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: Jan 26, 2007
Posted on: June 28, 2009 8:46 pm

Picking the ACC

Km,  you couldnt be more right.  Ive never understood how they rank some teams the way they do. Why should a Miami, or anyone else, be ranked in the top ten when they go undefeated against creampuffs like Toledo,Citadel,Army or Florida International? Now that kinda schedule is the real joke. Lets see who the big dogs are, who the powerhouses will be. The way to do that is to have these upper echelon teams duke it out.  The schedule is short, the bowls are a disaster. So if the powers that be keep throwing out the line "the regular season matters", then lets start living up to it.

Bring on the Miami-Va. tech, Texas-Penn st., Florida-USC matchups.

Lets see who the big boys really are.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 7:15 pm

Picking the ACC

Miami is coming back, it's just a matter of time.
The only thing the 'Canes are looking at now is FsU
A win Labor day night win means a 1-0 start, and then it's on to Tech.
Bring on the season. Go 'Canes!

Since: Dec 29, 2007
Posted on: June 28, 2009 6:40 pm

Picking the ACC

Lets see Maryland finished 5th in the whole ACC last year. Of the 4 teams ahead of us only 2 won their bowl games which should mean when it was all said and done we finished only 3rd in the ACC, but yet we are still disrespected. D-Bey is gone, but we still have a strong run game and we still have Chris Turner who have ben clutch for us over the years. Of the 4 teams you have ahead of us we were 3-1 against those teams last year and that include a Wake Forest shutout and a win against an NC State that had Russell Wilson. Maryland will suprise as usual and will probably be in the race towards the end of the year once again...

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 4:28 pm

Picking the ACC

Hurricanes 4th? Too Funny  One thing I will say right now Miami will not be 4th, They win the Coastal Division. Harris will be ready at QB, he didn't get one start last year except the first game against Charlotte. He was always coming in to the game after Marve made a mess of it. This team has very good players at all of the skill positions except at the TE position, they will score a lot of points. Defense will be the question mark but the freshman have one year under their belt and they will be a lot better then last season. I think the LB's will be a lot better and that is what will get them the Division win. They had a chance last year until the GT blow out and Marve dug a hole right from the start. The defense wasn't prepared as well but they have a new leader running the D.  4th? not a chance...Go Canes!

Since: Mar 3, 2007
Posted on: June 28, 2009 10:45 am

Picking the ACC

Duke will finish ahead of Virginia.  NCSU will not win the Atlantic...and BC will not finish last in the Atlantic.  Watch for, and I hate to say it, Carolina to uproot VT with Miami in close pursuit.  Yes, Maryland sucks, I agree with that.

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 9:20 am

Picking the ACC

Their "scholarship back-up" was Harrison Beck and he sucked all year.  The only freshman QB was Wilson, so no "freshmen came in for the 4th and threw knuckleballs all over the field."  Evans was a red-shirt Senior who came in and turned the ball over.  He did throw one TD pass on a lucky throw.  And to correct someone elses post, his father works for the wolfpack radio broadcast, he is not an assistant coach.  They haven't had a decent QB since Phillip Rivers left and last year they found one.  I certainly didn't think Wilson would ever play, let alone be a first team all-acc pick, but he is.  And I'll hang my hat where ever I please and the best QB in the ACC is a pretty good place to hang it. Besides, their "subpar second half" included turning the ball over 4 times and still almost winning tells anyone with good since that if Wilson played the second half (one interception all year) State would have easliy won that game.  You cannot be serious to think otherwise.  We will find out how good they are when they take the field...

Since: Apr 6, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2009 9:04 am

Picking the ACC

I agree with "most" of the picks--however--you have the WRONG Tech picked to win the coastal and they WILL win the ACC and the NC. Few folks realize how LOADED GT is this year! The best and deepest backfield in the NCAA.  With a better passing attack than last year this team is gonna kick some major ASS this year--that is a PROMISE! Look out #1 here we come---can you say, UNDEFEATED!!

Since: Nov 18, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2009 8:50 am

Picking the ACC

I decided a GA Tech voice needed to be added to the discussion.

First, from the Atlantic Division, while I like NC State's QB, I'm not sold on their Defense yet, so until they prove me wrong, I've got to got with FSU. I also think Clemson's "antics" with Dabo will only go so far in College football. I never underestimate Wake because of the Head Coach, but they lost some studs on Defense, and I think that's where they'll have problems, just like NC State.

For the Coastal Division, I admit it's always tough to pick against Virginia Tech; they always seem to be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat. As always, I think Defense and Special Teams will carry them this year, with some key plays, at key moments, by their exciting QB.

Then there's North Carolina. Their Defense is loaded for bear this year, but Offensively, they're suspect, just like Virginia Tech. With no "big name" Running Backs or Pass Receivers in play, it might be tough for Carolina to put a lot of points on the board against many of the other Defenses in the ACC, so I expect them to be in a lot of close games, just like Virginia Tech.

Miami is coming in with new Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, like GA Tech did last year, so they'll be a wild card. In my opinion, because they have great athletes, if they can pick up the new systems quickly, they are a Team that may actually be a Dark Horse to win the Division. That's a big "if," though. Their early schedule is also brutal, with FSU and GA Tech right off the bat, with Oklahoma bearing down on them. Miami could be physically and emotionally beat up early in the season and not be able to recover in time to win the Division.

That leaves GA Tech, my pick to win the Division. I know I might seem like a "Homer," but my rationale is that with all of the great Defenses in the ACC, and few of the great Offenses, I think that if there's one Offense in the Coastal Division that CAN score in the ACC against the tough Defenses, it's GA Tech. With a year of learning the Triple Option under their belt, and having the run'n shoot component added this Spring, GA Tech should actually have the chance to be more explosive than last year, even if all of the ACC "pundits" think they now know how to defend the TO after seeing it for a year.

I know, I know; Carolina and LSU showed the TO could be "stopped. However, if you look deeper at both games, at the statistics, you'd realize that GA Tech's Offense was actually successful in both of those games, getting about the same yardage as their competitors in both games. However, GA Tech made several mental mistakes, like key turnovers, penalties, poor Special Teams Play, etc. that cost them the games (in points, and lack thereof). Mentally, GA Tech wasn't in either of those games, and I think they were great learning experiences.

So, my ACC Championship will be a rematch of the game between FSU and GA Tech. While I'm at it, I think their first game in Tallahassee will be one of the top games in the ACC this year. If there will be a high scoring game coming out of the ACC, this may be the one; 42-35 GA Tech.

Since: Oct 21, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 3:42 am

Picking the ACC

Who do yall have? Worry about the Big East because West Virginia isn't going anywhere without Pat White

Since: May 21, 2009
Posted on: June 28, 2009 12:25 am

Picking the ACC

Are you on crack......

sorry but Miami is starting 0-4....thats a fact!!!  Its not my fault that Miami cant finsh above .500 anymore...Miami may even lose to Duke

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