Welcome back for another exciting season…as area teams prepare for their respective 12 game assaults on greatness.  Greatness is a term that changes based on location…a great season for a Maryland entering the Big Ten isn’t the same as Virginia trying to wash away the stain from a 2013 nightmare.  While Virginia Tech expects a shot at a major bowl…Navy’s expectations are justifiably different.  Taking a closer look at the four major area schools:

 

Maryland (7-6 last season with a 3-5 ACC record,  lost to Marshall in the Military Bowl)

Causes for Confidence—6th year senior quarterback CJ Brown keeps defenses honest with his feet (over 500 yards rushing last year) while possessing downfield weapons in wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.  The defense returns nine starters.  A semi-soft non-league schedule (James Madison, South Florida, Syracuse and West Virginia) leads into a Big Ten slate that begins with Indiana and ends with Rutgers.

Causes for Concern—the gauntlet from October 4th through November 22nd involves six opponents all receiving votes in the AP Preseason Poll.  A defense that has yet to prove it can turn opponents over.  Can CJ Brown stay healthy?  Injuries cost him two games and parts of two others last season…the Terps going 1-3 over those four outings.  Maryland’s also faded under coach Randy Edsall:  going 4-9 in October and 2-10 in November since he arrived in 2011.

Preston’s Prognosis:  7-5 (4-4 in the Big Ten) with a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit December 26th against an ACC team.

 

 

Virginia Tech (8-5 last season with a 5-3 ACC record, lost to UCLA in the Sun Bowl)

Causes for Confidence—Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer completed over 70 percent of his passes while with the Red Raiders.  A revamped running game should be much better than the ground attack that ranked 106th in Division I last year.  The Hokies also haven’t gone more than three years without playing for an ACC Championship and the Coastal Division is soft—Duke (?!) was last years representative.

Causes for Concern—recently the Hokies have had more than their share of hiccups in September…almost losing to East Carolina and Marshall last year while falling to Cincinnati and James Madison in recent seasons.  Last year’s leading rusher Trey Edmunds begins the year banged up.  Special Teams was a disaster last year…can they bring Beamer Ball back?

Preston’s Prognosis: 10-2 (7-1 in the ACC) with a trip to the ACC Title game (losing to Florida State) before heading to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

 

 

Virginia (2-10 last season with an 0-8 ACC record)

Causes for Confidence—things can’t be simply as bad as last year’s hot mess.  Greyson Lambert despite sounding like a designer shirt is the answer at quarterback.  Kevin Parks (1000+ yards rushing in 2013) continues to be the security blanket for the Cavaliers offense.  Coach Mike London’s brought in several highly touted recruiting classes…and it’s only a matter of time before that begins to pay off.

Causes for Concern—an unforgiving September schedule that includes #7 UCLA and a Louisville team that went 12-1 last year…plus a trip to BYU still smarting from last year’s thunderstorm-aided upset at Scott Stadium. Can Greyson Lambert remain upright behind a rebuilding offensive line?  Despite the ballyhooed recruiting classes UVa’s posted just two winning seasons since 2005… can the culture in Charlottesville change in time to save Mike London’s job?

Preston’s Prognosis: 5-7 (3-5 in the ACC) capped with another loss to Virginia Tech in the final game of the season.

 

 

Navy (9-4 last season with a win over Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl)

Causes for Confidence—Keenan Reynolds is the ultimate dual threat at quarterback (1038 yards passing, 1260 yards rushing in 2013).  The Midshipmen option is tough for teams to prepare against.  The schedule offers more than a few winnable games (Temple, Texas State) while the two name opponents have issues:  #5 Ohio State losing quarterback Braxton Miller to injury, #17 Notre Dame suspending four players for academics.

Causes for Concern—did anybody see the Mids losing to Toledo last year?  Needing triple overtime to squeak by San Jose State?  Georgia Southern beat Florida in Gainesville last season…and they come to Annapolis November 15th.  Which is more than Ohio State or Notre Dame do—the Buckeyes game will be at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and the Fighting Irish come to Fed Ex Field in Landover.  So much for “home field advantage”.

Preston’s Prognosis:  9-3 highlighted by a season-making victory over Army.  The bowl trip is merely gravy.

 

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