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College Football: Maryland, U-Va., Va. Tech, Navy and the National Scene

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Steve Yanda, Eric Prisbell, Mark Viera, Zach Berman and Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 1, 2009; 1:30 PM

Post college football writers Eric Prisbell, Steve Yanda, Mark Viera, Zach Berman and Camille Powell were online Thursday, Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m. to take your questions about this weekend's football match ups for Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Navy and all the biggest games on the national scene.

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The transcript follows.

Full coverage of the 2009 college football season.

All things Maryland -- including coverage of Saturday night's game at Cal and beat writer Eric Prisbell's Terrapins Insider blog.

The hub of The Post's Virginia Cavaliers coverage with beat writer Zach Berman.

Everything Hokies -- from Post beat writer Mark Viera.

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Eric Prisbell: What's up, everyone? Thanks for coming again. I'll make this brief. We have a full house of writers on hand. Fire away with any and all questions about any college football team in the country! Let's start.

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Gambrills, Md.: Why has no one asked Ralph Friedgen why U-Md. has been unable to recruit a true major college quarterback?

I might add that having had season tickets since 1983, this is it for me. No more Terrapin Club, no football or basketball tickets. The constant changes in start times, parking situation (my reserved space did not exist for the first game), and the constant appeals for money have finally made my wife and I say enough!

Eric Prisbell: It's an issue for Maryland, for sure. Maryland kind of lucked out with Scott McBrien as well as Sam Hollenbach, who was once fourth string. Jordan Steffy was a fairly high-profile recruit everyone was once excited about. It didn't work out. Josh Portis didn't work out. Chris Turner seems serviceable, but not much better. Backup Jamarr Robinson is not ready.

Season tickets since 1983 and no more for you? I'd like to hear from you. Would you mind sending me an email at prisbelle@washpost.com. Thank you for your insight.

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Arlington, Va.: We've heard that Clint Sovie and Ram Vela should be ready to play on Saturday, but what about Jabaree Tuani?

Camille Powell: Tuani started last week against WKU and practiced throughout the week. Defense looked to be at full strength yesterday, with Sovie and Vela at OLB and Wyatt Middleton back at safety. Andy Lark also practiced all week at right guard and should be ready.

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Crowville, Va.: Just wondering how the crow sitting on the plates of Vierra and Prisbell is tasting. A bitter pill I'm sure for the disappointed Penn State and Hurricane fans.

Here's a flash: the Hokies have a good program, it's been good for a while now. Plus, get this, they actually schedule tough games out of conference (USC, Alabama, LSU, Nebraska and upcoming tilts against Boise State and Ohio State).

Sure they haven't won all those games and the bowl performance could have been better, but it's amazing how quickly most media members have jumped on the chance to shove aside and throw under the bus this program's accomplishments over the last 10 years in favor of programs (Da U, PSU, Notre Dame, Michigan) which have as many, if not more blemishes over the same time period, despite have more resources and reputation -- and the recruits that come with it.

But it appears you guys are more happy harping on the schools record against top 5 teams and how they've ruined ACC football since the expansion by not allowing the championship game to be FSU and Miami every year.

I don't expect any of you to have the courage to address this, but that doesn't surprise me. If you're lucky, perhaps the Post will stop covering Va. Tech in favor of opening desks in Happy Valley and Coral Gables.

Steve Yanda: Throw under the bus?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/30/AR2009083002346.html

Who's coverage have you been reading? It certainly hasn't been Viera's. He's covered the Hokies as well as anyone.

I don't think you can sensibly argue that because a person didn't pick the Hokies to win a particular game means that person doesn't respect that program's accomplishments.

Eric Prisbell: Not sure where all this is coming from. Virginia Tech is an elite program, even if it doesn't quite challenge for the national title every season. To be honest, I would write a rather large check if I could cover a few games in Blacksburg this season instead of cover the epic matchups in College Park that have fans running for the hills midway through the fourth quarter at partially empty Byrd Stadium.

Mark Viera: Yeah, I'm sort of lost on that, too. You are right, I definitely did not expect Virginia Tech to beat Miami. Frankly, not many people did. But the Hokies played their first complete game of the year against a ranked team, and for that I give them credit. I also give Athletic Director Jim Weaver ample credit for scheduling top-flight teams; the Hokies have had about as difficult a schedule as anyone in the country through the first four weeks. (Although Weaver might be able to make more money by loading up a home schedule with cupcakes, he has gone out of his way to schedule home-and-home series against programs like Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin in order to improve Virginia Tech in the hopes of winning a national championship.) But sorry my crystal ball wasn't working well last week. I'll talk to the folks in HR to see if I can get a replacement. If it makes you feel any better, I predict Virginia Tech to beat Duke on Saturday.

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Washington, D.C.: So, I know hind-sight is 20-20, but why did every sports writer I read or heard last week mis-call the Va. Tech-Miami game? And many by a lot ... saying the game would not even be close (i.e., Miami would swamp Tech)?

