Saturday and Sunday's NFL Preview - ACC Q& A
WE CHECK IN ON #1 DRAFTEE QB LUCK IN HIS INDY COLTS DEBUT
PLUS WE GET ROLLING WITH COLLEGE FOOTBALL COVERAGE AS WE ASK FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ACC
By Jim Hurley
Now, here's a look at Saturday's NFL Preseason Week 1 games:
HOUSTON at CAROLINA -7 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Word out of the Lone Star State yesterday was that Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said expect starters to get in on somewhere between 12-to-15 plays in this preseason bash in Charlotte and that does include LB Brian Cushing who spent two nights in a hospital this past week with virus-related problems.
In truth, Cushing might only play a handful of snaps here but be sure the Texans' coaching staff will be eyeballing rookie OLB Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) who is expected to make an instant impact as a pass rusher after he collected a nation's best 16 quarterback sacks in college a year ago.
If you're looking for a storyline regarding the Panthers than note Carolina needs to check out its depth at linebacker'cause starting MLB Jon Beason is out with a hamstring injury. The three-time Pro Bowl player is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2011 campaign. Note that last year Carolina finished a crummy 25th in the league in rush defense (allowed nearly 131 rushing yards a game)
Current Las Vegas Lines: Panthers (- 3) and 35 ½ points
TENNESSEE at SEATTLE -10 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Is there really/truly a "quarterback competition" with these Tennessee Titans or does veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck have the job all to himself unless or until he gets injured?
Hasselbeck was officially named the starter for this preseason lid-lifter by second-year Titans head coach Mike Munchak -the coach said Hasselbeck "deserved" to be named starter -- but keep an eye out as to whether or not backup Jake Locker gets in more than 12-to-15 plays here as this is a homecoming of sorts for the former University of Washington star slinger.
Now as long as the Titans can get to ball to troubled WR Kenny Britt -and keep him off social media for a few hours -you might see more vertical passing game success by a Tennessee team that finished a decent 12th in the league in passing offense (245.2 yards per game) a year ago.
A Seahawks note: Head coach Pete Carroll is expected to play all three of his "potential starters" at quarterback here as Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson (Wisconsin/N.C. State) should share in the snaps although maybe not equally.
Current Las Vegas Lines: Seahawks (- 3) and 35 ½ points
There's just one game on the Sunday card this weekend in terms of NFL Preseason Week 1 play - but ain't it a juicy one?
The Indianapolis Colts - just three years removed from a Super Bowl loss against the New Orleans Saints - are coming off one of the strangest NFL seasons in recent memory as a Peyton Manning-less crew staggered and stumbled its way to a 2-14 SU (straight-up) season that actually started off 0-and-13 ... remember?
Now, a new day has dawned in "Nap City" and the Colts have their collective arrow pointed up with numero uno draft pick QB Andrew Luck from Stanford.
The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up knows there are huge expectations down the road but nobody right now is expecting this team that enters the 2012 season at a bloated 125-to-1 Super Bowl win-it-all odds to make major noise right away - still, it would sure be nice if Luck can deliver some crisp passes in this matinee tilt against the St. Louis Rams.
Hey, the aforementioned Manning threw a pick (off a deflected pass) in his Denver Broncos debut and so you know there will be some sort of "competition" here to see if Luck throws a touchdown or two before ever airing his first pro interception.
More about the Rams-Colts clash in a moment but first this key reminder:
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Now, here's a look at Sunday's NFL Preseason Week 1 game:
ST. LOUIS at INDIANAPOLIS - 1:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
If you've happened to come upon any Colts-related previews in recent days than you no doubt have read the word "patience" more than once.
No doubt the Colts are a major work-in-progress these days under first-year head coach Chuck Pagano who may have been a surprise choice for the job in succeeding Jim Caldwell but he's a solid choice with a defensive background and he'll turn over this Luck-led offense to well-respected offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, late of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In this clash inside Lucas Oil Stadium, look for Luck to get in for a quarter-plus while he attempts to gain rapport with veteran wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie - but finding out who's the team's No. 3 wide-out could begin to take shape here with WR Donnie Avery very much in the mix and don't forget how Luck loved to throw to his tight ends in college and fellow Stanford grad TE Coby Fleener (the 34th overall choice in last spring's NFL Draft) is, of course, on this Colts roster.
