Way-too-early conference predictions: ACC
With all of the conference expansion talk it seems odd to be doing a Way-too-early conference prediction. But the ACC is our final one and here's what we have.
If this holds true we'll have Florida State facing Virginia Tech in a decent championship tilt. Today, I give the Hokies a solid edge and a possibility of playing in the BCS Championship.
1. Florida State (8-4, 6-2): It would be easy to see the Seminoles remain an afterthought in the ACC following a coaching change, but the Atlantic is the weaker division and FSU has enough talent to make Jimbo Fisher look like a genius in his first year. FSU will need the defense to improve for a shot at winning the ACC.
2. Boston College (9-3, 5-3): Mark Herzlich was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and he’s back after a year off while battling cancer. He should lead a defense that needs to shore up its line. The Eagles are confident that 26-year-old QB Dave Shinskie, a former professional baseball player, can lead the offense.
3. Clemson (6-6, 4-4): The Tigers still have the talent to win the division, but losing RB C.J. Spiller and most likely QB Kyle Parker to baseball may be too much to overcome in 2010. Clemson has a strong defensive line and secondary, but the linebacking corps is inexperienced.
4. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5): Just four years ago the Demon Deacons were the surprise champs on the ACC. Now Jim Grobe is trying to find a little of the magic again and just get Wake into a bowl game. The Deacons need a quarterback and more depth on the offensive line to make a serious run.
5. North Carolina State (4-8, 1-7): There are some who think the Wolfpack are the darkhorse to win this division. Don’t buy it. I did last year and it was a huge mistake. Tom O’Brien is a respected coach, but something just hasn’t worked at N.C. State. The offseason hasn’t been kind either with off-the-field problems and costly injuries will limit the Pack’s success.
6. Maryland (3-9, 1-7): Watching the Terrapins come apart at the seams last year was tough, especially since Ralph Friedgen did such an amazing job when he first arrived. Now he needs a winning season to remain Maryland’s coach. Senior RB Da’Rei Scott is one of the bright spots on offense, and many of the young players gained valuable experience last year.
1. Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1): The Hokies will win a three-way tie with North Carolina and Miami and win the ACC title outright. If Coach Frank Beamer’s team can avoid the one loss I’m predicting (at North Carolina on Nov. 13), Virginia Tech could be playing for a national championship.
2. North Carolina (10-2, 7-1): The Tar Heels defense is all anyone can talk about. And, yes, UNC is stacked on defense. But offense has been an issue, as well as turnovers, so until the offense shows more consistency it’s hard to predict a championship.
3. Miami (9-3, 7-1): A lot of bloggers are ready to put the Hurricanes back on top. But Miami’s poor performance against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl last year leads me to believe the Hurricanes are at least another year away from serious contention. That said, I still see Miami only losing one league game and that’s to Virginia Tech on Nov. 20.
4. Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3): For a program that won the league last year this may seem like a big drop. But the Coastal Division is this tough and teams in the ACC are starting to solve the Yellow Jackets’ triple option. Joshua Nesbitt does a great job of running the offense, but he’s still turnover prone. Tech could shock everyone and win this division because of a stout defense.
5. Duke (4-8, 2-6): David Cutcliffe has done impressive work with the Blue Devils, but this division is just too tough for Duke. With an upset here or there the Devils could be sitting at .500 at the end of the year and playing in a bowl for the first time since 1994.
6. Virginia (3-9, 0-8): Al Groh is finally gone and the Cavaliers are in full rebuild mode under new coach Mike London. The Cavaliers do have one of the nation’s top cornerbacks in Ras-I Dowling, but the team is loaded with young, inexperienced players.