I was this close to not writing an ACC preview at all. This conference is decent, but let’s face it, it’s not pretty. There’s one team that really has the potential to be great this season, and the rest are looking at 10-2 being a wildly successful season, so 8-4 is more in the realm of possibility. The real deal with this conference is the teams will eat each other alive all season. Except for Clemson, everyone is pretty much as good as everyone else, give or take. That ought to make for some exciting games, but put it this way: whoever gets the ACC champ in a BCS bowl is going to be pretty happy. Unless they’re the Big East champion.
Get ready, ACC fans, this is the one team with any real potential in the entire conference. They might even be more successful than BC was last season. But I’m here to say this: can’t happen, won’t happen, because it’s impossible. In-f*cking-possible. It’s Clemson! This is the same team that managed only three points against Georgia Tech last season. Keep in mind, Georgia Tech fired their coach following the season. Clemson also managed to somehow give up 41 points to Virginia Tech last season too. They played close with every decent team in the ACC last season and got fat off the crappy teams in their schedule (see Central Michigan, Duke, and Furman).
This season, they have road games at Wake Forest, BC, and Florida State, plus their first game is against Alabama on Saturday night. Now, do you really want to be one of those people trying to convince themselves that Tommy Bowden can lead a team through all those games? It ain’t happening.
That said, this is still the best team in the ACC. See how I can just flip like that? That’s how terrible this conference is this season. I do love James Davis and CJ Spiller, though. I just don’t trust any member of the team other than them. It’s Clemson! Keep that in mind when they go down at home to Georgia Tech or some other awful loss. If there’s only one.
2. Florida State
Two easy wins will get this team on the right track in 2008, then they’re in serious trouble. Florida State is athletic as ever on the defensive side of the ball, too bad that unit kinda sucked last season (10th in the conference in total D). They have nothing special at the offensive skill positions too. So that’s good news for Seminole fans. The one bright spot is most of their close losses will be at home, so at least the fans will get a long look at the Fall of the Bowden Empire.
It’s not totally Drew Weatherford’s fault he’s the program-killing quarterback of the last four years, joining the likes of John David Booty, Zack Mills, Chris Leak, and Anthony Morelli. The job fell to Weatherford four years ago, and the aging Bobby Bowden never recruited a decent replacement that could stay out of trouble AND be good at football. Looking in your direction Xavier Lee.
3. Wake Forest
Not going to lie, they’re my favorite ACC program. They have half the talent of every other school in their division, but they still get the job done, including their recent BCS bowl trip. I also love any team that runs more than it passes, yet is in the shotgun for something like 90% of their offensive snaps. They aren’t pretty, they’re not famous, but they’re solid. And that’s respectable.
As far as this season goes, their schedule ain’t easy, but I guarantee you they’ll win a couple of games over teams unexpectedly. Riley Skinner might be the best quarterback in the conference and it’s hard to name another player without thinking pretty hard. But that’s how it should be with Wake Forest. You don’t need to know who they are, just that they’re really tough to beat.
4. Boston College
You can’t lose this many seniors and expect the same results as the previous season. This is why they really hired Jeff Jagodzinski. Winning with Tom O’Brien’s recruits is nice and everything, but this is the rebuilding that was always going to happen. I’m not saying they’ll suck, but expect some drop-off. Big time.
Ralph Friedgen is a good coach, but this is a team that went 6-6 and then lost to Oregon State in a bowl game. It’s also never a good sign when a mediocre team has serious quarterback issues, but neither guy is that good. Nothing against Josh Portis and Jordan Steffy, but even if they’re good, the rest of the team ain’t great anyway. Nothing against former Chargers’ OC Ralph Friedgen. After all, it’s freaking Maryland and he’s managed to make them respectable for the last few years. No small feat. I couldn’t even find a good picture to represent the program, so I went with their fans’ one shining moment against Duke.
6. NC State
Tom O’Brien inherited a talented, if somewhat limited team from Chuck Amato. He even scored quite a recruiting class for the 2008 season, so he’s building. That’s a lot of four-star recruits for the Wolfpack. On the other hand, they’re pretty much the best team in the state of North Carolina. Not much consolation, but still.
1. Virginia Tech
So they’re planning to redshirt Tyrod Taylor this season, meaning they’ll go with Sean Glennon at quarterback this whole season. The same Sean Glennon who couldn’t make it through all of last season without being replaced by a true freshman. The same Sean Glennon who has been so mediocre in Tech’s offense, his going 11-19 in a scrimmage actually made the news. Not good news.
Other than Glennon, this is a pretty decent Frank Beamer-style team. It’s all defense and no one can name a single offensive player of consequence. Beamer may know he’s going with Glennon, but no one can safely say who will be the running back by week six. Or exactly how that East Carolina game in week one is going to turn out.
2. Miami (FL)
Here’s your climber in the ACC. I’m probably a year early on this one since the ‘Canes are so young, but look for serious improvement from them. Randy Shannon is starting to put together the kind of recruiting classes Miami fans are used to. If any of his freshmen produce at all, Miami will be a big surprise this season. This could be a very dangerous team again when all these young guys have experience, even now, they’re gonna make some noise. And by noise, I mean like 8-4 at best because their schedule is brutal. Too many tough road games for a young team to survive in one piece.
3. North Carolina
MAN did their offense suck last season. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, Heels’ fans, it’ll suck this season too. But maybe, just maybe, Butch Davis can make this thing work in just his second season. In this division, it’s basically nothing but defensive teams anyway. Pretty much anyone can make it work if they make a few plays on the offensive end. This is the division of improvement, the up and comers. And maybe I’m a year early with this one too, but it’s getting better in Chapel Hill. Does anything suck about being a UNC sports fan anymore?
4. Georgia Tech
If nothing else, I trust Paul Johnson. The offense he runs really does always work, even at the major-college level. As long as he can get them to execute, the option works anywhere. Other than that, I don’t know. The bottom of this division is a pretty big crapshoot. Johnson can totally be successful at Tech, but he’s in just his first year. Next to Rich Rodriguez, this is the biggest overhaul in division one.
As much as I trust Paul Johnson, I do not trust Al Groh. Virginia was pretty good last season, but they got by on defense and a couple of big plays on offense. They also got a lot of early season wins against bad teams. That’s not gonna happen this season. There’s only a couple easy ones there, and the rest are against improving teams…and USC. The good USC. Sucks for Virginia.
Duke sucks. It’s the karmic balance to their evil, evil basketball team. David Cutcliffe isn’t a particularly enthusiastic recruiter, so it’s kinda hard to figure out how the Blue Devils will improve over the long term.
Offensive Player of the Year: James Davis, RB, Clemson
Defensive Player of the Year: Derek Nicholson, LB, Florida State
Newcomer of the Year: Corey Surrency, WR, Florida State