Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 College Football Conference Predictions: ACC

The ACC is going to be bad this season. Very bad. After taking a semi-close look at every team in the league, "uncompelling" is probably the only word I can come up with to describe it (if that is even a real word.) But there is a story that could keep the nation paying attention to the ACC in 2008, and I think we'll see it happen this year. The Florida State Seminoles are my pick to win the ACC in 2008. I'll probably get absolutely roasted for saying it, and rightfully so. FSU has been the definition of mediocrity for about the last 7 years. Since Jimbo Fisher was named his replacement in waiting, I've had a feeling that this would be Bobby Bowden's last season in Tallahassee. It seems like destiny that the Seminoles would send Bobby out a winner. FSU may even make their way up into the Top 10 for a good portion of the season, although I don't see any way they can make it all the way through unscathed. Truth is, the Seminoles' talent still isn't anywhere near where it was back in Bobby's heyday, but it still beats just about everyone else in this league this season, save perhaps Clemson.

Most people think this is Clemson's year, and I agree that the Tigers will have a good team and a good season. But as usual, they'll fall just short of making it to Jacksonville for the vaunted ACC Title Game thanks to a loss in Tallahassee in the regular season, handing FSU an Atlantic Division title. Wake Forest and Maryland will be good enough to challenge, but should also fall a game short. Boston College will take a step back from last season's 11 wins, and N.C. State will likely bring up the cellar.

Virginia Tech will win the Coastal Division comfortably, although Miami and North Carolina will be better. Georgia Tech will struggle under new head coach Paul Johnson (although watch out for Tech in 3 years or so), and Virginia and Duke will battle to stay out of the bottom of the division.

One thing that strikes me are the non-conference schedules in this league. Pathetic. In fact, pathetic enough to give a few teams in this league a chance to win 10 games. There is such clear separation between the top and bottom halves of this league, I see as many as 5 teams getting to double digit wins in the regular season. This will likely make the ACC appear stronger than it is in the final analysis. Make no mistake though, this league is pretty bad this season. But if FSU can make a run, it should keep things interesting for the casual observer.

Atlantic Division
1. Florida State Seminoles (Projected Overall Regular Season Record: 10-2, Projected Conference Regular Season Record: 7-1)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Florida 11/29
Key Conference Game: vs Clemson 11/8
Key Players: WR Greg Carr, QB Drew Weatherford, LB Derek Nicholson, S Myron Rolle
This might just be St. Bobby's year. They get their three toughest games in the first ten at home (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Clemson), and don't really play a really tough road game until late November (Maryland.) Most wouldn't realize that Weatherford is actually FSU's 3rd all-time leading passer. I think he has a big senior year and closes Bobby's storied career out in style.

T2. Clemson Tigers (10-2, 6-2)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Alabama 8/30
Key Conference Game: at Florida State 11/8
Key Players: QB Cullen Harper, RB James Davis, DL Ricky Sapp, RB/KR CJ Spiller
The Tigers return 16 starters, but have to replace the entire left side of its offensive line. The defense should be very good. Watch out for freshman Da'Quan Bowers at DE. On paper, this should be the league champ. I just don't have much faith in Bobby's son, and probably won't until we see him finally get it done. This could be the year.

T2. Maryland Terrapins (10-2, 6-2)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs California 9/13
Key Conference Game: at Clemson 9/27
Key Players: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, C Edwin Williams, LB Dave Phillistin, S Antwine Perez
Don't sleep on the Terps to make a run at the league title this year. With 8 starters back on offense and a senior-laden defense, Maryland is as much in the mix as anybody else. If Ralph Friedgen can decide on a QB (Jordan Steffy was named the starter this week), the Terps could be tough to stop. Heyward-Bey is the real deal at WR.

T2. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-2, 6-2)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Ole Miss 9/6
Key Conference Game: at Maryland 10/18
Key Players: RB Josh Adams, QB Riley Skinner, LB Aaron Curry, K Sam Swank
The Deacs return 9 defensive starters, and will likely start nothing but juniors and seniors on that side of the ball. If they can find a consistent rotation along the offensive line, this might be Jim Grobe's best team yet. Swank is a major weapon, quite possibly the best place kicker in the country. Visits to FSU and Maryland will be tough to come out of unscathed.

5. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 3-5)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Notre Dame 11/8
Key Conference Game: vs Maryland 11/29
Key Players: TE Ryan Purvis, WR Brandon Robinson, LB Brian Toal, LB Mark Herzlich
Let's face it, Matt Ryan was this team last season. With very few returning starters (10 total), this figures to be a year that BC takes a step backwards. That said, I have a feeling they learned a little bit last season about how to win, and that will help them back to a bowl this season. The Eagles had trouble stopping the pass at times last year, and with 3 new starters in the secondary, they'll likely have trouble again. The schedule down the stretch is brutal.

6. North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-8, 2-6)
Key Non-Conference Game: at South Carolina 8/28
Key Conference Game: at Duke 11/8
Key Players: OG Curtis Crouch, TE Anthony Hill, RE Andre Brown, DE Willie Young
Tom O'Brien actually did a nice job in his first year in Raleigh, winning 5 games with a depleted roster thanks to some very unlucky injuries. The team should be improved this year, although it probably won't show up in the rankings. This team couldn't run on anybody last year, which O'Brien will look to improve upon behind a big and experienced line. The defense is a concern, especially at linebacker where they replace all 3 starters from last year.

