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Saturday Game Slate

In a Saturday full of uninspired matchups, I’ll try and give you reason to watch

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Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Brigham Young v Utah Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

So, fellow Hokies, we’re gonna be on the big stage on Saturday night. National audience. Biggest live crowd for a college football game ever. We’re banking $4.3 million dollars for this shindig, which will of course be spent on reducing student tuition costs!...or not.

But of course this is the big Saturday Night ESPN College Gameday show, which means that we’ve got to fill up the whole day until then with something. Why not more football?! It’s finally here! We get Thursday Night with the Panthers v. Broncos matchup, and Sunday we’ve got-

Oh, wait, you mean college? Um. Right. Well…see…about that…

This weekend’s kind of a tire fire outside of Virginia Tech v. Tennessee. There’s not a single pair of ranked teams going at it this week. Heck, almost every ranked team is playing some FCS school or a lowly thought-of Group of 5 team. It’s kind of a snoozefest to be honest. But, as I’m a football fan and a writer, I’ll have to find something to do until then, lest I actually be forced out of boredom to do housework to occupy my time. Let’s see if I can spin a few games your way to build you a schedule for your viewing pleasure.

Lunch course(s):

12:00PM Eastern: NC State (1-0) at East Carolina (1-0) (ESPNU)

Why it’s important: ECU and NC State are in the same position- both beat the pants off FCS teams, with ECU rolling Western Carolina 52-7, and NC State flattening William and Mary 48-14. We face ECU this year, and they’ve got a new coach and quarterback, and, well close to everything. It’d be an interesting game if you’re looking for a scouting report on what we can expect from Scottie Montgomery and his team. Last year Montgomery was actually Duke’s OC/QB Coach/Assistant Head Coach, so this is obviously his first job as “The Big Guy”. The offense looks like a typical spread look in college, and they do run a little pistol or other looks that are relatively similar.

Player to Watch: Philip Nelson, QB, ECU. Instead of the nightmare that was James Summers, the starting quarterback for ECU is Philip Nelson, a Senior from DeForest, Wisconsin who has been in college since 2012, where he played two years for Minnesota. He had formerly transferred to Rutgers, where he was dismissed after facing an assault charge for kicking a man in the head. He eventually walked on to ECU after pleading guilty for a fifth degree misdemeanor. Basically it was a half-drunken brawl in a bar that turned very violent very quickly, with significant consequences for the Minnesota State-Mankato player that threw the first punch.

At the first game, the former high school three-star QB tossed 5 touchdowns and ran for another, only having four incomplete passes on their way to a romp over the WCU Catamounts.

12:00PM Eastern: Penn State (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0) (ESPN)

Why it’s Important: Pittsburgh is coming off of a solid if unspectacular win over Villanova, an FCS conference mate of JMU and W&M (CAA represent!). Penn State played a home game against Kent State, a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2012. Pittsburgh is a conference opponent that has given VT MAJOR problems the past couple years since being added to the ACC, and they haven’t played in Lane Stadium since our last win against them in 2013. In fact, since we started playing them in 2012, the Hokies have only walked away with a victory once- an ugly 19-9 rock fight at that.

Player to Watch: It’s James Conner, RB, Pitt. He didn’t fare well in his first game back from a little thing called, oh, CANCER. 3.1 yards per carry is pathetic unless you’re factoring in a year of rust and the fact that the Pitt line didn’t seem to be able to make room for much of anyone. Qadree Ollison from last year is back and got 4.3ypc on seven carries. Nathan Peterman was 19-32 for 175 yards and 2 TDs, but their defense was typically stout- complete shutout for them as the only ‘Nova TD was on a fumble recovery TD. We’ll see how Pitt does against greater competition, but as usually it’s not their offense that’s a massive problem- though they play us in the middle of the year and their team will likely look different by then, and Conner will have had more time to round into football shape again.

Midday Snack:

3:30PM Eastern: Old Dominion (1-0) at Appalachian State (0-1) (ESPN3)

Why it’s Important: ODU and Appy State are two of the new kids on the block in terms of FBS football, with the Mountaineers moving into the major leagues last year in the Sun Belt, and walking away with an 11-2 record and a bowl win, thank you very much. ODU was 5-7 last year, and you best believe I hope that they stay that way for a good long while. Nothing against ODU, but the potential of a college becoming competitive IN the 757 would be a talent drain on VT’s recruiting resources. That won’t happen for a while and probably not until they can get a new coach or improve their own talent pipeline, but the threat is now there.

