10 Fearless Predictions For the 2010 ACC College Football Season
Who cares if football is still months away, it's time to preview the 2010 season and make some very bold claims.
Whether that's predicting the Coastal and Atlantic champions, some of the best matchups, or some of the top players of next season, this article attempts to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the conference next season.
The ACC has obviously had to deal with disrespect the past few years from the national media, but this season really has a chance to change national perceptions.
The conference has some huge games against Oklahoma, Alabama, Southern California, Ohio State, and LSU among others.
If the conference can pick up some big wins they can gain notoriety. However, losses will lead to some "I told you so's" throughout the country.
So how will the ACC fare this season and how will these teams do against one another?
Let the debate begin!
MVP: Christian Ponder
The best pure passer in the ACC is back and ready to improve upon a season ended early by injuries.
Despite missing the final three games of the season, Ponder finished his junior year with over 2,700 yards and had a quarterback rating of 147.
Ponder improved in nearly every statistical category last season and with the addition of a great recruiting class, the rising senior now has more weapons to help the Seminoles rebound from a disappointing season in 2009.
Ponder has the benefit of a good schedule, getting to play North Carolina, Clemson, BYU, and Florida at home. This means he has a chance to put up good numbers in nationally-televised games and help raise his profile for MVP honors.
Not to mention he gets a balanced offense with a strong running attack headed by rising junior Jermaine Thomas. Although the running back class is deep in the ACC, the quarterback class is not. All those runners may eliminate each other in the final tallies and Ponder can benefit from that split.
He also gets to avoid Georgia Tech's improved defense and the ball-hawking Virginia Tech Hokies. Phew.
Ponder will be the poster boy for a revitalized Florida State program next season. If they win the Atlantic, he will be a logical and almost assured recipient of ACC honors.
Top Defensive Player: Robert Quinn
Robert Quinn created havoc in the backfield last season and he is back to make more nightmares for quarterbacks in 2010.
Quinn, the punishing defensive end, had 11 sacks last season, 19 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles as only a sophomore. Those numbers were near the top of the conference standings and he should be able to improve upon those numbers next season.
Quinn will certainly be closely watched by the NFL scouts next season but he will also be the player to watch for the Tar Heels. If he continues to evolve into the play-making game changer that he appears to be, Quinn could help North Carolina break out of its mediocrity and challenge for the Coastal crown.
He also gets some marquee games to show off his talent, including a season opener that will be nationally televised against the Tigers of LSU.
Top Running Back: Montel Harris
In a league of talented running backs, perhaps no one is more overlooked and underappreciated than Montel Harris.
We know that Jonathan Dwyer put up big numbers for the ACC champion Yellow Jackets. We saw Ryan Williams rise from obscurity to break Virginia Tech records. We also watched Clemson's C.J. Spiller earn Heisman considerations with his play-making ability.
However, Harris had nearly 1,500 yards last year as a sophomore and finished with the second-best yards per game average in the ACC.
Harris finished ninth in the ACC in scoring and this was for a team that finished eighth in passing offense.
Harris was the guy every single team game planned against and yet he was still able to produce at a high level. With an increase in experience and talent, Harris will have numbers to make him the top running back in the ACC.
While Virginia Tech may have the best running game in the league next season, their multi-headed attack will prevent any of them from hitting the numbers that Harris will achieve next season.
Surprise Team: Boston College
For the first time in a long time, the Boston College Eagles were not the Atlantic division winners. This season, however, they'll just soar their way back to the ACC Championship game.
The Eagles were dealt unexpected blows to their roster last season and they had to try and mold a quarterback while relying on the legs of running back Montel Harris.
Boston College should make a run next season, with a stout defense and an increasingly experienced offense could cause problems for the Atlantic Division next season.
The Eagles have a very interesting start to the season. Boston College has two cupcakes to open up the year and a bye week before a home date with the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team that has given the boys from Blacksburg fits the past few seasons.
If the Eagles can do it again, there may be no stopping them. If they lose, it could start a bit of a spiral with contests against Notre Dame and Florida State in just a few short weeks after the showdown with Hokies.
Still, the Eagles have built a reputation of winning with guys that are not heavily touted or even respected nationally.
Boston College had a roster most coaches would win three games with and won eight games and played the Trojans of Southern California tight in their bowl game.
The Eagles may be the forgotten member of the ACC from time to time but Boston College will make sure everyone is paying attention to them by the end of the season.
Disappointing Team: North Carolina
Sorry Tar Heel fans.
Let's face it, Butch Davis came in with much fanfare but has yet to deliver the goods. Despite the top recruiting classes, that influx of talent has little to change the win-loss record.