Eric Prisbell: Everybody seemed to get caught up in a Jacory Harris love-fest, talking about old-school Miami and the Heisman and national title races, etc. It was a bit much. I'm glad I stuck with the Hokies through and through!!!

Just kidding. I was in the third row of the Miami bandwagon and the first row of the Cal bandwagon. I'm now off, and have jumped on the TCU bandwagon. I've been on the Boise bandwagon since about 2001.

Mark Viera: Why? The better question is, why not? Miami looked very impressive in its two wins over ranked opponents -- it was too early, in my opinion, to say it "was back" to its national championship form -- but the Hurricanes showed an big-play passing offense. And the team on the other side of the ball, Virginia Tech, well, it didn't look too hot. Yes, the Hokies were 2-1 heading into the game, with a win and a loss against ranked opponents. But anyone who sat through those games against Alabama (loss) and Nebraska (last-minute win) would tell you that the Hokies did not look too impressive. Now, their loss to Alabama has started to look better as the Crimson Tide continue to roll over opponents. But the fact is Virginia Tech was inept offensively and the final was deceptively close. And you could point out that the Cornhuskers' only loss so far is to the Hokies. But Virginia Tech had perhaps its worse offensive showing of the season against Nebraska and its defense was gashed for big plays; the only reason the Cornhuskers only points came on field goals is because of a slew of costly penalties. So when you add up the Hokies' struggles and Miami's wins, it seemed like an easy call. But, as you said, hind-sight is 20-20. Or, as Chris Berman might say, that's why they play the games.

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Jacksonville, Fla.: Is Asher Clark going to play for Air Force on Saturday, or is that one of those things that Troy Calhoun could tell you, but he'd have to kill you? Seriously, I think he'd do it.

Camille Powell: Heh. Air Force's media policy is a little different than Navy's, isn't it? You could've dropped by Navy's practice this week to see for yourself if Sovie/Vela/Tuani were practicing.

I'm not sure about Asher Clark's availability -- my guess is that if he can play, he will, for as long as he can. A Colorado Springs Gazette columnist is pushing for more carries for Savier Stephens after his performance last week.

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Who's next?: We can all agree that things aren't looking good for Al Groh.

But, as a U-Va. friend of mine pointed out, it's not like there are a lot of coaches beating down the door to get the U-Va. job. Who would even want that job now?

Zach Berman: Well, Groh still has the job. You're right that things aren't looking good, but he still has nine more games. We'll see what happens.

I disagree with your U-Va. friend. Virginia has great facilities, pays their coaches as well as almost anyone and is a fertile state for recruiting. There are some academic hurdles (I know that was last week's hot discussion in this chat), and you need to beat Va. Tech for in-state talent. There are also terrific I-AA schools in the state.

Any names right now come without much basis. The same names discussed on message boards and conversations with fans will be thrown around, such as those with U-Va. ties (Mike London, Derek Dooley), those who could possibly see U-Va. as an upgrade (Brian Kelly, Troy Calhoun), high-profile coaches who are unemployed (Tommy Tuberville). Although nobody thought Tony Bennett was going to be Virginia's next basketball, so sometimes these things are successfully kept quiet.

But again, Groh is the coach and there are still nine games remaining this season. Let's see how everything plays out -- especially this weekend's ACC opener against North Carolina -- before entertaining a coaching search.

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Arlington, Va.: Given Penn State's humiliating collapse against Iowa last Saturday, how would you rate Penn State's chances for the rest of their season? If they continue on their current rate, I fear the only wins they'll have will be against Eastern Illinois and Indiana. (I don't even want to think about the likes of Michigan and Ohio State!) Or am I just being too pessimistic?

Steve Yanda: I think you might be a tad overly-pessimistic. The loss to Iowa certainly wasn't pretty, but Penn State still possesses a talented roster. Not as talented as last season's roster, for sure, but talented nonetheless. The Illinois defense is awful, so I'd look for Penn State to rebound with a win on Saturday. Eastern Illinois and Minnesota at home also should be wins, as should at Northwestern and Indiana at home later on. So I'd say the Nittany Lions are good for five more wins this season.

Eric Prisbell: I'd say five or six more wins. I was never sold on this team and felt, even if it had run the table, it should not be in the title game because of the soft non-conference schedule. Now we don't have to worry about that scenario playing out.

Mark Viera: I'd say you're a tad pessimistic, too. Penn State's offensive line was exposed against Iowa's sturdy, athletic defensive front. (The turnovers, well, I'm sure Nittany Lions' fans just hope the team can hold on to the ball in the future. The conditions didn't make it any easier.) But I think Penn State will win at least five more this year. Michigan isn't looking like a cakewalk any more and Ohio State appears to once again be the class of the Big Ten. Michigan State has hit the skids, losing three straight, but Sparty will benefit from hosting Penn State. The Nittany Lions have struggled on the road, and chilly East Lansing in the end of November isn't exactly an easy place to play. So all is not lost for Penn State, but I'm not sure I see this bunch of Nittany Lions in a BCS bowl.

