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: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: June 27, 2009 4:11 pm

Picking the ACC

The ONLY reason NC State lost to Rutgers is Wilson missed the whole second half with an injury

That's exactly right, and the only reason they beat anyone was he wasn't hurt(exageration).  They looked good in the opener last year against South Carolina until he was carried off on a stretcher then looked like total crap until he came back late in the year when suddenly, they were a good team again.  It remains to be seen whether he can stay healthy, he seems a little fragile so far, and if not, can State find a replacement he he goes down.  Healthy, he's potentially great. 

Since: Oct 31, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 1:15 pm

Picking the ACC

^^^ That was to the first paragraph reponse about the crummy throws by Beck.

As for the second part I agree about both sides playing less then well in the second half. Howwever they didn't lose a WHOLE lot form either side of the ball, and I expect the defense to improve, like I said earlier they broke down late in almost everygame last season. They've worked hard on endurance and really adding depth. They only finished One game out of First in the Atlantic last year, and I think they've improved enoguh to win 1 or two more games. Losing to VT, FSU and Pitt. =/

Since: Oct 31, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 1:03 pm

Picking the ACC


I'm glad someone is giving Russell Wilson Credit Out here, he MADE that team as good as they were in the final 4 reg. season games. His future, and next 3 bowl games =], are much more important then a papajohns bowl agaisnt rutgers, thats why they took him out..

They replaced him with Daniel Evans, a guy whose dad is an asst. QB's Coach, and helps with training and just does NOT have the armstrength to throw the ball to the Down field Receivers like Tom O'brien liked to run with the speedy Owen Spencer. Though he has now graduated, and he is behind us. In 3 possesions in that bowl game, Daniel Evans offense committed 3 turnovers, 1 INT, a Fumble, and a missed 4th down conversion. then Harrison Beck, transferred from Nebraska, came in went 0-4 passing, and commiting an Interception.
Kinda hard to win games when your QB's combine to throw 12 interceptions, and ONLY 3 Tds, amazingly they were able to accomplish this in only 5 starts, and a combined 8 played games.

Ok ENOUGH of that rant. NCSU is a very good team when they have a QB that can play. =] It'll show this year as long as Wison, and the defensive leader Nate Irving can stay healthy. The better QB play helped the defense more than anything, by being able to sustain drives, and STOPPING the ridiculous turnovers (as mentioned above). IT helped the defense rest and not wear down late in games.

O'brien has improved the depth on the O-Line and should be held down be a sturdy Larsen in this upcoming season, which is a great run blocker who will be blocking for a hard running Toney Baker, and a shifty Jamelle Eugene.

Lookin' Foward to this season, I see a tie with FSU, but losing to them head-to-deah this season, but I would LOVE an ACC Atlantic Title.

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 10:38 am

Picking the ACC

Dat was directed at UofF

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 10:35 am

Picking the ACC

Are you on crack......

Since: Dec 23, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 9:16 am

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. 

Me, you, and three other people in the world were apparently the only ones who took the time to watch the Bowl last year. Shocker. If I recall correctly, it was 17-6 at halftime with NCSU in the lead and the final was 29-23. NCSU played two QBs in the second half to replace Wilson, not one. I'm pretty sure the kid they played in the third qtr was the scholarship back-up, but I could be wrong. A freshmen came in for the 4th and threw knuckleballs all over the field.

Besides all that, all I said was 'the real NCSU took the field against Rutgers'. I stand by that -- they played a decent first half on both sides of the ball, and had a subpar second half on both sides of the ball. Losing a tight one to Rutgers in a New Year's eve bowl game with your starting qb out during he second half is nothing to hang your hat on when you're trying to suggest that your team stands a chance of winning the division next year.

Since: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2009 8:55 am

Picking the ACC

Yes you were beating Rutgers while your starting QB was in the game.  The NC State QB was stretching our defense out to a point where we needed to leave one Safety in the box to protect against the run.  Then he was able to connect to his TE because of the mismatch that he created in the passing game.  But instead of playing it safe your Head coach continued to use the QB as a running back and I'll guarantee everyone on this site that Schiano told C. Greene and J. Lefedge to take him out of the game via an assistant.  Go back and look at the video when Wilson got hurt, it was a classic high low tackle where the bottom tackler freezes both legs below the knees and the second tackler comes in from the side where he hyper-extends or potentially causes a concussion.  Who perfected this gang tackling method?  The late Bill Walsh from the SF 49's along with the ever infamous leg whip.  I'm not proud of this but in 2008 Rutgers knocked out 5 QB's and ended the season for two.  Our state newspaper the Star-Ledger did a report blasting Schiano on specific tackling techniques that are intended to damage knees and necks.  The NC State QB was lucky he just got knocked out of the game with a minor injury.  I've been to RU games where QB's were taken out on stretchers, I'm not making this up gentlemen just look it up.

My analysis on NC State goes as follows: If they run that QB they could beat any team in the ACC if they force him to play a Pro style game they finish mid pack.  I'm picking UNC or Miami to win the conference.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: June 27, 2009 2:25 am

Picking the ACC

rugers was no legitimate measure. wilson got hurt and didnt come out for the second half (with state leading). Your argument as a whole is sound but you discredit it with that uninformed observation. that being said i don't think state will win the division this year either.

Since: Jun 4, 2009
Posted on: June 27, 2009 12:10 am

Picking the ACC

The real NC State dominated rutgers in the first half with russell wilson. After he went down, we had backup Qbs come in that were not D-1 quality and we still almost held on and won

Since: Sep 26, 2007
Posted on: June 27, 2009 12:09 am

Picking the ACC

Dodd:  Do your homework!

Mark Herzlich has cancer.  He is not going to play for BC in 2009.

Codi Boek is back at QB, but BC has brought in a QB this year.  Your report would be ok on January 24th, but as of June 24th, it is a waste of time.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or