College Football: ACC quarterbacks, Previews
The ACC, with its reputation somewhat sullied as a football conference last weekend, will be dealing with a few shifts at the quarterback position this weekend. Miami will start Robert Marve at Florida, but the plan is to alternate between Marve and Jacory Harris. Neither has played a road game in their young careers (combined 1 game, which was Harris against Charleston Southern last Thursday), so this game should be an intriguing one to say the least.
Maryland will go with Chris Turner in their game at Middle Tennessee, and Josh Portis will also see action. Jordan Steffy is out indefinitely with an injury to his right thumb. All three players saw action in the Terps' 14-7 win over Delaware, and you have to wonder if such a "musical chair" situation played a role in their struggles. Not to take anything away from the Blue Hens, who gave Maryland all they wanted and then some, but it doesn't help continuity when you're switching quarterbacks left and right. Going to two should make things a bit more crisp on offense.
Florida State will start redshirt sophomore Christian Ponder under center in their opener against Western Carolina, beating out incumbent Drew Weatherford and freshman D'Vontrey Richardson. Given the fact that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher isn't a big fan of switching quarterbacks at the snap of a finger, Ponder would have to be dreadful in order to get pulled. Or the Noles would simply have to blow the Catamounts out. I see this scenario happening, and all three may get on the field at some point. But Ponder will be the guy to get the start, and with two FCS opponents on the schedule to start the year he should be in good spirits when they host Wake Forest on the 20th.
#24 South Carolina @ Vanderbilt (8:30 PM on ESPN)
While much of the country may be tuned into the NFL's season opener, a possible upset could be brewing in Nashville. Why do I say that? The instability of the quarterback position at South Carolina is the reason why. Chris Smelley, who went 5-5 with two touchdowns in replacing Tommy Beecher (4 picks...unlike Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, Steve Spurrier has options when a guy does this), gets the nod under center. Smelley has started for the Gamecocks before in his career, which may have made the decision to go with Beecher in the opener all the more puzzling. Vandy comes off of an impressive 34-10 win at Miami (Ohio), but the defense QB Chris Nickson and company will see tonight is light years ahead of the Redhawks' unit. I like the Gamecocks to rely on their defense and get the job done, but if they don't get some consistency out of the passing game things could get interesting.
Navy @ Ball State (Friday, 7 PM on ESPN)
Neither team got much of a test in their opener last weekend, with Navy blowing out Towson and Ball State pasting Northeastern. Two unheralded yet outstanding offensive weapons will be on display as well: Ball State QB Nate Davis and Navy RB Shun White. All White did last week was run for 348 yards on just nineteen carries. Ball State will get a solid answer as to whether or not their run defense (ranked 106th in 2007) has improved, given Navy's desires to grind the game away on the ground (the nation's best ground attack in 2007). Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will miss this game due to a hamstring injury that kept out of last weekend's victory. Last year's game, won 34-31 in overtime by the Cardinals, was an exciting affair and I expect more of the same. I'll take Ball State in this one.
Lastly, former Wisconsin RB Lance Smith, who was kicked off the team before the season began due to off-field troubles, is now practicing at Memphis. He won't be eligible to play in games until 2009, per NCAA transfer rules.