Last week I revealed my picks for the ACC Coastal Division. Here are my preseason predictions for the ACC Atlantic Division for 2008.
Clemson Tigers No. 1 in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 5 Star DE Da'Quan Bowers
Clemson returns 15 of their 22 starters from a team that went 9-4 last season. They are the heavy favorites not only for the ACC Atlantic Division, but to take the entire conference crown. With James Davis and C.J. Spiller sharing time at the RB slot, the Tigers look to ram the ball down opponent's throats all season. Senior QB Cullen Harper looks to lead the Tigers to the ACC title and the BCS birth that comes with it.
Clemson also brings a lot back from last season on the defensive side of the ball as well. All of the secondary is returning, including All-ACC candidate S Chris Clemmons and the Tigers bring in the number DE in Da'Quan Bowers. The defensive line is also shured up with DT's Dorell Scott and Rashaad Jackson returning along with DE Ricky Sapp.
Wake Forest Deamon Deacons No. 2 in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 3 star QB Ted Stachitas
Wake Forest is coming off its first back to back bowl seasons for the first time in school history and look to keep that streak alive while also returning 14 starters. Wake returns starting QB Riley Skinner and have a breakaway threat at RB in Josh Adams. Their offensive presence may depend on their line since they are only bringing in two starters. They will also need to replace WR Kenneth Moore, but Senior Chip Brinkman could fill that void.
Wake returns nine starters on defense including standout CB Alphonso Smith who had eight interceptions last season. The Deacons loose last year's sack leader in Jeremy Thompson, but bring back DE Matt Robinson. For a crew that held opponents to only 109 ypg on the ground, the Deacons look to own the trenches again this season on the way to another respectable year.
Florida State Seminoles No. 3 in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 5 star MLB Nigel Bradham
I believe the 'Noles are just too good to stay down for long, and I may be break the "journalistic" rule and ranking FSU too high up just based on name; I'm sure I wouldn't be the first. Florida State returns their whole backfield, and maybe this year QB Drew Weatherford finds something resembling an offense. With Jimbo Fisher in his second year, FSU hopes they can also get production from once coveted TE Antone Smith. If Florida State can flourish in Fisher's second year, this team should be able to manage third in the division.
Florida State will be without some of their defensive starters due to the suspensions handed down from last season's academic scandal. One of the leaders of the FSU defense is LB Derek Nicholson. The strength of the FSU defense will be their secondary, headed up by S Myron Rolle and CB Tony Carter.
Maryland Terrapins No. 4 in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 4 star WR Kenny Tate
Maryland is always one of those scary teams in the ACC that shows signs of greatness but also major flaws. The Terps are in the works of installing the West Coast offense, and it will be up to Sophomore QB Chris Turner to lead this team. Maryland will have a seasoned offensive line, which will do wonders for their run game this season. Look for Maryland to have some big wins this season, but some head turning losses as well.
Maryland brings back a solid linebacking core, but will have to replace its top defensive linemen in Dre Moore and Carlose Feliciano. DL Mack Frost looks to help replace the duo, but missed spring practice with a knee injury.
North Carolina State Wolfpack No. 5 in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 4 star WLB Terrell Manning
I really don't feel that State is that bad, this Atlantic Division is just going to be tougher to get a win in than the Atlantic Division. State still did not come out with a solidified starter at QB, but the Wolfpack could have an intimidating backfield tandem in Toney Baker and Andre Brown if they both come back healthy.
Only four starters return from the defensive side of the ball, but that could be a good thing for a team that only forced 16 turnovers in all of 2007. Alan-Michael Cash, Willie Young and Marcus Kuhn will control the front line, but will need to be steady for the young linebackers and secondary. Terrell Manning could be a top defensive starter as a freshman, and he went to my high school so he gets props for that.
Boston College Eagles Last in Atlantic Division
Top Recruit: 4 star DE Kaleb Ramsey
The Eagles will be good on defense this season, but with the offense this year it will be hard to repeat back to back 11 win seasons. They will not have an experienced QB or RB but as always have a solid offensive line. The defense may keep them in games, but if you cant score, you cant win.
The Eagles will have a solid line, including LB's Mark Herzlich, Brian Toal, and DT B.J. Raji. The secondary will be young, but the front seven should be solid enough to let them "learn on the fly".
That's my predictions for the ACC Atlantic Division, come back next week for final predictions in the ACC, the ACC Champion, and predicted ACC bowl games.