Friday, August 31, 2012

2012 College Football Predictions

The college football season is once again under way meaning I breathe a little easier while somehow also stressing out more.

While Brian is off gallivanting about Europe on his way to Notre Dame's match up with Navy in Ireland, I've been tasked with informing everyone of our picks for this year's editions of Virginia Tech and Notre Dame football.

On a brief side note, if I don't see web hits from ISPs in Ireland this week someone is due for a beating.

First Brian's picks:

Brian is a bit bullish on ND, which isn't shocking, but I was a little surprised he picked both squads to finish with an 8-4 record. In this scenario, Tech would still likely qualify for the ACC Championship game giving them a shot at another win before the bowls. 

I can't wait for the Irish to get some kind of bizarre exemption into our championship game despite not actually playing in the conference. Clearly, I'm not still bitter about the Big East's stupid bowl arrangement from years past.

Now for my picks:

Again, these aren't shocking picks. I pegged the Irish at 7-5, but I think that would be an outstanding season. I was very close to predicting 6-6 with a loss to Navy. Coming from a fellow fan whose team opens against the crazed triple-option attack, there's plenty of reason to be nervous. 

I clearly have more confidence in my alma mater than some, predicting just one loss to the Clemson Tigers. Until Tech proves they can outdo Dabo (who is a gum-flapping idiot) that game gives me apoplectic fits of rage just envisioning it.

One interesting note, Brian seems to think far more highly of Miami than I do. I think both teams should defeat the Hurricanes because I just don't think they're very good. 

Of course that won't stop all 17 'Canes fans from "packing" whatever the Dolphins call their stadium now when Tech rolls into town. 

There will be no Miami fans at Notre Dame's game in Chicago because no such people live there. 

Anyone seen with 'Canes swag will probably have an ibis hat from 1985 to go with a Bears Ditka-style sweater they dug out of their closet. Those folks are the worst kind of bandwagon cast-offs from the last time both teams were simultaneously relevant and they are bad people.      

I hate Miami.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Virginia Tech Football: Death, Taxes and 10-win Seasons

There are few certainties in life (and 10-win seasons aren't really one of them) but Virginia Tech football's winning tradition has become about as steady as it gets.

Gush about Clemson and Florida State all you want, but the road to the ACC Championship still runs through Blacksburg. 

Even during Clemson's resurgence last season, they still had to beat the Hokies twice to claim the title. Expect more of the same this time around. 

Folks will point to Clemson as the biggest game of the season, but it still starts with the battle of the Tech's Sept. 3 in Lane Stadium.

As previously mentioned in this space, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech match-up has represented the coastal division in the ACC championship game every season since the Hokies joined the league in 2004. 

This year will be no different as the Tigers and Seminoles battle for the top spot in the Atlantic division.

Questions surround the Tech offense as they have to replace most of the offensive line, the wide receivers and a first-round draft pick in the form of running back David Wilson.

Michael Holmes will lead Tech's rushing attack this season.
Fortunately, tailback is never a position of any real concern at Virginia Tech. Running backs coach Shane Beamer will turn to redshirt freshman Michael Holmes who is the clear leader of a talented, but unproven group of backs.

Holmes may not be as flashy as David Wilson (who is?) but it appears he will be a steady presence this season with enough sizzle to break off some big runs. 

Redshirt senior Martin Scales is a converted fullback who at 5'11", 222 pounds is a bruiser who could see plenty of goal line carries.

Also keep an eye out for true freshman J.C. Coleman. He has plenty of big play ability and enrolled early at Tech in January to play spring ball.

Despite losing two of Tech's most prolific receivers—Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin—The Hokies have a potentially explosive group of wideouts led by Marcus Davis and the return of Dyrell Roberts. 

Marcus Davis pulls away from North Carolina defenders.

The 6'4", 232-pound Davis is a physical freak who gained over 500 yards receiving last season in an offense dominated by Coale and Boykin, and still hasn't truly shown people what he can do. 

Roberts is a redshirt senior after being granted a medical hardship waiver and he's joined by fellow senior D.J. Coles who also was just shy of 500 yards receiving last season. The group gives Tech great size and speed as well as a veteran presence for Logan Thomas after losing some crucial veteran targets.

The offensive line worries are being overblown by a national media that has conveniently glossed over the fact that the majority of the "new" starters have seen significant snaps filling in during past injuries.  

