunday (the best looking game other than Tech-LSU seems to be Kentucky-Loserville at 6pm on ESPN2, ugh!), Iíll toss up a few Saturday games. And since I canít get away from my Rooting Guide roots (pun intended), Iíll let you know who to root for.
(#9) Washington (0-0) @ (#10) Michigan (0-0), Saturday @ 12:00pm, ABC/ESPN Gameplan
Should be a pretty good matchup of two top-10 teams. Root for Washington, just because Michicken needs to get taken down a notch.
Virginia (0-1) @ (#5) Florida State (1-0), Saturday @ 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN Gameplan
How Florida State got 2 first place votes after the near upset by Iowa State Iíll never know. I guess Iím just not smart enough to be a voter. Virginia can go 0-13 for all I care. Root for the Seminoles, even though it will hurt.
Clemson (0-0) @ (#12) Georgia (0-0), Saturday @ 7:30pm, ESPN
Some analysts are saying that Georgia is the best team in the SEC this year. While thatís been said quite a few times since 1980, they havenít made that much noise since then. I wonít believe it until I see them in the Sugar Bowl. (Come to think of it, wouldnít it be nice to play them there this year?) But Iím a Georgia Tech fan at heart, so root for Clemson. Hey, trust me! ;^)
Notre Dame (0-0) @ (#20) Maryland (0-0), Saturday @ 8:00pm, ABC
Tough call here. I know a lot of Hokies donít like Maryland because their AD wonít schedule us, but is that a good reason to dislike what Ralph Friedgen has done there? The man is a hell of a coach. Besides theyíre playing Notre Dame. Root for (and Fear) the Turtle.
Well, that about wraps up the first ever Around the Big East article by yours truly. And now for a shameless plug: Post your tailgate site on the Lounge (Iíll be there, drinking heavily), and if you have Captain Morganís, I may just show up and grace you with my presence. =^)
Enjoy the weekend. And the tailgates. I know I will.