Wednesday, July 6, 2011

College Football Preview Part 7: ACC

Ah, the ACC. A conference largely devoted to either trying to match success long since past, or achieve  it in the first place. Some great places to get a degree, but not to win a championship. All these schools will be on display for Part 7 of my 2011 College Football preview. Let's get it started! The ACC!

MY Preseason Rankings:


1. Florida State Seminoles-
Jimbo Fisher is in his second year of replacing legendary head coach, Bobby Bowden, and looks to be the man to return the Seminoles to ACC, and potentially national, prominence. A lot of top shelf talent returns to this team including their top 3 RBs, every WR to catch a pass last season, and the bulk of the offensive line. The defense is also very deep and aggressive. The only question mark is QB EJ Manuel, who backed up an injury-plagued Christian Ponder last season. Manuel is talented, but still has some improving to do before he can be on the level FSU needs him to be. Even so, FSU is my favorite this year to win not only the Atlantic division, but the entire ACC.

2. Clemson Tigers-
Clemson's 6-7 record last year was not indicative of the potential and talent that their team possessed. This year's team loses its top 2 defensive players, one of which being Da'Quan Bowers, and draws 2 tough non-division opponents in UNC and Virginia Tech. The Tigers benefit from a great recruiting class and a number of upper-classmen on defense, but still have some considerable growing to do before they can surpass FSU. These Tigers have the potential to be great in the near future, but for 2011, expect a successful winning season and a 2nd finish in the Atlantic. 

3. NC State Wolfpack- 
NC State will not be helped by the loss of arguably their most talented player, QB Russell Wilson. According to Coach Tom O'Brien though, Wilson's replacement, QB Mike Glennon is of the same caliber as Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. I'll believe it when I see it. Still, things look good for the 2011 Wolfpack. NC State had a surprisingly good season last year, and they look to build off that success. While I believe BC to have a considerably more talented team, NC State's schedule is paddy-cake soft, whereas BC's is not. Lucky for NC State, that should lead to a #3 Atlantic finish and a decent bowl bid. 

4. Boston College Eagles-
BC has a rough conference schedule, drawing the Coastal's 2 best teams in Miami and Virginia Tech, but they have a talented enough team to remain competitive. They have arguably the conference's best RB in senior, Montel Harris, and probably the conference's 3rd or 4th best defense. Looking at their schedule, BC could easily start the season 5-0, but then things get rough. Games against Clemson, VA Tech,  Miami, and Notre Dame are all on the road, and FSU (though playing in Boston) is just too good. Even if the Eagles lose all these games, which they are sure to win at least one, they will still make a bowl game. 8-5 is the best this team can hope for, but that's not half bad considering.

5. Maryland Terrapins-
The Terps faithful seem pretty confident in the ability of their new Head Coach, Randy Edsall, to lead them to the promised land. If it does happen, it won't be this season. They return 14 starters from last season's 9-4 squad, but I don't see them to be on the same level as much of their ACC competition. QB Danny O'Brien, however, is pretty solid. The Terps have the ability to pull some upsets, but I think it's unlikely that they will sniff the upper half of the Atlantic division in 2011.

6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons-
As tightly contested as the middle of the Atlantic is sure to be, there is no question who will occupy the bottom. That's right, its the Demon Deacons (what the hell is a demon deacon anyway?), still wishing it was 2006. While this team has certainly improved and will have veteran leadership thanks to 17 returning starters, their schedule is simply not very conducive to a winning season.   


1. Virginia Tech Hokies-
Virginia Tech has carried the torch for the ACC in recent years as usually its best team. This won't be their best team in recent memory, but Coach Beamer always manages to maximize his teams potential. The defense should be back to its old dominant self and the Hokies should get some great play out of QB Logan Thomas. The biggest factor working in VA Tech's favor is the friendliness of their schedule in comparison to the toughness of Miami's. All of VT's toughest games are at home and the OOC schedule presents no real challenges. VT could very easily have a 2010 Auburn-esque season and go undefeated before facing FSU in the ACC Championship game. 

