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The Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech fiasco reminded me of nothing so much as a bad first marriage to a vengeful spouse: you just want to put it behind you as quickly as possible and hope you never have to think about it again.
Even with a fully healthy Reggie Ball, I don't think the Jackets would have had much of a chance against the Hokies. Va-Tech has a roster full of big, fast athletes and an excellent coaching staff that has been together for a long time. They also have a defensive line that was more than capable of overpowering Tech's undersized O-line. While Reggie Ball was able to start and was kept at quarterback for most of the game, he was a little rusty from lack of practice and overwhelmed by the Hokies' pass rush. This was a victory that just was not meant to be.
Tech now will be facing N.C. State on a Thursday night in Atlanta, and as my old friend, the Sage from Smokerise, would say, this becomes the pivotal game of the year for Gailey and the Jackets. If Tech can do the job against the Wolfpack, they'll be 4-1 with a very winnable game coming up against Duke on the road. A victory over Duke would make Tech 5-1 and keep the Jackets in the Top 25 when they face a Miami team that is not quite the powerhouse it's been in years past. After Miami, Tech has two consecutive games against Clemson and Wake Forest, teams that it will have a reasonable chance of beating.
A win this Thursday sets Tech up nicely for a realistic run at an 8-3 record. A loss means the Jackets are probably headed towards another 6-5 finish.
The game is just as pivotal, too, for Chuck "The Chest" Amato of the Wolfpack, who's under fire back in Raleigh for a losing season last year and a 1-2 record this year that includes a disappointing loss to North Carolina. If N. C. State loses to Tech, they are 1-3 and staring down the barrel at an equally desperate Clemson team that is having some serious problems this year.
On the other hand, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, another coach with a shaky situation, bought himself a little time with consecutive victories the past two weeks over Wake Forest and Virginia. The Terps seemed to rediscover Friedgen's offensive magic in that upset over the Cavaliers, putting up a monstrous 570 yards in total offense. Maryland still has to play Virginia Tech, Boston College and FSU this season, so 6-5 is probably the best that Ralph can hope for. That would still get Maryland in to a marginal bowl game.
One of the more amazing games of last week was Southern Cal's comeback win over Arizona State. The Sun Devils opened up a 21-3 lead over the Trojans in the first half, and most teams facing a deficit that large would start throwing the ball all over the field. Southern Cal instead kept handing the ball to running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, who ripped through the Sun Devils' defense and totaled 355 yards rushing between them. It's almost unheard of for a team that far down to come back without having to throw the ball, but that's just what the Trojans did.
I have teased him a lot about his decision to desert the Flats, but in the spirit of fair play I must note that George O'Leary has finally broken his long losing streak at Central Florida with consecutive wins over Marshall and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Knights are 2-2 and have a shot at winning another game or three this season.
Let's take some questions:
Q. For the second time in four years, we were annihilated on National TV (by Virginia Tech). I can tolerate losing, but not showing up is inexcusable in my book. Your thoughts?
A. The Jackets lost by the same score (51-7) as that disaster of a game in Athens back in 2002, but I'm hesitant to accuse this year's team of quitting. I think it was more a case of Tech going up against a physically superior team that took advantage of every break (a blocked field goal and two interceptions) to score some cheap touchdowns.
If I was going to criticize anyone here, I would question Chan Gailey for leaving Reggie Ball in the game so long when it was clearly a lost cause and Reggie was just getting over a case of meningitis. Why not put Reggie out of harm's way and give Taylor Bennett some more experience in a game situation? I am also a little peeved at the Jackets' performance on special teams, which has been a weak point all season. Everyone knows that the Hokies put added emphasis on special teams and are always looking for a kick-block opportunity. You would think that a competent special teams coach would have spent some extra time preparing the Jackets for those kicking situations – which obviously did not happen, judging from what I saw on the field.
The one bright spot for the Jackets was the opportunity for young players like Taalib Tucker and Vance Walker to get some mop-up time on defense. If there's anything positive to take away from the debacle, it's that.
Q. Dr. Football is a sorry representative of the Hive. This guy is a no talent clown that constantly gets away with bad humor and a UGA inferiority complex. Its a shame he gets to keep his "prestigious" job by huffing some much mod bone. He's a lot more like Mark Bradley than he'd ever like to think.