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Hokie Nation: Last week's win over that U was one of the biggest wins in recent Virginia Tech history. Is the Miami win the 'tipping point' for Tech's offense?

Mark Viera: Interesting query. There has been a lot of talk in Blacksburg this week about that very topic. Some reporters, thinking like you, Hokie Nation, have asked that very question. No doubt, the Hokies played their best offensive game of the year against Miami (let's discount the display against lowly Marshall). But I'm not sure it was a tipping-point performance. I think there are promising signs and confidence is growing in the unit after that epic comeback against Nebraska and then the complete performance against the Hurricanes. But even if quarterback Tyrod Taylor continues to make plays with his legs and running back Ryan Williams continues on this pace -- he looks awfully impressive, eh? -- I don't think simply rushing the ball will do it for Virginia Tech. This passing offense, which ranks 115th nationally, will likely need to pick up more of the slack. I'm not suggesting Virginia Tech needs to throw the ball like Hawaii or Houston, but I can't see such a one-dimensional offense having week-in, week-out success the remainder of the ACC schedule. Somewhere along the way, I think, the Hokies will trip up unless their passing offense can bloom.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: Can we get you thoughts on some real football, that is, the big SEC match ups? How do you see the LSU-Georgia game? Is LSU for real? Can Tennesse stop Auburn's high-powered offense, and will Auburn finally get ranked with a win?

Eric Prisbell: Former Post colleague Mark S-E-Chlabach chiming in???

I think Georgia will edge LSU in this one. I'm not sure LSU is a top five team and this is a dangerous game the week before it plays Florida.

I've been impressed with Auburn, as have many, and think it will have enough to beat Tennessee.

Steve Yanda: I think LSU prevails over Georgia. Like Eric, I don't think LSU is a top five team, but I think they possess enough team speed to beat the Bulldogs, whose defense has been attrocious this season.

I'll take Tennessee over Auburn, though I do like what Gus Malzahn has done with the Tigers offense. I just think the Vols defense is the superior unit.

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Arlington, Va.: When do Maryland and U-Va. play each other? One of them has to win that game, right?

Eric Prisbell: Oct. 17. I'm not sure if one of those teams HAS to win that one, given how bad each has played. Trying to get that answered by someone of high authority at the ACC office. I may just leave the state when that game is played. It promises to be unsightly.

Zach Berman: I can't wait for that game. Two disgruntled fan bases always make for a fun week leading up to the game.

Plus, I want to play the Eric Prisbell game of seeing how many reporters pay 15 dollars for the pre-game meal.

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New York, N.Y.: Eric,

I see from the blog that DaRel Scott is carrying a football around campus to help his recent problem of fumble-itis. My question is this: How much of the Terps woes can be blamed on the turnover problems? Or more specifically, are the turnovers a result of them being that bad, or has it just been a run of bad luck?

Eric Prisbell: Thanks for the question. Ralph Friedgen has talked over and over about bad luck. I don't buy it. He says the team is close to being 3-1. I guess, but the way I see it, the team is very close to being 0-4. You have nine turnovers the past two games, that's more than bad luck. Turner is not bad enough to throw three INTs vs. Rutgers. The line has been even worse than expected, and it was expected to be about the worst in the ACC. As for Scott, that is more of a mystery, in my mind. One fumble, okay. But three against MTSU and Rutgers. Ouch. If Maryland has any chance this week and for the rest of the season, it has got to improve that turnover margin, which is minus-10 right now.

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New York, N.Y.: Eric,

Quick question: Of the 9 teams that were in the ACC when Friedgen took over in 2001, which team has the second best record since then? The Terps! They're only a few games behind FSU. My question to you is this: How much of this year is the result of bad recruiting and how much can be explained by the normal ebbs and flows of college football?

In my opinion, the Terps have had consistent top 25 recruiting under the Fridge and unfortunately we have a young team this year that will take time to learn how to play when the lights are on.

Eric Prisbell: That's an interesting perspective. I agree that their recruiting classes have been rated fairly high. I would say player development may be more of an issue, but even with that, Maryland has had its share of NFL players, and high draft picks, in recent years. Specifically, recruiting of offensive linemen, defensive linemen and quarterbacks have been problematic, to say the least.

It is one thing to be mediocre, no one expects this team to win the national title. But attendance is going down, season ticket sales are going down. That is a BIG issue.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Are Terp fans satisfied with any record better than Fridge's two predecessors? That seems to be the norm out there. I for one want better and expect better. You get paid over a $1 million per season, you better be earning it with wins and not with excuses that you personally take. Other colleges don't have down years. It is awaste of time to go to games and become fed up and down. I am giving up on my four season tickets.

Excuses, excuses

Eric Prisbell: I believe most Maryland fans have grown tired of the recent mediocrity. I would say between 55 and 67 percent want Friedgen out, but that's unscientific research.

To be honest, i have always wondered about the interest level of Maryland football fans. I felt the interest level this season was the lowest I can remember heading into a season. It was quite stunning. Now, people are just upset or ready to move on to basketball.

