Blogpoll Week 1

Rank Team Delta
1 Southern Cal 2
2 Georgia 1
3 Ohio State 1
4 Missouri 1
5 Oklahoma 1
6 Florida
7 West Virginia
8 Auburn
9 LSU 1
10 Brigham Young 1
11 Texas Tech 1
12 South Florida 1
13 Wisconsin 1
14 Kansas 1
15 Alabama 11
16 Arizona State
17 Texas
18 Wake Forest 2
19 Penn State
20 Oregon 2
21 California 3
22 Clemson 13
23 Fresno State
24 Utah 2
25 East Carolina 1

Dropped Out: Tennessee (#18), Virginia Tech (#21), TCU (#25).

Also Considered: South Carolina, TCU, Central Michigan, UCLA
Clemson and Alabama aside, not much movement.Southern Cal takes the top spot because 1) they absolutely throttled Virginia 52-7, 2) they most likely have the best offensive line in America, and 3) They’re like, 6-deep at the running back position, which has to count for something. Tennessee and Virginia Tech drop out not just because of their losses, but their general ineptitude in the opening games. East Carolina moves up because if they play to the level they are capable of playing, they could win 10 games and the Conference USA title. TCU played well in their MWC opener, and probably should not have dropped out. I just don;t have a place to put them right now.

Tar Heel Mania’s UNC vs. Virginia Preview

This Saturday is UNC’s ACC opener against the University of Virginia. To start the Tar Heels’ conference schedule, I have invited Eric from The Extrapolater, a Charlottesville resident and UVa fan, to help preview that game.

We now continue with my preview of this’ year’s battle royale for 4th place in the ACC Costal Division.

Offense:

  • T. J. Yates has the highest QB rating in the ACC through two games, and the 6th highest in the country. Think about that statistic for a second. At the beginning of season, Heels fans would have been happy just with a quarterback who didn’t throw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. To have this kind of success at quarterback for an entire season, from a redshirt freshman on a team that finished 3-9 last season, would be nothing short of astounding. Can he keep it up against ACC competition?
  • Our running back situation still seems quite inconsistent. Johnny White has averaged more than 4 yards per carry, and he and Bobby Rome had some nice numbers receiving against East Carolina last week. But the team has averaged less than 90 yards per game on the ground, and eventually the Tar Heels will run into a team that can stop the passing game. We’ll need at least some consistency from the ground game.
  • I cannot name any of the Cavaliers defensive backs off the top of my head. All I know is that UNC’s wide receivers will be running them ragged all day. Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster make Yates’ job at QB much easier.

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Let’s hope we see a lot of this on Saturday.

Defense:

  • Patrick Pinkney began this season 3rd in the QB depth chart for East Carolina. After one quarterback got injured and another struggled in their opener against Virginia Tech, Pinkney was thrown into the fire. This inexperienced quarterback proceeded to destroy UNC’s defense, throwing for 406 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Jameel Sewell’s struggles have been well documented, and the Cavs have only scored 27 points in their first two games (24 of which were against Duke). But we have a very inexperienced team, and I have no idea how the defense will react. They may allow five points, they might allow 30; I just don’t know.
  • The few experienced players on defense have really stepped up. Durell Mapp leads the Heels in tackles, Kentwan Balmer leads a talented defensive line, and Trimane Goddard has returned from injury to play very well at safety. All three of these guys will need to step up on Saturday.
  • Words cannot describe how angry I will be if our secondary gets burned by Virginia tight end Tom Santi.

Special Teams:

  • Brandon Tate. End of story. The Cavs’ kick coverage might be in for a long day.

Last year, UNC’s John Bunting was fired after the Heels were blanked 23-0 in Charlottesville. Would a Heels domination in Chapel Hill spell the end for for Al Groh? We’ll see.

ECU 34, UNC 31: “Well, Isn’t That Special!”

This was a very entertaining game. Both teams played extremely well offensively, but there were enough weird plays on special teams in the second half to make the Church Lady blush.

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On to the Heels’ breakdown.

On offense:

  • Brandon Tate was insane. Simply insane. In the entire game he touched the ball only nine times (3 receptions, 3 kick returns, and 3 punt returns. The result? 263 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns, or roughly 29 yards per touch and a touchdown for every three touches. Tate has really flourished under the new system, and once again shows me that the talent on this team was underachieving while Bunting was head coach.
  • T.J. Yates is the best quarterback in the ACC. I’m just as shocked as you are, but that’s what the statistics say. Yates is the conference leader in passing efficiency (191.2), yards per attempt (11.2) and yards per game (281), tied for 2nd in passing touchdowns (6), and 3rd in touchdown-to-interception ratio (3:1). On the downside, he received his first three career sacks courtesy of the Pirates. Of course he’s only played two games, one of which was a 1-AA opponent, but UNC seems to have a truly effective quarterback for the first time since Darian Durant.