North Carolina, like most Coastal teams, are having trouble keeping up with the Virginia Tech Hokies. Now that Miami is improving and Georgia Tech is coming off one of the their best seasons in a long time, the Tar Heels are battling just still in the middle of the pack of their own division.
Not exactly what people had in mind when Davis was hired.
North Carolina has a tough road in 201. Not only must the Tar Heels at Miami and at Florida State, they also have a treacherous non-conference schedule.
North Carolina must open the season against LSU and back that up against the dangerous East Carolina Pirates and a Rutgers team that is tricky to play at home.
Of course, North Carolina's biggest problem are those losses no one sees coming. The Tar Heels must play at Virginia, a place where they have'nt won since 1982.
Despite the positive momentum of a strong recruiting class in February, expect North Carolina to stay right around the middle of the pack by season's end.
Hot Seat Coach: Butch Davis
I guess it would stand to reason that Butch Davis is the coach on the hot seat entering this season.
Davis has simply become a victim of his own recruiting success. He has raised the bar of expectations and his big victories over the past few seasons against the likes of Virginia Tech and Miami show that the Tar Heels can be competitive.
However, despite the talent and the signature wins, North Carolina is just not trustworthy. They always seem to fall flat for at least one game and typically that has been the difference between contender and pretender.
In three years, Davis has a conference record of 11-13. Not once has he had a winning ACC record and that will have to change if he hopes of holding onto his job down the road.
Best ACC Game of the Year: Clemson at Florida State
Sure, both of the Bowdens may be gone but Clemson-Florida State will be a late season matchup that will most likely determine who is going to win the ACC Atlantic Division.
Clemson finally broke through last year and won the division. Florida State is trying to prove that it belongs back in the national scene and has a great recruiting class to do just that.
The Tigers have the upper hand in the past few seasons, winning five of the past seven games against the Seminoles.
This year the game will be in Tallahassee and Florida State will look to avenge a 40-24 loss in Death Valley last year.
Expect an entertaining shootout and see if two of the newest coaches in the ACC can create their own rivalry for years to come.
Top Non-Conference Game of the Year: Miami at Ohio State
Talk about two conferences desperate to prove themselves.
Ohio State has become infamous the past few seasons for their failure to play big on the main stage.
Miami just wants to prove that they belong on a big stage. Coach Randy Shannon had a solid year last season but knows that the Hurricane faithful could use a signature win.
He also knows that the ACC could use a big victory to improve a conference morale. If the Hurricanes could pull off the victory in the Horseshoe, it would help quiet the ACC critics.
Of course, that will be no simple task. Ohio State is 19-3 over the past three seasons at home and Terrelle Pryor continues to develop into a fine quarterback.
Miami has an emerging quarterback in Jacoby Harris but struggled on the road last season. The Hurricanes are still trying to recover from the beat down handed to them by the Hokies in Blacksburg.
Still, Miami may have enough swagger left in them to make for a great game against the Buckeyes.
Despite other noteworthy matches like UNC versus LSU, Virginia Tech versus Boise State, and Florida State versus Oklahoma, this is the game that has the best chance of bringing the ACC respect.
Atlantic Winner: Florida State
Quite the turnaround for Florida State isn't it?
Well the Seminoles are on track to take the division home in 2010.
Why? Look at the schedule baby!
Florida State has Wake Forest at home, Virginia, and Maryland. Even though the Terrapins gave the Seminoles a scare last season, Florida State will not be overlooking them this season and should be able to rebound with their actual quarterback playing.
Boston College, North Carolina, and Clemson will all be home games this season and the Miami Hurricanes will be playing the Seminoles a week after another big showdown with the Clemson Tigers.
I think that these young players at Florida State are hungry for the first time in a long time. The players and this coach are ready to change things and the time may be right to do just that.
Overall, I have the Florida State Seminoles at 8-4, 7-1 ACC.
Coastal Winner: Virginia Tech
After a year's hiatus, the Virginia Tech Hokies are in prime position to take back the ACC in 2010.
The Hokies start the season with a big game against media darling Boise State. With a Bud Foster coached defense, Virginia Tech may strike midnight on Cinderella in the first week of the season.
Outside of that, Virginia Tech simply does not have many trap games on their schedule. Georgia Tech has taken a step back and that game will now be played in Blacksburg, a place where the Yellow Jackets have struggled.
Virginia Tech simply does not lose at home, the numbers back it up. So where could they stumble?
At Boston College and at Miami may be the surest bets, but the ACC Coastal contenders simply do not have the consistency that the Hokies have.
Virginia Tech simply finds ways to win. They can win ugly, they can win in a shootout, they can win the close games with the versatility of Tyrod Taylor, and they have the confidence to know they can win when the odds are stacked against them.
For the record, I have Virginia Tech at 11-1, 7-1 in the ACC.
Until then, let's just revel in the fact that football season is less than seven months away!