Friday, September 30, 2005

Weekend Football Preview: October 1 - 2, 2005

Here it is! My first Weekend Football Preview. Enjoy it.

Starting with NCAA, the Maryland Terps take on the No. 19 Virginia Cavaliers/Musketeers/Wahoos/a-holes/whatever you want to call them at Byrd Stadium at noon. This has become a pretty intense rivalry since Ralph Friedgen took over at Maryland, mainly because the Terps don’t lose every game against UVA like they used to. It’s also Maryland’s homecoming game.

The Terps are 2-2 (1-1 ACC), and the Hoos are (3-0. 1-0), with all their games coming against joke teams. (Don’t believe me? Their ACC win is against Duke, and their non-conference wins are Western Michigan and Syracuse. That’s a suckfest.)

The Terps have lost a couple of tough games against Clemson and West Virginia, with the defense taking most of the blame. The offense has been solid behind quarterback Sam Hollenbach, thanks in large part to Vernon “Duke” Davis being the most unstoppable force in the history of athletic competition.

Maryland’s running game hasn’t really been sorted out, but it’s becoming clear that Mario Merrills, who was slated as the team’s starter going into the season, has lost the job and is not the answer. Keon Lattimore rushed for 76 yards and a score against Wake Forest last week, so he seems to be the favorite, but Lance Ball should get some carries, also. The Terps NEED to establish a rushing game this week. They haven’t done that yet this season, and that has been the recipe for success during the Fridge era. Bruce Perry, Chris Downs, and Josh Allen were all good backs, but no one has emerged as the star on this year’s team.

The Terps D toughened up last weekend, holding a potent Wake Forest rushing attack in check and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery to aid in the 10-point victory.

On the Virginia side, they have a mobile quarterback in Marques Hagans, which is a complete change of pace from what they saw in Wake’s Benjamin Mauk last Saturday. This means the Terps will have a tougher time getting pressure on the QB, which could in turn mean that the weak secondary will be exposed. We keep hearing about Maryland’s defensive speed, and they’re going to need to use every bit of it to keep the reins on Hagans.

On the ground, the Hoos will probably start senior Wali Lundy, who’s battling a foot injury but always seems to torch the Terps. Maryland couldn’t stop the run at all in the first three games, but had some success against Wake. They’ll need that to continue.

(Homer) Prediction: Terps 27, Cavaliers 17.

Maryland has home field advantage, Virginia hasn’t been tested, and I’ll give the Terps the benefit of a few more points because it’s homecoming.

On to the NFL, where the Redskins (2-0) play host to the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The Redskins are riding real high after a win over Dallas two weeks ago, but everyone keeps saying not to get too amped over Mark Brunell’s two passes. The ‘Hawks are riding a pair of victories after an season-opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they have to come to FedEx Field, where you KNOW the fans are going to be completely bonkers to congratulate their team on a rare win in Dallas.

The Seahawks combine solid defense with solid offense (ranked second and eighth, respectively), whereas the ‘Skins have only been bringing it on the defensive side of the ball so far. In the loss to Jacksonville, though, the Seahawks let Jimmy Smith run loose for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Redskins don’t have Jimmy Smith or Byron Leftwich, but they do have Santana Moss, and you can bet he’s looking to continue what he started in the fourth quarter against Dallas.

Clinton Portis hasn’t scored yet this season, and I’m not sure Seattle’s rushing defense is going to allow that to happen this week, either.

Seattle has some serious offensive weapons on their side, with Matt Hasselbeck under center and Shaun Alexander running the ball, but the Redskins are as strong as anyone on defense.

I may look bad for doing this, and it’s not really like me at all, but I think Brunell’s got a good season left in him (and I’m not even a big ‘Skins fan), and I think he may lead the ‘Skins to the playoffs. The Redskins are favored by 1.5 points, which I’m not quite sure about.

If Brunell can come out early and prove that two amazing passes in Dallas weren’t a fluke, it will really keep the Seattle defense from teeing off on Portis, which should mean nothing but good things for the Redskins. So unlike last week, I think we’ll know after the first quarter how this game is going to go.

I don’t think this is the Redskins’ week, though. A snap back to reality may be in order, and it will be a crushing one coming off such a big win.

Prediction: Seahawks 21, Redskins 20.

Seattle is far better on both sides of the ball than the Cowboys, and despite improvement from the Washington offense, I think Seattle’s got this one.

To the north, it’s the Ravens (0-2) at home to take on the New York Jets (1-2) at 4:05 p.m.
This is not a pair of teams headed in the right direction. Both teams are without their starting quarterbacks (which, in Baltimore’s case, may be a good thing), so don’t look for an high-scoring game.

The Jets lost Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler for the year in last week’s loss to Jacksonville. Now they turn to rookie Brooks Bollinger, and look for the Ravens defense to foam at the mouth when they see him under center.

The Ravens are favored by seven points, and I’m not sure they make the spread, but I think they do take the win if only because of what should be a complete inability on the Jets’ part to move the ball.

On defense, the Jets have had trouble stopping tight ends, and Todd Heap should be able to take complete advantage of that. The Ravens play-calling has been disastrous, though, and I don’t even trust them to jump on such an obvious flaw by calling Heap’s number. At the very least, I think he’s good for a touchdown, but they should be looking to him all day long.

Jamal Lewis has been silent for the Ravens this season, but maybe the week off did him some good. The Ravens will hope that is the case, at least.

Both defenses have been mediocre to this point, but for the Ravens a lot of that has to do with constantly being on the field. Also, neither defense will need to bring their A-game to shut down these hapless offenses.

This one could be ugly. REAL ugly. But I think the Ravens will get touchdowns from Heap and Lewis, which should be enough to win if they don’t give up points on offense.

Prediction: Ravens 14, Jets 10.

That would have the Ravens winning without covering the spread. I just don’t trust their offense to drop more than 14 on anyone ... ever.


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