Before the season I suspected that Virginia Tech and Virginia would sweep their respective non-conference games. That hunch looks better than ever today.
Two reasons: First, the Hokies and Cavaliers played pretty darn well in opening routs of Appalachian State and William and Mary. Second, their other non-conference opponents failed to impress.
Let’s start with Virginia, since Mike London’s crew figured to have the more difficult time going 4-0 outside the ACC. The Cavaliers’ remaining non-league tests are against Indiana, Saturday in Bloomington, Southern Mississippi and Idaho.
Indiana dropped its opener to Ball State 27-20. The Hoosiers were three-touchdown faves against the Cardinals, who were 4-8 in 2010.
Southern Miss needed a late 49-yard field goal, set up by a pass interference penalty, to defeat visiting Louisiana Tech 19-17.
Idaho endured a 32-15 home loss to Bowling Green. The Vandals trailed 30-7 at halftime.
Win those three – Southern Miss, with quarterback Austin Davis, figures to be the toughest – and Virginia need finish only 2-6 in the ACC to earn bowl eligibility. That wouldn’t be cause for a parade, but it sure would be progress.
Virginia Tech’s broom-job of App State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall was almost a given the moment the schedule was finalized. Sure enough, all lost their openers.
ECU led South Carolina 14-0 before losing 56-37. The Pirates won’t be patsies at home Saturday against the Hokies, but absent a flurry of turnovers, Tech’s offense should prevail.
Arkansas State, 4-8 last season, fell at Illinois 33-15. Marshall, 5-7 a year ago, lost at West Virginia 34-13 in a game called after three quarters because of lightning.
Sure, playing at home Marshall could give the Hokies heartburn. And yes, Tech could be peeking ahead to its ACC opener the following week against Clemson. But if the Hokies are truly top-15 worthy, they will not stumble.
Virginia Tech last swept its non-conference regular-season games in 2006 (Northeastern, Cincinnati, Southern Miss and Kent State). Virginia last did in 2005 (Syracuse, Western Michigan and Temple).
Other observations from Week 1:
* This season may well be curtains for Boston College’s streak of 12 consecutive bowls.
The Eagles lost 24-17 at home to a Northwestern team that was without quarterback Dan Persa (Achilles tendon). The Wildcats ran for 227 yards, startling against a defense that ranked No. 1 nationally last season against the rush (82.8 yards per game).
Montel Harris, Boston College’s All-ACC tailback, also was sidelined (knee), but that’s a game the Eagles needed to win given their rugged remaining schedule. BC plays at Central Florida on Saturday, faces consecutive October road games at Clemson, Virginia Tech and Maryland, and closes the regular season at Notre Dame and Miami.
Coach Frank Spaziani said Wednesday that Harris’ knee is progressing and that he may play Saturday.
* Maryland and Miami may be better than I thought.
Despite nasty weather and eight Miami suspensions (thank you, Nevin Shapiro), the Terps and Hurricanes staged a quality show for national television Monday night, with Maryland’s 32-24 victory showcasing plenty of speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball.
Both teams are idle until Sept. 17, when we’ll learn much more. Maryland hosts No. 19 West Virginia, and Miami welcomes No. 15 Ohio State.
A late pick-six notwithstanding, Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris played well, completing 18 of his first 22 passes. So I was surprised coach Al Golden was quick to announce that Jacory Harris, who was among the eight suspended Monday, will replace Morris against Ohio State.
Virginia Tech hosts Miami on Oct. 8; Virginia plays back-to-back roadies at Miami (Oct. 27) and Maryland (Nov. 5).
Big-time tests all.