NCAAF Week 1: Double Unit Play of the Week
*Virginia Tech (-3) at Boston College
Since 1995, Bud Foster has resided over the Virginia Tech defense; making him the NCAA’s longest tenured coordinator. By stats alone, Foster turned out his worst D yet in 2018. But it’s always important to understand the circumstances, and you can’t judge a coach’s performance without evaluating the hand he was dealt.
From 2017, Virginia Tech lost TEN defensive starters. Two of whom were 1st round picks, and many of whom didn’t leave the program until mere months before kick-off. Predictably, Tech slid from 9th to 77th in defensive S&P+ in 2018. The new year, however, comes with reason for optimism. Those freshmen and sophomores have a year of seasoning under their belt, and thanks to 2018’s trial-by-fire approach, the Hokies boast the #1 most experienced Defense in College football: everyone returns. With that level of experience to draw from, it’s reasonable to expect Foster to steer his defense back into the top 30; a feat he’s accomplished in 19 of his 24 seasons at the helm.
Boston College, by contrast, are starting over at many different position groups. The entire starting secondary needs to be replaced. Their two most disruptive ends, Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen (combined 15.5 sacks), also depart. The offense returns key playmakers, but face a rebuild up front. In a spread offense, or air raid, you take that experience at the skill positions each time. But for a team that predicates its attack around its physical ground game, experience in the trenches can be paramount.
Check the returning production splits, courtesy of ESPN’s Bill Connelly:
- Overall returning production ranks: Va Tech (11th) BC (110th)
In no week of the season is the difference in experience more apparent than on opening day. New faces will be getting their first glimpse of game time; and BC’s 4 new starting OL will need time to gel. With that massive edge in experience, both defensively and in the trenches, look for Va Tech and coach Justin Fuente to assert their will early and often.
The pick: Va Tech (-3)
The score: Va Tech 24-16
NCAAF Week 1: Bonus Plays
*Utah (-5) at BYU
The Utes are quickly becoming a trendy selection to earn their 1st PAC-12 Championship in 2019. Although the whispers of a dark horse playoff run might be blown out of proportion, their pedigree (reigning PAC-12 South champs), and returning experience (21st overall Ret Prod), set them up nicely for their ‘Holy War’ with BYU.
This is a rivalry that Utah have owned; winning each of the past eight. The year 2019 should be no different; with QB Tyler Huntley, 2nd team all PAC-12 RB Zach Moss, and a deep cast of pass catchers back in the fold to build on last season’s performance. BYU took a step forward last season behind QB Zach Wilson, but lack the disruptive playmakers on defense to corral Utah’s firepower.
The pick: Utah (-5)
The score: Utah 40-24
*Bonus pick: Utah at BYU (OVER 48.5)
The aforementioned Wilson finished last season with some of bowl season’s best QB play, completing 18-18 passes for 347 yards, 4 TD’s and 0 INT’s. He, and an experienced group of WR’s & TE’s, should at least be expected to return fire in this match on multiple occasions. Traditionally, the Holy War can be a low scoring slugfest affair. But this year, with continuity abound offensively, we could see an uncharacteristically wide-open affair. These historical score lines in this rivalry are probably keeping the O/U a few points lower than where the personnel suggest it should be. That’s added value in our pocket!
2 Team Par Lay of the Week: Wake Forest + UVA
Utah State bring back star QB Jordan Love, but they lose just about everything else:
- HC Matt Wells (since moved to Texas Tech);
- Kansas City Chiefs RB Darwin Thompson;
- Love’s top 4 pass-catching targets from 2018 (5, if you include Thompson);
- Four 2018 starting offensive lineman.
For teams recruiting at a G5 level, in a talent-sparse state, this degree of attrition can be especially hard to reload from. That, combined with playing an underrated P5 opponent in their own house, should allow for the Deamon Deacs to get off on the right foot in this one.
The score: Wake Forest 30-23
This is a classic revenge game for the Hoos, after having their chances at winning the Coastal dashed by Pitt last year. You have to wonder how sustainable Pitt’s winning formula was, as returning QB Kenny Picket completed 7-14 passes for just 61 yards.
Instead, the Panthers were one dimensional; relying heavily on their run game. But RB’s Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison have both departed for the NFL, as do 4 of last season 5 starting offensive lineman. With that lack of continuity in such key areas, it’s hard to expect a repeat performance against a UVA team many are picking to make noise this season in the ACC Coastal.
The score: Virginia 27-17
*Please note that the lines in this article are subject to movement.