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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: Dec 15, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 4:38 pm

Picking the ACC

Thanks to dodo Dodd for continuing the pick Maryland at the bottom of the Atlantic Division every year!  The Terrapins aren't going to be as bad as the so-called experts think.  We have a senior QB, a talented and veteran group of RBs and a defense that is going to be vastly improved under Coach Brown's new system.

Since: Jun 19, 2009
Posted on: June 29, 2009 4:08 pm

Picking the ACC

I think Florida State and Virginia Tech will win the divisions simply because of how good both of their defenses are every year and the fact that no team seems to have an elite offense this year.  I also think that it will be similar to last season where there were a lot of good but not really any great teams in the ACC this year.

Since: Jun 9, 2009
Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:00 pm

Picking the ACC

With all do respect, and I do mean that, seeing that you root for a fellow ACC brethern that I would like to see do well, the U does not schedule those ACC games the league does.  We're talking out of conference here.  It's a given that in the mid-90's VT did an end around on the non-conference slate.  That's what they had to do at the time to get where they are now.  Playing out of conference against Alabama, Nebraska, heck, even East Carolina, at ECU, is pretty damn daunting.  Especially when it's at the beginning of the season.  Throw in an annual clash with Miami, an ever improving UNC, and I find it hard to fathom Tech getting through this season without 2 to 3 losses. 

Since: Aug 10, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 2:51 pm

Picking the ACC

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.

Those teams they beat in the end, Miami, UNC, and Wake, that was when they were healthy.  The pack was devastated with injuries last year, and when they got healthy, they started winning, period.  The game against Rutgers, you must not have watched.  They were handling the Knights, but then Russell Wilson got hurt.  That is the only reason Rutgers got back in it and won.  If Wilson plays the whole game, Rutgers was going down.

They barely lost to FSU and BC last year, and that was when they were at their worst in terms of injuries.  Yet you think it would be an upset to beat them next year?  You do know our QB, the best QB in the ACC, was a freshman last year?  You can count on him being even better this year.  ANd they dominated the Tarheels @ Chapel Hill, there is no way the Heels win @ Raleigh.  Davis has got nothing for O'Brien. 

I'm not gonna say State is the team to beat or anything.  But neither is FSU.  It will be competitive in the Atlantic.  But to think State doesn't have a chance, well, you're in for a surprise is all I'm gonna say.  The Noles were lucky to not face a healthy Pack when they came to Raleigh last year. 

They don't have a great Oline, but it's getting better, and when you have a QB like Wilson, you don't need a great Oline to win.  As for our defense...we'll see.  We want Nate Irving out there, no doubt, he is outstanding at LB.  I wish him a speedy recovery.  But O'Brien is a system guy, the quality of his defense doesn't revolve around 1-2 talented players. 

Since: Apr 20, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 2:47 pm

Picking the ACC

Wakefield you scared me there for a sec I thought you were talking to me.  NC state has a chance at winning.  Just to clear the air I just didn't think they could win much this year- ACC championship, bowl game depending on who they get?  I know they are good.  Also,  Its nice to see anothr Raleigh guy on here!

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 2:41 pm

Picking the ACC

I'm sorry, but UNC lost to VT by what 3 points last year?

Yeah, I think UNC will "hang" with VT.

Butch has been building a program in Chapel Hill, and I honestly think, after UNC plays FSU, they will be ready to compete against VT.
I think VT has some talent, sure, but UNC will be much better in 2009 than they were in 2008.
I personally think FSU is better than VT, and I have UNC beating FSU.
We were winning that game handedly until Yates was hurt and Paulus came in to throw 2 fourth quarter INTs.  That game is why Paulus didn't play anymore.

Since: Apr 23, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 2:25 pm

Picking the ACC

If you had any knowledge of NC State whatsoever you would know that A) we lost four games without our quarterback and top defensive player, both of whom were going to be back (Though that injury to Irving scares me a bit) and B) We had the Rutgers game in hand until Wilson left with a sprained ankle and Captain Interception Harrison Beck and a man who should have never played ACC football Daniel Evans literally threw the game away. Now State has a legitimate backup who is competing for the starting job in Mike Glennon and many returning starters including two very good running backs in Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker. I will admit that FSU gives State some serious competition and the Irving injury changes a great deal, but your opening comment shows a tremendous amount of ignorance and lack of knowledge. Think before speaking, good sir.

Since: Apr 20, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 1:42 pm

Picking the ACC

GT and VT for ACC championship VT wins!  easy  UNC is ok they got some great freshmen, but down the road it will be another subpar season.  VT remains the ACC champion!  now looking into the future a bit,  I agree with NC state they will be a force, not this coming season, but soon. 

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 12:56 pm

Picking the ACC

As much as I am A Canes Fan The first part of the schedule is nuts. We are playing four straight bowl teams from last year. the conference cham at thier place and the runner up to the national title. I would be happy with a 2-2 start. I think Miami can beat FSU I think they could beat Gt as long as the defense stops the run. Va tech will be tough and  I think we are going to get waxed by OU. Would I love to see a 3-1 start yes because that would give us an inside tract to the ACC champoinship game ,but we will have to wait and see.

Since: Aug 5, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2009 10:09 am

UNC no match for VT??

I'm sorry, but UNC lost to VT by what 3 points last year?

Yeah, I think UNC will "hang" with VT.

Butch has been building a program in Chapel Hill, and I honestly think, after UNC plays FSU, they will be ready to compete against VT.
I think VT has some talent, sure, but UNC will be much better in 2009 than they were in 2008.
I personally think FSU is better than VT, and I have UNC beating FSU.

UNC - 37; VT - 24

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