This line will be no worse than any recent group, and has the potential to be quite good by the time the stretch run comes around. 

Defensively, Tech has loads of talent and as I say every season, just trust Bud Foster to whip everyone into shape. 

Kyle Fuller is the most recent in a long line great Hokie cornerbacks.

All-ACC cornerback Kyle Fuller is a serious playmaker who leads a defense filled with them. 

That doesn't mean there aren't changes as several players shuffled positions. 

Detrick Bonner was pressed into starting duty last season at cornerback and whip linebacker. This season he makes a move to free safety while safety Antone Exum moves over to cornerback. 

The defensive line looks stout and defensive end James Gayle is a stud. He totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks a year ago and will look to improve upon those numbers. Tech hasn't had very impressive individual sack numbers in recent years, but Gayle may just be the guy to change that.

Special teams has been a problem in recent years much to the dismay of special teams guru and head coach Frank Beamer. The rest of the country caught up to the Hokies about a decade ago, and Tech hasn't really figured a way to get back on top. 

Beamer has also shifted from blocking kicks to primarily setting up returns, which to be fair has yielded fairly solid return numbers but the Hokies certainly miss the tectonic momentum shift caused by blocked field goals and punts.

As for Tech's kicking game, Cody Journell returns as the placekicker after meeting the terms of his reinstatement following an embarrassing Sugar Bowl suspension. Freshman A.J. Hughes appears likely to be the punter and sophomore Michael Branthover should handle the kickoff duties.


All in all, this is yet another talented team with a genuine superstar at quarterback and one of the more talented defenses in recent years. That's a potent mix that could yield fantastic results.

Most talking heads are touting Florida State as the likely ACC champion. FSU is certainly loaded with talent, but until they finally live up to expectations under Jimbo Fisher and prove it on the field, I'm not sure you can crown them anything but paper champions.

The rest of the conference has clearly closed the gap with the Hokies (see Clemson games). Georgia Tech may be a home game, but it's a tough test to start the season. Then there's the brutal stretch of games at Clemson, at Miami and Florida State at home. Strangely, all of those teams have a BYE in the weeks prior to facing the Hokies as do non-conference foes Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

It's a big challenge coming up for the Hokies, but with a little luck and some improved play in big games, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Hokies once again win the ACC and play in another BCS game. Hopefully this season the results are slightly better.

On a side note, Danny Coale still caught that touchdown against Michigan. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Amazing, Multi-tasking Donald Glover

It's hard to say where most people know Donald Glover from. 

You might know him from his cult hit show Community on NBC. You also may know him as rapper Childish Gambino, or perhaps you're more familiar with his hilarious stand-up routines. 

Yes, Donald Glover is a true renaissance man taking the comedy world by storm. 

Glover started his career fresh out of NYU as a writer for what was then the new show 30 Rock, also on NBC. 

After several years, Glover left to pursue a career in stand-up and the results have been quite astounding. 

His Comedy Central special 'Weirdo' (see below) is an outstanding hour of very funny and sometimes very odd bits that come together to make his unique brand of nerdy comedy fun for everyone. 

Community returns to NBC in the fall, but moves to the black hole of Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. 

It's a very funny, quirky show and you should watch it. Just like Donald glover.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Notre Dame Football 2012 Preview

Notre Dame gets a lot of press - both positive and negative - wether it's in-season or in the doldrums of the offseason, but the intensity always seems to rise this time of year.

Joining together to form the 2012 edition of Fighting Irish Football squad are veteran players growing into new roles and a talented group of underclassmen and new players.

It sounds like a lot of change on paper, but in reality not much should change from last season.

Sure, several key players are gone from the 2011 team, such as Michael Floyd, the school's all-time record holder in many wide receiving categories and 1st round NFL draft pick, and Safety Harrison Smith, another 1st round draft pick. Jonas Gray, a late bloomer at running back, graduated and is attempting to create his own NFL destiny. Ethan Johnson, a four-year starter at DE, Trevor Robsinon (OG), and CBs Gary Gray and Robert Blanton moved on to chase their NFL dreams as well.

For as much as those players will be missed, the group of returnees and newcomers should put the Irish on a level playing field talent wise in 2012.
Manti Te'o (ILB) and Tyler Eiffert (TE) were expected to bolt for the NFL, but both return as the superstars and likely captains of their respective sides of the ball.