Meanwhile, the Rams have their own "issues" while heading into their preseason opener as they also finished last year a dreary 2-14 SU overall and so no surprise that Steve Spagnuolo was axed after two crummy seasons and long-time Tennessee Titans boss-man Jeff Fisher was brought in to revive this franchise. The Rams need to bone up a rush defense that last year finished next-to-last in the league (they allowed nearly 152 ground yards a game) and it didn't help matters that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was fired ever before he got going here as a result of that BountyGate bit with the Saints.
If you wish to check out someone in particular on this St. Louis defense here, than eyeball rookie CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) who has impressed Fisher and Company so far in camp - heck, Jenkins claims he plays with a "chip on his shoulder" and we'll see if he gets assigned to WR Wayne here in the early going.
Current Las Vegas Lines: Colts (- 1) and 34 points
THE 2012 COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPDATES: THE ACC'S IS IN THE SPOTLIGHT TODAY
Folks, we're gonna intermittently splice in NCAA Football conference overviews in the next couple of weeks here at Jim Sez but instead of pounding you over the head with dry numbers like "returning starters" and the like, we'll ask five questions that need to be answered while heading into the 2012 College Football Season. So here goes with the ACC ...
Q: It's assumed that Florida State will win the ACC this year and play in a BCS bowl but who really forms their toughest in-league "comp"?
A: If you check out the polls, than both Clemson and Virginia Tech are considered sound rivals to the Sems this season but the orange-clad Tigers have major problems along the offensive line and no WR/KR Sammy Watkins (two-game suspension) at the start really hurts while V-Tech must be more productive in the red zone and have to get back to Beamerball after blocking just one kick all of last season. Gut feeling is that both Clemson and Virginia Tech are a tad overrated - do keep in mind that Florida State will host Clemson on September 22nd while the 'Noles head to Blacksburg to play the Hokies on November 8th ... just sayin'!
Q: Who might be the most underrated team in the ACC this year?
A: Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets won eight games last year and it could have been more had Paul Johnson's squad not lost a pair of tilts by three points each (including that gut-wrenching 30-27 OT loss versus Utah in the Sun Bowl). Look for the Techsters to be razor-sharp on offense more times than not behind QB Tevin Washington who just may be ready to take that next step towards stardom. Put it this way: If Georgia Tech can somehow shock 7 ½-point fav Virginia Tech on Labor Day evening than it could be staring at a 10-and-oh start.
Q: What ACC head coaches are worth points to their teams?
A: We've been saying all along that Wake Forest boss-man Jim Grobe is one of the country's 10-best game coaches and he's worth a couple of points (especially when his WF Demon Deacons are in the underdog role) plus count us among the folks who believe brand-new North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora (last four years at Southern Miss) will be a difference-maker in a couple of close Tar Heels games this year. Not that you're asking, but the worst game coach in the ACC is Boston College's Frank Spaziani who is on the proverbial hot seat right from season's start.
Q: What player(s) might prove to be the league's biggest/best playmakers this year?
A: North Carolina sophomore RB Giovani Bernard is on everyone's first-team All-ACC squad one year after he rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 TDs but he could jettison right into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a quick start and don't sleep on Miami DE Anthony Chickillo who one publication said has a "non-stop motor". If Chickillo - another soph - can be a major disruptive force for Al Golden's club in Coral Gables, than Miami might have a good shot at landing road wins at Kansas State (Sept. 8th) and Notre Dame (Oct. 6th in not-so-neutral Chicago).
Q: Finally, can you forecast one big-time, off-the-radar-screen storyline coming from the ACC this season?
A: Our Jim Sez crystal ball believes N.C. State could be a double-digit win team this year providing it can pull the mild surprise against Tennessee inside the Georgia Dome on the night of August 31st. The Wolf Pack has plenty of ammo led by QB Mike Glennon (31 TDs last year) and CB David Amerson (ACC-best 13 INTs last year). Most folks believe the Pack to be a top 40 team but Tom O'Brien's club could crack the top 15 at year's end providing it beats the Vols later this month. Stay tuned!
NOTE: There's more NFL News & Notes from this 2012 Preseason in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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