The ACC doesn’t get a lot of credit for its football and rightly so the way the conference has performed in BCS bowls going 2-11 all time. Yikes! Florida State is starting to emerge again as a national power. I like when Florida State is good because it really makes college football that much better. Florida State’s emergence will also help the ACC’s image as a mediocre conference. But the conference still has some work today after Florida State and Virginia Tech because it is clearly the Seminoles and Hokies with the rest of the league way behind.
- Florida State (12-1 overall, 8-0 conference): Believe the hype. I was at first skeptical of Jimbo Fisher and his coach-in-waiting tag because he was on the staff that was underperforming in Bowden’s final years, but since he has taken over, the Noles recruiting has improved and so has the product on the field. The Noles are stacked – eight returning on offense and defense. Not to mention a QB in EJ Manual who many wanted starting over Christian Ponder last year who was somehow drafted #12 overall in the NFL draft in April. Back when the Noles were dominate every year they had a nasty offensive line and defense. Well they have both of those this year too with three seniors on the o-line back and a defense with fast athletes everywhere. The entire defensive backfield returns, including Greg Reid who laid out Marcus Lattimore in the Chick-fil-a Bowl last year (watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDl-rsZYVQY). The conference schedule should be fairly easy for the Noles. The non-conference game that is circled for them is a rematch of last year’s disappointing loss to Oklahoma except it is in Tallahassee this time. They also play at the Swamp the last game of the year. If they can get past OU, watch out. The Noles may be doing the Tomahawk Chop in the national title game.
- NC State (9-3, 6-2): Not a real good team for what I am predicting their record to be. That is due to the easy schedule. At Cincinnati, Florida State and Boston College will be their losses. The rest of the schedule is against average talent at home for the most part. The Wolfpack lost Russell Wilson to a transfer because he wasn’t fully devoted to playing college football according to coach Tom O’Brien. Wilson had a helluva season last year leading the Pack to a bowl win over West Virginia and NC State’s first nine win season since 2002. Not a lot is coming back on offense, but eight starters are back on defense. I am not impressed with this team though, but they will get nine wins.
- Maryland (6-6, 4-4): Randy Edsall’s first season as Maryland head coach has arrived after Maryland politely asked Ralph Friedgen to leave. Edsall called this his dream job…really Randy? Maryland football head coach is your dream job? I don’t know how many people in Maryland even realize their college has a football team. A lot of people are high on sophomore QB Danny O’Brien. He put up some good numbers last year. The Terps had the 4th best turnover margin in the nation last year on their way to a 9-4 season. I think that luck evens out this year a little.
- Clemson (6-6, 4-4): Yabba Dabba Dabo Swinney pulled together an impressive recruiting class after a typical, underachieving Clemson team went just 6-7 last year including a bowl game loss to South Florida. Dabo decided to hire Chad Morris from Tulsa to be his offensive coordinator. Did I mention that Morris is a close friend of Gus Malzahn? Clemson’s season is going to ride on Tajh Boyd, the highly recruited QB who will be seeing significant playing time for the first time. He has to grasp this new offense quickly. He’s got talent around him with RBs Andre Ellington and true freshman Mike Bellamy who was the #1 RB in the state of Florida last year. Clemson as always though is just too inconsistent for me. Dabo’s 2011 version will be very average once again, and he will get the boot. Malzahn will then be hired away from Auburn to be the Tigers’ next head coach. The rumors have already started.
- Boston College (6-6, 3-5): BC’s offense is usually terrible. Their defense is always really solid. That’s makes for some real boring football folks. Luke Kuechly is a junior linebacker who is on pace to break the NCAA career tackle record if he keeps it up. They actually may have a pretty good running game this year with Montel Harris (1,200 yards last year and he only needs about 1,000 yards rushing to become the leading rusher in ACC history) and Andre Williams (500 yards last year) returning. Six return on offense and defense from a 7-6 team. The road schedule is pretty difficult with games at Central Florida, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami. Another bowl bid for the Eagles but that’s all.
- Wake Forest (2-10, 0-8): Worst team in an average conference is not something to brag about. The Demon Deacons have struggled in the post-Riley Skinner era (I almost typed that with a straight face). Remember when the rumor was the Arkansas Razorbacks were going to hire Jim Grobe before Petrino showed up. Good choice Hogs.
- Virginia Tech (12-1, 8-0): The Hokies lost Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans from their offense. They only return five starters on defense. This is the recipe for a mediocre season in Blacksburg right? Not so fast. Virginia Tech has to have just about the easiest schedule in a BCS conference this year. They play ZERO teams ranked in the preseason AP poll. The non-conference schedule consists of Marshall, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall. The toughest home game is Miami and toughest road game is at Georgia Tech. There are probably 30 Division I teams who could possibly go undefeated with this schedule. While I do not think the Hokies are great this year, they will be in the hunt for a BCS and possibly a national championship berth until they have their usual late season letdown – but it will not happen this year until the ACC Championship Game at the hands of Florida State.
- Miami (7-5, 5-3): Oh Miami! Oh Miami! After this week’s developments, the fun may be over in Miami. This may be the last non-sanction affected season for them in a while. I’m tired of hearing about all of the allegations, so I am just going to stick to the current team. Remember when Jacory Harris was a Heisman candidate. After a 7-6 record last season and 14-15 TD to INT ratio, Harris has been downgraded. He is now a senior though with a lot of experience under his belt. I love senior QBs. They also return a veteran line but lack experience in the skill positions. The defense has 7 starters returning from a group that ranked 22 nationally. The Canes schedule is not easy. They play Ohio State and Kansas State at home and at South Florida out of conference. Games at Florida State, at North Carolina and at Virginia Tech are not doing them any favors in conference. I think Miami may have a better team than Virginia Tech (assuming no suspensions come from the Nevin Shapiro accusations). The schedules are very lopsided though, and that is why Miami's record is not even close to the Hokies. I will call the Canes my darkhorse team in the ACC though if they catch some breaks.
- Georgia Tech (7-5, 4-4): Josh Nesbitt is finally gone at QB. Anthony Allen who ran for 1,300 last year is gone. Many experts wondered if the triple option could remain effective in a major conference for a long period of time in this era. It started with a bang as the Yellow Jackets went to a BCS game two year ago. Last year, they were still the #1 rushing attack in the nation (and the #119 passing attack), but they slipped in the win-loss column going 6-7. They have some inexperience in the all-important backfield this year and only return 5 starters on defense. They’ll likely have some growing pains this year and just be pretty average.
- North Carolina (8-4, 4-4): Another troublemaker in this division is the Tar Heels. They fired Butch Davis as soon as he returned from media days at the end of July. There is a lot of uncertainty off the field with these guys, which leads to plenty of distractions. The offense was only #51 in the nation in total offense last year, and it should be worse this year. They lost their QB and leading rusher. The defense who was continuously playing without starters last year returns 4 starters, including defensive end Quinton Coples. He is easily one of the better defenders in the nation. All of this means that the Tar Heels will have to win ugly. Their home schedule is manageable, and I actually have them undefeated at home. The road schedule will give them their four losses: Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State and Virginia Tech.
- Virginia (3-9, 1-7): Bad and…
- Duke (3-9, 1-7): …real bad. I wonder if Cutcliffe is still “glad to be at Duke.”
B1G up next…2 weeks till kickoff!