Monday, November 9, 1998
The Big East Race is Now Wide Open
Saturday night, WVU knocked off Syracuse 35-28 in Morgantown, which accomplished three things:
"Season in jeopardy"? Doesn't that sound a little dramatic? Not really. Look at the numbers: Syracuse is 6-3 and barely hanging on in the polls (tied for #25 in the coaches' poll, and unranked in the AP poll), and with dates remaining against Virginia Tech and Miami, sandwiched around a Temple road game, the Orangemen could very well wind up 7-5 and out of the bowl picture.
And forget about Donovan McNabb's Heisman Trophy candidacy. Ricky Williams of Texas is clearing a spot on his mantle for that.
The Big East is now a three-horse race between Tech, Syracuse, and Miami, all three of which have one loss in the Big East, and out of those three teams, you've got to like Tech's chances the best, followed by Miami. The Hokies only have one really tough conference game left (at Syracuse), and if the Hokies win out, they'll win the conference.
The Canes also only have one tough conference game left (at Syracuse), but if they win out, they'll have to hope that Syracuse beats Tech in order for Miami to win the conference. Meanwhile, to win the conference, Syracuse has to win both of their two remaining tough games, against Tech and Miami.
The good news for the Orangemen is that the two games are at home. The other good news, is that, like Tech, they control their own destiny. Out of the three teams, only Miami doesn't truly control their own destiny vis-a-vis the Big East championship.
There are all sorts of combinations and permutations that we could get into here, including one in which Tech wins the Big East but doesn't go to the Bowl Championship Series, but I don't want to start that yet. Let's wait until the we get the results in from Tech's game against the Carrier Dome before we start playing out all the what-if scenarios.
While watching the WVU-Syracuse game, I came up with some interesting observations about the Orangemen, which I'll share with you in my game preview later this week.
Never Mind Temple ... What About Rutgers?
Well, at least Temple saved us the embarrassment of having them go 1-10 with their single win being over us. The Owls hung a 33-32 road win on the Pittsburgh Panthers, who got up 20-0 and then pulled a disappearing act, just like us. I don't even want to know what the Pitt message board looks like, but you can go take a look, if you want to.
Perhaps even more amazing than Temple's second road victory (behind a different freshman quarterback than the one who beat us ... AAARRGH!) is the way that fellow Big East doormat Rutgers continues to steamroll their out-of-conference schedule.
Granted, the OOC victories aren't over heavy hitters, but the Scarlet Knights have gone 3-1 out of conference, beating Richmond, Army, and Navy, while falling to undefeated Tulane. Add victories over Pitt and Temple, and Rutgers, one year after going winless, for crying out loud, is (gulp) 5-4.
I saw the Scarlet Knights up close in the 1997 season opener against Tech, and I thought they were atrocious. I was right, but apparently, they've come together and are playing as well as they possibly can, and they've got the record to prove it. Sure, they're not world-beaters, but I don't hear anyone laughing anymore.
Looking Down the Road
I have watched highly-ranked UCLA struggle against two mediocre teams in the last two weeks (heck, let's be honest, it was one bad team - Stanford - and one mediocre team, Oregon State), and I've got a prediction that I want you to mark down: Miami will light up UCLA like a Christmas tree in their December 5th season-ending game in the Orange Bowl. I'm not going to predict a Hurricane win, but trust me, they'll put up some points on the Bruins.
It's no wonder that UCLA was reluctant to reschedule the game, which was originally postponed by that hurricane with the fruity French name. If Stanford and Oregon State can get deep on UCLA, I've got to figure that the Bruins are looking at Miami wideouts Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne, and running backs Edgerrin James and James Jackson, and saying, emphatically:
"Unh-unh. Nooooo way."
Too bad. If the Bruins survive the rest of their PAC-10 schedule, they'll bring an undefeated team into the Orange Bowl in early December, and UCLA better plan on scoring lots of points ... because Miami sure will.
It's Hoops Time
I was busy this weekend getting HokieCentral ready for the upcoming basketball season, and if you're observant or a message board cruiser, then you've already heard or noticed that I've posted Men's Hoops and Women's Hoops pages here at HokieCentral (that's right - by popular demand, I'm going to cover women's hoops for the first time this year. Everybody loves a winner!).
In the meantime, the Hokies appear to be doing well on the recruiting trail, getting early commitments from some talented players. The men's team recently landed 6-8 John Smith from Dunbar, West Virginia, and followed that up with commitments from two high scorers, 6-3 Tony Dobbins from Mitchellville, Maryland, and 6-6 Brian Felts, from Knoxville, Tennessee.
Here are the Roanoke Times articles on Smith, Dobbins, and Felts:
Those three recruits join 5-10 Brian Chase of Dunbar High to form a four-man recruiting class for the Hokie men. In their October issue, The A-10 Hoop Report called Smith a Top 200 (nationally) recruit and Chase a Top 250 recruit. The Hoop Report didn't have any comments on Dobbins and Felts, because they had not yet committed to the Hokies when the issue was produced.
Not bad. The problem is, the Atlantic 10 just seems to get tougher and tougher every year. For more on the Tech men's team and the Atlantic 10, check out The Roanoke Times's Tech basketball page for articles.
The Women's Side of the Ledger
As for the women, after finishing last year by winning 15 of their last 19, including the A-10 tournament and a first round NCAA game, they're ranked in some preseason polls and are now "the hunted." They say they're ready for it, and there is more excitement surrounding the Hokie program than in many years.
Most of the excitement comes not just from the returning talent, but from the returning coach. When the Hokie players, fans, and administrators talk about Coach Bonnie Henrickson, one word keeps popping up, and that word is "professional."
Many of you younger, student-types haven't experienced it yet, but trust me, the first time someone calls you "professional," you'll come to realize that it's one of the highest compliments that a person can bestow upon you.
Such is the way with Bonnie Henrickson. Everyone who meets her, works with her, watches her, or plays for her is impressed by her, me included. I find myself admiring her, well, ... professionalism, and her coaching talent, and as I look forward to the season, I keep thinking, in the back of my mind, "Hmmm....I wonder how long we can keep her? How long will it be before a big-money program in a more glamorous conference like the SEC, ACC, or Big 10 comes along and snaps her up?"
That's a question for the future. For this year, the Hokies still have her, and we're much better for it.
Here are two articles on the women's basketball team from The Roanoke Times (yes, Randy King has been very busy lately), one about Henrickson, and one about recruiting: