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.

Atlantic

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.


Coastal

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.

 

Comments

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 3:17 pm
 

Picking the ACC

UNC is not a bad team, They did well last year.  This is this year, and all the teams are diffrent.  You did however make my point.  UNC will have to keep from getting hurt.  loosing by 2 and 3 points is the story of my life with this Duke bunch.  I know first hand it sux!  its still a L though.  If it is the Tarhole part that got ya well thats what makes this fun.  I am still a Duke guy don't take it so personal.  To objectively predict a season you have to say well last year we did great, but this is another year! If you want to Look at all the perdictions out there, VA T is tops ACC on just about everyone of them. Just chill out we are talking football not trashing each other, or teams.  You do bring up good points, i still go with mine because this is a new season, all the teams are diffrent.  Last year is over! 
I was basing this on a new year, a top 5 recruiting class and last year.  You HAVE to use the previous year as a baseline when you only lose 4 total starters.  I wasn't trashing you.  But I will say, losing by a couple is not the story of your life if you are a DOOK fan.



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:07 pm
 

Picking the ACC

ohioNole21...I picked up on your comment about the 'real' NC State against Rutgers.  If you watched the Papajohns.com bowl game, NC State controlled the game against Rutgers until Russell Wilson left at halftime with an injury (17-6 NCSU at half).  So, if that is the 'real' NC State, maybe Dodd is right afterall?



Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 11:20 am
 

Picking the ACC

We have PLENTY of talent at the skill positions this year.  TRUST me.  You obviously haven't been paying attention to some of the recruits we have landed the past few years.  Almost our entire defense returns, as well as Noel Devine, and 5th yr senior QB Jarrett Brown who is a freakish athlete but not as fast as Pat White.  He is only 6'4" and 225 lbs. 




Since: Apr 20, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 10:18 am
 

Picking the ACC

UNC is not a bad team, They did well last year.  This is this year, and all the teams are diffrent.  You did however make my point.  UNC will have to keep from getting hurt.  loosing by 2 and 3 points is the story of my life with this Duke bunch.  I know first hand it sux!  its still a L though.  If it is the Tarhole part that got ya well thats what makes this fun.  I am still a Duke guy don't take it so personal.  To objectively predict a season you have to say well last year we did great, but this is another year! If you want to Look at all the perdictions out there, VA T is tops ACC on just about everyone of them. Just chill out we are talking football not trashing each other, or teams.  You do bring up good points, i still go with mine because this is a new season, all the teams are diffrent.  Last year is over! 



Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 9:18 am
 

Picking the ACC

rwatts, i respectfully disagree!  VT will be tops in the ACC followed by GT.  Your Tarholes may come in 3rd, but they will need a perfect season.  By perfect I mean no injuries.  I also, want to agree with the Maryland guys your team is better than most say.  NC State will be good as well.  It will be fun for the hard core ACC guys.  We might not compete for the NC this year, but we are going to have fun kicking each other around in the conf.  I am excited for it to get here!You do realize that UNC lost 5 games last year and 4 of those were by a COMBINED 9 points.  We were winning the VaTech game by 2 touchdowns late in the 3rd quarter when Yates went down.  The only reason UNC lost that game was the inexperienced red-shirt freshman Paulus threw 2 picks in the fourth quarter.  UNC beat ranked teams GaTech 20-7, BC 45-24, UCONN 38-12, and Rutgers 44-12.  They also beat a solide Notre Dame team and a decent Miami team @ Miami.

We lost 2 point games @ UVA and @ UMD, lost by 3 in the aformentioned VATech game, and by 1 vs. WVA in the bowl game.  The bad blemish was a total meltdown at home against NC State. 

UNC's defense led the NCAA in interceptions last year and return 9 players including 2 of the best LBs in the league.  Their LB core has been ranked number 5 in the nation by Sporting News.  Throw that in with another year of experience for the 8 returning starters on offense and I think UNC could most definitely be better than both GaTech who UNC did beat easily last year and VaTech who UNC would have beat last year barring injury.  To dismiss UNC shows that you are a homer with no ability to objectively predict the rankings.

NC State will be good as will Clemson.  Clemson has arguably the most talent in the conference but just can't seem to get it together.  I look forward to a fun ACC football season.



Since: Apr 20, 2008
Posted on: June 30, 2009 6:44 am
 

Picking the ACC

rwatts, i respectfully disagree!  VT will be tops in the ACC followed by GT.  Your Tarholes may come in 3rd, but they will need a perfect season.  By perfect I mean no injuries.  I also, want to agree with the Maryland guys your team is better than most say.  NC State will be good as well.  It will be fun for the hard core ACC guys.  We might not compete for the NC this year, but we are going to have fun kicking each other around in the conf.  I am excited for it to get here!



Since: Sep 8, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 9:59 pm
 

Picking the ACC

I am a Clemson fan, so excuse the bias here, but Clemson could be a sleeper in the ACC this year. We have solid options at QB whether the starter is Willy Korn or Kyle Parker, both are very good QB. C.J. Spiller is a very good running back, which is just a fact, he can change games with his running and receiving abilities and he stayed at Clemson because he believes that they can win in 2009, we also have a bruising RB behind Spiller that I believe weighs 240, so he will be able to get the tough yards on 3rd downs. Jacoby Ford is also a huge threat in the passing, running, and return game- he is like Clemson's Percy Harvin. Clemson is usually consistent on defense, so we should be able to keep the score low. And lastly Clemson always does better when there is low expectation for them, and this is a year where expectations are low in the media for Clemson.



Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 9:51 pm
 

Nice, but...

Before everyone pats UM on the back for that early season schedule, don't forget 3 of the 4 games are conference games. When everyone else is getting to the meat of their schedules and we're looking for great October college football, Miami gives us those highly anticipated FAMU and UCF matchups. So while it's great to see someone scheduling a good OOC game in Sept., it just happens to be that their big conference games are in Sept. Unfortunately for Miami, people will have long forgotten that when they hit that back-loaded easier portion of their schedule in Oct/Nov. and everyone else is playing in their big games. Don't be surprised if they beat FSU and/or GT though, maybe even give VT a tough one. That defense is bound to grow up.



Since: Mar 19, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2009 8:28 pm
 

Picking the ACC

I think the UNC prediction might be a little conservative... but none the less, probably a safe play. UNC returns one of the most efficient QB's in the country in TJ Yates. Before he got injured, Carolina was rolling. His absence is the reason Carolina was in the Tire Bowl, and not in a BIG bowl. The Heels also return Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, the teams two leading rushers from last years team, as well as RS FR Jamal Womble, a diamond in the rough. This three headed attack WILL lead Carolina's best running game in a decade.

The linebacking corps IS the best in the ACC and among the best in the country. You could argue that with the unfortunate absences of Irving from State and Herzlich from BC, the Heels may have two of the top 5 LB in the ACC. The DL returns 7-8 guys who played regularly including MONSTER DE Robert Quinn a SOPH. ALL-American contender Deunta Williams leads a more experienced, quicker secondary. The defense may rival that of VATECH... and will almost certainly be a top 25 defense or higher.

The only questions is... can the Heels catch the football? Many are touting the departures of Nicks and Tate (and Foster) as the end of the big-play this year... And they might be right. But with talent underneath, like Zach Pianalto and Christian Wilson, there may be hope. If one or two guys can mature up-top... this offense will be more diverse than last year's, "let's throw it up and let Hakeem get it!!!" offensive mentality.

As far as the rest of the ACC goes, VATECH is nothing special. They are a plain and simple good, solid, tough football team. Tyrod Taylor is still young, was terrible against UNC (and somehow pulled it out) and quite frankly, is not an NFL QB. They were the ACC team that got beat up the least last year by the rest of the conference and were one loss away from the Tire Bowl perhaps. Let's not crown them the "jewel" of the ACC. I mean come on... they beat Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl? Talk about a reason why the Big East is just mediocre.

GT is solid, but might have to put up a lot of points. Their defense simply might not be THAT good. FSU is still not the 'ole Seminoles of old, and I would look for them to be at best, a 9 win team. I say... good luck comin in to Kenan Stadium on a Thursday night in Chapel Hill. The Tar Pit will be rockin. The U... is now more like... the u. Please... I thought this conference was getting good at football when we expanded. Or maybe the rest of the conference has just stepped up? The Woofies have a great QB, maybe the best in the ACC, but lack surrounding talent (especially now that the backbone of the defense is done). Dook is fightin hard... I just can't see them ever being great... especially when your locker room has been coined the "YOH-and eleven football center." UVA has lost its collective mind... they should stick to being ultra-preppy... they are pretty good at that. I should probably keep my mouth shut until UNC beats them in Charlottesville (knock on wood). Maryland has a chubby coach whose era has come and gone. Maybe a switch to a different sporting goods supplier will do the trick (see trend of win total after UA was signed by Maryland). BC plays in the north, and everyone knows that good 'ole southern football trumps New England Cup Cake Chowder anyday. Clemson is a question mark every year... every game should be a swing game because who knows what the Tigers are gonna do terribly on any given night... and finally WF, I truly think that it is time for Jim Grobe to find a high paying BIG GIG and settle down for life. There's only so much you can do at a small Christian based private University. Sorry... but that's not big time football.

Enjoyed sharing this stream of conciousness...




Since: May 15, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2009 4:43 pm
 

Wake Forest May Surprise

I wouldn't be throwing the Deacs to a category of being fortunate to finish 3rd in the Atlantic.  Jim Grobe acknowledges the loss of some major talent on the defensive side of the ball b/t the likes of Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith, but don't forget the redshirt system in place at Wake.  Grobe said after spring drills, this year's defensive squad would be one of, if not the deepest he's had in his tenure at Wake.  Meanwhile as Dodd notes, the offensive side of the ball returns many starters.  The loss of the OC to West Virginina after the 07 season took some toll on Wake last year, but I expect that to right itself in 09.  Riley Skinner is about as poised as they come, and the O line should create more of the running opportunities seen in past years.  Not saying Wake will win the Atlantic, but I wouldn't be surprised.  Florida State and NC State are not significantly ahead of the Deacs by any stretch of the imagination. 


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