Maryland basketball, only a few short weeks away...Gary's got a good squad this season...led by all-ACC guard Greivis Vasquez and a host of capable guards ...

Hey, I'm ready for basketball to start, as well. If anyone has any story ideas for football, please send them along.

It was interesting how Friedgen told Patrick Stevens this week, "I don't ask you" about your job. Well, I can say with some certainty that Stevens does not make $2 million per year.

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Ashburn, Va: Mark, you do an awesome job covering the Hokies!

What happened to D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis? So far they havent gotten any time after a lot of hype before the season.

Mark Viera: Hey, thanks a lot, Ashburn. I appreciate it. You know, until you asked, I hadn't really stopped to think about it ... but not that you mention it, you're right. Neither receiver has factored much into the Hokies offense. In fact, neither has a reception. But that said, the Hokies' leading receiver, Jarrett Boykin, only has 10. I also think Dyrell Roberts has been a pleasant surprise as a receiver. I don't need to tell you, Ashburn, that Virginia Tech's passing offense has not really taken flight this season. So when your top receivers barely have any catches, it becomes a little more understandably why Coles and Davis have not been factors. But perhaps they could provide a little spark the Hokies need, so maybe they deserve more throws.

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Leesburg, Va.: Crew,

Can you all help me out with something? What happened to all of those "Miami's Return to Glory" segments I was constantly berated with by the national media? Or the "Jacory Harris for Heisman" ones? I have a theory they are in the same place that my socks go from the dryer.

Also, as a comment: It was nice to see a classic Tech beatdown in classic Tech style again. The road to the ACC championship still has to take exit 118C of of I-81.

Eric Prisbell: Hold on a sec, finishing up a story on Miami's return to excellence...

Okay, now it's easy to bash all the media members who praised Miami. But let's remember, this opening schedule for the 'Canes is brutal, and Miami has already won two of them. Miami is significantly improved from last season.

Zach Berman: Va. Tech fans have the right to gloat, but keep in mind: the hype Miami received before the Va. Tech game was comparable to the hype Va. Tech received before the Alabama game.

To be perfectly transparent, though, I was the one in the bowels of Dolphin Stadium after last season's Orange Bowl asking the Hokies if that win was the precursor for a national championship run this season. So, I'm as guilty as anyone hyping the Hokies.

As someone who got off exit 118C on I-81 dozens and dozens of times, I agree that the ACC championship still runs through Blacksburg. (Although if you're coming from Bluefield, W. Va., you just remain on 460 the whole time...)

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Alexandria, Va.: Maryland's schedule for the rest of the season: Based on September "progress," I only see Duke and U-Va. as potential W's. Your thoughts?

Eric Prisbell: if I were a Maryland fan, the Duke game would scare the heck out of me. The Blue Devils will be coming off an open date and I am sure they feel they can win that game.

I think Maryland will win three more. But no game is a lock. And they had better get at least two of the next four.

Wake is a potential win, I guess. Or not. It's just hard to think of potential wins given how bad Maryland has played. That said, I think Maryland will win one or two it is not supposed to.

Steve Yanda: At Wake is a winable game. Virginia is a winable game. At Duke is a winable game. Heck, BC at home to close out the season is a winable game.

Then again, Middle Tennessee State and Rutgers (at least before the game started) were winable games too.

So I think Maryland will win two more, maybe three.

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Concussions: It sure would be a good "teachable moment" for Tebow to sit out the next game against LSU (and follow the guidelines set up through recent research/baseline testing/followup testing) to underscore the dangers of playing again too soon after such a clear cut, serious concussion (loss of consciousness, throwing up on the field). Your thoughts?

Steve Yanda: If the LSU game was this weekend, Urban Meyer's decision would be much tougher. Fortunately for Meyer, he's got a bye week to ponder. This is a question of "should" vs. "will." Should Tebow sit out? Most likely. Studies have shown that once a person suffers their first concussion, that person's susceptability of suffering another one increases dramatically. But it's not a clear cut issue. How much time is enough time to recover from the first concussion? No one has a definitive answer yet, which is why you'll likely be seeing Tebow on the field against LSU a week from Saturday. Tebow, like most high caliber athletes, is competitive and will want to play. And Meyer knows that Tebow provides his team the best chance to win, so it will take overwhelming evidence that Tebow is not up to snuff to compel the coach to force his star quarterback to sit out.

Eric Prisbell: It's a good point. I did a handful of stories on Jordan Steffy and his concussions, and this stuff is scary, no question. That said, I don't know how serious Tebow's concussion is, or what the effects are. I think Meyer and the doctors will do what's best for Tebow, I do.

Zach Berman: I'll defer to the team doctors on this one. The bye week helps, too. It's not a traditional "next game" with two weeks in between. I've done some stories on concussions, too, and one of the complicating factors is that there are different degrees, so it's difficult to compare one to the other.