On offense, RB Cierre Wood looks to build on his 1,000+ yard season behind a veteran offensive line anchored by C Braxston Cave. Michael Floyd's graduation leaves a tremendous hole in the Irish receiving corps but Eiffert's unlikely return and pass-catching dependabilily will help comfort the to-be-determined starting quarterback.

On defense, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore and DTs Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt will anchor a stout defensive front to Notre Dame’s standard 3-4 set. Aaron Lynch, who transferred to South Florida in the off-season due to homesickness, will be sorely missed but for the first time in many years there is considerable depth with veterans Sean Cwynar and Kona Schwenke and can supplement when needed. In all, they will help clear the way for Te'o and his fellow linebackers (Danny Spond, Prince Shembo, Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox) to attack opposing quarterbacks.

Nonetheless, two monumental questions (at QB and in the secondary) loom that will determine how good the Irish can be in 2012.

First and foremost, who will be under center for the Irish in Dublin and beyond?

Tommy Rees, last year's starter, won't step foot in Dublin, so the answer to the first part of that question becomes a little easier. Rees was suspended by Coach Kelly as a result of a charges stemming from an off-campus incident in the spring (resisting arrest and punching an officer). While his suspension doesn't mean he's entirely out of the picture for 2012 it does put him at a considerable disadvantage.

Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, and Blair Kiel will all compete for snaps in Dublin. Golson, whose performance in the spring game was spectacular, seems most likely to earn the first opportunity. Although Hendrix actually saw sparingly meaningful minutes on the playing field last season, Golson is essentially a more athletic, quicker, and younger version of Hendrix.

Regardless of who starts, the inexperience at the position will yield mistakes. Unlike last year and with any bit of luck, though, there will hopefully be fewer than 10 turnovers in the first two games of the season. In building the future of the program it is more likely Kelly will side with someone who has more upside and development potential. That doesn't rule out freshman Blair Kiel, but chances are he will redshirt and preserve a year before being thrown to the wolves.

The second biggest question is who will step up in the defensive secondary? Stout veterans Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith and Gary Gray are all gone, rendering the defensive backfield with inexperienced raw talent.

Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta, who have each seen meaningful minutes and have already made positive contributions at the safety position, will attempt to fill some shoes but their inexperience in pressure situations may leave the Irish vulnerable. Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood are two upperclassmen cornerbacks with blazing speed and minimal experience, and being the only non walk-on upperclassmen makes them the likely starters in the high-pressure position.

David Ruffer, the alk-on turned scholarship sensational kicker, graduated but his roles will be assumed by experienced place kicker and Kyle Brindza and former placekick starter Nick Tausch. Ben Turk, who struggled at the start of last season but recovered by mid-year, returns as the team's punter.

Without a doubt this is the most difficult schedule (on paper) in years. After starting the year overseas against an ever-challenging Navy team, the Irish return home to face Purdue, Michigan State on the road, and Michigan at home all before October.

A bye week preceeds the continuation of the Shamrock Series, Notre Dame's now annual offsite home game, against the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes. Consecutive home games against Stanford and BYU will prep the Irish for arguably their toughest opponent of the year as they head on the road to face Oklahoma. Easier breathing will ensue with a home game against Pittsburgh, road game Boston College, and home game against Wake Forest. All of that leads up to the regular season finale at USC, argubaly the second toughest opponent on this year's schedule.

With all of that in mind, this will certainly be a defining year for Coach Kelly's program. He has publicly stated that this his finally his team as they've begun to reflect his personality. One can only hope that fewer turnovers and more consistent quarterback play will steer the Irish to their third consecutive season of at least eight wins. If so, it would mark the first time since the Lou Holtz era that Notre Dame teams accomplished that pedestrian feat.

Objectively speaking, the translation of the aforementioned challenges and aspects to Notre Dame's 2012 season will likely equate to seven or eight wins and a modest bowl invitation. Given what is probably the nation's toughest schedule, earning more than six wins would surely be a treat. After all, last year's team was a few turnovers away (South Florida, Michigan, Florida State) from finishing 11-2 with at least a New Year's bowl berth.

