I layed out the post in three sections: Who's left, who we need to beat, and how we need to play to win.
The Pods originally were layed out like this.
These are the teams who we will be mid to heavy underdogs against.
These are the two games that I would consider to be toss-ups (and Cinncinatti is probably very generous) on the schedule.
These are the schools that we absolutely must take care of. They are definitely worse than us and need to be beaten.
Now, this is obviously no where near what things shaked out to be.
Here's my revised Pods.
@North Carolina, L 14-7
@Cinncinatti, L 25-16
@West Virginia, W 38-35
Rutgers, W 16-14
Pitt, L 21-14
@USF W 34-24
UConn, W 34-20
Syracuse, W 27-10
Here are the goals for the pods. This was part two in the original article. For all apllicable goals, I'll give it a rating of 1-10, basing it off how we were before the goal was set and after, and how we compare to other teams.
Take Care of both Pod 3 Teams- I'll give it to you straight up. We absolutely have GOT to beat Syracuse and Connecticut. UConn's offense is awful and the defense just gave up 38 points to Western Michigan. Syracuse is about the weakest 3-2 team in the country at this point. They should have lost to Toledo, should have lost to Wake Forest, beat Rhode Island by a gaudy 7 points and scored 12 offensive points in a loss to Rutgers. These are necessities.
Win at least one of the toss-ups- Rutgers doesn't look too bad (though they almost lost to Syracuse) but has some really good skill position players ( i.e. Mohammad Sanu, Chas Dodd, Jeremy Deering) but not much of an offensive line. Cinncinatti looks really, really good so far but hasn't really played much of anyone outside NC State. Rutgers I could see winning, but UC will be really, really tough.
Done, with a chance to get even better.
Win a Pod 1 Game- My God, if we can do this, I'm going to be really, really, happy. UNC is going to be a serious problem. The defense has NFL first day players all over the place. Quinton Coples (DE) should have a field day with our weak offensive line. I don't see this happening coming off this huge letdown. West Virginia is too good. Cross them off the list. That leaves Pitt and USF. Pitt looked bad for the first two weeks in wins. They were about to blow out Iowa, but blew a giant lead. They were shut down by the only legit D they have played so far- Notre Dame. They manhandled the team that I am getting to next- South Florida. They were ungodly lucky to win the Notre Dame game (three turnovers inside the ten, including a pick-six) and have beaten powerhouses UTEP, Ball State, and Florida A&M, and lots of people were ready to anoint them Big East champs. Overrated. But we haven't won in their place yet. That's a problem. USF is still a very, very good team, but if there's a heavy-dog game we win, it's this one.
Done and done.
Protect the Oven- Very self-explanatory here. We've got Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. You absolutely have to win at least two. Three would probably ensure the team of a bowl.
We should be perfect at home in big east play (darn you, Pittsburgh!) but we've protected the house pretty well. Pitt was probably a game that should have been won. Rutgers win looks very nice today.
7/10, Compared to most other teams, 3-3 with losees to FIU and Marshall are absolutely nothing to brag about, but because we were a failure of epic proportions beforehand but now have given teh home crowd a young product that is a sign of things to come, they get a 7.
Win two of the next three (@UNC, @Cincy, RU)- Of those, you probably want to win Cincinnati and Rutgers to get you confidence and a 2-0 Big East start. This is not in the least bit out of the question. But more than that, this team needs confidence and a winning culture more than anything else.
A frustrated, Kragthorpian Red X. Turns out that this probably won't matter too much (though we DEFINITELY should have beaten UC, and that with Pitt could keep us out of the Orange Bowl) though.
Don't finish 0-4 - Because it could happen. We play @WVU, Pitt, @UConn, and @USF. Obviously, that's a death blow, especially if we can't beat UConn.
This did not happen. Hooray.
Part three- How they won the games
I originally omitted these two, but the heck.
Run the ball
Check minus. It's definitely competent, but it's really faded out on us at times during the year. Not consistent. Vic Anderson is good enough to get more than 500 yards on the season.
5/10, for the reasons stated above.
DO GOOD AT OFFENSEIVE LINE- You know, the line has stepped up so much since Marshall that it isn't even funny. Finally can throw those deep passes and break off a few big runs.
