Last year, the ACC was Average Conference with no outstanding teams. It is a good thing to have so many decent teams, with even Duke playing some quality football, but top tier programs give a conference status.
This year, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Georgia Tech look to be the class of the conference, but dark abound. If any team puts it all together, the ACC may have a team in the BCS championship.
This year, several schools in the ACC really scheduled up, with the top two schedules very close in difficulty.
If these schools fail in these tough tests, look for the ACC to be Average Conference once again. The top ACC schools really did not want a cakewalk for their OOC schedule like Penn State, Texas, and Mississippi.
1. Virginia Tech
Alabama (@ Atlanta), Marshall, Nebraska, @ East Carolina
For Frank Beamer’s Hokies it is “time to toss the dice” as a famous Roman once said before a mighty challenge. Virginia Tech looks to compete for a BCS title if it can find enough offense to support its great defense and special teams.
While very close to FSU’s OOC schedule in difficulty, it is just a little bit harder for this BCS title game dark horse, as Virginia Tech refused to schedule any FCS schools.
This is definitely an excellent OOC schedule, one that schools like Penn St and Texas should try to copy. Running through these games undefeated will not be easy, but should give Beamer’s squad credibility that other schools lack.
Alabama’s surprising season has left Tide fans hopeful that greatness has returned. They get an early test right out of the chute with one this year’s top OOC games.
Neutral site games are a great thing for college football and I hope we get many more. This one will be a test of which offense can perform against two top defenses. This one may go way under the number.
Marshall has struggled in recent years and is long way from its undefeated season a decade ago. The Herd underperformed on the road for the last few years, but actually may go .500 or better this year.
The Cornhuskers are back, with the defense leading the way. Nebraska will be looking to avenge last year’s home loss. The favorite for the Big 12 North title will not go away easily and may pull the upset here.
Everyone remembers how the Pirate’s took out the Hokies last year. While Virginia Tech will not be surprised by East Carolina’s intensity, this one could prove to be another major challenge. Skip Holtz’s very experienced squad will be looking for a Conference USA title.
2. Florida State University
Jacksonville State (FCS), @ BYU, South Florida, @ Florida
Bobby Bowden may not have many more years at FSU and he will not likely catch Paterno in wins, but at least he is going out the way he has always scheduled—ducking no one, ready and willing to show his team is the best by playing the best.
Too bad his archrival cannot seem to find a way to schedule a road game on the other side of the country. FSU should challenge for the ACC title as long as QB Ponder can keep it together.
Jacksonville State is the one layup on this schedule. Don’t expect much difficulty here.
The Cougars lay in wait high in the mountains in Provo. FSU will be hard pressed to contain power back Unga and QB Hall. BYU lost both meetings with FSU, but those were many years ago. BYU will be hoping to join Utah as a BCS buster this year.
South Florida's strong offense and tough defense will prove a tough challenge. This game will go a long way to showing whether the Big East or ACC will be a better conference. Look for Florida State to withstand the Bulls at home.
The Gators will be ready to chomp FSU. Last year’s BCS champs look to repeat. FSU will likely be a double-digit dog here (as will every other team to UF). Maybe Bowden’s boys can pull something out as a farewell gift.
OU, Florida A&M (FCS), @ Central Florida, @ South Florida
Miami wants to return to the big-time status it when it was an independent and during the Big East years. Miami has gone back to basics, including doing actually in person recruiting, instead of trusting random Internet postings.
OU should come to sunny Miami and have a vacation and an easy win. Miami has no way to stop the Sooners high-powered offense.
Florida A&M had a good year under first year head coach Joe Taylor, going 9-3 (and playing no FBS schools). Miami should use this as a recovery game.
Central Florida has brought in a new offensive coordinator as Central Florida was last year’s worst FBS offense. The Knights will be trying very hard for revenge after last year’s 20-14 loss to the Canes.
