Blog Entry

Picking the ACC

Posted on: June 26, 2009 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:00 am

It has been easy to take shots at the ACC since expansion.

The whole Florida State/Miami axis-of-excellence thing hasn't panned out. But there have been some stories worth reading. Wake Forest competes favorably representing one of the smallest schools in I-A. Everybody is waiting for North Carolina to break out under Butch Davis. Georgia Tech's option game has baffled opponents, at least in Paul Johnson's first season.

Virginia Tech has remained the only constant. The Hokies have won consecutive ACC titles and never seems to drop far off the grid. Frank Beamer could be anywhere. He has chosen to remain in Blacksburg and built an unlikely powerhouse.

The Hokies are prohibitive favorites to make it three in a row.


1. North Carolina State -- Invest in Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack's coach is as solid commodity as there is on Wall Street these days. Actually better, considering the state of Wall Street. For 10 years, he overachieved at Boston College. Now with more resources he is ready to deliver in Raleigh. When in doubt, I always go with a solid returning quarterback. Russell Wilson might have the most upside of any in the league. He enters the season with 249 passes without an interception, 22 short of Drew Weatherford's ACC record. During an injury-filled season Wilson still threw 17 touchdowns and only one interception. O'Brien will hit it big in his third season coming in with a four-game winning streak to end '08.

UPDATE: Linebacker Nate Irving was injured in a car accident on Sunday (6/28). Irving, when healthy, was one of the best linebackers I saw last season. If he isn't able to go this season, the certainly impacts the Pack's chances.

2. Florida State -- The bandwagon is not full. I'm intrigued why the Seminoles are most people's choice in this division. Bobby Bowden is back to having an established quarterback (Christian Ponder) for the first time in eight seasons. The offensive line is reflecting line coach Rick Trickett's toughness (left tackle Andrew Datko was a freshman All-American). But there aren't the dynamic athletes we're used to seeing. And there always seems to be some drama around the program. People have talked more about the loss of 14 victories in the offseason more than Ponder having some reliable receivers. Try to envision a nine-win season with road trips to BYU, North Carolina, Clemson, Wake and Florida. I can't. FSU could win the division and probably eight games but it will take a step back from '08 when it won nine. 

3. Wake Forest -- The Deacons have won 11, 9 and 8 games the last three seasons. It would be logical to assume the decline is going to continue. Most of the returning players are back on offense, which struggled. The defense loses eight starters. Four players were taken in the first four rounds of the draft. That's amazing but also troubling for this season. Wake will have to get those new defensive starters ready to contribute right away for it to be a factor in the division.
4. Clemson
-- The Dabo Swinney era goes into its first full season. A 4-2 finish by the former receivers coach was enough to raise hopes after the end of Tommy Bowden's 9 1/2-year reign. There is always the fear that Clemson is still Clemson. Since 1999, it has never won less than six or more than nine. The Tigers have had the talent to win the ACC each of the last three seasons but they always seem to disappoint. Kevin Steele was a huge get as defensive coordinator coming from Alabama. Tailback C.J. spillers is less than 1,000 yards away from becoming the ACC's career leader in all-purpose yards. Swinney will be reminded at every turn that the last ACC title was in 1991. 

5. Maryland -- We can see the end of the Ralph Friedgen era in College Park. Offensive coordinator James Franklin is the coach in waiting. The Terps should take a major dip after going 8-5. Twelve starters have departed including receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Friedgen loves Torrey Smith and redshirt freshman Kevin Dorsey as emerging talents at receiver. Franklin has done a good job shaping senior quarterback Chris Turner. 

6. Boston College -- Gene DeFilippo is my hero. Look, I liked Jeff Jagodzinski but I admire BC's AD for calling the former coach's bluff when Jags interviewed with the Jets. I admire DeFilippo more for replacing Jags with the guy who most deserved it. Frank Spaziani was d-coordinator for 10 years and had earned his shot. There is enough left over from the nation's No. 5 five defense to compete (linebacker Mark Herzlich was ACC defensive player of the year). You wonder, though, if the Eagles will be able to throw when they need to. Junior Codi Boek arrived as a quarterback, then was converted to fullback. He is now is back at quarterback. He is competing with freshman Justin Tuggle.


1. Virginia Tech -- Beamer doesn't get enough credit. The Hokies have become the dominant program in a league that was formed showcase Miami and Florida State. In the last five seasons he has won 52 games and three ACC titles, including the last two in a row. Virginia Tech should go to a third consecutive BCS bowl. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor gets the job to himself after injuries and Sean Glennon blocked his way the past two seasons. Taylor's game resembles a certain legend whose name rhymes with "quick." Sophomore tailback Darren Evans rushed for most of his 1,265 yards in the second half of the season.  Coordinator Bud Foster might have his best defense ever. It is quick and mean. If the Hokies get past Alabama in the opener, they could be in the national championship hunt.

