Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Expect plenty of points from Virginia Tech in Greenville

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Greenville, N.C.: home of the shootout.

Q: Expecting a lot of points today between Virginia Tech and East Carolina, huh?

A: Have to. Vegas set the over-under on this one at 63.5. That's the third-highest total on the board today behind only Tulsa-Tulane (64) and Houston-North Texas (64), two games in which defenders will operate on flextime.

Q: Well, has Vegas ever heard of a guy named Bud Foster?

A: Sure, but let's be honest. We don't really know what to expect from this Tech defense yet. Today is a day we learn something about that unit, for better or worse.

Q: Oh, come on. You know Tech's nonconference schedule is bad. You're just trying to find a way to hype up another mismatch, aren't you?

A: Not this time. I think the point total goes over 63.5 and the Hokies win this game by about 10 points. I wouldn't be surprised a bit if it came down to the fourth quarter. Collectively, the nonconference slate is as weak as can be, but this is the toughest test of the four, in my mind.

Q: Why?

A: We haven't seen this Tech group on the road yet, for one, and ECU is a better environment than a lot of people think. Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said this week that the largest hostile crowd he's played in front of was at Salem Stadium when he was in high school. There will be eight times that many people in the stands today.

Q: So now you're saying you're worried about the Tech offense?

A: No, no, no. Just pointing out the challenge. The real problems are presented by the ECU offense. It's just different from anything else Tech will see. Think of it this way: Last week, Appalachian State trailed the entire game but put only 26 passes in the air. Last year, Pirates quarterback Dominique Davis led the FBS with 30.2 completions -- not attempts, but completions -- per game. He connected on 37 of 56 attempts in last week's opener against South Carolina, a game the Pirates led by 10 at halftime before losing.

Q: Won't all those footballs flying around create a lot of opportunities for Jayron Hosley to begin the defense of his 2010 FBS interceptions crown?

A: Absolutely. And if the Hokies can snare a few of those early, it'll get ugly in a hurry. I'm just not sure they can. I'll say Hokies 42, ECU 32.

Q: Does UVa move to 2-0 this week?

A: I think they do. And the thing to watch there is also defense. Perhaps the most impressive thing about UVa's win over William and Mary last week was that the Cavs held the Tribe to 169 yards of total offense. Another strong day from that unit would foster some genuine hope for the rest of this season.

Q: This week, Texas A&M's president said his school was "being held hostage" by the Big 12. "Essentially," he continued, "we're being told that you must stay here against your will, and we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans, for example, and makes us free people." Thoughts?

A: I can't believe a college president said that. That reads like an angry Facebook status update. But in principle, yes, if the Aggies would prefer to get their face masks smashed in by SEC opponents, they should be allowed to do so.

Q: Your best guess on where Tech will be five years from now?

A: Wherever Florida State is. That might be an expanded ACC. That might be the SEC. That might be the same place Tech is now - a 12-team ACC -- although that's looking less and less likely. But I think the Seminoles set the course on this one. The Hokies have made it clear they don't plan to move anywhere on their own.

Q: Best comment on the blog this week?

A: Let's go with Hokie Al, regarding conference realignment and expansion: "The real problem with conference expansion is it's just like NCAA tournament expansion. Once it starts, where does it stop? If 16 teams works and makes a lot of money, who's to say the SEC will not decide in a few years to become the first 20-team mega-conference?"

Q: What do you think? How many teams will the SEC have when all the expansion ends?

A: The way things are going, I'd set the over-under at 63.5.

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