Ah, the conference that hits closets to home, based on geography and alma mater. Growing up in ACC Country, I remember the RayCom ACC game of the week on Saturday’s at noon, specifically the 1984 Maryland victory over defending National Champ Miami. The Canes had a 31-0 lead at half, but for some reason, I kept watching. Frank Reich replaced Stan Gelbaugh and led the Terps to a 42-40 victory in what would stand as the largest comeback victory for 22 years. There were the days of LT at Carolina. Tory Holt putting up highlights week after week, especially when he single handedly beat FSU. Quarterback U at Maryland; Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Neil O'Donnell, Scott Zolak, and Stan Gelbaugh. Clemson and Death Valley in the late ‘80’s. The Yellow Jackets and the shared National Championship in 1990. Then onto the new millennium and expansion, with my Hokies falling geographically where they belong (with a little help from a Va Governor.) Three conference titles in 6 years, and here we are on the brink of another season.
There were only 2 coaching changes this year in the conference, but they could not have been more polar opposites. Bobby Bowden, despite having wins stripped and amid several shady occurrences (Free Shoes University) finally retired turning the reigns over to Jimbo Fisher. I wish he would have left, but there’s been rumblings this summer that he was “shoved” out by the President of the University. Well, Bobby, better to shove than need a shovel. Go quietly, thank the University for several years, and go grill. The other turnover was at UVa. Every year, Al Groh would have a 4 star recruiting class, have so much upside, and do absolutely nothing with it. I saw a great t-shirt last year: “Loosing in Football at UVA, it Grohs on You.” Heck, I was willing to give to the UVA athletic fund if they would keep him one more year… Mike London shows up with high-turnover in the coordinator slots over the past few seasons, but should be able to provide some stability to the program. Let’s be honest, the enrollment criteria at UVA isn’t as strict as Richmond.
C.J. Spiller and Demaryius Thomas, two of the more productive and impressive players in the Country last year, are gone from the conference along with a plethora of defensive players taken in the NFL draft this year. That means across the board, the offenses should be more seasoned than the defenses, in general. The one team that stands above the rest, with several pre-season all-Americans is North Carolina. However, they could still find themselves in hot water with the NCAA before it’s all over with, bringing them back to the pack. Expect to see some shootouts this year with tons of games going down to the wire. Quick scores, big plays, and jaw-dropping highlights will be the standard in the 2010 ACC season.
Christian Ponder is everyone’s all-ACC player of the year, expected to lead the Noles to a conference title this season, their first since 2005. It’s nice to reminisce, but don’t get too sentimental. Jimbo Fisher won’t struggle with the head coaching duties, but the Noles will struggle with inconsistent play and turnovers. They have always have had big special teams plays, but will be lacking in that category this year. I see Russell Wilson putting up Philip Rivers type numbers this year to steal the award away from his fellow QB, with Tyrod Taylor, Kyle Parker, Jacory Harris and Josh Nesbitt right behind. Then there’s the running back tandem at Virginia Tech this year, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams, the 100 Proof Backfield.
Oh, and there’s also Sphomore Freak David Wilson, who at last year’ media day ripped off 8 back flips in a row and upped it be two this year with 10. He’s played his way out of red-shirting this year, guaranteeing himself some carries as well as being a part of the return team. Montell Harris’ workload will be reduced, meaning a healthier and quicker running back at the end of the year for the BC push.
Everyone will know if the top team of the league will come out of the Coastal or the Atlantic after the first game of the year. UNC plays LSU in Atlanta in the “Eat More Chicken” Kick-off game. If the Tar Heels stay out of the NCAA doghouse, and put Les Miles in a funk early, the Heels could find a swagger that they haven’t seen in Chapel Hill since 1980, 10 years before half the team was born. FSU opens with Samford, and should be up by 35 at half. If they struggle early, that could be tell-tale for the remainder of the season. Then there’s the earliest of the National Title implication games between Virginia Tech and Boise State. If the winner puts the other team away by double digits early, they could have a path started for the BCS title game, especially Boise with the remaining schedule. If Tech rolls through 14 point winners, it shows that this team is for real this year, with senior leadership in Tyrod and scrappy defense by committee.