A. It looks like my ex-wife is posting again.
Q. Wow! Talk about rubbing people the wrong way. There are some really hateful things written about you lately. Is Mark Bradley right? Are we that sensitive and soft that we cannot take good-natured sarcasm?
A. I believe the angry tone you see in some of the Hive posts is the reflection of a fan base that is emotionally divided right now over the merits of the head coach – much like our politically polarized country. That situation will continue, I think, until Chan either leaves or is able to break the program out of the 6-5 rut in which it finds itself. I try to look at it this way: the fact that people get so angry shows that at least they still care deeply about the Tech program. That's a good thing, for the most part.
Q. I saw on the board that LSU = VT and UT = Tech. Am I missing something?
A. I think that was written during the first half of the Tennessee-LSU game, when the Cajuns were whacking the Vols by 21-0 and looked to be on the way to a blowout win. That situation turned around quite drastically in the second half, thanks to the play of Gerald Riggs and Rick Clausen. Once again, Fat Phil Fulmer showed that you don't necessarily have to be a MENSA member to win an SEC game.
This week's picks:
N.C. State at Georgia Tech. Comparative scores are NOT a good basis for predicting the outcome of a game, but I am nevertheless concerned that N. C. State played much more competitively against Virginia Tech and only lost by 20-16. The Wolfpack is strong on defense but spotty on offense, where the running game is not producing a lot this year. Quarterback Jay Davis has put up some good passing numbers but he's been sacked a few times as well. Jon Tenuta, I think you know what to do. I'll go out on a limb here and pick the Jackets to prevail in this very pivotal game.
Wake Forest at Florida State. The Deacs replaced Ben Mauk with Cory Randolph at quarterback and pulled off an upset win over Clemson last weekend. Of course, Wake Forest got a lot of help from a questionable decision by Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden. Late in the game, Bowden called for a fake field goal rather than have Jad Dean go for a 44-yarder. Wake Forest stopped the Tigers easily and drove 66 yards for the winning score. Unfortunately for Wake, FSU Coach Bobby Bowden isn't quite as dumb as his son. The Seminoles won't make those kinds of mistakes.
Marshall at Virginia Tech. The Hokies keep rolling on their path to an expected ACC championship.
Mississippi State at Florida. Florida QB Chris Leak was embarrassingly bad in a humiliating loss to the cousin-kissers of Alabama. After this game, you can call him "The Croominator." The rest of the Gators will also work out a lot of their frustrations on M-State.
Virginia at Boston College. After losing big to Maryland, Virginia all of a sudden looks like less and less of a top-tier team in the ACC. I think Boston College puts another romper-stomper on the Cavs this week.
LSU at Vanderbilt. Alas, the Commodores blew their big chance at Middle Tennessee and now hold a 4-1 record as they face an LSU team that is still mortally pissed from its breakdown against Tennesssee. Vandy will lose to LSU and probably won't get any more than five wins this season, losing that chance for a bowl invitation.
Georgia at Tennessee. The Vols have already played two of the strongest teams in the SEC, beating LSU and losing to Florida. Georgia has been unimpressive against a much weaker schedule and was only able to beat South Carolina because the Gamecocks' kicker went in the tank. I see a long, depressing bus ride back to Athens for the Trembling Chihuahuas.
Duke at Miami. It just keeps getting worse for Ted Roof and the Blue Devils. Anyone need a linebackers' coach for next year?
North Carolina at Louisville. Once again, John Bunting and the Tar Heels are surprising folks by winning games they weren't expected to win ( such as N. C. State and Utah). Louisville still has vivid enough memories of that loss to South Florida to keep it from happening again.
Ohio State at Penn State. Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions are 5-0, but now the tough part of their schedule kicks in. After Ohio State, Penn State still has Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State on the schedule. You can expect losses to the Buckeyes and at least three of those other teams – which will still leave Paterno with a winning season.
Kentucky at South Carolina. In this long season of payback for Steve Spurrier, he and the Gamecocks will finally be facing an SEC team that is even worse than they are. This game and next week's matchup with Vanderbilt are Spurrier's best shots at league victories – and he'll take them.
Maryland at Temple. The Fridge will raid the fridge for yet another victory against the Owls, a program so bad that no conference wants them.
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