Friday, September 5, 2008

Another weekend of football

Another weekend of football means a lot of things to a lot of people. First and foremost, though, it means high school football tonight. Plenty of games around the state were shifted to Thursday night, due to tropical storm Hanna. The western half of the state (for the most part), stayed on course for Friday games. You will get to see highlights of all games covered )between Thursday and Friday) on the Discount Tire Friday Night Final tonight at 11pm, and if you miss it tonight, check out the replay at 11am on Saturday morning.

The colleges will take center stage on Saturday, and I would look for Duke to have their hands full with Northwestern. The Wildcats are coming off an opening week win over Syracuse (but Syracuse isn't all that good this year, again). Duke won their opener, and they will need the fans to show up again, and cheer the Blue Devils on hard. I'll make it 2 straight for David Cutcliffe's bunch.

NC State comes back home to face William & Mary. To the point, the Pack need to dominate and blow out W&M. They were embarrassed by South Carolina last week, who in turn, embarrassed themselves by losing to Vanderbilt last night. If the Pack wants to establish itself as a player within the ACC, they need to build their confidence, and a big win over W&M will help that. Pack win Saturday.

Wake Forest christens the new Deacon Tower as they host Mississippi. I love what Wake has this season. Solid at most positions, good at those that are not solid. Wake is not a national championship contender, but they are a legit BCS bowl team. This will be a good test for the Deacs, and I suspect they will win a close one with the home crowd excited to have their team home.

East Carolina will try to parlay the good feelings from their win over Virginia Tech as they face West Virginia. ECU showed me plenty in beating VT, but can they stop West Virginia? My head says no--that the Pirates will have the inevitable letdown after a big win. My gut says the Pirates will get an early lead, and then play passionately to hold off WVU. I'm gonna go with my gut. The Pirates, as Head Coach Skip Holtz said last Saturday, are led by a group of players that is tired of losing. We'll see how Hanna affects this game.

At long last Sunday will arrive, and the NFL kicks off around the country, not just New York (as we saw the Giants beat Washington 16-7). Carolina opens with San Diego. It feels like the Panthers were in Spartanburg for training camp just last week. Instead, they are 4 exhibition games in, and ready to take on the AFC runner-up from last season.

The breakdown:

CAR offense v. SD defense

The Panthers offense underwent more than a makeover--it was a face lift. Gone are offensive linemen Mike Wahle, and Justin Hartwig, and in a Jeff Otah (draft), Keydrick Vincent (FA), and Ryan Kalil (2nd year player who was behind Hartwig ate center). The o-line went from smaller and athletic to big earth-movers. They will have to establish themselves early in the game, but may some issues with the Chargers 3-4 defense. Up front, it's Igor Olshansky Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo, and the linebackers are led by Shawne Merriman. Merriman is on a bad left knee (reportedly with 2 torn ligaments in that knee). Don't be surprised if the Chargers load up against the run with Steve Smithy out of the lineup for the first 2 weeks of the season. Carolina's O-line, and WR's will need to do a solid job of blocking to make space for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. If Carolina needs to throw, Jake Delhomme will need big days from Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett, and Dwayne Jarrett to be successful. From what I saw of the Panthers in the pre-season, I give them the edge, as long as they establish to ground attack.

CAR defense v. SD offense:

Wow, what an opener. The Panthers first teamers allowed just 3 points in the pre-season (a field goal to Indianapolis, on their 3rd drive of the game). San Diego is loaded with weapons. Ladainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and it all starts with QB Philip Rivers. Rivers is coming off of knee surgery, LT hasn't played a snap in the pre-season. There are some questions about the health of Gates. If you are a Panther fan, here's the rub. Anticipate all being 100 percent, and if they aren't, the Panthers then have the edge. Even if they are 100 percent healthy, their lack of work as a unit in the pre-season could produces some early signs of rust. Carolina needs to take advantage of that to have a chance. I'll give the edge to the Chargers, but it's only a small one, considering all factors.

Special Teams:

The Chargers have Nate Kaeding, one of the more reliable kickers in the league, while the Panthers have John Kasay. This is a wash. Rhys Lloyd should make a difference on kickoffs, provided he continues booming kicks into the end zone. Returners could find the Chargers with the advantage, as Mark Jones has signed with Carolina this week to handle those return duties. The Chargers will send veteran Darren Sproles back there. Jones has to learn personnel, and Panther schemes on returns, but he's also a 4 year vet. Continuity gives San Diego the edge here.


I have never been a fan of Norv Turner, but you can't argue with the results (at least with the Chargers). To me this is a push.

I am taking Carolina in this one, but don't count on this game being a blowout. If it is, that means the Panthers are being run out of the building, and will be looking for their flight home.

Enjoy the games!

Mike Solarte

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We'll know a lot more about what kind of fall it's gonna be in the Carolinas by 7 Sunday night....jn