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The Virginia Cavaliers suffered through a dismal 2010 campaign under new coach Mike London and look for continued growth in 2011. Virginia returns 15 starters to a team that went 1-7 in ACC play but must replace the departed Marc Verica who finished his career with over 4,900 yards passing.
The likely situation at quarterback is some kind of time share between Ross Metheny and Mike Rocco. Whomever ends up under center will be charged with getting the ball into wide receiver Kris Burd's hands as much as possible. Burd finished fifth in the ACC last season with 58 receptions and will be the undisputed No. 1 option for the Cavaliers offense this season. Junior running back Perry Jones returns after rushing for over 600 yards last season and looks to get help from redshirt freshman Kevin Parks.
The Cavaliers were a disaster on defense in 2010 as they made the switch to a 4-3 alignment. Virginia struggled mightily against the run, allowing over 203.7 yards per game last season. The Virginia secondary features the talented Chase Minnifield and loads of experience but it doesn't figure to matter much if the run defense doesn't improve substantially.
Randy Edsall steps in as coach of the Terrapins replacing Ralph Friedgen after Maryland finished 9-4 which was its best season in five years. Edsall led Connecticut from FCS Football to prominence and a Big East Championship during his time there. Maryland presents a completely different challenge and Edsall's old school approach to Football might just be able to get the job done.
A Closer Look At The Terrapins
Coach: Randy Edsall
Last Season: 9-4, 5-3 ACC Atlantic
Returning Starters: 14 (seven offensive, seven defensive)
Key Players: QB Danny O'Brien, LB Kenny Tate, LB Demetrius Hartsfield
Edsall and his staff inherit last season's ACC Rookie of the Year in quarterback Danny O'Brien who threw for over 2400 yards and 22 touchdowns as a true freshman. The wide receiver position is an area of concern as both top receivers are gone from last year's squad. The running back job falls to senior Davin Meggett who rushed for over 700 yards last season in a part time role.
The coaching staff also inherits an experienced defensive unit particularly in their front seven. Defensive tackles A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano give the Terps a strong anchor up front for a fast linebacking corps. Former safety Kenny Tate is making the move to linebacker this season but the rest of the secondary is underrated.
N.C. State finished the 2010 season on a high note defeating No. 22 ranked West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Wolfpack ended 2010 ranked No. 25 in both polls and enter the 2011 season with confidence but also concern knowing that they have to replace their offensive leader from last season due to quarterback Russell Wilson's departure from the program. Wilson was big in last season's 45-28 victory over the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta throwing for a career high 368 yards and three touchdowns. A quick glance at the 2011 schedule shows that those same Yellow Jackets may be all that is standing between N.C. State and a 6-0 start to the season.
The biggest question mark for N.C. State this season will be whether or not junior quarterback Mike Glennon can adequately replace Wilson under center. Glennon was a big time recruit coming out of high school but has played sparingly in his two seasons with the Wolfpack. Glennon is expected to lean hard on TE George Bryan in the passing game.
Defensively, N.C. State hopes to once again crank up the pressure, play fast, and hope for improvement from within in the secondary. The defensive line is anchored by DT J.R. Sweezy who was an honorable mention All-ACC last season after finishing the year with 46 tackles and six sacks. The linebackers are solid and the one real question lies in the secondary. The secondary is experienced this season and coach O'Brien will be looking for much improvement from this group.
The 2010 season held a lot of promise for North Carolina before it was derailed by NCAA suspensions. The 2011 season had its own ominous start as head coach Butch Davis was let go just prior to the start of summer camp. With an NCAA investigation still swirling in Chapel Hill, interim head coach Everett Withers is charged with leading the team out of the chaos.
A Closer Look At The Tar Heels
Coach: Everett Winters 1st Season As Tar Heels Coach
Last Season: 8-5, 4-4 ACC Coastal
Returning Starters: 12 (six offensive, six defensive)
Key Players: WR Dwight Jones, DE Quinton Coples, DE Donte Paige-Moss
The first job facing Withers is replacing last year's starting quarterback T.J. Yates who had a career year as a senior. Sophomore Bryn Renner will get the first chance after playing sparingly in 2010. The running game also will be overhauled but it may not be as big of a drop off as it first appears thanks to the return of senior Ryan Houston who sat out all of last season as one of the NCAA suspensions. Dwight Jones is a solid No. 1 wide out but how Renner settles in as the leader of the offense will ultimately determine the success of this unit.
Last season's suspensions hit the Carolina defense the hardest and the group never quite performed up to expectations. This season's squad will be led by defensive ends Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss. The linebacking core lost two big time players in Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter but return Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown who each topped 70 tackles last season. The secondary will receive a boost from Charles Brown who returns from suspension for his senior season.
If you take a quick look at the 2010 Kansas Jayhawks, their 3-9 record jumps off the page at you. However, for Georgia Tech the numbers 28-25 hold special meaning as it was these same Jayhawks that upset the Yellow Jackets by that same score in Lawrence. Tech entered that game 1-0 and ranked No. 15 in the country only to be shocked by Kansas. There should be no shortage of motivation as you can rest assured that coach Paul Johnson and his staff won't let this year's football team forget last season's loss.