The capable Matt Grothe returns for his senior season for the Bulls. South Florida’s top ten defense should prove to be a challenge for the rebuilding Canes. Look for the Bulls to pull this one out.
4. Georgia Tech
Jacksonville State (FCS), @Mississippi St., @Vanderbilt, @ Georgia
Georgia Tech shocked the world last year by beating Georgia. This year, they might as well be a SEC team again since they play at three SEC schools. Paul Johnson’s team will bring their high-powered and effective ground attack and this year’s version should be even better than last.
Jacksonville State is a quality FCS program, but Georgia Tech beat them by 27 last year. Expect the same.
With a new coach, bottom dwelling Mississippi State is again attempting to get back to respectability. It will not likely get it here.
Vandy had a much improved year last year, but also lost to Duke. The very bottom school in ESPN Prestige Poll should not be able to stop the Ramblin Wreck. Look for Georgia Tech to run all over the Commodores.
The heated in-state rivalry is back on, with Georgia Tech’s first win in seven seasons. Can they do it again? Maybe. It should be another great addition to the rivalry.
5. Wake Forest
Baylor, Stanford, Elon (FCS), @ Navy
Wake’s 2006 ACC championships seems a long time ago, but Wake has maintained its competitive play, based in large part on solid defense. Last year’s experiment with the spread was dropped mid-season and Wake will focus on having a strong running attack this year.
Baylor proved to be no challenge for Wake last year, but watch out. Art Briles’ Baylor team has some real stars on defense and a bona fide playmaker at QB in Robert Griffin. This may well be a tough contest.
Stanford has been improving under Jim Harbaugh. With new starting QB Andrew Luck winning the job in the spring, look for better play at QB, one of Stanford’s huge problems last year.
Stanford’s power run game will be back with Toby Gerhart (1,136 yards rushing) returning. Stanford is also looking at having some skill-players go old school and play on the O and D to deal with depth problems.
Elon, who did not play an FBS school last year, has put together back-to-back winning seasons, but ended the season losing three of four.
Wake will face a solid D and the incredible running attack when it plays at Navy. Navy has been solid and should go bowling again this season. This will not be an easy game.
Middle Tennessee State, TCU, Coastal Carolina (FCS), @ South Carolina
Clemson has a new coach and a new attitude, but will it be enough after last year’s fall from grace?
Middle Tennessee State, who beat the Terps last year with its solid D, should prove no problem to rebuilding Clemson, even with former Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin at MTSU.
TCU is looking for BCS glory and wants to take it from the ACC. Look for the Tigers to lose to these Frogs and their top rated defense.
Coastal Carolina had a down season last year and is not a power FCS school, so don’t look for any upsets here.
The battle for state supremacy will likely go to Steve Spurrier. Defense reigns in Columbia. If the Gamecocks find some Spurrier-style offense, look out.
William & Mary (FCS), TCU, @ Southern Mississippi, Indiana
With Al Groh again fighting to keep his job, this OOC schedule has two games that win hurt. Though they do not face USC like last year, figure on at least two losses out of these four games.
UVa is completely rebuilding its offense after Groh fired his son (& Offensive Coordinator) last year. Groh takes over the job of Defensive Coordinator himself.
William & Mary had its first winning season last year since 2004 when it went to the FCS semifinals. William & Mary only lost by ten to NC State last year. Coach Laycock has been at W&M since 1980 and is very capable of preparing his team enough for an upset.
TCU and its top-rated defense will take out the Cavaliers . They will come in fast and hard, especially Jerry Hughes, called by some the top DE in the country. This one will be over quickly. Coach Patterson is talking up his offense this year, so we might see some real scoring here. The Frogs led the nation last year in time of possession at 35:10.
Southern Mississippi looks to contend for the Conference USA crown and a possible BCS berth. Larry Fedora’s high-powered offense returns most of its starters. The team is vicious on takeaways, with 29 last year (+13 turnover margin).
