2010-11 College Football Preview: ACC/Big East/Big Ten
ACC (projected order of finish and records)
Miami (FL) Hurricanes (10-2)
After a lengthy period of turmoil and reconstruction, Miami returns to their status as a national elite.
They come into this 2010 season spurred by a sense of unfinished business following two consecutive season where the 'U' has faded down the stretch and lost a bowl game.
Loaded on both sides of the ball as usual, the key returnee is quarterback Jacory Harris. Though there are questions up front, the 'Canes figure to be top-notch in the ACC, looking to win their first conference title since 2004.
Florida State Seminoles (9-3)
It's not just a new season at Florida State, as years of culture and stability have taken a turn, but not necessarily for the worse.
Jimbo Fisher replaces Bobby Bowden as head coach, hoping to take Florida State from unfamiliar mediocrity and return back to the powerhouse that they were not so long ago.
A fashionable Heisman pick, quarterback Christian Ponder headlines an explosive offense, though it should be a dogfight between FSU and a number of other competitive teams atop the ACC.
Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3)
Ever consistent and usually in the top few of the ACC, Frank Beamer's Hokies come into 2010 with a new style of play, one with more of a high-powered offense rather than a staunch reliance on defense and special teams.
This offense is led by senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor and top-flight running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans.
In a place where aspirations are always high, expect more of the same in Blacksburg, even for a team that considers nine or ten wins every year a reasonable target.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4)
The Coastal Division of the ACC extends even deeper with the defending conference champs, who although don't return star running back Jonathan Dwyer, always seem to make Paul Johnson's triple option offensive attack work no matter the personnel.
Though their non-conference schedule is by no means loaded, Georgia Tech begins the season ranked 17th in the nation, leading most to believe that this enigmatic program is on the precipice of breaking through to powerhouse status.
North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4)
Boston College Eagles (7-5)
Clemson Tigers (7-5)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-5)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-6)
Maryland Terrapins (5-7)
Duke Blue Devils (4-8)
Virginia Cavaliers (4-8)
Big East (projected order of finish and records)
Pittsburgh Panthers (9-3)
Plenty of important pieces return from last season's 10-win team that fell victim to hard luck and an equally good conference foe, Cincinnati.
The key to success for the Panthers this year is undoubtedly learning how to close games. Dating back two seasons, their last five losses have come by an average of four points.
Essentially, they've lost more close games than they have won, but should have just an explosive of an offense led by phenomenal running back Dion Lewis, who should propel Pitt to a BCS berth.
West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3)
A few years ago, West Virginia was a lock to win the conference and advance to a BCS bowl. Recently, they have slipped back to the pack a bit, but are still a strong program under coach Bill Stewart in his second full season.
Showcased this year is explosive and well-known tailback Noel Devine, a sure-fire NFL prospect.
A dominant home team during his tenure, the Mountaineers have been only 5-7 on the road, a mark that needs to improve this year with road dates against LSU and Pitt.
Cincinnati Bearcats (8-4)
The defending conference champs were put to shame by Florida in the Sugar Bowl, and a team that was relatively in the prime of their championship window lost star quarterback Tony Pike to both injury and the NFL at the end of last season.
Zach Collaros steps in under center to fortify the offense, the relative strength of Cincinnati.
They allowed an average of 40 points over the last five games, and their defense was flawed the whole year, to say the least.
They're not bad, but not a contender in the Big East.
Connecticut Huskies (8-4)
From non-existent in the world of college football to a team that is all but assured a winning record once again, UConn should be more than proud of what they have done building this program from scratch.
In a year where they went 8-5, their losses came by a total of 15 points, and in addition gained momentum with notable wins against South Florida and Notre Dame late in the season.
They didn't lose a ton of talent on either side of the ball, so the good karma should continue here in 2010.
South Florida Bulls (7-5)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6)
Louisville Cardinals (5-7)
Syracuse Orange (3-9)
Big Ten (projected order of finish and records)
Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
The last year of normalcy in the Big Ten will come with an very familiar result, success in Columbus.
The defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champs come into the 2010 as one of the top two or three teams in the nation, led by junior quarterback and super prospect Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor should be able to make the jump to Vince Young status, and if he keeps the turnovers down, he could be on his way to a Heisman.
When all is said and done, it wouldn't be August without talk of a national title challenge from the Bucks.
Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3)
After years of struggle, Penn State has returned to a level close to elite over the past few seasons.
They will surely be tested early with a visit to Alabama, where it will be decided whether Newsome or McGloin will be the heir apparent to Daryll Clark.
Their Achilles' heel last year was their hideous special teams, which is sure to improve.
Star running back Evan Royster, now in his junior season, looks to be a leader and take the Lions to the top of a conference where they haven't been in quite a while.
Wisconsin Badgers (9-3)
A furious finish by Wisco in 2009 transpired in five wins in their last six games.
From that team, they return an entire offensive arsenal, led by great running back John Clay, making it a no-brainer that the Badgers are sure to be a contender in the race for the Big Ten title.
This offense, with an offensive line that cannot be matched, will be the key to bludgeoning most challengers in its path.
Their season will be made or broken by consecutive huge games in October against Big Ten powers Ohio State and Iowa.
Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)
Coming out of nowhere to challenge for the Big Ten title last year, the Hawkeyes put together a nice surprise season en route to an Orange Bowl victory.
The 11-2 campaign was their best since 2002, as Ferentz continues to lead the well-oiled Hawkeye machine to perennial winning.
Expectations are very high, and Iowa could be better than the 8-4 I expect, however another team with poor special teams has a rough first three games in the conference schedule, not to mention having to play in the tough Big Ten.
Michigan Wolverines (7-5)
Michigan State Spartans (7-5)
Purdue Boilermakers (6-6)
Illinois Fighting Illini (5-7)
Northwestern Wildcats (5-7)
Indiana Hoosiers (4-8)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-9)
ACC's Top 10 Players
1) Jacory Harris, QB - Miami (FL), Jr.
2) Christian Ponder, QB - Florida State, Sr.
3) Ryan Williams, RB - Virginia Tech, So.
4) Robert Quinn, DE - North Carolina, Jr.
5) Rodney Hudson, G - Florida State, Sr.
6) Marvin Austin, DT - North Carolina, Sr.
7) Mark Herzlich, LB - Boston College, Sr.
8) Allen Bailey, DE - Miami (FL), Sr.
9) Anthony Castonzo, OT - Boston College, Sr.
10) Russell Wilson, QB - North Carolina State, Jr.
Big East's Top 10 Players
1) Noel Devine, RB - West Virginia, Sr.
2) Dion Lewis, RB - Pittsburgh, So.
3) Greg Romeus, DE - Pittsburgh, Sr.
4) Lawrence Wilson, LB - Connecticut, Sr.
5) Jonathan Baldwin, WR - Pittsburgh, Sr.
6) Jason Pinkston, OT - Pittsburgh, Sr.
7) J.T. Thomas, LB - West Virginia, Sr.
8) Armon Binns, WR - Cincinnati, Sr.
9) Doug Hogue, LB - Syracuse, Sr.
10) Mohamed Sanu, WR - Rutgers, So.
Big Ten's Top 10 Players
1) Terrelle Pryor, QB - Ohio State, Jr.
2) Evan Royster, RB - Penn State, Sr.
3) John Clay, RB - Wisconsin, Jr.
4) Adrian Clayborn, DE - Iowa, Sr.
5) Stefen Wisniewski, G - Penn State, Sr.
6) Mike Brewster, C - Ohio State, Jr.
7) Jerel Worthy, DT - Michigan State, So.
8) Ryan Kerrigan, DE - Purdue, Sr.
9) Kevin Smith, WR - Purdue, Sr.
10) Quentin Davis, LB - Northwestern, Jr.
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