By Christopher J. Kresge - ACC Insider
I think you might have better luck solving a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded then predicting what will happen in the ACC this season. Two new head coaches take over struggling programs at Georgia Tech and Duke, while four second year coaches assume control at Boston College, N.C. State, UNC, and Miami. Whenever there is change for a football team, it takes a while to see results; new recruits, new offense, new defense, etc. Regardless of all the changes, the ACC does not have a dominant team heading into the 2008 season, so don’t be surprised when you see who holds up the championship trophy in Tampa.
1. Clemson - Clemson has not won the ACC title since 1991. However, with the core of starters returning on both defense and offense, they have a good shot at returning to the glory years of the 70's and 80's. But…this is Clemson and they could easily find a way to go 7-4 this season The Tigers need to watch out for back-to-back road games versus Boston College and Florida State. If they get through that stretch, you could see them in Tampa.
2. Florida State - Have the ‘Noles become an afterthought in the ACC after winning 9 consecutive conference championships? Not likely. They are young up front on the offensive line, but they are extremely talented at the skill positions and return seven starters on defense. Jimbo Fisher has a better grasp of his role and duties in year two and also has the benefit of senior quarterback, Drew Weatherford. Bobby Bowden isn't retired just yet, so those ACC opponents who try and look past the ‘Noles in 2008 best beware.
3. Wake Forest - Coach Jim Grobe has to be given credit for turning this program around and turning them into—dare I say--perennial winners. They are no longer the doormat of the ACC and this year, Grobe’s squad has nine returning starters on defense and ACC rookie of the year, RB Josh Adams returning on along with QB Riley Skinner. This is a very well-coached and disciplined team.
4. Maryland - Coach Friedgen will be implementing the west coast offense this year and it will highlight one of the fastest players in the ACC, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Terps’ offensive line is very experienced, but the same cannot be said of their quarterbacks. The defense will have no one in the ACC 'fearing the turtle' this year and when you combine that with a tough schedule, it looks like it might be a rough one in College Park this year.
5. Boston College - How do you replace Matt Ryan, the number 3 pick in last year's NFL draft? You don't. Unfortunately, you come back to reality this year in the ACC with a lot of young players and are forced to rely on your defense to keep games close.
6. N.C. State - The talent is just not there yet for second year coach Tom O'Brien. The running back position is extremely strong, but that doesn’t mean much when you don’t have a starting quarterback or an experienced offensive line.
1. Virginia Tech - Remember them--the only ACC team to ever play in a BCS championship game? This season, the Hokies will try to complete their fifth straight 10-win season. There is good news, with senior quarterback Sean Glennon and the offensive line…and bad news, gone are seven starters from last season’s defense and all-purpose running back Brandon Ore. Coach Frank Beamer is beginning his 22nd year and will have Tech in the hunt for the ACC title come November.
2. North Carolina - As Butch Davis is starting his second year as head coach, he is beginning to put his mark on the Tar Heels’ football program. The offense will be electric with quarterback T.J. Yates, WR Hakeem Nicks and TB Greg Little and if the underclassmen--who all got plenty of playing time last year on defense--keep improving, the Tar Heels could make a run at the Coastal Division.
3. Miami - Randy Shannon and his coaching staff had a top-five recruiting class and seem to be getting things in order down in South Florida. But, the most important number is zero--the total number of snaps the ‘Canes quarterbacks have in Division I football. The speed is back on defense and the skill positions are stacked, but how long will it take for a starting quarterback to emerge and be ready to handle the pressures of ACC defenses? This, combined with a brutal out of conference schedule, will take its toll on young ‘Canes.
4. Virginia - This team is in a state of transition, with no quality quarterback and too many key losses on both sides of the ball. However, the returning lettermen are very talented and Coach Al Groh will have his team ready to compete every Saturday. Watch out for their trio of talented LB's on defense and All-America candidate Eugene Monroe on the offensive line.
5.Georgia Tech - The Ramblin’ Wreck will be doing its best Barry Switzer-era OU impression this year as they adopt Coach Paul Johnson's triple option on offense. It worked with much less talent at the Naval Academy, now let's see if it can work in the ACC. The defense is very experienced and will be called upon to keep them in games, as the offense is still a work in progress. Tech, its new coach, and offense will face some growing pains in 2008.
6. Duke - Beware ACC--Duke will end their 25-game losing streak against ACC opponents this year! First-year head coach David Cutcliffe might be longing for his days in the Tennessee Mountains, but with All-ACC QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Eron Riley he will start to get this program on the right track.
Monday, August 4, 2008
By Christopher J. Kresge - ACC Insider