2. Georgia Tech -- You've got to love Paul Johnson's, um, confidence. When folks questioned whether his triple option could work in the big time he went out and won nine while beating Georgia in his first season with the Jackets. Things should be better this season Heisman candidate Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC's leading rusher, is complemented nicely by Roddy Jones in the same backfield. The defense finished in the top 25 nationally and held five teams to 20 points or less. The secondary is loaded with the addition of corner Jerrard Tarrant who was suspended for all of '08 fighting a rape accusation. The charges were dropped. The toughest stretch will be three weeks in October when the Jackets play at Mississippi State, at Florida State and Virginia Tech at home.

3. North Carolina -- Davis continues to recruit. The Tar Heels should continue to win. In Davis' second year the Heels jumped from four to eight wins. Often-injured quarterback T.J. Yates lost his two most reliable targets (Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate) to the NFL. Fortunately, the defense is loaded. If the Heels can win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 don't be surprised if they start 6-0.
4. Miami -- I don't care who is responsible. In fact, I don't want to know. The schedule, though, is a joke. Poor Randy Shannon is looking at 0-4 with the toughest first four games in the country -- at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. Shannon lost a quarterback (Robert Mavre) and had to change both coordinators. Mark Whipple came from the NFL to take over the offense. First-year d-coordinator John Lovett came from North Carolina. The defense is stout, but let's be honest. This is Miami and if they don't win big with flair, it will be a disappointment.  The progress of quarterback Jacory Harris will be on one of the major stories in the conference.

5. Virginia -- It has been a weird circle of life in Charlottesville. Al Groh's son Mike became offensive coordinator in 2006 after Ron Prince left to become Kansas State's head coach. Prince is back (as special teams coach) after being fired at K-State. Mike Groh was, um, let go after producing the sixth-worst offense in Division I-A last season. Gregg Brandon has installed a spread offense for quarterback Jameel Sewell. They should be thankful to work together. Brandon landed at Virginia after being fired at Bowling Green. Sewell missed '08 because he was academically ineligible.

6. Duke -- There won't be a more upbeat last-place team in the country. David Cutcliffe squeezed out four victories in his first season as coach. That ties for the most in Krzyzewskiville since 1994. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis gets one last season to work under the guy who tutored Peyton and Eli. Last season's defense held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976. Only four starters return including potential All-ACC defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase.



Since: May 21, 2009
Posted on: June 27, 2009 12:09 am

Picking the ACC

I don't think the word "joke" was  what you were looking for when describing Miami's schedule. A joke schedule would be the typical OOC creampuff laced K-State/Va Tech schedule. Miami put the spotlight all over themselves with the return of the Labor Day matchup at FSU (which is usually a ratings bonanza for college football), the big Thursday tilt with GT, a early road game to Va Tech, and booking Oklahoma. That's the kind of opening slate we all wish more teams would be willing to play. A win vs. OU is very unlikely, but Miami can win the other three, and we need more great September matchups in CFB, don't we?

None of that will matter when Miami goes 5-7 again and people just shake their head in shame as Miami gets run over by those teams you mention. All of those teams will likely blow out Miami by 30+ points. The question Will be who Randy Shannon decides to blame for contributing to his anxiety of losing so much. Good Luck Miami b/c you will sure need it.......I have spoken!

I predict :

FSU- 38

Miami - 7

GT- 35

Miami- 3

Va Tech- 52
Miami- 21
Offense coming around

 Oklahoma- 65
Miami- 13

falls apart to a great team

Just saying....Let the beatings begin....Oh snap!

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: June 26, 2009 10:48 pm

Picking the ACC

The ONLY reason NC State lost to Rutgers is Wilson missed the whole second half with an injury and they had a walk-on at QB.  You didn't see the Rutgers game or you would know that.  Beating UNC for the 3rd straight year would not be an "upset".  Nor would beating Wake or BC, who lost their best players.  I watched or heard all of State's games last year and they return all their key players.  Plus they have Mike Glennon at back-up QB, who red-shirted last year.  The guy got this right, wait and see.  FSU is good, but NC State is better, all of those years of winning easy are over.  All of you UNC pickers are wishful thinking, NC State will beat them again...

Since: Jan 24, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2009 10:18 pm

Picking the ACC

Two things, Dodd:

1. I've been reading all of your picks so far. I think it's been very reasonable, while throwing a couple things out there that are surprising (NC State, WVU). But I think that's the point of these predictions. You gotta throw some things out there like that if you want to look like a genius later.

