ETI: Preseason Edition

Our fearless fans in the stands break down the preseason, look ahead to Syracuse, and offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics.

Duke: Hello, I'm Duke

Jimbo: And, I'm Jimbo.

Duke: The season is finally here, College Football 2005. This year we start on the road at Syracuse with a nationally televised ABC game. This game has many interesting story lines. First, Syracuse has a new head coach in Greg Robinson. Coach Robinson rejoins the college ranks after 14 years in the NFL, which included stints as defensive coordinator with Kansas City, Denver and the New York Jets. Robinson was the architect of a Broncos defense that won back- to-back Super Bowl titles after the 1997 and '98 seasons. Another new for Syracuse will be new uniforms. Well, let's call them new and retro uniforms. While the uniforms are new the helmets are the same helmets used from 1965 through 1973. The helmet is similar to their previous style, but the player's number will be on the side of the helmet. I guess Syracuse is trying the old "return to glory" theme, but I don't see any Larry Csonkas or Floyd Littles on this squad.

We also have some news – as in new starters. For the first time in four years we'll have a new starting quarterback. Every day you read something new about the quarterbacks: Adam Bednarik's arm looks tired, Pat White maybe starting, J.R. House doesn't have any zip on his balls, Dwayne Thompson is moving to wide receiver, and the three freshman will be red shirted.

Jimbo: The quarterback situation definitely has been the hot topic since spring ball but we have to find some receivers. For the West Virginia offense to matriculate down the field our receivers must catch some balls in order to at least try to stretch the defense. One day it is Brandon Myles, the next day it is true freshman Ryan Dawson, the next day it is Travis McClintic. Nobody is performing on a consistent basis, and if head coach Rich Rodriguez doesn't get confidence in someone we should just line up nine offensive linemen and pound away.

Special teams are also a huge concern for us since PacMan Jones did an outstanding job giving us great returns on punts and kick offs, but based on all reports I think we have a solid replacement in Antonio Lewis.

Duke: College football is difficult without any exhibition games or least a MAC or Division II type opponent to work out the kinks. If you look at our home opener record in the past ten years it includes losses to Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Boston College, and East Carolina. The only win of note was against a weak Pitt team. My concern is compounded as Las Vegas has us as 1.5 point dog. I believe we'll be fine, as this may be our strongest team since 1993. Or am I missing something?

Jimbo: Coach Rodriguez' record in season openers is 2-2, so this is a swing game for him to start the season. Every one likes to play a warm up game but that just won't fly this year. This team has great potential but to compare it to the 1993 team is way too early, Duke. Patience my friend!!

Duke: We're adding some new sections to ETI. They are "Fact or Fiction" and "Toss Up!" We hope you enjoy them.

Fact or Fiction: Coach Rodriguez will start pulling the young quarterbacks in and out of the game, hurt their confidence, and West Virginia will be embroiled in a year long quarterback controversy.

Jimbo: Fiction. Pat White will be the quarterback because this year's theme is CONSERVATIVE. West Virginia may throw the ball less than a Pop Warner youth league. The Mountaineers will run on every play because of the inexperience at QB and WR positions. The team will win the early season games by running the pigskin with our fabulous, but somewhat unproven, stable of running backs.

Duke: Fact. I believe that we are seeing the second coming of Jake Kelchner and Darren Studstill in Adam Bednarik and Pat White, but it may take a year or two to develop. I can see these guys missing an assignment, Rich yanking them, and then riding them pretty hard. With Jake and Darren you had veterans who had the maturity to handle the situation. Injuries could play a role in this, as Bednarik has to prove he can take a hit on the shoulder and White looks pretty slim. Also, don't forget we had two youngsters in Rasheed Marshall and Scott McBrien who were battling it out a few years ago -- and we know the results of that competition.

Fact or Fiction: West Virginia will have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2005.

Jimbo: Fiction. We will run the ball more this year than any year since Coach Rodriguez has been at West Virginia, but as I stated earlier we have several quality running backs and they each will get a chance to showcase their talents. Jason Colson will get the majority of reps and Pernell Williams will also see considerable action. Jason Gwaltney and Steve Slaton will fight it out early in the season for the remaining carries.

Duke: Fact. I just don't know who it will be! If you look over the Coach Rodriguez's career he generally leans toward one guy and not a position by committee. I believe after the first two games he will have a back that produces to his level of satisfaction and will rush for over a 1,000 yards. That being said we have great talent at this position. While you like Colson and Gwaltney, I'll be riding the Owen Schmidt and Steve Slaton wagons. In the Blue-Gold game Schmidt not only looked strong at fullback, but also at the superback position. He makes a quick first step to the open hole and then he runs down hill with bodies flying everywhere. Slaton's moves remind me of Avon Cobourne, but with more speed.

