Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

July 15, 2014

CFB, Week 6: Hokies face Tar Heels, Rams could get first win

BLUEFIELD — Week 6 will feature six games involving four regional and two local college football teams.

Chief among those is an Oct. 4 clash against North Carolina in a key ACC Coastal Division clash tilt, with the winner possibly having the inside track at the ACC championship game, probably against Florida State.

In other games, West Virginia will host Kansas in Big 12 action for what will be homecoming in Morgantown. Marshall will begin Conference USA play at league newcomer Old Dominion, while Virginia will entertain Pittsburgh.

Locally, Concord will visit Fairmont State, while Bluefield welcomes Bethel on Oct. 4, with a surprise waiting at the end of that one.

Virginia Tech will be the ultimate 'sandwich' game for the Tar Heels, who will visit Clemson the week before the Hokies, and travel to Notre Dame in Week 7.

North Carolina is just 2-11 in its last 13 meetings with Clemson, and just 2-8  over the last decades against the Hokies.

North Carolina scored 48 points to pound the Hokies in Tech's last trip to Chapel Hill in 2012. That was two years ago. North Carolina started Marquise Williams in place of injured Bryn Renner in a 27-17 loss to the Hokies last season. He threw for 277 yards and two scores, and also ran for another 56, eventually leading the Tar Heels to a 6-1 record to end the campaign.

Virginia Tech will have to slow down receiver Quinstad Davis (48-730, 10 td) and talented tailback T.J. Logan (545, 4 td). There is also Ryan Switzer, a Charleston native, who had a terrific freshman season for North Carolina, returning an amazing five punts for touchdowns.

Defensively, the Tar Heels return nine of their top 12 tacklers, and will provide a challenge to Michael Brewer, Trey Edmunds and the Virginia Tech offense.

Graham product Alex Marrs is a long snapper for the Tar Heels.

Prediction: North Carolina, in a close one. (Virginia Tech, 4-2 through six games).

West Virginia's 4-8 campaign in 2013 was one to forget, and it hit rock bottom at Kansas when the Jayhawks won their first Big 12 game in more than three years with a 35-12 rout over the Mountaineers.

Kansas now has another streak to break, having not won a Big 12 game on the road since 2008. In fact, Charlie Weis is a dreadful 4-20 with the Jayhawks, including 0-11 on the road.

He enters the season looking for a quarterback after Jake Heaps left for his third college home, having landed in Miami. Kansas, which has finished last in the Big 12 for five straight seasons, managed to score 20 or more points just twice last year.

That won’t be easy to do this year against what should be an improved defense led by Nick Kwiatkowski and Karl Joseph.

West Virginia will play four its final seven games away from the Morgantown. Winning at home is a must, and doing that against the Jayhawks is more likely than two weeks earlier with Oklahoma.

Homecoming will be a good time.

Prediction: West Virginia (2-3 through five games).

Marshall will finally open Conference USA action after four very winnable non-conference games, followed by a bye week prior to facing league newcomer Old Dominion.

The Monarchs are in its sixth season with football, and have done quite well with 46 wins. Of course, four of those years were against FCS competition, and this is the Monarchs' first in C-USA.

Despite an 8-4 record last year, Old Dominion surrendered 80 points in its season finale to North Carolina, and also allowed 52 and 47 in other losses and 58 in a win.

Taylor Heinicke is a talented quarterback, having thrown for 4,022 yards and 33 scores last season. The Monarchs scored 38 or more points in seven games, but also allowed 35 or more in six contests.

This could be a high-scoring affair, but Marshall will score more. The Herd is 3-1 over the last two years after a bye week.

Prediction: Marshall (5-0 through five games).

Virginia last won two games in a row in 2012, and will enter this season having gone 2-12 since then. Pittsburgh is the Cavaliers' fifth home game in their first six contests, with a bye week on tap after this one.

Pittsburgh is 4-2 over the years against the Cavaliers, but the visiting team has never won in the short series that was first played in 1955.

Virginia dropped a defensive showdown, 14-3, last year in Pittsburgh.

By this point of the season, several of the highly-touted freshmen signed by Virginia could begin to make an impact, especially on defense where Anthony Harris and Eli Harold are honors candidates for the Cavaliers.

Kevin Parks is the leading returning rusher in the ACC. Virginia High product Ian Frye is the kicker for the Cavaliers. David Marrs, a product of Graham, is a reserve defensive back for Virginia.

Pittsburgh is expected to start Chad Voytik at quarterback, and his favorite target is Tyler Boyd, who had 85 catches for 1,174 yards and seven last year as a freshman. The top two backs also return, James Conner (799, 8 td) and Isaac Bennett (797, 7 td).

This will be a close one, decided by a field goal from Frye.

Prediction: Virginia, in a mild upset. (3-3 through six games).

Concord hasn't lost to the Falcons since the Mountain Lions were 0-11 in 2008. Since then, they are 5-0, scoring at 34, 41 and 41 in three of the last four games, and allowing no more than 17 in any of those five.

Look for a lot of Calvinaugh Jones, who ran for 209 yards and two scores last year against the Falcons, who were 3-7 last year and 4-6 in 2012. Fairmont State did win seven games in '11.

Jason Woodman is in his second season as head coach of the Falcons. He actually began his coaching career as an assistant at LSU under Nick Saban and Les Miles in 2004-06, and also worked under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State.

He also spent two years as an assistant at Concord before taking over as offensive coordinator at Bowie State in 2011-12. His offensive line coach is former Richlands, West Virginia and NFL standout Mike Compton, who spent two years on the staff at Bluefield College.

Prediction: Concord (5-0 through five games).

Bethel will make the long trip to Bluefield from McKenzie, Tenn, to face the Rams, who will play consecutive games at home for the first time in 2014.

Chris Elliott will enter his third season with the Wildcats, having watched Bethel go from a 9-4 record and a second round NAIA playoff game in 2012 to a 2-9 mark last year, with a 41-25 win over Bluefield snapping an 0-5 start to that campaign.

Bluefield played close with the Wildcats, trailing 20-6 at the break, and narrowly getting outscored 21-19 in the second half.

The Rams struggled mightily on defense last season, with 38 being the lowest allowed, and those 41 being the fourth 'fewest' points surrendered.

Marion Harris had a monster game against Bethel, rushing for 210 yards and a score. In fact, the Rams rolled up 381 yards of rushing offense alone, compared to 178 for Bethel, which turned the tables through the air, 287 to just 152 for the Rams, including a 70-yard scoring strike.

Bethel won the previous meeting between the clubs 56-28 in 2012.

Could this be the week the Rams finally crack the win column for the first time since 1941? Bluefield enters this season with a 22-game losing skid, and is projected in these articles to start 0-5 when this campaign begins.

This will be the third road game in four weeks for the Wildcats, who will also make two trips to Kentucky prior to Virginia.

Let's take a chance. Bluefield has to win eventually. Play better pass defense, get the same output on the ground as last season and avoid back-breaking mistakes that have hampered them in the past, and these Rams could possibly finally celebrate a win.

In fact, here is guessing they will.

Prediction: Bluefield (1-5 through six games).

Week 7 will find West Virginia visiting Texas Tech and Marshall hosting Middle Tennessee State in what will be homecoming. Locally, Concord will entertain Urbana, while Bluefield makes the long trip to Mississippi to face Belhaven and former SEC head coach Hal Mumme.

Two weeks after West Virginia and Marshall had bye weeks at the same time, the same will happen for Virginia Tech and Virginia. Both will be off during Week 7. /

Twitter @bdtwoodson

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