The following week when the Noles visit Norman Oklahoma, they’ll realize they’re not playing Samford any more, and we’ll see how stout this team is. Welcome to the head coaching job Jimbo! Oh, and by the way, we close the season with the Gators. And don’t forget our October visit to Miami for the U. Roll through those three games with only one loss and this team takes home the ACC title. But, I don’t see that happening. Stoops will perform a little rookie hazing for the new coach. Urban will oblige when Jimbo says thank you sir, may I have another. This year’s version of wide right will go down in lore of great games between the two programs, with a potential trip to Charlotte for the ACC title game on the line.
Florida State will find themselves at the top of the division, but not with a pretty record. Three overall losses will make them hungry for the ACC title since that will be their only ticket to a BCS game this year.
Virginia Tech wins the opening game against Boise by 12, and has the focus to roll the remainder of the season. The defense lost 7 starters, but Bud Foster always reloads. Rashad Carmichael will be the all-everything for the Hokies this year. Beamerball will make a triumphant return this year, with over a handful of blocked kicks and over a dozen special teams/defensive touchdowns. Hokie Nation will travel in drove to Charlotte for the 3rd ACC title in 4 years. This will be a tune-up for the meeting with the Sooners on January 10, 2011 in Glendale for the big Crystal Football.
1. Florida State, 9-3, 7-1. Too tough an out of conference schedule bookending the season will hurt the Noles chances for bigger things this year. You picked a good year to get out Bobby.
2. Clemson, 8-4, 5-3. Kyle Parker will try to make Tiger fans forget about CJ Spiller, but to no avail. Andre Ellington will crack the 1,000 yard mark, but they won’t be able to crack the Atlantic code like 2009.
3. Boston College, 9-3, 5-3. Running back by committee will ease the load on Harris, but won’t keep him under the 1,000 yard mark. Special teams will win a close one or two, but it won’t be enough to unseat FSU.
4. North Carolina State, 6-6, 3-5. Russell Wilson will put up huge stats, but if the defense gives up 35, it’s hard to win every game. Look for several “overs” this year involving the Wolfpack.
5. Wake Forest, 5-7, 2-6. A young team that will be tough next season after some seasoning this year. There’s not a standout on the team now, but one will emerge prior to Halloween for the Deacons.
6. Maryland, 3-9, 1-7. They nearly unplugged the fridge last year, but the $8 million tag was too much to bear. I think they’ll try to find it come December 2010.
1. Virginia Tech, 12-0, 8-0. Yes, go ahead and say it. I’m biased!!! So what! I’ve followed the fall practice and I believe this could be the year. The 100 proof backfield. Tyrod as a senior signal caller. Special teams that have Beamer happy, and playing Beamerball. Tyrod was top 15 last year in passer rating with nearly 150. His senior leadership and ball control will lead the way. We have 3 receivers that will potentially be playing on Sundays in the future, and with all eyes on our pair of tailback that have accounted for 2,920 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns over the past two years. Stinespring finally figured out how to call plays the last few games of last year, spreading the ball around and confusing defenses. Without that display of production, I wouldn’t make this pick. I hope it keeps up, otherwise, he will be the governor on an otherwise wide open offense. The Hokies will beat FSU in Charlotte and punch their ticket to Glendale to face Boomer Sooner in Glendale. (There’ll be a ton of maroon there in January…)
2. North Carolina, 10-2, 6-2. This defense is sick, and won’t be to blame for the two losses. There’s no way you can in a 9-7 game… The entire defense will be named ACC player of the week more than once, and they will need a truck for the awards they receive this year.
3. Miami, 8-4, 6-2. Back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Pitt set the season off on the wrong foot. Jacory Harris will rebound enough to tie for second in the division, but not enough to avenge the loss to VT last year.
4. Georgia Tech, 7-5, 4-4. The triple option clicked last year, especially with the fourth option of throwing the ball to Thomas. Without that threat this year, and a slightly bum wheel for Nesbitt, it just won’t run over people the way it did in 2009.
5. Virginia, 4-8, 1-7. New coach, stellar recruiting class, same results.
6. Duke, 3-9, 0-8. Still revel in your Basketball championship….