Fact or Fiction: West Virginia has struggled against Maryland since Coach Friedgen became the head coach and many fans believe that it is because Coach Friedgen has NFL coordinator experience. West Virginia will also struggle against Syracuse and Pitt since Greg Robinson, Dave Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh have considerable NFL coordinator experience.

Jimbo: Fiction. That statement is so off-base I really don't want to address that one. You line up and play the game, period!! That question must have come from Lee Corso?

Duke: Jimbo, you danced around that one. Hey, this is a concern. The college ranks have seen some pretty good jobs by ex-NFL coordinators. Pete Carroll has created a dynasty at USC and Al Groh has done a nice job at Virginia. I believe that our problem with Maryland has been the different style of football they have employed since Friedgen came on board. I believe Syracuse and Pitt will be more straightforward smash mouth styles which we can handle, but let's keep an eye on this one. We'll see Syracuse's NFL blitzing packages early and often against our young quarterbacks. Call it fiction for now.

Fact or Fiction: West Virginia will finally burn the white pants with the blue/yellow/blue stripe that doesn't match any of the jerseys with a single colored stripe.

Jimbo: Fact. The word around the water cooler is that a white pant with a gold stripe will be worn with the white jersey. It is amazing how much attention those pants and the Nike free T Shirt sling get.

Duke: Fact. I saw them smoldering in a pile with Gale Catlett's old black leather jacket and a couch.

Fact or Fiction: West Virginia University fans should embrace the recently signed West Virginia-Marshall football series.

Jimbo: This article is not long enough to addresss that issue, but here it goes. Marshall wins evey year at the gate because the state has pressed us into playing the game in Huntington more times than we should have too. Marshall athletics also is subsidized by the state so as more reveune goes to the Herd the state will have to pony up less funds. We have no choice but to embrace the series. It will be a nice rivalry for the state of West Virginia. So yes, fact.

Duke: I agree fact. When West Virginia is winning 80-0 with 10 seconds remaining in the game and we are throwing a 50 yard pass for a touchdown and then we go for two. Yes, I'll really embrace the game.

Editor's Note: Jimbo and Duke have obviously gone off the deep end here. I hereby sentence them to an hour of wearing a buffalo head.

Toss Up!: Who will West Virginia miss the most, Rasheed Marshall, Chris Henry, or Adam "Pacman" Jones?

Jimbo: The answer is all three. We need help at all three positons because of the inexperience of the replacements. Rasheed Marshall was the straw the stirred the drink. We'll not only miss his experience, but don't forget that he completed over 60% of his passes. In the early season we will be extremely conservative and we'll be in a run first and throw second offense. Final answer Rasheed Marshall.

Duke: I'm a big Rasheed Marshall fan and Pacman was drafted sixth in the NFL draft, but I am going with Chris Henry. With Henry we beat Pitt and go to the Fiesta Bowl. In this program Coach Rodriguez wants playmakers at the wide receiver position that can outrun and outjump the defense, and that was clearly Henry's game. Coach Rodriguez's teams to date just haven't featured a precision passing game. As of right now we are fresh out of Chris Henrys.

Big East Predictions – Top 5:

Jimbo: West Virginia, Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, and Connecticut

Duke: West Virginia and Louisville tie for first (hey, let's make it three years in a row), Rutgers, Pitt, and Syracuse. Duke: What do have for us today Trivia Boy?

Trivia Boy: Name the West Virginia quarterback with a minimum of 100 attempts that has the highest single season passer rating since 1980?

Duke: Now for the Big Finish!

Duke: Congratulations to Coach Nehlen on being accepted to the College Football Hall of Fame. I have a signed Coach Nehlen biography titled, "I'm Nobody Special." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jimbo: Coach Rodriguez will have this team ready when we kick off on September 4th. I have a feeling this team will gel quickly and come out of the gates very strong against Syracuse. This game is huge for us so early in the season. This group of players reminds me of a lunch box group that comes to work and gets the job done.

Duke: Boo to the NCAA for requiring colleges to reduce their media guides to only 208 pages. I believe that it is malarkey that the large media guides created an unfair recruiting tool. The best part of the summer is receiving the media guide and studying the current team as well as the history. This only hurt the fans.

Jimbo: Trivia Boy, the answer is Jake Kelchner. Duke, the train is pulling out at 10:00 am on Saturday. I am pumped for this game; I am pumped for breakfast Sunday morning on the Syracuse campus at that little diner on Marshall Street: and I am pumped to see our young quarterbacks and running backs. Let's get this season started and go 1-0.

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