Player to Watch: Marcus Cox, RB, ASU. Maybe not him in specific, but I’m sure Fuente’s watching for what the Mountaineers did to free him up to make plays. Cox went for 24-115-0 in rushing, with an additional 4-34-1 in receiving. That’s more than our running backs managed last week against Liberty. And while their passing attack was…pedestrian (15-23 for 108-1-1), they still managed to get Cox some room to work with some larger plays. Take away his long of 20 rushing and his long of 33 receiving, you’re down to 23-95 and 3-1-0. Granted this could all be part of the fact that Tennessee was overlooking a Sun Belt opponent for us, but you take what you can get in terms of intel. I just want to watch Cox as a ‘Is he really good/is this offense doing something right that we could emulate’ kind of experiment.


7:30PM: Brigham Young University (1-0) at University of Utah (1-0) (Fox)

Why it’s Important: Anyone that knows me knows I like wonky football matchups and classic rivalries, and that’s this game in a nutshell. This is the Holy War, man! They just played in the Las Vegas Bowl in one of the completely nuttiest matchups in the bowl season. Since 2010 Utah has had the upper hand in the rivalry, as Kyle Whittingham built on the brief but glimmering success of Urban Meyer. He’s won a pile of bowl games, and is one of the most underrated solid coaches in FBS football. His counterpart, however, is new head coach Kalani Sitake, formerly the assistant Head Coach and defensive coordinator at Oregon State. He used to be a fullback at BYU and took over the reins of the program from Bronco Mendenhall (more on that later). After they couldn’t pry Coach Ken Niumatalolo from Navy (an odd football cultural fit would’ve been in store, as Niumatalolo runs the Military Academy Brand Triple Option), Sitake was partially tabbed due to the necessity of the head coach of the BYU program to be an LDS member. BYU is coming off a last-seconds win over Arizona, while Utah handled FCS foe Southern Utah.

Player to Watch: Taysom Hill, QB, BYU. Remember, Hill was out last year after his foot was broken in a Lisfranc injury. Which kind of stunk, because he was on just about every watch list imaginable. Hill’s probably one of the most important players that the state of Idaho has produced (because GC is where you go to get your Idaho Recruiting News!) in recent years- outside of his competition and last year’s BYU starting quarterback, Tanner Mangum. He’s got talent as an overall player- his best year was his 2013 sophomore year, in which he threw for almost 3,000 yards and rushed for over 1,300 yards, accounting for 29 total TDs. Obviously growth was hoped for in his 2015 year after 2014 ended in injury for him, but he needed a medical redshirt. This is Hill’s year, hopefully. We’ll see where BYU’s season goes, but it’s going to go where he takes them.


10:30PM Eastern: Virginia (0-1) at #24 Oregon (1-0)

Why it’s Important: If the game’s still going on, then we won’t be tuning into this game until after a quarter or so, but it’s important because if we’re getting our butts whooped, maybe some joy could be derived from watching our rival school getting waxed in Eugene. If we’re close or winning/won, well, it might be interesting to watch what new UVA Coach Bronco Mendenhall is doing with the Cavaliers, anyhow. I mean, we’ll see over the course of the season what goes on with UVA as it grows into what is obviously a large rebuilding job. Oregon should be interesting, I guess, though I’m surprised they’re all the way up at #24 after beating UC Davis (one of the half billion teams with the Aggies as their mascot. Theirs is a horse, for the record). Oh wait, it’s because they started there and somehow all the shuffling didn’t manage to displace them. Carry on then.

Player to Watch: Dakota Prukop, QB, Oregon. The second wunderkind QB transfer to Oregon in a row after Vernon Adams last year, Prukop was formerly the QB for the Montana State Bobcats…which is a conference mate to UC Davis. In fact the last time Prukop played against the Aggies as a Bobcat in 2014, he threw for 17-22-381-4-0, and rushed for 14-148-2. Yeah, been there done that. He was 21-30-271-3 passing and 11-31-1 rushing. Ho-Hum. Now he can…test himself against an FBS defense that was run roughshod over by Richmond? Erm…we’ll see. Virginia can’t be THAT bad again, can they?

Well, hopefully that’ll whet your appetite for a Saturday slate of games that, barring our game, is rather…blah. We gorged last weekend, now we’ve got to learn to take our time and digest a whole lot of cupcakes on the slate. Hopefully next week we’ll be 2-0 and have better games to watch.