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S. Rockville, Md.: On the eve of another U-Va. trip to Chapel Hill, where an official couldn't correctly call a made field goal because he was too busy looking away, I have to ask: How much of the perception that the ACC is a bad football conference stems from the perception that its officials are bad too?

Ron Cherry is pretty much the poster-boy for bad referees, although his "giving him the business" penalty remains a classic.

Zach Berman: I think the perception comes more from the fact that the ACC has not sent a team to the national championship game since Florida State in 2000.

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S. Rockville, Md.: Zach,

Have we seen the last of Vic Hall on the field for the Cavaliers? This hip injury seems to be much more serious than anyone is letting on. I know Groh is notoriously tight-lipped about injuries, but rumors of surgery are flying around.

Zach Berman: Thank you, as always, for the question, S. Rockville.

I've heard those same whispers, although Groh said surgery is not in the plans right now. I actually asked Groh about Hall this morning, and there has been some progress after his recovery was somewhat stagnant.

"The ability to be more involved and feel more comfortable," Groh said. "He was pretty uncomfortable for awhile. For awhile there, being able to laugh was a big step up."

I personally don't think you've seen the end of him on the field this season. I'm curious to see where he's listed on the injury report tonight. He's back as the first-team holder.

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Portsmouth, N.H.: Navy football has ventured out against CAA teams in the recent past: U-Mass., Northeastern, Towson and Delaware to name a few. As a New Hampshire Wildcat (3-0, by the way) and Mid fan, too, is there any hope of these two programs connecting soon? As you must be aware, the Wildcats thrashed Army last year at West Point. Go Navy!

Camille Powell: Those I-AA teams have given Navy fits in the past (outside of Towson last season) -- I remember watching Delaware beat Navy in Annapolis back in '03. And a 10-2 Navy team in '04 had one of its closest games against Northeastern (four-point win). I don't know if Navy will meet up with New Hampshire any time soon.

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Need a New Bandwagon: So who wins the Pac 10? Does anybody even get through with only one conference loss?

Steve Yanda: USC, USC and USC are my three best guesses. Until someone knocks them off the throne, the Trojans will remain the overwhelming conference favorite. I think they make it through with one conference loss.

Eric Prisbell: I will stick with the team coached by Pete Carroll.

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Swine flu: Every week, another team is getting annihilated by H1N1. Is it possible this could shake up the balance of power? Florida's already been hit...

Steve Yanda: Certainly, H1N1 is a considerable concern for every team in the country. The sheer volume of a college football team makes it susceptible to a flu bug outbreak. And until the vaccine becomes more widely available, teams won't be able to prevent it even though they know it's likely coming. I'm not sure it will shake up the balance of power, but it most likely will remain an issue worth keeping track of for the rest of the season.

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Annapolis, Md.: Maryland beats B.C. and splits Duke and Virginia for two more wins.

Eric Prisbell: That could very well happen. The Duke game will be fun ... because ACC media day is the next day in Greensboro. No, seriously, the Duke game will be fun because it should be a competitive contest.

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Home Sick in Florida: I spent last Saturday on the couch, and with the support of my understanding wife, I watched football from 11 to 11. Bunch of interesting and entertaining games even though I have no real rooting interest beyond my own (untelevised) schools.

Sunday, same spot. Meh. We spent the afternoon with a Mad Men marathon.

Eric Prisbell: That is a very understanding wife.

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New York, N.Y.: To the Terps fan who wants to give up his season tickets: So one rough start to a season and you bail? I don't know how you made it from, oh, 1988-2001. We stunk! And you don't want to support the Terps with your money. You know the reason why big time programs like Florida and Texas exist? Cause they have big time boosters!

Eric Prisbell: That's a fair point. The boosters for Maryland football are a little different than the boosters for a big-time program with national acclaim.

How many others are planning to cancel season tickets or have already done so? Please email me at prisbelle@washpost.com. Thanks.

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Old Blue in Exile: What do you think caused Cal to self-destruct throughout their game in Eugene -- since it couldn't have been jet-lag, then maybe swine flu? Or are the Ducks the real thing this year? With such a huge loss last Saturday, have the Golden Bears rendered this year's USC game a moot point? Can they at least win the Big Game, pretty please?

Eric Prisbell: I didn't see the game but was stunned by the score. It's a tough place to play, but i never thought the margin would be what it turned out to be. I still think Cal has a chance against USC. But regardless, Cal is all but out of the national title hunt after that performance against Oregon.

Steve Yanda: Cal has several factors counting against it heading into the matchup against USC. First, as you pointed out, they got thrashed last week by Oregon. Reasons for the sorry performance? The flight wasn't long enough to blame jet lag, and there haven't been any reports of a swine flu outbreak among the team in Berkeley. The Bears could have been underestimating the Ducks, though Tedford & Co. would never admit it. I'd point to a defense that gave up 524 total yards. Meantime, USC was rebuilding confidence with a win over Washington State and letting freshman quarterback Matt Barkley get back into the flow of things.

