Ahhh, yes. Its August, meaning that college football is right around the corner. Need to know who to watch this season? Well, we got you covered! Myself, The Big Socrates, and friend of the Thread Mark Rodriguez will break down the entire field by conference and tell you the players, teams, and dark horses to watch for this year. We’ll also let you know who is entirely overrated and won’t be making much noise come December . Today, we’ll break down the ACC. We’ll break down all of the conferences before the season kicks off, so check back with us! And as always, leave us comments to voice your opinion. And with that said…
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) (MarkRod)
For the Love of Bobby Bowden: It’s a two-horse race for the ACC Crown
The Atlantic Coast Conference is still trying to become the dominant conference it dreamed it was going to become when it raided the Big East in 2004. That never came to fruition as the ACC as a whole has not been in the national title picture since Florida State played for the BCS crown in 2002. When you look back at it’s history however, the ACC has depended on Florida St. to carry the conference nationally since they joined the conference in 1991. The dreams of Miami and Florida St. dominating the conference year in and year out quickly died once both teams fell into constant rebuilding mode after Miami joined the conference in 2004.
Now the ACC is looking for a statement season with two teams with conceivable BCS title hopes. In one corner is Virginia Tech, the sole power in the conference that has been atop the rankings since they arrived from the Big East. In the other corner, we have the sleeping giant, Florida St., hoping to kick off a run back to the top of the state’s football powers and back into the national scene.
When the ACC raided the Big East in the early 2000s, they never imagined that the former Big East team that would rule the conference would be Virginia Tech. Since joining the conference in 2004, they have won the ACC four times and won their division five times. VaTech looks to repeat as champs and finally break into the BCS title game. VaTech is known for ending the year with a strong record, but shooting itself in the foot in its early non-conference schedule. Over the past few seasons, they have started the season with neutral site losses to Alabama, Boise St., and East Carolina. Throw in a loss to LSU at Tiger Stadium in 2007 and VaTech has lost one of their first two games of the season. That basically eliminated them from the BCS title picture right out of the gate. That isn’t the case this season as the Hokies have one of their easiest schedules in recent years. They may not have a tough game until November 10th, a Thursday night road game at Georgia Tech (we all know how those Thursday night ESPN games can be unpredictable, even if Craig James and Jesse Palmer are calling them). Also, the softness of their schedule does not mean that are immune to losing, as just last year they lost to an unknown James Madison program (yikes…)
The Hokies’ problem is having to replace an experienced quarterback (the underrated Tyrod Taylor) and a productive backfield. What helps is having a stocked defense, which is the way Frank Beamer likes it. Virginia Tech could conceivably enter the conference title game undefeated, knocking on the door of the BCS title game.
The (National) Dark Horse
Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, Gene Chizik. All of these coaches led their teams to a BCS title in their second year on the job. This is what Florida St. hopes will happen this season as Jimbo Fisher heads into his second season as the Seminoles head coach. And you know what? They have a great chance. The media’s preseason pick to win the ACC comes back loaded on offense and defense, including five preseason All-ACC selections. This looks to be the most talented and well-rounded Florida St. team since their 2002 team. T defense, which has never been much of an issue for the Seminoles, is bringing back impact players like cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Nigel Bradham. The offense is even more loaded, bringing back all of the key contributors from last season’s team minus quarterback Christian Ponder. There isn’t any doubt in starter E.J. Manuel, who filled in fine for when Ponder went down with injuries. Florida St. has a major test in September, when presumably #1 ranked Oklahoma comes to town. We all remember that smacking (and typical Bob Stoops running up the score) that happened last year in Norman, so look for this experienced Florida St. team to serve a cold plate of revenge on the Sooners. Other games to look at are road games against Clemson and Boston College and the season finale against Florida in the Swamp.