2. I go to school at USC. And I love your new "About Dodds and Ends" at the top of the screen. Enjoy the Appalachian Trail Cool

Since: Aug 8, 2007
Posted on: June 26, 2009 9:17 pm

Picking the ACC

I have to agree with the terps. How much i would love to see them contend for the title this year. The bottom line is it isn't going to happen but always have hope. The terps always pull off at least one upset to cheer about then lose to some one like Middle Tennesee. maybe next year, or the year after, or never you never know.

Go terps!

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: June 26, 2009 8:07 pm

Picking the ACC

Taylor's game resembles a certain legend whose name rhymes with "quick."

NO. Not even close. Did you even watch the Orange Bowl last year? He's the weak link in an otherwise very good looking squad.

Since: Oct 31, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2009 5:52 pm

Picking the ACC

Love it, however I'm not sure they'll win it outright, shoot they might not even tie for the Atlantic Win. I'd love to see them continue to improve, and the first game against USC will let them know where they stand and how far they've come since last year.
They return great leaders on both sides of the ball, and the front 7 on a defense that wore down late in games, but has really improved the depth this offseason, as much As I'd LOVE to say they win, I think they come in second losing the head to head game agaisnt FSU....
 Coastal is pretty accurate to what i think most people would predict, enjoyed the read.

Since: Dec 23, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2009 5:35 pm

FSU wins the Atlantic

NCSU finished 6-7 (4-4) last year, so I'm not sure how anyone could really suggest they'll win the Atlantic with a straight face. Their late season wins over North Carolina and Miami were somewhat impressive, but Miami was looking past them and I think we saw the real NCSU take the field against Rutgers. 

This year, NCSU plays at Wake Forrest, at Boston College, at FSU, at Virginia Tech, and at home against UNC -- I think 3 of of those games would be big upsets for them to win, and the other two would be (lesser) upsets as well. Wilson's a phenomenal talent, no doubt, but the offensive line is suspect and I think folks are a little too excited about their defense.

FSU plays a tough schedule themselves, but I look for them to go 9-3 (6-2) with losses to UNC and GT and win the Atlantic outright. The key for FSU's season will be to get out of the blocks early with a win over Miami and to avoid the November stumble game that they've suffered from the last few seasons -- this year it could come at Wake or at Clemson.

.... also, I don't think Miami's schedule is a 'joke' at all. My hat's off to them for scheduling some real teams and for setting their expectations high.

Since: Feb 23, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2009 5:27 pm

Picking the ACC

I agree with your comments on Tom O'Brien, but I think NC State is one year away.  With the NCAA stripping Coach Bowden of 14 wins, that ends the race with JoePa and I believe it will take that pressure away so that they can concentrate on winning their division.  Ponder is ready, the offensive line is as good as any in the country and Mickey Andrews will field another strong defense taking them to the championship game. 

As for the rest of that division, I see Clemson ahead of Wake.  Dabo Sweeney has the Tigers believeing in themselves and as you pointed out Kevein Steele will have them playing tenacious defense.

In the Coastal division, It is hard to bet against Va. Tech.  Frank Beemer has one of the most fundamental teams yaer in and year out and Bud Foster's defense keeps them in every game.  But, Paul Johnson proved last year that his triple option is very diificult to defend.
Also, watch out for Butch Davis and NC.  They doubled their win total last year and now have Davis' second recruiting class ready to go.  Their game with Ga Tech will set the tone.  As for Miami, if they could squeeze one upset in their first four and play the rest close, they could be playing in a decent bowl.  If they are not competitive it will be a long season and may be Shannon's last.  Virginia is a train wreck full of outcast and who can't be rooting for David Cutcliff.  A winning season at Duke and the goal post will come down.

It would not surprise me if the team coming out of the Coastal division has two losses.  In any event, it should be an exciting season.  Hurry up September!

Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: June 26, 2009 4:34 pm

Picking the ACC

I don't think the word "joke" was  what you were looking for when describing Miami's schedule. A joke schedule would be the typical OOC creampuff laced K-State/Va Tech schedule. Miami put the spotlight all over themselves with the return of the Labor Day matchup at FSU (which is usually a ratings bonanza for college football), the big Thursday tilt with GT, a early road game to Va Tech, and booking Oklahoma. That's the kind of opening slate we all wish more teams would be willing to play. A win vs. OU is very unlikely, but Miami can win the other three, and we need more great September matchups in CFB, don't we?

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: June 26, 2009 4:04 pm

I hate to agree....

But I think you are generally right.  I don't think NC State will be as good as you think, and UNC will finish ahead of GT. 

P.S.  A little off-topic here, but I can't wait to prove you wrong this year about WVU.  No chance we finish #5 in the Big East.  We have excellent depth at RB, WR, TE, and defense.  Jarret Brown will surprise people this year. 

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