A Closer Look At The Jayhawks
Coach: Turner Gill 3-9 in 2nd season at KU, 23-39 overall
Last Season: 3-9, 1-7 Big 12 North
Returning Starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)
Key Players: QB Jordan Webb, RB James Sims, LB Steven Johnson
All eyes will be on sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb as he was recently named as the team's starter after a battle in fall camp for the job. Webb through for 1195 and seven touchdowns last season as a freshman and figures to be the best option for the Jayhawks at this point. Webb's case as starter could be helped if he can get a solid contribution from running back James Sims and the Kansas running game. Sims ran for over 700 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman last season.
The good news is that the Kansas defense can't get much worse than it was in 2010. The Jayhawks surrendered 206.4 yards a game on the ground and gave up 291 in the win over Georgia Tech. That has to improve this season if they are going to have any chance of success in the Big 12.
After what should be a couple of warm up wins for the Yellow Jackets, Tech will be looking for revenge when Kansas comes to Atlanta. Sims and company may provide a little bit of a challenge for the Tech defense, but the Yellow Jackets' offense should be able to control the line of scrimmage and roll up big numbers on the ground once again.
After tuning up against Western Carolina, Georgia Tech will hit the road to take on Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders were a trendy pick in 2010 to take the Sun Belt Conference crown but those hopes came crashing down the moment that quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended for his involvement with a booster. Dasher has since exhausted his eligibility and the Blue Raiders are left as a team in transition.
A Closer Look At The Blue Raiders
Coach: Rick Stockstill 33-30 in six seasons at MTSU
Last Season: 6-7, 5-3 Sun Belt, Lost GoDaddy.com Bowl To Miami (Ohio)
Returning Starters: 10 (Seven offensive, three defensive)
Key Players: QB Logan Kilgore, T Mike Williams, LB Darwin Davis
Middle Tennessee State will be one of the less experienced teams in the Sun Belt this season with only 10 starters returning combined on both sides of the ball. There will be depth concerns particularly on defense. Offensively quarterback Logan Kilgore stepped in for Dasher while he was suspended and takes over the offense full time this season. The receiving corps is experienced but wasn't used a lot last season due to the heavy run offense initiated by coach Stockstill. The offensive line has some experience as well and figures to be a positive going into the season.
Defensively Middle Tennessee State will be a work in progress as they try and recover from the loss of Jamari Lattimore and Dwight Smith up front. Lattimore was the Sun Belt's Defensive Player of the Year last season. There is some returning experience at linebacker led by Darin Davis but the secondary is thin as well and how well this unit can get off the field will say a lot as to whether or not they can extend their bowl streak to three seasons.
Georgia Tech won't dismiss this game simply because it is on the road. However, due to the lack of depth up front, Tech's high powered run offense should provide more than MTSU can handle. The Blue Raiders' inexperienced secondary could even provide the opportunity to take a few shots down the field early while going for an early knockout. The important thing for the Yellow Jackets in this game will be to get going early and not let the Blue Raiders hang around which could make an upset much more likely. Tech should get out of this game unscathed and set up a 2-0 start with Kansas visiting Atlanta the next week.
Western Carolina doesn't figure to be a stout test for the Yellow Jackets football team as it kicks off its 2011 season. However, the game will provide coach Paul Johnson the opportunity to see many of his team's new moving parts in action for the first time in a game situation. By opening the season on Thursday, it will give the Yellow Jackets extra time to prepare for their road trip to Middle Tennessee State on September 9.
A Closer Look At The Catamounts
Coach: Dennis Wagner 7-27 in four seasons at Western Carolina; 51-64-1 Overall
Last Season: 2-9, 1-7 SOCON
Returning Starters: 13 (nine offensive, 4 defensive)
Key Players: WR Deja Alexander, DB Randy Pressley, QB Zac Brindise
Western Carolina finished dead last in the Southern Conference during the 2010 season and ranked near the bottom in most offensive and defensive statistical categories. With many of the Catamounts young and inexperienced, they figure to have another tough season in 2011 and were picked to finish last once again by the SoCon coaches. If there is a glimmer of hope it comes in the form of sophomore wideout Deja Alexander who was named to the SoCon's All Freshman team last season. While the rest of the Catamounts are likely to be out manned by the Yellow Jackets, Tech's secondary could get a test from Alexander.
One of the best ways to take a look at the strength of a schedule is to see who opponents play the week before. In addition, one of the knocks (true or not) of Paul Johnson's offense is that it struggles when the other team has more time to prepare. So not surprisingly, Georgia Tech fans are always interested to see what opponents are up to the week before playing the triple option.
Good news Tech fans. Only four teams have extra time to prepare for the Jackets, and that includes Western Carolina (season opener), NC State (two extra days), Virginia, and Virginia Tech (same bye week as Georgia Tech).