2. Miami Hurricanes-
New Coach Al Golden is fresh off of doing the near impossible and resurrecting Temple's football program. But he will have a lot of work to do yet before he can bring "The U' back to Coral Gables. Miami is consistently among the ACC's most talented teams, and this year is no different. But under another new Head Coach, and facing an incredibly difficult schedule, a return to glory will not be immediate. While the 'Canes can win double digits this year, they will have to play on the road against VT, UNC, and rival FSU and also face a weakened, but still strong Ohio State team. Also, Miami MUST throw fewer interceptions. All things considered, I see Miami doing no worse than 2nd in the Coastal.

3. North Carolina Tarheels-
Last season's injuries and suspensions were a disaster if you were a Tarheel fan. But what was considered a curse could very well be a huge blessing. Due to all of the above circumstances, far more players received considerable experience than just the 13 returning starters. That makes for a more seasoned team, already with a lot of talent. Their schedule is neither impossible or easy, but a key game against Miami will be at home. Don't be shocked if the Tarheels become the surprise team in the ACC to leap into the conference championship game.

4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets-
With their 12 returning starters being the fewest in the ACC, this team is good, but not great. While they face both Duke and Virginia (improved teams) on the road, GT is simply more talented. However, the Jackets aren't on the same level as the division's top 3. But you can never count out Paul Johnson's teams, or any team that runs a triple option for that matter. Expect a mediocre season and a sub-par bowl.

5. Duke Blue Devils-
This will be Duke's best football team in a long time. The offense has some serious weapons and potential. The defense, however, is a huge weakness. This team is definitly good enough to finish better than Virginia, and maybe even good enough to capture a winning season. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves though.

6. Virginia Cavaliers- 
Ever since Lebron took his talents, and ringless fingers, to South Beach, the word Cavalier seems to have become synonymous with futility. Virginia is no exception, in fact they've sucked more in recent years than Cleveland. 2nd year coach, Mike London has 18 returning starters and a great recruiting class, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Virginia can turn things around when these talented freshmen get a bit older, but I foresee at least one more losing season first.

MY All Conference Team:

Lamar Miller, Miami
QB- Danny O'Brien, Maryland

RB- Montel Harris, Boston College

RB- Lamar Miller, Miami

WR- Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech

WR- Dwight Jones, North Carolina

Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech
WR- Connor Vernon, Duke

TE- Dwayne Allen, Clemson

C- Dalton Freeman, Clemson

OG- Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

OG- Brandon Washington, Miami

OT- Andrew Datko, Florida State

OT- Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech

Quinton Coples #90 & Tydreke Powell #91, UNC
DE- Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DE- Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DT- Tydreke Powell, North Carolina

DT- Marcus Forston, Miami

LB- Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB- Nigel Bradham, Florida State

LB- Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech

Luke Kuechly, Boston College
CB- Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

CB- Chase Minnifield, Virginia

S- Kenny Tate, Maryland

S- Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami

K- Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P- Dawson Zimmerman, Clemson

Ret- David Wilson, Virginia Tech

5 Games to Watch:

1. North Carolina @ Virginia Tech: Depending on how Miami fares this year, this late season matchup could very well decide the winner of the Coastal division. Title rights aside, this should be a great game. Can UNC handle the pressure of a hostile Hokie crowd?

2. Miami @ Florida State: One of the great rivalries in all of College football, this game almost never disappoints. As both these teams try to return to dominance, there is a possibility that this could be a preview of the ACC championship. 

3. Oklahoma @ Florida State: The 'Noles get to measure the quality of their program against a top 5 opponent on their home field. FSU could easily pull the upset here. A win would set the stage for an outstanding 2011 season.

4. Florida State @ Clemson: The team with the best chance of any in the ACC to upset FSU are the Tigers. FSU must visit Death Valley after a tough game, win or lose, against Oklahoma. If Clemson can pull off the upset, it puts them in the drivers seat for an Atlantic division title.

5. Miami @ North Carolina: Regardless of whether or not the 'Canes can pull off the upset of VA Tech in Blacksburg the week before, this game will have a major effect on the Coastal division standings. Both teams are fast and very talented. Should make for a great matchup.

Getting close to done with the 2011 preview! Up next, we'll take a look at the "Ol' Gill" of FBS conferences: our old friends, the WAC.

Ol' Gill: Simpsons character and businessman chronically on hard times 

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