Coastal Division
1. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1, 7-1)
Key Non-Conference Game: at Nebraska 9/27
Key Conference Game: at Miami FL 11/13
Key Players: OG Sergio Render, QB Sean Glennon, CB Victor Harris, S Kam Chancellor
This won't be one of Frank Beamer's better teams, but it should still be plenty decent enough to take the Coastal and benefit from a seriously weak schedule. All the Hokies' best skill players are gone from the '06 squad (RB Brandon Ore, FB Carlton Weatherford, WRs Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal and Josh Hyman.) The OL should be pretty good, as usual under Beamer. There are alot of new faces on defense, but plenty of star power with Harris, Chancellor, and DE Orion Martin. The trip to Nebraska isn't what it once was, and VT gets Maryland in Blacksburg. It is very possible that the game in Tallahassee is all that stands between the Hokies and a run at an undefeated season.

2. Miami Hurricanes (7-5, 5-3)
Key Non-Conference Game: at Texas A&M 9/20
Key Conference Game: vs Florida State 10/4
Key Players: RB Javarris James, WR Sam Shields, DE Eric Moncur, LB Glenn Cook
The Hurricanes may be one of the most improved teams in the country, although the record still shouldn't be that impressive. After bringing in what many thought was the #1 team in the country, the Canes are experiencing a serious uptick in talent, at a time when experience and leadership may be on the decline in Coral Gables. Still, this team could put a scare into some folks. Randy Shannon loves defense, and he is bringing in some serious talent in Marcus Fortson and Arthur Brown, to go with 2007 signees Allen Bailey and DeMarcus Van Dyke. There are concerns at quarterback, but the running game should carry the day (although more consistency would be welcome to Shannon.)

3. North Carolina Tarheels (7-5, 4-4)
Key Non-Conference Game: at Rutgers 9/11
Key Conference Game: at Miami 9/27
Key Players: WR Hakeem Nicks, OG Calvin Darity, DT Marvin Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant
Another very much improved team, many "experts" feel like the Tarheels could take advantage of a down year in the league, and perhaps even challenge for an ACC title. I don't think they are quite there yet, although with 18 starters returning they should be exciting to watch. That said, this team did lose 8 games last year, not counting the squeaker at home against Duke to close the season. Head coach Butch Davis has plenty of options at QB, with returning starter T.J. Yates, redshirt freshman Mike Paulus, and junior Cam Sexton. Davis' teams will play defense, and this team has the experience to back it up. One of the tougher schedules in the league will keep the Heels from battling for an upper tier bowl.

4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-8, 2-6)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Mississippi State 9/20
Key Conference Game: vs Miami FL 11/20
Key Players: OT Andrew Gardner, RB Jonathan Dwyer, DE Michael Johnson, DT Vance Walker
Let's see, a completely new offensive system, new coaching staff, and only 9 returning starters. Not a good formula for success, but brighter days are ahead on the flats under head coach Paul Johnson. Chan Gailey left the cupboard full along the defensive line, but not many other spots. QB Josh Nesbitt appears to be the man to run Johnson's option, with 2 pretty good RBs behind him in Dwyer and Jamaal Evans.

5. Virginia Cavaliers (3-9, 1-7)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs East Carolina 10/11
Key Conference Game: at Georgia Tech 10/25
Key Players: OT Eugene Monroe, RB Cedric Peerman, LB Clint Sintim, LB Antonio Appleby
The Cavaliers quietly won 9 games in 2007, including big wins over Pittsburgh and at Miami. Only 11 starters return this year, and UVa will try to rely on the run with Peerman, who was one of the top rushers in the nation through 6 games last year before injury. The linebackers will be the strength of what has usually been a good defense under head coach Al Groh.

6. Duke Blue Devils (2-10, 0-8)
Key Non-Conference Game: vs Navy 9/13
Key Conference Game: vs Virginia 9/27
Key Players: WR Eron Riley, DT Vince Oghobaase, LB Mike Tauiliili, KR Jabari Marshall
I really wanted to pick Duke to finish somewhere other than last. With David Cutcliffe now the head coach, and 17 starters returning, it is certainly possible that Duke could win a couple of conference games. Virginia and NC State in Durham are the most likely candidates. Still, this is Duke. They barely get 20,000 fans to their home games and haven't won a conference game since 2004. Let's see them get one under their belt before we go out making bold predictions.


Ally said...

Outstanding preview. I feel the exact way about Clemson. Until they can prove on the field they get no respect from me. Plus, I would love to see Bobby hand it to his son once again, especially if that means it keeps the boys in purple pants out of the acc game.

Otto said...

If Clemson can't win the ACC this yr will they ever?

I think they pull it out and finally make the BCS. The schedule sets up nice for a run and it's just a question of avoiding the late season loss to a team you should beat.
FSU and UM are down and Clemson has more talent than any other ACC team outside of Blacksburg.

I'm by know means a Clemson fan but I'm a HUGE fan of things that suck for for the G'cocks. So this would be okay by me...

Anonymous said...

4 teams going 10-2 in the same division?

JJ said...

Anonymous @ 10:12
-FSU loses at Maryland and vs Florida
-Clemson loses at Wake and at FSU
-Maryland loses at Clemson and at Va Tech
-Wake loses at FSU and at Maryland

Again, it speaks to the weaknesses of the bottom half of this conference, and the utter patheticness of the non-conference schedules of most of these teams.

Bop said...

I'll take the Wake vs Clemson winner to take the acc. Gut says Clemson because of the talent but my head says Wake because of Grobe.