Date Opponent Opp.’s Previous Week September 1 (Thursday) Western Carolina Opener September 10 at Middle Tennessee State at Purdue September 17 Kansas Northern Illinois September 24 North Carolina Virginia October 1 at NC State at Cincinnati (Thursday) October 8 Maryland Towson October 15 at Virginia BYE October 22 at Miami at North Carolina October 29 Clemson North Carolina November 5 BYE -- November 10 (Thursday) Virginia Tech BYE November 19 at Duke at Virginia November 26 Georgia Kentucky
Opp.’s Previous Week
September 1 (Thursday)
at Middle Tennessee State
at NC State
at Cincinnati (Thursday)
at North Carolina
November 10 (Thursday)
Georgia Tech's 2011 football schedule is out, and it is significantly more favorable than last year's. The Jackets have seven homes games, including getting to play Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia at home. Tech's toughest road games are at Miami and NC State, and will visit Duke and Virginia as well.
The Jackets open the season with three straight out-of-conference games. The season opener is on Thursday night against Paul Johnson's alma mater, Western Carolina. The Thursday night matchup gives Tech an extra two days of in-season practice which will be beneficial. The second game at Middle Tennessee State sets up to be a good opportunity for a young team to get road experience in a winnable game before the Jackets return home for a chance at revenge against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Tech's toughest stretch is the entire month of October. The Jackets head to NC State, return home to face a surprising Maryland team, and then have two straight road games at Virginia and at Miami. They close out the month at home against rival Clemson.
The game of the year is a Thursday night matchup against Virginia Tech in November. Both teams have bye weeks before the game, and if 2011 is anything like the previous six years, this game will decide the Coastal Division Champions. Remember the last time the Hokies and Jackets battled in a night game at Bobby Dodd?
The full schedules for every ACC team can be found here.
2011 Georgia Tech Football Schedule
September 1 (Thursday), vs. Western Carolina
2010 record: 2-9, 1-7 in the Southern Conference
September 10, at Middle Tennessee State
2010 record: 6-7, 5-3 in the Sun Belt
Last year: Jackets won 42-14 at home
September 17, vs. Kansas
2010 record: 3-9, 1-7 in the Big 12
Last year: Kansas won 28-25 in Lawrence
September 24, vs. North Carolina
2010 record: 8-5, 4-4 ACC
Last year: Tech won 30-24 at UNC
October 1, at NC State
2010 record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC
Last year: NC State won 45-28 at Bobby Dodd
October 8, vs. Maryland
2010 record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC
October 15, at Virgina
2010 record: 4-8, 1-7 ACC
Last year: Jackets won 33-21 at home
October 22, at Miami
2010 record: 7-6, 5-3 ACC
Last year: Hurricanes won 35-10 at Bobby Dodd
October 29, vs. Clemson
2010 record: 6-7, 4-4 ACC
Last year: Tech lost 27-13 at Clemson
November 5, OPEN
November 10 (Thursday), vs. Virginia Tech
2010 record: 11-3, 8-0 ACC
Last year: Virginia Tech won 28-21 at home on Thursday night
November 19, at Duke
2010 record: 3-9, 1-7 ACC
Last year: Tech won 30-20 at home
November 26, vs. Georgia
2010 record: 6-7, 3-5 in the SEC
Last year: Georgia won 42-34 in Athens
With one more home game than last year, and most of the major games coming in Atlanta, the 2011 schedule for Georgia Tech was already looking much nicer than last year's slate. The nonconference portion was revealed by Doug Roberson today, and it continues to look quite favorable.
According to the AJC, Tech will open on September 1, a Thursday night, against Western Carolina. They will then hit the road for week two to play at Middle Tennessee State on September 10, and then host Kansas on September 17. The final nonconference game is of course Georgia which will be on Thanksgiving weekend in Atlanta.
Overall, the beginning is set up perfectly. It gives what will be a young lineup the chance to play three nonconference games before getting into ACC play, gives them the chance to hit the road in a very winnable environment, and sets up where hopefully the team can go into conference play with a 3-0 record.
The Thursday night game against Western Carolina is great. It allows the Jackets to get an extra two days of practice for their second game, and avoids going up head-to-head with Boise State and Georgia in the Dome on Saturday night.
The following weekend, Tech will play at Murfreesboro against Middle Tennessee State. The Jackets beat the Blue Raiders last year 42-14 at Bobby Dodd. Quarterback Dwight Dasher won't be playing, but the team does return two quarterbacks that started three games apiece last year. Jason Kirk thinks that this could be a worrisome trap game for the Jackets, but I look at it as the perfect chance for the young team to get road experience and come out with a win.
Week three features a rematch against the Kansas Jayhawks. Tech lost a surprising 28-25 decision last year in Lawrence, a defeat that killed any lingering momentum from the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl appearance.
The final nonconference game is against Georgia in the normal Thanksgiving weekend matchup. Georgia won last year 42-34 and the Jackets will be looking for revenge at home.
Georgia Tech hasn't finished September with a perfect record since the 1990 National Championship season. Depending on who the first ACC game is against, this might be the year it happens again.
The ACC part of the schedule should be released any day now, and we will update this stream with analysis when it is known.
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