I'd say Cal will have a tough time knocking off the Trojans. Though that Jahvid Best sure is fast ...

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Washington, D.C.: I know it's been national news, but wanted your take on the poll situation as we head into BCS time. Iowa still trailing Penn State, Ole Miss in the top 25 with no dedcent win and South Carolina out of the top 25 with two pretty good victories and a close loss.

If the coaches poll is going to be part of the BCS process, something has to be done -- either eliminate it or find some other way to ensure accountability.

Eric Prisbell: i'm surprised so many people are so intrigued with the polls. It will all work itself out, for the most part. There are so many issues with the polls, it gives me a headache.

I looked at Craig James's poll last week and he had Ohio State about eight spots ahead of USC. C'mon. Yes, the both have one loss and USC lost to a worse team. But Ohio State lost to, oh, yeah, USC, at home.

Head-to-head play seems like a decent way to help determine which team is better than another. But that's just my opinion, i could be wrong.

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Aurora, Colo.: When is someone going to call out Ralph for his excuses about a young team? He has 85 scholarships and if he spaces out his scholarships well he wouldn't have this problem. He had over 30 seniors last year, poor planning by him. And if he redshirted some of the guys like Navarre there wouldn't be as many holes this year!

Eric Prisbell: What would you like me to ask Ralph, specifically? The team is not very good. I've written stories about the veterans messing up, the youngsters messing up, Franklin admitting to poor play-calling at times. It has been a shared effort, this 1-3 record. I have asked Ralph to assess his own performance, he says it's on him. Going to be a long year in College Park.

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Denver: Why are Texas and Florida ranked above Alabama? Sports columnists keeps saying Alabama is the best team and they have already beaten the Hokies, but the rankings don't reflect that and the top two have played easy teams thus far. If you starts out in the top three does it take losing to go down even if your schedule is not that hard (I realize Florida has a tough schedule upcoming).

Steve Yanda: Yes, that's exactly what starting out in the top three means. It would take a lot for either Texas or Florida to be leap-frogged without losing a game. That's just the way it works. Alabama certainly has been impressive thus far. The Crimson Tide's defense is vicious.

But I wouldn't get too riled up at this point. As another questioner pointed out, the polls don't mean a whole lot right now. If Bama deserves to be in the top two, it will be there by the end of the year.

Eric Prisbell: I would probably put Alabama at No. 1 right now. It has done more than Florida to this point. They could face each other in the SEC title game, so we'll see how it plays out. Chances are the winner of the SEC title game will be in the national title game.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: In this chat two weeks ago we discussed the idea of no preseason or early season rankings -- not before the fifth game, with two conference games played. Seems like last weekend validated that argument with the No. 4, 5 and 6 teams being "upset."

Other than TV networks being able to hype certain match ups, what purpose do these rankings serve?

Also, now that the Badgers seem to have a legitimate QB, will they make some noise in the Big 10 ?

Steve Yanda: Well, the rankings give us idiots in the media something to talk about during the early stretch of the season. Aside from that, they don't hold much extra value.

As for the Badgers, it depends on what you mean by "noise." If you mean, will they contend for the conference title? No. At least not this season. If you mean, could they upset a ranked conference foe? Sure. They play Iowa and Michigan at home. I could see Wisconsin sneaking away with one win out of those two games.

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Pac-10: How much do you think losing Stafon Johnson hurts USC's offense? USC or Cal this weekend?

Steve Yanda: That's the great thing about being Pete Carroll: You can afford to lose a player of Johnson's talent and not freak out that the injury just cost you big time. The Trojans still have Joe McKnight and C.J. Gable at running back. They also have Stanley Havili at fullback. Any injury to a contributing player hurts, but in USC's case, it doesn't hurt quite as bad.

I'll take USC over Cal this weekend.

Zach Berman: Just a shame about Johnson's injury. I was reading about it with great interest. And I've come to learn in asking around a bit these past few days that weight room injuries are more common than many realize.

That said, Steve is right. USC has the horses to withstand injury -- especially at running back. I'm curious to see if the Trojans show offense after last week. It will be a great game.

As for my pick, I always go with USC, no matter who they play. I know it's like betting on the house in the blackjack, but it makes me right many more times than wrong.

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Falls Church, Va.: Any chance U-Va. wins this week against North Carolina? And will the offense going forward look more like the Southern Miss game (no spread) or like the TCU/William & Mary games (poor excuse for the spread)?

Eric Prisbell: Mr. Berman can speak at length on this. But I think we'll see some more alterations of the spread offense because that seemed to work fairly well at Southern Miss. I think U-Va. does have a chance against UNC. The Tar Heels have good speed, but have been overrated since the start of the season. Why they were in the top 25 is beyond me. The Cavs will win a few games this season -- two or three -- and this could be one of them. Personally, I have UNC winning, 17-16.

Zach Berman: Thanks for the question, Falls Church. There's always chance -- if I knew with any type of certainty, I'd be in Vegas right now and not on this chat.