Players to watch
Boston College quietly has two of the ACC best players on offense and defense. On offense, we have tailback Montel Harris, who is on the verge of breaking many ACC rushing records. Harris was also named the preseason ACC Player of the Year. On the defensive side, Boston College is led by All-America linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the nation in tackles last season and is considered by many a future first round pick. Boston College may have the best offensive and defensive player in the conference, and they’ll need every effort from them in order to reach their thirteenth consecutive bowl game this season (who would have thought BC has been to 13 bowl games in a row!).
At first I was bummed that Florida St. and VaTech didn’t meet in the regular season, but then I realized that it is probably better that both teams meet in the conference title game with two losses between the two vying for a shot at the Orange Bowl, maybe the conference’s second BCS birth, and possibly a spot in the BCS title game on the line.
Instead, let’s look at two games involving Florida St. in back to back weeks. First, obviously is the match-up against Oklahoma on September 17th. Both teams will probably be ranked in the top five (maybe even top three) when this game kicks off. The winner will presumably end up ranked number one if they aren’t there to begin with, while the loser won’t be hurt conference wise, but will need a lot of help getting back into the BCS title race. Both teams are experienced, so I think the home field advantage will help Florida St. in this match-up.
The conference game I want to look at happens the following week, when Florida St. has the dreaded trap game as it heads to Death Valley to face Clemson. Regardless of a win or loss, Florida St. can’t be hung up on the result of the Sooner game. They can’t afford to start conference play off with a loss, especially if it ends up being their second loss in a row, all but knocking them out of the BCS title.
The Black Sheep
As I watched the NFL Draft this past April, I was amazed at all of the players being drafted from North Carolina. Well guess what, UNC is still loaded and will again be a major presence in the NFL Draft this coming April. I understand why Butch Davis had to be fired, but I question why they waited until the eve of preseason practice to make the switch. Surely they think “Tressling” Davis will help keep away major sanctions from the NCAA. There is still a lot of talent on the team and plenty of talent in the Carolinas for whoever takes over after this season. If UNC can avoid major sanctions, the next coach in line can still accomplish the goals that Butch Davis had in mind about UNC becoming a prominent player in the national landscape.
The Also-rans (Some quick thoughts on the rest of the conference.)
Clemson – still looking to break through the glass, still wondering if Dabo Swinney is the right coach for the job, still secretly hoping the SEC will one day offer them an invitation to join the conference.
N.C. State – they jettisoned Russell Wilson (to a situation at Wisconsin that is ten times better than the one he had at N.C. State) for next-big-thing quarterback Mike Glennon. After the way he spurned Boston College and the lack of results he’s had so far, I think Tom O’Brien’s seat is starting to get a little warm.
Miami – Da U seemed so close to being back on top, which they seem to be almost every year, but look to be back to square one with Al Golden taking over for Randy Shannon. We’ll see if Golden can lead Da U back to the promised land. It doesn’t help that they are currently in some hot water with the NCAA…this may become a distraction down the road…
Maryland – new coach, promising quarterback… still a pretty dull team. Randy Edsall did some good things at UConn, but I think Maryland was better off hiring Mike Leach.
Georgia Tech – the biggest question that Georgia Tech will always have is if the triple-option attack can succeed at the BCS level. After some early success, Paul Johnson has a lot of obstacles ahead of him as the opposing teams begin to catch up with the scheme and now having sanctions hurt recruiting in the area.
Virginia – promising new coach Mike London begins his tenure at Virginia having a lot of success at Richmond, the FCS power also located within the state of Virginia. He still has to out recruit VaTech and West Virginia if he wants to reload talent at Virginia
Wake Forest – the fact they were able to compete a few years ago is amazing, but it looks like they are back in the cellar.
Duke – well, at least they have a first team All-ACC receiver Connor Vernon on the team. Let’s see if David Cutcliffe can continue improving on his debut season.
Thoughts? Post a comment below! And be on the lookout for our next post, which will cover the new and improved Pac-12!
-MichaelYoungHistory, The Big Socrates, & Markrod
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