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  • We have some very, very good receivers. The aforementioned Tate, who was already a special teams star, had 3 receptions for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, which puts him atop the ACC in receiving yards and touchdowns after having caught…five passes. Only one receiver since 2004, Hakeem Nicks last year, caught more than 3 touchdown passes for an entire season. Nicks added 77 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions, and Bobby Rome and Johnny White combined for over 100 yards receiving out of the backfield.
  • Nice to see that the passing game is working: Because the running game was still our major offensive weakpoint. In our first two games, UNC’s running-back-by-committee have averaged 89.5 yards, 95th in the nation. (Conversely, UNC’s passing game is 20th in the nation at 285.5 ypg.)
  • Your timing is just impeccable: Having given our offense sufficient praise, they played a part in Saturady’s loss. They played well as a whole, but fell prey to poor execution at the worst possible time.
    • With less than a minute to go in the second half, UNC was in the hurry-up offense trying to extend a slim 3-point lead when Yates threw an interception at midfield. East Carolina drove into the red zone and kicked the tying field goal before halftime.
    • Then in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Heels were driving down the field into ECU territory with a chance to break the 31-31 tie, having been very fortunate that East Carolina’s field goal had just hit the post. Yates threw a nice pass to Nicks for a first down, but he then fumbled the ball and East Carolina recovered, with good field position, and with less than 7 minutes on the clock.
    • After ECU managed to miss another potential game-winning FG, UNC was once again driving down the field, this time with a help of an effective running game. With a minute and a half remaining, the Heels were on 2nd down and 4 at the 34 yard line. T.J. Yates fumbled on the QB/center exchange, and was forced to fall on it.
    • The fumble was a wasted play, but the way UNC had been driving down the field all night, 3rd and five just out of field goal range was a very makable conversion. Instead of going to the air, Yates handed it off to Johnny White, who was stopped at the line for no gain.

    Four mistakes on offense, none of which were the botched 52-yard FG attempt, which was fairly unrealistic to make anyway. If the Heels had converted any one of these plays, we would probably be 2-0.

On defense:

  • Patrick Pinkney made us look really, really bad. UNC effectively stopped the run, but Pinkney lit up the secondary, completing nearly 75% of his passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns. When one considers that he was ECU’s third-string quarterback coming into the season…well, it just wasn’t a very good day for our defense.
  • A few stats:
    • East Carolina held the ball for 36:08 of the game.
    • The Heels forced 3 turnovers (and had opportunities for a few more) in their opener against James Madison. The didn’t force any on Saturday, and lost the turnover battle to the Pirates 2-0.
    • ECU converted seven of their 16 third down attempts (44%).
    • ECU put up 470 yards of offense in 75 plays, averaging roughly 6.5 yards per play.
    • The Pirates were held to 7 points and 261 yards against the Virginia Tech defense. This past Saturday, LSU put up 48 points and 598 yards against the exact same Virginia Tech defense.

Needless to say, the UNC defense had a rough night.

  • Don’t you have anything nice to say about the defense? Two of our defenders who performed well in this game were LB Durell Mapp and DT Kentwan Balmer. Mapp had 11 tackles and Balmer recorded two tackles for loss, including half of a sack with Hilee Taylor. Marvin Austin started for the first time in his career; he had one tackle for loss. And for all of the defensive struggle, the D did play well on occasion, forcing the Pirates to punt 6 times.

Special Teams:

  • Many happy returns: As I said before, Brandon Tate was unbelievable in this game. He returned six kicks and punts for 161 yards, an average of nearly 27 yards per return. The Pirates had a few good returns of their own; a 63 yard kick return led to a touchdown in the second half, and ECU started their average drive on their own 41 yard line. It’s a lot less difficult to score with a short field; say all you want about our defense, but the kickoff coverage team didn’t help them at all.
  • A day your kicker would like to forget: There were five botched kicks on the night. Connor Barth missed an extra point in the third quarter (although UNC converted the 2-point plat on the next TD), and he didn’t get the chance to kick a 52-yard game winner; his holder, Ryan Baucom, couldn’t handle the snap. Meanwhile, East Carolina’s Ben Hartman missed thee field goal from inside of 40 yards. But he made the two field goals that were the difference in this game: the one off of the interception to tie the game before halftime, and the 39-yarder to win it as time expired.

Final thoughts: T.J. Yates and UNC’s receivers will be a lot of fun to watch this year, and they should keep us in a lot of games. There are still two big question marks with this team. Can the defense step up when facing good opposition, and can the team avoid making costly mental mistakes? We should find out a lot more about this team when they open their ACC schedule against Virginia this Saturday.

UNC vs. East Carolina: What You Really Need To Know

Forget the stats. Forget the past results. Here are a few facts* that will really decides Butch Davis’ road opener against East Carolina:

  • Since being hired to ECU, Skip Holtz (son of Lou Holtz) has really taken this whole “pirate” thing to a new level. Combine that with a hereditary speech impediment and the only thing he can say these days is “ARRRRRGH!”.

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Yes, that is parrot poo on his shoulder.

 

  • This makes the playbook very confusing; every play is “Arrrrgh.” The only way to tell plays apart in the huddle is by the length of the R. For example, a “Power I triple option right” is “Argh”, while a shotgun wide receiver screen is “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” Expect the UNC defensive line to pick up on that quickly.
  • The ECU defense is anchored by former UNC “mutineers” Khalif Mitchell and Marcus Hands, allowed only one offensive touchdown in their opener at Virginia Tech. Sure, Mitchell may be a talented defensive lineman who could be suiting up for us right now. But can you look me straight in the eye and say that he won’t lose to Marvin Austin in an eating contest? I think not.
  • To guarantee that the refs will keep the game fair, all of Pitt County has banned the sale of burritos for the next 72 hours. That way, neither team will be subjected to this and have a player collapse in the middle of a kick return.
  • Greenville, NC is the BMX capital of the world, where the likes of Dave Mirra and Ryan Nyquist have taken residence. This will become the ultimate home field advantage for the Pirates, who play every second half this season on a Big Air Ramp.
  • By the time we’ve left Greeenville, ECU will look like a hurricane hit the place.**

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Subtropical Storm? C’mon man, why do have to downplay everything?

 

So when Patrick Pinkney slides 70 yards for a touchdown only to break 20 bones in the ensuing celebration, you, the smart fan, will know exactly what’s going on.

*These “facts” haven’t been proved, but they haven’t been disproved, either.

**There’s a pretty good chance that Gabrielle is going to pass through Greenville this weekend. Seriously.