But to answer the question specifically, there is more chance this week than at Southern Miss. The bye week should have helped Virginia. The offense will look more like the S. Miss game -- less spread, more traditional pro-style offense -- but it's the same players executing it. The big question with this game is this: Was the 1st half of the S. Miss game catching the Golden Eagles by surprise, or a sign that this offense can move the ball? Al Groh doesn't let me watch his practices, so I'll know the answer the same time you will on Saturday.

Based on the way Virginia has played and the way North Carolina has played, you'd have to pick North Carolina to win the game. But the same could have been said last season when Virginia beat UNC. Heather Dinich picked Virginia with the upset, and there's some sentiment that the Cavaliers might be able to turn the season around with a win.

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Collegetown, USA: Boise State is currently No. 5. Their remaining schedule consists of epic tilts against Nevada, Tulsa, and Idaho.

If the Broncos end up in the national championship game, will that finally kill the BCS?

Eric Prisbell: It wouldn't kill the BCS. And as much as I love the story of Boise State each season, I still cannot see Boise getting to Pasadena this season. The remaining schedule is very soft. Boise has a great chance of being undefeated. But i can't see Boise getting any higher than three in the polls. I think a one-loss Texas, a one-loss SEC team, a one-loss USC would all jump over Boise State because of the schedule.

The team that I felt had a real chance was BYU because it could have said, Hey, we beat Oklahoma, FSU, Utah and TCU. That's done now.

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Coaches?: Besides Friedgen what other coaches do you think are on the hot seat? My guess would be Hawkins (Colorado), Kragthorpe (Louisville), and Groh (Virginia). Zook is still on the waiting list, right?

Eric Prisbell: I agree with Hawkins, Kragthorpe and Groh. A man named Charlie in South Bend, as well.

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Annapolis, Md.: Navy prospectus for Camille: How many more are they going to win? What do you think their chances are against Air Force and, later in the season, the Irish?

Camille Powell: Oh, I am lousy at predictions. But I think they'll get the seven wins they need to get to the Texas Bowl. Lots of people seem to be favoring Air Force this year, but I like Navy's chances at home. Navy's struggles in the kicking game concern me a little, though, because of the close-fought nature of the series.

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McLean, Va.: How good can this Virginia Tech team be?

The defense definitely turned a corner last weekend versus Miami, and the offense appears to be capable of big things with Ryan Williams and co. running the ball and Tyrod using his legs effectively. The schedule appears to be favorable on paper, outside of Georgia Tech in Atlanta on 10/17 I don't see another game in which Va. Tech won't be heavily favored.

If only the national media could over-hype Va. Tech's opponent every week like they did with Miami, Tech might be unstoppable!

Mark Viera: Allow me repackage the question, because the term "good" can be pretty subjective in this college football landscape. What I think you might be getting at, when you address wins and losses, is whether the team can run the table the rest of the way and shake up the national picture.

The Hokies will be favored the rest of the regular season, as well they should be. At the quarter poll, they have proven to be the class of the ACC. But I see three games that are troubling: East Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. It will not be easy to play at ECU, which beat Virginia Tech last year, on a Thursday night; throw out its record, ECU is just a tough environment. North Carolina hasn't impressed me, but the Tar Heels' defense has been their bright spot. I could see UNC's defense giving Virginia Tech a hard time. And the big one, like you said, is Georgia Tech. If the Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets -- better yet, if they do it convincingly -- they will likely emerge from that game in the thick of the national conversation. Granted, the Hokies would have to keep their fingers crossed for some other teams to lose, so they likely won't have control of their own fate. But they would stake their spot as a viable option, assuming the attrition of the Big 12 and SEC wears out the other top teams (and provided Boise State or TCU doesn't crash the party).

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Red Oak, Iowa: Gentlemen and Camille. I think people should ignore polls this early in the season. Take my beloved Hawkeyes. They fall out of the polls because of a scare to a good Northern Iowa team. (Don't laugh, I think the Panthers would beat Maryland, Virginia, and Navy). Then they jump to 13th because of their victory at Penn State who really haven't beaten anyone. Going from unrated to overrated in one week seems ridiculous.

Take Nebraska. They dominate Va. Tech in Blacksburg until a breakdown in the last minute, and they are way behind the Hokies in the polls. Notre Dame is rated for no really good reason. Michigan State and Purdue are not very good.

Instead of getting excited over polls (many teams are only rated because of tradition) until November 1, the polls really are meaningless.

Eric Prisbell: They are meaningless right now. I don't even look at them. It was interesting to see ESPN GameDay have the AP voter from Cleveland on to take questions why he voted Houston in the top 5 and Florida outside the top 5. (I believe that's how his voting broke down). Why not vote that way? Houston has accomplished a lot, having beaten Texas Tech now and Oklahoma State. Florida will accomplish a lot when and if it beats LSU, but as Denny Green may say, Let's not crown 'em yet.

I say voting based on actual resume is fine, even preferred. In that sense, I think there is a ceiling for Boise State because the schedule is very soft from here on out.