Indiana will not be a very good team, so this may be Virginia’s best hope for an OOC win. Indiana does not play defense and has adopted Nevada’s run-oriented attack. This might be a very ugly game for both teams.
@ Cal, James Madison (FCS), Middle Tennessee State, Rutgers
Formerly rotund coach Ralph Friedgen lost 80 pounds during the off-season and Maryland named its offensive coordinator as his successor. This very young squad faces problems and concerns on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense, where they lost most of their starters.
The Bear will be looking for revenge in Berkeley. Tedford’s squad will be attacking on the ground this year with Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best, last year’s number one rusher who averages 8.1 yards per carry. Cal’s real concern is at QB, but the Terps will not have enough to keep this one close.
James Madison went 12-2 last year, losing only to Duke to start the season and Montana in the FCS semifinals. This capable squad will not roll over for the Terps and an upset is in the realm of possibility.
Middle Tennessee State beat the Terps last year, mainly through the play of its solid D. Auburn reject Tony Franklin takes over at offensive coordinator, attempting to implement the spread that Auburn could not get right.
Rutgers may be in offensive rebuilding mode, but it returns its top 20 defense. This game will go a long way in showing which team is really on the way back to where each had been only a few years ago.
9. North Carolina State
South Carolina, Murray State (FCS), Gardner-Webb (FCS), Pittsburgh
NC St. finished the regular season strong last year with four straight conference wins to get to bowl eligibility. Last year, they beat East Carolina in OT for their best win of the year. I have seen a lot of hype regarding this year’s squad, but this OOC schedule will not help them much.
Hosting South Carolina will prove a big challenge. Look for a close game, but a Wolfpack loss. Neither Murray State or Garner-Webb should prove good for much but giving NC St. needed wins.
Pittsburgh win bring their hard-nosed defense as it looks for another bowl-bound season. Look for a very low scoring game as Wannstedt boys grind out a road win.
10. Boston College
Northeastern (FCS), Kent State, @ Notre Dame, Central Michigan
With a new coach and great uncertainty, BC needs an easy OOC schedule to get settled in. With two cupcakes, a good MAC school, and the Domers, BC may just be able to get three wins here.
Northeastern (FCS) went 2-10 last year and will give BC an easy start to the season.
Kent State’s big win last year was over bowl-bound Buffalo, but don’t expect anything but an easy game for BC here.
Unfortunately for BC, this year’s battle for Catholic supremacy should not go their way, as the Domers should have an easy win.
Central Michigan, a MAC contender with its great QB Dan LeFevour, has the best offense in the MAC and will test BC.
11. North Carolina
Citadel (FCS), @ UConn, East Carolina, Georgia Southern (FCS)
Butch Davis is looking get North Carolina to an ACC division crown, but this OOC schedule will not make many people too excited. Playing two FCS schools really shows a lack of confidence in your program.
The Citadel is barely competitive in the FCS. This team defines cupcake.
UConn, though improved over the last two years, is changing from a run-oriented offensive to the spread. Expect UNC to take care of business on the road.
East Carolina will be one of UNC’s 4 toughest games of the year. Holtz’s squad is the East Coast version of Fresno State, taking on tough OOC teams and beating them.
Georgia Southern is a decent FCS program that lost by one to Appalachian State last year. The Tar Heels should win, but it may not get them a lot of style points.
Richmond (FCS), @Army, @ Kansas, North Carolina Central (FCS)
Duke showed substantial improvement last year, especially with its surprising road win over improved Vandy. Second year coach Cutcliffe really wants to improve on the 4-8 record which is very possible with this OOC schedule.
Richmond won the FCS championship last year and would have defeated the old Duke team. This year's Blue Devils will win but with some difficultly.
Army was likely hoping for an easy win here, but Duke should win another OOC road game this year. Army has not been competitve for awhile.
Duke will not roll over for Kansas, but expect a loss here. Kansas brings way too much offense.
North Carolina Central is moving up from Division II and should prove to be an easy win for Duke.