7.5/10, not because we have Alabama's offenseive line, but becuase of how much we sucked before.
Okay, back to the originals.
Force some God dang turnovers- We have forced exactly uno turnovers since we picked off Murray State 3 times. We have been inept in getting turnovers. We haven't had great field position all season long, and with how our offense stands today, we'll need it. Which brings me to the second part of this.
Margins since Big East play started.
Cincy- Even, 1 forced
Rutgers- +2, 3 forced
Syracuse- -1, 0 forced
West Virginia- +1, 2 forced
Pitt- Even, 1 forced
UConn- -1, 2 forced
That's eight turnovers forced in 6 games for an average of 1.25 turnovers forced per game. We have a total of +1 on turnovers. To be honest, hasn't been too drastic, but it's good enough to get the job done.
6/10, not the greatest job forcing turnovers or holding onto the ball, but we're winning, so huzzah.
Stop being a "Bend But Not Break" Defense/ Get three and outs- Have you ever noticed that teams get to the fifty at will against us? Marshall must have punted five or six times from the 45 or so. North Carolina is going to take advantage of those opportunities. We have to stop them straight up. Like I said, we need field position.
In short, yes.
Andrell and Bellamy have been the two biggest individual disappointments (well, on second thought, Daniel Brown and Shenard Holten would beg to differ- and if you have any info on why DB isn't playing, and why Shenard has still not returned from his suspension, please, speak up) this season. Andrell has completely faded from the spotlight, and Michealee Harris has taken over the role of "Mr. Reliable" on this team. DeVante Parker is absolutely outperforming as a speed wideout. Josh Bellamy has been fairly involved at times, but he's played cornerback as welll as WR. I don't think that anyone has a set position on this team.
Find a Deep threat- Yep, this is where Bellamy comes into play. I'm not sure if DeVante Parker is really (okay, he is, but the guy's a freshman, not exactly the point in one's carrer where they are Mr. Consistent) legit and can catch a touchdown and get 75 yards week in and week out as a freshman. Eli Rogers has made lots of freshman mistakes. He has the talent, but I'm not sure if he's ready. Michealee Harris seems like Doug Beaumont and seems to be like "Mr. Reliable" for this team. Josh Chichester has gotten lots of seperation and has been able to go over the middle a lot but doesn't have that breakaway speed. Will Stein and Teddy Bridgewater need someone who can stretch the D and at least keep them honest. Throwing the deep ball does require you to set your feet and throw, so there's that...
Start Running the Quick Hitters again- That screen to Bellamy is good for 5-10 yards every time. This is where Andrell is needed. I mean, Jesus, the guy has every bit of talent that a possesion reciever could need. He's like 6-4 over 200 pounds and has good speed. I mean, really. We're gonna need him for the long haul.
We've done this some more, but we really haven't had to. Our offensive line for the most part has allowed us to run it much more than we were able to, and now Teddy can set his feet and get the ball down the fleld. This one is null-and-void.
Get Special Teams Going- Last year we were top 20 in kickoff and punt returns. Beaumont, Anderson, and Bellamy were difference makers. Why Charlie continues to have Scott Radcliff returning punts is beyond me. He has about a threat of 0 to break one, and just muffed a punt last week. Put Bellamy, someone who can make a difference, out there.
Philpott is absolutely clicking and one of the hottest kickers in the coutry right now. He started off 2 for 6 and is currently 9 for 13 with two field goals from 51 and 52 yards out. Kickoff returns were incredibly mediocre compared to last year until those two Adrian Bushell returns last weeked. Punt returns still scare the crap out of me though (COUGH COUGH ELI ROGERS COUGH COUGH). So for the most part, yes.
Creative Play Calling- That is all.
Tough road to 6. Prediction: 5 wins. Generously. Prove me wrong. Go Cards.
Crappy prediction, but I guess I was close enough.
Bold Prediction (literally): Beat USF, Orange Bowl. Dream Big.
I profiled our bowl team last year, Southern Mississippi. Any one care if I do that again this year? There was some really interesting stuff that really helped tell the tale of how the game would be won, and just about nailed the final score and a few other specifics.
Anyway, GO CARDS, BEAT USF.