Double digit wins seem highly unlikely given the magnitude of questions and difficult schedule, but Kelly will go a long way in earning some good faith with AD Jack Swarbrick in guiding the team to eight regular season wins and a bowl win to boot.

Time to get to work, Irish!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curiosity Killed the Cat...And Landed on Mars

NASA's successful Curiosity rover is a mind-blowing feat of technology that defied odds, but not logic or reason.

Careful planning by NASA scientists coupled with countless hours of design and testing here on Earth set the stage for one of mankind's truly remarkable achievements.

That being said, while the Internets [sic] have been super excited about humans building and landing what is essentially a nuclear-powered SUV 350,000,000 miles away, I worry that people as a whole are sufficiently jaded to the point where this isn't viewed as an impressive feat.

Certainly, sending a rover (no matter how incredible) isn't as sexy as landing humans, but these are crucial missions if we ever want to get to that point.

This isn't the sixties moon missions where we strapped young men to rockets and wished them the best of luck.

An amazing composite photo taken by Curiosity.

The stakes are higher because the challenge is significantly greater. Everything from communication issues to the mental health of the astronauts, even the difficulty of creating the spacecraft is magnified.

As for Curiosity, you've likely seen this video detailing the outrageous landing procedure by now but even so, you should watch it again.

On a side note, I'm totally down to volunteer for a one-way mission to Mars.

Sure that would mean dying on the red planet, but that's extraordinarily selfless to be the first person knowing fully you aren't coming back.

They'd put my face on money and have a federal holiday in my honor. Also, aside from the various rovers NO TRAFFIC.


Monday, August 13, 2012

General Musings About Football Season 2012

It's been painfully quiet around here lately. I return with a Hokie-centric look at the coming football season, pro and college.

First, Virginia Tech continues an unofficial quest to become the Oregon of the east coast when it comes to uniforms.

Tech will continue the now common practice of using multiple helmets throughout the season including this fairly tasteful camouflage helmet for Military Appreciation Day Saturday, September 22 against Bowling Green.

Then there are these controversial helmets for the White Out game Saturday, September 8 against Austin Peay.

Now they're only controversial insofar as they're ugly, but for a one-off they're tolerable. Gobbler tracks aren't remotely approaching the most offensive thing I've seen on football uniforms. 

Of course, most folks have been less forgiving of the new design, including starting quarterback Logan Thomas who chimed in on Twitter:


As for the action under the helmets, Virginia Tech is in Frank Beamer's favorite position. 

The Hokies are ranked fairly low, return a talented albeit somewhat unproven roster, and no one is really talking about them. Perfect.

On to the NFL (which sucks), and the myriad of Hokies on NFL rosters. That may thin out a bit as the teams make cuts, but I was surprised at the sheer numbers.

Some are no surprise as this season will mark the debuts of two of Tech's most exciting and successful running backs, second-year man Ryan Williams of the Arizona Cardinals and back-flipping rookie David Wilson of the Super Bowl Champion Giants.

Williams missed all of his rookie campaign with a significant knee injury, but appears to be back at full strength going into the preseason and the coaches in Arizona love him.

Praise has been equally high for Wilson in New York, where players and coaches alike have marveled at his maturity and athleticism. He demonstrated the latter in his first preseason game, nearly returning a kick-off for a touchdown.

The trick for the rabbit-catching phenom is to learn the playbook and continue to bulk up, while Williams needs to get some game contact to regain his confidence. 

Both appear poised to make an impact as complimentary backs—especially Williams because Beanie Wells is mediocre on a good day.

I guess the other main story no one has talked about regarding "the shield" is the fact that negotiations with game officials are still not settled and the NFL may use back-up referees into the regular season. 

Fans complain regardless, but given the number of competent, high-level football referees in this country, I think it's safe to say we'll see a drop-off in quality officiating the first few weeks.

Obviously, we'll have more detailed thoughts as the rapidly-approaching season nears. 

Virginia Tech kicks off Labor Day night when they host Georgia Tech at 8 PM on ESPN.

The winner of that match-up has represented the Coastal division in the ACC Championship game every season since the Hokies joined the conference in 2004.

Notre Dame will begin their season whenever they find a quarterback, or September 1 when they take on Navy in Ireland, whichever comes first.

Also, that game appears to start at 9 AM here on the east coast. Those with big tailgating plans may want to save the bratwurst until at least halftime. 


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