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"I can't see such a one-dimensional offense having week-in, week-out success the remainder of the ACC schedule.": What if we call it "The Trip Option?" Will Everyone be cool with our lack of passing then?

No one seems to mind the fact that Ga. Tech never throws the ball ...

Zach Berman: It's OK if Virginia Tech maintains a "one-dimensional" offense, as long as it can move the ball. The program's problem in big games -- up until the Miami win -- has been moving the ball on offense. Any honest Hokies fan would admit as much. It's undoubtedly one of the best programs in college football, with the best defensive coordinator in the country (in my opinion). But the difference between 10-2 seasons and 12-0 seasons has been the offense.

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Michigan in the long term: Ok, so we're breathing a sigh of relief that this season isn't going to stink like last year and may in fact turn out pretty well. At the very least, Michigan football is fun to watch again.

Now, based on your experience with college football overall, and both the Big Ten and RichRod's previous records, can you make any predictions for the long term? Is Michigan on its way to being a real powerhouse again in the near(ish) future? Will we rival Ohio State not only for conference domination but for national stature?

Zach Berman: I'd tell Michigan fans you have every reason to optimistic. I covered the Big East when Rich Rodriguez was there, and I can attest for his system. The recruiting has picked up, and he has a quarterback. A good quarterback changes everything in football.

The question with Rodriguez's teams will always be defense. As much as college football is an offensive game, a good defense is obviously important. Michigan will win Big Tens with Rodriguez. Whether they become a big-time powerhouse in the near future depends on the strength of defense, and by extension, Greg Robinson as a defensive coordinator.

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New York, N.Y.: Eric,

I disagree with your assessment that 65 percent of Terps fans want the Fridge out. That poll was conducted on your blog. Let's admit it. Only the most rabid Terps fans are voting on that. There is a vocal minority that wants Fridge out but the vast majority understand what he has done to make the program relevant again.

From conversations with my friends who know a good deal about U-Md. football, every single one of them thinks the Fridge has been the best thing that has happened to the program in the past 20 years. Seriously, what coaches are out there that they think can do a better job? Duffner? Vanderlinden? I hear they are available.

Eric Prisbell: I don't base the 65 percent number just on the blog poll results. I have talked to many people not only about their individual opinion but about their view of the entire fan base. I know on message boards it is about 90 percent anti-Fridge. It is difficult to assess, for sure.

How do you think fans are split? Do you think it is more like 50-50? Thanks.

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Cincinnati, Ohio: Have the Navy coaches made a conscious effort to get the ball to Marcus Curry as their "featured" slotback, or has it just happened to work out that way? Bobby Doyle had a great game last week, and I'm sure he can continue to make plays when called upon. I've always thought that Navy's offense worked best when the defense couldn't really key in on one guy.

Camille Powell: Marcus Curry isn't the featured slot back in the way that Shun White was the featured slot back last season, but he is considered to be their top weapon. Last year, defenses keyed on White quite a bit, but it's harder to do that now because Navy is a little more balanced and deep at slot.

Niumatalolo said that Mike Stukel, who got one carry (14 yards) last week after moving back to slot from quarterback, will have more of a role this week.

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81 to 220 to 40 to 15-501 in Durham: Anything lead you to believe that the Hokies will suffer a letdown against Duke after the beatdown of the U? I saw the catastrophe of turnovers against Duke last season and am hoping for Va. Tech to stay on track. Your thoughts, Mr. Viera?

Mark Viera: You are right, last year's Duke game was a catastrophe of turnovers (5) for the Hokies. But is there anything that would lead me to believe it will be a similar letdown? Not really. It's pretty steady-as-it-goes in Blacksburg. In fact, all of the early upsets provided pretty good examples of what can happen when teams overlook unranked opponents. The coaches and players have talked about that a lot this week. But still, getting jacked up for a noon kickoff in Wallace Wade Stadium is probably as easy as the players -- 18, 19 and 20 year old kids -- have tried to make it sound this week.

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Hokie Nation: Apologies on behalf of Hokie Nation for the comments from that guy from Crowville. I think the Post's coverage of Tech athletics is top notch - especially considering the campus is 250 miles away from D.C.!

Zach Berman: I'll always concur whenever Mark Viera gets some love. The stories have been great, and Hokies Journal is the place you should go whenever you need Va. Tech updates. I can't wait to see what's on there during basketball -- hard to find a coach more entertaining than Seth Greenberg.

And although the campus is a good 270 miles away from D.C., the D.C. area -- and specifically Northern Virginia -- is littered with Hokie fans. (Those maroon flags aren't all Redskins fans, are they?)

Mark Viera: I feel the love. Thanks guys. And I'm just wondering here, because I haven't been up to D.C. in a few months, but are Redskins fans still flying their burgundy flags? It's recently seemed as if that organization is waving a defeated white flag. (Zing!)

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Mark Viera: That's going to do it for me, folks. It's been enjoyable, as always. Thanks for all your great questions and comments. See you guys at next week's chat. Take care.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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